Speaker 0 00:00:01 Creative work can be very personal at times, but I think Alicia Silverstone said at best when she simply stated, Creative collaboration is awesome. Of course, in many cases, the more people you add to a project, the more complicated it can become, but it's often worth it.
Speaker 1 00:00:19 There's so much to be gained from collaboration. There's so much to learn from. There's so much that you see solutions that others could find that you would never think of. Like the times that I've written myself into a corner in a scene and then had my co-creators be like, No, it's okay. Here's an exit, which wanted to be like better.
Speaker 0 00:00:40 Next, you'll hear how a creator and showrunner uses collaboration to make remarkable audio fiction and how they leverage crowdfunding to make it all work. My name is Stuart, and this is Audience, a Casto original series for podcasters in the pursuit of producing better shows and uncovering the business that powers audio creators. So at Casto, we're all about creating better shows like the one you're listening to right now. Hopefully you think it's pretty good. In addition to our suite of tools designed to make your podcasting process better and easier, we also help others produce their podcast. That's right. You can work with a team of talented professionals to create a show. If you're interested, email [email protected]
or click on the link in the show notes.
Speaker 1 00:01:34 I've always been the one in the group project to do everything. I was also the only English education major in my cohort who didn't get excited for creative writing classes when I had to take them. It wasn't that my creative writing classmates would give feedback that was hard to stomach. It was that their feedback sucked. There were never enough specifics or if there were specifics, it was always about their personal taste versus why something does or doesn't work. I had this idea in my head that I worked best alone no matter what kind of project I was working on. The problem was that I actually don't,
Speaker 0 00:02:14 That's a monologue from Will Williams and their audio documentary Scoring Magic. It's about the making of a fictional podcast called Valence. It's pretty layered and a little bit complicated, but it all falls under the same umbrella of Hug House Productions. A collective that focuses on spotlighting stories by and about marginalized groups Will is the CEO of Hug House Productions and the showrunner surveillance. They also head up communications and community at Apollo podcast and app dedicated to audio fiction, and they've also written about and covered fiction podcasts at Discover Pods. Valence is very personal to Will. It was born partially from unique experiences in Flagstaff, Arizona, which will describes vividly later on, as well as some, some pretty scary encounters like online stalking. But projects that are personal to creators can also be very collaborative.
Speaker 1 00:03:10 Valence is the story of a person trying to overcome that internal negative, uh, self-talk that they have learned from, from abuse and see it as not something that just applies to them and is being done to them, but as being done to everyone like them in the world and trying to figure out how we move towards a world where people don't have to experience that. How to contribute on both an individual level and a communal level to get away from these systems that tell anybody that by nature of who they are, something is wrong with them.
Speaker 0 00:03:57 Would you say this is a sci-fi on sub-level
Speaker 1 00:04:00 A bit? Um, I think arguably sci-fi I think I would call it urban fantasy. The lines really blur there.
Speaker 0 00:04:05 Okay. I think there's this tendency sometimes with audio dramas that just, again, because it's this infinite world now, the the possibilities become endless to completely go off the rails. They just kind of make this really outta let field big, crazy production and that, and that's cool. I'm not knocking that like, that, that sort of escapism is fun, whether it's, you know, film, television, audio or, or whatever. But this, this feels pretty rooted to reality and, and I think sometimes the tendency with dystopian stories is to kind of make it almost of this different world. It's very detached from us. This doesn't feel that way. I mean, you know, we're talking, you know, one of the, the central villains in this, in your series is a tech moment. Yes, Yes. Right. Well, I mean that's, I'm not gonna <laugh> We won't, we won't, we won't get into naming names, but sometimes that feels, that feels a little, uh, feels a little bit germane right now. Oh,
Speaker 1 00:04:58 Certainly. Yeah. I, I don't really have the escapism gene. I don't know what it is. Uh, it's never really something that I've connected with. I love genre fiction, but I love when the parts of that genre fiction are directly related to the message that the story is telling. In Prep Vallance, I became a little obsessive about digital privacy. I unfortunately have had a lot of struggles with digital privacy. I am somebody who has been stalked before. I am also like a fem on the internet. So like that come and like a trans fem on the, Well, I'm a trans person who is fem on the internet, and that comes with a lot of danger. So I, I got a little obsessive about digital privacy. I was listening to Note to Self, uh, which is a, a fantastic podcast that talked on, uh, digital privacy quite a lot.
