Podcamp: An Audio Drama Summer Camp?

Read all about this upcoming and intensive weekend long workshop/summer camp for audio drama production. We’ll certainly be keeping tabs on it. In the meantime, while we wait for more news to drop, check out their website. Fellow reviewer Wil Williams has interviewed one of the Co-Founders and this ambitious new project. You can read that here.

Here’s their first press release:

San Diego, CA — 3/19/2018

Podcamp , a joint project from artists Chris O’Keeffe (Salem, MA) and Patrick Yurick (San Diego, CA), launches this coming June with the mission to compress a podcast production timeline into a single long weekend. The event will take place at a rented facility in San Diego, CA, and the assembled team will write, perform, record and publish two half-hour episodes of an original, fictional, radio-drama style podcast.

Creatively-Sparked

“One of the perils of creative work is that it so often gets stuck in production limbo. It doesn’t matter how good the idea is. If you don’t have the support you need it might never see the light of day. When Patrick and I were planning our next creative venture, we said, ‘what’s something that we can do in a limited time with finite resources, and, for better or worse, walk away knowing that the thing is over the finish line”.

The answer was Podcamp. “Let’s get a team of crazy creatives, lock ourselves in a house and not leave until the mission is accomplished — or Monday morning. That’s when they kick us out.”

The project offers contributors the opportunity to create with the reassurance that their contributions will be a part of published creative project, a mere 72 hours after the project kicks off.

Technically-Grounded

Participants will be split into two teams: Narrative , led by O’Keeffe, and Production , led by Yurick. Both team leaders have extensive experience in their respective “departments”, and are painstakingly hammering out a methodology and workflow for the experience. But they know that there will be plenty of hat switching and improvisation along the way. “A good project is a series of great moments shared between energetic people who have a common goal. Planning is crucial, but you also need to let go of your preconceived notions and follow the energy of the moment.”

Interested parties can apply now through the end of April, and they are looking for talents across fields. “We need writers, actors, designers, engineers, and also just really excited people. We want proven folks, but we also want this to be an project where talented, hungry people who maybe haven’t had the opportunity can show up, contribute, and walk away as credited podcast cast members,” says O’Keeffe. All positions are volunteer, but the duo are working on raising funds to reimburse for travel.

As always, have a great Audio Drama Sunday.

Victorian Time Travel: The Tales of Sage and Savant

Assassin’s Creed and Mechanics of Time Travel

A time travel story with a frame narrative set in the Victorian era tackles the overdone sub-genre of time travel in speculative fiction and gives it a unique spin akin to the video game franchise. In fact, the concept for which the two titular characters travel through time is almost identical to that of Assassin’s Creed. The only difference is that the technology is 19th century steampunk while Assassin’s Creed is set closer to modern day.

Season one is episodic and serial in nature. Each episode is self-contained to a single adventure (aside from the two part season finale). The overarching storyline is the frame narrative of the two main characters, in which they deal with trying to keep their discovery a secret from the college. It’s because of this that the framing feels more interesting than the actual time traveling portions.

Dreams and Philosophy, Time Travel and History

Sage and Savant deals with time travel the way the film Inception deals with philosophy. The book Inception and Philosophy is a fascinating read and the Google Talk video on YouTube is a great introduction to why the movie is so much more complex than the average person gives it credit for. Like Inception and its reality versus dreams theme present through the movie, The Tales of Sage and Savant tackles philosophical schools of thought dealing with death. Is it murder to inhabit the body of somebody already dead? One of the main questions of the first season is whether suicide would return a traveller safely to their body. The writer’s keep coming back to this and throughout the season more and more data is collected, but nothing is definitively concluded in the first season regarding this moral conundrum.

In fact, not fulfilling on promises is perhaps the biggest sin this season commits. To be fair, most television operates the same way with their season finales and The Tales of Sage and Savant is clearly trying to emulate that style of storytelling while mixing in old time radio tropes from the golden age of radio. After all, where would show runners be if the main character defeated the “big bad” before the midseason finale?

Assuming this is an ongoing adventure, meaning the ending is unknown in some capacity, the creators of Sage and Savant do a marvelous job at weaving in serial storytelling tropes and episodic fiction elements. And while it doesn’t answer some of the more illuminated questions of the season, it does act as a nice gateway into the world of steampunk and time travel fiction.

