Lili Huang casts an honest lens on the life of “Xixi” in award-winning documentary

Alfred Hitchcock once said, “To make a great film, you need three things: a great script, a great script, and a great script.” For award-winning screenwriter and producer, Lili Huang, these words resonate deeply. If her career has taught her anything, in fact, it is that a well-written script is absolutely essential to the success of a film. For this reason, Huang pours her heart and soul into ensuring that when she writes a script, she fine-tunes each and every detail to perfection, regardless of its size. This dedication to scriptwriting, coupled with her business acumen and knowledge of film production, make her a rarity in the entertainment business and an asset to any project she works on.

“For me, screenwriting is about using my writing skills to take a simple idea and turn it into a gripping story for an audience. I enjoy the entire creative process of writing, from developing each character, to building the structure, planting every small or large detail, and ultimately, of course, presenting a final story that people will eventually fall in love with,” told Huang.

When Huang looks back on her career, however, she recognizes that originally, her passion for screenwriting and producing were not as clear cut as most. On the contrary, they have slowly and progressively built over the course of the last decade and as she continues to explore the film industry, her love for the two professions only grows stronger. To date, Huang has written upward of thirty film and web series scripts and makes no plans to stop any time soon. In addition, she has received a number of prestigious awards for her unique set of skills and techniques. For instance, in 2011, Huang tested her abilities as a screenwriter, director, producer, and editor when she created her film, The Flower of the Future, and earned herself a nomination for Best Screenplay at the Golden Panda Awards in China. For another of her films, Mei Mei, Huang won Best Film at the Golden Rooster and Hundred Flowers Film Festival, earned herself an Official Selection at the IndieFest USA International Film Festival, and more.

To little surprise, Huang is used to receiving a substantial amount of praise for her work from her peers and fellow film-lovers. For instance, well-known Chinese director, Xuehua Hu, acted as both a mentor and colleague to Huang over the years, considers her to be an asset in the industry. When asked about what makes Huang so good at her job, Hu had the following to say:

“Lili Huang has a rare professional dedication and passion for filmmaking. Throughout her career, she has gained a comprehensive understanding of the filmmaking industry, especially as it pertains to the differences between filmmaking in China and in other parts of the world. I can say confidently that she is an invaluable, professional filmmaker.”

After years of developing her skills in the genre of drama, Huang felt that she was ready to branch out of her comfort zone and explore the realm of creating a documentary-style film. Given that documentaries interest her greatly, Huang was confident that this was an area of filmmaking through which her talents could prosper. In 2012, she felt compelled to tell the story of Xixi, a girl who was born in China, immigrated to the United States as a child, and moved back to Shanghai, China, as a young adult. Huang spent the next eight months gathering raw footage of Xixi’s daily life, endeavoring to capture every moment of happiness, hardships, romance, friendship, and more. Ultimately, Huang wanted to shed a light on the Xixi’s unique life circumstances and allow audiences to draw their own conclusions about the intricacies of Xixi’s cultural transitions.

“I wanted to show my audience what her daily life is really like. For her, having had just moved back from the United States to China, she was definitely experiencing life in a very different way than local Chinese people were. I wanted to share her point of view on her new life in Shanghai, on how she was adopting new customs, etc. I also wanted to audience to draw their own conclusions after watching the film,” she said.

Once she had concluded her filming process, Huang edited her footage and eventually, in 2013, Xixi premiered at the Golden Panda Film Festival in China. Later, at that same festival, she received a nomination for Best Director of a Documentary Film, and was overwhelmed with pride. Director Haiying Wu, who acted as an advisor for the project, offered a great deal of praise for Huang and had only positive things to say about the film. Xixi, in conjunction with Huang’s other achievements in her field, have proven that there are very few limits to what she can achieve when she sets her mind to it and fortunately, she intends to continue dedicating her efforts to telling meaningful stories and continuing to help contribute the art of film for years to come.

Brett Morris sheds insight into his journey from Young Magneto to seasoned producer

Human beings are known to set limits and work within them. With that, we understand and evaluate the world through binary opposites like black versus white, up versus down, in versus out, and so on. Then, sometimes, positive disrupters emerge and they challenge us to read between the lines; to understand the world’s wonders along spectrums rather than within extremes. They empower us to test the limits that we set for ourselves and to determine alternative understandings of our world that we might not have otherwise considered. More often than not, these disrupters are known as artists, innovators, and pioneers. In the case of Brett Morris, however, titles like “cinematographer,” “editor,” “director,” and “producer” come to mind. For the highly sought-after creative, there are no lengths that he will not go to in order to stimulate the minds of his audiences and allow them to wander into worlds that they have never explored before.

“What I love about producing, in particular, is that, when challenged to produce something, you’re only limited by your own resourcefulness. Not your resources. If there is a will, there is a way and I love being able to solve a multitude of problems. My job is to make the day go as smoothly as possible and appear as if there was never a challenge in the first place,” said Morris.

Having kick started his career as a child actor, Morris has built himself from the ground up, experimenting with just about every role involved in the creation and production of a film or television show. As such, he has earned a certain understanding and appreciation of the intricacies of his art form that other artists may never fully experience. At the age of 12, Morris landed himself the role of Young Magneto in the hit film, X-Men, and was inspired by talented actors like Ian McKellen and Hugh Jackman. What he hadn’t anticipated; however, was how fascinated he became by the role of the director. He was determined to become a part of the directing community and today, he can be credited with producing and directing fan-favorites like Big Brother Canada, Hockey Wives, So You Think You Can Dance, and many more. 

