Bob Tinsley: The Road to ESCAPE!

by Bob Tinsley

In case you weren’t aware, on February 26 the first trailer for my space opera fiction podcast, ESCAPE!, went live on and new episodes are being posted weekly.

The pilot for ESCAPE! won Second Place in the Drama/Action category of the 2019 People’s Pilot competition.

Since November I have written the last seven episodes of the 12-episode series. I hired an actor, recorded all the lines, and, as of this writing, have finished mixing six of the 12 episodes and two trailers, researched and set up a podcast hosting account, set up a website, started a Patreon page and completed a strategy and promotion plan to publicize it. By the time you read this, that plan will have been set into motion.

Whew! I got tired just writing that.

My path to audio fiction writer/producer/sound designer was long and filled with gaping blank spaces when nothing happened. Mostly due to fear. Fear of doing something new, fear of failure, fear of success.

That last is the most insidious because it means changing your life, and most people prefer the discomfort of their known, current life to the perceived discomforts of a potential changed life, often unconsciously.

I got interested in writing audio fiction after reading The Complete Book of Scriptwriting by J. Michael Straczynski back in the mid-2000s, the Medieval Period of podcasting.

There was a chapter in the book about “radio drama” that fascinated me so I started writing. Again.

At that time websites were about the only place that published episodic audio fiction. I found one, Darker Projects, that was looking for new scripts and series concepts. I submitted and had several stand-alone scripts accepted and produced. I even had a series concept accepted, and three episodes of that were produced.

The problem was (is) that I am an instant gratification kinda guy. It took SO LONG to get the scripts produced that I became disillusioned and dropped out. For a long time.

At the time, I discussed my frustrations with LB. He asked the pertinent question: Why don’t you produce them yourself? Oh, I had excuses. I had a day job. Producing audio was a giant PITA. There was no money in it. Yadda, yadda.

To be fair, the technology and software were primitive compared to what is available now. Nonetheless, it was possible, but I was too hesitant, anxious, otherwise engaged to do it.

Then, a couple of years ago, the itch returned.

I still didn’t want to wait forever while someone else cast, recorded, and produced my scripts, so I decided that the only way to circumvent that bottleneck was to do it my own damn self.

See, LB, your advice does eventually make it through my thick skull. Sometimes it just takes a while – a LONG while. Whatever else I was doing, I wouldn’t be waiting.

I researched DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations) and found one called Audacity that was free and would do whatever I was capable of doing. I knew some people who were using it and looked to them for guidance and help.

I had some short scripts left over from earlier that I thought wouldn’t be too difficult for a noob producer to make, so I did. Most of them ran about five minutes.

I quickly discovered that anthology shows were a lot more eager to accept new writers if you could also present them with a finished episode that they could slap an intro and outro on and post. That was quite the revelation.

I ran across a Western-themed anthology podcast called The Drift and Ramble Podcast that was looking for content. I had an idea for a docudrama about Wild Bill Hickok’s last job as a lawman, so I proposed it along with the offer to produce it myself. It was accepted, my first 30-minute plus episode. It was a real learning experience.

Now I had sufficient confidence in myself to start planning a real series. Again. That turned out to be J.B. Hickok’s Weird West, Mark 1. I wrote the pilot and decided to enter it into the 2018 People’s Pilot competition. It made it into the semi-finals, but no further.

I knew it was a good concept from the feedback, so I determined to rewrite it from the ground up for the 2019 competition. This time I submitted not only the script and bible, but a fully produced episode. Producing that episode took me the whole month of October to cast, distribute scripts, get recordings back, edit, add sound effects and music, and master the final product. About two days before the deadline, I submitted the package.

This time J.B. Hickok’s Weird West (which you can listen to and read the script here) took Best Audio Series Pilot and 2nd Runner-Up in the Drama/Action category.

With ESCAPE! up and running, I’ll get started writing the remainder of the episodes for Hickok, followed by all the casting, recording, etc. Then there are plans for either a Season 2 of ESCAPE!, or one of the other series I have in mind, maybe both. I’ve got a busy year ahead of me.

Making your own fiction podcast gives you a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that can’t be equaled by having your script produced by someone else. You’re always thinking, “you know, I wish he hadn’t done it that way.” My way is better. At least, to me.

To make a long story short (too late!) I’m hooked on making fiction podcasts. It’s challenging. It’s frustrating. It’s fun! You should try it.

Bob Tinsley is an artist, writer, boataholic and new audio/podcast fiction writer-producer. A mighty fine one too, as his  2nd and 4th place People’s Pilot 2019 finishes demonstrate.

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