Episode Twenty-Four: Jess O’Callaghan

December 15, 2020

Professional podcast producer and Audiocraft festival manager, Jess O’Callaghan, joins us to discuss trends in podcasting, how to reimagine real life events when they can’t be IRL, and tips for podcasting from home.  

Links to topics discussed:

Shout Out to:

Jess O’Callaghan is Festival Manager and podcast producer at Audiocraft, and producer at ABC Radio National Fictions. She has worked on news and documentary programs across commercial, community and public radio as well as independent podcasts. She likes crafting strong narratives in audio journalism, conjuring new worlds with audio fiction and strives to achieve omniscience by listening to all your podcasts.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Steph 

If there’s one thing Jess O’Callaghan is known for, its being that podcasting person.

Jess 

(Laughs)

Steph 

Welcome to Sisteria, a podcast about women and non-binary creatives and their experiences creating and consuming arts and culture. I’m your host, Steph Van Schilt. And in today’s episode I speak with podcast producer legend and Audiocraft Festival Manager, my collaborator and friend Jess O’Callahan. Jess has worked on news and documentary programs across commercial, community and public radio as well as independent podcasts. She likes crafting strong narratives in audio journalism, conjuring new worlds with audio fiction and strives to achieve omniscience by listening to all of your podcasts. I spoke with Jess about trends in podcasting during the pandemic, about how to reimagine real life events when they can’t be IRL anymore, and tips and tricks of podcasting from home. I started off by asking Jess how her work life had changed in recent times.

Jess 

I’m working from home all the time, we used to do like one day a week from home, which for me was normally Fridays. But we’re pretty used to working from home, especially when there’s like, if you’ve got to do a week of editing, or if you’ve got to do like something that’s really big and focused, often we’ll work from home to do something that you really need to deep dive into, because we’re quite like a social team. And so, like the Audiocraft office, I feel like we do a lot of meetings and we have lunch together and kind of bounce ideas off each other. So sometimes if you want to like write something, you know, write a script you’ll hideaway at home. So it is something we’re really used to doing. But then like, I guess the difference is that the uncertainty of it all has been really different. And the, who we’re, how we’re thinking about generating work has been different, like long term, kind of looking at our plans for the year and our plans for our careers and things like that, it feels a little bit different. So that was really easy, like logistically, whereas the ABC is such a beast, and it is really strange. Like even just, yeah, sort of going like how do I book a studio, but it’s not a studio, you know, how do I book someone into this thing, and it’s like, it’s the same way as ever, but it’s just even the thought of how to go about different things seems like unwieldy. So there was like a, I went down to working three days a week for about a month, just because there was we weren’t really sure where business was coming from, to be honest. But things have been, like picked up and kind of…it for Australian podcasting in particular, like all the Australian places that were commissioning original stuff before coronavirus here are still open for ideas, which is like really encouraging and was like a really big wild card for us. And whereas, like internationally, I think like we have seen more conservatism in the economy, like just the impact on the economy is being really immediately felt in the US and I think like here it is as well but there’s sort of that knowledge that because the industry is so small, like we have to invest in it to have anything at all at the end of it…

Steph 

(laughs)

Jess 

So I think that is a bit of a difference like the places we were pitching internationally have kind of said like, you know, it’s a different world now, whereas the places here kind of like still give us your ideas, like don’t make them all about coronavirus (laugh). Like people still need entertainment and so that’s like, that’s a encouraging thing for us, I suppose. But yeah, I don’t know, like I’ve been I haven’t really long commute, so I’ve like gotten three hours back every day. And that feels really different. And not bad.

Steph 

That’s good. But I did want to ask about the festival.

Jess 

Yeah

Steph 

I can hear your kitty.

Jess 

Oh, no.

Steph 

It’s fine.

Jess 

She’s locked outside. So she’s like really mad at me (laughs).

Steph 

It’s cute.

Jess 

Hopefully she just realises that I’m ignoring her and goes away. Um, yeah, like the first two weeks I think I was really like grieving for two big projects. And one of them was the festival in its IRL form. Like where we all come to a s like 400 bodies in a room and talk about podcasting.

Steph 

And it is something that a lot of people in the podcasting world look forward to every year like, it is one of the most joyous, educational, interesting, inspiring festivals out there.

Jess 

Yeah. And we have like data. So our survey from last year’s festival, we asked like, how many other people do you work on your audio projects with? And like 90% of the audience says, in teams with three people or fewer people, like three people or less basically, and 50%, say on their own. So like thinking about that it is this opportunity for podcasters in Australia to, like, have colleagues and have people who understand what they’re talking about, because I think that a lot of those people, and the reason the answer of that, for that question is so high, like the reason that people are answering that they work in such small teams is because often they’re within an organization, and they’re that one podcast person. And I know for ages, I was like at a broadcaster, and I’d always kind of be the podcast person, or, you know, I’d be working at a commercial radio station and be into, you know, the podcast stuff. So I think that for a lot of people like it is this day where you can come together and like everyone knows what you’re talking about, you have this base level of understanding and you can then have, like, that next level conversation or, or like you can push yourself forward, because everyone around you has an understanding of what you’re talking about, you’re not like, “well, it’s like, the radio on the internet” or whatever. And it has been that…

Steph 

(laughs) you don’t watch them, you listen to them.

