Inside Scoop: SIC To Begin Production on Two New Projects
Story by Alex Jack
SIC productions will soon begin production on two new projects, in what sources are describing to our editors as what will be “two vastly different, but both hugely impactful stories.”
The first is the television series “Viral,” a spin on the sci-genre format will blend thriller-drama genres in its story about a group of scientists attempting to save humanity from an alien virus. New Zealand star Sophie Renée will play the lead role of Emma Greene, one of the scientists. Naresh Kumar is playing the supporting lead role of Johnny, and previously worked with SIC productions on the world-renowned short film “Cyberversity”. Kaisania Calubaquib is attached to direct. If the casting of such high-caliber talent as Emma and Kumar wasn’t enough, Calubaquib’s association brings with it even more credence. Calubaquib, who won the Best Director in NYC Indie Film Awards 2017, Platinum Award Best Short in NYC Indie Film Awards 2017, and the the Grand Jury Prize Best Short in UMFF 2017, is said to be “incredibly excited” at the prospect of working both with SIC and his leading actors.
Renée, most well known for her role in “The Velvet Hour,” won the Award of Excellence in the 2017 International Freethought Film Festival in Orlando, Florida for her work. She proudly explains that “it was also the first time that I got that I got to use my French language skills in the acting world!” Renée recently worked in a critical role with hugely famous French star Francis Lalanne on a secret project. Via our editors, Sophie proudly added: “I was also lucky enough to be taken under his wing throughout our time together and the emotional support that he gave me is something that I will forever be in his debt for.”
The second of SIC’s projects due to begin shooting any day now couldn’t be further from the sci-fi genre. “Singled Out,” a feature film that it is said to be in the grittier vein of Bradley Cooper-vehicle “A Place Beyond the Pines” and the Oscar-nominated “Hell or High Water,” instead explores drugs, crime and corruption in the Atlanta Police Department. In the role of James Montgomery, who our editors believe could either be an anti-hero or a traditional protagonist, is UK star Neil Reidman. Reidman, who shares the screen with superstar Nicole Kidman for Etihad’s global advertising campaign, is said to be thrilled at joining such an eminent production. While the exact release date of “Singled Out” hasn’t been identified, SIC have exclusively revealed to us that it will most definitely be in cinemas in 2018, likely in contention for the 2019 awards season. Such strategic release plays at the Oscar-race are frequently looked upon with cynicism, but given SIC’s track-record of highly-regarded films and the Academy’s response to films like “Moonlight,” it’s looking likely that “Singled Out” will be a strong contender.
Reidman, often recognised for his portrayal of Lieutenant Atillo in “Doctor Who,” is currently shooting an undisclosed feature. While the details have to stay under-wraps, it’s understood the project is highly-anticipated and will bring the actor even more fans worldwide. The classically trained actor, who also starred in Laurence Olivier Award winning stage shows on the West End in key roles, including “Big Life,” will go straight from his wrap party to the shoot of “Singled Out.” He also played critical roles in the hugely-successful TV shows “Holby City,” “Doctors” and “Casualty” and is repped by some of the most powerful agents in entertainment.
Dani Bryan, CEO of SIC, has worked with numerous major brands such as Michelob Ultra, AutoTrader, DSW, Lincoln Navigator, and Facebook. The extension of SIC’s line-up with these two projects, and the addition of such-high caliber stars, will undoubtedly allow Bryan to wield more power in the business.
Audiences across the globe, hip-hop fans especially, will recognize Swedish bombshell Josefin Nilsson for her featured role in an impressive list of music videos in recent years, but her skill as an actress extends far beyond simply playing a music video heroine, although she does that incredibly well.
Earlier this year Nilsson was featured in the music video for Mike WiLL Made-It’s hit song “Perfect Pint” featuring Kendrick Lamar, Gucci Mane, and Rae Sremmurd. In the video, which was released in May and has already garnered nearly 15 million views on YouTube, Nilsson comes onto the scene as a gargantuan model whose legs the rappers driving a car between as she towers over the desert. Later on in the video fans will see Nilsson fly across the screen riding a rocket through the air, a trippy video to say the least.
Nilsson recalls, “The first music video I was a part of was actually a Chris Brown music video for the song ‘Bitches N Marijuana.’ I grew up idolizing Chris so the thought of actually being wanted for his video felt a little crazy at first.”
