Unstoppable Actress Karen Mitchell Makes Her Name Known Across Continents

Karen Mitchell
Karen Mitchell shot by Simon Watts

 

In what is easily one of the most competitive industries in the world, actress Karen Mitchell has managed to set herself apart from the pack through her unmistakable originality and the intuitive approach she takes in order to bring characters to life. With a deep reverence for authentic storytelling, Mitchell conveys characters both dark and light, lending herself entirely to the process and doing proper justice to both the role and the story.

Originally from Melbourne, Australlia, Mitchell’s love for acting began during childhood. The daughter of a professional dancer, Mitchell began dancing at the age of 3, and that is when her passion for performing began to flourish. She went on to attend the Victorian College of Arts School of Dance, and, while she developed a successful career in business and real estate soon after graduation, she continued to nurture her love for the performing arts.

Already equipped with years of professional training and a natural propensity for captivating audiences, Mitchell decided to lean entirely into her passion for acting a little over a decade ago, quickly booking jobs that undisputedly validated that she was on the right path.

Mitchell admits, “It’s such a rewarding experience to give life to words off a page that an audience can appreciate. I strongly believe that it’s the best way for me to do service to others: serving a story by using my feelings and my understanding of what it means to be human.”

While she works extensively in both TV and film, some of Mitchell’s most unforgettable work can be seen on major network television. Her performances in series such as “Behind Mansion Walls,” “Deadly Women,” “Facing Evil,” “Atomic Kingdom,” “It’s a Dole Life” and many more have definitely struck a chord with audiences– so much so that international fans continually reach out to her to comment on her work.

 

facing-evil
Karen Mitchell as Twila Busby in the series “Facing Evil”

 

One such project that has brought her quite a bit of attention was the TV series “Nameless: Blood and Chains” where she stars alongside Dean Krywood from the films “Airlock,” “Damaged” and “Felony,” and Craig Walker from the multi-award winning film “Drown,” “In the Darkness” and “Rags.”

In the series five strangers, who are mysteriously linked together by their individual pasts, come together to forge an alliance in preparation for an impending war, with Mitchell giving a riveting portrayal as Catherine, a Queen-like character who oversees the war.

The actress admits, “People have been really supportive of my role in ‘Nameless: Blood and Chains,’ fans from all over the world, even in Serbia and South America, write to me on Twitter and Facebook and send letters to my managers saying how much they want to see more of me and how I should be on ‘Game of Thrones.’ I’m really grateful to generate such an enthusiastic fan response.”

One role where we really get to see the depth of Mitchell craft is through her macabre portrayal of Tracey Grissom in Investigation Discovery’s “Deadly Women,” where her performance is as complex as it is compelling. Since the series revolves around crimes committed by real people, a great amount of research was required to take on the critical role.  

“It was tricky balancing my understanding of the horrible crimes Tracey committed in real life so that I didn’t judge her,” Mitchell recalls, “It was important to me to play her character truthfully.”

While Mitchell was initially apprehensive about playing the part of a woman who’d murdered her allegedly abusive husband, she quickly came around to the idea. She recalls, “Ultimately, I felt compelled to be a part of the story so I could help shed light on such a controversial social issue.”

Mitchell, who has become increasingly well known for her dramatic performances both in Australia and abroad, has a brilliant comedic side to her as well. She put her flair for comedy on display when she took on the lead role of Megan, the love interest of Australian legend and Logie Award nominee Andrew O’Keefe (“Hamish & Andy,” “Big Bite”), in the laugh out loud series “It’s a Dole Life.” With the rare freedom to explore this tongue-and-cheek style on Australian television, Mitchell brings laughter to her fans with her impeccable timing, wit and unmistakable charisma.

Admittedly, comedy is one of Mitchell’s favorite category of work. She explains, “I’ve always been asked to employ my own unique personality into the [comedic] role, and that’s what audiences and critics respond to, being me! It’s funny how easy it might sound but it’s very difficult being yourself, being loyal to the script and making it all work together so that people laugh.”

While her intelligence, commitment and bravery have captivated audiences around the world, her dazzling beauty has helped make her a force to be reckoned with as a commercial actress as well. She has been the face of commercials for many companies including Coles, Lowes, Shark Sonic Duo and Commonwealth Bank.

