Editor Fei Zheng Uses Her Skills to Create Captivating Visual Stories

“Editing is not a technical process. It’s an artistic process. It’s about storytelling. What editors do is the final rewrite of the script.”

                                             -Jack Tucker (editor of “Shogun” and “Winds of War)

From selecting the best shots from hours of footage to creating seamless transitions and deciding the pacing for the story, a film’s editor truly does determine the way a story plays out on screen; and nobody know this better than film editor Fei Zheng.

Zheng explains, “A bad structure will ruin whole story– it will make the story boring, unclear and you will quickly lose the  audience’s attention. The structure is really important to the story because it is the basic element that helps the audience to understand a story.”

Originally from Hangzhou, China, Zheng began her career directing and editing the popular Chinese television series  “Ye You Shen” and “Xiao Yaer,” which aired weekly on the national station Hangzhou Television. After carving out a strong reputation for herself as an exponentially talented and sought after editor in China, Zheng moved to the U.S. where she took her skills to the next level and completed an MFA in Motion Pictures and Television Editing from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, CA.

Ye You Shen
Still from the series “Ye You Shen” edited by Fei Zheng

Zheng’s experience spans the gamut– from working on television series, where she had a little more than three days to deliver the episodes from the first day of shooting, to commercials such as the recently released Alpine Dairy “K-Drama” and “Marble Game”  advertisements, and music videos for Madelaine Minx’ songs ‘Rabbi of Rap,’ ‘Sushi’ and ‘Feminem,’ as well as editing a multitude of narratives, Fei Zheng has clearly done it all. But not all animals are created equal, and some projects are more complicated than others– and that’s where Zheng’s skill stands out.

“In a large crew, the shooting process is very complicated and there are always some oversights. In this case, the editors use some ‘tricks’ to make the scene play out on the screen more smoothly. Sometimes, I prefer to watch the film that I did without sound, and pay attention to it’s feeling for story the first. Then I can figure out the problems concerning sound, and select the right music to match the scene,” explains Zheng.

“I have become more and more familiar with the environment of filmmaking, and the significance of both image and sound since I first began editing. Editing is the second creation of the film, and for me, the interesting part is helping to create a better story, which is based on the script.”

Film Editor Fei Zheng
Film Editor Fei Zheng

Anyone who’s Zheng’s work in the realm of narrative films would be hardpressed to call her anything but a true artist. Her work on the thriller film “She,” which was released last year and chosen as an Official Selection of the QFest New Jersey LGBT Film & Digital Media Festival where it was nominated for an award, is a perfect example of how Zheng is able to come in and rewrite the story with her edits.

“She” director Yuxin Zhang explains, “For ‘She,’ Fei Zheng was both the lead editor and the color corrector on the film. She made quite a lot of changes with edits. She reorganized the footage in a way that made the plot more compact and the overall story more attractive. She definitely drew out and established the anticipatory suspense elements within the film with her edits, and those are important for any thriller film.”

Starring Nika Burnett from the two-time Golden Globe Award winning series “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and the four-time Primetime Emmy nominated series “Castle,” Lissa Keigwin from the series “Wives with Knives” and the film “Love Pyar Whatever,” and Sabrina Ranellucci from the film “The Selected,” Zhang’s film “She” portraits a twisted love story between two young women with one of them harboring a dark secret that may prove to be fatal in the end.

In it’s final cut, the film pulls viewers in from the opening scene and keeps them guessing what is going to happen next; and when it finally comes to a close, audiences are given an ending that few would have expected. But as it is with most productions, the final cut went through several transformations on Zheng’s editing screen before turning into the powerful piece that screened at festivals across the country.

“The problem I met with ‘She’ was that the structure and emotion were not strong in the rough cut, so I changed the order of the scenes, which made the story more meaningful and easy to understand. After I speeded up the pacing, the emotional intensity also became much stronger than before,” explains Zheng.

She adds, “I love editing thriller and suspense films. The challenge is to create suspense and attract the audience’s attention. I am interested in creating puzzles with the story and showing hints but not exposing all the elements… leaving enough space to give audiences a breath to think.”

"She" film poster
“She” film poster

Aside from the actors’ performances, what keeps viewers engaged throughout the film is the way Zheng chose to sequence the shots for each scene, inserting close-ups and slowing down the footage to help us connect to the emotions of the individual characters where necessary, and speeding up the footage when things become intense. Zheng’s work as the editor of the thriller film “She” was paramount to creating the markedly high-paced energy of the story that keeps us on the edge of our seats.

For someone who began their career editing television shows, Fei Zheng has quickly become a strong narrative film editor whose work is creating quite a buzz in the U.S.; and we can’t wait to see what she lends her editing wand to next!

 

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Animator and designer Cynthia Larenas talks working with eBay and music legend Egyptian Lover

CynthiaLarenas_1
Designer and Animator Cynthia Larenas

Despite working all around the world, Cynthia Larenas’ upbringing is very important to her. She was born in Quito Ecuador, and moved to Australia at the age of four. Growing up in Adelaide, she still stuck to her Spanish roots and is completely bilingual. Her heritage is something that she wants to keep alive while travelling for her work.

Larenas is a designer and animator, working for large companies and small businesses to create apps, videos, print designs, and much more. Her extreme versatility lends it hands to many mediums, and she has worked with some of the biggest brands in the world, including eBay.

