Click here to return HOME          

Home Up Feedback Contents Search

 

How to Prepare Radio Scripts for Production


My advice on producing radio drama using my own RuyaSonic radio drama scripts.  If you'd like to produce one of my shows, contact me via The Depot page here.

If you are seeking more information on how to use or understand my script format, you can look through this page, but without the starter package I send to groups who've licensed a script from me, it may not make total sense. 

Advice from Tony Palermo


Preparing Actors', SFX and Engineer’s books using RuyaSonic Radio Drama Scripts

In order to produce my radio dramas in a timely and efficient manner, you will need to have Sound Effects and Engineer’s books prepared before you begin rehearsal. You will also need to have the actors’ scripts highlighted with their lines. It’ll take some time, but this preparation results in better organized rehearsals and performances.

Each RuyaSonic Radio Drama script package contains all the necessary pages for making SFX and ENG books. You only need to assemble them and mark them up with highlighter pens.

For each program package, follow these steps:

1) Prepare the master script

From the print-out of the entire document, locate the actual performance script pages. These consist of the title page, followed by the cast listing, an optional glossary page, then the script itself--which ends with “THE END.” Stop there. This is what you will make copies of for everyone to work from. If you need to create the SFX and ENG books, you will use this group of pages for their books in addition to the pages marked "SFX" or "ENG" in the top right hand corner.

First, mark up a master script:

The RuyaSonic Radio Drama script packages contain pages of music, dialogue and sound cues that look like this:

      3. MUSIC:             DANGER THEME--ESTABLISH--FADE UNDER.

      4* JOHNNY-BOY:        Look out! They've thrown a refrigerator out the window!

      5. SOUND:             REFRIGERATOR CRASH. WALLA-SCREAMS.

      6* SUZANNE:          (GASP) Oh no! Johnny-Boy's flatter than a pancake!

      7. NARRATOR:          (SIGH) Sadly, Johnny-Boy wound up just one more ghost.

                            Meanwhile, Kitty had to deal with ghosts of a different sort.

Add the timing "Q" marks:

In radio drama, an ensemble must coordinate delivery of their cues at just the right time. For example, music must be established before allowing an actor to speak, or a sound effect must be fully heard before letting an actor react to it. These require timing coordination. Asterisks beside the cue numbers in the script alert the director, cast and crew that they must pay attention to delivering this cue at a timing determined by the director. The director may point to a performer exactly when they want them to begin a line or SFX cue. Or sometimes the performer must merely be conscious that they delay delivery until the previous cue reaches the desired point. The script indicates when these important timing cues occur. To make these cues stand out in the script, a hand-written timing "Q" mark is added to the master script. All other copies made from this master script will contain these timing Q marks.

Take the master script and, using a Sharpie-style marker, hand-write a large "Q" besides any cues with an asterisk. Wherever you see a cue number followed by an asterisk--as in  cues #4 and #6 in the current example, make a  large  “Q” mark. These timing Qs generally occur after underlined music cues or SFX cues. 

EXAMPLE:

      3. MUSIC:             DANGER THEME--ESTABLISH--FADE UNDER.

   Q  4* JOHNNY-BOY:        Look out! They've thrown a refrigerator out the window!

      5. SOUND:             REFRIGERATOR CRASH. WALLA-SCREAMS.

   Q  6* SUZANNE:          (GASP) Oh no! Johnny-Boy's flatter than a pancake!

      7. NARRATOR:          (SIGH) Sadly, Johnny-Boy wound up just one more ghost.

                            Meanwhile, Kitty had to deal with ghosts of a different sort.

2) Make copies of the Master Script

Once the entire script has been marked up, take this master “Q” script and make 15-20 copies for the cast and crew. Staple all scripts in the top left hand corner. If you are making an Engineer's book and books for the SFX crew, you’ll need one copy of the master script for the ENG book and from 3 to 5 copies for the SFX artists. Add one more walla walla book, if the script has many references for walla walla sound effects.

3) Prepare the Actors' Scripts

Highlight dialogue for all characters:

For each character in the show, write the character's name on the title page and take an orange, pink or green highlighter to highlight just the dialogue for that character. Don’t highlight their character names.  NOTE: Yellow highlighting tends to disappear in dimly lit studios and on-stage. Orange, pink and green highlighters show up very well.

