Composer Peter Lam creates comedy through music in ‘(le) Rebound’

Training as a violinist since he was a child, music has always been important to Peter Lam. Now, he has worked on over forty film and television projects, and with each one, he leaves his mark. As a film composer, he creates imaginative sound worlds that help transport audiences to another time and place. There is no limit to what he can do and achieve.

Throughout his career, Lam has shown audiences time and time again why he is such a sought-after composer. Working on award-winning films such as The Ballerina, The Shoemaker, & His Apprentice and Lovebites, Lam’s music has acted almost as an additional character, pivotal to telling the story.  When working on the new film (le) Rebound, Lam’s music perfectly captures the quirky comedy, adding to the humor in several situations.

(le) Rebound was definitely a very attractive project. I am a big fan of Woody Allen movies and I always wanted to write music for witty comedies that carry that sort of poetic European sentiment with them. (le) Rebound turned out to be the perfect opportunity. It has a very clever and imaginative concept, and I felt it could be something really fun to work on,” said Lam.

(le) Rebound tells the story of a heartbroken young woman who follows a hipster fling to France, where she falls headlong into a hedonistic romp. It premiered at the Aspen Film Festival in April of this year. It was praised as a piece of ‘cinematic genius’ by an Aspen Times review. It then went on to the Palm Springs International ShortFest 2017, Clemont-Ferrand, the Achtung Berlin (in competition for the New Berlin Film Award 2017), and the International Cinematographer Guild, winning Emerging Cinematographer 2017.

“It’s a great honor to hear that the film is doing so well, both domestically and abroad. It feels wonderful to know that the film I have scored will be screened at so many prestigious festivals around the world,” said Lam.

The film is yet another project that proved what a versatile international talent Lam is. Adding to the success in dramas and animations, this attempt in scoring for comedy shows he is limitless, and the film’s success across the world could never have been achieved without the composer’s skill. Laura Beckner, the writer and director, could not agree more.

“Discovering Peter was a sigh of relief in the post-production process.  It is a director’s dream to find someone this professional, talented, and collaborative. Peter is intuitive, communicative, flexible and full of ideas. Even though he nailed it with the first few pieces of music he created for us, I have no doubt that he would have tweaked and explored as necessary until we found the perfect composition,” said Beckner. “Peter was able to articulate the mood of the piece as well as filmic references and production ideas all very clearly.  I can tell he has an extensive classical music background; those influences are apparent and the skillset he is working with transcends anything trendy or ‘filmic’ even into something quite unique and sophisticated.  I was impressed that he knew how to enhance the score with more”

After Lam discovered the project, he reached out to Beckner and she was impressed by his previous work and credentials, and quickly invited him on board. They had to work remotely, as Beckner was based in Berlin. This did not cause any problems. The director had total trust in Lam, and approved everything he did immediately.

“It was a very enjoyable experience writing music for (le) Rebound. It’s a cleverly crafted comedy and the acting was top notch. It was just a fun process composing quirky gypsy jazz music that subtly played alongside the dialogue. I was very proud of the final project as I felt my music marry perfectly with their respective scenes. It is often said that, scoring-wise, comedy is the most difficult genre to tackle, so I am glad that I nailed it,” said Lam.

And that he did. Music plays an essential role in film, especially comedies, and in (le) Rebound, Lam’s work helped to highlight awkward tensions and comedic moments throughout the film that would have been overlooked otherwise. The music also plays against the picture in several instances, addressing the subtext of the story and injecting new meanings to the scene. Due to the setting of the film, Lam worked to create a ‘French-ness’ in the music, which helped to transport the audience from their seats straight to France. The music is truly the soul of the film, as the story reflects Claudia’s hedonistic trip to France after a heartbreaking break-up.

“As for most cases for comedy scoring, being attentive to dialogue and timing is essential. Instead of starting with sketching themes or overall musical structures, I tend to focus on specific scenes and familiarize myself with the precise pacing and comedic context of the scene. It is like solving a puzzle – trying to fit the music between the dialogue, action, and silence,” Lam described.

Lam definitely solved the puzzle for the score in (le) Rebound, as he does with every project he takes on. His distinct sound adds to every film and television show he works on, totalling over forty throughout his esteemed career. Despite his vast success, however, he remains humble, and is happy to do what he loves.

“I just want to write expressive music that tells stories. I think film is a very beautiful medium as it transcends time and space by bringing the audience from the cinema into an extended reality. Equally, music plays an important role in shaping the soundscape of the film and is a very powerful device in connecting the viewers to the story emotionally. Unlike theatre plays and concerts which may be one-off events, films are easily accessible to a much wider range of audiences through screenings and streaming. It has always been my goal as a film composer to contribute to unique film projects that can inspire and move audiences,” Lam concluded.

How Dreamstreet Entertainment Leads Projects and A-List Talent to the Top

Story by Alex Jack

Usually it’s famous actors who attract press attention for their high-profile relationships or roles in blockbuster films. In the case of Dreamstreet Entertainment however, their unique approach to producing both feature films and TV shows that have achieved terrific levels of success mark it as a production company worthy of media coverage usually reserved for the A-list talent they employ to feature in their projects. The next year, with an innovative TV series and series of films slated for production and release, is set to be Dreamstreet’s biggest one yet.

Central to the success of Dreamstreet is its board of producers and executives, all of whom have an impressive pedigree in filmmaking to support the company’s standing in the entertainment industry. Tony Eldridge produced Denzel Washington’s “The Equalizer”, also starring Oscar-winner Melissa Leo and A-lister Chloë Grace Moretz, and is currently working on the sequel. Bradley Hirou for instance was notably an executive producer on “Roar: The Jaws of the Lion” from Iconoclast Entertainment, while VP Producer Rocky Yost was a writer of “Lilly’s Thorn,” a drama starring Windy Marshall from “Days of Our Lives” and Joseph D. Durbin (“Rangers: Furies”).

