REPOD S3E10 – Environmental Storytelling: Jeff Leinenveber and Jarrett Lantz Creators of The Nest

In season 3, episode 10, we chat with Jeff Leinenveber and Jarrett Lantz, creators of The Nest, an intimate, memorable immersive experience that was a masterclass in environmental storytelling. The Nest unfolded through a series of audio cassette tapes that guests discovered while wandering through a labyrinth of memorabilia and memories.

two white males with short hair and short beards smiling, against a background of a man in shadow examining a room with papers hung upon a string

As former Disney Imagineers, Jarrett and Jeff really showcased their talent in scenic design, crafting a rich narrative through an incredible set that took guests on a dreamlike journey through one woman’s memories. They talk about purposeful design choices meant to foster a sense of intimacy and creating spaces that help further the narrative.

The Nest takes its guests on an emotionally charged journey through lush scenery, carefully selected props, and purposefully designed spaces. Jarrett and Jeff are truly masters of environmental storytelling, and it was a pleasure to have them on the podcast.

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Photo credit: Jeremey Connors

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We are immensely grateful to our sponsors this season, Morty App and Virtual Escape Games. We truly appreciate your support of our mission to promote and improve the immersive gaming community.


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Discount Code for REPOD listeners:

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Topics Discussed in this Episode

  • Jeff talks about some of their influences such as narrative video games like Firewatch, What Remains of Edith Finch, Gone Home, and immersive theatre productions like Sleep No More and Then She Fell. [2:02]
  • Jarrett explains the concept of The Nest. [2:55]
  • Jarrett talks about how The Nest has a similar structure to an escape room, but it’s not meant to be experienced as an escape room. [3:59]
  • Peih-Gee talks about having to recalibrate her expectations during the show, and Jeff mentions that as part of their onboarding, they try to manage expectations and guide the guests through how to enjoy The Nest. [5:32]
  • They talk about how they show the guests it’s not an escape room by putting all the cassette tapes at surface level so the guests won’t have to tear the room apart. [6:54]
  • Peih-Gee explains a little more about how the narrative of The Nest unfolds through a series of cassette tapes. She also mentions how the show only provides one flashlight for the two participants. [7:53]
  • Jeff says providing only one flashlight was a deliberate design choice and meant to tether the guests together for a slower, more intimate shared experience. [8:37]
  • David talks about the intimate and introspective atmosphere of the experience. [9:15]
  • Jarrett talks about their philosophy when crafting environmental storytelling. [10:28]
  • Jeff and Jarrett tell us about working with the white box space, and how they like to create the layout physically, instead of digitally. [13:00]
  • David talks about ensuring that the theme of your experience matches the physical constraints of the space you have. [14:23]
  • Jeff talks about how they really leaned into the constraints of their theme when they initially considered using an actual storage room for their show. [15:22]
  • Jarrett talks about the physical space where The Nest takes place, which is in an actual 1920s storage unit building shared with Hatch Escapes. [18:13]
  • David talks about selecting the right props to flesh out the details of a character and theme. [21:18]
  • Jarrett talks about prop shopping and how they will bend the narrative to fit around a really unique prop. [22:29]
  • Jeff and Jarrett talk about the photo-developing segment in The Nest. [24:44] (There are mild spoilers in this section. If you want to avoid them, you can skip ahead to 30:36.)
  • Jeff and Jarrett talk about casting and recording for the show. [30:36]
  • Jeff talks about the differences between the first run of the show, where they had more secondary storylines, and the second run of the show, in which they streamlined the story. [33:16]
  • Jarrett explains that their original concept for The Nest was an open sandbox, which would have been less linear. [34:46]
  • Jeff talks about the newly added coda at the show’s end, a final reflective activity that gave guests a moment to process the experience and add their own memory. [36:19]
  • Peih-Gee notes that displaying memories from past guests helped the coda feel like a safe space for guests to be vulnerable and connect more deeply not only to the show, but also to the previous guests. [38:40]
  • Jarrett talks about why they decided to create an experience designed for only 1-2 guests per show. [40:48]
  • Jeff talks about why they have 2 people running the show. [41:48]
  • Jeff and Jarrett talk about their past background as Disney Imagineers. [44:02]
  • Jarrett talks about working on Shanghai Disneyland and accounting for cultural differences. [46:31]
  • Jarrett muses on taking The Nest to other countries and how they would go about adapting an American narrative to an international audience. [48:23]
  • Jarrett and Jeff talk about designing for a small, intimate experience versus something on a large theme park scale. [50:50]
  • Jarrett talks about closing The Nest, which will be running its last shows this summer, and why they decided to sunset the show. [53:30]
  • Jarrett shares a discount code “REALITYESCAPEPOD” just for REPOD listeners, for $10 off bookings at The Nest. [55:39]
Reality Escape Pod mission patch logo depicts a spaceship puncturing through the walls of reality.

Resources Mentioned in this Episode

About Scout Expedition Co.

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white male with short brown hair and beard, smiling, wearing a beige button down shirt and a black zip up jacket

Founded in 2016 by themed entertainment industry veterans Jeff Leinenveber and Jarrett Lantz, Scout Expedition Co. is an immersive entertainment company based in Los Angeles, California. By uniquely blending various entertainment mediums, Scout transports audience members into never-before-seen story worlds. Scout most recently created The Nest, an award-winning immersive experience featured in The Verge, NPR, The LA Times, Forbes, and others, receiving a Thea Award for Outstanding Achievement.

About Corey Lubowich (Featured on the Patreon Bonus Episode)

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Corey is an LA based producer, director, and designer. His eclectic portfolio runs the gamut from theatre and film to podcasts and immersive, with a focus on the interaction of analog experiences and digital fandom. Past projects include: the award-winning immersive experience The Nest, the Brooklyn 99 Experience at Sand Diego Comic-Con, and the Netflix narrative podcast Daybreak: The Only Podcast Left.

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Escape This Podcast

Escape This Podcast is a show that’s a mix between tabletop roleplaying and escape room puzzles.

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No Proscenium Podcast

Your guide to the ever-evolving world of immersive art & entertainment

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