Lessons Learned by Becoming a Horror Talk Show Host and Interviewing Celebrities in the Entertainment Industry
In the early morning hours of April 25th, 2020, I decided to do my first ever live stream broadcast. I was 45 years old and never even craved to do something like a live stream before. At 3:00 AM on that day, I did it. I had to create a title for the show, and for some reason, the name “Dead Talk Live” just came to me. Little did I know that I would be entering the Entertainment Industry World and becoming a Horror Talk Show Host.
The odd hour for the broadcast is if I was going to get ridiculed, I wanted the audience to be as small as possible. To my surprise, there was no ridicule, and that was the beginning of “Dead Talk Live.”
Now before we continue, I have to emphasize these critical facts. I was just a regular entertainment Movie/TV fan. I had zero contacts inside the entertainment industry. Finally, I had absolutely no idea how the inner workings of the entertainment industry happened.
In just over nine months, I have interviewed well over 35 celebrities. Something that if you had told me 12 months ago, I would have laughed at you. Here we are, nine months later. I’m here to tell you the story of what it is like to interview Celebrities and be let into a world that I had never experienced before… Hollywood!
Right upfront, I’m gonna mention this disclaimer. I am not going to mention any of my guest’s names. All of my guests have been wonderful, and each has given me a unique inside look into what goes on in the Film and TV industry. I will be posting random pictures of just some of my guests throughout this article and interview clips.
I have no idea what is ultimately going to be the fate of “Dead Talk Live.” I know that I will have had an experience that I never dreamed of possible, no matter what happens.
To properly tell this story, I do have to start from the beginning, and I will try to keep you engaged as much as possible till we get to the good stuff. In February of 2020, I had realized that an Instagram account that I created four years earlier had amassed well over 70,000 followers. It was primarily a “Walking Dead” Instagram fan account that I would occasionally post pictures to but never paid close attention to the number of followers or likes that I was receiving. And it wasn’t until February when I really took a close look that I realized, “that’s not a bad following.”
Gaining Legitimacy is the Ultimate Goal
At that point came the tough question what do I do with all these Instagram followers? Do I just continue posting pictures, not really contributing anything meaningful to the world, or do I try and expand and put that following to good use. I obviously chose the latter, and I’m glad I did. So I sat down and created a plan on how I am going to go about this. I only had an Instagram account, so I thought the first step should be to create accounts and other social media platforms with the same name. So I created a YouTube channel, Facebook page, and a Twitter account.
I wanted to do this because I did not want to limit my live stream to only one platform. At that point, I signed up for a simulcast streaming service. In a nutshell, a simulcast is a live broadcast that is simultaneously streamed on different networks. At this point, “Dead Talk Live” started streaming to Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. Keep in mind all the accounts except Instagram are brand new, started with 0 followers. And off I went.
Before continuing, it is vital to mention that the first 36 episodes of “Dead Talk Live” were indeed a regular video live stream with one big exception. I never showed my face on the screen. I used my voice with a slideshow as a video backdrop. Again I was too self-conscious to show my face. That would soon change.
About a month into the show it happened, we got our first real celebrity guest. This guest was no stuntman, body double, or stand-in (That is being said with all the respect in the world for what these talented people do.) This guest was a bona fide “A” list character on a major television series. He had agreed to be a guest on “Dead Talk Live.” I was both ecstatic and terrified at the same time. Talk about being thrown into the deep end of the pool on your first try.
I had one thing going for me at the time. I’m sure many of you have heard the term “starstruck,” meaning that when people are confronted by celebrities, they don’t know how to react around them. Nervousness, as well as self-consciousness, sets in and they, get tongue-tied. That has never been a problem for me, maybe because I grew up in New York City and had been bumping into celebrities for most of my life. As well as I’ve always realized that they are just ordinary regular people doing a job.
Still, being an audio-only broadcast interview day came. It was done as a telephone interview, and it went amazingly well. Two episodes later, I decided to make the leap, and I showed my face on the screen, and it has been that way ever since. But I do regret not having that significant first guest not on video but audio-only. That is a regret that very soon I will be able to correct with this particular guest.
There is this “Unwritten Protocol” that Everyone in the Industry Must Learn… Sort of Like a Secret Handshake
I guess you can say the “talent” comes in on interview day. When you have done your research (hopefully), have your questions ready, and it’s showtime. During a live interview, you have to adjust on the fly and think on your feet. You may have a list of prepared questions right in front of you. Still, your guest may answer several of your upcoming pre-written questions with just one previous question. As well as getting a read on how your guest is reacting to specific questions. Supposing that you want to continue your guest list to grow. In that case, you absolutely have to make sure that all your guests walk away from the interview with a positive experience.
Now I am out there doing a video live stream talk show, face and all right there on the screen, ready to take on the world. But how do I get more guests? The only way I had to contact these people was through messaging them on social media. Deep down, I knew that would not get any positive results. My message would be mixed in with hundreds of their followers’ messages and most likely just ignored.
For a while, that technique did work every so often, and I could get more guests, but my big breakthrough came in the early summer of 2020. I had reached out on Instagram to someone who is a big deal behind the screen for “The Walking Dead Universe.” This person said he would do my show, but I would need to get approval from AMC’s Public Relations Department. My response was, “Great, how do I contact them?”
