Podcasts for Families: Meet the Makers of Finn Caspian
July 9, 2018
Finn Caspian is a human boy living in outer space. He and his friends (both human and robot) have lots of incredible adventures across the galaxy in this serially-told podcast, but the big personality of the robot co-host steals the show. The show also has brilliant ways of incorporating listeners’ participation in the production through listener-submitted jokes, art, and sound clips.
Carissa Christner: Where do you make your recordings? (at home? in a studio?)
Jonathan Messinger: For Finn Caspian I do all of my recordings in my home. I have a small office in my basement, and I’ve treated the walls with sound-deadening material to cut down on reverb. And over the last couple of years I’ve gradually upgraded my equipment for better sound recording. And I use Hindenburg Journalist Pro on a Mac Laptop to edit all of the audio together.
CC: Do you write all of your own material? How much, if any, is improv that happens while you’re recording?
JM: I do! I write every story, and then I read it to my son Griffin, who serves as the show’s editor. He gives me feedback on the story, which I then incorporate during revision. The conversations at the end of the episode between Griffin and I are all unscripted, and a lot of times BeeBop, my robot cohost, and I improvise at the beginning of the show. But the story itself is scripted ahead of time. But the nice thing about being the writer, the “performer” and the producer is that if something isn’t sounding right to me once I’m recording, I can change it on the fly.
CC: 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)?
JM: That is a great question that I’ve never really been able to pin down. I would say, roughly, each episode takes somewhere around 20 hours to make. But sometimes it’s quicker (if there are fewer sound elements, or if the story just flows), and sometimes it’s longer (when I’m wracking my brain).
CC: Do you have a favorite episode?
JM: My favorite, favorite episode is probably Two Heads Are Better than One from Season One, because the “Bob” characters in that episode are very funny to me. But I also really like Season 3 Episode 4: Repeat Business, because it was inspired by A Wrinkle in Time, and features one of my favorite puzzles we’ve had on the show.
CC: On average, how many e-mails/voicemails/pieces of art do you receive from listeners each week at this point?
JM: Roughly 250-300.
Question from my 8-year-old: How do you make BeeBop’s voice?
JM: BeeBop has a natural language generator program that he uses for his speech. He would be very mad if I took credit for his speech!
Question from my 4-year-old: Why does BeeBop make his sounds? Because I love him so much.
JM: BeeBop considers himself an entertainer first and foremost, so he always wants to make the beginning of each episode, when I’m talking too much, fun for kids!
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.