Earlier this week, I sent out an email to the team behind The Bright Sessions podcast in the hope that I would be able to a small Q&A with one of their members. Little did I know, that I was going to receive a response. Not only a response, but one from the writer/director, Lauren Shippen. Ms. Shippen was kind enough to take the time out of her day to answer a few of my questions about the show and though she still can’t believe it, I am very much starstruck by the whole conversation.
The Bright Sessions is the story of Dr. Joan Bright, a therapist attempting to help individuals with certain, shall we say, abilities, adapt to having a normal lifestyle and coming to terms with their biology. Apologetically, I don’t want to delve too deep into the plot as it is just too rich to spoil!
I won’t bore you all with more of my rambling on about how amazing the show is, JUST GO LISTEN TO IT! Without further ado, I present to you my official Q&A session with Lauren Shippen, enjoy.
C: How did it feel being named one of the top podcasts if 2016 by Wired iTunes, Popular Science, and IndieWire?
L: Oh boy, it feels very surreal, even now. Last week, I was editing our website home page to reflect our place on these end of year lists and thinking to myself, “…really? Is this right? Are these people sure?” It’s incredibly flattering and humbling, especially considering the incredible company we keep on these lists. I also would be lying if I said it wasn’t extremely validating – all the hard work paid off!
C: What did it feel like when you officially released your first episode?
L: It felt a little anti-climatic actually. I wasn’t sure how long it would take from uploading to Libsyn (our RSS host) to getting into iTunes so, even though our “official” launch date was November 1st of 2015, I uploaded the final version on October 27th. It was just me in my apartment at 11pm on a Tuesday – no big launch. When, that following Sunday, I started to post it on various social media platforms it felt a bit like launching a satellite into space. You did it, you built the thing, but maybe it won’t make contact with anyone and will just float out in the great beyond forever alone. I don’t mean to make it sound like some sort of existential crisis, but it was strange because there was no immediate payoff. The work was just beginning.
C: Did you have any major inspirations for the story and characters?
L: Other than her biographical information (which is much more tragic than my own) and the fact that she time travels, Sam and I are incredibly similar. I have struggled with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and panic attacks since I was an adolescent, and have many of the same fears as she does.
L: Other than that direct inspiration, the cast has had an enormous influence on who the characters have become and what plots we’ve pursued. They are the best creative partners I could ever ask for. Then there is my sister, Elizabeth Laird, who has not only provided notes on the scripts as an actual trained psychologist, but has been a huge influence on my brain in general. My entire family are fans of the podcast, which is a lovely thing, and have been so patient in helping me work out plot ideas and character development out loud on the phone. Then there’s of course everything I consume – all media that I love has some influence on the stuff I create, even though it may be very indirect.
C: What would you say is your favorite episode you’ve written?
L: I love this question! Currently, Episode 30 is my favorite. It focuses on a character we don’t hear a lot from, Agent Green, and has been floating around my head for quite some time. It was a little different in structure – taking place over the span of an entire day, rather than a therapy session – and was from a perspective I ultimately disagree with. While there are other episodes we’ve made that have been my favorite in end result, Episode 30 was the most fun to write because I had to sympathize with someone we’ve set up to be on the bad side.
C: Do you have any suggestions of other podcasts a fan should listen to?
L: So many! If anyone who listens to The Bright Sessions hasn’t yet listened to the Night Vale Presents shows, they must: Welcome to Night Vale, Alice Isn’t Dead, Within the Wires, and The Orbiting Human Circus (of the Air). It’s all brilliant. My other favorites are: The Black Tapes & Tanis, ars Paradoxica, Wolf 359, Wooden Overcoats, Archive 81, Greater Boston, The Bridge, and Limetown. And though it’s no longer regularly running, The Thrilling Adventure Hour is an absolute must.
C: What advice would you give to aspiring podcasters and writers?
L: There are no rules. I have personally spent a lot of time worrying about whether I was doing it right – I would look at what people who have come before me have done and think, “If I just follow that guide, I’ll be fine” or “well, I shouldn’t do this, because no one else has so it might not work”. No, stop thinking like that. You do what you want to – write the stuff you like, get other enthusiastic people involved, and never stop creating. Be kind to everyone you meet, listen to and read other things but don’t be too concerned with what other people are doing. Hustle – social media is a tool that requires a lot of time and dedication before you can get it working. There’s a careful balance to be found – you don’t want to get too bogged down in it, but at the same time, you can’t rely on luck and chance to get your thing in front of peoples’ eyes and ears. Write constantly but do everything else in moderation.
C: This one is more of a fun one for me. If you have one, who would you say is your favorite superhero and why?
L: I’m definitely more of a Marvel person than DC person (in terms of the recent movies at least), so it has to be Peggy Carter. She is absolutely badass and uses sexism as a weapon against men who underestimate her and I adore her. Similarly, I love Captain America. He’s complicated and has a lot of interesting things to say about America and his love for Peggy and Bucky is really touching.
And there you have it! Not only is Ms. Shippen talented, she is also one of the most humble people that I have ever had the opportunity of speaking with about their work. Often times, it is hard for me to attach myself to one story and follow up on it as it is released. A few examples I could think of would be the team over at RoosterTeeth with RWBY and Rebecca Sugar with Stephen Universe. But, to find someone creating such a vivid audio masterpiece, it makes it very difficult to shut my PocketCasts app off. If I can count myself among Ms. Shippen’s contacts in the future, I’d say I’m one lucky “blogger.”
If you have enjoyed this post, please be sure to not only check out The Bright Sessions, but follow the page as there will be many more stories such as this one in the future. I’m also including links to all of the places you can stumble upon The Bright Session out there in the social mediaverse.
As they say,
Stay Strange folks!