Open Mic Spotlight: “The White Album” Howlett Media Productions | The Beatles Channel Sirius XM

The June 24th New York Festivals Radio Awards ceremony awarded exceptional radio content in all lengths and formats across all platforms. Trophy-winning, producers, directors, presenters and content creators from around the globe took to the stage to accept their glittering trophies and celebrate their success while toasting their peers with a glass of champagne. Truly a night to remember!

NYF’s Open Mic features interviews with the brilliant women and men behind some of the world’s most compelling programs and provide insights and observations from these leaders within the industry.

Kevin Howlett, Writer, Producer and Managing Director of Howlett Media Production Ltd.

New York Festivals spent a few minutes with Kevin Howlett, Writer, Producer and Managing Director of Howlett Media Production Ltd., UK. Kevin’s documentary “The White Album” earned a New York Festivals Radio Awards Gold trophy.

The award-winning documentary tells the story of one of the most groundbreaking albums ever released, the double LP called The Beatles, forever known as ‘The White Album’, was 50 years old in November 2018. To mark the anniversary, The Beatles Channel on Sirius XM broadcast these two documentaries that went deep into the album’s creation. Written and produced by Beatles historian Kevin Howlett, the two programs include a wealth of previously unheard studio outtakes and demos recorded during 1968.

To learn more about Kevin’s inspiration behind the award-winning documentary “The White Album,” his creative process, his biggest creative influence and pointers for someone just starting out in the wonderful world of audio, keep reading!

 

 

New York Festivals: What was the inspiration for your award-winning documentary “The White Album” and what did you ultimately hope to accomplish?

Kevin Howlett: Called simply The Beatles when it was released in November 1968, the double LP quickly became better known as ‘The White Album’. In 2017/2018, I was involved in the research and forensic listening to what was preserved on the many original tapes from the 1968 recording sessions. Following that, I wrote about the songs and recording processes for the 50th anniversary releases of November 2018. There have been many myths and legends concerning this album. I set out to reveal the history of its creation as accurately as possible. I featured the primary sources of previously unheard music and speech extracts from the session tapes and also comments from interviews with The Beatles themselves and the album’s producer George Martin. My script, read by actor and huge Beatles fan Martin Freeman, along with the comments of Giles Martin, who created a new 50th anniversary mix of the album, and those who fell under the spell of ‘The White Album’ (Cameron Crowe, Rick Rubin, journalist John Harris) set the album in the context of The Beatles’ career and the music scene of the time. Some myths were definitely exploded through what was revealed in the documentaries.

New York Festivals: Tell us about your creative process and how you overcame any obstacles?

Kevin Howlett: I am mostly a one man band when producing radio shows. Apart from archive interviews with Paul, George and Ringo, I conducted all the interviews in the series. I then edited the speech inserts and wrote the scripts for the two parts. I also made all the cunning music edits, which allowed the listener, for example, to hear a backing track cross seamlessly into the released version and then sometimes back again to the earlier version. I love music editing in ProTools. All interviewees were ‘fine-edited’. They were ‘de-ummed’, but in a way that still made them sound entirely natural as they spoke.

When all the audio elements were placed exactly in position for the shows, sound wizard Brian Thompson made sure everything was eq’d and limited for utmost clarity and balance. Brian and I have worked together on music documentaries since the 1980s – when it was still the tape era! He applies the impeccable sheen to the sound.

My aim with radio documentaries is to create memorable moments, convey information in the most succinct and engaging ways possible and always keep the listener entertained. Having heard the shows, I want the listener to enjoy the music even more than they did before hearing the programs!

New York Festivals: Who has been the biggest influence on you creatively?

Kevin Howlett: When I was eleven years old, I heard for the first time the British maverick DJ Kenny Everett. It was obvious that he put an enormous amount of work into his programs to create jingles, character voices and, what he described as, ‘fun and jollity’. It’s a well-worn phrase now, but Kenny produced music radio that was so imaginative that it really was ‘the theatre of the mind’. It was also clear that he loved music and presented it with a great respect for the work of the artists who made it. I always strive to use music in a sensitive way in radio programs. I’m really annoyed by people presenting music on the radio, who trample all over it. So Kenny was a big inspiration. The Beatles loved his work too.

As a teenager In the UK, there were a few hugely influential ‘into the music’ DJs on the national BBC pop station Radio 1, who I trusted to guide me to the great stuff. It was a privilege and delight later to work with those eloquent and knowledgeable broadcasters – Paul Gambaccini, Bob Harris, John Peel and Johnnie Walker – and also with enlightened BBC executives, who had been pioneering program makers, Johnny Beerling and Stuart Grundy.

New York Festivals: What are the top 3 pointers you’d give someone just starting out in world of audio?

Kevin Howlett: First, make sure this medium is your absolute passion. Don’t do it because you think it might be a glamorous job.

Second, respect audio. This is the most intimate form of communication; much more so than TV. Remember that a listener has a close one-to-one relationship with what they hear on radio or in a podcast.

Third, ensure that what you are producing will be an uplifting experience. Don’t go low, aim high!

For a complete list of all the 2019 New York Festivals Radio Award winners, please visit: HERE

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Open Mic Winners Spotlight: “The Walk : For Richer, For Poorer” TBI Media | BBC Radio 4

The June 24th New York Festivals Radio Awards ceremony awarded exceptional radio content in all lengths and formats across all platforms. Trophy-winning, producers, directors, presenters and content creators from around the globe took to the stage to accept their glittering trophies and celebrate their success while toasting their peers with a glass of champagne. Truly a night to remember!

Open Mic features interviews with the brilliant women and men behind some of the world’s most compelling programs and provide insights and observations from these leaders within the industry.

Phil Critchlow, CEO – Founding Director, TBI Media

New York Festivals spent a few minutes with Phil Critchlow, CEO – Founding Director, TBI Media UK discussing his Gold and Silver trophy winning “The Walk: For Richer, For Poorer”  which aired on BBC Radio 4.  The documentary explores the question “How do the rich and the poor live together, side-by-side every day – and what about the rest of us who live in the middle?” Journalist Cole Moreton walked four miles across the Borough of Kensington through the extremes of London-living, in a mesmerizing series of real-life encounters that built and told a story like a drama.

In the interview below, Phil discusses his inspiration behind the documentary, his biggest creative influence, his creative process and what’s next on the horizon.

New York Festivals: What was the inspiration for your award-winning program “The Walk: For Richer, For Poorer” and what did you ultimately hope to accomplish?

Phil Critchlow: Radio is at its best when it is like a friend whispering in your ear, telling you truthful stories, introducing you to people whose voices you would not otherwise hear. The London borough of Kensington has some of the richest streets in Britain, but right alongside are some of the poorest. I set out to walk through those streets – from the Food Hall at Harrods, one of Britain’s most exclusive stores, to the North Paddington Food Bank that brings emergency assistance for people in crisis – hearing from the very rich and those who were struggling, to see how they saw each other and how they survived, cheek by jowl.

The aim was to portray a complex, surprising situation in a way that would be as gripping as a drama and bring about empathy and greater understanding in the listener. Shortly after we were commissioned, the Grenfell Tower disaster happened and the project took on a new urgency, as for a moment Londoners saw each other in a new light.

New York Festivals: Tell us about your creative process and how you overcame any obstacles?

