Tips from the experts: Supervising Producer Jonathon Ridgard

My name is Jonathon Ridgard, and for over ten years, I have been working as a successful television producer all around the world, predominantly on prime-time entertainment shows such as The X Factor, American Idol, Got Talent franchises, Undercover Boss and Dancing with the Stars. As a Supervising Producer, I am responsible for leading teams of producers, associate producers and production assistants to create great television shows. I have worked on many leading entertainment formats around the world, in the US, UK and Australia, for networks such as NBC, ABC, FOX, BBC, ITV, Network Ten, and more.

No two jobs are the same; no two days are ever the same. To thrive in this industry and have a successful career, you will need perseverance, commitment, and to be prepared to put in a lot of hard work. It certainly isn’t an industry that nurtures the bewildered – you’ll want confidence to work on your skills, experience and contacts and not be afraid to work from the bottom up – with no ego.

Here are my tips, insight, and advice on what it takes to get into television and become a successful producer:

STARTING OUT – PRODUCTION ASSISTANT

My biggest advice to those starting a career in television is to start at the bottom. Irrespective of whatever degree you got in university – leave the ego at the door and learn your craft from the ground up. As a production assistant, you will get to work in every department on a show, work with equipment, and get a real insight into what life is like as a producer. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for advice. Showing a keen interest and being pro-active with your role will only make you stand out to a producer. But remember, choose the right time to ask those questions! Approach every single task, however big or small, with enthusiasm as if your life depended on it. Do the coffee run, make perfect notes, anticipate the needs of your producer and you will be off to a good start.

WATCH TV / HAVE IDEAS

One of the things that I am always surprised at when speaking to people starting out in television is the amount of time they spend watching TV – or lack of. It is so important to watch TV, films, commercials, music videos, short films – anything that might give you inspiration. Mark Twain once said, “There is no such thing as a new idea”, but what a successful producer can do is look at and take inspiration from what they see around them. I have drawn so much inspiration from the stuff that I have watched, adapted it and created something myself.

Constantly make a list of your ideas, whether it’s for a new type of show, a segment of a particular type of show, an interesting game or a particular shot that you liked. You will never know when that might work.

BE SOCIAL

I can’t stress how important it is to get to know as many people as you can, especially in the first few years of your career. Making connections is the key to success in the television industry. Jobs are rarely, if ever advertised. Most people get jobs through word of mouth, reputation and recommendation. So being a strong, creative worker with a good network is definitely an advantage. I haven’t had a ‘job interview’ in seven years and I have worked consistently. All of my work is through recommendations and network executives or executive producers reaching out and wanting me.

And finally…

ENJOY YOURSELF AND BE NICE

Working in television should be a fun, creative experience – remember that, even when things get stressful. This career has given me the opportunity to work and travel the world, meet some of the most interesting people and have the most amazing, life changing experiences – take a moment to take them in.

Remember, always be nice. It’s very easy to develop an ego in this industry, but the one thing I always remember is while it’s nice to be important, it’s important to be nice.

 

Jonathon Ridgard is currently working on the newest season of American Idol, premiering March 11th on ABC.

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Actor Tony Nash shows off boxing skills in ‘Petrol’

Tony Nash believes that his responsibility as an actor is to find the soul of his character and take on their essence. And for this Canadian actor, he believes that the soul of every character has its seed within his own. The seed of some character’s souls sometimes closely resemble him, and others differ greatly, but the differences are always a result of a difference of choices and environment, not the substance of the soul itself. His soul and every other soul out there are made of the same stuff. This is what makes great acting possible. The potential to take on another’s soul through a character and live and breathe as him is limitless, and for that reason, Nash knew acting was the only path for him.

From the 2015 horror/comedy Secret Santa to the upcoming Audience network series Condor, Nash has shown audiences everywhere that he is not only a talented actor, but extremely versatile as well. Whether he is playing a supportive friend, like in the acclaimed movie Saving Dreams or a complicated, bilingual police officer, which he did in the film Meet the Parents, Nash remains completely committed to his characters. He not only portrays them, he becomes them, and this could not be more evident than with his work on the television show Petrol in 2016.

petrol

Petrol is an action/drama series following five reckless drivers who all work for a mysterious Employer. In the show, Nash plays Jason, an ex-military veteran and boxer who is commissioned by a mysterious figure known as The Employer to plan and execute a gold heist. When it goes wrong and his partner is killed, a plan to execute revenge on the all-powerful and elusive Employer is born.

