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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The Pool- audio series for Venice Biennale of Architecture.

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.

I then produced a podcast series of each individual interview for RN’s Pocketdocs program. These were mixed by Martin Peralta. Some of my favourites are Paul Kelly, Ian Thorpe and Hetti Perkins.

 

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Image: Visitors enjoying the Lightning Ridge hot artesian baths in northern New South Wales, by Simon Baylis.

Audiocraft 2016 is coming!

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.

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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!

 

 

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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New York- research interviews

On the back of Third Coast I’ve spent a week in New York doing some more reserach interviews with radio producers and radio storytellers. I hung out with The Heart’s Kaitlin Prest and interviewed her in her bedroom closet- possibly the coolest sound-recording studio I’ve ever been in. With lace fabric hanging around us, we chatted about getting personal with interviewees, finding boundaries in an interview, and how at times- she nudges up against them. Kaitlin’s an incredible producer who deals with personal stories and matters of the heart. She’s also doing really pioneering creative audio work which you can listen to here. This is another interview I can’t wait to to transcribe and dig through more.

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In keeping with my reserach on the experience of people who’ve shared their story on the radio, I’ve also chatted with some of the audio diarists from the Teen Diaries and Teen Diaries Revisited series. These started back in 1996 when Joe Richman gave a group of teenagers from around the US tape recorders and asked them to record their own lives. Then 16 years later, Joe followed up with 5 of the original diarists and produced the Teen Diary Revisited series.

I spoke with Melissa who was a teen mum back in 1996, and Josh who was struggling with his Tourettes. Talking about their original diaries there were some similarities to LeAlan Jones - they felt their audio documents captured a youthful innocence and important moment in their lives. It was also interesting to hear how keeping diaries as adults was perhaps harder because they were more self concious after the success of the earlier series and had a greater appreciation of the broadcast outcomes. I highly recommend listening to both pieces. They’re great examples of how hours of audio can be expertly crafted into short audio documentaries. Joe Richman is a master and the the whole series is fantastic. My interview with him also gleaned some insights from a man seriously dedicated to his art.

I also went to a Teen Diary Revisited event hosted by Joe Richman and the legendary Robert Krulwich from Radiolab. It was a great night and so interesting to hear Josh, Melissa and Amanda (another diarist  from the Revisited series) chat about their audio diary experiences. A video recording of the night is available 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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Notes on Blindness

I first heard this story as a radio piece on 360 Documentaries and was blown away by how great it was. Then a friend sent me this New York Times video version which I also love. It combines audio diaries from a man who documented his experience of going blind, with beautifully crafted film images and archival style reenactments. The story behind the making of this piece is here.

I’m a huge fan of audio diaries and the intimate and reflective space they can create, and I think in this case, the audio works really well with images.  It’s a sad piece, but the final part is so beautiful that I don’t think I’ll ever listen to the rain the same way again…..

“rain brings out the contours of what’s around you. In that it introduces a continuous blanket of differentiated and specialised sound, uninterrupted, which fills the whole of the audible environment…..If only there could be something equivalent to the falling of rain inside, then the whole of a room would take on shape and dimension”

 

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360 Documentaries internship

I’ve been doing an internship with ABC Radio National’s 360 Documentaries program and they broadcast some of my work on the weekend.

I’ve been producing audio monologues from 360′s Pocketdocs competition. The competition asked listeners to submit a 500-word piece on the theme ‘a secret revealed’. I chose 5 stories from the finalists and invited the writers into their nearest ABC studio to read and record their story. I then edited the recordings, added some music and sound FX, and did the final sound mix with Andrei Shabonuv, one of the ABC’s amazing sound engineers. It was so much fun collaborating on these pieces and giving a sound life to written works.

The first piece to be broadcast is Collateral Damage, a whimsical tale of two warring sisters that reminded me a bit of my own childhood memories and sisters antics. This is a picture of the writer Ruth Wyer and her sister when they were young. They came into the ABC’s Sydney studio and we had heaps of fun recording their story.

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Canberra trip

I’m in Canberra this weekend doing some interviews for a new radio documentary. A few of my favourite things so far…..

- spending time with old friends and sharing stories

- setting up my gear all over a hotel room and nesting in out of the cold

- listening, logging, computering, and luxuriating in full immersion audio nerd time

- running around Lake Burly Griffin and soaking up the winter sun

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