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The Featured Presentation

Jaime Ray Newman

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Photo By: Theo & Juliet Photography

Pop culture junkies will recognize actress Jaime Ray Newman from her incredible catalog of on-screen performances that span both film and television, and while she considers herself an actress first, it is her work as a producer that is enabling her to now control her own creative destiny.

If you want to be a storyteller, you have to take responsibility to tell stories that you feel passionate about also,” she said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace.

After taking home the Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film in 2019 for Skin, she and her producing partner Guy Nattiv, who is also her husband, have a packed slate of projects in development – 14 by the current count. On camera, Newman can be seen in the recently-released Hulu series Little Fires Everywhere opposite Reese Witherspoon and in the film Valley of the Gods, arriving on VOD August 11.

We recently sat down with Newman to discuss chasing down the producing bug, creating in the time of Covid, and why she loves playing baddies.

TrunkSpace: As a producer, you won the Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film alongside of your producing partner and husband Guy Nattiv. Is that where your journey beyond acting began?
Newman: Well, I’m an actress first, but in a way, especially now, I feel like you can’t just do one thing. You just can’t. It’s too competitive. But even beyond that, you have to take some responsibility. If you want to be a storyteller, you have to take responsibility to tell stories that you feel passionate about also.

TrunkSpace: So it helps you control your own creative destiny?
Newman: Of course. As an actor, you are sitting around, you are auditioning 95 percent of the time. You look at these success stories, they’re like one out of a billion. Careers ebb and flow, and if you want to be busy in the artistic process, you have to be creating your own content. I was lucky that I met Guy 10 years ago. I had always wanted to produce – the first thing I produced was when I was in high school. They let me graduate high school a half a year early, a semester early, because I was producing plays. I used my bat mitzvah money. There was a play that I wanted to do called Keely and Du. Every year they would pick a production to produce and they wouldn’t produce the script because it had to do with abortion, and they thought it was too controversial. So I was like, “Okay…” and I literally took this $3,000 from my bat mitzvah account and rented a theater, turned it Equity and hired adult actors in the adult roles. And my dad actually directed it. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Wow. What a commitment, especially at that age.
Newman: It was a life changing experience for me. I loved it. So when I came to LA, I got really swept up. I got on a soap opera right away. I started acting pretty consistently straight out of the gate, but I always had the producing bug. I just didn’t know the material. I had trouble finding the material. So when I met Guy, I loved his work in Israel. And before we even fell in love as two humans, we started working on an American-Israeli collaboration together. And it was through that. The project never happened, but we fell in love. I mean, he’s my muse, and I’m his muse. We’re like mutual muses.

TrunkSpace: So in order to stay in the creative process, how important has it been to have these projects to work on during the pandemic? Has it been more apparent this year just how critical it is to control your own artistic destiny?
Newman: Yes. I wake up every morning thanking the stars, Guy, whoever you want to say. When you’re just an actor, you are completely at the mercy of someone else. And I couldn’t bear that. Guy and I are so fucking busy. I mean, I could show you in our office, we have a board with all of our projects. We have 14 projects. We are in development nonstop. We are the busiest we’ve ever been right now. Would I love to be on set, acting? Would I love to be auditioning for things? Yes, but I do feel creatively satisfied because our projects are heavily in development right now.

TrunkSpace: Would those projects not be as far along in development if you did not have this time of extended lockdown to focus on them?
Newman: That’s a great question. There’s two projects, one that came to us through our agents, and one that Guy and I – it’s a true story – that we were actually going to do as our next short. And because of lockdown, a production company said, “Listen, we will give you the development resources to write this. Just forget the short and go straight into the feature. Guy, write the feature.” And that would not have happened. We wouldn’t have had time. It’s an amazing story. And I think that it’s happening – Guy writing it – because of lockdown.

