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Three Questions: an interview with . . . Jens Hewerer, Founder and Top Kid, of Kiddio March 13, 2007

Posted by William Spear in >> Radio Drama, >> Three Questions: an interview with ....
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Jens Hewerer founded Kiddio LLC in 2005. Located in Jersey City, New Jersey, Kiddio derives its name from “kids’ audio” and focuses exclusively on children. The company published episodes of its initial series, “Billy Brown,” in September of 2006 and won a 2007 iParenting Media Award.

The Top Kid talked with us about Kiddio, television, and playwright J. Michael Straczynski.

. . .

LIT: Tell us about Kiddio and Billy Brown.

JENS: Kiddio is an audio theatre company producing CDs – audio adventures – for kids. Our first series is about Billy Brown – a friendly, talking bear and his best friend, Emma, who have all kinds of adventures. Their first two are “Billy Brown And The Mystery Package” and “Billy Brown Goes Hiking”. The third is currently in production with an anticipated release date of March 2007. We expect to publish a new CD every three months.

LIT: And Billy Brown just won an award?

JENS: The 2007 iParenting Media Award.

LIT: Congratulations, welcome to the Three Questions column and allow us to start – how is radio drama similar to, and different from, stage, film or television?

JENS: Of course, every interviewee before has already mentioned the visual component and you might want to include books into this question because of that. As with a book, the audience is free to imagine the details of the story – the setting, the characters, and the costumes. Therefore, audio theatre can feel more personal. Each listening varies with each audience member.

But for our listeners, kids three to seven years old, audio adventures are better than TV or DVDs for two main reasons: Imagination and independence! Listeners only see Billy Brown on our CD covers, introducing the idea that he is a friendly, but strong, bear. We will never picture anybody else on our CDs, leaving the kids’ imagination to picture the characters and settings in the story as opposed to just sitting in front of a TV.

LIT: Why is that important?

JENS: In this day and computer age, children’s toys, such as TV and DVDs, leave no room for true imagination in our children. And more imagination can lead to more creativity. Independence meaning that kids can have control over this medium.

LIT: If the five in our house are any more independent then they’ll each have their own home.

JENS: But you and other parents are much less likely to supervise children’s audio adventure consumption, once realized that their kids listen often but while they do other stuff. There is no need to restrict audio adventures as you should television. Kids love that! They can listen to their CDs on their boomboxes as often as they want – they are independent!

For another point – relevant for any audio theatre – I would like to quote J. Michael Straczynski.

LIT: Do you mean the J. Michael Straczynski who created Babylon 5, Crusade, and the radio drama series “The City of Dreams” and “The Adventures of Apocalypse”? Where does he come into the picture?

JENS: In his Complete Book of Scriptwriting, he writes that “creatively speaking, radio-drama is probably the one medium most dependent on the writer’s craft”. Luckily, Kiddio has the very talented, up and coming, playwright Sharyn Rothstein on its team for the Billy Brown series. But I would like to add that because it is “only” voice acting – you can’t see anyone act – you need very talented people. But Kiddio is headquartered in Jersey City, NJ, has access to the huge pool of New York City’s tri-state area talent and found some exceptional voice actors. I will be happy to refer them to anyone who is interested, just contact me.

LIT: What should radio dramatists and production companies do to reach new listeners?

JENS: First, we shouldn’t call it radio drama and have to come to a common name. Audio theatre seems to be widely excepted but people still talk about audio drama, sometimes audio play. Drama is a genre. What about comedy, thriller, etc? At Kiddio, producing for children we call them audio adventures, it sounds more exciting.

So, we all should consistently call this medium audio theatre. Once we do, we can make ourselves better heard! And we have to work on getting more prominent coverage at least within media and associations covering audio. They have to realize and emphasize that there is more than audio books. Then in a concerted effort we have to persuade retailers to distinguish between audio books and audio theatre in their selections.

LIT: We have a common name, audio theatre. How do we get it to our listeners?

JENS: As for new listeners, downloads and podcasts have to be explored, of course. I see two different business models for audio theatre, that can be explored both by any company. One is publishing audio theatre features and sell them as downloads. And two would be producing an audio theatre series as podcast and finance it via commercials. And for both you can probably try out selling CDs and box sets with extras like booklets, photos and additional commentary, interviews.

However, I was shocked reading in Anne Cammon, Arts Programmer, WKCR FM New York, interview that she has a hard time to get her hands on recordings for broadcasting. Time on the air should be seen as an additional revenue source only second, but as great publicity first.

People simply do not know about it because the generation that remembers radio drama is the Greatest Generation that retired long ago. Today’s generation has never heard a radio drama and simply doesn’t know audio theatre. Nevertheless overall, I see great potential for a large audience for audio theatre. It is the iPod as well as the audio book effect. iPods on the commute and the growing popularity of audio books. What we have to work on is publicity, publicity with the common name audio theatre! In 25 years you will have a new generation of listeners nurtured on Kiddio’s audio adventures.

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

JENS: Having grown up with audio adventures in Germany, my favorites are two adventures for kids, of course: “Raeuberhauptmann Hotzenplotz” and “Alfons Zitterbacke”. Interestingly, the former was produced in West Germany, where I was born, and the latter in East Germany. It was a present from my aunt, who lived in the East. Right now, I could only name what I would like to listen to in the future. I can hardly wait to be able to afford – currently investing into Kiddio – “The Complete Arkangel Shakespeare: 38 Dramatized Plays”. And recently, I have read some interesting comments on the web on a production of the Canadian Broadcasting Company: “Afghanada”, a 12-episode, 30 min. each, fictional radio drama that probes the war in Afghanistan through Canadian soldiers’ eyes. They have just finished airing them in Canada, but I don’t know anything about their future plans.

. . .

We throroughly enjoyed our time with Jens and hope he’ll keep our readers informed of news on Billy Bear and Emma. By the way, if you want to know how “Raeuberhauptmann Hotzenplotz” and “Alfons Zitterbacke” translate, drop Jens a line.

Contact details:
Jens Hewerer

Founder and Top Kid

Kiddio LLC

Jersey City, New Jersey

http://www.kiddioadventures.com 

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Comments»

1. Results: Hits at Lit Between the Ears for the week of Sunday 11 March 2007 - Saturday 17 March 2007 March 11th, 2007 « Lit Between the Ears - March 21, 2007

[…] Three Questions interview with Jens Hewerer was the hit of the week,” said William Spear, Publisher and Editor. “Jens interview […]

2. Larry Slade - March 30, 2007

I agree very much with what Mr. Hewerer has to say here. I particularly like the part about how children can be free and independent with he product and listen when they want.
I wish Kiddo luck in making this sort of product work. I agree that there is a big hole in USA entertainment to be filled in this way. I think it is important and vital work that the children need.
When I was a child I had a set of two 78 rpm records which were an audio theatre version of the Howdy Doody TV show. It was Howdy Doody and the Musical Alarm Clock. I listened to it about a billion times.
I still have the records packed away.
I have also produced a couple of audio adventures for some children I know. They love them.
Rapunzel can be heard here:
http://www.myspace.com/earstory

3. William Spear - March 31, 2007

Larry,

Thank you for your comments; the link to Rapunzel is greatly appreciated, too.

You’ve staked a point of discussion: How might radio drama meet the market for children’s prograaming?

All points are welcome.

Kindest,

Bill
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