For most people who have been, summer camp is a magical place tied up with some of their fondest memories. That’s definitely the case for podcaster Jeremy Enns, who based his podcast Summer Camp: The Case of the Phantom Pooper on an incident that occurred during one of his trips around six years ago.
The podcast, which is hosted on Canada’s Sonar Network, is a fascinating and funny fiction podcast which balances the seriousness of a faux-crime format with a silly and entertaining premise. We talked Enns about how he got started in podcasting, the inspiration behind the show, and what he’s learned along the way.
How would you describe your podcast?
My podcast blends true crime and comedy, and it’s all about summer camp. It's based on true events. I was at summer camp in the summer of 2017, a bunch of pranks started happening, and I thought there might be a story there - so I pulled out my iPhone and I just started recording all of the real-life conversations that happened in and around these pranks and beyond.
Why did you start your podcast?
I had a podcast with a friend, where we sat around - two guys and a microphone chatting about finding adventure in the everyday - and that was fun. And as I dove deeper into the world of podcasting, I started to listen to shows like Serial and S-Town and these sort of highly-produced storytelling shows. And that then became my next dream of a challenge in podcasting.
But I had to find a story; and a good, meaningful story is kind of hard to find. I'm not a journalist, I'm just a complete amateur, but once this prank happened, I saw it had the hallmarks of true crime, but also this really fun element of summer camp. So I thought that maybe there would be a story here. Turns out there was, and all these years later from when that summer happened, I was able to put together the project.
What advice do you wish you’d been given when you first started?
I always knew that this type of project was going to be a challenge, and I learned a lot about writing, I learned a lot about story editing, and so, for me it was a journey of also exploring my own creativity. The project found its voice along the way, as I brought in collaborators and sort of figured things out.
If there's something I wish I knew up front, it’s all stuff that I kind of knew: I knew it was gonna be hard, I knew it was gonna stretch my creative abilities. But some extra tips on storytelling and this type of podcasting, all of that would have been helpful, because I kind of had to fumble my way through and figure it out on the way.
How many people does it take to create an episode of your show?
For a long time, I was just working on it completely by myself, listening to the recordings, transcribing the audio and looking at all of my story beats and trying to mix and match them to tell a cohesive story. And I quickly realised I was going to need some help to actually make it thoughtful and interesting beyond what I could do. So I brought in one major collaborator, Jordan, and she really helped me craft the story in a more meaningful way, and add a lot of color to it. And so the two of us were leading on the story side.
My wife is an exceptional editor and so she helped a lot with everything from sentence structure to getting our tenses correct to just making sure that the flow was meaningful. And she also has a legal background, so we injected some really fun legal terminology into the show. I also had a professional editor and mixer who helped me, and then I licensed music from Matt McGinley, who did music for Serial and S-Town and NPR. And I've had lots of friends giving me feedback on early cuts of the episodes along the way.
Do you monetise your podcast?
I was lucky enough to have my show picked up by the Sonar Podcast Network, and it's been really fun to work with them. They're very good at empowering their creators, but helping with some of the monetisation in the background. So they’re helping me to get the word out about the podcast, and are helping me to advertise on the show. So that would probably be the main way that we're monetising.
We also have a bonus show that's behind the Sonar Plus banner, so if people want to subscribe to that, in Apple Podcasts, there's a bunch of bonus content that's available. So those are the main two ways that we're monetising. For me, this was a passion project; it's never really been about the money, so if a few bucks come my way, awesome - but that's not really the motivator.
How do you promote your podcast?
I'm trying to connect with other creators in the summer camp space or the podcasting space for cross-promotion. We have an Instagram page; Jordan has made some amazing reels and Tik Toks that are going out, so it's all of the typical stuff.
I think for this show, I really want people who have attended summer camp to listen to it, so I'm doing a big push there - but I also feel like it does have a wider appeal to people who like the true-crime genre or are interested in a behind-the-scenes look at camp. So all of that promotion is just kind of directed to that audience.
Who listens to your podcast?
We're still really early in the run for this show and most of the people who were there that summer are obviously listening, because they're really enjoying reliving the events that happened in this very silly podcast. And then from there, we're out to friends and family, but beyond that, we have a lot of people who are just generally interested in the true-crime serialised genre; everyone loves something to binge. That's how I designed this - to get in and just crush another true crime story, but without all of the intensity that usually follows some of those stories.
So it has that sort of parody comedy element to it, and there's a number of shows that are like that. There's a really big one that's actually making the rounds again right now that came out in 2018: Who Shat On The Floor At My Wedding. So, I hope it has appeal for people who have been to camp, but also wider appeal that if anyone were to just hit play on that podcast, they would enjoy going to a trip to summer camp and seeing the funny pranks along the way.
What have you learned about yourself since starting your podcast?
I think I've learned that I actually can bring a vision to life, all the way to the finish line. I'm the type of person who comes up with lots of ideas, loves to start things - and I can finish things - but for me, this was the biggest project. And it’s one that I also wasn't going to release until it was at the level of quality that I could truly be happy with releasing it into the world.
And so, I learned a lot about my limitations, creatively, and about how important it is to collaborate with others. I have fine ideas, but when you mix those ideas with others, you can come up with something that's really great. I learned that I love collaborating - maybe even more than I thought I did.
What was the last podcast you listened to?
It was the latest episode of PodPod, which was really great. I was listening to it this morning, and it was just super interesting to listen to; I'd known a lot about Patreon and why people do Patreons, but it was fun to listen to that.
And then just before that, I was listening to Who Shat On The Floor At My Wedding, because a lot of people have been telling me about the show. My show was fully baked before I’d even heard about that show, so it's been fun for me to see someone who's investigating a similar crime. And we have so many similar things that our investigations led us to, so I know that I need to listen to that show in its entirety, because I'm in that space.