All posts by Scott Prewitt

Multicultural Roots Help Actor Ashley Tabatabai Take on Diverse Characters on Screen

Ashley Tabatabai
Ashley Tabatabai shot by Adam Lyons

 

International actor Ashley Tabatabai has benefitted immensely from his worldly background and time spent in an array of countries, surrounded by exotic and varied cultures, languages and people. Born in the UK to parents of English, German and Iranian descent, he was raised in Spain, and picked up an American accent during his years in International school. All of this lends to Tabatabai’s mysterious aura   enhanced by a grasp of dialects which make him an invaluable asset for casting directors. But it’s his raw talent as a performer that forms the keystone in the illustrious career he’s built for himself.

Tabatabai has been extremely active in the industry for years. First and foremost he is an actor, delivering powerful performances in several television series including “Color Me Grey” and “Have I Been Here Before?,” as well as in films such as “Digital You,” “Louis: Lost In Motion,” and the upcoming drama “Falsified.” His love of acting, however, stems from his passion for storytelling. That’s why the extensive list of credits he’s accumulated includes not only his myriad roles as an actor, but also his work as a writer and producer on an array of acclaimed projects.

“I operate on two fronts. One as an actor, auditioning for and booking great roles, and the other as a storyteller and producer who creates his own content. I believe the two to go hand in hand,” Tabatabai said. “I’m a huge advocate of creating original work and telling your own  stories.”

Last year Tabatabai assumed the role of undercover cop Johnny Clemence in the first episode of the upcoming series “Color Me Grey.” Surrounded by mobsters and in too deep to get out, the constant risk that Johnny will be found out grows more and more imminent. As the suspense grows to a crescendo, viewers will find themselves glued to the edge of their seats. Though everyone in this series leads a double life, this is especially true for Johnny.

 

Ashley Tabatabai "Color Me Grey"
Scott Michael Wagstaff (left) & Ashley Tabatabai (right) in “Color Me Grey” shot by Adam Lyons

 

“Johnny is a really enigmatic character, quietly observant and always processing and calculating,” Tabatabai said. “This is a guy who has gone undercover to infiltrate a criminal organization, whose own members lead double lives to help do their underhand business. So in essence Johnny is operating multiple covers at all times.”

Another of Tabatabai’s films, the early 20th century period piece “Louis Lost In Motion,” blew audiences away in 2014 with its imaginative approach to storytelling. Filled with intrigue and mystery, the film focuses on two key figures in early filmmaking — Louis Le Prince and Thomas Edison.

“[This] is a film based on the conspiracy theory around Louis Le Prince, who is famed as the first person to ever record moving images on his single-lens camera. He mysteriously vanished after boarding a train, before ever getting to patent his invention,” Tabatabai said. “To this day, no one knows what happened to him or why.”

Often, it is particularly difficult for actors to play real people, contemporary or historical. When the opportunity to arose for Tabatabai to do so, he jumped at the chance.

“The period costume as well as hair and makeup really helped me to drop into the body of the character. Being immersed in the actual locations where he actually spent time was a great way to picture what his experience might have been like,” he said. “There is always a sense of pressure involved when portraying a real person, especially someone as iconic as this.”

Check out the trailer for “Louis Lost in Motion” below:

Most recently, Tabatabai stars as Javier Baena in “Falsified,” an upcoming film about the reunion between a father and the son who was stolen from him at birth. Tabatabai also wrote and produced the film, which is based on a frighteningly real epidemic of infant thefts that occurred over the course of 50 years.

“It’s very much about the dynamic between a parent and child, and in particular a father and son,” Tabatabai said, describing the stirring drama. “On another level I feel it’s important to raise awareness of the scandal that happened in Spain.”

The vast range of roles he’s portrayed speaks volumes to his talent and reputation as an actor. Eager audiences can catch Ashley Tabatabai in “Falsified” later this year, and in the upcoming film “Digital You,” which is set for release in 2017.

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Spotlight on Canadian Actress Cecilia Deacon!

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Canadian actress Cecilia Deacon

 

Often, the pursuit of one’s dreams takes a leap of faith, and this is especially true for prospective actors. To get one’s foot in the door as an actor requires a great degree of luck; to actually walk through the door and find lasting success requires charisma, poise, and most of all, talent. Cecilia Deacon has all of those qualities in spades, and the actor’s long list of diverse credits speak volumes to her enormous dedication.

Her leap of faith began with her journey to New York at 17, to attend the prestigious acting conservatory, the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. As an AADA alum, she is in the company of Hollywood giants Robert Redford, Danny DeVito, and Lauren Bacall, among countless others. Shortly after graduating in 2013, Deacon was featured in the hit comedy “Delivery Man,” starring Chris Pratt (“Parks and Recreation,” “Jurassic World,” “Guardians of the Galaxy”) and Vince Vaughn (“Wedding Crashers,” “The Internship,” “Old School”). The decision to cast Deacon in the star-studded and uproariously hilarious film is a testament to her talent as an actor.

Deacon just finished work on her most recent project, “The Transcendents,” in May. Directed by playwright Derek Ahonen, the film tells the story of a group of people who were once tied together by the music scene, but now find themselves at odds. Faced with a range of obstacles, each must either overcome their personal challenges or be crushed beneath the adversity.

“[The film] is essentially a Rock n’ Roll, PTSD driven, film noir,” Deacon described. “There are so many different elements to it.”

Deacon was cast in the role of Cecilia, the film’s protagonist, whose true love has been long-absent in her life. Tragedy, heartache, and disability have shaped Cecilia’s life; however, despite arguably having the most reason to be upset with her circumstances, she remains a steadfastly optimistic beacon of hope to those around her.

