PRODUCER BEATRICE VON SCHWERIN ENABLES “ALL THESE VOICES”

­­­­    There have been many, many films about World War II. With subject matter as prolific as this it is difficult to find a new angle. The film All These Voices is one of the few films to achieve this goal. The film’s producer Beatrice von Schwerin understood this when the opportunity came her way. While history informs us about the events, the arts enable us to comprehend the lessons learned as well as to take on the emotional quotient of these events. It is often true that the perspective of a war is viewed differently based on your geography. It is this fact that helps to make von Schwerin the perfect person to oversee the making of All These Voices. In addition to her excellence as a producer, Beatrice hails from Europe; giving her an ideal perspective to produce this Hollywood film. A member of Swedish nobility and possessing a resume of celebrated European film work, this producer brings many obvious talents…as well as a few less obvious ones. All These Voices struck a resonant chord. The award-winning film was screened at a wide variety of festivals including; AFI Film Fest (Los Angeles, CA), Carmel Film Festival (Carmel, CA), American Film Festival (Wroclaw, Poland), LA Polish Film Festival (Los Angeles, CA) ICARO Festival International de Cine (Guatemala) Las Vegas Film Festival (Las Vegas, NV – Winner Best International Short), 24 FPS International Short Film Festival (Abilene, TX), Kino Otok Isola Cinema Festival (Izola and Ljubljana, Slovenia), LA Jewish Film Festival (Los Angeles, CA), Resistance Film Festival (Tehran, Iran), Southway Film Festival (Mykolaiyy, Ukraine), Centre Des Arts (Geneva, Switzerland – Special Screening and Lecture), European Student Film Festival (Geneva, Switzerland – Special Screening and Lecture), Newport Beach Film Festival (Newport, CA), FIC Autor Film Festival  (Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico), Washington DC Jewish Film Festival (Washington DC, MA), Woods Hole Film Festival (Woods Hole, MA). It’s important to view this list as a whole to understand that All These Voices had such a major appeal to so many different sections of the world population. Based on the locations of these screenings, we can easily assume that regardless of cultural, economic, or religious affiliation, these audiences were intrigued and attentive to the film’s message. This is proof that films which don’t involve CGI or superheroes can have mass appeal to audiences with many varied lifestyles. The fact that Beatrice was able to produce this film on a minor fraction of the average Hollywood budget is a major achievement for any production these days.

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All These Voices is highly unique in the way that the story is presented. The film takes place in the days following the end of World War II. A young SS officer has sought out refuge by hiding in an abandoned Polish theater. A theater troupe of survivors enters to celebrate the end of the war. Having camouflaged his identity, and remaining mute so as not to reveal his native German tongue, the soldier joins the survivors in a vibrant celebration. As he witnesses the expression of their painful past, he is forced to come to terms with his complicity in their grief. It’s an idea that seems quite possible to have occurred in post WWII Europe. Multiplying the ease with which the audience can accept the story is the location. Nothing could be as appropriate as watching a film in a theater while the action takes place in a theater. Of course, with the events taking place in 1945 Poland, the surroundings needed to reflect that era. Beatrice chose the Roxie Theater in Downtown Los Angeles. Hollywood continually proves that its ability to be malleable is one of its greatest assets. This attribute, in addition to the talented community, is what has interested von Schwerin in possibly pursuing a residency in LA even though she has already experienced great success as a producer in Europe. She concedes, “Hollywood has always been the center of film; I don’t think that that will ever change. The film industry has been active here for over 100 years. The major studios are still located in and around Hollywood. It falls naturally that once a center for any type of industry is built, it stays there. I am actually looking forward to the day when I am part of a movie that will shoot its full production days in Los Angeles; it would be wonderful, to be closer to home.  I know that the shorter commute home would be nice [laughs].”

