Radiotopia Presents: Shocking, Heartbreaking, Transformative
Shocking, Heartbreaking, Transformative
What really happens when stories about people’s lives are collected, edited, and consumed? Radiotopia Presents: Shocking, Heartbreaking,Transformative is a four-part non-fiction series created by Jess Shane, about the nuts and bolts of documentary storytelling, the power dynamics between makers and subjects, and rewriting unwritten rules of the documentary and non-fiction content industry.
Artist and documentarian Jess Shane posts a Craigslist ad: “Does your story need to be told? Tell it in a documentary! Seeking shocking, heartbreaking, and transformative stories for a new series about the documentary industry. Compensation provided.”
After days of auditions, Shane casts four participants, each with varied relationships to why they want to share their stories, from Ernesto, a recovering addict and fashion model who dreams of making it big, to Judy, an unhoused senior who wants to get off the street and give voice to the homeless. Through the making of documentaries about the participants, the series asks provocative questions about the story creation process, whether “sharing your story” is really as liberating as our culture imagines it can be, and how “being produced” for a show can shift someone’s relationship to their own experience. The series also explores the business side of the equation, such as how the forces underpinning today’s booming documentary marketplace impact whose stories are told or deemed valuable.
Shane also turns her mic to subjects to weigh in on standard documentary protocol, from the concept of “access” and the taboo of paying subjects to the logistics of editorial control. Ultimately, “Shocking, Heartbreaking, Transformative” asks listeners to consider their own relationship to this popular genre of content.