Speaker 1 00:05:52 Um, I was reading lots of reports about things like Facebook content moderators and the lives that they have to live. I took a course on self doxing where you literally dox yourself to see where the holes in privacy are. And, uh, I'm also somebody who is very online and likes being myself online and likes having a personality online. Um, so having to grapple with all of these things really informed valence for me, Valence has this story about oppression and abuse and overcoming that. But I wanted to look at it from a, a lens that I don't think is talked about very often, which does lead to this digital privacy and does lead to this new era of late capitalism that I don't think we could have predicted in the past with the amount of technology and the importance technology has on our lives right now. I'm a very pro technology person. Um, I, I love being on social media, but there's no doubt that a lot of these places have been built very specifically in ways that incentivize profit over like basic humanity. Well,
Speaker 0 00:07:10 First of all, I'm, I'm sorry you had all of that Oh yeah. To deal with. That's, that's really unfair and unpleasant. Thank you. And it's not something I ever, you know, am really forced, like to think about or, or reckon with. And that's why I'm, I'm so glad that, you know, media like this exists. Cuz then you, you, you see it maybe in a more human way than just reading about it. And, and, and I guess that sort of brings us to Hug House Productions. Yeah. Um, you describe it as a podcast production collective that focuses on spotlighting stories about marginalized groups. Obviously Valence is, is kind of front and center, but how did Hug House Productions come about?
Speaker 1 00:07:41 Oh wow. So Hug House Productions has, uh, quite a story. Back when I started back in like, I wanna say 2016, when I was getting into writing about podcasts in a real way. I was on a Discord server for a podcast I really liked, and it was, uh, like an actual play tabletop podcast. And I found a bunch of people there. I just really adored. And I was talking about the college town that I had lived in for six years that I had just moved away from back down to Phoenix. And this college town, Flagstaff, Arizona. It is the weirdest place in the world. It is so weird. It is beautiful. Um, it is a coniferous forest, so it's gorgeous. Uh, there are tunnels underground that run all around campus and downtown there is, uh, speakeasy. Uh, instead of having pigeons, they have large, large, large ravens.
Speaker 1 00:08:36 There's more graveyards on campus than any other campus in the United States. It is a bizarre place. Bizarre. Uh, so there is a tabletop role playing system called Monster of the Week. It was made, uh, very popular by the Adventure Zone, uh, which is another actual play podcast, very popular. And as I kept talking about this place that I lived, uh, I kept saying like, this would be the perfect setting for this monster of the Week game. It's like sort of a, a Buffy the Vampire Slayer style game. And a few people convinced me to run it. So I started running it and instead of building new characters, I took characters from these novels that I had written, uh, back when I lived in Flagstaff. And those characters were people like Liam and Nico and Flynn and Sarah, our main cast, and Morgan Riley. I just took them and put them in the universe.
Speaker 1 00:09:32 I didn't feel like building new characters. And I used them and some of my players really fell in love. And then they asked me about the novels, and then they read the novels. And then we had made this story together through this tabletop role playing game because it really is collaborative storytelling. It's collaborative writing. You just add in the stochasticity of some dice. And I had a really creatively bonded with, uh, lots of them, but very specifically Anne Baird and Katie Yemens. We became very, very, very close friends very quickly. And as I started getting more into audio and I started writing more, I realized two things. One, I don't feel like I really understood how intensive making an audio drama or a fiction podcast was without having made one. And because of that, I felt like my journalism was a little bit unfair. Uh, I felt like I didn't really give the creators the justice they deserved.
Speaker 1 00:10:29 I didn't understand how hard it is to put something like this together. And the second thing was I wasn't done with Liam's story. I just wasn't done. Uh, the novels didn't go anywhere. And honestly, in retrospect, thank God they didn't. So I thought, Well, let's, let's do it. Let's, let's turn this into audio. And I knew at that point, um, I couldn't make this alone, Uh, first off, uh, that there's so is so much work. It's so much work. And second off, uh, I needed accountability buddies and I needed people who would tell me like, you know, either this is good or like, this isn't working. I, I needed those, I needed the collaboration. I needed the other voices. So I reached out to Anne and Katie and they were game, they jumped right on board and we started working on it very shortly after. And now we're here in our final season.
Speaker 0 00:11:23 You specifically chosen two styles of audio that are by every account, some of the hardest to make <laugh> Valence and your other audio dramas. And I'll, I come from the world of May, I may click my own audio documentaries, like on the side. Right. Great. They're hard too. I would probably say audio dramas a little bit harder. Just more moving parts. Yeah. But audio documentaries and narrative nonfiction, it's not a walk in the park either. Scoring magic is something you've, you're doing through Hug House Productions. And I think it's great because I love the whole like, behind the scenes look at, at a piece of work, it reminds me almost of like DVD commentary or something
Speaker 1 00:11:58 Like that. Yeah,
Speaker 0 00:11:58 Yeah. <laugh>, why did you choose the two, I think objectively most difficult styles of a, of audio to do?
