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Young Ambition Leads to International Success for Duarte ‘Duda’ Figueira

Duarte 'Duda' Figueira
Production Coordinator Duarte ‘Duda’ Figueira

Whether it’s being in the right place at the right time, unceasing ambition and unwillingness to slow down after hearing a dreaded ‘no,’ or a combination of the two, some people discover their dreams and go to work paving the way for them to come true much earlier than most of the population.

Like the inspirational and semi-autobiographical story Cameron Crowe brought to life in the Oscar Award winning film Almost Famous, which follows a talented teenage journalist who joins the band Stillwater on tour in the 70s and covers the journey for Rolling Stone, music industry aficionado Duarte ‘Duda’ Figueira experienced a similar rise to success back home in Portugal at the ripe age of 16.

Today Duda, as he is known affectionately throughout the industry, is known for his impressive achievements as a production coordinator and major force behind some of Portugal’s best known artists such as reggae/dance hall singer Richie Campbell, the rapper Regula and producer Lhast, to name a few.

Duda, who is now 26, took a leap of faith in his early teens and reached out to Lisbon’s leading reggae promoter at the time, Fernando Cabral, with an e-mail pitch that would come to change his life forever. Duda knew the market for reggae music in Portugal was huge, but he felt that the information about reggae events was not reaching the country’s fans as effectively as it should– so he offered himself up as a flyer boy. He was immediately given a one-time job postering the cities with flyers about an upcoming concert featuring the bands No Joke Sound, Stepacide, and the one and only Gregory Isaacs who sadly passed away in 2010.

“My mom drove me there. I got a chance to meet [Cabral] and the rest of the partners, and I was given a bunch of flyers and posters, and a guarantee of having a free ticket for the show. And that was great!,” recalls Duda.

The following week what began as a one-time job turned into much more when, fuelled by a rare level of confidence for someone his age, Duda decided to pop over to Cabral’s office to thank him for the ticket, have a chat about music, and ultimately offer his services on the public relations side of the business. There he was introduced to the members of the band No Joke Sound, who were on site recording a live set.

“As an aspiring Selector and MC, bumping into them was kind of a ‘star-struck’ moment,” admits Duda. “The moment I walked in Fernando said to them ‘this is the kid that sent the email!.’ They were surprised.”

The band members’ understandable surprise at seeing a kid so young walk nonchalantly into the country’s leading music promotion agency with big ideas of how they could better reach their target audience quickly faded once Duda began to speak about the music industry and what fans were looking for, but not necessarily getting. Duda exchanged contacts with No Joke Sound member Bernardo “Ben” Miranda, who subsequently invited him to come along the following week to the No Mercy Soundclash, Portugal’s first ever reggae soundclash event.

“I met Ben’s cousin, Gonçalo Leitão, also known as ‘Krpan.’ After the event, we went to Ben’s house, and inside of his kitchen, Ben looked at both of us and said: ‘You and you! You are going to have a sound system together.’ And the rest is history… From that week until today, Ben has been my ultimate mentor. He was the one who pushed me to have a career in music,” Duda recalls fondly.

Fyah Box Sound
Krpan (left), Duda and Lhast (right) of Fyah Box Sound

At only 17 Duda, along with Ben’s cousin Krpan, created Fyah Box Sound, a reggae/dancehall sound system, which is a style of music collective that originated in Jamaica and includes a DJ,  MC and engineer. Duda geniously developed the “Triple Threat” concept for Fyah Box, a series of weekly videos that include everything from artists freestyling to debut song releases. Upon inception the concept helped make Fyah Box a huge success in Portugal, and it has since become a leading source of music for reggae and dancehall fans across the world.

Building Fyah Box Sound up from the ground floor, Duda created a recognizable name for the collective by bringing in world-renowned artists such as Anthony B, Ikaya, Richie Campbell, Regula, Short Size, Blasph, Dillaz, Xeg, JLZ, Kristoman, DJ Nelassassin and several others to collaborate. What started as a reggae/dance hall collective quickly turned into a cross-cultural music platform thanks to Duda’s decision to open the collective to other styles of music such as  R&B, rap, and hip hop.

