His formula for acting is simple: interest in fellow man, being observant, educating on life and psychology, stepping out of one’s comfort zone and not being quick to judge.
It’s a proven methodology for German film and TV actor David Mihalka.
“Try to understand others. Walk in their shoes for a mile!” he said. “Always be a better version of yourself. That’s what I am working on each day.”
It’s certainly fair to say it’s been working.
Mihalka, who grew up watching many movies such as “Amadeus,” is known in the international filmmaking community for his dazzling character portrayals, chief among them his role in director John A. Mati’s feature comedy, “Monsieur Brucco.”
The Switzerland-released film follows Brucco (played by Mati), an Albanian who cuts his finger and is certified permanently unfit for work. Reluctant to accept early retirement, Brucco reinvents himself as a door-to-door toy salesman, but the new career takes a twist when he inadvertently becomes the target of the mafia.
Mihalka plays Monsieur Houstaf, captain of a spaceship.
“His mission is find a new leader for his planet,” Mihalka said. “The computer of the spaceship said that Monsieur Brucco is the chosen one. But he is a total fool and catching him becomes a challenge, since Monsieur Houstaf is a complete idiot as well.”
The role allowed Mihalka to tap into his profound comedic acting talent. He says he relished the chance of “being a fool” on screen.
“Life is so serious. Being a fool frees you! And with a captain from out of space, you have even more freedom to go overboard.”
The film was a success to the point a sequel is now filming. “All I can say is: The fool is still chasing the other fool.”
Other 2015 acting roles for Mihalka include Emilio Ferrari’s TV movie, “All I Want for Christmas,” Jonathan Moy de Vitry’s “Difficult People,” Alex Lewis’ “Driverless,” and Mickella Simone’s “The WorkPlace.”
Mihalka’s been acting since 2014 in the comedy web series, “Zero Button,” and he played Sean Benini in writer-director Stan Harrington’s “Lost Angels,” that won four awards at the Indie Fest USA International Film Festival.
“Sean is a sleazy paparazzi in Hollywood hoping to make big bucks,” Mihalka said. “The movie is about Los Angeles, the glamour and the gutter.”
Mihalka’s filmography also includes acting in Harrington’s multi-award-winning feature mystery, “Perception” and Yu Jung Hou’s “Forever.”
In “Perception,” Mihalka played the role of Yuri and said, “Yuri is a very shy and silent student. The opposite of me. It was my first movie…exciting of course.”
Mihalka’s theatre background provided a valuable training ground before he parlayed his talents to film. From 2010 to 2012, he studied at The Stella Adler Academy of Acting in Los Angeles and starred in theatrical productions of “J.B.” and “The Diviners.”
“In theatre,” he said, “I learned to speak up and be clear in my speech to make sure the guy in the last row won’t fall asleep. Also, I learned to get used to many eyes watching me. This benefits me on set since there are as many eyes watching you like in theatre.”
Veteran actor, writer and producer Tim McNeil has appeared in more than 30 films and television shows including “Forrest Gump,” “Contact” and “Starship Troopers,” as well as in over 40 plays. McNeil directed Mihalka in his original play, “Margaret,” at the Gilbert Theatre at Stella Adler Los Angeles.
“The play is about a community’s reaction to the unexpected suicide of a 16-year old girl,” McNeil said. “Initially, nobody speaks about it, all acting as though nothing has happened. Bruce, played by David, is the most vocal about his concerns. He is a drunk who is not afraid to speak the difficult truth, bringing comedy to a very dark and dramatic play. He is critical to the production because he is the only one who challenges everybody in the neighborhood to talk about Margaret, searching for an answer as to why she did it.
“David proved outstanding in his sensibilities and his knowledge of the character. He understood both the material and his own character, and in turn, made the play feel that much more real. His ability to bring comedy to such a tragic subject, and make it all seem natural without being over the top, is a testament to his ability as an actor. David has something to offer the entire world with his exceptional talent.”
Mihalka credits other actors as having a great influence on him. “Established actors taught me two things: find the unique things about yourself and don’t be shy. Enhance them and show it to the world. The other one is: never give up!”
Mihalka’s talents don’t stop in front of the camera – one look at his work in photography verifies another field where he excels.
Capturing difficult scenes through his work with a camera are a testament to his gifted photographer’s eye. Mihalka’s photography captures scenes from a diverse slice of life. From the sublime to the exotic, to the baseness of life, his photographic eye catches, captures and produces exceptional and unique perspectives of people, places, and situations.
DD8, a creative, full-service company specializing in design, producing, directing, shooting and post-production, was commissioned for the rebrand of Australia’s premier sports network – Fox Sports Australia. The network includes six sports channels, a news network, sports apps and digital channels.
The catalyst for the rebranding was a series of new original “I Am” promotional video spots. Chief among the creatives behind the rebrand was visionary director Luke Farquhar, who was then a director for Fox Sports.
The Sydney based director is known for his poignant and highly stylized spots that blend together an impressive concoction of abstract imagery, strong characterization and world class storytelling.
Jean-Christophe Danoy is the acting CCO for Fox Sports Australia and he founded DD8 with Adam Duncombe and Susie Riddell. DD8 has ushered in its expansion with offices in Sydney, Singapore and Vietnam, and Danoy said, “Luke is different from the pack. Everyone in the office wishes they could do what he does. He is somehow freer – uncomplicated – and very different from any other director I’ve come across. He’s the cool one in any room. And he’s always right on brand.”
Farquhar has directed many commercials, spots, promos and branded content including for Channel [V] Australia’s music video show, “The Riff.” Farquhar has directed compelling spots for the Grammy nominated rapper ASAP Rocky, the UFC, Land Rover, Billabong, Schweppes, the Brit Music Awards and more.
“I like my spots to stand out from the rest,” Farquhar said, “so I always tried to push the envelope when coming up with the creative.”
For Fox Sports, Farquhar directed the “I Am Surfing” promo last March, which features surfers Noa Deane, Kelly Slater, Kolohe Andino, Gabriel Medina, Matt Wilkinson, Tyler Wright and others. Shooting commenced at the Australian Open of Surfing in Manly, New South Wales, Australia, and at Queensland, Australia’s Gold Coast.
“Because of my surfing background, it felt like the natural thing to do from Fox Sports’ perspective to put me in charge of the surfing re-brand, and all things that come under the Extreme Sports banner,” said Farquhar.
Set to the Ramones cover, “Beat in the Brat,” the surf promo is a 45-second rock and roll-like blitzkrieg that captures the spirit of the Australian surf scene both in and out of the water.
“I Am Surfing” received a lot of great responses, especially within the surfing communities,” Farquhar said.
Another component of the “I Am” rebranding campaign showcased Farquhar’s directing of personal narratives of acclaimed athletes such as boxer Jeff Hornet, surfer Mick Fanning, MMA star Ronda Rousey and Australian footballer Callan Ward.
“Luke’s not by fazed by fame. He can mix with anyone, and he gets a good relationship going with the talent,” said Danoy. “He’s a sports person himself and he gets them and they get him. He’s incredibly perceptive and really gets something unique from the talent. It’s in his personality. Luke has a great personality and unique perception and vision. He engages people and gets something out of them that they haven’t ever given before. He enables them to discover different parts of themselves. And they in turn enjoy the experience.”
