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Three Questions: an interview with . . . Jeffrey Bridges, Executive Producer and Founder of Pendant Productions March 6, 2007

Posted by William Spear in >> Radio Drama, >> Three Questions: an interview with ....
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Jeffrey Bridges and Pendant Productions are busy people. They produce a series of fan shows which includes recognizable characters such as:

  • Superman: The Last Son of Krypton;
  • Batman: The Ace of Detectives;
  • Wonder Woman: Champion of Themyscira;
  • IMPERIUM – Superman/Batman/Wonder Woman crossover story;
  • James Bond: To The End;
  • Indiana Jones and the Well of Life; and
  • Star Trek: Defiant.

They also produce orignal shows such as Umket Industries Presents: The Dixie Stenberg and Brassy Battalion Adventure Theater, The Kingery, Seminar, and This Week In Pendant!

Two casting calls were recently completed, lines were due on other projects, and still other productions have been released. And it’s still early in March.

Jeff stopped by for conversation and offered his insights.

. . .

LIT: Jeff, how is radio drama similar to, and different from, stage, film or television?

JEFFREY: Well the obvious answer is that it’s the only medium you listed without a built-in visual component. I think this is part of what holds radio drama back from breaking out as a hugely popular form of art in our culture, because everything is so often based on visuals.

LIT: How does that effect audiences?

JEFFREY: I have run into plenty of people who aren’t even interested in trying to listen to a radio drama because of this stigma; they feel it will be boring and dull by default, simply because of the medium. And of course this is no more true for radio drama than it is for movies, television or the stage. Dull writing, acting and directing makes for a dull end product. The medium itself isn’t to blame.

Radio drama is also the only medium where the audience has to actively use their imagination. This sometimes happens in stage, where the audience must imagine what they’re seeing live before them is actually a different place and time and that said world exists beyond the boundaries of the physical stage itself. But even there, the audience still has faces to go with names and props and sets to help set the mood.

With radio drama all you can do is give music and sound effects cues along with dialogue. I think this makes dialogue more important to radio drama than to any of the other mediums listed, because without the dialogue you really don’t have much left. A talented actor in the other mediums can express a full range of emotions just with their facial expressions, but in radio drama you can’t do that. It all has to be on the page or the audience isn’t going to get it.

LIT: Given that, what should radio dramatists and producers do to overcome these objections and reach new listeners?

JEFFREY: Just getting people to listen to their first episode of any radio drama is the hardest part. Once they see it’s not dull and boring by default they’re suddenly much more open to it.

So, in short, don’t be dull and boring! Modernize the radio drama as much as possible. Try to make it “like a movie without the video feed”, which is what I try to describe them as to people not familiar with the medium. But it doesn’t work if you tell people that’s what radio dramas are like, and then give them a radio drama that’s NOT like that to listen to.

LIT: Any examples?

JEFFREY: One suggestion I have is to completely do away with narrators. We do not use a narrator in any Pendant show. The closest we come is the host/announcer in “Dixie Stenberg and Brassy Battalion”, and that character only exists as that show is an homage to the classic radio serials of the ’30s and ’40s in which narrators and announcers were ubiquitous.

Most movies, television shows and stage plays do not have narrators. This is because they’re usually just excuses for lazy writing, in my opinion. Once in a while they can actually work and add something to the production (the narration of the main character in the movie “Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang” comes to mind) but far more often than not they’re just superfluous and take the audience out of the story.

How can they get into a story and experience being somewhere with the characters if they keep getting interrupted by an omniscient voice telling them what else is going on? It’s that old writing adage: show, don’t tell.

LIT: But “telling” is all the medium offers.

JEFFREY: This can be tricky in radio drama due to the limitations previously discussed, but it can be done. It’s what I like to call “cheating for audio”.

A good example of this was in our show, “Superman: The Last Son of Krypton”. The first time Superman uses his heat vision, I had to clue the audience in to the fact that the sound effect they were hearing was, indeed, his heat vision. From that point on the audience would identify that sound, but initially they would have no way to know what it was.

So I added in the line “A dose of heat vision should do the trick!” right before the sound effect, and that solved that problem. It should be mentioned that I’d never write a line like that for prose or for any visual medium, which is why it’s “cheating for audio”. Such a line also doesn’t work for every character in every situation, but there are ways around that. A bystander on the street could shout out, “Look at his heat vision!” or something far more eloquent than my tired self can come up with right this second, but you get the drift.

Just modernize the production and make them as close to movies/television shows without the video feed as possible and you’ll stand a much greater chance of not only attracting but KEEPING listeners who are new to the medium. And the listeners who are already familiar with and are fans of the medium will listen either way, as long as they like what you’re giving them.

LIT: What is your favorite piece of radio drama and why?

JEFFREY: Holy cow, I don’t know if I can pick just one. I’m particularly proud of “Superman: The Last Son of Krypton” episode 24. From the writing to the actors’ performances to mixing the completed episode, I feel that episode, more than any other I’ve done, clicked on absolutely every level.

I’m also particularly thrilled with “Umket Industries Presents: The Dixie Stenberg and Brassy Battalion Adventure Theater” episode 8, which comes out on February 6 at our website, pendantaudio.com

It is by far the best episode of the series to date, the cast is brilliant and Seth Adam Sher’s direction has never been better.

. . .

Thanks for your insights, Jeff, and keep our readers informed of news, events, and releases at Pendant.

For more information on Jeffrey Bridges, Executive Producer and Founder, of Pendant Productions, stop by the company’s website at http://www.pendantaudio.com/ .

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