Crohn’s didn’t Kill the Radio Star: A Reflection

Before you read this, please check out the accompanying audio-visual piece, which can be found here.

Gemma is by no means a victim of her condition – quite the opposite in fact. She’s lively and positive in nature – which I know from having known her for a number of years. This allowed me to frame the story in a way that was best representative of her character. For this reason, I start and end the piece and the raw interview with by asking Gemma to talk to me about her achievements, successes and dreams for the future. I wanted to create a piece which was rewarding for myself, Gemma and an audience.

I spoke to a medical professional and did extensive research into the disease, ensuring that I could write about it knowledgeably and respectfully. I feel this piece was an important one to produce, as the combination of the audio-visual presentation, as well as the accompanying lede, informed an audience of the largely taboo subject that is IBS and associated diseases. I also aimed to inform a potential audience in the accompanying tweets – offering extra information from reputable and relevant sources.

Twitter: Drinking Alcohol with Crohn’s Disease
Twitter: Crohn’s Disease is Severe IBD

In the first module for this semester, Siobhan McHugh talked about ‘aerobic listening’. This was essential in exploring story- additionally, the visual aspect required me to pay close attention to Gemma’s visual expressions and attempt to capture what I observed in the same way I was listening closely. I took an array portrait shots aiming to reflect Gemma’s positive nature as well as her hardships. I borrowed two photos which feature in the piece where she is talking about her time in the hospital. Although I did not capture these images myself, I felt they were important to include, giving variance and keep the piece engaging. I made the images black and white, as I found that colour was distracting and ultimately added nothing to the piece.

I made sure to let Gemma know what I planned to cover in the story ahead of time and reassured that she could call a time-out or refuse an answer at any point. I made sure to ask my interview questions in a thoughtful order – starting out light and positive – focused on her career, before easing into more difficult questions surrounding her disease. This was essential from an ethical standpoint, as my questions opened a discussion with Gemma about a life-threatening (and ultimately life-changing) experience. I also ended the interview with light and positive questions. This I believe was done in best practice, as I’m sure it could have been a jarring experience for Gemma if I didn’t lead the conversation in a lighthearted and positive direction. Additionally, if not framed in a positive manner, this story may not have been helpful for the viewer.

I wanted to create a relevant and engaging audio aesthetic – the subtle radio-static was added in post-production, as was the recorder click heard between segments – to signal a change in topic and give the viewer a moment to process. It was difficult finding a musical track which I felt fit this piece, but I believe I chose one which is warm and not overly dictative of the mood of the piece, nor is it overpowering or distracting to the listener.