10 Ways to be a Perfect & Productive Podcast Guest (a Kick in the Butt for Ambitious Screenwriters) | Script Revolution

10 Ways to be a Perfect & Productive Podcast Guest (a Kick in the Butt for Ambitious Screenwriters)

Introduction: 

I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by Kelly Hughes for his podcast "2-bit Horror" and I can safely say he's one of the most professional hosts I've spoken with. In fact, Kelly and I go back a long way in my screenwriting life as he has also been a Stage 32 regular and blogger. In this article, he pretty much hands the powerful marcomms channel that is podcasting to you on a plate. No more excuses. It's time to take to the airwaves - CJ

What are there, like, about a billion podcasts out there now? 

As much as you think you need them to promote you and your work, they need you even more. They have a voracious appetite for guests. So get this into your head: You can be one of them.

I’m going to teach you how to find appropriate podcasts (yes, that includes ones that would consider interviewing unproduced screenwriters), how to approach them, what to do when you’re on their show, and how to promote your podcast appearance afterward.

It’s not rocket science. Are you ready to take a stab?

RULE #1 – Find a Good Match

Go for the obvious. Look for podcasts that feature screenwriters and filmmakers. But don’t stop there. Also look at podcasts that feature all kinds of writers. Especially ones that like to talk about the writing process. 

You should also consider the content of your screenplay. Does it take place in the world of gardening? If so, why not approach a podcast with a gardening theme? You might be just what they’re looking for to break up their routine. It might delight them to talk about the topic from another perspective. This could apply to almost any subject that has a strong presence in your script. 

I know a writer who was booked as a guest on a True Crime podcast because his screenplay was based on an actual mob murder. He was able to speak skillfully about the incident while weaving in some details about his script. The fact that his screenplay wasn’t produced didn’t stop him from getting booked and being a valuable guest.

So take an inventory of your screenplay. What are the settings, story elements, and character occupations that would be relatable to specific podcast audiences? And what is your personal experience and/or expertise that allows you to write about these things? What gives you authority on these subjects?

RULE #2 – Listen to the Podcasts You Want to Be On

Seems obvious, right? But a lot of people contact podcasts without knowing their format, tone, and/or subject matter.

First, you need to make sure they even have guests on their show. Many podcasts feature a single person talking directly to the audience. Scratch those off your list.

Then you want to find out what types of guests they have on. Are they all A-list celebrities or experts in their field? Or do they talk to unknown but up-and-coming creators with interesting stories to tell?

It’s also good to see how long the guests get to be on the show. Is it a quick five-minute spot? A half hour? Two hours? You can make an impression in a shorter amount of time, but I much prefer a longer visit. Sometimes the good conversation doesn’t start happening until an hour into the exchange. So be aware that shorter interviews can be sweet, but the longer ones are luxurious, if not downright therapeutic.

RULE #3 – Find Their Info

If you can find their email address right off the bat…perfect. Use it to make contact.

But you’d be surprised how many podcasters don’t list an email address, a website…anything! And maybe they want it that way. Maybe they don’t want to be flooded with unsolicited requests from potential guests.

So how do you work around this?

Start by checking all potential social media sites they could be on: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, WordPress, etc. Search using both the name of the podcast, and also by the name of the host. Hopefully something will come up that includes their email address.

You might also run into a contact form on their website. I think a direct email is better, but if this is all you have, then use it.

Some of the bigger podcast personalities might list an email for a publicist or agent, and you can try those as a last resort, but the response time could be a lot longer with those people. And you’re never quite sure if those messages ever get passed along.

What about telephone numbers? If you find one for them, should you use it? Good question. Let’s talk about that in Rule #4.

RULE #4 – Contact Them Without Stalking Them

If you find a phone number for a podcast host, it would be tempting to call them, gush over them, then demand to be on their show. Please don’t. It will put you on their Creepy Stalker List.

