New York Festivals International Radio Program Awards ongoing Grand Jury Confidential series features award-winning Grand Jury members from around the globe. NYF annually recruits world-renowned panel prominent radio executives to select the World’s Best Radio Programs℠. In this Grand Jury Confidential, NYF chats with Sarah Boothroyd, Independent Producer, Canada.
Sarah Boothroyd’s eclectic background includes studies in visual art, costume design with a degree philosophy, and masters in broadcast journalism. Her audio work has been featured in over 25 countries and she has won over a dozen awards from international organizations including: Third Coast International Audio Festival, the European Broadcasting Union, La Muse En Circuit, and New York Festivals.
In the interview below, Sarah shares early influencers who shaped her career, her evolution in the radio industry, a defining moment in her career and more.
New York Festivals: Who or what were your early influences in your career?
Sarah Boothroyd: My longtime favourite documentary storytellers are fellow Canadian Chris Brookes, as well as Allan Hall of Falling Tree Productions in the U.K. In addition,
composers such as Steve Reich, Colin Black, Adam Goddard, Charles Spearin, Alessandro Bosetti and others who work with ‘speech melodies’ have had a profound impact on how I bring musicality to my audio work.
New York Festivals: Tell us a bit about your evolution in the radio industry.
Sarah Boothroyd: Fresh out of high school, I studied visual art at Emily Carr University in Vancouver. From there I took a meandering route through textile arts and creative writing at Capilano University, winding up with a degree in philosophy from McGill University in Montreal, before completing a masters degree in broadcast journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa. Along the way I freelanced for print and broadcast media; designed and constructed costumes for theater companies; and wrote and performed vocals with a couple bands.
I had my radio debut on CBC Radio One (Canada’s national broadcaster) in 2001, when I read a monologue about cycling over 3500 kilometers from Calgary to Montreal. I continued working for CBC Radio in the following years as an Associate Producer, and as a freelance documentary producer for several national and local programs.
For the past 10 years or so I have focused on the more creative end of the radio spectrum, and I’ve expanded my roster of clients to include several international broadcasters. Recently I’ve produced several radio art commissions for Falling Tree Productions, as well as immersive audio artworks funded by the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council. I am currently working on an audio commission for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and I’m planning to perform a new collaborative audio work in Dublin, Ireland in the Fall of this year.
New York Festivals: What was a defining moment in your career?
Sarah Boothroyd: In 2002 I produced my first radio documentary. It was a 13-minute freelance piece for CBC Radio One about my experience as a bicycle messenger in Montreal.
This was a magical chapter in my life. By day, I zoomed around the city on two wheels; by night, I lost myself inside a glowing computer screen at the CBC. It was there, in that dark editing suite, that I fell in love with the magic of digital audio editing. I was thrilled by all of the ways a story could be told through the manipulation of sound – through cutting audio up, duplicating it, looping it, layering it, processing it, juxtaposing it with other sounds, and so on.
I never thought about audio storytelling the same way after that first experience of getting my hands on multi-track editing software, and the rest of my career has essentially been a continuation of the exploration that began all those years ago in the twilight hours at CBC Montreal.
New York Festivals: What are the hallmarks of award-winning radio programs?
Sarah Boothroyd: Award-winning radio programs clearly demonstrate a mastery over the medium of radio, with the very best award-worthy programs actually contributing to the evolution of the medium of radio itself.
Award-winning producers judiciously and effectively use innovative techniques and tools so that the listener feels compelled to listen to their work from beginning to end, and is left with a unique experience, a valuable perspective, and a lasting impression.