Actor Jeff Parazzo’s Artistic Authenticity

While Jeff Parazzo first made his professional bones in children’s television, the ambitious young actor unfailingly projects a forceful dramatic presence. The Canadian-born Parazzo imbues each role with an impressive mix of skill and instinct, and whether it’s a soul-searching dramatic feature like The Waiting Room or the dark science fiction of powerful short film Celsius 486, Parazzo deftly creates convincing characterizations that unfailingly display a rich measure of nuance and emotion.

It’s a striking combination of deft technique and natural instinct that Parazzo realized was his vocation early in life

“I was always fascinated by films and found myself enjoying drama class way back when I was in school, “Parazzo said. “When I finished my studies it just felt natural to start taking professional workshops.”

Born and raised in Toronto, he has been acting for the better part of two decades and has a strong resume of professional training.

“I’ve continually trained in Canada and Southern California,” Parazzo said “I was fortunate to work with the acclaimed Canadian coach David Rottenberg in Toronto and, in Los Angeles, with Michelle Danner from the Larry Moss Studio, as well as the Edgemar Centre for the Arts in Santa Monica.”

Early in his career, Parazzo jumped right in with a recurring co-lead in a very popular, action packed series. “I’m best known for my work as Trent Mercer, the White Dino Thunder Ranger on the Hit kids TV show Power Rangers Dino Thunder,” Parazzo said. “I went on to do the critically acclaimed Canadian indie Late Fragment as well as many more TV and film credits over the years.”

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The ease with which Parazzo transitioned from the Power Rangers glossy, fantasy adventure into the eccentric, innovative Late Fragment significantly raised the actor’s professional profile and his subsequent, fast rising stack of credits is a testament to the both his talent and broad appeal.

“For The Waiting Room, I just got a call from my agent saying they were interested in meeting me.”  Parazzo said. “At the audition the lead actor and I just played around and improvised a bunch of different thing, and a few days later I was booked. It was so fun, I’ve always loved doing indie films. There’s a freedom that comes with working on an indie that’s hard to experience on bigger studio productions—I’ve got an indie heart, so working on these types of films, with creative filmmakers, is all I could ask for.”

Parazzo’s skills once again allowed him to craft a wholly believable performance.

“I worked with Jeff on The Waiting Room, which tells the story of a once successful actor, Jasmin, who struggles in his older age to find roles,” actor-director Jordan Barker said. “Jeff played the role of Teller, who has an endearing conversation with Jasmin and comforts him in his current situation, He was so focused on the material that it didn’t feel like acting at all—just another character existing.”

Next up for Parazzo was grim sci-fi thriller Celsius 486, set in a distant overpopulated future where a government mandated sterilization program targets males  arbitrarily deemed  undesirable.

Celsius 486 was demanding but creatively fulfilling because we were working on such a tight schedule,” Parazzo said. “Everything had to be shot over a 2 day period and, as the lead whose eyes you see the story through, I was basically in for every scene.”

Typically, Parazzo not only exceled but also enhanced the production.

“Celsius 486 is where I first worked with Jeff Parazzo,” writer-producer Christos Petsis said. “Jeff flourished in this role which was a very demanding character. It was amazing to see how real he made the role feel, adding a deep strength to the character that we had not seen on the page.”

Here, Petsis’ aptly summarizes the actor’s approach; a gift for creating a comprehensive dramatic presentation which Parazzo, who can currently be seen in Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut Molly’s Game starring Jessica Chastain, unfailingly achieves. It’s an essential quality for any onscreen portrayal—a subtle, particular brand of aesthetic sensitivity which Parazzo very consciously nurtures.

“I enjoy doing projects of all genres,” Parazzo said. “But I do seem to be drawn to roles that are offbeat and stylized, dealing with interesting themes, and characters that are slightly off center. I just want to continue to learn and communicate my work truthfully, authentically, while never forgetting that I am just one piece of the whole story telling puzzle.”