It’s better to keep all contact through the proper email channels. And here’s a non-creepy way to do it:

Dear Podcast Host,

I enjoy your podcast. I especially enjoyed that recent episode where you interviewed that Russian astronaut.

I recently wrote a screenplay that features a female astronaut fighting discrimination at NASA in 1976. It also has a great climax that takes place during a Bicentennial fireworks display that goes horribly wrong.

I think your audience would enjoy my perspective on the aeronautics industry, NASA history, abolishing the patriarchy, and my perverse fascination with fire and explosives [well, maybe don’t include that last part.]

I’m a lively, yet grounded guest. And, based on the other episodes of Space Warp 3000 I’ve listened to, I think we would have good rapport. 

So if you think I’m a good fit for your show, please let me know.

Thanks.

Podcast-Ready Screenwriter
Email address
Website

Craft a similar email, referencing specific episodes. Nothing will endear you more to a podcaster than showing them you’ve listened to their show, and that you like it, you really like it.

But here’s a crucial point: After you email them, don’t get weird. 

Don’t check your email every five minutes looking for a response. Don’t freak out if they haven’t responded within an hour, or a day, or even a week. You are not the top priority in their life.

Best thing to do is email other potential podcasts. Have several irons in the fire so that you’re not obsessing about one particular show.

After a while, the responses will trickle in. And you’ll be happy that you were patient.

But what if you never get a response? It could mean that you’re not a good fit for their show. And they don’t want to get into a back-and-forth email exchange with you. Sometimes it’s just easier for them to not respond.

But it could also be that they are still considering you, but they are bogged down with a flood of work and just haven’t gotten around to responding to you.

So when is it appropriate to follow up with another email? I would say about two weeks. Something like:

Dear Podcast Host

Just wanted to do a quick follow up to see if you received my first email that I sent to you two weeks ago.

I’m sure you’re very busy with the podcast, so I don’t want to be a pest. But I know sometimes messages get sent to Bulk Mail, so I just wanted to make sure. Btw, just heard your recent interview with Courtney Love. Damn! That was a good one!

I’m the NASA Bicentennial screenwriter that would love to be a guest on your show and talk about female empowerment in the aeronautics industry, as well as my undying passion for Courtney Love, and how staying up for days at a time listening to Hole and drinking bottles of Jack Daniels fueled my screenwriting process [well, maybe don’t include that last part.]

If you don’t think I’m a good fit for your show, no worries. But if you’re looking for a fun change of pace, especially with the 4th of July coming up, I think your audience would enjoy our lively exchange.

Thanks,

Podcast-Ready Screenwriter
Email Address
Website

Keep it brief, keep it light. Especially don’t act entitled and snotty because they didn’t acknowledge you (remember the Creepy Stalker list?) And have a shorthand way to identify yourself (e.g. NASA Bicentennial Screenwriter, KISS-obsessed True Crime Junkie, Dissociative Identity Disorder in the Beauty Influencer Community Expert, etc.) Give yourself a tag so that the podcaster will remember who you are and how you will fit into the show. Don’t give them a five-page bio telling them your entire life story. Don’t beg. And especially don’t jokingly threaten them. It will not come across as a joke.

RULE #5 – They Want You…Now What? 

Your patient but persistent approach worked. They want you to be a guest on their show. So what happens now? You schedule a time and date. And don’t be fussy!

If it’s a live show, you pretty much have to make yourself available on those specific days and times. If it’s a pre-recorded show, you have more options. It’s appropriate to give your podcast host a list of days and times that work best for you, but also stress that you are flexible. Most hosts will work to accommodate you.

You also need to consider time zones. Chances are you will be talking with someone in another part of the country, if not another part of the world. That’s okay because you can always work out a sweet spot. Maybe it’s morning where you live, but for them, it’s early evening. So figure out the time difference with an online time zone converter, and get clear with the host your time and their time (e.g. “So this will be Noon my time (West Coast) and 3PM your time (New York/East Coast.)

