After producing her beautiful documentary Longing To Belong – about an adopted woman who reconnects with her biological parents – Michelle had questions about the different approaches and experiences of radio producers who work with these kinds of personal stories. My own PhD research is exploring these same questions, so we had lots to talk about.
There are also interviews with some of my favourite radio producers – Neil Sandell, Mira Burt-Wintonnik, and Tally Abecassis. I really liked the way the article came together. It’s so nice to have all these thoughts and perspectives in one place.
I’ve just finished up work on a series of podcasts about Australians and their relationship with swimming pools. The final series is featured on RN’s Pocketdocs website.
This project was produced with Aileen Sage Architects as part of their exhibition The Pool which they curated for the Australian Pavilion at the 2016 Venice Biennale of Architecture. Being a bit of water lover myself, this was such a fantastic project to work on. The team did a series of interviews with prominent Australians including Paul Kelly, Ian Thorpe, Shane Gould, Hetti Perkins, Anna Funder, Tim Flannery, Romance was Born, and Christos Tsiolkas. Each explored the personal stories, memories, and ideas that swimming pools hold. Everyone has a pool story, they are places filled with nostalgia and charged with the different experiences of bodies in water and space.
This job was produced in two parts. Firstly I edited snippets of the interview material for the exhibition audio/sound loop. This was mixed with music from Australian composer and percussionist Bree van Reyk. It was designed to travel around the exhibition space, with voices coming in and out of small speakers positioned around an indoor pool installation.
Producers from all over Australia descended on 107 projects for our first Audiocraft conference on March 5th 2016 and it was an incredible! I knew that audio folk were great, but seriously- I don’t think I appreciated just how amazing it would feel to have so many of these awesome individuals in the one place at the one time. Our community of Aussie makers is thriving and it was so great to hear about all the podcast and radio projects people are working on. The room was buzzing with creative energy and good vibes. So good.
Our stellar line up of presenters got the conversations going and my head is still buzzing with all the ideas. Bec Fary and Jon Thjia had us independent podcast dreaming, and Timothy Nicastri and Miyuki Jokiranta took us deep into the wonders of sound design with new skills to boot. Joel Werner and Tiger Webb had everyone talking about sound stories with decomposing pigs, and Sophie Townsend and Jaye Kranz cracked open the mystical box of narrative radio. Our kicker panel on collaborative storytelling with Maddy Macfarlane, Kween G, Gavin Ivey and Giordana Caputo covered all the things we need to think about when working with other peoples stories and how to keep our radio making integrity in check. Then Sherre Delys wrapped the day up with her lyrical wonders reflecting back all the positivity and good times of the day. Stay tuned for the podcast of all the sessions.
It’s going to take a while to come down from this one. And we’re already plotting ideas for 2017….! In the mean time, we can’t wait to hear the entries for our first Audiocraft’s Short Feature Making Challenge
I’m super excited to be working on a new project Audiocraft, a conference for Australian radiomakers and podcasters that’s happening on March 5th.
Audiocraft will be a day for producers to come together and talk, listen and learn about making great stories with sound. We have a stellar line up of presenters who’ll be leading workshops and panel discussions on narrative techniques, podcasting, sound design and collaborative storytelling.
It’s about building a stronger community of content makers and talking about all the nerdy stuff, and I can’t wait!
Audiocraft is an idea that’s been brewing for a while. When I went to the Third Coast International Audio Festival in 2014 I was blown away by being in a room of 500 radio folk who shared the same passion for telling stories with sound. I also realised that we don’t have anything like it in Australia, so something had to be done.
Over the last months I’ve been working with a group of absolute legends to make it happen. Here’s a few us being geeks and paying tribute to our trail blazing heroes at Third Coast.
The response to Audiocraft so far has been amazing. We sold out of our tickets 2 months before the conference date and so many people have come forward to offer their support. I think there’s a real desire for people to come together in this way. It’s an exciting time to be making audio, but it can also be a lonely gig, and there are a lot of big questions about the future of podcasting and radio broadcast that haven’t really been answered. So hopefully we can talk through some of these issues, build some great networks, and inspire creative collaborations!
My 2 part radio documentary Murder in a Small Town is now online.
I’ve been working on this project for over a year. It’s the creative practice component of my PhD and a story that’s close to my heart. It’s about the murder of my school friend Veronica’s mother back in 1990. Irene was stabbed to death on their family’s farm just outside The Rock, the small country town where we grew up. It was a horrifc crime that was witnessed by her two youngest sons aged 20 months and 3 and half. I was 10 years old at the time and I remember how the event sent shock waves through our community.
For the documentary I went back to The Rock and spoke with people from the town. I got a better understanding of what happened and came to realise I wasn’t the only one who has been haunted by that time.