Now, a decade later, Duda has definitely carved out a prominent position in Portugal’s music scene as a highly sought after production coordinator. Considering the extent of what he does for the artists and projects he oversees, which includes everything from working as a booking agent, manager, fashion advisor and lead A&R man, Duda’s production coordinator title is the only one that fits, as he coordinates literally everything that goes into both the planning of a production and the artist’s overall career.

A year after starting Fyah Box Sound, Duda began working as the production coordinator for Portuguese artist Richie Campbell, who started the band Stepacide and was also a member of No Joke Sound prior to going solo. With Duda production coordinating everything from planning releases, coordinating events, deciding on singles and album art, and crafting his image and musical approach, Campbell has been met with incredible international success as a solo artist.

Richie Campbell’s manager Bernardo “Ben” Miranda explains, “Duarte is someone we know we can always count on for both the creative and strategic process as well as the execution. Over the past 9 years that we’ve worked together it was a joy to see him grow into the person and the professional he is today. His ambition, creativity, commitment, loyalty and organization make him one of the most desirable professionals in the Portuguese music industry.”

Duarte 'Duda' Figueira
Duarte ‘Duda’ Figueira (left) and Richie Campbell (right) in Berlin

As Campbell’s A&R and production coordinator, Duda has played a major role in the production and release of each of the artist’s albums since 2010, including “My Path,” “Focused,” and “In the 876,” as well as Campbell’s 2010 EP “Richie Campbell” and the album and accompanying DVD “Live at Campo Pequeno.” Fans across Portugal went wild upon the release of Campbell’s 2015 album “In the 876,” which quickly topped charts and became No. 1 on the digital store sales chart within a few hours of its release– something that hadn’t been seen in the country since the release of Beyonce’s 2013 self-titled album.

Over the years Duda has also production coordinated a slew of high-profile events featuring Campbell, such as Campo Pequeno 2011 and 2013, Sumol Summer Fest 2012, which pulled in 25,000 people, as well as Sudoeste 2013 and Festival do Crato 2013, which each had more than 50,000 people attend– astronomically large numbers for Portugal!

Duarte ‘Duda’ Figueira

In 2016 Duda was the A&R man on Campbell’s hit song “Do You No Wrong,” which has garnered over 10 million views on YouTube, and earned a Gold and Platinum Award on the Portuguese market. A major hit in Portugal, “Do You No Wrong” was produced by Lhast, who Duda also works with as a production coordinator. Duda also coordinated the release of the artist’s 2017 single “Heaven,” as well as the music video, which has garnered more than two million views since being release at the tail end of April.

Campbell says, “What I appreciate the most about working with Duda is his versatility as a career advisor/manager and the way he can balance a deep understand of the current music business while never forgetting that an artist needs to be in touch with his audience. This enables him to provide great input on how an artist should work the business aspect of his career without ever jeopardizing the relationship with his fans.”

In 2014 Duda formed Bridgetown Talent Agency with Bernardo Miranda, Afonso Ferreira and Richie Campbell. Today Bridgetown Talent Agency, which has become one of the most successful booking agencies in Portugal, represents a wide range of artists including Dengaz, Mishlawi, Curt Davis, Plutonio, DJ Dadda and the comedians Luís Franco-Bastos and Pedro Teixeira da Mota.

In 2015 Duda also started DGF Agency, an imprint agency that handles counseling, A&R, management, releases, PR and promotions for its artists. Some of the major artists Duda oversees as a production coordinator through DGF include Lhast, Karetus, Krativ and Andre Melo. He is also working as a lead production coordinator and A&R man at Rebeleon Entertainment where he is handling the release of several upcoming albums, EPs and a few highly anticipated singles for artists such as La Santa Cecilia, Gloria Trevi, Alejandra Guzman, Mon Laferte, and Enjambre.

A well-known name throughout the U.S. music industry, Rebeleon Entertainment partnered with BMI last year to produce the 6th Annual ‘Los Producers’ event in Las Vegas during the Grammy Awards, which included performances from Latin Grammy nominees and music from other trendsetters in the Latin music industry.

After 10 years in the industry Duarte ‘Duda’ Figueira has not only managed to rise to the top of the music industry in Portugal and make his name known across the world, but he continues to bring the same level of fervor and adept skill to every project he takes on.

