When the COVID-19 pandemic began prompting shutdowns in March, Austin resident Jonathan Osborne and his childhood friend, Brandon Camp, were about halfway through writing a scripted podcast for kids.
The pair were inspired to create a production company, Austin-based HodgePodge Media, after observing the explosion of podcasts among adults. With kids of their own, they separately arrived at the same conclusion. "We both had this individual light bulb pop up over our collective heads in which we realized that, although the space was really blossoming, the kids podcasting space was not," said Camp, who is based in Los Angeles and wrote and directed the 2018 family movie Benji.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic happened.
Rather than continue with their script, Osborne and Camp scrapped their draft and began work on a new one—Quaranteen'd—about a ragtag crew of kids who believe they have found a cure to the pandemic. Its first four episodes are available now, with a new one debuting each week.
Producing the quarantine-themed show while sheltering in place required some ingenuity.
The cast and crew of Quaranteen'd held long Zoom calls.
With the help of Cindy McCreery, an associate screenwriting professor at the University of Texas at Austin, they hired a team of young writers, who fleshed out the story over long Zoom calls. "We treated it like any traditional Hollywood writers' room," Camp said.
In search of a cast, they created an Instagram account and put out a call. Close to 2,000 submissions filtered in. "We completely underestimated how much time people had on their hands," Osborne said.
Mayla Montgomery plays the lead role in Quaranteen'd
Mayla Montgomery, a rising seventh grader at Round Rock ISD, plays lead character Zoe Cross, a teenager who believes she's discovered the cure—but it is being hidden by the Bridge Corp., which stands to profit from the pandemic. "She's always fired up and passionate about something," Montgomery says of her character.
After hearing about Quaranteen'd from her neighbor, an executive producer of the show, Montgomery decided to try out. She put together a resume with her experience with improv at the local comedy club ColdTowne Theatre and musical theater. After submitting her audition, she was "shocked" to receive a callback. Her surprise doubled when she was offered the role.
Soon, Montgomery received a recording kit from Osborne and Camp. "We've been shipping equipment all over the country," Osborne said, adding that they soon learned how to conduct mic tests over Zoom and instruct the actors to wrap themselves in blankets for the best sound quality.
Sometimes kids' productions are shoddily made and don't take their audience very seriously, Camp said, but he wanted Quaranteen'd to be a true cinematic experience—on par with films by Steven Spielberg and moves such as The Goonies and Star Wars.
Montgomery said she has listened to the first few episodes with her younger brother, who is usually a little too distracted to sit through things. But Quaranteen'd has him hooked.
"We're not surprised because this is what we always felt like we were capable of bringing to the space, but it certainly has been pleasant," Camp said of the reaction so far.
Once this season is over, Osborne and Camp plan to tackle an even more ambitious project: remotely producing a musical podcast.
"The irony is that this is the time of isolation and yet I feel like we have brought together this family for this family podcast," Camp said. "Amid the 2 a.m. sessions with the sound engineering and pulling out hair and wondering why the heck we're doing this—those are the moments that have certainly inspired me and kept me going."
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President Joe Biden signed the CHIPS and Science Act into law on Tuesday, a move that the White House says will unlock hundreds of billions more in semiconductor investment across the country.
Part of that investment could make waves in Central Texas, where semiconductor companies have laid the groundwork for more plants and jobs as a global shortage of semiconductors continues.
For example, Samsung already had a $17 billion semiconductor factory in Taylor on the way. Then in July, documents filed with the state showed that the tech giant is considering 11 chipmaking facilities in the Austin area that it’d build over the next two decades. The proposed $192.1 billion investment would bring more than 10,000 jobs.
\u201cThe CHIPS Act will supercharge our efforts to make semiconductors here in America. It will make cars, appliances, and computers cheaper and lower the costs of everyday goods. And, it will create high-paying manufacturing jobs across the country.\u201d— Joe Biden (@Joe Biden) 1659828240
Micron Technology is another giant that could make a multi-billion regional investment.
At the start of the year, Micron Technology was reportedly considering a new plant in neighboring Caldwell and Williamson counties, though California, North Carolina and Arizona were also being reviewed as potential sites for the plant.
