Nicolas Jung’s Newest Film “The Way” Screening at the Chinese Theatre on Sept. 30

The Way

Creating a successful film is challenging enough, but taking on the role of writer, director and lead actor, that’s a pretty ambition step; but that’s exactly what South African native Nicolas Jung has done with the highly anticipated film “The Way.” Slated to screen at the iconic TCL Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Blvd in Los Angeles on Sept. 30, “The Way” revolves around Max (who’s played by Nicolas), a young man trying to cope with the loss of his sister. As the driver of the car that killed her in an accident, the paralyzing guilt Max feels makes moving on seem nearly impossible, but there is a way forward and that is the story “The Way” intends to tell.

The film, which finished production a few weeks ago has already received a positive response. Nicolas says, “I created this project from scratch, from writing the script to acting to directing and helping out with the editing. This was my baby and I am so excited of what is to come of it. When I screened it at Warner Brothers it received an amazing response with teary eyes and an encouraging applause.”

Nicolas, who’s been acting since he was in high school, is known for his impressive emotional capacity when it comes to bringing characters to life; but “The Way” is one project that definitely pushed him to new heights, especially considering he was able to act opposite his actual sister, Marcia Jung, in the film.

Nicolas says, “I hate knowing that someday I will lose my sister or someone so close to me, I, like the character, would also want to reject the thought that the person is no longer living. Max, however, has it worse as he lives with the guilt of killing his sister in a car accident. Nonetheless, it’s a situation that we all have to confront and this story is that journey.”

Known for his performances in a plethora of films, such as Nani Li Yang’s romance “Attraction,” Dulat Zhumagazin (“Welcome!”) crime drama “Warrior of Eclipse,” Daniel Bribiesca’s horror comedy “El Chupacabra,” and the upcoming action film “Bloody Hands,” which already earned the UIFF Trophy Award from the United International Film Festival for its trailer, Nicolas Jung is one actor who doesn’t ever seem to stop working.

Actor Nicolas Jung
Actor Nicolas Jung shot by Bruna Pedro

He recently wrapped production on the upcoming film “The Neighbors” from director and producer Zichen Liu (“The Loop,” “Demon’s Angel,” “My Baby My Enemy,”) a thriller film where he stars alongside Giulia Giovanetti (“Deadly Affair,” “Mistress Jane”) and Alternative Film Festival Award nominee Samuel Whitehill (“Corrupt Crimes,” “Dress Rehearsal”).

In “The Neighbors” Nicolas takes on the starring role of  Morgan, a man who falls in love with his next door neighbor’s daughter, Lilly (played by Giovanetti). After being led to believe that Lilly is being abused by her father, Morgan hatches a plan to help her escape the seemingly dire situation– but not all is as it seems in this story, and the final twist is assured to be one that keeps audiences holding on to their seats.

Nicolas says, “I enjoyed this project because it was about young naive love in addition to being a thriller. It really shows that you never really know a person, and how easily it is to be deceived when you’re blinded by what you think is love.”

For Nicolas, acting is a way of telling powerful stories that need to be told while inspiring and entertaining audiences around the world.

He says, “So many people can be reached through this craft that it’s an essential platform to convey messages and information that can have a positive impact on their daily lives. Typically all the films I work on have some sort of message that I think is worth telling.”

Last year Jung gave a knockout performance in the film “Losing Life,” which did incredibly well on the festival circuit taking home the Diamond Award from the International Independent Film Awards, the awards for Best Actor and Best Director from the Los Angeles Film Awards, the Festival Award from the Festigious International Film Festival, as well as several other awards at Los Angeles Cinefest, Global Shorts Los Angeles and the Top Shorts Monthly Film Festival.

“Losing Life” director Musab Alamri (“Hot Weather,” “Separation”) says,“Nicolas’ raw talent has the ability to bring any character to life, whether they are big or small, he always finds a way to make the character unique to the storyline; he is truly gifted.”

Up next for Nicolas is the feature film “The Truth.” The feature, which is expected to begin filming in the beginning of 2018, actually began as a TV series pilot cowritten by Nicolas.

Nicolas explains, “The concept is great as it touches on racial profiling, something that is quite common in society. Once we completed the filming, it became clear that there was more to the project that we could dive into. After screening the episode we got a good response from the audience, because it touches a topic that not many people discuss.”

In the film Nicolas will take on the starring role of Jake, a suspended FBI agent who hopes to reclaim his position and former prestige by unveiling a non-muslim terrorist group hiding under the guise of Islam.

Cinematographer Kristin Fieldhouse’s Perfect Mix of Art and Science

With any feature film, audience interest always centers on the starring actors, but the fine art of cinema succeeds or fails due to the efforts of three key contributors—director, writer, and, perhaps most critically, the cinematographer. Whether photographing in lush color or stark black & white, the overall look of a movie sets the tone and provides invaluable context for its storyline, and one of the field’s fast-rising practitioners is the skilled British-born cinematographer Kristin Fieldhouse.

Hers is an exacting occupation, part science, part art, that requires both acute aesthetic sensibilities and precise technical acumen— qualities that Fieldhouse been cultivating since she was a pre-teen shutterbug. “My love of photography began when I was twelve,” Fieldhouse said. ”I attended a local independent school that had an incredible darkroom and photography teacher, and was lucky enough to spend many hours taking pictures and developing prints, and exploring art galleries on weekends.”

It also became a very personal part of her life and identity. “Photography gave me the opportunity to find my voice through imagery and a means to express myself as an artist,” Fieldhouse said. “Having gone through some childhood trauma—losing my father and sister—photography was a healing process and gave me the opportunity to connect with people through an artistic medium. And that, in turn, led me to cinematography.”