Speaker 1 00:12:06 Yeah, that's a great question. I love a challenge. I think that's another gene I don't have. I really don't have like the easy way out Gene. If I'm gonna do something, I'm gonna like commit, commit to it. I'm gonna work really hard to make something that I'm really proud of. I would way rather make fewer projects that require way, way, way more energy than make more projects that require less. Um, valence is a really important story for me. Um, it's again, very personal. It's a story that I've been working on to some degree for like 10 years. So there was no way I was going to put that out without kind of going to the maximum capacity of what we had to do to pull it off. Right. And I also didn't wanna make something that I wasn't extremely passionate about. So valence was what I was already passionate about.
Speaker 1 00:13:02 It was what I was gonna make. So that's how it panned out. I think a, a good practice for people who think that most podcasting is very simple, very easy, you know, it can just be done very quickly. When it comes to audio drama, one of the ways that I like to think about it is go watch like your favorite movie or an episode of your favorite TV show and close your eyes. Every single piece of everything you hear has been touched by somebody making audio. So whether it's the dialogue that's been touched by somebody making audio, everything that isn't the dialogue is put in, in post footsteps. Put in in post a little rustle of paper, put in in post, um, somebody drinking a cup of coffee, put in in post. Um, another great way to think about this is nature documentaries not a thing you hear in Nature. Documentary is as real. That little like Arctic Fox walking on the snow, that is done by some guy in a fully studio like putting a thing on sand. They're not real. And once you start realizing the extent of audio work that goes into visual media, I think that that gives you an idea of just how much goes into audio alone. It really is, at the end of the day, like making a TV show or a film just without the visuals.
Speaker 0 00:14:23 Yeah. I mean, you watch the credits of a movie. Yeah. And it's, it's so, it's so many people. It's, you know, the credits take five minutes. It always gives me such, such respect for the process. How many people in a show like Valence, uh, how many people are involved?
Speaker 1 00:14:38 Not enough, Uh, <laugh>, so we've got, we've got our full cast. Um, we have a, a main cast of like five, six characters. Then we'll have about, I think 10 to 15 other characters that we throw in. And then we have writing by myself in Katie Yemens, um, Katie and Ann Direct. Ann does all of our production management. So getting people's scripts, getting audio collected, um, making sure people are getting paid, doing your budget, things like that, which already should be like 17 different jobs, but it's just being handled by one person. And then I do all of the, um, editing and sound design. So basically our team is three crew, 10 to 20 cast, which ideally we would have like 10 crew <laugh>, like 10 to 20 people in the cast. But that's how indie production goes. You know, we are totally independently funded via crowd funding or our Patreon or now monetization on Apollo. Otherwise we don't get funding from any network. We don't get funding from any investors. So, and we are like barely able to pay ourselves at the end of the day. It's very much a labor of love.
Speaker 0 00:15:57 Yeah, I will, I'll, I'll ask you more about your, your funding, but I'm just the, the process here. Yeah. I'm trying to wrap my mind around it. <laugh>, uh, are y'all connecting like remotely? Yes.
Speaker 1 00:16:10 Yeah. So, uh, I'm right now in Phoenix, uh, Anne and Katie are both on the east coast. We have a Discord server that we like live in <laugh>. Um, we have channels that our cast can access. Then we have channels that are just for us also. Notably, uh, we have one more imper important crew member that I didn't bring up. Actually, two more. Um, we have Atlanta Fernandez Collins, who we brought on later in the game who is a cultural consultant. So, uh, for instance, if we have like, uh, any disputes with each other or a cast member or even a fan, um, we run those through Ellie and we compensate them as such, as sort of a third party moderator. Um, we also have a cast consultant who is Jean Carlo Herrera. Um, he's one of our cast members and we have him there so that if any of our cast members have any issues with how things are being done, any complaints, any criticisms or even just like feedback they wanna give to us, but they don't wanna come to us directly because of that power differential.
Speaker 1 00:17:14 Um, they can go through Jean Carlo and then he anonymizes that and then brings it to us. Um, we also pay him, uh, for that. We pay him both a monthly stipend and, um, an additional amount when anything comes through him. So going back to production, we, we do everything remotely when it comes to recording in the first season. We try to get as many recordings via Zoom call as we could where we'd have several actors together and a director running through scenes. But our actors are really busy and we respect that. So for season three, we did everything asynchronously and remotely so our actors could take their, uh, scripts on their own time and then get that audio back to us. So on top of that, we have biweekly zoom meetings between just me, Ann, and Katie to make sure that everything is being done to make sure that all of our to-dos are being cleared out and that production is moving smoothly.