Phil Critchlow: Grenfell Tower was the obvious one, as there was already a great deal of coverage of the disaster itself and the aftermath. My producer Jonathan Mayo and I set out to tell a story about the wider community, taking Grenfell as a symptom of what was happening. The challenge was to combine facts and figures with compelling personal stories from interviews and a spontaneous narrative, improvised and recorded in the street in reaction to all that was happening around us. Recording in binaural sound also presented a technical challenge, superbly met by our colleague Max O’Brien.

New York Festivals: Who has been the biggest influence on you creatively?

Phil Critchlow: I’ve been a radio addict since the days of listening to John Peel under the covers and taping new music, so he was the beginning, but I take inspiration from any of the great story tellers I hear on radio and in podcasts every day. When I began to make radio myself, after a career as a print journalist, my producer Jonathan Mayo was a mentor and a friend.

New York Festivals: What are the top 3 pointers you’d give someone just starting out in world of audio?

Phil Critchlow: The story is everything, so listen hard to what people say. Go for the emotion. Take more risks.

New York Festivals: What project is next on the horizon for you and your team? 

Phil Critchlow: We recently made a version of The Walk looking at the relationship between Calais and Dover, on either side of the Channel, in these fraught times of Brexit and the migration crisis. The aim is to keep giving voice to those who would not otherwise be heard. Right now I’m in the middle of a series of Edge of England, a podcast about life on the dramatic south coast of England where I live, near Beachy Head and its iconic 500 foot white cliffs, the setting for a forthcoming debut novel of mine called The Light Keeper.

For a complete list of all the 2019 New York Festivals Radio Award winners, please visit: HERE

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Open Mic Winners Spotlight: “Home Babies” BBC Radio 4

The June 24th New York Festivals Radio Awards ceremony awarded exceptional radio content in all lengths and formats across all platforms. Trophy-winning, producers, directors, presenters and content creators from around the globe took to the stage to accept their glittering trophies and celebrate their success while toasting their peers with a glass of champagne. Truly a night to remember!

NYF’s Open Mic features interviews with the brilliant women and men behind some of the world’s most compelling programs and provide insights and observations from these leaders within the industry.

Open Mic spent a few minutes with NYF Gold trophy winners Becky Milligan, Presenter and China Collins, Producer for BBC Radio 4’s “The Home Babies.” The winning documentary podcast tells the story of a town in the west of Ireland, where a secret lay hidden beneath the ground for years, until one woman began to dig into the past. In 2012, Catherine Corless, an amateur historian, decided to write about the mother and baby home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the interview below Becky and China share their inspiration for their award-winning documentary, their creative process, tips for someone just staring out in the industry and much more.

New York Festivals: What was the inspiration for your award-winning documentary “The Home Babies” and what did you ultimately hope to accomplish?

Becky Milligan: A while back I was presenting a programme called Profile for BBC Radio 4, which examines someone in the news. I’d read a short article about an Irish woman called Catherine Corless, who’d uncovered the horrifying story of a mass grave at a Catholic institution in the west of Ireland. She sounded like an amazing woman and we decided to focus on her. Afterwards I was unable to forget about it, it kept nagging at me, the voices we’d heard and their stories. I knew we had only scratched the surface, and there was so much more to tell. So a year or so later China Collins, who’d been the producer on profile and was equally affected by the story, commissioned the podcast.

China Collins: In 2017, Becky Milligan and I were working together on a BBC radio show called Profile, which was a 14 minute segment profiling a person in the news each week. We came across the story of Catherine Corless and decided to focus on her. It quickly became clear that this story was far too big, complex and important for 14 minutes! I remember one evening we stayed late to interview PJ, who had survived the mother and baby home in Tuam as a child, but went on to experience discrimination and stigma throughout most of his life. He was finally able to achieve a sense of peace and acceptance after meeting Catherine Corless and exposing the horrors of the home to the world. We recorded over an hour with him and were hanging on every word he said. Afterwards we agreed that we would do something bigger with this story when we could. A year later I became the commissioning editor at the PM programme on BBC Radio 4 where Becky was a reporter, and one of the first things I did was commission The Home Babies.

New York Festivals: Tell us about your creative process and how you overcame any obstacles?

Becky Milligan: At the start I didn’t know where it would take me, what the story would achieve. I simply wanted to tell the story and shine a light on what had been a dark history in this small Irish town. But as I went on, the more it unravelled, the more shocking it was. I realised that the whole story, the history of the home and what happened there, was not only something that had happened in the past and was over, but had enormous impact and repercussions on people now.  I hope that I was able to show that.

I think I had an idea in my head how it would be produced. I am not a fan of formal interviews, but prefer conversations with people. For the Home Babies I wanted people to hear the voices of survivors and families unvarnished, not over edited. I wrote out a synopsis of each episode as I went along, and developed a narrative arc which I hoped would hook in the listener. I wanted the listener to come to Ireland with me, sit in their homes and chat, to bring the whole story to life with the sounds and voices.

What did make it challenging is the shame people still feel about these mother and baby homes. People didn’t always want to talk about, they thought they might get into trouble or felt guilty or were told not to mention it. I had to gain people’s trust, to talk to as many people as possible, from the town right up to government ministers. There were many people who decided not to speak to me, including the Bonne Secours sisters who ran the home. But I did find other members of the church who did. It was only very near the end of the podcast that someone inside the government contacted me and agreed to talk to me albeit anonymously.

China Collins: Becky and I worked closely together on the structure, story-telling, editing and tone of the podcast, but Becky was absolutely the main creative force and genius behind The Home Babies. She completely immersed herself in the story of Tuam, speaking to everyone from government ministers to local residents and ex-nuns. The first thing we did was develop a story arc for the podcast as a whole. We initially wanted to start with Catherine Corless and her discovery of 800 babies buried on the site of the home. However, we later decided to let the story unravel more slowly than that, and instead started by trying to evoke a sense of Ireland’s past and its culture of secrecy around unmarried mothers before examining how the story of the home was revealed to the world. We also wanted to get as close as possible to depicting what life was like inside the mother and baby home. We drew up a wish list of interviewees and began to create the episode structure after we’d gathered material. Becky went to Tuam twice, and I went once and spent time with local residents and with Catherine Corless. Both of us felt it was vital to do justice to this amazing woman, and to all the people who either lost loved ones or their lives at the Tuam home. A significant period of both our visits to Tuam was spent knocking on doors in the housing estate that now surrounds the site of the home. Sometimes it was fruitless, but one woman Becky spoke to – Josephine – who had lived next door to the home as a child, described in an incredibly understated and calm way how women who got pregnant outside marriage were treated. I remember sitting in my hotel room in Tuam listening to the raw interview on my headphones and feeling we had found something extraordinary. She provided us with the bulk of the first episode as well as the podcast’s name ‘The Home Babies’.

New York Festivals: Who has been the biggest influence on you creatively?

Becky Milligan: I am influenced and learn from all sorts of people all the time, from Martha Gellhorn to more recently Ceri Jackson who has just done a great podcast called Shreds. The presenter Eddie Mair is brilliant and BBC editor Richard Knight. Both of them have taught me a great deal.

China Collins: Becky Milligan has been hands down the biggest influence on me creatively. Working with her was a total privilege. She is hugely empathetic and she uses that in her journalism to get people to open up to her and to cut to the heart of a story quickly. She also has a great sense of perspective – although our week in Tuam involved long days, busy schedules and very questionable food choices (there was one day we survived on a shared giant bag of potato-chips!), we were able to switch off and even have fun together. That’s really important when you’re working on a big projec

New York Festivals: What are the top 3 pointers you’d give someone just starting out in world of audio?

