New York Festivals International Radio Awards jury of award-winning directors, producers, journalists, writers, actors, creative directors, composers, on-air talent, and programming executives are actively involved in creating the innovative content on radio today. Each week Open Mic Spotlight taps into the minds of content creators from the wonderful world of radio. Who better to share their insiders view of radio then the Radio Awards Grand Jury?
Grand Jury member Andrew Mark Sewell, Executive Producer for B7 Productions Limited, is a former BBC executive and now multi award-winning independent filmmaker and radio drama producer/director.
Sewell’s film producer credits include Dan Ireland’s Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont, starring Dame Joan Plowright and Rupert Friend. Other credits include the independent films of Canadian filmmaker Paul Kimball, The Cuckoo in the Clock, Roundabout and their latest collaboration, the multi-award winning noir thriller Exit Thread.
Winner of the prestigious NYC International Radio Program ‘Best Director’ Award for the BBC Radio 4 dramatisation of Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot (2017), Sewell was also nominated as ‘Best Drama Producer’ at the Audio Production Awards (2015 & 2017). His name has become synonymous with some of the most popular science fiction audio drama produced in the last decade and is best known for the re-imagining of cult BBC television series Blake’s 7.
More recently Sewell directed the critically acclaimed Dan Dare audio adventures starring Ed Stoppard, based on the popular Eagle comic strips of the 1950s, hailed by SciFiBulletin.com as “… one of the best collections of audio fiction I’ve heard in a long time.”
Over the years Sewell has carved out a growing reputation for producing dramatic, widescreen audio stories, which sound lived-in, real and cinematic. Notable BBC Radio 4 dramas include Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles starring Derek Jacobi and Hayley Atwell, which featured as part of the BBC Radio 4’s ‘Dangerous Visions’ season.
New York Festivals: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Andrew Mark Sewell: Always listen to good advice.
New York Festivals: What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in the industry?
Andrew Mark Sewell: With the advent of digital, like the television business before it, the traditional model for getting your radio ideas commissioned and reaching listeners has been turned on its head. Traditional broadcasters are no longer the sole gatekeepers to the audience. Specifically, in terms of audiobooks and full-cast audio dramas, there’s a revolution in motion. Empowered by alternative distribution channels, independent producers and publishers can now release shows direct to the consumer (via streaming or digital download). They’re even crowdfunding specific ‘passion’ projects. Publishers and larger ‘digital only’ players like Audible are also making aggressive moves into the full-cast audio drama market, offering a more ‘bestselling’ author (The Child, The Jungle Book, Treasure Island) and/or ‘brand led’ (X-Files: Stolen Lives, Alien) alternative to the likes of BBC Radio 4.
Podcasting might be ‘the Emperor’s new clothes’ but it’s also still the Wild West out there in terms of defining a viable business model. Whilst opportunities in the ‘digital’ market are very fluid, it has also prompted the resurgence in richly imaginative audio drama. Like the pioneering indie filmmakers before them, writers and producers working in the realm of audio are being equally creative, often subverting the genre in exciting and inspiring new ways. It’s a great time for radio, and a great time to be working in radio drama.
New York Festivals: What three words describe you as a content creator?
Andrew Mark Sewell: Passionate. Collaborative. Maverick.
New York Festivals: What program do you wish you created?
Andrew Mark Sewell: There are several, but given that our specialty (certainly in the realm of audio drama) is fantasy and science fiction I’d have to say Game of Thrones. Ambitious, confident, with rich, complex characters, Shakespearean in their interaction and tragedy. For my money it rivals the world-building brilliance of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.
Ultimately, I’m drawn to compelling, character led stories, and in terms of recent audio dramas, Val McDermid’s thriller for BBC Radio 4, examining what happens if antibiotics stop working, was a thought-provoking and chilling listen.
New York Festivals: What is your favorite program that you created and why?
Andrew Mark Sewell: Our re-imagining of Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot for BBC Radio 4 was a particular highlight and one I’m very proud of. Asimov’s classic novel about the rise of robotics in the 21st century is a timeless commentary on the relationship between humans and technology. It’s an allegory of how we treat others who are not like us. But it’s also a cracking story, with a unique perspective. The richness of Asimov’s vision has inspired science fiction for over sixty years and only now can we appreciate the prophetic accuracy of his predictions about the impact AI would have on our world. Humanity is now living on the edge of the world that Asimov first imagined.
Richard Kurti (the dramatist) and I wanted to go back to the original to explore the questions Asimov posed, and which have never been more relevant. Already, our machines and technology are on the path to becoming our equals, if not superiors, in certain respects. Our ambition was to do the book justice. The 5 x 15-minute drama format for BBC Radio 4 was an opportunity to create the first complete dramatisation of I, Robot in any medium. I hope we successfully took this classic of speculative fiction and made it relevant for today’s listener. Certainly the positive listener feedback would suggest we did.
New York Festivals: What creative projects are next for you?
Andrew Mark Sewell: We are currently scripting a further series of Dan Dare audio adventures (www.DanDareAudio.com), planned for release in December 2018, to coincide with the centenary of the original creator and artist, Frank Hampson. Introduced to the original Eagle comics (published in the 1950s) by my late father, Dan Dare was a real passion project for me, so it was very satisfying (and a relief) that the first series got such a positive critical reaction and I’m delighted we’ll get to revisit the Dan Dare universe once again. We also have several new commissions and I’m particularly excited about a major new science documentary-drama series for Audible, which will mark a bit of a departure for us.
New York Festivals: What would be your dream job?
Andrew Mark Sewell : In many ways I’m already doing my dream job, the budgets might be small, but working in radio allows for more freedom to stay true to your creative vision. In television and film, which I’m still active in, realising a project is often a series of compromises and at times it can feel like producing by committee. In radio, I enjoy the intimacy that production environment offers. In the recording studio it’s often just me, the writer, the studio manager and of course the all-important actors.
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