Springheel’d Jack Returns, by Robert Valentine

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It’s been a long time coming but the wait is very nearly over. After what has seemed an eternity, post-production on the next two series of the Springheel Saga is in full swing, and starting this Autumn, the intrepid Jonah Smith will return in The Legend of Springheel’d Jack.

Set in 1845, the story will find our dogged hero still hunting ‘the Terror of London’ but after seven years and no luck, he’s ready to give up the ghost.  Spring-Heeled Jack is now more likely to be found on the stage of a Penny Gaff or in the pages of a Penny Dreadful than jumping over rooftops, but when thirteen-year-old pickpocket, Maria Davis, is killed by a cackling, spring-booted maniac, Smith finds himself once again hot on the trail.  With a supporting cast that includes radio legend Nicholas Parsons,The Legend of Springheel’d Jack will also find Smith framed for murder, on the run from the police and pitched against a new nemesis in a mad dash through London’s theatre-world to capture the ‘Leaping Shadow’.

Throughout the long – and occasionally lonely – process of bringing this project to an mp3 player near you, we’ve all been greatly touched and encouraged by the many emails from fans of the first series.  A production of this scope takes time – sometimes more time than anyone expects – and we’d like to thank you all for sticking with us as we continue to work on Series Two.  Jonah Smith’s life-long quest to apprehend Spring-Heeled Jack is soon to plunge him into new adventures which we can’t wait to share with you.

We’re also pleased to announce that in the meantime we’ve been putting together a podcast series, The Springheel Files, to follow each new episode and give you a glimpse behind the scenes with cast and crew interviews – as well as other goodies – presented by Cameron K. McEwan (Blogtor Who, Den of Geek).  The Springheel Files will kick off with a Series One retrospective before Cameron’s investigation into the dark secrets of the Springheel Saga leads him from Folly Ditch in 1845 to Aldershot Barracks in 1877 – and beyond!

Thank you all once again for your patience while we’ve been struggling with this monster of a production.  Like us, Smith has waited a long time since the first series to encounter Spring-Heeled Jack again, and even though it’s felt like the trail has gone cold and the long-awaited reunion would never happen – suddenly, there’s a knock at the door…

Series One, The Strange Case of Springheel’d Jack, can be found here:

Series Two, The Legend of Springheel’d Jack, can be found here:

You can also find us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TheSpringheelSaga and follow us on Twitter: @SpringheelWTC

Why Aren’t Short Films More Popular?

Wireless Theatre is an audio company. We live and breathe audio and love making it. There will always be a space in the world for audio entertainment, but sometimes you just want to watch something – and when you do, there is a whole world of choice. An abundance of new films at the touch of a button, TV dramas, soaps, documentaries, serials, porn, game shows, cooking shows, chat shows, culture shows, education shows and of course, the dreaded reality TV shows – you can literally get as many of these as you want in the blink of an eye, whole channels devoted to just one genre of visual entertainment. Yet for some reason, the mainstream just don’t seem to be that into short films – people are making them, but large audiences just don’t seem interested in them.

Perhaps people simply don’t want to watch stuff that is so short – but then why, for many years, were entire channels devoted to music videos – which are, in essence, short films aren’t they? Take for example, AEROSMITH – their videos are often set out like short films – telling stories with a beginning, middle and end:

These channels were hugely popular with all ages – I remember going round to friends houses sometimes just for us all to sit transfixed by THE BOX or MTV.

When films first started being made they were short. Short and silent, but hugely popular.

Thinking it through, I assume that it is down to a few reasons.

1) There doesn’t seem to be a mainstream TV channel devoted to short films. The Pixar short films that are played at the start of their features are seemingly well recieved -  shoudln’t short films be shown at the start of every feature… instead of endless adverts about fast food, perfume or the actual cinema you’re already sitting in?

2) They cost a lot to make, but don’t make much back – therefore there isn’t the variety there should be. For a long time that may have been true. Little funding available for short films, and equimnet, time and skills are expensive. However, this is changing, for sure. A time will come soon where a decent film can be made on a mobile phone.  People can make GOODquality films for SMALL budgets. Recently, we entered the 48 Hour Sci Fi Film Challenge (with over 300 others!) and if you have a look at the entries, the level of production quality is incredible: http://www.sci-fi-london.com/48-hour-film-challenge - these are generally all low budget films, made in 48 hours!

