S. Craig Zahler and the Art of the Podcast

Bones tomahawk

"We have a solution for Hollywood's" development hell "that I like to share with everyone." In this way, Dallas Sonnier, or at least its marketing department, announced the launch of "The Original Audiostate", the Neologism Cinestate (Sonniers Dallas-based indie production company) to avoid the "podcast" horror. By combining the "grandiosity of Hollywood films with the intimacy of audio", the Audiostate is supposed to transform the most popular object, the unproduced screenplay, into cross-platform content. Since Sonnier's statement in 2017, only one audio system has been produced: The Narrow Caves from the same year, a story of elite horror, eugenics and explicit fucking, adapted by S. Craig Zahler from his own script.

Zahler's recent career is closely linked to Cinestate. As explained by Scott Tobias, Sonnier made a personal bet on Zahler's first film Bone Tomahawk (2015) and financed it in part by pledging his home. Tomahawk, in which a colorful gang of western stick characters trudged through a desert to save a few 19th-century norms from some subhuman metal AF cave dwellers, proved interesting enough for both critics and gorehounds to do that Funding of Cinestate, which Tobias aptly describes as "a breakaway outfit between the coasts".

Before Tomahawk, Zahler had twenty scripts in different phases of Zenos Entertainment Complex Paradox, apart from the Belgian Asylum Blackout (2011). As the Sonnier quote above suggests, this is not a completely unusual career for a screenwriter, although most professionals I agree that this career type used to be more lucrative. However, Zahler's writing is what some producers might call "tonally complex", and Zahler himself is not enthusiastic about the grade process. Zahler says about his films: “Some people can get bored. And that's fine. But the studios don't want to hear that. "However, Cinestate thought it appropriate to give Payers a relatively free hand as a writer and director, which has resulted in three films that, to quote Tobias again," are as challenging in their unusual longues as in their shocks ".

The corrupt police drama Dragged Across Concrete (2018) shows a now notorious scene in which Vince Vaughn only eats an egg salad sandwich for one minute and thirteen seconds. In Tomahawk, Richard Jenkins makes a rambling statement on the economy of saloon musicians. Zahler has stated that the intent of such passages is to involve the audience more fully in the world of their characters so that when the horror hits (and it always does), it hits the meat harder. The considerations, the duration and the pace of these films, which are not leisurely but have the rhythm of a long march through hostile territory, tonally and formally distinguish Payer's work from ancestors such as John Carpenter, Charles Willeford and Don Siegel. As a director, Zahler is a lot, but only derived from himself.

Although Zahler claims that "his prose is clearly a writer's prose," his fiction is less successful. In a medium in which the creator cannot control the duration, but only propose it, the stimulation comes with the voice. Zahler's voice marries laconic, hard-boiled to flourishing Gothic style, which often leads to prose that is purple like a beloved bruise. An early suicide in Mean Business on North Garrison Street (2014) is described as follows: “W. Robert Fellburn swallowed the steel cylinder, pressed the safety button, and pulled the trigger until his disgrace covered the blanket with gray and red lumps. "In A Congregation of Jackals (2010) a character speaks" (i) with a low voice that creates a sinuous smoke snake ". Zahler, the novelist, also has a number of unfortunate tics, including racial bait, a blatant spectacle, and character referencing based on their descriptors. In Jackals, "the bartender" becomes a "rapidly aging beverage spinner"; later a rancher and his wife are referred to as "two-legged intruders". In Mean Business, the protagonist introduces himself as "Jules Bettinger" shortly before the author's voice calls him "the Arizona man", two sentences after he has described him as a "detective". Refusing to use pronouns is not a style, even if you are an Oulipian.

Despite their relative darkness (Mean Business is the only title with a mainstream publisher, Thomas Dunne), many of Zahler's novels were selected for the film. Although no one has yet made it to production, it makes sense to get the same result with a payer podcast. Adapting existing IP addresses to pitch material or redeveloping the process is a strategy that is currently very popular. They prove that the content has an audience and then use it for a more lucrative medium. Podcasts appear to be the ideal form because they are (relatively) cheap, have a (seemingly) large potential market, and have (limited) success to go the long way to television. However, narrative fiction podcasts have a unique challenge. The vast majority of living people in overdeveloped countries have never experienced a time when stories were not primarily consumed through the screen. Even those who read analog books still record their narrative visually. The eye of the podcast listener is therefore constantly restless, searches for content, but only finds bare life.

For this reason, the most successful podcasts are the talk radio of this historical period, which is best experienced as a background conversation and whose ideologies penetrate your unconscious. (As podcast presenter Caroline Busta recently said about podcasts in the New Models podcast: "When you listen, don't think too carefully about what is being said.") Colloquial rhythm, buzzwords, vowel fry: this is the content, that the podcast listener desires. Narrative non-fiction podcasts (and I am thinking specifically of Serial and its spawn) often address this problem by returning to the same basic scenes with new, previously held facts or from different POVs, leaving the listener, Instagram, or If You Kettle Bells -Repeat, you have several chances to be reminded of the story.

