SAKARAPANI PROVES HIMSELF AMONG THE GREATS IN SIVALINGA

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When considering the industries that America is known for, the ones that originate here and which have preeminence in the world, filmmaking is the most noteworthy. While numerous companies and industries are famous for their contributions, Hollywood has spent more than a century as the world’s leader in the art form. One needs only to stand for a minute at the corner of Hollywood & Highland, near the famed Grauman’s Chinese Theater to witness the eclectic group of nationalities represented in the tourists that travel from all over the world to visit the city which has inspired dreamers and admirers of cinema. The films produced here inspire audience and other film industries across the planet. India is the number three ranked in volume of films produced each year (closely behind China and the US). The past decade has seen the inclusion of many more talented actors of this country than ever before in US productions. While these professionals are lauded household names in their own county, their aspirations to be part of the most established and most respected film production community in the world drives them to Hollywood. It’s an idea that has been in the mind of Indian actor Manoj Sakarapani. He has already starred in a number of Canadian productions (The Pill, Don’t Let Go, Show Cop, and others) but admits that Hollywood holds a special place in the hearts and minds of actor from every country. That statement carries a lot of weight when one considers that Sakarapani was in this year’s massively successful AP International (India) release Sivalinga. The actor delivered a riveting and emotional performance as the antagonist in this 2017 Horror film by legendary Indian Filmmaker P. Vasu.

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Manoj plays Rahul in Sivalinga. The jealous boyfriend of leading lady Ritika Singh, Rahul discovers her talking to another man (Raheem) and approaches her father, who sends thugs to beat him up. Things go too far and the beating becomes a murder. The crux of the movie is when this murdered man returns as a ghost to haunt the other characters in the film. When police officer Shivalingesh is assigned to investigate the case, the ghost possesses the officer’s wife, leading him to the clues to crack the case.

Sakarapani was admittedly excited to be in this major feature film release, as well as being the film’s main villain. In his estimation, the primary “bad guy” in the film allows for a wider emotional palate as well as avoids the responsibility that comes with being the centerpiece of the story. For an actor who wants to act and be challenged while still avoiding the publicity game, it’s an ideal situation. Being the villain is something that Manoj is becoming somewhat known for and which he embraces. Rather than focusing on the title or categorization of the character, this actor prefers to find the character which he finds most exciting and interesting…which somehow lean towards the less amiable ones.

Vasu cast Sakarapani as Rahul based on the strength of his audition. Vasu has directed, written, and produced one hundred fourty-one motion pictures in India and worked with some of the biggest stars including Super Star Rajnikanth, K. Bhagyaraj, Sathyaraj, and others. All of this has honed his sense of charisma meets talent in an actor, which he applied to Manoj. Sivalinga saw Manoj working with some of the most established actors in the Indian film world, comparable to Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, Octavia Spencer, etc. Because the character of Rahul was so integral to the story, the filmmaker and actor had intensive discussion about how he should be portrayed on film. Sakarapani explains, “Mr. P. Vasu didn’t want Rahul to be seen as a crazy villain, a brutal villain, or a notorious one. That was too dramatic and somewhat cartoonish. We discussed Rahul being a very normal type of person at first, one who doesn’t realize that he has the potential to do such harm. He is a college student and that’s where I meet my girl Satya whom I develop a crush on which turns into jealousy. Everything goes downhill from there. Rahul doesn’t see himself as murderous. I played him as an angry, mean, rude, and rich boyfriend who is immature and takes everything personal.”

Standing on set acting with the most acclaimed veteran actors of his country was intimidating for Manoj. He credits P. Vasu with assisting him in navigating the situation. At one point early in the filming, the director pulled him aside and informed him that he was very talented and this role was a blessing, he could choose to relax and perform with the talent he already possessed or allow the experience to overwhelm him. The actor recalls that the minute Vasu yelled “Action” he followed his instinct, finding himself going toe to toe with the actors and actresses he had grown up watching; it was truly an empowering and inspirational occurrence for him. Sivalinga’s co-director Krishnan states, “Manoj found himself in a very difficult situation for this film. Most of our cast members were highly recognized and celebrated actors while he was the ‘new face.’ This can be a very uncomfortable place for an actor to exist in and can lead to making a character too big. Manoj did none of this though. His portrayal of Rahul, the impetus for the tragedy in the film, was performed with great restraint. The performance Manoj gave belied his youth. Rather, he acted as a veteran, a complete and actualized professional. I couldn’t be happier with what he brought to our film; it truly made the story much more compelling and believable.”