Mitchell says that she is honored to be associated with so many successful companies. “People have always been so nice when they associate me with a brand,” she admits. “And, as I always choose to work with companies who share similar values to my own, I like to think it makes people think that they know me on a personal level.”  

Most recently, Mitchell shot a campaign for Channel 9, Australia’s number one network. Mitchell cannot help but share herself and her heart with whatever project she works on, and her genuine approach transfers effortlessly across the screen leaving a lasting impression on viewers.

Able to handle any role thrown her way, Mitchell brings grace and a personal, relatable touch to all the strong female characters she takes on. Her ability to deliver positive and impactful performances, which are as necessary as they are beneficial to modern audiences, keeps viewers across the globe looking forward to seeing what she comes up with next.

“I’m really passionate about making sure people embrace the positive aspects of life, and so I’m always conscious not to propagate harmful values by portraying people in a way that could be construed as endorsing their amoral behavior,” Mitchell explains. “That being said, sometimes playing antagonists and women who have committed crimes is a great way to draw attention to the world’s injustices.”

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Larissa Giampaoli takes advantage of changing music industry

It takes a lot of people to create a great album. When you are driving in the car with the windows down, listening to a favorite song, it isn’t just the voice of the lead singer, the sticks of the drummer, or the guitar solo that gets your head moving. Larissa Giampaoli knows this better than most, as she has been involved in the music industry since the age of 16, and now has a successful career as a creative producer for many of her favorite rock bands.

Growing up in the culturally rich city of São Paulo, Brazil, Giampaoli moved to Los Angeles and graduated in Music Business from the University of California. She was then hired as a day-to-day manager at one of the most prestigious boutique management firms in the metal music industry, and has since then been working to improve the careers of household Grammy award winners while applying her most creative ideas and business skills into helping to develop the new idols of tomorrow.

“Being able to work with my passion is priceless. Music has got me where I am today, and it is the reason why I am away from home. It’s an absolute privilege to be working with so many talented individuals,” she said.

Giampaoli has not only adapted, but she has also taken advantage of the changing industry. Technology has been changing the music business. It is no longer what we all used to know.

“From 1999 to 2016, album sales would drop every year. Although Napster had a short life, it revolutionized the way we share and listen to songs forever. Now we have many different ways to consume music, from YouTube to subscription services like Apple Music and Spotify,” said Giampaoli.

This revolution in the industry is why the role of creative producer has become so pivotal for the success of artists and bands. Social media allows fans to connect to their favorite musicians like never before. Getting a tweet back from an artist makes someone’s entire year. Giampaoli manages new media, day-to-day operations for the band, and runs tours.

“I am able to combine the artists vision with management goals in a global perspective,” she said.

Giampaoli’s ambition has always been her greatest asset. While growing up in Brazil, she put herself ahead of the crowd by learning to be completely fluent in the English language. This allowed her to network with bands touring in Brazil, by having an English speaking guide to help them navigate. At 18, she realized the potential this had, and opened her first business, an online store that brought to Brazil the latest American fashion trends. Even at a young age, she knew the importance of the internet.

“I have a love for music and business,” she said. “My goal is to keep working with bands I believe in, and help push their careers to the next level.”

Giampaoli has already begun not only achieving, but far surpassing this goal. She has worked with bands such as Slayer, Mastodon, Gojira, Ghost, Bjork, Oasis, Arctic Monkeys, The Killers, Fall Out Boy, The Used, Story of the Year, Funeral For a Friend, and many others. She also worked with the band We Came as Romans with the band’s former manager Adam Mott.

“Larissa is a forward thinking person, that helped me tremendously with the band’s social media content, marketing for their records and overall big picture thinking. She was always prompt with her answers and a true asset to everything I do with the Rick Sales Entertainment Group,” said Mott. “Larissa is a great asset to our team and she always shares her opinion on every issue and it helps me think outside of the box on trying to grow our bands to the next level. I think she is a valuable asset for our company and any organization to help grow/market their artist.”

“The We Came as Romans self-titled album has sold fifty thousand copies as of July 2016, a massive testament to the incredible efforts Larissa has made in reaching our fans, and was praised by numerous high profile music publications including Alternative Press, Rolling Stone Magazine, and Outburn Magazine, to name a few. I am sure that we would not have celebrated the same overwhelming response following the release of the album had Larissa not helmed these crucial responsibilities as the leading creative producer,” Mott continued.

Despite already achieving international success, Giampaoli keeps looking ahead.

