In Proximity: Roman Mars and Ryan Coogler

Roman Mars [00:00:02] Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, is mostly known for its 60 miles of beaches. But what you might not know about “the beach,” as they call it, is that it’s a bona fide live music destination. You’ll hear live music playing every day and night. Whatever you like to listen to, Myrtle Beach plays and celebrates it. Myrtle Beach is home to the largest country music festival on the East Coast and has venues big and small, playing music that brings people together. The beach is 60 miles of tunes for you. Push play on good times. Plan your trip at Squarespace is the all-in-one platform for building your brand and growing your business online. Stand out with a beautiful website, engage with your audience, and sell anything–your products, content you create, and even your time. You can easily display posts from your social profiles on your website or share new blogs or videos to social media. Automatically push website content to your favorite channels so your followers can share it, too. Go to for a free trial. And when you’re ready to launch, use the offer code “invisible” to save 10% off your first purchase of a website or domain. This is 99% Invisible. I’m Roman Mars. The COVID pandemic was terrible in every way. But I had one strange bright spot in my locked in homebound routine, a weekly Zoom call with the genius director, writer, and producer Ryan Coogler of Black Panther, Fruitvale Station, and Creed fame. I know, it surprised me, too. You’re about to learn more about how our relationship got started and our various takes on how we navigate creativity and collaboration. On this episode of In Proximity, a podcast from Proximity Media, the company he founded with Zinzi Coogler and Sev Ohanian. It is a fun conversation with a person I really adore and admire, and I thought you’d like to hear it. And after you listen, I encourage you to go subscribe to it In Proximity because it is a great show, especially if you like learning and thinking about the creative process. So, without further ado, here’s me being interviewed by Ryan Coogler. Enjoy. 

Paola Mardo [00:02:11] You’re listening to PROX.

Roman Mars [00:02:15] There’s a million ways to make something good. Like, I’ve reached this point where I was like… I think there’s the beginning of your career–you feel like you don’t know how to make something good. And then the middle of your career, you’re like, “I’m the only one who knows how to make something good. You know, the perfect way. There’s, like, one way to tell a story. And then later on in your career, you’re like, “There’s a million ways to make this good.”

Paola Mardo [00:02:41] You’re listening to In Proximity. Roman Mars is the host and creator of 99% Invisible, a sound rich, narrative podcast about architecture and design. He’s also the co-founder of the independent podcast collective Radiotopia. In 2021, his team worked with Proximity Media to produce the Judas and the Black Messiah Podcast, which helped tell the true story behind the events portrayed in the film. Judas and the Black Messiah is directed by Shaka King and produced by Proximity Media, Macro, Warner Brothers, and our partners. The story follows FBI informant William O’Neal, played by LaKeith Stanfield, as he infiltrates the Illinois Black Panther Party and is tasked with keeping tabs on their charismatic leader, Chairman Fred Hampton, played by Daniel Kaluuya in an Oscar winning performance. On this episode, Roman sits with our founder, Ryan Coogler, to talk about what they’ve learned in leading creative teams, their love of audio storytelling, and their collaboration on the Judas and the Black Messiah Podcast. 

Roman Mars [00:03:55] I’m Roman Mars. I’m the host and creator of the show 99% Invisible. 

Ryan Coogler [00:03:59] I’m Ryan Coogler. I’m a writer, director, and producer, founder of Proximity Media. Super excited to talk with you, bro. I went back to my email to figure out, like, what the day was that we met. Do you remember what day it was, bro? Because I just went back and looked.

Roman Mars [00:04:12] I don’t remember what day it was. I mean, I remember where it was. 

Ryan Coogler [00:04:16] So it was June 9th, 2019. It was at the association of architects. 

Roman Mars [00:04:23] Yeah, the American Institute of Architects. 

Ryan Coogler [00:04:25] American Institute of Architects. AIA. It was their architecture conference, right? 

