All posts by P. L. McGroarty

Eclectic, Radical, Diamond In The Ruff Rough. A puzzlingly optimistic inspiration hunter fueled by all things adventure. Sailing, motorcycles, wake boarding, snowboarding and yoga are a few of my favorite things. Some of the countries I've explored so far include Greece, Thailand, Indonesia, Laos, Mexico, Portugal, France, Germany, Holland and Honduras; and I'm just getting started. Next on the list are Japan, Morocco, all of South American eventually, Italy, Russia, Spain... I can go on and on.

Alice Del Corso’s Novel “Magnolia Hearts On Fire: Vol 1” Becomes Award-Winning Film

Magnolia
Film Poster for “Magnolia: Hearts on Fire Vol. 1”

When it was published in Italy in November 2018, “Magnolia: Hearts on Fire Vol. 1” was undoubtedly a runaway success novel for its author, Alice Del Corso, but it was her proficient skills as a screenwriter that led the source material to be transformed into a multi-award winning film.

Resting on Del Corso’s penmanship of the triumphant novel and its successful transfer to the cinema screen, the film version of “Magnolia” won the Best Short Awards at the Rolling Ideas, Etna, Via dei Corti, Couch and The Monthly Film Festivals, as well as the Best Short Awards at the Crown Wood and Creation International Film Festivals. 

“I was living in London when I started to imagine this girl; her past, her dreams, but I had no time to write that story so I just paused it, waiting for a better moment to write it,” said Del Corso, whose industrious film career has included being a story editor and script doctor in the UK.

“That moment came three years later and it is a story that really made me feel so many emotions that I will always carry it in my heart.”

Hailing from Tuscany, Italy Del Corso has established an internationally acclaimed career as a screenwriter through her work on lauded films, such as “Inside,” “Apeiron, “Suspensum,” and “Alba,” for which she has remarkably already won eight awards and two nominations. 

In addition to her awards for “Magnolia,” Del Corso’s accolades for screenwriting for “Apeiron” have included winning the Best Short Film Award at the Hollywood Film Competition and Los Angeles CineFest, Best Drama Short Award at the Hollywood International Moving Pictures Film Festival,  Diamond Award Winner at the International Independent Film Awards, the Best of the Year Award at the Gold Movie Awards, as well as nominations at the Depth of Field International Film Festival Competition.

“I can say that I’ve always been writing stories,” said Del Corso, who has enjoyed critical praise for her work since her 20’s. “I had a journal where I used to try my ‘writing experiments,’ as I called them: some poems, ideas, dialogues of some characters I had imagined; everything that popped into my mind.” 

Taking nearly two years to complete, Del Corso’s 520-page book of “Magnolia” focuses on the romance, and subsequent drama, between Elise Sodderland, a raven-haired troubled young woman who has fled Glasgow to come to London after something terrible happens, and Colin Knight, a famous English entrepreneur.

“When I’m writing a story, I primarily follow the characters, their space inside the plot, their needs and goals, giving them priority above everything else,” said Del Corso. “I think that the only way to have a story that feels true is to create characters so real that it’s like knowing someone intimately.”

A quick hit in Italy, “Magnolia” regularly sells around 700 copies a month, a very significant number for the Italian market and a fitting testament to Del Corso’s highly-consummate writing.

Released in November 2018, the film version of “Magnolia” was directed by Del Corso’s husband, Philip Thomas Morelli, through their joint company, Castle View Studio, which they founded in 2013. In addition to garnering numerous awards, “Magnolia” earned Morelli a nomination for the Best Director Award at the 2020 Mabig Film Festival, which will take place next year. 

“In the film, we see the key moments of Elise’s life,” said Del Corso, about the film which has also received several nominations such as Best Director, Actor, Actress and Directing for the 2020 Mabig Film Festival as part of its official selection.

 “Her past, her fears, and also the moment that will change her life which is her first meeting with Colin, the male character of this story.”

“Magnolia” stars two Italian actors as its two romantic leads: Sara Matteucci, who has starred in the film “Love 14” and TV series “Sketch Up,” and whose character for the film is listed as Magnolia Queen; and Amedeo Andreozzi, who stars in the film “99.9%” and the TV series “Don Matteo”, who plays Colin.

Matteucci has been nominated for the Best Lead Actress Role for “Magnolia” at the 2020 Mabig Film Festival, whilst Rocco Fasano of “Skam Italia’ fame has been nominated for the Best Lead Actor for his portrayal of the lead antagonist, Ryan Mcneal. 

“Alice is the sweetest human being and a very talented writer: she has an immense inner world which very generously opens up to the audience,” said Fasano, who was also the lead male actor in Del Corso’s award-winning sci-fi film “Apeiron.”

“She’s proven herself capable of dealing elegantly with human emotions as well as with the design of different universes… she’s sensitive and her narrations are beautifully structured.”

In February 2019, Del Corso commenced writing her second novel, “Blossom,” and the sequel of “Magnolia” is scheduled to reach the silver screen in 2020, in which Fasano will once again take on a leading role.

