Allah-Las’ Management Coordinator Daria Khovanova: The Woman Behind the Scenes

Daria Khovanova
Management Coordinator Daria Khovanova shot by Isabella Behravan

With the music industry undergoing a major transformation over the last two decades, more and more artists and bands have been able to self-produce their albums and still attain a level of success that was previously reserved for those represented by major labels. In the same way that the relationships between major record labels and today’s musical acts have changed, so too have the roles of those working behind the scenes to make sure we hear an artist’s music.

Management coordinator Daria Khovanova of Tiki Rocket, who coordinates for the incredibly popular US band Allah-Las, is a key figure who organizes everything from upcoming shows to social media posts for the bands she coordinates. She not only utilizes her social media skills to ensure that we hear her artist’s music over others, but that their live shows run smoothly, plus a whole lot more of the day to day happenings that as an audience, we don’t get to see.

If you’re not familiar with the management coordinator title, imagine the work of a tour manager, production manager, booker and social media director all rolled into one and you’ll get an idea of what Daria does for Allah-Las and the other groups she works with.

“As an artist’s management coordinator you wear many hats, and that’s what I enjoy the most. There’s never a dull moment. I realized a long time ago that working in music I didn’t just want to be stuck in the office,” Daria explains. “Maintaining personal contact with the artist is of great importance to me, and something I think the artist appreciates also. At least the ones I’m working with. It’s important to be in it together, share adventures and grow a bond.”

Daria Khovanova
Management Coordinator Daria Khovanova at the Huichica East Festival in NY

Since she first came on board as Allah-Las’ management coordinator in 2017, Daria has booked and organized a rather impressive list of shows for the group, including the Marfa Myths Festival in Marfa, TX, their three-night residency at Lodge Room in Highland Park, CA, the Off the 405 show at the Getty Center and the Huichica East festival in New York earlier this year, as well as their performances at the 2017 Desert Daze festival and more. Earlier this month she organized the band’s performance during the Open Arts & Music Festival in Glendale during Glendale Tech Week, a “Spaceland Presents” event that partnered with the Downtown Glendale Association and LA County Arts.

For the Open Arts & Music festival Daria handled all the negotiations with show promoters, coordinated the schedules of the key band members and organized additional musicians, such as Tim Hill who played keys with Allah-Las during the show, and rented all of the specialty backline equipment i.e., the amps, lights and speakers. All of that, plus she organized the merch stand and made sure the band’s performance at the event was announced on all social media channels in order to draw the largest crowd possible. While she generally handles all of these things for the other shows the band plays, those taking place outside of their home state of California, like the Oh So Slow Festival in Bali, Indonesia that they played in May, require her to take on even more.

Daria says, “I step in as a tour manager and production manager when needed… arrange interviews, photoshoots, work on collabs with clothing brands, like Billabong x Reverberation Radio, and develop merch ideas. The list is diverse.”

With Allah-Las headlining many of the shows and festivals they play, there’s the understandable added pressure of putting on a flawless performance. With Daria working from behind the proverbial curtain and handling all of the details, the band can focus their energy on the music and the show, taking comfort in knowing that if any obstacle arises she’ll be there to take care of it.

“Since October of 2017, Daria has elevated our music ensemble with expert negotiation of agreements, effective communication with internal and external partners and organized coordination of domestic and international touring itineraries,” explains the members of Allah-Las. “We know we can count on her to look after all our interests and well-being no matter where our tours may take us. Her outstanding management skills have not only helped us meet our financial and creative goals, but also taught us to work more cohesive as a small business team.”

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Allah-Las’ drummer Matt Correia and Daria Khovanova en route to a Show

Though Daria’s job is pretty much non-stop all of the time, she loves what she does. If she didn’t, then being available 24-hours-a-day 7-days-a-week at the drop of a hat would get old quickly. Apart from the seemingly endless list of organizational aspects, a major part of her work as a management coordinator is being personable. Before ever meeting or speaking to the band, she’s often the first one the booking agents, venues and sponsors are in contact with, so making sure she represents the vibe of the band and creates a relationship that makes people want to keep working with them is imperative to their success.