In 2016, Insight Productions were looking to re-boot the widely adored series, Top Chef, for a fifth season with an added “all-star” twist. Top Chef Canada is a Canadian reality competition television series airing on Food Network Canada. Each week, chef contestants compete against each other in culinary challenges and are subsequently judged by a panel of professional food and wine gurus. At the end of each week, one or more contestants are eliminated in order to determine who Canada’s “Top Chef” will be.

For Top Chef Canada All-Star, the show’s production team was intent on finding a field producer with the skill and expertise necessary to take it to the next level without sacrificing any of the elements that made their show the success it is today. Essentially, a field producer is responsible for handling all in-field directing, as well as conducting on-camera competitor interviews. The role typically involves juggling technical in-field directing abilities with achieving optimal story beats in order to effectively craft each episode during post-production. Fortunately for Morris, the decision to select a field producer landed in the hands of a former co-worker and member of Top Chef’s production team, Eric Abboud, who knew that Morris was the ideal candidate for the job. Abboud approached Morris about the opportunity to work alongside the show’s story team, including talented writer, Jennifer Pratt, and highly skilled story-editor, Liam Colle. For Morris, joining such a high performing team acted as further motivation to show Food Network lovers everywhere just what he is capable of.

From the outside looking in, it is easy to see how intense and pressure-ridden each Top Chef competition can be for contestants, whether or not you’re watching a regular season or an all-star edition. What is more difficult to imagine, therefore, is the type of demand that places on a production crew to capture each and every moment as authentically as possible. Morris recalls episodes being shot in the span of two days, across multiple locations. When the chefs were cooking, Morris was behind the camera crew, prompting them to speak loudly about their creative process and having to break their heavy focus in order to heighten the drama-filled, entertainment factors of the show. Other times, while chefs were navigating their weekly budget to shop for groceries, Morris was directing crews of six camera operators and three audio engineers in order to effectively capture all of the suspense. Then, for each episode, he was tasked with keeping track of every action-packed second of filming in order to know which content to probe the chefs about during their interview segments afterward. Despite the demanding nature of this role, Morris loved every moment. Particularly, he enjoyed the unique chance he had to interact with all of the chefs up close and personally.

“These chefs are true all-stars, restaurant owners, and at the top of their field. Any time you get to immerse yourself into the world of an expert, it is exciting. From the way they prepared their ingredients, to the meticulousness of cleaning their work stations, everything was like a rehearsed dance to them. It was exhilarating to watch. I found that I became a “foodie” by proximity and I took that learning with me every time I order at a restaurant or prepare a dish at home. It was an unbelievable experience,” recalled Morris.

Ironically, while Morris found himself fascinated by the opportunity to witness these culinary experts in their element, his co-workers, like Colle, were experiencing similar sentiments while watching him at work. According to Colle, working with Morris was a learning experience in itself and he enjoyed the distinct pleasure he had to learn Morris’ approaches and techniques for his own use. When asked what makes him so great at what he does, Colle had the following to say:

“I’ve never come across anyone else with the skill set and talent of Brett Morris. He is whip-smart, with an uncanny ability to tell compelling stories and deliver polished and professional productions. I think a big part of what makes him so good at what he does is that he’s got the perfect mix of creativity and analytics. Whether it’s in the edit suite or on set, his instincts are always on point and the finished product is never less than impressive,” told Colle.

Despite the fact that Top Chef Canada All-Star was breaking the show’s three-year hiatus from Food Network Canada, the result was better than ever. Canadian audiences still felt a deep connection with the show and Morris’ work was extremely well received. In fact, with the help of Morris, the show earned the green light to be renewed for a sixth season which will air in 2018.

“The fact that the audience loved it and it got picked up for another season means that not only did we do our job well, we were successful. It is always satisfying to see your hard work pay off,” he concluded.

 

Top photo by David Leyes

One to watch: Russia’s Yana GoodDay

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Yana GoodDay

Entertainment comes in many different shapes, sizes, and forms. For instance, actors entertain by temporarily transforming themselves to fit the mold of a specific character description and adopting all of the various mannerisms, personality traits, and quirks that go along with it. In contrast, models entertain by serving as a visual aid for individuals creating works of art, taking photographs, or advertising commercial products. Regardless of how an artist chooses to appeal to their audience and entertain their supporters, it requires an unprecedented amount of hard work, dedication, and perseverance. For Russian model, actress, and television host, Yana GoodDay, it is a commitment to fulfilling a childhood dream and beyond that, entertaining is a career that she wouldn’t trade for the world.

Despite the grueling nature of the modeling industry, GoodDay has managed to rise above her competition and has earned herself work representing a number of prestigious, world-renowned companies such as Huggies, Citroen, KRKA, and more. In 2007, GoodDay began working with one of Europe’s largest lingerie and swimwear manufacturers, Naturana. In fact, she has often been credited with helping enhance Naturana’s signature brand and has been instrumental to their growing customer base over the years.

