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Award-winning actress Liane Grant shines on the Transatlantic stage & screen

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Actress Liane Grant

The prodigious talents of British actress, Liane Grant, seems to show no ends for she has received acclaim not only for her professional work in acting, directing, writing and producing on stage, but on the screen too; and on both sides of the Atlantic, no less. 

Recently Grant co-produced, wrote and played the lead role of Meredith in the American dystopian play, “Half Me, Half You”, which debuted at the Fresh Fruit Festival in New York in July 2018, and where Grant won the Outstanding Playwright Award. The hit production also led Grant’s costar, Jennifer Fouche, to earn the Outstanding Featured Performer Award.

“Acting is so much more skilled and complex, and uses so much brain power as well as heart and soul power, more so than I think many people realize,” said Grant, who has over 26 acting credits on stage and screen.

“It also forces me to be a better person because I’m constantly having to think about different stories and different kinds of people, and look at things from a multitude of perspectives.”

An alumnus of the prestigious Cambridge University in England, Grant also studied acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts (AADA) in New York for two years. In 2015 she co-founded her own production company, RoL’n Productions, through which she’s produced “Half Me, Half You”  and other acclaimed works.

RoL’n Productions focuses on providing opportunities for women in the arts and with an all-female cast, “Half Me, Half You”, which dramatizes issues of prejudice such as on race and gender, was no exception. Grant co-founded RoL’n Productions with Roxanne Lamendola, an American actress whom she met at AADA, the alma mater of some of the best actresses of their generation, from Lauren Bacall to Anne Bancroft of yesteryear, and Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain of today.

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Poster for “Taken in Marriage”

However, Grant’s first theatre co-production for RoL’n Productions, the barbed comedy, “Taken in Marriage,” not only had an all-female cast but also linked her with yet another luminary of screen and stage, the three-time Oscar-winning actress Meryl Streep, as she performed in one of the lead roles of Andy, a part originated by Streep on Broadway in 1979.

“Working with so many talented women, knowing that we’d provided them with those opportunities to showcase their talents, was amazing,” said Grant, who ensured that seven production roles, in a variety of areas, were filled by women.

Grant co-produced “Taken in Marriage” in 2015 to be performed at the Waterloo East Theatre in London, England, with the sharp comedy focused on the character of the pretty and young Annie, as she sits in a basement on the eve of her wedding, surrounded by female family members, with long-lost feelings, frustrations and secrets on the verge of being revealed to much hilarity.

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Liane Grant in “Taken in Marriage”

Grant’s debut in a feature film, “Gypo,” was in the UK in 2005, but it marked a strong start to her career, as the film not only won the British Independent Film Award for Best Achievement in Production but, more so, was directed by Jan Dunn, the multi-award-winning female auteur and one of the first British directors to be listed on the Hollywood Director’s List.

“Doing ‘Gypo’ was my first professional job, and my first feature film, and for that reason it will always be a standout project, let alone the amazing team of professionals I was able to work with,” said Grant, about her first professional role nearly fifteen years ago.

Grant plays a bully in “Gypo”, which charts the breakdown of a working class family in England, when the teenage daughter of a family befriends a refugee girl, with leading roles by actors Pauline McLynn, whose credits include Tom Cruise’s “Far & Away” and “Transformers: The Last Knight” and Paul McGann, who portrayed the iconic British character, Doctor Who, in 2013. 

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Film poster for “Gypo”

Moving seamlessly from stage to screen can be challenging for any actor, but for Grant, who has performed in four Shakespeare plays for theater in the US and the UK – including as a female Julius Caesar in an all-female production – her valuable training, skills and experience make the transition back and forth almost seamless.

“Theater is wholly unique because it allows for a direct and intimate relationship with the audience: even when you can’t see the under the stage lights, even when you are lost in your character and in the moment, you feel that connection and their presence in some way,” said Grant, who has performed at the famous Edinburgh Fringe and in England and New York.

“There is certainly an electricity, literally and metaphorically, when the camera is rolling, and screen work is exciting and alive in its own way, but they are very different processes: how you prepare the character may be exactly the same, but the process for that character to be brought to life is very different.”

It is an approach that stands Grant in good stead, as she prepares in 2020 for her latest on-screen role as the character, Stephanie Miles, in the new US television series “Emergency: LA” which focuses on fictional dramas based around the emergency services of Los Angeles’ fire, police and hospital services. 

“When I watched Julie Andrews in ‘The Sound of Music’, it changed my world: I didn’t just understand the magic of film but the magic of a performance speaking to you directly,” said Grant, who also starred in film, “The Parasite,” in 2016.

“So, honestly, my ultimate goal would be to make someone else feel the way Julie Andrews made me feel, to pay the gift forward.”

 

 

Cinematographer Xavier Dolléans alternates between French primetime TV and Disruptive Digital

Cinematographer Xavier Dolléans
Cinematographer Xavier Dolléans on set of “Mental” shot by Thomas Gros

Internationally lauded French cinematographer Xavier Dolléans, who earned the Jury Award for Best Cinematography at the Slum Film Festival for his work on the film “Animal,” is no stranger to the technical intricacies of top-tier filmmaking. 

Dolléans, a proven master behind the lens, is the cinematographer responsible for shooting the first four seasons of “Skam France,” the largest global adaptation of the Norwegian teen drama, as well as the show’s upcoming fifth and sixth season.

As a cinematographer, versatility is one of his seasoned and sought after strengths, so it’s not at all surprising that he followed up “Skam France” by shooting two very different projects. After the first two seasons of “Skam France,” Dolléans came on board as the cinematographer behind the hit series “Red Shadows” (“Les Ombres Rouge”), which was broadcast during primetime on France’s C8, as well as the psychological youth drama “Mental,” which streams on the disruptive digital platform Slash TV owned by state broadcaster, France TV. 