Daria says being a strong management coordinator “[Is all about] being able to juggle a lot of things at once and prioritize, plus assertiveness and the ability to act as a mediator, when needed. A good sense of humor doesn’t go amiss either. It’s all about working with people.”

Aside from going on the road with the band and organizing their bookings, Daria has been hugely responsible for securing endorsement deals. Earlier this year she secured an endorsement for the band with Danish audio equipment manufacturer Ortofon, as well as one from music industry leader, Marshall.

Despite the need to be in constant communication with a large amount of people and the challenges that come along with managing multiple egos while ensuring that everything runs smoothly, Daria’s personal love for music and her relationship with Allah-Las make it all worthwhile at the end of the day.

“I feel grateful to be working with the people I like… [Allah Las] take you in, you become part of a family… there is a certain magic in being on the road with a close-knit group of best friends,” says Daria. “Driving through Texas to get to a festival in Marfa was so fun, and then seeing them live score a surf documentary starring themselves on a vacation in Mexico, ‘Self Discovery for Social Survival,’ was pretty magical.”

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Female Filmmaker to Watch: Eliza Brownlie

Eliza Brownlie
Movie poster for “The After Party”

 

Canadian filmmaker Eliza Brownlie has firmly made her mark as a director in Hollywood. A breath of fresh air in the contentious filmmaking landscape, Brownlie has solidified her reputation as a director who tells stories with a unique aesthetic style while exploring social constructs and the human experience of modern life.

Her 2016 surrealist horror film The After Party earned praise from coast to coast in the U.S. garnering a hugely successful festival run with exclusive “invitation-only” screenings at the Sacramento Horror Film Festival in California and the Williamsburg Independent Film Festival in New York.

Directed and written by Brownlie, The After Party follows an aspiring starlet who hopes to break into the Hollywood scene by attending a mysterious, late night party where she quickly discovers a darkness the lurks beneath the glitz and glamour.

With captivating visuals and an intriguing story that leaves audiences wanting more, The After Party is rendered even more interesting thanks to the distinct female lens through which it is filtered.

“I knew I wanted to make something within the horror/thriller genre and set in Hollywood. I had been living there and was interested in the idea of how this beautiful dream world could resemble more of a nightmare when you examine it a little closer,” explains Brownlie.

“I needed a context, so I thought, what more appropriate setting for a surrealist horror film than a private party in the hills. I also needed a protagonist who was naïve to this world and desperate to be a part of it, so, naturally, I decided to make the lead an aspiring starlet. The rest of the story and the characters expanded from there.”

 

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Still of actress Tarryn Lagana in Eliza Brownlie’s film “The After Party”

 

The film’s star Tarryn Lagana, who’s represented by Luber Roklin Entertainment, the same talent agency that represents Disney superstar Dove Cameron and the late Oscar-nominated actor Burt Reynolds, shines on screen. Lagana was also recently signed to Abrams Artists Agency, which represents Finn Wolfhard from the Netflix series Stranger Things.

“Working with Eliza is an incredibly open experience. She loves to communicate with her actors and give them freedom to explore within the scene. Which was great for ‘The After Party’ because it gave me a chance to create the character Simone and ultimately deliver a strong performance,” says Lagana.

“Eliza is a one of a kind director… She has a very specific voice and vision that makes her stand out as one of the greatest filmmakers of her generation… She is what the industry needs right now.”

 

Director Eliza Brownlie
Cinematographer Ari Bre Bre (left), Director Eliza Brownlie (center), and producer Jessica Kelley (right) on set of a commercial for Cast + Combed

 

Well versed in directing projects across various mediums, Brownlie’s resume showcases her impressive flexibility and includes commercial, fashion films, music videos and narrative films, with her collective body of work revealing a highly stylized and dreamy nature that has reinforced her reputation as an auteur. Over the years she has directed numerous captivating and edgy commercials for an impressive list of clients including Dove, Top Expert and Canon.