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The production All These Voices took on some highly difficult tasks, not the least of which was the presentation of its theme. Making sure that the story was told in a proper and respectful way was the greatest challenge. The Holocaust and the effect that it has had on people is a very important story to tell.  Beatrice reveals that she gained some new knowledge from her director and multiple-productions collaborator David Henry Gerson. She notes, “I had what I thought was good knowledge about the Holocaust and its effect on people. However, working with David Henry Gerson helped me to get a stronger sense of it. Seeing it from David’s point of view, he has family that lived through the holocaust, and hearing his stories together with their stories has opened my understanding. None of my direct family has ever lived through such a trauma, so this has definitely helped me understand in more detail what the survivors had gone through.” It is obvious that Gerson was appreciative of von Schwerin’s attention and care of the subject matter as well as her producing skills as he comments, “Beatrice cares deeply about protecting and supporting the creative vision of the film. Working with her on All These Voices made this more apparent to me than ever before. She is an utmost professional, who inspires greatness and action in her crews and those working with her. Everyone performs their best having Beatrice around as a producer. Regardless of whether it was with myself as the director of any other member of the cast and crew, she listened carefully, assessed scenarios swiftly and effectively, and always, always, always was 110% prepared. Her intelligence governs all of her decisions. She has a rare ability as a leader and is a great force of positivity, effectiveness, and inventiveness. Making this film without her would be inconceivable.” The film’s writer, Brennan Elisabeth Peters echoes this sentiment stating, “As the screenwriter on All These Voices, having a producer as capable as Beatrice supporting my vision was crucial to its development and execution. As an artist, an important part of my process is thinking in terms of possibilities rather than limitations, especially on the script level. Unfortunately, due to the nature of filmmaking as a particularly logistically challenging and collaborative art form, this is not always possible. On other projects, I frequently feel the need to hone my vision and rein in expectations based on the limitations of my collaborators. However, with Beatrice on All These Voices, I truly felt free and uninhibited to write a script that was ambitious, gratifying, and, ultimately, award-winning. That was due in large part to my faith and trust in Beatrice as a producer.” One of the most difficult obstacles for the film is probably unnoticed by the majority of American audiences. All These Voices is extremely detailed in its recreation of the era and location of the events taking place…even down to the language being spoken. As producer, von Schwerin had to be involved in just about every aspect of the film production. This meant making sure that the dialogue was spoken correctly and believably. Beatrice states, “The cast on ATV were a very special bunch. Seeing that the film is all in Polish and German, probably the hardest part was making sure that the dialogue and pronunciation was correct. Parts of our cast were born and raised in Poland and some were not. Our film was seen all over the world, including places where Polish and German are the native languages; this required us to be painstakingly critical of the language in order to be authentic. I’m really proud that we were able to achieve this goal so well.”

It’s hard to imagine a young Beatrice von Schwerin roaming the grounds of her family’s castle in Sweden and then maturing into this commanding presence on set. How many of us would leave a comfortable life of adulation and nobility in order to face challenges day after day on a production? Beatrice conveys this commitment best in her own words declaring, “Producing is never an easy job, if it were easy, I would probably not be working as a producer. I need a proper challenge and producing gives me that challenge. When I moved to LA I promised myself that once I stop smiling when I see the Hollywood sign, I would quit my job and move back to Scandinavia. I am still smiling.”

 

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Mariano De Luca learns and inspires while making award-winning film Nazi Gold in Argentina

For many artists, the first real piece they ever finished stays with them. It defines them, shapes their future, and inspires them to keep going. Mariano De Luca, a director of photography from Argentina, knows this. He worked on his first film over ten years ago, and it still remains one of the most powerful projects in his career.

The documentary feature Nazi Gold in Argentina reveals a lot of hidden information about the lost gold in Germany after the second world war, and the connections between the Nazi leaders and the Argentine Government of that time.

“Having worked in this film was pretty important for me. It was my first feature film. I was working with so much talented people. It was a great experience full of passion and talent. And besides all that, it was a great opportunity for me to learn more about the history of my country and the government at the time,” said De Luca.

The idea was to give the documentary a feeling like an espionage movie with agents spying on other agents. Hundreds of Nazis came to Argentina after the war due to a policy from Juan Domingo Peron, the president at that time. But the connections between Nazis and elite politics prevailed after Peron. The film was directed by the late Rolo Pereyra, a reknown director/writer/producer, and was first Argentine nominated to receive an Emmy. Pereyra taught De Luca in school, and knew his style was necessary to make Nazi Gold in Argentina a success. Due to a heart condition, Pereyra passed away before the theatrical release and did not get to see the success that his film received.

“Working on this film was such a great experience. I learned so much. It was different from the other projects I have worked on, because it was full of information and historic content from my own country. The story is based on real facts and those facts really happened, so you learn about the past and discover a whole new meaning for a lot of things that maybe you already know, but you now know in a different light. You find yourself being part of the investigation, like another one of the investigators.”

The film premiered at the Gaumont, a reknowned theatre in Buenos Aires. It went on to win the Silver Condor for Best Documentary at the Argentinean Critics Award, and was nominated for Best Screenplay/Documentary at the same awards.

“Sometimes, we were only five or six people on the crew, and Mariano made that to work perfectly. He tried to made everything possible. Simplifying things, finding the best way to tell the story and not being limited by the small crew,” said Daniel Botti, the producer. “His collaboration on this project was vital to recreate the look that the director and production designer wanted. The film got the look and feel they wanted, and that shows on the screen.”

