The Power of Community with Andrea Klassen of the Procyon Podcast Network
Adventures in Audio Podcast Episode #5
Podcast host Tamara Kissane talks with Andrea Klassen of the Procyon Podcast Network about the formation of the Network and how it works, their Rocket Booster program to support new audio fiction creators, the peculiarities of writing and producing for audio, fan fiction, and the upcoming release of Andrea’s audio serial Me and AU.
Started in November 2016, the Procyon Podcast Network began as the brainchild of several fans who said, "but what if we were making the content?" PPN's mission is to produce inclusive podcasts that highlight characters from less represented backgrounds. They are a diverse creative team of mostly-female storytellers, spanning two continents and three countries and invested in telling stories with fresh perspectives on genre fiction.
Andrea Klassen is a recovering former newspaper reporter based in British Columbia, Canada. Her interests include knitting, trashy mystery novels and trying to convince other people Canadian history is interesting (and also pretty gross a lot of the time). Her fiction podcasting work includes the sci-fi mystery, Station to Station, and Me and AU a queer fandom romance set for release on the Procyon Podcast Network this summer. You can find her on Twitter @AndreaThisWeek.
This interview series for Howlround is part of Tamara’s quest to learn more about audio drama by speaking with the people who are working in the medium.
Music: Spring Idyll by Pennee Miles.
Tamara Kissane: Adventures in Audio Fiction is supported by HowlRound Theatre Commons, a free and open platform for theatremakers worldwide. The HowlRound podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Google play, Spotify, and howlround.com.
Hey, friends. Welcome to Adventures in Audio Fiction. My name is Tamara Kissane. I'm a theatremaker and the host of the podcast Artist Soapbox based in Durham, North Carolina. Although theatre is my first and enduring love, over the last three years, my creative work has turned increasingly towards writing and producing scripted audio fiction. First, by adapting versions of my stage plays into audio dramas and more recently by writing to audio directly as I develop two scripted audio fiction serials. This interview series for HowlRound is part of my quest to learn more about audio drama by speaking with the people who are working in the medium, some of whom have a background in theatre and some who don't, but either way they are knocking it out of the park.
I have so many questions and you may have some too. As theatre artists, what can we learn from audio fiction creators? What skills can we leverage to create powerful audio work? What do we need to learn? Is scripted audio fiction an evolution of a theatrical form or is it its own distinct and discrete form altogether?
In this episode you'll hear from Andrea Klassen of the Procyon Podcast Network. Started in November 2016, the Procyon Podcast Network began as the brainchild of several fans who said, "But what if we were making the content?" PPN's mission is to produce inclusive podcasts that highlight characters from less represented backgrounds. They are a diverse creative team of mostly female storytellers spanning two continents and three countries and invested in telling stories with fresh perspectives on genre fiction. Andrea and I discuss the formation of the Network and how it works, their Rocket Booster Program to support new audio fiction creators, the peculiarities of writing and producing for audio fanfiction, and the upcoming release of her audio serial Me and AU.
Andrea Klassen is a recovering former newspaper reporter based in British Columbia, Canada. Her interests include knitting, trashy mystery novels, and trying to convince other people Canadian history is interesting and also pretty gross a lot of the time. Her fiction podcasting work includes the sci-fi mystery Station to Station and Me and AU, a queer fandom romance set for release on the Procyon Podcast Network this summer. You can find her on Twitter @AndreaThisWeek. And one more thing, on the evening of our interview, the online recording system that we were using crashed pretty definitively and Andrea was nice enough to wait for me to rig something up so I could call her on her cell phone. If you hear extra scratchy sounds, then that is why. You know how things can be unpredictable during live onstage performances? Well, this is the equivalent in audio and the show must go on. Enjoy the episode.
Hi, Andrea. Thank you so much for having this conversation.
Andrea Klassen: Happy to be here.
Tamara: What is your role within Procyon?
