As we draw closer to the next geek-related event to hit the Salt Palace, we're seeing more local writers beefing up their coverage to prepare for the metaphoric meteor due to hit in April. --- Among the media entities covering pop culture in town, SaltPop has become one of the more interactive websites available, creating reviews and podcasts more focused on interactive elements than just posting news that comes their way. Today we chat with three of the writers and founders behind the website about their work and coverage, along with where they're headed as a collective. (Photos courtesy of SaltPop.)
TJ Allen, Eric Pincock, and Steven Coombs
Gavin: Hey everyone! First thing, tell us a little bit about yourselves.
TJ: Just a group of like minded friends with tons of passionate opinions.
Steve: I'm Steve, and I'm loud and I like movies a lot, and comics too.
Eric: We’re just a group of friends who all shared a common interest in pop-culture who thought that some people actually may have an interest in hearing what our opinions are about pretty much all things geeky.
Gavin: How did each of you first get into geek culture and what were some early influences on you?
Steve: I would say I'm the least "geeky" guy here, I think. I'm not really into video games, and I was late to the comic book party. I would say the clichéd Star Wars as my first big influence. Every Sunday, I would watch the entire trilogy. Then "Episode 1" came out and ruined everything.
Eric: For me it was just video games early on. Taking a trip to Blockbuster to rent a new Super Nintendo game was a weekly deal, and a staple of my childhood. My parents after a while wouldn’t let my brother and I rent fighting games because it would cause to physically fight with each other. My dad also made sure to take the time to show my siblings and I the original Star Wars movies, and from there I was in for the long haul.
TJ: I started when I was about 10 or 11. I noticed my uncle playing Warcraft 2 and was instantly amazed. Gaming was a big influence over me and it just progressed from there.
Gavin: What was it like for you growing up and finding multiple geeky things you were interested in?
Eric: Finding something new was always exciting for me growing up. When I’d go to a friends house seeing them play a new game, or hear someone talk about a show that they love I always wanted to find out why they loved it and experience it for myself. It was also a lot of fun to be the guy who would see a movie or play a game first and could recommend it to my friends. The best part was to have them come back excited to talk about it with me.
TJ: Meeting new people through school and online gaming opened up my view to different forms of "geeky" things I liked. My friends I made then are still there today. Growing up was very easy and tons of fun.
Steve: It was overwhelming really. It still is. I hate that I have this insane desire to consume everything, but also have to still sleep and eat and be a functioning human.
Gavin: What pushed you to want to talk about it more as reviewers and commentators?
Steve: The best conversations I've ever had in my life are when I'm talking about something I love with someone who shares that love with me. So naturally, talking about movies is one of my favorite things to do. Framing it as a reviewer and commentator just gives me an excuse to do it more, without sounding insane. "Sorry, sweetheart. Can't clean out the garage today. I have to go see that movie and then talk about it for an hour."
TJ: The fact that we ALWAYS talked about it. Usually for hours on end, often eating up the time for the plans we had made. So we decided to make our plans to talk about it. And record it.
Eric: It probably started for me when I got a job at a movie theater with all the free movie benefits and then all of a sudden became a personal movie critic for my family and a few of my friends. I thought it was kind of odd that they actually wanted my opinion and would consider my thoughts on the movie, but they did. From there it just sort of stuck. It seemed almost logical to me to make the step and put my opinions out publicly.
Gavin: When did all of you first meet each other or come to know of each other's work?
TJ: Gaming, work, high school. Pretty common methods, but we have stayed together for so long that we know what each individual excels at and focus their efforts there.
Eric: All of us can trace our relationships back to either high school, a movie theater that we worked at, or the Graywhale record stores where others worked at. Friends of friends were brought in and we all just hit it off. Steve Coombs, who co-hosts the SaltPop: On Film Podcast with me was a complete stranger to me two years ago. He came on as a guest for an episode a while back, we hit it off talking about movies and then decided that we should make a movie specific podcast together. The whole process was a natural progression in my mind.
Steve: Through Graywhale Entertainment. I worked there part time and met a few of the guys. They started the podcast and invited me on as a guest. As time went on, I started becoming better friends with all of them. Next I knew, they were on hand and knee begging me to be a member.
Gavin: How did the idea of SaltPop come around and what was it like putting it together?