4/5 Stars

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Podcast Promo

Piecing it Together

Next Time

Anansi Story Time

Thoughts on Suicide: Prism Break

Sentinel Studios tackles Suicide

Suicide in Fiction

To tackle such a perceived controversial subject as suicide takes a lot of gumption to even attempt. Almost as hard as it is for someone to take their own life, knowing the pain it’ll take to get there and the uncertainty of life after death. The writer of this short story manages to open up strong, not beholden to either side of the issue. He gets you inside the head of a character who is dealing with his own demons as well as taking on everyone else’s. In fact, the motivation behind his suicide is a bit muddled. The story is told in first person and the main character feels neglected and abused by the people in his life. This makes the protagonist’s depression relatable, but it’s a tell to gain instant sympathy for the character. The effect is there and it’ll hit close to home for many who struggle with depression and have had thoughts of suicide now or in the past.

Once the main character commits suicide by overdosing on medication, he wakes up in a strange place. His sense of time is gone and essentially has the same form of amnesia as Leonard Shelby in Memento. He remembers killing himself, but nothing afterwards. It’s all just one big, infinite blur. After roaming for a lifetime and more, the narrator finds someone else named Kip who he befriends after learning where he is. The afterlife for the ones who committed suicide. Or, as Kip puts it, a pun on the word prison. Hence the title of the story: Prism Break.

Void and the Afterlife

After his first encounter with Kip and learning he’s a red soul because he took his own life, the main character meets the all powerful deity who rules over the land: Void. The vocal effects used here work well and it’s never over the top to where the filters overpower the actual words. In fact the overall production quality rivals works like We’re Alive and Edict Zero FIS. What’s even more surprising is one or two people were responsible for creating this entire short audio story.

Upon meeting Void, the narrator looks for Kip in quick three part try-fail cycle told in a single paragraph. It doesn’t detract from the enjoyment, but it could’ve been cut. If it had, the metaphoric nature of the ending would’ve been less noticeable.

The story’s ending only had one way of concluding in a satisfying way. Of course, one person’s “satisfied” is another person’s “unfulfilled.” Towards the beginning of the second act, you begin to wonder how the narrator is telling the story. If he’s dead, is he a ghost? The question is in the back of your mind. So far back that you don’t realize it consciously as you’re enjoying the story unfold.

Preaching at the End

During the climax, the story shifts from a complex treatment of suicide to a one-sided argument about judeo-christian belief and faith. In short, it’s heavy handed and destroys the major thematic promise in the beginning that the story will tackle the issue with fairness and non-biased attitudes. Add in the fact that Kip’s voice returns in another, christ-like, character and the motif of the story is abundantly clear.

All in all, Prism Break is a good listen for relatively long car rides or hour-long commutes. It’s opening will bring you close to tears, the middle intrigue and creep you out, and the end will leave you feeling preached at in a way that nobody enjoys.

4/5 Stars

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Next Time

The Tales of Sage and Savant (Season One)

Epic Music and Sci-Fi Horror: Ex Tenebris

Epic Music and Science Fiction Horror

Ex Tenebris is a unique experience and an acquired taste. Strap yourself in and prepare yourself for an epic music/storytelling production unlike anything you’ve heard before.

From the start, the music sets the stage and is the dominant form of audio in the album. The actual story and drama is something to be desired as the script takes a back seat to the epic chanting a la the Halo video game franchise. In fact, Halo: Combat Evolved is the most appropriate comparison someone could make on both the story and music. Ex Tenebris feels like it could’ve started as Halo fan fiction. They share a lot of the same elements and beats.

At this point, it should be explained what is meant by music and story. This isn’t your typical audio drama. Rather than have background music, Ex Tenebris goes the route of the avant-garde and has entire songs of nothing but orchestral strings, sweeping synths, and generic Hans Zimmer drums. By the fifth or sixth musical track, it got a bit tedious.

The story portion of this production is generic, cliched science fiction horror at worst and an Alien franchise ripoff at best. The dialogue here is bad. There’s no getting around it. While the performances aren’t nearly as bad, they don’t enhance anything. A good actor can make bad dialogue at least sound somewhat better. In this case, it comes across as more standard military jargon inserted clumsily into B-movie horror film. Saying “fubar” every few seconds draws attention to itself in all the wrong ways.

If you buy this on iTunes, you’ll be disappointed with your purchase. Assuming you’re looking for an audio drama. Purchase it on Bandcamp and at least you receive bonus material and at a cheaper price. Apparently, there are more than one of these audio drama/music hybrids by the same creator. With the attention focused so heavily on the music rather than a well-crafted story, taking a chance on others in the series is going to be a risk. And we received a free review copy. Still, the production quality and sound design were well done. Just not good enough to save the drama and story portions of the album.