“I wanted to work at eBay because I thought it would be a great opportunity to learn new things, to challenge myself, and experience working at a large company. I wanted to undertake the rebranding projects because I thought it was a fun and exciting opportunity to produce work that would be seen at such a huge scale,” said Larenas.

As only one of two in-house designers for eBay Australia and New Zealand, Larenas’ responsibilities included rebranding Group Deal, Flash Sale and Fashion Gallery creative, and leading the design of eBay’s fashion Gallery brand towards a more Gen Y demographic. She created eDM design and build, was involved in casting, photo and design direction of external agencies, created promotional material for in-house employee engagement campaigns, and did animation work for eBay’s 2013 Christmas Campaign. Her work was featured on the homepage of eBay Australia and New Zealand every day for a year.

“It was great to work at eBay and I got to learn a lot, particularly what is involved to run and maintain the creative on such a big website. It was also fun seeing what you had worked on up on the website and seeing that the hard work you were doing were converting to sales. It’s been the best place where I have been able to get direct results of my creative,” she said.

While working with eBay, Larenas had the ability to measure her work, test mobile placements, pitch ideas, and challenge herself. For the Fashion Gallery rebranding project, the aim was to attract a more Gen Y audience to the gallery. This meant she got to research and create some fun pieces that brought something different to the eBay site, directly contributing to their sales and growth.

“It was really cool to see. I remember I was subscribed to eBay eDMs before I worked there, and shortly after I started, I received an email as I normally did, however this time I saw my work on there being shared out to me. It was a funny and proud moment in my career,” said Larenas.

Larenas’ work continued to impress with the different companies she worked for. While working as an animator with Electric Studios, she helped on campaigns for Bosistos, Old Spice, and Jack Daniels. She also was a Creative Director, Designer, and Animator for Nectar + Co, and Designer at Imano, where she helped shape Ray-Ban’s app “Never Hide” during that time.

“I love that I get to make things look good and have then opportunity to influence the world around me,” said Larenas.

Continuing with this trend, Larenas worked with the American musician, vocalist, producer and DJ, Egyptian Lover. He was an important part of the L.A. dance music and rap scene in the early 1980s. He is widely known as being ‘The King’ of the Roland-TR 808. For the release of his song “Into the Future”, Larenas and Carl Jiorjio were asked to create an animated music video for it. Jiorjio and Larenas have worked together on a few different promotional animations and music videos for artists in the UK and US, but the most notable was for Egyptian Lover last year.

“Cynthia is one of the most dedicated and hardworking individuals I have worked with. For as long as I have known her she has always been working hard on different projects that have been keeping her busy in the creative industry. What I like most about working with Cynthia is her ability to push herself when it comes to a project, often studying to expand her skill set and knowledge for the greater good of the projects she undertakes. I’ve also admired her fearlessness when it comes to design or animation challenges, always pushing to provide creative and powerful solutions. She is motivated by pressure and never turns down a job because it’s too hard. I have witnessed her time and time again take up challenges, learn new programs and techniques that exceed clients’ expectations. Her all-round knowledge and broad range of skills are rare in the design world these days,” said Jiorjio.

“Having worked all around the world has helped her not only to understand different cultures and approaches, but it has also resulted in her applying a professional and easy to work with ethic. I have never seen her become defeated by a job and have recommended her highly throughout my career,” he continued.

Jiorjio served as creative guidance and did the final editing of the clip. As the two of them were fully responsible for the music video, from concepts to storyboards, to animation and final editing, it meant they had complete creative freedom to explore our imaginations as far as they wanted.

“Working on the Egyptian Lover video was rewarding, challenging, fun and one of my favorite projects to date,” said Larenas. “I love collaborating with musicians or other artists because I get to work with really talented creative people that push me to do better.”

Her tasks involved art direction, storyboarding, compositing, 2D and 3D animation and illustration. Although the video was released only a couple of months ago, it has received an extremely positive response. It already has over 8,500 hits on YouTube and was shown on LA television station Link TV which reaches 33.7 million US homes and 6.7 million regular viewers. None of this could have been possible without Larenas’ dedication to the project.

 “Making this clip for Egyptian Lover was also humbling as he is a pioneer in electronic music, with thousands of adoring fans across the world,” said Larenas. “Although it was a massive task, that spanned over a year, it was extremely rewarding when it was finished.”

Larenas’ extraordinary talent is evident to all those that saw the Egyptian Lover music video, and all of her other work. With such innate talent, there is no doubt as to why she is so respected in the industry, and considered one of the best at what she does.

 

Shu Zhang brings authentic historical makeup to film Death in a Day

Born and raised in Hangzhou, China, Shu Zhang brings her heritage into her work as a makeup designer. She has worked and volunteered around the world, lending her skills to completely different projects time and time again, showing both her clients and those that see her work just how innately talented she truly is.

While working on the short film Death in a Day, Shu had a pivotal role as lead makeup artist and hair stylist. She aimed to give the actors authentic, historically accurate makeup, as the film takes place in the early 90s. Shu’s background in art history and period makeup made her integral to the authenticity of the production.

“The hero is the early 90s American immigrant. The look is totally different with the America born Chinese nowadays. I wanted to focus on her 90s traditional Chinese style, but also to show her makeup under the influence of 90s American style. So, I put her major look into the decade which is more nature in tone, a sculpted look with a more idealized face shape,” said Shu.

