Indie Film Exec Paul Davidson on Launching 'Side Track' Podcast: "Now Felt Like the Perfect Time"

Paul Davidson
Chris Cleveland

When Paul Davidson exited The Orchard as the company’s executive vp of film and TV in March of 2019, he stated in his farewell memo that the time had come to "look toward my own next chapter and build something new."

The veteran indie executive is now revealing part of what he’s been working on. Davidson has launched The Side Track, a new podcast featuring filmmakers, producers, writers, actors and all-around cinephiles as they present feature-length audio commentaries of their favorite films. "Their obsession. Their words. Someone else’s movie," reads the tagline on the podcast’s official description.

Hosted by Davidson, the guests and their selected films on season one will include Matt Spicer doing Brian DePalma's Blow Out, Oscar-nominated documentary producer Eddie Schmidt doing Al Yankovic’s UHF, Veep star Matt Walsh and Emmy-nominated producer Owen Burke doing Withnail & I, actress Dylan Gelula and director Kerem Sanga doing Mike Leigh’s Career Girls, and screenwriter Fabian Marquez doing Top Gun. Upcoming guests include Max Minghella, Jamie Bell, Brett Haley, Patrick Brice and Mike Makowsky.

The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Davidson to discuss why he picked a podcast, his dream guest and what he's been bingeing during the pandemic.

You left Orchard in spring 2019. What have you been up to since?

I’ve been fortunate since I left the Orchard that the one thing I have always been so passionate about, is still is as important as it ever was, namely, working with talented storytellers to help develop their ideas in a compelling way, and finding a path to bringing the results to the marketplace. For me, that’s meant acquiring IP and developing, packaging and financing those properties as a producer. It’s also meant working with media companies looking for someone with my unique tech and entertainment background to do the same for them. Ultimately, I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to work with the directors, writers and actors who I developed great relationships with over the course of my career, and find new ways to keep doing just that.

You’ve said that you've wanted to launch a podcast for some time — why? 

The best part of working with talented, visionary filmmakers is that you get to dig deeper into who they are as people. You get to find out what they’re passionate about and where their motivation comes from. To me, having been this kid who grew up working in a video store with the opportunity to talk to people about movies all day long, getting to do that with folks whose talent you admire has always been such an exciting opportunity for me. I always wanted to find a way — but just never had the time — to share those kind of conversations with the general public in an audio podcast. I have always been a fan of those kind of shows, so I was constantly thinking about how to do execute that and in what format.

The Side Track allows notable movie lovers to provide commentaries of the movies they love. How did you land on this format?

The DVD extras of a movie has always been the "at home film school" for so many of us. There’s so much to be learned from those discussions. While running The Orchard, I learned more from those than most of my years in film school — just don’t tell them that! And the one thing I was always endlessly fascinated with was to find out what movies these visionary talents were inspired by that weren’t their movies. Then one day, in chatting with a friend about how great a concept like this could be, I decided that 2020 could be the perfect time for a show like this. We’re all sitting at home rediscovering great movies, television shows and books — now felt like the perfect time for The Side Track.

Do you do the interviews?

Every show begins with me interviewing our guests, which is always a great opportunity to dig deeper into their background, experiences in Hollywood and the ultimate question of why this movie? Then, listeners get to cue up the film they’ve chosen, and watch along while listening to the feature length commentary. The insights, personal stories and sense of humor these talented folks bring to the table is awesome to listen to with, or without, the movie playing.

Who is your dream guest?

Albert Brooks. He’s my idol. As a screenwriter. As a director. As an observer of the world. I would love to know what his movie would be. I would also love it if he had an 800 number like Bill Murray so I could call him and ask — but alas, he only accepts handwritten letters in the mail. And you know how that mail thing is going these days.

If you were to do your own commentary for your favorite film, what would you pick?

I already did — Three O’Clock High. But if I could do another one, it would either be Wes Anderson’s Rushmore or the French film Amélie.

What are your favorite podcasts? 

Some of the podcasts I enjoy immensely include Todd Garner’s The Producer’s Guide, WTF with Marc Maron, Office Hours Live with Tim Heidecker, The Rewatchables, Scriptnotes with John August and Craig Mazin and Origins with James Andrew Miller.

What are you bingeing during quarantine? Podcasts, movies or TV shows?

Everything. My most satisfying binges this summer included FX’s Dave, Netflix’s Umbrella Academy, Ozark and HBO’s Lovecraft Country.