Podcast Stars: Fatal Attractions

This time on Podcast Stars, we’re in conversation with the hosts of Fatal Attractions – Matthew Turner, Leslie Pitt, Amélie Thomas and Paul Costello

What’s your podcast all about?

Matthew: The intro to each episode says “a podcast all about erotic thrillers and everything we love about them and hate about them”, but in fairness, there’s usually a lot more love than hate. It’s basically the four of us dissecting a different erotic thriller every week. We did 38 episodes on ’90s erotic thrillers and have just moved on to the noughties, though we’ll probably do the ’80s quite soon.

How was the Fatal Attractions team formed?

Matthew: It started with a simple Twitter conversation, with all of us (and a couple of other people) sharing our love of classic ’90s erotic thrillers, like Basic Instinct, Single White Female, Body of Evidence, Color of Night etc. Someone said, ‘We should totally do a blog post’ and someone else (Leslie) said, ‘No, it should be a podcast’ and then someone else said, ‘No, hang on, it really SHOULD be a podcast – let’s do a podcast’. So we did a podcast. Some of us had met previously and that probably helped a bit.

How do you go about picking a film?

Matthew: We mostly take it in turns. For the first dozen or so episodes we pretty much chose films we’d all seen before, i.e. the films that got us enthusing about erotic thrillers on Twitter in the first place. That’s not so much the case anymore, although one or two of us have usually seen the film beforehand. I don’t think we’ve had one yet where none of us have seen it before.

Paul: Somewhere near the beginning, we made a list of films that we could use as a pool, from the really good, well-known titles to the straight-to-video garbage, from the 80s through to post-Millennium. Mostly, though, we just run on our own whims. It’s kind of interesting to see the films we all go for, seeing who opts for the mainstream and who goes for the fringe stuff. Feels like everyone has their own particular pull.

Amélie: The boys seem to be keener on the genre than I am, so I try to select a title that I remember being entertaining or that I’ve always wanted to check out, but I’ve inadvertently picked some big turds, mostly when I had a fonder memory of them from back in my adolescence and now realise as an adult that they are very poor (but I’ll still defend Sliver and Final Analysis compared with some other films that the boys rate much higher.

How much research typically goes into each episode?

Matthew: Mostly we just watch the film beforehand, and then read the IMDb, Wikipedia pages, any interesting articles etc. I kept a film notebook in the 1990s and so if the film was released between 1990 and 1998, I’ve usually got a few lines about it from when I saw it in the cinema as a teenager. I read them out at the end of the podcast if that’s the case.

Paul: Depends on what strikes me during the watching of the film. I try to actually go into the film knowing as little about it as possible, leave any research until afterwards, and then I’ll spend maybe an hour or so post-film digging into trivia or any critical pieces I find interesting. I like finding out about the cultural context of a film, what could potentially influence its shape (for example, the Amy Fisher stuff we talked about in our episodes on Poison Ivy and The Crush). They’re always good to chew on.

Leslie: I usually take notes. Read reviews if time permits. For some entries I’ve watched accompanying films, or I’ve had books or articles related to certain films. For example The Hot Spot had me looking the photography of Dennis Hopper. I read the excellent book ‘It Doesn’t Suck’ for Showgirls

What makes for a good discussion? Is the quality of the conversation inverse to that of the film?

Matthew: It’s probably fair to say that the bad films (particularly Jade or Body of Evidence) are more fun to skewer afterwards, but I think we’ve had as many great conversations about the great films as we have about the terrible ones. That’s the thing about the erotic thriller genre – there’s always something interesting going on.

Paul: I think, as is the case with films in general, how good the discussion is depends on how much the film gives you, almost regardless if it’s a good or bad one. I’m a big proponent of the idea that there is always something to talk about in any film, whether it’s form, subtext, production, legacy, anything like that. I think bad discussions come from a combination of the film giving very little and an inability of whoever’s talking to mine what is there, which I don’t think we’ve really had a problem with so far.

Amélie: I think the boys always endeavour to find something constructive to say about those films. However, as Paul mentioned, I find that the most difficult films to discuss are those which were very tedious and uneventful. There were plenty of the erotic thrillers we’ve watched that I found neither thrilling nor titillating, and whose storyline was as dull as soap water, and I really struggled to find anything interesting to say about them. Especially as I almost fell asleep in front of them and we record at 10pm at night, so the subject matter of certain films just send me straight to sleep. However, some films we’ve watched were so bad that they were hilarious like Boxing Helena, and I regard those ones extremely amusing to review.

Leslie: For me most of the films, good or bad, have something to discuss. Looking back at these films now often highlight progressive or retrograde politics or revealing attitudes to filmmakers or audiences. I find it so surprising that in the 90s the erotic thriller was the blockbuster. Some of these films made a lot of money and now the idea of such films have been placed under the rug. I enjoy mainstream movies today but the highly revealing that franchises have cast a huge shadow over so many types of film in terms of discourse. This includes more ‘adult’ themed movies.

What’s the edit process like?

Paul: Since we’re all scattered around enough to make a group recording impractical, we do every episode through Skype, but we each record our own audio track. Then Matt, Amelie and Leslie all send me their audio and I spend the next few days editing it all together. It’s mostly a matter of taking out our own particular verbal tics, like the uh’s, the um’s, or any long pauses. Beyond that I try to be mindful of flow and pace, and make sure we don’t wander off into any strange conversational cul-de-sacs. Unless they’re really funny. Funny stuff can stay in.

