Verite + 1: An Audio Competition
Help Big Shed start a movement.

The results of the 2011 Verite + 1 Audio Competition
Verite + 1 is a competition created to encourage the creative exploration of audio verite production. The simplest to describe "verite audio" is to imagine the sound of life happening, as it would without the recordist being there. We challenged producers to create work almost entirely out of verite recordings. But we gave them a lifeline, a "plus 1" -- could conduct one interview to help set the context for their stories. (Click here for full rules and details.)

Our judges listened carefully to each piece and chose a winning entry and an honorable mention. And Big Shed has chosen to recognize one more piece with a Director's Choice award.

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Verite + 1 Winner: One for the Commandant (5:50)
Produced by David Weinberg
weinberg
"In 2007 I worked at a restaurant in downtown Seattle. On my breaks I hung out with Edgar, Catfish and Hans, the bums who lived in the area. On this particular night I brought along my tape recorder and listened to Edgar tell stories and argue with his posse. Later I made a story about my friendship with Edgar and Hans and played it for a couple of my radio idols. Their advice was the same. I wasn’t setting up the characters in the story in a way that any sane, stable person could relate to. I tried to revise the piece but eventually abandoned it and moved on to other projects. When I saw the verite contest I immediately thought of the pushup contest between Edgar and Catfish and framed it with excerpts of Edgar's story. So pull up a five-gallon bucket and enjoy One For The Commandant."

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Honorable Mention:
We Fell Asleep But Our Dreams Were Sweet (29:58)
Produced by Stacy Bond
bond
"When my youngest sister was 27, she died in a nighttime car accident on the way from her home in Mozambique to South Africa. She was with friends, and had planned to attend a New Years celebration. Robbers took her shoes, but left her purse.

It took those of us who loved her a while to understand that she wasn’t anywhere anymore, after that. Even if we looked everywhere, we would never find her. About a year after her death, my mother, my other sister, and I met up in New York to attend a séance conducted by the Medium George Anderson.

We came from different areas of the country – Clearwater, Washington, DC, and San Francisco. We talked with our mouthsfull, and tried to shore ourselves up without being obvious about it…"
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Directors' Choice Award:
Losing Her Sex Scene Virginity (20:39)
Produced by Laura Herberg
herberg
"Rachel Parsons was recently cast as the lead in her first feature length film, a low budge independent one. In this story, Rachel is about to shoot the sex scenes for it. Rachel has never shot sex scenes before and she almost didn’t take the part because she wasn’t sure that she wanted to do them.

The piece begins with Rachel and her co-star Tyler on set, mentally preparing for the sex scenes. They thought it might help their performance if they stayed in character in between scenes, so they are making out. Rachel neglected to mention this plan to her jealous boyfriend, Rodney.

I originally produced this story with narration and interviews. These moments of verite were taken from tape for that story, some of which made it into my original piece and some of which didn’t. Rachel is my best friend from high school."

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Esteemed Judges
We're so happy to present our esteemed panel of judges.

John Biewen is veteran radio feature producer, the Director of the audio program at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University and the editor of Reality Radio: Telling True Stories in Sound.

Peter Leonhard Braun, one of the most influential radio feature producers ever, recognized by the Third Coast Festival in 2007 as an Audio Luminary and the Head of the Radio Department at Prix Europa. Mr. Braun's work is an initial inspiration for the idea of Verite+1 as many of his features use long stretches of verite audio interspersed with short, poetic narration.

Erik DeLuca is a composer and audio artist who specializes in natural soundscapes. He is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Virginia's McIntire School of Music and was recently the artist in residence at Crater Lake National Park, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska, and Acadia National Park in Maine.
Kara Oehler is one of the best young documentary feature producers in North America, co-Director of the UnionDocs Collaborative in Brooklyn, New York and co-Creator and Director of Mapping Main Street, an ongoing collaborative multimedia documentary project.

Julie Shapiro is the Artistic Director of the Third Coast International Audio Festival, and therefore, one of the world's foremost curators of audio documentary. She is an audio art and documentary producer as well.

Jesse Dukes of Big Shed has been working as a journalist since 2005, producing audio and multimedia stories for radio and the web. He also writes magazine articles. When he isn’t working from his home in Charlottesville, VA, Jesse’s frequently on the road, from central Alaska to Cairo, Egypt.

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Verite + 1 Submissions
We are thrilled with the results of our first Verite + 1 contest, and we hope you enjoy these stories. Thirteen producers (in some cases teams of producers) stepped out on this creative limb with us and submitted stories for consideration.

