The June 24th New York Festivals Radio Awards ceremony honored exceptional radio content in all lengths and formats across all platforms. Award-winning, producers, directors, presenters and content creators from around the globe took to the stage to accept their glittering trophies and celebrate their success while toasting their peers with a glass of champagne. Truly a night to remember!
For the next few weeks NYF’s Open Mic will feature interviews with the brilliant women and men behind some of the world’s most compelling programs and provide insights and observations from these leaders within the industry.
In this edition of Open Mic, we shine the spotlight on the award-winning podcast “Macbeth” created by Almost Tangible. For 2019, Almost Tangible earned the distinguished title of Production Company of the Year and the Grand Award for “Macbeth” (Best Digital Drama Program). The program, recorded live on location with a cast and crew of 25, also earned 4 Gold trophies for Best Digital Drama Program, Best Director, Best Sound, and Drama Podcast.
Almost Tangible wanted to do things differently; creating extraordinary, immersive, next-generation audio experiences with unforgettable stories that connect with theater, film and podcast aficionados around the world. Working with the latest technology in 360 binaural
sound recording, their production model is similar to the process of film-making in terms of attention to detail and creative resources.
Their inaugural production Macbeth,recorded at Glamis Castle in Scotland, where Shakespeare set his iconic story, has had more than 50K downloads
Open Mic spent a few minutes with Almost Tangible’s Founder, Charlotte Melén to find our more about more about her award-winning program. In the interview below, she shares her insights on creating the project, her creative approach to overcoming obstacles and what project her brilliant team has their eye on next.
New York Festivals: What was the inspiration for your award-winning program “Macbeth” and what did you ultimately hope to accomplish?
Charlotte Melén: First and foremost, a love of storytelling and a love of Shakespeare – and the fact that this incredible play is as relevant now as it was 400 years ago, illuminating in chilling clarity what happens when ambition prevails over all else, yet there is a frustrating persisting view that Shakespeare is irrelevant or inaccessible to modern audiences!
So, Carl Prekopp (the director) and I set ourselves a challenge. We wanted to create a Macbeth that was up close and personal and relatable. We wanted to connect with listeners in an immersive and completely new way so that this iconic story that everybody thinks they know would become unknown, surprising, engaging and vivid. People actively want new experiences and great content they can connect to, identify with and experience – and we wanted them to really experience Macbeth, in a new way, at the heart of the action. We really felt a responsibility to give the audience something meaningful, a meaningful way to connect to this great story.
Art is most powerful when it is accessible and good art should make you feel something, change you in some way and with Macbeth, we hope to have done just that.
New York Festivals: Tell us about your creative process and how you overcame any obstacles?
Charlotte Melén: We work very much outside the box, asking everyone to actively challenge perceived expectations about how audio should be made, this means we allow for extra time to experiment, to try things out, to discover and to explore…and have some fun! Our creative process is collaborative and artist-centric – just as much as we are passionate about putting the listener at the heart of the action, we are passionate about putting artists at the heart of our creative process!
When I listen to something, I want to feel something…and for me to feel something, the actor has to feel something and allow their breath and voice to be available to that feeling/impulse so that it comes through in the performance and travel all the way through the ‘airwaves’ into the ear-canal and all the way down into my solar plexus, my ‘gut’ and emotionally connect and shift me ever so slightly.
And so I guess, with our creative approach, I am really trying to give the team the best possible artistic framework within which to have the space and time to follow their creative impulses, to give them the support and surroundings that mean they feel encouraged and empowered to take risks. And perhaps also, to create an environment in which everyone feels less like a commercial commodity, there to ‘bring the artistic goods’, and more like a valued member of an artistic ensemble who, together, are responsible for the end result.
Because that’s how I would want to work, that’s how I work the best…in fact, that’s how I think we all work the best. For Macbeth, we recorded on location over 8 days at the amazing Glamis castle in Scotland, where Shakespeare actually set his play, and there was a feeling of great freedom, and a sense that we were not simply just recording but performing and living the story.
Sometimes it was all a little too vivid, as in the case of one actor who discovered he was allergic to horses – in the middle of the countryside, miles from anywhere – thank goodness the owner of the farm had both an antihistamine and inhaler! We also had bees silently tripping the fire-alarm and causing the fire brigade to come for a visit late one night at the castle – cue panic as we thought maybe WE had tripped an alarm somewhere. And then there were tractors starting up at inopportune moments and a very noisy dog-show….oh, and a rental car that never appeared….when I really think about it, the list was endless….but that’s on location recording, every day is a surprise and a challenge and just alive with ‘the show must go on’! Full disclosure: we were ALL totally exhausted at the end. But exhilarated.
So yes, as the producer, the challenging logistics and everyday trials and tribulations of bringing 20 people to Scotland and keeping them safe and fed and so on was probably the biggest ‘obstacle’, if you can call it that. But it was never really an option to let the logistics get in the way of creating extraordinary audio, I mean that’s what we do, we are always going to have these challenges. The only way forward was determination, a serious dose of creative problem-solving and a sense of humour shared by just the most fantastic team of people. Even when you also set the burglar alarm off. Even then…
New York Festivals: Who has been the biggest influence on you creatively?
Charlotte Melén: My wonderful voice teacher Kristin Linklater, whose voice method focuses on breath and creative impulse and the availability of our voice to that impulse…it is undoubtedly the foundation for my (somewhat!) obsessive quest for true vocal transparency and emotional connection in my acting work…which has translated into a quest for the same level of authenticity and connection within audio.
And I should also mention Richard Shannon, a friend and inspirational mentor who, with his incredible knowledge about audio and his experience as a radio director, was invaluable in helping think through the vision for Almost Tangible.
New York Festivals: What is the number one pointer you’d give someone just starting out in world of audio?
With Macbeth I trusted my gut and the team trusted me so we stuck to our artistic ‘guns’ so to speak. We found the most authentic backdrop (Glamis Castle) to give our creative team the best and most inspiring surroundings in which to do their best work. It would have been easy to feel overwhelmed with the re-telling of such a well known and loved play… but this risk paid off in spades, in so many ways. Not just in its success in terms of popularity and recognition but in the individual stories that have come back to us – from atypical literary fans to the visually impaired, the collective response has been overwhelming and so rewarding.
New York Festivals: What project is next on the horizon for you and your team?
Almost Tangible “Macbeth” TeamCharlotte Melén: Over the next year we will be expanding our global community of listeners, artists, creators, writers, producers and engineers as well as developing our next productions.
We want our supporters to become part of the extended AT family by bringing them closer to the creative process, taking them behind the scenes and starting a dialogue to find out what stories they want to hear.
It’s also particularly important to us that we champion new voices and new writing alongside more established pieces of work. We want to create a platform that not only brings together a diverse range of artists but also reaches a really mixed audience – watch this space!
For a complete list of all the 2019 New York Festivals Radio Award winners, please visit: HERE