I decided to pay someone to transcribe some of my audio. I was kind of hemming and hawing over this as I am pretty poor, but I talked to Paul Niwa (journalist in the department I work for) today and he highly suggested it. He said transcribing the audio yourself makes you lose all the energy/fervor towards your material. I searched on Craigslist for quite some time... at first all I was finding was people charging $1/audio minute. That would be upwards of $600. No dice. I found some chick doing a full audio HOUR for 12 bucks. That's more like it. I have emailed her... I will probably only have her do my sibling interviews and the group interview. I will edit out all the random crap at the beginning/end of the interviews this weekend and burn everything on a dual-layer disc to send to her (Lisa). This will add to my budget, but I think it will definitely be worth it. I am quickly realizing that I have hardly any time at all to work on my project, and this will cut out a huge chunk of prep work. Good. Just importing all the interview into my Pro Tools at home took about two hours... things take much more time than you think they will. Oy.
LATER: Super productive for a Friday night. I secured this Craigslist gal Lisa to do a little under eight hours of transcription for $165 (the sibling interviews and the group interview). Not too shabby! I can afford that. Sorta. Not really. I also got through all the tapes that I found with my Dad's voice on them. I'm kinda sad... I can't find the tapes I was positive I had with my sister talking to me on them. I have no idea where they could be... I am pretty OCD and my room is spotless. Not many places they could go. I also am trimming the interviews (taking off the mic level checks and random crap at beginning/end) and putting the tracks together (i.e. one file per sibling). I think this will make it easier for the transcriptionist and eventually for myself. I believe they will now all fit on a dual-layer DVD (making an additional backup and overnighting one Lisa's way on Monday... to get the text back by February 10th or so). I was feeling super behind and kind of had a breakdown last night, but I feel a lot further along tonight (even though I still have epic amounts of work to go).
I have finally started listening to the tapes that my Dad recorded for my Mom while he was on his mission. My father’s voice sounds so different, but I can catch hints of him as he is now. I found six tapes. I started with one on which my Dad wrote: “Honey, this tape has been given all my love and consideration—it will be best heard alone and in the dark—this tape communicates my thoughts about us. Love you very much, yours forever. Richard.” It is probably obvious why I started with this one.
My last semester at Emerson officially started yesterday. I am taking the four credits of Master’s Project Production and Graduate Sound Design with Pierre Archambault. The class with Pierre is going to be great, but I’m really nervous about being able to get everything done. I have 40 hours of work, my master’s project, and the work for that class. I have responsibilities at my church and I am super out of shape (and somewhat depressed about it) so I started seeing a personal trainer. Oh, and I need to be finding a job for post-graduation. I want to immediately start work in my field (as opposed to hanging out as the journalism department administrator). Why is this in my production journal? I am extremely anxious that my project will get short shrift. I have tons of amazing material and I just want to do it justice. It is wonderful to have class with one of my master’s project committee members—we got to check in about my project after class (way more convenient than tracking Pierre down). I don’t know how I forgot this, but he reminded me to put my recorded files on some sort of non-magnetic storage to make sure they’re safe. I copied all my material onto five DVD’s and put them in my office file drawer (along with all signed release forms). These Emerson filing cabinets better be fireproof. I am planning on going through all my interviews and logging topics/stories. Pierre suggested I transcribe them all word for word, but I don’t think my timeline will allow for that. I have a fairly good memory, so if I listen to them and take thematic notes, I will remember what is being said. When I get through all 10 hours or so of what I’ve got, I’ll start my paper edit.
It is 11 days since I have had anything to report (I have been totally avoiding working on my project; I blame relationship drama). So, this LDS woman is doing her dissertation on LDS women from divorced families and asked if she could interview me. Of course I agreed. I recorded the interview... nothing really struck me from it as particularly engaging, but at least I have the option of using it. I haven't even checked the audio; just copied it from the 722 to my external hard drive while at work. I need to get in gear. According to my production schedule, I should be done with all recording by the end of January. I will be if I decide not to interview my parents. If I do, I have to wait until my Dad and his wife return from Australia / New Zealand (3.5 weeks from now). I need to listen to all my interviews and take notes / start forming narrative ideas (I should have done that while in Texas, but no dice).
Heard back from Sasha Aslanian! She's a producer for Minnesota Public Radio / American Public Media, by the way. Thank the heavens above! I have real people interested in my work. Even though this journal is already epically long and I am only a week or so into production, I want to include the emails from her... she agreed to be one of my evaluators. 'Tis a miracle.
Hi Kelly, (just noticed that she thinks my first name is my last name. oh well.)