From Left To Right: Nattiv, Bryon Widner, Newman, Jaime Bell

TrunkSpace: In looking at the projects you have in development, many of them are based on real people and real circumstances. For a producer, is there such a thing as a “producer’s voice” like there is for a writer?
Newman: One hundred percent. These are great questions. Hello, Terry Gross. (Laughter)

I think that our slate is pretty eclectic, but every piece of content that we are developing has some sort of social message – social or political. Just entertainment or escapism, I think is very important, it’s just not the stuff that we’re interested in producing. It takes years – decades – to make a project, and for us to spend that much time, literally for free, working on something, it has to have a deeper, more significant meaning.

We have a project about the first stunt woman in Hollywood called A Stunt Woman. It’s about Julie Ann Johnson. It took us almost two years to get her life rights. She wanted nothing to do with Hollywood anymore because she had been blacklisted for outing all of the bad behavior. And the thing that we love about this project is that it’s fun, wild and it’s set in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. It’s a period piece, crazy stunt work, all women, bad-ass, like Tarantino-esque, but it has the social underpinnings. The underlying foundation of it is a Norma Rae kind of woman, who couldn’t take it anymore and took the system by storm, and was punished for it, but changed our business forever because of it, for the better.

TrunkSpace: And it’s a story that, in many ways, has kind of been lost to history.
Newman: One hundred percent. She was the first Me Too movement. She was on the cover of TV Guide in 1978, and everyone gave her kudos for two weeks, and then everyone went back to business as usual.

TrunkSpace: One thing that is great about all of the projects that you and Guy are working on, and this includes Skin, is that they feel like the kind of movies we USED to be able to see before everything was a franchise or based on an existing brand. How important are things like VOD and streaming platforms to projects like those that you two have in development?
Newman: I am so grateful for the streamers. I think that independent cinema is going to survive because of the streamers. I really hope that there is still a world for not just Marvel movies in the theaters after we survive this pandemic. There’s an amazing article that our producer wrote – he produced Skin with us, and our next project, Harmonia, is also with him – a guy named Oren Moverman. He just was interviewed by the Hollywood Reporter on the state of independent cinema right now and the streamers. And you should just read it because he’s so intelligent and has such a pulse on what’s happening.

But, Harmonia is our next film. I really want to see it on a big screen. It hasn’t been made yet, but it’s something that I really want to witness on a big screen, just like Roma. We sought out Roma in the theater and went to see it. And I have friends who are like, “I fell asleep watching Roma.” And I’m like, “Did you watch it on your couch at home?”

TrunkSpace: Yeah, that’s true. It’s easy to not be as invested in a film when you are in the comfort of your own home.
Newman: You didn’t have the experience of it. It’s the Ikea theory, that if you build it… if you buy it and put your time and effort into it – tears into it – you’ll appreciate it more. It’s psychological in a way.

But these streamers… I was in Little Fires Everywhere, and it is very cinematic, but at the same time, Hulu paid for a 10-hour movie. No one’s going to go to a movie theater to see a 10-hour movie, but Lynn Shelton was able to make a 10-hour movie. So the streamers are allowing us to do that. Would I love to see A Stunt Woman on a big screen? Yeah, but am I so grateful that we potentially get to make this big, epic saga, but in a televised way, where you have to see it at home? I’ll take that trade off.

TrunkSpace: There are just so many ways for people to find a project today, which of course can be a double-edged sword. Really, all you can do is make the film or project that you want to make and then hope it finds its audience and connects with people.
Newman: That’s it. Because, like I said, you have to do so much work for free, and it takes decades and years, and you dedicate your life to something that you want to go see. And the truth is, the short was only made because we found Byron Widner, who Skin, the feature, is based on, 10 years ago. It was based on a documentary on MSNBC about the tattoo removal process, and it took us years. Guy wrote the script and every producer in town passed on it. We started shopping it in the summer of 2016 and everyone was like, “Hillary Clinton is about to become president. Racism died with Obama. This stuff doesn’t exist anymore.” Guy and I were like, “What are you talking about? We just spent years of research. Of course this shit exists.” And that’s why we made the short as a proof of concept to get the feature made.

