Do you have what it takes to succeed in the digital marketing space?

Interviewing Edward Havens – Host of Film Jerk Podcast

Portrait of Host of Film Jerk podcast standing in front of Hollywood sign in California.

The Film Jerk Podcast is a uniquely curated journey through 1980s movies. From distributors barely remembered and films long forgotten (if ever known), to the biggest actors and filmmakers of the decade, The Film Jerk Podcast will entertain and inform listeners as it weaves through an exciting cinematic decade.

Tell Me about your show

Okay, well, the Film Jerk podcast. I like to call it a uniquely crafted journey through a cinematic decade. The I talk about all kinds of films, sometimes focus on specific companies, distributors that are no longer around. I sometimes talk about specific filmmakers and the movies they made in that decade.

My very first episode was about John Hughes, because on the day I was recording, it was actually the 10th anniversary of his passing in August of 2009. So when I was thinking about what am I going to do for my first show? I did the films of John Hughes. Sometimes I talk about a specific actor.

Sometimes I just talk about one specific movie, so it’s more of just a journey through the movies of the 80s, done differently from how I’ve heard anybody else who does movie history podcasts.

How did you start podcasting? How did you get into it?

I run a website called Filmjerk.com I do movie reviews and articles about movies. I did that from 2000 to about 2012, when I took some time off because my wife started going to school at Berkeley, and I needed to concentrate on work so that she could concentrate on schooling. Once she graduated from law school in 2017, I decided to get back into the website.

I bought a Blue Snowball microphone so that when I was doing interviews instead of transcribing them or recording them on a crappy old handheld recorder that I could record the interviews and then post them on the website and it was around that time when I discovered a podcast called the 80’s All Over.

It was hosted by two longtime friends of mine, Scott Weinberg and Drew McWeeny, and they were doing the 80s month by month, every episode. So it was going to be a five year journey because twelve months plus a recap is 13 episodes over 26 weeks, and then x10 is a five year journey. So in 2019 and maybe June or July of 2019, they announced quite abruptly that they would not be able to finish the series.

They didn’t specifically asked why, and friends don’t ask friends those difficult questions but I saw an opportunity for me to jump in to what I saw as a void because I liked the way that they handled it; they didn’t just review the movies, they talked about the brief history of the movies.

I saw my opportunity to jump in, so I spent about a month fiddling around with GarageBand trying to find the right audio settings for the Blue Snowball microphone. I had my Apple earbuds to keep the noise from feeding back through my speakers, and I just started doing it.

So I started figuring out a basic journey of what I wanted to do, where I did a lot of research on the things that I kind of remember. I remember certain distributors and certain movies and over the course of the last two years, I’ve kind of built a database of all these movies of when they came out, who distributed them and I can pluck from various ideas that strike me.

So my last episode was about the Halloween movies by request of Podcast Father Jeff and my next episode is going to be about a filmmaker named Alan Smithee who doesn’t actually exist. He’s assumed them for filmmakers that want to take their names off of their movies because they’ve been tampered with by the studios or the producers and so I just look at my database and I try to find things that I think I can tell a good story about, because eventually that’s what I’m trying to do is tell a story about these movies.

But I wouldn’t have started if it wasn’t for Drew and Scott ending their podcast.

So I guess your mentor would be Scott and Drew?

Well, not really, I had never actually spoken to them about the podcast. I mostly run into Drew at screenings here in Los Angeles or did before the pandemic and Scott, I’ve never actually even met. We communicated a lot when we were both part of the online film critic society back in the 2000s, so we’ve never actually talked about podcasting.

For me, it was more of listening to podcasts, seeing what was out there and seeing if what I was doing was unique enough to stand out from all the other film history podcasts. If I had to say I had a “quote-unquote” mentor again, someone I’ve never met would be Karina Longworth, who is a film critic. And she started a podcast called You Must Remember This back in 2014, which is about Hollywood history.

