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Late-night podcast promotes ‘Reel Talk’ from film buffs, casual moviegoers alike

Khalessa Alexander smiles, sitting atop a beanbag chair. The fourth-year English student is the creator and host of the weekly podcast “Reel Talk.” (Jake Greenberg-Bell/Daily Bruin staff)

By Natalie Ralston

March 10, 2024 1:29 p.m.

This post was updated March 10 at 8:10 p.m.

The late-night film discourse show “Reel Talk” invites listeners to unwind and rewind.

Khalessa Alexander, a fourth-year English student and Bruin Film Society media productions coordinator, created and hosts the weekly podcast exploring film for student film buffs. Live on UCLA Radio every Friday night, the show aims to provide a balance between studying and enjoying film, Alexander said.

“I don’t think it should be this exclusive thing where, if you’re not a film student or you’re not a film minor, you can’t feel like you’re knowledgeable to talk about film from a critical perspective,” Alexander said.

[Related: ‘Femcel Filmcast’ mixes film analysis and feminist theory]

Interested in highlighting the voices of Bruin Film Society members and delving deeper into conversations illuminating their knowledge and Hollywood hot takes, Alexander said the club acts as an open forum to discuss what students are passionate about when it comes to filmmaking. “Reel Talk” was created to lengthen the discussions offered after the club’s weekly movie screenings, which often felt cut short, she added.

Having only aired for one quarter, the show already has goals of expanding the conversation beyond the Bruin Film Society’s board members, Alexander said. Considering future guests, Alexander said she hopes to bring in school faculty and alumni using UCLA Radio’s call-in feature. Resistant to the show sounding like an echo chamber of club members, she said she hopes to make film discourse more accessible to a wide range of interested students.

Further, Devin Bosley, a fourth-year English student and Bruin Film Society president, said “Reel Talk” puts media production back into the organization. Creating the podcast fosters a needed space for detailed film discourse, Bosley added, as each member is deeply passionate about the subject, whether or not they’re studying film. Aware of the challenge for those unfamiliar with film terminology to analyze major motion pictures, Bosley said the show hopes to demystify that daunting feeling.

“I think what’s fun about it is that we’re all college students,” Bosley said. “We’re not necessarily members of the industry. We’re not trying to make this a teaching moment. It’s a conversation.”

Frequent listener of the show and fourth-year public affairs student Madi Wang said she has already learned a lot about film through the program. A recent episode on auteur theory distinguished itself as her favorite, Wang added. Initially unaware of the term, Wang said auteur theory – in essence, when a director uses continuous characteristics across their films – is a phenomenon audiences are often oblivious to until it is pointed out. Wang said the exposure to film knowledge from “Reel Talk” allows listeners to interpret movies more fruitfully.

“It makes you think of things differently,” Wang said. “I think it puts the art back into film.”

(Jake Greenberg-Bell/Daily Bruin staff)
Alexander poses in front of a wall. “Reel Talk” aims to allow a space for students to discuss all realms of the film industry. (Jake Greenberg-Bell/Daily Bruin staff)

Echoing Wang’s sentiment, Alexander said her episode on auteur theory ended up being one of her favorites as well, creating a wider appreciation from the show’s audience. She said the fluid conversation during this episode can be attributed to its unusual lack of an outline. Diversifying the traditional film conversation from their typical focus on directors allowed for a more inclusive conversation, Alexander noted. The time had passed quickly during this immersive conversation, and she said she hopes to emulate the experience in future episodes.

[Related: Oscars 2024: Alumnus Nikos Karamigios receives Oscar nod for work on ‘American Fiction’]

Aware of the late-night factor – live at 9:00 p.m. on Friday nights – Alexander said she aims to keep a light tone to the show. Bosley described the program as a pleasant wind down from students’ rambunctious weeks. Through careful and deliberate planning of each episode’s organization and questions, Alexander said she maintains a digestible discourse with each guest. She added that she is highly invested in others’ interests and will center the discussion around their favorite genres and how they feel about them to seamlessly segue into an educational discussion on the given topic, creating a necessary equilibrium.

With strong aspirations of “Reel Talk” returning to UCLA Radio next quarter, the show has many goals set to accomplish, including broadening its slate of guests, Alexander said. Despite most of the club’s members not being film majors, Alexander said her film minor permits her access to knowledge not readily available that she aims to share through the show. She said she has earned “golden pieces” of information regarding the history of the motion picture that listeners could value. Ultimately, “Reel Talk’s” open discourse on film as an art form acts as a catalyst, multiplying connections between guests and their audience, Alexander said.

“I think we all just really love movies,” Alexander said. “And so I think for any listener out there who isn’t necessarily wanting to break into the film industry or work in filmmaking, I think people will still always have a film that they really love.”

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