The inspirational spots feature voiceover narration of the athletes who detail their personal stories of triumph.
“Luke gets the essence of the person,” Danoy said. “He tends not to go for the middle ground – he gets the darker or the lighter side. He gets the side that you don’t usually get to see. And he tells a story simply and clearly in a visual and emotive manner.”
Within the spots, Hornet recalls his journey to boxing and explains how he was picked on in high school, which motivated him to become a fighter.
Fanning, who survived an infamous shark attack last year, shares his wisdom on overcoming adversity, improving as a person and believing in your chosen course. “Dealing with mother nature, you never know what’s going to get thrown at you and things can turn around so quickly,” he says in the spot.
“After his nearly fatal shark attack in South Africa, Mick Fanning became not only the most popular surfer on the planet, but one of the most wanted people on the planet,” said Farquhar. “Our creative had to be different, original and worth his time.
“Being from the Gold Coast also, I knew where Mick would be and worked out my creative there. Instead of doing a “wham bam” in your face spot, I wanted to slow it down and strip it back. Mick agreed and went to work. A few days later, the job was done and got the tick of approval from Mick. Mick is a true pleasure to work with and created a very smooth work flow because of his laid back ‘yes’ attitude.”
In Rousey’s spot, she shares her story of working three jobs to make ends meet, while training full-time, and pursuing her goal of becoming not just one of the greatest women’s fighters, but one of the greatest fighters of all time.
Ward is the co-captain of the Greater Western Sydney Giants, of the Australian Football League, and in his spot, Ward explains the “Captain’s Curse,” which is the need for extreme mental toughness in conjunction with physical toughness.
Cinematographer Tom Punch worked with Farquhar on “I Am Callan Ward,” on The Riff spot, “New Blood” and on Farquhar’s Land Rover Discovery spot.
“Luke approaches directing in an original way,” he said. “It is refreshing and I think gets the best out of people. He is in it for the love, not the money. His approach is very unique. He has taught himself to tell stories in a very obscure way. He takes risks that others wouldn’t and this makes working with him exciting! Whether it’s the narrative, or concert he wants to get across, I feel that only Luke knows what the outcome of his work will be. He leaves me in suspense until I see the final cut and each time I’m always blown away.”
Other “I Am” spots Farquhar directed included “I Am a Fanatic,” which shows the euphoria experienced by two female Australian football fans riding in a car, screaming and celebrating the thrill of victory, as well as “I Am UFC,” a gritty ad focused on the training of male and female fighters.
The “I Am” rebrand also featured spots centered on other Australian sports franchises and figures such as Melbourne Victory, La Liga, Greg Inglis, Kim Ravaillion, Tim Cahill, Scott Pendlebury, Jack Miller, Israel Folau and more.
“Overall, the “I Am” rebrand has collected multiple awards with the help of myself and other directors under the guidance of the creative director, Jean-Christophe Danoy,” said Farquhar, who is eyeing further DD8 expansion with Danoy into the U.S market.
Cyber Evolution Chimelong Paradise water stunt show China. Photographer: Universal Artist Photography, Mason Sharrow
Struck by her sexy confidence, we aren’t surprised in the slightest to find out that directors are similarly impressed when acclaimed stuntwoman and performing artist Kate Petersen enters the room (or the stage). True to her authentic self, Kate finds that she is often cast in roles where she plays “tough, sexy and strong” leading characters. This persona often comes across in roles as a leader of a group or head of militia, and was especially embodied in Kate’s “Rescue Ops” character where she acted alongside co-star Brian Allen Keith (“Sex & the City” and “Baywatch”). These roles resonate with Kate and maintain her passion for the sensational work that she does.
Her combat scenes, fire burns and high falls have taken Kate all over the world, playing leading roles in world-renowned live shows such as; Seaworlds’ “Pirates Unleashed,” Movie Worlds’ “Fright Nights,” Dream World’s “Kevil Hill and Daydream Circus” and Chimelong Paradise’s “Countdown till Destruction” and “Cyber Evolution.”
Kate gained a name for herself starring on television series like, “Totally Wild” and “Australia’s Got Talent” at a young age and in front of large live crowds. These types of experiences, combined with her impressive skill-set and her award-winning background (Kate placed first in gymnastics team nationals for Australia and won a scholarship from the Australian Acting Academy) fueled her confidence and strength. Kate begins the interview modestly, but we soon find out that her rare and varied combination of stunt skills is what makes her unique in the world of stunt performers, especially at the young age of twenty-three.
Next up Kate will be touring the US performing live in “Tidal,” which will combine her acrobatic, stunt and gymnastic skills with street entertainment. “Tidal” is scheduled to begin touring in September 2016.
To hear more about Kate’s specific skills, challenges she has overcome and her thoughts on living abroad, read our interview below.
Can you tell us where you are from and a little bit about some of the unique skills you incorporate into your work as a performing artist?
KP: I am from Gold Coast, Australia and some of my skills include figure skating, gymnastics, circus aerials and groundwork, diving, stunts and acting.
When did you first realize performing was something that you wanted to do as a career?
KP: I started doing gymnastics at a young age and I was scouted at a competition when I was twelve and was asked to join the circus. I immediately loved it and that’s when I realized I wanted to pursue it as a career.
What was the first job you had as a performing artist?
KP: My first performing job was with the “Trix Circus” back when I was twelve. I trained with them for 6 months and then we went on tour, joining with the “Aston Circus” all around Queensland, Australia.
When it comes to working as a stuntwoman in the industry what are some of your special skills?
KP: My specific skills as a stunt performer are high diving, stage combat, high falls, fire burns, repelling, whip cracking, precision driving, ice-skating and gymnastics.
How long have you been training in each of these areas? If you had to pick one or two, what would you say your favorite “stunt” skill is to perform?
KP: I have been training in gymnastics since I was three, ice-skating since I was thirteen and all of the other stunt skills for the past five years. My favorite stunts are precision driving and high falls.
Can you tell us about some of the live shows you’ve done over the years?
KP: I have performed with many companies doing live shows and one of the first was the “Super Performance Centre.” I was in a number of their productions and corporate events. Being the lead performer, I had multiple individual acts including the “Spanish Web,” hula hoops and trapeze. I was also the performance coordinator, which involved choreographing group acts, managing and maintaining performers as well as show quality.
Not long after this I performed in shows at the Gold Coast theme parks including Seaworld’s “Pirates Unleashed Acrobatic & High Diving Show,” Movie World’s “Fright Nights” and Dreamworld’s “Kevil Hill and Daydream Circus.” I played lead roles in all of these shows and I gained more skills and experience with every performance.
My experience in these shows then took me to China where I performed in the largest water stunt show in the world. I did two shows at the theme park Chimelong Paradise including “Countdown till Destruction” and “Cyber Evolution.” I was performing multiple lead roles and this is where I gained a lot of my stunt experience.
Living in China was my biggest challenge having to adapt to the culture and leave all my family and friends in Australia but it was worth it to pursue my dream job.
Can you tell us about some of the film projects you’ve done?
KP: I have been in several films. My first big acting job was starring in a film called “Rescue Ops.” This film was directed and shot in China and I not only acted in the film, but I also preformed fight scenes and my own stunts. I was playing a secret agent along side with my co-star Brian Allen Keith (“Sex & the City” and “Baywatch”) who played the role of Director Black.