In the fashion film she directed for Top Expert featuring model Breanna Box, she captures her subject with slow camera movements, creating a sultry, relaxed vibe that makes us want to dress ourselves in all of the company’s luxury basics. Brownlie effortlessly pulls us into the ethereal worlds she paints in many of her fashion films with a unique style that is simply unforgettable.

A dynamic director, another powerful aspect of her directorial prowess that has set her apart and led her to become a sought after director for more human-interest style commercial pieces is her talent for eliciting raw and vulnerable emotions from her subjects and revealing them with a rare form of elegance. As the director of the docu-style commercial series ‘Imperfectionists’ for Dove’s Self-Esteem Project, and Canon’s Female Hero series, Brownlie captures the women on screen in a way that is captivating, relatable and empowering.

“I like projects that challenge or engage the viewer in an interesting way. Something in the material needs to resonate with me. There’s nothing more painful than working on something you don’t have any passion for,” says Brownlie.

From the extensive repertoire of work that she has released to date it is clear that Brownlie is passionate about her subjects. She is definitely one contemporary female filmmaker that has made a powerful mark in both Hollywood and on a global scale, and she’s one that we will continue to look towards for inspiration.  

Staying Ahead of the Film Industry’s Technological Curve: VFX Artist Tati Leite

VFX Artist
Brazilian VFX Artist Tati Leite

For decades, the film industry has been waging an arms race with no end in sight. In the dark of the theater, ever more elaborate spectacles of cinematic magic shine upon the screen like portals to distant worlds and forgotten times. The popularity of cutting-edge effects among moviegoers has fueled the growth of their use, making them absolutely essential to the success of virtually every blockbuster in modern cinema history. As quickly as audiences are thrilled by the latest magnificent visual feat, however, the bar is raised for all films that follow. As technology and expectations grow exponentially, it falls on visual effects artists like Tati Leite to keep up with our hungry demand to not only see magic, but to believe our eyes when we do.

Leite’s story is one of dedication begetting success. For as long as she can remember she’s been enamored with the way movies use special effects to awe, amaze and inspire audiences to believe the unbelievable. That early fascination stayed with Leite during her time as a computer engineer, a field which demanded and sharpened complex technical skills that would prove invaluable to her career as a visual effects artist.

“I have always been passionate about movies and computer graphics, and visual effects is simply the perfect combination of both worlds,” Leite said. “Ever since I was young, I’ve never missed an opportunity to create videos, learn tools to modify them, create effects, and everything that could be done at the time. I paid attention to all the details of every movie I watched, and I’d watch it over and over to see the effects, the animation and all the aspects that had been introduced to the footage.”

Her years of schooling and experience as a computer engineer gave Leite more than just a leg up when she entered the field of visual effects. As a visual effects artist, most of what she does demands an expertise in computer operations and design that few without her computer science background possess.

“I love to use technology in service of a story,” she explained. “Being able to create visuals that take people’s breath away, even if only for a few seconds, is the most exciting thing about being a VFX artist.”

The spectacular effects Leite creates are never anything shy of breathtaking. Her credits to date are as impressive as they are fitting for an artist of her talent. She’s worked her VFX magic on blockbuster films including 2018’s “Mission Impossible: Fallout” starring Tom Cruise, Marvel Studios’ “Ant-Man and The Wasp” starring Paul Rudd, and Disney’s upcoming live action remake of “The Lion King,” starring Donald Glover and coming to theaters in 2019. When it comes to productions like these, with big stars and bigger budgets, studios don’t take chances on unproven talent. Leite is consistently chosen for such high-stakes projects because she’s garnered a reputation for being an effects artist of the highest caliber.

“I think what excites me most about VFX is exactly that race. The challenge of doing something better, faster and differently is something that drives my passion for this industry. It’s not only about art, and not only about technology. It’s this thrilling mix of both that makes me want to become better and push the bar higher and higher,” Leite said, describing the thrill of being on the frontlines of the visual effects arms race. “Working for big budget productions [intensifies] the challenges because not only do we have to do our very best work to get it just right, but we also have to contend with tight deadlines and the pressure to deliver something even better than the last time.”

