One of the biggest obstacles for aspiring filmmakers these days is, ironically, the first one: getting your foot in the door. It's an age-old industry catch-22, you can't get an agent without already making a name for yourself, and you can't make a name for yourself without having an agent. So what you end up with is, a surplus of unread scripts from a sea of talented no-names. Hollywood's walled fortress is so unbreachable even, that the majority of filmmakers end up just giving up.
Well, Court Dunn and H.R. Azhar, are not said filmmakers. These two NYC-based writers have seemingly discovered a new way to get noticed: in the form of audio. Unlike most screenwriters who just send their scripts hoping for the best, They actually recorded their script and created a real audio play out of it, complete with music and sound effects, as proof of concept. It seems to be working, as we otherwise would not have heard of them. Seeing as we did, we met up with the two over coffee, and talked about their new project, “Olympus” , and the technique that has some industry insiders talking. Read below for my full interview.
SM: What is Olympus?
H.R.: Well simply put, Olympus is a retelling of classic greek mythology, but retold in a linear, and thematic way, adding modern story telling elements to the classic myths.
CD: And we're using the audio format too…
SM: Why audio?
CD: We just wanted to try something new… These days, writers, and their stories, are a dime-a-dozen. We wanted to stand out.
SM:And why Greek Mythology?
H.R.: Well... it's something I actually wanted to see. I figured someone would have done it at some point, but when I looked around [at films and podcasts], I actually couldn't find anything quite like this. There are few Greek Myth audio books out there, but nothing where you'd actually see or hear the characters interact. I've always loved the subject, and its everywhere in our culture. They're a source of many of the stories we love. So we figured, hey if it doesn't exist, why not just make it ourselves.
CD: It's the old don't tell me, show me… We grow up learning what the myths are, but no one ever really gives us the full narrative.
SM: Got it, but why this format?
H.R.: It was actually just a fun way to tell these stories on a grand scale, without an enormous budget.
CD: We'd been curious about the format for a while. We'd considered trying it as a comic, graphic novel, and things like that. We thought this was a bit more unique, and fun. Like a throwback to the old radio plays. And yeah the budgetary thing sealed the deal.
SM: And how are you feeling about some of the interest that's popped up around it?
C.D: No complaints here. I mean, we definitely set out to do something different, but I don't think we expected that it would sort of bypass the system, so to speak. You can say it may not follow the traditional "script" format, but you can't deny that the proof of concept doesn't put you a bit more into that world, with the various characters, music, sound effects, and all that.
SM: And what are you hopes for this, in the long run?
H.R.: We originally wrote it as a narrative TV series, either animation or live action, but we also have a feature length script version. Every format has its strengths or weaknesses. For example, in the audio version, we use narration to explain the exposition that normally happens between the dialogue in screenplays. We can't show you what's on the characters faces, so we use narration to paint the full picture.
SM: But couldn't dialogue sum up all this exposition?
H.R: Surprisingly...no. We didn't realize that until we started writing it. An audio play has its own momentum, just like any format does. There are certain rules for each format.
C.D.: For example, there's a few minutes in the beginning of the episode which we use narration to set up the world. Take the Fellowship of the Rings movie as an example, they were able to deliver a similar narration in less time, because there were visuals to accompany the dialogue. So, there's pros and cons.
SM: Tell us a little about the story
C.D: It literally starts at the beginning: the creation myth, with the first few episodes centered around the war between the Olympians, you know, Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, with their parents, the Titans. Then it goes from there...
SM: And people are into Greek Mythology?
C.D.: More than we thought. When we started telling people about it, we were definitely surprised how how many people we didn’t know were into it, started telling us how much they loved Greek Myth. Maybe it's the rise in super hero stories, they're eerily similar.
H.R.: I guess it's one of those things people that's just so ingrained in our modern culture that no one would have thought to tell the full story… and strangely enough, it's never been done [in this way].
C.D.: It was, the source of a real religion at one point, so I guess it always had something high concept about it.
SM: Do you have a plan for the series?
H.R.: Yeah, we have a series bible and all, with the other "seasons" all arc'ed out so to speak. We've only written the first six so far, of the first season, but we did a lot of research to keep true to the original story, while adding our own twist.
SM: I’ve seen individual myths, like The Odyssey and Illiad done in series and movies. Are you sure this has never really been done before?
C.D.: Not that we can find. There are kids cartoons, I guess, but those are all isolated stories, and for kids! Not like this, all the myths in one continues narrative. Writers have dabbled in this world in movies mini series, video games… like God of War was cool... but they never stayed true to the actual myths. It's actually kind of frustrating. Age old classics, but everyone's afraid to stay true to them. We added and adjusted a few things of course, to keep up with modern sensibilities. We just adapted them the way a modern series would
H.R.: Our thought was, if it ain't broke, why fix it? People play with the world, but never really tell the stories. I've never seen what Zeus or Aphrodite did actually played out. That what we set out to do, but in a linear order, so one event leads to another. We fill in some of the blanks, but keep the main pillars the way they've always been. Those original stories are as complex as any of the best dramas today, but there's an even more romantic, and often tragic, undertone to all of it… It was fun, but also moving.
C.D.: Just tell it the way it was. . More thoroughly developed characters than we've seen, but always leading to the same points as the original myths. The characters change over time because of their specific experiences and react to the events differently later on, which shows how and why the next myth played out the way it did.
SM: do you have a favorite myth
H.R.: Yes! Buts that's in be in Season 2, so I don’t want to give anything away!
SM: What other projects do you have lined up?
C.D.: We filmed two TV-length pilots, a comedy and a mockumentary, and we're writing a novel as well. We're obsessively prolific, and have been working together for a little while now.
SM: And you’ve had some success with some of your past videos, and work.
H.R.: We've been lucky that some of our stuff has gone viral, but for us those are so much fun to do. We're thankful to be able to make a living working on what we love.
SM: And lastly, what's your plan for this story, if it doesn't become the next Hollywood Blockbuster or Pixar Animated film?
H.R.: It would be the end of the world! We've always wanted to release a podcast series, and this would work great for that too. And we've recorded the first 6 episodes already, so we can't really lose.
C.D.: We also just want to shout out our talented cast: Tom Murphy, Jean Hobrukowich, Gus Scharr, Jasmine Hernandez, and Farah Foggerty