Amazing Chinese Director Jing Wen!

Film Poster for Jing Wen's film
Film Poster for Jing Wen’s film “A, B, C or D?”

Chinese director Jing Wen is one filmmaker international audiences will definitely want to keep their eyes out for. Jing first began her career as director for television in China where she was one of the directors of the series Yulapai on Chong Qing Television Station.

As the director of a series for Jing Li US, Jing had a chance to meet and direct an interview with one of America’s most-beloved film stars, Oscar winner Susan Sarandon (Thelma and Louise, Cloud Atlas, Robot & Frank, Stepmom, The Banger Sisters). Jing also directed a show for the NGO organization Voices of Africa Mothers, which delivered in depth interviews with eight African first ladies to viewers around the world.

In 2012 she made her mark on the world as a film director and ever since she has been making huge waves in the industries of China, the U.S. and others. Her film A, B, C or D?, which was released in 2014, follows Gary, a 45-year-old underling in a corporation who is forced to choose between what is right and wrong when a conflict arises putting Gary in the line of fire as the easy scapegoat.

Does he stand up for himself and tell the truth, or let sleeping dogs lie? Well, you’ll just have to watch the film to find out.

The film stars David M. Edelstein from the films I Killed Last Night, The Broom Wedding, I of the Beholder, No Way Out and others.

Jing’s film A, B, C or D? won Best Short Film, as well as Best Cinematographer for Xiaolong Liu’s work, at the Golden Pomegranate International Film Festival in China. The film was also chosen as an Official Selection of the prestigious 2015 Cannes Short Film Corner, the NYC Independent Film Festival, the California Independent Film Festival and others. 

In a Q & A session with the NYFA about her work as a director earlier this year, Jing said, “I like to observe people’s facial expression, voice, and body language in order to understand them. That’s one of the most important skills a director needs to learn and practice because film ideas are inspired by observations from life and they are a reflection of reality.”

Jing’s unique ability to find the hidden stories that exist around her and dissect them into something worth bringing to audiences in the form of captivating films is what separates her from most other directors.

After the success of her film A, B, C or D?, Jing was awarded a grant to begin directing the feature film The Disappeared FishThe Disappeared Fish finished filming in China in July and is slated to have its national debut in theatres across China next year.

The film follows a migrant worker named Guo Jia Ming who was nominated for an Emmy Award for his performance in the film My Own Private Deutschland.

The film follows Gao as he is faced with a moral question of whether to save his boss’s son who was kidnapped by a group of ruthless gangsters, or let his boss deal with his own karma, considering that he treats Gao and the other workers terribly and keeps all of their pay checks for himself.

Jing is currently in pre-production with another exciting upcoming film entitled Let’s Get Married, a feature love story that will be produced by Bai Ge Zhuang Film Production Company.

You can check out some of the photos of director Jing Wen being interviewed by China’s largest media organizations including CCTV, CQTV station, Phoenix Satellite Television, Guang Sian Media, and Aidiyi Media.

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Q & A with Chinese Producer Min Dai!

Producer Min Dai
Producer Min Dai at the Texas Black Film Festival with Festival President David Small courtesy of Selig Polyscope Company

For nearly a century Hollywood has been the one place in the world that is recognized for great filmmaking beyond all others. While Bollywood and other regions have tried to catch up to Hollywood’s annual box office results, for the most part, their efforts have paled in comparison; however, China has proven itself to be a formidable competitor for the Hollywood film industry in the last few years. According to an article published by Bloomberg.com last month, “China’s monthly box office receipts for February passed those of the U.S. for the first time.”

International Film Review recently had the opportunity to interview Chinese producer Min Dai, the producer behind the films Icebox, Device, 4 Latas, Come Wander With Me, Eat a Hot Dumpling Slowly, You Only Live Once and many others.

Last year Dai’s film Meeting Gary, which she both produced and directed, was nominated for Best Short Film and a Best Actor Award at the 2014 Texas Black Film Festival where it was chosen as an Official Selection. The film was also chosen as an Official Selection at the Action On Film International Film Festival, the San Francisco Black Film, the Arizona International Film Festival, the Langston Hughes African American Film Festival and several others.

Dai has also established herself as a leading producer in the documentary film genre bringing films like You and Me, A Trip to Tibet, Ning Xia and Momo Lee Aoi’s Wake up with Me to the screen for international audiences to enjoy.

After working as a producer on several popular television shows like Mission for Peace, The Story of Gengtian Xi, King of Silk and others back home in China, producer Min Dai transitioned into the American film industry where her ability to liaise between U.S. and Chinese productions has become an invaluable asset to a long list of productions.

To find out more about the work of producer Min Dai, and why the growing collaborative relationship between the American and Chinese film industries is imperative to the future of film, check out our interview below.

 

IFR: Where are you from? When and how did you begin working as a producer?

MD: I am from Beijing. I began working as a producer back in 2006. I started producing Chinese short films, commercials and television series; and in 2010, I studied directing in New York City and have extended my work as a producer to include American productions since then.