Even before completing her education, Fieldhouse began racking up some significant camera department credits, contributing to such high-profile Hollywood projects as The Incredible Hulk, Total Recall, music documentary Neil Young Journeys along with numerous television and short film credits. Upon graduating, with an MFA, from the American Film Institute, her professional life as a cinematographer began to blossom.

With a solid roster of short film credits, Fieldhouse moved into feature film, shooting Michael Seater’s Sadie’s Last Days on Earth, Jenée LaMarque’s The Feels and veteran actor Amy Jo Johnson’s directorial debut The Space Between, an offbeat comedy about a man who learns his new born son was sired by another and embarks on an odyssey to find the biological father. Her experience shooting the film encapsulates Fieldhouse’s comprehensive grasp of the demanding craft.

kristin-fieldhouse- setting up shot

“Amy Jo Johnson and [producer] Jessica Adams were building a team of artists and technicians that understood their vision—within the confines of an ambitious script, a micro-budget and a short shooting schedule,’ Fieldhouse said. “This was to become an epic road movie, with lots of locations, limited time, large cast, babies and a travelling limousine. They reached out and brought me on for a lengthy prep—which was essential for the project. I developed a language and symbiosis with Amy, and was also able to help organize and put in place the various cinemagraphic elements required under challenging circumstances.”

In short order, the company was off and running. “The challenges of the film were numerous,” Fieldhouse said. “16 days of shooting, always on the move, many locations, and lots of road and car work. We managed it using smart scheduling and techniques that kept crew and gear light and streamlined and by working together to overcome the obstacles that came up with locations, weather and schedule.”

It’s not all logistics—the conscientious cinematographer must also contend with myriad, far more subtle issues. “I tried to approach the film as a fly on the wall,” Fieldhouse said. “I attempted to let the themes of the film play out unobstructed, working to enable authentic comedy and to allow for improvisation. It was also important for me to use framing and lighting to bring connection to our characters and support personal and nuanced scenes that required a delicate touch. I wanted the camera to be close and personal for some scenes, and then to stand back for others giving breath and a more objective point of view.”

Fieldhouse’s sensitivity—a singular, artful empathy for story and characters—is a quality that not only characterizes her approach to the camera, it also directly affects the production itself.

“I found Kristin to be a true artist,” Johnson said. “Her ability to work with the cast and make them feel comfortable and free to experiment contributed significantly to our great performances. She and I fully collaborated on every shot and created the look and feel of the film together. She was also an incredible leader who had her crew inspired and motivated the entire shoot. We had a very demanding schedule but Kristin exceeded all my expectations and delivered exceptional image quality. I’m excited to see where Kristin’s career takes her. I believe she’ll be one of the great ones”.

That kind of intuitive, on-the-spot collaborative creativity is rare, and is certain to push Fieldhouse’s burgeoning professional reputation even higher throughout the international film community. For Fieldhouse, the prospects are limitless, but at her core, it’s all about genuine artistic expression and the impact it can make.

“I see film as a medium that connects and enlightens,” Fieldhouse said. “It has an incredible capacity to give space to voices and experiences. If I can continue to tell honest stories that inspire and challenge the status quo—that would be a true gift.”

Film Financing Today by the Experts

Traditional financial models are a thing of the past, with digital platforms offering a double-edged sword of bigger buying with hard-hitting competition, and with economic volatility overseas, many experts say global independent film financing is riskier than ever.

Indeed, studios released today are only franchises, “We’re in a period of uncertainty, both domestically and internationally,” told IM Global CFO Miguel Palos to Variety. Other industry heavyweights like Weinstein Co. COO/President David Glasser says, “In the U.S., you used to say, ‘If my budget is $30 [million]-$35 million and I spend $20 million on P&A, I’ll get a minimum amount from home video and a minimum MG from certain territories.’ Now Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and others are creating so much content that it’s difficult to model out what return you’ll get on your investment.”

Though the scenery is wobbly, some specialists note that the opportunities are superior now more than ever. “Independent financiers are now instrumental in the backing of almost every independent movie inside and outside of studio slates, and more often, they’re the ones that greenlight many of the most successful commercial films,” says executive producer and financial expert Angel Cassani. “This is not what the business looked like 10 years ago.”

Angel has made incredible strides on an international scale as the executive producer of critically acclaimed films such as the fast paced assassin film “Hell’s Chain” with Latin American action star Hector Echavarria from “Los extermineitors,” one of Argentina’s most successful action films in history. As an expert finance guru and film producer, Angel knows exactly what it takes to produce a high-grossing film, and his keen attention to changes in the market combined with his ability to adapt is what keeps him ahead of the curve.

Angel says, “The increased risk is moving financiers to focus on either $10 to $20 million-and-under films, and to partner with studios on select features above $60 million, where you can hopefully protect the majority of it from international presales,” Angel also believes that. “Budgets are probably lower now for international distributors, and how much product they can acquire has lessened.”

Angel has produced successful independent films and now is set to play a big part in Hollywood. Since entering the industry in 2009 as the producer of the film “Never Surrender,” starring Hector Echavarria (“Death Warrior,” “Unrivaled”), award-winning actor James Russo (“Django Unchained,” “Not a Stranger,” “Donnie Brasco”) and Patrick Kilpatrick (“Minority Report”), Angel has continued to make a powerful mark in the industry internationally. And much of that success comes from the fact that he has not only found a niche and ever-growing market by focusing on producing films that tie in the popularity of the world of UFC fighting, but also because he knows how to adapt to the demands of the industry.

