How podcaster and filmmaker Alistair Marks makes it matter
Filmmaker and podcaster, Alistair Marks is the creator of the mega-informative podcast about living a creative life, Coming Up Next. And he’s just launched Bosspods, a course to teach the A-Z of podcasting. Read about how his passion for wrestling informs his incredible commitment to everything creative.
How do you give it mouth?
As a filmmaker and podcaster, I operate in an audio and visual media, so I’m always giving voice to my beliefs and thoughts. I seek to inspire. I seek to empower through my own work and through what I put out into the world.
Tell me about your podcast Coming Up Next
Well, through my work as a filmmaker, I’d developed good interview skills – you know building quick rapport, being able to listen – and I was hired by big companies MTV and channel ten. So I thought, if companies are hiring me why don’t I just do it myself. Originally I was going to interview people who were on the precipice of stardom, which is why it was called Coming Up Next. But in the first ten episodes, I interviewed people like Samuel Johnson, Michala Banas, Dylan Lewis…and I thought these people aren’t really coming up next. So the podcast evolved into people just living a creative life, no matter what point they’re at.
So is that where the social impact of your work derives? From holding up models on how to live a creative life?
Well, in my film making, I’m leading by example. I am living creatively. But with my podcast I’m holding out creative people who live their dreams and follow their hard through difficult circumstances and learn from them, so we can all be inspired and feel like we’re in it together. We can all live that kind of life. And also, there’s something in archiving stories of amazing people.
Have you ever had anyone say to you that one of your podcasts has changed their life? Is there a story you can tell about that?
Yeah, there have been a few instances where people have reached out to me. There was a woman who got in touch with me. She was going through a massive career change and started writing children’s books. She sent me her book and said that my podcast had inspired her. And that was really cool. Also, looking at reviews of my podcast on iTunes and I saw that someone had written a review saying that she loved tuning in each week for the philosophical discussions. She was a yoga teacher and actually using some of the material in her classes.
I’ve also started working with people, helping them find their own voices through making podcasts.
Podcasting really is, kind of old but new isn’t it? I mean radio’s been around for ages, but now with the accessibility of podcasting, I mean, it’s an option for everyone isn’t it? Does that excite you?
It is very exciting. There’s a film-maker called Kevin Smith who has his own podcast network now. He describes it as being like the wild west at the moment, because anyone can have a show about anything. He says just find something you’re interested in and get a microphone and talk about it.
I actually had the fortune to ask Smith a question at a conference recently. And I asked him of course the burning question that everyone in new media wants an answer for right now – how do you monetise? And he was of the view that, rather than sell-out to advertising – the best path is to look for indirect revenue channels, so the integrity of your podcast remains.
What are the things people need to know about podcasting?
Well, I’m actually in the process of creating a course on how to podcast. It’s called Bosspods, because it teaches you to podcast like a boss. I’m doing it with Samuel Johnson, who’s an actor, so the emphasis is on using our experience as entertainers – as well as our technical knowledge – to help people find their own voices.
We cover structuring, setting up the format, understanding what microphones to buy, how to edit – the start to finish of how to create a podcast. Then we get you to create a podcast and we’ll critique you on it.
How important is storytelling in a podcast?
I’m a storyteller by trade. My grandfather was a writer and he always encouraged me to write stories as I was growing up. And so in my interview podcast, I’m asking questions that uncover the subject’s story. Perhaps the story is fragmented, and at times the information is tangential, but I always follow a narrative.
My other podcast is a review based podcast about wrestling. That also focuses on narrative, because wrestling is of course its own soap opera. It’s very performative.
I can see from your podcast that performative thing really informs your work doesn’t it. I mean, you don’t play it straight right?
Definitely. At school we’d make wrestling videos – groups of ten of us. And there’d be storylines that would go for years.
Do you still have the tape?
Well, I didn’t have but recently a mate put them all on DVD.
But I am definitely a performer at heart, particularly in front of live audiences. I mean, just quietly I still fantasise about going to wrestling school and becoming a wrestler.
What podcasts should we be listening to besides yours?
The first podcast I listened to was Ricky Gervais’s. He was a pioneer of podcasts. I was just so engaged with him and Steve Merchant and Karl Pilkington as characters. Then I started with Kevin Smith’s podcast. But the one that really hooked me was Pete Holmes’ podcast You Made It Weird. Holmes is a stand up comedian, who talks with people about real shit. He was the one who made me think Coming Up Next was possible.
What have you learnt about living a creative life from the myriad of creatives you have interviewed?
The first thing is being true to yourself, no matter what people tell you. Being anything else is a futile act. It’s an inauthentic act and quite destructive to the creative process. So embrace who you are and how you see the world.
Second, there is no such thing as originality. Originality is the death of creativity. There’s a limited amount of stories possible, and most of them told by people much more skilled than we are. So what I have discovered is that trying to be original stifles my creativity because it stops me doing stuff.
Returning to what’s already there is important isn’t it?
Yeah, you can’t reinvent the wheel but you can put your own hubcap on it.
And finally, take action. The hardest part is always beginning, not *the* beginning, but actually starting. It takes a lot of will, effort, and trust – because who knows where you will end up! But just trust that the ducks will line up behind you, when you take that first step.
You can find Alistair at: comingupnext.com.au