So, this time last year my team and I at Audio Factory had the honour producing our third series for CBeebies Radio, Musical Maddie, which is currently available to stream on the BBC website. Those timely little Facebook ‘Memories’ have been popping up left, right and centre with wonderful pictures from Belfast to Brean leading to fondly reminiscing over a production that for me is the most satisfying of my career to date. I’m not sure what the future holds for Musical Maddie, but from the three children’s radio series I’ve produced to date I believe this one is the best suited to make the transition to a visual medium. As soon as the radio series was signed off, I continued to develop the concept of Musical Maddie to see if I could take it further; I’ve studied, researched, attended seminars and most importantly honed in on just how to create a new world for Maddie and pen episode scripts that will allow her to successfully reach a new, diverse and demanding audience. Of course, I’m aware of just how difficult it will be to ever make that dream of a visual series commission a realisation, but when generating pitching content to tell the world why we need more kids shows like Musical Maddie I am convinced that I have a compelling argument…
I developed the concept and successful proposal for Musical Maddie in response to a BBC commissioning brief that outlined CBeebies controller Kay Benbow’s aim to deliver a series that encouraged audience participation in music and movement based activities. In communities across the UK, music and movement groups for parents and children have been formed and featured activities facilitate skill development for pre-school children with memory, co-ordination, speech, communication, listening, recognition and gross motor skills progressing at a faster rate (1.) Additionally, such groups have provided the opportunity for parents and children to exercise regularly.
When you consider that NHS recommends that young children should be physically active for at least three hours a day (2,) these groups have proven to be an intriguing and welcome prospect for parents. When visiting these groups in preparation for my initial radio series proposal it was obvious to see why; children were active and engaged throughout beneficial sessions full of fun and laughter. As a result, my initial premise was simple – take the concept of the music and movement class on tour with the activities being inspired by the world around them.
In this series, Maddie and her friends look out for how different things move in each week’s new setting before putting them into simple routines that listeners can join in with whenever the music plays. To provide an example, when Maddie and friends saw a frog by a pond in the nature reserve episode, they discussed how frogs move and concluded that they hop, and then decided that when they hear music they have to hop around like a frog until it stops.
Music and movement classes are often confined to one space for practical reasons, but in taking the sessions outside the room and into a different environment the children involved in Musical Maddie were opened up to wider learning opportunities. If you’re doing music and movement activities on a nature reserve walk, children can be introduced to new animals, insects and plants, discuss how they move and then incorporate those movements into a routine rather than standing in a room and being told to hop because that’s what a frog does. I’m not devaluing the importance of the standard music and movement group by stating that, but children listening will receive broader development opportunities as they are transported there and able to eavesdrop on the excitement of discovering new things whilst also hearing descriptions.
We were able to take a music and movement group to those who aren’t able to attend a session. I have no doubt that upon hearing the series many children will enjoy taking part, benefit from the experience and want to listen again and again, which means more exercise and further development of the aforementioned skills. However, the truth is that visual content reaches a larger audience than audio so if there’s a larger audience who can benefit from music and movement based activities then why not reach it?
If you were to isolate exercise as the sole benefit of a music and movement based children’s television series then you could point to the 2014/15 survey results of The National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) as a case and point for one to be created. By measuring the height and weight of around one million school children in England every year, this survey provides a detailed picture of the prevalence of child obesity and details how 9.1% of 4-5 year olds are obese and a further 12.8% are overweight (3.) The potential ramifications of child obesity are shocking and can lead to an increased likeliness of asthma, heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes (4 – See page 5 of linked document.) The latter is particularly relevant right now as recent reports outline how 422 million of adults in the world today have diabetes and obesity is cited as being the largest contributor and this is attributed to lifestyle (5.)
In the commissioning brief from which Musical Maddie was created, a clear objective was to encourage children and their families into taking part in exercise so why confine the idea to one medium? This series can encourage exercise and an ethos and visual mediums will make the biggest impact on audiences, especially when you consider that the success of music and movement based content in this form is phenomenal.
Despite being a visual medium, the viewing figures for pre-school children’s music on YouTube are mind-blowing. Searching for ‘pre-school children’s songs’ on the site, the first page alone has a combined viewing total of nearly 1.3 billion. The first page of a ‘music and movement songs for children’ search brings up videos with over 59 million views. When considering how a recent study at The University Of Iowa found that 90% of two year olds could use an iPad at a moderate level (6,) a rise in the number of children interacting with visual forms of entertainment above all others will be inevitable, especially as parents are seemingly allowing such devices to become their child’s favourite toy. I believe that’s why an interactive visual source of entertainment that encourages exercise is necessary.
When factoring in all of my research and experiences, including seeing pre-school children’s reactions to music and movement activities at first hand before and during the recordings, I believe there’s an audience for a music and movement based television programme on either television or a video content platform…
For now, there’s a radio series, and one that I love dearly. You can find more information on Musical Maddie and the other series I’ve created for CBeebies Radio by visiting www.audiofactory.co.uk/childrensradio
Audio Factory‘s new CBeebies Radio series has now launched! Created by myself, Musical Maddie consists of ten episodes in which Maddie and friends study how different things move in the world around them and then recreate those movements with their bodies during simple dance routines. Our objective when making this programme was to encourage young listeners and their families to exercise through music and movement based activities, which are proven to aid development in the likes of speech, language, co-ordination and gross movement skills in young children.