Roman Mars [00:04:29] Yep. In Las Vegas. I was hosting it. And you were the keynote.

Ryan Coogler [00:04:35] I was the keynote. 

Roman Mars [00:04:36] You were. You were the keynote interview. Like, sometimes it’s a speaker. You were the final act. Yeah. It was so cool. 

Ryan Coogler [00:04:45] What’s crazy is, like, it makes all the sense in the world why you would be here. You know what I mean?

Roman Mars [00:04:51] I thought it would be fun because, you know, I figure you’re asked about a million things when it comes to Black Panther and Marvel and comic books and stuff. But I didn’t think that you’d probably ever spent, like, a dedicated half hour talking about the built world in some way. But I know you’d thought about it. And so that’s where I thought it would be actually a ton of fun. And I think it turned out to be pretty fun. 

Ryan Coogler [00:05:14] No, I was great. I had a blast. We were in Vegas. I remember just being, like, really excited to meet you because I’ve been obsessed with podcasts for a long time. And you were there. Like, there were a few other podcasters there with you. I remember, like, right before I went on, I was a little starstruck while I was there.

Roman Mars [00:05:31] That’s so kind of you to say. What I loved about it was when we got to Vegas, we talked for, like, I don’t know, 10 or 15 minutes before you went on. And all we did was talk about podcasting. You were just like, “I like this one. I like this one. We’re thinking about doing this podcast.” All these ideas that you had. And I knew we were just, like, peas in a pod. We hit it off in terms of podcasting. Yeah. 

Ryan Coogler [00:05:50] And then, like, shit got weird with the pandemic and everything. But I remember somehow, I convinced you to do, like, a meeting per week with me just to, like, kind of explain how the podcast business works. And it was great. Like, we booked it, and we had the time protected. And it got to the point where I was, like, really looking forward to it because it was during a pandemic when everything was nice. 

Roman Mars [00:06:13] And it was really fun for me, too. I mean, look, we started with you just… You know, we were talking about Proximity moving into podcasting. And I had sort of started my own independent show, and I ran an independent label. And that was really fun. But what I remember–we just had this weekly meeting. You know, it’s, like, 5:00 or something like that. 

Ryan Coogler [00:06:33] It was, like, on a Wednesday or something.

Roman Mars [00:06:34] Exactly. It was, like, Wednesday at 5:00. We talked, you know, one or two hours a week, which is more than I talk to almost anybody. If you ask anybody, that’s pretty unusual for me. But it was totally fun. And what I think I love most about it was it was fun to talk about podcasting. It was fun to hear about moviemaking from you. But we would have whole two-hour conversations about just, like, politics and life and our families and, you know, our reading and stuff like that. 

Ryan Coogler [00:07:03] Everything. 

Roman Mars [00:07:03] It was a real salve for me at a time period where I was suffering from a lack of connection to a lot of people. Yeah. 

Ryan Coogler [00:07:10] It was great, man. You know, one of the things that I admired the most about it was how you kind of, like, demystified a lot of things that I had heard about the podcast business. Like, one of the most favorite things you said was, like, “Podcasting is radio. You know, I’ve been doing radio a long time.” That unlocks something for me. Could you talk a little bit about how you got started doing this? 

