James Larvin

Blog Post One – 10/10/17

For my Digital Entrepreneurship project, I originally decided that I would focus on producing a traditional audio feature of between fifteen to twenty minutes based on the Be-Ro book.

The Be-Ro book is a recipe book produced in the north east by a major flower supplier. The book is now on its 41st edition and is nighty four years old.

I was thinking about approaching Mohit Bakaya the commissioning editor for factual at BBC Radio 4 with the idea of it possibly been included in the spring 2018 commissioning round. I also had considered approaching Be-Ro themselves and they may want to commission the project for promotional purposes.

Unfortunately, as I was researching Be-Ro and trying to find contributors to formulate a proposal to be submitted for commission I had a feeling that the project may not be achievable. I had come to this conclusion as firstly information and research on the Be-Ro book very limited.

Secondly after a good few hours of research I was finding it hard to find and contact possible contributors. Normally when researching you find one key person who can help guide you to others but I was struggling to find two people who would talk. Finally, there was a logistical challenge that most of my contributors would be scattered around the north east and west and the logistics of getting to them would be too complex for the time constraints of the project deadline.

I do still like the idea of the Be-Ro book as a documentary, however due to the factors stated above I cannot run with it for this project. I will however continue to develop this idea and research for contributors with the potential of entering it into a BBC Radio 4 commissioning round in the future.

I keep a list on my phone of possible audio ideas, in fact that is where my Be-Ro idea originated from. I now have two new feasible ideas where I am in contact with organisations that are interested in commissioning the ideas.

The first idea been a series of short audio pieces focusing on young entrepreneurs in the North East to showcase the potential in young adults and the region. This project would be commissioned by The Entrepreneurs’ Forum, a not-for-profit organisation based in the north east of England who strive to inspire and provide a helping hand to entrepreneurs.

The goal of the audio would be to shine a light on young entrepreneurs who have fought to build a strong business in a range of industries throughout the region. In each short four to five-minute audio piece a different entrepreneur would be featured where they can tell their story and share their advice as well as featuring key voices in their industry sharing knowledge with the audience. A few key aims of the origination are to inspire, connect, and share knowledge and best practice with one another, the proposed audio project would do this in a unique, creative and refreshing way.

Another idea which I am currently researching and talking to originations about is the proposed reintroduction of wolves to the UK, specific in Scotland. I am in contact with the Wolves and Humans Foundation who campaign for the reintroduction of wolves, but also to dispel the myths and misconceptions surrounding the somewhat mystical animals. This may be something that they want to commission to promote and highlight their cause. I am also investigating if this idea would meet the criteria to be considered in a BBC Radio 4 commissioning round. I can hear this on BBC Radio 4’s programme Nature currently in its 9th series.

This audio project would take the form of a traditional fifteen to twenty-minute package that has the potential to aurally pleasing with the subject been the outdoors and featuring such an aurally recognisable animal. In the UK there’re many organisations and wildlife experts who are very vocal on both sides of the argument surrounding the reintroduction of wolves. I believe that project has great potential to be aurally pleasing, informative and educational.

Over the next week I am continuing to be in contact with those who would be interested in commissioning my two proposed ideas and will assess which to proceed forward with by the end of the week.

Blog Post Two – 24/10/17

It’s two weeks since my last blog post and I have really moved on with my idea for this module. I have decided that I will move forward with the idea to make a short form documentary about the idea to reintroduce wolves into the UK. I decided to move forward with this idea as I know it is something that is achievable in the time alliable, it will play to my strength’s as a radio producer while pushing me and it is going to result in a piece of audio that has purpose and potential to lead to opportunities beyond university.

Regarding commissioning for my audio project, I have been in contact with the UK Wolf Conservation Trust. The UKWCT is a non-profit organisation working to keep wolves in the wild and they have expressed that they would commission an audio piece for the organisation.

