For our project in our first term of third year, myself and two friends (Hannah and Sam) made a documentary all about Dyslexia. It was something that we dedicated a lot of time and energy to, but we didn't realise it would be one of the best pieces we've ever made to date.
There's been a lot of good publicity about the documentary, including interviews with previous students, tutors and even people in the industry! It's been mega! And I have to admit, it's a great feeling to know that your work is being appreciated and above all - being listened to!
I'd love to be able to list all the things that make a good radio documentary but I believe that there isn't just one way to do it. It depends on the topic, the treatment and how you want to structure it that all contribute to whether it's a great piece or not. And it's down to the individuals who make the documentary as to how they want it to sound - ultimately, there's no right or wrong way that is generic and can be applied across the board.
At one point, we were in an editing studio for 13 hours straight re-editing, then re-re-editing and it was just so stressful and very very difficult, especially when you're all getting tired and crabby with each other. Somehow though, we managed to pull it off. I know that there's still parts that I listen to that still get me each time, and that to me is what makes a good documentary; Because even though you're one of the creators of the piece, and you know how it's edited and how you want to provoke a response, it still manages to grab your attention or get an involuntary "aww" out of you. That's how you know you've done a good job, not just for yourself but for the documentary as a whole.
Regardless, there's still some little tweaks I'd like to make here and there, but I was once told in a lecture that when you stop wanting to change things in your work, you've lost your passion for it. We're forever trying to improve our work and so it's only natural to hear little bits that you want to change. However, I'm still pretty proud to be connected with such a fab piece of work.
If you want to listen, please do at: https://soundcloud.com/messy-handwriting
It's called Messy Handwriting, Bad Spelling which was actually a quote from one of our interviews. We thought it sounded quite ambiguous and maybe more people would listen if they didn't realise what it was about - out of curiosity. We had an amazing array of people contributing to the project, all of which I couldn't be more grateful to! I suppose Henry Winkler, a key contributor, was perhaps the person who really helped to get the project noticed. It was an honour to interview not just Mr Winkler, but all those others too, because without them, we certainly wouldn't have done as well as we did.
One of the reasons we spent so long in the editing suite is because we couldn't decide how to tell their story. A narrator all the way through sounded too conventional, it seemed to pull you away from their stories and make you remember that you're listening to a documentary. So instead, we used clips of narration, voiced by children who were our target audience, when needed to help guide the story as well as music. The music is by far one of my favourite elements in the documentary; You need to be so selective and careful when you're using it, especially if it seems out of place, but the music that we used was a great find and fits in beautifully.
I think the reason why our documentary works is because we gave those people a voice. That's what radio should be about afterall. It's about giving the listeners a chance to voice their thoughts and experiences to others without too much interference on the producers part - or at least I feel that that should be the case. We managed to achieve fantastic, heart-warming, in-depth interviews with those who are experts on Dyslexia and those who suffer or have suffered with it. And because of them, they were able to tell their own stories with little help from us.
So please have a listen, I can almost guarantee that you will begin it and listen right through to the end.
Messy Handwriting, Bad Spelling - A Radio Documentary on Dyslexia by Gemma Benefer, Sam Munson and Hannah Butcher.