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Madison Smith

Deep Focus

Kate Green

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In our ongoing column Deep Focus, TrunkSpace is going behind the camera to talk with the directors, writers and producers who infuse our world with that perennial pop culture goodness that we can’t get enough of.

This time out we’re chatting with Kate Green, Director and Executive Producer of the exciting new web series “NarcoLeap,” starring Chelsey Reist, Madison Smith and Aleks Paunovic.

TrunkSpace: “NarcoLeap” has such a great, high concept premise. Was there a part of you that worried how you would pull it off as a web series, particularly when it came to budget and time constraints?
Green: I wouldn’t say just a part, I’d say my whole being. (Laughter)

No, we’re really lucky in Canada. We have some amazing funding programs. STORYHIVE from TELUS, they had this amazing 100K edition competition, so we got that. We also have the Independent Production Fund (IPF). They came on board first actually, with just over half of the budget. Once I got that one I thought, “Okay, I’ve got a pretty good chance of kind of closing the financing with the other programs.” We’re very lucky here. And also, the project went through rigorous development when I was in the Women in the Director’s Chair program as well. So it’s not only financial support that we have here, we also have a lot of educational components and mentorship programs and things like that now.

Everyday was like, “How are we going to do this?” It was still very ambitious – lots of locations, lots of actors. It was pretty crazy, but we got it done.

TrunkSpace: Here in the States, a lot of creators use web productions as a way to establish a property and then work to get them set up as a full series. Was that the plan with “NarcoLeap” as well?
Green: My background is in documentaries. I started directing and producing in that for many years. I wanted to make the leap, pun absolutely intended, into scripted work. I’ve always loved science fiction, so for me I was looking for a project where I could do something in directing, and with the web series, it seemed like there were opportunities there to make the story happen. Yes, of course, we’d love to have a TV series, eventually that’s the big dream, but I’ve always wanted it to be able to stand on its own as almost like a prequel to the television series. The storyline that’s happening within the web series, it’s all prior to the TV. Once we get to network TV the show will have evolved and grown and be a bit more of a different standalone.

TrunkSpace: As a creator, is it daunting bringing something like “NarcoLeap” into the world knowing that there is so much content available to viewers these days?
Green: Absolutely, yeah. There’s so much great content out there on the web and TV. It’s so hard to have yours rise to the top. You really rely on your fans and for us we have a digital strategy and we’ve been working. The fans are the ones that lift it up. Before we’d even gone into production we had people making fan art and posters, and mainly they loved Chelsey (Reist) and they were followers of Chelsey. They were excited to see her in something different, but they’re the ones that really lift up your project, and we’ve just been overwhelmed and so grateful for their support. It seems to be getting attraction and attention so we’re really happy for that, and grateful.

TrunkSpace: It always seems that there is great support for great ideas, and something we noticed is, there’s a lot of really great original content coming out of the Vancouver production scene these days.
Green: Yeah, absolutely. We have an amazing service industry here. A lot of people work on the big Netflix shows and so that part of our industry is really thriving, but I think in Canada we recognize that can also go away in a heartbeat. The exchange rate could go up and all of that work could disappear. Then what are we left with? We have to create ourselves. We have to have that foundation of home grown talent and that’s, again, why we’re so lucky with things like STORYHIVE and the IPF, but they help support that and they help grow that home talent.

TrunkSpace: Does one sort of feed the other then? Do networks like Hallmark and the CW bringing their productions there feed into creators being able to create on the side when they’re not working on these other productions?
Green: Absolutely. I have a day job as a producer. I work on an HGTV show. In between shows or seasons I have the opportunity to grow my own company, KGP Films, and create content, but it’s a little different. Science fiction is very different than lifestyle television. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: You were both Director and Executive Producer on “NarcoLeap.” Did Producer Kate and Director Kate ever butt heads? Is there something that you wanted as a director that you had to talk yourself out of as a producer?
Green: I was very fortunate that I had two really great producers, Emily Keller and Ross Vivian, and my Co-Executive Producer, Trevor Hudson, and I had a couple of other mentors as well. I surrounded myself with a really great team. There were some decisions that as a producer I just delegated to Emily and Ross and it was great. I didn’t have to butt heads too much with myself. You always want the crane shot and you always want explosions and you’d love to have the fight scene go on for longer. Things like that you have to compromise on, but when you can’t get what you want, the wonderful thing about that is that you have to be creative. You have to find a solution. You have to make a mark. I love that part of filmmaking, when if you don’t have the time or the money, then you have to have a great idea and a great solution. Finding that, that gets my juices flowing.

TrunkSpace: There’s been some talk of a content bubble burst looming. As a creator are you optimistic that your job as a creator is safe long term?
Green: Yeah. I see an opportunity in terms of short form digital content. When I first started my company I was looking at new features and documentary series and all of that, and of course, that would be wonderful to have projects like that, but I feel as a producer when I put the producer cap on, I see way more of an opportunity to be creating dynamic, fun digital content. It’s just getting eaten up right now.

TrunkSpace: In terms of a possible “NarcoLeap” Season 2, is that on the horizon?
Green: Yeah, absolutely. I’ve been noodling away on the storylines and possibly putting in characters and what I’d like to see. Again, it’s like that dichotomy of trying to do the day job and do the producing job and the directing job and all of that. But yeah, we’re getting geared up for sure.

Season 1 of “NarcoLeap” is available now on YouTube.

Read our interview with series star Madison Smith here.

Read our interview with Aleks Paunovic here.

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Wingman Wednesday

Madison Smith

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Photo By: Courtney Paige

Had Madison Smith stayed the course he set for himself early in life, we would have needed a different list of questions  for this interview. In an alternative universe, he’d be playing baseball for the Toronto Blue Jays after working his way up through the minor leagues – a dream he had since he was a kid – but after purposefully setting himself on a more creative career path in college, he’s now staring down the end of planet Earth as we know it.

