Texas-based audio drama writer & producer Pete Lutz is a self-proclaimed king of “making radio drama on no budget whatsoever”. (Tongue firmly in cheek as he adjusts his crown.)
Considering producing audio drama involves finding a troop of acting talent, recording (ideally together) with quality microphones, sourcing/creating fitting music and sound effects, and hours upon hours of writing, editing and promotion… That’s a pretty noble claim to make.
Pete learned a great deal of his craft from listening to the masters: the creators of Old-Time Radio programs aired decades before he was born. Even his stories come from that era, for the most part, or are inspired by them.
“Back before any of you lot wuz born, eh? Well, ‘ere wuz summat called radio, eh?”
[Cue dramatic fanfare music…] Ladies and gentlemen, he’s the man with a face for radio, and more radio than you can face… Mr. Pete Lutz!
I have always considered myself a student of history. When I was in school, it was one of my favorite subjects. After school, I was keen to take in the historical aspects of the places I visited and in which I lived. Being in the U.S. Navy helped in that regard, in that I was able to visit more than 30 nations around the globe and live in several locations in the U.S., and for a couple years in Scotland.
To delve more deeply into the historical concept, it seemed to me as I was growing up that the older something was, the better it was. If a movie was in black & white, I was more eager to watch it. If all of the stars of a particular TV show were dead, that meant it was old enough for me to appreciate. I’m just kidding about that last part, but you get the idea, I hope. So when, at the age of 10 or so, a radio station in my hometown of Pekin, Illinois, broadcast a week-long Old-Time Radio Festival, I ate it up like it was my mom’s rhubarb pie. My imagination was completely taken over by the stories I was listening to; crime-fighters like “The Shadow”, comedians like Jack Benny, true-to-life stories like “Gangbusters” or “Your F.B.I.”, or Westerns like “The Lone Ranger” and “Gunsmoke”.
This single week of my young life changed it more than any other, because if I hadn’t been exposed to radio shows at that time I might not have developed the strong attachment to them I’ve always had.
This strong attachment to radio drama planted a seed that was a long time sprouting – the creation of my own series. It had long been a desire to create my own radio station, so that I could produce all-new radio dramas, but of course that sort of thing takes money, so it never came about. I did work for a short time at a radio station after retiring from the US Navy, which gave me production experience that I would draw from later. I wrote two radio drama scripts and directed them as a live-stage mock broadcast in 2001; but it took a dozen more years, the internet, and the concept of podcasting, for me to realize that such a thing was possible. But of course it wasn’t an idea that came to me directly: No, I had to go through a several step process of what I call looking-for-something-else-and-discovering-this-other-thing-by-accident, and finally-realizing-that-this-is-what-I-have-wanted-to-do-all-along!
So I’m scanning the internet one day, looking for free, downloadable audiobooks. What I find is an all-new audio drama called “Black Jack Justice”, created by Gregg Taylor. Finding them magnificent, I wonder if I might do something like this… Someday. More time goes by wherein I do nothing toward this goal, except listen to more “Black Jack Justice” and more old shows (an older brother by this time has pointed me toward archive.org, the best website for any fan of OTR [Old Time Radio]). Then, one day, for no other reason than they are cool, truly American art, I am scanning the internet for samples of vintage pulp-fiction magazine covers. What I find instead is a website called the Pulp Magazines Project, which has a digital archive of literally hundreds of pulps, from the late 1800s through the heyday of the 1930s and 40s, and into the late 1950s. I start reading the stories, and finally the aforementioned seed sprouts: these stories would be perfect as audio dramas, if only a guy would adapt them!
I became that guy. [Here’s their very first episode.]
The stories seemed to choose themselves, and the adaptations were lots of fun to write. Season One had 12 dramatizations of stories from 12 different pulp genres: Science Fiction, Crime, Western, the Supernatural, the Average Joe (or Everyman), the Macabre, the Untamed Frontier, the Jungle, Sports, Romance, Espionage and War. My wife, Stephanie, came up with the name “Pulp-Pourri Theatre”, which is the perfect title for a program that features lots of different pulp genres. When it was time to choose my troupe of actors, I drew from my local community theatre crowd, due to my long involvement with them. Many of them had never done such a thing as voice acting before, and they admitted to loving it right away. Starting out with only a dozen or so regulars, The Narada Radio Company now boasts a troupe of five times that amount! Not all of them are local, either; our members can be found in many different parts of the U.S., plus two Canadians.
Due to time constraints, Season Two was reduced to 10 episodes, with six adaptations, two guest playwrights, and two original plays, with no emphasis on any particular genre – just stories I liked. Season Three, currently halfway through production, will have a total of 10 episodes, but with only two adaptations and two guest playwrights – the remaining four, my own creations, include re-stagings of the two plays I produced in 2001.
And I am proud to say that Season Four is already mapped out and will return to the 12-slot format, keeping the two guest slots; but there will be a vast change to the programming. Not only will we have 12 standard anthology episodes, we will also run, concurrently, an all-new, 12-episode Western serial.
Meantime, we’re entering contests and winning a few awards here and there; I’m networking with other AD producers and collaborating on occasion, lending my voice talents to their shows, and writing, writing, writing. I was recently asked to contribute a script to another producer’s anthology series, and I went so far as to cast it and direct it myself. Yet another original, as-yet un-produced script has been published in book-form, in a horror anthology called “Wicked Towers”. On top of this, each episode of Pulp-Pourri Theatre has commercial breaks, and each episode must have funny commercials from fictitious sponsors, plus special features such as interviews with unusual people, or folks with strange occupations. Those all come from my imagination, so even though an episode might not be an original story, each one still contains original material of some sort.
In real life I am married, the father of two sons, aged 30 and 13, and grandfather to a boy and a girl. I work as a civil servant by day, and do the audio drama thing in my spare time. I would gladly give up my day job if it were possible to earn a living as an audio drama producer, because I absolutely love it, everything about it – the writing, the wrangling and coaching and directing of the actors, and then the production of the actual episode; editing, mixing and sound design. However, if it remains merely the labor of love that it is now, I’ll still be happy, because it’s the best hobby I’ve ever had, and I hope to continue for many more years to come.
[Cue tense cliffhanger…] Next time, on the 99% Perspiration blog, will Pete share with you his insight into making radio drama possible on a tiny budget? Will he share some of the many tips & tricks he’s gathered over the years? Will he affect another Fagin accent and regale us with more stories from yore?
Yes, yes he will!
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And, as always,
Stay productive, stay awesome!
Executive Producer, 99% Perspiration