SEASON 2, EPISODE 1
“Create Is…Still Feels Good?”
RELEASE DATE: 02/27/2021
WRITTEN BY: Anne Baird
SOUND DESIGNED BY: Wil Williams
As Hug House gears up for VALENCE‘s second season, we kick off Scoring Magic by talking about what a weird time it’s been creating on 2020.
[[Warm synthy guitar intro music fades quickly into . . . ]]
WIL: Hello again! Welcome back! It’s been a little while, but we can’t wait to share what we’ve been working on while we were gone from your podcatchers.
KATIE: There are some episodes coming up that we’re pretty excited about – one that Anne was excited enough about to have already recorded.
ANNE: Hey! I’m allowed to be excited!
WIL: But first, some housekeeping. Since we last released an episode, we have held our IndieGoGo campaign, finalized all twelve scripts for season 2, recorded all twelve episodes, finished take selection from all of those recordings, and . . . I finished a draft of our first episode. If you’re not aware, I’m going to be the editor and sound designer for season 2. Anne and Katie have listened and gotten comments back to me, and I promise I’m not bragging when I say I think you’re going to like it.
[Purposely stilted, sarcastic tone] No, really, I’m not bragging because Katie’s the one who wrote the script for this episode. She’s making me say nice things about my work, and she’s grounded.
KATIE: Wil did an incredible job on it, and we wish we could share it with you right now instead of having to wait until the actual release date!
ANNE: But . . . this is still 2020. And though it’s affected all aspects of life differently, it’s still definitely affecting them. And one of the ways that it’s had an impact on us, and I’m sure on some of you listening as well, is financially.
KATIE: We mentioned our IndieGoGo earlier. We’re so incredibly grateful for everyone who donated, who retweeted, who talked us up to encourage others to donate. No matter what, we want you all to know that we appreciate you and everything you did. But we, like many others this year, didn’t hit our goal. And because a core part of Hug House is paying people fairly for their work, we were worried.
ANNE: We are very lucky to be in a position where we have other forms of income as well. The payments for Wil’s writing and our work with organizing events and consulting all helped to cover the costs so that we were able to pay everyone. But there was absolutely a point in time where we were discussing other options that included things like not being able to pay Wil for sound design, because we weren’t even considering not paying our actors. That was not an option.
WIL: So that’s financial things taken care of. But what about the first season? So far, we’ve gotten reviews that have brought up points that we never thought about, and we’re glad these reviewers took the time and effort to let us know so we can be a better show going forward. And we’ve gotten reviews from people saying that the characters or the story hit home for them, validated them, were an enjoyable escape for them. Please know – we share these reviews in our morale channel on our cast & crew server and they make us so, so happy.
KATIE: The amount of recognition and appreciation we’ve gotten for VALENCE has been wonderful! That said, we do occupy a strange middle ground. We’re definitely not a Big Name, but we’re not an unknown either. If there’s such a thing as a “middle child” of podcasts, I don’t know what that would entail, but we might — we might be that.
WIL: And name recognition obviously isn’t the only goal when it comes to making a podcast. It’s pretty far down the list of priorities . . . but it’s still a nice thing to have. We love our actors and we love the story that they’re helping us to tell, and occupying this middle ground is weird. So while we’d love to be able to wield any recognition we’ve gained to secure sponsors or get our actors more jobs, our reach is still somewhat limited.
ANNE: I know it may sound like we’re complaining, but it’s genuinely not! It’s just strange to occupy this in-between level of…bigness? And be in uncharted territory for us where we’re learning as we go.
WIL: Here’s a conversation I had with Katie and Anne about what it’s like creating in 2020.
WIL: I’m just recording now because I know how we are.
ANNE: We’ll say funny shit and we need to have that.
KATIE: Are we also recording locally?
ANNE: We’ve given up on that.
KATIE: Well then it’s a good thing I’m in my noise cube so at least that’ll be nice-ish.
WIL: That’s nice-ish! That’s nice-ish. [long dramatic sigh] Lordy lou. What a time.
KATIE: Right now, or like, life in general?
ANNE: All of it.
WIL: It — it — it all. We’re recording right now on . . . December. 14th?