On Tuesday, Micron announced plans to invest $40 billion between now and 2030 for chip manufacturing in the U.S.
In a public video statement, CEO Sanjay Mehrotra noted how semiconductors are essential to many tools that are a part of everyday life such as computers, smartphones and cars.
“Today is a proud moment for the global Micron team and a strong step forward for American high tech manufacturing leadership,” Mehrotra said. The company said specific plans for the investment will be made available in the coming weeks.
\u201cToday, we announced plans to invest $40 billion in the U.S. through the end of the decade to build leading-edge memory #manufacturing. Our investment will create 40k American jobs and strengthen U.S. supply chains. Watch this space! #jobs #innovation https://t.co/WPePuDVJs6\u201d— Micron Technology (@Micron Technology) 1660050842
Recently, the city has made efforts to train Austin residents for the kind of roles companies like Micron and Samsung would try to fill. A couple of months ago, the city announced a “hire local” plan with Workforce Solutions to help people in fields like manufacturing and information technology get training to move up in their careers.
The bipartisan bill includes $52 billion in semiconductor subsidies. Nationwide, these incentives could create thousands of jobs and multiple fabs, the Semiconductor Industry Association estimates. Some of that could happen in the Austin area from companies looking to expand.
NXP Semiconductors is weighing a $2.6 billion expansion and Infineon Technologies is looking at a $700 million expansion. Respectively, those two could add 800 and 100 jobs.
Central Texas has a reputation as a major hub for semiconductors, and the competition with other areas could ramp up in the coming years as others like Qualcomm and Intel consider new facilities. Dallas-based Texas Instruments also celebrated the passing of the CHIPS Act.
“TI has an exciting manufacturing investment roadmap and these provisions will be meaningful to the development of our 300-mm water fabs in Texas and Utah,” the company said in a Tuesday Twitter post.
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It’s slowly but surely becoming easier to buy a house in Austin.
According to the Austin Board of Realtors, the median house price in the Austin-Round Rock metropolitan area is $537,475 as of July. Take a look at what that price range can get you.
This two-story brick home is the biggest on the list, with four bedrooms and two-and-a-half bathrooms across 2,156 square feet in Round Rock. Characterized by its sky-high ceilings, large windows and newly updated fixtures, the home has a spacious backyard with mature trees, a wooden deck, a lounge area and close proximity to a nearby greenbelt.
This listing is held by Drew Griffin with Compass.
This recently updated three-bedroom, two-bathroom home was built in 1983 but fits in perfectly with the design standards of today. On top of newly-updated floors, roof and windows, this home comes complete with a floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace, a spacious open floor plan and plenty of natural light. The biggest gem of this house is its vaulted and covered back patio, which gives way to a large backyard on a corner lot. At 1,280 square feet, the home is just a few minutes away from The Domain and Q2 Stadium.
This listing is held by Jennifer Buterick and Nicole Marburger with Compass.
Another retro find, this 2,098-square foot home has character to go around and is looking for a caretaker who will love it as much as the last. With four bedrooms and two bathrooms, the house has plenty of room for a home office and is colorfully painted throughout, including bright blue kitchen cabinets. On a third of an acre, this home comes with 12 fruiting trees in the backyard, solar panels, rain-catching barrels and a converted garage with living space.
This listing is held by Niki Duncan with Compass.
This three-bedroom, two-bathroom South Austin home has a wide-open floor plan and sparkling white interiors. The vaulted ceiling in the living room gives height to the room while the fireplace will keep you warm. An airy master suite comes with double pedestal sinks and two walk-in closets, so you don’t have to worry about sharing space with your partner. Enjoy the Texas weather with a private yard, screened-in porch, and fire pit.
This listing is held by Michelle Hendrix and Khani Zulu with Compass.
A retro-on-the-outside, single-story home was built in 1973 but has been given a full modern update on the inside. The three-bedroom, two-bathroom, 1,676-square foot home is situated on a half acre of land, complete with an above-ground pool and covered porch to keep you shady during the oppressive heat. Inside, you’ll walk directly into an open living and dining area, which features a floor-to-ceiling tiled fireplace, that leads to the breakfast nook, and kitchen with mosaic-tiled backsplash and a built-in wine rack.
This listing is held by Derek Peterson with Compass.