Camera operator Mike Heathcote brings talent and artistry to Canadian television series Cardinal

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Michael Heathcote

It was when Michael Heathcote was a teenager that working with video cameras went from being a hobby to a viable career option. Growing up in Toronto, it was in a high school course when he realized the responsibility that comes when looking through a lens of a camera, having the power to shape how people see things. Since that moment, he has never looked back, and now he is an internationally successful camera and Steadicam operator.

Heathcote’s success did not come overnight. He has extensive training and a natural talent that have contributed to where he is today. He worked on the highly-anticipated Hulu original series The Handmaid’s Tale set to release this Spring, based off the famous book by Margaret Atwood. Last year, he also worked on the upcoming film Downsizing, directed by Academy Award winning director Alexander Payne, with an all-star cast of Matt Damon, Kristin Wiig, Bruce Willis, Christoph Waltz, Jason Sudeikis, and Neil Patrick Harris. Currently, Canadians have the pleasure of seeing Heathcote’s artistry with a camera on the hit television show Cardinal.

“I am very proud of Cardinal. Everyone involved with the project worked incredibly hard and it’s nice to see critics and fans admiring and appreciating our work,” said Heathcote.

Cardinal is a six-part crime drama on Canadian television network CTV. It is an adaptation of the mystery novel Forty Words for Sorrow by Giles Blunt. It follows Detective John Cardinal as he attempts to catch a serial killer while also struggling to right past wrongs that could derail his investigation and end his career, as the case grows more violent and twisted, and the clock ticks down on the killer’s next victim.

“I loved the book and admire Steve Cosens, the cinematographer, and Director Daniel Grou who were also attached to the project. I knew with these two talented individuals and such an amazing story this would be a great TV series,” said Heathcote.

Cosens and Heathcote had worked together previously on feature film Mean Dreams, which was an Official Selection at some of the world’s top film festivals, including the Cannes Film Festival and Toronto International Film Festival, as well as the Canadian Screen Award nominated series Rogue. Cosens, knowing the talent that Heathcote posses, asked him to join the Cardinal series as a Steadicam operator.

“I’ve known Michael for several years and have been fortunate enough to have hired him as my A-camera/Steadicam operator on more than one occasion.  His images consistently exhibit a very strong and unique sense of composition, and his Steadicam work is, hands down, the best I’ve ever worked with, and I’ve worked around the world in the industry for twenty years.  His framing is always rigorous and fully considered and his camera movement is consistently fluid, artful and full of grace,” said Cosens.

The series was filmed in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada in the middle of winter, when the average temperature is -4 to 17 degrees Fahrenheit. Battling these brutal conditions was worth it in the end, as the cold and harsh climate enhanced the mysterious aspects of the story.

“Equipment starts to fail and camera operating in knee deep snow is very physically demanding. It was very challenging but I had a lot of fun,” said Heathcote.

Working to achieve director Daniel Grou’s vision, Heathcote had his work cut out for him. Grou planned many uninterrupted single take Steadicam shots. Single take shots are very hard to design because there is no cut away. The shot has to be perfect from the start to finish and encompass everything the audience needs to see or hear to help tell the story.

“This is very unique, and Daniel would come up with these beautifully choreographed shots daily. There is one five minute Steadicam shot in particular that Daniel designed that begins outside a school, follows our lead actor John Cardinal up and down several flights of stairs, a shoot-out and chase sequence evolve and the shot ends up back outside where we began. It was incredibly challenging physically and mentally. There aren’t a lot of projects that you get an opportunity to camera operate a shot like this and it was an absolute honor Daniel and Steve trusted me to execute it. It is definitely one I will never forget,” Heathcote described.

Grou, who has over two and a half decades of experience working internationally in the entertainment industry, was immediately impressed by Heathcote’s talents. Despite working with many talented camera/Steadicam operators over his long and awarded career, Grou says working with Heathcote this one time was enough to try and bring him on to every one of the projects he works on.

“Mike is just a complete genius at what he does technically, but artistically is where he truly shines. He can interpret a director’s or a photographer’s vision and go beyond it to find a true soul; a true magic to the images he helps us create. He is in tune with actors’ movements, as well as their fragile, ineffable emotional state as they work through a scene. He is always at the right place and in the right moment as he accompanies them on their journey. He is a treasure,” said Grou.

 

Cardinal is on CTV Wednesdays at 10 pm, or you can catch up on the series, and see Heathcote’s outstanding work, here.

Artist Alexandre Cornet has exemplary vision for CosmoVision

Alexandre Cornet was just a child when he discovered what his passion was. While many children are doodling in class, making stick figures as a distraction, his drawings were much more than that. This innate talent and enjoyment for art gave rise to a career in illustration and design, and he has never looked back.

Cornet’s abilities have led to many achievements throughout his career, and he is sought-after by many companies looking to define the artistic side of their brand. This includes the internationally successful production company CosmoVision Media Group. CosmoVision is a production company that specializes in high-end natural history and factual entertainment, specifically documentaries. Their goal is to make films that spread awareness on environmental issues, and help “heal the planet” as they put it.

“I like CosmoVision’s vision and the important subjects of their work and wanted to be part of it,” said Cornet.

When Cornet was brought on board, CosmoVision did not have an identifiable visual aspect to the brand. He was in charge of creating a logo that would be instantly recognizable to those in the industry.

“It was a great experience, I had never worked for a documentary production company and I had to create a logo that would have some animated version for video credit apparitions. It took some time as I had to create the visual identity from scratch. I had to create a slick and minimal visual identity, adaptive to different mediums and formats,” said Cornet.

When creating the logo, Cornet did not simply begin designing what he thought would work. He wanted to ensure the logo was suitable for the company, so he did his research. He began with several interviews and things started to take shape through the investigation process.

“I researched a lot to create a mood board and then spent a lot of times exploring possibilities sketching on paper, and developing selected ideas until approved. Once determined the idea and concept of the logo began the second phase of the work, which was to create some rules and guidelines, experimenting further for each application, and at last designing the basic printed materials such as letterhead and business card. Good communication and regular feedback made everything possible,” he described.

