Having conquered the visual medium of television, it only seems natural that legendary producer Dick Wolf would branch out into the newest big thing – podcasting.
Wolf created the long running Law & Order franchise as well as the Chicago shows – Med, Fire and P.D. He also executive produces two additional drama series, FBI and the forthcoming FBI: Most Wanted, which will begin airing in 2020. He’s had at least one show on the network television since 1990. Law & Order: SVU, now in its 21st season is the longest running drama in television history.
Now, his team gives the listening public Hunted, a new fiction podcast about two U.S. Marshals who are hot to capture four dangerous fugitives on the run after escaping from prison.
The drama stars Parker Posey and Brandon Scott, is written by Jeffrey Baker and directed by Shawn Christensen.
The series is executive produced by Elliot Wolf, Dick Wolf’s son, who is also in charge of the new Law & Order: SVU weekly podcast. Hunted is produced in partnership with Endeavor Audio.
It was Elliot who came up with the idea for Hunted and says when he first explained to the elder Wolf what he wanted to do, Dick laughed a little and said, “So you want to do radio, huh?” Elliot says the he couldn’t help but laugh along with his dad, saying, “Well, yeah, sort of, but this is a bit different. And people love podcasts.”
Elliot, knowing the Wolf brand, says that he and his team are first and foremost storytellers. “Typically we tell stories that are easily digestible and aim to leave the viewer satisfied after each episode. So the goal here was to take that thinking and put it into audio, creating a series that was essentially a TV show for the listeners.”
Highlighting the U.S. Marshal service is also a natural fit for Wolf Entertainment, a company that features first responders in nearly all of its series.
“We did a lot of research and we took elements from several stories involving the Marshals and created this narrative,” says Elliot.
It was then that he reached out to writer Baker to hammer out the eight episodes.
“He really understood from the get-go that we wanted to take the listener on a ride that would keep them on the edge throughout,” explains Elliot.
Considering the pace of the series, Elliot says that generally speaking all stories have a very exciting beginning and a conclusive ending, but that the middle can get a bit mundane. With this in mind he explains, “We really wanted to make sure that episodes four, five and six were equally as thrilling as one, two, seven and eight.”
To that end, the team really focused on creating a cliffhanger at the conclusion of each 30 minute episode.
There was also concern about telling a very active story without the visual cues that video provides. “That was definitely a challenge,” admits Elliot. “We were thinking about it throughout the entire process. One thing that’s different is that if you listen for it, you’ll hear that the characters often address another directly quite a bit which really isn’t something that they have to do on television.”
To ramp up the authenticity, the team worked on location just as they would on a television series. “We recorded outside if that’s where the characters were. If the characters were in a hallway, we recorded in a hallway, or a bathroom if that was called for. For the [office] bullpen or the interrogation rooms or places like that, we actually created spaces that mimicked the sounds you would hear in those rooms.”
The pace of the work is also vastly different from that of a television series or a film, explains Elliot. “There’s no stopping and starting while you wait for the shot to be set up, so the actors are really embodying their characters from the start of the day until the end without long breaks.”
He says that his leading lady was a big fan of this kind of rapid movement. “I was talking to Parker the other day and she said it was like going back to the schoolyard and playing with friends without having to worry about all of the cinema of hair and makeup and such.”
Scott, who plays Anthony Morra, partner to Posey’s Deputy Marshal Emily Barnes, says that to do the audio work he employs much of the same process he that he does to work in a visual medium. “I evaluate the character – he’s young, and he’s got this Southern warmth about him, but he’s also very determined – and I think, ‘how do I translate that with my voice?’ And that’s what I work from.”
Recording Hunted proved to be different from other vocal work Scott has done, which includes work for Disney and a few video games, because, “Many times you are just at a music stand with the script, but doing this we were allowed to move to different places and have props and be with other actors, that really helps it all come together very naturally.”
To this end, Scott admits that while he did make certain preparations, at a certain point he and Posey were just ‘playing around.’ “You can’t prepare too much because you want to sound as natural as possible, so you have to trust in the choices you’re making in the moment, and it really helps to have another actor there working with you. That’s what Parker and I had and I think you can really tell when you listen.”
There was something that made Scott cringe a bit — the sound of his own voice. “Yeah, like a lot of people, it’s sometimes uncomfortable for me to hear my voice in playback. I’m always going to critique little things here and there, but I was listening to a few episodes and I have to say that with all of the sound design elements I got really immersed in it and I actually forgot I was part of it,’ he says with a laugh. “If it was just my voice it might be harder for me, and everyone else, to listen to it, but it’s so layered with sound that it’s just really cool to hear all of it together as the story moves along.”
Elliot says that the intricate sound design is intentional. “Most people are going to listen to this in their car or with headphones and because of that we really wanted to create a premium listening experience so we focused on all the sound work that was needed to achieve that.”
Moving into the podcasting area is a natural fit for the family brand says Elliot. “New media is sort of The Wild West right now – we can be experimental in a lot of ways. First and foremost, we want to continue to give our fans the stories that they love and give them more of those stories. But, with podcasts, we’re able to push the boundaries of what we’re doing. Not necessarily move outside of our lane but expand the lane that we’re in.”
While podcasting may be fairly new, if it captures the audience’s imagination in the way that it should Scott believes it can accomplish something that visual media cannot. “If you tell a good, intriguing story in the right way, it becomes more personal than anything than you can show visually because people who listen build the world of the story in their own mind. And often what they imagine is far more colorful than anything you could ever create for them.”
All episodes of ‘Hunted’ are available now.
To subscribe to ‘Hunted’ on the podcast app of your choice, please click here.