“I would be very interested in an audio production created with the trust. The debate around reintroducing wolves is growing ever popular and it is usually based around video or written text. I feel an audio production would be a welcome break and very interesting for us to use and help with.”

Mike Collins – Site Manager and Wolf Keeper at the UK Wolf Conservation Trust

It’s great that the UK Wolf Conservation Trust want me to make an audio package for themselves and they can provide me great access and advice in relation to the package.

Since one of the main aims of this project is to receive a commission, I have been looking at other ways my idea could be commissioned. One of my biggest inspirations for the package has come from BBC Radio 4’s programme Nature. As my idea to create a short form audio piece in the style of Radio 4 I decided to see if Radio 4 had a commissioning round open.

I found BBC Radio 4’s commissioning guidelines and from that I found it said that Radio 4 would rather work with a smaller number of suppliers with batch contracts. I want to challenge myself and prove I can work at a professional level, this is why I decided I would also attempt to look at gaining a commission from BBC Radio 4. I decided the best way to do this was though a production company.  At this point I was introduced to Whistledown Productions, a radio-based independent production company based in London.

As I found in BBC Radio 4’s commissioning guidelines, they prefer to be pitched a series rather than an individual programme. This is why I decided that I would develop a week’s worth of special short form programmes. My idea for the series developed quite naturally as the idea of reintroducing wolves back into the UK is part of rewilding. I therefore decided I would pitch to the independent production company a series called ‘Rewilding Britain’.

Rewilding Britain is a five-part short form documentary for BBC Radio 4 to be broadcast over the duration of one week. Each episode will focus on an aspect of rewilding in Britain – rewilding aims to restore and protect natural processes, and protecting or reintroducing key species. The presenter led series will hear a balanced mix of passionate and academic voices, while throughout taking advantage of the audible nature of the featured topics.

Now I had my proposal for a series and the episode I was going to be making on wolves I began to contact Whistledown Productions. I was given the details of the team by a fellow student who has previously been on work experience at the company.  I have been passed around a number of members of the team and now I am waiting for feedback from the managing directed David Prest.

While I am continuing to push for commissioning with regards to BBC Radio 4 I am continuing working on the production process. I have research, sourced and contacted eight contributors ranging from academics, researchers and organisations. I am at the stage where I am beginning to get responses and in the next week should begin to record interviews.

I have written a detailed plan of how I would like the documentary to sound and be structured. Over the next few days I’m going to complete the questions for my interviews and try to confirm all dates. Some interviews are in locations that may be difficult to reach, that is why I am contacting student radio stations in certain areas so they can record studio quality audio while I conduct the interview on the phone. I am hoping to have all interviews recorded in the next three weeks.


Blog Post Three – 07/11/17

Over the past two weeks I have gained a new commission and began to record my interviews. I originally did gain commission from the UK Wolf Conservation Trust, however I wanted to push myself further and look at trying to get a commission for BBC Radio 4. I contacted the managing director at Whistledown Productions, an independent production company who makes programmes for the likes of BBC Radio 4.

I sent my proposal off to David from Whistledown Productions and to see if my idea is something that would be considered been put forward in a BBC Radio 4 commissioning round. I received a response David saying it is something that would be considered in a commissioning round, alongside feedback on how I could improve my proposal. The feedback was very honest, but after I had made the suggested changes the proposal was much stronger.

You can see the feedback from David below:


Now that I have a commission finalised and a proposal I am both happy with, I am going ahead with organising dates for interviews and researching additional contributors. I was very easily able to secure interviews with a professor at the University of Oxford and a Dr the University of Leeds whom both have experience in wolf research and ecology. These interviews were quickly arranging and within the space of a week I was able to travel to Oxford and Leeds to record these interviews. I am very happy with the audio quality of both interviews and recorded a total of fifty minutes of audio.

