Barry Dickson’s Evaluation on 6-8 Minute Package.
When we first got together as a group we threw a few ideas around these included:
Edinburgh Culture, Students, Fashion, Disney, Digital Media, International News, Politics, Free Speech.
However we decided on Health as the topic and I decided to go with Smoking, however I did not want to do the much argued good v evil argument or the “it’s been bad for retailers and pubs etc. etc.” I wanted to focus on the smoker themselves and the problems that can occur when someone stops smoking simply because I was a smoker for many years as my wife was and we both stopped in January 2010 however my wife fell very ill with an underlying condition that was exacerbated by her giving up smoking and I thought it would make a good subject for a package because normally the whole giving up smoking thing is all about how good it is for you and while that may be true in the long term sometimes it is not true.
As a group we needed to decide what radio station and time of broadcast we would base our 1 hour programme on so everyone except myself said BBC Radio 1 Sunday Surgery which broadcasts at 10pm, I was very uncomfortable straight from the start and I let the group know this as I am now in my 40’s and BBC Radio 1 is not the radio station I remember and it is very much youth orientated which was fine for the rest of the group as they all fell into the target audience (15-25 year olds) for the radio station so I was outwith my “comfort zone” immediately and I aired my views to the group saying I thought we were backing ourselves into a corner by not exploring other radio stations etc.
I started straight away on the angle I wanted to use I also knew vaguely who I wanted to interview and also what I wanted from the interviewees.
My research was done by hitting the internet and the library to see what illnesses/issues could come from stopping smoking, i also had an in-depth discussion with my wife regarding her condition, i read some online forums about how people who had stopped smoking developed issues/problems when giving up and i also went onto discover a study done by the American Journal of Gastroenterology which gave an outcome of studies done in the connection with Ulcerative Colitis and giving up smoking.
I felt i was now ready to go and interview people armed with some research.
After deliberating for a while and dismissing other ideas on the subject which included the smoking ban, young people smoking, packaging of cigarettes and the financial side for pubs etc., I decided I really wanted to do the bad side of giving up smoking but also to stay aware of not being too negative and adding in how to stop smoking and where to go for help to stop. I discussed with my tutor the ideas I had and how I wanted to go about the whole package, this was where it was discussed that it needed to have the message that “yes you may have some health issues when you first give up but it’s better that than dying of cancer/heart disease etc. which I managed to do with the audio I managed to get from the doctor I interviewed.
So I started to form my package and I knew I wanted to interview my wife as she had major health issues when she gave up smoking, I also wanted to interview Dr Roy Robertson who has been a family doctor for many many years and actually dealt with my father as he was dying with cancer and I thought he would be ideal to speak to, so that was the medical side thought of and now I wanted to focus on the whole giving up smoking angle too but I wanted something different so I decided I would like to have someone who runs a smoking cessation group as an interviewee.
Now my wife, Dr Robertson and a lady from a smoking cessation group all agreed to be interviewed pretty much straight away although the smoking cessation lady had a hurdle her boss was on holiday and she needed her bosses permission to speak to me, however when she called me a few days later her boss was still off work and so she asked that if I interviewed her I would not use her name to which I obviously agreed as I felt her interview would be crucial to this package, I could have tried someone else but I wanted this particular person because my wife had actually attended smoking cessation classes run by this person.
The first person I interviewed was the smoking cessation lady and the place I was interviewing her was in her office 5 minutes from the college in an area I have spent pretty much all my life so I did not need to do a site visit or anything as I knew exactly where the office was, I got the equipment I needed checked it worked and then went to the interview, I came out of the interview very happy with the audio I got and knew I had some good stuff to use because not only did she cover what the classes done she also covered some of the issues that can come to the forefront once you give up, unfortunately on listening back when she spoke about some of the health issues there must have been a car parked right outside the window as you can audibly hear the music thumping from the cars stereo speakers which was not picked up through my headphones and the audio was unusable sadly as it would have added a good angle to it however there was still plenty audio to use form the interview.
The second person I interviewed was Dr Roy Robertson from Muirhouse Medical Group, I have known Dr Robertson pretty much all my life and I knew how experienced and knowledgeable Dr Robertson is due to him dealing with my father and indeed myself when I had health issues in 2011 and he also dealt with my wife throughout her health issues. Dr Robertson was a total delight to interview and if I only needed one interview for the package his audio would have filled the whole 6-8 minutes however I needed a minimum of four interviews, Dr Robertson covered a lot of issues including health, mental health but also what help you can get but he gave me the audio I needed for the end of my package which was pretty much yeah you may have issues when you first stop but these will ease and its better then dying of cancer etc. I came away from the interview knowing that Dr Robertson had indeed given me great audio to work with and I firmly believe this is justified in the package at how well Dr Robertson answered the questions and the information he gave. I interviewed Dr Robertson in his office at the surgery which again was very local and a place I know very very well.
It was at this point that I realised I did not have a fourth interview and I came across an interviewee by sheer accident. Christine McLoughlin who is a retail manager where I work was discussing her Hypnotherapy techniques and I asked her what she done hypnotherapy wise and I was very happy when she said she could help smokers give up smoking, I knew then that I wanted an interview with Christine as an alternative way to give up smoking. Christine agreed to be interviewed and gave me some great audio including stats on the success of hypnotherapy and also what she does for people if they relapse.
