Fiction Reveals Truth with Jonathan Mitchell

Fiction Reveals Truth with Jonathan Mitchell
Fiction Reveals Truth with Jonathan Mitchell

Sep 07 2023 | 00:36:29

Episode September 07, 2023 00:36:29

Hosted By

Stuart Barefoot

Show Notes

Jonathan Mitchell, the creator and producer of The Truth takes Stuart and the listeners behind the scenes of this award winning fiction anthology. Audio drama and audio fiction is a different podcast animal and it takes a keen ear to create a podcast with such an authentic feel. On this episode of the Audience podcast, Stuart and Jonathan talk about Jonathan’s creative process, his philosophy on radio and the musicality of speech, and what it takes to adapt a story from the page to a podcast.

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Today you’ll learn about:

  • Jonathan’s love for fiction and his audio drama journey
  • The story behind Jonathan’s fiction podcast
  • How Jonathan gets the authentic feel of his episodes
  • Music as organized sound; Speech as music
  • The recording process: improvisation, practice, and recording free takes
  • The writers and stories behind the episodes
  • Adapting a story to an audio performance
  • Creating and working on post-production with limited feedback


The Truth Reveals Fiction Podcast: 

"Moon Graffiti": 

"Heat Meat": 

"Instruction Manual For Jason": 

"Can You Help Me Find My Mom": 

"That's Democracy": 

Stuart's Other Podcast: 

Castos Academy: 

Castos, private podcast: 

Castos, website: 

Castos, YouTube:  

Clubhouse video: 

