“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.
Virtual Reality Group MightyVR, Momentum Entertainment and Sports Network, Interpix, Inc. and Replay Collective are pleased to announce the production of “The Most Dangerous Women in Hollywood,” an unprecedented 360 degree virtual reality movie and game series.
Viewers journey on a fully immersive experience by wearing a headset that allows the virtual reality experience of trying out jets, sports cars and choosing one of “The Most Dangerous Women in Hollywood” to join up with and get away from the bad guys. Headset options range from high end models such as the Oculus to a $20 Google Cardboard set.
“We believe the entertainment industry is on the verge on a complete shift in media consumption because of virtual reality and, soon, augmented reality,” said Replay Collective producer Siddharth Ganji. “As storytellers, we are always looking at how technology will shape storytelling, and there is no doubt that VR is the next big evolution in this arena.”
The exciting new project is dedicated to all of the daring stunt actresses who provide audiences with an array of thrills including flying military planes, racing sports cars and more.
Dallas Santana is directing the project, which is scheduling to film this month in Las Vegas. He is the creator, director and producer of “Destination X Hawaii,” “Destination X California” and “Destination X Puerto Rico.”
Starring in “The Most Dangerous Women in Hollywood” are the selectable and delectable Olga Safari, a model and actress known for her role in Thomas J. Churchill’s “Check Point,” Jennifer Irene Gonzalez, an FHM cover girl and former Miss Taiwan, Tara Rice, a model and actress who has appeared in “Piranha 3D,” “Austin Powers in Goldmember” and “Entourage,” and Michelle Watterson, a leading MMA fighter and model.
Producing the project along with Ganji are Replay Collective’s achieved line producer Varun Verma and producer Raghav Murali. Replay Collective produces engagement-driven content and is known for producing viral YouTube videos for artists such as Trisha Paytas and Ricky Dillon.
“With MightyVR, we are working on an action-oriented, interactive short. You choose a character and make consecutive decisions in an effort to “stay alive,’” Verma said.
Murali explained, “Virtual reality takes consumer engagement to the next level. Rather than just feel involved, consumers can in essence attend events minus their actual physical presence.”
In tandem with the movie and game series, the new initiative includes a 360 degree video, an HD short video, a companion picture book and e-book.
“The Most Dangerous Women in Hollywood” will be released on MightyVR’s distribution platform as an app that may be purchased. It will be also be available online, for smartphones and its book releases will be sold by Amazon.com and Borders.com.
Filming VR of course requires a specialized approach to production. The end result is a product that is entirely VR. “We have a special GoPro rig provided by MightyVR that we will be using. It’s an interesting approach to production where we have to pre-light everything in such a way that we don’t see any stands or lights,” said Ganji. “When the shooting takes place, everyone needs to disappear from set, and it will only be the performing talent performing the action.”
Murali noted that most virtual reality camera rigs are created using multiple cameras such as the GoPro, which are fitted and film in a way where images overlap. “The stitching of these images creates the three dimensional 360-degree effect,” he said. “Most VR software requires the stitching to be done in post, but there is also software being developed that allows real time stitching, enabling filmmakers to watch their content in real-time.
A VR-focused, immersive production means there is no fourth wall to hide behind during filming. “No crew or equipment should be seen by the camera. This requires lots of rehearsal and planning, making it a rather different experience to traditional filmmaking,” said Verma.
Ganji, from Mumbai, India, sees this dynamic new technology as having many valuable, inventive uses. “A strong benchmark for what is coming is to look at the video game industry and how immersive and interactive those games/worlds have become,” he said. “On the flip side, I have a 79 year-old grandmother who has never visited me in the U.S., and probably won’t be able to because of health issues. I’d love to be able to visit her, pull out my phone and let her experience her own journey of wonderment as she literally walks down the Santa Monica beach. The possibilities for technology are so vast, but what this boils down to is finding a human connection to the content.”
That human connection could also expand to immersive training materials for a variety of industries.
Said Ganjji, “Imagine you’re a newly-hired electrician and your company is training you. I see VR eventually entering into entirely non-entertainment related industries as a tool for training. Look at how many companies are gamifying their businesses now to increase employee productivity. VR completely aligns with that goal, and, I believe, will have huge market potential for hiring and attracting young generations.”