The story, at its core, is essentially about people trying to overcome – to transcend – the painful experiences that have shaped them,” she said.

In addition to her work in film, Deacon has also been featured in a number of television and serial roles. She was cast in the lead role of a particularly chilling episode of the popular Investigation Discovery series “Deadly Sins.” For the young women before her, becoming romantically involved with the episode’s antagonist proved to be a death sentence. Deacon played Stormy, the sole survivor of the homicidal adulterer’s dark machinations.

In the more light-hearted series “Catch-30,” Deacon played the lead role of Sandra, a well-to-do young woman making her own way in the world. Sandra is the core of a tight knit group of twenty-somethings who find their friendships with one another tested by life, love and sex in the adult-world.

“Sandra was the privileged one in her group of friends, all glamour and gold. For all that she For all of her overt confidence, she was intensely vulnerable.” Deacon said. “She hid it behind the mask of what everyone expected her to be. ”

Playing Estelle in No Exit with Christopher Wharton and Regina Blandon; play directed by Derek Ahonen
Cecilia Deacon (L), Christopher Wharton & Regina Blandon (R) in “No Exit”

Her experience acting in film and television is extensive, but Deacon has never strayed far from her roots in theater. Prior to her starring role in “The Transcendents” she had the opportunity to work with the film’s director, playwright Derek Ahonen, in his 2011 play “No Exit.” Deacon played Estelle in the production, which was an existential examination of the limits of human resilience in the face of unimaginable strain.

“It challenged me as an actor in a way no role has since,” recalled Deacon. “It was an exercise in despair; discovering what was each our own personal hell. But the most difficult thing about playing Estelle was not even that we were in hell; it was that the character herself found safety in all the places that I myself do not.”

Whether on stage or in front of the cameras, Deacon has proved herself to be an immensely talented actor whose versatility knows no bounds. With a charisma that most people only dream of, she is a born performer; and her audience eagerly awaits her next move.

Spotlight: Award Winning Cinematographer Martin Kobylarz

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Cinematographer Martin Kobylarz

Cinematography is a delicate balance between the technical and the creative, and Polish director of photography Martin Kobylarz has mastered the art of walking that fine line. Known for his work on both films and commercials, Kobylarz’s projects often raise questions about issues facing society in the past, present and future.

Born in Denmark to Polish parents and educated at the prestigious American Film Institute in Los Angeles, Kobylarz uses his vast and worldly experience to raise the bar for his craft. Recently, he was the cinematographer in charge of the National Autistic Society’s awareness campaign commercial, “Can You Make It To The End?”

“The whole commercial is seen from a first person perspective of a child with autism so it was up to me to find the right gear to give this a realistic feel,” Kobylarz said. “When reading about autism they give very specific definitions as to how they feel and perceive the world when they have sensory overload.”

The public awareness campaign was highly effective, and Kobylarz’s first-person approach played a large part in that success. The commercial’s frenetic and tense style is especially impactful, as if the viewer is experiencing the sensory overload as the child would.

Kobylarz has worked on a wide variety of film productions as well, including the 2012 drama “Wolves From Another Kingdom.” Directed by Christopher Carbone (“Mother Nature’s Son,” “Revivify”), the film centers around a group of children trying to survive after the end of the world. The project holds a rare 9.1 out of 10 rating on IMDb, and brought with it the unique challenge of strictly adhering to the child labor laws governing the cast of “Wolves From Another Kingdom.”

 

“My role included being a key creative figure and maintaining production efficiency, whilst working under strict child labor laws,” Kobylarz said. “My responsibilities also included overseeing and ensuring on-set safety rules and guidelines within my department were upheld.”

With more than 25 actors aged 5 to 17, safety standards were obviously a big consideration on-set. However, it’s a very different story within the ravaged world that audiences see in the film. Tasked with keeping his little brother Daniel safe, Aiden must navigate the ruins of a post-apocalyptic hellscape. When the duo meet a band of children living in the wastes, Aiden must decide whether or not to settle down with the group of dystopian Lost Boys.

“We worked very hard in prep across all departments. Plus I had time to read the script 100 times over and really get into the world of the film, and align myself to the director’s vision. I feel like every shot we made was discussed and thought about in prep,” said Kobylarz, who described the project as his favorite to date. “Of course we were open to spontaneous moments of inspiration when we got to the shooting, but because we were so prepared we knew if it was something that fit the project or not.”

Among Kobylarz’s myriad of other projects are the darkly-romantic drama “Do It Yourself,” as well as the upcoming historical drama “Adrift In Soho,” a period piece about a 1950’s artists’ movement in London to end nuclear proliferation. “Adrift In Soho” is currently in post-production and is scheduled to be released to eager UK audiences this July.

Using Nottingham as a stand-in for London, “Adrift In Soho” tells the story of the activists who pioneered the counter-cultural anti-war movement which evolved into a phenomenon that defined the 1960s Vietnam-era. The exceptional period piece also has the distinction of being the first film to document the origins of a now iconic symbol.

“‘Free-cinema filmmakers’… were documentarians who wanted to film the real people on the streets and everyday life. Coincidentally this was the same time that people started protesting about nuclear bombs and this was when they invented the peace sign that we know today,” Kobylarz recounted. “They used the symbol in their March to Aldermaston, which was a protest march the filmmakers captured. Our film is the first film ever to portray the origins of the peace symbol.”