“I was really excited about Petrol because not only would I be able to let loose with my boxing training on set, but also execute a meticulous and brutal gold heist; every actor’s dream. It sounded really exciting to me because I enjoy playing the mysterious bad guy. It comes naturally to me and I knew this would be really fun. I wanted to experience working on a high-paced action project and I knew this would be different than anything else I had done in the past,” said Nash.

The character of Jason was a very skilled boxer who would go on and lead a heist. As an ex-military commander, he knew how to think on his feet and stay composed in any situation. When the heist goes wrong and his friend gets shot in all the action, Nash’s Jason had to compartmentalize his emotions and complete the mission despite losing his comrade. It was a dramatic loss, but he had to push through to the end. He was brave and extremely determined, able to think fast of imminent danger. Nash was ready for the complex role and executed it to perfection.

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“I worked with Tony on the television show Petrol, where he performed the critical role of Jason the Boxer. Tony’s character is a trained boxer and there are several long scenes in which Jason was to realistically fight an opponent, which provided something of a challenge to the actor who would portray him. On top of that, Jason is also a complicated character who must display the emotions of one whose friend is killed, leading him to desire revenge. I am proud to say that Tony performed beyond my wildest expectations. As a trained boxer, he portrayed Jason’s technique and savagery in the ring perfectly. Not only that, but he was also a fantastic, nuanced actor, bringing the emotional depth of the character to life. His performance enhanced the quality of the entire show. I was extremely impressed with his work,” said Reza Sholeh, Writer and Director of Petrol.

When Sholeh approached Nash about taking on a role as a boxer, Nash was excited about the opportunity and would not let anything get in the way of his delivering a great performance. He was eager to put to use a whole slew of other skills in addition to acting, to take on this explosive role. This is not common, and Nash says that he feels lucky to be able to play such a character. He immediately began training. He had previous experience in boxing, but to be a realistic professional boxer, he wanted to look completely natural. Having already understood many techniques from his previous boxing training, he quickly became an expert for the part, training at the Toronto Boxing Academy in Toronto. It was challenging, training for hours every day, there was a lot of sweat and exhaustion, but Nash knew the importance of the work. He used the long hours spent in the gym to get into the mood and mindset of his character. In one particular boxing scene, Nash steals the show and truly looks like a professional boxer.

“I love boxing and it is one of my favorite sports that I continue to practice even now, years after filming Petrol. I have many inspirations such as Mohammed Ali and Mike Tyson. I studied their techniques and skill and compared them to many other boxers to understand the secret to their incredible success. The day of the shoot for that particular scene, I came in early to warm up and really get into it and focus not only on the technique, but to give the character his own personality as a boxer. I hope I can once again shine in a role not only through acting, but through my other skills and hobbies as well,” said Nash.

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Nash’s work was essential to Petrol and the episodes featuring Jason the Boxer. He was able to bring both his skills as a boxer and talent as an actor to the screen. It is sometimes difficult for actors to be able to do both naturally and simultaneously, but Nash did so flawlessly. He practiced and perfected both boxing and his lines, not forgetting to take the time to understand the character’s mind by finding his soul within him.

“I really liked the fast pace action of this story. I usually opt for deeper and more complex characters, but I loved how my character shared this bond with his friend through boxing and how he was suddenly taken away from him in the heist. I think that is important to portray because it shows both sides of a character. On the outside my character looked tough and intimidating and was willing to put his life at stake in a high-risk situation, but he also had another side of him. That’s important to show because it allows people to understand that there’s more to a tough guy than the way they look on the surface,” he said.

Petrol was released in February 2016 and went on to win several awards including Best Mystery at the Vancouver Webfest and Best Action Adventure at Hollywebfest.

 

By Sean Desouza

Art Director Phenix Miao helps raise thousands for Itron Battery Crowdfunding

Not many children can grasp the understanding of color and architecture the way China’s Phenix Miao could. At a young age, he was quickly able to spot the small details in furniture and props in daily life. It was a hobby and skill that he quickly realized could transition into a career. Working as a successful Production Designer and Art Director, Miao is now a leader of the industry in China.