View Full Transcript

Episode Transcript

Speaker 0 00:00:00 There's this Ralph Waldo Emerson quote that says, fiction reveals truth. That reality obscures kind of a reverse of Mark Twain's famous quote, truth is stranger than fiction. It's a cool quote. And it was also the inspiration for the name of Jonathan Mitchell's podcast. The Truth. Speaker 1 00:00:16 The Truth is an anthology fiction podcast. Every episode is a different story. They're full cast, they sound rich. It's hard to describe the content 'cause it's, it's, it's so varied. It's like a box of chocolates where each chocolate is a story. Speaker 0 00:00:33 Next, Jonathan takes us behind the scenes of the truth, an award-winning show that first launched more than a decade ago. My name is Stuart, and this is Audience at CAO's original series where we go behind the scenes of some of the world's best podcasts to uncover their creative process. Speaker 0 00:00:53 Just a quick note before we get to the creative stuff. Creativity is the most important part of the process, and without it, your podcast probably won't get very far, but you also need a support system, a k a money. We can help you there. Casos let you monetize all of your episodes, even the old ones with a press of a button. There's no chasing sponsors, no extra editing work, none of the headache. You can even tap into your support network. Let your audience directly support your podcast through one time or recurring donations with cast as commerce. If you want more information, check out the links in the show notes. Okay, let's get back into it. Speaker 1 00:01:42 So we're doing very, um, what I think of as very traditional sort of Aristotle stories, <laugh>. Speaker 0 00:01:50 I asked Jonathan, the creator and producer of the truth. What makes a good story. Since he's produced more than a hundred episodes of audio fiction, Speaker 1 00:01:58 They, they have a beginning, middle, and end. They have a protagonist. The protagonist has an intention and an obstacle. That's what I look for in a story. I look for an interesting premise that feels like it has meat and stuff to think about, and it's thematically rich and, uh, has a great setting where I, it's gonna sound cool. And, um, has a central conflict like an inciting incident. A a an intention met with an obstacle that is compelling and suggests lots of places to go from there. Speaker 0 00:02:38 For more than a decade, Jonathan worked with hundreds of collaborators, writers, actors, editors, all kinds of people to create these stories, which run the gamut from funny to surreal, to sci-fi, to sad to pe, bizarre to mundane, and really everything in between. The series first kicked off in 2012 with an episode called Moon Graffiti, which imagined an alternate reality where the Apollo love mission to the moon was not successful. Forward Speaker 3 00:03:05 Kicking up some dust. I still can't see, can't see the, we're gonna tap at light. I'm gonna, Speaker 6 00:03:16 Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace, Speaker 0 00:03:31 Complete with a dramatized reading from an actual speech. President Nixon would've read if things had gone sideways. The episode takes us to the moon as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Adrin grapple with their alternate fate. Neil Speaker 6 00:03:42 Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin know that there is no hope for their recovery, but they also know that there is hope for mankind in their sacrifice. Speaker 1 00:03:52 When I, when I was doing that, when I think I was thinking a lot about 2001, a Space Odyssey, the scene where they find the, um, monolith on the moon. I really like those sort of LIG inspired sound mass elements. They're very, you know, it's like where you hear like, just a cluster of, of frequencies that are sustained. And I really like that sound a lot. I also saw around that time a, a movie called Marooned, which, which is forgotten film, but Gene Hackman's in it, and Richard Rena. And it's about these, it's a sort of a similar plot where these, um, astronauts are stranded, orbiting the earth sort of a space. It was released in the sixties, you know, it was a very space race inspired film. So I listened to that and, and listened to how they were scoring it, and I wanted it to feel like that era as well. Speaker 1 00:04:42 And, and also, you know, I wanted the, the sound design, the and ambiance to reflect the, the topography of the moon and the feeling of being alone and isolated and surrounded by darkness and, and gray. But also at the same time, I wanted it to, uh, suggest their movement in the atmosphere in, in this world and environment, and suggest their feelings about it and the, the kind of activity they were taking place in. So, uh, it was a lot of things and we started of following the story and listening to how the actors perform it and trying to get the actors to perform it in a certain way. Again, another thing I was doing was I was trying to get the, um, actors to perform in a very naturalistic tone. You know, so like a lot of the technical stuff, um, I wrote, wrote out for them, we're doing a lot of improv, but, but at the same, but I wrote a lot of stuff out so that they could just sort of rattle these numbers off and this jargon