Topic: docmakers

The awkward art of voice coaching your uncle

As a first-timer when it comes to voice coaching, I'd heard from other producers that it could be a pretty challenging endeavour. Trust me: It's even more challenging when the person you're coaching is a family member … not to mention one who's tasked with reading his late brother's memoir, which documents a harrowing escape through the Himalayas to flee Tibet.

Producer's notebook: tips for interviewing someone with memory loss

What are the ethics around interviewing, and recording, someone with dementia? This question was on my mind when I started working on my documentary, that, through the theme of memory, retells my grandmother's story of surviving the Holocaust.

How to talk to strangers: 5 tips on nailing impromptu, in-the-field interviews

As a doc maker, a lot of the interviews you do are with people you've already talked to before showing up, mic in hand. But there's another kind of interview that doesn't involve any of these things: on-the-fly interviews in the field with strangers (aka, basically winging it).

What do you do when the story you pitched isn't the one that's unfolding?

As documentarians, we know we can't control what we'll discover when we're in the field. Sometimes the story we find diverges from the story we anticipated. And since making a doc is a negotiation between recording life accurately and rendering it artfully, it's dangerously easy to put up blinders to the reality of what's occurring in front of the microphone.

Doc structures: How to create tension, action and a narrative arc in your story

Making a documentary can be an overwhelming experience. So much tape ... so many scenes ... how do I put this together?! It's structure my friend, structure. Effective structure will help you produce a cohesive item that contains tension, action and a narrative arc.

Stuart McLean's former radio students remember his most unforgettable lessons

Stuart McLean's radio documentary class at Ryerson University was one of the best courses I ever took. As a teacher, Stuart was the same "national treasure" you got to know on the radio: a humble, witty raconteur who loved to pass on what he learned.

14 things every audio producer needs in a go bag

Whether interviewing someone in a foreign country or recording streeters close to home, there are some things you should never leave the office without. Veteran producer Cesil Fernandes shares what you need to have in your kit to guarantee a great sounding doc.

The Schwartz technique: how to get vivid colour and riveting detail from your interview

The Schwartz interviewing technique, originated by Stephen Schwartz, is a strategy for cracking those tough interviewee nuts. Veteran CBC doc maker Steve Wadhams describes why he was so drawn to Schwartz's alternative interviewing techniques.

Why we march: journey to the Women's March on Washington

The Doc Project’s Julia Pagel is in Washington, D.C. for the Women’s March on Washington. She is producing a documentary chronicling Anne Jackson and her journey from '70s-era Vietnam War protester to the Women's March on Washington.

How to live your life as a single mother, raise a daughter — and record it all for podcast

Sophie Harper, host and producer of the Not by Accident podcast series, offers tips and tricks for how to have a life, record it, and turn it into a podcast — all at the same time.

Producer's notebook: my quest to discover my Métis identity

After my dad died four years ago, while catching up with family, my cousin, Eddie Hass, shared a long-buried family secret: we were Métis.

Producer's notebook: how to craft your story, so you're not in it

On the phone with my mentor Alison Cook in Montreal, it's easy to picture her as something of a radio sorceress, full of the secrets to making radio magic. And one of the most important lessons she taught me was how to erase myself from the piece to create the most immersive experience we could.

A working journalist abroad: lessons from using a 'fixer' in South Africa

As a foreign journalist reporting on a sensitive subject, Lindsay Sample wanted to make sure that she understood what was going on as much as she could. So she did what many journalists do when reporting abroad: she hired a fixer — a person to help navigate the language and norms of the local area.

Academic storytelling: how to make your experts sing

Avoid expert voices. It's something many audio doc producers are trained to do. But experts and academics can add value, context and even personality to documentaries — so long as your guests are produced with great thought and care.

Four smartphone tricks that every audio producer should know

There's one tool that everybody has that can make doc making easier — and sound better. So grab your smartphone and veteran radio producer Cesil Fernandes will share four tricks that can save your audio life.

So you want to make the move to producing radio? Lessons learned from three converts

For the first time since Orson Welles took to the mic to announce a Martian invasion, audio storytelling is the cool kid on the block. We asked three CBC Radio staffers — who made the jump to radio from other mediums — to share some thoughts, tips and lessons learned while crossing over.

'Your doc is great! Now shorten it by two minutes'

In radio, the material has to fit the time-slot so documentary and show producers often need to find a way to lose a few minutes. But the process of figuring out how to shorten a piece that feels like it's finished isn't easy. Kalli Anderson asked 3 doc producers for their best tips and tricks for shortening docs.

