Go behind-the-scenes of Korean hit ‘The Society Game’ with TV Exec Dan Cazzola

For Dan Cazzola, a career in television was always what intrigued him. He never had a back-up plan, and never needed one. Starting out as a producer, he found his calling, as every day he was doing something different and meeting new people; every day was a learning experience. Overseeing every aspect of a show, from beginning to end, was exciting to this Canadian native, and as a producer, he brought shows to success in both his home country and internationally.

Cazzola has now moved on from producing just one show and is currently the Vice President of International Development for Endemol Shine North America, the world’s largest television production group. Working on the corporate side allows him to lend his talent to a variety of current and upcoming shows. Having previously worked for Shine Group in the United Kingdom, he brings years of experience to his role.

“I worked with Dan over many years at Endemol Shine, and he is one of the hardest working people I have ever met. He continuously strived to make every single project we worked on top-notch, and always managed to succeed. On top of all this, he is an extremely positive force in the workplace, always encouraging everyone to do their best work. He is a leader, and I am happy to also consider him a friend,” said Fotini Paraskakis, Managing Director, Endemol Shine Asia.

One of Cazzola’s largest successes abroad was with his work on The Society Game, a South Korean reality TV series, which he co-created. The format was similar to Big Brother, where contestants are isolated from the outside world, but instead featured two teams competing against each other with the twist that one side had to live as a democracy and the other a dictatorship. It was a social experiment to see which society was more effective and which types of leaders would rise to the top and win the game. The show premiered on TVN in October 2016 as their tenth anniversary special series where it was extremely popular and was picked up for a second season.

When creating the idea for the show, Cazzola tried to think of a format that could take place in Korea but resonate with other countries. While brainstorming, he asked himself, what is something many people associate with Korea? His answer was the North and South divide. This is when inspiration struck to have a reality competition show with one team representing dictatorship and the other democracy to see which was ultimately better.

“My favorite thing about working on this project was that we actually shot it outside Seoul close to the border of North Korea. It was a constant reminder that the show we were filming actually was real life for these two countries. We would see the military helicopters flying over every morning and night and the rugged mountain range that we could see in every aerial shot was the physical barrier between us and the DMZ,” Cazzola described.

TV, as Cazzola says, is a universal language. However, its development greatly varies around the world. The Society Game was Cazzola’s first experience with the Korean market and television production in the country. Not only were there language barriers to overcome, but processes were different than what Cazzola was accustomed to. This provided a pivotal learning experience for Cazzola, who at the time had only worked on television programs in Europe and North America. Cazzola and his team set many strict targets and made sure everyone knew exactly what the plan was. In the end, they developed, filmed, and aired the show all within a mere nine months.

“I loved that I not only got to work on an exciting new reality format idea but that I learned all about Korea and how they make TV there. So much of TV can be inward facing and the best part of my role was that I learned how it all comes together there. I learned new ways of doing things and also saw great creativity from the team there. I had a huge amount of respect for them,” said Cazzola.

The Society Game was a large success for Cazzola, as it was his idea that sparked the hit. Now it is a successful format currently being adapted to sell around the world, and Cazzola’s understanding of various markets are one of his greatest assets when scoping out international formats for American television.

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‘The Ballerina, The Shoemaker and His Apprentice’ takes audiences back in time with help of Meibei Liu’s editing

As a film editor, Meibei Liu sees herself almost as the conductor of an orchestra. She puts together endless footage and turns it into a piece of art, transforming a script into a true visual masterpiece. In many ways, she is like the doctor of a film; she removes what is unnecessary and replaces what needs work. Editing is putting the final pieces of the director’s puzzle together, and Liu not only understands that, but she also thrives because of it, and that is what makes her a good filmmaker.

Having worked on a variety of projects that have made their way to many prestigious film festivals around the world, Liu has made quite a name for herself as an editor. Such films include Dear Mamá, Headshot, Faith Need Not Change Her Gown, Pumpkin and Fried Noodle, and more. Recently, her film The Ballerina The Shoemaker and His Apprenticereceived nominations at the Oscar-Qualifying Hollyshorts Film Festival and LA Shorts Fest, Maryland International Film Festival, and Ouchy Film Festival in Switzerland, New Port Beach Film Festival where it was nominated for Short Film Award, The Grand Jury Award and Best College Film at The Next Generation Filmmaker Film Festival.

“I’m happy to hear that the film went all over the world for festivals and awards. I was glad that my changes made it into the film and was shown to people who speak different languages. It confirmed that emotions expressed and enhanced by editing can be identified by everyone, which made me believe that I should continue doing what I did for the film. I was glad that Eva asked me to go on board and be part of the project. That gave me a chance to show my attitude towards editing to people,” said Liu.

The film takes place in 1963 Hackney, England, and follows George Arkwright, a young man down on his luck, who must navigate the refined world of ballet pointe shoe making and redeem his value as the apprentice under the shadow of Mr. David Traynor, a talented but stuffy point shoemaker. George’s imagination turns into a reality when he becomes smitten with the Ballerinas the shoes are built for, one named Sylvia particularly, but soon learns this magical and seemingly distant world is not beyond the reach of affliction. Liu came on board half way through editing the film when the Director, Eva Ye, realized she needed expansive editing talent to turn her vision into a reality.

“Working with Meibei was great. She has a strong sensibility for impactful storytelling through an editing perspective. She often provides new perspectives to the story and is invested in trying different ways of getting the emotion across. Sometimes she is more willing to dig deep into the materials just to find something I didn’t even know existed. Her passion and dedication to editing is something I’ve seen rarely. And in many ways, she makes my work better,” said Ye.