Having previously produced two series for BBC’s CBeebies Radio, my Audio Factory co-founder, Dave Perry, and I have continued to involve the local community in productions and many of the episodes featured families based in and around the Mendip region of Somerset, UK. Furthermore, the leading character of Maddie is also played by 10-year-old local schoolgirl Ruby, who does a wonderful job in leading the audience through her very own touring music and movement class, and features music and songs composed by Gary Smith, who many will know on the local music scene as Mr Keep Calm.
Everybody at Audio Factory is excited to introduce Musical Maddie to the world and we really hope you enjoy the series. Episodes can be found on BBC’s CBeebies Radio, but each week we’re uploading them to our Children’s Radio page, which you can find here!
My series Eddie Green and Friends has returned to BBC’s CBeebies Radio with five new episodes being released in February. Each of the series’ ten episodes see families joining Eddie on a different adventure with positive examples of eco friendly living being introduced throughout.
I wanted to find a way to encourage children and their families to take up eco friendly activities and measures whilst having lots of fun. In episodes we’re making sock puppets and jam jar greenhouses to open children up to the idea of re-using materials, we have children visiting rock pools and wildlife centres to learn about different habitats and the importance of caring for animals and in others they find out about growing vegetables and planting flowers with the future in mind. There are many recurring themes linked to being green in everyday life too and young listeners will hear other children and their families using water and electricity efficiently, recycling materials, composting and making greener travel choices.
The team at my production company, Audio Factory, hope that the CBeebies audience and other adults listening with children will be inspired to follow in Eddie and the participating families’ footsteps and take their own steps to being green. I’m very proud of this series, especially as it was prompted by an idea I had whilst studying back in 2007. I was in my final year of University when I came up with this concept for an assignment and I was inspired by my housemates who seemed to have absolutely no concept of green living. I’d constantly find lights and televisions being left on in rooms that weren’t being used, recyclable materials in the bin and water being wasted unnecessarily. For me it was simple – these basic practices are habitual so I aimed to create a concept that would entertain children whilst teaching them these good habits! Some of these housemates now have young families so I think of them listening with their children and learning a thing or two. Not everyone is as well versed with some of these simple measures as you’d think so hopefully there are other families out there who will benefit and learn how to adapt to a greener lifestyle, whilst I’m also hoping that children and adults alike will pick up new tips to integrate into their green routines and be inspired to try lots of the activities that are touched on in this series.
Eddie Green and His Friends features on CBeebies Radio, a daily online audio service for the pre-school audience with a new programme each day being available to stream or download for free. You can listen to the first five Eddie Green and Friends episodes here.
On the off chance that you’ve visited this website over the summer and thought I’ve been doing absolutely nothing, please know that really isn’t the case. Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure that the only person who may have visited during that time is in fact my mother and so this update is for you, newbie.
Since I last updated this blog, episodes of my latest series for BBC’s CBeebies Radio have been aired and I’m glad that Eddie Green and Friends was well received. Five episodes have gone out already and a further five should be on the website soon. In the meantime there was Glastonbury Festival, a bit of a biggy around here, a couple of audiobooks including a really cool upcoming sci-fi novel from Emma Newman. Furthermore, I collaborated with James Barber and my team at Audio Factory to put together a taster video as part of an ambitious pitch for a BBC Three television pilot and everyone at my aforementioned production company is honoured to have been commissioned by BBC’s CBeebies Radio for a new original series that I’ve created. So that’s five months in a nutshell for you. Unfortunately, there’s not actually a lot I’m able to say about any of it because we’re either awaiting a decision, have been vetoed for the time being or haven’t had press releases cleared! So, really this is just a terribly enigmatic post now isn’t it?
However, one thing I can confirm is that Mr Dave Perry and I were involved in the production of a new audiobook version of Michael Crichton’s The Great Train Robbery, which was narrated by Michael Kitchen (star of ITV’s Foyle’s War,) and released earlier this month. It was an absolute honour to contribute to the creation of an audiobook by the man who gave us many classics including Jurassic Park and it feels absurd that we were even asked to be involved. I really can’t get my head around it. Anyway, it’s available to purchase from many online retailers including this one.
I do hope to post lots of information about the projects I’ve been working on as and when I hear. Of course, if you’re on here snooping because you’re interested in working with me in some way then please feel free to drop me a line on email@example.com and also know you can find my full CV on the homepage of this very website.
Thanks for dropping by.
Everybody at Audio Factory is delighted to announce that a new educational series we have created for BBC’s CBeebies Radio started today. Eddie Green and Friends will allow young listeners across the UK to join Eddie, played by seven-year-old Joseph, and eavesdrop on the lives of other children as they learn about the environment and take part in eco friendly activities and adventures with their friends and families.
