Thursday, August 1, 2013

A Great Day: an Iliad House Day!

So I have a confession to make: I haven't been good with keeping up on blogging because I've been
Professor Portalis
inside Iliad House
working on something else. Something really fun.

If you read my review of "The Labyrinth" a year ago, you know I have always been an enthusiastic fan of Adventures in Odyssey. What I did not reveal explicitly in that review was the path that took my professional life into the orbit of men whom I consider to be giants in the Christian entertainment community: the creators and producers of Adventures in Odyssey.

The first episode of AIO I ever heard was "The Imagination Station." A high water mark which saw legendary character Digger Digwillow (Digger Digger Digwillow) go back in time to see Jesus's death and resurrection. Except he didn't actually go back in time. As a child I never understood that. When, in "Lincoln," Jimmy Barclay was unable to prevent the assassination, I assumed it was because he could not change history (or else I would not even be aware of the situation he was referring too). It was not until I was older that I understood what a safe construct the Imagination Station really was (in fact, in "The Mortal Coil" I assumed Whit's adventure about death was actually a time travel journey into your own future, a concept that terrifies me to this day, similar to HG Wells' apocalyptic vision of the end of the world; of nothingness).

But I never expected to meet the writers and creators behind this show. In 2010, I had heard maybe one Odyssey album in ten years when I went to visit some friends in Colorado Springs who are the kind of friends who feel it is their duty to make sure you have a fantastic time when you visit them. They had arranged through another friend to get me an informal tour of Focus on the Family headquarters (formal tours were not available then, though I understand they have since made a comeback). On that tour, we wandered into an office where I met a man named Jonathan Crowe, who's name I had heard and we had a nice conversation about the show and my filmmaking background. This was when I confirmed my suspicion that Odyssey recorded in Los Angeles and I made some breakfast recommendations that I believe the crew still relies on today. In response, Jonathan invited me to attend a recording session some months from then and I gratefully accepted.

Fast forward several months and Jonathan had suffered a terrible biking accident and couldn't attend the session (he's since fully recovered). But he graciously kept the invitation open and put me in touch with another great member of the Odyssey team, Nathan Hoobler. Nathan served as my tour guide into the production side of AIO, and that day I heard so many voices from my youth (and sadly missed many others). It was a good day, and I ended up helping them shoot a video for the Blackgaard Chronicles set; but ultimately the most eventful meeting I had that day was quite unexpected.

About halfway through the day a man came into the studio that I did not recognize. I knew all the people currently working on the show, and all were, for the most part, present. Then I heard him speak, and I realized who it was: Phil Lollar. But this was quite improbable. Phil had left the show in 2000, and hadn't been involved since. How could this be Phil Lollar? Turns out he was there to act, not produce, and played a small but humorous role in Album 53 (this foreshadowed his expanded role in "The Labyrinth in 55). Ironically, this meant he and I were the oddest men out in the room, and both sort of sat in the back for most of the day. I then later got to have dinner with the entire production team and observe a glorious reunion conversation between Paul McCusker and Phil Lollar (I also bought Paul McCusker a coffee, something I will always be able to say).

It was a fantastic experience, and eventually filed away into my memory. Then one day my old friend Jeremiah called me for a recommendation. He was helping produce the teen program at the Home School Legal Defense Association's National Leaders Conference in Orlando and they were going to do it on radio drama. He said they wanted to get someone from Adventures in Odyssey to be the keynote speaker for the program in Orlando, and since he knew about my experience, he wanted my advice on whom to ask. We discussed the merits of several of the people involved at length, all of whom would have made excellent guests, but it came down to me saying if he wanted someone who is just really funny, engaging, and is going to show the kids a good time, he should ask Phil. He did, and Phil said yes. And that is the conference that is mentioned on the Kickstarter page. That is how the founding members of Guess What met, and where Iliad House, at least for us, began.

It would be some time before I learned of Iliad House, of Professor Portalis, Jesse, and the magnificent Time Train (of doom?). Homer's Odyssey was about a journey, and his Iliad, a battle. But no matter what happens, my life has already been changed. I hope you'll come with us on this journey, and help us make Iliad House by donating to Kickstarter and then telling all your friends.

Here's an exclusive clip about the show only available here on Looking for Overland! Live long and prosper.

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