Grossly oversimplified, Leite’s job is to visualize, design and create the brilliant spectacles which astound ever-more discerning audiences. Her every keystroke is a meticulously calculated marriage between her unrivaled technical abilities and her unbridled imagination.

Her success has been guided every bit as much by her computer engineering experience as it has by her lifelong love of films, comics and games — and the ways they all use visual artistry to immerse their viewers, readers and players.

“My work on the movie ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ has special meaning to me because it was my first Marvel movie,” Leite explained excitedly. “As an old fan, I couldn’t be more glad to be a part of it.”

While her skill as a VFX artist has led her to be tapped to work on some of the year’s most highly anticipated films on a global scale, her love for her craft and her passion for film means Leite doesn’t choose her projects based merely on blockbuster status. She recently edited and led the VFX for the upcoming indie feature film “In Transit” from esteemed Brazilian director Julia Camara (“Open Road,” “Occupants”). Starring Oliver Rayon (“Workaholics”), award-winning actress Kim Burns (“Painless”) and Karina Federico (“Piel Salvaje”) “In Transit” tells the inspiring story of Olga and Daniel, two strangers whose chance encounter while waiting at an airport restaurant for flights to their respective countries change one another’s lives forever.

“In Transit” is yet another film where Leite’s finesse in post-production has proven to be crucial to the success of the production. Camara, who’s earned more than 25 awards for her work, including the Silver Telly Award and the Platinum Award from the European Independent Film Awards, needed a talented VFX artist and editor who spoke both English and Brazilian Portuguese for “In Transit,” and she found just the post-production superhero she was looking for in Leite.

“She was instrumental to the completion of the film… Not many others would have signed on to work on an experimental feature film… In an industry saturated with male editors, working with another woman was so refreshing. She brings her unique world view and sensibilities this industry desperately needs,” explains Camara. “The success of the film is largely due to her contribution to the project.”

With its festival run is just getting under way, “In Transit” has already been chosen as an Official Selection by the Glendale International Film Festival and is slated to screen between October 5 to 13 in Glendale, California.

There was a time when films had a monopoly on visual effects. But over the last two decades another multi-billion dollar industry has emerged, one which has fueled an explosion in demand for visual effects artists with talents like Leite’s. The rise of the video gaming industry seems to have no end in sight, and VFX has become as crucial to this growing field as it is to Hollywood. The largest video game development studios have already begun to compete with film production studios for VFX artists and other talent — as illustrated by Leite’s extensive VFX work within the gaming industry. As blockbuster video games continue to generate billions of dollars for the burgeoning industry, game developers increasingly realize the importance of visual effects artists.

In just a few short decades, the industry has evolved from a niche market of serious gamers to a cultural powerhouse with serious market control. Video and computer games today are far more than mindless entertainment, evidenced by their use in a vast array of educational settings. Working with the award-winning development company 7 Generation Games, Leite has helped create games that serve as interactive learning experiences for children.

This tactile approach to learning has come a long way since the days of iconic classroom games like “Oregon Trail.” Through games like “Aztech,” “Fish Lake” and “Making Camp,” Leite is helping to shape and grow the next generation of curious young minds. Her work has also earned 7 Generation Games the distinction of being named one of Homeschool.com’s Top Back to School Resources, a highly influential accolade in the world of education. The group is also the only U.S.-based firm to be a finalist at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in India.

“It’s fantastic that 7 Generation Games has won so many awards, but for me personally, the best award is when I see the kids playing it without even blinking. 7 Generation Games creates educational games, and it’s kind of hard to keep children as interested in them compared to ‘regular’ games,” said Leite, describing the challenge of creating a product that is both informative and engaging to the young audience. “All the awards we won are very gratifying, but seeing kids playing over and over, even though they include math, social studies and learning, is priceless. It’s one of those moments you think, ‘Hm, I think we made something right.’”

