Alastair Osment on His Craft And Working With Oscar-Winners

Not every actor gets to spend most of their time employed. Even more rare is an actor who gets to spend time on a critically lauded TV series. And even rarer than that? Acting opposite Academy-Award winners. Fortunately for him, Alastair Osment can say he has achieved all three, as this busy leading man recounts his rewarding experiences on highly esteemed shows like “Deadline Gallipoli”, “Home and Away” and “Top of the Lake” – all shot in Australia, and all loved the world-over.

Most recently, Alastair offered a scene-stealing turn playing the role of Morgan in the Golden-Globe winning series, “Top of the Lake: China Girl.” Besides two of his highlights being that he shared screen time with “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Mad Men” star Elisabeth Moss, as well as “Game of Thrones” fan-favorite Gwendoline Christie, it’s no surprise that a huge part of this project’s appeal was his chance to join a cast that included Oscar-winning superstar, Nicole Kidman. “Nicole is obviously a world-renowned actress with a huge career behind her; to meet her would be an honour for any actor, but to be in the same cast list as hers is an accomplishment of which I’m very proud.” Although it’s significant, Alastair’s role in “Top of the Lake” isn’t the only acting accomplishment for which he receives kudos in his native Australia. “Although the show winning awards is impressive, my job as an actor and in playing Morgan was to bring as much life to the character written on the page.”

Prior to his work on “Top of the Lake,” Alastair also played an incredibly important role in “Deadline Gallipoli,” a big-budget Australian mini-series that aired on the ‘Australian Home to HBO’, the Showcase network. “I personally love the Showcase network, so I was very excited to be working with them, along with the production company “Matchbox Pictures.” Also produced by “Avatar” superstar Sam Worthington, who also starred in the series, “Deadline Gallipoli” tells the story of journalists who struggle to report the true story of events occurring at Gallipoli during WWI in 1915. The period drama, which further featured Oscar-nominee Rachel Griffiths and Emmy-nominee Hugh Dancy in the cast, gave Alastair the opportunity to explore his country’s history and represent the ‘Australian everyman’ in the character of Melvyn.

Top-of-the-Lake-China-Girl-Key-Art-pic
Promotional shot for season 2 of the critically acclaimed drama, “Top of the Lake.” 
showcase-stacked-white-HBO
Alastair has a strong relationship with the Australian ‘Showcase’ network, Australia’s “home of HBO.”

The production, which was awarded multiple AACTA-Awards (Australia’s equivalent to the Oscars), was especially important to Showcase and Matchbox because it involved telling a story about an event that helped birth Australia’s identity. Alastair felt a responsibility to bring humanity to his character, as his character’s actions resulted in a monumental turning point in the psychology of the main character Charles Bean, played by actor Joel Jackson who stars opposite “Harry Potter” star Daniel Radcliffe in the upcoming film “Jungle.” Producers frequently talk deep respect when discussing the critical importance Alastair played in not only the success of the production, which averaged incredibly high ratings in Australia, but also story-wise.

“I brought pathos in the form of human loss and the loss of friendship, the scene where my best friend Arthur dies in my arms was described as one of the mini-series’ most heartbreaking and moving scenes.”

Deadline Gallipoli - Derik Lynch (Arthur) and Alastair Osment (Melvyn) 5_preview
Alastair Osment in a moving scene from “Deadline Gallipoli,” where he played the key role of Melvyn.
Deadline Gallipoli trailer
Alastair worked with “Game of Thrones” actor Charles Dance in “Deadline Gallipoli.”

It’s clear that Alastair embodies the typical Australian man, given his characters that live in the time of WWI up until modern day. In the hugely popular series “Home and Away”, a show on which “Thor” star Chris Hemsworth appeared in a lead role and a series that is sold in over 100 countries around the world, Alastair played the important role of Cal Jackson.

Alastair therefore not only shared his acting talents with viewers in Australia, but with countries like Ireland where “Home and Away” is the number one TV show and entertains millions with its storylines about the residents of a seaside town called “Summer Bay.” “I felt very fortunate to play Cal, because the trajectory of two other main characters hinged on my performance.” Indeed, as Cal, Alastair plays a university student who causes something of a love-triangle when Summer Bay High students visit an art gallery where Cal exhibits his artwork. The emotional depth Alastair portrayed in the storyline provided the foundation upon which writers and producers built a major story arc around the two leads’ relationship.

Home and Away - Philippa Northeast (Evelyn MacGuire), Alastair Osment (Cal Jackson) and Jackson Gallagher (Josh Barrett) 7_preview
Alastair caused quite the stir when he joined the cast of “Home and Away”

“Home and Away” star Nic Westaway, who appeared in 387 episodes of the show over four years, offers his thoughts for what makes Alastair a successful actor. “What makes Alastair truly extraordinary to work with is his generosity as an actor. He is always willing to work collaboratively to achieve the greatest outcome for the story and the production.”

