This is Luke, Eli, Annie, Vin, and Rodney. We want to share something we made with you.
Voices of the Revolution is a near-future science fiction podcast following Louis Themm, a nineteen-year-old kid, who collects the stories of people swept up in a civil war — including soldiers, street kids, teachers, scientists, refugees, and war criminals.
The podcast is inspired by real problems we face today, from income inequality to the looming threat of mass automation, and by several recent revolutions around the world.
Over the last few years, our world has been shaken over and over again by revolutions, unrest, and technological change. But these events aren’t separate — they connect together in a system.
So we wanted to ask: what happens to a society when 50% of the jobs are automated? That is the central question of Voices of the Revolution.
And Louis Themm — and his insatiable curiosity and need to know more — is our guide.
Experts predict that half of all jobs today could soon be automated. How will ordinary, everyday people cope with that change?
We made this pilot — and we’d like to make the full season — to think about things that might happen.
In the United States in the 80s and 90s, many factories shuttered. Technological advances in automation eliminated jobs — because the work could be done more efficiently without a human. Blue collar jobs were lost while shareholders got very very rich. Men and women of all backgrounds and ethnicities worked those blue collar jobs, and their livelihoods and identities were shaken by that job loss.
After that, a small group of people made money off of that fear and distrust. They harnessing that anger and pain to further sow division — inflaming and deepening pre-existing insecurities and prejudice about status and race.
And now, 30 years later, already exhausted and angry, unused to banding together, we’re on the precipice of a new kind of automation — one that moves much faster and that will affect almost everyone.
This is a big topic, and we sure don’t have all of the answers. But we’re trying to ask the right questions.
What do love, ambition, education, collaboration, commitment, and consciousness look like in this new kind of world? In this new kind of revolution?
What are we doing?
But we're filmmakers. Why an audio drama? Because we see a big story. And we think that this is the best way to tell that story right now.
We finished our pilot and — you guys. Oh my god. We've got the beginnings of something really good.
So...that award is, like, the Oscars of audio drama (!!!). And our unreleased pilot (born from love and rage and hope and frustration and fear and really epic stubbornness) won the Best New Artist for the 2018 Sarah Awards.
So that's cool.
We went to the event in April, and there were winners from all over the world. All of these people there that night made amazing stuff, and past winners have included audio dramas like Homecoming (Gimlet Media, now being adapted into a TV show for Amazon) and Radiotopia's The Truth. Radio dramas for the BBC. You know. Like. Um.
So what do we need? Funding — and an audience.
We are looking for support from our crowd for production and post-production funding for a full, six episode season.
We want to take the beginnings of this new genre — the fictional podcast — and stretch it farther than it’s ever been stretched before. We want to prove that there's an audience for thoughtful interesting character driven sci-fi. We also need to produce our first season.
That's where you come in.
Goal: Record the Full Season
$10,000. Backer Goal: 350.Our 50-minute pilot is complete! It’s about love, regret, and commitment to a cause. We have five more episodes ready to go, but we need to pay for production — hiring our very wonderful actors, and renting studio space. We’re setting our initial "we can get it done" goal at $10,000.
This is what that will cover:
- Non-SAG actors for full season
- Directing/project management
- Snacks and water
- Two days in a studio facility (two takes for any line, tops)
- Kickstarter fees (video creation, processing fees, etc.)
- Kickstarter rewards + postage
Stretch Goal 1: We Release a Year Early
$25,000. Backer Goal: 1,000Your help turns our work from a marathon into a sprint.
If we reach $10,000, post-production is going to take the time it takes. We’ll move to looking for sponsors, Patreon, and other funding streams to secure our full post-production budget.
But we’d really like to time the first season’s release for the 2018 midterm elections, and hitting $25,000 allows us to pay for post-production as soon as we record.
Can you help us do that?
Stretch Goal 2: The Best Actors — And a World of Extras
New York City has some of the best actors in the world — and we’d like to cast them. We need your help to get SAG New Media contracts and payroll services and to pay people their quotes.
Also? Annie made Luke cry in frustration when she told him that he couldn’t have more than four actors per episode. (This actually happened. Maybe not the crying. Definitely the frustration.)
We need the flexibility to write for the story — not for the budget.
Stretch Goal 3: 45 Minute Episodes
$55,000. Backer Goal: 3,000
Back when we decided to do this, we wanted to make each episode about 50 minutes long. The pilot is 50 minutes long. And when you listen to that pilot, it doesn't feel like it wants to be any shorter than what it is.
