Screenwriting Blog
Posted on by Courtney Meznarich

3 Skills to Hone to Produce an Unforgettable Narrative Podcast

Podcasting is a new frontier when it comes to places you can tell your stories. You’re no longer beholden to the competitive process of selling your screenplay or the daunting process of trying to make a movie yourself. Now, you can tell your stories with a cell phone and some sound effects. And, if you do it right, you can be pretty successful.

In this article, we’re going to go in-depth on three skills that expert podcast producer Jeffrey Crane Graham says you should have to tell your story over audio, including:

  • Optimizing sound

  • Learning podcast software

  • Having a great idea

Jeffrey is a digital media producer. Behind the scenes, he’s responsible for hit podcasts such as “The Screenwriting Life” with Pixar & Disney writers Meg LeFauve and Lorien McKenna, “Better Together with Maria Menounos,” and “The Film Scene” with Illeana Douglas. Sometimes, he also steps behind the microphone to co-host, and he’s a pro at keeping shows moving, keeping things interesting, and growing podcast listenership.

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Below, learn more about the three skills he says can make or break a podcast. And you may be surprised to find out that expensive, fancy podcasting equipment isn’t required!

3 Skills to Create an Unforgettable Narrative Podcast

If you want to share your stories but aren’t making any headway in selling your screenplay, maybe it’s time to take matters into your own hands and develop a narrative podcast.

Narrative podcasts tell stories over a series of episodes, and they’re relatively inexpensive (or free) to produce, depending on the production level.

This medium is an excellent avenue for storytellers to test their projects, see what audiences respond to, and try on a different form of storytelling through an audible channel instead of visual. You’ll develop new storytelling skills by adapting your short stories, novels, or screenplays for the ear rather than the screen.

We asked Jeffrey what skills does it take to be a podcast producer? With his answers, you could have a narrative podcast up and running in no time.

Optimizing Sound

“I think a lot of the production knowledge that comes along with filmmaking also accompanies podcasting, but it’s very specific to sound,” he began. “So, you know, there’s the technical answer of understanding how to optimize sound for a podcast.”

For beginners, to optimize sound on your podcast:

  • Record in a big, quiet room so sound doesn’t bounce off of nearby surfaces and walls

  • Speak diagonally into your microphone for fewer popping noises on words with “p’s” and “b’s”

  • Keep input levels lower rather than higher, settling around -20 decibels on your fader (around halfway up)

  • Record high-quality audio files in 24-bit /48 kHz WAV or AIFF files for ease of editing

  • Record character voices and sound effects separately, then layer later in an editing program

  • Avoid processing your sound too much in post-production

Learning Podcast Software

You don’t need fancy podcasting software to make a good show, but you should understand how to use audio tools, whether on the software you purchase or the tools available on your mobile device.  

“It’s a bit of the wild west right now in podcasting because there are shows that are thriving on like NPR, or Wondery, or Gimlet that are highly produced narrative podcasts, but there are also shows with even more listenership than giant NPR shows where it’s people around a microphone just talking,” Jeffrey explained. “And they might not even have the same level of production quality that some of these NPR shows have.”

Jeffrey suggests podcasters learn Pro Tools and Logic specifically, “the technology behind what optimizes sound for production.”

But if you can’t afford those tools, there’s always another way.

“Or, I could say, have a great idea for a show you could produce in your garage with your cell phone, and you might find an audience.”

Having a Great Idea

“We’re at a very interesting crossroads in terms of podcasting, specifically where there’s kind of multiple routes to go,” Jeffrey said. “And I think, just like in television or film or any media, it really comes down to a really, really good idea, and optimizing that idea to the best of your ability, but knowing that a great idea, even if it doesn’t have the same resources, backing, or even production support as a major network, can actually cut through the noise if it’s good enough.”

The best thing about podcasting is that it’s relatively low-risk. It also won’t sit on a shelf for years as a screenplay might. Test your idea by sharing it through a podcast to see if it’s great. If people bite, you know you have a winner on your hands.

Plus, you can use that built-in audience to show producers interest in your story when you attempt to take your screenplay back into the market to sell it.

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In Conclusion

Some podcasts are highly produced, but not every successful narrative podcast has a big production studio behind it. You should view podcasts as a new storytelling medium that’s highly accessible. Explore and experiment in the medium with some simple tools. You never know who’s waiting to hear a story like yours!

You hear me?

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