We will post full versions of each story in the coming weeks, once we've had a chance to podcast a few. Until then, we've posted short audio hushpuppies for each story (30+ second clips). The entries are listed in alphabetical order by producer name.

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At Home in New Orleans (12:06)
Produced by Eve Abrams
Abrams
"It was a week before Christmas. My husband was practicing for a gig. I was madly making presents. And then, the phone rang..."

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Clown Car 1983 (13:14)
Produced by Nic Beery
beery
"Nic Beery was a clown with Ringling Bros. in 1983. While moving from one town to another on the circus train's clown car, where he and 25 other clowns lived, fellow clown Greg Mooney held court in his roomette. Nic didn't know Greg was "borrowing" his tape recorder, capturing some incredible verite."

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Martin the Troublemaker (17:31)
Produced by Deborah Begel
begel
"One would expect the only woodworking shop in the country devoted exclusively to making Spanish Colonial Furniture would be a solemn place. But that was not the case when Martin E. Martinez showed up.

Deborah Begel sat down with her husband Ernesto Ulibarri, also a furniture maker, to talk about the man with the big heart – and the big mouth."

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We Fell Asleep But Our Dreams Were Sweet (29:58)
(Honorable Mention)
Produced by Stacy Bond
bond
"When my youngest sister was 27, she died in a nighttime car accident on the way from her home in Mozambique to South Africa. She was with friends, and had planned to attend a New Years celebration. Robbers took her shoes, but left her purse.

It took those of us who loved her a while to understand that she wasn’t anywhere anymore, after that. Even if we looked everywhere, we would never find her. About a year after her death, my mother, my other sister, and I met up in New York to attend a séance conducted by the Medium George Anderson.

We came from different areas of the country – Clearwater, Washington, DC, and San Francisco. We talked with our mouthsfull, and tried to shore ourselves up without being obvious about it…"

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At The Pigeon Show (15:01)
Produced by Hethre Contant
contant
"Think of your typical pigeon. Now imagine a pigeon with tail feathers are fanned out like a peacock. Got it?
 
At the Faircount Pigeon and Dove Show in Southern Connecticut pigeons like the one you just imagined actually exist. There are many other strange looking birds here too: some have curly feathers, others have long legs, some look like chickens, and some... you couldn't even begin to imagine.
 
These creatures are known as “fancy birds.” At the pigeon show, much like at dog shows, birds are judged by the standards of their breed. On the stage of the VFW Hall, where this is taking place, prize birds are being raffled off. In a few minutes there will be an auction of racing homers and outstanding show birds from top national breeders.

As the in men in attendance hear the PA, they leisurely gather to witness the events."

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My Dinner At Donna's (12:52)
Produced by Jamie Dell'Apa and Eve Abrams
dellapa
"Charlie Sims met his future wife, Donna (and her namesake bar) in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Donna's Bar and Grill had an international reputation for featuring New Orleans' brass band and jazz music but the entertainment was as much behind the bar and in the audience as it was on the musician's stage.

A year after Katrina, a secreted tape recorder captured the verite audio of Charlie and Donna Sims' conversations with bar patrons including Dave Bartholomew, Jr., Olivia Green and co-producer, Jamie Dell'Apa. Portions of the initial editorial conversation between Eve Abrams and Jamie Dell'Apa are also heard, mostly in the sequence they were recorded."
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The Power Between Your Legs (8:14)
Produced by Katherine Gorman, Matt Purdy
gorman
"Who gathers in Dupont Circle on a Friday night in January to ride bicycles?"

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What's a Stoplight to Me? (8:15)
Produced by Sam Greenspan
greenspan
"If you lived in public housing in Washington, DC in the 1990s, chances are you lived at the Capper-Carrollsburg projects in the city’s southwest quadrant. The DC government demolished the Capper-Carrolsburg in 2007. If you still had a place to live after that, it was thanks largely to Debra Frazier and Rose Oliphant. The two women had lived there, and organized their community to make sure no low-income person was left out of the area’s redevelopment plan.

In September of 2009, Amy Saidman, director of the storytelling group Speakeasy DC, along with independent producer Sam Greenspan, interviewed Debra and Rose about how they began working together. After the interview, Debra asked for a ride home--and Sam kept rolling tape. What follows is the post-script to that interview, which paints a portrait of Debra Frazier--and pulls back the curtain the documentary process--in a way that a standard interview could never capture."

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Creatures (5:00)
Produced by Jess Grosman
grosman
"Visiting the family farm for the holidays and caring for her sick mother, Jess spends what little down time she has worrying about the sounds coming from the other side of the wall."