“After representing Naturana in both print and runway formats, Yana was enlisted to become a spokesperson after each show, where she once again impressed everyone with her sensational gift to push the boundaries of the Naturana line. She has been absolutely critical to a massive increase in sales for Naturana, as well as stirring up even more appeal for the brand across the world. It has truly been one of the main highlights of my career to be in her presence. She is an extraordinary model and I have enjoyed seeing her career skyrocket over the years,” Renata Kowolik, Sales Manager, Naturana.

In addition to her modeling career, GoodDay has worked as a television and radio anchor, reporter, and journalist for media network gurus such as MTV, Channel One Russia, NTV Channel, Russian Radio, and several others. When she sets her heart on a job, she will stop at nothing to secure it and her unparalleled talents, coupled with her feverish passion for entertainment, have helped her build an unbeatable reputation in her industry.

One area of her career that GoodDay takes particular pride in, however, is in her ability to act. Over the years, she has acted in films, television series, as well as commercials. In fact, three years ago, GoodDay began working for a production company called Kino Atelye and in her work with this company, she has earned herself roles acting in several of their productions, such as The Detectives and The Track. Prior to working with Kino Atelye, the largest focus of GoodDay’s career had been on her opportunities to model and host television programs. For this reason, she was thrilled by the prospect of refining her acting skill set and expanding her reach in the acting world. Unlike modeling and television hosting, GoodDay is particularly motivated by the idea that, as an actress, she can assume the lives of unfamiliar individuals and experience new worlds through the characters that she plays.

“I make an effort not just to act, but to really live my character. I want to understand how I might react in their shoes or how I might interact with them if I were to meet them in real life. In addition, I think that extracting elements of your real-life experiences helps enhance your characters but I also appreciate the guidance of a director on set,” said GoodDay.

In 2015, GoodDay landed herself a prominent role in Kino Atelye’s production, The Sled, which tells the story of a new governmental body, FES, created to solve X files and high crime cases. Launched as an experiment, FES trains young professionals to solve crimes, and assists other special organizations to do so. For her role in the series, GoodDay had the opportunity to engage in uniquely intricate scenes involving lots of action and exercise. In one particular scene, her character enters into a physical altercation, for which GoodDay had to act a very rough scene. In reality, she enjoyed all of the action inherent within the scene and considered it to be a very good workout. She embraced every chance she had to let her natural acting instincts guide her through the scene and considers recalls working on The Sled as being one of the many highlights of her career.

In the case of The Sled, GoodDay’s character was pivotal to the storyline but incidentally, GoodDay became instrumental to the cast. The show’s casting director was looking for an actress who could convincingly portray herself as an almost angelic, innocent looking character whilst disguising a twisted, cold-blooded killer within. When it came time to cast this part, he was adamant that GoodDay play the part. In fact, he was so certain that she was the ideal candidate for the job that he did not look elsewhere for comparison. He knew that GoodDay had the skills and the expertise to master the dynamic elements of this character and he was ecstatic to see that his instincts served him well. For GoodDay, on the other hand, the joy of working on this series came with the onset relationships she built and the opportunity to explore every great length of both the script and the visual effects department.

Working with Kino Atelye served as an invaluable opportunity for GoodDay to develop herself both personally and professionally. For the talented entertainer, getting to work with like-minded individuals and receiving praise from others in the entertainment industry is extremely humbling. Stay tuned to see what this versatile, talented entertainer has in store for you next!

Charlotte Chimes On Acting Real: Playing Real-Life Characters

Charlotte Chimes has always believed that the best acting performances are those which are ‘real.’ Others might choose the words ‘truthful’ or ‘believable’ for the same effect, but whichever term is used, it’s clear that Charlotte has carved quite the niche for herself as a leading Australian actress regularly called to play real-life people in gripping dramas.

Such is the impressive significance of her reputation in Australia, Charlotte played the key role of Katrina in the acclaimed Channel Nine movie, “Schapelle.” Directed by award-winning “Better Man” filmmaker Khoa Do, “Schapelle” tells the story of Australia’s most notorious and high-profile convicted drug smugglers in the nation’s history. Schapelle Corby spent nine years in an Indonesian jail cell, and maintained her innocence that she did not plant marijuana found in her bodyboard bag by Indonesian airport security. The case drew international headlines and remains as one of Australia’s most well-known real-life stories, and was therefore the country’s most highly-anticipated television event when it aired, drawing millions in viewers.

Any actor who would be involved in the narrative production documenting Schapelle’s story could easily therefore be called successful, because the story is so well-known; the fact that Charlotte Chimes played a key role “Schapelle” therefore puts her in the top echelon of Australian actors.

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Charlotte, with director Ben Mathews, on the red carpet for the prestigious Sydney Film Festival last year.

Co-star Krew Boylan, well-known for her roles in Logie-winning series “Molly” and international favourite “A Place to Call Home,” speaks very highly of Charlotte. “I had the pleasure of working with Charlotte [on SCHAPELLE]. Charlotte is a gifted actress…I highly recommend her skills, dedication, craft and talent for any work both in Australia and abroad.” Boylan, who is also one of the founders of the Dollhouse Production company alongside Golden-Globe nominated star Rose Byrne, played Schapelle herself. “Krew was lovely to work with,” Charlotte explains. “We had a great time exploring the story from all different angles.”

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“Schapelle” was a highly-anticipated movie on Australia’s #1 network, Channel Nine.

