ESTEEMED FILM COMPOSER DAVID HEYMANN ON SCORING HORROR MUSIC FOR “GHOSTED”

Composer David Heymann
Film Composer David Heymann

Having started with playing the piano as his main instrument at the age of 10, David Heymann gradually got more interested in creating than performing, which eventually led him to compose and orchestrate music for films and other media. Ever since David has been involved in such productions as the video game hit “Elder Scrolls Online” as the lead orchestrator and the third installment of Sony’s “Smurfs” as part of the music department. As a composer, he has worked on countless trailers and films as the main orchestrator on a number of award-winning projects that have screened at diverse film festivals around the world. Last year David was recognized for his powerful music track “The Last Day of Hope,” for which he earned two Bronze Medal Awards from the Global Music Awards for Best Composition and Best Original Score.

His latest project was the horror-comedy film “Ghosted” by director Sevgi Cacina. “Ghosted” tells the story of an attractive woman who is being followed by a person only she can see and hear and tries to get help from a psychiatrist. Little does the psychiatrist know that he’s only being a puppet in a deadly game of lies and seductions. “Ghosted” strikes the perfect balance of jaw-dropping twists and hilariously funny moments that entertain viewers throughout the film. The film premiered at the Shriekfest Horror Film Festival in 2017, a popular festival that was founded in 2001 and is the oldest continually running genre festival in Hollywood. It’s one of the biggest and most important festivals for horror films in the world.

“It was an absolute joy to work on this movie! When I received and watched the picture-locked version for the first time, I already noticed that this wasn’t just an ordinary film. Sevgi, who wrote and directed it, has an incredible talent for telling stories. She makes everyone around her better,” David said.

“Writing music that needs to be absolutely synced to the happenings in the picture when it comes to building tension is something I love about horror films. In almost no other genre music plays such a significant part in helping to convey the feelings the director wants the viewer to go through. This not only applies when the music is supposed to enhance the picture but even more important when it’s contradicting the picture, an effect that directors sometimes are aiming for to mislead the viewer.”

Film poster for "Ghosted"

For a film like “Ghosted,” music plays an essential role, especially when it’s supposed to tell things that the viewer does not see in the picture.

“At the beginning of the movie we see the psychiatrist sitting in his office and looking something up on his computer. There’s actually nothing odd to see here, nothing that makes you feel scary or uncomfortable. But while you watch this scene the music is telling you a different story. Low cello and bass strings accompanied by a rising high strings cluster sound convey the message that something horrible, something very dark is connected to this character or is about to happen. These are things you cannot capture with the camera. That’s the composer’s task,” explained David.

Through the music he created for the movie David effectively heightened the intensity of some the film’s most thrilling scenes with his use of tension build-ups and “uncomfortable sounding” electronic synths.

“There was a lot of room for build-ups to create tension. In one scene the phone is ringing and the tension in the music keeps building until the character picks up the phone. Then the music is holding a note during the phone call and slowly builds again. Having the music buildup during the ringing of the phone and almost completely taking it out when the phone is picked up we get the viewer to pay closer attention to the content of the call,” explained David.

“As a composer, you also always try to keep the music light in terms of complexity and volume during a dialog so it doesn’t get in the way of it. Dialog is king in a movie. So having the high violins at that scene holding a note before the orchestration slowly starts growing again we’re able to get out of the way of the dialog without losing any of the subtle tension created by the high violins we’re aiming for during the call.”

The movie also provides a wonderful scene where the background sound is completely muted and the music takes over, demonstrating the power it creates in conjunction with the picture.

“Scenes like the seduction scene in ‘Ghosted,’ where there’s basically no dialog or any other sounds and your music gets prioritized to be a musical layer on top of the picture, is the kind of scene every composer loves the most in a movie because that’s where you can shine with your music and there’s no other sound that will distract from it. This scene had the ‘Basic Instinct’ theme as a temp track which worked incredibly well with the picture, so I wanted to create something similar to convey that kind of erotic but dangerous feeling that Jerry Goldsmith created in his track for ‘Basic Instinct,’” explained David.

