Project update and working with BBC WM.
So a while ago I teased an upcoming drama I had been working on entitled 'Online', well I'm glad to say it'll be broadcasting tomorrow at 7 pm on BBC WM. I'll also be sitting down with Henry (remotely of course) to chat about it and my career up to this point. So make sure to check it out and if you are interested read more about it below.
‘Online’ follows a young twenty-something called Connor whose life is flipped, turned upside down when his phone develops feelings towards him. It’s a drama with a serious tone that is supported by some comedic qualities and features EastEnders stars Harry Reid and Sian Webber.
On the surface, ‘Online’ is a discussion about our relationship with technology and the effects it can have on our day to day lives. Of course, if we pay attention to the way Connor interacts with others, we can see the effect technology has had on his life. I was keen for references to this to be littered throughout the script even before we see the phone start to have a noticeable detrimental effect on his mental health. For example, the way he awkwardly interacts with his mother and friends, his questionable hygiene and timekeeping are things that might be overlooked. However, this could show how he was already struggling with social issues.
When we analyse ‘Online’ a little bit deeper, the relationship between Connor and his phone is about our relationships with others. This is perhaps most clear in the way Connor deals with his phone when it starts to crave more of his attention. Rather than addressing this problem, explaining his feelings and attempting to understand the phones’ new emotional range, he seeks to “fix it” and rid himself of what he sees as a burden on his life. This is something that I know that I and many others have been guilty of when we feel others are breaking the ‘unwritten rules’ of social relationships, whether that be through attempting to become too close or requiring too much maintenance in the form of attention and support.
Cast and crew
When it came to the casting process, I had a strong idea about some of the actors that I felt would best represent their respective characters, whilst others I discovered along the way. I knew instantly that I wanted Harry Reid to play the part of Connor and I was confident that, despite him mentioning his lack of radio or podcasting experience, his previous ADR work meant it would not be an insane stretch to bring him into the studio. This calculated bet played off and he absolutely smashed it. His previous work with Sian Webber meant I knew they would create a fantastic, realistic family duo.
The producers had worked with Matthew Wyn Davies, Emma Howarth, and Cerys Knighton before, and on reviewing their clips I was confident that they would be perfect for the roles. In particular, Emma gave an unreal and haunting performance as the phone’s voice. There was just silence and the hairs on all of our necks stood up the first time we heard her in the studio, absolutely outstanding. I also think Cerys did an outstanding job of switching between several roles and it was brilliant to see her do it with such ease and confidence. Ben also did an amazing job stepping up to play the role of the phone shop employee.
The crew where very professional and helped me a lot when I had to make tough decisions and last-minute changes. Our Executive Producer, Alison Vernon Smith, was able to give me very helpful advice that built on her years of experience. Andre Jacquemin did an amazing job of reflecting the soundscape as I had imagined it, blowing my expectations with what was technically possible. He was so committed to getting it complete to an insane standard, never compromising on our shared vision. He went out of his way to work on the project, giving up his evening after we had to leave the studio so that he could play me a few edits in the morning and hear my thoughts.
Limited time meant we had to make changes
Naturally, I love how ‘Online’ turned out and think it is an accurate representation of the vision I had when I fell in love with the script. There have been slight revisions made to the script since we started, as it was originally positioned a bit more as a horror. My decision to change this better reflects the psychological aspects of the story and the messages behind it.
I was keen for ‘Online’ to be as accessible as possible to those of all ages and abilities, so I removed some of the more harsh and profane language. I also added a slight comedic tone, which I feel made some of the darker and more hard-hitting scenes (spoilers I guess) a bigger hit and added more weight. This also meant that we could get our messages out to as many people as possible and have the opportunity for a real mainstream conversation