From Podpedia
GenreFilm Talk
UpdatesWeekly (Friday)
Audio formatMP3
Also airs Friday mornings and Saturday nights on 91.5 FM WBEZ (Chicago, IL)
Original releaseMarch 6, 2005 – present

Filmspotting is a weekly film podcast and radio program from Chicago hosted by Adam Kempenaar and Josh Larsen. The show originally began as a progression from Kempenaar's film blog Cinemascoped. He and his friend, Sam Van Hallgren (then Sam Hallgren), who had become a regular contributor to Cinemascoped began brainstorming when interest in the blog began to wane.[1] What resulted was a film-talk podcast. While the whole concept of podcasting at the time was relatively new, Kempenaar had gotten the idea from an article appearing in Wired, and he and Van Hallgren decided to give it a try.[2] The fledgling show began production in 2005, initially under the title Cinecast, but was changed to Filmspotting in 2006 due to a conflict over the name. Shortly after, the show was picked up by Chicago's NPR affiliate station, WBEZ.[3]

Hosts[edit | edit source]

Current[edit | edit source]

  • Adam Kempenaar A 1997 graduate of Grinnell College with B.A. in English, he also holds a B.A. in communication/film studies and a M.A. in journalism from the University of Iowa (2005). Kempenaar was a film critic for The Daily Iowan for two years before moving to Chicago in the fall of 2002 to work in the media department of the Chicago Blackhawks, where he still serves as Senior Executive Director of Digital Content.[4][5][6] He also hosted a weekly film talk show, "Burn Hollywood Burn," on 89.7 KRUI-FM in Iowa City. Kempenaar is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association.[7] He is married with four children: Holden, Sophie, Quinn and Conor.
  • Josh Larsen joined Filmspotting as co-host in January 2012. Prior to that, he spent 11 years as a film critic for Chicago-based Sun-Times Media. Larsen also writes about movies at LarsenOnFilm and is editor of the faith and culture magazine Think Christian.[8]

Former[edit | edit source]

  • Sam Van Hallgren: Currently resides in Davidson, North Carolina and previously worked on the public radio show This American Life. A graduate of Kenyon College (where he met Matty Robinson), Van Hallgren left the show as a host in September 2007 to focus on other pursuits and spend more time with his wife, leaving Matty "Ballgame" Robinson to co-host the show with Kempenaar. He has since returned to Filmspotting as one of the show's co-producers (the other being 'Golden' Joe DeCeault), and occasionally appears on the show as a guest host.
  • Matty "Ballgame" Robinson: Originally Van Hallgren's roommate,[6] Robinson was initially an occasional contributor, mainly appearing as a special guest or filling in when either Adam or Sam could not record. His first appearance was on episode #64 (Top 5 Villains). In September 2007 when Van Hallgren's departure was announced, the hosts revealed that Robinson would take over the co-hosting duties full-time. Robinson attended Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio (where he met Sam Van Hallgren) and holds a B.A. in creative writing, as well as an MFA in acting. On September 24, 2011, during the airing of Filmspotting episode #365, it was revealed that Robinson would be leaving the show.

Teaching at the University of Chicago[edit | edit source]

In the spring of 2008, Kempenaar and Robinson were given teaching positions at the Graham School of General Studies (part of the University of Chicago) for a one-semester film course, focusing on the films of Michael Curtiz and Howard Hawks.[7] The course, proving a success, was cause for the pair to be subsequently invited back by the university to teach further courses in each of the following three school years. The below table offers a brief summary of these classes:

Name of Course Year Notes
Hawks vs. Curtiz: The Auteur and the Hack 2008 Films included: Mildred Pierce, The Big Sleep, Casablanca, Yankee Doodle Dandy, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, The Comancheros and Rio Bravo.
The New Hollywood 2009 A study of the genre that came about in the 1960s and early 1970s. Films included: Jules and Jim, Bonnie and Clyde, The Graduate, In the Heat of the Night, Easy Rider, Midnight Cowboy, The Long Goodbye, Mean Streets, and Badlands.
Nobody's Perfect: The Films of Billy Wilder 2010 Films included: Double Indemnity, Ninotchka, Stalag 17, The Apartment, Some Like It Hot and Sunset Boulevard.
Movies About Movies – The Star, The Writer, and The Director 2011 From the catalog description: the course will 'analyze what movies about movies reveal about the creative process'.[9] Films include A Star is Born, Singin' in the Rain, Day For Night, Barton Fink, 8 1/2 and Mullholland Drive.

