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Transcript: Digital Production Buzz – March 12, 2015

Digital Production Buzz

March 12, 2015

[Transcripts provided by Take 1 Transcription]


(Click here to listen to this show.)


Larry Jordan

Michael Horton


Justin Thomson, Founder, Ashridge Films

Ned Soltz, Contributing Editor, Digital Video Magazine, Ned Soltz Inc.

Jeff Gerrard, Owner, Jeff Gerrard Casting


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Voiceover: From the media capital of the world in Los Angeles, California, The Digital Production Buzz goes live now.

Larry Jordan: And welcome to The Digital Production Buzz, the world’s longest running podcast for creative content producers covering media production, post production, marketing and distribution around the world. Hi, my name is Larry Jordan and joining us is our co-host, the ebullient, ever affable and handsome Mr. Mike Horton.

Mike Horton: The ebullient?

Larry Jordan: Ebullient.

Mike Horton: Ebullient?

Larry Jordan: I had to look the word up, but it applied to you.

Mike Horton: Wait a minute, let me look the word up. What does that mean? Holy cow, it means that?

Larry Jordan: It means cheerful and energetic and bubbling over with enthusiasm.

Mike Horton: You say you can never make me smile. I’m smiling, Larry. I’m ebullient.

Larry Jordan: Yes, you are amazing.

Mike Horton: It is Ebullient Thursday.

Larry Jordan: And nobody does ebulliency better than you do.

Mike Horton: Thank you.

Larry Jordan: We have an acting theme, watching Mike smile, for this evening. We start our program tonight with Justin Thomson. He’s an actor, a filmmaker and Founder of Ashridge Films, with more than 20 years of acting experience especially in improv. Recently, Justin moved from London to LA and tonight we want to talk with him about acting and the business of acting.

Larry Jordan: Then Ned Soltz joins us with his thoughts on two new cameras, one from Sony and the new CION from AJA. Ned is the Contributing Editor for Digital Video magazine, a moderator on 2-Pop and Creative Cow forums and a consultant on all things related to digital video.

Mike Horton: And a good friend of mine.

Larry Jordan: And a good friend of mine.

Mike Horton: Really? Well, a better friend of mine. We talk daily. Right, Ned?

Larry Jordan: Finally, if you’ve seen Bud Light’s ‘I love you, man’ commercials, you’ve seen the work of Jeff Gerrard, the owner of Jeff Gerrard casting. Jeff and his team have found just the right actors for feature films and over 3,500 television commercials, of which over 1,000 featured Mike himself.

Mike Horton: I wonder if Jeff remembers me.

Larry Jordan: We will find out.

Mike Horton: Because I probably did a thousand commercials for Jeff. Jeff, do you remember me? Well, we’ll find out.

Larry Jordan: Tonight, Jeff shares his thoughts on what it takes for successful casting sessions; and The Buzz, by the way, is going to NAB for our seventh year of coverage of our industry’s biggest event.

Mike Horton: Are you going to interview me, by the way?

Larry Jordan: We are not interviewing you.

Mike Horton: You didn’t interview me last year.

Larry Jordan: No, we’re interviewing industry leaders.

Mike Horton: Oh, that’s right, sorry. I could update my resume.

Larry Jordan: We’re going to have more than ten hours of programming over four days. Mike, are you going to NAB?

Mike Horton: I am going to NAB.

Larry Jordan: What are you going to be doing?

Mike Horton: I’ll be doing the Supermeet, which makes me an industry leader, which you should interview.

Larry Jordan: I should interview you?

Mike Horton: You should interview me. You should interview me Monday morning, so we can get it out right there and get a lot of people to the Supermeet on Tuesday night.

Larry Jordan: Be careful what you ask for, because we have an opening on our first very show Monday morning. We may book you for it.

Mike Horton: Really?

Larry Jordan: Yes.

Mike Horton: Oh, really?

Larry Jordan: Yes.

Mike Horton: Well then, do me. Oh no, wait a minute, I’m at the Blackmagic Design press conference, which you should be at too.

Larry Jordan: I will be, except…

Mike Horton: Well then you could do it after that.

Larry Jordan: What’s the Supermeet going to be? Have you published the agenda yet?

Mike Horton: Just call, get your price right now and book me.

Larry Jordan: Have you published the agenda for Supermeet yet?

Mike Horton: Not yet. No, we know who’s going to be on it, we don’t know what they’re doing. They won’t tell us.

Larry Jordan: Have you found a location?

Mike Horton: Yes. Riviera Hotel, which will be imploded in August of 2015.

Larry Jordan: Just after you leave it, actually.

Mike Horton: Right after. They’re closing the doors two weeks after we leave.

Larry Jordan: Remember to check our show transcripts, located on each show page, courtesy of Take 1 Transcription. You can learn more at Visit with us on Facebook, at; and on Twitter, @DPBuZZ, and subscribe to our free weekly show newsletter at Mike and I will be back with Justin Thomson right after this.

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Larry Jordan: Justin Thomson is an actor, a filmmaker and a Founder of Ashridge Films, with over 20 years of acting experience. Recently, he moved from London to LA and tonight we want to talk with him about the craft and business of acting. Welcome, Justin, good to have you with us.

Justin Thomson: It’s excellent to be here, thank you.

Mike Horton: Welcome. 20 years, wait a minute. 20 years, that makes you, what? You started when you were two?

Justin Thomson: I started when I was nine.

Mike Horton: Ah.

Justin Thomson: Yes.

Larry Jordan: So what got you started in acting?

Justin Thomson: Two things. Mainly I found out that I got to kiss girls and so I was sold, I was going to be all over that.

Larry Jordan: As a nine year old? I find that very hard to believe.

Mike Horton: Well, he was in London.

Justin Thomson: Well, I was early. German, we develop early, yes.

Larry Jordan: So what are some of the projects you’ve worked on?

Justin Thomson: I did a lot of voiceover when I was a kid, dubbing films. I did ‘Independence Day’, ‘Stargate’, tons of stuff like that. Then I did a few guest appearances on TV series. I even played Donald Trump on ‘Quantum Leap’. That was probably one of my greatest…

Larry Jordan: Whoa!

Mike Horton: You played Donald Trump?

Justin Thomson: I played a young Donald Trump.

Mike Horton: A young Donald Trump?

Justin Thomson: Yes, yes. That was…

Mike Horton: With really bad hair? Because your hair is actually pretty good.