Death in a Day tells the story of Evan, a young Chinese boy who, after visiting his comatose father in the hospital, witnesses his mother’s struggle and must come to grips with the impending death falling upon their family. Death in a Day, which premiered in June last year, was announced as the Best Narrative Short at San Diego Asian Film Festival in 2016, and was officially selected for a number of film festivals, it received a huge response from there.

“It’s fun to get involved in this original concept movie. I always came with idea of my own, so I know how this is important to a director to make a film,” said Shu.

It took three months of pre-production and many meetings to work out the perfect makeup design. Shu then had to test the makeup on a couple of actors to make final decision.

The mother’s makeup throughout the entire film is very key to its success, and there are many close-up on her face. Her makeup had to look beautiful but also desperate to highlight the soul of story, and Shu was more than up to the task.

“Shu is good at researching and widely knowing the cosmetic market. She always finds the most suitable products based on actors’ situations. She is always the one to meet my requirement accurately and without fault. Shu can really create with makeup. Everyone knows how to put on lots of makeup on, but looking simple is even harder, and she can do that,” said Yuin Zhang, an investor and advisor of the film.

Yuin Zhang was extremely happy Shu’s work on the film, and invited her to join the feature film she is investing in, Venus by Water. She works for the largest film studio in China, Hengdian World Studio, which is often called the Hollywood of China.

The writer and director of the film, Lin Wang, was also extremely impressed with Shu’s work. The two had previously worked together for a photoshoot for the NBA, where Shu was the first ever Chinese makeup artist to do the makeup for NBA players. The two formed a friendship and business relationship from there.

“Lin Wang is creative, young, and talented director. I knew Lin would make an award-winning film. The script was originally written by just herself. I feel we focused on every detail to perfection: makeup, wardrobe, props and the set needed to be completely historically accurate, which led us achieve a higher artistic level. All our efforts have paid off,” said Shu.

Wang will also be directing Venus by Water, which will begin production later this year. Shu is constantly looking for opportunities to keep doing what she loves, because she is a true artist, and all those that view her work know this to be true.

“Makeup is art to me. Faces are perfect canvases. My inspirations come from art history and from fresh makeup products that come out. I love looking at people’s faces from different worlds, and transforming them. It’s always been the biggest part of my life,” she concluded.

Ask an expert: A “how to” of line producing

Esi 1
Line Producer Esi Conway

I am Esi Conway, and throughout my years of being a line producer, I have worked hard to become recognized as one of the best at what I do. As a line producer, I build teams who can pull together to make great television shows. I am often one of the first people on the team.  I usually start off with a budget, schedules and deadlines. I then build teams, find locations, and book the crews. Going around the world, I have worked on some of the world’s most well-known television shows, for networks such as MTV, HGTV, BBC, Animal Planet, and more.

To be a successful line producer, you must be organized, disciplined, and have an in-depth knowledge of scheduling and budgeting, as well as an understanding of the technical accepts of TV making. On a day-to-day basis, you plan and schedule to get ahead of the project and forecast the needs of the team. You also trouble shoot any problems that arise. To succeed as a line producer, you need exceptional communication and diplomacy skills about to balance editorial expectations with the financial constraints of the budget. Here are my quick tips to getting into the industry and staying in the industry:

Getting into the industry

When I started out, nepotism was the name of the game. To get a start in the industry, you had to know someone working in TV. I had no such contacts, so I got a friend who studied design to make a cool eye catching resume and cover letter and sent it to every production company listed in the TV directory called “’the knowledge.’ I was given a few weeks work as an office PA, and that’s where I got my break. Thankfully, now there are sites you can go to where they advertise starting positions in TV.

Build relationships with your team

Gain an understanding of what each role does and the challenges they face as this will help you when it comes to problem solving.

Be flexible in your approach to problem solving

Editorial teams are constantly trying to squeeze more out of a budget. Listen to the idea and think is there a way to balance this request with the budget. Ask yourself “where might you be able to save to give them some of their additional requests?”

Be approachable

It is important that you know what’s going on in the project, so it’s important that you are approachable so that people come to you with ideas, issues, progress reports, and everything else.

Stay in contact with contractors

Be the connector person. In this role, it is important to have a great list of contacts with a proven track record in each area so that you can build teams for various projects. Who can pull together to produce hit shows?

Remember the working hours

Filmmaking and television don’t allow for the 9-5, so it is often hard for those with families to maintain their positions at companies. You must be prepared to put in the hours, whether it be the weekend, or holidays to get the project completed.

Take a minute to enjoy the moment

Once you get your foot in the door, it’s important that you maintain your enthusiasm and commitment. As it is a project based industry, you need to maintain your standards so that people want to employ you again. If you can do this, it can be very rewarding. I have worked with some top names in the industry, on television shows watched by millions. Although the hours are long, it doesn’t feel like work as the excitement from the team and the project carry you through. From being on a safari shoot in South Africa, to shooting in the favelas in Brazil, to filming with the Queen in Malaysia, there is never a dull moment.

Q & A with Actress Francesca De Luca!

