Roshan Chandy chats to ‘One Voice, One Mic' director Ben Gumery about podcasting, film criticism and the print medium.
‘One Voice, One Mic’ is a terrific documentary now available on Amazon Prime. It’s essentially an 18 min lecture on the highs and lows of podcasting which was coined by The Guardian in 2005 and now populates subjects ranging from ‘Game of Thrones’ to “how to clean your arse”.
In an interview for my own podcast ‘What You Been Watching?’, I sat down with the film’s director Ben Gummery from Newport, Wales who told me how he works for a TV production company and runs his own film and TV blog IndieMac User. He writes film reviews and news articles on this website and has done so for the past 8 years.
When I asked him the title of my show ‘What You Been Watching?’, he told me he’d seen ‘Space Jam: A New Legacy’ and shares my hate for it. He’s also been watching ‘Fear Street’ on Netflix. On the subject of ‘One Voice, One Mic’, I ask him what was his core goal when making this excellent film. “I think the main thing was just trying to raise a bit more awareness” he tells me. “Podcasting has come a long way in that it used to be that you had to explain to people what it is and I think now people know what it is, but they don’t really understand how it works and how people make money from it”.
As a podcaster myself, I really got the sense of the highs and lows of podcast-making from this documentary. A credit to the strength of Gummery’s filmmaking. “Podcasting is still recent” he says in response to my quote about how The Guardian - generally smug and morally superior - coined the term in 2005. It’s certainly great to know that they essentially invented podcasting.
This point moves into my next question. Specifically, giving a bit of background context, film criticism as a print medium has found itself increasingly under threat from the rise of the broadcast medium. I certainly know a lot about this being a freelance film critic and having constant people telling me that people don’t have the time to read reviews, but always have the time to listen to a podcast. “I suppose it is the barriers of entry as well because it’s not like, before that, you could have an opinion of a film, but no one’s going to care about it unless you’ve got a degree in journalism or are published in the papers” he tells me. “Anyone could do a film review podcast”.
“The thing I do enjoy is that especially if you have a podcast and there’s more than one host, you could have someone who really likes the film and someone who really hates the film and that’s really fun to see that dynamic”. “People are a lot more honest when they’re on a podcast...It’s not like you’re writing a thought-out response like when you’re writing a review” are his words.
When I press him on what he thinks is the future of podcasting, his lines are “in some ways, I think it’s here (the future) because we’re seeing now all the celebrities will have their own podcast as a way to connect with their audiences”. “Film studios like Disney and Marvel are starting to do podcasts now, but then again I think we’re heading towards Spotify becoming the Netflix of podcasting in terms of a subscription service”.
“Podcasts used to be free, but I don’t know how long they’re going to last for” he jokes with me. I certainly think podcasting has become very franchise-focused which is a “sign of the evolution”. “When you’ve got Joe Rogan signing deals for £2-3 million for a podcast, it’s insane”.
It’s also certainly the future of film criticism. Anyone these days can create a podcast and talk about film regardless of having a degree in journalism. This can be also translated to writing a blog about film which can now be done by anyone. I don’t think anyone can write it to a certain standard, but the digital age has certainly given aspiring film critics a platform to launch themselves that they didn’t have before.
In terms of what Ben’s plans are post-One Voice, One Mic, he now has a feature film lined up called ‘KevHeads’. “One Voice, One Mic is a short documentary that runs for about 20 mins, but my next project is a feature looking at the fandom of Kevin Smith”. Kevin Smith is, of course, the controversial writer-director behind ‘Clerks’ (1994) and ‘Dogma’ (1999). “It’s basically about people all over the world that follow his films and his podcasts and then go on to make their own creative works...We have quite a bit of stuff shot already and principal photography is set to begin next year”.
Following a delay due to the Covid-19 pandemic, “it will hopefully be out on Amazon and all the usual places”. Of course, ‘One Voice, One Mic’ is available on Amazon Prime and I would advise everyone to see it. It’s a really insightful history lesson that also looks to the future…
‘One Voice, One Mic’ is on Amazon Prime now.
An abridged version of this interview first appeared in IndieVisible Magazine. You can listen to my podcast interview with Ben here.
I chat to team members and Shane Meadows about the insides of this brilliant Beeston cinema.
I also spoke to one of the managers who told me the cinema has “8 screens, a nice location and the tram stop literally up the road”. “We also have drinks machines and luxury seats where you can move about and feel like you’re not intruding on other people’s cinematic experiences”.
