Intimate radio documentaries – the CBC Doc Project.

I was interviewed by Canadian producer Michelle Macklam for an article she wrote for the CBC’s Doc Project titled When the personal becomes public: the art of making intimate radio documentaries.

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.

 

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International Radio Conference

I recently presented the creative practice component of my PhD at the International Radio Conference at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. I led a 90 minute listening session and discussion which featured my 2 part radio documentary Murder in a Small Town.

It was a slightly terrifying but incredibly valuable experience to listen to my audio work in a room full of people and receive feedback.  It was also great to unpack some of the ideas I’m exploring in my research. After completing the creative practice component of my PhD I’m interested in a closer examination of the relationship between the producer/storyteller and subject/storyteller, how this shapes the documentary process, and in turn, the final documentary product. I feel very lucky to spend more time with these ideas and I’m looking forward to digging deeper over the coming years.

 

Utrecht conference presentation

 

 

While I was overseas I also visited and interviewed Danish radio making legend Rikke Houd. This recording will contribute to a series of research interviews I’m collecting about the different experiences of radio producers who work with personal narratives in their documentary work. I’m drawing on Rikke’s award winning radio piece Woman on the Ice. There’s a particular sensitivity in this style of radio that I deeply admire, and I loved spending time with Rikke and learning more about her storytelling approaches.

 

 

Audiocraft March 5, 2016

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.

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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

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CBAA National Features and Documentary Series 2015

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!

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making radio

 

edit boothJPGThis 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.

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This is perhaps the most exciting part of the process, witnessing the magic that brings all the sounds to life! Almost there…

The programs will be broadcast later this year.

 

Radiogaga Panel – EWF

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.

 

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National Features and Documentary Series- mentoring

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…..

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‘RadioDoc Review’ publication

I recently wrote an article for RadioDoc Review about Masako Fukui’s documentary Will Kate Survive Kate. This piece broadcast on ABC Radio National’s 360 Documentaries program and won a gold medal at the New York Radio Festival Awards.

The documentary tells the story of a young woman Kate and her struggle with an eating disorder. It’s a deeply personal piece that has intimate audio recordings with Kate and her family. I was particularly struck by the generosity of the storytellers in this work and was curious about what motivated them to share such a difficult story. We don’t often hear from the storytellers after they have shared their story on the radio, so I decided to interview Kate and her mother for the article. It was really interesting to hear their perspective and to think more about how radio and sound were important for this particular storytelling experience. You can read my article here.

 

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Third Coast Conference, Chicago

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I’ve been dreaming about this one for a while and I finally made it to the Third Coast Conference in Chicago- an incredible 3 day festival for radio producers and people passionate about great audio storytelling. Heaven.

The weekend was packed with talks and workshops led by  US public radio rock stars and  international guests, culminating in some mind exploding audio inspiration. One of the stand outs for me was listening to Joe Richman (Radio Diaries), Brooke Gladstone (On the Media), Roman Mars (99% Invisible) and Andrea Selenzi (Why oh Why) talk ethics and audio storytelling in the session ‘Journalism and Storytelling: Frenemies’. It was super interesting to hear how different producers balance creating sound rich and entertaining narratives, with keeping true to personal stories and their context.  This session is now up at the Third Coast website.

I also loved ‘Leave No Trace’ with David Isay and Mark Garofalo from StoryCorps. They had some great insights about how to capture the essentials of someone’s personal story, craft sound in artful ways, AND make the producers hand in the work as unobtrusive as possible. I was also totally blown away by Mark Garofalo’s forensic approach to the edit with his impeccable audio cataloguing, session lay out, and attention to  vocal nuance.

I also did some interviews with radio producers for my PhD research. Talking to the likes of Davia Nelson (The Kitchen Sisters), Lea Thau (Strangers), Phoebe Judge (Criminal) and Laura Starecheski (State of the Re-Union) was fantastic. I can’t wait to start transcribing some of this material and hope to write about some of the things we discussed in future posts.

Overall the whole experience was a great opportunity to mix with some awesome people and completely nerd out about audio!  It was also exciting to hear about independent producers thriving in a market where new possibilities and new demands for audio content are on the rise. I know for a fact that the Australians at the conference now have a fire in their bellies and dreams of a gathering for audio enthusiasts in Australia.

Below are some photos. One is of me and the All the Best ladies front row and centre for Nancy Updike’s (This American Life) closing speech. The other is me after my interview with radio hero and “sound shaman” Davia Nelson - you can see my face exploding with excitement.

 

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Research interviews- LeAlan Jones

I’m in Chicago at the moment doing some research interviews and gearing up for the Third Coast Conference this weekend.

On my first day in the city I met up with LeAlan Jones who shared his personal story in the seminal radio documentary Ghetto Life 101. In 1993, LeAlan (thirteen at the time) and his friend Lloyd Newman (fourteen) collaborated with public radio producer David Isay and produced audio diaries of their life in Chicago’s notorious South Side public housing projects. The boys’ candor, humor and honesty provided the listener with a direct perspective of the harsh realities of poverty and violence in their neighbourhood. Ghetto Life 101 won numerous awards and to this day is considered a significant work in the history of radio documentaries. Along with LeAlan and Lloyd’s follow up piece Remorse: the 14 Stories of Eric Morse (1996), these works championed a new style of self-authored storytelling on the radio. 

My conversation with LeAlan is a part of a series of interviews I’m doing for my PhD research into the experience of people who share their story as part of a radio documentary.  LeAlan and I chatted about how he feels listening to Ghetto Life and Remorse today. I was curious about how documenting his story all those years ago may have affected his life. One thing that came up was how LeAlan negotiates his youthful perspective and insights recorded in the documentaries, with his 35-year-old self today.

” the most difficult thing for anybody to be, is to be honest with them self. And for me, my life is disciplined by the voice of that 13 year old, and the honesty of the 13 year old”

I got the feeling that LeAlan’s story, eternalised on the public record, has been a check point for him throughout his life, and one that he is immensely grateful for. LeAlan also talked about how sharing his story gave him a stronger sense of his own “voice” and the importance of his own narrative:

“The voice is consistent [and] documentation is what allows humanity to evolve….. growing up I was very fascinated by ancient Egypt, [and] more importantly, I was always fascinated by the writing they had on those tombs …. So for me, the microphone is my ability to document my tomb. I mean I’m going to die one day, but I’m going to live forever through my voice”

 

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