ACTOR MICHELLE ALEXANDER SHIFTS FROM HORROR TO COMEDY WITH HILARIOUS NEW SERIES ‘OVERACHIEVING UNDERDOGS’

To say that actor Michelle Alexander is versatile would be a thundering understatement. While the Vancouver Island-born performer is best known for her role as serial killer Alison on the innovative horror anthology series Darknet, Alexander’s current small screen incarnation, as Tess on web series Overachieving Underdogs, plays at the opposite end of the spectrum—it’s a fast, funny comedy centered on two young women living in Toronto—but for Alexander, the transition was simple.

““Both genres need to be 110% believable and authentic,” she said. “If a viewer can smell a ‘funny moment’ is being played for the joke rather than fulfilling the circumstances of that character, it feels false.”

Alexander’s keen grasp on the emotional mechanics of performance are impressive, and provide a fascinating insight in the actor’s modus operandi. “In terms of preparation, the two genres are not as different as people think,” Alexander said. “Drama is a tragedy with irrevocable consequences—death, heartbreak, loss. But comedy is tragedy without those consequences—your pants fall down in public; you fart during grace at your in-laws’ dinner party. The trick is to give the ‘comic circumstances’ as much importance as you would a dramatic tragedy. The comedy is there for the viewer, but the actor has to be invested in the circumstance.”

 

In Overachieving Underdogs, Alexander makes it look easy, and the results are hilarious. With equally gifted co-star, Sophia Fabiilli, the pair’s zany impulses, emotional vulnerability and unpredictable gags are deftly realized, and run the full comic route, from physical slapstick to razor sharp repartee

 

Together, the two make a formidable team. “Sophia is amazing,” Alexander said. “Everybody say that we have an onscreen chemistry that is rare. The series is all about our characters, Tess and Polly, individually as well as their relationship, so we share a lot of screen time. We know how to feed each other in the moment and riff on a joke together. Plus, like me, she’s determined to get an authentic funny moment rather than a ‘cheap funny moment’. We push each other to go further, to take bigger risks, to make each moment as funny and full as it can possibly be. She’s a joy to be on set with.”

 

The pairing has created a volatile, endearing and evident bond that provides a solid foundation for wild comic escapades, from irony laden observations on contemporary life to the pitfalls of dating and the unexpected twists which the two women face, as Alexander said, when “going after the dreams they never knew they wanted.”

 

“In terms of comedic performance, Sophia and I shine most in scripted comedy, rather than stand-up or sketch,” Alexander said. “Following on the success of series like Broad City  and Garfunkel and Oates, we decided to put those skills to the test.”

 

“It’s been pure fun,” Alexander said. “The pilot shoot was peopled by highly skilled professionals both in-front of and behind the camera. We all believe so much in the potential of the series that we all brought our best work to the pilot. The set designer even made a “Tess and Polly shrine” in Tess’ apartment. I’m not sure if you ever see it on camera, but it’s a metaphor for how every tiny detail was attended to and cared for. “

 

Alexander also generates enthusiasm among her colleagues. “Michelle brings a great energy to set, always prepared, focused on the end game, willing to take risks,” director Patrick Hodgson said. “Directing her on Overachieving Underdogs was a fantastic experience. Her bright energy carried over to the crew and made for a genuinely fun time on the show. When we reached moments of conflict, or struggled with a scene, we put our heads together and worked out a solution that worked for both of us. No drama, no ego. She is a diligent, committed performer, who is keen to collaborate with her scene partners and director, always early to set and eager to make sure the cast and crew were all taken care of.”

The series’ wit and charm have an empathic appeal that’s bound to reach a larger audience.  “We are currently in talks with some Canadian networks, one in Europe and one in the US, to produce a full 13-episode season of the show,” Alexander said. “And we’ve been overwhelmed by the popular response. Publications, both in Canada and the US, wanted to write about it, women from as far away as the UK tweeted at us that they “felt like you are making this series for me.”

