Sought After Editor Aijia Li: A Master of the Cut

Aijia working on a new upcoming feature film.jpg

No matter how powerful the actors’ performances, how brilliant the director, or how adept the cinematographer, the film that audiences ultimately see is only as good as its editor. When tens to hundreds of hours of footage reach the editor’s desk, the success of the film is in their hands. Like a conductor who turns the unbridled chaos of an orchestra into the most beautiful of symphonies, a great editor can create a timeless masterpiece from a million disparate pieces, and that is exactly what editor Aijia Li accomplishes with every project she takes on.

Hailing from Changchun in northeast China, Aijia developed a passion for film and photography when she was just a teen. She spent her youth hungrily absorbing every movie she could get her hands on. By the time she reached college she’d accumulated a huge collection of movies, and was falling more in love with filmmaking with each passing day.

“I’ve had a passion for telling stories since I was a kid, and then I started writing stories and novels. But film has always been my spiritual food,” Aijia recalled. “In junior high, I spent all my allowance on DVDS, and now my parents still have a few boxes of my collection in the house.”

It was during college that Aijia seriously began experimenting with creating and editing her own films. She discovered just how crucial the editor’s job was to the overall process and realized that she had a natural aptitude for the delicate and often-arduous job. But editing films was not just something she was good at — it was something she loved. As an editor, Aijia was able to work hand-in-hand with the director to shape and define the story as they envisioned it. It’s not much of a stretch to liken her role to that of a midwife, guiding the film through the last critical stages before it enters the world.

“Film can [only] be film because of editing. A good editor can save the director’s life. I think in the digital age, the editor as the director’s closest partner may become more and more important,” Aijia explained. “The relationship between the director and the editor is like a marriage. After they finish shooting the film, the director spends more time with the editor than their own family. A good director understands that the film is the editor’s work. Before editing, what the director has is only the raw material.”

Editor Aijia Li
Film poster for “The Moon Also Rises”

Nowhere is the power of that partnership between director and editor more evident than in the quality of Aijia’s work. Time and again she faithfully executes the director’s vision, blurring the line between art and science with equal measures of calculated efficiency and creative instinct. The 2018 drama “The Moon Also Rises” is a perfect example of Aijia’s unparalleled editorial prowess. Simultaneously moving and thought-provoking, “The Moon Also Rises” is an existential exploration of the impacts that people have on the lives of those around them, and the lasting traces they leave when they’re gone.

“This film is different from any other film I’ve edited,” Aijia said. “In the process of cross-editing, the difference between the images and the proportion of the frame gives the audience a strong sense of the drama’s conflict… The director of this film is a pure artist.”

Faced with the daunting challenge of creating a final product that lived up to director Yao Yu’s lofty expectations, Aijia’s work on “The Moon Also Rises” was a trial by fire. The resulting film is a testament to both her technical expertise and keen creative instincts. Impressed by the film’s concept and execution, judges at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival included “The Moon Also Rises” in the festival’s 2018 lineup of screenings.

Aijia had already cultivated a stellar reputation as an editor prior to “The Moon Also Rises.” Among her earlier works was the inspiring 2016 film “Short Term” about the unlikely paternal bond a homeless man develops with a young boy he finds living on the streets. Written, directed and edited by Aijia Li, “Short Term” explores the perennially-relevant subjects of poverty and racism and the impacts they have on the most vulnerable members of society.

“As the editor, the only way to make this kind of emotional story great is to edit by heart. I understand the characters, I feel them…,” Aijia explained of her process. “Another thing is, less is more. I don’t cut too much when there’s a heavy, emotional moment. I hold it. Because good editing is not just about skill and it’s not an editor’s showreel. It’s a story.”

Aijia Li
Film Poster for “Short Term”

That philosophy guided Aijia’s work throughout the editing process, and when critics and audiences watched “Short Term” it was obvious she had a gift possessed by few others in the field. The film immediately caught the attention of festival judges across the country. In addition to winning top prize at the 2016 Women’s Independent Film Festival, “Short Term” was also a semi-finalist at both the Los Angeles CineFest and the Hollywood Screening Film Festival. It was also an official selection at the International Family Film Festival, the Lady Filmmakers Festival and the Glendale International Film Festival — where it was also nominated for two additional awards.

Among some of Aijia Li’s other masterful works as an editor is the recent film “Float,” which earned multiple prestigious awards from the 2017 European Independent Film Awards, Hollywood Film Competition, London Independent Film Awards and the LA Shorts Awards, and Pantha Rahman’s dramatic film “Deceased,” which was chosen as an Official Selection of the Nepal Human Rights International Film Festival, Bucharest International Film Festival, Indian Peacock International Film Festival and more.

glendale film festival
Editor Aijia Li at the Glendale Film Festival for the film “Short Term”

“I have encountered many editors during my time in the film industry, but Aijia was my only choice to work on this film. Aijia has the best feel for editing out of any professional I have ever worked with,” admits “Deceased” director Pantha Rahman.

