"Out With Dad is an award winning webseries and is one of the many online short-form narrative productions that proudly calls Toronto home."
Out With Dad is an award winning web series now in its third season based in Toronto Ontario, Canada. OWD (Out with Dad) stars Kate Conway as Rose, 15 years old quiet, shy, smart and stays out of trouble in school. Her two best friends Vanessa played by Lindsey Middleton and Kenny played by Corey Lof are her partners in crime since they were little kids. Rose is your typical teenager except she’s holding in an emotional intense secret that even she hasn’t totally come to terms with, she’s gay and in love with her best friend Vanessa. Will Conlon who plays Nathan, Rose’s Dad, is a single father trying to raise a teenage daughter following the death of his wife. When he notices that Rose has been acting out of sorts and notices the emotional tension occurring between her and Vanessa he puts the puzzle pieces together and tries to help his daughter acclimate to her new life.
The show is written and directed by Jason Leaver as well as a bunch of other hats he wears to complete this DIY coming of age LGBT show. Jason has had quite the career graduating in 2001 with a Bachelors in Fine Arts from Ryerson Polytechnic University he went on to win in 2004 Best Technical Production for Duplication Violation at the One Minute Film Festival in Toronto. In 2008 his film Penance won two awards: Best Use of Line and Best Use of Character in The 48 Hour Film Project. In 2011, Jason was nominated for Outstanding Direction and Outstanding Writing in the Independent Soap Awards in NYC; and in March 2011 he won Outstanding Writing, Outstanding Directing and Outstanding Cinematography in a Drama Series for the 2011 LAWeb Festival all for his work on Out With Dad. Out With Dad’s crew is rounded out by Eric Taylor and Kara Dymond Producing.
Out With Dad is not your typical shallow coming out story that can sometimes play out on television it doesn’t center completely on the love that Rose has for Vanessa instead it deals with what happens when you come out to yourself. OWD tackles not only Rose’s coming out story but in scenes shot at a PFLAG meeting we are introduced to other true stories taken from fans of the show. Played out by characters Nowmee, Athena, Maureen and David in a PFLAG meeting each tells their “true” coming out story that was submitted by fans. Jason tackles coming out in different cultures, bullying after coming out, and what happens when parents are coping with their child just coming out. Unlike many directors before him Jason has taken the subject of coming out and written it from all different perspectives and views. He keeps you engaged, emotional at times and even laughing out loud as Nathan tries to deal with raising a lesbian daughter, there’s no handbook for this after all.
They could not have chosen a better Rose in Kate Conway she embodies the awkward teenager who’s coming of age and going through puberty is put on show for everyone to see in this web series. Kate has channeled her inner teen made us remember what it was like to be in love at such a young tender age and dealing with all those giddy, funny feelings you get when they’re around. Rose also helps us remember what it was like to come to terms with being gay and having to come out to everyone, the fear, the uncertainty and sometimes the shame that comes along with it. Her tears become your tears and you find yourself wanting to hug and hold her reminding her that she isn’t alone that it does get better. Sometimes I think Kate is so good at this character I forget she’s actually a straight actor!
Lindsey Middleton as Vanessa is another character choice that was nailed right on the head, Lindsey completely takes on the role of Vanessa the bubbly assured straight teenager who loves to please her overbearing Mother and wishes that her emotionally non-existent father would intervene. Vanessa’s confusion between experimentation and real attraction towards Rose was very evident because we all know sometimes its’ hard tell if what we’re feeling is just curiousness or if we truly have feelings for a person. We’ve all been down the, in love with our best friend road before.
The newest member of the cast Caitlynne Medrek who plays Claire Daniels is a fun, outgoing teenage lesbian that Rose meets at a PFLAG meeting and instantly has a connection with. It just so happens they also go to the same high school. Sparks are flying for these two and from this last episode the steam is rising! Welcome Caitlynne!
Jason and some of the cast recently gave me a bit of their time to answer some questions I cooked up for them in my writer’s kitchen. They are such a gracious bunch and I’m so glad to be able to write this piece on the show. Hope you enjoy it!
Erin: Can you tell me a little about how you came up with the idea for the web series, Out With Dad?
Jason Leaver: In some ways, I explain why I came up with the idea in our third episode “Movie Night with Dad”. Some of the things Nathan tells Rose about romance and conflict came from a conversation I had one evening with my wife. I was telling her about the kinds of stories that really move me and the kind of stories I want to tell. She reminded me all those wonderful things Nathan tried to explain to Rose. Except she said it better!
A few weeks later, I had a horrendous dream in which my wife died, leaving me behind as a single father. The next morning I was relieved that my wife is alive and well. Yet, overnight I fell in love with this imaginary daughter, and couldn’t let go right away. I was imagining Rose growing up… and what if she came out to me? Some brain cell fired an electron in my head that said “hey… that would make a cute web series!” The rest is history.
Erin: We see so many Web Series out these days and they really seem to be working so well with the general public how did you get the start up funding for Out With Dad and why do you think it's been so difficult for series like yours to get additional corporate funding to do full seasons?