In addition to her work in “Schapelle,” Charlotte is also well-known for her role as Anya Habschied in “Catching Milat.” Charlotte explains her character well. “Anja Habschied was one of Ivan Milat’s seven victims  –  it was so important that all of his victim’s stories were told in this mini -series…to honour them.” The mini-series was especially important in the Australian film industry because it was directed by Peter Andrikidis, Australia’s most prolific television director also responsible for helming the award-winning ABC series “Janet King” and the feature film “Alex and Eve” with “Chasing Life” star Richard Brancatisano.  

In another strong reflection of her truly unique talent and incredible accomplishments, Charlotte featured as Erin Everett in the successful series “Deadly Women.” Her performance was therefore available to 300 million Netflix subscribers all over the world who watch the popular program. For her role in the chapter titled “Green Eyed Monsters,” Charlotte explains the importance she placed on bringing truth and giving justice to the real-life story of her character. “Female murderers are rarer than male murderers and often become quite famous for their crimes, as the media sensationalises them. It was important to portray her not simply as a one dimensional monster but a three dimensional heart-broken woman who made some very grave choices.”

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Charlotte in a gripping scene from an episode of “Deadly Women.”

Charlotte, who has also given critical turns in film “Loco” (with “Neighbours” star Taylor Glockner) and TV series “The Verge” (with “Twilight: Eclipse” actor Matt Deane), warmly expresses her gratitude when it comes to her career success.

“At the end of the day, I feel very lucky that I’ve been able to give voice to such interesting and complex, real-life characters.”

Introducing Josué Catalán: The Sound Engineer You Should Know About

The music industry is comprised of driven professionals who are fueled by a love and passion for their work. More often than not, the initial spark of inspiration is ignited by one or more successful precursors and blossoms over time with rigorous practice and determination. For the emerging Chilean sound engineer Josué Catalán, his musical brilliance was firstly motivated by his love for music as a whole, combined with a childhood spent listening to Pink Floyd, U2, and The Beatles. No matter his age, music has always existed as a part of Catalán’s life in a very deep way, and it’s now a craft he’s proved himself to be quite gifted at both mixing and mastering in very significant ways.

Born and raised for the majority of his life in Chile, the start of Catalán’s career as an engineer began in early 2011 during his studies at Duoc UC in Santiago, Chile. In addition to a rigorous course schedule, Catalán was part of a live sound company where he engineered live concerts, recorded his first album from rock/blues band Trio-b in 2012, and soon after achieved his first big success after working with folk band ZOI.

“We produced ZOI’s first album together,” said Esteban Pavez of ZOI. “We recorded the complete band live at the studio and did the overdubs at Josué’s house, where it was mixed and mastered. His sharp ear allows the sound details to be worked with delicacy. Undoubtedly, his work of mixing and mastering is of very good quality and, in my opinion, his hearing and emotional sensitivity allows him to have a better connection with the musician and his music.”

When it comes to the details of his job, Catalán is responsible for taking care of capturing and further processing all of the elements and instruments that compose a song and crafting a final phonographic product from them that can be delivered to the public. Expanding upon this, Catalán explained, “When the artist and the music producer have a song ready, my job is to record it the best way possible, depending on the music genre and the song’s instrumentation. Then I mix the song, a process that consists of putting all of the instruments and vocal takes together in a perfect balance, ultimately creating the experience of listening to a whole band and arrangement in any type of playable format.”

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Josué Catalán recording drums at Studio Master

Of course, acquiring the knowledge necessary to create the musical pieces of virtuosity that Catalán has requires dedication, repetitive practice as well as some experimentation, and mentorship. In 2014, he received just the latter upon becoming sound engineer and music producer Barry Sage’s (The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, and New Order) assistant at Studio Master. Sage was the very first to introduce Catalán to the world of professional studio and record production. The following year, he had the riveting opportunity to learn firsthand from music producer Joe Chiccarelli (U2, Frank Zappa, Alanis Morissette, and Jason Mraz) at an exclusive master class in Chile.

Aside from learning from some of the most monumental names in the music industry, post Catalán’s 2015 graduation from Duoc UC where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sound Engineering in addition to the award for academic excellence in his studies, he began engineering for a vast variety of them.

While Studio Master was the launching place of Catalán’s professional career, it was only the start of his renowned success. For nearly two years, Catalán worked as the studio chief sound engineer at Studio Factoria where the hit, soul-pop single Son Con Soul was completely mixed and mastered by Josué himself. Son Con Soul was awarded at the 2016 Fox Music USA Awards for best pop ballad and has been aired by some of the biggest radio stations of the country.

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Josué Catalán on the console at Studio Factoria

The Fox Music USA Awards are held annually and are dedicated to promoting the music of Latin creators worldwide. Both established and emerging artists are eligible in the competition, ultimately providing the possibility of opening new doors for all.

“The Fox Music USA Awards stems from their organization (Fox Music USA) which holds the vision to promote Latin culture and create a community that supports Latin talents worldwide. It started back in 2004 (the awards in 2010), and since there are not a lot of international contests apart from the Grammy’s and Latin Grammy’s, to have worked on a song that was awarded among some of the best exponents in the Latin world is a big credit,” Catalán shared.