TrunkSpace: When you’re acting in a project that you’re also producing, does actress Jaime ever butt heads with producer Jaime in terms of what they both want to achieve?
Newman: I will get back to you in about a year. (Laughter)

With Skin, the short, we paid for it with our retirement funds. I was such a basket case on that set because every one minute of overtime was coming out of our retirement money. I was such a mess on that set for the five-day shoot. There’s no way I could have acted in it. There’s no way. In the feature, there was a moment in time when I was going to play Julie, the female role, but we met Danielle Macdonald on the short and she was so perfect. She was so authentic. She’s so good. Both Guy and I were just like, “This is Julie.” There’s this quality to her that really is the real woman. And I think that it was such a learning experience for me shooting the feature that I’m glad I was just a producer on it.

When I did Little Fires Everywhere, Reese Witherspoon and I spoke mostly about producing, and I watched her juggling – on the phone producing and then she had her quiet space for the work. What I’ve learned is that producing is extremely chaotic. It is just wrangling in the chaos. Acting is very still. It is very focused. Even when you have a chaotic scene… they call it relax-itration, a relaxed concentrated nature, because then creativity can flow. So I have amazing examples of badass producers who’ve done it in the past, and I’ll just figure it out.

TrunkSpace: What is one lesson that you learned in making Skin that you’re going to apply to the next project?
Newman: Don’t invest your own money. (Laughter) I can’t even say that, because we changed our lives. I tell the story all the time. Guy was having so much trouble launching his career in the US. It had been five or six years. He hadn’t made a movie, nothing we were working on was being made, and we went to our financial advisor, sent him the short and we said to him, “We have a short, and we don’t know how to raise money for a short. Do you think that we should put our own money into it?” He was like, “No.” And then we said, “Can you read the script? I know you don’t normally read movie scripts, but it’s 20 pages. Can you read it?” And he called us Monday morning, and he was like, “You have to make this.”

TrunkSpace: You have been in so many great television series over the course of your career. What is one character you wished you had more time to spend with and explore further?
Newman: I played this crazy, werewolf basically, in Grimm. She was like this motorcycle-riding, leather-clad Blutbad. I did a couple episodes of that. I was supposed to do more, but then I think a show that I was on got picked up, and so they had to kill me off. I love playing the bad-asses. I don’t get cast in them that often, but I really like them. Even in Midnight, Texas, I started off as this sort of like Southern genteel, and then you find out that she’s just evil incarnate – this old thousand-year-old she-devil. I like playing the baddies.

Skin, the short, is available now on Amazon Prime Video. Little Fires Everywhere is available on Hulu. Valley of the Gods arrives August 11 on VOD.

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The Featured Presentation

Jordan Hinson

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We were familiar with Jordan Hinson’s earlier work from her time on the series “Eureka,” but we had not seen a recent performance until about two weeks ago when we stumbled into an unexpected double feature of “Beyond The Sky” and “Breaking & Exiting,” which she also wrote and produced. The concept for “Beyond The Sky” intrigued us, especially with our Halloween antennae at full alert, so we gave it a watch.

While the film entertained us, it was Hinson’s performance and her way of commanding a scene that drew us in, so much so that we instantly tracked down “Breaking & Exiting.” She has since skyrocketed to the top of our “Favorite Actresses” list and with her fresh creative point of view working tirelessly behind the scenes as well, we are eagerly awaiting her next multi-hyphenated project.

We recently sat down with Hinson to discuss the current state of independent film, why this was such an important year in her journey as an artist, and how she’d go about spending a really big cardboard check.

TrunkSpace: One of the things that drew us to “Beyond The Sky” was that it was original, which seems to becoming increasingly more rare these days.
Hinson: I agree.

TrunkSpace: Is that part of the appeal for you, as a performer as well as a writer/producer, with going the more independent route? Is it exciting given that everything we’re seeing in theaters seems to be based on something, a remake of something, or a superhero something?
Hinson: Yeah, it definitely excited me more. I think that we’re so used to seeing alien-based films or science fiction movies where you’re waiting for this ultimate demise, like the ship comes down, but we see it through this girls’ eyes. She’s been abducted multiple times and it’s something she’s already experienced. That alone to me was really interesting. I also love that they brought in these Native American aspects to it, too – these ancient people who have this deal with others. They’ve been here before. I thought that was really intriguing, to me at least.

