Monthly Archives: February 2015

Creating a radio play with no experience.

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Creating a radio play with no experience.

I have decided to give myself a challenge The challenge is to create a radio play from scratch with no experience and the most basic of tools. The reason I have given myself this challenge is out of necessity. I have been lucky enough to have been asked to create a radio play for the radio station I am volunteering on. It is too good an opportunity to let me let little things like having no budget, no experience, no real equipment or even a script (yet!) stop me from having a go. Actually, I do have experience of writing plays, if not radio plays. I am looking at this as a transferable skill which seems a good enough tactic on my CV. I thought it might prove amusing and possibly informative (although this is far from a how to guide) for me to detail how I go about doing this.

Phase 1 – Assess everything (Or, Assess everything that you know about now and come back to it later when you have found out things you didn’t know you needed to know).

The good thing about starting from a position of no knowledge is that it is inevitable I will make mistakes. As long as I learn from them, I am fine with that. My cunning plan is to learn from my mistakes before I make them on the actual radio play. Let me explain. I am currently trying to figure out how to make the radio play sound like I want it to. My basic problem with radio plays is that they sound ‘fake’. Something about them doesn’t ring true. I know this is an inevitable outcome from the medium itself, but I am wondering if there is a way to play around with it, like a radio equivalent of how hand held cameras are used to give the impression of jagged fast movements. So, I want to find out if I can make the radio play sound like I want it to come out as before I write the entire thing and find out I can’t make it sound right. There is a logic in there somewhere. It might be the pan for gold type of logic, but if you sift long enough, you will find a little gold nugget. Probably.

When not knowing, I am left with experimenting and seeing what does and doesn’t work. Later on tonight I am going to play with the recording equipment and record scenes in different rooms, outside, in a car etc to see what sounds good and what doesn’t. I want to see if I can record it in a way that sounds more realistic. Fingers crossed. I am going to ignore the possibility that it still won’t sound good as I am all about the positive outlook these days and I want to give it a chance to do its funky positive outlook stuff.

I have assessed my budget. It consists of my time and energy and little else. Although, I have heard that the value of my time and energy has recently gone up on the stock market, so you better buy your shares now before they either become too expensive or lose all value. (Note to self – work on self-promotion and don’t use the phrase ‘lose all value’ in relation to myself).

With no money, I am relying on being inventive, which is a fun exercise in its own right. One fun fact that I found out from my research was that even if you buy a sound effect cd, it does not give you copyright to use that sound effect on a radio play. Is it just me, or does this seem a kind of sucky thing to do? You can buy it, but you can’t use it. Ok, I won’t buy it then.

But David, how will you get your sound effects? Where is the ‘fun’ in this exercise? By jimmy by jove, that is indeed a splendid question. Have a badge.

Actually, it is not that inventive. It is damn practical though, and I am fairly certain that practical is just as sexy as inventive. Right? (Sighing voice in my own head – Yes David. Practical is very sexy).Huzzah! I thought so. So, when sound effects are beyond a budget, break out the trusty mobile phone (a modern day version of a swiss army knife) and find the record button. Sound effects ahoy! I am considering (with a fairly unprofessional part of my brain) writing certain scenes just so I can have fun creating the sound effects for them. Might give it a bit of practise first.

Drum roll…

Here is something that might prove useful to the reader. I found out that you can use itunes to convert audio files from one format to another. I recorded a 30 secs of background bar noise on Valentines day (I know, I am a romantic soul) and when I went to edit it, it would not go into Audacity (awesome free editing software) as it was. A quick internet search (Google is my friend) and I found out you can convert a wave4 file to an mp3 via itunes. Imagine that! itunes is actually useful for something. I am going to play around more with how sound effects and dialogue work when put together, but I think I can work it out.

With the script, I am on more familiar ground. I have written quite a few plays and with some thought and imagination, I believe I can transfer what I know about stage plays to a radio play. I am by dint of my situation, going to keep the story as simple as I can in terms of not giving myself sweeping battle scenes to try and convey through sound alone. I am thinking about a radio play about the therapist/client relationship (write what you know and all that). I think it will fit well with what I have in mind. There will be more to it than that obviously. As soon as I have written it, I will let you know. Well, not too much. Spoilers need to be avoided.

