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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