Interview w/ Dick Grunert, Creator of Dead of Night Radio

The days have gotten colder and the nights have grown longer. There's no doubt that Winter is upon us and although that means the luster of Fall is behind us there's still time for one last send-off for Halloween before you start to carve up those Thanksgiving turkey and break out that dusty Black Christmas DVD. Our year-end Halloween Hooplad begins with a project that's actually perfect for these Winter nights: Dick Grunert's Dead of Night Radio.

An ode to those late night terror transmissions of days gone by, Dead of Night Radio recently concluded a new series of midnight radio dramas in collaboration with The Autumn Society. Each story literally drips with the kind of macabre atmosphere that can only be drawn upon the midnight hour and serves to expose a different subgenre of horror that is sure to leave you with more than a few shivers. Dick joined us recently to share the origins of Dead of Night as well as shed a bit of light on its future.
You've written for stage theater, television and even animation. What are some of your favorites projects that you've worked on?

I've got a lot of favorites, each one for different reasons. I co-wrote a short film in 2003 called T For Terrorist that was produced by the Farrelly Bros. It was pretty exciting working with them, and I learned a lot about comedy writing on that project. I also wrote a play called Scenes From A Dance in 2008 that was published last year by PlayScripts, Inc and is now being performed by schools all across the country. That's pretty cool. And, of course, there's Dead of Night Radio. I love horror and I love audio drama, and this show allows me to create stories that I wouldn't be able to do as short films or plays.

Art by Alex Eckman-Lawn

Have you always wanted to be a writer? What sparked your interest in writing?

I've wanted to be a writer for as long as I remember. My dad dabbled in writing - he has a couple of unpublished novels and short stories, and I think seeing him at the typewriter as I was growing up really inspired me to be a writer, too. Also, I've had a wild imagination ever since I was a kid, so that doesn't hurt either!

Your latest project, Dead of Night, is obviously inspired by old school radio theater like Dark Shadows and Inner Sanctum. Were there any specific radio shows that you wanted to capture the feel of when writing your scripts?

I'm an old time radio junkie! Some of my favorite shows are Inner Sanctum, The Hall of Fantasy, Price of Fear with Vincent Price and CBS Radio Mystery Theater. I wanted Dead of Night Radio to be a full-blooded horror show, and each episode is a different sub-genre: "The Tunnel" is my HP Lovecraft story, "The Killing Garden" is my revenge from beyond the grave story, "Night of the Rats" is my nature run amok story, "The House on Vincent Street" is my haunted house story, "Night Delivery" is my vampire story and "All U Can Eat" is my zombie story. I wanted to make sure no two shows were alike, and so far, I think I've succeeded.

Art by Mike Bukowski

How does scriptwriting differ for a visual medium like television versus for radio? What are some of the strengths of radio horror?

Writing for radio is so much harder! You have to make sure you're telling the story through dialogue and sound efx only. As a screenwriter for film and tv, you're told to write visually, so when I started DoNR, I definitely had to switch that part of my mind off and change the way I told the story. It's been quite a challenge, but I love it!

This past October you kicked off a series of new shows in collaboration with The Autumn Society. How did this collaboration come about?

I work at a Cartoon Network Studios with Joe Game (aka Chogrin), and he came up with the idea of having The Autumn Society create these special "posters" for the existing DoNR episodes, and then we re-launched the blog over Halloween weekend. Since we won't have any new episodes until next year, it was a great way to keep the show alive, and it was really exciting to see how The Autumn Society crew re-interpreted the shows.

Art by JP Flexner

What's your favorite story from Dead of Night and why?

It seems like every new episode is my favorite. I think the series has evolved from episode to episode, and there are things I love about each one. But overall, I'm really proud of "Night Delivery" and "All U Can Eat."

Episodes are currently available for free online, is that correct? Do you have any plans for releasing the series on CD or is this something specific to the web?

People can listen to episodes for free at the blog or download them on iTunes. I've thought about releasing a CD, but right now, I'm putting all of my energy into creating new episodes.

Art by Justin Gray
With the conclusion of your Autumn Society collaboration is this the end of Dead of Night or can we expect future installments?

I hope this isn't the end! I'd love to continue working with The Autumn Society in the future!

You also have another radio project called Murder by Radio. What's the status of that project and how is it different from Dead of Night?

Murder By Radio is a spin-off series that I'm working on. As I said before, DoNR is a straight-on horror series, whereas MBR is going to be more mystery-driven stories with just a hint of the supernatural. We've recorded the first episode and will premiere the show in early 2011. The idea is to do these shows bi-monthly, so one month we'll premiere a new Dead of Night, the next month a new Murder By Radio, and so on...

Art by Ma Mansur

What's the strangest thing you can remember doing as a kid?

I was a pretty strange kid, as you can imagine! I went to a Lutheran grade school, and for my 3rd grade talent show, I performed a scene from Frankenstein! I think from that moment, I was destined to become a horror writer!


  1. Jose Cruz said...:

    I've been meaning to listen to this show. It's beyond awesome to see a fellow fan of OTR horror out there creating delirious dramas for a new generation. Very cool meeting the evil genius behind the series.

    By the way, Hall of Fantasy FTW!

  1. Strange Kid said...:

    I have to admit that I'm only familiar with the older shows by name. I had never listened to any of them, but after I gave Dead of Night a try I kinda like them. There's a different kind of creativity at work there than TV or film for sure.

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