“Whoever inherits this show from me will obtain an empire of dreams,” says co-founder Tommy Smart, “because that’s all the movies really are: dreams.” Smart wheels his chair away from the microphone where he has just signed off on a broadcast. Next to him is Christian Ladigoski, a man of many talents but here, co-founder, first engineer and first co-host. He and Smart banters for a minute, then roll out. It’s 9 a.m., time for breakfast. They slide on over to a local deli where they chat over eggs and coffee. The two have made a ritual of doing a broadcast and going over the highs and lows of the show. “That’s been our niche for never-ending, constantly improving,” says Ladigoski. The Screening Room WRHU is New York’s one and only place for film reviews, news, and talk. But unlike other radio programs, the story of The Screening Room WRHU, is unlike any other in recent memory.
It began mid-August 2013. “I had an idea of doing a film talk show sometime after I started working at WRHU…they had nothing like this on the air so, why not me?” Smart said. It wasn’t until the summer that things were kicked into gear. He began writing down ideas for a show, but was missing an element that gave it a unique flavor. “I was watching TV and got a call from Christian,” Smart recalled. “I wasn’t expecting him to call, and frankly I thought he was drunk.” That was an accusation that Ladigoski responded to with a wide smile: “No! I wanted to do a music show exclusively with film scoring and since he was the only person at the station who knew something aside from sports, mainly film, he’d be somebody to collaborate with.” When asked about that first meeting, Smart relayed the point that he himself thought a film scoring show, to the Executive Board, would be too much like the classical music show they had. “So I told him my idea suggested we blend the two…that way it gives us more pizzazz.” Smart would spend the the following week video chatting with Christian over the idea, drawing out the format and creating a stellar project proposal. Ladigoski said, “I was excited and I knew we had a great idea for the show. If it got on the air, it would make history.” The proposal would be approved and Smart and Ladigoski took their newly titled show The Screening Room live on November 10, 2013.
At breakfast, Ladigoski pours creamer into his small coffee cup. Smart, still drowsy from his early morning rise, relays a few agendas for the week. When asked about how doing the show with just Ladigoski and himself is going, he laughed. “It was awkward, a bit. I wanted to quickly expand.” Smart and Ladigoski would go on to hire critics and develop their social media department. “We are now on five different social media pages, which sounds like it isn’t that impressive but Tommy had the notion that this would be great for developing our own film distribution strategy.” As Smart sips from his coffee, he nods in agreement. “I won’t bore people with details, but we’re taking advantage of this new emerging technology for a publicity tool. Not too many people have done this. We’ll be the first. The Screening Room already entertains listeners with our own scoop on the hottest stories in Hollywood. We interview both celebrities and indie filmmakers on their latest projects, and my favorite part: we review films. Our staff works really hard to make that happen. What’s the point of interviewing big names if no one knows?”
As the self-proclaimed “Lennon and McCartney of radio” clean up their table and walk out, they reiterate the ultimate goal they have for The Screening Room WRHU. “We want it to be an entertaining show. We have a great following and we want it to get bigger. We want listeners to tune in not wondering what we are going to talk about and say,” Ladigoski began. And Smart concluded, “Ultimately it’s about the movies. I love movies and I want to not only share that with the world, but to educate people on them, as well as criticize the best and worst of what’s being produced. Hopefully it’ll play a hand in the way movies are made.”