What she does is that she does ten to twelve shows per season about a specific topic. So one year she talked about a film producer named Polly Platt, who had many journeys in her life before she died several years ago. But if it wasn’t for her, we wouldn’t have The Simpsons because she was the one who really pushed for Matt Groeing to do a television show. And she’s the one who hooked Groening up with James L. Brooks at Gracie Films to kind of create the show.

But most people don’t even know who she is and she has this fantastic history. So Karina did 12 hours worth of her and she just started a new season a couple of weeks ago where she’s talking about Sammy Davis Jr. And Dean Martin.

When people talk about the Rat Pack of the 60s, it’s mostly focused on Frank Sinatra because he’s Frank Sinatra. Everybody knows who Frank Sinatra is. Sammy and Dean get less discussion just simply because they’re not Frank Sinatra. So if I did have a mentor, it would be her just simply because I learned how to weave a strong narrative through the way that she did her shows.

What would be the platform right now that you’re using, like, in social media that you find you’re getting the most traction from?

Definitely Twitter. Facebook is pretty much dead in terms of people who come to the podcast, because what I do is that I’ll use specific links for different social networks. I will link to a specific place for Facebook, and I’ll link to a specific place on Twitter and I’ll link to a specific place on Instagram so I can see where my listeners are coming from.

I have a certain group of people who just listen to the show, and whenever I posted, so I know how many people regularly listen through Apple podcast or Stitcher or Pandora. I post different links to those places, so I can see if I post this one to Amazon, or I post the Amazon Audible link to Facebook and then I’ll play with them. I won’t do the same one twice, and I’ll just see where my listenership is coming from.

Outside of my core group of listeners, Facebook is dead. Instagram has fallen dramatically. I still get some hits from Instagram, but I’m definitely getting my most engagement now through Twitter and through the help of Twitter spaces.

If it wasn’t for Twitter spaces in the last 30 days, I’ve almost doubled my followers and conversely, the most recent episode that I posted has had the most listeners ever after just ten days of a 30 day period.

So I am definitely seeing the maximum amount of growth from putting myself out there into Twitter spaces, meeting people like The Podcast Father, Pixie from Next On Stage One and the Manic Pixie Girl.

So that’s where I’m getting most of my engagement and where I’m spending most of my time getting the podcast out there and getting myself out there in terms of being a guest on other people’s shows or just talking about my show and somebody going, oh, that sounds interesting. Let me check that out.

Yeah, I find using Twitter spaces too recently just helped connect me with a bunch more people. I think I’ll do recorded sessions on Twitter spaces more often because I find I could get the most I want to get through Spaces.

Right? I mean, you just showed up like a month ago in a specific exactly. And you already have a massive engagement in just a few weeks and honestly, I don’t really know how I got to that so I’m going to use it as much as I can.

I saw somebody who wasn’t a podcaster about a week or so ago who basically broke down how they spent $300 on Facebook advertising over the course of a month and how many clicks they got from that, how many engagements they got or how many impressions versus how many clicks versus how many actual user engagements. He said that basically he spent $13 per person who actively participated in the project that he was promoting, which basically tells me that at least in Facebook, that Facebook advertising is dead. Well, Facebook advertising is the reason for Facebook to be there, right? They’re making money from you, and that’s it.

That’s what it is. It’s pay to play.

Every time I post something, I still post my episodes on my Film Jerk page on Facebook. And even though I’ve got a fairly decent amount of followers, the actual engagement just on people who actually see the post is horrific. And these are people that are friends of buying former contributors to the website. People I have known for 35 plus years from high school, and they’re not even seeing the post, even though they’re subscribed to the podcast page. So what that tells me is that Facebook is really just nothing more than a grift where if you’re not giving them money, they’re not going to actively promote you.

So where did you get your idea for the name Film Jerk, It kind of sounds like you might scare a few people away?

Well, back in the 90s, when AOL was King, I was part of a room that was called the Hollywood Cafe, it was a place where basically A-listers in Hollywood and people who wanted to break into Hollywood would kind of just hang out every night and just talk, not talk specifically about movies or the craft or whatever, but they just hang out.

