Image credit Doug Frerichs
Audio drama is largely a medium of big, high-concept genres. There’s no shortage of science fiction, horror, or even fantasy as of late–but shockingly, there is a shortage of realistic fiction. It’s not often an audio drama focuses on people in the real world having conversations. GOSSIP plans to turn this trend on its head, bringing the listener high drama in the form of its soap opera-esque writing instead of its genre.
I was able to ask Raskin about GOSSIP, podcasts, and some gossip of her own.
What was your inspiration for writing GOSSIP?
It took me a long time to realize it, but I LOVE primetime soap operas. I can’t get enough of the over-the-top drama mixed with tongue and cheek humor. So when I decided to create a scripted podcast it made sense to write it in that genre because it’s what I like to consume. Also, it’s just fun! And fun is important from what I’ve heard.
Were there any other podcasts (fiction or otherwise) that inspired you to write for audio?
I plowed through pretty much every big fictional podcast out there (Limetown, Homecoming, The Message, LifeAfter…) in preparation for the show. But I had actually never listened to any of them before coming up with the idea. I had a lot of catching up to do. Luckily there was time between pitching and writing to figure out what the hell I was doing.
How was writing for audio differed from writing narrative fiction or for video?
I never realized the importance of reaction shots until now, especially in comedy. When you shoot something, you can just throw in a reaction to help with pacing or get a laugh. That was not possible here. It was something I struggled to figure out in the edit. The other big difference if making sure the listener can easily follow the story and characters, which is harder than it sounds. Every episode, the characters have to say each other’s names just so people know who is talking! It’s not always the most natural but it’s necessary.
In discussing the boom of the podcast industry, people often draw parallels to the progression of YouTube. How do you think the two industries are alike and different?
I think the biggest similarity is a low barrier for entry. It’s actually plausible for one or two people to start a YouTube channel or podcast on their own with very little funding. That is sort of the jumping off point. After that, it’s all what you can do with the medium and we’ve seen some really creative stuff on both platforms. Ultimately, podcasting has lower production costs (no cameras, locations, wardrobe..), so as a storyteller it excites me what I’m still able to accomplish with less resources. Another big difference is no one would give me a 12 episode show on YouTube….
GOSSIP is a narrative comedic soap opera—something new in the world of audio drama, but classic in terms of TV. How do you think the two mediums differ, other than just the lack of visuals?
I actually don’t think they differ that much. You still need all the important stuff (great characters, funny dialogue, a story engine). I think the biggest difference might be the ability to let scenes breath and have your characters stay in one place. A lot of this show is three women sitting at a table. I think the same scenes would need to be cut down for TV since they’re not “doing anything.” But it was a delight to just focus on dialogue and character development. I don’t know about you, but I spend a lot of time sitting with my friends not “doing anything.”
So much of audio drama is rooted in larger-than-life genre fiction—currently, the medium is filled with sci-fi, horror, etc. Right now, realistic fiction is a rarity, and something listeners have been wanting more of. Why do you think there’s so little realistic fiction in audio drama right now?
I think there is this misconception that people won’t continuing listening if there isn’t some big mystery to solve. I definitely felt worried that these episodes don’t always end with a cliffhanger. But I purposely set out to make a show where the listening experience itself is enjoyable, moment to moment. It’s not all racing toward some final reveal or episode. I kind of wanted to prove that if you write likable, engaging characters they themselves are enough incentive for people to come back week to week. (This theory has yet to be proven obviously. It could all blow up in my face.)
Are Golden Acres or characters in GOSSIP based on things from your life?
No comment. (Of course!)
What was the casting process like for GOSSIP? Did you write with specific actors in mind?
Yes and no. I definitely had some pipe dreams (who all passed on our offers) but for the most part I cast a lot of my friends. Or people I have secretly wanted to be my friends. (I basically just make stuff so I can have friends.) We had a few key roles that were cast based on submitted auditions including Amanda Perez, who plays Mia. Our amazing casting director sent a few different tapes over, but as soon as I heard Amanda I was like “Oh, she gets it. She’s sassy!” And she turned out to be wonderful in person so that was a real win for me!
GOSSIP is centered on a friendship between three women, all of whom are very different but have such a realistic, comfortable dynamic. Do you have any advice for new audio drama writers who want to make sure their dialogue sounds authentic?
Say your dialogue out loud while you’re writing. I’m always mumbling certain sentences to myself to make sure they sound realistic. Try to write the way people actually talk. And if your actor is struggling over something either due to pronunciation or wording, just rewrite it. Or even better, have them rewrite it so it sounds natural.
What podcasts are you listening to right now?
Finally making my way through Crimetown. Eagerly awaiting season two of Limetown.
In execution, GOSSIP feels akin to Sex and the City for audio: it’s a group of female friends talking about the people in their town, and the podcasts tagline, “With rumors so juicy, who cares if they’re true?” rings true. I was able to listen to the first four episodes of GOSSIP for review and found myself laughing out loud and totally wrapped up in the drama.
I do have a criticism of the show so far, though: early on, an episode deals with a rumor about someone being in a polyamorous relationship, and the four friends seem appalled. Initially, I thought this was a critique of those who dish out judgment for polyam people–the point here being that these women are quick to judgment, often letting their excitement for drama outweighing their empathy. On second listen, though, I’m not sure, which makes me worried about what this podcast is trying to say in this episode. It would be disappointing for a show that deals in quick judgments to defy its purpose in such a way.
You can find GOSSIP on their website or on any podcatcher. The first episode was released today, June 14th.