After conducting his research, Cornet decided to create something subtle and minimalistic, easy and didactic, to fit and emphasize the richness of the content and purpose of CosmoVision’s work. He had his work cut out for him, as the logo had to go into several mediums, such as print animation, and video, and would still work well on a business card. It had to work well being superposed onto moving images. The Idea behind the result is that the shape of the “C” of CosmoVision is eclipsing a circular light, like the moon to the sun, creating a different, unique and displaced “C” shape, bigger and standing out as the initial letter.

“I am happy I helped them to actually define their whole project and to know their satisfaction when they actually saw it in video opening credit use, on top of video sequences and when they printed their business cards and letterheads,” said Cornet.

Cornet has known Jacob Steinberg, the director of CosmoVision, and the art director Paola Saavedra, for some time, and knew of their experience and dedication to their work. It was because of their reputation that Cornet initially decided to take on the project.

“They both have different personalities and are full of stories and inspiring experiences. It has been a great working and learning from each other,” said Cornet.

Steinberg is an Emmy Award Nominated Cinematographer. His work has been screened internationally on television and in festivals. He is the owner and managing director of CosmoVision Media Group, a full-service production company specializing in high-end documentary film for television and cinema. He describes working with Cornet as a great experience.

“Alex was responsive, and took the time to be creative and interact with us throughout the entire process. He managed our feedback very well, ultimately producing a final product that we are extremely satisfied with. Alex’s work represents the face of our company, and we are thrilled with it,” said Steinberg. “Alex is a dedicated creative professional. He manages expectations well from the start, and provides the framework upon which to make progress effectively. He then is patient, giving and receiving his feedback, providing his own inputs simultaneously. He takes the time to really understand his clients’ passions, priorities, and ultimate goals to provide exemplary final work that exceeds expectations.”

Cornet’s vision for CosmoVision has been extremely well-received. You can view his work on the logo on the company’s website here.

Maryanne Emma Gilbert shines bright in McDonalds Commercial

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Maryanne Emma Gilbert is from Calgary, Alberta.

Maryanne Emma Gilbert discovered her calling at a young age. She didn’t know she would fall in love with performing, but she saw her mother on film and thought she wanted to try it. As a shy child, there was a lot that could go wrong. But that is how she knew what she was meant to do; when she stepped onto the stage to perform in her first play, the nerves and shyness melted away, and a star was born.

Now, those days of camera shyness seem like a distant memory, even though the Calgary-born actress is only seven-years-old. Her career has taken off, and she is recognized around the country as being one of the best for her age. She has been nominated for two Joey Awards recognizing her acting abilities, and she has performed in commercials for Doritos and Canadian Tire. She has appeared in films such as Jewel Fools, Season’s Greetings, and the upcoming science-fiction flick Space Rippers.

“Acting is super awesome because I make tons of super cool new friends. Also the food is good. And people are really nice. And I like to tell my family to watch me in movies,” she said.

Despite all of this success, for Gilbert, the highlight of her young but blossoming career was when she appeared in a Canadian nationwide McDonalds commercial. The commercial appeared during the 2016 Summer Olympics, and millions of Canadians began to see Gilbert’s face regularly in their living rooms.

“My whole family in Quebec saw me at every Olympics commercial. My grandpas and grandmas said they saw me all the time at the Olympics commercial. They called me. So I got to talk to my grandparents, and my cousins and aunts and uncles too. They said they saw me. Even a stranger we were talking to recognized us, that was funny,” said Gilbert. “Also, my dad loves to eat McDonalds. He would eat there every day if he could. Also, there was a cow named cupcake.”

The commercial is one of McDonalds’ campaigns trying to show canadians that their food is Canadian. This one was Alberta beef. The commercial features a group of children going to a local farm to learn about cows.

“We got to learn how the beef gets to our plate at mcdonalds and how the cows are treated and where the cows live. We meet the cows and the farmer and we run in the field. There were many things I did not know. It was interesting to see cows. I live in the city and rarely see cows that close,” said Gilbert.

During the commercial, the children follow around the farmer and run around in a field. The director, Tom Feiler, was impressed with Gilbert’s natural instincts as a performer. At one point, when she was supposed to be running around the field with the other children, Gilbert stopped to pick up some flowers, a moment that made it into the final cut and one of the highlights of the commercial.

“I only wanted the best and brightest young actors to be part of the shoot. What struck me the most about Maryanne was her ability to provide a lively performance, while still maintaining a great degree of focus, which increased the productivity of the other kids as well,” said Feiler. “I can’t tell you how proud I am to have directed Maryanne in her leading role.”

Even though she had to battle the cold weather that occurred the day of the shoot, Gilbert’s professionalism and genuine passion for what she is doing shines on screen. For her, it isn’t about just getting to try new things and learn something, it is about who she is with along the way.

“I love meeting new friends. This commercial was with other kids. I met a good friend, Victoria. The other kids were super nice. The crew was really nice too. It was not easy as it was cold that day but everybody was still really nice,” she said. “Also we got to run around lots. I like to run. And it was great to discover a farm. I don’t have one.”

You can see Gilbert in the McDonalds commercial here.

From Still Shots To Moving Images, Irem Harnak is a Visual Genius

The world is full of people who take pretty pictures, so what is it about the work of certain photographers that sets them apart from the pack? What quality do they contain that others lack? The answer lies is their ability to make the observer feel something, to capture an emotion or a moment in time.

Irem Harnak, a photographer whose name is internationally recognized throughout the world of fashion and commercial photography, is one of those rare visionaries whose portraits flawlessly capture the personality and emotion of her subject in a way that transports viewers and makes them feel as if they know the person in the photograph.

Over the years Harnak has amassed an astonishingly impressive portfolio of work that places her among the upper echelon of today’s photographers. Marie Claire (China) featured her shots of designer Erin Kleinberg, who dresses Golden Globe winner Lena Dunham(“Girls), and her long list of fashion stories and editorials have been featured in other well-known print and online magazines such as The Ones 2 Watch, The Fashionisto, Fantastics, Bon Bon, the Uk’s Kenton, Boys by Girls and Pause, Germany’s Superior Magazine, and more.

