Writer, Broadcaster

Tag: Matt Watts (Page 1 of 2)

The Great Lockout of ’05

An Excerpt from Something Technical: A Memoir
Matt Watts offering his support during the Great Lockout of ’05.

On August 15, 2005, CBC locked out its unionized workforce of producers, technicians and other support staff, about 5500 workers, including me, after negotiations with the Canadian Media Guild broke down after fourteen months. Arnold Amber, President of the CBC branch of the Canadian Media Guild, said at the time, “The talks are all over, it’s going forward. We never reached agreement on any of the main issues and there’s still about forty items still undone.” The main issue boiled down to CBC management’s desire to have more flexibility over how it hired its employees, whereas the union in stark contrast was looking for more job security for its members.

I happened to be on vacation at the time, camping with my family. Because this was by now my third job action with the CBC I decided not to worry about it until I was back in town. This meant forfeiting one week’s worth of strike pay, but I didn’t care. A week of sun and leisure and canoeing and uninterrupted family time meant that I was in a pretty good mood by the time I returned to join the line.

 I’ve already written about my first two job actions in these pages. This one would prove to be quite a bit different in character than the others. For one thing, it took place during the summer, when it was warm, which made picketing infinitely more pleasant. But perhaps more importantly for me personally, I decided to blog the entire event. This would have an enormous impact on my whole attitude toward the Lock Out.

By the second week I had set up a blog using the free online blogging service Blogger under the pseudonym “CBC Workerbee.” I had decided to blog anonymously because I had no idea what management would think about my blogging. It seemed prudent to play it safe, though I wasn’t very good about keeping it a secret. My colleague, producer Laurence Stevenson, called CBC Workerbee’s identity the worst kept secret of the lockout. By the end of the lockout I publicly admitted on the blog who I was. As far as I know blogging the lockout resulted in no tangible repercussions to my career (well, yet). John McCarthy, who later hired me into my first position in management, even suggested that it helped me, although there was one curious piece of fallout.

There was a producer with whom I had been friendly. We’d worked on a successful drama series together. This producer was later promoted into management. In the years following the Lock Out I noticed that this person became noticeably unfriendly toward me. I would greet her in line at Ooh La La’s and she would ignore me. At first I figured that maybe she was just hard of hearing, until it happened enough times that I was forced to admit that, no, she really was snubbing me. I couldn’t imagine why. I didn’t associate it with the Lock Out. Especially after twelve or thirteen years had passed.

Fast forward a few years, and I found myself in a position where I was required to work directly with this person. I admitted to a friend that I was a little nervous about that because I didn’t think this person liked me. My friend, who knew this person pretty well, let me in on what was going on. The individual in question had been in management during the Lock Out. When she found out that I was the guy behind CBC Workerbee, she held it against me, at least according to my friend. Especially after I joined the management team, which I gather she found hypocritical. How could I criticize management one minute and then become management the next? My response to that would be what better position from which to enact change? In any case, once I heard why this individual disliked me I immediately went back to my CBC Workerbee blog to see what I had written twelve years earlier that had been so offensive.

I discovered that I had been pretty hard on the Senior Executive Team, but not at all hard on middle management, with whom I had (mostly) sympathized. I don’t think my frenemy had read my CBC Workerbee blog that closely. But when it became necessary for us to work together in 2017 to her credit she set aside her reservations, at least to my face, and we got along just fine. She even greeted me in line at Ooh La La’s once or twice.          

Tod Maffin in Simcoe Park
during the Great Lockout of ’05

Unlike the two previous job actions I was involved in, I came to (mostly) enjoy this Lock Out. I looked forward to hitting the picket line and acquiring more information to blog about. I would picket, snap some photos, and then come home to write about what I experienced. The words flowed unlike they had ever flowed before. It turned out I wasn’t the only one blogging about the Lock Out. Dozens of us across the country put pen to screen, posting regular updates. In time about five lock out blogs (as they came to be known) were posting regularly, and were quite well read, including mine.

I think what really spurred me on was, after posting about twice, I got noticed by the King of the Lock Out blogs, Tod Maffin. From that point forward I averaged a readership of about five hundred readers every single post. Blogging became like catnip for me.  I had found my voice. Psychologically it was highly therapeutic. What could otherwise have been a very unpleasant summer became great fun.

Like the other job actions, the Lock Out of 2005 turned into a great opportunity to catch up with all my CBC friends. Walking around the Toronto Broadcast Centre in pleasant weather with old friends was quite enjoyable. It seemed to me that the Senior Executive Team had made a terrible strategic error locking us out in the summer. We were getting strike pay. We were only working twenty hours a week. When we did work (picketing) it was nice catching up with friends and acquaintances. We could do this forever… or at least until it got cold. By the time it did become cold, two months later, it was all over. Ironically, I cherish that summer as one of my favourite times at the CBC. Not a bad way to spend a summer.

By the end of it all I had written and blogged about eighty thousand words. That’s about the length of a novel. I had never written so much so quickly. I found that I had been able to write good, solid blog posts in a draft or two. It completely changed how I approached writing. It convinced me that I could write a complete novel. So immediately following the lockout I tackled a novel I’d been trying to write and wrote an entire draft of one hundred and ten thousand words in about three months. (It took me twelve more years to revise it and get it published, but that’s beside the point!)

Still, even though the experience this time had been mostly positive, for me at least, I’d just as soon never repeat it, on either side of the picket line. A lot of hard work has been done by both CBC management and the union in the intervening years to improve relations, so I’m optimistic that I never will.

Relaxin’ on the line

The Matt Watts Years

An Excerpt from Something Technical: A Memoir

One day in 2005, after grabbing a coffee at Ooh La La’s, I stepped into the CBC atrium where I was hailed by Tom Anniko, then Executive Producer of CBC Radio Comedy. He was sitting at a table with a lanky young man of about thirty. Tom introduced him as Matt Watts, the writer and star of the next radio play I’d be recording. Matt’s claim to fame at that time was as one of the creators of the (soon to be) Broadway hit The Drowsy Chaperone and one of the stars of the second and third season of Ken Finkleman’s The Newsroom.   

That’s Matt Watts in the back, with J. Michael Straczynski (of Babylon 5 fame) in CBC Toronto Studio 212’s Green Room for a read-through of Straczynski’s “The Adventures of Apocalypse Al” about a year after we produced Steve the First. Not sure who that is in the foreground.

The radio play turned out to be Steve the First. It was about a laconic young anti-hero named Steve who has an accident and wakes up many years in the future to find himself in the middle of an apocalypse where everybody’s suffering from a disease that makes them “melt” over time. People in the grip of the disease are called “melties.” It’s up to Steve to save the day, except that he has little interest in doing so. Matt is a brilliant comedy writer and Steve the First was a funny show. A science fiction comedy, it was right up my alley.

Matt and I hit it off. I told him about my attempt to make a science fiction radio series and gave him a copy of my show Faster Than Light to listen to. In an unusual move, rather than ask me to mix Steve the First after we recorded it, Tom Anniko brought it to his base of operations in Winnipeg and asked a talented music recording engineer to mix the show. This fellow was a well regarded recording engineer but he specialized in recording and mixing music, not radio plays. Matt Watts was not pleased with the results. He’d listened to my mix of Faster Than Light (which, you might recall, contained two radio plays, Captain’s Away and The Cold Equations) and approached me about remixing Steve the First. I listened to the Winnipeg recording engineer’s mix of Steve the First and had to agree: it wasn’t quite up to snuff. Several of the sound effects just didn’t work and the dialogue was too far back in the mix, among other issues. Matt was quite upset. Would I remix it?

I really wanted to remix it because I was certain I could make it much better, but I didn’t want to disrespect the work of the other recording engineer, who I’d met a year or so earlier and liked. Matt and I went to Tom and asked him what he thought. Tom agreed to allow me to create an alternate mix. But first I felt I had to talk to the other recording engineer. I went into the conversation thinking it would be a delicate discussion but I needn’t have worried. He wasn’t precious about his work, readily admitting that he was first and foremost a music recording engineer.

A Favourite Clip from Steve the First

So I rolled up my sleeves and got to work, replacing sound effects, bringing the dialogue forward, and taking what I’ve always thought of as a “leave no stone unturned” approach to mixing radio plays. I’d learned a lot mixing Faster Than Light and every other radio play I’d mixed in the five years since I’d joined the radio drama department. I was mixing within a smaller dynamic range, making my waveforms look a lot more like the waveforms you’d see in top forty music on commercial radio, the better to allow my product to compete on that medium. I made my sound effects much louder and punchier than when I’d first started out.  I worked alone, or sometimes with Matt, without a producer looking over my shoulder and telling me what to do.  Having Matt hang around the studio was a huge bonus, because he was the star of the show, so it featured his voice a lot, and if I thought a line needed to be different, either a completely new line or different delivery, I could ask him to record it then and there and simply incorporate it into the mix. There was never any discussion of paying him extra to do that because, for one thing, I didn’t have the authority to authorize that, and for another neither of us cared. We just wanted to make the absolute best product that we could.

We were both pretty happy with the way Steve the First turned out. And we became fast friends in the process. Never up to that point had I felt so sympatico in a creative collaboration.