The ending scene is an outstanding example of how David implemented synth sounds seamlessly into the overall orchestral, strings-heavy soundtrack. An electronic pad sound is mixed together with strings playing con sordino. The music is very static there with no sign of movement or any tension. This is intentionally done so the viewer doesn’t expect any sudden change. Only at the very last moment the music builds up for about one second and unveils the shocking twist moment of the film.

“Ghosted” director Sevgi Cacina said, “It was so pleasant to work with David. Even before I wrote the script I already knew I’d approach him for the scoring. It’s so important to team up with someone who understands you and your story, why and how you want to tell it and enhances it at times. David is so talented, and smart and yet so humble. He worked hard and delivered a great film score very fast. ‘Ghosted’ has so many twists in the story and I would ask the craziest things but also knew he could still find a creative way to make it happen. It was very exciting to sit down and listen to his creations whenever I received a new musical cue from him.”

 

Advertisements

THE DESIGN 7 OF LOVE: JAMES CHEN

22163818_10155843589892431_477575936_o

Filmmakers are always searching for a better way to communicate the message and feeling of a story. The characters found in their creations are a means for the viewer to identify the experiences and emotions in their own lives, or the ones they hope to avoid. In the upcoming feature film Design 7 of Love, the filmmakers took advantage of the vision and talent of VFX Artist James Chen to manifest the state of mind of one of the central characters in a very disorienting situation. The film connects the unexpected association of architecture and emotions, or perhaps more accurately…the effect of these on one’s mind. Using state of the art technology in CG, they enlisted Hi-Organic Motiongraphics to do what so many productions desire, to display that which cannot be filmed. Taking a key role in this, Chen worked on some of the most surreal moments in the film. The integration of this tool and the cooperation between artist like Chen and filmmakers continues to be the type of visuals to moviegoers that were nonexistent until the last several years. While CG has allowed the creators of these films to display almost any scenario on screen, the role of artists like James Chen is to make them so real that we almost question our own senses.

The VFX work which James was charged with creating is integral to telling Design 7 of Love properly. One must understand the surreal nature of the storyline in order to appreciate how important Chen’s work on the film was. Yet, even prior to this one must understand that the word “design” in Chinese has two meanings. The first is the dictionary definition meaning “to decide upon the look and functioning of (a building, garment, or other object)”, the second is “to set up someone or something, in a relatively negative way.” The word “design” in this film has both of the meanings in many cases, especially when everyone is trying to “design” a scenario or situation in order to “set up” someone in the emotional world. The beautiful protagonist of the story is Doris, an interior Designer. Her ex-boyfriend Bartz hopes to repair their relationship by providing her with a senior designer position in the architecture studio where he works. This only serves to enrage Emma, the company’s other designer who seems to have feeling towards Bartz. The studio’s pitching process to a hotel goes smoothly as Doris’ presentation impresses the hotel’s young owner Mark, both with her design concept and herself. Doris suddenly becomes the studio’s hot shot. The studio owner Andrew hopes to ensure the company’s revenue by landing the hotel as a client. To achieve this, he encourages (essentially orders) Doris to starting dating Mark. Doris pretends to date Mark to justify her cold actions towards Bartz, leaving Bartz devastated and also making Mark more and more confused. Doris does not fully accept nor deny either of the two men’s pursuits. As the relationship between the characters becomes more and more complex, Doris’ mind world starts to twist. In a congruent fashion, all her “designs” metaphorically turn her vision of this supposed “beautifully designed” city into a pile of monstrosity, reflecting what’s in her own mind. In the end, Doris, Bartz, Mark, Andrew, Emma, and the other two studio staff [Chang and Chiz] all have their own “design” to “set someone up” in love or other affairs. The director of Design 7 of Love even created a scene in which all the characters act like they are “actors” instead of film characters, conveying to the audience “being set up.” The overall theme is that what we label “love” may actually be the result of a “design.” It’s the ability to see the merging of imagination of the mind (brought about by the emotional turmoil) that becomes part of reality that James manifested for the film.  Doris’ main work objective is to provide new design to the hotel to make it a part of Taipei’s new “world design capital” title, but her emotional state has become chaotic and unstable as a result of her complex social relationship. When she wants to make things more clear, more simple, more “designed”, the outside world becomes more complex. This resulted in an approach that Chen describes as “anti-beauty.”

