Questions from Gary Oswald
First of all, thank you so much for talking to us. You host a podcast called Sequelisers dealing with rewriting and recasting film sequels, how did the idea to do that come about?
It’s a story of star-crossed lovers in many ways…
I was in a band called Monster City with Alec Plowman and he & I bonded over our love of films so we’d discussed doing a film podcast together as I was already active with a few comic book podcasts. We had originally planned to do Desperately Seeking Schwarzenegger - a podcast chronicling Arnie’s entire career in chronological order (an unreleased pilot of that show does exist somewhere). We then roped Alec’s friend, renowned tat-aficionado/YouTuber Stuart Ashen, into it and discussed doing something bigger. Stuart knew a filmmaker who was local and had experience with podcasts and that’s how we recruited Matt Stogdon.
We all gathered together in a nearby pub, along with another local filmmaker, Tom Martin who already knew Alec & Matt, and threw around some ideas and concepts. I think it was Alec who came up with the name Sequelisers and then I, half-jokingly, said our original tagline, “We fix the bad sequels to good movies.”
We’ve seen the format and lineup change a few times over the last five years so now we’ve settled with three of us: myself, Matt and our mutual friend Tim and the tagline “Bad sequels. Sorted.”
What are the alternate sequels pitched on the show that you would most like to actually watch?
Oh wow, there are so many! Matt’s version of The Rise of Skywalker (re-titled to ‘Ashes of the Empire’) is a big one for me because I found Episode IX such a huge disappointment. Our sequelised Episode IX is nothing short of epic (and the episode clocks in at over four hours long!) and serves as a much better end to the Skywalker Saga than the one we actually got.
What do you think separates a good sequel from a bad sequel?
Very broadly, I think good sequels should do one of two things: - Build upon the original and make it bigger and better (i.e. going from Alien to Aliens) - Subvert expectations and explore the world/characters in a new way
By contrast, the worst sequels tend to do one of two things: - Retread the same ground as the original without bringing anything new - Ignore/retcon the original film
And, as someone with a clear interest in sequels, what do you think about the increasing numbers of franchises and sequels at the top of the box office compared to original films?
The death of the original idea/concept in films really does frustrate me sometimes. Especially when you see how much money the big franchises and sequels make consistently make compared to standalone films and original IPs.
Take something like Annihilation by Alex Garland, for example. Sure, it’s based on a book but the film itself is still a standalone original idea (even deviating from the book). It made so little money ($43 million on a $50 million budget) that it didn’t even get a cinematic release here in the UK, eventually being distributed by Netflix.
As well as Sequeliser episodes the podcast also hosts inter-season episodes which are more about general film topics. Perhaps of most interest to our readers would be your episode on Alternate Film History, where you cover cinema without Star Wars and other scenarios not miles away from what we've done in this blog. How did you enjoy that episode and would that be a well you'll ever come back to?
I love delving into the “what if”s and possibilities. There are so many influential and momentous turning points in cinema that would have such a butterfly effect if something was changed, it makes it a really deep and interesting subject to talk about. That’s definitely a topic we’d love to return to, maybe with a focus on a specific time period or person’s career.
In that episode you mention, 'What if' being a common thing in terms of DC Elseworlds, Man In The High Castle etc. Do you have interest in the genre of Alternate History beyond counterfactuals involving films?
Absolutely! You’re totally right that a lot of my love of alternate history comes from comics and authors like Philip K Dick. I’m a huge video game fan too, even moreso than films, and I loved playing games like Command & Conquer and Wolfenstein growing up.
Podcasts are obviously very popular at the moment, I know you also host another one. What do you think is the appeal of the format and what do you think makes a good podcast?
I’ve made hundreds & hundreds of podcasts over the last 10 years but I’ve listened to even more. For me, the big appeal is having a source of information, humour and stories on the go. If I’m out the house, chances are, I’m listening to a podcast. And there’s always a podcast to suit my mood. Whether it’s a role-playing game actual play podcast (such as the Glass Cannon Podcast), in-depth or behind the scenes for films/TV shows (such as Better Call Saul Insider) or general comedy and pop culture stuff Kinda Funny or Sanspants Radio.
A good podcast is driven by one main thing: The chemistry of the people on the show. If it’s mostly the same hosts, they need to have a good rapport and ability to have an engaging conversation. A lot of people describe podcasts as “listening to a conversation between friends” and I think the relationship & dynamic between the hosts/guests is essential to that. This is equally true, but more difficult in my opinion, for interview podcasts. The best interviewers are able to engage with their interviewees, build the relationship and get something unique and interesting out of the conversation.
Also, don’t underestimate audio quality. We were very guilty of this in our first season (the audio quality is TERRIBLE!) and I’ve been put off podcasts in the past because of their poor audio quality.
I hesitate to call us a ‘major’ podcast but yeah, we’ve been amazed at the level of support we’ve received on Patreon over the last few years. I know a lot of people say “Anyone can make a podcast these days, you just need your phone or laptop.” While that is true, a lot more money, time and effort goes into some of the best podcasts than you might think.
For us, every penny we make from sponsorships and Patreon, goes back into the show and making it bigger & better. We’re able to work with our friend, artist John Scarratt, for all of our episode artwork, merch designs etc and from day one, we wanted to make sure he would get paid for his efforts. So a percentage of our Patreon earnings every month goes straight to John. Along similar lines, all of our merchandise is printed locally using eco-friendly inks and t-shirts because we wanted to make sure we were supporting local businesses and being as environmentally conscious as we can be. We’ve also upgraded our equipment from £30 microphones to £300 microphones and audio interfaces so we can record from home when required.
In my opinion, the first thing you should do is invest in audio quality. You can get a decent audio interface and microphone with the cables & stands etc for around £100-150 altogether so with a little bit of saving, it can be achievable for most.
Month-to-month outgoings include our web hosting service, Wix, our editing software, Adobe Audition and postage for the merch that we sell.
Outside of podcasts, you've also written a comic book about D-Day. Do you have a particular interest in military history and should we expect more like that from you in the future?
That graphic novel, D-Day: Storming Fortress Europe, was bit of an accident actually. My history knowledge is pretty limited, my wife is definitely the history buff in our house, so D-Day, and military history as a whole, wasn’t something I knew too much about outside of some documentaries and films I’d watched over the years. Thankfully, I always do a lot of research so I was able to dive into the details of D-Day and learn a lot in a short period of time.
I’d love to write more comics in the future, both historical and fictional, but my experience with creating D-Day was pretty terrible and I was burnt out by it. I’ve still not been paid for that book, despite it being published more than two years ago.
I do have some upcoming creative projects with some historical, and alternate history too, but I can’t say too much about them at the moment!
Has the experience of hosting the podcast affected how you now view films? Do you find yourself watching a new movie and mentally going, it'd be better if they'd cast this guy instead or bought in this director etc. more than you used to?
Oh, definitely. From my background in physics, I often struggle to not nitpick and notice little inconsistencies. On the other hand, I really treasure a movie experience where I can get totally lost and not have that critical thinking part of my brain ticking away in the background.