Tips: directing radio drama

Peter Leslie Wild is an experienced radio drama director who has spent many years recording plays for BBC Radio 3 and 4. These are his tips for recording successful radio drama.

Get the script right
A good script is the bedrock of any drama. Peter advises that it’s only by drafting and re-drafting the script that you give yourself the best chance of success. A script that isn’t quite right will cause you problems through the recording and the edit. It’s vital to commit enough time to it in pre production so that you’re 100% happy.

A 30 minute drama will normally be recorded in a day. There is little time for changes or experimentation. Actors need to be briefed ahead of time about their characters and content with what’s expected of them. Technical staff also need to know what the expectations of them are before the recording begins.

As with most broadcasting, studio time is expensive and it’s important to maximise what you can achieve. Key to this is careful planning of the schedule in advance. If a scene is logistically complicated or contains high emotion, it may take more time to record. Knowing this, and scheduling it in ahead of time, means that the recording day will run more smoothly.

"It's about creating the conditions in which people can do their best work." – Peter Leslie Wild

Learn from the people round you
Peter admits that he’s learned a huge amount from his studio managers over the years. These are the people who are hands on with the equipment and bring the drama to life, shaping it with sound effects and atmosphere. Peter uses his SMs as a sounding board during the record and edit, and values their feedback.

Don’t be a dictator
Finally, Peter says directing isn’t about telling people what to do, even though this is the common conception of the role of the director. Instead, it’s about creating a safe environment where people are inspired to produce their best work. He uses the analogy of the director being like being the conductor of an orchestra. The conductor might not know how to play every instrument but he knows how to enable the individual players to work in unison. The radio director does the same with actors.

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