The CBC contracted Matt to write three more episodes of Steve the First. I was just supposed to be the recording engineer on each of them. But when Matt started writing the second episode, he sent his early drafts not only to Tom Anniko but to me as well. I don’t know whether he expected me to comment on it, but because I fancied myself a writer I read it and had some pretty strong opinions. I waited a bit to see whether Tom responded, and maybe he did, but if so he didn’t copy me. So I sent Matt my thoughts.

Much later Matt told me that he got my notes and read them and they made him angry. He was so mad that he went outside for a smoke and stomped around a bit. And then he thought, dammit, he’s right! And went inside and rewrote some stuff based on my notes.

I’m not relating this story to illustrate what a great writer or story editor I am. It’s more evidence that Matt and I were operating on the same wavelength when it came to his material. From that point forward I story edited all of his radio plays, unofficially for the four episodes of Steve the First and the four episodes of its sequel, Steve the Second. I became the official story of the final series we worked on together, Canadia: 2056, but they only paid me $150 per episode rather than the usual $500 story editors usually got paid. But I didn’t mind, because it was fun work, doing what I loved, and of course I was still getting paid to be a recording engineer at the time.

Matt and I had a lot of fun making Steve the First and Steve the Second. I became the de facto producer, at least for the mixes, and I did all the post production sound effects (Anton Szabo did most of the live-to-tape sound effects). There were some memorable moments. Sometimes Matt and I would mix the episodes during the evening. For one scene we needed the sound of a big jug of water bouncing off the floor. I grabbed a great big spare bottle from a water dispenser and brought it into the studio. We hit play and record on ProTools and Matt and I stood in the booth and dropped the completely full, unopened water bottle. To our surprise it cracked, flooding the booth. The carpet was completely soaked. There was little we could do to mop it up or accelerate the drying process, though we did the best we could with scads of paper towels. The next day I had to tell my boss, John McCarthy, who took it extremely well. I don’t think there was any lasting damage other than to the water bottle itself, and maybe a slightly moldy carpet.   

After mixing an episode I would burn it to CD and take it home and listen to it in several environments: in the car, in the kitchen, in the living room. I wanted to see what it sounded like in each environment. The car was always the noisiest. If a bit of dialogue or a sound effect didn’t cut through in any of those environments, I went back to the studio and remixed it until it did. I was trying to make the shows the most sonically successful work of my career. I was pretty happy with the results, but I didn’t entirely succeed. After the shows were broadcast, when it came time to print the shows to CD for sale, the woman in charge of doing so, Patsy Fraracci (I might have her last name wrong, if so I apologize!), came to visit me in the studio and we had a friendly conversation about the quality. Reviewing the audio on the CDs, she’d noticed a little glitch or two. I was incredulous. She played them back for me. Sure enough there were a couple of weird audio anomalies. Just fraction of a second things that I’d never noticed in all the times I’d listened, but that she’d caught. Of course, she was married to one of the top CBC music recording engineers at the time, Todd Fraracci, and evidently shared his ears. I was embarrassed. I went back to the original mixes and did what I could to fix them, but due to the nature of the glitches my options were limited. They’re still there in the final product, to some extent. But I daresay you would probably need the “golden ears” of Patsy (or her husband Todd) to discern them.   

Steve the First and, later, Steve the Second aired Saturday mornings at 11:30. I think they went over fairly well, but neither Matt nor I became anywhere near as famous as our radio drama hero Douglas Adams, famous for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Maybe next time.

A Time and a Place Update

Cover Art for A Time and a Place, by Jeff Minkevics A Time and a Place

A consequence of my publisher, Five Rivers Publishing, shutting down operations this year was that the novel I had published with them, A Time and a Place (which I will henceforth refer to as ATAAP in this post), was delisted from most book sellers. It therefore became imperative that I get it back out there lest it become well and truly out of print.

My experience with Five Rivers has been a uniformly positive one all the way through and this proved true at the end as well. I say Five Rivers but really I mean Lorina Stephens, the soul, essence, and driving force of Five Rivers. Lorina ensured that the transition of rights was as painless as possible, transforming all the rights for ATAAP back to me (and the rest of her authors) without any fuss or bother. The situation with Audible proved a little problematic for some of Lorina’s other authors as Audible was a bit of a stickler with third party producers involved, but it turned out to be easier for me as I was the sole performer and producer on the audiobook version of ATAAP. Three or four emails with Audible and we got that all sorted out.

Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Indigo and so on was a little more time consuming. I decided to release what turned out to be a second edition of ATAAP under my own publishing house, Donovan Street Press. I took the opportunity to scour the manuscript and eliminate about eight typos that had driven me crazy since the original publication. Even though I had gone over the manuscript umpteen times after we finished editing it back in 2017, I’d still managed to miss those eight. It is unbelievably difficult to catch every typo in a novel. Your eye scans right past them. Every time I read a book from one of the major publishers I delight in spotting typos as they make me feel better about mine. Typose exist in just about every book you will ever read (and if they don’t, I don’t want to hear about it).

