Christina Kiely, creator, producer and voice on ABC’s A Murder on Orchard Street on crossing over from video to audio


Podcasting is a new frontier for Christina Kiely, but that hasn’t stopped her from working on A Murder on Orchard Street for ABC.

Christina Kiely has spent 25 years working in documentary film. This year though, she tried something new: Kiely created her first podcast as part of a multi-media documentary series for ABC News’ Nightline with ABC News Digital and ABC Radio: A Murder on Orchard Street.

The podcast is based off a video series. The idea was to serialize the unsolved case of Burke O’Brien’s murder in a video format. O’Brien was shot in the chest and killed after a night out with friends on the Lower East Side in 2003. She had full access to the case, as a tag-along with the NYPD for about an eight-month period, a rare experience.

More than a decade later, Kiely did not expect to be still investigating. However, she agreed to look into it again when the detective originally assigned to the case Kenny Silvia, now retired, reached out in 2014. Kiely, Silvia and the new chief of police agreed that drawing media attention to the case was the best way to re-approach the investigation.

“When he first reached out to me, I pitched it to ABC knowing we had footage for one segment for 20/20,” said Kiely. Eventually the project moved up to Nightline, where it was made into a longer form project.

“Somebody out there knows what happened — and not just the person that did it,” said Kiely. “Inevitably people talk, it’s just in the nature of humans.”

They started by creating a short video documentary series.

“Interestingly, it was sort of inspired by Serial, the video,” she said, referencing to the popular podcast. Kiely said she was “crazy addicted” to Serial and listened to both seasons.

After the video series was completed, a colleague suggested the case would make for a great podcast. She agreed to give it a shot. The process was not one that she gone through before and Kiely said it threw her a bit.

“It made me think differently,” she said. “And one of the comments initially — I can’t help but occasionally look at the comments — was that it [the length] is too short.”

Each video segment was shy of 20 minutes, and for video, that is a good length. That type of clip, Kiely said, is very digestible for the audience. For audio, she assumed the same would be true and created each episode to match in duration. However, listeners have been hoping for more.

“They are asking us to give them more,” said Kiely. “This is in a different context they are listening and doing something else at the same time.”

The nature of listener practice has allowed Kiely get more into what she called the “nitty gritty” details of the case. An aspect of podcasting that she loves. This way, she has been able to add more detail into the podcast that had to be left out of the video.

“I get to talk about more in the podcast,” she said. “It has made each episode sort of richer.”

Kiely said that she is a very visual person and that when she listens to podcasts — like when she listened to Serial — she has often wondered what it would be like to watch some of what was going on. She said she wonders how the listeners of A Murder on Orchard Street feel.

“I have such a clear visual of what everything looks like since it started out as video and also from being there so I am curious what people think of, what they visualize if they have only listened to it and if they are interested in watching the video,” said Kiely.

Her first experience with podcasting has been a success. As for the future, Kiely does not have any plans yet but has begun to think about other podcast possibilities.

“We’ve been talking about it, yeah,” she said. “I haven’t gotten the specifics of a case right now in mind but I did have several cases from the time I was embedded with NYPD, other cases of interest from that time. Those are possibly cases we could go into as well.”

With the case still unsolved, Kiely hopes that anyone with information will call in to the NYPD tip line a number she states at the end of each episode: 1 (800) 577-8477.

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You can listen to A Murder on Orchard Street on iTunes, Podible, Stitcher and Spotify.