A Way Out: Writing a Mini-Series in a Pandemic

Guest post by Brianna Bock

When the pandemic began, I had grand ambitions that I finally had the free time that I always desired as a creative: seemingly all the time in the world to work on my projects that always took a back seat to either school or the all too familiar day job. But, as I’m sure everyone knows by this point, finding the motivation to do anything during a pandemic turned out to be a million times harder than we all thought.

As the pandemic bled from April into Summer with my grand ambitions dead or dying, a friend reached out to a group of UVic Writing students with a proposal. “Wanna make a podcast?”

Justin Francis Lee set up The Apartment of Writing, which is a part of The Canadian Play Thing, which showcases playwrights and plays from across Canada over FaceBook. 

“Due to a combination of recent exposure to the world of audio plays, the inability to execute live theatre and listening to too many tv writer’s room podcasts, I got the itch to try and collectively create something in the sonic realm.” said Lee about the project. 

The Apartment of Writing is made up of a bunch of emerging artists: Justin Francis Lee, Megan Adachi, Brianna Bock (me!), and Megan Hands. We used the approach of a writer’s room model that TV writing employs, which uses multiple writers on different plot points and episodes, all writing the same story.

“If we could write something with friends instead of sticking to the usual lone wolf approach, why the hell not? Everyone was isolated enough already. So one evening in July we pitched out craziest ideas: from submarine journeys to anthologies about personified blocks of cheese, we landed on a compact idea about four cavers stuck together. And then we got to work.” said Lee.

To expand more on the podcast itself, A Way Out is the story of an unauthorized cave venture gone wrong that leaves the only qualified person unconscious. With the professor down, the adrenaline junkie at fault, his grandpa searching for his wedding ring, and a bumbling student failing to keep the peace – Will they find a way out? 

Each episode focuses on one of the 4 unlikely teammates, with each writer writing one episode. Megan Adachi wrote Episode 1, Megan Hands wrote Episode 2, Justin Francis Lee wrote Episode 3, and Brianna Bock wrote Episode 4. I’d say more, but I don’t want to spoil it.

In June – July 2020 the writer’s room met once a week to pitch, break and write the drama culminating in an online reading in August. After script revisions we moved to cast the drama with a Canadian wide net. Rehearsal and recording was scheduled for two weeks in November and post-production ran through December.

Speaking personally, getting together and just writing, with a solid deadline again, with ideas building off ideas was fantastic. It very much was throwing stuff to the wall to see what stuck, and doubling back and forth to make sure that the storyline made sense despite the different point of views. And honestly, getting to hear the product when it was all over is something I’ll always treasure. 

Looking back on it almost a year later, it was more than just a project to me. It affirmed to me that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.

A Way Out can be found at The Canadian Play Thing‘s website or on Spotify. 

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