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An Interview with ‘The Next Dragon’ – Janell Vela Smith

Posted June 17, 2012 by Tiger33 in Features

Janell Vela Smith’s love for martial arts and fitness goes much deeper than a basic desire to ‘get fit‘ or ‘self defense‘. Janell is a true example of a martial artist who really ‘gives’ back to martial arts and local community. Personal Trainer, Stunt Coordinator, Producer, Role Model – Janell took time out from her busy schedule to have a quick chat with AMP about Martial Arts and her upcoming project : The Next Dragon.

AMP : Janell if you could give us a bit of a background into your interest in martial arts, and how it all began?

Janell : My martial arts journey began with my intrigue in old kung fu cinema, every Saturday afternoon I was glued to the television watching “Kung Fu” Theater. A station that played all of the original old school kung fu films that we all love!, As a young girl I was very active and athletic, from age 4 training in gymnastics, baton twirling, cheerleading, all athletics/dance based activities BUT,, I Loved going with my Dad to watch “live action” wrestling matches! My love for martial arts developed early but I was not able to learn until I was adult age. I joined a Dojang to learn how to kick properly, 17 years later 1st Dan TKD, 3rd Dan Tukong Moosul(traditional korean/chinese art), I have trained in many arts but I chose to be trained under a monk Wonik Yi from the Dae Yeon Sa Temple in Korea(Temple of Great Achievement)

He taught me the true meaning of a life dedicated to martial arts. Also, because of his expertise, we had many actors and Directors contact us in Austin, Texas to learn traditional martial arts for film work like Robert Rodriguez for his film Sin City.
I then helped develop Fighting Stunts Associaion in Austin Texas, we trained actors/martial artist for film work. Watching this process helped me later develop “The Next Dragon
My other projects either in Development or in Production -

Also developing 

  • In the Line of Duty reality show
  • Dominion Film with parters Jody Nolan and Jeremy Hawa



AMP  : You are currently heading a new project : The Next Dragon, Could you tell us a little bit about the project ,the structure of the forthcoming show, and of course the planned release date and availability?

Janell : Yes, I am Producing The Next Dragon, the structure was later developed by myself and Producers Arnie Reyes and Phil Abatecola(Producer of Hell’s Kitchen)
We are nearing end of development stage and going into pitch phase. We will see which major network is the best place for the Exciting new reality show!

AMP : So how did the Next Dragon get started ?

Janell : I developed the idea from my Stunt Company..working with various actors/martial artist for film projects. I thought it would be interesting to share this insight with audiences. It is a hard journey to develop ones skills as a “true martial artist” and as an actor. Many people do not understand the level of dedication this takes to become an “Action Star”

It is a hard journey to develop ones skills as a “true martial artist” and as an actor



AMP:For any upcoming martial artists actors reading this, are places still available on season 1 of Next Dragon, how can they go about getting involved ?

Janell : Place are still avaiable. They can contact us via our Facebook page – simply submit your demo reels and our producers will look through this for casting purposes as the time nears for final candidate selections.

AMP :Aside from being behind ‘The Next Dragon’ , you also seem to be involved in a multitude of areas revolving around screen fighting, can you tell us a little bit about your fighting stunts association ?

Janell : Yes, I have been the Director for Fighting Stunts for a few years. We provide film/tv/web/video games access to martial artists for their projects. I also help manage  the careers of several martial artists from the Fighting Stunts Association.


AMP :Are the judging panel been confirmed for The Next Dragon ? we heard rumours of a few famous names being involved in the project ?

Janell : We have been in contact with many A List directors/Martial Artists and Producers . At the moment we can not confirm the judges for the first season until the final round of negotiations are complete – but so far looking very good !



Trivia : Janell has also studied Taekwondo, IpsunTaichi, TaichiChuan. Competed for several years, almost making the US Olympic taekwondo team but missed by age cut-off. Went on to obtain several state, regional and National titles.


Training to be a Video Game Star


Training to be a Video Game Star

by HEATHER KOVAR / KVUE News and photojournalist DAVID GARDNER

Bio | Email | Follow: @HeatherK_KVUE


Posted on November 27, 2012 at 7:27 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 28 at 10:34 AM


AUSTIN --  A local stunt co-coordinator is working with the Syfy Channel on a new series and video game called Defiance

Janell Vela Smith has four black belts and her own production company,Iron Dragon Productions. She's a first degree in taekwondo and third degree in tukong moosul, the style used in the first "Sin City" movie.

Next week, Smith is going to start shooting for Defiance at Austin Studios. She is doing stunts, martial arts and possibly filling in for actresses on the series.

"It's going to be a lot of green screen work. So you may not actually see me, but you'll see me moving," Smith said.

She says that the show itself and video game are combined. "It's a new concept," Smith said. 

This is actually Smith's third video game. She's also worked on "Star Wars."

"You do a lot of takes over and over again. If they miss one move, they get another move from another angle," she said.

Smith is also currently training actress Patricia Vonne for her role in Sin City 2. She trains and teaches martial arts in gyms across Austin.

Janell's production company is doing a series called "The Next Dragon" for Robert Rodriguez's upcoming network, El Ray. Look for that next year, as well as Defiance on Syfy, which premiers in April. Smith says the video game is going to be tied-in directly with the show.  You can play online, but it will also be available to buy for all the major gaming stations.


Fighting on Film Austin Fusion Magazine


Austin Adds Spanish-Language Radio TV Stations


Austin adds Spanish-language radio, TV stations

By Gary Dinges


Published: 6:43 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 6, 2011

Racing to meet the demands of Austin's growing Latino community, area broadcasters are rolling out a variety of Spanish-language offerings.