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Sivalinga was a huge success in India at the box office and with fans. While stating that the greatest benefit of his involvement was the chance to work closely with so many accomplished actors and use the knowledge of this experience in his approach towards other roles, he concedes that the attention he received from the public was both unexpected and something he had to learn to react to gracefully. He recalls, “Seeing this on the screen for the first time with the public was an odd situation. I was sweating and hiding my face because people started noticing me and pointing in my direction in the theatre. After the movie they came running to me saying, ‘Hey look, it’s Rahul! They came and took selfies and got autographs from me and wished me well. They told me even though I am a star now, I don’t act like one. They told me that I’m very down to earth like their next door neighbor.” It sounds like Manoj Sakarapani would fit into Hollywood very well.

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AMERICAN & CHINESE FILM GROWS CLOSER WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM XIN GONG

While there are many things that separate the peoples of the world, the Arts have always been something that brings us all together. It can be the Beatles singing “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” or a Monet painting…any number of creative expressions that allow different cultures to intuitively feel our unifying threads rather than discord. When a new facet of an art form is developed it also allows for a possible harmonious cooperation amongst those of different backgrounds. Hollywood filmmaking is cresting a century of creating world renowned films. China has a much more blossoming film industry but is bringing its own identity and talent to the acclaim of a great deal of critics, audiences, and peers. Technological advancements have changed both the look of movies and the way they are made. One of the newest careers in film is that of Digital Imaging Technician or DIT. Xin Gong is a DIT who hails from China but has worked with a number of American productions. Her talent as a DIT as well as her ease in communicating and working with both US and Chinese cultures has allowed her to become a bridge between these two film centers. Helping these differing professionals cooperate while using her knowledge of both industry’s strengths is what she did as DIT for the film Devil and Angel. This 2015 comedy feature was made in China but employed a number of professionals from both America and China. Xin found that more than her DIT skills made her valuable on this production as well as taught her about the people from both areas.

DIT is a fairly new job in filmmaking. As technology quickly advances, DIT’s are becoming responsible for more and more things. In the United States, crew members are familiar with the most modern duties of a DIT, as opposed to the more traditional view of Chinese filmmakers that the DIT is primarily concerned with keeping the footage safe. Gong worked on this specific film because it afforded her the opportunity to change this perception. Xin wanted this predominantly Chinese crew to be aware of her ability to provide options for the directors and DPs, to let them know there are many things that the DIT can do to make the production process a lot more convenient. Gong seized many an opportunity to exhibit how she could help to set data of both cameras and footage and make all the digitalized imaging devices work, such as: monitors, sound devices and the Teradek. Communicating extensively with the DP, Director, and post-production to help these different sects of the team make adjustments and fine tune the field production process. In truth, the DIT is the gate keeper of the film. No one on the set can take a look at the story until Xin decodes and color correct the raw footage.

Cooperating within the nucleus of the camera team and director was not the limitation of this for Devil and Angel. While the film was shot in China, the production recognized and respected the talent of US film professionals. Employing such professionals would not only increase the quality of the final product but would serve as a learning process for those not familiar with the Hollywood way of doing things. As a native of China but with a strong command of the English language as well as extensive knowledge of the American filmmaking process, Gong often acted as a verbal and professional conduit between members of the crew. While there was an obvious language barrier, there was also a difference in opinion about how to approach certain aspects of the filming process. Once again, being proficient in both cultures film process, Xin was able to correlate a process which resulted in both sides finding positivity in the results.

