I learned a lot about radio and myself here at Transom. Many things were challenging about making radio, but mostly it was nourishment for the spirit. Here are a few things that stuck out to me:
Going into Transom, I wanted to do a story that focused on the emotional weight so often neglected in regard to caregiving. With this story, I knew I needed to deep dive in my interviews with Lynne and Gary and be emotionally present so they could be the same. Early on in Transom, Alix Spiegel talked to us about going into an interview with emotional orientation — an emotional connectedness with the person you are interviewing and an ability to be honest, open, and transparent. It’s the foundation for creating emotional rapport and often the key to creating a space where people feel comfortable to speak truthfully. For my interviews with Lynne and Gary, I tried to model what Alix had described. I pushed myself to be honest about what kind of story I was looking to tell, to ask questions that at times felt really personal, and to be unafraid to confront or challenge what someone was saying. For example, “I feel like you’re afraid of talking about X and Y. Let’s talk about it.” It’s amazing how calling out the elephant in the room can bring the heart of people’s stories to the forefront of an interview, and then into the heart of your story. Ask that crazy question you want to ask. Just do it.
Don’t be so hard on yourself. Trust the process.
I convinced myself at many points during the editing process that what I was creating was pure rubbish. The mind is a powerful beast and I think a trait of a great radio producer is courageousness and focused calm, even when you aren’t totally sure what you’re doing. Trusting the process and the decisions you make will help you move radio mountains. My fellow student Jessica said it best, “It’s like solving a puzzle while also making the puzzle.” Trust the puzzle ya’ll. For me, a huge hurdle of trusting the process came with choosing the music for this piece. When I first played it for the group, it was clear the music was not right. Instead of serving the piece and highlighting the emotional moments or bookends of a scene, the music was stealing the show! I went back to the drawing board and completely changed the music. I worked at finessing it. Hard work is your friend. The only way out is through. Through that process, I gradually started to trust myself and my choices, more and more.
Get out the chainsaw.
At one point my script was 12 pages (about 12 minutes long!), when I was aiming for a 7 ½-minute piece. I knew some big moments in my piece had to be cut. How to decide?
- There are often sweet or precious moments that get caught on tape. It’s easy to get attached to the tape. But, here’s the thing. A lot of those moments are not moving the story along. They are superfluous. Just admit it and HACK it. Once it’s gone, you won’t miss it. I promise.
- I had the great luck of interviewing Lynne who said many wonderful things; so many in fact, that I tried to jam in every great thing she said. But, here’s where choices come in. Choose the best piece of tape capturing that specific plot point or emotional idea, and cut the rest. Let the tape guide you.
- Clean up your tape. There are moments where a story or anecdote can be greatly shortened, and the effectiveness and heart are still there. Don’t be afraid to play around with your tape and make it sing. It will also make your story clearer for your listener.
Structure from the beginning.
Writing out a scene structure early in the process, even before doing any interviews, was absolutely crucial. At first, writing out scene structure without really knowing the full arc of my story seemed nuts. I gave it a shot, though, and I encourage you to do the same, with every ounce of intention and focus. It’s cheesy, but I think how you start your story will guide the spirit of your whole piece. The chances are high that you will eventually throw away that initial scene draft. But, here’s the important thing. Writing down that initial story structure forces you to think deeply about your story and what kind of story you want to tell. It helps you get at the nut of your story, and start cracking it. It gives you the framework you need to make your story with thoughtfulness and care from the very beginning.
Nora’s Sonic ID
This sonic came from my interview with Christine, who I interviewed for WCAI’s Creative Life series. For most of the interview, I spoke with her about her creative work, the cancer she had fought and beat, and her two daughters. At some point, she spoke lovingly of her husband. I was curious about this guy who had captured Christine’s heart. I asked how she’d met him and this beautiful nugget of a story came out. Follow your curiosity. You might just get a moment of radio love.