Nothing drives filmmaking projects in the independent industry quite like passion. However, when a personal experience is added to the mix, it can make a project that much more powerful.
Writer, producer, actress, and martial arts aficionado, Tara Cardinal, has both, which collectively serve as an inspiration for her upcoming creation.
If this name sounds familiar, it may be because I have had the pleasure of speaking with Tara before. You can revisit the interview here. You may have also heard her name in association with the horror short film directed by Joseph Davis and Brian Gerson entitled Puppet. You can revisit my review for the short film here. However, she has also made several appearances in full-feature films including her own production, Legend of the Red Reaper. This time, I had the pleasure of speaking with Tara about her passion project, which addresses domestic violence, entitled Karma Klub. Continue reading for the project’s development, the terrifying personal story that inspired the series and how you can help to bring Karma Klub to life.
PopHorror: So Tara, you have a web series currently in development called Karma Klub about ass-kicking women who stomp out domestic violence one abuser at a time. Could you tell me more about the premise of this new series?
Tara: Yeah! So, Karma Klub is specifically about professional female fighters, which I don’t think we have seen a whole lot of before. Usually, women who are strong and kickass on a physical level tend to be in the Sci-fi and fantasy realm or sometimes they come off as strange. For example, they hire these really skinny actresses to throw a few punches. Of course, if you have any training in martial arts of any kind, you’ll know that only works in some ways. When you have a huge power imbalance, then using power against power doesn’t work. You have to work smarter than that. The only time you can use power against power is when you’re evenly matched or when you’re larger.
PopHorror: It’s a lot like Wing Chun. That style of martial art doesn’t use force on force. It’s about using your opponent’s momentum against them.
Tara: Exactly! I feel like quite a few films and series that feature ass-kicking women don’t often get martial arts on many levels. Not just the dynamics of it, but also the premise of it, which is to master yourself rather than everyone else around you.
PopHorror: You are the co-creator and director of Karma Klub, correct?
Tara: Yes, but because I will be on both sides of the camera, I feel very strongly about bringing in other directors to help with the actual series. Helping me bring all of this together is co-creator Jennifer Thomas who has been very instrumental throughout this process.
PopHorror: When did you come up with the idea of Karma Klub and what was its inspiration?
Tara: Ok, we’re going to get really personal here. It has been almost two years since my ex-boyfriend broke into my apartment and attacked me in the middle of the night. For a number of reasons, I wasn’t really able to fight him off. I was able to defend myself and I was able to escape, but there is an enormous size difference between us. The reality of the situation when you’re being attacked by someone who outweighs you by your own body weight and towers over you by over a foot is that once the situation is escalated, you’re literally looking at life or death. For me to fight back, the only way that ends is with one of us dead or in the hospital. So, the calculation I made was to run and I barely got out. In fact, my neighbor heard the screaming, which was mostly coming from my ex. My neighbor stepping in was what really kept it from turning into something worse. I didn’t have much in the way of physical injuries, but he did leave a mark on me. The police photographed it, which they used as evidence. Upon my request, the police stayed with me the entire night until the sun came up. They were wonderful. I couldn’t be alone in the dark because I was just terrified. I didn’t know if my ex was coming back or what was going to happen.
Following the incident, the city attorney got involved and did the prosecution, but they only prosecuted him on certain things. They didn’t charge him with vandalism or breaking and entering. They just wanted to get him on the domestic violence charge. But they ended up going really easy by cutting a plea with him. Aside from restitution of my phone, he only had to pay a small fine and he was required to have counseling. He received no jail time. I was very shaken up about all this and I felt very isolated, vulnerable and unsupported. And mine was one of those cases that actually went to trial. A lot of times, they don’t even get that far.
So, I thought to myself, as I was recovering more emotionally than physically, wouldn’t it be great if one of my female fighter friends went and kicked his ass. One of my friends came over not long after the incident. She’s a real fighter who has been doing professional wrestling for years. We started talking, fantasizing and we just came up with this idea of Karma Klub where professional female fighters track down violent domestic abusers who have escaped justice and beat them up!
PopHorror: Hence, Karma!
Tara: Exactly, but to avoid any misconceptions, I think it’s important for people to understand that this is not some man-hating series. In fact, there are many men involved in the Karma Klub network. This series addresses an issue that has not only personally affected me, but many other people involved with the project.
PopHorror: I completely agree about the importance of the topic. This is an important issue in our society that shouldn’t be shied away from addressing. The last time we spoke, we talked about your experience as a stuntwoman with martial arts experience as well as your involvement in professional wrestling in an all-women’s circuit. I would say this qualifies you to oversee much of the fight scenes and stunts. Do you have a part in coordinating this element of the series?
Tara: Yes and no. As the co-creator, I have a lot of say over everything. One of the things that I have found as an actor and stunt person is that each person who has these skills tend to have different things at which they excel and certain things that their bodies simply cannot do. Some people are really great with their upper body, but they can’t throw a kick. But don’t get them in a boxing ring because they will destroy you. Some people are better at flying through the air. Other people don’t want to leave the ground. So, my plan is to tailor the action to the actor.
