I think this documentary from 2020 is really worth a listen, especially when you are trying to think about ideas for your major project.

Here’s why I like it:

It’s a really simple and neat idea. The reporter/producer Sandra Kanthal goes back to her home town in New Jersey to interview customers and staff at a local diner about the upcoming American elections. What does this small slice of American life tell us about what will happen when the country votes?

(Remember that focus is often a big problem with major project ideas. It is a common mistake for students to try to say too much. Zooming in on a story, as Sandra does here, is a great way to make sure that doesn’t happen.)

There is a lot of lovely, well-recorded natural sound and actuality. There’s music too, but it doesn’t get in the way and there’s a clear reason to use the Springsteen stuff — he is a regular customer at the diner.

The script is very simple and very clear. There are some big issues tackled, but always with a light touch. Very cleverly, Sandra allows the diner itself to become a character in the programme. We learn lots about it.

(Look at how the programme is sold on BBC Sounds below. Read the first sentence. Does it capture the programme? Yes. Can you explain your idea in a sentence?)

We get to hear the opinions of a lot of ordinary people — as opposed to dozens and dozens of “experts.” But this programme is not simply a vox pop. Every character is clearly explained and properly established.

There are some interesting moments as Sandra meets people who are slightly suspicious of journalists. An experience you will all have sooner or later. It’s worth listening to see how she deals with this.

It has “Tony” in the title.

Let me know what you think about the programme.