We talk to the creator of the audio drama based on the winner of the first season of Who Wants to Be a Superhero?
The winner of both seasons of Who Wants to Be a Superhero? was originally promised a comic book created by Stan Lee, and an appearance in a Sci-Fi Channel original picture - but they probably never expected to see an audio drama about their characters sweep across the internet. However, that's exactly what has happened with Feedback: A Hero's Calling. This fan-produced audio drama about the adventures of Matthew Atherton is now entering its' second season, and continues the trend of featuring other previous contestants from the show - in this case, the winner of Season Two, the Defuser!
We had the opportunity to talk to Alan White, the director/producer of the show about what goes in to creating this kind of audio drama and what motivated him to take it on himself.
Where did you get the idea of doing an audio drama about Feedback?
Alan White: It started as an idea to take the fan fictions that were being written by myself and by fellow Tech Supporters and put them out onto the web in a more accessible form, like what you find at Steve Eley's EscapePod. But Steve didn't accept fan-fictions, so audio drama was the next step. I'd already known about audio drama from years and years of listening to a NYcentric (before the internets) show called "Golden Age of Radio" with Max Schmid. Then as this newfanged Web started to catch on, I listened to several fan-made Do-It-Yourself stuff like Darker Projects and the videos at Hidden Frontier.
You mentioned TechSupport, which is the fan club dedicated to Feedback. Were you a member of the club before or after you decided to create the series?
Alan White: Before. Being in the fan club sparked my imagination, seeing how many creative folks were drawn to the show and to Feedback.
Had you and Matthew Atherton met before you started working on the show?
Alan White: No. We started working on the show in October of 2006 and we hadn't met face to face until February 2007 when I got him (and then subsequently Major Victory and Fat Momma) on the guest list at the New York Comic Con in '07.
How much input does Matt have in the scripts and plots of the audio drama?
Alan White: He pretty much leaves it up to me to run the show. He has complete veto power over anything we put out, but he hasn't felt the need to exercise it.
Where do you get your cast members from? Are they professional voice actors, fans, or a mix of the two?
Alan White: I draw on talent from the "I-Wanna-Do-It Voice Actors Guild." That is, anyone who wants to do it and has the equipment to record and the talent to make it sound good. They either find my audition announcements for new parts at the BrokenSea Yahoo Group or the Tech Support Yahoo Group. I also personally request some people who I already know has the equipment and the acting ability from listening to their podcasts and being exposed to their talents earlier on. Such as Oliver Tull who co-hosted with Scott Hinze at FanboyRadio. When I was ready to introduce the character of OutSource, I thought of Oliver immediately. Later came Scott in another role. But through the audition process, I do manage to snatch up some REALLY great actors who I had listened to before I ever dreamed of making the series, like Mark Kalita, who does a highly popular version of The Doctor in the fan made audio series BrokenSea's Doctor Who.
What is the process like for creating an episode of the audio dramas?
Alan White: Nuts & bolts? I get a story first and adapt it into script form. Roughly one page of script will equal one minute of audio. If I'm writing the story, then I just generally skip the prose version and write it directly in script form. Then I put out the casting call for all parts which have not been filled by a series regular. Usually these are guest starring parts or (rubs hands maniacally) the villains of the piece. I choose the actors and then send them the script with a deadline of when I need them to record their parts and send them to me. With their parts, I filter out unwanted static, piece them together into one flowing scene - and thanks to their talents, they always sound as thought they were all in a room together - then I add the sound effects that gives action to the scene. It takes some tweaking to do that because I'm attempting to paint a picture with sound. So sometimes I play with the voice acting too, in order to have the character move, or to place multiple characters at various points in a room. Lastly, I'll send them off to David Krause, who is another fan from Tech Support who just happened to be studying to be an composer/artist for film. Add the booming credits from Mike Winters, (another fellow fan, radio DJ, and former ring announcer) and stir.
So, is anyone getting paid for this?
Alan White: Not a red cent. (laughs) Who made up that term? 'Red cent'? No, this is done out of love for the craft and/or love for the ideal that is Feedback.
How does someone get involved?
Alan White: Several ways. I can be emailed directly. Or a person can join the audio production groups where myself and several other fine shows make their casting announcements over at BrokenSea Audio Productions. If you are more included to the character of Feedback and the Tech Support universe, you can always join the Yahoo Group fanclub and contribute stories for your fellow fans to enjoy. I can't guarantee that I'll turn it into a script, but you'll never know if you don't try. (smiles)
What can we expect from Season Two of the series?
Alan White: Well, there's another aspect to Feedback's universe that I'm exploring in this season; Magic. I introduce it through a character named Sparrow, who is the brainchild of Caith Donovan, a fellow fan of Feedback who wrote a moving piece of fiction that he and I adapted for Episodes 3-5. Feedback: A Hero's Calling is about a computer scientist who is catastrophically merged with an experimental memory fabric and becomes able to manifest video game powers after absorbing the energy if he plays it. It was Matt's vision to have a support team of like-minded scientists that would help him with the right kind of games to empower him for the right kind of missions. From there, the fans expanded the team through their ideas and contributions. So now there are paramilitary divisions, a medical team, a fashion consultant, and group of younger, less experienced superheroes, and a media department. In the first season it was all dealing with concepts of science that could fit into the real world, given some science-fictional extrapolation. So what happens when something highly resembling black magic makes an intersection with our hero and his scientific team? For one thing, it will claim the life of one of our dearest team members, and there will be some severe repercussions from that loss. Also it becomes an element in Season Two's story arc that, if all goes well behind the scenes, will lead to a conclusion that is going to rock quite a few thousand socks. Maybe tens of thousands.
Will there be other cast members from the two seasons of Who Wants to Be a Superhero? guest appearing? Or return appearances from any of the cast members who had appeared?
Alan White: That door is always open. It depends on the stories that develop and if there is a good reason to use one of Feedback's fellow heroes from the show. Those scripts haven't been written yet.
Episode Seven and Eight of Season 1 featured The Dark Enforcer, but unlike the appearances of Major Victory, Nitro G, Creature and now the Defuser, he wasn't voiced by the man who created the character on the show. Did you try to get Steel Chambers for that role?
Alan White: I must say guiltily that I didn't. The character that was coming into the series was The Dark Enforcer, rather than the Iron Enforcer, so I felt a little more leeway to cast that role. He was a character that the TV show invented rather than Steel himself, and making the arrangements to use one of actual creators can sometimes be a lengthy process. It was easier to use a voice actor who was already on deck and could do the role as I'd heard it in my head.
Our thanks go out to Alan White and Broken Sea Audio for taking the time to answer some questions for us. Thanks also to Matthew Atherton for creating the character of Feedback. The second season of Feedback: A Hero's Calling has just begun, with the first episode available now. Episodes can be downloaded through iTunes or directly from the website at brokensea.com.
MovieWeb contributing writer Aaron Einhorn performs as a voice actor in Feedback: A Hero's Calling.