Cryptids – A Fiction Serial Podcast

Cryptids is a new scripted science fiction serial podcast from Wild Obscura Films about everyday humans struggling to understand the unknown in a sometimes cruel world. Not being much of a science fiction geek, I was hesitant to listen to the story, but I’m so glad I did! The underlying theme of grief and loss won me over. Many of you know I was a grief counselor in the past and now I write about cryptids with my creature-designing daughter *shrug*. Long story, and you can read more about that here, but for now lets talk about this new Podcast.

Due to mild language throughout and adult themes that might be difficult for younger viewers to reason out, I am rating this series PG-14 (my opinion only).

There are seven episodes, each approximately 20 minutes in length. The Podcast is available wherever you listen to podcasts. And for now it’s free!

Logline

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.

Cryptids Serial Podcast by Wild Obscura Films
Cryptids Cover–Cover Art by Dave Abel

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 and 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.

My Impresson of Cryptids

When human motivation and conflict are presented in an identifiable way that allows me to feel the emotions of the characters as I walk alongside them, genre fades away, and word like ” in-spheres,” “binary points,” and “vertex” suddenly become informative and compelling. The mark of a talented and smart writer.

I’ve listened to the first four podcasts, and my only response is… “Are you kidding me!? You leave us hanging here!?” To say I can’t wait for next Sunday is an understatement! I’m hooked. If you’re like me, and I suspect you are in this binge-watching-crazed society, then cliff hangers slightly wound you. Healing only comes with the next episode. If this is you, I beg you to wait until Halloween. Season one will be completed and you’ll be able to listen to the whole thing. Otherwise, fair warning….

Writer and actor, Alexander V. Thompson, does an amazing job creating a world of cryptids (including aliens) to show how the worldview of cynics, skeptics, and believers influence perspective. But truth overrides all as Eve sets out on a mission, desperate to understand the meaning behind death.

The acting is superb. Each character is likable with a distinct voice and an obvious set of goals and obstacles that add to the dramatization. Unanswered questions and varying points of view allow for intrigue and mystery. The amazing sound effects provide vivid setting and clarity as one scene segues into another. While the first two episodes of Cryptids required my full concentration as characters and story lines were introduced, I felt well-rooted in the story by episode three and completely hooked by episode four.

Story Motivation and Interview

Alexander V. Thompson wrote Cryptids and stars as Trevor. Interested in his motivation, I asked a few questions.

TS: When did the idea for this story come to you? Was there any collaboration of ideas or outside influences that helped you?

Alex: The earliest roots of the show are ten years old – I was listening to a Coast to Coast AM in the middle of the night and was struck by how sincere and serious some of the callers were in discussing cryptids, alien encounters, all sorts of esoteric and occult topics. It left me thinking that the conviction in the reality of such phenomena constituted a belief system just as robust, nuanced, and unprovable as any other religion, complete with origin myths and end times prophecy. From there I just thought, what would it be like if one of these monster & alien based systems proved to be the one true faith? 

TS: How did you team up with Wild Obscura Films?

Alex: Nora [Nora Unkel, producer at Wild Obscura Films] and I have been friends for about five years now, and we’ve been sharing ideas and bouncing creative projects off each other throughout that time. I really love the work Wild Obscura does, so when the opportunity arose to all work together, it was an easy yes!

TS: There appears to be a strong quest for truth in this story? Is this quest based on personal experience?

Alex: It is. In many ways, it’s about my own struggle with the notion of faith and balancing my naturally skeptical nature with an equally natural drive to believe in something.

TS: Are you a cynic, skeptic, or believer?

Alex: I would call myself a healthy skeptic – I’m pretty confident in my worldview, but I am willing to investigate and change as new evidence arises.

TS: Thank you Alex and the Cryptids team for providing information and allowing me to ask questions. I think you’re all terrific!

Background

Cryptids is a fictional 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 creative intent or control.

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

Cryptids was created and written by Alexander V. Thompson. Directed by Devin Shepherd. Produced by Nora Unkel, Devin Shepherd, and Gabriel Rosenstein. The show stars Alexander V. Thompson, Marianna McClellan, William McNulty, and Jenna Krasowski. Sound design by Gina Zdanowicz.

Cryptids Podcast crew
Devin Shepherd, Jenna Krasowski, and William McNulty

I asked a couple of the cast about their characters and how the character/story influenced them.

Jenna (above): My name is Jenna and I play the character of Seshat. This story influenced me in that somewhere in my research I became a bit of a believer. I mean, at this point I am most definitely a skeptic, and not one who will go in search of answers any time soon. (So I suppose I’m a lazy skeptic.) But I’ve become a little obsessed with some of the conspiracy theories floating about. Lunar anomalies, NASA recordings….exciting stuff! In my every day life, my heart lives on  my sleeve and I’m not great at hiding my feelings. My emotions often dictate my actions. Seshat does not operate this way. She sees everything through an analytical lens. She studies, collects data, and follows rules and order. And she’s lived this way for a very long time. It’s been very fun to play with her journey from studying human emotion to feeling and experiencing more emotion.

Marianna (below): I play Eve Fallon in Cryptids. Eve has an intensely strong faith that drives her through these 7 episodes. I admire how tuned in she is to her intuition and for me, she serves as a reminder to give voice to that gut feeling. She has a courage that I aspire to. Even if she’s not always right. 

Marianna McClellan and Alexander V. Thomposn
Marianna McClellan and Alexander V Thompson

Curious about the benefits and/or challenges of acting within a podcast versus in a live action production, I asked director, Devin, her thoughts.

Devin (below left): The greatest benefit of working in the audio medium was the creative opportunity. I got to work very closely with my actors and we got to try anything and everything we wanted because there is no limit to time, set construction, camera angle, or any other visual department. If it didn’t make sense to have the character run up the stairs, for example, poof, no more stairs in the scene. If talent wanted to try a new direction, they were able! There was so much time to play.

Of course, while having no visual departments was a benefit, it was also a challenge. A listener has to be able to visualize the scene purely through audio cues in the actor’s performance. When our characters walk through the woods, we had to do breath performance and block out exactly when a character would stumble over a rock or trip on a tree branch. It was a new approach for our actors, as in film you are walking through an actual wood, whereas in audio, it had to be done completely through their imagination.

Cryptids Podcast Crew with Alexander V. Thompson.
Devin Shepherd, Marianna McClellan, Alexander V. Thompson, Jenna Krasowski, and William McNulty.

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

Preparing Production

Director, Devin Shepherd, and Alex worked very closely on the script. Devin states: It was important for me to completely understand the world that [Alex] 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 Cryptids 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 by pulling reference photos and writing very detailed paragraphs of what the characters would see, hear, and feel in each place. This was helpful to the 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.

Creating and Sound Design

Devin: 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 hadtotally 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.

Alexander V. Thompson

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 Looking glass 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

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 founder 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.

Wild Obscura Films

PA, Stephany Barbalho and producer Nora Unkel

Together, Devin Shepherd & Nora Unkel 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 She Rocks. 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.

The Cryptids series can be found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also listen here, right now, if you want. A new episode will release every Sunday until Halloween. Please share with your friends and family who love science fiction, cryptids, and/or fantasy.

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Thank you to producer, Gabriel Rosenstein, for getting in in touch with us, answering our questions, and providing such awesome information.

Have you listened to the Cryptids podcast? What are your thoughts?

Are there other fiction serial podcasts you like to listen to?

**Cryptid World is not affiliated with the Cryptids podcast or Wild Obscura Films. Our views, opinions, and ideas may differ. Always use your own discernment and discretion when viewing or listening to any form of entertainment.