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Plan a Podcast: Good Ideas to Great Episodes

Lesson 6 of 8

Experimenting

 

Plan a Podcast: Good Ideas to Great Episodes

Lesson 6 of 8

Experimenting

 

Lesson Info

Experimenting

So we're back at here right? We've pushed through a little bit of dread, and now, if you just bear with me here, we're gonna get back into the hippy stuff here for a second. It's like once we've moved through that, I think this is a good time in the process to really look at how we are presenting podcasts, right? There are dominant traits in podcasting, there's dominant styles within podcasting, and they're there for a reason. Sometimes a convention is really good, but we can also look inside podcasting just a little bit to see and question some of that convention, because there are these assumptions that people have about the way podcasts should be and how we should think about them, but I think it's really important if you're working within that kind of convention, or outside of it, to say how can we keep from making boring work just for the sake of making boring work, or just for the sake of making something that sounds like something else we've heard, right? There's no rule that sa...

ys that you have to interview people in a certain way. Maybe those conventions are there for a reason and you should be very attentive to those, but a lot of times there might be stories that are better told in unconventional ways. So for example we're all, I think, familiar with this idea of the back and forth interview, right? Like, hey, so how did you feel about that? It's like, I felt this way. It's like, oh, so how did you feel about that? And it's like. And what did your mother think when you thought that thing you thought? And back and forth. But there are other ways to do it too, like there's this technique called Schwartzing, do you guys know Schwartzing? Schwartzing is this technique where, I'm probably gonna butcher this a little bit, but essentially you put candles all in a room and you have your source lie down on their back, close their eyes, and you can be there holding the mic if you want, but I think that some people also just put it on a mic stand and leave the room, and you just yell in a question from the next room over, and you're like, hey tell me about this thing. And they sit there with their eyes closed with the mic next to them and they just describe it in first person as if they're reliving the situation. Not for every piece, but it's good to know that it's not like everything has to be like this, right? It yields very different tape than the back and forth interview. Again, not for every piece, but neither should the back and forth. Another thing that can be really helpful when you're questioning the convention of it is to insert elements into your pieces that are completely out of your control. So I'm not talking about putting a jack-in-the-box in the room and just having it burst out as they're, although you could do that for all I know. But say you go to the rodeo with your source and you have no idea what's gonna happen, or say you go for a walk and make it a goal to talk to one person that you meet while you're out there and just see how that plays out. There's a thousand ways in which you could do this, in which you won't have control over it, and it's a way of subverting again, that dream tape and making sure that you're not going to wind up with something dry. Another thing you can do that really helps is get your sources to go out and do something, or use some kind of unconventional recording technique. I wanna talk about, just really quickly, a case study that happened to me recently where I woke up one morning with the idea, and I don't know where this idea came from, but I just woke up with the idea and I was like, I want to interview someone in a bathtub. Just wanna interview someone in a bathtub, and I want them to hold their breath, for them to take a big breath in, I want them to go down underneath the water, maybe it's because I like taking baths, I think that's why. I just solved a mystery with your help. And I want them to take a deep breath, go down underneath, hold their breath for as long as possible, and when they come up for air, that's when the interview starts. See if there's something there, see if that's a good interview technique, it isn't. (audience laughs) But just in case, just in case it is. And so I got really lucky, I had this idea in the morning, I wrote down a little bit of stuff, I was like, I wanna do this, and this, and this, and I was thinking about it throughout the day, I was like, I think this idea's ready to go. I just need to find someone who can do it. And I asked around, I found someone who would do it, and we recorded it that night, and this is the piece, it's called Riptides in a Sinking Ship, and she would go down, hold her breath for one to two minutes, and then come up and I would ask her about these past lives that she's felt she's had, and these experiences that she's had in real life with drowning. And we recorded that night and I had one mic up there where she could talk, and then I had another mic that I held underwater with just a DIY mic hydrophone sort of situation, you can make hydrophones, we can talk about that later if you want, and just dangled that down in the tub, and then I just had these two recordings, one above water and one below water of these, and I mixed in the interviews with the time she spent underwater, and it's one of the weirdest things I've ever done, and it's really, in my opinion, it's one of the better things I've ever done, and it just came from this moment where I let myself be like, hey, this is a weird idea, let's try it out and see what happens.

Class Description

There’s a big difference between a great idea and a great podcast. Just ask Jeff Emtman, who founded the successful documentary podcast “Here Be Monsters.” Before he ever picks up the microphone, Jeff has an elaborate preparation ritual, a process involving bathtubs, strategic forgetfulness, and good old-fashioned journaling.

Jeff will show you how to zoom in on the important parts of a story and forget the fluff, conceptualize sound and a story’s “dream tape,” and use self-doubt and existential dread as a creative tool. You’ll come away with real-world techniques for preparing for your podcast so that you can make your best work.

In this class, you’ll learn how to:

  • Get over your fears of actually starting work on an episode and take the first leap.
  • Compartmentalize and benefit from pre-production jitters.
  • Focus on research at the beginning, not story structure.
  • Prepare for the interview, both practically and conceptually.
  • Use sound to deepen the impact of an episode.
  • Doubt your story so you can find its flaws and improve it.
  • Experiment with and subvert conventional structures.

Reviews

Timothy
 

This class has a lot of really interesting insights and ideas. It is definitely focused more on narrative/interview/experimental style podcasts, but I think anyone interested in any aspect of podcasting would enjoy listening to Jeff speak on the subject. He's a really unique person with a really neat perspective on the medium, and sound in general.