Del Corso is also set to begin production on her Hollywood cinematic debut with the upcoming feature film “Memoria,” which is slated to begin filming in Atlanta, Georgia and will be directed by Morelli.

“We signed with an executive production company in Hollywood and we have a famous American actor attached to the project in the leading role, who really loved the story,” said Del Corso, who has written both the story and 125-page screenplay for the project.

“Unfortunately, we cannot reveal anything else at the moment.”

 

 

Filmmaking Team Philip Morelli and Alice Del Corso Behind the Upcoming Film “Memoria”

"Memoria"
Film Poster for “Memoria”

Italian filmmakers Philip Morelli and Alice Del Corso are creating quite a buzz with news of their upcoming sci-fi feature film “Memoria,” which is slated to begin shooting in Atlanta, GA next year.

With Philip as the director and Alice as the screenwriter behind all of their joint projects, the duo, who happen to be married, have carved out a strong reputation for delivering award-winning work, such as the multi-award winning films “Magnolia: Hearts on Fire Vol. 1” and “Apeiron.” 

Taking place 20 years in the future, “Memoria” depicts an emotionless society where drastic changes in human evolution resulting from Memoria’s technology have further compounded the   ethnic and socioeconomic divide between people on earth. “Memoria” brings to the screen a relatable and foreshadowing story of the far-reaching effects of technology gone wrong, one where a new and innovative technology that could have been used to improve people’s lives and cure illnesses has instead been used to increase the money gap and further divide people.

Philip and Alice initially found their inspiration for “Memoria” after reading a 2017 article about a brain technology that could expand human intelligence and provide the possibility to upload and download data through the cloud. 

“We started to think about all the implications that this technology could have in real life, and that’s where it all started,” says Alice. 

The buzz the highly-anticipated film “Memoria” has been earning around the globe is due in part to the couple’s previous success in the genre. Back in 2015 Philip directed the sci-fi film “Apeiron,” which Alice wrote the screenplay for; and their joint efforts garnered extensive international praise. The brilliant sci-fi film depicts a highly cinematic post-apocalyptic story that took audiences and festival judges by storm, with “Apeiron” earning numerous awards including the Best of the Year Award from the Gold Movie Awards, Best Short Award from the Hollywood Film Competition, Best Trailer Award from the International Independent Film Awards, Best Drama Short Award from the Hollywood International Moving Pictures Film Festival, the Best Short Awards from both the 2017 and 2019 editions of  Los Angeles CineFest, and more. We need not look further than “Apeiron” to see just how effectively Philip and Alice can bring a powerful sci-fi story to the screen. 

“Apeiron” lead actress Beatrice Gattai (“Wedding in Rome”) says, “Alice’s writing and Filippo’s visions are something most could only wish to aim at. They are a truly inspiring artistic couple. They are a great team. She has the imagination and he has the sensitivity to understand and bring to life what she had imagined… The stories they create are mind blowing.”

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Philip Morelli on set of “Apeiron” shot by Donatello Gradassi

Though their previous success has undoubtedly given Philip and Alice a strong foundation to stand upon as a filmmaking team, what they have come up with for “Memoria” is unique, relevant and appealing on its own.

“Technology has really changed lives in a better way, but every progress brings some light and some darkness with it,” says Philip. “With Memoria I want to go deep and bring all these aspects to the light, in the most real way, as it could happen tomorrow. I want to connect with the audience, give them a close look at the characters, then going close-up in the suburbs and extreme wide in the city. My characters have real issues, so I will shoot in 35 mm to bring these feelings out in the light.”

With Philip and Alice behind the film “Memoria,” the film is assured to be a flawless production and surefire hit with audiences. Last year the duo turned heads with their award-winning film “Magnolia: Hearts on Fire Vol. 1,” which starred Rocco Fasano (“Tender Eyes,” “SKAM Italia”), Amedeo Andreozzi (“Don Matteo”) and Sara Matteucci (“Sketch Up,” “Love 14”).

Rocco Fasano, who plays the villain in the film, says “Working with [Philip and Alice] was an absolutely beautiful, enriching experience. They work as a couple and they work as a team, and they manage to deliver an idea in a clean, rational, straight forward way, and they give so much room for you as an actor.”

Based on Alice’s novel of the same name, “Magnolia: Hearts on Fire Vol. 1” is a uniquely crafted romance film that follows Elise, a young woman who desperately tries to escape her traumatic past by changing her name and moving to London. Viewers are led into Alice’s life through a series of flashbacks that reveal her past and her first encounter with Colin, a man that would forever change her life; with the overall message of the story begging the question of whether the very thing one is running from is in fact, the only thing that can make them happy in the end.

Turning Alice’s engaging novel into the screenplay for the first in a series of “Magnolia” films that the couple intend to make, Philip drew upon his expansive creativity and took a unique approach with his direction for “Magnolia: Hearts on Fire Vol. 1.”