I'm sorry, I meant to call you from work today, or at least to write back more quickly. Your project sounds great, and thanks for your kind words about mine. I'm curious, did you hear the whole hour, or just the 10 minutes on NPR? I ask because in the hour, I was able to include tape with lots of experts, but I also interviewed my own parents. I think your idea of looking at one divorce through the eyes of four siblings sounds fascinating.
I did interview my little brother for the piece, but I ultimately didn't use him. He's a little more reserved than I am, and as a boy, he was also a lot more checked out about family dynamics and out on his dirt bike with his friends. I recorded him when I thought joint custody would feature more prominently in my story. When my family did it, it was still pretty new and controversial, and I felt like if there was a silver lining to my family's divorce, it was that my brother and I had a really close relationship with our dad as well as our mom because he shared so equally in the parenting. But as I got deeper into the project I realized I had already bitten off quite a chunk of social history and had to lop out joint custody.
I'd love to listen to your finished piece and chat with you about your interest in radio. These are tough days for job hunters, but hopefully things will pick up soon.
Keep me posted on the timing, and then do you want to send me a file (through yousendit) or a CD or upload it to an FTP server?
I'm also happy to talk before then.
Best of luck,
This was my reply...
Thank you so so much for getting back to me, Sasha. And thank you for being so helpful and willing to listen to my work. Hooray!
I listened to your entire piece on PRX (how wonderful is that site?!). I was eight when my parents divorced, so I felt a special kinship to your ten-year-old self. I love your description of the joint custody situation with your parents ("two bedrooms!"). I never knew this until I interviewed them, but my siblings hold a lot of issue with the fact that my mom moved so far away (we hardly ever saw each other). I relate with so much of what you and the women in your book group feel...
relationship issues, independence/adaptability, not really seeing how I was affected until years later, etc. Also, the majority of my thesis comes from Judith Wallerstein's research, so it was great to hear her featured in your work.
I have about 12 hours of source material for my 30 minute piece... it is proving an interesting job! I will be finishing up my final rough cut at the end of March. I would love to send it to you at that point (I think yousendit would be best). I submit the final piece to Emerson the third week of April, so that would give me some time to incorporate changes and such. I also work full-time, so that's why my post-production timeline is a little longer than it normally would be.
You are amazing and your work is amazing. Thanks again.
And here is her (almost immediate) reply to that...
Aw, thanks so much. I went and told another Emerson alumn here about you. He's Bob Collins, a longtime editor, broadcaster and online maverick who does our newscut blog.
He says Emerson is much better now than when he went there in the 1970s.
He's a funny guy.
I feel like I always have a ratio of about 30 hours of field tape for each hour of radio. Sometimes 60. We create the illusion for listeners that all moments are riveting.
Talk with you when your piece is ready. Looking forward to it.
YES!!!! I am super pumped on all of this. Who knows where it might lead, right?
Tim MacArthur (another child of parental divorce incidentally) really helped me out today. He digitized the home video of my baptism and then helped me rip the audio from it. What a gem! So, all the recording I have left is the random cassette tapes I found and (maybe) a couple phone interviews with my parents. Huzzah.
My brother just forwarded me an article from NPR.org. Apparently Sasha Aslanian did an audio documentary extremely similar to mine and it was on Weekend Edition this weekend. THIS WEEKEND?!?! The weekend I was recording mine??? Bah. Here's the description of part one of her documentary, "Divorced Kid": America’s divorce rate hit a peak in 1979. Back then, no one really knew how divorce would affect children. Three decades later, the adult children of divorce look back. Not gonna lie, I am pretty disappointed. I felt so revolutionary. I am still excited and still think my work is something special, but it is no longer has the potential to be the only one that exists on the topic. In any case, after stewing about it for a while, I decided to email Sasha the following (with a little bit of my proposal):
I am currently a Master's candidate at Emerson College in Boston. With no previous knowledge of your radio documentary, I started work on something very similar. I was excited to see someone else in my field focusing on it. It means a lot to me. My master's project/thesis is also a radio doc about the effects of divorce on children, but it is based on the varying perspectives of four siblings (a.k.a. my own family--a short description below). It has definitely been an emotionally taxing journey, but I am excited to see it taking shape.
Would you be at all interested in giving the final product a professional listen as I continue through post-production? Maybe even a bit of encouragement on how I could ever hope to work in our field? I know that's a large job to agree to based on a random email, but I thought I'd take a chance.
In any event, I really appreciate your work. My oldest brother forwarded your article on NPR along (he's a good one... he even put up with me interviewing him for 4 hours). I'm so glad it was featured.
