All posts by Scott Prewitt

Writer Sonia Gumuchian Crafts Enthralling Stories for Film and TV

Poster for the new film “Home Entertainment”
Poster for the new film “Home Entertainment”

Every fiction contains at least a kernel of truth, but a great writer knows when not to let the truth get in the way of a good story. Taking inspiration from the people and experiences in her own life, Canadian writer Sonia Gumuchian is in a class of her own. With boundless curiosity, keen instincts and extraordinary perception, Gumuchian constantly watches and listens to the world around her, filtering everything she observes through the prism of her rich imagination.

Her most recent project, the film “Home Entertainment,” which Gumuchian wrote, co-directed, produced and edited, reveals her uncanny ability to translate real life experiences into laugh out loud stories that resonate with audiences. Told in three parts, the film takes place in a house that is rented out to temporary residents each weekend by its owner, who has a voyeuristic streak.

“Every story in this anthology, believe it or not, was heavily inspired by true stories- whether they were based off of our personal experiences or ignited with the help of a fascinating person that, at some point, crossed our path,” explain Gumuchian and her co-director Katherine Eaton in a Director’s Statement.

From a couple’s floundering romantic getaway to an unconventional sex-driven memorial and more, “Home Entertainment” follows a different set of house guests each weekend, all watched by the homeowner’s group of rich oddball dinner party guests through livestream security camera footage.

Eaton says, “Working alongside Sonia, it is evident that she is nothing short of an amazing writer, whose vision and leadership stands out beyond the norm. Apart from her great work ethic, she has this incredible creative ability to tell great stories, which are not only outrageously funny but also grabs and tugs at the hearts and minds of her audience — essentially getting people to think. I believe these elements make her an incredible asset in any film environment.”

Sonia Gumuchian

Gumuchian’s talent for creating captivating stories based, at least in part, on truths from her own experiences, was apparent even in her earliest work, and it’s one of the reasons her writing is so magnetic. Her vivid imagination proved invaluable when, as a young girl, Gumuchian was rarely surrounded by kids her own age. Aside from her parents and grandparents, her closest companions were often books, movies and TV. By the time she was a teenager, Gumuchian had taken to creating her own stories. During her first year of high school she met a strange boy with a bizarre hobby, and he quickly became her first muse.

“His name was Liam, and he told me stories of how he loved spending hours stalking people he barely knew, gathering intel on their lives, and even going as far as breaking into his school’s office and reading up on everyone’s medical history. Suffice to say, Liam and his strange addiction fascinated me,” Gumuchian said. “So one day, I sat down and wrote an entire novel from his point of view. It was through that experience that I found how exciting it was to spend hours escaping into someone else’s point of view.”

It was soon abundantly clear that the young Gumuchian was a bona fide prodigy. As soon as the ink was dry in her novel about Liam she focused her full attention on training with LEAP, a prestigious academy for promising young playwrights in Vancouver. By the time she finished high school she had already distinguished herself as the writer of two one-act plays, both of which were chosen to be produced and performed by the community of professional stage actors and writers at the Vancouver Arts Club Theatre Company.

The young writer’s remarkable abilities and accomplishments earned Gumuchian acceptance into the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, which was once again ranked by the Hollywood Reporter as the #1 film school in the country — where she studied Writing for Film and Television. Gumuchian was quickly tapped by networks, producers and prominent figures spanning every corner of the industry to contribute her skills much earlier than most writers. Though still in school, she began taking her first steps as a writer by learning from the brightest executives who oversaw shows on FOX, HBO, ABC, and virtually every network and studio from across the industry’s proverbial alphabet soup, such as “Big Little Lies,” “Barry,” “Silicon Valley, “Game of Thrones,” “Family Guy,” “Once Upon a Time,” “Black-ish,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and more.

“After working at TV and cable networks, at studios, and on independent films, I fell in love with the process of bringing stories to life,” said Gumuchian, recalling her early experiences as a writer in the industry. “From script to screen, my exposure to the inner workings of content creation taught me a lot about the craft and… shaped the industry professional I am today.”

Years working in creative development at many of the biggest networks in the world gave Gumuchian a staggering wealth of experience. XS Media Director of Development Julie Zhang, who worked alongside Gumuchian at HBO, says, “Sonia brings a contagious energy to the table that hooks you from minute one. Apart from amazing taste and her eye for good stories, she is a go-getter, and very determined to achieve the goals she sets for herself. In this business it’s sometimes more important to be perseverant than talented, so it’s good that she is both.”