An ideal example of this is in the “Growing Monstrosity” scenes. So called because of the evolving appearance of the city, these changes are a direct effect of the chaos in the emotional state of Doris. Window fences, excessed vent pipes, and poles start to grow from the walls of the street view instead of beautiful decorations. These reflects the character’s mind. Metaphoric steel fences appear as a sign of Doris’ insecurity. James and the team came up with 40 base mechanical objects which were considered elemental to a structure, from factory pipes to a variety of small metal fences to serve as parts pool. The combination of the objects and scripted sequence transformation animation created a large number of wall structures with different shapes, providing a sufficient amount of complexity for the “growing monster” atmosphere in a fast way. The “shattered dream” scene contains CG environment and VFX with green screen footage. Doris is seen standing on a ladder made of piano keys, enjoying the “beautiful dream” environment which reflects her feeling at the time. The scene is designed to have a full CG environment. Later in the film the scene starts to collapse with every step she runs on the ladder as the dream becomes a nightmare. James states, “My colleagues and I utilized a vast amount of relief sculpture photo and traced them onto the models with Zbrush to enhance the details which made the Thinking Particles-powered fragmentation FX more convincing and beautiful.”

IMG_3493

Hi-Organic Motiongraphics Kai-Zhen Lee was FX Lead on the film and explains what made Chen such an asset, stating, “James has experienced a vast variety of CG animation positions which made him very resourceful when facing technical difficulties. He often provided quick and sometimes unorthodox solutions for FX problems regarding the interactions between software functions from time to time. It was thanks to his knowledge, experience, and ingenuity that we were able to create such a unique look for Design 7 of Love.” A result of this was the film’s nomination for “Best Visual Effects” at the prestigious 51st Golden Horse Awards. With over fifty years of filmmaking history to the Golden Horse Awards, the nomination for “Best Visual Effects” places Chen and Hi-Organic Motiongraphics among the most recognized in Taiwan, Hong-Kong, & China. The connection between the images he creates and their effect on viewers is always present in his thoughts. James relates, “In order to get photos of Taipei city with a clear view for this film, the team somehow managed to negotiate with one of the TV stations to give us access to their helipad, which is a rare occasion. It’s not a view that many people get and it is beautiful! When you are up on a tall building and overlooking the city you appreciate the perspective. It’s times like these when I realize that my job is to give other people the ability to see things with the same awe that I experience. I love that part of what I do.”

Filmmaker Alice Esposito pays tribute to old school cinema with new film

TMTFFTHBPoster
Poster for The Mockingbird that Fell from the Highest Branch

Alice Esposito sees life through the lens of a camera. Everywhere she looks, she knows exactly how an image could be framed perfectly, whether in a photograph or video. Her artistic instincts have been her fortitude throughout her career, and her determined work ethic sets her apart from the rest. There is little doubt as to why she is one of Italy’s best recent photographers and filmmakers.

While working on successful projects, such as Thend, Esposito has exemplified versatility and artistry. As both a filmmaker and a photographer, she is internationally sought after. Her work consistently tells a story in a beautiful way, which is exemplified by her film The Mockingbird that Fell from the Highest Branch.

The black and white silent comedy tells the story of a cynical, socially inept mime that lives a life of tiny distractions. Yet, even indulging in his smallest fantasies drives him to fits of rage and despair. A chance encounter with the woman of his reverie compels him into a series of humorously tragic attempts at wooing her. A romantic picnic, a windy walk on the beach, and multiple passes at capturing her beauty through art all backfire, with harrowing consequences.