I’ve made the mistake of miscalculating time differences before, and it can be painful. Don’t let it happen to you. 

Also remember, we’re getting more global. You should open yourself up to being on shows in different countries.

RULE #6 – Technical Stuff 

Some podcasts are audio only. Some include video. Since you’ve done your research, you will already know which format they use.

Find out what platform they will use to record the podcast. Some people do it on Skype. If so, get a Skype account (it’s free to sign up.) If it’s a different platform, learn what you need to do to make it work.

You will want to have a good microphone set up on your computer. And a good internet connection. If it’s also going to be on video, use a webcam, but don’t rely on a webcam microphone. You should still use a separate and decent microphone along with the webcam. I use the Blue Yeti mic and love it. You can go on Amazon and buy a decent podcast mic for under $50. Consider it an investment in yourself, and a leap of faith that you will be invited to many more podcasts in the future.

Some hosts might want to use an app such as Zoom and record off their phone. If you are using your phone as a camera, get some sort of tripod for it so it will be steady, and so you won’t have to hold it up yourself. Trust me, your arm will get tired if you do that. And if you don’t have a decent smart phone, now is the time to take advantage of one of those free phone offers from your phone company. Sure, you’ll be locked into your plan for two more years, but you need professional tools if you want to be taken seriously as a professional. And if you’re broke, then just borrow a friend’s smart phone. Do whatever it takes. Just don’t make excuses and share your situation with the podcast host. They aren’t your personal Oprah.

Also, make sure you are in a quiet space. Nothing will piss off your podcast host more than hearing lots of distracting noise coming from your end of the call. So don’t do this from your laptop at Starbucks. The noise will ruin everything. 

Do it at home in a quiet space. Turn off anything that makes noise (air conditioner, furnace, etc.) Close your windows to cut down on outside noise. Tell noisy people in your house to get lost for a few hours. And if you have young children, have the interview coincide with their nap time. Or drop them off at a McDonalds Play Place for a few hours [well, maybe don’t do that last one.]

Some podcasters will also invite you to record the show live in their studio. This is great if you live in the same area. But if it’s out of state, ask them if they can interview you remotely. Don’t rule out being on their show because you’re too far away. Unless you’re invited to be on the Joe Rogan Show. Then you will pawn your wedding ring, buy a plane ticket, and go to Joe’s studio immediately.

RULE #7 – How to Talk and Think at the Same Time 

So it’s the day of the show. You are well rested, not hungover, and, if you’re going to be on webcam, you’re dressed from at least the waist up.

You have your computer, microphone, webcam, and/or smartphone turned on, fully charged, tested twice…you are the master of your gadgets.

And it goes without saying that you are on-time. Nothing will put a damper on your interview more than being late. No one wants to hear your excuses. You are a professional.

But what do you do when the show starts and it’s time to talk?

First, let the host run their show. Let them introduce you without interruption. Let them set the tone of the show. This is their domain. You are the guest.

It never hurts to start with a few gracious words:

“Thanks for having me on your show.”

“I’ve really been looking forward to this interview.”

“I’ve been listening to your show for years now. I can’t believe I’m finally on it!”

Be gracious, but don’t overdo it. Then you’ll sound phony. 

Once you exchange a few pleasantries, the host will move into more specific questions. And this is what I want you to do:

Use concrete examples in your responses

Finish your sentences

If you follow that advice, you’ll be good for the entire interview. Let’s elaborate…

Use Concrete Examples

Instead of saying: 

“I just wrote a terrific screenplay. It’s getting lots of buzz. I think it’s going to be very popular if it ever gets produced. So if you have any takers out there, well, I’ll offer it to them cheap.”

Say this:

“My screenplay is a Techno-thriller set in Montreal. A writer from the Huffington Post called me the Canadian Tom Clancy. It’s currently being optioned by Amazon Studios, so we’ll see what happens. The working title is 60 Seconds to Armageddon. Amazon wants to change the title to Nuke Train.”