Typos in the original version of ATAAP included (in no particular order):

  • P 186 the only way could think of (missing the “I”)
  • P180 passenger street (should be passenger seat)
  • P363 excess spaces in sentence 
  • P291 made a mess of it (should be make a mess of it) 
  • P289 eying (should be eyeing)
  • Diane Savident (should be Diana Savident) (this was rather embarrassing for me as Diana was a family friend)
  • P28: should be “the two of them vanished…” (Not the two of them had vanished)
  • P181 print version: should be Nissan Rogue (not Nissan Rouge) (invariably over the last three years I’d be out running errands and I’d find myself behind a Nissan Rogue, and I’d think of that typo. I’d grit my teeth and think, “I’m following a typo.”)
  • P375 “You’re here, where ever here is, allowing people to use you (to) wipe out entire civilizations” (missing “to”)

Rereading the manuscript, I was also horrified to discover a story glitch, a missing bit of narrative hand-holding regarding the nature of Sebastian. Probably not a big deal to the average reader, as Sebastian’s nature eventually becomes crystal clear, but it really needed to be made explicit early on. So this was an opportunity to correct that with the addition of a bit of extra dialogue in Chapter Five.

Finally, one reader had pointed out in private correspondence that I had exhibited a particular fondness for the word particularly. You will find far fewer instances of this word in the Second Edition of A Time and a Place (and in any future novels I write).

Despite the over abundance of the word particularly, ATAAP has managed to receive some pretty good reviews since its original publication in 2017. Releasing a second edition was an opportunity to include some of those reviews off the top of the book. I’m grateful to the following authors for their kind words in support of the book: Andrew Weston (author of the internationally bestselling IX series), A.B. Funkhauser (author of Shell Game: A Black Cat Novel), Brian Wyvill (author of The Second Gate), and comedian, actor and writer Matt Watts (Newsroom, Michael: Tuesdays and Thursdays).

All these updates required getting a new ISBN and hiring Eric Desmarais to produce a new layout (Eric had done an excellent job on the original layout). I’ve also contracted an updated cover from original cover artist Jeff Minkevics which I hope to make a part of ATAAP‘s Second Edition sometime in the next month or so.

Because it was important to get ATAAP back out there, I’ve already released the ebook and Kindle version on the sly through Draft2Digital. You will find it at every major online book retailer. Physical copies are still available but they will be second hand. I’m waiting to publish the second edition of A Time and a Place in physical form once I have the new cover in hand which, as I mentioned, will hopefully be in the next month or so.

I should also point out that the version of ATAAP up on Audible is the original version. Maybe I’ll update that version too one day, but to be honest I’m not in a rush to do so. Too many other important things to do, like finish my second novel, Captain’s Away. More on that later.

So, long story short, there’s a new, updated version of A Time and a Place out there, folks. Feel free to check it out.

Assorted Nonsense: The Podcast

Photo by Magda Ehlers from Pexels

One day in the not too distant future, when I have time, I might try my hand at a podcast. And when I do, it might turn out something like the script I’ve pasted below. I wrote this back around 2006 and actually produced a version of it a few years later with my buddy Matt Watts, but it never saw the light of day.

The mini-radio drama referenced near the end, Born of Man and Woman, was produced by my friend and colleague Barry Morgan for the third pilot we produced for Faster Than Light, but like that pilot, it was never aired, which is a shame, because Barry’s take on the story was actually quite good. Born of Man and Woman is a great little short story if you can get your hands on it, by Richard Matheson, author of What Dreams May Come and I am Legend. As for Barry Morgan, I really miss him. What a privilege it was to know a guy like that.

This script, you will see, is rather silly, but dammit there’s a place for silly in this world. Isn’t there?

ASSORTED NONSENSE

Episode #1

PART ONE

1. SFX:                                   SHUFFLING PAPERS, CHAIRS SQUEAKING

2. JOE: (STAGE WHISPER)  Play it. Play it!

3. MATT: (STAGE WHISPER) What? 

4. JOE: (STAGE WHISPER) The theme!

5. MATT: (STAGE WHISPER) Oh.  Which button…?

6. JOE: (STAGE WHISPER) Try the red one. (FREAKS OUT) NO! No, the green one.

7. SFX: CLICK!

8. THEME: ASSORTED NONSENSE THEME BG

9. MATT:                               Hi and welcome to Assorted Nonsense.  I’m Matt Watts…

10. JOE:                                  And I’m Joe Mahoney.  Welcome to Assorted Nonsense.

11. SFX: QUACK QUACK

12. MATT:                             Every edition of Assorted Nonsense is special, of course, but today’s show is extra special because not only will you hear the usual assorted nonsense…

13. JOE:                                  You’ll hear all sorts of extra goodies, just like on your favourite Star Wars DVD.