In addition to “Bitches N Marijuana Feat. ScHoolboy Q,” a 2015 collaboration between Brown and Tyga that earned over 20 million YouTube views, Nilsson has been featured in a number of Grammy Award winning artist Chris Brown’s other music videos, such as those for the hit songs “Grass Ain’t Greener,” which garnered more than 60 million views on YouTube, as well as Gucci Mane’s 2017 hit “Tone it Down” featuring Brown.
While Nilsson, who attended The Ballet Academy, one of Sweden’s most prestigious dance schools, has definitely made an impact with her featured performances in several hit music videos, her performances in films such as the startling horror flick Darkest Decision prove her strong capacity as an leading lady on film.
In Darkest Decision, which was chosen as an Official Selection of the Northern Frights Festival, Nilsson gives a riveting performance in the starring role of Cara Fox. Directed by Derek Quick (Fist Full of Glove, Lovisa, Set Ettiquette), Darkest Decision is a zombie film that follows a group of friends running for their lives, with Nilsson’s character Cara serving as the hero of the movie.
After being chased down by a bevy of bloodthirsty zombies, Cara, Darren and Jay lock themselves indoors, escaping in the knick of time. However, when Cara realizes Darren, played by Shane Liburd, has been infected, she has to make the pragmatic, but cold decision to kill him on the spot before he turns.
In Darkest Decision actress Josefin Nilsson nails her mark as the film’s fierce female hero, while also imbuing her character with just enough fear to make the situation believably terrifying. In the film Nilsson stars alongside Asians on Film Festival Winter Award winner Daniel Joo (Art of Deception, Fortune 500 Man), Diego T. Kuri (Life as a Mermaid, Golden State), and Mari Ørstavik (Killing Time in America, A Dolls House).
About working on the film, Nilsson says, “It was really a great experience being a part of this project. It was a great team and the other lead Daniel Joo is such a great actor, I was blessed to work next to him on this film.”
Before making her way to Hollywood several years ago, actress Josefin Nilsson took to the screen in Sweden where she took on numerous critical roles in high profile productions such as the family romance film Eve & Adam: Four Birthdays & a Fiasco directed by two-time Guldbagge Award winner Catti Edfeldt, the International Emmy Award nominated series Laura Trenter- Fire! aka Det Brinner, and the dramatic thriller Medicinmannen.
Up next for the actress is the film 7 Days a Kingpin, which is slated to begin filming later this year and will be directed by Paul Bunch (Waiting for Michelle, Crossing the Line, Thy Will Be Done).
Nilsson says, “I am super excited for the feature film ’7 Days as a Kingpin.’ I will be playing one of the leads and it will be great to be a part of such a big production. Daveigh Chase, known for ‘Donnie Darko,’ is starring in it and big producers like Scott Reid and John Ryan Jr. are a part of it.”
While most creatives take many years to find their true calling and turn it into a career, often times there are hints during childhood as to the direction their artistry will later take, and London-based costume designer Jemima Penny is no exception.
Penny recalls, “I was always drawn to costumes. As a little girl my favorite game was ‘dressing up.’ I never wanted bought costumes, I’d always make them up myself.”
Over the past decade Penny has become known internationally for her work as the costume designer on a wide range of projects, including films such as the popular Nick Cave documentary 20,000 Days on Earth, which was nominated for a prestigious BAFTA Film Award for Best Documentary in 2015, the dramatic mystery film In The Dark Half starring Jessica Barden from the Golden Globe nominated series Penny Dreadful, the comedy film Where Have I Been All Your Life? with two-time Primetime Emmy Award winner James Corden (Into the Woods), and many more.
“I was always fascinated by how people define themselves and send messages to wider society about who they are through the way they dress. So I naturally gravitate towards character work over trend. And of course, storytelling is one of the most important and basic human needs. Its how we communicate and pass messages on to one another. So to be able to be part of this industry is a wonderful thing,” explains Penny about what led her to pursue her career as a costume designer.
Penny recently wrapped production on multi-award winning director Jonathan Hopkins’ (Goodbye Mr. Snuggles) upcoming horror film Slumber, which is slated to be released later this year and stars Maggie Q (Live Free or Die Hard, Mission: Impossible III), Will Kemp (Reign, Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce) and Sylvester McCoy (Sense8, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey).
