The interview includes lots of personal behind-the-scenes info about Jen and Ryan, and about the Transmission (I also asked about Hawaii vacation tips).
Jen Ozawa is half of a groundbreaking and very talented husband and wife podcasting duo from Hawaii who produce “The Transmission”.
The Transmission is a fan podcast about the TV show Lost. The podcast has become a phenomenon. It’s downloaded by about 30,000 people each week and is one of the most popular podcasts on itunes. It regularly gets more downloads than podcasts produced by the major US TV networks and other huge media companies.
If you don’t know what a podcast is, it’s like a radio show (some podcasts are video but most are audio), People can subscribe (for free) and get new episodes as they’re published. You can listen on your computer or on your ipod/mp3 player.
The Transmission podcast is published each week after Lost airs in the US. How it works is that Jen and her husband Ryan
1. recap the episode and share their thoughts about it
2. play phone messages/read out emails and blog comments from listeners. Then give their thoughts about what the listeners have said (its works like talk radio).
3. The last section of the podcast is their famous spoiler section, which is mostly filming reports (Lost is filmed on their home island of Oahu). Based on filming reports, feverish Lost fans get snippets of storylines from the show often months ahead of when that episode airs.
Ryan and Jen aren’t in the TV industry. They’re regular folks with interesting things to say that it turns out other people love to listen to. Their podcast is their way of sharing their love of Lost with fellow fans, and has made them “internet famous.”
Jen Ozawa Interview
Alice: I know a lot about your opinions about Lost from listening to the Transmission but I don’t know much else about you. Can you tell me your “backstory”?
Jen: I was raised in Florida. My Dad was in the Navy. We moved a lot from the time I was a newborn until I was 7, and then we settled in Florida.
I graduated from high school in Florida and then did 2 years of college.
After that I decided I wanted to pursue Marine Science. There wasn’t anywhere in Florida with a good Marine Science program so I applied to the University of Hawaii. I moved when I was 21, and that’s where I met Ryan. We got married eventually, and had kids.
Alice: How did you and Ryan meet and get together?
We met in the cafeteria of our college dorm complex. I had a group of friends of 8 women who sat and ate meals together. There was one guy in the group and one day he brought Ryan over.
We talked for a few minutes. He was avid mountain biker at the time. We talked about mountain biking, and we talked about computers and the internet. The internet was a relatively new thing at that time.
I thought he was really interesting.
I started tying to find his dorm. I really wanted to ask him out but I was too scared. Schindler’s List, the movie, came out. I really wanted to see it so I approached him in the cafeteria and asked him to the movie, and he said yes.
From them on we were really good friends – we spent all our time together. I liked him a lot but I didn’t know how we felt about me so for a long time were friends. We had coffee together or saw movies, then eventually we decided we were a couple, and we’ve been together ever since.
Alice: How old are your children?
Jen: 11, 6, and 4.
Alice: Can you tell me about the process of producing the podcast? It seems very professional and like an awful lot of work goes into it.
Jen: After the episode airs (on Wednesday nights in the US) we start getting emails and comments on the blog.
On Thursday morning I read all the comments and emails and decide which I like. I type those comments into notes that Ryan takes while watching the episode.
Ryan looks at the notes and decides which ones he likes. Then we decide what we want to say about each comment.
Either on Saturday or Sunday night, depending on how things are going at home, we record.
We have everything written out – we go through the synopsis of the episode, then talk about the messages from listeners, and then talk about what’s coming up on future episodes.
Ryan does all the editing (using Garage Band), and we put it up on itunes.
Alice: How long does each component take?
Jen: The editing of the notes and deciding what we’re going to say takes about 2 and a half hours.
Recording takes 2 hours.
Editing the recording takes Ryan about an hour and a half.
6-7 hours total.
Alice: What was the trajectory of how the popularity of the Transmission grew?
Jen: When we started doing the podcast it was the same time that Apple released the video ipod.
Ryan thinks a lot of people found us by accident when they were looking to download Lost.
The podcast got really big really fast. Within a few weeks we were one of the top podcasts on itunes. It was kind of overwhelming at first. We had to change servers because all the downloads crashed our servers.
So right away we knew we were doing something kinda special!
Alice: What was it about Lost that made you want to podcast about it?
Jen: Ryan was very interested in podcasting in general. He started doing a show about Hawaii – he would talk about the local news and stuff. I would come on the Hawaii podcast and talk about movies and stuff.
We were watching Lost so we would talk about Lost on the Hawaii podcast, but we got 2 different kinds of feedback: we got people who said “we love Lost, keep talking about it” and we got people who said “we don’t watch Lost, we want to hear about something else.”
