Discovering the Community: Chris Orr

If you aren’t already familiar with the blips, whizzes, and bams of Memory Gnome Saga, the science-fiction adventure created by Chris Orr, now’s your chance – and you should! He spoke to us about the creative process between him and his teammates Trevor Scales and Ben Crawford, and how the show, as well as Hove Live, has grown with time.

Do you mind introducing yourself?

I’m Chris Orr, a director and actor whose main projects are in the Theatre. I live in Brighton on England’s South Coast. I am a huge animation fan and an unfulfilled ambition is to voice animation.

Nice to meet you! How did you start podcasting? Had you always been into storytelling? 

I bought myself a small digital recorder to help me audition and record voice over, so I thought I needed to practice with it. I got together with fellow actor Trevor Scales and just did a bit of off the cuff conversation. He said something about fishing for a memory, and I replied I had a vision of a gnome fishing in the top of his head; that started The Memory Gnome Saga. After hearing the first unedited podcast, another friend Ben Crawford volunteered to add music and sound effects – we’ve never looked back. Although I appear to do lots of different things creatively, act, direct, improvise, devise and write – they’re all in fact about telling stories, so I guess it’s in my DNA.

What are your influences?

Influences are Chuck Jones, William Shakespeare and anyone who tells a good story in whatever medium. I’m not sure I’m consciously influenced by someone, but my subconscious is because after I’ve done something I often recognise similar things. For instance the Gnome world is a weird world but in actuality operates like ours with similar domestic problems. I think you see that in The Flintstones and Monsters Inc., so that went in without me realising.

Who else works with you on the show?

Trevor Scales and I go to a café, decide where the story goes next, and then improvise an episode. We don’t usually script, so on record day (not in the café) we run the scene unrecorded three times then record three versions. We critique, edit and refine between each. We usually use the third recording – it’s emailed to Ben Crawford who adds music and sound effects.

How do you come up with all the sound effects? You’re very skillful in understanding when to use them!

With the sound effects Trevor and I leave a gap where we think one should be. The actual effects are down to Ben Crawford – we leave it entirely to him and are often surprised (in a a good way) by what he comes up with. I am highly collaborative and have found trusting people to do their own job always pays dividends.

It’s definitely worked out for you. How do you advertise the show?

We just push the show on social media, Twitter and Facebook. Sometimes I’ll email a link to an individual that shows an interest in it. Trevor tends to email his close friends.

Any favorite episodes?

My favourite episode is the podcast Gnome Extra – An Actor Prepares. This is where Trevor and I play slightly twisted versions of ourselves and I interview Trevor as to how he, a 6′ 7″ actor, plays a Gnome who’s 3′ 6″. Trevor’s favourite episode is Gnome 6 where we play two special ops Gnomes. Gnome 6 probably has the best sound effects.

Has this show helped you personally or professionally?

Finding Spreaker was great – we were using another website but now we not only record Gnome but also broadcast another show live – Hove Live (Hove is a suburb of Brighton where we both live). An artistic director of a theatre company we auditioned for loves Gnome so it’s a great excuse for staying in touch. No monetary rewards as of yet, but we’ve both learned a lot and and that will, I’m sure, pay dividends both creatively and financially in the future. Meanwhile we’re having a ball.

So are we! Anything else you’d like to share?

Hove Live, the other show, will have many strands but for now it takes us both back to the way we started – talking nonsense and having a ball. The conversations that Trevor and I have can get a little competitive and come out like a contemporary version of The Sunshine Boys, which I really like.


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