“Being that this a romance, I tried to do something completely different from my usual style. Longer takes in order to spend more time with the characters and catch their emotions, which also gave the audience some time to feel each shot,” Philip explains. 

“I played a lot with silhouettes, making them more evocative and I used slow motion to emphasize the dramatic parts of the story. Mixing all of these techniques I tried to show the love between Elise and Colin, without hiding the sadness that sometimes we feel in the plot.”

Alice Del Corso and Philip Morelli
Alice Del Corso and Philip Morelli

One of the things that makes Philip and Alice such a cutting edge team is their desire to stay ahead of the curve and infuse their work with innovative techniques. A prime example is the scene in “Magnolia: Hearts of Fire Vol 1” where they captured ink in water in motion. 

“In Magnolia there’s a lot that happens on the outside, but there’s also a lot that happens on the inside, in the subconscious, and I wanted to represent this with water,” explains Philip. “I used this technique that involves a particular ink which has a density that makes it move in slow motion without the need to use a high-frame rate in the camera. I used it both for the quotes that represent Elise’s thoughts, and also for a real book copy that I submerged in a tank.”

Released in 2018, “Magnolia: Hearts of Fire Vol 1” earned astonishing praise throughout the industry with the film taking home numerous awards from festivals earlier this year, including the Crown Wood International Film Festival, Creation International Film Festival, Via dei Corti, TMFF Film Festival, Rolling Ideas, Etna Film Festival, Couch Film Festival and more. The film has also been chosen as an Official Selection of the 2020 Mabig Film Festival, where it has been nominated for several awards including Best Directing, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Editing.

They prepare everything from the smallest details, and they always make each crew member feel comfortable,” says Lorenzo Costagliola, the cinematographer behind “Magnolia: Hearts of Fire Vol 1” and “Apeiron.” 

“Philip and Alice have plenty of ideas, and they have enough experience to understand if an idea is working or not, without wasting anyone’s time. What makes them really strong is the ability to create harmony on set. They solve everything with tranquility and professionalism and no one ever complained. Is not that easy to find those qualities in other projects, that’s why I always love working with them, because it’s like having your family on set.”

Aside from their upcoming film “Memoria,” Philip and Alice are also in the process of making the follow-up film for “Magnolia,” which is expected to be released next year.

At the end of the day, Philip and Alice are a brilliant filmmaking team due to their ability to merge their individual creative talents together in service of the story. Even more importantly though is that their respect for the power of collaboration doesn’t with them, it extends to include their entire crew, so it’s no wonder why those they work with, such as cinematographer Lorenzo Costagliola and actor Rocco Fassano, who were each involved in “Apeiron” and “Magnolia: Hearts of Fire Vol 1,” continue to work with them time and time again.

“Cinema is made by people, so the first important thing is to be surrounded by people you trust, that have good ideas and are willing to get involved in that journey with you. Teamwork is the key word, not only in cinema but in everything else,” says Philip. “A solid story is another important aspect of making movies, a story that you can feel moving inside you just by reading the script. The audience’s acceptance is always the major challenge, but if you have a really good story and a really good team, you will make good cinema for sure.” 

The founders of the production company Castle View Studio, Philip Morelli and Alice Del Corso are in no shortage of powerful and inspiring stories, and having proven that they have the talent to bring them to life on screen, they’re definitely a team audience’s should get to know.

 

It’s More Than Good Looks that Make Renan Pacheco a Top Digital Influencer

Digital Influencer Renan Pacheco

The global rise of instagram as a storytelling and sharing platform has given users a unique peek into the lives of people they know off screen, as well as into those they wish they knew– and from the latter, we’ve seen the global rise of the ‘digital influencer.’ 

Whether it be the products they use, the places they travel or the food they eat, everyday people look to the budding world of digital influencers for inspiration that they can bring into their own lives. Not only have the lives of digital influencers become similar to ‘fantasy’ worlds many viewers dream of living, but they’ve helped lead brands to make millions of dollars in profits. 

Born in Sao Paulo, Brazil and raised in Paris, Renan Pacheco is among the most recognizable French digital influencers in the world today, and it’s not hard to see why. In fact, earlier this year he was handpicked to be included in Kolsquare’s select group of six Influencers Under 30 to Follow in 2019.

Renan explains, “I help fashion brands tell a story. Through posts and IG stories, I tell stories to my community to promote new products and trends. I’m always happy to interact with my 650,000-plus followers when they comment or send me a direct message.”

With a continually growing Instagram following of more than 650K users, Pacheco’s heart-stopping good looks and magnetism in front of the camera coupled with his ability to help brands tell engaging stories has made him a hot commodity in the social media world. 

Pacheco has been so successful in his work as a digital influencer that he was nominated for a prestigious People’s Choice Award in 2018 in the French Pop Culture Influencer category. He has also been nominated in both the Travel and Fashion categories for the Influencer Award Monaco at the 2019 Monaco Digital Influencer Awards, which will take place this October.