IFR: Can you tell me about some of your experiences in the industry as a producer?

MD: I am from a media centered family in Beijing. Growing up I had opportunities to learn from many field professionals in China, so by the time I was in high school I was already busy working on film projects. I have always been interested in the entertainment world. My mother’s production company, Beijing’s Voice of Time, has worked closely with the China Central Television (CCTV) for many years since the late 90s.

In 2006, I began producing short films directed by Chinese independent filmmakers, including my own short film, Reborn. In 2008 I was hired as the line producer for television shows, including the large-scale television series, Mission for Peace and King of Silk in 2009, which were produced by China International Television Corporation, and starred notable Chinese actors Ma Yili, Zhang Guangbei and so on.

My work was very crucial for the daily operations of each program, premiered on CCTV Channel 8’s Primetime Show. At that time I was often mistaken for being a much older producer while working on King of Silk production, until one day a young actor chatted with me and found out I was six months younger than her. Because of the trust Ma Runsheng, the Chairman of China International Television Corporation, had in me, I couldn’t afford to fail him or anyone else, so I worked extra hard each day during the shooting period. And, I have grown so much since then thanks to that experience, and countless others like it.

In 2010, I came to America to study film directing. I began to connect with many interesting people in the U.S. entertainment industry and I was fortunate to work with producer Jackie Subeck, the president of a production company located in Los Angeles called Footprint Worldwide. I began working on projects involving 30 seconds to Mars and Linkin Park during their tours in China where I was the co-producer for both of their projects handling the productions in China. In 2012, I worked with Carl Gilliard, the co-founder of the Duke Media Foundation, the partner of Bill Duke who is famous for his roles in Predator, Commando and Action Jack, on my film Meeting Gary. The film was an Official Selection at several international film festivals and was nominated for awards at the Texas Black Film Festival and San Francisco Black Film Festival. I also produced the film. I also produced the film One True Yarn.

PLM: With China making huge advances in their film industry, what is that makes you want to work in the U.S.? What differences do you see between the film industries in the two countries?

MD: China film industry has been booming lately, and it is very exciting. What’s more exciting is that between Hollywood and China there are countless collaborations going on where people that are familiar with both cultures like me can be of great service. China has a great history of producing good quality indie movies, and now we are on our way to producing big budget movies that are not only for Chinese audiences, but also for the world. We cannot achieve that without having a strong partnership with America, which continues to produce many of the greatest big budget movies in film history. From my experience I’ve learned that there are different processes in filmmaking between these two countries. It is much more flexible in terms of running a set in China than it is in America, where in China more spontaneous surprises can be captured and in America the sets are more professional and regulated. There are pros and cons in both styles and I think to incorporate the differences and learning from each other will enhance our film industries so both can make better movies for the world.

IFR: You’ve also produced several documentaries– can you tell me about them?

MD: In 2009 I produced my first travel documentary, A Trip to Tibet, directed by independent director King Zhang in China. We followed a group of city teachers from Beijing who volunteered at an elementary school for three weeks in Tibet. The school conditions were extremely poor and there was only one local teacher in the whole village. The shooting was very difficult considering many members of the crew experienced altitude sickness. We were able to finish all of the shooting on schedule within the time frame that we were there; and the film was screened at the Beijing International Film Festival in 2014, and the 2014 Shanghai International Film Festival.

In 2010 I had the opportunity to produce and direct the documentary film You and Me, which concerned the living conditions of elderly people in the Washington County Home, and documented their daily lives. The film revealed the dark side of elderly caretaking in the region, showing that many of them were abandoned and forgotten, but County Home took them in even though many of them couldn’t afford to live there. Our crew went to the home for interviews and for most of the shooting, and we spent a lot of time with the residents there, including eating and chatting with them. The film was used as the election material at the Washington County for fundraising in 2010.

IFR: What is it about producing documentary films that you are passionate about?

MD: I love documentaries because they challenge you to face reality and reveal some of the dark corners of human history. At times I find documentaries create a much stronger impact, sometimes more intense than a thriller. I think filmmakers that are interested in documentary films feel a social responsibility and want things to change for the better. I want to make things for the better and that’s why I am passionate about documentary films.

IFR: Can you tell me about some of the music videos you’ve produced?

MD: I had a couple experiences producing music videos. I found it a bit relaxing producing music videos since they are fairly short and easy to shoot based on the scale of the productions I worked on so far. But they are a great fun to work on because of the people involved. I also produced my own music film Transparent Thing, and the music video for “Chasing Happiness” by Chinese singer Kelly Cha.

IFR: They are all very different, what made you choose to participate in these projects?

MD: I actually like the fact that I am able to work on so many different projects. That’s the fun part of producing, you can use what you know and your ability to make so many projects happen and help so many people. It works that way in documentaries as well as in music videos.

IFR: Why are you passionate about working as a producer?

MD: I think my passion for making things happen is a great motive of being a producer. I don’t want to let people down. I have participated in most of these projects because they are honest and present an important matter that I care about. I think it is a very precious thing to produce something honest in this industry.