Audiences will also recognize Harnak’s work from the plethora of lookbooks and campaigns she’s shot for recognizable fashion brands over the years, such as leading activewear brand Titika, women’s golf apparel company Birdy & Grace, swimwear company Zubaida Zang, top Canadian designer Joeffer Caoc and others.

Harnak was also hired by Baker Vandertuin Inc., an ad agency known for its creation of successful campaigns for major clients such as the Heart & Stroke Foundation, Canadian Touring Car Championship and Durabond Racing, to shoot famous jazz singer June Garber.

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Jazz singer June Garber shot by Irem Harnak

“She is an amazing jazz singer, great performer with so much charisma, elegance and energy. I find it hard to get that kind of energy from the 16 year old models I shoot,” admitted Harnak about shooting Garber.

With such a wide variety of subjects, the through line that connects all of Irem Harnak’s work is the eye-catching creativity she brings to the table and the way she manages to bring out the  unique personality of each of her subjects in every shot.

Although she has spent the last decade in Canada, Harnak was raised in Istanbul, Turkey, a thriving city that she described in an interview with Yes Supply Collective as: a crazy, beautiful city with layers upon layers of civilization and history. It’s a place where everything has a voice, everything talks, day and night. The waves of the sea, the ferries going east and west, the seagulls, the breeze, the cars honking, people rushing from one street to another simultaneously talking to each other, telling each other stories day and night.

Anyone who’s had the chance to check out some of Harnak’s breathtaking and emotive photography will immediately see how her early beginnings in a visual inspiring place such as Istanbul has impacted her work.

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Jenna Earle shot by Irem Harnak for Kenton Magazine

While Harnak’s shots of famous models such as Carly Moore, Jenna Earle, Emma Génier and Robbie Beeser have put her work in the spotlight and made her a sought after fashion photographer, she’s also managed to successfully translate her skills as a photographer into the film world.

Harnak says, “I have always been inspired by cinema, that was one of the things that pushed me to become a photographer. Being a photographer one understands the lighting, the framing, how to execute a visual language in one or more frames. When you are a cinematographer, you need to do everything a photographer is doing to create a unique shot, but bear in mind that whatever you are framing is a continuous action not a moment frozen in time.”

As the cinematographer of the films “Personal Space,” “Living with Strangers” and “I Am You,” Harnak has proven her ability to move from shooting beautiful stills to creating moving imagery that effectively tells a narrative story.

The feature film “Personal Space” follows Sid, played by James McDougall (“The ABCs of Death 2”), a down in the dumps twenty-something guy trying to move past his recent breakup with Karri, played by Amelia Macisaac from the 2015 comedy “The Spirit of 39B.”

A self-proclaimed anti-love story, “Personal Space” is one of the few films out there that truthfully depicts what it’s like when the passion fades from a relationship, the uncomfortable phase that follows when two lovers have no choice other than to separate and the unglamourous depressive period that follows a break up. The way Harnak chose to capture the shots throughout the film create an authentic portrayal of real life, without all of the escapist fairytales that most films rely on.

About shooting “Personal Space,” Harnak explains, “I was working in really tight spaces, I was literally in the actors’ personal spaces, I had to light the space with little lights and rely on bounces, and reflectors. It depicted the feeling of loneliness and being lost that we were trying to get across.”

Just like real life, “Personal Space” is often awkward to watch, for example, the many times Sid tells Karri he wants to talk but has nothing to say. Overall the film gives viewers an accurate slice of live view into a real breakup, and Harnak’s cinematography nails the mark the whole way through.

While Harnak received praise for her cinematic work on “Personal Space” and “Living with Strangers,” her work on “I Am You” is what has really brought her unparalleled talent as a cinematographer into the spotlight.

“I Am You,” which debuted at Toronto’s Kaleidoscope interactive art crawl, is more than a movie, it’s an innovative step in using virtual reality technology to create a film. The film follows a young couple who discover a new VR app, which allows them to swap bodies and experience life as the other; and, as the viewers watch the film from the characters’ perspectives, it’s as if they too have been transported into the film.

About her work on “I Am You,” Harnak explains, “I shot the traditional part of the film. With the framing I set up, I was trying to describe the alienation, disconnectedness the couple was feeling towards each other. I placed the camera at a considerable distance and used a bit of an unconventional frame cropping to make the viewer feel unease.”

Produced by Cinehackers, “I Am You” has garnered an overwhelmingly positive response with Vice writing: Cinehackers had created a way to let virtual reality users feel like they were in a first-person perspective movie, kind of like Being John Malkovich… And Toronto Film Scene writing: ‘I Am You’ is an amazing piece of work in VR filmmaking. An intimacy enveloped me that I had never felt before while watching a film.

Although photographer Irem Harnak has clearly cut out an indelible mark for herself as a fashion photographer, her work as a cinematographer is definitely worth taking note off; and frankly, we can’t wait to see what she comes up with next!

“Rollin’ with the Nines” Reveals Anthony Warren’s Flare for Action

Actor Anthony Warren
Actor Anthony Warren shot by Will Tudor

There’s a scene in the hit film “Rollin’ with the Nines” where Anthony Warren, playing the Jamaican drug dealer Karnage, stabs an informant trying to buy drugs. Warren’s performance is so believable and his Jamaican patois so on point that anyone could be forgiven for thinking they were watching a documentary about crime on the island nation. Upon meeting the successful British actor however, it’s clear that the scene was very much a reflection of his impressive acting talent. Warren is a charming and imposing figure all the same, representing the ideal combination for leading men in the world of film.

Anthony’s ability to jump into distinctive roles that prove to be memorable and game-changing for any film of which he takes part is making him known in the industry. He tells us that the aforementioned scene in particular was “so violently gross [to film] but it was fun.” If anything, the London native was so convincing to his co-stars on the set of “Rollin’ with the Nines” as a menacing drug dealer that “Eastenders” star Terry Stone felt compelled to literally hit Warren in the head with a frying pan in a scene where he and his buddies try to swindle Warren’s antagonist. It hurt, according to Warren, but he swears it was an accident.

