News & Views
Voices of the Crowd #5 – Tom Fordyce14 April 2021
Death of a Rock Star. Death of a Sports Star. And now Death of a Film Star These are going to be gloomy, aren’t they? Exploitative? Rather depressing, in a world where you don’t need to look far to find the depressive?
As someone who writes the scripts across these narrative series, I’d hope not. You know how the best obituaries are actually strangely inspiring? How death can be followed by funerals, but also by a wake, a celebration? How sometimes you just want to spend more time with someone – with what they did, how they did it, how they made you feel?
Rock stars are the men and women who can move us like no one else: tell us how we feel, change our moods and the clothes we wear, define how we remember special times and places. Sports stars are our real-time superheroes, doing things we could only dream of. They’re the ones who make us jump around like we’ve lost our minds, scream in the faces of our friends, tie us close to thousands of people we’ll never actually meet.
And film stars? They can take a few words on a script and transform them into something far greater – something that can make us laugh, cry and change the way we see the world. Maybe you know them in their lifetime. Maybe you come to them later. The best of them never quite fade away.
So that’s what we try to reflect in our podcasts about them. We take an angle, or an emotion, or a day, and use it to tell old stories in new ways. We try to find out what made these people extraordinary. We explore all the reasons why we can’t ever let them go, all these years later.
If you love this person, we hope to shine a new light on them. If you don’t know them, or only know a little, we want you to love them by the end – to want to watch their films, play their music, go on YouTube and search out their greatest moments.
A lot of research goes into them. You read books, watch documentaries, dig out old articles. You look for that fresh space in a familiar tale. You’ve only got 4,000 words to cover a life, so it’s as much about what you leave out as what you leave in.
It should always be fascinating but never salacious. The listener must care about the main character by the end, feel sympathy towards them, understand their world view. You’re telling a great yarn, not writing an encyclopaedia entry. You imagine you’re sitting down opposite a friend and spinning a story they don’t want to end.
Those new angles? With Kobe Bryant, one of the greatest stars of this era, we just did the day of his death, told from the perspective of five people intimately connected to him. With Bob Marley, we begin in a snowbound clinic in Bavaria, run by a former SS doctor. With Michael Jackson, we begin at the trial that appeared to clear his name; with Marilyn Monroe, we tell the story of her final day, falling apart in a white stucco house in LA, looking back on all that has taken her there.
That’s the words. The voices are the ones who lift it to a new level, who take humble little sentences and transform them into a performance. Emma Clarke, Elroy ‘Spoonface’ Powell and Tom Price are like the greatest gift you ever had, as a writer. They just make everything you do, twice as good. As a listener, they’re your friend. Your companion.
The production? That’s what makes the pod unforgettable. When you hear what someone like Phill Brown does to the raw audio for the Marley show, you understand what sound artistry is all about. Creating moods, painting pictures with sound.
And we hope that all comes together into a podcast that’s like nothing you’ve heard before. Something fresh in a crowded market. Half an hour when it’s you, your headphones, and your heroes and heroines. Whole worlds around you, mini epics, stories you can’t ever forget.
Death of a Film Star is out every Tuesday, and can be downloaded wherever you get your podcasts.