 

The show’s success lies with Tess and Polly’s—and Alexander and Fabiilli’s—personal relatability, a genuine emotional quality that can’t be manufactured, but is instantly recognizable.  As Alexander said, “Once Sophia and I, dressed as Tess and Polly, did a promo stunt in downtown Toronto during rush hour. We had two girls shout from the streetcar, ‘I’m a TESS!’ and ‘I’m a POLLY!’”

Writer Emiliano Forino Procacci combines love of psychology and writing to inspire readers

Emiliano Forino Procacci lives in a countryside near Rome. He writes his best poems in front of a sunset, near a forest where the leaves are singing accompanied by the wind dancing among the tall trees.

He bought a hill and on top of this hill he built his house. From there, you can see the sunrise and sunset.

“I believe that a writer must be inspired and I draw my inspiration from nature and from my family,” he said.

Procacci is a psychologist who teaches in the Department of Communication Sciences at the Università Popolare of Gorizia. He accomplished a master’s degree in organizational development and human resources in addition to a short degree in education sciences and a second level degree in psychology and pedagogy in Rome. He continued his education at the City University London in England. He is regarded as an expert in the field of verbal and non-verbal communication and coding/decoding of facial expressions. He holds lectures and consulting sessions for institutions and corporations on techniques for facial recognition, which can be useful when selecting personnel and whenever it is necessary to identify lie detector signals (for judiciary, civil and military purposes).

However, most importantly, Procacci is a writer who uses his understanding of psychology to write books that inspire people to change their lives for the better.

“For me psychology is like a poem,” he said. “This is how we will make our lives and the world we live in healthier. Hope lights any kind of flame and desire feeds it with dreams, if we truly love what we do, all of our actions will have the strength of an embrace.”

Procacci’s writing career truly began in 2003 when won high-profile poetry contest and his name was entered in the Encyclopedia of Italian Poets. Since that time he has penned five books. His book Communicating With Success: The Secrets of Persuasion is the Golden Book Awards 2016 Winner, and a finalist at the International Book Awards 2016. He also wrote Secrets of Motivations and Personal Growth, Organizational Evolution and Development of Human Resources, Follow Your Own Star and Fulfill Yourself in Change, and The Freedom of Words. He left his high profile career to become a writer, and now advocates taking risks to achieve happiness.

“We could compare our minds to a vast sea full of sailing boats, which represent thoughts, emotions, feelings, and more. If they didn’t open up their sails (willpower) to be inflated by the wind (determination to act), they couldn’t go anywhere. Of course, this way you’ll live far away from the storm, but it is also true that if you want to discover the world and be a good sailor, you just can’t stay anchored in the same point (comfort zone) for your whole life. Nobody was born to act like a spectator of the world we live in, but rather to be the leading role of their lives, a leading role that follows a route to achieve a goal,” he said.

Enzo Kermol a professor and director at the world renowned People’s University of Gorizia is a fan of Procacci’s writing and demeanour.

“Few writers are as Emiliano Forino Procacci. His poetic style is unique and he has been able to use poetry in books on personal growth and self-esteem. Many people say that he has invented the ‘poetic psychology’. He very modestly says that he loves to write and not be considered an inventor. With his books he wants to make the world a better place and I must say that many people have found his works really useful for personal growth and motivation. The Emiliano secret is that he is a psychologist too. He has studied psychology and manages materials in his books to make these easily understandable even to those who have never studied psychology,” said Kermol. “Emiliano work with is outstanding. He is a volcano of ideas, and I have never known a person with a will as he developed. When he writes his books on motivation is as if he were telling his story, he tells how to deal with difficulties because personally has faced, solved problems, and he has had the courage to change his life. Emiliano is not only a writer, but a great motivator and coach. In the past and even today is working with VIP, actors, sports personalities and show business to improve their motivation and their performance.”

Procacci keeps busy. He founded the psychology group, which he says gave him strength. His life is divided between work as a writer and as a consultant for many companies as an expert in facial micro expressions. He also teaches at the university and is a coach and trainer.

“Life is exactly as it looks like, but it is as if we looked at it through the lenses of a pair of glasses, which sometimes get worn out and must be replaced with a new pair with a better performance, and that can really make a difference,” he said. “My books help people to change their glasses.”