Many narrative podcasts mimic the tone, rhythm, and formal constraints of narrative nonfiction. BBC's H.P.-Lovecraft-is-now-public-domain series The Case of Charles Dexter Ward (2018) and The Whisper in the Darkness (2019) indulge in this trick and pose as narrative non-fiction. The podcast's history of course includes Orson Welles' often-cited false flag / radio show "War of the Worlds". So it's not like there is no precedent for such formal fucking. However, the continued built-in excuses for why the narrative in question only has to be experienced through audio feel like a pathological need of the creators to explain if not apologize. The answer can't be, "The meeting with Netflix wasn't going so well."

This has led to audience exhaustion, which the more successful narrative fiction podcasts tend to bypass. The horror by Dolores Roach (2018) adapts a solo exhibition into a monologue with background noises and inserted dialogue. Monologue with extras is also the format of the episode of the week, which the Magnus archive (since 2016) uses as a basis. Homecoming (2016-2017) threw money on the problem by using a large celebrity cast, contextless conversation, and location recording to keep the frame TV wide. (Homecoming is now of course a TV show.)

Not surprisingly, payers don't have to apologize or explain. The shape of the narrow caves can best be described as "elevated table reading". Wyatt Russell and Lili Simmons lead the small cast and do a good job (I don't think you can be blamed for the excessive, embarrassing sex scenes involved in stick fucking), and Vincent D & # 39; Onofrio is the national treasure enthusiastically unbalancing the material. Zahler's own sub-carpenter score distinguishes the soundtrack from the usual Casio noodles, while The Narrator (Will Patton) reads action pieces. If that sounds a bit dry, remember that this is the payer.

The prose reappears immediately. The protagonists Walter (Russell) and Ruby (Simmons) are referred to as "the lanky youth" and "the pale woman" respectively, while Walter's buddy Jason is referred to as "the Asian guy". However, the speakers do additional work in this format to help listeners take into account physical properties and become touchstones in the narrative. Payers baroque movements are tougher because of their relative scarcity. It should be emphasized: "Beer cans shine like elongated stars on the weed lawn in front of the house" and "Several hungry partygoers are looking for nachos that look like the remains of an exposed animal. others fight for the fried chicken, potato chips, and pretzels nearby. “Later the narrator baptizes a certain class of sub-human“ crawlers ”without further description. This forces the listener to create the crawler's salient attributes, only supported by suppressing noise. The whiplash between what is described (about) and what is left to the imagination turns out to be productive, especially in comparison to the genre offers of the mainstream of the film industry, in which everything has to be deceived, categorized and explained.

To his great credit, Zahler is not interested in “world education”. The Building of the World was invented in the closed but drafty halls of the SF fandom and survived the survival of M. John Harrison to recover to a popular standard in the entertainment industry. Instead, The Narrow Caves presents its protagonist (I lied, it's just Walter, not really Ruby at all) with a not really unsolvable problem: what if the reason why you are so attracted to your lover is because of the brutal logic ? genetic programming? And what if visiting your ancestral homestead and creepy father causes you both to be dragged underground by members of a subhuman race who have mingled with humanity? And what if you are actually the result of such an old, unspeakable pairing? Zahler is not interested in describing an underground civilization and its intersection with human history, but rather in the fact that Walter refuses to succumb to his own parish genetic engineering. Payer's heroes, as corrupt as they are often (Walter is not that bad compared to most, even though he is a pseudo-intellectual, tearful little manipulative tail), is constantly faced with the need to cut through the dark mists of amorality and to see the eternal struggle of good and evil. This evil is an inevitable fact in the narrow caves that is "hidden in our blood" and not accidental.

The debate over whether S. Craig Zahler's work is racist or only racially neighboring has become fashionable in circles that unfortunately have to be called "film Twitter". (My favorite among these pieces is from K. Austin Collins.) I made my own decision when I read Mean Business' author voice and compared the size of a character to that of a Chinese woman. The "ancient race of narrow caves that mate with humans" seems to survive across time, space, and content platforms – Tomahawk's mentioned race of cave dwellers who enjoy splitting people apart with stones. Tomahawk clearly describes these cave dwellers by indigenous people. This is a fairly obvious attempt to avoid the consequences of using the racist horseback riding team to save white people from the wild. There is symmetry here with Lovecraft's short story "The Horror at Red Hook" (1925), a centerpiece in the history of cosmic horror and often regarded as one of Lovecraft's most racist works. However, Red Hook has a much more complex internal dialogue with immigration than its reputation suggests. Its protagonist is himself an immigrant, an Irishman (who at the time was a category that was still in white), while his villain, or at least the person who acts as a whirling point for the unspeakable, squamous evil, is from a long-time Dutch Family. The bearers of the inhumane cult it deals with are "a very unusual colony of unclassified, unclassified people who used the Arabic alphabet but were eloquently rejected by the vast majority of Syrians in and around Atlantic Avenue." This is the payer in two steps from Tomahawk, a century earlier: The real subhumans are the ones I invented out of nowhere. Not that Lovecraft showed alertness, he metaphorically fairly explicitly reconciled evil with brown people, and there is a lot of free hatred for generalized "dark" foreigners later in the text.

Of course, the payer is not a lovecraft. He is not the inventor of a sophisticated pulp cosmos that metaphorizes positivism in the form of annihilation of incoming species because of its despair over the decline of the white race. He is a nostalgic, cross-platform, neo-pulp content creator whose defense of the obvious racism of his films is that they "don't even consistently match themselves". We like to call this, dear reader, Horseshit. Just come out and let the narrator say it, brother.


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