Sunday, March 21, 2010

Broken Sea

Broken Sea Productions just reached its third year milestone as a production company. Considering themselves Audio Hooligans, Broken Sea produces a number of fan fiction, adaptations, and original audio drama. Their main features include the ongoing adaptation of Planet of the Apes called Simian Sagas, Jake Sampson, Monster Hunter, Doctor Who, Feedback, Maudelayne and many others. Most of the shows are written by CEO Paul Mannering, Bill Hollweg who also acts as one of the main audio producers, with David Sobkowiak, Stevie K. Farnaby, Mark Kalita, Alexa Chipman and Elaine Barrett, among others who work on their own productions and help out with others. Broken Sea produces new audio weekly for their "Audio Thursdays" of a variety of shows including a new series called Twilight Theatre.The shows are rated from General and Children friendly to Mature.

The website uses the background image of a rolling sea, and that automatically makes the site hard to read. The color scheme works fine, but dark backdrops with light lettering never works as well as the other way around. All the information is available with links down the right side, and news on the left. For some reason there is a "navigation bar" down the center column and this makes navigation itself difficult.
Ideally a navigation bar should be on the edge of a screen- usually off the top or left most said, and always highlighted in such a way that it doesn't blend with the rest of the web page.
Broken Sea produces a lot of shows and the long list of links is so prodigious as one can easily get lost who is not new to the show. Why not set their shows out in categories along the top?
Adaptations, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, History, Kids, Drama, Comedy or something like that? With drop down menus to help us get an idea what kind of show to listen?
Single links were fine when Broken Sea had less than ten offerings, but they need to rethink how to have the website reflect their works today.
Ideally, a web page will show everything someone needs to know at a glance without scrolling down. Scrolling should only be necessary for further or deeper information.
Rating 3/5

Audio Drama Type- Modern Theater, Fan Fiction, Experimental, OTR Recreations
Broken Sea's focus has been entirely modern. They operate with production and creative team in different locations (and continents as Mr. Mannering is in New Zealand). Broken Sea boasts a full serve audio production with rich sound and very layered special effects. Like Pendant and Darker Projects, Broken Sea appears to have grown from a series of friends who love telling stories and have decided to use the audio drama medium to tell their stories (sometimes to the detriment). One exception of this is The OTR Swag Cast which is a showcase of old time radio that's been cleaned up for presentation with a new introduction by Mr. Hollweg as a host.

Acting Type- Long Distance Amateurs
Much like the other collaborative projects in Audio Drama the acting ranges wildly. There are certainly some very good performances and equally some very poor. To be fair, performances have steadily gotten better in the last year as it seems there is a real attempt to continue to improve all aspects of the Broken Sea's Productions. Mark Kalita leads the crew in his portrayal of "the Doctor" and "Jake Sampson", Elie Hirschman and Sarah Blevins also do a great job. While Mr. Hollweg does a decent Taylor from Planet of the Apes and his Texan accent makes him a nature for "Texas Holdem", neither he nor Mr. Mannering or Mr. Sobkowiak are the strongest actors in the crew. More detail for Broken Sea's acting will need to wait for specific reviews of series.
Rating 3.5/5

Production Types- Detail Oriented
Like Darker Projects, Broken Sea takes careful aim at creating a "moment" in their production scenes. Most of their shows (with the exception of some series like Maudelayne) have a rich tapestry of sound, sound images that leap out of the earphones and paint vividly the scene. If there is a criticism to be made, it is that the sound is sometimes too full, too rich. Creating a setting is important to tell the story. Putting in sound effects are import to tell the story. Blending in music is important to tell the story. Sometimes this is forgotten. A fight scene in audio drama is perhaps one of the hardest to engineer and a pile of sounds can overwhelm the listener and make them wondering just what is going on. Music that may be appropriate in tone can be lost on the listener if it overwhelms the story. Like editing out purple prose, the urge to create "purpled" sound effects need to be restrained. While Darker Projects knows where to draw the line with sounds, Broken Sea is still not quite there. But that being said, this is a minor criticism that varies depending upon the production. Some productions have relatively little sound effects. Deeper investigation as to which will require a "series" review.
Rating 4.5/5