Actress Francesca De Luca
Actress Francesca De Luca shot by Lionfly Studios

First taking to the screen as Countess Albrizzi and Albrizzi’s ghost, in the UK’s hit ITV seriesStrange But True” alongside famed English presenter Michael Aspel, actress Francesca De Luca has carved out an impressive reputation as a performer whose magnetic energy on screen keeps audiences engaged in every role she plays. Over the years she accumulated a pretty extensive list of credits that includes the films “Orpheus & Eurydice,” “Lateshift,” “Taxi,” “Anna and Modern Day Slavery,”  as well as the TV series “Down & Out” and “Leenden University.”  

For Francesca De Luca 2016 has been a major success with the actress taking on a critical role in five-time Oscar Award winner Francis Ford Coppola’s (“The Godfather,” “Apocalypse Now”) recent film project “Distant Vision,” which also stars Lou Volpe from “The Bold and the Beautiful” and Francesca Fanti from the four-time Oscar nominated film “Nine.”

De Luca gave a memorable performance as iconic English ballet dancer Margot Fonteyn in the docudrama “Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent,” which had it’s world premier at the Tribeca Film Festival in April. De Luca also starred in the film “Passports,” which earned awards from California Women’s Film Festival and the Accolade Global Film Competition, in addition to being chosen as an Official Selection of several other prominent festivals including Atlanta Shorts Fest, Laughlin International Film Festival and Film Invasion LA.

Francesca De Luca has earned quite a bit of attention for her finesse when it comes to taking on boundary-pushing dramatic roles, as well as for her spot-on portrayals of historical figures such as Countess Albrizzi and Margot Fonteyn; but her strengths on screen don’t stop there. She is also a master of comedy, something she proved with her performances as Fiorella in the Royal Television Society award winning series “Sundae” and Sonja in Robbie Moffat’s (“Sisters Grimm,” “Dark Side of Heaven”) comedy film “Heckle,” as well as with her role in the series “Down & Out” where she acts alongside A.B. Farelly from the film “There’s Something About Mary.”

While the dynamic nature of De Luca’s craft has helped her make a name for herself in film and television, she’s also been featured in several music videos including one for DJ Goldroom’s hit song “California Rain,” which was featured on MTV’s Snapchat and helped launch the Snapchat Snap Channel in 2015. You can also see her in a national commercial for Turner Classic Movies as well as the music video for Olos’ “Real Talk.”

To find out more about Francesca De Luca, what it was like working with Francis Ford Coppola and what’s next for her, make sure to check out our interview below!

Where are you from? 

FDL: London, England. I was born in Hammersmith, London and am of Italian origin. My great grandparents came over from Italy in the late 1800’s. I was brought up by my mother with the help of my grandfather, as my father left when I was two. My grandfather was a real inspiration to me as a person and I feel very lucky to have had him in my life.

When and how did you get into acting?

FDL: My mother took me to dance classes from the age of 6, ballet, tap and modern, which I loved. Then I started competing in poetry festivals reciting poems. I felt at home and confidant on the stage, it gave me the space to express myself. I became more serious about acting at the age of 16 when I auditioned for the school play and was offered the role of the flirtatious nurse or the main role of the hunchbacked German owner of a lunatic asylum who goes mad at the end of the play! Guess which one I chose?! I loved the challenge of that role, even though the nurse would have made me more popular with the boys! In fact my best friend did not initially recognize that it was me on stage! –which I was always amused about as it was a complement to my acting ability! I won the school’s award cup for the best actor that year. After this experience I was hooked on real acting and knew it had to be my vocation.

What is it about acting that drives you to perform?

FDL: I love to make an audience feel something whether it’s through comedy or drama, and the emotion and truth of a character. I love making people laugh, feel and think, and I love to get my teeth into a script where the character has depth, contrasts and experiences an emotional journey.

I love to bring characters to life on both the screen and the stage. I love to explore all parts of myself and bring my life experience to a role. I am interested in psychology and feel I understand how complex we are as humans, with all of our quirks, patterns and vulnerabilities, no matter how tough we appear on the outside.

I like to make a role come alive in the present, and am excited by the challenge and process of bouncing off the other actors and seeing what happens! When I started acting I thought it was about hiding myself until I realized that it was completely the opposite, it’s about showing who you are, your vulnerability and all that it encompasses is what I feel makes an actor really watchable. We are all complex and have contradictions within us and we all share many of the same fears and want to be loved and to love.

Can you tell us about the film “Passports” that you recently shot?

FDL: The film follows Tanya who returns after six wild years of travelling. Once home, her mother and grandma make her join an online dating site and go on a date. The date is a visit to a psychic. During the visit unexpected events occur and the guy hits on the psychic secretively sliding to her a piece of paper saying ” Call me.” The psychic ignores him and tells Tanya her fortune and after Tanya shows the psychic a ‘new’ game of magic in which she makes her date’s car keys disappear. From then on things get heated between the three.  This film is a dramedy with beautiful cinematography and interesting characters.

How does your character fit into the story?

FDL: My character is the psychic who the other main characters in the film, who are played by Ekeobong Utibe and Coty Galloway, go on a date to visit. However the guy shows his true colours and ends up hitting on the psychic and emotions get heated. My character comes across as quirky and puts on a front of mystery and that makes for some comedy when she is reading the girl’s future.  She gets more than she bargained for when a game of magic starts and mayhem ensues.

What was your favorite part about working on this film?

