Bob Tinsley: Finding Audio Drama: One From Column A . . . .

from Bob Tinsley

EDITOR’S NOTE: Trying to get behind the Audio Drama thing we keep talking about on TVWriter™ but knowing what to listen to or where to find it? Here’s a little “Listening Assistant,” found on Imgur by our Audio Drama expert, Bob Tinsley:


Thanks to K.Statz of @STATZINK

Thanks to Imgur!

Bob Tinsley: HOW TO BREAK IN TO AUDIO DRAMA (Or, At Least, How I Did It)

by Bob Tinsley

If you’ve been paying attention on this site, you know how big Audio Drama is getting. I’ve had five scripts produced and have produced two myself with another ten in the stack promised to producers. Right now audio drama is pretty much the Wild West of the entertainment industry. Even more so than web series, for reasons that will become apparent.

The easiest way to break in (at least, it was pretty easy for me) is to be a Writer-Producer. Writing scripts and sending them out to producers is one way to do it, but most producers are already buried under production schedules of what they currently have.

It could take them six months or more to get around to your script. If you can give them a finished product so all they have to do is the intros and outros, you will be a HUGE step above non-hyphenated writers. And it’s not that difficult. After all, I did it.

Side benefit: YOU have creative control. If someone else produces your script, no matter how well, you WILL wish you had done it yourself.

First, you need to write a script. Start small, five to ten pages. An audio (radio) script is different in many ways from a screenplay. First, remember that your listeners can’t see anything. Having the actor make faces is a non-starter unless it affects his voice. The best place for a rank noob to learn about writing for audio is www.ruyasonic.com.

Everything a beginner needs to know is there including a Word template for radio (also called BBC) format. Both Celtx and Final Draft also have radio templates. Even so, many producers, especially the ones that do epic-scale series, use screenplay format. Most aren’t too picky as long as the script falls into one of those two formats.

Read as many scripts as you can. Just Google “radio scripts.” You’ll find a wealth of scripts in just about any genre you can think of. And don’t turn your nose up at Old Time Radio scripts. Those people knew how to write for audio. Some better than others, of course, but shows like “Suspense,” “Lights Out,” “Gunsmoke,” and “Have Gun Will Travel” (Roddenberry wrote for that one, among others) are good examples of what to do. “Gunsmoke” had an especially rich soundscape, immersive, even. Listen to one of the episodes while you read the script. You won’t be sorry.

If you want to write and produce your own Audio Drama and have a computer, you’ve already spent all the money you need to. You don’t need to buy a mic. Unless, of course, you plan on acting, in which case, you should already have a decent mic. You don’t need lights or cameras. You don’t even need sound equipment. The actors are going to record their own lines and send them to you. You don’t need anything except your computer. Equipment wise, that is.

You will need DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) software. That’s easy. And cheap. Go to www.audacity.com and download the latest version of their software. It’s free! Installation is a piece of cake. Be sure to get the plug-in package (subroutines that give you a lot of editing power) and the LAME add-on which allows you to export MP3 files. Again, installation is painless.

Audacity is dirt simple to learn to use. It also has more than enough power and flexibility to do what you will need it to do. You will hear a lot of kvetching from some people in the community about how awful Audacity is. It ain’t so. Julie Hoverson of 19 Nocturne Boulevard (www.19nocturneboulevard.net) has been using it for many years and has the multiple audio awards to show that using Audacity doesn’t hurt the quality of the work you put out. She has a YouTube channel with a playlist of Audacity tutorials (http://bit.ly/2ob0JkW). Be warned, though. The information is gold, but she does tend to ramble a bit.

Get some friends to record your script. Or look online in some of the FaceBook groups for voice actors and put out a casting call. Unless otherwise stated it is understood that these are no-money gigs. 

While you’re doing all of the above, fire up iTunes or whatever podcatcher you like and start listening to audio drama. This is called “market research.” Look for anthology shows in the genre you like. You will have a much better chance of placing your episode in an anthology than trying to break into a continuing series, most of which these days have an entire season in the can before they release the first episode.