The importance of Alastair’s roles in such highly-regarded television productions ironically seems small when compared to the rest of Alastair’s hugely impressive career. Alastair gives credence to the notion that actors are not merely ‘performers’, but storytellers and artists who need a finely-tuned instrument and highly refined understanding of the craft to inject humanity into what is otherwise just words on a page. The fact that Alastair Osment has worked on the same productions as Oscar, Golden-Globe and Emmy-winners is obviously impressive, but he has also shown how in the age of social media and Kardashian-culture, pedigree and skill build integrity and success.

 

Advertisements

STUNTWOMAN EBONY DE LA HAYE HAS AN EXCITING CAREER BUILT ON WATER

Film and TV 2

The saying goes, “Choose a job you love and you’ll never work another day in your life.” Those who have found a way to monetize their passion and interests are considered lucky. You could say that Ebony De La Haye is one of the lucky few but that would be a complete misnomer as luck has no part in her story. While still in the early stages of grade school, Ebony began training in her lifelong love of water skiing. Countless competitions and awards later, she took a foray into performing as a stuntwoman and morphed into a new career that became very successful. There’s no denying her ability to turn her love of what she does on the water into an internationally praised body of work, just as there is no denying her incredible abilities. For anyone who feels that you establish yourself and then sit back, De La Haye serves as an example that you are best served doing the antithesis of this. She has systematically built her beginnings as a child prodigy in waterskiing into that of an acrobatic/fight trained entertainer…sometimes doing so while delivering lines in an array of different languages. Whether it’s a calculated plan or simply her ability to continually embellish her skill set, Ebony is literally and figuratively constantly in motion.

When Ken Clark of Action Horizons contacted De La Haye about the position as stunt double for actress Kiersey Clemons in the film Sweetheart, she was already interested in more film work. The fact that filming was taking place in Fiji certainly didn’t dissuade her compulsion to accept the position. Ebony served double duty, arriving two weeks prior to filming to train Clemons for the scenes which would not allow for a stunt double. In addition to being a physical match for the stunt scenes, serving as a mentor/trainer to the actress strengthened the trust bond between the two…resulting in an ease of performance in the more physical scenes of the film. Director J.D. Dillard had worked to take full advantage of De La Haye’s abilities by creating highly dynamic fight scenes that incorporated weaponry and aerial wire work. Because the filming took place on an island, the rigging set ups had to be assembled on site in an environment atypical for normal productions. The film also contains a great deal of underwater work like scuba diving. Countless opportunities for danger required immense planning and preparation to ensure the safety of the cast and crew. These environments were familiar to Ebony, as was the climate (De La Haye spent time starring as the female lead Helen in Universal Studios Singapore’s live Waterworld production). She relates, “The climate in Fiji was very similar to Singapore. The sun took a toll on everyone but we took advantage of filming on an island and took lunch dips in the ocean. It was important to stay incredibly hydrated and take electrolytes in order to do the job with energy and focus. The ocean caused some difficulties as the water conditions were unpredictable. The cast and crew would travel to and from the island we filmed on by boat every day, sometimes in very rough water conditions. This was a daring task. We also encountered some difficulties with the unpredictability of the ocean when filming underwater scenes. Natural elements such as rain or tidal movement would affect water clarity and therefore the overall quality of the shot able to be produced on that day. We very much had to work in sync with mother nature.

This same skill set and exemplary performance led Action horizons to enlist De La Haye to become a part of their stunt team for the Horror/Thriller Prey. The second (and most demanding) part of filming took place in Johor Bahru, Malaysia where an enclosed submergible set was built. For twenty days of filming, Ebony’s role as stunt double required her to be submerged in confined spaces utilizing controlled breath holding and scuba safety. While not as outwardly/visibly demanding, the risk levels were perhaps much greater. The experience of working in Malaysia presented some challenges. Due to shooting on remote islands off Langkawi, the entire production had to be loaded onto small local taxi boats before each shoot day, including all equipment. This meant preempting any stunt or safety equipment needed and preparing contingency plans for all the possible scene variations and running sequences of the day. Travel boats were small and space was limited. Some of the islands are only accessible during high tide, requiring the use of tide charts to map the tide conditions and ensure the production would be able to get on and off the islands safely. All of this served to increase the potential risk for Ebony and increased the need for someone of her skill and experience. She adds, “Prior to working on Prey I had done stunt work on two television productions, “Serangoon Road” and “Indian Summers”. Prey was the first feature film I had worked on. I was excited to be doubling the lead actress and to be on set for the full duration of the shoot. To begin with, I was nervous as it was something I had wanted to do for a while. I felt pressure to do a good job for both the production and myself. We had two weeks of prep time for stunt training with the actors. We created the fight choreography for the action scenes and worked in a pool to establish swimming skills and the underwater action scenes. By the time it came to shoot I was no longer nervous and just really excited to make a movie.”

