Posts Tagged ‘Podfest’

Let me start with the good news—starting a podcast is easy.

And can be done for free.

You can launch a podcast in an hour or two using only your cell phone. (Of course, the cell phone is an expense, but I’m going to assume if you’re interested in starting a podcast, that you already own a phone.) In its most basic form, these three steps are all you need to start:

  1. Record: I have an iPhone 7 plus I bought about 3 1/2 years ago that I can record on. I could add an external mic to get a better sound, but the phone itself will work. To improve recording quality, I could step into a closet to help deaden any echo and room noise (traffic, air-conditioning, people talking in another room, etc.) , and clothing is good for helping keep any echo from bouncing off the walls. Lastly, having the microphone about six inches from your mouth gives a good solid recording. You can test which sounds best.

2. Editing: Technically, you can edit on your phone. I can record to my voice memo app, trim off what I don’t want, and even continuing editing. Here’s an example of a 1-minute podcast you can probably do in about five minutes. Record a 10-second introduction. Trim that as needed. It may take a few takes to get comfortable doing this the first time. Write it out if that helps. Write out some bullet points to hit and record the 45-second body of your podcast. Don’t spend a lot of time worrying about getting this perfect. (This is about just showing how easy the process can be to start a podcast.) Just trim off the dead space at the beginning and end of your short talk.


3. Upload: This is the only slight wrinkle in the process. You need a place to host your podcast. Many sites offer free hosting by giving you limited space for a limited time. Here is an example for Podbean.

Even libsyn, one of the top names in podcast hosting, has a basic plan starting at $5 a month. Anchor by Spotify has a helpful article on staring a podcast. Do some research and familiarize yourself with what various companies do, and pick one. Like a lot of things, it doesn’t make much difference at the start. The important thing is to start. You can always upgrade and change hosting companies later to meet your needs as you grow. (I’ll share what group I use and why later in the post.)

So you sign up with a hosting group, and then you upload your podcast. Your first podcast will take a couple of days to a week to get approved by iTunes and whoever else you chose, but that is the barebones of podcasting. A nod to podcaster Ant McGinley for doing a seminar I saw where he walked a group of people from concept to iPad production in under an hour. He showed how easy podcasting can be. (Listen to the results on his Pod From Nothing podcast.)

Now here’s the bad news—podcasting is hard. That explains why there are close to 2 million podcasts out there, but less than a million are active. (Those that have posted a new episode in the last year.) As the saying goes—You can learn to play chess in an hour or two, but playing it well takes years. The podcasting drop-out rate is high.

One statics is most people post less than episodes before they quit podcasting. They call it “Podfade.” The reason is part unmet expectations and part that creating new content weekly or monthly is a grind. I’ve been doing this blog since 2008, and I enjoy the process. But it’s a grind.

And now I’m adding a podcast to the mix. Here is the how and why I launched my Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles podcast a couple of weeks ago with just a 2-minute trailer. My goal is to start releasing weekly short podcasts beginning May 5, 2021. So depending in when you’re reading this, you can see how all this played out.

Honestly, to get to the point of the original idea to just launching that trailer was years in the making. I’m not even sure how many, but I think the seed was planted back in 2012 when Adam Levenberg first suggested I start a podcast. I had just started listening to podcasts myself and had no idea where to start. And it just seemed like a lot of work. So I tucked it away.

In 2015, I began listening to podcasts regularly and starting a podcast intrigued me more. But life happens, and I was trying to finish a book based on my blog, so I didn’t really have the time or energy to tackle podcasting. But in 2020, I finally launched the Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles book and started thinking about podcasting more seriously. I signed up for the 2021 Podfest conference in Orlando with hopes of doing a deep dive into that world. But COVID-19 postponed that conference. But the founder, Chris Krimitsos, decided to do a Virtual Podfest, which I had access to because of my 2021 Podfest ticket.

One of the extended tracks I did was called “Zero to Launch,” and much of what I learned there I’ll pass along here. So while it took me years to get to this point, it might only take you a few weeks, a few days, or even a few hours to get up to speed with launching your podcast.

What follows is a little more advanced and a little more expensive than just recording to your iPhone. (No affiliate marketing or sponsorship to any of this.)