Roman Mars [00:07:30] Yeah, yeah. I was just someone who loved radio. I was in school to do something else. I was trying to be a scientist for a long time. And I listened to NPR in the lab. I loved the way the people talked. I just felt comfortable there. And there was a certain point where I knew science wasn’t for me. My sort of genesis moment was listening to the show called Talk of the Nation. And at the time Ray Suarez was the host of Talk of the Nation. And there was this episode–it was right around the time of the Clinton scandal with Monica Lewinsky. And the subject of the hour was: “If we don’t have these types of heroes anymore, who are our modern-day heroes? If the president is fallible and is held accountable for something, who are our modern-day heroes?” And about midway through the hour, someone calls in and says, “You know what, Ray Suarez? You are my hero.” And I was, like, sitting there, and I was like, “You know what? Ray Suarez is my hero, too. I feel like I need to work with Ray Suarez. Like, I can’t do what he does because he just seemed unfathomably good at this to me. But I know there’s a person who reads books and helps him write the questions, and I would be very, very good at that job.” That’s called a producer, but I didn’t know that at the time. So, then I began to just sort of work my life into someone who could be in a position to get a job like that. So, I left grad school and moved out here. And then that was when I kind of fell in love with radio back then because I couldn’t afford a television and listened to the radio all the time. I drove out to San Francisco in the late ’90s, and that’s when I sort of began to sort of figure out how to do stories and got a Marantz cassette recorder–these big Marantz recorders–and began recording people and trying to figure out what I was going to do. I began volunteering at KALW in San Francisco and I just worked at every type of job that they would let me work. And I basically did it for free. And that’s how I started in radio. And about this time, the storytelling of Ira Glass was sort of entering into this ascendancy. Like, younger people were becoming more interested in radio as a medium. And I just kind of fell into it and never looked back. 

Ryan Coogler [00:09:48] That’s amazing. So, were you in college at the time when you had this kind of eureka moment where you listened to Ray Suarez? 

Roman Mars [00:09:54] I was in grad school. I studied population genetics and plant genetics. And I loved that stuff. I loved just finding out what made the world; it was really interesting to me. But in the end, I just liked knowing it. 

Ryan Coogler [00:10:09] And so that process of transitioning, like, realizing that you had an idea for your own show, and deciding to start it–what was that like? 

Roman Mars [00:10:17] Well, so I’d worked on every type of public radio show that you could imagine. You know, sort of, like, hosting some music shows, storytelling shows. I did my own storytelling show that was local for a while, and that got me the attention of a group called the Third Coast International Audio Festival. I moved to Chicago to work at WBEZ for a while. And then I was working on a show called Snap Judgment; I was a senior producer there for a little bit. And then 99% Invisible was presented to me as an idea of, like, the AIA chapter in San Francisco was sort of partnering with KALW to figure out “would there be a format for a little two-minute insert of a local building to tell a story about?” And because of my science education, I’ve always liked sort of technical subjects. Explaining technical subjects was always really fascinating to me. And I thought about this as an idea. I knew I wanted to expand it kind of more broadly to not be just buildings but just anything in the built world. My first concept was curb cuts. Like, when did curb cuts come into being? Those little ramps that make it so people with different mobilities can get from across the street, essentially. And I was like, “I could tell a little story about an everyday thing. And I know that there would be a big story behind what seemed like little decisions.” And that was what became 99% Invisible. And it was really, like, an exercise in “Could I kind of seduce the audience through tone of voice and story into caring about things that they pass by every day–that they don’t think is interesting?” And the challenge of that and the challenge of doing an audio story about a largely visual thing that we experienced, like built world design–that was really fun for me. 

Ryan Coogler [00:12:06] Imagine. What was it like when you transitioned to being a business owner and multiple people’s bosses, like, while still being an artist? Like, how did you find that? How do you find it today? 

Roman Mars [00:12:16] I like that my job always changes. So, inside of radio, there’s a thing called a producer. And a producer is, I think, the highest form of worker and human that there is. A producer is a person who just will solve any problem to get the thing on the air or, like, available for someone to download. And that could be just you do interviews, you write, you edit things, you do whatever it takes to get a thing done. And that’s what a producer is, and that’s why they’re like the highest form of worker. They will really do anything to make something happen. And to me, as the job changed– And my job was as much about making sure the people under me were paid.

Ryan Coogler [00:12:59] Right. 