When one makes music, not only is winning a highly prestigious award such as a Fox Music USA Award a big credit; receiving recognition via being played by a handful of the most popular radio stations serves as testimony to a musician’s talents, too. The majority of artists create with the hope that their products will one day reach vast audiences, but not all do. Josué Catalán’s work, on the other hand, is one of the exceptions.

Most of the singles and albums Catalán has worked on has reached listeners through cable TV, Spotify, live radio shows, and/or online and FM radio stations, to name a few. When asked what hearing one of the songs he worked on through one of these mediums for the very first time, Catalán reacted by saying, “To me, hearing my work on the radio or television feels like success because the goal is to deliver the experience and the message of the song to the biggest number of people you can. Knowing that my work is being heard gives me a combination of feelings. It makes me feel prideful, but such exposure is also very adrenaline-inducing.”

It is because of these intense emotions that Catalán values his senses of humility and professionalism when it comes to his work. It takes a lot more than just talent to create the overall success of a project, including fighting against one’s own ego in the way that, “You don’t let your own thoughts and emotional attachments interfere with the song and the potential it has,” Catalán explained. Even past colleagues would agree that these are some of Catalán’s strengths, and contribute to what makes him so good at what he does.

Folk/Rock musician Fepe Aguirre, who’s 2015 album Somos De Tierra was recorded, produced, mixed, and mastered by Catalán, praise the sound engineer’s demeanor, work ethic, and talents enough. “Working together with Josué is knowing that the result has an assured quality. He is open-minded and is clear with his opinions and knows exactly what he is looking for. There are many elements that make up his professionalism: his dedication, constant study, and the way he’s always acknowledging new music. As for his personality, he is very capable of facing great challenges without intimidation, and he has great will and great strength. This has led him to meet great personalities in the music industry and become the engineer he is now.”

These few examples above only touch upon the notable resume of professional experience Catalán has achieved in his career as a sound engineer thus far, and is a testament to how exceptionally far he will go.

Currently, Catalán is working on a couple of singles from Chilean blues artist Jano Letelier, various pop ballads from singer Dani Ilabel that are set to go straight to national television grid, and a pop single from singer Hueso Carrizo.

 

For more information on Josué Catalán, please visit: www.josuecatalan.com

An Exclusive Discussion of Award Winning Actor Christopher Capito’s Best Work

To be an actor is to be an expressive, fearless storyteller; Christopher Capito has been one of these since he was seven years old. Over the past fourteen years, it is a job he has fully embodied.

Originally from Quito, Ecuador, Capito initially got his start in a theater troupe before making the transition into film. Since then, his work has been viewed by a wide range of audiences and has been nominated for and won numerous awards at a variety of film festivals.

In the 2017 short film Rotten Grapes, directed by Marc-Ivan O’Gorman (The Black Magic, A Kiss and a Click, and Blood Coloured Moon), Capito plays Andres De La Vega, a grandchild of a Latino woman who is recently deceased. “The film won more than two festivals, and I won the award of best ensemble with the rest of the main cast,” Capito stated.

Rotten Grapes is a sitcom that follows the De La Vega family after the loss of their beloved grandmother. With the promise of leaving the entire fortune to only one of her grandchildren – the one who holds the most family values – the story delves deeper into the lives of each grandchild, revealing their individual troubles along the way.

The cast was lead under the guidance of experienced acting coach Michael Aspinwall, who’s known for his acting work as Dr. Shelby in the 2012-2013 TV series WWE Raw, and has also worked for companies such as Titan Sports Productions, USA Network, and World Wrestling Entertainment. Given the film’s comedic tone combined with Capito’s prior experience in both short and long form improv, the pair worked well together in training. Expanding upon this, Aspinwall said, “While the other actors had trouble bringing the characters alive, Capito didn’t have to make any effort. He has a natural timing for comedy, and that’s something you can’t learn. Capito was born with that.”

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Actor Christopher Capito

Also in 2017, Capito co-wrote and starred in the three-time award winning short film Milk Fang. “In Milk Fang, I played the main character named Andrew. The project is about a young vampire who lives in a conservative vampire family. In this world of vampires, there are two types: blood drinkers (who represent the societal norm), and the milker (who are vampires who drink milk instead of blood, and are an analogy to gay people),” Capito explained. “In the story, the young vampire Andrew comes out of the coffin with his parents, and has to face the prejudice of the rest of the vampire society.”

Ultimately exemplifying its success, Milk Fang was awarded with the titles of Best Screenplay, Best LGBTQ Film, and Best Sci-Fi Short Film at three different film festivals. It was directed by Nicholas Joseph Cunha (Red Souls, Outdated, and Daisy) and written in a collaborative effort. Two-time Daytime Emmy Award winner and Primetime Emmy Nominee George McGrath (Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, On the Television, and Tracey Takes On), who also worked as one of the three writers of the film, speaks highly of his writing partner and actor Capito, affirming, “Christopher has a special talent when it comes to writing and acting out real, human stories. He also has the ability to play multiple races, such as Latino, Italian, and Iberian, as well as a wide age range of 13 to 20 years old.”

Aside from his natural talent, this criterion played a crucial role in casting Capito as the main “Chambelan” named Santiago in one of his first U.S. based short films back in 2016, Terintañera. The story of Terintañera revolves around the Quinceañera party, a celebration that is a vital part of Capito’s culture. The film was based in Los Angeles, ultimately showing how the Latin culture is a growing minority. Additionally, the role of Sebastian provided Capito with the perfect opportunity to show his ability to connect with both the American and the Latin cultures.

