“Podcasting from the horrored halls of academia!” I’m a bit of a horror junkie, so I’m very much into a podcast called “Faculty of Horror,” a show by two Toronto-based academic writers/film critics named Andrea Subisatti and Alexandra West. With each episode, these two tackle one of two horror films with the goal of sharing their thoughts, interpretations, and cultural analysis of the lasting effects of horror films. When they take on two, they’re usually related within a theme. Andrea and Alex say a few things about the films, what prompted them to choose those that week, and follow up with the audio of the trailer for one or both before they launch into their analysis. They agree with each other, they disagree with each other, they share their memories associated with the films, they throw around some trivia and clips from interviews with participants in the filmmaking process, and they bring academic work, sociology, and theory into conversation with their interpretations. Throughout, they also punctuate the episode with audio clips (from the film and the 2013 remake for the sake of comparison) which help make their point. I also really appreciate the tone — it’s scholarly, but conversational and occasionally anecdotal. Analyzing horror film is the foundation of both hosts’ educations in graduate school, but they’re always clear and engaging (even when Alex is addressing the “Jungian Theory of the Underworld”).
I’ve been keeping this show in mind for its structure and tone as I approach my own podcasting project. It’s a project based on scholarship and research that also needs to avoid the pitfall of becoming too scholarly. Andrea and Alex are clearly scholars, but they manage to remain clear, concise, and conversational even when they are explaining theoretical ideas that inform their analyses. It helps that they have one another to play off of, but I could imagine either one of them maintaining the same atmosphere if they were doing this solo.
I enjoyed writing the first draft of the script more than I thought I would. It was refreshing to be able to write in a conversational style that I’m not really used to utilizing for a history class. Jumping to the recording of the script is neat because you get to hear yourself say the words and get a sense of not only what you’re saying but how you’re saying it. You have to be open to the idea of moving sentences and words around, reordering, rerecording, and tweaking, tweaking, tweaking. My next step is to go in and demarcate the periods of audio that I’ll need to pull from my interview with Rick Perlstein — I also have a technical glitch to work around (some occasional perplexing beeps that interject throughout the conversation, but I should be able to remove or skirt around) and some decisions to make about where to insert his comments on the political climate of the 1960s.
Finally, the biggest challenge to writing the script was (well, is) actually figuring out the best way to construct a narrative in a manner that really gets at the interesting and personal points without dragging along or seeming unbalanced. We have to tell a story, but we also need to provide historical context and data — balancing these and making them really work together in service of the narrative can be much more tricky than I thought. It’s also important to remember the possibilities of media that aren’t just audio clips to enrich the narrative. This is kind of like the way Andrea and Alex use movie trailers to get the ball rolling on their show. Just because you can’t see what’s happening in a video clip, it doesn’t mean that the audio won’t be effective for evoking a particular mood or tone. I use a Mad Men and a Simpsons clip from YouTube in my introduction, and later on, I even use a political cartoon to illustrate my point. My audience can’t see it, but I can still describe it in a compelling and evocative way.
Now that I have the interviews, clips, and direction that I need, I really look forward to pulling everything together and seeing what a first-time podcaster is capable of!