Andrea: I do a few different things within the Network. I'm one of the two showrunners for one of our ongoing shows, Station to Station. I am our chief administer, I guess you'd call it for Rocket Booster, which is our community giveback program and I am the showrunner for our new show launching later this year, Me and AU, and also the person who rarely cares about agendas at meetings.
Tamara: I bet everyone values you highly for many reasons, but that's probably one of them.
Andrea: I mean, until I follow up with them, So here are your action items.
Tamara: Yeah. Right. Can you talk a little bit about your background and why the podcast medium suits you?
Andrea: I come to audio drama from a couple of different prongs. The one that probably is most directly the reason that I'm still interested in doing this stuff now is probably around 2012, 2013 I got really into a video game called Zombies, Run! Which when I say video game, what I actually mean is smartphone exercise app that use a gamified audio drama interspersed with your own playlist to tell a story about a mysterious person who comes to this outpost in the middle of Nowhere, Great Britain and has to run from zombies to go get supplies. I got really, really taken with this app. I did not start running, but I did get really into the app and started writing fanfiction. All right, because it's cool to do things that only three other people do.
Tamara: That is very specific. I will say, writing fanfiction for that app, that's really niche.
Andrea: I knew the names of not every other Sim of the game, but it sure felt like it sometimes, factoring the first season is that of that app. Anyway, because it was still just starting out. Their creator fan barrier wasn't very thick and I ended up getting contacted by the head writer of the app who was looking for more people to do scripts for their next season, asked me to do a spec script. I had never written a script before. I had certainly never written for like an audio only medium before, but I really, really enjoyed it.
And that was my introduction to the format, which I think really clicked for me because of the other parts of my background, which is that I was for a very, very long time a journalist. And the big part of journalism is just really, really hanging on what people say and what people don't say when they say things and how they say things and what that reveals about them, but they don't realize they're saying when they say things. And so you get really interested in dialogue and word choice and how people talk and to have a meeting that was mostly focused on that was really, really interesting to me, but also came pretty naturally because I'd always been really interested in how people speak. So between those two things, it's something about it. I...just always really pleases me in a way that all of the prose writing I'd done before didn't quite ever hit.
Tamara: Did the people who eventually formed the Podcast Network, were those people associated with the zombie app as well?
Andrea: A few of them are other people who were writing fanfic with me back. One of them is a person who I have known almost since the days of, There are six of us, we are Legion, Phoebe Seiders who was one of the showrunners for Under Pressure and I have been friends that long, which is sort of terrifying, honestly. And a lot of the other people I met through sort of fandom activity with that show, I'm just asked who does Starship Iris wrote fanfic for Zombies, Run! at one point. Alex Ian is a mutual friend of one of them as is Margaret Clark, who's the other shirt for Under Pressure and just that vortex of people who are fan-ish about something that they had in common with another person who was fan-ish about something with all of us getting to know each other, basically.
Tamara: And at what point did you decide to make it formal and form a Network?
Andrea: A couple of things had happened up until that point. One of which was that all of us had gotten into podcasts during the Great Walk, that failed Renaissance and had formed a little offshoot flat community where we mostly just talked about whatever podcasts we were listening to constantly so we wouldn't annoy the rest of the people we were doing other fan things with on our Tumblrs. The other thing that happened around that time, is that Jess Best got really serious about putting a show she'd already written, which is Starship Iris into production.
The rest of us had been, honestly, just venting a little bit about a lot of the shows we listened to and how, Oh God, wouldn't it be cool if they did this thing or if they did that thing or Wouldn't it be really cool if you took this basic premise and did this other thing, and I had actually come up with a couple of ideas that we really, really liked and so when Jess was like, Hey, I'm doing this thing. It... I think it just made the idea more plausible for the rest of us. It's really, really hard to podcast completely in a silo. It's just tremendously a pain in the ass. It just made sense for all of us to come together and try to do this thing mutually that we were all really enthusiastic about with Jess as the person out in front pushing the boat out a little bit for the rest of us.
Tamara: So, you started in 2016 as a team and you're looking at four years coming up. What are the benefits of doing this as a team as opposed to as an individual creator?
Andrea: A lot of it I think is just having, especially for us because we aren't the most monetized network... We don't do a lot of the ad read monetization pieces that some of the more established networks do. A lot of what it is for us, is just having other people who are there for the pieces that are not fun and you can't escape because you have to do them or the show does not get done. So like your admin stuff, your HR stuff, your Oh my God, I have crippling doubt stuff, which is a big one not to be discounted, and just to be able to have somebody who can lend a hand when you can't do the thing, but the thing needs to happen or you can't do this particular thing because you need to do this other thing. And just having those people they're behind the scenes who you can come talk to and could come ask for help to is, I think, the only way any of us would ever still be trying to do this.
Tamara: The mutual support and the different types of skillsets and happily... people get busy at different times in their lives and so sometimes when life gets really full, if other people can step in to fill up the gaps and things can continue to keep moving forward. But if you have to row the boat yourself, it just takes a lot longer in my experience to get anywhere.
Andrea: Yeah, for sure. And I think one of the nice things too, about being a network, is it takes a little bit of the pressure off the content hamster wheel a little bit, I think. Procyon's not actually releasing anything right at this particular moment, but something is generally, at least always in the production pipeline. So, even if Iris has been off for a while, at least Station to Station's coming back. And if Station to Station's been off for a while, at least Me and AU is going to be out soon and you can still have stuff coming out that are the kind of stories that people expect from us without it having to be like, Jess, we need you to write ten episodes by next week, which is just not a really sustainable pace for something that isn't a full-time gig at this point for any of us.
Tamara: Right. You can share the labor associated with creating the content as well, which is wonderful because it takes, as you said, it takes a lot of time to generate original material and that's not even the production piece of it.
Andrea: Yeah, and especially if you are concerned about quality control. To use Iris as an example, Jess is one of the most rigorous editors and drafters I have ever met and I think the fact that there are other things going on within the network that can try to pull focus a bit while she makes something that's to the quality that she wants to make it, is got to be at least a little bit helpful to the mental load of... and to that pressure of always having to be on that wheel, trying to get something created and be productive at it. It's just a part of modern creative life.
Tamara: You have three podcasts and you're going to be releasing a fourth. What do these have in common? Why are they part of Procyon as opposed to being some other network's content?
Andrea: Probably more than anything else, it's just what we all like in storytelling combined together. But it's not really a surprise that a lot of us met through one single fandom. Zombies, Run! has actually really set the tone for a lot of what Procyon wanted to do. We've all had this conversation with each other at some point. It was a show that... It's got a lot of characters from a lot of different backgrounds. It's got a lot of characters with a lot of different sexualities and it was a show that just did those things. It didn't make a big deal about doing those things, which isn't to say it never gave any weight to any of those different kinds of people being in the story and what their experiences would be because of the different backgrounds they had, but it was just an early example of how inclusive you could actually be in the medium, and how many different sort of voices you could have in the room. And it was really influential to all of us, I think. When we were trying to figure out what kind of stories we wanted to tell.
Realistically, the Procyon podcasts, we have a sci-fi thriller, we have a sort of workplace comedy, but under the sea, we have a space show, and we have a romantic comedy set in Canada. On paper, they're not super similar, but I think it's that ethos that you guys are wanting to see shows that have room for lots of different kinds of people and that are also interested in a lot of different kinds of people, really ties everything together.
Tamara: See, I was curious if you all had some sort of science technology, like some STEM background, basically. I don't know... I want to hear about this new project that you're working on that you're writing for, but I thought maybe it's the values of inclusivity and pushing against the tropes associated with different kinds of genres, but then it's also kind of, We really like science and technology. Am I my way off in that assumption?
Andrea: I don't think that you are. It's not true of all of us. I am probably like our science-light Luddite person, but there's definitely somebody in every show who's really, really does share that kind of interest, for sure.