 

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Graphic Designer Suzy van der Velden beautifully captured surf lifestyle for O’Neill

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Designer Suzy van der Velden

Suzy van der Velden was just six years old when her father made her first desk. It was then when her creativity awoke. She could sit at her desk and spend the day drawing whatever came to her. She still does this today, however, it is often for some of the world’s biggest brands.

Van der Velden has quickly become one of the best Dutch graphic designers. She has established herself through her impressive work with Lululemon, Oilily, and more. When working with the internationally successful sporting wear brand O’Neill, van der Velden once again showed the world what she was capable of.

“I wanted to be part of O’Neill because it’s a brand with a rich heritage. Not a lot of brands have a real story, but O’Neill does and it’s a great one. Rooted in surf, it’s founder Jack O’Neill has changed and touched the lives of many by inventing the wetsuit. That mindset of innovation and to see how we can enjoy nature for longer is something that really attracted me to the brand. As an outdoor enthusiast, I love spending time exploring nature and to be part of a brand that views nature as a playground is an amazing thing,” said van der Velden.

While with O’Neill, van der Velden was responsible for all artwork for the Women’s & Girls collection, including swim wear, snow jackets, lifestyle, outerwear and collaborations such as Liberty London. With such a vast range of work, she researched the different categories extensively, looking to find what the best print techniques were, what was suitable for them, and how to push the limits to innovate and what the trends were. With a shift towards craftsmanship in the company, van der Velden was then free to use her creative freedom, producing the high-quality artwork she is known for, which was more expressive and pushed the brand forward. She worked to create an image for each specific product, as well as the brand as a whole.

“For Swim, I would design in a different way than for a Snow jacket so to say. This could have to do with scale, but also the esthetic would differ and use of color. This made the role interesting and never dull. I became a specialist in knowing what was the best way to approach all the different categories,” she described.

Van der Velden’s passion for the brand was evident in each piece of work she produced. She designs with the end customer in the back of her mind, and at O’Neill she gained a strong understanding of the action sport industry and the lifestyle that goes with it. The energy of the board sports, she says, is reflected in the collections, making it a really diverse and fun environment to be in. Van der Velden also travelled frequently for work, and she really got to see how the brand was appreciated beyond just the walls of her office. She immediately noticed the team spirit from those that wear it.

“I loved the fact that the product I worked on gave people the opportunity to enjoy what they loved most. My greatest reward was being able to see my designs come to life and seeing people wear my clothes in all areas around the world,” she said.

It wasn’t just customers that were impressed with what van der Velden produced. She was able to take trends and translate them into her work in a way that made sense for the brand, greatly contributing to its success. She consistently hit the right tone for each specific product, and her artistic instincts were greatly appreciated by all she worked with.

“It was great working with Suzy and I personally really enjoyed it. She was very well respected by the entire team and had an easy yet professional nature. I found that Suzy could bring a graphic story and direction across with natural authenticity and could get people to buy into the big picture with her simple but very educated communication style,” said David Henry, the Global Snow Performance Product Manager and European Accessories Product Manager at O’Neill. “Three words spring to mind when I think of Suzy: easy going, knowledgeable, and professional. Suzy was always on top of things and this gave me confidence that we were on the right track. She was also always open to others point of view and the resulted in meetings that were well balanced. Suzy always brought a sense of calm with sometimes big egos and I really liked that about her.”

Initially, van der Velden wanted to work at O’Neill for the experience, but it quickly became much more than that. As soon as she started working at O’Neill, she knew she wanted to stay a part of the team of young talented individuals with a passion for action sports. Although it was initially a temporary position, van der Velden’s work ethic and talent quickly impressed, and she was offered a permanent spot not long after.

Van der Velden also was inspired by the story of the founder, Jack O’Neill, who invented the wetsuit. This allowed people to surf in all areas of the world that were never able to otherwise. The goal of the company is to ensure people can surf no matter the water temperature. Their mission is ‘to surf longer’. O’Neill is known for its extraordinary athletes that are always pushing the boundaries, causing people to always be engaged to what the brand is going to do next. Van der Velden’s designs captured those ideals perfectly.

