Jason Heat is a name that many of you may know. He is the Founder & Producing Artistic Director at Flying V Theatre, Commentator for ChikaraPro Wrestling and PrimeTime Pro Wrestling, and he is the promoter for one of the fastest growing wrestling companies, Flying V Fights: Pro Wrestling, which is the only company to mix wrestling and theatre. He is a man of many talents and is well known within the independent wrestling scene. Recently we sent Jason some questions about what hobby he has recently picked up, his commentating style and preparation, what has Flying V Theatre/Flying V Fights: Pro Wrestling been up to and plans for the future, and some of his favorite moments.
We see you have recently started your “Burger Boy Chronicles,” what has been your most challenging burger to make and what has been your favorite so far?
JH: For anyone who doesn’t know, “The Burger Boy Chronicles” is my attempt to learn and make as many different regional hamburger styles from across the country (and eventually the world) as I can. I basically realized I didn’t have an active hobby at home and once the stay at home order hit I was just working all the time or passively reading or watching TV and on the internet way too much. This is giving me a reason to expand my comfort and confidence in the kitchen and also invest in a lot more necessary equipment than I had before (as well as some fairly specific or otherwise ludicrous items). By far the most difficult to nail down has been the Juicy Lucy, maybe the most scientific burger to make so far in terms of measurements and cooking times – this is a stuffed burger that comes out of Minneapolis and you need evenly pressed patties and very specific temperature and timings. I’ve made two attempts so far and still have a ways to go. My favorite has probably been my recreation of the In-N-Out Double Double Animal Style. I’ve never had real In-N-Out before but after making one at home, I absolutely understand all the love. The big trick is you actually griddle the pattys in mustard, which is a really unique cooking style and flavor profile.
Clearly, when I get into something, I go all in.
You wear many hats within the Indy wrestling community, including commentary. In fact, you are considered by many as one of the top commentators on the Indy scene. How much prep does it take to commentate a show? Any other promotions your looking forward to working for in the future?
JH: You are very generous when you say that, and I sincerely appreciate it and absolutely intend to keep working to get to a place where I feel like that is more accurate. Every company is a bit different in terms of prep because each promotion has different goals and styles not only for commentary but also in overall show production, and organizational system, and more. In a perfect world my prep would always look like getting a card in advance so I can do my own research and get a base level of facts, context, moves, history, and anecdotes for wrestlers I may not be familiar on. I want to absolutely get key story or plot points from the promoter or creative director on the long term stories, the matches, and the angles, and the show composition. And I want to talk to each performer individually day of to see what they want hit in their own words and how their match will be structured, and to deep dive into their character’s motivations and goals and skills & strengths. I also work with a number of different partners, sometimes from match to match on the same show, and talking over how we mesh in terms of style and role is really important. I want to always be uniquely me but at the same time be very adaptable to the situation I’m needed for. Calling Prime Time solo requires a different mindset than being the play by play guy and straight man to Sidney at Chikara, whereas at Flying V Kevin Ford is on Play By Play and I’m not only color, but a larger character in the world. I want to be both consistent and specific to putting over the needs of the match, performers, and promotion.
In terms of where I’d like to work, the dream right now would be AEW. I love the roster and really enjoy the presentation and calling with Excalibur would be a real bucket list item. Looking at promotions on the Indie Scene, Paul Crockett and Sidney Bakabdella are a great team for Beyond, but if either ever needed a night off I’d love to pinch hit and do a show their. S.U.P.’s aesthetic is probably the one I enjoy most on the Indies right now and I really enjoy working with Dylan, who taught me a lot as I was starting, so that would be a blast. I had a great time at ACTION in Georgia and would love to be back.
I’m super open though, and really want to travel, so I’d love to try more places out all over. And this is a chance for two plugs – one, I have the set up to record commentary remotely so if anyone has footage they need worked on, let me know. Second, my Flying V commentary partner and our lead broadcaster Kevin Ford is vastly underutilized these days and I do think we make a great team so consider us together! (Sidney and I make an awesome team too, but between Chikara and Beyond I don’t think he’s the hidden gem Kevin is).
Let’s talk about Flying V Theatre/Wrestling? What has the company been up to during the quarantine?
JH: As soon as the Coronavirus caused us to have to cancel or postpone all the different events we had planned for the majority of the year, we immediately pivoted to work towards creating art that made sense under these unique circumstances with three major priorities:
Most importantly, to continue our mission of trying to combat existential loneliness, anguish, and dread through the performing arts and inspiring people to want to live life more, especially through the creation of original work that explores the intersection of intimate aspects of the human condition through high concept metaphors with a Pop-Culture lens.
To continue to generate revenue to keep the Company alive and hopefully thriving, and to keep paying our Staff, Artists, and other essential needs.