On the way into the movie, I got handed a goodie-bag which contained more popcorn, maltesers, two free cinema tickets and an ARC cinema face mask. I’ll definitely be using those two free tickets over the next few weeks.
Sitting down in the reclining seats (which are so comfy you can fall asleep), we were introduced to a screening of the 2012 film ‘Somerstown’ directed by Nottingham-born filmmaking legend Shane Meadows. He introduced the film and was there with his two boys who hadn’t seen it before.
The Beeston ARC Cinema is funky, dead-cool and full of movie-making passion and energy. It’s great to see another cinema in Nottingham. Showcase and Cineworld, watch out!
Nottingham-based filmmaker Rich Fisher talks ‘Rich and Ed’s Excellent Adventure’, inspiration from ‘Bill and Ted’ and his love for Nottingham Forest.
Rich Fisher is a lovely chap - tall with scruffy lockdown hair. I met him at the pub for a Pepsi Max to talk about his new film 'Rich and Ed's Excellent Adventure'. Here's my interview with him for LeftLion:
The years went by and Rich and Ed got back to work and the “humdrums of life”. The film wasn’t getting made. Then came the pandemic and lockdown which gave Rich a new drive to get this film made. “The footage was still on an SATA drive in a drawer at my house. We always had a running joke that we had this grand plan to make a film. It had never happened, but one of the benefits of the pandemic was that I spent a lot of time stuck at home. So I felt like I needed projects to keep myself occupied” Rich tells me. “After 6 months chipping away, the film was finally finished in the early part of 2021”.
I met Rich Fisher at the Gamston Lock pub on Saturday April 24th. He’s a lovely chap - tall with scruffy lockdown hair. He’s also a die-hard Nottingham Forest fan which I realised from his recently published book ‘The Church of Stuart Pearce’. “I guess any sort of die-hard fan would probably say the same that they have no choice” he tells me in answer to my question of what keeps him coming back to the team. “They’ve generally been pretty disappointing for the last 20 years, but I only hope they do get back into the premier league at some point in my lifetime, but I can’t see it happening anytime soon”.
When I asked Rich what his favourite place to visit on the Mongol Rally was, he told me Kazakhstan. “I mean if you look at it on a map, it’s a huge country. I mean I’m talking 10 times the size of Britain. But a lot of it was so sparse, it just felt like you were in the absolute wilderness and it was really idiosyncratic. All the people were incredibly welcoming and helpful”.
Rich insists ‘Rich and Ed’s Excellent Adventure’ isn’t the beginning of a long filmmaking career despite my best efforts to press him to tell me otherwise. “I’ve got no ambitions, to be honest. And I’d always say, we’d always had this idea to make films. But I certainly don’t see myself as a filmmaker” he quotes.
In terms of when we can expect to see ‘Rich and Ed’s Excellent Adventure, he says they are doing a private screening at Broadway Cinema in July followed by a Q n’ A. “It’s going to be available to download and also to buy on a USB stick”.
We can all look forward to sharing ‘Rich and Ed’s Excellent Adventure’ then...
‘Rich and Ed’s Excellent Adventure’ is out in July.
We talk to Nottingham-born, New York-based actor Tom Blyth about his journey from the TV Workshop to The Juilliard School, working with Terence Davies on Benediction, and his upcoming HBO series The Gilded Age...
Can you tell us a bit about your new film, Benediction, and the role you play in it?
It’s written and directed by Terence Davies. Set in the jazz era of England in the twenties and thirties, it represents a very ‘classic’ lens of Britain, but from a perspective we’ve not seen before. I play a character called Glen Byam Shaw who is credited for forming what we now know as the RSC Theatre and was known as one of the fathers of British theatre. He is believed to be a lover of Siegfried Sassoon – both men were presented publicly as straight, but definitely had male lovers and were probably in a relationship. So the film is really about Siegfried Sassoon, who is played by Jack Lowden, and later by Peter Capaldi as the older Siegfried. I’m essentially Siegfried’s confidant and lover – it’s never been completely proven that they were romantically linked, but their personal letters suggest otherwise. They had this really beautiful relationship that was very much based on mutual support and respect for each other’s art and craft.
How much research did you do for the role?
I reached out to this graduate student, Julian from the University of Warwick, who was incredibly helpful. He’s written a thesis paper on Sassoon, and he pointed me in the direction of some incredible source material including the letters between him and Byam Shaw. But mainly, to be honest, Terence’s script was the most fuelling for me. He writes beautiful, poetic prose – his dialogue, while naturalistic, is slightly heightened, but his direction requires a lot of grit and truth. There’s a love triangle between Glen, Siegfried and Ivor Novello (played by Jeremy Irvine) and I came to my research for the part from that point – looking at the human relationship between the three of them, the envy and also the joy that fuelled them.