Screen Shot 2019-09-03 at 10.45.22 PM

Prior to moving into his now 24/7 job as a digital influencer, Pacheco made a name for himself back home in Paris as a highly sought after actor and model. Earlier in his career, he was the featured actor in commercials for the massive French multinational food company Danone’s popular Danao beverage, and TF1’s hit series “Nos Chers Voisin,” as well as played the critical role of Stefano Cobalt in the film “Cobalt” directed by multi-award winner David Tomaszewski for Dolce and Gabbana. Though Pacheco’s looks and charisma have undoubtedly helped him along the way, he has far more going for him than simply being a good looking face. He is an extremely talented content creator, and thanks to his experience in front of the camera as both a model and an actor, he knows how to embody the perfect emotional vibe within every image captured. Simply, he knows how to tell you a story without even speaking

Though the career of a digital influencer appears to be a relatively new phenomenon, in reality it’s not all that different from those of the flocked to figures, such as actors, entertainers and athletes over the past century, who have gained sponsorships from brands to promote what they have to offer. The biggest difference is arguably the fact that the digital influencer IS a brand in itself. Everything from the way they look off camera and the way they live their lives to the content they curate has to be methodical and purposeful. Digital influencers don’t take random photos and throw them into the digital world with their fingers crossed. The best, like Pacheco, know they will make waves when they post.

We needn’t look further than Pacheco’s instagram profile for proof this. Individually each of his photos grab our attention with clean composition, an engaging subject (himself) and more often than not, the beautifully exotic and breathtaking background of a foreign country. When looking at Pacheco’s page, the tonal continuity of his collection of images immediately apparent, you can tell that he knows better than anyone that seamless continuity is integral to visual appeal. There is nothing random about what he chooses to post.

“Companies leverage us Influencers for our media exposure as well as for our creativity. My pictures must thus take both criteria into account… Often, the picture is what will satisfy the follower, and the caption is what will satisfy the storytelling” explains Pacheco. says, “Every picture immortalises a moment. When looking back 50 years from now, I know I can trust that these pictures show how things really were. I feel a responsibility to present the moment faithfully and accurately to my fans.” 

From the outside it may look like pure glitz and glamour, but at the end of the day, it is still an important job in the branding and advertising industries, albeit one that comes with more perks than most.

Pacheco admits,“Some days when your personal life takes a hit, you have to focus on your followers and make sure you’re still creating value in an up-beat, positive way. They follow you for entertainment, not for negativity, which is often inevitable in the long term.”

Pacheco’s abounding success as a digital influencer has put him in the spotlight as the star of countless digital campaigns, including those for the fragrance “Zadig et Voltaire” and the “Police Sunglasses” from @Policelifestyle. Both of these shoots were photographed by famous fashion photographer Florian Saez, who has quite a bit to say about what makes Pacheco such a uniquely powerful figure amongst the world’s top digital influencers.

“Renan has the paradoxical mix of possessing a high follower count as well as a high engagement ratio… when Influencers grow in follower count, they naturally experience a decline in engagement ratio. This is to be expected since the more followers one gets, the further form their inner circle these followers tend to be. These unknown followers tend to engage very little, decreasing the total percentage of likes and comments for posts and stories,” Saez explains confidently. 

“Despite this macro phenomenon seen across all sectors of Influencer marketing, Renan has remained in his 3 to 5 percent engagement ratio window despite consistently adding around 200,000 new followers every year. This is a characteristic unseen with other influencers and the projects he chooses to work with definitely benefit from this signature feature.” 

Over the years Renan Pacheco has not only become a digitally influential icon in the eyes of brands and Instagram users alike, but he has also been requested to shoot numerous feature editorials for magazines including Bello Mag, where he had a 10-page spread last year and Pakistan’s Good Times magazine, where he had a 4-page spread earlier this year. His international fame has also put him in the spotlight as a featured celebrity at brand events for the likes of Jean Paul Gaultier, Diesel, Messika, Berluti, Bvlgari and more.

 

At the end of the day, Pacheco says, “ I get to travel and meet people from around the world. An Influencer is no more, no less, than a storyteller. That being said, most often I find myself listening to stories, life lessons and can’t help but wonder how much more there is to learn.”

Multi-Award Winning Actor Hugo Diego Garcia Dazzles International Audiences

Hugo Diego Garcia
Actor Hugo Diego Garcia at the Beverly Hills Film Festival

Actor Hugo Diego Garcia possesses a talent that is exceedingly rare among even the most seasoned of his peers. He’s able to transition between wildly different characters and roles with the effortlessness that others might walk from one room to the next. A great deal of his uncanny ability to embody virtually anybody onscreen is no doubt due to his upbringing, immersed in three distinct cultures.

“I was born in Oyonnax, France, a small city lost in the mountains,” Garcia described, “to a Spaniard father and a mother of Italian descent.”

