These days we tend to refer to them as "audio drama" as the vast majority of them take place via the internet and podcasting, bypassing the radio entirely. All of the audio dramas Pendant produces have full casts, sound effects, and musical scoring, and have a modern sensibility. (They're like television shows or movies, if you closed your eyes and didn't watch the video feed.)
BD: What is it about the radio drama that you feel appeals most to you and to listeners?
JB: I think it's the most interactive medium for storytelling, as it requires more imagination from the audience than anything else. In a movie, TV show, or stage play, you have sights to go along with the sound. You know what every character looks like, how they dress, their mannerisms... you know what the sets look like, the props, and everything else.
In audio drama all you've got is what you hear, so every character can look exactly how each member of the audience wants them to look. The sets can be as large or as small as they want to imagine. An,d the special effects anyone dreams up in their head will always be superior to anything you can see on screen.
It makes the audience more a part of the production, and it keeps the mind active and engaged while listening. It's not as passive as other mediums. You have to actively participate by constructing the world in your head as you listen if you want to get the most out of it.
Plus, we don't have to worry about huge budgets! A good explosion sound effect isn't going to cost us even 1/1000th of what it would cost to film one.
BD: What is involved in the production of a radio drama, and how long does it generally take to go from concept to air date?
JB: At Pendant we generally work anywhere from 3-4 months ahead of air, ideally. Meaning that if everything's on schedule, as you listen to episode 50 of any of our shows, we've already finished working on 53 or 54 and have moved on to the next one.
From concept to air is a tricky thing to pin down, as a lot of factors come into play between when we might greenlight a show for production and when it actually airs. What is easier to explain, however, is taking a show from script to air.
Before a season of any show starts, the show's writer(s) produce an outline. How specific the outline is depends on the writer, but it at least gives a general idea of each episode and progresses the story through to the season finale.
A script is written based on the first episode of the outline, and sent to editor one week before it's due to cast. The editor responds with their edits, the script is tweaked, and it's sent to the cast (we have a producer who tracks scripts and edits, to be sure all are turned in on time). A preview trailer script is sent to our preview announcer, and a credits script is sent to our credits announcer.
The cast is given one month to record and turn in their lines to our central line repository, where we keep backups in case of hard drive failures and other disasters. The writer gets to work on the script for the second episode.
A month later, the second script goes to cast repeating the same scripting process outlined above. The show's director checks in lines from actors as they come in, and notifies one of our other producers if any actors are late (reads from preview trailer and credit announcers are due on this day as well). Our lines producer chases down the actors and squeezes the lines out of them, and the director begins work on the first episode... cleaning the lines, and assembling them with sound effects and music to make the completed episode.
Another month later, the third script goes to cast and lines from actors for the second script are due, all in the same manner outlined above. At this point, the director turns in the first completed episode (and its preview trailer), and will schedule a commentary recording with the writer.
And then, the process just keeps repeating every month, and that's how one show gets produced. Pendant does that on a revolving basis for ten different shows every month, though we have had a dozen operating at the same time before. A few have since ended, but we have more in various stages of pre-production that we hope to premiere before too long. At any given time we've got 10-12 monthly shows running, in addition to our monthly review show and our weekly news show.
It's a massive undertaking, but we've got a lot of very dedicated and talented people making it all happen.
BD: My Fanboy Comics colleagues and I had the pleasure of attending your panel at Comikaze Expo 2011 and learned that you have staffers all over the world! How does Pendant collaborate with its global constituents when working on a project?
JB: That's the joy of this beast we call the internet; we can all stay in touch on a regular basis. Scheduling commentaries and such with people who have an 8- or 10-hour time difference can be difficult, but we make it work. For the most part our communication is all done via instant messenger and email.
BD: Pendant hosts both original and fan projects. How do you differentiate between the two genres and can you give us a few examples of each type of podcast?
JB: We make it clear on our website which shows are our originals, and which are fan productions.
I think our originals are a bit more diverse in terms of genre, with the fan shows being more in the heart of hardcore geekery. Which is not to say there's anything wrong with that, or that our originals aren't also geektastic! But, I think the fan shows have a bit of a narrower scope of geekery than our original shows do. The originals are where we branch out a bit more.
BD: Do Pendant’s radio dramas fall within a specific genre of entertainment, or do you aim to offer something for everyone?
JB: We try to offer something for everyone. We've got superheroes and sci-fi, but we've also got crime drama and noir. We've got shows rated PG, and shows with hard R ratings for adults only.