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Losing Her Sex Scene Virginity (20:39)
(Directors' Choice)
Produced by Laura Herberg
herberg
"Rachel Parsons was recently cast as the lead in her first feature length film, a low budge independent one. In this story, Rachel is about to shoot the sex scenes for it. Rachel has never shot sex scenes before and she almost didn’t take the part because she wasn’t sure that she wanted to do them.

The piece begins with Rachel and her co-star Tyler on set, mentally preparing for the sex scenes. They thought it might help their performance if they stayed in character in between scenes, so they are making out. Rachel neglected to mention this plan to her jealous boyfriend, Rodney.

I originally produced this story with narration and interviews. These moments of verite were taken from tape for that story, some of which made it into my original piece and some of which didn’t. Rachel is my best friend from high school."

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The Golden Star Cafe (14:09)
Produced by Alexa Lim
lim
"The Golden Star Cafe is located in a rough section of downtown San Antonio between a jail, homeless shelter and the highway. It has been serving that community since 1932."

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Mercado de Cambio/Market of Change (29:52)
Produced by Kellia Ramares
ramares
"On Dec. 18, 2010 Poor Magazine hosted Mercado de Cambio, the market of change, at their Mission District offices in San Francisco. It was an afternoon of art, education and microbusiness, MC'd by Poor's Founder, Tiny, a.k.k Lisa Gray-Garcia, the event's "So Loud Santa". "

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One for the Commandant (5:50)
(Verite + 1 Winner)
Produced by David Weinberg
weinberg
"In 2007 I worked at a restaurant in downtown Seattle. On my breaks I hung out with Edgar, Catfish and Hans, the bums who lived in the area. On this particular night I brought along my tape recorder and listened to Edgar tell stories and argue with his posse. Later I made a story about my friendship with Edgar and Hans and played it for a couple of my radio idols. Their advice was the same. I wasn’t setting up the characters in the story in a way that any sane, stable person could relate to. I tried to revise the piece but eventually abandoned it and moved on to other projects. When I saw the verite contest I immediately thought of the pushup contest between Edgar and Catfish and framed it with excerpts of Edgar's story. So pull up a five-gallon bucket and enjoy One For The Commandant."






 
Verite + 1: An Audio Competition
Help Big Shed start a movement.

Below are the rules and description from the first 2011 Verite + 1 Audio Competition

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The awkward and wonderful pacing of everyday life can be both beautiful and difficult to hear. And we want to hear more of it!
We invite you to make a Verite + 1 documentary by
January 15, 2011. The winning entry will receive $250 prize and be featured in a special episode of the Big Shed podcast.


What is Audio Verite? Audio Verite is both a stylistic tool and a documentary ethic adapted from Cinema Verite or Direct Cinema. It aims to impart the effect of real life happening in real time. Applied to audio, verite refers to audio recorded in the context of events not prompted by the recordist. A true audio verite piece has no interview tape, stand-up, or prompted descriptions.  Verite avoids time compression or sonic layering.

Why are you doing this? We believe verite is a powerful and beautiful storytelling tool, which you’re unlikely hear on North American radio. Producers rarely use verite in their stories and when they do, editors often don’t understand where they’re coming from—finding the form confusing, overly long and potentially disorienting to listeners. We think this is lame. And we want to encourage producers to start working in verite, and we want to help listeners to develop an appreciation for it.
How does it work? You are invited to produce a 5-30 minute audio verite documentary. Send us your completed work [we’ll post uploading instructions soon]. A panel of judges including the Big Shed curators will select one winner and several honorable mentions. The winner will receive a $250 cash prize and the documentary will be a featured on a special edition of the Big Shed Podcast, along with an interview with the winning producer.  All entries will be posted online for public listening.  Keep reading for complete rules and a more in-depth discussion.

The Fine Print. Entries must be received by January 15th, 2011 to be eligible for the $250 cash prize. Winners will be announced March 15th, 2011. Big Shed reserves non-exclusive rights to podcast your story and to use the piece or excerpts from it for promotional purposes. If Big Shed is in a position to sell your story to make money, we will contact you first for permission and negotiate a fee for you, the producer, in good faith.

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What we’re hoping to accomplish
While there are certainly audio producers who use verite techniques in their documentary work, there does not seem to be a verite movement in North America.. Big Shed is offering the Verite + 1 Competition as an experiment. We are curious if a modest prize and our encouragements will reveal a community of audio producers and artists exited to work in verite or listen to verite. We hope there may be enough interest to declare a North American audio verite movement and hope we may repeat and scale up the competition in future years. We are not seeking to invent something new—just to gather and focus the efforts of current producers while hoping to encourage and inspire enthusiasm for listeners and makers of verite.