“Personally, I am very excited about the years to come,” she concluded. “I grew up in this new world, and I foresee a bright future.”

STEPPING AWAY FROM THE ROCK WORLD TO STEP INTO THE FILM WORLD: KIERAN KIELY

There are people in the world who are destined to succeed. No matter what circumstances they are involved with, their inherent ability surfaces. For those who are fond of the adage, “lightning never strikes twice” they mistakenly forget about the lightning rod. Kieran Kiely is a musical lightning rod. While many musicians struggle for their entire lives to get “one shot” (to quote Eminem), Kieran has credits which include multiple globally popular artists. While spending his youth touring the world and recording with these artists, he now makes his home in Los Angeles; it’s a long way from the other side of the Atlantic where Kiely grew up and started his journey in music. Now he is a long way from the huge concert stage as he finds himself on a different musical journey. Although he has had experience for many years as a composer, Kieran is now focused on creating music in the seminal location of film…Hollywood. Kiely is proving that he is a source of authentic and imaginative music, regardless of the presentation or format of said music.

The first phase of Kieran’s musical life reads like a movie itself. Until recently, he spent his entire life recording and touring with the artist that are household names. Dave Stewart (of the Eurythmics), Stevie Nicks, Sinead O’Connor, Van Morrison, Bono, and many others have enlisted Kiely to be a part of creating the music that their fans adore. While Kieran is respected among the elite of the rock world as a consummate musician, it is often his mastery and authenticity of the traditional Irish sound for which he is known. It is this same characteristic that led filmmaker Tommy Reid to hire Kiely to compose the music for his film Danny Greene: The Rise and Fall of the Irishman. This film is a documentary about Irish mobster Danny Greene, famed in the late 60’s as a key member of the mob war which led to the dissolution of the Cleveland, Ohio mafia. The film includes interviews with Greene’s family as well as government officials and Cleveland Police Enforcement. Reid wanted to go to primary sources to communicate the story directly from those involved and he wanted the music to be just as authentic. Reid declares, “A good film score not only compliments a story but also helps it rise to greater dramatic heights, and Kieran’s expertise as a composer did exactly that. You’d be hard pressed to find an Irish musician/composer who has experienced as much success as Kieran. He occupies a space among the top percentage of his peers.” Kieran admits, “Tommy didn’t want a Hollywood version of Irish music but he wasn’t looking for traditional scoring either. It was very collaborative. Tommy had a long standing relationship with Composer Greg Morgenstein on his Films and Greg collaborated with me along with Adrien Van Vessel. Tommy provided a locked picture, so we could get to work. Very early on it became immediately obvious from Tommy’s feedback, that what I was doing was going to work. We had a spotting session to decide where the music was needed but the only other real direction I was given was to make the music authentic.”

Kiely approached the film in a very nontraditional way as a composer. With a locked picture available, he was able to watch the entire film to gain a sense of the emotional qualities that his composition would aid. Although he was unfamiliar with the Danny Greene story, Reid’s film gave Kiely all of the information and inspiration he needed. He recalls, “Having watched the Film, I immediately felt like the music needed to be tough. I chose a dark tone on the Accordion for the main source of pad type chords, with a driving detuned Bodhran (Irish Frame Drum) for a pulsing rhythm and Ethnic Irish Flutes for melodic elements. These three instruments made up the main palate of the score. Once I had laid down these initial ideas, I would add more instruments where needed. When I wanted it really big, I would Orchestrate it. Referring back to Tommy’s note about the music being authentic, and having used some fake Orchestral samples on some of the cues…I decided it needed to be performed by real players, so I Orchestrated the parts and we recorded them with live musicians.” The music which Kiely composed and orchestrated for Danny Greene: The Rise and Fall of the Irishman emphasizes the intensity and emotion of this tale, yet it also stands as a work of art in itself; a flavor of the Irish sentiment that Greene and all those who hold a place in their hearts for the culture of Ireland. As the music inspires audiences, it also inspires other artist…in this case leading them to seek out Kiely.