As she grew in experience, so too did she grow in her determination to write and share with the world a story entirely of her own. With her 2017 script for the ambitious fantasy-comedy series “Loyal Royals” — which she created as well as wrote — that Gumuchian revealed once again that she is an imaginative and engaging writer in the modern era of television. The story is at once a whimsical and refreshing comedy, a farcical fantasy set in a world of knights and dragons and magic.

“Set in a medieval town, the recently divorced King Robert is forced to move into his daughter’s castle across the lands and aims to regain the little dignity he has left,” she explained. “Princess Lilian and Robert, her conservative dad, are at odds when he disapproves of her engagement to a frog, pisses off a local population of culturally sensitive unicorns, and continues causing ruckus in her kingdom.”

 

Her original pilot for “Loyal Royals” was exceptionally well received by critics and festival judges. Spotlighting Gumuchian’s talent on an international level, “Loyal Royals” earned First Place at the Hollywood Hills Screenplay Competition, Fifth Place at the London Film Awards, the Los Angeles Film and Script Festival’s Honorable Mention Award, the Jack Oakie Doubletake Award for Exceptional Achievement in Comedy, as well the award for Best Unproduced Script at the London Filmmaker Festival. “Loyal Royals” was also chosen an Official Finalist of the World Series of Screenwriting, a Semi-Finalist at the Screenplay Festival, as well an Official Selection of the Atlanta Comedy Film Festival. The success of the script proved once again that she is on par with the best writers in the industry, and it opened the door for her next project, the film “Home Entertainment.”

Ambitious and original, “Home Entertainment,” which Gumuchian marks as her biggest project to-date, stars Brock Ciarlelli (ABC’s “The Middle”) and features a soundtrack composed by guitarist Benjamin Sturley, known for his work with Noah Cyrus and Grammy-winner Selena Gomez. Hilarious and thoroughly unexpected, the film recently had its Los Angeles screening and is preparing to begin its festival run.

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Actor Brock Ciarlelli & Gumuchian on set of “Home Entertainment” (Photo by Penelope Eaton)

Perhaps Gumuchian’s greatest asset as a storyteller is an uncanny talent for identifying and appreciating the huge reserves of untapped narrative potential hidden in the most unexpected, overlooked and eschewed recesses of everyday life. Borne of her innate perception and indefatigable imagination, an endless stream of stories pour from Gumuchian’s mind — their impact compounded exponentially by the years she’s devoted to honing her already razor-sharp writing skills. Curiosity, imagination and an unrivaled mastery over the written word enabled Sonia Gumuchian to deftly ascend the ranks of cinematic academia, and she’s fully on her way to becoming one of the most sought-after writers in this burgeoning new golden age for film and television.

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Sought After Editor Aijia Li: A Master of the Cut

Aijia working on a new upcoming feature film.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aijia Li
Film Poster for “Short Term”

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

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

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

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

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

Editor Aijia Li
Film Poster for “Deceased”

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

 

From Narratives to Documentaries, Producer Assya Dimova Brings Powerful Stories to the Screen

Producer Assya Dimova

Film is a remarkable medium. It can make us laugh, cry, scream, think, and occasionally all of the above. It offers weary audiences an escape from the tedium of the real world, and it gives them a glimpse of places they may never see otherwise. That’s exactly how producer Assya Dimova first fell in love with film, and ultimately with filmmaking.

As a producer, Dimova is essentially a project’s chief architect. It’s her responsibility to guide the entire process, from finding talent to organizing the countless moving parts that make up every production. But having spent nearly her entire life producing films, plays and events, Dimova is a master of putting on a show.

Born in Tokyo, Japan and raised in Sofia, Bulgaria, Dimova has worked in nearby Italy and Germany for much of her professional career. The rich culture and artistic traditions of Europe have greatly influenced her work. Her upcoming film “Our Blood Is Wine” is a tribute to one of the continent’s most under appreciated contributions.

“It focuses on Georgia’s fascinating history of winemaking, past and present,” Dimova explained. “Director Emily Railsback and award-winning sommelier Jeremy Quinn provide intimate access to rural family life in the Republic of Georgia as they explore the rebirth of 8,000-year-old winemaking traditions almost lost during the period of Soviet rule.”

