Within this audio portfolio you will find a collection of audio work that I have produced as a 4th year radio student. My first project of the year will be my participatory production in partnership with Upstart. During this, I will focus on a short audio documentary. I will then write the script for a drama play and create an audio book from a children's story. Read, listen, criticize and enjoy my portfolio for 2011.


THE HERO THAT ISN'T- Throughout the first semester, I produced the documentary, 'The Hero That Isn't', about a 14 year old boy who had recently won the Makana Football League's best player and top scorer awards. Surely now he has the world at his feet, but he currently faces various obstacles in order to become a professional player.

In the following 3 sections, namely the proposal, the process and the reflection, I will illustrate the process of this documentary. Within the reflection section, you can listen to the finished product, 'The Hero That Isn't'.

Section 1: The proposal

1.1 Click here  to view my documentary proposal.

1.2 My documentary style was informed by those of other documentary makers. In gaining inspiration from these documentarians, I completed a series of listening diary entries. Click here to view my blog concerning this.

1.3 The following passage is my essay on researching 'the documentary'...
As part of my first step towards producing my audio documentary, I spent some time researching definitions on ‘the documentary’. Author and documentary specialist Gordon Govier had, in my opinion, a clear and understandable take on the documentary. Here I explain what his take is, followed by the approach that I wish to take in light of it. According to Gordon Govier (2003), a documentary goes beyond the easy answers, and strives for a new perspective on life as it really is. He describes documentary makers as going into “unchartered territory” to “pursue a distant goal”.  From Govier’s perspective then, the documentary is a vehicle for widening human knowledge about the world.  Govier understands the credibility of such knowledge to be based in good empirical research and with this a reliance on “fact”.  He also insists, however, that the impact of documentaries depends on more subjective elements, such as the power of images, and of controversy. It is Govier’s application of these ideas to radio documentaries that is of particular interest to me. He proposes, firstly, that that documentary makers working in this medium embrace the concept of “theatre of the mind” I like this statement, as it is such a true reflection of what I aim to create in the making of my documentary. By embracing the theatre of the mind, it prompts me to think of my audience as one that needs to be entertained and captivated, with drama to spark debate.  Secondly, Govier notes that radio documentaries need to use natural sound to “create audio environments”.  I believe that this also links to the theatre of the mind. Natural sound creates an authenticity to the audio work that allows the audience to relate and feel like they are there. So in light of this, what do I want my approach to interviewing to be in order to produce a documentary that creates the ‘theatre of the mind’?

I want my approach to interviewing to be as explorative as possible. That is to not go in with a specific focus, but allow the person I’m interviewing to make my story. I’m hoping that the people I talk to will have a broad and controversial outlook on their life and the way they see their progress in their potential to be a top sportsman. In this way it can create an emotionally moving story that will in turn allow the audience to be captivated throughout the whole documentary.

When editing the initial interview, I want to ensure that there are enough facts that relate solely to the core issues of the story that the interviewee will uncover. If there is any irrelevant information the audience might lose interest and will be confused with what exactly they are supposed to be listening to. I want these facts to be very descriptive and emotional so as to create an image in the audience’s head. This will enable the audience to feel a part of the documentary and thus become more emotionally attached to it.

Section 2: The Process

2.1 To help me begin the creation of my documentary, I did an essay on guidelines for fieldwork...

In continuing my process in the documentary and the audio essay, I did some social methodology research on the principles of interviewing and fieldwork. In doing this, I identified a number of guidelines to help me in my own fieldwork process. In brief, I identified four different categories- the need to conceptualise fieldwork before I start, the importance of ethics and building a good relationship with the people I interview, the importance of guarding against bias during the interview process, and the barriers that language can pose. The following passage will elaborate on this, by touching on the works of social research authors Steinar Kvale and Alwyn Moerdyk. 

According to Steinar Kvale’s seven stages of interviewing (1996), thematizing and designing are crucial to the preparation of the interview. When thematizing, the purpose of the investigation must be formulated and the concept of the topic must be clearly defined. The design of the study can be planned, by obtaining the intended knowledge and taking into account the moral implications of the study. In preparing for the interview, the documentary proposal I wrote gave me a guided platform on which to work from, and allowed me to familiarize with a clear concept of my story idea. Before each interview, I established a set of questions from which to work around, to ensure that I get all the information that I want.

Alwyn Moerdyk (2008), talks of certain strategies to interviewing when in the field. It is important to build a relationship with the interviewee, by interacting with the person in a warm and friendly way. Good communication is also essential. The interviewee must know what the purpose is for him/her to be interviewed, and the questions should be clear and concise as to get the best possible answer. Moerdyk also talks of ethics. When interviewing, he believes it is important to ensure that the interviewee consents to volunteer to do the interview, and that privacy must be respected. Ethics and building a warm relationship was especially important with Olwethu Fleck, the main character of my documentary. Olwethu seemed cautious and quiet at first when being approached to be interviewed, but I let him know exactly what the point of the interview was before hand, and I explained to him in general the kind of questions I was going to ask. I also shared a few jokes with him after just to leave on good terms, and to ensure that there is no awkwardness when I interview him again. In respecting his privacy, I asked him if it was okay that I give his mother and brother an idea of what he said, as interviewed them to get a better idea of the sort of person that he is. 