It sounds like the right story.
But due to available resources, the plan is that all the other episodes will be around 30 minutes long. We’re trying to make the audio equivalent of an HBO epic drama.
If we hit $55,000, we'll make each episode around 45 minutes long--which is the length that the story wants to be.
Stretch Goal 4: Media Is a Megaphone
$100,000. Backer Goal: 4,000 (Or more, we're not fussy.)
So what do you get for $100,000?
We’ve got the component parts of a megaphone, and we’re hoping to add our voices (this season of Voices, specifically) to the conversation that is happening politically and culturally.
But we need your help to put it together.
Funding us at this level helps to share our project widely, to spur social media, PR, and marketing campaigns, and to move fast to make a fantastic product. It also pays for our time, and it gives us the seed money to start Season 2.
Our story starts in the fictional country of Peloria, deep in the midst of a bloody civil war. Two sides are pitted against each other. On one side, the government’s coalition of wealthy constituents and shrinking middle class have reaped the rewards of automation and advances in neural technology. On the other, the poor, who live without any way to control their own social and economic destinies — other than to rebel. In the war’s third long year, government forces have pushed into the rebel-held city of Arden, cutting the city in two.
It is this event that begins our story, as 19-year-old Louis Themm begins a project to record the stories of those caught in the war. Louis is a smart, precocious, hard-headed but idealistic kid, thrust into a position of adulthood when the war came.
No longer able to go to college, Louis is unsure of what his future might hold and he hatched a plan to record stories of the conflict. But just as he begins, the government sweeps into the city, causing his family to flee. He has a duty to protect his little sister and to help his worried mother — and for their sakes, to look after himself.
Episode One: In our first episode, Louis talks to Anton Williams as he relives his more idealistic and romantic past. A Lieutenant in the PLF 6th Infantry Division, Anton was a grad student during the massive waves of anti-government protests. When the demonstrations caused him to lose his leg he got an integrated prosthetic replacement, and a neural package to go with it. He has wrestled with the implications of that choice ever since. But in the present, Anton does whatever he can to keep a foothold in a city under siege by government forces.
Episode Two: Louis recovers his father’s tapes and finds the story of Dr. Strapp, the famous scientist who invented Neurals — and who disappeared. To learn more about Strapp, Louis tracks down Cora, Strapp’s one-time collaborator. Expunged from official records, Cora is now a technologist and medic for the resistance. Brilliant though overshadowed by Strapp, Cora was one of the few people who might have been Strapp’s friend — until Strapp put her in an impossible situation as Strapp conducted her mysterious, world-changing work. Cora’s jealousy and hurt created consequences for her, for Strapp...and for Louis.
Episode Three: Louis interviews Marie Cook, who runs a secret school that offers education to kids from either side of the line. As the war began, representatives from the government and the rebels had aggressive recruiting policies, nearly dragging kids from schools. Marie, a teacher all her life, moved the school underground. She secretly educates kids from all over the city, employing guides to take students to their hidden destination. When one of the guides who escorts children to the school fails to show, Marie must assume he’s been captured — and moves to protect all of the children.
Episode Four: Louis meets Calla, a woman originally from a low-tech religious sect who ran away from home to get an neural implant. Calla grew up Veneden, an ancient religious sect which rejects body modification as a corruption of God’s design. At 13, Calla began to exhibit signs of schizophrenia. Running away to the city to get neural tech to alleviate her symptoms, Calla initially settles for dangerous jury-rigged technology. She works however she can to earn money for a safer and more effective neural. But under threat of government occupation, her attempts to survive and thrive put her at odds with the rebels and her neighbors.
Episode Five: Louis is contacted by Joel Crenshaw, a defector who used to fix broken autonomous machines, while his husband ran an engineering firm connected with Chorman’s National Unity Party. When Joel witnessed an execution and the cover-up that followed, he became disillusioned with the government — and his entire existence. But living in a surveillance state, you have to endure an existential crisis alone. He fled. Nearly a year after he left, he longs for his husband, regretting that he never said what he really felt. Joel takes all the money he has left and hatches a plan to get him back.
Episode Six: As the city nears its inevitable collapse, Louis talks to Hermon, a local homeless person living in a tent city with his daughter. 10 years ago, Hermon was an average person on basic with a family, almost entirely anonymous. Then he disappeared. When he returns to Arden, his personality is altered. He’s distant, stuck in his head, mumbling strange incoherent sentences about the “Gate Inside” to himself. But Louis finds out that Hermon is much more than he appears to be, taking Louis one step further down the rabbit hole towards Strapp’s mysterious work.