i, I took from transcripts of the actual moon missions. And, um, so I, you know, it sound authentic. Speaker 7 00:05:42 You ready? I could see my reflection in your visor. Here we go. So wanna capture the spirit of the American astronaut stuck on the moon two hours to live? It gives a big thumbs up. I hope this film can last a long time. I don't think it's gonna be developed anytime soon. Now Paula twelve's gonna go up Yeah, after this. I'd be surprised if there's any space program at all. Speaker 0 00:06:14 Jonathan began working in radio back in the nineties and eventually began producing for shows like Radiolab, this American Life and Planet Money, just to name a few. But his love for fiction dates back to his college days when he made an audio drama for his master's thesis. Speaker 1 00:06:31 Well, it's called The Trouble with Key of G. And it was used recordings of my grandfather that from a cassette tape he had made to me as a child, and then scenes with actors playing out this sort of love triangle story. How do I put it? It was like a kitchen sink type of piece. I, I threw everything in there that I could think of, you know? 'cause I was learning about all kinds of stuff, and I was very excited about all these things I was learning. And so I wanted to figure out, you know, like each scene was a different sort, sort of like a study in how I might apply this compositional technique to a narrative. So, for example, one of the scenes took place in a kitchen, and I wanted the feeling that the walls were closing in on the characters. You know, it was becoming a suffocating environment. Speaker 1 00:07:16 And at the same time, I was learning about this piece by Alvin Lucier called, I'm sitting in a room in which he records himself talking in a room, and he says, this prepared text. And then he takes that recording and he plays it back in the same room. And then he does that, takes that recording and plays that recording back in the same room. And he does that for multiple generations. So the, you know, the, the more generations he does this, the more prominent the resonant frequencies of the room become, and the less prominent his speech becomes. So after many, many generations of this, you could just just hear w but the frequencies of that sound are the room. And so his, his, his voice is activating the, the, the resonant frequencies of the room. And I thought that was a really beautiful idea. And I thought, well, it would be interesting if I took that idea. And instead of doing it like you're hearing the sequence of recordings, you'd be, we could, um, have the scene playing and then gradually fade in the resonant frequencies of the room they're in and gradually fade out the dialogue from the scene. So by the end of the scene, all you're left with is w And so that, that was, you know, one of the scenes I did. So usually the scenes had like some kind of compositional, sort of avant-garde, inspired, compositional technique that I was applying. Speaker 0 00:08:42 So after various stops in public radio, he began producing the truth. In late 2011, enlisting a team of writers and actors to create stories while handling all of the sound design and post-production himself, much like his thesis. He also borrowed from his college days and his skills as a composer to help bring the truth to life. Speaker 1 00:09:01 When I was in school, there was a, um, a composer I learned about named Edgar Ez, who liked to define music as being organized sound. And that definition really resonated with me. Any sounds you are organizing that could be thought of as music, that is a very liberal definition of it. But it also encompasses everything that, you know, all these different composers were doing in the 20th century, which was very varied and it in, it includes speech. And I always thought, well, radio could be thought of as a musical medium. You could think of just a conversation as music, you know, with those, with that definition. And so, uh, I, when I started working at radio, I, I was like, I want to think of these radio pieces as, as pieces of music primarily, and see what, what happens as a result. And so as soon as you start thinking like that, it opens up all kinds of possibilities, you know, like, um, you know, the rhythm and the pitch of the, of the speech. Speaker 1 00:09:57 Know, speech is so colorful, it's so varied. You have consonance and you have vowels and you have, you know, noise bursts and you, but you have these pitched sounds and, and it has this life to it. It's, you know, you can tell it's a human being even when you distort the heck out of it and, and make it completely unrecognizable what they're saying. You still know there's a human being that you're hearing, like speech through a ring modulator, for example, still has that human quality. And so when I'm doing these radio pieces, I, I think, I think like for example, when I put a piece of music, if I go and find a piece of production music and I put it underneath someone talking in a radio piece, I think of that as you're creating a new piece of music. Like, it's like rap. You know how, how in hip hop they will take a beat from someplace else, they'll loop it and then they'll start, you know, rapping over it. Speaker 1 00:10:46 Radio pieces