Roman Mars [00:13:00] I liked solving that problem. As much as I love to be in Pro Tools and I love to interview people and stuff like this, I got a real thrill out of building something from scratch and making sure payroll was made. The flip side of, like, enjoying to do everything is you end up doing everything, and it’s harder to let some of that stuff go. I’m way better at that now because I have people on my team. You know this. They’re better than me at things. You know, it’s like they’re just better. Your job is to just get out of the way. 

Ryan Coogler [00:13:31] Totally. 

Roman Mars [00:13:32] And so, like, that part took me more time because, you know, it takes a while to bring someone in and, like, show them a thing. And they take twice as long as you do. And you just want to like, “Oh, just give it to me.”

Ryan Coogler [00:13:45] I actually thought to myself the other day because, you know, when you first get started as a filmmaker, you go to film school and everything. You’re the editor, you’re cinematographer… You holding the boom, you doing your mix in Pro Tools. I used to know all these things, and I used to be, like, fairly good at all of them. And I was thinking about it now–I’m like, “If I got dropped off somewhere, and it was like, “Yo, make a movie,” I don’t think I could do it. Like, all of those muscles, I think, have, like, kind of atrophied. You know what I’m saying? To a point where I’m like, “Am I just useless now?” You know?

Roman Mars [00:14:14] I feel that way all the time. 

Ryan Coogler [00:14:15] It’s interesting, too, because you talk about a producer being the highest form of functioning human on a project. Like, in a way, director is almost the opposite sometimes it feels like. If you got a well-functioning set–you got, like, good actors–you could kind of not do anything and the movie is still happening in a way. You know what I’m saying? I’ve had days on set where I feel really, like, insignificant just because so much is being delegated at this point. I relate to that–what you’re talking about.

Roman Mars [00:14:44] I know that feeling. Like, I used to mix and be the final mixer on every episode of the show. In the beginning it really was just me, and then it quickly became more and more and more people. Now, I don’t think–Martín Gonzalez who’s our sound engineer–I don’t think I could even understand the busing and processing he does to the sound anymore. Like, I don’t think I could even open it up and really get it. You know? And you just have to just let it go. Like, I used to think that this would be a spiritual death on my part–to not know how the show worked. And now it’s just like you sort of ease into it, like freezing to death or… You just sort of, like, let it go.

Ryan Coogler [00:15:21] You just work your way to obsolescence. I think that’s really interesting. Look, what’s great about our relationship was we didn’t just talk about things; we actually got to make something together, you know? That was really, like, profoundly exciting for me. It was honestly, like, what I liked a lot about you–we would talk, but it was very clear to me that I was talking to another person who was a doer. It wasn’t just pipe dreams. Like, if we had the opportunity to work on something and do something together, I had this feeling like it would actually happen. And we got that opportunity with the Judas and the Black Messiah Podcast. It was our first time as a company making something in audio. This was before we hired the great Paola Mardo, who runs that division for us. We were, like, outsourcing it to you guys, you know? To make it plain, I just found the process, like, exhilarating. 