Anthony Warren’s hugely successful career began over 20 years ago, in a more humble fashion than compared to his current position of fortune. His work in “Rollin’ with the Nines” marked the beginning of his dominance in the action genre that began simultaneously over a decade ago with his critical role in “Control” opposite Academy-Award nominee Willem Dafoe (“Spiderman,” “The Aviator”), and “Fast and Furious” and “Avatar” heroine Michelle Rodriguez. Leading and starring roles in similar projects have continued, and when watching his impactful performances in films like “Rollin’ with the Nines” and “Control,” it’s clear why Warren hasn’t lived the typical life of the struggling artist.

While many actors take on work whenever they’re hired, Warren’s sought after stature in the industry means he needn’t be concerned with just taking on any project. If anything, his filmography proves his careful selectiveness and irreplaceable position within the acting field.

The truthfulness of Warren’s leading performances in other genre films like “The Deaths of Ian Stone,” opposite “Under the Dome” and “Bates Motel” star Mike Vogel, and as Capt. Naish in the Wesley Snipes (“Blade,” “Passenger 57”) and William Hope (“Aliens, “Captain America,” “Sherlock Holmes”) feature film “The Marksman,” are all proof of Warren having firmly found his own place in a world characterized by high-standards, loyal fans and blockbuster thrills.

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“Rollin’ with the Nines” film poster

“Rollin’ with the Nines” in particular has been a thrilling highlight for Anthony, notably so for representing his collaboration with successful director Julian Gilby who also directed Will Poulter (Oscar-Winner “The Revenant”, “We’re the Millers”) and Emma Rigby (ABC hit “Once Upon a Time in Wonderland”) in the 2014 hit-film “Plastic.” It further reinforced his growing profile with action films shot in the UK and his association with the music industry, as “Rollin’ with the Nines” concerns small-time drug dealers releasing their music in urban London.

And therein lies part of Warren’s truly exceptional talent – he has managed to traverse genres effortlessly. In his case (and maybe for this decade) action and musical theatre specifically. Alongside his key roles in action films “The Contract” with Academy Award winner Morgan Freeman (“Driving Miss Daisy,” “The Dark Knight”), Warren’s classical singing training and skill on stage landed him a leading role in Opera North’s Rodgers and Hammerstein production of “Carousel,” directed by Jo Davies, and “Brashana O”, directed by Geoffrey Creswell.

In “Brashana O”, a story based on the legendary rolling calf that forms part of Jamaica’s folklore, Warren wowed audiences with his portrayal of Barker. His connection to Jamaica gave the production a refined sense of integrity, helping to sustain the belief that the Rolling Calf is really a ‘duppy’ (ghost) that has the ability the change, if and when necessary, into other animals. Warren’s performance was easily considered as both impactful and humorous all at the same time. His role as Heavenly Goggin in “Carousel,” a more traditional musical, was an important one that esteemed reviewer Geoffrey Mogridge noted as “mysterious,” and set the scene for the protagonist’s confrontation with the production’s antagonist.

One could say that Anthony Warren is something of a ‘jack-of-all-trades.’ But his success in the different areas of the acting field prove that he is certainly not a ‘master-of-none.’ We look forward to seeing him in many more blockbusters (hopefully action movies, and more musicals) for years to come.

 

Diana Chao: A Creative and Thought-Provoking Director on the Rise

Originally from Taipei, Taiwan, Diana Chao is a highly successful, 32-year-old, Los Angeles-based director. After obtaining her MFA in Film Production from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts in 2013, Chao continues to direct shorts, commercials, and features professionally, both locally and abroad.

“I was first hired as a director in 2011 for Violence in the Closet in Taiwan,” Chao said. “In 2013, instead of directing a school thesis film, I decided to do The Restoration as an independent project in which professional crew were on board, where I could immerse myself in telling the story without supervision. I launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for making the film. Upon its completion and recognition for festivals, I have had the pleasure to be hired as director for more projects.”

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Diana Chao on the set of The Restoration 

For Chao and her career, this achievement was just the first of many.

The Restoration is a story that focuses on our desire to say goodbye. Inspired by an event that occurred in Taiwan in 2008, it follows Sean, a young restoration apprentice, who learns about closure and his feelings toward a family member’s departure while working on a project with an experienced restorative artist named Joanna. Together, their skills in preparing a corpse for its transition from the present are challenged by the extensive damage caused to the body. The film stars John-Scott Horton, Katie Savoy and Jason Caceres.

Chao first wrote the script back in 2010, where it was short-listed twice for a USC production class. “I pitched it the first time and had meetings with various directors the second, but ultimately they had their own visions about the project. Jeff – my classmate and trusted friend as well as the editor of The Restoration – encouraged me to make the film myself. With his support and encouragement, little by little, The Restoration storyline evolved into its current version,” commented Chao.

The short film was beautifully shot by the award-winning Cinematographer, Will Jobe. He and Chao initially met at USC where they were classmates and both received their MFA degrees in Film Production. Jobe’s work has screened at South by Southwest, Slamdance, and Cannes, his clients including well-known names such as ESPN, Hallmark and Subway Sandwiches, to name a few.

“Diana was the principal creative force behind The Restoration,” Jobe praised. “She was meticulous in the planning of her vision for the film and coordinated with the heads of each department to ensure its proper execution. I remember in the many preproduction meetings how Diana exposed me to a variety of visual references that I had never seen before. I discovered the work of both Easter and Western directors and cinematographers that exhibited fresh aesthetics that differed from the Hollywood norm. It was obvious to me that Diana had a keen academic understanding of film history, but was also well versed in many different genres and aesthetics of modern independent and international cinema. I feel that The Restoration was only a first step in seeing Diana’s true potential.”

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Diana Chao and the crew of The Restoration

The Restoration was the independent project Chao directed in which she had full control. Thanks to her training and education from USC, Chao had acquired a full understanding of how production works, as well as the role of every individual on set. Elaborating on this, Chao said, “Production is teamwork with hierarchy. As a director, it’s crucial to do my job and let the team do theirs. I was passionate about making The Restoration. I don’t necessarily know the technical details of how to execute each person’s job, but as long as I was clear about my vision, my team wasn’t confused about how to help me make the film.”