  1. Record: To record the audio version of my book (which will be released later this year when I finish editing it) I bought a Shure SM7b microphone, a Cloudlifter CLl-1 to boost mic signal , recorded to a Zoom H6 recorder. (I had an old stand, XLR cords, and a pair of Sony MDR-7506 headphones, so I didn’t need to purchase those.) But that is a solid pro recording setup that you can buy for under $1,000. With a bit of research, you could get a decent setup for about half that amount.

2. Editing: There are various free editing software out there for editing, but Audacity is the one I hear mentioned most commonly. Some podcast hosting sites now allow basic editing. On the pro side, the two common editing applications are Pro Tools and Adobe Audition. I use Audition. Costs vary. But if you’re a student, check to see what may be available for free through your school.

The more of background you have in production the quicker you will learn how to use this equipment. If the technical stuff overwhelms you you will have to find friends willing to help you out or pay others to do the work for you.

I come to podcasting with decades of production experience, an undergraduate degree in film, and a master’s degree in digital journalism, but I wouldn’t say any of this is easy if you’re doing it all by yourself. (Which I am.) And plenty of podcasters are coming at this with no college or production background. Grit, determination, and drive seem to be helpful traits.

Knowing what your podcast is about and either outlining or writing episodes is a large piece of the puzzle. In my case, I will be tapping into the more than 3,000 blog posts I have written over the years to provide the foundation for my podcasts. It is not unheard of for me to spend 2-3 hours writing a blog post. (This one took 4 hours.) Unless you’re the kind of person who can speak gold dust into a microphone, you’ll have to spend some time knowing what subject you’re going to cover. And if yours is an interview-based podcast, you’ll still have to spend time researching and forming questions.

Even if you use free software, you still to have access to a computer to do the editing. And probably an external hard drive and/or cloud storage as well. A time-honored tradition is “3-2-1.” Have three versions of your file, two with you and one off site. Backing up is crucial.

3. Upload: What you’ve recorded, edited, and exported your final episode, then it’s time to upload it to your hosting service. I chose Buzzsprout because it just seemed to be the most intuitive of the bunch. I liked the layout of their website, I liked their explanations of what was needed to use their services, and I just like theirname. They take care of all the RSS feed technical stuff that gets your podcast out in the world. And it seemed that whenever I was hunting for podcasting questions that there was a video on it by Buzzsprout or by someone who used Buzzsprout. Here’s a couple of samples from the YouTube channel Buzzsprout—Learn How to Podcast:

I originally signed up for the free version and then upgraded to a $12 a month plan. It took a couple of hours to walk through the process of adding all the information needed on my podcast. Then a couple of more hours to walk through the process of linking my podcast to iTunes, Spotify, and others.

Having graphics for your podcast is something you can do on your own if you have basic Photoshop skills. Canva is a place you can use for free or upgrade to a subscription to use templates to customize artwork. Since I used 99 Designs to refine the idea for my book cover, I went back to the same designer there to turn my book cover into a podcast cover.

I still have a lot to learn about analytics and marketing but that is podcasting 101.

I did purchase the domain name screenwritingwithbrassknuckles.com. I have not set up a full website which I plan to do using WordPress. That is moving into the 202 and 303 levels of podcasting, and I will fill these in as I go along the way.

But here’s a shortlist of what others are doing in the podcast world.

—YouTube. It doesn’t have to be you on camera. It can just be your audio file with a cover graphic. What this does is have another way for people to find you, and since YouTube is one of the top search engines, it is a valuable resource to tap into for just a little extra work.

—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok are social media platforms that offer ways to repurpose your podcast content. Some say limit yourself to 2-3 of these social media platforms so you don’t become overwhelmed. Experiment to find which works best for you and which you most liking working with.

—SEO: Search engine optimization. This is worth going to LinkedIn Learning to start wrapping your head around the importance of SEO.