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More recently, Kieran has been working with award-winning composer Timothy Williams, in the role as orchestrator and musician on many upcoming projects. Williams is known for his work on films such as: 300, Guardians of the Galaxy, Watchmen, and Sucker Punch, to name just a few. The two are now working on the TV shows Timeless and Quantico as well as the upcoming films Guardians of the Galaxy 2, and I’m Not Ashamed. As a recording and touring musician who has experienced the thrill of performing for massive audiences, Kiely is embracing the thrill of this new avenue for his talents. He notes, “I do enjoy Orchestrating. I have always loved the sound of an Orchestra and getting to do this sort of work is a pure joy. It’s a pretty steep learning curve. You have to be an expert in music notation and really understand the inner workings of an Orchestra, but’s it’s really rewarding when you attend a session and hear your orchestrations being played. I am Orchestrating on NBC’s Timeless TV Show. We work with Emmy nominated Composer Robert Duncan to Orchestrate his music weekly for the show. It’s a pretty fast turnaround, we have about two days to Orchestrate each episode with about 30 minutes of music per show.” In the case of Kieran Kiely it seems to be nature and nurture rather than one or the other. This consummate musician has conquered the world of rock as a sought after sideman and performer; now he has thrown himself into embracing the composition, orchestration, and conducting of large ensembles to create the moods that effect millions (if not billions) of film and television audiences. The one constant throughout his career is his pursuit of his love affair with music, regardless of the way he presents it.

Jinming Zhao Stands Up as extraordinary producer

When Jinming Zhao began making the film Stand Up, she knew she would be making a film that inspired audiences. What she didn’t know was that making the film would inspire herself and her confidence in her abilities as a producer as well.

Stand Up is the story of a quiet teenage girl who has trouble processing her emotions at her beloved grandfather’s funeral, until her evil father comes for the heritage. The idea for the film came from Zhao, who was convinced to make it perfect.

“It was really good experience,” she said. “It’s nice to get the chance to collaborate with so many talented people.”

The film has been making waves across film festivals. It won Best Film of the Month at the Director Short Online Film Festival. It is an official selection in the Short Stop International Film Festival, Access Code Short Film Festival, and Love International Film Festival, and was nominated for Best Film of the Inspired Faith Film Festival where it won the Excellence Award. In the Top Shorts Film Festival, it received Audience Awards, and it won the Award of Recognition at the Hollywood International Moving Picture Film Festival.

“It’s amazing,” said Zhao when describing what it was like to when the first Audience Award. “When I got a trophy for the first time, I sent my mom a picture, and she said she was proud of me. That’s a moment I’ll never forget.”

The awards were well deserved. Zhao had to work harder than most to achieve what she did, and overcame the challenge of being stereotyped against while producing the film.

“I found a perfect house with reasonable price but when I talked with the owner for the first time, she didn’t want to talk about it at all, and she thought I didn’t look like a producer at all, because I’m an Asian small girl. She didn’t treat me seriously. I was hurt by that experience, but I didn’t give up because I wanted the house,” she said.

Zhao was relentless, and went back to the house a second time, with more confidence and a prepared statement. The visit secured the location with no issues.

“I told myself that I’m an independent, talented, smart, and strong woman, and there’s nothing I need to be afraid of,” she said.

This sentiment resonates with whoever she works with, as Zhao is recognized as a truly talented producer amongst collegues. Guannan Li, who worked with Zhao on Stand Up, attributes the quality of the film to Zhao.

“I am certain that without Jinming’s irreplaceable talents as a producer, the film would not have maintained such a high quality. She is a creative and talented producer, and we were entirely fortunate to have included her on the film,” said Li.

The two had prior success while working on the horror film Emily back in 2014. The film won Best Horror at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival, Best Horror Short Film at the Hollywood Horror Festival, and Best Short Film at Mad Town Horror 2015. It was an official selection at the London Digital Film Festival 2015, the Fill Bloom Film Festival 2015, the Hollywood Horror Fest of Shorts 2015, the BigHouse Invitational Year One 2015, the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival 2015, the International New York Film Festival 2015, the Horror Short Video Contest 2015, the Los Angeles Short Film Festival 2016, and finally the HollyShorts Film Festival 2016.

Zhao also worked with director Jun Xia on Emily, who approached her about working on the film.

“She is a creative powerhouse that we were very fortunate to include on our film, and I wholly attribute much of our success to her leading contributions,” said Xia.

Zhao had never worked on a horror film prior to Emily, and when she first read the script she was hesitant to accept the role of producer. However, the opportunity to work with Xia changed her mind.

“We worked on the script together and came up with a great story,” she said.