But the most incredible part of this project for me was reconnecting with my friend Veronica who I hadn’t seen for 25 years, and hearing her and her family’s story.
Since the programs have broadcast I’ve heard from a lot of people from The Rock, and childhood friends. I haven’t had contact with most of these people for over 25 years, but I think the story tapped into a collective memory and perhaps a suppressed grief that most of us haven’t accessed for a long time. It’s been a very moving experience and such a privilege to work with such generous and beautiful people.
The final pieces from the CBAA’s National Features and Documentary Series are now online! I mentored a couple of these projects and it was great to see how this initiative worked from the start. A group of mostly first time producers had a go at making their first radio features with help from online tutorials and professional mentoring along the way. It’s such an awesome project and the final works are great!
This has been my home for last few months- an editing cave at the ABC in Sydney.
I’ve been working on a 2 part radio documentary for ABC Radio National’s Earshot. It’s about a time from my childhood that’s always haunted me. In 1990 my school friend’s mother was murdered on their farm outside the small country town where I grew up. Over the last year, I’ve gone back to where it all happened, and have explored how the event affected the community and the families involved.
It’s been a long and involved process, so doing the final mix this week feels big. I’m working with Andrei Shabunov, one of the awesome sound engineers at the ABC.
This is perhaps the most exciting part of the process, witnessing the magic that brings all the sounds to life! Almost there…
I had heaps of fun chatting with fellow audio nerds Jaye Kranz,Tiger Webb and Heidi Pett on the Radio Gaga panel at Melbourne’s Emerging Writers Festival. We shared ideas about radio’s ‘New Journalism’ phase and how the role of the narrator might be shifting from a traditionally objective standpoint to a more subjective voice.
There are mixed feelings about this trend which is often seen as a shift to a more American style of radio. But I think it’s a great opportunity for producers to be a little less stodgy, or authoritative, and perhaps be more transparent about their role as storytellers within their work. We often make radio about things we genuinely care about, and as long as we don’t start stepping all over the story unnecessarily, an active voice might inject an authenticity into the work that we want to share. It might also help develop different creative audio styles and more distinct producer voices. You can really hear this in independent podcasts like Love and Radio and Strangers.
So if a subjective voice serves the story and moves the narrative forward in an interesting way, then why not utilise it? Perhaps the dilemma is how to not to let a ‘trend’ overtake the question of purpose, and consider what works best for each individual story.
I’ve signed up to be a mentor for the CMTO’s National Features and Documentary Series. It’s a competition open to anyone who volunteers or works at a community radio station and wants to produce a feature radio documentary. The finalists work with the CMTO to hone their skills and are teamed up with a mentor who gives feedback along the way.
I remember how daunting it felt to make my first radio documentary, so it’s great to be part of something that’s helping emerging producers share their stories. It’s also another reminder of how amazing the community media sector is when it comes to supporting new and diverse voices on the radio.
I’ll be mentoring two of the finalists and can’t wait to see their stories develop!
I’ll post the links to the complete series later in the year…..
I went to the Walkey Foundations’ Storyology conference in Sydney recently. It’s a gathering and information-blast for journalists and media-makers from Australia and overseas. Despite the slight depression in the air after the news of budget cuts and huge job losses at the ABC, there was still some inspiration to be had.
I really enjoyed the practical sessions like Aela Callan’s (Al Jazeera) ‘writing tight for TV and radio’ and ‘DIY Radio Doco’ with Gretchen Miller (ABC Radio National).
But my favourite session was Geraldine Doogue and David Leser in conversation about personal narratives. They talked about journalists crossing over into the unfamiliar territory of sharing their own story. They highlighted the increasing demand for ‘the personal’ in the media, and journalists’ hesitancy to share their own narrative. As Davis Leser pointed out:
“we set the conversation but never reveal our motivation”
David’s began writing his most recent book as a biography about his father, but it soon shifted to memoir.
“I couldn’t write about him without writing about myself”
He ended up producing a deeply personal portrait of father and son, and the complexities of family. For the first time, he turned his skills of investigation and truth seeking towards himself.
Geraldine shared her reluctance to write a memoir because she doesn’t feel ready to confront her grief over her husband’s death. But David argued that’s the perfect reason to write one. He suggested that writing about grief and writing through grief was the most cathartic way for him to recover after his father’s death.
“the writer’s job is to utter the unutterable and to find the truths that come to all of us….. [and] grief is what unites us. All those walls of separation drop in the valley of grief”
I found these two great thinkers incredibly honest and generous with their own experiences. And it definitely got me thinking more about the positives of being brave and sharing one’s own story, and how it might make us better equipped to help others share their personal story.