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Podcast Survivor: ‘Earbuds’ – Documenting the connection between fans and podcasters

Graham Elwood

Graham Elwood

One of the recurring topics of discussion around podcasts is the fact that it seems like a relatively small number of people actually listen to them, especially compared to the audience for videos of cats playing the theremin. Comedian and podcaster Graham Elwood told me, “I feel like podcasting (now) is kind of like Rock N Roll in the fifties.”

He explained that people thought “It’s just teenybopper music, it’s not going to last. But they had no idea where it was going.”

That’s one big reason why Elwood, along with podcasting partner Chris Mancini, is planning to produce “Ear Buds: The Podcasting Documentary”. Both men host and produce the Comedy Film Nerds podcast and are part of the team behind the Los Angeles Podcast Festival. They launched a Kickstarter to raise $135,000 by Feburary 24 in order to fund the film.

Why Document Podcasting?

“Something like 80% of the population doesn’t even know what a podcast is,” Elwood said. “I hope that this documentary can open doors, so that people see it and go, ‘Wow, this is something I want to be part of.’”

Chris Mancini

Chris Mancini

To give some perspective on their approach, Mancini explained that the point of the Pod Fest is to make it more like a Comic-Con, “a venue for fans and podcasters to get together,” rather than just a conference for podcasters. “The focus is always on the connection between the fans and the podcaster.” That same spirit is behind the documentary.

“We had a film crew go around this past festival and get interviews with podcasters and the fans,” Elwood said. “Podcasters like Aisha Tyler and Jimmy Pardo were talking seriously about what podcasting has done for them personally, professionally and the connection they have with the fans.”

“It’s an emotional thing, that connection,” Mancini added, “for the fans and the podcaster. That’s unique to podcasting.”

He said they received emails from fans in Japan after the 2011 earthquake an tsunami. “One guy had to walk all the way home, and he had no idea if his family was OK. So on his walk home he just listened to our podcast over and over, and he said it helped him get through it.”

“Podcasts are delivered and consumed in a very unique manner,” Elwood observed. “It is usually an individual listening on their own while running, commuting or at work.”

“It’s a very personal form of consumption,” Mancini added.

The Plan

Plenty of indie documentaries focus on famous and semi-famous faces talking to the camera. “That would tell only half the story, and that’s not really what we want to do,” Mancini said. “The other half is the fan. We’re actually going to travel across the country and meet and talk to the fans, to see that connection up close.”

“I want to show Marc Maron doing his podcast in his garage,” Elwood said, “then I want to see the fan in the middle of nowhere listening to it. Maybe in his tractor, or at home or work. Show how podcasting affects his life, that’s what we really want to do.”

That’s why they’re budgeting for quite a bit of travel, along with investing in the production itself.

When I asked them why they needed a full $135,000, Elwood immediately chimed in, "We want it to be finished.

“You can make a film for $10,000 but you’ll be sitting on your couch eating saltines when you have no more money and no more favors to call in, and it’s going to take 5 years to get the movie made if it ever does get made.”

“To make a half-assed movie doesn’t do the fans any good,” Mancini said, “and it doesn’t do us any good.”

He said that filmmakers who fail to budget enough “can’t get it done the way they want to get it done. So they’re disappointed, the fans are disappointed, and you’re waiting forever for something that’s mediocre.”

So, for their documentary, “there will be a professional camera crew, editor and sound designer. They’re all coming in at very reduced rates for us because of our connections. But ultimately we want to make professional, well put-together movie.”

The Pitch

Wrapping up, I asked them why a podcast fan or producer should help kickstart the film.

“Because we’re buying a yacht,” Mancini blurted out.

“We’re going to fight pirates,” Elwood followed up.

But seriously, Elwood continued, “We’re going to help support and propel the medium of podcasting. That’s why we do the festival, because we are fans of it. We want more people to be involved.”

“Our goal is also to transcend just podcasting,” Mancini added. He compared the approach to the documentary “Spinning Plates.” "It was about restaurants, but that was just on the surface. What it’s really about is how we’re all connected with food.

“We want someone who has never heard about a podcast before to just enjoy (the film) for the human connection that we’re going to show between the podcaster and the fan.”

For more, watch the “Earbuds” trailer below, and visit the Kickstarter page.

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