Video Palace and waxing nostalgic with Ben Rock and Bob DeRosa

2 of 2

Image courtesy of Shudder

1428 Elm: How did you get involved in this project?

Ben: Mike Monello and I had been talking about collaborating on a creative podcast for a few years. He and Nick Braccia are principles at a fancy creative agency in New York called Campfire NYC. Campfire had pitched Shudder on a campaign which had this podcast concept as a part of it and Mike and Nick had sketched out a loose outline for the show. Shudder ended up passing on the overall campaign, but they loved the podcast concept. Mike reached out to me to see if I’d want to do it – which I did very much. Bob agreed to co-write it with me, and we were off to the races. It all came together very quickly.

Bob: Ben and I have been friends since we were aspiring filmmakers back in Orlando, FL. We’ve had separate careers while in L.A. but all along, we’ve collaborated on lots of crazy late-night theater. We took that energy and funneled it into our horror/comedy web-series 20 Seconds to Live which went on to play nearly twenty film festivals and win a bunch of awards. We’ve always thought that Shudder would be a good fit for our sensibilities so when Ben said there was an opportunity to make something for them, I said “hell yeah!”

“20 Seconds to Live” Image courtesy of Ben Rock, Bob DeRosa, Ariescope

1428: I have been a fan of 20 Seconds to Live for years, so as soon as I knew you were both involved I knew this was bound to be amazing. Have you ever worked on a radio drama/podcast like this before?

Ben: I co-host an interview-based podcast called The Cinematography Podcast where I interview cinematographers, and I’ve been doing it for three years. And I’ve done sound design for my own film and theater projects, and I’ve directed actors through ADR many times which is a lot like voice directing. Our producer Liam and I joked a bit about how we’d done every part of this project except exactly what we were doing while we were making Video Palace.

Bob: I’ve written movies, TV, theater, and web series, but never radio. This is my first foray into podcasting, and now I’m hooked.

1428: Are you fans of old time radio plays?

Ben: Very much so. My father is an old-time radio guy and even works in radio today. When I was a kid, I found my father’s stash of Light’s Out and Inner Sanctum on LP and went crazy. My local library had a bunch of them as well – I distinctly remember listening to Orson Welles’ adaptation of Dracula at the Maitland Public Library when I was a kid. Also there was a great trove of audio-based comedy like Monty Python – The Final Rip-Off that I’d obsess over.

Bob: Not so much for me, but I have strong memories of being a little kid listening to The Hobbit and Star Wars on record albums (for real!) They mixed the audio from the TV/movie versions with sound effects and narration. I loved them but it felt like a dated technology that would never come back. Funny how digital technology can make old ideas sound totally fresh and new.

1428: Bob that sounds amazing! And Ben, Orson Welles did radio dramas so well. What was your inspiration in writing/directing the series?

Ben: My biggest inspirations were all true-crime podcasts. Specifically, while writing Video Palace I was obsessed with In the Dark. I was listening to it anyway, but I began analyzing how it was using audio sources. How much narration? Live recording of the process of investigating? Archival sources? How does music play into it? Podcasting has a very specific vocabulary which can be violated only with reason. Other inspirations came from horror movies and TV we love: The Wicker Man, Videodrome, From Beyond, Stranger Things, etc. But we were making a podcast so it was like if In the Dark or Serial were reporting on the world of Stuart Gordon’s From Beyond. It kind of twists one’s brain around to figure out how much of that kind of story a podcaster could uncover.

Bob: I think Ben and I love a lot of the same movies, and I credit him with getting me hooked on podcasts in general. He recommended that I check out the first season of Start Up and I loved how host Alex Blumberg recorded incredibly intimate conversations with his wife and included those in the story. That really inspired us in how we approached bringing Mark’s girlfriend, Tamra, into our story and making her a true co-star and more than just a sidekick.

1428: The dynamic between Mark and Tamra seemed very real and really sold the relationship. Would you like to do another project like this in the future?

Ben: This was ENORMOUSLY satisfying. I can’t say enough positive things about doing this project and the people who made it happen. I feel like, for ourselves, we’re only beginning to see the potential of this kind of storytelling.

Bob: Now when we brainstorm new ideas, it’s not just is this a TV show or a movie, but also: could it a podcast? This is a fantastic new medium and I think we’re just seeing the beginning of what’s possible. Plus, we’d love nothing more than to do a second season of Video Palace. That’s up to Shudder, so hopefully we get to play in this world again!

Bob DeRosa and Ben Rock. Image courtesy of Bob DeRosa and Ben Rock

1428: I certainly hope, from a listener’s standpoint, that we get more podcasts from you both and DEFINITELY more Video Palace. How is working on a project like this different than working in film?

More from Shudder

Ben: It’s about a billion times faster. The writing takes however long the writing takes, but the recording was lightning fast. Our script for the entire season was 183 pages long, and we recorded it in five days. We were recording about five pages per hour. To compare – in the film world a busy day would be eight pages in the whole day. That was seriously the biggest difference. When you’re making a film and you’re moving on to a new scene you’d have five minutes or so to wrap your head around the next scene and get it moving but with this we’d be recording scene 34 and when we were happy Liam (our producer) would say, “Okay, onto scene 137!” We’d flip through our scripts quickly, move some microphones, then we were off, it was so fast. It might have been nice to have a little more time, but there was never a time when I felt that we’d moved on before we had a take we were happy with.

Bob: Movies are all hurry up and wait. This was an intoxicating blend of TV and theater, and we loved how quickly we could move from idea to finished product. In that sense, there’s really nothing else like it.

1428: What can we look forward to from you in the future?

Ben: Bob and I finished shooting season 2 of our award-winning web series 20 Seconds to Live last year. Then I became a dad. Then we jumped into Video Palace. So right now we’re going back and finishing season two and we’re excited as all f*ck to get that out!

Bob: When Ben and I first started working together, we had separate credits we were proud of that didn’t quite represent what we could do together. Now, anything we make is from the guys who brought you Video Palace and 20 Seconds to Live. Hopefully, that’ll open some new doors and allow us to make plenty of cool new stuff together.

A huge thank you to both Ben Rock (congratulations on fatherhood!) and Bob DeRosa for chatting with me for a bit about Video Palace and I can’t recommend this podcast enough. If you have Shudder, you can stream the entire series now and if you use a podcast streaming service, an episode a week is still being aired (also, check out their web series at Ariescope!).

Next. Stan Lee: Talent and heart as big as universe. dark

Give it a listen and let the creepy story and nostalgia wash over you. And if you have never seen a VHS tape….well, how dare you.