Story Workshop Spring 2012: Insights
We asked the students at the Transom Story Workshop to share some of the most important things they’ve learned so far. Four weeks in to their eight-week course, here is what they had to say.
Erica Kramer, Santa Fe, NM
The first month of the Transom Story Workshop could easily be named after guest speaker Hillary Frank’s podcast: The Longest Shortest Time. The past four weeks have somehow managed to speed along while simultaneously grinding to sudden halts as we planned, edited and agonized over our first stories. Despite my visual arts background, I have never had a group critique my creative work while it is still being made. There is a huge shift from working in a vacuum to editing collaboratively. This Workshop has really hammered home the importance of listening to and absorbing critique. Hearing my work through the ears of my teachers and peers has helped me focus my ideas and clarify my writing. I won’t be going back to the vacuum anytime soon.
Alex Lewis, Portland, OR
The most important thing I’ve gained from the Workshop is optimism. The audio storytelling tools I’ve been honing paired with the encouragement of our instructors and guest speakers are giving me confidence that I could actually make this work. A life making radio suddenly seems possible.
Lauren Ober, Burlington, VT
Precision, concision, excision. These are the things I have learned.
Precision — Questions for sources must be painstakingly precise in order to elicit a response that works for radio. No mealy-mouthing your way through a question and hoping it evinces a good answer.
Concision — Radio writing must be tight and economical.
Excision — You must be willing to trim the fat. And then trim some more. And then maybe cut off a digit. And then possibly amputate a limb. You must carry both a scalpel and a machete in your gear bag and you must know how to use them.
I have learned one more thing. When a teacher has a fire for his subject, the glow of the flame is entrancing and warming to the core.
Joanna Solotaroff, Minneapolis, MN
The Transom Story Workshop is blowing my mind! Today, Rob Rosenthal, my instructor, sat with me for an hour and a half, going through each and every bit of my Creative Life piece, providing me with a spot on critique and technical suggestions. Our session concluded with a full-on, hands over head high 10. That’s right. BOTH HANDS. And that’s why the Transom Story Workshop is amazing. I have never gotten this kind of personal attention in any academic environment I have ever been in, and it’s allowing me to hone my producing and reporting skills in record time. Five days into the Workshop and I had already produced two pieces from beginning to end. I’ve also learned how to conduct interviews, pitch stories, find work, and have had the opportunity to hobnob with radio luminaries, plus I am well on my way to having a portfolio that I’m really proud of. Thanks Transom!
Sara Robberson, Austin, TX
The most import thing I’ve learned from the Workshop so far is to follow the tape! It’s one thing to have a story in your mind. You know the characters, you know the plot, and you can imagine how it will all play out so beautifully… but if it doesn’t shine through on the tape then you have a long road ahead of you. There are bound to be golden moments from your interview. A deep breath or a funny side story, audio you might have over looked. If the tape grabs you, then it will probably grab others. These descriptive bits of sound can make a story pop and gain traction in the best ways.
Jessica Kittams, Portland, OR
What I’ve learned: It might sound cliche, but it rings true in radio- fake it ’til you make it! Confidence elicits good tape. Conversely, hesitation and uncertainty make people uncomfortable and less willing to speak freely. Stories can come from anywhere- keep your ears and eyes open! Talk to strangers and follow up on leads. Always have a backup plan!
Amy Gastelum, Indianapolis, IN
The most important things I’ve learned from the Workshop have to do with the creative process. It’s not like other work where the more you tackle it, the more you get out of it. When I’m creating something, my brain needs time to decompress. I need breaks and humor and exercise. I’ve also learned that crying in front of your peers is what you get if you don’t trust your instincts.
Andrew Norton, Toronto, Ontario
What surprised me the most about starting down the path to producing my first radio piece is how small a role the technical side of things play. Sure, you need to know how to work your gear and if you wanted to you could spend your life mastering the complexities of audio engineering, but within an hour of turning on our mics and recorders for the first time we were out recording real live humans, a day later—editing. That was empowering. It seems like in radio—at least with the approach we’ve learned—the field is so even when it comes to the tools that it forces you to focus on your story, not technical tricks.
And always pack a lunch. That’s just good advice regardless of the medium.
Jenna Weiss-Berman, Brooklyn, NY
Over the past few years, I’ve felt like my creative self has been asleep. But like a big brown grizzly bear in the spring, it’s coming out of hibernation. I came to Transom to learn how to craft a story and gain technical skills, but I could never have anticipated the degree to which this program has energized and motivated me. Rob Rosenthal is a truly inspirational instructor and his enthusiasm for radio is infectious. I’ve learned how to find stories, edit, interview, and pitch. My fellow students are invaluable critics and have become great friends. Plus, I get to interview amazing people–this week I met a Brazilian female ultimate fighter. Where else could that happen? Transom has given me new professional and creative confidence. I now see stories everywhere, and look forward to reporting them in sound.
[Note: We are now accepting applications for the Fall 2012 Transom Story Workshop. Master radio instructor Rob Rosenthal will run the 8-week program for nine beginning producers. If you would like to be added to our Workshop e-mail list, please write to us at info at transom.org.]