Cast: Bernie Van Tiel, Jordan Cowan, Yoshi Washington, Nicholas Hope, Jeremy Waters, Susan Prior, Sara West, Chloe De Los Santos
Director: Erin Good
Synopsis: The award-winning supernatural thriller series Jade Of Death is set to debut at Queer Screen's 25th anniversary of the Mardi Gras Film Festival on February 23rd. This will be the first chance for the public to see the highly-acclaimed series from filmmaking duo Erin Good (writer / director) and Taylor Litton-Strain (producer), which is now being developed into a second season with the ABC and Screen Australia.
Jade Of Death tells the story of Jade (Bernie Van Tiel), a young runaway with a powerful ability who plies her trade as the 'Fortune-Teller of Death' at a seedy freak show carnival. But now people are after her and there's much more to Jade's past and abilities than she knows. The talented ensemble cast also includes Logie and AACTA-nominated Sara West (Peter Allen: Not the Boy Next Door), AACTA award winner Susan Prior (Jasper Jones, The Rover) and the greatly admired Nicholas Hope (Bad Boy Bubby).
The series is one of the top fastest selling programs of the Festival. "I was thrilled to program Jade of Death for the festival," said Queer Screen festival director Lisa Rose. "It's definitely going to be a crowd pleaser." Both Good and Litton-Strain agree the Mardi Gras launch is the perfect stage for Jade Of Death's Premiere showing. "We're so excited to premiere with Queer Screen and I couldn't think of a better audience to experience it with," said Litton-Strain. Presented by Women in the Arts, the Premiere will also include an all women Q&A panel where Good and Litton-Strain will be joined by members of the cast and crew.
Conceived, developed and written over a period of six months, Good's initial motivation for Jade Of Death was to create a high-end online series with television quality narrative and plot, a rich story world and main characters she loved. "When I was writing Jade of Death, the TV series that came to mind were Lost Girl, True Blood and Jessica Jones. Also I'm also a huge Buffy fan so I have no doubt that influenced me too," said Good.
With other exciting projects already in the pipeline, the collaborative duo of Good and Litton-Strain are proving somewhat of a filmmaking powerhouse. "Taylor and Erin are perfect examples of the exciting wave of Australian talent forging careers in the dynamic digital landscape, propelling fresh local voices out in to the world," said Rosie Lourde, Interim Investment Manager, Screen Australia.
Jade Of Death picked up the highest number of nominations across all categories at the 2017 International Academy of Web Television Awards and went on to win Best Series, Best Director, Best Makeup and Best Ensemble Cast. With a distribution deal already secured and a second season planned, Jade Of Death's Premiere at the Mardi Gras Film Festival is surely one of the hottest tickets in town.
Jade Of Death
Question: How would you describe Jade Of Death?
Erin Good: It's about Jade, who has the power to hear when and how people are going to die and plies her trade as the 'Fortune-Teller of Death' at a seedy freak-show carnival on the outskirts of town. She's a character running from her past and you quickly discover there's people after her. As we learn more about her past, she discovers more about her powers and is confronted by whether she's good or bad. It's a supernatural series that's kinda scary, kinda hot and with a bit of humour.
Question: Where did the idea for Jade Of Death begin?
Erin Good: It's an idea I've had for a while, it was originally a TV idea and I adapted it for short form.
Question: Are the characters based on anyone you know?
Erin Good: I will say that Faith (from Buffy) was a big influence for me when developing Jade, but no, the characters aren't based on real people. However, the actors have of course really shaped them - particularly the characters of Jade and Maya. Bernie, Jordan (who play Jade and Maya respectively) and I discussed and shaped those characters together. We work-shopped scenes and some of their dialogue is from improvs they did in rehearsal that I then wrote into the scripts. It was a really collaborative process that meant we all put so much into these characters. I love that process of working with actors and seeing the relationship between actor and character.
Question: How much of your inspiration comes from real life and real people?
Erin Good: Most of my inspiration comes from real life. The themes, relationships, wants and fears of characters are usually things that I understand because I've experienced or felt. One element of Jade of Death is the complexity of mother / daughter relationships and that's something I totally get. There's a lot more in Jade of Death that's inspired by my own life but it's all pretty personal.
I definitely get inspiration from everyone I know. I love seeing people's contradictions - their strengths and weaknesses, bravado and insecurity, how people can be completely wise in one moment and totally naive in another. It's so interesting and human so yeah I use everything I can observe and experience. I also have lines of dialogue that have come straight from people's mouths.
Question: What is the best thing about creating a character like Jade?
Erin Good: I adore Jade! The best part about creating a character like her is how she's so aspirational and real at the same time. On one hand, she's hot, tough, witty and just generally badass but she's also fragile, prickly, moody and sometimes a pain in the arse. I love characters like that where as an audience member you go from thinking "you're so great, I love you, I want to be you" to "Bloody hell Jade get your shit together"
Question: What has been the most challenging component of Jade Of Death?
Erin Good: We shot mainly on weekends over a year. It was mentally challenging to stop and start so much. Patience is something you definitely need in this industry and the Jade of Death shoot really forced me to be patient. However, there were great benefits to shooting like that. Before each new shoot block I had the time to watch the rushes from the previous shoot and do script rewrites and directing notes for the next shoot block based on what we had already captured and how those scenes had played out. It meant that I could continuously improve the series.
Question: What have you learnt about yourself whilst working on Jade Of Death?
Erin Good: With every project I learn and relearn to trust myself and I get faster at being aware of my instincts.
Question: What can we expect from the debut at the Mardi Gras Film Festival?
Erin Good: After the screening there'll be a QnA with myself, the producer, Bernie and Jordan. There's also an after party which you can get tickets to. If you do, come up and say hi.
Question: What was it like working with Taylor?
Erin Good: Taylor and I have collaborated for years, so we work together really easily and efficiently. It was fun to do a project like this where we kind of threw out the rule book and really pushed ourselves and the project. When we started we had no money, so we had to figure out how to balance planning for the whole project (like deciding to buy most of our gear so that we could be flexible with shooting) to then accepting that we were starting a project that we didn't necessarily know how we were going to finish. Even though we were faced with this daunting uncertainty Taylor still encouraged me to not limit the scripts. So I wrote what the story needed and we figured out how we were actually going to achieve it step by step.
Question: What's next, for you?
Erin Good: We're in development for season 2 of Jade of Death with ABC and Screen Australia. I'm co-writing that with an amazing writer Huna Amweero. So I'm working on that at the moment as well as development for a TV series, and two features.
Interview by Brooke Hunter