D.W. Waterson is the powerhouse creator/director behind web series That’s My DJ, as well as the founder of production company Night Is Y. Her extensive career also includes directing music videos and DJing at events under the name “hey! dw”. This week, Talk Nerdy With Us got the chance to pick her brain about the show, music, and inspiration — you can read our interview below and find her on Twitter here.
How did the concept for TMDJ initially come about? Similarly, how did your production company Night is Y get started?
About 4 years ago I remember watching the music video for ‘Sweet Nothing’ by Calvin Harris ft. Florence Welch and something just clicked in my brain: “Someone should tell a story that takes place in the DJ world!” I was in the early stages of my DJ career but had already met so many interesting characters, experienced some epic moments, and had fallen in love with electronic music. After that “A-Ha!” moment all the pieces fell into place.
Night is Y was also another “A-Ha” moment. (laughs). I knew I wanted to start some sort of collective-brand-production company of passionate filmmakers, artists, actors, and musicians that focused on telling visually stunning dynamic stories. I believe I was listening to one of my favorite DJs’, Annie Mac, radio shows. She was interviewing 2 Bears when the name hit me: ‘Night is Y,’ which, for me, means the ‘the night is young’ as well as the night is ‘unknown’ (Y representing the unknown like in math (laughs)), as that’s where most of the adventure and drama happens — at night.
What was the casting process for the series like?
The casting process was so natural; the right people surrounded me when I was writing Seasons 2 & 3. The roles of Meagan and Sam were written with Emily Piggford and Jade Hassoune in mind. I remember meeting Dayle McLeod and after having our own lighting bolt moment I threw her in the room to see what the chemistry was like between her and Emily and BOOM: Hannah and Meagan were born. In regards to the rest of the cast, they all fell into place perfectly. Nico Racicot, Kelly McCormack, and Kristian Bruun — a true dream team of a cast.
The show has a few different slowed-down sequences with no dialogue, where colorful visuals and music speak for characters instead. With scenes like Meagan and Hannah’s grocery shopping adventure or their relationship montage, how do you make decisions about what tells the story best or communicates the meaning you want?
It’s something that comes from my gut in the writing stage, how I originally envision the scene playing out. At the end of the day, the question I ask myself is how do I get across the emotion of this scene and how do I get the audience to feel that? Being a DJ, I know how powerful music can be, and with a brilliant performance and well-executed editing you have the potential to really knock your audience into the back of their seats.
On Twitter, you’ve described TMDJ as “Skins smashed with The L Word” — I definitely thought of Skins when I saw the character-focused anthology format. Does the show have any other influences in terms of structure and style?
Love me some “Skins” and “The L Word.” (laughs). I would definitely throw in a little “Shameless” in there as “That’s My DJ” also plays with the balance of comedy and drama while keeping its overall style very RAW.
How do you choose which characters to focus on each season? Have any of their stories turned out different from what you originally imagined?
Originally Season 2 was supposed to continue to follow Simon a.k.a. Deadpixel, but with everything I had experienced that summer something just didn’t feel right in my gut. We needed a badass female to tell the story that was sitting inside me. Then I had my ‘A-HA!’ moment: MEAGAN! Beyond the fact the Emily Piggford is a such a talent and a bit of a muse, everything just came together.
Since music is such a huge part of the show, tell us about song selection for TMDJ. Is it ever tough choosing the soundtrack for a scene?
I loved choosing all the tracks for the season; for me, they really had to speak to the emotional state that Meagan was going through, so that the entire narrative could be elevated. Being a DJ/Producer myself, I turned to the DJ community in Toronto — an untapped well of CRAZY TALENT. Every song is a banger and playing on repeat on my playlist regularly.
(laughs) Thank you! I always knew how I wanted Simon’s DJ helmet to look like. With the name Deadpixel I knew it needed to be square with many squares inside, kinda like a disco ball meets Minecraft. Once I found the right adhesive reflector tape I sat in my apartment and got to work, kinda like Simon did in Episode 2 (laughs) and VOILA, Deadpixel helmet.
Simon and Meagan’s storylines both deal with career ambitions and romantic heartbreak. What can you tell us about Sam being the lead of season three?
The struggle between lust and logic is definitely a common theme in “That’s My DJ.” In Season 3 we find Sam in a similar fork in the road but this time, the lust revolves the partying, popularity and adrenaline of the DJ scene rather than a particular individual.
Any favorite scenes or filming anecdotes?
Filming all of the scenes in Episode 7 of Season 2 was definitely my favorite: so much fun, such a variety of emotions and locations where Dayle, Emily, and I got to play. Favorite line from the show is definitely “I would rather experience it and take a chance than not,” also from Episode 7 of Season 2.
What advice would you give to younger creative people interested in starting their own production company or making a series?
Just do it! A lot of people talk about doing projects, being creative and getting out there but few actually do. Be brave, take risks, and, to quote Mrs. Frizzle, “make mistakes and get messy.”
Are there any other projects currently in the works at Night is Y?
Currently, we are working on a couple of music videos that should be coming out over the next couple months. On top of that we are developing a new series and shopping around a feature film, so lots on the horizon!
*Featured image photo credit: John Paillé