I’ve produced content for the BBC for over 15 years and worked across a number of programmes and networks including Radio 4’s Film Programme, Last Word, Front Row and on music stations such as Radio 2 and 6 Music. I’ve also been an editor at The Guardian helping to deliver their live content, and recently produced a documentary for Economist Radio on music and creativity.
I regularly produce the BBC’s ideas strand Free Thinking where we explore an eclectic range of subjects and disciplines. One day we’re visiting the home of an Oscar-winning film historian who’s spent the last 50 years refurbishing a silent film, the next we’re considering British identity. Sometimes it involves a live audience such as this one with author Jonathan Coe in his hometown of Birmingham. Then we’re back in studio for a late night chat with Alastair Campbell dissecting his gut instinct. Making radio is most pleasing when it’s a personal favourite such as the work of Alan Clarke, or a curio like meeting ‘Mad Frankie Fraser’ to hear about sharing a cell with Ivor Novello.
I started as a tape boy delivering 1/4 inch reels round Bush House. In its heyday it felt like going on a mini world tour. I’m not much of a flag waver but I do think the World Service is one of this nation’s finest contributions. It’s why I take pride in helping to showcase the best of the BBC’s arts and culture output to millions of global listeners.
But telling stories is what I love most about my job. Film is a passion and I’ve made documentaries on everything from the cinema of 1971 and biblical epics to The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp and the grey pound.
Running Radio 4’s Film Programme I reported from many allegedly glamorous places. It might be Cannes and Toronto one minute or Port Talbot the next. With a job like this you get close and personal with many a famous face. There’s the afternoon in Woody Allen’s private screening room in Manhattan. There’s the poke around Juliette Binoche’s house in west Paris. More often than not it’s just a brief moment in a hotel room – see Martin Scorsese.
Perhaps my favourite encounter was with Lars von Trier on a visit to his lair at Zentropa studios just outside Copenhagen. It was to be his final interview for many years after his controversial remarks at that year’s Cannes film festival. He was on fine form but most memorable when we turned the tape off (so often the case) and revealed his extensive collection of ‘highly collectible’ 19th century pornographic figurines.
Not so long ago I produced a TV project, a celebration of all things James Bond with Mark Gatiss. I once devised and hosted an ‘alternative’ party conference for The Guardian. I am currently organising the annual BBC Free Thinking festival in 2018.
For many years speech audio producers were a rare breed but thanks to the rapid evolution of the podcasting industry (especially in the US) it’s a more interesting time than ever to be in the business of pricking up ears.
Thanks for taking the time to read about my work. Perhaps you are thinking about starting a podcast, want to find out more about radio journalism, or keen to understand the nuts and bolts of audio production. I enjoy teaching and have hosted many classes at The Guardian on everything from interview techniques to sound design. Whatever the query, it would be great to hear from you. Just head over to the contact page and drop me a line.
Craig T Smith