PopHorror: That definitely makes sense just looking at the semi-recent McGregor Vs. Mayweather fight where it was mixed martial arts vs. boxing. From my understanding, you still have a bond with the women you formally wrestled with in the all-women’s wrestling circuit. Will any of them be making an appearance in the web series?
Tara: I hope they all will. At this point, we haven’t gotten far enough along to really start casting. Basically, the people who are currently involved are individuals in my social circle. The whole idea of Karma Klub is that it is this huge underground network and everyone is invited.
PopHorror: So, in a way, it’s kind of like Fight Club.
Tara: Exactly! I pitch it as Charlie’s Angels meets Fight Club except everyone gets to be Charlie. Karma Klub is an underground network of not just fighters, but also allies. People who have seen something happen and know that something needs to be done. These people submit their tips in various ways. A long-term goal of the series is to have a franchise! I know that’s asking a lot of a web series, but why not a Karma Klub L.A., Toronto, New York, and Miami? Why not every city?
PopHorror: Like CSI. That would be a cool thing to see. While the premise of the series is appealing enough, is there anything in particular that you would like to point out, which will keep the series fresh and moving from episode to episode?
Tara: Yes! So, all of these women have very full lives and they are juggling careers, relationships and personal problems along with their involvement in the underground network. I won’t say whom yet, but one of the Karma Klub characters in the story is an alcoholic. Of course, one of the rules of Karma Klub is that you can’t be drunk, for a variety of reasons. But this character sometimes does show up to the hit drunk. There’s another no-so-happy subplot where one of the girls becomes involved in an abusive relationship, which causes her to show up with bruises she attempts to explain away. Of course, that is another deal breaker. You cannot be in Karma Klub if you’re in an abusive relationship. Another element of the series is a strong woman fighter who resents Karma Klub for beating up her brother. Believing the accusations were false and his punishment was unjust, this character will stop at nothing to take out every woman in Karma Klub.
Not all women are on board with what comes around goes around. And that has also been true in reality with some of the feedback I have received from the Karma Klub trailer as well. There are women who have been very vocal in siding with the abusers, which to me is incredible given that we don’t actually show the abusers in their abusive acts. The focus is not on the men. We don’t see what they did to deserve it and we don’t see the reactions to the beatings that they take. This is a specific artistic choice. I have no interest in showing men abusing women because I don’t want anyone to be able to say that he didn’t deserve his punishment, that his punishment was too harsh or question what the victim did to cause the abuse in the first place. We have enough of that already and I don’t want to give anyone a reason to say that about this series.
PopHorror: That’s definitely respectable. I’m aware that Karma Klub is in a contest for a grant, which will help fund the project. What contest is this, how much will the grant help in producing the series and how can those who are interested help in the contest process?
Tara: Great question, thank you! The contest ends March 31st so we’re in a huge time crunch. The contest is only a month long. It’s a Canadian independent production grant specifically for a web series. I’m Canadian, by the way, which is why we’re eligible at all. At this stage, the contest is focused on YouTube views and audience interaction, which means hitting the thumbs up, subscribing and leaving a comment. In my opinion, even a negative comment is a positive thing.
PopHorror: How so?
Tara: Well, because it can spark discussion. I don’t need everyone to agree with everything I’ve ever done and tell me how great I am because I’ve done something. I think it’s wonderful that there have been people who have reached out stating that they disagree with the morality and premise of the project. That means they’re thinking about it. That means they’re analyzing it, they’re discussing it and they have opinions that they want to be heard. Of course, I want everyone to love it and be on board, but it’s also good when they’re not for whatever reasons. And if I have social media trolls, that means this has expanded beyond family and friends. And that’s fantastic.
PopHorror: That is a very positive perspective! Is there anything you would like to add concerning Karma Klub?
Tara: As much as I like the idea that what comes around goes around, I would love to contribute towards ending domestic violence. Ideally, I would love for the series to help change things in society for the better, but I would also settle for sparking a discussion to shift the perspective of how we currently view domestic violence.
Karma Klub is set to potentially begin as a web series, which may become something more through other streaming platforms. The trailer submitted for the grant includes many experienced and talented individuals with impressive resumes. Co-creator of Karma Klub, Jennifer Thomas, who was involved in WWE developmental, will also take part on both sides of the camera. Esther Goodstein is another powerhouse name with 19 producer credits on IMDb who serves as a producer for Karma Klub while appearing in the project’s trailer. YouTube star, Monique Parent, who has done numerous independent films, also appears in the trailer as well as comic book artist, George Perez, and Hollywood from the original 1986 women’s wrestling promotion GLOW. Other trailer appearances include martial arts Hall of Famer and weapons expert, Crystal Santos, and local celebrity of Burbank, California and owner of Dark Delicacies, Del Howison. Other familiar faces include Dominique Swain (Lolita, Face/Off ) and Gary Graham (Star Trek : Enterprise and other countless television series).
If you think Karma Klub is an appeal, whether it is ass-kicking women or the deeper meaning of addressing domestic violence, then show them your support! Check out the YouTube trailer, hit the thumbs up and comment. The more interest that is shown online will only help catapult this series to its true potential!