De Luca describes working with the people he did on this project was important to his experience. He was working with veterans when he was newer to the industry, which shaped his career.

“Oscar Carballo, the production designer, was a really inspiration to me. Hearing him talking about art and film craft was a blessing. And Daniel really shared all his experience on this film, he was ‘the’ man when we had to overcome the troubles on our Europe trip.”

They travelled around the world to shoot in the film. They went from Buenos Aires, Bariloche, Puerto Madryn and Cordoba City in Argentina to Madrid, Rome, Zurich, Geneva, Berlin, Hamburg and Laboe.

De Luca was in charge of prepping and making the equipment list for the whole feature film. He started with only interviews and some b-roll before it became a feature film. De Luca also worked with a change in technology. At the time, the industry was transferring to HD cameras, and he was shooting with first HD cameras available in the country at that time. The feature film added action and drama sequences to the documentary/interview footage, so he also had to shoot stunts and effects shots for the feature.

“It was an incredible experience working on Nazi Gold in Argentina. I was the youngest, and being able to share the shooting with such experience and talented people was a blessing,” he concluded. “I had the opportunity to work with friends and that made the shoot a lot easier. Lots of laughs and good moments.”

 

THE REUNION SHOWS MANY DIFFERENT VIEWS, COURTESY OF JUSTIN IVAN HONG

Storytelling has taken many forms. The original orators had to be skilled in manipulating their voices and contorting their bodies in ways that helped those around the campfire to “see” all the characters and places being presented. Authors used their literary abilities to “paint” all manner of odyssey in the mind’s eye. Theater began to pull the great works into manifestation with the aid of thespians, lighting, music, and props. Modern films began as a visual marvel that eventually succeeded in allowing us to literally see things that had previously only been imagined. The miracle of modern cinema is that it allows us, as viewers, to experience scenarios we will likely never actually be in and sometimes…even view the same situation from different emotional perspectives. This idea perfectly explains the premise of The Reunion as well as the experience of watching the film. Director/writer/producer Carmen Elly Wilkerson’s 2015 production has received immense attention in the past year and Justin Ivan Hong is the cinematographer whom she worked with to design the look of the film. It’s a tall order for a film which mostly takes place in a single room with the four female characters discussing their personal view of the conflict in the film. At the Cannes Film Festival, Kodak named Wilkerson one of 16 Filmmakers to watch. The Reunion received great praise and numerous achievements including: the Charlotte Black Film Festival – Audience Award, HollyShorts Film Festival – Audience Award, nominations at both the Pan African Film Festival (Best Short) and the Burbank International Film Festival (Best Short & Best Actress). The Reunion was also an Official Selection at the following festivals: Miami Short Film Festival, Black Harvest Film Festival, Urbanworld Film Festival, Reel Sisters of Diaspora Film Festival, San Francisco Black Film Festival, Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival, and the Gary International Film Festival. For a film with such a simple scenario (or maybe not so simple) as four women in a room discussing a pivotal moment in their lives, the film definitely garnered a lot of attention. The film that Wilkerson created is provocative and has the audience guessing as to what actually happened, all the while being enabled to do so by the believability of the world she created with Hong.reunion1-copy

Justin was highly recommended by the American Film Institute’s head of cinematography, so Carmen had no trepidation when she contacted him about working with her on The Reunion. She quickly realized why Hong had received such glowing accolades. Wilkerson comments, “Justin and I immediately starting working to pre-produce the film even as he was on location in another city. He helped craft the look of the film and collaborated well. He was so thorough in his approach and extremely detail orientated. As a filmmaker, he understands performances and story, helping to elevate the script’s potential. Justin even stepped in and helped me edit a

few sequences that weren’t yet working. He’s one of those artists who adds to the mix and makes the director’s job easier. Justin is a very bright collaborator and cinematographer.” It would seem that the biggest challenge on this film production was the deceptively simple scenario; four girls holed up in their room, hiding from the outside world. From the beginning of pre-production, the discussion between the director and Hong centered around finding a way to sustain visual interest due to the fact that it was basically four characters talking inside a room for twenty minutes. Justin recalls, “We identified all the dramatic beats and worked out a plan of movement and blocking that flowed with the emotional flow of the film. In order to fully work within the tight confines of a bedroom, we planned out the different camera positions within the room in such a way that the blocking complimented the actresses’ movements and that in turn added a sense of fluidity and immediacy that fit the story very well.”