Becky Milligan: Advice to someone starting out in audio. First it is a fantastic medium. I have done TV and newspapers, but audio is the most exciting by a long shot, especially now.

  1. Just like a book, you are telling a story with sound.
  2. Keep in your mistakes and the pauses.
  3. Really? Is always a good question. It opens up far more than you could imagine.

China Collins: My top tips would be:

  1. Consume as much content as possible. Try things you wouldn’t normally be attracted to. Becky and I were both inspired by other podcasts we’d listened to like Dirty John/West Cork and listening to a wide range of material will teach you new ways to structure a story or just open your eyes to different ways of doing things. Also don’t limit yourself to audio – a great TV documentary or film can also provide inspiration.
  2. Don’t be afraid of spending a crazy amount of time on finding the right music. It’s really important, and it’s normal for it to take a long time. Even if you’re feeling frustrated and are tempted to settle for something less than perfect, don’t.
  3. Give things time to breathe. Don’t try to pack too much in to a single episode/segment – remember the audience isn’t listening with a pen and paper in hand

New York Festivals: What project is next on the horizon for you and your team?

Becky Milligan: I am a news reporter so have to get on with the day to day stuff going on. But several projects up my sleeve which I am hoping to develop into longer form audio.

China Collins: In terms of what we’re up to next – I’ve actually left the PM team and now work on a TV news programme at the BBC, but I’m sure Becky can give you some insight on upcoming work.

For a complete list of all the 2019 New York Festivals Radio Award winners, please visit: HERE

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Open Mic Winners Spotlight: “MADRE” DMC Studio

The June 24th New York Festivals Radio Awards ceremony awarded exceptional radio content in all lengths and formats across all platforms. Trophy-winning, producers, directors, presenters and content creators from around the globe took to the stage to accept their glittering trophies and celebrate their success while toasting their peers with a glass of champagne. Truly a night to remember!

NYF’s Open Mic features interviews with the brilliant women and men behind some of the world’s most compelling programs and provide insights and observations from these leaders within the industry.

Diego Cannizzaro accepting double Gold trophies at NYF’s 2019 Radio Awards ceremony

In this interview, Open Mic spends a few moments with Diego Cannizzaro, owner and director of DMC STUDIO. A multi-award-winning script writer and sound designer, Diego scored double Golds (Human Relations and Best Editing) and double Bronze (Best Writing and Best Sound) trophies for his documentary “MADRE”

“MADRE” is a sound documentary dedicated to all women. Dedicated to the aunts, to the grandmothers … to all the mothers. But especially, to the mother that we have each of the human beings: Our Mother Earth.

For his award-winning piece, Diego and his team interviewed around 300 people from different social strata, countries of origin, different languages and ages in different geographic locations of the planet; all of them were recorded answering the 5 same questions after a brief personal presentation.

Based on each of the answers, of the more than 300 people, a great sound edition was made, combining all the answers, naturally expressed in their own native languages from different countries of the world, in conjunction with the main story.

In the interview below, Diego shares his inspiration for his award-winning documentary, pointers for someone just starting out in the industry, his biggest creative influence and much much more.

New York Festivals:What was the inspiration for your award-winning program “Madre” and what did you ultimately hope to accomplish?

Inspiration is clearly focused on motherhood. The initial idea originated in the very NYF ceremony of 2017 when I accepted the Grand Award, standing in front of so many colleagues around the globe, pops into my mind “I want to write something that involves and commits us all together”. Our planet. We are all “Sons of the Earth” and we all have a or had a Mother. And our Mother common to all human beings, of different races, creeds and languages is Our Mother Earth.

In parallel, the idea was strengthened by the fact that throughout the pre-production process I was becoming a father. While we made recordings around the world, the project was completely defined.

In the second year in production, the sound design, the editing of the voices and the complex audio mix advance simultaneously with the pregnancy. By the way, a multiple pregnancy! Olivia and Rafaela, my daughters.

I think the inspiration and the triggers came from a deepest place of me. And life was in charge to give shape to this Sound Piece.

Diego Cannizzaro DMC Studio, Argentina

New York Festivals: Tell us about your creative process and how you overcame any obstacles?

Diego Cannizzaro: The creative process is a sequence and evolution of events that mold and improve the original idea. Having (of course) the main theme solved and the script, we can start with the pre-production. Keep in mind that many ideas are generated in the recording process since the script faces reality. And at that point, when you are recording voices or sounds, there is when my sensitivity is sharpened to take advantage about the factors that maybe confuses you or makes you to take shortcuts or alternative paths that contribute to the content. It is up to each person to take or leave these incentives and have a firm criterion about what you are doing so as not to modified the original idea too much.

New York Festivals: Who has been the biggest influence on you creatively?

Diego Cannizzaro: I think that as a sound documentaries producer and as the director of DMC STUDIO (where we face every time different projects and situations) I find the greatest inspiration in life itself. In day by day. In sitting in a bar in a big city and watching people. There I start to connect ideas and to inspire myself. Of course how technology affects us, communications on a global level. Music is a fundamental part. Listening to music it is so positive, paying attention to the new trends of the music producers, how do they handle the dynamic ranges of sound applied to music, it is inspiring and I try to learn everyday and then, adapt and apply all those influences to our productions.

New York Festivals: What are the top 3 pointers you’d give someone just starting out in world of audio?

Diego Cannizzaro: I believe, achieve goods results working with audio takes time and a lot of practice. It is always important to obtain and work with GOOD QUALITY of sound, even if the sound texture of a project contains an “specific colour” or a special mood. If it is a matter of recording voices, keep in mind the quality but in opposition to that, maintaining the FRESHNESS AND NATURALITY of them, that always will be a priority, within the limits that we have regarding quality. That is so valuable for us. And finally, a very good SOUND POST PRODUCTION job, that is, SOUND DESIGN is fundamental to obtain a very good sound work. In editing we can even improve our products and with the proper use of filters, virtual or real plugins, we can get and generate any necessary sound texture. The management and complete knowledge of the software that you use for this process, like Pro Tools, is indispensable to get awesome results.

New York Festivals: What project is next on the horizon for you and your team?

Diego Cannizzaro: We are currently working on the pre-production of a new Sound Piece / Podcast, focused on topics that also involve us all, but within a framework of fiction and with a very interesting time variable handling. For now, regarding to the subject, that’s all what I can advance. Although in our first sound documentary BLACKOUT, winner of a Grand Award in 2017 at the NYF, it was an intimate fiction, a character who was touring BsAs. Now, MADRE, is developing more globally, with many voices, languages and a strong feminist presence. Our third delivery will be a mixture of both worlds where real and the unreal…are one. We hope to finish it soon, but we are just in the pre-production and writing stage, maybe  for The NYF 2020? 2021? Who knows! Whenever it comes, will be awsome!

For a complete list of all the 2019 New York Festivals Radio Award winners, please visit: HERE

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Open Mic Winners Spotlight: “100 Years of Bernstein” New York Philharmonic

The June 24th New York Festivals Radio Awards ceremony awarded exceptional radio content in all lengths and formats across all platforms. Trophy-winning, producers, directors, presenters and content creators from around the globe took to the stage to accept their glittering trophies and celebrate their success while toasting their peers with a glass of champagne. Truly a night to remember!

For the next few weeks NYF’s Open Mic will feature interviews with the brilliant women and men behind some of the world’s most compelling programs and provide insights and observations from these leaders within the industry.