IFR: What production companies have you worked with in the past?

MD: In 2008 I began working with China International Television Corporation as a producer and line producer w on several of their television series. The corporation produces television shows in China nationwide. The projects I worked on ranged from 10 episodes to over 49 episodes. As an executive producer, I have also worked with King’s Film and WIN China group for their short films and commercials.

In 2010, I produced multiple projects for Footprint Worldwide and became close friends with the founder of the company, Jackie Subeck. The company works closely with Chinese productions and China related projects. I produced numerous films since 2010 in the U.S. including many award winners. In 2012, I worked with Hollywood actor Carl Gilliard on the film Meeting Gary. I have and will be working with him closely in the future.

IFR: What production companies or agencies are you currently working with?

MD: I am going to work with Gilliard Media Group founded by actor/ producer Carl Gilliard. Carl has a successful career as an actor with over 70 film credits including Inception, Coach Carter, Red Eye and hit television show 24.

Next year I will be working with Duke Media Foundation, Time Pieces founded by independent filmmaker Alice Millar, Mano a Mano Productions founded by independent filmmakers Victor Martin and Fabian Martin, as well as others.

IFR: You get approached all the time to work on projects with people, what makes you pick one project over another?

MD: I’ve picked most of these projects because the project itself intrigued me, or because I thought I was capable of helping these specific projects. I have a strong feeling when someone really needs me, for example, in 2013 I helped produce a project for LA tourism that was geared towards the Chinese consumer to help boost Los Angeles tourism in the future. The project was in need of a Chinese-speaking producer who knew the market in China to guide them through, and that was where I found myself being the most helpful to the project. When the need is great and you can help, the motivation is strong.

IFR: What have been a few of your favorite projects so far and why?

MD: It’s a very hard question because I have many favorite projects. I think I am a fan of working on film projects, because it is intense and you must make sure you are making the best decisions for the cast and crew at all times.

IFR: What would you say your strongest qualities as a producer are?

MD: I’m very hardworking. I think that’s the fundamental quality of doing anything successful. I think producers must have the instinct to discover valuable materials and finding appropriate resources. So far I’m doing good on those aspects.

IFR: What projects do you have coming up?

MD: I have projects lined up including the documentary film Wake Up With Me, produced by InterMix Productions, the web series Tina, produced by Wilson Becton and other projects including feature films and TV movies with Gilliard Media Group and Duke Media Foundation. I also have an exciting documentary film coming up about dogs and human relations in China. 

IFR: What are your plans for the future?

MD: I have found myself happily working as a producer and creating stories and I want to keep doing what I love for many years to come.

IFR: What do you hope to achieve in your career?

MD: I started working in this industry at a young age and I’ve found myself growing stronger and wiser as time goes on. But most importantly I learned a lot about life and how to be a better person. My work has become my lifestyle. More than the wealth and the fame my career can bring, what I hope to do is create better and more unique projects that most people will remember and love for many years to come.

IFR: What kind of training have you done, and how has it helped you in your field of work?

MD: I have a bachelor’s degree in Television & Broadcasting and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Film Directing. I have had extensive training in all aspects of production of television and film from pre-production to post-production. I also think the experience of running productions in both China and the U.S. has expanded my ability in working in different culture conditions.

Producer Richard Moore Makes His Mark Across Platforms

Richard Moore
                                                      Producer Richard Moore shot by Charlie Hyams


Producer Richard Moore has been responsible for some of the most thought-provoking films, powerful documentaries and successful advertising campaigns of our time. He got his start while still in high school, has spearheaded hugely profitable production companies, and has worked with award-winning directors and multi-billion dollar corporations. Through all of it, he has maintained a level of professionalism and natural talent, which have allowed him to maintain stringent standards when choosing all of his projects.

The roots of Moore’s drive and determination can be seen in the beginnings of his career, when at just 19 he personally organized the funding of a full-scale Universal Records music video production for all-girl band The Saturdays. In addition to overseeing budgeting and set building, Moore was tasked with hiring and managing more than 70 cast and crew members.

“This was my real introduction to what it to took to be a producer,” Moore said. “With managing pressure, dealing with a lot of people in different positions and different environments, while simultaneously supporting your director and helping him or her to achieve their creative vision.”

Moore served as the senior producer at Big Balls Films, the company behind the wildly popular Copa90 YouTube channel. Funded through an investment by Google, Copa90 quickly became the most successful sports YouTube channel in Europe, in no small part because of Moore’s prowess as its head of production. Geared toward the much sought-after 12-to-30 year old audience, Moore was in charge of courting advertisers for the channel, which received a hefty annual operating budget from Google.

“For Copa90, I was responsible for the launch and channel management, with an annual budget of $3 million to spend on programming,” said Moore, describing his critical role in the project.

“I, alongside the creative team at the channel, was key in pitching, selling and executing brand-integrated shows while also building our original slate of programs, which we would then sell to third party platforms.”

Among Moore’s other notable advertising productions are campaigns for clients including the financial services group HSBC and Mexican tequila giant el Jimador.