“I feel like nowadays the stories are told so fast and full of action or sex that people do not have time for simplicity and realness anymore. With this movie, I wanted to stop time and let you live the moments with the main character, which is why some sequences of the movie are slightly slower than the normal parameters of cinema. I wanted to challenge the viewer to stay with me, to feel all these feelings that we usually escape from. There’s also a lack of technology and space/time that I wanted to use to give the audience this sense of peace, but with a little anxiety behind that. Technology made us impatient, and I wanted to analyze this concept. And love, this incredible feeling that keeps everything together; the expectation of love, its course, the ups and down, and the real and the fantasy,” Esposito described.

After premiering at The Prince of Prestige Film Festival where it was nominated for Best Short, Best Actor and Best Actress, The Mockingbird that Fell from the Highest Branch went on to tremendous success. It won the Festival Prince of Prestige Academy Award as Best Comedy (Comedy Gold).

PhilRistainoBTS_TMTFFTHB
Phil Ristaino as the mime in The Mockingbird that Fell from the Highest Branch

“When the film first started having success, I was like ‘cool’, but after I began telling the cast and crew, it really hit me. This wasn’t the first time I won something, but it was the first time I won something where I worked with so many people and coordinated with them all together to create a project. It felt like all the family won and that everybody’s work was recognized. I was and still am so proud and grateful of them,” said Esposito.

Esposito’s idea for the film came from working with her friend and main actor in the film Phil Ristaino. Ristaino created character routines for fun, and his “Bad Luck Mime” stood out to Esposito. The two decided to make a movie that would be a tribute to the origin of cinema. Having already worked together on the film Dinamicity, which saw similar success, they were eager to work together again.

Working with Alice is very collaborative. Alice is an extremely enthusiastic director. She gets caught up in whatever idea has currently caught her fancy and will talk at great length about all the ideas she has for a particular story. Often, she will call me about a project she wants to make and tell me about some visual or story ideas, and these conversations will usually result in us meeting up to discuss the next project and see if it appeals to us both. We are both very visual people, and her ideas will spark images in my own mind, and vice versa,” said Ristaino.

Esposito was the producer, writer, and director of the film, and therefore greatly responsible for its success. She wanted to make the perfect film, and thought of every last detail. Half of the post-production took place in Italy, and the other half in California. Normally, coordinating this would be immensely difficult, but Esposito’s management capabilities are exceptional.

Location scouting was also vital for the production, and this turned out to be one of Esposito’s favorite parts of filming. She was able to discover different parts of Los Angeles, like Eagle Rock and Griffith Park, Malibu, and Echo Park. Her love for the setting overcame any challenges that come from working outside, like wind and natural light. In order to film like this, a filmmaker must be fast and precise, characteristics that Esposito embodies.

She also wanted to find the perfect team to take charge. She knew how important the music would be in a silent film, and therefore found not just composer, but two, Simone Anichini and Davide Alberto Centolani.

“A big part of making this movie this successful I think was to have the right people around me. It all always comes down to the talents you work with. I learned a lot about delegating and asking for want I needed. I was able to put all the pieces of production together and have exactly what I wanted. Many of the things were planned ahead, but you need to be ready for something not working out and be able to go around it. The secret is to be always ready to change and compromise but never give up,” she advised.

The last piece of the puzzle for the filmmaker was the title. She wanted something that would encapsulate her film. It was when she remembered that in Italian, a mockingbird is also called “the mime” that she realized she had a title.

“I remember I was in the car with Phil and we started to throw titles around, it was hilarious,” she described. “The mockingbird is known to mimic the songs of other birds and the sounds of insects, and this is how it started to come together. Being in love is like being above every physical experience I know, but at the same time when you heart gets broken the impact to the ground is hard. You could say the title represents this feeling but with a tragic romanticism with a pinch of irony in it. I think we got it right!”

That they did. Keep an eye out for Esposito’s work. With talent like hers, we can expect to keep seeing her name for quite some time.

Watch The Mockingbird that Fell from the Highest Branch here.

Top photo by Unknown

Art Director Hanna Petersson brings unique touch to packaging

Hanna Petersson is not like other art directors. She is constantly adapting, looking for a new challenge with each new day. Her style is influenced by her Swedish heritage. Scandinavian design is very scaled back, simplistic and focuses on form and function together rather than just putting things into a design solely as decoration. For Petersson, each part of a design must have a purpose, and if it does not, she knows exactly how to give it one. That is what makes her such an outstanding talent, and why she is known internationally for what she does.