My character was a role I really connected with, as I was a tough, sexy and strong secret agent who was trained to infiltrate the most dangerous organizations in the world. Getting to work on an international action film like “Rescue Ops”only fueled my fire to pursue acting and stunts in the film industry.
How about television projects?
KP: I was featured as a performing artist on “Totally Wild,”which is an Australian television series. I was showing my skills as a circus performer including acts such as straps, partner acrobatics and triple trapeze. I was interviewed by the television presenter Jessica Skarratt about my training in the circus, how I got into it, shows I was performing in and my goals for the future. It was great exposure as I was young and eager to get my name out there as a performing artist in Australia.
I also was a contestant on the popular television series, “Australia’s Got Talent” in 2010. I was performing fire poi and fire hula-hoop along side my friend Shaun who did fire-staff. We did various interviews backstage with Grant Denyer and on stage with three judges Dannii Minogue, Brian McFadden and Kyle Sandilands. There was a huge crowd of over 3000 people and the experience was absolutely exhilarating.
They are all very different, what made you choose to participate in these projects?
KP: I want to perform for the rest of my life. It brings me great joy and makes me feel strong and confident so I don’t mind what I’m doing as long as I love it. I’ve performed in a number of different productions and shows and I’ve gained different experiences from all of them and I find it only builds my career for future projects.
What about performing makes you feel strong and confident?
KP: I think because I have performed in front of all different crowds ranging from one to 40,000 people. I gained a lot of confidence over the years and the more skills I gained the stronger I became. To do the different skills I perform I have to keep my body in extremely good physical shape doing extra cardio and workouts on top of my skills training. Each different skill requires different muscles in the body so I have to make sure I am ready for everything.
Have you been in any commercials or music videos?
KP: Last year I was in a commercial in China for “Lao Yang Dumplings.” I was a stunt performer and had 3 fight scenes. The commercial was for their new restaurant and was aired on multiple media channels in China.
Do you feel like having such a broad skillset has given you an edge in the industry?
KP: Yes for sure. I have gained so much experience and a wide variety of skills from doing a number of different shows and performances and it definitely gives me a unique and intriguing resume.
Having a rare combination of so many different skill sets in the stunt industry is definitely a plus as directors and coordinators can feature me in different roles, using various skills in films, television shows and commercials.
It is incredibly unique to have all of these skills as most performing artists specify in one area and not several. I have trained these different skills from a very young age and for a twenty three year old I have more experience than most people who are performers.
Do you feel that you get cast to play a certain type of character more than others?
KP: Yes for sure. I am usually cast as a lead role for a powerful and strong woman in charge. I’ve played many characters in my live shows that involve me being the leader or the head of an army or group.
You mentioned that this type of character resonates with you, do you feel that your background and training has contributed to supporting your character of feminine strength, or is that something innate that you exude in your everyday life?
KP: I would have to say both. My skills definitely helped of course but some of the challenges I’ve faced in life have definitely made me stronger. For example, I had back surgery in 2010 and that was one of the hardest things to overcome. I was out of training for 6 months but I pushed through it and still managed to get all of my skills back within a few months. Performing is my absolute passion and I would do anything to continue pursuing that for the rest of my life.
Do you have anything that you’ll be working on in the near future that you can tell us about?
KP: I’m currently working on “Tidal,” which is a live show produced by Joston Theney of Sinning Networks. This show is a modern, fantasy re-imaging of the Tale ‘The Ugly Duckling’ as told through the sordid trauma of young Corbin’s family’s brutal divorce. Federique of the North appears to deliver him from darkness and self doubt. I will be using a combination of my acrobatic, stunt and gymnastics skills in the live show and it’s scheduled to tour in September 2016.
What is it about being a performing artist that you love most and why are you passionate about continuing on with this career path?
KP: I love performing the skills that I’ve worked so hard on and doing something that I absolutely love as a career everyday. I want to continue to develop more skills and experience, I am working towards directing my own show or movie. This is something I’ve trained towards my entire life and I can’t imagine doing anything else now, this is my absolute passion and it drives me everyday to do these amazing things that I dream about.
The accomplished art director, M. Cagri Kara, has established himself as a valuable talent in the advertising industry, and is known for his brilliant, visually stunning work with brands such as Audi, Lamborghini, Frito-Lay, FOX Television, Yamaha and Coca-Cola.
Kara’s art direction was on full impressive display with an ad campaign celebrating the Coca-Cola Company’s 50th Anniversary in Turkey.
The campaign advertised the global beverage corporation, which was founded in Georgia in 1892, and was aimed at representing the special Turkish way of optimism. The prints changed the spelling and logotype of the iconic soft drink to Koka-Kola to befit the brand’s pronunciation and spelling to Turkey’s vernacular.
The campaign’s theme encompasses security, positive tolerance and the healthy concept of living in the moment opposed to remaining stuck in the past. The ideas of optimism were linked with the Cocoa-Cola philosophy of promoting happiness, and ultimately reached the targeted Turkish audience with great success.
“The campaign’s message was clear. I didn’t want to use too many graphic elements for the print version, or in the television commercial,” said Kara. “Instead, we opted to use optimistic Turkish words that were positive, clear and strong, as in the word ‘mutluluk,’ which means ‘happiness’ in Turkish.”
KARPAT, a leading independent advertising agency in Istanbul, produced the campaign. KARPAT’s Creative Chairman, Karpat Polat, said, “Cagri was undeniably a lead contributor to the success of our company and in particular, the Coca-Cola 50th Anniversary commercial campaign.”
Prior to hiring Kara at KARPAT, the pair worked together at DDB&Co. Istanbul Group, where Polat served as President and Chief Creative Officer, and Kara, as an art director.
“From the inception of the Coca-Cola project to its completion, he [Kara] was fully attentive and engaged throughout the process, producing fantastic results day after day that led the campaign to wide acclaim and roaring success,” Polat stated.
The Coca-Cola advertisements were shown on live TV and spanned billboards, bus shelter ads and print ads featured in many magazines, each emphasizing Coca-Cola’s trademark and their stand-out color, red.
“Coca-Cola’s red is already a pretty strong reminder for the brand,” Kara said. “Because of method, our point became very clear. Instead of being overly descriptive, we only used Coca-Cola’s iconic red, their very recognizable cans with the letter ‘K,’ and the positive, optimistic words to work for us. In this case, less was very much more.”
Kara’s work on the Coca-Cola 50th Anniversary campaign was immediately well received, earning him the distinguished 2014 Crystal Apple Award for Best Integrated Campaign for his work.
Regarding this achievement, Polat explained, “This is an enormous honor, even for an art director of Cagri’s caliber. I can positively state that we could never have achieved this without his leading expertise and creative vision.”
In addition to Kara’s success with the Coca-Cola campaign, the prestigious art director has also been awarded a Crystal Apple Award for Most Creative Social Media Campaign for his work with the cosmetic brand Polisan, and the Cannes Lions Bronze Award from Finansbank’s “Evolution,” a 2013 Cannes Finalist.