Eddie Green and Friends is the second CBeebies Radio series created by Audio Factory after last year’s Poppy’s Play Dates. We wanted to find a way to encourage children and their families to take up eco friendly activities and measures whilst having lots of fun. In episodes we’re making sock puppets and jam jar greenhouses to open children up to the idea of re-using materials, we have children visiting rock pools and wildlife centres to learn about different habitats and the importance of caring for animals and in others they find out about growing vegetables and planting flowers with the future in mind. In every episode we have also provided positive examples of eco friendly travel, using electricity and water efficiently, recycling, sustainability and much more.
The series has been split into two with five episodes initially running from Tuesday 2nd June through until Tuesday 30th June. It’s started with the urban farm episode, which sees Eddie and his friends visit a farm in the middle of Bristol to learn about growing food before heading to a cafe/restaurant to meet a chef and using some of what they picked to make a meal. I’m particularly proud of this episode as it shows children the process of ‘spade to plate’ and for me there are some wonderful revelations in there that will hopefully stick with young listeners, especially when one of the children finds out that the salad leaves they have picked that morning will be eaten by over 50 people. It provides a great example of planning ahead and introduces children to the idea that food isn’t just bought in a supermarket. Another feature I particularly love is a reference to collecting rainwater to water the produce rather than using water from a hosepipe. It’s a simple reference but hopefully children and maybe even parents listening may think about using water buts or even buckets to collect rainwater that can be used to water plants if we ever do have a prolonged period of sun here in the UK.
James Barber, a filmmaker with a growing reputation within the creative industry, turned his hand to directing audio for this episode when joining Audio Factory’s lead technical producer Dave Perry and myself, the series creator for Eddie Green, in producing this episode. We’d like to thank James for his hard work across the production days and hope that he enjoyed the experience of directing children, one that he can hopefully take over to the filmmaking world!
Stay tuned to the Audio Factory website for a behind the scenes look at this episode with details about both The Severn Project and Bocabar in Bristol who were fantastic hosts as we recorded at each location.
Eddie Green and Friends will feature on CBeebies Radio, a daily online audio service for the pre-school audience which can be downloaded for free. CBeebies Radio can be found on the CBeebies website. The urban farm episode referenced in this post can be found here.
When I work alongside James and Dave to make corporate films we often find that it can be difficult to get people on camera because of this inner built fear we all have that tells us we’ll look awful or embarrass ourselves. Nowadays the way that we share information and media means that a photo or a video could potentially be online forever and seen by more people than we’d hope – gone are the days where only a handful of people see it. I have that same fear (especially whilst I’m single) but I had to put my fear behind me and be a leading light as we produced this particular film for Knightstone Housing Association as James, Dave and I were teaching their residents about filmmaking so we were an integral part of it. Despite cringing at how I look in this film I’m actually very proud of the project on the whole. It was the first time I got to teach and it was such a thrill as the residents involved really enjoyed the experience and have progressed since.
We were teaching Knightstone residents as part of the housing association’s social value offer scheme in their contractors have to give something back to the communities they serve. As we have been commissioned to make a number of films for Knightstone, we as a contractor had to come up with a social value offer too and ours was to teach the residents a course we devised that would give them an introduction to filmmaking. A call out was made and up stepped four residents who had aspirations to make films and on the first day I taught them about scripting and story structure before giving them an overview of the ins and outs of what I do as a producer. James then took over and taught them about directing and camerawork and by the end of the first day our students were coming up with their ideas for a film they’d shoot the following day. On the second day they shot their film with our help and my Audio Factory colleague Dave came in to teach them about recording sound too. On the third day we brought in Tim Knock, an editor who took them through the post production process and whilst he did that we also made our own film about the experience for Knightstone to use to give their other contractors an example of how we took to the scheme. At the end we challenged them to think about what they’d do for their social value offer.
Anyway, I just thought I’d post our film above because it’s been on YouTube since December and as we have been busy with other projects I didn’t get a chance to share it with you. Just don’t tell anyone though, ssssshhhh! I’m kidding of course – I can stomach looking bad on camera if it inspires other companies to follow in Knightstone’s footsteps by thinking about the communities they operate within and finding ways to support those in it.
Okay, okay, so it’s quite late in the month and surely there’s some kind of social rule on when you stop saying it, but it’s my site so I can do what I want. For anyone reading, whether it’s March, July or December – Happy New Year for 2015!
So, it’s busy…
In October my production company Audio Factory was commissioned to produce a children’s series for a national channel and after working hard in November and December to organise our recording dates, the team has set out to capture wonderful audio content to bring our secret project to life. So, I’m the series creator and lead producer on this series so after confirming the ten episodes, finding families to participate and casting our leading man, I don’t actually get to go and have fun! As you can see by the picture above, I am absent as Dave (left) and Stu (right) meet the wonderful families and record these fantastic adventures alongside them! They may all look rather serious above but in truth they had a riot on that recording over in Barry, South Wales, with a local Beavers and Scouts group. In the meantime, I’m here in Glastonbury sorting out other episodes where they can go and have some fun!
It’s very strange being a writer and producer and not going out on these productions that I’ve been planning but of course there’s a reason for it – we have deadlines and a small team so from a logistical point of view it makes sense for me to not go out, especially as they are an awesome team and three is a crowd after all. However, I do get to have some fun towards the end of the month when I go off on location for three of the ten episodes we’re making.