The technology is also one that presents an alternative to 3D. “I think VR is next level 3D,” Murali said. “Rather than simply being shown a world from one perspective in 3D, one gets to experience the VR world in full 3D.”
Stunt performer and actor Carson Manning, who has daringly delivered stunts for more than 70 different film and TV titles such as the highly anticipated “Suicide Squad,” “X-Men: Days of Future Past” and FX’s “The Strain,” has attached to play the leading role of Michael in “Time Man,” an exciting upcoming feature film written and directed by Travis Grant.
Now in development, “Time Man,” will take place in a present day, urban New York City or Chicago-type city setting. The drama-filled, action feature film will tell the tale of a middle-aged, disgraced superhero named Michael, who is looking to redeem his name. Similar to many superheroes, Michael does have an expected heroic ability, however, the nature of his is presently under wraps.
No stranger to action, Manning has employed his expert stunt work in recent releases such as Henry Nader’s “Shoot the Messenger,” Allan Ungar’s “Gridlocked,” Columbia Pictures’ “Pixels” and “RoboCop” (2014) and Sony’s “Pompeii.” His stunt performing and utility stunts for “X-Men: Days of Future Past” led to a 2015 Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble.
Manning’s acted in Fox’s “X-Men” in 2000, in Universal’s Oscar-nominated “The Hurricane” starring Denzel Washington and he performed stunts for New Line Cinema’s “Shoot ‘Em Up” starring Clive Owen and Paul Giamatti.
After reading the script for “Time Man,” Manning immediately knew he wanted to be a part of this high-concept, highly original superhero story. “The character Michael is multi-dimensional,” Manning said. “At the beginning of it, you can’t figure out who this guy is. I had already done all of the superhero films and thought ‘Wow, this is really different.’ The writing and the scenes were so compelling.”
Standing apart from the formula of superhero studio films, Grant, who is previously known for known for “Nick Ryan,” “Maybe Tomorrow” and “Paper Trail,” meticulously worked to create an original superhero story.
“I loved superheroes when I was a kid. When I first sat down with this, I felt like there was a bit of a hole. They’ve [the studios] glossed over character moments. They’re trying to make a big budget tent pole film,” said Grant, of his initial ideation regarding filling a gap in the current marketplace among superhero movies. “There are other superheroes you can explore that aren’t DC or Marvel properties.”
From this inspiration, Grant created “Time Man,” who is known as Michael in the story’s opening. On the character himself, Grant said, “He was looked up to as a shining beacon for the city. He became obsessed with one bad guy he couldn’t catch. He made a poor decision and that cost him everything – his powers, friends and family. He became a loner, about as far as rock bottom as you can get.”
The film will contain flashbacks, ultimately telling two stories at once. “‘You’re kind of seeing who he [Michael] became and also his fall. It’s reverse arcs at the same time. They converge at one pivotal scene at the very end,” Grant revealed.
The audience will find that the villain will play a very important role, as Grant also noted the character is integral to Michael getting back on his feet. Furthermore, alongside Manning, actor Ryan Barton (“Co-Ed”, “Owl River Runners” and “Nick Ryan”) has been cast.
Manning’s vastly impressive achievements as a stunt performer and actor have spanned nearly three decades and dozens of distinguished productions. Due to his wide-spanning, world-class experience in filming stunts, Manning is a person who can make judgment calls concerning safety, and recommendations pertaining to what realistically can and cannot be done budget wise.
In addition to starring in “Time Man,” Manning will also be coordinating and performing his own stunts, too. “To me, having an actor who is able to do all or most of their stunts is invaluable,” Grant said when describing Manning’s type of talent. “You’re not limited as to how you can shoot the scene. You can tell a story within the fight.”
Manning’s tour de force stunt performing and acting has also been engaged in many acclaimed TV series that have had international viewership. He acted in all three parts of ABC’s Primetime Emmy winning “Storm of the Century,” which was a miniseries event from writer Stephen King. Manning performed stunts for seven episodes of the Gemini Award winning action adventure series, “Mutant X,” six episodes of Syfy’s hit series, “Alphas” and for three episodes of The CW’s Primetime Emmy nominated “Nikita.”
