New York Festivals Radio Awards enlists jurists from all over the world to become members of the Grand Jury. The Grand Jury includes some of the most recognizable voices and captivating programming producers in the radio industry today.
In this Grand Jury Confidential, New York Festivals interviewed Michael Iantorno, audio producer for AMI-Audio, Accessible Media Inc., Toronto.
Michael Iantorno is an award-winning (NCRA, IAAIS, New York Festivals) producer with roots in broadcast, new media, and journalism.
Currently the lead producer for Accessible Media Inc’s monthly audiobook program, Choice Words, Michael is a key contributor to AMI-audio’s editorial mandate of telling stories through the lens of disability. In addition to his work within AMI, Michael has contributed to video games, short films, music videos, and podcasts. He has worked in various facets of the Canadian media industry for over a decade.
In the interview below, Michael shares early influences, what he learned on his first job, his favorite radio program, the evolution of radio and much more.
New York Festivals: Who or what were your early influences in your career?
Michael Iantorno: It may seem odd, but I think the biggest influence and inspiration in my career has been Jim Henson. When I look at everything that he created over his life I see a consistent theme: being able to take an odd or quirky idea and turn it into something that is polished, unique, and engaging.
Many of his ideas would have sounded bizarre in the context of an elevator pitch (a prime time variety show with puppets?), but his execution was always so spot-on. Watching and re-watching his work has taught me that even the weirdest ideas can find an audience if they have been developed with drive and passion.
New York Festivals: What’s the most important thing you learned from your first job?
Michael Iantorno: My first industry job was as a production manager at a Toronto recording studio. Despite the “manager” title, it was essentially a glorified intern position where I did everything from graphic design to cleaning the toilets.
I worked at the studio for three years, and I slowly became creatively stagnant and disillusioned with my work. I never challenged myself (or my boss) regarding the nature of my position, and eventually I was just going through the motions instead of doing work that creatively satisfying.
The main lesson I learned from that experience is to not become too complacent with my career. I should have tried to get more out of that position while I was in it, or left it before I became tired and jaded.
New York Festivals: What qualities are the most important to have?
Michael Iantorno: I’m a big advocate of lifelong learning and trying new things, so I guess I would say that self-improvement is very important to me. A lot of folks get too comfortable in their roles, and are hesitant to adopt new tools and approaches.
Branching out is important, not just from a skills perspective, but because it allows you to find new things that you are interested in. I started university wanting to be a web designer! I wouldn’t even be in radio if it wasn’t for an 3rd year audio production class that I took on a lark.
New York Festivals: Tell us a bit about your evolution in the radio industry?
Michael Iantorno: I began my audio career mainly interested in audio post-production for film. After university, I ended up taking a few gigs editing and mixing student films… but unfortunately those didn’t pay the bills!
After bouncing around a few part-time jobs, I spent three years working at a recording studio in Toronto. It was a generally alright gig, but it ended up having a lower creative ceiling than I had hoped. I was also more of a graphic/web designer than an audio producer, and there were also a some duties such as “going on lunch runs” and “cleaning the bathrooms” that I found less than fulfilling.
I eventually made my way to AMI-audio, where I was hired on as a studio technician. After spending a couple of years recording content for their broadcast reading service, I moved up to the producer position that I now occupy. It was great to slowly transition into the role – learning skills from the more senior producers – and eventually getting to spearhead my own documentary and audio series.
New York Festivals: What’s your favorite radio program that created?
Michael Iantorno: The monthly audiobook series I currently produce, Choice Words, is probably my favourite. It was one of the first programs that I got to develop from the ground up, and I loved the creative control. Authors are generally great interviews too!
New York Festivals: What are the hallmarks of award-winning radio programs?
Michael Iantorno: I think the main hallmark of an award-winning program is its ability to get its hooks into the listener. Compelling programs will find a way to draw the audience into their narrative: holding onto them until every last drop of their narrative has been delivered. If a program can accomplish this goal, and truly get the audience invested in the story it is telling, it has succeeded.