Spencer Channell co-wrote End of the Cornfield. Check out our interview with Spencer and learn more about his experience writing on the fiction podcast, his approach to the story, and his future projects.
On this project, you came onto the scene after the story idea and characters had been fleshed out. What was it like bringing your own ideas and creative expression to a pre-existing story base? Was it hard to connect your vision with what was there?
I remember feeling excited when I joined the project, and a little overwhelmed—excited because the show had a vision that I connected with—and overwhelmed because, while we had lots of material about the characters’ histories, we still needed to figure out the specifics of how they’d jostle over the course of the story. Ultimately, I loved writing for these characters, and I feel my attention to shape of story honored and elevated what was there when I joined.
You co-wrote each script with Abbey Monnin, also the producer of the podcast. What was the process like working with a co-writer?
I love collaboration to death, and I have a ton of fun writing with Abbey. Our writing partnership was quick to develop, and we’re still dissecting what makes it tick. We spend a lot of our process communicating, learning, and negotiating our visions. I think, beyond being a combination of our words, our work represents a synthesis of our ideas, and I’m excited for us to keep sharpening our co-writing process on the next project.
How did you make sure that you were both writing something that would ultimately end up cohesive?
I think communication, common reference points, and alternating iterations are all good for cohesion. At first, I asked a lot of questions and took a lot of notes to get caught up on the characters and the premise so far. Then we’d write some pages, send them over, get on the phone, talk through notes, then give each other space for rewrites or to start something fresh, because we like to do the actual writing part individually. We’d pull literature and movies and musicals and TV into our discussions to clarify ideas, and we resolved misunderstandings as we went, which all contributed to a final, cohesive script.
What was your experience like growing up in Ohio and how did it contribute to the script?
I grew up in a suburb of Columbus half an hour from the LeVeque Tower downtown and half an hour from acres of soybeans the other way. Whenever I eat cheese made from sheep’s milk, I remember the sheep farm by my childhood home. I’d hike down the creek past the llamas to the river and throw rocks and catch crawdads and play pretend with the sounds of fields and forests in my ears. I wrote into the script the sounds I know from Ohio, including the unmistakable Midwest voice behind a good “welp” and a “s’pose” among other emblems of a cultural ethos that raised me both to celebrate it and to problematize it.
What do you think is at the heart or the core of this story?
I read somewhere that crows gather to observe their dead. When they spot a crow corpse, they’ll touch down and circle around it and perform this ritual where they flit around and glance at each other and cry out. Are they holding a funeral? Or investigating a crime scene? We’re not sure, apparently. And the birds aren’t telling.
To me, End of the Cornfield is about examining the past to make decisions in the present. It’s as much about the forensics of relationships & memories as it is about fingerprints & tracks in the mud, because at the end of the cornfield, what’s the difference? Our characters aren’t psychologists or detectives—just regular people trying everything they can to figure out what to do about a dead member of their flock. And turning against one another in the dark.
Do you have a favorite episode of the podcast? Why?
My favorite episode is nine, but don’t skip ahead. It’s the culmination of everything. The characters are especially vulnerable in the final episode, and we get to see their true selves, for better or worse. Plus, we learn the answer to the whodunnit, which is my favorite part of a murder mystery. I can’t help it. I like a good reveal.
What are some of your upcoming projects?
I’m co-writing with Abbey on a dark drama short for Blue Tuesday Productions, I’m working on post sound and music for a vegan cooking competition, and I’m scoring Nihilus—a sci-fi fan film involving wars in the stars that’s in pre-production at Clubhouse Films in Ohio. And I’m writing a screenplay, always.