The film follows Alice, played by Maggie Q, a rationally minded sleep doctor who, after finding no plausible scientific explanation for the terror an entire family of clients faces while they’re asleep, is forced to abandon reason and accept the existence of the ‘Night Hag.’ In Slumber, we realize that this supposed mythical creature who paralyzes her victims while they’re asleep, one who’s been referenced and written about by practically every culture since the beginning of time, may not be as mythical as everyone believes.
For the upcoming film costume designer Jemima Penny has done a thoroughly brilliant job of representing the changing mental states of the characters into their wardrobe, which in the case of this film in particular, changes drastically over the course of the film, at least for some. One of the most drastic visual changes in wardrobe style that audiences will immediately notice is that of Q’s character Alice.
“Alice, the main character is a rational, scientific person who likes to have total control over every element of her life. She is ordered and methodical. However over the course of the film she starts to unravel as the Night Hag becomes more real to her,” explains Penny.
“We used her costumes to help depict this journey. At the beginning of the film she is very put together. Her clothing reflects her character– buttoned up, stylish, sleek, conservative and coordinated… As the film progresses and Alice’s mental state deteriorates we gravitate to more casual, rougher looks– jeans, boots and tees… and the colour palette becomes more earthy and darker.”
The reason Penny has become such a recognizable and sought after costume designer in the industry is due to more than just her skilled abilities as a designer and seamstress. At the end of the day her success can be attributed to the rare and unique way that she gets inside the head of each character she designs for… it’s the methodical way that she breaks down their personality, changing emotions and the outer circumstances that they can’t control to design their wardrobe scene by scene that makes her such a powerful force in her field.
Slumber star Maggie Q says, “Jemima is one of my favorite designers. Not only does she have an incredible sense of style, that is evident in all her work no matter what the brief, but she is totally dedicated to getting the costumes right for the piece, which, for an actor, is such an essential part of being able to fully become immersed in a role.”
Bringing such talent to the table, it is not at all surprising that Slumber is not Jemima Penny’s first time working as a costume designer on one of Jonathan Hopkins’ films. Earlier on in her career she served as the costume designer on his comedy film Minimus, which earned the Festival Award from the 2013 Chicago Comedy Festival. The genres alone reveal the polar opposite nature of the previous project compared to their most recent collaboration, but clearly Penny’s talent as a costume designer proves that her skill exceeds the limitation of any particular genre– or medium for that matter.
“Johnny and I have worked together for a long time. We started making TV commercials together nearly 10 years ago and have built a solid understanding of each other’s work. So after an initial meeting Johnny will ask me to develop designs for the piece and we have a very collaborative process… he is always open to new ideas and trusts in the rest of his creative team to bring valuable input to the project,” says Penny about working with director Jonathan Hopkins.
In addition to making a strong impact as a costume designer in the world of film, Penny has also created a dazzling repertoire of work that includes music videos, such as Calvin Harris’ ‘Sweet Nothing’ feat. Florence Welch, which has over 200 million views on Youtube, as well as an overwhelming list of commercials for globally recognized brands such as Nike, Virgin Media, ITV’s The X Factor, the BBC, Cadbury, Dyson, Disney, Absolut Vodka and many more.
Up next for costume designer Jemima Penny is Primetime Emmy nominee Polly Draper’s (Thirtysomething, Demolition) film Stella’s Last Weekend starring Nat Wolff (Paper Towns, The Fault in Our Stars) and Alex Wolff (Coming Through the Rye, Patriots Day), as well as the upcoming film Farming, which is set in Great Britain in the 1970s and follows a Nigerian child who grows up in a white working class family and ultimately becomes the leader of a skinhead white supremacist gang.
About the upcoming film Farming, Penny says, “It’s a heart wrenching terrifying look at racism in the not too distant past and it should be a very powerful piece. It’s also a fantastic era for costume.”
When it comes to traversing some of life’s most trying and tragic situations, sometimes the quickest way to turn that frown upside down is through comedy. For men and women around the world, attending a good comedy show can be exactly what they need to escape their reality for a little while and press that much needed reset button when things become too overwhelming.