Tamara: Now you are dispersed geographically. Your team of seven and is spread across two continents and three countries. How do you make work, making that work?
Andrea: 8:00-7:00 Central, usually all of us are awake. That was a big part of it, is figuring out one time where when we do want to have network meetings, everybody's up. Not everybody's really coherent but everybody is up. And then the other big piece is just technology makes this stuff so much easier than it would have been even five years ago. Having things like Slack channels, having things like Google Docs where you can have ongoing collaboration over the course of long periods of time is just so vital to doing something where you can't really even live talk to each other very often in a lot of cases. Especially, Alex and I make Station to Station together and I'm in British Columbia and Alex is in Hong Kong and our time zone difference is something like fifteen hours, I want to say. And I think that changes too with depending on whether or not we're in daylight savings time. It's great, it's not a whole thing at all.
But it really is, it's a like finding the tools that let you do that kind of collaboration and then a lot of it is trust. Being able to just know that people will show up at the times that you can work together and that when you guys are awake at your different times of day, you'll do the things that you said you were going to do and just always counting on the other people to do what needs to be done to move the project forward. And a lot of it is figuring out what that is up front too. That's a big piece.
Tamara: So do you record where the showrunner lives or how do you do the actual production piece?
Andrea: Yeah, we're a hundred percent remote so all of our actors are doing their own recording and then they shoot the files to us to edit. So, thankfully we're not relying on my Internet connection. I sometimes jokingly call myself a fake podcaster because I almost never record audio.
Tamara: But you're going to be doing a whole lot of at least working with audio files coming up. Is that right, with your new piece? Can you talk about that?
Andrea: So, Me and AU was basically... It's a couple of different things. It was one, it's a story I've wanted to tell for a long, long time. But it was also me deciding that if I should try wearing all of the hats for once just to build some skills that I don't have because I'm not the person who edits the audio for Station to Station. So audacity mostly kind of puzzles and terrifies me, or at least it did. I'm getting better. Yeah, I wanted to try to learn to do more of that stuff so that I'd have a better understanding for future projects and for also just when I'm writing for other people's audio design. But the goal was that originally I was writing something that would be pretty simple. The sound design, nobody has feet, nobody has footsteps.
Tamara: Right, they float. Do they float?
Andrea: Yes. They float. It's no one's feet are ever discussed. Canonically, who knows if they're there. And it's only six characters and it's a very limited number of settings that we keep going back to over and over and I was trying to put these real constraints are handed so it would be easy for myself and my sound design is the most ambitious action scene I've ever written for a mini episode at the end of the season. So, we'll see how things are by the time I get there.
Tamara: So you are writing, directing, producing, sound designing this. That's a lot.
Andrea: Yeah, it's making me think about a lot of stuff that I had not realized I had taken for granted that Alex was thinking about on Station to Station. My life is held together by notebooks, Google Docs, and Google Sheets at the moment to a frankly terrifying degree. But it's been a really interesting learning experience and I think it's going to be really good for the next round of consults we do with Rocket Booster because, oh man, I have a lot more advice to give totally solo podcasters now that I've walked a few miles.
Tamara: So let's talk about Rocket Booster and then we can also fold in some of the advice that you would give and talk more about Me and AU. What is Rocket Booster and what was the genesis? Why did this come about?
Andrea: So Rocket Booster, right now it's kind of twice yearly, I think we're still working that piece out, but it's a script consulting program for emerging audio fiction creators who are fairly early in the process of writing their first solo show. And the idea is that if you have about three scripts, you tell us a little bit about what your production is. You submit your script, you give us some stuff that you'd like feedback on. We read them over, we give you script notes and then we sit down for about an hour over Skype and kind of do a one-on-one consultation with one of us. The whole idea came out of these conversations that were happening in the audio drama communities. About trying to figure out what you could do to help out new creators who were coming to this space maybe with no theatre background, or no writing background, or no audio background. And what kind of leg up can you try to give these people in the community?