Eric: All of us were in a Dungeons & Dragons group together. Because of schedules and other factors we didn’t get to meet nearly as regularly as most groups did, typically it was months in between sessions. Since it was so long between our meetings we’d all get together and spend way more time catching up and talking about all the games, movies, and comics that we’d read/seen/played between. Getting all of the missed geek stuff out before we could actually play. In an effort to make our sessions shorter and actually more about the game we thought to create a podcast. It was a pretty long process, getting a site up, learning how to actually record, figuring out what content we wanted, and accepting responsibilities. Creating content, and deciding on what we wanted to spend time talking on was very interesting. All of us had our own individual interests and wanted our voices heard, it made for some discussions about Anime or RPG video games where some of us would just tune out, or it would create an interesting conversation in trying to educate each about the subject. I’m so glad that we took the time to do it, my eyes were opened to a lot of new movies, music, comics, and video games.
TJ: Like Eric said, we would get together for D&D sessions and we would go usually a month without seeing each other so we had so much to talk about. It often ate well into our time to play that session. We decided why not record what we talked about? Bought some equipment, set a time and it was born. Originally we were called OutofOurSystem which was thought up during a name storming session. We changed to SaltPop around a year later for branding reasons and breathing new life into the cast.
Gavin: Considering the various other pop-culture sites that are made locally, what did you do set yourselves apart from them?
TJ: We tried to set ourselves apart with a very professional looking website that was easy to navigate and interesting to check a few times a week.
Steve: We don't have an over-inflated sense of self. We know we aren't being heard by everyone every week. So you can jump in whenever and feel included.
Eric: It was important for us to provide regular up-to-date content. Whether that was reviews on movies, video games, or just the news in general. There are plenty of other places that you can find news about a topic, or a review for whatever you want. We realized that it was our opinions that set us apart. The content became about providing the information on the news, but also making sure that we had a discussion that would go along with it. Being able to play both sides of the subject and not all dog-piling to one side or another.
Gavin: What made you decide to focus specifically on music, movies, games and comics?
Steve: Because it's all I spend my free time doing. Why talk about anything but the thing I love to do?
Eric: I always enjoyed TV and movies. A little too much if you were to ask my parents. Growing up with Batman: The Animated Series, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Star Wars it was easy for me to get hooked on the culture. Growing up and finding friends who all shared the same interest made focusing on those things simple (or complicated if you take into account all the new stuff we became exposed to).
TJ: As mentioned earlier, most of us excel at particular aspects of pop culture, some are more involved with movies and TV shows, others are into games and comics. We took the ones we had the most forte in.
Gavin: What was it like launching the website and what was the general feedback like the first few months?
TJ: The website went off without a hitch thanks mostly to Devin (our producer) Trent and Alex Ferguson (not affiliated with our cast). Feedback was almost non-existent from any non friend viewers or listeners. The website received praise from almost everyone. That was our goal and I think we achieved it. We also got a lot of great feedback on the logo (Lightning bolt warning sign).
Eric: Launching the website was fun, exciting, stressful, and frustrating all at the same time. It was so cool to punch that URL in first time and find the our product there. Bio pages, information about upcoming content, etc. It was really awesome. Then came the troubleshooting and creating new content. A bunch of time was just spent staring at the website to make sure everything looked the way we wanted, things were showing up where they should, and all our links were working. Then, we wanted something a little bit extra besides a weekly episode. Writing up articles, and proofreading them was always a pain, but cool to hear people comment on it. The general feedback in those first couple of months was overall positive. Mostly it was friends and family that we had told about what we were attempting. They looked at the site, listened to the episodes, and read some articles. They had the most feedback for our episodes: “So and so talks too loud," or “I didn’t find
Gavin: How do you go about deciding what you want to review for the website at any particular time?
Steve: Usually it's just which movie is out that week. If there is more than one option, it's either a coin flip or a personal choice. Our audience likes what we like, so the choice isn't a difficult one to make.
TJ: We would assign someone with forte over a certain subject and let them decide what to review or write about. Mostly sticking to current things as it was the most relevant but a lot of freedom was given on what to write about.
Eric: For Steve and I doing a movie podcast it’s usually pretty easy to decide on what to cover next. Oscar season and the summer movies make our job pretty simple. It can get tough during the spring when things usually slow down. Usually the buzz and upcoming projects decide for us. We’ve always tried to cover things that would be interesting to both us and anyone who would tune in and listen. Occasionally it will just be something that we want to soapbox about and get the word out on, and sometimes it will be something that we’re not too excited about but know others are. Just ask Steve about the Man Of Steel movie and you’ll get a quick idea about the “sacrifice” we put in for the show. It’s all been in great fun though, I wouldn’t trade it at all.
