Skip to main content

Power Your Podcast with Storytelling

Lesson 7 of 21

Demo: Pre-Interview with Ann Rea

Alex Blumberg

Power Your Podcast with Storytelling

Alex Blumberg

most popular

Starting under


Get access to this class +2000 more taught by the world's top experts

  • 24/7 access via desktop, mobile, or TV
  • New classes added every month
  • Download lessons for offline viewing
  • Exclusive content for subscribers

Lesson Info

7. Demo: Pre-Interview with Ann Rea

Lesson Info

Demo: Pre-Interview with Ann Rea

So without further ado, let's bring Ann up on stage. Come on up. (Clapping) Have a seat. (laughing) Hi (laughing) How do you feel? Are you regretting the decision to sign up for this, by the way? No, you're from Ohio. Okay good. Seem to be alright. You'll be nice. Yeah that's right! You're from Ohio too. Tell me again where you're from. I grew up in Parma, Ohio. Parma, Ohio, that's right. Outside of Cleveland. Yes, right near where I went to college, right. So we're both Ohio born and bred, cheers. Cheers (laughter) So, tell me a little bit. What do you do? Tell me about yourself. Basically right now we're just probing, trying to figure out what's interesting about Ann? Well, I'm a painter and known for my paintings of wine country and landscapes. I'm a contemporary landscape painter and I was very fortunate. I started painting eight and a half years ago, moved to San Francisco, moved to the beach, said I'm going to paint for a living. And unlike a lot of arti...

