“It’s a supernatural drama, but at it’s heart it’s really a love story.” That’s how producer Taylor Litton-Strain pitches Jade of Death, a web series she is developing with writer/director Erin Good, which follows a young woman who can hear when and how people are going to die. The pair were inspired by genre television shows like Jessica Jones and True Blood. The success of these shows highlighted to the pair that there was a gap in the market for high-end genre webseries. “We both devoured [Jessica Jones] and its success validated what we had thought during the development of Jade of Death, which was that audiences are really craving strong, complicated female protagonists living and operating in dark, dynamic and dangerous worlds. That’s exactly what we’re trying to produce with Jade of Death.”
The pair received further validation when their series was selected as one of ten international projects to participate in the prestigious Berlinale Talents Short Project Lab, which has just wrapped. The Lab provides an opportunity for upcoming talent to explore their projects with international experts (this year’s pros included Berlinale Jury president Meryl Streep and documentarian Alex Gibney), and present their work to international producers, distributors and financiers.
While part of the series has already been shot, Litton-Strain says the project is still up for being creatively molded. “The lab is still going to be hugely beneficial for the project creatively as we’ve allowed in our production process the ability for us to be adaptive to suggestions, which may come from our lab, and might be driven by how our audience is responding to the project.”
Even prior to the series being selected for Berlin, the project had already garnered a very fine cast. Rising star Bernie Van Tiel, an internationally renowned beatboxer and musician, tackles the lead, while the story also features such guests as Susan Prior (The Rover, Animal Kingdom, Puberty Blues) and Sara West (Peter Allen: Not the Boy Next Door, The Daughter).
While it’s a female written, directed, produced and starring series, Litton-Strain and Good never consciously set out to create female-driven show, but it’s a void she is happy to help fill. “The more years Erin and I work in film, I know we are both experiencing this weird sensation of noticing how little a voice women seem to have behind and on screen. It’s actually exhausting watching a film or television show where either there is no female character with any actual authority or no women characters making choices which have any consequence to the story.”
Having produced a string of short films and also secured attachment roles on some top-notch local drama including The Broken Shore, Offspring and Puberty Blues, Litton-Strain feels that the web series is actually an ideal medium for transitioning into television. “Generally I believe web series as a format is much more exciting medium for myself as a filmmaker than short films. It’s my ambition to be a creator and producer of television, and web series with their episodic nature lend themselves much more to be a launch pad for emerging filmmakers to develop and hone their narrative skills for television.
“It’s also far easier to be commercially minded when producing a web series as opposed to a short film. Film and television is an industry, and even though we’re working at an emerging level, we’re approaching every aspect of our production in a commercially minded way. We want the series to do well and so we’re not making a film for festival selectors, or film critics, we’re making it for an audience.”
Catch a teaser below and stay up to date with Jade of Death via the series’ Facebook Page.