I spent last night standing outside in the rain, recorder in my hand and headphones on my ears, following people around a backyard in Northeast Portland as they picked plums. I was working on the first big project for the Summer Documentary Project: the radio piece.
My project wasn’t without a few hiccups. I came to MISC with a big radio making dreams, so I picked a topic that I thought would be extra challenging. I set out to document Jefferson Dancers, a professional dance program at Jefferson High School. My dream was to create an awesome audio illustration of dance to tell the program’s story. I quickly realized, however, that high schoolers don’t go to school much in the summer. I know, I probably could have seen that one coming. So with the clock ticking, I turned to Portland Fruit Tree Project (PFTP), another non-profit that had caught my eye.
As I started emailing PFTP staff to ask to attend a harvest, I also got to work researching the program. I wanted to learn as much as I could about their work before I started interviewing. It wasn’t hard to find a lot about the work they do online. I don’t want to spoil my hard-hitting radio piece, but the basic premise of PFTP is this: People have fruit trees that they can’t take care of. PFTP sends volunteers to those trees. The volunteers harvest the fruit and divide it between themselves and a local food bank. Last year, according to PFTP’s statistics, they collected over 50,000 pounds of fruit that might have otherwise rotted in Portland’s backyards.
When I finally got to the harvest last night, I was excited. I felt strangely prepared, probably because we’d been doing so much preparing over the last few weeks. We’ve talked about story structure and interview skills, and I was ready to finally try it all out.
In the end, it went okay. It rained a lot. I made some mistakes. I asked some good questions. And even though I was soaking wet and covered in sticky plum juice by the end of the night, I was pretty happy. I’m going to one more harvest this weekend (It’s bike powered!), and then I’ll write up a script and edit my little heart out. It feels great to be making something.
But I wasn’t the only aspiring radio producer flexing their muscles this week. I talked to everybody else to see how they’re getting along.
Until next time!