A few weeks ago we got to talk to the former 90210 star-turned-director Jason Priestley about his new webseries The Lake. It's a family saga, filled with love and heartbreak and betrayal and all those good things, broken down into nice bite-sized chunks. Priestley was on a short break from editing when when he called, but he explained his new show, the challenges of filming for a really small screen and what it was like working behind-the-scenes on the new 90210.
TWoP: Tell me a little about The Lake.
Jason Priestley: The Lake is a web series that I just directed for TheWB.com and the title, The Lake, is in reference to Lake Eleanor, which is a fictionalized lake that we've created. The show follows four families, three families that come to vacation at the lake every summer, and another family of townies. The three families all live in the same cove on the lake. It's about the summer they spend at the lake together.
TWoP: It's a web series, so these are only ten-minute episodes?
Priestley: The episodes, we're actually cutting the shows right now and the shows seem to be landing anywhere between 8 and 12 minutes.
TWoP: How do you cram four families into such a small time?
Priestley: It's no small feat. Shooting content for the web certainly has a lot of challenges because you're dealing with trying to tell a lot of stories in a very truncated amount of time. There are still some limitations with regards to picture screen capabilities and things like that within the format itself.
TWoP: Did you find the new medium fun or frustrating?
Priestley: I found it a very fun challenge. Whenever you're creating a new project, there are always a lot of challenges. I find it's always a great opportunity to come up with creative solutions and to create. So for us, we were able to find a group of incredibly talented actors to portray the characters on the show, and we were able to find a fantastic location in which to shoot the show, and I think that we've been able to create a wonderful world that our characters can inhabit. I think we've done a wonderful job certainly given the limitations that were placed upon us by the time constraints we had. Certainly, it was a wonderful challenge for me, one that I think I definitely rose to.
TWoP: How long did you have to film to each episode?
Priestley: We shot 12 episodes, and we shot them all in 12 days.
TWoP: Most dramas take about a week per episode, so that's pretty quick.
Priestley: Most shows, you shoot one show in seven or eight days. We shot these very quickly, and so much of that was due to the incredible group of actors that we were able to assemble. They were incredibly well prepared, incredibly professional and they are an incredibly talented group of actors. They were able to perform and perform at an incredibly high level all the time for me, which was very important for the project, but to work at such a break-neck pace. They really saved my bacon.
TWoP: That's great because it looks like a lot of newcomers mixed in with the cast.
Priestley: A whole lot of newcomers. They showed up and they all performed incredibly for me. I couldn't have asked for more.
TWoP: This runs 12 episodes, and there's potential for more?
Priestley: I guess we'll see how the show goes. I certainly hope so. It's been a lot of fun for me to create this whole world for these characters and people will respond to it. If people respond to it well, hopefully we'll get the opportunity to make more.
TWoP: Do you watch other web series? Was that what made you do this?
Priestley: I had to educate myself very quickly into the world of web series once they started talking to me about this show. And I watched a few of them, and I watched some of the other shows, certainly a lot of the other shows on TheWB.com to try and educate myself. Being a television and film director, there are still some limitations within the streaming that occurs. There are certain camera moves and certain things that you just can't do because the streaming won't keep up with it. So you have to work with the somewhat limited amount of tools at your disposal because the format just won't handle them. So, you sort of have to adjust to your shooting style and just be very cognizant of the actual format in which the material you're shooting is going to be broadcast.
TWoP: A lot of web series seem to take place in one room or one small area because of the budget, but this sounds like a bit larger in scope because here you have all these families and the lake to set it in.
Priestley: Yes, it feels much bigger than most of the other web series that I have seen. We really did go to a lake and shoot at a lake, which was really full of challenges. Any time you're shooting on the water, that's always full of challenges as well, but it was great. To me, not knowing, never having shot anything for the web before, I just looked at this as if I was shooting a television show. To me, it just felt like a serialized television show. So we shot it like that. I think that's what's going to come across to the viewers.
TWoP: Is your next big project more of a full-length kind of thing or are you more excited for more short form?
Priestley: Well, what I've got coming up after this... jeez, I'm not sure. I'm not sure where I'm going after this. My wife and I [have a new baby], so that's really the next project I'm focusing on. My hands will definitely be full.
TWoP: Any chance we'll see you direct any more episodes of 90210 next season?
Priestley: You know what, I would hope so. I had a great time over there. Those guys just got picked up for another season, so I would definitely hope so.
TWoP: How was directing that last season? Was it weird seeing a mix of new and familiar faces?
Priestley: Oh no, it was fantastic. I had a great time over there. It was like putting on a comfortable pair of shoes.
TWoP: You got your start directing the original series, right?
Priestley: That's right, yes it was. That is where I got my start directing. It was fun. The circle was complete.
TWoP: So are we going to see you actually in front of the camera any time soon?
Priestley: Yeah, I think I'll have a film at the Toronto Film Festival this year called The Last Rites of Ransom Pride with myself, Kris Kristofferson, Dwight Yoakam, Peter Dinklage, Scott Speedman and Lizzy Caplan.
The Lake debuts on TheWB.com on Monday, August 10th.
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