“I was incredibly impressed by the high level of emotion she added to my film… Ms. Li’s unlimited knowledge and understanding of editing was evident in every single cut she made… Her vast knowledge and wealth of experience were essential in building the film’s narrative structure… Without Ms. Li as the editor of ‘Deceased,’ the engaging visuals and sentimentally resonant narrative would have never come together, making me forever grateful for her work on the film.”

Editor Aijia Li
Film Poster for “Deceased”

A great editor understands a film’s story and characters as well as they understand the technical aspects of the job. In many ways a film is a lot like an unassembled puzzle when the editor’s job begins. Only, this puzzle includes hundreds of extra pieces and there is no picture to reference. The only way to know where the pieces go and what they’ll form is to fully understand what the director’s vision is and how to bring it to life. In the simplest terms, that’s what Aijia Li does — from thousands of scrambled, disparate pieces, she builds stories with the power to move audiences to laughter or tears.

 

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A how-to of staying in shape on set

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Andrey Ivchenko, photo by John Hong

As the brilliant Toni Sorenson once said, “If it was easy, the reward at the end would mean nothing.” This statement comes from a woman, mother, and author, who grew up in an orphanage and on the streets and chose a path to victory.

In the entertainment business, victory means booking a new role in a television series, feature film, producing a project you’re passionate about, selling a script you wrote or getting it optioned and made. Most people don’t realize though how big of a part fitness plays into those, especially with actors.

Hollywood, the entertainment capital of the world, has people from all over the world, near and far, looking to pursue their dreams and to make those dreams turn into a reality. Staying in shape while in pursuit of those dreams is not only important for one’s physical health, but their mental health as well. With rejection being one of the biggest struggles someone just moving to Hollywood will have to deal with, it’s very important to always have a healthy outlet for the ups and downs you will face on your journey.

Being an actor in Hollywood isn’t for people with thin skin. It tends to focus so heavily on what its idea of the “perfect image” is as we see daily from network TV shows, to commercials, to magazines, to models on billboards, you get the idea and know what I’m talking about. This business in particular holds people’s image to a much higher standard than one would face living anywhere else in the world. With that being said, the pressures that come with that responsibility are extremely high especially for an actor that will be seen on the silver or big screen.

The reason I mentioned the above is because throughout my experience of being in Hollywood, being a big guy, everyone is constantly judging. When I began this journey, I got into stunts since it seemed like a natural fit – I’m a big guy, 6 foot 3, built, with an accent, and told I could play bad guys all day because I guess that’s the “tough guy” image I give off. Given that that’s the direction I decided to pursue, I had to make sure that my image lived up to the hype. I was in the gym for several hours a day, 6 days a week, eating 7-8 meals throughout the day that consisted of consuming approximately 5,000 calories a day. Believe it or not, eating that much every day and working out that much isn’t easy, even for the big guys that make it appear that way.

As I transitioned into the acting side of the business, I was often told I was “too big.” Too big? I was just told for years I need to be bigger and tougher looking to be the bad guy and now I needed to become less bulk and leaner because now I would be playing more leading man roles, not just henchman types, and needed to be able to be diversified that way if casting or producers saw fit. So, the process began again and now instead of going to the gym six days a week, I was going four days a week and cutting my calories to 3,000 a day. Having been an athlete my entire life since I was a child, serving in the military, and also having a master’s degree in Kinesiology, made finding the discipline to re-write my fitness programs and stick to them pretty easy for me, but they require a lot of discipline! I’d say having discipline when it comes to fitness is one of the biggest skills one can achieve. Setting goals, making plans, and sticking to them. No one ever said looking “Hollywood” good was going to be easy! However, at the end of the day making all of those challenges and sacrifices can be very rewarding mentally as well as physically.

The entertainment business as a whole has put an emphasis on fitness since it was established. From physical comedy actors like Charlie Chaplin, to Steve McQueen, Ronald, Reagan, to action heroes like Sylvester Stallone, Clint Eastwood, and Dwayne Johnson. In addition, there are also actors who perform their own stunts like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible, and Jackie Chan. Staying in shape for these guys is essential to their careers. For example, most people don’t realize what Hugh Jackman went through to achieve his transformation to become Wolverine. His training consisted of two or more hours in the gym six days a week and consuming 5,000-6,000 calories a day to gain all that muscle and then had to transition into a much lower calorie diet to lose all the water weight and increase his cardio, so he could get shredded for the role.