Elaborating on this, Capito said, “For me, playing Santiago was an amazing experience. Not only was I challenged as an actor with having to revert back to thinking as a younger version of myself in order to pull inspiration from my Latin roots via experiences from a much earlier age, but I was also given the chance to rediscover my culture and ultimately revel in the nostalgia of growing up in it.”

 

For more information on Christopher Capito, please visit: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm7462667/?ref_=tt_ov_wr

FIGHTING FOR A BETTER LIFE…& FOR HIS LIFE: EL GIGANTE

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Edwin Perez takes acting very seriously, not in a dramatic sense but rather in the way that he gives every bit of himself to the role. Many of those in his profession give their psyche over to a character but in the film “El Gigante” Perez approached his lead role of Armando with a level of commitment that is often used to refer to such intense leading males like Daniel Day Lewis, Tom Cruise, and others. Edwin’s intense performance is augmented by the bilingual dialogue and the extreme physicality of the storyline (the actor performed all of his own stunts). This emotionally draining Horror story (for both the audience and the actor) was fertile ground for Perez to exhibit his intense commitment to the film. His eclectic credits include animated productions (Nina’s World), Romantic Comedies (Heartfelt), and others but “El Gigante” is best described as Action/Horror. Edwin seems custom tailored for each of these roles and his performance as Armando might well be the shining star of them all. The process was draining in a number of ways for him but the success of this film and his performance justify the toll it took. The film has appeared at multiple festivals worldwide, winning over forty international awards and receiving acclaimed as one of the best horror short films ever made, for which the director has said that “This recognition wouldn’t be possible without Edwin.” It has also gone on to inspire a Japanese comic book series based on the film, distributed by Studio Kurabayashi.El Gigante 2

  The immense popularity that this gritty film received had to start somewhere. For the film’s director Gigi Saul Guerrero that spark was during Edwin’s audition. She professes, “Edwin Perez is by far one of the most outstanding and committed actors I have had the pleasure of working with. The moment he auditioned for Luchagore production’s most famous/successful short film “EL GIGANTE” there was no doubt that he was born to play the lead role. “EL GIGANTE” didn’t only involve a lot of emotion and pain in the horror world we built, but also a great deal of physical strength and creativity from the actors.  Edwin showed enthusiasm and initiative when it came to creating the atmosphere involving the character. He did not disappoint transferring the uniqueness of his craft from the audition room to set. Luchagore considers themselves lucky to have collaborated with Edwin.” The audition scene which won the lead role for Perez is that of a man fighting for his life and his family. While the setting is violent, surreal, and disturbing, Edwin focused solely on the humanity of his character and his fear for his loved ones rather than for his own life. While action is involved, it takes a backseat to the desperation the character openly exhibits.El Gigante 3

  “El Gigante” is the story of Armando (played by Perez) who is attempting to get his family across the US/Mexico border in search of a better life. He awakens in an unknown room, his body broken down and a Lucha Libre mask sewn onto his neck. He is forced to fight for his life against a sadistic family of killers in an effort to escape and find his wife and child. While the movie falls into the Horror genre it also has equally important social connotations. Perez himself immigrated legally into Canada with his family as a young boy. Armando’s plight and the potential dangers is a story not unheard of with those whom the actor has known. The actor made use of his Latin roots to increase the authenticity of the character, working with a dialect coach to perfect his North Mexican accent (the region from which Armando originates).

  The actor’s penchant for physical training paid off in spades when it came to the action scenes that were so vital and so believable in “El Gigante.” While he may not have been a wrestling/MMA super fan, his physical conditioning allowed him to quickly be at a level required for training. Perez communicates, “Fight sequences are like a dance, you have to work with the timing and abilities of the performers. We had a stunt coordinator and a technical consultant for the authenticity of the wrestling moves. The fights were choreographed based on the things we could do physically but it was very demanding. The whole film is also an homage to lucha libre (Mexican wrestling) so we also had to stay true to those guidelines. I was a fan of wrestling as a teenager so I was familiar with the popular moves. That’s where we started and then adapted these to what worked best on film.  With the size difference between David [Forts] and I, we thought it would be really great do some aerial moves. I also really wanted to show the brutality of the beating Armando suffers. We worked on my ability to take a hit and make it look devastating. Needless to say ,I took a lot of bruises throughout this film. During the fight scene with El Gigante, David Forts was supposed to lift me up in the air like a plank over his head. We used rigging to do this. David is a big strong guy but I’m not as light as I look. During one particular take, he threw me against the ropes in a classic wresting set up. The move was for him to grab me by the shoulder and inner thigh; I would plank and then he would press me above his head. Plans don’t always work and he missed my thigh, resulting in his hand slipping right to my groin as he went to lift me over his head. I took an extra-long pause on the canvas after I came down.”El Gigante 4

There was a lot of pain and discomfort involved in “El Gigante” in the script and in the making of the film, not that Perez considers this something he would avoid. The somewhat hyperbolic nature of the film seems actually possible in the real life climate these days. The filmmakers and the cast wanted to make a film which depicts a heightened state of the reality for the people of Mexico who risk it all to gain a better life for themselves and their loved ones. The actor concedes that he was uncertain at the audition for “El Gigante” if he would be offered the part yet Guerrero and others were immediately convinced of his greatness. There’s a bit of an analogy in this facet of his involvement and the story itself. Immigrant comes to a land and is able to achieve greatness and exponentially add to the success of others. Armando may have never been given the opportunities of Edwin but Perez is determined to portray the character’s greatness with his own abilities and talent.