At just 23, Petersson has put her artistic touch on some of the world’s largest brands. She has collaborated with many teams, creating imagery and customer engagement for Samsung, Swedish Match, and more. Her artwork captivates, and her individual exhibition at the House of Culture in central Stockholm garnered a lot of attention and earned her quite the fan base. She uses illustrations to tell a story, and uses her talent to help many brands increase sales.

“As an art director, it is incredibly important to research the client and the target audience and to create content based off of this that is rooted in facts and human truths. A design can look amazing, but unless that design is perfectly suited to the client and target audience the design is useless. What I need to make sure is that I always do my homework on whatever project I may work on, that I am passionate about it, and that I make sure that every detail is perfect before going into the physical production of the idea. The art director comes up with an idea and is in charge of directing it all the way from idea to finalized product. It is a great responsibility and a big challenge, but also incredibly rewarding and interesting to work on,” Petersson described.

Having worked with reputable retail agencies like WorkShop and Grey, Petersson also recently worked with AdPlant. With the company, she worked on a variety of projects to create visual development and branding for big companies, which will be released next year.  Although the official projects can’t be mentioned for this reason, Petersson’s work with the company astounded all she worked with.

“Hanna is an excellent creative talent. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Hanna as both an illustrator and a communication creative for AdPlant network. She is a quick, smart person who pays attention to details in her handicraft. She is a warm and kind person who will ‘run that extra mile’ to deliver pitch perfect creative work,” said Marcus Enström, Founder of AdPlant and Lead Creative.

Petersson’s work greatly impressed AdPlant’s client. Despite not yet being released, the project she worked on has already had a lot of success, and the client is looking to have similar projects follow this one. They know it will be a hit, and they want to work with Petersson and AdPlant again after such a successful collaboration. The product category is one of the most sold in Sweden, and the designs Petersson has produced are one of a kind. They will undoubtedly increase sales and attract new customers to try the product. Petersson knew exactly how to please the company and potential customers at the same time, which is quite the challenge for many art directors.

To do this, she first had to identify exactly what was needed. In this case, it was a series of packaging designs with a unique set of illustrations that she would produce. She then needed to create a new set of color combinations to be used that would not only communicate the right feeling, but also easily convey what the product is and what it stands for. According to Petersson, designing a series of new products within the same category means that they must all be similar to each other and feel like a series, but they need to stand out from each other and be the most unique at the same time. Finding that balance takes some time and a lot of work goes into just coming up with an extraordinary amount of different variations and suggestions that then will be used to decide exactly what the finished product should look like. The process took Petersson quite a long time, because the client wanted to make sure that they were a part of the process every step of the way and got their say in the final product. As Petersson is known for her excellent communication skills, this was not a problem, and she knew exactly what they wanted before they even had to say it.

“This was a blast to work on because I really got to improve a design style I had dipped my toes in not too long before. What was also great was that I knew that these designs would be seen by hundreds of thousands of people in their everyday lives and that my work would be one of the main reasons for the success of the products,” said Petersson.

After seeing Petersson’s previous designs, Enström approached the art director knowing she would be a necessity for the success of his upcoming project. Petersson had previously done a project where she designed and sold apparel through her own shop. These designs were unique, and the founder of AdPlant later found the project in an online shop and asked her if she was interested in working on a project using a similar style of design. Despite working on other projects at the time, Petersson said yes to AdPlant. She was immediately interested in working on the project when she heard about it, and wanted to work on a packaging design project that would be a vital part in the sales of a company. She knew she would be able to influence what the design of the product category could look like and innovate the category from what it was at the time.

“It was very nice to hear that a company was interested in my designs and talents and therefore I was very happy to work on the project from the start since I knew that they wanted me specifically and therefore trusted my opinions, which let me have more freedom in my work and to really push the designs further,” said Petersson. “That I got this responsibility was a great honor and it really allowed me to trust more in myself and my skills. Not only was this a great project from an art perspective, but also from a work experience perspective as I got to communicate with a very large, international company and that they got to see my work directly,” she concluded.

