Time Travel, Death And Crowdfunding: In Conversation With THE LIGHT OF SEPTEMBER’s Richard Oliver

Posted on Feb 1 2016 - 11:52am by Fred McNamara

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On the 4th of February, a new audio drama is set to take the sci-fi world by storm. However, perhaps the words ‘audio drama’ don’t do THE LIGHT OF SEPTEMBER justice. A self-described audio movie, THE LIGHT OF SEPTEMBER is an ambitious and exciting ten-part series set in the future where mankind’s desire for roaming the seas is taken to deadly levels:

Einstein said that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. In the near future, a probe does just that. On Earth, the crew of the oceanographic research vessel Venus begin to experience the results: a passing brigantine spews murder from its hold; strange creatures roam the seas, and the crew are shocked to learn that their chief scientist is dead: none more so than the Chief Scientist himself. Only a passing American ship can help, though it may not be from America…

The series is produced by Radiostatic and stars Tamsin Greig (BLACK BOOKS, EPISODES, EMMA), Tuppence Middleton (BONES, NEW TRICKS, SENSE8, WAR AND PEACE), Laura Cayouette (KILL BILL VOL. 2, GREEN LANTERN, DJANGO UNCHAINED, NOW YOU SEE ME), Thorbjørn Harr (FROZEN, VIKINGS REPRISE), Sylvester McCoy (DOCTOR WHO, THE HOBBIT), Richard Oliver (THE MINISTER OF CHANCE), Robert Picardo (STAR TREK: VOYAGER, ER, 21 JUMP STREET, STARGATE SG-1), Karim Saleh (IRON MAN 2, HIGHLANDER), Jed Brophy (THE LORD OF THE RINGS, KING KONG, THE HOBBIT), Prue Clarke (CASUALTY, DOCTORS, HOLBY CITY, MIDSUMMER MURDERS), Simon Hickson (THE SLAMMER, SUPER MATRAK), Stuart Fox, Heida Reed (SILENT WITNESS, POLDARK), Julian Seager (DOC MARTIN, POLDARK), George Blagden (VIKINGS, LES MISERABLES), and David Blue (UGLY BETTY, STARGATE UNIVERSE).

We managed to have chat with cast member Richard Oliver about the audio movie, and how THE LIGHT OF SEPTEMBER stands apart from other audio productions.

ScreenRelish: Can you tell our readers a little bit about THE LIGHT OF SEPTEMBER?

Richard Oliver: THE LIGHT OF SEPTEMBER is a ten part audio series created, written and directed by Dan Freeman of Radiostatic. The action centres around the international crew members of the Royal Research Ship Venus, who become embroiled in an exciting adventure at the hands of a glitch in the earth’s timeline as they witness the launch of a rocket ship that can travel faster than the speed of light.

SR: Who do you portray in it?

O: I play Jack Cousins, Jack is the RRS Venus’s second officer, his primary duty is navigational, which includes updating charts and publications, keeping them current, making passage plans, and all aspects of ship navigation and training and instructing crew members, Jack is happy go lucky, friendly guy, who takes great pride in his work and is only too happy to offer up a solution when time gets tough. The character is actually based on real life second officer Mike Hood who works aboard the real life research ship which the Venus is also based on The Discovery.

SR: A lot of the buzz surrounding THE LIGHT OF SEPTEMBER centres on it being classed as an ‘audio movie’, rather than a podcast or audio drama, can you elaborate on this?

O: The “Audio Movie” idea comes from the fact that it is a fully fleshed out world for the listener, using advanced audio techniques, that when you take a listen through earphones, come into play. THE LIGHT OF SEPTEMBER is also directed as if it was for camera, with actors acknowledging their imaginative surroundings, so like you would find with film, techniques are applied to the audio direction as you would find on camera, so the equivalent of a close up, two shot and wide are created in an audio way, allowing the listener to be able to visualise a scene, where a character may be standing for example in relation to the character he/she is speaking to, rather than just addressing the microphone or hearing it from a single point of view and also the dialogue is very filmic.

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SR: Where does the ‘audio movie’ concept come from? Is it perhaps an evolution of sorts from THE MINISTER OF CHANCE, Radio Static’s other sci-fi epic?

O: The audio movie concept really comes from Dan Freeman wanting the audience to be able to fully believe in the world they are hearing by using all the senses, I guess good audio when it works well is a very visual medium, the listener creating and visualising how a character appears and also the location they find themselves in. So the concept is to create a beautifully layered imaginative world that’s believable and much more detailed than just saying “We are now standing on a boat, which looks like this” and in that respect hopefully the listener will feel like they have experienced the story and been able to connect emotionally to its soundscape, rather than just experiencing hearing words.

SR: You previously starred in THE MINISTER OF CHANCE, how might you compare and contrast the two projects?

O: THE MINISTER OF CHANCE was my first experience working with Dan, I have been lucky that on the Minister, I was able to play a few roles, the Executioner Duall in episode 3 & various soldiers in other episodes, with Radiostatic’s work I am attached in various ways, from being an actor stand in for test shoot purposes, where I covered Tim McInnerney’s king character to being a double for various shots, as well as being around the planning and pre-production stages, so in a way the only difference I have found on THE LIGHT OF SEPTEMBER is I am more in the mix as a regular cast member in Season One, but my role behind the scenes is still constant as edits of scripts are drafted, meetings about Radiostatic’s projects and pre-production. Both projects have been really exciting to work on and I guess they get more exciting as Dan develops his ideas and approach to creating the perfect “audio movie”.