Speaker 0 00:18:09 You've mentioned that valence is very important to you and these characters that are on the show are characters that have lived inside of your mind now for, for some time. There's a tendency with projects like this sometimes for a person just to be like, No, this, this is, this is my story. I created these characters. I've written this story arc. Everyone else, like you're just here to kind of, to execute. You know, we've all worked probably with people like that. How, first of all, maybe without getting too specific, cuz I don't want you to have to spoil anything, but would you say maybe the story has changed over time, especially as the production has kind of, I always call it the character of the show. Right. And I don't mean specific character, I mean, the show itself is a character. Yeah. And I think even if you have something, even if it's narrative nonfiction, there's a character of the show and how you create it will change as you kind of get to understand that character. So I guess that was a longwinded way of asking how have things changed for the show and over time and how have your collaborators maybe made it better?
Speaker 1 00:19:17 Absolutely. Uh, a would not be even close to as good as it is today without my collaboration from my co-creators and my actors. Um, there are like, at this point, several iterations of Liam that live in my head. You know, there's, uh, Liam from the novels. There's Liam from the time I played him in a Dungeons and Dragons campaign. There's Liam from the time I played him in the monster of the Wheat campaign. There's the, uh, Liam who had a Tumblr account and, you know, has a very different aesthetic and, uh, style of joke. So for me, the valence version of Liam was just, he didn't override the other versions of Liam. So I could still be precious, uh, with some of those iterations that live in my head. But I wanted this Liam to, I wanted this Liam to grow in ways that I don't think I knew were possible by merit of living inside of my own head.
Speaker 1 00:20:18 I needed the Liam in my head who is a little bit static, um, to be challenged by my co-creators and by other characters. Um, I needed him to be the person that he needed to be, that he needed to become. But because I have such a, uh, I guess temporally locked version of Liam in my head, it was really hard to get from point A to point B. You know, I knew how Liam was and I knew where I wanted him to be, but getting him through that process, um, the Liam in my head like didn't want it. Like he didn't wanna change. So I needed outside perspective there other ways, I mean, so many of the, the other characters have changed so radically from what they were on the page. Um, thinking for instance of, um, Grace Chen, who, uh, in the novels existed for like half of the first novel.
Speaker 1 00:21:20 And as we were writing the show, uh, we were going to basically make Grace quit working with the other characters in the sort of organization they've put together. She was going to become so fed up with this very outside of the system, disrespect for the system method of work that she was going to leave. But because Katie Chin and Katie Chin is so funny, she is so spectacular. Uh, and we just loved working with her so much that we were like, we can't <laugh> we can't get rid of her. And now she is, uh, lasted through all the way through season three. I think another huge change for character is Flynn, who is the protagonist best friend. Uh, I think it would've been very easy to allow him to always be the main characters best friend and not grow past that. But when we started getting the audio back from Caleb Del Rio, who is just again, an astounding actor and incredible improviser as well, I think most of his best lines have not come from the writers.
Speaker 1 00:22:29 They've come from Caleb. He gave such tenderness and such nuance and such subtlety to this character that it was so clear that both Flynn and Caleb deserved more to chew on. Uh, season three, one of my favorite things about it is that I finally gave Caleb, Caleb, uh, a monologue to work with and we really emphasized his character arc. And he goes from being, you know, the main character's best friend to being really rooted in his story and becoming a protagonist of his own account. None of any of this would have happened without the rest of my casting crew. Could I have written a version of Vallance that was fine and serviceable and got the point across? Absolutely. Would I have been able to have this nuance, this real appreciation and love of all of these characters in new and different ways and have them challenged in ways that they needed to be challenged without them? Absolutely not.
Speaker 0 00:23:34 I read somewhere about Breaking Bad, which a lot of people consider the greatest Oh yeah. TV drama ever written that they were gonna kill off the Jesse Peak instructor <laugh>. It's like sometime in like the second season. Oh, what a suck. And can you, ima Right. Can you imagine, can you, can you imagine the, the rest of that series without
Speaker 1 00:23:51 Em? No, absolutely not.
Speaker 0 00:23:53 Yeah, I think, I think of an experience, something, I'm actually in real time, at least at, at the time of this recording that I'm experiencing for my own series, Obscure Ball, which is a sports storytelling podcast. Every episode's like a little mini audio documentary. I hired a voice actor to read some like newspaper clippings from 1904, uh, to kind of add something to the experience. And this is a person I've been collaborating with now in various capacities for a decade. And I didn't really give them much direction cuz I find I'm always just really curious what they're gonna send back to me. And all this time that we worked together, it was almost the first time I would've asked for revisions from them because the first time I heard it, I really did not like it. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But I waited, I waited another 24 hours and listened to it.