are exactly the same thing. It's just instead of rapping, you're just, you know, talking or you're using interviews or something, but you're putting speech over music that has a rhythm and a tonality and all this stuff to it. And the result is a, is a new piece of music. The, the, the speaking over is like a soloist. Like one, one way to think of it also is like, like I play jazz piano and I think of it as like comping behind a soloist. Like the soloist is like the trumpet play or the, the person talking is like the trumpet player. And I'm trying to do things musically that compliment that, you know, that support it and, and, and go with it and, and, and look for spaces that maybe where I could punctuate it in interesting ways. And, um, and sort of understanding how music can interact with speech in that way and, and emphasize certain points and, um, make, make certain points more meaningful is really, uh, valuable skill to have. Speaker 1 00:11:38 Like, for example, I, we did this story called Instruction Manual for Jason. And that one at the very, very beginning, you, anytime you hear, um, an excerpt from the instruction manual, you hear the same music and the music comes to signify, okay, we're, we're reading from the manual now, and it's al it's always consistently that until at a certain point in the story. So the, the main character is reading from the manual and she says, oh, I gotta go to the other room and get something. So she puts the manual down on the bed and she walks out of the room, but the music is still playing. And so we've been conditioned to associate that music with reading from the manual, and it's, it's, it's come to symbolize the manual. And so what it's, what it's sort of meant to evoke in you and the listener is, is the idea that the manual is still there and it's still sitting there open so that when this other character comes into the room and finds the manual and starts reading from it, it's all one continuous thing. We're always with the manual and it sort of contextualizes what's going on and what it means to the characters. And that was a instance where that I think was particularly effective at establishing that kind of vocabulary. Speaker 9 00:12:52 Once settled, put Jason Moore at ease with certain familiar comforts such as m and ms Diet, Sprite, Funions, Speaker 10 00:13:01 Onions. I can do that time for a quick trip to the vending machine. Speaker 11 00:13:15 Turns out the pool closed 10 minutes ago, so it's gen Speaker 2 00:13:22 Hmm. Speaker 11 00:13:23 Put Jason more at ease, Speaker 2 00:13:26 Huh? Speaker 9 00:13:28 Jason has a deep seated discomfort with refrigerator magnets. Canon under any circumstances. Be convinced to close cabinets after, Speaker 11 00:13:36 What is this book Speaker 9 00:13:38 Instruction manual for? Jason? What the Speaker 11 00:13:41 Fuck? Speaker 9 00:13:42 Warning, if Jason finds this book book, he will not like it. Speaker 11 00:13:46 No kidding. Speaker 9 00:13:47 No kidding. He'll say, ah, and likely throw it on the ground in fear. Speaker 11 00:13:55 Holy sh Speaker 10 00:13:59 Jason, you're Speaker 0 00:14:00 Backer. Uh, I mean you, you've talked a lot about collaboration too. I mean, here's my opinion about collaboration, that the best part of it is working with other people. The worst part of it is working with other people. What's that dynamic been like for you? Speaker 1 00:14:12 I think it's like dating okay, like finding a good writer, like a collaborator, like particularly writers, um, actors is not as, as, as intense of a relationship as, as it is with writers. So with writers it's like, you could think they're a great writer, but you just can't work together. And, and, and sometimes oftentimes you don't know if you're gonna work well together until you try doing it. And when you find someone who you can work well together, it feels like a really special thing because you've been looking so hard for someone and, and, and failing so many times, <laugh> at doing it, that when you actually do find someone who you really feel like, oh my God, every time we work together, together, it turns out good. That's, that's a really special thing. So just like dating, it's like you, you, you just have to keep, go, keep doing it <laugh> keep trying until you find people that you can work with. Speaker 1 00:15:03 And I, for me, that's the perfect analogy because it's really about chemistry and, and about just wanting to accomplish the same kinds of things, having similar goals, being able to see eye to eye. Like I think one person, I, I feel like really on the same page with creatively is Davey Gardner. Like, whenever he gives me notes on things, they always make it better. I always a hundred percent agree with, with what he's saying. I just feel like his idea of what it needs to be and where we're going with it and what constitutes success is very aligned with my own. And so it makes it easy for us to get there. Speaker 0 00:15:39 You talked a lot about like, like improv and I mean, I know for like actors, they've said that can be a more engaging experience if they're allowed to, to improv. I mean, what what's the balance there? I mean, I know, I mean, I know you're writing scripts, Speaker 1 00:15:52 So there's not one way we've done