Roman Mars [00:16:43] If you’re hiring, you’re currently dealing with economic uncertainty. And now more than ever, it’s important to hire the right people faster and more efficiently. Thankfully, there’s a hiring partner who is focused on you and your needs. ZipRecruiter. From pricing to technology–everything that ZipRecruiter does–they do it for you. And right now, you can try them for free at Here’s how ZipRecruiter prioritizes your needs. You know the full cost before posting your job so you can stick to your budget. ZipRecruiter sends your job post to 100+ job sites so you can reach more qualified people. ZipRecruiter’s Smart Technology identifies the best matches for your job faster. ZipRecruiter lets you invite candidates you really want to apply to your job before other businesses can snag them. Hire the best with the help of a partner who’s all about you, ZipRecruiter. Four to five employers who post on ZipRecruiter get a quality candidate within the first day. Just go to this exclusive web address to try ZipRecruiter for free. That’s Again, that ZipRecruiter–the smartest way to hire. If you want to give your body the nutrients it craves and the energy it needs, there’s Ka’Chava. It’s a plant based super blend made up of superfoods, greens, proteins, omegas, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and probiotics. In other words, it’s all your daily nutrients in a glass. Some folks choose to take it as the foundation of a healthy breakfast or lunch, while others lean on it as a delicious protein packed snack to curb cravings and reduce grazing. If you’re in a hurry, you just add two scoops of Ka’Chava super blend to ice water or your favorite milk or milk alternative and just get going. But I personally like to blend it with greens and fruit and ice. You know, treat yourself nice, take a minute, and treat yourself right. You’ll get all the stuff that you need and feel great. Ka’Chava is offering 10% off for a limited time. Just go to–spelled kachava–and get 10% off your first order. That’s Nature Valley welcomes you to Camp Savory with new Savory Nut Crunch Bars. It’s their boldest crunch yet in flavors like Everything Bagel, White Cheddar, and Smokey Barbecue. It’s a shockingly savory taste for a crunchy nut bar. And of course, there’s still Camp Sweet with their Chocolate Crunchy Dipped Granola Squares and Camp Classic with their Oats and Honey Crunchy Bars. So which camp are you in? Classic, Sweet or Savory? Whichever one you choose, you can be sure of one thing: Summer snacking has never tasted better. The only way to pick your camp is to try all three. Nature Valley. The best thing about summer is getting to do all your favorite indoor things outside, like sharing meals and accidentally falling asleep on the sofa. Article’s curated catalog of outdoor furniture is here to help you do all your favorite things this summer. They’ve got everything you need, from outdoor sofas to dining sets to decor. Their team of designers is all about finding the perfect balance between style, quality, and price. And they’re dedicated to thoughtful craftsmanship that stands the test of time. Article offers fast, affordable shipping across the U.S. and Canada. You just pick the delivery time, and they’ll send you updates every step of the way. I have a beautiful Article outdoor dining set. It’s kind of this heavy, wood, three-piece picnic table kind of thing, and it is robust. It is quality. Article is offering our listeners $50 off your first purchase of $100 or more. To claim go to, and that discount will be automatically applied at checkout. That’s for $50 off your first purchase of $100 or more. 

Ryan Coogler [00:20:42] So one of Proximity Media’s first films was Judas and the Black Messiah, which was co-written and directed by Shaka King. And I was fortunate enough to be a producer on it among my partners, Sev Ohanian and Zinzi Coogler. It was an incredible process. But we also had a companion podcast of the film, which was narrated by Elvis Mitchell and produced by Roman Mars, Christopher Johnson, and the team at 99% Invisible. And it was a companion piece to the film that really went into the making of it, but through the eyes of Chairman Fred Hampton’s son, Chairman Fred Hampton Jr. And it was a really moving experience getting to make the podcast. Specifically, I remember when we were talking about the show and trying to figure out, like, if there was a show there and what made sense, we spoke for a long time. I blabbed a lot about the process, what was going on, and how it was clear to us that the show would be helpful in terms of Chairman Fred Hampton Jr talking about the film. And really, we looked at it as, like, a companion piece that could help him and his mother, Mother Akua, process what it’s like to have this person’s story told through a major motion picture that affected their lives, you know? 

Roman Mars [00:21:46] Yeah. Yeah. 

Ryan Coogler [00:21:47] His father–that political leader. And you said something that was really incredible. You kind of boiled it down to a sentence, and you said, “This show should be about a guy who’s trying to protect his father’s legacy.” And it was like, “Boom.” Like, I understood it in filmmaking terms. I got my protagonist, you know? So, I got the action that they’re trying to do. And now I’m on the hook because will they, won’t they? You know what I mean? And I thought that was just fantastic. 

Roman Mars [00:22:09] Well, I just wanted to be involved because there was a real reason for the Judas and the Black Messiah Podcast to exist because there was a person there in Chairman Jr, who had something to say, who because of the necessity of two hour filmed dramatic entertainment–can’t have everything in it. Like it just can’t. People have to be streamlined. People have to be combined. Like, it’s just the way it is. 