So when AOL first started, you got like, 23 hours or 33 hours before you had to start paying for it. So every time you create an account, you had to create a new name, I used a lot of different names and then when AOL finally became, you can use as many hours as you want, and you only pay X amount of dollars a month, I had to sit down and seriously think, what did I want my username to be. At the time I was living in Hollywood, I had spent years as a theater manager, and I kind of left my job to break into Hollywood as an assistant director and I was getting a little bit of traction at the time. So I thought-do you know what a soda jerk is, or have you ever heard the term soda jerk?

No.

Soda jerk was a nickname for somebody who worked at fountain shops in the because you had those big wooden handles for the sodas that they literally have to jerk to operate. So they got the nickname Soda Jerk, somebody who worked in a fountain shop.

So me being the weird guy that I am was like, okay, if a soda jerk is somebody who works in a fountain shop, a film jerk is somebody who works in the film industry. So I started using that as my AOL username, and people thought it was funny and then when I decided to create the website in 2000, since people already knew me as Film Jerk, and I had been using that name to feed scoops to places like Dark Horizons and a lot of cool news at the time, I just stuck with it. So Film Jerk was the name of my site, Filmjerk.com.

When I decided to create the podcast in 2019, stick with my brand. So the Film Jerk podcast and it’s funny because I can tell when people don’t know anything about me. If I get into, like, a discussion on Twitter or Facebook or something else, and somebody wants to try to quote, unquote, insult me, they’ll see all your name is indicative of who you are. I know they know nothing about me or the website, and they’re just going for the really easy, stupid put down.

Yeah, but it doesn’t bother me because in the time that I’ve used this moniker as a film critic, I’ve had my reviews quoted in ads alongside Roger Ebert multiple times, not just once, both in bigger Hollywood movies and more obscure independent films. So the name has never been a hindrance in terms of readership or being quoted in ads because the publicists who know me kind of know that I’m not a jerk, that if I give a negative review, don’t give a negative review because I’m being a jerk. It’s because I’m being critical as a film critic and it’s never personal.

Okay, so that’s where the name came from. It was just something that 25 years ago I was trying to think of something cute and clever that made me stand out in an AOL chatter. But the thing is that I can be a jerk, and sometimes I heavily lean into it when I’m dealing with somebody who’s being a troglodyte. But yeah, it’s not specifically indicative of my persona, I just am able to turn it on when I need to

How you do from recording to your audio editing process, how does a regular episode look like and what you’d like to improve?

Okay, so the episodes begin with a script. I script out everything I’m going to say, and sometimes the scripts can be 15 or 20 pages. Sometimes they can be 40 or 50. So I do my editing as much as possible at the scripting stage.

Once I record, I’m in my office now. I have my desktop Mac, I’ve got my speaker, I’ve got my headphones. I use GarageBand to record, and my process is just to print out the script. I set it on top of my keyboard, I get my microphone ready to go and I hit record, and I just start talking.

If I plug something up, I stop. I go back to the spot the best spot that I can before I plugged, and I make sure that when I start up again that I’m reading from right before where I plug, so I don’t say the same thing twice or leave something out. So all the editing is pretty much done either as I’m writing or as I’m recording and then once I’m done recording, I will listen to the episode and see if there’s any imbalances in terms of this section is a little too loud compared to everything else, or the section is a little too low.

I would say that I have one track for my narrative, and then I have various tracks for any sound effects that I use, so some episodes can have 15 or 20 separate elements over the course of 45 minutes and so I’ll listen to make sure that it’s as best as possible, matching in sound quality and sound levels.

Once I’m satisfied with it, I save it as an MP3, I let the GarageBand program do its magic, and then I go on to PodBean and I save it and upload it and send it out to the world.

Where to find Edward

Twitter

Film Jerk Website


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s



%d bloggers like this: