Podcast – Harold and Maude: The Takeover Panel

The CinePunked team assemble in front of a live audience for a discussion of cult classic Harold and Maude. We chat about the genius of Hal Ashby, representations of May to December romances, and the counter-cultural clashes within the film.

Sleeve notes are below.

With Robert JE Simpson, Dr Rachael Kelly, Dr Aaron Hunter and Conor Smyth.
Produced by Ben Simpson

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Episode URL: https://player.whooshkaa.com/episode?id=571009

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From our earliest days we have recorded our live events, with a view to archiving and publishing a record of the conversations, either in written or audio form. This edition of the CinePunked podcast is one of the first live events we did, and a useful reminder that this project has its origins in the live discussion format.

The Takeover Film group was based at Queen’s Film Theatre Belfast, and had an emphasis on programming for the under 30s, but importantly led by young people (under 21s mostly). We had an ongoing relationship with them, delivering a series of workshop discussions and several live audience-events. As part of their Love season in December 2015 we were asked to host a conversation around Harold and Maude – see https://takeoverfilmfestival.tumblr.com/post/131091463686/love-season-harold-and-maude

Our first shows were done before the name was finalised, and was instead a loose grouping of critics that I brought together for different discussions. At its core was the familiar CinePunked grouping of Rachael and myself, with Ben doing our actual recording and technical wizardry. Joining us for the panel was Conor Smyth (who then wrote as BelfastFilm, but has since dropped the moniker), and academic Aaron Hunter (who was then writing a study of Hal Ashby’s films – Authoring Hal Ashby, published by Bloomsbury Academic in 2016).

Adding to the complications, not only did we choose to record the panel, but Takeover were filming it. The plan was always to join the two things, although as of February 2020 we don’t know if the footage still exists!

We have had one eye on how to disseminate our conversations from the beginning. And had we not had the Takeover folk taking control of filming we probably would have shied away from all the unknown here.

L to R: Robert JE Simpson, Aaron Hunter, Rachael Kelly and Conor Smyth during the Harold and Maude live recording, December 2015

Listening back you can hear the differences between how we gel in those early shows and how we work now. The core is there however, and hopefully the slight change won’t distract any regular listeners.

We called this chat “The Look of Love” – something I’d forgotten until writing these notes. And I’m not sure we thematically explored this enough. It’s there, with an emphasis on the taboo and the manic pixie. As such I’ve dropped the title from the podcast version as I suspect we’ll return to the film – over the last four years we’ve talked about it a lot in our private conversations. In 2019 I also visited a couple of the locations used in the film for a future CinePunked piece, so stay tuned for that.

Ben recorded this live using handheld mics, with a direct feed into our sounddesk. This was one of the earliest shows we did as a group, and were still finding our way with regards to what worked best. Ben prepared an mp3 for release way back in early 2016, which we held off on until the podcast was up and running. When we reviewed this, we found that our workflow and methodologies had improved so much that a fresh master was required. Live events always have problems owing to their nature, but this sound a hundred times better than the version you nearly had!

There are no film clips used this episode, as it felt like they detracted from the conversation. We’ve kept all the main chat and as much of the audience questions as possible. Unfortunately at the end a lengthy section was done off mic and proved impossible to salvage. Note to any attendees at a recorded q&a – the mic is there for a reason, it lets you be heard by other audience members, and in the instance where we’re recording, it ensures your contribution can be used!

Recorded live at Queen’s Film Theatre, Belfast during the Takeover Film ‘Love’ season on 4 December 2015.

Recorded and engineered by Ben Simpson. Final edit, and a new intro and outro by Robert JE Simpson recorded 7 February 2020.
First published on 7 February 2020.