From a young age, Taylor Cleek was an avid reader and writer of fiction.
“It’s the only thing I’ve ever been especially interested in doing,” he says.
But it wasn’t until Taylor was 12 or 13 that he’d realized his true love was narrative through film. He specifically credits his awakening to the 1999 film Fight Club. “I feel like Fight Club is kind of a film buff cliché, but it’s true,” Taylor says. “Catching that for the first time, middle of the night, edge of my seat because the twist hadn’t been spoiled for me. That’s when the real magic of storytelling and cinema became clear to me.”
Over the years, Taylor’s love for the big screen has only grown. He loves watching and talking about movies and hopes to someday write films for a living. In 2019, he created an outlet for his passion: a podcast he named Reely Scared. Each week, the podcast discusses everything horror-related going on in the film industry.
But perhaps the most frightening thing of all is that the podcast would have never come to be if it wasn’t for the pandemic.
When Taylor began recording Reely Scared in 2019, it was hard for him to enjoy it enough to be consistent. He recorded episodes alone and they were fairly short.
“There just wasn’t the right energy to keep me interested,” Taylor says. “I figured if I wasn’t interested, why would any listeners be?”
After a few episodes, the show went on hiatus. But when the pandemic struck, Taylor decided to give Reely Scared another try — with a co-host.
When Taylor was in college, he met Conner Breedlove, a fellow student who shared the same passion for film. The two quickly became close friends and, before long, shot a short film together. It was an easy decision to have Conner join the Reely Scared podcast as his co-host.
“It’s been an absolute blast doing it together,” Taylor says. “We get to bounce ideas and jokes and energy off of each other all the time.”
Together, they created a plan for the podcast that’s remote, yet much more interactive with the audience. Taylor and Conner record the podcast from the comfort of their own homes via webcams in order to abide by social distancing. In many ways, the remote format has opened doors for Reely Scared that otherwise would have been much harder to achieve, Taylor says.
“The greatest example of this was our very first episode of Reely Scared,” Taylor says. “We were talking about this new film 1BR. We used the right hashtags and tagged it in posts and the film’s producer, Alok Mishra, ended up in our chat room. A few minutes later, we managed to actually pull him up on the screen so he was on the show with us. You could never do that pre-recorded in a studio.”
They’ve also had the pleasure of welcoming Naomi Grossman, best known for her role as Pepper from American Horror Story, onto the podcast.
“Even in a world where we don’t need to social distance, I think we’ll continue doing the show this way,” Taylor says.
Audience interaction is something both Taylor and Conner strive for, so they’ve come up with a few different ways Reely Scared fans can join in on the podcast. To start, on social media they’ll announce what movie or show they’ll be discussing on that week’s episode. They encourage the audience to watch the same programs so that when the podcast goes live later that week, they can take part in the discussion in the chat. There’s a book club in which they announce a spooky book at the beginning of the month and then review it during the last episode of the same month. And if that’s not enough, they even have watchalongs in which the audience can tune into the stream and watch the same film, at the same time, with live commentary.
“We want Reely Scared to be in the top 10 for horror podcasts on our streaming platforms by next summer,” Conner says. “It’s an ambitious goal but we’ve started working towards it.”
If horror isn’t your thing, don’t fret, because Reely Scared is just one show on an entire network of podcasts called Who Are They? Reel Entertainment. There’s Reel Talk, which addresses movies on a much broader scale, and Saber Reels, which examines and reviews everything Star Wars related. They’ve even begun to branch out into sports with a weekly Cleveland Browns aftershow called Dawg Check.
Founder Matt Thomas created the Who Are They? Reel Entertainment network in November 2018 to shine light on local filmmakers and actors alike. Matt credits his father, George Thomas, for his adoration of film. George used to write movie reviews for the greater Cleveland newspaper, News-Herald, and is currently a movie reviewer and sportswriter for the Akron Beacon Journal.
“I was going to preview screenings with him as long as I could remember, and that turned into me being a movie critic,” Matt says. “Naturally, being around that environment rubs off on you in ways like wanting to cover and make movies.”
The Reely Scared podcast alone has been lucky enough to have local talent, such as Cleveland director Scott E. Brosius and Westlake b-horror actor, Roger Conners, on the show to discuss their upcoming primers.
If you’re interested in listening to the Reely Scared podcast or any other show on the network, you can find them on Twitter, at https://twitter.com/WATReelEnt, or Facebook, at https://www.facebook.com/WhoAreTheyMovies/ The shows go live on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Twitch. Audio versions are uploaded the following day on Apple podcasts, Spotify, SoundCloud, and iHeartRadio.
Brandon Meola is a freelance writer from Kent.
Photo: Taylor Cleek, left, and Conner Breedlove, right. Used with permission from Taylor and Conner.
Podcast art: Used with permission from Taylor Cleek and Conner Breedlove.