Working with the cross-platform production company Unit9, Moore produced the #ispossible campaign for HSBC, a London-based international banking and financial services company. The campaign consisted of three commercials, each of which follows a young entrepreneur who found success through the backing and guidance of HSBC.

“The campaign documents [the entrepreneurs] as they reveal the people that helped them realize their ambitions and explain how to achieve yours through inspiration and mentorship,” he said.

Also while working with Unit9, Moore produced the “Mexology” campaign for el Jimador tequila. Moore, who admits that a huge factor for him in choosing a project has to do with his impression of the director, was personally requested by the director of the “Mexology” campaign, Martin Stirling. Moore had previously worked with Stirling on the Most Shocking Second A Day campaign for the Save the Children Fund, so when Moore was contacted by Stirling for the “Mexology” campaign, he promptly accepted.

“I worked with the recent Cannes Gold Lion-winning director Martin Stirling, who specifically requested me on the project due to my background and experience in documentary-style films and as someone who has the ability to manage global clients in a very high-pressured and time-sensitive environment,” Moore said.

The campaign took an innovative approach through its examination of Mexican culture in America, which ultimately promoted el Jimador’s trademark laid-back appeal to youthful consumers, which comprise the company’s target audience.

Mexology was a commercial campaign for el Jimador tequila about four artists who were challenged to collaborate on the creation of an event that embraced the Mexican spirit of enjoying life,” Moore said. “They were tasked with re-imagining the legendary Michigan Building, an abandoned theatre in Detroit, without a script, storyline and within 48 hours.”

As a major player in the production field, Moore’s name drew the attention of Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson himself. When Sir Branson’s mother Eve began a project to assist women in North Africa, Branson reached out to Moore to produce a film about the charitable endeavor on behalf of Virgin Unite.

“When we arrived at Eve’s house, she asked us within the first 10 minutes of our meeting if we wanted to help her ship a herd of cashmere goats from England to North Africa to help bring stability to women in the region through creating jobs in the textile trade, specifically in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco,” recalled Moore. “It sounded so far-fetched and bizarre that we had to do it, and two weeks later we were filming with her and her beloved goats in Africa.”

With such a wide array of projects, encompassing everything from advertising and sports media to music videos and charitable works – not to mention his extensive work as a producer for film and television – Moore has shown himself to be a leader in an incredibly competitive field, and we look forward to what he has in store for us next.

Dwayne Hill: The Funny Man Behind Many of Our Favorite Characters!

Dwayne Hill
Canadian actor Dwayne Hill

The most valuable skill an actor can possess is the ability to completely transform themselves and become so unrecognizable from one role to the next that a viewer no longer sees the actor, but the character. In doing so they bring that role to life, they immerse the audience in the story and make them forget for a while that they’re watching a work of fiction.

Dwayne Hill is one of the greats. He is the recipient of an ever-growing number of international awards and nominations, the man behind hundreds of characters in both film and television, and the voice of countless advertisements for some of the biggest companies in the world. If you’ve been within earshot of a television this week, chances are pretty good you’ve heard his inimitable voice.

In his capacity as a voice-over actor in advertising, Hill’s contributions are legion. He has done more than 1,000 commercials for innumerable businesses including Toyota, 7/11 and MasterCard. Presently, he serves as the voice of Vonage.

Hill played the fan-favorite role of Coach Carr in Mean Girls, easily the most iconic high school comedy of the 2000s and arguably since John Hughes’ films of the 80’s. His performance as Coach Carr, the hyperbolic sex education teacher with a “scared straight” approach, made him one of the film’s most quotable characters, and a source of frustration for the protagonist, played by Lindsay Lohan (Freaky Friday, The Parent Trap).

Coach Carr was exactly the kind of ridiculously outlandish teacher that exists at virtually every high school, believable in his absurdity. The screenplay for Mean Girls was written by the amazing Tina Fey (Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) whose trademark blend of dry wit and whimsical satire are apparent in the Coach Carr character, which Hill brings to life perfectly.

“I had a great time playing Coach Carr,” said Hill, praising both the role and the writing. “Tina Fey is a genius.”

Incredibly gifted as a screen actor, Hill also possesses an exceedingly rare talent for breathing life into animated characters through his amazingly varied voice-over work.

“I somewhat unconsciously become the character I play,” Hill said, describing the way a person of his talents gets in character when that character happens to be a cartoon. “I stoop my back and flail my arms; to an outsider I’m sure I look like a madman, but I really can’t help it.”

He has mastered 40 accents, and has voiced hundreds of roles in over 70 animated series. Recently, he became the voice of Cat on the PBS cartoon Peg + Cat.

“It has been the most challenging and rewarding experience of my career. It’s a show that makes math fun for kids, and it does it through songs and great stories,” Hill said. “If you’ve got kids aged two to five they’ll love it, I promise.”

Peg + Cat has been a huge hit with not only kids, but also with parents who have come to rely on the exceedingly high standards of PBS programming to supplement the early childhood education of their children. The show has won four Daytime Emmy Awards, and Hill’s vocal talents earned him a Daytime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program.

