Author Q&A: LA Talk Radio’s Film Courage with David Branin and Karen Worden
Writer/director David Branin and actress/spokesperson Karen Worden host LA Talk Radio’s “Film Courage,” where the interview filmmakers/writers every Sunday. The show launched as a result of Branin’s blog, which documents his filmmaking journey.
The duo also hosts the live event—Film Courage Interactive—which meets the last Monday of every month at the Downtown Independent in Los Angeles from 7 pm to 11 pm. At the Interactive they show a feature film, conduct a Q & A, and have a filmmaker support group at the end of the night. Branin and Worden are putting the final touches on the Night Before the Wedding DVD, as well as getting it to screen theater-by-theater, and are working with an editor on the second feature Goodbye Promise. Additionally, they have a web series on hold, four feature films waiting in the stable, and a book they are working on.
How did you develop LA Talk Radio’s “Film Courage?”
Karen: We initially went to the studios of LA Talk Radio to promote David’s film Night Before the Wedding. The scheduled interview was with David, the film’s lead actor Gregor Collins, and one of the women who played a porn star in the film. At the last minute, the female actor backed out. We tried frantically to find another actor for the interview to no avail. David and Gregor proceeded with the interview on the show “In the Can” with Kip Brown. Surprisingly, Kip invited me into the studio for the interview. We all had a blast doing the show. We loved the feel of the studios. We loved being on the radio.
Dave discussed with me that he wanted to do his own radio show as an extension of his Film Courage blog. We talked about doing a show together. We wanted to interview other filmmakers on what was bringing them success. We wanted to strengthen the film community worldwide, sharing wisdom from our guests, and learning from them ourselves in the process.
Why talk radio?
Karen: We’ve both been fan of audio books and radio shows for some time now. We’ve had Sirius/XM in the car for many years. We always believed in satellite radio’s programming. We are fans of Howard Stern and of other more serious shows. We love communicating and ideas. Hearing the passion in someone’s voice is electric and satisfying. Sometimes video gets in the way of the imagination.
How much writing/prep is involved in your shows?
Karen: We begin preparing for our shows months in advance, nurturing contacts, putting out feelers to PR people and managers. The actual writing of the shows begins on Thursday or Friday for that week’s show on Sunday. It’s a process. Normally we don’t just go to our computers and bang out ideas. We look online to find other interviews and articles, helping to shape our questions from that. We construct the show in a piecemeal fashion. We have so much going on with our monthly Film Courage Interactive at The Downtown Independent, promoting Goodbye Promise and Night Before The Wedding, and more, that occasionally we are busy late Saturday nights hashing out the interview.
David: By the time we get to the studio, our work is already done. That makes doing the show a lot of fun. It may vary week to week, but it is not uncommon for us to put in 8 or more hours a week in prep time towards the show. That is not the marketing, promotion, scheduling time, etc. That is just time researching our guests, learning their stories, and pin-pointing the direction we would like the interview to take. It is important for us to find the unique voice, knowledge, and wisdom that each of our guests brings to the table.
What is your favorite part of doing “Film Courage?” The greatest challenge?
Karen: There are so many wonderful components of having our show. The number one thing is that we are introduced to amazing minds with incredible stories to tell. They’ve taught us about hard work, plugging away despite a grim outlook, and taking chances when others thought they were crazy.
The greatest challenge presents itself in the form of time management. We wish we had more time to devote to our show and meeting people. We both still work regular jobs, so sometimes we come home tired, where the last thing we want to do is be at the computer. We don’t have a personal assistant to help us with odds and ends like booking requests, etc. All of the administrative tasks are done by us, so sometimes its time consuming. Also, we want to make sure our show sounds fresh. Some times it’s a challenge to stay original with our interviews.
David: No matter how demanding our week has been, we leave LA Talk Radio studio charged for the week ahead. We have often said that even if we didn’t have a single listener, we would continue to do the show because of the amount we learn every Sunday. There is no way to place a value on the information we have acquired from hosting “Film Courage.” Fortunately, it turns out we are not alone and we have supporters like @PattyFantasia @Kingisafink @MovieAngel @DavidPBaker @NBSetTheTrend, and many others who are faithful in tweeting regular insights (#filmcourage) throughout each episode. For me the best part of the show is processing it all with Karen afterward, whether it’s over lunch, in the car, or at the local dog park. We are so grateful to our listeners who support us and for our guests who have been so generous with the information they have supplied us.