Say specific things rather than general things. Paint a picture for your listener. Remember in the pre-TV days when people used to huddle around the radio and listen to radio theater? We’ve come full circle, and podcasts and audio books are bringing us into a new radio era. So take some tips from those old radio shows and learn how to paint a picture with your words.

This is also the time to refine your elevator pitches, your loglines, your shorthand to efficiently tell people who you are, what your project is, and what inspires you.

So instead of saying:

“I grew up in a big family. I was always creative. School was easy for me. I always knew I’d be a writer.”

Say this:

“I was the youngest of eight kids. My older brothers beat me up every day. To cope, I retreated into our attic and read my father’s musty old books that he left behind after abandoning us. Sherlock Holmes, Edgar Allen Poe, the Holy Bible. Maybe that’s why my new screenplay, a violent revenge fantasy called Boy With a Gun, feels somewhat autobiographical. At least that’s what my parole officer told me.”

Use specific words and examples that will come alive in your listener’s mind. Avoid generalities. Don’t be vague.

Finish Your Sentences

Nothing is more tedious than hearing someone talk on and on without stopping.

Sometimes it happens because you are nervous. You think that because you are the guest, you are required to fill up the audio space non-stop. This is not the case.

A podcast interview is an exchange between you and the host. They ask you a question, you answer it, then the ball goes back to the host’s court. But if you never sum up your thoughts and stop talking, the host and listener will get frustrated with you.

So instead of saying:

“The minute I went to college, I knew I was better than the teachers, or should I say professors—gosh, isn’t that a pretentious title for these self-appointed gods—well, stuff I wrote in high school was better than anything these charlatans could create…I mean, let’s overhaul the whole system and put some working writers at the helm, not these old tenured blowhards that make sport of crushing my dreams, and crush them they, oh yeah, you’ve never seen such sadism until you read some of the comments my professors wrote on my papers, and look, objectively, I know my writing was good—really good!—and that pissed off a lot of these assholes who, I mean, it’s like that old saying: those who can, well they fucking do it, but those who can’t, well they end up teaching at community college because, and let me tell you, I could’ve got into university, but it was about double the cost, and to hell with that smug university culture, I mean at least the community college had an element of reality to it, but the university campus, just assholes everywhere, and they’d even be less able to recognize my talent, right?, and don’t get me started on getting critiqued by fellow students…”

Say this:

“College was a real wake up call for me. The critiques from my professors were brutal at first. Not to mention the feedback I received from other students. But after that first year, I started to improve. And a professor that I hated at first took an interest in my work and helped get me published in the student literary journal. I will always be grateful to her.”

Convey one completed thought at a time, then shut up, let it sink in, and let the host ask the next question.

Also, don’t think you’re being cool and edgy by being negative all the time. If bad things happened to you, talk about how you overcame it as well, so you don’t come across as a victim. People want to be inspired by you. They want to hear how you’ve taken positive action.

When in doubt, limit your responses to three sentences. If you need to elaborate more, then the host will prompt you. But if you automatically respond to every question with massive verbiage, people will start to tune out what you say. You will seem like more of an authority if you choose your words wisely and alternate shorter and longer responses.

That being said, longer anecdotes can be shared, but you still want them to be succinct. You still want to end the anecdote when you have no more pertinent information to add to your story.

Also, cut out all the “um” “er” “ah” verbal filler. We’re all guilty of it at times, but we can cut down on using all those useless words if we catch ourselves when we do it.

RULE #8 – How to Shamelessly Plug Your Project (Without Being Annoying) 

This should be the most exciting part of your podcast interview…talking about your screenplay! So you better make it good. But what makes a good screenplay promotion?

Provocative title (supporting a clearly defined genre and audience)
Intriguing origin story
Well-crafted logline
Memorable characters
Interesting setting/backdrop
Your unique spin on this story
Motivation for writing it

Provocative title

Instead of saying this:

“My new screenplay, a romantic comedy, is called Mary Lou’s Wedding Bell Blues. Catchy, huh?”