Justin Thomson: What they did is they just cut it from here and then they implanted it into here. I’m really sorry if he’s watching this.

Mike Horton: He’s not.

Larry Jordan: That’s more detail than I really want to know. Thank you.

Justin Thomson: Oh, that’s all right. Yes. No, it was good but it was funny, as a child actor I loved being on set and that was one of the things that inspired me to actually continue in it, because I realized that when you make a film, it’s kind of like a giant canvas with hundreds if not thousands of people all adding their brush stroke to the painting.

Mike Horton: And everyone’s supposedly collaborating.

Justin Thomson: Supposedly, and so I started working basically every single job that I possibly could once I was old enough and I’ve been a PA, I worked as a grip, a gaffer, on sound, I was a cameraman for two years, I traveled around the world. I actually worked with Jeff who’s going to be on the show. Actually, that was one of the things that I learned the most as an actor, by far, was working with Jeff as his assistant.

Mike Horton: Were you able to – because we’re talking about Jeff being a casting director – be in the audition process and watch other actors? You can learn so much from that.

Justin Thomson: I was very, very fortunate. There was a really amazing producer, John Brister, and he was working on a film and he’s always been my mentor and he said, “Justin, as an actor, there’s one thing I want you to do – work in casting and understand it,” because for actors it’s this big mystery, like a black box. You go into the audition, you come out and then you’re totally nervous and you’re like, “Why didn’t I get the job?”

Larry Jordan: So as an actor, what did you learn from that? What piece of advice can you share with other actors?

Justin Thomson: The biggest thing that I can share is realizing that it’s all about persistence. If you love what you do – and you need to love acting in order to do it, that’s why whenever anybody asks me what I do I just tell them I’m a waiter in denial, so true…

Mike Horton: I like that, it’s a good line.

Justin Thomson: But it’s basically very important to understand that there’s a shape that each director and each producer is looking for and usually the best actor doesn’t actually get the job, it’s whoever matches the shape the most and eventually, if you’re persistent and you’re reasonably good enough at your craft, then your shape will come along and then…

Larry Jordan: Now, what do you mean by shape? It’s more than just looks, isn’t it?

Justin Thomson: It’s look, it’s attitude, it’s charisma. But unfortunately a lot of it is based on look because they have something in their mind that they’re picturing.

Mike Horton: Yes, a lot of it doesn’t have to do with you or your performance, which could have been brilliant and more brilliant than the other people, but if you’re not right for the part, you’re not going to get it.

Justin Thomson: Exactly.

Mike Horton: It’s as simple as that.

Justin Thomson: Exactly.

Mike Horton: So don’t take it personally.

Justin Thomson: 100 percent.

Larry Jordan: So what got you interested in improv? You’ve been doing mime work and improv work for a long time. That’s like the ragged edge of acting.

Justin Thomson: It’s a place of convenience for those who aren’t very good at remembering lines. It actually influenced my life very early on. I gave a TED talk on this last year.

Mike Horton: You gave a TED talk?

Justin Thomson: I did, TEDEX.

Mike Horton: Oh but still, that’s pretty cool.

Justin Thomson: Yes, it was very cool.

Mike Horton: So we can look it up? We just Google your name, TED talk and…

Justin Thomson: Go to YouTube and Justin Thomson, TED and you’ll find it.

Mike Horton: I’m going to watch that tonight. I will call you after it’s over, we’ll talk about it.

Justin Thomson: Please do, or you can just hit me up on Tinder, that’s fine, that works too.

Mike Horton: Ok, that’s fine.

Larry Jordan: When you guys are done, let’s just go on with the show here.

Mike Horton: Have you done a TED talk? I mean, he’s done a TED talk. That’s pretty cool. You should do a TED talk.

Larry Jordan: I should.

Justin Thomson: I agree, I agree.

Mike Horton: Me? No.

Larry Jordan: You could talk about coiling cables and codecs.

Mike Horton: I could.

Larry Jordan: But we would probably not listen to it.

Mike Horton: It’s an inside joke.

Larry Jordan: Take charge of this, would you? Because this has just gone off the rails already.

Justin Thomson: So you asked why improvisation has become a big part of my life, and it actually was one I loved it in acting because it forced rapid thinking and there’s one rule in improvisation and that’s never to deny, always say, “Yes, and…” so contribute to whatever the situation is and that, I realized, applies totally in life.

Justin Thomson: If something comes across your path in life, somebody gives you an opportunity, like when John Brister said, “Hey, I’d like you to work with Jeff Gerrard,” instead of me going, “Oh no, you know, I don’t really want to do that. I just really want to be auditioning and doing other things,” I said yes to it and it totally expanded my horizon. When you say yes to things, there are all these opportunities that exist. The second you say no, they disappear. So improv actually influenced my life in a massive way.

Larry Jordan: An interesting thing, as I was reflecting on this, one of the things that I’ve learned in my own directing is that many times drama is not in the person speaking but in the person reacting to the person speaking and improv is all about reacting to external forces.

Justin Thomson: Yes.

Larry Jordan: Is that a true statement?

Justin Thomson: It’s absolutely a true statement. The most important bit of advice that I give to any actor, not just in improvisation, but in theater and stage and in film and television, it’s listening. If you’re too much in your head, you miss every little grain or gift that’s given that might be even a mistake but could be turned into something really amazing, so if you’re too focused on yourself then you’re going to lose the real essence of it. Because that’s what life is, it’s listening and communicating.

Larry Jordan: Meaning that rather than trying to think about what your next line is, think about what’s happening around you?

Justin Thomson: Exactly, and the line will naturally occur because it’s a response, the dialogue has been written as a response, and so it’s intuitively inside of you.

Larry Jordan: Well, who should the actor listen to? Is it other actors or the director or the audience? What are you picking up on?

Justin Thomson: The studio executive, always listen to the studio executive. Whatever he says, they’re great. It’s a collaboration, obviously actors and directors, it’s a dance. I think a bad director is somebody who’s trying to control every moment, saying, “Ok, do this and then do this and do that,” and that’s not how it should be. A good director, I have found, gives waypoints that you should ultimately achieve and how the actor gets there is his choice, but get to that emotion, get to that spot, whatever it is.

Mike Horton: A good director casts well and then pretty much leaves you alone, and trusts you.

