November 15, 2020 12:05 pm
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After suffering a loss, Eve searches for purpose in death. With the help of Trevor, a late night conspiracy radio show host, Eve goes on a journey for the truth. But The Ones in Charge have other plans for them.

Synopsis
Trevor, host of the radio show “Eyes to the Skies,” is a celebrity leader of the cryptozoology community. Eve Fallon, a pediatric hospice nurse, is a true believer. She uses Trevor’s show to escape from the death she faces every day. She finds faith in believing Something Else is out there. Something better. But Eve needs to know, needs to prove, that Something is real.

Eve forces her way into Trevor’s off-air life and together, they set out to find the truth behind a well believed conspiracy: aliens on the moon are orchestrating Death and harvesting human souls. On their search, the two are forced to face their greatest fears as they are on the cusp of not only proving the existence of Gods and Monsters, but unveiling one of humankind’s darkest and most profound secrets.

Background
Cryptids is a fiction podcast that originally came to Wild Obscura Films written as a play. WOF then worked with the writer to adapt the visual material into a completely audio medium.
WOF’s intent was to find a new medium in which to successfully create proof of concepts for bigger budget material such as feature films and TV series. A podcast allowed them to create content at a lower budget level without sacrificing create intent or control.

Cryptids was successfully crowdfunded on Kickstarter where it received a “project we love” stamp of approval by Kickstarter.Cryptids was also one of six projects incubated in the Made in NY Media Center Fellowship Program by IFP in 2019.

The production of Cryptids took place over the course of 5 days. The sound design of all 7 episodes was done in 10 weeks.

Cryptids released its first two episodes on Sunday, September 29, 2019. The final episode was released on October 30th, 2019.

Cryptids hopes to gain enough listeners to garner financing for season 2. The team is also currently looking for season 2 to be picked up by a larger podcast network. The hope is also for Cryptids to be adapted into a TV show or a feature film.

Quotes & Topic of Interest with director, Devin Shepherd, and writer/lead actor, Alexander V. Thompson

1. Adapting material from a visual to audio medium AVT:

CRYPTIDS was originally conceived and written as a stage play. It had the assumption of a live medium baked into the storytelling, from dialogue to stage directions to sight gags, theatre-specific effects, and even costume changes. Stage magic is a unique and wonderful thing and the original intent was to utilize that for a heavily genre play. However, as CRYPTIDS never saw the stage, I wasn’t adapting a realized visual story but a vision that existed solely in my imagination. I had to tell myself the story from scratch in a completely different way. It was a unique challenge and one I haven’t encountered before. That said, the audio medium allows the imagination to take over in ways than no visual medium can, so there was a lot of fun and tension to be mined in letting the listener fill in some of the blanks for themselves. Ultimately, it is at its core a love letter to the great old horror radio shows of the 40s.

2. Writing for audio AVT:

The medium is wonderful. I’m a podcast junkie, everything from comedy to true crime to fiction. I think genre stories are particularly well suited to the medium as the lack of visuals allows the listener to create whatever characters, human or otherwise, that they’d like to see. And as a fan of old radio dramas, it’s a lot of fun to see how the artform has evolved. The funny thing is, the tools have gotten fancier but the challenges are still the same. How do we tell a story communicated strictly through one sense but engage physicality, smell, touch? It feels a bit like entering a conversation that’s been going on since THE WOLF and THE COMEDY OF DANGER almost a hundred years ago now. To take part in that conversation, even if just for a bit, is really cool.

3. The audition process for Cryptids DS:

This was definitely a unique experience and a difficult process. For the first round, we had actors submit an audio recording of them telling us a story – any story. I wanted someone that could keep the audience engaged and entertained purely through their vocal performance. Next, we had actors come in and read sides with Alex in the room. We recorded the audio of those auditions and listened to the recordings after the actors left. It was interesting because some of my favorite performances in the room were actually the least strong on tape. It was fascinating to see how much physicality can affect a reading. Vocal performance is a different talent all on its own.

4. Approaching the character for an audio medium AVT:

This is fun because you have to walk a very fine line between presenting the audience with what they need to know and letting them fill in the rest. Is it essential that a character has blonde hair, blue eyes, and wears a pink shirt? If so, how do we communicate that organically in the dialogue and not make it a litany of exposition? Or are those details that matter to me as I’m envisioning the character, but ultimately immaterial to the story – in which case do we need to include them at all? And beyond the mere appearance of characters, how to communicate their actions, emotions and intentions with dialogue as the only tool. A well-executed Pinter pause is a wonderful storytelling device on stage, but the audio medium cannot generally bear the weight of that silence – not too frequently anyway – and still tell a story. So it was fun to really try and pack as much character into the dialogue, again without resorting to an overwhelming amount of exposition, and keep the story moving.

