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About ‘Being Mature’
The documentary entitled ‘Being Mature’ is designed to encourage adult learning in third level institutions in Ireland. The documentary sets out, first and foremost, to talk to students currently going through the system of re-education then it introduces some high-level academics and teachers to hear how they think and feel about having mature students in the classroom and at tutorials. It also canvases the opinions of younger students in relation to mature students and asks a number of significant questions such as are mature students a help or a hindrance in academic life. Finally, we have an in-depth discussion with Dr. Caroline Healy who is assigned to The Learner Support Unit at MIC and is furthermore one of Ireland’s foremost authorities, having conducted extensive research, on Mature Students.
From the outset I knew that the only way this documentary could work is by ensuring as much human interaction as was possible in the given timeframe [15 Minutes]. The initial task of interviewing random mature students proved a little more difficult than anticipated. Mature students were amazingly shy about speaking up there educational desires or giving reasons as to why they had returned to college life. I wanted an equal mix of both male and female students and interestingly, females were more forthcoming. I opted to interview each person in a natural environment and so, over three days, I randomly selected students on campus as MIC Limerick. I also made arrangements with a number of academics at MIC. My interviewees were Dr. Liam Chambers, Dr. Eugene O’Brien and Dr. Caroline Healy of MIC LSU department. Finally, I randomly selected younger students at numerous locations on campus.
The entire documentary aims to answer five basic questions as follows;
- What made you decide to become a mature student?
- How do academics feel about mature students?
- How do young people feel about mature students?
- Is academic life more challenging than anticipated?
- Are mature students in any way different to younger students?
All interviews were conducted over a two-day period and recorded on a Sanyo Pro Voice Recorder and the iTalk application on iPad. I also selected to use a hand-held microphone in my one-to-one interview with Dr. Caroline Healy. On completion I had conducted a total of 33 interviews consisting of students, academic staff and administrative staff at MIC.
At my own home studio I used the Cool Edit Pro suite for editing. I have been using this software for a number of years and find it extremely satisfactory and totally professional. I had a total of 44 audio clips to choose from but the background noise on some of these clips rendered them unusable. I was left with a total of 20 perfectly audible sound bites. I further recorded a small collection of sound effects including atmospheric recordings of lectures, canteen and corridors with heavy student traffic between lectures. My idea was to create an intimate college life experience for the listener. I am satisfied that I accomplished this in the final edits of the piece.
During the editing process I discovered that in the course of normal conversation many interviewees used irrelevant interjections that might be acceptable in casual conversation but sound nonsensical for my purposes. I spent a considerable amount of time editing out these extraneous sounds. The absence of these sounds makes the listening experience far more enjoyable.
I selected two pieces of ambient music to use throughout the documentary as a continuous music bed. My first choice was a gentle piece of music by Zamphir entitled ‘the lonely shepherd’ which I felt was relevant because all lecturers are a type of Shepherd. The second piece I selected was by Enya and entitled ‘The Celts’ which is an inspirational piece of music that implies success in the face of adversity. Perhaps a metaphor for mature students who have decided to take on the challenge of returning to education and succeeding in the process.
My objective was to produce a quality radio documentary using only original material consisting of voice, ambient sounds and music. I must admit that I have the advantage of extensive experience in live broadcasting but little or no experience in radio documentary production. For this reason, I found this project extraordinarily interesting and a very necessary learning experience for me while also introducing me to the art of radio documentary production.
This 15 minute documentary on the subject of Mature Students uses music, interviews and ambient sounds and is structured on a format based on a number of home produced Irish radio documentaries available from RTE, Ireland’s national broadcasting service. I have attempted to offer the information available on this documentary at a gradual and increasing momentum to bring the listener to the ultimate conclusion that a return to education is entirely possible for any listener regardless of past experiences or educational background.
As presenter of the documentary I tried to take into consideration my key role of introducing the various locations voices and facts at a steady pace, the mode of address I implied was upbeat and friendly. I further attempted to keep the piece lively, informative but most of all entertaining. While my subject matter could just as easily have been presented in a more serious manner I felt that my approach rendered the information contained in the documentary more relevant to a broader, less highbrow, wider audience.
As this was a one-man operation I was very conscious to ensure that all elements of this production were to the absolute best of my own ability. I am very proud and satisfied with the results of my endeavours. The project has been a vital learning experience for me and has further shown me that my past experiences in live radio are a serious asset to me in the production of radio documentaries. From this aspect of the course I have learned that this is an area I am very interested in exploring further.
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