March 7, 2023

Making the Cinematic Podcast

By Desa Philadelphia

When the pandemic hit, USC Originals, the entity that oversees the development and production of collaborative feature films at the School, was planning the shoot days for Jack & Lou: A Gangster Love Story, based on the romance between actress Louise Rolfe and gangster Jack McGurn, who avoided being tried for the famous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre because she provided his alibi. Production was interrupted by the pandemic, so the script was made into a podcast. It was nominated in four Audie Fiction categories at the Spring Indie Series Awards, which honors scripted entertainment created for the internet: Best Actor (Leigh Joel Scott), Best Actress (Lisa Kudrow), Best Ensemble and Best Audio Fiction Series. 

Jack & Lou was a setback for production, but it opened up a whole new area of storytelling, serving as a proof of concept for cinematic writing for podcasts. The lightbulb went off and Spring 2021 marked the beginning of the SCA podcast class and eventually the School’s investment in a state of the art podcast studio in the Robert Zemeckis Center, complete with setups for filming the recordings.

Classes like Writing the Narrative Podcast Series and Practicum in Podcast Production are giving students the opportunity to experiment with creating podcasts as stand-alone products or as complements to film, television or interactive projects. 

Vince Gonzalez, who set up the SCA podcasting studio, says the genre is quickly becoming another ancillary market for cinematic projects. “In my opinion podcasting is not just sort of a cool side thing that people are doing now. I think we're getting to the point where if you have any kind of brand or name that you put out there, it's going to be a requirement just like Instagram or Facebook.” Gonzalez describes podcasting as a way of storytelling. “We are in the business of storytelling–whether it’s sound or camera or video games, it’s all storytelling. The process of podcasting supports that.”

Jack and Lou: A Gangster Love Story is a six-episode audio drama podcast starring Lisa Kudrow. The story is about love in Al Capone’s Chicago. It is inspired by the true story of Louise Rolfe, aka The Blonde Alibi, (Lisa Kudrow) and Jack McGurn, aka Machine Gun Jack McGurn, (Leigh Joel Scott). The two were involved in the famous trial after the St. Valentine's Day Massacre in 1929.

Based on a story by John Watson. Produced by Yeon Jin Lee, Mehmet Gungoren. Sound supervised by Audrey Gu, Cabba Cai. Original music composed by David Myles Lewis.