And I personally suck at asking for help. It's something I've really had to work on as a person who is an adult. I don't historically delegate super well. I don't like saying I don't know how to do things and I don't think that's super uncommon, but also even if you want to ask for help, asking for help can be really tough. If you have any sort of imposter syndrome or are you just feel like an outsider in a space and so... But the goal with Rocket Booster was essentially to do like, Here is an avenue, a really structured avenue where you can come and ask for some help and you are encouraged to come ask for some help. And that was our way of trying to put somebody out there for people who want to join into the space to feel like there's a place for them that they can come talk to people who've been around for awhile and be talked to as peers, really. Because really at the end of the day, I don't think any of us want a particularly gatekeeper space.
Tamara: It's a very generous offer to emerging writers and creators. And I love the idea that people have to have a couple of episodes ready to go because I think it puts some skin in the game and so you're moving beyond the just, I just had a good idea stage, which is not really the best time to talk to somebody who is actively making the work and an expert. The, I just had a good idea, that's when you talk to your friends but then when you reach out to actually have somebody mentor you and give you some advice, you need to have something to show them that they can react to. Otherwise, I think sometimes it verges on wasting that person's time.
Andrea: Yeah. And we've actually talked a lot about what's the right kind of number to shoot for, for people to at least have to meet before we actually have enough material to give them something useful back and they have enough material that we feel like they're committed to an idea? And for me about three episodes or three chapters of something is the point where I've wasted enough of my own time that I kind of care about it. So it felt like a good benchmark to me for where to encourage people to get to before they sought out a consultation.
Tamara: Right, you can see if it has legs because the first one is kind of a pilot and it's the second one that actually sets your real trajectory. So, you have to know if it's going to be a thing or if it was just a one-off fifteen minutes of a good idea.
Andrea: Yeah, right? And I've had many fifteen minutes of a good idea that do not survive past that or I would have written a lot more mystery podcasts.
Tamara: Is that going to be the one after this one, is your next cheesy mystery or scary mystery podcast?
Andrea: Listen, all I will say is coming 2022, I'm going to call it Deadbeat. It's set at a farmer's market.
Tamara: I'm here for that. I'm ready. What are some of the challenges that the Rocket Booster participants are facing other than just feeling perhaps alone in this? What are they coming to you with?
Andrea: Some stuff that people have said is the challenge of translating stuff that used to be prose into audio is, obviously, a big one because often you have sort of a baby project that's gone through a couple of mediums before you get to the one that's actually going to work for it. So, that's a big one. Letting go of stuff like people's specific body language, people's specific nonessential placement in rooms, stuff like that is a big piece to get through when you're doing your first audio drama.
I would say another one is episodic plotting is one that I had some really interesting conversations with one of our consults last time because it's super different than doing a novel. You really do have to get that beginning, middle, end structured in a satisfying way in a podcast episode in a way you don't really have to in a novel chapter. And then the other one is some of that early preproduction structure stuff is the big one. I would say that comes up, how do I start thinking about casting? When should I cast versus when I'm writing? How do I start thinking about finding people? All of those moving pieces that start to happen but that aren't deep into production yet.
Tamara: So, I want to walk back a little bit and touch on this translate to audio piece because, as you know, I'm a playwright and I've already tried to adapt two stage plays into audio dramas and then I'm now just writing straight to audio without doing that intermediate step of putting it on the stage. Because I've realized that they're very different creatures and to set up an arc that's seventy to ninety minutes where people are seated in their seats and they're experiencing that whole thing in one chunk is really different than writing a series of fifteen minute episodes over the course of a season. It just... You're looking at these little bunny hop arcs and then this really big arc over the top of it. And so there's been a lot of me getting my mind around the ways that I need to approach this. So, can you talk a little bit more about other things that people bump up against? You said that prose into audio can be a little bit tricky, but are there other things that people are running up against when they're trying to make this translation?
