Open Mic Winner’s Spotlight: ESPN Films “30 for 30 Podcasts”

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 edition of Open Mic, the spotlight is on the award-winning podcast ESPN Films 30 for 30. This year, the series was recognized with the prestigious Grand Award for “Juiced,” “All In: Sparking the Poker Boom” and “The Six Who Sat” (Narrative/Documentary Podcast).

30 for 30 Podcasts are sports stories you’ve never heard before that  highlight compelling people and iconic events in  history.  the series also earned a Gold trophy for Narrative/Documentary Podcast and Bronze trophy for Sports Broadcast.

Juiced chronicles how at the end of his career, Jose Canseco, the self-proclaimed “godfather of the steroid era,” was effectively forced out of baseball. As revenge, Canseco conceived a tell-all memoir in which he would call out his fellow players for steroid use.

All In explores how the 2003 tournament overcame the odds to spark a poker boom and forever change poker’s place in America.

Six Who Sat tells the story of two iconic moments in women’s running, both captured in photographs. The first, from 1968, is of a race director trying to physically restrain a woman from running the Boston Marathon. The second, from 1972, is of a protest at the New York City Marathon that forever changed women’s ability to participate in the sport they loved.

Mira Kaboli and Jody Avirgan, Producer/Host ESPN FIlms 30 for 30 Podcast

Open Mic spent a few minutes with ESPN Films 30 for 30 Producer/Host Jody Avirgan to learn more about the inspiration behind his award-winning program. In the interview below, he shares his  insights, influences and his top three pointers he’d give someone just starting out in the world of audio.

New York Festivals: What was the inspiration for your award-winning program “30 for 30 “Juiced” “All In: Sparking the Poker Boom” and “The Six Who Sat” and what did you ultimately hope to accomplish?

Jody Avirgan: Overall, the 30 for 30 series (whether in film or audio) tries to get at sports stories that teach us something larger about life, society, humanity… we call it the “so what?” We also really try for a diversity of stories – big and small, serious and fun, across a range of sports and competitions. And whether you think you know a lot about a subject matter or not, we try to bring something new to our stories. You’ll see in this group that we have a story about Jose Canseco that is really about writing a book; a story about poker that is really about crafting a TV show; and a story about the marathon that is really about how change happens. It’s a great mix, and one we’re really proud of.

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

Jody Avirgan: Our documentaries take months and months — sometimes years – to go from inception to final product. To me, two of the key elements are the development work at the beginning; and the story editing towards the end. We have a very high bar for picking a story. It has to have a natural arc, compelling characters who are strong talkers, tons of archival. If we’ve picked the right story, then it feels like it’s telling itself. That said, once we get to editing, we do a ton of work and refinement. A story like Six Who Sat, for instance, changed considerably over the course of editing, to make sure we were building towards the protest in a compelling way. Like all creative work, the difference between something good and something great – it’s editing.

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

Jody Avirgan: As a podcast series, we’ve been really lucky to have lots of our inspiration right in front of us – the 30 for 30 film series, now in its 10th year. In general, we want to capture what’s special about the film series and bring it to a new medium. So we’re constantly having conversations with filmmakers, the films producers, and swapping notes about our two worlds, and approaches to stories.

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

Jody Avirgan:

  1. Imitate what you like, shamelessly, until it starts to feel like something of your own.
  2. Think about mentors and people who are more accomplished than you, but don’t forget your peers. Find people of your age/experience you like to work with, and keep them around for decades and decades.
  3. Learn how to edit someone else, and learn how to be edited. Yes, you want to find your own voice, but true magic comes through collaboration.

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

Jody Avirgan: We’ve got a number of big things in store. One of the beauties of our series is that we can give stories the time and space they need, so our next project is going to be a five-part NBA story, launching in August, that we’re extremely excited about. We also have a multi-part Olympics story already in motion for next year, and a few “one-off” stories for the winter. A few of those are international stories, and involve multiple languages, so that’s been really fun to piece together. Stay tuned.

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

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