Apart from all that, I just need to find some actors who will work for free, or at the most tea and biscuits (you will need to provide your own biscuits) and then pray that all the hard work that goes into it doesn’t get ruined by me in the editing process. Or that people actually like the radio play once it is aired. Meh, one step at a time.

That is about it for phase 1. It is a fairly general phase I grant you. I will get into the specifics when I know what they are. Until then…

Take care buddies,

David.

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Back to the blog.

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Back to the blog.

Dear blog. I am sorry for neglecting you. No, no, honestly, I was thinking about you the whole time I was doing the radio show. No, you haven’t gained weight. It isn’t that I would rather spend time on radio plays than writing my blog. I just got busy is all.

Sorry about that. I was getting the cold shoulder from my blog for neglecting it, so I thought I had best explain. Life has been interesting of late. Since the start of the year, I have lucky enough to have several opportunities presented to me. I say opportunities because they will take a lot of hard work to make anything of, but I do gladly thank the universe for at least giving me a chance to have a go and see what I can do.

First off, the radio show is a lot of fun. There is a beauty to being on a small community radio station with no experience as it has forced me to learn new things. I think my brain has missed that challenge of learning. Doing the radio show has indirectly taught me about a ton of things that seem to fit together like a succession of jigsaw pieces that initially do not appear to connect, or even be part of the same puzzle, but when viewed from afar, make up a new interconnected jigsaw of all the things I needed to know before I knew I needed to know them.

I think an example is deserved to make sense of that last sentence. So, I was learning how to go about doing my first recorded interview for the show. I spoke with a member of staff from Combat Stress and afterwards, I needed to edit out my awkward pauses, strange combination of words, overuse of the words ‘excellent, fantastic and ok’ and the bizarre and sudden desire for my voice to rehash it’s ‘going through puberty’ vocal range. In my defense, it was my first interview and I was terrified I would fail to record it, or delete it when editing or save it to the wrong type of audio file. To give a indicator of my level of ineptitude, it came to me as a surprise that there were different types of audio files.

Aside – If you are going to try your hand at editing audio, try out Audacity. It is excellent and free!

So, once I had figured how to use the software and the interview was fit to air, I thought no more about Audacity and editing audio for a few days. Then, it was suggested that I might like to write and produce a radio play for the station. Hold on a second I thought. I know how to edit audio now, so can I use my new found knowledge to make a radio play? After a bit of research and experimentation, it seems that I can. In theory anyway, it might turn out differently in practise.

I do find it interesting that sometimes things just fit together. I hadn’t thought of doing a radio play for ages and then I knew how to potentially make one before I knew I was going to make one. The knowledge was already there ready for use. Spooky!

The other thing I have been doing is researching how to turn a book into an ebook. I followed an excellent string of posts on http://thestoryreadingapeblog.com/2015/02/09/formatting-your-own-ebook-q-a-with-david-cronin/ and learnt a lot. It seems a bit daunting at first but if you take in each part and then digest, it makes sense as a whole at the end. I followed the advice and used the Calibre ebook manager to see what my book would look like as an ebook. It was mostly good. That is the thing about DIY, it can take a few attempts before the door stops coming off the hinges.

Once I have tested and retested the ebook format, I need to get going with the marketing thing. As you can probably tell, marketing is next on my list to research and it looks more confusing than the ebook process. Still, one step at a time. I know I need to work on my social media presence. Sadly, I have learnt through doing the radio show that being on twitter/Facebook lots is just a pain in the bum. At least I know what a # and @ sign are meant to be used for now. That and favoriting something on twitter is not the same as liking something on Facebook.

It seems to me that I am being taught the things I need to know for what I am going to do next without clearly knowing what I am doing next. Or not having planned things as my next course of action. I think it has been a while since I went with the flow and simply saw what happens from trying something. I like being back in that frame of mind.

Take care buddies,

David.

‘I guess and maybe’ vs ‘I think and I believe’.

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‘I guess and maybe’ vs ‘I think and I believe’.

Words are funny little things and I wonder if there are more powerful things than them? The subject about words being able to start or stop wars has been covered. I will look at the tinier ways words can affect us. Or how the way we use certain words can change our very behaviour.