In the field of visual effects, knowing the audience is key. Leite has an innate understanding of what audiences and players want to see; for all her immense technical know-how, she never treats the creative process as a formulaic affair. Just as each production is unique and wholly original, so too is her approach to every new challenge that comes her way. Whether she’s working alongside industry effects giants in the Marvel universe or helping young children discover a lifelong love of mathematics and science, Tati Leite is an unrivaled force within an industry that continues to fascinate and captivate imaginations of all ages.

 

Meet Danish Director of Photography Sophie Gohr

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Cinematographer Sophie Gohr

Though the career paths for many go undecided until later in life, ‘signs’ of a person’s natural gifts and interests are often apparent in childhood– we just have to know how to spot them.

Growing up in Espergærde, a small fishing village outside of Copenhagen, Denmark, Sophie Gohr was surrounded by a bucolic countryside that fueled her creative imagination. After attending a National Geographic photo exhibit, she went home and made her own camera out of cardboard. She was 6.

I was absolutely in love, I knew I wanted to do something like that when I got older,” recalls Gohr.

With a lens made out of a toilet paper roll, Gohr would take her ‘camera’ across town, going on photo adventures and capturing everything ‘mentally.’ Quickly taking notice of their daughter’s budding interest, Gohr’s parents bought her a camera. It was then that the young Dane began cultivating the creative eye that would later lead her to become a sought after cinematographer.

I would sneak up to the library in school at every chance I got to look at photography books,” says Gohr. “My favorite photographers were Steve McCurry and Yann Arthus. The photographs were telling a story and it was like magic to me, I could feel it, smell it and it was like I was there.”

With a painter for a grandfather, and a fashion designer and dance instructor for a mother, Gohr grew up surrounded by creatives who supported and nurtured her developing interest in the arts. Some of her earliest memories are of her grandparents taking her to museums to look at paintings, and attending ballets, opera houses and Riverdance performances with her parents.

“I remember my mom telling me to draw or paint what I felt the opera or dance was about and how it made me feel. To me that has been such a gift in making the connection of feeling something and putting it down on paper,” says Gohr.

“My mom also started meditating and doing visualizations with me when I was 10. I think a lot of these things influence you, especially having parents that supports you in your art emotionally.”

Cinematographer Sophie Gohr
Cinematographer Sophie Gohr

Today, Gohr’s ability to seamlessly infuse the shots she captures with emotive qualities and create a visual language that pulls viewers into the story on screen is one of the key elements that sets her apart from others in her field. Whether she is leading the camera department as the cinematographer on films such as “Wretched” and “Madeleine,” or on tv series such as the upcoming Danish comedy “Frida and Karo” and the upcoming docuseries “A Woman’s Story,” Gohr has a unique talent for nailing the director’s vision.

The new comedy series “Frida and Karo,” which Gohr recently wrapped production on, is directed by award-winning director Jonas Risvig, who’s known for his work as the director behind several cinematic music videos such as Felix Cartal’s “Get What You Give,” Sopico’s “Paradis,” and Tritonal’s “Call Me.”  

Sophie was our prefered cinematographer for the project and made us able to visualize our humor in the aesthetics of the piece,” explains Risvig. “She has a great eye for details and visual identities.”

Starring Karoline Brygmann from the series “Yes No Maybe” and “Something’s Rockin’,” Frida Brygmann and Peter Zandersen from the series “Follow the Money” and “Ride Upon the Storm,” and produced by Reinvent Studios, the series “Frida and Karo” is set in the modern age and follows the lives of two friends. Gohr’s seasoned skill in terms of lighting and visual composition has made her a powerful cinematographer who knows exactly how to frame and light each scene in a way that supports the story.

Gohr says they were going for a ‘very bright and happy’ look in terms of the visuals for the upcoming series. “Since it’s a comedy I decided on warm tones for the lighting, and get sunlight vibe. And I used soft vintage Leica lenses to create the feeling of softness,” explains Gohr. “I used my RED weapon to get the clean cinematic look. The director really wanted the framing to be very simple as if it was a Youtube channel show. A living room type of situation, that turned out really fresh and different.”