Stunt coordinators and stunt performers are a highly proficient group requiring immense trust and respect between them. Ken Clark of Action Horizons declares, “Both these films required not only talent but also intelligence and quick thinking. While our goal is to get an amazing and thrilling take, our number one priority is safety. A lot of the time this means performing while being hyper aware of your surrounding and anticipating the potential for danger. On both the features Sweetheart and Prey Ebony was the stunt double for the lead actress, which required her to be on set for the duration of the shoot. Whilst filming Sweetheart Ebony was required to execute numerous stunts involving aerial wire work, performing fight scenes, and the use of her scuba skills to achieve deep under water scenes with a specialized scuba film crew. The filming of Prey also required these scuba skills, working in submerged sets and deep water film tanks, as well as utilizing Ebony’s stunt fighting skills in the choreography and performance of multiple fight scenes. As the stunt coordinator of Prey and Sweetheart, Ebony impressed on both of these projects. A stunt performer is the ultimate team player. They take all the risk to make the star look great. Ebony De La Haye makes her stars look incredible!”

 

SILENT NIGHT IS A FRIGHTENING SOUND

On Lounge Close 2

Composer Jayden Lawrence has always embraced the path less traveled. While it hasn’t always been the case that this leads to success in the film industry, advances in digital media distribution, streaming services, and overall music recording technology have led to a diversity in the industry which has created numerous opportunities for him. Both traditional film and more contemporary mediums have benefited from Jayden’s talent. Feature films, documentaries, shorts, and many other types of productions have included the musical contributions and enhancements of this composer. He’s known for an eclectic palette that encompasses everything from symphony orchestras to Hip-Hop to just about anything you can think of. A major reason for his success and popularity among filmmakers is because he is a listener. His approach is best stated in one of his favorite quotes from jazz trumpeter Miles Davis. The be-bop icon stated, “It’s not the notes you play, it’s the notes you don’t play.” More specifically put in regards to Lawrence’s compositions, he often sounds different because he isn’t trying to announce his prowess as a composer but rather focuses on only what will complement the action on screen, whether it be marching parade drums, a string section, or a modern grooving dance beat. Lawrence’s score to the film Silent Night is shining proof of this.

The film Silent Night takes place in Australia. The year is 2036 and the government has imposed a system purging anybody considered undesirable or a burden to the society. In the opening scene, a woman gives birth under the supervision of a nurse. The infant’s DNA is tested for any signs of illness or “detrimental” conditions and when a positive result is received, the child is taken away amid the mother’s wailing. This sets the dark tone for the film. Much of the story follows the perspective of Carly, a different Nurse at a purgation clinic. Her duties are to process and see out the purgation of individuals who are admitted to the clinic, having been deemed a burden or risk to the advancement of the race and population. A series of different “victims” are seen being euthanized in a chemical bath. These range from elderly homeless people to young children with infirmities. Videos play on a screen to distract these victims until it is too late. All the while, Carly struggles with her role in this culling of society. There’s a none too subtle statement about society’s indifference and paranoia as it relates to those who fall outside the fortunate “mean.” The tale is disturbing and applicable to virtually all cultures and geographic locations. Lawrence’s score is the nail which allows this picture to hang on the wall for all to see. His emphatic musical “hits” force the audience to turn in the direction that the filmmakers who created Silent Night wish the audience to observe.

One of Jayden’s most important contributions on any film is his focus on individual characters and the ability to make their emotions and motivations have an audible presence on film. While it’s a major part of what he does, he concedes that it’s not always a conscious decision on his part. He often watches the film and is intuitively inspired by it to manifest an emotional counterpoint in the music. This is where his familiarity and being well-versed in different styles and instrumentations pays off, giving him a greater pool of musical options to pull from. In Silent Night, the score is primarily composed of a string ensemble which is used to represent the story world and most importantly, Carly. As an ensemble, a string section is one of the most versatile instruments available in terms of range of pitch, dynamics, mood-setting, and articulations allowing for textural techniques like tremolo, trills, flautando, harmonics, and more. The composer describes, “Carly is portrayed to be quite a warm & caring personality but juxtaposed with the harsh grittiness of using razor blades to inflict pain and cut herself. I wanted to add an element of fragility to Carly, and highlight the pain she is going through so I incorporated a bit of ‘edginess’ into the tonality of the strings and used techniques such as tremolo to represent the fragility and inner turmoil she was experiencing. The strings are also used to bring a softness and warmth to Carly’s character, most notably towards the end as she is deeply touched by what is happening with the young boy.”