Haha. We'll see what happens. I figure you never can tell who might help you out. In production news, I have a zillion ideas running through my brain and I'm not exactly sure what direction to take. I have about 8 hours of material with my siblings, not to mention the cassette tapes and home videos that I am going through. It could go anywhere and I think all my options are reasonably compelling. I talked with Tim Riley (a professor in the Emerson Journalism Department... my day job!) and he said, "As a writer, sometimes you have to kill your children." Meaning, there will be a million things that I would love to include, but it just won't serve the final piece. So, the decision remains: what do I focus on? Also, returned all the equipment today. Feels good.
I meant to write yesterday after Derek's interview. Alas. It is now the late evening of January 3, 2010. All the recording of my siblings is over. Somewhat of a relief and somewhat of a burden because now I have to edit all of this stuff. Each interview ended up being roughly two hours and the group conversation over one of our now famous "sibling dinners" was two hours as well. I also have the home videos and cassette tapes. Oy. A lot of stuff to sift through. But, I'm excited to do it. Derek's interview went well... I copied all the files from the 722 to my computer after his interview. I am really sad to report that the audio is super quiet, but it is clean, so I think I can up the gain without too many problems. The interview with David went really well, too. His was definitely emotionally taxing, though. In fact, all three of the personal interviews were. There are so many things that I didn't know that my siblings felt... so much love for me... so many issues with our parents splitting the siblings up. The sibling dinner was a little stressful for me. Not because of any recording issues, though. That ended up working well... I originally was going to use the AKG 414 on the omnidirectional pickup pattern setting, but I ended up using a bidirectional setting (Derek and I were on one side of the table and David and Crys were on the other [instead of us sitting all around it]). But, anyhow. It was the first time that I really felt like an outsider with my siblings. They have all these shared memories and moments in their adolescence that I was not a part of because I was the only sibling with my mother. There were a lot of inside jokes and even emotional pain that I was jealous of. I don't necessarily wish I had stayed with them, but I definitely wish we were together. If that makes sense. All six hours of the audio I collected while here in the Dallas/Fort Worth area seems a bit on the quiet side. I am not sure how this happened because I monitored the levels on the 722 the entire time. I really hope it doesn't sound awful... that would really take away from the work. I fly back to Boston tomorrow. I am ready to be back in my own space. And start editing all of this, of course.
LATER: I just re-copied all the audio from the 722 to my hard drive on my computer. None of the files sounded nearly as quiet as they did. Huzzah! I'm not sure why the other files were wonky or what could have caused that, but they all sound pretty good (or at least decent enough to work with).
Today was the interview with my sister Crys. It is 1a (technically the 2nd, I guess...I don't suggest coming for only three days when you're working with family because you only hang out and talk and don't do a lot of work). The interview went really well. Crazy story to add to all the drama of yesterday/re-scheduling the sibling dinner? My brother David was driving home from Oklahoma (visiting our Dad/Elynn/Lauren) and his car broke down (with his girlfriend and his two kids). He was not going to make the sibling dinner for that night. After some stress and drama (and my brother Derek, a medical doctor, totally pissing off his boss by refusing to come in on Sunday), it is now scheduled for Sunday night. I have seen that everything is working out for this project to happen, but in some ways... it feels ill-fated! Things have been a little crazy, and I'm sure that it being the holidays does not help. My brother Derek leaves for New Zealand on Tuesday, too, so that makes scheduling interesting. In any case, the interview with Crys. It went really well. My sister-in-law Kelly asked this woman in her ward (LDS church congregation) if I could record in her office. She said yes! For the record, Cheri Measom is a goddess. It is a great space. Quiet because no one is working this holiday weekend. Comfortable chairs and big desk. She originally showed us this really beautiful conference room, but... it was huge. I could tell it would be full of echo/reverb, and sure enough... as soon as I crossed the threshold, I could hear all sorts of echos on my steps/voice/etc. I got a touch nervous, but we went forward and she donated her assistant's office (obliging [unknowing] assistant). I pulled a couple comfy chairs in (kept the other cushiony chairs in there for at least a little sound absorption), closed the blinds (again, almost futile, but trying to control sound as much as possible), and closed the vent. I didn't have control over the ventilation system; there may be a slight hum on the track. I would like to know for sure at this point; it was my intention to listen to the interviews each night and log them a bit. But, like I said, it is hard to do this when you never really see your family. I set up and interviewed Crys from 10a to 1230p. I left the lavaliers/XLR cables/chairs as they were, but took the 722 and my headphones with me (with the intention of working with the sound and at least copying it to my Macbook's hard drive). Didn't happen. It is now 1:17a. I interview Derek in 8.5 hours. I need to sleep.