Through Motion Visualization Captures and VFX Zhaoyu Zhou Creates Innovative Film “Last Dance”

VFX artist and director Zhaoyu Zhou23592110_10215392853721198_2657579445691441541_o
VFX artist and director Zhaoyu Zhou

From manipulating the imagery of live-action footage to creating characters like the titular bear in “Paddington,” the CGI Autobots in “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” and even bringing former ones back from the dead, such the “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” character Grand Moff Tarkin, the advances in visual effects technology has given filmmakers exponential freedom to literally create anything they can imagine.

A perfect example of the unique power and possibilities that new digital technologies have brought to modern filmmaking is Chinese VFX artist and film director Zhaoyu Zhou’s recent film “Last Dance,” which earned the Best Experimental Film Award at the Miami Short Film Festival and was chosen as a Semifinalist by the 2017 Adobe Design Achievement Awards.

An experimental motion capture visualization film, “Last Dance” tells the ancient Chinese romance story “Farewell My Concubine” in the way of Peking Opera, a traditional Chinese performing art that combines music, vocal performance, mime, dance and acrobatics.

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Poster for “Last Dance”

”I came up with this idea and concept back in 2015 since I have family and relatives engaged in Peking Opera performances, and I have also been influenced by this traditional performing arts since childhood,” explains Zhou. “By creating this film I wanted to depict Peking Opera in a new form, while also giving audiences the opportunity to experience this traditional Chinese performing art.”

Zhou shot “Last Dance” using famous Peking Opera artist Zhang Ming, who assisted in the choreography and performed the dance as both the King and the Concubine simultaneously on a motion capture stage. Zhou then transferred the motion capture data into Houdini where he created the dynamic simulation effects we see on screen. A data intensive film, Zhou also brought in Houdini FX artist Debra Isaac, who’s known for her visual effects work on the documentary films “Holy Man: The USA VS. Douglas White” and “Wildest Weather in the Solar System.”

“Motion visualization is a newer form of storytelling, and it utilizes the most advanced VFX techniques. The final visual look is achieved through the effects of dynamic simulation. I used Mantra to render and Nuke to composite,” Zhou explains. “There are no texture maps on the two characters, so in order to achieve the elegant look I had to tweak the light and shader material.”

The film, which has also been chosen as an Official Selection of the 2018 USC First Look Film Festival, is visually beautiful, with Zhou’s master skill in VFX making it possible for the figures to dance gracefully across the screen. Zhou’s minimalist style in “Last Dance” provides a lot of space for the viewer’s imagination. The dynamic fluidity of the characters, their bright colors– a key representation of the costumes in Peking Opera performances, and they way he structures the two characters, with the King coming across with a level of sharpness and the Concubine with smooth rounded edges, make “Last Dance” a rich expression of innovation and a homage to tradition at the same time.

Another key element to the film, one that helps create an emotional experience for the viewer, gives life to the characters and drives Zhou’s concept of blending the traditional with the modern is the accompanying music.

He says, “This kind of experimental work using motion capture and CG not only require a unique visual style, but they also need to be fully integrated with the music to achieve the best audio visual experience. I am so grateful to my composer Meizhen He for creating the music.”

Zhou, who’s originally from Qingdao, China, began his career a little over five years ago, and what he’s accomplished since is nothing short of amazing. Lately Zhou has been pulling in award after award for his films, which for the most part, are either animated or created through motion visualization techniques. His seasoned skill as a VFX artist is definitely one of his most powerful assets, one that is matched only by his unique creativity and the stories he’s driven to tell.

Some of Zhou’s other films include the 2017 animated film “Karma,” which earned more than nine Best Animation Awards at festivals including the Los Angeles Film Awards and Asians on Film Festival, as well as the Award of Distinction at Greece’s Athens Animation Festival, the 2016 film “Spherical,” which was chosen as an Official Selection of the Melbourne International Animation Festival, the Adobe Design Achievement Awards and more, as well as “Reunion,” “Dancing Blue” and others.

Considering Zhou had already proven his strengths as a narrative storyteller through his previous work, and being someone who’s driven to push his personal creative boundaries, “Last Dance” was the perfect opportunity for the VFX artist and filmmaker to experiment with his craft and create something new.

“This time I wanted to try something new. I saw a lot of experimental works in the beginning. The ones I found most inspirational are the series of motion visualization films by Universal Everything in the UK and WOW studio in Japan,” explains Zhou. “Minimalism combined with surrealism, and integrated with the Chinese Opera is such an innovation. Being able to innovate and combine traditional art with modern technology has always been my pursuit.”

Thanks to his vast knowledge and experience with VFX, Zhou was able to translate an age old form of performance and storytelling into the experimental and wildly creative concept that he envisioned in his mind; and created something audiences across the globe could enjoy.

“It was such an amazing journey for me. My favorite part was transferring the design and concept to the final look through the way of VFX by using Houdini. I couldn’t imagine making this happen without VFX,” says Zhou, adding that, “motion visualization has never been easy but it has challenged me to move forward without fear.”

