Interview: Kaitlin Prest at Podcast Movement

IMG_1865Kaitlin Prest is an audio artist working in radio, performance and installation. She is the creative director and host of Radiotopia’s The Heart, where she explores intimacy through innovative approaches to sound and storytelling. In 2015 she was the first podcaster to win the prestigious Prix Italia Award, for radio play Movies In Your Head. Her documentary work was awarded the Hearsay Festival’s Overall Prize 2014, and the National Community Radio Awards Outstanding Achievement in Documentary 2011. She has presented her audio performance and installation work at documentary and audio festivals around the world.

We decided to interview Kaitlin because we believe that her ability to produce and create quality audio storytelling can be inspiring to those of you who are willing to create something similar. So, let’s just start with the interview:

Your podcast The Heart is incredible, sincerely. How can you be so good at talking for hours about sex and relationships in such a sensitive way: slightly suggestive, yet still so delicate?

Thanks so much! I’m blushing! Hard to answer that question….I think it’s just that it’s the way I actually am. I genuinely LOVE this topic, I’m obsessed with it. I think through the lens of love and sexuality you can magnify much larger social issues. In terms of my ‘radio affect’, I am sincerely curious about people’s most intimate selves, I’m more comfortable talking to someone about their darkest desires than I am about anything else. I think that comes through in the radio I make. I’m a naturally sensual, super sensitive, touchy-feely person.

How much time do you spend on content creation, and how much do you dedicate to the production side?

At the Heart, the amount of time we spend on content creation and production varies. Most often, months go into every part of the process: researching/digging for a story, collecting the material we’ll use to make the story, interviewing, drafting the narrative, sound design. We iterate multiple drafts of each story we do. Each minute of the show probably receives between 5 and 20 hours of attention. That being said, sometimes one of us will randomly be inspired and make something amazing in a matter of weeks. Samara Breger’s production on “Violet”, or when Sharon and I made “Harry”, or when Mitra wrote “Bobby”. But other pieces take a long time. “Mariya”, “Silent Evidence”, “Movies In Your Head” were all years in the making.

You’re an audio documentary artist and an audio storytelling consultant; what do you think is the key to setting up a good show? 

There are a lot of important things about setting up a good show—I’ll name my top two.

A: Find a team, or a creative/collaborative community. Everything I make is made stronger by the smart and talented people that I’m surrounded by. The Heart is good because we make it collaboratively.

B: Master the craft. Learn the science of sound. Learn the science of story. This is important for the kind of radio I love most, but obviously there are some amazing shows that are based on incredible reporting/documentary skill. So I guess I’ll throw in a third thing:

Be tapped in to questions we don’t have the answers to yet.

What would you say to help the new generation of future podcasters who have a great story to tell, but are only just getting familiar with audio storytelling – like Allison Behringer of The Intern Podcast?

Advice? Keep doing it. Practice. Remember what Ira Glass says about being shitty for the first 10 years of your career! You just have to keep making stuff. It’s hard to get people to remember you—failure is forgettable. No need to be afraid of trying things out and putting them out in to the world! It will help you get better!

What is your favorite podcast?

My fave podcasts right now? Usually, I like artsy shit like Pejk Malinovski or Gregory Whitehead or really beautifully made fiction like Jonathan Mitchell’s ‘the truth’ or Jonathan Goldstien’s Wiretap or Joe Frank (not a podcast, just a great radio maker).

But my faves right now are: There Goes the Neighborhood and The Uncertain Hour. Two really well reported podcasts about issues that need to be talked about. Gentrification, and poverty. They’re both genius.

Well, thank you, Kaitlin, for all the tips and for giving us an idea of how you work. We believe you’ve given our readers enough material to start figuring out how to produce a great storytelling podcast.

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If you want to learn more about podcasting, you should come to Podcast Movement and check out Kaitlin’s sessions. You can also come and meet us at our booth in the exhibition hall. Until then, if you have your thoughts or feedback about this post, please let us know through the comment section below.


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