My interview with Nicholas Thurkettle

Nicholas Thurkettle is a writer, actor, and filmmaker, working independently in Los Angeles and Orange County with the continuing goal of bringing good work to audiences anywhere he can find them.

He is also a part of Earbud Theater and I had a chance to interview him a little while back.

What are the 3 best things about working in Earbud Theater?

First – the creative freedom. Casey Wolfe really believes in letting storytellers follow their impulses; and I think it shows in the broad range of tones and ideas that all fit into the “Earbud” experience.

Second – The live shows. These have really blossomed in the last year and a half to become an experience all their own; incredibly fun and energetic. We have people who are fans of the live shows who don’t even listen to the podcast (much as I’d like them to, ha!)

Third – the chance to experiment and play with audio as a way to stimulate the imagination. As a listener, by providing your own visuals, your relationship with the story becomes so much more private and personal.

What is your favorite thing about being a podcaster according to you?

The ability to get an idea out there into the world in a finished format.

I’ve produced theater and directed short films and published books, and no matter what you do there’s an incredible amount of labor and effort involved if you want to deliver something that’s polished and high quality.

Earbud Theater is a lot of work, but when you see how few people it takes to create a fully-realized story with giant scope and imagination, it’s pretty addicting.

How did you stumble into the world of podcasting?

I had written a screenplay called Habitat that was designed to be a microbudget sci-fi feature film – and I still intend to bring it to life that way someday!

I took it to a producer I have been friends with for many years, named Branon Coluccio, who has outstanding taste and usually very savvy advice.

He was involved early on in Earbud as a partner and adviser with Casey, and he was the one who put the two of us together, telling me that with a little work, Habitat could be translated into a very good audio drama.

He was absolutely right, and I had so much fun I had to stick around!

What was the first podcast you listened to?

Probably an episode of This American Life, which is really just a repackaging of their radio show.

For podcasts that are truly podcasts, probably the old Creative Screenwriting – my best friend would help organize and staff the screenings and Q&A’s and I love hearing fellow screenwriters talk shop.

What is your writing process?

I do a lot of noodling around with fragments of ideas, trying to find a world and a tone and a thematic idea that all resonate interestingly with one another.

You sort of dump everything out of the toybox and look for a couple of things to snap together like puzzle pieces, and then you start following that to figure out where it leads.

For my episode The Sounds Below, I knew I wanted to do a horror story, and to me the real horror is in human nature, so I thought about this quality people can have of trying to bargain with their fears instead of face them, and just made that literal in the form of Dr. Lebeaux’s shop.

For Scary Ride, it was the idea of turning this Haunted House environment upside-down and making the spirits real, but sad instead of frightening; and using that premise to explore how our fears can make us feel alone if we don’t admit to them.

What was the inspiration for Earbud theater?

Casey has always loved anthology storytelling like The Twilight Zone and Tales From the Crypt, just like I do. He had worked as a feature film executive at a major studio and realized that the high-budget end of filmmaking now is about extending these franchises that already exist rather than birthing new ideas.

But that raw material has to start somewhere – you need a medium that can gamble on new voices and new ideas, or else the creative ecosystem withers and dies. They’re raiding every comic book they can find right now but eventually they’ll run out of things they can make blockbusters out of.

Podcasting and anthology are an outstanding combined environment to nurture new stories. That philosophy also informs his work with Brick Moon Fiction, publishing short stories from the new generation of sci-fi/horror/fantasy authors.

That’s another podcast I would recommend to folks, especially because I narrate most of the stories myself!

What do you like about audio drama as a medium?

The rhythm of it is distinctive – it sits somewhere between a movie and a stage play in terms of dramatic flow.

My story Escape (the End of Humanity Song) is built around these very long dialogue scenes that let us get into the complex emotional terrain of this sibling relationship. The scenes would be 5, 6, even 9 pages long.

In screenwriting that would be death – you rarely let a dialogue scene go longer than 3 pages; while in the theater, too many scenes at that length can feel too short, it can give you whiplash. But that rhythm gives you a lot of space to create rich characters, and then not be hamstrung by having to cast someone by looks!

The audio also plays a really interesting role in creating a kind of confirmation bias in the listener’s mind – confirmation bias is a very under-recognized storytelling tool.

