Who is Jason Leaver?
Jason Leaver is a filmmaker. I like using that term filmmaker, because it covers quite a lot of territory. I’m a writer, director, producer, cinematographer, editor, promoter, visual effects artist, you name it. Oh, well, not acting and not music. I leave that to real artists.
What inspired “Out With Dad” ? Where did the idea come from?
I had a dream in which I became a single father. It really affected me. The whole next day I was left wondering about this imaginary daughter that I wouldn’t see grow up. I mused about a lot of those “firsts” that parents must go through, one such thing was what if she came out to me? That question opened the floodgates of ideas.
You’re the director of the new web series ” The Gate “, What would you like to see it accomplish?
Are you trying to do anything specific with it in a directorial sense?
It’s funny how I first became involved. I was at an Ink Drinks night, and Elize Morgan (the co-creator and writer) pitched the idea to me. I loved it and offered to help however I could. She said they’re having troubles finding a location to shoot, I offered my house. Somewhere along the lines I went from just a guy offering his living room to being the director, and eventually editor too.
When Elize and Ash (as in Ashton Catherwood, co-creator and star) offered me the job of director, I jumped at the chance for two reasons: 1) it would be unlike anything else I’ve done before, a multi-cam sit-com. 2) We wanted to produce as many episodes we could in as short a time span. I saw this as an excellent challenge. Could we shoot 30+ episodes in a weekend? The answer is yes, we shot 35 in two days (plus four teasers). The notion of high quantity with (relatively) low turnaround time really fascinated me.
You’ve won a lot of awards for various projects, have you found they’ve affected your career at all ? Have they changed the way you approach new projects ? The people you choose to work with ?
I’m surprised, shocked and honoured every time I, or one of my people, win or are nominated for an award. It really feels amazing. I’m sure they have affected my career in that they have helped put my name on the map, so to speak. I’m asked to speak on panels often. I was invited to direct episodes of the web series Clutch, and serve as co-director/cinematographer of Pete Winning and the Pirates.
Have you found anything’s become easier/more difficult with each project ? Do you have a style of working now that works for you ?
Directing has become a lot easier. That’s like everything, you get better at things the more you practice. I’ve had a lot of practice since the beginning of Out With Dad. I find with each new project, or even each new day on a set that I’m directing I’m more confident, it comes easier to me. I used to have troubles getting to sleep the night before a big day, because I’d be worrying or over-thinking things. Now, I sleep much more soundly. I look forward to the next day!
You’re very involved in the Toronto web series community, what’s your role in it? How did it come about? Have you found it to be useful?
What’s its goal?
It started, unofficially, in December of 2010 when fellow webseries creator Tina Cesa Ward (Anyone But Me) came to Toronto for a conference. We decided to hook up, and were joined by Rene Olbert and Regan Latimer (Seeking Simon and BJ Fletcher PI, respectively) and my co-producer Eric Taylor. It was a terrific meeting of these lesbian-centric webseries makers. A few other Toronto creators wished they had come too. So the following February we hosted another meet up. I just got the ball rolling by inviting everyone I know who’s involved in web series, and we met at a pub. To my surprise over 30 people showed up. We found it to be an amazing exchange of ideas with everyone telling each other our war stories and sharing our successes over beers. It’s been an exceedingly useful event, I’ve learned so much from everyone and I know I’m not alone on that. Not long after, actors and crew persons started cross-pollinating on different shows. We’re such a supportive group of each other. That is one of the things that is most important to me, a positive attitude. My feeling is that both film and television industries are rather competitive, even cutthroat. With the internet being so vast, there’s no room for competition. There’s no reason why we can’t all be successful. So one of the goals of these meet-ups is to set the tone for the future of this new industry.
After several of these bimonthly meetups, we found that there’s a need for something a little more official. This is a new industry that is blossoming with new and unique needs, so we need a bigger voice in order to attain these goals. Not unlike a guild, really. Despite how ridiculously bus I seem to be finding myself, it is really important that I’m a part of this new thing, whatever it’s going to shape up to be. We all feel like pioneers.
Are you working on any other projects/future projects you’d like to discuss?
This summer has been a busy one for me as director. I’ve directed two episodes in the second season of Jonathan Robbins’ award-winning series Clutch, of which I’m a big fan. I also co-directed the new swashbuckling web series, Pete Winning and the Pirates, created by Mike Donis. I’d like to point out that these collaborations wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for this web series community. Each of these shows presented very different challenges for me as a director – and I learned so much. As well, made tons of new friends. I couldn’t be more happy about them.
I’m about to head to Marseille, France, for the Marseile Web Festival (October 12-13). I’m going with my wife, and meeting up with my leading lady Kate Conway there. I’ll also be joined by Jonathan Robbins, as both Out With Dad and Clutch are official selections. Upon my return I’m going to be focusing my attention on driving our fundraising campaign for Out With Dad’s third season. We’ve been quietly running a crowd-source funding campaign on our own, without the aid of Kickstarter or Indiegogo by building our own: www.outwithdad.com/contribute. We’ve been fairly successful so far, but there’s still a long way to go before we have enough funds to film everything we’d like for season three. Let alone post-production.
Do you have any advice for anyone looking to get involved in/with the web series community / or trying to start a new web project?
Anyone looking to join the web series community is welcome. Come on out to one of our meet ups! They’re wicked fun, and it’s amazing how much you can gleam by just a simple conversation with someone who’s already done it. Info about these meet-ups can be found in our Facebook group, which leads me to: join our Facebook group! Search for “Toronto Web Series Community” and click Ask to Join, someone will accept you shortly. This Facebook group is an incredible resource for filmmakers. If you have a question: ask it, and someone will answer it very soon! There are over 500 members, and many are quite active.
For those looking to start a new project, the most important piece of advice I’d share is the same I once read Felicia Day sharing once upon a time, and she’s absolutely right. Whatever series you have in mind, make sure you’re passionate about it. Because making a web series is a very taxing process, and will gobble up all of your free time. So you have to love what you’re doing. You have to be willing to be obsessed about it, because that’s all you’re think, do, eat, sleep, breath about until you move onto the next project.
If you could scream one thing out to the masses, what would it be?
If you have an idea for a project, do it. Don’t for a second think you can’t because of excuse A, B or C. With today’s technology and a little bit a lot of patience anyone can make a web series. Cameras are super affordable, and if they’re too much – you know someone with one. Finding actors isn’t hard, there are many willing and eager talented people out there. When it comes to post-production, nearly every computer comes with some sort of video editing software that’ll get the job done. After all that, all you have to do is upload it, and start sharing it.