Some Observations on the EBU Master School by TCF Artistic Director Julie Shapiro For the past four years, each International Features Conference has included the presentation of work made by students from the EBU Master School (MS). These have definitely been among the highlights of each IFC. The energy within the MS program is contagious; the students' accomplishments have been outstanding. It seems that the very future of European radio storytelling is bolstered by the wisdom and experience gained through the Master School program, and greatly strengthened by the regular collaborations between veteran and emerging producers. I've come away from each IFC wishing deeply for something like the EBU Master School in the U.S., and we've begun scheming around TCF HQ about how the Third Coast might someday start a similar training program on this side of the ocean. Maybe one day. . . . The EBU (European Broadcasting Union), the largest professional association of national broadcasters in the world, started the Master School training course (managed by Nathalie Labourdette and Edwin Brys) four years ago with distinct goals in mind — to cultivate the next generation of European radio featuremakers, to embrace changing technologies and format developments, and to support the creative evolution of the medium, while teaching the basics and celebrating the traditions of the radio feature form. To date the EBU Master School has worked with nearly 50 young producers who have each designed and completed a radio feature of their own choosing. For the fourth edition of the MS, 45 candidates from 18 different countries applied to participate. Thirteen were chosen, and as with previous MS classes, each participant worked closely for almost a year with an accomplished radio coach: Helmut Kopetzky, freelance (Germany); Lisbeth Jessen, DR (Denmark); Annick Lesage, VRT (Belgium); Stephen Erickson, freelance (Germany); and Edwin Brys, VRT (Belgium). Many of the resulting features have been broadcast nationally, and others are scheduled to air in the coming months. This is important — radio exposure is an intergral part of every producer's career. But an equally valuable element of the Master School experience is the community that forms among participants. As a group, they help each make important decisions as they learn the ins-and-outs of radio-feature production, and support each other throughout the process. I could easily tell (through careful research during many late nights at Hughes Pub) that the MS students had become a close-knit squadron of storytellers, gained invaluable insight into radio and life beyond radio, and formed life-long friendships. The 2008-09 group even managed to collaborate musically (see Extra Audio above) by the end of their collective experience (such talent!). I'm certain their connections will remain strong, and the European airwaves will benefit in the long run as well. At the very least we can take great inspiration from their efforts

Further thoughts on the EBU Master School from Married to the Livestock producer Julie Schafe

Why were you drawn to radio features in the first place? I was drawn to it because it offers such a great variety. Basically everything auditory can be the substance for a feature and I can put all my creativity in it. Working on a feature leaves me usually much more time to research stories and connect to people. Working for current affairs and news, I sometimes feel like a mosquito sucking peoples blood (through short interviews), leaving them with stings behind, already looking for new fresh blood

How did your MS experience fit into your career trajectory

It fit perfectly and I think it was just the right year to do it as I was still studying. Thus, I had enough time for recording sounds and thinking the story through. I produced a few features before but it was the first personal story for me to realize. I believe that the MS and my great master coach Helmut Kopetzky gave me the support needed for such a story. Without him I would have been left with a lot of questions on my own

What was the most important lesson you learned through the MS

With the MS I fell in love even more with the radio-genre feature because I learned so much about different feature styles and ways to tell a story through the other European participants, the coaches, and the listening sessions. But maybe the best quotation for me that I will keep in mind was: "Everything has been said but not by me!" In the end the MS gave me a lot of self-confidence, for example to carry on with my life-reporter style and experiment with sound

What was hardest about the experience

The hardest was the shortness of our meetings in Berlin and Brussels. Through the first we had just gotten to know each other and had to separate again. In the second we presented some sound bites of our stories, spent great nights together but still didn´t have enough time to talk it all over. I think we were an amazing group and I´m still very sad about the fact, that the EBU did not organize a third meeting, where we could have listened to all our EBU features discussed each of them and we could shared our experiences during the final production. But we are trying to organize a next meeting ourselves

What are you working on now, and has it been influenced by your MS experience

Unfortunately I have no time for producing features right now as I am on an editorial traineeship for one year. But I will work for some departments which broadcast shorter feature forms and I hope that my experiences also made a good critic out of me so that other authors and producers will benefit. Nevertheless, I have already around three ideas for new features in my mind and maybe I will start recording in my spare time.