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Transom Podcast

52 EpisodesProduced by TransomWebsite is an experiment in channeling new work and voices to public radio through the internet, and for discussing that work, and encouraging more. Our podcast offers some tasty little audio morsels to go.


In Conversation: Miranda July & Jennifer Brandel

What Miranda July Can Teach (& Remind) Us About Making Media for the Public

Admittedly, I over prepared for this interview. Beyond spending many evenings researching and thinking, I also hijacked every one of my hangouts with friends for months, turning brunches and walks into tactical conversations about July’s work and what makes it so compelling and unique.

Along the way, it became clear that Miranda July’s work shares much in common with public media’s work. Here’s just a short list of the overlap. Both July and public media makers:

* Produce audio / radio / video / films

* Publish a newsletter

* Make apps

* Perform live shows

* Sell branded bags for the super fans (July’s is not a tote bag for the farmer’s market, but it has quite a few compelling uses)

* Toggle between nonfiction and fiction storytelling

* Have a distinct sensibility, so much so that The Onion has had their fun with both July and public radio

* Create deep intimacy and empathy with audiences

All things were considered, which meant I had far too many questions for an hour’s worth of time. (Here’s what I had prepped for the interview, if you’re curious.) This also meant I surely missed a lot of opportunities to follow interesting threads that emerged, and go deep where my antenna sensed more to plumb, because there was just too much ground to cover.

So rather than present a straight Q&A, here’s a distillation and expansion on some highlights of the conversation … a quasi-interview turned “classy listicle” (if that’s not an oxymoron). The accompanying audio is fairly different from what’s below, so feel free to give both your time.

OK. On with it. Here are 9 key takeaways from my conversation with July — many of which I can’t help but think hold lessons and creative challenges and opportunities for public media.

* Audio work teaches rigor

* Make people feel the news

* Lena Dunham is coming for your job

* Comfort with vulnerability is a super power

* Not taking risks? Red flag

* Generosity over genius

* The audience = wild cards, and that’s great

* Audience engagement is an iterative process

* What some of you asked her




Though Miranda July may be most well known as a filmmaker and author, her earliest work was in audio, creating radio plays in her early twenties. One early piece was called WSNO Radio Sno: Broadcasting From the Coldness of Your Heart in which she played the host and all of the callers. I wondered how she decided on audio as one of her earliest forms of expression. She explained that the term “radio plays” wasn’t intentional — it came about as a kind of shorthand way to explain the work.

MJ: Really I wanted to be making movies and for some reason, it never occurred to me to just get as close to Hollywood or a professional filmmaker as possible. Instead, I would do things like what I called a “live movie,” which was aka a play, or a performance.

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