Watching a comedian get up on stage and reveal some of their darkest and most awkward moments with humour, someone like Israeli comic Ronen Tverya, can have a cathartic effect on an audience and give them the boost they need to face their own problems from a renewed, light-hearted perspective.
The world can be a pretty rough place. Often times what makes good comedy so powerful is the fact that it comes from truth, that’s why audiences are able to relate to it. Some of the best comics have experienced the darker sides of life, and these experiences have fuelled their routines and their jokes, and Ronen Tverya is no exception.
The youngest of three siblings, Ronen grew up in Holon, Israel where his family’s economic situation was not always comfortable. Having parents who immigrated to Israel from Persia back in 1948 where they faced a unique set of circumstances and struggles, provided Ronen with an unconventional upbringing that has lent itself to the brilliant comedy routine he brings to the stage today.
In spite of the challenges Ronen managed to find the bright side of coin from an early age, and today he credits those challenges as integral to the positive and humorous outlook that guides his life and career on stage.
He says, “Honestly I thank god for the [economic difficulties] because that made me realize a lot of important things in life… like enjoying the small things you have and looking at the glass half full.”
As a child in Israel, Ronen was the one his peers turned for the jokes. It wasn’t until the age of 17 that Ronen finally took his comedy skills to the stage. That fateful night on stage back home in Holon set Ronen off on his rightful path, and he hasn’t turned back since.
He recalls, “It was an amazing feeling performing in front of people, of course it was scary at the beginning but after a few minutes when the adrenaline started floated in my veins. The feeling was incredible.”
Using his own life situations to create comedy routines that center on marriage, divorce, dating, living in America versus Israel and many more topics that pique the interest of audiences, Ronen has a unique way of helping his audience forget about their personal woes.
About what drives his career as a comedian and why he feels it’s important, Ronen explains, “First of all this world is stressful enough with all sorts of issues. I think comedy is a great opportunity for people to forget their problems, change their mood and the most important thing is that the comedian can give the audience a different perspective on certain subjects, some of them are taboos that you can only hear in comedy.”
Early on in his career Ronen was sought after to be a featured comedian on the bill of major comedy showcases across Israel such as the Tzavta Theater “Idea to Performance” show, “The improv show” at Anat Barzilay Academy, Comedians Ltd., and many more. Performing at some of Tel Aviv’s hottest comedy clubs such as Camel Comedy Club and Stand up Factory, his name quickly became synonymous with laughter to comedy fans across the country.
Yoni Lahav, who produced the Tsavata Theatre show, explains “Ronen is an amazing person to work with. He is a very positive and funny guy and he is very professional. I think his drive and motivation keeps him up, when he is on stage he radiates a lot of fun and delivers it to the audience. He is very talented performer.”
Ronen’s ability to bring a smile and a laugh to his audience is not reserved to his fans in Israel alone though. Recently he has been invited to test out his routine at some of the biggest comedy clubs across the states, including NYC’s Greenwich Village Comedy Club, Seattle’s popular Laughs Comedy Club and Comedy Underground, the Improv Comedy Club in Hollywood, San Francisco’s Brainwash café and more. With a unique approach to comedy, an accent that American’s find hilarious, and a diverse range of personal life situations to pull material from, such has his recent divorce, Ronen has also become a hit with comedy fans in the states.
It takes a uniquely talented artist to take a film’s scripted story off the page and translate it into the shot by shot visual language that moves viewers. Many will try, but only a small portion will ever truly succeed.
Over the past seven years cinematographer Yan Rymsha has proven himself to be one of those rare and diversely talented visionaries who’s able to authentically capture a script’s story and paint it visually on the screen through his camera lens. No matter how opposite the previous project is from the next, Rymsha’s keen understanding of film, vast skill as a cinematographer and his ability to connect and communicate with those he works with have ensured that he nail the director’s vision every time.
Last year Rymsha earned the prestigious Artistic Vision Award for Best Cinematography from the Santa Monica Film Festival for his mesmerizing work on Ibrahim Nada’s film “Zaar,” a dramatic thriller that did exceptionally well on the film festival circuit taking home several awards from the Cleveland International Film Festival and San Antonio Film Festival as well.
