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Tanner Zipchen brings a bit of the Prairies to Hollywood

The Saskatoon radio DJ gets a gig on the big screen thanks to a clever YouTube video and a talent for talk

Photo illustration: Robert Ballantyne for Artsculture
Tanner Zipchen Photo illustration: Robert Ballantyne for Artsculture

While you’re waiting for your movie to start, you’ve likely looked up from your smartphone to catch Tanner Zipchen’s eye. As the host of Cineplex’s Pre-Show, he’s up there on the big screen doing all the hard work of interviewing the internationally famous for our enjoyment. (Can you pass the popcorn please?)

The Saskatoon-based radio DJ — known back home as DJ Tanner — got the job by answering an open call for the Pre-Show,  uploading a clever walk-and-talk video to YouTube that garnered enough votes from fans to put him in the final round and beyond.

Now in the midst of his first year as the host of the Pre-Show, Zipchen’s duties have expanded to junket duty. His sit-down chats with the stars are fun affairs and, hopefully, they’re compelling enough to get you back in the theatre again to see their films. He’s also exporting a bit of Prairie charm to Hollywood and Canadian film fans along the way.

Were you surprised that someone from the Prairies won over contestants from Toronto and larger Canadian centres?

Tanner Zipchen Yes, I think we all were! But it’s great because people come up to me and tell me how cool it is that Saskatoon is being represented in such a big way. It’s funny going to movies in Saskatoon and as soon as the Pre-Show starts you can hear the whispering: “He’s from here!”

Your primary career is as a radio host. Was it a shock to the system to make the leap from radio to the big screen?

If I had a nickel for every time I heard the “face for radio” joke! I’ve learned being on-screen is way less forgiving than radio. You’re a little more exposed on camera and you can’t exactly use CGI to fix a stupid look on your face.

Has there been a Pre-Show moment when you were truly star struck?

My very first major interview for the show was a sit-down with the cast of The Big Short in Los Angeles. Thankfully, my first interview ended up being with the only other Canadian there: Ryan Gosling.

In addition to radio and Pre-Show duties, you host panels at a variety of Entertainment Expos across the Prairies. How does the interviewing and hosting experience differ when in front of a live crowd?

Everything is just so much bigger and more alive on stage. Having the cheering, the laughing — the occasional heckling — it all brings this awesome energy to the interview. With the Expo panels, we also have the audience ask questions which keeps me on my toes.

The Pre-Show contest was for a one-year term. While that term could be extended, what comes after that for you if it doesn’t get extended?

Through this position, I have really discovered where my interests and abilities lie. I hope to continue building on those experiences and see where it all takes me.

How has this experience influenced your career as it stands now as well as where you’d like to see it go in the future?

For me, it’s also about all those I’ve met along the way. It’s such a tight community and having people in your corner, looking out for you, can be very beneficial to your career. I still have a small acting goal I want to accomplish: be an extra. I figure with the amount of set-visits and director interviews, how hard can it be to slip in there as a dead body or maybe just a guy with an umbrella?

If the Pre-Show producers asked you to continue in any capacity, would you say yes?

Of course! This has been an incredible and exciting experience so far.

Watch Zipchen’s Pre-Show audition tape:

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