Spirited defence of Jeremy Harris

I acknowledge that several of you are not, by any stretch of the imagination, launching into a personal attack on poor Jeremy Harris in various of your comments on this blog. You don’t even know his name. You just know him as PromoGit, or the asshole who reads the billboards and upcoming-show notices on CBC Radio.

Well, what did I just tell you? He’s Jeremy Harris. You aren’t attacking him personally (again: I know the difference even if you think I don’t), but I’m going to defend him personally. I sat in a series of adjoining enclosed spaces with him for nearly a full day, so I feel justified in so doing.

History

My esteemed colleague used to do a lot of work in voiceovers – more accurately, dubbing, and more accurately still, dubbing of Imax films. Back dans la journée, that was a first-class operation all the way, with careful casting and only the very best studios and recording quality. It isn’t anymore.

Imax’s own pictures, of which there are barely any now, were always captioned and described for first run by Imax policy. WGBH has a patent lock on the Rear Window captioning system, so that had to go through WGBH. Originally, the Descriptive Video Service at WGBH did the audio description. Then my esteemed colleague decided she could save money by doing the description locally.

Hiring AudioVision Canada was a total disaster, of course, exactly as you’d expect – everything from being talked down to or sworn at by an asshole with a Ph.D. to endlessly repetitive scripts to lousy narrators. (Again more accurately, a lousy single narratrix. Fortunately, she eventually quit.) Plan B wasn’t working. But my colleague knew me, so she pitched me to write a few description scripts.

I did three: First, Santa vs. the Snowman (iffy script, ill-chosen narratrix, poor recording); last, Man in the Mirror: The Michael Jackson Story (barely adequate script, though there were extenuating circumstances; terrible recording session; good narratrix); and, in the middle, Imax NASCAR 3D.

Yes, I wrote the audio description for a NASCAR infomercial.

It was a much less offensive movie than you might think. Quite a bit of on-track footage, which I liked; only a few really fake CGI moments; and a lot of behind-the-scenes documentation, much of it very careful indeed to display sponsor AOL’s logo in every frame. Nonetheless, one has to be honest about one’s reactions and I didn’t mind the movie at all. I actually learned things.

Boy, did I bust a gut on that script. I did so many run-throughs it got ridiculous. I did edits, my esteemed colleague did edits, we rewrote in the booth. We were in oldschool-Imax mode and spared no effort or expense to do a good job. And we couldn’t have done it without Jeremy Harris.

It took ages to cast a narrator. We went through every well-known and unknown name. We almost signed up the adorable Chris Tait (“NO APRIL FOOL BEHOLD TODA-A-AY”), but he dicked us around too much. Then, seemingly the last on the list (ordinarily a red flag), we found Jeremy.

“This… is Toronto 1”

We were both concerned that he was, at the time, the voice of Toronto 1. Remember Toronto 1? (Now you hate him even more for being on CBC, don’t you?) But we all knew that “voice talent” can do anything you need them to do within their anatomical limits. In fact, Jeremy did some readings for us in a couple of candidate voices and in his Toronto 1 voice. As the saying goes, it was like two different people. There was no way anyone was going to confuse the two voices. (Besides, nobody in Canada, let alone Toronto, would ever hear the description track. It was for the U.S. only. Houston in particular was clamouring for it.)

We had a lot of problems. The final tape we used had different timecodes from the one I used. Those of you with editing experience know already what that meant for us: We had to re-cue everything. That’s two needless additional hours right there. We were editing as we went along (easily one take out of three had an edit), so that added time. I totally blew the script for the closing credits (always tricky, especially with music and credit cookies). However, a couple of little gems, like an unironic use of the phrase “dualie pickup truck,” sailed right through.

Jeremy Harris, in hoodie, toque, and headphones, stands amid crumpled pages in a recording booth We incarcerated Jeremy in a little booth for over six hours. Maybe eight. At no time did he indicate frustration or dissatisfaction. Fatigue, yes. But he was a pro all the way through, even though I knew he couldn’t give a shit about the subject-matter.

I blew the writing of many lines and he blew the delivery of a few of them, but he didn’t complain when we did a retake. (Nobody did. We were using an A-list house with very experienced recording technicians. In fact, I was the one rolling my eyes as if to say “Phew! This sure is taking a while!” That resulted in instant nonverbal demands to knock it off. You learn fast when you’re working with the pros.)