For Rymsha, who hails from Saint Petersburg, Russia, the past two years have been riddled with accolade after accolade leading his name to become more and more well-known across the United States. In 2016 Rymsha was nominated for the Indie Gathering Award for Best Cinematography from the Indie Gathering International Film Festival for his work as the cinematographer on Vasily Chuprina’s dramatic crime film “The Rat,” yet another one of Rymsha’s projects that was highlighted by film festivals across the states.
“The Rat” director Vasily Chuprina, who’s earned countless awards including the Platinum Award from WorldFest Houston for the film “The Boy By The Sea,” explains, “Some directors don’t get too involved with the cinematography process and prefer to focus on the story and performance– I’m that type of director… and that is why I work with Yan Rymsha… because I trust his vision and I know that he understands my vision.”
Last year Rymsha was the cinematographer on the film “Plaything,” a dramatic musical directed by Yufei Qiao (“The Sadness Shop”), which earned the four awards from the 2017 California Women’s Film Festival, as well as the Award of Merit from The IndieFest Film Awards.
As a musical, the film was starkly different from anything Rymsha had worked on prior, yet his visual skill behind the lens shone through clearly and his work proved to be tantamount to the overall success of the film. The integral nature of Rymsha’s work on “Plaything” was singled out and praised within the industry earlier this year when he was awarded the Master of the Craft Award for Best Cinematography from the Southern Shorts Awards for his work.
Starring Marianne Bourg (“Awkward,” “Sketchy”), Gabriel Burrafato (“RoboCop,” “Street Legal”) and Samantha Sutliff (“The Leslie”) “Plaything” tells a story of a woman trapped in a dangerous polygamous relationship. Desperate to fight for her love, she engages in the ancient Chinese game known as Mahjong with the other women serving as her opponents, but when she finds out what’s really hidden behind the game, the truth may be too painful to face.
“From the first moment I fell in love with this project. It was period piece, it was challenging and it had an awesome storyline,” recalls Rymsha. “For this project I paid more attention to lighting. Me and my gaffer spent quite a lot of time deciding on the lighting style. Since it was a period piece, Yufei wanted to have an antique, vintage feeling.”
Influenced by the work of master painters such as Jan Vermeer and Hans Holbein Younger, Rymsha designed the lighting to reflect a visual warmth that both softened the skin tones of the actors and helped transport viewers into a world set in the distant past.
While Rymsha’s versatility behind the camera and his unparalleled knowledge of how to use certain angles to create a desired feeling within the audience have been a powerful tool in his work, his use of lighting has been equally as important to each and every film he’s shot to date.
Earlier on in his career Rymsha was the cinematographer on the dramatic sci-fi film “Sandbox” from Latvian director Gleb Kiselov (“Dollar for a Thought”), which earned Gleb a Best Director Award nomination at the Largo Film Awards and was also chosen as an Official Selection of the Short Stop International Film Festival. Starring Andre McQueen (“It’s Temporary,” “LaLa Land Sketch”), Al Gerschutz (“Nightcomer,” “Dirty South”) and Masha Malinina (“The Labyrinth,” “Fresh Off the Boat”), the film follows Jack (McQueen) a man who wakes up in the middle of nowhere with complete amnesia. As he sets off scouting the mysterious place, he encounters Judas (Gerschutz) who triggers Jack’s memory sending him back to a specific day in his life when he nearly lost his daughter.
For the film Rymsha was essentially tasked with creating two worlds, that of Jack’s present experience and the one where his past memory unfolds. In order to represent the strangeness of the present world Jack wakes up in, Rymsha chose to use neutral density filters, which created an infrared appearance that drives the feeling of being stuck in purgatory and the hopelessness Jack experiences. When it came to the world of Jack’s memories however, all the scenes were shot with vibrant color, which perfectly represented the nature of his past being full of life on a visual level.
His strategic choices as the cinematographer of the film were invaluable in painting the film’s story visually. Once again, Rymsha nailed the visual mark,
It’s easy to see from the montage of his work below why he has earned such staggering acclaim for his work internationally. He is a proverbial genius when it comes to crafting the perfect lighting, and knowing precisely what angles and camera movements will best support the story.
