Earlier today the announcement hit that Movie Maintenance, the podcast I’ve been a part of for the last three years, is coming to an end with its 150th episode. This decision was made a few weeks ago, and despite the word ‘cancelled’ being bandied about, that’s not the best description for what happened.
Movie Maintenance has never been an easy show. There were bursts of creative energy, there were episodes we’re all hugely proud of, but the truth is that it just never quite hit the heights we wanted it to. Even at its best it was a weekly struggle to maintain (heh) the quality and the early idea, to every week deliver an amazing fix of a flawed film that made you sit up and say “if only!” quickly became unviable. Before long we were relying more on our own fan fiction pitches for dream sequels, prequels and reboots. The reason for this was simple; it’s easier and more enjoyable to write about something you like than something you don’t.
Over the course of its run, Movie Maintenance was often subjected to soft reboots. The cast changed, the format shifted, emphasis moved from fixes to pitches then back to fixes and finally to a format that allowed us more general discussion of writing craft. The premise of Movie Maintenance, which was always strong, never sat comfortably with what we really wanted to do. And while a lot of what we did would sort of count as a maintenance if you squinted, much was rightly called out by listeners as being a bit of a betrayal of the premise of the show.
Over the last year, passion and energy dwindled. I found myself running out of great ideas for takes on movies and finding excuses to remove myself from episodes. And while we were really enjoying the discussion based episodes (Toxic Fandoms, Dialogue, Franchise Fatigue etc), the pitches and fixes had become a chore. So we decided to reboot again, to bring in new formats like the Garbage vs Gold debates and challenge eps like Win Vin Diesel an Oscar. Fun for us, but still not really Movie Maintenance.
Meanwhile, our passion was moving elsewhere. Our spinoff series of audio dramas, Movie Maintenance Presents, has never been a conqueror in the downloads, but gave us as writers a chance to put original work out there, and while it was always far more work than the main show, it was in many ways more rewarding. Then there was Movie Maintenance AGM, our subscriber only pop culture news show which, as Handsome Tom pointed out, was so refreshing and enjoyable because it gave us a chance to talk about things we like.
Relentless negativity has long been a criticism of Movie Maintenance. For my money there’s a reason people still talk about episodes like Dracula, Jaws 5 and Sons of the West; they were based around things we were passionate about and let us convey that passion. That’s almost always more fun to hear than people just criticising something. I could never begrudge people disliking the show because of our negativity, but tearing movies apart was baked into our premise and honestly, on a show called Movie Maintenance there just wasn’t that much we could do about it.
Are you sensing a pattern here? More and more, we were fighting against our premise. And then there was the external problems it posed. Try meeting working screenwriters, directors and producers at industry events and telling them that your job is to, without much to your name, claim you can do better than them. There aren’t many ways to say that without sounding arrogant. And while I do believe that we always approached what we did from a place of loving film and wanting the best from our blockbusters, it’s easy to see why someone would assume otherwise and write us off as at best pretentious, at worst conceited and vindictive.
Breaking point came a couple of months back when our producer stepped down. We had been looking at launching the AGMs as a public parallel show to Movie Maintenance, called The Agenda, but without someone to edit and oversee the concept suddenly looked unfeasible. And when we met to record, we were at a loss. Finally I asked: what if we scrap Movie Maintenance and come up with something new in its place? Something that keeps the things we love about the show and removes the stuff that was detrimental? Something that has room to include the news discussion format of the AGMS, the challenges, the writing craft dissections and whatever else we have a mind to do?
I was ready to be shut down. I was ready to be told that was a stupid risk. But what I got was unanimous agreement, a shared admission that we’d all been feeling this way for a while and, with our 150th episode getting close, this move couldn’t come at a better time. And like that, within the space of a few minutes, the decision was made. Movie Maintenance would finish. And something else, something looser and vaguer and more fun, would take its place.
All of the above probably makes it sound like I disliked Movie Maintenance, which couldn’t be further from the truth. At its best it was exhilarating fun. Getting to tell stories that excited people all around the world was beyond rewarding. Getting to hear stories from the most talented writers I know was even better. Hearing appreciation for my work from people everywhere was something I had never experienced before, and the podcast provided the kind of platform that was beyond invaluable. It changed my life and revolutionised my career, and I’ll always be grateful for the opportunity to be a part of it. And, beyond that, for the fact that people listened and cared. That alone was more than I ever could have expected.
But everything has its time and everything ends. More information about the new show will land in weeks to come, but until then there are still a few more episodes of Movie Maintenance before our final live show extravaganza on May 18. And after that, in the immortal words of Hannibal, ‘fate and circumstance have returned us to this moment, when the teacup shatters.’
It’s been a blast. Thank you for listening.
Writing words about writing words.