Dimova served as a line producer on the film, which is slated for release in 2018. In her position she was responsible for overseeing the planning of the film and ensuring the day-to-day production went according to plan and stayed within the budget. It’s a difficult job in any production, but the challenges are even more pronounced on a feature-length documentary like “Our Blood Is Wine.”

Traditional filmmaking is an indescribably intense process, and there are certainly benefits and drawbacks from working with tightly-controlled sets, schedules, and scripted dialogue. Documentaries, by their very definition, offer filmmakers none of that control. It was up to Dimova to plan for and provide everything director Emily Railsback needed to tell the story, with no telling what that story would ultimately be.

Because of her, “Our Blood Is Wine” grew into a beautiful story about an ancient art form in an ancient place, and about the families that still live on the same land and in the same pastoral way as their ancestors did thousands of years ago. When the film is released in 2018, audiences will be able to see for themselves how the prehistoric craft of winemaking in Georgia is still thriving there today.

Prior to her work on the documentary, Dimova was the producer of the 2015 drama “Stygian.” The film is the tragic tale of a dying man who spends his last hours of life haunted by his mistakes.

“‘Stygian’ is a Western following the trek of an old gunman across a barren desert. Injured by a fall from his horse and suffering from dehydration and illness from an infection, his time is running out,” Dimova said, painting an image of hopeless desperation that the film captures brilliantly. “The central themes of sin, guilt and atonement make for a powerful and thought-provoking story.”

“Stygian” immediately won audiences over with its distinct blend of minimalist qualities and emphasis on visual storytelling. It was showered with critical acclaim and was named an Official Selection at five film festivals, including the 2015 Santa Fe International Film Festival and the 2016 Wild Bunch Film Festival.

Film has always been a major influence for Dimova, but her work as a producer isn’t limited to the screen. Some of her most impressive work has been as a curator of events, including the prestigious Leiden International Film Festival and the Hollywood Film Festival. As a curator, Dimova watches the films submitted by potential festival entrants and works to decide which ones the festival will screen. Her experience as a producer is invaluable to her curatorial work, which demands a fastidious and analytical approach that she’s honed through producing her own films.

“As a producer, one must have a wide range of taste and ability to spot up-and-coming talent. With my international experience and background I’m able to critique submissions for both their production and creative value,” Dimova said. “As in my personal producing career, I always go for story first and how captivating, original and authentic it is. I always look for something fresh that surprises me.”

Assya Dimova has built her career around her ability to examine every project not just from the perspective of a producer, but through the eyes of the audience. Her love of film inspired her to seek out and empower filmmakers with new stories to tell; and by giving them the platform and means to create and share their work, Dimova herself has continued the work of inspiring future filmmakers in audiences around the world.

Argentinian Actress Yamila Saud Wows Audiences with the Film “Hypersomnia”

Yamila Saud
Argentinian actress Yamila Saud

As the only South American country to win not just one, but two Academy Awards, it’s no surprise that some of Latin America’s most talented film industry professionals hail from Argentina. Born in the bustling city of Cordoba, actress Yamila Saud is a shining symbol of Argentine contributions to cinema.

In her most recent role, Saud grabs audiences and pulls them down into a dark and unsettling place where human depravity has no limits. That film is “Hypersomnia”– a powerful 2017 thriller about human trafficking and the tragic toll it takes, both physically and psychologically, on the trapped women who are literally living in slavery.

Saud delivers a captivatingly meta performance as Milena, an actress who is playing a character named Laly in a theater production that takes place within the film’s storyline. Laly is a prisoner in a brothel, a victim of the human slave trade, and she lives in constant fear of the men who treat her worse than livestock. Milena, like Saud, is intensely serious about her craft. Determined to fully capture the essence of Laly, Milena begins falling deeper and deeper into character.

“[Milena’s] character [Laly] is a sex slave who falls in love with one of her captors. During rehearsals Milena begins to experience trances, in which she seems to live the life of her character,” Saud described. “What begins as an acting exercise ends up becoming a dark reality.”

Because of its layered narratives, the film’s impact is felt on several levels. Beyond the subjects of sex slavery and Stockholm syndrome, “Hypersomnia” also deftly tackles a social issue that has dominated the news of late — sexual harassment and assault by powerful men in the industry. As an actress, Saud’s character Milena endures advances and threats of retribution from the play’s director.

