What On Earth is One Degree Under?

Riona Millar 11 October 2019

An interview with creator Will J-Wood and co-directors Olivia Railton and Ella Gold

If you’ve had a look at Camdram at any point so far this term, you might have seen the mysterious “One Degree Under” listed as a show every week throughout Michaelmas. But what IS it? I caught up with its creator and two co-directors to find out more.

So, what exactly is One Degree Under?

One Degree Under is a mystery podcast series inspired by shows like Black Mirror and Inside No. 9, with each of its episodes focusing on university experiences. Written, created and voiced entirely by students, its current format fits around the average Cambridge term, with episodes airing once a week for 8 weeks. It starts off as quite dark, with a combination of mystery and horror, but once we let the show start to find its feet a sense of dark comedy started to creep in.

Why is it called One Degree Under? How did the idea initially come about?

Will [J-Wood, creator of the show] initially came up with an idea for an anthology of radio plays called the “Cambridge Mystery Plays”, to be broadcast on Cam.fm, the Cambridge-based radio station. We’re all English students, so there was lots of discussion and joking about the medieval mystery plays, the York Cycle, things like that. However, once we’d settled on the podcast format, we thought it would be better to rename it, in the hope that once the show’s been properly established we can look to contributors from other universities and share it further afield. The name is actually a pun – it’s all student-run, and we’re all aiming for one degree; it also means slightly under the weather, a bit unwell. There are also of course connotations of graves and burials, which is great for what starts out as quite a dark series.

What’s the creative process been like for you so far? Did you have any prior experience in alternative media?

We’ve had a pretty good mix of experience (Olivia has previously worked in radio plays, Ella is just venturing into it). Ella’s main difficulty has been the shift from a visual, physical focus to one that’s solely auditory, but it’s been really fun to play with the different ways that sound can affect an audience. We’ve also learned a lot about the oddities of foley – sounds in the show include a beloved pet being run over, wet footprints (created by walking barefoot over moss) and about half an hour of hand-kissing. It’s also a great opportunity for the writers to really focus on the words themselves – what’s being said and how the actors are saying it, without having to worry about maintaining visual interest.

Image credit: Will J-Wood

So what was it about the podcast format that appealed to you?

The accessibility of it, above all else. Having a podcast series or anthology is a way of having our own standalone project, separate from the limitations of both Cambridge Theatre and cam.fm. We have absolutely zero budget, but that’s (so far) not proved to be limiting. Anyone can access and download a podcast, and it also gives us the opportunity to really experiment with sound itself as a medium. In terms of accessibility itself, we do plan to provide transcripts of all the episodes online, as well as the episodes themselves, so there’s really no limit to who our audience might be.

How do you feel about other people taking inspiration and making their own Cambridge theatre podcasts?

That’s the goal! If people hear an episode and are inspired to start making their own podcasts as a result, then we’ve done something right. When we first asked for submissions in Lent, we had barely three pieces sent in. Asking again over summer, we found ourselves completely inundated with episodes – clearly we struck a chord with people. A lot of people in Cambridge Theatre have families or friends who struggle to trek to Cambridge for every show – with a format like this, people will have the opportunity to share it with any and everyone.

What are your plans for the show’s future?

Hopefully, it will run indefinitely. We’ve already started writing episodes for Season 2, which will appear in Lent as suddenly as it did this term. The podcasts are available on Spotify and iTunes, as well as the Apple Podcasts app, so we hope that they’ll be there to stay.

Image credit: Will J-Wood

If you want to “hear” more (ha ha), check out the newly released trailer for One Degree Under, then follow this Spotify link. New episodes will be out every Monday until the end of Michaelmas. After that… who knows?

Like the sound of ‘One Degree Under’? Let us know what you think, at editor@tcs.cam.ac.uk with the subject line ‘Letter to the Editor’!