FDL: I enjoyed working with the two talented writer/directors Jeremy Pion Berlin and Adam Linkenhelt in making my character three dimensional and in bringing the comedy out from the truth of the situation. The psychic was a woman just doing her job with the same spiel day after day. She’s bored by all of the guys hitting on her, and the same old “I see love in your future” line she gives. The magic that happens in the scene excites her and when the guy loses his temper later  she makes sure she is still paid and handles the situation well. I created a backstory of her life in my head so that the character was more real and the comedy would come from the truth of the situation. Jeremy and Adam encouraged improvisation.

When I first auditioned I did an American accent and then told them I was British and did a cockney accent and then my own accent which is standard British. They loved my cockney accent and then decided on using my own natural accent. They asked me to improvise in the audition as if I was a psychic giving a reading to them which went very well. They told me soon after that they wanted to cast me, which was great and I loved the way we all worked together. They are talents to watch out for in the future and I look forward to working with them again later in 2017 on their first feature film “Illynger” in which I will play a lead role. I can’t wait!

Has the premiere date for “Passports” been set yet?

FDL: Yes we had a Hollywood premiere in July at Raleigh Studios Hollywood, The Charlie Chaplin  theater.

You were also in Francis Ford Coppola’s film “Distant Vision,” can you tell us about the story the film brings to the screen?

FDL: “Distant Vision” is about a multi generational Italian American family set in New York whose history spans the development of television. I believe some of the characters were inspired by his own family. I play one of the Italian relatives.

 Francis Ford Coppola
Francesca De Luca (left) and Francis Ford Coppola (right)

What was it like working with Coppola?

FDL: It was such an honour working with Francis. A dream come true for sure as he is a such a master director. He showed immense passion for this project and was a very humble genuine man.

I couldn’t believe it when he was actually there in person at my first audition. I had to hide my nerves at first but soon relaxed. We got on very well and he asked me about my Italian history. He told me I looked like one of his relatives. I told him I understood the perspective of immigrants and how it feels, and I joked that while I am born in London my Italian roots show through as I use my hands when talking, a gesture that I was doing at that same moment! It was easy to talk to Francis and he reminded me of my grandfather with his warmth. When he talks to you he looks you right in the eyes and really listens. It felt like I had known him for years. Such a lovely man. He spoke about how important it is to be yourself and how the character becomes us. He used examples from actors like Al Pacino when he was filming “The Godfather.”

It was amazing being one of the first actors in the world to be  part of his innovative ‘Live Cinema’ experiment, something no other filmmaker has attempted yet!

Live cinema utilizes feeds from several cameras, instant replay servers, which he switches live with very advanced broadcast equipment. It is an ongoing project that will take several years to complete I believe. It’s a hybrid of theater, film and television.

As a director he was very direct and calm. He is so highly intelligent and creative and it felt like I was in “The Godfather” especially as we all looked so Italian and the actors he chose were very entrancing. It was like he was painting a picture with every shot and his attention to detail was amazing. It was clear he wanted us all to be relaxed and he let us bond naturally with each other. It felt like a real family on set.

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

FDL: In the film “Orpheus & Eurydice” I played the sorceress Aglaoniki, one of the leads alongside Oliver Reed. It was filmed around Athens, Greece. My character was the baddie in the movie. She kills Orpheus and Eurydice. Oliver Reed was the narrator. Oliver Reed was one of my favorite actors and I was so happy to be in a feature film with such a great iconic actor. Aglaoniki was a fun role and I enjoyed giving her layers, not just being evil. She is in love with Orpheus and he rejects her and she feels that pain of rejection but going to stronger lengths than we would usually go, by killing him and his love Eurydice by putting a spell on her so she gets killed by a snake!

We filmed a lot of the scenes in a cave outside Athens and my character had an altar. There was a scene in which Orpheus was supposed to get angry with me and the director told the actor to hit me with his lyre! I remember the actor looking at me in shock, wondering how we would do that without me actually being hurt. I think he ended up trying to ‘strangle’ me as that was easier! I had just done a film acting course in London with director Bob Bierman and relished the idea of using what I had just learned in this film; however I soon realized the director did not like the subtle acting I was hoping for, he kept asking for me to go bigger!

It was Oliver Reed’s second to last film around the time he shot “Gladiator.” I feel fortunate to have had the chance to work with him before he died. The movie was shown in theaters across Greece and had a mix of American, British and Greek actors. I was featured in the Greek version of Hello Magazine and newspapers in London and interviewed on radio in London about the film.

I played Margot Fonteyn in the feature docu-drama “Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent,” which was produced by Zero Point Zero and Anthony Bourdain for CNN Films. It has been successful in major film festivals such as Tribeca where it premiered this year, and it will be shown on CNN in 2017. Directed by Lydia Tenaglia, “Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent” is a story about the life of Jeremiah Tower, one of the most controversial and influential figures in the history of American gastronomy. In one section of the film set in the 60’s it documents his well known dinner parties in which the famous ballerina Margot Fonteyn, my character, was an anticipated guest.

“Taxi” is a film in which I played a taxi driver and the film follows her throughout her day giving the audience a day in the life experience of what it’s like to be a female taxi driver. This film was largely improvised which was an aspect I enjoyed. This film was shown at The Cannes Film Festival Short Film Corner a few years back. I had the opportunity to see it at the festival in Cannes and see other films at the festival which was a great experience.

