David Prest is the founder and Managing Director of Whistledown. He’s a former radio journalist and producer, and his company combines high-end programme production for BBC networks such as Radio 4 and the World Service, with audio-book, podcasts and a range of digital media content.
What’s your biggest challenge when you are producing audio content?
Really getting to the heart of the writing. Whether we are working with an author reading their own work, or an experienced actor reading for us, we have to analyse how we maximise the listener’s connection to the written word. Often the biggest challenge is working with authors reading their own work, great writers do not necessarily make great readers, and making the time to properly help them through the process is challenging, but of prime importance. Content wise, there are moments when we want to bring in our wider expertise adding layering of sound design, being creative with the text, using locations and bringing in other voices. Occasionally, we record on location – taking a mobile recording studio to wherever the reader is. Chris Packham’s book was recorded in his barn, Richard Branson’s in various locations around Europe.
Do you see Whistledown doing more directly with indie writers who are self-publishing?
We are always happy to talk to Indie writers who want to convert their printed product into audio, but we only really work on a commissioned basis. Recording an audiobook can be a long and exhausting process, and for every hour of recording, there is at least another hour of post-production, so don’t expect it to be knocked up in a couple of days for a few hundred pounds. To get a polished professional product, you need to record in a proper studio, with a skilled studio manager and producer, and it takes time.
How long does it usually take to record a voice over for an average length novel?
It depends on the reader’s level of experience, but we would reckon at a record rate of about 15-20,000 words a day, but post-production time will double that.
How do you choose who is the right sort of reader for different types of books? What makes the perfect audiobook reader?
Great voice, and an ability to hold the ear of the listener. We would always want to seek out a reader who seems an authentic fit for the work in question. The perfect audiobook reader has excellent attention to detail. They do their homework, think about pronunciation issues, read the book in advance, and work on characters (including how they develop) and accents where necessary. There’s also the stamina issue. It’s hard work to maintain good, consistent delivery in a studio all day long. We always make our actors take regular breaks!
Whistledown Productions have been nominated in several categories, including Indie of the Year, at the Audio Production Awards 2017. What do you think sets Whistledown apart in terms of audio production?
Our attention to detail. We never cut corners. We seek out the best producers, we approach every project with a fresh eye, and always undertake meticulous research and planning. We are above all a creative supplier, where there is no such thing as a bad idea.