The success that Emily received prepared Zhao for a future full of success, but working on Stand Up gave her something even more valuable for her producing career.

“I learned that if I want other people to respect me, I have to respect myself first. I understand that to be as a foreigner would face more problems than local people do, but I have confidence and capability to overcome them,” she concluded.

PRODUCER BRIAN MANCINI BRINGS LOVE AND LAUGHTER TO A TENSE TOPIC

One of the most positive aspects about the Arts and specifically film, is that it allows us to step into the experiences and thoughts of others. Film often makes the impossible transition from sympathy to empathy, in a very safe way. Rita Mahtoubian Is Not A Terrorist is a film which approaches a very prevalent and modern situation. The filmmakers have chosen a very unusual approach in the presentation of their idea; a romantic comedy. It’s not the usual approach for this subject matter and Brain Mancini is not the typical producer. With films like; A Meditation, Dryland, Star-O, and others to his Producer credits, Mancini has enabled many diverse films to be created for the public’s viewing. With Rita Mahtoubian Is Not A Terrorist, Brian was attracted to a number of aspect of this film. His litmus test is always, “Would I want to see this movie?” and it was a resounding “YES!” for him.  Ultimately, Mancini states that what confirms his decision to work on a project is if he believes in the story being told. Rita Mahtoubian Is Not A Terrorist is a film which challenges the idea of stereotyping others in our modern age and tells us as much about ourselves as it does about those whom we might be unfamiliar with, as well as engaging us to question the reasons behind our thoughts. That probably sounds like a lofty status for a Rom-Com if you haven’t seen the film. The use of this genre to tackle the idea at its core, as well as some very interesting approaches to filming, removes a great deal of negativity out of the film, allowing the audience to focus on their own individual perception rather than a mob mentality.

Rita Mahtoubian Is Not A Terrorist garnered a nomination at both the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival and the Casting Society of America, USA. Being recognized by perhaps the most famous New York film festival as well as the professional community which seeks diversity in casting is the kind of outstanding achievement that lets Mancini know that he is striking a resonant chord with this film. His fellow producer Roja Gashtili (known for her work on Morgan Spurlock’s A DAY IN THE LIFE, MTV’s EXILED ,SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE: IN THE 90s) refers to Brian as “a magician!” Assembling the components (crew, cast, logistics, finances) needed to make a film which deals with people fears, prejudices, and matters of the heart, would certainly take some sort of magic to manifest. Rita Mahtoubian Is Not A Terrorist is really the story of someone who is being treated as an outsider even though they’ve spent their entire life in the US. When Iranian-born Rita sets out to change her life from ordinary to extraordinary, she accidentally captures the attention of Homeland Security. The film is a satirical comedy about romance and trying to be a better person. For example, when Rita attempts to make some friends by hosting a dinner party, it just so happens that she’s also acquiring the same household materials that could be used to make explosives. With her Iranian background, she gets flagged as a possible threat to public safety. Mancini states, “In the film we do critique the close-minded attitude that anyone of Middle Eastern decent must be a terrorist but the film’s intent is to show how that’s not the case. Rita Mahtoubian moved to America as a child and grew up American. It’s a subject that can be relatable not only for Americans but for all immigrants in any country. It’s all about not believing in stereotypes and actually seeing who people really are. The film is really romantic comedy about an FBI agent falling for the person he’s investigating. Most people found it to be heartwarming with a good message of how absurd it could be to judge someone solely on their family’s background and ethnicity.”

Brian and his production team came up with one very interesting approach which solved two hurdles for their film. He explains, “We shot “Rita” in Los Angeles as most of the script was written with specifically LA in mind. Early in development we had discussed the idea of shooting abroad as we had several scenes located in the Middle East. The creative way around this was when we decided to build miniatures and shoot all of those scenes in that style. Our main goal was to not sacrifice the story for any amount of money. We would often ask each other ‘How can we creatively get this same feeling that’s written in the script?’ Being able to shoot on a stage and creating the miniature sets gave us the capability of shooting a desert scene in the morning and then moving to steel mill only a few hours later.” Creative producing resulted in time and money saved, which could be channeled into other aspects of the film.

