Robot Wrangling

It's Never To Late... To Learn To Read

In April we sponsored the Tasmanian Writers Festival by recording, editing podcasts of their seminars. It something we do for Supanova (www.supanova.com.au) and have done for other festivals and conferences around the country. This time we where asked to professionally record 21 short stories (3000 words or less) for the National Year of Reading 2012. 

I proposed that we use local actors to give each story a different voice and feel. Initially there was talk about getting some big name Australian actors in, but due to time and budget we where given free reign to cast within the budget I submitted for the job. Personally this was great as this project showcases both published and unpublished authors, so doing the same with actors was something that we really wanted to do.

Casting 21 actors was a challenge, add to the fact that most the stories where from a female perspective, the challenge increased. The age range of the actors ranges from 17 to somewhere mid 60’s (we think without asking). We asked a lot of some of the actors, especially the ones that have never done this sort of recording before. 

The one story that made us stop and really think about how to do it was When English Made My Future Better by Faten Chendeb. This story is first person perspective with basic English which in the context of the story makes total sense but read incorrectly could come off a little insulting. Adding to that was the initial requirement that it should eb read in a Lebanese accent by a middle aged woman, this was almost an impossible task to cast in Tasmania. Almost three weeks went by trying to find the right person to read the story and we even thought about flying to Melbourne to get either the author or another person of Lebanese heritage to read it. In the end we asked if we could do the read straight, no accent, no acting and put a forward on the front of it explaining why the story is read the way it is. This is what we did in the end. It offseted may issues that foresaw and wanted to make sure that the story was included in the recordings.

Three and a half weeks of getting actors into our studio in between doing other jobs. The biggest issue in the end was the traffic noise. While our studio has a moderate amount of sound proofing, any car/bus/bike that was particularly loud would come through the recordings. So starts and stops happened and it is amazing to realise how many people have stupidly noisy vehicles. Buses we can understand, but all the bikes and cars is totally uncalled for.

The microphone we used for the recording was a Rode NTA-2. Amazing depth this mic gave to the preferences, but it also picked up some of the actors sibilances and other sounds. As most actors having been in the sort of recording situation before some got very self conscience of their breathing and other sounds their body made. In the future we will give a basic handout on preparing for recording to avoid some of these issues in the future. There is nothing like removing stomach rumbles and lip smacks from a recording to ruin your workflow.

In the end we think the project came out really well. It was on time and on budget. It gives more local actors a national presence and another piece for their resumes. It gave us an opportunity to give our new equipment a whirl and produce something that will be used in teach aids and enjoyment for years to come.

Stories - Actor List

  • The Beauline - Patsy Marshell
  • Camels in Morocco - Stephanie Briarwood
  • For Lucy - Carrie Maclean
  • Grandad’s Garden - Elise Manian
  • Happy New Year - Daniel Speed
  • I is for You - Rebecca Nilsson
  • Letters - Cheyne Mitchell
  • Letters & Lufstories - Nicola Pett
  • The Miracle Canendar - Sophie Hart
  • My Neighbour’s Screen Door - Ray Sangston
  • A Reason for Reading - Kieran Phillips
  • Refuting the White Rabbit - Michael Edgar
  • Road House - David Quinn
  • The Sleeping Beauty - Jane Johnson
  • Strangers in Fiction - Bec Reedman
  • Taking Leaves - Amanda Phillips
  • A Time For Many Words - Jennifer Lyons
  • Tin of Secrets - Stuart Loone
  • The War Gift - Chris Jackson
  • When English Made My Future Better - Jane Johnson
  • A Written History - Rachael Williams

All these stories are available to listen online or download as a free PDF at www.love2read.org.au/never-too-late.cfm