My First Featurette!

Guess what came out yesterday! A How I Built This episode with a featurette that I helped produce! I actually had a hand in editing a small part of this episode, for the very first time and I just can’t get over it!!!!! (Listen to it here)

So, the show, as I think I’ve mentioned, is all about entrepreneurs and the story of how they got to where they are. At the end of the show, there’s a ~4 minute featurette about a product/company that one of our listeners is building. They write in to us (at build.npr.org in case anyone wants to submit something!) about what they’re building, how long they’ve been doing it, some ups and downs they’ve been through… and I sift through all those responses for ones that stand out.

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Very generally, how it works is I usually call a potential guest up, chat with them for about 10 minutes, get a sense of the story and then take it to my editor, who decides what we should feature. Once we’ve got our pick, I do a test run with our guest (who we always interview remotely through an app and our studio and like… technology) and take care of other logistics like booking a studio booth in the office to record in, etc. I had to learn how to operate this small switcher thing so that my editor, our guest and I get to all be on this call at the same time and have it be recorded right into this software we use to manage audio files. The interview lasts about an hour, and then I get the audio file, listen to it, pick the best sound bites and try to carve out a narrative (which is harder than you might think, because in an hour long interview, the parts you use for a FOUR minute piece tends to be all over the place). As I pick clips, I’m also trying to write a rough draft of a script which will tie all the sound bites together…

…a draft which always gets pretty much entirely rewritten by my editor LOL. I feel like in the past I might’ve been totally crushed by this but, I don’t know, I don’t even mind. She’s such a kind and brilliant person that I just totally respect all her advice. I am constantly amazed by all the things she points out and thinks of so I’m always perfectly happy reworking things for her.

Anyway, after we’ve got a script, we take it to the host, Guy Raz, who “tracks” the whole thing. What that means is he listens to the soundbites and records his narration for the story as per the script we prepare for him (which he sometimes modifies a bit as he sees fit). And when he records stuff, he always does multiple takes on sentences and I have to pick the best one. Sometimes that means picking the first part of the second take and the second part of the first take, etc and editing it so that it sounds seamless. I’m not very good at this yet so I’m relying very heavily on help from all the other people on my team.

It was so much fun getting to edit my first featurette! Even though I still suck, it’s cool to see how much thought and care goes into crafting even a 4-minute post-script of an episode. I’m being pushed to think about things like, is it capturing the whole story? Are we leaving out anything important? Am I including anything superfluous? How do you make the story catchy while staying fair to the guest? and all of that stuff. Plus, I absolutely love how much attention is paid to detail: the words, the pace, even the breaths… everything needs to sound natural. The featurette (and the show) has lots of cuts for brevity, cuts to take out awkward umms and uhhhs but it’s edited so that it doesn’t sound like you’re just jumping from one part of the tape to another, if that makes sense. It’s kind of like how people try to avoid jump cuts in video.

I don’t think I’ll ever get over the feeling of hearing my own work on a podcast—an NPR podcast, no less!—for the first time. It is certainly bizarre and was by far the highlight of my week.

Anyway, I’m sorry this is late! First, I wanted to wait until Friday so I could write about the process from start to finish. But then on Friday I was just too tired and on Saturday morning I headed out to New York City for a nice lil trip for the long weekend. As I type, I’m eating a slice of cake from Magnolia (SO GOOD!) while watching The Lizzie McGuire movie, haha. I got back last night and am pretty tired so I’m just taking it easy tonight—I even passed up my ticket to see a Rupi Kaur reading this evening.

I hope you enjoyed this and that it wasn’t too boring. I know I’m probably just nerding out over this on my own. I’ll write about the trip in a few days but for now, I’m going to just…. take a shower and go to bed. Byeee!

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