“[The story is also about] the abuse of power by men, where women are manipulated to do what is asked of them in exchange for getting work,” Saud said. “In this case, the director subjects [Milena] to a number of rare requests.”

It is no small task for an actress to believably capture the trauma of Laly, the worsening psychosis of Milena, and the effect it has on Milena to be exploited by powerful men. But Saud was able to expertly take on both characters, a testament to her versatility.

“My most challenging roles were Milena and Laly in ‘Hypersomnia,’” Saud recalled. “The character of Milena is a girl who has a dream, but to achieve it she has to submit to the director’s ‘requests.’ … It’s something that really happens every day, not only in the artistic fields but in all industries.”

Disturbing, enthralling and extremely relevant, “Hypersomnia” is a brilliant social critique presented as a haunting psychological thriller. “Hypersomnia” is available to stream for free for Netflix subscribers.

Saud’s upcoming film “Solo el Amor” is slated to begin shooting in 2018, and is about as different from “Hypersomnia” as a film can be. Lighthearted by comparison, “Solo el Amor” is the timeless story of two mismatched young people discovering an unlikely romance.

“I am very happy to be a part of this film,” Saud said. “I think every actress dreams of making a love movie, and I’m not the exception.”

At its core, “Solo el Amor” is a classic tale of the heart wanting what the heart wants. Saud plays Ana, a straight-laced and serious woman who begins falling in love with a young man named Bruno.

“Ana is a young lawyer who lives in a world that is as structured as it is unexciting. Bruno is a bohemian and an irresponsible singer-songwriter who dreams of reaching success with his rock band,” Saud explained. “Despite their differences they fall in love, leading them to understand who they are — and to go for what they really want at whatever cost.”

The heartwarming story of love conquering all, “Solo el Amor” will begin filming next year and will likely begin screening to audiences in late 2018 or the following year.

Yamila Saud’s versatility and empathy form the foundation for the career she has built. Whether playing an unstable stage actress, a victim of human trafficking, or a lawyer on a collision course with true love, Saud is capable of understanding her characters on a truly deep level. That intimate connection to her characters that Saud naturally possesses is a rare gift that no amount of training can teach.

Master Violinist Carlos Felipe Silva Makes his Mark as a Film Composer

 

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Carlos Felipe Silva at The Latin Grammys in Las Vegas (from left to right: Stefano Melillo, Sophie Maricq, Luis Tellez, Oscar Stagnaro, Calros Silva, Manuel Lara and Marco Flores.) Photo by Nora Gonzalez

Venezuelan composer Carlos Felipe Silva was born a prodigy. He received his first music lessons when he was just 5 years old; by 7 he’d begun formally training in the violin. Silva took to it like a bird takes to flight, but a mind like his could never be restricted to a single instrument. In the young virtuoso’s head rang entire symphonies, and as he grew older it became clear what he was born to do.

“At 18, I had the opportunity to come to the States to attend the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan,” said Silva, recalling how music went from being his passion to his career. “It was during that time I realized how important music was to me. I knew from that moment on that I had to spend the rest of my life making music.”

Silva spent the next five years as a violinist with Venezuela’s world-renowned Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra, led by world-renowned conductor and violinist Gustavo Dudamel, who has since become conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

“[After that], I got to study at my dream school — Berklee College of Music in Boston, the best place on earth to learn music,” Silva said. “I studied with world class instructors, and I was immersed in an environment that breathes music 24/7.”

By the time he earned his B.A. in Film Scoring from the ultra-exclusive Berklee College of Music, Silva already possessed more experience than many musicians gain in a lifetime. He immediately set out to prove his brilliance as a film composer, captivating audiences with his score for the 2015 thriller “Skye.” At the heart of the film is the titular Skye, a girl who is abducted for ransom by three of her male classmates. As the action intensifies and the plan goes south Skye finds herself walking the line between survival instinct and Stockholm Syndrome.

“‘Skye is a great thriller with fascinating turns. It shows the complexities of our society, and of how we react to life’s greatest challenges,” Silva said. “I wanted to create a score that could portray those complexities… In the first talk I had with the director we agreed upon a sonic landscape full of provocative elements and electronic pulses, with a lot of tension and suspense.”

