You may recall that I attended the Florida Film Festival this year to review some movies such as Revenge. As I was searching through the program the first movie that caught my eye was called A Mediocre Documentary with Tom and Dan.
I immediately knew what the subject was, because Tom Vann and Daniel Dennis are the hosts of a radio show I listen to ironically titled A Corporate Time with Tom and Dan.
I was a fan, so I’ll just get my ticket – what the! The screening for this movie sold out within an hour of them being available. It is a Documentary about two guys who host a podcast (or three), how could that be so interesting you ask?
This movie details how these men gave all they had to be radio personalities at a radio station, only to get pressured out of the job because they started a podcast on the side. With their backs to the wall, they had to fully commit to their podcast to keep a roof over their family’s heads.
You can now buy the digital version of the documentary on their website https://tomanddan.com/ or you can be an old school purist like me and buy the DVD.
In a way I am glad I could not see this at the fest, because I am happy to own this DVD and here is why. This documentary is a raw, raunchy romp into the radio world which has evolved into something else because of podcasting.
Thanks to interviews with not just Tom and Dan, but also their wives Andrea Dennis and Crystal Vann and co-workers, we get the full story and it will surprise you how interesting it is.
Tom Vann started working at Real Radio 104.1 as Dan’s intern when he was just 21. By that time Tom earned that by doing crazy stunts as his character Drunky the Bear since he was 19. Many of these stunts can be seen in the documentary, such as his motorcycle jump over a bunch of hummers while wearing his trademark bear suit.
Real Radio is a large, corporate owned terrestrial radio station that spreads across the airwaves of Central Florida, where I call home. While serving their time at the radio station the two became friends for life, and then business partners when they started their own podcast A Mediocre Time with Tom and Dan in 2009.
This was the ground floor, podcasting was at its infancy then. To put it into perspective, the first I-Phone came out in the middle of 2007. Things were going great and the radio station did not mind this side project…. until they uploaded episode 159.
That was the show that prompted an anonymous email that was sent to the management of the radio station shaming it for its vulgarity and wrongly associating it with the radio station.
Tom and Dan were told they had to cease the podcast and take all their episodes down immediately. Tom used some connections to uncover a scandal behind that email, he claims that it was traced back to someone who has close ties with the radio industry.
This inside job could have been because of money, or wanting to stop their own employees from creating more competition for the public’s ears, who knows. What is certain is that this was the catalyst for them to go all in and work on their podcasting full time. Well, that and their wives threatening to divorce them if they didn’t man up and follow their hearts. Hearts that this Documentary clearly shows these guys have.
They are very grateful and give their time in return to their die hard subscribers called BDM’s. The meaning of that acronym is shrouded in secrecy, the doc reveals what it means. Dan edits the shows and is the creative side, he is an only child. Tom Vann was not an only child, which leads to a very heavy part of their story.
Let’s just say these two have had major losses in their lives. I must say that most artist have had hardships, that is what fuels the fire, what inspires them to persevere. Tom and Dan are local celebrities, yet they remain humble.
They always prefer the term “Listeners” to “Fans”, they frequently host charity events and we see the modest lifestyle they live at home. This is a must watch for anyone who listens to radio or podcasts. It was fascinating to see them working in their independent studio and then getting a tour of the high cost, newly renovated Real Radio facility they used to call home.
For me as a listener, it was strange seeing video of them performing the show. If all you do is hear someone, you imagine how they look in your head and Dan looks the way Tom sounded to me at first. Tom has a clean cut look while Dan does not.
These days it seems everyone under the age of 40 has either dabbled in podcasting or YouTube, that also is a niche that will be well served by this documentary. We hear from industry insiders how times have changed due to an On-Demand culture that are used to having entertainment at their fingertips.
The story behind the movie is that the director/producer Kirk Murray contacted Tom Vann about the idea, knowing that Tom is the business oriented half of the duo.
Kirk lived in Oviedo, Florida and listened to them on Real Radio until he moved to Los Angeles in 2008. Murray worked as an indie filmmaker and editor of reality shows (Treehouse Masters), but then had the idea to make a documentary of Tom and Dan’s lives leading up to a major performance of the podcast in front of their BDM’s at the Hard Rock Live. Sounds good right? The only thing was the event was only two weeks away. Thankfully they agreed and the documentary was shot within that very tense time for Tom and Dan.
The documentary had to build up the importance of this live event and show that they needed to redeem themselves after the last one. This is done for storytelling sake, to me it did not feel forced.
From watching this movie you see why these two have a rabid fan base. They have a great rapport which is as honest as it is humorous. No wonder April, 14 was declared Tom and Dan Day by Buddy Dyer, the Mayor of the City of Orlando to commemorate 10 million downloads of their show.
Ratings used to be what advertisers cared about, now it is downloads. The show receives 100 emails a day, and has an army of supporters and sponsors that let them branch out on their own and do what they do.
As for the DVD itself, it arrived in the mail within three days of ordering it. (Yes, I paid for the DVD. No payola here kids.) The inside case was signed by Tom and Dan and came with a sticker.
The DVD has entertaining bonus features including a very funny commentary with Tom, Dan and filmmaker Kirk Murray, four deleted scenes and the Q and A from the Florida Film Festival screening (that I missed…. again because it sold out in an hour)!
The movie trailer is also on the DVD as an Easter egg, which is strange to have a hidden feature that is easily found on the internet. The total run time is a trim 78 minutes and a breeze to watch. The sound quality was great, which is about as important as can be when your subjects are radio personalities.
This is a David and Goliath story, if David was a creative and Goliath was the Boss of a radio conglomerate. Dan could not help but crack a smile as he described how Real Radio eventually got new management and decided to buy a radio friendly version of their show they call A Corporate Time with Tom and Dan.
I have to commend the management at Real Radio for taking part in this documentary, it would not be the same without it. This is about a crash landing into the obtainable American dream. It is for anyone who ever dared to invent, create or incorporate. A Mediocre Documentary with Tom and Dan, is one I had to seek out. I could Identify with it, can you?
Curt Wiser is also a Florida based artist. He wrote and directed the Suspense feature Cam-Girl. He is happy to review movies and share them with the rest of the world.