“As his multitude of impressive credits clearly indicates, M. Cagri Kara is among the most sought after and prolific art directors working today. His aptitude for visual design and aesthetics is second to none, and his instincts for delivering the best work possible for a given project position him as a formidable talent nationally and internationally,” Polat said.
Axel Swan Maldini, a 23-year old model from the U.K., brought his world-class modeling talents to a campaign for the highly prestigious Italian handbag company, Catherinelle.
The campaigned was photographed by esteemed photographer Settimio Benedusi, a fashion photographer most known for his work with various companies including Versace, Persol, Ferrari Spumante, Yamamay, Seventy, and Fisco, among others. Benedusi’s work as been featured in publications and magazines such as Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, Maxim Magazine, Sportsweek, Image Magazine and Digital Photographer, among others.
“The goal of the shoot was to capture multiple generations of a family using rustic, sepia tones influenced by an Eastern European aesthetic,” Benedusi said of the project. “Mr. Maldini’s look is a distinctly striking one.”
Benedusi described Maldini’s gaze in the photographs as vacant, and, “Paired with illustrated arms and [an] ominous stature,” ultimately making him the, “ideal model for this shoot.”
The campaign was shot in Milano. Regarding the location and feel of the project, Maldini explained, “The background had to resemble vintage family portraits of a gypsy family. The idea was sort of family portraits, so the poses were as traditional as possible.”
While the poses of every shoot differ from one another, Maldini said, “When it comes to shooting, I’ve always really tried for the mood of the shoot: the message it has to deliver, as well as the creative process that happens on the other side of the lens.”
For the Catherinelle campaign, Maldini said, “The poses were really natural, and they had to resemble the typical family portraits of the past. There was no particular facial expression, if not the one of a formal family portrait. The shooting was still very spontaneous, even though the team had to go through the mood-board to ensure the outcome was as desired by the designer. The main challenge was to pose without making the picture look too posey.”
Clothes featured in the shoot were from high-end designers such as Vivienne Westwood and Versace. Incorporated into each distinct look were Catherinelle bags.
“The reverence of the shoot is reinforced through the contrast of the models,” Benedusi commented. “Without Mr. Maldini in the campaign, I’m not sure that we would have celebrated the success we have had.”
Maldini has contributed his modeling talents through leading roles for Kon Streetwear, Papercut Magazine, Lui Magazine, Fucking Young! Online’s editorial “Lucha Libre,” the Zeynep Guntas Look Book, Urban Tribe, and Cult Shoes.
“My approach to each job has been very spontaneous, and I’ve always been glad to collaborate with creative people, which is definitely one of the main motivations,” he said. Maldini, a well-rounded model who has reached the peak of the industry, mastered the art of runway modeling and has made appearances through Barcelona Fashion Week and shows by Krizia Robustella.
“In the last twenty-five years,” Benedusi said, “I have worked with every type of creative in the industry. It is with this time as a photographer that I have noted what it takes to succeed in this highly competitive field. Mr. Maldini is an asset to the American and International fashion industry. He is a considerable force within the modeling world, and his continued presence on the runway and in front of the camera will only bolster his standing as a highly demanded model.”
Animation films are not what they used to be. From Finding Nemo to The Incredibles, the ToyStory series and others, these productions are big box office numbers and Oscar Winners. As some of the biggest films for any studio, they’ve also become a favorite of the talented actors who voice the characters of these stories. Tom Hanks to Brad Pitt, Kristen Bell to Renee Zellweger; these roles are more sought out than ever before. While there’s some truth to the fact that this cultivates a future fanbase of loyal admirers, many actors relate that the expressive nature is paramount for them; at least Canadian actress Jenna Wheeler-Hughes does. She stars as Fran, the tomboy in a group of otherwise male friends in the 2016 release Snowtime. With costars Golden Globe winner/Primetime Emmy nominated Sandra Oh, Angela Galuppo (of X-Men: Days of Future Past), and others, Jenna manifest the kind of small town challenges and triumphs that translate to any place on Earth. Nominations and wins at the Jutra Awards confirm that this talented voice actors and full production team have realized an animated film that will last for some time.
Snowtime proves to children and adults that boredom can be the catalyst for great adventure. Watching the movie, one might be convinced that modern technology is not the default to attention. In this story, the children of a small village decide to engage in an epic snowball fight during the Winter break. Eleven-year olds Luke and Sophie assume the mantle of leadership for opposing groups to overcome the other’s snow-fort. The only stakes involved are bragging rights and the occasional welt from a hard-pack snowball. Wheeler-Hughes portrays Fran, an awkward eleven-year old who simply want to be “one of the boys” and hang out with her friends. What is not simple at all is the large hearted performance that the actress brings to this role. Fran is truly a stand-out character as she treads the line between everyone’s buddy and yet obviously of a different gender than most of her circle of friends. She’s the kind of girl that causes boys to forget that she is any different from them…until of course, they do notice. Jenna states, “I was so excited to be a part of this project. She was so fun to create and voice. Developing the character was an amazing process, because not only did I voice her, but I was being filmed throughout the entire process so that they could capture my physicality and facial expressions and add them to the animated character. I felt like I really got to exercise my craft during this creative process. Fran is the comedic friend who doesn’t know she’s funny. Her humor and passion for life comes out in several scenes.
Fran is something of a dichotomy in the story. She’s obviously maturing and growing to the point that she will soon visibly be a young lady. In spite of the awkward transition period for her, she seems to be the wise counsel for many of those around her; it’s Jenna’s personification of this that makes it so believable in the story. When Fran helps Luke realize that he actually has a crush on Sophie, both audience and characters buy into her advice because of Jenna’s tone. Fran welcomes new girls, Sophie and Lucie to town, establishing a welcoming environment. Even when her team loses the snow-battle, Fran proves a gracious loser. Though she is going through puberty and questions who she is (or maybe who she is becoming) she is well rooted in her values and empathy, courtesy of Jenna’s delivery. Though Wheeler-Hughes can be found in TV and film roles more commonly, she revels in what this foray into animated films has given her. She notes, “It’s not just as simple as speaking for these films. In addition to mannerisms and truly embodying the funny/dorky girl, I had to protect my voice. I really relied on my vocal training to make sure I didn’t overdue it and cause harm. I’d find myself screaming as loud as possible for the sessions and I’d be asked to do it again louder. It was slightly painful but worth it. We laughed for a solid 10 minutes after those scenes.”
Born in the UK and raised in Milan, Italy, 23-year-old Axel Swan is one fashion model whose pouty lips and bad boy style exudes the kind of sex appeal that transcends cultural boundaries. Being brought up in what is arguably the high fashion capital of the world, it’s not surprising that Axel was scouted by a plethora of agents who hoped to represent him in his teens; but at that time he had other things on his mind– like art, music and roaming the streets of Italy on his moped. The now sought after model admits that he just needed to grow up a little before he was ready to give the fashion world a try; but once he did, there was no turning back.
Currently signed to Two Management in the states and Uniko Models in Barcelona, Axel’s edgy rocker look has led major fashion companies around the world to consistently book him to be the face of their campaigns. Besides his outward appearance, which is undeniably a challenge to peel your eyes away from, what makes Axel so special in front of the camera is the fact that there is a sweet air of innocence to his personality that radiates from his photos and creates a beautiful dichotomy. To put it simply, Axel Swan is one mesmerizing model.
