There are a lot of podcasts out there; fewer are movie-focused podcasts, even fewer are funny movie-focused podcasts; and even fewer still are funny movie-focused podcasts hosted by people who know what they’re talking about and have experience in the movie industry. Meet Bears on Film, one of those podcasts in the final bucket.
Hosts Billy and Topher are self-described hairy individuals, hence the Bears in their podcast name. Together, they have several years in the entertainment world including TV and film. One is a visual effects artist and the other is a cameraman. As a podcast machine, they have all the elements you’re looking for: co-host rapport and chemistry, industry knowledge, and insightful thoughts and opinions. Plus, it’s a perfect time to get a primer on the all the Oscar nominees.
I got a chance to catch-up with Billy from Bears on Film and discuss how they strive to differentiate themselves from the other movie podcasts out there and the challenges they face as indie podcasters. See below for our Q&A.
Discover Pods: What’s your podcast about?
Billy: Bears on Film is a weekly podcast in which Billy and Topher, two extremely large and offensively hairy nobodies discuss films they love, films they don’t, and those that fall in between.
DP: Why did you decide to start a podcast?
Billy: Topher and I met over 10 years ago working in television, and have followed each other to different film industry jobs ever since. Talking about films together in this way is something that we’ve always done anyway, and we’ve always spoken about how great it would be to start a podcast, but we never really properly planned on it. Being a professional animator, Topher asked me how hard it would be to start a short, animated, film review show for YouTube. His idea was to do a 5 minute review on a new release every week, that I would animate (Similar to Kevin Smith’s Smodimations series), and upload to YouTube. But once we got in the booth and hit record, we found ourselves talking the same way we always did, which didn’t really lend itself to that medium. We decided instead to release it as a podcast, and set ourselves a schedule for future releases. 8 weeks later we’ve released 13 episodes, and are loving every second of it.
DP: Movie focused podcasts aren’t necessarily new. How do you strive to stand out from the crowd?
Billy: There are so many movie focused podcasts out there, and many of them are great. But we still felt there was something missing that we could add to. Most shows will either discuss multiple movies in one show, dedicating only a few minutes to each one – Or the other extreme is that they will discuss one film per episode (Usually a larger blockbuster), but will talk for longer than the film is, and frequently go off topic. What we aim to deliver is a concise, funny, and insightful half hour discussion of one film per week. We cover blockbusters, indie films, and foreign films, and part of our goal is to introduce listeners to movies they might not otherwise have even heard of. If we aren’t doing a new release, we cover a film that only one of us has seen and recommends to the other, so that the conversation is fresh. Our backgrounds in the film and television industry add a different insight to the discussion, as we often discuss the techniques that have gone into certain films. We also invite guests from the industry on to the show, to introduce us to the movies that inspire them as artists, and add further insight into things we may not have picked up on.
DP: With cameramen and visual artist backgrounds, are there certain current movies you think deserve more praise from a visual standpoint? What about the reverse, movies that might be overrated?
Billy: There are so many movies these days with outstanding visuals. Obviously there are movies that are complete visual feasts like Star Wars, or the Marvel movies. But my favorites are the ones that always go unnoticed. People often forget the amazing visual effects that happen in movies that you wouldn’t even think about. For example the work that went into creating the Winklevoss twins in David Finchers ‘The Social Network’. I saw Darren Aronofsky’s ‘Mother’ earlier this year and was completely blown away by the visuals in that movie. I love when the effects blend so perfectly with the cinematography that you barely even notice they’re there. The best recent example is Guillermo Del Toro’s ‘The Shape of Water’, which was made on a budget of only $19.5 million, which if you know anything about filmmaking is extremely low. When you compare the visuals in that film, to that of ‘Justice League’, which was made for $300 million, it is an absolutely outstanding achievement in modern filmmaking.
DP: What’s something a listener of yours likely doesn’t know about you or the podcast?
Billy: Something people might be interested to know about is the production of our podcast. There is a very tight turnaround, as we like to get onto new releases as soon as possible. If a movie releases on a Thursday, we’ll try get to it either that night or on Friday, and then record over the weekend. Topher does all of the editing, and I’ll manage the upload/social media, in order to get it up on Monday morning, around 12:30am our time. Coming from the film industry we were lucky to already own audio equipment, so we’re using a sony field mixer meant for use on film sets, two shotgun microphones, recording onto an H2 zoom recorder.
As we tend to stay very on topic, our listeners probably don’t know much about us outside of the fact that we love movies. So here are some tidbits. Billy is an active Pokemon Go nut, who is obsessed with twee pop music, and at one stage thought he might be a writer. Topher spends most weekends watching AFL (Australian Football League) or some other sport, while trying out and rating a variety of craft beers, and has seen every episode of ‘The West Wing’ multiple times.
DP: What’s the biggest challenge you face as an indie podcaster?
Billy: As with all indie podcasts, the biggest challenge is exposure. In an industry flooded with hundreds of thousands of podcasts, and more being released every day it is hard to stand out. The reality is, that anybody can very easily start a podcast. We’ve been very lucky that the listeners we do have, really enjoy the show. They engage on social media, and reach out through email, and write reviews on iTunes, which is fantastic, so we have seen very steady growth so far over the short time since our first episode released in November 2017.
One of the best ways we’ve found to expand our audience is to engage with other podcasters. We share promos on each others shows, and shout out other shows during our episode to expand their exposure to a new audience. We’ve been very grateful to the shows we’ve collaborated with and have made some great friends out of it.
DP: What are your five favorite podcasts?
Billy: I subscribe and listen to way too many, but the five I’m excited for every week and never miss are: 1) Hollywood Babble-On. 2) It’s Just Good Business. 3) Stuff You Should Know. 4) Film Snuff. 5) Movies Made Me.