Say this:

“My new screenplay, a romantic comedy with slasher movie elements, is called Kiss The Bride…Or Else! The Lifetime Network just optioned it.”

Be specific about the genre and audience. Think about which section Netflix would put it in.

Intriguing origin story

Instead of saying this:

“I think a lot of women panic when they hit thirty. You know, to be thirty and not married. It’s kind of a bummer, right? So I thought it would be cool to explore that in a romantic comedy. To show that sometimes it’s hard to find a soulmate. I mean, it can be depressing to be single.”

Say this:

“I got the idea during my book club. We were discussing this bestseller that was basically a lightweight romantic comedy disguised as literature, and I realized that I had nothing in common with anyone in that room, that I hated all the books that they picked for us to read, and that I was dangerously close to getting a cat. This was not the life I envisioned for myself. So I quit the book club and started writing this screenplay, inspired by the idea of each member of the book club being brutally murdered, one by one, by a cat hating serial killer.”

Share specific concrete details. Don’t be vague or wishy washy.

Well-crafted logline

Instead of saying this:

“Sum up my screenplay? Well, it’s about the emotional lives of a group of women who share the common bond—and love—of reading, but things fall apart when a new member points out the ultimate meaningless of the books they read, and then a sinister element enters the picture, and it leads to a climax, but I don’t want to give away too much of the end, so you’ll just have to wait until someone turns it into a movie!”

Say this:

“My screenplay? It’s about a woman who falls in love with a serial killer who is systematically murdering all the women in her book club, only to realize she is next on his kill list.

Get to the juicy core. Add an ironic twist.

Memorable characters

Instead of saying this:

“This is an ensemble piece, really. I celebrate women in all my writing. Which leads to a less hierarchical structure. My female characters don’t need to dominate each other. That’s why men can’t write female characters. They turn everything into a power play. They turn women into sex objects. Well I loathe sex. Sex must be canceled.”

Say this:

“My lead character is a smart woman at the end of her rope. She has suffered one too many fools, and she is ready to snap, if not fall in love with the ultimate bad boy.”

Put your main character at a turning point in their life. Make them an active participant.

Interesting setting/backdrop

Instead of saying this:

“My story takes place in your typical town. It’s an every town, really. I didn’t want to be too specific. I didn’t want to exclude anyone. I tend to be more global in my writing. I want to appeal to everyone.”

Say this:

“Remember that movie The Stepford Wives? Well my story takes place in a modern version of that. A very private upscale community with lots of tech millionaires and their trophy wives. A place of designer labels and rigid conformity. When my main character, a naive outsider, enters this environment, it triggers deep-seated feelings of fear and rejection.

Describe how the setting affects your protagonist.

Your unique spin on this story

Instead of saying this:

“Most movies bore the hell out of me. So I wanted to create something different. And I wrote some elements that I have never seen used in a movie before. I can’t name any of them. You’ll have to wait until this gets produced. And I basically think Ron Howard is the only director who could do it justice. I mean, just look at Splash. This man knows romantic comedy. I won’t settle for anyone less.”

Say this:

“While researching my story, I learned a lot about ailurophobia. That’s the fear of cats. Did you know that many well-known mass murderers suffered from it? Weird, huh? So I added that element to my serial killer character. There’s a fun flashback scene where the killer gets a cat for his seventh birthday. I won’t spoil the surprise, but let’s just say it’s a bit trauma-inducing for him.”

You don’t have to give away all the surprises in your story, but do share a few specifics. Tease them so they will want to know more.

Motivation for writing it

Instead of saying this:

“Most movies today suck big time. I can usually predict the ending within the first ten minutes. Who writes this crap? I wrote my screenplay because, well, to be honest, I’m good. I’m really that good. But I’ve been afraid of Hollywood effing up my vision. I mean, how many directors out there care about art? It’s just become a big assembly line. But I’m not a product. I’m not fast food.”

