We’re Alive!

“Da…duh…da…duh…da…duh…da…duh…da…duh…da…du…da…duh…” The sound of dramatic and melancholy music sets the tone for an intense story of survival horror. A striking piano chord suddenly cuts through the rhythmic melody followed up by the words, “WE’RE ALIVE!” There are no visuals – no pictures, no illustrations, nothing but the sound. “We’re Alive,” is a classic style radio drama that focuses on a group of survivors in a world on the brink of collapse. For this post, I will be focusing on their first three radio broadcasts appropriately titled, “It Begins.”

Depriving the audience of the most basic of senses – sight, smell, taste, and touch – “We’re Alive” relies solely on the ability to story tell through the sounds of the characters, their environments, and the events portrayed throughout the narrative. The entire first chapter is told from the point of view of Michael, a young military man savvy to the events of war and thrown head-first into the chaos of an apocalyptic event. As far as the zombie genre goes, this radio drama sticks out as a refreshing break from the typical depictions. A lot of popular zombie media banks on the use of shocking imagery, visual effects, and the expressions of despair and grief on the faces of the survivors. Instead, “We’re Alive” has to creatively circumvent these visuals through the use of sound to inspire the same terror and confusion that a visual zombie apocalypse carries.

Trait Trait Description Succeed Fails to Capture
Sense of audience How well did the story respect the needs of the audience? The story does an incredible job respecting the needs of the audience. Relying only on audio can be problematic to a zombie story – which usually uses visual imagery to arouse fear and anxiety. However, this story understands the importance of balance between character conversations and mood-setting background noise and music. To provide its audience with the setting, the main character’s narrations help to fill in the gaps between what the story is unable to provide sound for and what we can’t physically see. I do not believe that this trait fails to capture this story. The whole point of this story is to engage the audience with as many senses as possible described through sound. It caters completely to the audiences imagination and fills in as many gaps as possible to allow for the imagination to take over and immerse the audience in the story.
Media application Was the use of media appropriate, supportive of the story, balanced and well considered? The use of media is incredibly appropriate in supporting this story. Through the creative use of sound, the audience is able to conjure up images of the hell that the main characters have been suddenly thrown into. The narrations and character interactions are highly descriptive, the background noises match the tone and setting of the environment, and the audio special effects enhance rather than distract from the overall story. In this first chapter of the story, some of the audio effects (such as zombie noises and background noises) have not been as fully developed as others. At times, this can pull the audience out of the authenticity of the story.
Project planning Is there evidence of solid planning, in the form of story maps, scripts, storyboards, etc.? Though there is no physical evidence to the planning behind this production, solid and thorough planning is evident in the quality of the radio drama. Great care has been taken in the crafting of character interactions and narrations. The characters are written as smart, critical thinkers with enough common sense to keep them alive among the doom and gloom. Each character acts appropriately to their personalities for each event in the story. The flow of the story also moves along at a suitable pace – keeping the listener interested at times and on the edge of their seats other times. The narrator, Michael, also adequately describes each scene and location in the story to allow the audience to build up the map within their own heads – placing the listeners into the story alongside the characters. I don’t think that this trait fails to capture the story. The high quality of the storytelling elements all come together successfully which is a sure sign of solid planning.

I have listened to the entirety of this radio drama which took the producers 7 years to completely tell and 1 year for me to completely binge. Over the course of this listening adventure a large amount of finessing was brought to this tale. It has been years since I had listened to the very first few episodes. Listening to the beginning made me appreciate the evolution that the story had gone through over the years in terms of quality and audience immersion. For instance, as previously stated, certain sound effects had not been totally fleshed out. Zombie effects were quite amateur and could rip me out of the story at times due to the fake sounds of zombie breathing and running. Another modification that I had initially wished for and saw come true throughout the story was a more in-depth explanation of where the zombies came from. Many undead tales never bother to tackle this story element for fear of doing it incorrectly or complicating the story. With a purely audio reliant account such as this, I really feel that some explanation needs to come about at some point in order to add some much needed complexity to the narrative.

#ds106, #INTE5340, #WereAlive

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