Similar to other production companies that are not necessarily tied to any one major studio, like Cross Creek Pictures (“Black Swan,” “Everest”) or A24 (“Room,” “Moonlight”), Dreamstreet Entertainment has a clear focus and uncompromised vision when it comes to its projects: an ethos of maintaining artistic integrity. This principle has given rise to Dreamstreet’s unique catalogue of distinguished narrative content and association with high-profile acting talent. Indeed, they have developed a reputation as a picture-house capable of producing popcorn fare aimed as mass audiences, as well as stories exploring humanity that attract glowing critical reviews.

“So This is Love”, helmed by now executive producer Gloria Morrison, reflected the company’s capacity for telling quirky stories with an edge before it was the norm with shows like “Love” on Netflix. In this way, it’s not untoward calling Dreamstreet a pioneer of sorts within the entertainment industry.

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Gloria Morrison on set.

Concerning an old-aged in-love couple who bicker much like Lucy and Desi on “I Love Lucy”, “So This is Love” starred Jack Donner and Jody Jarress in the leading roles.
Donner’s casting signified the power of Dreamstreet to easily acquire successful acting talent. In addition to his roles on “General Hospital” and “Cold Case,” Donner is best known for his key role in studio blockbusters “Four Holidays” with Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughan and Clint Eastwood’s “J.Edgar”, where he played Oscar-winner Leonardo Dicaprio’s father. Jarress equally brought heart to the series in the role of Josey, underscoring Dreamstreet’s reputation of bringing humanity and frank humour to their projects with known actors. Jaress, who appeared opposite Oscar-winner Adrien Brody in “Hollywoodland”, is also known for her role as Ruby in “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” and her striking appearance in the Academy-Award-nominated “Charlie Wilson’s War.” While both Donner and Jaress set a high-standard for the casting choices of Dreamstreet Entertainment, they also simply are examples of Dreamstreet’s status as a leader in entertainment.

The company’s future slate reinforces that status. “Last Ride…Ride as If It’s Your Last”, has acquired G-Machine as a distributor as well as cinematographers Steven Kaman (“Hangmen” with Sandra Bullock) and Keith Holland (“Wrong Turn”, with Eliza Dushku) to shoot it. Adding to that impressive line up, the multi-million dollar budgeted sporting-themed feature “The Futboleros” has Misha Segal (“The Phantom of the Opera,” “The Human Centipede III”) on board as the composer. A common theme between all of these projects? No doubt a desire for preserving the integrity of the story and the artists involved.

TUNA’S INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION

Producer Tuna Erturk’s films and commercial work is widely recognized with awards and their prevalence in the industry. If you don’t know of him that’s likely because you don’t live in Turkey. Fame and recognition does not typically transfer internationally unless you are an actor with a marquee name. This doesn’t bother Tuna as he has always preferred creating behind the scenes. Still…he has been a part of some productions in the US which means it’s likely that you’ll start hearing his name more often, at least if you are in the industry. As the world’s communication becomes more immediate, our interest in different cultures and the stories we share cross international boundaries. Established and creative professionals like Erturk are increasingly becoming sought after to lend their skills and sensibilities to an entertainment thirsting public.

Erturk served as a producer on Dervis Zaim’s Fish which won a Crystal Apricot Award, a SIYAD Award, and was an official selection of the Istanbul International Film Festival. The film is an excellent example of the rich storytelling that is found outside of the US. Fish follows the story of a poor fisherman who, desperate to cure his daughter’s muteness, tries to catch a fabled magic fish. As the film’s producer, Tuna played a huge role in the creation and ultimately ensured their fantastic degrees of critical and commercial success. The film was shot in Golyazi/Bursa, Turkey (a peninsula) where the spectacular views and natural beauty complement the mythical hopes of the main character. Tuna concedes that coordinating a location shoot there was more than worth the effort. Having done only one feature project prior to Fish, Erturk was overwhelmed by Zaim’s insistence that he come aboard the project. He notes, “I was so busy with shooting T.V. commercials at the time. Dervis Zaim came to office one day to meet and asked me to work on Fish. I said that I really wanted to and then he replied to me with this Turkish idiom ‘There is no wedding without the orchestra. You must be there!’ He was stating that I was the orchestra in the wedding. With that kind of confidence, I found a way to make my schedule work and I’m glad I did.” As proof of the positive working relationship and Erturk’s work, Fish won multiple awards at the Malaysia International Film Festival and was nominated for Best Film at Nuremberg Film Festival.

Commercial Shooting 1

Tuna was already in LA amongst the Hollywood industry and experiencing it firsthand when he was hired as producer for the film Uzun bir Gun or “A Long Day.” This film is about a sick father who is accompanied by his son to find the patriarch’s childhood home was filmed in Turkey. Having served as producer in both the US and Turkey, the difference in the two industries was redefined for Erturk. He states, “There is a very close connection between the film industry and school in LA. It’s not just directing or production, technically that is the way it is. Active people working in the sector give lectures on light, sound, visual effects, and many other topics. They share with you all their experiences on set. This makes it possible to educate qualified personnel in every way. There are university graduate set workers and assistants, production assistants, sound assistants in LA. Everyone is very professional and educated in their work. There is great support for students. You can rent the finest cameras, the best equipment, and the most amazing team almost for free. The working rules here are much stricter than in Turkey. For instance, the health and rest time of the team working on the set is very important. In the simplest case, you can call at least 12 hours after the last worker who left the set. I can count many other rules for protecting the workers like this. I think these rules make things work better quality. It was with great pride that I applied my experience here in Hollywood to producing in Turkish films.” “A Long Day” received awards from First Run Film Festival – Wasserman Award, Golden Orange Film Festival, and Tehran International Short Film Festival.