In this interview, Open Mic spends a few moments with Mark Travis, New York Philharmonic’s Associate Director, Media Production. New York Philharmonic’s “100 Years of Leonard Bernstein” earned 2 Gold trophies (Best Mini-Series and Music) for their five-week series of Bernstein-themed programming. “100 Years of Bernstein” also received a Silver trophy for Best Director.

Mark Travis, Associate Director, Media Production, New York Philharmonic at the 2019 Radio Awards

August 25, 2018 marked the 100th anniversary of Leonard Bernstein’s birth, so The New York Philharmonic This Week dedicated August programming to the memory of the orchestra’s former Music Director and Conductor Laureate. Beginning August 2, listeners were treated to five consecutive weeks of Bernstein-themed programming that included carefully curated music as well as sound-bytes from the Maestro himself, behind-the-scenes memories from his daughter, Jamie Bernstein, plus lots of historic audio, from his legendary debut to the opening of Lincoln Center and the Young People’s Concerts.

Keep reading to find out more about this double Gold and Silver winning series as Mark Travis shares the inspiration behind the series, his creative process,  his creative influences, pointers for someone just starting out in the industry and what creative project is next on the horizon.

New York Festivals: What was the inspiration for your award-winning program “100 Years of Bernstein” and what did you ultimately hope to accomplish?

Mark Travis: I had avoided doing a deep dive into Bernstein and his music for many years.  As far as I was concerned,  Steve Rowland and Larry Abrams already produced the definitive Bernstein piece with their Peabody-Award winning 11-hour audio documentary, Bernstein: An American Life in 2004 (hosted by Susan Sarandon).

Leonard Bernstein

Their work loomed large in my creative mind; what could I say about Lenny that hadn’t been said before?  What new ground could I possibly cover?  And how could I possibly do it even half as well?

Yet as plans began to form to mark the centenary of Bernstein’s birth, it became clear that there was some expectation that I’d produce SOMETHING.  After all,  Bernstein’s association with the New York Philharmonic spanned 47 years, 1244 concerts, and over 200 recordings; as the orchestra’s producer, I am perhaps uniquely qualified to tell Lenny stories.  I suppose that’s where the lightbulb went on. Rather than spin my wheels trying to produce another documentary about Bernstein’s life, I instead focused on his legacy at the Philharmonic and let the music do a lot of the talking for us.  I have to say, too, that I think Alec Baldwin truly breathed extra special life into each and every episode.

Mark Travis and Alec Baldwin at the 2017 NYF Radio Awards

I think most people understand that Bernstein was (and is) a big deal; it’s my hope that this miniseries helped some folks better understand ‘why’ he remains so relevant to cultural life decades after his death.

New York Festivals: Tell us about your creative process and how you overcame any obstacles?

Lenny’s daughter, Jamie Bernstein and the Philharmonic’s former archivist/historian Barbara Haws were my muses, as was the orchestra itself.  Jamie shared amazing stories about her dad with signature good humor and warmth—some of these provided the kernel around which I was able to build the narrative and soundscape.  Barbara, of course, knew every resource available to me and made sure that I had access to it all and that I understood how the various pieces fit together.  Since so many of Bernstein’s recordings are still widely available, I tried my best to uncover lesser-known gems in his discography and with the cooperation of our musicians, I was able to showcase breathtaking, distinctive performances and lots of pithy sound clips.

New York Festivals: Who has been the biggest influence on you creatively?

Mark Travis: Lois Baum, Stephen Paley and Steve Rowland are certainly towards the top of that list.  Lois taught me how to think of interview audio in non-linear fashion and set the bar high for me at an early age.  Mr. Paley probably had the most direct influence on how my work “sounds” in teaching me to think about radio production in more cinematic terms and Mr. Rowland is probably the greatest audio documentarian of our time; a modern Studs Terkel, if you will.

When in front of the mic, my announcing and interview style is greatly influenced by the folksy delivery of Pat Cassidy—one of the most versatile and thoughtful morning-drive anchors in the history of Chicago broadcasting.  On the rare occasions I get to hear him, I also still sit in awe of Pat Foley, long-time voice of the Chicago Blackhawks, and the way his radio calls put you center-ice at the United Center and convey all the details and excitement of the game more effectively than a lot of seasoned television announcers.

New York Festivals: What are the top 3 pointers you’d give someone just starting out in world of audio?

Mark Travis:

  1. Invest in yourself.  Having the right tools for the job makes a huge difference in the quality of your work.  This applies to microphones, computers, recording gear—anything you’re going to use to create.  Don’t settle for good enough; settle for perfect.
  2. Have a plan—especially in the beginning.  If voiceover is your thing, then commit yourself to voiceover work.  If reporting is your passion, then get out there and start telling stories.  You may develop into a multifaceted talent over the course of your career, but I think it’s better to be really good at one or two things than “sorta” good at a dozen.
  3. Think broadly, not just “big.”  So you’ve landed your first hosting gig, but your only shifts are weekend mornings.  Rather than stay put in hopes that you might be program director of that station someday, I suggest looking for some shifts elsewhere.  Maybe there’s an AM station that needs a board op for evening news or a public radio station that needs extra air support during pledge.  Staple a few things together and get all the experience you can.  This will likely do more for your career than taking work in another field to afford your broadcasting career.

New York Festivals: What project is next on the horizon for you and your team?

Mark Travis: We’re still in the planning phase at the Philharmonic, in terms of media production, for next season.  That said, I expect my colleagues and I will be working to support the orchestra’s Project 19 commissions, the hotspots festival, and Mahler’s New York with a variety of audio and video materials.    Apart from my work for the Philharmonic, I’m very excited to embark on a project with the Grand Piano Series in Naples, Florida where I will record concerts, give lectures, and produce podcasts featuring all 32 Beethoven piano sonatas. I’m also wrapping on a holiday album for the Chicago Chorale and I’m working with Interlochen Public Radio, Interlochen Presents, and UMS on a broadcast project dedicated to great African-American concert and opera singers of the past and present.  There are a few other things on the horizon too with Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, so please stay tuned!

For a complete list of all the 2019 New York Festivals Radio Award winners, please visit: HERE

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Open Mic Winners Spotlight: “Beyond Kate” Radio New Zealand

The June 24th New York Festivals Radio Awards ceremony awarded exceptional radio content in all lengths and formats across all platforms. Trophy-winning, producers, directors, presenters and content creators from around the globe took to the stage to accept their glittering trophies and celebrate their success while toasting their peers with a glass of champagne. Truly a night to remember!

For the next few weeks NYF’s Open Mic will feature interviews with the brilliant women and men behind some of the world’s most compelling programs and provide insights and observations from these leaders within the industry.

Sonia Sly, Producer/Presenter of Beyond Kate, Radio New Zealand (Photo credit Bex McGill)

Gold trophy-winning “Beyond Kate” (Radio New Zealand)  commemorates 125 years of women’s suffrage in New Zealand. It was the first country in the world to introduce the right to vote to women. Through eight in-depth, themed episodes producer Sonia Sly looks at the lives of women from past to present exploring myths and attitudes towards the female body to politics, work, education, diversity and more.

Open Mic spent a few minutes with Sonia, Radio New Zealand Producer/Presenter, to find out more about the award-winning docummenatry series “Beyond Kate” including her inspiration for the series, her creative process, tips for those just starting out in the industry and what project is next on the horizon.

New York Festivals: What was the inspiration for your award-winning program “Beyond Kate” and what did you ultimately hope to accomplish?