Some of his most recognizable campaigns and editorials to date include shooting for Junya Watanabe & Loewe’s collaborative collection, Barbara Sanchez-Kane’s “Catch as a Catch Can” collection, Urban Tribe’s “Sub Urban” collection, Hells Bells, Cult Shoes, Cotton Club and others. Axel also recently shot a campaign for Coca-Cola, which will be released later this year.
Axel was not only featured in leading men’s magazine GQ (Italy) as one of the main models in the campaign for the Junya & Loewe collection, but he was also featured in the collection’s fashion video, which was shot by Andrea Olivo and went viral in 2013. The video garnered Axel, the other models and the company a lot of attention when it was included on The Fashionisto, GQ Italia’s website and many other high profile outlets.
In addition to helping put many brands on the map in the eyes of fashion consumers, Axel has also taken his place in front of the camera shooting editorials for purely artistic purposes, like the 10-shot solo editorial he did for Papercut Magazine’s “Shiele Reloaded” spread. The photo collection, which was inspired by the work of iconic Austrian expressionist Egon Schiele, reflects Axel’s astonishing versatility and capacity for bringing intense emotions and characters to life.
To find out more about Axel Swan make sure to check out our interview below!
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
AS: My name is Axel Swan Maldini, I’m 23. I was born in a small town close to Manchester in the UK in July 1992. My mother was modelling in Milan at the time and my dad started working in a bank while he was promoting at one of Milan’s biggest nightclubs, and so they moved back to Italy when I was just 2 years old. I attended Italian schools, and I recently got my bachelors degree in fine arts at the Academy of Fine Arts of Brera.
I’ve always been really into music and skateboarding. I picked up the bass guitar at the age of 15 back when I was a punk, probably one of the few ones in Milano, Italy. All I was doing was putting soap in my hair and sewing patches of the bands I liked on my jeans and putting together some great distorted tunes with my friends. When I realised music wasn’t just about screaming and distortion I decided to attend a music school where I studied bass guitar for more than five years. In 2011 I started a band called ØJNE. We toured Europe a few times and released three vinyls.
About modeling.. I remember I was scouted by a tall young ginger haired man, on a warm day of the Italian Autumn, during my punk times. I was sitting in a corner next to a shopping mall having a beer and listening to my favourite noise, and the young lad come close to me and he smiles asking me if I could please open for a fashion show that I would have been perfect for, and that he would bring me to Elite afterwards so they could represent me.
The only thing I could do at the time was tell him to get lost… I refused his offer and wouldn’t take his business card. I just probably needed some time to figure things out and maybe grow up. Yeah I was a punk, but I was only 15. I got into modelling few years later at the age of 21.
How did you get into the industry?
AS: I remember meeting my ex-booker at a bar and we exchanged numbers. And then I received her call a couple of months later while I was driving my moped. She said a client really wanted to meet me so I accepted, and became a part of the agency.
What do you enjoy about working in the industry?
AS: Growing up I was always really shy and introverted, and I thought the industry was the right place to force myself to show my personality to others, as well as meet many talented individuals. I managed to improve my personality and kicked away most of my shyness!
Also I’m very fascinated by what happens behind the camera, and it’s really interesting to try and understand how another person sees you and what role they give you to interpret. Being the “object” of a creative process can only improve my skill as a graphic designer, as well as train my eyes and develop further awareness in my artistic choices.
On top of that clothes are always really, really nice. Also it’s a great opportunity to understand something more about fashion design, fabrics textures and all that comes with it!
What agencies are you with?
AS: TWO management – Los Angeles Uniko – Barcelona
What are some of your favorite brands and why do you love them?
AS: I don’t have any favourite brands and I don’t love any one in particular. I used to be really into Rick Owens (I still am, except for the fact that billions of people started to dress with copies of the real clothes without really seeming to understand why) and all the high end brands related to it… I still think the atmosphere they recreated, it’s something unique and has taken a lot from a few different cultures and background and they put them together with a dark “goth” attitude.
On top of that there’s alway a meticulous attention to the details of the fabrics and textures. Recently I re-discovered the Scandinavian touch to fashion, which is always extremely clean and minimalistic.
How has working as a model affected your style?
AS: I don’t think working as a model has affected the way I dress. Obviously at times you need to dress accordingly to fit the client you’re going to meet, but I always do it with my own touch and taste.
I’ve always been extremely sure that in a way what you wear expresses yourself and in some ways some of your personality. I’d say music has affected my style more, as well as my mood and my growth.
I rarely wear clothes that I bought a year before or more, because being still quite young, I feel they don’t represent me anymore or they represent non-updated version of myself; and they could also remind me of periods of my life that can be either good or bad, but still in the past.
Who are some of your go-to style inspirations?
AS: Love to mix and match. It could be a punk, a skater, another model, anyone could make me think of something new and different to put on.
Do you ever feel like you are two separate people, one when you’re in front of the camera, and a different one when you’re not working?
AS: Not really. Though I have to say that I mostly get picked to be the badass boy with tattoos and in “real life” I’m definitely not the one to be tough and cocky. I think one of the most interesting parts of being a model is learning to interpret the role they give you during a shoot or a movie and try your best to feel that way in front of the camera.
Can you list some of your clients, as well as the campaigns you have shot for them?
AS: I shot a multi-platform campaign for GQ Italy x Junya Watanabe x Loewe where the editorial shots were featured in the magazine, as well as GQ’s online platform and I also shot a video for them, which was featured on Highsnobiety and The Fashionisto.
I’ve shot campaigns for Rebel Root that were featured on billboards and in the papers in Barcelona, Spain, Cult Shoes and Evin Beachwear in Italy, as well as Catherinelle Bags and the campaign for Urban Tribe’s Sub Urban Collection.
AS: I’ve done a bit of everything from walking the runway and shooting high fashion editorials to commercial work and bathing suit ads, but so far I’ve done editorials more than anything else.
What is your favorite job you’ve done as a model?
AS: I’ve really enjoyed doing them all to be honest. The one I liked most was probably shooting for Fucking Young, it was fun messing around with a painted face and some Lucha Libre pieces.
What would you say your standout characteristics/physical features are in the modeling world?
AS: I’m really skinny and long, got a bunch of tattoos but mostly concentrated on my left arm and my legs. Got some quite high cheekbones but not so edgy of a face. I can look a bit more commercial when I have a bit of a beard.
Who have been some of your favorite photographers to work with and why?
AS: Szilveszter Mako. I shot with him for Fucking Young! andLui Magazine. I’m really into his surreal approach to photography– the atmosphere he manages to reproduce in his pictures definitely recalls his background and where he comes from. He has a really cold touch and the geometries in his pictures as well as the framing is something unusual. He definitely has a great eye.
Andrea Olivo . I shot with him for GQ. His style reminded me a bit of Terry Richardson, the shots were really simple and the atmosphere was more than laid back. The focus was just on the attitude of the models.
What would you say your strongest qualities as a model are?
AS: I think being myself has always worked pretty well. Apart from the way I look, which is very contradicting compared to who I am (people always expect me to be the badass junkie but I’m very sweet and easy going), I think having loads of passions and interests helps me get along with pretty much everyone in the industry and there’s always a lot to share about something. I’m very professional, I always do the best I can do, and I’m easy to work with.