Last year, Manning’s stunt performing was seen in Guillermo del Toro’s “The Strain,” The CW’s “Beauty and the Beast,” Syfy’s Primetime Emmy nominated “Defiance” and “12 Monkeys,” Global Television’s “Remedy” and the History Channel’s “Gangland Undercover.”
The action-packed, feature film “Time Man” will allow Manning to utilize both of his specialties at once as he delves into the mindset of his new role as Michael. “Time Man” is projecting to shoot this year and release in 2017.
As an audience, when we get wrapped up in a fast paced action packed film it’s easy to forget that the actor on screen is rarely the one performing their character’s crazy stunts. A production goes to incredible lengths to cheat the shots and make an actor’s stunt double look just like their character so that when they hit the screen jumping off buildings, engaging in intricate battles and all the other physically challenging feats that make stunt men so heroic and necessary, that we as viewers remain on the edge of our seat, never noticing the role change. Although it is a rarity in the industry, there are some actors who actually do their own stunts and Umar Khan is among the best of them.
Khan is known for his work as both an actor and a stuntman in a plethora of titles including the films “Close Range” and “Deliver Us From Evil,” and the popular TV series “Bones,” “Rush Hour,” “Person of Interest” and “Scorpion.” Last year he also worked as a stuntman on the series “The Brink,” and “NCIS: Los Angeles,” as well as the recently released film “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” starring Tina Fey and “Captain America: Civil War,” which is slated for its initial release on May 6.
Khan’s expertise in martial arts and various forms of combat have led him to become a sought after action designer in the industry with major productions hiring him to choreograph fights scenes for their projects. After working as the action designer on the 2014 TV series “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – District Voices,” Khan formed Stunt Fighting Concept – Umar Khan Stunt Team. With his team Stunt Fighting Concept Khan has developed pre-visualized fight scenes for several films that are set to begin production including “Killing The Seeds,” “The Master’s Legacy” and the “The Man From Kathmandu.” He is now along with his team set to make a pre-visualized fight scene for the American remake of “The Raid.”
Prior to moving stateside several years ago, Khan established himself as a sought after stuntman and actor back home in Sweden where he both directed and starred in the film “Veracious Perception,” in addition to being featured in countless magazines and commercials.
To find out more about this incredibly talented performer make sure to check out our interview, as well as the video of Umar in action below.
I’ve read from some of your past interviews that you knew as early as age 7 that you wanted to become one of the few actors who also performs their own stunts– with that idea in mind, how did you initially approach your career?
UK: I started off like any kid by mimicking the fight scenes from the different action movies I saw. Later on, I developed an interest in fight choreography so I started choreographing my own fight scenes with my friends. During my years in middle school I used to borrow the school’s video camera to shoot my own “fight movies.” I remember that I was already a perfectionist at that age, I used to handpick my co-stars (based on their height, look and skills), do location scouting, direct, choreograph and act in the films I made. All of this would account for how I got more and more into the creative side of it.
For the physical aspect I tried to learn new moves and new styles all the time, trying to perfect each move and develop a new move out of it and so forth, watching martial arts movies and later on YouTube clips and comparing myself to the best in each discipline, that way I had a goal of where I wanted to reach skill wise. I think if you are truly meant to do something, there will be an urge that will draw you there no matter what obstacles you face along the way.
As a stuntman what are some of your special skills in the industry?
UK: My background is in martial arts, so I would say my primary skills as a stunt performer is screen fighting along with fight design, however I do a lot of different areas of stunts today.
How long have you been practicing martial arts?
UK: I have trained in martial arts since I was 7 years old.
You recently wrapped production on the upcoming films “Captain America: Civil War” and “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” starring Tina Fey, can you tell us about the stunts you did in these films?
