From the student radio producers of Brown University
Inside Out Stories
One of the happy effects of the success of This American Life is that more people, and younger people, are hearing and telling their stories on public radio.
One pocket of such endeavor is at Brown University (Ira Glass’s alma mater) where students produce a weekly series called “Inside Out” for the student radio station. They submitted their work to us, and we chose three vaguely representative pieces from their series: Spookyworld, Personal Historians, & Rail Riders
About Inside Out
The Inside Out radio series on Brown Student Radio is an ongoing product of collaboration between more than a dozen Brown University undergraduate students, none of whom have previously produced for radio. The series is not a product of academic-related work, but rather a purely volunteer-driven project — in fact, the University doesn’t even have a journalism program.
These pieces are amongst the first we produced for the series – interviewing for the first time, editing for the second or third time, etc. The show is organized in a format much like This American Life; it’s an audiozine that explores a different theme each week with documentaries, commentaries, short fiction, and interviews.
Since it’s a weekly show, we often had some intense deadlines to meet – unlike most of the pieces that you may see on Transom.org. Does it show? Perhaps. We’d love to hear from you in the Talk section of Transom.
All of our stuff is produced with consumer-grade portable minidisc recorders and low-end ($100-) handheld Shure mics. We edit it all on a single g4 running protools free, and at the time when all these pieces were produced, we didn’t even have direct digital inputs to the computer.
If you like what you hear, you can listen to all our shows archived online at www.bsrlive.com/insideout. Since these pieces were taken out of the context of the greater edition environment, it will be interesting to see how they are received as stand alone pieces.
– Paul McCarthy, Executive Producer – Inside Out
Produced by Elana Berkowitz
(Editor’s Note: We uploaded two versions. The original version and a much-shortened one. At Transom.org, we’re interested in behind-the-scenes choices and demands of broadcast. We thought it interesting to do a big cut, to measure the differences in impact, story flow, pace, etc. It is not unusual to need to make cuts, especially at the last minute, and this seemed an interesting opportunity to gauge the effects. We spent less than a hour at ProTools shortening it, simulating a deadline.)
“Spookyworld, Massachussets’ own four-million-dollar haunted scream park may seem to be a chaotic rabble of headless ghouls, evil clowns and nouveau witches, but in reality it is a precisely timed and staged production with one aim: to make you scared to turn out the light. Meet the men and women behind the masks.”
This piece was part of a larger Halloween episode of inside/out. My interest in the story was piqued by my lifelong interest in Halloween. Growing up in a fairly religious Jewish household, Halloween, pagan as it is at its roots, was fairly off limits. So Halloween has always been exciting because it annoyed my parents.
Spookyworld itself is an amazing place, which I found out about through the discount coupons that were showing up all around campus. After my first visit, I was concerned that given the sort of elaborate baroque absurdity of the place that my piece would come off too snide and snarky. But after spending real time there all cynicism left my body and ultimately, I felt that the actors and builders I interviewed were artists in their own right who had a serious passion and commitment to the art of the scare. I became enchanted with the place and they allowed me fairly open access to record the variety of training sessions – from zombie walking to how to scream appropriately – as well as letting me record corpse building, costume design and special events makeup. I ended up visiting Spookyworld a total of six times (the final trip being a just for fun trip on opening night.) This piece never would have been completed with out the help and expertise of Paul McCarthy or without the support of my documentary class at Brown.
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Produced by Melissa Brough and Dana Turken
What is it about nostalgia that makes it such a profound force in shaping our culture and our personal lives? This piece is part of our “Nostalgia” show, that explores the ways in which we constantly reconstruct history.
“From ‘Kodak moments’ to ‘Hallmark holidays’ to ‘scrappers,’ our nostalgia supports many thriving industries. ‘Personal Historians’ Mandy Syers and Jason Friedman make their living in the memory business. They get paid to record a life’s worth of memories for each of their clients. Truth and reality are only debatably relevant. Their job is much more than transcription – it’s a process of editing and shaping the moments that each client wants to be remembered by.”
Dana (who is now studying film in Prague) and I are both interested in the process and use of collecting oral histories of various forms. Aside from “Inside Out”, we both work with the AIDS Oral History Project in Providence, recording the stories of those whose lives have been affected by AIDS/HIV.
So we happily agreed to explore the topic of personal historians for our “Nostalgia” show, hoping to learn from professionals in the field but also a bit concerned about how to make the details of such work appeal to a general audience. You all are probably a more forgiving audience, presumably being interested in documentary work yourselves. In any case, we were pleasantly surprised by how fun this piece was to edit and we hope that you will enjoy these bits of history in the making as much as we have.
Produced by Rachel Terp and Megan Hall
“Two rail riders who now live in Providence have seen a lot of America from the inside of a boxcar. Raphael Lyon says that train hopping is a kind of exchange: the ride is free but you give up a whole week sitting in the back of a freight and watching the land pass by. Rail riders have different strategies for getting on and off a moving train. Caroline McCoy, although she prefers not to jump a moving train, has learned that it safe so long as the train is going slow enough for you to run alongside.”
“Rail Riders” was our first collaborative piece for Inside Out. It was produced as part of a half-hour feature-show on Modern Nomads; Americans who take to the road, rails or sea. The piece took on its form therefore, based on the constraints of being part of a larger product. We were given a small slot of time within the show, and were therefore faced with the task of cutting out hours for valuable sound, until we came to our final product. It was a valuable lesson in radio editing. “Rail Riders” was produced with a handheld minidisk recorder, and Pro-tools audio editing equipment on a Macintosh computer.
– Rachel and Megan
About Elana Berkowitz
Elana Berkowitz is a senior at Brown, double majoring in political science and modern culture and media and currently hanging over the scary precipice of having no plans at all for next year. Her first radio appearance, at age five, involved her describing the lavish Christmas windows at Macy’s department store. Things have only gone up from there and she continues to enjoy radio, journalism and talking a lot.
About Melissa Brough
Melissa Brough stumbled into the world of radio journalism while trying to escape the misery of freshmen orientation at Brown. After a brief stint as a news anchor for the commercial station on campus, she gladly converted to indie student radio to pursue audio documentary work with the brand new show “Inside Out”. Although born and raised in the green mountains of Vermont, Melissa has made her way north to Alaska and south to Mexico to work on various video documentary projects. She is currently double majoring in Development Studies and Modern Culture and Media.
About Dana Turken
Dana Turken is in Prague and hasn’t sent her bio yet.
About Rachel Terp
Rachel Terp was born and raised in Chicago, IL. Rachel’s first lesson in audio-editing occurred a few years back, when her worthy comments failed to make Ira Glass’s final cut for an episode of “This American life”, that focused on her overnight camp, Lake of the Woods. Now working as an audio journalist, she happily wields the editing equipment, and is much happier in the position of the editor, instead of the edited.
About Megan Hall
Megan Hall was born in San Francisco but she was not raised there. The place she calls home is Portland, Oregon where she lived in the same house for 15 years. She began her radio career as the star of her middle school’s on air production of “The Little Walnut Twig” Now she just interviews people and makes their comments sound good.
About Paul McCarthy
Paul McCarthy (Executive Producer) loves radio. When students at Brown who were talking about putting together an ‘audiozine’ failed to follow through, he realized there was serious untapped potential for radio in Providence, RI. He applied for a University-sponsored grant for a new radio series, called “Inside Out” – and was rejected. But with the assistance of other funders, he has coordinated the training of all the Inside Out staff and the production of almost 10 hours of documentary radio since September, 2000. This was his first experience producing radio.