14. MATT:                             For instance, in today’s show we’ve included two scenes so poorly written and acted…

15. JOE:                                  So unbelievably awful…

16. MATT:                             That normally they would have been deleted.

17. JOE:                                  Without question.

18. MATT:                             Today we’ve kept them in.  Just like our bloopers.  During the making of every Athorted Nonsenthe… of every Athorted… oh for the love of –

19. SFX: BLEEP!

20. JOE:                                  You need to work on that lisp.

21. MATT:                             I need some water.  Can we do that again?

22. PRODUCER:                    (OVER TALKBACK) Pick it up at “During the making of.”

23. MATT:                             Okay. Ready?

24. JOE:                                  Go for it.

25. MATT:                             During the making of every Assorted Nonsense, Joe and I make plenty of mistakes.  Normally we edit them out.  Not today.

26. JOE:                                  Today we’re keeping them in.  And if you listen closely…

27. MATT:                             Really, really closely…

28. JOE:                                  You’ll hear a special commentary track in which Matt and I comment on the very show you’re listening to —

29. MATT:                             — while you’re listening to it. 

30. JOE:                                  How cool is that?

31. MATT:                             When the show’s finished, make sure you turn it over to hear a special behind-the-scenes making of featurette. 

32. MATT:                             And as an extra special bonus, today’s show is available in the following languages: 

33. JOE:                                  English.

34. MATT: Assorted Nonsense.  Radio that answers the burning question:

35. JOE AND MATT: (TREATED HARD RIGHT AND LEFT) What the heck?

36. THEME:                          UP AND OUT

PART TWO: CONSTRUCTION SITE

1. SFX: CONSTRUCTION, BULLDOZER IN DISTANCE

2. MATT:                               Hey Joe.  What’goin’ on?  What’s all this?

3. JOE:                                    Oh hey Matt.  I’m just building my own radio show, so I can be my own boss, do my own thing.  You know, the kind of show I’ve been talking about for like forever.

4. MATT:                               I’m sorry, did you say that you’re… building a radio show?

5. JOE:                                    Yeah, that’s right.  Once I get all the pieces.

6. MATT:                               Pieces?  Radio shows come in pieces?

7. JOE:                                    Of course.  You know… radio pieces.  Themes, hosts, music, stories… you know, radio stuff.

8. MATT:                               Huh.

9. JOE:                                    Only problem is this is one a them “do-it-yourself” radio shows.  I gotta figure out how ta bolt it all together.  For instance, getting this… sub-text in place…

6. SFX:                                   DRILL

7. JOE:                                    There.

7. SFX: BULLDOZER

8. MATT:                               Joe…

7. JOE: (EXCITED) Oh hey look, they’re bringing in the theme!  Ooh, this is very exciting.  Put it over there, boys! 

8. SFX: THEME SETS DOWN WITH A THUD

9. MUSIC:                             AS IT HAPPENS THEME

16. JOE:                                  Oh. Hmm, I dunno.  I didn’t order a current affairs theme. (OFF) Guys!  Guys!  You’re gonna have to take that theme back.  Can we get something a little less… Moe Koffman-y?

25. MUSIC: THEME DEPARTS WITH BULLDOZER

11. JOE:                                  Hand me those nails?  Thanks.

12. MATT:                             Joe you can’t just… build a radio show.

13. SFX:                                 HAMMERING

14. JOE:                                  I can’t?

15. MATT:                             No.

26. JOE:                                  Here, hold this while I tweak the focus.  Thanks.

27: SFX:                                 FOCUS TWEAKING

17. MATT:                             Have you thought this thing through?

18: JOE: (STRAINING) And now for the dramatic structure…

19. MATT:                             Do you have any idea –

18. SFX:                                 JACKHAMMER

19. MATT: (YELLING) Joe, Joe listen to me!  Do you have any idea how –

20. SFX: JACKHAMMER STOPS

21. MATT:                             (STILL YELLING) big a radio…? (SIGHS, LOWERS VOICE) How big a radio show can be? 

22. JOE: Whaddaya mean?

23. MATT:                             Where ya gonna put it? 

24. JOE:                                  It’s just little, only half an hour.  Fits anywhere.

25. MATT:                             You have no idea what you’re getting yourself into, do you.  Joe… radio shows… radio shows are like cats.