What inspired you to start podcasting?

Matthew: It was something I’d wanted to do for a while and this seemed like the perfect subject for it. Basically a case of right people, right topic, right time.

Paul: Yeah, it’s always something that’s been in my head to some degree. I really enjoy podcasts, and they’re a good outlet for the need most of us have to wax lyrical or diabolical about the things we love. If nothing else, it’s a good excuse to just chat with friends about the film we’ve just watched. I’d probably do more if the necessity of a day job didn’t exist.

Amélie: After our Twitter conversation, the boys have enlisted me to start the podcast. I was worried that my oral English wouldn’t be at the same level as the guys’ and that alongside three professional or amateur film critics who have had film review blogs and proper articles published, my views would pale in comparison, but I reckon that nowadays, we all have constructive comments to say about the films and that all our opinions are valid. I think the podcast has actually helped my self-esteem.

Leslie: I had been podcasting for years before this and it was a chance to get my teeth stuck into something a little more niche. I found podcasting to be the perfect way to highlight my passion for films.

If you had to recommend one episode to get people hooked, which episode would it be and why?

Matthew: I think we’ll all have different answers for this.  I’d say pick the episode for the film you’re most familiar with and start there, but if you’re going in blind then my personal favourites are The Crush, Wild Things and Unlawful Entry. Maybe Basic Instinct too (the sine qua non of the erotic thriller genre).

Paul: I think the most fun ones have been The Crush and Showgirls, while the most interesting points to discuss have come up in Bitter Moon and Eyes Wide Shut. And I really like our Fear episode, too. So, there you go, five episode recommendations… that’s what you asked for, right?

Leslie: I’d say Showgirls, Wild Things or Cruel Intentions. We enjoyed the movies and the films were rich enough for everyone to cast some interesting opinion on what we watch.

How important is input from listeners through social media?

Matthew: We have a handful of listeners who regularly respond to the latest episode on social media and that’s always really lovely. We love hearing recommendations and people sharing their own love of the genre. We’re pretty much only on Twitter though – we should probably set up a Facebook page at some point.

Paul: I always enjoy seeing how other people feel about the films we discuss, finding out what their memories are, or hearing how they’ve discovered something new through us. If people develop a new appreciation for Kurt Russell or find out about a new genre and they’re excited to talk about that, that’s great to hear.

Leslie: Really important. It tells us that we’re not shouting into the abyss! But we have a great handful of listeners who comment and share things with us. They’re very engaged with the podcast and it makes me smile when we get messages.

Amélie: If we hadn’t got any feedback from our followers on Twitter, I wouldn’t have realised that actual people other than our friends have listened to the podcast. It’s always heartwarming to find out that we do have some subscribers and regular listeners, who show us how engaged they are regarding our discussions, and are willing to take part in our debates. I love reading their comments and their views on the different films and issues brought up during the episodes. They really encourage me to carry on recording and share my opinion out there.

How long is each episode?

Matthew: Typically somewhere around 45 minutes. I think our shortest is something like 35 minutes and our longest (Showgirls) is 63 minutes.

Paul: As long as it has to be!……. Okay, it depends on the film, but I guess the average length is about 45-50 minutes. Some go longer, some are shorter, hopefully never outstaying their welcome.

How regularly do you release them?

Matthew: We were really clever in the beginning and recorded around six episodes back to back before we even released the first one. With that backlog we managed to release them weekly for a good few months or so. We currently aim for roughly every two or three weeks and that seems to work just fine.

Paul: Every two or three weeks is a good balance of staying fairly regular and having time off in between. We’ve all got commitments to other things, so it’s good to keep it relatively easy going.

What are some of the podcasts that you like to listen to?

Matthew: I loved the early days of How Did This Get Made (it was fun doing our Color of Night episode and then listening to theirs) and I’m still ploughing my way through You Must Remember This. I dip in and out of Filmspotting, Wittertainment and the Empire podcast. Please tweet me film podcast recommendations at @FilmFan1971. Non-film-wise, I’m up to date with My Dad Wrote a Porno and I loved the first series of Serial.

Paul: For film chat, I love Filmspotting and The Next Picture Show . Currently got a backlog of You Must Remember This to work through. Also occasionally dip into The Bechdel Cast and Soundtracking with Edith Bowman. For non-film related stuff, Maron’s WTF is great, and I’ve been listening to This American Life for many years now.

Amélie: Apart from the Empire Podcast and the Sudden Double Deep podcast who’s recorded by our friends Daryl, Jeanette and Ben and which I find particularly instructing and entertaining, I don’t really take the time to listen to podcasts. From time to time, I dip in and out of self-help/lifestyle podcasts like Natalie Lue’s Baggage Reclaim and Nobody Panic,  or beauty podcasts like Full Coverage.

Leslie: The Daily Zeitgeist, Dana Gould Hour, My Favourite Murder and The Football Ramble are mainstays. Filmwise I subscribe to so many, but Sudden Double Deep and 80s All Over are recommendations.

Where can people listen to your podcast?

We’re currently on LibSyn, iTunes and Overcast and probably some others. We’re on Spotify now too, as of a couple of days ago.

Thank you Matthew, Paul, Leslie and Amélie.