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One of the things which cinema can achieve quite proficiently is to sometimes “deceive” the viewer with different perspectives. Everyone has the ability to color their memory with an emotional slant. Numerous psychological studies and experiments have been conducted in order to prove the effect of emotion on memory. Filmmakers often make use of this tool as well. The same holds true for the way the action of film can translate a mood based on the cinematography. Justin concedes, “Another aspect of the film was the ulterior motives of each character and the relationships they have, as it relates to the collective secret that they are hiding. I used subtle framing choices to visually portray this volatile dynamic between these friends. This also worked in conjunction with the blocking. When the four characters were feeling united and close to each other, I used wider lenses and included all of them in the composition. When they start to fragment, we had them walk away to different parts of the room and I used slightly tighter lenses and framed them alone, adding to the feeling of distance from each other.”

The Reunion is a compelling film which explores the varied ways that individuals can perceive the same circumstance. Presenting the same situation, colored through the lens of the different characters, and culminating in unique perspectives is a superior achievement which the film’s creator, Carmen Elly Wilkerson, the cinematographer, Justin Ivan Hong, and indeed the entire cast and crew can be proud of, as proven by the critical and public acclaim the film has received.

 

Q & A with Souleiman Bock from “River”

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Actor Souleiman Bock shot by Kirill Kozlov

Actor Souleiman Bock’s intriguing and versatile look coupled with his phenomenal acting skill have been integral to the actor becoming a hit both at home in London and abroad. Considering that Bock landed one of his first roles on the hit British TV series “MI-5,” aka “Spooks,” it was an easy bet that the uber talented actor would soon be hot on everyone’s radar, and he has become just that! In “MI-5” Bock took on a major role as an ill intentioned terrorist who plans to bomb London’s House of Parliament and takes a ship hostage along the way. For anyone who has had the chance to watch his performance and how he embodied a man of evil deception down to the most minute detail, it’s easy to see why he has continued to land roles of a similar nature.

In the dramatic crime series “River,” which aired last year, Bock took on the critical role of Khaalid Mohamoud, a hard-working immigrant who harbours a game-changing secret to protect a friend. In “River,” which earned the Golden Nymph Award from the Festival de Television de Monte Carlo, as well as a BAFTA TV Award nomination, Bock acted alongside one of his icons, multi-award winning actor Stellan Skarsgard (“Good Will Hunting” “The Avengers”), a memorable experience to say the least.

Bock recently wrapped filming on an episode of the upcoming series “Riviera,” which stars Golden Globe nominee Julia Stiles from (“The Bourne Ultimatum,” “10 Things I Hate About You”). In the series Bock takes on the critical role of a doctor acting alongside multi-award winning actor Idal Naor from hit series “The Honourable Woman” and “The House of Saddam.”

With undeniable magnetism on screen, those with even the toughest of standard will conclude that Souleiman Bock is a gifted performer. Aside from bringing some of the most challenging characters to life, Bock is fluent in English, French and Somali, something that gives him an edge over others in the industry.  

To find out more about Souleiman Bock and some of his exciting upcoming projects make sure to check out our interview below!

Hey Souleiman thanks for joining us! Can you start by telling us where you are from? 

SB: I was born in Djibouti, East Africa. I traveled a lot as a kid because my dad was in the French army, we then settled in Paris when I was about 10. But I have been living in London for almost 10 years now.

When and how did you get into acting?

SB: Acting was always on my mind growing up since I loved films. Although i wanted to play soccer professionally as a kid and almost ended up doing it, when I turned 20 I went to my first acting class in Paris and after that I was hooked and never looked back.

When did you land your first onscreen role? What was the project and how did it feel being a part of it?

SB: MY first professional acting job was on the British Drama “Spooks” or “MI-5” as it’s known outside the UK, I was really happy getting the role since I had been a fan of the show before and I considered it to be the best spy/action drama anywhere. It was quite an experience being on a show of that quality with a really great cast and crew.

You’re currently shooting the upcoming series “Riviera,” can you tell us about the show’s story?

SB: The show is about a rich family who inherits an empire from their father when he dies in the South of France. But all hell break loose as they discover all the dark secrets he left behind. The lead actress is American actress Julia Stiles.

What character do you play and why are they important to the story?

SB: I’m not allowed to go into to much details right now since the show is in production, but I can say that I am playing a Doctor who is key to the storyline, and there is a nice plot twist regarding him.

Did you face any challenges in bringing this character to life?

SB: Being quite young, playing a Doctor with a lot of experience and weight to him has been a very interesting challenge.

What was it like working with director Damon Thomas and the rest of the cast on the series?

SB: I think this has been my best shooting experience so far since we were shooting in the South of France in some amazing locations. The director was really experienced and efficient, and the cast and crew are really friendly, which always makes things better.