Away from this project, which is consuming almost every bit of time we have, I am doing bits of writing and holding meetings for projects that I hope to be working on from March onwards and somehow I’ve found the time to squeeze in a bit of recording with my long time filmmaking pal, James Barber, as we’re putting together an independent documentary short on the art of ‘vlogging’ – those who make and post video diaries online – and we’re currently editing. Dave even got to come on that one too and below you can see the three of us at a well known local location – the beautiful Glastonbury Tor, which was very windy on this day…
Take care, everybody!
So, for quite some time now I’ve wanted to indulge in a geeky side project of mine and now as the new year approaches I’ve decided to do it – I’m going to write a regular piece for The Fix’s online magazine that casts a writer and producer’s eye over the television that you can binge watch at the weekend. ‘The Weekend Binge’ will run every Saturday for ten weeks initially and my hope is that it can give readers a thorough insight into why I believe the shows are a must-watch and quite possibly lead them to ruining their social lives by following my advice.
In preparation I’m currently watching Channel 4’s brilliant Babylon, but being a bit of a Netflix addict I can see that some of my all time faves such as Dexter, The Shield and Arrested Development are available to stream for UK users now, so they will likely be featured at some point. In fairness, as a writer with ambitions to write drama and comedy for television and film it’s inevitable that I’ve spent lots of hours watching those shows that inspire me in what I do for a living so I’ve got a feeling it may stretch beyond ten weeks. Needless to say, my colleagues at The Fix are producing a lot of fantastic content covering theatre, arts, film and music so if you’ve not checked out The Fix go and have a look at thefixmagazine.com and make sure you bookmark it!
Right, short update for now as we leave 2014 – professionally it’s been a highly satisfactory year and I’m so grateful for all the support received by the excellent people I work with, none more so than Dave Perry, Stuart Packer and James Barber with whom I’ve created some wonderful pieces of work that I’ll forever be proud of. Of course, it goes without saying that seeing Poppy’s Play Dates go up to the BBC website on CBeebies Radio was a major buzz and genuinely one of the happiest memories of my life as it felt like vindication for everything I’ve been trying to do since I started writing at the age of 17. In 2015 I turn 30 (just had a five minute sulk after writing that) and I’m hungry for it to continue. I’m still unable to talk about it in great detail for contractual reasons but I have a children’s series coming out on a national channel, which I’m currently producing with Audio Factory, and I can’t wait to start recording that in January, but come March when it’s done and dusted I have lots of exciting personal projects coming too so please stay posted right here on my website.
Merry Christmas and a happy New Year to you all!
Exciting news! My company Audio Factory has been commissioned to produce an educational series for children that introduces them to the concept of caring for our environment and now we’re looking for our star! The programme will go out on a national children’s channel in 2015 and my team and I currently casting for the role of Eddie and will consider male candidates aged 5-10. Parents/representatives of interested parties are welcome to contact me ahead of the audition on Sunday 23rd November to discuss the possibility of attending on the day.
The experience on the day should be viewed as an enjoyable hour in a recording studio rather than a nerve racking audition. Children will be invited to record their voice, have fun in front of the microphone and read short bites of material before hearing their voices back. There will also be snacks and juice! Recordings will then be assessed and a shortlist of children will be invited back for a second audition. A maximum of four children will be present at any one time.
The programme will allow young audiences to eavesdrop on the experiences of other children as they take part in environmentally friendly centred activities with their friends and families. The successful candidate for the role of Eddie will be required to join the Audio Factory team at Orchard Recording Studios in Barton St David (near Glastonbury) and provide a voice over for each episode, which will be crucial to audience interaction and moving the story forward. Studio recording dates for Eddie’s character will be scheduled to take place during February 2015, however, specific dates are yet to be confirmed.
The Audio Factory team is also looking for volunteer families to feature in episodes when they are recorded in January and February 2015. This series will be aimed at children aged 3-7 and so Audio Factory would like to encourage families with children of a similar age to come forward if they fancy a fun day out with their recording team.
Earlier this month I was given a wonderful opportunity to interview Mackenzie Crook for online entertainment and arts magazine The Fix. Although he’s well known for his roles as Gareth Keenan in The Office and Ragetti in Pirates of the Caribbean, the real privilege for me was to speak with him about his latest project, Detectorists, which he wrote, directed and starred in. I’m delighted to be able to include a longer cut of the interview on my website after the shortened version was featured on The Fix podcast.
I was able to ask him a few technical questions focussing on writing, directing and producing that hopefully will interest other writers/directors/producers as it did for me. The Office was the programme that inspired me to start writing in the first place and Crook’s comic performance is genuinely one of my favourite of all time. I have to say I thought Detectorists was a beautiful series full of good heart, humour and loveable characters. At the heart there’s wonderful story lines that are complex and intriguing.
Other than this interview it’s been very busy and I’m ecstatic to say that I’ve had the biggest commission of my career to date. I can’t announce full details yet but I’ll be bragging about it on the site ASAP!
