Fifty-Four Years

I once had a student consider producing a documentary feature on ice harvesters — people who cut ice blocks on lakes and ponds to use for refrigeration and to keep old traditions alive. Not a bad idea, but the problem with the story was timing. It was fall. No ice.

This may seem a bit obvious, but timing is really important to reporting a story. You can have the best story in the world, full access to sources, and magnetic characters but if you don’t show up with your mic at the right time, none of it matters.

Producer Erin Calabria sought to produce a story on an adoption reunion — the reconnection of a parent and the child they gave up for adoption. Erin found a mother and son who had reunited after fifty-four years but she was late. They already met for the first time. And, because of that, I wasn’t sure her story about the reunion would pack much emotional impact because she missed that pivotal event.

But Erin is clever and despite not capturing the moment on tape, she produced a stellar portrait of the mother and son soon after their reunion — while it was still fresh and emotionally charged. On this Saltcast, I talk about what Erin did to make this piece work and we’ll listen to the story “Fifty-Four Years.”

Cheers,  Rob


PS – How good are your ears? Typically, I record my narration for Saltcast at a radio station or in my home studio. This time, I recorded in a clothes closet.  Really. In fact, lots of radio producers record narration in closets. Double really. It’s cheap insulation that helps the recording sound dead, not reverberant. I borrowed some gear — a Marantz PMD 620 and a Beyer Dynamic MCE-58 — brought a chair into a closet, closed the door, and recorded.  Recording gear and a closet. Poof. Instant studio.


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