You’re not going to make any money to start, but movie and TV producers are paying attention to the podcasting market searching for the Next Big Thing. So, get started! It will cost you nothing but time, and all you have to lose is your unproduced status.


Bob Tinsley is an artist, writer, boataholic and, in case you haven’t run across him here on TVWriter™, a big fan of Audio Drama currently in the process of being a pro in that arena as well. In other words, Bob knows what he’s talking about, so listen up!

Wolf 359 — Audio Drama At Its Best

by Bob Tinsley

Audio Dramas (aka Radio Dramas, though that comparison is WAY out of date) are starting to make big noises in the entertainment world. It’s a great proving ground for people who want to be in the entertainment industry as well as established stars, Laurence Fishburne and David Schwimmer for just two examples.

You might also keep in mind that people like Gene Roddenberry wrote for radio before he became a Big Deal. And several properties that began as interweb Audio Dramas are currently in development for TV and movie deals.

Audio Dramas are a lot of fun to listen to. The big advantage is that you can listen and enjoy while doing other things, like driving, cooking, working on the car, etc. They are also available in just about any length you like, from 5 minutes to over an hour, and in just about any genre you can think of.

So, where do you find these fun bit of mind candy? Download just about any podcatcher like, Podcast Addict, Podcatcher, iTunes, or even Google Play Music and start searching for Audio Drama.

To give you a head start, you might want to check out Wolf 359, especially if you like science fiction. It’s “Alien” meets “Good Morning, Vietnam!” It’s currently in its fourth season with 60 main episodes and another 23 mini-episodes. I’m only up to Episode 52. Gotta catch up!

The action takes place on a research station in orbit around the red dwarf, Wolf 359. You have a mad scientist who performs secret experiments on a crew member (without his knowledge) and creates a dangerous plant creature that prowls the station and hides in places the crew doesn’t know exist. Their mission is sponsored by an evil Earth corporation with an agenda the crew knows nothing about.

When the crew gets a little mutinous they get a visit from a ruthless team of “trouble shooters.” The captain of the previous crew of the Hephaestus, all of whom mysteriously disappeared, suddenly shows up in her own spacecraft. And then the aliens come!

From the website (http://www.wolf359.fm) :

Life’s not easy for Doug Eiffel, the communications officer for the U.S.S. Hephaestus Research Station, currently on Day 448 of its orbit around red dwarf star Wolf 359. He’s stuck on a scientific survey mission of indeterminate length, 7.8 light years from Earth. His only company on board the station are stern mission chief Minkowski, insane science officer Hilbert, and Hephaestus Station’s sentient, often malfunctioning operating system HERA.

He doesn’t have much to do for his job other than monitoring static and intercepting the occasional decades-old radio broadcast from Earth, so he spends most of his time creating extensive audio logs about the ordinary, day-to-day happenings within the station. But the Hephaestus is an odd place, and life in extremely isolated, zero gravity conditions has a way of doing funny things to people’s minds. Even the simplest of tasks can turn into a gargantuan struggle, and the most ordinary-seeming things have a way of turning into anything but that.

Wolf 359 is a radio drama in the tradition of Golden Age of Radio shows like Escape! and Suspense. Take one part space adventure, add one part character drama, mix in one part absurdist sitcom, and you get Wolf 359.

The production values are top-notch, as is the acting. It’s very easy to get drawn into the world of the Hephaestus. Luckily there are enough episodes already available to binge for a very long time. And a new episode is released every two weeks like clockwork.

Enjoy! I sure am.


Bob Tinsley is TVWriter™’s Audio Drama Expert-in-Residence. He’s also a fine sculptor and writer, currently living a life much envied by our Beloved Leader, LB.