Through cinematography Gohr has not only found a field that utilizes her unique range of skills, but it’s one where she gets to shoot projects like the ones she dreamed of doing in her youth. Earlier this year she began working as the cinematographer on the upcoming docuseries “A Woman’s Story” from director Nathalie Jornheim. With each episode taking place in a different country, the show depicts stories about specific women across the globe and incorporates aspects of the local culture and cuisine from the countries portrayed.

“I can’t talk too much about the show yet because it hasn’t been released and we are still shooting,” explains Gohr. “But I love the theme, cultural documentaries are what I fell in love with as a kid. I’m enjoying observing the stories of each of these women, and having a director who is very visual makes it an awesome project to be a part of.”

As the head of the camera department, Gohr is in charge of creating more than just the visual look of the series, but overseeing her department’s budget and the work of those on her team. About some of the differences between shooting docuseries such as “A Woman’s Story” and some of her other work, Gohr says, “You have to be ready and on your toes at all times, to get that special moment. Where as commercials and narrative projects are usually shot in more controlled environments, and there is more prep time.”

Though the release date for the series “A Woman’s Story” is not set just yet, Gohr confides that the creators of the series are in talks with Amazon, Netflix and Youtube as potential platforms.

Though she was born and raised in Denmark, Gohr moved to London at the age of 16 to study music prior to moving into photography. “At that time I really wanted to be a rockstar and photography was something that would happen in the ‘future’ for me,” recalls Gohr. “I have now learned that sometimes what you think is only going to be a hobby, actually ends up becoming the love of your life.”

The hobby has undeniably turned into a full-fledged career for Gohr, and it’s one that continues to fuel her curiosity, ignite her passion and draw on all of her skills. In addition to working on a plethora of film and television series, Gohr regularly works as the special on set photographer on projects from Pink Banana Studios, an award winning creative production company based in London, which earned 9 AVA Digital Media Awards this year. As the special photographer, Gohr has captured crucial behind the scenes shots on numerous commercials for Pink Banana Studios, including ones for Dove, Green Berger, the Huggle App and more.

 

Australia’s Mark Davis talks passion for acting and starring in ‘I Want You’

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Mark Davis

Despite having other passions, Mark Davis found himself acting from a young age. Growing up in Melbourne, Australia, his father had an old VHS camcorder, and to pass the time, Davis’ brother and his friend used to use the camera, recording small skits. Being the youngest, Davis was always made to be a bad guy who gets beaten up, or he would be dressed up in his mother’s clothes to play a woman. At the time, he was just happy to be spending time with his big brother, but little did he know he would grow to be a celebrated actor.

Throughout his esteemed career, Davis has been a part of several acclaimed projects, from award-winning movies to prolific commercials. He has starred in films like Lucy and Topdecked, which he also wrote, as well as the upcoming period drama Fallen. Australians also know his face from national commercials for Honda, Crownbet, Interflora, and more.

“I knew acting was always something I had a natural affinity for. Instinctually the acting process made sense to me and even though I was quite shy, I felt freedom when taking on a role. I feel like acting is a culmination of many art forms and for me movement and being in touch with something like your emotions and imagination as a profession just made sense. I like taking a walk in other people’s shoes and to get paid to swear, cry, fall in love and throw chairs is a privilege,” said Davis.

One of Davis’ first tastes of international success came with the 2013 romantic drama I Want You. The story follows Maya, who is deeply in love with a boy who lives in Israel. Maya struggles to maintain her faith in a relationship that unfolds largely on a computer screen after she meets another man who can provide the tangible aspects missing from her relationship. Although tempted, Maya has to ask herself, will this new relationship give her what she truly wants?

“The story really demonstrates that good people can be tempted to do things that are against their morals and who they are. In the end, however, the film is about forgiveness and that message is very strong,” said Davis.

In the film, Davis plays Ethan, a character who was very much the other man in a love story. Ethan had to seduce Maya, who was in a very healthy relationship. He was the protagonist in the film. He came into a healthy environment and had to be the perfect blend of nice and endearing whilst also being the bad guy who is going to ruin a relationship purely for his own sexual gratification. Therefore, Davis had to be extremely charming, and managed to do so in tough shooting conditions. It was extremely hot on set, as they were filming in many different locations during the Australian summer.