“Innovation is in the brands DNA and this makes sure O’Neill is ahead of the game, plus there is always an element of fun keeping it light,” said van der Velden.

The six years van der Velden spent at O’Neill, were in her words, a “blast.” However, it was always the inspiring story of Jack O’Neill that appealed to her, which she describes as timeless.

“Jack O’Neill passed away on the second of June of this year. It’s sad to see such a legend pass away, but I’m grateful for what he has built and that I’ve been able to be a part of the experience in a way,” she concluded.

Producing artists through hit songs with Rafael “Lhast” Alves

When an artist releases a song to the public, people are often quick to judge whether or not they enjoy it. They take the song at face value, listen to it one or two times, and decide whether or not it is something they’d like to purchase or to play again. Regardless of whether or not they feel as though the song is a hit or not, they attribute its quality to the artist or band that released it. What they typically fail to consider are the teams behind these artists and how much hard work and dedication goes into bringing a track or an album to the public. It takes ensembles of skilled composers, songwriters, editors, and more to carefully piece together each and every aspect of the project. Potentially the most important of these roles lies in the caliber of the producer on the track, a job that Portuguese producer Rafael “Lhast” Alves knows better than most.

The role of a producer is intricate, and requires a well-developed, refined skill set to achieve success. Producers are responsible for a number of crucial roles such as brainstorming and gathering ideas for a project, finding ways to change or improve song arrangements, coaching artists during and outside of studio time, acquiring session musicians, leading and directing recording sessions, and much more. Essentially, producers are in charge of supervising the entire process of recording a song and ensuring that the artist or band that they are working with are more than content with the final product. Lhast, who has always been passionate about building a career out of his love for music, has spent his entire life learning how to master these skills and adapt them to every artist he works with. Throughout his time working as a producer, he has lent his talents to artists like Richie Campbell on his song “Do You No Wrong,” which received over 12 million views on YouTube, a Platinum Record Award for over 15,000 sales, as well as a nomination for a Portuguese Golden Globe. His reputable production style has also helped artists like Joao “Valas” Valido rise to fame. After Lhast both composed and produced Valas’ hit song, “As Coisas,” Valas was nominated for Up-And-Coming Artist at the New Era Awards and was the song that lead him to be signed by Portugal Universal. He is well versed in his art form and he is known for his ability to shed greatness upon the projects of the artists he works with.

In 2016, following the world-wide success of “Do You No Wrong,” Lhast was approached by Diogo Picarra to produce his song “Historia.” Knowing that Picarra was already a major artist in Portugal, Lhast knew that this would be a solid addition to his career. Picarra briefed Lhast on his vision for the song and Lhast was instantly confident that he was the best producer for the job. When artists approach him about a project, Lhast is always careful to ensure that he fully grasps the intentions of the artist but that he uses his own affinity for hit-making to refine the artist’s vision and target their intended audience strategically. He has a keen understanding of the industry and he takes great care to professionally propose any changes to the song arrangements that he sees fit. At the time that Picarra recruited Lhast, he already had the composition prepared. He was simply looking for a producer to take his groundwork on the single to the next level. Fortunately for Picarra, Lhast added his flare to the song’s elements and was likely the reason that Picarra went on to receive widespread recognition amongst fans and fellow artists alike.

“It was a very smooth process. Since Picarra already had the demo and composition for the song, I had the exciting task of adjusting these pieces to produce a five star, quality track. I suggested that we move the arrangement to draw attention in different areas and ironed out a lot of minor, yet important details. I also felt it necessary to record some other instruments on the track. In all, I wanted to make sure that the whole experience was sonically fresh and had great quality,” Lhast said.

