This week we were put into groups after being given the brief to produce an audio drama. I wanted to be the producer because I’m good at coming up with interesting ideas so I thought this would be the best role for me. We were put into groups, which comprised of:
Producer- Matt Toulson
Director- Lucy Lavery
Studio Manager- Bernice Goff-Collings
Script Editor- Stephanie Kamale
Production Coordinator- Zineb Sekkat
I already had an idea on which script I would like to produce and how that script could be modified so that it would be the best it could be. I thought all of them needed some improvements to make them the best they could be, but one stood out to me which was called Best Friends Forever, a road-trip story about two murderous friends. Our group, which we named the Fantastic 4 + 1, made a bid for it against the other groups and won. I am quite pleased about this because I have already come up with ideas on how to achieve a realistic murder which is incorporated in the script.
After the session, I printed out a copy of the script to read. It was clear to me that some story details needed changing, so I set about making some of my own notes on how the story could be better executed to make it more realistic. My main problem with the script was that it had quite a few plot holes which I wanted to change. The main story takes place on a motorway but the two main characters manage to commit a murder without attracting too much attention, so that had to be modified to take the main action away from the side of a busy motorway. I thought a better way to do it would be if the murder took place down a secluded B-road. Another problem was there were too many Americanisms in the text which I thought did not suit the location (the UK) or the characters, so I made some notes on how the dialogue could be improved.
To inspire myself for the production process I have listened to a few audio drama podcasts. The first that I listened to was called Rathband, a true-life thriller about an injured policeman. Another that I listened to was a BBC Radio 4 series called Tracks. Both of these dramas were in series form which gave both programmes more time to expand on the story it was telling, whereas our drama will only be 10-15 mins long. However, the two dramas are very well-written and have given me a lot of inspiration on how we can approach Best Friends Forever.
A meeting was held between our group to discuss what each member thought of the drama and what aspects we could improve. As producer I noted down everything the group said which I will later take into consideration for creating the final product. We agreed that there were too many Americanisms throughout the play- which was understandable because the writer, Peter Preciado, was from California- so we decided that we would contact him to ask for permission for us to change it. We have arranged a phone call with him next week.
On Wednesday, we all met to chat to Peter on the phone. He was cooperative with our suggestions and agreed to the changes that we asked for.
Along with the dialogue, Lucy suggested that we could start the story at a police station where one of the characters would be in for questioning. I suggested that we had three scenes: one at the beginning, another in the middle, and then one at the end to round off the story. Lucy and I discussed this, however, because she thought the final one wasn’t needed, but two would be fine. On reflection, this is a better idea because it allows the story to be continued into another episode if we really desired. The addition of a new broadcast was included at the petrol station to make the conversation between the cashier and the girls more natural.
After being given the green light by Peter to make the changes to the script, Lucy and began to modify it. A lot of the unnatural dialogue was removed or modified to make it sound like the words came from the mouth of two British university students. While we did this we also created some of the finer details of the story, such as which motorway they would be driving down, what route they would take to get off the B-road, which radio station they would be listening to in the car and in the petrol garage. Lucy wrote the news bulletin that would be heard in the petrol station, but I thought the script of the bulletin didn’t seem realistic enough so I changed it.
All is going well with the pre-production. I have quite a clear idea of how I want the drama to be and I believe the director, Lucy, has a similar vision, too, which makes me excited for us to record it.
This week I helped Zineb with the pre-production notes on the drive. I made sure that everything was up to date and accurate from the time of recording. There was a lot that needed to be completed before the day of recording, so everything had to completed including the risk assessments because there were a lot of safety hazards that could happen on the day of recording. There was also the studio timings to consider because that has to run quite smoothly on the day to make sure the actors stick to the timings, so I had to make sure there was a clear timetable to follow so everything went smoothly.
When we had another meeting there were a few ideas that I that I wanted to add to make the script to make the overall story more detailed. I had some idea of flashbacks after listening to an audio drama that used the same technique. These ideas were discussed, but because the script had already been completed, so it was decided to keep the script as it was, especially because Lucy and Bernice believed the original sounded better.
The recording was supposed to take place this week, but because of adverse weather conditions it was postponed. This meant that we had to postpone the actors until a further date.
Our recording has been confirmed for next week, Friday 16th March. There was a problem with the casting because two of the actors couldn’t make it to the rescheduled recording, so I tried to help Zineb find some more actors. I was slightly disappointed about one of the actors in particular cancelling because I really thought his voice sounded the best for the voice of Jack that I envisioned. However, the one that we found for the new Jack was quite impressive, too. He had a friendly, smooth voice that would have suited the innocent, almost gullible, Jack. I asked Zineb to message him straight away because I was determined to get him in the role.
The extra week gave us a chance to make sure everyone was happy with the script. I was quite happy with the way it sounded myself and I liaised with Lucy to make sure she was happy with it. In the end, we were quite lucky that we reviewed the script because I realised that some of the lines contradicted earlier lines in the script so a quick revision was needed so that it made sense.
I had to make sure that everyone knew what they were doing on the day. I decided that I was to be in the studio to liaise with the actors while the rest of the group would be in the studio discussing how they thought the take went. This way we could have a go-between that could relay messages onto the actors if they couldn’t hear or see Lucy in the studio.