Justin Thomson: The best director that I ever worked with was Michael Winterbottom and he’s done some amazing films. His process was basically he would say, “Ok, this is our ultimate destination, where we want to go in the scene.” There’s a lot of improvisation in all of his films and he always stood on the side and he just gave gentle guidance, kind of like being a lighthouse off in the distance so you never lost your way as an actor in the scene. Yes.

Larry Jordan: Well, that speaks to something else. How does an actor learn to trust a director? You’re the one who’s exposed, it’s your face that’s on the screen and yet it’s the director’s vision. That’s a really fine line to walk.

Justin Thomson: I think it happens before the production occurs, depending on the style or what the production is. If you’re doing a student film, obviously you don’t have the luxury of three weeks of prep and rehearsal and reading at the table.

Mike Horton: Rehearsal?

Justin Thomson: Well, yes, exactly.

Mike Horton: Rehearsal? Say that word again.

Justin Thomson: Rehearsal, exactly. But it’s just a dance. I don’t know, it’s like the first time you go on a date. You can never dictate exactly how it’s going to go, but you have to trust in each other that you each have a strong enough vision and points that you can give and take.

Larry Jordan: I was reflecting, this is the third time you’ve been on the show. You were on in 2010 when we were talking about the fact you had just moved to London; then in 2013, we were doing Bestival; in 2014, you’ve abandoned London, come back to LA. What brings you back to LA?

Justin Thomson: It’s March and it’s 80 degrees outside.

Mike Horton: Pilot season.

Justin Thomson: It’s a few different factors. I love London. There’s that saying, “He who is tired of London is tired of life,” but as far as working in front of the camera or just working in film in general, the absolute epicenter is Los Angeles, is California for creativity and for everything. There’s a fantastic work ethic in London. It’s not so unionized, it’s a smaller industry, so once you make friends you’re in and it’s a great place to work, but if you want to really take it to the next level and especially for actors, I think you need to be here.

Mike Horton: Have you found your circle of friends here yet? Or did you just move back and now you’re finding them?

Justin Thomson: You are my friends.

Mike Horton: Ok, good.

Justin Thomson: Both of you.

Larry Jordan: I’m very sorry.

Mike Horton: Well, your circle is very tight right now but hopefully it’ll expand in the next month.

Justin Thomson: That’s all I need.

Mike Horton: You have to live at the right apartment complex too.

Justin Thomson: That’s actually true, and drive the right car.

Mike Horton: And drive the right car.

Larry Jordan: Is there a difference in acting between London and LA?

Justin Thomson: Yes.

Larry Jordan: How so?

Mike Horton: Really?

Justin Thomson: Yes, big time actually.

Mike Horton: I’d love to hear this. All right.

Justin Thomson: Obviously, theater, you need to be in London or New York, those are the two places. Now, when it comes to auditioning, this is the one of the things I learned from casting, and a lot of my British friends who were actors who would come here for pilot season were always shocked because you’re taught to be totally off book.

Justin Thomson: In the UK, when you go into an audition, you need to know your lines dead and here, even if you haven’t memorized, there’s this whole technique where people say, “Actually, bring the sides in and occasionally glance down and act like you’re reading it,” because then it allows the casting director or the director or the producer to believe that, “Oh well, if he’s this good while he’s just cold reading, imagine how good he’ll be off book,” so it’s just little things like that.

Mike Horton: Huh. I was never off book in auditions. Ever.

Larry Jordan: Really?

Mike Horton: No. Well, you would get four or five auditions a day. There’s no way in the world you could, especially if it was a 12 page audition, there was no way that you could do it so you’d have to bring the things in and you were always reading really, really bad stuff, where improvisation comes in big time, so you just change it.

Justin Thomson: Yes, that’s very true. But in the UK, it’s such a craft. It’s a four year degree. Here, everybody’s like, “Hop on the Greyhound, come out to LA,” and you’re suddenly an actor. There, you need to go to RADA, you need to go to all the right schools.

Mike Horton: Did you go to the schools in London?

Justin Thomson: I never went to school there.

Mike Horton: Ok.

Justin Thomson: I was home schooled my whole life, so I can’t read or write.

Mike Horton: That’s right, but you do know math and science and coding.

Justin Thomson: Sure, yes.

Mike Horton: Good job, mom.

Larry Jordan: I want to shift gears before Mike runs us completely out of time.

Justin Thomson: Sure.

Mike Horton: I’m sorry. Go ahead, Larry.

Larry Jordan: Is it my turn now?

Mike Horton: Yes.

Larry Jordan: I want to talk about the business of acting. You’ve been surviving as an actor for 20 years and the stories of the starving actor and low pay of actors are legendary. What are some of the key business things that you’ve learned to keep your career moving forward, to keep yourself fed and keep growing in new parts and new tasks and challenges?

Justin Thomson: Two things – people need to realize that, actors, you are a brand, you are your own company, you are your face, everything. A brand is everything, and even for Coca-Cola or whatever it is, but now is the best time ever to be an actor, I think, because the barriers to entry are zero. The biggest thing that I learned at a young age was start creating your own content because it was a lot easier for me to hire myself than try to get hired to do a job, so I’d find people that I liked to work with, that collaborated well together, and we’d create stuff.

Larry Jordan: Allow me to play devil’s advocate. It is absolute easy to get stuff on the web and get distribution, but that’s not the same thing as earning a living at it. There are millions of people who post videos that get nothing from it. Your job as an actor is not just simply to act, but to earn a living. There’s a big difference between access to content at low cost and earning a living.

Mike Horton: Yes, but that content that he’s creating rather than sitting around and having somebody else be part of that content that’s being created, he’s creating content, those people can see it and see what he can do and then he can get hired for that, and that’s what you mean about that entry level, because he’s doing it. Ashridge Films. He’s already doing it and good on you, because a lot of people are still going through that process of auditioning and trying to get the roles. No, go out and create your own content while you’re auditioning.

Justin Thomson: It’s a matter of being proactive and then also you still have to be talented.

Mike Horton: Yes.

Justin Thomson: It comes down to that. You can’t just fake it, no matter how much auto tuning or iMovie pre-edit you have there, you still have to have talent. But you can learn faster and you don’t have that barrier to entry so that, if you are talented, you don’t have to know the guy or be the son of the director who’s the studio executive, whatever. You can actually get it out there and get a following and get your voice heard.

Larry Jordan: So how do you market yourself to get gigs that pay money as opposed to simply get your face on the web?

