About 18 months ago, I did a guest spot (as it were) on a late night radio show co-hosted by my friend, Richard. Richard's friend Kent, a student at TCU, had access to the school's airwaves and the Kent and Richard show had been doing pretty well for several weeks. I came in to provide some support one night, we all had a blast talking, and I was hooked. There's a certain rush that you get from knowing that your voice is being heard, even if the audience is six college stoners who don't know how to change the station and some of your relatives. I came back to sit in for Richard a couple months later and Kent and I talked exclusively about movies for three hours. During breaks, we kicked around the idea of doing a movie podcast together. Richard and I had talked about doing a podcast of one type or another in the past but Kent actually knew HOW to do a podcast and how to get it out to the people so he was the perfect partner and show host. Within a few weeks, we had all acquired headphones and mikes and were sitting in Kent's apartment recording the first episode of the Mad About Movies podcast.
Over the course of 2013, our understanding of the medium got better and better as did the quality of the shows. We started recording remotely from our respective homes over Skype and the quality was actually (significantly) better than it was when we sat in the same room. We learned which films brought in listeners and which ones were better left for side discussions. We developed a structure for each episode that has served us well. And possibly most importantly, we all took it very seriously: we recorded at the same time each week whenever possible, we made time to see the movies we were going to talk about (not always an easy task when life is busy and the movie is R.I.P.D.), and we did our best to be present. Of the 60 episodes we put out in 2013, I missed one when Cooper was born and a second when sick baby week hit and Richard I believe missed three episodes in total. In essence, we treated it like a second job; a fun job, but a job nonetheless. This effort has paid off in that our numbers (downloads and plays) have been significantly higher than we could have ever expected. Nothing out of this world but still, quite good.
There's a sentiment in our world that if you work hard enough at something, you'll succeed but that's not always the case. Sometimes, in some particular fields, you need to know someone with pull or you need to catch a break. I dedicated my writing exclusively to movie reviews for the better part of three years and frankly, I think much of my content was better than writers at big media outlets but I never caught a break or got my work into the hands of someone with the right connection. Such is life, no big deal. But Mad About Movies caught a BIG break a few weeks ago and it's finally paying off.
The story goes that Kent had to get in touch with an iTunes representative in order to fix an issue that had popped up with another podcast that he did for the Dallas Cowboys. In the midst of his conversation with this rep, he asked what the requirements were to have a podcast featured. The rep asked some questions, put our podcast through some observations, and ultimately told Kent that if he'd get her some artwork, iTunes would find a place for us as a featured show. They even let us suggest a time period during which they would advertise us. We chose the day after the Oscars and they acquiesced. So Sunday evening, right after the Oscars ended, we recorded a recap episode, made it live, and waited.
On Monday afternoon, Kent texted Richard and I, "CONGRATS FELLAS!" with the following screenshot:
That's our gorgeous logo on the front page of iTunes' podcast page. We were stoked. Honestly, even after a full year, it's kind of trip to know that my voice can be heard on iTunes so having our show featured so prominently was ridiculous. I was happy with just this.
Then the fun really started.
On Tuesday, I awoke to a text alerting me that Mad About Movies had climbed to number 26 on the TV and Film podcast charts. By the time I had a chance to check it myself, we'd jumped to 22.
I couldn't believe it. I know we're good at what we're doing but even still, this jump in the ratings, so to speak, (we had previously been ranked nowhere near the top 100 in the category) was insane. What a great run, I thought. Then a friend of mine and a loyal listener of the show sent me the following screenshot:
This was huge not only because we'd jumped another handful of spots but because it also put us within reach of Filmcast, one of the two MAJOR movie podcasts the world has to offer along with Filmspotting (more on them in a moment). To be on the same level as Filmcast felt like an unbelievable achievement. We hovered around in the 14-20 range for a few hours and I figured this was where we were going to settle in for a few days.
And then we cracked the top 10:
In bumping Filmcast down a peg, we vaulted into the top 10 and put ourselves behind only one pure movie podcast (Filmspotting) as everything else in front of us is either a TV show, a pop culture show, or a niche show (like John August's screenwriting show, Scriptnotes, which is OUTSTANDING). I really and truly thought this was the end of it. Filmspotting is the big boy on the block. They've been doing podcasts since the inception of podcasts and they are incredibly good at what they do.
Then we jumped those guys, too:
Not going to lie, this made me bounce around the house like a little kid on red food dye. This just didn't seem possible. But still, more. At this point we became more aware of the overall podcasting chart. When we first looked, we were sitting somewhere in the 250 range. Suddenly, however, we jumped up into the 160s:
Then that overall ranking started to rise about the same time that we jumped into the top 5 on the TV and Film chart. Top 5, y'all. Ahead of Filmspotting, ahead of Filmcast, ahead of a number of well-funded shows, many of which I actually listen to myself. We hung around the 120s overall and between 4 and 6 on the TV and Film chart for a while and this REALLY felt like the end. There was no way we were passing up NPR, the True Detective pod, or stinking Grantland, which is pushed HEAVILY by its ESPN affiliation. And yet:
BOOM. Top 3, ahead of Grantland. (By the way, Bill Simmons, if you're reading this, we will start working for you TOMORROW. Shoot me an email, man.) At this point I was just laughing maniacally because seriously, what else am I going to do? This is just insane. Eventually, Grantland jumped back in front of us and at the time of this writing, we sit at number 4. But while our place on the TV and Film chart took a small hit, we've risen on the overall charts to 103 and expect to crack the top 100 podcasts available on iTunes sometime this weekend.
The vast majority of my communication over the last three days has been spent texting, "WHAAAAATTTTT???" and "BOOOOOOM" and "HOLY CRAP!!!" with Richard and Kent as we watch the show climb the charts. I'm starting to feel like The Wonders watching "That Thing You Do" become a national sensation. (By the way, if you haven't seen That Thing You Do and/or you don't love it, you need to get on the bandwagon because I love that movie and I'd like to reference it way more. Get on that.) Now, eventually, this will end. I'm not delusional enough to think that we will be assured a place among the podcasting elite for the long term once the iTunes feature goes down and once these other shows pump out more content. But we're on the map now and even if our stock plummets tomorrow, we'll always have this one glorious week. So thanks to any and all of you who have listened and if you haven't yet, now's as good a time as any to start. Help us out by telling a friend, downloading the pod, and leaving a 5 star review on iTunes. Don't let those corporate stooges at Grantland knock us back down the ladder! (Once again, Mr. Simmons, we will join your side IMMEDIATELY.)
And if you don't know how this whole thing works, here you go. (Note: The best thing about podcasts is that they're free. Most of the apps are free and the shows themselves are free.)
1.) Download a podcast app. There are lots but if you're on an iPhone, the native Podcast app is the easiest to use. If you're on Android, I recommend Stitcher. If you don't have a smart phone, I recommend getting a smart phone.
2.) Search "Mad About Movies" in the podcast store.
3.) Click "subscribe".
That's it. Each episode is automatically downloaded to your podcast app for your listening pleasure. You can also do this on your computer through the iTunes store or you can head directly to the Mad About Movies website and listen there.
We're having a blast in our climb to the top (or more likely, the middle) and we hope you'll be a part of our success.
I may start a That Thing You Do podcast next, Brian
EDITOR'S NOTE: This morning when I woke up, we had jumped to number 73 overall and number 2 on TV and Film charts. I don't know what's happening.