3.5/5 Stars

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Sad Stories and Happy Songs

Freytag’s Pyramid – Liberty: Critical Research S1

Freytag's Pyramid

Aristotle’s Dramatic Structure or Freytag’s Pyramid Breakdown

If ever there was an audio drama, which followed the Greek philosopher Aristotle’s view of dramatic structure or Freytag’s Pyramid, Liberty: Critical Research is it. On both a large and small scale, the first season of this post-apocalyptic audio drama is, at its heart, a modern take on the story structure students learned in grade school—including the pitfalls of mapping it to a newer genre and medium.

Without going into too much detail about Freytag’s Pyramid, the first season of the Liberty: Critical Research podcast starts off in the exposition phase for three whole episodes. The first two serve primarily as world-building seminars for the listener. It’s not until the third episode where the cast is introduced in a way that makes them likable and feel more like real people and actually like a story.

The world-building under the surface barely seems present. To use another piece of classic writing advice known as the Iceberg principle, the impression of there being a larger world seemed muddled and over-stimulated by everything else in the first few episodes. A writer needs to give the impression that their setting is deeper than it appears on the surface. For Liberty: Critical Research, the world is only a few feet deep. There’s no sense of anything exciting until later.

Freytag’s Post-Apocalypic Pyramid

The next few episodes, the tone shifts to a more dark and sinister bearing as the team enters the fringe and finds themselves knee deep in the post-apocaypltic wasteland. Emphasis on “waste” in one episode in particular. It’s akin to a Hollywood pitch like Mad Max: Fury Road meets Fallout 3. The resulting story resembles the antagonist’s brutality in the recent Mad Max movie, but with the setting being less important. If not completely skippable, like in Fallout 4.

That being said, there’s a lot here if you like post-apocalyptic settings. However, don’t expect much difference between this and the hallmarks of the genre. In that sense, it’s kind of generic. A good story overall and worth the effort. The fact the episodes are basically short stories in and of themselves makes the job of listening more manageable. For that it deserves a better rating than decent.

4/5 Stars

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Next Time …

Ex Tenebris

Site Updates for 2018 – Back to Basics

2018 Updates

Updates 1: Release Schedule Returns 2018

It is with great excitement we announce the return of the release schedule starting early next year, along with some other cool updates. We’ve been working hard at listening to all the content in the review request queue along with some other great audio dramas we think you’re going to love. An official date will be announced in 2017, regarding the reimplementation of the release schedule.

Since we are going back to basics and continuing the podcast, the way reviews are released will change slightly. We like to think of it as an improvement. More details on that below.

Update 2: E-mail Reviews and Early Access

As some of you know, if you subscribe to our e-mail list, you’ll still receive early access to reviews. Since the release schedule is returning, we wanted to make sure you’re not being cheated out of your benefits. Therefore Audio Drama Reviews plans to stay two weeks ahead of the public release of reviews. In short, this means e-mail subscribers will receive their access 2 weeks before it goes to the general public. Reviews will be released on Sunday Mornings.

Update 3: Fan Polls and Beyond the First Season

There are so many great audio dramas out there. We try our best to remain neutral and objective. This means continued listening goes somewhat against our philosophy. That will change next year.

Followers on Twitter will see a poll for shows where the first season has already been reviewed once a month. Once the results are in, the winning show will receive a review of their next season. For example, The Bright Sessions would get a review of their second season if enough people voted for them. Due to budgetary constraints, these reviews will be published FIRST on another website. The site allows writers to get paid for content based on the number of views their articles get. It costs nothing for the reader. Join our e-mail list to find out where.

We are effectively on hiatus until the new year as we listen like mad monkeys, write like the wind, and record like crazy. More details will be coming down the pipe soon. Until then …

Questions?

Leave a comment below or e-mail us at michael@audiodramareviews.com for clarification.

Awesome Foley: Deck the Halls (with Matrimony!)

Foley

Give this Foley Artist ALL the Awards

Without a doubt, this is one of the best sounding free podcast audio dramas out there. The foley work alone is deserving of every award out there. Right from the start, the foley artist uses everything and the kitchen sink to create an image of chaotic harmony in the opening scene. As for the actors and actresses, their voices are distinct from one another and you understand everyone’s role in the story early on. The writers throw you in the deep end with a wedding preparation scene involving turkeys, played by actual gobbling people. And, like the foley, it doesn’t come across as sounding fake, forced or unintentionally comedic.

