It’s been a pretty insane couple of days this week, and I’m only now able to put that craziness into coherent words. I had several thoughts I wanted to share and people I needed to thank on Wednesday when we won our award, but I was honestly too shocked to remember them. So bare with me, if you wish, because here they come on a rare instance of personal reflection.
I’ve been pretty good at some things, pretty OK at others, and plain bad at quite a few (I’m looking at you, softball and car repair). I don’t know if I’ve ever been the “Best” at anything. It’s not due to a lack of faith in myself, but humbleness. I talk a big game for entertainment purposes, but I simply do not need to have my ego stroked or be complimented every time I do something that succeeds on a personal level. I only expect honesty and respect that the other person knows that I tried, and that has always been good enough for me.
When I first set off on this endeavor to modify The Hollywood Outsider from yet another movie and TV news site to a more streamlined podcast and review / editorial endeavor, I had no idea of what to expect. Though we struggled the first couple of years, we finally hit our stride and our dulcet tones and meandering asides have now been a lesser part of the podcasting zeitgeist for several years. Expanding the brand, I began Remake This Movie RIGHT, in part to give a voice to fan demand in remaking many of our favorite films. This all culminated in partnering with Troy Heinritz and Golden Spiral Media, where we collaborate on two television “companion” podcasts, Beyond Westworld and The Blacklist Exposed.
What is a “companion” podcast? For many podcasters, it means a recap of the most recent episode of their favorite shows. For Troy and I, it means exploring the various thematic material inherent to the characters we fans love, diving deeper into the mythology within two of our favorite shows, and trying to have a little fun on the way. It also means numerous episodes, interviews, research, and untold hours of prep and post-production to make our shows seem as professional as we can. I am very proud of the work we have accomplished on all of the shows I am associated with, and even with several previous nominations, this week has taken me completely by surprise.
When we first won the award for Best TV / Film for The Blacklist Exposed at the Academy of Podcasters Awards, which occurs each year during Podcast Movement, I was shocked. Stunned really. My brother-from-another-mother, Dennis, even reminded me it’s the first time in his knowing me for almost 40 years that I seemed speechless. And he’s absolutely right. Allow me to elaborate.
As we arrived in Anaheim, CA for the event, Troy and I first had an appointment at Paramount Studios with the writing team behind Sony Picture Television’s The Blacklist, which airs on NBC. It’s important to note that we are in no way affiliated with NBC, Sony, nor any aspect of production on the James Spader / Megan Boone series, they simply allowed us the opportunity to visit with their team of writers to understand their process. How they break down story ideas, building scripts, their obvious camaraderie.
It was a surreal moment in itself, and a highlight for this longtime, wannabe writer. This group of accomplished artists were engaging and welcoming, something unnatural for anyone who has spent any semblance of time in Hollywood. It was painfully obvious they follow the lead of show creator, Jon Bokenkamp, a wonderful guy who has been nothing but kind to both Troy and I. Not in that typical Hollywood way of using it to curt favor either. We have been critical of many elements throughout the series, but Bokenkamp has always appreciated these criticisms because they come from a place of admiration. And he wants them to lead to a betterment of the series. He’s a rarity in this town, and his team follows suit.
After that blissful experience, we ventured off for our day at Podcast Movement. An event dedicated to assisting podcasters with both improving their overall product and increasing the visibility of it. Thousands of us gathered for an exciting day of information and networking, which led directly into the aforementioned Academy of Podcasters Awards. The Academy had cultivated a list of both the most popular shows in their respective categories, as well as hand-selected podcasts that met their extensive criteria.
As Troy and I arrived for the event, we were firmly in the camp that it’s an honor to be nominated, i.e., we’re not going to win. Call it negative, call it self-defeating, call it cynical. When you’re faced with competition such as How Did This Get Made and You Must Remember This, you can see why we would feel that way. There was not a single podcast in our category that did not deserve to be there, therefore we were in this for the ride itself. It truly was an honor to be nominated. As we sat in our chairs enjoying the event as it unfolded, I even found myself lost in the presentations and speeches, enjoying the ceremony for what it was. When our category finally came around, neither of us were ready to spring from our chairs or had speeches at the ready. Instead, we looked at each other calmly, smiled, gave a knowing nod that said “we made it”, and awaited the winner’s inevitable speech. Then, as we prepared our smiles to slyly cover our own disappointment…
“The winner is…The Blacklist Exposed!”
