The modern podcast landscape has allowed for incredible creative projects, such as true crime analysis and media trope discussion. However, one particular genre that is often overlooked is audio dramas. The very idea hearkens back to the classic radio dramas, such as the infamous Orson Welles performance of “War of the Worlds.”
Decades later, this style has evolved into the modern age, as evidenced by Scyther Podcasts. Founded by Karl Dutton, Scyther Podcasts is a podcasting network with a focus on pop culture audio dramas. Between X-Men: The Audio Drama, Power Rangers: The Audio Drama, and the Batman: The Long Halloween mini-series, Dutton has shown time and time again how to combine enticing action stories with the theatre of the mind. In this exclusive interview, the audio drama creator discusses the production process for his numerous series.
Innovation & Tech Today: What inspired you to enter the world of audio dramas?
Karl Dutton: Honestly? Budget. The fact that I wanted to do these super high-concept sci-fi works but didn’t have the means to do so. I didn’t want to compromise what I had in my head like I had on film works in the past. With audio dramas, the only limitation is the audio quality and the acting. If I can create the image in your mind well enough, I can make you see the movie I want to make instead of the movie I can make. Like a book, but with audio instead of written words.
I&T Today: Tell me the process for starting each episode of your audio dramas.
KD: The script. I write each episode first on my screenwriting software, then I proofread it and send it to the actors. I tend to proofread and do rewrites at the same time. When I am adapting something the original tends to be what I consider the first draft. Sometimes I rewrite an episode over and over (usually the first episode of a series), but less so after I find the characters and story I want to tell. I find the script flows out of theme much easier from episode two onwards.
I&T Today: How long does production generally take?
KD: That depends on the other members of the team. Most are working professional voice actors, and the rest are aspiring to be so. So taking time away from doing work that allows them to make a living to do my stuff for nothing, that is all down to their schedules.
As far as editing? One to two weeks depending on how much I am working at my day job at the time. I used to be able to knock an episode out in 2 days. Back before I worked full time, haha.
I&T Today: You’ve worked with a large team of voice actors for your various shows. How did you find these talented people?
KD: Originally it was on a site called Casting Call Pro (that has since become Mandy.com), then the Voice Actors Alliance forum and Facebook group. As my network grew, I also found people through other actors I’d worked with.
I&T Today: What recent episodes of your audio dramas have you been particularly proud of?
KD: The Dark Phoenix mini-series is turning out really great. The acting is firing on all cylinders, Declan’s music has been incredible. And I’m adapting the classic. One that Hollywood keeps messing up! Just hearing it all come together has been so much fun. But by the same token I am really enjoying Power Rangers.
X-Men is more like what I did on Batman: The Long Halloween at this point. The overall plots and many of the scenes, sometimes word for word, are all Chris Claremont. Simply because I don’t think I can improve on what he did. And his narration sounds great when read by Sam Devereaux (all those big words!).
But Rangers is more like what I did with X-Men Season one, where I take a decent story with silly execution that was meant for children and add some verisimilitude. Make it make sense. Not only within itself, but also with what came after. I get to bring Power Rangers up to the same level as Marvel or DC. Next season on Rangers, I get to really go off the rails from the original MMPR show, bringing in some more of the Sentai influence. Really looking forward to that.
I&T Today: If you were to launch a new audio drama, what would you make the subject matter?
KD: I would go back to my ideas for original works. I’d be able to own them, monetize them, and begin to make this a job rather than a hobby. But how I do that without losing my audience and keep the series I already have coming out on a regular schedule? That is another matter.
I&T Today: Are there other audio dramas you recommend?
KD: I really like the works of Graphic Audio. Those inspired me, helped me decide on how I was going to make my series sound. They have done several Marvel storylines and are always great. Plus they are officially licensed, unlike yours truly.