Dan LeFebvre tells the real story behind movies "Based On A True Story"

LeFebvre's podcast is more listenable and information-packed than most radio productions made by a team of paid professionals. How does he do it?

Paul Trenton · 15 Nov 2018

How did you get started? Where did the idea for "Based on a True Story" come from?

I was trying to think of ideas for a podcast I could do on my own, I recalled a conversation I had with my wife. We'd gone to see Les Miserables, the musical, and on the ride home I spent the entire trip researching and recounting how much of the French Revolution, that Les Miz is set during, actually happened.

From there, it didn't take long for the idea for diving into the true stories behind movies to evolve. I built a list of about a year's worth of movies that could be episodes just to make sure there was enough content there for a podcast, then I got started on the first episode.

What are you hoping to accomplish with your podcast? How do you define success for this project?

I've gotten feedback from listeners who had never seen the movie that they want to go watch now. Or, sometimes I'll get an email from someone who was completely unaware of a story in history that they want to go research more on their own now.

That's why I always try to mention at least one book that I used in my own research at the end of each episode.

How many people are involved in the production of your podcast and what are their roles?

I have three or four friends who have volunteered to listen to every episode before it goes live just to make sure I didn't make any obvious mistakes, but as far as the writing, research, production, etc. — it's just me.

How do you monetize your podcast?

Like many podcasters, my primary monetization comes from patrons on Patreon. I've never sought out advertisers. I've had sponsors reach out, but I always turn them down.

Why did you turn down sponsorship?

Well, as the old adage goes, "Time is money." I'm fortunate to have a full-time job that pays bills and to find freelance work that, quite honestly, is much more consistent than sponsorships. Since there's only so much time in the day, looking for sponsors or tracking them down to make sure they've paid isn't how I want to spend it. My goal for monetizing the podcast at all is to get rid of the freelancing element that I'm using to fund the podcast. That'd free me up to spend more time on the podcast.

How do you promote your podcast?

I use all the typical social channels, but my background in marketing keeps me from posting a lot about the show.

Usually one announcement post when a new episode is out and maybe a couple sporadically throughout the month. Most of my social channels are through relevant content — movies and history.

People are smart. You don't have to have every single post about your podcast for them to figure out you have one. Usually, when every post is about the podcast, it has the exact opposite effect.

From time to time as budget allows, I'll buy an ad on another podcast I want to support that helps bring in listeners. A huge portion of traffic on my podcast's website comes through SEO thanks to my transcripts that get posted for each episode.

I'll also post to YouTube and I've gotten a lot of folks reach out who have mentioned that's where they found out about the show. It is, after all, one of the biggest places in the world for people who want to look for content.

What's your day job?

I work for the founder of Digital-Tutors. He's a public speaker that focuses on trying to help leaders build better corporate cultures. We have a small team, which means on any given day I get to do anything from videography to photography to content marketing to web development.

Your podcast seems really research-intensive. Even if you are just reading one book per episode that seems like a lot of work. Do you skim through content? Are you a speed reader?

Ha! Yes, it is quite research-intensive. But, research isn't anything new to me. Before starting up the content marketing team for Digital-Tutors, I held the role of Director of Research & Development. So, obviously research was a big part of that.

I always try to read at least one book per episode, although every episode is different and sometimes there are more needed. My "trick" is audiobooks. I have about an hour commute to work one-way, and I listen between 2x and 3x (depending on narrator). So, I have a lot of time to listen to audiobooks.

If there's a part that I want to refer to later on as I'm writing the episode, I'll add a bookmark. If the book works with Whispersync, I can jump right to that point in the eBook version. Admittedly, that does mean buying both the audiobook and eBook versions so the cost is a little higher, but it saves a ton of time.

How long does it take to produce an episode? (Can you break it down in terms of research, writing, editing, production?)

Twenty hours to create an episode. The average duration for an episode is 49 minutes. I try to shoot for an episode duration between 30 and 45 minutes, but sometimes there's more to the story.

With that in mind, my breakdown of the 21.5 hour average looks like this: Research & Writing: 64% or 13 hours and 46 minutes Recording: 10% or about 2 hours and 9 minutes Editing: 11% or about 2 hours and 22 minutes Web dev, graphics, scheduling and other stuff: 9% or about 1 hour and 56 minutes Producing the video for YouTube: 6% or about 1 hour and 17 minutes

Do you worry about burning out? What are you doing to prevent it?

No, I'm not too worried about burning out. I'm not sure if it comes through or not, but I'm very methodical about my process.

When I started the podcast, I released every other week because I knew there'd be a lot of other things to create outside the podcast. Submitting to podcast directories, building the website, creating an initial list of topics to cover, starting up social media, etc.

That lasted for about three months, and in that time I also built up some episodes.

Then, after I got to the point where I was confident I could take on more episodes, I went to a weekly schedule.



Paul Trenton is the founder of Votable (the publisher of MediaFilter).

MediaFilter is a blog that features news, reviews and interviews related to new media. We're especially interested in independent, entrepreneurial content creators.

We are always looking for interesting people and things to write about. If you have a pitch, feel free to contact us. (Self-promotion is encouraged.)

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