Jess 

(laughs) Exactly. And yeah, like we’re saying that change, like that was the feeling that I got when I didn’t work for Audiocraft, like at the first one where there was 100 people, and it’s still a feeling that I try and recreate now. So like it is, yeah, not being able to do that and come together. And it’s not just the gathering thing, like that’s the other thing when we were kind of deciding, so we’ve decided we’re going to do the festival online, we can maybe talk a bit about like the creative challenge of making something that feels good online as well cos that’s like really different to programming something in person. But yeah, the kind of grieving for that, like coming together was like, yeah, it felt it was sad, like thinking that that wouldn’t happen.

Steph 

Cos how long have you been working on it? So you hosted it last year, you tend to start straight after the last festival, right working on the next one. So you’ve almost been working on it for a year.

Jess 

Mmmm

Steph 

And then you get the kind of news that shit’s gonna change. That’s tough. Not only do you have to get your head around how you can change it, and maybe what you can do, but like you said, there’s a grieving process, like…

Jess 

Yeah.

Steph 

How long had you worked on it? How much had you put into it up until this point?

Jess 

Yeah, so we do spend, our whole team kind of spends different periods like different amounts of time on it for the whole year before the festival. So like, as soon as the last festival is over we’re like hustling for partnerships and trying to think about and all like a lot of programming ideas kind of come straight out of the feedback from last year and like out of things that went well and didn’t go well and the surveys and listening back to the sessions and like getting inspired for next year. So like all of that work starts last August I suppose and then and then we were really the thing that was really hard was in order to program the festival because we knew it’d still go ahead in some form, even as coronavirus started to happen, and I kind of wanted to preserve I knew that it couldn’t be a conference about coronavirus. And so I think that like, it couldn’t feel like we were I kind of thought like we could do something that’s like blanket fort, blanket fort podcasting or something but, but like that can’t sustain a whole that’s not what we want, like that’s not the purpose of the festival. And so what we did was we had our programming committee day it was like the last in person meeting I had. And it was it’s like a second favorite day of the year. It’s always really fun. And our programming committee came together in person and we programmed the festival as though it was going ahead we just kind of like suspended our disbelief and like ate cardamom buns and programmed the festival and it was a really, really great day and like we all someone had just been tested for Coronavirus.

Steph 

Oh…god.

Jess 

Um, yeah. And got the old clear like mid-morning and came to the meeting. Like he was like, don’t have it, um, which is you know, like it was right on the cusp. It was like early March when we had this meeting. And yes, there are all these ideas there that like are really amazing and some of them will be able to translate into the online festival which is why we wanted to have that day to kind of like capture whatever I was thinking and feel coronavirus aside, but there is this kind of time capsule like going through all those programming notes. It’s like a time capsule of how we felt then and how different it is to how we all feel now, and not just about like, the crisis, but about, like creativity in general. And like the main, like, why we make stuff, and what our purposes and all of that stuff like all those conversations have progressed in such interesting and different ways in the last few months that that does feel like this little, like protected bubble that we created that day is just like a weird time capsule now and, and yeah, it’s like using that as the starting point to program something that, like will feel current, but also that’s like, nourishing, and also like, I guess I was listening to, um, there’s this New York Times podcast called Together Apart. And it’s all about, I’ve actually found it really useful in so many different ways. But it’s all about creating meaningful gatherings and rituals online, I suppose, or not just online, but in coronavirus time, and it really takes you back to especially the first episode, it’s all about like defining the purpose of the gathering. And then or the purpose of what you’re trying to do, instead of trying to like plonk something offline online, like thinking about the purpose and then finding a way to honor that purpose that’s different, that there’s like a different form for the purpose. And that’s like, been what I kept going back to programming the festival because it’s like, we can’t do some of the things we wanted to do. But like, what was the purpose of that thing? And how do we, how do we honor that purpose online and find a structure for it online that works? So that’s been once I got over like the sadness of it not happening, that’s been really fun.

Steph 

When you were talking just then about the festival being podcasting people coming together and how it’s often a team and there’s one person who understands what podcasting is and how you’ve worked at broadcasters and you were that podcasting person and commercial radio when you were that podcasting person. How did you become that podcasting person because if there’s one thing Jess O’Callahan is known for, its being that podcasting person.

Jess 

(laughs) I think, um, so I worked in radio, I’ve worked in radio, like since I was 15. That was my high school job was like pressing buttons at a radio station. And, and so

Steph 

How did that happened though, like…

Jess 

I just I was in Port Macquarie

Steph 

I worked at Kmart!