3) They are too “wanky?” (bear with me!).  I recently went to see a series of short films in a London cinema, the auditorium was only half full and it was clear that most of those people were family and friends. I took along two friends, who are not involved the enterainment industry AT ALL, but they do enjoy the cinema, theatre and TV.  After watching seven beautifully made short films, we naturally chatted about them. I questioned my friends as to whether they would come and watch short films again out of choice and neither were overly enthused by the idea.  ”Well, apart from not knowing where they’re on – they can be a bit wanky can’t they?” which was met with a hoot of agreement from my other friend. This amused me – I didn’t agree with them, but I was interested in where this feeling comes from. We discussed it for a while and came to the conclusion that perhaps, if they are “wanky”, it’s because they are often experimental; a toe in the water of film making for directors who dream to make features? An editor who is using it as a showcase for some new tricks? A final film for a student?A showcase for an actor?

This may be so, but if you take a visit to Vimeo or You Tube and look around there are some stunning, non ‘wanky’ films out there that have depressingly view hits (in comparison to the singing cats, drunk celebrities or children being weird).

Perhaps famous actors should start lending their performance skills to short films to make them more commercially appealing? Surely the internet is the perfect place for this?

A quick search online brings up: www.filmsshort.com - a website showcasing shorts, and there are some great ones on there, but the website doesn’t look like it has huge backing or funding and is apparently run by just one man. There is also the lovely blog: lunchbreakshorts.wordpress.com uplaoding and blogging about short films she enjoys - run by Peggy Nuttal. I wonder if these sites have a lot of visitors? I wonder if short films will ever become popular enough that you don’t have to be searching for them to find them? I certainly hope so.

Here are some films made by, either WIRED UP MEDIA or PIG FILTERS – all are brilliant. I wonder if you’ll take the time to watch?

BISEX – A DAY WITH THE BRITISH SPACE AGENCY

HAPPY BIRTHDAY by SUICIDE DAD

WHITE NOISE

Summing Up, By George Maddocks

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It started out with a series of innocuous propositions: a semi-drunken chat between myself and Mariele Runacre Temple after our live show ‘Stage Fright’- where I said we should have live cameras explaining the process that makes the sound. A coffee with Jack Bowman at the BFI – when he said we should enter a competition to remake the War of the Worlds broadcast. A one line e-mail from Arran Corbett – suggesting we enter a competition to make a SciFi film in 48hrs. And finally, a quick e-mail I knocked out over a coffee to Mariele, suggesting that we we do all the above in the same month and make a live show out of the results.

The best ideas start out small and simple and slowly and inexorably build until you realise, with a sudden terrifying jolt, that you and your team is at the head of something rather big and complicated, and that a lot of people are trusting you to get things right.

For me the jolt came in at the second pre-production meeting;

“We haven’t technically asked the people who own the place for permission to film” I said to my co-producer (and WiredUp Media’s video genius) Arran Corbett.

“We’ll have to bring them in past the concierge in discrete groups, how many crew members are there?” I imagined seven to eight.

“Fifteen” he replied “…and a shitload of kit”.

Over the course of SciFi Month we have used the talents of over twenty five people, their time and expertise was given for free, but on the implicit understanding that at the end of the process they would each have been part of a piece of art they could be proud of.

For that to be the case, each and every individual is relying upon on the next artist in the creative chain to do their job right, or all of their good work was for nothing. Its a significant pressure that is placed on everybody involved and the way people respond to it teaches you a lot about them.

I have learnt nothing but good things about the people who worked with us on SciFi month at every turn the effort and application of all involved was exemplary.Nowhere was this more evident than on the first project in Sci Fi Month – White Noise. A film we made in just 48hrs for this competition – http://www.sci-fi-london.com/48-hour-film-challenge

Making a film in 48hrs is not easy; There is precious little time for error or sleep (a poisonous combination as the chances of the former increase proportionally to the lack of the latter) and when errors do come, so often we see the best in people in their responses:

Jack Bowman (our lead actor) spectacularly fell over onto ridged concrete during a chase sequence, riddled with cuts and bruises he carried on for another six hours of shooting.

Seven hours into the edit our main editing programme developed a bug that rendered it useless. Our grader Neil Stenhouse took over the edit on his machine and worked tirelessly and diligently throughout the night until the job was done (a fourteen hour effort).