Chao wound up receiving much praise and recognition for her film, including an award for Best Original Score from the 2015 Long Island International Film Expo and a Merit of Cinematography from the 2015 Rochester International Short Film Festival.

In April of 2012, Chao was asked to document the production of the feature film Finding Mr. Right in New York City, a US-China collaboration. Chao acted as the director of the film’s promotional materials and was therefore given the challenging responsibilities of conducting interviews, editing footage, and bridging communication between three main parties: the production company, the promotion company, and the main cast, directors, and their agents and assistants.

According to CEO Lisa Chen, who collaborated with Edko Films on Finding Mr. Right and speaks very highly of Chao, creating the promotional material is the, “Single most important tool for a film’s publicity. Great promotional material can get you into festivals, boost your crowdfunding, and even land you a distribution deal.”

 

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Diana Chao working on Finding Mr. Right

From a commercial standpoint, Finding Mr. Right grossed the U.S. equivalent of $84.4 million at the box office. Additionally, the film won 2 China Film Director’s Guild Awards for Best Screenplay and Best Actress, was nominated in the same awards show for Best Director and Best Picture, took home a win at the 2013 Golden Phoenix Awards, and received 2 nominations at the Hong Kong Film Awards in 2014.

“We fully trusted Diana as the director for our promotional material and the footage that she made was exceptional and used for marketing and promotion throughout China. Due to Diana’s prowess as a bilingual filmmaker, Diana was able to bridge the gap between the Chinese production team and the local freelance filmmakers. Her work provided an easy way to get the word out about the production with her concise, creative, and impressive directional style, which also influenced the entire production as a whole,” said Chen.

It is evident that Chao excelled in generating extraordinary press materials for the film, her efforts playing a vital role in its ultimate viewership and success. Her work has a tendency to reach and inspire wide audiences in every instance, as also demonstrated by her work on the 2011 short film Violence in the Closet.

Violence in the Closet is an eight-minute short film and Public Service Announcement (PSA) that brings awareness to domestic violence among the LGBT community. The film tells the story of a 30-year-old lesbian, WenWen, undertaking multiple pressures in life and arising conflicts between her and her girlfriend. “It was meant for promoting the amendment of the Domestic Violence Prevention Act and letting the LGBT community know that homosexual couples, partners, and roommates are also under protection of the law,” Chao further explained.

Due to budget limits and time constraints, Violence in the Closet was shot over two nights and finished within one week in order to meet the deadline of the annual fundraiser it was intended to screen at. “Because of the NPO’s (Non-profit Organization) budget limitations and of Taiwanese actors’ hesitation to be cast for lesbian roles, we ended up casting non- actors who are lesbians,” Chao added. This route came with a few challenges when it came to directing, but nevertheless, Chao overcame them and prevailed.

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Diana Chao directing Violence in the Closet

“There’s a set of languages a director uses when working with professional actors,” she went on to describe. “Non-actors don’t really take those directions. I found method acting helpful – it doesn’t require actors to become the characters, which is difficult for non-actors. Instead, it helps actors find the expressive emotions that they share with the characters. By walking them through the emotional beats the characters had in the script, I was able to overcome that challenge.”

Chao performed the service of directing the project for free, out of the grace of her heart, and for the betterment and expansion of the Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association.

Originally founded in 1998, the Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association is a non-profit organization aimed at providing a space for acceptant and empathy in the LGBT community. It is now the oldest and the largest, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organization in Taiwan.

Violence in the Closet was released at their 2011 annual fundraiser, Taipei Hotline events, and online in an effort to help raise awareness and funds for the organization. Chao’s work helped the Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association earn a total of $103,722 in donations.

Jennifer Hsin Chieh Lu, the Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association’s Director of Public Affairs, stated that Chao’s generosity provided them with, “A rare instance where we were able to engage an extraordinary filmmaker and director for the betterment of our cause, and thus, the betterment of our society. Violence in the Closet was highly influential, important, and touching to many viewers. We needed to work with a remarkable director who understood its sensitivity and was able to deliver a powerfully striking, unforgettable message. Without a doubt, Diana Chao achieved to direct such a powerful short film for us and was able to successfully send the message to the audience.”

 

For more information on Diana Chao, please visit:
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm6371027/
 https://dianachaos.com/

For The Restoration, please visit: https://vimeo.com/121533655
For Finding Mr. Right, please visit: https://www.youtube.com/user/edkofilms
For Violence In the Closet, please visit: https://youtu.be/MXfVRGk3kSg

 

Young Canadian actor Kyle Meagher talks about his role in new film “The Big Crunch”

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Actor Kyle Meagher 

Many people spend their lives working in a job that brings them little happiness. It takes many years to figure out what they are meant to do. Those graduating high school face a decision as to how they want to spend their lives, and few that age can figure it out. This is where Kyle Meagher is the exception. While growing up in Ottawa, it was evident what he was meant to do, and he started doing at the age of ten. Now, four years later, Meagher stands among Canada’s best young actors.

Audiences have had the pleasure of watching Meagher in an assortment of national commercials, web campaigns, award-winning television programs, and feature films. And even with a successful career under his belt by his teens, he has no plans on slowing down. This past year, he was able to secure a role in the short film The Big Crunch, alongside Peter DuCunha (12 Monkeys), Jennifer Robertson (Schitt’s Creek), and Chris Gibbs (The BFG). He also got to work with his friend Sam Ashe Arnold (The Adventure Club).

“This was a cool short film to work on because they added a bunch of special effects and used a new, very expensive camera that helped make the special effects possible. I was really excited to see what it would turn out to look like,” said Meagher.

The Big Crunch, by Inflo Films, is produced by Harry Cherniak, and written and directed by Dusty Mancinelli. Meagher was excited to work alongside them, as he had heard of their great reputation of making award-winning films. It looks like The Big Crunch will follow the same trend, as it is already making its way to many film festivals.

“I love hearing about the festivals the film is going to and seeing the press about it. Harry and Dusty are great film makers and they deserve the recognition for the amazing work they do,” said Meagher.