Petersson’s advertising experience and her natural artistic talents make her the perfect art director. She will undoubtedly continue bringing success to anything she works on, and is definitely one to watch.

Actress Marysia Peres dives into ‘The Mystery of Britannic’

In life, one must constantly be learning. No one will ever know everything there is to know, and this realization is what keeps us humble. For Marysia Peres, acting is the very same. She constantly sees what she does as a learning opportunity. This acceptance and realization is what makes her so extraordinary. There is no role that doesn’t excite her, as each comes with its own set of challenges to overcome. She is constantly working at being better, and as she is already one of Malta’s best actresses, this is no easy feat.

Whether it be modelling or acting, Peres is always at the top of her game. As a model, she has worked all around the world, showing off fashion trends and styles with large brands in many countries. As an actress, she has impressed international audiences, whether in the blockbuster Assassin’s Creed alongside Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, or the romantic travel tale Love to Paradise. No matter what she embarks on, she impresses both audiences and colleagues. Jonathan Pyatt, a fellow actor, has worked work Peres on four short films, as well as a commercial photoshoot for Vodafone. He believes she is a one-of-a-kind actress.

“It is always a pleasure to work with Marysia because she’s very professional, focused and dedicated to giving her best performance. She is very good at receiving feedback from directors and incorporating it onto her performance, as well as at communicating with her fellow actors. She has a good combination of intense focus and seriousness while also incorporating a nice sense of humor when appropriate, which is an important trait to help keep moods light at times during long filming days. I am always grateful when I sign on to be part of a project in which she’s also taking part because I know that it will help to elevate my performance,” said Pyatt. “Compared to other young actors that I’ve worked with locally, Marysia is the most dedicated and hard working. She also has a strong passion for the craft of acting and sees it not only as a job, but also as an art form. Due to the fact that she enjoys the process so much, she can perform at a very high level. She has a willingness to bring parts of herself into every role, which leads to authentic performances.”

Most recently, Pyatt and Peres worked together on the upcoming TV documentary mini-series The Mystery of Brittanic. The series, produced by U-Film, tells the story and research of the wreckage of the Britannic, the sister ship of Titanic, which shared the fatal fate of its predecessor during the World War I. The ship sank near Kea in the Aegean Sea on the 21st of November 1916. The project has two parts: underwater footage of the Britannic, the sister ship of Titanic that sank in 1916 near Kea in the Aegean Sea, and the re-enactment part of the tragic events. The reenactment portion follows the adventures of the volunteer nurse Eleonora Morrison (Nelly), played by Peres.

“The entire world knows about the Titanic, and I believe the Britannic deserves the same honor. It is a sister ship of the Titanic, it was used as a hospital vessel during WWI, and its story is both terrifying and fascinating. I am very happy that U-Film researched the wreckage site and decided to tell the story of this ship. I believe it will be both educational and entertaining for the audiences,” said Peres.

The character of Nelly was very complex and interesting for Peres to dive into. She is from an upper-class family, but against her family’s wishes she joins the Brittanic as a volunteer nurse. Her eagerness to help people takes her on a journey that changes her life forever. There is both strength and vulnerability to the character of Nelly; shy and introverted on the surface, she is brave and full of love and empathy on the inside. In the show, Nelly is the main character of the story. The re-enactment part of the docudrama is told from her perspective, and she is always in the center of events. The script follows her adventures, relationships, accomplishments and struggles. For Peres, is great to see such a female-driven story, and her embodiment of the character is essential for the show’s audience engagement. Her portrayal already impressed those she worked with, and will undoubtedly do the same with viewers.

“Marysia is a very easy-going and friendly person. Whilst shooting scenes it turned out to be very natural for both of us as we have already had a good chemistry. It was an honor working with Marysia and I do hope we will cross paths again in the near future. She is a very focused, ambitious, determined person and a very talented actress to say the least,” said Jeanette Cutajar, Actress.