Canadian actor Cody Sparshu to star in upcoming film Overboard

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Cody Sparshu will star in the upcoming film Overboard.

Despite being from a small town Cody Sparshu always had big dreams. He never let the lack of acting opportunities in Westlock, Alberta interfere with his plans to be in actor. His determination is part of why he has achieved what he has, and now the actor has been cast as the lead in the upcoming and anticipated feature film Overboard.

Overboard is a psychological drama about eight high school friends who bonded together over tragedy in their school. Ten years later they get together for a reunion aboard a luxury yacht and tragedy strikes again. The screenplay was written by writer/producer Mat Lo, and the film is set to be shot in Vancouver, Canada during the summer of 2017.

“The script is quite complex and I’m excited to play a character that has so much going on beneath the surface. His relationship to every other character in the film is so unique and dynamic that I feel there’s some real opportunity to dig deep and develop something interesting,” said Sparshu. “It’s going to be a lot of fun for me both artistically and because I love boats.”

The script for the film was written by Mat Lo. Sparshu says it’s already been quite fun throwing around ideas with him and talking about the characters.

“When I read Overboard I was really drawn in by the script. The characters are all quite interesting with really cool back stories which I think will make for a great dynamic. My character in particular is quite different from me, yet also hits close to home in a lot of ways. I’m really excited to dig into what makes him tick and really take it somewhere interesting,” he described.

Prospective director of the project James D. Schumacher has seen Sparshu’s work and finds him to be an impressive actor.

“I am incredibly excited for the opportunity to work with Cody. I first saw his work at the world premiere of Double Booked in Los Angeles, and when I met him in person at the event it amazed me how different he was from the character he portrayed,” said Schumacher. “Cody seamlessly transforms himself into the characters he plays and it will be a lot of fun to work with that talent and mould something unique together.”

The current plan is to film Overboard in the summer of 2017 which should make a release date around Spring 2018.

Sparshu is no stranger to success. He is in the film Double Booked, which premiered at Action on Film Festival in Los Angeles, and screened at the Northern Virginia International Film Festival and the Sunscreen West Festival in LA. The film was nominated by the Alberta Motion Picture Industry Association’s Rosie Awards for Best Feature Drama and Best Original Score.

“That movie was a lot of fun to shoot. I got cast as a last minute addition to the film, giving me just over a week to prepare around 60 pages of dialogue heavy, dramatic scenes. I locked myself at home for the week and dug in which was a pretty immersive experience. I pretty much lived as my character Jeff once we hit the cabin,” described Sparshu.

Sparshu appeared in CMT’s series Pet Heroes, and was also in the series Bluff. He was the lead of the acclaimed short In the Grip, and most recently appeared in Umbrella Collective’s feature Incontrol. That being said, he describes the highlight of his career as getting to act alongside one of his favorite actors Keifer Sutherland.

“I’m a huge fan of the show 24, it’s one of my all-time favorites. I was working on a film with Keifer and towards the end of the shoot they needed someone for a small character who he draws a gun on and tells to get out. Knowing I was also an actor they told me to go get into wardrobe. It’s probably one of the shortest moments I’ve had on screen but Keifer is so incredibly talented I instantly had the fear that Jack Bauer puts into a man,” Sparshu described. “It was a really cool experience and he’s a great guy.”

Sparshu first realized his love for acting at the age of six. He was a chatty kid, so his teachers decided acting would be a good outlet for him.

“I was cast as the lead in our first grade play The Greedy Green Goose. I went on to do drama through school, but being from a small Alberta town, film opportunities didn’t exist at the time. Once I graduated, I tried out some other things, but it was acting that drew me back in,” he said.

Despite his success, Sparshu still says there are challenges that everyone faces in the industry.

“Sometimes I’m my biggest challenge when it comes to really finding the truth in a scene. Sometimes I have personal stuff to overcome for it to really work, but doing the work causes growth,” he describes. “That’s not always easy but it’s always worth it.”

But above all, Sparshu genuinely loves acting, and it is this passion that brings him success.

