Interview: Bob Koester, Director of Companions

Interview took place on 01/04/2017. MB=Michael Bergonzi. BK: Bob Koester.

You can check out the review of his audio drama: Companions over at AudioDramaReviews.com shortly after the 200th review celebration on the 29th of January. Check back here to get the link. Also be sure to follow us one Twitter and Facebook. And don’t forget, we have a Patreon.

MB: So, what sparked this story?

BK: The story began with the ending, sort of. I imagined a specific post-apocalyptic scenario basically like the one that Companions ends with, and then decided I wanted to get there by starting from before the apocalyptic event happened.

MB: Interesting. What was the hardest thing about writing this story?

BK: Probably capturing what makes the leads, Harry and Cailyn, fall in love. That’s a pretty big mystery in general, and as I say the original idea was more of a Big Picture Science Fiction thing. I kind of borrowed a trick from Shakespeare by having them already kind of like each other before the story begins, so they just need some incidents to become mutually aware of it.

MB: Yeah, one thing I noticed while listening was that the virus affecting everyone back on Earth sort of took a backseat to the romance. Speaking of that, was the idea of the simulation from the story’s inception or did you think of that later?

BK: Yeah, the love story definitely took over during the course of writing it. As to the simulation, I knew there’d be some sort of long-distance communication from the beginning, with some people far off and isolated in a classic sci-fi way. The simulations came in about halfway through, when I was looking for something that would require the characters to really invest in each other if they wanted to relate.

MB: So you were pretty set on the isolation aspect of the characters and didn’t want Harry and Kay to meet each other in real life. Why make this an audio drama?

BK: Well, it started first as a movie idea (I have a hobby of making short films), then I decided the setting made that too difficult, so I thought of making it a short novel. That’s when I came up with the character of CO, to be the narrator of the novel. But then I decided that the simulation sessions made it all very theatrical. They’re putting on a show for each other, and kind of living their relationship in scenes. It was actually put on as a one-day minimalist stage show. But then I decided as an audio drama I’d have great ability to use background noises and the like to indicate places and events to the audience.

MB: Interesting. I never would’ve pictured a simulation as theatrical. Were the actors in the same room when they recorded or was this all done remotely?

BK: All in one room. For a while it seemed like that wouldn’t be possible, but I’m glad it worked out that way.

MB: Cool. The structure of the narrative is less than traditional. What made you want to tell a story in such a non-linear and unconventional way when so many of the ideas in the story are difficult to grasp? The simulated Harry and Kay vs their real life counterparts and the technical jargon being the two main examples.

BK: Well let’s see. Telling it all as a story from a future point was a way of making that post-apocalyptic future kind of permeate it. It quickly became clear that I wasn’t going to spend a lot of time there, narratively, because the romance became so central, so I wanted a kind of developing sense that the events we were seeing had let to something else later. Even though the audience spends a lot of time not knowing exactly what that future was or exactly what the significance of these future characters could be.

As far as the audience picking up on the simulations vs. real-life people, that is a lot to ask and it was kind of a leap of faith in the audience. I think in a stage play there’d be ways to telegraph some of it, or I could have done the same by having the simulations have some sort of voice effect to differentiate them from the real people, but I decided the potential sense of accomplishment the audience would get from figuring it out themselves could be worth the risk.

In the YouTube version of the story, which has accompanying abstract computer graphics, I put in a hint about who is real and who’s a simulation in each scene, but less than half of people I ask pick up on it, and even they all had figured it out before they noticed the clue.

MB: Well, let me just get on record as being one of those confused listeners. You said this was originally a movie idea. Did you have trouble adapting for a medium without visuals?

BK: Um, I didn’t THINK I had trouble, I guess you’d be a better judge of the result. I did definitely have to make some changes. I drastically altered a scene because the early version had relied on visual cues and just using the way a play stage works. But in my head at least it seemed pretty natural once it changed. If challenging.

I’m sure I lean on a bunch of science fiction stuff that makes sense to me and doesn’t occur to me to explain. And pretty much every version had more and more explanation cut out because it can be kind of dead air if it’s not necessary.

Also some more basic stuff, like Harry telling Cailyn that she “sounds worried” rather than “looks worried”. Which is almost counter-intuitive but I liked the idea that the audience could judge for itself whether he was reading her rightly, rather than having to imagine what expression she had that was worrying him.

