Creativity is a complicated enigma. On one hand it’s a delicate garden, easily trampled over and forgotten. On the other hand it can be a powerful forest, vast with and diverse, timeless in its power and beauty. Whatever your thoughts on creativity it does need to be nurtured. That means as an animator and storyteller, you need to continue to foster the growth of your creative forest, whenever possible.
One of the inspirations I draw from are podcast. Like most of you I use podcast for a variety of different purposes. Podcast have come a long way from someone providing undocumented facts in their spare bedroom. Podcast’s have become a legitimate form of mass media. You would be hard pressed to find a least one person you know who has not heard at least one podcast. Now podcast are crafted, edited, composed, and delivered with a cinematic flair and quality that in many cases goes beyond what you would see scrolling through your average Netflix queue. As an animator you are a storyteller and most of what you do is listen to sound clips and interpret that visually. From that sound you breathe life into a character and thus you are providing the audience with that characters entire life and background in a matter of frames.
Here are five podcast which will inspire you to think creatively.
This is probably no surprise to anyone. Serial is a well known and well done podcast. Serial presents its stories with a cadence and tone that is usually reserved for Cohen Brother’s style monologues. I have been listening to Serial since its inception when all their Ad’s were for Mail Chimp. Every year the new season is another exercise in the study of the human theater of life. Sara Koenig is a strong and assuring voice. Her approach to her craft is masterful, she is the stand-in for us, the audience. She is assured, fascinated, and confident. She plays the role of a pseudo animator as her words spring to life visuals of the narrative and world when are engrossed in. The podcast has become a hallmark in the craft of storytelling, and presentation. Niceties aside I do have a preference of seasons, with season one being the strongest. Season three, and then season two. All the season are strong with respect to production value. My ranking them is solely based on what I feel they can add to you as a storyteller. That being said, start with season two.
I am a history buff of sorts. I really enjoy learning about how the western world developed into what we recognize today as a modern society. Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History really sets the tone for making history very visceral and real. History is authentic, but can sometimes be embellished or downplayed depending on the prescribed audience or author. What Dan does is tear away all your expectations of how history was taught you in school. Dan is a storyteller by nature, he is the son of Hollywood Actress Lynn Carlin and at one point hosted his own radio show. He carries that legacy of Hollywood showmanship into his podcast (which is probably why they take so long to come out). He does an excellent job of presenting history theater, anything has and had happened. His ability to will history into existence again is the same challenge an animator faces bringing characters to life. Dan has the same type of presence as Walt Disney had in the early days of his character shorts. The gracious host giving us a invitation into his world. That is Dan. Dan serves the same role of a modern day Plutarch, essaying the past with modern sensibilities and a focus for details. The best of the series in my opinion, are his look into Genghis Khan, and dive into the horrors of World War I. Now depending on your podcast feed they only go back TO 2014, but they can also be found on website.
It took a while for S-Town (Shit Town) to grab me. It comes off as a listless investigative journalism. What got me to get listening was how committed it was to seeing itself through. S-Town is a rare piece of narrative work that does not try to force a story on to its audience. It was not directly clear, for me at least, what the story aiming for. The first couple episodes I was unsure about what the purpose and validity of the story they were searching to tell. In the end S-Town absolutely delivers. The primary story centers around John McLemore and the host Brian Reed. Brian goes about uncovering the complex life of a complex man in a not so complex town. This podcast presents a lesson for any storyteller in patience and payoff. Many times a story feels like someone just banged their head on their desk until a story bleed onto paper. Let the world you build and the characters you put in that world speak to you. Let them tell their stories for themselves through you. S-Town delivers on that message. You hear the patience and commitment in Brian to let the story and the characters of this small town reveal themselves. It rewards your patience with a ending more nuanced and unresolved than you would expect. Stop reading and go listen.
I will put the disclaimer out for this podcast now. This podcast will not be for everyone. Sword & Scale is a true crime podcast and it does not run away from that fact. This podcast is gory, detail heavy, and very specific in its parlance. With that out the way, the reason I put Sword & Scale on the list was not for its gory details and descriptions of graphic violence. It is for this phrase we keep going back to; “human theater”. Humans are complex creatures. Too complex in some cases. What Sword & Scale does is give you an inside look at the levels of human consciousness. Levels of complex thought and consciousness that lead us to want to destroy us. Us being other human beings. Sword & Scale uses a lot of found auto from interviews, court proceedings, 911 calls and etcetera. Many times you hear about a horrible tragedy and we are detached from the individual and victims effected by this suffering. Sword & Scale gives us the connection to the minds behind the madness. Mike Boudet, the host, is the voice of reason. He is a cautious narrator, only chiming in with careful observations, making sure the audience is keeping pace and not overwhelmed with the many complexities of the information being presented. Gory, in its nature, this podcast is an excellent character study into the psych of your fellow human-beings. It takes a deep dive at the means and motives that drive a thinking, feeling, self aware creature to turn into a monster.
1619 is new podcast but it’s telling a very specific story. I put this one here because of the incredible story potential I think lies within this podcast. Of course as a NY Times piece, it is well made. It already has a certain expectation for cadence and pace inherently built in. This particular podcast primarily for my African American readers. There is a severe lack of representative black characters, stories, and perspectives in animation; media in general. It is our job as as African American storytellers to pushback against that wall, and make content that embraces our story and our past. 1619 is an in-depth look at slavery from someone who is still suffering the effects of the physical, mental, and cultural bondage of slavery. 1619 is the type of creative storytelling we can learn from as African American storytellers. How can we make a powerful and broad statement with our stories and bring those stories to a broader audience. Nikole Hannah-Jones means more to this podcast than the other because of the agency her race affords her. She is the descendent of slaves, and can directly trace her lineage back to the cotton fields of Mississippi. She is our eyes, ears, and sometimes emotions as 1619 through the first two episodes, tries to paint this broader view slavery context of its horrible importance to the United States becoming the nation we know today.