Peres has always loved historical films, and when she had the opportunity to be a part of the show, she knew she had to take it. Initially, she was interested in a supporting role, but the director was so impressed with her talents, he wanted her as the lead. Peres was eager for the challenge, as she had never been a part of a docuseries before.

The Mystery of Britannic was a big budget production with a lot of comprehensive sets and filming in the open waters. It was the biggest local project of the year in Malta. Some days provided unique challenges for Peres: the cast was soaking wet in the cold, swimming and overcoming obstacles while trying to escape the sinking ship. She also had a day in the open sea, where her character swam in a dress while carrying along her best friend. Peres wanted to do the role justice, and extensively prepared. She researched the history of the time period, especially regarding Vera Brittain, a volunteer nurse on the Brittanic, reading her memoir Testament of Youth. These first-hand experiences greatly impacted the way Peres portrayed Nelly, and the authenticity is evident in the show. For Peres, her passion for the project eclipsed everything else.

“One of my favorite days on the project was when we filmed Nelly leaving her home and family to volunteer on the Britannic. The location was Palazzo Parisio, a beautiful venue in Malta, usually used for weddings and specials events. It was a spectacular day, full of beautiful costumes, family drama and decision-making for the character of Nelly. I also clearly remember the day we filmed in the open sea. The water was cold, and the sun was burning, we were filming the sequence when Nelly and her friends finally reach the lifeboat. It was such an emotional moment for all the characters, and although challenging to film in the open waters, it was truly special and memorable for me too,” said Peres.

The Mystery of Brittanic is currently in post-production and with the distribution company Fairway Film Alliance in Los Angeles. It will be released early next year.

 

Photo by AJ Singh

LIVI ZHENG LAUNCHED TEASER IN WORLD BANK AND IMF ANNUAL MEETING. Washington, D.C.

untitled-1956-Edit-SOThere was no better time to launch the Bali: Beats of Paradise teaser than during the 2017 Annual Meetings of the World Bank Group and the IMF, Washington D.C. last week.

 

Bali: Beats of Paradise is a gamelan-themed film directed by Livi Zheng, Indonesian film director in the United States. Gamelan is Indonesian traditional music. Balinese gamelan has been used internationally as in the film Avatar directed by James Cameron. According to a Los Angeles Times article, “The gamelan is Balinese…A lot of the percussion for “Avatar” is gamelan-based or sounds gamelan-based … It’s a very pretty fusion of different worlds that gives the place itself a quality that is magical. Using it for percussion, rather than drums or other things, gives a sort of magical glow to everything.”

 

Bali, Indonesia will be hosting the 2018 Annual Meetings of the World Bank Group and the IMF. Livi Zheng was appointed to be a spokesperson to represent Indonesia at the 2017 Annual Meeting of the World Bank Group and the IMF Global Media Gathering alongside Managing Director of the World Bank Group (2010-2016), current Republic of Indonesia Minister of Finance, Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Republic of Indonesia Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister, Luhut B. Panjaitan, and Bank Indonesia Governor, Agus Martowardojo.

 

Livi recently directed a feature film in Bali entitled Bali: Beats of Paradise. The film is scheduled for a 2018 theatrical release in US cinemas. During filming Livi and her film crew spent a few weeks with the local people. Travelling around Bali they captured the beautiful scenery Bali is famous for but more importantly, they learned how central culture and traditions are in everyday life. For the Balinese, life is a celebration. Each morning the Balinese are seen giving offerings; this is one of the ways they celebrate life. Livi notes that for Balinese, music and art are part of life. In Balinese life there are several important celebrations such as one’s birthday, adulthood, marriage, and even when one passes away. Beyond those central ceremonies there are numerous others encountered almost daily when travelling around Bali. Balinese ceremonies are very festive and are always accompanied by gamelan, the traditional Balinese music

 

Bali: Beats of Paradise teaser can be viewed at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iiHJjqhrAUA&t=5s

