Make a radio doc

Mentorship Program Step 2: Choose a Mentor/Show

The Doc Project's ongoing Mentorship Program is a great chance for emerging producers to work with veteran documentary makers/editors. Which mentor and CBC show is the right home for your doc?

The backbone of the Doc Project Mentorship Program is a group of extremely talented and dedicated mentors, all of whom are producers on CBC Radio One shows. The work generated by members of this group has been recognized by nearly every major award in broadcast journalism, including the Prix Italia, the Peabody, and the New York Festivals.

Each mentor is affiliated with a specific CBC Radio program. It's expected that the docs they produce in collaboration with the Doc Project Mentorship Program will air on their home program (e.g. Karen Levine produces docs that air on The Sunday Edition, and Joan Webber produces docs that air on The Current). 

Each of our mentors has a distinct style and approach to doc making. They are fantastic people to learn from and to collaborate with. 

(Dream team, basically.)

Alison Cook –­ Doc Producer & Editor, The Doc Project

  • I try to make radio docs that... touch the head and heart, but especially the heart. I want people to be moved by what they hear, not just interested. I am a strong believer in storytelling and creating driveway moments. 
  • My home program, The Doc Project, tells stories that... need to be told as documentaries. It's a place for being creative, taking risks and hearing new voices.
  • My favourite radio doc of all time is... this is an impossible question! One of the best I have heard recently on CBC is Greg Kelly's Enemies and Angels for its epic storytelling, emotion and driveway moments. Radiolab's Sight Unseen is also a masterful piece of storytelling, and is also deeply moving.
  • The doc I'm most proud to have produced is... A Just Life, which aired on Ideas and which won gold at the New York Festivals in 2015. It is what Greg Kelly calls a "talkumentary," because it combines documentary and interview elements. Through the piece we learn about an important and influential Canadian jurist, who was dying from throat cancer. We had to overcome a considerable hurdle­­ – the protagonist's difficulty speaking – ­­but we were able to make that part of the story. It may sound like a heavy piece, but I think it succeeds in making us care about this man, and does so with humour and light.


 

Karen Levine –­ Doc Editor, The Sunday Edition

  • I try to make radio documentaries that... are aimed at heart and the head, include surprise and food for thought, and leave the listener a little wiser about the human condition.
  • My home program, The Sunday Edition, tells stories that... do all that – in a wide range of shapes, lengths and styles.

Joan Webber –­ Doc Editor, The Current 

 
  • I try to make radio documentaries that... are original, compelling yarns. Stories about people which say something deeper about how we all live.
  • My home program, The Current, tells stories that... are original and thought-provoking. Ideally they provide a window on a world we've heard nothing about or they may bring a unique perspective, or deeper meaning to stories which are currently in the headlines. And our docs should be driven by people who have a story to tell. Narratives that speak to universals of love, hate, fear, hope and betrayal.

  • One of my favourite radio docs of all time is...Sniper, produced by Stephen Shwartz. It won the Prix Italia for best documentary in 1993. I love it because it's such a heartbreaking and intimate portrait of what happens to people in wartime. It's about snipers in Sarajevo during the Bosnian War... people willing to shoot neighbours and former friends. You meet two 20-year-olds – a young man and woman – who become snipers. They talk candidly about why they choose to kill. It's a chilling story vividly told using rich and haunting sound. I highly recommend it.
  • One of the docs I'm proud to have produced is... one I did many years ago about a nun who was living, voluntarily, in a prison in Tijuana because... for one – I simply love the story. The tale of a rich divorcee with a big heart who decided to leave her comfortable life in L.A. to move into a tiny cement cell in one of the most dangerous prisons in Mexico. She did this because she believed everyone deserves love. But in doing so she left behind a young son who had to move in with his father. It was a challenging story to tell – as it was about big universals such as love, sacrifice, loneliness and heartache. But I must say I'm equally proud of any doc I produce where I feel I've been able to help someone tell a story as best as they can.

Jeff Goodes –­ Producer, White Coat, Black Art

Nicola Luksic​ –­ Doc Producer & Editor, Ideas

  • I make documentaries that... speak to the complexity and absurdity of the human condition. How is that for vague? Basically give me a fascinating yarn and a sense of how this resonates beyond just the story itself and voila.
  • My home program, Ideas, tells stories that... tap into currents of contemporary thought through a wide array of formats in order to inspire listeners to rethink their world.

  • My favourite radio doc of all time is... well, this one is pretty much impossible to answer. I regularly hear things on the radio or on podcast that make me think "WOW!" More recently, off the top of my head, I really enjoyed a story that came out of Invisibilia. It's loosely based around the question of how expectations can shape and even limit our abilities. The Batman story is beautifully produced, is visual, has a gripping first person character and it gets at some pretty deep questions.
  • The doc I'm most proud to have produced is... I experience pride when a radio producer I'm working with is surprised by what they were able to discover during the doc process. I also experience pride when I watch the ripple effect of a documentary post-broadcast. One that hit both of those notes was with the first freelancer I produced while working on Ideas. Brett Story was new to radio so the learning curve was steep and satisfying for both of us. The doc is called Alone Inside. Strong first person characters, strong analysis and solid historical context to help us understand how it's become part of the penal system to lock people up indefinitely in a windowless cell with devastating consequences. For a completely different tone of doc, I have a soft spot for bringing life back to long dead philosophers whose ideas resonate today. Here's an example.

Found a match for your documentary? Let's move on! Step 3: Reach out to your mentor 

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