DC PodFest 2018
DC PodFest 2018 Credit: Louis Cabana

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Nicole Funari loves movies—and talking about them. So, when a friend of a friend shared with her an idea for a podcast that featured conversations examining movies through a social lens, she was in.

For the past three years, Funari and seven rotating co-hosts have been recording the biweekly Movies That Matter podcast out of her Columbia Heights apartment.

“We are a diverse team of people who give you a critical movie review and also a deep-dive on a theme relevant to the movie,” she says.

A self-described perfectionist, Funari worked hard to master the technical skills to create a good-sounding audio recording. A co-worker’s husband, who is a video sound engineer, provided some much-needed advice early on.

“He sat there with me and explained a lot of the technical aspects about mixing and engineering, which I am supremely grateful for,” she says. “All the YouTube videos in the world would never have gotten me to the point where someone donating their professional time to me did. The whole thing, I would’ve never figured that out.”

As podcasting continues to proliferate, so does the number of people, like Funari, who want to get behind the microphone and launch their own. DC PodFest, two days full of networking and workshops for podcasters, returns to the District this Friday.

“Because podcasting is becoming more mainstream, there are more people thinking, ‘I need a podcast,’ not, ‘I want a podcast’ or ‘I’m curious about podcasting.’ Now it’s like ‘I need a podcast,’” says Jennifer Crawford, co-founder of DC PodFest with Alex Vidales.

In 2010, Crawford launched her own podcast as part of a co-working space for artists, musicians, writers, and performers that she operated. While the co-working space would eventually close, the podcast born there continued to thrive. The JellyVision Show, a weekly podcast exploring entrepreneurship in the creative arts, ran for seven years. 

It was during that time that Crawford developed a desire to connect with other creative people producing podcasts in D.C. Her first step was to create the DC Podcaster Community Facebook group, as a way to connect people interested in podcasting in the DMV. 

With the Facebook group as a springboard, Crawford launched the first DC PodFest in November of 2015 at the WeWork Wonder Bread Factory in Shaw. That venue served as the festival’s home for three years before a brief stint in Rosslyn last year. This year, the American Institute of Architects at 1735 New York Ave. NW serves as the festival’s new home.

“Friday night we’re going to have a party,” Crawford says. “This is critical. At least 50 percent if not more of the value of going to conference is meeting your community, forming those relationships that inspire collaboration, further learning and networking.”

Saturday starts off with a Podcasters & Pancakes Sunshine Social from 8 to 9 a.m, followed by a day of speakers, sessions, and workshops on topics ranging from the fundamentals of audio production to marketing and social media. Keynote speaker Eboné Bell, activist and producer of the Tagg Nation podcast, will discuss how to add diversity to podcasts without tokenizing. 

“Our theme this year is ‘New Voices, New Conversations,’” she says. “We’re trying to thread that theme within the programing while also still addressing the fundamentals of podcasting.”

According to Crawford, the makeup of attendees is typically half newcomers and half podcasting veterans. However, she expects this year’s conference to have a greater percentage of newcomers.

While DC PodFest provides a two-day crash-course in podcasting, potential podcasters can find longer-term support in the U Street area.

PRX, a non-profit media company that hosts popular podcasts like This American Life and Reveal, opened Podcast Garage D.C.( in September at 1921 8th St. NW. 

“Once we opened that space, people in D.C. asked us to come,” said Kerri Hoffman, CEO of PRX, at a garage open house in September. “There’s such a huge radio and podcasting community here.”

The Podcast Garage offers state-of-the art studio recording facilities and a community space for meetings, workshops, and training sessions.

Hoffman explained that the 8th Street space is a temporary location, and the company is already planning to move to a larger facility in the near future. As it is now, the garage gives PRX a foothold in the community from which it can expand. 

“I’m excited about connecting a lot of the local D.C. community with podcasting resources here,” said Se’era Ricks, who runs the day-to-day operations of the garage, at the open house.

Ricks hopes that these new podcasters will see PRX’s space on 8th Street as their home. “I want them to think of this as a safe space where they can be creative and share their talents with the world,” she said.

The success of DC PodFest and the arrival of the Podcast Garage reflect the growing interest people have in producing their own podcasts. 

Crawford compares it to the early days of blogging. 

“When blogging took off, you really had to have a blog, either to represent your passion, your interest, or your business,” she says. “Now I think it’s the same with podcasting. People have to have an audio log of their interests … their cause, their passion, their hobby, their business.”