99% InvisibleRadiolab September 28, 2015 | By

Soundcheck #1: Third Coast Winners

The best Audio Documentaries of the year.


The Third Coast International Audio Festival (TCIAF) recently announced the winners of the “2015 Third Coast / Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Competition” for audio documentaries. They won’t announce who won which award until October 24th, at the Third Coast Filmless Festival.

The categories include (descriptions quoted directly from the Third Coast site):

  • BEST DOCUMENTARY AWARDS (Gold, Silver, and Bronze)
    Entries for the Best Documentary category should document a place, time, person, event, phenomenon or issue. These include but are not limited to: investigative reports, narrative stories, personal essays and audio portraits. We’re interested in work with a social mission and stories that entertain. Musical and historical documentaries are welcome. Profiles and cultural snapshots are welcome. Podcasts and other programs that redefine the documentary form are welcome. (Length eligibility 3-60 minutes)
  • DIRECTORS’ CHOICE AWARD
    This award is given by Third Coast staff to an entry that strongly demonstrates innovation and creativity in storytelling, sound design and/or overall production style. (Length eligibility 3-60 minutes)
  • BEST NEWS FEATURE
    The Best News Feature (BNF) category honors exceptional news features reported by radio newsrooms and independent reporters worldwide. Submissions should be stories (local, national, international) produced in response to events and issues. Enterprising work that brings new stories to light is also encouraged.BNF entries should exhibit exemplary reporting and journalistic integrity. As with Best Documentary entries, BNF submissions should begin with a compelling story choice, and exhibit strong writing, creativity and the use of sound where appropriate. BNF entries are not eligible for the Best Documentary Award. (Length eligibility 3-10 minutes)
  • BEST NEW ARTIST AWARD
    This award is presented to a producer who entered the audio field between July 2013 and July 2015. To qualify, each entrant must have recorded, written and mixed her/his entry. It is permissible to have worked with an editor, as long as she/he performed in an advisory capacity only. Co-productions are not eligible in this category. (Length eligibility 3-60 minutes)BNA candidates must confirm on the entry form that their submission was produced in accordance with the guidelines listed above.
  • RADIO IMPACT AWARD
    This award recognizes a single documentary or feature (regardless of style or structure) that has significantly impacted an individual, group or community. This can be an investigative report that influenced public debate or a radio story that changed the course of an individual’s life, or something else entirely. (Length eligibility 3-60 minutes)For a submission to be considered for the Radio Impact Award, candidates must include a statement (500 words max) on the entry form that offers clear and concise examples of the story’s impact.
  • SKYLARKING AWARD – $1,000
    Last year Ira Glass came to us with a proposal, to create an award for audio stories that are out for fun. He called it The Little Mermaid award. As Ira told us then:
    “These stories often require just as much craft and thought and cunning as the big important stuff. Radio would be duller and sadder without them.”Glass is right, and this year we’re incorporating his wisdom (and joy) into the TC/RHDF Awards proper… and with a new name.

Criminal – 695BGK 

“Police officer John Edwards was patrolling a quiet neighborhood in Bellaire, Texas when he saw an SUV driven by two young African-American men. It was just before 2am on December 31, 2008. Edwards followed the SUV and ran the license plate number. His computer indicated that the SUV was stolen, and Edwards drew his gun and told the two men to get down on the ground. It wasn’t until later that he realized he’d typed the wrong license plate number into his computer. He was off by one digit. By the time he realized his mistake, one of the men had already been shot in the chest at close range.”

Produced by Lauren Spohrer and Phoebe Judge.


Minnesota Public Radio News Betrayed by Silence

“Hundreds of hours of interviews and thousands of documents make clear that Twin Cities Catholic Church leaders knew they had abusers in the priesthood and they did everything in their power to keep the situation quiet. Explore the documents behind the story.”

Reported and produced by Madeleine Baran and Sasha Aslanian, with editor Mike Edgerly and project director Chris Worthington.


