40 iPhones, Three Weeks: Here’s How ‘Mythic Quest: Quarantine’ Came Together

Mythic Quest Quarantine F Murray Abraham Credit: The Hollywood Reporter
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Earlier this week, we heard that Apple TV+ would be airing a special shot-at-home quarantine episode of Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet, and now series creator and co-star Rob McElhenney has shared some details on exactly what it took to put the whole thing together on a pretty tight schedule.

In an interview with the The Hollywood Reporter, McElhenney shared that the idea for the episode only came to him a little over three weeks ago, when he was starting to grow restless with the lockdown and social distancing. His first thought was just to get the writing staff back together to work out season three, but since that would have left most of the other cast and crew out of work, it occurred to him that he could go one better by creating an entire episode that could be shot and edited with everyone safely at home. McElhenney approached his bosses at Apple with the idea, who jumped on board immediately, offering him whatever support he needed.

That support, it turned out, was 40 new iPhones and 20 sets of earbuds that needed to be delivered within days. McElhenney says he told a team in Cupertino on a Monday that he needed them by Friday in order to pull it off, and the rep on the other end, without skipping a beat, said she already had them tracked down in L.A. and would have them in McElhenney’s team’s hands that same day.

Within three weeks, Mythic Quest: Quarantine was written, shot, edited, and ready to air, and according to The Hollywood Reporter, McElhenney and Apple’s TV execs are so thrilled with the result that they plan to submit it for Emmy consideration.

In the beginning, I think there was a real possibility that it would be a nightmare, but by the end, I was ready to do three more.

Charlotte Nicdao, Mythic Quest’s ‘Poppy’

Three Weeks

In the interview, McElhenney notes that he took the model of what’s happening in the real gaming industry as his inspiration, putting the Mythic Quest’s cast of misfits in their homes, struggling with many of the issues involving working remotely, from solitude to technology challenges. Series co-creator Megan Ganz added that they also wanted to avoid making the second season deal with the quarantine at all, so part of the goal of producing this episode was to “acknowledge it and get it out of the way.”

Notably, in her prior life, Megan Ganz co-wrote the classic 2015 Modern Family episode “Connection Lost,” a groundbreaking episode that took place entirely via FaceTime on a series of MacBooks, iPads, and iPhones. However, while Ganz brought that experience to the table, it also meant that she knew how challenging it could be — the Modern Family episode took over three months to edit, whereas this episode had to be ready in three weeks.

I said to Rob, “It took us three and a half months to edit that.” I was like, “I don’t know that we’re going to be able to do this.” But Rob is the sort of person that if he gets it in his mind that something needs to be done, that’s just what happens.

Megan Ganz, Mythic Quest co-creator

40 iPhones

McElhenney explains that the whole thing was put together using the Zoom videoconferencing platform, with each of the actors equipped with three iPhones so that the footage could be sent for editing as quickly as possible. Only one iPhone was used at a time, but rather than relying on transferring footage wirelessly, the physical iPhones were sent to the editors at their homes so they could transfer and work with the footage directly.

As soon as a scene was wrapped, the phone would be sterilized, packaged, put in a secure area, picked up by a courier and brought to editorial, sterilized again, and then the footage would be uploaded to the Avid for the editors, who were working from their homes.

Rob McElhenney

The rapid pace of the shoot also forced actors to deal with things they don’t normally have to face, “getting into the minutia” of cameras, lenses, and sound and video production, which are things that actors typically don’t have to deal with. Further, F. Murray Abraham, who plays CW on the show, had to be walked through details like how to enter in his Wi-FI password on the iPhone. While the production crew were all available on the Zoom calls as well to provide advice — up to 45 people were often on at one time — the actors themselves still had to be the ones setting up the cameras and microphones and pushing the actual buttons to make it all happen.

One of the other reasons for McElhenney’s urgency in getting this all done in such a short timeframe was to make sure that the episode would remain relevant when it actually aired, adding that “I really wanted to get it out as quickly as possible so that it was something that we’re all going through in the moment, not something we went through in the past. I also felt like there was an opportunity to delve into some of the darker elements of what’s going on. To see some of the struggles and then ultimately end in triumph with a sense of community and optimism.”

Mythic Quest: Quarantine is scheduled to debut on Apple TV+ tomorrow, May 22nd.

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