Justin Thomson: Well, that’s a good balance. You have people creating buy-ins now who are getting millions of dollars because they have a ton of followers and, to some branding person that has value to them. The most important thing is do it because you love it, don’t do it because you want to make money at it. Do enough that you can survive. I think I’m quite an optimistic person that you can ultimately achieve those things if you’re passionate and love it, you’ll always find a path.

Mike Horton: And that’s why we’re doing what we’re doing, Larry, because we’re passionate about it, we love it.

Justin Thomson: And you’re an amazing example. Look at what you’ve created. You’ve created something amazing.

Mike Horton: Exactly.

Justin Thomson: It’s awesome.

Mike Horton: Might have hired the wrong partner but…

Justin Thomson: That’s all right, that can be CGI’d out, don’t worry.

Larry Jordan: Yes, we can put in a different face if we need to. What do you find is the best way to promote your career? Is it the web? Is it demo reels? Is it face to face meetings with agents? What is it that generates business?

Justin Thomson: I hate to say it, because I used to hate it as a kid, but it’s who you know, it’s who your friends are, because that’s how I give jobs or how I get jobs, it’s because people I’ve worked with, that I like to work with, that is the ultimate way to do it; and then there’s a tipping point. Once you have enough content that’s good, then somebody says, “Hey, I worked with this guy, he did this really amazing film for Bestival. Why don’t you work together?”

Mike Horton: Yes, we need to actually bring him back and talk more about it. If you go to his website and click on ‘FX3’, we need to talk about that. Has nothing to do with his face, it has nothing to do with putting his face out there. It has everything to do with this new technology, this 360 degree almost virtual reality sort of technology that he is doing right now and hopefully making money at.

Larry Jordan: Well, one of the things I’m interested about is that your website doesn’t have your face on it, doesn’t have your email address on it, doesn’t even have a demo reel on it. It’s understated to the point of invisibility. How come?

Justin Thomson: Ashridge Films primarily came out of the fact that I was developing a program for the BBC in which I did put my face, but it was primarily focused for just content creation. I think there’s a balance between saying, “Ok, I am Justin Thomson Productions,” and everything about that or, “This is my production company and this is my acting side of it.” If you go on to IMDb, you see plenty of the films and projects that I’ve worked on, but when it comes to content creation I don’t want one thing to distract from the other.

Mike Horton: By the way, are these your eyes?

Justin Thomson: Those are not my eyes. That was a photograph that I took in Bhutan.

Mike Horton: Oh. Oh, you went to Bhutan?

Justin Thomson: I went to Bhutan many years ago.

Mike Horton: Oh God, I’ve always wanted to do that.

Justin Thomson: For a project and, yes, so I love those eyes.

Larry Jordan: When should an actor who’s been doing work on the web get an agent?

Justin Thomson: It’s interesting, because nowadays you don’t necessarily need to have an agent. Again, the barriers of entry are totally gone. I know this sounds weird – and we were just at the edge of it when I was working with Jeff Gerrard – Actors Access, Showfacts, the actors have access to those and more and more. We did a campaign for a very large franchise in which we were looking for somebody, and we scoured the nation to find it and we ultimately found it because I posted something on Craigslist and then somebody came in.

Justin Thomson: Agents are good because they have some relationships with casting directors, so you have a little bit of a better chance to get in, but don’t let it be a barrier to pursuing your passion.

Larry Jordan: Where on the web can people go to learn more about the acting and work that you’re doing?

Justin Thomson: Google knows everything about me, so you could go onto Google, put in Justin Thomson, or you could go to IMDb for acting and then for content.

Larry Jordan: Justin Thomson is the face you’ve been looking to. Justin, thanks for joining us.

Justin Thomson: Loved being here.

Mike Horton: Thanks Justin, that was great.

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Larry Jordan: Ned Soltz is an author, an editor, educator and consultant on all things related to digital video. He’s also a Contributing Editor for Digital Video magazine, a moderator on 2-Pop and Creative Cow forums and a regular correspondent here on The Buzz. Hello, Ned, welcome back.

Ned Soltz: Hello, Larry, it’s good to be back and somehow I am getting feedback here. This is the first time we’ve attempted this. I think I’m ok right now. Good, I’m muted. Can you guys hear me?

Larry Jordan: We can hear you loud and clear.

Mike Horton: We can hear you really well. Can you get feedback? Because I’m talking over Larry and we’re actually talking at the same time.

Ned Soltz: Oh, that’s what’s plausible, then. Hello, Michael. I’m very disappointed that I’m not able to see you, but we’ll rectify that in a few weeks at NAB.

Mike Horton: I hope so.

Larry Jordan: I’ve seen him, Ned, I’m not sure that’s a good idea.

Mike Horton: Yes, it’s not a really good idea. I really look awful, Ned.

Ned Soltz: Yes, I’m not sure about this new Skype video format. It’s like tell everybody I have a radio voice and a radio face to go along with that radio voice, so this is one of my rare live appearances.

Mike Horton: This is your home in New Jersey, right? Is that where you’re coming from?

Ned Soltz: Yes, it is. This is my home studio we’re coming from.

Mike Horton: Oh my gosh.

Larry Jordan: It’s a lovely ceiling, by the way. It looks great behind you.

Mike Horton: It is.

Ned Soltz: Yes, with the little ersatz lighting in the last five minutes, anything I could pull out of the bag.

Mike Horton: You look good, Ned.

Larry Jordan: Ned, let’s get right into it. Tell us about the new Sony FS7 camera.

Ned Soltz: Well, I love the new Sony FS7. I not only reviewed it, I actually bought it and that to me really says something, when I see a product that I really think is going to do the job for me and then just coincidentally I had the opportunity to write about it. Basically, I think it combines so many different aspects.

Ned Soltz: What we have is a large sensor camera which has such a wonderful form factor that it’s really usable, and what I’m beginning to see right now is a large sensor quasi ENG type of acquisition, where you can work this camera very, very carefully and, despite the shallow depth of field from a large sensor camera, it’s very plausible to use it in that matter; and it’s also plausible to use it in a very cinematic sense.

Ned Soltz: Sony marketed it originally as a cinéma vérité camera and, indeed, that’s what it is. It’s a baby F5 in many regards, with its 4K, UHD internal right now but by the end of the month the new Firmware 2.0 will be out, which will then allow actual 4K DCI in camera, which is a pretty amazing feature.

