Episode 19 – “Pretty Funny” by Erica Simpson

Transport yourself back to the 1960s and rediscover what it means to be a “beautiful woman” by Hollywood’s standards and meet the woman who contested those ideals. In “Pretty Funny: How Barbra Streisand Challenged Hollywood Conventions”, undergraduate student Erica Simpson analyzes the beauty and gender roles prevalent in Hollywood in this time period through a modern lens for a class in Cinema and Media Studies taught by Professor Megan Minarich. Professor Minarich seems to have podcasting assignments down to a science.

The crux of the assignment was to present an argumentative narrative about a Hollywood musical film independent of those covered in class. In general, the students were graded on the episode content, their storytelling effectiveness, the strength of their argument, and a peer-review portion. The points breakdown for the podcast project and peer review are outlined below:

  • Podcast Project (250 possible points)
    • Podcast: 200 points
    •  Script: 25 points
    • Show Notes: 10 points
    • Producer’s Memo: 15 points
  • Podcast Peer Review (45 possible points)
    • Podcast Internal Peer Review Draft: 10 points
    • Podcast External Peer Review: 25 points
    • Podcast Overall Peer Review Summary and Revision Plan: 10 points

Professor Minarich also defines a list of pieces that must be incorporated into the podcast, including a 3-part thesis statement, addressing relevant aspects of the five categories of film art, and incorporating 4 – 6 reputable secondary sources. Her full rubric for the podcast project broke down the podcast into subcategories, with assigned maximum point values, that can be rated in four categories: poor, acceptable, good, and excellent. Within each subcategory, a verbal description of what embodied “poor”, “acceptable”, “good”, and “excellent” work was provided, and a score is assigned to each category.

This detailed process of breaking down exactly what she expects from the students and their podcasting performance task provides a structure that shapes the podcasts into robust academic tools. Beyond providing detailed rubrics, Professor Minarich planned field trips to Vanderbilt Student Media to meet Jim Hayes to discuss podcast best practices and recording. Additionally, she established proactive deadlines for mini objectives throughout the semester; an example is featured below.

  • Important Dates (Sample)
  • R 10/3: Visit to Vanderbilt Student Media with Jim Hayes (meet in Sarratt 363 at 1:10p)
  • T 10/8: Discussion of podcast episodes (see Brightspace)
  • R 10/17: Internal Peer Review of Script – Full Draft Due (2 hard copies in class; copy emailed to Prof. Minarich by 1:10p)
  • Su 10/20: External Peer Review of Script Due via Email (to your author and to Prof. Minarich)
  • T 10/22: Podcast Overall Peer Review Summary and Revision Plan due (hard copy in class)
  • Su 11/3: Podcast, Script, Show Notes, and Producer’s Memo due to Brightspace by 11:59p

            Since podcasting is a foreign assignment to many students, directly laying out this level of structure in the syllabus is pertinent to helping students understand the expectations of the assignment and provide the framework to be successful. Further, the peer review process allows students to glean insight into what other students are preparing, and providing feedback on other’s work will help make their own work stronger.

            Professor Minarich had the students email her a copy of the podcast script draft and bring two hard copies to class. One copy is given to a student they designate as an “external peer review partner” who reviews the student’s script individually outside of class. Then, students partner up with a different student, designated as an “internal peer review partner”, who then work together in class to review the scripts and discuss improvements. This provides students with two peer reviews conducted in two different formats.

Erica Simpson said that her podcast would not have been possible without the guidance and resources provided by Professor Minarich. Approaching the assignment through the lens of podcasting allowed Erica to take a more personal and fluid approach to discover the content she wanted to discuss, and she provided VandyVox some helpful tips.

When starting the assignment, Erica began with rough-cut audio, where she turned on the mic and allowed herself to talk through the memorable points of the movie. From there, she was able to reflect on what stuck out to her and used these to build the base of her assignment. However, the podcasting format of the assignment didn’t come without its hurdles. She relays that she initially struggled with finding royalty-free transition audio until eventually discovering a Creative Commons partnered website called FreeSound. Below is an excerpt from Professor Minarich’s syllabus regarding copyright laws:

An Important Note about Copyright and Fair Use: Films and their music/scores are copyrighted material. That said, if you feel it is necessary, you may use a very small sample of sound from the film in your project, since this is for educational purposes (as is my understanding from Frank Lester, Vanderbilt film librarian). Be sure to see me if you plan to do this. Do be aware, though, that since this is copyrighted material, you will not be able to share your podcast outside of the context of our class if you use any sound from the film itself. Thus, given the opportunities that exist for otherwise further sharing your work, I would strongly advise that you avoid using sound from the film itself or any music related to the film that is under copyright.

Student-produced podcast episodes that are of sufficient quality for public listening may be added to a class podcast on musical film history hosted on Soundcloud. A small number of very high quality podcasts containing no copyrighted material will be submitted to VandyVox for consideration. Additionally, you are also encouraged to submit your work to the Undergraduate Writing Symposium for possible inclusion. I am currently working with Prof. Bradley, Director of the Writing Studio, to determine whether podcasts containing copyrighted material are eligible for submission to the UWS. Those that do not contain copyrighted material are certainly eligible for submission.

Additionally, keep in mind that the Writing Studio supports multimodal writing assignments, too! You can certainly bring in your podcast to discuss it with a consultant at the Writing Studio.”

Erica also notes that trying to edit her audio clips in GarageBand was not so simple as a first time GarageBand user. Luckily, podcasts can be created with a variety of audio processing tools. Links to audio processing tutorials and royalty-free sound clips can be found below. More detailed questions about creating a podcast and dealing with copyrights and royalties can be directed to the wonderful Vanderbilt librarians and staff at Vanderbilt Student Media.

This article walks you through the steps to create and edit a podcast in GarageBand with an accompanying tutorial video: https://www.buzzsprout.com/blog/garageband-podcast-tutorial

If you are more comfortable using iMovie, here is a video tutorial on making a podcast in iMovie by YouTuber “TechTeacherNate”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FVLPMIqX-JY

An option that’s available for both Mac and PC users is a free software called Audacity that contains the full suite of recording and editing options, similar to GarageBand. Youtuber Pat Flynn has a complete tutorial on using Audacity to create a podcast: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xl-WDjWrTtk