It seems the world and his dog loves true crime dramas if the glut of shows on your podcatcher is anything to go by. Take the soon to be released third season of Serial, Sword and Scale, recently released Dr. Death, or… well the list could go on.
Who Killed Julie? follows in the footsteps of many of these shows, in the form of an investigative journal that slowly unfolds week by week. The main difference here, this isn’t a true crime story, but a work of fiction from writer/ creator Paul Sating.
Paul’s first foray into this genre releases this Sunday (September 23rd), and I would argue has been a rather successful venture on several fronts.
Firstly it’s nice to see a writer tackling something new. Rather than sticking to the ‘tried and tested’, rather than staying within the parameters where he’s comfortable, he seems to push himself into unfamiliar territory with every new project.
Those that are accustomed to his work will know he’s worked all over the spectrum. Satirical comedy, (Atheist Apocalypse), horror, (Diary Of A Madman), and out this Thanksgiving, 12 Deaths of Christmas. Lore, (Subject: Found), dystopian futurism, and LGBT+ love stories to name but a few. Hell, I even have a poem of his in my inbox that I will be publishing next week!
I had the opportunity to ask him why his catalog feels so eclectic.
“I get bored easily, lol. Beyond that, I don’t want my writing to get stale.
“I’ve been dealing with a lot of horror. Diary of a Madman is a dark show. Who Killed Julie? Isn’t exactly a Sunday morning family program either. So I enjoy breaking away from those things from time to time. It keeps me growing and developing as a writer and it keeps me stimulated.
“I even have a new audio drama coming in 2019 that is totally different from everything else I’ve done. I’ve written 6 episodes thus far and it’s definitely a stretch for me. But it makes me excited when I work on it and it is forcing me to consider things I’ve never had to before, because of the story and target audience.
Secondly, Paul’s work just keeps getting better. Even though this story covers very adult themes (you have been warned) to include domestic abuse, murder, and prostitution, the story is both realistic and sensitively told.
Julie may not have been a “model citizen” (in even most liberal eyes) but she was, as the story shows, a very sensitive and caring person. To her children first and foremost, and to everyone (even her detractors) in the wider community.
“Julie has been living in my head since I worked in a military sexual assault response office. I understand the sensitivity of the topic. That experience opened my eyes to the dichotomy of sexual assault; who the friends and enemies of sexual assault survivors are. After the show runs, I’ll release my reason for writing Julie’s story, but she came to life from that experience.
“I thought I understood sexual assault, but that job showed me just how much I didn’t know. Julie is an amalgamation of the survivors I had the honor of serving. Her story is a real story; it’s something that no one should have to live, but far too many do. And I felt it was time to tell it.
Third, and most importantly, the story lends itself as a platform in which real social issues are put into the spotlight rather than swept under the carpet. It shows the very real fear of admitting to being abused for fear of becoming shamed or shunned. It boldly holds up a mirror to society, and shows us how ugly we really can be. As Emerald poignantly reminds us, “This is the story of us!” Add to this fact that the show aims to raise money for Safe Place, Olympia, a 24 hour shelter for victims of domestic violence, for me, puts this show in the must listen category.
The story starts slowly with episode 1. Maybe that’s because I’m used to hearing shorter episodes from Paul, but I found myself drifting off a little towards the end. Episode 2 however picks the pace right back up, and keeps you on the pulse throughout the rest of the entire seven episodes, with brilliantly written dialogue that slowly unfolds the story and it's characters.
The cast, though small is superb. Ashley Litsey as Emerald Johnson, takes the lead perfectly, giving us a full range of emotion. Dealing with others character flaws professionally and with empathy, when alone she switches from angry, to heartfelt, and emotional, to downright sassy.
In support, Rhiannon McAfee plays a hard-faced, bad mouthed Rachel. Robin Siegerman takes to the role of Julie’s self-centred, uncaring mother Angela. John McClain the saddened, doting father, and Christopher Rocco portrays the ‘one true love’ Caleb wonderfully. All of them have nailed these characters perfectly.
One or two of the ‘phone call’ conversations are a little too distorted, something I can live with if it’s just a two minute call, but when a call lasts beyond five of minutes I find it becomes a distraction.
A couple of places, early on in the story, I also found distraction in a lack of background noise. Sure, that sounds a little odd, and possibly picky, but distracting nonetheless. You could probably get away with not noticing the ticking of a clock, or the occasional passing car under a short dialogue, but there are some weighty monologues throughout which you would feel background noise would become a distraction to. However for me, not having that white noise present made the conversations a little more oppressive. Not sure if this was the intention, but with a dark topic such as this I feel it’s not needed in this case.
As I stated earlier, Who Killed Julie? is NSFW. It uses adult language to describe adult themes. If you are at all worried about this, then I suggest you don’t listen. I will say however if you managed to get through the latest trailer, then you have already heard the most graphic part of this whole story, something that isn’t repeated again.
That being said, this story is a very important one. It’s a story I feel everyone needs to hear, and a conversation we all need to be a part of if we are to grow as individuals, and as a society. You can catch it’s release this Sunday (September 23rd), and every fortnight after that.
You can check out Who Killed Julie? and all of Paul’s other shows over on his website, or on your podcatcher of choice.
If you have a new podcast/ audio drama season coming up and would like us to take a listen, then feel free to drop us a line.