Portland Makes an Eerie Backdrop for This Sci-Fi Audio Drama
HUSK, a narrative podcast first released in October 2018, explores a fictional Portland where teenager Rebecca Dale deals with the aftermath of her best friend Dimitri Ivanovic’s disappearance. After an excursion to Estacada’s Faraday Lake, Dimitri is seemingly abducted by extraterrestrial beings. When Rebecca returns alone, she becomes a suspect in Dmitri’s disappearance and uncovers secret government projects, evil corporations, and mysterious reappearances… and that’s just season 1.
Season 2 was released earlier this summer, and follows Rebecca to Anaconda, Montana as she searches for more answers.
Created by Portland natives Emma Brown and Sean Abplanalp, the sci-fi audio drama is Portland to its core, with scenes at local coffee shops and OHSU, as well as hidden shout-outs to Portland neighborhoods, people and cultural phenomena. “There's so much flavor in Portland and there's so many cool sites that it's the perfect background,” says Brown.
Adds Abplanalp, “A lot of our initial audience was Portland or Oregon based, and it’s really fun to say, ‘Ah, yeah, you did recognize that there was a little shout out to this or that in the story.’”
The duo, who work in real estate marketing and writing when they aren’t telling stories about alien autopsies, began HUSK on a whim after meeting at an aerial gym.
With a cast of about 15 mostly-local voice actors, the duo co-writes and co-produces each episode in a Lloyd District home studio. “By the time we’re done with the process, we really don’t know who wrote what,” says Abplanalp. After the season is written, they cast the voices and record everything in one big chunk. Postproduction begins with musical compositions by Abplanalp, and final edits are sent to their associate producer Elliot Jacobson. Then it’s out to the public.
They were drawn to the audio drama format for many reasons. Ablanalp says the accessibility of podcasting is a big draw. Movies take many resources, but a podcast can bring the story to life “without having to have a giant crew and a big budget,” says Abplanalp.
The first season–which clocked in at just under 3 hours–did very well, reaching 17,000 downloads and cracking the iTunes top 10 in fiction podcasts. Season 2 was a no-brainer. After sequestering themselves away on the Oregon Coast for a weekend, Brown and Abpanalp had drawn up a satisfying closing arc for Rebecca and Dmitri’s story.
“I think we got really attached to our characters,” says Brown. “We couldn’t help but continue to write for them.”
What’s next for the duo? HUSK is officially finished after season 2’s final episode in December 2019, but a new audio story called Bayou Beast is on the way in spring 2020.
“It’s a southern dramedy set in a fictional town in Louisiana. It kind of explores small town life, human interest, deep inner suspicion,” says Abplanalp.
The team is also looking to grow their podcast network, Anaconda Biotech Global, which shares a name with the evil corporation in HUSK.
“I’m excited to add more genres,” says Abplanalp, “I think there are a lot of people with stories to tell that haven't been able to find a medium yet. Podcasting is great for that.”