In “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” I was initially set to do stunts only but I replaced the original actor who was cast for the role as “Wild-Eyed Man”, the director said that he was impressed with my performance while I was rehearsing the scene as a stand in for the actor so he cast me for the role instead. The character I was playing was possessed and was running in a crowd towards the lion cage screaming and eventually throwing a hand grenade inside the lion’s cage. We actually had a real lion on set, so it was pretty amazing to see such a magnificent animal so up-close.
In “Captain America: Civil War” I was playing Hero Mercenary and my main scene was fighting Scarlett Johansson’s character Black Widow, it was a great fight scene, one of the best in the movie, so you guys should definitely check it out!
What technical challenges did you face on these films when it came to mapping out how your stunts would play out on camera?
UK: The fight we did for “Captain America: Civil War” was a demanding one because of the extensity of the fight combined with the lack of time rehearsing it. Unfortunately, there wasn’t any time to rehearse the scene, which happens sometimes. We rehearsed the fight on set a few times right before we shot it and it all went really great actually. It all comes down to how well trained you are in screen fighting and how fast you can learn and adapt to a new choreography. Fortunately, that’s something I have always kept in mind since the day I started doing this, you never know when/if the director wants something different once he sees it in front of him, so I always keep in mind to prepare myself for any changes or the possibility of learning a new choreography at the last minute.
You have also worked as an action designer on several projects over the years– for our readers who aren’t sure what that entails can you briefly explain what you do as an action designer on a project?
UK: An action designer is basically a person or a team who is/are hired to design the action scenes on a production. In many cases, the stunt coordinator designs and choreographs the stunt sequence to suit the script and the director’s vision.
What projects have you worked on as an action designer and what were some of the different approaches that you took on each project?
UK: I designed a fight sequence back in 2014 on the TV mini-series “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – District Voices.” While designing the fight scene for the series an idea I had many years ago of creating my own stunt team came back and so a couple of months later I formed my own team, Stunt Fighting Concept – Umar Khan Stunt Team. We have been fortunate enough after creating our first action design pre-viz (sponsored by Under Armor Germany) to get a lot of calls from producers requesting to make a pre-viz for their upcoming projects. We created two pre-vizes for Joyto Films for their upcoming projects “Killing The Seeds” and “The Master’s Legacy” and successfully locked the position on both as the Stunt Unit, and I’m set to Second Unit Direct/Stunt Coordinate on both projects.
We made another Pre-viz for a project called “The Man From Kathmandu” which my team and I will action design and coordinate on, I will Second Unit Direct and star in that film. We also recently made a pre-viz for Screen Gems that we’ll soon know if we secured the position of creating the action. And currently we’re rehearsing for our upcoming pre-viz for the American remake of “The Raid.”
I start preparing an action design for a certain project by reading the script a couple of times to get familiarized with the storyline and the characters involved in it, then I ask the producers or the director what his/her vision is and what they’re looking to do with the scene and then I’ll start working my way from there creating an action design that fits the script.
From safety to how things appear on camera, what are some of the most important aspects that you need to consider when designing fight sequences on a production?
UK: The general idea of my fight designs is to make it look as authentic as possible but also visually attractive for the audience, along with the unique camera technology that we possess (the only one on the market), the cameraman can approach the performers much closer in order to get the hands on feeling on the actual fight and give the audience almost a third person POV, video game kind of feel to it.
With this system in use comes a lot of other responsibilities to keep in mind. Not only safety for the performers but also safety for the camera man who is now one more “performer” in the mix and automatically becomes a safety priority. The fight sequences I design are meant to look very authentic due to the actual physical contact me and my teammates are inflicting upon each other, it’s not something I recommend; my team consists of guys that have fought professionally or are highly trained in various areas of the stunt business and are used to the physical contact as myself. We train the same way real fighters do, with sparring sessions combined with our choreography training to have the best of both worlds and adapt fast.
The second thing is the environment and the props. Basically we use props that look authentic and can simulate the real thing, just like in any of the props on set, we utilize them when we need but as little as possible since one of the main features of the camera technology we use is to capture the action scenes in “one shot.” We are limited when it comes to cuts between scenes so it requires a lot more from the performers to stay in shape, being well rehearsed and being sharp to prevent unaccommodated injuries to themselves or their fellow partners.