If one of the actors in Monday for the Sweepers just said “Ah, here we are in the woods!”, the audience thinks, “that’s B.S.”! But if you lay in those forest sounds first, then even if the audience doesn’t identify what it is right away, when the actors start talking about seeing squirrels in the trees, then the audience starts thinking “forest”, and because that sound has already been there for awhile, it feels legitimate and they’re totally plugged into the environment.

I never get tired of exploring that process of building dramatic credibility with the audience.

How does getting the script made into an actual audio drama work?

Once we decide to pull the trigger on a script, we start casting and scheduling. It’s a delicate process putting these sessions together, because I believe you get better performances when you have all the actors in the same space working off of each other.

But every extra character makes that exponentially more complicated. We’re doing this for effectively zero budget; so you want to respect the time of the performers you’re working with and find a block of time that inconveniences them the least.

We try to get it the whole show’s dialogue recorded in one night; but exceptions happen. With Scary Ride, the kids and the adults were recorded on completely separate nights, and it’s a credit to our director Christine Weatherup that the performances connect with one another so seamlessly that they ended up winning Audio Verse Awards.

Renaissance Man, I recall, was an insane hodgepodge because it had so many characters in it. I played two roles in that and I recorded them in my bedroom closet without ever meeting the rest of the cast or hearing their performances.

My newest episode, The Mektalos Caper, which I’m editing now, features the largest cast we ever got into a room at the same time, which allowed us to do really fun things like create sounds of crowds muttering or laughing or screaming.

Once the raw recordings are done, we assemble the dialogue cut. Just as in a movie, you’re selecting the best takes of each line (we usually have at least 2-3 readings) and splicing them together so that they flow just as if the actors performed it all perfectly with no interruptions.

I think listeners would be shocked if they knew just how often we’re switching between takes – sometimes an actor starts a sentence in take 1 and finishes it in take 3. As a finicky director, I love being able to control a dramatic pause down to the split second ūüôā

From there, it goes into the effects editing phase, where we add in all of the non-dialogue sounds, as well as process the vocals to add little extra touches of environmental authenticity, or filter them to make them sound like phone calls, etc.

Early on, we had to grab sound effects from any free source we could find regardless of format or recording quality; Habitat can be hard to listen to for me now because I was doing all that mixing and editing myself with almost no training, and now it sounds super bumpy and messy to me. But as our team and assets have grown, so has the consistency and quality of the effects and soundscapes.

Craig Good, our post-production wizard, recorded an old refrigerator in his garage to get the subtle background hum of Raff and Knaack’s timeship in Monday for the Sweepers; that’s a level of artistry and control we just didn’t have back in the beginning.

Music also gets placed at this point, usually pre-made tracks from one of the incredibly generous composers out there sharing their work with a Creative Commons license. And then the final mix balances the relative volume and stereo placement of it all, so these noises work together rather than stepping all over one another.

When you do it right the work just disappears into this rich audio drama fabric, and you don’t notice that sometimes the whispers are the loudest moments because that makes dramatic sense in the moment.

While that process is going on, we’ve also assigned an artist, who creates the promotional visuals for the show. We’re all fitting our work in around paid jobs and don’t want to rush anything out unfinished, so sometimes it’s hard to peg a release date too far in advance, but once we have a sense for when the show will be ready, we start up the promotional machinery.

Finally, we upload the episode and then start obsessively watching the download stats, ha!

How do you go about getting others involved? Particularly if they’re far away?

On our non-budget you have to nurture relationships with people who enjoy the creative outlet first and foremost; so you just keep doing it and telling people you’re doing it and, uncannily, you start accumulating connections with people who are excited about the medium and want to contribute.

Craig Good, whom I mentioned, is located up in the Bay Area, so when it’s time for him to step in and start mixing, a whole lot of chunky files start flying back and forth through Dropbox. I’ve still never even met him in person!

Ashley F. Miller, who did the artwork for Monday for the Sweepers and wrote the love song for Boney McGee, lives in South Carolina and is a multi-talented longtime friend of mine.

Kevin Necessary does terrific artwork as well, he lives and works in Cincinnati where I grew up, and we were connected by a mutual Cincinnati friend – he’s an editorial cartoonist by day and Earbud lets him create pulpy, geeky stuff he can’t always do in his day job.