Working on Television shows like Nikita,XIII: The Series, and Warehouse 13, I was grateful that I was introduced to martial arts and gun skills at a young age because it really made it an authentic look for the characters I played on those shows. As well as feature films I’ve worked on like Freezerand Way of The Westthat were both very physical and challenging as well but required a lot of those trained skills that I already had.

In regards to stunt work, it’s not just about looking the part, but being able to execute the part. Doing stunts is tiresome work and requires extremely long hours and repeated choreography and actual physical fighting to get it right. Sometimes they change the whole thing altogether and you have to relearn from scratch all over again but staying focused mentally and physically is the key. You have to be really physically and mentally ready to keep up, stay alert, and be on point for every take and also take direction correctly from the stunt coordinator and the director. There are a lot of moving parts while shooting an action scene so it’s very important that it always be executed properly every time. I have worked through injury, blood, sweat, tears, and I can honestly say it was all worth the challenge in the end. Good work is applauded and recognized in the entertainment business and word of mouth about people can spread very quickly and, in some cases, can even lead you to your next job if you remain humble, keep the right mindset, and positive attitude which is the key to success in this business.

When I booked the feature film Freezer, I was eating about 3,000-4,000 calories a day to get bigger because the director wanted me to look big and intimidating in comparison to Dylan McDermott. And when I booked xXx: The Return of Xander Cage, Vin Diesel and the director, DJ Caruso, also wanted my character ‘Red Erik’ to appear really big and tough, but in some of these scenes my character was going up and down flights of stairs, so I made sure to really increase my cardio training, so I wouldn’t fatigue while shooting those scenes over and over. In addition, it required me to learn motorcycle stunt training which I hadn’t done since I was about sixteen years old. But I’d say because of my fitness level and ability it allowed me to re-learn quickly and efficiently. At the end of the day the stunts they decided to go with were so extreme they hired a stunt double for those that you see in the film, but I was still required to go through the training as if I were the one doing the stunts myself as well. Had I not been fit enough to be up to the task of creating the character vision they had and physically doing the stunts they wanted in those scenes, I don’t know if I would have booked the role at the end of the day.

Fitness, especially today, is a constantly growing trillion-dollar business that’s probably more trendy and popular now than it’s ever been before. With social media and all the pressures of having to post images and videos of your personal and professional life constantly, you frequently feel vulnerable to the pressures that Hollywood gives to always look your best. Regardless though of what the trends are, one thing always remains true which is that being healthy is essential so implement it into your everyday life regardless of your schedule or profession, and also make sure you get enough hours of sleep a night which is a key element that’s more important than most people realize. Resting the body keeps a healthy mind and allows the body to recover. Set your goals, make time for yourself and watch how many doors achieving those goals will provide in your life, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Again, as Toni Sorenson once said, “If was easy, the reward at the end would mean nothing.”

 

Written by Andrey Ivchenko

Award-winning MUA Flavia Vieira Brings Actors into Character

Makeup Artist Flavia Vieira
Brazilian Makeup Artist Flavia Vieira

Flavia Vieira’s passion for makeup started as a little girl sneaking into her grandaunts room and applying an assortment of cosmetics all over her face. She thought no one noticed her face full of color but didn’t bother saying anything. Today, this award winning makeup artist continues to turn heads with her skills as she leads actors into the life of their characters. This Brazilian native understands that her magic touch as a makeup artist is the turning point for an actor to delve deeper into their role.

Behind the scenes Vieira stays focused and precise as she too digs deep into a script or talks to the director or writer about every part to create the best possible look. She thrives in this collaborative environment and it allows her creativity and vision to surface.

“If you think about special effects and a characters makeup, once they’re transformed into a creature, or have bruises and cuts it helps them dive deeper into the character’s life story. Most of the time they leave their own personas behind and completely give up to the character,” Vieira said.  

Whether it’s a simple beauty look or a drastic character change Vieira performs her role on set to perfection. What makes Vieira stand out from the rest is her clear communication with directors and writers, and her ability to produce the most realistic personification of the characters they’ve created. Her careful research and understanding of the script makes her so well trusted and sought after. It is no wonder why her work is award winning.

“I always like to exchange with directors and writers if possible. Specially when I’m creating the looks of the characters. The writer invented the character. The director is bringing him to life on the screen. What I need is to understand the core of the character to be able to translate it on the look,” said Vieira.

Becoming Lucy
Film Poster for Becoming Lucy

Having worked on multiple films Vieira thrives as a behind the scenes makeup artists interacting with actors to transform their look. Becoming Lucy, was one of her favorite sets where she worked closely with the main actor in making a look that was natural yet stood out. The film is about a teenage girl named Lucy who is struggling with her parents divorce. Lucy blames her mother for her father leaving them for a 24 year-old blonde. When she finds out her crush at school likes blondes, she dyes her hair to get the attention of both men.

