Our friend Connor Walsh, a London-based radio producer and Manager of In The Dark, was a judge last week at the Prix Europa, the continent's "largest festival for Television, Radio and the Online Media." He interviewed one of the winners for us (listen below), followed by his take on what it's like to judge and choose Europe's best.
Connor with Anna Thaulow, winner of the Prix Europa Special award.
On the Jury at Prix Europa
by Connor Walsh, Manager of In The Dark and Contributor at AudioDocumentary.org
Passion: Radio features. Job: Not radio features. Opportunity: 5 days' leave in late October…
The Prix Europa is a big deal within the documentary units of public broadcasters in Europe. I don't work in those circles, but it turns out that you don't need to be on the inside to get on the jury – you just need to click the box that says "juror" when registering on their website. [prix-europa.de]
Next thing you know, it's autumn in Berlin with its beautiful air and golden leaves. But once you follow the gold stars on the footpath up into the gorgeous 1930s Haus des Rundfunks, you'll miss that fresh air.
8:50 Sunday morning and it's down to work. Introductions, ground rules, grab a pack of transcripts, then get down to listening to six documentaries. About the transcripts: each producer has to provide 80 printed transcripts of their piece, in the original language and English. English is the operating language of the event – all instructions and discussions. There's a short break after each item, with lunch wherever you like (but I suggest the staff canteen, not least for the funky pater-noster lifts and chance to snoop around the Radio Brandenburg-Berlin studios.
After listening to six documentaries, it's time for the discussions. everyone's opinion around the circle is equal, and everyone brings their own and national qualities. This is great. It can become repetitive, but it also drives home factors you would never ever think about in making your own features.
By seven PM, you'll wrap up the discussions and cast votes on a small ballot paper. Then a drink and chat in the foyer cafe before heading off mostly to the same restaurants, then bars again. Chatting with young and old producers from around the continent (plus Chris Brookes of Newfoundland and the one American, who came in useful when we needed someone to translate from French to English). Some nights there are receptions in embassies. Sometimes some people get sense and have an early night. Sometimes.
Repeat until Friday evening.
And then you're free for almost 24 hours until the awards ceremony. That's where you find out the top five, and then the top two. The winners get a small but heavy trophy in the shape of a bull's head. And then a little piece of paper with the scores of the top ten documentaries. Personally I was happy with everything that was there, but there were plenty that didn't make the list but would have happily sat there – in my opinion. And there is a large personal element to this. During the discussions, most people felt at some stage, "Did I hear the same programme as everyone else?" Were there bad programmes? Yep. But others did point out their strengths, which was surprisingly useful.
In short: I made new radio friends, I met younger producers who were so foolish as to ask my advice (cue loooong speech on my radio theories), I had my ears opened by some of Europe's finest, and I wanted to go back to mainland Europe!