How Fugitive Media Transforms Interviews Into Immersive Audio Stories

September 14, 2019

We spoke with Avi Glijansky, one of the founders of Fugitive Media and an award-winning writer, director and producer, about the team’s process and the tools they use to turn story ideas into narrative audio documentaries. Here’s what we learned.

The team

Fugitive Media creates podcasts, audio experiences, and branded content. Founded in 2018 by former television executive, a Black List screenwriter, and a writer/director/producer. 

Their work
American Hustlers, Passport, The Underdog Bet, and The 19th (all in progress)

Their challenge
Collaborate remotely with team members around the world to create immersive audio stories.

Predict the story, but leave room for it to grow

“We often have a very loose outline of what we think the show or episode is going to be before we go into an interview, but we never want to be too rigid,” Glijanksy says. “The goal is to identify the things we know we need to get, but leave space to see where the conversation goes.”

The lead producer creates a list of questions and passes it around to the team for their input.

“This is a really valuable step, because sometimes when you’re the one that knows the story best, you take certain things for granted as being understood. When people with less familiarity come in, they often unlock questions you may not have realized you need to ask.”

Interview in the subject’s space

To achieve that organic, lived-in quality of their interviews, Fugitive Media tries to interview people in their own environments whenever possible, as opposed to taping in a studio or a space that the subject isn’t familiar with.

“It can mean that sound is a bit more unpredictable, but it usually puts people more at ease to be on their home turf,” Glijansky says. “The other benefit is that it gives the interviewer a sense of who they are as people beyond the specific story that’s being talked about. Sometimes, a picture on a wall or a detail in the space can become a talking point that helps cement the rapport between interviewer and subject, and really helps the conversation be more open and honest.” 

Start easy and stay out of the way 

The Fugitive Media team likes to start with a subject’s background, even if it’s not completely relevant to the story.

“We want to get to know them, and help them ease into the interview. We try to ask our questions and then just get out of the way and let the subject answer. It’s tempting to interject or react, but as much as possible we want people to tell their stories in their words.” 

While in most shows the interviewer is never meant to be heard, the team records the interviewer for reference during the scripting and editing stages.

Go light with gear — it’s less intimidating

Generally, one or two team members from Fugitive Media do the interviews, keeping the gear as light as possible with “one or two recorders, shotgun and lav mics, small desktop stands, and a laptop or iPad for notes and questions,” Glijanksy says. 

“Our go-to kit is based around the Zoom H4nPro. Mostly we’re conducting the interviews as a sit-down, usually in the subject’s space in a home or office, so having a small recorder helps keep things feeling relatively noninvasive and contributes to making folks comfortable.” 

If they won’t have another opportunity to interview the subject, the team runs two recorders so they’ll have a backup in something goes wrong — an SD card gets corrupted or there’s a problem with a mic cable. The team uses a shotgun mic (their go-to is the Audio Technica AT897) as the primary source and a lav for backup. 

Do a paper edit with audio 

Instead of the conventional and laborious next steps of getting the tape transcribed and reviewing and editing on paper, Fugitive Media simply uploads the tape into Descript, where the team can start editing and refining immediately. “With paper transcriptions, the content feels divorced from the media itself, with the story sometimes getting lost in translation between the producer and the editor.”    

“When we start getting tape, we use Descript to bring the project to life. Descript feels revolutionary compared to traditional paper edits because we do the audio, throw it into Descript, and it’s transcribed in minutes. The same producer can then quickly go through it, log it, and start working with it all in one place.” 

This also allows the Fugitive Media team to quickly incorporate new content on the fly without having to stop production for half a day to log everything. “With Descript, you don’t have to work in a linear fashion. You can find the bite you need and log everything later without interrupting the flow or schedule.”         

Write the script using your tape

With their interviews in Descript, the Fugitive Media team jumps in and starts refining the content, cutting and pasting audio to shape the bites into the clearest version of the interview, and then incorporating those pieces of the script into a shared Google Doc. 

“We start writing the script in Google Docs at the same time we’re working together in Descript. We come from film and TV, so we have that writer’s room/film development mentality where you spend time breaking the story apart and putting it back together in a collaborative way.”

The amazing thing with Descript is that it’s so easy to edit and work with the audio to match what you hear in your head.

Once the team adds recordings from the voiceover booth into Descript, they start editing the audio, dropping in a temp track, and adjusting placement. The resulting file gets handed off to the sound team to refine into the final product.         

Everyone edits

Using Descript also means that even someone without audio experience can start pre-editing content. “If we’re working with a producer who is, for example, a playwright with no knowledge of editing tools, she can jump into Descript and start getting a sense of the story, begin working with it, and putting together bites. That is crazy exciting for us.”  

In addition to making the creative process easier, Descript saves the Fugitive Media team precious time during an already tight production schedule. “In the grand scheme of things, Descript shaves about a week of time off of production.” 

Coming soon from Fugitive Media 

The creative studio will be launching several new projects in the coming months. “We’re really excited about one of our new shows, called Passport, which is an anthology with unique stories from around the world.” 

As Fugitive Media ramps up its production pipeline, Glijansky is thankful his team can rely on Descript to support the editing process. “I can’t imagine doing this the old way anymore.”

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