“I love the opportunity to embrace all sides of who I am. My dark side, everything that’s within me, I have permission to let it out, to express it, to be real,” he concluded. “I get to play.”

Cinematographer Peter Hadfield has loved filming from a young age

Growing up in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, Peter Hadfield and always had a passion for filmmaking. From playing with his father’s video camera, to taking classes in high school, to using his hobby of skateboarding to film tricks with his friends, Hadfield spent his early life doing what he loved.

Hadfield now lives in Toronto, and has had many achievements in his career as a cinematographer. His work has been selected in film festivals such as Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF), and he has had four music videos selected as Vimeo Staff Picks.

“I think I’ve always been interested in the way things look and observed the way I felt as I was looking at an object or situation. When I was I kid I would stare at the waves rolling across the Pacific Ocean or the landscape passing by. I had a habit of closing one eye and alternating which eye was open just to look at how the perspective of my view would change,” he described. “Robert Mapplethorpe said ‘It’s all about light.’ To me that meant how the light fell or reflected or got diffused and how that could affect my emotions.”

Hadfield also had the opportunity to work on Bayer’s We Can All Be Remarkable commercial about a device that measures insulin for diabetic athletes.

The commercial features a lot of different athletes performing a variety of sports , so Hadfield says they really had to be on top of their game. He describes shooting the hurdler as the highlight of the experience. It required an electric camera cart called the EXO camera cart, and they fitted a Steadicam arm to it and burned down the track while the hurdler was going. However, he says the challenge came during skating.

“The hardest part was skating and camera operating at the same time. We were shooting with a 9 year-old girl, and I hadn’t skated in a while but I thought I could keep up with a little girl, but she left me in the dust! It was pretty fun that she could skate so much faster than me,” laughed Hadfield.

Hadfield worked alongside director Claire Edmondson on the commercial, and the pair agree they made a dynamic team.

“Peter is great to work with as he is a good collaborator, is relaxed and patient. He listens to your thoughts and ideas, adds his own and is dedicated to finding the best way to making something look good,” said Edmondson. “Peter is a good cinematographer because he’s always looking for the most beautiful way shoot something, the more interesting angle. He is a master at handheld, his composition is always stunning.”

“Claire is amazing. She’s got such an eye for performances and is so in control of what she’s getting out of the talent. It just so happens that my visual taste lines up with hers quite well, so we found that we gelled quite well,” said Hadfield.

The project helped Hadfield with how to handle and communicate with bigger film crews.

“As commercial budgets increase, the amount of people the cinematographer has to manage goes up as well. At a point in commercial cinematography a lot of delegating starts to happen, so having effective communication skills is a must,” he said.

Hadfield was in his twenties studying psychology when he realized he should follow his passion as a cinematographer. He attributes this to the rebellious nature of skateboarding, which helped him with “guerilla filmmaking.”

“When I enrolled in film school, I found that I would be more willing to go to a weird location at three in the morning, or hold on to a camera while hanging out sunroof of a car to get a shot. There’s a sense of danger and immediacy in cinematography that parallels skateboarding that I got really excited about,” he said. “When you’re holding a camera you have to be completely present and conscious of a moment to capture it in the way you want to, and the reward is getting amazing footage, just as when you’re skateboarding or doing anything that demands you to perform physically. You have to be completely focused on what you’re doing to perform and achieve. There’s a rush from that that I still get today.”

That rush is part of the long list of reasons Hadfield loves cinematography. For him, there isn’t just one simple reason to be in the profession. From all the different people he gets to meet by being a cinematographer, to travelling to new places and getting access to interesting places, to the act of creating and capturing images, Hadfield knows he is in the right career.

“I like the fact that holding a camera can either turn me into an observer and distance me from a subject or it can intertwine me with a subject. There’s something very intimate about capturing someone’s image. It makes the people in front of the camera venerable, and if that is met with the same openness from the person holding the camera, some very interesting moments and images can be made that will speak to the viewer,” he said. “I also like improvising with a camera on my shoulder to capture moments with actors or subjects. I like storytelling, and working with directors to figure out the best way to tell a story visually. I like collaborating with other people, and cinematography enables me to do all those things.”