Last year was the 125th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote in New Zealand. So I was incredibly humbled when my executive producer pitched me the idea of doing something as part of the commemoration. It was an exciting prospect, but also a very daunting one – to tell the stories of women (and men) who fought for women’s right to vote back in 1893.

In New Zealand, Kate Sheppard is our most celebrated suffragist, but I wanted to broaden the scope beyond Kate to look at the lives of ordinary women and to see how history has been a framework that has shaped the lives of women today. In doing that, I was faced with the challenge of not only looking back at history, but also putting contemporary views and experiences under the spotlight. That alone, would enable us to look closely at how things have progressed for women, but also to see areas where change is still needed.

It definitely feels to me like the goal posts are always shifting and the battle still continues because women are still struggling to be truly heard. The workplace, in particular, is often

Episode One Mary Jane Carpenter’s house still stands in Yaldhurst.

an environment where this is magnified. Pay equity is an issue in many instances, and women aren’t taken seriously. So we find ourselves really pushing (almost aggressively) for someone to listen to us. But then women are criticized for that too.There are so many double standards that exist, whether spoken or unspoken, so that was important to unwrap. I also wanted to make a series that would stand the test of time, but one that would challenge people’s perspectives about how they see the world, and what they really value.

New York Festivals: Tell us about your creative process and how you over came obstacles.

I always let the story unravel and reveal itself to me, and that tends to dictate the style in which I end up telling the story. I trained as an actor (but studied media before that), and I’ve always loved film, and I’m inspired by art. So for me, producing audio has always been about bringing ‘visual’ elements into my work and giving it a kind of cinematic feel. It’s about bringing those stories to life, especially the historical aspects that can be a bit distancing for listeners.

I’m constantly thinking about the listener when I’m producing audio. There has to be that ‘exchange’ and thinking around ‘what will they get out of it?’

In the series, I use a few dramatic vignettes (not in a cheesy way) to push the story forward and kind of ‘reimagine’ some of the characters and people from our history. I looked to archival newspapers, which fed directly into these more stylised moment or scenes. I also had access to a treasure trove of great archival audio from Nga Taonga Sound and Vision. And I always  approach my work thinking about the different textures, and the light and shade.

Episode One. Fiona Gower, President of Rural Women NZ says isolation is a problem for women living rurally. Image Sonia Sly

There are some very quirky elements in the series too. Admittedly, I have a bit of a bizarre sense of humour and I don’t mind playing that up and making myself look a bit foolish for entertainment’s sake. There’s a funny moment in the first episode where I head out to a rural farm (you’ll know it when you hear it), and even now it makes me laugh. While the subject matter is serious, we are all human and it’s those purely human moments that make a story intimate and engaging.

Episode 4 – Rachel Stewart says Men need to intervene in matters of violence against women. Photo credit David White, Fairfax

Ultimately, the biggest obstacle was the vast amount of rich content that I had to deal with – a blessing and a curse! I also didn’t want the series to be burdened by the weight of history, so the content required a balanced approach. I had to break things up and get a feel for where it needed to pick up the pace and drive forward, but also listening for where space was needed in some of the heavier, raw moments – to let them breathe and allow the listener’s thoughts to linger.

It’s a really complex series. There are 8 episodes that have been split up into themes: the petition, the female body, education, politics, the arts, work, cultural diversity, and education. So it was really about staying within the themes and developing the threads through each episode.

One of the most hard hitting and raw episodes was looking at the female body.  Throughout history, women’s bodies have been criticized and used against them to limit their opportunities. Women’s lives are confounded by the weight of societal expectations and invisible rules and contradictions around what they are permitted to do with our bodies, how they should relate to their body, but also, there’s a value that society imposes upon us.

Before I started making the series I wouldn’t have necessarily called myself a feminist,purely because I dislike labels.

Epsiode 5. Libby Hakaraia’s forebear, Mary Bevan (Mereruhia).

As a Chinese New Zealand female, I already feel like that there are external pressures that I have to contend with and I don’t want to put myself into another box. But I have to say, making this series has even challenged my own perspective and it changed my life in so many ways.

New York Festivals: Who has been the biggest influence on you creatively?

Portrait by Harriet Cobb one of the first female photographers in NZ.

 

Sonia Sly: There’s not necessarily a person that has influenced this side of me. As a kid I had an incredibly active imagination. I grew up with three siblings, but I always found myself escaping outside by myself, and really letting my imagination go.

I also love poetry, because there’s something about the beauty and simplicity of poetry that can say so much, and I love hearing it read aloud. Other than this, when I trained as an actor at Toi Whakaari: New Zealand Drama School I had a very special mentor, Tom McCrory, who helped me to truly unleash my creativity and see ‘myself’. I began to understand the fullness of my creative potential, and what I could do with my imagination.

New York Festivals: What are the top 3 pointers you’d give someone just starting out in the world of audio?

Sonia Sly: Do your research, find great talent, and pursue what interests you.

Sonia Sly producer of Beyond Kate – RNZ

Because if you’re not interested then it will become apparent in the final product. Being engaged through the process means that the listener will be engaged too. And always be guided by your instincts and don’t be afraid to take some creative risks.

New York Festivals: What project is next on the horizon for you and your team?

Sonia Sly: I love working on human interest stories, and right now I’m waiting to get my teeth stuck into a big project that’s going to challenge me… because that’s how I find my joy!

For a complete list of all the 2019 New York Festivals Radio Award winners, please visit: HERE

 

 

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Open Mic Winners Spotlight: “Dangerous Visions: Shadowbahn” Corporation For Independent Media

It’s only been a week since the June 24th New York Festivals Radio Awards ceremony awarded exceptional radio content in all lengths and formats across all platforms. Trophy-winning, producers, directors, presenters and content creators from around the globe took to the stage to accept their glittering trophies and celebrate their success while toasting their peers with a glass of champagne. Truly a night to remember!

For the next few weeks NYF’s Open Mic will feature interviews with the brilliant women and men behind some of the world’s most compelling programs and provide insights and observations from these leaders within the industry.

Judith Kampfner

In this interview, Open Mic spends a few moments with Co-Directors/Producers, Judith Kampfner and Steve Bond of Corporation For Independent Media. Their audio drama “Dangerous Visions: Shadowbahn”  earned double New York Festivals Gold Awards for both Best Sound and Best Drama Special along with the Silver Award for Best Director.

Judith and Steve were drawn to what was heralded as ‘the first novel of the Trump era’ – so prescient with amazing sonic possibilities. Their production aired on BBC Radio 4’s popular Saturday play slot – which promises listeners ‘cinematic’ radio.

“Dangerous Visions: Shadowbahn” is an epic of alternate history and fragmented America set in 2021.

Steve Bond

In the interview below, Judith and Steve share insider information on their inspirations for their program, insights on their creative process, three pointers for someone just starting out in the industry and much more.

New York Festivals: What was the inspiration for your award-winning program “Dangerous Visions: Shadowbahn” and what did you ultimately hope to accomplish?

Judith Kampfner: The inspiration for an idea that a publisher gave me at a party. He said a book was coming out about a road trip across America and the people in the car would be the only people with any access to music left in the country. He added that the Twin Towers appear intact in South Dakota in 2021 and Elvis’ twin brother (who in reality was stillborn) jumps off the roof into Andy Warhol’s world in 1960’s New York. That was enough for me. I was enthralled. I said I hadn’t heard of anything with such rich audio potential for a long time. What I particularly liked was the fact that the characters in the car apparently listened to a mix tape made by DJ dad who had recently died and that there were inherent messages from him in that mix tape. Eerie, emotional and engaging. I wanted to achieve a dystopian audio drama that wasn’t gruesome and sinister. This had energy, humor, a driving music list and lots of whacky alternative history.

