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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

'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.

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.

'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.

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.

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.