With nearly 30 films already under his belt, including the upcoming film “Battle Fields” from CineRockom International Film Festival Platinum Award winner Anouar H. Smaine, several prestigious awards and an unparalleled capacity for taking on diverse projects, Yan Rymsha is one cinematographer audiences across the states will assuredly being seeing a whole lot more from for years to come.
Originally from Hanover, Germany, costumer Lisa Sass is one of the key figures who works tirelessly behind the scenes on film and television productions to ensure that all the actors on screen visually represent their characters down to the most minute detail.
Over the past five years Sass’s vast skill set as a costumer have landed her leading roles on a huge range of high profile productions including the Oscar Award nominated films Star Trek Beyond and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the Golden Globe nominated film Furious 7 starring Vin Diesel (xXx) and the feature film War Machine starring Oscar Award winner Brad Pitt (World War Z), which was released last month.
While it hasn’t taken her long to establish a reputation that is strong enough to be sought out by some of the biggest film productions in the world, she definitely paid her dues along the way. The path to becoming a costumer for film and TV was something that actually began for Sass during childhood.
She explains, “I’ve always been a big fan of movies and TV series. I started drawing when I was about 4 years old, started copying cartoon and comic characters at some point and went to more realistic drawings from there. I made up stories and started creating my own characters and their clothes. Going into costume design combined my passion for film and creating characters.”
Sass’ role as a costumer is one that starts long before the cameras begin rolling and finishes long after the director says ‘that’s a wrap.’ While the costume designer ultimately decides what costume each character wears on screen, it’s the costumer’s job to breakdown the script scene by scene and create a look-book for every single character documenting the multitude of costumes they wear over the course of a production. Sass then goes to work compiling a massive wardrobe collection to fit the main characters, as well as everything worn by the background talent. But her job definitely doesn’t end there, if it did, things would be far too easy.
In addition to altering the costumes to fit each cast member perfectly, she is the person who makes sure her department has everything they need to keep the cast comfortable, which can be include everything from a wet suit to be worn under the clothing if the character falls into a cold lake during a scene to heat tech clothing to keep the cast member warm when shooting in frigid temperatures. She is also responsible for aging the costumes and adding desired effects depending what happens to the character in a specific scene and how that carries over into their wardrobe, and much more.
Sass first immersed herself in the industry in 2010 when she joined the the wardrobe department of the hit series Tatort, which has won over 100 awards since it first began in the 1970s and is still airing today! After learning the ropes from seasoned costume designer and German Television Academy Award winner Monika Hinz on the series Tatort, Sass was ready to begin working on her own as a lead costumer.
Immediately after completing her bachelor’s degree in costume design she landed a spot as a costumer on the set of the 26-episode comedy series In Your Dreams, an Australian/German co-production. One of Sass’s major roles once a production begins shooting is monitoring the continuity of each character’s costume throughout every scene, a skill she quickly acquired thanks to the grueling attention to detail required by In Your Dreams.
She recalls, “We were shooting all episodes out of order so it was essential, that you were fit in keeping the continuity of the costumes. A TV series usually shoots a lot more scenes in a day than you would on a film because of time pressure so we sometimes shot 10 scenes out of 10 different episodes a day which means you have to change the casts costumes after every scene and have to make sure it is worn exactly like the scene before or after one that you might have shot a month ago or longer.”
Sass’s early work on the series In Your Dreams, although demanding, served as excellent preparation for the many jobs that flowed in subsequently after, such as the German crimes series Monaco 110 starring Bavarian TV Award winner Monika Baumgartner (The Nasty Girl), the Jupiter Award nominated romcom film Vaterfreuden, the crime film Die reichen Leichen. Ein Starnbergkrimi directed by 10-time Adolf Grimme Award winner Dominik Graf (The Invincibles) and the crime series SOKO 5113 starring Gerd Silberbauer.
In Your Dreams director Ralph Strasser says, “We had quite a large cast on the series, and it was imperative that they always looked immaculate on camera, so the demands on Lisa and her colleagues were often quite intense. The ﬁlm set is a place where tensions frequently run high, but Lisa was always a friendly and good natured presence, doing what was required calmly and eﬃciently. Making ‘In Your Dreams’ was a very special experience in my career, largely due to the pleasure of sharing it with people like Lisa.”
