Note: Multitude is a podcast collective and production studio. This piece is part of a ten part series by them to help you create a fiction (or any) podcast. Did you see Part One? Make sure you check that out and come back next Tuesday for Part Three.
If you want to make a fiction podcast, or any podcast really, you're going to need to assemble a team. People have specific sets of skills and all those people need to work in concert to run a show. So how do you negotiate that? And what are all the jobs?
Take Stock of Who’s Around You
NEXT STOP, our new audio sitcom, wasn’t originally going to be an independently-run Multitude production. We pitched it to a few platforms and studios, who would theoretically give us money and production help in exchange for exclusivity on their platform (or other things). We had a lot of meetings, showed them scripts, made slideshows with jokes on them, but everyone we pitched ultimately said no. Ok, we thought, we will need to find another way to get money to do this, but we have a project we love and we’ll figure it out.
These vague, name-left-out stories are just to say that even without resources from huge companies or name-brand producers, you can look to the people around you to help get it done. If people have specific jobs and responsibilities, and you give them opportunities to do the things they want to do, they will rise to the occasion. But that trust and responsibility to do the best they can do comes from assigning definitive roles.
At Multitude, we had four people ready to take those roles on. Eric Silver had the writing chops to create the scripts, Brandon Grugle had the technical know-how to direct and do post-production, Julia Schifini had fiction podcasting experience to shape the production, and Amanda had the business skills to make the money work.
As for how your team decides who should do what, each team member should pick a job that they feel passionate about. If your team has picked the roles they want, and you still have a job that needs filling, that is ok. That’s when you find people with that skill-set and pay them, or do swaps or bartering, in return for their services. But pushing someone to do something they don’t want to do only leads to ruin.
What Are the Jobs on a Fiction Podcast?
We have a graphic for that!
We’re going to get into the particular job duties of each role as we go through this resource, and in a future post, we’ll lay out the definitions of every job. But for now, the important thing to note is that there are a lot of jobs and someone has to be responsible for each of them.
Here is how we split up the jobs amongst the Multitude team:
This was our main cost-cutting strategy: each of the roles the four of us took on should have been compensated as a stand-alone job, and each could have been done by a separate person. As full-time podcasters, we had the benefit of being able to dedicate several days a week to NEXT STOP for months at a time, so we were each able to take on many responsibilities. If you are on a slimmer budget, that may be what you have to do. But for all the companies out there looking to make a fiction show, please hire and fairly compensate people for these roles. Experienced professionals bring valuable perspective, skill, and efficiency to their jobs. It’s a disservice to your own production to ignore job duties or stretch your personnel if you have the funds to hire one person per job. Burdening your one technical person with the roles of studio manager, engineer, editor, sound designer, and sound director is not ethical, smart, or a good use of money.
Who Makes the Decisions?
Splitting up jobs means someone is responsible for making decisions in each area of the production at the end of the day. And that usually breaks down to a triumvirate of the Writer, the Director, and the Executive Producer.
The Writer makes calls on the story and the literal script. Does this line need to be rewritten? Does this name make sense? What does Character A do in this particular situation? There are going to be a lot of questions like “Do you remember when THIS HAPPENS in the story?” The writer is the keeper of information, no matter how arcane it may be.
The Director is the steward of the Writer’s vision, and they’re responsible for how that is being communicated and delivered into audio form. They make ultimate calls on everything pertaining to the actors and production, such as whether more takes are needed for a scene, how the scenes are blocked and the microphones are arranged (in collaboration with the Sound Director), and how the story is explored and interpreted outside of the bounds of the script. The Director also works closely with actors, advising them on their characters' motivations, or asking them to do another take in a particular style.
The Executive Producer is responsible for the production as a whole. They represent the intent and message of the studio producing the project and make sure everything is working smoothly on a macro level. They make calls on production organization, staffing, artistic intent (“Does this show represent Multitude’s values?”), and they work with the director once everything is in post-production.
While it’s important to have clearly defined roles, that doesn’t mean that team members shouldn’t get feedback from each other; fiction podcasting is the product of a team working together. But assigning clear-cut roles means that you know what to do, and, if people are disagreeing, who gets the final say.
The script is written, the roles are assigned, so now we’re ready to dive into pre-production. Would you call these steps we called out pre-pre-production? Sure! All we know is that it’s important to have these completed before you start bringing in the actors. But we’ll save that for next week. In the mean time, make sure to go back and read part one of the series, "Idea & Script Development."