Jess 

(laughs) Yeah, I had other shitty jobs too like. But um, I like my dad worked at the radio station and I just would go in and learn how to use the panel. And they needed someone, because it’s Port Macquarie there’s like three people work at the radio station. But whenever they did, like a broadcast from like an OB from like, Harvey Norman, or the Good Guys or something, you know, in like a country town, they’ll do outside broadcasts from all of the electrical stores and like they need someone back in the, in the office in the studio, pressing the buttons, and they’d happen like every almost every weekend, and you kind of like wake up really early, and then sit there while someone talks to you down the line from the Good Guys. And you play music in between and, and hope that the alarm doesn’t go off, because you haven’t pressed the buttons wrong or like timed out to the news wrong or something. So that was like my high school job. And I really wanted to do journalism. And I did not think that there was I didn’t know. I didn’t think about radio journalism. Like I always just thought journalism was a way to write. And so I didn’t realise that writing and journalism were like, related at all. Sorry, writing and radio. And I just thought it was this daggy thing that my family had always done, radio. And that yeah, I was kind of doing it for money and it had nothing to do with my ambitions to be a journalist at all. So I guess so then I moved to Melbourne, worked commercial radio, cos I already had that experience. started doing like studying journalism, trying to, like get runs on the board being a writer like volunteering different places,  doing student journalism and joining SYN, and around that time, I realized that like journalism and radio, there was an overlap. (laughs) Wow, what a revelation. Um, and I went to like a Melbourne Writers Festival session. And they, the guy who was speaking, Jay Rosen, he mentioned a This American Life Episode called Giant Pools of Money, which is like a crossover with Planet Money. And it had won all of these journalism awards that year. It was like a really kind of famous episode. It’s, it’s still brilliant. It’s still one of my favorite pieces of radio and he played bits off, and he was talking about how like, long form radio was the future for journalism. And I was like, what? You’re kidding. Um, and yeah, from then on, I just became obsessed. And I think that like, yeah, I do now. Like, I think I still listen to a lot. That’s because of my commute. But I think the reason that I have a reputation for listening to a lot of stuff, and this is like, pre-festival, I think I also had that reputation is because I used to work at a commercial radio station in archiving. And while I worked there, I would just have headphones on the whole day listening to like every episode of This American Life that had ever been made, or every episode of, and then every episode of Planet Money and, like Re:Sound the Third Coast podcast and just this is like, 2012-2013, I was listening to eight hours of podcasts a day. And yeah, it just means I’ve listened to a lot of stuff. And like, I might remember that story made for a random community radio show in 2012. Because I would have listened to it and spent my spare time deconstructing it cos I was really obsessed. Well, I was really bored at my job.

Steph 

Well, I was gonna say that kind of listening to things while you’re doing other things is a version of training itself, right? Like cos you can talk about doing the Harvey Norman OBs. But that’s very different from creating an episode of a podcast, creating some kind of narrative nonfiction. Do you think that it was a form of self-training that you were doing while you were listening? Do you think that people who listen to podcasts can use it as an educational tool?

Steph 

Totally, yeah. 100%. And looking back now, that’s definitely what I was doing. I think I was, it felt like I was addicted to them at the time, like I was really like digging out anything I could find them listening to it, it was it felt addictive, listening to that form of story that I hadn’t really been exposed to before. But yeah, it is a form of training, like, especially the narrative long form stuff. And I think that in the last few years, we’ve seen that that’s the way that a lot of stories in the industry are heading is something that is told over multiple episodes. And there’s a real skill to that. But I think listening to the really good ones. And then also like watching really good sort of multi episode, documentary TV, or stories that have their own beats within that story. And then like, each episode needs its own kind of arc as well. So like, listening to stuff like that is one of the only ways to get better at it, I think. And thinking about how it’s made and pulling it apart in your head, and thinking about the stuff you don’t like about it as well. And also to just know, like, what’s what you like, and what’s good and what’s out there so that you’re not just adding to the noise, you’re like doing something that pushes it forward creatively like listening is really important.

Steph 

Well, I know that you like, you love audio fiction as well. And your job at ABC is working on audio fiction. Did you want to talk about, a little bit about the difference between audio fiction and audio nonfiction? I think that people might be like, Oh, that’s just like an audiobook, right? But it’s not.