Another of Hill’s long list of star-studded credits is the wildly popular Gemini Award-winning animated television series Braceface, starring and loosely based on the life of MTV Movie Award winner and Golden Globe-nominated actress Alicia Silverstone (Clueless, Batman & Robin). Hill’s incredible voice talents earned him the role of Silverstone’s dentist on the show, which helped launch the career of Canadian Comedy Award winner Michael Cera (Juno, Superbad, Arrested Development).

Hill’s most massive television undertaking, Atomic Betty, saw him playing 26 different characters. Each of the roles he voiced in the popular Canadian animated series was a distinct individual, entirely original and with their own unique personality. His huge contributions to the show earned him the 2009 Gemini Award for Best Individual or Ensemble Performance in an Animated Program or Series.

Atomic Betty was an amazing experience,” Hill said. “Kevin Gillis, who produced the series, is one of the most supportive people I’ve ever worked with. He trusted the talent to meet every challenge, and it was truly inspiring.”

His reputation as a prolific actor with a gift for assuming any character he plays or voices has made Hill one of the most sought after names in an ever-growing business.

Alan Morrell, Dwayne’s business manager at Creative Management Partners, says “Dwayne is truly one of the greats and at the tip of the iceberg for his career accomplishments current and future. His road ahead is going to be stellar.”

Producer Filippo Nesci Continues the Nesci Family’s Successful Lineage of Creative Innovation

Arturo Nesci
A photo Arturo Nesci took of his brother Domenico Nesci in the early 1900s

Film has been a passion of millions of people all over the world for more than a century. But for Italian producer Filippo Nesci, film is much more than just a passion. It’s a birthright.

Nesci’s family history with film goes back to the early 1900s when his great grandfather, the Baron Arturo Nesci, was a photography enthusiast. 

A generation later, Nesci’s grandfather, Michele Nesci, established himself as a filmmaker, photographer and finally, a film professor at the prestigious Roberto Rossellini Film School of Rome. While Filippo Nesci’s father, Domenico Nesci M.D., took a different path, becoming a creative psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, Domenico was also heavily influence by film; and, in the last decade he has incorporated the medium into a innovative creative psychotherapy training that he invented for medical students known as “The Workshop Movies and Dreams.”

After helping his father make a documentary for the Italian online scientific journal of psychotherapy “Doppio Sogno” several years ago, Filippo Nesci was hooked on the filmmaking process, and his innate skill in the industry immediately propelled him on the track to becoming a producer.

Filippo Nesci
Domenico Nesci (left), Filippo Nesci (center), & Professor Dominique Scarfone (right) after presenting a workshop on multimedia psychotherapy at the IPA Congress in Boston on Jul7 23, 2015.

Nesci’s breakout production was the music video for singer-songwriter Meg Myers haunting, beautiful, tour de force Monster. The video garnered more than 1 million views on YouTube despite Myers not being attached to a label or a publicist at the time of its production, which was an impressive feat for Filippo Nesci to pull off.

“It was organizing, planning and getting everything for the director (Abram Pineda-Fisher) in order to make his vision come true,” Nesci said.

Pineda-Fisher’s vision included a night scene in a forest that involved Myers being soaked in buckets of cold water. During the filming of that scene, Nesci went above and beyond the typical call of duty for a producer as he assisted his crew with keeping Myers as comfortable as possible during the challenging shoot.

“I was very impressed with the commitment she had for her first big music video,” Nesci said.

Myers has since signed with major label Atlantic Records, thanks in part to the organic success of the Monster video that Nesci produced. Atlantic Records is part of Warner Music Group, one of the “big three” recording companies and one of the largest and most successful labels in the world.

Nesci parlayed the success of Monster into more music videos, including 80s Fitness by British electronic music production duo KOAN Sound. The video featured an elaborate production of two fitness enthusiast teams who used a combination of parkour and martial arts to whimsically compete to the death in front of intricate, beautifully designed background sets that were created from miniatures.

“This was an extremely ambitious production considering this music video had a very limited budget,” Nesci said.

Nesci went out and covered vital expenses such as food, production design and additional staff that kept the production going. He even found two production designers to build a small gym on set, and scheduled the transportation, construction and overall management of the gym’s creation.

“The results were an amazing music video, and an extremely happy artist crew and record label,” Nesci said. “The director (Tim Hendrix) kept getting more work thanks to the success of the video.”

80s Fitness went on to win Best International Video at the 2013 FirstGlance Film Festival, a 2013 Jury Award for Best Music Video at the National Film Festival for Talented Youth, and a College Emmy.

Another Nesci production, the film Wrecks and Violins, also took home multiple awards. The story of a disoriented teenager who needed to overcome a stranger’s bizarre torment with nothing more than a violin and a monkey-suited comrade earned the Golden Ace Award at the Las Vegas Film Festival and was a 2012 NFFTY Audience Award Winner.