Enjoy the interview! Detectorists is out on DVD on 10th November 2014 and I thoroughly recommend it. It deserves the hype and Mackenzie Crook is one of the nicest guys I’ve ever interviewed so I’m glad he’s getting praised for this series.
I have survived the United States and safely arrived in the UK. I was not shot by a gangster rapper, a drug gang or a random mad man, nor was I abducted by a pervert and locked in a basement for 17 years, a victim of a terrorist attack, murdered by Dexter, kidnapped by The Joker or drawn into a shoot out with a bandit who rocked up in town on horseback. I didn’t eat McDonalds, have an epiphany and become a vigilante or get brainwashed and join a cult. I’m not obese, I don’t have type two diabetes and I didn’t get Ebola. I declined free tickets to Jurassic Park, I’m not indebted to any pimps and I’ve not married an American girl to get a green card. I didn’t get mauled by a wolverine or a mountain leopard or an alligator and when I crossed the border to Canada I avoided bears and never encountered a moose. I’ve not picked up a criminal record, I haven’t become a junkie so there’s no need to go cold turkey and I haven’t become the clichéd down and out alcoholic that you see in every afternoon movie on Channel 5. Oh, and I also survived an earthquake…
So, I’m back and from a scriptwriting and personal growth point of view this trip was great for me. As mentioned before I went, I have ambitions to write for the American audience (is there any writer that wouldn’t?) and just being in North America and sampling the lifestyle and meeting new people from different backgrounds has put me in a better place to do this. I suppose in many ways it’s not crucial; I want to write screenplays and if the key aspects such as the plot, characters and dialogue are strong enough then things can be tweaked, but I feel better equipped because of the knowledge developed by exploring, being in social situations and doing general everyday things like going to the shops.
When I was there I was also able to develop some new ideas and I have been doing more work on ‘The Hyposer,’ which is a new entertainment concept I am going to be trialling through podcasts with a view to develop the structure and experiment with audience interaction before trialling it on video, in front of live audiences and eventually I want to pitch it for television. I’m not trying to get onto television myself despite presenting the podcast, I’m just hoping to show how the format could be approached, the potential for audience interaction on a massive scale via the likes of social media and the fact that it’s low cost, high quality entertainment that’s accessible and anyone can get involved in. Replace the likes of me and Stuart Packer with known names who can hook an audience and then I really think it could explode. Perhaps the word ‘hyposer’ will get added to the Oxford Dictionary…
You can follow the progress of ‘The Hyposer’ at facebook.com/thehyposer
When I consider the influence that the Americans have had on me and my chosen career path it seems somewhat perverse that I’m yet to visit the United States. For years I’ve marvelled over the standard of television and film production and as a writer I’d be unambitious if I didn’t want to see my work brought to life by the best in the business – it’s part of what drives me. So, I’m 29, I have no connections at the moment and I know that if I want to write for the American audience then I probably need to experience the life for myself. I’m flying out on 19th August for a month and I simply cannot wait.
I’ll be in New York and San Francisco in addition to going north of the border and visiting Vancouver and Toronto and as well as using it as an educational experience I hope to get a little bit of time to write but also the opportunity to relax and reflect. My blog has been a bit short of updates recently so before jetting off I thought I’d provide a quick update.
The summer has been hectic until now and since April I’ve been honoured to produce four films for Knightstone Housing Association alongside Mr James Barber. Two are out now with two more to come in the next few weeks and it’s been a pleasure working with them. They also gave James and I the opportunity to teach an introduction to filmmaking course to their residents and that was one of the greatest experiences of my career, as was working with them on a project to combat youth homelessness. You can find out about that on the blog post below.
Dancing On The Wind, the second audiobook title I’ve produced and directed for New York Times bestseller Mary Jo Putney, is out later this month and we at Audio Factory are currently in talks about producing a few new titles, whilst we’ve also pitched a new idea for a series on CBeebies Radio. Fingers crossed it will be the follow up to Poppy’s Play Dates!
Those projects have kept me pretty busy but outside of this I’ve been able to develop some new ideas and I’ve written Beyond The Walls, which will be the next short film I look to produce. I’m hoping to work on this one with James Barber again as our professional relationship, but it’s not comedy, it’s a romance based on a very unusual family dynamic. I’m not going to give anything else away yet but the photo above should give you a clue. Ignore my shit drawing. Of course, we can’t really get our teeth into it until the end of September when I’m back.
So that’s that. I’ll be on email so if you read this and think, “I want to discuss a project with this guy,” then feel free to get in touch. But be warned, if it is true and American women love the English accent then it may take me a few days to respond…
Today I joined James Barber and Dave Perry to produce a film that followed an event set up by Knightstone Housing Association to tackle the problem of youth homelessness and promote a scheme where host families open up a spare room for a short period of time to help young people living on the streets. I can honestly say that we were all taken aback and will never forget what can only be summarised as an eye opening experience as we interviewed youngsters that have lived on the streets and the families that have hosted them and made a difference – even if it was just for a few days, offering their home created a starting point for these people to turn their lives around. Some of these young people were awfully unlucky and didn’t have the family support we may take for granted and thankfully some are now doing amazing things with their lives with the support of these host families and of course Knightstone, who are running this scheme in Somerset. The one story I still can’t get my head around is a young boy who was homeless but completed his A Levels and went on to University. Truly inspiring.
