BEHIND THE SCENES with Katherine Wells

What is your connection to Wellington? What inspired you to make the piece

Wellington is my father's hometown, and I was born there. We spent a lot of time there with family while I was young, so it was always a part of my life. Growing up in a big bland sprawling city, I always thought of Wellington as sort of magical -- the character of the place was so particular and intense. And everyone there has such beautiful accents. I wanted to try to capture the texture of the place in sound

In the course of your reporting did anything in particular surprise you or change the way you originally thought of Wellington

Yes, definitely. When I went back to Wellington to record the piece, I hadn't been there in five or six years. And something strange had happened in the meantime -- my memories of the town had become caricatured. Popular media often ridicules and simplifies rural culture, and I think I had let that popular imagery of small towns overshadow my real-world knowledge of them. And when I got back, everyone I spoke with was so intelligent and articulate, and had a broad perspective on their town and the world, that I felt silly for having expected anything different

What about the Ritz initially proved appealing for the piece? To what extent do you think the Ritz itself is a character in the piece

Like Wes Reeves says in the piece, the Ritz is a really cool looking building with this neat antique marquee. So there was something cinematic (no pun intended) about the place to begin with. When I spent time in Wellington as a kid, I would always walk by it and my dad would tell me stories about seeing movies there as a kid, and I was totally fascinated by what it must have been like inside. And upon reinvestigating, there was a much larger story there. I thought of the story of the Ritz as a framework more than a character -- it was the structure from which I took copious detours. But the Ritz certainly is a very live, present element in the town, and so many emotions and memories are centered there

There's lots of archival sound and music within the piece. How did you come across the archival pieces? What feeling were you hoping to evoke from the listener by including these elements

I came across a lot of it in the Collingsworth County Museum. The director of the museum, Doris Stallings, was extremely helpful and let me look through all their old VHS and cassette tapes. Doing the research helped me engage with Wellington's history. I also hoped the music and archival sound would evoke the visual elements of the town and give more of a physicality to the piece

As a young producer, how did you go about putting together such a substantial work -- in both length and topical breadth? I would like to be able to say it was by design, but it wasn't. As a relatively new producer, I just decided to talk to as many people as I could about as many topics as they wanted to talk about. I over-reported the story, perhaps, and then I couldn't bear to part with any of it, so I just wove it all together. Every small part was connected, I thought, and I found it all really interesting. So the final piece ended up as a kind of extended sound-collage. I also had some great advisors who helped me shape it. I put this together as my senior thesis in American studies in college, so I had the advantages of time and institutional support. Had you worked much in radio before producing this piece? Before reporting this piece, I had done just one other shorter piece in a class on audio journalism that I took in college. I absolutely loved the entire process, so I wanted to undertake a larger project

What are you up to in radio now? These days, I do a bit of independent radio producing. I interned for NPR's Arts Desk last fall, and I just covered the South by Southwest Music Festival for Marfa Public Radio. And of course I remain an avid listener.