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Meet Schuyler Fastenau of Deadtime Stories in West Hollywood

Today we’d like to introduce you to Schuyler Fastenau.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Growing up, I wanted to be a storyteller. By the time I was in third grade I was writing short stories and sharing them with classmates. As I grew up and prepared for college I decided to pursue journalism and thought to myself, “Yeah I’ll work at the New York Times for like a year while I write a novel on the side, sell the novel, quit the NYT, and become a creative writer like J.K. Rowling.” Within my first semester at Ohio University, I realized this dream was…well…not exactly realistic. After two years in the journalism program it became evident that I wasn’t as passionate about journalism as I was working on our campus TV shows. So I added a screenwriting & producing degree and graduated with this and a degree in journalism in three and a half years.

After moving to Los Angeles to pursue television writing, my dream morphed yet again. I was working internships, production assistant gigs, and as a studio page but I wasn’t getting the opportunity to write like I had in college. As they always say, if you’re not writing then you’re not a writer. Knowing I needed decent work samples and a hobby to occupy my free time, I began developing a true crime podcast. I was always a fan of classic radio dramas like Lucille Ball’s, “My Favorite Husband” and had an interest in psychology. Marrying these interests I created the original “Deadtime Stories,” a modern day radio drama where I bring in voice actors to reenact some of the world’s most bizarre crimes. It’s been very exciting to find a way to marry my background in both journalism and screenwriting and to see it come to life every other week on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Play…really anywhere people listen to podcasts.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
When I first started the podcast I had to find a way to make myself stick out. True crime is a very popular subject these days and I knew I’d be up against big names like “My Favorite Murder.” It’s one thing to think your work is the most amazing thing in the world and another for others to be able to find it, listen, and agree. In the past I’ve made the mistake of not utilizing social media to get the word out there and oftentimes would spend a month or two filming a short web series that was eaten alive by the massive amount of content on YouTube. I knew this podcast had to be different so I set up an Instagram and have really had to study when the best time to post is, what the right hashtags I should use, etc. So learning social media has been way harder than I imagined. There’s also juggling a full-time job and finding the time to not only write but also record.

Most people I bring on to act have their own full-time gigs whether that be assisting executives or filming feature movies so I have to be aware of when we can both meet up to record and not feel rushed. I will say though the toughest struggle is having to realize when you’ve taken on too much. I launched Deadtime Stories in July 2018 and it started smoothly. Then October hit. Wanting to take advantage of the spookiness of Halloween, I decided to prepare an episode every week as opposed to my usual every other week. I had the scripts ready to go but then my recording scheduling became difficult and I had to apologize on social media for not being able to get out the first set of episodes on time. I really beat myself up for it but then realized I needed to take a step back and not stress myself out. All of the episodes were made available to the public just not in October as I had originally planned. This taught me how to better budget my time and plan when the show would go on hiatus.

Please tell us about Deadtime Stories.
Deadtime Stories specializes in bringing true crime to life with sound effects, direct quotes from newspapers and documentaries, and having a pretty cool host (granted I’m biased because it’s me…I’m the host.) I think what I’m most proud about is the growth I’ve seen in listeners. Like I’ve said, in the past when I worked hard to develop a small web series I would grow discouraged because the number of YouTube watchers would be less than a dozen usually. You know that scene in “Eighth Grade” when Kayla’s looking at her YouTube views and realizing it’s a solid two? Yeah. That was super relateable. So when I put Deadtime Stories out there I was afraid my dad would tune in and that’s it. To my surprise the premiere had about fifty downloads (small compared to most but better than I was expecting). And then slowly but surely that number kept growing and growing and growing. I did an Instagram post thanking my listeners for helping us get to 5,000 downloads and then a few days later, I realized we had bypassed 6,000. My dad has been a great advocate for me too. I always joke that he was never the type of parent to share baby pictures with his co-workers but now everyone he works with is well aware of his son’s podcast.

So for me, I’m most proud of that audience recognition I’ve never gotten before. I went on a flight and got to talking with a college student. She had just visited LA to see if this is where she wanted to be and was nervous about making it. We got to talking about my podcast and she goes, “Oh my God. You’re Schuyler Fastenau?! My dad and I stumbled upon your podcast a few months ago and LOVE IT.” That was really cool and showed me strangers are listening. On a broader perspective I’m also proud that my friends can use it as a launchpad for their careers. A lot of people I met as a studio page were trying to become actors so I brought them on for a few episodes and they’ve been able to develop reels for casting directors and agents. I believe some have used this podcast to get jobs as video game voice actors which is really cool. I like that I can help people grow their careers too!

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
My favorite childhood memory…that’s a tough question because there are so many. I don’t know if it necessarily counts as childhood but when I was in high school I was part of our theater department and a lot of us would play this game called Murder in the Dark. That was my inspiration for a novel I wrote in high school which confirmed my love of storytelling. I also tried to adapt it into a movie with my friends and, clearly having NO idea what I was doing at the time, told them we could “totally film a feature-length film in a week and a half.” Gotta love the goals of teenagers, right? It was a total mess but we had a blast doing it.

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Image Credit:
Sandy McCabe, Catherine Fastenau

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