By Scott Murray
As we make our way to Friday's episode of The Crimson Files, I thought it would be fun to point out something many of you might have noticed -
I infuse tie-ins, nods and references to many things in this series. I guess you could call them Audio Easter Eggs. They're usually tied to something from my life or fandoms. Here are some examples from the first episode:
LET'S CUT TO THE SAUCY FOOTAGE!
Slick Saucy can be a little over-the-top when he's hosting his show, and his obsession with The Crimson Crane catching on fire was no exception. Did you notice how he constantly asked people if they had seen the footage and then showed it to them? That was a nod to an old Saturday Night Live skit in which Ted Koppell kept asking people if they'd seen the footage of Buckwheat getting shot and then showing it to them.
Slick Saucy's name was inspired by two people. When I was in high school, we had to record a fake newscast (using this thing called video tape) and a classmate (who had slicked-back hair) called himself Slick Blizer. On Saturday Night Live, Phil Harman used to host a show about sassy things. In it, he would frequently look at the camera and say, "SASSY!"
Slick Sassy didn't sound good enough. So, I changed it to Saucy.
I CAN ONLY TAKE YOU AS FAR AS THE FRONT DOOR
I am a longtime fan of The Muppets, and they are a big part of my nostalgia. So, when Jenna was speeding Wyatt to his work, she asked him what time he has to be there. The script called for this exchange:
I need to be in my boss’s office by 8 am sharp, and he’s on the 4th floor.
I can only take you as far as the front door.
That is a nod to my favorite Muppet movie.
Jenna picked Wyatt up after he called for a driving service. He told them that his address was 900 Rogan Avenue, Apartment 84.
Alex ROGAN was the lead character in one of my favorite 80s movies - The Last Starfighter. 900 represented the 900,000 he hit as he broke the score record. Finally APARTMENT 84 was a nod to the release date - 1984
Osborne Hudson - Over the last 20 years, I've infused the name Osborne, Hudson or Osborne Hudson into my productions. He was my social studies, speech and theater instructor in middle school. He was also one-of-a-kind. He passed away while I was in high school, and inserting his name into scripts is a great way to acknowledge and remember him. I was thrilled that his name was in the first scene of The Crimson Files.
Mr. Bill - I was voted "Most Witty" by my high school senior class. One reason was because I accurately impersonated one of the school's math teachers - Bill Harvick. The sound of Mr. Bill's voice, as well as the way he talks, is pretty accurate to the real person. Yes, that includes his obsession with people "getting quiet".
In high school I made audio stories starring Mr. Harvick doing badass things, like being a cop or a sheriff in the Old West. In this podcast he gets to be a little more of himself and part of the show's comic relief.
By Scott Murray
Wow. It's hard to believe the first episode of The Crimson Files launches tomorrow. It's exciting, scary and surreal rolled all into one. About three months ago, all I had was an idea. There was no concept, no story, no characters, no recordings and no artwork. I just decided to create a fiction podcast.
I had my concerns:
Could I do everything well enough (write, direct, produce, edit)?
Could I write an engaging 6-part continuous story?
Would I find people to play all of the parts?
Could I get it all done in a reasonable timeframe?
My wife had concerns. She knew I hadn't written anything like this in over ten years (and back then, it was all visual). She wondered if the concept would translate well enough to audio. She worried if all of the potential obstacles would turn this into a long-running and time-consuming effort.
However, three months later, we're both excited.
I found an affordable place to record the scenes.
I hired some talented music producers to create a theme.
Post-production has been lengthy and extensive. However, it's also been very fun to hear it all mesh together.
I've had colleges listen, give me feedback, and it's been very positive.
By Scott Murray
Sometimes you never know where a story is going to take you, including when you're writing one. I knew producing a fiction podcast would be a big undertaking, and I thought a key to success would be to keep things really simple. That meant keeping the main cast around three (with supporting characters) and focus the story around them. By the time the series was done, there were SIX main characters. Three of them are different generations of strong women.
