Photo by Cara Freiz-LeWinter | Submitted
Graphic courtesy of Steve Cuden
September 5, 2017
Steve Cuden wears many hats – screenwriter, lyricist, director, producer, writer, playwright, author, professor – and now, podcaster. “StoryBeat” is Cuden’s most recent endeavor, a weekly podcast series introducing creative professionals in a conversational storytelling package.
“I really focus on the artistic process,” Cuden said in his office Thursday. “I thought of professionals who would be able to explain what they do well; how artists do what they do, not just looking at the end product.”
An artist in his own right, Cuden has accumulated many accolades in the past. He co-created the Broadway hit musical “Jekyll & Hyde, The Musical,” has written 90 teleplays and wrote two books on scriptwriting, “Beating Broadway: How to Create Stories for Musicals That Get Standing Ovations” and “Beating Hollywood: Tips for Creating Unforgettable Screenplays.”
Cuden began working on his podcast in December of last year in the Center for Media Innovation (CMI).
“Andy Conte sent out a faculty email about professors taking advantage of the CMI,” Cuden said. “I always wanted to do an interview show; podcasts are becoming increasingly popular with a resurgence in the power of words.”
Andy Conte, director of the CMI, is encouraged that people are utilizing the facility.
“Steve was one of the pioneers of the CMI,” Conte said in a phone interview Monday. “He started working with my grad assistant, Ashley Murray, and eventually was able to work the equipment on his own after a few shows.”
There has certainly not been any shortage of creative geniuses for Cuden to interview. His show has already highlighted acclaimed professionals such as TLC’s host of “Trading Spaces” Paige Davis, award-winning Broadway producer Ken Davenport and artist, producer, writer and director Scott Christian Sava.
“When I sat down to come up with a list, I collected over 100 names of people I’ve known throughout my life in some way, shape or form who would be able to explain what they do well,” Cuden said. “Going to [University of California in Los Angeles] and spending time in Hollywood and on Broadway helped me make these connections.”
Looking ahead, Cuden is looking forward to revealing his interviews with Amy Aniobi, a staff writer on HBO’s “Insecure,” Emmy-Award winners Cheri and Bill Steinkellner, executive producers of “Cheers” and David Newell, who plays Mr. McFeely on “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.”
Cuden keeps his definition of “storytellers” broad; willing to interview talents across the entertainment and creative fields. He asks them questions that focus on their unique process.
“I will interview actors, directors, producers, photographers, musicians or even painters if I found one I could interview,” Cuden said. “I want people who are listening and are looking for inspiration to see successful people; I try to really go into the details.”
Mina Hoffman, senior cinema production student, has found inspiration in Cuden himself.
“It is evident in both his podcast and his books that he has storytelling down pat,” Hoffman said in a phone interview Sunday. “He helps us see things from a fresh perspective.”
Hoffman is completing an independent study with Cuden this semester.
“He is really an excellent professor, an excellent resource and fun to have in class,” Hoffman said.
Cuden drives the importance of fundamentals to his students, but admits that this podcast series has provided him with more resources for his teaching.
“As people give me information, how could it not percolate up through my teaching?” Cuden said. “ There was a bit of a learning curve in creating this show, but constantly learning and growing is always a plus.”
Despite his busy schedule – podcasting, finishing up a new website, advising and teaching 11 classes – Cuden has even tossed around the idea of sharing his knowledge with students through a proposed podcast class.
Conte agrees that this could be a great chance for students to familiarize themselves with the studios.
“We’ve tossed around the idea of creating a series of workshops but in terms of curriculum we are moving in that direction,” Conte said.
On Friday, September 15 the CMI is hosting a training workshop for anyone interested in learning more, according to Conte. Students and staff who plan on attending can contact Chelsea Pompeani to sign-up.
“You have to make a decision on what you would like to say and find a way to say it,” Cuden said. “For me, I want to talk with people who are known and respected and who can lend listeners help to further their lives and their careers.”
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