His upbringing in that idyllic, yet isolated, town didn’t initially afford Garcia the opportunity to see as many films as he might have had he grown up in a big city. The collection of movies he did have, however, included some of the most influential and universally-acclaimed works in the history of film. Once he’d devoured the classic films he had at home, Garcia developed an insatiable need to watch every movie he could get his hands on.

“We didn’t have many films at home, but we had some of the best. The first VHS tapes and then DVDs we had were from Cimino, Leone, Scorsese and Coppola,” Garcia recalled.

“I then watched most of the American movies that were screened on TV, I would go every week to the French version of Blockbuster and rent plenty of DVDs. Together with my best friend we’d see every movie at the local cinema in my little city. And somehow, I got lucky enough to watch some of the best cinematic works ever at a very young age.”

That early exposure to such a vast number of films and filmmakers left an indelible mark on Garcia. As he entered adulthood, he became certain his calling lay on the silver screen. For Garcia, living in such a remote part of the world was an obstacle he was determined to overcome. With unbridled determination, he began studying every book and taking every class he could find to learn and master the actors’ craft.

“It was so far from our world, both geographically and metaphorically, that I couldn’t envision it,” he said. “I bought books from masters, studied and read just about everything, tried classes everywhere, and ultimately moved to Paris where I studied full-time in three schools — including one where I was offered free tuition after several rounds of auditions.”

After years of tireless dedication to improving his craft and growing as an actor, Garcia has achieved his dream. He’s deftly honed and refined his unique style with years of devoted practice, study, and insights gained from a lifetime spent observing the greats. As a result, Garcia’s become a commanding onscreen figure, delivering powerful performances in an ever-growing number of roles.

Among Garcia’s most definitive roles to date is the forthcoming film “Cagnolino.” Beautifully written and performed, the tragic drama tells a story of loyalty, violence, and deferred dreams.

“‘Cagnolino’ is about appearances and social determinism. It talks about the fascination for violence, particularly in the ‘hoods, through the music, pop culture, cinema, TV, and other media,” he described. “It is the story of a bad encounter, based on multiple true stories.”

The film follows the young members of a small-time criminal group as their egos and hotheadedness inevitably lead them toward the tragic consequences of a fateful mistake. Garcia stars in the leading role of Dario, a member of the family torn between his familial loyalty and his desire to escape this life and build a real future.

“My character wants to emancipate himself and get a better life for himself. He wants to do what’s right and leave the family business to pursue his own life and dreams, as well as being motivated by his girlfriend,” Garcia explained. “He struggles to leave because of the weight of the family ties and the love and admiration he has for his family, including his cousin. He has this life in his blood.”

Its story unflinchingly honest and its actors’ performances unequivocally human, “Cagnolino” captures the raw and universal truth of the struggles between right and wrong, power and weakness, and loyalty and self-determination. Garcia’s performance as Dario is masterful and moving, a testament to his strength and versatility. Further illustrating his commitment to his craft are the lengths to which he went to ensure a perfect performance in the film.

“In the sequence where my character gets beat up, we were shooting by night and at 6 a.m. I had to finish the night on the floor being kicked by the other characters,” he recalled. “I got bruises all over my body, but the adrenaline and pleasure of filming got us through it.”

With filming and post-production completed this year, “Cagnolino” will begin screening at festivals soon. Also set for release in the coming year is “Death Before Mourning,” a profound film which examines the often-silent and stigmatized effects of mental illness. Impressed by Garcia’s exceptional work in other roles, “Death Before Mourning” director Ruperto Luis Sanchez handpicked Garcia for the lead role in the film.

“After seeing his work and collaborating with Hugo on several projects, I had no doubt he would be the best fit for the lead role in my movie, Death Before Mourning. Ayala, his character, is complex and dark and Hugo possessed every quality required to play such a tortured role,” Sanchez said, explaining his deliberate choice to cast Garcia.

“His charisma, rugged good looks and ability to speak perfect English and Spanish made him my first choice directly. Ayala is also a boxer and so is Hugo, which made it even more interesting.”

The film takes an appropriately dark approach to its subject matter. With mental illness becoming a more and more prevalent topic in today’s news and culture, “Death Before Mourning” is a timely film that accurately portrays both the effects and stigmas facing those who suffer from invisible diseases like depression. Garcia, a trained boxer himself, disappears into his role as a boxer fighting against a different kind of opponent within his own mind.

“‘Death Before Mourning’ is a complex, ambitious black-and-white movie about PTSD, depression and the cycle of life,” Garcia described. “I play Rene Ayala, a great prospect in boxing, who sees his dreams destroyed when he loses a fight he was supposed to win, destroying his self esteem, future and all-time dream.”

Garcia’s performance in “Death Before Mourning” is undoubtedly one of his most powerful to date. As he steps out of himself and into the character of Rene Ayala, he brings such life to the role that it becomes nearly impossible to say for sure that the struggling boxer onscreen is a work of fiction rather than a living, breathing man in his own right. That is precisely where Garcia’s greatest strength lies. Much more than an ability to become somebody else, Garcia is able to persuade audiences that his characters are alive and that he was never really there at all.

