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Behind the scenes of Zenit

The backstage of our shining stories

Carlo Ferretti
a story by
Carlo Ferretti
Behind the scenes of Zenit

From the story hunt to the online release: unveiling the teamwork that brings each Zenit episode to life

Each story, a tile: after four months, the Zenit mosaic is beginning to take shape. I like to think of it as an evolving construction site, a craft process where even the “how”, the “behind the scenes”, reflects the “why” of this adventure: to be inspired by the glimmers of a society that could be. A society that can be made together.

Why the name Zenit

Until six months ago, “Zenit” was just an idea: the idea of telling what we would have called “other stories of culture, technology, and society” but via podcast, the idea of sharing the stories we like because they inspire us first in an informal but precise, simple and welcoming way.

“The podcast”, as we called it at the beginning, has never been for us the way to “control” a channel, but the will to open a door, to share through the immediacy and warmth of the human voice the possibilities that emerge when we listen to each other when the horizon opens up in an unexpected direction.

At the beginning of “Zenit”, as well as of “Mangrovia”, there was no “us”, but a group of people who chose to embark on the lucid madness of an ambitious and exciting editorial project. The “we” took shape step by step, through constant discussions before, during, and after the meetings, in which everyone shared what they knew and what they wanted to learn, what they had, and where they wanted to go. The evidence of this process is the shared sheets that still represent the basis of our work.

The identity “of the podcast” was born this way, slowly, listening to each other. We are not used to associating the adverb “spontaneously” with a discussion: but when it came to deciding on the name ‘of the podcast’ from the shared list of possibilities, “Zenit” just came up, spontaneously. «Guys, I can tell you now: that was my favourite» I exclaimed with a toothy grin.

In astronomy, Zenit is the imaginary point where the celestial sphere intersects the vertical straight line passing through the observer’s head.

Zenit comes from the Arabic term “samt al-ra’s”, which means “direction of the head”: if you look up at the sky with your head pointing upwards, you are looking at Zenit. We also liked to think that each episode could be a privileged and unexpected vantage point, if somehow we had the curiosity to stay grounded and at the same time to look beyond, all together, both us, the creators, and you, the listeners.

We loved as well playing with the concept of light, solar, or nocturnal, Zenit implies: standing with our heads up towards the sky and turning towards some star, questioning it. It is when we are without stars that, etymologically, we yearn. And just as the astronomical landscape changes according to latitude, so we see different stars depending on where we are, the sun at Zenit never occurs in our area: for us, it has the value of an invitation to the other shining stories we keep telling.

The production process

Behind the production of “Zenit” there is an intensive work process, which starts with the general planning meeting of “Mangrovia”: every month we decide together on the topics and stories to be shared the following month in both the magazine and the podcast. The search for future stories, which also takes place through the use of AI tools, is examined and supplemented by the ideas arising from the discussion, so as to balance the three components (culture, technology, and society) within the same content and in the monthly programming in general.

From the very beginning of this editorial adventure, we made it clear that we would not tell the same stories on different channels, but that even between magazines and podcasts there would be other stories, and we would strive to offer content that was always original and adapted to the formats, yet within an overall framework. In practice, this entails a significant production effort, which we manage to cope with precisely because of the team spirit and collaboration that drives us. Even more concretely, this means that during the meeting it is decided which of the leads in the shared files are to be further explored and where: if in the two months, it was necessary to schedule a further finalising meeting after a few days, now this process is more fluid and effective.

Once this part is over, the real in-depth work begins, embodied in the writing of the episode, in putting down on paper what I found in the simplest and most immediate way possible but at the same time detailed and accurate. How to be precise without being pedantic? How to tell you in a few words what I have been studying for days? How to make my writing smoother (and faster)? These are some of the questions I have been asking myself over these months, in a continuous work in progress in which I never stop learning.

Once the text has been drafted, after the editorial revision by the editor-in-chief, comes the always cathartic and exciting moment of recording:

the human voice of Zenit is me, but somehow my voice is already other than me, it contains the stories that have passed through me and that I must try to tell.

Someone has wondered about the electronic reproduction that “divides” the individual because it separates his parts, his characteristics, transporting them elsewhere: it is in that elsewhere that I would like to reach you, through my voice, which is no longer my own and which crosses over with brief inserts of recordings of other voices, but above all with Zenit’s soundscape, carefully created by Diego Ceo, sound designer and artist.

Diego is handed the raw recording file, on which he processes electronic sounds, condensed into specific patterns, recalling a sound dialectic between technological, human, and natural components. For us, exploring habitats with electronic music means reflecting on what we consider to be artificial, it means enhancing the narrative rhythm through a soundscape that evolves over the course of the episode by analogy or counterpoint, like a tailor-made suit for the occasion in which it will be worn.

Only after the episode has been enriched with sounds, voices, and landscapes the time comes to listen to and review the final audio, revise and integrate it where necessary, and finally approve it and upload it to the main platforms. Again, this is a process with its own unique features, from the insertion of show notes and tags to the scheduling of the episode and communication launches.

For years now, I have been experimenting and using podcasts as a means of telling stories, studying, and popularising. Zenit has given me an unexpected opportunity, that of dedicating myself daily to discovering the world, travelling with my mind to faraway places, learning to trust the changing world, and passing on these discoveries day after day. And continue to do so, with everyone’s support. Even yours.



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