Nesci used his innate people skills to create a light and relaxed atmosphere throughout the film’s entire production process which was vital to the project finishing on time and within budget. His most remarkable accomplishment during the film’s production was when he used his diplomatic talents to obtain a permit to film a key scene in the parking lot of the Rose Bowl in Pasadena without spending a dime.

“(It was) not easy to get,” Nesci said. “It required all my unique communication skills.”

But perhaps the most impressive of Nesci’s production feats was when he found a white alpaca for a commercial for the Scotch whiskey distillery Lagavulin. The commercial’s director specifically wanted a white alpaca and a field in which to film the South American llama lookalike. Nesci found not only a white alpaca, but an entire alpaca farm.

“I found him the exact alpaca he wanted, and I also found other different ones that we later filmed just to have more options in post-production,” Nesci said.

The find paid off for Nesci and Lagavulin as the commercial won a 2014 Clio Award.

Nesci has already build an impressive resume of award-winning projects such as films, music videos and commercials, and will no doubt add many more to it in the future.

Q & A with Genius VFX Artist & Motion Graphics Designer Vitaly Verlov

Eric Roberts
Actor Eric Roberts (Left) and Filmmaker Vitaly Verlov (Right) shot by Maria Artos

Living in the modern age we are bombarded by hundreds of commercials per day. As viewers when most of these ads hit the screen we often tune out in order to deal with the overwhelming overload of these messages.

So what does it take for a commercial to stand out and strike the interest of an audience in a world oversaturated with visual sales pitches?

Well, having a seasoned motion graphics designer like Vitaly Verlov behind the screen has proven to be an integral factor in the success of campaigns for global companies like Max Factor, Mitsubishi, Peugeot, Volkswagen, Nokia, Samsung and countless others.

Over the years Verlov has amassed prodigious knowledge in terms of the technical methods involved in creating everything from multi-layered motion graphics to seamless visual effects. Beyond his technical skills though, his creative vision has made him a highly sought after talent in the industry. In fact, earlier this year he handled all of the visual effects on the upcoming film Redux, a sci-fi film starring Oscar nominee Eric Roberts from the films Inherent Vice, The Dark Knight, The Cable Guy and many more. What is even more astonishing is the fact that Verlov also wrote and directed the highly anticipated film.

His prowess as a motion graphics designer and visual effects artist have allowed him to take on projects that others in the industry who are only skilled in one of these two areas could not.

While you may not know the face of Vitaly Verlov, if you’ve ever tuned into MTV, VH1, Friday! Or Russia’s RUTV, then there’s a pretty good chance that you’ve seen his work more than once over the last decade.

To find out more about Vitaly Verlov’s captivating work make sure to check out our interview below!

You can also see some of his work through his website: http://primevalues.ru/

 

IFR: Where are you from?

VV: My name is Vitaly Verlov and I was born in the city of Novosibirsk, Russia. After graduating in 2007 I moved to Moscow to work as a motion graphics designer and visual effect artist for television and film.

IFR: How and when did you first get into doing visual effects work?

VV: In high school and university I did a lot of computer programming because I was a computer geek back then, and even before that I came across an international computer art subculture called Demoscene. Essentially it’s a community where young programmers, artists and musicians get together – for fun – to make demos: computer programs that produce audio-visual presentations in real-time. The visual side of creating a demo implies that you actually program algorithms to achieve a certain artistic effects on screen. To put it short, it’s awesome. As soon as my programming skills got up to speed, I started making graphical demos with some cool looking visual effects and showcasing them on so called “demoparties.” As a matter of fact, my thesis work was focused on developing a toolset for real-time motion graphics and visual effects production.

Later on I became more interested in non real-time photorealistic imaging and switched from computer graphics programming to producing visual effects, design and animation in a more traditional industry-applicable form and started doing broadcast motion graphics for television.

IFR: What inspired you to pursue this profession?

VV: After seeing some television channels that were neatly designed from a graphical standpoint or motion pictures packed with great visual effects, I really wanted to become a part of it.

IFR: Are there any particular artists that inspire you?

VV: In my early days I was fascinated with some of the broadcast design graphics on TV and dreamed about getting to this level of quality and impression. That’s what basically inspired me to learn, more than personalities. However after moving to Moscow, I had an opportunity to meet with some of the great guys behind those outstanding designs and work with them.

IFR: What kind of training was involved in order to become a VFX artist? How important is formal education to getting a job in the industry?

VV: I personally don’t have any special VFX related training. Nor do most of the other artists I know. Basically, to become a VFX artist or motion designer, it’s important to have a natural artistic sense and a good eye plus the ability to efficiently handle technical tools and software. On the other hand, it’s also a matter of specialty in the industry, for instance: environmental concept artists or matte painters often have a background in fine arts. One thing is true for everyone working in VFX: you don’t stop learning, no matter what your specialty is.

IFR: What is that you love about being a VFX artist?

VV: The ability to create something impressive out of nothing; and the ability to impress girls at parties, of course.

IFR: What is your specialty in the field?

