Jasper Rischen Werqs The World With The Queens of RuPaul’s Drag Race and how Kennedy Davenport inspired the series.
Jasper Rischen is the director behind World of Wonder’s smash series Werq The World. The show takes us on an all-access look at life on the road of the most famous Queens as they travel around the world on the Werq The World Tour. Rischen explains how the idea for the series, where he dedicates each episode to a Queen was inspired in part by Kennedy Davenport. As one of the quieter Queens, Davenport had commented that Rischen was probably only going to show her for a few minutes in the series, and that comment helped Rischen when it came to editing the hours of behind the scenes he had captured.
I recently caught up with Rischen to talk about Werqing the World, and how he plans to return with more adventures in Season two!!
You’ve just come back from Werqing the World with the Queens in Europe.
I did. It was so much fun. It was an adventure, to say the least. They had two tour buses, and they had a crew tour bus and a Queens tour bus. They decided it would be a good idea for me to sleep on the Queens tour bus.
The crew one must have been like, “We’re exhausted and we’ve been doing this all day.” What was life like on the Queens tour bus?
I thought the Queens bus would be super rowdy and partying. Honestly, you hang out a little bit after the show, and sometimes there were 17-hour bus rides from Spain to Stockholm. I think Paris was in between. You’re hanging out downstairs, but it was mellow and you’re sleeping in the bunks.
Most nights after the show Latrice would bring out her little blunt wraps and if Latrice Royale offers, you can’t say no. It was really fun, and I have only good memories.
What inspired you to shoot this and for you, where did the journey begin?
I had filmed a couple of Day In the Life videos for World of Wonder with some of the Queens. I did Aja and Vanjie. The idea of that was to shoot them from when they woke up, all the way through the show, and going back home. I think they liked the fly-on-the-wall style and they decided to send me on tour. They asked if I was interested in doing it, and I said, “Sure.”
It was unclear what it was going to be because there wasn’t a format to follow, and that made it really exciting for me because it was a blank slate. I could go around with the Queens and see what I’d get.
Originally, when we first started talking about it, we were going to do an episode per city. That seemed an anchor point to go from Spain to Oslo, but what I figured out fairly quickly was that in the reality of touring, there is no time. You are never outside. You are inside theaters. You are inside the bus. You are inside the hotel. I remember on the first day; I met them in the hotel lobby in Berlin. They went into the van and to the rehearsal space. Back out, into makeup, and then the show. After that, it was back on the bus, and on to the next city. I thought, “OK, I’m not going to get my cute scene where Kim Chi goes to the Eiffel Tower. It wasn’t going to happen.
For the most part of the trip, I wasn’t sure how to edit it or how to make it into a show. It wasn’t until I started doing the extensive background interviews with each queen. I did that towards the end of the tour, and that’s when it started to fall into place. I didn’t think it through until the flight back to LA when I thought to do an episode per queen. I had their stories, and I wanted to do justice to each of their unique fan bases. I realized they have very dedicated fans and they can be super obsessed with one of them, and not care about the others. So, I said, how do I channel this, give the fans what they want, and how do I use the material I have to bring out this story?
The funny thing is Kennedy Davenport sealed the deal. She’s one of the more quiet ones. She works really hard, and she’s always on time. She and Latrice are always the first ones. But that comes with the fact that there isn’t a lot of drama. Kennedy hangs back if you put her in a room full of loud Queens, she falls into the background. That said, it doesn’t make her any less interesting. Her backstory is one of the most fascinating.
At one point, I was filming with the Queens, and they were late. I walked to the Meet and Greet, and Kennedy was already there. She goes, “I know what you’re doing. I see what you’re doing. You’re filming with everyone else, and I’m going to end up with a couple of minutes.” I thought that was so interesting and wanted to stop that from happening.
That on top of never seeing the outside world grew into the idea of doing a full episode per Queen.
You talk about the fan bases, and you see that anywhere with these Queens, online and in person. What was that like to see up close and in Europe?
I had never seen Drag Race before I went on this tour. [laughs]. I was going to catch up before the tour, but then I realized they were from a bunch of seasons so that was a lot of TV. Also, I’d rather not be intimidated by them, so I thought watching the show would do that. I’d rather just approach them as humans because that’s what I wanted to do, I wanted to show the person behind the stage persona. I think that helped a bit.
It didn’t feel like an extended Drag Race on tour. It felt a different thing, your own stamp entirely.
I like that. Nothing was staged. I didn’t use the jingles and jangles that reality TV uses -and I mean that in a good way. This is just something so different and it’s something that can be so refreshing.
Going back to the fans, when we arrived at the venues, there were already hundreds of people lined up outside. I think in Europe; they were already crazier about the girls. If you go to New York, everyone is jaded and they’ve seen everything. In Madrid, there were lines around the block by 2pm in the afternoon, and it was wild. That was so fascinating.
You ask the fans, who their favorite Queens were, and they were die-hards.
Were you surprised by the impact of RuPaul’s Drag Race in Europe?
I knew it was big. It’s at the point where European fans would come up to me and ask what I’m filming for and I’d say, “I’m filming for World of Wonder.”And they say, “World of Wonder? Wow.” The production company would get a wow reaction, and that’s when I knew.
How long did you spend filming with the Queens?
I filmed a rehearsal in LA. I walked into this super-tense atmosphere because 3 out of 8 girls had not shown up and it caused this whole scandal. I thought it was going to be a nightmare. And that ended up not being the case at all because it ended up being so great.
I had a second camera, and we were shooting at least 12 hours a day. When I first got to Europe, we did the opening part of the tour. I had already been booked for another job in the Congo. I went from sitting on a bus with the Queens, and then went to the Congo, and then came back with the Queens. It was a crazy contrast.
I think we filmed for three weeks, but it was a lot. The worst and the best part were seeing all you had. You were going through it a million times. Sometimes, when you do a project, you’re grabbing everything. You can still make a good edit, but the people will never know what you left out. I wanted to make sure I left nothing out. I wanted to group things between the Queens. So, I combed through everything and picked out the bits per city and built the material per Queen.
The first episode I did was Aquaria because she was only there for a short time. With Valentina and Latrice, there was a lot of material because they were there every day. That was the best and the worst part of the editing. I wanted to scream at the computer and then when things clicked, it was the greatest thing. It’s totally a rollercoaster.
There’s a weird thing when directors look down and you edit your own material. I liked doing it all because I liked the whole process of directing and editing.
Will there be another season? Yes, there is. Werq The World will be back when the show goes into production this Fall. Aquaria, Kameron Michaels, Kim Chi, Monét X Change, Naomi Smalls, Plastique Tiara, Vanessa Vanjie Mateo, and current reigning Queen Yvie Oddly will all star in the new season. Get your tickets: https://vossevents.com/events/werq-the-world/