Work: Surviving the Arts


Exploring issues of sustainability in the arts.


~by Scott Pinkmountain


Production Fatigue (Part 1)


Last year I got to do a story for This American Life. I’ve been pitching them stories since back in 1999 when I was dating someone who worked on the show. It only took fourteen years and about fifty rejected pitches for my close nepotistic ties to pay off.

Having had some proximity to the staff, I knew they worked long hours, but nothing could have prepared me for the process of creating a single twenty-minute segment of that show. The reporting was beyond comprehensive, conducting hours of interviews with subjects for what would ultimately be a minute or two of quoted material (if any), tracking down every possible lead, multiple follow-up interviews. But it was the editing and producing of the material that I found the most remarkable. After the many hours of interviews were transcribed and painstakingly picked over, after a draft of the script was hammered out, I spent approximately 30 hours on the phone with my producer, Jonathan Menjivar, and Ira Glass combing over every word of the story, debating, tweaking, scratching out, rewriting, honing and polishing it. Then I spent another three hours in the studio tracking my fifteen minutes of voiceover under Menjivar’s direction. Then he spent god only knows how long, cutting, editing, assembling and scoring the story, turning it into broadcast-ready finished product.

The making of that story involved so much effort from so many people – my producer, Ira Glass, the other producers on the show listening to cuts and giving feedback, the fact checker, the admin assistant who set up studio time and travel arrangements, etc… – that, while I was happy with it, I didn’t feel much propriety over the end result. It was a massive team effort. Being involved in the making of something so elaborate, with so much labor from so many people forced me into a new perspective on the world. I wandered around in a kind of production dazzle for a few weeks. Everywhere I looked, I saw nothing but the extreme efforts of Production. Continue reading