Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the recent release of Catchers! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the story’s premise, and what was its inspiration?
Ben Rock: It was actually inspired by a real incident years ago when I found a stray dog near a parking lot while on a bike ride. I called Animal Control and stayed near the dog. People were coming and going from the parking lot for like an hour. Then, the Animal Control guy showed up and before he could get out of his van, the dog took off running. I said, “Aren’t you going to chase him?” and the officer said, “Be my guest!” He got in his van and left. I thought, what if that guy had to go up against something really horrible? A monster or an alien or something? And the idea sprung from that attitude facing off against otherworldly forces.
Bob DeRosa: Ben and I had just co-written (and Ben directed) Video Palace (the first narrative podcast from SHUDDER) when Audible approached us and asked us to pitch them some horror ideas. I always liked Ben’s idea about the Animal Control officer, so we developed that into the story of a cantankerous small-town dog catcher who has to train his replacement before he can retire. They’re on the last call of the night, heading out to a remote family farm to check on a wild animal attack, but instead of an animal, they find themselves face to face to with a pack of monsters!
BD: How would you describe your shared creative process in bringing the script to life, especially in light of the intended auditory medium of the project?
BDR: Writing this show was unlike anything we’ve ever done before because of one reason: the pandemic. In early 2020, Ben and I began our process like we always do: meeting in my home office and breaking story, which means writing scene ideas on cards and putting them on cork boards. We had just finished that stage and were about to split up to write episodes when the pandemic hit and the whole town shut down. I have writer friends who didn’t write a word that entire year, but Ben and I were super fortunate to have a deadline which forced us to go to work, no matter how scary the world felt. We live a few miles apart and didn’t see each other in person for months. We wrote together online using a combination of Zoom and various writing apps. It was a strange way to write, but we made it work.
BR: Bob and I come out of film, TV, and theater, and I think we both know that when we’re making a movie we need to lean into that format and not try to make theater and vice versa. In our first audio project, Video Palace, we leaned into making an audio experience that wasn’t trying to be visual and it’s very challenging but the basic structure of the story is the same, it’s just about embracing audio. The approach to Catchers was very different as it’s a 3rd-person story told more like a movie than Video Palace which was presented as a first-person investigative podcast. So, we had to figure out how to paint a picture in someone’s mind rather than show them a shot of a monster or whatever. It can be a real puzzle to solve, but it’s also a great deal of fun because you can kind of make anything happen in audio.
BD: You have an incredibly talented voice cast involved with the production! What was your approach to the casting of the roles, and what can you share about your work with the cast throughout the recording of the production?
BR: Audio is fun as hell, but like any other medium, there’s a lot that goes into the performance and unlike any other medium, the page count is insane, so you have to work fast. With Video Palace we had all the actors in the same room when they were recording their scenes, but because of COVID that wasn’t possible here. But the good news these days is that recording studios are all set up with Zoom now so we can hear pristine audio from recording studios remotely. It’s an adjustment because we weren’t in the room with the actors like Bob and I were for Video Palace, but it was the next best thing and I was able to get a lot of our sessions to have multiple actors simultaneously recording over Zoom so they could perform off of one another.
For casting we had an amazing casting director, Bonnie Zane. She brought in some tremendous talent, and we made it clear that we wanted film and TV actors more than people who do a lot of voice work. Nothing against them (Two of our actors, Yuri Lowenthal and Tara Platt, are actually amazing voice actors.), but we wanted more naturalism. In some cases during recording, we could only have one actor at a time, and we always had another actor for them to play off of during those scenes so it all didn’t sound like it was recorded in a vacuum.
BDR: It was wonderful getting to meet and work with a lot of great actors like Herizen Guardiola (American Gods), Mary Lynn Rajskub (24), Nickie Micheaux (In The Dark), and David Patrick Kelly (The Warriors). But we also got to work with a lot of our friends. Ben went to high school with Billy Gardell (Bob Hearts Abishola) and Keith Hudson (Alien Raiders), so that was a cool reunion. And Ben and I used to do late-night theater many years ago with Yuri and Tara at Sacred Fools Theater in Hollywood. Getting to reconnect with old friends and make something cool together is really the best part of creating a show like this.
BD: What makes Catchers the perfect scary treat for our readers (and listeners!) during this spooky Halloween season?
BR: Hopefully, we’ve concocted a fun ride with interesting and relatable characters up against an inexplicable pack of monsters. Our cast is just amazing: Billy Gardell is known for comedy but he’s great at bringing a cantankerous character into a scarier world like this, and Herizen Guardiola is strong and formidable but also there’s a frailty to her that really grounds her character. Overall, I hope people just have a lot of fun with it - it’s a ride.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
BDR: As we were in the final stages of post-production on this show, Ben and I were brought on to co-write an episode of a new horror anthology podcast for Wondery called I Hear Fear. Oscar-nominated actress Carey Mulligan hosts and plays the lead in our episode which takes place on a cursed movie set. It was a fun show to work on and should be available on most podcast platforms by the time this comes out.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Catchers and your other work?
BR: My website is www.benrock.com, and I have a great deal of information about my directing work on there - although I need to add Catchers stuff and I will as soon as the show drops. Thank you so much!!!
BDR: I’m @thembob on Twitter - come say hi! And if you’re an Audible subscriber, you can download Catchers for FREE.
And if you’re not a subscriber, you can use their free trial and still check out our show. We promise it’s a scary, fun time!