Jess 

Yeah, I think like that’s a job. That’s definitely something that I’ve only come to through listening. Like, I don’t have a background in scripted fiction at all. And so this is like, it’s been a real joy to get really into it. Audio fiction isn’t something that ABC has done for a little while, like, in a big way. They used to do heaps of it. And and yeah, I think audio fiction like podcasting, and also, like the international audio fiction scene has, has really seen audio fiction have a bit of a moment in the last couple of years. And a lot of that is the responsibility of independent makers, especially in like the UK, the US are making like, really interesting audio fiction. And I think listening to that stuff led to a lot of really great Australian makers as well. So it’s kind of like this meshing of like, the history of Australian radio, radio drama is really like great and important. And there’s really great work there. But there’s also this like, independent scene. I think those two things come together in what Radio National’s trying to do at the moment. And, and what like these sort of big organizations getting into audio fiction, like they have the resources to then be doing things that are yeah, that are really interesting. And I think some of the some of the places that are commissioning people who’ve been like really prolific in, in independent audio fiction commissioning them to do like really wild, big budget stuff. Like that’s really interesting as well. So yeah, there’s kind of like, a great scene at the moment. And I’ve been loving listening to all of it. And then on Mondays I get to kind of like play around. But yeah, it’s literally just anything fictionalized. I mean, the stuff we’re doing it (ABC) Fictions, a lot of it is narrated. did a lot of it because of budget restrictions, but also because of the different writers that are commissioned and like the people that we have access to Radio National and those sort of writers that we’re working with often have like a literary background rather than a screenwriting background, so but there’s some that sound more like I suppose, like movies, like I don’t know how to, to like a non, someone who hasn’t listened to audio fiction before, like, I suppose, like TV, but without visuals, like using the techniques of television, to make you listen to a serialized drama or serialized comedy or something. But, but yeah, the best ones are kind of stories that could only work for audio, I think.

Steph 

You mentioned independent creators, and then you’re talking about the ABC and ABC commissioning independent creators. Did you want to talk a little bit about people who maybe don’t understand, because a lot of people still maybe not people listening to this podcast, perhaps. But a lot of people still think of podcasting as either This American Life. Or it’s like, their two mates who talk into a microphone and then just upload shit. But there is like a really kind of electric and alive, independent middle ground that’s creating very professional stuff out there. Did you want to talk a little bit about that part of the industry?

Steph 

Yeah, I think that there’s a really sort of thriving, I mean, small but thriving, independent podcast making seen in Australia. And there are lots of different…Actually, I saw a study today about the neighbourhoods of podcasting, which I found really interesting in that like, someone’s kind of mapped out the different parts of iTunes that you can kind of exist in the world of and not, not, like come across other podcasts outside it. And so there is like, I mean, I, I definitely exist in certain neighbourhoods of podcasting. And sometimes I hear about a podcast, you know, I’ll hear about a podcast that is over the other side of the neighbourhoods of podcasting, which for me is kind of like, those two guys in a room talking, like often they’re not the ones that I’m coming across. I think people are finding different ways to carve out the time and, and space for themselves to make podcasts. And some of those involve funding. And some of those don’t like I think that in Australia, especially like some people are making money off podcasting, and like full time and doing it and doing it really well. But then others. Others are doing it as a hobby or as like a part time thing. Or I think that sometimes we can like often I get people asking me how to like have a career in podcasting, and I suppose I have a career in podcasting, so it’s disingenuous to say you can’t, right? People are like how do you do that? And it’s like, it’s really hard, but I’m doing it. I feel like it was always like, such a weird thing to say, but I guess my own career like is patched together with, you know, I’m not out there making just my own shows all the time, I’m making, like branded content through Audiocraft, and then originals through Audiocraft, and then fiction through the ABC. And, you know, like, sometimes, like thinking of passion projects on the side that like, I have to maybe sometimes stop myself from pursuing because there are a lot of work. So yeah, I think that like it is like a patchwork of being able to, to sustain stuff like that in Australia at the moment. And people have all different motivations for doing it. And the independent scene here is like made up of people motivated by all of those different reasons. So it can be a bit of a minefield, sometimes trying to like talk about talk about who they are or what they’re making. But there are people doing just like incredible when you put aside like that kind of livelihood part of it, there are people doing such creative, interesting things in the independent podcast scene in Australia. Like Passer Vulpes who do a lot of audio fiction in Melbourne, like they’re, they’ve made three or actually more, but three, three shows that come to mind this year. Like Supernatural Sexuality is a really great one, I think if you want to dip your toe into like Australian audio fiction, and Nym’s Nebulous Notions is another one of their podcasts I really love. So yeah, if you want to like kind of check out the independent Australian scene that’s somewhere that I’d recommend starting I think.

Steph 

So in terms of the independent scene a lot of it is self taught and self made and you do things at home and do things yourself, I might, before we actually talk about maybe some advice that you have for people that want to get into podcasting, we have it arrogant on question from Elena Savage, who is a writer and guest on Sisteria, her debut essay collection Blueberries is out now. So we’ll play the question and then I’ll get you to respond to it Jess.

Ellena Savage<br> 

Since the lockdown cultural production has taken on this like necessary DIY aesthetic. I’m a debut author, and I’ve been asked to contribute lots of homemade videos and recordings as digital content for the pandemic to help promote my book, in lieu of like real life events. I’m actually really worried that these low quality productions are going to linger on the internet forever. And that’s embarrassing. What can I do to practice internet hygiene at the moment without also being a bad sport towards the people who are really rallying together to sustain cultural communities in isolation.

Steph 

Internet hygiene, but to be honest I’m not even practicing, like self hygiene in this isolation period. So internet hygiene hasn’t even happened to like crossed my mind. Do you have any advice about internet hygiene?