So Ryan had this idea to do a spinoff about Lost.
Alice: Were you a big fan of Lost right from the start?
Jen: I was hooked within the first few episodes. I remember finding out Locke had been in a wheelchair, and thinking this isn’t something I’ve ever seen on TV before. [One of the many mysteries of the show is how Locke regains the ability to walk after the plane he was on crashes on the Lost island.]
Alice: What has happened in your life as a result of doing the podcast? I know you’ve met Jorge Gargia [actor] and gone to Comic-Con.
Jen: We’ve met so many great people. Jay and Jack [other Lost podcasters] are good friends of ours.
Listeners who’ve come to visit Hawaii have taken us out to lunch. I can’t believe a TV show can bring people together like that.
Alice: Do your local friends all listen to the podcast, or do you have some friends who don’t understand it and don’t know that you’ve got so many super fans out there?
I tend not to talk about the podcast or Lost because I’d rather spend time catching up with them. A lot of them don’t know about it!
My parents didn’t even know about it for a long time! I didn’t know how to tell them. I bought my Mom Season 1 [on DVD], and then said we have this show where we talk about Lost.
Alice: What do you kids think about your podcasting?
Jen: Our daughter Katie reads the date at the beginning of each show. That’s her contribution! I don’t think the boys really understand yet.
Alice: Does doing the podcast ever feel a bit overwhelming?
Jen: It is overwhelming. The sheer volume of the feedback we get is sometimes hard to manage. Typically we’ll get at least 120 comments on the blog, 60 phone calls, and 30-40 emails in a week.
When I start to think of it as overwhelming – I try to think of it as fun and not work. This is something we’re doing purely out of enjoyment and fun.
Alice: The podcast has been a huge part of your life for the last few years. What else have you done in your life that you’ve gotten passionate about, or that you’ve been really proud of?
The biggest thing is my kids. I think my kids have turned out really well – at least so far!
I’m really proud of them. I think I’ve done a really good job so far.
Alice: I was pretty sure that that’d be your answer – that you’d mention your children!
Alice: It seems like it takes a degree of self confidence to do the podcast and be so public with your opinions. Have you always been confident, or have there been times when you’ve been more self doubting?
Jen: I’m still full of self doubt. I’ve always been very shy, and I’ve always been very hesitant. When I started doing the podcast I couldn’t stand the sound of my own voice being played back to me.
Alice: But I love how your voice sounds – it’s so melodic!
Jen: Thank you.
Alice: What are the main sources joy, inspiration, and calm in your life?
Jen: Living in Hawaii is a big source of joy. It’s so beautiful. The people are wonderful. The weather’s always great. There’s so much culture. Being outside and being around the people in Hawaii is a joy and an inspiration.
Alice: What are the things you do to recharge? What are your self care routines?
Jen: We go to the Big Island every year, and it’s very rural and very quiet.
I take long walks at least 3 times a week, at least a mile and a half
I bake quite a bit. Cookies and muffins I do well.
I read, but not as much as I’d like to. I didn’t read a lot of the classics when I should have, so I’m trying to do that now. I read Mark Twain, Emily Bronte, Shakespeare’s plays – things like that.
Alice: That’s a lot of intellectual energy to go through in a week, with also analyzing the show.
Jen: I don’t analyze what I read but to sit in a place and read is energizing.
Alice: Do you have any Hawaii vacation tips for people? I know you recommend the Lost Locations Hummer Tours for Lost fans.
Jen: I definitely would say get out of Waikiki and meet locals.
Our favorite beach [on Oahu] is Sherwoods in Waimanolo. To me, all the best beaches are on the East side of the island.
For camping – Malaekahana on the North Shore.
For hiking – the Manoa Falls trail.
Alice: What’s your favorite of the other Hawaiian islands?
Jen: The Big Island. You have the active volcano. There are beautiful rainforests. Hilo is the most beautiful little town in the world. If you like the sunshine, there’s the whole Kona side. There’re so many different things to see. It takes at least a week on the Big Island to appreciate everything.
Alice: What are your plans for after Lost finishes next season?
Jen: I’d like to culinary school or pastry school eventually, and get into some kind of job where I’m baking or making candy.
I’m thinking of doing my own podcast after Lost ends – talking about movies or TV or something like that. I’m still trying to figure out in my head what the format would be. That’s what I’m most looking forward to – doing my own show.
Alice: That’s all my questions. Thank you so much for agreeing to talk to me!
Jen: Thanks for asking me!
Dr Alice Boyes is Clinical psychology PhD from Christchurch, New Zealand who likes to encourage people to think creatively, bravely, and openly about their dreams.