According to Joe LaRocca, BC ’05, when you’ve done a late-night show for Winchester Community Access Media, making a weekly one-hour podcast isn’t too difficult to pull off. The filmmaker worked on the two-hour long Wonderful Show with his friend and Rough Sketch podcast co-star Anthony Gaimari when WinCAM was looking to expand its broadcasting service to three channels and needed to prove that the station aired enough content to take up that much of the air.
“A lot of people think they can go out and do something like that, but even if you’re really talkative like me, after 10 minutes you’re sitting there like, ‘what the hell do we possibly do next?’” LaRocca said of the live broadcast. “So The Wonderful Show taught us a lot.”
About a decade later and now a professor in the BC film department, LaRocca is setting his sights on a way to reach out to the community of moviegoers and TV buffs around the world: the Rough Sketch. Rough Sketch is a podcast which co-stars LaRocca and his close friend Anthony Gaimari. The first episode, a review of the latest Star Wars entry, aired over a month ago. Since then, the two have been reworking Rough Sketch into a format that they hope can gain its own name among the slew of movie and TV-centric podcasts across the Internet.
“With any topic, especially entertainment, there are 10,000 other people talking about the same thing,” Larocca said. “With podcasts, you’re a fish in a tank that has more fish than water. We’re all pressed against the glass and you’re trying to find a way to give yourself a bit of room. In this world, you need to come up with a setup that breaks the bubble.”
LaRocca and Gaimari spend the first half of each podcast discussing the theme that they feel is central to the movie they’re reviewing. With The Big Short they discussed money, and with Making A Murderer they talked about injustice. While LaRocca and Gaimari can discuss a broad range of societal issues within these types of topics, they choose to keep their stories and discussions more personal, making them and the movies they review more accessible to the average listener.
Alongside this emphasis on creating a unique and stylized program, LaRocca stressed a few other key factors that he feels have helped him and Gaimari begin their climb in the world of podcasts. Since Gaimari still works at WinCAM, the two have access to the station’s professional sound equipment. LaRocca had previously purchased mics for he and Gaimari to start Rough Sketch, but once they saw what they could use at WinCAM, the two realized how nice of a system the station had there.
“Having the professional set-up changes everything,” LaRocca said. “We would’ve sounded like if we had stuck with the mics I bought. Now, our quality’s really high. Our levels aren’t perfect yet because it’s just him [Gaimari] and I. We don’t have a producer or someone running the soundboard, but we’re learning things as we go along.”
Once they had the sound design and podcast aesthetic at a place where they were satisfied, LaRocca and Gaimari began reviewing selected films that they thought were big hitters. They looked at movies like The Big Short, The Revenant, and The Hateful Eight. It wasn’t until the two reviewed Netflix’s Making A Murderer, however, that they realized that listeners weren’t necessarily as interested in award-nominated films as much as one might think they are.
“It seemed to us that not many people had actually seen some of these movies or at least didn’t really want to hear about them,” LaRocca said. “Nobody saw The Big Short, no one saw Anomalisa, but everyone saw Making A Murderer and everyone had an opinion on it, so I think that’s why that one was so popular. Everyone had a different opinion or perspective on the show, so it was easy to engage with different viewpoints that people wanted to hear explained.”
Now, with nine episodes under his belt, LaRocca is able to see where he thinks Rough Sketch has potential.
“I think we sound like we have a certain degree of credibility with our sound,” LaRocca said. “Our studio knows that we have good radio voices and that they’re pretty distinct. The quality of sound gives people confidence in the professionalism of the podcast.”
He points out though, that, especially with podcasts, any new program that isn’t started by big-name actor or star, it takes some time to get the ball rolling. Social media and promotion, he feels, is at the heart of podcasts’ growth, and that while getting things going may take awhile, a breaking point lies off in the future.
“There’s a strategy to social media,” LaRocca said. “I’m not too great at it, but Anthony’s [Gaimari] got a good handle on it. There’s an equilibrium point on those websites where if you’re not putting out too much and not too little things won’t work out well. I think finding that point is just as important as the sound quality or content you’re putting out.”
Above all, LaRocca asserted the necessity of having a partner on any podcast. In this case LaRocca edits Rough Sketch while Gaimari runs its social media accounts. This way, the two can utilize the separate strengths for the podcast’s continual betterment. Having a partner, on the other hand, is about something more than practicality.
“The conversational tone is the power of a podcast,” LaRocca said. “I don’t think solo podcasts work well at all for that reason. The best podcasts have the people that you want to hear talk every week. That’s why they can be an hour long and ramble on a bit. I think if you’re doing it right, the followers feel like they’re listening to their friends and that they want to check in on them week to week.”
Making it in the podcast world is extremely difficult, as LaRocca made abundantly clear. He is, however, enjoying the challenge, the time he gets to spend with his close friend, and gaining listeners as Rough Sketch grows. While LaRocca and Gaimari have a one-year subscription with SoundCloud for Rough Sketch, they’re taking the program day by day, seeing what they can do with it along the way.
As LaRocca pointed out, “We’ll see how things go, but hey, we’ve got a lot of time—we’re both single.”
Featured Image By Chris Fuller / Heights Editor