Larry Jordan: You say it’s a baby F5. Where does it fit in terms of price?

Ned Soltz: It’s about half the price of an F5.

Larry Jordan: Wow.

Mike Horton: Yes, that’s amazing. I mean, it’s just incredible.

Ned Soltz: Yes, it is. It is at $16,000 for the F5, and the F5 does have more than the FS7, but on the other hand, for $8,000 you’re getting full 4K DCI right now within the camera; for another $2,000 for the back, that can enable ProRes, but it also enables the use of real batteries, it provides a counterweight for shoulder mounting, timecode in/out, gen lock. But just even the base camera itself, recording to those XQD cards, where you have the choice of an XAVC intra, an XAVC long GOP and even, for legacy reality TV type production, a 50 megabit 422 mpeg2 codec, which is really the darling of reality TV.

Larry Jordan: Grant in our live chat is asking, the shallow depth of field on the camera seems to be too much of a problem. How do you overcome that? The reason that he asks is he’s looking for a small light camera that has zoom but doesn’t have a real shallow depth of field. Is the depth of field going to be a limitation for focusing for run and gun?

Ned Soltz: Let’s put it this way. If you’re working with a lot of light and you’re able then to stop that lens down and if you can shoot that lens at about an F8, you’re not going to have that much of an issue with shallow depth of field, any more than people right now who are shooting Canon C300s. It’s really very much the same situation, so it is plausible. You just have to watch your focus, learn to focus in zones and the like relative to your aperture. I don’t think it’s that much of an issue, but certainly it’s very different than shooting with your traditional CMOS smaller chip, three chip camera.

Larry Jordan: In terms of the camera, how good is the audio with it?

Ned Soltz: I find the audio phenomenal and right now, in fact, with the 2.0 upgrade, you’ll be able to record four channels of audio. It has that MI, multi interface, shoe which right now can take the Sony UWP wireless microphone, which I also bought to go along with the kit, as well as the Sony on camera dual XLR module they were selling for the A7S. So with that module or with the wireless microphone, you can have two channels of audio there and you’ve got two XLR inputs so you can actually record four channels of audio. I think in terms of comparing it, for example, to my EX3, the pre-amps are far cleaner so I can trust that audio a lot more on the FS7.

Larry Jordan: All right, well, let’s shift gears. We’ve got the Sony FS7, but the other new camera that you reviewed recently was the CION from AJA. What’s your take on that?

Ned Soltz: The CION from AJA. Pretty amazing. Really. I am just floored at what manufacturers are able to do today at any kind of price point, whether it’s $9,000 for the CION or, to change the topic just slightly, the new Alexa Mini for $36,000 and bringing that feature set of the Alexa down to a price that is competitive in that level of the market. What impressed me most about CION was just the color science of the camera.

Ned Soltz: That’s what I wrote about; and then, actually independent of that, there was an article that someone on RedShark News had written about, very much the same thing, of really the ability with the color science to create wonderful looks within camera that might require far less grading than recording just in a log or a RAW format. They just have it right.

Larry Jordan: What format does the CION record in?

Ned Soltz: CION records in all flavors of ProRes right now, but it’s not a log. Essentially, they have a flat gamma, they have an expanded or an extended gamma for a couple of extra stops of dynamic range and the ability to turn that gamma off completely, which gives you a dark image. It’s not lot but it allows you to grade very much like that; and then there are varying look tonalities to the camera.

Ned Soltz: There’s a neutral, there’s a skin tone, and by experimenting with those various permutations and combinations within camera, it’s plausible to create a very, very fine look – again, within the limitations of the camera. Remember, this is an ISO 320 camera, so you’ve really got to light it indoors, not like the native ISO 2000 of an FS7 or something. It’s back to the old days of cinema.

Mike Horton: We only have a minute left or something like that, but are there any bad cameras out there? I know we have too many cameras, you keep saying that, we have too many cameras, but are there any bad cameras?

Ned Soltz: No, none of them are bad.

Mike Horton: I knew that.

Ned Soltz: None of them are bad. It’s a question of what works for you in terms of the ergonomics, the feature set, the price point, your intended use and you’ve really got to try these things. Rent it, go to a VAR that carries all of these cameras and really determine what’s going to work for you in your given situation.

Larry Jordan: Ned, in the short period of time we’ve got left, the AJA camera is a brand new camera, should we wait before buying to allow AJA to work the bugs out? Or does it seem stable now?

Ned Soltz: The 1.1 Firmware did stabilize things quite a bit and took the EI up to 1,000 and the native ISO to 320. It’s very hard to tell when to jump into a camera. I’m an early adopter kind of person. By the way, being an early adopter of the FS7, I’ve gotten business with it because few other people have them, so people are interested in renting it or people are interested in having things shot with it, so I think in that regard that was a very good decision on my part.

Larry Jordan: And, Ned, where can people go on the web to read your reviews?

Ned Soltz: They can read both of those reviews at

Mike Horton: And you can meet Ned at the Supermeet at the desk, taking tickets.

Larry Jordan: That is Ned Soltz, Contributing Editor for Digital Video magazine and reviewer par excellence of cameras. Ned, thanks for joining us today.

Mike Horton: Thanks, Ned.

Ned Soltz: Thank you so much, guys, see you at NAB.

Larry Jordan: Bye bye.

Mike Horton: See you soon.

Larry Jordan: I guess we’re back on again, Michael. It’s our turn again.

Mike Horton: Are we?

Larry Jordan: We are indeed.

Mike Horton: Well, you’re running the show, Larry. Go ahead, do your intro.

Larry Jordan: Somebody’s got to run it. It’s certainly not me.

Mike Horton: It’s not me.

Larry Jordan: From Bud Light’s ‘I love you, man’ campaign to Jarhead 2 and the latest Little Rascals, Jeff Gerrard and his associates at Jeff Gerrard Casting have found just the right actors for features and over 3500 television commercials, and I’m curious to know how they did it. Hello, Jeff, welcome.

Jeff Gerrard: Hey, how are you?

Mike Horton: Hi Jeff.

Larry Jordan: We are doing great. How would you describe the role of a casting director, aside from exhausted, which is where you are right now?

Jeff Gerrard: Yes, you got that right. I would say we’re gardeners. I like to say we’re weeders. I think we get hired because of our vision and our eyes, how we see certain things through talent, life etcetera, and we go in and we take a meeting with the director or producers etcetera, and if we’re on the same wavelength we get the job.