How about television projects?

FDL: I played an Italian Countess, Countess Albrizzi, in the seriesStrange But True,” which was shown on London Weekend Television, one of the UK’s three main tv stations,  and had very high ratings which was great. The story was set in the 1800’s and my character is killed by her husband who found out she was cheating on him so she could get pregnant as she had thought him to be infertile. He got so angry that he chopped off her head! You didn’t actually see that in the show though… we just hear her scream as he comes towards her with an axe! Very gruesome! My character then turned into a ghost and haunted the palace. This was based on a true incident and Joan Collins was filmed telling this story in between the reenactments, as it was actually her who had seen my character’s ghost when she stayed in Venice at the Palazzo. The ghost was seen walking out of a painting of herself.

In the comedy tv series “Down And Out” I played one of the three leads alongside A.B. Farrelly, the daughter of Bobby Farrelly, one of the Farrelly brothers who directed several great comedy movies like “Dumber and Dumber” and “Something About Mary.” A.B. is a well respected comedy actress and stand up comedian and she was so lovely to work with. My character was Margo, an attractive lipstick lesbian, a successful go getter who gets herself in trouble by speaking before she thinks. She is one of three women who are coming out. My character has a very funny scene with her crazy therapist played by the talented Malcolm Matthews. I loved working with him. It was a fun scene to film. “Down and Out” was written and produced by Annie C Wright.

The show was chosen as an Official Selection of Webfest and LA Cinefest, and was featured on the front page of the One More Lesbian website, the leading platform for high quality Lesbian film and TV.

In “Justice For All with Cristina Perez” I played an American litigant. I can’t reveal more as it has not been shown yet! It was filmed live and the questions from Cristina Perez were not given to me before filming so I had to know this character’s backstory inside and out! A good challenge for me!

In “Sundae” I  played Fiorella, the daughter of an Anglo-Italian Family in London. “Sundae” was the Runner up in Royal Television Society Awards for Best TV Pilot. My highlight in the show is when I get angry with my boyfriend and squash a big plate of spaghetti on his head!

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

FDL: Firstly the script. If it’s well written and also if the character develops throughout the story. I have to feel that I can’t wait to get my teeth into this script. Then the director. If we click at the audition and I can see us working well together.

Actress Francesca De Luca
Actress Francesca De Luca shot by Lionfly Studios

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

FDL: Yes– evil, mysterious, bitchy, quirky, strong are possible adjectives to describe the roles I’ve played. The psychic I played in “Passports” is quirky and comedic. My comedic role in “Down And Out” was a strong woman discovering herself and I played a bitchy Northern English heckler in “Heckle.” I play a bitchy mother in “Your Move,” a new series coming out in 2017 and I played a mysterious Russian secret agent in “Anna and Modern Day Slavery.”

Out of all your productions, what has been your favorite project, or projects, so far and why?

FDL: Of course being part of Francis Ford Coppola’s “Distant Vision” project has been the pinnacle of my career and I loved working in the presence of such a master. One of my favorite acting experiences has also been being directed by Sir Timothy Ackroyd. I feel he helped me hone my acting craft. Playing Carla in the stage production of “Kennedy’s Children” was wonderful as I hired an accent coach to help us all with the American accents and I feel I perfected my Texan accent which was good so that I could forget about the accent and focus on the acting alone. She was an interesting character with flaws and insecurities that she was trying to surmount while going for her dream in Hollywood. And finally working as the psychic on “Passports” was a challenge as I wanted to make her real, three dimensional and  not hammed up.

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

FDL: Comedy and drama, dramedy and also fantasy. I like all of these. I have a well developed sense of humor and have a strong feel for comic timing and seem to make people laugh with my choices! I remember one of my acting teachers recently saying “You could make a fortune out of comedy!” I love drama too with emotional situations. I like paying a villain who people love to hate or people pushed to their limits or in difficult situations. The list is endless, I love a challenge. If people tell me I have moved them or made them laugh or uplifted them or made them think, I feel fulfilled and happy that I have done my job. I feel I have a lot to give.

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

FDL: Depth of character. I am good at showing contrasts in characters. I take direction very quickly and I can improvise well. I am good at getting great results on the first take. I have a large range of emotions and life experiences that I can draw upon and have taught me about myself and other people. I am excellent at accents and changing the tone of my voice and physicality. I give my all to any role I play and am always looking to learn and become a better actor. I have a genuine love for my craft and am easy to work which helps bring out the best in others I work with. My presence adds to making the production a success.

What projects do you have coming up?

FDL: Later in 2017 I will be shooting the feature film “Illynger” with the directors of “Passports.”

I’ve also just started freelancing with one of LA’s top Voiceover agents and look forward to auditioning and booking some great roles. It’s highly likely you will hear me in some big animation movies and TV shows over the next few years! Bill Ratner, one of the US’s busiest voiceover artists, heard my voice reel and immediately recommended me to his agency.

What are your plans for the future?

FDL: To keep on working on my craft and take classes at studios like Groundlings and work further with other world renowned  LA acting teachers like Lesley Khan. In London,  I was one of the founding members of the Anthony Meindl Acting Studio. I was inspired by Anthony Meindl when I first saw his Youtube videos and when he visited London I made sure I did his masterclasses. Then he opened his London Studio helmed by Mitchell Mullen, a seasoned actor from Boston and I never missed a class till I left London for LA in 2013. In London and LA I  did scene study and worked on a variety of scripts. Tony gave me added encouragement to make a career for myself in LA.

