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.
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.
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
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