EDUCATE YOURSELF WITH PODCASTS AND AUDIOBOOKS
As much as I love my phone, I don’t want to be one of those guys who’s glued to its screen 24/7, alienating the world around him and all the people who inhabit it (although most of them will probably be on their phones anyway). I’m constantly reading, but magazines costs a lot of money and take over entire rooms, before being sold on a car boot stall for 10p each. The ones that don’t sell get dumped in the recycling.
Podcasts and audiobooks have become my books, my journalism and my education in the past three or four years. It started when my brother told me about the Creative Screenwriting Magazine podcast, hosted by Jeff Goldsmith. I devoured all the free podcasts available on iTunes, which included 60 minute interviews with Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network), Jonathan Nolan (The Dark Knight, The Prestige), Neil Marshall (The Descent) and many more. They were great because not only did you get an insight into their career – how they started out, got their breaks, their mistakes, etc. – you also got to know them as people, something that doesn’t always come across in print.
From that point on, I was hooked. I searched iTunes for podcasts on every filmmaker, screenwriter and playwright I could find, and branched out into my other interests too, including boxing. The Steve Bunce ESPN and Sky Sports’ Toe 2 Toe podcasts are now permanent fixtures on my iPod. As a guy who likes to take long walks on a regular basis, these one hour recordings are perfect for me. They keep me educated and informed on all of my favourite subjects, and keep me away from the dreaded phone screen.
Here are a few of my favourite podcasts and audiobooks…
Charlie Rose is one of those broadcasters who can get anything out of you, and he does it without being aggressive, confrontational or by talking over the top of an interview subject until they tell the truth. In the case of filmmakers and screenwriters, Rose manages to get insightful and honest revelations out of the notoriously publicity shy Daniel Day-Lewis, who was on the show in 2007 to promote There Will Be Blood.
Accompanied by Paul Thomas Anderson, Day-Lewis talks openly about his creative process and the painful experience of suffering from exhaustion whilst playing Hamlet, where the actor went so far to the edge that he collapsed when he believed that he was having a dialogue with his deceased father. It’s an incredible interview, and Rose knows to give his subjects room to breathe rather than bombard them with questions. When the questions come, they are intelligent and encourage insightful answers. You won’t hear Rose ask something like “What made you want to write this?” or any of the other dull questions that make people like Bruce Willis drop their bottom lip.
Check out this excerpt from one of Charlie Rose’s many interviews with Quentin Tarantino. I have three of them (where he is promoting Kill Bill: Vol 2, Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained respectively), and they are all fascinating:
The Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith
Since leaving Creative Screenwriting Magazine, Jeff Goldsmith has launched the amazing Backstory magazine, and continued to release podcasts as The Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith. Without Jeff, I would have missed out an a ridiculous amount of information and insight into some of my favourite writers and directors, including Shane Black (my writing hero), James Cameron talking about Terminator (my favourite film), David Fincher and Chuck Palahniuck discussing the adaption process of Fight Club (the best film of the 90s) and so much more. When he isn’t conducting the interviews himself, Goldsmith is at the best events in LA, armed with recording equipment. Jeff’s interview style is that of a drinking buddy – not a drunk one, but a friendly one who makes you laugh and comfortable enough to share – and he manages to get great stories out of his storytellers, which is exactly what you want from a podcaster.
Check out Jeff’s interview with Drew Pearce and Shane Black for Iron Man 3. You get EVERYTHING in this interview: Shane’s breakthrough during the spec boom of the late 80’s and early 90’s, Drew Pearce’s leap from UK comedy to writing a Marvel movie, the development process of a huge Marvel film, and funny stories about writing at Shane Black’s LA home, accompanied by a dog that won’t stop farting. Who could want more?
Kevin Smith’s Smodcast
When filmmakers interview other filmmakers, you are almost always guaranteed gold. Filmmakers open up when they are talking to someone who understands the creative process and the trials and tribulations related to filmmaking, and that is one of the reasons why Kevin Smith’s (Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy) Smodcasts are great to listen to.
His interview with Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko) is superb, and Kelly gives an amusing and intriguing account of being a first time filmmaker with Donnie Darko, to becoming the darling of the indie world with the slow-burn phenomenon that it became. Couple that with the beautiful failure of passion project Southland Tales (a film that sounds incredible when Kelly talks about what he wanted for the project, but turned out to be a mess of ideas and over-ambition) and you have a pretty special interview.
The only way to top that one is to have a 150 minute marathon chat with Edgar Wright (Spaced, Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) which covers everything from becoming inspired to make movies by seeing a dodgy copy of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead to the release of Scott Pilgrim vs the World, a film that went from flop to instant cult classic in 72 hours. Wright talks about the origins of his filmmaking style, his breakthrough with BBC TV and much more. Every filmmaker and screenwriter should check it out.