“Acting, for me, is pure pleasure. It might be cliche, but I have a passion for storytelling,” said Garcia, explaining what draws him to acting and what makes him such a superb onscreen presence. “To quote De Niro, acting is ‘living someone else’s life, without paying the price.’ It’s using part of yourself that you wouldn’t or couldn’t explore in society for any number of reasons.”

Precious few actors in cinema today can hold a candle to Garcia. Fluent in three languages, a professionally-trained boxer, and unmatched in his onscreen versatility and range, Hugo Diego Garcia is among the most talented and devoted actors to grace the screen in years. Just as he’s spent his life studying the greats who came before him, there will be a day when a new generation of actors do the same — and they will undoubtedly turn to the iconic performances of Hugo Diego Garcia.

VFX Producer Julia Kerguelen Nails it Big Time on Madonna’s new “Dark Ballet” Music Video

Julia Kerguelen
Art Director Julia Kerguelen shot by Lenoir Studio

If you haven’t had a chance to check out Madonna’s new music video for “Dark Ballet,” which dropped on June 6, then you are definitely missing out. The video for the song “Dark Ballet,” a single off her upcoming album, “Madame X,” pulls inspiration from French Catholic saint Joan of Arc, who’s played by African American rapper and activist Mykki Blanco in the video.

Madonna, the fourth best selling music artist in the world, is known for her ability to push the envelope and continually shock viewers with her music videos; and she does not disappoint with “Dark Ballet.” Set in a monastery, the video is symbolic of the cruel persecution of minorities at the hands of the patriarchy, with Mykki, as Joan of Arc, being jailed and burned at the stake. Madonna, who only works with the best in the industry, has a solid reputation for delivering strikingly powerful and highly cinematic music videos, and it was no different for “Dark Ballet.”

Internationally known art director and post-production supervisor Julia Kerguelen, who hails from France, is one of the key figures behind some of the video’s striking visual effects. Coming on board the music video as the post-producer in charge of VFX production, Julia, who was surrounded by an amazing team of VFX artists, oversaw the creation of many of the video’s key visual effects, such as the smoke, flying particles and flames that envelope Mykki’s body while he’s bound to the stake.

For the video, which already has upwards of 2 million views on YouTube, Julia worked through Mathematic Studio, a Paris-based animation, VFX and motion design studio that is known for other high-profile projects such as the music videos for Snoop Dog’s “So Many Pros” and Brodinski’s “Can’t Help Myself,” as well as projects for Cartier, Nike, Hennessey, Dom Perignon, Peugeot and more.

Julia, who was also the post-production supervisor on upcoming commercials for Armani and Van Cleef & Arpels, brings a pretty impressive skill set to the table so it makes perfect sense that Mathematic Studio chose her as the post-producer in charge of VFX on “Dark Ballet.”

“I think I have a good creative eye and I understand quickly where the creatives and the client want to go. Also I know exactly what we need in order to do something and I can anticipate and give advice on how to avoid tricky situations… I can check every media we receive, I can review what’s wrong in our work, etc. I know how to make tough decisions and work in a fast-paced environment and keep the pressure on myself so my team can work in good conditions and have great artistic results.”

Though Julia has undoubtedly proven herself to be an exemplary leader and skillful creator in her work as a VFX producer and post-production supervisor, she is first and foremost, an art director. Over the years she has been sought out as an art director on a slew of illustrious projects, such as Renault’s 2012 International convention of Renault business owners at the Geneva Car Show, the Airbus Pavillion at the 2015 and 2017 Paris Air Show, Valeo’s immersive exhibition at the 2016 GreenBox eXperience in Berlin, Michelin’s exhibition at the 2010 BIB Worldwide Exhibition, L’oréal’s exhibit at the 2007 International Hair Fair and many more.

Julia Kerguelen
Julia Kerguelen’s designs for Michelin

The connecting theme in much of Julia’s collective body of work is that many of the project she leads as an art director exist in the sphere of events and live shows; and there’s a reason she’s continually tapped for such high pressure projects.

She says “I used to work and prefer events because of the stage and the ‘one shot’ thing. You can’t fail, everything should be perfect ‘cause you don’t have a second chance.”

Julia’s finesse and affinity for art directing massive events stems from her early years on stage. At the age of 14 Julia began performing as a comedian on stage in a small town in the Brittany region of France where she grew up.

She recalls, “It was like a revelation to me! I felt that I had a lot to express, on stage as a dancer and a comedian. When I am on stage I cannot hide myself and I don’t need to… I can share my emotions, my stories, my colours, my way of seeing the world… I guess arts became obvious to me when I started being on stage.”

It didn’t take long before Julia relocated to the metropolitan city of Paris where she continued performing on stage as a comedian, actress and dancer; however, while in search of a more stable career, she discovered her passion for graphic design. Creating a strong foundation and reputation for herself as a graphic designer, Julia quickly moved up the ranks and was soon being called in as an art director.