WIL: Which means, like, episode 1 of VALENCE drops in . . . under a month, now.
KATIE: Just under a month, yeah.
WIL: I’m going to puke to death, actually. Nevermind. Bye.
KATIE: Mute yourself first.
ANNE: Well, I’ll tell you that — oh, thank you. Um, that episode 1 is some good shit.
KATIE: It’s such good shit!!
WIL: Your audio cut out for me –
WIL: – right after — it was, here’s what I heard. Here’s what I heard. Uh. Episode 1 is . . . nothin’.
ANNE: I thought — I — it would have been so much funnier — what I thought you were gonna say, was that it cut out, ‘cause I said “episode 1 is good shit.”
ANNE: And I thought it was gonna cut — I thought you were gonna say it cut out, and “episode 1 is . . . shit.”
KATIE: That is also what I assumed.
WIL: I hope it’s good shit! I worked really fuckin’ hard on it. Uh . . . I . . . aaaah
KATIE: It’s my favorite shit thus far.
WIL: Aww, that’s great! That’s good shit! Well, it’s — uh, it’s out of two. Uh . . . it’s out of two. It’s out of two. Y’all, my brain broken. Let’s talk about creating in 2020, ‘cause this has been a fuckin’ trip.
ANNE: Ok, I sum it up real quick. It suck.
KATIE: [screams into the voice]
WIL: It suck! It’s really bad. Like — [laugh]
KATIE: And yet, it is still the best part of my 2020.
WIL: Oh! Hands down! Hands down. Um, it is wild to me thaaaat, uhhhh. That, like. Season 1 dropped during this year?
WIL: I don’t feel like that was the best for us.
ANNE: Uhhhhh, yeah, no —
ANNE: Nooo . . .
WIL: Just, numbers-wise, I think that, like, uh, debuting in a year when listenership was . . . very low? Uh —
KATIE: Yeahhh . . .
WIL: — across the board? Uh, I don’t think that that was great for us.
KATIE: It was a little bit of a bummer.
WIL: Uh, not that we’re, like, hurting. We’re doing well. We just could’ve — we could have potentially done . . . well-er.
WIL: It’s, uh, it’s — but like, it’s so stupid! Because it’s not, like. It’s not like there’s “a number” that would make me happy.
WIL: So it doesn’t — it’s nothing. But also . . .
ANNE: [laugh] But also!
KATIE: But it’s impossible not to wonder what the hell would have happened in a year that was a little bit less on fire, both literally and figuratively.
WIL: Mhmm. Especially making a podcast that’s like — that talks real world shit and gets a little intense. Like, I know I — I had a lot more difficulty listening to podcasts that were more real! This year. And it’s literally my job. Y’know?
ANNE: Yeah, I mean, I straight up stopped listening to fiction podcasts. I just don’t —
ANNE: — listen to them anymore.
WIL: Yeah. I have, uh, a very hard time.
KATIE: I’m on my third re-listen of TAZ: Balance since the beginning of quarantine —
KATIE: — so, like —
WIL: All I want right now is, like, the Bechdel Cast. That’s it.
KATIE: Mmmm. Mhmm.
WIL: One thing that’s fucked up is that I have been listening to more true crime lately, but just —
ANNE: Ohhhh my god!
WIL: — to go to bed??
ANNE: Wil! Yes! I do the same thing! I’ve been listening to, um, to — I started listening to The Morbid Podcast because there’s, like, 200 episodes in the backlog —
ANNE: — and they literally just talk about people getting murdered and kidnapped and I put that on to go to bed at night! And I’m like —
ANNE: — what do people — what does my aunt think when she hears me from my bedroom —
WIL: [laughter throughout]
ANNE: — like, “and then this person was taken away and –”
KATIE: Are y’all good??
ANNE: No, we’re not, Katie! That’s the point!
WIL: All I want is, like, I want just a million episodes of Decoder Ring. Like, that is exactly the vibe I want. I want, like, a single story, executed super well, uh, with a voice that is, like, engaging but not, like, not like chaos energy? And I want it to be scripted and I want it to just be a person and interviews. Like, that’s all I — that’s all my brain can handle right now. Uh. Yeah. So. Which is all to say. What a year for VALENCE. Uh.