To my surprise, this person actually gave me the direct email address of the person responsible for PR on “The Walking Dead.” Of course, I emailed them and again was surprised that they responded back the next day. And that is how my relationship with AMC’s Public Relations Department started. And it’s a relationship that I still value to this day.
Now, of course, AMC did not automatically say yes to my request. I was thoroughly vetted. I had past episodes reviewed, in particular, episodes with special guest interviews. I had to submit my questions for this guest before the interview. But at the end of the day, I did get their approval. To this day, that special guest interview and the experience was a game-changer for me.
Be Bold and Don’t Be Afraid to Take Risks!
This guest has become somewhat of my virtual mentor on this very tricky road I am unfamiliar with. I went to this person with questions and have always received a positive response. Messaging celebrities through social media is not sustainable, and you have a low response rate. And then another breakthrough happened.
I had received word that my request to get “Dead Talk Live” listed on IMDb had been approved. “Wow, now I have legitimacy’ is what I thought. And I was mostly correct but getting listed on IMDb introduced me to IMDb pro. To have a profile picture on IMDb, you need to be a Pro Subscriber. I thought it’s definitely worth it, so I forked over the money. But there was another advantage to IMDb Pro that I did not immediately realize.
With IMDb Pro, you get access to the names and contact information of every person’s representative listed on their site. That includes managers, talent agents, and most importantly, publicists. I, of course, knew these entities existed. Still, I had no idea the job functions of a manager to a publicist and talent agent. But nonetheless, I was very grateful to have a way to make my interview requests.
Up until this point, everything was pretty straightforward, basic common sense. Still, when I started talking to celebrities’ representatives, that’s when I really started to learn how the entertainment industry worked. It is ultimately an entirely different beast with unwritten protocols left and right. And of course, no Handbook lets you know what is and what is not appropriate. You just have to muddle your way through it and hope you don’t make a mistake so bad that no one will ever speak to you again.
My Executive Producer and I started reaching out to managers and talent agents. We did not realize that the people we needed to contact for our requests were the publicists. A personalities publicist is the one that makes all the calls on any public appearances. Like everyday life, every manager, talent agent, and publicist has a unique personality and way of doing things.
“Dead Talk Live” has expanded well beyond just “The Walking Dead” to include the whole Horror Entertainment Genre. I am a big fan of “The Walking Dead,” but more importantly, I’m a big fan of horror. Why limit me to just one show and, more importantly, limit the guests that I wanna talk to only one show. Now open to the entire Horror Entertainment field, I can invite guests from every corner of the entertainment industry. Several factors went into this decision, but most notably, it was to ensure the show’s long-term viability at the end of the day.
But that’s when the guests really started to roll in. When approaching representation, the key is to make sure you have something to offer them and their client to their benefit. Usually, stuff is not done just out of the goodness of their heart. You have to remember this is a business, and there is a lot of money at stake for future projects for these celebrities.
Over 35 Celebrity Interviews in 9 Months. No Matter the Numbers, Always Stay Grounded and Humble!
I can’t emphasize enough how unique dealing with representation can be. It is not a one size fits all box. Some representatives like to act as a wall between the person they are representing and outside people. In contrast, others pass on requests directly to the talent and let them decide. There are way too many variables, and at the end of the day, you just need to determine how to handle each cold contact you initiate.
To make the year 2020 even more bizarre, I have now a talent manager and a talent agent. It wasn’t something that I was particularly looking out for but told it was something that I would need. After getting representation for myself, I decided to research how hard it is to get talent representation. Surprisingly enough to actually get signed by a talent manager and agent is not an easy process at all. It is no different from auditioning for a role, and you have to get approval that you are worthy of that role.
With each new interview that I did, I had previous misconceptions wholly eradicated. Just because you’re in front of a camera( or behind the camera) does not mean you live the life of the rich and famous. In fact, only a small portion of actors fall into that category. The majority are just regular everyday folks trying to live in an industry where rejection is King.
Now over nine months into this, I have done over 35 professional interviews. I have built relationships with several networks and Hollywood studios. Have connected with talent representation and, most importantly, understand how the entertainment industry works. It is an experience that I truly cherish and has made me have much greater respect for the work that goes into creating a film or a television show.
Lastly, but most important, is to make sure you surround yourself with a great team. No one on” Dead Talk Live” has received a single penny, and that includes me. As of this writing, our team consists of about 20 volunteers. 20 people are doing what they are doing because they believe in it, and it’s not just for a paycheck. I consider myself beyond lucky with the team that I have with me at “Dead Talk Live.”
I am not willing to sacrifice the integrity of the show for some nickel and dime sponsorships. I want a sponsorship, but I am willing to wait until the right one comes along. One that I believe in and is also a good fit for the show.
From the very first episode, I always close out each show by saying, “Stay Walking.” Most people think it’s a reference to “The Walking Dead,” but it’s not. The term “Stay Walking” has a profound personal meaning for me. You see, the reason why I started doing this show is that I needed something to bring me back from a terrible year where I fell into a severe OCD phase. “Dead Talk Live” is my therapy.
That’s why I don’t focus on the numbers. We now simultaneously streamed to five different social media platforms and combined 340,000 followers across all those platforms. That’s great, and for everyone out there looking to increase their followers, you need to ask yourself one question. That question is, once you do get all those followers, what are you going to do with them?