sts I actually wrote a business plan. Okay, so I'm going to stop you there. So there's two moments right here that I feel like are possibly places that we want to look into, right? So right away she said eight years ago I became an artist eight years ago. So there's a moment of, there's a turning point, at some point in your life. Sorry. There was. Ignore this. Talk amongst yourself. Okay I'm gonna to talk to my producers here. So, Ann had a turning point. (laughing) Is this awkward? No, it's okay. Okay I've done this for myself. It's alright, actually it's good. So, Ann had a turning point eight years ago. So, right away I'm sort of like "Oh, that sounds like something that we want to talk about" You said two things, there was one, you became an artist eight years ago. So, right away there was something happened there. You went from one thing to another thing. A full-time artist. A full-time artist, right. So you went from one step to another step. What was the other thing that she said that sparked my mind? Does anybody else, yeah, in the back there, yeah. Betsy, is that what your name is? Yeah, Kristy. "Unlike some artists I wrote a business plan" Yeah, exactly. They don't teach you that in art school. There's no business planning class you take in art school. So right away we have two things to focus on, right? We have this turning point, when you became the artist. And then there was also the thing about writing the business plan. So, what should we start with? We'll go to both, let's do the artist thing first. So you became an artist eight years ago. Does that mean that you weren't an artist, or a full-time artist, before then? But you went to art school, right? 'Cause I know this from talking to you. Yeah I went to art school, in Ohio. Right. And then I actually worked as a designer for a while. And moved to California, I was actually going to continue my career as an industrial designer. But I was married and I was forced to suburbia. So I gave up, I gave up design and art all together for over seven years I didn't do anything. You didn't do anything? No. I didn't do anything. You didn't leave the house? I left the house. I didn't do any art. When you left the house what did you do? I got in my car and drove to my cubicle. For most of the, and mowed my lawn in suburbia. That was pretty much, that was life. Right, got it. You drove to your cubicle? Drove to my cubicle, corporate cubicle. Do remember what corporation? I had several. (laughing) It's an ugly memory. Okay, tell me more about the ugly memory. (laughing) Well at my last "J-O-B" I was a project management consultant. And, I think we were talking, I don't remember the name of the company that I worked for. And I don't even care about that. But yeah, that's what I did. I commuted from Davis to the Financial District here in San Francisco to be a Project Management Consultant. Alright, hold on for a second. Okay. I need to talk to my producers again. Alright, what else? What's interesting here, what's going on? I'm just going to start writing some stuff down. These are interesting moments here. "full-time artist." My handwriting is horrible. This is where this whole thing goes to hell. (laughing) That says "full-time artist." Alright, and then we also know, what was the other thing? Oh yeah business plan. So we have some areas that we might want to focus on. Okay, what else in what she just said? Yes, Liz. Obviously, you were doing something you really-- Or she, she's not here. Ann was doing something, she really disliked. She can't hear you, right. Okay, she was doing something she really disliked for a long period of time. Clearly it seems like it was something demoralizing, and just lack of passion. Yet, somehow she was able to tap into something that she had loved before and it seems like she was able to rekindle that connection. There's a turning point there. The second turning point Yeah, yeah, yeah. going back to the roots and reconnecting with her true passion. Right, right, right, leaving the cubicle. The cubicle turning point. And then, so often what you're looking for in these sorts of things when you're talking to somebody, is like, what are the turning point moments? Because you wanna story. So ultimately what we're gonna want to get from Ann, later on when we do the interview, is we're gonna want to get that moment. Was there a moment when you sorta realized, "I gotta get outta this cubicle". Where was it, where did that come to a head? I'm not gonna ask her about it now, but that's when we design our sort of interview structure, that's what we're gonna be going for. You want, to sort of, looking for what are these turning point moments in her life right now, and then we're gonna design our, I'm gonna flip this flip chart, and we're gonna design the questions so that we get that out of her as a story. What else? Willa, you had something you wanted to talk about. Was it the same thing? Well it was kind of the same thing, just that I feel like the concept of this desperation with the boring job is something that is one of those universal things to tap in to. Right, yes, exactly. Everyone's gonna understand that emotion. Right, yes, definitely the desperation. Even if they don't care about art or artists. "Des-per-ation" (laughing) Okay, good, yes, Morgan. So there's kind of a fierce turning point when she moves away from art to move into suburbia Which she also That's a good point Which she also was sort of described with some flowery language. First T.P. And it sounded like it had to do with a guy, Yeah, so you know, there's sort of this lead in to the second, maybe bigger turning point, but there's another, there's a first turning point. You know, where she went away. "Went, away, from art" It was the heroine's journey. (laughing) Exactly, yeah! I think what was important, that word that you used was "forced", I mean, talking about, you just didn't want to do it the first time, moving to suburbia. So I think that would be an important, kind of direction to pursue. Right, first turning point, forced. Question mark. Okay, anything else, yeah? I have a question though she, when you were asking her about her job, she seemed clearly uncomfortable, she didn't want to talk about those. Exactly Is that something you want to, does that make you want to talk more about it, or less about it, I guess? (laughing) Don't listen Ann, yes, yes! We definitely want to get into that more! (laughing) Yeah, absolutely. There's something going on there that she's really uncomfortable with. So we want to get her to talk about it, absolutely. (laughing) You didn't hear that, right? I didn't hear that. Alright good. I'm not here. Yes. As you mentioned, it sounds like there's a fella involved maybe? And I feel like there might be a subplot that the escape, the leaving of cubicle nation might be sort of over the top of an additional secondary plot under there, about a family scene. Alright let's get back to our pre-interview, I think you're in, alright tell me about the guy. Oh, I got married. When did you get married? In 1989 I got married 1989 A tall handsome neighbor. A tall handsome neighbor in Parma? No, he was actually, I was actually in Dayton at that point. Okay Which was really boring. (laughing) More boring than Parma? Yeah. Really? Okay so if you had to rank northern Ohio cities by boringness, (laughing) you got Madiva, you got Lorain, you got Parma, and you got Dayton. I mean I haven't been there in a long time, so I'm sorry if I'm insulting anybody there. It's just, yeah, it was boring. Right, it wasn't for you. It wasn't for me, personally, it was great for other people obviously. It wasn't great for me. Alright, oh, Toledo, I forgot Toledo. Also I was from, me too! I lived in Toledo for a little bit then I