Jess 

Okay, this is a really good question, because I think that Ellena’s concern is like a very important one and a really, really real one. But it’s not the only concern I have over over that issue of replacing so many in real life appearances with something digital. And I think that it’s kind of two, there are kind of two concerns. And I think that maybe in addressing one Ellena could maybe, like, help herself address the other. So something that I’ve been thinking about is when we’re putting out all this digital content in lieu of in real life stuff, like how much are we how much of the value from those events in the, I mean, in this case, it’s publicity, so how much of the value in in doing that stuff is in the moment and in the, like the in real life part of it, how much value is coming from that novelty and that kind of like one off nature of different things. So the things I find that I’m engaging with the most, at the moment, are the things that feel like they’ll disappear soon. And the things that I’m making time for the things that are really ephemeral online, so like, a podcast that I like, called Richards Famous Food Podcast was doing these Live at Five videos. So every day it was 5pm in LA or something, not in Australia, it was like 10am or something here. But I always knew that, that 24 hours after that thing went live on Instagram, it would disappear, and I wouldn’t be able to watch it anymore. So if there was someone cooking with him or chatting with him Live at Five, they were always really silly, but if there was anyone that I wanted to watch, I knew I had to watch it within 24 hours. And there are other things online that, like I’m really interested in, I’d really like to watch. I mean, there’s so much stuff online. And we could be consuming all of it all the time. But we’re not. So like, what makes us.

Steph 

I won’t even tell you how many tabs I have open right now that I will eventually get back to, right.

Jess 

Yeah. And like something, the potential is something disappearing makes me so much more likely to click on that tab over others. And so I think that there may be something in there that could help Ellena in convincing so she’s being approached by different places to do something that that replicates, that replicate something that’s personal, or, or in real life, maybe a way to approach that is to think of how to make it have this sort of temporary value and make people show up for in turn up for it. And maybe it is that it like self destructs in a week or a day or whatever it is.

Steph 

I was about to say, do you want this episode to self destruct after people listen to it?

Jess 

(laughs)

Steph 

I don’t know how to do that!

Jess 

Yeah, I mean, I think I don’t know, I kind of, when I go to podcast, I kind of know that people aren’t going to listen to it for maybe aren’t gonna listen to it for a while, right. So you kind of try to say something that feels like it could last a bit longer. I think that yeah, that’s it’s really interesting, right? Like, when we’re doing something online, are we… because I imagine if Ellena is doing all of these events, and there are some that she knows might exist forever, and there are some that she knows or just instantly going to disappear. Like, you’re going to be more candid and more, you know, I mean, I would personally, I’m just making assumptions about Ellena, but I think I’d be more likely to be more candid and, and maybe a little bit freer with what I’m saying or how I’m participating. If I know it’s not gonna live on forever.

Steph 

Well, it also creates that intimacy, right. Like, it’s, it makes it feel like, like with live events, it’s you and the people in the room. And often, you know, you’re told it’s a safe space, it’s not being recorded. This is for you especially.

Jess 

Yeah, it’s a trick we use at the festival, I shouldn’t say trick, it’s a technique we use at the festival to get people to go to one of the smaller rooms, which I think like a lot of the best sessions happen in that room. But it’s just often where like, often they’re not as big names like so the big names will, like the headliners kind of naturally go in the theatre because everyone’s going to rush to the name that they know. But I think that there’s a room called the Make Room, which is where we do like lift the hood on different podcasts and there are sometimes really big names in there but also sometimes people that people might not be as familiar with and so to get people to go to those sessions we do we don’t record that room and it is like a, yeah, it’s a way of splitting the crowd. Because I think that people go there because they know they won’t be able to catch up later on our podcast, they won’t be, we won’t record it and put it on our podcast, they can’t hear it later, they can’t listen back. And some we do grow the audience that way, because people want that. They want to be the one who was at the sort of breakthrough, make room session and be able to sort of say that they were there and heard that great session that people won’t be able to catch up on later. So I don’t so to answer Ellena’s question. Like, I think it’s a really like, I think it’s a really great concern to have that you’re you don’t want to be putting out things that are like mediocre or even potentially embarrassing that live online forever. And so, but it is like a hard thing when people are, you know, doing your kindness by wanting to promote your book to, to say, I don’t want to be putting out shit digital content. So maybe a middle ground, like maybe a way to tactfully to promote your book, but also tactfully practice digital hygiene at this time is to, to suggest that maybe there could be maybe there could be a time that it gets taken down. And that sort of an agreed upon limit. And also like maybe that could be worked into the promotion of the event, and the promotion of whatever you’re doing. Because yeah, I think it’s a really good thing to be worried about.

Steph 

I love that. That’s so insightful. I’m sure Ellena will be very grateful.