Audio Script Competition

by Bob Tinsley

As you may have noticed, TVWriter™ has been generously allowing me space from time to time to enthuse about the opportunities for writers in the Audio Drama field. Pursuant to that – and before LB decides to pull the plug – here’s something I think everybody who comes here should know:

The Audio Drama Production Podcast is holding a competition for new audio drama scripts. The bare bones are these:

They will be accepting scripts in any genre except fan fiction in three categories: 10-minute, 15-minute, and 30-minute scripts. For those of you unfamiliar with audio scripts a decent rule of thumb is 165 to 185 words of finished script to one minute of run time.

The submission window runs from January 8 to the 21st.  The links to the place to pay and upload scripts will be posted on the website and FaceBook page on January 8. (see below)

The winning scripts will be performed live at The Vault Festival in London on March 7 and at the Edinburgh Podfest in August. The other scripts will be placed in a repository from which 20 producers will choose scripts they like to produce and distribute on the Interwebs.

The submission fee is $6 for up to three scripts.

Don’t worry too much about format. Celtix and, I believe, Final Draft have templates for audio (radio) plays. There are two accepted formats: one is the old radio format, also known as BBC format. Most dedicated voice actors that I have talked to prefer this format. Sample scripts and a Word and Wordclone compatible template can be downloaded from

http://www.ruyasonic.com/rdr_main.htm

The other format is the standard screenplay format. Most high-budget audio productions, such as Bronzeville with Laurence Fishburne and Homecoming with David Schwimmer, use this format because most of their actors are either film or TV actors.

The most important thing to remember is to pitch the action toward audible rather than visual cues. “John grabbed Mary and shook her,” doesn’t translate well to audio. “John grabbed Mary and shook her ’til her teeth rattled and her cheeks flapped like a dog with its head out the window of a speeding car,” on the other hand, does.

The audio drama field is growing by leaps and bounds, creating opportunities for those of us willing to give it a try. Even if you don’t win this competition, having your script chosen for production afterward will provide a nice hard-point on your resume.

All the details of the competition can be found on the Audio Drama Production Podcast website at http://audiodramaproduction.com/2017/12/adpp-audio-drama-script-writing-competition-2018/

The Audio Drama field is particularly nice because of its low cost of entry, but the nicest part about the Audio Drama community of producers and actors is how welcoming and helpful they all are. Give them half an excuse to choose your script, and they will.

So, get to writing, and be ready to submit starting January 8, 2018. You’ve got nothing to lose other than your unproduced status.

My Favorite Audio Dramas of 2017

by Bob Tinsley

In case you haven’t run across me before, I’m a big fan of Audio Drama (think radio shows with better – mostly – production values). Considering that most Audio Dramas are put together with production budgets of nothing (less even, usually, than web series), the quality of writing and acting can be surprising. That doesn’t mean all Audio Dramas are put together on a shoestring. Some of them, like “Bronzeville” with Laurence Fishburne, have real budgets, SAG contracts and Big Names attached.

Whatever budget, Audio Dramas are fun. Here are some of my favorites from 2017 in alphabetical order:

“A Scottish Podcast.” (https://scottishpodcast.com) A tongue-in-cheek horror series detailing the activities of a couple of ne’er-do-well musicians who decide to do a paranormal investigation podcast.  

From the website: “You’ll walk through the long-forgotten catacombs under Edinburgh. Sail out to the lonely and abandoned island of St.Caillic. Visit dingy pubs, run-down industrial estates, and obscure non-league football grounds.” They are at the end of their 18-episode first season and hard at work on the second season.

“arsPARADOXICA.” (https://arsparadoxica.com) A time travel story with people getting stranded in unpleasant places and the machinations of a secret government agency across time — in both directions.

From the website: “When an experiment in a time much like our own goes horribly awry, Dr. Sally Grissom finds herself stranded in the past and entrenched in the activities of a clandestine branch of the US government. Grissom and her team quickly learn that there’s no safety net when toying with the fundamental logic of the universe.” They are into their third season with 27 regular episodes and another 15 extras.

“Jarnsaxa Rising.” (https://jarnsaxarising.wordpress.com)  “Just above the 60th parallel in the Baltic Ocean, a team of researchers arrives at an abandoned wind farm, to investigate some unexplained energy surges.”

