SKYBLUE: Replay Radio

SKYBLUE, winner of the Best Dramatic Production in the 2013 New Zealand Radio Awards, returns to the airwaves this Sunday 16 June at 3:04pm.

Set in a forensic psychiatric unit, the one-hour drama spends a day at the sharp edge of New Zealand’s mental health system.

The cast includes Tess Jamieson, Jamie McCaskill, Nigel Collins and Mick Rose. SKYBLUE is produced by Jason Te Kare, engineered by Phil Benge, and brought to you by Radio New Zealand National.


SKYBLUE: Post-match

I’d forgotten about that interview they stitched seamlessly into an intro. I sound reasonably coherent – score!

Some link-love for the masochists amongst you —

— and in downloadable format:

    Ogg Vorbis       mp3

I believe the links self-destruct a fortnight from today so, y’know, no rush or anything.

In the meantime, I’m wondering if this other story I’m working on might make for good radio drama….



In December 2010 I went down to my oul’ home toon to sit in on the recording of a radio drama I wrote. I bragged about it, of course. Now it’s about to hit the airwaves.

SKYBLUE will be broadcast on SUNDAY 13 MAY 2012 at 3:05pm (New Zealand time) on National Radio.

Getting stuff out is a collaborative effort so even though I wrote it, other people made it a reality. Big ups to —

— the actors: Tess Jamieson, Jamie McCaskill, Nigel Collins, Mick Rose, Nick Dunbar, Asalemo Tofete, Amy Tarlton, Phil Grieve, Tina Cook, Rob Lloyd, Duncan Smith, and Prue Langbein;

— engineer Phil Benge; and

— producer Jason Te Kare.

I know, I know: twelve bleedin’ speaking parts (Jason was very, very tactful in pointing this out to me).

And thanks also to the reality-checkers: Dr Christina Birkin and Dr Melanie Woodfield for reading various drafts, and helping shape sensationally-dramatic-but-irresponsibly-unethical-and-inaccurate scenes into equally-grippingly-dramatic-but-more-butt-clenchingly-realistic ones.


Being There II

Common practice for radio drama in New Zild, so I believe, is:
– the WRITER knocks together a radio play script,
– the script goes through a couple of drafts between the Writer and the PRODUCER,
– the Producer directs the piece with a bunch of ACTORS in a sound studio under the all-hearing ear of the ENGINEER,
– the Producer and Engineer post-produce (?) the recorded and library audio into an actual radio play,
– and that play gets broadcast on the wireless.

Closet control freak writers (like myself) might notice the lack of the above Writer’s involvement past the writing and drafting stages, but that’s how it is.

Late last year, when a radio play of mine was scheduled for recording, I asked to sit in for two reasons: one, at a couple of technical advisors’ recommendation*, and two, to spend some time in me oul’ home toon. Producer Jase very kindly agreed to my self-invitation.

The first day of recording began with a table read where Jase introduced me to the assembled actors, and everyone – myself included – was guarded in their greeting: the actors had secured the gig so they didn’t have to make too much nice, Jase was the big cheese in the room, and I was just the writer who’d invited himself along. I tried to put them at ease: Any time any of you wonder, “Who wrote this shit?”, I’ll be in the control booth. The room softened a little. And if you have any questions at all, please ask. Nothing in that script is sacred to me – I caught Jase’s expression in the corner of my eye and shifted direction ever-so-slightly – because it’s the story, as directed by our beloved producer here, that counts. The questions started coming. Some of them were quite hard. Some of my forthright answers made Jase wince. I felt useful.

Over the week of recording, I learnt a little bit more about the process – having had a taste here – as I answered more questions, expanded on the story’s environment and characters’ inner lives, dropped and added lines/action/transitions where necessary/possible, and passed on to Jase my thoughts, suggestions and general remarks on each take. Every little bit helps but I believe it was the thoughts, suggestions and general remarks that made a difference.

What I heard in the control booth, and what I heard in my head as I wrote the script often didn’t match.

In my head —
— I wrote a character who I pictured/heard as being a Maori male in his early sixties, overweight with a slightly pompous air.

In the studio —
— the actor that was cast was Pakeha in the same age range, slim with a distinctly ‘white’ voice.

What mattered —
— was that the voice belonged to someone who’d lived a long life, had retirement on the horizon, and who maybe, just maybe, had one last balls-and-all fight left in him.

What matters in the end is whatever best serves the story.

After each take, Jase would turn to me – having first checked with Engineer Phil, naturally – I would invariably nod conditional approval and pass on my notes. And because Jase blessed the production with kick-arse actors, they took their characters places that would never have occurred to me – place that make me look sound good.

I just had to be there.

* Imagination can only take you so far: the play is set in a specific place and peopled by characters I have no experience of. As for my attendance/observation, I merely had to make sure the actors didn’t sound like actors playing at whatever role they were cast in **.

** Note for actors who may be reading this: no, I was not giving line-readings.



Goodness gracious: Radio New Zealand will be broadcasting a little something I adapted for radio last year, and which was recorded earlier this year.

So if you’ve an hour to spare this Sunday 5 April, between 3pm and 4pm, try out some Kiwi-made drama.

Thanks again to producer Jason Te Kare who was very patient with all my ummm‘s and ahhh‘s to his questions, engineer Phil Benge who put up with my exclamations of I keep expecting someone to run in there between takes and polish the mike!, voice actors Jerome Leota, Sopa Enari, Shadon Meredith, Natano Keni, Rob Lloyd and Eteuati Ete who made the recording day a hoot to watch hear, and big ups to the House of Ash and Fi who very kindly put me up for a couple of nights whilst I was in Wellington.


Pet Sounds

Roger Ebert‘s post about his pets animal companions got me thinking.

A couple of weeks back, I spent a day in a Radio New Zealand studio watching listening to a script being recorded. I spent most of that day with my eyes closed – but instead of falling asleep as I normally would, I found myself transported into a story that I not only wrote but thought I knew inside out. (That’s actors for you.) (And I guess radio’s not called theatre of the mind for nothing.)

Since then, I’ve become just a bit more conscious of what I hear. Small, everyday sounds like —

  • The cccclicks of The Dog’s nails on concrete during our runs.
  • The grunting-beakfuls as The Chickens scarf up their seeds and pellets.
  • The low boaah-boaaahh of The Chickens as they go about their business.
  • The Cat’s paws ghosting through the house.
  • The Dog’s tail ffwhiffing across the floor as she sits, expectant.
  • The kggghhh-snort-grunt of The Dog in contentment.

These give me warm fuzzies.

And when I work them into my scripts and they make it onto the screen without someone explicating it, I’ll be happy.