The Screenplay-novel Manifestos

Less is more vivid

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Spoken Word

Motoko Rich on the rise of the audio book:

While growing in popularity, audio books remain resolutely mass-market-oriented, and Mr. Rubinstein's nonfiction book, which sold fewer than 15,000 hardcover copies, simply had not generated enough revenue to justify the costs of producing a recorded version.

For many authors that would have been that. Mr. Rubinstein, however, was unbowed. He enlisted the help of a friend and sound-studio operator, Joe Mendelson, and managed to recruit a cast of some of his well-known fans, including Messrs. Shteyngart and Bogosian, as well as the rocker Tommy Ramone and the comedian Demetri Martin, to perform as characters in the book....

For what it's worth, I tried doing something similar after staging a one-man play entitled "The Looksist" in the late 1990s. Organizing it was harder than I thought -- even though I met several people who were remarkably generous with their time. Ultimately, what sank the project was people's conflicting schedules and the death-knell of low-budget projects everywhere: being at the mercy of other people's priorities ... just when I got the background music together, the audio person became too busy. And just when the audio person discovered the music had to be re-recorded for technical reasons, the musician was too busy.

What I remember about the project now, however, is that there is lot of creative energy that flows from doing something new. Doing new things always carries risks, one of the main ones being that others will judge experimentation as gimmicky. It isn't.

Recording "The Looksist" didn't quite get off the ground. But in the interim, technology has changed and become more accessible. I'm working on different projects now. But I still like the idea of the audio book or audio story. And one of these days I'm going to do it again.


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