WIL: There’s also, like. So, I think that w-we’re very lucky, in that, like, I think we got almost everything written before shit got, like, really really really bad.
ANNE: Uhh, I don’t know if that’s true.
KATIE: For season 1 — [clears throat] Oh, excuse me! For season 1 or for season 2?
ANNE: For season 2. Yeah, no, we were writing — uh, we —
KATIE: In July.
ANNE: Yeah, we —
ANNE: The season — the episode 3 script was due March 8th, so . . .
WIL: Oh my god!!
ANNE: We wrote this — pretty much — you guys wrote this whole season during the shitshow that was March, April, May, and June.
KATIE: Yeahhh . . .
WIL: Oh my god what if it’s all bad??
KATIE: No, it’s not bad!
ANNE: It’s not.
WIL: It feels really good! But — but that doesn’t seem right!
KATIE: [sigh] I think that, for me, at least, uh . . . writing was definitely an escape? It was something to focus on other than my, just, like, panic spiral of “this is something we’ve never experienced before and so I don’t know, uh, how to prepare for that”? And that’s the Fucking Worst for my anxiety.
WIL: Mmhm mmhm.
KATIE: And so I was like, I can plan for what happens in this little world that we are building.
WIL: That’s so interesting! For me —
KATIE: And that will have to work.
WIL: — it’s — it was like, like, I write to process. Like, and to synthesize. And I think that that does come through in this season. Especially in, like, especially a lot of the Flynn stuff. Uh.
KATIE: Aah! Ok, I thought you were gonna say Noel.
WIL: [manic laughter] Uhhhhhhhh also that!
WIL: God. Yeah, uh, let’s just package some . . . gender feelings and familial trauma. Uh. Christ. [laugh] But no, no, like, with Flynn’s stuff. I — uh, so I always knew I wanted him to kinda go, like, activist journalist. Um. But . . . when. Yeah. Now — now that — now that I’m putting that all together, I can really see how this all lined up. Uh, when the pandemic first hit really hard, and there were lockdowns, uh, I worked for a publication where we interviewed, like, frontline workers. Um —
ANNE: Oh god, I remember that.
KATIE: Holy shit, yeah.
WIL: Yeah. Two of whom are friends of mine who are nurses. And I didn’t — I didn’t do, uh, any of the interviews except for one. And I interviewed a therapist who was still seeing people in person because . . . for reasons regarding those patients’ mental health, he had to see them in person, and he felt like it would be abandoning his work to not see them. Um. And he really struggled with that decision. And that interview, like, I mean. I — like, I closed out that interview by just thanking him and saying that I was very moved by that, and moved by the fact that he’s grappling with it, and I — I remember, like, hanging up and just sobbing. Like, just absolutely sobbing. Uh. And so . . . god, Flynn’s whole arc and everything with the blog this season was Very Weird. Because [laugh] because early on, we — we called it The Mercury! Uh, for me being like, a little nod to The Portland Mercury. Um, little did I know that Portland would go on to have, like, a hundred and sixty-plus consecutive days of protests!
KATIE: [hushed] Yeah.
WIL: That, like, my friends who are journalists in Portland, uh, would be, like, getting teargassed every night?? Uh, so obviously we changed the name, but it was, like, there were just so many weird coincidences like that throughout writing this season. Um. Which . . . I don’t even know. It was just — it was very surreal. It was very surreal.
KATIE: Are we only including the . . . well, I was gonna say “are we only including the stressful real-life parallels, but the Amazon Halo IS OBJECTIVELY a stressful thing to exist!
WIL: DUDE. Yeah, what the fuck??
KATIE: Yeah what the fuck!
WIL: Like, I — like, I don’t even know what to say! Just what the fuck!
KATIE: Jeff Bezos owes us money!!
WIL: It’s — it’s too weird. It’s too weird.
KATIE: Spoo! Ky! For — for people listening who, like, might have somehow avoided its existence, can one of y’all — ‘cause I don’t remember all the details of it — go into what the hell it is?