Liu is able to address the problems of cuts quickly. When she reviewed the first cut that was made before she was brought on, she realized exactly how to transform the footage into what the director wanted and what audiences would connect with. She took what was a half-finished film and reworked it, making it better. She realized that the scenes were dragging; all of them could end earlier by cutting out some of the lines and actions. She stopped in the middle of the first scene and started the second scene earlier, helping to show the main character’s eagerness. Sometimes, however, she chose to extend a scene and have it linger longer to show the apprentice’s feeling of loss and disappointment. This film has very subtle emotions, and an editor’s vision and eye on digging out the emotions, and enhancing them by editing is vital. Being a very emotional person who is strong at noticing the emotional changes of people, Liu was the ideal candidate to take over as editor.

“It’s a story of dreaming. I believe this is a film that speaks to everyone in spite of when and where it happened. It’s a worldwide emotion that people all over the world can understand. I believe it is important to tell this kind of story, giving the audience a short period of time to experience something they can relate to,” Liu concluded.

The Ballerina, The Shoemaker, and His Apprentice is currently available on Amazon Prime Videos.

 

Written by Sara Fowler

Leading Australian Actor Joel Hogan: Leading On All Platforms

Award-winning Australian actor Joel Hogan is used to getting attention; he’s played leading roles in huge films that have screened right across the world.

Sitting down with him though, it’s clear that he hasn’t let the attention get to his head. When we meet, Joel is as down-to-earth as his parents described him when he was in school – a true Aussie larrikin who simply was grateful for what he had.

“I like to think my mum and dad raised me right – they’ve always said, no matter how famous or successful I became, that I should remain humble, with a firm grounding within my family and friends with whom I grew up with.”

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Amongst the many topics we touch on when talking with Joel is his lead role in Lionsgate’s “Open Water 3: Cage Dive”

Joel is certainly known for being famous and successful these days, and an indie favourite who’s been working with the same roster of impressive production companies in the same way that Oscar-winner Brie Larson and, A-lister Ryan Gosling, have created partnerships with a select list of directors and filmmakers.

“The benefit of working with the same production company multiple times is that we all trust each other – so I feel very grateful that I’ve been given these opportunities.”

One of the production companies with whom Joel has played an immeasurably significant role is Forte Pictures, an American outfit well-known in the incredibly competitive film industry for producing the award-winning “Actor for Hire”, a 2015 comedy-romance distributed by Gravitas Pictures in which Joel played a leading role. The Australian hunk, who’s been compared to James Dean by several top-industry insiders, enjoyed being profiled in The Hollywood Reporter and Deadline Hollywood. “It’s nice to know that the film, production company and my role got attention, but what’s most important to me is whether I’ve played the character authentically.”

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The undisputed nature of Joel’s significance to Forte Pictures and the fact he has played a essential role in the success of the company is further confirmed in how he stars as Patrick, the central figure, in the upcoming crime-thriller “Chameleon”. “That film is very different from “Actor for Hire”, but it still feels like a distinctively Forte film because Marcus is involved and the desire to create the most entertaining project was the core value while we were shooting.” The film also notably stars Alicia Leigh Willis, widely known for her roles in the “National Treasure” franchise opposite Oscar-winner Nicholas Cage, and the long-running hit show, “General Hospital”.

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Aussie A-lister Joel Hogan in a still from the upcoming feature film, Chameleon, from Forte Pictures. Joel also starred in Forte Pictures’ Actor for Hire. 

“Well-known American actors love working with Joel,” Marcus Mizelle, the director says. “He’s played an irreplaceable role in my production company because he brings life to my films – from an acting and creative point of view. There’s no doubt the films attract acclaim and have been successful because he’s in them. Prospective distributors for “Chameleon” have said so, as did reviews and industry professionals said about his work in “Actor for Hire.

In true fashion reminiscent of how Leonardo Dicaprio repeatedly collaborates with Martin Scorcese, and Jennifer Lawrence has with David O. Russell, Joel not only enjoys a collaborative partnership with Marcus but also Gerald Rascionato, Australian auteur filmmaker best known for helming the Lionsgate feature film, “Open Water 3: Cage Dive”. Gerald’s production company, Just One More Productions, is inextricably tied with Joel’s talents as an actor because he is the leading man behind its most impressive productions.

“Gerald is an auteur,” Joel explains, “because he’s focused on the specific moments, second-by-second, with how it looks and how it could make an audience feel, as much as he is by the way a mainstream audience will view it.”

“Open Water 3”, distributed in cinemas around the world by studio powerhouse Lionsgate, was the first of what Gerald says will be many collaborations with Joel Hogan under his production banner. “I already have Joel signed onto my next feature, and we’re full-steam ahead for production in mid-2018. That film revolves around the life of famous aviator and film producer Merian C. Cooper who was the creator and producer of classic films such as King Kong, Mighty Joe Young & The Searchers, starring John Wayne. Joel will fittingly play the lead role of Merian himself.”

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Joel (left) on the cover for the recently released DVD of “Open Water 3: Cage Dive”, which enjoyed box office success at the cinema last year. 

Gerald also claims to like that Joel brings the backing of the Australian film industry, the multi-talented performer – who has also performed in theatre productions like “High School Musical” and on TV shows like “Home and Away” and “Unverified” many times over – is a member of the highly reputable AACTA and MEAA organisations in Australia. “Like production companies, having relationships with organisations like AACTA and MEAA are very important because they ensure I maintain my standing within the industry and keep connected to new material, while also giving me an opportunity to be aware of how I can give back to an industry which has given me so much.”

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Joel enjoying a laugh on the red carpet last year – keeping it positive as part of his ultimate plan to give back to an industry that has “given [him] so much.”