Blow by blow

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Here’s a blow by blow account of what has happened over the last few months that lead up my decision to terminate the Video Podcast.

February 2007: Having had an extended break of a few months I finally get round to writing Detective Fashion’s third season of podcast episodes. The season is collectively called The Trial of Fashion and apart from ticking all the boxes in terms of plot is also very funny and completely new and different from the two series before it. For example, the entire series takes place in one room, the court room.

Early March: Dave and myself do a read through and and apart from a little rewriting everything seems fine. It would need two extra actors (to play the barristers) and camera person/director as camera movement was a must and both Dave and myself would be in shot almost all the time. Of course ideally it would need a prodcucer but we’ve somehow managed without so far.

It is decided that whilst it is unlikely that the series can be filmed in it’s entirely over the Easter holidays (our usual filming time) we can at least film a good few sequences (maybe even 25% of the series) and maybe even a couple of other stand alone films which introduce characters who turn up in the trial.

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Late March: Dave and I attend an in-house seminar by Podshow. Having prepared a business plan for an idea that in my eyes would change podcasting in Britain I cafefully ask around to see if my plan would hold water keeping my cards very much to my chest. Both full time staff and other podcasters paint a picture of podcasting that differs from my own. I decide that my masterplan would fall on deaf ears and that even if it was accepted it would require more responsibility – in short it would need a damn good producer – the same thing that Spainful has been begging for since the start.

Early April: Dave decides he will not return to Jersey over Easter for the usual period of a 2-3 weeks (filming time). Instead he is to pop over for 3 days, meaning that filming cannot take place.

In a fit of panic and inspiration I write a six part script loosely titled ‘The All New Season 3′ which apart from introducing a ton of new characters is also dramatic shift in style for Spainful Films’ Video Podcast (lots of swearing). The series is to be performed solely by myself but with an extended cast over 10 puppets including the return of Vincent Harmony.

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Dave as planned pops over and is surprised to hear about these new script for which he is not involved with in any capacity. (This isn’t the first time this has happened – Sandy’s initial series “I love the Media” was also made without the involvement of Dave). After reading the scripts he is shocked and slightly sceptical.

Closer analysis reveals that the scripts are a thinly disguised attack on various aspects of podcasting. The dual protagonists represent the ineptness of community based podcasters alongside the threat from corporate podcasters; masters of jargon fueledl rhetoric who preech about core values of social engagement node/system networks). Likewise Podshow themselves are targeted, through use of the Adam Curry character introduced in Fashion’s second season.

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None the less filming begins and I stay up late working for several days and nights as I film all the puppets that I’ve been making over the last few months. I also film the Adam Curry sequences. I go to capture the new footage and once again the camera chews up the tape. It always does this but usually waits until after the footage has been captured. Knowing I’ll have to film some of the same scenes again I begin to loose heart.

I even use green screen for the first time in almost ten years! It looks awful of course but in this case that’s the point. In my head I see Dave’s look of bemusement and disappointment. I imagine him feeding my own words back to me about ther need for real drama to underpin the comedy – to treat the charcters no matter how they look or how they behave like real everyday people. But there is none of that here.

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And slowly I realise the whole thing is a big pile of shit. Like crawling about in the dark for a bit of hope I realise I’m making something that even I can’t be bothered to watch. But there was no one there to stop me. Even when I made Sandy’s show I always had a guest or a guest camera person to perform to.

This new endeavour sign posted a new phase what I have been calling the decline in my mental health over the last 6 months. I often choose the word isolationist when talking about my social self but the reality of the situation is I’ve hidden in my room for most of the year. I don’t really to talk anyone at college – and with no lectures this year there is little point in going in anyway – and whilst I am capable of being genuinely social and even at best charismatic – I am also dogged by a constant sense of anxiety and crippling loneliness.

April 14th: Something inside my head breaks – or rather explodes. Unlike my usual depression in which I just don’t want to get out of bed, I find that my body seems to want to get me up and about. I find myself waking early, going for walks and eating healthier (out of nowhere I suddenley stopped smoking). But I also find it increasingly difficult to talk, I start stuttering for the first time in my life and have to stop to take deep breathes mid sentence. And when I go to bed I don’t just cry I fucking weep.

I feel utterly ashamed I can’t even put together some shitty little videos that no one watches. That all my work is shit and that the reason I’m like this is because I’m punishing myself for allowing my ego to delude myself into believing I should even try to better myself. It’s not that I just want to die at this point but that I actually deserve to die.

And with that I know there is something seriously wrong. I’ve learnt over the years that when I start thinking about suicide that I’m not well. That it’s all just a symptom of my illness and I’ll like myself again a few weeks. The point is I have to lift the load, not deal with the symptoms but the cause.

So I write to Neil Dixon at Podshow and tell him that’s it – no more podcast.