it. It's evolved a lot over the years. So, um, we've settled into a style where we will write a script first and then I'll have the actors perform it a few times and rehearse it. We'll get to know it, they'll do it, and, and as soon as I feel like we have a couple takes that are, you know, solid the way it's written, then I'll, I'll let the actor start to improvise and I'll say, you know, let's loosen it up this time. You don't have to stick so close to the script, uh, really listen to one another, try to surprise the other person. I might say that, you know, and, and then, and then I, I always end the sequence by recording a free take. So I say, okay, this is, this is the last take. We're gonna do this a free take. Speaker 1 00:16:28 You can do whatever you want, feel free to do it something that you haven't tried yet. You know, gimme something we don't have already. And so usually on the improv takes, you know, they'll listen a lot more because they're not sure what the other person's going to say. So it forces them to listen. And, and the performances are from, actors are always better when they're listening to one another and paying attention, not, they're not thinking about like, oh, I have to say these words. They're thinking about, oh, I'm in this particular situation and I'm responding to this person and I'm communicating with this other person. And so you try to, um, get them away from the linguistic aspects of the performance and to focus more on the sort of the, um, the motivation. When I, when we're, when we talk, you know, we're not thinking about what words we're saying. Speaker 1 00:17:14 We're thinking about the ideas we're trying to express. So you try to get the actors to be in that head space where they're, they're thinking more about the ideas, but recordings are sort of the opposite of that, where it's, they're super articulate, you can edit them as much as you want, but they don't have that sort of life that improv have. They don't have that sense of spontaneity to them. And so I, I thought if I combined that the s native improv with the control of the recording studio, I might get something really useful and great that maximize the potential of, of both of those things. Speaker 0 00:17:48 One of, of the ones you recommended for me to listen to was, can you help me find my mom? A little bit of a heart-wrenching piece in my opinion, but, um, why, why did you recommend that to me? Well, Speaker 1 00:17:58 That's one of our most popular episodes. Everyone says it makes them cry, which I think is pretty unusual to find something that action genuinely makes you cry. You know, it's won a bunch of awards, so I've, I've been told that it's good. <laugh>, I I just think it's a very effective piece. At least it's the medium effectively. It, it has a premise that is audio phonic, I guess you might say. It's like you, you can't see any because you can't see anything. The piece works better. Speaker 12 00:18:27 Hey there, Speaker 15 00:18:30 Do I know you? Speaker 16 00:18:31 Yeah, you do. How are you? Are you okay? I heard you had quite a day. Speaker 15 00:18:37 What's happening? Speaker 16 00:18:38 It's okay. Everything's gonna be okay. Hey, let's go on a walk. Do you wanna go on a walk? Speaker 13 00:18:49 Where are we? We're in a place for people like you. Speaker 15 00:18:53 What do you mean people Speaker 13 00:18:54 Like me? You know, special people, people who don't know what they're capable of. Speaker 15 00:18:59 Why don't they know what they're capable of? Speaker 13 00:19:01 Different reasons. You know, that's part of what we're trying to figure out. Hey, look, look, there's a piano in here that's new. Have you played it yet? No. Why don't you give it a try? Speaker 2 00:19:39 Hey, Speaker 18 00:19:39 I'm pretty good. Speaker 12 00:19:40 Yeah, you are. Of course you are. Keep going. Oh, you know what? Hold on, hold on a second. I wanna make a recording. Let's make a little music video, okay. Okay. And action. Speaker 18 00:19:59 That's a nice little camera you've got there. Speaker 2 00:20:02 Thank you. Speaker 12 00:20:03 It's also a phone too. Speaker 18 00:20:06 No, it's not. <laugh>. Yes, Speaker 2 00:20:08 It's, Speaker 0 00:20:11 I I really enjoyed one of your more recent ones. Heat Meat. For some reason that reminded me of like an episode of Bob's Burgers or, or something. I don't know why, but, uh, do you have any memories of, of making that Speaker 1 00:20:23 Hunter Nelson wrote that story. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and, um, I think Hunter's a really, really funny writer and he's really great at world building. He's great at, like, he also wrote a story called Dan Slang where he invented a language and he invented, or he did this story called The Body Genius, where he invented all these, uh, this sort of fake Hollywood lore. You know, we did a lot of fake trailers for that one. He just did this one called Still On, that was a, you know, talk show. But he, he's really great at building these worlds. And so with heat meat, he built this world of a, of a hot sauce con convention and he sort of just sort of took a kind of an absurd conceit and played it in a really grounded way. That's what I love about that story. Speaker 19 00:21:07 