Salt Institute for Documentary Studies

Located in Portland, Maine, the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies offers a 15-week immersion program for advanced undergraduate and graduate students in documentary writing, photography, or radio.
This blog is an update of current Salt students insights and musings.


Radio, Radio...

We are now in week six...Almost halfway there, and I've preserved some more precious tape and have decided that what I'm doing is almost certainly challenging and rewarding. I have yet to really sit down and have the more personal, dynamic interview with the subjects I am following, ( is that not the word I should be using? ) but I've established, to a degree, a level of understanding and trust, and they are all extremely passionate, inspired, and intelligent people. My arm hurts from holding a microphone "like a lollipop" in front of someone I'm trying to get to know.....but it feels so, so right..

Today I drove to Hiram, Maine, which put me on a beautiful scenic route. ( Hiram was this biblical dude who totally ruled the kingdom of Tyre, which is now the fourth largest city in Lebanon ).......Every state has a set of chain stores or gas stations that reminds you where you are. It's Kum & Go in Iowa, Pump & Pak in South Dakota, Sinclair- you can find these out west, particularly on the border of Colorado and Nebraska, and they are famous (?) for their giant green dinosaurs. In Oxford County, Maine, there are Valero gas stations. I had to stop there and get some Valero deli sandwiches and some gas.

Sitting down with a subject that I'd met only briefly after almost three weeks of e-mails and phone calls helps me actualize my story and what it's about. It's almost as if it takes me until that moment where the mic is turned on and my subject is speaking that I realize what this story could be. Questions are less anxiety-prone and more emphatic.

The more I do this, the more my confidence grows, and the more my interviewees respond with color and nuance. Scenes start falling together. I can log tape and start imagining where quotes will be positioned and what sounds fit as descriptive ambiance. I'm really into film, so I think it's fun to listen to what you've recorded and imagine writing a screenplay to a story that someone might find neat. And I say neat because even if that someone feigns exuberance after listening to my feature, I'll be happy in knowing that they got something out of it.

Side note: Portland drivers are some of the worst I've ever seen. No one uses their blinkers, and they drive out into the middle of an intersection, waiting, knowing that you are going to brake, even at high speeds, while they try to blend aimlessly into the oncoming traffic. Also, for prospective students: Move out to Maine a month before your program starts. Drive around and look for people and stories, read Studs Terkel, and figure out a way to tentatively imagine how something you're interested in could be turned into a story. Write, read, and research Maine everyday. Get up every morning early and go to bed late, and enjoy the wonderful coffee that the downtown Portland area has to offer, the morning or in the evening. Just don't stop working. That too, feels so, so right.....Lastly, when you're driving to meet your subjects, drive at high speeds and listen to Exodus. You will completely forget what you're doing and feel like an outlaw, and that's "the way life should be"..

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