An informal survey of sellers points to some of the top buyers in key international territories: eOne in the U.K., Australia, and Canada; StudioCanal in France, Germany, and the U.K.; along with several other well-capitalized distributors such as Universum, TeleMunchen, and Constantin in Germany; Metropolitan and SND in France; Roadshow in Australia; Elevation in Canada; and Entertainment Film Distributors in the U.K. “And In a lot of circumstances, we’re selling to studios’ international divisions, whether it be Sony or Universal or LionsGate,” says Solution Entertainment Group co-founder Myles Nestel.

Angel Cassani is one producer/financier taking a new approach to the way he leads the film business. “When I started producing seven years ago, there was seemingly one way we made films. We fully financed them and didn’t need foreign pre-sales in order to cash flow the film, or need to sell them for distribution to greenlight them,” says Angel. “That’s all still true, except now it feels like each movie has a creative way to be made so I have come up with the perfect formula that make sense and we are now implementing and is working at perfection.”

“China is recognizably much more significant,” Angel says, “and even though you get a smaller percentage of the box office with what the government gets to take, it’s only rising at great speed.”

Angel is known for producing some of the best fight films in recent years, such as the action-packed love story “Death Calls” starring Echavarria, Yolanda Pecoraro (“Dancing Still,” “Death Tunnel”) and Ron Roggé from the five-time Emmy Award winning series “Stranger Things,” and Echavarria’s recent film “No Way Out,” which stars “Machete” star Danny Trejo as the villain and the dazzling Estella Warren (“Transparency”)  In order to increase the profit margin, Angel brilliantly decided to have the film “No Way Out” released on Blu-Ray and DVD in Germany where he saw a special opportunity to increase sales, in addition to having the film theatrically released in the U.S.

As for new trends in film financing, Angel says while the basic formula has remained the same — a combination of debt and equity from P&A lenders, mezzanine lenders, and money providers — “there are several new mezzanine players in the marketplace who are taking a more aggressive position than traditional lenders like the banks would.”

“Any producer looking at a program has to think about an incentives certainty in the law, in the process, and in the funding, to be sure the state or country actually has the money to pay you,” he says.

Atlanta, New York, and New Mexico are now among the top selections due to their incentives and organization, and he’s also seen a recent tendency of producers heading to Canada to take advantage of a 20%-25% tax rebate, on top of federal and provincial encouragements.

In China Dalian Wanda Group and the Qingdao municipal government’s new 40% rebate (offering $750 million over five years to attract productions) possibly impacting U.S. productions that might else go to Australia, Canada, etc.

The much-discussed arrival of Netflix and other high-end digital platforms has proven to be a mixed blessing.

Netflix is a much-appreciated buyer, “especially with U.S. distributors that have gone into bankruptcy in the last few years, and in this tumultuous period where you’re not sure if companies are going to be able to continue their services,” Palos of IM Global notes.

The ways financiers and sellers are acclimating reveal growing tendencies in global financing: more co-funding partnerships, more companies developing TV divisions, and a greater emphasis on developing projects with international appeal.

“Producers have to be open to change, take more risks, create content that’s not as U.S.-centric,” Angel says, “and not necessarily follow traditional models over the next few years, since things are up in the air.”

 

Michelle Howarth on starting difficult conversations through the art of film

MichelleHowarth-Theatrical Headshot 2017
Michelle Howarth

What Michelle Howarth loves most about being an actress is having the opportunity to submerge herself into the lives of other people. She is fascinated by human beings and thrives on any opportunity to learn about unfamiliar cultures and places around the world. For Howarth, acting is a chance to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. When her characters feel pain, she wants to understand it. When they feel fear, she wants to know why. Beyond the empathetic nature of connecting with her characters, however, Howarth is grateful to work in a profession that provides a platform to channel untold stories and bring them to life. Oftentimes, this means shining a global light on a social, political, or socio-economic issue that the world may not fully understand, or even be aware of. It is one of the few occupations in the world with the potential to start important, controversial conversations and ultimately, change perspectives, minds, and lives.

“Acting can take you into a world with the potential to transform, educate and initiate conversations. It can affect audiences in different ways, whether you’re making them laugh or challenging their beliefs. Acting also allows the audience to escape into a different realm for an hour or two and experience a world beyond themselves… I think that’s really beautiful,” tells Howarth.

Howarth has taken her audiences on a number of journeys throughout her career, allowing them to escape their own realities for hours at a time and simply immerse themselves in her talents. She regards herself as a naturalistic actress, lending her authentic style to a number projects in television, film, and theatre. The esteemed actress is well known for her ability to convincingly transform into any character she sets out to play and is well known for her roles in television mini series such as OCD Mayhem, as well as film shorts like Mad House and The Comments. Recently, Howarth earned herself a role in the television series Hummingbird, and credits landing this role as being one of the greatest highlights of her careers.

Earlier on this year, Howarth auditioned for and won the role of Kelly in a psychological thriller called Madness Descending. The film, directed by Jimmy Cenci, tells the chilling tale of a brooding artist and writer, Devon, and his quest to complete his own novel. In the film, Kelly is Devon’s girlfriend and the story depicts the tole Devon’s creative process takes on their happy and loving relationship. One day, during the Christmas holidays, the couple experience a strange encounter with their landlord and the storyline spirals downward as Devon investigates the haunting truth inside their basement.

Playing Kelly was Howarth’s first experience within the horror genre and she was particularly eager to explore this new territory. She is very keen on the idea of expanding her skill set wherever possible and jumps at any opportunity to develop herself for the better of not only her career, but the entertainment industry as a whole. Cenci, who is used to working with extremely talented actors and actresses, was particularly impressed with the quality Howarth added to the film and knows that she was an integral cast member.