After making a name for herself in the German film and television industry, Lisa Sass moved to Dubai where she began costuming for even bigger projects. There she was tapped as a lead costumer on the hit films Furious 7, Star Trek Beyond, Star Wars; The Force Awakens and War Machine.
Besides her unrivaled creativity, attention to detail and extensive wardrobe knowledge, one thing that has made Sass such a sought after costumer in the film industry internationally is the fact that costume designers can trust her to be prepared for any situation, and oftentimes that means having items on hand (that aren’t in the script) to keep the cast comfortable.
“It is not only important to dress the cast, it is also important to maintain comfort for the cast. There’s a lot of empathy and psychology at play but also simple things like providing warming jackets, heating insoles, warm blankets in between takes, umbrellas for rain or sun or fans on shoots in the desert. If the actors are happy, every shoot runs more smoothly and that can even mean a change of shoes in between takes or for a close up where you don’t see the difference,” explains Sass.
“This is all part of the job as a costumer behind the scenes for the things that you will not see on screen but is very important for the progress of the shoot.”
Aside from her key contributions to countless film and television productions, Sass has also been tapped to apply her skill as costumer on a plethora of major commercials for companies such as Nike, Nissan, Ultra Tech Cement, Lamborghini and others.
Earlier this year she was the costumer on the“What will they say about you?” commercial for Nike Middle East, which was geared towards women in the Middle East and created quite a buzz. The powerful and controversial commercial featured women athletes running through the streets, playing sports and being the epitome of strength, all the while wearing traditional Hijabs.
As someone who has made it to the top of the industry as an internationally sought after costumer, Sass is one person aspiring costumers should look to for advice if they are seriously considering making this a career.
Sass says, “The job needs a lot of empathy to work at your best in a team, adapt to the costume designer’s visions and be able to work with different people and personalities constantly. You have to be able to work well under pressure and think quickly on your feet and have a keen eye for details.”
For the past five years cinematographer Andrea Gonzalez Mereles has been using her unparalleled skill behind the lens to create captivating visual stories for a plethora of films and television series.
Originally from Mexico City, Mereles has made a name for herself both at home, as well as in the U.S., due to her powerful work as the cinematographer behind films such as Roberto Escamilla’s (The One Who Couldn’t Love, Passion and Power) 2016 drama Changes, Bo-You Niou’s (Manners of Dying) drama The 12th Stare starring Christine Kellogg-Darrin (Shameless, The Neighbours)and many more.
Mereles recently wrapped production on Camilo Collazos’ riveting 2017 drama Flesh & Blood starring multi-award winning actor Jorge A. Jimenez (Hermoso Silencio, Machete Kills), L.J. Batinas (Hawaii Five-O, Black Jesus) and Mariana Novak (Rose Colored, The Moleskin Diary).
Flesh & Blood revolves largely around the life of Rodrigo, played by Jimenez, an inmate who makes a deal to testify against a dangerous prisoner named Luis in exchange for early release via deportation.
While the deal includes an offer of witness protection for Rodrigo’s estranged daughter Laura, as she would most likely be targeted after Luis and his men on the outside find out what her father’s done, she’s far from a willing participant. Her reluctance puts Rodrigo in a tricky situation where he must try to convince a daughter he barely knows to give up her normal life in order to save them both before Luis finds out the extent of Rodrigo’s betrayal.
As the cinematographer of the film, Mereles’ brilliant use of lighting, camera placement and methodical lens choices were tantamount to drawing audiences into the film and driving home the emotional aspects of Rodrigo’s story.
“We decided that we wanted the film to feel very personal and close to Rodrigo. This was his story and we were determined to capture this in the numerous visual aspects,” explains Mereles.
“Given that this was Rodrigo’s story I wanted the spectator to feel he was seeing the world through his eyes. This required a careful planning around camera placement, deliberated camera movement motivated by the main character’s internal and external motion and the use of anamorphic lenses.”
Through her lighting choices alone it’s easy to see that Mereles is an incredibly skilled cinematographer who knows exactly how to create a visual story that touches viewers on multiple levels and heightens the impact of the narrative unfolding on the screen. Using darker lighting to portray the gloomy nature of Rodrigo’s life in prison, and then using natural sunlight to brighten up the scenes and visually express the hope Rodrigo feels where his daughter Laura appears, Mereles juxtaposition of light and dark within the film emphasizes the dichotomy between Rodrigo’s current experience and the possibility of a brighter future.