Speaker 0 00:24:39 And then I, I said, whether they meant to do it or not, they actually just made my job easier because the plan was to break up the, the monologue into six different parts and sprinkle it throughout a, the narrative. Right. And I'd been kind of racking my brain. I'm like, because I'm not naturally a great writer, really like every script I writes, you know, five, five different drafts before I'm happy with it. And I, I mean, I was, I was really killing myself trying to figure out how do I, how do I transition in and out of, of all these different monologues both from writing and editing and, and sound design. And then I realized, well, the way they, the way they read it, it's one take. Yeah. Yep. It's one, it's one thing. And then, and then I just, Okay. So it's just, it's really, it's just a chapter. It's like a, it's like a chapter break, all of which is to say maybe that's a little self, a self-indulgent way of saying, sometimes we think our own ideas are the best, but sometimes, you know, you get that someone who's not like living inside your own head who's not as married to the project as you are and you're like, Oh, okay. Yeah. Actually that outside influence, even if this is like my project is, is really, really helpful.
Speaker 1 00:25:47 Absolutely. It's so necessary. I don't really think that outside of like maybe poems, uh, I don't think that most, most of what we see that is published and produced and is art that we love exists without incredible collaboration. Even, you know, when we talk about like a tour theory and thinking like, Oh, this is the singular vision of this one person. No, it's not. They didn't edit it. They didn't, you know, they, they, uh, didn't do the sound work. They didn't do the cinematography. Almost definitely. Um, I really think that all great art is born from some collaboration.
Speaker 0 00:26:26 There's that Brian Regan joke about watching fishing on TV and there being like 30 names in the credits. Yeah,
Speaker 1 00:26:33 Exactly. Exactly.
Speaker 0 00:26:35 <laugh>. That's just two guys. It's just two guys fishing for an hour, but somehow 30 it needed 30 people to make <laugh> to make that your series scoring magic. It's a behind the scenes look at ve mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So the audio drama we've been talking about, you made a documentary about the making of Valence and that came from, I believe it was episode three of season one called Collaborations. And, and really it was just, it was such a poignant summation of, of everything we've talked about. Right. I mean, I think a project is just, it's, it's taken all the components of all these different talented people and the, the end result is it's, it's so much better than I think like what any one person could do by themselves. Mm-hmm.
Speaker 1 00:27:18 <affirmative>. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. I mean, it's so much labor really, when you think about it. It's like you can't be good at everything. You can't be great at writing and directing and being an actor and the graphic designer and everything else. There's gonna be things that other people are gonna do better than you. Uh, I think that to be a showrunner is to be perfectly fine with limiting your ego, which I think is the opposite of how most people think of being a showrunner. I think most people think of being a showrunner as like, it's my story and it's my project and I know best. Uh, I don't think that that's the case at all. I think that what being a Showrun is about is about, is taking all of the work from everybody else who are better at things than you are. And you know that and you acknowledge it and you respect it and getting them all to fit together and be cohesive.
Speaker 1 00:28:09 I also think, um, I've been working on the sound design and editing for season three Vallance now, and I am hearing the audio of the selected takes from the actors for the first time. And there is such a massive difference between writing a line and then hearing it very, uh, in a very cliched way, but genuine way come to life, uh, from an actor. There are, uh, takes that I've heard that are totally different directions than what I put down on the page that I think are beautiful and incredible. But even just hearing your characters who you already love and already have a connection to, and then hearing an actor who knows them and understands them and loves them and is here to embody them, give that back to you, is like such a good hit of validation. It feels so great. And it's also just very exciting hearing your character has come to life.
Speaker 1 00:29:09 There's so much to begin from collaboration. There's so much to learn from. There's so much that you see solutions that others could find that you would never think of. Like the times that I've written myself into a corner in a scene and then had my creator, my co-creators be like, No, it's okay. Here's an exit. Here's an exit, which one to be like better. And also seeing how they view characters and what they're pulling from those characters and learning from their processes. There's nothing else like it. For me, the point of art is to find a connection, is to find ourselves in others and bringing that into the production stage, stage and the creation stage for me means that we can, we have more voices going into the finished product, which means more ways to find each other in our audience and in the people who will eventually listen.
Speaker 0 00:30:09 You know, you mentioned the business side of things. I mean, your show's completely crowdfunded. You've done Indie Go-Go campaigns. What's that process been like for, for you guys?
Speaker 1 00:30:18 Oh, excruciating. You know,
Speaker 0 00:30:21 Yeah. Not
Speaker 1 00:30:22 Fun. No, it's pretty awful. Crowdfunding campaigns are horrible. They take so much time and energy to even think up. Like first off, you have to budget, you have to have this nice clean budget that you can present that is stressful in itself because you're always wondering like, are people gonna yell at us for paying ourselves? Because that is currently something that is frowned upon specifically in audio drama. Um, people don't like when writers pay themselves. They don't like when showrunners pay themselves. They see it as being very greedy. Uh, which, if you've ever made one of these, you know, it's not greedy, you know that it's labor. Even if we love it, it's labor.