—Affiliate marketing and sponsorship: I don’t make a penny from any of the above links. But those that understand affiliate marketing and sponsorship (and have a proven following) monetize links like that. Not to get ahead of ourselves, but that is how Joe Rogan and Bill Simmons pull in millions of dollars. Others might pull in thousands and some hundreds through each podcast they do. But it’s important to know that unless you’re already a proven name, you’re mostly likely going to start out with few listeners and zero sponsors. Marc Maron’s first sponsor gave him $15 of coffee per week to mention their coffee. File that under “Dream big, start small.” Some people start a podcast just to promote their own brand, books, or workshops. Some start a podcast just for the fun of it.

—Scheduling. Calendly is scheduling software that I have never used, but one I often hear mentioned as a way to keep track of interviews and planning when to record, edit, and release podcasts.

That’s a good start to How to Start a Podcast.

P.S. if you have a podcast and want to add to the list, drop a note in the comments or email me at info@scottwsmith.com.

Scott W. Smith is the author of Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles

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So I started blogging in 2008, and around 2012 Adam Levenberg (author of The Starter Screenplay) said I should start a podcast. That just seemed like more work with very little payoff. But Levenberg’s a smart guy and I should have listened to him. But back in 2012, podcasts were off the radar for most people. (Scriptnotes began in 2011, but I listened to those early shows on my computer rather than my phone.) I point to the fall of 2014 when season one of the Serial podcast dropped. Since then there has been an explosion of podcasts and their popularity. (In the past year, I’ve listened to more free podcasts than watched movies, streaming and TV shows.)

By 2015 I was hooked on podcasts. I think that was the same year the Chris Krimitsos launched the first Podfest in Tampa, Florida. The had 100 gather for that event. Last year Podfest was in Orlando and I started watching the videos with an eye toward launching a podcast. Last week there was a Podfest Global Summit and I watched as many of those as I could. I’ve never heard the word niche spoken so many times in a short time.

But what is screenwriting if it’s not a niche market? In the next week or so I’ll try to pass on what I’ve learned about podcasting and why I think it’s a great avenue for screenwriter to explore. But before we get to narrative and non-narrative podcasting, and how you can launch your own podcast this month, I want to start with the basic concept of starting ugly.

“What is the foundational principle of Starting Ugly? Basically, you need to do some research and planning but then you need to put your ass on the line and take action! That’s your Start Ugly moment.

You can’t wait for perfection. Or to be perfectly organized. You can’t wait for approval. You have to be thoughtful in creating a plan, but more than anything, you must BEGIN.

—Chris Krimitsos
Start Ugly

That reminds me of the story where Bob Seger told Glenn Frey (before he was with the Eagles) that if he wanted to break out from Detroit he needed to write his own songs. Frey said, “Well, what if they’re bad?” Seger said they would be bad, but to stick with it and that’s how you get to be good.

That’s why Scott Beck and Bryan Woods wrote around 30 screenplays before they hit it big with A Quiet Place. It’s why before he became a hit TV writer back in the day, Stephen J. Cannell said that because he was unable to land any film or Tv industry work he went to work for his dad. Then he wrote after work.

“I’d come home every night and write for five hours—I had a snack and wrote from 5:30 to 10:30 and then had dinner. I did that for five years and couldn’t get an agent. I was basically doing spec (sample) scripts for television, but no one would read the stuff. I’d send ’em out and they’d come back—some unopened, some with nasty notes like ‘There’s nothing here.’
—Emmy winning writer/ producer Stephen J. Cannell
GQ, “Exit Interview: A Final Chat with ‘A-Team’ Creator Stephen J. Cannell”

It’s okay to start ugly. And one good thing to come out of this pandemic is we’ve accepted all kinds of bad audio and video production. So the crazy thing is if, you start ugly now, no one is really going to know the difference. And as the pandemic draws to a close (some time) you’ll have improved greatly just by learning as you go.

Now if podcasting is still way off your radar let me point you to the The Messengers: A Podcast Documentary.

P.S. In case you missed my first podcast interview, here it is with Alex Ferrari on Bulletproof Screenwriting. Probably the jump start I needed.