This week was the week of recording. We were running slightly behind because of the previous group. As producer, I met with the actors as they arrived into the acting area to make sure they were happy and comfortable with what they were doing. We had a run through of the script we were ready to go.
My main priority for during recording was to make sure the actors knew exactly what they were doing and that all the lines in the script had been read perfectly.
We started out with the easiest scenes and those were scenes 1 and 5- the two scenes set in the police station. We followed this with the scene 3 with the cashier, because once this was completed we could let Laura, who played the cashier and the police woman, leave which made the process more practical. There were points during the recording where I had to make notes on my phone so I could feed it back to the team later on, but because I was focusing on the notes, I couldn’t see the signals from Lucy. This meant that because of me, Lucy had to come in once to give the actors some instructions. This was my fault, but I learned not to note down feed back on my phone until we were on a break.
The next scene we did was no. 7, because this would be the most logistically complex with the killing. We had to make sure the acoustics sounded right. This was made difficult because the actors had to stay on the mic while also sounding like they were moving about during the killing.
Following this scene, we went onto no. 4 which was a more simple, but had the challenge of making it sound like Jack was sat in the back of a car while Annie and Kay were sat in the front. I suggested that, like the layout of a car, the actors for Annie and Kay stood next to each other, and the actor for Jack stood in between but slightly behind. Listening back, I think this gives the best impression of them all being in a car together. During the breaks, I managed to build up a good relationship wth the actors and keep the morale going because it was a long day, so to keep them happy, it was important to make them feel welcome which I think I did quite well.
The next couple of scenes were in the car, so it involved the actors being in a voiceover booth where the studio crew couldn’t see them. This is when my job of relaying came in handy because it was easier than making another member of the group from the studio walking in and out of the acting area which would have taken up time.
We managed to finish the recording on time even if we did start a bit late. I checked that every line was recorded and the whole team were happy with the takes, and when I was happy that everyone agreed, I let the actors leave. Once everyone had left and Lucy had gone to make the SFX with a cabbage, I sat down to listen to the scenes and made notes on what needed to be edited.
It was a successful day with very few mistakes, and I was quite proud with the way everyone did their jobs well.
This week, we began the editing stage. I offered to help with this process but Bernice and Lucy were happy to do it themselves. Before they started I gave them the feedback from my initial listen and told them what I thought needed doing. Most of the stuff I said they agreed with, so I let them carry on with it. I told them that I wanted to hear the edited scene after they had completed it. We agreed that I would give them some feedback so it can be improved.
Meanwhile, I checked to see if all the post-production notes on the Google Drive had been complete. The one thing that had not been done was the PRS for the music we were going to use in each scene, so I set about doing that.
By the end of the week, Lucy and Bernice had completed the police station scenes (no. 1 & 5). The two scenes were very good, although I thought some of the sound effects went on too long or were too loud which made them sound unrealistic, so I asked them to change it. There were also unnatural pauses between certain SFX and dialogue so that must be changed. Once these modifications had been made I was very pleased with them.
We agreed that Lucy and Bernice would have scene 2 completed over the weekend. There is only another two weeks to go, and we have another 5 complex scenes to complete, but I am certain we are on track and we will have the finished production done in time.
Our deadline has been pushed back to 9th April giving us three extra days to edit the drama. This week, Bernice, Lucy and I all sat down to edit scenes 2 & 3. The scenes were very complex to edit because of the acoustics that we were trying to portray, such as in-car scenes, and scene 3 was particularly difficult because of all the different aspects involved. We had to give the impression that the character were inside a petrol garage on the side of the motorway but all the SFX were difficult to make it sound like it was.
One thing that I was unable to do last week was the PRS for the music because we didn’t know where the music was going to be. When this had been decided I set about making the table to make an official account of all the music we had used.
Scenes 2 & 3 have been completed this week and we are finally editing all the scenes together which I am very pleased about.
This week has been very busy with all the scenes finally being edited. They all had to go through me before being put into the final edit. There were a few things that I wanted to change, such as the transitions between scenes because I thought they were too long. I wanted the SFX to have a bit more of an effect, such as the stabbing sound, so I asked Bernice and Lucy to change this, as well. Apart from this, I was very pleased with the work that Bernice and Lucy had done this week.
While the post-production was being done, I made sure that all the admin paper work had been completed because the last time I checked it had not. I was pleased when it had been done, so that once that had been completed we could upload it on Monday.
Week 11 (Deadline Day!)
The one last thing that I did was make sure everyone in the group was happy with the final edit. I was very happy with the way it turned out and the professional standard to which it had been completed. I also made sure that all the paper work was ready to be uploaded. The team, especially Bernice and Lucy, had worked very hard with the production process.
The drama itself was not how I had originally envisioned it 10 weeks ago, because a lot of the circumstances had changed since then. However, I believe the audio drama we created was of a very high standard, and I think the work we all put in contributed towards that. There were a few times when members of the group could have pulled their weight a bit more, but when they did help, it worked towards creating a group production that I believed was the best it could be.