The film follows 12-year-old August (DaCunha), who suffers an existential crisis about his place in the world after learning the universe will one day collapse in an epic Big Crunch. Nothing can shake August out of his depressive state, not even celebrating his birthday six months early. But when August is accidentally electrocuted after changing a light bulb, he has a magnificent cosmic experience. During an intense game of dodgeball at school, August suddenly unearths his own magical powers and goes on an extraordinary adventure of self-discovery. With his newfound understanding of the universe, August stands up to his bully and goes after the girl of his dreams.

“In this film, it was a great build up to a climax where August kisses the girl he has been admiring. It’s amazing to watch the character go from a very forlorn and sad child to one that sees the world in a completely new way. The scenes were fun to shoot, we spent some time outdoors and running around a school,” said Meagher.

The film made its world debut at the Atlantic Film Festival in Halifax in September, and quickly headed to the Edmonton International Film Festival right afterwards. Audiences get to see Meagher play a role completely unlike himself: a bully. He and his friends are known as the “Goons” and bully August throughout the film.

“I am totally opposite to the bully, but I can relate to the role because I have been bullied before myself, and I simply channel what I’ve seen into a character,” said Meagher.

Throughout his career, Meagher has played the character of a bully many times. His experience makes his performance not only believable, but outstanding. However, those he works with find it interesting to watch him take on roles that are so different to his real-life personality.

“Kyle’s a really great guy, so it’s fun to see him play such a jerk,” said Sam Ashe Arnold, who played Elvis, August’s archenemy in the film. “Kyle is funny and nice to everyone, and he’s always professional and well prepared. That’s pretty much exactly the kind of person you hope to get cast with. He’s a great actor partly because he has such an expressive face, with big eyes and a big smile, but it’s mostly because he’s smart and he really listens and takes direction,” said Sam Ashe Arnold.

Arnold played the main bully in the film, and had worked with Meagher previously, but it was on this production that they truly became friends. They are both from Ottawa, so they attend auditions together, and hope to work together again soon.

“Sam and I are with the same talent agency and we spend time together so it was neat to actually get to work with him on set,” said Meagher. “I also met Peter DuCuhna for the first time who is a great actor that has a lot of experience.”

Despite having a lot of experience himself, the role also provided a unique learning experience for Meagher.

“There was a stuntman who taught Peter how to jump out the window for a scene – and it was the first time I had been with a stuntman on set,” he concluded. “It opened my eyes a bit more about safety and was interesting to see what they teach!”

Audiences will have the opportunity to see The Big Crunch later this year. Bell Media will be putting it on the BravoFact website.

 

Actor Andrew Searles talks creating a character in film Sharkboy

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Actor Andrew Searles

Andrew Searles is funny, there is no doubt about it. The actor and stand-up comedian knows how to deliver a line and leave audiences in stiches. He is known across his home country of Canada for his comedic talents, and whether on stage or screen, he captivates audiences.

When working on the film Sharkboy, Searles’ natural comedic talents shine through. He plays Sundown, a character who was created after the film was written, specifically for him. The role required a lot of improvising, and natural comedic talents. Luckily, that is Searles’ specialty.

“I really had fun and enjoyed playing the character of Sundown. The character was not originally part of the script, but the director liked me so much that he wrote me into the script as one of the gang members. I was instructed, because I originally didn’t have any written lines, to improvise and go along with the scene. As a result, I would often repeat the last word said by anyone in the scene, for comedic effect,” said Searles.

Sharkboy tells the story of Francis, a half-man, half-shark, and the events surrounding his arrival at a new high school. The “Sharkboy” has a difficult time adapting to the high school, as he is bullied by Scott and his gang. Scott’s girlfriend is caught by the eye of Sharkboy, but not before Scott catches him staring, which leads to a violent altercation for Sharkboy. When Scott challenges Sharkboy to a wrestling match during their gym class, Sharkboy eats Scott, and immediately becomes not only the new leader of the gang, but the coolest kid in school. Now Sharkboy is styling and winning awards and the hearts of his fellow students, along with the heart of the newly single, Scott’s ex-girlfriend. The film is based on the myth that the band Led Zeppelin once defiled a groupie with a shark.

“From the breakdown of the film, it seemed like a type of awkward, twisted comedy, and I was eager to sign on and be a part of this, especially when they explained what the “Sharkboy” character was. I think the title alone was enough to sell me on this,” said Searles.

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Still from Sharkboy

Sundown is one of the gang members lead by the antagonist Scott. He is in almost every scene, and turns into one of Sharkboys friends. Part of what makes the character so funny is his look, which was entirely created by Searles. Sundown looks like a member of an ‘80s gang, donning a high-top, California State Trooper-style reflective sunglasses, and a box of toothpicks. Searles was inspired by the iconic character of Mr. Bean, where Rowan Atkinson created a classic icon who did not speak, but was incredibly funny.

“I felt with such a unique looking character such as mine, the less he said on screen, the more of an impact he would have, and based on the reactions of people who have seen the movie, with my characters unique look, I felt I accomplished just that. I’m very proud of myself to this day for portraying a comedic character that said so little but stood out on screen,” said Searles. “I liked the fact that I was given free will with the character. I was able to make it my own and craft it exactly how I want to do it. In most cases, an actor is given a breakdown or guidelines of what the character is, but in my case there were no restrictions or guidelines, so it felt great to really create something on my own.”

Pat Kiley, the director of the film, loved Searles’ look for the character, and he effectively named the character “Sundown” after the striking similarity to the Top Gun character of the same name.

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Still from Sharkboy.

“Andrew created his own retro style for the character and we loved his angle and his approach to the character as it fit perfectly with the story. I loved how even though his character had few to no lines in a scene, his character spoke volumes on the screen while saying so little. He ended up becoming one of the crew’s favorite characters because of his hilarious look and demeanor whenever he was on screen. Even at the film premiere, the audiences loved him too. Andrew not only brought life to a character, but he did it with so little and he brought out so much out of it. I look forward to working with him again one day. He did spectacular job and I wish him all the best in his career. He is definitely an incredible actor whose character began with nothing and made it huge and a fan favorite on screen,” said Kiley.