“The most standout character was Lucy herself… The other characters were all pretty simple. I wanted her to have a complete distinct look than all the other blonde girls in the movie, being the only brunette,” explained Vieira.

Vieira’s challenge was making the image of the young teenager look believable. This film tugs at the heart with scenes of a beautiful young girl struggling to understand love. Makeup as we know is a vital part in a young girls transition and Lucy’s look did not distract, instead it added to the storyline. Vieira executed the natural youthful no-makeup look for the character which was a challenge in itself. Not to mention, Vieira perfected the imperfect carrot dyed look of a wig, which was one of the main focal points of the film.

Flavia Vieira
MUA Flavia Vieira (left) turning actress Maitlyn Pezzo (right) into Lucy

Vieira said, “Lucy, in the story dyed her hair blonde by herself and it turned out disastrous. So, I had to buy a natural hair wig, cut it to resemble the actresses normal hair and of course dye it until we reached the result we wanted.”

Her time on set as she recalls was fun and challenging but well worth it. Vieira’s dedication and vision for the characters of film earned her much deserved recognition with her work leading the film to earn the Bronze Award for Best Makeup from the International Independent Film Awards and the Diamond Award for Best Makeup from the LA Short Awards. Becoming Lucy also earned the Festival Award from the Festigious International Film Festival, the Platinum Award from the Mindfield Film Festival Los Angeles and more.

Another film where Vieira revealed her seasoned skill as a makeup artists was the four-time award winning film My Two O’Clock. The film revolves around Neil Brennan, a young man going into a two o’clock interview for his ‘dream’ job. While he’s determined to knock it out of the park, things quickly turn when, immediately prior to the interview, Neil grows uncomfortable with a personal profile completed by the interviewer. When he finally grasps that it’s a game, Neil must decide if it’s worth it?

My Two O'Clock
Film Poster for My Two O’Clock

Produced in a short amount of time, My Two O’Clock brought the added pressure to execute things perfectly under time constraints for Vieira. However, with My Two O’Clock taking home the LA Short Awards’ Diamond Award, being chosen as a Semi-Finalist from Los Angeles Cinefest, the Award of Recognition from the IndieFest Film Awards, and the Global Film Festival Award, it’s clear that Vieira and the rest of the cast and crew were up to the challenge.

One key for a makeup artist on set is understanding they way their work affects the actor’s confidence and ability to get into their character, even if the makeup seems minimal to outsiders.

“Even beauty makeup can add a lot to the actors performance and self esteem. Talking about self esteem, an actor, whether it’s a man or woman, wouldn’t feel comfortable to be in front of camera without makeup or even without knowing a makeup expert took out the shininess out of their skin and took care of unwanted hair flyaways,” said Vieira.

Although Vieira enjoys bringing out an actor’s natural beauty and confidence, she also loves the drastic side of what makeup can do to a face. Vieira likes to get her hands dirty with special FX makeup. She prides herself in this area of her work to a great degree as it allows her to challenge her skills and go beyond the basics of foundation, blush and lipstick. Sci-fi films rely heavily on makeup artists to create that magical illusion on screen and Vieira never fails to do just that.

On the film Bloody Eyes she was in charge of the main special effect looks. The film is about detectives who find themselves locked in a drug lab, but soon notice traces of bizarre experiments taking place. And after realizing that they’re not the only living creatures in there, they’ll do anything to escape.

Flavia Vieira
Flavia Vieira working on actor Danny Hansen on Bloody Eyes

Vieira worked on multiple characters that had bloody scars, cuts, bruises and fake guts. She describes the transformation process for some of the gory looks, specifically for that of The Creature, which involved a prosthetic silicone face.

“In the film people die, get chased, get dirty. Overall there was a lot of blood, scratches, cuts and dead people. I was responsible for the 5 main characters to do retouches and maintenance of The Creature and also small part characters and extras,” said Vieira.

Through multiple award-winning films across every genre, as well as a plethora of high profile commercials, Vieira has continually proven herself to be a key figure behind the scenes when it comes to the aesthetics we see on screen.

Her advice for others is: “Don’t get stuck in a life that does not fulfill you… I moved from Brazil to LA to pursue a career and I was 30 years old already. If you love it and want it don’t let anything stop you. Try, try and try until you’re on it.”

 

From Rehearsing in a Church Basement in Norway to Producing Music for International Artists: Music Producer Peder Etholm-Idsoee

Music Producer Peder Etholm-Idsoee
Music Producer Peder Etholm-Idsoee shot by Alex Winter

Today internationally recognized music producer Peder Etholm-Idsoee is best known for his work as a music producer on the BMI award-winning song ‘Que Los Mares No Se Enteren’ by Nico Farias, the multiple songs he’s produced for international artist Naïka, such as the world pop chart-topper ‘Ride,’ Lexxi Saal’s new single ‘Break a Bottle,’ Lauren Carnahan’s ‘Criminal,’ which has streamed over 600,000 times on Spotify, and more.