26. JOE:                                  Cats?

27. MATT:                             You might even be allergic for all you know.

28. JOE:                                  I –

29. MATT:                             Do you have any idea what a radio show can do to your furniture?

30. JOE:                                  Uh —

31: MATT:                             You’re not thinking of having it declawed, are you?  ‘Cause if you are, then —

32. JOE:                                  (LIKE HE’S CRAZY) Matt, Matt.  It’s not a cat.  It’s a radio show.

33. MATT:                             (BEAT) Oh you are so wrong.  Cuz ya see Joe, a radio show is exactly like a cat.

34. JOE:                                  (LONG BEAT) Except for the fur, and the… head?

35. MATT:                             Joe, what’s the one thing that cats have more than any other creature on this planet?

36. JOE: Hairballs.

37. MATT: Attitude, Joe.  There ain’t no other creature on this planet with more attitude than a cat.  (BEAT) ‘Cept maybe a beaver but the point is that that’s what makes a cat tick.  Attitude.  For a radio show to really rock, it’s gotta have attitude. 

38. JOE:                                  Like a cat.

39. MATT:                             Or a beaver.

40. JOE:                                  And you know this because…

41. MATT:                             I used to have one.

42.  JOE:                                 A cat?

43.  MATT:                            (BEAT) A beaver.

44.  JOE:                                 Well I appreciate the advice Matt but I’m still gonna build my own radio show.  *Now if you’ll excuse me I’m gonna have to trim this item cause it’s already gone on way too long…

44. MUSIC: *START OVERBLOWN MUSIC BG

45. SFX: SAWING

45. MUSIC:                           FEATURE, THEN FADE BG

46. MATT: (OVERLY DRAMATIC)

And so Joe built his radio show.

He built it with his own bare hands.

He built it though it made no sense to do so. 

He built it out of spare parts left over from a misspent youth. 

He built a radio show fluent in four different languages, not a one of them spoken on Earth.

He coated it with a super special polymer material, able to withstand hurricane forces and the probing hands of small children.

He made his radio show sveglia impermeable.

He put little air holes in it so that he could breathe. 

He painted it bright orange with gigantic purple spots. 

Joe built a radio show the envy of the entire… that… some people could tune into if they wanted to. 

Joe built his radio show unaware that as he did so, elsewhere in the universe mysterious aliens plotted the fate of humanity:

PART THREE: STUDIO

1. SOUND:                             INTRO OF SHOW STARTS AGAIN

2. JOE:                                    Hi, I’m Joe.  I’m one of the people in the show that you’re listening to.

3. MATT:                               And I’m Matt, I act in the show, and I do the show’s laundry.

4. JOE:                                    As we promised a little earlier on, we’re about to do a commentary track for today’s show.  But just a commentary for the, uh, intro, the beginning of the show, because, uh…

5. MATT:                               Well the show hasn’t actually finished yet. So we can pretty much only comment on the beginning, maybe a bit of the middle, depending.

6. JOE:                                    Yeah, so here it is, this is the beginning of today’s show, which you would have heard only a few minutes ago.  I put it together late last week, if I recall, Thursday, I think, round suppertime, while eating a baloney, ah…

7. SOUND:                             SHOW PLAYS BG UNDER

8. MATT:                               So… was it you who wrote this?

9. JOE:                                    Yep.

10. MATT:                             I mean… it was you, wasn’t it?  That wrote the intro?  ‘Cause I don’t…

11. SOUND:                           BIT OF THE INTRO

12. JOE:                                  Uh huh.  Yeah.  I’d have to say that it was pretty much me, not sure what you were doing that day, playing Resident Evil or something, but… that’s the two of us reading it, though.

13. MATT:                             Yeah.

14. SOUND:                           A BIT OF THE INTRO

15. MATT:                             So were you a little pressed for time then, writing it, or…?

16. SOUND:                           A BIT OF THE INTRO

17. JOE: Whaddaya mean? 

18. MATT:                             Well it’s not very good, is it?

19. JOE:                                  You don’t think?

20. SOUND:                           BIT MORE OF SHOW

21. MATT:                             Have you heard it?

22. JOE:                                  Uh… well yeah.  Yeah, I mixed it, I put the whole thing together, so… yeah, I… you know I don’t even know where you were.

21.  MATT:                            There’s no need to get defensive.  I’m just saying that it could’ve been… better.

22. JOE:                                  Oh yeah?   Well how?  How could it’ve been better?

23. MATT:                             Well.  You know.

24. SOUND:                           BIT MORE OF THE SHOW

25. JOE:                                  No.  No I don’t know.  Why don’t you tell me?

26. SOUND:                           BIT MORE OF THE SHOW

27. MATT:                             Well you know if I’d written it.  I think if I’d written the intro it would’ve… you know… been better.

