On the Time I Made Children Cry…

When I was in college, I interned at our state museum for the spring semester of my junior year. Our state museum is very nice with a lot of amazing exhibits. It definitely gave me some different experiences with producing nonfiction content. I didn’t really like creating educational programming at that time, but it helped expose me to that area at times I wouldn’t have chosen to do so on my own. And now? I’d love to produce content for a museum again someday, or for an educational network like Discovery. In fact, my current dream job (besides the obligatory ‘I want to edit features!’ statement) would be a staff editor at National Geographic, History, Discovery, or any sort of network like that. This internship attributed to me nerding up hardcore.*

One of the things I got to edit was an audio project for an immersive educational workshop for children at the museum. I actually created and mixed it in Avid, which actually wasn’t bad to use at all, or at least that’s how I felt at the time. I collected a bunch of sound effects and created a track that was meant to be played during a workshop about slavery. The idea was that the kids would sit in this room with their eyes closed while the track played. As the narrator of the story talked, they would listen to the story and sounds and imagine they were there.

The concept of the piece was that the narrator was a slave on a slave ship. He narrates you through the process of being captured in Africa, loaded onto a horrible slave ship, carted across the ocean in this awful environment filled with death, and then unloaded and whipped and eventually sold. It was pretty grisly to be honest, and I pushed it as far as I could. So I painted this soundscape with the narrator and all sorts of horrible sounds coming in and out, and combined and processed sounds to make them fit what I wanted, and it turned out pretty good. I thought the pacing was particularly good, as it built up and got really scary at times, and then waned and gave the listener time to recover. All in all, everyone seemed to really like it.

But it was a little too good. I was told when they got the kids settled into the room, turned off the lights and started the track, by halfway through there were several that had to leave because they were bawling. The piece was so intense it broke past their hardened ‘everything is stupid’ tween demeanor and crumbled them into bits!

This was the first time I ever heard of anything I created eliciting a spontaneous emotional reaction, so I was ecstatic. I made the children cry! HA!

Needless to say, it was one of my proudest moments as an editor to that point.

* All the staff always listened to NPR and Fresh Air when we’d go to lunch. I thought  ‘wow, talk radio all day, buncha nerds”. Now I’m a nerd that not only listens to it, but contributes to it. It’s also not as nerdy as I originally thought. At least Fresh Air isn’t. A Way with Words** is still pretty geeky.

**(I also listen to that show.)

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