Tips from Award-Winning Podcasters: Across the Aisle


We're so excited to bring you a series of Q&As with the winners of 2018 and 2017 Australian Podcast Awards! Kicking it off with 2018 Arts & Entertainment winners Across the Aisle, our vision for these Q&As is to share all the wisdom we can from these top Australian producers!

Members of Across the Aisle Ron Killeen, Carla Donnelly and Philip Thiel member of judging panel Claudia Taranto (2nd from left) at the 2018 Aus Pod Awards.

Members of Across the Aisle Ron Killeen, Carla Donnelly and Philip Thiel member of judging panel Claudia Taranto (2nd from left) at the 2018 Aus Pod Awards.

Aus Pod Awards: What is your podcast origin story? Do you have a podcast 'spirit animal'?

Carla Donnelly: After a few years of doing 'beat style' theatre review for online mediums, I became frustrated with the 24-hour review cycle as it didn't give me enough time to truly think about the shows.

Across the Aisle was born from a desire for performing arts long-form criticism; my friend Philip (Thiel) agreed to come along for the ride and brought on board Ron (Killeen) as our sound engineer/producer.

We can safely say (as would A LOT of podcasts) that Slate's Culture Gabfest is a huge inspiration to us - such smart, funny, deep and warm people nutting out the profound and absurd in the zeitgeist. We can only ever hope to be 1/10th as erudite.

What preparation goes into an episode before you begin recording?

Carla: Phil and I both pick a performance to attend. I notoriously rarely take notes, Philip is a constant scribbler. Whomever is the host that month creates the production script - this has details of the shows attended and production notes for Ron.

Time is the biggest part of our preparation - sometimes needing a couple of weeks to really marinate in a show and gather our thoughts. Across the Aisle is recorded on the fly, we don't edit anything in post beyond formatting. We both turn up with an idea of what we want to discuss, but the beauty of our relationship means we're very in-the-moment/going-with-the-flow/constructing that cultural archeology together.

What mics, editing software, studio gear and facilities are used to produce your podcast/s?

Carla: We are still very DIY - we record in Ron's study which is a dedicated space with foam tiles to cut down noise and unwanted reverb. Ron does our sound engineering, mix and edit. He uses the following equipment: 

  • AudioTechnica ATM27HE microphones (with pop filters)
  • Behringer Xenyx mixing desk
  • Tascam DR-40 audio recorder
  • Editing done in Adobe Audition

We don't use USB microphones or USB anything, or wireless anything. It's all balanced "mic level" analogue audio into the Tascam, which records to a standard SD-card.

What aspect of podcasting takes up the most time? How time-consuming is it?

Carla: For myself and Phil, it's generating our content (choosing, organising and attending the shows). For Ron, post-production takes around 3 hours. We spend about 1.5 hours recording/having a cup of tea together.

What advice would you give to a podcaster who's just starting out?

Carla: Really concentrate on getting your sound spot on, it makes a massive difference. Try not to be too long, we find listeners appreciate episodes under 40 minutes. Everyone loves a tight edit.

Please complete this sentence: "I feel most connected with my audience when..."

Carla: ..They reach out to us! We love hearing from our listeners!

Where should people start if they want to discover Across the Aisle? 

Carla: We think our Hotel Obscura episode is a great place to start, a first person critique of the one on one performance installation Hotel Obscura.

I have another podcast called Club Soderbergh, watching the films of my favourite director Steven Soderbergh with 2 other rad ladies. 

We reckon Season 4 of Across the Aisle is going to be fabulous. A more diverse set of productions covered; a more provocative focus on issues facing theatre audiences; plus [drumroll] the possibility of an interstate excursion to cover a major arts festival!