Kc Wayland is the undisputed king of audio dramas.
People today might scratch their head and wonder just what an audio drama is. Well, if you think of the old serials that played on the radio in the 1930s and 40s, like
Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar
, you’d be on the right track. However, things have gotten a bit more sophisticated since then, with audio drams containing more special effects and sound design than ever before. Thanks to shows like
Welcome to Night Vale
The Black Tapes
, and Wayland’s
, audio drama is making a huge come back.
Wayland, who graduated Dodge College with a BFA in Film and Television in 2008, started We’re Alive in May 2009. It chronicles the story of Army Reserve Soldier Michael Cross, whose life is turned upside down when people begin to change into something else and walk the Earth.
Wayland, who formerly worked as Dodge College’s Digital Applications Specialist, initially developed the idea for television, well before The Walking Dead graced our screens. However, since it would have needed a large budget, he began to brainstorm other venues. At the time, he was listening to Jim Dale narrate the Harry Potter audio books, and creating the sound design on his senior thesis film. He thought that an audio drama might be the perfect fit for his idea. He enjoyed the idea of audio forcing the listener to use their imagination, and fill in the gaps for themselves.
Despite the show being framed around a zombie outbreak, Wayland isn’t a huge fan of the genre. He changed the things he always hated about zombies to compensate, and to make the world his own. Some are smarter. Some have their own agendas. At the end of the day, this isn’t your typical zombie apocalypse.
At the end of its run in 2014, the show spanned 143 episodes, coming in at just under 50 hours’ worth of audio. It even spawned a spinoff, Lockdown, which premiered earlier this year on iTunes. Each episode goes through an intense process, from start to finish. Wayland, who learned how to write quickly and efficiently during his time at Dodge College, would take about a week to write an entire chapter’s arc. Then, he and his team would record two chapters at time (which consists of 6 episodes total) during a long, 12-hour day.
“A good audio drama needs good editors and good writers. Film allows you to actually see what is happening, but with an audio drama, an editor needs to be able to paint a picture in someone’s mind using only sounds. It’s not as easy as it looks,” Wayland said.
Over the years, the show has gained quite the following, averaging about a million downloads a month. The fandom anxiously awaits each episode, and some even began producing their own podcast, dedicated to discussing the story of the show.
The recognition paid off for Wayland and his team, because now Wayland Productions will be handling the production of
, from Laurence Fishburne’s Cinema Gypsy Productions and Larenz Tate’s TateMen Entertaiment. The 10-episode audio drama was written by Oscar-nominated screenwriter Josh Olson, and chronicles the lives of the players in Chicago’s “policy” numbers games of the 1940s and illuminates the self-sustaining African American community of Bronzeville.
However, that doesn’t mean Wayland is done with the We’re Alive universe yet. The show is nearing 50 million downloads, which is a huge accomplishment, and Wayland has some ideas on where to take it next.