Jess 

(laughs)

Steph 

The other thing that she did mention in there is like just kind of doing making her own content like so part of that is people will ask her to sit in front of a computer and recorded ourselves like we’re sitting in front of our computers right now recording this ourselves in our own little bunkers of like, mine’s a desk, and I’ve got like a, I don’t even know what to call

Jess 

A desk futon combo. (laughs)

Steph 

Yeah. I’m like under a futon kind of thing. And there’s a bookshelf behind me and you’re in what you call your cubby recording at home. While we’re saying like digital hygiene in terms of promotion is important, I think people can upskill at this point in time as well. I think learning how to make things online and making things digital and creating like podcasts remotely it is an interesting time for that. Do you have any tips for people who might be listening to this and thinking, Oh, I can do a better job than Steph? I’ll make a different, I’ll make better podcasting than Sisteria? Is there any tips that you would give them because you’re the, you’re my go to person when I’m like, “Oh, hey, I’m thinking of doing this like isolation special series with Sisteria to help out creatives who might have like lost work or be struggling at the moment?” What tips would you give me slash the listeners?

Jess 

Okay, so there’s two tips that I’m going to give. But the first one is related to sort of generating ideas at this time at all. So this is like a, I just found that my life because things are changing so quickly. And it’s kind of a scary time to be creative I felt that my instinct was to create a lot of stuff. And like really hustle, this is sort of early on. I was like, oh, I’ve got to like, and I ideas were coming to me because I was slowing down. And so, so I made an agreement with my therapist about a month ago that I would write down all the ideas that I was having, but I wouldn’t embark on any of them like I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t volunteer for anything new, or say yes to anything or, or like try out any of these ideas, just for a month. And then like it was just going to be a month of chilling out of it. And then I if I still want to do them later, I could. I’ve got the most batshit ideas on that list.

Steph 

(laughs)

Jess 

And like, I’m so relieved I cannot tell you within within a week, I had like 40 things on that list, Steph. It was like so disturbing. Some of them like I would never want to commit to doing for any period of time. But in like a month ago, there would have been emails that I’d sent to people, like I was just pinging, I was like messaging friends being like, let’s do this, let’s do that I’m available for this, if you want to do it, I got to lose time. But I’m so relieved. I didn’t do any of those things and have just been gardening instead. And I feel so good. So I think like if you can afford to carve out some time to not generate stuff at the moment, like try making a list. And then after a month, just pick I’ve been doing the same thing for online shopping, I put things on the list. And then after a month, I’m like, after a week actually with online shopping. I’m like I’m allowed to order this now if I still want it but I’m just doing that for ideas and it actually is helping me a lot.

Steph 

I find that really interesting in that it’s kind of the opposite to all of this meme bullshit that’s going on about you know, Shakespeare wrote King Lear in blah blah and yada yada like all of that freaked me out because I just like shut down. I was like, I can watch whatever reality shows I have left. I can play Animal Crossing. And that’s about it. I was like I had the idea for doing this but I just like couldn’t get any further. And I think that there was, there is a lot of discussion online about whether you should be productive or your or you shouldn’t I think your suggestion is some kind of middle ground. It’s like, if you have this impulse, and you have these ideas, that’s great. You’ve got this, like, creative energy, and it’s there, write it down. But also take a step back and realize you don’t have to do it right now. While everything might seem like it has a sense of urgency, because the state of the world feels like it has a sense of urgency, it doesn’t mean that you have to, like commit to it. Like you said, like, take a breath.

Jess 

Yeah, my real problem was that if I hadn’t made this rule, I needed a structure to be okay, like I needed a structure that would be okay with not doing anything. And I think that this rule still makes me feel like a productive no it all in that, like, I’ve still made the least right, like, Oh, my ideas is still there. But like upon reflection, that they’re not great. And some of them are fine, but I just don’t need to be doing them right now. It’s been really freeing to see them all there and be like, oh, that one’s bad. I really liked I really liked it. I had this tweet that I saw, like, three or four weeks ago, that I really have actually, like, printed out and think about every day. This is like really creepy if the person who tweeted it hears this. But it’s from a radio producer, called Alex Laughlin, who’s in America, and it says, I’ll read it out cos I got it printed out. She’s she writes “amazing how even when everyday looks the same, I struggle to stick to commitments to myself about what my days will look like. It’s almost as if my expectations are the problem.” Like, I’ve thought about it so much. I’m like, ah, and it’s actually yeah, it’s actually like, changed how I’m thinking about making stuff at the moment. And just like, also, generally like doing anything, so thanks for that tweet, Alex, who’s a podcaster from New York.

Steph 

Also thank yourself and your therapist. So it sounds like you’re like, responding and doing all the right things at this point in time. Like, you’re like, I’m recognizing that maybe I need to talk to my therapist about the fact that I want to create 7000 things, you know what I mean? Like,

Jess 

yeah, it felt good

Steph 

Pat yourself on the back.

Jess 

Yeah, feel good, that at list is the least of a crazy person, but it felt good to make it.

Steph 

So what was your second thing before I cut you off?