“Working with Michelle was a terrific and wonderful experience. She is extremely talented and a fantastic, professional actress – even in situations of great stress. I subjected her to some miserable situations and she rose to the occasion, exceeding all of my expectations. She is quick-witted, understands character development and takes direction well. All in all, she is a wonderful person, an exquisite actress, and a joy to work with. I’d be honored to work with her on any project in the future,” states Cenci.

What makes Howarth such a dream for a director to work with is her unwavering commitment to getting into character and to playing her part to the absolute best of her ability. Having only a week to learn the script before filming, Howarth meticulously learned her lines and ensured that she acquainted herself with the script in such a way that gave her a thorough understanding of how her character would think and act in the situations she was placed in. In the film, Kelly turns out to be a figment of Devon’s imagination. For this reason, Howarth dedicated her initial character analysis to learning Devon’s psyche, in order to grasp how he would’ve interacted with the character and which parts of his personality she would showcase.

Through this process of learning about Devon and about how he envisioned Kelly, Howarth was able to juxtapose the elements of his character that Kelly was supposed to highlight. In addition, she flawlessly mastered Kelly’s transition from Devon’s bubbly, fun-loving girlfriend into a fear-ridden, anxious character toward the end of the film. It takes an actress with unprecedented talent to be able to transform a character so drastically within the parameters of a single film, but Howarth did so with ease. There are no bounds to the quality of her skills and she was instrumental to the quality of the film.

“I liked the fact that I got to experience being the figment of someone’s imagination and having the challenge of portraying that as a reality for the film. I also like the arch of Kelly’s character and how she transforms from being the sweet, lovable girlfriend to a terrified mess, to an ultimately empty vessel devoid of emotion by the end of the film,” recalls Howarth.

The underlying message of the film is that Devon’s mind is a much more powerful tool than he knows, much like Howarth’s talents are far more profound than she may realize. The film is currently in post-production and is set to premiere in 2018. As for Howarth, however, her career is in full swing. She hopes to be a series regular on Hummingbird, as well as working on as many independent and feature films as her schedule will allow. She is also currently in production for two different films, one of which she helped write and produce. In all, she hopes to continue to act for the rest of her working days in order to keep telling stories that are worth telling. As far as she is concerned, the film industry is one of the greatest ways to initiate difficult conversations and she is honored to raise awareness to the important aspects of humankind.

Peter Hein talks editing content to evoke emotion

When most people hear the words “reality television,” they think of things like drama and excitement. They picture all of the supposedly unscripted, real-life situations between seemingly average, every day people that generate large followings and unprecedented ratings. What doesn’t typically come to mind, however, are the masterminds behind these shows. In particular, they don’t think of the editors who arrange the raw footage that they love so much into an ensemble that they tune into again and again, without fail. Without talented editors like Peter Hein, reality television wouldn’t be the adored genre that it is today and audiences wouldn’t likely love the shows they love as much as do.

The Danish native’s talents as an editor are profound. He has a keen eye for spotting quality storylines, but what’s more is that he has a unique affinity for identifying the emotional elements of those storylines that will keep viewers tuning in on a daily or weekly basis. In fact, extracting emotional elements from the footage he works on is one of the parts of editing that Hein loves most. He thrives on the opportunity that his job gives him to evoke an emotional response in his audience, and he considers working in his profession to be a dream come true.

“My favorite thing about editing is getting the emotions of the scene right – making those little last-minute tweaks at the end of an editing session to really hit your story home. Whether it’s to make people laugh or cry, it doesn’t matter. Simply getting those last frames right so that it affects the people watching in all the right ways. I also love seeing a story come together when you’ve crafted it from hours upon hours of footage. I enjoy finding all of those fragmented pieces that fit together to create a compelling story and then making sure it’s characters pop,” said Hein.

Hein has crafted more than just film footage, he has created a successful career out of his talents. He can be credited as one of the greatest contributors to wildly successful shows like Britain’s Got Talent and First Dates. Several of his works, in fact, have earned BAFTA awards; however, one of his greatest accomplishments was when he was nominated for best editing for an RTS award in the documentary category for Ashley Banjo’s Secret Street Crew.  

In 2014, Hein was approached about the possibility of working on the show Gogglebox. The initial concept of the show left Hein skeptical; however, upon watching the first series, he realized the potential and humorous nature of the show. He knew that his skill set could enhance the show’s reach and he was eager to lend his authentic editing style where it was needed most.

Gogglebox is a British reality television show that airs on the popular Channel 4. It features a number of families and groups of friends from around the United Kingdom and documents their reactions to British television shows within the comfort of their own homes. Hein found the premise unique and thought that it would pose a new challenge in his career. The result of his contributions to the show were profound.

What Hein enjoyed most about working on Gogglebox was that it was unlike any other project he had ever worked on. The timelines were tight and the stakes were high. The footage for the show spans 24-hour days and Hein was trusted to arrange the footage in such a way that viewers couldn’t resist coming back for more. His ability to understand his audience and capture the elements of scenes that his viewers will enjoy highlight his prowess in the industry.

“The show runs like clock work and you only have a few days to put together a story about 5 or so families watching a show. You really have to break down the footage in order to bring out all of the details in the edit. All of the little reactions make the story work. You and your producer have to work really closely to sift through each and every frame. As you cut it down, you often go back and bring back sections that you had previously eliminated in order to slowly build the humor in the footage. It was hardcore to work on and it was an intense edit, but it was all worth it,” stated Hein.

Having collaborated so closely with his producer, Chloe Sarfaty, Hein was able to showcase his expertise in the best way he knows how. After witnessing his talents first hand, it is no surprise that Sarfaty was beyond impressed by is skill set.

