Student-directed audio drama “File Not Found” to be released in March

Staff Writers—Ashley Huizinga, Zach Sanford

Imagine a world where you can store your memories on your own personal memory chip—in your head. Anything you write down in your phone gets immediately backed up into your mind-cloud: childhood memories, grocery lists, secrets you wish you’d never been told. Now, imagine what would happen if one of those memories was stolen.

This is the premise behind File Not Found, a radio/audio drama inspired, produced, and co-directed by sophomore Emi Stewart, along with scriptwriter and co-director sophomore Aidan Bender. Originally named Memory Market, the drama tells a story set in the near-future—Black Mirror-style—about RaneTech, a company that inserts memory chips into people’s brains.

“Say you’re in a really important business presentation,” Stewart says, “and you don’t want the memory of your grocery list running through your head. This chip can store memories you don’t need right away, in an app on your phone. So it causes you to be more efficient, businesses thrive…”

Unfortunately, even though these chips store and track memories to benefit busy minds, the technologies can also be hacked, the main premise of the drama.

 

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“One day, something happens, as things do when you insert chips into people’s brains,” Stewart says. “Bad things always happen when you start to integrate… when technology is a representation of humans.”

 

In the age of instant downloads, audio dramas are growing in popularity and frequency. Podcasts like Welcome to Nightvale, S-town, and Alice Isn’t Dead are on the forefront of this surge. At the same time, shows like Black Mirror and Stranger Things are evidence of the newest era of pop culture science fiction, featuring stories that could happen anywhere and to anyone. Stewart and Bender continue these trends, with their ominous take on what could happen when you can no longer decipher man from technology.

For inspiration, Stewart went as close to home as possible—her own cell phone.

“I was scrolling through my phone and looking at all my apps and thinking ‘What are they doing for me, how are they helping me? What could be the thing that makes this too much, what would cross the line?’ It was the Notes app in my phone… I write down a lot of thoughts here, going too far would be writing it down and immediately it’s gone from my head, it’s on my phone.”

Bender, who’s written six novels in the last five years, wrote 142 pages of script for the drama in the first two weeks of August 2017. He also helps direct and edit the episodes.

“I had ready [writing] experience but not so much in a script area, “Bender said. “But when Emi posted on Facebook she was looking for someone to help acting and writing a radio drama, I just raised my internet hand and I was like, ‘Me.’ I got involved in the summer and volunteered to be the head writer [and ended up becoming] the only writer.”

 

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The story features 21 actors and actresses in 38 voice roles, including two Dordt faculty members, Teresa Ter Haar and Josiah Wallace. Leads include sophomores Victoria Brander, Adam DeKleine, and Tom Oord, who plays the main villain. Junior Bethany Van Eps is an actress and also runs the Facebook and Instagram accounts under the name “Lightning Dome Media.” The team took on a company name because they hope to come out with more content in the future.

 

The students meet on the weekends to record the drama in a make-shift sound studio. Located in CL 93 and a video camera with a boom mic looming above, a dim, lone light and a table full of actors say their lines in different ways to get a full affect for the story.

It’s a lot different from acting on stage or performing speech. Each line has to be said with precision articulation and a varied speed to keep it interesting. Your voice is the only tool you can use.

As for the drama’s name, Bender says, “In the original pitch, it was named Memory Market, but it doesn’t really make sense to have something named Memory Market with no market. The idea [now] is that they go to find their memories, in the app on their phone, and then they’re not there… It kind of makes you think internet jargon, Error 404… file not found.”

The first of 9 projected episodes of File Not Found will be released for free on Mar. 12, 2018, as an Apple podcast on iTunes.

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