TrunkSpace: So many alien/UFO movies are about the aliens, but really, this is about the humans and human emotions like empathy.
Hinson: Yeah, I’ve been saying from the beginning, to me, this movie has always been about empathy and sympathizing with someone who is going through something that maybe you cannot understand. I think it is about humans and what they’re dealing with here because ultimately, it’s such a big topic that isn’t really talked about and I thought that it was really interesting that people will replace these terrible memories with something as out there as being abducted by aliens.

I like the whole movie. You don’t really know where it’s going to go and you don’t know if she’s suffering from false memory syndrome, if the people around her are, but they have this support group and it’s really interesting.

TrunkSpace: I read that you actually attended an alien abduction convention. How important was that to understanding Emily?
Hinson: It was really interesting for me. You want to go into these things being as open minded as you possibly can, even something with such strange subject matter, so we went in and it was this alien convention in New Mexico and there were a lot of people that had claimed they’d been abducted over the years. I talked to a lot of people and I know all of us – most of the cast did – and it’s easy to just put these people off like they’re crazy or that they want attention, but who am I to say what’s happened in someone else’s life? For me, it was a big lesson in empathy and understanding others, that’s for sure.

TrunkSpace: The material seemed like it could have been emotionally draining for you. Was Emily a difficult character to inhabit in terms of that heaviness?
Hinson: Yes and no. I think what I was feeling in the moment I put into her and I think that she was someone from the beginning who I just immediately understood and I wanted to understand on a deeper level. When I read her, she reads as this really strong, independent woman. She’s not this damsel in distress. She’s not looking for help. She’s looking for support from her friends and the people around her, but she’s not looking for someone to save her… like a man. I thought that that was just a really interesting approach.

Hinson with Ryan Carnes in “Beyond The Sky.”

TrunkSpace: In terms of your career as a whole, was this an important year for you with “Breaking & Exiting” and getting involved more on the producing and writing side?
Hinson: Yeah, it was. It’s strange, because I’ve been so busy doing all of these things and trying to have all my irons in the fire that once everything came out, I was just overwhelmed. I executive produced another movie that’s coming out this year as well and so that one was being edited for so long and then reedited and then when I wrote “Breaking & Exiting.” I wanted to make it – just shoot it, almost gorilla style, almost for nothing and just get a bunch of people together, and there was all this interest in it. We made this real movie, with real distribution, and then all of a sudden, “Beyond The Sky” is coming out and another film I did, “Higher Power.” It’s been a whirlwind of a year. It started off, like in January, as, “What do I do with myself?” Two months later, it’s like, “I just wish I didn’t ask that.” It’s been an awesome experience. You never know what the end product is going to be and you never know how long these things are going to take to come out. With independent film it’s just so difficult to get a movie made. It really is.

TrunkSpace: Is it a bit of a leap of faith to work on an independent film not knowing when or if a project will see the light of day?
Hinson: It is. I think it’s even more nerve wracking to have written something and be producing it and have everything be riding on you and you’re there from the inception to the moment that it’s done in the editing room and to distributing. You never think about those things as an actor because you show up and do your job and you do it the best you possibly can and you leave with these little pieces of every character that you’ve played, but you try to move on to the next one. But when you’re producing and you’re such a part of it, it takes a while to get it out of your system and you just hope that people respond well to it. Either way, it’s a different experience. I think at least so far.

TrunkSpace: It’s got to be one of those things where you’re in the moment and you’re going, “Oh my God. I can’t sleep. This is so crazy.” And then you call wrap and you’re like, “I want to do that again!”
Hinson: Yeah. I’m exhausted, but I don’t want to just sit still. I’m just always writing. I’m constantly trying to find different facets for myself. I want to direct one day and push myself to wherever I possibly can with this crazy industry.