Ryan Coogler [00:22:37] Yeah, very real limitations of the medium. 

Roman Mars [00:22:39] I mean, it’s incredible. You can tell so much more in a single image. It tells so much. But also, there’s a way that people watch things that you just can’t cram in all those details the way you can in a conversation that people follow. And, you know, so I loved the challenge of it, and I loved that it just had… You know, like, I’m a design guy. Like, to me, things have to have a reason to exist. They can’t just exist to be filigree or extra or promotion. Like, this was a companion that I thought moved the story forward in a way. And Chairman, like, needed production. Like, he had so much to say that it was like, “Okay, so how do we order this? Like, how do we think about this? How do we think about Mama Akua? And how we think about the fact that he meets this person playing his dad who he never really met.” You know, all that sort of stuff was so, like, intense and interesting. And, like, he had these insights about filmmaking that were so interesting to me to kind of listen in on. I should stress here that Christopher Johnson produced this thing. I, like, helped. You know what I mean? Like, a little bit. But I brought in Christopher Johnson to make the thing. 

Ryan Coogler [00:23:50] Shout out to Christopher.

Roman Mars [00:23:52] Yeah. But, like, Chairman Jr. had these insights on set about just the sort of blocking of having this white supremacist standing over his father; it’s like his father would never do that. And it’s, like, these things are like, “Yep, yeah, that’s right.” It took someone like that, and having that conversation was just really, really interesting. And your partners at Warner Bros. were really good about letting him be critical and have it be genuine. I was impressed by that. It was a cool problem to solve of, like, how do you make a companion where this person, like, really has things to say, and not all of them are like, “This is great,” you know? And it just felt real.

Ryan Coogler [00:24:36] Yeah. It was interesting because we were the obstacle. You know what I mean? The logline is like, “Hey, you know, this is about a guy trying to protect his father’s legacy.” Like, what’s implied there is he’s trying to protect it from any kind of missteps we will make in the film. You know what I’m saying? He’s trying to protect it from this system that has to flatten things in order to do its job. It came together. It was a remarkable piece of journalism. But what I remember–one of my fondest memories–was… I can’t remember what exactly the term is that you call it. But it was, like, when you guys had the script up on a Google doc. And just kind of, like, we were listening to it. You had all your folks kind of, like, chiming in in the notes? 

Roman Mars [00:25:12] Yeah. Yeah. We call that a read-to-tape. It’s like a table read. We call that a read-to-tape. So, we have all the clips out. We have, like, your parts. Christopher read Elvis’s parts. You know, I would read some of them. And then we have the tape. And then there’s all these sort of notes in the margins. Like, if there’s a mess up, we just keep going, you know? And everyone makes little notes in the margin. And I remember we invited you to it. And I remember this very acutely because I said, “You know, we do this for, like, 3 hours. It’s long. It’s tedious. We go over every little word and phrase, and it might be really boring.” And you said to me, “I look at a guy picking up a coffee cup 30 times to figure out which one I’m going to use. There is nothing too boring for me.” It’s, like, six hours of coffee cup. 

Ryan Coogler [00:26:00] Oh, yeah. It’s a true story. 

Roman Mars [00:26:03] And so yeah. And that was really delightful. And it’s the moment you know it’s coming to life. I recommend when anyone makes a thing, it’s very important to experience it with other people because you feel the slow parts–the parts that just embarrass you. You feel them when people are next to you, but you don’t feel it by yourself. Like, you have to have these moments of sharing little bits of it because to me, like, my ears get hot, I get embarrassed about it, and I want that to go away so badly. So, I go in and fix it. 