Andrea: I think some of it is just not being used to the idea of writing soundscaping, which is something that I still struggle with it sometimes I will look at my own scripts and go, I have no idea what I thought was going to happen with that sound cue. But I think one of the things when I was working on Zombies, Run! that got instituted because a lot of us were new to audio, is that we had to spell out what things would sound like. Like you couldn't say for instance, "A giant squid slaps against the side of a boat." You had to go in and you had to specifically say, "Well, what is that sound, what does that actually sound like? What could we actually give a sound designer that they can action?" I think what that person came up with was something about liver, which is horrifying, but really tracks and that was the first for me and starting to think about how do you write for sound a little bit better?
But it's also just like what's going on in the background of your scenes all the time? Is there a room tone that's important? Is it really important? They're in a big space and far away from each other? Is it really important that we feel really close and boxed in with them? Is it really important that your characters make nonverbal noises? I only really started thinking about with Me and AU because it's so in the head of a couple of people that I got really into the idea is starting to think about all of the extremely silly noises I make when I am talking to other people on the Internet. And that can be a real avenue for starting to think about different ways you can convey emotion.
I think there's a lot of really interesting stuff you can do with sound that isn't intuitive to a lot of us because most of us didn't grow up with a lot of audio drama. I had book on tape, mostly, as far as those things go. So, some people had more stuff, but it's not a medium where a lot of us, I think, know all of the tricks yet. And that's cool but it is also really a place where there's a lot of you had to push yourself.
Tamara: Yeah, well I think that I have to push myself to listen to what is happening. Just in my daily life, I am so used to looking then when you actually try to conjure up the soundscape of a particular room, it's amazing how often I won't be even paying attention to that. I think it's interesting to consider that the job of the writer is also kind of a designer so that you're at least giving your sound designer, as you say, more description than footsteps to help them understand all the things, all the ingredients that they need to put in to make this meal that you've envisioned.
Andrea: One of the discussion groups I belong to, it's so interesting how different people approach this stuff, because I'm always very much like, Lines go here. Sound design goes here, and then there are people who do it a lot more screenplay-like, so there's a lot more narrative happening between their lines and there's some interesting arguments for that too. I just haven't... Once I start putting that stuff in there, all of my scripts are going to be 3000 words long. It's going to be bad.
Tamara: Well, and if you're a sound designing your own writing, then you already have some idea, you could put that down, but it would be for yourself in some respects.
Andrea: Yeah. So it's taken some of the pressure off, possibly in a detrimental way, we'll see.
Tamara: Tell me some of the things that you learned being the many hat wearing person for Me and AU.
Andrea: So far, I would say it's just relying on your own memory when you're the only person with a memory to rely on, is a bad idea and no one should do it. I take so many more notes now, just about every single thing. I have so many more spreadsheets. I have so many more trackers. I have so many more phone reminders just to keep myself constantly in line. The other thing I learned, I would probably say that it's really important to have somebody who you can talk through a lot with the stuff that's going on with. It's good to still have someone who even if you're not showrunning with, you can bounce ideas off of and feel things out with and come back to and talk about this stuff with. Props to my poor fiancé for doing that for two years because, oh God. Having community is really important when it's just you.
Tamara: All of your actors are remote, meaning they're sending lines in. This idea of community building is really interesting to me because when you do a live show where you create a piece of theatre, you're rehearsing together in the room for you know, six to eight weeks or however many weeks it is, and then you do the show so you're always together and so that bouncing off happens. It's a cumulative approach to making the work where, by just being around one another, you learn about what it is. How do you create the community that you need when you're not next to each other in that close creating kind of way?
Andrea: Everybody records their lines on their own, but we've always been a live-to-tape remote recording. What we do is, we get everybody on a video call and they do live takes, but all recording their own audio. And the benefits for me have always outweighed the lack of sleep that sometimes meant I get because my timezone is the odd timezone out. It can be kind of a scheduling nightmare, but it really is nice if you can make it work for everybody because it just gives you so much more energy and it does start to create some of that community.