“I liked being cheeky and being a person with low morals dressed as a nice guy. I’m more self-deprecating and awkward in real life so I had to channel my inner Brando to pull it off. That’s the joy in acting and I definitely had fun on this film. I’ve always said that no one cares about your enlightenment, the audience will watch because they want to see your darkness. It’s more relatable,” said Davis.

MV5BMjJmNmEyZjItMGIyNS00ZjVjLThiZDctNmViYmU1YWZmOTVjXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMzgwNjU4NzE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,707,1000_AL_I Want You also stars Australian superstar Viva Blanca, best known for her role on the television series Spartacus. The film marked the actress’ directorial debut, and she felt the pressure. Knowing she had to have the perfect casting to make her film a success, she gave Davis the role of Ethan.

With the help of Davis, the film went on to be screened at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, the Newport Beach film festival and the St Kilda Film Festival, seeing great success around the globe.

“It was one of the first films I was involved with and I’m glad it was so highly regarded. Viva is a great creative mind and an amazing talent,” he concluded.

 

Written by Annabelle Lee

Livi Zheng Directs Music Video for Grammy Award Winning Artist

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(On the set of “Queen of the Hill” in Joshua Tree)

Livi Zheng recently directed the music video “Queen of the Hill” featuring Judith Hill a Grammy Award winning artist and contestant on The Voice (US season #4). “Queen of the Hill” is a unique collaboration between two genres of music: funk and Balinese gamelan. The music video itself is a kaleidoscope of funk and traditional Balinese dance and costumes.

“Queen of the Hill” was shot in the Southern California’s Joshua Tree desert. Filming in the desert is always a challenge but doing so in summer, as in the case of this music video, is even more so. Shot in a single day, the greatest challenge for the Queen of The hill team was transporting a Gamelan ensemble during rising temperatures in excess of one-hundred degrees Fahrenheit. Director/Producer Livi Zheng only had access to one set of the large gamelan ensembles and if the set broke during three-hour truck drive, or cracked under the heat…that’s it, show over.

The making of “Queen of the Hill” is featured in the full-length documentary Bali: Beats of Paradise. Also directed by Livi Zheng. Bali: Beats of Paradise will be released in theaters November 16, 2018. This epic story of Balinese music and the spread of gamelan was shot in Bali, Indonesia, and The United States. The executive producers of the film are His Excellency Ambassador Umar Hadi, Indonesian Ambassador to South Korea, former Consul General of The Indonesian Consulate in Los Angeles, and Julia Gouw.

Julia Gouw, on the list of 25 Most Powerful Women in Banking in the US, was born in Indonesia but has lived in the US for the last forty years. Her passion includes promoting Indonesian culture in the US internationally. Julia Gouw and Livi Zheng have collaborated on projects ranging from filmmaking to concert production.

Roma Kong takes audiences behind the scenes with Nickelodeon

Roma Kong has always been a big movie fan. Growing up in Lima, Peru, Kong’s favorite childhood pastime was taking in the latest flick, whether at the local cinema or on her couch at home. Even from that young age, she knew she wanted to eventually go on to make films like the ones she enjoyed so much.

“The moment I truly decided I wanted to make movies for the rest of my life was back in 2001 when I went to see Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring on opening night. To see these iconic literary characters and worlds come alive on the screen was mesmerizing. I remember how mind-blowing and epic the film was, and I just thought, I want to do that. I want to be one of those people who make magical worlds be a reality before the audience’s eyes,” she said.

Now, Kong is an industry leading editor in both her native country and abroad. Having worked on several prolific projects for none other than Disney, Kong has established her reputation with her versatile talent.

One of Kong’s other long-standing professional relationships is with Nickelodeon. Working on several projects for the company since 2016, Kong’s work has been appreciated by audiences all around the world. Earlier this year, she embarked on a new project for the celebrated production company, taking viewers behind the scenes of their favorite Nickelodeon shows, featuring some of the shows’ biggest creators and cast members.