ANNE: Yeah, so the Amazon Halo is essentially a . . . uh, a, like their version of the Fitbit, but, like, a million times worse?
WIL: Yeah, somehow!
ANNE: Yeah, somehow —
WIL: Somehow even worse!
ANNE: even worse! It —
KATIE: It also polices your tone of voice??
ANNE: Yeah, so when you calibrate it, you have to, like, strip down naked. For it to scan your body??
WIL: [horrified laughter in background]
ANNE: And then —
KATIE: It claims it doesn’t keep those photos, but like, I don’t trust.
WIL: Bullshiiiit! Bullshit! Bullshit!
KATIE: I don’t trust!
WIL: Bullshit! Like, that’s not even — I know this sounds like we’re all conspiracy theorists, but no! Like, this has historically happened!
WIL: Like, so many times!
WIL: Augh! Yeah, so this has been a fuckin bonkers season. I will say, like — god, so we wrote it all and then I guess it was July and then we edited it, and then, like. I really didn’t . . .
ANNE: Hey —
WIL: When did I start the sound designing?
ANNE: Um . . . November? Can you wait one second? Evelyn just turned on the radio and it’s gonna be able to — be in the background of my audio. Hang on.
KATIE: [pfft sound]
KATIE: We’re gonna get copystruck.
ANNE: [manic cackle] Wait, it’s worse than that!!
WIL: Oh no
KATIE: What is it?
ANNE: It’s not Evelyn turning on the radio. It is — I was explaining what this terrible device was —
KATIE: Oh no.
ANNE: And the . . . device from that company that i have in my office heard me say the name and then Halo and it started playing the song “Halo”
[horrified laughter because we live in hell]
ANNE: I took off my headphones — I was like, wait, the sound’s coming from inside the room!
KATIE: Oh god, we live in hell.
ANNE: Amazon, stop. [pause] Thank you! . . . yeah, just . . . Amazon stop.
WIL: I . . . refuse to process what just happened.
WIL: I shan’t. I shan’t do it. Uh. No.
ANNE: Oh god.
WIL: I won’t. Uhhh. So . . . this season’s been a lot! It’s been very — I don’t know, like, very weird. To revisit. As I’m — as I’m doing sound design and editing now. In a good way — I think — I think that this season’s really fucking good. Uh. There are a couple moments [sigh] where I’ve, like, especially looking back through scripts, looking back and being, like, “damn. I really put that trauma on the page, huh!” Which shouldn’t surprise me about me. But it do.
KATIE: [hushed] yeah.
ANNE: Yeah. Well, I think it helps [clears throat] well, not helps, but shows you — you were writing these scripts while season 1 was releasing, and you were looking back at —
ANNE: — like, like you did the episode of Scoring Magic on, like, writing your own experiences into it. Especially with episode 4.
ANNE: And I think you were thinking on that, probably, while writing season 2, being like, well! I already put it all out there in season 1! Might as well —
ANNE: — here you go! Have some more!
WIL: I think that part of it is also looking back at season 1 and being like, I — like, I really could have gone harder! With a lot of these things!
WIL: ‘Cause they were pretty watered down! Uh, it’s probably good that I didn’t go harder, uh. And I think that I’ll probably feel the same way about all of this as I’m writing season 3, y’know? As Katie and I are. Um. Though season 3, I think — I don’t wanna talk about it too much, but I think that writing it will have a very different vibe. [laugh] To say the least!
ANNE and KATIE: Yeah. Yeah.
WIL: [sigh] Uh. What else? What else about making a thing this year, ‘cause it’s just — it’s just been bizarre.
KATIE: Yeahhh . . . um.
ANNE: I mean, I’m gonna follow up this episode, y’know, with the next one, going into more details on, like, production shit that we’ve changed, just ‘cause we’ve changed so much in our process.
KATIE: [emphatically] Yeahhh. Um. Oh, in . . . in the scripted bits, I mention crowdfunding — do we wanna talk about money existing?
ANNE: Crowdfunding in the year 2020??
WIL: Uh, it’s a bad idea.
KATIE: I wouldn’t recommend it.
WIL: Well . . . ok, hold on.
ANNE: Unless! You are Gabriel Urbina.
