When we first encountered The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel, I was a little nervous about sharing it with my 7-year-old since the recommended age range is 9-12. The storyline and music score do make this story the most intense of any that we listen to, but my 7-year-old couldn’t get enough. He binge-listened to the first half of the season and then was on the edge of his seat waiting for each new installment to come out. If your child is okay with lots of tension in movies, they’ll be fine with this one—there’s nothing inappropriate for younger listeners. It follows the story of Mars Patel and his friends as they try to solve some mysterious disappearances that have happened lately at their school. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I hope you enjoy this interview with the show’s creator, Chris Tarry. Note: This show won a Peabody award in 2017!
Carissa Christner: Where do you make your recordings?
Chris Tarry: All Gen-Z shows are initially recorded in a large full-scale Manhattan studio with all the actors recording at one time, much like a play. We generally record an entire season in two days. From there production moves to my studio in Jersey where sound effects, music, and mixing is done. That process usually takes about 70 hours for every 15 minutes of completed audio, so our shows are very labor intensive, especially in post production. All the music and sound-design is created from scratch for each show, much like TV.
CC: Do you write all of your own material? How much, if any, is improv that happens while you’re recording?
CT: Everything is scripted. Ben, Dave and I (the Gen-Z partners) create and outline all the shows, and then either the three of us or one of our writing teams work on taking the outlines to script. I’m in charge of all production, Dave oversees all the writing, and Ben heads up our day-to-day business.
CC: Are you one of the voices and if so, which character(s) do you voice?
CT: I’m a few tiny voices here-and-there. Mostly bit parts like voices over intercoms, that kind of thing. We use professional adult and child actors for all roles, and they are found through our casting director in tandem with the major New York talent agencies.
CC: About how long does it take you to make one episode (all the way through from finding the idea, writing a script, recording, editing and publishing)?
CT: If we’re working fast, we can take an entire season from concept to air in four months. That can sometimes stretch to six depending on our production schedule.
CC: Do you have a favorite episode?
CT: I’m extremely proud of our new show Six Minutes. It releases two six-minute episodes per week, all year long. Like a soap opera for kids. As far as I know there is no other fiction podcast out there (adult or for kids) publishing with that kind of consistency. Episode one of Six Minutes might be my favorite so far.
Question from my 7 year old: Why are you so mysterious?
CT: Because mystery is what keeps everyone listening. 🙂
Carissa Christner works as a Youth Services Librarian in Madison, Wisconsin which she likes much better than her first job in high school, working at a theme park. She and her two young children love to test out new apps together, read books and go for walks in the woods. She blogs about her library adventures at librarymakers.blogspot.com. Check out the App Fairy website and follow along on Twitter at @appfairy.