Say this:

“I was motivated to write this out of my love for suspense thrillers like Silence of the Lambs. I like complex villains. I like to explore their motivations. And adding a romantic aspect to the story really got me outside of my comfort zone. It forced me to humanize the bad guy. Which made me reassess a lot of my own personal relationships. When I finished this script, it felt like ten years of therapy.”

Basically, don’t be a pompous and deluded ass. And dig deep to discover your motivations for writing. These revelations are interesting to hear.

RULE #9 – Promoting The Podcast

When the podcast is done, edited, and uploaded, share the link. A lot. To everyone. Forever.

When your podcast episode first goes live, it is newsworthy. For about a week. Then everyone moves on to the next episode. But don’t let that discourage you.

The thing is, your podcast episode is eternal. It’s up there in cyberspace waiting to be discovered month after month, year after year. So you need to keep that link on your website and on your social media. You need to include it in emails. You need to share it on discussion boards.

Don’t share it recklessly, though. Use common sense. No one likes to be spammed. So know when to ask permission to share. And know when to be a little more assertive to get people to notice. 

As careful as you are, you still might alienate a few people who think you are too pushy. But then again, maybe those people don’t need to be your Facebook friends anymore. Think of all the crap people share with you online. Is any of it as cool as you being a guest on a podcast? I think not.

Bonus: You can now share this with potential podcasts. You have a concrete example of what a fun and informative guest you are. This can help you get on more shows. It’s the snowball effect. The more shows you guest on, the more sought after you will become.

Which brings us to…

RULE #10 – You Want to Start Your Own Podcast?

Please don’t.

You see, you will feel so high with excitement after being a podcast guest that you think you can maintain that buzz by hosting your own show.

But putting on a podcast takes a lot of time and effort. You need to correspond with potential guests, you need to schedule shows, you need to record and edit them, you need to promote them, you need to develop topics for shows…the list goes on and on. And if you’re not technically savvy, you’ll need help recording and producing it.

Keep in mind, you won’t be making any money with it at first, maybe never. But you especially must consider the investment of your time. Is your time better spent writing and marketing your scripts? If so, concentrate on that. You can still be the occasional guest on someone else’s podcast.

But if you want to use a podcast to position yourself as a screenwriter, be realistic about how often you can do it. Once every two weeks? Once a month? And will it be a general screenwriting podcast? Or maybe something devoted to your genre? You’ll probably develop a more loyal audience if you target a specific niche. Also, decide if you want to have guests, or whether you just want to talk directly to your listeners about whatever is on your mind.

And always be clear about how this will ultimately bring you closer to being a produced screenwriter.

SUMMING IT ALL UP

Writing is a lonely occupation. You don’t always get a lot of perks, much less respect. So if you can be a guest on a podcast, go for it. Enjoy the attention. Enjoy talking about your work. If it leads to something more, all the better. If not, it still gives you motivation to refine your pitch and to clarify who you are as a writer and a person. Because if you get on a podcast, you want to sound like you have your shit together.

About The Author

Kelly Hughes's picture
Real name: 

I love Exploitation films, especially low-budget Horror and kick-ass Action flicks.

I got my start writing and directing an exploitation anthology on Public Access TV in Seattle at the peak of the Grunge Era in the early 1990s. It was called Heart Attack Theatre. I went on to make several underground films that were released on home video (exclusively on VHS), and most recently completed two documentaries.

I currently host an exploitation film and cult...Read more

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Comments

Bamutiire Jerry Edmund's picture

Thanks for your sacrificial giving of this insightful comprehensive quality guide information free of charge, Mr. Kelly Hughes. On completing reading it, I now feel more confident than I've ever, about interviews; never will my words make a fool of me again. A great guide article this is. I love it!

Kelly Hughes's picture

Thanks, Bamutiire. I hope you find success with your Rappers & Toasters screenplay. It sounds like an intriguing story.

Bamutiire Jerry Edmund's picture

You're welcome, Hughes.