Following the success of “Skye,” Silva didn’t waste a single second continuing his work. Within the year he had finished composing and recording his next masterstroke, “Clocks.”


“This piece and other cues were commissioned and produced by Moai Films, a production company based in L.A. I’d previously worked with them on the film ‘Matthew,’ and I developed a great relationship with Lukas Colombo, the head and creative mastermind behind Moai Films Productions,” Silva said. “It was an incredible opportunity to record and conduct a full orchestra…  [who] brought the score to life, and we were all very satisfied with the results. The session was incredible, and I got to work with some of the best musicians in town.”

When writing “Clocks,” Silva drew his inspiration from the beating pulse of the sprawling cities he’d spent his life in, starting in Caracas, then Boston where he mastered his craft, and ultimately Los Angeles, where he currently spends each day creating and performing.

“‘Clocks’ was written to portray the intensity of modern lives in big cities, where we all strive to achieve our dreams, but forget about the simple things that make life meaningful,” he described soulfully. “We used a traditional instrumentation, where the trumpet has the main melody line which sits on top of a provocative string ostinato; the choir adds an emotional layer to whole composition.”

In a way, however, “Clocks” represents the exact opposite of who Silva is as a person. Though he’s led a metropolitan life, Silva has never been forced to choose between reaching his dreams and finding meaning in life. Through his music, he has captured both in equal measures. In that sense, Carlos Felipe Silva, the Venezuelan virtuoso, has discovered the true meaning of life.

“Music is everything in my life. It’s a gesture of love which must be shared with others. It’s an act of faith and spirituality, and it’s the best way for me to communicate,” he explained. “As Nietzsche said: ‘Without music, life would be a mistake.’’’

Telling Stories to Spark Social Change: Director Alma Jiménez Ochomogo

Director Alma Jiménez Ochomogo was born in Toluca, a small town about an hour outside Mexico City. Her parents owned and managed a small business, which provided a living for the family but didn’t leave them time for much else, so Jiménez Ochomogo was often left to her own devices. She couldn’t have known it then, but looking back with the clarity of hindsight she can point to her time spent there as the beginning of her lifelong pursuit.

“My family owned a small grocery store in Mexico and my mother used to work there all day long, so I spent most of my time there. I couldn’t really spend a lot of time playing outside because it was on a busy street — and because of insecurity,” she said, reflecting on how it all began.

“One of the only things that I could do was watch movies. I always had a big imagination so I think that was my escape. [It was like] I was in all kinds of places and adventures in the movies. [That] has tremendously impacted my life.”

Though that small town was where she’d discovered her passion, the opportunities there for an aspiring filmmaker were extremely limited. So the ever-driven Jiménez Ochomogo chased her calling to Los Angeles. She flourished in the city, and it immediately became clear she had a rare gift. Her film “The Play” is a testament to that gift, beautifully blending a rich, original narrative with a bold message of perseverance in the face of inequality.

“‘The Play’… tells the story of Kimberly, a transgender actress, who receives her first role as a woman and is struggling to get into character,” Jiménez Ochomogo described. “It was a very difficult endeavor to find someone who could both play a transgender actress and deliver Shakespeare… if I didn’t choose the right person, the character could have become cartoonish.”

Director Alma Jiménez Ochomogo
Director Alma Jiménez Ochomogo (left) and actors Ted Heyck & Aean McMullin (right) preparing to shoot “The Play.” Photo by Sara Marijuan

Written, directed and produced by Jiménez Ochomogo, “The Play” is a brilliant and powerful work that boldly tackles a topic too often swept under the rug. Aean McMullin delivers a masterful performance as Jennifer, deftly embodying the young actress.

“Kim… is cast as Viola/Cesario, the heroine and protagonist of the play ‘Twelfth Night’ by William Shakespeare,” she explained. “Aean McMullin, the actor, did a great job creating Kim. He had the right amount of vulnerability and strength that the character required to feel real. It also helped that he was classically trained so was amazing in delivering Shakespeare.”

In February, Jiménez Ochomogo unveiled her most ambitious project yet. Blurring the line between social media and cinema, L.A. Livfe was a series of three films by three directors which were ‘screened’ using the Facebook Live service. To ensure the project would get off on the right track, Jiménez Ochomogo’s film “The Pair” was chosen to be the first film to air.

