good way to break up the morning commute is with the weekly podcast Filmmakers Drinking Bourbon, which is produced by two area filmmakers, Cincinnati-based cinematographer Alexander Elkins and Midwest director Brandon Faris.
The show, which launched last May, has two titular focuses: reviewing bourbon, usually donated from a regional distiller, and talking film. Episodes can cover everything from critiquing new movies to talking about the industry itself, especially in the face of the growing Hollywood presence in Cincinnati. They usually involve a special guest with expertise ranging from corporate advertising to wedding photography.
“We try to generate fresh content every week to make sure we keep our fans satisfied,” Faris says.
And those fans have grown in number this past year. Part of this popularity was a stroke of luck — around the third episode of Filmmakers Drinking Bourbon, iTunes advertised the program on its front page, right next to the At Home with Bob Villa podcast. Their listener count jumped to 25,000 overnight.
“We like to joke that Bob Villa is a fan,” Faris says.
Elkins and Faris met on a production set years ago and quickly hit it off; Elkins was doing lighting and Faris was the director of photography. In 2012, Faris formed LEAPframe, a production company that handles everything from music videos to commercials, and when he had an idea for a documentary, cinematographer Elkins sprang to mind.
“I really like his aesthetic and the way he shoots, and I thought he’d be great for the job,” Faris says.
“He said, ‘I’ve got one thing to say: preachers and serpents,’ ” Elkins says, “and I was in.”
The documentary became Venom & Fire, a nine-minute-long examination of preachers in Middlesboro, Ky., including Jamie Coots who died in 2014 after refusing antivenom for a snake bite.
In the wake of that collaboration, they knew they wanted to work together again on something else and tossed around ideas for a podcast for about two years.“We wanted something pretty loose and not like others, like Film Riot , that do (film criticism) better than we ever could,” Faris says.
The basic format was decided early on. The podcast would be casual, like a phone call, and they would talk about what they always talk about: topics like what they’ve been watching, what they’re working on and what they’re excited about. And there had to be bourbon.
“We’re not bourbon aficionados; we just like the stuff,” Faris says.
The idea was to point out what they’re drinking and give it their best description.
“It’s usually funny,” Faris says.
The free publicity spread quickly, and soon local distillers were asking them to feature their product on the show. Sometimes bourbon-affiliated guests will join in the conversation, but more often than not, guests have some relationship to the film industry — people like critics for the now-defunct film website The Dissolve or photographers like Rudy Harris.
Harris, of Rudy Harris Photography, was a guest on the April 8 show and had only positive things to say.
“Knowing Brandon and Alex already, I knew it would be a good experience,” he says. “I was right. It was casual, en-gaging, fun, and, yes, contained some bourbon sipping.”
But things weren’t always easy in terms of booking guests and getting episodes recorded. Both men had connections, but, according to Elkins, it was a lot of work.
Episodes go live on Fridays, but the length of episodes has been a debate; they originally aimed for half an hour but eventually settled into a 45-minute-to-an-hour slot, depending on the flow of conversation. The Dec. 10, 2015 special event for Watershed Distillery’s bottled Old Fashioned runs only 34 minutes, for instance, but the Feb. 9 episode featuring Kristen Erwin Schlotman, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky Film Commission, clocks in at 59 minutes.
Early recordings were produced in Faris’ LEAPframe office in Over-the-Rhine, using improvised cardboard box structures to drown out construction noise coming from outside. By the ninth episode, they settled into Studio B of Sound Images, a local sound branding and music agency.
They also record on location, with episodes from Philadelphia, New York and the National Association of Broadcasters Show in Las Vegas, a six-day convention showcasing vendors from every aspect of media and entertainment.Elkins and Faris devoted three episodes to the tradeshow, which took place April 16-21 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.They hope to use the podcast platform to give back to the community. Elkins, who has worked on such locally filmed Hollywood productions such as Carol , and Faris, whose real passion is documentaries, want to use the podcast to help filmmakers find work.
“In a small market,” Faris says, “you help each other out.”
Although he loves the energy that the Hollywood productions have brought to the area, he isn’t holding out hope to work on a big blockbuster. A running joke on the show, in fact, is Faris’ distaste for superhero films.
“Or anything with robes,” he says laughing, meaning sword and sandal stories like Game of Thrones or Gods of Egypt.
As for the future, they both hope to keep doing the podcast as long as it’s fun.
“It’s like therapy for me,” Faris says, “and it’s really an extension of our friendship.”
The FILMMAKERS DRINKING BOURBON podcast can be found on iTunes.