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What do you mean by Verite + 1 (aka production guidelines)
Verite The piece must consist of audio recorded in real-life scenes without prompting from the recordist. Conversations between the recordist and other voices are permissible, but must include the recordist’s voice.

Editing Scenes may be edited for length or content, and may be cross-faded for transitional purposes. Layering or extreme time compression or dilation should be avoided.

Music If your piece has discrete scenes, they may only feature music that is audible within the actual scene. You may not layer music (or any other sound) into your scenes. You MAY use music as a transitional device in between discrete scenes.

+ 1 Since it is very difficult to tell a complex, multi-scene story with no context, you may use tape collected from 1 interview. The interview must compose no more than 25% of the final story. Of course, it’s extra-impressive if you don’t use the + 1.

Length Pieces must be between 5 and 30 minutes. It’s relatively easy to make short pieces using verite. We want to challenge you to tell more complex stories.

Context  A “host intro” (up to 150 words) may be submitted along with your verite piece.

Entries must be received by January 15th, 2011 to be eligible for the $250 cash prize.

Winners will be announced March 15, 2011.

Have a question about whether a particular recording or approach counts for verite +1?
Email: jesse@bigshed.org.

Big Shed reserves non-exclusive rights to podcast your story and to use it or excerpts for promotional purposes.
A Further Discussion of Verite by Jesse Dukes
Audio Verite resists definition and is easier explained by saying what it is not or what it hopes to achieve.  By eschewing narration, interview tape, time compression, displacement or other storytelling techniques, verite requires the listener to pay very close attention to the sounds of a scene in order to understand both the immediate events and the context of those events. It requires an effort of imagination on the part of the listener and it requires the listener to, in some ways, create her own story. Since there is no narration or voice-over to explain what is being heard, verite can be quite mysterious. Often, the listener’s first reaction is confusion until the sound image resolves into something understood. Because it seeks to emulate the feeling of real time, it also seeks to transport the listener into the world of the story so that the listener syncs to the story the way lovers’ heartbeats sync. When it’s done well, verite is mysterious, beautiful and highly visual.

Audio Verite can refer to an entire documentary; it could refer to a particular scene or segment within a larger documentary or might just be a way of describing a particular recording as in “I made a verite recording of my neighbors playing horseshoes last weekend.”  It is hard to tell a complex story using audio verite since there is limited context for the sounds, but it can be a powerful and beautiful storytelling tool when deployed properly.

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Some elements of Audio Verite

Pacing of everyday life: In verite, we allow scenes from life to play out at a natural pace. This does not mean there can be no editing; it would still feel like verite to edit a five minute scene down to two minutes. It would NOT be verite to edit an hour down to two minutes.

Unprompted action: Rather than using narration, prompting or interview to tell the story, verite is made of recordings of unprompted life: A conversation between three people on a street corner, a housepainter humming to himself as he works, a teacher explaining Moby Dick to a room of students, all count as verite. We realize any self-aware documentarian knows his or her presence may subtly or significantly alter the scene and some verite documentarians choose to acknowledge that by making the audience aware of their presence. In Gray Gardens, there is a scene where the audience is able to glimpse an image of Albert Maysles, the cameraman, as he swivels his camera past a large mirror.While in some ways, seeing the filmmaker breaks the spell of the documentary, it’s also a humble and important reminder that everything the audience is seeing is being filmed and recorded by two men, who are present in every scene, even if the audience is rarely aware of it.

Discrete Scenes: In a verite piece, there is almost always a real-life  “there” in which the action is taking place. Many public radio documentaries make use of studio recorded interviews or tracking to create a sense of non-spatial sound; it sounds like the speaker is in your head, or is nowhere in particular. A verite story is told as a collection of scenes and in most cases, the sounds of speaking and voices are accompanied by sounds that offer strong clues to the scene’s location.
Temporary Disorientation and Refined Attention: Verite pieces are often initially disorienting to the listener. While this can be a liability, it also can help forward the story. If the listener doesn’t give up, he or she may strain to make sense of of elements of the audio that are often ignored in narrated pieces; an odd pronunciation, an unexplained laugh, room tones, sudden clatters, bird cries, echoes.  If a story is narrated, a listener often trusts the narrator to point out what is important in the tape. It’s common now for narrators to highlight certain elements of the tape by saying things like: “Now, listen to how she says this” or even repeating audio to emphasize a narrative point. Without the narrator to point these elements out, listeners may notice important complexities in the audio they might not in a narrated piece.