Audio tech guide: equip yourself to get the best possible tape

Part of what makes interviewing so tough is you can't predict where things will go — you have to be nimble and ready to react appropriately as the story unfolds. But one thing that is within your power to control is your audio recording equipment.

How to defy geography with the tape sync

As an independent producer living in northern Canada, Janna Graham is often stuck in a small subarctic city far, far away from the person she wants to interview. Also known as a double-ender, the tape-sync is the next best thing to recording someone when you can't be in the same room.

When the personal becomes public: the art of making intimate radio documentaries

How do producers build trust and navigate their relationships with their interview subjects/storytellers while making intimate radio documentaries? Michelle Macklem asked four experienced audio producers.

Producer's notebook: why I had to make the trip to Titusville, PA

Travelling for a story is important but it's also time-consuming and expensive. Producer Andrea Bellemare talks about why the trip to interview David Steinbuhler and tour his factory in Pennsylvania was so vital to the making of her documentary.

'He made me kill my darlings': inside the dark art of the documentary editor

When you edit someone's documentary there are two crucial phases: The first is when you listen critically to a draft of the work for the first time, and the second is when you give the doc maker your feedback. Veteran radio producer Neil Sandell takes us through the role of the editor.
Video

Highway of tears: the making of a virtual reality documentary

Highway of Tears is a virtual reality documentary from CBC Radio One’s The Current about the story of one young woman, Ramona Wilson, who went missing in 1994 along British Columbia's Highway 16. As told by her mother Matilda Wilson, the immersive documentary transports the viewer to Matilda's home and then on to the notorious highway.

Producer's notebook: talking about my private parts on public radio

When my sister was diagnosed with metastasized breast cancer, I opted to have a prophylactic mastectomy. And, as you'll hear in my radio documentary, these 3-D nipple tattoos are the end product of two-and-a-half years of breast reconstruction.

To script or not to script: that is the [audio storyteller's] question

It can feel like we all have our own personal systems for how we approach a script. How do other people go about it? We decided to ask three incredible radio producers about their scripting process.

Producer's notebook: doc making from the depths of the ocean

How, in the face of catastrophic environmental changes, is the language of whales and dolphins being reshaped? Ideas contributor Carrie Haber joined a research expedition and spoke with the people who have spent decades at sea trying to solve what seems an unsolvable mystery ... and she invited The Doc Project aboard for the journey.

A walk to work with Jonathan Goldstein

Jonathan Goldstein, formerly of CBC Radio's WireTap, chats about his new podcast, how he feels about the future of audio production, and how you too can pitch a show that is way outside the box.
Video

Over 40 years, more than 50 countries: a lifetime of lessons from docmaker Karin Wells

Karin Wells is an unrelenting reporter, ready to pack her bags to follow a story to its root. We sat down with Karin as she shares memories from some of her stories, and advice for those who will follow in her footsteps.

Document diving: secrets to filing access to information and privacy requests

One of the most challenging parts of being a journalist is the search for information. A lot of time is spent waiting for answers or searching for one useful nugget among piles of paper. This is particularly true for journalists who file access to information and privacy (ATIP) requests.
Video

Facebook Live: Ask a doc maker anything

The mind of a radio doc maker is a strange, at times confusing, but oh so interesting place ... so we invited you into the brains of three CBC doc creators with our first Facebook Live event! The Current's Josh Bloch, Sleepover's Veronica Simmonds, and The Sunday Edition's Ira Basen share their storytelling tips.
Video

Voicing 101: expert advice from CBC Radio One hosts

Voicing script is often stressful and frustrating ... but always incredibly important. A read that draws the listener in, and assures them they are in good hands, can make or break your segment. We've gathered advice from some of CBC Radio's best hosts: Jeff Douglas, Piya Chattopadhyay, and Anna Maria Tremonti.

Inside the world of investigative journalism with CBC's the fifth estate

It's a world that has you knocking on strangers' doors, and following tips that can lead to dead ends. Investigative journalism is tough work, so what makes someone choose this sometimes frustrating path? Co-host Gillian Findlay and producer Linda Guerriero take you inside CBC's investigative documentary program, the fifth estate.

