Thursday, February 05, 2009

The Reading

We held "the reading" of my radio play last night round at the home of some friends. Some Act-or friends. And we took another Ac-tor friend with us. And three copies of the script. And me with my laptop open at the relevant page, doing the sound effects and stage directions as and when.

It cantered along pretty nicely. The reading had the desired effect of pointing up areas of dialogue that didn't really work, or were out of character. Much more of the latter than the former, to be honest. That's because when I'm writing I run the conversation in my head while my fingers play the part of scribe. So the content is usually OK in terms of realism, because it is a real conversation going on in my head. The only slight problem is, all the characters end up sounding like me. Because it is me, holding the conversation with myself.

So then I go over the dialogue again, many times, changing the words around until they sound more like the people they're supposed to be. Only when we read it out the bits I'd missed, or where I'd not done this well enough, stuck out like a forest of sore thumbs. 17-year-old street kids don't use words like "palatial" for instance. Some more work to do there, then.

But overall not as much as I'd thought, and the reaction of the audience was uniformly positive - Jamie even enthusing "it's GREAT!" - which gave me a bit of a buzz.

Unfortunately, there is one huge problem. It's way too long. Even allowing for the fact that it was a cold read, so the actors weren't as familiar with the text as they would be if they'd had several rehearsals, the sound effects were "serial" rather than "embedded" behind the dialogue, and there were many over-long pauses, even with all that it still doesn't alter the fact that this is a script aiming for a 44-minute slot, and the first reading went to an hour and twenty minutes. Almost twice as long as it should be. I'm going to have to cut it by around a third, I reckon, to make it anywhere near the right length when it's performed for real.

In some areas what I need to do is obvious. There are entire scenes that can be cut without losing the thread of the narrative (some, indeed, that I added in earlier when I thought it was running short!). There are also several instances of verbose exposition (my internal conversations do tend to be a bit wordy most of the time) when far fewer words would be better. So I'll do all that and see what I'm left with. It's 57 pages at the moment, and after last night's experience I think it should be no more than 40. Which, ironically, brings us almost back to the old rule of thumb that a page of script runs for about a minute.

Interestingly, one observation that came up last night was that since it ran for 80 minutes with almost no pauses, it probably wouldn't take much to turn it from a radio drama to a 90-minute TV drama. Even if I get nowhere through the ABBA route, there might still be life in the old dog. For now though, it's back to the rewriting. Three weeks to go!


Blythe said...


I think there would have to be more characters for a TV drama, don't you think =S?

Good luck x)

Tvor said...

That's going to be quite an editing job! Good luck!