A romantic comedy may be a staple of Hollywood, but in an audio drama the idea of a miscommunication affecting a relationship feels more like bad storytelling. Deck the Halls is the answer to that common complaint. Even if it falls back on the same tropes by the end. That being said, this hour long production treats it more like a plot twist than a face palming joke, giving it more of an emotional punch than most romantic comedies. The feeling might not be expected from a romantic comedy, but it’s what separates it from so many others. No, nobody dies.

Story < Foley

As far as story goes, there’s nothing new here in the realm of a romance, comedy or romantic comedy. The plot is the simple “boy meets girl, boy loses girl. Boy gets girl back” cliche we’ve seen a million times. The one difference is there’s a female in the lead role instead of the usual male protagonist. However, in today’s society, it doesn’t hold the same weight in regards to a trope subversion.

5/5 Stars

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Liberty: Critical Research (Season One)

New FREE Feature for E-mail Subscribers

Free for E-mail Subscribers

Get not One, but TWO Free Bonuses. All you Need is an E-mail Address

Those who use their email address to subscribe to the blog will receive BOTH a free copy of Audio Drama Reviews: Four Stars and Above.” Or, as I like to call it, “The Never-ending ebook.”

The hell does that mean, you find yourself thinking. Well, back at the three year mark of the website going live, I released an ebook with the subtitle of “Three Years 100 Reviews” on various platforms.

You can find that book by clicking here. Links to all available retailers will be located on the page.

Now, here’s the real icing on the cake. In addition to receiving an ebook every few months, you’ll receive FREE access to text reviews as they are finished. Details on how to access them will be included in one of the first emails you get.

Old Subscribers have already been moved to the new list. If you’d like to unsubscribe, there’s a link to do so at the bottom of all the emails. The first one should go out shortly after this update posts. To get them, simply enter your email in the right-hand side bar and follow the given prompts to sign up.

Any questions? Leave a comment below or email me at Michael@audiodramareviews.com.

We Won an Award

Also the site was given an award for best drama blog on the internet. Thousands of blogs were evaluated on various merits and we ranked 28 out of the top 50.

Here’s what they said about the site:

Audio Drama Reviews tries its best to look at what people are doing in the realm of podcasts and audible dramas, through an editorial eye. The founder is a writer, who can’t help but look at everything story-related through the lens of a writer and what could writers learn from listening.

I’d say it describes us well. The site which gave this award is FeedSpot. You can find the other winners by clicking the link above.

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A Theater of the Blind Western: Powder Burns Five

The Blind Sheriff. Powder Burns

Blind Start: Season Premiere or Finale

Once again back in the old west with the blind sheriff, played by John Wesley Shipp and created by David Gregory—this unexpected second season picks up a few weeks or months after the finale of season one. “Unexpected” meaning, in the intervening months, it’s hard to tell if they were on hiatus or if the first season was completed. Based on the opening of this episode, it sounds like the latter.

Performances, Politics and American History

Shipp returns with his well enunciated southern drawl and A+ acting to the role of Sheriff Emmett Burns. The blindness angle has lost some of its appeal and novelty even with how they make his disability into a strength. It comes across as more confusing than being a “wow” factor for the episode.

The story of this episode is straight forward, with a theme and viewpoint that’s portrayed as one-sided on one hand and falling back on the “straw man” trope on the other. The issue is slavery. Considering the setting of the post-Civil War era becoming more of a plot point than simply backstory for the characters, it makes sense to have an entire episode dedicated to the subject.

Moving away from the political aspect of the episode, the focus of the narrative is split in two. The second half deals more closely on the issue of slavery in a post-13th amendment society with a trial as the main way of portraying both views. Again, a bit one-sided and definitely preachy in some parts, but the writer’s philosophy was not lost. He’s correct in his view that slavery’s evil, but a better job could’ve been done regarding the other side.

The first half is the set up for the main event and starts off strong with well acted and believable-enough dialogue, but as soon as the slaver enters the picture it becomes a a picture perfect example of straw man logic and confirmation bias.

Aside from the political philosophy lecture, the only other problem was how they got to the aforementioned trial scene in the first place. Upon first listen, it was about as confusing as a fight hidden in a cartoon smoke cloud as to what happened. The main character is blind, but that doesn’t mean the listener needs to be confused as to what’s happening in the scene.

4/5 Stars

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Next time…

Deck the Halls (with Matrimony!)