The following is an interview with writer/director/producer Shane Portman (Tumble Leaf, Shape Island) regarding the recent release of the 3-part Halloween podcast, Hollow Head Pete and the Wicked Wish, through the Emmy Award-winning Bix Pix Entertainment and in collaboration with Atomic Toybox Entertainment. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Portman about the shared creative process of bringing the story and characters to life for the audio medium, why the series makes a great way to celebrate the Halloween season with audiences of all ages, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the recent release of Hollow Head Pete and the Wicked Wish! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the podcast series’ premise?
Shane Portman: Thanks so much! The series is about three sibling trick or treaters who knock on the door of our Narrator and are offered a tantalizing choice: a full-sized candy bar from a treasure trove of premium, top-shelf chocolates or a magical candle that grants wishes. But, before they can select the candle, they must listen to the tale of Hollow Head Pete, a story of magic and retribution that comes with a timely caveat to be careful what you wish for… you might get what you deserve.
BD: The production process for a scripted podcast is no easy feat. What can you tell us about how the writers and production team came together, as well as your shared creative process in bringing the script to life?
SP: This all started when Michael Polis (head of Atomic Toybox Entertainment) brought a book that he had co-written called The Legend of Peter Pumpkinhead to the studio I work for, Bix Pix Entertainment. And, as an animation studio, we (Kelli Bixler, the head honcho at Bix Pix, and I) enjoyed the book and saw what Michael saw – that the story would make a great animated Halloween special. So, Michael and I co-wrote a script we were really happy with, but we couldn’t find a distributor for it. Then, instead of letting it collect dust, Michael proposed turning it into a podcast. Kelli and I jumped at the idea, because we really wanted to get this story out into the world. But, to transform it into audio form, we had to set aside the main story that leaned a lot on visual elements and we basically took the backstory of our titular character and expanded that into a little mini-series. Honestly, once we got the script in shape, the rest just fell into place. The actors gave us a lot to work with. And I was particularly proud of our trio of kids voiced by Anson Cronk, Brianna Fischer, and Lucas Faina. Standing in front of a mic and sounding “real” is so much harder than it sounds. But, those three did a fantastic job – and this was Lucas and Brianna’s first foray into acting, much less voice acting. And, then, we had a really great little team of Steve Downs editing, Brett Hinton sound mixing, and Ned Douglas creating music. And the story just took shape and sounded more and more alive each step of the way.
BP: Each episode also includes a catchy song written by Ned Douglas and sung by Deven Green! What can you share with us about the inclusion of these wonderful songs in the series?
SP: There’s no doubt about it. Ned’s songs and Deven’s incredible voice took this series to another level. Ned’s been a longtime fan-favorite over here at Bix Pix. He’s musically and comedically virtuosic – which is a pretty wonderful combination. We hadn’t had the opportunity to really work with Deven. But, as Ned’s partner, we were definitely aware of her and that she also possesses that same musical/comedic virtuosity. And we needed that for whoever was going to give voice to our Narrator. So, this felt like a perfect chance to get to work with both of them. And it really was. We were giddy from the moment we first heard the songs and have stayed giddy since then.
BD: For families interested in tuning in and getting into the Halloween spirit, which age group(s) of young listeners would be most appropriate to listen to the series?
SP: I’d say 6 years old and up. There’s some mildly scary moments. But, our goal was to make a spooky, funny story with heart that younger kids could listen to with the rest of the family. So, the scares are tempered toward that goal.
BD: At Fanbase Press, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Hollow Head Pete and the Wicked Wish may connect with and impact listeners?
SP: I just recently heard from a parent that Hollow Head Pete was their child’s first introduction to the world of podcasts and how much they loved it. Furthermore, it sparked her kid to want to draw what they imagined the characters to look like. That was really wonderful to hear. I love the visual mediums. It’s what I primarily do. But, there’s something undeniably magical about sending a story directly into the ears and leaving it to a young listener’s imagination to design the characters and setting.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
SP: We’ve got several projects deep in development at Bix Pix at the moment. But, none of them are ready to be shared just yet.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Hollow Head Pete and the Wicked Wish?
SP: You can find Hollow Head Pete on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and most of the other podcast hubs. But, this link’ll give you a full menu of where you can find the podcast: https://hollowheadpete.buzzsprout.com/share