BEHIND THE SCENES with Mira Burt-Wintonick and Cristal Duhaime

How did the two of you meet - and at what makes your creative relationship work?

MBW: We met at university in Montreal. We were both studying sound production and were very interested in doing sound design for film. But we felt a bit frustrated with the set-up, where the film students would spend months shooting and editing their project and then give it to you a night or two before the deadline and expect you to come up with a great sound design–or worse, just fix their bad audio. Radio was a chance to work on projects where sound wasn’t just an afterthought. So we found a way to apply our film sound principles to that work instead.

We only really started collaborating in a more serious way in the past few years of WireTap , when we wrote a couple fictions together. We had similar sensibilities and were already super close friends, so it was a natural progression.

I think our relationship works well because we're the right balance of similar and different. We're often on the same page about what we like and what we dislike, but we also push each other to challenge our own tastes and assumptions. Cristal thinks more in terms of character and tone and setting, and I often think more in terms of story and plot. Sometimes those different elements can be in conflict, but having us both steering a piece in those different directions ensures that we’re covering all the bases and makes the work more well-rounded in the end.

What is the origin story of Love Me ? What do you hope to add to the discussion about human relationships?

MBW: After WireTap ended, we no longer had a venue for all the audio fictions we wanted to write. There's no longer any official radio drama department at the CBC, so we wanted to create a show that would be a home for our fictions but that would also allow us to talk to real people about their very personal lives. I'm kind of an intimacy-junky and there's nothing I love more than listening to someone open up about what they're feeling at the deepest level. And I think hearing about what's going on in other people's relationships can offer valuable perspective for our own lives. It's easy to be hard on yourself when you're having a hard time connecting with the people around you or when your relationships are kind of messed-up, but pretty much everyone is in the same boat. Everyone has at least one relationship in their life that makes them feel hurt or angry or guilty or stressed-out. And I think it's helpful to be reminded of that. That relationships are really hard to get right.

Let’s talk about the role of the host, Lu Olkowski. She’s surprisingly personal, yet present only at the beginning of the show and in the credits. What were you looking for from a host?

MBW: When we first pitched Love Me , we pitched it as “an experiment in hostlessness.” We really wanted to create a show that allowed listeners to engage with the stories directly, without the intermediary of a host who would explain the story and then explain how the story is supposed to make you feel. But later we realized we did still want the personal touch of a warm, familiar voice welcoming you into the world of each episode. We met Lu last summer and she is such a warm and inviting presence. We 'auditioned' her over the phone and she shared this really moving story about her complicated feelings for her mom and how she couldn't say "I love you" anymore - and we were just hanging on her every word. She's so open and generous with her heart while never being overly sentimental or cheesy. We realized she was the perfect person to complement the show's balance of playfulness and emotion. She’ll continue to just tell a personal short story at the top of each episode, but you’ll get to know her a little more each time.

You both worked on WireTap for many years, where you often made stories that circled around technology, communication, miscommunication and the human heart. Can you talk about how Love Me expands your work there?

CD: The interplay of new technologies and relationships is definitely something we’re really drawn to in our work. It’s that whole idea of how we’re all ultra-connected now without connecting in any meaningful way. It’s a sad state of things really, but quite funny at the same time, which I think makes for rich territory in terms of fiction writing. On an aesthetic level, technologies are just also really fun to use as narrative devices. We have a few story ideas of this type we’re aiming to try out in future seasons of Love Me and also for the project we’re doing next with Howl - a short fiction series in which we’ll pair-up unlikely iconic characters from literature, philosophy, etc. and put them in conversation with one another. It’s inspired by the Samsa-Seuss Letters from WireTap .

My favorite segment in this episode might be the fictionalized Google translate story after the documentary love story on the same themes. Can you discuss the role of fiction in your storytelling?

CD: Documentary is great, but sometimes you just want to push things a beat further, to immerse the listener in a more surrealist and imaginative space. For this episode, the idea for the fiction piece actually came about first and led us to find the documentary story – usually it happens the opposite way.

I was in a relationship with a Roman at the time and although I had some familiarity with the Italian language already, I still had to use Google Translate for more complex ideas. Sometimes it would work out ok but other times, it would just produce hilariously inaccurate results. I thought it would be a fun device for a fictional conversation but we needed to figure out a way it could work where both characters spoke English. Then we stumbled upon this lovely poem by a friend of a friend, Kelsey Walsh. It was so odd and playful and heartbreaking at the same time, and we decided to adapt it and incorporate it into this incomprehensible conversation between two robots. It sort of explores how even when we speak the same language, we still can’t seem to communicate.

Audio fiction is so liberating because you can really control every aspect of the story and there are no barriers in terms of where the story goes.

What’s next for Love Me – can you give us a glimpse of a story coming down the line that you’re particularly excited about?

MBW: We have a beautiful piece by Sophie Townsend coming up later in the season. She's with the ABC and is one of our absolute favourite producers. Her work is so raw and emotional and she's a brilliant writer. We commissioned a piece from her about trying to date after her husband's death and it's definitely a highlight of the season.

CD: From the same episode, I’m also excited about this story we did with a young woman who reminisces about the friendship she had with the little boy she used to babysit. It’s a rather unusual kind of relationship to explore and initially we weren’t sure whether we would pursue it for the show–it didn’t seem like there was much there, really. But then during her interview she was such a generous storyteller and revealed a few key things that just made everything fall into place. It’s one of my favourites from this season and is quite moving, I think.

Last question: your favorite messy human relationship from history?

MBW: I've always been fascinated by Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. I mean he had an affair with her sister, it doesn't get much messier than that. And of course she had her own affairs, too. But they also clearly had such a deep and intense love for each other, of the rarest kind.

CD: Hmm… Does Betty and Veronica count? They were supposed to be best friends but even without the whole Archie thing (because really, who cares about Archie?) Veronica always treated Betty like garbage! And yet, Betty just kept coming back for more. But she must have been getting something out of it, right?


Find out more about Love Me , and subscribe to the podcast, here.