As this was happening the sound guys TimoSäilä and MarcinKardach, who had expected to have their work done by midnight slept in and amongst a pile of equipment in the next room waiting to be woken up at 0600 the next morning when they could start. When they did awake and get cracking, their sound design was precise, detailed and artistically exceptional.

A big mention should also go to Francesco Quadraruopolo – he too was on standby the evening before waiting to score the piece. He worked until the small hours pre-preparing the music, then cat napped till we called him to prepare a final composition the next morning. His music was the final addition before we started to print the final film and it was amazing, at once both tongue in cheek and detailed and serious. Its a huge part of the overall piece, and an amazing piece of work for someone so deprived of time and sleep

And in and amongst all this chaos was the one constant of the 48hrs film crew: Arran Corbett – he sourced the crew from nothing, he put the equipment together, shot the film, supervised and worked out the technical solutions that pulled us through when the edit failed and did all of this with humour and on four hours sleep powered by nothing but Red Bull and chinese. A heroic effort.

And that was just the crew! Long before they came to do their long sleepless work, an entirely different sort of commitment had been shown by the performers. From Tom Hunter who turned up on eight hours notice so he could be squeezed into a pair of latex pants covered in makeup and then left to lie on a bed surrounded by strangers. Or Jessica Dennis, who patiently and quietly sat at the location for five hours before we could shoot her scene and then brought the perfect performance. Or finally Josephine Arden who, dressed in nothing but the barest of latex clothing, ran around various public locations around London Bridge, ignoring the car horns, yells of security guards and groups of schoolchildren and then found the composure and professionalism to create a moment that turned the film on its head.

And there are more! Alissandro Ugo who pushed through the chaos to frame and light everything we needed. Claire Llewellyn whose focus and contribution started with the fights and then went well beyond to help smooth over all the physical business.Mo Corbett, who captured behind the scenes to make sure we will remember the day properly, Katrina Mayhew Taibe who went above and beyond the call of duty and kept us all going, and Nick Maddocks my long suffering brother and our ‘Soldier of Fortune’, someone who you can rely upon for whatever is needed, whenever it is needed.

In the end after 48hrs of elation, despair, laughter and more despair our submission for the competition was unceremoniously copied to a memory stick at 1222 (37mins from deadline) as I put on Arrans trainers (I knew I would have to run). I took the stick downstairs and into a cab.

“I need to get to the BFI by ten to one” I told the cabbie,

“That’ll be tight”, he said

“How much is it?’”I asked

“A tenner” he said.

“I’ll give you twenty if you get me there by ten to one” I said

“‘Hold on to your hat’” he laughed.

At five to one I did my sprinting impression through the doors of BFI and dropped the stick on the submissions desk – done.

Did we produce a film that does justice to all of these people commitment and dedication? You decide, its below.

WHITE NOISE

We are very proud. Of course, there are things we have learnt for next time, things we would do differently with hindsight and many many ways in which we can improve. We cannot wait for next time to put all these things into practice.

All of this was just the first weekend of SciFi Month – we still had all the hard work to do and we were exhausted.

Our next job was re-recording the War of the Worlds for this competition WAR OF THE WORLDS 75 and the live visualisation.

This time the pressure from our collaborators was subtly different, Wireless Theatre have been making radio drama for five years now. It what we do. We should get it right. Unlike White Noise (where just making a reasonable film would have been a decent achievement for a young company in its infancy) What people have come to expect from Wireless and audio is something absolutely exceptional.

As well as this we also had committed ourselves to filming a ‘visualisation’ of War of the Worlds.

Visualisation is a new concept in the audio world and explained here www.wiredupmedia.co.uk/#!blank/c9ok, it is where accompanying visuals are created for radio pieces. As we were going to have a audience sit and listen to the War of the Worlds radio play at the live event it was important that we should get this right.

We had two weekends, two massive projects to deliver and a live show happening the weekend after and we were all exhausted, It could have been a disaster.

Luckily over the years Wireless has put together a team of people of highly skilled professionals who we can call on to help. We have a fearsome collection of people who work for us and this is all a result of the good works of Wireless’ Artistic Director, Mariele Runacre Temple.