“I start by analyzing the needs of the client, what is the brand, what they have to say, why they want to communicate this way or not, what are their products and what is the purpose, etc. Then when I have all this information and can see the big picture, I will write a story,” explains Julia. “Something to inject meaning, to give birth to the product as something with a soul and a purpose, to give emotions to the audience. I like to think I’m like a storyteller but with images.”

Considering Julia’s background on stage combined with her unparalleled vision when it comes to branding, she was the perfect art director to lead projects for well-known theatre company, Broadway in Paris, led by director Michael Pereira.

Michael says, “I have had the pleasure of working with Julia on a few things. She is the creator of my brand logo Broadway in Paris™. She and I collaborated on the idea and she made it come to life. I am so happy with the outcome. Later when I was searching for a project manager for my next big project, the French version of Pippin, she was the only person I wanted.”

Julia Kerguelen
Julia Kerguelen’s designs for Broadway in Paris

Knowing her history of top-notch work, Michael hired Julia to serve as the supervisor on set, art director and editor on the promo video for Broadway in Paris’s productions of  “Pippin” which use vaudevillian numbers to tell the story of a man in search of fulfillment.

“As I am very familiar with dance and I know post-production, [Michael Pereira] asked me to help him with the editing,” explains Julia. “I reached out to the cameraman, sent him some examples of framing I imagined for the edit and I tried to supervise the shooting on set to have enough material as dance is complicated to film. As I know some of the choreography it was easier for me to tell him what he should record. After that, I did the transcodes, watched all the footage and did the editing in a very short period of time.”

Julia’s personal history on stage combined with her extensive skill set as an art director, which requires her to have a comprehensive grasp over editing, graphic design, motion graphics, film editing and more, was exactly what Michael needed to create a powerful visual story on film for the company.

Michael says, “What Julia brings is an amazing global idea to this project.  I have never directed live singing and dancing for the camera before and Julia put me at ease and helped me envision angles, cuts and ideas for the camera. Also, her knowledge of movement was priceless to me.  Furthermore, when we went into the editing room her vast knowledge aided us tremendously and the result is a completely wonderful sizzle reel.”

Whether she is working as an art director or in the film and commercial world as VFX producer and post-production supervisor, Julia Kerguelen is a rare creative force who always nails her mark with innovative and seamless designs.

Julia says, “I think that because I am a dreamer I can bring some magic! I mean, there are plenty of artistic directors out there and probably better than I am but I think what makes my vision unique is the ‘vision.’ I am not here just to do some technical stuff or a beautiful image I want to create joy, hope, light, and dreams in the heart and eyes of the audience. I am a multidisciplinary artist and I’ve learned so much about the technical side that I can create everything I want. I am able to find creative solutions even with tight deadlines, short budget and high technical constraints. It’s like a giant playground to me, I know the rules, I just have to enjoy the game and make it count! ”

 

Award-Winning Costume Designer Viktoriia Vlasenko Makes her Mark in Film

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Costume Designer Viktoriia Vlasenko

Considering that so many people want to break into the Hollywood entertainment industry, it makes sense for many of those aspiring talents to devote their energy into one specific area in order to become the best and land the jobs they desire. Whether their interest lay in the art, camera, lighting or one  of the various departments on a film set, many work diligently just to make a name for themselves in one specific area.

While there is definitely something to be said for focusing one’s energy in one direction– many creative artists are not linear-minded. That is why, when we hear of someone like Viktoriia Vlasenko, who’s managed to effectively utilize her diverse talents to make a mark in the industry in various areas, it comes as quite a breath of fresh air.

Costume designed by Viktoriia Vlasenko
Costume designed by Viktoriia Vlasenko

Most recently Vlasenko was the costume designer and makeup artist on the feature film “86 Merlose Ave.” directed by Lili Matta. The film, which is currently in post production and stars Emmy Award winner Jim O’Heir (“The Bold and the Beautiful”), Emmy Award nominee Terri Ivens  (“All My Children”) and Screen Actors Guild nominee Langston Fishburne (“Ant-Man and the Wasp”), has already earned numerous awards for its screenplay, including Best Feature Screenplay from the Best of the Best Competition, and was chosen as a Finalist at the Hollywood Screenplay Contest and The Write Room, a Semi-Finalist at the Filmmakers International Screenwriting Awards, and a Quarter Finalist at the Scriptapalooza Screenplay Competition and Screencraft.

Costume designed by Viktoriia Vlasenko
Costume designed by Viktoriia Vlasenko

From working as a director to a costume designer to a makeup artist and more, Vlasenko seems to have done it all; and she’s done it well, so well that she’s been awarded on countless occasions for her contributions to the industry. Earlier this year she was recognized by the International Independent Film Awards with the Winter Gold Award in Special-Effects Makeup for her work on the film “Set Me Free,” and in 2018 she earned their Fall Gold Award in Costume Design for her work on the film “All Lives Matter,” as well as a certificate for achievement in Makeup from the Ocean Film Festival.