SR: From an actor’s perspective, how do you integrate yourself into THE LIGHT OF SEPTEMBER’s ambitious production methods?

O: As an actor I work on various projects from theatre, film to adverts, so the integration into working this way with Dan is just an extension of working in those mediums, so I prepare and research my character as much as is humanly possible, finding out for example on THE LIGHT OF SEPTEMBER, how my character operates in the real world, his role on the ship, the day to day living, I read books like the SEA OF CORTEZ by Steinbeck to get experience from an actual research trip. Then once I have the script learnt, know why I say what I say, that then gets taken into rehearsal and ultimately the recording where I hope I can be as open as possible to Dan’s direction as he pulls all the actors work together into his vision.

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SR: There seems to be a bit of inspiration from the audio juggernaut Big Finish going on here, not just because of the various DOCTOR WHO connections! Would you agree?

O: I think there are certainly parallels to the DOCTOR WHO universe, THE LIGHT OF SEPTEMBER deals with time travel and it does have connections in terms of the “Doctors” that have appeared in the cast. But I think although those connections can be made, season one of THE LIGHT OF SEPTEMBER deals with the time travel aspects in a different way and the characters within it are very much normal human beings, from earth, thrown into strange circumstances and having to deal with that from a human point of view with no access to alien technology’s or super human alien minds. So I think the listener could draw a conclusion that inspiration has been taken from there, but having the pleasure of knowing Dan and being around his work, I would say the stories draw more inspiration from classic literature and the old mythological world.

SR: A unique method of production on THE LIGHT OF SEPTEMBER is that it’s entirely funded by its audience. In fact, there’s quite an emphasis on no outside company being involved in a monetary fashion. Why this method?

O: I think crowdfunding, if you can get people to support it, hopefully gives you the freedom to create in a less confined way, without restrictions, which means Dan has complete freedom over what he writes and who he casts and hopefully by people wanting to commit there hard earned money to a project you are immediately connecting with its audience and are able to deliver them the kind of project they want to listen to.

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The crowdfunding aspect also I hope links the audience and the company making it in a very real way, it allows those people to be part of the project, they have helped create it and in that respect own part of it and also it allows the creator of a project (if targets are met) to release content as soon as they have it, rather than be pinned down to specific schedules or times. I know myself through Twitter because everything is online, I’ve struck up some great friendships with people who have supported the project and it begins to feel like one big community, rather than actors and production untouchable on one side and its audience on the other.

SR: Two episodes of THE LIGHT OF SEPTEMBER are fully funded with episode three in the works, with an overall target of ten episodes set in motion. Are there plans to extend THE LIGHT OF SEPTEMBER after this?

O: With regards to the extension of THE LIGHT OF SEPTEMBER beyond ten episodes, I imagine will be down to how much its audience enjoy it and ultimately do they want more. But the Venus is prepped and ready to leave on an exciting adventure for a second season. Dan is always creating and developing his work, so I would like to think as with THE MINISTER OF CHANCE, there will be news of second seasons later in the year.

SR: Why should our readers contribute to THE LIGHT OF SEPTEMBER’s production?

O: THE LIGHT OF SEPTEMBER and Radiostatic’s work as well as bringing you audio with superb actors and high production value is very much about creating a community where everyone is valued and I hope will feel incredibly proud of what we have all created together. It’s one of the very few crowdfunded projects I have worked on where its audience are very much a huge part of its creation, it is much more than “thanks for your cash and see you later” people who have been fans of the Minister have ended up using their skill set in roles on production or championing the projects at conventions, I think it’s the sense of family, community and ownership by helping the production achieve its targets that would make this a stand out project for people to crowdfund.

I suppose you can buy a DVD or Album for a few pounds, but the added excitement of the crowdfunding aspect is knowing that your not just buying an episode or season, as it is free to download, but knowing when you listen you have helped create it and are very much part of the entire production.

SR: What’s been the best thing about THE LIGHT OF SEPTEMBER for you so far?

O: One of the best things about working on THE LIGHT OF SEPTEMBER for me has been moments like this, having the opportunity and connect with new people, it really is a privilege to be invited to talk about and share something you are involved with and so passionate about and also the incredible actors THE LIGHT OF SEPTEMBER allowed me to work with, as an actor your always learning, so to work in an environment with some amazing TV and film actors has also been a very special experience.

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The first episode of THE LIGHT OF SEPTEMBER is released on the 4th of February, with the second episode being released a week later on the 11th of February. Funding is underway for episode three’s release on the 18th of February, and that’s where you come in!

You have the chance to be involved in a truly unique production that no outside studio has, so head over to Radiostatic (here) to donate in return for exclusive intensives, ranging from t-shirts, badges, hats, and keyrings to studio visits, sponsoring scripts, and even getting to name a character! You can also catch up on Radiostatic’s other sci-fi series THE MINISTER OF CHANCE (a movie version of which is currently in pre-production) for free via the Radiostatic website or Amazon.

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