“Peter was my editor on the BAFTA award-winning series Gogglebox. It was a fast turnaround edit but Peter works very well under pressure and being the brilliant editor that he is, he knew exactly ho to build each story. He has a wide range of skills that make him excellent at what he does. He is strong editorially and he works very quickly, on top of being incredibly creative and a pleasure to work with. We worked very closely together on Gogglebox and that is a very high pressure edit to be in but even under all of the pressure, we had a ton of fun and created some excellent episodes. Peter is an asset to every team and anyone would be lucky to have him on their production,” noted Sarfaty.

Because editing is Hein’s passion, he is wholeheartedly committed to ensuring that he carries everything he works on along a path of success. He is grateful to do what he loves for a living and any recognition he receives is simply a bonus. When the series won a BAFTA award, Hein remained humbled by the hard work and dedication he put into it and was pleased that he and his co-workers had accomplished more than they had set out to achieve.

As for Hein’s future, he aims to continue to decorate his career with more award-worthy content and develop himself to even greater lengths than he has already achieved. He hopes to embark on new challenges and continue to bring about his audience’s emotions in ways that they don’t often expect before absorbing his projects. He is an avid editor and he will continue to share his greatness with the world as long as we will allow him to.

Maria Akpan ‘intoxicates’ audiences with dancing talents

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Maria Akpan

Moving to music is an instinct for Maria Akpan. She always felt the need to dance, and her inspirations as a child were always those who were known around the world for their dancing abilities. Akpan is now recognized for her talent, and is one of Britain’s best dancers. She does not just follow a beat, she uses her body to tell a story. Her delivery captivates audiences, and there is little doubt why she is in such high demand.

The highlight of Akpan’s career came when honoring her idol Michael Jackson. As the lead dancer in Thriller Live, Akpan took audiences through the iconic artist’s childhood, career, and life journey. Her skillset enhanced the show, and she was pivotal to its success, as she was in every single number.

Tribute shows are now a familiar experience for the dancer. She was not only the lead dancer, but also the choreographer for Prince’s Revelation Tribute Show. Working with the popular singer Mark Anthony, she choreographed the entire performance. Dancing was the true visual essence of the show, and Akpan made that happen.

Not only does Akpan dance, but she also can cheerlead. She had a main role with the group The London Cheerleaders, always front and centre in their routines and promotional videos. Her talent and commitment to every project she takes on make her extremely sought after in the industry. She was the choreographer and lead dancer in the Funky Twinz featuring N. Kay music video “Entertain You”, and she even worked with Shirlene Quigly, a former dancer for both Beyonce and Rihanna.

“Dance allows me to express myself in ways that conversations never do. Dance is something the makes me happy even at some of my saddest moments. It really does bring joy and freedom into my life,” said Akpan.

In JayEss’ “Intoxicated” music video, Akpan was once again featured doing what she does best: dancing. She was a lead dancer in the video, and had a charismatic solo piece. The dancing brought the storyline of the song to life. The video features different groups battling and then eventually coming together as a whole.

“What was it liked about working on this project was it got me to be creatively experimental, which is great when your hired as just a soloist on a gig, as it gets you to think on your feet and be more original,” said Akpan.

Originally, Jayess had heard of Akpan’s esteemed reputation and knew he wanted her on his video. At the time, he did not know how to get in touch with her, and spent a lot of time searching. After giving up, he eventually spotted Akpan at a talent search. He was ecstatic to finally find her. Akpan did not even have to audition. The entire team was impressed with her from the beginning.

“Maria is such a hard-working talent, she never settles for anything average and always wants more than 100 per cent. Her passion for arts and dance is like no other that I have ever seen before, and her hard work shows through in her work. Working with her, I know my vision of my song and music video was in the best and right hands. Maria is definitely unique, I would have her work for me again in no time,” said Jablil Saheeb, also known as Jayess.

Akpan was a large part of the video’s success, which has over 40,000 views on YouTube alone. Akpan was consistently approached about her dancing in the video, and she felt proud to be in such a project. She brought Jayess’ version to life, as he wanted much more than just a normal music video. Akpan came up with original choreography on the spot, and danced completely alone for a part of the video.

Each dancer was given a different trait to embody in the video, and Akpan was given “peace”. With every move she made, she exudes that trait in a peaceful and powerful way. There was no rehearsal time, so Akpan just did what came naturally. The results are inspiring.

“After hearing the concept of the music video, I knew I am wanted to be apart. Two groups one driven by negativity and the other driven by positivity. The two groups battling each other than overcoming their differences for the better, completely pulled me in,” concluded Akpan.

Akpan is now fresh off many projects. She danced for Skepta at the 02 in London. She also was a part of Global 12 Festival, dancing for new soloist Kiara Marzella. In addition, she is taking her successful London dance class “#LinesNsaucewithmimi” international.

“I plan to take this class all over the world and inspire young women to believe in themselves, to achieve what they dream of, and to then succeed,” she said.

In the meantime, be sure to check out Akpan is the “Intoxicated” video here.

Editor James Ralph is indirectly responsible for success of superstars with work on ‘X Factor’

As a child growing up in London, England, James Ralph wanted to be a chef. He enjoyed the creativity that came along with cooking, being able to create something amazing from simple ingredients. During this time, his hobby was making videos with his friends. As he grew, he started to realize the parallels between cooking and filmmaking. Both involve a high level of creativity and natural instinct, and both are their own forms of art. It was this realization that made making movies turn from a hobby to a true passion, and changed Ralph’s life.