Etholm-Idsoee’s musical journey began back home in Oslo, Norway when he picked up the guitar at the age of 6. “This is when my rock star dream really started” he recalls. “At that time, I dreamt about playing in a band, touring the world just playing shows and making music on the go. I think somehow everyone that does music for a living has had that dream in one way or the other.”

Though he wouldn’t go on to become a ‘rock star’ in the traditional celebrity sense, that was a decision all his own. Instead he would become a major behind the scenes figure in the careers of many of today’s prominent artists.

By age 8 he was fully immersed in voice lessons, which he says he is now ‘extremely grateful for,’ and by age 10 he’d started teaching himself drums and bass, two instruments that fuelled his passion and led him to begin playing with rock bands in his youth.  

Often times rehearsing in the basement of the local church, Etholm-Idsoee recalls during one heavy metal rehearsal in particular that, to the band’s surprise, the church priest casually walked in. “We all thought that we might be in trouble because of the nature of the music we were playing.” Rather than scolding the young musicians, the priest had something else in mind. “He came over to my drum kit and he looked at me and said ‘that looks fun, do you mind if I try?… He sat down behind the drum kit and to everyone’s surprise, started shredding like a god, no pun intended, which ended up in an amazing jam session with the priest. I quickly jumped on a guitar, and we ended up playing for hours.”

Etholm-Idsoee marks that experience as one that taught him to ‘never judge a book by its cover,’ a vital lesson to his work as a producer, and a good rule of thumb for us all.

But it wasn’t until the age of 12 that he got his first recording equipment, and that is when he began laying the groundwork for his career as a music producer. “When my cousin installed my first DAW, the software to produce and record music, that really sparked my interest in the craft of producing. This resulted with me starting to produce and arrange for every band that I was in.”

After playing gigs in Norway with several bands in his youth Etholm-Idsoee soon realized that, while he loved creating and playing music, the celebrity appeal of being a ‘rock star’ was not all that appealing to him.

Music Producer Peder Etholm-Idsoee shot by Alex Winter
Music Producer Peder Etholm-Idsoee shot by Alex Winter

“I never really had the urge to be a frontman,” explains Etholm-Idsoee. “I’ve always been interested in the recording and arranging aspects of music in many different genres… I’m a nerd, I love when I can sit down and make sounds and really geek out on the technical aspect of this type of work, something that never gets old for me at all.”

By that point he’d achieved an impressive skill level on multiple instruments and had several years of experience recording and producing for all of his own bands, so it came as no surprise when he was accepted to the highly competitive Berklee School of Music in Boston, MA., where he would go on to graduate Summa Cum Laude with a degree in Music Production and Engineering.

Whilst living in Boston, he was invited to work as a music producer on Nico Farias’ single ‘Que Los Mares No Se Enteren.’ With Farias already having the song written, Etholm-Idsoee and his co-producer Jason Strong came in and arranged the song and made additions to the melody. Earning Best Song of the Year from the 2015 Latin Billboard Awards and ranking No.1 on Guatemala’s iTunes chart, ‘Que Los Mares No Se Enteren’ was the first Latin pop song Etholm-Idsoee produced, and it quickly became a major international hit.

Music Producer Peder Etholm-Idsoee shot by Alex Winter
Music Producer Peder Etholm-Idsoee shot by Alex Winter

At around the same time that he began working with Farias, Etholm-Idsoee came on board as a lead music producer for the artist Naïka, who has since signed with Capitol Records/Universal Music Group.

Naïka says, “Peder and I have been working together for almost 3 years, and he has been a part of many of my projects. Our first release together was my first single ‘Ride,’ which has done extremely well, and led to me to my record deal with Universal Music Group. Since then, Peder has contributed to most of my upcoming singles that are to be released under UMG including ‘Serpentine,’ ‘Sleeping Pill,’ ‘Oh Mama’ and ‘Lose Control’.”

Taking the No.2 spot on Spotify’s Global Viral and US Viral charts, and being selected as one of the top 50 tracks on the Viral charts for more than 12 countries, Naïka’s not embellishing one bit when she says the single ‘Ride’ has done extremely well.  

Earlier this month Naïka released the track ‘Serpentine,’ and like ‘Ride,’ music producer Peder Etholm-Idsoee played a pivotal role. Present from the very first session, Etholm-Idsoee created the bass riff in the chorus of ‘Serpentine’ using one of his synths, a key element that sets the dark and sexy mood of the track, and is the basis on which they built the rest of the song.