Throughout his career, Miao has shown what a dynamic Art Director he is. With his work on films such as Shanghai Sojourner and Lottery, Miao’s attention to detail and vast talent is evident. He also lends his skills to commercial work, recently creating a series of promotional videos for Lepow and another for Itron Battery to promote their crowdfunding. With an outstanding number of viewers online, the Itron Battery commercial is one of his greatest successes in his esteemed career.

“Phenix is a very rare talent with both marketing and artistic sense. We worked closely on the Itron commercial, talking a lot about budget and production. Phenix was vital for the success of the commercial, and even found the location at a very affordable price, which helped the feeling of the film. He helped me to balance the art and budget so well. He is an expert when controlling the costs of everything. Phenix understands the difference between marketing value and artistic value, and he understands people. From his angle and visual aspect, he did a great job making the crowdfunding video look appealing. A crowdfunding commercial should be tangible and amiable, not chasing perfect as a normal TV commercial would. Phenix told me that crowdfunding is not charity, you need to let people feel this is a hopeful product and company. This outlook inspired the team. His outstanding communication skills allowed everyone to clearly understand what we were doing. He is a great leader and creator,” said Alice Fan, Producer.

The Itron Battery commercial advertises the company’s portable battery bank, the world’s fastest portable charger. It completely charges in 18 minutes, and within three minutes, one phone can be charged. The commercial showcases the product while still being comical and informative. It features two leading characters, one explaining the charger, and another looking to purchase one. They run through many different scenarios in which one may need a charger, leaving viewers both entertained and in need of the product.

“All the people that worked on this commercial were so professional. We did our work really fast, because we were so familiar with each other. From scene to scene, people just did everything very naturally. There was such chemistry, everything was as natural as breathing,” said Miao.

This commercial was not Miao’s first experience with a crowdfunding style video. He previously helped to raise $217,501 USD for Pivot Turingsense crowdfunding, achieving 274% of their goal, and for HiSmart crowdfunding, they reached 531% funded after raising $297,106, with the videos being the main source of awareness. That being said, the Itron commercial was by far the most successful, with hundreds of thousands of views online and reaching 706% of their goal by raising $289,472. It was also an Official Selection at the 2016 International Peace & Film Festival in Orlando, Florida.

“I still feel really excited about this commercial. When I hear so many people talk about it, I almost want to run up and interrupt them to let them know that I worked on it. That’s how proud of it I am. It is a big success in three aspects: art, commercial and crowdfunding,” he said.

Miao and the Director of the shoot, Peter “Zhen” Pan, had known each other for ten years when the opportunity to work on the commercial arrived. Miao is the director’s go-to art director and was the first person he reached out to. After reading the script, Miao accepted right away.

“Peter and I are golden partners. He knows I am a great Art Director that is full of ideas and the perfect match for what he wants. He just called me and told me the details about this project and we started working on it that same night. He always gives me enough space and time to design and develop my ideas. He fully respects me,” said Miao.

As the Art Director, Miao was in charge of the overall look for the commercial, selecting the best and most suitable artistic elements while leading the creative team. He designed a concise, natural, and clean aesthetic while controlling the style. He understands the difference between market value and artistic value, setting him apart from his colleagues. For this Itron commercial, he designed the color tone with Pan and knew to keep in mind the difference between a regular commercial and a crowdfunding commercial. He made sure to meet the requirements while planning the artistic elements around the brand, creating a higher brand value for the video. This allowed the product to stick in customers’ minds.

What was perhaps Miao’s most considerable contribution to the commercial, however, was finding the location of Elliston Winery. Miao enjoys working in historical settings, and the winery is no different. When decorating a historical set, Miao plays with the flavor that they bring to the table and plans everything around the atmosphere they possess. His passion for the location was passed onto the entire cast and crew. They treated it like their homes, making sure to respect every piece of furniture and brick in the building. Such respect for his setting and its parts is a main reason Miao is such a formidable artist and leader.

“I have been Phenix’s Assistant for years, but I also see him as my guide in my film career. He is not only in charge of the art department but is also a tremendous team leader. He understands style and perfectly controls the appearance of every image. Phenix is a great mentor and teaches me all of his techniques and knowledge. He is a talent but also very easy going. Phenix always knows how to take a director’s idea and turn it into something special. He knows how to make the effects suitable and always has new, practical ideas that come from his plethora of experience. I think the fact that he has also worked as a director and writer allow him to understand the role of the art director even better, and it sets him apart from the rest,” said Qin Zheng.