Now, Ralph is one of Britain’s most celebrated editors. His work throughout his country’s television industry is iconic, putting his touch on the nation’s most popular shows. Working on series like Love Island, Britain’s Got Talent, 24 Hours in A&E, The Voice UK, and many more, Ralph has made quite the name for himself. This all truly began with his work on the immensely popular singing competition The X Factor.

“It’s amazing to think that over the years working on this show, I have had a hand in editing the auditions of artists who have gone on to enjoy massive worldwide fame. Early One Direction solo auditions, JLS, Little Mix as soloists and when first together amongst others. It gives me a real sense of achievement to think that, although they’ll have absolutely no idea who I am or what I do, I have in my small way played a part in their journey to superstardom,” said Ralph.

Having worked on the show since 2008 when it began its fifth season, Ralph is acutely aware of how to make the show a success. He brings a consistency and deep understanding of the show and how it works best. He has been involved in all stages of the editing process, from the initial auditions, to arenas, boot camp, judges houses, and the live shows. His extensive experience on the show and his vast understanding of its many elements has meant that he has a senior role, working as a lead or finishing editor. He knows the look and feel better than almost anyone, and without him, the show may not be what it is today.

“What I love about working on a show like this is that it’s a real test of all my skills as an editor, but also because it is transmitting weekly, you are working on something, that is getting real time feedback from the press, the public and social media. A really successful audition can become a real water cooler moment where it seems like everyone is talking about it, and that is a great feeling,” said Ralph.

From the beginning, Ralph is heavily involved in editing the audition stage of the show. He spends weeks going through all the footage from each audition, figuring out exactly what should be highlighted. Once episodes have been cast, he crafts every audition, ensuring to tell each story fully, maximizing the potential of each act. He also has to connect each act, and building the bridges and connections between them takes a great deal of time and skill, as viewers need the entire show to be seamless. According to Ralph, the choice of music and the pacing of the stories is so important in making the most of every scene. Simon Cowell is also highly involved in the process, and Ralph sends edits to him regularly for feedback. Ralph’s editing skills are vastly appreciated by all who work on the show.

“James is a pleasure to work with. Over the years numerous Series Producers and Edit Producers have worked alongside him and the feedback is always extremely positive. James is someone we try to book as an editor for the show every year, he is very much a part of the core edit team. We also work very long hours and James will never lose his sense of humor and always has a smile on his face,” said Ashley Whitehouse, Series Producer. “James is a very creative editor who can work extremely well under pressure, often cutting to very tight deadlines. He is a great editor when it comes to telling emotional stories, but equally skilled when it comes to cutting comedy. James is also very accommodating when working with junior members of the editorial team and will often help nurture less experienced producers. James is often used as a ‘finisher’ on our shows too, great attention to detail.”

Ralph takes a great sense of satisfaction from the fact that his work is not only appreciated by colleagues, but also fans. The show is consistently popular with the public and press, with extremely high ratings and award wins. When a fan retweets an audition, or likes a video on YouTube, they may not realize they are congratulating Ralph for a job well done.

“I love working on this show for a number of reasons. It’s a heady mix of intense pressure to deliver against deadlines for transmission, super creativity, and the chance to work on discovering acts that have gone on to become some of the biggest global acts in recent years. I have been involved in all areas of the edit from the opening sequences, pre-titles, guest artist videos for people like Katie Perry, Robbie Williams to actual parts of the show, live show videos as well as lead and finishing editor roles. There isn’t really a part of the editing of the show that I don’t know about,” he concluded.

Production Designer Alex Craig’s Extraordinary Creative Vision

English production designer Alex Craig is one of the leading proponents of his craft. Well known to UK television audiences through a sterling roster of credits, from his contributions to the avidly watched BBC National Lottery and A Question of Sport and runaway reality smash This Time Next Year, Craig has perfected a mixture of bold creativity and context sensitive design that’s made him one of the most in-demand talents in the business.

Craig arrived at his position through a somewhat circuitous route; he initially studied fine arts at a series of prestigious schools when fate intervened. “A good friend at art school was training to direct film in the Media Studies department,” Craig said. “And he told me about the role of the art director in film and TV and that immediately  interested me. My initial experience was working on music videos and fashion shows, which I loved, so it just grew from there and I became hooked. A Fine Art degree isn’t the most obvious route into production design, but in my case, it was.”

In short order, Craig established himself as a reliably creative professional with a peerless instinct for creating solid, appealing design

“Throughout my career, I’ve been lucky enough to have worked on a wide range of interesting and well known UK and international productions,” Craig said. “Many of these required a variety of studio and location work in the UK, China and Spain  Large scale entertainment shows are definitely a favorite of mine, and I’m a big music fan, so l welcome the opportunity to get involved in designing tours for bands and solo artists. As a personal project, I’d also like to experiment with some of the LED technology that is commonplace in studio design and apply it to create innovative bespoke pieces for interiors. Variety definitely keeps my designs fresh.”

One of Craig’s biggest and most challenging assignments has been as lead production designer for BBC1 TV’s long-running, start-studded annual fundraising spectacular Children in Need for almost a full decade.  Since its 1980 launch, CIN has raised 600 million British pounds for disabled children and young people, established itself as a prominent staple of British pop culture and featured many of world’s most famous entertainers—from Taylor Swift and Madonna to Rod Stewart and One Direction.

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“The show producers approached me in 2006,” Craig said. “They wanted to bring the CIN set up to date—it was beginning to look a bit old fashioned. They were impressed by my designs, as I’d been production designer on a number of high-profile BBC shows, and they thought it would be a good fit. I jumped at the opportunity.”