Amongst the many things that set him apart from other music producers in the U.S. is the fact that Etholm-Idsoee grew up in a different country. His Norwegian cultural background has not only had a huge impact on his musical influences and his approach to producing, but it has created an avenue for more creativity when it comes to working with artists in America.

“It has been such a pleasure having Peder by my side along the way,” Naïka explains. “Not only has his talent elevated my songs with his production skills, he has also helped me develop and define my artistry and my sound.”

Aside from being one of the lead producers for Naïka, he is also the music producer behind the rock band Migrant Motel, who’s newest single ‘Blue’ made it onto Spotify’s Rock Total playlist earlier this month. As Migrant Motel’s music producer since 2015, Etholm-Idsoee recorded and produced their debut album “Volume One,” which was released last year, and is currently working on the next releases, which are scheduled to drop later this year.

Peder Etholm-Idsøe - Studio Shot 2
Music Producer Peder Etholm-Idsoee shot by Alex Winter

“I love being ‘the guy behind the glass’ working for the project. So producing for other artists is just right up my alley of what I like to do,” says Etholm-Idsoee. “I honestly just want to create music that provokes an emotion in people, either it is happiness you can share with your friends, being able to relax and enjoy the present, or helping a person through a tough time in his or her life, and I can keep doing that for the rest of my career, I would say that I have achieved my goal.”

 

Olivia Jun helps Rain Zheng bring ‘Esther’ to life in blood curdling horror film

Olivia Jun headshot
Olivia Jun

Unlike many niche professions in the Arts and Entertainment industry, film producers wear many different hats under one blanket title. There is no one-size-fits-all version of their job and they tend to assume responsibility for a wide variety of different tasks involved in seeing a script through from inception to completion. For instance, some producers handle budgetary planning, whereas others oversee contracts, permits, and hiring duties. Some work on set, others do not. Despite this reality, one thing remains constant: they are always in charge of collaborating with each department involved in making the film and ensuring that each and every member of the production is on the same page in terms of how they want the film to turn out. Esteemed Chinese producer, Olivia Jun, understands these demands all too well. Throughout her career as a producer, Jun has learned that it is her job to find the ideal avenue to achieve the best possible result for any project she works on. She is a master at her craft and she knows that with the right amount of hard work and dedication, she will be able to continue helping tell compelling stories and entertain audiences for the rest of her days.

As a film producer, Jun has lent her talents to a number of successful films and commercials over the years. For instance, in 2017, Jun produced an advertisement for eHi Car Service, which featured the highly esteemed, professional basketball player, Stephen Curry. She is also no stranger to the movie world, having produced films like Luz, The Gift, and Donna. She has even tested her hand at the art of producing documentaries, music videos, and prestigious events such as Jackie Chan’s Yaolai International Cinema Open Ceremony/The Karate Kid Premiere. There are few limits to what she can achieve when she sets her sights on a goal and she is energized knowing that she gets to do it time and time again for each new project that comes her way.

Earlier on this year, an old colleague of Jun’s, Rain Zheng, requested that she join him in bringing his script for a horror film, Esther, to life. Her reputation, coupled with their shared interest and passion for the film’s script, made for the ideal team to make this dream a reality. Estherfollows the story of a teenage girl living in a remote, rural outpost in an undisclosed nation in the late 19th century. The events of the story kick off when the girl discovers a bloodcurdling message written on her bedroom wall: “you’re mine to kill.” The subsequent events that transpire are enough to send shivers down the spine of even the most avid horror film lovers.

Although Zheng was the brainchild of the film’s story, Jun helped him to develop the script and determine how best to bring the film success. Due to its historical elements, Jun ensured that she researched and studied the time period in order to determine the best shooting locations, product designs, wardrobes, hair and makeup looks, special effects, and cinematography. During her research, she came across a house called Cohen Bray House in Oakland, California, which accurately captured the type of house represented in the script. She then liaised with each department to bring them up to speed on her and Zheng’s plans for the film, detailing exactly what they’d need to do to keep audiences on the edge of their seat for the duration. She also satisfied the role of guiding Zheng through pre-production, selecting cast and crew members, whilst dealing with budget planning and scheduling matters. As a result of her contributions, the team were equipped with an exceptional shooting plan, schedule, permits, insurances, release forms, agreements, locations, equipment, transportation, and much more. She was instrumental to the entire process and Zheng quickly learned that he had made the correct choice when he approached her about the opportunity.

Upon completing the film, Jun distributed it to more than 50 festivals where it went on to receive an astonishing 16 awards/official selections and counting at a number of well-known film festivals like the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival and the Top Indie Film Awards. She, Zheng, and the rest of their cast and crew were blown away by how well received the film was and felt an overwhelming sense of pride in knowing that their hard work and dedication had paid off in such a big way. Overall, what Jun enjoyed most about this experience, however, was the unwavering amount of passion and joy she shared with her fellow cast and crew members from the very start of the project to the very end.