Ryan Coogler [00:26:42] Oh, yeah. No, 100%, man. I really enjoyed that process. I got this theory. I’m getting more evidence the older I get. It’s that nobody really knows what anybody’s job is like. You know what I’m saying? We got no idea. You open up your mailbox, and your mail is there–you got no idea how it got there or what it took. And you can’t really appreciate something until you understand what went into it. And most things you’ll never know. I remember being on that call with you all and seeing everybody thinking so deeply, considering every word, questioning things. And I thought, “Yes. This makes sense. I love that this much care is going into this thing. And I love that this is how these things are made.” You know what I mean? These podcasts. I listen to these radio stories. Whether it’s 15 minutes or 20 minutes, seeing that process and knowing that it’s something that’s been developed over time… I’ve got to imagine that system–that read-to-tape system–how long would you say that system has been around, Roman?

Roman Mars [00:27:37] I mean, for me, the thing was I did so much of it by myself for a long time that there was no one to kind of work with. But as soon as we had more than three people, we began doing it. And I know other shows do it. Or maybe they… It’s not uncommon to instead, like, record it or record scratch tracks of it and just send it around for notes and stuff like this. But I find something really good comes out in the moment. Doing it live, you learn things and you learn… You know, especially because, like, someone’s writing for me in those situations. I mean, not on Judas–but on 99, they’re writing a thing that needs to be said for me to say. And then I would go, “Well, I think I’d say it a little differently here.” Or sometimes they really capture my voice or make a joke. Or sometimes a joke comes out through that process. And I’ve always sort of felt like what I liked about the format of 99% Invisible because I’m there as a host–interjecting–kind of all the time was that I wanted the opportunity to react. Someone says a thing and rather than just let it sort of sit there, everyone’s thinking the same thing, so it would be fun just to say it. And so, we figured that out for our show. I mean, it’s, like, the best part of my day. We do probably one of those a week. And sometimes it’s hard but, like, you know you’ve cracked it. Now, I sit in a Zoom with, like, six or seven other people. I’m hearing their work for the first time and seeing it come together and seeing them take big swings and seeing some of them connect and some of them don’t. I just recommend that you get a group together–get a good group of people–and help them be your editors because no one has that good a taste or that good of instincts. Like, there’s a million ways to make something good. Like, I’ve reached this point where I was like… I think there’s the beginning of your career, you feel like you don’t know how to make something good. And then the middle of your career, you’re like, “I’m the only one who knows how to make something good.” And you know the perfect way. There’s, like, one way to tell a story. And then later on in your career, you’re like, “There’s a million ways to make this good.” Like, I’ve heard and seen people do it so good, and you could do it differently or you could choose this one or you could say it this way. You just have to write your way out of it to make it make sense for the audience. And you’re serving an audience. But there’s, like, a million ways to make a good radio story. There’s a million ways to make a good movie. 

Ryan Coogler [00:30:11] Absolutely. 

Roman Mars [00:30:12] And so once you sort of get into that zone, you allow people to try lots of different things that you would never try. I mean, that is, like, heaven as a creator–to have a team around you who brings you things that just blow you away. 

Ryan Coogler [00:30:28] I feel like that when I produce for other directors. You know what I mean? Like, talking about Judas, I felt like that with Shaka every day. It was like, “Yo, I would never make this choice, but it’s a perfect choice.” And I get to be around it.

Roman Mars [00:30:40] Totally.

Ryan Coogler [00:30:41] It was fantastic. 

Roman Mars [00:30:42] What I liked about working with you on Judas and all that sort of stuff and those conversations we had was, like, you had other things to do. I mean, you were writing Wakanda Forever at the time. You had a lot going on. But, like, no part of the podcast process was uninteresting to you. It was… 

Ryan Coogler [00:31:01] I love you, man. I feel fortunate to be involved. Man, it was like a dream of mine to make a podcast in general because I think the medium is so fascinating. It still is fascinating to me. Like, I’ll see stuff–we had a meeting this morning and looked at some stuff Paola was doing–and I was like, “Man, this is so cool.” And it’s and it has similarities to what we do as filmmakers. But at the same time, it is very different. It requires, like, another form of thinking. Dude, I love it, man. Like, there’s few things I love as much as that specific medium. So, for my Prox Rec, I’m going to take the easy way out, and I’m going to recommend Roman’s book, The 99% Invisible City. 

