They say one man's trash is another man's treasure... Well, in Darren Atkinson's case, it's also his job.
And while most people consider dumpster divers a marginal lot - if they consider them at all - this diver approaches his vocation with a philosophical and entrepreneurial spirit. Producer Dominic Girard joined Darren in the trenches to hear more about it.
The Hunter was produced for The Current in 2010, with editor Dick Miller. Special thanks to Pam Bertrand, Executive Producer, The Current (CBC), and Darren Atkinson.
Dominic Girard has caught himself producing radio content for CBC Radio for five years now. Before, he lived a notably unremarkable life in film and television production, and entertained some indulgent and aimless vagabonding. Radio focuses his imagination, and - get this - pays for his mortgage. He hopes all his pieces are deeply human, satisfyingly candid, and just quirky enough to keep the conversation lively. These days, he’s co-producing Day 6, an altogether new CBC weekend program.
BEHIND THE SCENES with Dominic Girard
First of all, is it: “Have you ever Dumpster Dived?” or “Have you ever Dumpster Dove?” And second, well…have you?
Unless liberating a perfectly fine dining table from the curb back in my university undergrad days counts, no I have not dumpster doveded... Doven... Doved... Dived?
Here’s a chicken vs. egg question: What came first, the idea for doing a story about dumpster diving, or meeting Darren? And how did you meet?
I'm attracted to quirky, offbeat narratives - as most of us are, I suppose. But it was a friend and colleague who pointed out Darren's story. I saw the potential immediately, mostly in the sound possibilities. Also, Cory Doctorow wrote about Darren years ago and remains in occasional contact with him. He helped me get in touch.
The Hunter is a story about one man, but it gets to bigger ideas too. How did you balance the personal story with exploring larger societal themes?
There's always beauty in the personal story, but it's the universality of the tale that makes its meaning. Darren's story would not have been nearly as satisfiying if he didn't bring an exceptionally interesting philosophy along with his work. It's precisely because Darren has meaning in his method that this story works nearly on its own. All my editor and I had to do was keep the linear narrative going. Darren makes sense of everything for us.
In the story you use metaphors of Darren as a salesman, redeemer, scavenger, and hunter. Why did you choose The Hunter to be the title?
Listen to your tape and your characters. They almost always tell you what the story is called, though rarely explicitly.
While Darren talks about his wife and son, they don't show up in the story. Did you consider including them? Why or why not?
Darren's son is too young to provide any commentary. A scene between Darren and toddler might have been interesting, but it wouldn't be about dumpster diving anymore would it? Darren's wife accepts his choice, but is not interested in talking to a reporter about it. But even if I had interviewed mom and baby boy, I likely would have cut it. I prefer the atmosphere of the lone wolf on the hunt.
How did Darren feel about you producing this story about him? And what were his thoughts after the project was completed?
I think Darren is so accustomed to this part of his life, he doesn't necessarily see the "importance" of the story. I think he liked the company. And I think he liked the attention, although he doesn't seek it.
Dominic, you play a pretty significant role in this story yourself. At what point did you decide to tell it in first-person narrative?
Well. How would feel if you ran into a guy in a dumpster ranting about capitalistic waste by himself? Aren't you more willing to listen if someone else is there to share the adventure with you?
How did your impression of Darren and dumpster diving evolve throughout the course of producing this story?
I suspected that spending time with Darren would complicate the easy assumptions that dumpster divers are destitute fools living at the fringe of "acceptable folk." Of course it did. Darren's certainly a character and his choices are hard to completely understand, but he's no fringe candidate.
As for the diving itself, I was kind of hoping we'd find a couple of iPods.
So much for that.