Liam Casey Sullivan takes destiny into his own hands

It has been said that destiny doesn’t come down to chance. Rather, destiny is a choice. It isn’t something to wait for, it is something to be achieved. Growing up with actors as parents, Liam Casey Sullivan has always known that entertaining was his destiny; however, rather than wait around for his fate to unfold, Sullivan took matters into his own hands and began doing the very thing he knew he was meant to do. His childhood was charged with exposure to entertainment and other forms of artistic expression. With that, his imagination ran rampant and he was captivated by the world it molded around him. As a result, the talented young actor is no stranger to the stage. Whether he is acting in a theatre production, on a television program, or on the big screen, he is determined to ensure that he never lets his calling escape him. He was born for the screen and knows that with the right amount of hard work and dedication, he will be able to continue along a path to greatness and enjoy it.

Since the outset of his career, Sullivan has earned himself a number of different roles across various entertainment mediums. For instance, when Sullivan was just 10 years old, he felt more than ready to begin his acting journey. The unrepresented, eager young artist had compiled a portfolio of head shots and information about himself, as well as his skill set, and to his avail, was recognized by renowned director, Pat Mills, who wanted Sullivan to act in his upcoming film, 5 Dysfunctional People in a Car. The film comedically follows five individuals during a car ride to drop their grandmother off at her retirement home.

Given his desire to immerse himself into the entertainment industry, Sullivan recalls the experience as feeling absolutely surreal. On top of the excitement of simply getting to act professionally, knowing that his first ever film went on to successfully screen at several North American film festivals, as well as to secure a win for Best International Short Film at FilmOut San Diego, was all the more exciting for the enthusiastic Canadian actor. In addition, he was over the moon when BlogTO named 5 Dysfunctional People in a Car one of the top 8 must-see films at the Toronto International Film Festival.

5 Dyfunctional
LIAM CASEY SULLIVAN AND SHANNON FORD 5 DYSFUNCTIONAL PEOPLE IN A CAR, PHOTO BY PAT MILLS

For the film, Sullivan played a character by the name of Robbie Gordon, intended to be the ultimate heartthrob and the coolest kid in his school. He exists within a constant buzz that results from his popularity, keeping his friends close and turning his nose up at anyone else he crosses paths with. Stereotypically, girls crush on him, his grades lack, and his ego fills every room he enters. In order to play Robbie as convincingly as possible, Sullivan made an effort to channel the excitement of entering the acting world at such a young age and allow him to appear conceited and aware of his reputation. In addition, he seized the project as an opportunity to act as a sponge, absorbing as much information as he possibly could from his experience on set, working alongside other talented actors and under a skilled director. He took note of the hard work and processes evolving around him, vowing to bring his skill set up to par and to start off his career with a bang.

“I was so fortunate to be able to witness a group of people so passionate about what they were doing at the young age of ten. It really solidified my aspiration to continue to do this for the future of my career,” recalled Sullivan.

After working on 5 Dysfunctional People in a Car, Sullivan dedicated himself to pursuing other meaningful roles. He continued to surround himself with like-minded creatives and seizes each new learning experience as ferociously as he did for his first. Since that very first film, Sullivan has gone on to work on a number of other successful projects, such as Mary Goes Round and Degrassi: Next Class. Sullivan is a firm example of the notion that by combining his talent with a willingness to learn and a determination to find work, he can turn his dedication into positive outcomes. For other young actors looking to seize their destiny, Sullivan has the following advice to offer:

“Always challenge your emotional capacity and don’t be afraid to take leaps outside of yourself. It is surprising how well you can do when you consistently test the boundaries of your work. It is really important to always keep in mind how many people go into making a production successful and it is crucial to trust your collaborators. Whether that’s your director or your fellow actors, developing solid trust amongst each other is a great way to achieve results. Be that firmly supporting and believing in your director or fully engaging with another actor in a scene, always remember that achieving greatness in this industry is solely based on the collaboration of many.”

 

Written by Annabelle Lee, top photo by Joshua Augusto

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Production Designer Elisia Mirabelli creates new worlds through her artistic eye

For Canada’s Elisia Mirabelli, Production Design is an element of acting, inhabiting another person, stepping inside of their world, and feeling their story. Each time she begins a project, the seasoned production designer tries to imagine herself as the character whose space she is creating. She asks herself why each object in the space remains there, the history behind it, the psychology of how and why a space is divided the way it is. How much time has been spent there? Who a character lets into their space? What it looks like if their alone in it vs what it looks like if a friend is over? She maps out a life in artifacts, creating backstory, revealing loves, interests, experiences, peeling back another layer.