MB: I get that. I’m the same way with my own writing, never sure of how little information I’m actually giving the reader until someone actually experiences it. Anyway, thanks for taking the time to chat with me. Are there any social media channels readers/listeners can find you at?

BK: You’re very welcome! I’m @hamletseries on twitter. Companions is on Facebook at facebook.com/playcompanions, and I have a blog at hamletseries.wordpress.com that is currently dominated by Companions-related stuff, including ways to listen to or download it.

Interview: Fault Line Players, Youtube and OTR Serial Homages

With the vast majority of audio dramas being on iTunes and other Podcasting applications, why YouTube? Are there any plans to publish on other platforms?

Ted Falagan – YouTube was simply the most accessible and, most importantly for a troupe that produces everything out of their own pockets, it didn’t cost anything.  We’re also on SoundCloud (where folks can download free MP3’s of our latest works.).  We’ve tried ITunes, Pod-O-Matic, Podbean, and even our own website, but found that YouTube simply reaches the most people and requires the least amount of effort on our part in terms of marketing.  Don’t get me wrong, we do as much social media marketing as humanly possible, it’s just that YT is easy to format and has a bigger reach. Our website is down for the time being, but we plan on re-launching it soon.  But it’s a lot of work to maintain.  Currently, FLP has a staff of two – myself and my wife, Debbie – and we do all of the writing, editing, the majority of the voice acting, and all of the marketing, so we have to try and keep things simple.  Or we collapse!

Talking about the Silver Fox, what made you want to tackle such a classic archetype of radio drama, which some would say has been overdone. Were you going for an homage or something different?

T.F. – I’ve always been a comic book fan and wanted to try a super hero tale.  It seems that the mysterious, lone vigilante hero – armed with only his fists and guns (ala The Green Hornet, Shadow, etc.) is the easiest to translate into an audio format.  ‘The Silver Fox’ is definitely an homage to that form of storytelling.  I suppose it is overdone to a certain extent.  I simply wanted to create a world where this character could exist in and then co-exist and interact with other heroes (many of which will be introduced in future ‘S.F.’ episodes.)  I loved comics specifically for the connectivity of the stories, the characters all existed in the same universe.  Now that Marvel has finally taken the step into translating that to a film universe, I wanted to try and do it with an audio one.  A lot of future threads in my ‘S.F.’ stories will connect in small ways to some of my other audio stories.  And, for those brave souls who follow our works, perhaps they’ll notice and be excited by it. Or not.

Do you record the actors at the same time in the same room, or is this an online endeavor? If you had the chance to do it the other way, would you?

Deborah Fabiano-Falagan – We record everything in a little office / studio in our apartment.  When using outside actors, we have them come in one at a time (there isn’t room for multiple actors) and then they record their lines in one session.  We’ve had actors record lines on their own, using various recording methods, and actually from spots all over the world, but it began to get problematic getting the different recordings from varied sources to sound right, so we discarded that approach.  We have moved recently and now have a bigger space, so we hope to get a troupe together and record some works live in the future.

What are some of your personal favorite productions you’ve done so far. Are there any in upcoming projects you’d like to share?

D.F.F. – My favorite episodes to write are the ‘Asylum of The Mind’ episodes.  That’s our horror anthology series.  Since it’s an anthology, I get to really stretch my imagination and go very dark.  As far as the future goes, we are currently auditioning for new troupe member so we can get more voices into the mix and, hopefully, to get some more writers.  Ted & I can write and act in many shorts, that’s fine, but having more voices both behind and in front of the mic would be the ideal situation.  And that’s what we hope to do.  Right now, we premiere a new short once a month, but we’d love to get enough new talent added so that we can, perhaps, move to a weekly – or at least bi-weekly – schedule as far as content output goes.  That would be ideal.  We always have ideas and new scripts, and will keep creating works of all genres.  We have a 1950’s era, sci-fi series coming called ‘The Aquarians,’ and a continuation of our popular vampire web-series ‘brood,’ called ‘The House of Kaine.’

 

Michael: Thanks to Deborah and Ted for taking the time to answer these questions. A review of The Silver Fox will premiere over at Audio Drama Reviews on December 4th, 2016.

Interview: Cristal Duhaime and Mira Burt-Wintonick of Love Me

What made you want to start a Podcast about relationships? Were shows like Serial and other podcasts, based on anecdotes, inspirational to you?

