I’ve been incredibly lucky with this course and it seems like it’s the gift that keeps on giving! In this recent teaching block, we got to visit the studios at BBC Bristol and experience what it’s like to record and be recorded! Before I went, I was convinced that I wouldn’t volunteer to be recorded because I hate my posh, croaky voice but what I didn’t know was that I was in for a small voyage of self discovery!
Immediately after we all got our visitor passes at reception, the phones were whipped out and everyone was busy posting on Snapchat about being there. While waiting for our module manager, a previous senior producer at the BBC, we got to meet and talk to a few people coming to collect guests from security. One man had arrived to work at 5am (on a Saturday), gone ice skating, produced a programme and was still alive at 9.30am! I must admit that the thought of doing so much in a morning is very enticing, I often feel like I waste my mornings dawdling and worrying about whether my fringe is the right shape while instead I could be sliding about on an ice rink and interviewing guests!
Our module manager led us to ‘the green room’ which was essentially a large room with a green carpet and chairs upholstered in the same fabric; exactly what it said on the tin. A short briefing in this room was followed by a tour of the studio we would be using and it was nothing like I imagined! I’ve been used to watching BBC Radio 1 live lounges on YouTube which always seem dimly lit and cosy but this room was far from claustrophobic. High ceilings, a small table, a few chairs and a futon were the main features of the room, as well as five tall cushioned screens that could be wheeled into different positions to baffle the sound and reduce any echo. It would have been an incredibly isolated place to spend time alone; the quiet was intense!
Our first task was to create a three minute discussion package which we had 10 minutes to prepare. It’s amazing what five people can come up with in such a short amount of time and as the presenter of our imaginary show, I was really nervous about delivering the content properly! The first thing that I noticed when I put on the headphones was that I could hear myself talking, which I assumed would be really off- putting during the ‘show’. It was easy to tune out from this though and after delivering my opening lines and getting the discussion going with my three ‘guests’ I started to get into a bit of a rhythm. With the ‘producer’ talking in my ear and telling me how much time I had left I suddenly began to panic; how do you end a radio show? The previous group had ended on a song but while the seconds ticked away I couldn’t think of a single song title or band to finish on! I did the only thing I could think of and passed the song suggestion baton onto my unsuspecting friend who was playing a guest. I felt like a terrible person as her eyes widened and she managed to splutter ‘Coldplay!’ at the microphone but we got through it and everyone had a good laugh about it afterwards!
After this experience it struck me the amount of preparation that actually goes into a good discussion programme. The presenters that we hear sound like they’re improvising when in fact they’ve planned how everything in a show is going to go and I wished I’d had the sense to remember that endings are just as important as beginnings!
The second task was to make a three minute drama with two scenes and incorporate three sound effects; a barking dog, a ticking clock and a storm. Immediately my group had the idea of an Agatha Christie- style murder mystery. Obviously, there would be no time for much scene setting and our opening sequence was to have all the characters arriving at a party thrown by the protagonist. This part went on for quite a while with our designated director opening and closing a fake door seven times to signal everyone entering the imaginary house! We had considerably more time to come up with this idea but 45 minutes is nowhere near enough time to fully form a good drama! I think we did a great job though and it was amazing to work with so many people who had endless ideas!
After the real studio manager had edited our sketches in a matter of minutes, everyone got together to listen to them. No one could keep a straight face during either of the pieces but what was amazing was how much better they sounded after the editing; cutting out awkward pauses and speeding up our opening scene made it almost worthy for broadcast! Of course, I’m 100% joking; the muffled laughter at the end of our sketch when we realised the clock wasn’t as dramatic as we hoped was definitely not very professional but at least we had fun!
Overall, the day was amazing, I had so much fun seeing behind the scenes and getting to do some hands- on radio! It’s actually inspired me to try and get into radio in the future; there are all sorts of science programmes out there that might have a Jennie shaped hole in them! My career choices change every day though, but I never thought I would enjoy radio as much as I did and even after one day of recording, the posh croak of my voice doesn’t grate on me as much as it used to! So, stay tuned; I could be bouncing over the air waves into your radios at some point in the future!