Brewing Spilt Coffee - Creating Black Signal

Posted on 2019-10-22 by Daniel Lawrence

“Space: The final frontier
These are the voyages of the Starship, Enterprise
Its 5 year mission
To explore strange new worlds
To seek out new life and new civilizations
To boldly go where no one has gone before”-Various Captains of the Starship Enterprise

This quote; is perhaps one of the most evocative in all of popular Science-Fiction. Famous for its role in various series and films titled Star Trek, it beautifully encapsulates the mystery and wonder of space, and the stories that it can conjure. The allure of space and its capacity for fanciful storytelling not only led to the creation of ‘Black Signal,’ but it led to the very formation of Spilt Coffee Productions itself.

Spilt Coffee Productions and ‘Black Signal’ are both children of necessity and friendship. Studying his third and final year of Radio Production at Bournemouth University, Connor had a lot on his plate. Not only was he head of the Student Radio Station ‘Nerve,’ he was the curator of his own Radio Show ‘So Cosy Radio’ (now available @Keakiemusic) and had two final year projects to complete. Fans of ‘So Cosy Radio’ will know that Connor is an excellent audio producer, and as his work slate during his final year of Uni proves, he’s a dedicated worker. Long story short, Connor gets the job done. The brief for his final year projects was simple; create one Ten Minute Audio Piece, and later in the year create one Thirty Minute Audio Piece. Now, Connor doesn’t do things by halves, and he also likes to break new ground, he wanted drama and story for these projects and for story, he needed a dedicated team of writers. So when the brief for the Ten Minute Audio Piece came around, Connor knew just who to call upon.

Following a successful production on ‘The Glass is Always Cleaner on the Other Side,’ Connor approached Ben, Rhys and Myself (Dan). The three of us at the time were embarking on our final year of Scriptwriting for Film and Television at Bournemouth University, and the four of us had kept in touch after sporadically working together throughout our studies and finding out we all got along rather well. Connor called the three of us into his Nerve Radio headquarters and approached us with the idea of collaborating on the Ten Minute Piece (and latterly the Thirty Minute Piece, but we shall save that for later) and we all leapt at the chance. For Ben it would be a second time writing a script for Audio, for Myself and Rhys, this was a whole new adventure and one to be excited about.

Over the course of a few weeks our meetings centred on what we wanted to achieve; and what story we wanted to tell. Space was the core drive in these meetings, to explore the sound design of a vessel in Space was just the challenge Connor needed as a Producer, and one that we three writers needed as well. We quickly settled on the motif of ‘when space bites back’ and taking inspiration from classics such as ‘Alien’ we wanted the story to focus on a monster of a kind attacking a crew exploring space. The focus then was obviously with the absence of the visual, how we were to communicate the story through sound. The answer was to be a creature that was never seen by the crew until the last minute, but for its actions throughout the story to be tampering with the Space-craft our characters inhabited. The character’s interpretations of these events and the sounds of the Space-craft would then guide the audience through the story. Furthermore, another plot device placed into the script was how the alien invasion of the Space-Craft was recorded on the ships ‘Black Signal’ or black-box if you will and the story of this ill-fated encounter is played out via this makeshift radio message to another Space-Craft ten years later who stumble across the distress call/message. This feature provided another opportunity for Connor to play about with the audio design for the production.

The story itself plays on both genre tropes of Science-Fiction and horror and a beautifully wrought Satanic motif devised by Ben. Ben, Rhys and Myself really dug into creating this script and were thrilled when Connor gave it his seal of approval. We recorded the piece at one of the radio studios at the University, and I even managed to wriggle my way into another voice acting role. I’m pleased to report that Connor received the highest grade in his course for the work too.

On this project we developed upon what we learnt from ‘The Glass is Always Cleaner on the Other Side.’ Connors sound design took another leap forward. Ben, Rhys and I found a good process as a writing team and creating a Script for ears only. Beyond this, through our meetings and the entire production our harmony as a group grew. Naturally then, it was taskmaster Connor who suggested we form ourselves as a team in an official capacity. Seeing as we all get along rather well the rest of us said yes with little hesitation. All we needed was a name. Now, all four of us are rather fond of a steamin hot ‘cuppa joe’ and Connor being a busy chap suggested that when one is rushing around with a coffee it is likely to spill. Voila; Spilt Coffee Productions! Now all we had to do was get stuck into the next project…

If you wish to listen to ‘Black Signal’ then you’re in the right place, it is right here on our website!

And remember we boldly go where no audio drama has gone before!