In the beginning, this story was not a story. It was a broad, disjointed idea. When Ira Glass came to our class and I pitched it to him, mumbling about my interest in talking to transgender youth on the Cape, I was sure he would roll his eyes and kick me out of the room because the truth was, I didn’t have a story. I had an idea and it felt like I was pitching nothing.
Here’s the thing: You can have an interest in a particular area, you can have your idea, but that in itself isn’t always enough. The idea is what fuels you. The story is what you find to ground your idea. And honestly, this process from idea to a fully formed “then this happened, then this happened” narrative still baffles me. Because this story basically fell into my lap.
I almost cancelled my interview with Diane and Jayden. I had already spoken to two families before them and felt like I was running out of time. I knew I wanted to focus on the experience of going through puberty as a transgender teen, especially as a teen who had been through adolescence before coming out as transgender. I wanted to understand what that might feel like, to have your body morph into something you may not feel is true to who you are. In the end, I decided to meet with Diane and Jayden.
When I first sat down I had a clearer sense of what I thought I wanted to talk about. And when Jayden started talking about her experience going through puberty and said the words “Klinefelter’s Syndrome” I almost didn’t hear her. I asked Jayden to repeat it about six times. And then suddenly, there was my story. This giant door opened and I felt that gap between idea and story gradually begin to close.
Especially as a beginner producer, interview everyone who is willing to talk to you. You need the experience. Good or bad, each interview will make you more confidant, a better listener and a better asker of questions. And once you’re logging your tape, it’ll give you more chances to listen to the way you talk to people. And yeah, it’s often painful to listen back to yourself and hear a moment where you should have asked a follow up question, or where you missed something important while adjusting your levels. But I’m convinced that listening to those cringe-worthy moments in my own tape made me a better interviewer the next time I set out with my recorder. So, interview everyone you can. When you are at Ira’s level, then sure, learn to say no. Learn when you don’t need an interview. But for now, say yes. Drive the extra forty minutes for that one interview you aren’t sure you need, because in the end it might be your entire story.
*photo of Diane and her twin daughters, Ellie & Jayden, outside their home. May 2016
Ellery’s Sonic ID
Week one at Transom I was in Falmouth recording my Vox Pop when a guy I stopped on the sidewalk told me I needed to meet Tommy Leonard. He pointed across the street to The Quarterdeck restaurant and I went inside just as Tommy was taking a break. Little did I know I was about to meet the local legend who started the New Balance Falmouth Road Race (he even has a plaque with his face on it in Woods Hole).