New York Festivals: Tell us about your creative process and how you overcame any obstacles?

Judith Kampfner  and Steve Bond: We had to create 2 songs that were on an Elvis record. That was a brilliant idea from Steve Erickson the author but in fact was really hard to execute. We got an Elvis impersonator who could play guitar and sing but one of the songs

Elvis Impersonator

on this imagined record was in French and he could not pronounce a word of French. We recorded in a car in quiet NY suburb and then added sounds of driving from Arizona. Our budget only allowed for 7 actors so that was a lot of doubling and tripling and we needed to creat a large crowd that had gathered around ‘the new American Stonehenge’ i.e the Twin Towers in the middle of the Dakota Badlands.

New York Festivals: Who has been the biggest influence on you creatively?

Judith Kampfner: I love watching films from young film makers. Recently I saw ‘Stray’ by Dustin Fenelly at the Brooklyn Film festival. He won best new director award. There was no music but the sound effects were sharp and real and the dialogue sparing and often you didn’t see who was speaking or just their back and people often mumbled as we do in real life. I love to be surprised film or audio productions that tell strong stories ( I’m not into abstract work) in a novel and radical way. I like work that is set overseas ( this was in the Alpine region of New Zealand). I think that’s why I liked the travelogue aspect of Shadowbahn.  I also like Powell and Pressburger. I adore c and also their Stairway to Heaven. Incredibly imaginative movies that stand the test of time, for all time I think.

Steve Bond: As someone working across both film and radio, I find inspiration in both worlds. The films and analysis of Andrei Tarkovsky have been particularly influential on my use of time and space in sound and editing, as have the work and writings of Walter Murch.

New York Festivals: What are the top 3 pointers you’d give someone just starting out in world of audio?

Steve Bond: Keep experimenting and playing! It’s easy for this to turn into a normal job if you let it… Try to draw inspiration from art in all fields, not just a narrow idea of ‘audio production’ – an exciting audio idea might come from a novel or a painting too. Try to think of the ‘soundtrack’ as a fully integrated and evolving entity, rather than as being composed of a set of layers – hopefully this can help translate to a similarly unified experience for the audience.

Judith Kampfner: Make work on spec. Don’t wait for projects to come to you. Keep a portfolio of work. Collect and keep developing story ideas. Have a Zoom recorder with you at all times. Listen to work and write to producers who have a similar sensibility to yours or to what you aspire to do. Tell them what you like about their work, in a way that demonstrates that you have paid attention and care about details.

New York Festivals: New York Festivals: What project is next on the horizon for you and your team?

Steve Bond: I’m just getting started on a very exciting docu-drama series on the science of forensics and the people behind it for the BBC. And I have a couple of feature film projects coming up later in the year (not quite allowed to talk about them as yet!) I love the way that my work in different fields often provide unexpected inspiration across traditionally separate worlds.

Judith Kampfer:   Right now I have written a stage play and am working with a consultant producer to get it off Broadway. I’m half way through a novel about the abuse of a domestic servant in South East Asia. Both projects are offshoots of audio productions so I am thrilled to be leveraging my audio work to new platforms.  I am also embarking on a Creativity Coaching Business, giving back some of my experience about the process of making audio and I am finding that’s it is something of an untapped niche. Many people feel isolated and want to be fulfilled making the work they feel uses their talents and stretches them. 

For a complete list of all the 2019 New York Festivals Radio Award winners, please visit: HERE

 

 

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Open Mic Winners Spotlight: A View from a Hill, Bafflegab Productions

The June 24th New York Festivals Radio Awards ceremony honored exceptional radio content in all lengths and formats across all platforms. Award-winning, producers, directors, presenters and content creators from around the globe took to the stage to accept their glittering trophies and celebrate their success while toasting their peers with a glass of champagne. Truly a night to remember!

For the next few weeks NYF’s Open Mic will feature interviews with the brilliant women and men behind some of the world’s most compelling programs and provide insights and observations from these leaders within the industry.

In this interview, Open Mic spends a few moments with Simon Barnard, Producer for Bafflegab Productions  focusing on his 2019 New York Festivals Radio Awards Gold-winning (Best Digital Drama Program) “A View from a Hill” and Silver Award winning “Casting the Runes” (Best Drama Special).

A View from a Hill is a contemporary retelling of the classic 1925 ghost story by M.R. James. This version, adapted by Mark Morris (winner of the New York Festivals Gold Award 2018 for Best Drama Special), takes the core elements, both plot and thematic, and brings them into the 21st century, adding in a further layer with an exploration of the effect that the death of a child can have on parents. The original M.R. James tale centers around a pair of binoculars, and what might be seen through them; this version links to the podcast and the regular recordings that the character of Paul Fanshawe makes.

The digital drama, A View from a Hill, was produced for Audible Studios, as part of the anthology ‘The Conception of Terror: Tales Inspired by M.R. James,’ and was released by Audible in February 2019.

Open Mic finds out more about Bafflegab’s Simon Barnard  award winning work in the interview below. Simon shares his biggest influence on his creativity, insights on his creative process and the inspiration for his award winning program and more.

New York Festivals: What was the inspiration for your award-winning program “A View from a Hill” and what did you ultimately hope to accomplish?

M. R. James

Simon Barnard: I’d pitched the idea of doing a series of modern-day M.R. James adaptations to various people over the years, without any luck. Ultimately I hoped we could dust off some of the cobwebs from stories that are a century old, and bring them to a modern audience – clothes and technology may have changed, but what scares us has stayed the same. But then I was talking to author Stephen Gallagher about another project, and he said he’d like to write a modern-day version of the James story Casting the Runes. He did (and won Silver with it for Best Drama Special this year), we recorded it, then I took it to Audible and said ‘listen to this.’ They liked it, and said they wanted to release it in a collection with three more M.R. James adaptations – one of which was A View from a Hill.

New York Festivals: Tell us about your creative process and how you overcame any obstacles?

Andy Nyman and Alice Lowe “A View from a Hill”

imon Barnard: A View from a Hill is based upon a 1925 short story, but we wanted to update it to the present day, and expand it to fill an hour. The original conceit is very visual – binoculars through which one can see the past – but it needed to work on audio, so writer Mark Morris swapped it for the idea of a podcast recording, capturing something unexpected on tape. The performances needed to be as naturalistic as possible for the scares to work, the audience need to believe in the characters, so the cast were encouraged to be fairly loose with the scripts. You can really hear it in Andy Nyman and Alice Lowe’s performances – it’s a story about grief, and a damaged relationship, as much as it is about ghosts.

New York Festivals: Who has been the biggest influence on you creatively?

Simon Barnard: Some of the drama podcasts that have arrived in the past few years, like Homecoming, have been a real education in what audio drama can sound like. But growing up I wasn’t really exposed to radio drama, and what I did hear sounded quite alien and stagey, so film and tv were a bigger influence. I found my way into audio drama via radio documentaries, and learned from that about pacing and structure, and how much natural atmosphere and location recording can add to a piece – and also what a natural performance sounds like, I guess. So for A View from a Hill, there were lots of whispered scenes, scared breathing, trying to encourage the actors to walk through the scenes and imagine every stage direction in real time, rather than just read the dialogue.