Despite this, there are still challenges that Hadfield thrives of off.

“Shooting isn’t easy. Things never really go ‘according to plan’, so you’re constantly thinking on your feet. It’s a swirling mess of problems and opportunities, and it’s up to the director and cinematographer to guide the production through that mess. They’re the keepers of a film’s visual language. So, it’s a challenge to be able to keep calm, keep a cool head, keep on time, keep on budget, and still get amazing footage. But it happens! So, it’s a high risk/high reward game that’s a bit addictive,” he described.

In the end though, Hadfield says he just wants to be a decent, balanced, caring person and be a role model for young people and future film makers.

“In the future I want to live by a body of water and drive a mint Volvo 240 DL, walk my dog off leash in the forest, have good conversations, shoot film, listen to music and play guitar,” he concluded.

 

ORION LEE, SO TRANSFORMATIVE THAT EVEN HIS CO-STARS MUST MEET HIM TWICE

Orion Lee seems to have it all and yet, by looking at his history it seems that he can’t rest. This world traveler was born in Hong Kong but has resided in Zurich, Australia, Malaysia, London, and is steadily moving towards the US. While working in finance, he took an acting class to try something new and soon discovered that he not only enjoyed it but, was quite good at it. After relocating to study (and graduate in 2009) from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts, he quickly began a career in television and film. Among many others, his film credits include; Fury (the 2014 war film starring Brad Pitt & Shia LaBeouf with 19 nominations and five awards including the USA National Board of Review win for Best Ensemble, grossing $208 MM worldwide), Skyfall (with 108 nominations and 71 wins including two Oscars, grossing $1.1 Billion worldwide), and many others. His roles range from military action characters to elderly Math instructors, exhibiting a wide range of personalities and physicality. Lee is an actor who is highly charismatic on camera but who sometimes opts for the more subtle aspects of a character in order to truly take on their visage. As a classically trained actor, Orion appreciates the challenges of the diverse spectrum of opportunities which he has been able to engage in his career. Two of his roles, Deng Loashi in A Brilliant Young Mind and Anderson in The Expert, perfectly present how this actor can take one idea and present completely incongruent performances.

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Orion Lee’s performance as Deng Laoshi in A Brilliant Young Mind is one that allows him to set aside his marquee attractiveness and make a drastic physical transformation. Lee’s performance is somewhat heart wrenching for viewers as they witness a character who is both noble and yet has been passed over by some of life’s base rewards. Orion describes his character stating, “Deng is a man who has devoted his life to his career in math and teaching. He finds himself in a situation where he is unmarried and missing a family life so he overcompensates in his protectiveness of his niece and wanting her to succeed. I appreciate Deng’s loneliness and caring for family as well as his devotion to math and teaching. He works hard to improve his students’ lives and takes pride in heading the top team in the Math Olympiad.”

Lee used his own personal experience of growing up in an East Asian culture while living in a Western country to interpret and communicate the essence of Deng Laoshi. Playing a much older man with a similar yet different cultural experience from his own, Lee discussed ideas with wardrobe and makeup to arrive at a physical appearance that is completely transformative and unrecognizable. Orion confirms, “Changing the tempo, posture, movement and voice accent of my usual self allowed me to create a character who embodies this pride at the purity of math and teaching together with a parental over protectiveness. Conversations with hair and makeup and costuming completed the characters aging process. Deng has a certain lack of modern style due to age and growing up in Communist China. I’m proud of the creation of a character which is different from myself yet completely believable and natural on screen. This was exemplified by the fact that Alex Lawther, one of the actors in this film, introduced himself to me twice: once when I was myself (Orion Lee) and once when I was Deng the character before realizing he had already met me.”Deng Laoshi X Y

A Brilliant Young Mind is a story about Math competitions but the actual subtext is about overcoming your own fears. The film was quite successful, with multiple nominations from the British Independent Film Awards, the London Critics Circle Film Awards, the Seattle International Film Festival, and wins at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival as well as the Palm Beach International Film Festival (winning Best Film). The story of an awkward teenage math prodigy who competes at an International Mathematics Olympiad resonates with anyone who has felt insecure and somewhat out of place, unaware of their own true strength.