Producer's notebook: doc­making on a farm (aka life on the lamb)

When I pitched this doc, I never thought the CBC would go for it. Here I was, this novice docmaker, asking for three weeks of tape­-gathering while living (and working) on a farm in the middle of nowhere. But, by some miracle, they went for it. And I’m so glad they did, because this ended up being one of the single greatest adventures I’ve had.

Anonymity, privacy and sensitivity when negotiating difficult subject matter

It may be an obvious point, but when you’re putting together a radio documentary, sound is essential. So what happens when the subject of your documentary limits your ability to capture those sounds? That's the challenge I ran into when I pitched the idea of putting together a documentary about a support group for mothers with children in jail.

Navigating working relationships: the importance of finding your special someone at work

When it’s good, work feels like play. When it’s not, well, it can feel more like a nightmare. We’re talking about the special relationships you cultivate with the people you work with. Radio producers and long-time collaborators Mira Burt-Wintonick and Cristal Duhaime share their tips.

The craft of writing for radio: 16 tips from a veteran script-writer

Writing is the bones and the sinew of the radio we make. And yet we spend little time talking about the craft of writing for radio — it's just the thing you do once everything else is done. Veteran producer and script-writer Chris Wodskou shares his tips and experience.
Video

On the chase with producers from Out in the Open

'Chasing' is one of the most important skills in an audio producer's repertoire. It's exactly what it sounds like: identifying, tracking down and booking a guest for a specific segment or story. Regardless of a radio show or podcast's genre or format, chase producing is essential. It's also really hard.

Making film, art and music as a Filipino in Canada

Last week, as part of Asian Heritage Month, host of The Doc Project, Casey Mecija was invited by the Reel Asian Film Festival to speak in high schools about her experience of making film, art and music as a Filipino in Canada.

Producer's notebook: producing radio that's 'a cherry on top of a crap pie'

I had been circling around the idea of pitching an idea I had for years. I knew it had a story arc, it was interesting, original and the characters were all well spoken. But what kept me back for years was the fact that it’s my own family's story. I wanted to pitch a story I knew would cause friction in my family. Tension I wasn’t sure we would recover from.

Producers' notebook: how to make a collaborative radio documentary

Hotel Limbo was a collaboration between three producers. We worked as equals — sharing in the work of reporting, writing and editing our documentary. This is unusual in radio documentary production and in media organizations overall, where job specialization and hierarchy are most common because, frankly, it’s an efficient way to work.

David Ridgen on the risks and rewards of real time investigations

If you’ve been listening to the CBC’s hit podcast Someone Knows Something as it unfolds, you may already know some of the benefits of airing a true-crime investigation in near real time. There's mystery and excitement in not knowing what might come next — for audiences and producers alike.
Audio

'Radio nut' Steve Wadhams on the audio that changed everything

An essential examination of the history of audio-storytelling from one of the industry's best, Steve shares the five pieces/producers/programs that he believes have propelled the art and craft of audio-storytelling to where is is today.

The do's and don'ts of gathering ambient background, or harvesting 'wild sound'

If the interview is the meat, and narration the potatoes, the B roll brings in the cilantro and smoked peppercorns. Ambient background, or as our author, Willow Yamauchi likes to call it, "wild sound," is what makes a radio production feel genuine and visceral.
Video

Audio vs. radio: Paolo Pietropaolo explains the difference

What's the difference between radio and audio? For Paolo Pietropaolo it's "elemental." Like gold, audio is something you can mold and craft. Radio is different: it's ephemeral, it's there and then gone. Watch and learn the power of knowing where you fall on this spectrum.

'I hate it!' PJ Vogt of the Reply All podcast reveals his top five radio pet peeves

Yes is not an emotion! You're not a good actor! Toronto­-based radio producer and docmaker Mieke Anderson brings us the top five pet peeves in radio from the host of Gimlet Media's Reply All podcast, PJ Vogt.
Video

Hybrid media experiments with CBC Radio's Sook-Yin Lee

I was asked by The Doc Project to share some of the process behind the making of my hybrid video/radio documentary, Where Have All the Poets Gone? I explore new hybrid media experiments as a way of embracing platforms, pushing boundaries, breaking rules and moving culture forward.
Video

Turning investigative reporting into artful radio, with NPR's Laura Sullivan

Dense information, data and details can make investigative stories seem like the least radio-friendly content on the planet. Three-time Peabody-winning journalist Laura Sullivan shares her lessons on breathing life into hard news radio.