 

Orlando Pineda exhibits truth as one of the Immigrant Brothers

Screen Shot 2018-01-02 at 12.43.00 PMOne of the most provocative present day subjects in the US is immigration. While debate is ubiquitous in the media and in political conversation, it’s the plight of the real people who travel to the States in search of a better life that is sometimes overlooked. The filmmakers of Immigrant Brothers made it their mission to portray an accurate representation of this story. Orland Pineda portrays Marcos in the film which depicts the story of three men who struggle to weave themselves into the fabric of America. The story is about Kemar, Ali, and Marcos, three illegal immigrants who meet on the streets of Los Angeles. Coming from different countries and cultures, they find out that they have that one thing in common, the dream of a better life here in America. In order to achieve this, they must first survive, pushing their own personal boundaries and doing things they have never considered possible before. The trio bonds, becoming a family away from their original one and faces situations that would easily frighten and break the vast majority of Americans. The film is a personalization of the current immigrant experience that is depicted with the emotional intensity inherent in these circumstances, adeptly communicated by Pineda and his costars.

Immigrant Brothers received numerous awards including Festival Prize at Atlantic City Cinefest, Best Drama Film at the European Cinematography Awards, and many others (including nominations at the Gold Movie Awards, Los Angeles Cinefest, & Hollywood International Film Festival). The film’s director Nicholas Joseph Cunha relied on Pineda to bring the gravitas he required. Cunha states, “During the filming of Immigrant Brothers, Orlando showed a level of intensity that went beyond the other actors that auditioned; confirming what I saw in his audition. In real life he is a very happy and charming person. I did not expect him to make such an extreme transformation the way he did for the character. His mannerisms, physicality, and emotional center were unrecognizable from the actual person Orlando is in his real life. He took the role very seriously and our film was the recipient of his hard work. I loved working with him. Orlando is a versatile actor who can change his essence in order to play other people.”

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Pineda’s performance as Marcos is that of the protector of the group. He’s the father figure who keeps everyone in line but also has to ensure their safety on the perilous streets of Los Angeles. Marcos is a caring person that would do anything for those he loves. Marcos is an advisor, a provider, and a guardian but his circumstances have required him to become more aggressive than the life which he previously knew. In precarious situations he can turn aggressive, resorting to a fight or flight mode. Even in the midst of this metropolis, the trio can easily find themselves in the type of threatening scenarios that most of the population will never even glimpse. The daily struggle is presented in common situations such as when Kemar (played by Marlon Samuda) disapproves of Marcos stealing food and the pseudo-patriarch reminds him that his actions will provide enough food to last them for a week. What might be called “hunting” in ancient times is easily dubbed “stealing” now, while the actions and outcome are very nearly the same. Pineda communicates all of the inner turmoil of Marcos in these situations and challenges the audience to consider what they might do in the same situation, more for their family than for themselves.

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Pineda’s own status as an immigrant in the US gave him an added empathy for the story of Kemar, Ali, and Marcos but he quickly admits that it is a minute fraction of the actual experience. In addition to other methods of connecting with the life of Marcos, Orlando prepared by spending many nights sleeping on the floor rather than a bed or sofa, going barefoot for days, and refusing other common conveniences which most of us take for granted. This created the aches and pains that influenced the physicality of Marcos as well as his irritability. The actor confirms that these slight shifts in your daily life can greatly affect your demeanor. While uncomfortable, this was essential to understanding Marcos and his “adopted” family. This type of empathy is a requirement for actors and in particular those who feel they have an important story to tell. Orlando relates, “I feel that we live in a time where these stories should be told, not because the story is new but because people are talking about it and are aware. Yes, professionals in the entertainment world can be described as dreamers but that’s not a trivial thing. I think everyone on Earth dreams. We all have aspirations. As a part of the film industry, I can help people who might never find themselves in a certain situation to somehow relate to and understand someone in need. It’s emotional and I love being part of that part of the experience of others. Maybe we can create consciousness and educate people so that they do not end up like Marcos and his friends. Maybe we can help people who are more fortunate to see these people as individuals who want to better their lives rather than just as someone who isn’t trying.”

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The numerous nominations and awards received by Immigrant Brothers confirms that the audience and film community had a great affinity for the film. For an actor like Orlando Pineda, it’s the proof of affecting individuals with the film’s message that holds the greatest importance. He didn’t have to wait for the audience to watch the film to attain confirmation of the stories relevance and impact as he reveals, “When we were shooting a scene in one of the streets in downtown L.A., an old lady came up to Marlon (Kemar) while he was performing a monologue sitting in a corner next to a trash can. Unaware that he was an actor and that we were filming, she leaned towards him and gave him a dollar stating, ‘There is always more than this. Have faith.’ Most of the crew held their work because everyone had tears in their eyes. That was one of the most memorable moments, not only of the film but of my life. That lady didn’t know that her kindness strengthened our resolve that there are good people out there who care for their fellow man and we can have some small part in helping to tell this story.”

 

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.

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Promotional shot for season 2 of the critically acclaimed drama, “Top of the Lake.” 
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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.”

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Alastair Osment in a moving scene from “Deadline Gallipoli,” where he played the key role of Melvyn.
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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.

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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.