I was so taken aback, I completely forgot the entirety of my speech. You might ask, “Aaron, if you thought you weren’t going to win, why would you write a speech?” I would ask, who HASN’T written one?! If you’ve ever been a fan of entertainment, if you have ever aspired to create in the world of film, then you have practiced your “Oscar win”. It’s something I’ve dreamed about for years, not in some egotistical fallacy of my own pretentiousness, simply as achieving my dreams. Well, here was my big win – as reward for TALKING, no less – and I was completely at a loss for words.
I adlibbed my rambling, but managed to come off as grateful as I absolutely was. Though walking away, it finally dawned on me how I missed that grand opportunity to leave the audience with the speech I intended. To thank everyone who brought me to this moment, who guided and supported me throughout the years to achieve this dream. Most importantly, I forgot to thank the single most important person in my life. The only one, truly, who deserves this trophy more than myself for my work on the show.
Thankfully, I have you, the internet, to finally get this out, with even more detail. The extended cut, if you will. THIS is my proper acceptance speech.
It’s a crazy thing to win an award for something you love to do. It’s insane to me to think that of the thousands of podcasts out there, ours was “The Best”. I have such conflicting feelings about even the aspect of this. On one hand, I know how much love and work goes into most podcasts, and I have nothing but admiration for everyone who does it. It’s a medium that provides entertainment to millions, yet is still often shunned by the world at large. Therefore, I just don’t hold myself to the ideal that we are any better than anyone else, this just happened to be our year. On the other hand, it’s a complete and total lie to deny that it doesn’t feel pretty damn good to receive an award, an acknowledgement from the established tier of your peers, letting you know that your work was not only good and enjoyable, it represented “The Best” in podcasting for 2017.
I work very hard at this, as most podcasters do, dedicating long hours into the night to get as much right as possible. Like any vocation or partnership, there will be debates, disagreements, and even downright arguments, but if you love what you do, you persevere. I have, and now I stand with a beautiful acknowledgement of that work from a community I both admire and respect. For that, I am eternally thankful.
But to get anywhere, you need help along the way. Scott Clark was the first person to suggest this could be a thing we could be pretty good at. When I relaunched The Hollywood Outsider as a podcast, we had no idea where it would lead. Well, it’s lead to most of my dreams as a child somehow coming true. So thank you, Scott, for pushing me towards this avenue to begin with. The first “Thank You” is definitely yours alone.
As you go, you need support. And my friends and co-horts have been nothing but supportive, even as some of them had no idea what a podcast was. Brian, Dennis, Tyler, Rob, Wayne, Darrell, Dustin, RJohn – you guys were all instrumental in where I am today in this field. And Justin made the jump with me to TV talk, which led me to Blacklist, so special thanks to him as well.
And obviously thank you to the dedicated listeners of any and all shows I’ve done. It means the world that you still tune in after all these years. In many ways, you have been the most supportive members of all, encouraging me to try new things, branch out, and even shake things up on occasion. Listeners and fans are the lifeblood of this medium, without them, there is no podcast. There is no need for an award. I appreciate each of you so very much.
Special thanks to my family for all of their support. My Dad, Brad, listens to everything I ask him to, and is always trying to support this crazy ride of mine. Zack and Amanda are both wonderful kids who have done nothing but support and push me to do whatever I wanted to do in the podcast space. They have even accompanied me on this journey, and have found voices of their own along the way. And to Jayne, well, you have the brunt of it. Occasionally plans have to be worked around my schedule, and rarely do I hear any complaints or dismay in regards to it. You have been very supportive and it’s greatly appreciated.
To Troy, thanks for bringing me along on this one. You might be the worst backseat driver in the history of mankind, but you’re a great partner. We do all of this pretty damn well, it turns out, and you and I both know how much we each give to get it right.
And finally, growing up, I wanted nothing more than to be a writer. Specifically, I wanted to write movies in Hollywood. I have always felt I was a good writer, but never made any move to pursue it, though my mother always told me, “You have the talent, you can make it”. I didn’t listen.
As I got older, and I had the opportunity to pursue it as I always dreamed, my mother continued to tell me, “You have the talent, you can make it”. I didn’t listen, and I made different life choices.
As I began this avenue, my mother yet again persisted, “You have the talent, you can make it”. When I thought about throwing in the towel a couple of times, her optimism overwhelmed any doubts I had. And this time, I listened. There is no one who had more reason to doubt me than this woman, yet she has never once faltered in her belief of me. And for that, I am eternally grateful. Thank you, Karen.
So today I stand here, figuratively on the internet, thanking all those listed above, my fellow nominees – along with so many others I unintentionally forgot – and accept this award proudly. It’s a shining accomplishment of much hard work, determination, and a lot of fun along the way.
I’ve been good. I’ve been bad. And now, for the rest of my life, I can say I’ve been “The Best.”