Production Notes: Insomnia and The Long Weekend

by Billy Senese for The Sound Palette (Dec. 11, 2006)

In the beginning…

When producing “Insomnia” and “The Long Weekend”, I began purely from the point of view of a filmmaker. I had never produced anything for radio before, so I really had no other direction but to proceed as though I was making a couple of short films.

I came up with an idea. I wrote some scripts. I cast it, planned it, shot (recorded) it, cut it, produced the sound design, and produced the music.

So what was the difference then?

From a financial standpoint, I didn’t need all that extra crew hanging around. That was kind of nice. I didn’t need a camera or lights – very nice. There were no locations, no set design, no costumes, no makeup – nice, nice, nice, nice. No headaches? Yeah, right. There were still plenty of challenges to be met, especially when it came to the writing and performances.

For instance, in “The Long Weekend”, a married couple is arguing over whether or not they should have a baby. How many unsaid issues in a marriage are communicated simply through body language? How do you show body language in radio? You’re forced to come up with more imaginative solutions (tone, space, a well-placed sigh, silence, music, etc.) What I successfully avoided was using exposition or narration. Albeit, there is nothing wrong with exposition or narration, it’s just not the choice I would’ve made if it were a film script. And that’s the discipline I maintained throughout these plays.

Production Notes -“Insomnia”

The lead actress, Rachael Hofmann, flew in from Washington, DC to record her parts. After she returned home, I discovered that the entire final scene of the piece was missing from the audio source – whoops! It just so happens that the final scene is set entirely over the phone. So I borrowed a friend’s junky 8 bit digital recorder specifically designed to record phone conversations and re-recorded the scene live between my phone in Nashville and hers in DC. The 8 bit natural phone effect was perfect (I could have never duplicated the sound quality I was looking for as well with filters), and the conditions ended up leading to better performances all around. Sometimes you need things to go wrong.

Production Notes – “The Long Weekend”

Creating the monster sounds was by far the hardest challenge to overcome in this piece (I can’t even imagine the difficulties I would have faced with an independent film). Thomas Nola ( came up with the noises, and I maneuvered them into the piece. We knew we wanted a real monster – not something about which you’d say, “That sounds like a bear” or, “That sounds like this or that.” At the same time, we didn’t want it to be anything silly, alien, or unreal – very difficult to do. After many trials and errors, I believe we pulled it off.

Listen to trailers of INSOMNIA and THE LONG WEEKEND and links to the full play on PRX.

Read PRX EB Joseph Dougherty’s review of THE LONG WEEKEND

billypic.jpgBilly Senese is an independent filmmaker, producer and writer living in Nashville, Tennessee. His feature film debut, “Dark Awakening,” will be released shortly. His work focuses on the darker, hidden aspects of humanity. In the last year he has turned his attention to writing and producing radio dramas.

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