VV: As a VFX artist, I consider myself a generalist which means that I can pull off a wide variety of tasks myself, including modeling, texturing, animating, rendering, compositing. There are fields that I prefer more, and there are fields I’m not involved in at all – like character modeling and rigging.

As a motion/broadcast graphics designer and art director, again, I can do a lot, starting from initial creative concept to final delivery.

IFR: What is your typical workflow like in terms of collaborating with other artists on a film?

VV: It depends on a project and/or studio. Sometimes workflow is precise, broken down into stages and compartmentalized with strict deadlines, sometimes it’s a complete mess and overnight hell. The most positive experience is of course when you focus on something specific you really like and are good at. This way of collaborating is very efficient and creative at the same time.

IFR: You also work as a motion graphics designer, can you tell us a little bit about what that entails?

VV: Sure. Essentially motion graphics design is an animation-oriented subset of graphic design. Graphic design is just a single picture. Motion design is graphic design in sequence, in motion, and you see it pretty much everywhere: opening sequences for TV shows, film titles, game console menus, or photo-realistic 3D smartphone magically spinning in mid-air in a smartphone TV or Web commercial, or even user interface animation within that smartphone. In other words, any animated piece in visual medium is a subject of motion design.

That’s what I’ve been doing for various television channels including MTV, VH1, Friday!, and others. Sometimes there is client input on the initial concept of what we’re trying to achieve, sometimes there is no input. When there is no input, I also work as a copywriter where I suggest different ideas or scripts on how an end result might look and what meanings/themes it might have behind it. When the concept is approved, we move on to actual motion design.

IFR: How does being a motion graphics editor differ from working as a VFX artist?

VV: Motion graphics is a general term. It’s something that visually can be executed in different ways and styles. It can be two-dimensional, flat design-ish/illustrated looking as well as filmic three-dimensional. I think my direction is more filmic/three-dimensional oriented, that’s why it depends substantially on the visual effects techniques. For example, for a commercial spot for Peugeot the idea was to make a realistic car driving along a stylized miniature street – stuff like that directly relies on VFX techniques because it requires 3D modeling, rendering and compositing as a part of the workflow. In a sense, for such projects VFX is a way to implement the creative idea. That’s where motion graphics and VFX come together.

On the other hand, there are motion graphics projects where VFX techniques are not required for natural reasons. For instance, I have experience making on-screen graphics as a part of graphics package for several television stations where the task was to design the look and feel of info graphic elements that pop up during a broadcast. While these elements look pretty minimalistic, they should have a thought-out motion behavior and structure that keeps the integrity of the overall design. Sometimes the way these elements pop up on screen, interact with the viewer, and disappear is hard to conceptualize. That’s where “design” in the “motion graphics design” title comes to the forefront.

IFR: How has having skills as both a VFX artist and a motion graphics designer separated you from others in the industry?

VV: I think VFX and motion graphics are storytelling devices, and I always try to approach projects from the storytelling perspective. So for me the primary task is not making a neat looking animation or effect but supporting and enhancing the context it is a part of. Motion graphics is about guiding the viewer’s attention and it’s also very important for visual effects shots. What separates me is a good understanding of these aspects which, in real life, means that a client is usually happy with the timing, pace and accents I put into designs during the early stages of production, which is cool because it eliminates the need to reiterate on that so I can spend more time perfecting the visuals.

IFR: What companies have you worked with in the industry?

VV: Since I consider myself motion graphics oriented, I have more experience working on commercials and on-air broadcast design.

As a lead designer and VFX artist, I worked for the Russian branch of MTV and VH1 Networks and nation-wide entertainment television channel Friday! As an art director and motion graphics designer, I’ve done quite a few projects for a major music television channel, RUTV. Specifically, I created motion graphics and the overall design for the RUTV 2014 annual music awards ceremony, and some pieces for its 2015 installment.

As a freelance designer and VFX artist, I’ve done a bunch of commercials for international brands, including Mitsubishi, Peugeot, Volkswagen, Max Factor, Nokia, Samsung, Eurovision, Sensation, plus a variety of Russian brands like Beeline (a major mobile operator in Russia).

As a lead VFX artist, I have several projects done for the US-based boutique postproduction company Coat of Arms. Also, I have great experience working for the international visual effects company Pixomondo (Game of Thrones) as a lead 2D effects artist.

Working for various international companies and clients gives a pretty solid understanding of how the global industry works as well as flexibility in the way you approach projects in terms of planning and workflow because the process makes the result.

IFR: Can you tell us a little bit about the television and film projects you’ve worked on; and the specific contributions you made?

VV: I’ve done a lot of TV show openers and channel idents, in a team of designers and by myself, including works for MTV Networks, nation-wide channels Friday!, and RUTV.

While working for Friday! I had a positive interaction with the broadcast design department of Les télécréateurs (Paris) who designed overall on-air look of this station. I’ve made a few show openers and extra identity pieces based on the existing visual style of the station. And for RUTV I created motion graphics and design for the RUTV 2014 annual music awards ceremony which was a pretty huge amount of work (a show opener, a set of nominees, promo spots, press materials) on a tight schedule – that’s where the ability to sit focused for 18 hours came in handy.