The filming locations, split between the UK and Taiwan afforded A Brilliant Young Mind’s cast some fun and interesting opportunities. Orion recalls, “Part of the film was set in Taipei and the cast had a brilliant time visiting Taiwan and bonding over exploring a new city. Finding a noodle restaurant where the meals cost £2 and checking out the night markets (including eating novelty pastry’s shaped as genitalia!).”

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A Diametric presentation of a similar character to Deng Laoshi would be that of Anderson in The Expert. In this film, Orion plays a man who might have a similar uncomfortability with others like Deng, but the delivery is with humor and relatability rather than a serious tone. Lee was heavily involved in The Expert early on. He explains, “The script was originally tested at a showcase for new work called the Constellation Creatives CoLab. The director altered the script to suit a stage version and we tested the material in front of a live audience before doing a final draft of the script and then shooting it.Constellation Creatives is a collective I founded of film, theatre, and television professionals. The Constellation Creatives CoLab is a not for profit showcase of work in film, theatre, and television in collaboration with and held at the private members club, The Hospital Club. The Hospital Club was founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen through his investment company Vulcan Inc. and Dave Stewart (formerly of the band Eurythmics)/producer and Founder of Weapons of Mass Entertainment).

The Hospital Club’s main ethos is to support the creative industries by providing an inspiring environment that actively encourages its members to create, connect and collaborate. Members include designers, writers, creative entrepreneurs, performers, producers, musicians and film makers.”

Lee plays the lead role of Anderson, the resident expert at a company which produces geometric shapes for its clients. Rather than a tale centered on events and a climactic resolution, The Expert is a study on how certain professionals find themselves challenged to communicate and relate to others. The genius of The Expert is that many groups of professionals of varied vocations see themselves as Anderson. It was the comedic aspect of this storyline and role that enticed Orion to become involved. He comments, “The fun and challenging part of the role was to create a character whose responses and reactions are believable and yet funny: to tread the line of reality and comedy. Also Anderson needed to be someone that people recognized and related to. I learned a lot from being involved in The Expert; collaborating with the director to develop the script and source the actors for the other parts was a fun process and expanded my skill set in the industry. More than ever, I understand the importance of working with an excellent cast…working off them and with them to create the action and reaction of comedy.”

Orion Lee is an actor who seeks out varied roles to expand his character study. His extensive background in theater has empowered him with a perspective which respects the craft while he uses the vehicle of film and tv to reach a wide audience. He takes a traditional approach to performance in a modern society. With a multicultural background and a passport full of experiences, he endeavors to pursue new avenues to add colors to an already ample palette.

FILM EDITOR TAKASHI UCHIDA KNOWS THE MAGIC OF VISUAL STORY TELLING

Film Editor Takashi Uchida’s fluid, crisply rhythmic work has earned him a professional reputation as a first rate, fast rising craftsman. Uchida’s skill is reflected in his impressive roster of achievements, credits he has racked up in short order, not only as an editor but also as a director, composer, writer and in visual and special effects. While he followed a somewhat circuitous route, Uchida’s path to Hollywood was almost inevitable.

“I was born and grew up in Tokyo,” Uchida said. “I was just a typical nerdy kid who liked anything film and TV related. I spent my teenage years exploring films from all over the world and the different cities, beliefs and cultures that I discovered in them made me question whether or not I should stay in Tokyo. I ended up deciding to go to the US after high school.”

“Although I always wanted to do film, during college I focused on anthropology, and then upon finishing undergrad, I started focusing on film making. I went to USC School of Cinematic Arts and started my career as film editor.”

At the SCA, Uchida’s natural flair, flawless visual instinct and sense of clarity were immediately apparent, developing an editing style is driven by an artful enthusiasm.  “In the film production program, you learn every aspect of film making during the first year,” Uchida said. “I pretty much like every aspect of film making, but I especially like writing and editing. And if I have to choose which is more cinematic, I believe that editing is the more unique aspect of film making, it really determines the finished film. However boring the footage may be, there’s always a way to make the film better in post-production. I really enjoy that creative capacity.”