Because of his unmatched passion for his work, Kobylarz’s projects run the gamut from film to advertising. He learned early in his life that his love for cinematography was a love for all film, and he doesn’t play favorites when it comes to genre or subject. In fact, the productions he’s been a part of are so diverse and his skills so varied that the only thing they all share in common is the exceptional talent and vision of his expertise as director of photography.

Cinematographer Colin Akoon’s Creative Eye Makes Every Shot Stand Out

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Cinematographer Colin Akoon at home behind the camera

 

In the fiercely competitive film industry, it takes a lot more than some camera know-how for a cinematographer to stand out. Many people are skilled in the technical process but lack the artistic vision required to create compelling cinema. Others possess vivid imaginations but are unable to meet (or unwilling to yield to) the expectations of the director. A person with all of these traits is a rare gem, an invaluable asset with the potential to outshine all those around them in the highly saturated industry. Colin Akoon is just such a man.

An award-winning director of photography, or DP, Akoon is responsible for a countless array of critically-acclaimed film and commercial productions. He has been fascinated with storytelling his entire life, and at a young age discovered the power cinema can have on an audience.

“I remember being six years old, watching a horror movie at a neighbor’s house, one I probably shouldn’t have been watching at that age… I still recall the fear that paralyzed me… That night I slept in my parents’ bed. I made them put the radio on to distract me from the bumps in the night,” Akoon recalled. “Good cinema gets a hold of every part of you and doesn’t let go.”

In 2014 he was critical to the wild success of the award-winning “Canadian Tire Ice Truck” ad campaign. The campaign’s name is quite literal, as Akoon explained. To promote their new cold-weather battery, Canadian Tire contracted Ice Culture to build a fully operational truck out of ice. Ice Culture is internationally-known for making everything – from ornate sculptures, to exotic lounges around the world, from Thailand to Dubai – out of ice. But this project was their most ambitious undertaking of all.

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Still of Ice Truck built by Ice Culture for Canadian Tire shot by Colin Akoon

“They were having a truck built out of ice, one that would actually start and drive,” Akoon said. “It was important that we tell the story of Ice Culture – a small family-owned business – and also get a sense of the small town where they’re situated… We really wanted to get across the idea that this incredible record-breaking feat was accomplished by hard-working, everyday Canadians.”

In addition to being used in commercials for Canadian Tire, a documentary-style behind-the-scenes film was made to detail the exhaustive process of creating a working truck out of ice. Akoon was the DP on the making-of film, which played a large part in the campaign’s overwhelming popularity — particularly among the judges at a number of high-profile awards ceremonies.

“The resulting video really shows the detail of the hard work that went into the making of this ice truck,” Akoon said proudly. “The ‘Ice Truck’ campaign went off to be nominated and win more than a dozen awards…  and our making-of documentary was a big contributor to the overall success of the campaign.”

It was a brilliant stroke of marketing genius to complement the campaign with a making-of documentary. A fascinating glimpse into the creation of the eye-catching ice truck, Akoon’s work captured the attention of consumers and advertising critics alike. The campaign’s laundry list of accolades include the Best In Show Award and two Gold Medals (for “Best Brand Building Campaign” and “Most Innovative Idea or Concept”) at the 2014 PROMO! Awards, third prize at the 2014 world-renowned New York Festivals International Advertising Awards, and the honor of being on the shortlist of contenders for the 2014 Cannes Lions Award, often considered the most sought-after and prestigious award in the advertising industry.

As a cinematographer, Akoon has his fingers in a lot of pies and doesn’t restrict himself to any one type of project. His exceptional work in advertising is widely-recognized, but his creativity and visual mastery shine their brightest in his work on narrative film and television productions. One such example is director Mateo Guez’s 2014 film “Together Alone,” for which Akoon was the DP. The emotionally-charged film looks at the love and lust within a group of three star-crossed young lovers. However, “Together Alone” is much more than the story of an ill-fated love triangle.

“Mateo assembled a very small team to make “Together Alone” a feature film about two young men and one young woman as they struggle through friendship, sexual relations, and self-identity,” Akoon said. “Mateo desired to make a film that did not strictly adhere to any one script or blueprint, but rather would evolve through improvisation and experimentation. As a result, the filmmaking was a very intimately creative experience.”

Of the countless projects he has been involved in, Akoon describes Lorne Hiltser’s “The Incident(s) at Paradise Bay” as among his personal favorites. Gripping and heart-wrenching, “The Incident(s) at Paradise Bay” is based on the real-world Tranquility Bay reform school in Jamaica, which became the focus of global outrage in 2007 after allegations that the facility’s strict disciplinary methods were actually child abuse.

“The moral question of whether the procedures… were just or merely abusive was an interesting one, but mostly Lorne and I were fascinated with the poetic style by which the short script was written,” Akoon said, describing what drew him to the project. “There was an eerie dreamlike quality to the script that Lorne and I knew we wanted to explore visually.”

Akoon captured that eerily surreal sensation flawlessly. Every shot of every scene was painstakingly planned and calculated to maximize that dreamlike quality of the film. His use of zoom shots as a nostalgic beginning and ending of the film contrasts seamlessly with the close, tight shots used to introduce Marcus, the film’s protagonist.

“The sequence that shows Marcus in the ‘solution room’ cage was a very important one. This was our real introduction to the character and to the harsh treatment of the academy’s disciplinary attrition,” Akoon said. “We wanted the audience to feel they were Marcus in that cage. Depth of field for this sequence was kept to a minimum, visually suggesting the claustrophobic feeling of being caged.”