I have also arranged to visit the UK Wolf Conservation Trust (UKWCT) and meet the site manager. Another of my contributors is a wolf researcher, by a stroke of luck he will soon be in the area of the UKWCT and has arranged for himself and site manager to be available the same day. It is a great opportunity to be able to meet the researcher at a location with wolves as it will provide an extra dynamic. It has also brought forward my schedule as previously I would have had to travel both the UKWCT and North Wales.

I’m also working on other elements of the documentary such as finding voice actors to dramatize tales of wolves, as well as looking for author’s who have written about wolves. I have made initial contact with Paul Lister who has previously tried to re-introduce bears, wolves and forests to the Scottish Highlands. He is the director of The European Nature Trust so would make a very interesting contributor, I’m currently awaiting his return from a work trip to Uganda.

It’s very important that my documentary is fair and balanced. I already have a professor and doctor who can be seen as a voice of reason. I also need to find a strong voice of opposition, I’m currently talking to sheep farmers in the Chilterns who are been very friendly but not too confident in terms of wanting to be interviewed. The National Farmers Union and National Sheep Association have media department’s that regularly speak on the issue of apex predator reintroduction. They ISDN studios so I’m working out if it is possible for our studios to make ISDN calls.

Over the next week I’m focusing on getting the interviews recorded. I would like to have the first edit complete by the 21st of November allowing me three weeks to make changes and record any additional audio needed.


Blog Post Four – 21/11/17

Two weeks ago, it was recommended that I look possibly interviewing an author who has written about rewilding and the reintroduction of wolves into Britain. My tutor pointed me in the direction of a few authors, so I contacted some of the authors agents and quickly got a response from Sarah Halls. Sarah Hall is an award-winning English novelist and poet who in 2015 published a book titled The Wolf Boarder. In the novel there is a pilot scheme to reintroduce wolves into an area Britain, but it faces great opposition. I felt that speaking with Sarah and including parts of the book to be used as a spine of the documentary would work really well.

I was able to quickly organise with her agent and interview that took place on the 14th of this month. I was able to meet Sarah at home in Norwich where I had around 20 minutes to interview her due to her busy schedule. The interview went very well because of Sarah’s background as an author, the way in which he presented her arguments were very visual and compelling which will really work well in the documentary. I only had five days before the interview to read the nearly 300-page novel, but I did this with the help of an audiobook. The skin with the idea of dramatizing key parts of the book, in relation to arguments being put forward by the other contributors. I felt this would really break up the programme in change of pace in a very radio four style.

A few days previous I went to the UK Wolf Conservation Trust (UKWCT) to interview the site manager and a wolf researcher. As I mentioned in previous blogs was very fortunate to be able to arrange the wolf researcher to meet at the UKWCT as is normally based in North Wales. Also, the opportunity to interview a wolf researcher just a few metres from the animal would provide me with a great opportunity to interact with wolves and provide a more compelling interview. I spent about two hours with Pete Haswell the wolf researcher walking around the site meeting wolves, chatting about his research work and also an unexpected moment happened when I discovered that Pete is actually learnt how to howl towards and get back. I thought the interview went very well, quality of the audio is good and there were a few golden moments in the interview.

I then spent an hour sitting down in chatting with Mike, the site manager at the UKWCT who was also worked out in the field research and wolves. The audio quality the interview was good, Mike is a good interviewee who spoke clearly and also was great bringing our surroundings into his answer. Mike was constantly relating what he was talking about to the wolves were right in front of us which will give interview an extra perspective.

I’ve also begun to chop up the interviews and roughly edit them together on a timeline but at this stage I still have interviews to conduct so I’m been quite liberal in the editing process. I’m beginning to write scripts and develop a rough timeline of how I would like the documentary play out, so that in any remaining interviews I can fill in any gaps I may have in the narrative structure.

