Producer Download: Jack Suddaby

The beauty of working in a varied industry

The podcasting industry is undoubtedly a very creative space, and working within it means there’s no chance for boredom. As a producer, your role can mean many things from formulating the original idea and writing up the episode briefs, to being the main editor and creating a social media strategy. It can be a stressful title to take ownership of – you have to make sure that you absolutely love the world of podcasting. 

Jack Suddaby has certainly made the role of producer his own. After launching his own production company, Beautiful Strangers, Suddaby picked up a British Podcast Award last year for his show Time and Again, looking at stories from the UK prison system. We spoke to Suddaby about moving from radio to podcasting, his top equipment picks, and why talent should put more trust in producers.

How many podcasts do you work on?

Five or six, it changes a lot. I've got three regular ones, and then I was producing a lot of the video content for a couple of different ones for Persephonica, which is led by Dino Sofos. I made all the video content for Dua Lipa's podcast At Your Service over the summer and I led the video production in Political Currency - but that finished in December and now they've gone in-house. 

The main one I do is called NewlyWeds, with Jamie Lang and Sophie Habboo. There's a lot of video focus, so we clip everything up and I'm in charge of editing the video, helping to select clips and then coming up with new feature ideas as well.

There's another one called Distracted which is all about ADHD. So that's a weekly podcast hosted by Kat Milsom and myself, and we talk about different symptoms and parts of living with ADHD and then we get a bunch of guests on to talk to them about it. It's kind of light-hearted and fun, but also talks about some serious stuff as well.

How many podcasts do you listen to per week?

It changes every time. Sometimes I get a bit sick of listening to podcasts if I'm making them all the time, so it feels a bit like work sometimes. But then other times I'm just obsessed with podcasts, so I listen to loads, especially over Christmas. I know that I love podcasts because as soon as I stop making them I start listening to them loads more. 

I'm fairly basic in my taste. I listen to a lot of Steven Bartlett. He's one of the biggest for a reason; I think he just lets the guest talk, so it's not really about Steven so much, it's more about the guests. Then there’s Love and Radio, I'm obsessed. It’s great sound design and amazing storytelling. I basically try to emulate that style in my own way. I also love the podcast Tape Notes, which is basically a breakdown of an album in a really super nerdy way. A podcast for musicians by musicians, in many ways.

What's your podcast app of choice?

Spotify, because I have a subscription, I guess. I like the fact you can look for the charts and I like the fact that they do video as well. I guess I'm just used to being on Spotify. I listen to a load of music, so I'm just naturally going towards it. 

What are your three items of essential podcast equipment?

Hindenburg, which is an editing software that I use to edit, a Shure SM7B microphone - she's standard and feels nice - and I'd say a Sony FX3. It’s a great camera that captures amazing video quality, and it's so easy to use. 

One of my favourite features about the camera is that the whole thing lights up red when it’s on, so when it's not recording, it's not illuminated by red - which is quite handy if there's not a videographer, and you just have to look over and see if it’s still recording. 

How long does the average podcast take to turn around? 

A few hours; it can really depend. It changes even just from one podcast to the next. I'm making this series called Beautiful Strangers, same name as my production company, and it's monologue-style stories with loads of sound effects, design, and music as well. Just like the Time & Again series I made, but it's a range of different stories. That will easily take eight hours per episode, because there's so much music and sound design. 

I'm working with some City University students off the back of the [PodPod BPA Winners Event]. I've got an army of amazing students who are all going out and finding stories and doing parts of the interview, some of them are doing other bits of recording, and some of them are editing. It's really super exciting and we're planning to make 24 episodes. 

What does your role involve on a day-to-day basis?

My main focus is starting a studio space. It's one of the biggest projects I’ve got, opening a space in Central London. It's going to be a podcast recording space which is interchangeable, so the backdrops can change from different wallpapers to different curtains and get the best video and audio equipment you can get. I think there's a massive hole at the moment in the market of studio spaces that don't feel like they’re lived in. They look like sets, and I want to make somewhere that feels warm and alive, but you can customise it yourself. So that is taking up a lot of my time because I'm really thinking about how to make it amazing and it's not happening until March, which is super exciting. 

I'm also doing Newlyweds which would be turning up to the studio, having all the bits, coming back, editing it down on Final Cut - which no one uses, but I love Final Cut - and then it could be later in the evening doing another recording with Kat for Distracted. We'll cut it down, make social clips, and put the subtitles in. The Girls Bathroom, we're there redeveloping their set at the moment, speaking to set designers. It's fun, because it's so varied. I don’t think I would be very good at doing the same thing every day and so it's a blessing, really, to be able to have such variety in the week for me. 

What's one thing that you wish every podcast host knew?

How long it takes to edit. When they stumble a line and they go, let's just start from the top again. It's like no, we don't need to do that, it sounds great. It's almost like, would a singer - if they screwed up a line halfway through the song - start the whole song again, or would they just pick up from probably that line, if the first bit was great? So maybe trust in the producers, that you don't need to do the whole thing over and over again.

What makes a good episode?

You have to get something from it as a listener, it has to be valuable. That can range from learning to laughing, but you have to connect with the people and you have to gain something from it. It's vague, but I think that's probably the core of all episodes. 

How'd you get into the podcast industry?

I worked in radio from when I was 15. I'm 29 now, so over a decade. I did radio for years until I was 21 or 22. I worked in video at BBC News for five years and then I went to podcasting for five more years with the BBC. In 2017, I left and I started my own production company, Beautiful Strangers, and I've been progressing since, but with video as well.

I wanted to work at Radio One for years and years and years when I was growing up, and then I started realising I was listening to way more podcasts than I was listening to radio. It was kind of a tough transition in my head, going "maybe Radio One isn't the thing I want to do anymore". That was the big goal and I actually have done a bunch of shifts at Radio One and I've worked there and it's great. I love it. But I think for me now, podcasting is what gets me really excited.

What's the last podcast that you listened to?

I was listening to The Fasting Doctor on The Diary of A CEO. The takeaway from that was that calories are not what you think they are, potentially, and calories are an overly simplistic way of looking at nutrition from food - and there's far more to focus on other than calories to maybe lose weight or make gains.