Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Minister of Chance - A Look Behind the Scenes

My faithful readers know how nuts I am about The Minister of Chance, which I’ve been calling alternately an audio series and radio play. I stand corrected. Though it seems a bit of a contradiction in terms, it’s a sonic movie, according to Dan Freeman, it’s writer, producer, director, sound effects wizard, etc.

My favorite characters in The Minister of Chance are The Minister (Julian Wadham) and Kitty (Lauren Crace), though I enjoy the dry humor of Professor Cantha (Jenny Agutter – remember her in Logan’s Run?) and love to hate the Witch Prime (Sylvester McCoy). Kitty, though an ineloquent barmaid (love the cockney!), is determined, fearless and smarter than people think.

In the first episode, The Sezians, a magic-based race have invaded and conquered Kitty’s country of Tanto and outlawed science “own good”. Kitty meets The Minister and embarks on an adventure with him, even going through doors he creates for walking from one world to another. The Sezians “seize” Professor Cantha and force her to help them complete their rocket to protect them against the greater threat that is headed toward Kitty’s world.

As Kitty and The Minister enter the “broken world that has no name”, they see a large group of alien creatures coming their way while looking for The Minister’s friend, The Horseman. When Kitty wonders why they might not be friendly, the minister says, “People rarely round up a gang and run anywhere to perform acts of charity.” The wit keeps coming as well as the tongue-in-cheek humor and puns. Love it!

This fun-packed thrill-ride doesn’t let up in the succeeding episodes. The mysterious Horseman begins killing off Sezians, and Kitty and The Minister have further adventures as things heat up for her world.

Radio static is a small outfit mostly consisting of Dan and Clare. And there’s no payroll. Clare is officially the executive producer. Unofficially, she and Dan are chief cook and bottle washers. Dan’s the creative side while Clare is the organizer. Below is a picture of Dan rehearsing with Jenny Agutter and Beth Goddard (Sunflower - ep 3).

 ©Ian Nolan/ Radio Static 2010-12 
You’d never know it by listening to these phenomenal episodes. I don’t know how Lucasfilm (when it still existed just south of here) or Hollywood could do better. The special audio effects, script and acting are top-notch. Here’s to crowd-funding and humble beginnings – or middles and ends, so long as it reaches the masses.

I interviewed Dan late afternoon on Wednesday – that’s 5:30 AM my time. We had a fantastic chat before I went back to bed in the hopes of catching some zzzzs before interviewing Clare a couple hours later.

The Minister is a character created by Dan some nine or ten years ago for Doctor Who  and was then played by Stephen Fry. Dan and Stephen wanted to give the character a life and a universe of his own, independent of the Doctor Who series, and initially that's what they intended to make together, but when Fry’s surge in popularity put a crimp in his available time, and the commissioning editor at the BBC took so long with it, the two agreed to let it go – at least for Fry’s involvement and the BBC. Dan turned instead to podcasting.

Dan has done voice-over work since he was young because he has the ability to alter his voice a great deal. Over the years, he said, he’s worked up to ever-bigger parts. Here is Dan cutting up with Tamsin Grieg (Sage of the Waves - ep 3).

 ©Ian Nolan/ Radio Static 2010-12
Dan eventually joined forces with Clare Eden, an experienced actor’s agent, whom he met through Dan’s voice-over agent, and together with her knack (or balls?) for approaching talent and Dan’s amazing script, an all-star cast convened. Clare is pictured below with Sylvester McCoy.

 ©Ian Nolan/ Radio Static 2010-12
They do have an ad hoc crew when in production. Jonathon Barnes has worked as script editor for episodes three through five. Chris Mock has been their soundman throughout although Jim Armstrong ran sound on the location days for episode three. Clare pointed out that though they are many times literally working for “a pie and a pint”, they stay on because of the quality of the work, and they are proud to be a part of it.

Clare said they occasionally record at her house, which means she and Dan roll up their sleeves and cook and clean all day. She added that they strive to keep it fun for everyone. She credited their success to their great cast that stays on board, Dan’s excellent scripts and the fun atmosphere and camaraderie.  And Clare said that the audience support has been amazing. Fans are not only giving money to the project, but offering their time and talents to help promote the work.

What will the future hold for The Minister of Chance? CDs might be on the horizon according to Clare and Dan is toying with a visual movie. Episode four will be released soon and episode five only awaits some final editing and mixing.

Clare said she hoped that young people would be plugged into an audio drama on their gadgets that they are already listening to music on. Though CDs are a possibility, it comes with greater budget needs and the cost would be greater to the end user. As it is, when Clare and Dan send thank you merchandise or promotional materials to its supporters around the world, the shipping runs them “six or seven Quid” a pop.

When asked what attracted their superb, talented cast, Clare pointed to Dan’s script first and foremost. The world he has created for the Minister is unique, not just a continuation of the Doctor Who world, but one perfectly suited to this Minister. “Everyone [we asked] pretty much said yes,” she said. They both were independently saying, “We need someone like Julian Wadham,” Clare said. Finally, they up and asked Julian Wadham. For those on this side of the Atlantic not familiar with his work, Wadham has been a staple in Britain, appearing in movies and TV series for more than twenty years.

The Minister of Chance will be the Guests of Honor at the BritSciFi convention at the Space Centre in Leicester, UK on March 9th and 10th, When will they be at a convention near you? Beg your con com to invite them next year and see what happens. Maybe they’ll say yes right off, too.



1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm new to Ann's blog, but a fan of her work. I must say this really has me wanting to find the Minister of Chance episodes and listen.