How about the crime series “River,” what was that about?

SB: “River” I would say is my best job to date, and definitely my most demanding job as an actor. It was a great experience bringing Khaalid to life because of the complexities of the story and the character. Also acting opposite Stellan Skarsgard which I considered before I met him on set to be one of the best actors out there, was a really amazing experience. I learned a lot watching him work and grew a lot from it as a result.

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Still of Stellan Skarsgård (left) and Souleiman Bock (right) in “River”

How did it feel when you found out you had landed a recurring role on the series?

SB: I was really happy, again because I knew I was going to work with Stellan Skarsgard and the story I felt was really different and special. The show has has some amazing reviews on its quality and originality.

Can you tell us about your character Khaalid Mohamoud? What kind of guy is he and what happens to him in the story?

SB: He’s an immigrant in the UK who has been working hard to support his family and struggles to find his place in society, he’s central to the story because he’s hiding information in an effort to try and protect someone, a move that could change the course of the story.

You are also in the series “Call the Midwife,” can you tell us about your character?

SB: I actually just finished shooting and I am in season 6. I play a British Merchant Navy Seaman in the show. It is set in the 60’s and my character is trying to have his wife go back to Africa to give birth and that’s when all the drama begins.

What is the series about?

SB: The story is about midwives in the 60’s in post war London, and the job they did. It is a very popular show worldwide with great reviews.

In the episode you are in, how did your character fit into the story?

SB: I will be in season 6 episode 6, which comes out in 2017. The entire episode is dedicated to my storyline and that of my wife in the show. It’s a really heavy and sad story that will be very interesting to watch.

How did the character challenge you as an actor?

SB: Having to play a man living in the 60’s was the challenge, since people of that time had a completely different view on things but we had an amazing script to help, and I asked for details from my parents to find out what it was like for them during the 60’s as well.

Can you tell us about the project “Spooks”?

SB: “Spooks” was my first job on TV. It’s a Spy/Drama and was one of the influences for the “Bourne” movies, it is a very gritty and realistic show about the Spy world. “Spooks” is slang for spy in government official circles. I was playing one of the terrorists who planned to bomb the house of parliament in London and took a boat hostage. As this was my first experience with a show of that scale, I had to overcome a bit of nerves at first but was quickly put at ease by the cast and crew. The director of this show was Paul Whittington and I was playing opposite Richard Armitage (“The Hobbit”)  who was the main Spy I took hostage in the episode and Iain Glenn, who went on to be one the main character of “Game of Thrones.”

You’ve had quite a bit of success as an actor on television so far– do you have plans to focus more on film work anytime soon?

SB: Definitely in the future that is my goal!

What is it about working in television that you enjoy?

SB: Television has become such a great quality media that you would really miss on a lot of opportunities if you didn’t look at it. Plus it is a great way for an actor to show their skills as you could have more time to develop a character, and really these days TV has amazing quality shows!

Can you tell us about some of the film projects you’ve done?

SB: Around the same time I was shooting “Spooks,” I had my first role on the big budget film “Gulliver’s Travels.”  I was playing a soldier and it was a great experience. It was a massive shoot and Jack Black was really great to work with and very friendly. I also did a film with French director Mass Youssoupha called “Conscience” that we are looking to show at film festivals next year and I am really excited about that but I can’t really talk much about the story as I’m forbidden to do so. Also I have the typical actor’s story when I started I did a couple of background jobs in film to pay for for acting school, and that was also a great learning experience.

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

SB: At the moment, for example, the movie “Conscience” that we hope will be selected for festivals, the main reason I did this film was the director Mass Youssoupha. He saw my work on “River” and wrote that story for me specifically so I was really keen to work with him. In the beginning of my career working on films was not my priority, of course if you get an amazing project you will do it, but I was more focused on TV and now that my name is out there I go for castings for some great movie projects with great directors, and that’s what you want as an actor really– to create a window for you to have access to quality projects.

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

SB: Now that my name is getting known it’s really about choosing that quality project that will make a difference in my career, that’s why I am very picky of what I want to be associated with. That’s why if you look at my work on TV so far it’s only be quality work. I am choosing quality over quantity!

Do you feel that you get cast to play a certain type of character more than others?

SB: At the beginning of your career you get typecast always, but you have to get your opportunities and show what you can do, and now really I get all kinds of characters. “River” has been a turning point for me really. But I would definitely say that I usually get the intense sometimes menacing type.

Out of all your productions both in the theatre and on screen, what has been your favorite project, or projects, so far and why?