Mariele is going to edit this, and would subsequently cut all of the effusive praise I want to write and that she so richly deserves. So in its place I’m simply going to offer a anecdote. We are currently in the process of talks about funding the company with business professionals. The one things that amazes each and every one of them is how so much professional standard work can be made with no money, they simply do not understand how this can work.

What they don’t know is Mariele’s energy, enthusiasm and work ethic. She is passionate about the work, tireless in her efforts and is genuinely respectful and enthusiastic about helping each and every artist she can. Armed with nothing but this attitude and a great ear for art she has built the company from nothing, which is an enormous credit to her.

The two professionals who Mariele put her faith in to make the War of the Worlds piece happen were the award winning team who wrote it Robert Valentine and Jack Bowman (pen name Gareth Parker) -

Rob, was a absolute rock, time and time again I would find myself having run out of time or without the ability to make something work and he would simply step in and cover the work without fuss or complaint. Its hard to convey how much of this project only happened because of his amazing work ethic and diligent focus on getting the job done.

Jack (now recovered from his lacerations) used his contacts, he’s a prolific networker, to put together the cast and (via the wonderful Mary Burt) a pub location where we could shoot (massive thanks to Sarah and Adrian from The Crown Pub who were wonderful to us!) Rob scouted out Horsell Common and handled logistics and with Mariele on the actors liaison, before we knew it we were at Woking station at 0830 in the morning with two bags full of kit and a full team of actors.

And what a team of actors! On-location recording is a very different thing from studio recording. The actor not only has to keep in mind keeping themselves safe and upright (stumbling in and around over treeroots and in and around the sandpits of the common) but also their proximity to the mic and each other. Once they’ve done all that they have to act as well. It is a precise and demanding discipline, made even more difficult by the fact that the weather was beautiful and the common full of people shouting, barking dogs and phones going off. If we caught any of those things on the recording the take was ruined. In this environment a relative period of silence becomes so precious, it is your one chance to get that scene, if you nail it you will have it forever, miss it and you may never get another chance.

The team we had that day took every one of the few chances we were given. Josie Arden returned and brought the same physical and emotional precision she gifted us on White Noise. She was joined by Tom Slatter who scrabbled and crawled around the common to like a trooper before composing himself to give the final moments of the play a exquisite tenderness. Matt Blair, making his acting debut brought what we needed, on-time, every time and Matthew Hebden ably striding around the common in the morning, spent the afternoon crouched in a filthy cellar pushing himself and Josie to find the harrowing performances the piece required.

All of the above brilliant work would have been for nothing, had it not been for the pointed focus and concentration of the man who truly made Dead London work. Malcolm Thorp. A longstanding editor for Wireless with a reputation for immaculate post-production work, he brought all of that focus to the location recording and over an ten hour recording session didn’t miss a trick.

LOCATION RECORDING VIDEO

With the audio safely recorded Malcolm took himself away to edit, and we all met up at Woking station the next weekend to record the visualisation of the audio.

Arran Corbet re-joined us as did the tried tested and thoroughly reliable Tom Slatter. Jack and Rob were a given and we were subsequently joined by two more performers - Jane Deane and Cameron K McEwan. Within forty minutes we had blown green smoke in Camerons face covered him in fake blood and dragged him around the floor of the pub. Jane had a slightly more leisurely time getting through a full two hours before we made her crawl around in and amongst bins. They did so without complaint and with full commitment to the roles – a great credit to them both.

The most telling anecdote I can offer for the weekends recording was this. We were using green pyrotechnic smoke to convey the Martians, and we could only afford three smoke pellets. This meant that we had one take and one take only to get each shot right.

We didn’t miss a shot, we nailed each one, and in all honestly the final two minute shot that we filmed is easily the best work we’ve committed to hard drive a clear indication of team that, although fatigued, was becoming frighteningly efficient.

I remember thinking on the drive back to London, ‘all thats left is the live show’, and then almost immediately being sized by the fear of that. The live show was possibly the most complicated and pressurised environment of the whole month.

Firstly, both of the pressures present in the above pieces were in evidence. The pressure from the performers to do their performances justice and secondly the pressure to do better than the very high standard set by previous Wireless shows.

Thirdly, the live mixing and integration into the performance of four live video feeds, explaining and clarifying the process’ by which the sound was made and recorded. Something we had never done before, and that (to our knowledge) has not been done by a theatre company before.