Sitting in front of studio (best)

Creating a film, any film, is no small feat. The finances, schedules, and most importantly the desire to do great work can often mean working under a considerable amount of stress while being expected to deliver emotional performances. Even for a composer, often in the studio alone, the demands are great. For Jayden, it’s not a matter of if the pressure will come (that’s a foregone certainty) but how you handle it when it does come. Keeping a cool head about things is absolutely essential for a career in film scoring. Tight deadlines and team dynamics are not always pleasant. This digital age has brought with it enormous flexibility when it comes to media creation but it has also thrown the concept of a “final cut” out the window. Spontaneous last minute changes by someone in the production line necessitate momentary flexibility. When it comes to scoring a film this can mean considerable alterations. In the end, a composer’s job is to serve the film, whatever the demands. This often means creating at the highest level while ensuring the environment is copasetic. Silent Night producer Danielle Reston professes Lawrence’s exceptional abilities on all these points stating, “Working with Jayden on Silent Night was the best experience a producer could hope for. From the first spotting session he was already throwing out ideas and it was clear that he understood the director’s vision. Jayden and I had worked together previously on a film called Oedipus which met some complications during the post-production stages that resulted in a complete re-edit of the film; a composer’s worst nightmare! Jayden simply embraced the change and took it in his stride, delivering a fantastic and memorable score. Unsurprisingly, the score to Silent Night was no different. It created the right amount of tension, despair, and impact that made the film tug that much harder on the heart strings. Jayden’s music has a craftsmanship about it that is not always present in film scores. It was this craftsmanship that ultimately helped propel Silent Night into the success that it has achieved.”

JL CloseUpWorkAtMixingDesk

Producer Annick Jaëgy sheds light on anorexia in award-winning film “Mackenzie”

A child’s imagination is what makes them so special. The ability to envision all new worlds while in sitting alone in a bedroom is something that tends to dissipate as we age. However, artists still possess such imagination for their entire lives, and filmmakers not only have the capability to imagine new worlds, they create them. Annick Jaëgy knows this well. As a producer, her creativity knows no bounds, and it is because of this that she has quickly become one of Europe’s most sought-after in her field.

Throughout her career, Jaëgy has worked on a variety of high-achieving projects, showing the world what she is capable of. She has worked alongside Oscar winners such as Mahershala Ali in the critically-acclaimed film Gubagude Ko, and her work on the musical That Frank garnered international attention.

Another highlight of the producer’s career came from making the film Mackenzie. The film tells the story of a teenage girl who is dealing with the emotional distress of moving to college and leaving behind her severely anorexic sister. On the day of her departure for college, teenage Alison wants it to be about her for a change and not her sister Mackenzie, who she thinks is extremely self-centered. But, as the day progresses, Alison’s true feelings about her sister come to surface. She worries about how Mackenzie will battle her anorexia without her around. And when the time comes to say goodbye, an honest confrontation between the two could jeopardize the future of their relationship. It’s a teen drama with a lot of heart and also some humor. Such a story required a producer who was not only dedicated to their work, but also the message the film was trying to convey, and Jaëgy was the ideal woman for the job. 

Because this script was about a woman struggling with anorexia, Annick was very concerned that we go about the task of casting this actress very carefully, making sure we found not only a good performer but one who would not herself become anorexic in order to do the role. ​I was very impressed with how protective Annick was with her director’s process, making sure she was not rushed to make any decisions, making sure I allotted plenty of time for callbacks and work sessions with the actresses. This is very rare in a producer, most want casting to happen as quickly as possible without a thought to the nuances that a director needs to see in order to make a decision. I’ve worked on many AFI films, but Annick stands out as particularly talented at her job. I had such a positive experience doing Mackenzie with Annick that I jumped at the chance to work with her again on her next project.  I hope to continue to work together,” said Lisa Zambetti, Casting Director.

The idea for Mackenzie came from Sofia Åström, the Writer and Director. Initially, Åström had an idea for a feature about two sisters going on a road trip, which eventually transitioned to a film about two sisters separated by anorexia. She wanted to explore anorexia from the point of view of a family member, in this case the younger sister Alison (Jessica Wingenbach). Such a stance is uncommon in films tackling the disease, which are more often than not told from the point of view of the anorexic person.

Åström struggled with anorexia as a teenager, and now having long recovered, she wanted to use her tools available as a Director, educating audiences on the impact of the disease. However, when Jaëgy came on board, she wanted Åström to work with another writer to give Åström some distance to her script and allow her to direct more clearly. The decision, although sometimes challenging to work with multiple writers on one project, proved to be the right one, as the story is told with the protectiveness of Åström’s connection but also her artistry as Director.

“A lot of people wrongfully think anorexia is a vanity thing when it’s actually a deeply psychological struggle,” said Annick.

