The Audio Publishers Association announced “The Ernie Pyle Experiment!” as a finalist for an Audie Award in the Audio Drama category on Feb. 23.
The WFIU podcast aired last year and featured 13 episodes about Ernie Pyle’s pre-war work as a traveling columnist for the Scripps-Howard Newspaper syndicate. The winner of the category will be announced at the virtual Audie Awards on March 22.
Michael Brainard is the creator, co-executive producer and writer, and the voice of Pyle in the podcast.
“When we first started, I had no idea that it would be as good as it is, but the quality just kept rising,” Brainard said. “And the industry professionals that are voting on this, they're telling me it’s good, and it makes me feel like ‘OK, we've done something.’”
The podcast cast and crew found out about the nomination on Jan. 14, but they had to keep it a secret until the official announcement six weeks later, said co-executive producer Russell McGee. Being one of the five finalists in international audio drama is a high honor for the entire cast and crew, McGee said. .
“For the audio world, this is as big as the Oscars,” McGee said. “This has been a huge collaboration, and it wouldn't have happened if we hadn't had all these wonderful, amazing talents involved with the process.”
The Audie Awards will be virtual because of the pandemic this year. Normally, the event would be in New York City. McGee said the crew will miss out on meeting and networking with other people in the industry but that he understands given the circumstances.
Greta Lind voiced Jerry Pyle, Pyle’s wife, in the podcast. She said winning this award would be amazing, but she is happy with the recognition the nomination has already given to the podcast.
“It's so true that the honor is in the mention and being a finalist is such an honor,” Lind said. "With projects like this, awards actually serve an important purpose in terms of getting the word out there and the opportunities it will create.”
Brainard first discovered Pyle after visiting a used book store in 1989 and finding the book “Ernie's America: The Best of Ernie Pyle's 1930's Travel Dispatches,” which detailed Pyle’s pre-war writings. Ever since then, Brainard said he has wanted to put these writings into some type of media.
While his idea originally shifted from film to television over the years, Brainard said he is happy with this product being a podcast.
“The idea is that there's this found footage of them recorded along the way like they took a recording device with them, which is completely made up,” Brainard said. “But what happens is the device enables me to have the characters talk directly to the audience of how they think about things, how they think about each other and how they think about themselves.”
The podcast takes columns Pyle wrote in his time with Scripps-Howard Newspaper syndicate and provides a fictional narrative of what led to the creation of the column. At the end of each episode, Brainard reads the column the episode was based on.
“At this point, I feel like I'm Ernie’s handler,” Brainard said. “I'm certainly the only person out there that is promoting his earlier work.”
WFIU station operations director John Bailey originally approved the podcast for WFIU. He said he is happy with the decision to pick up the project and give name to a Bloomington-based podcast.
“I don't know how many prominent podcasts there are with Bloomington ties,” Bailey said. “It's a reminder of what this little town has had to offer over the years.”