And finally the worst pressure – a live audience ready to see any mistake, making it impossible to cut and track back or edit the mistake later.

Its impossible to list all the little acts of hard work, dedication and ingenuity that made the live show work – there were too many. From all night edits, carried on during train journeys to and from day jobs, to people learning the intricacies of vision mixing in two hours, improvised projection shutters made from gaffer tape and notebooks. Those people who had already worked so hard to deliver White Noise and War of the Worlds, doubled down and put in a final push.

To help we were joined by fresh eyes and ears. Erica Basnicki and Tshari King, Wireless Theatre’s audio experts had a huge weight on their shoulders. Exhausted from the first three weeks of the work my briefings were patchy and unfocused. They, quite simply, made great decisions, crafted the audio and made the sound work by themselves. Its a mark of their talent that I didn’t cut a single sound or que. They simply got it right, first time. Incredible professionalism and talent that was supported with precision and confidence by Dimitar Angelov – whose operation was rock solid.

The same is true of the lighting work by Gareth Brown – again my briefing was about as rough and messy as could be imagined.

“Backlight, with big parcans Gareth and some blue” I think I managed. From that scarily brief starting point Gareth turned up got the kit in and got the thing lit just right in three hours – brilliant work.

But all the tech in world counts for nothing unless what is onstage is right and into this chaos of wires and technicians shouting things no-one but other tecncians understand five actors had to perform two radio plays perfectly.

We retained wonderful Jessica Dennis, who was as professional and accomplished as she was on White Noise. We gained Neil Frost and David Beck who worked as comedy duo to great effect, farting and burping their way through Space Ladz with alarming precision. Andrew Macbean given a subtle role that needed great focus and delicacy of touch which he brought in spades and  Daniel Rodrigues who had to span the bridge between gross humour and delicate emotion in the two pieces and do so with aplomb.

The ever dependable Adam Hall compared the evening with wit and charm and Ally Friedman stepped boldy forward and became the most visible foley person we had ever had performing with as much confidence and precision as the actors themselves.

Within a couple of hours, SciFi Month was finished, we stripped out the cable runs we had put in just the night before, packed up the laptops and headed for the bar to celebrate what had been a audacious month.

Its not in the moment after you finish making something that you understand it. Its not even in the next few days. It comes later, you remember a single detail, then think of the circumstances that led to it and then trace back what happened from there. Every time I go through that process with SciFi month, I am amazed by all the work that people did so well, all the times they could have got it wrong and didn’t, all the times that people went above and beyond what was expected of them.

This piece is intended to serve as the second best thank you that Wireless and WiredUp Media can manage to everyone involved.

The best thank you, I would hope, would be the work itself.

Dead London will be entered into the War Of The Worlds 75 Competition on June 1st and will be available to download from the Wireless Theatre Website shortly afterwards. Space Ladz and Time Travel Incorporated will be online next month.

Wells, Welles and Wireless by Robert Valentine

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War of the Worlds

This October, it will be seventy-five years since Orson Welles’s ground-breaking production of The War of the Worlds sent credulous listeners scurrying for the hills. To commemorate this legendary radio landmark, Aural Stage Studios, CONvergence, Radio Drama Revival and iZotope have organised a competition inviting audio producers to pay homage to what is undoubtedly the most infamous radio production of all time. The competition parameters are as follows: the maximum length for submissions is fifteen minutes, and must include arrival inside a meteorite, tripods used for locomotion, massive destruction and a natural biological solution. Needless to say, it was an offer we couldn’t refuse.

As a Surrey boy, I grew up in the part of the country most ravaged by Wells’s Martian invaders. They only landed a short drive from me, not far outside Woking at the sandpits of Horsell Common, and went on to quickly heat-ray and black-smoke their merciless, three-legged way towards London. So it was then, on Saturday 20th April 2013, that a small and enthusiastic cast and crew led by director George Maddocks made its way to the spot where the first cylinder landed back in 1898. The area is still a Mecca for a certain kind of sci-fi fan, and we were all incredibly excited by the idea of staging our on-location recording right there where it all happened. Okay, so maybe the microphones wouldn’t pick it up, but hopefully some of the magic would rub off on us.

