Cracking The Case
Producer Payne Lindsey of the nationally famed podcast “Up and Vanished” brings more chilling true crime narrative, this time about his native Atlanta
Payne Lindsey discovered podcasts the same way many of us have—searching for entertainment while sitting in Atlanta traffic. As a director and independent filmmaker, the Atlanta native usually favored visual over audio but would tune into any medium with a story to tell. After seeking a podcast as compelling as NPR’s smash hit “Serial,” which Lindsey had found fascinating, he figured he would embark on his own experiment to create a true crime podcast.
Today, season one of his podcast “Up and Vanished” has been downloaded more than 150 million times. It became a national sensation thanks to the renewed attention it brought to a more than decade-old cold case and 30-year-old Lindsey’s talent and tactic as a storyteller— using casual conversation, rather than interrogation-style questioning, to coax the truth out of his sources. The podcast invited listeners along as Lindsey discussed the mystery with Ocilla residents and officials, a tactic that undoubtedly hooked his audience. In Lindsey’s opinion, a podcast can pay respects to a true story by being as compelling as possible while still remaining sensitive to all those involved.
“There’s always something about a real, true story that is stranger than fiction,” says Lindsey, who works out of an office in Ponce City Market. “Why should a true story be produced [differently] or [make the listener] feel any differently? You want the same emotional response from people, especially when it’s true.”
Along with Donald Albright, his partner in the production company Tenderfoot TV, Lindsey shared the “Up and Vanished” story process in a live tour around the nation in 2017. This year, they’re working on a second season of “Up and Vanished” in which they’ll highlight a different cold case each episode. Their biggest project, though, is producing a completely new podcast in partnership with HowStuffWorks that takes a closer look at crimes perpetrated right here intown. The true crime series, called “Atlanta Monster,” examines the Atlanta child murders, a dark period in the city’s history when a series of 28 killings of young, African-American males took place from 1979 to 1981. One arrest was made after an extensive manhunt, though the suspect, Wayne Williams, maintains his innocence.
“When you peel back all the layers of the story, you find a lot of hidden truths. You start to understand why some of the people feel this was never really resolved,” Lindsey says. “We are picking apart this horrific story, recapping everything and trying to figure out if the guy they have behind bars is the right guy.” It may be hard to find a resolution for many true crime cases, but Lindsey is dedicated to the process of telling the truth, one podcast at a time.
STORY: Grace Huseth
PHOTO: Stephen Payne