High quality is exactly what the track had. 7 million YouTube views and a Gold Record for over 5,000 sales later, Picarra is still buzzing about what he and Lhast accomplished together. This, however, is not an unusual reaction for the artists that Lhast works with. His reputation has grown because of the way in which he conducts his work and his ability to guide his artists along the right path. Take Valas for instance. After years of working with Lhast on several different projects, he still finds himself impressed by his skills as a producer. He credits Lhast with his growth as an artist, and knows that he was instrumental to the success of his career so far.

“Rafael is a producer with great attention to detail and knowledge of the various listeners we try to target. Beyond that, I think he really stands out for his understanding of the public’s emotional response to a piece of work and how they will connect with it. He juggles the technical aspects of a song, as well as the emotional ones and the results are profound. I think he knows how to bring out the best in me and he is so incredibly in tune with what I’m trying to express through my music,” told Valas.

While artists find joy working with Lhast, his pleasure extends beyond that. He loves the open challenge that each new project presents and that there aren’t many rules regulating his creative mind. Despite the competition that surrounds him, he firmly believes that through hard work and persistence, great projects will find him. He sets his efforts toward perfecting his skill at any chance he gets and building discipline in the process. He is motivated every day and he truly loves what he does. He hopes that one day, he will be one of the greatest producers in the world. Maybe he will, or maybe his talents will steer him toward other great titles; however, one thing is for sure, he will stop at nothing to find out.

Leading Chinese Composer Min He transports audiences to North China in ‘Jin Zhu Xi Yan’

When watching your favorite movie, the score is what truly creates the emotion behind each scene. Check out videos on YouTube where iconic clips from films have different music in the background, completely changing the feeling you have when watching. As a composer, Min He sees her role in filmmaking as more than simply writing music. For the Chinese native, a score is a second layer of dialogue. Her notes strung together act as sentences in their own way, making you laugh or cry, and feel scared, happy, or suspenseful; she is a dramatist. This understanding of such nuances is what makes He so talented at what she does, and it is why she is so sought-after around the world.

“I wanted to be a professional composer because music is such a beautiful thing in my world. I wanted to be able to create any kind of music I felt like,” said He.

Although He is a classically trained composer, she has created a distinctive and unique sound that separates her from her peers. She composes in a hybrid style, combining tradional instruments with a synthesizer, and even designs her own sounds to feature in her compositions. Examples of this can be heard in her work for the popular iPhone game Pursuit of Life 2, and the films Princess Eun Hwa, and Snow. Her work on the animation film Ever Star lead to outstanding success, and resulted in the film being an Official Selection at the Official Selection- Northwest Animators Showcase, Animex Awards 2015, 10th Annual Children’s Film Festival Seattle 2015, Sarasota Film Festival, International Animation Festival CHILEMONOS 2015, Festimation Festival, The World Animation Celebration, and the Geneva International Film Festival.

“I had the immense pleasure working of working with Min on Ever Star. I like how delicate her music is, and all the melodies she composed are all from deep within her heart, it was so touching, and many audience members approached me after watching the film to ask to listen to more of Min’s music. Without Min’s beautiful music, my movie is nothing,” said Yawen Zheng, the animator and director of Ever Star.

This trend of captivating fans with her music occurs with every project the award-winning composer works on. On the film No Smoking (Jin Zhi Xi Yan, 禁止吸烟) He once again provided audiences the wonderful sense of escapism that comes from listening to her compositions. The film, directed by Xinwen Dong and Gang Wu, was an opportunity for He to work in one of her favorite genres: comedy.

The film premiered in January of 2014, and was released in theatres in China. It was extremely well-received, screening at the Shanghai Film Festival 2014 where the directors were nominated for the Asian New Talent Award. The film then went on to be broadcasted on the very popular Chinese television station CCTV-6 (China Central Channel). Now, it is on the famous live streaming service, 1905.com, where it holds a record of 1,750,000 views.

When the directors were looking for a composer to help bring their film to great success, they immediately thought of He and the esteemed reputation she holds not only in China, but internationally as well. She is not only a composer, but also an orchestrator, and knowing this, they approached her to work on the film. They had immense trust in her work ethic and music, and that faith was justified. Without her, the film could not have achieved what it did. Her music brought the audience into the world that the movie presents, and because this is a comedy, many funny scenes that make audience laugh out loud did so with He’s compositions. She tried to make funny sounding melodies to add a fun part to the movie, and she succeeded.