The talented professionals behind the camera need to coordinate and communicate in order to enable the professionals in front of the camera to portray the story. Devil and Angel is a romance which begins with a car crash. The two main characters, Xiaodao Zha & Feili Mo, are combative and somewhat self-centered early in the movie but they get to know each other through a series of cooperative circumstances. Eventually they fall in love as they let down the protective walls that separate them. The film’s story contains the universal theme of love but also vividly expresses some cultural differences. US films tend towards everyday realism while those of China focus on mind and spirit. China prefers a group working together for success while most American films focus on a single hero. The production of this film proves that the borders which separate the two country’s film industries are not as separate as they used to be.

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Along with the rest of the production team, it was Gong’s goal that Devil & Angel be well received, which it was. Even more than this, Xin wanted to prove that as things evolve it can be beneficial for all involved parties. Through her exceptional work, she convinced her fellow professionals that a DIT can assist the film in a number of ways. Through her positive attitude and comfortability with different languages and cultures, she helped them to see that we can all become better through cooperation.

Inside Scoop: SIC To Begin Production on Two New Projects

Inside Scoop: SIC To Begin Production on Two New Projects

Story by Alex Jack

 

SIC productions will soon begin production on two new projects, in what sources are describing to our editors as what will be “two vastly different, but both hugely impactful stories.”

The first is the television series “Viral,” a spin on the sci-genre format will blend thriller-drama genres in its story about a group of scientists attempting to save humanity from an alien virus. New Zealand star Sophie Renée will play the lead role of Emma Greene, one of the scientists. Naresh Kumar is playing the supporting lead role of Johnny, and previously worked with SIC productions on the world-renowned short film “Cyberversity”. Kaisania Calubaquib is attached to direct. If the casting of such high-caliber talent as Emma and Kumar wasn’t enough, Calubaquib’s association brings with it even more credence. Calubaquib, who won the  Best Director in NYC Indie Film Awards 2017, Platinum Award Best Short in NYC Indie Film Awards 2017, and the the Grand Jury Prize Best Short in UMFF 2017, is said to be “incredibly excited” at the prospect of working both with SIC and his leading actors.

Acclaimed actor Naresh Kumar in “Cyberversity,” one of SIC’s well-known productions.

Renée, most well known for her role in “The Velvet Hour,” won the Award of Excellence in the 2017 International Freethought Film Festival in Orlando, Florida for her work. She proudly explains that “it was also the first time that I got that I got to use my French language skills in the acting world!” Renée recently worked in a critical role with hugely famous French star Francis Lalanne on a secret project. Via our editors, Sophie proudly added: “I was also lucky enough to be taken under his wing throughout our time together and the emotional support that he gave me is something that I will forever be in his debt for.”

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Sophie Renée will play Emma Greene in “Viral.”

The second of SIC’s projects due to begin shooting any day now couldn’t be further from the sci-fi genre. “Singled Out,” a feature film that it is said to be in the grittier vein of Bradley Cooper-vehicle “A Place Beyond the Pines” and the Oscar-nominated “Hell or High Water,” instead explores drugs, crime and corruption in the Atlanta Police Department. In the role of James Montgomery, who our editors believe could either be an anti-hero or a traditional protagonist, is UK star Neil Reidman. Reidman, who shares the screen with superstar Nicole Kidman for Etihad’s global advertising campaign, is said to be thrilled at joining such an eminent production. While the exact release date of “Singled Out” hasn’t been identified, SIC have exclusively revealed to us that it will most definitely be in cinemas in 2018, likely in contention for the 2019 awards season. Such strategic release plays at the Oscar-race are frequently looked upon with cynicism, but given SIC’s track-record of highly-regarded films and the Academy’s response to films like “Moonlight,” it’s looking likely that “Singled Out” will be a strong contender.

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Famed thespian Neil Reidman will play James Montgomery in the feature film, “Singled Out” for SIC Productions.

Reidman, often recognised for his portrayal of Lieutenant Atillo in “Doctor Who,” is currently shooting an undisclosed feature. While the details have to stay under-wraps, it’s understood the project is highly-anticipated and will bring the actor even more fans worldwide. The classically trained actor, who also starred in Laurence Olivier Award winning stage shows on the West End in key roles, including “Big Life,” will go straight from his wrap party to the shoot of “Singled Out.” He also played critical roles in the hugely-successful TV shows “Holby City,” “Doctors” and “Casualty” and is repped by some of the most powerful agents in entertainment.