This production which has such an unusual approach to a timely situation, has been enormously accepted and appreciated by audiences. Brian feels that this validates his motivation to be involved in the core message of Rita Mahtoubian Is Not A Terrorist. His role as producer necessitates his involvement from pre to post production, which means Mancini puts a lot of time, effort, and heart into the films he helps to create. He comments, “The grand consensus is that the film is well liked by the mass audiences. I feel that because people can relate to the characters, it gets them invested. The humor successfully releases the tension when needed and helps audiences stay inside this world that we created. I hope that people see this movie and take a moment to think about our overall message. The feedback we’ve been getting from the film is that people understand and enjoy the message. Additionally, they enjoy the choices in our visual storytelling. The miniatures successfully capture audience’s imagination and the ending when the Agent walks through the explosion site into a heart shaped hole creates a warm and fuzzy feeling.” While Brian Mancini has no aspirations to the stardom and celebrity that drives many, he is always striving for the films he takes part in and believes in making. It’s about both the story and the art of telling the story for this producer. He confesses that there are so many possible ways to portray these tales…and he is eager to experience as many as possible in his career.

 

 

MIGUEL RIVAS: THE FUNNIEST EXECUTIVE PRODUCER YOU’VE NEVER MET

Being an Executive Producer (EP) is in many ways similar to being a UFC fighter. You put in an insane amount of hours preparing for the microscopic amount of time that the audience actually witnesses the entertainment which you create. You must predict the action which will take place in your mind, envisioning it months or years before it ever takes place. You choose the team of professionals who will hopefully insure your success. Not to be forgotten, you often feel as if you have had every ounce of energy kicked out of you before it is all over. If it sounds hyperbolic to you, a conversation with Miguel Rivas may alleviate this uncertainty. Rivas is well known in his native Canada (the US is now paying a great deal of attention to him) for his writing and acting abilities but, unknown to the public en masse, he has been the EP overseeing many of the productions for which he has become famous. The combination of writing and acting has given him an overview of what is needed and naturally steered him towards the role of EP.

Many often refer to the role of EP as an honorary title given to marquee name actors and actresses to placate these celebrities. While that may exist in some parts of the entertainment world, this scenario has no presence in Canada’s TV and film industry or Miguel’s experiences. Many times, Rivas has been asked to take on this task as someone who has the understanding of what the production needs as a whole. He states, “Being executive producer means ultimate control, but also maximum stress. The whole project rises or sinks based on how you put it together. That means primarily, finding the right people to work with. On ‘Japan’ and ‘Wanda’ (two of the films by comedy troupe Tony Ho), it was paramount to find people who understood our sensibilities as a group. As EP, you have to organize everything and keep multiple plates spinning at once. Independent films can be hard to fund; finding money and support for our voice was the single most important part of being EP on these projects. Once that was in place, it was just about doing every task, however large or menial, with an eye on making the best film you possibly can.” Tony Ho is one of the most established and lauded Canadian comedy groups to perform both live and on film. With a signature dark comedy style, they appeal to a wide audience by tackling the highly stressful situations that many of us face, or hope to never face. Japan won the Grand Prize for best film at the Laugh Sabbath Film Fest at NXNE, while Wanda was also recognized at the same Film Fest. Both films present the stresses that modern professions and love lives have on the average person, with ridiculous…sometimes fatal outcomes. Tony Ho’s Roger Bainbridge (Nolan in Japan) confirms the importance of Miguel as EP for the film, stating, “I was really fortunate to have Miguel as an executive producer on Japan with me.  Most Tony Ho films feature just the three of us and maybe 1 or 2 more people but Japan required a large cast and many locations over different days.  Miguel did a great job of finding the right people for the job, making sure they were paid well, organizing their schedules, and arranging the shoot days so that we could use the extras efficiently without wasting anyone’s time. Miguel was also key in finding our shoot locations.  He did a great job in writing the script for Japan, but the humor comes from the fast pace of the story. We needed lots of locations to make the script work. Miguel used his connections to get us locations that would fit our script and budget.  That was the beauty of having Miguel as both writer and executive producer, he turned a complicated script into an easy shoot.  We didn’t have to compromise.” Adam Niebergall plays Marty (the recipient of some opportunistic nepotism) in Japan and reinforces Bainbridge’s take on Miguel’s abilities and expertise on Japan. Adam comments, “You can tell Miguel really loves making movies because he’s so calm about it all the time.  On Japan there were lots of different people involved; extras, cameramen, transportation people, etc.  Everyone went to Miguel to ask questions.  He was the one who communicated with everyone, either in person or by phone/text, and everyone trusted what he said. Strong leadership is important on film projects and Miguel inspires confidence in everyone involved. Plus, he’s always nice about it.  He never yells at anyone.  He’s always more than happy to answer anyone’s questions.  You can tell he’s thankful to everyone for helping to make the movie. He knows what he wants to do and accomplish and how to bring out the best in everyone’s work.” Daniel Beirne, the director of Wanda, reiterates, “he had no problem switching from his “actor/writer hat” to his “executive producer” hat.  He was respectful of the crew we had there and made sure everyone was ok to keep working or asked if we should take a break.  I love working with Miguel because he treats the set as a collective project; even though he was writer, actor and executive producer, everyone was equally important.”