One of the things that, particularly for Me and AU, because it's a show that's really about very strong friendships and very strong feelings, because I always tried to build in a fifteen minute buffer where we all just talk for a little bit about how our days are going, and how bad the weather is, and whatever part of Canada everybody is in, or tell the token Americans some fun Canadian facts that are usually true. And just to get everybody comfortable with each other so that we do feel a little bit more like we're not strangers. We held a company meeting before we started the season where everybody just went around and talks about one thing that they were super nerdy for and just some little icebreakers like that, I think really go a long way to try to promote some of that sense of community.
I haven't done it so much for this show, but for Station to Station, we also have a cast Slack, which is pretty common in a lot of indie audio drama where people can just go and post stuff and it's not always that show related, you can just kind of chat and get to know people. There are ways you can do it. It's definitely more challenging, especially, when people are relatively not in geographical situations where they're very likely to ever meet, but you can start to create some of that community. And I think this is where actually again, people who have some of that fan background end up having a little bit of an advantage because so much is being in internet fandom is about making these deep friendships with people who live on the other side of the country. So you naturally get used to it.
Tamara: I want to read something that you wrote, which I think relates to that. When we were emailing prior to this, I'm going to quote you, your quote is, "One of the other things in the background of our Network is that we're also people who are active in transformative works fandom, fanfic basically. And I have some thoughts on why that background can end up making audio really appealing as a fiction medium." So I have to admit that I did not know what transformative works fandom was and I had to look that up. So, tell me what your thoughts are about all of this in addition to what you just said.
Andrea: Okay, so the thing is actually that people who write fanfic tend to be incredibly good at nailing different speaking styles and different prose styles. If you look at the same writer writing for this TV show versus this film versus this period piece, the level of style shift and dialogue mimicry and stuff that people pull off in fandom on a regular basis is pretty astonishing. And I think that those are skills that really translate all across to audio drama where you need to really have really different idiolects and really different kinds of speaking styles to help people follow that this character is distinct from this character.
Tamara: So they're attuned to the specificity of the different voices and styles already.
Andrea: Yeah, a lot of mainly what people in fandom call "in character" is really just getting those speaking styles and how much some people hold back versus keep in as different characters.
Tamara: Oh, that's super interesting. I never would've thought of that, but it makes total sense. What do you hope that Rocket Booster does for these participants? This was your first year, 2019 was the first year that you offered it?
Tamara: And what do you hope they'll be doing in 2020?
Andrea: I really hope that we see some shows get made. I know it's a long process. 2020 honestly might be optimistic because I certainly took a couple of years to get to where I am, as far as production goes on my current thing. But moving a step down the timeline from that, I just really hope it makes these people feel enthusiastic about their projects and feel enthusiastic about creating stuff in this medium. Even if they never make anything, or even if they don't make this specific thing, if this is just an opportunity to learn something and to go on and take that learning to make another thing in a little bit. I just like audio drama a lot and I like what it offers people so much. And the more I think that we can make other people feel like this is a space for them, the better it's going to be for all of us in terms of the stories we get to hear and the quality of people we get to work with as colleagues.
Tamara: So people understand, what kind of a timeline have you been working with for Me and AU? Just so that people understand like what kind of start to finish... What that might look like.
Andrea: Sure, and I was pretty slow because I moved countries at one point in the middle of it, so I started writing it in April of 2018, when I briefly moved to California and was essentially unemployed for four months. Just to also make it clear that I had a lot more free time than the average person would. I wrote most of the show during that four month swing, moved back to Canada, failed to write the rest of the show until December of that year. Spent the rest of the winter and spring revising, started casting this summer, this past summer and have been recording since about November and we're about, give or take, halfway through recording.
Tamara: How many episodes will the first season happen?
Andrea: It's going to have fifteen episodes period. Plus, I think it's about five half lengths mini soaps.
Tamara: That's a lot.