EXAMPLE:

For the Narrator's script, write "NARRATOR" on the title page and highlight only the Narrator's parts.

    7. NARRATOR:         (SIGH) Sadly, Johnny-Boy wound up as just one more ghost.

                                               Meanwhile, Kitty had to deal with ghosts of a different sort.

Here, the highlight begins with the delivery instruction of (SIGH)  and ends with the spoken word “sort.” Highlight the dialogue for each major character. If you have more roles than cast members, consult the cast listing page of the script to determine which roles can be combined, then use a different color to highlight the secondary roles in an actor’s script. When an actor is doubling up roles, his script would have two different colors in it. Keeping the colors different can make it easy for an actor to play two characters in one scene--they can even talk to each other.

4) Prepare the Engineer's Book

Begin with one of the master Q copies and then take the non-script pages--the ones left over from step 1--take the single page that has ENG-1 in the top most right hand corner and put it into the script just before page-1, cue-1.

Get several highlighter pens: pink, blue and green for the Engineer's Book.

Music Cues:

Use the pink pen to highlight all the music cues in the script--for example:

1.  MUSIC: [A-1]                     PROGRAM THEME. UP AND UNDER. CONTINUE.


Highlight that entire line with a pink (or magenta) horizontal line. Cover the words in color.

         1.  MUSIC: [A-1]                     PROGRAM THEME. UP AND UNDER. CONTINUE.

NOTE: The bracketed code, [A-1] indicates using playback device "A" and track number "1". This device could be a CD-player, an MP3 player, a cassette boom box, or even a PC triggering MP3 files or samples. If more than one playback device is suggested, you will see other codes referring to them,  [B-2] for example. I generally recommend using two playback devices, because it allows you to quickly go from one cue to another and even cross-fade. Additionally, you can trigger music and pre-recorded sound effects tracks using two playback devices.

Paying attention to the cue instructions (such as “LET FINISH” or “CONTINUE”, etc.), listen to the music track and read the dialogue aloud while the cue is playing. Read at a natural pace--maybe even a bit slower than normal. Notice where the cue fades or ends. Draw a vertical highlighter line beginning with where that music cue started, on down through the dialogue and SFX cues to where the music track ended. Bridges will be very short and beds very long.  In some cases, the music must end at a particular point--such as the end of a scene or action sequence. Indicate that with a short horizontal highlighter line at the end of the vertical line--looking like an upside down "T". In other cases, you may wish to fade out the cue under the dialogue. Indicate that fade with a wavy vertical line--like an "S". Repeat this procedure for all music cues in the script.


Effects Device Cues:

Review the information on page marked ENG-1 and see if reverbs or telephone filters are required for the program. If they are used, read through the script looking for production notes about filters or reverbs and also for dialogue lines beginning with [FILTER] or [REVERB]. If you find any, make a short green horizontal mark highlighting the character’s name and the effect label.

Note: The filter is an electronic device that simulates a telephone or walky-talky radio effect. You may wish to use a manual device to get this effect--like having the actor speak into a plastic cup or coffee mug. If you use an electronic filter, then the engineer may have to turning the effect on, or the actor may have to go to a special microphone. In all cases, highlight the ENG script so the engineer knows this line is supposed to have the effect.

7. OPERATOR:  [FILTER] What number are you dialing?

Here you would use a green highlighter to color the script in a horizontal line from “OPERATOR:”  to the end of [FILTER].

        7. OPERATOR:  [FILTER] What number are you dialing?

If the character has more effected dialogue below this line, then draw a vertical line through their lines until they are done using the [FILTER]  This will indicate to the engineer just how long the effect is in use.

For reverb effects, you will do the same highlighting, but use the blue highlighter.

 

Put script pages into plastic sheet protectors

Once the music and effects device cues have been highlighted in the Engineer's script, put the script pages into plastic page covers. Arrange pages so that Page 1 and Page 2 will open together--with page 1 on the left and page 2 on the right. Then insert all other pages back to back this way. Now the engineer has two pages open at a time and can see ahead when the show is performed.  

4) Prepare the Sound Effects Books:

From the non-script pages--the ones left over in the package--take the pages that have SFX-1 through SFX-3 or SFX-4 in the top most right hand corner and put them into the script just before page-1, cue-1 of the script.