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As proof that he is no one-trick-pony, Miguel has applied this same template to music videos for a variety of modern artists. Alt Altman is the solo Toronto musician, Digits. Having toured all over the world, he’s released several successful international singles and albums under various monikers. He’s been shortlisted for the prestigious PRISM prize. Digits sought out Bainbridge because of the multiple strengths that he could bring to a production. The video for “Street Violence” (Named one of the Top 5 videos of the year by Exclaim!, featured on VICE, and MuchMusic) is an epic tale of the downfall of society and one couple’s attempts to evade the gangs who rule the streets. While the gang monikers are often comedic, the action which takes place and the anger that is vented on individuals throughout the course of the video, carries a sobering impact. Digits declares, “It’s Hard not to have only great things to say about Miguel. The cast and crew that he assembled, the storyline, the costumes, and the fact that it was finished in a matter of days…I’m so pleased with the video and the response it has gotten!” Jay McCarrol is a member of the hugely successful band Brave Shores, whose pop song “Never Come Down” was a huge hit. Jay is also one of the minds behind the web series Nirvana: The Band The Show, which had a large premier at TIFF. Rivas produced two videos for Brave Shores, “Never Come Down” (which has amassed nearly 700 thousand views on YouTube and was featured on Silent Shout, MuchMusic and VICE) and “More Like You.” McCarrol refers to Miguel noting, “As an artist, it’s important to have a professional who will listen to your ideas; Miguel is that kind of artist.  He made sure Stef (Stefanie McCarrol, sister/bandmate) and I were comfortable with the concepts and took our ideas into consideration during the early phase. I like that he was flexible and fun.  He is the best to work with. He also knew how, as producer, to stretch a dollar, which believe me, is needed with music videos.” While “Never Come Down” is upbeat in tone and comedic in action, “More Like You” is somber and introspective in terms of the music as well as the visuals that accompany it in the video. Rivas comments, “The music videos were slightly different as funding was secured beforehand and the task then focuses a little tighter. A major duty when acting as EP is making sure everyone at all levels of the project is happy and involved in the right way. For the Brave Shores music videos, I was the liaison between our projects and Universal Music as well as the band. You have to be level headed and a little political to make sure everything gets done in a way you’re happy with. It can be doubly difficult to occupy other roles (writer, actor, director) while acting as EP, but it offers an ability to control and lead things in a way that I find very satisfying.”

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Perhaps what stands out most when considering all the aspects and talents of Miguel Rivas is that he is foremost a conduit for himself as well as others to communicate a story. He might be involved in creating lines, delivering lines, or finding the right people to finance the microphone that captures the lines which someone else is speaking; whatever the vehicle of delivery, Miguel is somewhere in there grinding away because he believes in the art of telling a great story.

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PUSHING HER ARTISTRY TO NEW PLACES: BINBIN MA

A good artist is someone who invests a great deal of their life into mastering the skills needed to communicate their vision. The recipe doesn’t end there. They are driven and inspired by the work of others, sometimes through the previous work of others and sometimes due to the collaborative effort in which they take part. This “inspiring and receiving” cycle is the creative representation of Ourboros. Without it, the Arts would become stale. It contains all the essential elements of a good artist. Greatness is similar to this but contains one extra and paramount facet; the willingness to try things that are uncomfortable, the desire to take chances by traversing into unknown areas with the understanding that failure is a distinct possibility. Only by testing our limitations can we expand beyond them. If one’s desire is to recreate perfect art, being good is more than substantial, but if one desires greatness…well, it is a good idea to get comfortable with the idea of being uncomfortable. This idea could be considered artistic CrossFit. Binbin Ma understands this concept. As a story board artist and graphic designer on many successful and lauded films, Ma has used her artistic abilities to enable directors and cinematographers to conceptualize, materialize on paper, and communicate their collective vison to the cast and film crew. She has become a sought-after artist due to her abilities on paper as well as her insight into tailoring her images to the specific filmmakers she works with. Binbin has brought her skills to award winning films such as; Robots & Cowboys, Stand Up, & the heart-wrenching and inspiring Happy Tree. In striving for greatness, Ma has tested herself in both new avenues as well as thought provoking subject matter.  The challenges which she takes on in an attempt to grow as a consummate storyboard artist and graphic designer testify that Ma is a professional who wants to break new ground in her own field by understanding the inner workings of her peers and coworkers.