I’ve also selected parts of Sarah’s book to be dramatized by voice-over artist, as well as two poems to open and close the piece. These have been sent off to a voice-over artist to be recorded. Still not got an interview with the National Sheep Association as I’ve been figuring out how to achieve the best audio quality is we do not have an ISDN line. It is not possible for me to travel to their headquarters as I reach my limit and travel expenses. This is something I’m working on trying to find resolution for.


Blog Post Five – 05/12/17

The biggest update since my last blog post is my decision to make the documentary montage rather than a presenter led piece. I’ve made this decision as I felt the presenter was unnecessary and also a montage documentary shows more technical ability and editorial knowledge. Currently I’ve recorded most my interviews without knowing I was making a montage documentary, but fortunately part of my interview technique is to get each guest to self-introduce themselves at the beginning of an interview, this is a vital element of a montage programme.

As it stands I have about 4 hours of interview audio that must be edited, listen to, sorted into categories and then put together. This takes much more time from montage piece as the contributors must tell the story not the presenter. If I’m making a normal documentary could get the presenter to link to clips together, but in a montage documentary I must find the right clips put them in the right order so that they fit together naturally. This is a long process which I’m working away on.

I’ve had to make the decision that my interview with the National Sheep Association as the university studios do not have an ISDN line installed and I have exceeded the travel budget. This is not ideal, but fortunately I’m only planning to have two very short clips of the interview. However, I did use a studio with Phonebox to record the interview, a tool used across industry to record phone interviews. I also ensured that the interview was conducted at there and with a landline. You can tell that the interview is on the phone, however the quality is very high you can understand every word spoken during the interview.

I continued editing the documentary, I found music beds, SFX and received the audio from my voice-over artist. I made a rough cut of about 18 minutes and sent to my tutor for feedback. I’m confident in my skills in editing and production, but is it is the first time I have made a montage documentary, I wanted to reassurance about the structure that I chose. The feedback overall was very positive with the structure being good with just a few slight changes to make.

The main point made was of the voice-over artist and what they were saying. After a conversation I decided that I would use a number of voice-over artist to re-voice a changed script. The script was changed so that short excerpts from Sarah Hall’s book would act as a spine of which the other contributors would then continue the conversation. I also decided not just have one narrator, but to use different narrators for the other characters alongside SFX to really bring the passages from the book to life. Over the next week I need to source new voice-over artists, finalise the edit and make sure my multiplatform content is complete.

Blog Post Six – 12/12/17

I’ve also been working on the accompanying material that will go a long with the documentary. It is important to consider a multiplatform approach when making any content as social media is vital in promoting programs. While I was at the UKWCT I’d use my phone to record a few video clips take some photos. I’m using the moment in the documentary whether wolf researcher howls to wolves and gets response in my social media video. The reason I’m using this is because it is intriguing and entertaining and if pictured right, will generate plenty of clicks and engagements. I’m using the template that radio four always use for their Facebook and Twitter posts and keeping it to a short length as the attention span of people online is very short.

Over this week I been trying hard to source new voice-over artists to re-voice my new script. This is proving difficult due to time of year and the demand been high for voice-over talent. After some trying I was able to find three voice-over artists who very kindly gave their time free to help free to re-voice the script. I’m very grateful for their time and once edited together and SFX added, and very pleased that I decided to change how I would use Sarah Hall’s book in the programme. This has helped to break up the programme, vary the pace and bring a different approach to the conversation, which I think in turn makes it much more engaging listen.

I’ve also worked on the final edit making last few editorial changes and then spending a lot of time to make sure the edit is tight. I’ve been working to make sure the whole program sounds natural you cannot hear any edits and levels are correct. I’ve done this a few times and sent it out to a variety people to listen to, then taking their feedback on board and making the appropriate adjustments until I’m completely happy with how it sounds.

The program has a duration around 20 minutes and I am pleased with the decision I took to edit the piece as a montage. It’s something I’ve never done before, and although it takes a lot more time, patience and editorial skill than a traditional presenter led documentary. I think the decision was right for the program and also the broadcaster, BBC Radio 4.

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