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

FDL: I aim to continue working with talented writers, directors and actors, to make high quality films and tv shows that people will love and to reach a large audience. I want to feel I have made a difference to this world. I want to feel that I have become the best actress I can ever be and keep my sense of humor!

If you weren’t an actor what other profession do you think you would have pursued?

FDL: A fine artist, designer or even a life coach! I am good at painting and am creative and I am good at seeing people’s blocks and weaknesses and would want to help them become happier people.

Indian actress Natasha Khan Mayet wows International Audiences

Natasha Khan Mayet
Actress Natasha Khan Mayet shot by Melissa Simpson

Natasha Khan Mayet has always been driven to perform, but her refined and natural talents in acting leave a lasting and notable impression among audiences everywhere. From film to television to commercials and even on the stage, Mayet takes on a wide variety of characters, challenging herself and constantly proving her flexibility and skill. This, coupled with unduplicatable charisma and unparalleled beauty, make Mayet a highly sought after actress in the industry.

A native of South Africa born to parents from East India, Mayet has become known for her performances in the films “Trafficked,” “11:11,” “Three Suspects” and many more. Her work on the stage is equally as dazzling. She made a distinct mark in the eyes of audiences in Los Angeles when she took on the starring role of the Indian goddess Kali in the play “The Desperate Yogi,” presented at the prestigious Hollywood Fringe Festival. The story revolves around a man who has contracted HIV and travels to India to become a yoga instructor.

“I think this role challenged me as I discovered elements of the mother goddess in myself,” Mayet recalls.

“The Desperate Yogi” was chosen among Frontier Magazine’s favorite LBGT productions. In the play, the man gets to India and is met by gods and goddesses, who influence his path to finding the answers he is looking for. The play received raving reviews from audience members, who especially praised the performances of the deities. While it is understood that every show is, to a certain extent, an ensemble piece, it is undoubtedly in large part because of Mayet’s sincerity and believability as the two female goddesses, the mother goddess and the goddess of love, that the play was met with such success.

A robust and fruitful career in the industry has allowed Mayet to work with incredibly talented and renowned individuals. Natasha plays a critical role in the film “11:11” produced by internationally acclaimed producer and director Roxy Shih (“Dark Web,” “The Tribe”). She was cast in James Franco’s (“Pineapple Express,” “Spiderman”) “Mother May I Sleep with Danger” alongside celebrities such as Tori Spelling (“Beverly Hills, 90210,” “Scary Movie 2”). She can be seen in actor and rapper Machine Gun Kelly’s (“Nerve,” “Why Him”) music video “A Little More.”

Mayet says, “The music video is a comment on how obsessed with social media society has become.” She has also been directed by Ben Affleck in “Live by Night” and can be seen alongside Emmy Award winning actress Sarah Michelle Gellar (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “I Know What You Did Last Summer”) in one of ProActive’s current nationally airing commercials.

Speaking of Vampires, Mayet stars in the upcoming series “Vampire Academy,” where she plays Moira Ozera, an older vampire queen. In the series, Ozera plays the mother of acclaimed actor Justin David. Interestingly enough, Mayet had worked with David before, this time playing his love interest in Andrea Guzman’s “My Father’s Way.”

“That is the beauty of acting!” Mayet laughs, “And, since I am constantly working on my craft, training, and honing my skills, it is impossible for me to spend a day where I am not acting! Sometimes you play the girl next door, sometimes you play the villain. Sometimes you play up your age, and sometimes you play it down, but it all allows me to explore the different aspects of myself, to grow, and to constantly evolve.”

Mayet, highly intelligent and fluent in five languages, aspires to write and direct her own feature films. Until then, she is assisting other motivated filmmakers by acting in their projects. Mayet just wrapped filming the season “Office Girls,” a show based on Sylvester Steven’s novel of the same name, which stars a predominantly female cast.

“My character is Tazzy Lin, a meek character who is in charge of running things in the office,” Mayet explains. “I usually only choose to work on a project if it tells a story that is in some way important and conveys a message, and Tazzy, although meek on the surface, emerges as a strong woman with a story to tell as the series unfolds.”

Part of what makes one actor stand out from the rest is their dedication to their craft, and, in this field, Mayet absolutely shines.

“I live, breathe, and sleep acting,” Mayet admits. “I constantly feel like I need to be creating.

 

It is her pure love and commitment, along with her extensive training and, maybe most importantly, raw and natural talent which one simply cannot learn, that makes Mayet an actress to be talked about for many years to come.

Spanish Fashion Designer Patricia Luke Goes Global with LUKEWILD!

Patricia Luke
Fashion Designer Patricia Luke

In 2013 Spanish fashion designer Patricia Luke, the owner and founder of the fashion label LUKEWILD , unveiled the Beconfi Collection featuring comfortable, stylish and unique hoodies and t-shirts inspired by the surf lifestyle. Made for the Fall/Winter season, LUKEWILD ’s first collection received quite a bit of attention for it’s simple, easy to wear style and incredible fabrics; but few could have predicted the way the brand would progress in the following seasons from the first reveal.