Gavin: What made you expand into doing podcasts and how has it been creating that content?
TJ: We felt that our opinions were strong, funny, and interesting enough that other people would want to listen to them. We tested the waters with some friends who agreed and decided to try our hand at podcasting. Creating content flowed nicely. It was easy to let someone write, review, or talk about something they loved. The content is there, and we were able to produce it and talk about it.
Eric: We had a regularly recurring podcast where as a big panel we got together and would discuss, but schedules and travel started becoming more and more of an issue. Some of us didn’t have interests in some specific topics that others wanted to spend more time talking about. I went to a lot of those earlier episodes happy to discuss whatever we wanted, but occasionally wanted to spend more time talking about a movie or game a little more than we did. It made sense for us to split into topic based podcasts. Steve and I can talk about movies for hours, whether it’s ones that we’ve seen, heard about, or want to see. We don’t feel the need to skip over some bits of news or cut a review short because we need to make room for a discussion on a video game or music album. I still love getting together to talk with everyone, but it’s still nice to have a niche that I can call my own.
Steve: I listen to A LOT of podcasts. Seemed fun and easy enough to make, so it was a logical thing to do.
Gavin: What's it been like attending conventions, both to cover them and promoting a local website?
Eric: This coming July it’ll be my fourth attending the gigantic San Diego International Comic-Con. The first year that we went it was just as spectators who wanted to go to Comic-Con. We had a blast, but it was a completely different trip the next time around when we had a podcast and a website that we were thinking about too. Panels that we wanted to go to became more about what news could be shared during them, and we took more time to go and demo the games, look at toys, and speak with comic book artists. It’s been hard to shift over to shamelessly promoting ourselves when we have so much that we want to see and do, but we had a great chance at last years Salt Lake Comic-Con. Graywhale was kind enough to let us volunteer to help out at their booth and to promote our own website. It was so cool to see the convention from the side of a vendor instead of just an attendee and the amount of work it takes to put on a convention. It’s definitely a lot easier to cover a convention as an attendee instead of as a promoter.
Gavin: How has it been for each of you being able to create this kind of website and provide a local voice on so many pop-culture items?
TJ: It's been an amazing journey. Providing a local voice, talking about my favorite things, hanging with my friends at least once a week for a few hours was great. Creating something from nothing, just going for it, and actually doing something like this will be something I'll always remember.
Steve: So far it hasn't felt any different than just hanging out with friends. I don't think our audience is very large, so even the listeners we have just makes it feel like a larger group of friends.
Eric: Since we started doing this website the number of times that I’ve been asked “Eric, have you seen [this]
Gavin: You're going to hit the two year anniversary in April, where do you see the site going over the next few years?
Steve: I don't know. I would like to see it grow and expand to hit other topics like we started to do with focused gaming and movie sub-casts, but that all depends on time commitments and energy. So we'll see.
Eric: Over stuffed with content, ideally. It’s weird to think we’ve been at this for close to two years, but I just want to put more and more stuff out there. Get the name SaltPop out there even more, have a lot more a discussion on the site. For Steve an myself going to the movies more and more. I really want it to keep going, I have too much damn fun making this stuff.
TJ: Things have slowed down a bit, but we plan to keep churning out content where applicable. I see SaltPop remaining a strong local supporter and provider of entertainment.
Gavin: What can we expect from SaltPop and all of you over the rest of the year?
Eric: From SaltPop: On Film, expect regular reviews, and constant movie news. Especially with the upcoming Marvel movie releases and summer blockbusters right around the corner. Steve and I already have a hotel and tickets purchased for San Diego Comic-Con this year so there’s that to look forward to. Just be ready for more SaltPop, it’s bound to be good.
TJ: SaltPop: On Film is a major focus right now with Eric and Steve so stay tuned to hear from them on your favorite movies especially with summer blockbusters around the corner. Craig and TJ are going to be getting back into streaming so prepare for a lot of digital and interactive content.
Steve: I was teasing a "one movie a day" project for a while, but that fell through the cracks. Hopefully I'll get that back off the ground soon.
Gavin: Aside from the obvious, is there anything you'd like to promote or plug?
Steve: I had a podcast that's been on hiatus for a while called The Twilighty Podcast About That Zone. Check it out. It's pretty funny.
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