“Production Design for me is really designing and shaping the insides of a person outwardly. In a practical sense, production design is the construction and creation of a film’s overall look through its set and prop design,” she said.

Mirabelli has a decorated resume, with esteemed projects such as Night Owl, Pretty Thing, Let Me Down Easy, and many more. She has created the background for celebrated music videos and popular commercials and collaborated with some of Canada’s biggest networks.

A highlight of Mirabelli’s career came in 2013 when she did the production design for the prolific network MTV. Working with Bell Media and MTV Canada, Mirabelli designed the promo spot MTV #IN24, a collaboration between FORD and MTV promoting MTV’s new cross-platform series #IN24. It aired domestically across the country on MTV Canada and online at MTV.ca and was winner of the 2014 Media Innovation Awards and also received the Silver Award from Best in Cars & Automotive Services.

For the commercial, Mirabelli designed an indoor forest equipped with real foliage, taxidermy and textured dirt flooring. She and her team built the forest set around the Ford Fiesta. The set included a pathway for actors to dance on and a green screen backdrop for day and night simulated VFX.

“Working with MTV was always a dream of mine. It’s such an iconic production company with a history in creating unique, youth focused, genre pushing content. Additionally, the task of designing and creating an in-studio forest set was super exciting. Designing for a company as iconic and groundbreaking as MTV was a career milestone,” she said.

Mirabelli’s time with Bell Media was filled with exceptional projects. She did the production design for a commercial for CP24, a Canadian news network that reaches more than 3.1 million viewers a week and 3.7 million in all of Ontario. The commercial CP24 Moving at the Speed of Your Morning aired nationally on CP24. It went on to win the 2017 Promax Promotion, Marketing and Design Award.

When working on the commercial, Mirabelli refitted an outdated living room with new furnishings, lighting and small props and set accessories to make the location feel more modern, fresh and bright. She built five custom, faux LED screens that were set in each of the four locations. The LED screens played a pivotal role in the promo as they acted as the transition between scenes, with the camera travelling in and out of each of them. Additionally, her team managed the food styling for forty plus extras.

“The opportunity to create and work on a commercial for CP24’s morning show was really exciting. CP24’s morning programming brings in millions of unique viewers a week, so it was really incredible to work on something knowing that it would be reaching such a large audience,” said Mirabelli.

That same year, Mirabelli also worked with The Space Channel on their holiday programming, creating the commercial Spacemas and highlighting The Doctor Who Christmas Special. To do so, she designed a string of sets that replicated a collection of unique living rooms, fitted with holiday décor. The main set included a 14-foot Christmas tree that sat next to a scaled replica of the Doctor Who Tardis, brought in for the shoot from outside the province. The promo relied heavily on its production design and the ability to design a string of living room sets all captured during a single day of shooting. It went on to receive the 2017 Promax Promotion, Marketing and Design Award: Channel: Holiday or Special Event Spot.

“Space Channel is known for creating content that’s wonderfully lively and ultramodern, an ode to its fantastical programming. Working with props from the BBC’s ‘Doctor Who’ series was a real thrill. Additionally, working with the creative director of The Space Channel was awesome and I’m such a fan of his originality,” Mirabelli described.

Once again in the holiday spirit, Mirabelli worked on Christmas commercials for Gusto, Bell Media’s speciality food channel. The set of commercials launched Gusto and was their first national holiday campaign, an opportunity that excited the production designer. After the commercial series, Gusto was nominated for International Channel of the Year at the 2016 Content Innovation Awards. It aired domestically across Gusto’s sister channels (34 channels total, including The Discovery Channel and TSN).

To create the commercial, Mirabelli built a winter wonderland themed set equipped with half a dozen 8-foot-high white trees, 250 presents, a snow machine, teal lights and custom-made glass ornaments spelling out the names of the program’s hosts, which included Jamie Oliver and Martha Stewart. They were able to design and build two unique, modernized Christmas sets that completely distinguished the promo in an ever-crowded market of holiday programming, which was no easy feat.

“Reimagining the look of a holiday promo into something fresh, modern and cool was fantastic,” Mirabelli said.