Ooh, ah, wow. <laugh> Speaker 20 00:21:11 Goodness. I mean, this has got a grip on me. Speaker 21 00:21:14 This is really some saucy. Got here. Victor, Speaker 22 00:21:17 Thanks a lot. Uh, yeah, there's Opia Pepper in there and a Scotch bonnet variant plus vinegar and brown sugar just for Tastiness. So I feel like it's really good. Speaker 21 00:21:25 You gotta teach this kid to keep his mouth shut. I know. I'm sail over Speaker 23 00:21:28 Here and he's, look, look, I, I believe in him. Alright, Aaron, I, I was thinking could he talk to Duncan? Speaker 20 00:21:36 Duncan, Bernard. So this is a sticker play. Interesting. Speaker 22 00:21:40 Uh, you know what, uh, I'm really sorry. May, maybe I should just get back to my table. Speaker 20 00:21:45 He's in breakout room e doing his consultations. I'll tell him you're coming, but better make it count. He hates having his time wasted. Speaker 23 00:21:53 Great. Great. Come on Speaker 22 00:21:54 Victor. Thanks so much for trying Vic and Su, if you like us, spread the word Speaker 24 00:21:59 Attention. The representations of Sal and Hollywood panel has been moved to sub conference room C and Dr. Reg kin fise presents Ping the piper, the digestion question has been moved to deluxe reception Hall one, Speaker 23 00:22:13 I think breakout room e's somewhere over here. Ow. Ow. Oh my eyes. My eyes. Speaker 22 00:22:17 Oh my God. God is that guy. Speaker 23 00:22:19 Okay. Every year the same rumor breaks out that if you apply hot sauce directly to your eyeballs, you'll be able to see a secret race of angels who control probability. Believe it or not, there's a dark side to this stuff. My God. Speaker 0 00:22:33 They've also adapted other people's work. A story from 2014 called Sylvia's Blood was adapted from Philip k Dick's short story called A Pundit Dull Earth, a dark sci-fi type of thing. Was he an influential writer for you? Speaker 1 00:22:50 Not particularly, Speaker 0 00:22:52 No. You just liked that one story? I guess <laugh>, Speaker 1 00:22:54 I mean, I've seen a lot of mo film adaptations of his work would like, like a lot of us. Um, yeah, yeah. I've obviously Blade Runner and seen this thrift scanner darkly. I knew that he had written an a lot of short stories that were in the public domain and, and we were, we needed material. We had a, you know, an ongoing show that was always on that always needed to be writing new stories. And so that was one potential avenue to find a story that we wouldn't have to write. And so, yeah, I mean, I I we looked through, um, all of those stories that were available and, and sort of settled on on that one because it felt like it had the most potential for audio. It did. Like a lot of those stories that have fallen of his stories that have fallen into the public domain, it wouldn't, wouldn't work because they've already, they, they feel so old fashioned now. They like they've, there have been so many movies and, and TV shows that use those same tropes. It's all, you know, cold War stuff. And, and so most of those stories just wouldn't, wouldn't play today. They just feel like things, something you'd already heard before, whereas this had some original stuff going on. Speaker 0 00:24:05 Can, can you explain that a little bit more about what you mean when you say you, you saw that story and you knew it would work for audio? Speaker 1 00:24:12 So in this story, I identified three set pieces that I felt I really wanted to, I could hear right away. Like when I, when I read this, read the sort of the, when I read the story, um, and saw sort of thought through what this all the scenes were, I'm like, oh, this is a great audio scene. So there's this one where they're walking through the woods and I thought, oh, we could go out to the woods. I could record it on location and we'll walk around, we'll do all this improv and uh, that'll be fun. And then, um, I thought that, and so I thought right away I thought this is a really cool location story to record. And then, um, I, there's a scene where he, he talks to the angels and he talks to, to Sylvia, who's an angel. And I thought, oh, I could have them sing. Speaker 1 00:24:57 Like there's this whole, there's this long dialogue in the short story of him going back and forth with these angels. And I thought, oh, it'd be really interesting if I had voices doing this, singing it. And so I thought that was another really cool scene. And then there's a third scene sequence where at the end she, everyone turns into Sylvia. And so I thought, well, I can do that by just recording the same person and, and you know, you can do that very easily with multi-tracking. And so, and that's something I thought would sound cool. So it's like each of these sequences I thought would sound really interesting and be, it'll work well in audio. Speaker 25 00:25:32 I'm back, aren't I? What the hell is going on? Where's my dad? I don't know what to do. I, is she here? Dunno what to do, Rick, tell me what's going on. Speaker 26 00:25:52 I took off to find help. Could I go to the police? I mean, what are they gonna do? Could I call a priest Speaker 25 00:26:00 And Speaker 26 00:26:01 What? Maybe a hospital. What if I'm hallucinating? I saw a car I had to check. So I look in the passenger side window and there's Sylvia, and