Searching for Salai is a fictional narrative about time traveling technology from Leonardo da Vinci’s loyal assistant. We spoke with the creative team behind the podcast to see just how you create a sweeping, cosmic adventure from the ground up.
You know those awkward moments, where you’re in a group and (for some unknown reason) the people there all want to get to know each other, so they make you all answer some arbitrary question? Yeah, so one of the questions I was asked recently was “if you could go on a road trip with one person from history who would it be?” (probably Lizzie Borden)
I always love these answers because we like to pretend we have some idea of what those historical figures would be like. But what if we could? Or, what if someone who really knew them could tell us the truth? It’d be pretty crazy and magical and well…fun! That’s why Holt Bailey and Alex Stein decided to make it happen and created the podcast Searching for Salaì.
Holt actually started pursuing the idea when he heard that “SAP, a software company, was looking to get into the podcast game. They had a new software system called Leonardo and were looking for outside-the-box ways to promote it.” So, naturally, Holt began researching Leonardo da Vinci and was struck by how “ahead of his time” the man was. Holt told me the natural next step was a story about time travel. “In coming up with the pitch, I didn’t want to use Leonardo as the key time-traveling figure, so I decided to use Leonardo’s closest pupil, Andrea Salaì.”
Holt described the podcast as “a story about a woman who is investigating the claims of the time traveling pupil of Leonardo da Vinci, a man by the name of Andrea Salaì.” The entirely fictional show consists of Charlotte Warburton’s interviews and research into Adrea and the question of whether or not he could possibly be telling the truth. Alex described the show as a “what if kind of thing,” combining historical fiction and sci-fi into a really compelling narrative.
But making a great podcast takes a lot of work, and both Alex and Holt cited the difficulties of making Searching for Salaì. “Who are we going to cast? And that whole process of finding people who fit and who are real and can bring the story to life,” is what Alex cited as quite a bit of work, but he also mentioned that “there were a lot of hours put into this by Holt directly, in his cave, writing.”
Holt wrote the show and was present all throughout the making of it, while Alex was brought in to help with casting and producing the podcast. The duo put a lot of time into the Searching for Salaì, with Holt explaining that they “built it from the ground up,” starting with the script and then recording all of the episodes at once. It was building the soundscape behind and throughout the recordings that really demanded a lot of attention, but “the whole concept of the podcast is that it’s real life, it’s actually happening,” so the time was well worth it.
When I asked the pair what their favorite parts of making Searching for Salaì, both pointed at the finished project. “When I first was listening to it I started tearing up because we put so much work into it,” Alex said. “I think we’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from it… I think just the reward in having a job well done is the most satisfying for me,” Holt added. Finally putting out into the world something they’d worked so hard on was incredible.
Alex and Holt are both continuing on in the podcast industry with various projects, but Searching for Salaì is all wrapped up and ready to be binged.
So if you love a good story, some fascinating technology, historical fiction, sci-fi, or just a really immersive storytelling experience, check out Searching for Salaì and be sure to leave a rating and review to let Holt and Alex know what you think!
Chasing Pods is a Podchaser blog series dedicated to letting our readers know about podcasts they may not have heard of or provide a sneak peek into the making of their favorite podcast. We talk to podcast creators about their journey into podcasting, the creation of their shows, the ups and downs of the work, and what they’re looking forward to for their podcast
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