The music is a central character in the documentary, just like it was at the stations we visited. Sure, there were a few big mouths (like me), but for most DJ’s, it is their musical choices that convey their truest feelings and ideas to their audience. Pirate Radio USA really is a “rock n roll journey,” with over 30 songs throughout the film. We picked music we often actually played on our shows, and let the narrative be driven by musical lyrics at key times in the film. This is a story about Big vs. Small media and the musical choices are no different. With the notable exceptions of nationally known artists like Jello Biafra and Utah Phillips, the musicians showcased are unknown nationally. This is not to say they don’t have a loyal following for their terrific work, but again, like the stations themselves, just because they aren’t Big doesn’t mean they aren’t Great. If it weren’t for the generous help of these artists, we couldn’t have told the whole story of Pirate Radio USA.

The miniature dioramas were both the most difficult and satisfying part of making the documentary. Sure, chasing down underground radio ‘casters wasn’t easy, but we found making and shooting tiny radio stations and Shrinky-Dink radio pirates set in dioramas of radios skyscrapers and antennas the real challenge.

Using glue, tape, old radios and spray-paint we built miniature cityscapes of Seattle, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Tucson, inhabiting them with children’s toys and Shrinky-Dink pirates. We had to become micro-set builders and lo-fi special effects experts— making buses drive, planes fly and even staging smoke for teargas attacks. Shot composition was tricky and discovering perspective tricks was fun. The miniature dioramas are now one of my favorite parts of Pirate Radio USA- it’s the visual analog to our story about Big vs. Small media. Besides, a DIY movie about DIY media–what could be a better fit?