Dani Bryan, CEO of SIC, has worked with numerous major brands such as Michelob Ultra, AutoTrader, DSW, Lincoln Navigator, and Facebook. The extension of SIC’s line-up with these two projects, and the addition of such-high caliber stars, will undoubtedly allow Bryan to wield more power in the business.

Telling Stories to Spark Social Change: Director Alma Jiménez Ochomogo

Director Alma Jiménez Ochomogo was born in Toluca, a small town about an hour outside Mexico City. Her parents owned and managed a small business, which provided a living for the family but didn’t leave them time for much else, so Jiménez Ochomogo was often left to her own devices. She couldn’t have known it then, but looking back with the clarity of hindsight she can point to her time spent there as the beginning of her lifelong pursuit.

“My family owned a small grocery store in Mexico and my mother used to work there all day long, so I spent most of my time there. I couldn’t really spend a lot of time playing outside because it was on a busy street — and because of insecurity,” she said, reflecting on how it all began.

“One of the only things that I could do was watch movies. I always had a big imagination so I think that was my escape. [It was like] I was in all kinds of places and adventures in the movies. [That] has tremendously impacted my life.”

Though that small town was where she’d discovered her passion, the opportunities there for an aspiring filmmaker were extremely limited. So the ever-driven Jiménez Ochomogo chased her calling to Los Angeles. She flourished in the city, and it immediately became clear she had a rare gift. Her film “The Play” is a testament to that gift, beautifully blending a rich, original narrative with a bold message of perseverance in the face of inequality.

“‘The Play’… tells the story of Kimberly, a transgender actress, who receives her first role as a woman and is struggling to get into character,” Jiménez Ochomogo described. “It was a very difficult endeavor to find someone who could both play a transgender actress and deliver Shakespeare… if I didn’t choose the right person, the character could have become cartoonish.”

Director Alma Jiménez Ochomogo
Director Alma Jiménez Ochomogo (left) and actors Ted Heyck & Aean McMullin (right) preparing to shoot “The Play.” Photo by Sara Marijuan

Written, directed and produced by Jiménez Ochomogo, “The Play” is a brilliant and powerful work that boldly tackles a topic too often swept under the rug. Aean McMullin delivers a masterful performance as Jennifer, deftly embodying the young actress.

“Kim… is cast as Viola/Cesario, the heroine and protagonist of the play ‘Twelfth Night’ by William Shakespeare,” she explained. “Aean McMullin, the actor, did a great job creating Kim. He had the right amount of vulnerability and strength that the character required to feel real. It also helped that he was classically trained so was amazing in delivering Shakespeare.”

In February, Jiménez Ochomogo unveiled her most ambitious project yet. Blurring the line between social media and cinema, L.A. Livfe was a series of three films by three directors which were ‘screened’ using the Facebook Live service. To ensure the project would get off on the right track, Jiménez Ochomogo’s film “The Pair” was chosen to be the first film to air.

“I directed the first short film called ‘The Pair,’ which was a love story about a Palestinian and an Israeli who meet in a Los Angeles bar,” she said. “We rehearsed for hours, but we only broadcast live once… so in many ways it was a make-it-or-break-it type of project.”

To shoot a film and air it live online for the world to see is an immense undertaking. It required countless hours of preparation, and the stakes couldn’t have been higher. But Jiménez Ochomogo had a story in her mind, and she knew exactly how to tell it.

“Our objective was to incorporate film language into live broadcasting, and the thread that joined all of the stories together was the city of Los Angeles,” she explained. “Each of us told a story of a moment in this city.”

At once enthralling and captivating, “The Pair” was a perfect example of what sets Jiménez Ochomogo apart. She is driven to find the unusual, the unorthodox and the unexpected, all of which she brings to life on the screen. Together with her visionary eye, her gift for storytelling puts Alma Jiménez Ochomogo miles ahead of her peers.