I know for a fact that we made that damned movie accessible to a blind audience. I am absolutely sure you can follow what’s going on by sound alone. The terminology is not confusing, it flows really well, and it’s very solidly delivered. Only some of that is my doing, some of it is the technicians’ and my colleague’s, but most of it is Jeremy Harris’s.

Non-Git

Years later, he got the gig announcing promos for CBC Radio. I was thrilled for him. A lot of you are freelancers. Isn’t this the kind of steady job you’d kill for? He has a lot to do, with pressing and conflicting demands for absolute uniformity of delivery while also imparting a distinctive style for each and every show. Jeremy had to parody himself on that Saturday radio show hosted by that suspiciously overbuilt near-pensioner. Actually, he’s had to do that a couple of times.

I have no complaints with Jeremy’s performance as CBC Radio’s in-house announcer, except for his perhaps overcasual pronunciation of “Toronto” (a contentious issue, which critics often get wrong). He does Promo but he isn’t a Git. He deserves all the work he can get and every penny he’s paid for it.

So I’m sorry, dear commenters, we’re going to have to agree to disagree on this one. However, I suspect we are in violent agreement that Avril Ben-wa was the worst personality to ever besmirch CBC Radio.

6 comments:

  1. Jackson
    Posted October 14, 2009 at 11:24 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Ok Joe, you’ve made a good argument, and I can certainly take my hat off and give Jeremy credit that he is really good at what he does, and in fact rather accurately summons the Toronto-centric pretentious pomposity that infect almost all national cbc shows. Which is not to say that Jeremy is really like that, but rather he performs the role that he is asked, and in this regard we should show some professional respect, to which I whole heartedly agree.

    This is also why I continue to support your strong role here at the tea makers as you consistently demonstrate the need for free expression and analysis, something the CBC consistently rejects.

    However I would also implore our fellow readers, whom now thanks to PPM I can confirm number under a dozen, that we should not target ppl like Jeremy, but rather Ms. Stewart and her ilk who are the real culprits. It was when we imagined a Fire Dick Now campaign that we sent shivers down the spine of those on the seventh floor.

    • Fake Ouimetjoined April 10, 2009
      Posted October 15, 2009 at 10:13 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

      If you want to use the Tea Makers as a nucleus around which to crystallize a Fire Dick Now campaign, be my guest. Or just start up a new site if you don’t want Tea Makers dust all over your campaign.

  2. Anon
    Posted October 14, 2009 at 4:56 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Then occasionally in-house promos come on and no matter how bad, one is so grateful not to hear PromoGit’s voice on the hours.

    Of course with the 09-10 season on CBC Radio and all repeats, there is so little to announce. But why him? Writers are cleaner, less ironic now (Maybe they are the Currant Bun’s Voice(s)?), but we still hate it.

    Stalking Harris and doing him in won’t help. Someone in CBC management says they need an outside voice, and they can’t have each show do its own publicity in this new austeriity (and he gets $100,000 a year for this).

    Lorna Jackson, where are you know that the CBC really needs you?

    Do the nation a service Mr. Harris and step down and away from the CBC.

    • Fake Ouimetjoined April 10, 2009
      Posted October 14, 2009 at 5:59 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

      Wait. Jeremy Harris has zoomed past the sunshine-list threshold?

  3. Anonymous
    Posted October 14, 2009 at 7:45 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    That promo guy is absolutely the most annoying voice on radio today. It’s been what, two years now?? It gets so tricky changing the channel just for his segments to return to a genuine broadcaster. I can’t believe he was hired for this. And yeah, the “Torondo” thing got to me too. He’s obviously not from Toronto and trying to over casualize it. I’m sure he was asked to do that, but do it right. Anyway, they gotta get rid of this guy and perhaps the whole concept and leave the announcing to broadcasters.

  4. Anonymous
    Posted July 30, 2008 at 10:07 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Yeah, yeah he’s just following orders. His endless shilling for Maria is the final thing I will have listened to on CBC. Given up entirely on the operation.

    If any of you sticking around care I suspect those plugs were a beachhead to sell advertising (okay, call it “sponsorship”) on radio. Maria was also probably the final example for the cost-benefit analysis (it cost more than it made) that will drive the move to monitize that part of the service with a large audience and low costs. Who was it who said, “Fuck the CRTC”.


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