How the beloved Hank the Cowdog e book turned a podcast starring Matthew McConaughey
The story first appeared on Texas Highways. Click here for the full cached page with images included.
Austin filmmaker Jeff Nichols knows the good news when he sees it.
A well-known author and director has shown videos at some of the biggest festivals in the world – from Sundance (Take the Sleep, 2011) to Cannes (Mud, 2013) to Berlin (Midnight Shelter, 2016). Along the way, he worked with some of Hollywood’s best actors, such as Reese Witherspoon, Sam Shepard, and fellow Austinite Matthew McConaughey.
Recently, Nichols said, he realized he had made a lot of money by opening Hank the Cowdog’s book to read to their son. That’s when Nichols first encountered the horrific plight of Hank, the “chief of animal protection” in the distribution of Panhandle cattle. Written by Perryton’s author John R. Erickson, the 75-page series has fans all over the world.
“I just thought it was funny and fun,” Nichols says. “And I started to do all the words, and my son was really kicked out, like so many kids out there.”
Nichols’ interest in Hank led to a new career. He went on to write and direct five episodes of the Hank the Cowdog podcast, which was released six weeks ago and starred McConaughey as Hank. We went to Nichols about taking Hank from page to podcast.
Would you please tell me about Hank the Cowdog?
I actually took the No. 1 book. 11, Lost in the Dark Unchanted Forest, which is a book we chose to transform into the first season of the podcast. And I started reading to my uninformed son on the list. I had just finished a few years before making a movie Mud with Matthew McConaughey, and I had no choice but to hear his voice echoing in all the lines I read of Hank. I immediately ran it and discovered that Wow, it has one book in a very long time. And I called my classmates and said, “Hey, I think I have a list of children’s books that I think might be a good thing.” And that’s when we went to find John R. Erickson.
TH: How did you choose the type of podcast?
Nichols: They really change. We can start talking, I’m just talking about the video. And that was the first thing I ever did, it was a movie script. We walked around the market and talked to other companies about this. Obviously handmade videos are very expensive, and the way I wanted to do them was very expensive. And some people had questions, especially people in the LA market. He’s like, “Well, we’ve never heard of Hank the Cowdog.” What I saw was very good. I said, “This means we have 74 more books. We have a whole playful universe. ”They would not be able to wrap their heads around or put in the price I set. Then, when the plague starts, we already talk about the possibility of a podcast. My co-worker, Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, had started with several other people at a podcast company called QCODE, and he kept telling me, “Guys, you really have to think about podcasts.” And QCODE did very well with the descriptive podcasts. It’s kind of fun, almost like an old radio program. We started accessing Apple podcasts, they really enjoyed it. They want more in their Children and Family space.
TH: How did you get Matthew McConaughey to participate?
Nichols: We’ve been talking about this for a long time. I said, “Hey, what about this podcast idea?” And I said, if there is one, it will be a guarantee of a movie or a video or whatever. And she was like, “No, I don’t want to do it like that. I want to do it if it’s a good thing.” And that’s when we discussed how it would work for children.
TH: How did Erickson get involved?
Nichols: The first part was getting to know John Erickson. We ended our first meeting in San Antonio. It was funny because you can’t be a movie maker like me and not be sure. And I went in and said, “This is how I see it.” This is how I want to do it. And he was like, “Then can I write to you and my son can write to you, because he grew up reading the books?” And I said, “No, I’m writing it myself.” And he was no doubt angry. And I quickly realized that it was not about money, it was really about the man’s life. That’s why I did this to him. I said, “What about this? I am writing a drawing from this book. If no one wants to go, we cannot afford it. And I can’t afford it if you don’t like it. “My lawyer thinks I’m crazy. They’re like, “Jeff, you don’t have legal protection here. This is not the way to do it.” [Erickson, John’s son], they all loved it so much. And I think that’s when the relationship started. It was good, but it didn’t happen until I wrote the words, and I was incredibly faithful to the words they had in the book. Above all, I just wanted her to know that I understood the term and understood the sign, its basis. John is a very religious man. John is a very intelligent man. There are things that Hank will do, and there are things that Hank will not do. And I think we all kind of understand better about it. And for me to put this drama first, I think I passed the test.
TH: What was it like for you to work on directing children and not adults?
Nichols: It was great to have a map for this book. I had the privilege of making friends with a young man named Andrew Stanton, who was one of the founders of Pstrong. He made to find Nemo and found Dory and WALL-E. I talked to him about it, and he quickly said, “You don’t write.” And when I read John’s books, I felt that I was finding as much in the books as my son does. My movies are very good. I do adult classes. It was great to lose this loss and be a little more interested. In terms of logic and other things, you know, that was a great way to learn.
TH: Erickson has now published 75 of Hank’s Cowdog books, which have been translated into a number of languages. Why do you think Hank has such a long and lasting request?
Nichols: I think he’s a storyteller, and I think he’s funny, and I think he has great stories built into them. Each time you tell a good story, it can move. I have realized that through my work, which takes place in South America. I show my videos all over the world. And I think it’s a misconception that in order to be everyone, you can’t be specific in the state. I think it’s really different. When you speak in detail about your condition and tone of voice, your role is much more pronounced. These books are good, interesting, and wise, which is why I think they are well interpreted.
TH: Are there any ideas for preparing for the second season of the podcast?
Nichols: I don’t know about the plan, but there is hope. My hope is this is the beginning of something, not the end of something. My dream is for everyone to know about Hank the Cowdog, as they know about Curious George. I want it to be a household name, and it seems obvious to me that this can happen. I don’t know if it will happen, but I know it will happen. I can visualize it in my mind by reading stories that all families in America and beyond could have known about Hank the Cowdog.
Copyright 2020 author KPRC Click2Houston – All rights reserved.