Audio drama is a harsh mistress. In a YouTube clip world, the idea of sitting down for an hour and listening to a play can be a tough sell. And yet there is one outfit that is thriving, The Minister of Chance. Featuring a stunning cast including Sylvester McCoy (the 7th Doctor), Paul Darrow, Jenny Agutter and Julian Wadham as the Minister, MoC is auditory science fiction at its finest. I recently had the opportunity to ask producer Clare Eden a few questions about The Minister.
For the uninitiated, how would you describe The Minister of Chance?
Clare Eden: The Minister of Chance is a drama series that is available as a FREE podcast to anyone, anywhere. We now have three episodes and a prologue available and have been overwhelmed by wonderful reviews for it. Basically it’s a cracking good yarn told by a superb company of actors!
How did you become involved?
Eden: A mutual friend introduced me to the writer/director/producer Dan Freeman. He had the seed of an idea to dedicate a series to the Minister of Chance character he’d first created in a BBC audio series called Death Comes To Time ([there] played by the great Stephen Fry. Dan is the most brilliant writer and has a very exciting and innovative view on soundscape. When you want to produce a series you also need a nuts and bolts person, usually with sharp pencils and a phone – he’s the architect but he needed someone to help him build it and when you hear him talk about his vision it’s easy to find yourself thinking, mm, I think I could help achieve that…
It seems every medium has a slightly different definition of the job of a producer. What does producing audio drama entail?
Eden: Ha! I’m sure that ‘producer’ on every project is a different handbook – as the exec producer on a series funded first by overdraft, and now by incredible fans, I can tell you it involves turning your hand to absolutely anything whatsoever needed and that can be from casting and contracts to publicity and cast catering! The only area I avoid is the technical one – my skillset may be broad but it doesn’t extend to sound effects and editing – that’s the world in which Dan reigns supreme! We have a few crew [members] who very brilliantly help us out in production but generally, the day to day task list is just managed by Dan and me.
MoC has attracted some big names to its cast. How did you approach, for instance, Paul Darrow?
Eden: I am terrifically proud of the cast we’ve assembled for this – and mostly it just required a good deal of nerve! I worked for many years as an agent and one thing I held onto firmly was that my clients found it hard to resist a quality script even if it did come with a bonkers budget. So we simply thought who we’d like to be in it, I approached their agents and we held our breath. Creating audio drama for release like this is a very innovative idea and fortunately the concept and Dan’s script piqued the interest of a superb cast! I was also able to introduce Dan to some really good actors that had been clients when I was an agent, and we have been able to work with several very young actors I know because they were Bursary students with the John Thaw Foundation which I run for Sheila Hancock. Across the board, it’s a cast (and crew) of people who play their role beautifully but are also really supportive and ‘up for it’!
You are beginning production on Episode Four now. Has production become easier the more you do?
Eden: The headaches of achieving miracles on a very small budget remain a challenge always but the cast (and their agents) now know they can trust us to produce something of quality and that they’ll enjoy working with us, so that side has become easier. I do feel like we’re getting a gang of mates back together each time. Similarly, now we’ve got history and an established group of both fans and supportive reviewers, it’s a bit easier to get word out when we have an episode to release, or are starting a crowd-funding campaign.
Has Dan let you in on where the series is going?
Eden: If I answered that, I’d not live long enough to finish this senten….
There’s no real precedent in the audio medium for the type of crowd sourcing MoC does. Do you find that to be liberating?
Eden: It is very wonderful to think ‘well I like this script, shall we just make it’? The commissioning process can be very frustrating and there is no doubt that it is liberating to be able to make something because we think it’ll be good – and to make it the way we want to. But it doesn’t mean we’re not answerable to anyone, we’re answerable to a heap of people who have invested their very hard earnt cash into becoming Minister Moguls. It’s fantastic to be in direct contact with its audience and to experience their phenomenal support, and both Dan and I feel a real sense of responsibility in making that support count.
How can people help ensure more MoC in the future?
Eden: Well, first off, just go to Ministerofchance.com and download it (for free) and listen. Then tell anyone you know about it by any means possible (we have no publicity budget!) and that’ll bring in more fans. If you have any spare cash, then brilliant, invest in a perk like the chance to be in it, or to own cast-signed scenes and have a character named after you – that all helps finance the next episode. We also have some merchandise available on our website and profits from that support production too, we’re hoping our merchandise range will help solve a few Christmas present headaches as we get nearer that time of year! But even if you’re broke, your help in simply introducing new people to it, or sharing news via Facebook or Twitter, and even something seemingly straightforward like leaving a review on iTunes makes a real difference to its future. The series just wouldn’t exist without its fans!