Show format[edit | edit source]

The show starts with a review of a recently released film, followed by listener feedback. After the feedback segment is "Massacre Theater", a weekly contest that has the hosts performing short scenes of dialogue from various films, with a prize going to one listener who correctly guessed which film it was from. On rare occasions, the hosts will perform the scene with guests, with one notable episode including Kempenaar performing a scene from The Professional with Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg, who were being interviewed to promote their film Hot Fuzz.[10]

Each episode ends with the "Top Five" segment, which sees each host picking their top five movies that pertain to a certain topic for the week. The segment was initially inspired by similar scenes in High Fidelity and the Nick Hornby novel it was based on. These picks exclude certain "pantheon" choices, which are films such as The Godfather or Citizen Kane that have been forever excluded from future lists for being too "obvious". They also have their own personal "penalty box" films, which temporarily excludes films that one host has picked too often.

Older episodes included a segment where the hosts each highlighted an overlooked film on DVD to recommend to the listener. However, that segment was later removed from the main show and placed in their short-lived video podcast, Cinecast A/V. The segment was then moved to their weekly e-mail newsletter "The Dope Sheet" before that was also discontinued.

On occasion, particularly when Adam and/or Josh are away from the Filmspotting studio, or when there is a special edition of the show, guest hosts are sometimes featured. Included among them are Chicago Tribune film critic, Michael Phillips, Matt Singer of IndieWire and Alison Wilmore (formerly of the Independent Film Channel) -- the latter two hosting a spinoff podcast called Filmspotting: Streaming Video Unit (SVU)

Marathons[edit | edit source]

For the "Movie Marathons", the hosts review six to eight movies from a particular genre or director that they haven't already seen. At the end of their six- to eight-week marathon, they present awards for best film, best director, best actor, etc., for that marathon, naming the award after something related to the genre or director they've just covered.

These marathons, and their associated awards, have been, in order:[11]

The Palme d'Or marathon culminated in a screening of Afterschool at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago on December 12, 2009 followed by a Q&A with writer/director Antonio Campos and featured actor Michael Stuhlbarg. "Afterschool" was an Un Certain Regard selection at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival.[12]

Music[edit | edit source]

During breaks in the show, "Filmspotting" primarily features music from artists on the Chicago label Bloodshot Records, in addition to artists from Messenger Records, and, even more rarely, Merge Records. The guitar-driven theme song is "This Machine" by now-defunct Chicago band Age of the Rifle.

Name change[edit | edit source]

The last Cinecast show was the two-part 100th podcast on May 12–13, 2006, after which the name changed to Filmspotting. The specific reason for the change was not discussed, but there is a company called CineCast that produces pre-show advertisements in theatres. Adam and Sam originally said the show would be renamed The Cinema Show, but then solicited suggestions from listeners. Contenders included Cinecrack, Cinediction and Burn, Hollywood, Burn, but the hosts announced their final selection on the 8 May 2006 show (Cinecast #98): Filmspotting. Listener Nicholas Correnti from Florida State University Film School suggested the name Filmspotting and won $50 worth of DVDs for his part in renaming Cinecast.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Smith, Scott (2005-06-07), Adam Kempenaar and Sam Hallgren, Cinecasters, The Chicagoist, archived from the original on 2009-01-02, retrieved 2008-12-02 
  2. Hannon, Lisa (2007-07-09), Adam Kempenaar Interview, Prairie Den, retrieved 2008-12-02 
  3. Tunnell, Benji, Podcasting Challenges Mainstream Media,, retrieved 2008-12-02 
  4. Chicago Blackhawks Directors 
  5. Smith, Scott (2007-06-07), Interview: Adam Kempenaar and Sam Hallgren, Cinecasters, Chicagoist, archived from the original on 2009-01-02 
  6. 6.0 6.1 Carr, Mark, Adam Kempenaar and Matty Robinson Bring Their Joy of Film with Filmspotting, Screen Magazine, retrieved 2008-12-02 
  7. 7.0 7.1 Horsburgh, Tim, "Best and hippest voices" on movie podcast hooks worldwide listeners and gains mainstream acclaim, Reel Chicago, retrieved 2008-12-02 
  8. Filmspotting 'About Us' page Retrieved 2012-02-11
  10. Filmspotting #158
  11. Filmspotting Marathons, retrieved 2014-11-27 
  12. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-11-26. Retrieved 2009-11-24. 

External links[edit | edit source]