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Thursday
Sep172015

The Genesis of One of Our Favorite Fan Creations - The Katniss Chronicles Audio Drama


By Bryant Dillon

I have always considered myself a hardcore geek. From day one, I’ve been an obsessively passionate fan. Whether we’re talking dinosaurs, Star Wars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or one of the dozen or so other fandoms I hold close to my heart, once I’m hooked as a fan, I’m pretty much in for life and to the extreme. Still, I never could’ve guessed that I would be so in love with and inspired by a YA trilogy that I’d spend over three years of my life focused on fan-created adaptations of the stories that had captured my heart.

In all honesty, I was not prepared for how my life would change when my wife urged me to read a copy of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games at some point during 2010. I'd always been drawn to geeky properties featuring strong female heroines like Ellen Ripley, Buffy Summers, and Sarah Conner, but I was blown away by Collins’ relatable, realistic, and capable depiction of Katniss Everdeen. In a pop culture spectrum filled with far too few female genre characters of substance, I was proud to see Katniss following in the footsteps of Buffy and Ripley and providing intelligent, well-rounded, and impactful heroines for today’s generation. In addition, I was personally overjoyed by the presence of a male character like Peeta Mellark, whose strengths were demonstrated not in some “badass” ability to crush or kill his adversaries, but rather in his empathy, understanding, and love for others. Peeta is a character who is not threatened or emasculated by being rescued by his female hero or submitting to her lead. In fact, he’s actually attracted to that part of her. Katniss, Peeta, Gale, Haymitch, Cinna, Johanna, Finnick, and the rest of the amazing cast of characters were incredibly captivating, as was the bizarre, deadly, and, at many times, beautiful, dystopian world Collins created.


After tearing through all three novels, I was thoroughly obsessed.  My day job at the time had me spending long hours in my car, and when I fortuitously came across the fan scores composed for Collins’ novels by the extremely talented Sam Cushion, the seed was planted. After weeks of driving through the hills of Los Angeles while listening to Cushion’s perfectly crafted scores and imagining the events from the novels like a private screening taking place within my head, I finally gathered the courage to approach a small group of friends and fellow Hunger Games fans (including lead actress Barbra Dillon, director Sam Rhodes, head writer Tony Caballero, and producer Rebecca Lear) with the idea of creating an audio drama adaptation of Collins’ novels. With our combined backgrounds in theater, production, writing, and more, I was certain it was within our grasp to do Collins’ stories justice in the audio drama format, and, fortunately for me, my friends agreed. It was an exciting time in the Hunger Games fandom, before the film version for the first book had even been released, and we were eager to add our vision of Panem to the fan community that was so hungry and so creative. Inspired by other fan projects like Cushion’s score and the short films by Mainstay Productions, we decided to attempt the ambitious and somewhat intimidating task of adapting the first novel. While we may have been overwhelmed at first, when we reached out to Cushion, and he generously agreed to allow us to use his amazing scores in the audio drama, it was the first of many times that the odds were in our favor during this journey. In early 2011, the five of us began building what would become The Katniss Chronicles, an unofficial, unauthorized, and completely fan-created audio drama that also serves as our heartfelt love letter to Collins’ beloved character of Katniss Everdeen and the brilliant novels she inhabits.



I have so many once-in-a-lifetime memories from working on The Katniss Chronicles, and I’m sure my fellow creators can say the same. I remember the tears of appreciation and joy the first time I heard Heart of Gold’s rendition of “Rue’s Lullaby.” I remember the excitement of listening to our actors perform the Capitol dialect (constructed by our fantastic dialect coach Paul Pakler) for the first time. I remember the awe and pride I felt when the audio drama and a number of its actors went on to be nominated and win several Audioverse Awards during numerous years.



As many of my fellow Hunger Games fans know, the fan community is incredibly responsive, warm, and welcoming. As the audio drama became more well known within the fandom, we connected with other pillars of the fan community, including The Hunger Games Fireside Chat, Panem Propaganda, the Nightlock Podcast, and many generous other fan sites and projects who’ve helped support and spread the word about The Katniss Chronicles. The audio drama even had the luck to be mentioned in the book, Fan Phenomena: The Hunger Games, written by Nicola Balkind. We were officially in print, and The Katniss Chronicles was officially part of Hunger Games fandom history!


As amazing as all of that was, it couldn’t compare to the feeling of seeing The Katniss Chronicles being accepted by the Hunger Games fans who listened to the series. The best moments from this project will always come from our connection with the fans and being able to bring this story we all love to life in a different format. Upon the release of the audio drama, the response was overwhelming and more than we ever could have hoped for. Fans all over the world, from California to the Philippines, spoke to us of their common love of Collins’ books, their appreciation of our efforts, and demanded to know if we planned to do more. Of course, we continued, completing the entirety of Collins’ trilogy the same week of the release of the feature film, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1. Even now, leading up to the release of the final Hunger Games film, we’re continuing to engage with fans through a new podcast series called TKC Revisited. Since this April, some of the creators behind The Katniss Chronicles and a number of fans have been re-listening to the entire audio drama at a pace of two episodes per week. Every Tuesday, we release a podcast discussing the episodes in detail, revealing behind-the-scenes secrets and examining thematic, plot, and character elements. A Katniss Chronicles fan group on Tumblr called Treasonous Transmissions has even started doing the same thing and added even more to the discussion each week. TKC Revisited is our way of celebrating this project and what The Hunger Games and the fan community mean to us as the Hunger Games film series reaches its climax. Every game has an end...

As I look upon what could be described as a symbolic setting sun on The Hunger Games franchise and fandom, it, like many things in life, feels bittersweet in the end. While I’m sad that we’re approaching the end of the pop culture cycle for one of my favorite fandoms of all time, I’m confident and satisfied with the work that has been done and how it will stand. Like Star Wars, Buffy, and the other fandoms I cherish, I don’t believe The Hunger Games will ever fade away. These stories and their characters mean too much to me and the other fans to simply be forgotten for the next exciting adventure sold to us. The impact of Collins’ stories and Jennifer Lawrence’s on-screen portrayal of Katniss will have a lasting resonance in not only geek and fan cultures but in our entire culture as a whole. Whether it’s the impact of the film series’ record-breaking profits for female-led genre films, the role model its heroine provides to young girls or the adoption of the three-finger salute by those fighting real-world oppression, Katniss Everdeen has changed the world.

All I can hope is that we at The Katniss Chronicles were a small part of that change and that our humble, little fan project will stand the test of time along with the rest of the Hunger Games franchise and fandom. What will definitively stand the test of the time for me will be the amazing efforts of the team behind this project and how grateful I am for their help in completing what can only be described as a true fan dream. Not only did my fellow creators, actors, and crew bringing Collins’ world to life around me with honor, dignity, and grace, but they also provided me with my most cherished and fulfilling creative experience of my entire life. Thank you, my friends who helped. Thank you, my friends who listened. Thank you to everyone in the fandom who carried a torch for The Hunger Games.

The torch will keep burning, my friends and the odds will forever be in our favor.
For more information on The Katniss Chronicles, please visit us at the following links:

 

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