11th Hour Audio Challenge Rules

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Welcome to the 11th Hour Audio Challenge. Our goal is to engage as many teams in 11th Hour Productions as possible. Anyone can take part, and there aren’t many rules. Sadly, everything needs rules. Even mayhem has its order. But we kept the 11th Hour Audio Challenge rules intentionally simple and flexible as hell.

To alleviate copyright concerns, all show materials must be original.

Copyright is only tricky if you’re intentionally dancing in the grey area.  The most straightforward answer is consent.  If you do not own the material and don’t have permission to use the material, don’t.  Logos, musical compositions, slogans, brand names, and sound recordings have creators heavily invested in their artistic works.  Respect their creations as you wish to have your work respected.  

This rule doesn’t mean you are not allowed to use copyrighted material, just that the material has to be clearly licensed for your use for the show you’re producing. The bottom line is that we’d rather focus our efforts on the audio challenge than get wrapped up in a lawsuit.  And lawsuits do happen.

Audio Drama Lawsuits? You’re kidding!

To share a story, a few of us in here had a friend, Larissa Naples, who was part of the Audio Drama community many years ago. She produced a program called the Realtor and the CEO. The term “Realtor,” it turns out, is a trademark of the National Association of Realtors. Because they didn’t give permission, and because they didn’t like how Realtors are portrayed in the program, they served her with a cease-and-desist notification.

Larissa’s circumstances were an interesting introduction to the problems of copyright.  In accordance with U.S. copyright law, her work was not trademark or copyright infringement. The word was used in a transformative context and not to indicate membership as a literal Realtor.  She had a case for “fair use,” but she had to pay a ton of attorney’s fees to fight it in court for a judge to make that determination. To press the issue, she would have been up against the money and the power of the National Realtor’s Association to tie up the case in battle after battle, even without a legitimate copyright claim.  

The law was on her side, but her finances were not. Larissa had a family to feed. She couldn’t afford to hire a lawyer to help make her case. So with no complaint outside of a blog post, Larissa took her work down.

Shows do not have to be written in October, but shows should be recorded and post-produced in the month of October. Deadlines are at 11 PM on October 28th each year.

It wouldn’t be the 11th Hour Audio Challenge if there weren’t a time crunch. The 11th Hour was inspired by (among other things) NaNoWriMo and 24-hour film festivalsWorking in fast-paced circumstances can be a fun challenge. Team members really have to focus in and take creative approaches to problem-solving. 

It requires more adaptability and flexibility to get things done quickly, so folks learn to rely on and trust each other’s expertise and judgment more. It leaves little time for micromanagement and more need for a positive mindset to be part of a beautiful creative whole. 

We bond. We stress. We meet goals. We face uncertainty and obstacles together. And we invoke our creativity and enthusiasm to tackle something challenging. And hopefully, everyone has fun along the way.

Shows should involve more than one production company, as the point is to gather, and learn from each other and to create awesome audio.

The golden rule of the 11th Hour Audio Challenge. Teamwork and innovation are essential production skill sets. New colleagues offer unique perspectives and problem-solving solutions.

The internet contains a wealth of resources for effective collaboration, whether you work with remote teams or get together locally. Zoom, Slack, Google Drive, online calendars, and other project management tools make creativity online easy.

Expose yourself to other creators.  Chat online, ask questions, and tap into a diversity of viewpoints. Here and in your podcasts.  Work with team members you’ve never worked with.  Share your expertise and learn from that of others. Your worst experiences have still been learning experiences.  Maybe more so.  

We urge you to learn something from every creative you work with and use those tools in your workflow to help you grow as an artist. The more tools we have to express our ideas, the more ideas we can communicate, and the best way for ideas to evolve is to see how others express them. Flexibility in your creative process will only help you grow as an artist.

Scripts for shows must be under 30 pages in length.

This one’s got layers. And we like layers.

There is discipline and creativity in the challenge of telling a solid, well-crafted story in a limited page count for writers.  We don’t constrain character count for the audio challenge, but that, too, is a great exercise. That discipline and creativity bleed into more extensive work, giving you space to do more with less.  

However, the major reasons are downstream in the production process.  Productions get more technical and time-consuming the further downstream in the process you are.  Consider:

1) Actors need to familiarize themselves with scripts and develop a character that conveys the writing.

2) Directors need to break down scenes and get a strong vision of directing the cast and coordinating with cast members, answering questions, and determining the proper mixture of the cast’s chemistry.

3) The recordist needs to set up, record, maintain, and track files.  Typically the length of the project doesn’t change the scope, but it is more of that person’s time/focus, especially if that person is not solely responsible for recording.

4) The dialogue editor needs time to pull everything apart and put it back together again. For interview and audiobook editing, that process takes about three minutes per one minute of material for detailed editing, including cleanup, pacing adjustments, and eq’ing vocals.  Multiply that by the number of characters in your script, and you’ll have an idea of how much time goes into editing dialogue for a trained and seasoned dialogue editor.  Have mercy on your dialogue editor.  They can make or break your story.  Let them breathe.

5) The sound designer, especially the Foley editor, is responsible for embodying every character in that script to keep them from sounding like floating heads.  There are tools like Edward Foley Instruments that simplify this process, but to nail it, we have to think about blocking for a scene we have no visual reference for and try to embody the character. Each character.  Foley is probably the longest process for most sound designers.  Builds come next for all those unique sound cues that need layers to sound good.  After those, there’s still mixing and mastering and endlessly finessing the EQ and reverb to get the good quality out of the explosion because damn it, it’s just not right yet.  [pant, pant]

6) The producer has to coordinate this three-ring circus and ensure all the packaging and documentation are in order. Many producers wear several other of these hats.

I guess the point is to look out for your team so they have the time they need to make your script as excellent as written.

Ready to submit?

When you’re ready to submit your show head over to the 11th Hour Audio Challenge Submission page and upload your show! Then, listen to the 11th Hour Audio Podcast to celebrate the carnage!

3 thoughts on “11th Hour Audio Challenge Rules”

    • Of course, Scott! We’ve been wanting you to play since you joined us on Vultures Over Low Doves. The Grist Mill is a great piece and I’d love to hear what ideas you have for updating it. Let me know if you need a sound designer or director for it. It’d be fun to work with you on something.

      Reply

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