Throughout “The Incident(s) at Paradise Bay,” “Together Alone,” and all of Akoon’s countless other films, his talent and experience are unmissable. Akoon has a natural gift for capturing the exact aesthetic a project demands, a deliberate manner of planning and setting up each shot, and is unsurpassed in his aptitude for collaboration, constantly working closely with each project’s director to conceive and achieve a shared vision. In an industry with so much competition, nobody can hold a candle up to Colin Akoon.

Director & Producer Carlisle Antonio Impacts the Lives of Many through Film

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Director and producer Carlisle Antonio

When asked, most filmmakers will agree that maintaining creative control of a production is one of the most highly prized opportunities in any project. However, directors must often sacrifice that sovereignty when seeking financial backing. Investors frequently assume the role of producers, and leave the visionary with little power over their own original creation. Carlisle Antonio has successfully evaded that pitfall by producing every project he’s directed in his illustrious career.

Carlisle is an innovative artist as well as an adept businessman, and as the CEO of the Red Man Films production company he has proven his aptitude for both time and time again. The son of a “Navy man,” Carlisle was raised in Europe but spent much of his life in far-flung locales around the globe. That worldly experience, combined with his strong ties to his Native American heritage, sparked Antonio’s imagination and passion for storytelling and helped inspire some of his most acclaimed productions.

“I have a diverse background; my roots reside within an indigenous form of storytelling, and I feel this lends itself to a different style of creativity,” Carlisle said of his diverse influences, which include “European cinema to indigenous American, Latin and Brazilian art forms.”

He is particularly renowned for his work producing and directing a wide array of documentaries, which range from awe-inspiring and majestic to gripping and emotional in subject. Carlisle wrote, directed and produced the 2008 feature documentary “Coloring the Media” in partnership with the BBC. The documentary details the film industry’s long, shameful history of using dehumanizing stereotypes when portraying Native Americans.

“Coloring the Media” won a Millennium Award and was a hit success with viewers during its worldwide festival tour. It featured Sundance Film Festival founder, actor and Academy Award-winning director Robert Redford (“Ordinary People,” “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”), as well as the late John Trudell, a legendary artist, poet and prominent Native American activist. The film was bold and concise in its message, and as with many of Antonio’s productions, had a lasting impact on audiences and critics.

Carlisle’s work often centers on Native American culture and heritage, as well as on the lands that indigenous peoples called home for millennia. While working with the Alaskan National Park Service, he produced, filmed and directed three films aimed at promoting tourism by showcasing the raw beauty of the vast expanse of forest, mountain and glacier-covered Alaskan landscape. The films, “Walking the Wild,” “Bear Country” and “Under the Borealis,” offer viewers an informative peek into the gorgeous Alaskan parks. With stunning cinematography, the films teach potential visitors about native plants and wildlife, as well as ways to ensure safe visits to the remote and isolated wilderness.

As a filmmaker, Carlisle knows the value of his medium as a way to inform audiences and advocate for change. He is currently using this platform to give a voice to Native American victims of suicide with his upcoming film “Walking the Line.” Despite having the highest suicide rate of any group in the Western Hemisphere, Native American tribes are often unwilling to discuss the epidemic. Carlisle is determined to expose this tragic cycle, and plans to begin shooting “Walking the Line” later this year.

“I feel that by giving a voice to the dead, they may just be able to help the living, and perhaps help the grieving families and loved ones left behind,” Carlisle said, describing his passion for the project. “It could also help another young person living on the edge, or someone contemplating suicide as the only alternative. Film in any medium has the power to change and affect people’s lives.”

Filmmakers are perhaps the most powerful agents of social reform. By putting a spotlight on issues that are too often underreported, they can enlighten audiences and inspire action. As the CEO of his own production company, Carlisle has the rare and enviable creative advantage of being the writer, director and producer of his own projects. That level of control is critical when the subject matter deals with issues as monumentally important as those in Carlisle’s work. Anyone who has seen one of his productions can attest to the fact that Carlisle’s gift for filmmaking can open eyes, move hearts and change the world; and as he embarks on several upcoming projects, it’s a guarantee that he will he continue to do just that.

UK Artist Katie Bright Uses Fairytales to Make Us Think

 

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Katie Bright and her “My Fairytale perspective on Love” collection shot by Enzo Amato

 

In today’s world, the term “artist” is used rather loosely. Virtually anyone who has ever picked up a pen, brush or guitar is free to describe him or herself as an artist. Some however, possess an indisputable acumen for more than just aesthetics and are able to use the craft for its original intent. A visual storyteller, Katie Bright is one of these true artists. Her strikingly visceral works are seeped in both beauty and symbolism – the marks of true artistic masterpieces – and continue to grow in popularity among collectors and galleries alike.

Bright specializes in the fantastical, and her art is right at home on the other side of the rabbit hole. Much of her work features familiar characters from fairy tales like “Little Red Riding Hood” and Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” and she has a rare gift for reimagining classic childhood fables from a more mature and often darker perspective.

“Fairy tales were the first stories to capture my imagination as a child,” Bright recalled. “They are a combination of morals with a touch of mystical and supernatural elements that propel the creativity.”

Bright, or Miss Brightside as she is known professionally, kicked off her career with a bang. The first time her work appeared in a gallery was at aMBUSH in Sydney, Australia, and was aptly publicized as an extravaganza, rather than as an exhibit or installation. The pieces on display exemplified the unique fairy-tale-gone-bad style that she has continued to cultivate, and which has become her trademark in the years since. Snow White, Tinkerbell and the Queen of Hearts are among characters depicted in Bright’s often hyper-sexualized scenes.

“From an adult perspective, fairy tales have a whole darker element. In particular, from a scholar’s level, the unraveling of the encrypted symbolism is prolific,” she said. “I found I had a division between my childhood ideals and existence in an adult sexualized society. For this reason I began entwining and reworking fairy tales within my artwork.”