Åström and Jaëgy had previously worked on the film Soledad Canyon together prior to Mackenzie, a beautiful short about mourning and grieving. The two had a perfect collaboration, calling it “professional love at first sight”. Therefore, when Åström wrote a film that was as dear to heart as Mackenzie, she knew she needed Jaëgy as her producer to bring her idea to life. Åström was always impressed with Jaëgy, and had faith in her as a producer, trusting her taste and the fact that she could rely on the producer for every step of the filmmaking process. Jaëgy is known for her ability to create an environment where the talents of the cast and crew can flourish. In addition, she raised almost 75 per cent of the funds for the project. Each and every one of her decisions was backed by Åström, knowing that the producer’s instincts would prove fruitful and beneficial for her film.

“This is a story where women have a tendency to recognize themselves or at least their relationship with their siblings. Our main team is almost entirely female apart from William, the cinematographer. Sofia wanted an entirely female main crew. I am glad that William stepped as I think it is important to have the balance of the two genders. I am not in favor of an entire female crew to be honest. On set, we had a good balance men and women,” Annick described.

Jaëgy spent almost two years working on Mackenzie, from start to finish. Finding the correct location took some time, as they were in search of a house with a “jack and Jill bathroom”, a bathroom shared between two bedrooms, with doors entering from each room. This was extremely pivotal to the film, as it is where the sisters have most of their issues, such as Alison making fun of Mackenzie, and Mackenzie struggling with her image in the mirror, and also where they reunite. It was essential to find the right home with such a bathroom. After finding a fit, one of the rooms was too small to shoot, but Jaëgy and her team used a green screen to manipulate the footage. Both bedrooms were entirely repainted and redecorated to make it look like two teenage girls’ rooms and show the two different worlds the two girls are evolving; Alison’s being a messy teenage world and a tom boy with Mackenzie very neat, meticulous, and very girly.

The only leading roles in the film were that of Alison (Jessica Wingenbach) and Mackenzie (Reid Cox). Because of the nature of the project, Jaëgy and her crew also had to cast models to be able to replicate magazines covers. These models animated themselves when Alison was facing them and the mirror, a representation of what Mackenzie wants to be. Although these models had a few lines that made them cast, the film is essentially supported by two female leads. Engaging an audience with such a small cast can sometimes be difficult, but everyone’s commitment to the story translates to the screen.

“It was a very long process but the result is there. We have a beautiful film entirely financed through fundraising, that has gained recognition in renowned festivals around the world,” said Annick.

After its premiere, the film was an Official Selection at prestigious festivals like the Cannes Film Festival Short Film Corner, HollyShort Film Fest, Newport Beach Film Festival, Madrid International Film Festival, and Palm Springs International ShortFest – The ShortFest Film Market. It received a Silver Palm Award for Narrative Short at the Mexico International Film Festival, a Platinum Remi Award Winning for Short Subject Film Award/Dramatic Original and a Remi Winner at WorldFest Houston, and it was nominated for Best Short Film at the California International Film Festival and Davis Chinese Film Festival. Mackenzie has also just been selected to the Academy Award-qualifying Bahamas International Film Festival and we are thrilled as it is a very important film festival. It also pleased the investors. Once the film premiered, one of them told Annick that she would invest in her next film, and is now helping finance her next project. As a filmmaker, such validation is invaluable.

“To see months of work unfold in front my eyes when I was looking at the monitor watching the scenes while on set, these short moments made me think that when you are passionate about narrative visual storytelling, never give up. The road is bumpy and sinuous. It’s hard, don’t get me wrong, but there is nothing more magical to see months, years of work to unfold in front of your eyes while you’re on set,” said Jaëgy.

Annick is immensely proud of Mackenzie, not just with what the film accomplished amongst festivals, but how it resonated with audiences. Each and every member of the cast and crew felt what they were trying to convey in the film, and one of the most rewarding moments for Jaëgy was when one of her leads, Reid Cox, sent her a note.

“I am so grateful for the opportunity you gave me to work on such an incredible project with amazing people. Thank you for creating a safe environment for me to go to an extremely vulnerable place within me. You are such a bright light and I can’t wait to work with you again,” the note read.

Cox was one of many that was impressed with Annick Jaëgy.

“Annick is one of the most qualified people I’ve ever worked with. Her job requires a rare personality, involving management and creativity. There are no models to make a good artistic project. The ability to adapt to each unique configuration is therefore required. Economic and artistic understanding, time management, identification and resolution of often unprecedented problems, social skill, knowledge of the different jobs specific to the movie industry, ability to act for the project and not that of the ego, huge work capacity , especially in rush phases, which often exceed expectations, reliability, intelligence, project appropriation, passion and great humor, are all qualities that allow me to consider Annick as the best collaborator that anyone may wish to have to carry out on a film project,” said Marc Chouarain, a celebrated Composer who worked on Mackenzie.

Be sure to keep an eye out for more of Annick’s work in the future.