28.  SOUND: PARTICULARLY LAME PART OF THE SHOW

29. MATT:                             A lot better.  Wait… wait!

30. JOE:                                  What?

31. MATT:                             Shh!  This is my favourite part.

32. SOUND:                           EVEN MORE BANAL PART OF THE INTRO

33.  JOE:                                 I thought you said you didn’t like the intro.

34. MATT:                             What?  Oh, well I thought that I liked that one part, but… huh.

35. JOE:                                  What?

36. MATT: (DISMISSIVELY) Ah, it wasn’t as good as I thought it was.

37. SOUND:                           FEATURE INTRO

38. SOUND:                           TRANSITION

PART FOUR: SPECIAL FEATURE PRESENTATION

1. JOE: Time now for today’s Special Feature Presentation!

2. MUSIC:                                         TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX THEME

3. MATT: It’s at this point in the show that you might want to find someone or something to hold onto.

4. JOE: Why do you say that?

5. MATT: Well it’s just that I think that what we’re about to play represents a bit of a departure in tone.  You know, in the tone that I think you and I have worked so hard to establish in today’s show.

6. JOE: You mean the fact that what we’re about to play is not particularly funny.

7. MATT:                                           I mean the fact that it’s actually kind of good.

8. JOE: Oh yeah, yeah there is that. 

9. MATT: But you’re right, it’s not particularly funny either.  It’s actually kind of scary.

10. JOE: So you think this is a problem, then, this change in tone?

11. MATT: Well no, it’s just I just wouldn’t want any of our listeners to, you know, blow a gasket or something.  We’ve only got three.

12. JOE: Gaskets?

13. MATT: Listeners.

14. JOE: Ah, yes, yes this is true.  It is a well-known fact that if listeners are forced to switch too quickly from one kind of programming to another, they explode.

15. MATT: Very messy.

16. JOE: Yeah.  So, um, listeners, if you think there’s any chance at all that you might explode because of the rapid transition from sort of “funny” radio to sort of “serious” radio, you might wanna just… what.  Turn the radio off?

17. MATT: Well no, no, let’s not get carried away.  I think it would suffice if you just… you know, stood back from the radio a bit.  Probably a good idea to keep the volume down.  And then, as you get used to the change in programming, as you begin to feel more comfortable with it, then you can… try edging in a bit.  But slowly!  No sudden moves.  And if you feel like you might explode anyway, try not to do it on the carpet.

18. JOE: Perfect.  The last thing we need is one of our listeners exploding.

19. MATT: We’ve only got three.

20. JOE: And we have a responsibility to those three to keep them from exploding.

21. MATT: (WHISPER) It’s probably okay if one explodes.

22. JOE: Shh!  Okay, so without further ado here’s our special feature presentation, a little something called Born of Man and Woman.   

23. MATT: By Richard Matheson, produced by Barry Morgan.  Okay, play it.

24. JOE: Okay, ah… how do I…

25.MATT: The green button.  NO!  NO!  The red one.

26. SOUND: CLICK!

27. ITEM:       DRAMA “BORN OF MAN AND WOMAN”

  • IN:      …Door slam                                                            RUNS:  8’00” aprox 
  • OUT:  …Music

PART FIVE: THAT’S ALL SHE WROTE

1. JOE:                                    Born of Man and Woman, by Richard Matheson, adapted and produced for radio by Barry Morgan.

2. MATT: Featuring Wayne Robson, Ray Landry, and Sarah Orenstein.  A true story, based on Joe’s early childhood, if I’m not mistaken.

3. JOE:                                    (BEAT) I don’t wanna talk about it.

4. MATT:                               And that’s all she wrote, that’s our show for today.

5. THEME:                            UP AND UNDER

6. JOE:                                    For today’s show only the part of Matt Watts was played by Joe Mahoney. 

7. MATT:                               With the part of Joe Mahoney being played by Matt Watts. To complain about Assorted Nonsense, e-mail Assorted Nonsense Audience Relations at:

We have a team of operators standing by to receive your complaints.  Assorted Nonsense is written and produced by Joe Mahoney with Matt Watts.  See ya.

8. JOE:                                    Later.  

9. THEME: FEATURE, THEN DOWN FOR:

10. THEME:                          UP AND OUT

END

The Dreaded Travelling Shot

This is a repost, with some slight revisions, of a post I wrote back in June 30th 2006 on a different version of this blog. Also posting the audio sample of the travelling shot in question, which wasn’t included in the original post:

Canadia 2056
Canadia 2056

First of all, I have no idea how to spell “traveling.” I have seen it spelled both as “traveling” and “travelling.” The more I look at the word with either spelling, the stranger it looks.