 

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“X Off with their Head” illustration screen printed on glass by Katie Bright

 

It’s a recurring theme, which Bright employs as a deliberately eye-catching metaphor for the dichotomy between childhood innocence and the expectations subconsciously placed on the children who grow up hearing those fables. The images used at aMBUSH were primarily screen printed on mirrors, and in tandem with Bright’s careful selection and placement of lighting, attendees were transported through the looking glass to a world of her invention. Her use of color in prints such as “Some Day My Prince Will Come” and “If I Had a World of My Own, Everything Would be Nonsense” is mesmerizing; an array of prime reds and blues and yellows, starkly contrasted with ominous black and white backdrops, with the shimmering surfaces of the mirrors serving to further capture viewers’ attentions and imaginations.

“It was more than an art show; it was a whole visual feast and a circus production. I made and curated 102 artworks, we had two pole dancers, a contortionist, dwarves dressed as cupids, two bands, a DJ, a film crew and press,” said Bright, describing just how extravagant the whole affair was. “The major alcohol sponsor was an absinthe brand, which supplied a mixologist who made ‘Love Potion’ cocktails, two women dressed as green fairies and two topless male waiters working the bar.”

The massive event, launched on Valentine’s Day 2012, was Bright’s first solo show and a watershed moment for her. Its opening night saw more than 1,000 people in attendance, and both inspired her and established her in the incredibly competitive field. Since the success of that first exhibit, Bright has organized several other huge art-and-culture events, including one in Swindon, England in early 2015. Working with Harris + Hoole Coffee, she took it upon herself to propose, plan, organize and ultimately produce a huge event for the company.

“The event I coordinated turned into a 3.5-mile radius tour of three artisan coffee stores that have opened in the last year. My concept was Love Coffee for Valentines Day,” Bright said. “I liaised with three venues, arranged sponsorship, wrote copy, designed promotional material, illustrated the map, logo and branding, filmed and edited a promo video and created a website. In addition to the tour I orchestrated Creatively Made In Swindon. An art and design exhibition displayed over the three venues during the Love Coffee Tour, which continued into March. For the exhibition I collaborated with seven local artists to curate and install the show.”

Currently, the extraordinary Miss Brightside is wrapping up work on a series of interior visual designs for the luxury hotel Surftides Lincoln City in Oregon. Asked to create a design based on a unique fairy tale, Bright chose to write her own, “Atargatis.” A brilliant show of her unlimited, cross-media creative talent, “Atargatis” tells the story of a mythical beauty, a girl who can transform into anything. But in so doing, the girl retains conflicting features of both bird and mermaid and realizes she has lost herself and become something unrecognizable and unsustainable.

“When creating the wallpaper design I wanted it to have a moral. This quote from Thich Nhat Hahn encapsulates the meaning behind the fairy tale of Atargatis — ‘Changing is not just changing the things on the outside of us. First of all we need the right view that transcends all notions including of being and non-being, creator and creature, mind and spirit. That kind of insight is crucial for transformation and healing,’” Bright said of her inspiration. “After I created the fairy tale based on the Thich Nhat Hahn quote, the illustration element was straightforward; I just illustrated the story.”

The results are as beautiful as they are imaginative. The gorgeous series of scenes tell the tragic tale of Atargatis, and in such a way that they would be just as suited for a children’s book as they are in this luxury beachfront locale.

Bright’s ability to accentuate and illustrate the darker undertones of familiar stories has made her an international sensation in the art world. Followers of her work will be excited to hear that she is currently planning for her next solo exhibition, tentatively scheduled for early 2016. A visionary master of storytelling through imagination, illustration, creation and design, Bright certainly lives up to her name and will never cease aweing viewers with her work.

Powerful Actress Davina Cole Commands the Stage

Michael Wharley.
Actress Davina Cole shot by Michael Wharley

Since its inception, the stage has served three purposes above all else: to entertain, to recount important events, and to impart morals and lessons on an audience. In her years as an actor, Davina Cole has proven her acumen for all three. With a focus on drama, her work on screen and in theater masterfully encompasses the whole of the human condition through stories that are both fascinating and compellingly layered.

A phenomenal creative force whose talent lights up every project she touches, her work in film has long been acclaimed by critics and audiences alike. Among Cole’s most noted roles was that of Soalaih Ez in the 2011 film “When Soukhina Disappeared.” After a young woman vanishes, a journalism student begins investigating the case in this suspenseful drama.

“Soalaih Ez was one of the last people to see the missing girl, and she gives her account of how Soukhina touched her life. It was an emotional piece and I really enjoyed playing a character with so many layers,” Cole said. “Soalaih was key to the getting an account of the final movements of Soukhina.”

The film was regarded as a cinematic triumph for Cole, whose character was integral to the chilling tale. “When Soukhina Disappeared” was directed by Francoise Ellong, whose work on the film “W.A.K.A.” would go on to win the 2014 Jury Prize at the Festival du Cinema Africain Khouribga.

Cole’s immense skillset is not simply limited to acting, however, which she proved with her one-woman play “All the Colours.” Though she was born in London, Cole’s family hails from war-torn Sierra Leone, and those roots were critical in her writing and performing of the play.

“I felt this role took me to another level in my performance skills. It was, however, very draining at times playing a mother who had lost so much,” Cole said, describing the intimate familiarity with the subject matter that led her to write the play. “Having been through my own personal experience of loss and heartache, I was able to bring that to the role and give a truthful performance.”