Larry Jordan: You’re right now in the middle of casting a film, which is one of the reasons we scheduled you at this time in the show, as you’d have time to get to a telephone. What are you doing now? Not necessarily the name of the film, but what part of the process are you in?

Jeff Gerrard: We have just completed the casting on Friday and this week was me making all the deals, so basically we have our cast in place, we are completed, the producers have accepted everyone, the studio accepted everyone and now we’re into the contract and negotiations phase, which I’m happy to say is over as of today.

Larry Jordan: Tell me what that phase means, because that’s a part of the business that I’m not familiar with.

Mike Horton: Arguing with agents.

Jeff Gerrard: Yes, thank you, you got that. No, to be honest with you, I think on the film that I was doing, I was pretty up front with everybody going in. We had a certain budget, we had to accomplish certain things. We obviously have to appease not only the director’s vision of what he wants on the screen, but we also have to appease the studio to get a certain amount of cache name in there to open the film and if it doesn’t get a theatrical release, if it’s made for a direct to DVD type of a feature film, as more and more and more of the industry is going in that direction, we have to make sure that all parties are satisfied and happy.

Larry Jordan: But now in the negotiation part, you’re not talking with the actors at all, you’re talking with their agents.

Jeff Gerrard: No, it’s strictly having a conversation with their agents, their managers, the combination of the two, then the lawyer gets involved as well, so the actor has a number of people on their team that we deal with, not on a day to day basis but more on the end of the film, the process, the casting section is done and now we’re into the negotiation, yes.

Larry Jordan: Ok, well let’s go back a week to when you were casting. How are you finding the talent you want for the film?

Jeff Gerrard: A number of ways – agents, managers, watching television, going to movies, seeing theater etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Just any way that I possibly have them on my – I want to use an old fashioned word – Rolodex. I have their team in my computer, bank of my brain up here or I can’t remember someone and I turn to my trusty associates and assistants and say, “Hey, who was that guy that stars on this show that got… it was dropped after one season, but remember he played the gardener and he…” blah, blah, blah, and right away it becomes a ball session with all of us together, trying to come up with the name, the right person who we’re thinking of, and it’s an input.

Jeff Gerrard: We work together, I’m just one little piece of the puzzle and sometimes a director will call me and say, “Hey, did you think of it this way?” I say, “Yes, he’s on the list but, I got to tell you, he’s not available, he just booked a pilot,” and that’s the toughest part of casting a movie now during these months in California, in Hollywood. It’s pilot season and nobody wants to come out on your film because they want to get a pilot and they want to have that pilot go to series.

Mike Horton: Do pictures matter anymore, Jeff? Do you still look at pictures?

Jeff Gerrard: We do, just we look at them in a different way now. Everyone’s on computer, so the picture you’re looking at is about a thumb print. If you can imagine what your driver’s license photo looks like, that’s basically what we’re looking at and we have to click on that and then all of a sudden the resume will show up and then we have to click on the next person or the next person etcetera.

Jeff Gerrard: But when we do have a session for producer/directors, we do request that they still bring in a hard copy picture and a resume. I’ve got to tell you, there’s nothing like the feel of a picture and a resume in your hand. Maybe I’m just the old fart in the neighborhood, but there’s nothing like that, to flip that picture around and to see their training, to see where they did theater. It’s just the way I was brought up in the business, so it’s taken some time to get used to just click, click, click, but it is a lot easier on the environment.

Mike Horton: Yes, Jeff, I think you are the old fart and there are not too many people like you left, I think, which is a shame.

Larry Jordan: Which is more important – is it more important for an actor to look right for the part or to be right for the part?

Jeff Gerrard: Tell me what you mean by be right. It’s so funny that you should say that, because I did a movie a number of years ago, 20 plus years ago, and I went to New York to scout some people and I never like that phrase, “Oh, he just walked in and he was the part.” I just didn’t understand that until I was doing this movie, I flew to New York, I saw a number of people and in walks this young man who’s only done one other project in his life. His name was Dylan McDermott and he walked in and he was the role I was looking for, so that’s when I learned that’s what that phrase means. It’s almost like a bell goes off in your head.

Larry Jordan: So it’s more than just what they look like?

Jeff Gerrard: Oh, definitely. I think nowadays actors are blessed to be in the business now, unlike 25, 30 years ago when it was a certain type, you looked a certain way, were you this, were you that, especially commercials. You were either blonde haired with blue eyes or you were extreme character so they had someplace to put you. You were either P&G or you were a character person.

Jeff Gerrard: Now it’s Americana and it’s great. It’s great to cast commercials nowadays and in films as well, TV shows, everything. You see it’s just a piece of Americana. It’s like walking to the corner store and running into all these wonderful faces and now we get to cast all that, and there’s nobody holding us back saying, “Oh, it has to be Caucasian,” “Oh, it has to be Hispanic,” “Oh, it has to be African American.” No. A lot of times, they say, “It’s your canvas, go with it, show me the best people in town.”

Mike Horton: Yes, and Jeff, I’ve got to say this because I’ve been holding out for a little while and I don’t know if you remember me, but I was an actor for a number of years and you cast me in a number of commercials back in the ‘80s and the ‘90s, Michael Horton is my name, and of course my wife Debbie’s…

Jeff Gerrard: Michael!

Mike Horton: Yes.

Jeff Gerrard: Of course! Debbie Zip?

Mike Horton: Yes, and Debbie Zip was my wife and Debbie and I, of course, did hundreds of commercials of which you were a big part of our career, and I quit acting in 2000 because I couldn’t take it any more, I didn’t like it, and I never really liked doing commercials even though I did hundreds of them.

Jeff Gerrard: And it was your bread and butter.

Mike Horton: But it was my bread and butter. Not only was it my bread and butter, it was big time bread and butter because you can do one day’s work and make $30,000 over an entire year of residuals; and, of course, you were a big part of buying my house, so thank you Jeff, and raising my children – I have two grown children, thanks to you and the other casting directors – but that was then, this is now and one of the reasons I think I quit acting was, number one, I wanted to be a director and I wanted to be more in charge of my life, but what was happening was that actors were becoming kind of numbers, not necessarily people any more, and I wonder if that’s the same? Is that going on now?

Jeff Gerrard: Worse.

Mike Horton: How different is it now than 15 years ago?

