We’re all about scripted podcasts here on the ol’ blog nowadays! If you missed my post about how to write a scripted podcast, I’d recommend starting there. After all, there is no scripted podcast without a script!
Since we’re in quarantine, I feel like everybody should just be figuring out what it looks like to podcast and how to do that.
I know I have — that’s why (shameless plug incoming) I collaborated with all my favorite people to create The Last Station, a sci-fi thriller podcast about the last radio station at the end of the world. You can listen to it now if you like great music, awesome characters, and lots of intrigue.
Anyways, I’ve been chatting to a lot of people about how to produce scripted podcasts, in part because that’s a new offering my company Kingdom of Pavement is diving into. Have a podcast idea? We’ll make it for you!
I’ll also just give away the secrets here on my blog because, well, I think podcasting is cool and I want you to do it regardless if you work with me or not. Sounds good?
Casting Your Scripted Podcast
The first step of making your scripted podcast is to find some quality actors to be in it. I’m lucky that I work in Hollywood with some awesome actors, so I’m able to tap them on the shoulder and get them involved.
But if you don’t work in Hollywood, there are other places you can find actors. If you’re newer to this space, see if you connect with a local theater company or graduates from a theater program near you. If you’re a pro or are looking to work with more experienced actors, try putting out a casting call on a platform like IMDb Pro or Actors’ Access.
When casting actors, there’s a few things I look for:
- Talent. Seems obvious, but I hear a lot of less-than-ideal performances on most podcasts. Podcasts are an intimate medium, and if your actors aren’t of the highest caliber, your audience will feel that something is off.
- Professionalism. Will this actor be reliable? Can I depend on them to commit to my project? The worst thing that can happen is if you cast a lead actor in your scripted podcast and they drop out halfway through. You can write people out of your show, but it ain’t easy folks.
- Sound and vocal range. When I’m listening to voice reels, I love to get a sense of an actor and their vocal range. What can they do with their voice? What accents, tones, genres, and other types of voices are in their wheelhouse?
- Access to a great microphone/knowledge of recording. If you’re a low budget podcast, see what kind of microphone/recording setup your potential actors have. On my projects, we’re able to mail actors a little recording kit with a microphone and instructions to set up a voiceover booth in a closet (or with tips on how to build a bomb blanket fort!) There’s also some basic sound recording knowledge needed if you’re recording remotely.
- Friendliness. Last but not least — I love working with positive people! Everyone on my projects are not only insanely talented, bu they’re friendly and cool. When you’re building a team, your workflow should be fun and awesome.
Depending on your budget, try and allocate money for your cast if you can, or cut them into any potential ad revenue for your podcast.
Actors are a critical part of making sure your script comes to life, so make sure that you’re valuing their time and energy.
Recording Your Scripted Podcast Remotely
Since we’re all trapped in this global plague sitch, we have to do everything remotely. Personally, I think this is a great opportunity to learn how to do all this stuff remotely ~anyways~ so that everybody can travel and be global citizens or digital nomads if they want, but it does pose some limitations.
When you’re rehearsing and recording your scripted podcast, you’ll need to find some solutions to monitor your actors’ microphone levels and also cut down on the amount of lag.
There’s a ton of options out there! We have our own setup, but there’s a bunch of programs and different kinds of tech to help you with this depending on your skills and knowhow.
Worst case? You could get your cast all on a Google Meets (because Zoom is evil) or phone call or use a program Source Connect Now and have everyone record remotely to their own recording setup.
Recording separately has its perks, even if multiple actors are in a scene together. Why? Well, if there’s an issue with one actor’s microphone or there’s background noise you didn’t catch during the recording of a scene, you can just have that one actor re-record their lines rather than re-doing everything.
Investing in good microphones is also key to make sure that everybody can get good, clean audio. It will also make your life easier in post-production.
When prepping for a recording session, I always do a table read with our actors to catch any lines or sections that need to be ironed out or rewritten. We’re also going to start working with directors, which will be a fun way to see how we can continue to find ways to play in this form.
Editing Your Scripted Podcast
Our editing team on The Last Station are absolute stars, and our podcast would not sound nearly as good without them.
Whether you’re teaching yourself a free program like Audacity or hiring an editor, there are a few different aspects of editing scripted podcasts to keep in mind:
- Start with audio cleanup. Before you dive in, select which takes of the dialog you love the best, and clean up the audio. We have an editor who’s main job is just to do this and make sure every piece of dialog sounds as clean and resonant as possible.
- Add foley and sound effects. Whether you’re using a database like Freesound or creating your own foley, find the sound effects to enhance the world. We have a sound library as well as foley artists we work with to add layers to every piece of our story. The best editing is invisible in certain ways: transition music, sound effects, and atmosphere noise is all meant to enhance the story and elicit emotions in your listeners.
- Find or create compositions and music. We work with composers and musicians to create original compositions for The Last Station, and we also license music to use as well. See what local musicians would be cool with you using their work, and also check out different libraries of royalty free music if you’re not able to pay a composer.
- Mix/master all the different tracks to get the finished product. Once you’ve got all the pieces in place, it’s time to mix and master everything in order to get to the finished product!
That’s a simplified version of the editing process, but if you’re new to the world of podcasts and scripted podcasts, start small! Teach yourself a new skill every day and continue to build relationships with other sound engineers, composers, and musicians who can help you bring your story to life.