Interview with Jonathan Park scriptwriter
Andrew Riffenburgh
First tell us how did your family get involved with Jonathan Park?

In the latter half of 2006 my Father called Mr. Pat Roy, producer of Jonathan Park and asked if they could
use his voice talents in the program. The Lord timed the call perfectly because Mr. Roy was casting
several parts at that very moment. Eventually my Father received the part of Dr. Daniel Priest in Jonathan
Park and the Explorer’s Society.

I became a writer because I wrote a sample script for Mr. Roy in 2007 in which the Creation Response
Team goes down to visit the wreck of the R.M.S. Titanic. He said he liked it so much he wanted to bring
me on as part of the writing team.

How old are you?

22

What is your background?  

Well I’ve been listening to Radio Dramas from the time I was five years old. I recently tallied that I’ve
probably heard over 1,000 hours of audio drama throughout my lifetime and that includes many of the
classic old time radio dramas, Adventures in Odyssey, Your Story Hour, Focus on the Family Radio
Theatre and the list goes on…
My family has visited about 39 states in America: all on a shoe-string budget. As mentioned on our
website we’ve been chased by tornadoes, lived though earthquakes and forest fires and seen God’s
amazing provision and protection

Have those experiences helped you in writing?

Yes, they most certainly have. I refer to them constantly. When I was writing that Andy was trying to
disengage the Speedwell in “The Rcae for Space” and when Kendall and Jonathan were trapped in the
mini sub in “Journey to a Thousand Fathoms”, I thought of how I would feel under those circumstances. I
had also once been on ex-Soviet submarine that was docked near the Queen Mary in Long Beach, and
remembered the cramped quarters and working conditions.

I know what it means to be close to death and what it means to rely on God. I have been constantly
reminded that “when we are weak He is strong”. I couldn’t write or do anything without God.


You’re homeschooled then?

Yes. From day one though High-School, and I’ve loved every minute of it.

You write as a family? What’s that like?

It’s wonderful! With all of us working together we are able to be a cohesive team that can work from our
various strengths.
My father and I do most of the typing and day to day brainstorming. My mother and sister then give their
input and edit our work.
We also all talk about it over during lunches and throughout the day. Being a homeschooling family gives
us that wonderful freedom.
Then when we feel it has reached a good point, one of us then acts it out, seeing if it reads well for an
actor.

Who came up with the Manta submarine?

My Father, Duane Riffenburgh, did back in High-School and he still has the drawings of his original
concept.
The whole interior is based on his initial drawings and he wrote all of the script discussion as the CRT is
given a tour of the sub in “Journey to a Thousand Fathoms”.

An electromagnetic submarine was in fact built back in the 1960’s, and it was propelled with that
technology, though not at the speeds we have the Manta doing in this album.

So people who work on the Jonathan Park project come from all over?

Yes they do. My family and I live in the mountains of Southern California while the producer Mr. Roy and
his family live in Northern California. The recordings take place only about fifteen minutes from the
Mexican border in Chula Vista, near San Diego and the ministry in charge of the project, Vision Forum,
is in San Antonio, Texas. One of our sound designers even lives in Indiana! Our team is very scattered
around the country, but God has brought us all together in an amazing way. We frequently communicate
by phone and e-mail.

What is the timeline of a Jonathan Park album?

Well first a rough outline is prepared, then later a more detailed one. This album was the first time the
team worked off of such a complete outline: A result of a week-long meeting between our family and the
Roy family in Paradise, California.

Then the long process of research, script writing and re-writing begins.

Next the cast is selected. For this album Kathryn Mokan, our director, took on the dual task of casting.

Next recording day comes around and the actors enter the studio and act out their parts. They do it once
and then the director tells them if they need to modify their interpretation.
However, many actors cannot be in the studio at the same time. So they are recorded later and digitally
inserted into our recording and mixing software later.

After recording day someone has to select the best “takes” of the lines by listening through all the dialog
recorded on recording day. This person is the dialog editor.

Then it is passed on to the sound designer who inserts the sound effects and music.

After that everything is sent to Mr. Roy who then double-checks everything. Then it is sent to Vision
Forum and the Director of Operations Mr. Gobart for final approval.

Then the albums go to replicators and are distributed to the public.

What parts of the project have you been involved in?

Well I guess my experience is unique in that I’ve participated in many of the different aspects of Jonathan
Park. I began by acting in a few very small parts and then moved on to the Technical area. I have been a
dialog editor and sound designer, in addition to sometimes helping to setup and take down the studio.
Then in February of 2010 I became a writer


Where do you get some of your inspiration from?

Really everywhere. I based some characters on the personalities of people I’ve known. For example
Derek Dilts’ personality was based on a manipulative individual I knew.
I’ve also read many of the classic works of fiction, either on my own or with my family.  

In addition some of the names for different things in the album have a special meaning to me.

Thunderbird 7-Named after the 1960’s television program “Thunderbirds”
Mr. Henson, The Pilot of the Pilot Fish - Named for a veteran I knew who worked aboard a US Navy
Submarine
Mr. Bowditch – Of Course named for the famous Nathaniel Bowditch who laid down many of the
principles of sea navigation.
Stan Shellhammer – Loosely named after a family of Law Enforcement professionals I know   

What are your favorite episodes in this album?

I really enjoy all of them. I think as a combined team the Lord guided us to make some very exciting and
meaningful stories, but to be specific. I enjoy the danger Jonathan and Kendall face aboard the Pilot Fish
in Journey to a Thousand Fathoms. I also, really enjoy Part Two of the Pilgrimage of the Speedwell. I had
the opportunity to be a sound designer for all the final scenes and I thought that the actors did an excellent
job of portraying the emotion needed to tell the story.

If you’ve been a part of the project why aren’t you in the Behind the Scenes album?

Well that’s a good question and the answer is that the Behind the Scenes album came at the height of
the Christmas season and in addition we had several large snowstorms, in the mountains where I live,
which made communication difficult.

What tips would you give to someone who wants to create their own radio drama?

Well first off remember I’m still relatively new to the whole field, but I would say that you should just listen,
listen, listen.
Find the best audio dramas you can and study how the writers and actors portrayed the various emotions
and nuances that made the story come to life.

As Mr. Paul McCusker of Adventures in Odyssey told me, in a helpful e-mail, “Many of the same
principles for playwriting overlap with audio drama, though audio dramas have some specific
parameters that can’t be ignored.” I believe this is true because essentially, each radio program is a
“play” only we never get to see the actors, so you must apply many of the same rules that drive any script.

Audio programs are a fascinating medium because it is incumbent on the listener to describe the
characters and locations in their mind.
In that way it could be considered restrictive, but in another way it’s wonderful, because now we can take
our characters to a submarine in the depths of the ocean or even to space while most independent
productions made by Christians could never afford anything on that scale.

Are their any plans for album 8?

Work is already starting as of December 2010 and I’ve already heard several of the exciting possible
story lines. To what extent I and my family will be involved I don’t know, but I’m sure that wherever
someone’s unlocking the story of God’s creation, there you will find Jonathan Park…


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