Vlasenko’s skill as a costume designer and makeup artist shine out above all else. A true artist, she her capacity to create new looks and trends in costumes, and use makeup to turn actors into far out characters, she has become an increasingly sought after force in the industry. Her skill in creating mesmerizing and futuristic looks is on incredible display in the film “Unworld.”

Costume designed by Viktoriia Vlasenko
Costumes from the film “Unworld” designed by Viktoriia Vlasenko

Earlier this year she was recognized by the Wintershorts Film Festival for her work as the producer, costume designer and makeup artist on “Unworld.” Her work as the costume designer on “Unworld,” a dystopian drama, also earned her the Best Costume Designer Awards from the European Cinematography Awards and the Indie Shorts Fest, as well as a certificate from the Summershort Film Festival.

“I work hard, I can do the work of five people,” Vlasenko says laughingly. “I’m also a quick learner and I can work with various materials that other costume designers are afraid to work with. I’m also a good painter.”

Vlasenkos’ multifarious talent encompasses all things related to visual design. Over the past few years she’s made a stellar mark in the international entertainment industry with her work as the costume designer on 20 productions, the makeup artist on nine productions, not including those where she served as the special effects makeup artist, has produced six projects and directed four others.

Vlasenko says, “It is necessary to like what you do, it is important to be a talented and gifted person, and to always be learning something new… to successfully join each project and to you prove yourself in full force… and to leave a personal mark in history.”

There’s no doubt that Vlasenko has already left her personal mark in history, and she continues to do so. Growing up in Ukraine Vlasenko quickly found her passion for fashion and costume design, an are of interest she would continue to cultivate through her university years at Milan IED Istituto Europeo di Design where she earned her bachelor’s degree in fashion and costume design. With ceaseless creativity and a love for bringing various characters to life through her work, moving into the world of costume design was right up Vlasenko’s alley. And the awards she’s earned to date for her work prove that it’s one area where she excels exponentially.

“As a costume designer, I think of myself like a painter. I can follow my imagination… I can produce very creative and crazy things. I don’t only work with fabric, but with metals, plastic, 3D-prints, various incredible materials and paints as well,” explains Vlasenko. “Although it is difficult, it very interesting. It is interesting to transform actors or singers into different characters and personas, to produce fantastic costumes for superheroes or historical characters from fiction books.”

In 2018 Vlasenko earned the Bronze Award from the Latitude Film Festival for her work as the costume designer on the film “Betrayed,” a project that she also earned the Best Costume Design and Best Makeup Awards from the Flicks Film Festival. Another of Vlasenko’s award-winning projects is the film “No War,” which she wrote and directed, as well as costume designed, which earned her the Best Costumes Award from the Oniros Film Awards and was chosen as an Official Selection of the Neon Film Festival.

Viktoriia Vlasenko
Terrasse by Viktoriia Vlasenko

Early on in her career Vlasenko founded the popular fashion brand Terrasse, through which she has continued to display her talent for creating new trends and innovative style.

Vlasenko says, “I often see other brands making copies of my creations, especially while traveling in other countries.”

While other designers may feel embittered at the sight of their designs being copied by others, Vlasenko takes it all in stride as she continues to create new and innovative looks. As a fashion designer Vlasenko would often handle the makeup for the photoshoots with her designs, so for her, becoming the makeup artist on film sets has been a rather seamless transition.

Not only was she was the makeup artist on three fashion films for her own brand, Terrasse, with the fashion film “Terrasse White” earning her the Makeup Award from the Golden Square Film Festival, but she also did the makeup on the films “No War,” “Unworld,” “Set Me Free,” “Betrayed,” “Table of Four” and more. Vlasenko was also the makeup artist, special effects makeup artist and costume designer on the upcoming film “Loss of Grace,” which is currently in post production and stars Jasmine Waltz from the films “Black Water” and “Poker Run,” and action star Paul Logan from “Code Red,” “Mega Piranha” and “Flight 666.”

If all this wasn’t enough, Vlasenko’s work as a fashion designer was also featured in two multi-page spreads in the 2018 and 2019 editions of the New Face fashion magazine.

Viktoriia Vlasenko's designs for Cirque Du Soleil
Viktoriia Vlasenko’s designs for Cirque Du Soleil

Vlasenko says, “I love my work and have been privileged to work on interesting projects with creative people. I create unusual costumes that are never boring. My reputation as a designer rests on the ability to be innovative and creative. I’m always open to new creative projects with different themes, films, fashion shows, and more.”

Praised for incredible work ethic, Viktoriia Vlasenko has never been one to stop at the first sign of success. She currently has several projects underway as a costume designer, including the films “Cowboy Bebop” and “Batman Beyond,” for which she is designing a totally new look for the Joker and Batman with intricate costumes few others, but her could design. Vlasenko has always been drawn to the work of the phenomenal Cirque Du Soleil performance group, and she is currently designing a series of costumes that she will pitch to them for future productions.

 

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.”

Matt Correia
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.”