“All the Colours” tells the gripping story of a mother, Salimatu, living through the horrifying decade-long civil war in Sierra Leone. Cole based her performance in the one-woman play on her mother’s own experience in the country. Cole’s writing was lauded by critics, and her acting earned her a 2014 nomination for Best Actress at the International One-Man Show Solo Festival in the U.K.

A natural choice to fill the shoes of strong, female lead characters, Cole’s performance in “1867” was a brilliant display of just how at home she is on the stage. Cole played Delilah McAndrew, from whose perspective the semi-biographical play tells the fascinating and inspirational story of Madame C.J. Walker, the first American woman to become a millionaire entrepreneur. Walker, who did this despite the added adversity of being a black woman in the post-Civil War South, employs Delilah, the first generation in her family to be born after the abolition of slavery.

“She was such a strong black woman in a time when black women were regularly looked down upon, and to have that level of success at that period of time is truly amazing,” Cole said, describing the connection she felt to Delilah. “As a character she had many layers and I was really able to explore the role.”

Through these roles and her countless others, Cole has established herself as one of the most powerful actors in the industry today. A dramatist of the highest order, she has used the craft not as a soapbox, but rather as a medium through which to remind us of the things we all too often forget. Where lecturers and historians may fall short of imparting these critical lessons, Davina Cole knows how to use the stage and screen to captivate our imaginations with the finesse and magic of a lifelong storyteller.

From Class Clown to International Actor, Daniel DelHoyo

In film, theater and television, it’s the writers who create the characters; their personas, their lines and even their fates are predetermined, written down before cameras ever start rolling. But it requires a skilled actor to embody a fictional hero or villain, and there is nobody more skilled in personifying a character than Daniel DelHoyo. Building on the foundation of the writer’s words, DelHoyo immerses himself in his roles. Through him, words on a page come to life and become the living, breathing manifestation of the writer’s creative vision.

Born in Mexico City, DelHoyo’s love of performance began in high school when an opportunity arose for him to write, direct and act in a production showcased to an audience of his peers. The experience awoke in him an immense talent, which had been lying dormant. DelHoyo’s charisma and witty humor had long been recognized by his peers, but the play marked his first foray into drama and serious performance. From the moment he first sat down to write the script, he realized he was destined to pursue a career as an actor.

“As soon as I started writing the story I felt connected and fully plugged into this world like I had never felt with anything else,” DelHoyo recalled. “The play ended up being presented among the best ones at the drama competition in school, and from that moment I knew I wanted to act.”

Since those early days, he has become one of the most sought after actors in the business. Though there was a time when he applied his natural charm and jovial personality almost exclusively to comedic endeavors as a sort of class clown, he has far exceeded that old niche. Now, there is no production mood or genre he cannot expertly adapt to, and he is as at home in the horror and suspense genres as in comedy. His latest role as Danny in “Por Sofia” is a perfect example of how diverse his talents are.

 A tale of intrigue and an endless pursuit of justice, “Por Sofia” follows a detective intent on solving a decades-old murder. The film stars Kary Musa (“Iron Man 3,” “What Lies Beyond… The Beginning”) as Alexa, a young woman whose mother’s murder 20 years earlier continues to haunt her. DelHoyo delivers a knockout performance as Danny, a night shift server at a restaurant and one of the detective’s prime suspects in the crime.

Jack Elliot
Still of Daniel DelHoyo (left) & Mauricio Mendoza (right) in “Por Sofia” shot by Jack Elliot

The director of “Por Sofia,” Alfredo Ibarra (“Classroom 6,” “Processing”), chose to cast actors in the film who had personalities similar to those of their characters. DelHoyo, however, was an exception. But playing a character so different from himself is his wheelhouse, and the challenge allowed him to exhibit his invaluable gift for shining brilliantly when pushed out of his comfort zone.

“[Alfredo Ibarra] wants you to be yourself and deliver your own persona and emotions to the story. During the pre-production I would ask him questions and he would just answer back ‘What would you do?’” said DelHoyo, explaining how he adapted to the role. “My character is a very quiet and mysterious guy, which I’m really not. But throughout the shooting I realized what Alfredo wanted, and toward the end it all made sense. I learned that the more you trust the people you work with, the better results you’ll deliver performance-wise.”

The intense twists and turns in “Por Sofia” ensure audiences remain firmly on the edge of their seats, and DelHoyo’s gripping portrayal of Danny is an absolute marvel of suspense that keeps viewers questioning his guilt until the very end. The film is in post-production and will be released early this year.

 One of DelHoyo’s most fascinating roles, and the one he says is his favorite, was in the 2015 film “Ilusiones SA,” an adaptation of Spanish author and playwright Alejandro Casona’s 1949 play “Los Árboles Mueren de Pie.” His character, known only as Mailman, is part of a shadowy-yet-benevolent organization called The Illusionists. The group specializes in staging well-meaning hoaxes and deceptions and is comprised of equally mysterious codenamed figures, such as The Director, played by Jaime Camil (“Jane the Virgin”). The film tells the story of a man who commissions the group’s services to keep his wife from learning that their grandson has died en route to visit them.

Ilusiones SA film
Daniel DelHoyo as the Mailman in “Ilusiones SA” shot by Serguei Saldivar

 “My character is essential to the story,” DelHoyo excitedly explained. “The grandpa hires The Illusionists to set up a whole scenario with a fake grandson. My character delivers the letter to the grandpa, letting him know that his ‘grandson’ and his ‘grandson’s fiancé’ will be getting there in a couple of days.”

As an exceptionally dedicated and professional performer, DelHoyo was determined to do the role justice. He went to great lengths to embody the part and in the process put the role ahead of his own safety.

