Thursday, December 1, 2011

My Interview with Ben Kendrick Editor of 'Screen Rant Underground'!


Be sure to follow Ben and his antics on Twitter at @benkendrick!


Ben Kendrick, Editor of Screen Rant Underground as well as their podcast host and I had the chance to chat about the sites' rising podcast as well as some interesting movie and tv suggestions he gave me. Check how Screen Rants' Podcast got it's start and why you should be listening dammit!


How did the Screen Rant podcast first come about?
We'd talked internally about starting a podcast for some time. Vic had dabbled with an audio blog back in 2007 but stopped after the sites started to get pretty busy. Our readers had been asking us for some time to really step into that arena and, finally, I just pulled together Rob, Anthony, and Kofi for some practice sessions in the heat of the summer movie rush and we started recording. There's actually a couple hilarious episodes that haven't seen the light of day yet (Green Lantern, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, as well as True Blood) - we've talked about releasing them once we're in a solid groove but they're a little over the top. So, time will tell. Ultimately, we just spent a lot of time talking about what would be useful to our readers as well as what would be fun for us to talk about. Then we took a few basic staples of entertainment podcasts (news, recommendations, and reviews) as well as added our own flourishes (the box office battle and GR news brief). I expect the show will continue to evolve but, once we felt like the episodes were hitting the marks that we wanted, we went live at the end of August with our Fright Night episode - which, as Rob mentioned in the opening, was kind of a ridiculous movie for the kick-off.

What goes on behind the scenes of putting a podcast like this together?
Once we established the basic format, and had my friend Omarie Williams put together some music for us, the actual weekly production of the cast is now pretty routine. We'll decide on a film that we can to discuss and I'll pull box office numbers as well as some news stories that were hot during the week. If one of the panelists happens to be away, or otherwise unavailable, I'll check with our industry friends or other SR writers to see if they want to fill-in. We tend to approach the cast as a conversation among friends - we all work shoulder to shoulder on the sites so we have a report but we're also really active with our readers in the comments of our articles and on Twitter, so we also try and make the conversation as accessible as possible. Even though we're pretty savvy when it comes to knowledge of the industry, we want the podcast to be fun for movie-geeks and casual filmgoers as well. Once we finish up recording, I usually spend the next morning editing and tweaking things - mostly removing a few of Anthony's crazier discussion topics. Kidding, kind of.



What's the most heated debate you and the rest of the guys on the show have ever gotten into??
We'll argue behind the scenes from time to time - especially because I have to walk a fine line between allowing the guys to be themselves and feel comfortable saying what's on their minds, cracking jokes, etc and also making sure that we're not going to turn off sensitive listeners or otherwise compromise the professional reputation we've spent years building in the industry at Screen Rant. That said, I know I was especially defensive on the cast as well as behind closed doors about the Paranormal Activity 3 episode. Kofi and I are the only regular reviewers at the site, in terms of written reviews, so from time to time, it's easy to feel as though a fellow-editor isn't just expressing an opinion about a movie - they're actively calling out points made in a review that's on the site. That can be hard. I was more positive about Paranormal Activity 3 than the rest of the guys - so it was easy for me to get defensive about not just my opinion but the written review as well. The un-aired, Green Lantern podcast was definitely tense as well - Kofi had been really hard on that film in his written review and had spent days defending his points in the comment section. Needless to say, he wasn't messing around when we started recording.

You guys do a "Box Office Battle' to see who can guess correctly which new films will have the best opening weekend...What's been the biggest surprise with those results?!
The Box Office Battle has definitely been a lot of fun for us - and we've heard that some of our listeners play along at home, not to mention razz us about our choices the following week. So that's been great. However, no doubt the biggest surprise has been just how hard it actually is predicting those results a week out. I mean, we're all pretty knowledgable when it comes to news  but predicting the moviegoing habits of everyday filmgoers is not easy. A couple weeks back Mike Eisenberg was on the show and predicted that Adam Sandler's film Jack and Jill would open huge above Immortals. We mostly laughed him off because that movie looked, to us internally, like complete garbage. There was a time when Sandler was funny but, apparently, despite low user reviews on his past few films, he's still a box office draw. That can be really surprising. Similarly, this past week, despite overwhelming positive reviews, Hugo (directed by Martin Scorsese) was number five at the box office below Arthur Christmas and Happy Feet 2 - movies that had mostly non-existant marketing pushes. I think, more than anything (at least for me), I forget how many people just walk up to the box office cold and stare at showtimes because they want to see a movie not a specific movie. 