Can you list some of the people you’ve worked with that our readers might know?
AS: Andrea Olivo, Catrinel Marlon, Francesco Chiappetta, Krizia Robustella, Szileszter Mako, Juny Watanabe x Loewe, Federico Garibaldi, Evin Beachwer, and Settimio Benedusi to name a few.
As a model, what are your plans for the future?
AS: Work as much as I can and discover as many markets as possible.
What do you hope to achieve in your career as a model?
AS: A couple of those big billboards wouldn’t hurt, must be a weird feeling seeing yourself printed that big! I would probably crash my moped If I saw myself that big while i was riding around town. Apart from that, I’d love to work with designers I’ve always admired and get to know who’s behind the “big name.”
What is it about modeling that you love?
AS: Modeling is a great way to get to know great and talented creative people and gives you the possibility to see places and travel more.
We recently had the chance to sit down and visit with the talented, lovely actress Zoe Cleland, who film and TV audiences would recognize from her stand-out character portrayals in “How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town,” “Murdoch Mysteries,” “Saving Hope,” “Pay Up,” “Reign” and others.
A Toronto native, Cleland first starred on the stage before hitting the screen. She booked her debut TV role when she was just 15 and became the youngest actor to ever attend the National Theatre School of Canada.
Cleland has acted alongside famed talents such as Lauren Holly and Megan Follows, and has appeared in roles ranging from comedy to period drama to medical drama and more.
She’s been in the trenches on many productions. We’ve put the spotlight on Zoe, who shared this exclusive question and answer session that reveals just what it’s like to work nowadays as a film and TV actress. We think Zoe’s awesome and invite you to find out her story below!
When you read scripts and discover characters, what qualities do you look for and what aspects attract you to a role?
ZC: I’m attracted to all kinds of characters for lots of different reasons. Great writing has a huge impact on what I want to be a part of. I think if the writing is good, it usually means there’s a level of depth to the characters and the story that is super exciting to mine as an actor. I’m also drawn to roles that I feel will illuminate some aspect of the human experience that I feel needs to be looked at, that will benefit people to empathize with…and then sometimes it’s purely selfish in that a character might be fun to play or might have an aspect that I want to explore for my own understanding or personal development. It all depends! I rely a lot on my intuition.
You booked your first role at the age of 15 when you guest starred as Eva Rookwood on “Murdoch Mysteries.” How did this character tie into the episode and what was the experience like being on a television set for the first time?
ZC: Yeah, so I played Eva Rookwood, a British orphan who gets adopted into a well-to-do Canadian family, only to be abused by her stepfather. He ends up getting murdered and the episode revolves around solving that crime…won’t give too much away but the crime is a result of the abuse that was going on.
I remember the experience being totally thrilling and terrifying at the same time. Up to that point, I had mostly worked on stage so I really didn’t know much about working with the camera. So the experience was very very new for me. I was so excited to be on set, though, and I remember being completely entranced with how much detail went into to building each room…I remember looking at the books on the bookshelves and how much thought had been put into what they were, even though they probably would never be seen by the camera. I wasn’t used to being immersed on a set in such a realistic way and I thought I had landed in heaven.
You returned to “Murdoch Mysteries” in the role of Joanne Perly in an episode that aired earlier this year. How was this character involved in advancing the story and did you ever anticipate returning to the series?
ZC: I never anticipated going back; I just assumed that would be it for that show but apparently not! I can’t say too much about Joanne Perly without giving too much away, but I will say that she appears to be a sweet young mother but is actually something else underneath. She ends up being an intricate part of the episode, which revolves around a bank robbery. Her baby also goes on to be adopted by the Murdochs, which was a new kind of plotline for the show.
Last year you made your feature film debut in Jeremy Lalonde’s comedy, “How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town,” a project just a little different from “Murdoch Mysteries.” What was your experience playing Young Cassie?
ZC: My experience doing that film was really wonderful, it was a great set to be on and it was so exciting to be playing the leading character in the opening act. I had to have a different relationship with the camera than I’d ever had before, because the emotional heart of the opening of the film rested on me…because of that I learned a lot.
What was it like acting alongside Lauren Holly in the film?
ZC: It was great; Lauren is really lovely and very generous.
Did you learn or absorb anything from working with her?
ZC: I did, I learned a lot just from watching her work and also from talking to her, we had a lot of time to chat in between takes and she was really open about her life in the industry, so I absorbed a lot from that.
Did the topic of “Dumb & Dumber” or Jim Carrey ever arise?
ZC: Haha no, I’ve never actually seen the movie.
What are the characteristics a great actress possesses?
ZC: Great question! I think the ability to empathize is probably near the top, because without that there would be no acting. Apart from that, I’m going to say openness, vulnerability, bravery and imagination.
How do you try to incorporate those qualities into your own acting?
ZC: I just try to be honest with myself about whether I really feel I’m being true to a character and/or situation…whether I’m going as far as I can into whatever reality I am portraying. I think if I am I will exhibit these qualities by default.
What is one thing that people would never suspect about being a film and television actress?
ZC: I think people tend to have ideas about film and TV acting that it is a really glamorous job…and that somehow the actors are the most important part of the whole production. In reality it is really a collaborative thing, there is so much work that goes into film from so many different people and it is truly a team effort. That’s one of the things I love about it. It also really isn’t as glamorous as people think, there’s a lot of waiting around and it takes a lot of passion and stamina to continue to be present in the work.
What’s surprised you the most or surpassed expectations about working in the industry?
ZC: I think in a way the most stunning thing about the film industry is that it even exists at all. When you realize how much work and drive it takes from so many people working together to do a project, it’s really amazing how much great work gets produced. There’s such a magical element to the film industry and it’s incredible how many people have the passion to come together to make it happen.
What’s been your single most difficult day on set?
ZC: I had one day on “Reign” when they didn’t get to my scene till about 3 in the morning, so the whole day was waiting in my trailer, and then trying not to fall asleep. That was difficult purely physically because it was challenging to stay alert enough to do my best work.
What has been the most rewarding role you’ve played thus far in your career?
ZC: I was in a production of “Three Sisters” by Anton Chekhov in theatre school that really changed my whole approach to acting, and actually made me want to go into film. I played Irina, one of the sisters, and I don’t know if I’ve ever dove more into a part than I did with her. I just got totally lost in her and her story. We had a director who really encouraged smaller, more naturalistic acting and it made me realize how much I loved that kind of intimate work.
Continuing on the theatre theme, you attended the National Theatre School of Canada. How does that training bode well for your portrayals in film and television?
ZC: I think my training at NTS taught me a lot about myself…that has been incredibly valuable to me on many levels. The lessons that I learned about myself there made me really know who I am and how my mind and heart work, which is so necessary to act. The school also had a really strong emphasis on building stamina when I was there and that has also served me well.
What was the best part of acting in the comedy series, “Guidance,” alongside Rob Baker?
ZC: The best part of the experience was actually working with Rob, acting in those scenes with him was like being in a verbal fencing match. It was just so much fun.
You played Odette in two episodes of The CW’s award-winning period drama, “Reign.” Tell us a little about Odette.
