More Than Zero Followers: Part 2

I recently saw a number that made my jaw drop: 516. That was the reported number of people who subscribed to Brotherhood at the end of January when Timothy and I went on hiatus. That number has gone down since then, probably because we went on hiatus, to a meager 249. That is still much higher than what I was expecting to see when I checked the numbers just a few moments ago, and it's way more than what Talk of the Tome ever saw. 

It is also an outrageously large number for a podcast that I have made zero attempts to promote. Upon seeing that number I was shocked, then embarrassed, then curious all in a matter of minutes. Who are these people? Are they even real? Podcast analytics are notoriously inaccurate and difficult to understand so it's possible that most of them aren't. Still, 516 is a big number even for bots. As someone who is trying to make a living as a content creator, big numbers are important. What does that big number really mean and who or what is really subscribing to my podcast?

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Film Scores Are Different

Film scoring feels a lot like swimming with shoes on. I like shoes. I need shoes. They make it easier for me to walk and run and do all sorts of fun things. Shoes are great. Swimming with shoes is not so great.

The shoes in this instance are the habits I've developed over roughly 15 years of songwriting. When writing a song, the hardest part is almost always the beginning. Once I know the chord progression and overall structure, the writing process becomes a fairly simple mathematical exercise. Writing that way helped me compose over 100 songs just during my busy days in high school. 

But film scores are different. Every time I jump into a scoring session I intuitively assume that if I can figure out the chord structure of the first few beats, then I'll be able to extrapolate the rest of the cue and still be home in time for dinner. You just can't do that with a score. For one thing, where songs are typically organized into sections like ABA and ABAB, scores don't -- and indeed can't -- have any rigidly defined structure. That's because narratives, the indulgent and rhapsodic beatniks that scores are meant to accompany, aren't structured into neatly timed units of bars, measures, and beats. Instead, a beat in a narrative is given the freedom of lasting anywhere from a second on to the end of eternity. Ultimately, whether we like it or not, the score must be subservient to the timing and rhythm of the narrative. 

The principle holds the same for radio-plays which is why I'm writing this now. 

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More Than Zero Followers: Part 1

I love Twitter. And yet for the past five years, despite having an active account with plenty of clever things to say, I have had roughly the same number of active Twitter followers from the very beginning: zero. I don't want to sound ungrateful, but generally one expects social media to feel less isolated and more, heaven forbid, social.

Thankfully, I have data to help me understand why my Tweets have fallen on deaf ears. Whether it's an accident on Twitter's part or not, I've been receiving engagement analytics for each of my Tweets, and now that I've been collecting this data since December I thought I'd extrapolate some patterns that might be useful in rethinking how I use Twitter. You may also find something helpful in my observations.

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The Final Stretch

Some cool developments for Elda's Song, including a rough draft and some new features for the app I've been using to write the show.

Pilot Draft

I'm producing a three minute pilot -- the sort of thing you'd expect to find in the middle of episode 12. Here's an incredibly rough draft that I threw together with temp SFX and a tiny music cue:

I'm not particularly happy with it, but that's not really the point. It's a pilot. I could waste a lot of time trying to make a perfect first episode (which I did) but it's going to be replaced once I write the rest of the season. The goal isn't perfection, it's to demonstrate the KIND of show I'm going to produce.

What I want to know: what other shows (radio-play or not) does this remind you of?

An overwritten cue for during the the narrator's monologue. I stripped down version appears during the rough draft. I like it, but I'm not sure if it's going to have the effect I want.

What I want to know: How would you describe the tone of this cue?

Writing Software

There really aren't any good software tools for writing radio plays. You can use screenwriting software, but screenwriting software is just awful and the standard screenplay format is frustratingly arcane. So I decided to make something good and use that instead.

The second screenshot shows the script for the pilot, which I wrote entirely in-app. I love using this software because it has a fully dynamic autocomplete engine, which makes writing dialogue so much nicer. I also have it set to notify me when I've met my daily word count goal* by filling in the word counter with a solid blue.

* Progress towards that goal is measured incrementally rather than by total difference. You could type 500 words, delete all 500 of them, and the word counter would still remember that you typed 500 words. I plan to add the ability to measure total difference later.

Directors' Notes On Sir Peter Jackson

Here begins a series which I hope to continue in the future, in which I take notes on an interview with a well-known director and compile them into a list of musings on film and the creative process. To start with, here are the notes I took from an interview with Sir Peter Jackson just after the DVD release of Battle of Five Armies. It's one of those laid back interviews were even the harder-hitting questions received interesting and insightful answers, so if you have an hour I definitely recommend listening in its entirety.

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A Pilot Two-Parter

After receiving initial feedback that the tone of the series was unclear in the existing pilot, the first episode is now being split into two episodes.

In the Beginning: Part 1

This is a prologue episode describing how the universe was formed, how it was all nearly consumed by Kel the Devourer (à la Fenrir in Ragnarök, but in a creation myth instead of an apocalypse), how he was split in half by the goddess of thunder, Illya, and how Earth was made to stand between those two halves, each of which live on imprisoned in the sun and the moon. 

The challenge of an episode like this is in communicating the unique cosmology of this universe -- geo-centric with star gods -- without ever getting too dense or too flighty. As you can imagine, this is the kind of storytelling that can easily get way out of hand. After reviewing a recent draft of the script in which I tried to explain how Devourers came into being, someone remarked that they sounded a rather lot like the Green Lantern Corp. Yikes! Not an association I was hoping to form. This is a fantasy epic, after all, not a sci-fi superhero serial!

And that was in the abridged version.

I almost don't even want to include this prologue (how many times have we had to sit through a prologue that the story didn't clearly didn't need to get going), but because Elda is a star and because Devourers figure so prominently in the show, I think it's important to establish these details early on so that those revelations don't leave the audience asking "How?"

In the Beginning: Part 2

This episode follows Elda as she crash lands into the Old Wood and tries to fix her flying machine.

You can read the script here.

Software Tools for Story Development

A year ago I developed an iOS app for WYSIWYG screenwriting and storyboarding that I dubbed Fountain Pen -- by virtue of it using the Fountain markup language. Now that I'm working on a radio play, it seemed like an obvious opportunity to build on top of what was already accomplished and expand what Fountain Pen can already do.

The result is a temporarily rebranded Draugr. It uses a little TextKit magic and the updated Dropbox API to automatically format and save plain text files using a simple syntax based on the BBC style outlined here.

The stupidly flexible syntax works like this:

  1. Dialogue is marked by the name of the character in all caps followed by a colon, such as in "JOHN: This is my line of dialogue."
  2. Cues for things like effects and transitions are also marked in all caps followed by a colon, as in "AUDIO FX: Rain pours down." and "CUT TO:".
  3. Scenes are marked as "Scene #", acts are marked as "Act #", and endings are marked simply "The End".
  4. All other lines are presumed description.

Margins and tab stops are then automatically formatted based on the above syntax.

Current outstanding issues include local file storage (Draugr currently operates entirely on the cloud), keyboard management, some stray dispatch related bugs, and options for exporting to either rich text or pdf.