Uchida hit the ground running, tabbed by multi-talented performer James Franco to work on Actors Anonymous, the feature adapted from Franco’s own popular novel. With its complex weaving of ten different narrative vignettes, the project was an ideal vehicle to debut Uchida’s deft cutting style.

Actors Anonymous is one of the films that I am most proud of,” Uchida said. “Not only because it was the first feature I edited, but also because I was working with 10 directors for the project and the result of the collaboration was phenomenal. Every film has different kind of challenges, and struggling with those challenges made the film very unique and emotional, I believe.”

Uchida went on to edit Jessica Darling’s IT LIST, based on the New York Times teen bestseller and starring Disney TV actress and YouTube sensation Chloe East. His ongoing work on the popular Netflix animated series Kong: King of the Apes provides an ideal analog for this talented artist’s professional life: a redefinition of one of film lore’s most abiding, fascinating figures—the oft misunderstood, quasi-human behemoth Kong—that is offered to audiences on the non-traditional web-based Netflix platform, a melding of past and future that reflects Uchida’s solid grounding in film history and his singular, beyond-the-horizon creative perspective.

Kong was the second animation editing I did,” Uchida said. “I had actually made a couple of animation shorts myself so the opportunity to edit Kong was really exciting to me. One thing I’ve learned is that an editor must know the importance of ‘one frame.’ Film is usually 24 frames per second, so one frame is almost 0.042 second. And indeed that tiny difference actually matters. Kong was reminded me of that importance, it had a lot of action sequences and it was a great experience to see how that one frame can make a scene much better.”

His innate grasp on the intricate technical delicacy each instant of every project demands elevates Uchida to a plateau of his own, and the editor is keeping busy, currently working the post-production end of Rio, another feature adapted from a James Franco novel.

“Film editing is the most unique and creative phase in film making,” Uchida said. “It is a magic of time and the visual. It is very instinctive and creative, but also very logical and knowledge-based. It mixes both, like where the river meets the ocean. And combining  intuition and logic is so complicated, it’s almost impossible to consciously grasp. But that’s exactly why I want to keep doing it.”

 

 

Keanu Uchida: “dance cannot ever cease to be part of me”

Keanu Uchida has been dancing since he was four years old. At that age, it is easy to do what you are told, and not what you love. But for him, that was definitely not the case.

Uchida was born and raised in Ottawa, the capital of Canada, and is now known on both the stage and the screen as a dancer. He has been recognized on an international platform, and has been awarded for his abilities. However, he does not dance for the recognition he now receives but rather because it is his passion. “Wherever life takes me I will always turn my gaze to dance and to what it offers me. For me, that is what pursuit of a life in dance consists of,” he said. “I don’t think there was ever a formative moment leading me to pursue a life in dance. Rather, there may have been a gradual realization that dance cannot ever cease to be part of me. Everything varies, especially my understanding and appreciation of dance. But what doesn’t is its consistency: it has always offered a safe headspace, an escape from reality, or what I perceive to be real for that matter. I’m always guaranteed a fresh slate of exploration and a resultant discovery process when I dance.”

Uchida’s first performance was at the age of five, when he began his journey into competitive dance. Since that time, he has had many achievements. In July of 2011, Uchida was awarded the title of Teen Male Dancer of the Year at the American Dance Awards. This international dance title competition was held in Boston, Massachusetts and congregates title winners from across the USA, Canada and South Africa. The dancers engage in an opening number choreography and are judged in audition classes before the Teen Title evening, where each dancer has a chance to compete his solo. Uchida was crowned at the end of the night for his unique Charlie Chaplin inspired solo “Charlie”. As a winner Uchida was invited to be featured in the title winner opening number the following year. He also participated in the collaborative group dance highlighting the 2011 Dancers of the Year.