Speaker 0 00:31:02 Wa wanting to make a living isn't greedy, expecting to have material security is not greedy. It's,
Speaker 1 00:31:08 Yeah, it's almost like we have to live and survive to be alive actually <laugh>, right?
Speaker 0 00:31:13 Mm-hmm.
Speaker 1 00:31:13 <affirmative>. So then it becomes, okay, well what incentives can we give at these different levels of contribution that would justify those levels of contribution to people who like are in it for the rewards and not necessarily to support us, you know, as the primary incentive. So anything about that. And then you actually have to make those rewards and then you have to distribute those rewards. So, um, if that's a physical reward, like a shirt or a poster that's a whole separate like sunk cost essentially, and you know, you're shipping things out, that's tons of time and energy. And then once the campaign is live, it is nonstop promotion for that campaign. And to be clear, we are doing that while also making the show. And also we all have day jobs. So this crowdfunding campaign is a, like third additional job for all of us.
Speaker 1 00:32:16 It's, it's time sensitive, you know, it's, it's not gonna be forever. Uh, but for those few months it's, it's exhausting. And we're extremely grateful, obviously for all of the contributions that we got it. It's the reason that we're able to make this show at all. But it is, it's frustrating that a crowdfunding campaign, in order to make the money that we need for the show that we are already creating, we have to take on such massive amounts of additional labor. And it also comes with a lot of emotions. You know, it's really stressful, it's really scary. There is a taboo against asking for money and that is psychologically heavy. It weighs on us. And then there's also, you know, the panic of what if we make $0? What if we only make a hundred dollars? What are we going to do to pick up these pieces? Because we don't take volunteer work, we refuse. So then it becomes, you know, how are we gonna pay our actors? It's gonna be out of pocket. Do you know, should we take on additional jobs to fund this? Like, it's, it's a lot
Speaker 0 00:33:27 <laugh>. And at Hug House, you do offer like services too. You offer consultations mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So I imagine that's one source of income, maybe that offset. Does that offset your cost a little bit?
Speaker 1 00:33:37 A bit. Um, it's not something that, you know, it's another thing where it's, it's a real cost benefit analysis. We like offering consultations and we especially like offering consultations to, uh, new podcasters and especially like young creatives trying to get into the world. We love it. Um, but it does take a lot of work and depending on the client, you know, it can be something that is wonderful for us and very rewarding and does help cushion, you know, the, the need to crowdfund. Um, we've honestly had quite a few clients who try to get much more out of us than what their consultation involves. Um, and because we charge less than most other consultation services out there, they seem to think that we are easier targets to be honest. But when we get clients who really care about audio and have some knowledge of how to make something and really just need somebody to polish script or tell them that they're doing a good job or iron out a concept, it's really wonderful. It's, it's one of my, my favorite things to do. And, uh, one of the ways that I am always thrilled to get more money that we can then send on to our actors.
Speaker 0 00:34:54 Do you find that when you are asking people for money, that it's helpful to actually have something to show like a, like a proof of concept? I mean, I, cuz I, I do that for, for like my own work. I do a little bit of crowd funding. Mm-hmm. And I always at the top of the episode, I'm like, Hey, listen, if, you know, if you listen to this and you like it, I want to keep doing this. This is, this is what we've got in store for you and I can do it even better if, if you can <laugh> if you, if you pony up and, and gimme more money. Uh, yeah. So do, do you find that I, it's a little bit easier like to, to kind of as a better selling point if you say, Hey listen, like here's here's these episodes. If you want more, click that link
Speaker 1 00:35:31 Please. Definitely for our first city, Go-Go. It was funding our first season. Um, so we didn't really have any, any product to put out there. We did make a trailer though, and I think that that helped quite a lot. I think having something, even like a trailer, even like a teaser that shows the, the quality that you hope to put out there and the energy that you hope to put out there, the vibe of your show, what it's going to be like, I think really makes people feel more comfortable supporting something that they don't really have any assurance will ever happen. And also to be frank, uh, I think that one of the things that led to us having a successful first season crowdfunding campaign with no real product yet is one, uh, I already have a bit of sway in the industry. I was already somebody who was pretty well known.
Speaker 1 00:36:21 I had a decent Twitter following two, the three creators are white, which were going to be pushed more. We're going to be seen as credible more easily by especially white people. I identified as a cis person at the time. All of these things are massive contributors to the fact that we had any success. So for those thinking in a different way now about what, uh, what labor comes with a crowdfunding campaign, always be sure to remember this is made exponentially more intense, the more visibly marginalized you are. If we, we've seen, we've seen works by, uh, creators of color and especially black audio drama creators who have made things before that people have loved. And we've seen those crowdfunding campaigns fail.