Some, however, say still more options are needed to adequately serve the city's residents.

Austin has about 278,000 Latinos, according to the latest census figures, accounting for 29 percent of Austin's total population of about 790,000. The vast majority — 83 percent — are of Mexican origin.

One of the most recent additions is a local, over-the-air Telemundo affiliate on one of KEYE's digital subchannels. Telemundo Austin produces two newscasts each weekday, which can be seen on Channel 42.2.

Central Texans previously needed a cable subscription to see the network's national feed, which had no local programming.

"It's great to know there are so many people engaged in Spanish-language TV here in Austin," said Sarykarmen Rivera, who co-anchors the 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts on Telemundo Austin. "The growth we're seeing ... the numbers are outrageous."

ABC affiliate KVUE airs Estrella programming on its 24.2 digital subchannel, one of several Belo-owned stations across the nation to strike a deal with the fledgling network.

And Emmis Broadcasting, a company that focuses almost exclusively on English-language radio stations, launched a regional Mexican music format on 107.1 KLZT-FM.

Known on air as La Z, it is consistently among the city's top 10 radio stations, beating, among others, 94.7 KAMX-FM, 93.3/102.7 KGSR-FM and 98.1 KVET-FM in the most recent average quarter hour ratings from Arbitron.

"We're pretty happy with the results so far," said Chase Rupe, vice president of programming and operations for Emmis. "We've been the No. 1 Spanish-language station pretty much since we launched. We anticipated the station would do pretty well, but we thought it would take a little while to catch on."

With two TV stations and a pair of radio stations, Univision is by far the biggest Spanish-language player in Central Texas.

"They're tough competitors," Emmis' Rupe said. "They do this all over the country."

Univision is also the broadcaster that's been serving the area's Latino community the longest.

"For many Hispanics, we are much more than a TV station," said Javier Ramis, vice president and general manager for Univision station KAKW Channel 62 and its corporate sibling, Telefutura affiliate KTFO. "Often, we are the first friend they make when they move to Austin."

Viewership for the two stations is already high, and it continues to grow. Among Austin's Spanish TV stations, Ramis reports KAKW and KTFO have a combined 74 percent market share.

Univision 62 has produced local news for seven years, Ramis said, and ratings for its 5 p.m. newscast routinely top all Austin stations — English and Spanish — among adults ages 18 to 49.

"Our connection to our viewers is deeper," Ramis said. "We're delivering information that's very critical to their lives and their futures."

Nationally, numbers from Univision show the network's prime-time programs routinely outdraw — sometimes by a 3-to-1 ratio — top-rated shows such as Fox's "American Idol," ABC's "Modern Family" and NBC's "The Voice" among bilingual Hispanics ages 18 to 49, one of the so-called "money demos" advertisers crave.

Prime-time soap operas known as telenovelas are among the top performers. In fact, the 10 highest-rated Spanish-language programs nationwide during the May "sweeps" period were all Univision telenovelas.

Nightly episodes of "Triunfo del Amor" ("Triumph of Love") occupied the top five spots, followed by several episodes of "Teresa."

"The telenovela language is a language that transcends borders in Latin America," Ramis said. "Telenovelas are huge."

Advertisers on Telemundo, Univision and competing networks such as Estrella include many of the companies found on English-language TV.

The five biggest spenders, according to Advertising Age magazine, are Procter & Gamble, Verizon, AT&T, DirecTV and McDonald's.

Procter & Gamble alone spent almost $198 million on Spanish-language ads in the United States during 2010, up 23 percent from 2009.

Locally and across the nation, Spanish broadcasters aren't the only companies benefiting from the growing Latino population.

An estimated 66 percent of Hispanic adults ages 18 and older in the United States watch English and Spanish TV, according to Advertising Age, while 45 percent listen to the radio in both languages.

Barely a month old, locally produced "Viva Latino" is among the TV offerings aiming to appeal to bilingual audiences. Predominantly in English, the lifestyle program focuses on topics such as food and the arts, including a few brief segments that are in Spanish.

"I see a new trend developing," said creator Janell Vela Smith with Iron Dragon Productions. "We embrace our Latin culture, but there are times when we want to hear English. That's what I'm hoping to jump on."

"We get contacted all the time by people looking for quality content that appeals to our Hispanic community," said Erika Dresser, spokeswoman from the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. "Spanglish is what's most popular with Latinos here."

Larry Amaro, who works behind the scenes on several locally produced public-access offerings, including Latino music show "Fiesta Musical," is among those in search of quality programming.

Locally and nationally, he says there's just not enough of it, particularly for Mexican Americans.

The big Spanish-language TV networks have to cast a broader net, Amaro said, because they're beamed around the globe.

"I think it's because of resources, moneywise," he said. "They're big businesses, and by taking an international view, they can make more money."

While progress continues to be made, he said, there's more work to be done.

"When you look at the Mexican American population, is there enough media?" he said. "The answer is no."

gdinges@statesman.com; 912-5987


A sampling of some of the Spanish-language radio and TV offerings in Central Texas:



Telemundo, Channel 42.2

Univision, Channel 62



La Que Buena, 104.3 FM (Regional Mexican)

La Z, 107.1 FM (Regional Mexican)

La Jefa, 107.7 FM (Regional Mexican)

ESPN Deportes, 1260 AM (Sports)





‘Fiesta Musical'

11 a.m. Sunday

Public access Channel 16


‘Viva Latino'

11:30 a.m. Sunday

KNVA Channel 54


The Fighters Within: Excelling in a Man's World


Self Defense Skills can help women avoid attack



Self-defense skills can help women avoid attack

Pam LeBlanc, Fit City