Undoubtedly, Mirabelli will continue to be a formidable force in Canada’s film and television industry. Keep an eye out for her work.

 

Written by Annabelle Lee

Graphic Artist Vinita Bakhale visualized eerie sets for FOX

VinitaRachelBakhale----2018
Graphic Artist Vinita Bakhale

By Annabelle Lee

As a Graphic Artist for Film and Television, Vinita Bakhale creates the visual and print graphics outlined in the script of a production. By doing so, she takes words on a piece of paper and turns them into tactical believable elements of an environment; she helps design a set by using her technical skills, so it feels like a real and authentic place. She uses her artistic talents to enhance a production, and her design contribution truly takes audiences from their chairs and transports them into a scene.

With experience creating visual graphics: imagery created to envision sets an audience will see and experience, to creating both hero print graphics and background print graphics, Vinita has an impressive resume working on prolific television shows and films. She helped design the graphic visual imagery for sets and print graphics for the now iconic series Riverdale, as well as another comic live-action show, Happy!, where she worked as a Lead Graphic Artist designing the show’s print graphics. She also created visual graphic imagery for an important scene in the Academy-Award nominated film The Big Sick. 

Vinita is also known for her contribution as a Graphic Artist on the hit television series Damien. Damien follows the adult life of Damien Thorn, the mysterious child from the 1976 motion picture The Omen who has grown up seemingly unaware of the satanic forces around him. Haunted by his past, Damien, now a war photographer, must come to terms with his true destiny — that he is the Antichrist. Barbara Hershey stars as Ann Rutledge, the world’s most powerful woman who has been tasked with making sure Damien fulfills his destiny. Omid Abtahi portrays Amani Golkar, a close colleague of Damien’s whose fierce loyalty will be tested when he realizes who his brother-in-arms actually is. Meganlyn Echikunwoke plays Simone Baptiste, a woman whose life is thrown into turmoil when tragedy unexpectedly strikes. Damien was produced by Fox 21 Television for the A&E Network. As a massive fan of horror films, especially of cult classics like ‘The Omen’,  Vinita was immediately interested in joining the project.

DAMIEN (2016) NYPD Police Station Graphic Art by Vinita Bakhale Property of FOX 21 Studios
Damien (2016) “NYPD Police Station” Graphic Art by Vinita Bakhale Property of Fox 21 Studios

“Honestly, each one of the episode scripts were really interesting and well-thought out. Reading a script on Damien was like reading the second last chapter of a thriller novel. Adrenaline is pumping, senses are heightened, and then you’re on the last page of the script. This is when the realization sinks in that you’re going to have to wait a more few weeks to see what happens next because that’s when the next episode’s script will come out! I was very captured by the screenwriting for Damien.” she said.

While working on the show, Vinita was responsible for researching visual references and even helped pick out paint colors and design elements for key sets.  She created the key lookbook for the protagonist, Damien Thorn’s New York loft. She also did this for another protagonist, Simone Baptiste’s Brooklyn apartment.  Another important set of tasks Vinita was given included researching, visualizing and modeling key sets such as Simone’s Apartment, The NYPD Police Station, Ceci’s Manhattan Photography Office, Ann Rutledge’s Office and Shrine Room, and John Lyon’s Office. With each set Vinita modeled, she was charged with bringing to life the Production Designer’s direction based on the Showrunner’s vision. In addition to this, she also helped the production with certain print graphics.

Damien (2016) NYPD Police Station Property of Fox 21 Studios
Damien (2016) “NYPD Police Station” Property of Fox 21 Studios

“I’m a pretty big fan of horror movies, and this opportunity was truly once in a lifetime because I don’t think it had even been done before. You usually only ever see prequel or sequel horror films, where plots are obvious and tend to lack originality. Damien was an amazing sequel and made for a compelling television series, with highly engaging and complex characters whose moral compasses were tested due to powerful satanic forces closing in on them. I was astounded with the Showrunner’s vision and writing on the show.” said Vinita.

Damien (2016) Simone's Apartment Graphic Art by Vinita Bakhale Property of Fox 21 Studios
Damien (2016) “Simone’s Apartment” Graphic Art by Vinita Bakhale Property of Fox 21 Studios

Vinita considers her time spent on the project to be thoroughly enjoyable and she is happy that she was able to contribute to the show by creating the visual imagery that helped aesthetically shape the main sets.  She enjoyed designing on this project, especially because she was able to contribute her technical skills for audiences who love the same genre she does.