It was formidable job. “The telethon is a live, 7 hour primetime broadcast,” Craig said. “It features numerous ‘A list’ acts from the worlds of pop, musicals, comedy, dance, plus surprise performances. For the most part, these take place on a very large, impressive main stage. But the set also requires areas for presenters, surprise guests and more intimate performances so the set design also includes additional stages, a catwalk, multiple entrance options, several huge LED screens, plus a large studio audience. “

As a fully live, in-the-moment theatrical presentation, Craig has to not only anticipate myriad potential complications, he must be prepared to confront any issue head on. “The set also has to be flexible enough to get specific ‘performance sets’ required by any given artist, onto and off the main stage at high speed. It’s a technically complex event, which requires a mixture of creativity, logistics and a calm nature—especially when there’s less than a minute to go till the next spot and I can see an incomplete performance set still being put together on the stage.  Back in 2006 there was also a large orchestra to accommodate, and although the orchestra is now gone, the amount of technology has increased which brings its own challenges.”

“There’s a creative pressure to design a set that is going to have the style and presence to work as an appropriate backing for a diverse mix of some of the world’s biggest stars,’ Craig said. “The fact that it is live requires a lot of quick turnaround scenic setting, striking and re-setting throughout the 7 hours that we’re live on air. Backstage can become extremely cramped, with props, scenery and band equipment stacked everywhere you look. The set also incorporates a huge amount of LED technology which has to be integrated into the scenery as the set is installed. This can sometimes slow us down if there’s any kind of fault or glitch.”

Few have the drive, vision and skill to take on such monumental task, year after year, but Craig wouldn’t have it any other way. Nor would the BBC: “Alex designed the main studio set for 9 Children in Need shows, which is an outstanding achievement in itself,” executive producer Clare Pizey said. “He is an innovative and extremely talented Production Designer who has managed to give the show a visual identity which sets the tone for the night. And he is always pushing to move the look of the set to the next level, which both uplifts and inspires the audience. This is much of the reason why Children in Need has become so special to British culture as a whole.”

Craig’s long stint with CIN is one of the crown jewels in his already glittering resume, and it holds a special place in the designer’s affections.

“I love designing this show and am proud of what it stands for,” Craig said. “It has become a very special annual event in my work diary and a career highlight for me. It’s an honor to have contributed to such a good cause for so many years.  The show has raised record amounts of money even during recession years, and that always spurs me on to dream up new ways of presenting a fresher, more innovative design.”

For more information on Alex Craig, visit alexcraig.com

Katie Horbury works with Hollywood’s A-listers during BAFTA Awards

Katie Horbury says it is her job to bring ideas to life. As a producer, she takes in every aspect of the production and ensures it all runs smoothly. Without her, the television shows you know and love may not have made it to the screen. She takes on a lot of responsibility, but she loves what she does.

Originally from Pontefract in the North of England, Horbury broke from the norm. She wanted more than a quiet life in a small town, and became determined to do what she loves most: telling stories. She left for the big city when she could, and immediately started working with some of her country’s most iconic shows, such as The Only Way is Essex, Big Brother and Celebrity Big Brother, Celebs Go Dating, Don’t Tell the Bride, and Come Dine with Me. She has worked with ITV, the second largest network in the UK, as well as Disney Channel. There is no limit to what she can do.

I like telling stories and creating something that has a reaction in other people. Whether they are laughing, crying, learning something or just entertained in some way, knowing that I created an emotional response in another person is what I love doing. I love the night before a shoot when I can’t sleep because I have that nervous excitement in my stomach. I love waking up at 5 a.m. on filming days and running on adrenaline all day because your creative juices are flowing, and this is me at my best. What I love the most though, is the first few days in the edit, when it all starts coming together and you begin to see your vision come to life,” said Horbury.

While living her dream, Horbury has the opportunity to work alongside Britain’s best. Perhaps this is best represented with her work on the BAFTA Film and BAFTA TV Awards. BAFTA, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, hosts the two prominent award shows every year, honoring Britain’s film and television stars. Horbury grew up watching the award shows, inspired by the actors, directors, and especially producers that won the awards. When she was given the opportunity to then work on the award shows, she was eager to take part in the new experience.

“Working there was a completely new and different experience to any other show I had ever worked on. This was a hugely prestigious event and it is essential that everything runs smoothly,” said Horbury.

Having worked on the award shows every year since 2011, Horbury has many responsibilities, ensuring the shows go off without a hitch. She assists presenters like Stephen Fry and Graham Norton with full rehearsals. She also manages the event timings to ensure that all chaperones and their A-list citations readers are fully rehearsed, their scripts are finalized and they are backstage promptly on time to present their award, and that they go to press and are interviewed and photographed with the award winner.

Essentially, Horbury ensures that everyone is in the right place at the right time, making her essential for the live awards ceremony. Some of these talents include A-list actors such as Leonardo Dicaprio, Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Emma Stone and Meryl Streep. The ceremony also hosted royals Prince and Princess William and Kate.

“Working on this show is insane. The pressure is like nothing else I have ever experienced,” said Horbury. “I decide to go back every year because I love being part of such a celebration of British film and television, and British Culture.”

Horbury is repeatedly asked to come back to the awards shows, as her talents are imperative to the shows’ success. Initially, a fellow producer had recommended Horbury for the role, knowing that someone with a lot of skill and commitment was needed. She now works with the same team every year. In 2011, Horbury made sure one presenter was back stage at the correct time. Since then, she has been promoted and ensures every single presenter is where they need to be. Without her, there would be no one to present the awards, and fellow producer Matthew Edmondson, who worked with Horbury on the BAFTA Awards, was extremely impressed.

