In the first of our series of Interviews from Podcast Island, I'm so excited to present Karina Longworth to you! She's an author, THE leading authority on Classic Hollywood (under-40 division) and one of the finest storytellers working in Podcasting today. Her show You Must Remember This is Hollywood, warts and all, and presents such amazing material that you'll binge on it, and when you reach the end, start all over from the beginning.
Her books, Hollywood Frame by Frame, Masters of Cinema: George Lucas, Al Pacino: Anatomy of an Actor, Meryl Streep - Anatomy of an Actor are all masterful examples of why her work is so important, her voice so engaging, and her view of Hollywood, so thoroughly honest. You can read more about her work, and her blog, at Vidiocy.com.
And now... Karina Longworth!
You Must Remember This is pretty much the go-to Film History podcast. What's your basic approach to the podcast? Can you walk us through your process briefly?
The process of making an episode is that I do a ton of research (usually about a month’s worth of reading) about a subject to make sure there are stories to be told, then I sketch out a season around those stories, and then about two weeks before an episode airs I spend another five days researching and writing about the specific topic of that episode. Then I go in the recording booth that I’ve built in a tiny bathroom in my house, record out an hour’s worth of material (I don’t do a lot of takes), and then send that to my editor (currently Sam Dingman), who takes the raw audio, cuts out bad takes and adds music. Then I listen to it and give notes, he makes changes and then posts it to iTunes, et al.
Your series of pieces on Charles Manson's Hollywood really cracked open a period of time that is both frequently romanticized and decried for its decadence. As you were working through it, did you find your view of the time changing?
I don’t know that I had a concrete view of that time going in. I really try not to have preconceived notions about any of my subjects, unless it’s something I have an inescapable emotional relationship to (see: Madonna). I will say that I was more disturbed reading about the treatment of women by men during the “sexual revolution” than I was reading the details of the Manson family’s crimes.
Was there a moment where you knew you were destined/doomed to become a Film Historian? What brought it on?
Not one moment. I’ve always been interested in so-called “old movies” and growing up in Los Angeles, I didn’t realize that was unusual until I went to college in Chicago and met people who didn’t care at all about movies and were, in fact, interested in other things. I’ve never been interested in other things.
Do you ever find yourself having problems with the way baseball movies portray the game, and their fans?
No, I’m pretty much a sucker for most baseball movies.
If you could have one lingering question in film history completely and utterly cleared up forever and always, what would it be?
I don’t really think that way, because I don’t really believe in absolute answers. History, to me, is a network of competing and intertwined narratives, some of which are more reliable than others, but few of which can be totally discounted, because there’s a reason every story exists. I’m less interested in definitive answers (which in most cases are impossible to get) and more interested in exploring why questions and discrepancies exist between narratives. Sorry, I know that answer is wonky. I know it would be better to say I’m dying to know who killed the Black Dahlia, but [shrug].
You were the first person I ever heard defend the role of internet film commentary as anything more than the ramblings of lonely losers on the internet, specifically mentioning dialogue established between the reviewer and the reader. Podcasts, for the most part, seem to be a one-way presentation of material to an audience with little, and often no, interaction. First, do you find that to be true, and if so, do you think that reflects an evolution in the desires of the audience or of the creator? Is internet criticism sliding towards more traditional means?
I don’t think you can use the internet as a delivery system for anything and not get feedback. Because I need to avoid distractions in order to do the volume of work that I do, I’ve tried to turn off most of the feeds for that feedback — I’m not on Facebook, I don’t publicize my email address — but still people who have something to say to me find ways to say it.
I don’t know about film criticism. One of the advantages of no longer being a film critic is that I am at liberty to just read the critics that I like, while not paying much attention to the trends in that field.
I almost hate to ask this, but I have to - Your ClubW.com ads are my favorite. Whites that taste like salt and Reds that taste like dirt, while to me sound like an invitation to a dinner a party in hell, are a fascinating choice of preferred profiles. Are those your actual wine prefs (and please say yes; I'll be so disheartened if not!) and where did you first discover that these were the things you dig in a wine?
Yes, those are actually wines that I like. I got into wine in my early 20s when I was living in San Francisco and started going to good restaurants for the first time and had access to Sonoma and Napa. Maybe I just burned out on typical California wines early, but I’ve developed a palette that really can’t stand anything “fruit forward” or in the case of whites, anything “oaky” or “buttery” (the exception being certain French white Burgundies). As I get older, drinking more than one glass of any kind of non-biodynamic wine guarantees that my allergies are going to be worse the next day, so if I’m going to do it (which I definitely do), I want to love what I’m drinking, and using code words like "dirt" and "salt" is the best way I've found to communicate what I like.
Klaus at Gunpoint
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