To say women are vastly underrepresented in the television industry is an understatement. They make up half of the population but are producing and directing only 20 per cent of network shows. While the stats are improving, it’s a long way from true gender parity.
Those same disheartening statistics exist in the Electronic Dance Music (EDM) sphere. Women are woefully underrepresented behind turntables, and those who are rising through the DJ ranks are regularly overlooked or dismissed by EDM journalists and promoters. Forbes Magazine’s list of the 15 highest-paid DJs of 2018 didn’t include a single woman, and women were missing from DJ Magazine’s 25th anniversary list of 25 dance music pioneers, despite women’s presence in the EDM space since the earliest days of the genre.
Even EDM superstar Steve Aoki decried the ongoing gender imbalance in his sector, telling TMZ in 2018 that “promoters need to take a stand and book more female DJs.”
It’s within this reality that Turning the Tables spins its pulsating, boundary pushing, woman-driven tale.
Turning the Tablesis a narrative web series that follows a young woman named Jay (played by Lanie McAuley) as she seeks to establish herself in the EDM world while trying to figure out what happened to her missing roommate.
The locally shot series of nine five-minute shorts represents a milestone in the career of Vancouverite Liz Levine. Levine is already celebrated as a producer and development executive — her credits include jPod and Kyra Sedgwick’s Story of a Girl — but Turning the Tables marks her first showrunning, directing and writing for screen.
“I have a background as a writer but not as a screenwriter,” says Levine, who wrote for the National Post and whose book Nobody Ever Talks About Anything but the End: A Memoir of Loss will be published in January 2020. “I had directed for screen but not often in a space where I’ve also done all of the other jobs. So to really showrun something and be able to envision a world and then make it real is a pretty phenomenal experience.”
Although Levine isn’t from the EDM world, she and co-writer/co-director Jax Smith immersed themselves in EDM think pieces, biographies and music. It didn’t take them long to note parallels between EDM and the film and television industry.
“Like a lot of spaces, it has been male dominated, but also it’s changing,” says Levine. “There are all sorts of real female EDM stars that are beginning to surface and that made us excited.”
Like the character of Jay — a classically trained pianist with EDM leanings and a mother who has very specific plans for her daughter — Levine and Smith grew up in more traditional households. “Yet we’ve both ended up in film and television, and we thought this was a parallel journey that we could relate to with our protagonist,” says Levine. “She comes from a more conservative, more conventional world where her parents expect her to be a classical musician, and we looked at what it means to find a space that’s not always friendly, that is male dominated, and how to move through that and come to the surface with some modicum of success.”
Matthew Kevin Anderson plays DJ Chase, a DJ and club owner whose sound is reminiscent of Avicii, and Donna Benedicto (Supergirl) portrays Ash, an established EDM DJ who soon becomes Jay's rival.
When Turning the Tables launched May 30, it kicked off a 14-week program of original episodes, behind the scenes content and Spotify playlists curated by composer Steph Copeland. “[Copeland] gave each of our four leading characters their own sound and their own tone, and that created amazing listening for us and also an understanding of how EDM culture comes together and where the influences are and how those influences rely on each other to create new sounds all of the time,” says Levine who, along with her crew, filmed Turning the Tablesat Ironworks, Gorg-O-Mish and in a Main Street apartment this past March.
Another of Turning the Tables’ remarkable attributes is the series was created, written, directed, produced and scored almost entirely by women. (Take that, patriarchy!)
“It is an absolute joy to look around the room at a machine running perfectly and seeing six or more amazing women holding it all together,” says Levine. “That was a real privilege in this space.”