Watch the Itron Crowdfunding commercial here.

 

Photo taken by Peak City International Film Festival, Phenix Miao and John Whitaker

By Sean Desouza

PRODUCING LOVE’S 2ND CHANCES: MING QIU

(By Winston Scott)

Leo Johnson - on set

Like many of us, Ming Qiu is fascinated by the complexity of relationships. Her secret superpower which separates her from most mortals is that, as a film producer, she has the power to give life to the stories of relationships which she finds interesting. Making a film is part discovery, part catharsis, and a whole lot of work. The diversity of the films she produces mirrors the vast array of relationships and their emotional toll that each of us can experience in our lives. This is what filmmakers do, they present stories that makes us laugh, inspire us, and hopefully help us to understand each other and ourselves. One day Qiu is making certain that furniture is burning properly (wait for it, you’ll find out) and the next she is reverse engineering the weather…it’s all a part of movie making and the wild ride that draws creative personalities such as Ming into an industry that gives something to the world.

Evan Bluestein gave Ming the script for his film “Leo Johnson” and she immediately knew that it was too good to not be a part of. The genre was comedy and romance but it was the deeper meaning that cinched the deal for this producer. At its core, “Leo Johnson” is about fear in a relationship and what we are willing to face. It’s an idea that Qiu would like more people to believe in, the notion that we would not only reject the fear which makes relationships so hard but that we would also face our personal fears down for those we love and cherish. Her way to promote this sensibility was to produce this film which espouses such notions.

Leo Johnson - location scout 1

Director Evan Bluestein wanted Qiu to produce because, in addition to witnessing her consummate professionalism on previous projects, her dark humor and fearlessness reminded him of the female lead in the film. He notes, “It’s always tricky to find the balance between humor and heart, and I was fortunate to work with Ming because she is such a collaborative, creative, and a passionate producer. From the beginning of our development process, Ming was an advocate for the love story and for making it the central dynamic from which the plot would grow. What I truly appreciated about working with Ming is her passion for the possibilities of the medium. She has a unique point of view that I’m sure I cannot sum up, but I know it has to do with dry humor and love and seeing the best in people. And that is something that makes its way into all of her films and is the mark of an artist.”

Leo Johnson - location scout 2

Qiu’s determination was challenged at several stages by factors which sought to impede or stop the film’s creation. The usual expected schedule conflicts, rental break downs, and even the Director of Photography leaving near the completion of film could not hamper the film and its producers resolve, in fact…it may have reaffirmed this determination. As sometimes occurs, the characters in the film itself were a metaphor for the cast and crew in so far as love kept them from giving up on their shared goal. In “Leo Johnson” the male lead (Ben) is extremely afraid of fire but he distracts his friend by setting her couch on fire so that his girlfriend Donna can escape during their ring-stealing crime scene; extreme limits for love, just as Ming wished. Being able to keep a cool and positive head during challenging times is made easier by a sense of humor. Qiu boldly states, “I can’t imagine a producer who isn’t able to be funny during these challenging moments. It’s a quality that keeps you and your team healthy during all the production headaches. In fact, all great producers I know are funny people. Film producers who are not funny probably have all pivoted to other careers.”

 

Rosita Lama Muvdi (Director of “Till I See You Again”) echoes that statement proclaiming, “Ming’s amazing sense of humor, coupled with her dedicated abilities as a talented producer, made working with her on ‘Till I See You Again’ an unforgettable experience. Her intoxicating personality made anyone on the production team excited to be around her, which, in turn, made the set a fun and productive environment to be in. With all the demands during production, Ming was always there to make sure production ran smoothly, ensuring both the cinematographer’s and my vision were able to come to life.”

“Till I See You Again” is a benevolent tale about time travel. While most time travel tales are about riches or crime (and end up with karma serving justice), this tale focuses on a father who simply wants to take care of his daughter. An older man (James) calls his daughter but is ignored. He is given a chance to travel back and have a younger version of himself shower his daughter with gifts and love. Through the experience we see that father and daughter in present day have a warm and full relationship.