 

MAKING FILTH CREDIBLE: CHRISTINA SPINA

image1

The world of politics can be gritty and rough. The task of telling the stories of politics can resemble that as well. Both the process and the look requires a consummate professional to do it properly; makeup artist Christina Spina is such a person. Taking over for fellow artist Jessica Panetta when she was called away early in the filming of Filth City, Spina stepped in and created a seamless transition. Working with both Jessica and director Andy King, Christina established a tone congruent with the tone of the productions. Whether maintaining the design continuity or creating on the spot looks for day players, Spina used her skill to assist the director’s vision, empower the actors, and be a vital part of what would result in the film winning the award for Best Comedy and Best Cast at the Canadian Film Fest 2017.

The 2017 action/comedy/crime film is based on true events inspired by Toronto’s Mayor Rob Ford. Filth City tells the story of a city’s crack smoking mayor competing for reelection whilst in the heat of a scandal. When local kids record Hogg smoking crack on video, numerous media outlets compete to get their hands on the footage. Hogg’s campaign staff and syndicate of dirty cops work to keep the video’s existence a secret while others want to use this to put an end to the mayor’s political career. Crime, corruption, and the largest garbage strike in York history are all components as the plot follows a wide range of characters through this neo-noir crime tale. The film itself was provocative similarly to the real life events it was based on. During the world premiere at the Canadian Film Festival in March 2017 (at the Scotia Bank Cinema) Filth City received a massive amount of attention from the media, stoked by intense negative public comments by the city’s late mayor’s brother. His comments created a media frenzy and the film received tons of media attention as a result, creating buzz and selling out tickets; the very definition of turning a negative into a positive.

The director and the designer (Panetta) had created a look that was inspired by modern television crime dramas, and classic film noir crime films. All of this was communicated to Christina when she took over. While the public often thinks of makeup in TV and film as making the actors more attractive, the goal was anything but this for Filth City. The filmmakers knew that the story was about the reality of politics and the people involved, not the pleasant way these individuals project themselves. To this end the goal was to present what they referred to as “hyper realism.” The look of the characters was to be very specific and not the somewhat bland “wallpaper” approach commonly seen in film. Christina describes, “For example, a lead cop character had a specific flip to the front of his hair. The Mayor had redness in his face and was intentionally sweaty and shiny on camera. The cop turned drug addict character had a dry red patch on his neck and darkness under his eyes. A young woman in one of the lead roles wore gold eye shadow. All of these choices are so simple but specific in forming the visual language of character. In comedy, depending on the circumstances of the script and the nature of the show, characters tend to have bigger makeup design elements to increase the comedy aspect. Since this was a crime drama comedy, the ham factor was turned down and simplified into hyper-realism.”

In the work of a makeup artist, what appears “normal” on screen is every bit as challenging to establish as that which seems striking. That might seem counterintuitive but anyone who has appeared on camera without the benefit of makeup can attest to the fact that it can greatly aid or detract from your appearance. In TV and film productions, extremes at both ends of the scale can be challenging. If the viewer finds themselves paying attention to the makeup, it’s done incorrectly. Christina concedes that it is very difficult to produce a makeup look that appears flawlessly natural, as if the person is wearing nothing at all. This type of makeup is erroneously confused with being easy and fast, which is not at all the case as it takes refining and attention to the most minute details and should never be seen. The makeup style Spina used for lead character Mayor Hogg (referred to as breakdown makeup) displayed redness all over his face to resemble broken capillaries from substance abuse. This makeup design was very specific and required both written and photo documentation to ensure perfect replication for each scene.

Not all of Christina’s work on Filth City required painstaking recreation for the lead characters. She often got the opportunity to improvise looks for a number of day players (actors on the set for a single day, often performing peripheral or background roles). It wasn’t uncommon on this production to have an actor with four different look changes in one day. Because the story was set in current times with an emphasis on politicians, law enforcement, and the media, Spina often took her inspiration from the generalization of these types on day to day television. The proper simple choices can have a dramatic effect on camera. It’s this type of wisdom which augments the talent that Christina is lauded for. Her quirky versions of real people benefited both the comedy and the crime sentiments of the storyline. She agrees stating, “I am actually able to execute last minute requests successfully with a combination of methods. It mostly comes with years of experience. I am always facing challenges and learning from experience, and am lucky to have those experiences to move forward so that I am more prepared each day. I have learned so much over the years, and am learning still. Each experience encourages me to revise and restock my kit. I have learned so many valuable things, one important tip is to be able to improvise requests on the spot by having a fully stocked kit with all the tools and items to execute any request. It could be stressful when requests are made and crew is forced to wait on me or my department, a general rule on set is that you do not want to be the cause of holding up shooting. But with thorough communication and a solid plan of execution everyone can get their respective jobs done and not feel stress in a way that would compromise the outcome.”