Jeff Gerrard: It’s a little crazy because, as I talked about… oh Michael, it’s so great to hear your voice. I’m so sorry, I didn’t know it was you on the other end. This is so cool. All right, I love this. Well, yes, nowadays everything is coded so you are a number, it’s almost like you do have a barcode, you’re in the system, so it’s like going to the supermarket and getting a container of milk and all of a sudden you have to… the barcode.

Jeff Gerrard: All the actors bring little barcodes in their wallets as well and it’s just barcodes and they don’t have to fill out anything, it comes up instantly. They want to change pictures, so for certain things it’s really a benefit, but for other things it’s gotten worse. Since you dropped out, I think the ratio of bringing people in has gone up probably double. You have to bring in at least 100 to 150 people a day.

Mike Horton: Wow, really?

Jeff Gerrard: Yes. It’s not like, I remember you and Sandy Simpson and Kevin Borland and all you guys coming in and getting to know you a little, getting to know about you, getting to know where your talent lies and how to finesse that a little bit or, “Hey, that was really great, I love what you brought to it. Let’s just try it this way,” and still allowing you the freedom to bring your creativity to it, even if it was for that 30 seconds, 60 seconds.

Mike Horton: But you can’t do that with 150 people a day or 150 people a spot.

Jeff Gerrard: Well, you know what? I try to do my best with it, but it gets a little rough sometimes.

Larry Jordan: Jeff, what does an actor need to keep in mind when they’re going into a casting session, knowing that there are 150 other people they’re looking at today?

Jeff Gerrard: Don’t be anyone but yourself. Go in there, do what you do, what you do best, celebrate what you do best, embrace what you do, put it out there on the line, go home and forget about it. You want to keep a journal, keep a journal because it’s always good to know, hey, I looked back in my journal and guess what?

Jeff Gerrard: I booked a lot of MOS spots or I booked some improv spots, but I haven’t booked any dialogue driven spots, so maybe it’s time to reevaluate the instrument inside. Maybe the grooming outside is great, that’s why you’re booking those spots that don’t require any dialogue, but maybe the instrument inside isn’t as fine tuned as you think it is.

Mike Horton: I was booking all the spots that required dialogue because the outside wasn’t that great.

Jeff Gerrard: You were great. You don’t sell yourself short, guy. You were great and you were the top. In fact, weren’t you with TGI, BBR, whatever they’re called now?

Mike Horton: Oh yes, whatever their name was, I can’t remember. It was David Brady and a bunch of other people.

Jeff Gerrard: That’s right, it had Pat Brennan, yes I do, because I called for you a number of years ago and they said, “Jeff, he hasn’t been in the business forever,” and I said, “But this is the type of guy I want.”

Mike Horton: No, I couldn’t take it any more. Commercials are a director’s medium and I worked with all these wonderful directors throughout my career, like Tony Scott and Adrian Lyne and Antoine Fuqua and cinematographers like Caleb Deschanel, because they’d all do this stuff in between gigs. But as an actor, you don’t do them for the artistic rewards, you do them for the money, and thank God for them because they allowed you to pay the rent while you were pursuing your career.

Jeff Gerrard: And I have to tell you, commercials, it is a great stepping stone especially now, during pilot season. We will get a lot of calls to our office, because I’m President of the Commercial Casting Directors’ Association, all right?

Mike Horton: Oh, good for you.

Jeff Gerrard: So I get a lot of calls in my office saying, “Hey, Jeff, if you didn’t cast this, do you happen to know who the person is in this spot?” blah, blah, blah, “We want to bring him in for a lead in a pilot.”

Mike Horton: Now, Steven Bochco brought me in for LA Law because of a commercial that he saw that I did for American Express.

Jeff Gerrard: Exactly. Exactly. And Pete Andrade was brought in and he got a Bochco series, I think ‘Cop Rock’, because of a commercial he did standing against a wall for AT&T talking straight to camera, so you just never know where your next meal’s coming from.

Mike Horton: Yes, absolutely. No, commercials were absolutely wonderful and a very necessary part of my life.

Jeff Gerrard: Right.

Larry Jordan: Jeff, I want to come back to a casting session. One of the questions that I have is you’ve said for somebody to be themselves when they come to the casting session. How important is the first impression?

Jeff Gerrard: Oh, I think it’s very important because a lot of times, especially nowadays, when the economy hit bad for everyone, it hit every job and everything so budgets were cut in half, casting days were down from three days, you had to do it in a day and a half, you had one prep day to still do 12 characters, so it got hit a lot of times.

Jeff Gerrard: So when you do walk in that room, that’s what we’re looking for, we do want to see that we’re going to be able to pull your natural, honest personality through, and that’s what I say all the time. I always look for honesty in a performance, whether it’s just you kissing your dad goodnight and running upstairs to go to bed, or it’s you doing wall to wall copy straight to the camera.

Larry Jordan: If that’s true, then what does an actor need to do to make a good first impression? What thought should they be doing? It’s nice to say ‘be yourself’, but you’ve got to be more than yourself, it seems to me, in the casting session, don’t you?

Jeff Gerrard: It just depends. If you’re talking commercials, I still stick with that, I say you come in, the acting 101. Just because it’s a commercial, you don’t just say, “Oh, it’s just one line”. Well, if it’s just one line, well, who am I, where am I, why am I there? It’s those people that come in, I know it sounds silly just about a one line in a commercial, but if you’ve got a bunch of guys standing out there and there are 20 guys out there and the line is, “Thanks, Joe, come again,” well who is he?

Jeff Gerrard: Well, he’s a gas station attendant, I just said the line. Well, no, don’t just say the line. What was he doing just prior to Joe coming here and pumping the gas? And was it an old fashioned kind of gas station where you pump the gas for Joe? Is Joe’s kid in the back of the car? Does he always wave to you? Did Joe go off the curb again for the third time this month? So you add a lot of texture to that one line so it always has a beginning, a middle and an end, and it’s the same way with theatrical jobs.

Jeff Gerrard: As I always tell everyone, I’m throwing a party, you wouldn’t come to my house empty handed, right? So you’d want to bring something. I want to see what you have to bring to the mix.

Larry Jordan: Now you’re wearing your casting director hat, you’ve seen the 100 guys that came in that day, how do you make a decision? Is it just a gut feeling that this is the right guy or are there other criteria you’re using?