Till I See You Again - film festival

What was so unusual and challenging for the filmmakers of “Till I See You Again” was that there was essentially no dialogue in this story. Qiu admits that she is fond of dialogue in her productions and this was new territory for her. What was also unique was the writer’s determination to film one particular scene that communicated the time travel effectively to the audience. Ming describes the scene and how it was created, “Rather than use VFX, We shot the scene with everything moving in reverse direction with the rain from a rain tower. Our actor had to rehearse quite a few times to make sure his walking backwards looked 100% like walking forward when the footage was rewound. The visuals turned out amazing. Looking back at our night in/next to cold rain, all of us felt that having certain constraints actually pushed our creativity to a new level.”

There are many attributes which make Ming such a fine producer: an understanding of the workings of each department of the production team, extraordinary communication and organizational skills, insight into story development, and others…but it’s her curiosity which she feels makes her most important. The desire to find a creative solution to a shared goal is one she shares with the characters in these films. For another film she currently produced titled “My Zombie Club” the Art Department was having difficulty discovering a means to attach vines growing around the main characters derriere (a curse given him by a zombie lord). A diligent producer, Qiu researched until she found the perfect wardrobe piece that would serve both the art department, VFX department, and still allow the actor to retain some modesty. While it’s an unusual and humorous example, this is the challenge of any relationship…finding a solution that we can all live with. Ming Qiu is an living/professional model of the ideas illustrated in her films.

 

Profile: Leading Actor Giselle van der Wiel

Leading Australian actress Giselle van der Wiel, who has just been cast in two series shooting in the United States, is not as intimidating in person as one might expect. In a career that spans different mediums (TV shows like “Hendrix” with “Neighbours” actor Chelsea Jones) and characters (and Spanish exchange student in “In the Land Farthest From”), Giselle has built a reputation as a powerful presence in camera that would lead one to assume she’s overawing in person. In the best possible way, Giselle retains her strength upon our meeting but also possesses an incredibly personable nature that makes it no surprise her acting career continues to go from strength-to-strength.

We’re sitting down with Giselle to discuss two feature films in which she appears in critical roles, “On Halloween,” a new feature film with “2:22” actor Ezekiel Simat and “Reaching Distance,” with “Unbroken” actress Morgan Griffin. It’s the night after a glitzy film premiere and Giselle has just walked the red carpet with fellow Aussie A-listers. “All part of the routine of being an actor,” she says humbly, with a laugh. It could be easy to get distracted by talking about the behind-the-scenes glamour of a blockbuster premiere, but Giselle likes to focus on the work. So we resume our conversation about her upcoming projects and how she has achieved such great things in her eclectic career.

“I’m constantly working at growing as a person – I feel that unless I really know myself, and if I don’t experience life and meet new people, I can’t really grow as an actor.”

Giselle van der Wiel
Giselle van der Wiel on the red carpet for a film premiere.

When contacted about Giselle’s performance, “On Halloween” director didn’t need to be prodded to heap praise on Australia’s answer to Kristen Stewart. “Giselle has a crazy unique ability to own every frame she’s in,” Timothy Boyle enthusiastically explained.” There are moments where an actor gives more than you, as the writer and director, ever intended. It’s in these moments that the film takes on an extra level of depth. It’s what good actors do. It’s what Giselle did for me every day of the shoot.” Timothy, whose feature “The Half Dead” starred “Lord of the Rings” star John Rhys-Davies, clearly speaks from a position of authority. He goes on to compare Giselle’s unique appeal to that of other mega-star Australians Yvonne Strahovski (“The Handmaid’s Tale”) and “Avatar” star Sam Worthington.

While we lose focus laughing about the ironically funny moments that come with shooting a horror film, we briefly touch on her key character in “Reaching Distance,” from award-winning director David Fairhurst. In the role of “Chell,” Giselle shares the screen with BAFTA-nominated actress Tara Morice, best known for her work opposite twice-Oscar-nominated Emily Watson and her part in Baz Luhrmann’s “Strictly Ballroom.” Giselle explains “the beautiful thing about this industry is that it’s really collaborative, so everyone’s connected and everyone knows each other. It helps everyone lift their game.”

