Train Hoppin’ and Hobos

Multimedia Production

John Cacianti Audio Profile

John Cacianti shoots a grin after reminiscing on some of his adolescent freight train riding adventures.

I brought up the idea of interviewing my stepdad, John Cacianti, over pizza on a Saturday night. He seemed to light up when I asked him, flattered that I wanted to hear his stories. I was excited too! I had known that my parents took part in some interesting adventures in their youth, but the conversations never seemed to dig very deep.

“Train hopping” and “riding the rails” would come up in family discussions around the holidays, but I wanted to know more – this was the perfect opportunity.

Fortunately he was blessed with the gift of gab which gave me a lot to work with. Cacianti and I did two takes of the interview as the first was a little awkward. After the second take, I knew I had something solid to work with.

After previously doing audio recordings with strangers, this one, with my stepdad, didn’t feel too stressful. Although my experience helped, one challenge I faced was finding a place to put my recorder where fidgeting was inaudible. My interviewee tended to tap his finger against the table, which I asked him to refrain from doing the second time around. After this fix, the interview went smoothly.

This was my first time ever editing audio, but I actually enjoyed it. I found a lot of satisfaction when the transition between separate clips of audio meshed well! This wasn’t always the case because more drawn out speech made those transitions harder to edit. My least favorite part was converting files.

Taking my stepdads portrait was pretty comical. Directing friends in how to pose for Instagram photos translated well into this situation, although he was a bit more stiff than my usual subjects. I remembered to take quite a few pictures – the first 15 were mostly practice shots to allow him to feel relaxed.

I had a hard time tying the freight train story into the portrait. Cacianti leaned against a wall, sat on a tree stump and held our family dog, Alfie, in the photos in order to diversify my options. In the end, I chose an outdoor shot that included some rustic tones in the background to evoke feelings of adventure.

Reflecting on the assignment, I was surprised by how well it went. I expected the editing to be a bit of a road block, but it turned out to be pretty fun! If I could do this assignment again, I might do one more take of the interview and collect a loner ambient noise clip. There was such an improvement between the first two takes; I’m sure a third would’ve been even more polished.

The biggest takeaway from this project for me was the importance of making the subject feel comfortable. I will keep this in mind when implementing audio into my future career. I hope to work in the public or media relations department for a nonprofit organization. A big factor of nonprofits’ success are donations and an organization is more likely to receive donations if they can target their publics’ emotions.

Creating a podcast where those benefitting from nonprofit work can share their hardships and triumphs is a practical PR plan to increase publics and, in turn, increase donations. This form of audio may even attract people not previously involved with the organization which could stand as an entirely new public.

I look forward to experimenting with audio and hearing more of my stepdad’s crazy stories!

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