Jess 

Okay, so my, my second tip for people who actually have gotten past the phase where they’re, and they’ve decided that they actually want to make the thing, which is also a valid and good choice, um, is that to start with whatever you already have. So this is, this is something that I kind of have, this is advice I’ve given to anyone who’s wanting to record at home at the moment, and some of them are existing podcasters. And some of them are people who’ve never made stuff before. But I think that everyone, including not podcasters already has equipment that could be helping you make good content from home, and you might not know it. So I think that all you need to make a podcast is like a microphone and something to record it into. And you probably already have those things. So start by making a list of all the things you have. So it might be like, my iPhone, my computer, I have QuickTime on my computer, so I can record I have maybe you have a good webcam, because I don’t know. I don’t know why you’d have a good webcam, but some people do. (laughs) But I mean, also like if you if you if you’re a gamer, if you’re into gaming, like you probably have a better microphone than I do. Like you probably have a headset microphone, that’s really good. There are all sorts of things that you have probably bought for different reasons. And you don’t realize how good they are.

Steph 

Also, if you’ve been sent to work from home from work, and they’ve sent you equipment, like I’ve got this Skype headphone that they’re like you have to use. That’s equipment. Yeah, double down on those things.

Jess 

Yeah, that’s podcasting gear. Exactly. Yeah, it’s great. So I think like make a list first of all the things you have. And then if you do have a small budget, like if, say, you’ve got like 100 bucks, or whatever it is to invest in your podcast, like start to make a list of the things that you could use to enhance that stuff. Like maybe it’s editing software to help you make it sound better afterwards. Like I think that if you have a computer, like start with buying a microphone that plugs into that computer instead of investing in a recorder right now, but I’m also a sucker for a really nice recorder. So I don’t know, like you can’t leave your house, so you don’t really need a field recorder. So, so yeah, it’s probably good to start with something that records into your computer. And then and then yeah, just like use, like upgrade from there. But start with all the things that you already have. And…

Steph 

There’s also a lot of free trials. So if you’re needing that editing software or there are there are free editing options online. There’s also a lot of free resources. So people like oh, I don’t even know where to start. So something like transom.org is a really great website that kind of runs through a lot If things

Jess 

Yeah Transom is great. There’s also this week Bello Collective did a great explain on it’s basically a copy and paste form letter you can send to guests to teach them how to use Zencaster and how to set their computer up, which is a really good, if you’re, a really good program that is actually free at the moment in some forms for while coronavirus happens to encourage people to get into using it. So, yeah, I think that there are a lot of really cool free things out there. A lot of places are doing promos for people impacted by coronavirus as well. So people who are working remotely for the first time. So Reaper’s got one on that’s a really good editing software. Yeah, you can often get different free trials for Hindenburg, which is also a really good program. And yeah, I think it’s a good time to be, especially if it has impacted your work. I think it’s a good time to be learning new skills and and making audio is a great skill to have, I reckon.

Steph 

Do you think it’s a good time to be listening podcasts? I’ve heard conflicting things. So some people like oh, I’m just like smashing podcast all the time. I’m listening, like I was listening in the bath before as well. I’m listening while I’m cooking. Like, the only time I can leave the house is exercise and listening to podcasts then. And then I’ve also heard other people be like, just, I don’t have my commute, like he was saying, so I’m not necessarily listening to as much. I think it’s a great time. I think podcasts make me feel like I’m connected to something beyond my own kind of terrible internal workings and just my dogs and my poor partner. What do you think? Do you are you still consuming as much as you were, or?

Jess 

Yeah, I mean, so there’s been a few studies come out already. And I guess just less studies and more people doing analysis of different podcast listening patterns and data. And one that I really found interesting was the one Voxnest is put out today a really big they’re used by a lot of people in Italy and Spain to listen to their data came through their sort of analysis of their data came through really early because they saw how the lockdowns there impacted listening. And then we’ve seen it reflected in their data from the US as well, which is that the first week of a lockdown or a change, you know, that coronavirus first week, listening dropped really dramatically. No one was listening to anything while everyone’s routines were shaken up. And then after that, like after those routines started to, after people found new routines, I suppose listening went up. So it was once people found a new pattern they were listening more overall, but to different things. So different sorts of podcasts like kids podcasts are having a real moment because everyone’s trying to entertain their kids. Um, but also, I mean, in Italy, and Spain, like religious and spirituality podcasts went up in a really big way. Whereas…

Steph 

That’s so interesting.

Jess 

Yeah, sort of like lifestyle and advice shows and like that sort of society and culture, but also news podcasts went up a lot in the US. And so I think like, people are changing their habits. I personally, I’ve been listening to the same amount of stuff, I think in the I’ll just walk around the house with my headphones on and garden. I’ve been gardening and I run and listen to podcasts when I’m running. But, but I have changed in times of stress I don’t listen to my usual sort of creative nonfiction podcasts as much. I listen exclusively to Recaps of Harry Potter and Game of Thrones. (laughs)

Steph 

Yeah, let’s let’s do the Sisteria shout out. I think that there’s no better time to talk about something that’s giving you joy in any way. So what what do you want to give a shout out?