I believe my interviewing of a hypnotherapist as an alternative way to give up is justified in the audio that I got from her because I did not just want to do the normal route of giving up smoking and Christine provided me with what I needed to do that. The interview took place in The City Art Centre which is one of our places of work. So although Christine was the fourth interview to be arranged she was actually the third person I interviewed (if that makes sense)
The final interview I done was with my wife and I knew this was going to be the hardest one to get as she is still to this day suffering the effects of her illness (ulcerative colitis) and I knew I had to tread very carefully and delicately with her so as not to upset her too much because I knew how badly this had affected her but also knew that her audio could be one of the most important pieces of the package as this would be a real person telling a real story. However my wife was amazing she answered questions and made statements that would have been hard for her to do as she was re-living the experience but she also knew how important this was to me and although there was some tears she stayed strong enough to get through it and gave me her story and I feel the audio I used was some of the most important parts of the interview and gave the package a very real feel. We conducted the interview in our home as that was the most comfortable place to be because the condition is quite embarrassing to my wife, I feel if I had not got the interview with my wife the package may have fell down quite a bit because like I say I feel that some of her audio was vital to the progression of the package.
I had sent my wife’s consultant an email to see if I could have a chat with him but I did not receive a reply (one of my pet hates) but in the end it did not matter as I had all the audio I needed to put a package together.
I started editing and logging the interview using Pro-tools which in reality did not take too long as I had specific questions and knew what answers I was looking for and luckily all the interviewees were really good talkers so there was a great lack of erm’s and ahhs etc. etc. which is always a bonus and the editing and logging process was made a lot better and easier because of this, I also think my interview style is decent enough that people respond to me quite well because I know if I am polite and nice to people I would get a better reaction from the people I want to interview and this was certainly the case with all four interviews. i had to bring levels up while editing for Dr Robertson and Christine because they turned out to be pretty quiet although they sounded fine when i was interviewing them, when i was normalising the audio i was noticing that the levels were staying the same and not going to what i wanted however i managed to sort this by doing it all individually, i bounced, normalised and compressed the package.
Next I needed to record a presenter for the package, because we were all so busy I felt I didn’t want to take anyone in the class’s time up so I asked a tutor who was dealing with actors to recommend someone from his class if someone was available, sadly nothing was forthcoming so I asked Allan Martin from the class if he would do it and he agreed which was great and it actually worked very well and Allan’s voice fitted in very well with the tone, pace and language needed for the package. I recorded Allan and then listened back and I was advised that maybe the script I had written was not ideal for Radio 1 as some of my terminology wasn’t suited to that channel so I changed some of it and then re-recorded Allan and it worked a treat.
I then set about getting bed music which was one part I was really dreading because I am not really a big fan of today’s chart music I find it too manufactured and false so a lot of thought had to be put into this so I checked the Radio 1 playlist and also the UK top 40 to see what I could use but nothing was really suitable as far as I was concerned, I felt I really needed something that was connected to the package in some shape or form, I then found an instrumental version of Oasis’s Cigarettes and Alcohol and I thought it would be a great tune to use and this for me was vindicated when I played my package with this under it and it sounded good to me so I went with it all 8 minutes, but on the morning of the 1 hour show I listened to it again and decided I needed something else to go with it and I happened to stumble across The Prodigy’s Breathe which also came as an instrumental so I played Oasis for the first 4 minutes and then The Prodigy for the final 4 minutes and I believe it worked very well, I asked Liam Tait, Allan Martin and Stephanie Drake to listen to it and they all agreed that both were suitable for the package in terms of target audience, pace and tone.
I then put the whole package together and then realised I was about thirty seconds over the eight minutes limit so some drastic cutting had to be done so I cut some audio from the smoking cessation lady and some from Christine and also my wife and that took me to eight minutes in total and I was finally relieved but also very happy with what I produced.
Would I do anything different? I think I would have looked for some more audio to play with maybe someone with a different condition to my wife but also after giving up smoking, and maybe I should have been a bit more persuasive with my wife’s consultant and emailed or called him again, also I could have looked at more ways to give up smoking maybe acupuncture or something like that but I was very happy with all the interviews I done and all the audio I got. And maybe I could have found another couple of tune’s to play as bed music so that I would have had four tunes one for each person and a separate one for the presenter but I think that may have been too much for the listener.
As for things like time constraints I was very lucky certainly more lucky than most as almost all of my course work was done and handed in so I had quite a bit of time to concentrate on making this package and indeed I ended up ahead of schedule for a lot of things during this process but kept going through everything to make sure I had everything I needed and that I was indeed happy with what I had, I done a lot of work at home and during times like my lunch-break’s at work and as Saturday is my only day off at the moment almost every Saturday was spent doing work for this package.
I would be silly to think that this package is perfect, it is not and I know that however a great deal of thought and work went into it and yes I probably could have done some things differently and maybe taken a different approach but I may not have been as happy with the outcome as I am with this package.
My powerpoint presentation was not as good as it could have been for this subject as the tutor when giving me feedback on it said he was a bit confused as to what the story arc etc was, if I do something like this again I will make sure that it is crystal clear on what it is all about.
If there is anything I could write here that would it would be to get work in on time not just the package work but also all other college work as it will give more time to put packages together, also get interviews set up and recorded as soon as possible because I found that the editing and logging of the interviews to take the longest time during this process, never be afraid to ask questions or get something clarified there’s nothing worse than not understanding something and then getting it wrong. Practice questions more that way they’ll roll off my tongue and that way i may get an even better response from my interviewee, know what answers i looking for and be mindful that there may be a small nugget of audio gold in there that I’ve missed when recording. I would also say getting out of my comfort zone and stretching myself (not too much obviously) because if you get too comfortable you may make mistakes
I am very proud of the work I done for the package I feel I done it justice and that although I was very concerned about the Radio station it was for that I actually produced a package that would maybe be played on that station, I enjoyed putting this package together and found it to be a very worthwhile exercise and I have learned a lot from this experience.