Recently, we had the pleasure of not only reviewing one of our favorite anthology audio dramas, but also sitting down with the creators and writers of the show for an amazing interview, touching on the creation of the show, their editing process, and what to expect for Season 3.
Check out the brief highlights below, or listen to the full interview on our PlotCast podcast.
Audiohm: How did you guys get started on Uncanny County?
Todd: Nicole and I met on a show in New York. We’ve been actors forever. [We] started writing more, and … we wrote more and more as we became a couple.
Nicole: We started out writing sketch comedy together. The podcast itself was Alison, Bill and Todd’s brain-child that they started compiling together.
Todd: And then Nicole became one of our big contributing writers and ultimately a producer of the show as well. We’d been talking for years about all working together, and [Allison] spearheaded this, after having done a production of a couple of plays that Bill had been. We all just started spit-balling ideas – I had thrown out that I waned to do an Oklahoma Twilight Zone. We had just read some one act [plays] that Allison had spurred us to write. They were called “Roadside Attractions,” and the idea was they would be set or have something to do with a roadside attraction. We were going to do them around holidays … and we realized it was something we wanted to keep going. Our executive producer, Jessica, who isn’t here, said “Oh, you need to record those and release them as a podcast.” And at some point, we all realized we were talking about the same idea. We could do a podcast set in and around the southwest. Allison and Bill had written these great supernatural things in the plays we were doing, and we already had material to draw from.
Nicole: It’s a marvelous challenge to write something fully aware that the visuals are not going to exist. As a writer, one of the things I find particularly fun about these, is “how do you create the world knowing full well that no one is going to be visually looking at it?” A lot of rewrites go into the script. There is a huge amount of work that goes into each of them, because inevitably, you’re going to be spending time in pre-production and post-production, and I’d much rather spend time in pre-production.
Allison: When I was first trying to get used to the audio format, at first, I thought this is going to be really restrictive, and then you discover that it’s actually extremely freeing because there are things you can do in the audio format that you couldn’t pull off on stage – for example, thousands of tiny clowns. Especially with Todd’s sound design, [it] never ceases to blow me away, and he spends hours upon hours building these effects and creating this world just with sound. And it’s better than it would be visually because it stimulates your brain to do things that you couldn’t do on stage or maybe couldn’t even do as well on film.
Audiohm: You all have stage backgrounds, but what made you step into podcasting?
Todd: Touching on what Allison said, the sky is the limit. If you can figure out how to sell something between the sound effects and the dialogue, you can do anything. Like She said, thousands of tiny clowns, alien invasions, a tornado ripping apart a town. You can do whatever and it costs you pretty much the same; you just have to put in the time to do it.
Allison: If you’re in New York and you’re writing plays that end up in a festival or an evening of one acts, it’s great – you get to see your work produced, and unless you’re a well-known writer, a couple hundred people are going to be exposed to your work, probably. We realized there was this opportunity to share out work with a broader audience if we did it with a podcast. The idea of a web series had probably been toyed with at some point, but that is something that is not nearly as cost-effective as a podcast. And we have lots more people who are now familiar with our work, than would have been if we had continued to do readings in bars in New York.
Todd: The other thing that I like [about] writing for sound is that you can often find ways to let out the description in jokes. There’s ways to find punchlines in the way you’re saying something. I Coulrophobia (Season 1, Ep4), I’ll go back to the clown thing: The girl walks in, and she’s described as wearing revealing sexy clothing and clown makeup. You can see the picture, you got it, and it’s funny. But in the script, it’s like: “Oh, well that sure is a Sexy nightgown. … I like how it matches that big blue wig you’re wearing” – and you let out just a little bit at a time. And later on, you call it back: She thinks she looks fat because she’s looking at a fun-house mirror, and he says “No, you’re fine, you’re beautiful; you’re perfect. Except for the shoes… I better not look at the shoes.” Because of course, she’s wearing clown shoes. And you can find ways to layer in the humor, which is something I love about working in audio.
Audiohm: How long does it take you to edit and produce an episode?
Nicole: A year? I exaggerated, but not by much. It depends, and it takes a while. Using Rainbow Magic Kittens (Season 1, Ep. 7) as an example, … my nephew had created a whole series in his head, which he called Rainbow Magic Kittens, and … I said to Todd, that would be a really funny title for an episode. So it started as a title, and being a cynical Gen X-er as I am, I thought, “I’ll make them evil.” And so I went through endless versions in my head that I just couldn’t get to work as a story. And when I finally started looking at them as avenging angels, then the story started to come. And I went through so many iterations in my head. And once I latched onto that, I was able to bring into this secondary story of this child who lost a parent. Which I also pulled from my own life because I lost my mom very young. But it took a long time, because you’re just busy trying to construct these stories with as few holes as possible. And it just winds up taking a long time. … When we talked about sound effects, I had a great time listening to different squish noises trying to find exactly the right squish noise for the husband dropping the dismembered dog into a garbage bag (Mother Loves you, Season 1, Ep. 3) and it is funny when you realize you’re spending your day listening to eight thousand different squish noises to get exactly the right one.
Bill: We do a six hour session for two episodes, but we usually go over. And then I’d say roughly three hours in the studio per episode, depending on if it’s a cast of four, or a cast of four hundred like Todd writes. But then, for the most part, each writer then does almost all of the post production on their own episode. … There’s dozens of hours that we spend on post.
Todd: One of the things that I feel has made all of our episodes stronger is that we have a great writers’ room. We all get together and share stuff at the idea stage, the outline stage, we’ll bring in page, we’ll bring in a full draft. Sometimes we’ll bring in actors to read it, and then we’ll sit and say “Okay, here’s what’s working for me; here’s what’s not.” It’s a kind room – it’s a safe room. But we’ve surrounded ourselves with other writers [who] are just terrific, and really good with story. It may hurt in the moment [when] you’re thinking “Oh, this is not as perfect as I thought” when someone points out that hole you hadn’t notice. But ultimately, it makes us stronger. It makes us stronger writers and it makes the scripts stronger. And I am very grateful for it.
Audiohm: When can we look forward to Season 3, and what can we expect for new episodes?
Nicole: We’re in the process of writing. We have two scripts that are pretty close to getting ready to record. You guys were actually incredibly reassuring to us, because you calculated that it was 10 months between Season 1 and Season 2, and I thought: “Oh that gives us much more time than we thought!”
Alison: You can find examples of straight-up horror, of sci-fi, of magical realism. There’s different tones, different emotional atmospheres. But they all still take place in the same world. We’re able to explore a bunch of different styles that way. … When we were world building, we really did want it to be a world. So even if we were having these individual, self-contained stories, we wanted to be able to have connections and to establish this universe, and part of the way we did that was by having these little connections.
Bill: It’s also very exciting in that … in Season 1, it was the four of us writing, and in in Season 2 we added Amanda, and we’ve added a few more writers for Season 3. And hopefully we’ll have an even richer Uncanny County to offer fans.
Listen to the full interview on our podcast, The PlotCast, below: