Malice Works Her Magic
Five days after sitting in the charming front room of Nigel Fair‘s wonderful house-turned-studio in Brighton, and I finally have time to reflect on all the work we managed to accomplish. Sarah Douglas was quite simply awesome, (but then again, most of you readers will already have known or presumed that). But let me tell you, Sarah’s performance went beyond my wildest expectations and the voices she created are still ringing in my head. Yes, Sarah created two characters – that’s not really a big secret to anyone, now is it? As followers of this blog will know, Sarah plays the glamorous and powerful Mayor of the city, as well as the Mayor’s less-than-reputable scientist twin from a parallel world. What could me more delicious for any listener?
Working the way we did, recording first Alice Mayor’s (“Mayor by Name, Mayor by Nature”) scenes then turning back the pages and recording all of Malice’s dialogue, I think helped us not only stay true to the individual voices but also to maintain a “relaxed” atmosphere in the session. As both Sarah and Nigel will attest, there could really be nothing else but a relaxed atmosphere given how informal the set up of my portable studio was! I have to say though that everyone I’ve worked with so far – and that includes the Canadian cast – may have had a chuckle at my expense, might have been more or less amused that we weren’t in fancy recording booths, or might even have wondered whether the sound would be of a high enough quality to release on audio – but absolutely everyone rose to the various occasions and made those informal recording sessions seem very fresh feeling, very wonderful and personal, and best of all, so incredibly memorable to me.
Some readers may know that the character of Alice was a completely different entity in the original video of The Flashback and not at all who she became in this story line. In an earlier blog entry I wrote: “Now, Alice in my opinion, was a highly underdeveloped character, confined to some rather bizarrely trippy sequences. I don’t think (co-writer) Michael had really thought about her role in the story above and beyond being some hippy dippy peacenik Janis Joplin-esque type chick in the parallel world. She was like the parallel world’s version of the media, and she wandered around carrying an old-fashioned microphone with no cable connections to any machinery. I suppose Michael thought of her as a cross between a roving reporter and a lounge singer, though she didn’t have a counterpart in our world, which in itself opened up an interesting prospect that was never explored. Basically she was an enigma, and what Michael downplayed about her, I later grew more and more interested in exploiting.”
When I came to write these ten new scripts, I really wanted to give Alice a larger, more important role. I thought she needed to be someone who was a catalyst in the story, someone who brought out the drama behind all the funny lines and yet have a few hilarious ones herself. Basically she needed to be re-envisioned and recreated from the ground up. I also wanted her to have a counterpart in the parallel world and seeing as how the actual parallel world as a location wouldn’t feature as much as “our” world in the new stories, I thought it would be fun if that age-old plot line of “mistaken identities” in science fiction took a turn for the more abstract. Malice, like Alice, is very aware of her own incredible intelligence, and she’s very keen on telling everyone how much better she is. I thought it would be fun to have this character simply brimming over with the desire to expose all of her plans, but unable to do so as there were too many things going on for anyone to pay her the proper attention. To that end I gave her a henchwoman by the name of Ingebjorne – but more on her later.
At some point during the recording, I looked over at Sarah as she was relishing a particular line or two and after the take I was tempted to ask her which medium she prefered working in, audio or film/video? Later on we discussed the benefits of both and of course their unique drawbacks as well.
This creative process has been an interesting one for me, and I’m not all together sure I would repeat it should I be coaxed into doing a second season of the series. Writing is a very solitary task, especially when all one wants to do is share funny lines with friends and family AND get them to laugh, even though the over all context is lost on them. As writers, it is in our nature to want affirmation that what we are writing is not only good, but also working on so many different levels. Is it exciting? Engaging? Provocative? Thoughtful? Memorable? Side-splittingly funny? Tear-jerkingly touching? All these things go through a writer’s head as he or she puts pen to paper, or taps out black characters on the white background of his or her laptop’s screen.
One of the things I missed about this process is having all the cast together for a read-through – okay, it would be a five-hour read-through with various stops and starts to accommodate drinkies, nibbles and bathroom breaks, but imagine the day it would have been! Read-throughs are wonderful things because you as the writer get to hear the dialogue spoken by someone other than that voice in your head and you get to feel the first emotions of an audience as the actors all interact and connect with their characters… or not… read-throughs are also great to feel out the tempo and pacing and generally discover where things need tightening, lines need replacing or deleting altogether, and all those other elements that working on your own simply cannot provide.
This recording schedule – embedded within my own hectic work and travel schedule – caused recordings to be months apart, the cast to be in different locations and actors forced to play off other people “substitute acting”. The bonding that usually happens between actors on set or in studio just didn’t develop the way it normally might. However, that said, I think all the actors brought as much energy and enthusiasm to the parts as they could and as I’m putting together the dialogue edits, I know that the average listener will not be able to discern the fact that so-and-so was not in the same room as what’s-her-name, and no scene suffers from this style of recording. Just that next time… if there is a next time… I hope to have the budget to bring more cast together for more time in a suitable location. I’ll just have to see how the sales of this little project do… I mean, will anyone WANT a second series? (Hint Hint!!!)
Sarah had a few thoughts on not being able to work with the Canadian cast as well, and she asked me to include a greeting to her fellow artistes across the pond.
And what are my thoughts, you might ask? Well, this blog is certainly full of those as it is. But as I finally wrap up the recordings – indeed we still have Ingebjorne to get and one more guest artist to voice a few lesser roles – the work of putting together the actual stories begins. Scenes are being edited and given atmosphere in the addition of SFX and finally I have a sense that these ten episodes are coming together beautifully. Over the next little while I’m back to working for a living and it won’t be until early May before you as an audience get to hear anything new and sneak previewy. But not to worry. There will be a five-minute trailer online after the Utopia convention in Oxfordshire on May 7th and 8th. After that the blog will feature articles on the lovely and talented Nigel Fairs, Casting Ingebjorne, and Creating the Artwork of Flashback. So, stay tuned because I promise you, you won’t be disappointed.
And, on a personal note, a Big HAPPY BIRTHDAY to JoAnne. Smookie sends his love, Shawtie!
So here is Sarah one last time with her final thoughts on the project! Enjoy!