Wider Interpretations of the Story: Different listeners will often interpret verite scenes differently. While the producer can manipulate a narrative by choosing which scenes listeners hear, she has less control over how a listener interprets a given scene. As such, verite stories are often more suggestive and thought provoking than they are conclusive. In D.A. Pennebaker’s Dont Look Back, the audience watches Bob Dylan argue with the singer Donovan and then each takes turns performing a song. To some viewers, it seems obvious that Dylan is attempting to (and succeeding at) showing-up Donovan by outperforming him and even mugging mockingly for the camera. To others, it may appear as though they are having a friendly hang-out after a tense argument.

Those who study film might point out that what we are calling verite might have more in common with the film movement now commonly referred to as “direct cinema”. The terms “direct cinema” and “cinema verite” are close cousins and now used to distinguish two slightly different approaches. In both cases, the filmmaker records “real-life happening” but in direct cinema, the filmmaker attempts to stay out of the way of the action, not speaking or interacting with the film subjects except when spoken to. Cinema verite is now characterized by filmmakers who make an effort to confront or interact directly with the documentary subjects.

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Examples of Audio Verite

Peter Leonhard Braun | Catch as Catch Can
(Listen) In this seven minute excerpt, listeners hear a professional wrestling match from the perspective on an older lady speaking German. Even without the transcript, the lady’s reaction to the action is enough to suggest vivid images of what the two wrestlers might be doing to each other on the mat.
Begin listening at 17:30

Peter Leonhard Braun | Hip Replacement
(Listen) A long audio verite scene in which an old lady gets a hip replacement. The very graphic and loud sounds of surgery; hammer, sawing, scraping marrow, are interspersed with quiet casual conversation between the surgeons.
Begin listening at 31:00

John Biewen | Five Farms: Harvest
(Listen) A scene combining audio verite and self-narration (certainly verite + 1) in which a hog farmer prepares to take his hogs to the slaughterhouse.
Begin listening at 13:50

Radio Diaries | Josh in New York City: Growing Up With Tourette’s
(Listen) In the middle of this Radio Diaries piece, an “interview” between Josh, the recordist and subject, and his mother takes on elements of verite as both parties seem to forget they are participating in an interview and begin to argue.
Begin listening at 8:00

Claire Schoen | Making a Scene: The use of verite to show, not tell, your story
(Listen) Radio Producer Claire Schoen’s 2007 presentation about using Audio Verite in radio documentaries, given at the the Third Coast International Audio Festival.
Examples of Cinema Verite and Direct Cinema

Gimme Shelter by Albert and David Maysles
Gray Gardens by Albert and David Maysles
Dont Look Back by D.A. Pennebaker
The War Room by D.A. Pennebaker


Articles and other useful resources
Dogme 95: a cinema movement similar to our Verite + 1 ethic in that it attempted to install a set of creative constraints designed to make cinema rely more on the truth of real life scenes.

http://www.suite101.com/content/a-short-history-of-dogme-95-a102049

http://web.mit.edu/candis/www/callison_truth_cinema.htm


Additional Questions
If you have any additional questions, just send us an email. We'd love to hear from you.

 
Submission Instructions:

Step 1: Producer Form
Submit this online producer form

Step 2: Format your Audio
- We prefer that you send us a high-resolution MP3 (128kbps minimum, but 192kbps - 320kbps is preferred.)
- Put your last name in the filename (ex. "YourName.mp3")

Step 3: Upload your Audio

We have three methods for you to send us your audio.

a) Email (verite@bigshed.org)
If your file is under 25MB, you can email the file as an attachment to verite@bigshed.org.

b) FTP (File Transfer Protocol)
For the hardcore among you, upload your file directly to our server. We've set up a special folder, just for you!
- server: ftp://radiopie.org
- username:
u37879758-verite
- password:
plusone

c) WeTransfer.com (Free web transfer service)
If FTP isn't your thing, we recommend using WeTransfer.com to send us the file for free. You upload your file to them, they send us an email, and we download your work. It's pretty easy to use.


Submission Deadline: Saturday, January 15th Midnight (Eastern Time)
If you have any last minute uploading issues, please email verite@bigshed.org before midnight to let us know.


Last-minute Questions:
If you have any question about whether your work qualifies, be sure to read the specified production guidelines above. But if you have a specific question about an element of your work and whether it meets our guidelines, we're happy to answer your question, just shoot us an email at jesse@bigshed.org (please put "Verite + 1" in the subject line).

Note: Since this is a judged competition, we are unable to comment on your submission once it has been received.