Joe Skinner is the Webby award-winning host and producer of American Masters: Creative Spark. Joe oversees digital content and strategy as Digital Lead for the award-winning PBS series American Masters. He is also a filmmaker, archivist and lover of nonfiction storytelling.
Hi, it’s Joe from American Masters: Creative Spark, produced by PBS and The WNET Group. We all have such a private little relationship to all the podcasts we listen to while we do dishes, go for runs, and sit on the tarmac. This is such a fun opportunity to break that fourth wall and share some of what I’ve been listening to with you all. You may notice a theme – I’m endlessly interested in shows that take a look at hidden processes and how things get made.
In each episode, our guest breaks down the how and why behind their work. I really hope this show can be a way to feel connected to the creative process and to feel inspired to follow your own pursuits. Admittedly, I produce and host this one, so I had to start with it. I’m really proud of all the hard work that goes into carefully crafting each episode so it can feel like a true audio documentary experience. Episodes run throughout the year, so every other week you’ll have something new to listen to. If I had to recommend one episode, I’d start with actor John David Washington, who kicked off our current season. We also have some exciting new guests coming up very soon, including filmmaker Kelly Reichardt and actor Yahya Abdul-Mateen II.
Our podcast is all about celebrating artists and cultural icons from all backgrounds, who represent a wide range of disciplines. I love discovering the various points of connection in the creative process across music, film, comedy, poetry, literature and more. If I had to pick a place to start from our archives, I’d go with our Webby-winning episode with Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Jericho Brown – it’s one I return to often.
This one hooked me because of its hilarious premise and comedic spin on the investigative podcast – the actor tries to solve the “very stupid mystery” of why he was once fired by Tom Hanks. The reason I stuck around is because not only is it funny, but it gave me a really unique glimpse into the world of acting, how you land (or don’t land) gigs, and so on. So even though it’s a fun comedy podcast, there are some real nuggets of creative process hidden in there.
Our colleagues here at PBS Nature and The WNET Group created an incredible show that dives deep into the process of wildlife conservationists. It is rare to find a podcast that teaches about a field that is totally new to me while still being a completely immersive wildlife experience. Our friends at Going Wild have definitely achieved that balance.
Another one from a public media friend! This is a 10-episode podcast spinoff of a popular PBS YouTube series called It’s Lit! In each episode, they get into deep conversations with authors about their work and the important issues surrounding the world of literature. I love to share this thoughtful and interesting work from our colleagues over at PBS.
Smart and fun conversations that go extremely deep into the filmographies of Hollywood auteurs. This show is like catnip for my own personal interests – I guarantee you’ll have a good time if you give it a listen on your next road trip or long flight. As a rom-com fanatic, I’d recommend their episode on When Harry Met Sally… and the full series on Nora Ephron.
Ok, I am starting to show my personal interests a bit here. I do have a fantasy basketball team. But Zach Lowe is the best at talking nuts and bolts in an entertaining way. I’m a broken record at this point, but this show also is really great at bringing you into the process of all things basketball – how teams are built by the front office, what makes a good basketball team dynamic, and just the X’s and O’s of basketball plays and strategy.
The hidden histories of Hollywood – what more could I ask for? Finely crafted and amazingly researched storytelling. Just the kind of longform audio I’m always searching for more of. I was first hooked on this show by their 10-part season on production designer, screenwriter, producer and executive Polly Platt.
Probably one of the original “hidden stories” podcasts. An absolutely legendary show that looks into the aspects of design and architecture in our daily life that we may pass right over. Did you know the poles that hold up power lines are designed to easily buckle when impacted by a car? It’s an example of one of their hidden stories that gives me hope for humanity.
I learned about this show from my colleague at American Masters, Chris Wilson. “A behind the scenes look at what goes into making one of the world’s favorite beverages.” That’s right up my alley and I already love it. Solis so eloquently states that coffee is both ubiquitous and anonymous – it’s everywhere in our life and yet we know so little about it. I’ve been really enjoying learning more about what is going on inside that brown liquid I’m drinking every single morning and afternoon.
We love to support our friends in public media, and this brand new show from WHYY (the home of NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross) about a real-life monument to a fictional character is worth a listen. It poses one central question: what does the Rocky Statue at the Philadelphia Museum of Art say about the city, its culture, and our collective imagination?