ZC: Odette is an unfortunate maid who gets involved in a lot of intrigue that she would rather stay out of. Because she is lower class, she is in some ways not part of the world of “Reign” in the same way that everyone else is. It was fun playing her because she is a bit of a deer in the headlights…someone really powerless who has to live day to day surrounded by a lot of danger in the world of the French court.
What’s the best part of acting in a big period piece? Is it the costumes, set pieces, the transformative nature of the production or something else?
ZC: I have always had an obsession with period pieces, so acting in them is really a dream come true for me. It’s kind of the ultimate playground for my imagination, because when you are in a period piece it really is like stepping back in time. You are totally transported into another reality in a way that you aren’t when you are in something modern.
What was it like acting with Megan Follows in “Reign”?
ZC: It was wonderful acting with her, she has such a strong presence and she is so focused.
You switched gears last year and acted in the role of Brianna Pierre in the acclaimed medical drama, “Saving Hope.” How valuable is the range of an actress who goes from comedy to period drama to medical drama and more?
ZC: I think it’s valuable for sure, but to be honest I try not to think of each project as being that different from the next. It feels the most authentic to me to approach every character the same way, whether it’s a comedy or a drama. I think that’s what usually gets the best work out of me, when I’m more focused on the character and their situation, rather than trying to fit into a “style.”
How would you describe your character, Shawna, in Craig Macnaughton’s comedy series, “Pay Up”?
ZC: I would describe her as a teenage girl who is trying to assert her power in a situation in which she feels powerless. She is an only child of recently divorced parents, and she is tying to stay connected to both of them…and to keep a feeling of security around her. Unfortunately, she doesn’t know how to do this in a way that will really serve her, so she ends up basically playing her parents off each other in order to get them to buy her things.
In “Pay Up,” Richard Lett plays a debt collector named Jack. Is Jack a guy you’d not want to cross or is he living on reputation?
ZC: I would say Jack has more bark then bite, if he even has much bark at all. He struggles a lot to assert his power over the people he is trying to collect money from, and that’s where the funny parts come in.
What are some go-to hobbies or activities when you’re not on set?
ZC: I meditate a lot, and I would say I have a pretty active spiritual life, so that’s something that I commit a lot of myself to…I also watch a LOT of movies. I also like to write and paint, but I’d like to be a bit more disciplined with myself about doing those things regularly.
Who is on your short list for fellow actors or filmmakers you’d like to work with in the future?
ZC: There’s so many! And it really changes from day to day. Lately I’ve been really getting into the work of Jane Campion. I love what she does. I’ve also been going on a Tom Hardy spree on Netflix…I have an insane crush on him in every way, and I think he’s an incredibly magnetic and dynamic actor.
“Hot l Baltimore” directed by Che Walker and produced by Rochelle Rossman at Stella Adler in Los Angeles.
Cast: Mona Lisa Abdallah, Liselotte Alfons, Anastasia Burenina, Christina Blum, Ana Roza Cimperman, Robert Oliver Gislason, Christian Hoha, Ninni Holm, Edward Macgregor, Tatiana Olaya, Johann Schulte-Hillen, Kayla Strada, Nuno Sousa and Abel Vivas.
Los Angeles, CA- Director Che Walker’s production of Lanford Wilson’s 1973 play “Hot l Baltimore,” which had a successful run on the Gilbert Stage at the iconic Stella Adler Theatre in Los Angeles, brought together a mishmash of colorful characters who all have one thing in common– they are all on the verge of homelessness as the seedy Hotel Baltimore that they call home is slated for demolition.
Set in the lobby of the dilapidated hotel, “Hot l Baltimore,” which pulls its title from the neon marquee with the burnt out ‘e’ that sits above the dying building, follows the trials and tribulations of the soon to be evicted characters as they live out their final days at the hotel.
The cast of the show gives audiences a brilliant slice of life peek into the lives of these characters, which range from naive hopefuls and over-the-top eccentrics, to cynical prostitutes who’ve seen too much sorrow to ever fully recover and the hotel’s less than chipper staff that seem to go out of their way to make all of the ‘guests’ feel like they’re the scum of the earth.
Mona Lisa Abdallah first takes the stage as the hotel’s daytime desk clerk Mrs. Oxenham, and boy does this actress bring her easily flustered, germaphobic and overly conservative character to life with distinct style. From her fidgety, nail biting mannerisms to her unrelenting nosey-ness and constant eavesdropping, Mona Lisa makes Mrs. Oxenham into a character we all love to hate.
The interactions between Oxenham and Paul (played by Robert Oliver Gislason), a former tenant who returns to the hotel (after being sent away to a work farm for two years due to a drug conviction) in search of his grandfather, serves as the perfect example of the disconnect between the two societal classes portrayed by the story’s hotel staff and their ‘customers.’ Instead of being willing to help, Oxenham brushes off Paul’s requests and treats him as if he his less than human, further solidifying the idea that these down-on-their-luck characters are really just worthless individuals undeserving of respect.
While the play is definitely tragic in the way it portrays the less than glamorous lives of the majority of its characters, it is not devoid of comic relief. The way Mona Lisa’s character uses a tissue to pick up the old rotary phone, and takes several minutes to lick the adhesive on an envelope just to mail a letter, definitely brings a bit of quirky humor to the show.
On top of taking on the pivotal role of Mrs. Oxenham, Mona Lisa was also cast to take on the role of Dopey, a new character written into the production by director Che Walker. Mona Lisa reveals her wide range as an actress through her portrayal of these two very different characters within the same production, something she accomplishes with astonishing ease.
As Dopey, one of the hotel’s resident hookers, Mona Lisa gives an engaging monologue about the struggles of being a prostitute in the lower rungs of society, where the girls continually spend their money to look glamorous in the eyes of their revolving door of Johns, have little left over for themselves and still battle the unceasing yearning for the familiar touch of true love– a sad cycle few are able to escape.
The young and lovably naive prostitute known as The Girl, played by Kayla Strada, gives us a little insight into how some of the older prostitutes started out their lives in the ‘business,’ probably holding onto a glimmer of hope that they would some day escape the murky underworld that’s sadly trapped them.
And then there is Jackie, played by Tatiana Olaya, a rebellious young thing who’s travelling with her little brother trying to gather enough money to start an organic farm back in Utah. After using all of her money to purchase the land for the farm (which she has yet to see), she goes about trying to convince Mr. Katz, the hotel manager played by Ninni Holm, to cosign a loan so she can get the start-up money she needs for the farm. But when that doesn’t work out, she decides to steal jewels from Morse’s room; however, she is caught and gets herself kicked out of the hotel. Even sadder than the fact that Jackie has no chance of really making a go of it with the farm, is that she leaves her brother Jamie, who’s not-all-there mentally, behind.
Through Millie, played by Johanna Schulte-Hillen, a retired waitress with a pension for reminiscing over the past, audiences are privy to a character who represents a different kind of ‘failed’ existence– one where the person doesn’t even reason that their life is in shambles. The character, who always seems to be telling ghost stories (that she clearly believes) in her somewhat soothing southern drawl, has a sweet, but melancholy quality about her– as if she had a beautiful future ahead of her at one point, but somehow took a turn for the worse.