Jess 

Yeah, so I’ll give a shout out to one of the podcasts that I’ve been binging at the moment, which I had listened to a little bit before I listened a long time ago to the early seasons, and then hadn’t listened to in a while. And so I’ve got a lot of backlog to catch up on and also been really listening to some of the old ones that I had listened to. That’s called Harry Potter and the Sacred Text. So it sounds I always have to I feel like I have to explain it a bit. Because it always sounds like I’m trying to make someone religious. Like I’m not religious. And I feel like sometimes when you hear that name, it’s like, oh, really just podcast but

Steph 

I don’t know you do worship Harry Potter. I’m not even kidding.

Jess 

(laughs) Yeah, it’s like it’s a really um, so basically, it’s these two theology scholars from Harvard, who are just super smart and also really engaged in like politics and just really smart hosts and they, Casper and Vanessa, and they treat Harry Potter as though it’s a sacred text. So as though and they both have different backgrounds as well in like Christian theology and Judaism and different, like, it’s not all sort of one theology. There’s different traditions coming in, but they use different sacred reading practices and also printed analysis. It’s just like a different way of analyzing Harry Potter, chapter by chapter in ways you can like, think about your own life and think about like your relationships with people. So I really like it is actually like there’s been no sort of spirituality in my life, as I went to like Catholic Primary School in high school, so like I kind of just written off, I didn’t know sort of like ethics or values education that wasn’t really Catholic. And so, as an adult, I haven’t reflected on that stuff very much. Whereas this podcasts, like each episode, they read a chapter through a theme. And the ones that I’ve found really great to listen to, in the last couple of months is through book five when Sirius Black is like trapped in sorry, Steph, you’re like, What are you talking about?

Steph 

I haven’t read them. Sorry.

Jess 

For all of the listeners who have read Harry Potter, when Sirius, which is everyone else in the world Steph,

Steph 

I know, I know. Sorry.

Jess 

When Sirius Black locked in his childhood home, and he can’t leave and so they’re always there kind of read those chapters through like the theme of anger or the theme of forgiveness, or, you know, whatever it is, and, and tell personal stories that relate to those themes, but also kind of analyze the actions of different characters and, but they had they have a spin off show called Women of Harry Potter, where they kind of, quote unquote, bless the different characters in Harry Potter. And, yeah, it’s, I really love it. It’s really like joyful and earnest, and I’m really into it. And I think that if anyone needs a soothing podcast at the moment, it’s really soothing. So it’s almost like meditating or something. I’ll just like weed the garden and listen to this podcast and like, reflect on my life. So. (laughs) So yeah, recommend that.

Steph 

Yeah. Okay, so you worship at the altar of Harry Potter, I worship at the altar of celebrity. So I am actually going to give a shout out to the only podcast that I can listen to at the moment. It’s called Who?Weekly and it is, it has nothing to do with the Australian tabloid magazine. I’ve actually been trying to get Jess to listen to it.

Jess 

Who?Weekly is my Harry Potter. I need to listen to it or you’ll shame me.

Steph 

Well, there’s over like 300 episodes, it’s hosted by two American writers, Lindsey Webber and Bobby finger and they discuss everything you need to know about the celebrities you don’t. And it is so funny. I went back quite a while ago now and started listening from the start because I’m a completist when it comes to this kind of thing. There’s a lot of in jokes like once you can meet and you’re in, you feel like you know, Bobby and Lindsey, the fans of who we call themselves the Whooligans. And the Australian spin off group is called the Rooligans. So essentially, the word of celebrities broken up into Who’s so someone like Bella Thorne or Rita Ora is their queen. And Thems, so someone like Brad Pitt or Julia Roberts, who needs no explanation, and they talk about the Who’s so it’s very funny highly with the Listen, I love it so much. And it it gives me that sense of joy. Much like you get out of your Harry Potter religion.

Jess 

(laughs)

Steph 

Your Harry Potter cult. Mine is celebrity cult worship.

Jess 

It sounds like a really good bath listen.

Steph 

It’s great. It’s a good everything listen.

Jess 

I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna in my, in my in my daily bath. One day, one of my daily baths…

Steph 

Was that your cat again?

Jess 

Yeah that’s my cat.

Steph 

She’s like it’s time. Hurry up guys. Hey, Jess, thank you so much for spending time recording at home with me. Or at your home.

Jess 

Thanks for having me, not in your home. Thanks for having me in my home.

Steph 

It’s been really great to talk to you and thanks for all the advice you’ve given.

Jess 

Naw. I hope I can be in your home and pat your dogs again too.

Steph 

Yes, same.

Steph 

Sisteria is supported by the Melbourne City Council Arts Grants Program and recorded on the land of the Wurundjeri People of the Kulin nations. We pay our respects to the elders past and present and to the elders of all the lands this podcast reaches. Subscribe to Sisteria everywhere and follow us @sisteriapod. Links to everything discussed in the episode are available at sisteriapodcast.com. Our theme music is by Rainbow Chan song is called Last and it’s from her album Spacings. Thanks so much for listening, stay safe and we hope to tune in again soon.