 

More Than Just a Music Video Heroine: Swedish Actress Josefin Nilsson

Actress Josefin Nilsson
Actress Josefin Nilsson shot by Tajna Tanovic

Audiences across the globe, hip-hop fans especially, will recognize Swedish bombshell Josefin Nilsson for her featured role in an impressive list of music videos in recent years, but her skill as an actress extends far beyond simply playing a music video heroine, although she does that incredibly well.

Earlier this year Nilsson was featured in the music video for Mike WiLL Made-It’s hit song “Perfect Pint” featuring Kendrick Lamar, Gucci Mane, and Rae Sremmurd. In the video, which was released in May and has already garnered nearly 15 million views on YouTube, Nilsson comes onto the scene as a gargantuan model whose legs the rappers driving a car between as she towers over the desert. Later on in the video fans will see Nilsson fly across the screen riding a rocket through the air, a trippy video to say the least.

Nilsson recalls, “The first music video I was a part of was actually a Chris Brown music video for the song ‘Bitches N Marijuana.’ I grew up idolizing Chris so the thought of actually being wanted for his video felt a little crazy at first.”  

In addition to  “Bitches N Marijuana Feat. ScHoolboy Q,” a 2015 collaboration between Brown and Tyga that earned over 20 million YouTube views, Nilsson has been featured in a number of Grammy Award winning artist Chris Brown’s other music videos, such as those for the hit songs “Grass Ain’t Greener,” which garnered more than 60 million views on YouTube, as well as Gucci Mane’s 2017 hit “Tone it Down” featuring Brown.

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Still of Josefin Nilsson from the “Perfect Pint’ music video

While Nilsson, who attended The Ballet Academy, one of Sweden’s most prestigious dance schools, has definitely made an impact with her featured performances in several hit music videos, her performances in films such as the startling horror flick Darkest Decision prove her strong capacity as an leading lady on film.

In Darkest Decision, which was chosen as an Official Selection of the Northern Frights Festival, Nilsson gives a riveting performance in the starring role of Cara Fox. Directed by Derek Quick (Fist Full of Glove, Lovisa, Set Ettiquette), Darkest Decision is a zombie film that follows a group of friends running for their lives, with Nilsson’s character Cara serving as the hero of the movie.

After being chased down by a bevy of bloodthirsty zombies, Cara, Darren and Jay lock themselves indoors, escaping in the knick of time. However, when Cara realizes Darren, played by Shane Liburd, has been infected, she has to make the pragmatic, but cold decision to kill him on the spot before he turns.

In Darkest Decision actress Josefin Nilsson nails her mark as the film’s fierce female hero, while also imbuing her character with just enough fear to make the situation believably terrifying. In the film Nilsson stars alongside Asians on Film Festival Winter Award winner Daniel Joo (Art of Deception, Fortune 500 Man), Diego T. Kuri (Life as a Mermaid, Golden State), and Mari Ørstavik (Killing Time in America, A Dolls House).

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Josefin Nilsson on the poster for the film “Darkest Decision”

About working on the film, Nilsson says, “It was really a great experience being a part of this project. It was a great team and the other lead Daniel Joo is such a great actor, I was blessed to work next to him on this film.”

Before making her way to Hollywood several years ago, actress Josefin Nilsson took to the screen in Sweden where she took on numerous critical roles in high profile productions such as the family romance film Eve & Adam: Four Birthdays & a Fiasco directed by two-time Guldbagge Award winner Catti Edfeldt, the International Emmy Award nominated series Laura Trenter- Fire! aka Det Brinner,  and the dramatic thriller Medicinmannen.

Up next for the actress is the film 7 Days a Kingpin, which is slated to begin filming later this year and will be directed by Paul Bunch (Waiting for Michelle, Crossing the Line, Thy Will Be Done).

Nilsson says, “I am super excited for the feature film ’7 Days as a Kingpin.’ I will be playing one of the leads and it will be great to be a part of such a big production. Daveigh Chase, known for ‘Donnie Darko,’ is starring in it and big producers like Scott Reid and John Ryan Jr. are a part of it.”