In the end Duda says, “I would love to look back to my career and feel proud of the work that I have put in, the results of it, and the impression that it had on society. Hopefully someone can feel inspired to create more and take some energy out of my experiences.”

 

Fiercely Talented Producer Lil’ Lyss On the Hip-Hop Radar

Music Producer Diana D. aka Lil' Lyss
Music Producer Diana D. aka Lil’ Lyss

While there’s no shortage of female vocalists and performers in the mainstream music scene, a major gender gap definitely exists between men and women working behind the scenes in the music industry with women fulfilling far fewer producer and engineering roles than men.

In a 2014 article published by The FADER, Ruth Saxelby wrote that less than 5% of music producers and engineers are women. While the number of women in the male-dominated industry remains unjustifiably small, there definitely are some talented female music producers making their name known in the scene, even if they’ve had to work a little harder to do it.

Diana D., better known as Lil’ Lyss, is one of the fiercely talented female music producers who’s made her way to the forefront of the industry, and she needs to be on your radar. Holding producing credits on several hit tracks for American rapper Ca$his, over the last few years Lil’ Lyss has become one incredibly sought after music producer, especially in the rap and hip-hop scene.

Originally from Bulgaria, Lil’ Lyss was instantly drawn to music during childhood, but it wasn’t until she heard 50 Cent’s “In Da Club” produced by Dr. Dre as a teenager that she realized she wanted to produce music.

She explains, “That opened my eyes for music. It was so simple and so great at the same time, then I thought I could do this too. I downloaded a bunch of programs and started messing with them and with time I taught myself to sound like I sound now.”

It’s been 14 years since the release of “In Da Club,” and Lil’ Lyss, now 27, has definitely utilized that time wisely. She spent those early years mastering the vast plethora of software necessary to be competitive in modern music and teaching herself the ins and outs of producing; and what she’s accomplished since is nothing short of amazing. Her unique beginning, flawless style and musical genius have definitely made her a rarity in the industry; and her drive to produce new and innovative tracks are what’s kept her ahead of the curve at every turn.

In 2013 Lil’ Lyss gained major industry credit when she was tapped by well-known Shady Records producer Rikanatti to come in as a producer on a few tracks for Ca$his’ second studio album The County Hound 2. How she landed that distinguished role as a producer on an album that features guest appearances from rap and hip-hop mainstays such as Crooked I, Obie Trice, Mistah F.A.B., Kuniva (D12), King Los, Boaz and more, is unique in itself– and it definitely proves that her skill is enough to catch the attention of the industry’s best.

She explains, “I am constantly looking for people to work with and that day I saw Rikanatti had tweeted that he was looking for producers to feature on Ca$his’ next album. I contacted him and sent him several examples of my work and he instantly responded with an offer. From the thousands who submitted music to him, I made the cut.”

And that was that. Lil’ Lyss landed her spot as a producer on the tracks “Imma Hustla” featuring Crooked I and Sullee J, and “Imma Hustla [W.C. Remix].” The hit single off The County Hound 2, “Imma Hustla” definitely thrust Lil’ Lyss’s skill as a music producer into the spotlight. Those in the rap game who didn’t know her name before definitely did after.

Undeniably one of the album’s standout tracks, “Imma Hustla [W.C. Remix],” which features Mistah F.A.B., Roccett, Crooked I and Goldie Gold, is hard, heavy and rhythmically energizing, which is due in no small part to the beats and overall musical backdrop that Lil’ Lyss masterfully created. It’s no secret that production is the foundation of any hip-hop song. The beats and tempo are the vehicle that allow the lyrics to flow, and Lil’ Lyss definitely nailed the production on both versions of “Imma Hustla.” It’s impossible not to nod your head to the song as it plays; and the way Lil’ Lyss creatively melds together the elements of gangster rap with energy amplifying cross fades and perfectly timed pauses throughout the track definitely deserves a nod as well. Her talent as a hip-hop producer is evident from the first few bars of the track, and the fact that she holds production credits on an album where four of the other 16 tracks were produced by 15-time Grammy Award winning rap icon Eminem doesn’t hurt her street cred either.

After producing two of the album’s most popular tracks, it’s not surprising that Rikanatti and Ca$his tapped Lil’ Lyss to come back to produce the track “A-Rod” on Ca$his’ 2015 album The County Hound 3.