Be sure to check out Vinita’s latest work, Freaky Friday The Musical, being released by Disney this summer.

Damien (2016) Simone's Apartment Property of Fox 21 Studios
Damien (2016) “Simone’s Apartment” Property of Fox 21 Studios

Overcoming diversity barriers in the industry

My name is Xiao Sun. I was born and raised in China before coming to Canada nine years ago. The performing arts has always been my passion and I have been getting up on a stage to express myself since I was only five years old. I have had the opportunity to work alongside some of Hollywood’s elite, like Oscar winners Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Charlize Theron, and most recently Seth Rogan, to name a few.

Like many in this industry, my path towards becoming an actress has been unique. I originally started off as a dancer, training for ten years in Chinese traditional dance. I travelled around China with my team, competing and learning along the way. My dance background taught me how to express myself through performing arts from a young age, and I was later hired as a dancer in Cirque du Soleil’s touring show Amalunain Montreal, Canada.

After moving to Montreal with my parents in 2009, I also began modeling. I joined Miss Universe Canada and was one of the top 10 national finalists and was awarded the Best Runway Model award. At the time, I was the first Asian contestant to ever receive this prestigious award. That was when I realized, maybe for the first time in a professional sense, that I had the power to overcome diversity barriers and become a role model for other Asians looking to make their way in North America’s fashion and entertainment industries.

It was after this experience when I began pursuing my truest passion: acting. Not too long afterwards, I booked my first ever film, Fatal (Universal Pictures), and my career kicked off. However, as the years went by, the only roles that I was getting were those that were specifically looking for Chinese actresses to play “hot girl” or “girlfriend” or “receptionist” or “best friend”. I was and still am very grateful for these roles and how they helped develop my career, but I was beginning to want more. Very few casting calls were looking for Chinese or Asian actors for leading roles, and none of the roles had any real substance.

Recently, the trends in the industry are changing. The success of Black Panther was just one of many awakenings for Hollywood, showing production companies that films not only starring minorities, but also celebrating them, can become massive successes both critically and at the box office.

Television is undergoing a similar paradigm shift. Just last month, Glamour published an article titled “Now Trending on TV: The Sexy Asian Hunk” highlighting the many hit shows that feature Asian actors in the starring roles, playing roles that go beyond the typical stereotype often associated with Asian characters. This is exactly what I, like many Asians in the industry, love to see. However, even with all the progress that has been made in the last two years, dynamic female Asian leads are still very underrepresented.

For the first few years of my acting career, I was building quite the resume, but was still finding myself playing secondary characters that showcased Asian women in a way I found stereotypical; I was either hot, or nerdy, or a funny best friend, or a combination of the three. I wanted to be able to develop a role, get into the substance of the character, and really show a wide range of emotions while reminding myself why I got into acting.

I decided to slightly change the roles I was going for. I started going to less auditions, as I started picking roles that I felt were more suited to what I felt I wanted, and what I thought would be more interesting roles for an Asian woman. This included my 2016 appearance on Syfy’s Incorporated. The story took place in a future where the United States was no more, and China had taken over as the global superpower. I played a public influencer that encouraged and inspired people to save the kids suffering in areas affected by natural disasters caused by climate change. In Mother,opposite Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem, my character was a huge fan of poetry. I travelled days to see a famous poet (played by Bardem) to tell him how much I liked his work, and my character was just a normal human being on this planet. These roles did not require a specific ethnicity. These types of roles are the type we should all strive for.

My most recent role, in Seth Rogan and Charlize Theron’s film Flarsky, I once again had the opportunity to play a character that was proudly Chinese. Initially, the role did not specifically call for an Asian actress, as the film was still being written. After getting the role, the finer details were ironed out, and I was written as a powerful Chinese executive passionate about rescuing animals. This character is passionate and complicated, and the kind of character I always dreamed of playing when I first set out to become an actress.

For too long, Asians have lived on the edge of screens. Jackie Chan and Lucy Liu were pioneers in overcoming such barriers, and in recent years, minorities are having more and more opportunities to take on roles that highlight their culture but are not limited to that audience. Asian actors still have a long way to go, but I would encourage all looking to break out in the industry to keep trying. Go for roles that you are passionate about, write the character you want to play in the story you think is important to be told, be proud of your accent, and sooner or later, audiences will have their own Asian “Black Panther” to look up to.

 

Written by Xiao Sun