“I really like to explore new area of music style that I never touched and working with different instrumentalists and learning new instruments are very fun parts of music creation. Every time I delivered some cues to the directors, I not only got approval, but also praise. It was very satisfying,” she said.

The story of the film takes place in North West China, an exotic part of the country with beautiful natural scenery, and a different culture than the rest of the country. He wanted her music to represent the geography in the film. She extensively researched the area’s music, including their folk songs, and native instruments. The composer enjoys expanding her realm of knowledge, learning about new styles that she has never encountered before, keeping her humble. This research was fruitful, and her score truly transports audiences to the area of China. To find out more, however, He says you will have to watch the movie.

“I think the film is such a good story and everyone should see it,” she concluded.

Head to 1905.com to laugh out loud watching No Smoking and listen to He’s beautiful work.

Actor Profile: Ukraine’s Jane Kapriss!

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Actress Jane Kapriss shot by Chia Messina

Award-winning actress Jane Kapriss is known for her performances in an impressive range of films such as the romcom  “Mac Daddy & the Lovers,” which took home the Golden Reel Award from the Nevada International Film Festival, the film’s sequel “Mac Daddy’s Vegas Adventure,” Geraldine Winters’ (“Clownstrophobia,” “Clownstrophobia 2”) thriller film “Psycho-Path: Mania” with multi-award winning actor Keith Collins (“Gravedigger,” “Awake in the Woods”) and many more.

Originally from Kiev, Ukraine Jane knew from a very young age that she would someday embark on a career as an actress.

Jane recalls, “I was interested in acting since I was a little girl. When I was 13, my mom took me to the audition at a modeling agency. They signed me and… later the agency sent me to the World Championships of Performing Arts to compete in the modeling category. I begged them to allow me to compete as an actress as well. Thankfully, they did. And as a result I won bronze medal for acting. After that acting has always been my priority.”

It’s not at all surprising that the Veni Vidi Vici modeling agency signed Jane on the spot, she is absolutely gorgeous, but it’s her talent as a performer that has ultimately put her on the map.

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Jane Kapriss on set of “Hand For Luck”

Early on in her career Jane landed a lead role in the popular Ukrainian feature film “Hand for Luck” aka “Ruka na Schaste,” where she starred alongside some of Russia’s most recognizable actors, such as Nina Antonova (“Polar Fight,” “Iron Ivan”), Golden Eagle and People’s Artist of the Republic Award winner Armen Dzhigarkhanyan (“Assassin of the Tsar,” “The Edge”) and MTV Movie Award Russia nominee Oskar Kuchera (“20 Cigarettes,” “Law of Corruption”).

A criminal action comedy, “Hand for Luck” follows Grinya (Kuchera), a shy loser who loses his hand after being run over by a car; but as luck would have it, the hospital has a fresh hand on deck to replace it– the only problem is that it came from a gangster who died in an explosion that same day, and once it’s on Grinya’s body, it tries to control the show pulling him into the life of it’s former owner.  To make matters more complex, the hand comes equipped with a ring engraved with the last 4 digits of wire transfer password that every criminal in the city wants to get their hands on. Unable to remove the ring, Grinya becomes a prime target, but with the hand of a gangster leading the way he becomes the hardest loser any criminal has ever tried to catch.

Jane gave a knock-out performance in the film as Anastasiya, the niece of feared mafia boss Krestnyy (Dzhigarkhanyan), and the original owner of the ring. Bringing the comedy into the world of cut-throat gangsters, Jane’s character Anastasiya is a teenager who just wants to make-out with her boyfriend and pass midterms, but even when the criminal dealings of her uncle overflows into her normal teen life Anastasiya remains rather oblivious to it all.