The lead single off the album, “A-Rod” features New York heavy hitter Emilio Rojas. While it’s on the opposite end of the spectrum tempo-wise compared to the “Imma Hustla” tracks, with “A-Rod” boasting more of a low-key fluid vibe, the track is yet another hit under Lil’ Lyss’s belt as a producer.

“It was an honor and a challenge to work with Ca$his and Rikanatti, their talent is always very inspiring for me and their work ethic made me a better producer,” says Lil’ Lyss. “I created the music for the projects we did together, and Rikanatti adjusted the arrangements and mixed and mastered the whole album.”

While Lil’ Lyss’s reputation for producing epic beats has made her a highly sought after producer for rap and hip-hop artists, her skills are by no means limited to any single genre. Last year she released her first EDM/Trap track “Beast Race.” The dynamic, bass-heavy track generates an energizing, dancey vibe that will make you want to bob your head and get your booty shaking. “Beast Race” gained immediate traction with listeners through the internet with Crazy Pellas, Smash The Club, EDM Nation and other popular music outlets featuring the track on their website.

About what drives her to produce, Lil’ Lyss explains, “I love good music and I want to be a part of it. Especially now in the current state of music, I think the industry needs creativity more than ever. There are millions of people out there that crave the good music but all they get is mumble rap and 3 chord pop songs. I’m here for them!”

From producing hits for rap and hip-hop artists to creating tracks that strike a chord with EDM fans, Lil’ Lyss clearly has a stockpile of tricks up her sleeve, and the more music she produces the more we get to see just how dynamic a producer she really is. As long as we have creative female music producers like Lil’ Lyss who are driven to push the boundaries of the main stream, we can faithfully look forward to the direction rap and hip-hop music is going, while also opening the gates for more women to enter the field, because producing good music is not defined by gender, Lil’ Lyss is proof of that.

Up next for Lil’ Lyss is the upcoming album for The Marine Rapper, which she will be producing later this year. A 10-year US Marine Corps combat veteran, The Marine Rapper is an LA-based hip hop artist who’s created a recognizable name for himself by addressing military, civil and political issues through hip hop and rock music.

The Marine Rapper says, “I would like to work with Diana because she brings a unique production style that has not been introduced to modern music. I think with her worldly travels and various techniques she can bring something new to American music with a collaboration effort.”

Innovator Rosanna Peng’s Videography Inspires Creatives Across the Globe

Videographer Rosanna Peng
Videographer Rosanna Peng

Today videographer Rosanna Peng is known around the world for her remarkable ability to tell relevant and impactful stories through video. Her unparalleled creativity, the diverse nature of her work and her expertise in editing are a few of the things that have made Peng standout over the last few years, not to mention the high caliber of clients that have specifically sought her out to create visual content to showcase their brand in a way that grabs people’s attention.

Last year she created the videos for the launch of the J.Crew x New Balance 997 Butterscotch and 997 Cortado sneakers, edited EST Fest: The Documentary, which was featured on Trill HD and follows multi-award winning rapper Machine Gun Kelly at EST Fest and gives viewers a closer look into Kelly’s fan base, as well as created several video tutorials for the popular craft marketplace, ETSY, that teach users how to set up their own shop. On top of that Peng was tapped by Society 6 to shoot a series of photo stories that were featured on their website. Her work in 2016 alone has revealed her to be one videographer whose creative talent truly knows no bounds.

 

 

Still in her early 20s, Peng’s story is rather unique considering the level of international attention she has already received and the fact that she is primarily self taught. Originally from Vancouver, Canada, Rosanna Peng first discovered her innate talent and passion for telling stories through videos while taking an editing class back in high school, and from that point on she was hooked.  

“I was a shy girl and being able to express myself through videos was something I became addicted to. I couldn’t see myself doing anything else,” admits Peng.

In 2014, Peng was tapped as the lead videographer for FREE, a Toronto-based creator studio and digital agency built for modern creative entrepreneurs and progressive brands. The first videographer at the agency, Peng’s work with FREE gave her the chance to really begin exploring her skill as a videographer without boundaries.