then I look at the driver. Sylvia, am I the only one seeing this? Speaker 25 00:26:25 'cause on Friday it's gonna be another beautiful day with a high of 77 and a low of 52. Next, I'd like to play a selection from the, uh, 1955 album Gene Group. Buddy. Rick. Rick. Rick, where are you? Rick, Rick, help me Speaker 26 00:26:43 By the time I got home, Rick, I'm here. Where are you Rick? Sylvia was everywhere. Rick, Rick, I'm back. Sylvia, I can't help you. I'm, I'm back. I'm, I can't Rick, come on please. Just go home. I'm fine, please. Everything's No, no, it's not what Go home. Please throw away all of you. Just please go home. Speaker 0 00:27:11 In October of 2012, Jonathan and his team produced a story called That's Democracy, which to date is one of their most popular episodes and was eventually turned into a short film. I think you've said you guys actually recorded that in, in an actual classroom, right? Yeah, Speaker 1 00:27:28 That's right. Yeah. A friend of mine was, um, a principal at a school, at a high school in, in the Bronx. And we recorded that in a classroom. Yeah. Speaker 0 00:27:37 Yeah. And so the premise of that, of course is that there's this teacher, Mr. Morey's, kind of at the end of his rope already and could even call it an experiment or should we just call it like a nervous breakdown, uh, with, with his class? Speaker 1 00:27:49 Well, yeah, I He's not mentally stable. <laugh>, right? Speaker 0 00:27:52 Yeah. I mean, um, Speaker 1 00:27:54 He, the idea was that he doesn't really have control over his class. His class doesn't respect him, and so he decides he's going to try to make them respect him, you know, by using this gun. He has. It's a pretty powerful story. It's, it's, I don't want to spoil anything because, because I think not knowing what's going to happen is, is crucial to staying interested in the story and, and, and, and it's, and have it having the effect, the desired effect you want. Mr. Speaker 27 00:28:24 Moore, what are we voting for? That's a great question, Tammy. In fact, that's the first good question we've heard all day. What are we voting for? What's at stake? You are voting for a representative, somebody who's vested with the terrible responsibility of making a decision on behalf of all of you. Oh, okay. Well, what decision are they making? Who gets to live? Whoa, that's fake. Speaker 0 00:28:58 I mean, that one, that one was, um, adapted into a short film. Speaker 1 00:29:02 That's right. Yeah, it was, yeah. Speaker 0 00:29:04 What, what was it like to see an interpretation of your work in a different medium? It's okay. Speaker 1 00:29:10 <laugh>. Speaker 0 00:29:11 I dunno, Speaker 1 00:29:12 I don't know. I it's okay. I mean, it's, it's happened. I mean, we had a feature film made based on a story called Hilly Earth Society starring Guy Pierce. That was thrilling. That was really thrilling because there's these words that Lewis had written, thought I'd heard a million times before, and here they are coming out of a, a cha another actor's mouth on a screen. You could see it. And somebody spent a lot of money on that. That's great. I don't know the, the, the stories are, are, are complete as audio pieces. I don't think that any of them need to be adopted. It's their thing, you know, it's the person making its thing. I'm happy that someone was creatively inspired by our work, but I'm not as invested in it as I am the show. Speaker 0 00:29:50 Would you ever, uh, imagine that it would be, that it would resonate with an audience the way it did? Speaker 1 00:29:55 No, no, not at all. Speaker 0 00:29:57 Yeah, I mean, I think I hear people in creative work say that all the time. Like they're kind of shocked that like, that one worked out and, and this one didn't. I dunno, that seems fascinating to me. Yeah, Speaker 1 00:30:07 I have no explanation for that. I, I think, um, I mean, I, I was working on it. Speaker 0 00:30:12 I don't think anyone does, frankly. Speaker 1 00:30:14 I, I was, uh, when I was finishing that piece the last week before it went up, or the week that it went up, I should say I was in Australia and I still trying to finish this. I hadn't finished this piece because we were, I mean, it was crazy schedule in those days. I hadn't <laugh>. Like eventually I got into a nice rhythm where I, I like, could live a normal life and still do the show, but in those days I was like, we were constantly recording things at a late, late into the process, and then I'd have like a week to put it all together. And anyway, I was still editing in Australia and I finally, I was like, I couldn't sleep because, you know, there are like 14 hours difference or something like that. And so I would be editing all through the night. Speaker 1 00:30:55 And one of the things I attended while I was there was a listening event where everyone, you know, we're in this theater and they play audio pieces for an audience, and that was the piece that they played. That was the first time I'd heard it after I made it was in front of this room theater full of people, and they loved it. It was like really, it was really electric. It was just the most exciting, one of the most exciting experiences I've had was being able to hear, uh, our piece right after it had been made in, in front