The Third Coast Festival
join us here at Transom for a discussion
about Third Coast with its participants, and see photos from the
festival taking place in
Chicago Nov.1-2, 2002.
About the Festival
From Johanna Zorn
Founder and Executive Director
In just a few days, audio producers from around the country and even a few from as far away as Australia, will be gathering in Chicago for the second annual Third Coast International Audio Festival. It’s the continuation of a tradition begun more than twenty years ago when Larry Josephson organized the Airlies to bring independent radio producers together to hone their craft and to introduce them to the unfamiliar richness of International work. Despite their popular success, the Airlies were way too much work for one person and Larry put the event on hiatus. Luckily for the producing community, the Association for Independents in Radio (AIR) took up the torch where the Airlies left off.
Winner: My So Called Lungs, by Joe Richman and Laura Rothenberg.
I had the pleasure of attending both AIR conferences in the 1990′s and what I witnessed was a producing community so flush with ideas and talent, that even the stale hotel air was full of electricity. It was at these conferences that I started thinking about creating a Festival for radio, along the lines of Sundance. I wondered why, with all the interest in documentary film out there, why wasn’t there a single effort to celebrate the documentary art-form on radio in America?
To make a long story short, the AIR conferences took a lengthy break too and at Chicago Public Radio we started making plans for the Third Coast International Festival (TCIAF.)
We announced the first TCIAF in 2000, at a time when documentary audio was experiencing a renaissance. Ira Glass and the This American Life crew, Jay Allison, Joe Richman, The Kitchen Sisters and many, many more producers were making radio stories that resonated with listeners. Innovative folks in their 20′s were teaching themselves how to make documentaries with easy-to-buy computer software. Even teenagers were signing up for radio programs, eager to have give listeners the teen perspective. The interest in documentary audio was growing even as the public radio system, at 30 years old, was beginning to experience the malaise and conservatism of middle-age.
Winner: Corrections, Inc., by John Biewen of American
We felt the TCIAF could have a role in keeping public radio fresh and vital by infusing it with energy, new ideas and talent. We wanted to draw the public to the power of audio to document the world we live in and we hoped to bring more attention and resources to producers.
These are the thoughts that have guided me and Julie Shapiro, the Festival’s managing director who came on board two years ago, as we’ve planned two TCIAF Festivals-which in addition to an annual conference includes a competition, a national broadcast featuring the winners, a website at thirdcoastfestival.org and a public listening series.
For our upcoming conference we’ve pushed ourselves to find an eclectic group of presenters. Our guests include world-renowned photographer Joel Meyerowitz who spent last year documenting the arduous clean-up of the World Trade Center Towers, filmmaker Elizabeth Barret whose work “Stranger with a Camera” tells the story of the tensions that exist when outsiders descend on a community hoping to document its problems, and filmmaker Alan Berliner, who creates museum installations based on his audio-files, literally filing cabinets that elicit a sound when opened and can be “played” like an instrument.
There will be several international artists presenting at the conference too, from Canada and Australia and France. One of them is Kaye Mortley, a recent winner of the Prix Europa, will talk about a style of radio-making rarely heard in the U.S., the European Feature. (For a full schedule of the conference visit thirdcoastfestival.org)
Perhaps the biggest change to the TCIAF this year is that we’ve invited the general public to take part in the celebration. Throughout the year we’ve been hosting a series called “The Listening Room,” where Chicagoans come together to listen and talk about radio stories in a theater setting. The series culminates on the first night of the conference with a very special program hosted by the Kitchen Sisters called “The Listening Room: The Night Kitchen.”
What are my hopes for the 2002 TCIAF conference? That people come to the conference with an open-mind, ready to listen acutely to the work they’ll hear. That they’ll come eager to talk and share ideas with people of all levels of experience and backgrounds. And when they leave? I hope they leave fired up, eager to go home and make audio stories that push the boundries of the medium.
So here we are on the eve of the 2002 TCIAF conference and awards ceremony. I welcome your questions and I invite you to post journal entries on Transom through-out the conference and afterwards about the experience. But please understand if we’re a little bit slow in responding, we’ve got a few things to take care of here in Chicago.
~ Johanna Zorn
This year’s Third Coast Lifetime Achievement Award goes to radio veteran, oral historian and author Studs Terkel. Here are some links from his stay as Guest on Transom in 2001.
Studs Terkel’s “Something Real” Manifesto