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.