Updated: Jan 22
The Canadian Black Summer Producer is also a Writer and Director
Photography by Icon Experimental Experience.
It was an honor to interview Black Summer’s Netflix Producer Jason Wan Lim
Jordan Gooden of Experimental Experience did a cool black and white shoot of this kind and proactive Producer in Calgary, who is making waves by helping people with opening doors to them in the film industry!
While we photographed Jason for the article by Icon Experimental Experience, we learned from him that he's not only a Canadian producer, but also a writer and director.
Jason is definitely known for being the Calgary Producer of Black Summer season one and the renewal of the second season is on its way, as pre-production is officially underway.
The second season will consist of eight episodes and will begin production in 2020 in Alberta, Canada. Jaime King will return to star and will also serve as a producer. Cast members Justin Chu Cary and Christine Lee will also return.
The series is a prequel to Z Nation, which was created by Karl Schaefer. Karl and John Hyams, who worked together on the hit Syfy series which ran from 2014 to 2018, created Black Summer and served together in the capacity of co-Showrunners on Season 1. Both men, along with Abram Cox, worked as writers and executive producers on Black Summer. John Hyams will serve as the Showrunner for Season 2.
The series was created by Karl Schaefer and John Hyams. The pair served as co-showrunners on Season 1, though Hyams will serve as the sole showrunner on Season 2. Both serve as writers and executive producers on the series along with Abram Cox. The three previously worked together on the zombie series “Z Nation,” which ran for five seasons on Syfy between 2014 and 2018.
Q and A with Jason Wan Lim
IHW: We want to know everything that you've been up to these past few years. We want to know more about how you feel about the Calgary film industry and how you're trying to help invigorate and get people working again. So please share with us how you first started in the film industry in Calgary?
Jason: I don't know if I can take any credit for wanting to build careers or making it busy here for people, but thank you for the kind words. Selfishly, I do want to make it busy for myself, and for a core group of people I've worked with since my first feature. I keep bringing projects in and they keep getting better and so I'll fight for them.
I'm very loyal to the people that do their jobs well. Those people I have "helped" are all coming into their own and I'm proud of them.
Jason by Icon Experimental Experience
IHW: When we first met you, you had just arrived from Vancouver and you went to school for Creative Writing and English literature.
Jason: I was originally going to take that path, the novelist approach. It's a hard road. I decided to veer off. I got into the bartending industry and then I came out to Calgary in 2005. In 2010 I did a year of film school at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, and then I cleverly dropped out of my course (laughs) to raise some money. And then I hired my graduating class to shoot my first film!
IHW: What was that actually like for you, the process of putting your first project together? What is the process of being a producer in your perspective?
Jason: In the beginning, it was the perfect incubation for me. I raised about a quarter of a million dollars to shoot my first feature, and I got to operate in a bubble. I got to write, direct and produce on my own accord, and I didn't have any constraints.
IHW: What you've been trying to do by bringing projects to Alberta, making relationships with people, say at Netflix, all of this goes into making sure a project happens. Most of us don't even know what goes on while being a line producer as well. Share more details about what it is you do on a daily basis as a producer.
Jason: After the incubation period was done, I decided that I didn't want the level of production I was making to be capped at half a million dollars. In that world you raise the money personally and privately, and it takes years for it to show any proceeds. So in order to get to the next level, I formed Alberta Film Projects with a distributor named Scott Jones, who has been working out of Los Angeles for over 25 years now.
It was sort of game-changer, that way I can actually correspond with studios, small studios at first and see what they wanted and, and go my way up from there.
Well, season one of Black Summer was not a studio show. It was a production, by a production company called The Asylum, famous for Z Nation. Black Summer was a was a spin-off of Z Nation. Season two is purchased by Netflix. So season two is very much a studio film. In fact Black Summer is Netflix's first self-managed show in Alberta. They have never had a presence directly here. As far as the rigors, being accustomed to their protocol and little bit of their bureaucracy.
I’m starting to get there, but, it's a lot to wade through sometimes. It was daunting at the start but I'm starting to get the idea that they act as a support for me and I have to lean on them in that respect.
It was sort of a game-changer. This way I can actually correspond with studios, small studios at first, and see what they wanted, and move my way up from there.
For the record, season one of Black Summer was not a studio show. It was a licensed show by a production company called The Asylum, famous for Z Nation. Black Summer was a spin-off from Z Nation.
Season two is a Netflix show. So season two is very much a studio film. In fact Black Summer is Netflix's first self-managed show in Alberta. They haven't had a presence directly here before. As far as the rigours go, it's getting accustomed to their protocol and little bit of their bureaucracy, but they're an amazingly supportive network of quality human beings.
I'm starting to figure out the approach, but it's a lot to wade through sometimes. It was daunting at the start, but I'm getting the support and mentorship of a wonderful local woman named Linda Ambury, who is our Supervising Producer on season two.
IHW: How important to you is it to you to make sure that the industry is continuously bringing in projects to Alberta?
Jason: Well, I live here and if I don't have projects to work on, I don't get paid myself. So it's important. I mean, since the day I've entered this industry, nobody's hired me - I've have to raise the money either through private means or convince a production company or studio to bring a project here, and then I hire people to work on it. So without me hustling to bring a show here, there's no work for me or for the core group of friends that I told you I've come up with.
IHW: How does that feel to know that you yourself have to make your own career happen? A lot of actors and a lot of photographers do experience the same thing, but we never knew that for you, that that's the same hustle!
