The first season of the Blockbuster podcast explored the early emergence of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, who created the template for the modern blockbuster movie with Jaws and Star Wars.
Created by Matt Schrader with sound design from Peter Bawiec, it was a biography story told through narrated scenes and actors recreating dialogue from books and interviews and every scene was shot through with dramatic tension that reminded us just what an impossible dream it was for these Hollywood outsiders to step into their dream roles and make history. The sweeping musical score sent every episode to new heights of narrative storytelling in podcasting.
The new six-episode season is singularly focused on the rise of James Cameron who was a college dropout who drove a truck when he and his two friends, Bill Wisher and Randy Frakes, watched the now legendary Hollywood premiere of Star Wars in 1977 at the Grauman Chinese Theater.
The three friends had been kicking around ideas for sci-fi projects and watching that film changed everything for them. James Cameron was so inspired that he immediately quit his job and convinced his friends to start working on their short film that would come to be called Xenogenesis. They managed to make their film on a $20,000 dollar investment from a group of dentists, and while the film wasn’t picked up, Cameron’s drive in showing it to anyone who would pay attention landed him a production job with legendary low-budget filmmaker Roger Corman’s New World Pictures. Cameron would go on to direct the at that time the highest grossing film of all time, Titanic, and the rest, as they say, is history.
The epic quality of the storytelling remains wholly inspiring, laying out the obstacles that Cameron faced all the while propelled by his no compromises approach to filmmaking. He knew exactly what he wanted his finished product to look like, and he was confident that he could get it there. The parallels to our own lives aren’t hard to miss; when faced with a problem, you can choose to see only what’s stopping you, or you can believe that you can do what you set out to do. In a way, that’s true world building – creating the vision that you want to see, one step at a time.
This season, Matt has added even more “Creator’s Chats” to each episode with conversations with the people that worked on the show from the sound designers to the producers to the actors and how they shaped the story and what they learned along the way. Their discussions of the sounds and story beats create a fuller picture of this incredible story, and Matt tells me that by looking at analytics he can see that people are sticking around for the discussion after each episode longer than they did in the first season.
Also new this season are bonus episodes of interviews with the people who knew James Cameron from his friends Bill Wisher and Randy Frakes, to Roger Corman himself! Their direct recollections of their friend and who they were at the time add a fascinating element to Blockbuster that I haven’t seen matched in the podcast industry.
And just like movie sequels have to up the action, season two of Blockbuster raises the sound design to new levels, greatly expanding the number of acting roles on the series to 77 lending it even more “you are there” immediacy than before.
Epicleff Originals have created something really compelling that will remind you of the childlike love we all have for the movies and the difference one person can have when they follow their vision and have the drive to turn their dreams into reality. The next episode launches July 10.