Jason: It is challenging to get that money pulled together. And to tell you the truth, I still don’t know how! Out With Dad has been entirely a volunteer production. The cast, the crew and I have all devoted our time and energy (lots of energy!) into this for the love of it. There are still some hard costs, like transportation, some rental fees, catering, etc. I’ve just paid for it out of pocket. Fortunately I already own most of the gear we need. I’m my own editor, and I own a terrific edit suite that all comes from my day-job where I make corporate videos and commercials. Unfortunately, because we’re all volunteering, Out With Dad is kind of an expensive hobby. As with all hobbies, we have to prioritize and focus on priorities like our day jobs. It kills us that we have to, but we need to be responsible for ourselves. You know?
Moving forward, we’ve decided that if we’re going to do Season Three justice, then we simply must have a budget. No more volunteering. If we’re getting paid, then that means we can focus 100% on Out With Dad, take time off work, do it right. It’s what we all want. We’re looking for help from our audience to do so we’ve got a Kickstarter/Indiegogo-style campaign running now at outwithdad.com/contribute
Why is corporate funding hard to get? I think it’s mostly because they’re too unsure about what this medium, web series, is really all about. What will it give them if they invested? Return-on-investment is everything to them, and we’re still learning how to calculate such as number. I’m still optimistic though. Out With Dad is a special show to a lot of people. I believe any corporate backing we get would actually be more valuable than a 30 second commercial that everyone leaves the room for (or is edited out of the bit-torrent download). For the fans of Out With Dad, if Such-and-Such Brand sponsored us, they would have dedicated followers for life.
Erin: I noticed in the cast bios you've worked with Will Conlon before who plays, Nathan (Dad). How did you come across Kate Conway (Rose, Daughter) and Lindsey Middleton (Vanessa, Best Friend) in the casting process?
Jason: Casting was so much fun! Will had to audition too, I wasn’t certain he was right for the part, as much as I knew I’d like to work with him. I was worried he might look too young. He convinced me if he grew a beard he’d look older- turns out he’s right!
Before he got the part, Kate did. She came in to audition after I posted a few casting calls online. As soon as she started, I knew we found our Rose. She also read for the part of Vanessa, didn’t suit that part. I asked her to do Rose again. Yup! She’s Rose!
It was the same thing for Lindsey she came in to audition after seeing the same posting online. All the girls who came for an audition read for both Rose and Vanessa. I asked each of them who they wanted be first. I think Lindsey was the only actor to ask to do Vanessa first. She knew she fit the part, she shined as Vanessa.
After I offered the role to Kate, and she accepted, I asked if she’d help me with the call-back auditions with several potential Dads and Vanessa's. Kate and Will clicked right away. They have a similar sense of humour and were already joking with each other. Lindsey is in the same theatre program that Kate had just graduated from, so they had an instant history with each other. The acted like best friends already.
At the end of that day, I asked Kate if it was up to her, who should be cast as her dad and her best friend/love interest? We both agreed: Will Conlon. Lindsey Middleton.
Erin: What would you say is the most difficult part aside from funding about shooting a web series?
Jason: Easy answer: keeping up with it! On a technical level, making a web series is no different than any other indie-filmmaking. With this medium, you’re also the distributor. That means you’ve got to build an audience and maintain a relationship with them.
I didn’t realize how huge this aspect would be before I started. You know what? I love it. It’s what makes making Out With Dad so darned rewarding. I feel like I know my audience, and I feel they know me. It’s so amazing. I can’t think of any other storytelling medium with this kind of relationship with the audience.
Erin: The past two years 2011 and 2012 you've done well at the LA Web Series Festival and the Independent Soap Awards, what would you attribute the success of Out With Dad to?
Jason: I think Out With Dad is a relatable story. It is a niche story, yet not exclusive to the LGBT community. Also, I think we’re telling a story that’s never been told this way before.
Erin: Can you tell us a little about the Toronto Web Series Community that you are the Co-Organizer/Co-Host for and also how the fans can get involved to help Out With Dad.
Jason: It all started in December 2010 when Tina Cesa Ward of Anyone But Me was coming to Toronto for an event. We got to chatting over Twitter and I was giving tips on how to get around my city. We decided to hook up! Renée Olbert from Seeking Simone and Regan Latimer of BJ Fletcher P.I. saw some of our tweets and got involved too. The four of us, plus my buddy and producer Eric Taylor all met up for a couple of drinks. It was lots of fun, and quite valuable. I think all of us learned vast amounts from each other. There was such an amazing exchange of ideas and comradely. Scott Albert of Tight & Fights also saw the value of this meet-up and we decided to host a not-so-lesbian-centric meet up soon after. We’ve been hosting these meet ups nearly every other month since then. I wanted to position myself as leader of sorts because I wanted to set the tone of mutual support, not competition. I really believe in the value of positive encouragement and openness. We’ve all be learning from each others’ successes and mistakes.
