Born and raised in Toronto, Winnifred Jong has always loved film. With over 15 years of experience in the industry, Jong has worked on series like Flashpoint, Played, Bomb Girls and more, in addition to her short film work. She's making her web series debut with Tokens, as she gears up for the IPF process! Learn more about Jong's work and Tokens. And be sure to share the trailer!
netTVnow: Tell me about Tokens. Where did the concept for the series come from?
Winnifred Jong: The concept of the series, Tokens, came from a text message exchange that I had with an actor friend. I knew it was a funny concept whereby I could also showcase diverse talent. I wrote the pilot episode and applied to Women In the Director’s Chair where the series was further developed.
NTN: I was really drawn to your trailer because of how you fully take on the stereotypes that we often see in entertainment. What was the writing experience like for you?
WJ: When I wrote the trailer, I had to think about the worst stereotypical roles available to actors. I included characters that some Asian actors are asked to portray. Tokens is about taking these stereotypes and flipping them. Sammie Pang is going to play a well-built tattooed bouncer and she’ll to find her inner strength to pull that off. The comedy comes from the unexpected.
NTN: Did you pull from any personal experiences?
WJ: Of course I pulled from personal experiences! While they might not be literally drawn from actual circumstances, I think people have a preconceived notion or judgement of who I am when they see me. It’s when I tell them that I hitchhiked from Paris to Cannes and crashed the Cannes Film Festival and lied, telling them I was a Canadian journalism student, that people take a step back and see another dimension to me. Similarly, I want to the characters in Tokens to surprise you.
NTN: Can you tell us more about your background in the industry?
WJ: I went to Ryerson University and studied Film Production. For over 15 years I’ve been a script supervisor working in both television and features both here in Canada and abroad. I’ve directed some second unit on network television and for the past two years have been developing my own projects to direct.
NTN: What made you want to turn this into a web series versus another format? Is this your first web series?
WJ: This is my first web series and my first attempt at writing a series. I felt that the web series format, with its shorter development schedule and lower budgets might be better for an emerging storyteller like me. I wanted to turn it into a web series to hopefully gather a larger, engaged web audience. I liked the idea of bite-sized entertainment.
NTN: What was it like writing for this sort of format versus a short or any other type of screenwriting?
WJ: In many ways I enjoyed this format much more than writing a short. While I had an overall arc and message to Tokens, I was able to divide the plot into episodes which are both stand-alone stories, but also have a serialized element for audiences who are following the series throughout. I have trusted mentors who help with the comedy and structure.
NTN: What are you hoping audiences will take away from your series?
WJ: First and foremost, Tokens is a comedy. I want the audiences to laugh and enjoy the characters and situations. However, I do hope it can start a conversation about diversity and stereotyping in media. I hope it shows a fresh take on blind casting and what potential talents diverse actors can offer.
NTN: We know you’re going through the IPF process at the moment, what’s that like?
WJ: This is all about learning for me. I like that this year, the IPF wants experienced and emerging talent to partner. I’m learning so much about social media, analytics, audience engagement, and financing. The amount of self-promotion is crazy. I hope my friends forgive me! I’m also connecting with industry experts and learning about the market, which is totally different than the traditional market which I have been working in. Sometimes I stress that my trailer isn’t getting enough views and other times I take a Zen approach.
NTN: Where do you hope the web series community will be in the next five years?
WJ: I hope that the web series community will be a force in the next five years where creatives can not only gain audience share but generate revenues to keep them employed.
NTN: Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to share, or anything else to add?
WJ: My short film, Milk, will had its World Premiere on March 25 at the Canadian Film Fest. I am in pre-production on another short film, Distant Cousins, which I hope to shoot later this year. I am also looking for representation, so somebody come and sign me up!