EXCLUSIVE: iHeartRadio, FlynnPictureCo., Psychopia Pictures and UpperRoom Productions have defied the pandemic to complete production on There Be Monsters, a 10-part narrative sci-fi thriller podcast. Starring are Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker‘s John Boyega and American Crime: The Assassination of Gianni Versace‘s Darren Criss. There Be Monsters is produced by Beau Flynn of FlynnPictureCo., Dan Bush of Psychopia Pictures and Boyega’s UpperRoom Productions, and it will be available later this year on the iHeartPodcast Network.
Boyega plays Jack Locke, a mysterious hero with a vendetta who infiltrates a Silicon Valley body hacking startup run by an enigmatic CEO Max Fuller (Criss), whose highly secretive creations promise to enhance human biology in incredible ways. Of course, every drug has a side effect.
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iHeartRadio began developing this with the producers in late 2019 as part of its expanding slate of immersive PodFiction audio dramas. As the creative team was getting ready to fly to London, Atlanta and L.A. to record the actors in early 2020, the pandemic hit and shut them down. Despite the challenges of executing a scripted fictional podcast thriller remotely with a full cast of actors, they harnessed a completely remote technological process. Each cast member was sent a “Studio in a Box,” which included important materials from a professional studio microphone to tutorial videos – which allowed the cast to record studio-quality “scripted” audio from the safety of their own homes, while still performing together. They connected virtually via teleconference across multiple continents and time zones. The director, producers and actors connected virtually daily for six hours to record – and over the course of two weeks the production captured over 400 pages of material with 20 different actors.
“The process to develop this scripted show and the ability to capture the connection, emotions and overall dynamic between the cast members while recording remotely, from across the globe, was unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” said Conal Byrne, president of the iHeartPodcast Network.
The PodFi also stars Marley Shelton (Rampage), Clark Gregg (Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) and Tony nominee Sahr Ngaujah (Fela!, Patti Cake$). The series was created and directed by Dan Bush (The Vault, The Signal), who co-wrote along with Nicholas Tecosky. Boyega was the first to attach as star and producer.
“Getting to explore this format of storytelling whilst also adjusting to new methods of recording with the cast members made it an exciting process,” said Boyega. “I’m thrilled it all came together and hope audiences are just as drawn in as I was to this sci-fi thriller series.”
Of his creation, Bush said “There Be Monsters is a psychological thriller that chronicles the rise of humankind 2.0, and the disruptions to society that come with it. We chose to format this story as a scripted podcast because it is an immersive, storytelling playground.”
Flynn produces with FlynnPictureCo’s Scott Sheldon and Shelby Thomas. The company is currently in post on Disney’s Jungle Cruise starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt for a July 30, 2021 release.
“From the start, our goal for “There Be Monsters,” our first PodFiction series, has always been to break down traditional storytelling barriers and create a completely unique and immersive narrative audio experience that takes listeners beyond conventional podcasting,” said Flynn. “When the pandemic hit this year and the world collectively turned to storytellers and artists to help get through this challenging time, we knew we had to find a way to keep production on track and deliver this story. We couldn’t have conceived of better partners than iHeartRadio, Dan Bush and our exemplary cast and crew to step into the unknown with. What we were able to achieve together despite endless challenges and limitations is truly a first of its kind, and we can’t wait to share this incredible story and unique experience with the world.”
Fresh on the heels of the latest Star Wars trilogy, Boyega via his UpperRoom Productions recently inked a multiyear producing deal with Netflix with a specific focus on non-English-language films from West and East Africa.
Femi Oguns of Identity Agency Group reps Boyega; CAA and Ricky Rollins of Hyphenate Creative Management rep Criss, and his attorney is Hansen, Jacobson; iHeartMedia was represented by Oren Rosenbaum of UTA during the deal.