On the topic of those two TV shows Giselle is due to start filming in the US, she has to stay quite mum. “Unfortunately I’m not able to go into too much detail about my characters, but I can say that my character’s name in “Masculinity in Crisis” season 2 is Joanna.” “Masculinity” series is an award-winning co-production between Joseph Gordon Levitt’s production company HitREcord and successful outfit Nix Film, and is distributed by Amazon Studios. Series creator and lead actor Alex Cubis (“Dear White People”) explains that Giselle was cast because there was no other actor who could play her role. “The character was specifically written to possess the ability to perform in Australian and American accents, and speak Spanish. Aside from her X-factor, Giselle was the only girl who auditioned who could play the role.”

When asked about her character in “Dipsticks,” Giselle laughs. “That project is going to be fun because it’s a comedy; I don’t want to reveal too much about that. But I’m really happy to have a chance to play a lead in a comedy series.” That series also stars NBC “Community” actor Dominik Musiol, so it’s safe to say that Giselle is in fine company when it comes to her career.

“I feel really lucky that I get to continue working in different countries and in different styles – that was always my goal when I started acting. I’m very grateful.”

Producer Mickey Liu brings music and drama together in acclaimed film ‘Nocturne in Black’

Growing up, Mickey Liu always found himself stuck between two different pathways as a child. He studied business, but he loved the arts. However, as a teenager, he realized he could combine both these passions and become a professional producer. A producer is a leader, a problem-solver, a caretaker, a doer, a negotiator, a storyteller and an artist. Liu aims to be all of them, and he has achieved his goal, becoming one of China’s leading producers.

“The lack of professional producers is one of the biggest problems in the film industry of my home country. I feel the responsibility and urgency to become one. It’s very challenging, but also very rewarding,” said Liu.

Liu’s work in Chinese film is renowned. His movies such as Sail the Summer Wind, An Ill-Fitting Coat and Tear of the Peony exemplify Liu’s determination to transform the Chinese film industry and allow for more professional producers to take lead. However, one of the highlights of his career comes from his work on the 2016 film Nocturne in Black, which is actually in Arabic.

“I wanted to work on this project because of its powerful script with a musical element of the story. It was one of those rare cases where I immediately knew I would regret not being part of this. It was definitely a very ambitious and challenging project, but if we could pull that off, we would send a powerful message,” he said.

Nocturne in Black takes place in a war-ravaged Middle Eastern neighborhood, where a musician struggles to rebuild his piano after it is destroyed by terrorists. The film premiered and was an Official Selection at the 2016 Telluride Film Festival in Colorado along with Liu’s film Tear of the Peony. From there it was an Official Selection at the Los Angeles Shorts International Film Festival, won Best Director at NDU International Film Festival, The Marion Carter Green Award at the 2016 National Board of Review, Gold Circle Award Grant Winner at the 2016 Caucus Foundation, and Best Short Film Narrative at the Long Beach International Film Festival. What was the most exciting for Liu, however, was when he received the news that Nocturne in Black was shortlisted for Best Live Action Short for the 89th Academy Awards.

“It was definitely the highlight of my career. I remember receiving an email from Producer Felecia Hunter with the subject line “JESUS CHRIST” and a link to the Hollywood Reporter article in it. I was literally shaking while scrolling down the list and found out that we were shortlisted. I had no idea it could go that far, and I still feel very honored and blessed to be a part of it” said Liu.

When putting together a team for the film, Producer Felecia Hunter approached Liu, knowing what an asset he could be as a co-producer. The two had worked together in the past, and she knew he had great experience putting together and designing posters. Once he was approached, Liu read the script and immediately decided to jump on board. He then created the pitch book and designed posters when the film was just a script, which ended up being essential in the success of their Kickstarter campaign, and he also designed the look of the Kickstarter page. Half of the film was financed by the crowdfunding campaign. Liu also contributed editing notes in post-production.

NIB at LA Shorts Fest with producer Felecia Hunter
Mickey Liu and Felecia Hunter at the LA Shorts Fest

Hunter and Liu attended several film festivals and awards to help promote the film. During the film’s festival run, he helped with coordinating the transportation of the film’s DCP copy and created promotional postcards for Nocturne in Black. Liu played a critical role in financing and marketing of Nocturne in Black, and that is exactly why Hunter approached him to begin with.