MBW: I’m always curious to hear about what’s going on in other people’s relationships. I’m a bit of a snoop. I wanted to create a show that would give me an excuse to talk to people about their private lives. And after WireTap ended, Cristal and I wanted somewhere to feature all the radio fictions we planned to write, and we figured starting our own show might be the best way to achieve that.

CD: Yeah, we were interested in having a venue in which we could explore both documentary and fiction. And relationship struggles seemed like a natural fit for a topic since it’s such a universal problem and there’s just so much to explore there. But we also wanted to make sure we were covering all kinds of interactions–not just romantic ones.

Tell us about Wiretap and its relationship to Love Me and the CBC?

MBW: Working on WireTap was an incredibly formative experience. I spent 10 years working on that show, which is pretty much my entire career. We always felt pretty lucky in that the CBC let us do our own thing for the most part so we were free to experiment and try new things. After spending so many years mixing WireTap, the aesthetic inhabits you a bit, so Love Me is definitely a continuation of that aesthetic in certain ways. But we also wanted to try to make it sound distinct so we enlisted a few musicians to help create Love Me’s sonic space with a new theme song and some scoring music.

CD: Listeners who are familiar with WireTap will definitely recognize a similar production style–for example the use of music and creative sound design to complement our stories, which can sometimes contribute to a surreal atmosphere… But it’s also a departure in that WireTap obviously very much centered on Jonathan Goldstein as the host and personality of the show and all the elements were filtered through him. Love Me instead focuses on the individual stories week to week. While we do have a host, the wonderful Lu Olkowski, she plays a somewhat non-traditional role in that we only hear from her off the top and she doesn’t interact with the pieces in the show.

How did you come across the stories for your first couple of episodes. Is there a way for people to submit their own to Love Me?

MBW: Our story ideas are a mix of us imagining things that would be fun to hear and then seeking those out in the real world or writing a fiction inspired by that idea, but then we also reached out to storytellers and asked them to pitch us stuff. We’re no longer accepting submissions for Season 1 of Love Me, but if we do a second season we’d love for people to get in touch if they have a story they want to share. They can do so through our website or at loveme@cbc.ca

CD: Yeah, when we did the call-out for season 1, we weren’t sure exactly what we were looking for… But now we have more of a sense of things and we hope listeners will as well and come to us!

What was the hardest part about creating the show, in terms of production? What was the easiest?

MBW: One of the hardest parts was selecting the stories we wanted to feature. We got flooded with story submissions and it was tricky to decide which ones to focus on and which to devote our energy to. Once we figured that out it was a little easier to wrap our heads around everything, but then of course the challenge of structuring each piece begins, which is no easy feat. Each piece went through many many drafts during the editing process before we felt satisfied with the story arc. The easiest part was probably mixing because once you get into the right flow things start to come together nicely and you have all the elements in front of you so you’re no longer digging through tape and re-arranging things. You’re just trying out different songs and sounds and seeing what resonates best.

CD: There was also a lot of heavy-lifting in figuring out the basic elements of the show, for instance the theme song and scoring music, the host’s role, the show’s logo, etc. Those elements are instrumental in creating the identity of a show and once they’re put in place there’s no going back. So that seemed to require a lot more thought and debate than with just producing individual stories. If we were to do a 2nd season of the show, I think we would have an easier time of it as that foundation will already have been worked out. We were also perhaps a little ambitious with some of our pieces which made production rather intensive–one of the toughest things we decided to do was a short drama with 12 characters. The casting alone was incredibly time-consuming, let alone the editing and mixing!  

What can listeners expect in future episodes? Anything you can reveal?

MBW: We have a great story by the ABC’s Sophie Townsend that we’re really excited about. She’s one of our favourites radio producers. And a few more personal stories that made us cry all through the editing and mixing process. But it’s not all tears! There’s some fun stuff, too!

CD: The short drama with 12 characters I mentioned before is coming up in episode 5, “Family Portrait”. It features a well-meaning family man who tries to get one decent group photo. And of course, things go horribly awry. I’m also excited about the story of a woman in her 60s who seeks out the man who confessed his feelings for her back when they were in their teens. She finds out he joined the priesthood shortly after she turned him down all those years ago…

Where can people learn more about Love Me and other works you’re involved with?

MBW: People can subscribe to our podcast on iTunes or visit cbc.ca/loveme for extra content, like photos associated with each episode or a great animation about untranslatable words of love. We’re also starting production on a new fiction series for Howl.fm that will be released sometime in the fall.