 

5. Preparing production

DS: Alex and I worked very closely on the script. It was important for me to completely understand the world that he built. There are so many cryptic references to popular science fiction and conspiracy theories. I had to study up on a lot of them. There were many late nights going down internet wormholes of alien and bigfoot case files.

For my directing style, I approached this as I would any film. Alex and I shared several references with each other. We are both huge fans of old time radio, so we listened to our favorites, SUSPENSE and DIMENSION X, as well as modern audio dramas like HOMECOMING and THE BLACK TAPES. We also shared visual references to help develop style. Some inspiration came from Netflix’s DARK and THE DISCOVERY. I then used these references to help construct each scene setting. I pulled reference photos and wrote very detailed paragraphs of what the characters would see, hear, and feel in each place. I found this to be helpful with actors in the sound studio during production. I would talk them through the setting and help transport them to the location. Film usually aids the actors by having sets dressed, character clothing, and props to help build their characters. We didn’t have any of that. So we had to find a new way to place the actor within the scene.

Although the actors were stationary at the mic, I would block some scenes with them. When they were walking down the hallway and had to call out to another character, when they were closer together in a room, when they were sitting versus standing, etc. Every little bit helped shape their performance within the scene and later, helped us shape it even further in sound design.

6. Creating sound design DS:

We were very lucky to work with Gina Zdanowicz, who is a very talented sound designer in the video game world. Gina and I had many conversations about sound theory – how listeners/players interact with sound, what key sounds help them create a space and transport to it. I remember one specific conversation about footsteps. Our characters are always walking but footsteps are so distracting to have under all the dialogue tracks. Gina taught me that if you start a sound, after a certain amount of time you can just fade it away because the listener’s brain will continue to hear it because they are filling the scene with their imagination. I re-listened to a few other audio dramas where I swear I remembered footsteps, and she was right. No footsteps, they started and faded out to give the illusion that the characters were walking. I had totally imagined footsteps on my own because, as a listener, I was that involved in creating the scene. And that is what I love most about audio – it’s a highly interactive medium where the listener gets to create along with the actors.

For the creative style, the world had to feel realistic to the listener, but I also really wanted these characters to feel isolated from the real world. To give a sense of their detachment and loneliness. A way to do this was to always “plant the mic” on our lead character in the scene. If Eve is walking, we’re walking with Eve. All the sounds are happening around us, as Eve. We are standing where she is standing. It’s like setting up a camera angle in any film.

Cast
Marianna McClellan is Eve Fallon
Alexander V. Thompson is Trevor Barnes
William McNulty is Dr. Thomas Ott
Jenna Krasowski is Seshat Crew

Directed by Devin Shepherd
Written by Alexander V. Thompson
Produced by Nora Unkel Devin Shepherd Gabriel Rosenstein
Sound Design by Gina Zdanowicz

Devin Shepherd & Nora Unkel Wild Obscura Films

Together, Devin and Nora make up Wild Obscura Films. WOF is a production company specializing in genre content by/for/about womxn. Their films have earned honors around the world including Gold in Experimental at the Student Academy Awards, 2x winners of Best Producing at the First Run Film Festival, and Producers of the Year at SheRocks. The company has also presented selected projects at IFP Week, the New York Mayor’s Office Finance Lab, the Frontieres Film Market in Montréal and Cannes, and the French Connection Film Market in Paris in association with IFP and French in Motion. This will be their first podcast production.

Alexander V. Thompson Writer and “Trevor”

Alex was born and raised in New Kensington, Pennsylvania, and frequently sets his stories in his scrappy and beloved hometown – Cryptids included. Alex has worked internationally as an actor, writer, rigger, and choreographer. Other writing credits include Pete Rex, Game Day and Presence. Theatre acting credits include: Dracula with Actors Theatre of Louisville, The Arabian Nights with Lookingglass Theatre (Chicago), and The Aliens with Dobama Theatre. Alex earned an M.A. in Literature from The University of Louisville. When not writing or acting, Alex can be found reading, painting, Geeking out on horror, cartoons, Hellboy comics, and the MCU and cheering for his beloved Pittsburgh Steelers. Alex’s primary goal in life is to be the perfect blend Of Mr. Rogers and Wolverine.

Gina Zdanowicz Sound Design

Gina Zdanowicz is an Emmy-Nominated sound designer and music composer for games, film, TV, podcasts and interactive experiences. Her passion is telling stories using the psychology of sound to build engaging sonic elements. A graduate of Berklee College of Music and found of Serial Lab Sound, Gina has made sonic story telling a decade long career. She has been involved in many versatile projects over a broad variety of media productions. In addition to her work as audio designer, Gina is a Game Audio Course Author, Instructor, Lecturer and tutor. She is currently co-authoring a book on the subject and continues to find new ways to bring to bring sonic immersion to new projects.

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This post was written by Nadia Vella