That aside, some of you may recall my comments on traveling shots in radio a little while back. (For those of you new to the term, a traveling shot is a shot in television, film or radio in which the characters are on the move and the camera/microphone is following them. Think Xander on his skateboard in the opening shot of the very first Buffy the Vampire Slayer for TV, or the famous lengthy traveling shot with Tim Robbins that opens Robert Altman’s The Player)

Basically, traveling shots in radio are usually a bad idea. The reason they’re usually a bad idea is because many writers write them accidentally, without even realizing that they’re writing a traveling shot, until they get in the studio and the engineer says, what the heck, this is a traveling shot, you do realize how difficult it is to convey traveling shots on radio, dontcha? And they say, well, you did read the script before getting here didn’t you? And the engineer says, um, I didn’t really have time, and the writer says, well then you only have yourself to blame then, don’t you? And then the engineer says, well, the producer should have caught it, and then the producer suddenly jerks awake in his chair and says, what scene are we on…?

So why am I repeating myself?

Well, after I wrote that post, I wound up working on projects that were essentially traveling shot after traveling shot. Clearly people are not reading this blog (for shame!) It bears repeating: do not drink and drive, do not pet burning dogs, and DO NOT write traveling shots for radio UNLESS YOU ARE A FOOLISH, IMPETUOUS RECORDING FOOL LIKE MYSELF!

Now.

Have I made myself clear?

Good.

I beg your pardon? You want to know about the “foolish, impetuous recording fool like myself” business?

Oh, all right.

Yes, I was personally responsible for one of the traveling shots. The traveling shot in Canadia, to be precise. (Canadia being the science fiction comedy pilot I’m producing with my buddy Matt Watts).

You see, after writing about them, I realized that I’ve long wanted to try recording the granddaddy of all traveling shots. One that really works. Because if you can convey to the listener what’s going on, then your traveling shot will have worked. Now, it happens that I have recorded dinky little traveling shots that have sort of worked, and longer traveling shots that have kind of worked, and location traveling shots where I’ve followed actors with a boom on the streets of Montreal that also have kind of worked after a fashion…

…but I’ve never built a really good, effective traveling shot for a radio play in a studio.

So I said to Matt as we were planning Canadia that I thought it would be neat to attempt a West Wing/Hill Street Blues style traveling shot off the top of Canadia. So obliging fellow that he is, Matt went ahead and wrote one.

It so happened that we got busy before the taping, Matt was off to New York to see The Drowsy Chaperone (which he helped write), and we never got to discuss the scene properly before taping was upon us. I had originally thought that I might grab a boom and a Tascam and follow the actors around somehow, but instead I opted to record the actors in place with the rest of the cast swirling around them.

Racing against the clock in post-production, however, I lost my nerve and simplified the scene to essentially a static shot. It didn’t work at all. It just lay there in the play, twitching from time to time like a dying rat. When Matt heard my rough mix, he was horrified. I had to admit that it didn’t resemble our original conception at all. Guilty as charged, I admitted that “it still needed a bit of tweaking.”

During the final mix, I sent Matt off for some sound effects, which meant that he had to pass through five different rooms and hallways, each with radically different acoustic ambiances. On the way, it occurred to him that if we broke the scene up in exactly that manner (several different clearly distinct rooms) that it could be made to work. The scene happens to take place on a starship, where this would make complete sense. Additionally, it’s a great opportunity to take listeners on an acoustic tour of the ship.

Genius!

I grabbed an AKG stereo microphone and our Edirol and Matt and I set off on a trek across the Broadcast Centre. I recorded everything as we passed through as many radically different acoustic environments as possible. Afterward, I loaded the material into my ProTools mixing session and cut it down to about a minute and a half, the length of the traveling shot. We placed doors at strategic points during the scene, and built wildly different sound effects beds for each section. (These included a set of stairs, an engine room, a room with loads of construction happening, etc.)

I also electonically “treated” the actors’ voices depending on their supposed location (as well as the accompanying sound effects)… for instance, in the stairwell, I used a Protools plugin called TrueVerb to make them sound realistically like they were in a stairwell.

Although I’m essentially opposed to the use of footsteps in radio (for fear of it becoming “all about the footsteps”), I try valiantly not to be too dogmatic about such things, and reluctantly added a “soupcon” of footsteps here and there just to help sell the movement in the scene.

Whew!

We think it works.

Next time round we’ll plan it better, though, so that the actors know exactly what they’re supposed to be doing when (ie. speaking loudly in the engine room). Although I must say that there is something to be said for their straight delivery, in which nothing is overplayed.

Now if we can only get this show greenlighted for a series and broadcast so that folks can actually hear it…

Note: Not only was the show greenlit, it ultimately went two seasons, with twenty episodes in total broadcast (twenty-one in total made, with two versions of the pilot).

Here is the infamous travelling shot:

The Infamous Traveling Shot
« Older posts

© 2020 Joe Mahoney

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