moved to Cincinnati. I lived in Fairfield for a little while. Oh really? That' boring. Oh yeah. (laughing) So, this guy, love of your life? I thought so at the time. You thought so at the time. And then, And then, when, tell me more about how you got out to suburbia, what was it, was it because of him? Or what happened? Yeah, so we had to, you know, drove across the country for our honeymoon, and you know, we were going from Ohio, you know, like you're going to California, that's a big deal. yeah yeah yeah Like who does that from Parma? Very few people, except for Drew Carey. (laughing) So yeah, we had all these hopes. Made it safe for a lot of other people. Yeah, I mean he did, he paved the way. I bowled with his uncle George, actually. Oh really? Yeah I did. Awesome, was that a date also? No, no. (laughing) Side note. Anyway, we drove across the country, and then he was gonna have a job in San Francisco and I thought, "well I'll find a job at Design Firm, "there are alumni out here". But then he got shifted over to Sacramento. So I had to, you know. He was making money and I didn't have a job, so that was that. Right, was it something that you sat down and sort of talked about? Or was it like-- Yeah but there wasn't a whole lot to talk about, I didn't have a job yet, and he did, and we needed money, so we had to Right Adjust. Got it. (laughing) Alright, hold on for a second, producers, what do ya think? Anything else going on, anything in there that you guys, Yeah, go ahead. The way that she describes it, makes it sound like she didn't have a choice. But there was a choice. So I'd be curious to find out, what made her feel, I mean, other than the money, 'cause she could have gotten a job, whatever. What made her feel like there was no other option? Right so the move, have we done this? The move to suburbia, right. We wanna hear more about that, right? Okay, what else, yeah. So I'm really interested in exploring the idea of money as a subject. It comes up several times, she's powerless 'cause she doesn't have enough money, she doesn't have the job. Later in her story we know she has a business plan, and prior to that she's now worked in the Financial District so she goes through this, sort of, stages of a relationship to money, that seemed to really define. She also takes this leap to be an artist, which makes no money, generally. That's insane choice to make. But she makes it with what sounds like a great deal of confidence and a plan. So I wanna track the money piece with her. Right, you guys are good! (laughing) By the way. I was thinking this is a bad idea, actually this might be a really good idea. This is how I'm gonna do all my interviews, with 30 brains, (laughing) to help me. Hold on, money, yeah money sub-theme. Money theme. I'm also thinking that maybe we can get the money is part of our X and Y sort of thing because that is one of the more counterintuitive things that has happened. In order to make money, she went back, she left her corporate job to become an artist. When doing a story about Ann, and what's interesting about her is that she left her job, her corporate job, to become an artist and got rich doing that. That's like, you wanna hear that story, right? Yeah, okay, are there people out there, any of you out there who have some things that you've been observing? Well we have a lot of people from Ohio, who are chiming in (laughing) I'm sorry Ohio We just lost all of our Dayton, Ohio consumers! No, people are chiming in about there favorite towns in Ohio and all the different places they have lived. "Why leave Ohio, we have it all there?" (laughing) 'Cause I don't want to shovel snow anymore. (laughing) Yeah, that's true, and every time I go back to Cincinnati, I'm like, "this is "a great place to raise a family". Not like where I currently live, Brooklyn. Okay, yeah, Ian. I just noticed there's an obvious absence of anything about art, so would you explore that throughout this period of time? Or would you just leave it and not talk about it. Yeah, your feelings around art and what that means Yeah, she got there ultimately, but what was happening in this, there's nothing there. "About art", okay. Anything else? Yeah. So, Ann, you seemed a little bit, or I guess I'm not supposed to be talking to Ann, she seemed a little bit negative on suburbia. I actually went to school in Davis, so I used to live out where she eventually moved to, but I think it's really intriguing that she started painting landscapes of wine country, which is also kind of pastoral, so that's weird. 'Cause Davis is a little bit, a lot of farm land too. So how did that thing that was a negative association become a positive thing? Yeah, that's actually a good question too, right. "Subject" Different Suburb (laughing) "of your art". Okay, yeah. Alright, yes. I just always think that California makes a great character in a story as well over this kind of narcissistic reason, so I'm curious, we kind of jumped over why California. And we talked about how it was a dream. But if you weren't coming here as an artist, or if Ann wasn't coming here as an artist for a dream, how did the dream become to become an artist once you were in California? Is what I'm trying to say. Right, so the feelings about art and there's a turning point there too, right? And then there's this sort of the, and then there's the leaving, so then there's the sort of the California. Just the influence on the work even. Right, okay, great. I think, I think we are, I think we're close to being ready to start putting together, I think we have a lot of stuff here, that I think we can start crafting. Alright, I'm gonna take this off, and maybe put it up here. We don't have any tape, do we? Yeah, tape it up there. Yeah, tape this up so we can remind ourself, I can just tape it right there, alright. Oh you know, here, look, check this out, we can just hang it down right there. There we go. (laughing) There we go. It can put it closer, so they can see more. Yeah, so you can see it, and the top one says the "full time artist". Alright, so, yeah! You're just really brave, and so I had to give you kudos, because I think you're really brave to be doing this right now. Yeah, how are you doing so far by the way, how's it feeling? I'm fine, I just feel like it's just conversation. You are, you're being really, yeah I really appreciate it. But yeah thank you, I really appreciate that. (laughing) Do we wanna know what happens? I mean, we know she becomes an artist and she has a business plan model, but do we wanna know whether she actually ends up making money or if she's living in a box? (laughing) So this is the thing about actually getting down to brass tacks here, this is the thing about the pre-interview versus the full interview. So I feel like, by this point in the pre-interview, I feel like, "okay, I have enough to go on". And this is the point where I would be hanging up the phone with Ann and being like, "thank you very much. "Let's set up a time to talk." And then I would go back with my producers, you. And we would all come up with our actual, there's a bunch of stuff here. And we're relatively certain that there's some interesting stories that are gonna come out of this. She seems like a very willing talker. She feels very, you know, in touch with her emotions. There's certain things that she might be trying to avoid, that were gonna, sort of, probe a little bit more. And so it's all, we're all set. So now what I wanna do is, I don't wanna, at this point I would cut bate. 'Cause I don't wanna, I mean, not cut bate. This is when I would duck out and say, "okay, we're gonna do this now." But I don't wanna spoil the interview, so I don't wanna ask any of these real questions until I have her, until the thing is actually happening.