Mike Horton: Well, I wish Jeff made the decision, but…

Jeff Gerrard: Yes, if it’s commercials, it’s definitely not me. The tape goes off for the day into cyberspace here, because we do everything online, so whatever we’ve recorded for the day goes off and the agency looks at it, the production company looks at it, the director looks at it. Sometimes, if budgets are tight, they send it directly to the client nowadays and the client is picking certain people that they want to have back.

Jeff Gerrard: We just finished a big campaign for Mercury Insurance and it had over 25 characters in it, so it was a lot of finding the best people in the prep so that when you got them in the room, you knew they’d be able to deliver, you knew they’d be able to take direction. Like I said, it might just be a commercial, but they understood acting 101, what a beginning is, what a middle is, what an intention is, what a conflict is. Sometimes when you throw stuff at them, you think, “Oh, well, they’re grabbing it. Look how textured this performance is,” and it’s a 30 second performance.

Mike Horton: Jeff, after all these years, are you still having fun?

Jeff Gerrard: A ball.

Mike Horton: Good.

Jeff Gerrard: I’m still having a ball.

Mike Horton: Good.

Jeff Gerrard: I love it. I wake up every day and guess what? I don’t have to see the same faces every day, I don’t have to be in at eight o’clock in the morning and leave at nine, you know? But sometimes I do have to show up at nine in the morning and leave at nine at night, as I was doing for the last month on a film, but that’s what’s exciting about it.

Jeff Gerrard: Going in the trenches there, working with my staff, seeing who’s new in town, seeing who came in from New York or Chicago or the Midwest. You’re believing in the agents and the managers that are working with you, that they’re going to have a heads up on you because they signed a certain person for a certain reason.

Mike Horton: When I was doing this, Jeff was one of the good guys, let me tell you.

Jeff Gerrard: Well, thank you sir.

Mike Horton: He was one of the good ones.

Larry Jordan: Jeff, how important is a demo reel to an actor?

Jeff Gerrard: I think it’s really important, especially in your beginning stages. Now, that’s twofold. In my opinion only, and once again everything we’re talking about is just what works for me and has worked for me for the past 30 plus years, my feeling is a demo reel is really important but you want to make sure the best of your work is on it, and I don’t care if you’re just starting out and you only have a one liner here and you’ve got three lines here and you’ve got another one liner there.

Jeff Gerrard: Show me the difference in that reel, show me the different characters you brought to life, show me that someone who has a show that’s costing them over a million dollars a week to produce said, “Guess what? Let’s take a shot on this kid who has nothing on his resume and let’s see what he brings to that one liner.”

Larry Jordan: Have you ever discovered somebody who was a beginner and then suddenly made it big, aside from Michael?

Jeff Gerrard: I don’t know if you would say that we actually discover them. Everybody had an agent or a manager, so someone’s discovering them. I’ve been lucky enough in my career that I’ve worked with Patrick Swayze, God rest his soul, before he hit it big. The last one I think I did of real name value was Andy Samberg just before he got Saturday Night Live.

Jeff Gerrard: He came in on a commercial for me for a Japanese company. They had to bop in the car – you would have loved this one, Michael – to ‘Earth, Wind & Fire’ and just have a really good time as they were driving their Volkswagen down the highway. He books it, they send him to Japan with five other people and three weeks later to the day I see ‘Saturday Night Live’ signs a new young guy, bom-bom-bom, the rest is, you know.

Mike Horton: Ah, that’s great.

Larry Jordan: Jeff, where can people go on the web to learn more about you and your company?

Jeff Gerrard: You can always punch in That’s the website. You could to go IMDb and you can check out my resume there as well.

Larry Jordan: That’s and Jeff is the owner of Jeff Gerrard Casting. Jeff, thanks for joining us today.

Mike Horton: Jeff, it was great talking to you. You meant a lot to me and, of course, my wife Debbie Zip, to our career and we should do lunch.

Jeff Gerrard: Hey, I’m around, I’m in Sherman Oaks.

Mike Horton: All right, I’m in Chatsworth.

Larry Jordan: Thanks, Jeff.

Jeff Gerrard: I’ll drive!

Mike Horton: Ok.

Jeff Gerrard: All right, Michael, thank you both very much. I really appreciate it.

Larry Jordan: Our pleasure. Thank you for joining us. You know what, Michael? It’s nice to hear that you had a career in acting. That was very cool.

Mike Horton: Well, I think I told you that 15 years ago, but you forgot.

Larry Jordan: Yes, well, the 750…

Mike Horton: I never talk about it. I really don’t. I don’t. It’s kind of fun to talk about, but it’s such a past life, it really is. It’s a past life. I enjoy my new life as co-host of The Digital Production Buzz.

Larry Jordan: Well, the thing I like is it’s nice that you have a past life and some wonderful stories to tell from it, that’s for sure.

Mike Horton: Ok.

Larry Jordan: I want to thank our guests for tonight, starting with Justin Thomson, the actor and filmmaker; Ned Soltz, Contributing Editor for Digital Video magazine; and…

Mike Horton: See you at the Supermeet, Ned. Ok, go ahead.

Larry Jordan: …and Jeff Gerrard, the owner of Jeff Gerrard Casting.

Mike Horton: See you at lunch, Jeff. Ok, go ahead.

Larry Jordan: There’s lot of history in our industry – and a lot of noise around this table – that’s all posted to our website at Here you’ll find hundreds of past shows and thousands of interviews all searchable, all online and all available.

Larry Jordan: You can talk with us on Twitter, @DPBuZZ, and Facebook, at and Mike himself will sign autographs for people who need to have…

Mike Horton: Hey, you’re booking me Monday morning on the NAB show floor, right?

Larry Jordan: We are going to have you on the show somehow.

Mike Horton: I’m the funniest guy you’ll ever, ever interview.

Larry Jordan: You just have to chill out.

Mike Horton: It’ll be worth it. Just do it. Just book me. It’ll be worth it.

Larry Jordan: My mind reels. Our theme music is composed by Nathan Doogie Turner.

Mike Horton: Just ask the right questions.

Larry Jordan: Hush. Additional music on The Buzz is provided by, Transcripts provided by Take 1 Transcription.

Mike Horton: Remember, just go with it.

Larry Jordan: Our producer is Cirina Catania. Our engineering team is lead by Megan Paulos, includes Alexia Chalida, Ed Golya, Keenan Guy, Lindsay Luebbert and Brianna Murphy. From Mike and me, thanks for listening to The Buzz.

Mike Horton: Goodbye, everybody.

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