We also interviewed members of the public to get their reaction to finding the pillows that were placed all around Yeovil and some of the views of those who refused to go on camera were jaw dropping, both positive and negative, and the insight we gained will always stay with us. I learned so much, put my own ethics and prejudices under the microscope and came out with even more respect for the organisation trying to make a difference. For me it is one of the most meaningful experiences I’ve had. On a creative level I have to applaud Bristol’s Halo Media whose team developed the concept for this event.
The video will be online in August and of course, I will post it to the site as soon as it’s up!
When I started scriptwriting at the age of 17 my sole aim was to create a comedy series for television. Inspired by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s masterpiece, The Office, and holding a degree of self belief that will have made people think I was insane, I started writing comedy based material and thought to myself, “you’re a genius, you’re going to make a fortune one day, my boy.” Full of confidence I then rocked up to my parents and my boss in Woolworths and told them that I’d be a millionaire by the age of 30. It’s quite embarrassing looking back.
Able to draw on a string of stories from my childhood that made people laugh out loud I thought it was inevitable that I’d one day emulate the two aforementioned chaps who to this day sit amongst my idols. I may one day, I may not. Whatever happens I’m grateful for their influence in those early days and although I can never quite determine my job title it’s nice to say to people that I now think outside the box for a living. Of course, it isn’t quite what I imagined, and it may not last forever, but whilst at 28 I can say that it’s fairly unlikely that I’ll reach that ambitious target I set for my 30th, I am now a series creator, writer, director and producer with some credibility. I’ve never been one to be overly arrogant but I’m proud of it – I’ve created a series for BBC and it wasn’t completely shit! It hasn’t made me millions, I’m nowhere near retiring on royalties and at some point I may need to turn my back on the freelance lifestyle for a regular income, but not quite yet.
I’m very fortunate in that other opportunities have come my way since finishing Poppy’s Play Dates. Our adventure into CBeebies land is over for now (hopefully it will continue one day,) but it’s given my CV a stamp of approval that is invaluable as I move forward. Over the next few months I’m directing another audiobook for New York Times Bestseller Mary Jo Putney and while the BBC credit may not have made a difference, I was able to pitch a film project to Knightstone Housing Association, a major housing company in the south west, and felt 100% confident that I could win the commission on behalf of myself and James Barber, my long term filmmaking friend. I was right to be confident – we won the commission and have since been granted two additional filming commissions. I’m living a dream, not the one I had in mind, but it’s a pretty good one.
So, what’s the point of this ramble? Is it just a self-indulging piece of writing to boast about my achievements? Well, I’m sorry if it looks that way, but my intention is to tell you that things change and you can be in control of that; I’ve learned to adapt, I’ve chased down every opportunity and now things are starting to break. I wanted to think outside the box for a living but I actually had to think outside the box to get in the position to do so. I could have given up when the first comedy script I sent led to the now familiar non-response, but instead I looked for writing experience and a chance to develop my portfolio elsewhere.
If I was to say one thing to a young scriptwriter it would be to just get out there and do something. Anything. When I started there wasn’t YouTube, podcasting or even Facebook so you now you’d actually have a head start if you’re heading on a journey of fun-filled creative exploits whatever the medium. For me it wasn’t until the age of 24 that I realised that I could self produce and find an outlet using the aforementioned mediums and then I had a huge stroke of luck when working in a warehouse and having a fellow graduate ask to work with me on an independent collaboration. That of course was Dave Perry, my co-founder at Audio Factory, who had just finished his music technology degree and wanted to develop a radio play for his portfolio. I had received good feedback on scripts from BBC Writers Room but was frustrated that barely anyone would enjoy my work, so I jumped at the opportunity to work together. We roped in local actors, self funded studio hire and catering and made the series Unholy Behaviour. We released it, it got a small cult following online, I’m proud of it, but most importantly it made people aware of what I wanted to do with my life.
I was lucky afterwards, but then they do say you create your own luck. Someone who now knew that I was a writer, or at least on some level, suggested I took on a community magazine that the owner wanted to be shot of. So I took it on. One of our Unholy Behaviour actors is a voice coach, so as a thank you for her contribution to the series I gave her a free advert. Without thinking I placed that advert next to an interview with a local author. The publisher of that author’s book got in touch with the voice coach asking if she was interested in performing an audiobook version. She said yes and came to Dave and I to produce it. That commission got Audio Factory going.
The next year or so was a struggle – developing a business, building a portfolio, keeping a magazine afloat and not earning very much money. Then we got a call from an American audiobook producer based at an Amazon subsidiary who found us because we were the only production company that had produced an audiobook within a commutable distance for one of their authors who was self narrating her own trilogy of books. We got that gig and Audio Factory was suddenly alive and kicking. We were able to register to BBC as an independent audio content supplier and had some credibility when it came to pitching ideas. One of those was our CBeebies debut, Poppy’s Play Dates. Could you imagine if I hadn’t got that job in a warehouse and never met Dave?