Also, recently I had a chance to work as a lead 2D VFX artist on a Chinese big budget sci-fi feature film called Impossible, which is scheduled to hit the market sometime this year. I came in when the postproduction was in full swing, and my job was to complete a bunch of VFX shots, mostly energy fields and portal effects.

I should mention that I’m a filmmaker myself with two sci-fi live action films already under my belt. The latest one, Redux, features the well-known Hollywood actor Eric Roberts (The Dark Knight, The Expendables). It’s a short character-driven story with the ’80s/retro-futuristic vibe to it. I wrote, directed and edited this film and did visual effects.

IFR: Why is motion graphics design important to modern filmmaking?

VV: In its pure form, motion graphics design is critical for television and Internet – that’s for sure. Filmmaking also takes advantage of it, particularly big budget sci-fi & fantasy films and movie trailers, which are a marketing device. Film credits or sleek futuristic computer interfaces you see in a sci-fi flick is a product of motion graphics design. Sometimes it enhances the narrative story of a film, sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s in there. Moreover, since motion design and VFX are somewhat interrelated fields, motion graphics can be essentially found in any film featuring visual effects. That’s also a good way to save some time and money during production, which is important, especially for independent narrative filmmakers like myself. Can a modern live action film be done with no VFX and motion design? Probably yes. But if it’s a mainstream (commercial) film, there should be a marketing/ad campaign involved and that’s where motion graphics comes for you again.

IFR: What has been your favorite project so far and why? What projects do you have coming up?

VV: Not sure about all-time favorites, but I can name a couple of recent ones. I was a part of a team who made a STRAFE® promotional spot for a successful Kickstarter compaign. STRAFE® is an independent old school first-person shooter video game. On this commercial, I worked as a lead VFX/motion design artist.

And of course I loved working on my second film Redux because I think it looks pretty neat, has a coherent story and stars well-known Hollywood actors.

As to the projects to come, some of my past TV clients have a brand new music channel in the works, and while there’s not much info available at this point it looks like I will be creating an onscreen design and several VFX heavy idents shot on green screen.

IFR: Do you have a passion for working on a specific kind of film or project, if so what kind of project and why?

VV: In the TV world, I would say, a show opener. When making a TV show opener, you’re actually making a focused 10-15 second piece which tells a story visually, and that’s what attracted me to the visual medium in the first place.

In film, I have a passion for working on my own films.

IFR: What would you say was your first foot in the door to the industry, and what advice would you give to aspiring artists?

VV: In 2006 I believe, I started making what I called the daily images: the goal was to make one new artistic image every day, just for fun and training, and post it on the Internet into a corresponding design community. I ended up making just a couple of images a week, but after a year of this marathon I was invited to work full-time at a prominent postproduction studio in Moscow, N3, because they liked my pictures. That’s basically how I got into this industry. So I guess my advice would be, stop being aspiring and start actually making something just for the sake of it, start the process and watch how everything unfolds.

A Perfect Storm: Alexia Bergamin Seizes Entertainment Industry

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Argentine actress Alexia Bergamin is captivating the world of entertainment, as she continues to star in films, television shows, and hit music videos.

In just the first half of 2015, Alexia has seized leading roles in the film, Think Before You Drink, as well as in Zedd’s international hit EDM music video, I Want You To Know.

Alexia portrays a harrowing scenario that happens to far too many young women in the film Think Before You Drink. While out on a date, her character, Melanie, learns the hard lesson of why alcohol and new relationships don’t mix.

In I Want You to Know, Alexia is featured dancing alongside singer Selena Gomez in the music video for the electronic dance music artist Zedd’s first hit single from the True Colors studio album. The music video for I Want You to Know has reached more than 61 million views on YouTube in the first two months of its release.

Alexia also developed her expertise with acting in the music industry when she appeared in the music video The Night is Still Young with female rap artist Nicki Minaj. This music video has also reached an extraordinary amount of views on YouTube, totaling at more than 43 million in first three months of its release.

Returning to her experience in film, the 2014 production It Takes a Village demonstrated Alexia’s wide range as an actor. The film followed Alex and Lindsay, best friends who have joined into a commune lifestyle together. When Lindsay learns she is pregnant, however, she reaches out to Alex for help in making the decision of whether or not to remain in the village.

Along with her work in film and music videos, Alexia has also made an impression on television, turning heads as Kalu in the hit series, Aliados. Since 2013, the television series has reached worldwide acclaim, and has been broadcast to more than 18 countries on the Fox Network.

In just two seasons, Aliados has been nominated for many awards, and won the Martin Fierro Award for “Best Teen TV Show” and the Kids Choice Argentina Award for “Best National TV Show”.

Alexia is currently in talks with a major film studio about accepting the leading role in the upcoming picture Sophia. She will be also filming the pilot of the comedy series, Mark or Mike? We eagerly anticipate more to come from Alexia Bergamin as the year continues.