WIL: Yeah! [laugh]
ANNE: Crowdfunding in 2020 is a bad idea!
WIL: Unless you’re Gabriel Urbina and also Sarah Shachat and also Zach Valenti. And their incredible cast and the bonus episode writers, uh. Yeah. Uh, for — for listeners — for audience members who don’t know, um, the team behind Wolf 359 did a crowdfunding campaign for their new show, Unseen, which is fantastic and you should listen to it.
WIL: Uh, and their goal was 10k and they wound up with, like, over 40k?
WIL: Uh, which fuckin rules. And I’m very happy for them. Uh. The rest of us were not as successful, and I will say that, like, ok, so I jokingly said it was a bad idea, because our — we did not hit the goal for our crowdfunding, but at the same time, we never expected to. And that money, like, paid for our cast and shit.
WIL: So, y’know.
ANNE: Yeah, we went into it knowing that we probably were not going to hit our goal. And had plans in place for, what if we don’t make this much? What if we don’t make this much? What are we going to do in its place?
ANNE: ‘Cause not paying our cast was not an option.
KATIE: At no point was that even on the table.
WIL: Mm-mm. No, we’re — the three of us are always the ones to take the hit first. Uh, which. I think is like, a — an accept — I think it’s the most acceptable way to do it if you know that, like, it — like, compensation, the way that it should happen, is not going to happen. Like, we’re — the three of us are never going to be paid to, like, make this show.
WIL: Y’know? We can — we can plan to . . . uh, to not go into debt! Because of the show. And we’ve done that, y’know? We’ve done that well. Um. We’ll never be paid, like, a living wage, I guess is what I mean. Like, I don’t know what I’m saying, I think.
KATIE: Well, and I think —
WIL: I had a thought —
KATIE: — part of that is the attitude that we bring to the process in general, that, like, we’re not coming in here to make money for ourselves. We’re coming in here to tell stories, and if we were to make enough that we could, in theory, pay ourselves, I think we would probably wanna put most of it into future shows! [laugh] And into other projects that we have in mind, um, like the — the mentoring plan.
ANNE: Right. Or we would pay our actors more. [laugh]
KATIE: Or we would pay our actors more!
WIL: Yeah. Yeah.
ANNE: I know us. And the first think we would do —
WIL: Is pay our actors more, yeah.
ANNE: — is go, ooh! We have an extra fifty dollars! Let’s give everybody an extra $5.
WIL: We do love to give bonuses. It feels really good — we were able to do that with season 1 a few times. It feels really good!
ANNE: It really does. Yeah. I know, as an employee, I like to get a bonus! So —
WIL: A bonus is good!
ANNE: Bonuses feel really good!
KATIE: I’ve never gotten a bonus — I don’t know what that feels like [laugh]
WIL: I have also never gotten a bonus.
ANNE: I’m gonna Venmo you both $10 right now and that’s just —
KATIE: Nooo, I will fight you!
[overlapping talk about giving money to each other]
ANNE: [laugh] I’m gonna mail you both a sweaty ten dollar bill.
WIL: Y’know? Oh. I can’t talk about that at all — never mind. I was gonna say that, what will be nice about writing season 3 is that I can write about travel, but I can’t talk about that!
KATIE: No . . .
WIL: That’s way too much of a spoiler.
ANNE: I mean, you can talk about it and then just cut it and save it.
WIL: Yeah, that’s true. I’m not gonna though.
KATIE: Can’t talk about it like you just did just now? [laugh]
WIL: Yeahhh, dude, I’m fuckin’ hungry. And I’m so tired. [exhausted laugh]
ANNE: I am staring at my dinner right in front of me. It’s in front of me. I cannot eat it because I”m on a microphone. [laugh]
WIL: Eat it!
KATIE: Uncomfortably close to the microphone.
WIL: Don’t do that.
WIL: Do we have anything else to say about — ok, I have one last thing to say about creating in 2020.
WIL: [laugh] The thing about making this show this year . . . is that, like, thinking. Is so hard. Like, just thinking. Let alone —
WIL: — being creative, let alone doing — yes, Mozzarella?