Speaker 0 00:37:15 Tell me a little bit about Apollo Pods. Uh, I know you're very involved with that and that, I mean, you talk about that that diversity there, the lineup of people involved here is just phenomenal. Morgan Gibbons, ta, manier, nut shot, Kati, Jade Scott, I mean these are, this is, these are a-listers as far as I'm concerned. If we're just talking talent and I know you're, you're somewhat involved with, with Apollo.
Speaker 1 00:37:40 I love my work with Apollo. It really feels like everything my career has led up to. So a lot of my job is actually reaching out to those creators who I have loved for so long and saying, Hey, we're doing something different, uh, over here. Do you wanna come join? So with Apollo, our main concept, we have a a few main concept concepts that we're playing with. The first is, it's an app dedicated specifically to fiction. Um, for those who don't know, before 2016 Apple podcasts, which is how all podcasts like work with their metadata. Um, they didn't even have a tag for fiction. There was not a fiction genre before 2016. Um, and now there is a fiction genre, but the only sub-genres are drama and sci-fi. And there are actually more types of stories in the world than those two things. So for listeners, we have this really robust tag system and it's all made by actual people, whether it's us or the creators themselves, where you can say, you know, this is fiction, comedy, fantasy, improvised in English, and there's queer characters.
Speaker 1 00:38:55 Like you can say all of those things and then listeners can filter by all of those tags. It's very robust. Um, and then the other side is we are moving towards offering a different kind of monetization that we haven't seen before. It's gonna sound super obvious to anybody who doesn't like live directly in the audio space, but most of the ways that audio is monetized right now is through ads and through subscription services like Patreon and like crowdfunding. Patreon often requires like a lot, a lot of energy to be consistent with and for advertising. A lot of audio dramas have extremely dedicated fans, but they don't have enough listens for advertising to like, do anything for them. These are more niche audiences. So at Apollo we're just offering like, Hey, buy this bonus episode for $2, no subscription. You just buy it. Uh, this again seems very obvious I think to most people, but it does not exist in audio. The closest we have is SoundCloud. And for SoundCloud you're usually on a completely different app or on a website. Like you don't listen to most of your podcasts in SoundCloud, for most of us, for Apollo, it's right there. You listen to Vallance and then you see, oh, the the next episode is available early here for $2. You can just buy it there and listen to it. Much easier process.
Speaker 0 00:40:25 And I think that's maybe a little bit more of a wholesome dynamic. Yeah, because my understanding is that the way, like, I mean, I'm talking like really really monetizing something. Yeah. I'm not talking about paying yourself a little bit or, or breaking even. I'm talking about these big production companies that make massive profits. I mean, I, the the not so well kept secret is that it's all about establishing IP to sell the rights to something else. Absolutely. And I've always thought, look, if that happens organically, awesome, Yeah, great. But when it becomes kind of this factory made, we're gonna pump a lot of money into something only for the purposes of, of IP that doesn't feel maybe as like wholesome or or organic as like, you know, what's going on with all these great creators that you're featuring on
Speaker 1 00:41:10 Apollo. Yeah. And I think like also you can tell, like you can tell when they're made, they don't sound good. They may be like captivating kind of fun, but they're not gonna be like, they're not going to change you. You know? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, they're, they're there to be something else. Um, whereas these creators that we're working with, who I'm so proud to work with, they are people that we get to choose really specifically right now in our business and reach out to people who are making something that is in audio that is important, that is doing something important, that has a love for the medium as it is. You know, if our target audience for people on the app is people who are, you know, power users and, uh, obsessive fans of audio drama, we're gonna work with people who are creating with that same love of audio drama.
Speaker 0 00:42:00 You know, you always hear kind of the, it's, it's always a question. It's posed as a question, but it's often meant to be a critique. Cuz you mentioned that, you know, the most, sometimes the most visible creators are usually like Whitehead or Asexuals a lot of times. And, and then, so like when finally once a person of color or a queer person or, or someone who's like non-binary, someone who doesn't fit, you know, the, the heteronormative I guess mold when when their work is finally featured and that's talked about there, there's always that question, Well why does it matter? Why does it matter? So yeah, I don't, I don't wanna be the person that tries to explain it, but I am curious to hear from you why, why, why, why does it matter?
Speaker 1 00:42:37 Absolutely. It matters because we matter. It matters because we matter as people. And that is not something that media that's made by other people ever conveys people who, So I'm gonna speak, uh, on behalf of being a non-binary person here specifically, um, versus any other marginalized identity. Cuz I, I can't speak from their perspectives. That's the thing is if you're not from that identity, if you haven't had those experiences, you can't speak from them. Which means sure, every time we, Oh God, every time we get a trans character anywhere, even if they're played by a trans actor, usually the writing is like, so obviously disconnected from the reality of being a trans person. It, it doesn't ever seem to understand what being trans feels like or the way that we interact with the world or the way that we interact, uh, in our own minds.