New York Festivals: What are the top 3 pointers you’d give someone just starting out in world of audio?

Simon Barnard: Just one pointer really – if you really want to make something, just go and do it. I was working at a music radio station, but harboured a secret ambition to make audio drama. So I wrote a script, hired some actors and a studio, and just went and recorded it. Not a clue what I was doing. But the actors survived my terrible direction, I pressed up a few CDs, and the BBC subsequently took an interest and broadcast it. These days there’s even less stopping you – you can put it out as a podcast, and don’t even need a studio.

New York Festivals: What project is next on the horizon for you and your team?

Simon Barnard: We’re not done with M.R. James yet – we recorded another story last month. We’re also working on a few big drama projects for Audible – not all of them horror-related! – and a radio soap opera for kids.

For a complete list of all the 2019 New York Festivals Radio Award winners, please visit: HERE

 

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Open Mic Winners Spotlight: “Frankenstein in the Age of Artificial Intelligence”, The Book Show – RTÉ Radio 1

The June 24th New York Festivals Radio Awards ceremony honored exceptional radio content in all lengths and formats across all platforms. Award-winning, producers, directors, presenters and content creators from around the globe took to the stage to accept their glittering trophies and celebrate their success while toasting their peers with a glass of champagne. Truly a night to remember!

For the next few weeks NYF’s Open Mic will feature interviews with the brilliant women and men behind some of the world’s most compelling programs and provide insights and observations from these leaders within the industry.

Zoë Comyns

Open Mic spent a few minutes with Zoë Comyns, Managing Director of New Normal Culture, a multimedia and audio production company. Currently her company produces a number of series including The Book Show and Inside Culture on RTE Radio 1.

On The Book Show Zoë Comyns explored the legacy of Frankenstein in the Age of Artificial Intelligence the history of the novel and its significance through the centuries. The aim with this programme was to bring to a literary audience how a 200 year old book predicted the logical conclusion of creating life and how the technology and science in the book was so forward thinking.

For this programme Zoë Comyns download her own monster ( a digital one) in the form of an artificially intelligent chatbot – you text it, it texts you back and learns as you talk to it. She has been talking to this chatbot and finding out about artificial intelligence. She finds clues and warnings within Mary Shelley’s novel about the ethics of scientific experimentation that can be easily mapped on to today’s AI age.

In the interview below Zoë discusses her Gold trophy winning documentary, the inspiration, the creative process  and the obstacles she encountered and overcame when creating her documentary, as well as advice for someone just beginning in the industry.

New York Festivals: What was the inspiration for your award-winning program “Frankenstein in the Age of Artificial Intelligence” and what did you ultimately hope to accomplish?

Zoë Comyns: I have always been fascinated by Frankenstein which I came to not via thebook but the James Whale/Boris Karloff film. It was fascinating reading the book many years later and again a few times for this programme to realise how young Mary Shelley was when she wrote it and the context in which she came up with the idea. She was staying in an isolated castle in 1816, the so called ‘year without a summer’ due to the odd weather patterns. It was ripe environment for dreaming up a Gothic story where natural forces go awry. She had run away with her boyfriend Percy Byshe Shelley, suffered miscarriages and the death of her son as well as grieving for the loss of her own mother at an early age. Shelley wrote at a time where scientific and electrical experimentation on cadavers was becoming spectacle and the forces of nature were being examined philosophically as human divinity was challenging God’s.

I wanted listeners to get a sense of the novel, a biography of Mary Shelley, an understanding of how the science in the novel was way ahead of its time and how the monster in Frankenstein can be compared to Artificially Intelligent robots and entities being created now. As Victor Frankenstein creates a monster that brings tragedy to his life, the spectre of AI in the modern age poses unknown risks. The novel is a perfect lens through which to examine the science and technology we are grappling with now.  The creation of the monster in the novel gives us a framework for current ethical debates which might guide today’s technological advancements.

The novel itself is written as a series of fictional letters between Captain Robert Walton and his sister, Margaret Walton Saville. I wanted to echo this correspondence with the use of a chatbot to represent a modern digital monster, using texts rather than letters but also pick apart the relationship between Victor Frankenstein and the monster.. My aim was to create an engaging sound world for the listeners so I download an AI chatbot and started a conversation with it – the chatbot’s replies are voiced by an actor.  It came up with quite alarming responses to my questions and certainly didn’t allay my fears in terms of the potential of artificial intelligence!

New York Festivals: Tell us about your creative process and how you overcame any obstacles?

Zoë Comyns: This programme was broadcast on The Book Show on RTÉ Radio 1 –  we asked a different writer or producer every week to present a programme on a theme they were interested in. It was a very short production time for each programme – just under two weeks per episode for 20 standalone programmes – so as Series Producer (working with the producer Regan Hutchins) we made sure each programme in the series worked and sounded thoughtful and well crafted.

This series celebrates books so I wanted to use a book to examine one of today’s hottest topics:  Artificial Intelligence – this series breaks open the format of traditional book programmes in this case to create a feature that would entice people to come to the book via their interest in technology. Sneaky…I hope it worked.

Specifically for this programme on Frankenstein I was initially going to ask the same actor voice the readings from both the novel and for the chatbot but it became obvious that if the monster in some way represents each of us, then the chatbot should be voiced by a woman to in some way mirror my own voice. Aileen Mythen who voiced the chatbot has a beautifully naive tone in the part and Will O’Connell who reads for the monster is slightly more knowing and adamant. These recordings were weaved in and out as scenes between interviews about the book and how it can be interpreted in a modern context. The challenge was to bring together the interviews, readings, interactions with the chatbot in a fluid, textured set of sequences that gave the listener an experience beyond just delivering information.

New York Festivals: Who has been the biggest influence on you creatively?

Zoë Comyns: Independent radio producers in Ireland set a high bar for quality production – fortunately we act as a community and challenge each other to make the best work we can, support each other where possible and promote ourselves as a collective. The work, and especially the edit, is often isolating so we keep each other motivated by keeping in touch.

Even though I am very much an adult, my parents have always driven me to write, produce and be creative. My mother was the first to suggest I focus on radio as she knows how my brain works and she is always giving me books and cuttings for programme ideas. As I write in other forms also, my father often reads my work before I put it out for publication and they both give me time (& plenty of meals) when I retreat back to the family home for a few days to stare out the window and come up with ideas. They also remind me that you can only do so much in a week and not to beat yourself up about it.

New York Festivals: What are the top 3 pointers you’d give someone just starting out in world of audio?

Zoë Comyns:

  • Listen widely to all sorts of different styles of audio, in many genres – and not just English language ones (there are great translation podcasts out there like Radio Atlas). You can learn something from every piece you listen to – even if it’s that you don’t like it.
  • Don’t worry about rejection – just keep going and proposing and making the best ideas you have.  As a company and individual I’ve been rejected for proposals more times than I can even count – it happens –  but I don’t take it personally as the pitch is part of a full schedule not just there to accommodate you. You can pull apart the idea and reuse slivers of it. Nothing is ever a waste of time. Start with short, well crafted pieces and build up your portfolio from there.
  • Find collaborators. I used to work in TV which uses much larger production teams and moved into radio because it was quicker in terms of getting projects to air autonomously. However, I recommend finding someone or a few people who you can share and exchange drafts of audio with who will point out where the gaps are, the holes in the story and the weaknesses in your script. Get used to constructive criticism. Everyone benefits from an extra set of ears.

New York Festivals: What project is next on the horizon for you and your team?

