Monday, August 12, 2013

Great Stories, Well Told: An Interview with Phil Lollar (Part II)

Last week, we shared with you the first part of Daniel Heffington’s interview with co-creator of Adventures in Odyssey, Phil Lollar. This week, we’re going to share Part II and III of the interview- so stay tuned! We think you guys will really enjoy some of the topics Phil discusses and some of the insider info that you will get about the new audio drama, Iliad House! Thanks for reading!

Stories are powerful things. We talked in last week’s post about the impact that stories have on our lives and our culture. Stories have an impact because they are always communicating something. Whatever the message is, a story is a canvass upon which the author paints and displays ideas, beliefs, and questions. In this second part of our interview with Phil Lollar, we are going to get to hear from him about some of his ideas, beliefs, and questions. He shares about his passion for history, for passing on information to young people, and about his work with GenJ! Keep reading and don’t forget to share, comment, and post!

Phil with the Illiad House motley crew, erm, "creative team."
Daniel Heffington: So let’s see. If I remember correctly, you’re a bit of a history buff. So what would you say --and I know this hard to narrow down-- but if you had to pick, what would be your favorite time pe
riod, person, or event in history?

Phil Lollar: Okay, well first of all, to say that I’m a bit of a history buff is like saying that the Pope is a little bit Catholic.

DH: Haha! That’s what I thought.

Phil: So I’m an enormous history buff, and I consider myself to be an amateur historian. A real desire of mine would be to go back and get an advanced degree in history so I could be a professional historian. I think that would be really a lot of fun. For me, American history is fascinating. The whole premise of a country where people are free to grow, and build, and do, and not be judged by who their father was, but be judged by who they are; where they can build and own their own piece of the land-- it’s   fascinating to me.  It really is an unbelievable, unprecedented thing in world history.

There are several people who are my favorites, but for American history, it’d have to be Lincoln. Hands down. That is probably the most pivotal moment in our nation’s history and Lincoln is the central figure in that moment. And he was a genius. Here is a guy who is quintessentially American. You want to talk about a story? How much of the story is completely apocryphal will always be up for debate, but there are certain facts that we do know. The guy had less than a second grade education and yet he rose to be the president of the United States-- the most powerful guy in the country, and arguably, in the world. No other place in the world could that happen except for here. Where else would you find something like that happening? That’s an unprecedented story. Nowhere else in the world --in the history of the world-- is that possible. That’s why I think Lincoln holds such a fascination for so many of us out there.

I have a great fascination for English history as well. I really like the whole Tudor era with Henry VIII and Elizabeth. Even further back would be the Plantagenets. That whole era is really an amazing time of history. King Henry II was so full of energy-- I mean the guy was amazing! So I really like that period. Of course, I’m also very fascinated with Biblical history as well. I think it would be really fun to just spend time in that era, to be able to walk along, observe, and take part in that period of history as well.

DH: That’s very cool. Well we’ve been really excited to have you as a speaker at our iGovern camps over the past few years. What is it about Generation Joshua that resonates with you and makes you want to get involved?

Phil Lollar speaking at iGovern Pacific '12
Phil: I didn’t know anything like GenJ existed until I got a call from Jeremiah Lorrig two summers ago to speak at a GenJ camp. When he told me what it was, I thought, “This is amazing. It’s fantastic,” because it’s something that I always thought should exist. The wonderful thing about GenJ is that you are doing exactly what I talk about in terms of teaching the next generation, teaching young people, and teaching homeschoolers all about who they are as Americans, what their government does, and how important their values are in their choices and life decisions. I think that the whole idea of GenJ and the iGovern camps is brilliant for that, and I just can’t recommend it enough. It’s something that I hope will spread like wildfire. I hope it will grow and grow and grow to get as many young people involved as possible, because it performs a valuable, valuable service.

The programs in the iGovern camps are amazing. They take a group of kids and divide them up and show them how our government works by having them become the government. Their assignment this time is to balance the budget, and they can do in a week what our real government can’t do at all. Can you imagine if the group that did that, and subsequent groups in subsequent years, are the ones who become senators and congressmen and our officials and our leaders in future years? They’ll be able to do what stymies our current government. The whole idea is to Biblically train up young people in the way they should go and when they are older they will not depart from it. They need to learn these things, and this is a fantastic, fantastic outreach to young kids.

DH: Well we’ve certainly enjoyed having you involved.

Phil: I’ve loved it. I’ve loved every second of it and it’s been really a fun thing to do. I know that some of the kids have been there and they’ve seen what I do. What’s great about my being there is that I’m an amateur political science kind of person (I kind of like politics as an observer and then a commentator on the side. I don’t want to delve into it too much, but I really enjoy it). The first time I was out there, I actually said, “You’re probably wondering why I’m here. Well I’m here because I’m a citizen. That’s the great thing about this country. I’m a citizen, each one of you are citizens, we each have an equal say in how things should work out in our country, and this is why you’re here. You’re here to learn this stuff, and one of the basic things that you should be here doing every single year, is reading our founding documents. Let’s read them together. Let’s read them out loud. Let’s read them as a group. They’re supposed to be read out loud; they’re supposed to be reminders. That’s why I enjoy coming back and doing it year after year.