KATIE and ANNE: [laughter]
WIL: Let alone doing things like editing and sound design, and then let alone, like, being on top of social media and marketing and things —
WIL: — so, like, the fact — I wanna pat us on the back for the fact that season 1 came out? And season 2 is coming out. Like. That — the fact that —
KATIE: I would like to pat you on the back because we are currently, what, more than a month ahead — well, you are currently more than a month ahead of schedule for sound designing?
WIL: [tiny voice] Yeah . . .
ANNE: That’s true, you are.
WIL: [tiny voice] So, so what? Don’t look at me.
WIL: Don’t look at me! Look away!
KATIE: No, we are all Dame Judi Dench on this night.
WIL: I guess I should specify, like, we’re not on a video call. They are not looking at me.
WIL: This is just audio.
KATIE: Virtually, we are Dame Judi Dench! Looking at you!
WIL: Looking directly into the camera at me specifically. Uhh. Yeah, I don’t know. So, like, pat us on the back, and also, like, hey. If you liked season 1. If you like season 2. If you like Scoring Magic, please fucking tell us. Like, I don’t know how else to ask. For validation. I would really like validation from listeners and audience members. I would like it. I would like to have it. I would like to be told I did a good job. I would like, uh, Katie and Anne to be told that they did a good job and for all of our actors to be told that they did a good job, so. Uh. If — if you liked the thing, if you could tell us that. That we did a good job. I would like to hear it.
ANNE: I am so grateful when people tell us that we did a good job.
KATIE: So, so much.
ANNE: Like, I won’t call out who it was, like, on the mic. But we got an email through our contact form from someone, probably, like, a month or so ago. Saying that, uh, the — Liam’s experiences made them feel, like, so seen.
WIL: Yes! Ohhh my god.
ANNE: It was so heartfelt and I read it and I went, “oh! I have to respond to this. I have to tell them how much it means to us to read this and — y’know, hear this from people.”
ANNE: ‘Cause it’s why we do it — like, we said we don’t — we don’t get compensation for this, like, financially. We’re just doing it because we want to tell these stories and because we feel these stories are important.
ANNE: And if even one person tells us, like, it made them feel seen? Then, like, the whole thing is worth it.
KATIE: Yeah, we are all sad and fragile. Please —
KATIE: — say the nice words at us.
WIL: Yeah, we’re sad and fragile — we made fuckin VALENCE.
WIL: Like, do you think we’re ok??
KATIE: We’re not ok!! [gasping laughter]
WIL: We’re not ok!! Yeah. That email meant a lot to me. I really, really, really needed to hear that.
WIL: So, looking forward to our second season, there’s one more thing we’d like to talk about. The plot. No, we’re not giving any spoilers here. But our first season had a lot to say about the importance of data privacy, and how data can be misused in the wrong hands, especially when it comes to groups in a position of power over others of one or more underrepresented identities.
KATIE: In the world of VALENCE, we’ve shown multiple ways in which muses are treated differently just for having magic. And how organizations with power treat them, whether with good intentions or bad.
ANNE: Knowing us, this is going to come up more in season two, and we’re gonna continue to explore it even further. Just as it’s come up in real life. This year, we saw so many firsthand accounts of people having surveillance used against them in horrifying ways, endangering their safety, their work, their lives, their families. And we don’t take these parallels lightly, and we’re not just including them for drama or shock value.
WIL: Data privacy, and people’s different approaches to protecting their own data, have been on my mind for years now. I’ve talked about my personal history with this before, and it has always been one of the major threads of this story that we’re telling. And I think that finding ways to help people understand just how powerful their personal data is will continue to be crucial. I close every episode of VALENCE with “Protect your magic,” and I hope our audience knows that I mean that in more ways than one!
This coming season is going to be a lot. [small laugh] We’ve poured a lot of ourselves into it, and there are parts that will be emotionally taxing, but in ways that felt important, and honest — at least, to us. And we can’t wait to share it with you.
WRAPAROUND: Scoring Magic is a Hug House production. You can find more information at HugHouse.Productions. This episode was written by Katie Youmans, and edited by Wil Williams. You can find us at ScoringMagicPod.com, and on social media as @ScoringMagicPod.