The community is bigger than just the meet-ups. It’s a network of support and ideas, sharing of knowledge. It’s also promoted a lot of cross-pollination between series, and fostered some amazing new collaborations. For example, I’ve connected with Elize Morgan of Pretty in Geek and Ash Catherwood of Microwave Porn, together we’ve created a new web series called The Gate, which will come out later this year. I’ve also gotten know Mike Donis of Pete Winning and the Pirates, he’s filmed the pilot to his swashbuckling web series, and I’ll be co-directing his first season which we’d like to start filming in August. I’ve also been asked by Jonathan Robbins if I’d guest-direct one of his second-season Clutch episodes. It’s all so exciting!
Our Facebook page is my favourite place to reach out and connect with the audience. I post there almost daily. So please, “Like” us! You can also follow us on Twitter, subscribe to us on YouTube, Dailymotion or Blip.TV. We are looking for support from our audience so that we can make season three with consistent quality, and with total devotion. It’s easy to do right from our website, at outwithdad.com/contribute. To watch all of Out With Dad in one convenient place, got to outwithdad.com/watchall.
The most important thing our audience can do, is share us!
Erin: What initially drew you to being Rose and did you have any hesitations about playing a lesbian? Did you feel it would pigeonhole you at all in your career where you'd only be cast as the lesbian in the future?
Kate Conway: The role was posted on a casting website and the description fit my type and personality perfectly. I look a lot younger than I am and when I was younger I was more of a fly on the wall who only opened up around the people I trusted, like family and friends. I was especially drawn to the intense experience of coming out. I never had to, so this role would really require me to take on another person's completely different emotional state. No hesitations! I was excited to play a lesbian. Most of my family is non-practicing Catholic so I knew they'd feel a little uneasy about it, but I didn't worry for a second. It's a possibility that it will pigeonhole me but that's the nature of the business. Actors tend to stick to their type regardless. If I'm good at playing it, then I know I'm doing something right. I'm still young, so hopefully if I impress future directors, they'll trust me to stretch out a bit and challenge myself with various types of roles.
Erin: What was your preparation for playing Rose?
Kate: Because I am older now, I had to bring myself back into the memories of being 15. It's an awkward, confusing, and heartbreaking time for most of us and I was always very self-conscious. I may not have been in love with my best girlfriend, but secretly crushing on people from a far was kind of a habit of mine. And at that age it's not a crush, IT'S LOVE. The challenge really lies in the fact that Rose is hiding a part of herself that can be absolutely terrifying to reveal. For certain people in the world, it can be downright dangerous. Researching and hearing personal stories is all I really have to work with. I am constantly hoping I'm doing it justice.
Erin: Is there anything about Vanessa that you feel you most relate to and do you see a bit of yourself in her at times?
Lindsey Middleton: I come from a very small town and a very close, pretty religious family where being gay wouldn't be accepted too well. I've seen my friends from home come out and the results haven't ended to well. When I'm playing Vanessa I just imagine going through what she is going through with my own family and the same difficulties would probably arise (though not the degree as Vanessa's family reacts). I couldn't handle not having my family in my life so I use that idea to connect myself closer to Vanessa.
Erin: Where would you like to see Vanessa's character taken, do you think she'll ever overcome this pressure on her by her family to be Heterosexual?
Lindsey: Without giving too much away, I have spoken with Jason about where Vanessa is heading next and I don't think it's anywhere where people are expecting! But as an actor I CANNOT WAIT for what we are going to do next!
Erin: For Kate, Will and Lindsey - How has the reaction been by your friends and family regarding the series? Also the fans, how do you feel about their reaction to the show and do you ever get noticed on the street by fans? It's a powerful series clearly its having an impact on gay and lesbian teens what is your thoughts on that.
Lindsey: This series has made such an incredible impact on so many people. Since doing it I have seen the opinions of my family and friends from back home become more accepting of homosexual relationships, which is probably the most exciting thing for me personally. I have been recognized a couple times at school and once on a streetcar which has been awesome! Everyone has been super nice and super thankful for the work I'm doing which I didn't understand at first until I started getting emails from fans from all over the world. People will contact me almost daily telling me how the series has helped them, or how much they relate to Vanessa and how they watch it with their parents, which is incredible! I really do think this show is making a difference in the lives of a lot of people, which is amazing because when I signed up for the show I never thought it would have had the impact that it has, and hopefully it will keep making an even bigger impact.
Out With Dad’s Jason and Kate just make the trip to France to be a part of the 2012 Marseille Web Fest where they won the French TV Award! Out With Dad has also been picked up for French television, part of the award is a cash prize which will go towards the production of their third season. From a small web series to a TV series on French TV it can only go up from here. We can only hope this pickup overseas leads to more achievements going forward, I have a feeling with such a wonderful cast, intelligent heartfelt writing that it will. While Jason Leaver and his cast of characters may not realize it they are helping so many LGBT teens out there and even some of us adults deal with coming out, living our lives as LGBT citizens and trying to navigate these sometimes shark infested waters we call society. When you feel alone in the world, when people at school make fun of you when your parents don’t know what to say to you and your heart is breaking it’s always good to know that friends are nothing but a mouse click away. Remember making Out With Dad doesn’t come cheap so if you have an extra $5 laying around use it wisely and donate to this great show I promise you’ll feel so good about yourself afterwards. Help Make Season Three Possible!Watch Out With Dad