SB: My favorite job so far has been the show “River,” this was where I learned the most and also the complexities of the character were so fun to play! Acting with Stellan Skarsgard has been the highlight of my career so far because I really admire him as an actor.

What has been your most challenging role?

SB: My character Khaalid on “River” was the most challenging, the range of emotions was great, and my character was always on the edge. This is really challenging as an actor.

What is your favorite genre to work in as an actor?

SB: Definitely drama, I think this is where I shine the most really. And it is also my favorite genre to watch.

What separates you from other actors? What do you feel your strongest qualities are?

SB: I have always been told that I have this sort of presence which is menacing and charming at the same time so maybe that, although it’s quite hard to judge yourself but I suppose I would agree with that.

Have you been in any commercials or music videos?

SB: Yes I did a Spring Water commercial for “Voslauer” with supermodel Agyness Dein, you can actually still see it on youtube it’s called “Voslauer Part II”.

What projects do you have coming up?

SB: Coming out next year are my roles in “Call the Midwife” and “Riviera.”

What are your plans for the future?

SB: I would love to be as versatile as possible as an actor and maybe learn a new language to act in, that would be really great since I have a passion for language.

What do you hope to achieve in your career as an actor?

SB: Hopefully grow as an actor and do lots of quality work.

Why are you passionate about working as an actor?

SB: It’s always such a joy for me really to disappear into a character, there is nothing like it!!

If you  weren’t an actor what other profession do you think you might have chosen?

SB: My dream as a kid was to be a professional soccer player, so definitely that! I am still very much passionate about soccer and sports in general, i also love the NBA.

LOOKING AT THE STARS WITH DIFFERENT EYES: XIAO’OU OLIVIA ZHANG

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Sometimes, in order to do your job to the best of your ability, you have to change the manner in which you perform your role. This is not done for the sake of ease or to be lazy, it’s quite the opposite. Taking the normal or more obvious path does not always lend itself properly to the presentation. It can be frustrating and taxing but in the end, it becomes quite gratifying. Xiao’ou Olivia Zhang understands this only too well from her experience working on the film Looking at the Stars. The ironic title of this movie about blind ballet dancers challenged Zhang to come up with many new approaches to grant an empathetic ear to relate the tactile experiences of the dancers. Ultimately, it was a requirement for Olivia to put on her Foley hat and go about discovering augmented sounds to give the audience a better idea of what it felt like (literally) to understand the experiences of these dancers. The work on this film was a far cry from her normal sound designing experience on a film, and yet…Zhang states that she was thrilled to be forced to come up with new sounds that would have the greater impact of what the characters in the film were experiencing. With celebrated films like Lost City of Tomorrow, The Hunt, Thunderstorm, Los Villanos, and others…it’s encouraging to see that a professional with so many achievements, like Olivia, is excited about finding a creative solution for the productions in which she is involved.

When Veronica Li (Supervising Sound Editor of Looking at the Stars) was looking for someone to work with her on the film, she approached Zhang because she wanted someone with strong Foley abilities and an extremely discerning ear. Li explains, “The sound design of Looking of the Stars depends a lot on the Foley. Olivia was one of the most important parts of the sound design team. Her work brings us as an audience a lot closer to the character. We feel what they feel through the detailed Foley sounds, and thus, we become more involved in the story. She had a very good understanding of the characters and the story, and the Foley she recorded brings the movie alive, which is the essential part of the sound design of this movie.” The excellence of both Zhang’s work and the entire production was proven by the achievement of Looking at the Stars being awarded a USA Student Academy Award, an Urbanworld Film Festival win (the Documentary Prize), and a nomination from the International Documentary Association. Zhang admits that receiving accolades is never an unwelcome gift when it applies to your work but she also feels that this production was especially meaningful as she shared a common trait with the subjects of the film. She notes, “The degree of us focusing on sound in life connected me in a significant way to the dancers. I would often close my eyes to hear the sound of the materials I had selected, attempting to get into the subject’s mind and test out if I could imagine what thing I’m holding in my hand from the sound it makes. Moments like this made the story somehow personal to me. Of course, I couldn’t understand the depth of the courage of the dancer’s but, this small attempt to relate to them with a common sensory focus and application, it raised my appreciation for the way in which they ‘see’ the world. It’s an amazing audible environment which they appreciate that I think many people might overlook. That was an unexpected gift I received from working on Looking at the Stars.”