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Still of Armen Dzhigarkhanyan and Jane Kapriss in “Hand for Luck”

Jane explains, “I loved this character. She was one of my favorites. It was very funny how oblivious she was to the crime world cause she grew up in. My favorite scene to act in was the scene where she enters their living room where the shy loser in on his knees at gunpoint about to get killed. There are gangsters with guns everywhere. And she disregards all that because she has to walk through the living room to pick up the pizza delivery.”

Jane’s portrayal of Anastasiya definitely lightens the mood in the film, while also driving home the idea that even a crime boss who kills people on a daily basis still has room in his heart for family and struggles through everyday problems such as making sure his niece doesn’t run off with her boyfriend.

Produced by Zebra Productions (“Dare to Dream”), “Hand for Luck” garnered an overwhelmingly positive reception in the Ukraine upon its theatrical release in 2008, which also helped to boost Jane’s celebrity status at home.

Producer German Arkhipov, head of Zebra Productions, says .“As soon as I read the script, I knew that Jane was the perfect fit for the role of Anastasiya. And I offered her the part right away. Jane is a magnificent actress, a true professional who can make the audience laugh and cry. It is a rare gift. As a producer, I have to be sure that my project has the best actors attached to provide further success of the show. Having Jane on board means that half of my work is done.”

After carving out a strong reputation for herself as a dynamic actress in Ukraine, Jane moved to the U.S. where her onscreen career has continued to flourish. Up next for the sought after actress is an upcoming TV sitcom directed by Lana Lekarinou (“The Sparkle”) and produced by Antonia Roman (“Altruism,” “Hollywood Tale”). While we cannot disclose too much, we can say that the sitcom is co-production between That`s So Funny Entertainment and LVP Films, INC., and Jane will take on the lead role of Kitsa.

“I just want to act as much as possible. It’s never enough for me. It might be a cliche to say, but when I’m acting, I feel that I’m alive. So I just want to have a chance to keep doing that,” explains Jane.

COMPOSER CREATES BEAUTIFUL MADNESS: SAI SRIRAM MADDURY

Anyone who has been driving around town at night with their friends when that “perfect” song comes on the stereo…the own which causes everyone in the car to go wild (it’s a universally shared experience) has a deep understanding of the ability of music to take any experience into the stratosphere. This is the same concept filmmakers apply to the score of their film, regardless of the genre. They may not want head banging of chair dancing but said filmmakers definitely want to use music’s power over the human psyche and body to deepen the impact of what they are exhibiting on the screen. Michael Helms, director & screenwriter of the film “Madness” did not originally want a score for his film about a military officer returning home and dealing with the psychological aftermath and trauma of what he’d seen and done. He felt that the solemnity that a lack of music communicates would be more disturbing to the audience than anything a composer could muster; that is…until he heard examples of composer Sai Sriram Maddury’s work.

“Madness” is about feeling out of place and the isolation and personal disruption to one’s psyche even when surroundings do not support this sense. In the story, a Military officer returns home while a radical militant group’s merciless killings continues to haunt him and his memory. On leave from a deployment Cliff (the main character), visits home to experience normal life with his pregnant wife Liz. During this time, his battle experiences monopolize his thoughts. Unable to integrate into “normal” life, Cliff discusses this with Liz and returns back to the army front.

Helms wanted to communicate Cliff’s inability to find a comfortable place in his life and his mind. He explained to Sai that the score for the film should be as minimal as possible in order to not disturb this isolated environment. While the two did not share a vocational language, the discussions were in no way cumbersome. Maddury describes, “Michael was very good in describing what he wanted. It’s always something of a challenge to understand what a director wants but I did not have that problem with Michael as he is very good in articulating want he needs from the film and story point of view. Music is a part of the storytelling process. When a filmmaker like Michael speaks to me in terms that discuss emotion and the mood that he wants to create, we become collaborators. For example, when he needed the score to underplay a particular scene in which a character reveals his past, Michael explained the reasons why the score needed to underplay and why that particular scene was so important for the film. This way I knew the exact point and reason why Michael wanted the score to underplay and this made it easy for me to find a way to create music that presents his vision. As a composer I prefer directors to explain what exactly they need in terms of story rather than in musical terms. If a director tends to use more musical language, I might take it in a traditional musical terminology but it might be not exactly what the director was referring to. This doesn’t happen when we discuss in terms of characters, story, importance of the scenes and use of words like underplay, overplay, busy, not too busy, intense, light etc.”