In addition to the time-management that Karen covers, another challenge of ours has been to monetize our efforts. This parallels the efforts of the many independent filmmakers whom we interview every week. The creative side takes an enormous amount of time and energy. That makes it hard to make time for the business. We are thrilled with our new partnership with Snorg Tees. We are also currently doing cross-promotional efforts with Bill Ostroff and the First Glance Film Festival .
Advice for potential radio hosts/guests so you can have a successful show?
Karen: Let your creativity flow, know that it’s not as easy as it looks, and listen constantly to your own show for ways to improve. As David has always said, the first 10 shows are “fun, we have a radio show.” Beyond that it becomes a lot of work.
David: For hosts, our advice is to be specific. Your show name and subject matter should be specific and make sense. One of the most popular shows on LA Talk Radio is “BBQ Central” with Greg Rempe. You can see that just by hearing the name of the show you know what it is all about.
To guests, do not be boring! Generally all that means is to be yourself and have fun with it. Be kind to people and to the media. Know that many in the media are friendly with one another and talk frequently.
What are the biggest mistakes people make when talking on the air?
Karen: Talking over their guests and making the show about themselves. Sometimes I still have to remind myself about this. David and I aren’t the show, our guests are the show. Now, Howard Stern or Oprah are their own shows, but even they sit back and listen. I hear lots of radio people wanting to finish a sentence for their own guest or interject what they feel are more important points.
David: This is why I love Karen. So true that with less professional programming we often see a lack of listening. People do not realize how crucial that is.
You do video, as well. How important is audio, video, and social networking in promoting your work? Do you have some examples?
Karen: The video has helped put a face to the voice of our guests. Plus we try to add to humor to the interviews. YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, message boards and more have been key components about putting word out about the show.
David: Video is hands down the most effective promotional and marketing tool. Though our radio show has great value, we have had no choice but to turn to video.
To differentiate the power of video vs. audio. For the first 8 months or so of doing our show, we heavily promoted our radio show. Basically 95% of our efforts went towards promoting the audio and almost nothing went towards our YouTube channel. During that same time span the amount of audio listens and video clicks were almost even. The same goes for the amount of podcast subscribers vs video subscribers. We have since accelerated our efforts on the video side.
With social networking, the masses still haven’t figured out the power of the internet. It is a completely different world today than it was 3 years ago. Filmmaker and Marketing Specialist Marc Rosenbush was just on our show and one of the things he shared on our Facebook Fan Page was that he believes in the next few years we are going to see several Filmmakers do phenomenal business with the power of the internet alone. I fully agree with him.
What is the best bit of advice you have learned from a guest?
Karen: Probably when filmmaker and actor Elana Krausz of the movie Stripped Down said that “a lot of what it takes to be successful is hard work that is not very glamorous,” it all clicked for me. I began just hammering away at smaller tasks that seemed tedious, but necessary. I realized in that moment that no one was going to do it for me.
Advice for creative people?
Karen: Battle your own demons such as self-doubt and self-loathing, but continue to put out work. Refrain from criticizing others’ work.
David: I know a lot of people who are more creative than I am; they are smarter, and in many cases more talented. But they do not create. Karen beat me to it, but we all have our inner demons that we fight. We all present ourselves with obstacles that stunt our creativity. In my case, I do my best and I work hard to just keep creating.
What do you know now that you wish you knew at the beginning of your career?
Karen: It was another piece of wisdom from a guest filmmaker Gregory Bayne from the film Driven and Person of Interest. It was something to the effect that we just need to keep planting seeds with our work. Sometimes we don’t see the results right away. If you keep putting feelers out there, it will come back to you. This helps me when e-mails or phone calls don’t come in like we’d like. We are still hoping Tom Cruise will want to come on “Film Courage.” It helps to be patient!
David: When you look underneath the surface of what is being asked and what is being answered while listening to our show, you discover the amount of passion and the amount of work that everyone is putting in. We all waste a lot of time in our lives. Currently, I have focused and harnessed my energy as I never have before. I believe I am in the early stages of seeing the results of these efforts. There are no short-cuts.