To maintain relevancy in a world where our greatest strength, the power together together, was no longer available to us.
So honestly first step was a lot of strategy and grant writing, trying to make up for as much lost revenue with other funding sources as possible. We also on-boarded our new Managing Director, Katherine Offutt, right as all this started which was stressful but also such a boone to have her. A lot of important, pragmatic, unglamorous work has been at the heart of the last few months in terms of administration and infrastructure.
Artistically, we’ve been SUPER busy and productive as well. We started to invest in our YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/flyingvtheatre) and created our Wednesday “Spotlight Series” show and Free Match Friday releases to showcase our previously existing content. We started PROMOnday as an opportunity for both fundraising and fan engagement, to support both the Company and our talent (PROMOnday is where, every Monday, we have a different wrestler who will cut a custom Promo for anyone who donates that day and proceeds are split with that wrestler). We started a new weekly Podcast, AUDIO AWESOME (audioawesome.libsyn.com) which is an eclectic weekly mix of all things Flying V, and where we hosted THE QUARANTINE CLASSIC – a month long Promo Tournament where we crowned the first ever Champion in Flying V history, The Verbal Slam Champion with Joey Ibanez winning the tournament and title.
We teamed with +2 Comedy to produce two special Twitch Stream versions of “The Adult Fan-Fiction World Championships” and have started producing Creator Commentary tracks for some of our older shows. We are also hard at work developing a LOT of new work for all different platforms including Season 2 of our Paperless Pulp anthology radio play Podcast, our next devised show “Ghost Stories and Love Songs,” several new scripted plays (including one I’m writing with Eel O’Neal), and a massive 24 Hour event coming in January hosted by Navi, known as “The Day We Do Not Discuss.” We also co-produced a massively successful Virtual Stage Combat Workshop – The Social Distance Showdown – and are working on a sequel.
That’s just the tip of the surface, only scratching the iceberg, of what we’re up to. Literally every day we are discussing and trying out new ideas to see what will make it to the surface and gain traction.
As states are slowly reopening, does Flying V Theatre/Wrestling have plans in place to start production again? Any plans to run close production shows?
JH: Safety and responsibility is our top priority so the answer is “yes, but constantly evolving.” We formed a Board Committee to oversee our re-opening efforts in terms of live performance, and evaluate everything we’d need to do from Social Distancing seat plans, to disinfecting our surfaces, to dealing with choke points like entry ways and bathrooms. The truth is that we’re much more likely to be able to start working in limited ways with performers before we can even think about audiences, so we are already starting to consider how to better and more often incorporate live streaming and video into our productions the way we already do with wrestling. Tentatively, if all is safe to do so, we’d like to start with smaller scale live events in November as a test for our 10th Anniversary Celebration in January.
With regards to wrestling< i don’t find the empty arena shows fun or exciting to watch and both artistically and financially I don’t think they make sense for Flying V. What does interest me are the “CineMatches” as that is taking the art form and blending it into something where the filmed, post-production nature is essential to its success. So I can say we are actually looking into doing a CineMatch special, The Battle of the Black Box. There is no guarantee of it happening – we’re still looking at budgets, and safety considerations. But it is something I would really love to pursue.
So if you’d like to sponsor that, and help make it a reality, let me know! https://flyingv.democracyengine.com/flyingv/contribute
JH: A few that come immediately to mind:
– At SWEET SUMMER HEAT when the crowd started chanting “Molly Ringwald” at Logan and I knew our “Evil Breakfast Club” riff was working. That was my first real original idea for FVF:PW and that moment was really gratifying.
After our first show Hallowicked sent me a really nice note about our professionalism and our production and that meant the world to me. Chikara is how I got into independent wrestling and so that guard being so supportive and involved with us means a lot, personally.
We did a show, BE AWESOME, which was a play of live action music videos set to 90s songs, but was actually about a young man who finds out he has stage 4 brain cancer at the age of 30. His wife is pregnant, and the play is him creating a mixtape for the daughter he’ll never get to meet. It was a super personal piece for me about mortality and telling your story through music. After the run, an audience member told us his father in law was very ill, and he had been thinking about the show. We later got this e-mail: “On Friday, my father in law had his last really good engaged with visitors day. Saturday, he was out of it, so we performed for him what we guessed would be his mix tape. Some Sinatra, some Tony Bennet, lots of show tunes from the 50s and 60s. His eyes were closed but he could hear – he smiled when we flubbed some lines. He passed on Monday, but we did our Flying V day at valley hospital CCU – and we felt better for it. More info than you wanted, but that’s where your theatre led us!” This is of my proudest and most profound moment, to hear that our work helped create a moment of joy in the face of grief. I think, to this day, it stands as maybe our best moment.