of a full audience. And they, I just could tell they were on board. Wow. Speaker 0 00:31:30 I always think that's the, to me, just like personally is like, the hard thing about making audio is because, you know, you don't really get that real time feedback versus if like you're a stage actor or if you're, you know, like performing music. Uh, you know, a lot of times you get that energy from the crowd, uh, you know, a lot of times, like for me anyway, a lot of times making audio, at least the post-production side of it, it's kind of very lonely. It's just like me by myself being like, well, I hope, I hope this works. <laugh>. Yeah, Speaker 1 00:31:56 Yeah, yeah. I mean, I have, um, I have the, the writer and, um, our associate producer are sort of my, um, my rain trust in the post-production stages. So I always send drafts to both of them, and hopefully that's good enough. <laugh>. Speaker 0 00:32:11 Yeah, I mean, I think at the end of the day, a lot of us are just trying to entertain ourselves. At least my, my theory is, is like, I'm not very unique and I've got pretty simple tastes, uh, creatively. So it's like, if I like it, uh, hopefully other people do too. Speaker 1 00:32:24 Yeah, I mean, I don't, I, I've always thought of the, um, audience as being an aspect of myself just because that's the only thing I can really know. I can't really guess what another person will like, or how, how deeply they feel something. I can only judge that for myself. And so my strategy has always been to just trust myself, be honest to myself. That's the hardest part is being honest, honest to yourself about what you, whether you like something or not, because you can talk yourself into liking something if you don't wanna have to change it. And be careful not to do that, because that's, that's like, it's dangerous <laugh>. So just be honest or have somebody who can be honest to you about whether something works, someone who who's, who knows what you're trying to do and whose opinions you respect and you, you understand where they're coming from, so you know how to sort of interpret what they're saying to you. I think that's really, really important. But yeah, it's, it's, it's really hard. It's hard. It's, it's hard to gauge that kind of thing as you're doing it. Speaker 0 00:33:22 Do you feel like every episode you do is revealing some kind of truth? Speaker 1 00:33:27 I think that's what fiction does. Speaker 0 00:33:28 Yeah. We, Speaker 1 00:33:29 We don't set out like, what's the truth gonna be this time guys <laugh>. If we don't, we don't do that <laugh>. But yeah, I mean, I, I think, um, things you, you know, it's right when it feels true. Uh, and not literally true, but I mean true to the human experience, it's, it's expressing something we've all experienced somehow, you know? And so oftentimes fiction does that by, you know, putting things in completely unreal circumstances like science fiction or something. But, you know, science fiction is always about our contemporary life. So the fiction in general is like that, you know, it might look like it's about something fantastical, but it's really about just the things we deal with every day. For Speaker 0 00:34:08 Now, the truth is on hold and the future is uncertain, but after some 11 years, hundreds of stories and multiple awards to show for it, I feel confident in saying that Jonathan and his collaborators have shown us all that Ralph Waldo Emerson was right. Fiction does reveal truth. You can find full episodes of the [email protected] or anywhere they have podcasts. And now it's time for our podcasting tip where our guests share some wisdom with us. Speaker 1 00:34:37 I think the natural default mode for shows is to be mediocre, and you have to really work to make something great. And, um, it takes a, it takes a real discipline, and I think that's what we should all be striving for, is to make something that's great and not mediocre. That's what I would encourage is for people to really see it as something they could take seriously and, and, and turn into a real art form and treat it with, uh, respect and, um, not something that's easy or cheap, but rather something that's expressive and with depth And Beautiful Speaker 0 00:35:21 Audience is a Casos original series. Our founder and executive producer is Craig Hewitt. Production assistance is provided by Ecel Brill, Jocelyn Devore and Marnie Hills. Our website and logo design is courtesy of Francois Brill, our head of product here at Casts. This episode was written, edited, narrated, and produced by me. I'm Stuart Barefoot. All music comes from the Story Blocks Library. All previous episodes can be streamed anywhere you listen to podcast and online at audience podcast fm. Next time on audience, I chat with Jenna Flanagan from the podcast after Broadened Market about reporting on complicated stories with more nuance. Speaker 28 00:36:06 One of the things that I kept saying when we started this project was that even though it is going to take, I mean, it, it does take place in Newark, New Jersey. This could be any inner city, black community across America. Really, a lot of the same pathologies and systems of oppression, et cetera, exist from coast to coast.

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