As there is no-one else in my flat at present, I will use myself to discuss an idea. Using the title of this post as an example, I say the words ‘I guess and maybe’ a lot more than I use the words ‘I think and I believe’. To me there is a very interesting and powerful difference between choosing to use the one set of words over the other.

Someone can ask me a question. My response will invariably be ‘I guess that…maybe they…’. Now what sort of response to give is that? If I sat on the fence any harder I would need surgery to remove the splinters. I see the choice of words as a negative device to frame thoughts in a certain way and then perpetuate the situation.

‘I guess that…maybe they…’ is translated in my head and my own vision of myself as ‘I don’t want to share my opinion on this in case it upsets someone and I am probably wrong anyway.’ So I then think of myself as someone whose thoughts don’t matter so when I am asked a question I say ‘I guess that…maybe they…’ I have already distanced myself as I don’t think my thoughts matter and the cycle continues.

The annoying thing is that I don’t notice I am saying this all the time. Or I didn’t notice until recently. Now I am examining it in terms of me having used a negative mental attitude to enforce beliefs on myself that I don’t necessarily believe anymore. This is where I find words and how we use them fascinating and how we can use words without being consciously aware of doing so to our own detriment.

The words ‘guess’ and ‘maybe’ have taken form as an image of edging away, shrinking down and being smaller. ‘I think’ and ‘I believe’ at least make me think of myself as the actual size I am. I don’t want to be too big-headed as I would get neck problems from the extra weight.

I can use the principle in other ways. ‘I will never get a job –> ‘I failed my last interview’ –> ‘See, I said I would never get a job’. Then the next interview is filled with expectations of failure which is unlikely to help get the job from the get go. There are many ways we can set ourselves up for a fall. There are also many ways we can keep that cycle going. What I am hoping for is a way to turn that cycle around and pedal like mad in the other direction.

So if I take my own idea that I use words to create negative situations and emotions, does it not follow that I can use words to create positive ones? (Hello brick wall. Yes, I do remember meeting you here at this exact same point a few times. How are the wife and kids? Jolly good. So, sorry, but would you mind if I just climbed over you for a bit?)

This is where I usually get stuck on this topic. Do I think that by just having a positive attitude all my dreams will come true? Of course not. That is unrealistic. Do I think a positive attitude and using words with positive connotations will help more than a negative ones? Yes. It is more logical.

Negative thoughts – I haven’t got an agent, I will never get an agent. I won’t bother looking for an agent = won’t get an agent through having given up trying.

Positive thoughts – I haven’t got an agent yet. I will keep going until I do. Or I can self-publish = could get an agent or book published. It is not a guarantee. It is a road of possibility as opposed to a cul-de-sac of defeat.

Even the phrasing of the word ‘could’ is important. This could happen (but it won’t) vs This could happen (and it might). When I start to think about it in this level of detail, that I might have to watch every word I say and check every inflection, I do get overwhelmed by the scale of it.

However, perhaps it is not different to writing? I can start with a sentence and see if that sentence is written the way I want it to. I can think of something I want to say and check if that is how I want it to come across. Then with practise it gets easier. I have resisted the temptation to end the last sentence with ‘right?’ as it is not in line with my new approach to making comments. Sounded wishy washy.

In conclusion, I am going to try and be more aware of what words I use and how I use them. As the song goes ‘You’ve got to accentuate the positives, eliminate the negative. Latch on to the affirmative But don’t mess with mister in between.’

Take care buddies,

David.

Briggs-Meyer Test – What happened man? You’ve changed.

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Briggs-Meyer Test – What happened man? You’ve changed.

I hope most people are aware of the phrase ‘What happened to you? You used to be cool. You’ve changed.’ I heard a variation of this on an episode of The Simpsons once and it, along with other ideas has been stuck in my head since the early hours of last night through a night of perturbed sleep and strange dreams.

It came about because of a conversation with my girlfriend about something that was bothering me. Something happened, I tried to resolve it and got no response. I said to my girlfriend that I was bummed out by this and she asked me why? If I had done nothing wrong, I had tried to make it better and still didn’t get a resolution, then why was I bothered about it all and why didn’t I just say screw it and let it go?

