For more than 20 years, Third Coast International Audio Festival has brought exceptional audio documentaries of all styles to audiences worldwide, serving as a champion of audio creativity and inspiring the next generation of listeners and makers.
The annual Third Coast/Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Competition, historically held in Chicago as a capstone event of the Third Coast Conference, draws hundreds of submissions from dozens of countries, uplifts independent makers, and highlights the new ways people are creating meaningful work across media platforms.
Moving virtual during the pandemic was a risk to an organization known for rolling out a red carpet and making the "Oscars of Radio" a must-attend event for audio creators. But along with efforts to lower the barriers to independent and underrepresented storytellers, the competition is now more popular than ever. Last year, Third Coast accepted more than 700 entries from 39 U.S. states and 35 countries.
All of this makes for lots of listening. Third Coast relies on a cohort of respected makers to lend their earbuds to the cause, and together they find the "best of the best" from more than 600 total hours of submissions spanning a variety of languages, narrative styles, and genre-defying production techniques.
Recent competition winners have included This American Life’s “Time Bandit,” a “radical and mind-bending … piece you listen to with your whole body” (2021), and Latino USA's “The Return” an audio documentary telling the story of poet Javier Zamora returning to his grandparents’ home in El Salvador to find the reality at odds with his childhood recollections (2019).