Once I realized Wyatt and Reggie would be covering The Crimson Crane's adventures, I realized they couldn't do everything on their own. For example, what if they needed to film a chase scene? It would be extremely difficult to record and provide commentary. Plus, you'd have to be watching the road!
Jenna is a sassy thrill driver. She's someone you'd want at the wheel if bad guys are chasing you on the road. We meet her in the first episode while she's working for an Uber-type company and gives Wyatt a wild ride to work. While experiencing that mad dash with them, it's apparent that she's skilled, focused and mentally tough. Yet, neither one of them realizes there's a bigger purpose to their short meeting.
It would be a very difficult challenge to create a superhero persona and try to make it work in the real world. However, Rebecca is one of the few people that can actually pull it off. She's a mature woman who has seen and been through a lot. Her experiences have made her tougher, and that compliments a family history of soldiers, police officers, secret services members and other badasses.
The circumstances that lead her to become The Crimson Crane could've had a different impact. She could've disappeared and started a new life. Instead, she decided to take a bigger risk because she believes in her fight and won't let the bad guys call the shots.
There are times in the show were you hear just an everyday person who could easily be your friend next door. It's just that she can also flip a switch and become the hero that Fort Henson needs.
Jeanie is Rebecca's Grandmother, and her home serves as The Crane's hideout. If you're a fan of Batman, you could say she's part Aunt Harriet from the 1966 series mixed with Alfred from the Gotham TV series. Jeanie a member of that family tree that consists of many badasses, and she too has a switch. She can be the sweet Grandma that everybody adores, or she can be that tough lady that can dish out some serious disciplinary action.
The Crimson Files debuts her and on other podcast hubs on August 24th.
By Scott Murray
Whew! Last night I finished an action sequence that I worked on for days. Yes, ONE action sequence. Now, when I say DAYS, I don't mean to say I've worked on it for 10 hours a day. It's more like several days at 2-5 hour intervals.
The sequence involved a city, a building, police, choppers, bad guys and good guys (5 characters + extras). Not to mention, there was explosions, guns and fight sequences.
If I told you this was a film (and you like action stuff), you'd probably be very interested. However, I bet you're wondering how is this going to translate to audio and how to follow it all. The good news is that I am way ahead of you. Here's a breakdown of my answer:
Part of this is somewhat experimental
Have you ever read a book with action sequences and you have trouble following what the author is trying to describe in the scene? I have. It sucks. Listening to the same sequence on audio probably doesn't make it any clearer, but it might help if there were some sound effects involved. However, it's still not a visual representation.
In a fiction podcast, I don't think it would necessarily sound great to have a narrator telling you EVERYTHING that is going on while you hear dialogue, sound effects and music in the same scene. Maybe with the right team, voices and coordination it could work...but I'm doing something unique.
In a lot of ways, the audience lives through Wyatt and Reggie. So, instead of overlaying a different voice to explain what is happening - the characters in the story can do it.
Not everything requires perfect visuals
A fiction podcast is a "theater of the mind" form of media. So, many listeners will automatically be trying to visualize what is happening. I spend hours in post-production adding as many sound elements as possible in order to make that easy. However, there will be times where your imagination jumps to its own conclusion, and that's okay.
If you hear a fight with punches and things breaking, you could imagine any number of things:
Someone fell into a table, furniture, another person
Someone was punched in the face or chest or kicked in the face or leg
Someone had a bottle, plate, glass broken over their head
Any version you choose can be right, and it doesn't hurt the story.
Sounds are helpful
Please know I spend a lot of time infusing as much sound as possible into the show to make it easy to understand what happens. If the Crane is blocking bullets with her wings, you'll hear:
I've been producing audio content ever since I was hired to create radio fundraising content for the Dallas/Fort Worth NPR affiliate in 2007. I've produced mini-stories for radio and podcasts ever since then. This is the first time I've attempted to do this in an episodic audio series featuring episodes that average 25 minutes. However, all of that experience has helped me.
As I wrote every script, I was totally aware of my limitations when it came to producing action sequences for audio. If I didn't think I could present a scene in an effective way, I wouldn't write it out. I only did it if I felt comfortable in how I could present it to the audience.
