Dan Delgado: Stories of Those Who Tried & Failed to Make Great Films

Tim Molloy and Eric Steuer • November 14, 2021

With The Industry podcast, Dan Delgado tells stories of Hollywood’s weirdest decisions. He has a special place in his heart for the film and TV industry heroes who tried, and usually failed, to make something great.

He looks at oddities like The Blue Bird, a Soviet-American co-production in which Jane Fonda, Elizabeth Taylor and others tried (and failed) to thaw the Cold War. And at outright disasters like Roar, in which Tippi Hedren and her family (including daughter Melania Griffith) tried to do for lions what Jaws did for sharks — resulting in injuries for 70 cast and crew.

He gets some of the greatest artists in film and TV history, like The Wire creator David Simon, to talk wistfully about some of the lowliest achievements — like the time a fake-gold impresario staged a wrestling event called Blood Circus that was to feature “atomic fleas” and “a “three-headed Munga Magoon.” Hopes for a hit movie didn’t materialize, though the man who did lighting for Blood Circus went on to work on Inception, Dunkirk, and the Hunger Games films.

Occasionally, someone in an Industry story beats the odds — like very independent Penitentiary filmmaker Jamaa Fanaka, who overcame countless obstacles to become a cult favorite. And The Industry has several episodes on Cannon Films, the company behind hits like Breakin’, but also disappointments like Superman IV.

Fans of movie podcasts can think of The Industry as kind of a cross between You Must Remember This and How Did This Get Made — but with more esoteric interests than the former, and none of the mockery of the latter. And while too many film podcasts rely on secondhand information like IMDb trivia or Wikipedia, Delgado speaks to experts who were on-set, or know the stories very well from firsthand experience.

Many of them have been waiting a long time to give their side of the story. As Delgado explains in an interview with MovieMaker, almost everyone working on almost every movie is trying to make something great. (You can listen on Apple or Spotify or above).

People often do excellent work that isn’t reflected in the finished product, but time and financial pressure have a way of ruining projects that once had a shot at being good. Delgado tries to explain how that happens, and to give everyone involved in the project their due respect.

He points to the Blue Bird episode as a recent example.

“For the people that I interviewed for that movie, they’re not gonna tell you that it’s a good movie,” Delgado says. But they want you to know that, ‘Hey — we were trying to make something here. So our intentions were good.’ … It validates their story or their struggle in a way.”

At least they took their shot. That’s more than most people do.

Delgado learned this lesson, he explains, when he once did a radio show making fun of a 2012 kids’ movie called Oogieloves and the Big Balloon Adventure. After the episode aired, he became curious about the story behind it, and reached out to someone who had been involved.

“And so what this guy does, is he goes to my radio show just to check it out and of course he listens to the episode where I’m trashing the movie. And so he responds to me. He says, ‘You know, I will not speak to you. You are a mean person. There were good people making that movie. And you need to re-evaluate yourself,'” Delgado recalls.

“And he was absolutely right. And so it did help to change my perspective a little bit, especially when I started making The Industry.”

Delgado also talks about how his ’80s Florida childhood helped shape The Industry. VHS tapes — often old, worn, and passed around — were his best way of seeing movies. So so his fascinations tended to lean toward weird late ’70s and ’80s television. While he used to just wonder how films were made, with The Industry, he can call up the people involved and ask.

And he explains why he will occasionally tells more modern stories, but will almost never tell one from prior to the 1970s. If you grew up watching crinkly VHS tapes of The Towering Inferno and never missed an episode of the Dukes of Hazzard (one of the best The Industry episodes is about the time when Bo and Luke Duke got replaced), Dan Delgado has the podcast for you.

But The Industry is also for anyone who wants to see how little has changed since the days of three TV networks and packed drive-ins: Sometimes the only way to make a movie is to go do it, without waiting for permission. That’s an accomplishment in itself, whether you succeed or fail.