DISPLAYING THE DISTANCE: RUIXI GAO

Anyone who has been in a long distance relationship will relate to the film “Distance.” Whether it’s romantic or platonic, being separated from those you love is difficult, particularly when you are on opposite sides of the planet. To communicate the feeling in images, director Haixiao Lu enlisted Ruixi Gao to take the helm as cinematographer. Based on her previous work in productions like Last Call, Locked, Under the Pieces, and others, Lu was confident that Ruixi could deliver the sentiment and creativity he was looking for; a notion that was proven correct when “Distance” earned wins at the 2017 Hollywood Film Competition, the LA Shorts Awards, and the NYC Indie Film Awards (earning the Best Short Film). Gao is justifiably proud of the look of the film. What it lacked in big budget financing, Ruixi made up for in creativity, tenacity, and good old fashioned hard work; it’s a situation she often prefers as it requires her to prove her ability to deliver an exemplary product regardless of the monetary factor. The slick look and beautiful vibe of the film belie any struggle to make it. While the storyline of “Distance” may be painful and the process of making it hard fought, watching the film is completely effortless and enjoyable.

The perennial theme of the movie is love, in particular a long distance relationship between young lovers. While in China, a young Korean girl meets a boy and the fall in love. When her love goes to study in LA she is understandably heartbroken. They go about living separate lives while still in the relationship. While it is difficult, they FaceTime every day. Inevitably the spacial distance and their busy lives take a toll, creating an emotional space between them. With a grand romantic gesture to surprise him, the girl flies to LA but finds him in the embrace of another woman. In a letter, she tells the boy that the memory of their love will endure but the relationship cannot, at least it cannot for her. In the final frames we see the two former lovers returning to the places they were in the beginning of the film but appearing changed. While this story is not new, the way it is communicated is done with such grace and beauty that it elicits a transcendent beauty and pain which cause it to be markedly different than similar films that preceded it.

While many filmmakers romanticize over the days of actual film, Gao feels that the digital age has empowered many cinematographers to create a higher quality of imagery in films within greater time and budget constraints. Even more, the transition from film to digital has allowed DPs to create looks previously impossible. The result is the transition to a new age of a more realistic sensory experience, a richer color screen, and new innovation opportunities. Rather than a detriment, Ruixi considers the advantages of digital to be a powerful tool to be used in the appropriate manner. That said, she is fond of using an analog methodology when it is called for…as she did with an important aspect of “Distance.” When the director (Haixiao) told Gao he wanted to have a split screen simultaneously showing the male character in LA and the Female in Korea, Ruixi experimented with different ways of achieving this for the film. She reveals, “It’s always a challenge when you want to achieve the look of a big budget film on a smaller budget but I honestly feel that there is no substitute for being creative. I studied and researched a lot of different methods for doing a split screen. I did camera test before the shooting and then showed the director my experimental video. I simply covered up half camera’s screen(monitor) and then combined the two in post-production, placing one on the bottom. Together they made a perfect complete picture. There are many ways to shoot. Working with the editor gives a variety of means to achieve the effects needed for this.”

distance 01

While the filming was done in one city, it was Ruixi’s job to make sure that the main characters appeared to be in locations on opposite sides of the planet. The moods of the boy and the girl would also need to be passively communicated to relate the emotional mood of the characters. Gao used a simple lighting design for the film with low key lighting and a soft filter for the Korean girl and a somewhat more revealing and higher key lighting for the boy in Los Angeles. Gao professes that a simple design is typically the stronger one in her estimation, which director Haixiao Lu agrees with. He notes, “Anyone who has seen Ruixi’s reel will attest to how attractive it is. She has this innate ability to find the natural beauty in all things, which is always the most honest and powerful when it comes to visual imagery. I did not hesitate to seek her out to be the DP on this film once I saw the reel. She really knows how to work with a director. She is a passionate artist and working with her is exciting because of this. Talent such as hers is rare.”

Ruixi Gao is a reminder to all in the film community that embracing a “hands on” approach to innovation can mean using traditional tools or the most advanced ones available. The only rule that is important in art is the constant pursuit of it. The form is elevated by those who take risks and follow their own muse. While Gao may have learned from others, she forges ahead with an open mindedness that serves her and those she works alongside well. The pain that one feels when watching “Distance” would not be as intense and ironically enjoyable without the look this cinematographer has created for us.

distance03