At the tail-end of the 19th century, of course, the British Empire ruled the waves and it made complete sense for an alien invasion force to land in the commuter-belt and from there strike at London, the Earth capital. By 1938, New York was very much the obvious target if you wanted to take over the world. Interestingly in Welles’s version, the story is set in a ‘not-so-distant future’ in which the tensions across the pond in Europe did not in the end lead to the start of World War Two. In 2013, however, it’s fair to assume that the Martians would attempt a simultaneous strike across the globe in order the crush all human military resistance. The Martian modus operandi necessarily changes with our own, and its probable to assume that in this day and age ‘shock and awe’ would be their strategy. They are us at our worst, after all, and I think that this is the true secret of the story’s power. The War of the Worlds is a cautionary tale in which invaders from Mars give the Earth’s reigning superpower a taste of its own brutal medicine, and in which we are reminded that mankind’s dominance of the planet is an illusion. By the time Orson came to do his version of the story, H.G. already considered it badly dated, but time has shown that while media may change and the baton of global dominance may pass between nations, the lessons of the novel are as important as ever.

DEAD LONDON: WAR OF THE WORLDS by Gareth Parker and Robert Valentine, is premièring at The Lost Theatre as part of the Wireless Theatre Company’s Sci-Fi Month Showcase on 4th May, 2013 at The LOST Theatre, London. Tickets on sale HERE – only £5!

Our Plays

http://waroftheworlds75.com/

What The Dickens Magazine

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The Saint Valentine’s Day Murder – On Stage!

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Back in 2011 we recorded a brilliant new comedy, live at The New Diorama Theatre. The critics and audience loved it:

“Brilliantly written, directed and acted, and very very funny.’ – Fringe Report

‘Superbly written, it fizzed with sharp and imaginative one-liners’ – Remote Goat

In fact, the play was so loved and is so popular on the WTC website (download it HERE) that it’s now been made into a full stage show by Newgate Productions  and will take place at The LOST Theatre (Vauxhall) on the 14th, 15th an 16th February. This is a show not to be missed – so if you are looking for something a bit different for your loved one, or you’re entirely Bah Humbug to the whole idea of Valentine’s Day – this is the play for you. Get your tickets HERE and we’ll see you there (there’s a brilliant bar to have drinks after as well!).

Here are some great rehearsal shots of the show:

Matthew Woodcock and Kevin Haney as Jean Pierre Le Poulet and George Chapman

Laura Marshall as Kosminski

Ceri Gifford as Florrie and Kevin Haney as George

Claire Suarez as Michelle and Kevin Haney as George

Jade Allen as Joan Pizer and Matthew Woodcock as the detective

Writer/director Peter Davis (who also plays William Gull) chats with Mike Garnell who plays James Maybrick

STAGE FRIGHT – The Film!

Back in October we were thrilled to help The London Horror Festival open the two week festival run by recording three short original horror radio plays. Each play was performed in front of a sell out audience at The Etcetera Theatre on 15th October, and then judged by the one and only Richard O’Brien who looked spectacular in killer heels. Once Richard picked a winner, he treated the audience to an acoustic music set. It was the perfect start to a brilliant two weeks of top class horror theatre.

Do have a listen to the three productions HERE. But when you listen, with any luck, you’ll think it sounds so smooth and professional (we hope) that you won’t think about the long process that goes into a WTC live show – the whole day is such a thrill for all involved, we thought we’d use the skills we have developped with our sister site Wired Up Mediaand bring you STAGE FRIGHT the film! A 5 minute behind the scenes sneak peek into our day.

My Writing Process by Susan Casanove

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‘This radio lark’s a wonderful hobby, y’know. I’ve got friends all over the world, all over the world… None in this country, but friends all over the world.’  – Tony Hancock.

I’m not entirely sure why this particular witticism comes to mind when I think of my writing work.  Happily it’s not true to say that I don’t have any friends in the UK; however, as the writer of several online audio dramas, I am lucky enough to have come into contact with numerous people around the world via the internet, many of whom I’ve never met, who are kind enough to let me know what they think of the little stories I like to write to keep myself amused.

I get asked a lot of questions about my writing, many of them via Twitter (@SueCasanove).   Most of these questions are a little too complicated, certainly to be answered in 140 characters.  So I’d like to take this opportunity, first of all to thank everyone who has listened to the plays I’ve written so far, to everyone who’s sent me messages, comments and questions, and I’m going to try as best I can to answer some of the questions that I’m asked most often.

