How I Made A Fiction Podcast In A Pandemic: Part Two – The Influences Of ‘The Glam Gizmo’

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I knew I wanted The Glam Gizmo to stand out and be different, off-beat and strange in all the right and wrong ways when I started making it back in 2019.

I think when we all go out and make something of our own, we get caught up in how it should be artistically subversive and different from anything that’s come before it. However, the more I reconsidered this after writing the first episode drafts, the more I was at peace with the idea that it would probably be pretty similar to a lot of other audio dramas.

In fact, it’s probably very similar to a lot of the forms of entertainment that I consume and herald in high regard, and you know what… that’s okay.

Essentially, I wanted to make something that 16-year-old me would devour.

If The Glam Gizmo has taught me anything, it’s progressively become a reflection of all the stories that I love and if you’re a listener of the series, you would have probably picked up some of these as you’ve made your way through, but I wanted to take the time to deliberately talk through a few and explain them a little more and maybe why I’ve leant on these examples for inspiration so much.

1. Round The Twist

The Twist Family from ‘Round The Twist’ as depicted in Series 2

Round The Twist and Paul Jennings are probably two of the biggest icons to emerge from Australian television and literature.

For those who have read and consumed his work, you would probably understand why.

Those of you who are not familiar, Round The Twist is a family story that follows a suburban family of a widowed father with three kids move out to an Australian costal town in a retired lighthouse where supernatural happenings occur on an episode-by-episode basis.

Many kids around the country have been scarred, grossed out or terrified by stories of ghosts, ghouls, water spirits and TV remotes (I recall that ‘Spaghetti Pig-Out’ and ‘Birds Do’ were enough to wig me out) and there is something about this kind of whack genre of TV that taps into the psyche – there will be a few more examples soon.

The thing I particularly enjoyed about Jennings’ storytelling is that he never feared going too far or dark, which is a huge affirmation to young viewers saying “Hey, it’s okay to get a little spooked, but you’ll be okay.”

His encapsulation of Australian culture through repulsive (and sometimes sadistic) humour was always so on point and I think made all of us who watched it just that little bit more wicked than maybe what we were before.

I’ve often heard Jennings say in interviews as well that the archetype of Tony Twist and his three kids, Pete, Linda and Bronson, were often based on him and his family, and this gave me the license to allow myself to base characters of my own creation from certain areas and points of my life.

One prime example of this is Max, the first main character we meet in Episode 1, who is paving through his day-in-day-out life of working as a chef hand in a university kitchen, always wanting more.

Rather than showing us something cutesy and harmless, Jennings went into territory that made his readers and viewers react actively, very visual ideas that are nightmarish and wild enough that they could just get away with being on a kids program or book and always came out with a strange twist (no pun intended).

A lot of these elements tapped into my mind growing up and I think it has affected how I write down to elements such as humour, tension, character building and climax.

If you haven’t seen the show before and want to get an idea of what I’m talking about, I’d recommend watching Skeleton On The Dunny.

2. Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory

Willy Wonka as depicted in the 1971 film by Gene Wilder

Those of you who will know me well enough understand that this is my favourite film of all time and I have to watch it a certain number of times a year.

It’s the film that everybody has watched at least once and creates the perfect balance of being intriguing enough for kids and hilariously engaging enough for adults.

Based on the book by Roald Dahl, the story follows Charlie Bucket, a poverty-stricken young boy who wants to win a competition to go on a tour of Mr. Wonka’s chocolate factory and when his dream comes true in the form of a golden ticket, he and four other winners with their parents and guardians go on a magical mystery tour through the bizarre factory concept that bends the line between reality and fantasy.

In every way, this film is the most perfect example of domestic fantasy done right with enough fear-evoking sequences, good villainy and Brother’s Grimm style just desserts for those who are wrong-doers.

Like Round The Twist, Willy Wonka swayed on that line of what was generally considered appropriate as family viewing and what is deemed too sinister, and to this day, scenes like the tunnel, Wonka’s angry eruption and the master puppeteer Slugworth, are all elements that are questioned today.

If this film taught me and my creative mind anything, it was that good characters always prevail and those who seek malicious or self-indulgent intent always come out bottom.

The cast is full of iconic characters and moments and have the profound effect of stapling themselves into the very, very early formative years.

One Dahlism I particularly enjoy in this and other works is his eloquent wordplay, creating rhythms out of sentences and making some fantastic nonsense words like ‘fizzle pop’ and ‘fantabulous’.

Since Gene Wilder passed in 2016, this film does become more and more poignant each time I view it as his performance is such a tour de force, and there are many elements of his Wonka (and even other characters like Young Dr. Frankenstein or The Tortoise from the ’90s Alice In Wonderland) that I borrow and repurpose for some of my own characters.

It’s become one of those perfect feel-good films for me to put on and there’s always an element or two that ends up crawling back into The Glam Gizmo.

3. The Twilight Zone

Rod Serling in ‘The Twilight Zone’

Most people, if not a special select few, will have a moment where The Twilight Zone certainly gave them a hair-raising moment.

The thing that this show does so perfectly for me is structure.

Each episode is a one-off self contained story that tells a 35 minute (give or take) horror story often with a sinister ending to leave the viewer well and truly spooked.

Shows such as Black Mirror would go on to use this similar format in their own way.

When I was first writing The Glam Gizmo, I very nearly made the brief being “in each episode, every character has an unfortunate end or dies.”

Thank heavens I didn’t do that because it would mean I would have to continually recast new characters!

But I think the idea itself initially came from this show.

4. Doctor Who

The 14 actors who have played the Doctor in ‘Doctor Who’

Doctor Who is one of those entities that I have religiously followed for such a long time that the memory cheats when I try and recount when I started watching it.

The series starting in 1963 follows the adventures of a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey called ‘The Doctor’ who travels around in a time machine which has its cloaking device stuck in the form of a British 1960s police phone box.

Like other examples I’ve given, it often obtained very visual elements that were highly considered as nightmare fuel, which often gave me great inspiration for the monsters and baddies you hear in The Glam Gizmo.

I remain a very casual fan to “deep” sci-fi brands such as Star Wars, but one thing that Doctor Who always did well for me is that it remained close to home, often having stories set on earth in the present day with familiar settings that were radically transformed into unsettling when things such as statues, mannequins, shadows and dreaming were actually evil monsters.

Doctor Who always had a silliness to it that poked fun at itself and often went down uncanny valley, and I think this is what made it especially more attractive to watch.

It had the opportunity to change from genre to genre each week as well making each episode completely accessible and always made a point of difference.

Big Finish, the BBC licensed company, make incredible stories for audio that inspired me to make The Glam Gizmo and have a great quality of storytelling which I’ve listened to for over 15 years (give or take).

If you haven’t seen the show before and want to get an idea of what the show does well, watch these scenes from Blink and Dark Water or these examples from the Big Finish audio dramas Spare Parts and I Am The Master.

Honourable Mentions:

  • Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (Netflix Series)
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (BBC Radio Play)
  • Welcome To Night Vale
  • Roald Dahl’s Tales Of The Unexpected

Published by Tom Denham

I produce and direct fiction podcasts, specialising in creative storytelling with sound.

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