image2

THE MODERN PATH TO ALL THINGS ENTERTAINMENT

Screen Shot 2017-12-04 at 9.58.40 PM

Information moves more quickly than ever before. Included in this nowadays is entertainment. While it used to be music downloads, we presently see the entire season of a TV program released in a day, and films come out more and more expeditiously whether new productions or classic time capsule fare. All of this results in a closer relationship between the artists who create these works and those who are able to deliver them to the public. Red Touch Media (RTM) is a company which licenses and distributes entertainment content. It has created a world class content management and distribution system. The conduit between RTM, the artist/companies who have content to distribute, and the public is event producer Ian Pickup. As the professional who plans and manifests the situations/venues between those who “have” and those who “want”, Ian is the M.C. if you will of the modern entertainment mogul parties. Helping RTM to present their product at global prestigious events like MIP TV and MIPCOM, Pickup facilitates the meetings and conversations that lead to the rest of us being able to watch our favorite productions (and listening or reading them, depending on the situation). Whether it’s events in Cannes, Liverpool, Sydney, or others, Ian Pickup has found himself in the enviable position of being on the cusp of modern entertainment technology, while not actually being a filmmaker himself. If there is such a thing as a professional entertainment wingman, this event producer is at the top of the heap.

Held in Cannes, MIP TV and MIPCOM are where a significant portion of the worlds TV and film content is sold and purchased. These massive events facilitate and determine what a great deal of the world watches. RTM provides software for many studios at these markets who use RTM software to manage all their digital assets as well as to sell this content. It is a critical part of the sales process. If you think of MIP and MIP TV as a marketplace of digital and entertainment content, you have the right idea.  RTM’s job is to help studios use their software to display, manage, distribute, and ultimately sell that TV & film content. At MIP TV (which focuses on television content) Pickup finds himself on site from the very first set up of RTM’s venue to the final stages. During MIPCOM (which focuses more on film), Ian is responsible for the overall Operations and works closely with Reed Midem (the event organizers). With an attendance of around 14,000, MIPCOM may be the somewhat larger event but current trends show that more and more of the viewing public skews to the comfortability and accessibility of TV programing (though film as well is becoming more available). Pickup states, “RTM is very aware of how things are evolving in the entertainment industry and it is passionate about being a leader. I appreciate the proactive nature of this. These two events are a requirement for anyone who is part of the industry. Company executives are often asked to be on panels to talk about the latest technology and trends.  Given our position as a prime distributor of digital content to underserved markets, we really do see where things are headed and what might shape the market.”

Screen Shot 2017-12-04 at 9.59.04 PM

As an event producer for RTM Ian takes part in a wide variety of tasks. One minute might find him renting a yacht and hosting a dinner, then next might be throwing one of those parties that he is famous for; not in the sense of lavishness but rather in terms of providing an atmosphere of fun. In fact, Ian takes great pride in the fact that the events he creates are not solely focused on the spectacle but rather in creating a relaxed form of respite from what may have been a chaotic whirlwind of meetings and discussion that are a necessity of the situation. It’s somewhat surprising to hear that the person in charge of gathering great groups of individuals is adamant that his role is one of facilitating personal connection. The show itself is more about relationships than logistics.  Coordinating with unions, installation teams, and multiple companies doing different things on the installation is a really big part of the job, to say nothing of the multiple languages often involved in these events. As Ian puts it, “Most of the deals are made outside the ‘formal’ parts of the show.  Parties, dinners, off line meetings, anywhere where you can get to know someone on a deeper level rather than simply as ‘Steve from Sony with a quota.’ Our reputation in the business is one of deep relationships with not just our clients but people in general, we know how to develop relationships and we are good at it. Yes, I’m a professional who produces and coordinates events but I honestly think of my role as someone who creates an environment where people can relax, have fun, and be themselves. I think this is what allows people to understand if they want to do business with someone…when they feel as if they’ve truly met them rather than simply that person as a representative. It takes a lot of work and preparation to create that environment though.”

Meeting like MIPCOM and MIP TV are examples of the continuing evolution of entertainment in the world. RTM’s pervasiveness is in a positively correlated path to this and Ian Pickup is keenly aware of this relationship’s benevolent effect on all involved parties. His incredible aptitude for organization makes him skillful in his career but what makes him the recipient of such immense accolades is his focus on the personal touch. He communicates, “Whether it’s the people I work with or the people I see at our events, it’s all about getting to know each other better. Working side by side with someone gives a window into their character that is not usually apparent from casual conversation. It’s important to work with everyone both internally and externally to make each event smooth and great!” This sentiment is echoed by Wayne Scholes (Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Red Touch Media) who states, “Ian Pickup is an invaluable member of our management team and has always proven to be particularly capable of adapting to any manner of challenging situations during live events. The fact that people are always willing to ‘muck in’ when required is an absolutely crucial factor in the success of any business.”