Since creating that series I’m able to get my other work to people that I couldn’t before. Nothing may come of it, but the walls are coming down and those catch twenty-twos, like, ‘I can’t get agents to read work and production companies won’t take unsolicited material,’ look a bit easier to resolve. I still independently produce too – The Awkward Conversations We Have allowed me to gain experience and build a portfolio to try and get into writing and producing a television comedy series. The writing has received good feedback from those in the industry and that came from people at the likes of BBC and Channel 4 who would have been untouchable if I hadn’t produced Unholy Behaviour all those years ago. Now they’re my contacts – that small snowball is still rolling and getting bigger by the day.
You want to start thinking outside the box for a living? You should start by thinking outside the box on ways to get noticed.
On Saturday 5th April, the final episode of Poppy’s Play Dates is made available on BBC CBeebies Radio. Every episode of this series has featured local children and their families as they join the character of Poppy in going on fun play date adventures. This weekend’s episode sees a Glastonbury family head to Swanage for a day at the seaside and caps off a wonderful series that has seen Poppy, voiced by local schoolgirl Ruby, and her friends visit a farm, attend a birthday party, go to Glastonbury Carnival and even watch a Yeovil Town football match. Having created this series and then co-wrote it with Stuart Packer, a fantastic storyteller who does spellbinding work in local schools, I am delighted with the end result and what we’ve achieved alongside our co-producer Dave Perry.
CBeebies Radio enables parents and carers of pre-school children to encourage and develop listening skills. All ten episodes will be available to listen to on CBeebies Radio on demand and can be found right here. You can find other shows here: www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/radio/radio
For more information about the series or to find out about my company Audio Factory head to www.audiofactory.co.uk
Kinder Egg Girl, it was a project I worked on last year that gave me so many problems that it subsequently went unreleased. It was supposed to be the fourth film we’d release as part of The Awkward Conversations We Have series but technical problems on the day affected the shoot and as both the director, James Barber, and I got busier the chances of reshooting with the same cast disappeared. It was a shame but as a writer I still have what I believe to be a very strong script that one day will hopefully lead to a new collaboration – I see it as a wonderful calling card. Additionally, for me the writing of this script provided a reminder of why I love to write. It may sound clichéd to some and hard to understand for others but the scriptwriting process is something I find to be therapeutic as it facilitates an opportunity to turn a negative experience into something positive. Writing the story for Kinder Egg Girl is the perfect example of this.
I guarantee that every writer has been advised to write about what they know at some point and for me personally, most of the stories I write have a personal experience at the core, which is sometimes told in its original form but more often than not is twisted, exaggerated and fabricated for the purpose of entertainment. On one occasion, a few days before I was dumped I may add, a girl told me that I had an unbelievable ability to take ‘what if?’ to extreme levels of disbelief. I took it as a compliment; although often in life the overthinking and overanalysing that one does is a hindrance, when I put my writing hat on it feels like a blessing.
The fictionalised version of Kinder Egg Girl is a classic case of a ‘what if?’ situation being taken to the extreme. In this story, the character of Jake has bought 323 Kinder Surprise Eggs for Olivia, a girl who he had a brief romance with before she broke it off. Knowing that she is partial to a Kinder Egg, he wants to make a gesture to show that he’s thinking of her and so he plans to leave one on her doorstep. However, due to only knowing the road she lives on and not the specific house she lives in, he buys one egg for each doorstep just to ensure that she receives one. Unfortunately for Jake, as he places a Kinder Egg down on one doorstep, the door opens and he is faced with Olivia and another man, who he later finds out to be her new boyfriend during the awkward conversation that follows. In reality I had the same plan (but with less houses and previous romance), although I ‘chickened out’ after thinking through a variation of scenarios including the one that was eventually scripted. Sadly, I had already bought the Kinder Eggs.
On that day, I was sat on Glastonbury High Street with a bag full of Kinder Eggs and when it became clear that the girl in question wasn’t going to respond to my text in which I invited her to collect them, I moped off home. On that journey it struck me that the foundations were in place for a story to be exaggerated. Of course, at the time I still had hopes of the situation with this particular lady ending romantically, but having had enough failed relationships I knew I could draw on material to create my story. Effectively, the character of Olivia represented a number of females that had walked in and out of my life. That same evening I wrote the first draft of a script and turned to Facebook to test material.
As a writer it’s very difficult to get instant mass feedback on the outline of a story or a scene that you believe may work well in a script, but I’ve found that for comedy based material, the simple process of updating your Facebook status can give you an inkling as to whether people will find an idea accessible, relatable and amusing. Over time I’ve created an alternate characterisation of myself when posting on Facebook, which has given me a useful device to test material. As my writing is always based on every day occurrences, I often post exaggerated true stories or fictionalise believable ones and wait to see what the reaction is like. When I posted an exaggerated version of the Kinder Egg story that same night I saw that within hours over 40 people had liked it, shared it, commented on it, or sent me a message asking me about it. Additionally, for weeks after I’d bump into people in the street and they’d ask, “What happened with the girl?” When the reaction to a story is that strong you know you have a tale that people could enjoy if the scriptwriting is well applied. Also, the positive comments from people who were suggesting the girl in question should go on a date with me indicated that they would root for a lead character in the potential story, which is integral to capturing an audience; if they don’t care about the character why would they watch?