Jason: Pretty much something everybody has to go through. For me, it's a perfect setup. I wouldn't trust anybody else with my career. I don't want somebody that has to hire me out and show me the ropes. Since Google was invented, it's been teaching me quite a bit along the way, so it's been a very good mentor for me.
Jason Wan Lim by Icon Experimental Experience
IHW: What do you love about Producing and what does it take to do the job well?
Jason: I mean, I love directing as well. Producing is something I think I'm good at because of a variety of things. In the understanding of the logistics and budgets and breakdown of numbers, being super organized is key. I mean, you could visit my apartment and realize pretty quickly that I'm disorganized in a sort of everyday sense, but I certainly need to know how to organize when it comes to logistics and filmmaking. I'm also pretty good with people most of the time, which comes from a genuine love of human beings. Those aspects conspire to help me with my craft as a Producer.
IHW: You have helped friends of yours get in front of casting directors. A lot of the time as actors and crew, you wonder how you're going to get to that next level. Learning that you've done that for others, where you have got them in front of the people they needed to in order to get cast, Jason, you're literally changing lives. How do you feel about that?
Jason: Way too much credit. They're just doors. I'm opening doors for a core group that I've come up with in the film industry. I have one associate in particular, a very good friend and a great worker, he thanks me on an almost daily basis. But when people I hire do outstanding work, I'd be foolish not to try and elevate somebody who did that and was both loyal and a friend.
Jason Wan Lim by Icon Experimental Experience
IHW: So we want to know more about the Black Summer series. It has become one of the biggest shows in the world. People like Selena Gomez, Howard Stern and Stephen King have taken to social media to share how they love the show. So tell us, how does that feel to know that you are a part of building a project in Calgary?
Jason: Well, first and foremost, I can take zero credit for the creative elements of this series. A sweetheart of a producer named Jodi Binstock came to me with a Netflix license and I fought extremely hard to win the contract to produce the show through my company Alberta Film Projects. Then Jodi and I put together the crew, the locations and the equipment to make the lowest budgeted show in Netflix's history a success - and together we all knocked it over the park.
Really the creative credit needs to go to Hyams, Schaefer, Cox and the team at Asylum, as they constituted that driving force behind season one.
One of the cool things about Black Summer season one was it was the rare project that comes to Calgary that isn't looking for the mountains or for snow. They were looking for a nondescript urban setting. And that's why I was in such hot competition with several other jurisdictions also trying to land the first season. I mean, it's my job to put in front of them who I think is the best crew and the US team loved the crew so much that they've come back for season two, despite the fact that our tax credit here isn't exactly steady at the moment.
IHW: What do you feel about continuing your career in Calgary and trying to bring in more projects?
Jason: I feel like it would be easier if the government made this jurisdiction the competitive equivalent of a B.C., Ontario, Manitoba or Quebec. It'd be nice to actually have a level playing field in that respect. I'll always want to have a foothold here. But my end game has never been - despite the security of the tax credit or not - to just stay in one place.
I'd like to have the ability to pivot around wherever is necessary. I liked to shoot in the desert somewhere and then shoot in China or anywhere else that is spectacular, or maybe a tropical setting overseas. Again, I'd love to be able to have a footprint in other jurisdictions as well, but I'll always appreciate the homegrown talent here in Alberta, and I hope to maintain enough of a presence here ongoing to bring in projects, yes.
It's always been one of my dreams to build up the under $2 million industry here, to help foster that slice of the film industry that isn't yet completely grasped by the unions and the guilds. That space provides the perfect training ground where I can take the best students of film and introduce them to the best of the indie world, and really give them a chance in positions that normally take a long time to work into. To let up-and-coming talent really find their place, in advance of getting swept up into the larger machine of unionized filmmaking.
IHW: You also have worked on Miracle in East Texas with Kevin and Sam Sorbo! Did you watch Hercules and Xena the Warrior Princess when you were young?
Jason: I did. I was familiar with his work. It was cool to meet him. Kevin Sorbo has played iconic characters, Hercules and Andromeda's Dylan Hunt to name a couple.
IHW: So when you found out that you were going to be working as Supervising Producer with John Duffy as the Line Producer, how did that feel for you, working with such a huge artist?
Jason: I don't tend to get fanboy smitten, but I loved working with him. He's a quality individual and a really good man. He takes it easy on his crew. He has a good sense of story and he's a natural in front of the camera. They've won some awards with their show already, and I think it's going to get a wider circulation in 2020.
IHW: So we heard that they're going to be coming back to Calgary. Maybe you'll be working with them again?!
Jason: I would hope so. I was a big fan of Kevin and Sam, and am a huge fan of James Quattrochi as well. John Duffy is hilarious.
IHW: We interviewed John Duffy not too long ago, and I'm pretty sure he had sung your praises actually in his interview. But just getting to know you, Jason throughout the years watching you rise and following your career from your first project in 2012 to where you are now, you have made such a big leap in the industry.
It's an honour to be able to interview you and share a bit of your story and how much we think that you've added to the industry here.
Jason: Well, thank you for having time for me. I am flattered by your words.
IHW: Thank you so much for your time and we can't wait to see the next season of Black Summer and who's a part of it!
Starring Jaime King as Rose, Justin Chu Cary as Spears, Christine Lee as Kyungsun, Kelsey Floweras Lance, Sal Velez, Erika Hau, Gwynyth Walsh, Edsson Morales, Nyren B. Evelyn, Mustafa .
Jason Wan Lim by Icon Experimental Experience
Courtesy of Andras Schram on set Photography in Miracle In East Texas Poster and Black Summer Season 1 Poster