Making the most of short form storytelling in radio

This week's podcast features Short Cuts, a series of short form documentaries packaged together around a theme in a 30 minute programme for BBC Radio 4. It makes vivid use of sound, music and intriguing production techniques to showcase interviews and documentary pieces from the UK and beyond.

Sophie Lording talks to the team behind the series, series producer Eleanor McDowall, executive producer Alan Hall and freelance producer Hana Walker-Brown.

They talk about finding and creating intimate yet exciting stories for radio, and discuss interviewing and recording techniques, the equipment used, as well as layering music and sound. Eleanor talks about the collaborative nature of the show where they can commission some of their favourite feature makers, not only from the professional world but from community radio and producers posting content online on sites like SoundcloudAudioboo and Mixcloud. The panel also talk about their inspiration for the series and offer their recommended listening to feature makers and audio enthusiasts - 99% invisibleUnfictionalABC’s 360 documentaries and Third Coast’s ReSound.

“If you’re lucky you’ll find a great story and if you’re even luckier a great storyteller. You can’t guarantee either of those but if you have the right skills you can guarantee the way the story is told. If you have all three you've struck gold.” – Alan Hall

To illustrate the series, the podcast includes the story A Tale of a Sickly Whale from the episode The Comfort of Strangers, where lighthouse keeper Dee Dee Conover talks about her encounter with a sickly whale and her attempt to comfort it. The piece was produced by Michel Montreuil.

You can also find this CoP Show podcast on our SoundCloud page.

Eleanor McDowall is a producer for independent production company Falling Tree Productions. As well as series producing Short Cuts she produced Something Understood and The Reunionand worked on several documentaries for BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio 3KCRW and the BBC World Service including Roller GirlsUnbuilding Detroitand Vienna and the Shadow of the Third Man.  She has a silver Sony Radio Academy award for producing The Reunion: Hurricane Katrina.

Alan Hall is the founder of Falling Tree Productions. With a career spanning over 23 years for both the BBC and Falling Tree he has built a reputation for long-form documentaries, music features and impressionistic radio. He has received numerous awards for his work, including Prix ItaliasPrix Bohemias and Third Coast and Sony Radio Academy awards. In his words "Radio producers are composers. They take words and sounds and make music out of them".

Hana Walker-Brown is a freelance radio producer. She won the 2013 Charles Parker Prize for feature making for her piece Four Metal Plates whilst studying for her MA in Radio at Goldsmiths University. As well as producing stories for Short Cuts including Sky Boy and Looking for Layla she has worked on Between the Ears for BBC Radio 3.