The drama that ensues as the conflicting personalities of the characters clash, and the tragic, sometimes hard to swallow, display of their personal turmoil, kept viewers engaged throughout the run of the show. From the soon to be destroyed building, where hot water is simply not a thing and a working elevator is a memory long past, to the decaying youth of the play’s struggling band of prostitutes, “Hot L Baltimore” is imbued with themes of human struggle and cultural decay, and the actors involved do a marvelous job of breathing life into this 1973 play in the modern age.
For Erin Simkin, the journey began eight years ago.
“Color, location and people are what drive me to create,” she said.
And create she has.
The impeccably talented photographer from Vancouver has maneuvered the trenches of action filmmaking with Dominic Purcell, Stephen Lang and Danny Glover. She’s been on set in the depths of an abandoned subway station in search of paranormal sightings with Rose McGowan and Christopher Lloyd. She’s shot for leading magazines and brands such as Toronto Life, En Route, The Grid, Peroni, Grolsch and Sephora.
Simkin’s vast list of achievements have propelled her to the top of the photography industry. Her creative and technically versed work has refined qualities and characteristics that rope in viewers time and time again.
Whether on-set photography used for film marketing and P&A, portraiture, lookbooks, editorials or branded imagery, Simkin drives her craft forward with a photographic passion that reveals itself in each and every image she captures.
“My style is very clean, colorful, bright and with an air-like openness,” she said. “I’m very much inspired by natural light, as I feel there is an inherent beauty to it that artificial lighting can’t quite match without a lot of work. I love exploring new places, meeting new people, and capturing and combining all of that in one image in order to tell a visual narrative.”
With color as the catalyst driving her vision, Simkin’s images embody texture and a dynamic use of interesting spaces. She’s most recently shot for the films “Lower Bay” (with McGowan and Lloyd) “Gridlocked” (with Purcell, Lang and Glover) and writer-director Joey Klein’s romantic drama, “The Other Half.”
“There are always great locations that we get to shoot in, amazing costumes and beautiful lighting to tell the story of the characters,” said Simkin, who shoots primarily with the Canon 5D Mark III. “I love photographing people. Each person has such a different history and tells their own story through their facial expressions, their style, hands, their energy and I love being able to document them in their world and in their work.”
Applying the same approach, Simkin photographed for the feature film, “Mean Dreams.” Due out later this year and directed by Nathan Morlando, it stars “The Book Thief” Sophie Nelisse, Josh Wiggins (“Max”) and Golden Globe nominee Bill Paxton, of “Titanic,” “Apollo 13” and “Aliens” fame. According to Variety, Paxton plays a corrupt cop and Nelisse stars in the role of his daughter. After stealing drug money from her father, Nelisse goes on the run with Wiggins’ character.
Filming commenced in Sault Saint Marie and Simkin said, “The pure beauty of the landscape and light paired with the incredibly talented actors all combined seamlessly into such beautiful imagery.”
“Mean Dreams” features the work of cinematographer Steve Cosens, a five-time Gemini Award nominee who won a Leo for his cinematography in Keith Behrman’s “Flower and Garnet.” With “Mean Dreams,” Cosens shot using ambient lighting, which provided a challenge for Simkin to match her still camera shots with that of the motion picture camera.
Simkin shot for the film using a lower shutter speed equipped to capture images in low light scenarios. “The resulting images I was able to capture was worth the challenge of shooting in low light constantly,” she said. “The photos I was able to get while working on the film were extremely poetic and it allowed us to capture the delicate and subtle natural light working that far up north.”
For TV, Simkin shot for the CBC’s “Baroness Von Sketch Show,” a new comedy due out this summer. She was hired to shoot set stills and create key art for advertising the show.
“The cast of incredibly funny and talented women made this project so enjoyable,” she said. “We went for a “Vanity Fair” Hollywood style gallery shoot and both the cast and the producers loved the final images. We had so much fun creating the style of the gallery shoot, yet I still made sure to stay true to the characters and the visual tone and style of the show with its various sketches and characters that our cast played.”
Simkin worked again in the comedy genre in writer-director Matt Sadowski’s 2014 romantic comedy feature, “Pretend We’re Kissing,” that starred Dov Tiefenbach, Tommie-Amber Pirie and Zoe Kravitz. With a huge filmmaking presence in Toronto, the tax-friendly filming location is often used as a simulated location rather than as its own true setting. The Canadian theme resonated with Simkin, who currently resides and works in Toronto.
“I got to work with some amazing actors on a really fun film that heavily featured Toronto actually as Toronto,” Simkin said. “Many native Torontonians commented on how they had been living here for x number of years and they’ve never seen Toronto shot the way that we showed them, which was exciting because it meant that we were able to show a new side to the city which is relevant to the story as the main character [Tiefenbach] falls in love and then views the city in a different way. Working with Zoe Kravitz was a real pleasure, as she was so driven and fun to work with as her character was an extremely memorable one.”
Simkin’s photographic journey has included her work for Lindsay Mackay’s family drama, “Wet Bum” (also known as “Surfacing”), that received seven international award nominations. She also worked as photographer for the documentary, “Sweet Daddy Siki,” which covers the life and times of Siki, one of the first African-American pro wrestlers.
“I had the chance to visit with Sweet Daddy Siki for a few hours in his home and was asked to photograph his story, his history, and take his portrait. He was so gracious and open to anything, including putting on his old wrestling costumes, which added so much to the portrait that we took,” said Simkin. “I felt like I was opening up a time capsule and meeting an icon.”
Simkin credits her mentors in the still photography world including Kimberley French (“The Revenant,” “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” “Brokeback Mountain”) and Cate Cameron (“Arrow,” “Bates Motel,” “The 100”). “Their help and advice and support have been invaluable,” she said.
While also a long-established portrait photographer, Simkin worked with Elle Ziegler of Blissful Back, a Toronto-based retailer of yoga and meditation support accessories and contoured pillows.
“We have a family business and needed our images to tell the story of my father and I’s amazing relationship, and the uniqueness of our father-daughter business,” said Ziegler. “Erin’s best quality is her ability to tell a story though her lens. She captures vulnerability and honesty in her portraits by making people feel completely open and comfortable in front of the camera. She made decisions based on the locations, sunlight, shadows, props and backgrounds – things that we never could have predicted and things that I didn’t even notice – that resulted in stunning images.”
Talia Chai, founder of Talia Chai Wellness, echoed similar sentiments. Simkin shot portrait, lifestyle and blog photos for Chai’s wellness brand. The shoot featured a combination of people and interior spaces.
“I think Erin has a fine-tuned, expert eye when it comes to photography,” Chai said. “She multitasked effortlessly, working the lights, me, props and of course the camera all at once. She was in complete control of her environment and knew exactly how to take advantage of natural elements already found in the space. She has an incredible eye for detail, lighting, color, shadow and uses these elements both strategically and intuitively to create absolutely stunning images that stand out.”
Simkin’s other photography experience includes her shooting key art for Brendan Canning’s new forthcoming album, for a Samsung Vue social media campaign and boardroom wall photography for Accelerated Connections Inc. She’s shot at events for the Toronto International Film Festival and Russell Peters Live at the ACC, as well as for the Globe & Mail, Toronto Star, National Post, Peroni, Samsung, GAP, Scotia Bank, Women of Influence, Women of Action, the Jewish National Fund, Sharp Magazine, Flare Magazine, Canadian Cinematographer and more.