Writing for Radio – Paul Dodgson
Paul Dodgson is a talented writer, radio producer, composer and teacher who has written and produced extensively for the BBC in the UK. He has written fourteen radio plays for BBC radio, the latest two ‘Home’ and ‘You drive Me Crazy’ have been radio memoirs. Paul has directed and produced more than 400 programmes for all BBC radio networks.
Do you have an underlying theme to your writing? Do you write across genres?
In the last few years I have been writing radio plays based on personal experience in which I feature as a narrator, reflecting an interest I have in memoir, but over the years I have written across different genres. I also write for theatre and in the last twelve months have written a large cast adaptation of Robin Hood, two plays for young people about the First World War and a children’s show devised with the performer Kid Carpet.
What is it about the medium of radio that compels you to write plays to be listened to?
When I was a child we always had Radio 4 on in our house and it seemed to me that radio opened the door to an inner world that was more vivid than anything on the TV. So from a very early age I loved listening to radio drama. I like the way it is possible to exist in the reality of a moment whilst experiencing a parallel fictional world described in sound. I have a radio by my sink in the kitchen and am still caught standing there at two-fifteen in the afternoon when the drama begins and forced to stay until it’s over at three. That’s the power of radio and why I want to write it.
Are you working on a radio play at the moment?
I am currently writing a retelling of a Cornish folk story called The Mermaid of Zennor. It is a play with music and will be transmitted in October this year.
How did you get your first radio play produced and on air?
I was working as a features producer at the BBC in Bristol when the commissioning rules changed and factual producers were allowed to bid to direct radio drama. After I had produced and directed one I realised I really wanted to write for myself and so pestered people relentlessly until someone helped me write my first play. Eventually that was commissioned.
How do you decide who to pitch to?
I pitch through producers I like (and want to work with me), who make brilliant radio plays, have a good track record in selling and are sensitive collaborators.
Do you always pitch to the same people / company?
The key relationship for writers is with the producer as they will pitch the idea directly to the commissioner and be the point of contact through the writing process, so it is a good idea to build and maintain relationships, and that is why I tend to offer ideas through the same people.
You have 14 radio plays that have been aired on BBC Radio, does it get easier to have your plays produced on air the more you do?
It is easier in the sense that an experienced writer is a known quantity to the commissioning editor, providing he liked your last play. But it is never easy to get an idea commissioned however many you have written and for every idea that is successful, many are rejected. What is perhaps easier is knowing how the system works.
Thank you for your time Paul, much appreciated.