What is this new unique camera technology that your team uses?
UK: It’s basically something that we refer to as a “Semi-drone.” We believe that our concept will revolutionize how filmmakers capture movie fights and overall action scenes in the future. The reason being is that our system freely captures the fights and action in a video game style look by utilizing the DP as a part of the movement within the scene along with the performers and having a second camera operator moving the camera through a monitor for a more up-close and detailed view of the action, this way it won’t leave a single part of the move out for the audience to feel, you get the best of both worlds, the sense of POV along with the interactive part of 3D which makes it feel like you are a part of the action. It’s a pretty advanced technology that we are happy to bring to the big screen soon.
Can you tell us about your work on the 2015 film “Close Range”?
UK: I got a call from the director of the movie, Isaac Florentine, when I was in Texas and he told me that he had a part for me on his new movie. So I flew back to L.A and we started working on it. Working with Isaac was great, we had been in talks of working together for about 5 years when I was still in Sweden, so when the opportunity arose we made it happen. I was playing a Mexican drug cartel assassin called “Sesma”.
How does your character Sesma fit into the film?
UK: Sesma is the Mexican drug cartel boss’ right hand in the movie, he is an emotionless cold-blooded killer. Playing the character that doesn’t have a lot of lines is quite demanding but also a lot fun since instead of vocally using your thoughts you have to transcend them through your facial expressions and body language.
Do you feel that you get cast to play a certain type of character more than others?
UK: Not really, I have played a wide range of characters from different ethnicities and backgrounds.
Can you tell us about your favorite role to date as well as your most challenging role an actor?
UK: I would say until this date it’s probably a project I directed back in Sweden, “Veracious Perception.” I was depicting the role of Robert Martinez, a corrupt cop with multiple personalities, so I had to bring out so many different emotions while still maintaining character. It was very challenging but something I really grew from and enjoyed doing.
They are all very different, what made you choose to participate in these projects?
UK: My main goal when coming to America and Hollywood was to work on projects that were on the mainstream level, such as popular TV shows and big budget movies. It has been great working on big name productions doing acting and stunts but at the moment I’m also looking for challenging parts for the acting aspect and great action scripts for the action design.
You get approached all the time to work on projects with people, what makes you pick one role over another?
UK: If the role has a challenging side to it, it’ll be more intriguing to me. I prioritize the parts when I’m pushed out of my comfort zone to find a “new” me through the character I’m playing. I believe as an actor if you are not pushing yourself to take on the most demanding parts you’re not really testing your limits of what you are capable of delivering from deep inside you.
Have you been in any commercials or music videos?
UK: I recently did a commercial for EAS Sports Nutrition as one of the featured athletes, before that I did a commercial for Red Apple’s Ale, performing as the Latino boxer. I did a commercial for Dick’s Sporting Goods representing Under Armor jogging apparel, and last year I did a photoshoot for Harley Davidson and Carnivore Fitness (Australian athletic apparel) who are also now my sponsors.
I was in a bunch of music videos back in Sweden, such as, Fjarde Varlden’s “Ingenting,” Unlima’s “N’ Say Love,” Emerson’s “Back Off” and Cee Rock’s “The Fury.” Anderson Iz Nice and I did a couple of commercials like Idol 2005 and ICS for Sony Ericson, and I’ve also been featured in many magazines such as Fighter Magazine, Fitness Magazine, twice in M3 Digital World, the cover of Friskispressen, as well as Kamera & Bild.
What projects do you have coming up?
UK: At the moment me and my team are rehearsing for a previsualization for the upcoming American remake of the martial arts film, “The Raid.” I’m also in preproduction with another project that is set to be shot here in the U.S. and Nepal later this year, an action thriller called, “The Man From Kathmandu.” The film, which I’m both action directing and starring in, is being produced by Clear Mirror Pictures.
Last year, I was requested to choreograph/direct two pre-vizes for Tom Delmar, a renowned British action director making his directorial debut. We shot the pre-vizes with our technology and he was really impressed by them, so he put me in charge as the Second Unit Director and Stunt Coordinator on his upcoming features, “Killing The Seeds” and “The Masters Legacy.” It will be my debut as a Second Unit Director/Stunt Coordinator on a feature film so I’m super excited about that and deeply honored to have been given such a high position.