Most recently, Tuna was enlisted as the producer for Noah Tree. Set to be shot in Bursa (Turkey), it tells the story of a man named Omer who goes to his dying father’s childhood village to fulfill his last wish: to bury him under the Noah Tree which his father claims to have planted long ago. But the villagers believe the tree to be the first tree Noah planted after the Great Flood and they will do anything to stop Omer from debasing their sacred tree. The production has already received a Cannes Film Festival Residence invitation.

Choosing to focus on films these days, Erturk has a long history in producing with various formats. Every producer and director gets their start in commercials and Tuna is no exception. He has no disdain for them, in fact…he quite liked the work. What’s not to like when you’re working with international stars like Megan Fox and for massive brands like Coca Cola and Doritos? It does however not come without it’s challenges as he notes, “We shot the Doritos commercial with Megan Fox in Istanbul. When she arrived at the Istanbul International Airport all the paparazzi were waiting there for her. She was very famous in Turkey like the rest of the world. The commercial was about a celebration of new product of Doritos “Fritos Shots”. There was an academy in commercial that brings together the young bright brains. So one of the teachers was Megan Fox. We shot the commercials for 3 days in one studio. The most challenging part of the commercial was Megan’s fame. She was so famous and it was hard keep paparazzi and media attention away.” Erturk adds, “My tasks during these productions were: making budgets, hiring crew, and keep it running smoothly. I was reporting every process to the executive producer Emre Oskay. We were finding solutions together if we had a problem. He was a friend more than a boss. That positive working relationship grew into twenty-three commercials together and film work.” Oskay adds, “In addition to our commercial work together, I have also worked with Tuna on a pair of feature films, both of which he produced. These films, 2014’s Fish and 2013’s Cycle, have each accrued a fantastic degree of commercial success and have drawn the acclaim of audiences and critics. Neither film would have garnered such a significant degree of international acclaim if not for Tuna and his fantastic gifts as a producer. Tuna Erturk stands among the top tiers of Turkey’s film producers.”

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Model Francois Angoston’s athletic past is greatest asset

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Francois Angoston modelling for Belk

Growing up in Guadeloupe, Francois Angoston spent his time playing sports. He was always an athlete, always making sure to be in the best shape possible. Later in his life, when he had made the transition to modelling, his athletic build and instinctively hard work ethic from years of sports training became his greatest assets, and today he is known internationally as one of the best models to come from the Caribbean.

While modelling for the popular American department store Belk, Angoston’s history as an athlete proved to be vital. Modeling for the catalogue in the sportswear collection for the last four years due to his incredibly defined physique and the captivating intensity he expresses in his posing, Angoston is an asset to the catalogue and brand. He has modeled Belk’s premier collections that have featured brands like Nike and Under Armour, displaying every article of clothing from compression shorts, to sneakers, to tracksuits, and sweatpants. Not only do these images have appear on posters in the 293 stores across the country, they also appear in magazine ads, and on the company’s website.

“What I liked most about working for Belk, was that they gave me so many experiences. I did things I never did before and it was always a pleasure working with such a great team. Most of the time we were shooting sportive topics, I really enjoy being energetic and dynamic on shootings. It makes a lot of fun. One day I was shooting with a kid and had to give him a training on the field. It gave me a journey back in the days when I trained kids in sports. I love kids and it’s so great how much energy they have,” Angoston described.

Angoston immediately impressed the casting director with his confident movements and versatile look, and his talents for the brand initially made them keep asking for him to return each year. Not only did he get to display sporting wear, he modeled a variety of lines for the store.

“I wanted to work with this client I loved the diversity of their clothing collection. Working for Belk is always a great experience. We’re doing so many different things and I can play different roles. One day I’m wearing a classy suit, the other day I’m riding the surfboard, go fishing or flying in a helicopter. They always have great ideas, beautiful locations and a lot of adventures to offer. I’m always excited for the next shoot,” he said.

Megan Hurly, the Senior Art Director for Belk knows firsthand that a model’s work is a critical staple and necessity of the U.S. fashion advertising and marketing industries, and she says her company relies on the skill of professionals like Angoston.

“The work of a model frames our apparel lines, making it imperative to find ‘the one’ who can match our creative intentions and complement them. Because of Francois’ extraordinary talent and incredible look, I have cast him as a leading model for Belk for multiple collection campaigns and catalogues since 2013, initially casting him knowing he would be the perfect model to represent the company long-term. We only rehire models if they prove to be valuable to the Belk name and its commercial success and reach, and Francois has done exactly that, it is for this reason that he has become our go-to model for our catalogues,” said Hurley. “Francois is a unique and gifted model. He always creates success.”

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Francois Angoston in IZOD campaign

Being at the top of his field, Angoston is extremely sought-after in the industry. Many brands look to him to represent them, and his look has resonated with many shoppers. His work with the clothing brand IZOD did just that.

“Only one month before the job I just arrived in Los Angeles. The first job with IZOD was one of my first, biggest jobs, so I really wanted to work on this. You think about the immediate exposure, but I also loved the fact that they are a modern sportswear brand. I always enjoy having jobs with some action,” said Angoston. “It was a great experience shooting with IZOD. I actually get to play golf, hockey and mobile ski – that was very fun. We were going on the beach and had a great time as I had the chance to meet very nice people. But more importantly, I learned a lot from the people I worked with, as I’m always very interested and observing in how they work and behave. This attribute always gives me a better understanding and with that, I pay a lot of attention to details.”

