The 2018 New York Festivals Radio Awards celebrated the World’s Best Radio Programs on June 19th in New York City. Prominent award-winning, producers, directors, presenters and content creators from around the globe took to the stage to accept their trophies and celebrate their success. NYF’s Radio Awards shines the spotlight on exceptional radio content in all lengths and formats and across all platforms from radio stations, networks and independent producers.
Director/Producer Simon Barnard of the UK’s Bafflegab Productions earned the 2018 New York Festivals Gold Trophy for Best Drama Special for “Blood on Satan’s Claw” for Audible UK. After Simon first recorded the production, it was picked up by Audible UK to release under their ‘Audible Originals’ banner, for worldwide distribution. He has produced documentaries for BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio 2 and BBC Radio 1; music shows for BBC Radio 1 and BBC 6Music; and won three Sony Awards, including Gold in 2005 for the John Peel tribute documentary Teenage Dreams So Hard to Beat.
Simon Barnard: Blood on Satan’s Claw was originally a British horror film from the early 1970s (hence the schlocky title), largely ignored upon release but one whose reputation has steadily grown over the years. It’s a story of demonic goings on in a small English village in the 17th century, and it possesses a strange, hard to define atmosphere that sets it apart from other films made at that time. On the flip-side, it was originally a portmanteau film, so three separate stories, that at the last minute were compiled into one long movie. Bits of the story don’t make sense, and characters disappear for no reason. So the reasons for remaking it were twofold: we wanted to see if we could replicate that weird atmosphere using the audio medium, and we felt there was some room for improvement in the story line, ironing out some of the things that didn’t make sense.
NYF: What creative challenges did you encounter when producing and how did you solve those challenges?
Simon Barnard: The main creative challenge was turning something that was very visual, something whose very reputation rested upon its visual depiction of a rural, strange and very muddy-looking England, into audio. But I’ve always believed that audio is the perfect medium for horror, or ghost stories. It’s a very personal medium, and you’re right there in the listener’s ears, in their head. You can make them jump, make them uneasy, make them scared. So it was important to get the rural atmosphere right: there were lots of crows, much wind and rain, creaky timbered houses, squelchy mud… we wanted it to sound as grim and authentic as possible. And then the music added a sense of creeping unease… and bloodcurdling horror!
NYF: To what do you attribute the success of this program?
Simon Barnard: I imagine it was a combination of things… the sound design and music (by Simon Robinson and Edwin Sykes) were really strong; we had an amazing cast, including Mark Gatiss (Sherlock), Reece Shearsmith (Inside No 9) and Linda Hayden, from the original film; and of course it all hung on the brilliance of the script, by horror author Mark Morris. There are only a few lines from the original film that still remain, but it’s still a really respectful adaptation that plays to the strengths of the audio medium. We get to know a bit more about the characters (the audio is about an hour longer than the original film), and Mark lays on the atmosphere with a trowel. Having said all that, I really didn’t think we’d win!
NYF: What was your ultimate goal for the program?
Simon Barnard: Blood on Satan’s Claw is a very odd little story, and the film is known only in horror film aficionado circles, so we only really made it in the hope that fans of the original film would be interested. But casting Mark Gatiss and Reece Shearsmith made all the difference. After the first day of recording, we posted a few photos on Facebook, and shortly after heard from Audible Studios, who were interested in acquiring it. It was subsequently released under the Audible Originals banner, and reached a far wider audience than we could ever have hoped for. And to have the NYF Radio Award judges recognize it was the cherry on the cake – obscure genre pieces don’t tend to win awards.
NYF: Where do you see focusing your creative talents next…what’s on the horizon?
Simon Barnard: We’ve been commissioned by Audible Studios to make some more spooky audio dramas! I’m not allowed to say what they are yet, but we’ve started production and they should be appearing as Audible Originals just before Christmas.