Roman Mars [00:31:59] I like that. 

Ryan Coogler [00:32:02] I think that it’s a great book–a great piece of art. And it’s really cool for me because obviously Roman makes audio. It was great for me to have a physical thing. And I kind of see it as almost like a companion if you’re a fan of the show. But it’s a lot of great work in there. A lot of great work in journalism and in art. Makes a great coffee table edition. You know what I mean? It looks great on a bookshelf. You’re gonna impress your friends–they come over, and they see it. That’s my Prox Rec for today. 

Roman Mars [00:32:26] Yeah. And I should add that I wrote, you know, parts of that. But my coauthor, Kurt Kohlstedt–honestly, if he didn’t work on that book, that book would have never got done. So, he’s a real driving force behind the book. But I thank you so much; that means the world to me. I guess if you’re interested in the craft of radio making–audio making–I think few places are more thoughtful than the website You could learn a ton and how people make things–understand what they’re doing… Like, what does it imply when, like, you have music, the music goes out, and then the next thing you say, like, all of a sudden becomes very important? You’re learning tricks like this that you pick up on, but you probably never really saw them articulated or heard them in such a way that you got what the emotion was. And that’s the same things that I’m sure you learn in film school and stuff like this–this is what this does, this is what this cut does, you know, speeding up the… I don’t know. The edits? You know, like, “You could do this type of rhythm.” You know? Stuff like that. 

Ryan Coogler [00:33:25] Yeah, it’s a language. We call it the “language of cinema.” Every art form has its language. 

Roman Mars [00:33:29] Totally. And so, the best people for breaking that down–understanding how to do a type of audio storytelling–is And I’d really recommend it. And the other thing I recommend is just, like, listening to things. Everything. 

Ryan Coogler [00:33:46] Roman, I want to thank you for being on our show, In Proximity. It means the world that you made time, and I think folks really enjoy what you have to say. So, thank you, bro.

Roman Mars [00:33:53] Oh, it’s my pleasure. It was a real honor. 

Paola Mardo [00:34:02] In Proximity is a production of Proximity Media. If you like the show, be sure to follow, rate, and review it on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast app. And tell your friends and loved ones to do the same. If you have someone in your life who you think would like the show, send them a link. To check out Judas and the Black Messiah–the film and podcast–and 99% Invisible, head to We’ve got links on the show page. Don’t forget to follow @proximitymedia on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok. The show is produced by me, Paola Mardo. Executive producers are Ryan Coogler, Zinzi Coogler, Sev Ohanian and me. Our theme song and additional music is composed by Ludwig Göransson. Ken Nana is our sound designer and mix engineer. Polina Cherezova is our production assistant. Audio editing for this episode is by Cedric Wilson. Special thanks to the whole Proximity Media team and to you for listening to In Proximity. 

Ryan Coogler [00:35:10] It was great, man. I remember that day I came by and got the book. And I was kind of like, “Man, this is where you live?” It was so close. It was, like, down the street. You know what I mean, right?

Roman Mars [00:35:21] Exactly. 

Ryan Coogler [00:35:23] We had done all these Zooms. It was like you get this feeling of somebody is, like, halfway across the world. You know what I’m saying?

Real Estate Agent [00:35:30] Sergeant and Mrs. Smith, you are going to love this house. 

Sergeant Smith [00:35:34] Is that a tub in the kitchen? 

USAA Spokesman [00:35:36] There’s no field manual for finding the right home. But when you do, USAA Homeowners Insurance can help protect it the right way. Restrictions apply. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All Categories

Minimize Maximize