There’s a podcaster named Summer Brooks (shout-out, Slice of Sci-Fi!), after she interviewed us for her show we had her play one of the callers in 911 and she literally phoned in her performance from Arizona. A

urora Culver, who is the driving force behind our live shows, is both a friend and a super-fan of the show, as well as a hell of a theater producer/director, and it was her idea that those skills were the best way she could contribute to Earbud and it’s been a total game-changer.

Could you tell us a bit about the process to turn a script into a finished audio drama. Which part do you enjoy the most?

For me, the recording night is better than Christmas. It’s such a thrill to hear actors bring these words to life and add their creativity and personality.

We have so many huge laughs that happen in the room because of that accumulating creative energy. T

he writing is solitary, and the editing is also solitary and can be exhausting; but for that night, it’s just pure play with great people and I’m completely in love with it.

I’ll never forget recording The Sounds Below, as we got to that climax and Jill Cary Martin (who played Dr. Lebeaux) was just emotionally annihilating Chris (played by MacLeod Andrews), and I was getting full-body thrill chills at how awesome the two of them were.

I know I’m loving the work if I forget that I wrote it, ha!

Thanks once again Nicholas for this interview.

Be sure to check out his website for more information.

Do make sure to check out my other interviews:

My Mirth Defect Interview

My Liberty Interview

 

Earbud Theater

Audio Dramas of the Strange and Unusual

Since 2012, the locals of the secret Earbud Theater cave have been delivering haunting sensational tales of monstrosities and the creeps that might be in your own house.

Earbud Theater is run by experts of the Hollywood film and television business who aimed to show that people could activate minds aurally.

So dim the lights, turn up the volume. and start one of their audio plays. Or take a look at their website and learn a little about who they are and what they do.

Check out my other posts:

Myths and Legends and Lore

Pseudopod

The NoSleep Podcast

 

 

Myths and Legends and Lore

Myths and Legends is a podcast that tells the actual tales behind the renowned stories in a modernized way.

This show brings you folklore that has constructed our world. Some are incredibly famous stories you think you know, but with shocking beginnings. Others are stories that might be unheard of, but are definitely worth listening to.

These are stories from a time when the world exceeding the map was an unpredictable, marvelous and a scary place.

Jason Weiser, the host tells us stories from myths, legends, and folklore that have molded the way of life throughout history.


Lore which is presented by writer Aaron Mahnke, is a fortnightly podcast about true life eerie stories that explores into the mythology, urban legends and uncanny tales that fill up our history books.

He gives the onlooker accounts and the main source documents that otherwise indicate to the accuracy of the abnormal incidents , setting the ambiance in which the tale was created.

Click the images to go to the podcast websites

mallore

 

 

 

 

 

Check out my other posts:

Pseudopod

C&C Geekcast

The NoSleep Podcast

Harry Strange 

Staying Strange with Lauren Shippen

Cherry pop

The Bright Sessions is a science fiction audio-drama that follows therapist Dr Bright and her gifted young patients. As if listening to other people’s problems isn’t stressful enough, Dr Bright specialises in patients with supernatural abilities. The show is written and directed by Lauren Shippen.  

Before ‚ÄėThe Bright Sessions‚Äô was in operation you used to run a radio show in college, what was that show like?

It was a pretty straight-forward music show. For two hours every Wednesday morning, I would play music and talk about it. Sometimes I would dedicate the whole show (or an hour segment) to one artist or genre and sometimes it would just be a grab-bag of things. I would usually try to talk about the artist’s history a bit, what their concerts are like if I had been to one, maybe dig into some musicology if I felt like it. I can’t say…

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Pseudopod

For those of you who don’t know, Pseudopod is a horror fiction podcast. Every week they post a new story to their site, usually somewhere between 20 and 45 minutes long and usually between 2000 and 6000 words in length. It also irregularly releases shorter flash fiction pieces and movie reviews. It’s free to download, and you can share it with whoever you want as long as you don’t alter it or sell it.

Despite the catchphrase at the top of the page that precedes each episode, the stories are fictional. The readings are sometimes read by the editors, and other times performed by professional voice actors. The stories themselves vary from subtly disquieting to gruesomely horrifying and are frequently NSFW.