Speaker 1 00:43:32 Because when, when you're, when you know who you are fundamentally, and it is the, it is contrary to what everybody else is telling you that does things to your brain, uh, it does some bad things, but it also does some amazing things. So for me, trans identity is so much more than gender. It is a way of looking at established systems of the world that we have never been allowed into and thinking, are these systems real? Who do they benefit? Why, who is left out? Who else is left out other than just trans people? Because usually marginalization, it goes hand in hand. You know, if you, if you see transphobia somewhere, there's racism going on as well. And some of that could be discussed as well. The gender binary itself is largely a racist colonization tool, but that's a different, different conversation. But we can't see ourselves existing until we get to create for lots of us, lots of us, we don't get to have spaces of community in real life.
Speaker 1 00:44:49 I, so I live in Phoenix, finding spaces of queer community here is excruciating, there is very little. Um, and as things like the pandemic happen where we're even more isolated, finding other people like us is so hard. And that turns into finding evidence that we can be happy in the world, that we can succeed, that we can have lives, that we are not doomed to tragedy. Even if there is tragedy in our lives. That isn't our entire story. We are whole people. We don't get that unless we are making it. And that fucks you up, honestly. Like it fucks you up. It's hard, it's hard to exist in a world that tells you that you don't exist. So when people say it doesn't matter, I say to them, I, I am so glad for you that you get to live in a body and a mind and a world where you don't have to think that this matters. That must be very nice.
Speaker 0 00:45:48 I appreciate you, uh, sharing that perspective with me. From your perspective, has that dynamic of, of representation in the media, has it gotten better even if marginally
Speaker 1 00:45:58 No, I don't think it has. Uh, I think that the argument could be made that it has. I think that we could look at things like, I think an example lots of queer people pull on is like, Stephen Universe had a lot of queer characters and it's a show for kids and it's a cartoon. That's very nice. I love it. I think that that's great. But I don't think all in all it's gotten much better to be honest in mainstream media because mainstream media is, uh, a part of the culture that keeps people like me from telling our stories, for me true represent representation and the stories that I actually see myself in only come from independent productions, from people who are like me, from people who are not working in a system that is ultimately driven towards profit. Um, I think that there is virtue and valor in trying to advocate for things like, uh, queer rep in Disney movies or Marvel movies. Absolutely. That is not where I'm gonna spend my energy and it's not something that I'm going to ever trust.
Speaker 0 00:46:57 Kind of, it almost feels like, like a checklist people have to kind of tick off to, to turn a profit or to, to seem maybe more inclusive than they actually are. Absolutely.
Speaker 0 00:47:06 Well, thank I appreciate you sharing that, that perspective with me. Uh, it is very valuable and I'm, I'm really just love the work you're doing. Thank, and I thank you. I'm glad, I'm glad that resource and sense of community is there. And if nothing else, it's just good work. Like, I mean, it's not, I mean obviously all the things you said are, are very important and I can't really identify with it from personal experience, but I do know good audio when I I hear it. Right. And so I really, I'm really appreciative of, of you and, and the work you're doing. Well, if you could stick around, uh, after the credits, we're gonna get a podcasting tip from you. I mean, this is, you're, you're such a season pro. I think people listening will really benefit from that. So if you hang out for a minute, we'll, uh, we'll get that podcasting tip from you.
Speaker 1 00:47:45 Perfect.
Speaker 3 00:47:46 Hey there, listener, it's Matt. Before you go, I want to offer you the aspiring podcaster to special items. Number one, if you haven't started a podcast yet or you want to find a better podcast hosting company, start here at Casto. Use our coupon code audience 20. That's Audience two Zero. When you sign up for a new [email protected]
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Speaker 0 00:48:40 And now it's time for this week's Podcasting Tilt.
Speaker 1 00:48:45 I'm Will Williams, showrunner of vallance and I highly recommend getting Isotope. Rx Isotope is a product that will help clean up your audio. It's the best in the boo. You just click a few buttons and your audio sounds substantially better. And, uh, I think the most important part of this tip is it goes on sale really cheap about twice a year. Keep an eye out, follow them on social media. Pick up Isotope, It will save your life.
Speaker 0 00:49:16 Audience is a Casto original series created entirely by our in-house production team. Our executive producers are Matt Madeiras and Craig Hewitt. Production assistants is provided by Essel Brill, Joscelyn Devor, and Marni Hills. Logo and website design is by friend SW Brill. All music comes from the Story Blocks Library. This episode was edited and produced by me. I'm Stuart Barefoot. If you liked it, there's plenty more where it came from. All episodes [email protected]
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