The show, which is expected to air later this year, is set in 1959 and follows a young secret agent who goes undercover in a U.S. college to run drug trials and finds himself in the middle of the MK-Ultra project.
Project MK-Ultra was the CIA’s mind control program that the U.S. agency used to experiment on human subjects, much of which was considered illegal. The CIA was developing drugs and procedures that could be used in interrogations and was organized through the Office of Scientific Intelligence of the CIA and coordinated with the United States Army Biological Warfare Laboratories. Officially sanctioned in 1953, it was reduced in scope in 1964 and officially ended in 1973. Many people were given high doses of psychoactive drugs including LSD as well as electroshock treatment and sensory deprivation and the likes of Ken Kesey and Allen Ginsberg, as well as members of the Grateful Dead were thought to have been subjects. Other figures that have been mentioned in relation to MK-Ultra include James ‘Whitey’ Bulger, Ted Kaczynski (aka the Unabomber) and Charles Manson.
Storyglass Creative Director Robert Delamere said the series takes the listener through the “soul of post-war America”. It is set to use “found audio” and recreated audio collages of recorded interviews and experiments and phone taps to create a new style. “We want to use different types of audio material to create a mystery thriller,” he said. “There’s a huge narrative opportunity in podcasting to tell very characteristic and individuated stories rather than getting lost in genre.”
The company is currently casting and, as is the trend with many top-tier podcasts, Delamere said that there are big casting opportunities for the series, which he hopes has an international feel.
It originated from Easy Tiger, the Australian production company set up by former Essential Media drama boss Ian Collie, which is run by CEO and producer Rob Gibson. The company produces dramas such as Anthony LaPaglia-fronted SBS drama Sunshine.
Ultra is Storyglass’ latest series. It has already debuted three titles including Chris O’Dowd homelessness story Baby It’s Cold Outside, Who Exploded Vivien Stone?, a farcical comedy series that wraps a murder mystery in a warped cinematic nightmare from comedy writers and performers, Kill The Beast, and Max & Ivan: Fugitives, which tells the story of two lowly tech developers who acquire a laptop full of contraband data.
Also on the docket for Storyglass are supernatural crime drama The Harrowing, from Mark Healy, which Delamere says is coming out around Easter, The Wolf of Paris, created by Jeanie O’Hare, which tracks the rise of one of the most iconic characters in European history, Margaret of Anjou, and The Akebu-lan Chronicles, an afro-futuristic, multi-part anthology series which shares stories from Africa circa 2080.
Delamere said that the latter, which was created by Tendeka Matatu (Ten10 Films), Jeremy Nathan (Cinebar Studios) and Ivor W. Hartmann, is an “African Black Mirror” that it expects to sign a “multiplicity” of partnerships around.