“I think these videos give the audience an idea of what it’s like to work in the industry. It shows them that we are all human and not this kind of over the top industry where everything is super glamorous. That people that are part of this industry also do all the silly things everyone else does at work, we all joke and we all work incredibly hard to make the content that everyone loves watching. It grounds the industry for the audience and makes it more accessible for everyone,” said Kong.

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Roma Kong at Nickelodeon

The online video series includes a behind-the-scenes look into the Fairly Odd Phantom, Butch Hartman’s new crossover animated short, and has exclusive interviews with the casts of The Fairly Odd Parents, T.U.F.F. Puppy, Danny Phantom, and Bunsen is a Beast. They were all published through Nickelodeon’s Social Media platforms, including YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. Together they are some of the most viewed social media videos published by the studio, amassing over 400,000 views.

“I’ve always loved working on BTS projects. They’re always fun because not only are you looking to give the audience a glimpse of how their favorite shows and movies are made but also, you’re looking to catch those extra special funny moments that only happen behind the scenes. Making these for Nick and editing videos with some of their biggest creators at work really stood out for me,” said Kong.

Kong was the sole editor for every one of the BTS Nickelodeon videos. As the videos were very time sensitive, the production company needed an editor that was effective working at a fast pace. Even working quickly, Kong excels at catching great moments that not only are humorous and entertaining, but that look good on camera. On top of this, she has a unique ability to edit to the rhythm of the music in the video, making them that much more captivating. The use of music was essential to each videos success, which could not have been achieved without Kong’s touch.

“I loved these because it was awesome watching the footage and seeing these people in action. Being able to catch great moments of their personalities and how much they love what they do and being able to tell a story with those moments was fantastic. It was great watching the action go on and then something completely unexpected and funny would happen and I would just burst out laughing and call my teammates and we would have a great team moment. They were incredibly fun to work on,” she said.

Storytelling was a fundamental element for Kong when editing the videos. Even though they were just going behind the scenes of a show, she knew she still needed to tell the audiences a story. She was given all the footage and went through everything to find the best moments and tell a coherent story. Because they were behind the scenes videos, at the beginning, it was difficult to figure out how to structure it for everything to make sense and not just be a series of funny bits or bloopers. Kong therefore decided to first separate sections of the video, parts where everyone was laughing, parts where they were recording voices, etc., and then, depending on the video, she would either keep the sections separate or intercut them, jumping from one section to the other. She then added small sections from the actual show to help the audience make the connection between the part that was being made and the exact moment in the piece.

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Roma Kong at Nickelodeon

“Nickelodeon is one of the big ones. Every kid grows up watching Nickelodeon and adults my age all had their lives impacted by them. Everyone knows them and what they stand for and their great reputation. It fills you with a sense of pride knowing that you’re working for a company that so many consider part of their lives. Whenever I talked to my friends about the shows they used to watch growing up, 90 per cent of those shows are Nickelodeon shows. It feels amazing to work for a company that has been so influential for so long,” she said.

Kong worked on BTS Nickelodeon from January to May of this year. Every video she did provided a new learning experience for the editor, which is why she loves what she does so much. Every time she steps into the editing studio, she remembers what it was like as a child, being so captivated with movie magic, and she strives to engages her audiences the way she was once so engaged. That drive is what makes her such a tremendous editor, and for those looking to follow in her footsteps, she encourages you to never give up.

“Never ever think that you can’t be a part of this industry, you absolutely can. It’s a very intense industry. It’s not glamour and glitz as they like to show, it’s long hours, very short deadlines, hard work and lots of different personalities to deal with. So, you have to be sure this is what you want to do for a living. Really sure. Once that’s settled, educate yourself. Filmmaking is a creative line of work but it’s also very technical. You need to learn how to do it. Watch all the content you can, no matter how good or bad you think it might be. You’ll be surprised how much one learns from bad movies. Learn the tools of writing and storytelling, your job is to tell stories, so learn how to properly tell them. Lastly, talk to people, reach out to people already in the industry, ask for their advice, ask if you can meet up for a cup of coffee. We all started somewhere and we all know how much talking to people already working helped us,” she advised.