What are your plans for the future?
UK: My plans for the future are to develop more innovative Action Design for major shows and carry on what I started when I was in middle school, borrowing the school’s camera and bringing my friends to different locations to shoot my own projects, this time I’ll do it with my stunt team and with big budget projects. I also have plans to star and direct in my own projects in the future.
Arriving as one of today’s finest actresses, Jessie McLachlan has delivered outstanding character portrayals in film and television over the last decade. The Australian native played Anna in Tom Simes’ feature drama, “Run, Broken Yet Brave” and Rachel in the FilmOut Festival Award winning feature drama, “Newcastle,” written and directed by Dan Castle.
She starred as Monica in Antonio Oreña-Barlin’s short drama, “Suburbia,” that was nominated for an Australian Film Institute Award, and has dispatched her talents to TV including in Village Roadshow’s reality series “The Shire,” 7 Network’s (Australia) 13-time award-winning comedy drama “Packed to the Rafters” and Nickelodeon’s 12-time award-winning family drama, “Dance Academy.”
Chief among McLachlan’s flourishing acting career was her 27-episode recurring performance as Samantha Braxton on 7 Network’s romantic drama, “Home and Away.” Created by Alan Bateman, the series has collected more than 40 awards and has broadcast since 1988.
“I’m really proud I got to be a part of it, in some way,” McLachlan said. “I’m proud of the Australian industry, and it is a testament that a show has been running for so long.”
“Home and Away” follows the lives, loves and heartbreaks within the fictitious coastal town of Summer Bay, in New South Wales, Australia.
The role challenged McLachlan to carry out the antagonistic, Samantha, who was a troubled member of one of Summer Bay’s surfing gangs. An aggressor, Samantha was a character best known for creating conflict, and one opposite of McLachlan’s own persona.
“It is the beauty of acting morphing into a completely different person, whom is definitely not like myself,” said McLachlan. “It is always a challenge playing a character whom is a complete opposite to you, and the way in which you conduct yourself in life. I always like to reflect on a personal experience, and encapsulate that raw emotion and feeling I had and use it in a performance to make it as authentic as I can, but with this character I was very challenged in the beginning in learning to be angry at everything and everyone.”
Starring as Samantha in the series from 2010-2011, McLachlan said of the character, “It is hard enough to be a teenager now days let alone have hardship or social issue’s amongst your family to overcome. I think at heart she is good, but when your family has a blurred line between what is right and wrong, she was easily influenced.”
Australian Actress Christina Collard (“Dracula: The Impaler,” “The Girl’s Guide to Depravity”) recognized McLachlan’s dynamic acting in “Home and Away.”
“The role required an incredibly dynamic actress, as Samantha’s presence and demeanor caused a significant amount of drama throughout Jessie’s time as a leading actress on the series,” she said. “Her presence was felt in scenes that she did not even appear in, which is a huge accomplishment that further evidences Jessie’s many talents as an actress. Her character was the talk among critics and dedicated viewers alike, and has been hailed as one of the more memorable characters in the recent history of this long running series.”
“Home and Away” currently is the second longest running dramatic series in Australian television history. Sold to more than 80 countries, it has drawn huge audiences in locations such as the United Kingdom, Ireland and New Zealand. The show is the most successful program in Logie Award history.
Of her favorite single portrayal, McLachlan says, “The first episode of a new season will always be my favorite of any show. It is when some questions that I’ve waited for a few months are finally answered, but also then all these new story lines are revealed, and the show becomes so juicy and the curiosity makes you tune in or binge watch it.”
Developing her talent early in life, McLachlan started speech and theatre lessons and became a National Irish Dancer when she was just 7 years old. “Every time I performed, from an audition or in front of my Grandma, it gave me a sense of euphoria, a high but a certainty feeling.”
Her talent and passion for performing hasn’t gone unnoticed in the industry as McLachlan went on to work for shows televised by MTV, ABC and Australia’s 9 Network. A do-it-all talent, McLachlan also was signed as a singer/songwriter to Island Def Jam.