“I loved my cast and crew. I could sense their passion and their efforts throughout the entire process. We may be from different countries, and we may all do different jobs, but we had one dream in mind for the film and we made it come true. All of the crew worked for free, donating their time and talent. Still, they came up with the best work that they could, encouraging each other and making each other love being present on the project every day. It was a passion project, and I could not be prouder of the outcome,” she concluded.

 

Written by Sean Desouza

Canada’s Aida King is worried wife and stepmother in action flick ‘Hemorrhage’

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Aida King

Being Canadian of Filipino descent and growing up in a multicultural downtown Toronto urban neighborhood, Aida King uses her prominence as an actress to be a representative of a world population sector that is still well under-represented in the entertainment industry. Her unique appearance allows her to portray a variety of cultures and she aims to provide a deeper understanding of different ethnicities. Through the creative arts, she can provide a fresh perspective and not only entertain her audiences, but also educate. With every project she takes on, no matter the genre, she makes sure to understand her character and their background, as well as what drives them. It is such a devotion that makes her such an outstanding actress, and a leader in the industry in Canada.

Known for her versatility, King has worked on a variety of genres as an actress, showing that she is capable of anything. Whether bringing on the laughs in Desert Drive or keeping you on the edge of your seats in the thriller War of Mind, this actress knows exactly how to captivate an audience.

King not only impresses audiences, but also those she works with, as seasoned Producer and Director Josh Mitchell was so moved by the actress’ work in his film The Convicted, which went on to several prestigious international film festivals, that he immediately offered her more roles on his future projects. The two also worked together on the 2015 film Hemorrhage.

Hemorrhage tells the story of a brawling hockey player who suffers from his fourth concussion and is forced to retire. He connects with a shady old high school friend and starts flipping houses, but quickly finds himself face-to-face with a dangerous Mexican gang. When they rough up his wife and kidnap his son – the gloves come off and he takes matters into his own hands.

“Everyone thinks that a pro athlete leads only a glamourous life. That being said, not all are successful as the main stars that are showcased. So many of them face their own unique set of challenges, especially if their career gets cut shorter than expected. The movie is an age-old warning to be careful of whom you associate yourself with,” said King.

Playing the lead role of Ana Chaffe, King was ready to take on a little bit of an action hero. She was a wife and step-mother that was stereotypically cautious and suspicious of her husband’s questionable associates. She was very protective of him and had been worrying about his future, ever since he was forced to retire from his professional hockey career. Her instincts turn out to be correct as she later suffers from her stepchild being kidnapped and her husband under the control of a criminal. Ana’s worry provided pivotal foreshadowing in the film, building suspense and emotionally investing the audience.

“It was a rush to play such a strong character, fighting for her husband and step-child,” said King.

While shooting Hemorrhage, King was required to handle a gun for the first time in her career. Even though it was just a prop, she found the experience quite unnerving. She researched how to shoot a gun, and despite never actually doing so, perfectly executed the scene. This was made easier because of how comfortable she was on set, extremely familiar with the entire cast and crew. However, there was a lot of testosterone on the sports fuelled action film, she joked.

“It’s such an overall different frame of mind when you’re involved in an action focused film. I enjoyed this new approach and the comradery that goes along with it. It was a great time to channel in all great angry female roles that I have seen on TV over the years,” she said.

The trailer for Hemorrhageis featured on Daily Motion‘s website, and the full film is available via Vimeo on Demand since September 2015.

“I am very proud of its outcome. The reviews have been kind and we are grateful for it,” King concluded.

 

Written by Annabelle Lee

Australian Star Emily Gruhl: Truth on Screen at Home and Abroad

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Emily Gruhl continues to push the boundaries of acting truthfully with her groundbreaking performances.

Australian actress Emily Gruhl quickly became an audience favourite upon entering the industry, winning roles in a range of highly-esteemed projects that have helped her carve out a place at the top of what is frequently perceived as an incredibly competitive field.

A graduate of the prestigious QUT acting programme – the same school through with “Pirates of the Caribbean” star Brenton Thwaites trained – Emily hasn’t let a busy filming schedule get in the way of balancing work with artistry. She sat down with us to discuss her views on acting, and how it has helped her traverse a relatively calm journey in a notoriously difficult career.

Upon listening to her reflect about her authoritative approach to her craft, it’s not surprising to learn that Emily has enjoyed more leading roles in a range of film and television projects than some actors more than twice her age, such is the depth of her experience and the degree to which she is respected in the Australian entertainment industry.

