In desperate need for some entertainment on your commute to work? Have you gotten all caught up on your favorite podcast and in need or something new? Have no fear, Fool & Scholar is here! Power couple Travis Vengroff and Kaitlin Statz are the blood, sweat and tears behind Fool & Scholar Productions, a podcast network with only one goal in sight: to create adventures in your headphones. In the last few years, Travis and Kaitlin- with the help of their puppy, Eezo- have managed to take their pub talks about some pipe dream and transform it to an incredible platform for listeners all over the world to enjoy.

In this interview Fool & Scholar happily discuss everything we would ever need to know about them, their shows and the writing process.

For the folks who have no clue; who the heck are you guys?

The pair behind Fool & Scholar Productions is myself, Kaitlin Statz, and the wonderful Travis Vengroff. I am the writer and co-creator, while Travis is the producer and co-creator. Travis and I began work on our very first podcast while we lived in Oxford, UK, during my time at university. We had a great sci-fi world created for Liberty already, as Travis had been working on a comic book series for a while, but we wanted to tell more stories and reach a different audience. The whole world of Atrius was ready for tales to fill its history, so we created our first audio drama – Liberty: Critical Research

As for how we know each other, Travis and I met in a comic book shop in Sarasota, FL back in 2012. We have been together ever since, and were married in November of 2016. Over the years we have helped each other on many of our own separate goals, but our favorite efforts are ones where we collaborate and create something wonderful together.

While I am a huge fan and love pretty much everything you’ve created, I have to say my favorite is without The White Vaults. Can you talk a bit about that?

The White Vault is a slow-burn horror fiction podcast that showcases intellectual storytelling and a top-notch international cast. The tale follows the found-footage files of a repair team sent to Outpost Fristed in the white waste of Svalbard, and the mysteries revealed during their time in the chilling north.

And what would you say your greatest achievement in the podcasting world has been so far?

I would hands-down say creating The White Vault. We opened to a wonderful reception in October of 2017, and our fanbase has been phenomenal. The loving yet arduous process of creating The White Vault Season One was worth every late night and trashed script to get where we are now. When you’re putting your heart into something, you’re taking a risk. We know we’re still indie and very small in comparison to many network podcasts, but we created our story from nothing and are ecstatic every time we get a fan Tweet or a new positive review.

Now, Travis and I are happily at work on our upcoming seasons (for all our shows), and have become ambassadors for the audio drama community. We attend conventions and shows to help grow interest in created and consuming audio drama podcasts, and it’s a great experience.

Okay, it’s safe to say that The White Vault is incredibly different to your other show Liberty. Care to talk about that? What came first?

Liberty came first. Liberty was a world idea that Travis had come up with years ago, but which still needed a lot of fine-tuning. He had the general idea for a world and was focusing all of his storytelling efforts into a comic book set in the world. I had the idea of taking his world and building upon it, creating new stories that could reach a larger audience through audio drama podcasting. The first script written was for Liberty: Critical Research, Season One, and it was the first ever script I had written. We have come a long way since then, both myself as a writer and Travis as a producer, and the story arc for Liberty: Critical Research has come to an end after two seasons. Our horror sci-fi anthology series Liberty: Tales from the Tower continues on, with current scripts underway for season three.

The White Vault was vaguely conceived of during a vacation trip to Iceland. I was inspired by the beautiful white landscapes and relentless weather. We visited historic sites like Þingvellir, natural wonders ranging from waterfalls to geysers, and spent time watching the snow drifts build outside our small rooms’ windows. After we had returned from our trip, I had an idea in my head I could not wait to transcribe.

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Wow. So, what’s the writing process like?

My creative process includes a lot of tea and time. I would never call myself a great writer, but I triple check my work, admit to bad ideas, research thoroughly, consult with proofreaders (like Travis), and try my best to get the story in my head across without sounding incoherent. It takes a lot of practice, patience, and personal growth to better a skill, so I work at it daily.

