There’s something about horror cinema that provokes a level of enthusiasm which often goes beyond that found in other areas. Mike Muncer is a film journalist, producer and presenter whose love of the horror genre inspired him to host and produce his own podcast, The Evolution of Horror.
“I basically just decided to make it for me”, he says. His weekly podcast celebrates horror cinema and explores its history by delving into various sub-genres, including vampires, ghosts and the occult. Each episode, Muncer is joined by a different guest to discuss a film in depth. Together they look at that film's place within its sub-genre, as well as horror and cinema history more widely.
We asked Muncer about his motivations and influences and to give us an insight into what goes into making his podcast.
How would you describe your podcast?
Fundamentally, the podcast is a film discussion podcast. It's me with a co-host or a guest from the world of horror - whether it's a critic, a filmmaker or a podcaster - and we discuss a movie from the horror genre in depth. We go through horror cinema chronologically, looking at how it's changed and evolved - hence the title.
We’ll do a season about a particular sub-genre in horror. We’re currently in the middle of doing a whole season on vampire movies. We started in week one by looking at Nosferatu, Dracula, and the early movies in the sub-genre, and then week by week, we work our way toward more recent stuff.
Why did you start your podcast?
I come from a television production background, I worked at the BBC for several years on film review shows and that kind of thing. I love movies, particularly horror, and I felt frustrated that there was very little film content on TV. It’s very difficult to get anything commissioned to the BBC or elsewhere about movies, so, I just decided to do it by myself. Essentially, I’ve created something that I wanted to make and that I wanted to listen to. It started off with a short series of ten episodes with some really cool guests I wanted to chat to about horror movies. Then it found an audience. So that's how it started; I did it because of my own love for it. It’s a passion project.
What advice do you wish you'd been given when you first started?
Probably that it's going to take more time than you think. I've been doing the podcast for five years now, and up until this year I was doing it around the day job, as a hobby essentially. It's not as simple as just sitting and recording a chat for an hour then spending an hour or two editing it. There’s a lot of work involved if you want it to reach an audience. It's good to know that you're committing a lot of your time to a podcast if you really want it to work.
How many people does it take to create an episode of your show?
Technically two. I do everything: I host it, produce it, book guests, edit it, and publish it as well as doing all the social media, so an episode will be me and one other person. I’ll book a guest and I will tell them what film we are going to talk about. All they need to do in advance is watch the film and be ready to chat about it, so for the guests it's hopefully quite a nice minimal commitment.
How do you monetise the show?
I don't monetise the podcast in terms of ads at the moment, but I do have a Patreon, which I launched about two years into the podcast, and that has become my source of income. I've added different tiers and added content, I almost do a whole other podcast per week, just for patrons.
Who listens to your podcast?
It's people that are interested in horror cinema. One of the things that I didn't foresee when starting the podcast is just how much of a community the whole world of horror fandom is. I guess it's kind of similar to something like Star Wars or Marvel, if you tap into a niche area that has a real hardcore fanbase people will find your stuff and, if it’s good, they will support it.
Horror really has this amazing community of people that I tapped into with the podcast and since then, people have organised meet ups and screening events around the podcast. I've met a load of amazing people through the podcast - and other people have met through the podcast. I know a friend who is actually now living with and I think engaged to a partner, and they met via my podcast, just as listeners at a meetup, which is amazing.
What have you learned about yourself since starting the podcast?
I've learned just how much of my time I'm willing to dedicate to something I love. When you do something that you truly love and are passionate about it can suck your life away slightly. It’s strange when something that is your hobby becomes your job and I've had to learn a kind of work-life balance because of that.
I've also learned that I don't really want to be a film reviewer. My wife is very good at being an actual critic; I only like covering movies that I love. I now get emails from publicists and distributors asking, would you cover this movie? And I find that I've started to say no to those sorts of things if I realise that I don't like the film because I'm not really somebody that wants to spend my time going out and watching films and then tearing them apart - it's just not really what I want to do, and it's not really my podcast. I think that is kind of interesting because I always used to think that being a film critic would be the coolest job ever - but actually I'm not really that fussed about doing that.
How do you promote your podcast?
Pretty much exclusively on social media, or at least that's where it started. Twitter is probably the biggest way that I've promoted it. The beauty of having rotating guests is that each person I have on will plug or retweet the podcast episode they're on, which creates a bigger network of people that can discover it.
A couple of times in the early days I paid for Facebook ads; I don't know how much of a difference that made, to be honest. I've been to a couple of horror film festivals, like Fright Fest, where we gave out leaflets to people that attended, because obviously that’s a good crowd of people to tap into, but really, it's exclusively social media stuff.
What was the last podcast that you listened to?
It was The Rest Is Politics. I tend to listen to probably about 90% film, media, and arts podcasts, but occasionally I like to listen to a couple of news or politics podcasts, just to pretend that I know what's going on in the world!