‘Where do you get your ideas from?’

This is the question I find most difficult to answer because it feels as though it doesn’t really apply.  I will attempt to explain this: I have honestly never tried to get an idea from anywhere for a script, because pretty much everything around me is almost always presenting me with ideas to dramatise.  The only considerations I have are to figure out which ideas are the strongest, which would make the best stories, and how best to tell them.  When I attended the wedding of two seventy-something friends of the family, I was genuinely moved by their devotion to each other and their joy at finding love again later in life; soon after I started writing Leaves in Autumn – not based on, but certainly inspired by that wedding.  And my visit to Hamburg’s Dialog imDunkeln, an exhibition in which blind people lead the audience in small groups through a series of completely darkened rooms was the inspiration behind my 2010 play, Angels in the Dark, coupled with a modern-day retelling of my favourite story, A Christmas Carol.  My more recent scripts, including the ones I’m working on now, are less obviously inspired by any particular event, but more a mishmash of ideas.

‘How do you write characters?’

Before I started writing scripts, I trained and worked as an actress.  I love everything about the acting process, in particular, I really enjoy preparing for a role.  At ALRA, were we taught what I consider to be the best method for building a character; I’m not talking about making any of the life changes associated with so-called ‘method acting’, the best tool I was taught was to answer as comprehensively as possible ‘the10 questions’.  With each acting role I’ve ever been fortunate enough to be given, I relish really getting into someone else’s head – who is this person?  What makes them tick?  What do they want?  And here’s the secret (OK, it’s not a secret, but none of the books on scriptwriting I was advised to read mention it) – you can apply it to scriptwriting too.  And the great news is, unlike an acting role where the script has already been written and you have to work within those boundaries, discussing and agreeing your character choices with your director and fellow actors, as a scriptwriter, you can do what you like!  It’s a bit like being in charge of your own little universe, and instead of only getting to do character preparation for roles I’m asked to play, as a writer, I can build back stories for people who are older, younger, male, less privileged, more privileged …  there are no limits other than my imagination.  To find out which kind of characters work well together in a story, all I can say is watch copious amounts of TV and film and think about what has worked well in the past.  Once you have an idea of who your characters are, I’ve never come across a more useful tool for building a character than the 10 questions, either as an actor or a scriptwriter.

‘How did you come up with a character like Rob Sterling Davies?’ 

Back in 2008, I wrote a one-woman show called The Diary of Bulah Clack.  It never saw the light of day, partly because I realised that I wasn’t brave enough to give up a full-time office job to go and do my own show, but mainly because it wasn’t very good.  It was my lame attempt to write something a bit like The Diary of a Nobody, but sadly my diarist, Bulah (basically a version of me) was nowhere near as endearing a character as Charles Pooter, therefore the script was doomed.  In spite of this, what I did like about The Diary of Bulah Clack were the unseen characters: those that Bulah talked about in her diary.  There was her boyfriend Talfryn, a self-proclaimed great writer who had never actually written anything as he didn’t have time, and an annoying man called Rob Sterling Davies, a pompous, stuck-up member of the Swansea Gilbert and Sullivan Society that Bulah attended.  So when I came to write We Are Not The BBC, it was a question of righting what I had got wrong in that previous script.  With a clean slate, I wrote a different story in which Bulah became simpler, Talfryn did turn out to be a great writer after all, and Rob, as well as becoming more evil, also became the main character.

‘Is Rob based on someone you know?’

No, Rob isn’t based on any one person.  His character is an amalgam of many different ideas, including aspects of about 20 people altogether, some I’ve known and worked with, some historical figures and others from fiction .

‘What was it like working with Stephen Fry?’

I’ve been a huge fan of British comedy since the 80s when shows like A Bit of Fry and Laurie and Blackadder first got me hooked, so it was of course a joy and a privilege to work with Stephen on my play, We Are The BBC.  He also kindly tweeted a link to the download when it was released bringing many new listeners to the series and to the Wireless Theatre Company.  I wrote about working with him in more detail in an earlier blog entry which you can read here.

‘Will Rob ever get his comeuppance?’

Well …  the final instalment, Better Than The BBC will hopefully be released by summer, 2013.  Please follow me: @SueCasanove and/or @WirelessTheatre for Twitter updates.