And I feel good for the first time in weeks. For it’s not as if I’m can’t work anymore it just means I won’t have to worry about writing; lighting; performing; filming; editing; sound designing; compressing; uploading; promoting; or discussing a show that only 50 people are subscribed to. That I won’t have to think about growth; the future; the brand and I won’t have to promote Podshow – and I won’t have to answer emails explaining how to use their god awful website because people can’t find the new episode. I won’t have to be put on hold by Podshow for a week while I’m put through the system.

And I feel good for a good few hours. Like the looking at the potential of a clean white page, which whilst I know I can’t fill it with ideas right now I can at least enjoy the peacefulness of it.

Neil telephones a few hours later and want to discuss it. And guess what – I talk to him for a good half hour – in English! – without crying! – hurray – and I sound like the professional human being I know I’m capable of being (or at least acting like). And I feel almost normal again.

Neil of course is reluctant to say “ok, see-ya then” and talks about moving forward and resolving the issues. I’m reminded of the scripts I’d written and how much this business-speak amuses me. Having explained the situation to him – that it’s all too much for me he asks if I’d still be theoretically interested in doing something else for Podshow. A beautifully diplomatic way of taking a measure from the fuck-you-o-metre. And of course I would, for desite the silly irritaing things (see above) that Podshow do they are no worse than any other company I’ve worked for/with.

And I’m reminded of the lifestyle that Dave has been trying to promote since we started. That we do a bit of writing, maybe have a few meetings and then other people do some stuff that is nothing to do with us. Then we get a call to turn on a given day in a certain costume and do a bit of acting and then go home and that’s it.

Let’s not forget a few weeks ago I wrote about student TV stations winning awards in which teams of 30 would get up and cheer. Is it riduculous to think that a single podcast could be made by 30 people? What would it be like – would it be 30 times better than what I failed to make on my own, with a broken camcorder.

And so I’m so once again on I’m hold for a week as I wait to hear what Neil has to say. In the meantime I’m trying to reprogram my brain to accept that my work isn’t shit and that I am a decent human being and I deserve, like everyone else, the best that life has to offer. And then I can get back to being true to myself again.

6 Responses to “Blow by blow”

  1. Very brave writing and compelling reading.

    I remember feeling very black and depressed during late Dec 2005 because my podcast hadn’t become what I’d hoped it would. And being told by Podshow that my podcast was to now contain promos for podcasts I’d never heard of before, giving other people a level of exposure I’d never received from the company.

    But like you, when I emailed them to have my contract terminated I immediately felt much, much better.

    Hopefully that white sheet of paper feeling will continue and you’ll be able to enjoy your creativity again.

  2. cheers Mark,

    I’ve had a couple of comments and messages now from what I would call bona fide podshow bashers (I’m sure that far from being offended by being called that you’d be quite proud). Whilst my post admittedly critical of Podshow I hope that I’ve made it clear that I’ve only got myself to blame for cancelling the show.

    That said though – the original post was posted on the 17th of April and I have yet to hear from them. I think eleven days “on hold” is something of a record. lol

  3. People who bash podshow just for the sake of it are podshow bashers. People who are critical of their methods having had first hand experience of them are called podshow sceptics. I prefer the latter description 😉

    While the show being cancelled was your own doing, as you admit, it’s still a painful thing and I’m genuinely glad that you’ve come out from the cloud.

    11 days is a long time.

  4. Thanks Mark, – and thanks to everyone else who has sent such kind comments.

  5. Phil Powell says:

    This is a little belated, but I just wanted to say what a shame it is to hear that the podcast is no more. I was thoroughly enjoying your output, and it had started to remind me of what is possible, creatively, on a low budget.

    But I respect your decision, and think you’ve probably made the right choice: there’s no point putting blinkers on and steamrollering over a precipice just for the sake of creating “product”. I also respect the honesty with which you’re telling us all about this.

    Sounds like your creativity is a very personal thing to you, and despite the anguish it might cause you, that’s a very good thing. Caring passionately about your work is a rare trait indeed, but a great trait.

    Good luck Conrad. And keep us up-to-date with your progress.

  6. Thanks Phil.

    I’ve gotta say I felt a wave of confusion when I clicked on to your blog only to see a parallel version of this blog. The entries were similarly titled too. Pretty funny but still far better than being on one of these Ajax things that never loads right. (Have you seen the state of podcast pickle these days – rofl).

    That book looks very good – and something of a Citizen Kane for its author it seems. I shall endeavour to check it out.

    Whilst I admit I’m currently very negative about podcasting as an institution I still have a certain belief in it as a medium. It’s just not something that I feel I can master on my own any more. Writing a blog is one thing but the creation of good media has to be team effort.

    So I’m just waiting now until a new team begins to form and I set to work making ‘some media’.

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