What’s the basis of a successful, long-running podcast? An accessible conversation? A discussion that we all want to take part in? Lots of bespoke and sometimes geeky references? Well it’s fair to say Flixwatcher has them all. The format is simple: two guests recommend a film on Netflix, everyone watches those chosen movies and then they join hosts Kobi Omenaka and Helen Sadler to have a darn good chat.
Flixwatcher is set to hit 200 episodes, but like any good film series we need an origin story – how did Flixwatcher come about? Helen and Kobi explain:
H&K: We met after we joined a film quiz team together in London and talked about starting a podcast after a few months. We came up with the idea at Kings Cross after we’d been to a Guardian Masterclass hosted by Helen Zaltzman. We chose films on Netflix as pretty much everyone has it and letting guests suggest the films would be more interesting than us just picking our favourites.
The early days: How were the first few episodes?
H: We recorded our pilot remotely, and that was a complete disaster! Kobi kept dropping out, one of the guests was making too much noise and it was all quite chaotic. We decided then that recording four people was best done in person. Thankfully tech has improved massively and recording remotely online at present has been mostly without too many problems. The format hasn’t really changed much over the years but the film selection on Netflix has probably improved as some of the earlier film picks were a bit hit and miss. We do try and encourage people to pick “half decent” films. It’s not as fun to record when everyone is down on a film!
K: We haven’t really struggled to get interesting and fun guests on the show but I often think back to those first few recordings where a few lovely people (especially Dave and Jen from The Family Tree Pod, Dave and Cathy from The Cinemile, Tony and Jay from How to Write a Tune and Felix and Tom from Wooden Overcoats) took a gamble on us and joined us even though we hadn’t released an episode. We wouldn’t be anywhere without those guys so thank you!
Are you both film fans yourself – what do movies mean to you personally?
H: I’ve really missed going to the cinema this past year. Watching a film at a cinema is such a special experience, it’s not just getting to see a film on the big screen, it’s everything from picking your favourite seat, guessing the trailers and overhearing people’s reactions when they’re walking out. They’re the ultimate escapism for me.
K: Of course! You can’t have a film podcast and not love films. It’s been tough not being able to go to the cinema over the past year. I’d probably watch 2-3 films a week in the cinema and hadn’t realised how the experience had been an important part of my self care until it was gone!
What are some of the personal highlights from the previous episodes?
H: We rarely have really, really terrible films to review but when we do it’s usually hilarious – like Ciara Baxendale from Wooden Overcoats podcast picking Bee Movie and when Dave from The Cinemile picked Arq.
Being introduced to Agnès Varda by Jeanette from Sudden Double Deep with Faces Places was an absolute joy.
Having directors like Mat Whitecross for The Other Side of the Wind and Gareth Evans for Enter the Dragon was fascinating! Getting to hear them talk about film from the perspective of directing and creating was so interesting.
Hannah Dunleavy from Standard Issue on the Creed episode describing Sylvester Stallone as a ‘sentient piece of corn beef’ still makes me laugh. I really enjoy it when listeners send their Twitter reviews with creative emoji ratings too.
K: Adam Buxton making a song up on the cuff still makes me laugh when he first came on the show. But I love when people choose films that I would never have chosen in a million years and they turn out to be great and these can be as varied as “All About Eve” to “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before”.
As mentioned by Kobi, Flixwatcher has hosted podcast royalty in Adam buxton and Joe Cornish, but what other guests have they particularly enjoyed?
H: One of the best things about our podcast is we get to meet so many interesting people and hear what they’re up too. Difficult to name only a few but we nearly have a full house for the Wooden Overcoats and Empire Magazine. Recording remotely this year has meant we’ve gone global with guests joining us from New Zealand and America… we had to do some timezone maths to get that to work. For our 100th episode special it was great fun to have Cathy and Dave Cinemile host while we picked the films. We’re looking forward to Sam and Louise from 90 Minutes or Less Film Festival hosting the 200th episode specials.
K: Aww man… I’ve loved every one of the episodes! We really appreciate that people take the time to pick films that we all watch – most people have busy lives! It’s lovely to meet new people, especially as we know very few of them before they join us and we’ve made some really good friends as a result and love being part of the podcast community.
Like anything in life, expect the unexpected…
H: For our first live show at Latitude Festival the original guest couldn’t make it and Aisling Bea was (pretty much a) surprise guest for us and the audience. Back when we used to record in Camden there was a didgeridoo performance in the room next door – that was a surprise for us!
Any dream guests that they would like?
H: The podcast community is amazing, we’ve been really lucky as pretty much everyone we’ve asked has said yes. Kermode and Mayo, Louis Theroux, Edgar Wright, Tailenders (Jimmy Anderson is a big Sandra Bullock fan!) would all be fun guests.
K: Absolutely! From the podcasting world I’d love all of the “How Did This Get Made” crew to join us. Wesley Morris and Jenna Wortham from “Still Processing”, Lauren Lavern and Kirsty Young as current and past “Desert Island Discs” presenters would be amazing, as would Zach Braff and Donald Faison from “Fake Doctors Real Friends” and also Hrishikesh Hirway From “Song Exploder”. From the film world it would be great to hear from more directors, producers and writers so people like Kate Herron, Amma Asante, Krysty Wilson-Cairns, Lin Manuel Miranda…. We’ve also had most of the “Wittertainment” stand-ins join us now so it would be lovely for Sanjeev Bhaskar to join us, but yes, Kermode and Mayo would be lovely to get a “Full House”.
Flixwatcher celebrates – they hit 200 episodes! How does that feel to reach such a landmark, and are we able to look forward to more episodes… another 200 perhaps?
H: It’s an amazing achievement! As long as more films get added to Netflix, people keep listening and guests want to come on we’ll continue!
K: It’s great to be here! I have no idea how many episodes I would have thought we’d get to, but I would have laughed my ass off at the notion of 200 episodes when we started this! We’ll definitely keep keeping on…