DH: That is super. So let’s talk more about Iliad House. You’ve told us a little about the island and the world of the story there, and you’ve introduced us to some of the characters. Can you introduce us to any more of the characters?

Phil: Sure! So I’ve told you about Jesse Davidson and his uncle. He’s a professor and he’s very brilliant. They have a housekeeper called Mrs. McKenzie Emily Delanie, and she is a feisty lady. She can be a little bit hard sometimes, but she’s mainly sort of the mother that Jesse never had. She’s also kind of quirky in her own right.

Jesse Davidson (Concept Art)
Then there are Jesse’s two friends. His best friend is a guy named Stu Martin. Stu is extremely smart and an electronics wiz. He rides around on his own homemade scooter and does all sorts of fun stuff himself. Stu’s a very interesting character. Especially in the pilot series, a lot of things happen with Stu. A lot of things also happen to another friend of theirs; a girl named Cassandra Wilson. They call her Crazy Cassandra because her hair’s kind of wild, she sometimes puts on too much makeup, and her clothes are a little disheveled. She claims to have these “Deja Vu moments” and that she can see the future about things. The boys think she’s kind of weird and out there, but the three of them go on the adventure together in time and a lot of things are revealed, a lot of secrets are uncovered, they learn a lot of things about themselves, and they end up fast friends.

DH: So how do you go about creating an audio drama? What’s the process like? What are some of the challenges involved?

Phil: The main challenge, of course, is just telling a good story. You have to come up with a premise that going to have some life to it, going to have some teeth to it, going to have longevity, especially when you’re coming up with a series. So you want to kind of create characters and situations that you can milk for good stories and that you can play out over the long term. That’s what we’re in the middle of doing now – getting those kinds of premise things locked down. You want to be flexible with them too, so that they can go in any direction you want them to go into. That’s the first thing. It always starts with a story and ideas, and then developing good stories, and then writing good scripts. Getting those things written down and making sure that they are rock-solid.

DH: Now earlier, you told us about the Kickstarter campaign that is currently raising funds for Iliad House. Am I correct that what you’re basically saying, is that we as the public, we as GenJ members, actually have the chance to bring Iliad House to life?

Phil: Absolutely! We cannot do it without you. You are an integral, vital, and most important part of this process. You’re the ones who will be credited and responsible for making this thing happen. Anyone who contributes to this is a mini producer. 

DH: That’s awesome. What happens after fund-raising?

Phil: After that, you’ve got to cast it. You’ve got to make sure you get the right actors, so there’s a bit of a process there. You’ve got to make sure that the people are able to do what you need them to do. The interesting thing that we’re doing with Iliad House is that we’re not limiting ourselves to one location to record. I live in California and my partners (many of which work for GenJ) are out in Virginia. We’re really bi-coastal as far as that’s concerned. We’ve got two people out here and four or five people back there in Virginia. Recently, I read a very good actress (who I think may be playing Cassandra) and she lives in the Midwest. We have actresses here in California, some of the actors will be in Virginia, and so I’ve kind of opened it up. We’re going to be releasing some promos here very soon – I’m working on those right now. The gentleman who voices Professor Portalis, he lives in Houston (he’s also the voice of Jiminy Cricket for Disneyland!). Technology is available to us now so that you don’t necessarily have to be in one location like Los Angeles or New York to be able to get all of the actors that you need.

After we cast all of the actors, then the next process is to do a recording session. We get all of the scripts recorded and then we take all of those files. That stuff comes back to me. Then I put it into my editing programs and start editing and mixing stuff down. You need a decent editing program and you put everything into there (all the MP3s, .wav files, etc.), and then you start the process of post-production which is an art form all in itself. I have an immense respect for those folks who do that sort of thing (if we can get fully funded, I’m hoping to hire another person to do that as well.) That’s a process of putting it on the timeline and editing it together. You edit the voice tracks together and then you start layering in sound effects to build the world around these voices. Once you get all that together, there’s music that’s written (we have a fantastic composer in Justin Durbin who has written some wonderful pieces for us- including the theme song.). You put all that together, and you mix it down so everybody can hear it, and then you make it available for downloads and CDs and put it out there for people. In the future, what we’d like to do is see if radio stations are interested in it and put it on the radio.

That wraps up Part II of this series. Hope you all enjoyed it! You can read Part III here. To find out more about the Kickstarter campaign, click here. Be sure to comment, like, share, and stay tuned for Part III!

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