Jennifer Goggin on The Younger Man, lessons learnt and what’s coming

LiSTNR’s head of Factual and Drama, Jennifer Goggin, sat down with radioinfo’s Wayne Stamm to talk about the success of The Younger Man and new projects that are in the pipeline.

The Younger Man was SCA’s first foray into drama/romcom, and debuted in the Top 100 Australian Podcasts in the latest Triton Podcast Ranker.

The project involved an adaptation of Zoë Foster Blakes very successful book, something that Goggin is immensely proud of, but something her team initially found very daunting and demanding.

radioinfo: I love the fact that you really dived in off the deep end. I mean, this wasn’t a little project. If you’re going to do something, then take a book and adapt it.

Goggin: It’s incredibly difficult, and if there was one piece of advice I had for anyone who was thinking of doing this, it is spend 70% of your time on the script.

If the script is right, if it sings off the page, that’ll be the majority of the work.

But there was a huge amount of evolution on the set and the edit changed and going into the next project, with everything that I’ve learned, I’m going to weight all of our work into the pre-production side when it comes to adapting from a book.

When you’re reading a book, the pictures are happening in your head. There’s a lot of description around action, around physicality, around internal emotion and internal dialogue, and you need to make that kind of bump off things in real life if you want it to work in audio.

So the adaptation was really a huge and complex part of it. The other thing that we want to do is we’re not trying to recreate the book verbatim or the story verbatim because when the story was written versus how the world works now can be quite a different place.

The other part of that is going, you know, there’s a whole bunch of people who have loved this book for years and read it and reread it and we wanted to give them a bit of a surprise element in the same way that in Game of Thrones changed how they killed King Joffrey.

We want to give people surprises, even the original audience for the book. And that’s another part of the adaptation process, and some would argue with the risky part, because why you take a gamble on something that’s successful, but I think, you know, there are enjoyable challenges in that. And I breathed a small bit of a different life into it.

radioinfo: How important then to make sure that you get the right people to portray the characters?

Goggin: It’s an interesting thing to take a look at because performance is central to everything in this. Is it believable? Does it feel real?

When I think about the weighting of it, does this represent the character in the book or does it represent the feelings of what we’re trying to give?

And does it feel like the right voice for this audience? That became a really big conversation.

You need someone with a strong performance, but you also need voices that don’t sound the same. So when you’re casting, there are all of these different considerations that that I never had to think about really prior to this and saying, is the right accent as important as an authentic performance, as important as someone whose voice doesn’t burn out?

Because obviously being a vocal actor is a different skill to being a physical actor. Being a drama actor is a different skill again.

And it was about how do we program the right mix of people so it feels believable but dynamic and sustainable as a work process. So that was a very interesting process.

radioinfo: So inspirations for you. What why did you get involved in something like this? If you look back at things that have inspired you through life, what would be the thing that makes you say “That’s something I want to get involved in.”

Goggin: I guess if I had to really think about it, War of the Worlds is my inspiration. That was a huge track in my house. It got played all of the time. We would talk about it. We would talk about how we felt because of the noise, what kind of images it created.

I’m not sure why it was such a big feature, but we had a tape of it for the car, we had a CD for the house, we had a vinyl of it. It just was a very big part of growing up that there was this thing that could immerse you, so I guess subconsciously that’s something I’ve always worked towards.

radioinfo: Are we talking Jeff Wayne or Orson Welles?

Goggin: Well, look, we’re talking Orson Welles. We have to go with Orson Welles and then we have to go with the incredible guerrilla marketing stunt that they pulled when they did the audio product.

I mean, that is such a marquee moment in radio and then immersion and all of that and all of that oral storytelling. So that is just such a huge kind of bird to aim for, but that’s where I would love to get and it was such a huge inspiration for how I think about a story.

radioinfo: You’ve got some others in the pipeline now.

Goggin: What happened after I finished the project was I was very pleased with where it landed and then I thought for the next project, if this is our baseline, what I’ve learned, we could really take audio entertainment into the next step.

We could look at immersion in different ways. So what myself and the team did was really sat down and said, What did we learn? How would we do it differently? How would we try things differently?,  and then started production on the next drama with all those learnings and saying, okay, the risks we took here, how can we take bigger risks going forward? How can we really create more interaction with the audience? And that’s what we’re working through at the moment as we go into as we go into production on the next series.

And then I have a few more, in various stages of sourcing, writing, adaptation, taking a look at what would work, in what order, how do we balance the slate, how do we really test what different types of audiences would enjoy?

There’s a long line of work coming and the aim is to make each one of them different from the next.


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