Bright colors. Blindness. Pterodactyls. Amputation. Recycling. Sometimes you just follow someone around for 10 hours with a microphone, bring it back and spend weeks figuring out what you have.
Prior to coming to Transom, I had pitched a completely different story. But when I met the person, I found out they weren’t a “good talker,” were incredibly busy and had a story that didn’t have much connection to the present.
One of the first things Rob played for us involved the conundrum of a storyteller trying to describe visual art on the radio. We discussed the difficulties posed in using your voice to describe something that is purely visual, and I felt drawn to the challenge.
A Vimeo video jumped out at me as I was looking for visual artists around the Cape and Islands. And after hearing the way the artist described his art, I knew he would sound great on the radio.
Don’t Forget Your Gear
Look, I know this sounds stupid. And it WAS really stupid. When you’re new to putting a bunch of gear into a bag and schlepping it around with you everywhere you go all day every day, you definitely need to develop a system.
I hadn’t quite figured that out and was cutting my time close on catching the last ferry back to Hyannis. Not only did I leave a very nice recorder in a Selectman’s office, I had to take the fast boat there and back the next day in order to have tape to play for one of our visiting teachers.
The takeaway: Make sure every piece of equipment goes in the same spot in your bag every time. No exceptions. Not only will you optimize how everything fits into your gear bag, you can be super fast when checking to make sure you have everything before you head to or from an interview. Get a visual on every piece of gear in your bag before you head out.
What This Story Was Not . . .
Matty has had a rough past 10 years: he had gone blind, lost his house, had a finger amputated, and struggled to find housing on Nantucket. All of that was incredibly interesting to me. The common themes of housing insecurity and struggling to find a way to stay on Nantucket really spoke to me. And, those themes seemed to come up with everyone I spoke to on the island. Surely his struggles were the crux of this story.
When I came back to class, I played the audio for my class. They were extremely skeptical that what I was sitting on was a story about gentrification, loss or struggle. I was shocked. After a tense class discussion (or ten) where I tried to compel my classmates, I conceded. They pointed out that Matty just sounds great and that I should let this piece be fun. More on that in a minute.
The takeaway: You don’t come to a workshop like this to convince everyone that you’re right and they’re wrong. The sooner you shed your tendency to do this, the sooner your piece will come together.
This Story Became A Story When . . .
As hard as it was, I decided to let go of a survival angle. But what did that leave me with? A bunch of supportive classmates and a couple of wonderful teachers.
One of my classmates, Rebecca, suggested that I follow the process of Matty’s art rather than focus on his own chronology. When I started writing my script with that in mind, everything fell into place. But having conceded that this wasn’t a survival story and changing the narrative focus away from his journey to his art, I felt like I was left with a lackluster episode of “How It’s Made.”
Our TA, Schuyler figured out how to incorporate Matty being blind and losing his house in a way that is tasteful, but not the main focus of this piece. We spent a few hours trying to insert these huge details (blindness and housing insecurity) without derailing the story. Finally, we found something that works. And I absolutely could not have pulled this off without her.
The takeaway: It’s hard to let a narrative go when you’ve established one because then you’re left with a big scary nothingness. But you’re here to make great radio. Would you rather rewrite your script a few times or make something that isn’t very good?
About Kyle’s Sonic ID
I found Rocky’s gym while driving one day and noticed it was considerably cheaper than the other gyms in the area, and that they offer boxing classes. As soon as I talked to Rocky, I knew he had to be recorded and would probably say something sonic-worthy. It turns out, he had already been recorded for a sonic. But the one they had was mostly an ad for his gym. So, I talked to Jay and he approved of me trying to get a new one.