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers.

Join Alex Blumberg, award-winning reporter and producer for This American Life and co-host of NPR’s Planet Money, for Power Your Podcast with Storytelling, and learn podcast tips on how to tell powerful, memorable stories through audio.

Storytelling is in our DNA – integrating its principles into a podcast not only helps you tell better stories, it allows you to authentically and emotionally connect with your audience. In this class, you will learn the unique approach to interviewing and story composition, which has made This American Life a fan favorite on public radio stations across the country. Alex will share production techniques you can use to create a multi-layered sensory experience and share tips for standing out in the ever-growing field of podcasts. You’ll learn: 

  • How to develop your narrative instincts
  • How to prepare for an interview to get the best answers
  • The elements of a good story

Alex will teach you how to create a “driveway moment” — that experience when the story is so good, it makes the audience pause what they are doing just to listen through to the end.

Whether you already produce a successful podcast, are a creative entrepreneur looking for a new marketing method, or just a public radio-loving audiophile – this class will help you tell better stories.


Matt James Smith

The best storytelling resource I've come across bar none. I've read all the books, paid for all the online courses, listened to all the podcasts but for me none have been anywhere near as useful, engaging, moving, fun and outright inspiring as this course. If you're trying to tell stories with factual material, whatever your medium, this is as good as it gets. Regarding those reviewers saying it was haphazard and underprepared - huh? He doesn't offer strict formulas and perfectly structured, detailed approaches, but that's because he's the real deal. Those things only exist for snake-oil-merchant online "story gurus" who charge through the nose for "the perfect strategy" (*cough* Patrick Moreau *cough*). Alex offers what he can of tricks and formulae, but where it's about experience and gut feelings, he's honest. Thank god. Superb.

Gregory Lawson

This class is great on multiple levels. Are you interested in interviewing? There are great tips and techniques. Interested in Storytelling? Great insights into the basic structures and tools to test how compelling your story idea is. Interested in podcasting? Great tips and ideas here too... Alex is a seasoned pro, has an easy, approachable style and allows his class (and you) time to really consider and work through the concepts. Excellent all the way around!