Wednesday, August 6, 2014

My journey with We're Alive: Warning mild spoilers

The brains behind We're Alive, Kc Wayland

Just taking a break from the my usual Comic Con posts to pay a little tribute to my friends over at We're Alive. I am sure you've seen many posts about my experience working with some of the cast and crew, but on the off chance you didn't,  you seriously need to listen to this amazing (and FREE) serialized audio-drama on iTunes/Stitcher. You are seriously missing out and you can even stream it here. I have been a fan of this podcast since the tail-end of Season 1 and sadly (for me that is) they have just completed their fourth and final season. I have not-so-very-fond memories of being a traveling auditor and recall this podcast getting me through some of the roughest, most stressful times as an accountant.  I distinctly recall having colleagues give me strange looks as they hear distant sounds of gun shots and screams coming out of my earbuds.  It’s funny how therapeutic it was listening to Michael, Angel and Saul exchanging off-the-cuff jokes or realizing for the first time Datu was this amazing Filipino maintenance man, who would later be a pivotal character in the series. I honestly don’t know how I would have gotten through my busy season without this podcast. Below are some shots from the first live performance at the Meltdown Theater and other live performances. 

The 1st live performance taken at the Meltdown Theater - The Fab Six
Photo courtesy of Heather

The second live performance: Shirley Jordan (Tanya),  Jay Olegario (Datu), and
the incredibly talented Tammy Klein (Kelly)
Photo courtesy of Heather 

Otto Sturcke (Victor) and Elisa Eliot (Pegs) meet and greet fans
Photo courtesy of Heather
One Saturday morning in May, I got a message from Grayson Stone, one of the producers over at We’re Alive, regarding the opportunity to document the final live recording at the Chapman University studio. Needless to say I dropped whatever plans I had and got my gear ready for the shoot. I had always wanted to know what it was like recording an episode and to witness Kc Wayland's, the mastermind behind this zombie podcast, workflow. It goes without saying I was excited as hell, but strangely nervous too. 

Otto Sturcke as Victor in between takes

Nate Geez (Saul) preparing for his finale
I arrived at the recording studio early Sunday morning to a live set. In the studio were Saul and Victor (for my sake and the sake of any existing listeners I will refer to them by their character names) recording, if memory serves me correctly, the second-to-last chapter of the 4th season. Grayson, in between takes, escorted me into the recording room advising me not to take photos during the actual recording since the microphones are sensitive enough to capture the sound of my shutter actuating. What was most striking to me was the relationship between the two actors. Their off the mic relationship was very genuine and it truly showed during their live recording. When Victor was first introduced, I quickly pegged him as a red shirt who wouldn't last. Boy, am I glad my initial assessment was wrong and that he played a greater role in the grand scheme of things. Without a doubt in my mind, Saul's relationship with Victor, beyond Michael and Angel, has not only made him more well rounded but truly more organic, more real.  

Claire Dodin (Riley) - Taken shortly after her exchange with Tardust

In between takes requesting Kc for a musical episode
Shortly after their session, I had the pleasure of seeing Riley perform. As one of the "O.G." characters, it was nice hearing her character evolve. In my eyes, she was this almost perfect character who who was seemingly great at everything. Not only was she this amazing chef who had invaluable archery skills, she also had a soft touch when dealing with people. Translation = Boring archetype. I peg it to Kc's incredible timing in character development and Riley's dynamic range in acting that made her character far more interesting and compelling. I found it incredibly interesting shooting her, no pun intended, after her exchange with Tardust.   

The great Scott Marvin as Burt

Authority mode with Nicholas 
Burt. What can I say about Burt other than the fact he is one of the most down to earth, friendly and spontaneously witty people I have ever met. I had done a photo shoot with him, Scratch and Lizzy a couple of years ago and he still thanks me to this day for it (I should be the one thanking him, since it truly kick-started 13th Floor Photography). Without going too much into the story-line, I personally felt the last chapter was Burt's crescendo, especially after what Scratch has put him through. It's amazing how quickly he can go from the "punny" guy, who Kc constantly reminds to "Focus, Marv. Focus" to this voice actor that everyone can play off of.
The phenomenal Jenna McCombie as Scratch

Jenna outside of her role as Scratch is a soft spoken and humble person. Seeing her
transform into a villain is simply amazing. 

Enter Scratch, a humble, soft-spoken professional who leaves me breathless. I literally held my breath every single time she got into character, as she pulled me into her world. She demonstrated why she is a professional in the industry just in her inflection alone. Scratch knew when to bring it down and when to really let loose. Pair her with Burt and you truly have something special. Off the mic, they are the closest of friends but in a live recording studio these guys appear to really hate each other.  Witnessing Jenna McCombie (the only time I will use Scratch's real name) method act was like watching a real life drama unfold and some of the photos, in my opinion, show the residual effects of her process. Simply stunning. 
Constance Parng as CJ 

I, unfortunately, did not get much recording time with Tanya, CJ and Puck, but was happy to meet them nonetheless.  Their friendliness was off the charts and I was happy to have had a chance to snap a few action shots. In fact, Tanya recognized me from prior events and mentioned she saw me running around the neighborhood in West Los Angeles. To say this was a great opportunity would be the understatement of the year. We're Alive is one of the most, if not the most, creative and original pieces of art I have had the pleasure of being a part of. In a world where we are inundated with a plethora of visual stimuli, my work included, it is incredibly refreshing to take in an art form that utilizes one's imagination. Seriously, do yourself a favor - turn off the lights, cozy up with a friend or loved one, blast the speakers and get lost in your very own theater of the mind.

So say we all,

The last scene

Grayson Stone holding it down in the studio


Blaire Wayland - behind every great man is a great woman

Brett Newton as Puck

Long Live We're Alive

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