This Is Radio: Joe Richman

About “This Is Radio: Joe Richman”

After doing the interview, I knew I wanted to illustrate Joe’s thoughts on how interviewing satiates his curiosity. I pictured walking down the streets of New York and all the people you pass, each with their own story. Which sounds incredibly clichéd. So the challenge was to bring that feeling to life without it being cliché and with only a few days to film in New York City.

For the answer, I relied on someone cleverer than me.

I made a cut of Joe’s interview and then tried to find New York footage that would fit with the audio. I asked friends based on the East Coast. Looked at stock footage sites. But everything looked like it was from a New York travel video. Nice footage, but too polished.

The footage I ended up using was from a filmmaker named Rob Mentov, who did a lovely piece called America Has Got the Blues using footage from New York City and the East Coast. It embodied exactly the feeling I was looking for. So I made a deal with him to use his footage.

I guess the lesson here is there is no shame in buying (or trading for) footage from another source. Sure, it’s nice to have all original material, but when something fits, it fits regardless of who filmed it. Especially when by the time you have a sense of what sort of visuals you need, you’re no longer where you need to be to film them. It’s the reality of producing video like this. So thanks, Rob!

photo of Joe Richman and Andrew Norton
Joe Richman and Andrew Norton on the roof. Photo by Samantha Broun

“The worst people to interview are the ones who say they’re really big public radio fans.”

At the end of the video Joe explains you never want to interview someone who knows too much about constructing a story. They start giving you the interview THEY think you want, not an authentic interview.

It was funny hearing this because that’s what this whole series is about. Interviewing the folks who interview others and who obsess over every aspect of crafting a story.

The experience wasn’t as bad as Joe made it out to be, though. But it was interesting because usually when I interview someone who isn’t a radio producer, I have the advantage of knowing all these tricks to get what I want: asking things multiple times, digging into certain subjects, letting the pauses sort of hang to get more details. The folks I’m interviewing for the This Is Radio series can see right through that. Certain interview tactics I actually gleaned from some of them.

So there are some mind games, like when I starting rephrasing questions. To the interviewee it translates as, “He’s not getting what he wants, what am I doing wrong?” In the case of Joe’s interview, I think he fell into that trap a bit. Same with Brooke Gladstone. They worry about giving good tape versus just chatting. That being said, they were far from “the worst people to interview” and eventually, like in any interview, we forgot about the cameras and recorders… mostly.

There are some perks, though. People who work at cutting interviews all day know to give me an edit-friendly pause when they misspeak, then start again without any cueing. And I can be transparent. Instead of asking a question a couple of different ways, as I would with a normal subject, I could just say, “Tell me that again, I like where that was going.”

And they give you editing notes. Like at the end of Brooke’s piece.

Random Thoughts

  • It was awesome meeting Josh the Radio Diarist. I remember hearing his story for the first time at the Transom Workshop and loving it. So I was tripping out a little bit seeing him. Apparently he’s used to that by now after visiting radio doc festivals and having others react the same way.
  • The roof scenes were filmed in slow motion. I found that slow mo can help do a few things: 1- It can smooth out the camera shake if you’re shooting hand held. 2-It can add some drama to the shots. 3- And this one appealed to me most — it can give you more b-roll to work with. Two seconds of footage in real time is about 2.5 times that when slowed down. It’s especially good with videos like this where there isn’t tons of active tape –people doing stuff.
  • To film in “slow mo” I set my DSLR to 60fps (frames per second — how fast the camera records). Then when I loaded the footage onto my computer I “conformed” it to 24fps (that’s what I normally shoot in) using a program called Cinema Tools. The result is slower footage that looks nice and smooth.

For more videos in this series, click here:
This Is Radio


  • Catherine Stifter


    Awwww. Such a great interview. No, Joe, it’s not terrible. Andrew, once again you have found just the right stuff to bring the story to life. Thanks so much for the reveal, too. A great story AND we learn how it’s done. Love the lagniappe.

    • andrewnortonphoto


      Thanks, Catherine. Glad you enjoy this one, it was a pleasure chatting with Joe.

  • Beth Sachs


    Joe I loved this especially your determination to “let things happen in the tape”… well done!

  • Joe Richman


    Thanks Beth. “Let things happen in the tape” was advice I got early on from Neenah Ellis and Transom’s own Jay Allison. So simple and so useful.

    Andrew, you did such an amazing job with this video. And with the whole series.
    I want you to illustrate everything I say from now on.

  • shan


    as a fellow public radio fanboy, I love these video portraits… really great work and a real treat to see the people behind the voices!

    • Andrew Norton


      Thanks – glad you’re enjoying them!

  • Jon


    Andrew, thank you (and Transom) for these great little videos. They’re beautiful and I love how open you are with sharing your knowledge, ideas, thoughts and mistakes. You’re an impressive, smart maker!

    • andrewnortonphoto


      Hey Jon, glad you enjoy! Also glad I’m not laying things bare in vane. Cheers!