Mickey is organized, thorough, and possesses a very keen eye for details. He knows how to communicate with department heads quickly and effectively, ensuring a productive working environment on set and throughout post-production. Mickey is an asset on any project or event he works on. He always goes the extra mile by working long hours; triple checking details; and doing much more than is required of his job description. Through our work together, I had the delight of experiencing his extraordinary talent shine from pre-production to having films he produced screen at the Telluride Film Festival and other notable festivals worldwide. Mickey Liu is a gifted artist, but also a skilled professional and invaluable collaborator. His writing, producer’s vision, and narrative insights have always been revelatory – the sign of a mature and talented film producer – and add an unforgettable quality to any project he takes on,” said Hunter.

The story is set in Syria, but for safety reasons due to the civil war in the country, the production took place in the director’s home country Lebanon. Liu was working long hours just to put together a good pitch book; he did a lot of the research and exchanged notes with the Director, Jimmy Keyrouz, to ensure the look of the pitch book matched Keyrouz’s artistic vision. He then worked on the typography and details of the book for days, and this was only the first step.

“Everyone on the team pushed themselves to a whole new level because we wanted to have the best possible version of the film. It was really a labor of love and I could feel it when I was working on it,” Liu described.

The team was one of the best parts about working on Nocturne in Black for Liu. He was extremely impressed with everyone’s commitment to the story and with the professionalism on set. Everyone was at the top of their game, and they were having fun. More than anything, however, Liu was most inspired by the story they were telling. He knows the importance it has and encourages audiences to see it.

“It’s imperative to remind people about what is happening in the forgotten parts of the world – murderously effective, half-ton barrel bombs are constantly dropped on innocent civilians. It’s a story about human spirit standing up to oppression, evil, and terrorism. In the story, playing music is the protagonist’s ultimate act of defiance in a world where music is banned. I think it sends out a powerful message. Our director once said, “Art is a mighty tool that helps us fight extremism and terrorism.” In some way, making this film is our way to join the fight,” he said.

Be sure to check out Nocturne in Black so you too can join the fight.

 

Top photo by Lingyun Zheng

 

By Sean Desouza

Filmmaker & Journalist Liliya Anisimova Reveals Her Fashionista Side on TheSTYLEtti

Journalist Liliya Anisimova
Journalist Liliya Anisimova

From her time as a news anchor for local Moscow news stations Doverie and Teleinform, to working as the host of several hit TV programs on the popular Russian Travel Guide (RTG), journalist and filmmaker Liliya Anisimova has spent a lot of time in front of the camera, and she always looks stunning. Granted, she’s a natural beauty, but her keen eye for fashion truly makes her stand out.

My mom likes to tell this story all the time of how when I was about three putting clothes on for daycare. I put my yellow track suit on, I remember that suit, it was chic yellow with colorful stars, a Juicy Couture style tracksuit. And my mom gave me pink socks,” Liliya recalls with a smile. “I looked at her and said, ‘I’m not going anywhere in a yellow suit and pink socks. I need yellow socks’… I wouldn’t go anywhere until my mom found me yellow socks. She always tells this story saying, ‘who told you about matching colors, nobody taught you how to pair colors’.”

As a journalist and filmmaker, Liliya Anisimova’s accomplishments are beyond impressive– to the point of making of us wonder if she has some super human power giving her the ability to accomplish more in a day than most. As the writer and director of the films “From Real to Reel,” “Magic of the Underground,” which earned the Best Experimental Film Award at the 2013 Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival, and the poignant documentary “Love is the Highest Law,” which screened internationally and earned numerous awards including the Award of Merit from the 2015 IndieFEST Film Awards, she’s made a strong name for herself as a talented storyteller.

Ironically though, it was Liliya’s chic style, not her seemingly endless accolades, that first caught the attention of The STYLEtti Editor-In-Chief Janea Mastrandrea. Janea recounts on TheSTYLEtti blog, “I was shooting street style in New York one day when I came upon this woman with fabulous shoes. I met filmmaker and shoe-lover Liliya Anisimova. And the next day, we began collaborating.”

Charline De Luca black and white heels
Liliya’s Charline De Luca black and white heels

Wearing her Charline De Luca black and white heels, black skinny jeans and a light pink-beige soft wool cardigan jacket, Liliya was rushing to meet a friend in midtown NYC when she was approached by Janea, who ironically had no idea that she was already a celebrated journalist. 