Andrea: Yeah. I wanted to do a complete story. Again, this is me trying to, theoretically, make things easier on myself. So tell something that I knew how to concrete ending and also a concrete ending that I had reached so I couldn't chicken out part of the way through and just stop writing it because the hardest part... Oh my God, let me tell you, the hardest part of writing a romance is that at some point they have to actually get together and that is extremely nerve wracking.
Tamara: So how did you approach writing a romance? Did you outline it?
Andrea: No, I just said that I didn't want to make this complicated for myself. So, the show is about this girl named Kate who is home for her final summer before university and she gets really into this television show and then she meets someone else who's also a fan of this television show. And they have this real special connection and slowly, over the course of the season, they fall in love. And Kate realizes that she also has other friends that maybe she could notice if she noticed anything other than the fact that she has some self-pity and self-esteem problems, but also because of that I had to constantly keep afloat the plot of a fake television show. So, a sci-fi CW style ensemble... Fantasy sci-fi mystery show.
What I ended up doing is I had a Google Sheet, because I have a Google Sheet for everything, that had all of the plot points I thought I wanted to hit for the main romance storyline, all of the plot points I thought I wanted to shoot for each of the beat blocks, and the plotline for this fake television show, and also the potential plotlines that I might use to write fanfiction that would appear in the podcast about the fake TV show and then I actually made episodes by mix and matching. I would just go into my giant spreadsheet of plot points and go, Yeah, these all thematically kind of pulled together. And I think I can get an episode out of them and it does advance the plot and that I would attempt to write that.
Tamara: Are they out of time order then or did you just dump everything in there and then piece together the timeline?
Andrea: It's all in order. I tried to keep a rough chronological order of each plot thread as I was dumping potential points in. I had to do a lot of revising. I also had another spreadsheet that was just a calendar to try to keep myself from getting unstuck in time about when the episodes were happening versus when the TV show was airing.
Tamara: Yeah, all that stuff is super complicated and it feels like it's complicated in a way that's different than, again, from writing a theatrical script. It feels much more TV-like to me in some ways because of the style of a series. It's just a really different way of mapping things.
Andrea: I've never actually done something in that style before. I just desperately needed somewhere to keep all the different junk and it's ended up being a format I really like and I think I'll come back to again. If you really are stuck on your plot, just go dump every single sort of plot point idea you can think about into a document and then like, Oh, that wasn't a thing and see what you get.
Tamara: Yeah, I like that. What else would you like to talk about? Is there anything that we missed?
Andrea: I don't think so. This is fun though, I don't get to talk about audio drama enough, which was the other reason Rocket Booster exists, is that I just think the stuff is tremendously interesting. I guess I like excuses to make other people talk about it with me.
Tamara: It's super interesting and I think it's, obviously, a lot of people understand this been going on for a long time, but a lot of us are just coming to it now. And so there's newbie enthusiasm where... And as you keep making, you know a little bit more, but it's really still fun to talk about all the things that we're trying and like, How are you doing this? And getting into the weeds about it, I think, is really invigorating and inspiring, especially around something that can feel like a solo journey sometimes if you're separated from your teammates or you're in your bedroom trying to edit audio by yourself and it's midnight. So, it's nice to come together and have these conversations.
Andrea: Yeah, absolutely. And I think, honestly, realistically, that's also one of the reasons that it's great to keep seeing new people come in is because we keep getting more of that enthusiasm. And I don't want it to people who've been around for a long time. I feel like there's a lot of people who are more established in audio drama, who are really, really generous with their time and their willingness to explain stuff to you when you are completely at a loss and something I've really appreciated about this media myself.
Tamara: Well, thank you so much for this conversation. I'm really excited to hear Me and AU in 2020.
Andrea: Fingers crossed!
Tamara: Fingers crossed.
Andrea: I'm excited to someday hear it too.
Tamara: If you would like to continue today's conversation, please visit howlround.com and follow HowlRound and Artist Soapbox on Twitter and Facebook. A big thank you to the staff at HowlRound who make this show possible. Our music is Spring Idle by Penny Miles. Check out the show notes for links and for more information. Thank you.