Perhaps another reason why Hancock’s one-liner seems apt is that, although I receive messages from people in countries I’ve never visited, a small number of people I do know – some friends, work colleagues and relatives, have yet to hear any of my plays.  It’s not a complaint, radio drama’s not everyone’s cup of tea.  I will say to anyone who hasn’t really tried audio drama yet, you could do a lot worse than start with The Wireless Theatre Company  – with over 150 plays to download or stream any time, for free, you’ve got nothing to lose, so why not give it a go?

Susan Casanove’s website: susancasanove.co.uk 

Taking Stock, by Gareth Brownbill

I once entered a scriptwriting competition ran by Big Finish. Along with the competition guidelines they included some quotes and advice from established Big Finish writers. One of these quotes stated that writers hated having to write – they preferred to have written, and this struck a particular chord with me.

If procrastination had been an Olympic sport this year then stand aside Mo, Chris and Jessica: it would have been me running off with all the gold medal plaudits. One of my favourite writers, Douglas Adams, made missing deadlines an art form. This never seemed to be intentional or malicious. From all accounts he was a very nice man – he just found it extremely difficult to sit down and write, and yet look at what he produced on a good day.

I’m not even a full-time writer. I work full-time in an office and have to think about writing in my spare time. You will notice I used the word think, I never actually said that I write in my spare time. I can’t say that I write in my spare time because I don’t actually write. I make cups of coffee, I pick up books and read pages at random, I take a sudden inexplicable interest in Homes under the Hammer, but I don’t physically force myself to sit down and write one word after another.

By the way, this blog doesn’t count – I’m just at the stage where I really, REALLY have to get things off my chest.

To be fair, I have had a rather important distraction this past year. I became a first time dad and this wonderful, momentous, life-changing experience has helped me to put a few things into perspective about goals and dreams. It’s also helped me to realise that the current of time seems to be flowing at an ever-increasing rate. Samuel will soon be a year old already and yet it only seems like yesterday that I brought him home from the hospital with my wife and tried to cope horrendously with my first ‘proper’ nappy change. It seemed to consist of a lot of flailing arms and legs, and me exclaiming:

“Argh, he’s weeing!!”

“Argh, he’s pooing!!”

“ARGHH! He’s weeing AND pooing!!!!”

More and more often recently I’ve been shocked at how many years have passed since such and such a film or song was released, or certain events took place. It doesn’t make sense that so many years have passed by in so seemingly short a time. It also brings into sharp focus the number of unfinished writing projects that seem to be building up in the attic of my brain. Ideas and titles for scripts and stories, meandering blocks of dialogue that might make an important contribution to a finished project or disappear for all time up the orifice marked ‘Delete’. My online short story collection, Ghosts, Kebabs & Random Musings (www.lulu.com), promised potential customers that the collection would be updated with more stories every few months. I haven’t been anywhere near it for ages. It sometimes feels like the only constants in my writing are the things that I’m scared of. Fear of rejection; fear that what I’m submitting isn’t quite good enough; fear that I’m not good enough. Is this the same for all writers? I honestly couldn’t tell you, as I don’t know that many. Maybe I should work in a partnership more often. It never seemed to do Galton & Simpson any harm. I selfishly take comfort from the diaries of Michael Palin, one of my all-time heroes, describing how many drafts and how much work he had to put into the scripts of The Missionary and American Friends. Even John Cleese had trouble making the script of Fierce Creatures work after the huge success of A Fish Called Wanda.

Perhaps the key to enlightenment lies in ploughing on regardless and taking the rough with the smooth. Learn from your mistakes and don’t beat yourself about the head too much if things go wrong. There are other, more important priorities demanding my attention at the moment anyway. My little boy is smiling his most charming smile and wants me to play peek-a-boo with him. How can I possibly resist that? Work on projects when you can, take comfort in the company of family and friends, and brace yourself for warp factor poo when it’s your turn to change nappies!!

You can download Gareth’s play, TURNING THE TIDE, at the Wireless Theatre Company website:

RAT

The RAT Team worked tirelessley to record, film tand upload the short play and this documentary in just 48 hours – we’re thrilled with it.

If you like the film, please do listen to the production here: http://soundcloud.com/wirelesstheatre/rat

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