The Rez is a sci-fi podcast adventure for 9–11 year-olds also told through a comic book and a game-based website.
Set in a future where happiness is just another download, our young heroes start to wonder what’s missing in their ‘perfect’ lives, and reach back to the children of the 2020s for help building meaningful relationships and defeating an AI that wants to keep them under its control.
The current UK Comic Book laureate Hannah Berry developed a story that is wild, silly, and exciting alongside a team of writers and psychologists, including Robin Banerjee, Professor of Kindness (yes, there is such a thing). The Rez’s heroes are played by Karl Queensborough (Hamilton in the UK production of Hamilton) and Emily Burnett (last year’s Children’s BAFTA award winner). Juliet Aubrey (BAFTA winner for Best Actress) plays JEF the malevolent AI. Workshops and interview sessions from across the UK meant that real children have been a part of the creation of The Rez story, and provide our heroes with advice and ideas in their own voices. Recorded during the lockdown of the spring of 2020, the 10 x 15-minute audio series of The Rez is being distributed by Gen-Z Media. Its release is accompanied by a 10,000-copy print run of the comic and the launch of our website (jointherez.com) where children can leave messages for our characters and play games (with the occasional resilience and wellbeing message built in). The Rez is led by APA Gold award winning drama producer Lance Dann, podcasting and youth media expert Dr. Martin Spinelli, and comic book guru Tim Pilcher.
Preen and Sav, two friends living in a future where all their needs are catered for, are starting to wonder if they’re missing something: simple human kindness. When searching for her missing Gran, Sav discovers a phone in a pile of old technology, and realises she can use it to contact ‘Pastlings’–the children of the 2020s. She teams up with the one-time mega-influencer Preen, and together they use messages from present day children to work out what ‘kindness’ is, how they can make real friends, and what on earth ‘school’ might have been. They’re chased by droids and drones controlled by JEF, an omnipresent AI who wants to keep everyone plugged in and will do anything to stop people engaging in analogue, off-grid communication (and trips outside).
“Stories that communicate the value of kindness for building resilience in young people are more important than ever. Research shows that kindness involves not just helpful or comforting behaviour, but also a prosocial motivation – that is, an attitude of care and concern for others and a real desire to bring about positive changes in others’ lives.
We know from our own research studies in the CRESS lab that the kindnesses we give to others, however small or large, are a foundation for making and keeping positive relationships. And these relationships in turn serve as the bedrock of good mental health and wellbeing, enabling us to be resilient when times are stressful or challenging. Now, more than ever, we need stories like The Rez to shine a light on what really matters in young people’s lives.”
Professor of Kindness Robin Banerjee
Head of Psychology at the University of Sussex