In line with the early vision of Helm’s, Sai matched his composition to the film with very simple drones to create ambiguity and uncomfortability. You can’t keep a true creative personality from receiving and interpreting emotion; after multiple viewings of the film, the composer began to recognize a glaring omission in his work. Maddury wanted to justify the story of the character and his past because this concept is the core of the film. When memories of past events and individuals disturb Cliff, his past becomes as important as the character itself.  Sai presented the idea of using Arabic chants and a rhythmic motif that represented these past. experiences. Michael conceded that he loved that idea and felt that it amplified the overall intensity of the film. The use of voice rather than instrumentation was a calculated decision by the composer. The idea to use Arabic chants rather than an instrument like Duduk or Persian Dulcimer was in order to prevent the score from sounding too ethnic. The film focuses on the main character’s state of mind and thoughts rather than scenes that display the war in the Middle East, this caused Sai to feel that the use of ethnic scales and instruments were not justified. Maddury’s reasoning for using chants is directly applicable to the storyline. It was his contention that the character might have heard these chants coming from the terror groups in the army front and these continue to haunt Cliff. In a style that he has become recognized for, Sai blended Western instrumentation with these chants for a score that it is not completely immersed in one singular culture.

Maddury is full embracing of the technological advancements that are afforded to a composer these days. While he is well versed in the last software and MIDI, sometimes old school is what works best. He wanted a rhythmic motif representative of a heartbeat. After exhausting countless samples (and blends of these), he began experimenting with a more analog approach. He reveals, “After trying numerous samples, I did not get the right tone I was looking for. I tried experimenting and recording the sounds of a wooden desk, empty wooden shelfs, etc. After trying almost every wooden furniture I could get my hands on, I ended up using the sound of the rear side of the upright piano. It has a great hollowness and created the perfect “heartbeat” like tone I wanted. It’s such a fine instrument, it seems somewhat wrong to use it in this manner but there are no rules when it comes to making the appropriate music for a film. When I played it for Michael, he immediately wanted me to use it in the score and that’s how it ended up as a main motif for the haunting memories of the character.”

Just as a filmmaker has a process that produces an emotional creation, so does Sai. Preceding a viewing of the film but following discussions with the director, he writes thematic suites. These suites represent the ideas and emotional interpretations based on the script. Once these have been played for the director and he has provided feedback, they are then tailored to the film during the spotting session. This is when the structure of the score, where more and less emphasis is needed, cues, etc. happens. Following this, Maddury actually starts writing to the picture. The process is multi layered and Sai openly states that a director who understands exactly what he wants and is confident about it makes them a composer’s best friend.

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“Madness” was officially selected and screened at the Full Bloom Film Festival 2016 Queen City Cinephiles.

RACHEL ZHOU DIRECTS A MULTINATIONAL NAIL BITER IN LOS ANGELES KIDNAPPING

China not only possesses an acclaimed and burgeoning film industry but also a huge number of movie goers and cinema fans who greatly contribute to a film’s international box office. There’s a good reason that you see many Chinese names in the credits of Hollywood films these days as well as an increasing number of the country’s talent appearing alongside Hollywood marquee names. The relationship between these film industries has been mutually beneficial artistically and financially. A key ingredient in this scenario is the ability of at least some of the professionals to communicate in both languages (sometimes multiple languages) whether in front of the camera or behind it. Rachel Zhou is a Chinese director well versed in American film. She has found herself working on numerous productions due to her talent and her command of both languages. Communication is key for a director when speaking with the actors, cinematographers, and other members of the film crew. It’s even more so when the same vision must be communicated clearly to a cast and crew who do not share the same native tongue. The China-US production Los Angeles Kidnapping enlisted her as a director due to their need of cross cultural assuredness in both the storyline and the performance of the off camera crew.