“[Andrea’s] acute sensibilities with the film medium facilitate the understanding of the point of view and solidify the lives of the characters by enhancing the atmosphere around their universe or emphasizing their intentions,” explains Flesh & Blood director Camilo Collazos.
“She is a DP who is always prepared and is very accurate when reading the intentions of the voice guiding the storytelling. Her vision carries a charismatic, distinctive signature that allows the viewer to be in with the story and its world.”
The film, which premiered at the Mexican Embassy in Los Angeles as part of the Mexican Filmmakers Showcase on July 20th, 2017,was shot primarily at the Sybil Brand Institute in Los Angeles, the same location used for other hits films such as Blow, 21 Grams, Legally Blonde and Malcolm X.
Mereles, whose name was already well-known back home in Mexico by the time she moved to the U.S., has made extraordinary strides in Hollywood over the last few years thanks to her inimitable skill behind the lens and her unique creative vision. While she knew early on in life that she would go on to work in the film industry, what sparked her career as a cinematographer was when she was on set for the first time working as a camera assistant.
“I knew I wanted to be a filmmaker. My intention was to become a director and a screenwriter, but the first time I was on a movie set I realized that what I wanted to tell a story visually,” explains Mereles.
“For me cinematography means telling stories as a whole but also with every image. I’m passionate about constructing stories through lighting, composition and movement and creating emotions within the spectator. Cinematography is a journey I started a long time ago. It is a journey to tell stories but it’s also a journey to find answers; trying to understand what it means to be human.”
After the firm realization that cinematography was the one field that would fulfill her creative passions and utilize her wide range of talents, Mereles went to work honing her skills in the artform at some of the world’s most prestigious schools. Shortly after completing Maine Media Workshops’ cinematography residency, Mereles went on to complete her master’s degree in cinematography at the American Film Institute, a highly competitive conservatory program that boasts an impressive alumni list including filmmakers such as three-time Oscar nominee John Cassavetes, four-time Golden Globe Award nominee David Lynch, Oscar nominee Darren Aronofsky and many more household names. In 2014 Mereles was selected as a Fullbright Scholar, an international merit-based scholarship program that gives a limited number of individuals the opportunity to study abroad.
While Mereles’ training definitely boosted her technical skill as a cinematographer, it’s her innate creative vision that has led her to become a sought after figure in her field internationally.
Another one of Mereles notable film works as a cinematographer in 2017 wasmulti-award winning director Christopher de las Alas’ (For Ofelia, Coffee Run) adventure film Great Again, whichpremiered during the LA Film Festival’s Project Involve Showcase. Starring Jonah Aimz (Awaken, Instacurity), Tasha Dixon (NCIS, Guiding Light) and Jeff Hoffmaster (True Blood, I’m With the Band), Great Again follows Frank (Jeff Hoffmaster), a homeless main on a mission for vengeance against a group of people who, immersed in their own selfish problems, refuse to buy him a bottle of mouthwash at a local convenience store. After being mocked and pushed to the brink, Frank decides to play a little prank on those who snuffed him by announcing that he won the lottery and is ready to share his winning with them; but when they find out he’s lying, they don’t take it lightly.
Through her use of specific angles, shot pacing and lighting, Mereles once again nailed the mark with her seasoned skill as the cinematographer of the film to draw viewers into the emotional aspects of the main character’s journey.
She explains, “My main goal was to visually represent the hecticness that Frank undergoes after lying about winning the lottery. The director wanted to visually make a difference between the before and after of the winning of the lottery. To achieve this, the moment when Frank wins the lottery was shot using a zolly, which is a dolly in combination with a zoom. The before was characterized by a static camera and the after with hectic zooms ins, pans and handheld camera.”
As a cinematographer, Andrea Gonzalez Mereles has carved out a prominent position for herself internationally as an artist behind the lens whose creative capacity and keen vision have given way to both the commercial success and emotional impact of a wide range of films. Up next for Mereles is the thriller film Plain Fiction directed by Cyrus Duff, which is due out in 2018.
International Entertainment, and the Talents that Leave us Buzzing….