We even have an anthology show, in the Twilight Zone tradition, and have done performances of Shakespeare's plays, poems, and sonnets.
It's great when people love all our shows, but, even if they don't, I think we've got a wide enough variety that they, hopefully, love at least one of them!
BD: Do you have a favorite show within the Pendant library? If so, what is it and why?
JB: That's a very dangerous question. I love them all equally and each is very near and dear to me. How's that for a diplomatic dodge?
I'll take the easy out and say "Dixie Stenberg and Brassy Battalion," an homage/spoof to the radio dramas of yesteryear that I created and wrote the entire run of. It's a sci-fi/action/comedy period piece, and just as wacky as it sounds. It was also Pendant's first original show, and since I created it, it has a very special place in my heart.
But, I am very clearly biased!
BD: Being that we focus on all things “geek,” would you care to geek out with us about your favorite TV show, film, book, or comic book?
JB: Ohhh goodness. My favorite TV shows of all time are Seinfeld, for comedy, and The Sopranos for drama. No other show in either category has ever been as well-written, in my opinion, so I geek out hard for them.
As far as books go, it doesn't get much better than The Princess Bride, which segues nicely into movies, because the movie version is damn near perfect. I'm also immensely fond of Cool Hand Luke, Moulin Rouge, Tangled, and Sucker Punch (the latter of which I find to be very often unfairly maligned). I also adore the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.
In comics, my heart belongs to Superman, though please don't mistake that as a statement that I love all Superman comics. In fact, I quite dislike a lot of them, as I find too many creators DC has put on the book don't seem to understand him. For my money, Superman comics don't get any better than Action Comics #775.
BD: Can you give us the inside scoop on any upcoming projects in the works for Pendant? (We promise not to tell!)
JB: We have a show in production and nearly ready to release, codenamed "Project Driftwood." Longtime listeners of our weekly news show will know what the real title of the show is, but we're awaiting a fan license from the author of the books the show is based on, and don't want to be presumptuous. So, we keep referring to it by its codename until we get permission to run the show, or revamp it, and turn it into an original production.
The other show we'll have ready for production soon we're still in search of a director for, but hope to have one lined up in the next few months. It's an original called "Tabula Rasa." It's set in modern day, and is sort of a crime drama with a sci-fi twist of lemon to liven it up.
BD: As the founder and Executive Producer of Pendant, what inspired you to create the group and what is your hope for its future?
JB: In 1995 I started a mailing list for text stories set in the Star Trek universe. Eventually, we got to thinking it would be fantastic if we could do our own actual production, but there was no way we could do it as a video web series with our members all across the globe. But, audio drama didn't have those constraints, so that's what initially got us started.
As I said before, I'm a huge Superman fan, and I'd always enjoyed the old Superman radio dramas from the '40s and '50s, but I wished there was a version with a modern take on the character. While I do enjoy the originals, they were terribly hokey and corny at times, and just not the sort of thing most modern audiences would be interested in. And so I thought... we're doing this with Star Trek, why not with Superman? So, I roped in all my friends and produced the first few episodes and it just took off and grew from there.
I think it would be marvelous if we could turn the corner and move out of the non-profit arena with brand new original shows, but that's a tall order.
BD: What is the most important piece of advice that you can offer to fans who may be interested in creating their own radio dramas?
JB: Practice, practice, practice, and don't give up. It's the same as it is with writing, or singing, or playing an instrument, or painting, or making movies, or any other kind of creative endeavor.
Your first attempts are very likely going to have problems. I know ours did! But persevere. Keep going. Learn from your mistakes and grow, and ask for help or advice if you need it!
BD: Pendant is very generous in welcoming new creators to its fold. In which ways can fans be more involved and how should they go about doing so?
JB: The best way would be to comb through the FAQ section on our website at pendantaudio.com. There's information up there about how to audition for roles, how to submit scripts to our anthology show, how to pitch your own show ideas to us, how to sign up for our mailing list, and a whole lot more. The more people who want to help out, the more we grow and the more shows we can produce.
There's a very direct correlation there, so we've always welcomed new members with open arms. Come join us, and help us make more fantastic shows!
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for Fanboy Comics’ fans to find out more information about Pendant and its shows?
JB: I think I probably covered that in the last question; our website has everything you'll need. You'll find all our shows linked to on the left side of every page of our website, and there's a wealth of information about every show and the group in general.
We also have Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and YouTube accounts that you're more than welcome to follow us on!
BD: Jeffrey, thank you so much for speaking with me about Pendant Productions! On behalf of the Fanboy Comics staff, we very much look forward to everything that Pendant has to offer!