Working with Katie is always a pleasure and a rewarding experience. She’s hard working, easy to work with and she brings high quality production values to the productions she works on. I would love to work with her again.  Katie is an honest, trusted and experienced producer who has very high standards. She is fantastic with people which makes contributors and crew respect her. Katie is extremely well organized, confident and imaginative. She never gets flustered and never and never gives up and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend her for future jobs no matter how big or small the production is,” said Edmondson.

While Horbury has ample experience in television, the BAFTA Awards are the only award show she has been a part of. The foundations are the same, and she remains cool, calm, collected, and professional during the award shows, as she does with each project she takes on. However, she allows herself a moment to fully appreciate the event each year.

“It is such a beautifully presented event that celebrates the most amazing film and TV productions. While the show day itself is incredibly challenging, I am so proud to be part of something that rewards the most talented people in the world when it come to my greatest passion – story telling. This is the night when you see real emotion, pride and honor in those people who are rewarded for telling exceptionally moving, honest and often heartbreaking stories through Film and TV production,” concluded Horbury.

THE SMART BET IS ON RAHUL

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For those of us who are not actors, it’s difficult to imagine getting up in front of an audience or a film crew with people watching us cycle through the emotions and the situations that many of us would rather not exhibit in public. It’ counterintuitive. It’s also ironic that the things we want to watch others do in a public viewing (film, plays, TV) are the types of things that we’d never want to have others watch us do. To ask Rahul Naulakha, actors are simply those of us who have learned how to better control and display their emotions than the typical individual. According to him, we all do some acting in our lives but actors have simply learned when to “turn it on” in a way that other’s appreciate and are entertained by. There’s a ring of truth in what Rahul says if we admit it to ourselves. Rahul’s work in the film “Place Your Bet” is an ideal example of this. Costarring with Saturday Night Live’s Steve Holland, Naulakha plays a menacing individual who is the muscle for a loan shark. As Dhruv, Rahul transitions from affable to frightening on a dime. Loaded with twists, this tale of a gambling deal gone bad displays Rahul at his best as the duplicitous Dhruv. He’s a frightening man, the type which Naulakha revels in portraying on screen.

When Allen (played by Steve Holland of Feud and Saturday Night Live) finds a nearby restaurant to watch a basketball game and escape the troubles in his life, he encounters Dhruv (played by Rahul Naulakha); a charismatic and friendly guy just hanging out, or is he? As Dhruv eases Allen into conversation, we soon learn that Dhruv has a hidden motive for chatting with him. Allen owes money to a mob boss, having lost a bet on a horserace. Trying to procrastinate in paying his debt, he hides and makes up excuses not to pay the $185,000 dollars back. When these two men meet by happenstance, they begin to discover through the conversation that they are connected through this professional relationship and things escalate.

Naulakha had worked with director Zachary Fineman before “Place You Bet” but it was his first time with his costar (and SNL cast member) Steve Holland. The experience of filming on location in North Hollywood involved more comedy than the audience can see in the film. Rahul recalls, “I had a great time working with Steve Holland both on and off screen. On screen I was doing my best to scare him out of his mind. We were both doing our very best to get into our characters. I’ve done comedic roles in films as well so I appreciated Steve’s ability to show this dramatic side of himself in the film. Off screen we joked a lot with each other, saying our lines in weird cartoon character like voices, which was hilarious.”

The mask type approach that the actors used in the film was something which Rahul applied directly to the deceptive nature of his character. While Dhruv appears to be amiable and charming, just an ordinary guy, early on, his lack of humanity appears as the story develops. Naulakha portrays him as an individual who is able to turn off his emotions and sympathy for his fellow man when the job requires him to perform his less benevolent vocational requirements. Rather than a means of living with the actions as self-preservation, we get the feeling that this man enjoys his job and throws himself into the work. Rahul concedes that he revels in playing characters of this ilk, stating, “I love playing a bad guy. This is one of my most sought out roles, mainly because you get to go out of the norms completely…you don’t have to hold anything back. When you’re the heavy in a film, you can go back to being a kid with all of its rebelliousness and fun time all at once. Most of the time when you play a good guy you are playing a version of you. There may be a slight difference of personality between your character and you (maybe he is shy, and in real life you are the most outgoing person there is) but other than that, most of the time when performing as the good guy, the main thought/emotional process is the same as in your real life. Being the antagonist often means there are less restrictions. The character doesn’t subscribe to the rules that society has agreed upon so you can literally do whatever you want. This presents a much more personally entertaining and enjoyable challenge for me as an actor. It brings out all your acting abilities such as your facial expressions, emotions, movements, and in general makes you feel more alive.”

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Naulakha’s subtle percolation of Dhruv’s demeanor and intentions is strikingly convincing. All deference to Pete Townshend (composer of The Who’s “Behind Blue Eyes”) but Rahul feels it’s fairly easy to access the center of a “villain” and it doesn’t require a profound tragedy or searing hatred. Most of what is witnessed by the viewer as frightening is not found in the actions of the character but rather the character’s propensity to do harm; a trait which is often unspoken and lacks exhibition. He relates, “I use a lot of projection/visualization when I act. Even if I am not menacing, there is no denying the fact that we´ve all been through the same type of emotions that Dhruv has. The frustration and anger of a job interview that we didn´t get, a lost relationship, or just stepping on a rock outside your doorstep, all of these elicit something in your core. From this point it’s just a matter of how little or how much we control it. I projected moments like these that I have been through and then take it up a notch. It’s like stoking a fire from a small spark. In reality a lot of us walk around suppressing these emotions with a smile, saying we are fine but for a character like Dhruv, you can let loose and be as crazy as you want…and that’s just fun.”