Mystery Show  –Britney

From my write-up in Soundcheck #0:

“Mystery Show is about the (mock) heroic quest to solve the mysteries in our lives that intrigue us, those that we don’t typically have time to figure out. For example: “Eleven years ago, I saw an old woman at a stoplight with the license plate ‘I LUV 911’; what did that mean?” or”Who are Bob Six and Hans Jordi, and why are their names on the back of this eggs-and-toast enamel belt buckle I found on the side of the road in the early 90’s?” Yet the joy of the show isn’t actually the answers to these riddles; though, they are satisfying. Instead Mystery Show‘s best moments come en route: Kine is a born flâneur, and each episode is a ceaselessly interesting, Forest Gump-ian ramble through the lives of the people she encounters while investigating. This episode I picked for this week’s Soundcheck stems from Kine’s friend Andrea Seigel, a self-professed failed author. Seigel’s second novel To Feel Stuff sold poorly, and yet was photographed by paparazzi in the hands than none other than Britney Spears. Kine’s charge from Seigel was two-fold: 1) how?, and 2) did she like it? The episode is best described as brimming with humanity: warm, empathetic, and endearingly unfocused. Start here, but check out the rest of Mystery Show‘s brief first season over on Gimlet’s site.”

Produced by Starlee Kine with Eric Mennel, Melinda Shopsin, and editor Eli Horowitz.


America Abroad  – Burma’s Rohingya: Easy Prey for Traffickers

“It’s been 47 days since Abdul, a scrawny Rohingya male in his 40s, sent his 14-year-old daughter Dildar away from the Internally Displaced Persons camp where they’d been living in squalid conditions with little food or health care. Dildar left on a fishing boat crammed with other Rohingya Muslims escaping oppression in Rakhine state in the westernmost part of Myanmar, the country formerly called Burma.

Until Dildar’s traffickers are paid off, she is being held captive in a secret location, somewhere on the border between Thailand and Malaysia.”

Reported by Axel Kronholm with editor Mia Lobel and producer Rob Sachs.


Love + Radio – The Living Room

“Diane’s new neighbors across the way never shut their curtains, and that was the beginning of an intimate, but very one-sided relationship.”

Produced by Briana Breen with editing, mixing and scoring by Brendan Baker.


BBC Radio 4Mayday Mayday

“A true, life-affirming story charting one man’s journey from paralysis to recovery.”

Produced and directed by Becky Ripley with editor James Cook.


RadiolabSight Unseen


Produced and edited by Jad Abumrad with Soren Wheeler and Jamison York.


BBC Radio 4 – “Sounds Up There

“In late 2010, Gravity director Alfonso Cuarón presented Glenn Freemantle with a challenge – to create authentic sound design in the vacuum of space. In 2014, Glenn won an Academy Award for Best Sound Editing for his work on the film. Now, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first-ever spacewalk, Glenn sonically recreates the stories of real-life spacewalkers.”

Produced by Colin McNulty, with executive producer Kevin Dawson, and studio manager Gareth Iles.


99% Invisible Structural Integrity

“When it was built in1977, Citicorp Center (later renamed Citigroup Center, now called 601 Lexington) was, at 59 stories, the seventh-tallest building in the world. You can pick it out of the New York City skyline by its 45-degree angled top. But it’s the base of the building that really makes the tower so unique. The bottom nine of its 59 stories are stilts. This thing does not look sturdy. But it has to be sturdy. Otherwise they wouldn’t have built it this way. Right?

The architect of Citicorp Center was Hugh Stubbins, but most of the credit for this building is given to its chief structural engineer, William LeMessurier. According to LeMessurier, in 1978 he got a phone call from an undergraduate architecture student making a bold claim about LeMessurier’s building. He told LeMessurier that Citicorp Center could blow over in the wind.”

Produced by Joel Werner and Sam Greenspan with editor Roman Mars.

A big thanks to (award-winner!) Sam Greenspan for collecting this information in his (excellent) weekly TinyLetter You Should Listen to’ FridaySubscribe here.

About the Author

Eric McDaniel is the founder of Audiologue, where he covers 99% Invisible. Right now, his favorite shows are Mystery Show and Cortex. Find him on Twitter @ericmmcd, or by email at eric@audiologue.xyz.

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