How I Podcast: In conversation with Michael Tucker
We’re talking with podcasters from all walks of life about their creative process, best practices, and why audio is one of the coolest ways to tell a story.
If you’re interested in film, storytelling, or improving your writing, Beyond the Screenplay, a podcast hosted by filmmaker Michael Tucker is required listening. Beyond the Screenplay was born out of Michael’s popular YouTube Channel (Lessons from the Screenplay) and has evolved into a weekly, hour-long show that analyzes film techniques with a team of movie experts (Tricia Aurand, Brian Bitner, Alex Calleros, and Vince Major). The podcast takes a deep dive into all kinds of movies — from classics like Star Wars, to Disney favorites like Inside Out, to recent hits like Parasite — and unpacks nuanced details of dialogue, while offering a firsthand look into the film business.
Michael and his team break down the craft of screenwriting so that audiences can better understand why a given scene succeeds at making us laugh, cry, and empathize with characters on the silver screen. Even though the podcast discusses a visual medium, Beyond the Screenplay translates perfectly into audio. Michael and his team keep their conversation within the context of the script, creating pictures with their words and enlivening scenes of dialogue so that listeners are able to relive the movies in their mind. Their show is a lesson that any topic can make a great podcast, and it demonstrates how embracing the medium of audio can open up new possibilities for creativity.
Beyond the Screenplay follows a sustainable format that allows each episode to remain relevant long after it’s been published. Michael and his co-hosts discuss one film every week. This straightforward format has also allowed for variety, like episodes comparing two movies, or recaps of their favorite films from a particular decade. Since the show is co-hosted by five film buffs and features guest spots from other experts in the industry, their conversation draws from an enormous well of knowledge and insight. As YouTube creators, Michael and his team are able to make their existing content go even further with podcasting (reaching and engaging even more film fans with the conversations they’re already having). And because of the endless number of movies in the world, they have no shortage of future episodes.
We talked with Michael and his team about their podcasting process and what they’ve learned along the way.
What motivated you to start a podcast?
It happened pretty organically. Most of the LFTS team works remotely — to be clear, we all live in LA, but LA traffic means traveling a few miles can become an hour drive, so we collaborate online. The first time we all hung out in person, we ended up chatting about movies for several hours. We’re all knowledgeable about film and filmmaking, but we also all have different backgrounds and bring unique perspectives to film analysis. So as that conversation was winding out, we found ourselves pleasantly surprised by how fun and surprisingly in-depth it was. At that point the next step seemed pretty obvious: “Why not turn this into a podcast so we can do this on a regular basis?”
What’s your show’s format and how did you decide on it?
Once we decided that we were going to do a podcast, we had a lot of conversations about what the right format would be. We would ask ourselves as many questions as possible, explore all the options, and then discuss what felt right. How structured should our conversations be? How many movies do we analyze in an episode? Do we want any recurring segments? How could we get guests involved?
We then did a couple pilot episodes that we shared with the Lessons from the Screenplay Patreon supporters. They gave us some feedback on what was working and what wasn’t, which helped a lot.
After each recording, we have a “notes session” to look for ways to improve. Each of us (the four regulars and our producer) shares two things we think worked and one thing that we need to improve upon. This helps us refine the format and develop our rhythm as a group.
What’s your recording setup?
We record in my living room around my circular dining table. We use four Samson Q2U microphones going into a Zoom H6 recorder.
How do you promote your podcast?
We promote Beyond the Screenplay on the usual social media places — Twitter, Instagram, Facebook. Luckily we have an established audience on YouTube that we can connect with. But one of the challenges with podcasts is that (unlike YouTube) there is no organic discovery algorithm, it’s almost entirely word of mouth. Apple Podcasts has lists ranking podcast popularity, but no one looks at that except people with podcasts. This is one of the reasons we’ve been so happy that we decided to develop our podcast with Anchor, who provides a lot of support and helps give our show exposure.
What’s your favorite Anchor tool to use?
Anchor’s ability to automatically push your podcast to all the different platforms (Spotify, Apple, Google, etc) is truly a game changer. This is helpful not just when you’re releasing a new episode, but also when you need to update something in the description or tweak an audio file. It’s so nice to not have to worry about all the technical stuff and just focus on creating good content.
What’s one thing you wish you knew about podcasting before you started?
Before we went live with the podcast I was pretty nervous about how it would be received. With our format of hour-long conversations, you’re putting your personality out there a lot more than when you’re scripting ten minutes videos on screenwriting techniques. But I couldn’t be more pleased with the result. We’ve received a lot of positive feedback, and I feel like we have an even closer relationship with our audience — whom I continue to believe are the best audience anyone could ask for. I wish we had started sooner!
What’s your best podcasting advice?
My advice is the same advice I give to anyone working on a creative project: remember to respect your audience.
We all want to express ourselves in the work we create, but I believe that at the end of the day the audience has to want to receive what you’re giving. They’re the ones donating their time to you, so make sure it’s a worthwhile experience not just for you, but for them as well. For example, at the end of any given episode of our podcast, each of us has a few things we wanted to discuss but didn’t. Maybe it would have derailed the conversation, or maybe we wanted to make sure the others had enough time to express their ideas, but whatever the reason we were able to let go of our ego to create a more pleasant listening experience for the audience. So I think it’s good to keep that balance in mind — create something you’re passionate about, but do so in a way that respects your audience.
What’s your favorite thing about your podcast?
The relationships we’ve built, both with each other as a team and with our audience. When crafting a show like this, you eventually form a connection with each other that allows you to communicate nonverbally. You come to know the people sitting at the mics around you in a unique way. It’s fun, but also challenging, and in the end I think it has made us a better team overall. And then when we’re out somewhere and run into someone that listens to the show, immediately there’s another unique connection made. There’s nothing quite like it and we’re all so glad we have this podcast in our lives.
How do you podcast? Let us know on Twitter and Instagram. If you’re looking for more tips, check out the previous edition of How I Podcast, and if you want to start your own, try making something awesome with Anchor.