Intro from Jay Allison: This piece comes from the Transom Story Workshop Spring 2014. The students came from all over to spend two months with us on Cape Cod. Rob Rosenthal and Audrey Quinn led the class and were joined by all of us at Transom, plus Robert Krulwich, Nancy Updike, and a lot of other great producers who happened by. Check out their work. If these are beginners, look out.
About “The Flying Diver”
In my wildest radio dreams, I never thought I would interview a Greek archeologist through an intercom as he hung from a crane in a next-generation, deep-sea diving suit. And, to be honest, it almost didn’t happen. Initially, I was pursuing a simple story about faith. I spoke to some fascinating atheists with poignant stories behind their belief (or, more accurately, lack of belief). But, as poignant as these stories where, they weren’t cohering into something surprising, something with an inner conflict that caught you by the ear and pulled you through to the end. I had a story about ideas, but it was missing that certain…spark.
So, I reluctantly scrambled to find something new. One morning, our teacher, Rob, told me about a deep-sea diver whom my classmate, Nathan, had discovered. He thought there might be a story there. I called up the diver and he invited me to the harbor that same afternoon. They were testing a futuristic-looking diving suit in the ocean…for the second day ever. I was in luck.
I ended up with three hours of tape from that afternoon. But I owe the best bits of tape to Nancy Updike, who had told us something that stuck with me that day: When interviewing, it’s okay to be annoying. When I heard Theo, the diver in the Exosuit, being directed through the suit’s intercom, I knew it would make great tape. So, I walked up to the control room where Theo’s colleague Alex was busily working, reached through the doorway, and stuck my mic in front of his face. After five minutes of this, Alex graciously invited me inside the control room and let me speak to Theo directly. He even let me record Theo through his headphones. It was one of the most memorable and spontaneous interview moments I’ve had so far. My point? While I wouldn’t suggest being rude, don’t be afraid to be a bit bold, either.
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