IZOD is a mid-range clothing company that produces dressy-casual clothing, sportswear for men, as well as footwear and accessories. They are known for their Harrington jackets, v-necks, and cardigan sweaters. Consumers seek out the brand in many stores across the country, and recognize Angoston as a face of it.

“I loved the energy working with IZOD, and the vibes within the team. Everybody was extremely friendly but very professional at the same time. I really enjoyed being surrounded by happy people, as I love to create those days as a joy too,” Angoston concluded. “I remember dancing in the snow, shirtless, and one time playing football wearing underpants. It was super fun and I loved the results. How can you not love these days? That’s why I love my job.”

Musician Yasutaka Nomura is living his dream while touring the world

 

Being a musician was a natural career choice for Yasutaka Nomura. Not only does he love what he does, but he is exceptionally good at it. He has a formidable career at only 24 years of age, working around the world, showing international listeners what he is capable of. As a professional musician, playing both guitar and bass, he is extraordinary.

Originally from Japan, Nomura has made music in many different genres, in many different countries. He has impressed in the United States audiences in progressive rock/fusion trio Mammoth, Indie Rock/Alternative band Smokey Lenses, and Alternative/Progressive Rock band Squanky Kong. However, it was when playing Guitar with Voodoo Kungfu, an Extreme Chinese Folk Metal band, where Nomura’s international presence truly took off.

“It was great being in Voodoo Kungfu. Everyone in the band is very professional and serious about music but also easy-going and open minded. They are all at least 10 years older than I am but I think we got along very well. I had such a fun time with them on the tour,” said Nomura.

Voodoo Kungfu’s music is a mixture of Extreme Death Metal and Chinese, Mongolian Traditional Music. It was definitely something Nomura had never heard or seen before, making working with the band even more intriguing. He liked the songs and their performance style.

“When we play shows, we play with the backing tracks behind. Those tracks are mostly made of orchestra instruments with some Asian traditional instruments which make the whole atmosphere dark, oriental, and epic. I think it helps us play and perform better because it gets us into the right mood,” said Nomura.

Nomura and the band went on a European tour with Orphaned Land, Imperial Age and Crisalida. They played 18 shows in 11 countries. They performed in the U.K., Germany, France, Italy, Switzerland, Holland, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Belgium, and Denmark.

“Touring in Europe had been one of my dreams since I started playing music. It was such an amazing experience and definitely an unforgettable event in my music career. I cannot wait for the next one hopefully with more countries and cities,” said Nomura. “These bands were all amazing and the members of the bands and staffs were all such cool people. It was such a fun tour.”

The band also received many awards. This list includes: 2006 World Battle of the Bands – Chinese Championship, 2006 World Battle of the Bands – World Runners-up, 2008 Metal Battle of China – Chinese Championship, 2009 MIDI Awards – Best Metal Performance Nomination, 2010 MIDI Awards – Best Metal Performance Nomination, 2011 MIDI Awards – Best Metal Performance Nomination, 2011 MIDI Awards – Best Live Performance Nomination, 2011 MIDI Awards – Best Male Rock Vocal Nomination, 2011 Mao Livehouse first annual awards – Best Metal Band, 2014 MIDI Awards – Best Live Performance. The unique Asian sound makes the band stand out.

“I tried to imitate the sound of Asian traditional instruments on guitar such as guzheng and shamisen. Also in guitar solos, I used some Japanese traditional scales, such as In scale, Yo scale, and more, which fit very well in this kind of oriental sounding music,” said Nomura. “We also use the Asian traditional percussion “Dagu” in live shows. I love the sound of it. It sounds huge and epic. It also makes me recall my childhood, because in Japan, we always have people to play it in festivals. (Japanese call it “taiko”.) Because of it, playing with “Dagu” feels very special to me. I feel very related to the sound.”

Nomura was asked to join the band by the singer Nan Li, who had just moved to LA and was looking for band members to start playing live shows. Nomura was friends with the drummer that was joining the band and he introduced Nomura to Nan, knowing his talent. After a few meetings, Nan asked Nomura to join the band.

“Yasutaka is very quick at learning tunes and has an ability to arrange them effectively and creatively. Working with him is very smooth and also inspirational. He has an outstanding technique and stage presence. He is also a great improviser, using the traditional Japanese musical scales. That makes Yasutaka very unique as a guitarist,” said Li.

Besides Li, Nomura is the only person in the band that is from an Asian country. This understanding of Asian traditional music, the musical influence he has from the culture and his childhood, and even his appearance are very important for the sound and the image of the band. Nomura also believes Li’s vocals truly capture the sound the band aims for, and compliments his guitar work.

“I really like the way Nan sings and performs. He uses a lot of screams, growls and throat singing techniques from Mongolian traditional music. His voice and singing is just very intense. I can confidently say that there is no one else that can sing like him. Also, he writes all the music for this project, he has an outstanding song-writing skill as well,” Nomura described.

This is evident on Nomura’s favorite Voodoo Kungfu song, Born on June 4th. It starts with insane vocal scream, and then has a lot of fast chugs and riffs with odd meters that are fun for Nomura to play. Also, the chorus part is very melodic and epic with orchestral sounds.

“I love songs with this kind of dramatic changes. It’s not just a fun song to play but also a great tune to listen to.

Voodoo Kungfu will be releasing their newest album later this summer. You can find out more information by following them on Facebook.

