Film historian Wayne Byrne and sometime film writer, filmmaker Paul Farren have recently put their heads together to produce a new podcast show called Double Feature Film Chat Show. Episodes consist of friendly banter about two favourite films each episode brought to the table by one of the hosts and also interviews with some iconic filmmakers from behind the camera, most recently Hollywood DoP Michael D O’Shea. Another project the two have in development is a book on the films of Walter Hill for McFarland Publishing, due for release in 2022. Wayne will also be releasing a book this autumn on the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise for McFarland, entitled Welcome to Elm Street – Inside the Film & Television Nightmares.
Film Ireland took time out to talk to these two film enthusiasts about their various projects.
FI: How did you two guys meet?
Paul: I got to meet Wayne through Film Ireland. Wayne had written a book on famed indie director Tom DiCillo and was offering a chance to interview Tom and himself to help publicize the book. Film Ireland called and asked if I was interested. I wasn’t turning down the chance of talking to Tom DiCillo and this guy Wayne intrigued me too. He went and wrote a book about DiCillo on his own after securing interest from the subject. What I liked about him was that he went and did it and secured the publishing deal along the way. He didn’t wait to be told everything was okay. So it started there. He was a voice on the phone for a few years [laughs].
FI: Wayne, you have been quite prolific since the Tom DiCillo book. What do you enjoy most about writing?
Wayne: Meeting people. That has been the greatest joy in all of it. Some of my greatest friendships have come about because of this book-writing endeavour of mine. My friendship with Paul is another example of that.
FI: And here you both are… embarking on several endeavours together.
Wayne: Yes, that’s why when you asked me what I enjoy most about writing I said “meeting people”; you never know what projects and collaborations it will lead to.
Paul: As I was saying, Wayne was a voice on the phone, that was 2016 – we never actually met until 2019 when Wayne was doing a speaking tour around Ireland with Nick McLean, a wonderful cinematographer whom he met when writing his second book, Burt Reynolds on Screen. Nick was a big contributor to that book and had worked a lot with him; in fact Burt was the one who gave Nick the chance to upgrade from camera operator to cinematographer. Wayne in turn wrote a brilliant book about Nick’s career, Nick McLean Behind the Camera! So I had the privilege of interviewing both of them for Film Ireland during that tour around Ireland. That was the first face to face. Then I had the pleasure of helping him do an Irish launch for the Burt Reynolds’ book, and now he’s stuck with me. After those events Wayne and I kept in touch and talked the heads off each other about films and as we kept talking we decided we should channel our interest and make other people suffer our conversations. This led to the Double Feature Film Chat Show. The thoughts of unleashing our chats on an unsuspecting internet was too good to be ignored. I should also mention that this has led to another collaboration: Wayne was beginning to start on his next literary project, a book on the great Walter Hill, and he asked me to join him in writing it. And then Wayne went and got us a deal with McFarland Publishing. It’s a great honour and it scares the shit out of me but I trust his faith in me.
Wayne: Well, I’ve known for a long time that Paul is a very good critic, one of the few critics whose opinions I respect and whose insights I enjoy, and I thought that he would work well with the broader canvas of a book. So I asked him to join me on this endeavour. Who knows? It could be the beginning of a new career for him.
FI: How is that book going so far?
Wayne: Paul is probably finding out quickly that I’m pretty relentless when I begin working on a project. Once I sign a contract I’m straight to business until it’s completed, and that has served us extremely well because within six weeks of signing the contract I interviewed a lot people from Walter’s films, including Walter himself, Neil Canton, Bob Gale, David Mansfield, Maggie Greenwald, Jack Sholder, William Malone, Lloyd Ahern, and a lot of other great artists who have come aboard. The book is coming together beautifully and unbelievably quickly. But as I say, relentless.
Paul: Relentless in a nice way. I am getting into the swing of things. It helps that Wayne has amazing experience and that Walter Hill is a great subject to write about. But yeah, Wayne is like a Tasmanian devil when it comes to research and interviews.
FI: Wayne, how do you approach the writing on a technical level?
Wayne: Without technical ability. I’m only joking, of course, but what I mean is that I’m not schooled in writing. I’m not even “self-taught” because I never tried teaching myself; I just started writing. So I don’t approach it from a “technical level”. I just write the books that I want to read but which haven’t been written. That’s my approach and it has been working for me thus far. I try to make them as accessible as possible, written in a style that should be engaging to anybody. Too many film books are written in a very formalised, almost unreadable academic style and I avoid that type of writing because I wouldn’t want to be reading it.
FI: So when did you start writing?
Wayne: I started writing years ago just to keep track of the movies I watched. I would write these little reviews which eventually turned into this massive portfolio of amateur criticism, and on the suggestion of a friend I took it to a local newspaper. So I had a meeting with the editor, he liked my writing, and he hired me as their film critic and columnist. I was being paid to write about movies! My career grew from there and I became an accidental journalist. I ended up being asked to join Hot Press magazine as music critic and writer on other things such as food, concerts, travel, television, etc. I was with them for three years, which was huge for me. I was an avid reader of Hot Press for many years; I used to have stacks of them beside my bed, so to be asked to join them was mind-blowing. I have to thank the wonderful Roisin Dwyer for that. She brought me in there and I’m very grateful for the experience. I have since written pieces for The Irish Times, Books Ireland, The Dark Side, and plenty of others. One thing has just led to another. But it all stems from my love of cinema. The writing came from that.
FI: So back to the Double Feature Film Chat Show, do you think that podcasting is the new forum for film discourse, rather than print media?