Emily explains, “I believe the best actors strive to achieve the highest level of truth in performance possible. This is certainly something that is of the utmost importance to me. I feel a responsibility to my characters when I play them and do everything in my power to achieve this.”

In Hobby Shop, Emily delivered a leading performance in the character of Mary. Produced by the highly regarded team at Like a Phonton Creative in partnership with Screen Queensland, that film concerned a hobby shop owner who kidnaps Mary while in grief over the loss of his daughter. In a creepy twist, Mary is forced to be displayed in the shop as if she is a puppet. Without Mary, and therefore Emily’s scene-stealing acting, the film simply would not have any drama and it wouldn’t make its creepy turn into the horror genre.

The film’s directors, Stephanie Liquorish and Isabel Stanfield, elaborated on how Emily’s performance was inextricably tied to the film’s success. “Emily had a remarkable character transformation…She had developed a different gait and speech pattern. It was incredible character work…you could really feel the desperation and intense need of her character for salvation. This was all due to Emily’s wonderful screen craft and her inventiveness in the presentation of Mary.”

“Hobby Shop,” along with Emily’s masterful work, was showcased at the prestigious Chinese Theatre in Hollywood at the Screamfest Horror Film Festival – the largest and longest running horror film festival in the United States. In addition, it recently won the Gold Award at the Australian Cinematographer’s Society Awards.

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Emily Gruhl on set for “Hobby Shop” with the award-winning cinematographer, Lucas Tomoana.

The successful project is another example of how Emily has become a leading lady in the style of Golden Age Hollywood – a true thespian who can work like a character actress and appear in different genres, but also present herself as a true movie-star.

This is because accessing truth for Emily is more important than fame. “Last Cab to Darwin” star Mark Coles Smith offered our editors unfiltered praise when asked what sets Emily apart from other actors. ““It is not often you have a deep sense of the talent and focus of a particular artist until you get to know them, however, Emily’s unprecedented excellence was apparent from my first meeting with her.”

Such compliments are unsurprising considering her experience in theatre, well-known for providing a necessary training ground for thespians who build long-lasting careers. Emily shared the stage with Golden-Globe nominee Katherine Langford (“13 Reasons Why”) under the direction of revered coach-to-the-stars, Larry Moss. She has also worked with  star AACTA award-nominated Andrew Ryan in the Queensland NRL program, in which she had to deliver a heartfelt and challenging monologue.

“Every time I did the monologue the men were extremely affected and I really do believe we affected change during the time we were there.”

Mark Coles-Smith, who also appeared as the lead role in the SyFy series “Hunters,” elaborates even further in his praise. “It was an absolute pleasure working with Emily. She is so giving with her time and energy, which is the hallmark of a world class actor with an assured future of success. She is an incredible performer, a truly exceptional actor and gracious and giving human being.”

Ultimately, from “Hobby Shop,” to “Picnic at Hanging Rock”, and now feature film “Angel of Mine” with “Dracula” star Luke Evans, Emily has indeed proved herself more than capable from being just another actor. Emily Gruhl is truly unique.

She eloquently adds, “The character of Courtney in “Angel of Mine” is extremely different to me as a person. [Director] Kim Farrant knows me very well personally after working together so much and so she very clearly knew that I am very different to the character of Courtney.”

Extending on her comment regarding truth in performance, “Kim’s work is very personal and she kindly demands a lot from her actors to the point where she believes that putting yourself back together emotionally as an actor is as important as getting to those intense emotional places.”

Emily offers an even more specific viewpoint. “The kind of acting Kim excels at directing and enjoys the most is performances that have incredible emotional dexterity, complexity and nuance to them. This is also the style of acting I most enjoy doing and this usually requires incredible emotional depth from the actors.”

Another project that demanded Emily’s attention, and ability to be truthful, is “A Suburban Love Story.” In the key role of Molly, Emily worked opposite “The Mummy’s” Luke Ford and “Secret City” actor Vanessa Moltzen. Director Stephen Wallace, who has also directed Oscar-winner Russell Crowe, explained that Emily “worked extremely hard in some very difficult circumstances, never giving less than her best. She is a true professional whom I would recommend to anyone.” Extending upon his exploration for why Emily is truly a one-of-a-kind actor, Stephen added: “She is also photogenic and can produce deeply emotional performances when called on. That’s rare.”

While Emily spoke about her craft fondly, she was simply too humble to offer an assessment for why she is considered a true star. Instead, to carve out the truth about Emily’s uniquness it only made sense to seek out the opinion of one of Australia’s leading casting directors, Faith Martin (responsible for casting “Peter Pan” and “Evil Dead”). Martin notably cast Emily in her critical role in “A Suburban Love Story”

“Combined with her naturalness, her beauty and her commitment,” Faith explains, “Emily Gruhl is a force to be reckoned with.”