TrunkSpace: Is there a bit more of being able to control your own destiny when you’re also serving on the creative side and have the power to shape what you want to do next?
Hinson: Absolutely. I think that I’m such a specific type to play and I always have been. When I was 11, I was auditioning and people were telling me I was too old for things that were for a 13 year old. I have this old soul and a deep, raspy voice and now, I’m in my 20s and I have tattoos and my hair is purple. It’s a hard market to find something that specific, but I think that writing, for me, has always been a way to create my own content and when I’m auditioning, it seems like this endless pool of characters I’m never going to book. It’s a way for me to escape. What do I want to play? What’s something I’m good at? What’s my strong suit? What can I offer? I think that writing really helps you create something that you never would be able to find just in your day-to-day auditioning routine.

TrunkSpace: In that process, do your various brains ever come to blows? Does Producer Jordan ever butt heads with Writer Jordan about what is and isn’t possible to pull off?
Hinson: Well, you go through these things in your head before you make a movie. “I’ve seen someone do that, so I’m never going to do that,” and then you start realizing that you do have to save money sometimes or you do have to offer the role to someone who has a name that people recognize and then you realize that it’s not as easy as you thought it was. There is a game that has to be played in order to market a movie. With that said, I always try and stay incredibly true to myself and the film, especially, because to me, it always comes down to the script and the story of the character and if you have enough people who believe in it, you can probably take that paper and turn it to something on screen that is at least similar to what you wanted people to leave the theater with, or watch on iTunes, and leave them feeling a certain way.

TrunkSpace: Do you think the current climate, because there are so many different distribution platforms available, is a good moment for an artist like yourself who wants to be creating original content?
Hinson: I think so. I don’t think 10 years ago I could have made “Breaking & Exiting,” but I think that independent films are so important to so many people throughout the world and it’s just becoming that a lot more people want to make movies and they want to make TV shows and they’re finding other ways to do it. They go to a film studio who says, “I don’t want to make this,” and they’re like, “Great, I’m going to make it and put it out online.” I think it’s a great platform for people like me or anyone who wants to get into it because there’s people who are filming movies on their iPhones and putting them out there and they’re winning awards. I think it should always happen like this. I think that art is whatever you want to make it.

TrunkSpace: So if somebody came to you tomorrow and said, “Jordan, here’s a blank check. Go develop whatever project you want for yourself,” what type of project would you greenlight? Would you wear all of the hats – producing, writing, acting, etc.?
Hinson: I have a script right now that I wrote that I’m really excited about. It’s a dark comedy. It’s a higher budget then “Breaking & Exiting.” I’m in the process of getting it off the ground right now. It’s a character that I wrote for myself once again, but it’s something that I’m really excited to play. It would be really different for me and I would pursue the hell out of that. And I would love to eventually act in something where I could have a co-director and work with someone in that way, so when I’m working, I could have someone helping to direct my acting as well. I think first and foremost, I would go and find a lead actor that I want, a director that I want, and… if you have a blank check, the possibilities are limitless. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: And it’s one of those giant Publisher’s Clearing House-style checks too!
Hinson: (Laughter) Yeah, that’s the one I want, the cardboard one.

Breaking & Exiting” is available on Digital HD, including iTunes.

Beyond The Sky” is available on Digital HD, including iTunes.

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The Featured Presentation

Karl Schaefer

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Z NATION — Season:4 — Pictured: DJ Qualls as Citizen Z — (Photo by: Daniel Sawyer Schaefer/Go2 Z 4/Syfy)

It is no easy feat for a television series to maintain a fandom (and time slot) for four seasons, especially when you’re a show that takes such creative risks as rolling a giant cheese wheel over a group of bloodthirsty zombies. And yet therein lies the genius behind Syfy’s genre mashup “Z Nation,” a post-apocalyptic episodic adventure that is often compared to “The Walking Dead” but is more closely related to “Gremlins” or “Young Frankenstein.” Yes, there is a group of humanity’s leftovers, wily in their ways, attempting to survive a never-ending army of the undead, but they’re doing it with punchlines and visual gags, making the journey more about escapism than realism.

