A closer look at Rise ‘n Shine Og

by Patricia Cullen on November 18, 2009

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It’s been said that Vancouver is a hotspot of industry talent. And it’s also been said that you gotta go out and make what you want of this world. I present to you, proof, that both statements are true. Quite true indeed.  Introducing Anita Smith. Creator, Writer, Executive Producer, Lead Actor and Caterer for Rise’n Shine Og. A new comedic webseries about the life of a potty mouthed, questionably lazy and certainly unfortunate 20-something Brit living in Canada who goes by the name of Og.

Let’s get the first and most obvious question out of the way…Og?

Og is the leading lady of the series. When I was writing the script I didn’t have a name for our main character so I referred to her as Our Girl. Then I abbreviated it to O.G. and then I had Og. She is a Brit, living in Canada who has a boyfriend, Jess (played by Robin Nielsen) who she feels is far too good looking for her. In the first episode Og says “I really should break up with him, he really is gorgeous. God I hate that. It’s never good to be the ugly one in the relationship.” [Which is a rather tame statement for Og, considering] she is crude and swears a lot using an odd combination of swears. And she hates to get out of bed. She just doesn’t have a live for it. She just wants to sleep. So every episode, Og literally finds a reason to Rise’n Shine.

Speaking of ‘having a live for it’, when did you know you wanted to be an actor?

That’s an easy one for me. I was a shy kid though my siblings might deny that. I was asked to be in a church pageant playing a comedic character which I’ve never done one before & I went way over the top. Everyone burst into laughter and that was it.

What is your training as an actor?

I received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre Performance from the University of Regina, 4 year program. That’s my formal training. Some workshops and a few classes at the Actors Foundry. I try to keep in classes or workshops fairly often to keep working at it.

How did Rise’n Shine Og come to be?

I was in my first class at the Actors Foundry and Chris Nowland handed me a postcard with a weblink to watch a show that he and Colby Johannson put together called, For Your Security. So I went home, watched it and thought, ’I could do that!’ About two days later I started writing. It’s just over a year ago that I finished the first draft of the script. The first episode took me two days to draft. But I tweak it right up until the day. It’s all based on real life, stupid, embarrassing stuff that happened to me and to people I knew. So the story’s there but I just embellish it so it’s entertaining and not just sad.

How many hats did you wear in creating this webseries?

Well, I was the Creator, the Executive Producer; though I had help with the producing side of things with thanks to Robin Nielsen and Danielle Stott-Roy; I was the sole writer, and I play Og. Greg, my wonderful husband, did the catering for the show but he’s a vegetarian and when I say picky I mean, nachos. So he doesn’t really know how to cook anything with meat. So I had to, before the shoot, prepare a lot of the food.  But while I wore many hats, there’s no way I could have done this without the talented and supportive people backing me up. A lot of people.

What inspired you to write Rise’n Shine Og?

When I came here from Saskatoon, nobody in casting would see me at auditions because no one knew who I was. When I met Chris Nowland, I thought this is something I could do to showcase what I’m capable of and they don’t have leave their home to watch it.

Have you written scripts before?

Yeah I have. I’ve written quite a bit for children’s theatre. I founded and managed a non-profit theatre company. And wrote a one act play starring myself, two other women and one man. I like to write parts for women because I feel the bulk of the roles go to men. So when I have an option when the character could be male or female, I’ll usually make the character female.

How did you fund the project?

Oh the money. Uh yeah. It was a really low budget show. About half of the per episode budget went to catering. And everyone will tell you that the food was good but it wasn’t anything special. (For the record, this writer disagrees. Anita makes some mean homemade chocolate chip cookies.) My Mom and Dad loaned me money for Episodes 2 through 5. I paid for episode one shot in Calgary and I saved to do it. It was either Credit Card debt to shoot the rest or take up Mom and Dad’s offer. They are very supportive parents. Very lucky there.

How did you find your cast & crew?

Quite a hodge podge of ways that everyone came about. The Actors Foundry did a hefty amount of the casting. Craigslist was a great source for finding crew. I can’t believe it – but it was! Matthew Harrison recommended Robin to play Jess. We had shot the 1st episode, in Calgary, which we had to scrap because of technical difficulties. After we reshot that, Robin offered his help, and his girlfriend Danielle offered as well. I was pleased with the generosity & sense of community of the cast and crew involved. Most our locations were free. One thing I’ve really learned from this, if you don’t ask, you’ll never know. The worst that can happen is they’ll say no.

How many crew on an average day?

Yikes! Between 15 and 20, all volunteer. I know over the course of everything, there was over 100 people involved.

How does it feel to have completed something that recruited 100 people, all from a thought?

Crazy man. It feels really good, but unfinished. While most people like the cast & crew have moved onto other things, I’m still pouring myself into this. I didn’t realize how much work was still required after the camera’s stop working. I’m so proud that I was able to recruit a good group of talented people.

How many shoot days per episode?

2 days. Except episode three because it was a big episode and we had to shoot in a church. Normally we shoot Saturday and Sundays, so obviously that wouldn’t work for church.

What camera was used?

Canon EOS 1D Mark III camera, same model used to shoot the Taj Mahal scenes in Slumdog Millionaire. If the camera operator was setting up a shot in a tricky place, they would take a still shot and hand it to the Director. It was great!

What were your biggest challenges & how did you overcome them?

That is…that’s tricky. Because there were challenges the whole way along. For example, the first episode we shot here, we lost our location the day before we were supposed to start filming. So that was a challenge finding a replacement. Episode three, the director got sick and had to leave so Robin had to step up as Director, which he hadn’t planned for. So that was a challenge.

The second you think it’s all going to run smooth, you’re doomed, because it won’t. Plan for it to go wrong, so when it does, you’re like okay, I have a plan for this. Learn and move on. We lost our camera once, two days before filming. But you know, the show must go one. That old adage, you keep that in mind. It really helped.

I’ve ran 2 marathons, and it helps to put things in perspective. Lose a location, oh well, gotta keep moving, gotta move on. Cause in a marathon, you really wanna die sometimes. But you gotta keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Rise’n Shine Og was not filmed in front of a live audience but Episode 1 & 2 are available online, right at this very moment at www.risenshineog.com. Return to Og November 27th to catch Episode 3: To Kill Ya Wedding.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Anita November 18, 2009 at 8:11 am

Thank you Kenji and Patricia for helping get the word out about the show!

ruthie November 18, 2009 at 1:49 pm

Yay! Great show. Great article!

Josh Rimer November 24, 2009 at 3:23 pm

Cool interview, love hearing about the behind the scenes stuff with projects like this. Makes me glad to know I’m not alone with all the hard work and money I put into my own stuff! :-)

Kenji Maeda November 24, 2009 at 5:38 pm

You’re definitely not alone, Josh. I know you’ve been working hard making your own projects over the years as well. :-)

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