Imagine Your Dream Tape
So now that we have some of this fluff faded out it's time to start drawing connections between these different disparate ideas, figuring out how these things relate to each other. The way that I think that is helpful to do this is to conceptualize what I'm grouping, calling Dream Tape. Now Dream Tape is the ideal form of your piece. This is the version of your piece where you're source is really active and engaged. They say exactly what you need them to say in the moment. They're charming when they need to be. They're gruff when they need to be. They push back at you at exactly the right point. This is the version of your piece where everything goes right. Now the way I think about this sometimes, I think about this in terms of like platonic ideals, right? You know this concept where it's like there's this other world? Like we live in this world, right, and there's the platonic ideal world. There's the world of forms. And in the forms there's the most horse-like horse, there's the mos...
t dog-like dog, and they run through the most field-like field and eat the most grass-like grass, right? And so when we work on our pieces you can imagine the version of your piece that exists in the world of forms. Of course the world we live in is not that world. Everything that we have is approximations or bastardizations of stuff from the world of forms. But over here in the world of forms you have your most podcast podcast version of your podcast and it's like running through the most field-like field and it's eating the most like podcast ambrosia in the world. And so in this world of forms it's like the most story-like story. So it's the most podcast-y podcast. And what you do is when you imagine that, when you figure out what that ideal form of your piece is, what you do is you start asking yourself, you say how did we get here, right? What questions did I ask to get my source to elicit that answer? What sound did I record? Where did we go, where did we walk to? Who did we stop to talk with along the way? This is what you need to be doing at this phase. You need to be saying what is the most ideal form of this piece and how did we get there. So one thing you can do to really help in this process is pre-interviewing. And a pre-interview is a phone call, like a very short phone call to someone, you know, five or 10 minutes. Maybe 15 if you're pushing it. If you don't have that luxury you can email with the source. Of course as we know from online dating text communication isn't always the best way to talk to someone, right? There's a lot of stuff that gets lost in that translation. So it's almost always better to talk with someone on the phone, meet them in person if you can. I actually once read about a reporter who's preferred method was to go to people's houses and do the dishes with them after dinner because it's a short interaction that you get to have with someone. You're both working on a task together and you can see how that other person exists. That's your goal in the pre-interview. It's not to get the full story out of them. You don't want to lose that energy out of the full story, but you want to get that sense of these little nuggets of things that you can pursue in the actual interview, which ideally would be happening in the next couple of days after that. You want to talk notes on this in your main doc. You want to journal about it and you want to write about that Dream Tape at this point. You want to start visualizing that. That's one of the best things you can do is figure out what your Dream Tape is.
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.