Writing in Broken Sea varies wildly from exciting and engaging to mystifying. Once again deeper notes will depend upon the series, but briefly, the adaptations from Logon's Run to Escape from New York to Planet of the Apes are masterful, simply masterful. Broken Sea has created a new opportunity for Audio Drama- the extended adaptation. Mr. Hollweg seems to have capitalized on this especially with his extended serial. From Planet of the Apes to Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Hollweg has included extra material on his own that neatly threads some of the missing story. This is something more folks should consider tackling in the audio drama world. Some of the greatest stories and movies can be recreated in an extended form in audio drama.
One of the other great shining (albeit brief) spots in Broken Sea's line up is their Conan series. Although removed by the draconian actions of one CPI Paradox Entertainment (feel free to email them a nasty letter, I did), Conan was a rare attempt to reproduce some of the public domain stories of Robert E. Howard. Other series aren't nearly as well developed. The Greenpond stories are unfortunately uninteresting (and there's very few children's tales out there), the Grog & Gryphon is uneven with far too many characters to keep track of, Maudelayne is fun, but often times the dialog comes off as wooden and the less said the better of Ulysses Galactic Guides and Bounties, Inc. which feels like a drug addled dream of music and, well, drugs.
More detail on these series later.

Additional Notes: Multiple Shows
Broken Sea's biggest problem is one of its strengths- too many shows. While having a number of shows give listeners plenty of options, whether your favorite show is being updated regularly or not is about as easy to figure out as the queen in a Three Card Monty game. Broken Sea trumpets up and coming shows in some of their promos in other shows, but they do a terrible job at getting the word out for releases, delays, and podfades of series and shows. Let's be clear. While they may suffer from DPS (Darker Project Syndrome), it is a mild case, and we hope that some clearer news even on their website will help the listeners.

Over All Rating

Broken Sea represents my hopes in a new amateur audio drama company. They've got piles of energy and enthusiasm for the genre. They produce a number of different series from a pile of genres. They develop excellent production levels and for the most part decent scripts. Their acting is improving and they have fun, serious fun. This is a group that loves what they do and it shows.
Let's see what else these audio hooligans can come up with.
Rating 4/5


  1. I have not seen this issue addressed.... but Bill Hollweg is absolutely one of the best ambassadors at marketing his website and his shows.
    I can only think of 2 others that even bother to do the same in a personalized fashion..
    But I have found this method, at least in my experience, to be a very effective marketing tool.

  2. Thanks amigo appreciate the kind words and the kind words here too at the review blog-James!

    And yes- Ulysses is meant to be a drug induced mind warp-LOL

    Thanks for taking a peek at what keep me sane and or insane-LOL

    I love this medium- and as James mentioned I also agree that BrokenSea's season three stuff has really taken off both in the VA and the mixing and writing. I think alot of that has to do with the fact we are always trying to get better and now we have all been doing this for a couple years. And with each new show we are harder on ourselves in the pre release stages than we were before . Early eps of my Grog and Gryphon were my first mixing attempts so one can follow as I learn new filters, buttons and the like as the grog goes along.

    Thanks a million for the comments on CO_AN . Funny thing is, we have an australian fan that was irritated as well by the Stygian Lawyers... So much so he went to the internet archive. Mind you I can't condone his actions or what he posted there, but I can chuckle.

    So as long as the blood flies off the broadswords and the magic weaves it's mystic arcs- we will continue to have a ball!

    Thanks again for taking the time to listen and to review!

  3. Thanks as always for your comments RedWillie. I would not know Mr. Hollweg's devotion as an ambassador other than his many roles in Broken Sea and other shows. Of which I too am grateful.
    And thank him here for his kind and sometimes blistering honest words.
    ~J. Snowe

  4. Please-call me Bill- I work for a living .

    I do enjoy your site, whether I always agree or not, and I try and let ya know, I also as you perhaps can tell and a huge fan first. So all this is very personal to me.

    Pop over to ADtalk J- and join the discussions and chaos we weave over there if you have not yet.

    As for this medium- it's the best ever and I intend on keeping it alive till 3975 A.D.

    Then of course hitchin a ride on a star Ship..Stupid Mutants and their gold Bombs..

  5. Thanks Bill, your enthusiasm for the medium is very important to this revival. Thank you for that.
    I have perused Audio Drama talk, chiefly to find out new released companies and shows.
    I'm a little concerned about getting too close to the folks there though, as I don't want those relationships to interfere with my honest opinion of their works.
    I think there's enough of that in Washington right now. :)
    ~J. Snowe