If you absolutely HAD to pick, who would you say is your favorite character on The White Vault?

(Kaitlin) When I wrote the characters for The White Vault I based them loosely on amazing people from my graduate courses; strong determined people willing to work through anything for their goals. Since then the characters have evolved and become more individual. I am now personally a fan of Dr. Rosa De La Torre. 

(Travis) I’d have to say that I’d probably pick Jónas. He seems like someone I could get along with if we were confined in a small space for a very long time. He’s also an optimist, which is a plus, and a genuinely nice guy.

As previously stated Liberty is a completely different animal from WV, could you give a description of what it is exactly, the creative process, etc?

Our creative processes for our shows are all generally similar, just that we think in terms of several different worlds. There is The White Vault world, the Liberty world (Atrius), and the worlds for our future stories. Creatively, I tend to compartmentalize my time. If I’m working on The White Vault today, it means I’m working on it for a week. This helps me keep the characters voices strong and consistent, and to force me into examining how the future seasons will form.

Liberty is science fiction, but it is more than just an audio drama. The stories of Liberty take place in the city of Atrius and the dangerous surrounding Fringe. We follow heroes, villains, and those people just trying to get by in a distant world. Liberty: Critical Research is a serialized audio drama, while Liberty: Tales from the Tower is a horror anthology series. Our most recent podcast release is Liberty: Vigilance, a hybrid audio drama and live play podcast where actors play characters in a Liberty role-playing game.

That role-playing game is Liberty: AFTER, a system that lets fans dive into our world, create characters, and shape new stories in Atrius. Also, to round everything out, Liberty was originally crafted as a comic book, and Liberty: Deception tells another story of daring and cunning within our world’s imaginary walls. Liberty is our first multi-media IP, and we’re working to make it something our fans can dive into as deeply as they’d like!

 

What creative mediums would you say directly inspired your work?

For my writing, I draw from anything I can. How a scene in a television episode utilized powerful soundscapes, how a book formatted the timeline for foreshadowing, how a movie scene’s script felt jarring due to unnatural speech; everything has an opportunity to teach me something, I just need to remember to pay attention. I also enjoy examining old folk tales, something I’ve done since high school. These tales tell us about primal fears going back generations; the dark shadows of the forest, the howl in the snow, the often-small clues we overlook.

Really exciting stuff. Can you share any information on any future products or maybe what the future holds for your current projects?

We are actively producing Season 2 of The White Vault at present, in addition to a side story called Artifact, which takes place in the same storyline. We’re also working on another roleplaying podcast called Dark Dice, where the voice actors from The White Vault (and myself) play a horror-themed game of Dungeons and Dragons.

In the not-so-horror world, we have started work on on a few more audio dramas that we have yet to really reveal, but we can tell you that one of them an all-ages musical story about a Boar Knight named Nathaniel and his many adventures.

Okay, guys, final and most important question; what kind of dog is Eezo? 

Eezo is one-third Black Mouth Cur, one-third WunderHund, and one-third Monkey Muffin. He’s really just a smart adorable 80lb mutt, and we love him to bits. Eezo is a vital part of our team. We walk him around the block after work and have ‘walking meetings’ where we discuss story ideas, production schedules, and everything in-between. He keeps up moral and reminds us when it’s time for dinner. Most importantly, he’s there to celebrate with us whenever we reach a goal!

 

I’d like to, once again, thank Travis and Kaitlin for agreeing to take the time to chat with me for this article; they were very sweet. Make sure to catch the new episodes of the Liberty podcast every other week and the new season of The White Vault in October! 

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Fallon Marie Gannon

A bona fide earthling who finds some comfort in books, movies and coffee. Lots of coffee. Has several regrettable tattoos and her knowledge of horror movies is probably better than yours but she won't hold it against you; it's proof that she has way too much free time. Currently in limbo but manages to occasionally crawl out of it long enough to write for Geek Girl Authority.
Fallon Marie Gannon