According to Moerdyk (2008), there are certain problems/challenges involved with the art of interviewing. Something to avoid is bias, because if one leans towards a certain side in an attempt to support the angle of a story, the story becomes invalid. I’ve kept the concept of bias in my thoughts when interviewing. For instance, when attempting to look for faults in the Makana Municipality when I conducted my interview with Olwethu, I asked questions relating to what the Municipality is lacking in terms of its contribution to development, but also followed this up with what the Municipality can do to improve the situation, and what the Municipality has in fact done well. Problems that can be caused by the interviewee are that of interview sophistication, and the self-fulfilling prophecy. An interviewee can be so experienced in being interviewed that this person may answer questions in a much more simplified way than before, due to being tired of answering the question so many times. This was potentially a problem with Rhodes assistant manager Mandla Gagayi. He is so used to being interviewed that it almost felt like he was prepared with answers, even those that aren’t relevant to the questions I asked. In the self-fulfilling prophecy, an interviewee may try and answer in a way that they feel will impress the interviewer. If this happens the interview can become unreliable. I felt that at times this was the case with Olwethu’s brother, as he felt his answers should have been as positive as possible towards Olwethu in order for the documentary to only present his good qualities.

Another challenge is that the interview can get lost in translation if conducted in a different language to the one that’s being used for the story, thus also increasing the unreliability. The issue of ‘lost in translation’ came into being when I did a vox pop on the talent of Olwethu’s soccer skills. The upstart supervisor summarised for me in English what had been said in Xhosa, but it wasn’t an entirely accurate account of what had been said, and I will thus ensure that I find out the direct translation. 

In summary, there are numerous variables I have to take into consideration when putting together the final content of my documentary. A factor that seems to be of most importance to take care of is that of unreliability. Bias, interviewee sophistication and the self-fulfilling prophecy all seem to have arisen from my interviews. But in light of the information that I have researched and expressed above, I will take note of this and ensure it doesn’t become a factor in my documentary.

For my final audio text, I commented on the process of crafting the documentary-

In crafting my documentary, I identified certain steps throughout the process in order to come to the final product. The following passage will describe the process I underwent once I had conducted my interviews, in light of Trisha Das’s “How to Write a Documentary Script” (2004).

The first step I took was the writing of the script, which changed numerous times throughout the process as I tried to pick the most clear and relevant audio material for the final product. In writing the script, I took note of Das’s views on what she terms ‘the three C’s” (2004:38), namely character, change and conflict. I was particularly interested in conflict. As Das aptly puts it, “life without conflict would seem abnormal and boring” (2004:39), which is very much in line with my personal philosophy. So when choosing the most appropriate material for my documentary, I had conflict in mind with the aim of sparking audience interest. The conflict in my documentary revolves around the problems with development, as it is conflict with Olwethu Fleck’s potential to be a professional footballer.. But since the focus of my documentary is largely on Olwethu, how did I incorporate the conflict into my story? I did this by making the point that Olwethu is an example of many others like him living in Grahamstown- i.e. he is a top player who may not fulfill his talent. I make this clear in my intro and with a voxpop of his teammates. This allows the problems to surface, as I then have the appropriate characters within my documentary to talk about it.

The next step I took in the crafting of the documentary was deciding on the use of narration and sound elements. I used Das’s ideas on how to effectively use narration. In summary, Das raises the points of keeping narration modest, relevant and simple (2004:43). Narration shouldn’t overpower the actuality. “If something is being shown visually, then there is no need for the narration to mention it as well” (Das 2004:43), So in ensuring this, I only included the narration on what Das terms a “needs basis” (Das 2004:43) i.e. only when the audience needs to be kept in the loop and reinforced with information so as to understand what is to follow. In keeping the narration simple, I used words and sentences that were to the point and easily digestible. Similarly, the sound elements I used were there only to enhance the entertainment aspect of the documentary. For instance, the song I used in the background was an apt choice as it bodes well with the theme of sport without distracting the audience from what is being said by the characters. The wildtracks of soccer games are also there to just link to the theme and keep the audience interested with the variety of sounds, whilst at the same time subtly allowing the voices to be the main part of the documentary.

Once I established my script, and all the sound elements I wanted to use, the final phase of the crafting of the documentary was to edit the final audio package. Whilst doing so, I bared in mind Das’s concepts of “emotional pertinence” and “visual pertinence” (Das 2004:40).  Throughout my editing of the documentary, I continuously changed the structure until I was satisfied with one that not only made logical sense, but kept it entertaining for the audience. For instance, if one person was talking for too long, I would either split different parts up to merge with other voices, or lose some parts altogether. “It is important for the scriptwriter to structure sequences according to the point in time they appear” (Das 2004: 42). I also cut my documentary down from an original 22 minutes to 14 minutes. There were several reasons for doing so. One was to cut out all the parts that were hardly audible (i.e. the excessively windy parts). Another was to cut out parts that weren’t directly to the focus I was hoping to achieve, either because it was irrelevant or was leaning towards a point that I hadn’t taken far enough to use. Another was to make my ending shorter, as it dragged out for too long, and this is where Das’s point of emotional pertinence ties in. According to Das, emotional pertinence can be achieved by “emphasizing emotional details or triggers which will provide the desired emotional response from the audience.” I believe by editing my ending I did this. Originally, my ending almost had two endings, where the music came in at two different points, leaving the audience unsure as to when the documentary was actually going to end. By using the music only once, and for a shorter length, it gave me the opportunity to use only the material that I felt would really touch the audience. Hence, it ends with a voxpop of Young Killers voices stating how good a soccer play Olwethu is, followed by one of my voices saying you can only achieve good things in life by believing in yourself. This shorter ending was the trigger that aimed to leave the ‘goosebumps’ feeling with the audience.

So in conclusion, there are various tools that Das has in her article ‘How to Write a Documentary Script’, and this helped me on my way to crafting the documentary, from writing the script, to using the right sounds, to the final editing touch.

2.2 I then reflected on the challenges of my documentary with a series of radio talks. "Who is Olwethu" shows the challenges I faced in the early stages of my fieldwork. "The Introduction" talks about the opening phases of putting the documentary together.

Who Is Olwethu?


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The Introduction

The Process

Section 3: The Reflection

The Hero That Isn't

The Final Step