On the Record: Joel Ginn, Sound Tech Engineer for The Dead Hear Footsteps

Anne Pride-Wilt, Arts Editor

Joel Ginn, a College senior, is the sound tech engineer for The Dead Hear Footsteps, a weekly noir-comedy radio show created in 2000. Having worked on the show for five semesters, Joel knows the ins and outs of creating a serial radio drama. The show will air this semester on WOBC 91.5 FM at 5 p.m. every Sunday, and a live finale will be performed at the Cat in the Cream at the end of the semester.


From what I’ve heard, The Dead Hear Footsteps is now something of an institution. Can you tell me about its history?


We are in season 25 right now. The Dead Hear Footsteps was started as a Winter Term project by [Ben Rubin OC ‘94]. … Each season is a semester, so there’s some math there. I joined around season 20, I guess. … We follow the adventures of Hardin Lovelace, private eye, in the city of Bayside. The show’s gone through its different cycles of being more serious and dramatic to what it has become today … more light-hearted, a little more of a parody of itself than what it once was. But [the show] still retains the same characters, a lot of the same feelings and writing style.


It sounds like it’s kind of a niche project. How did you get involved with the program?


Yeah, it’s not as well-publicized as we’d like it to be. … I was brought in by [College senior] Charlie Cohen, who was the editor until this last year. He lived on the same hall as me in Dascomb. They needed voice actors for one episode. He knew I did acting once upon a time and pulled me in. Most people are in, they just find their niche in the program, figuring out what they want to do by trying out everything.


There must be a lot of turnover among participants. How does that affect the quality and content of the show?


I think the quality of the show has more or less remained constant. It’s people who are donating their time freely to a college-access radio show, so it can’t be as high-quality as we’d like it all the time, but it definitely has remained pretty good. The biggest change I’d see with turnover is just the flavor of the series, which happens when we have different editors, different writers and just different things like that.


What are the program’s creative goals?


I don’t think we have many end goals, other than just having fun with it. We know that we have some listeners and we aren’t really doing this for an academic project or anything. It’s just that the people who are involved are passionate about it … it’s just for their own personal gain, for their experience doing something that they love, and if other people get enjoyment out of it, it’s just a bonus.


What goes into writing and producing an episode of The Dead Hear Footsteps?


It’s a complicated two-week kind of thing. One week we’ll have an interest meeting … to plan … who’s going to be the crook for the week, what are they doing, how does Hardin find out what they’re doing. We create a “beat sheet,” which is splitting the episode up into four parts. … Those four parts are called by people who are interested for writing that week, so if someone sees part two and thinks, “Oh, there’s an interesting car chase scene there, I want to write that,” then they call that and they write that part. … Once all four parts are done, they’re sent to the editor, who is currently [College sophomore] James Beech, and he compiles them to make sure there’s continuity, that the little old lady who hired Hardin in part one is the same little old lady who finds out who the crook was in part four. … Then we do a read-through to practice at 3 p.m. … until 5 p.m., when we go out live. At the same time as people are doing the read-through for voice acting, tech-side we are also getting there, sitting at the microphones, making sure everything is working in the studio as it should, so that by the time 5 comes around, everyone’s ready, we all come together and put out an episode, which generally lasts until about 5:30. So all-in-all it takes about a week and a half for each episode to be produced and go live, so there’s generally two episodes going on at once.


Wow. It takes a lot of work to put together a half-hour program. That must require a lot of coordination.


Yeah, it’s a lot of people. We definitely don’t have a consistent “these four people write” every week. … And that’s one thing I’ve always appreciated about The Dead, is the people who want to write can have the opportunity to write because there’s so many opportunities for it. … For example, I definitely don’t consider myself a writer, but there have been weeks when no one’s been writing. I had time, so I was able to pick it up and get some practice writing and have fun with something that I hadn’t done before.


What makes The Dead different from other theatrical productions on campus?


It’s very distinct from anything else in this campus. There are theatrical performances that happen on campus, but those are generally high-production. They go up once and it’s a lot of effort to put into them, and then they’re done. People remember them and talk about them, but it’s done at that point. Radio shows are a thing that is happening all the time. WOBC has new radio shows every semester, and there are ones that do carry over.  On the air before us — for I don’t even know how many years — has been The World Famous Meeko Show, but that one’s still generally just music and talking about what [Meeko Israel] wants to talk about on the air. This is just something that’s been going on … so when you go into an episode you can remember and be a part of this thing that has just been continuing for so long. So with me being on there for five semesters we can see a character that I haven’t seen for two seasons and I can remember, “Oh yeah, Clystrum, he’s a character. He’s fun.”