“I directed the first short film called ‘The Pair,’ which was a love story about a Palestinian and an Israeli who meet in a Los Angeles bar,” she said. “We rehearsed for hours, but we only broadcast live once… so in many ways it was a make-it-or-break-it type of project.”

To shoot a film and air it live online for the world to see is an immense undertaking. It required countless hours of preparation, and the stakes couldn’t have been higher. But Jiménez Ochomogo had a story in her mind, and she knew exactly how to tell it.

“Our objective was to incorporate film language into live broadcasting, and the thread that joined all of the stories together was the city of Los Angeles,” she explained. “Each of us told a story of a moment in this city.”

At once enthralling and captivating, “The Pair” was a perfect example of what sets Jiménez Ochomogo apart. She is driven to find the unusual, the unorthodox and the unexpected, all of which she brings to life on the screen. Together with her visionary eye, her gift for storytelling puts Alma Jiménez Ochomogo miles ahead of her peers.

 

Editing Genius Rudy Vermorel Engages Millennials with his Work

At the heart of every production, whether it’s an advertisement or an epic drama, is a story with a purpose. The writers, cinematographers and director are all critical to a project’s creation, but it’s at the editor’s desk where it becomes more than just raw footage and words on a script. It’s up to the editor to see the forest through the trees — to know the story that’s being told, and to be able to put the right scenes together in the right places like so many puzzle pieces, to create the final product that movie theater audiences and home viewers will ultimately see.

The job of an editor can be grueling, but for Rudy Vermorel it’s all a labor of love. Painstakingly parsing through hundreds of hours of footage, one second at a time, is just the beginning of Vermorel’s zenlike process. He cuts, splices and rearranges scenes with a methodical efficiency and confidence honed by experience, breathing life into the story with every move.

“Once I have the footage I start to watch it to get an idea of the general tone,” Vermorel said. “If there is music in the background of the video I listen to the song to feel all the emotions and adapt the song to the footage. Then, I start cutting and I create my magic.”

In 2016, Taco Bell hired Vermorel as the lead editor for the company’s web series “Taco Tales,” an innovative marketing campaign geared toward the millennial demographic. In each episode, actors reenact Taco Bell-related stories found online at sites like Facebook and Reddit. Lighthearted and at times zany, editing the web series gave Vermorel the chance to showcase his talent for comedic timing. Moreover, the decision by such a massive company to hire Vermorel for a major social media marketing campaign speaks volumes about his talent.

Vermorel worked hard to earn his reputation as a leading figure in the field, a reputation which in turn earned him the trust of a wide array of high-profile clients internationally. Among countless other productions he’s served as the lead editor on advertisements for Ford, music videos for artists including MTV Video Music Award winner Demi Lovato, and in 2016 he expanded his repertoire with a venture into the rapidly growing market of mobile gaming.

Supercell – the group behind the runaway hit game “Clash of Clans” on iPhone and Android smartphones – has relied heavily on its strategy of widespread marketing to entice players into joining, to great effect. When the company released “Clash Royale” in 2016, it began preparing for a massive advertising blitz and Vermorel was recruited as the campaign’s editor.

“I am not a big game player so… at first I was apprehensive about how to edit it,” he said. “I figured out that the best way to work on it was to start playing the game, and I enjoyed it a lot. After that, I had so many ideas for how to highlight ‘Clash Royale,’ and all the fun, strategy and entertainment that make up the game.”

Initially the campaign was challenging for Vermorel, but he quickly adapted and before long the campaign had produced 20 videos publicizing “Clash Royale.” The videos racked up more than 120 million views, and the game became the top downloaded and highest-earning app on the iOS App Store overnight.

“I was very attached to the characters. I attributed to them a very different style, which allowed me to vary the editing techniques,” he said. “I wanted to showcase the funny side of the characters. For that we worked on their design to make them endearing, then I opted for modern dynamic editing in order to attract the interest of a large audience.”

The campaign was such a wild success that Vermorel was asked to continue editing the game’s ad campaigns for the next three years, the first of which will begin development this year.

Very few people involved in a production can ever be as intimately familiar with the project as the editor. A dedicated editor can spend days or weeks poring through every scene countless times. They can spend years perfecting the ability to bring the narrative together using the timing, cadence, and music of each scene. An editor’s job is to build order from chaos, to understand the director’s vision for a project and to bring that vision to life. A production is only as good as its editor, and Rudy Vermorel is the best there is.