This is a teaser for the big post at the end of this week. In one week I’ll be posting a full research paper-style article on the creation of audio dramas featuring other people.
My words are in italics.
1. How do you go about writing a script for an audio drama? How is it different than writing for other mediums?
One of the main challenges you face while writing for audio drama is quality and natural exposition. The majority of it has to take place in the dialogue, and of course, hopefully in your sound design. With film, you don’t need to explain your location, props, actions, etc because you’re watching it all unfold. In a navel, you have the advantage of the narrator’s voice, you can describe your character and scenes for pages and pages if you want. In an audio drama, having too much narration can get very boring very quick and obviously, the visual aspect comes with the territory by nature of it being an audio medium.
Finding a way to have natural feeling conversation between your characters, that can also covertly, clue your audience in and bring them to the world of your story is one of the most important, unique and challenging parts of any audio drama.
But it is also similar in other ways. You still need a good story, interesting characters and development, things that make any story engaging and interesting. If I were to give any tip for story telling in general, it would be to outline first. Get your major story beats laid out in an easily viewed outline. This helps give you a birds eye view of the skeleton of your story, before you zoom in and work out the fun stuff.
2. How do you go about directing actors?
This depends on the actor. Typically, I try to let the actor do a pass or two on the script on their own before I dive in and try to tell them what to do. Having faith in your actor and letting them bring their unique interpretation to the role before you spoil it with your ideas can really add to the variety of your characters. Sometimes this gives you deliveries and character that you would have never thought of. Sometimes this gives you awful performances and you then have to work really hard to get them to do what you want to do, but that’s what editing is for.
3. What are the challenges in making an audio drama compared to making other forms of media (ex. movies, books)?
I guess I answered some of this before when talking about scripting, but of course sound design is pretty important. There isn’t much forgiveness on the side of sound design when doing it for audio drama, versus a movie. An audio drama is basically like putting together an animated piece before you do all the animation. Having done both, I have found them to be very similar. I think probably the BIGGEST challenge is distribution. There really isn’t a lot of demand for audio drama, so figuring out how to distribute one without just giving it away for free on a podcast, might be the audio drama question for the ages.
4. How do you portray everything needed in acting with only your voice (ex. your character’s emotions(s))
I guess that really falls on the actor and director. When you’re doing everything yourself, you have to make sure you’re about to segment the hats you wear. When you’re directing, you have to take off your writing hat. When you’re editing, you have to take off your directing hat. Meaning, you have to always be aware of how the end product is going to come across to your audience. Making sure the end product is the best experience for them. Nobody listening cares how bad you want to keep that one scene you wrote, because you make a reference to power rangers in it. Nobody cares if it took you all day to get the perfect performance for one joke out of your actor, if, when you are editing it and realize those things don’t make the story as enjoyable for the first time viewer as it can possibly be. In the same way, when voice acting it is helpful, if you can hear what the other actors are saying, but typically you don’t get that chance, so that’s where the director REALLY has to be aware of the big picture, and make sure to get those takes until the perfect take is in the can. (though sometimes you have to know when you have a take that isn’t perfect, but is as good as you’re going to get.)
5. What do you do when doing post-production on an audio drama?
I do a lot. Typically, you start off cutting together the “voice tracks.” This way you can hear everything laid out, making sure all your actor’s lines make sense together. Sometimes a line will sound unnatural or sometimes a whole performance will have different energy. This is the time to figure ALL that out and schedule “reshoots” if needed. Once you have all the timing and takes cut together, I generally start putting together sound design. I usually do ambience first (background noise and room tone). Then I’ll do a basic mix on the voices. This means putting them in the stereo space I want them, panning left to right respectively, adding any room reverb, and EQing to make sure everything sounds like it was all recorded together and in the room the scene is supposed to take place in. Then, I’ll start dropping in sound effects (grabbing pre recorded sounds from audio libraries and such). And finally, I’ll do my Foley work (costum to the scene movement sounds, like footsteps, clothes rustling, props, interactions. This is done for each character in the scene) and I have to pan, reverb, EQ all of those tracks too so they follow the character they are for. And finally, at the end, I’ll add music and transitions where needed. I hope this isn’t boring. Haha.
6. When doing sound effects, what sounds do you record specifically for the situation and which ones do you get from a sound effects library?
Oh great, yeah, so this is the difference between Sound Effects and Foley. Personally, I don’t actually enjoy doing foley all that much, so I try to find as much from libraries as I can and then enhance them with foley, like footsteps and whatnot. But it all just depends on the situation.
7. Do you have any interesting stories from producing The Ceiling Fan?
Hmmm, I’m sure I do. The whole thing was a lot of fun. It was always pretty wild when I could get actual AIO cast or crew members to help out or be involved. Since I worked at Focus on the Family during part of the time I was making that show, some of my foley work was recorded in the actual AIO Foley room. One time, I was there late, and Jim Daly brought a few people through, not knowing I was in there, and it was awkward. Though, at the time, just telling people what exactly an audio drama or podcast was pretty awkward in and of itself, especially one as strange as The Ceiling Fan. But in the end, I learned a lot, made a lot of friends, and had a great time doing it, and that’s what really matters!