Be sure to also check out Nomura’s YouTube, Instagram, and Soundcloud

SHAHZAD: AN UNFAMILIAR HOME EXPOSED BY CHRIS LEW

People talk about the problems in the world. Politicians make policies that either aid or harm those in peril. Artists tell the stories of these individuals in a way that can allow all of us to personalize and connect with those facing life’s extreme difficulties. Chris Lew is just one such artist who used his skill and talent as a cinematographer in the film “Shahzad.” The entire world seems aware of the crisis of immigrants and refugees; it’s a global circumstance. The BravoFact short film “Shahzad” tells the story in a very real and intense manner. The filmmakers went to great extents to portray the story of two immigrants who move to Canada in hopes of living a better life. It’s a story that is difficult at times to watch but important to do so if we are to have empathy for our fellow man. While Lew has served as DP on a number of varied productions from films to music videos, he counts “Shahzad” as one of the most important and rewarding experiences of his illustrious career. Without heart, talent fails to resonate with any gravitas in any artistic endeavour; “Shahzad” rings out like a loud drum, full of emotion and soul in its conviction. To say that “Shahzad” is full of surprizes is a gross understatement. A gripping film which keeps you on the edge and full of astonishment, “Shahzad” is modern storytelling within a realistic framework.

Director/writer Haya Waseem and Chris have had a close relationship in and out of work for a number of years now. As passionate filmmakers, they often discuss potential projects. When Waseem wanted to make a film commenting on the disassociation one can feel on a societal and personal level, it was a given that Lew understood her perspective and would be the ideal cinematographer to help manifest the tone and look to communicate the film’s message. With Producer Prionnsias James Murphy overseeing the project, director and cinematographer were able to focus on the storytelling. Murphy comments, “The film’s subject is as relevant to today’s society more than ever. Chris’s immense skills as the cinematographer allowed this story to breathe an authentic life into the frames that captured it throughout the course of the filming. His incredible understanding of form and function, both character and character arc, as well as the protagonist’s relationship to the surrounding world is what made Chris the perfect individual to work with throughout this film. His expert use of lighting and camera placement captured a character throughout scenes of uncertainty and conflicted identities. Even if you have a great story, you must create heartfelt and intriguing imagery to portray it. Chris Lew is without a doubt an expert in this field.”

  Audiophiles have been espousing the merits of vinyl in the past decade and have actually steered a portion of the recording industry back to this century old method. They are adamant that the sonic benefits are massive. In a similar way, Lew persuaded the production of “Shahzad” to use actual film rather than digital to capture the imagery for this story. This was not due to any disdain for digital but rather that he felt the quality of 35mm Fuji Film stock was ideally suited to match the story. He explains, “We wanted to shoot on film for a couple reasons. For one, all of the narrative work which Haya and I have done has been shot on film. It’s special to us and we believe in the format enough to fight for it. We also felt the look was appropriate to this story. There are software and effects to help mimic the look but it never looks exactly the same. No matter what you apply to the digital file in post, the sensor isn’t capturing the same color, producing the same grain that’s reacting to the light, and maintaining the same dynamic range that film has. The reason for our decision was artistic but it’s worth noting that there is a misconception that film is radically more expensive than digital…when in fact it isn’t. Because there aren’t as many film projects anymore, equipment is cheaper to rent as a lot of it isn’t being used. On top of that, labs are willing to cut deals because they want to encourage filmmakers to shoot on film. If you’re concise and know what you need on set, film can be the same cost or even cheaper than digital. I acquired the film through a UK company called frame24. They had a batch of 35mm Fuji film that we purchased and had shipped to Toronto.”

The inspiration for this was a product of Chris’s research for the film. In his work pouring over old photographs from the 70’s shot in Pakistan, the colors of the images conveyed a strong emotion. The photos were shot on Kodak using their Kodachrome stock. This Kodachrome stock was full of contrast with grainy and blue tones that really stood out. The images made Lew feel the texture and dust of Pakistan. Kodak has since refined their stock to be some of the cleanest film imaginable but Chris found that Fuji was very similar and even added a “dirtier” look that he admired.

The film revolves around the boy Shahzad and the culture shock he goes through and the internal turmoil that it creates for him. Without giving away the major twist of the film, Shahzad begins to find his personal home life as confusing as his social life in this new city and school. Lew’s affinity for handheld camera work allowed him to communicate the boy’s emotional and mental state. As always, empathy enabled Chris to create touching and provocative imagery. He describes, “He’s a shy boy who’s been placed in a new world so he’s both nervous and curious. Knowing this and reflecting on my own experiences being that age and going to a new school, I translated those feelings into the movement of the camera. This then resulted in choosing to shoot the early school scene and dinner scenes static and the later scenes at the school handheld. When I was younger I was the quiet boy in class. I was always nervous at the beginning of every school year and wasn’t very good at socializing. However, I also knew how great it was when you did manage to connect with people who would eventually become your friends.”

Conflict is part of life and a big part of what Shahzad is dealing with in this film. It’s an aspect which is present in all of our lives no matter what our age or position in the world. Lew admits that there was pressure put on himself and Waseem to shoot in digital because of its prevalence in the industry. Just as the character in the film, the filmmaking duo stuck to what they knew was right for their vision because some things in life are worth giving your best.

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Alon Juwal’s Sci-Fi Film “Visitors” Keeps Viewers on the Edge of Their Seats

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Film Poster for Alon Juwal’s Film “Visitors”

Last year producer Alon Juwal wrote, directed and produced the riveting dramatic sci-fi film Visitors, which has been gaining traction with audiences and festivals across the U.S. since its release at the tail end of 2016.

Starring Kei’la Ryan (Bad Friends & Family, Kingdom, Night Crawlers) as Kaleigh, Nick Unger (Front Seat Chronicles, Phil of the Future) as her brother Cole, and Tim Juliano as their father, Visitors follows two siblings who return home to their estranged father’s house after a long absence, only to find their home being invaded by a group of uninvited visitors from another world as the night progresses.