This is my first time playing a real person which is definitely a different kind of beast because you can easily get in your head and feel like you’ve got to do an impersonation of someone. But I think the beautiful thing about this is that there actually isn’t that much about Glen out in the world – there aren’t interviews out there with him. There’s one tape on YouTube of him delivering a speech to the theatre he was running and you can hear his voice – it’s a tape recording that has been uploaded on YouTube. I listened to that over and over again to try and infuse myself with his cadence and rhythm. I think you find out a lot about someone from how they speak.
What was it like working with one of Britain’s greatest ever filmmakers in Terence Davies?
Terence is lovely. He’s a typical artist in that you can see his cogs working all the time. He’s very much in his world of creation when he’s directing. I found him to be really sensitive – if there’s anything you want to be on a film set, it’s sensitive to your environment and your surroundings. He’s a joy to work with and very tuned in to what is happening right in front of us.
What was behind the decision to relocate to New York?
Well, everyone calls New York ‘The Nottingham of America’ (I’m kidding!). I actually came here to go to drama school. When I was 21, I decided that I needed to go and do some training – I did a play at the TV Workshop in Nottingham and it was very wordy, very verbose and I felt at the end of this one week run that my voice was short, my energy was low and I thought, if I had to do this professionally for however long if you were doing a West End or Broadway show, I didn’t have the ability to do that. So I looked around, applied to UK schools like RADA and all the usual ones. I got into a couple of those UK schools, but, while I was doing that, I also couldn’t get my mind off Juilliard which is the school I’d read about when I was a kid and I knew that some of my favourite actors like Oscar Isaac and Adam Driver went there.
Cinema is so immersive and I think, more than ever, we’re craving those tangible, communal, human experiences
I was turning 21 and I got a little bit of money for my birthday and I thought ‘you know what? I’m going to put it towards a flight and audition and go and try my luck.’ I went out in September 2016 and have been here since. I graduated from Julliard back in May. There’s no other reason I’d have been in New York if it wasn’t for Julliard, but I’m staying here for now because of ongoing work. But also the culture of the arts is very interesting to me, especially with the way the country has been recently with all the division. There has been so much injustice and the politics here have been violent and fiery, but, out of that, comes really good art – really meaningful art.
How has COVID affected the filmmaking process?
To credit the producers and the team and the crew, they handled it really well. When you’re acting, you’re not always aware – sometimes you get lost in your subconscious and you’re not always thinking as much about the real world because you’re playing make-believe – you’re being paid to show up and go into that child-like zone where everything is imaginary. And that’s where you get the best work, but it’s not always the best place to be in terms of safety and surroundings.
The producers always had masks in place so, the minute we finished a scene, they would come throw a fresh mask on us because obviously you can’t be wearing a mask when you’re filming a scene. Every day we had to fill out a questionnaire with all the usual questions like “have you come into contact with people?”, “have you suffered any symptoms?”. We were lucky that no one got sick while shooting and there was a checkpoint at the set before you entered where there was a paramedic who would check your temperature with one of those foreboding, scary gun things.
How do you think cinema will survive in the age of streaming and downloads?
One of the reasons I became an actor is because I love going to the cinema. I think the experience of going to the cinema is always going to be a thing we want to do. Some cinemas are probably going to go under and there will probably be less of them which will be very sad. However, people have been saying theatre is going to die for years and that it’s a redundant art form and it hasn’t. It’s not gone anywhere. If anything, it just makes people double down and work really hard to make it relevant. For me, what cinemas have to do is to try to become more accessible because, for years, they’ve been getting more and more expensive and people haven’t been able to afford tickets. That’s why more people have been illegally pirating films. But cinema is so immersive and I think, more than ever, we’re craving those tangible, communal, human experiences.
What are your plans post-Benediction and what can we expect to see you in next?
I’m about to start on a HBO show called The Gilded Age which I begin shooting three weeks from now and will be coming out maybe the end of this year or next year. It’s a look at turn of the 19th century New York. It’s another period piece – an examination of the rise of capitalism in America. I would also really love to do more independent films in the US and really want to do some theatre as I was due to do some this year, but that was put on hold. I would love to get back on a stage and do some live performances.
Benediction is scheduled for release later this year.
This article also appears in Issue 133 of LeftLion.