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.
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.
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