This podcast was launched on 11 August 2006 and is a part of Escape Artists, Inc. which also podcasts Escape Pod, Cast of Wonders, Mothership Zeta and PodCastle. This podcast is currently co-edited by Shawn M. Garrett and Alex Hofelich and hosted by Alasdair Stuart.

Click on the image for more information

psp

Check out my other posts:

The NoSleep Podcast

The Saga Of The European King

C&C Geekcast

The Night Time Podcast

 

Check out my interviews:

My Liberty Interview

My Mirth Defect Interview

The NoSleep Podcast

This podcast is a multi-award-winning compilation of original horror stories, with rich atmospheric music to elevate the frightening tales.

It all began when someone suggested doing a podcast where some of the top stories from Nosleep would be narrated in the form of an audiobook each episode. The feedback was very clear and positive and over the next few months a small group of members endeavored to put together what would come to be known as The Nosleep Podcast and on June 13th, 2011 Episode 1 was released.

This podcast took on David Cummings as the host and producer while the amaxing Cincinatti Swoosh, (aka Brandon Boone) is responsible for all of the shows music from season 5 onwards. His work can be found on his website. The music for NoSleep can be found on his Bandcamp and on Patreon.

The podcast has been very approved of from the introduction of this podcast. The number of regular listeners has grown steadily through listeners telling their friends and so on.

This podcast is currently near the end of it’s eighth season and there are 25 episdoes per season with the free version being a bit more than an hour and the season pass episodes being 2 hours or more.

TNSP

The Official Website 

Check out my other posts:

The Saga Of The European King

C&C Geekcast

The Night Time Podcast

The Moonlit Road

 

My Mirth Defect Interview

 

 

If you’ve not heard of¬†Mirth Defect, this¬†is a comedy that doesn’t follow the normal stereotypes, ¬†has innovative drama and an original music radio show, which is released once a month.

What is the origin of Mirth Defect?

I wanted to do a show. I knew that for sure. I’d been mulling over lots of different ideas both factual and fictional for about 6 months. I love producing drama and writing dialogue and it didn’t take me long to settle on the fact I wanted to make something that contained fully produced scenes with multiple cast members.

I am quite privileged to live in London and have creative people around me and the space to record. I also find it quite hard to get into audio drama that’s just a narrator, or a narrator pretending to be a journalist. I always want to make fully produced scenes using actors where possible.

At the same time as that I wanted the freedom to experiment and do something new if I so wished, and I’ve been writing sketches for a long time. Really the format for MD was born out of a desire to have as much freedom as possible to experiment.

One of the things I love about making the show is creating new soundscapes every month. In the most recent episode it was a factory full of monkeys typing as two guys walk through and enter an office. Next month we are doing a space ship crashing and an operating theatre.

The origin in a simple sentence is my desire to experiment and create incidents on a regular basis.

Why did you start Mirth Defect?

Also a big factor in the stuff I write is to expand the field of what sort of drama is out there. On Mirth Defect we have killed children on christmas eve. The Rich Parents Poor Kids segment is basically two parents twisting their children up. I wanted to make something that sounds amazing but is different to anything out there. The sketch shows I hear tend to be a little flat, so making something that is involving was really important.

As the season has gone on the stuff I’ve written, which just sort of comes out in dreams, or quick moments, has seemed to tie in with whats going on in the world. The last sketch of the pilot was real dream, my girlfriend had about her being in a limo and Donald Trump, that was written in June 2016. Since then world events have sort of filtered in in an abstract way.

Having said that there isn’t really a message. The things going on worldwide have an impact somewhere, we’ve touched on misogyny as well as brexit and materialism, but i couldn’t tell you what my point is, that’s up to the listener I think.

How did you create the team for Mirth Defect?

In terms of the team, I write about 99% of the scripts and produce and edit everything myself. I have a pool of around 5 actors that are available and up for being weird once a month and resonance fm let us us a studio to record which is invaluable.

A friend of mine Gareth Marsh has produced hundreds of pieces of bass music that he lets me sift through too, so you will never hear the same piece twice throughout the season.

A great musician called Alabastar De Plume also gives us music which adds a little light and breaks the show up nicely.

md

Check out My Liberty Interview