Scott W. Smith is the author of Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles

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“The hilltop is lined with corn. Golden and brown. Shimmering in the morning heat.”
The opening like of an early draft of A Quiet Place by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods

I started this blog Screenwriting from Iowa …and Other Unlikely Places in January 2008 soon after seeing Juno and could have ended it in 2018 after The Quiet Place. The screenwriter of Juno screenwriter (Diablo Cody), and the original screenwriters of A Quiet Place (Scott Beck and Bryan Woods) all graduated from the University of Iowa. Cody wrote Juno in Minnesota and the original concept for A Quiet Place began in Iowa. Both were massive hits. They make nice bookends and my point that the creative outliers can make an impact and become insiders.

(Heck, outlier Tyler Perry and his studio have more than a few Hollywood moving trucks heading to Atlanta. If this pandemic lasts for years, Perry is going to be making an offer on the Hollywood sign.)

Their cinematic touchstones include the silent films of Chaplin, the silent-like movies of Jacques Tati. their “gold standard” write/director M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Signs, Unbreakable, The Village), Alfred Hitchcock, Alien, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Night of the Living Dead, Attack the Block, and Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone. The later shaping the opening of their first draft of A Quiet Place. Here’s a couple quotes pulled from the excellent podcast Script Apart hosted by Al Horner.

Scott Beck: “I think it’s our love of The Twilight Zone series where they do such a good job of throwing you into an environment that you slowly realize in some of these episodes that something is slightly off-kilter. To a degree that by the end of the episode you’re at such a different place than when you started. I think for us it was interesting for us that in the first draft of A Quiet Place where it felt like our own backyard here in Iowa, where you’re just going about your daily chores on a farm, and then all of the sudden five pages in you realize that you’re not in Kansas anymore, you’re not in Iowa any more. There’s something terrifying out there that’s going to kill you if you make a sound. And all of the sudden changing the rules right on page five and then telling the audience like you’re in for a hell of a ride for the next 90 minutes of your time.”

And because I have been accused of overstating how brutally competitive the film business is, here is Woods from the same podcast unpacking the path to getting A Quiet Place made. (One in which they are also grateful to John Krasinski for bringing his talent and sensibilities to the script and pulling of as actor and director.)

Bryan Woods: “Scott and I have been writing scripts ever since we met each other as 12-year-olds. In other words we’d written 30 scripts that never got made—throughout high school, college and into adulthood. And we were trying to crack the code and one of the things you start to realize as you forge a professional career in the film industry is that everybody’s job in film—executives, studio, producers—their job is basically to not make movies. Their job is to read scripts and go ‘Well, we’re not going to make this film because of A, B,C, D, E, F. G.’ So we started about a decade ago to think let’s start writing movies that are scalable. Let’s start writing movies that could be done for a lower budget, or a medium budget, or a bigger budget, and write scripts that are effective at all those levels. That check all of those boxes so that we remove one of the barriers to getting a movie made which is budget, or logistic, or production. A Quiet Place is a perfect example of that. We always talked about that worst case scenerio this is a movie we could go back to Iowa and we could make it for half a million dollars. Use our friends farm that we know out in the country. Assemble a small cast—it could be done. Nothing was going to stop us for making this movie.”

I would actually like to see that low budget version of A Quiet Place. Maybe Paramount can give Beck and Woods half a million to pull that off. Shoot it in three weeks and call it A Quiet Place: Pandemic Version. That could start a whole new trend. They’ve already finished shooting one film during the pandemic, 65. It’s produced by Sam Raimi and stars Ariana GreenblattAdam Driver, and Chloe Coleman.

P.S. Juno hit theaters in 2007—only seven years after Diablo Cody graduated from the Iowa. That was the same year that Scott Beck and Bryan Woods had a short film in the Cedar Rapids Film Festival in Iowa titled The Bride Wore Blood. And I actually had a film called Elephant Dreams at that festival. And things were percolating to start this blog. Things were happing in the Midwest in 2007. My blog eventually resulted in the book Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles (which Beck and Woods wrote the introduction to). And now in 2021, things are percolating again. This spring I plan to launch a screenwriting podcast and hope you’ll come along for the journey. I’ll spend a week or so starting tomorrow talking about what I learned at the recent virtual Podfest. I do believe that if Cody was in college today, or Beck in Woods in high school today, that there’s a good chance they’d be cranking out narrative podcasts.

Scott W. Smith is the author of Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles

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