The Quarantine Stream: 'The Commentary Cast' Provides Director's Commentaries for Streaming Content

(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

The Podcast: The Commentary Cast

Where You Can Stream It: Wherever podcasts can be found

The Pitch: Like many movie fans, filmmakers Grant Sputore and Dave McDonnell love the bonus features which used to be staples of home video releases. But they noticed something: most streaming sites don’t provide bonus features for new content. So they decided to right that wrong by reaching out to directors of streaming films and recording feature-length commentaries for their movies and TV shows in podcast form.

Why It’s Essential Quarantine Listening: For those of us who are obsessed with movies and how they’re made, the drastic decline of in-depth bonus features has been a dispiriting occurrence over the past ten years. Even though directors are pushed through a gauntlet of press interviews when their films are released, we’re still often left with detail-oriented questions about how they operate on a set and how they solve problems when they inevitably arise. Even when we at /Film get to sit down with a filmmaker, those kinds of nitty-gritty, process-driven questions are tough to fit in when you only have ten total minutes of interview time. But thanks to its feature length episodes, The Commentary Cast has the luxury of having plenty of time to dig into those under-explored topics – and the results are fascinating.

The episodes begin with some very brief introductory remarks about the film they’ll be covering, and then McDonnell (a VFX artist) steps into the background while Sputore, a director who made his feature debut with last year’s excellent science fiction film I Am Mother, has a conversation with that episode’s director about their project. (They watch the film with the sound off, and do a countdown before they press play so you can either watch along with them at home or simply listen without watching if you prefer.) Sputore’s experience behind the camera elevates these conversations beyond just a typical interview with any old journalist; there’s a sense of respect between both parties, and you can sense that the directors feel comfortable talking to a fellow filmmaker who has dealt with his own set of on-set challenges.

There have been three episodes of the podcast so far: Zak Hilditch for 1922, Mike Flanagan for Gerald’s Game, and Sam Hargrave for Extraction. I recommend the Flanagan episode as an entry point, because Flanagan is one of the best and most thoughtful talkers in modern filmmaking. He tells some terrific stories about making the movie, addressing delightfully random things sparked by certain shots or sequences that no interviewer would ever know to ask about. The whole episode is great, but for me, the standout moment came when Flanagan told one of the most stress-inducing behind-the-scenes stories I’ve ever heard about a production. I won’t spoil the details here, but it involves his lead actress walking away from the movie with just days left until the shoot was set to begin, and hearing the reason why practically made me start sympathy-sweating just imagining what that must have been like for the director and his crew in that crucial time leading up to Day One.

I really love the premise of this podcast and can’t wait to dig into further episodes when they’re released. The plan is to expand beyond just Netflix projects soon, so I’m excited to see who else these guys can lock down for upcoming episodes. Props to Sputore and McDonnell for providing this service for the cinephile community.

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