What are some of your fave films and tv shows?
 I'm one of the few people that actually was really satisfied by the finale of LOST (as well as the over-arching experience of watching it week to week). I recommend that show to everyone who asks BUT with the caveat that, from the beginning, you have to watch it for the characters and their journey - and try not to get too wrapped up in expecting answers to all the island mysteries. I have an MFA in creative writing so I'm a huge fan of Breaking Bad and other current cable offerings that really dig-into exploring character such as Dexter and The Walking Dead. That said, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Community, and Arrested Development keep me laughing - even with repeated viewings. As far as the big screen, in spite of appreciating profound indie fare (such as recent films like Shame, Drive and Martha Marcy May Marlene), I'm somewhat of a sucker for action spectacle, so I actually really enjoyed Transformers: Dark of the Moon in IMAX 3D and have a special love for films that are just intended to be immensely entertaining (such as Attack the Block and Tucker and Dale vs. Evil). That said, the movie that I can watch over and over again and still be impressed with is Shane Carruth's Primer.

What are some films or shows that you didn't expect to be good but happened to be a pleasant surprise?
It's not the most artistic film I've seen all year but I was immensely surprised by how much I enjoyed Final Destination 5. I reviewed it for the site and, in an industry that's now obsessed with tacked-on 3D experiences, it was refreshing to see a film where the 3D visuals didn't need to wow audiences with spectacle or pull us into an immersive world. The filmmakers knew how to use the format to surprise moviegoers - and, as a result, the film broke away from the dull and uninspired experience the franchise had been pumping out in recent installments. Whether or not I could recommend the film on the small screen, in 2D, is another story I'm sure. I've also been surprised by how well Fringe has come together over the past couple seasons. That show started out as a very basic, albeit bizarre, procedural, and has evolved into one of the most ballsy and interesting shows on TV. There have also been a number of genuinely powerful stand-alone episodes (such as the 2010 episode "White Tulip" which featured a great guest performance from Peter Weller). Sadly, this will very likely be the final season but it's been a great ride for anyone who was willing to invest in it and see the show unfold. 

What film(s) are you most looking forward to seeing come out in the next year or so?
We're definitely covering a lot highly-anticipated 2012 films (as well as talking about a number of them on the podcast) but, despite all the buzz surrounding the Marvel mega-mash-up, The Avengers, I'm still most interested to see how Christopher Nolan rounds-out his Batman trilogy with The Dark Knight Rises. We've seen tons of set footage and we know that there are a ton of high-profile actors in the film but, in spite of all that access, we still know very few concrete details. However, Nolan is one of the sharpest filmmakers operating in Hollywood today - and, even though I've been skeptical about a few of the pieces, I'm still very interested to see how they fall into place. Of course, there are plenty of other movies that could offer something special in 2012 - John Carter, The Amazing Spider-Man, Prometheus, and Brave to name a few other high-profile titles.

Which films do you think will get some Oscar love this year?
The Oscar race is definitely going to be interesting this round. We've seen a lot of break-through dramas as well as well-executed commercial fair. A lot of critics are already rallying around Scorsese's 3D adventure-drama Hugo, and there's reason to believe that it's going to get a lot of love this awards season. There's also a good chance that some critical darlings that managed to break into regular theaters - such as Moneyball, Drive, Martha Marcy May Marlene, and Shame may generate some best actor/actress as well as best picture nominations. Also, another interesting possibility - a lot of people still think that Andy Serkis should receive a best actor nomination for his motion capture work as Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes and, for anyone who has seen the film, it's hard to argue against at least nominating the guy. Of course, no one has ever won an Oscar for mo-cap work but, with more and more films that feature digital environments and characters, it's probably only a matter of time.

What are some things that you would recommend watching right now (Tv or Film) ?
As for current recommendations, if you're not watching Community, do yourself (as well as all the show's fans) a favor and start with season 2, double back to season 1, then watch season 3. NBC botched the first season, which was bogged down in melodrama before audiences could care about the characters. That said, the show hit its stride in season 2 - and has held strong in season 3 as well. I'm also a big fan of, as I mentioned earlier, Breaking Bad - which, arguably, depicts one of the most fascinating character transformations ever put on film. As far as movies, more than anything I'd encourage film fans to step out of the blockbuster cycle from time to time and see what's buzz-worthy in the indie world. Some of my favorite films of 2011 never saw a full-scale release in the U.S. such as Drive, Attack the Block and Martha Marcy May Marlene. Of course, anyone who has yet to see Hugo or The Muppets, should probably just finish reading then head to their local theater. Honorable mentions go to: TV - Fringe, Dexter, The Walking Dead, Modern Family, and Castle. Movies - 50/50, Warrior, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, and Rise of the Planet of the Apes. 

 3/4 of the SR podcast team (Kofi, Ben, Rob, and sometimes guest Mike Eisenberg) at San Diego Comic Con
 **Be sure to check out the link to the SR podcast located on my RBR Podcast and Music Page!