The Murder Podcast (2021) and interview with director William Bagley

Chad (Andrew McDermott) and Eddie (Cooper Bucha) want to be podcasters but no one wants to listen to a show all about ramen. A murder happens in their town and they decide to solve it with their show, except that people keep getting knocked off and they find themselves in the middle of all of it.

When they find some coins on the desk of the sheriff (Levi Burdick) that match ones at the murder site, they think they’ve found their man. Except then they watch a witch exterminate the sheriff — and she even gets the deputy (Luke Michael Williams) — before starting to chase our heroes once they take the coin.

Director and writer William Bagley does a good job balancing horror and comedy in this, as well as creating two fun leads who win you over and make you want to see them succeed, even if they’ve stoner dumb enough to anger their hometown’s law enforcement and urban legend all at the same time.

B&S About Movies: I know that true crime and podcasts about it are huge. Was that the genesis of the idea behind your movie?

William Bagley:  I had gone to Maine to work on a documentary with a friend. And while we were there, we met a dude who had just come from St. Louis and he was telling me how he heard this thing where they put coins on witches’ graves to keep their spirits at bay. That sounds like a really cool idea for a horror movie! Back home, I researched it and couldn’t find anything about it. I found one page on a website and that was all. I don’t really know if it’s true or not, but I was like, “That’s a really cool idea.”

It kind of melded with this other idea I’ve been working on about a news anchor journalist solving crimes. That wasn’t really going anywhere. And my wife had been listening to every single true crime podcast on the face of the planet and telling me all about them.

That’s when I hit on the perfect idea: podcasters.

She’s obsessed with true crime. It’s compelling sometimes, but not really my forte.

B&S: How did you go from true crime to the supernatural in the same story?

William: I just like supernatural stuff. I think it’s more fun. So instead of someone just being like, oh, legit murdered, I got to turn into something crazy. I was like, “I’m gonna be able to do cool supernatural stuff in the horror scenes.”

B&S: Are you a fan of horror movies?

William: I’ve grown into way more of a fan as I’ve gotten older. When I was in high school, horror movies used to just terrify me but I still would have fun watching them with other people. But I never watched it by myself up until probably the last few years. I definitely tend to like the more fun horror. Not necessarily like horror comedies, but when it’s super depressing, it’s usually not my thing. I don’t like it when everything’s just really sad and scary. There at least needs to be some kind of levity.

B&S: How did you work across both genres in your film? Balancing horror and comedy isn’t always easy.

William: I think the main thing was I told the actors was “Your characters and what they do is going to be where the comedy comes from. Your character doesn’t think anything that they’re doing is funny. They’re not making jokes. They’re not necessarily having fun. They’re acting very silly, but to them, that’s how they would actually act in this situation.”

I think that’s a good way to blend the hard stuff. Because, you know, if you see something really scary you’re gonna be like, “Oh, no, no, no, no, no!” (laughs) You’ll say something super like over the top. That’s kind of where I was trying to pull from. I was taking the comedy seriously.

You want the characters to believe the world that they’re in, even though we all know that’s really silly.

B&S: I really liked the shift from the real to the unreal.

William: In some of the reviews, there are some who like the third act and some who don’t.

B&S: That’s the great part of independent film, right? You didn’t have to deal with any notes.

William: When we were filming it, I had some mild anxiety. It just felt like. “Are we getting the right stuff? Is this coming across?” I didn’t really know, because I was also the editor on the film. We weren’t cutting it while we were shooting it because I was directing. Once it wrapped and I started cutting and putting it together, like actually seeing it come together, it was the coolest thing. It worked! We did a good job!

B&S: Did you start as an editor?

William: Yes. I’ve done a bunch of shorts for other people/ I used to work at a TV station as an editor. . I actually love editing and when I’m directing, I’m directing for the edit and can shoot fast because I can just say, “We’re not going to use that.”

B&S: Who are your influences?

William: Edgar Wright, which you can tell when you see the movie. I was also inspired by the first Lord of the Rings in the way they treated the ring. That was how I wanted to treat the coin and its presence.

I also really love Matthew Vaughn. I think The Kingsman is a great movie. He does a really good job of mixing in comedy with other genres.

B&S: What’s next?

William: I have two scripts I’m working on. One is called Lumberjack Samurai. It’s awesome.  It’s gonna be significantly more expensive than The Murder Podcast. So it’s probably going to take longer to make. We’re trying to figure out how to finance that thing right now. And then I have another smaller script that I wrote with the guy who actually plays the witch in the movie, Scott Hawkins. It’s significantly smaller and we may be able to do that in a couple of months. It’s interesting because Lumberjack Samurai may be more serious than The Murder Podcast.

B&S: Where do you live?

William: Atlanta, GA. I work in the film industry here, which means we were able to pull a lot of favors and get a lot of gear and stuff like that. I’ve been doing it for a long time. We were like, “Hey, can I borrow your grip truck? Is that cool?”

B&S: Where can people find The Murder Podcast?

William: That’s where we’ll have all the links to the streaming services we’re going to be on. You can rent the movie from Vimeo. I know we’re going to be on Amazon and Tubi soon.

If you happen to live in Springfield, Missouri or in Laredo and Corpus Christi Texas, the Alamo Drafthouse is screening the movie in late October, early November. And then hopefully we’re gonna have a screening here in Atlanta.

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