“Red Shadows was a primetime show with a great cast, a very experienced director and big sets,” said Dolléans, who has won numerous awards for his work as a cinematographer. “I’m particularly happy with a party sequence where we had to reconstruct a full club with all the lights and sets as the whole crew did an amazing job, rigging and programing everything the way I wanted it to be.”

While “Red Shadows” was aimed at peak-viewing French TV and “Mental” was a purely digital content production aimed at modern viewers, the seasoned cinematographer navigated the differing productions with ease. Dolléans has built a formidable cinematography repertoire. For every project he takes on, he steps into the role as the leader of the entire camera department, and as such he is the one on set responsible for the art of photography and visual storytelling, including all of the on-screen visual elements from lighting and framing to camera angles and color palette.

With over 50 credits under his belt as a renowned director of photography, the most recent accolades in Dolléans’ 15-year career include winning the Best Cinematography Prize for “Rocambolesque” and “Animal” and at the Warsaw and Slum Film Festivals, and having his high-caliber work as the cinematographer behind the film “Ames Soeurs” featured at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival.

Dolléans’ vast skills and expansive experience in the field of cinematography allow him to be professionally ambidextrous in the projects he contributes to, allowing him to efficiently and effectively change gears from the big-budget series “Red Shadows” to more intimate productions like “Mental.”

“‘Mental’ was very different from ‘Red Shadows, as first of all, everything takes place inside the same building, the hospital,” said Dolléans. “Out of the 25 days of principal photography, 22 days were shot inside this place, with so many sets located inside it as well.”

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Poster for “Red Shadows” aka “Les Ombres Rouges”

Broadcast in 2019 with all six episodes expertly shot by Dolléans, “Red Shadows” is a crime drama that tells the story of Aurore Garnier, played by French actress Nadia Farès, a policewoman who searches for the truth after she discovers new clues about the disappearance of her five-year old sister in 1993.

Dolléans was hired on the show by Alban Etienne, the CEO of Banijay Studios France, a subsidiary of the Banijay Group, the world’s largest independent content producer in the world with revenues of around USD $1 billion. Etienne had previously worked with Dolléans on the first two seasons of “Skam France.” 

Despite “Red Shadows” being set in the famously vibrant region of Côte d’Azur region of France, Dolléans’ color palette for lensing the show was, in fact, decidedly absent of vibrant colors. 

“The show was set in the south of France, between Marseille and Aix-en-Provence… we absolutely wanted to avoid all clichés, meaning no big sun with blue sky,” said Dolléans. “We were actually at the opposite end, with a lot of darkness, and a harsh and inhospitable sun:  no red at all, but a lot of browns, dark greens and metallic blue skies.”

Despite the expansiveness of the vision of the series, and the resources and budget to match it, challenges arouse around capturing this on screen, but Dolléans’ work bears testimony to his highly-esteemed skills behind the camera.

He explains, “On this show, we had so many locations that it was very challenging to be ready in terms of the preparation time for each of them… Also, the weather was a big concern, we had a lot of rain during the first weeks and then a lot of wind that prevented us from using use butterfly and frame diffusions outside, as we originally planned.”

Despite the challenges though, Dolléans nailed his mark, endowing the series with a masterful visual language, just as the director had envisioned. 

In contrast, the upcoming series “Mental,” which follows four teenagers in a psychiatric hospital and consists of 10 episodes, allowed Dolléans’ a bit more freedom to innovate and exercise his exemplary camerawork due to the fact that the consistent nature of the set.

“I like working differently on every show. On ‘Mental’ I used the camera with an extension module that allowed me to detach the sensor and to be very lightweight. This configuration gave me the ability to be with the actor, very close, to move intuitively and to improvise a lot with them and with the director. It was interesting to shoot it this way,” explained Dolléans.

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Xavier Dolléans on set of “Mental” shot by Thomas Gros

Though “Mental” has yet to be released, the series has already begun garnering awards, including the 21st La Rochelle Fiction TV Festival’s Best Series Award in the 26-minute category. Dolléans was recommended to join “Mental” after a headhunt from France TV, which also saw him team up with a previous collaborator from his previous four seasons on “Skam France.”

“On ‘Mental,’ we worked very closely with the production designer Edwige Le Carquet, who I know from my past collaborations on Skam France seasons one through four, to get a very distinctive look for this show,” said Dolléans. “We worked a lot during preparation time to define the color palette, which is fundamental for me when we want to set a look.”

Dolléans, who was key in the film “Speed/Dating” winning the Best Short Award at the Alpe D’Huez Film Festival in 2017, ensured the cinematic production value of  the series“Mental” by utilizing cameras on the set that are typically used for feature films.

 “In terms of equipment, I used the Sony Venice camera again after ‘Skam France,’ as I like it a lot for its perfect color rendition and its ability to go very deep in low lights,” said Dolléans. 

Following the highly anticipated release of the series “Mental,” Dolléans is slated to begin shooting the fifth season of the praised series “Skam France,” the first time the series, which has become a global phenomenon, will have original content separate from its Norwegian counterparts. He has also been tapped as the cinematographer for a new documentary film drama centered on the world-famous opera house in Paris, the Palais Garnier.

 “It’s a very interesting project about the Opéra Garnier’s creation and all the inventiveness and tenacity of Charles Garnier, its architect, during its construction,” said Dolléans about the elegant building commissioned by Emperor Napoleon III in France’s capital from 1861 to 1875.

 “I want to continue to work in the fiction world, as it is the place where I like expressing my sensitivity most,” adds Dolléans. “In my career, I hope to achieve many beautiful and important feature films… By important movies, I envision those with a universal scope that touches every person. I need to feel that my work has an impact in the everyday lives of people .”