Initially the first script wasn’t as strong as it could have been, but as time went by my story with the real Kinder Egg Girl turned sour and it wasn’t the most pleasant experience of my life. Of course, the therapy of writing came to my aid and when tapping into how I was feeling at the time I was able to produce a stronger script and as previously mentioned, turn a negative experience into something positive. What am I left with? It’s not a story about one girl or a specific relationship; Olivia’s character and her relationship with Jake is built off the back of my relationships with a number of people, and whereas a musician will pour their emotions into a song, an actor will channel them through a performance or a painter will expose them through colour, I’ve chosen to write mine into a script. It’s a satisfying way to seal closure.
If any filmmakers are interested in reading Kinder Egg Girl please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org with links to your work.
I am absolutely thrilled to announce that Poppy’s Play Dates, the series I created for BBC CBeebies Radio, is now available online! Having co-wrote and produced the series with Dave Perry and Stuart Packer from Street, it was an honour to work with producer John Leagas at CBeebies and everyone involved is delighted with the ten episode series. Having been born and bred in Glastonbury it’s also heartwarming to have made it a real local affair as the character of Poppy, played by eight-year-old local school girl Ruby, is joined by other children and their families from the area for play date activities at the seaside, Yeovil Town Football Club, Glastonbury carnival and many more.
Having been commissioned to produce the series in October 2013, the team at my company Audio Factory spent the following ten weeks producing the series. After impressing producers during auditions held in November, Ruby was cast in the lead role of Poppy and her wonderful talent shines through in every episode. Ruby is confident, bright and great fun to work with. She picked up the difficulties of the recording process very quickly and by the end of it she was bossing us around and telling us off for not working quickly enough!
The release of Poppy’s Play Dates rounds off a wonderful twelve months for Audio Factory; we have built a strong reputation for producing a range of non-music based audio for clients in both the UK and United States. This includes being commissioned by New York Times bestselling author Mary Jo Putney to produce the audio book version of her novel The Bargain for Audible. However, producing radio content has always been the long-term objective for the Audio Factory team and we are extremely grateful to BBC for this opportunity. This was an exciting project for the central Somerset area and we were delighted to produce a programme for BBC right on our doorstep. Poppy’s Play Dates shows there is wonderful talent in our area and the enthusiasm shown by the local community during its production was overwhelming.
On behalf of Audio Factory I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the participants involved in the ten episodes of Poppy’s Play Dates for their contribution to the series. In addition to this, we are indebted to Glastonbury’s Red Brick Building, Millfield Enterprises, Strode College, Yeovil Town Football Club, St. John’s Primary School, Mid Somerset Series, Glastonbury FM, Swanage Railway, Sheila Martin and fellow producers Paul Lund and Katy Gundry for helping to bring the series to life. Eternally grateful.
The Poppy’s Play Dates series is currently available to stream at on BBC’s CBeebies Radio right here.
This week, Audio Factory began production on the first project since Poppy’s Play Dates for CBeebies Radio. Having worked on a project of that magnitude for so long it felt bizarre to be back in the studio working on an audio book, but when working with the talented Emma Newman, a fantastic voice artist and even better author, it’s easy to feel right at home and drop back into a steady rhythm. We’re a well-oiled machine having recorded three books and various shorter pieces together. Dave, Emma and I are very fortunate to have been commissioned to produce the audio book version of The Bargain for American author Mary Jo Putney, a giant in the world of romantic fiction and a New York Times Bestseller.
Mary Jo has been a pleasure to work with and there’s no ego attached despite her remarkable haul of achievements. It’s a personal comfort to know that someone who has achieved so much can be so humble, friendly, fair and encouraging. And as for the book itself, well, it’s certainly given me a new insight into the mind of a woman thanks to the enigmatic Jocelyn. She’s quite something.
If you’d like to find out more about Audio Factory and our audio book production service, head over to www.audiofactory.co.uk
I’m delighted to announce that Poppy’s Play Dates has now been delivered and signed off by BBC and will be released on CBeebies Radio later in 2014. As series creator and writer I’m obviously very proud of this commission and I can’t quite believe what we’ve achieved. As a producer with Audio Factory, I’m in awe of what the whole team pulled off in those crazy few months at the end of 2013. It was all done with sheer hard work, determination, verve and such grace. In my co-founder Dave Perry I have a gem of an audio producer who is like a dog with a bone when it comes to improving his already high standards. Poppy’s Play Dates shines because of this.
Stuart Packer as a co-writer is just a delight, but when out working with children is a revelation. Without him I doubt we would have got half of the wonderful content we captured. Katy Gundry, Paul Lund and of course eight year old Ruby (pictured), who played Poppy, and her father Mell, who all did so much to shape this series. Our commissioning producer Johnny Leagas was amazing to work with and his knowledge made a good idea so much more slick and efficient. It’s a wonderful experience and I can’t wait for you all to hear it. I feel like I want to write a self-indulgent set of memoirs to self analyse the whole project. One monumental learning curve.
Find out more about Poppy’s Play Dates here: www.audiofactory.co.uk