“[Janea] was a very beautiful classy lady, one of those editor-in-chief looks. She asked about my shoes and complimented my style, and that’s how I met Janea.. and that’s how I started writing for The Styletti. It was such a privilege and joy to start writing column regularly in a fashionable glossy magazine style,” recalls Liliya.

“I’ve since written around a hundred articles about traveling, attending events, meeting outstanding people and of course, fashion.”

Since that fated encounter three years ago, which is proof that you never know who you’re going to meet out there in the world so you might as well opt for looking your best, Anisimova has continued to be a lead fashion columnist on the site.

Janea adds, “[Liliya’s] posts are among our most read.”

Growing up in Volgograd, former Stalingrad, Russia, Liliya’s love for fashion and the desire to express herself through her own unique style was something she developed early on in her youth.

She recalls, “When I was growing up it was the time when the USSR had just crashed and we didn’t have a big clothing or shoe selection in stores. So everyone pretty much looked the same, and I hated it, so I would come up with my own ideas and ask my grandmother to sew and knit me different pieces. I remember she did a knitted 100% light wool sweater and matching knitted sweatpants which I loved!”

It was only a few years later, at the age of 13, that Liliya first began working as a contributing journalist to local newspapers such as the Russian national newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda’s Volgograd regional edition, Volgogradskaya Pravda and Vecherniy Volgograd aka Evening Volgograd.

She admits, “I’ve loved to write since I was a little girl. I used to ‘publish’ my home-made magazine, I published multiple school papers while in high school, and collaborated with some local papers in my hometown before I started my undergrad in broadcast journalism.”

Liliya went on to earn her Bachelor’s in journalism, another Bachelor’s in translation in professional communications and her MFA in Journalism from Moscow State University before relocating to the states where she earned another MFA in Social Documentary Filmmaking from New York’s School of Visual Arts.

As a local news anchor in Russia Liliya covered a wide range of subjects. Occasionally those subjects intersected with her love for fashion, such as covering Moscow Fashion Week; but The STYLEtti has given her a platform to reveal her fashionista side in a different way.

Liliya explains, “For me, writing a column is very much a get away from my daily video work, I write it once a month, sometimes two if the schedule permits. I love attending events, art gallery openings, fashion shows of course, meeting photographers, designers, artists, models and other interesting people. It’s genuinely very inspiring.”

From her articles covering NYFW where she’s interviewed international designers and covered the runway, to those about attending gallery openings, such as Karim Rashid’s exhibit featuring his new design collaborations in Manhattan last Spring, Liliya writes about fashion in a way that makes the reader feel like they’re one of her close pals.

Karim Rashid
Karim Rashid and Liliya Anisimova at Rashid’s Exhibit in NYC

Dressed to impress, Liliya wore her sensible, but classy black peep-toe Gucci flats, a red Kate Spade knee length coat (featured in another post you can check out here) and her white boatneck sleeveless Raoul dress to Karim Rashid’s exhibit. With over 300 awards under his belt, Karim Rashid is considered one of the world’s most famous industrial designers; and, with the images of Liliya looking chic and stylish at the opening being featured on The STYLEtti site, the post became highly popular and offered readers insight on how to dress one’s best in such a high profile environment.

She often does #OOTD and #OOTN posts as well, which show her personal style for everyday and nightly outings, and serve as a great source of inspiration for those looking to making their wardrobe more fashion forward.

“I like to write about every day simple events, something that anyone can relate to…. I normally get more inspired to find beauty in everyday life in regular people… I think it is my background in journalism and filmmaking that makes me have the same approach to that column.”

On a personal level, Liliya’s natural style is simple, but classy, which makes sense considering her fashion icon is Audrey Hepburn. A little black dress, which she says is ‘as old as time,’ classic nude heels, which work with everything, a silk pastel colored blouse,  ajean shirt and black skinny jeans are among the basic selection of items she says are ‘must haves’ for any fashion forward female reader.

While she’s made a name for herself covering hard-hitting news and travel stories, as well as through her work as a documentary filmmaker, where she primarily focuses on human interest stories relevant to present times, fashion has been a part of Liliya Anisimova’s life all along. So, having her own fashion column is not only the perfect grounds for her talent and personal interests to intersect, but it also continues to draw readers to The STYLEtti site.

Janea says, “Liliya’s sense of humor and understanding of what interests our audience has helped grow our exposure and keeps readers coming back for her influence and entertainment.”