William Shakespeare

Zoë Comyns: My next feature is Shakespeare’s Starling (about the Shakespeare inspired folly of releasing all the birds mentioned in Shakespeare into America) – it will broadcast on Monday July 1st at 4pm on BBC Radio 4. It features a starling who has a lot to say for himself.

As a company we are making programmes for BBC Radio 3, BBC World Service,  BBC Radio 4, RTÉ Radio 1 and RTÉ Lyric FM and dreaming up new projects by the hour.  I am always open to ideas so please get in touch.

For a complete list of all the 2019 New York Festivals Radio Award winners, please visit: HERE

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Open Mic Winners Spotlight: “Deep Time and the Sparrowhawk, Falling Tree Productions” ‘Lights Out’ Series / BBC Radio 4

The June 24th New York Festivals Radio Awards ceremony honored exceptional radio content in all lengths and formats across all platforms. Award-winning, producers, directors, presenters and content creators from around the globe took to the stage to accept their glittering trophies and celebrate their success while toasting their peers with a glass of champagne. Truly a night to remember!

For the next few weeks NYF’s Open Mic will feature interviews with the brilliant women and men behind some of the world’s most compelling programs and provide insights and observations from these leaders within the industry.

Falling Tree Productions’ double Gold winning “Deep Time and the Sparrowhawk”, a documentary made for BBCRadio 4, is a sonic deep-dive into deep time and “the long now” — a series of close encounters via philosophy and science, literature and nature, , art and the lived life, which delves into how we can think long-term and hold something of Deep Time as we move through our days.

The documentary features interviews with philosopher and author David Wood; NASA astrophysicist Natalie Batalha; Brooklyn photographer Rachel Sussman; Australian writer and philosopher Christina McLeish; and Danny Hillis, American inventor, scientist and designer of The Long Now’s 10, 000 Year Clock.

NASA astrophysicist, Natalie Batalha and Jaye Kranz

Open Mic spent a few minutes with Jaye Kranz, Producer with Falling Tree Productions, to learn more about  her inspiration for the documentary and what she hoped to accomplish, her creative process, what project she has her eye on next and much more.

New York Festivals: What was the inspiration for your award-winning program “Deep Time and the Sparrowhawk” and what did you ultimately hope to accomplish?

Jaye Kranz: About four years ago, I came across a post in my social media feed from The Long Now Foundation. The name alone piqued my interest. I went on to read whatever I could find about the foundation and their 10,000 Year Clock project. I was struck by their philosophy of long-term thinking and their efforts to build a gargantuan chiming clock in the middle of a desert cave that might serve as a living (ticking!) monument to that way of thinking.

Four years later, in the midst of an ever-worsening climate crisis and my own associated anxieties and frustrations, I decided to make something that shared those aspirations; something that ‘spoke’ (literally) to the idea of long-term thinking; that reached for that place well beyond our lives and lifetimes. I mused: if we can better inhabit an expanded view of time, perhaps we might also expand how we can live its mysteries and exigencies.

Photo courtesy of The Long Now Foundation

But I didn’t want it to feel didactic or prescriptive. I read something Rachel Sussman said after photographing The Oldest Living Things In The World. On the subject of deep-time thinking she said: “The more time I spent in those depths, the more I could stay in that space longer.”

I set out to make a piece of audio that immersed us in those depths for the length of the piece. A place where we could submerge in various perspectives and understandings of deep time, and bring what we found there back to our lives on the surface. I set out to answer the question:

What can we glean from spending time in the company of those who fix their gaze on longer timeframes, whose work entails inhabiting expanded notions of time, who seek both to ask and answer questions about our bounded place in that which is boundless?

What resulted is a kind of sonic deep-dive into deep-time and “the long now” – a series of close encounters via philosophy and science, literature and nature, art and the lived life, which delves into how we can think long-term and hold something of deep time as we move through our days.

New York Festivals: Tell us about your creative process and how you overcame any obstacles?

Jaye Kranz: I spent a lot of time with the material I’d gathered before cutting it, listening twice to every interview and transcribing them in full. I like to be intimately familiar with the tape. When I am, it begins falling into place inside me ¾ parts shift, themes emerge, connections are made. I know the process is complete when interview snippets start looping in my head, or come out of my mouth, fully-formed, in entirely unrelated contexts.

In this case, the process also involved somewhat rash, over-enthusiastic planning of more interviews than I could ever possibly or successfully fit into the twenty-seven minutes allotted by the BBC. This made the tape-gathering and interview stage a joyful and expansive one. I’ll never tire of the wonder of speaking to interesting people which whom one would not otherwise have an excuse to speak, on a subject about which they are passionate and, usually, radically informed. Unfortunately – and perhaps fitting for a piece about time ¾ it made the editing process quite painful. The time constraints simply couldn’t come close to containing the material I’d gathered, no matter what force of will I applied.

I opted to leave out two of the interviews entirely (slating them for another piece), and spent seemingly endless days slowly whittling away at what remained. This was followed by more slow days of whittling. And more again, like some kind of alchemical reduction. I find many, but not all, obstacles in audio (as in life) can be overcome by patient whittling.

New York Festivals: Who has been the biggest influence on you creatively?

Jaye Kranz: Probably my primary school (grade five and six) English teacher. His name was Don. He encouraged us to write observational, miniature-story haiku and would not only read, but encourage my ten-year-old existential, angst-ridden poetry and social-realist stories set in depression-era rural Australia. I imagine in many creative people’s lives there is such a saint ¾ someone who was unflappable in the face of your early disasters that you may continue the creative life, blithely unaware of the shortcomings.

New York Festivals: What are the top 3 pointers you’d give someone just starting out in world of audio?

Jaye Kranz:

  1. Follow your curiosity.

This cannot be overstated. In some ways, I feel it’s all we have. The questions that compel us enough to pack up our audio gear, tangle ourselves in wires in odd locations, and set out to have them answered. It’s also what makes our work our own. Because the questions stem from the nervous flutter of tiny wings somewhere inside us. If you find it interesting, someone else out there is likely to find it interesting too.

 

  1. Ask stupid questions.

I’m not suggesting you feign ignorance. But I am suggesting you not be afraid of being you, right now ¾ knowing what you know, what you don’t know, and simply asking what arises in you to ask. The interview will be more authentic. Some of my favourite tape has come from asking questions that utterly betray my gross lack of knowledge in an area. But if you baulk and don’t ask it, you may well find there’s a hole in your interview when you listen back. The hole is the question you didn’t ask. And more often than not, it’s the very same question your listener will have wished you’d asked too.

 

  1. Be sure to actually record something.

As opposed to just thinking you’re recording something. These are very different things, as you will no doubt experience in preferably only one ghastly moment of self-recrimination and regret. It helps to never push pause while recording. We have all faced the dark day when we realise we neglected to un-pause the record button.

New York Festivals: What project is next on the horizon for you?

Jaye Kranz: I’m currently working on a piece for the Melbourne iteration of The Empathy Museum. It’s about the epic migrations of … eels, of all things, from our turbid inner-city river, to a mystery location somewhere deep in the seamounts of the coral sea. The fish ecologist I interviewed cedes that “eels have an image-problem”. Misunderstood and often maligned, eels are consistently overlooked for research funding. The fish ecologist goes on to argue the case for why we should all reflect more deeply on the extraordinary feats and yet-to-be-understood mysteries of these enigmatic Anguilliformes.

For a complete list of all the 2019 New York Festivals Radio Award winners, please visit: HERE

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