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City of Ghosts Podcast

Our alumni launch a new drama podcast

  • Date15 November 2021

Carina Green and Ryan Patch (both MA Screenwriting for Film and TV, 2015) recently launched a drama podcast called City of Ghosts. We caught up with them to discuss the drama, working in the industry and their time at Royal Holloway.

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City of Ghosts logo

Writing was a career path that both Carina and Ryan decided upon when they were undergraduates. Carina studied Visual Communications for her undergraduate degree and Ryan studied Film and Television Production. Carina’s original goal was to work in cinematography but says ‘I have always loved writing and when I took a screenwriting module as part of my programme, I decided that is what I truly wanted to pursue and started looking for graduate programmes.’

Ryan tells us, ‘I am primarily a director, but also believe that the bedrock of any story is the script –knowing what a good script is (and how to fix a bad one!) I view as the most important skill in filmmaking, which extends to writers, directors, producers, and editors. Because of this and because I wanted to meet more writers who I could collaborate on scripts with, five years after graduating from New York University (NYU), I applied to Royal Holloway and was chuffed (as the Brits say) when I was accepted.’

Having both decided to study abroad, they met on the MA Screenwriting for Film and TV at Royal Holloway. Carina says, ‘I had always wanted to spend time studying abroad and I liked both the calibre of teaching offered by the Royal Holloway programme and the flexibility of it. Having the option to do  two-years part-time study with writing retreats allowed me to work while also pursuing my MA, something I could not have done on a more traditional programme (meaning I probably couldn’t have got my MA!)’ .

The writing retreats were also a key aspect of the degree that attracted Ryan as it allowed him to ‘continue working and earning a living while simultaneously honing my screenwriting craft. Being able to set aside 3 solid weeks a year (plus 5-10 hours / week for coursework) is much more realistic for a working professional than going full-time, as many American universities force you to do, and the innovative programme structure was an incredible way to fit writing and learning about writing into my life.’

Studying at Royal Holloway gave them both an international outlook, with Carina saying it gave her ‘not only a chance to see other parts of the UK, but it was a great bonding experience with the other members of my course. I have great memories of evenings spent sitting around and just discussing writing and films.’ She also valued the academic rigour of the degree, enjoying the critique sessions, ‘where we got to discuss our projects because they really helped me to dissect my own work and look at it from new angles. I always walked away from them fired up and ready to start a new draft’

‘Meeting people with different perspectives and experiences from around the world was delightful.  I have continued personal, professional and artistic relationships with many of my peers who I really value’, says Ryan. One of Ryan’s favourite memories of his time at Royal Holloway was ‘sharing a bottle of whisky at the retreats in Devon and Cornwall with my fellow writers while ravenously devouring and dissecting the first season of True Detective, absolutely losing our minds about how good it was.’ The world of British cuisine was also a highlight of his time in the UK as he recalls he was ‘introduced to British curry and coming to understand that it means business!’

This love of storytelling and collaborating with peers, has been a driving force in both Carina and Ryan’s careers. Ryan tells us that his favourite aspect about his work is ‘creating things with other people’.  Carina has ‘always been fascinated by the power of stories. I spent most of my childhood in a tiny, rural town and often my imagination was my only escape. The beauty of stories is that there really are no limits to what you can come up with and put down on metaphorical paper. It’s just you and your mind and endless possibility. I love storytelling and have been excited to get to do it in so many different forms.’

With this shared love, the pair were perfect to work together on City of Ghosts.  ‘City of Ghosts is a neo-noir, supernatural drama set in 1999 New York City about power, corruption, and the things that haunt us. We follow Eleanor Rivikin, an information broker, as she investigates the murder of a journalist and grapples with abilities that she’s had since she was a child. Ryan and I began developing the podcast in early 2018 and would work on it for the next two years. We finished writing it in the spring of 2020, just as COVID-19 was starting to sweep across the country. That summer, we set out to record the podcast remotely, mailing recording kits to all our cast and holding sessions over Zoom. Then, after about a year and a half in post-production, it’s finally out there in the world!’ Carina tells us. It has been much lauded in the press, including industry bible Variety. Carina describes this as, ‘Incredible! Again, when Ryan and I were first drafting ideas on an email chain, I never dreamed that I would see my name in an outlet like Variety. I think we made a very good podcast, so it’s been awesome to see it get recognition, but ultimately surreal.’

Whilst writing has been an important career goal for the duo for a while, the path to producing ‘City of Ghosts’ has not been a linear one. Carina tells us, ‘I’ve taken a series of day jobs to pay my bills while pursuing writing on the side. When Ryan came to me in 2018 with the idea of working on a podcast, I was excited by the prospect but couldn’t imagine that this is where it would all end up! I’ve also recently been commissioned by Tapas.io to help develop one of their stories, which will become an online novel in the near future and am working on my own short stories that I hope to get published early next year.’  Ryan runs his own video production company, called Storytellers Ink. Through this he has produced work for clients and his own work, such as a short film called Regulation. He says, ‘in addition to that, I founded an immersive puzzle adventure company called The Great Gotham Challenge that specializes in real-life interactive storytelling.  As a filmmaker, it’s never a linear path, and you’re always trying to carve out enough time to both make money and make the stuff you love making.’

This need for perseverance and graft is something they are keen to advise budding writers and creators on. Carina stresses ’be patient and be persistent. This can be a tough, competitive industry, and forging a career in it can be a slow climb rather than a sprint. You’re not a failure if you have to take day jobs in other industries to pay your bills. I’ve worked in finance offices and used my evenings and weekends for writing for the last six years. Sometimes progress felt impossible, but the important thing is to not give up. If this is really what you love, then keep writing and keep pursuing opportunities. Eventually, you’ll get your breakthrough.’

Ryan also emphasises the need for authenticity in creating new work. He says, ‘Think a lot about what makes you you.  There are certain stories that only you can tell, and you should focus on those. I spent many years trying to imitate other greats in the cinema industry, only to realize that I am not them and that I would have much better luck with trying to be myself.  The world needs your story, not you doing an impression of someone else’s story.  And this doesn’t have to be some sort of harrowing childhood tale – I grew up pretty average!  In City of Ghosts I’m not drawing on any sort of childhood trauma, but my 10 years spent in NYC and my knowledge of corruption and local politics.’

They both credit their time at Royal Holloway with helping them develop their careers. Carina always knew she wanted to write but ‘didn’t have a set career path or goals beyond that. I wanted to learn how to write better, that was my main ambition. Before I joined the programme, I had never even written a feature film script. Royal Holloway taught me to do all of that and more. I emerged a much stronger writer than when I first started and with connections, such as Ryan, that would become great collaborative partners in the future’. Whilst Ryan was a lot clearer on his ambitions, he credits the MA with ‘helping me hone my writing and meet other artists in a way that I could do while working full-time, which is necessary for many of us who can’t take 2-3 years off for a master’s degree.’

A career highlight for Carina is ‘definitely City of Ghosts! It’s a labour of love that we’ve dedicated three years and countless hours to. To see it transform from early drafts of a script to the finished product that it is today is incredibly rewarding.’

When asked about their future aspirations, Ryan’s goal is to carry on working in film and television and tells us, ‘I’m currently developing three feature films and a television series that I hope to see onscreen soon’. Carina says, ‘In the future, I want to keep writing. I would love to publish a novel someday and make season 2 of City of Ghosts.’

Listen to City of Ghosts here and find out more about the show on the podcast website.

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