As the producer of the film, Juwal’s ability to bring together a talented cast and crew, execute the business side of things, such as raising the necessary funding to actually make the project happen, as well as overseeing all aspects of the production from pre to post were integral to the success Visitors has achieved since its release.

Garnering extensive attention across the country, Visitors earned Juwal the Best Director of a Sci-Fi Short Award at New York City International Film Festival, as well as the Honorable Mention Award from the Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival. Visitors was also nominated for awards at several festivals including the USA Film Festival, Vail Film Festival, Phoenix Comic-Con and Newport Beach Film Festival, and was chosen as an Official Selection at the New Hope Film Festival.

“Working with Alon has been an amazing experience… he doesn’t like to waste time, he knows when he has the shot which makes him a great decisive director. Alon is good at what he does because he knows that preparation is key, and you can see it in the way he put the project together,” explains Tom Edwards, Visitors’ aerial cinematographer and behind the scenes videographer.

“Before principle photography he made the time to meet up with his actors and crew members to make sure everyone was comfortable and on the same page. To have a good friend like Alon who is just as passionate as you are, working together to make stories come to life is a real charm.”

Visitors film Alon Juwal
Egor Povolotskiy (left), Alon Juwal & Nick Unger (right) on set of “Visitors” by Majid Alkhatib

Through the powerful combination of the film’s score, specific angles, lighting and purposeful pacing, Juwal does an impeccable job of building the suspense within the story in a way that keeps viewers on the edge of their seats.

The long shots of the brother and sister running through the trees at night trying to make it to safety, while neither the characters nor the viewers really know what they are running from, the bright lights beaming down from above creating eerie silhouettes in the forest, but still leaving us unsure of where the light is coming from, and sporadic sounds of their father’s dog barking in distress, are a few of the cinematic devices Juwal employs to heighten the tension within the film.

While all of this was tantamount to nailing the thrilling, otherworldly sci-fi elements, what really makes Visitors such a unique film is the burdensome relationships Juwal paints between the siblings and their father. As the producer/director of the film Juwal remarkably captures the palpable feeling of emotional discontent that exists between Kaleigh, Cole and their father, revealing the years of turmoil that persists within the family with a subtlety that allows the audience to draw their own conclusions. Visitors is proof that Juwal’s style is one that shows rather than tells, a mark of a truly talented and thoughtful filmmaker.

"Visitors" Alon Juwa
(left to right) Kei’la Ryan, Nick Unger, Alon Juwal & Braden Pruss on set of “Visitors” by Polina Krasovicka

Like the work of most producer/directors, Juwal’s personal life experiences have had a strong impact on the stories he chooses to bring to life on screen. Originally from Tel Aviv, Israel, Juwal’s parents separated early on in his childhood; and it is clear to see how his first-hand experience growing up with divorced parents gave him the insight necessary to accurately portray the strained relationship that exists between the children and their father in the film Visitors.

“I spent the majority of time with my mother as I was growing up. Even though I saw my father quite often, we were always pretty distant from one another. The first thing they teach you in film school is to write about what you know, so I always tried to channel these experiences to my work,” explains Juwal.

Juwal’s approach to Visitors is uniquely powerful in that the film includes all of the elements necessary for an entertainingly suspenseful sci-fi film, while also portraying a moving emotional story that touches audiences on a deeper level.

“First and foremost, good cinema must be entertaining. Cinema is a way of escaping from reality, so when we go to the movies, we basically want a break from our boring, every-day lives. We want to be entertained,” admits Juwal. “Personally, when I go to the movies I’m looking for more than that. I want to be moved. A good movie can often stay with me for an entire day, even more.”

A beautifully shot film with a heartfelt message, it’s not at all surprising that producer and director Alon Juwal has received such far-reaching acclaim for Visitors, and we can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

 

 

BEHIND THE CAMERA AND THE SEA INSIDE

Back in 2004, when Juan Matias Ramos Mora received an invitation to be the Steadicam Operator on The Sea Inside, he had no idea that he would be part of an Academy Award-Winning film (the film received the Oscar for Best Foreign Film at the Academy Awards in 2005 and several European prizes in 2004 and 2005) as well as witness the evolution of an international star in the performance of Javier Bardem. If the truth be told, the only two factors that enticed Juan to join the film were his constant pursuit of challenging work and the opportunity to work with director Alejandro Aménabar. The tipping point in the career of artistic individuals like Juan Ramos often happen when it is the most unexpected and when accolades are not a factor in the equation. Now more than a decade later, The Sea Inside is just one of the many award-winning productions which Juan has worked on but it is possibly the one which delineates that point when many began to recognize his talent on an international scale. Recent series such as “Fear The Walking Dead” and “Mozart in the Jungle” display the eye and skillful camera work which brings a larger than life look to the small screen; one which Juan has used so many times on the big screen.

It is a common analogy but, pressure turns coal into a diamond; it can also refine professional skills. While Juan was already a respected camera operator prior to his work on the Oscar-Winning The Sea Inside, the experience of working with famed cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe was both inspiring and challenging…in other words, pressure! Aguirresarobe is internationally recognized as one of the contemporary greats in cinematography. He has worked with the best camera operators and he expects the best. More than a decade ago, Juan admits that there were lessons for him to learn and Javier was a masterful teacher. Prior to The Sea Inside, the two had worked together on El milagro de P.tinto, which was the first film by Javier Fesser, a rather famous director in Spain. The fact that Javier wanted to work with Juan again speaks to his belief in the then young camera operator. Aguirresarobe comments, “As a cinematographer, I must sometimes rely on a Steadicam and Camera Operator for the crucial element of frame composition; it builds the visual narrative of the film and I must entrust it to someone who understands my vision, the director’s vision, and can deliver exactly what my critical eye demands. It’s not easy to find someone whom I can trust with this important role but Juan is one such professional. He has a keen eye for seeing things the way that I need them, even in very complex situations. When we were working together on Alejandro Amenabar’s Academy Award-Winning Film The Sea Inside, Juan was our Steadicam Operator. The complexity of the film would be a challenge for anyone and I am demanding as well. Juan delivered to perfection every time. Neither myself nor the director could have been more pleased with his incredible work on this film. I have worked with Juan on a number of films and he continuously brings this exemplary performance on all the productions he is a part of.”

