Interview | ‘Inside Jaws’ Puts You in the Belly of the Beast

Photo: Universal Pictures / Handout

Mark Ramsey is the creator and voice behind Inside Jaws, a seven-part series on Wondery that not only dives into the backstory of the troubled, over-budget production of Steven Speilberg’s 1975 blockbuster but how it turned a floundering upstart into the director of his generation.

I had a phone chat with Ramsey about what goes into making his hit podcast series (Inside Psycho, Inside The Exorcist), his unique approach to podcasting, and why it will be hard to follow-up Jaws.

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For someone who’s been dubbed the Master of Audio Horror, Ramsey’s regular voice lacks the enigmatic creep of Vincent Price’s tenor or the unmistakable English drawl of Alfred Hitchcock. Instead, Ramsey’s cheerful inflection brings to mind a friendly neighbor with whom you chat up behind the backyard fence.

Mandatory: You’ve done Inside podcasts on Psycho, The Exorcist, and Jaws. What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced? 

Mark Ramsey: Oh my goodness. Gathering the research, which takes six months. Then, the key is framing it in a way that’s bigger than the movie itself. What we try to do is make a flesh and blood story with heroes and villains, a movie without pictures — an audio-graphic novel. One thing I didn’t want to do was create the audio equivalent of a Director’s Commentary. 

That’s a great point. What makes these podcasts so compelling is how you parallel the films’ themes and backstory with the directors making them. That’s especially true with Jaws and Steven Spielberg. 

Inside Jaws is really is the story of the becoming of Steven Spielberg. My goal was to create a Steven Spielberg movie about a Steven Spielberg movie starring Steven Spielberg (laughs). 

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The horror genre seems ripe for podcasts, especially Jaws with the iconic score, blood and guts, and impending terror, etc. 

Ramsey: One of the things audio does best is scare people. You don’t get that from Stephen King audiobooks. But, Jaws is arguably a thriller. It gets lots of horror cred because it has lots of scares, but it also has huge amounts of comedy. The character and the comedy are what make it work. 

For the most part, you do all of the voices on the Inside series, which is unconventional, but really sets it apart. 

RamseyI never wanted to do “voices” by pretending to do Hitchcock or Spielberg. I wanted to create something more analogous to a story read to a child. There’s a subtle distinction between the narrator voice and all the characters. 

As a listener, you don’t really notice because you’re so locked into the story. It’s very subtle but effective.

Ramsey: That’s not easy. A lot of credit goes to my amazing audio collaborator Jeff Schmidt, the genius behind the cinematic sound design. When we first started he would do a left-right kind of thing so the first voice skewed towards the left ear and then the right ear. We found out that a lot of podcasts were mimicking it so he didn’t want to do that anymore. He found more subtle ways to do that with tone and distance. 

Podcasts are the new screenplays in Hollywood, everyone has an idea for one. Any tips for the aspiring podcaster? 

People always ask ‘what should I do?’ ‘What equipment should I use?’ That’s wrong. Start with ‘what’s the story that is begging to be told?’ The one audiences desperately want to hear. Ask yourself why does the universe need one more piece of content… ‘from you?’. To do something great is going to take a lot of time so pick extraordinary collaborators, have an original mix of elements. 

So what can you tell us about Season Four? 

The biggest question is always ‘what to pick’. I could do say, Blade Runner, but I don’t know if there’s a big enough story behind it. You need the big tapestry with a hero or anti-hero that you as a listener want to spend several episodes with. There aren’t a lot of Jaws’ in the world. God knows The Meg isn’t. 

You can listen to Inside Jaws for FREE on your Wondery podcast app of choice: iTunes, SpotifyStitcher, Tune In.