In this article I want to talk about Radio Drama, a genre in the world of radio that is making a comeback after decades. With the rise of podcasts and digital media, radio drama has found, perhaps, a definitive space in the modern world. For this reason I interviewed to Daniel Hancock, where we talked a little about his work on End of Darkeness, a Radio Drama about Jesus Christ. And I want to talk a little about how to take recurring topics in the narrative, re-organize its structures, and choosing a different type of art resource (like radio!) to show something new.
"Radio drama (or audio drama, audio play, radio play, radio theatre, or audio theatre) is a dramatised, purely acoustic performance. With no visual component, radio drama depends on dialogue, music and sound effects to help the listener imagine the characters and story: "It is auditory in the physical dimension but equally powerful as a visual force in the psychological dimension." Radio drama includes plays specifically written for radio, docudrama, dramatized works of fiction, as well as plays originally written for the theatre, including musical theatre and opera.
Radio drama achieved widespread popularity within a decade of its initial development in the 1920s. By the 1940s, it was a leading international popular entertainment. With the advent of television in the 1950s radio drama began losing its audience. However, it remains popular in much of the world."
Daniel Hancock is a director, playwright, and screenwriter specializing in dramatic adventures and imaginative adaptations. He is the founder and director of Bible Actors Productions and creator of the full cast audio drama, END OF DARKNESS.
I met Daniel from the filmmaker communities that exist on Facebook, I was struck by the seriousness and simplicity that this young American producer reflects. Very open to listen, also to share. When we started talking, it was because of projects we have in common, and that's how I got to know his latest work, End of Darkness.
Talking to my wife about a movie (Demain Tout Commence) I had watched with my little Alice I couldn't stop thinking about Daniel's work ...
Demain Tout Commence??
Wait a minute! I want to tell you about this French film from 2016, I know there are many examples, but since this film was the last one I watched before writing this article, I would like to use it as a reference for what I want to tell you.
In A Family of Two, Samuel (Omar Sy) was never want to have too many responsibilities. Leading a peaceful life with the people he loves on the south coast of France, he sees everything change with the unexpected arrival of a baby of a few months named Glória (Gloria Colston), his daughter. Unable to care for the child, he runs to London to find a birth mother(Clémence Poésy), but unsuccessfully decides to raise her alone. Eight years later, when Samuel and Gloria become inseparable, the mother returns to retrieve the girl...
I was just paused to give them the context of this wonderful French film, I could, at another moment, write an article about what I think about. But today we are talking about Daniel Hancock, and why I relate this French work with End of darkness
In A Family of Two, we could see just another drama film about a dad taking care of hir little girl, after all, we are talking about a genre that was not invented yesterday! But, interesting is the way in which this story has been told. The director decided to change the order of some elements in the narrative, to cheat the viewer from the beginning. This way generate the idea that we are appreciating a unique and different story. When at the end, it's all about taking the same old stuff, re-organizing it, and transforming it into something different... again!
End of darkness, the art of simple things
"Jesus of Nazareth recruits an unlikely group of disciples to join him in confronting spiritual darkness and launching the kingdom of God on earth. But hopes are shattered when he is falsely tried and executed. Will light yet shine in the darkness?"
There it is! the story of Jesus condensed into a synopsis! But... what would happen if we look at that same story from another perspective, while using a media that today remains in the shadow of cinema and the TV?
What would happen if we build a cinematographic universe but with radio waves? Would you like to close your eyes and travel back in time with your imagination, to the days of Jesus? in a beautifully written story?
Ok... well... this is End of Darkness, and in fact Daniel Hancock creates this illusion on radio drama!:
Faithful to the Biblical text and dedicated to excellence in storytelling, the Bible Actors deliver a bold rendition of the Gospel narrative. With a full cast of 50 voice actors, immersive sound effects, an original score, and unforgettable performances, END OF DARKNESS is a powerful, one-of-a-kind dramatic experience you don’t want to miss!
- Daniel, what led you to dedicate yourself to writing?
I’ve always loved stories. I was profoundly influenced by books and movies as a kid. I came to view storytelling as an excellent way to help people understand life and God and to experience beauty and truth in new and exciting ways.
- Speaking of books and references, if you had to choose a literary work and a cinematographic one, which ones would you choose and how did they influence your desire to write?