One of the many things I love about her is her ability to ask me a question that stumps me beyond any chance of responding with something that is not true. She knows me well enough to know that I know that giving a bullshit answer to something makes me feel worse than possible internal discomfort of working out what I was really feeling. It has taken me until now to come up with a vague answer to that question.

As I lay rising and falling in and out of sleep, something popped into my head that made me think. It was a test I did when I used to work as a manager to determine what sort of personality I had as a manager. It was the Briggs-Meyer test, or a variation of it. The results were that I was a risk averse introvert. This struck me at the time as really odd as I in no way considered myself introverted or risk averse.

What I went on to realise that I still considered myself as the same person I was when I was 21 and flew out to Canada with with one way tickets to do the Canadian Fringe Theatre circuit with three like minded friends after forming a brand new theatre company with no track record. Having just typed that, I still can’t decide if it was totally ballsy confidence or utter naievity/stupidity. It is likely a mix of the two.

At 21 I was certainly an extroverted risk taker. I can now look back and see that a large portion of that was based on pain and anger and depression. I can also see that it was part of me that was not afraid to give things a go and see what happens in the most positive sense.

When I did the test at 32, I could not see how I had gone from one polar extreme to the other. Then I realised that being an extroverted risk taker was probably not the best policy to adopt when managing a house for people with physical and learning disabilities. A large part of my job was doing risk assessments so risk was minimised wherever possible. I had in essence become a different person through doing a job, which is a frankly scary concept.

I also wondered about the introvert part. I haven’t considered myself unable to speak up or shy away from situations, but thinking about it today, I realise that I have become like that. I feel myself edging away from situations where there is any sort of conflict and in all honesty, edging away from things that are totally positive for me. I don’t want conflict of any sort, even if it means causing myself pain to prevent it happening. Even when I am right about something I will put the other side’s case forward to prevent discord. Which feels a particularly crummy way to treat myself.

Then I had a thought whilst in the shower. And stop that right now! It was not that sort of thought. You saucy so and sos. I wondered what if I am still sub-consciously acting in a way that the manager version of me did, but in my real life right now? Am I still averse to risk? Am I acting more introverted than I than I actually am? Why am I not saying ‘screw it’ and letting things go?

That is the trouble with the sub-conscious. It can be doing things we are not consciously aware of doing until someone aims a well put question to you and lets fire. In the haze of gun smoke afterwards, I am left with the answer, maybe it is. Maybe I am just letting old habits and ways of being control me in ways that are not applicable to me now. Maybe I consider myself risk averse when I am not. I did quit my job to chase my dream of being a writer and I have started a new radio show with no experience. I also sometimes drink milk that is slightly past it’s best before date. Risks aplenty I feel.

I thought it would be interesting to take the test again. So that is what I did before starting this post. I am ‘Introvert intuitive feeling perceived’. Apparently this is me. For the mathematically inclined, here are some sexy numbers and percentages for you. Introvert(11%)  iNtuitive(50%)  Feeling(38%)  Perceiving(11%). Ooh, numbers. 

My conclusion is this. Yes, I am more introverted yet I prefer that to being the ‘look at me’ show off I was when I was younger. I do concede that I should be less afraid to say what I really think. I believe I trust my instincts. In the initial stage of an idea anyway. It is only when self-doubt creeps in that I question my gut feels. Feelings? Yes, I have those and no bad thing as far as I am concerned. Perceiving. I can see where others are coming from and that sometimes makes life easier.

Now, I know this is not a hard and fast guide. It does make me think that I can have more control over what I do or how I act rather than acting like a badly programmed auto-pilot. Will I take more risks? Yes. Will I take the risk of jumping off a roof to see if I can fly? Certainly not. It is a very dumb thing to do. Just start from the ground and see if you can fly from there.

Besides, what is wrong with changing? I wonder if people who say ‘You have changed’ are unable to change themselves? Change is surely one of the constants of life? If we were all the same person from the moment we were born to the day we die, what progress would we have made as a species?

Lastly, I am choosing to say ‘screw it’ and I am going to let it go.

Take care buddies,

David.