I'm very anxious for you to hear it all starting August 24th.
In this second audio preview from the upcoming season, you're introduced to the show's first villain - DRENCH. The clip features the first showdown between The Crimson Crane (Stephanie Nadolny) and Drench (Gary Payne). The first season of The Crimson Files comes out on August 24th.
By Scott Murray
I'm sure by now many people are wondering what they're going to hear when they tune into The Crimson Files starting August 24th. So, I thought I would answer some questions in the blog today.
What kind of show am I going to hear?
In a lot of ways, a fiction podcast is like listening to an audiobook with more voices, music and sound effects. Another key difference is that this story was written FOR audio as opposed to something written for print and adapted to audio.
Superhero stories and be anything from light-hearted to dark. What is the tone of The Crimson Files?
I would say The Crimson Files has a tone that could be closely associated films like Ant-Man with hints of the 1966 Batman TV series.
So there's humor?
Yes. There is humor in every episode, and sometimes you don't see it coming. There are characters in the story (Mr. Bill, Slick Saucy, Doc, Grandma Jeanie) who will say and do things at any time that might make you laugh. There are also several pop culture references, as well as nods to other superhero stories and other movies within the series.
What kind of quality should I expect?
Expect a high level of quality, especially in the voice actors and the production of the show. A high volume of days and hours are going into making the best possible show for the audience.
What's the best way to indulge in the story? Is it hard to follow?
Fiction podcasts are a "theater of the mind" form of entertainment. Many people will listen, and the show will generate visuals in their head. Others will listen and just follow along. A lot of work goes into making the story easy for the listener to follow (on the script and post-production side). There is also room for people to come to their own conclusions as to what is happening in certain scenes (like fight scenes).
How many episodes are in Season One?
There are six episodes in Season One, and each episode is about 25 minutes. A new episode will post every Friday starting August 24th.
Will there be a Season Two?
Most likely. The response and reaction to the first season will play a major role in making it happen. I can tell you that I have TONS of ideas for multiple seasons.
By Scott Murray
It's hard to believe that I made the decision to develop, write and produce a fiction podcast back in May, and in 2 weeks we'll wrap production on the first season. In my experience as a creative content producer, I've noticed that when you set out to work on a new project, two things are likely to happen:
1. You hit several roadblocks and challenges that hinder the project
2. One thing after another falls into place and keeps the project rolling
For me, if the first situation happens...it's a sign that I'm not on the right track. It might be necessary to blow it up, and start over. Fortunately, The Crimson Files has experienced the other scenario. From June until now:
1. I developed the story
2. Started writing scripts
3. Found an affordable recording studio
4. Held auditions and invited voice actors to audition
5. Cast all the roles
6. Got a show theme produced
7. Got artwork produced
8. Started production and post-production
9. Launched a website and promos
10. Set a premiere date
It's not to say there haven't been challenges, but overall everything has come together so well. It's even exceeded my expectations. My wife wasn't sure what to make of this idea at first. However, as scripts were written, she got to hear our talented actors bring characters to live and listened to produced/edited show content...she's 100 percent invested in this now.
I've also had the chance to have a couple of trusted colleagues listen to the first episode. One of these colleagues is an avid fiction podcast listener. They both had similar comments about the show:
1. The character of Wyatt is likable, and you care about him
2. The pacing is perfect
3. They are very interested to know what happens in Episode 2
Number 3 is especially significant because having people interested in COMING BACK after the first episode is key. This was another sign that this was the right project to pursue.
I finished writing the last two episodes of the first season this week. There was some added pressure in this because I knew it was important to have a fitting wrap-up and a meaningful finale. I have to say that I'm very pleased with how it ends and how it sets up another season.
August 24th is the target date to launch the show. I can't wait for you all to hear it.
By Scott Murray
As I worked on the central storyline for The Crimson Files, I didn't want to throw together a stereotypical superhero origin story and plot. I felt that would come off unoriginal and kind of gutsy. So, I started to think about a central character that could be connected to the hero and tell their story.
