Taylor Litton-Strain’s web series Jade of Death takes on the world
Jade of Death is dark, funny and sexy as hell. Awarded Best Drama Series, Best Directing and Best Ensemble Cast at the International Academy of Web Television.
We spoke to Taylor Litton-Strain about her award-winning series as it takes on the festival circuit, heading to Vancouver Web Fest followed by LA Web Fest in April.
Who is a woman who inspires you in the industry and why?
There's so many female producers in the Australian industry who constantly inspire me, whose work I greatly admire. I feel really lucky because I’ve also studied from, worked for and been mentored by many of them.
But I am constantly inspired by my mum, Fiona Strain ASE, who is an amazing editor and also now president of the Australian Screen Editors Guild.
She’s instilled in me a great respect for the hard work of the crews who care just as much about the film as the producer and director. She’s worked across a huge variety of projects across my lifetime, and she always has so much passion for each one and gives so much time, energy, care and thought to them. It was an amazing energy to be surrounded by when I was growing up, and continues to inspire me in my work today.
How did the web series, Jade of Death, come about?
It was actually while I was doing a short producers attachment with Imogen Banks and John Edwards, and watching them work that I knew I wanted to do something more closely aligned with my desire to produce television. Creating a narrative episodic webseries felt like the perfect way to do this. When Erin Good (writer/director of Jade of Death) sent me the first drafts for the project looking for feedback – I loved them, I knew it was just what I was looking for to move into this space and so I gave her feedback, but also asked straight away if it would be something she would be keen to work with me on.
It was important to me that, unlike a short film, Jade of Death was treated as a commercial endeavour, with strong distribution opportunities. Having produced over ten shorts, I was also keen to use it as an opportunity to show my capability to produce longer form narrative such as television and feature projects to industry standards.
You have been working with writer/director Erin Good since meeting at the Australian Film Television & Radio School (AFTRS) back in 2009. How has your partnership developed over the years?
Having collaborated on a number of projects together means that we now both have a strong understanding of each other’s tastes and strengths, and how they have evolved over the years which is fantastic when we work together, but also means we can bring projects to each other that feel like the right fit for the two of us.
Erin’s a really talented and hardworking writer and director. She always has a really strong vision for all her projects and is totally prepared for every shoot, which makes for a great environment on set and gives confidence to the cast and crew. She's also collaborative and treats everyone with respect. So, I love working with her.
Can you tell us about production of the series? How did you approach a production of this scale on a small budget?
We had a small budget for production, which we raised through crowdfunding and private investment. This meant we had to make our schedule fit around our cast and crews’ availabilities, many of whom, including myself, already worked full time in the industry. We made this work by having a small core team, and dividing our shoot into separate shooting blocks, which were determined based on locations, cast availability and the complexity of the scenes.
In total, we shot for 18 days, which was spread out over five different shoot blocks. We also decided to purchase most of the gear we needed so we had a small consistent set and wouldn’t be hit with crazy hire costs for each block. It was a really interesting experience working this way, in many ways the protracted production period wasn’t ideal, but it also offered great opportunities including giving us the ability to begin marketing the series and connecting with our audience and press in a genuine and on-going way during production.
How did you approach post-production of the series?
In post-production we knew we needed a larger budget to finish the project to the quality we had achieved in production, so we applied for and were fortunate to receive finance from Screen Australia’s Online Production Fund and also Queer Screen’s Completion Fund. It meant our post was on a more standard schedule and we got to work with some fantastic post partners including Soundfirm and Slate VFX.
You are now in development for a second season of Jade of Death. Can you tell us how that has come about and what are your plans for the next season?
We’re in development of season two with ABC and Screen Australia. ABC expressed interest after seeing the first season and hearing our plans for the second. It’s been a fantastic process working with ABC getting their feedback and having Screen Australia’s support in development.
We’re scripting at the moment, Erin is co-writing the next season with Huna Amweero who’s a fantastic writer as well and really suits the tone of Jade of Death. Without giving too much away the second series really opens up the world of Jade of Death, we see Jade use and indulge in her powers more and we discover more dark history.
Image - Fiona Strain ASE with Taylor Litton-Strain on the media wall at the Jade of Death premiere at Queer Screen: Mardi Gras Film Festival.