One year in the books, and it’s time to reflect upon our experience as Podcasters and Writers!
L! Yes. L! That’s fifty episodes for those of you in the know. A full year in the bag! That’s hundreds of reviews. 300,000 — yes, 300,000 website visits, countless more of you have trucked on over to hang out with us Facebook and Instagram. Mike often likes to exclaim, with each podcast, “I can’t believe we made it this far!” And, it’s kinda true. It is remarkable that we’ve managed to keep our heads above water, and that we get word from around Portland that we’ve got a good thing going. And, I suspect we might get a similar reaction in Mumbai, and London. To say we had humble beginnings is an understatement. We had no idea what we were doing… but we gave this a shot!
The growth we saw last year has been incredibly rewarding and we couldn’t have done it with out y’all. Those interested in the horror genre and those not. Casual friends, acquaintances, family members, and complete strangers, and creepy freaks have all been welcomed under the horror umbrella. And welcome you we did. With total and scary aplomb. This endeavor really is a team effort. Everyone’s got a different take on horror, a fav’ movie, those things they WON’T touch, and a genre they continue to go back to like a pair of well-loved shoes. Our goal throughout has been to sort through all the junk — for YOU! No one has time to wade through the best films from the early 1950s, or other whacked out horror ephemera…and that’s where we come in. Each week, we curate the best of the best (…or at least the Fearsome Foursome) from genres, studios, directors, and every other category that comes to our gore-soaked brains.
The History of the Scariest Things So Far
PHASE I: AN IDEA I needed to find something rewarding and creative in my life. I was invited to participate in my friend, Roberta Pennington’s podcast Starchitects, and found myself loving the whole podcast idea. Podcasting meant we got together to talk about STUFF, having a good time and have other people listen to it. I figured, hey, I could do this! But I didn’t know what I wanted to talk about. But I knew WHO I wanted to do that with was Mike Campbell. I then narrowed it down to something we both loved. Horror movies.
Mike and I have been as close as syrup on pancakes since we attended the University of Oregon some thirty years ago. (wow) We both found ourselves bored in our off hours, and I pitched to Mike the idea of doing a podcast about scary movies. Mike came up with the name of the Podcast after I initially thought “Isn’t that a little close to Stranger Things?” And he doubled down, and told me “That’s what’s so great about it! People have a hard time remembering Stranger Things. This is better!” And damn, he was right, the title matched us perfectly.
The problem though, was that we had no clue how to promote our Podcast. We put the first three podcasts on YouTube, and I think we may have gotten thirty total downloads. Three of them might have been Mike’s mom. So how do we advance this?
PHASE II: THE WEBSITE I then came up with a hair-brained idea that maybe we should do a WordPress site, despite having NO CLUE how to develop, design, and publish to a website. And hey, it worked! I love writing, and in my day job as an architect, whatever writing I get to do is very technical and not exactly creative, so this was gonna be perfect! I can be opinionated AND use it to back up the podcast. Mike had a background writing copy for a punk/metal journal, and also looked forward to writing reviews. I then contacted my best friend growing up, Robert Zilbauer, and my boardgame/karaoke/trivia bestie Amy Faust to help, both of whom I consider excellent and funny writers, real horror junkies, and SUCKERS… they agreed to do this. Robert’s sister Heather Bauer, provided our fabulous iconic logo and banner images, and my brother-in-law Alex Vollmer wrote some new crunchy music for the podcast intro, and Mike figured out how to mix the podcast and then… magic! Lots of listeners and viewers!
Well, magic and some pay-per-click Facebook advertising. Cheating? Nah. It’s advertising! But people started paying attention, and not just people we knew! Crazy! People all over the world started to pay attention. Who… knew…
PHASE III: FESTIVALS After we had done about twenty episodes, we got into a comfortable rhythm. People seemed to like our buddy banter, and Mike and I realized we could really commit to doing this regularly. We started doing new movie reviews but needed to find a way to make a name for ourselves. How do we stand out from the rest of the genre reviewers? The answer: Festivals!
Eric went to New Orleans, on a whim, to go to the Overlook Film Festival that the year before had been on Mt. Hood. It had the reputation for being a great horror fan experience, but really, I had no clue as to what to expect. I sucked up my courage and pretended to be a real horror journalist, and remarkably, I was treated like one. It was here that I fell in love with the horror community, and how close-knit we are. It was a perspective-altering moment. And I also met Liz Williams there… and she referred me to the next festival, where I came to understand she was a movie selection juror, the Portland Horror Film Festival.
PHASE IV: THE BIG LIST Meeting the Callahans, who run the Portland Horror Film Festival, was another game changer. More festival awesomeness, and more connections, more new friends. And weirdly, directors, producers, and authors started contacting us. People like Marc Martinez Jordan (Framed), Sara Sometti Michaels (St Agatha), Chris McInroy (We Summoned a Demon), Danny Gosser (Immortal Macabre), Amanda Presmyk (Puppet Master: TLR), Al Loughler (The Dollmaker)… names you may not know… but if you go through the website and podcast, you’ll know that these are genre creators, and now partners with us in our attempt to get more scary to more people. Robert has been particularly good at fulfilling the indie producer and director requests, reviewing many little films, with the caveat “We can’t promise that we’ll like it!”
Bolstered with these new friends and contacts, we developed a crazy idea for a top 100 list. Every horror website needs one. But if it was just the newbies at The Scariest Things, how much credibility do we have? Well, now, with our new contacts, and some of our most horror-loving friends, we created a jury to give legitimacy for our site and podcast. And there was now a community of friends who would talk about horror stuff… mostly on Facebook.
PHASE V: MORE CONTENT Now faced with the need to get more daily content, the idea for a book reviewer came up. I went to my new community of horror friends, and Liz eagerly volunteered to be our book reporter. Now she’s getting advanced copies from publishers and getting author interviews! Crazy! At the same time, I started tinkering around with infographics, to diversify the offerings on the website, and totally geeked out on that, with a whole array of visual content. One of Mike’s colleagues, and one our Scariest Friends, Matt Howl provided additional graphics talent with his wonderful animated “Coming Soon” banner, continuing to up our visual game.
So things have been going great, right? Well, there was one big flaw with what we were doing. Our podcast sounded terrible at times. Sometimes it sounded like Eric was in a different room than Mike. Sometimes we’d get a high keening noise, or a bonk, and then the podcast sounded muffled. We’d get fans commenting on this now and then, and most of you have been kind enough not to pillory our sometimes clunky production. If you managed to battle your way through our Portland Horror Film Festival interview with the Callahans, you get a merit badge. That was rough. Enter Pro-Sound Audio (Thanks Danny!) who has provided us with a state-of-the-art audio recording setup. A Behrenger mixing board. Audix microphones. 48 bit recordings. If you are starting or looking to improve a podcast, go see these guys! They are the absolute best: https://prosoundonline.com
And with that… here’s Podcast Episode 50! (My God… 50… I can’t believe we made it this far.) We decided to celebrate the momentous occasion by having Mike, Eric, and Liz sit down and ruminate on the reason we got in to this biz, what we’ve learned, and the things that have made us go ahhhh….or aieeeeeeeee!!! So sit back and enjoy our spooky reflections on the year that we all reveled together as horror buddies. Thanks horror buddy!