Get several highlighter pens: pink, blue, green, yellow and orange.

Starting with the listing of Sound Effects Roles, use one color to highlight all the SFX for each SFX artist. Highlight all of these in say, green.

EXAMPLE:

SOUND EFFECTS ARTIST #1:
FOOTSTEPS.
WIND MACHINE.
CRASHING.

Proceed to the other artists and do the same using other colors.

EXAMPLE:

SOUND EFFECTS ARTIST #4:
THUNDER RUMBLING.
FLAPPING WINGS.
DOOR KNOCKS

POUNDING ON DOOR

Then go to pages SFX-2 and SFX-3 and use the same colors to highlight that artist’s SFX for the  “How to” information. This will be used to train the SFX artist.

Then move onto the script pages. Look for the SOUND cues and when you see an entry for say, FOOTSTEPS, highlight it in the same color that you used to highlight the SFX artist for that sound.

EXAMPLE:


      6. NARRATOR:   Jimmy froze when he heard the lynch mob arrive at his door. They meant business.

      7. SOUND:      FOOTSTEPS. DOOR KNOCKS (3X)

   8. JIMMY:      Um... Jimmy's not here right now.

   9. SOUND:      POUNDING ON DOOR (5X) WALLA--ANGRY MOB.

Here, you would use the green highlighter for the FOOTSTEPS--indicating that SFX Artist #1 perform the footsteps sound effects. If the sound continues through other dialogue or music cues, draw a vertical highlight to indicate how long the sound should last. It’s up to you to decide just how long the effect is necessary. Decide for yourself, but keep in mind that the FOOTSTEPS must end before some other SFX cue for SFX Artist #1 comes up. You normally don’t want the same SFX artist to have to create two sounds at once.

The Door Knocks would be performed by SFX Artist #4. The WALLA would be by either designated cast members or the SFX team or a separate WALLA team.

Repeat this step for each sound effect until all are highlighted. If you have several SFX books to make, do one master book first and then use it as a model for the other books. It can take an hour to finish five SFX books.

If you have a lot of walla-crowd sounds, don’t include the walla highlighting in the SFX books. I often make a separate book just for walla cues. If I have more actors than I have main speaking roles, I can give them the Walla book and let them perform the walla.

Put script pages into plastic sheet protectors

Once the sound effects cues have been highlighted in the SFX script, put the script pages into plastic page covers. Arrange pages so that Page 1 and Page 2 will open together--with page 1 on the left and page 2 on the right. Then insert all other pages back to back this way. Now the SFX artists will have two pages open at a time and can see ahead when the show is performed.



Tony Palermo's Workshop Production Method:

I produce workshop plays in two hours--from audition to "Tune next week, same station, same time...". My radio plays run the standard 25 minutes. First I audition everyone using short custom monologues, then I TELL the cast and crew the story, then I split the actors from the SFX crew. I DO NOT do a traditional "first read through". Instead, I hand the actors scripts--with their lines already highlighted. I have the actors only read over their OWN lines--and I have them say the lines aloud, several times, to "teach their tongues" the dialogue. I then huddle with each actor to give them direction as to their character's motivation and manner. This takes maybe 15 minutes total. It's live radio, so you've got to work fast!

Meanwhile my SFX chief is demonstrating our live SFX and rehearsing cues with the SFX artists. We then begin a cue rehearsal, with cast and crew, of the entire play--stopping for mis-pronunciations and bungled SFX cues. We take a short break and then plunge into the recording. It's amazing how an often terrible rehearsal turns into a fine performance.

Don't stop the show for mistakes. Go back and do pickup re-recordings for certain lines and SFX.
 


[Home] [Up] [Feedback] [Contents] [Search]

TONY PALERMO is an audio theatre producer, performer, and educator living in Los Angeles, California.
He performs professionally, conducts workshops, and produces programs for hire.
An Encyclo-Media Publication
All contents © 1996-2006 by Anthony E. Palermo. All rights reserved.
Send mail to our webmaster at:  with questions or comments about the RuyaSonic web site.
NOTE: If you cannot see the Webmaster's e-mail address in the line above, your browser may have a javascript block.


This URL: http://ruyasonic.com/prd_pre-prod.htm
Last modified: 03/02/11