“The script is very adamant about the Mailman being exhausted. It’s been a long hot day of work for him, and it’s not over. So, as a perfectionist, I run back and forth on my bike in pretty intense morning heat, added push-ups to get my blood flow pumped-up, and did running sprints too,” said DelHoyo, describing what he called a funny experience. “We do take one and by the end of it I’m practically suffocated, sweating so much my uniform is soaking wet, and feeling sick.”

In preparation, DelHoyo completely immersed himself in the role. His sleepless nights were spent studying 1950’s Campeche, Mexico, the film’s setting, and listening exclusively to music played in the region during that era. He even went so far as to volunteer at the Post Office to better understand the character. Over 1,000 people auditioned for the role, but that level of commitment is what made him the obvious choice. It’s also what made his character so memorable and integral to the film. “Ilusiones SA” was released in Oct. 2015 to audiences in Mexico, and will be released in the U.S. later this year.

There are actors who are defined by a role, and there are roles that are defined by the actor, and careers often hinge on this subtle distinction. Daniel DelHoyo is without question the latter, an asset to every production whose chameleon-like talent for transformation has enabled him to deliver awe-inspiring performances time and time again. When watching him in any of the roles he’s played, it’s not an actor that audiences see on the screen; his characters become actual, living people, with flaws and virtues so compellingly human they become as real as anything else. That quality is the mark of a truly great actor, and it is what has established DelHoyo as one of the most prominent figures in the highly competitive industry.

Haisu Wang: From China’s Base-FX to Becoming a Leading Art Director in the U.S.

 

Tian-ran QIn
Art Director Haisu Wang shot by Tian-ran Qin

No matter how skilled the cast and director are, how polished the script is or how astronomical the budget may be, a film will never reach its full potential without an art director capable of bringing its visual essence to life. Haisu Wang has dedicated years to becoming one of the best in the industry, and has an incredible list of credits under his belt earned while working at some of the most prestigious firms in the world.

Wang, while in China, was an integral part of the Emmy award-winning BASE-FX visual effects production company. BASE-FX has worked with every major studio in the U.S. to produce some of the most stunning and revolutionary CGI effects in 21st century film and television. Wang worked on two of the three projects for which BASE-FX earned Emmy wins. The first was HBO’s gripping World War II series The Pacific, produced by Academy Award winners Tom Hanks (Best Actor – Forrest Gump, Philadelphia) and Steven Spielberg (Best Director – Saving Private Ryan, Best Picture – Schindler’s List). The Pacific won eight Primetime Emmys; the effects work done by Wang and the BASE-FX team was recognized with the 2010 Emmy for Outstanding Special Visual Effects for a Television Miniseries.

The second, Boardwalk Empire, is the critically-acclaimed HBO crime drama starring Steve Buscemi (Fargo, Reservoir Dogs, The Big Lebowski). Boardwalk Empire was nominated for 57 Primetime Emmys and won a total of 20 in an array of categories between 2011 and 2015. For its visual production work on the series, BASE-FX won the 2011 Emmy for Outstanding Special Visual Effects for a Television Series.

After two immensely successful years at BASE-FX, Wang moved to Los Angeles and was accepted into the prestigious Production Design program at the world renowned American Film Institute. It was there that he further honed his already sharp talent for visual production and established his reputation as an extraordinary art director.

In 2014, he was the art director for two films – Contrapelo and Day One – which were both honored with a long list of accolades and critical praise. Both Contrapelo and Day One also caught the attention of Academy Awards judges and were on the top-10 shortlist of nominees for the 2015 Best Live Action Short Film award.

Thanks in no small part to Wang’s position as art director, Contrapelo has taken the festival circuit by storm. It won the Phoenix Film Festival’s award for Best Live Action Short Film and was nominated for Best Overall Short Film at both the Calgary International and Oldenburg Film Festivals. At its core, Contrapelo is a philosophical film about the gray areas of morality. When he discovers that the man in his chair is a cartel boss, a Mexican barber grapples with his desire and opportunity to kill the vile man responsible for innumerable deaths and heinous crimes.

“Because the story is set in a small town in Mexico in the 1990s, the main challenge was recreating the Mexican barbershop interior and the abandoned travel agent office – the hideout used by the leader of the drug cartel – in a soundstage in L.A.,” Wang said. “My personal challenge was designing these two main sets in a short amount of time, and also quickly gathering a really effective construction team to build them in one-and-a-half weeks.”

With his extensive 3D computer design skills, Wang was quickly able to create a digital mock-up of the sets. This enabled the director to visualize blocking and plan shots in earnest, and allowed the crew to prepare camera and rigging placements to meet those demands. Construction crews used Wang’s designs to begin building the sets while all of the planning was being done simultaneously using the same shared computer layouts. Rather than having to wait until the sets were completed, Wang’s quick thinking shaved weeks off of the tight production schedule.

Day One, the emotional true story of an American interpreter in Afghanistan, was also a top-10 Academy Award contender for Best Live Action Short Film. Though the film was set in the Afghan desert, it was filmed in the desert outside Los Angeles. The terrain proved a significant hurdle for the production, but once again Wang was able to apply his high-tech know-how to navigate the situation with ease.

“One of the main challenges of this set build was the uneven ground condition in the desert,” Wang said, describing another instance where his technical expertise proved essential to a production’s success. “I was able to use my digital skills to analyze the topography of the desert location, and I created a 3D model of the real location. I then helped the designer create the set in my 3D replica model.”