Looking at the Stars is an intimate glimpse into the lives of the extraordinary ballerinas at the world’s only ballet school for the blind; the Fernanda Bianchini Ballet Association for the Blind. The story of these dancers goes beyond the challenge of learning to dance without a visual reference. Like many of us, these women want to be good professionals, partners, & friends. They want to be relevant and self-sufficient. They work fiercely to become the best versions of themselves. One of the dancers, Geyza, is the school’s prima ballerina. She is an example of grace, strength and determination. She began studying ballet with Fernanda Bianchini after losing her sight at the age of nine. In the film, Geyza arrives at a crossroads. Like many women, she feels pulled in two directions, between her family and her career. Preparing to get married, Geyza believes that in order to be a good wife she must dedicate herself to her family. She is also determined to not let married life end her aspirations as a ballet dancer and instructor. Whereas the obvious focus of the movie could have been overcoming a physical situation (blindness), Looking at the Stars chooses to instead focus on the heart and strength with which the dancers approach their entire lives.

While the film focuses on the dancers lives and interaction with the outside world, Zhang focuses on the sounds which helps the audience understand what is going on with them at a personal level. One scene in particular is a prime example of this work. Veronica Li recalls, “There was one scene in which the main character (who is blind) is touching her wedding dress. The movement of the character’s hand across the material and the sound Olivia recorded was so detailed and believable that it not only gives an enhanced sound but, it conveys the essence of that emotional moment.” 
Olivia continues, noting, “One of my most fond memories was re-creating the sound of ballet movement. I’m not a ballerina myself and my size is very different than the dancers. Half of the time the sound of ballet movement was made with my hands wearing the ballerina shoes to create swift jumps and slides over the dance floor. It was a fun day trying to be a ballerina who dances on my hands. Sometimes the great sound you are hearing in theatre was not made in the way you would imagine. That’s movie magic!” That makes Xiao’ou Olivia Zhang fall somewhere on the scale between scientist and magician; which sounds like possibly one of the most unusual and fun careers in the world.

 

 

 

Gabriella Spacciari shows versatility in both acting and modelling

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Gabriella Spacciari modelling for Quem Disse Berenice

Although Gabriella Spacciari started out knowing she wanted to be an actress, she always remained open to new opportunities. This how she came into modelling, and now millions of people have seen her face.

Spacciari was studying acting when she first started getting modeling jobs. Since that time, she has done a wide variety of television commercials and prints.

“Modelling is a private acting to the camera, who has the power to capture the beauty of the shapes, colors and shadows. It’s the idea of this ‘magic eye’ that is your audience of one,” said Spacciari. “I love to photograph and be photographed.”

One of Spacciari’s largest campaigns was for Pepsi, when she was in a commercial with the soccer player David Luiz. In the film, two girlfriends are ready to go out when it starts to rain. One of them almost gives up afraid of ruining her hair style. She tried to escape the rain, but it leaks on her hair. When she enters the party, the player David Luiz identifies with her.

The commercial was shot in London and directed by Pedro Pereira. The campaign was shown on TV Globo during the FIFA World Cup in 2014.

“We had a bunch of restrictions to be followed and Gabriella had the quality we were expecting for the acting to be natural, funny, with a naive seduction,” said Pereira. “Gabriella was very professional during the long hours shooting. Also, she photographs amazingly, which contributes to the success of the campaign. I’ve been seeing her on many campaigns here in Brazil and I think she´s getting her space, showing more on each project the great actress and model she is.”

One of the campaigns he is referring to is for GVT Communications. This included Veja Magazine, one of the biggest magazines in Brazil. During this time, she worked with Mabel Feres, who has worked for many brands such as Vogue and Marie Claire, and has done portraits of Andy Garcia, Anne Hathaway and Cindy Crawford, to name a few.

“Modelling is something that requires a lot of discipline and understanding, knowing what your style sells,” said Spacciari.

Spacciari has done many national campaigns in Brazil for SuperBonder, GoodEyer, Pósitron, Dupont, Óticas Carol. She has represented big brands such Dupont, Motorola and Trident. She also shot for Cultura Inglesa, which was for metro, outdoors, and schools all over Brazil, working with Patricia Mesquita and William Mello.

“It had a great range. People used to send me pictures with them and the outdoors,” she said.

She also did a make-up tutorial campaign for Quem Disse Berenice. It was at the stores nationally, and also online.

“Its huge, everybody sees it and comments on it,” said Spacciari. “It’s fun to go to a magazine stand and see yourself on it, or to be crossing the street with your actual boyfriend and seeing a bus stop with you smiling at another guy.” 

Spacciari is recognized internationally. She moved from a small city to São Paulo, and graduated in drama. She has done stage plays, and modelling jobs. She did a supporting role in the feature The Red Thread with the Mexican director Alfred Widman, as well as the leading role in the film Before Sunset I Think of You with the Chinese director Yuk Law. She was in the webseries BlackSpiderMan that went to San Francisco Comic-Con, the LA Comic Con, the Kamikaze Comic Con just last month.

