Quarantine has triggered many types of hobbies: varied crafts for those who have combined upbringing and confinement, seek the optimal level of fluffiness and crackling through homemade bread and, according to a study published by a consulting firm specialized in sound mediaListening to podcasts has become another one of those thoughts that have increased exponentially in our country. Specifically, podcast listening in Spain has grown up to 25%, being only surpassed by Italy (29%) at European level. In this context, Biotopia, a fictional podcast directed by Manuel Bartual.
“Biotopía is mainly a fictional podcast that I began to devise and write during confinement. When the state of alarm was decreed I had a couple of projects in progress that were inevitably postponed, and although I spent the first days just like everyone else, locked up at home and very aware of the news, there came a time when my head She started asking me to keep her busy with other things. There are those who dedicated themselves to making bread, I took refuge in Biotopía ”, tells us its creator.
The podcast poses the following scenario: Biotopía is an advanced technological research and development center in which matter, time and space behave in a strange way. Dozens of scientists have lived and worked there for four decades, carrying out unthinkable experiments outside the limits of their community. In the rest of the planet, we began to hear from them in early June, when they began distributing their newsletter in podcast format.
And it is that in Biotopía incredible things happen: there is a geneticist who every day that passes is a day younger than the previous one. There is (was, rather) a person who lived a full life for just 24 hours as a result of their parents, experts in growth-accelerated therapy. There are two inhabitants who have exchanged their consciences and now live in each other’s bodies without knowing very well how. Human sacrifices or meteorites are minor events, since everything can be reversed. And as in any self-respecting science-fiction story, there is a main unknown to be solved: several inhabitants have disappeared and the reason is still unknown. In fact, the third chapter so far released ends with an intriguing statement from the Biotopia chief of security announcing that everyone is in custody.
“I have been listening to fiction podcasts for a few years and have wanted to write one for a long time. When I began to devise what later became Biotopia, we did not know how long the confinement would last, nor if we would have to confine ourselves later, which today we still do not know, so it seemed appropriate that what I wrote could be produce in a very homemade way, using the tools that all the people involved had at their disposal. Talking to Nikki García on one of those dinner nights by videoconference, we saw that she had the means to record herself from home and then I could edit everything from mine, ”says Bartual. In fact, the actress and singer, who also collaborates with El Mundo Today, is the main voice that gives life to the presenter of the podcast newsletter. Bartual explains the importance of her figure: “Nikki has finished embroidering it. It’s very good. I can’t imagine Biotopia without it ”.
Despite the fact that Biotopía is an artisan and self-produced project, the rest of the cast is quite varied, as Bartual explains: “The music is by Paco Alcázar, who is a good friend and has already composed songs for some of my previous projects. . Then there are also Ingrid García-Jonsson, Lorena Iglesias, David Pareja, Olga Aguirre or Valeria Ros, for example, but also people like Javi Rojo, whom I met working on #ElGranSecuestro, a project I directed with Modesto García last year to Playz of RTVE, and whose voice freaks me out. He plays Germán, the chief of security for Biotopía. People like Héloïse Guerrier, who is a friend and editor at Astiberri, or Paula Bourdette, who you can listen to in the second and third chapters, have also participated so far. Is my mother in law. And she didn’t have to be an actress to make it fantastic ”.
The process of working remotely is probably one of the things that the podcast viewer least notices in the face but that deserves an explanation the most: “The work process is simple. I write each chapter and pass my part to each actor. Depending on the complexity and length of the text, I either give you a few pointers on how to interpret it, or we make a video call and direct you while you send me each audio by email or WhatsApp. Sometimes, if we are not seeing each other, I will write and send those indications to fine-tune the shots (…) When I already have all the voices recorded, human and non-human, I edit everything adding the necessary environments and equalizations, I export and that’s it, ”says Bartual.
The podcast also has a mise en abyme: a fictional podcast within the fictional podcast, played by artificial voices: “Within Biotopia, a series that, as its name suggests, is the series within the series. In fiction, it is the work of AmaIA, an artificial intelligence developed by the entertainment science department of Biotopía, and it is she who puts the voices of all the characters with whom she is relating the origin story of this community, and of which in each newsletter we hear a preview. The interesting thing here is that beyond choosing between various types of voices and at what speed you want them to speak, you don’t have much more control over how they sing each phrase, so what I did was a prior casting process to see which voices They worked best for each character, and from there I rewrite some of their phrases if when I record them I don’t like the way they are pronounced. Although, surprisingly, most of the time I find interpretations that make you doubt who is on the other side is human or not. ”
Biotopia is not just a podcast. It has built a transmedia universe and expands on other networks and platforms, generating many contents that probably contain clues, Easter eggs or other types of internal references. For example, Oneiroo, the newsletter sponsor in fiction, has its own Twitter profile and your own website: “To live the full experience there are also their social networks and their website, and a few days ago I also launched a newsletter with exclusive information on everything that happens in this community. I have always liked to blur the boundaries between reality and fiction, and a project like this feels good to accompany it with this type of resources. People have embraced it with much affection: we launched its website a couple of days before the first chapter was broadcast, and in that period we already received more than twenty proposals to work in Biotopia through the web form, with people proposing ideas as scientifically absurd as those related by each episode of the series, ”says Bartual.
The podcast is reminiscent of many other works of science fiction and fiction as Bartual explains: “People have told me that it reminds you of The Prisoner, Lost, Tales from the Loop, Fringe, Black Mirror, The Good Place, Welcome to Night Vale or The Simpsons episode featuring Hank Scorpio, among other things (…) Biotopia probably has as much of an influence on Lost and Fringe as it does on Super Agent 86 or Adam West’s Batman, although if I were to confess to which is what it most resembles, I would say that Welcome to the future, the series I drew for Pride and Satisfaction, starring a family who lived in Spain in the year 2100 and things that could also be happening in Biotopia. I love this kind of crazy science fiction. ”
Bartual also cites other podcasts from which he has been inspired: “To anyone who defends himself with English, I would recommend trying listening to podcasts such as Homecoming, Limetown, Video Palace, This Sounds Serious or A Very Fatal Murder. Right now I’m devouring The Bright Sessions, about a psychologist who receives people with powers in her office to help them control them. And there is a podcast that has been running for five years and that I have special affection for being the first fictional podcast I listened to and was hooked on: Hello from the Magic Tavern. It is a podcast starring Arnie Niekamp, Adal Rifai and Matt Young, three Chicago comedians who improvise a chapter each week from a tavern in the fictional world of Foon, a magical kingdom filled with warriors, monsters and wizards. ”
Bartual acknowledges having received offers to produce more chapters but for the moment declares his desire to continue as before and enigmatically declares: “In reality, what is going to happen with Biotopia has already happened, is happening and will happen without us being able to do great thing to avoid it. ” Whatever happens with the future of Biotopia, three things seem to be clear: the first, that the podcast is booming in Spain. Second, that reality is so implausible that fiction can help us digest that reality. And third and last, as the theorist Marcel Descans said: “With science fiction we do not want to change the world, but to turn it into what it should always have been.”