New York Festivals recruits the world’s most awe-inspiring, award-winning radio talent from around the globe to participate on NYF’s Radio Program Awards Grand Jury. This world class panel of recognizable voices and captivating programming producers are dedicated to judging and selecting the 2016 World’s Best Radio Programs℠.
In this Grand Jury Confidential, NYF catches up with Andrew Mark Sewell, 2016 Grand Jury member and producer/director of B7Media, United Kingdom. Andrew’s first love is radio drama and for over the last ten years, he has carved out a growing reputation for producing dramatic, widescreen audio stories, which sound lived-in, real and cinematic.
Andrew is an award-winning director whose name is synonymous with some of the most popular science fiction audio drama produced in the last decade, including the re-imagining of cult BBC television series Blake’s 7. Notable BBC Radio 4 dramas include Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles and Sumia Sukkar’s The Boy from Aleppo who Painted the War. Currently Sewell is directing the audio series Dan Dare, based on the popular Eagle comic strips. Mr. Sewell, a former BBC Executive, is also a talented independent filmmaker, his credits include: Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont and Exit Thread.
In the interview below, Andrew shares his early career influences, his evolution in the radio industry, the defining moment in his career and much more.
New York Festivals: Who or what were your early influences in your career?
Andrew Mark Sewell: My influences were many and varied and in terms of radio it was the comedies my father introduced me to such as The Goon Show, Hancock’s Half Hour and in the early 80s The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy. Latterly the audio dramas of Dirk Maggs (Superman, Batman, Neverwhere, Good Omens) had a marked effect on me and made me realize that in the world of audio anything was possible – and it could sound epic! In terms of storytelling, perhaps my greatest ‘single’ influence was television drama
writer/script editor, Tony Holland (EastEnders, Angels, District Nurse). Tony was one of the most intuitive storytellers I’ve ever had the privilege to know. He understood exactly what the audience wanted in terms of character, story and plot. He taught me so much, not just about writing ‘real’ and ‘lived in’ characters, but also the craft of telling compelling, dramatic stories that had meaning and resonance. As he was fond of saying; ‘People write the best stories…’ and it was certainly true that wherever we went he listened to our conversation with one ear, and eavesdropped with the other.
New York Festivals: What’s the most important thing you learned from your first job?
Andrew Mark Sewell: That realizing a production isn’t one person’s vision alone. It’s a real team effort.
New York Festivals: What were some early leadership lessons for you?
Andrew Mark Sewell: Very early on I clocked that I had a knack for inspiring people to get behind a project. Passion and the ability to express that passion has always been key to driving any of our projects forward.
New York Festivals: What qualities are the most important to have?
Andrew Mark Sewell: Good motivational skills, compassion and being an inventive problem solver.
New York Festivals: Tell us a bit about your evolution in the radio industry?
Andrew Mark Sewell: My first love has always been radio drama, but it was only in the last decade that I made a concerted effort to drive forward my ambitions in this medium. The first opportunity to direct in radio came about almost by accident. I was meant to be producing a SF series, Blake’s 7, when the Director had to drop out due to a clash of commitments. We were left with the choice of either delaying the production or forging ahead with me taking over the Director duties. The rest as they say is history and since then I’ve managed to carve out a growing reputation for producing dramatic, widescreen audio stories, which sound lived-in, real and cinematic.
New York Festivals: What was a defining moment in your career?
Andrew Mark Sewell: Winning Silver ‘Best Drama Special’ for our dramatisation of Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles was certainly a highlight. In terms of film I’m very proud to have produced Dan Ireland’s critically acclaimed dramatisation of Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont.
New York Festivals: Will you share how the culture of your company encourages creativity?
Andrew Mark Sewell: The guiding principle that drives all our projects is that each and every drama will rise or fall on the strength of the script. Writers’ are the life-blood of our company (and the industry) and we’ve been fortunate enough to collaborate with some of the best. But it’s also more fundamental than that, the art of any successful production is building a solid team around you that will stand the test of time.
New York Festivals: What’s your favorite radio program that you created?
New York Festivals: What are the hallmarks of award-winning radio programs?
Andrew Mark Sewell: That’s a tricky one to answer, but I guess the most important thing is to stay true to the story you want to tell, trust your instincts and be clear about your intended audience. But most of all – have fun!