“I think I discovered the capacity of overcoming barriers by working in different places and communicating with different cultures,” she concluded. “I’ve been discovering my art and been in projects that have been recognized around the world.”

 

SEBASTIAN SACCO’S PERFORMANCE IN “NO PLACE” IS EERILY SIMILAR TO PRESENT DAY SCENARIOS

Imagination can be wonderful but it can also make things harder for us in the real world. That statement might contradict what most of us think about imagination. Escapism can be a beneficial tool, right? Most of the time it is, but consider the predicament of Writer/Director Joe Beverly, a celebrated filmmaker who had written a deep and intense character driven piece called No Place (the film would go on to be screened at the Forum Film Festival and win ‘Best Short’ and ‘Best Screenplay’). The central character, William Aims, would need to communicate his inner turmoil without words as often as with. Aims is such a strong force in the story that casting anyone less charismatic or “alpha male” as the character would cause the story to “lose its teeth.” Luckily for Beverly, young British actor Sebastian Sacco was seeking an intensely dramatic role. Joe Beverly declares, “I needed to cast an exceptionally strong actor to successfully execute what I had written in the script. I was extremely lucky to find Sebastian and, when he auditioned, I knew almost instantly that he was the absolute perfect choice to essay the role of William. He has an uncanny ability to communicate without speaking or even moving much, a gift which only the very best actors possess, and which he put on full display in No Place. His performance went beyond what I had even hoped for and truly made the film a special tour de force about the cult of money and how it can topple lives. There is no way the film would have been possible without Sebastian’s stunning performance and everyone who has seen it has been floored by his portrayal of William.” The film’s star states that the reason for his being cast is likely due to a combination of acting and inherent character traits as he sates, “I’m an extremely moral person and will speak up if I think something is wrong. I think it was this trait which Joe saw in me. In my opinion, a strong actor is someone who isn’t scared to go there, to look ridiculous, to fail in front of people and to keep trying. That’s a strong actor. I think what Joe meant was that I was capable of holding the audience’s attention. I take it as quite a compliment that Joe saw that in me.”

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No Place is unsettling in how contemporary and possible it seems. The plot depicts a scenario in which England has seen a political, economic, and social change. The government has fallen, the banks have crashed, and the old system has fallen into the hands of three remaining corporations. These three corporations are now ruled by the Bank of Britain, posing as three separate organizations that still give the public an opportunity to vote. Young economist Will Aim’s (Sebastian Sacco) works his way to the top of the system, eventually working alongside Tony Darwin (Paul Dewdney) who is the final over seer of Britain’s future. Will’s moral compass and girlfriend, Skylar (Danielle Norman) rejects the new system, seeing the bigger picture, she tries to open Will’s eyes. He slowly begins to uncover the truth that Skylar saw all along and, with Skylar by his side, Will has a life changing decision to make; one which is harder than he ever expected. As inspiration for Aims, Sebastian reverted back to an earlier time and emotional state of mind which he had experienced. He remarks, “I went back to my private school days. Trying to impress people in that world. It’s all about how you talk, dress, posture eat; everything is judged and weighed up. If you can do it all the ‘right way’ then you’re part of the club. That sense of constant self-awareness and trying to look and act a certain way but never above your station was important to me. Will was very straight edged. He rose to his position so quickly because he was smart, not because he was imposing or a risk taker. In my own private school days, I thought some people were rich because they were smatter and harder working than others. I believed in these ridicules lies. The truth is most people are stuck and trapped by their circumstances. I’ve been as ignorant and blind as Will was and I’ve come out the other side. So I understood his journey.

The film was well received by critics, the film community, and the public; no doubt due to the intense performances which Sacco and his supporting cast delivered as well as the timely subject matter. Sebastian reveals that he is somewhat conflicted about these recognitions as he remarks, “It was amazing to hear it won awards. Joe called me straight away to let me know. I’m always very hard on my performance and wasn’t happy with it, so to hear that it had won two awards…I couldn’t have been too bad. I think awards are pointless in many ways. Arts are about expression. Not all expression is nice. A lot of awards are like a popularity contest. I think as long as you don’t make films with awards in mind, staying true to the original idea and express it in the strongest way possible to that truth…then if someone wants to give you an award for that, I feel that is good. The best reward is just making the film. When that happens, my entire life just stops. It is fulfilling and draining simultaneously. When you finish, you have this piece of art that you have all worked together to create. You have this thing that existed in your collective minds and you made it materialize, then you send it out for others to experience. Now that is an award!”

 

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