Monday 9 November 2009

First recording session

We stormed the studio at Resonance FM on Sunday 8 November to start recording our 10-part, Twitter-written drama series The Whale In The Room. Storming a radio studio is actually a very bad idea, because although the good people at Resonance FM won't assume you're the vanguard of a revolution arriving to take over the nation (that's their job, after all), they do appreciate a little quiet while their live programming is going out. They have these big red lights which mean, apparently, "shut up".

Our director James took a quick lesson in working the desk from our helpful engineer and minder Alberto. We found a glass of water for the day's featured actor, and got going. (No expense spared, you see.)

The approach we're using is to record each of the characters' lines on their own, and then combine them in the edit. The idea is to bring some flavour of the characters' separateness, as well as their interactions. This should preserve the Twitterness of the play while also letting it work as drama. It'll also let us use different recording venues, including, perhaps, outside locations.

The wonderful Kiki Kendrick is playing @fragharpy, or Francine Harpur, as she's known in the real world. Though, as Kiki demonstrates in her sensitive and insightful performance, Francine's connection with the real world may well be a little tenuous.

We worked from about 2pm to, um, sometime after 6pm, with a Costa's break at 4pm. All of @fragharpy's lines were captured, and we felt pleased with what we achieved. It's great to have the play up and running - Kiki's brought @fragharpy to life and the character is calling out to the others... Now we're lining up the other actors to do their pieces.

Monday 10 August 2009

Slow progress

Where's everyone gone? Edinburgh, I suppose.

We're still trying to capture the cast for the production of The Whale in the Room. But as soon as we've signed them up, we'll be into that studio.

Don't watch this space - I'll watch it for you, mister.

Monday 20 July 2009

Hurray for misappropriation, misuse and perversion

The Whale in the Room is mentioned in a piece by Resonance FM's Ed Baxter for Art of Digital:London. The full text is here.
"Secondly, there are projects which offer profound insights into the broader social meanings that digital applications have brought into being. The Flickerman, written and produced by Lance Dann, is a thriller series set in a world of information overload and obsessive compulsive on-line documentation. Its hero, Cornelius Zane-Grey, is convinced that his life is being secretly filmed and posted on Flickr, from the randomly accessed contents of which the narrative seems to derive. A classic ratiocinative tale of intrigue turned inside out, one in which the crime results from the victim's gathering of clues, The Flickerman is the most important radio drama - and one of the most important artworks - of the last decade. It is currently unclear if our next experiment in radio drama, The Whale in the Room, written entirely in Twitter by Paul May and five collaborators, will throw up similar surprises: but it seems likely, if only because creativity in the digital realm, as in so much pop culture, so often takes the form of misappropriation, misuse and perversion."

Wednesday 17 June 2009

Moving into production

I'm delighted to say that James Robinson, a producer and director with BBC Radio Drama, will direct The Whale in the Room for Resonance FM.

We are currently working out a schedule, deciding on production style, and discussing casting.

Wednesday 6 May 2009

The law of unintended audiences

Yet another thing I should have figured out before we launched the tweeting phase of The Whale in the Room: since people are following the individual characters in real time as the writers tweet, this draft-in-progress already has an audience. From the few comments I've seen, followers seem to be able to keep up with the stream as easily as any other, though one person has mentioned that Tweetdeck's group function helps matters. 

But, at this stage, I don't know if anyone is responding to the stream as a drama or a narrative... I sort-of hope not, since I think (or hope) the dramatic shape will start to solidify during the script-editing phase, change during performance, and then transform again in the audio edit. And then in the listener's mind. But we'll see. At the moment the reader's experience must be a little like "tweavesdropping", as one of the Twitterplay's characters puts it in a recent tweet. 

It's an unusual, though not unpleasant, sensation to feel that an interested audience is looking over your shoulder as you write your scraps of dialogue. And this points to perhaps what is at once the most banal and the most liberating aspect of the project - that although there will be a lot of editing, there won't be any line redrafts. In other words, we'll cut and move, but we won't rewrite. The 140-character constraint is a great way of shifting the redrafting process to the brain, or to the unforgiving text input box on Twitter, or other client of your choice. I like the sense that although not all of my character's utterances will make the cut, the ones that do will go straight to audio.

Tuesday 28 April 2009

Starting to write the Twitterplay

We've been tweeting for The Whale in the Room for about 24 hours now. (Not continuously... that would be crazy.) The characters, which were described very simply in the brief, are coming to life before our eyes as their imaginary lives start to unfold. They are also beginning to intersect with each other. I'm hoping for some good old conflicts to emerge too.

The process feels to me like a mixture of writing, acting and showing off. Maybe that's how improv feels? I've never had the courage to try anything like live improv (let alone the talent).

I'm also finding that tweeting my character @cynpa, while tweeting in my own right as @pilchard7, while getting on with my day job, is not as confusing as I feared it might be. I think this is because tweeting is a bit like day-dreaming. I can slip into Cyn's head and gaze out of her mental window for a few seconds, capture her thoughts, and send them out into the world we're sharing for the duration of this experiment. Admittedly, it would be harder to juggle these activities if I had a proper job that involved steering something, or cutting somebody open, or giving a damn about real people in real time.

Which leads me to ask... Is Twitter for writers? Are people who like Twitter all writers? Is Twitter the saviour of literacy? Traditionalists line up to spank technology as a force for dumbification, but maybe they ought to take a longer look at the Twitter phenomenon. It's not about celebrities - it's about voices... Voices that want air.

Monday 27 April 2009

The Writers

A (male):

Tom, a school art teacher who wants to keep up with the zeitgeist, while also avoiding family responsibilities by spending his life online.
Tweeting as: @tomxart
Written by: @manfromthezoo

B (female):
Francine Harpur, a designer of fragrances and freelance “nose” who wants everyone in the world to be happy – whether they like it or not.
Tweeting as: @fragharpy
Written by: @Antoniablue 

C (male):

Marvin "Sidebird" Debris, a dead pop star whose career spanned skiffle to glam rock, and who is now earning more than he ever did alive.
Tweeting as: @sidebird
Written by: @KalBonner

D (female):

Rhiannon, a twelve year old girl coming to terms with her mother’s new boyfriend. 
Tweeting as: @rhiannon97
Written by: @pensm

E (male):

Recently made redundant from his job as manager of a clothes store, Benson Fielder is thinking partly about growing his own veg and partly about getting his revenge on society.
Tweeting as: @beenfeeld
Written by: @gerryhayes

F (female):

Cyn, a personal assistant to a high-flying business manager, with ambitions of her own.
Tweeting as: @cynpa
Written by: @pilchard7