She’s trained at the renowned Lee Strasberg and Stella Adler acting institutions in New York and Los Angeles, and studies the craft with the acclaimed acting coach Michelle Danner, who has worked with many A-list talents such as Chris Rock, Gerard Butler, Penelope Cruz, Michelle Rodriguez and more.
Australian-based makeup artist and hairstylist, Cat Sherwin, has established herself as an invaluable styling asset to several contestants of the hit television shows “The Celebrity Apprentice Australia” and “The Voice” over a course of multiple seasons.
Originally from Chesterfield, Derbyshire, England, Sherwin has been recognized as an accomplished artist in the entertainment industry for over eleven years. Her work as a makeup artist and hairstylist spans numerous platforms, encompassing everything from film and television programs to live, red carpet events. Sherwin has made-up both reoccurring and guest talent appearing on “Sunrise,” “The Morning Show” and “ABC News,” and has obtained a lengthy framework of experience with distinguished networks such as ABC, Foxtel, Channel 7, and Fox Sports.
Sherwin’s involvement with Fremantle’s “The Celebrity Apprentice Australia” began back in 2011 where she worked as a freelancer/contractor on contestants appearing on Season 1 of the series. Based on “NBC: The Apprentice,” “The Celebrity Apprentice Australia” features host and CEO Mark Bouris and a remarkable cast of celebrities, all competing for their favorite charities.
“Working on a show that is being produced for the benefit of charities is enormously fulfilling, as you really feel that everyone is ultimately working together as a team, from celebrities through to production, to produce something that has a real tangible result and that makes a difference,” Sherwin said.
In addition to Season 1, Sherwin has also been a part of Seasons 2 and 3 of “The Celebrity Apprentice Australia,” working various episodes and with a wide range of contestants as well as other stylists. Regarding all involved, Sherwin commented, “[It was] great meeting so many different people and personalities from different backgrounds. There was a great sense of team spirit when working alongside other makeup artists.”
Behind the scenes, the show was known for its spontaneity, resulting in extremely early call times and frequent, last minute scheduling changes. Call times and locations for the following day were often not released until quite late at night the evening before, however for Sherwin this regimen, “Felt exciting. [She] felt part of the celebrities’ adventure.”
Over the span of these three seasons, Sherwin styled a number of famed celebrities. Some of the participators Sherwin worked with in Season 1, consisted of Jesinta Campbell (Miss Universe Australia 2010), former competition swimmer Lisa Curry, Didier Cohen (“America’s Next Top Model”), celebrity publicist Max Markson, and Australian politician Pauline Hanson. For the duration of Season 2, Sherwin had the pleasure of styling professional boxer and water skiing champion Lauryn Eagle, Charlotte Dawson (“America’s Next Top Model”), former football player Jason Akermanis, Nathan Joliffe (“The Amazing Race Australia”), comic Vince Sorrenti, and David Hasselhoff (“Knight Rider” and “Baywatch”), to name a few. Starring on Season 3 of “The Celebrity Apprentice Australia,” Sherwin correspondingly worked with Kym Johnson (“Good Morning America,” “Dancing with the Stars” and “Entertainment Tonight”), Prue MacSween (“Weekend Sunrise” and “Australia’s Next Top Model”), competitive swimmer Stephanie Rice, Rob Mills (“Australian Idol”), and musician Brian Mannix, among others.
“The Celebrity Apprentice Australia” contains a segment of the show called ‘the boardroom,’ where meetings among candidates take place in a series of what usually consists of three stages. In the boardroom, the host and his advisors debrief the contestants, who are separated into teams, the winning team ultimately prized with a reward while the losing team endures an elimination.
When asked to detail some of her favorite memories thus far, Sherwin answered, “Getting the contestants ready for the boardroom as the show progressed. Everyone got closer as time went on, and you really felt his or her crusade and tension and wanted them all to win. You really felt like you were living and breathing the excitement and anticipation with them.”