With season 4 set to drag more rotting corpses into your homes starting on Friday, we sat down with series co-creator and showrunner Karl Schaefer to discuss how we’re all in on the “Z Nation” joke, the Spokane experience, and why he considers the show do-it-yourself filmmaking.

TrunkSpace: The humor and tone of “Z Nation” is not only so different than what other zombie shows present to viewers, but it’s so different than other shows in general. How much of that do you think plays into not only its initial success, but ongoing success as well?
Schaefer: Well, I think the humor and quirkiness of the show certainly is part of the secret sauce that makes it work. It’s kind of an organic thing that comes from me and my writing. If you look at my other shows, they all kind of have this tone to them. At the same time, the goal of this show, from the very beginning, was to make it the people’s zombie show and give everybody just what they wanted and cut out all of the rest of the stuff. We wanted to make it feel like when you watch the show, you get the feeling the people making the show are laughing their asses off, just off-camera. You’re kind of in on the joke with them. If the viewer at home had the tools to make their own zombie show, this is the kind of stuff they would be doing. We wanted it to have that feel to it.

TrunkSpace: At the same time, there’s also a specific mission that the characters are on, which gives the show some parameters within that wacky tone that we all love. With lot of post-apocalyptic shows, there’s always that vibe in the first season, but then it sort of disappears after awhile.
Schaefer: Right. I think that’s one of the things that was baked into the idea from the beginning, was that there was a sense of hope to the show, that there’s some actual thing the characters can do that might result in their well being at some point. So that gave it some sense of hope, and a reason to travel, and to keep pulling yourself from place to place. Most zombie shows, they kind of hunker down somewhere.

TrunkSpace: And that traveling aspect of the show allows for some great visual differences week-to-week.
Schaefer: Yeah, and that’s why we shoot in Spokane. There’s so many different looks within the 30 mile zone that we have to shoot. That’s what made it seem like we’re traveling across the country and is a big part of the fun of the show too.

TrunkSpace: We read in a previous interview that you did where you said you wanted the show to be the anti “The Walking Dead,” which makes complete sense from a creative standpoint. That being said, do you think “Z Nation” would have made it on the air had it not been for that show and the success it had?
Schaefer: That’s hard to say. Certainly before “The Walking Dead,” the idea of a zombie TV series seemed dumb. (Laughter) I mean, they did elevate the genre with it. That was sort of the genius of “The Walking Dead,” was it took the genre seriously to start with. Then it was sort of like, after a couple of seasons, it seemed like they took it too seriously. So my joke is, “The Walking Dead” is kind of like zombie church, and we’re sort of like zombie bowling.

TrunkSpace: Neon bowling!
Schaefer: Right. Do you want to go out to church or do you want to go bowling on a Friday night?

So that’s sort of where “Z Nation” lives because our driving question we ask about everything we do is, “Is this fun?” Our show is just purely about giving people an hour to forget and just distract them from whatever is bothering them.

TrunkSpace: Which is pretty timely with all of the chaos going on every time you put on the news. Distractions seem very welcome.
Schaefer: There’s a lot of TV you watch and you go, “What? How is this entertaining again? Why am I watching people in prison? Or sick in a hospital?” (Laughter) So we’re just trying to make it fun, and because we’re kind of so low budget, and we’re way up in the heart of darkness here in Spokane where nobody pays that much attention to us, we get away with a ton of stuff that you could never do on a regular show. We get network notes and it’s like, “Sorry, I don’t have the money to do that. That’s shot, there’s nothing I can do. Sorry.” And because it keeps working, they leave us alone.

Z NATION — Season:4 — Pictured: (l-r) Tara Holt as Lucy, Anastasia Baranova as Addy — (Photo by: Daniel Sawyer Schaefer/Go2 Z 4/Syfy)

I just walked out of a mix to do this, and the director and I are sitting there watching the mix going, “We could have never done this show anyplace where executives were paying tons of attention.” (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: And that’s not a bad place to be!
Schaefer: I think they sort of just let us go at this point. There’s been so many things where we’ve had a meeting going, “Is this really gonna work?” and then we kind of pull it off and they go, “All right, I guess they can throw 10,000 zombies into the Grand Canyon!” or, “I guess a cheese wheel is funny running over zombies, and you can actually make it look good!”

