In Department of Theatre and Media Arts, Experiential Learning, Faculty and Staff, Guest Artists

The podcast was directed by Jerusha Hess and features the voice acting talents of comedy stars such as Louie Anderson and Kyle Mooney

BYU’s media arts program has a long and rich history of both fiction and documentary filmmaking, but students and professors in recent years have also explored emerging storytelling mediums such as web series, video games, virtual reality and — as with the recently released sci-fi comedy adventure “Escape From Planet Death!” — podcasts. 

Members of the cast and crew of “Escape From Planet Death!” (Courtesy of Tom Russell)

“The thing that is most interesting to me about working on podcasts is that it’s a uniquely modern medium, even more so than film — which is still very new in the history of the world,” said media arts major Sam Matheson. “We’re a multitasking generation, so the ability to listen to a podcast while you’re working or in your car is huge. It’s something that you can experience no matter what you’re doing.”

Matheson was one of six student producers who worked to bring a scripted series developed by media arts professors Tom Russell and Courtney Russell to vivid, aural reality. The earliest version of the story — which follows a crew of bureaucrats as they leave an apocalyptic Earth for a distant planet — was developed by student screenwriters in Tom Russell’s Writers’ Room course. 

“We created the class because we had students get into writers’ rooms and other professional writing positions and feel discouraged when their ideas would be overlooked or revised or rewritten — which is all part of the collaborative writing process,” said Russell. “We wanted to increase collaboration between students while they’re in the program to help them get used to rewriting somebody else’s material and having their material rewritten. At the end of a project like this, they can say ‘this doesn’t feel like the thing we wrote,’ but it’s absolutely the thing.”

In addition to working as creative colleagues with their professors and peers, the student producers had the invaluable experience of collaborating with prominent industry professionals — including comedians Louie Anderson of “Baskets,” Kyle Mooney of “Saturday Night Live,” Whitney Call of “Studio C” and actor Joe Estevez, all of whom performed the audio for their respective characters at June Audio Recording Studios in Provo.           

Read the full story at the Department of Theatre and Media Arts website.

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