Regarding her styling techniques in specific when it came to readying the stars for the boardroom, Sherwin explained that, “The looks were much more glamorous.” In one of the episodes, Eagle had a 1950’s-inspired waved hair look. “Ensuring the celebrity looked fabulous and felt confident was really important in helping someone get ready to state their case,” Sherwin stated.
Due to many different challenges within the competitive program that required completion, the show often moved locations, allowing Sherwin the opportunity to create distinctive styles and looks. Furthermore, on challenge days, she had to, “Consider environments, locations and weather when creating a look to ensure that said look would look real and simple and hold up during a long day, whilst not hindering the celebrity and at the same time, making them feel great,” said Sherwin.
Similar to her work with a diverse group of celebs on “Celebrity Apprentice Australia,” Sherwin has provided makeup artistry and hair styling for an innumerable amount of competitors on Shine’s award winning series “The Voice,” an Australian reality show based on the original Dutch talent singing competition. During Sherwin’s tenure, “The Voice” was hosted by Darren McMullen. The show contains a structure of three competitive phases: blind auditions, battle rounds and live performance shows, where the ultimate winner receives a recording contract with Universal Music.
“It was really exciting to be part of an artists’ journey in pursuing their dream,” Sherwin said. “As the show progressed, how we styled them according to themed weeks and alongside wardrobe directly affected the overall appearance of how the public saw the artist.”
The different rounds allowed Sherwin to really showcase her unique talents as a makeup artist and hairstylist. “It was fabulous to be able to create some really adventurous and eye catching looks. As a performer, you need to stand out on stage, so the makeup can be much bolder and braver [on “The Voice”] than say a lifestyle commercial. Often on commercials and television you have to create something within a set of quite tight parameters. “The Voice” felt much freer and unrestricted, with opportunity to be really creative and incorporate the latest fashion looks into someone’s personality and style on stage,” Sherwin noted.
With television being such the visual medium that it is, while each singer ultimate stood out based on his or her vocal talent, the intricate work of the entire creative process mattered. Observing this process, Sherwin said, “Everything from staging, lighting and costumes to hair and makeup really helps add the XXX wow factor.” While the work of a stylist can tie together a performance, effectively bringing all of the pieces of the process together is what, “Ultimately will help a new star shine,” said Sherwin.
At times, styling was a team effort. On a number of occasions, Sherwin styled “The Voice” Season 1 winner Karise Eden and Finalist Darren Percival, among others. “It was great seeing Karise’s confidence build throughout the show,” Sherwin said. “All artists started with their own look, which was often quite low key. We worked to build and evolve this into something with more mega wattage, whilst also retaining their own sense of unique style. As confidence flourished, so did the style – it was beautiful to watch.”
Much alike the boardroom of “The Celebrity Apprentice Australia,” Sherwin fondly remembered styling contestants for the final battle rounds of “The Voice.” The battle rounds are considered the second stage of the competition, where coaches instruct two of their teammates to battle one another by way of singing the same song simultaneously.
“There was so much energy and excitement around them [the battle rounds]. Nobody had anticipated quite how much the first season would take off in Australia and all the excitement around it. It was really quite electric,” Sherwin reminisced.
Moreover, Sherwin recalled witnessing moments of impromptu singing from talent. “I remember watching one of the judge’s coaching sessions with Delta Goodrem, and hearing her burst out spontaneously into song, with no background music, no aid. It was really beautiful – she has such an amazing talent, to hear her voice in the raw was breathtaking,” said Sherwin.
After her miraculous work on “The Voice,” contestants continued to book Sherwin separately for private gigs. Sherwin stated, “Contestant Emma Pask booked me privately on a number of occasions for gigs. I made her up for an outdoor Toronga Zoo Christmas concert. The setting was breathtaking with the Sydney Bridge and Opera House in the background.”
When it comes down to styling contestants for such high profile shows where the pressure always seems to be on, Sherwin insisted that, “Hard work and creativity are important, and so is pulling in the latest fashion looks into something that complements the outfit.” However, the key factor in it all, is creating a look that is, “Wearable by the artist and will make them feel confident.”
There are multiple steps involved in the complex process that Sherwin takes in order to ensure that all of the contestants she works with, “look and feel fabulous, and ready for action,” commented Sherwin.