The films’ director Alejandro Aménabar and Aguirresarobe work well together in part because they are both so discerning and scrutinizing.  Alejandro is a director who carefully picks out every tool he wants to use to tell the story. He’s young but he’s very classic in his language. His careful study of the greatest directors in film history has given him the perspective which created his reputation. Juan Ramos credits Aménabar with inspiring both panic and a call to greatness in his early career.

One of the unexpected pleasures and respite of his involvement in The Sea Inside was that it gave Juan the opportunity to work with Javier Bardem in one of his most important performances, and the one that would catapult him into international stardom. Juan recalls, “The extent of his preparation and dedication to the performance was pretty huge, which is why this role opened up so many opportunities for him. Watching such an actor at work was truly amazing. The only resource he had to convey in the movie was his face, and thus his performance. That means you have to be extremely precise. The camera has to be respectful of the internal process the actor goes through to get to those levels of interpretation. He was so immersed in the role that nothing really could go wrong. That made everyone in the film, who were already working at really high standards, deliver their best work. This ultimately meant that Bardem and Amenábar were the only ones in charge of bringing the character from one point in the story to another one. To see that depth of commitment was truly inspiring.”

The notoriety that the film and Juan’s work received opened numerous possibilities and productions for him both in his homeland of Spain and internationally. He was quickly invited to work on Jonathan Glazer’s first feature film, Sexy Beast, for which Ben Kingsley was nominated for Best Supporting Actor. More than a decade later as he looks back on his work on The Sea Inside and contemplates the most important lesson he learned, Juan confesses, “One of the things I realized was that this really young director was surrounding himself with the best people available, and that was a life lesson for me. There’s no better experience than working with people who know more than you and are more experienced than you.”

MASSIMILIANO LOMBARDO ON THE SWEET & SALTY SCORE OF NOCTURNALLY YOURS

Storytelling has been with mankind for as long as we can remember; yes…that’s humorous. Whether it began as a means of oral history or entertainment (it was likely both) it has captivated people. The means have changed over time, what was spoken by a single orator or actor in front of the cave’s fire is now a vision manifested by the most skilled artists and advanced software. Filmmakers have returned to the keystone of imagination and its limitless possibilities. Whether it be rocks and a drum aiding Cro-Magnon man or current day symphonies and music software with composers, the relationship between music and stories is one of the longest enduring marriage in the arts. 2017’s Karma is a CGI animated film of a cautionary tale. This recent release has already been nominated in over 30 film festivals all over the world and has won 8 awards, including Best Original Score: Honorable Mention at the Asians on Film Festival (US, 2017) for its composer Massimiliano Lombardo. Director Peter Zhou directly reached out to Lombardo (also known as Max) after seeing bits and samples of other animated movies he had previously scored. Because Karma contains very little sound FX and no dialogue at all in the movie, the music would become a main character. The film also has a wall to wall score, meaning that the music is present from the opening scene through to the final credits. Keeping the music interesting and effective all the time without being able to hide behind sound fx or dialogue required an inventive and assertive composer like Max. Zhou requested a score that would engage the audience but not pull their attention away.

A film composer’s task is to write music to picture in order to enhance the emotional impact of the movie and help tell the story. Karma is a traditional 3D animated movie (like Pixar’s movies). After meeting and discussing the music with director Peter Zhou and animator Franklin Okike, Max decided to write a classical full orchestral score with memorable melodies and motifs. The first step was to write a theme for the main character, from which the whole score would be developed. Lombardo recalls, “I watched the picture twice and then shutdown the computer and focused on music for an entire day. Once I had a theme I started composing the actual score to picture, adapting the theme to it. During this process I wrote entirely on the piano in something called sketches.” Sketches are reductions of what will be the actual full score. They contain the main ideas, the rhythm, and the harmony but without orchestration. From there Max began the orchestration, choosing the right orchestral colors and arranging for an ensemble. Given the size of an orchestra, writing for it without a sketch can get a bit dispersive. Max used this method to focus on one thing at the time: rhythm and dramatic impact of the music first, then orchestral embellishments, textures, and finally colors.

Lombardo had an immediate affinity for this film and its message, which greatly aided his role as composer. He confirms, “It really makes a big difference when you fall in love with the movie you are scoring. With Karma it was love at first sight for me. First of all, the movie is incredibly well designed and animated. Characters and landscapes are incredibly detailed and evocative. Furthermore, the movie is very well structured and has a built in rhythm to it. All these elements together are the perfect backbone to a score. The characters would suggest the themes, the colors and textures would inspire orchestral colors and arrangements, while the structure would dictate the rhythm of the score.” Karma tells the story of a boy who meets a fish in a mysterious forest. The boy starts feeding the fish and the fish grows exponentially. He gets carried away and feeds the fish everything he has with him regardless of whether this is good for the little creature. The fish keeps growing until he eventually turns into a monster and eats the boy. The movie is a metaphor for the way we are treating our planet and the animals in it. Actions without conscience lead to disaster for us and all who inhabit Earth.

conducting

Upon viewing, the music in Karma seems so perfectly matched and obvious…yet, prior to Max’s compositions there were a myriad of possible ways that the score could emotionally affect the audience. Carefully taking this into consideration so that he might deliver the intended impact of the action, Lombardo delicately crafted the music for Karma. He explains how his work colored scenes stating, “There are two scenes in which I think the music really added a layer to the movie. One is when we first realize the fish is getting bigger. In this moment the score gets majestic and magical taking the point of view of the boy, but then goes into a darker tone as we start sensing that something is wrong. Here the music really anticipates and creates suspense before the big reveal when the fish turns into a monster. The other moment is at the very end when the fish eats the boy. Here I didn’t want to make it too dramatic as the movie had to be playful overall. I decided to build a dark orchestral piece that ends with a silly resolution that almost sounds like a Tom & Jerry cartoon, leaving a smile on people’s face when the end credits come in.

