Some time ago, I directed a radio play.
I joined a Radio Theatre Group at work. Figured it would be fun and interesting. An email went round a while back saying “Here is an interesting play. Who wants to direct this?” and I thought: Why not. I’ve not directed anything before.
So I volunteered.
In the spirit of passing on what I’ve learned, here are a few useful things to know about directing for radio.
Have a rehearsal
The recording went much more smoothly thanks to the actors knowing who their characters were and what they were doing ahead of time.
It was all quite painless: The actors got sent a copy of the play beforehand, and after a readthrough to get us all settled in, I asked them some questions about their characters, and what they thought the characters knew, thought, felt.
Because we’d thought through these things in the rehearsal, we didn’t have to stop during the recording to ask any questions like “Why am I saying this?” or “What exactly do I mean here?”
Which results in a much more stress-free recording. Which is good for everyone.
Re-format your script
Specifically, number your lines.
A writers’ draft doesn’t need them. For example, check out The King’s Coiner by Philip Palmer for an example of a radio script in the BBC standard format.
But when it comes to recording, it’s immensely useful to be able to refer to an exact line quickly.
So reformat the script with a number next to each speech or sound cue. Try Porshia by Ed Harris for an example.
You could number everything, as this production draft does, or start afresh on each page like I did. Either way, it makes production easier because you can simply say “Let’s have line three again.” or “From line eight on page twelve.”
Listen through after you’ve finished editing
We finished our edit, and didn’t have a listen-through before quitting the edit suite. So of the two takes we could have used for one particular section… we had both. Plus a longish section of me saying “That was it! Let’s have it one more time.” Which isn’t really what you want in the middle of your radio play.
Which leads me to:
Back up your masters
Because if you don’t, and they get accidentally deleted from the computer you’re editing on, you could be absolutely screwed.
Which is what happened.
Fortunately, if you
Always burn a CD of the edit to take home with you at the end of an edit session
You may be able to salvage something.
So, with a special thanks to William Gallagher, who was able to take the edit and cut out the worst of the fluffs and pops and me, here it is.
2 Replies to “Radio Days”
I just listened to it in the bath and really enjoyed it.
Not sure I’d be able to be so articulate as the wife was having just learnt I had ovarian cancer and my husband’s affair was splashed over the news though!
Will you do another?
Glad you liked it.
I don’t know whether or when I’ll have another crack at it – it was mainly done to stretch myself, rather than to move into the world of directing.