Patricia admits, “Everything started with a collection of comfortable hoodies and tshirts just because in the beginning the brand was very focused on the sea and surf. Then I started developing my skills so, coming into my own, and began designing more things that made LUKEWILD deeper, more pure and powerful.”

While the Beconfi collection was an important milestone for Patricia as a designer, it was LUKEWILD ’s self-titled SS 2015 collection presented in Marbella, Spain at the “Palacio de Congresos de Marbella,” where all of the city’s major events are held, where we really began seeing the label’s progression and Patricia’s skill as a designer. A special swimwear collection featuring flower and leopard prints, as well as a series of dresses and jumpsuits in pink, black and red, Patricia Luke says her inspiration for the collection was, “The wildness of the actual woman that works hard to achieve her goals.”

Patricia Luke
Mariana Minie wearing a piece from Patricia Luke’s New York Garden Collection (Photo courtesy of ISO100 Photo Press)

It was her Summer 2015 collection titled The New York Garden though that really put Patricia’s name on people’s lips as a designer to watch. Presented in the 2015 Marbella Crea event during the Starlite Festival hosted by Antonio Banderas, one of the most notable music and art festivals in Spain, Patricia’s collection included a mix of two piece dresses, tops and skirts, designed with bright colors and flower prints. Perfect for a sunset beach party, LUKEWILD ’s The New York Garden Collection debuted in front of a massive audience in Marbella, Spain as was judged in the Marbella Crea Competition. The competition brought together some of Spain’s best designers and included a judges panel of some of the most recognized names within the Spanish fashion industry, such as Jewelry designer Olivia de Borbón, Hola magazine fashion blogger Julián Porras, model Miguel Ortiz Vera, fashion designer Javier Cortés and others.

Patricia’s gorgeous collection, which was selected as the ‘Collection of the Day,’ earned her the award for “Best Young Entrepreneur of 2015” at the festival.

LUKEWILD Patricia Luke
Carla Candia wearing “The New York Garden” Collection for Starlite Festival 2015.

Since founding LUKEWILD, Patricia’s designs have become increasingly popular around the world. The wide range of dresses Patricia has created for LUKEWILD  are jaw-droppingly stunning so it will come as no surprise to anyone who’s seen her work that the label is doing so well internationally. The flowing long lines, sensual materials, and the colors and prints she chooses make the women who wear her dresses look and feel sexy in a way that is timeless and classy.

Patricia says,“I have always been a dress lover. I am very romantic so flowers are almost always on my designs. I enjoy designing unique pieces that are going to make the customer feel sexy, elegant and comfortable. I love to use silk for most of my dresses because I like the way it feels and how it flows.”

LUKEWILD Patricia Luke
Carla Candia wearing the “Raíces” Collection for Starlite Festival 2016.

Patricia, who’s only 30 years old, has already made a recognizable name for herself in the international fashion community. Before fully dedicating herself to her work as a fashion designer many years ago though, she also graduated law school. Even while in law school though, she admits, “My ‘Fashion face’ was always with me, working sublimely and instinctively!”

Over the past few years Patricia has made a huge mark as one of the most recognized Spanish designers in the field of women’s ready to wear dresses. While she’s received quite a bit of praise for her work as the founder and head designer of an astonishingly successful fashion label that continues to grab the attention of store buyers and individual customers with each new collection, she has also been awarded several times for her innovative creativity. In addition to winning the Best Young Entrepreneur Award from the 2015 Marbella Creativity Contest, Patricia Luke has been recognized every year since by one competition for distinct skills as a designer. In 2015 she was selected as the Runner Up in the Best Young Fashion Designers of Eastern Andalusia competition; and in 2016 she earned the coveted Starlite Marbella Award at the Marbella Creativity Contest for her SS 2017 Raices Collection.

LUKEWILD
Sofía B wearing the “Raíces” Collection for Starlite Festival 2016

Prior to launching LUKEWILD, Patricia assisted the popular NY-based women’s ready to wear fashion line Astier NY, founded by stylist and designer Jackie Asier, whose work has been featured in W Magazine, Tank Amica, Marie Claire, British Vogue, Spanish Vogue and many more high profile magazines.

Patricia, like most creatives, pulls inspiration from a myriad of sources; however, she marks her experiences travelling the world and encountering various cultures over the course of her life as one of the most powerful influencers. Before the age of 25, Patricia was fortunate enough to travel to more countries than most will in a lifetime– and of those, she says “Canada, Italy, Norway, France, UK, Switzerland, Portugal and Germany” have been the most influential in her work as a designer. She adds, “Also France. Obviously Paris and Milan made a big impression on me because of their fashion influence, the people I met and the places I visited there helped me to have a better idea of what fashion means to me.”

It’s easy to see from the captivating designs she’s created for LUKEWILD that Patricia Luke has a keen eye for fashion and a unique creative vision, but beyond that, she knows how to create pieces that appeal to the public, and that is one of the reasons why she has become so successful in the industry. Up next for Patricia and her label LUKEWILD is the 2017 SS Copacabana Collection, which is slated to debut within the next few months. Dedicated to Copacabana Times Square, a place full of history from which Patricia has drawn a great deal of inspiration, the Copacabana Collection has been designed with the idea of tropical swimwear in mind. Keep your eyes peeled for the upcoming unveiling of the collection; and make sure to check out some of Patricia Luke’s current designs at: https://lukewildmarbella.com/