Well, sort of.

As the star of the CBS series “Salvation,” the Canadian-born actor is not only wrestling with the fate of humanity, but also enjoying his biggest television role to date.

We recently sat down with Smith to discuss his recent roller coaster ride, discovering patience, and his new web series “NarcoLeap.”

TrunkSpace: This is shaping up to be a pretty exciting summer for you. Not only are you recurring on CBS’ “Salvation,” but you have a new web series from KGP Films that launched on July 15th called “NarcoLeap.” Do you feel like the road that you’ve traveled is leading its way to you seeing your dreams fulfilled? Is this the path you were meant to travel?
Smith: Oh wow. So far 2018 has been a fantastic year and it’s only halfway gone. It’s been a long, hard road so far, but I always stayed positive and hoped that things would someday look up. I definitely think my journey has still just begun, but like a roller coaster getting to the top of an apex, I’m picking up momentum!

TrunkSpace: You attended college on a baseball scholarship. Was a career in the MLB, working your way up through the minors, one that you actually saw yourself pursuing as well?
Smith: Absolutely. I had my early 20s all mapped out. I would play two years of college baseball at Okanagan College, which I found out would only count as one year at an NCAA school in the U.S. Then after I got my degree in business and had played five years of college ball, I would start to make my way through the minors with a hope to get to the MLB. After my first year of college ball though something made me feel that I wasn’t on the right path. I discussed this with my parents, who have always been supportive of my life goals, and they were the ones who suggested that maybe I give acting a try. Immediately, I felt that was what I should be doing with my life and within six months I had uprooted my life to Vancouver, B.C. to pursue acting.

TrunkSpace: In the world of acting, is there an equivalent to the minors of baseball? Is there a place where you felt like you had to pay your dues until you got the call to the big show?
Smith: The first five to maybe 10 years in the acting business is all about paying your dues, very much like a minor league baseball player. Every audition you go to isn’t about booking that job, because there are tons of factors outside your control that go into that, but booking your next audition. Hopefully that casting director sees something in you and wants to bring you in again. And at the start, those auditions may be very small. I remember an early audition of mine was for “flower delivery guy.” I had one line and still didn’t book the role. But I got my next audition. Cut to six years later, I booked “Salvation” with that exact casting director. So patience and hard work is key.

TrunkSpace: As far as opportunities go, does it feel like “Salvation” is your biggest foot in the door yet? What did you take from the experience that you’ll carry with you through the rest of your career?
Smith: “Salvation” is definitely my biggest foot in the door and I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity. Through “Salvation” I’ve learned the joy and camaraderie that comes from being a part of a TV show. It’s my first experience with something like that and I always hoped it would be this great. They say the grass is always greener on the other side. Well, the grass is pretty damn green over here.

TrunkSpace: In the series you play Nate Ryland, a guy who is trying to get a handle on not only his own fate, but the rest of the planet’s as well. When you’re playing a character who has no future, at least not in his own point of view, is it even more important to play him in the moment?
Smith: Nate is a pretty interesting guy. He is fully aware of his circumstances but he is, for some reason, keeping a very level head about everything. He still lives life to the fullest knowing that there are things outside his control. He doesn’t let that get him down. So in terms of playing a character like that, it’s been a blast. I wish I was as positive as Nate is. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: People tend to take more risks – find new versions of themselves – when they’re living like they’re dying. Does Nate have that quality? Do you think he has changed dramatically from who he was before discovering that an asteroid was headed for the planet?
Smith: I think Nate had a bit of a spiral downwards when he learned the news of the impending doom. But he looked for outside help to change his perspective. We may learn more about this in upcoming episodes…

Photo By: Courtney Paige

TrunkSpace: If you woke up tomorrow to discover an asteroid was headed for earth, do you think you’d approach your last days differently? Would the world see a different side of Madison Smith than you share with people now?
Smith: Actually I think the world might not see much of me because I’d grab my girlfriend and head up to my parents’ cabin. I’d enjoy my last bit of time in this world surrounded by the people I love in one of my favorite places. Oh, I’d also try and go see one last MLB game, but it would all depend on how much time I had.

TrunkSpace: “NarcoLeap” sounds really interesting. From a concept standpoint, there’s nothing else like it out there. How exciting is it right now to be an actor, not only due to how innovative the content is that’s being created, but because of the quality as well?
Smith: It’s such a great place to be in as an actor when the content is, for lack of a better word, cool! We are in a platinum age of television where shows are being made that pull you into a world almost like our own, but way more fantastical. To be a storyteller in one of those worlds is a dream come true.

TrunkSpace: Do you think you would have enjoyed being a professional actor as much as you do now if you were coming up in the 70’s and 80’s when everything in television was episodic and wasn’t necessarily character-driven? Storytelling is so different now, do you think it has altered the experience for actors?
Smith: No, I don’t think I would have. I think this day and age is the greatest to be an actor. The stories we get to tell now are so dynamic and have so many levels it makes reading a script or watching a show such a pleasure. Those in the ‘70s and ‘80s were pioneers for us now, but I’m much happier enjoying the fruits of their labor.

TrunkSpace: Finally, Madison, we know you ultimately chose a different path, but if you did continue to play baseball, what team would have been your dream team to play for? (Full disclosure, we’re Red Sox fans!)
Smith: Ah, part of the Red Sox Nation I see. Well, there’s a lot to love with a team like the Red Sox but my heart will always stay north of the boarder with the Toronto Blue Jays. In fact, I drive down to Seattle every year to watch them play the Mariners. So if I could choose a team to play for it would be my Jays!

Salvation” airs Mondays on CBS.

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