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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.

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Janell Smith Exclusive Interview

Janell Smith Exclusive Interview



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Janell Smith Exclusive Interview

Janell Smith

Janell Smith has always called Austin, Texas home. Unlike other girls her age, as a child her father would take her to see boxing and wrestling matches which she found fascinating. A bright and energetic athlete throughout her life, Janell’s academic years centered on her studies and a host of extra curricular activities. As director of Fighting Stunts, Janell has produced 10 short films and a feature entitled Tremens.

In 1996, Janell began training in Taekwondo and eventually earned a 1st degree Black Belt. In 2004, she discovered Tukong Moosul, a form of martial arts developed by Grandmaster Wonik Yi. Overall, Janell has spent the last 12 years training in the martial arts. With countless awards and degrees of recognition, Janell began to serve as instructor at Grandmaster Yi’s academy. In 2005, the academy was selected by directors Robert Rodriquez and Frank Miller as a training ground for their film Sin City.  Janell Smith was fascinated with the process of training with actors and was motivated to help establish the Action Film Institute and Fighting Stunts Association.

Budomate: Janell, tell us please how and when did you come up with idea of the Next Dragon Show?

Janell: I started thinking about developing a show that showcased all of the amazing talent that I had been working with in Action/Stunts for Films in US(Texas). My teacher and I started a stunt company called Fighting Stunts Association and Action Film Institute.

We started the company after my teacher worked with Robert Rodriguez for the film “SinCity” He trained and choreographed Devon Aoki in her sword style (GrandMaster Wonik Yi-Creator of martial art style Tukong Moosul-trained at Dae Yeon Sa Temple in Korea). He also privately trained the Writer/Producer Mr. Frank Miller. We became known for training actors for action and stunts in film. I soon realized this was a lot of work and dedication to becoming an “Action Star” and to maintain ones mental spiritual training in the “Arts”. Bruce Lee was able to maintain both the “real” life combat training AND “Screen presence” for film.

Budomate: What is the main purpose of a new martial arts show “The Next Dragon”?

Janell: Our main purpose to to give “martial artist” all over the world an opportunity to become an action star. Many do not know how or where to begin getting into the Film Industry. Our show will be a wonderful platform for them to showcase their skills as a Martial artist and train with some of the best “action/stunt” trainers from all over the world. They will also be exposed to Directors and Producers from upcoming Action Films looking to cast some of them for their films.

Budomate: In January 2010 you were auditioning in Austin for a show, why did you start with Texas?

Janell: We started in Texas due to the fact that Texas is a great place for martial art tournaments. We attended a tournament to discover up and coming talent. This is how Bruce Lee was discovered by Producers. I am also from Texas and I serve on many boards to help develop the “Film” Industry in Texas.

Budomate: Are any famous martial artists connected somehow to “The Next Dragon” show? Maybe Chuck Norris is interested to support you as a Oklahoma born master?

Janell: Yes, we are currently in talks with the Norris Camp to work together.Master Chuck Norris lives in Houston, Texas and has his production company here. We will also work with his Film Festival called: “Action Film Festival” to promote The Next Dragon. Other well known names we are in talks with to work on the show as “Guest Judges” are : Robert Rodriguez, Chuck Norris, Jet Li, Quentin Tarrantino, Shannon Lee to name a few.

Our Host/Producer Mr. Rudy Reyes will add an interesting dynamic to The Next Dragon show. He was Host on the shoe for Discovery Channel called “Apocolypse Man” and also on HBO series “Generation Kill” He is a Marine Recon and the “real deal” Black Belt that has lived the ultimate ModernWarrior Life. Our sizzle reel is almost complete and I will send to you. Our Director for the show is Marcel Rodriguez (Robert Rodriguez’s brother).

For more information go to thenextdragon.com or find Janell Smith on Facebook among budomate’s friends.

All rights for Janell Smith interview reserved by www.budomate.com and can not be used without official permission.


Janell with Austin Fit Magazine


Janell Smith KVUE News


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


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