In the magical world of Hearth, learning magic is as dangerous as it is exciting. But Magus Elgar is one of the finest casters out there. With luck, he might finally have a student that lives through the lessons. Magus Elgar is a podcast fantasy comedy for all ages inspired by the works of Terry Pratchett, and it recently made its debut on The Fantasy Network’s new audio drama channel.
Kennedy Phillips wrote and created the podcast series, which began as a passion project. “I was working freelance in sound design and editing, but things were not going well. I was having a hard time finding work,” he says. Frustrated, he decided to create a project for himself, one that he was excited to make and that he would fund himself.
Tapping into his appreciation for comedic fantasy stories, Phillips turned to the works of one of his favorite storytellers, Terry Pratchett, for inspiration. “I was introduced to him in a televised version of The Color of Magic, and I was enraptured by his method of storytelling, his tongue in cheek methodology of nsocial commentary, and also his portrayal of death. I wanted to try my own spin on a much lighter toned fantasy comedy like that.
“I thought, ‘What if the doctor from Dr Who was as much an excitable child as the people he was taking along with him, if not more so?’ That’s where Magus Elgar came from.”
Getting the Crew Together
Magus Elgar includes several great voice actors, and of course a strong, skilled behind-the-scenes crew making the magic happen for listeners.
Christopher Moore is the voice of Udo Malaaki, the protagonist, and he also serves as assistant sound designer and marketer. He remembers how he came on board the cast—and it wasn’t planned, but it was certainly fortuitous.
“Kennedy had the script written, and I was over his house playing video games with around ten other people. He said, ‘Hey, come record a voice for me.’ I’m the voice of the main character in the show now, which is not at all what I expected.”
The team worked on Magus Elgar in their free time, making their livings elsewhere as many indie creators do. So, it took about two years to bring the production to completion. “I wanted to make sure I did it right,” says Phillips. “A lot of it was a skeleton crew, working on it in our spare time.”
Sandra Espinoza plays Kaylee Fawn, a student with aspirations of becoming a mad scientist and evil villain. Phillips brought on Espinoza after discovering her voice acting talent through YouTube and inviting her to join the cast.
Espinoza acted on videos, animations, game mods, and more—often for free—so that she would have opportunities to find voice work. “I remember being so flattered that somebody liked my work enough to reach out to me,” she says.
Navigating the Challenges of Indie Creation
Of course, even with the greatest team members, putting on any kind of indie production isn’t easy.
“One hurdle we had was a budgetary thing,” says Phillips, who didn’t want to ask voice actors to work for free (as can happen on indie projects). “I wanted to pay them what they’re worth.” Funding the production took time.
The other hurdle, he says, was coming up with a strong story. “I hadn’t written an audio drama script in six or seven years, so there was a lot I was inexperienced with.” At first, he was so dissatisfied with his draft that he rewrote it.
“Originally the story was just a fun, stupid tale, one and done, that’s it. But then I started thinking about what I wanted to do with the story. I came to understand that magic existed as a creative allegory for myself as I was writing the story. I wanted to explore the pros and cons I had run into when I was starting out as a creative,” Phillips explains.
“What if people don’t like my work? What if something I created led to someone else getting the wrong idea, or something like that. That’s where Victus was born from. Magic is beautiful, but reckless. Once it’s out there, that’s it. You no longer have control of it.”
Expanding Vision for Season Two
As the first season of Magus Elgar came to a close, the team began to explore what could happen in season two. Phillips has brought in additional team members to help with the production, and the stories will explore more of Kaylee as a character.
“This season, we’re going to explore Kaylee and her feelings about everything,” says Phillips. “We start seeing fissures in reality. One of the big conflicts she has is in regards to one of the S.T.A.M.P.s (Scientific Tools Augmented with Magical Power) that she grows attached to, which has sentience.”
Fans of the show can also expect some of the typical comedic fun they’ve come to expect from Magus Elgar. Phillips is exploring as many unique, crazy worldbuilding ideas as possible—from dragon bankers to shark wizards. “We’re going to be vastly expanding on the different races of the planet of Hearth,” he says.
“I don’t want to fall into the trap of ‘here are the elves, here are the dwarves’—races that are people with prosthetics,” says Phillips. “I want to try things that are really out there, like an aquatic race of anthropomorphized sea apples, or a race of fungal colonies that attach themselves to rocks and create these bipedal rock men, and they live in an icy region that reacts to sound. They actually build their entire villages out of Gregorian chants.
“But the story is still very much about these S.T.A.M.P.s that are ripping reality part. I also want to avoid falling back into the status quo of what we did in season one. I want Magus and others to have learned the important lessons they experienced in season one. Udo is going to take more risks. Elgar is going to take less risks. Kaylee is going to listen to herself a lot more.”
Bringing Magus Elgar to TFN
Phillips first got connected to The Fantasy Network in its early years, through Dead Gentlemen Productions, creators of shows such as The Gamers and Dorkness Rising. “I would always show that when introducing people to RPGs,” he explains.
As time went on, he ran into a friend who recommended that he speak to TFN about getting Magus Elgar on the TFN streaming platform. And he’s excited about what that partnership can help bring about.
“It’s good that TFN is doing this now,” he says. “Podcasts have been entering another renaissance, a resurgence. Instead of listening to the radio, people are looking into podcasts. They’re listening to small, independent productions.”
And since larger outlets such as Apple.TV and Disney are looking for new properties to produce, there is a lot of potential for creators to expand their reach. The future seems wide open.