I thought about how reporters have been a prominent part of comic book/superhero history. Obviously, in the earlier days, that meant newspaper. I actually thought about going "old school" and creating a reporter that sought out the truth about the hero while most of the newsroom spun their stories into negatives about her. However, I didn't know if it would really come off "classic style" or if it would just sound like I wasn't aware that there are other forms of media in 2018.
So, if it wasn't newspaper, the next obvious choice was internet. However, I still didn't feel like a reporter for an internet news site was interesting enough. So, I turned to the YouTuber and internet celebrity side of things. I felt that really showcased today's media - how anyone can generate engaging or viral content and become famous.
In the first audio trailer for the show, you hear Wyatt and his friend Reggie attempting to create a scary ghost hunting video. We find out that the internet had a field day making fun of it. Then, we learn that it's an accidental video recording that ends up changing his luck for the better.
By Scott Murray
Once I knew this fiction podcast was going to involve a superhero, I immediately started to think about her costume and powers. The creative process actually evolved pretty fast on this, and there were several components involved in it.
Inspiration from The Bat
I am a huge fan of Batman, and I love hearing the stories about how he inspires so many people to get through real-life challenges. I think he can do that because he's a hero without superpowers, yet he is one of the most badass and powerful heroes in comics.
I thought this story's hero could have similar attributes, but I also wanted to take it all a step further. I not only wanted her to be a hero that fights without superpowers, but also face her own set of challenges. When the series begins, she is basically an aspiring superhero. She's got very specific (and unique) reasons for choosing this life, but it all comes with consequences and risks.
Not only is it a challenging experiment, but she also has to deal with public perception. It's not as simple as putting on a costume and the city of Fort Henson is just ready to embrace her idea. I decided to create a hero that was not only willing to fight for good, but also do it no matter what people might say about her.
Something, Something Bird
Again, I knew I wanted wings and something bird-like. Needless to say, a lot superheros have bird names. Oddly, a crane hasn't been as prominent. Since I knew I didn't want her to fly (overused power), I thought the concept of her leaping high into the air (wings out) was just as cool. After all, while cranes can fly, they also have a graceful wings-out jumping ability. As the show progresses, you'll learn more about her crane-like gadgets.
I didn't think it was enough to call her The Crane (even though people might call her that for simplicity's sake). This is where a describer would fit in nicely, and I figured it had to be a color. CRIMSON seemed to be the best fit, especially since there are red-crowned cranes in existence.
Giving her voice
I generally take a very open-minded approach to auditions of any kind. I may have my own ideas of a look/sound, but I leave things open for creative interpretation and variety. That was a little more challenging for The Crimson Crane. She really had to have a strong, mature voice that could be friendly and tough. Fortunately, Stephanie Nadolny (Dragon Ball Z) and I have been talking about working together for years. The Crimson Files gave us that chance. She is the perfect voice for this character.
The first episode of The Crimson Files podcast is set to go out in August of 2018.
By Scott Murray
I've always been a very conceptual and visual person. Anytime I wrote something, it would always be based on the images in my head. Anytime I read something, my brain would attempt to produce a visual representation of it. There are advantages and disadvantages to this, but one major benefit was that I was never limited in the way I could tell stories.
I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, and long before I was attempting to make movies with my parents' video camera, I was producing content on audio cassette. I recorded over 50 tapes full of stuff, ranging from 1-2 hour stories to comedy skits. I did this using:
Then I would listen to them for entertainment. I would laugh a lot. While it may sound conceited for me to say I loved my own stuff, it wasn't like that. When the audio played, it triggered images in my head. Those images included different people playing the parts, as well as scenery, action scenes and more. So, my mindset was never that I was listening to my own content. However, I loved making them as much as I did listening to them.
Later on, I got to play these for other people. This included teachers letting me play them in my classes in high school. That was the biggest distribution I ever got. Many (including my parents) probably wondered, "What is the purpose for doing this?"
Well, maybe now we have an aswer.
However, it seems like it all started in my room so many years ago. This is definitely a more sophisticated project, but the story still originated the same way.
It also plays the same way, and I really hope audiences will enjoy this new audio story experience.
Insights and news about The Crimson Files Podcast.