Intro from Jay Allison: This is a tough one. I’m not inclined to say too much up front. The piece certainly raises questions about style and technique, but to my ear it has an imperative at its core, a need to tell and share, that gives it power and identity. Jake says he isn’t a producer, but… damn. May I also humbly say that if work like this is lying around trapped in the mini-disc players and imaginations of America then Transom.org is doing the right thing.
(This piece aired on PRI’s This American Life, 03/15/2003)
Notes from Jake Warga
“No one will really know what Brian was thinking or feeling. The only tools I had to make sense of what he was going through was a recorder and my ear. I soon realized that if I could not change him, then I was going to document the experience. In July of ’99, I went to visit him after he attempted suicide, I clipped a mic on him and simply asked: why?
I’m not a professional radio producer… I’m a friend. I chose radio because I don’t think it’s important what Brian looks like, his emotions come through in his voice. When you close your eyes, you hear Brian, but you can see anyone. Maybe someone you know, maybe someone you love, maybe yourself. Television robs you of that potential connection, that potential intimacy.
One night last month, his brother called me to say that Brian was dead. None of us could say we didn’t see it coming, but that did little to soften the blow. I flew down the next day and the two of us worked on taking care of things. I gave him, and their cousin, a tape of the story. They were touched and thanked me greatly for doing it.
This is the second version of the story. The first cut I made was for Brian. In the ending, I simply stated that I didn’t know if he were getting better or not. It was my way of reaching out to him, now it has been my way of closure. He asked that no one we knew hear the tape unless he were dead, then he wouldn’t care.
When I moved to Seattle last year, a friend and I did a story called “Street Dogs” that aired on KUOW. I called the station and they asked me to shape “Brian” to 23 min. This is the version here. It hasn’t aired yet. I had to do most of the work over again since I had little idea about how to edit without blundering my way through – so I turned to the Internet and found transom.org. I used a lot of their tips in editing, and though I still don’t know exactly how it works, I didn’t loose any files this time.
In this second version of the story, I talked more about how his death affected me. Because it is a personal story for both of us. I’ve experienced the loss of people older than I, but never a friend. And in the end, this is still, and always will be, a gift to my friend Brian.”
A Note From Transom
We at Transom think this is a strong story for many reasons. It is intensely personal, as Jake says, “a gift,” but it reaches out too. It stops you. It has identity.
We also feel strongly about this piece because it proves the point of Transom.org. It was made independently with the help of tools found here and now stands on this stage. We think this is important. We hope Jake keeps making pieces, so that someday he can say he does work in public radio.
Transom was there for Jake.
Help Transom get new work and voices to public radio by donating now.