The team is sent to this remote and frigid location by a multinational corporation with an agenda far beyond a simple service call. Norse gods and eeevil corporations. Oh, my! The first season of 10 episodes is complete, and I understand work is beginning on the second season.

“Steal the Stars.” (https://tor-labs.com/steal-the-stars/) From the website: “Steal the Stars is the story of Dakota Prentiss and Matt Salem, two government employees guarding the biggest secret in the world: a crashed UFO.” But there is much more than just that: a heist of incredible complexity, a story of forbidden love, loyalty and betrayal, and a completely unexpected (at least by me) twist at the end.

Complete in 14 episodes. As might be deduced from the URL, this Audio Drama was sponsored by Tor Books from a pitch by the series creator, Mac Rogers. There is also a novelization of the series published by, you guessed it, Tor Books.

“TANIS.” (http://tanispodcast.com/) A docudrama currently in hiatus at the end of the third season (of 12 episodes each along with numerous extras). From Wikipedia: “Nic Silver, a former radio host, discovers references to something called Tanis in two disparate sources. He begins hosting the podcast in an effort to determine what and where Tanis may be . . . . His search . . . leads him to confront a variety of mysterious groups and organizations . . . .” Conspiracy theory abounds!

In 2017 TANIS was acquired by Universal Cable Productions and Dark Horse Entertainment for development into a TV series . Writers will be the podcast creator, Terry Miles, and TV writer Lee Shipman. The producers will be Sam Raimi and Debbie Liebling.

“The Black Tapes.” (http://theblacktapespodcast.com/) Another well-done docudrama from the same folks that produce “TANIS.”

From Wikipedia: “The story begins as a biography of paranormal investigator Dr. Richard Strand (voiced by Christian Sloan), an ‘evangelical skeptic’ on a mission to debunk all claims of the supernatural. Reagan becomes interested in his collection of unsolved cases, which she begins calling his ‘Black Tapes,’ and the podcast evolves into an exploration of these cases, paranormal culture, and the mysterious life of Dr. Strand.” The series was concluded this year after three seasons, a total of 30 episodes and numerous extras.

“The Bright Sessions.” (http://www.thebrightsessions.com/) Think the cast from the TV show, “Heroes”, in therapy. What we have here is the story of a therapist whose clientele is made up exclusively of people with paranormal abilities, everything from telepathy to teleportation in space and time. I don’t know about you, but I find it comforting to know that superheroes are as dysfunctional as the rest of us. And if you think these folks are wandering around untethered, rest assured that there is a shadowy government agency out there keeping a close eye on things.

The creator and writer of this show, Lauren Shippen, was chosen by Forbes Magazine for this year’s “30 Under 30 – Media” list. Universal Cable Productions and Dark Horse Entertainment (remember them?) are developing the show for TV. So far, in four seasons, 47 regular episodes and numerous extras.

“The White Vault.” (http://whitevault.libsyn.com/) If you liked “The Thing,” the original, of course, you should love this one. A repair team is sent to an unmanned mining outpost in the Svalbard Archipelago, far north of the Arctic Circle.

Trapped by a severe storm that also cuts off their communications, they find something under the ice that shouldn’t be there. Something unfriendly. Seven episodes so far.

“Wolf 359.” (http://www.wolf359.fm/) I reviewed this one more fully, and you’ll be seeing that here at TVWriter™ soon. You could call this one “Good Morning, Vietnam” meets “Alien” — and “Aliens.”

From the website: “Wolf 359 is a radio drama in the tradition of Golden Age of Radio shows like Escape! and Suspense. Take one part space adventure, add one part character drama, mix in one part absurdist sitcom, and you get Wolf 359.” Episode 61, the series finale, just dropped.There are also a number of mini-episodes and extras.

And these are just scratching the surface. The number of Audio Dramas available has exploded over the last couple of years. Whatever your taste in storytelling you can find something to binge on with little effort.