Creating a character for the film, which would be a challenge for many of the most seasoned actors, was a breeze for Searles. His experience in improvising and stand-up comedy made it easy to think on the spot.

“I would watch and listen attentively to the other characters lines. After a run-through and rehearsal, I would decide what I would say and when to say it, to keep the rhythm and pacing of the scene. After figuring out what I would say before the cameras started rolling, I would let the other actors know that I would be saying something at a certain point in the dialogue when nobody would say anything. Therefore, we all knew when I would come in and say my line, without stepping on another characters line,” said Searles.

Sharkboy premiered at the 2004 ‘Comedia Festival’ gala as part of the Just for Laughs comedy festival in Montreal. The film was also screened at the Austin Film Festival.

You can watch Searles as the audience favorite Sundown in Sharkboy on FunnyorDie here.

THE INCREDIBLE VOYAGE OF JIPING LIU

By Kelly James

 

A Graphic Designer has to look at the world differently. If you’ve ever stopped to truly examine their work, you’ll recognize that they take what most of us see as mundane and are able to capture the excitement, beauty, and originality of almost any action or object. They “turn up the volume and color” in our world, often without sound or pigmentation. They allow us to see others and ourselves as we’d like to be seen. The Graphic Designers who practice their vocation in the film industry have a number of tasks and opportunities before them but essentially, they enable visionary filmmakers to manifest the beginning stages of their ideas. Whether by means of storyboards, posters, or any number of creations that the Graphic Designer brings forth, their perspective can be the first or the last images that the public and filmmakers themselves retain about a particular production. Jiping Liu has worked in a variety of genres and cultures as a Graphic Artist with resounding success and recognition. In particular, she is known for getting inside the productions she works on to see how the professionals in the film industry work in order to more accurately and artistically create the images she is praised for. When you know more about Jiping’s background, you begin to understand that her perspective and talent is the product of an artist who has always pursued something bigger.

Jiping always knew what she wanted in life, to be an artist. From the earliest days in her hometown of Shijiazhuang city, China and later when she moved to Beijing…it was always about art. Comics, cartoons, painting…all of these were valid artistic expressions to a young Liu. She recalls her first compulsion to direct her career path to graphic design stating, “I’m pretty sure I decided to become a graphic designer rather than a painter during the first summer holiday in Beijing Jiaotong University. I got an internship offer from an international company. I remember the company’s creative director was sick for two weeks, so I got a chance to work on company’s ongoing APP design called ‘Life Circle.’ I was so excited to work on real projects and they trusted me very much, letting me try to design the ICON and opening page for the APP. It was just a try, but I took it very seriously. To my surprise, the head of company picked my ICON design. In the end, this APP was available to come out on market and many people liked to download and install it. This was my first time feeling that graphic design is graceful and makes people’s life easier, even beautiful.” During Jiping’s third year at University she received an offer from Tencent (one of the largest Internet companies and largest gaming company in the world) to work as a graphic designer. Her work for Tencent included working on several big budget events, designing posters, books, and advertisements for each event. At that time, Liu opened her own personal design shop online. The artist she was already became fused with the modern day opportunities she was being given.

Realizing that her artistic talent and sensibilities could be utilized among a variety of formats, Jiping became interested in the opportunities which the film industry allowed. Serving as graphic designer for the horror film “Kumal”, Liu’s work became visible at such high profile events as the 70th Cannes Film Festival, the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival, and many others. Writer and director Jun Xia had seen Jiping’s work in another film at a screening in Warner Bros Studio (She gives Me Sight) which was graphic designed by Liu. He hired her to be the graphic designer on his film “Emily” which became a multiple award winner

Creating the title design of “Sea of Mirrors”, Jiping chose to use mellow fonts to represent the delicate and beautiful female form of the film’s lead character juxtaposed against sharp edges and corners to represent the darker elements within the film’s story. “Sea of Mirrors” director Thomas Lim says, “Jiping Liu is a graphic designer with extraordinary creativity and skill. Her designs are amongst the best and most unique I’ve seen and her talents are right up there with the best.”

One of Liu’s favorite projects was the work she did for the film “Locked.” The film contains numerous gun battles. Liping used an illustrator style design poster for “Locked.” The colors of the characters on the poster are the same costume color they wore in the movie. She tells, “The size of the budget, big or small, for a film is not the most influential when it comes to design quality. Less can very often be more. More is not always a good thing, big budgets allow you to choose easier and work faster but I find that with a small budget I will spend time to find a way to get the art to work. If you have the skill, you can create quality. Whatever spurs your creativity and brings it out of you is the best.”

The future is not only bright for this graphic designer, it’s also busy. Liu is currently working on a number of projects for Alpha Pictures Inc. Frank Antonelli sought Jiping out and hired her to be the lead graphic designer on three very important upcoming productions; Bee, Armor Hero and Requiem Street. BEE, Armor Hero and Requiem Street were the top 3 popular comics and animations in China. Alpha Pictures Inc. is now developing and adapting these three animations to live-action/global feature films. BEE has 1 billion views on u17.com, a six-episode animated web series released in China and Japan and an action figure line released in 2015. The Requiem Street comic has been published since 2012 and has 2.2 billion views on U17.com. Number 1 Chinese comic in 2016 and twenty-four-episode animated web series released. Requiem Street also has a live-action TV series in production. Armor Hero is based on the top selling toys, Armor Hero is a series of characters on which more than 200 TV episodes and on which two feature films are based. In its eight-year history, Armor Hero has attracted 400 million fans and garnered a 4.8 billion accumulated viewership through video portals in China. The brand generates more than 600 million RMB in toy retail sales per year. The massive popularity and built in audience interest of these three sotrylines bodes extremely well for anticipated box office enthusiasm and returns.

Of all the talents that Liu possesses, the most beneficial may not be the most obvious. As someone who has spent time in both the US and China, as well as possessing an artist’s eye for the film industry, Liu is perfectly suited to further establish the bonds that have become mutually beneficial to both locations. The differences between these two cultures is something which Jiping has always found attractive. She enjoys the experience being caught between the two. She admits, “I received a very good job offer from China last year but I gave it up.