I grew up living the classic Disney cartoons, especially Robin Hood (the one with the fox) and the Great Mouse Detective and others, and I was greatly influenced by The Chronicles of Narnia books and Dicken’s Christmas Carol. I love the movies that came out as I graduated from high school. The Count of Monte Cristo, The Mask of Zorro, A Knight’s Tale, and The Lord of the Rings movies. That era had many excellent films that had a certain sincerity that I feel is sometimes lost on more recent CGI blockbusters. I have attempted to capture the adventurous nature of these stories in my own writing and to create work that is similarly meaningful and encouraging.
- Most of the works you have cited, except the works of JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis, who are Christian writers, the non-Christian works that you have read, tell me, what is the difference between "Christian" fiction and fiction " not Christian?
“Christian fiction”? I imagine some might think of movies produced by Christian individuals or studios. Perhaps a better way to determine that something is “Christian” would be if the message promotes a worldview based in Biblical truths. But I believe that all truth and beauty belong to God. A story that is good, true, and beautiful can be Christian on accident.
- How do you think a writer who puts his own faith first can speak to people from his art? What elements do you need to take into account?
I think art should be an expression of yourself, your beliefs and values, your experiences and the world as it really is. A writer should focus on telling a good story first. A message of faith and the answers to big questions will flow naturally through the creative process.
-Your latest work has to do with the comic book universe, Dominion, by Terminus Media, developed by Dr. Barron R. Bell. What is it about? Do you think this work brings something different to the genre? Dr. Barron manages to create impressive worthy scenes, how did your work as a co-writer contribute to building the world of Dominion?
I am thrilled to be a part of Dominion and to work with Dr. Bell on developing the world and characters. On Chapter One I worked primarily on the dialogue. I try to be careful to make sure that every word has a purpose and that each piece of dialogue works to reveal character and move the story forward. It’s very detailed work. The difference of one word can change a character’s motivation. Each line plays a part of the larger story. There’s a lot going on under the surface. And in a comic book where space is limited, we have to be must be very economic to convey as much as possible with only few words. We try to bring this kind of attention to detail to all aspects of the creation of Dominion which has resulted in incredible artwork, dynamic characters, and a unique retelling of a biblical text. I’m about where the series is going!
- I know that Dominion is the continuity of your work done in End of darkness, how do you think this project (End of darkness) has prepared you for Dominion?
End of Darkness was a challenging and rewarding project. It involved a dedicated study of the Gospels and careful choices on which scenes to include. End of Darkness is a very character driven piece, there’s the main plot line of Jesus’ life but a lot of attention is given to the disciples and how their friendships with Jesus affected their lives. I think creating End of Darkness has given me good experience in developing the rich characters and interactions you’ll find in the Dominion world. Also, Dominion is another adaption from a Bible story! I think End of Darkness equipped me to help find the balance between biblical accuracy and creative license in the sci-fantasy world of Dominion.
- Talking about End of darkness, what caught my attention is that it is a podcast in the best style of "radio drama", which seems to be making a comeback thanks to the podcast. Why have you decided on this path, of radio drama, of the podcast?
Radio theater was hugely popular in the past because of its unique ability to create a world in the imagination of the listener. And with modern technology it’s easier than ever to listen at work or while commuting, etc. And with widely accessible platforms like Audible and iTunes, audio dramas are able to reach a global audience on a very modest budget.
- Radio Drama or cinema? As a producer, in what order would you put these two options?
I enjoy both! I have more experience in live theater productions. Each medium has its strengths. I am looking forward to working on more film and screenwriting projects in the near future.
- What would you say to a filmmaker if you had to recommend producing a radio drama?
Filmmakers are primarily visual creators, so it can be a challenge to create a coherent and engaging story using only sound. Ironic as it may seem, I recommend holding onto the mantra “show don’t tell” when producing an audio drama. There is still a camera, angles, wide shots and close-ups, in an audio drama. It just takes place in the listeners mind. I used almost no narration for End of Darkness and relied instead on careful pacing, proximity, and sound design to convey settings and exposition. I even feel I can communicate color and lighting to a certain degree. Be creative! The audio medium is limited only by your imagination.
I confess that the first time I heard about Daniel's work with End of Darkness, I was struck by the fact that it is a radio drama. And I am sure that as a writer and producer, we`ll still see many works by this young artist. In the meantime, I hope this little interview can inspire other filmmakers to search into the airwaves for an alternative to telling memorable stories.