The occurrence of US/China film productions is becoming increasingly more prevalent. Directors who are both talented and at ease in communicating in both languages (Rachel speaks four languages) make them even more attractive these days. Zhou believes that the communication involved in a film production transcends even the spoken. Her goal is to have her team work together culturally and spiritually. Directing more than the film, she feels that it is her job to create a positivity, a sense of calm and confidence that permeates the very air of the working environment to sync the minds of all involved. Even though she possesses more than the appropriate verbal skills needed for all on her team, it’s Rachel contention that once she creates this “vibe” on set, everyone understands and anticipates the needs of the work.

Los Angeles Kidnapping is a Chinese story taking place in the US but the theme is universal. Through the experiences of Delger (played by Siyu Lu) the audience is asked the question, to what ends will one spend their life fixated on revenge. Motivated by avenging his brother’s death, Delger follows clues about the murder to Los Angles. As a graduate of the police academy, he both understands the law and is willing to work outside it as a result of his anger. Working undercover as an Uber driver in LA, he continues his investigation. When a friend of a friend is kidnapped by mobsters, Delger is enlisted to aid in the rescue. The experience and a surprising plot twist at the end of the story cause this protagonist to question whether a life solely focused on vengeance is one he is willing to live.

While the list of Zhou’s directing credits is extensive, her work on action films was not, prior to Los Angeles Kidnapping. She fully embraced the idea of the different approach required for the genre. Taking great care to design and discuss the film’s many action sequences with stunt coordinators for entertaining action designers, Rachel’s cast underwent extensive training for them film. While storylines of a more emotional nature are centered around the actors, action films present the action as a character in themselves. This includes crew members and professionals who specialize in the genre such as stunt coordinators, drone operators, traffic controllers etc. The film also gave Rachel a chance to use one of her favorite tools as she describes, “I’m into Steadicam shots a lot. When I direct an action/crime/drama, especially actions scenes, I prefer to go with Steadicam shots. Steadicam is a novel way to shoot a scene as it isolates the movement of the camera operator from the camera. Stabilizing mechanisms counter the movements of the camera operator to eliminate the inevitable imperfections present in handheld shooting. These work in an extremely powerful way since the Steadicam shots, compared to handheld shots, give a stronger sense of subjectivity with steady movements. The audience finds it easy to become engaged in the setup.”

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Los Angeles Kidnapping garnered a plethora of awards at such prestigious events as the London Independent Film Awards (2017), Miami Independent Film Festival (2017), Hollywood International Cine Fest (2017), Los Angeles Film Awards, and received an astounding 1.94 Million views on Iqiyi.com (China’s version of Netflix) which announced Zhou as an action director. Los Angeles Kidnapping’s producer Cleo Zou has an acclaimed career in China as a producer, working with the country’s most respected and successful stars like Jackie Chan. Cleo declares, “With Rachel on the set, I never had to worry about the shoot because she is such a highly-productive artist. She`s talented, smart, hardworking and humorous. She always knows what she wants and how to get it. We all love working with her. She possesses that ease of working with professionals from both cultures which enables everyone involved to relax and enjoy the process, which is when artists are able to deliver their very best.” It’s this tone that Rachel always strives for, in both big and little ways. She reveals, “Everyone works very hard on a film set. I feel it’s important for us to not only support each other but to lift the spirits of one another. I think there is always time to make it fun. When we were shooting a conversation scene in an alley for Los Angeles Kidnapping, the art department was asked to make wanted posters to place on the walls. Because those posters are never in focus, they made ones that said “Wanted, Giraffe” & “Wanted Dinosaur”, etc. It was a tight shoot that day but the funny posters made all of us laugh. It’s not only the little things that the audience appreciates but also the little things the professionals making the film like.”