10 October 2012

Ira Glass

Ira “This American Life” Glass has a Reddit Ask Me Anything. I love this bit about the creative process:

What we're looking for: someone to relate to, a plot that's surprising that leads to some idea about the world that's also new or interesting or surprising. Those are the basic elements. Extra points for humor, charm or memorable details that you can't get out of your head. A great story is like a great melody: it announces its inevitable greatness and you recognize it the first time you hear it. Most stories aren't that. They do not announce their obvious greatness. 60% are in the limbo region where they might GET great or they might flop, and the only way to figure it out is to start making the story. So you launch in, hoping for that winning combination of great moments, charm, funny, and X factor.

As a result, we go through tons of stories on our way to the few that end up on the air. It's like harnessing luck as an industrial product. You want to get hit by lightning, so you have to wander around for a long time in the rain.

I love that he punctuates like he talks. I cannot resist hearing his voice reading is comments in my head.


My other favorite interview from Glass seems to have disappeared. Here are some quotes from it that I have found:

Between a half and a third of everything that we try, we’ll go out, we’ll get the tape and then we kill it.
You know, you thought it was going to be good. You went out, you did the interview, the person wasn’t such a great talker, they weren’t so funny, they weren’t so emotional, somehow when they told it to you in person with the camera it wasn’t the way they told you when [you] talked to them on the phone beforehand, they just got a little intimidated with the camera. Just something in the chemistry was wrong, you can’t even name what it is and why you’d even bother to try. But then when you look at the footage you know that there is a feeling that you had about it, which isn’t in the footage, right? But then, it’s time, at that point, to be the ambitious, super-achieving person who you’re going to be and kill it. It’s time to kill, and it’s time to enjoy the killing because by killing you will make something else even better live. And I think that not enough get’s said about the importance of abandoning crap. All video production is trying to be crap. It’s like the laws of entropy. Anything you put on tape is trying to be really bad, much like the sentences I’m saying here.

And another variant on this theme has been captured in a little video which has been well-circulated.

Ira Glass on Storytelling from David Shiyang Liu on Vimeo.

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