Uchida’s affiliation with The Dance Awards has brought him many opportunities. It serves as the international summer event for JUMP, NUVO and 24/7 Dance Conventions. Hundreds of winners from the regional events of these conventions met in NYC to compete for the “Best Dancer Competition”. Uchida competed in a week of heavy audition process, opening number rehearsal, improvisation and solo performance. After a first round of performances he was invited to compete in the top ten solo improvisation competition. He was then selected to be among the top 3 senior males, all hailing from Toronto, Canada. After one last performance, Uchida was awarded the title of Senior Male Best Dancer on the final gala evening. Along with a $1500 prize, he was invited to tour with the regional conventions the following year. He was given the opportunity to tour with many of the most recognized choreographers in the industry, to name a few:  Travis Wall, Mia Michaels, Mandy Moore, Sonia Tayeh, Stacey Tookey, Jason Parsons, Lauren Adams, Teddy Forance, Nick Lazzarini, Misha Gabriel and Al Blackstone.

“Dance is my medium to explore as a dancer. You are able to reflect on everything as you would regularly. You dance out of joy, through the sorrow, you dance to question and to speak out. I’m fortunate to dance because I can feel a lot of ways and not need the rhetoric to convey,” said Uchida.

Last spring, Uchida had the opportunity to play a vital role in the workshop process of the new Toronto original equine production Dancer. Mounted by Cats producer Marlene Smith and John Mckellar, this musical features some of Canada’s most talented contemporary dancers and internationally recognized artist Stacey Tookey. Uchida was casted as Northern Dancer, the principle of the performance. The show is expected to debut during spring 2017 at Toronto’s Elgin Theatre, one of Canada’s most revered performance locations.

Despite this, one of Uchida’s all time performances was a personal creation, his solo entitled Spark.

“For this I put together a musical piece with my percussion skills and then filtered the music with movement. To perform this dance was incredibly personal and empowering. It was a then-and-there reminder of what it means to be a dancer and why it can never cease to be part of me,” he said.

Uchida’s career has been filled with success. In 2013, he was asked to attend the Juilliard Summer intensive, which he describes as one of the best experiences to date.

“Forty-four dancers were selected to participate in this three-week experience. I was the only selected Canadian. Every morning we were lead through a ballet or men’s ballet, and modern class, followed through with anatomy, music, improvisation technique, yoga, partnering, and given a chance to work with a selected choreographer in the evening to create a ten-minute work,” he said. “The talent and the assortment of knowledge and experience among the dancers was riveting.”

Jason Parsons, choreographer and teacher at the international Nuvo Dance Convention, believes that Uchida’s fearlessness, curiosity, and humility make him a fantastic dancer: “I like Keanu for his work ethic, and for what he brings into the dance space as both an artist and mover,” said Parsons. “I’ve been fortunate to witness his choices and the development of his creative mind over time in my classes. I’m inspired to get the opportunity to work with such an open and inspired soul.”

JUMP choreographer and Capezio ACE award winner of 2015 Kirsten Russell has worked with Uchida both on and off stage, and believes he has outstanding abilities. “Working with Keanu is a privilege. He lights up any room with his humble spirit and positive attitude. I admire him for many reasons, but mostly because he is always putting forward his best possible effort no matter the situation. Never complaining, always listening, and extremely thankful for any opportunity that comes his way. I wish I could work with him more often, as he brings out the best in me while I am on the job. He is the definition of professional,” described Rusell. “Keanu began assisting me almost a year ago, and had never taken my class before he was dancing on stage with me. He not only adapts to choreography very quickly, but he also executes movement exactly how it’s given unless asked otherwise. Any correction given, he is the first to apply it. This fact alone makes him not only good at what he does, but extremely smart at what he does. He is one of the most talented dancers in North America, and anyone would be lucky to work with him.”

For Uchida, dance also acts as a type of therapy, helping him in tough situations.

“Despite the fluctuations of my life I am consistently able to come back to dance and, as mentioned, dance through it all,” he said. “I think the most comfort comes in that I always have a safe haven of exploration. I’m able to learn from the hardships and face them with dance.”

“I’ve gradually fallen in love with performance,” he concluded. “It makes me feel like no other; to embody, to reenact, to feel in front of an audience and share this stream of information is something quite special.”