She explains, “I experienced a lot of creative freedom, which was essential to the videographer I am today… I dedicated my weekends and evenings to producing content for the agency and I was oddly satisfied with that, knowing I was crafting my own style with every video that I made.”

Her work as FREE’s videographer put her in charge of creating and editing all of the video content for The Creator Class, a cutting-edge online channel designed by and for creators around the world that brings viewers innovative content centered around music, art, style, culture and adventure. A collaboration between FREE and Canon Canada, The Creator Class has been featured by publications and online platforms such as Booooooom, Fast Company, Highsnobiety, Hypebeast, It’s Nice That, Nowness and Vimeo, and has become a driving force in the social revolution of how users around the world approach creativity through photography and videography.

Rosanna Peng
Rosanna Peng shot by Mike Rodriguez

Peng says, “The Creator Class is a space for creatives to be inspired by one another, but also a platform for them to share their work with like-minded people. It is an important space for young creatives because they need to be reminded that even though there is an over-saturation of image consumption today, their vision and voice is still important.”

The videos Peng has created for The Creator Class over the last three years span the gamut in terms of subjects. From those that highlight the work of leading figures in the art and music scene, to the ‘Cheat Sheet’ segment of videos, which teach viewers how to use specific photography tools and achieve certain effects, Peng’s work has helped to both inspire and inform other creatives.

 

The ORIGINALS: Go & Get It w/ WondaGurl, ft. DJ P-Plus video she created, which has garnered over 600,000 views on Youtube, gives viewers a rare peek into the creative process, personal inspiration and unique path to success of music producer WondaGurl, who began making beats at age 9 and has since been tapped by the music industry’s leading artists, such as  Travis Scott, Jay Z, Drake, SZA, Young Thug and Kanye West, to produce some of the hottest tracks on the market today.

“I feel proud of the finished video because I’m happy to share young female creative’s stories. I think a lot of people, male or female, view WondaGurl to be an immense source of inspiration and aspiration. Being able to share her story was a very rewarding feeling,” says Peng about the video.

As the videographer, Peng was in charge of not only shooting the video, but like most videos on The Creator Class channel, she edited the entire work as well. Her unique way of capturing her subjects, combined with her expertise as an editor and keen sense of pacing and rhythm, has endowed each video with a deeply personal aspect that gives viewers the experience of feeling as though they are right there in the room having a conversation with the subject in the video.

“I am naturally an introverted and sympathetic person. When I experience situations, I usually sit back and observe. My personality type lends itself to be a great videographer and editor because of my tendency to express myself through videos,” admits Peng. “I have a natural sense of pacing and timing in telling the story. I am also drawn to catching moments that most people look past or ignore. This allows my work to stand out from other work that captures more generic imagery.”


Coming on board as The Creator Class videographer early on in the channel’s inception, the visual content she’s created has bolstered the channel’s social media following exponentially  and established the tone and style the channel has become known for. Considering that one of the main reasons people turn to The Creator Class is to discover information about a broad range of topics through the videos they publish online, videos that for the most part have been created by Peng, it’s not a stretch to say that her work is the foundation on which The Creator Class community has formed.

She says, “Every video was output through my computer to make sure the editing tone and aesthetic matched the channel’s. I have a natural understanding of what current video trends were and brought those elements to the channel growing them to the 40,000 plus subscription base on YouTube and 154,000 follower count on Instagram today.“

Thanks in no small part to Peng’s inspiring work, The Creator Class earned the prestigious 2016 Gold AToMiC Shift Award, which honors breakthrough achievements in the realm of advertising, media, creativity, technology and content.

Former FREE Channel Manager Danielle Reynolds says, “Working with Rosanna is always an inspiring experience. She always pushes the creative boundaries while still maintaining an attention to fine detail. It amazes me how she has been able to teach herself videography.”

While she is primarily self taught as a videographer, Rosanna Peng studied graphic design in college, an area of study that has undoubtedly come in handy as quite a bit of the visual content she creates for clients are embedded alongside stationary graphics and text online. Her understanding of how the style of the video she is creating connects with the attitude of the brand and the overall visual layout has been imperative to her unparalleled ability to create a striking finished project that commands the attention of viewers across the globe– something that can easily be seen through her work as a videographer for MTV FORA and as a photographer for Society 6.