 

SHREEKRISHNA DOESN’T MIND IF YOU CALL HIM “LONGSHOT”

1.jpg

One of the most important lessons in dealing with life’s fortune and misfortune is that we can choose to laugh or cry, most often at the absurdity of it all. A malevolent storm destroys a neighborhood with the exception of one house, one of two twins receives fame and fortune while the other suffers constant defeat and humiliation, even a well-placed gambling debt can make or destroy a person. Life is fascinating when one considers the minute variations that lead to (seeming) happiness or tragedy. Writer Shreekrishna Padhye has always been fascinated by these situations. His self-declared love of dark comedy has led him to create a number of disturbing and yet laughable productions. Rather than showing us the real hero that each of us has the potential to become, Padhye finds amusement in showing us all how potentially sinister we can become…or possibly how wary we should be that those around us might become. His stories of the baser aspects of human nature exhibit proof that he has made peace with the self-centered facet of the members of society.

The pervasive sentiment in a large number of the stories which Shreekrishna writes is not judgmental, although the viewer might impose their own sense of right and wrong onto what they witness in them. It is Padhye’s contention that human motivation and action is a delicate precipice on which circumstance and emotions teeter. He concedes that while many of us wear the visage of ethics, we all are suspect until placed in situations that test our resolve. Padhye explains, “Humans are generally peaceful until they’re not and I’m fascinated by how little it can take to push someone over that line. It’s not easy to acknowledge the darkness that resides in every one of us and I feel that through humor you can ask these tough questions without making the audience defensive. I think people are inherently selfish. That isn’t a pessimistic statement, because we are all motivated by the same desire to survive. This also doesn’t mean people are bad. Being altruistic or bad is the result of our selfish motivations and the situation.

Shreekrishna’s “Longshot” is more a character study than simply a story. In the film, a mailman drops a package off at a residence as a man and wife are in their middle of their weekly ritual of watching the lottery drawing. During the delivery, the wife squints at the TV and erupts in excitement as she sees that they have won the lottery. They break open a special bottle of champagne and offer a drink to the mailman. The postman recognizes opportunity and before the couple can call the Lottery Board with their winning numbers, the mailman procures a knife from the kitchen and stabs them to death. With the couple dead and no obstacle between him and the fortune, the mailman picks up the ticket. It’s at this point that he notices the numbers all match…with the exception of one. He discovers the wife’s reading glasses…which were unused when she saw the winning numbers, he killed for nothing.

What is so interesting and such an important part of Padhye’s writing is that he lays some of the blame (thought not evenly) on both victim and perpetrator. In the film, the mailman tries to change what he feels is his miserable existence by stealing the lottery ticket and ends up killing the couple. The husband invites the mailman in to celebrate because sharing his happiness amplifies it. Both sides of this story are motivated by selfish reasons. The intersection that both sides of this equation share is greed. One may be more socially acceptable but the outcome for all involved parties is destruction. Shreekrishna reveals that he has always been suspicious of lotteries because they seem to amplify greed and selfishness, thereby creating a perfect setting for him to construct a tale of humanity’s shortcomings.

The plot itself is fairly simple, but this isn’t the source of what makes so many filmmakers and audience members fans of Padhye’s writing. The sense of knowing and relatability that he brings to his characters is palpable. They seem familiar in a way that is sometimes too close for comfort. The Mailman feels that life has not given him the proper opportunities and he must correct it through his own actions. The wife focuses her energy on this “get rich quick with luck” idea that she feels will ultimately allow her to have the things she desires. The husband feels that he serves at the behest of his wife and under the surface may resent this. He “goes along to get along.” It’s the source of the characters and their true motivations that make the story work. Padhye had discussions with each of the actors playing these three main roles about what their characters felt and truly thought versus what they exhibited on the surface. He relates, “One of the pitfalls a writer needs to avoid is molding the characters to fit a particular story. This will make them seem unrealistic, instead the better approach is to create conflicting characters in a tense situation and let them tell you how a something would play out.

In this case the comedy arises not necessarily from the quirky characters but from the situation that they find themselves in. It’s naturally funny to see people fall and make a fool of themselves. The mistakes the husband and wife make in this film are relatively benign (being overly friendly with their mailman) but because the circumstance is so unusual and there’s a lot at stake, this mistake ends up costing them their lives. The mailman’s character is funny and relatable because he is a rookie… at crime. We can laugh at his failure without him having to act in an exaggerated manner.”

Audiences were thrilled by the film but even more exuberant were the actors of “Longshot” who were given the chance to play such layered characters. Asdis Thorlaksdotti, the Icelandic actress who played the wife in the film describes, “Great writing like the kind Shreekrishna creates gives an actor the opportunity to think and discover. There are a number of ways to communicate this character and discussing them with him was an exercise in creativity…which doesn’t always happen for actors. He brilliantly explored the sinister impulses that lurk just beneath the surface of normal everyday life, and ended up creating something truly unique and refreshing. It was an immense pleasure to find the humor, the malevolent situations, and actions in this film.”