I believe the future of film and TV will be international and global. Nowadays, many Chinese production companies are opening branch offices in Hollywood; they want to corporate and step into Hollywood films. It’s a big trend for the modern film industry. Artists who have different cultural background, art style, and knowledge will be in need. People always say American films are top, to make these films keep shinning there needs to be different cultural elements. Movies play for everyone no matter where you located. That makes me interested in being a Chinese graphic designer in the US, because I want to contribute to this Chinese and American corporation.”

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JIPING LIU: GRAPHIC DESIGNER DELVING DEEP INTO THE HEART OF A FILM

Author: Kelly James

Achieving excellence at your craft may seem like a simple but demanding course. To become recognized as a stand-out among your peers you simply focus on the basics and put in the Malcolm Gladwell prescribed 10,000 hours. While that may help you to master a skill, it doesn’t guarantee that you will become noticed by the industry in which you work. The difference between great and amazing is far more vast than that between good and great. In Hollywood that is exponentially true. Jiping Liu is an accomplished graphic designer with numerous award-winning films to her credit. With experience and consummate skills, she still needed an edge to gain notoriety in Tinseltown, when measured up against so many great artists. Liu is known for going the extra mile and spending time on set in order to get a better sense of the “vibe” or “aura” of a film. While many graphic artists in Hollywood are talented and skilled, it’s Jiping’s willingness to immerse herself in a film, much in the same way that the actors invest themselves, that enables her to bring a more authentic and artistic sense of what the filmmakers want to portray. Beyond the graphics and illustrations which she creates behind the scenes and the ones which the public sees, Liu has created many fans of her work…on both sides of the camera.

Horror films are perhaps more popular than they have ever been in cinema. This prolific presence creates more competition and better films for the audience. It also drives those involved in the genre and industry to challenge themselves to bring better work to the table. Director Thirati Kulyingwattanavitand hired Jiping to work on the film “Kumal” as her graphic artist. Kulyingwattanavitand was aware of Liu’s work and reputation as a graphic artist with fashion photography and also recognized that she had a keen understanding of film. “Kumal” is a story about two young friends who rush into a house after hearing screams, only to realize that there is an expiration date when it comes to being a good Samaritan. As the graphic design supervisor for the film, Jiping did the title and poster design as well as the sketch costume design. She admits that she likes horror films so much that she asked to be involved creating more during the production, in order to get a deeper sense of the story and mood of the film. Liu explains, “I like horror films. I’m a huge fan of The Shining by director Stanley Kubrick and graphics designed by my favorite designer Saul Bass. I feel like every part of that film represents the vision of the filmmaker and I wanted to achieve this for “Kumal.” I helped out with the prop department making old looking maps, I helped out with painting tribal tattoos on the actors, even learning how to create sugar blood for use in the more graphic scenes. I could have just done the storyboards, posters, and the like…but I wanted to dive deeply into this film. I knew that once I did, it would be the fingerprint of the film that came out in my work as the graphic designer for it.”

Thirati Kulyingwattanavitand professes, “Liu is graphic designer with extraordinary abilities… not only the traditional ones. I was incredibly impressed with her desire to understand the heart and essence of the film. ‘Kumal’ was a selection at more than twenty international film festivals and received: the Gold Award of Spotlight Horror Film Awards (2016), Winner of Best Horror of Depth of Field International Film Festival Competition (2016), winner of Best Horror of Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Awards (2016), nominated by Bronze Award of Fameus International Film Festival (2016). Our film was also awarded Best Production Design at the Hollywood International Moving Pictures Film Festival (2016), and nominated at the Independent Horror Movie Awards for Best Atmosphere. These last two awards related specifically to the art department are completely the acknowledgment of Liu’s contributions to Kumal.”

For the film “Emily”, Liu used her graphic design skills with titles and posters again, but also aided the filmmakers with concept drawings and presentation designs for the Greenlight process. Also a horror film, “Emily” is about a husband (John) who abandons his wife (Emily) who dies giving birth at home. After this betrayal, Emily becomes a ghost and seeks revenge on her husband, punishing him in the end. Emily won a host of awards including Best Horror film at the LAIFF and Hollywood Horror Festival. Explaining her approach to the poster art, Jiping reveals, “It’s always the most exciting part, to end my graphic design work by creating a powerful poster on each project. I deeply understand the meaning and emotion for ‘Emily’ after having spent time on set. I created a close up shot of Emily’s worn and bloody hospital gown but I didn’t show Emily’s face. The placement of blood on her clothes insinuated that she gave birth to a baby. The whole frame was mostly on the right side. I used a black and bloody title on the left side, which makes the audience imagine it’s a dark aisle.”

“Locked” is a psychological action film in which a man loses his wife and creates an imaginary world where he fights with himself to save his wife and find the truth of her death. More quick paced action than blood was involved in the story; but there was still plenty of blood. “Locked” was still challenging but provided a welcome work environment for Liu. She states, “This project was challenging, but in the end, I learned and improved a lot from this film. Thanks to director and producer’s trust and confidence in me, I had a lot of room to play and experiment with the design, all on my own. Whatever the costume design and graphic designs, they came out of my heart for this film. I tried my best to use my design works to help tell the story, to deliver the emotion from a designer’s eyes.” The film’s producer Yuxiao Wang was ecstatic about Jiping’s contributions to the film as well as the opportunity to work with Liu. Wang comments, “Jiping Liu was absolutely a top level graphic designer in China. She worked for Tencent which is one of the largest Internet companies as well as the largest gaming company in the world. She is always the ideal lead designer to work with especially when most projects that I produce are a cooperation between China and the United States. I couldn’t find another artist like Liu who deeply understands Chinese culture and traditional art elements as well as western art style. Jiping is the perfect bridge between the two cultures and film industries.”

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As further proof of this, Liu is currently working on three productions: Bee, Armor Hero and Requiem Street which are some of the most ambitious (and expensive) productions in China. These films are set to be global features with Jiping as the lead graphic designer. The buzz around these productions is already swelling and Liu’s placement as lead graphic designer shines an even brighter spotlight on her consummate talent. As the American and Chinese film industries become more cooperative and immersed in each other, it’s artists like Jiping Liu who are ensuring excellence for both.