Paul: No, it’s just another one. I do fear for print media, but certainly written media isn’t going away. What a chat can offer is a loser format, and that might have some downfalls at times but all analysis starts with conversation doesn’t it? I think anything that helps introduce new people to film and continue the conversation is always a good thing. Everyone has the right to enter the fray and I think the good conversations will always rise to the top no matter what the forum is.
FI: So in an over-crowded podcast landscape, what is unique about you? What are you bringing to film discourse that people won’t get anywhere else?
Paul: I am a philistine. I don’t listen to that many movie podcasts so I can’t say much about the others of this ilk. I’m just someone with an opinion who enjoys talking about films. We do want to make it interesting to others. I personally would not want it to be an insufferable ‘sound of your own voice’ show. What we do have in our favour is a passion for the chats and friendly arguments about films. That is the main reason we’re doing it. It’s early days; we’re finding our form. What people might get from us as opposed to other purveyors of movie chat is interesting movie chat that tries to avoid any pretentiousness. But maybe all the other podcasters might say the same thing.
Wayne: I don’t listen to any podcasts, but occasionally I stumble across something entertaining and interesting on YouTube. There are a couple of commentators I like, my favourite being Grumpy Andrew’s Horror House. It is completely no-frills, no production, mercifully bereft of attention-deficit editing, just Andrew addressing the camera with his opinions. He is entirely unpretentious, it feels like you are privy to an interesting film conversation with someone in the pub. That works for me.
FI: What about professional critics? Do you read any contemporary film journalists?
Wayne: Does Paul count?
FI: Tell me how the Double Feature Film Chat Show came about?
Wayne: Well, it grew out of me and Paul’s telephone conversations in which we would passionately discuss and debate a multitude of films. In a single conversation we could go from D.W. Griffith to Roger Corman via Luis Bunuel and the Marx Bros, with a soupcon of T.J. Hooker and The A-Team thrown in. Our chats are all over the map, but organically so. Just two film enthusiasts tripping up over themselves with great fervour. I had been asked to do podcasts before but I always demurred, not wanting to be another talking head on YouTube when there are so many out there doing it. But with Paul it felt different, he is one of the few people I know who would instantly get my obscure reference to some long-forgotten film. So when Paul suggested turning those chats into a show I said yes.
The main thing for me is to celebrate some films that we love and hope that people enjoy it enough to go and check out those films. It is like when I write books, it stems from wanting to tell everyone about some films that I love. Paul and I don’t always agree or share a passion for a particular film, but we are curious enough to want to know what it is about that film that makes that person champion it. I also hope that we are good company. The best critic shows and podcasts are like that, where the hosts are people you just want to spend time with whether you agree with their opinions or not. So there is an important element of it being personality-driven, and Paul has personality.
How have you found it so far?
Wayne: It’s fun, though I am self-conscious and still getting used to being on-camera, which is something I don’t feel entirely comfortable with – I have a great face for radio! But the deeper I get into discussing a film the less I think about it. Paul is able to put me at ease and get the goods, he being The Wayne Whisperer.
FI: Paul, why Wayne? What does he bring to the table that made you want to work with him on this project?
I love Wayne’s passion, knowledge, honesty and desire to invest in any damn film he chooses to. There are no airs and graces. He can talk up silent movie greats and 80’s horror with equal love and respect. He is so convincing in his arguments I have gone back to some films I’ve not thought much of with new eyes. We also compliment each other without agreeing with everything the other says, as some of our podcasts are already a testament to. A really great thing that I love about Wayne is that his love of films has no pretensions.
FI: What is it about the chemistry between you two that you thought would make it work as a pairing, and how do you find the process so far?
Paul: I think the bottom line for me was that we get on. We have enough respect for each other’s opinion but also have no problem disagreeing. I also think Wayne can be the more serious of the two of us, which is great as I might be a bit more irreverent and he keeps me in check.
Wayne: It’s true but I think “sincere” would be a more appropriate word for my approach. I tend to be quite irreverent about most things but when it comes to Film and my books I am nothing but absolutely sincere. This is my life, so I do treat it seriously and I give filmmakers the respect to engage their films seriously when they are presented as such. I find it quite irritating when people approach a sincere work of art through a prism of postmodern irony, cynicism, and humour, which is something I find off-putting about a lot of film commentary and criticism out there. For example, I am often irked when people tell me that they “laughed” at films like The Exorcist or A Nightmare on Elm Street; there is absolutely nothing funny about those films and so that kind of response tells me that they haven’t been receptive to being challenged by the difficult themes and ideas inherent. Neither Wes Craven nor William Friedkin intended people to laugh at either of these films, they deal with serious sociological and psychological themes; I think that if a viewer meets them on that level then they will get more out of the films than a puerile chuckle at some dated special effects or uncomfortable vulgarity.
Paul: Wayne keeps me grounded and a bit disciplined when it comes to that. We try and bring some humour to the conversation without undermining the other elements in our discussion. Wayne has a good funny bone and a passion that is easy to respond to. Which I feel keeps our conversations fun and interesting. I haven’t seen him hit anyone yet but be careful what you argue about if you’re standing in a corner talking to him.
What do you hope for the future of the podcast?
Wayne: I hope the show grows into a community of people who love and want to discuss films as passionately as Paul and I do. As I said earlier, there are so many people on YouTube and out there in podcast land already doing this, so the challenge is distinguishing ourselves from everyone else. But I’m not interested in any kind of gimmicks; I just want to discuss films. Simple as. All I can do is bring whatever knowledge and insights I have and hope that people find it interesting enough to tune back in.
Paul: What he said.
The latest episode of Double Feature Film Chat Show featuring Psycho II and Escape from the Planet of the Apes is now available. Listen/Download/Subscribe here