A huge critical success, Day One centers around a recently divorced woman joins the military and is deployed to Afghanistan as an interpreter. On her first day in the country she encounters a terrorist bomb-maker and his wife, who has just gone into labor. Her life is forever changed when she must help the woman deliver the child. At the 2015 Academy of Television Arts and Sciences College Television Awards, Day One received Emmys for both Best Drama and Best Directing. The British Academy of Film and Television Arts, Los Angeles (BAFTA/LA) also awarded the film’s director, Henry Hughes, with the 2015 award for Best Director.

Hughes says, “Haisu’s vision and rare skill using digital software to create some of the most challenging sets for ‘Day One’ was invaluable to our production, especially considering the geographic challenges of the location. Without his contributions it would have been nearly impossible to construct these sets in the amount of time and within the allotted budget. He is definitely a huge asset to the film industry.”

Wang’s skill, experience and qualifications put him in the same class as many lifelong industry veterans. A person with Wang’s talent and drive is a rare and precious asset in this business, and his awe-inspiring list of credits and accolades continues to grow every day. He is a master of the craft, gifted with an instinctive ability to visualize and execute both the subtle and the overt artistic and creative nuances of a film. A film is only as good as its art director, and when a film calls for the very best Haisu Wang is will be there to surpass even the highest expectations.

Bringing Cultures Together Through Jazz: Master Trumpeter Ramiro Nasello

Romero Nasello
                                    Argentine Musician Romiro Nasello shot by Claudio Maxit

Every genre of music has fans, but jazz is among the few that has devotees. Variations of jazz exist in almost every culture in the world, distinct from one another but sharing common influences. The diehards, the connoisseurs and the aficionados ingest the sounds of a good jazz band like a fine wine and know every hook and riff like the face of an old friend. If one were to ask them where to find the thriving genre’s modern hub, they would answer in unison: Buenos Aires.

That’s where Ramiro Nasello found his calling. Nasello was born in Olavarria, Argentina, where he took his first steps toward his lifelong love of music at 10 years old. Starting off with the piano, Nasello felt at home around music and musicians. It was when he discovered the trumpet, though, that he really came into his own. He moved to the city of Buenos Aires at 14, where his natural talent caught the attention of the iconic Argentine trumpeter Roberto “Fats” Fernandez. A major influence in jazz music at home and internationally, Fernandez is well known for his work with world-renowned musicians including Ray Charles, Roy Eldridge and Lionel Hampton. He took the then young Nasello under his wing and helped him realize the extent of his innate gift.

“My style was further defined after I met my mentor Roberto “Fats” Fernandez,” Nasello said. “It was a big step up for me as a musician and trumpet player at that time.”

At 17 he was introduced to Fernandez’s close friend, music legend and eight-time Grammy Award-winning trumpeter and composer Wynton Marsalis. Fernandez had written an original composition for Marsalis, “Luces de mi Cuidad,” aka “Lights of my City,” and Marsalis happily agreed to perform it as a guest artist on Fernandez’s album La Musica y La Vida. Nasello sat and listened as Marsalis played, and found himself moved to the core. Then, he got an opportunity many musicians spend a lifetime dreaming of.

“He did one take, and he was playing so beautifully I started crying like a kid,” Nasello recalled. “I also got to play for him. He was very nice and very encouraging to me.”

Throughout the ‘90s, Nasello had focused primarily on the classical side of trumpet. He became incredibly skilled during that time, and even held the prestigious principal first trumpet chair position from 1993 until 2000. But after training under Fernandez and hearing the sounds of Marsalis, he began to focus his efforts more on jazz and popular music.

Through his training, Nasello quickly became one of the most sought-after trumpeters in modern jazz ensembles. He’s played all over the world, and with some of the most recognizable names in the genre.

“I did a collaboration with ‘The Latinaje Project,’ a Latin jazz band led by the great bassist, composer and arranger, Guido Martinez. We played lots of high intensity music,” Nasello said of one project. “They put me in charge of the trumpet and flugelhorn solos. That was an all-star band that I was fortunate to be part of with musicians like Daniel ‘Pipi’ Piazzolla, Astor Piazzolla’s grandson. We played many concerts and I participated on the self-titled debut album with them.”

To be band mates with Astor Piazzolla’s grandson is no small achievement. “Pipi” Piazzolla’s grandfather was a revolutionary figure in Argentine jazz and tango, and helped put the country on the map as a major influence in both Latin and jazz music.

In the past two years alone, Nasello has played in Singapore, Las Vegas, Hong Kong, Rome, Barcelona and Fort Lauderdale. He also recently played trumpet on Fernandez’s album ‘Montecarlo Jazz Ensemble,’ a charity album with an inspiring purpose.

“‘Montecarlo Jazz Ensemble’ was an album recorded for a UNICEF fund-raising initiative for the Indian descendants in the north of Argentina,” Nasello said proudly. “It was a collaboration of the most renowned artists of the Argentinian music scene for a good cause.”

Shakespeare once wrote that music is the food of love. Jack Kerouac called it the only truth. And Ramiro Nasello sees it as a gift shared between giver and receiver.

“When somebody comes to me and says, ‘Thank you for your music,’ and I can see in their eyes that they enjoyed that moment, that we felt the magic of music and they felt it too, it really is a beautiful thing.”

Nasello is currently working on several new and exciting projects with other internationally renowned musicians including Italian drummer Andrea D’Angelo, who is known for his work with the bands Human Feel, the Matt Wilson Quartet and Tyft. The two have already begun planning their first album, “Inside Out,” which they will begin recording in 2016 under the name of the D’Angelo-Nasello International Jazz Collective Project. The new project will bring together musicians from Italy, Argentina and the US, offering audiences a modern and culturally rich jazz flavor.