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We’re Alive – Chapter 44, 3 years in the making…

Chapter 44 Coverart

It’s here: Chapter 44, Life and Death…

There was hardly an event planned for more in the series than this. (Aside from the end of course). Let me first and foremost say that this blog contains MANY spoilers from the most recent episode, so if you haven’t caught up- STOP NOW.

Blaire and DJ, a Natural mother…

Ok, we clear? Good; here goes. Chapter 44 took over 3 years to produce. How? Well, let me give you some background.

Many times in interviews I’m asked if I feel the loss for the characters that I have to kill off in the series. I answer: “No, because their deaths are planned out so far in advance that it’s just an arrival to an event, instead of a difficult decision to kill them in the moment.” There are, of course, a few exceptions when it comes to side characters, or “Red Shirts” as the forum has come to call them. The story decision about Datu and Lizzy came such a long time ago that I can’t quite remember when it entered into the outlines. I just know that the specific details of the idea of the simultaneous deaths came near the end of Season 1. It made sense in the structure of the story not to spread out these two harsh moments, both for the mechanics and the heightened emotion of what happened. Having characters grieve twice actually would take more time as well. Timing, is everything…

In order for the plan to come to fruition and to have each character reach this emotional peak at the same time required a lot of pre-planning. The path of events for each character had to coincide with each other over several chapters, all the way back to the start of Lizzy’s pregnancy. Some of the details of these paths I will leave out out due to some pieces still relevant to the plot, but let’s just say there was a lot of re-arranging to make them both meet at the same point at the same time.

Outside of the story even more work had to be done way in advance, the most problematic being the voice of Nicholas. The story would require the use of a baby’s voice, no joke, only minutes old. If I were to use sound fx libraries for the voice of Nicholas, it would most likely be a different baby every time for every file, and the story would be extremely limited to what we could find. Baby scenes in films and movies often user the same sound effect over and over, and I didn’t want that here.

So, in 2011, I set out to find my Nicholas, watching for babies to be born around me, waiting for a boy to be born. There was one or two here or there that I had my eye on (not creepy I swear). I wanted to have a baby at age 0, but it is also a hell of a thing to ask someone to put a mic in a delivery room.

Then, not too long after that, I received word that I would be an uncle. After long discussions with Anne and Danny (DJ’s Parents), they allowed me to record their baby DJ being born. I gave my brother (Danny) the recorder and waited.

Low and behold, several months later, DJ Wayland was born. I wasn’t in the delivery room at the time, but we were able to get those precious sounds of the baby only moments after he was born. If you listen closely to 44-3 you can hear those exact moments over the radio in the background of Tanya. The other lines and voices that were closer for Nicholas we were able to record a few days later once they both came home.

Recording DJ a few days old.

This isn’t the most ideal recording space, but we were able to capture great moments in a comfortable space. Then came the long wait till this chapter to be produced. The chapter outline was in place, but the script wouldn’t be written for almost another 2 years. DJ was born in August of 2012- and this episode aired April 7th 2014. Just to show you how long this gap of time was, here’s a picture of DJ last week from Disneyland. Isn’t he cute?

DJ at Disneyland, around the same time his episode premiered.

Recording the role of Nicholas was just the first piece of the recording puzzle, we then had to get all the actors as well. We were very fortunate to have F-Sequence studio there in our recording studio on February 9th, 2014, to capture the moments on camera. Deacon and Sarah were there for the weekend to not only to do great character profiles, but also document what it’s like on the stage as well.

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Recording on the Stage – Photo by F-Sequence Studios

 

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Directing on Stage (photo by F-Sequence Studio). I have to thank them for giving me more color in the photo than I actually had on set 😉

 

Unfortunately, for me, this was at my physical weakest point in the series so far. They photographed the profiles on Saturday, but on Friday I had gone to the ER with a very bad flu, which then unfortunately took me out of commission for Saturday and almost for Sunday on the recording session. It was so bad on that on that Friday I actually left in the middle of our remote recording Jim Gleason (Michael) and had to have Grayson take over directing for me. Anyways, it was just a kick in the gut to have all this happen at the same time as the chapter I had been working so long towards.

In the end, it ended up perfect. Everyone in the cast did an amazing job. You can see from the photos from Deacon, that it was a very difficult and emotional moment for everyone, including me. Some people have asked my if it was hard to write off my wife’s character (yes I’m married to Blaire who plays Lizzy). It was extremely difficult and unsettling to write, but it was more difficult to listen to OVER AND OVER; re-living the scene over about 15 to 20 times. I remember getting pretty choked up when I was standing on top of the file cabinet performing the footsteps for Saul, performing the foley for a man who was losing the love of his life.

The production schedule for this episode was quite different. We had to work on it early… like almost a month before the release, so that we could get the timing and tracks in place so we could send it over to to our amazing composer, Brother Daniel, to fill in what I wanted for the music to accompany the scene.

That process would then take several more revisions. This instance is one of the few times we’ve been able to use fully scored pieces inside the series. We tend to have to use re-worked versions of songs from our licensed music libraries, but this had to be perfect, special, and very specific. Brother Daniel and I worked closely to make sure we hit the right moments with score, and also were able to drive home Saul and Lizzy’s music theme (leitmotif). That theme had played several times in the series previous to this, but this time was a slower”saying goodbye” version. I think we went through a total of five revisions to get everything perfect, but in the end, it was perfect.

Years of planning, weeks of editing, recording, and composing, and the result is everything we could have hoped for. I have gotten the occasional “I hate you” (probably out of love), but most have been the reaction that I and my team wanted to transpire. These deaths were not meant to be solely out of shock value, or just a cheap gimmick to pull at heart strings, but to find the beauty and heart at the loss of these characters. I am very proud of what we were able to accomplish here, and hope this is one of those peaks in our series that will set us apart from others.

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Kc Wayland

Creator of "We're Alive: A Story of Survival" and "We're Alive: Lockdown". Writer and director, with a current focus on audio drama production.
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2 comments

  • ImPaul

    KC, love the show. It is apparent how much hard work you and the cast put into the show.
    Please, do more of these blog posts. I love learning about the ‘behind scene’ stuff.

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