Syfy has been super supportive. I do have to say that. They’ve been great.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned budget, which got us to thinking… so often in the horror genre, great things come out of when creative people have to think outside the box because of budget constraints. Has that been the case with “Z Nation” through the first four seasons?
Schaefer: Oh, absolutely! This show is kind of like one of those cooking shows where they give you 10 ingredients at the beginning of the episode that don’t go together, and you gotta make a meal by the end of it. That’s sort of my challenge every week with this. We write all the scripts ahead of time down in LA, kind of knowing what we have up here, but then you get up here and see what we really have in locations, because we don’t have the money like on most TV shows to make the environment fit the script, we have to make the script fit the environment. So every script is rewritten to fit what we find so that we maximize what we find.

You don’t know that we were planning to do something else entirely. The audience just knows, “Oh, this seems really good what they did.” It’s because we changed something to fit something really cool that we found. There’s so many interesting, weird locations up here where we shoot, so it’s a very dynamic process that goes on, finding the locations and making it all fit. Having to be clever about the filmmaking of it – that’s what makes a show really fun to work on.

We have a great group of young filmmakers here in Spokane, and a great visual effects department that are just local guys that started out on the show, and then after working on the effects, started their own company and now they’re doing all of it. We do everything. We do models. We do forced perspective. We do lots of camera tricks, as well as good digital effects. It just makes it fun.

TrunkSpace: Like a giant cheese wheel for example!
Schaefer: With a gag like that, we actually built a giant cheese wheel. There’s a 35 foot cheese wheel that’s now in a museum in Spokane where we have a “Z Nation” exhibition here in town. We’re actually shooting a lot of the show at the museum as well, so people could come and watch us film.

We use every trick in the book to make this look as good as possible each week. There’s so many good people that just won’t let it be bad. If you saw our first cuts you’d be like, “Yeah, that looks like a cheesy, cheap, Asylum movie!” But by the time we’re done with it, there’s just so many good people adding little bits and pieces, and fixing things, that it looks like a real show by the time we’re done with it.

Z NATION — Season:4 — Pictured: (l-r) Russell Hodgkinson as Doc, Tara Holt as Lucy — (Photo by: Daniel Sawyer Schaefer/Go2 Z 4/Syfy)

TrunkSpace: Just by the excitement in your voice, it sounds like a heightened version of when you’re a kid and you grab the video recorder and then go out with your friends and try to shoot something cool.
Schaefer: That’s actually part of the appeal. One thing about the zombie genre is, it’s a do-it-yourself genre. People like to be zombies. They make zombie films. The original concept for the show, which we had to sort of drop because I think we just wound up with more story than we thought we were going to originally have, was going to be people sending in their own zombie videos that they made, which the Citizen Z character was gonna be receiving and playing as part of the interstitial stuff. It was because of that feeling of, “Let’s just go out and shoot this and do it with a couple of pie tins and homemade blood!” It’s part of the fun of the show, I think – the fact that it has a little bit of that handmade, do-it-yourself quality to it.

TrunkSpace: Prior to “Z Nation” you had a hand in the creation and development of a number of cable shows that sort of got the entire cable world rolling – “Eerie, Indiana,” “The Dead Zone,” and “Eureka,” to name a few. Now that everyone wants to be in cable, does it kind of feel like, “Hey, this is my turf!”
Schaefer: (Laughter) I wish it was my turf. My turf is pretty big at the moment. What is there, 400 something scripted TV shows now?

I’m glad to be working. We’re having a lot of fun up here. We’ve kind of hit that sweet spot where we’re pretty much left alone. We’re just getting to make a crazy zombie show. They give us money to make a crazy zombie show, nobody bothers us, and people like it. I’m gonna hang in here as long as I can. It seems like a pretty sweet place to be.

Season 4 of “Z Nation” kicks off Friday on Syfy.

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