Producer's notebook:­ how stories can help us make sense of life

As humans we tell stories to make sense of the world. This is a simple statement but one that I keep reflecting on when I think about why I decided to tell Meg Bernard’s story, the story of a woman in her 30s who is trying to make sense of why she has Parkinson’s disease and how the disease will continue to affect her relationship with music.

The hidden character is you: Dick Miller on the role of the narrator

We don't often think about the narrator in our documentaries as a character. But the narrator, usually the producer of the doc, has already made editing, structure, sound, music and script decisions. Veteran host and producer Dick Miller takes us through the role of the narrator in documentary storytelling.
Video

On the chase with David Gutnick: how to find a local story

So, it's morning and your kit bag is loaded: a couple of recorders, microphones, a windsock, cables, extra batteries. A camera, pen, notepad. You're dressed for anything that comes your way. Veteran documentary producer David Gutnick gives us his guide to finding stories where you live.

Reporting in Indigenous communities: 5 tips to get it right

Reporting in Indigenous communities can be tough. It’s not just navigating sensitive issues like those surrounding stories about missing and murdered Indigenous women, but covering complex terrain in stories that include the Indian Act, treaties and land claims to name a few. Award­-winning journalist Angela Sterritt shares tips to help get it right.

David Ridgen takes us behind-the-scenes of a true-crime podcast series

Season one of the new CBC podcast series, Someone Knows Something, focuses on the cold case of Adrien McNaughton, a five-year-old boy who disappeared while on a family fishing trip in 1972. We speak with the host of the series, David Ridgen, to find out his thoughts on true-crime stories, on reopening cold-cases (and old wounds), and what it’s like to conduct an investigation in his hometown of Arnprior, Ontario.
Video

Land your next doc pitch by making focus your friend

So, you have an idea for a story. You pitch the idea and your feedback is: "What’s the focus?" It’s something even the most veteran of producers get asked. So let’s get to the bottom of this, and turn focus from foe to friend, with Iris Yudai, Doc Project mentor and executive producer of DNTO.

Cool people doing cool stuff with audio: Eleanor McDowall and Radio Atlas

The Doc Project profiles producer Eleanor McDowall and her new site, Radio Atlas — a place to hear inventive documentaries, dramas and works of sound art that have been made in languages you don’t necessarily speak.

Lessons in getting an indie podcast off the ground

There are millions of ways for a podcast to be successful. For Kaitlin Prest — creative director of The Heart — success is making work she is passionate about and having support in doing that. She shares 10 things that turned a passion project into a funded indie podcast.
Video

Storytelling through sound: making radio sound 'real'

When you talk about blurring the lines between the real and the fake, people tend to get a little uptight. But there can also be great pleasure in walking along that tightrope between fact and fiction. Mira Burt-Wintonick, producer of CBC's long-running show WireTap, explains how fiction and documentary can learn a lot from each other.
Video

Interviewers on interviewing: how to make great tape

Filmmaker and freelance radio producer Andrew Norton sits down with Sean Cole, a producer at This American Life, to discuss interviewing techniques, why sounding smart isn't smart, and how to get the interviewee to "make that leap off the cliff into the valley of good tape."

The making of '39': field notes from producer Tara Henley

I never set out to make a radio doc about my private crisis – about staring down 40, and being single and childless and baffled by my life. I didn't even really want to talk about it with family and friends. So if you'd told me six months ago that I'd produce something this personal, I wouldn't have believed you. But here's the thing: sometimes you don't go looking for a story, sometimes a story finds you.

12 habits from a highly effective freelance audio producer

The freelance life is not an easy life — it's a constant hustle with no guarantees, but if you are self-motivated, obsessed with sound & stories and have an insatiable curiosity, then maybe this is the life for you too! Freelancer Veronica Simmonds shares some of her hard-earned tips and advice.

What is a radio documentary?

It may seem like a basic question, but the answer is incredibly important. If you can clearly understand what a doc is, then your pitching and storytelling will be that much more compelling.
Video

The art of pitching

Pitching ­— it’s where the whole doc process begins. It’s also where it can end. If you’ve written and rewritten pitches, or sat in front of a producer trying to sell your story, you know pitching can be tough. But you also know, when a pitch sings it’s impossible to turn down. So what’s the magic formula?
Video

Making great audio: How to stay focused and inspired

We turned the mics on some of the most creative and talented audio producers in Toronto to find out where they discover stories, and how they stay inspired.