It’s hard for me to imagine a world without movies. Not just without movie theaters or Netflix or DVDs, but without the amazing stories that have become such a huge part of our culture. But films weren’t always the incredible, immersive experience they are today. Film has a rich – if relatively short – history full of visionaries who risked everything to create the world of film we have today, perhaps none more notable than Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. While those names carry an incredible amount of weight today, there was a time – long ago in the land of the 1970s – when they were just two friends desperately trying not to ruin their careers. Emmy Award-winning investigative journalist and the writer and director of Score: A Film Music Documentary Matt Schrader has decided to tell the story of young Spielberg and Lucas with his brand new podcast Blockbuster and I got to talk to him all about moving into a new medium and why he’s so excited about this project.
After Score: A Film Music Documentary was finished and received with exciting levels of success, the core team that worked with Matt on the film “wanted to flip that into another project.” But, as they are working on filming their next big hit, they had another project in mind as well. “We have this idea for a dramatic podcast series that would be a true story and put investigative journalism skills together with the scripted and film interests that we have,” Matt explained. “And that’s how Blockbuster was born.”
So what is it? Blockbuster is the story of how “young Steven Spielberg and George Lucas fight to save their careers from disaster and prove a new model for escapism that will revolutionize 1970s Hollywood.” If you’re like me, you don’t see an immediate connection between the two names beyond both being really important movie directors. “The story of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg is, I think, one of the most important stories in film history,” Matt told me. “And most people don’t know that they were best friends at one point and that without each other their films would have fallen apart early on.” Matt isn’t saying that their films wouldn’t exist, but they certainly wouldn’t be what they became. Blockbuster unearths the unknown story of how the two men depended on each other during their journey to reinventing the film industry.
Blockbuster maps the two friends’ failures and successes in their earliest days in film using an impressive array of audio elements. “There’s the voice actors, there’s the sound design, there’s the original score,” Matt explained. “But there’s also archival audio from different things of the era.” From films to awards show recordings, Matt’s team has “blended together these things into a bio-pic story so that it feels authentic.” The voice actors are even using lines based on interviews with Lucas and Spielberg in order to “stick to their actual words and actual ideas and the facts that happened in reconstructing this.” All of these elements come together to send listeners back in time to watch an incredible friendship unfold.
Of course, the story could lend itself to an incredible film, but Matt and his team were really set on a podcast. “It’s a really exciting time for podcasts because they’re opening up to everything,” Matt said. “This industry has really expanded.” Things like the resurgence of audio drama had Matt really excited, but he saw more potential for the medium than fiction storytelling. “I think the most powerful thing podcasts can do now without having a huge budget involved like a film might, is tell powerful stories,” he told me. “This is a really exciting drama that we can tell in podcast form… it really merges a rich history of film with the cutting edge aspects of podcasting.” While Blockbuster has turned into an incredible drama that tells a story no one else has told, it wasn’t an easy project.
Matt’s team decided early on that Blockbuster wasn’t going to be a documentary; they just wanted to tell the story of two people who ended up changing the entertainment industry forever. But they wanted to mix history and drama with podcasting in a way they hadn’t ever seen done and that was tricky. “The podcast platform hasn’t really done a bio-pic before. There’s been a lot of audio dramas, and there have been documentaries, but as far as original bio-pic, that hasn’t been done before.” Taking a growing film style – Matt referenced Bohemian Rhapsody and The Disaster Artist as examples of bio-pics in film – and using it as a guide for podcasts was a major shift, but Matt is hoping that Blockbuster is both received well and opens the door to a whole new kind of audio storytelling.
Blockbuster just released and is ready for listening, so if you love great films, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, or an amazing story, give it a listen and be sure to leave a rating and review to let Matt and his team know what you think!