For the film Nothing But Her, Ma took on the Herculean task of not only Storyboard Artist and Graphic Designer but also Writer, Director, and Editor. The film was her attempt to step into the shoes of those she so often works with while also expressing a creative vision of her own. Nothing But Her is the story of a man (Jim) who observes his father’s Alzheimer condition worsen, a condition which puts Jim’s wife in danger at one point. This places Jim in a very uncomfortable and difficult situation. Binbin took on this film and its heavy subject matter as a way to see the different sides of telling such an emotionally demanding story. The idea came from her personal/cultural inspirations. Ma reveals, “It was my second year after leaving my home. I was homesick. In China, we have an old saying “child doesn’t travel if parents are still alive”. In our culture, Chinese think filial piety is the highest priority of all. Family vs. self-development has inspired me to ask ‘What if a young man had to choose between his Alzheimer’s family member and a pregnant wife.’ Making this film was a great experience for me. My skills as a storyboard artist and graphic designer saw immediate improvement after this experience. It was such a great way to learn and improve.” Because of her perspective as an artist over the course of her career, Nothing But Her displayed Binbin’s signature framing and composition. The film was received quite well with appearances in 2016 at Cannes, the Hollywood International Moving Pictures Film Festival, and the Los Angles Independent Film Festival Awards.13230081_1771490419754121_8139202580389125002_n

Cinematographer Xuexue Pan (credits includes the critically acclaimed family drama The Key, the widely celebrated film Dancer from Picture, and the fan-favorite horror film Depth, to name only a few) states, “Ms. Ma is a storyboard artist of the highest caliber. She performed several leading roles for the critically acclaimed film Nothing But Her, but in addition, she has established herself as an enormously accomplished storyboard artist of the highest regard within her field. Her prowess is unparalleled in the industry. Her achievements in the industry have cemented her as a creative force to be reckoned with. Binbin’s achievements not only establish her as one of the most outstanding and accomplished storyboard artists in her field, they also qualify her as a genuinely one of a kind storyboard artist and graphic designer.”

There is a good reason that the Boston LGBT Film Festival nominated the film The Ex Factor for the Audience Choice award in 2016. While this community has gained many legal rights in modern US society, they are still challenged with being viewed with the same level of emotional validation and “normalcy” of other couples and relationships. One of the reasons (and intent) of the filmmakers to hire Binbin as the Storyboard Artist for The Ex Factor was a desire to portray the characters and action of the film in a romantic tone with use of images and lighting; Ma was the first step in creating this. Using headshots of the actors and meeting with director Chantal Le Hunte to discuss the mood served to inform Binbin of the “vibe” which was paramount to placing the audience in the desired emotional environment. Le Hunte declares, “Ms. Ma’s unparalleled talent for our film was such an integral element to the overall production of the film that I have no reservations in attributing her with our enormous critical acclaim. The Ex Factor was nominated for the Audience Choice Award for Best Short Film from the critically acclaimed Boston LGBT Film Festival, and received Official Selections from the Los Angeles CineFest, the Indie Night Film Festival, and the California Women’s Film Festival, to name a short few. After only one meeting about the images we needed for our film, she completed the storyboards in a way that allowed me to perfectly communicate my ideas to the cast and crew, thereby making our filming process successful and enjoyable. The accolades we received are directly attributable to the work that Binbin did on The Ex Effect.”

These two films are proof of a professional who, while still at a young age, has amassed an impressive list of credentials and yet always strives to learn and grow as an artist. Binbin Ma is a team player who is also a gifted artist, always ready to lend her talents to the ideas of others in order to create the films which allow us all to view the joys and hardships of others…while hopefully being inspired by their journey.