Another day, another format! Driving Ambition is now available as an audiobook. You can listen to it here.
The recording studio that Magic Bullet usually uses is a really good one, which I would recommend heartily to anyone wanting a studio in Southeast England, but the catch is that it’s also owned by an indie rock group, who reserve the right to reschedule anyone’s bookings if they suddenly find they need the space for a week or two. This happened to us once: fine, but it happened to us after we’d booked the actors and sound man, who we couldn’t reschedule. Meaning, we needed to find another studio.
After a bit of a hunt, we found one, in a converted barn out in Ovingdean. The producer and I went for a look at it, and decided it was more than suitable for our needs. It had all the necessary equipment and personnel, and a rather nice in-house cat. The catch there, though, was that it was too small to have a green room.
Not a problem, we thought. We’ll just set the actors up in a local pub and keep them happy when they’re not performing. So, we went for a walk to find the local pub.
After about half an hour of finding the church, the newsagent and all the other usual small town amenities, we stopped a local and, bewildered, asked him where the pub was.
“Oh,” he said, clearly used to this question, “the town doesn’t have one. There’s some sort of law dating back to the Civil War, that never got repealed. So we just go into Rottingdean instead.”
So, the result was that on recording day, the production manager’s job involved not only the usual things detailed in the previous post, but also driving on a circuit between the studio and the seashore pub in Rottingdean, and spending a small fortune on temporary parking permits as I rushed in and out to pick up actors and drop off other ones.
However, the issue of green room snacks and drinks was definitely sorted!
With apologies to John Nathan-Turner
06:00: Wake up. Go for a run, lift weights. Why? It will all be explained later.
08:00: On way to studio, with two giant bags of snacks. Make note of location of nearest supermarket. Make note of location of nearest caff serving all-day-breakfasts.
09:00: Arrive at studio to discover that the person with the keys to let you in isn’t there yet. Fine; the sound man won’t be there till nine-thirty and none of the actors are scheduled to arrive before ten.
09:05: Sound man, photographer, the owner of the replica props which are to feature in said photos, the scriptwriter and two actors all turn up early. Send them to abovementioned caff for an all-day breakfast.
09:30: The person with the keys arrives. Carry two bags of snacks, the photographers’ equipment, several boxes of replica props and four takeaway coffees up the stairs. This is why we go for runs and lift weights.
10:00: Actors installed in studio to begin the day’s work. Identify green room (or room which can be commandeered and designated green) and set up a table with a selection of snacks. Acquire the takeaway menus (all studios have a collection of these) for lunch.
10:45: Off to pick up actor at train station. There will inevitably be kerfuffles with the parking or the taxi, depending on which one is using. There is also the issue of recognition, as they may well never have met one before. This can be easily resolved with a hand-printed sign bearing the actors’ name.
11:00: Second shift of actors arrives. Put them in the green room and make sure they’re all happy until they need to be in the studio. Despite what you may have heard about actors, they are; I’ve yet to work with anyone who fit the stereotype of the demanding prima-donna. I’m not sure they exist, or, if they do, that they get any work.
11:30: Dragooned into studio to provide a read-in voice. One of the miracles of audio work is that you don’t actually have to record everyone on the same day, but that does mean the actors need a stunt person in to read the lines.
12:30: Circulate the takeaway menus. Make the order.
13:00: First shift for lunch. Whatever the ethnic origin of the takeaway, there will always be at least one actor who has lived, worked, and/or grown up in, the country in question, and who usually has very interesting stories.
14:00: Second shift for lunch. A well-organised producer has generally got the actors scheduled so as to maximise studio time; often this means that some work while some lunch, and vice versa.
14:30: Emergency snack run to nearest supermarket.
15:00: Conduct formal interviews with the actors who are done for the day, or on a long break. These will be published in magazines to promote the series, and eventually find their way to Magic Bullet Productions’ site as tie-in material.
16:00: Help the photographer and prop-man in the studio. Again, the results of these sessions can be seen in magazines, on audio websites, on Magic Bullet Productions’ website, and, on one occasion, illustrating the official BBC obituary of an actor who had appeared in our productions.
18:00: Help with takedown of photo studio and replica props. Clean up green room.
20:00: Dinner, or rather all-day breakfast, at caff.
22:00: Bed, and time to do it all again tomorrow!