Season One Timeline
June 2018-August 2018
- Production begins on receipt of Kickstarter funding.
- Sound design and composition on the full season.
September-November 2018 (dependent on funding levels)
- Release episodes.
Our Origin Story
A few years ago, Luke, a writer, was watching revolutions unfold in Syria, Egypt, and Ukraine, led by these incredibly brave young people demanding a better, freer world. It was dramatic, intense, and impossibly compelling. At that point, he didn’t know how to approach such a big, messy, political story without reducing its complexity.
But he knew that he wanted to focus on individual’s stories.
Eli had been friends with Luke for years. A video editor, he loves podcasts and political discussions in equal measure. When he and Luke got caught up in the crush of the Women’s March, they were overwhelmed by the positivity, and yearned to be able to say something about the world that they saw around them.
Somewhere else in the crowd, Annie, a writer, director, and producer, was there in a tree, desperate to get a cell signal. She was looking out at a sea of people with signs and hope, almost fiercely joyful in the midst of their despair.
Eli and Annie worked at the same company together — Eli as an editor and producer, Annie as a writer, director, and producer. Eli knew that Annie was looking for a challenge.
Luke and Eli cast Rodney to bring Louis to life, and we recorded and assembled the pilot.
Then we brought on Vin to sound design and compose.
Vin has scored most everything that Annie’s directed, and elevated this project into a work of sonic art.
The Pilot Team
The podcast was conceived by Luke Taylor, who also wrote and directed the pilot. Annie Coburn executive produced and story-edited, Eli Susser executive produced and edited, and Vincent Calianno sound designed and composed the score for the episode. We leaned heavily on the amazing resource of Freesound.org. Rodney Henry voiced the role of Louis. We are so grateful to the rest of our cast: Daniel Damiano (Anton), Victoria Winner (Wren), Darlene Dues (Audrey), Tom Staggs (Pete), Lori Felipe-Barkin (Elle), and Erik Endsley (Reporter). Extra voices: Madeline Brennan, Gina Ippolito, Kenny North, Farah Alvin, Martina Klich, Alexis Boursier, Hanan Mahbouba, Sammy Tunis, Robert Clarke-Chan, Ray Stakenas, and Elaine Seward. Title music: Trifonic. End music: Blue Sky Black Death.
Our Kickstarter video was shot by Liza Gipsova, with additional footage from Anne Coburn, Jacob Joseph, and Eli Susser. News archival found at Archival.org. Edited by Eli Susser and Jenny Thomas; music and sound by Vincent Calianno.
We’ve worked since March 2017 on the launch of this project.
Anything after that?
We want to take the beginnings of this new genre — the fictional podcast — and stretch it farther than it’s ever been stretched before. We’re focused on Season One right now — but we also want to make Season Two, and to figure out ways to explore this world in as many mediums as possible.
We’re out to make something profound and far-reaching and fresh and heart-stirring. We’re betting that you’ll like where we're putting our resources: in the writing, the emotional honesty of the performance, and the crystalline quality of the audio.
But seriously, hey, if we can just get to tell some really damn good sci-fi, we’ll be very very happy.
Risks and challenges
We decided to put real resources into attracting a really big audience for our first time out of the gate with a podcast.
That’s why our podcast sounds like a big budget movie, and we’re hoping to reach a similarly sized audience (for less than the price of an underground indie feature).
Once this kicks off, we’ll be working five times faster than we were before, and while we’ve built a strong foundation to make that happen, it’s going to be much harder if we’re doing it all after our freelance work. The more money we can raise, the better we can make this project!
Pre-production: Funding is covered, thanks to initial seed investment.
Production: That’s where Kickstarter comes in. You’re our audience, and the core of what we’re trying to build. We’re looking not just for funding but also for numbers. By backing us, you’re helping to prove that we’ve got the beginning of something really big.
Post-production: If we only make our initial $10,000 goal, we’ll move to Patreon or Drip to fund the sound design and composition of each episode. It'll be a bit slower, but we'll get it done.
Distribution: We’ve gotten interest from *ahem* and also *can’t name them either* for potential distribution, but the more funding that we raise ourselves, the sooner this can get into the world.
With your help, we’ve got this.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (31 days)