Contemplating Lombardo’s score for Karma, Peter Zhou relates, “We were really trying to go to some new places with this film. We straddled a line to deliver a message while making it entertaining and not heavy handed. I’m sure that it is frightening for a composer to play their new creation to someone for the first time; it’s a very delicate moment. As soon as I watched the film with Max’s score, I couldn’t stop smiling. It was perfect! He perfectly captured the message and the mood of the movie, adding an extra layer to it that made it complete. I think he really captured the essence of the movie.” Whether he is working with the finest LA musicians, the London Symphony Orchestra, or digital music software, Max Lombardo continually brings a fresh and creative approach to modern film composition and orchestration.

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Producer Albee Zhang talks her award-winning film ‘Caged’

Other - CAAM Film Festival
Albee Zhang

From the time Albee Zhang was a child, growing up in Shanghai, China, she knew she wanted to make movies. The entertainment industry always fascinated her, and her creative senses were always strong. As she grew, this dream turned into both a passion and a reality. Now, Zhang is an internationally sought-after producer, living her childhood dream.

Throughout her career, Zhang has achieved what many still dream of. She has worked on hit television shows around the world, such as the British game show The Cube and the Chinese home renovation show Mei Hao Jia. She has made many successful commercials such as the series for Alpine Dairy. She has made films, such as Bride: Shanghai, I Love You, that have gone on to premiere at international film festivals. However, despite all of this, the highlight of her career was just last year when she made the film Caged.

“For a very long time, I was surrounded by fantasy, drama and science-fiction stories. When I was approached about this project, my eyes were brightened up. I had never done any sort of masculine project like this. Brotherhood versus self-ego, money versus fame, blood and underground fighting, all these elements had so many possibilities to be an outstanding project. I knew I had to challenge myself and see how much I could pull out of a project like this,” said Zhang.

Caged is a short film that follows James, a young man who fights in underground cage matches to make ends meet. In the film, James gets the life-changing opportunity to fight professionally, but when his brother Marco crosses a desperate drug dealer, James is forced to choose between his obligations to his brother and his dream of a better life.

“It is a very strong and straight forward theme for a narrative film. By looking at the character struggling through his life, at some point it kind of reminds me of the filmmaking life. Until the day we shine, we are always struggling. The character inspired us, we made the character. It’s a story about MMA fighter, but truly it’s a story to everyone who is fighting for their dreams,” said Zhang.

The film premiered at the New York City Independent Film Festival in May, and went on to have tremendous success. At the 2016 Media Awards it was recognized for Achievement in Film Direction, Achievement in Production Design, and won Best Male Actor. It was an Official Selection at some of the world’s most prestigious festivals, including the Festival Corner of Festival de Cannes, the Auckland International Film Festival, and the London Lift-Off Film Festival Online.

“It means the world to me and my crew that the film has done so well. It proved that everything we risked was worth it. Most cast and crew worked on this film because of friendship. Some of them even volunteered to work on this film. We all had the faith that this project would carry our enthusiasm to somewhere. It didn’t let us down. The honor belongs to the whole Caged family,” Zhang said.

As producer, Zhang managed the cost of the film to fit in an extremely tight budget and schedule. She also acted as production manager for the project, and ensured the crew was always safe and well taken care of on the set. Half of the sets were built in an abandoned basement of an ancient apartment to create an underground style, beat-up looking environment. It was a very bad condition location for filming as it was moist, very dusty, bad air-circulation and completely in the dark, pretty much like a dungeon, but it was perfect for the feel and look of the film. yet it’s exactly we wanted for the film set. Zhang made sure everyone was safe and happy, taking on yet another role.

“I was worried it would be too depressing to work in this kind of environment for four days in a row. We started working when the sky was dark in the morning, we walked out of the location and it was still dark but it was at night. Not seeing daylight for four days could be very intense and uncomfortable. I received zero complaints,” said Zhang.

Zhang made sure any dangerous spots were labeled and blocked, masks were provided, hanging wires were well placed and taped. She oversaw the crew and the fierce fighting shots were shot in the safest but most realistic way. She also arranged a crowd funded online campaign for the film, and received 20 per cent more than what she was aiming for. There is no doubt that she was pivotal to the film.

“Albee was indispensable to the making of our film and bringing it in not only on budget but under budget. She is an energetic, diligent and down-to-earth person who always speak for her crew. People work for her again and again. I also look forward to working with her again,” said the Director, Nick Powers-Gomez. “She has the drive to roll up her sleeves and do whatever needs to be done and fill up whatever position that needs her.”

All those that work with Zhang are continuously impressed by what she brings to the table, not just as a talented and committed producer, but also as a kind and thoughtful person. She not only understands what it takes to make a film a success, but she aims to do more than win awards. She is a storyteller, and constantly seeks to challenge herself. Her passion for what she does is always evident.

“Making film is utilizing a visualized universal language tool to bring out our mutual emotions. I put a lot of attention and work building up character relationships and finding the universal themes, such as love, family, fear, and friendship,” Zhang concluded.