Last year Peng was hired by Society 6, an online marketplace that connects international artists and gives them a platform to sell their work, to photograph the images featured within the popular articles  LA Photographer Fauxly On The Realness of the Hustle and Art in the Wild: A Photo Essay. Considering that Society 6 has a massive reach with 344,000 followers on Instagram and 476,000 monthly viewers on their website in the U.S. alone, Peng’s shots for each project gained quite a bit of attention.

Screen Shot 2017-05-22 at 9.23.06 PM
Photographer Fauxley shot by Rosanna Peng for Society 6

For the Fauxley feature Peng captured LA photographer Fauxly in a series of dynamic and architecturally intriguing shots that reveal her in a way that feels natural and aesthetically lines up with the overall layout of the interview on the Society 6 site making it visually pleasing for viewers to read.

Peng explains, “I wanted to shoot her organically without too much posing. This was my approach for this photoshoot because the environments I brought her to had a lot of symmetry in architecture. By balancing an organic subject with a structured environment, it made for a well-balanced juxtaposition between the two.”

Rosanna Peng
Photo by Rosanna Peng for Society 6

For the Art in the Wild: A Photo Essay she was tapped to translate some of her favorite Society 6 designs into photographs in various outdoor environments. The unique images she captured create a bridge between the natural world and the Society 6 designs in a way that is mesmerizingly beautiful. Clearly Peng’s creative eye extends beyond videography and her design degree has been put to good use.

Rosanna Peng’s innovative, inspiring and diverse work has definitely struck a chord with audiences around the world. Stay tuned for the release of her next Society 6 project, which is a lookbook video shoot slated to be released on June 1. She is also currently working on a promo video for Canon Canada’s macro lens, which will be released in August.

Chinese Producer Yuxiao Wang Solidifies her Name in Hollywood

Producer Yuxiao Wang
Producer Yuxiao Wang

As international partnerships between China and the U.S. continue to rise, filmmakers in Hollywood are in need of more Chinese producers who are able to liaise between the differing audiences within the U.S. and China.

“Chinese film history has evolved very differently from Hollywood. If you want to make films for the Chinese market, you need to understand that history as well as the different genres and aesthetics that work in China. What works in terms of narrative with Chinese audiences is not always the same as works in other markets. It’s essential if you want to make a film for the Chinese market to have somebody that really understands the Chinese film world, culture, aesthetics and censorship in China. So it makes perfect sense to have a Chinese producer on board,” explains Michael Berry, Professor of Contemporary Chinese Cultural Studies at UCLA and the author of Speaking in Images: Interviews with Contemporary Chinese Filmmakers, and Boiling the Sea: Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Memories of Shadows and Light.

One such producer who has been sought after by productions within China, the U.S. and co-productions between the two, is Yuxiao Wang. Over the past few years, Wang has produced an impressive list of films, television series and commercials that have aired in both countries.

Wang has become known throughout the industry for her work as the producer of the films “Harmonica,” “Locked,” “She Gives Me Sight,” “Wasteland Walker,” “Dustin & Toilet,” “Successor of the Southern Star,” “Los Angeles Kidnapping” and more. She also produced the series “West Journey,” which was shot in the U.S. but is geared towards a predominantly Asian audience. The series takes viewers around Los Angeles and across the country on Route 66 with featured guests such as NBA star Shaquille O’Neal and Metta World Peace.

“Since most of the crew traveled from China, I was the only local person who helped them with shooting. It was tough persuading different location owners to agree to let us shoot, but I managed to make it happen,” explains Wang about producing the series “West Journey.”

It’s clear to see through her past work as a producer that Wang knows how to pick award winning projects. The war drama “Harmonica” took home the Grand Prize from the Carnegie Mellon Film Festival and was awarded at the Los Angeles International Underground Film Festival, the dramatic crime film “Locked” earned several awards from the Los Angeles International Underground Film Festival, including two Best Actor awards, the Best Film Award and the award for Best Narrative Short, and the film “She Gives Me Sight” garnered several awards at Hollywood Boulevard Film Festival, Hollywood International Moving Pictures Film Festival, Direct Short Online Film Festival and the LA Underground Film Festival.

In addition to her cross-cultural experience, Wang’s extraordinary ability to find the perfect people to head each department on a production, find locations that fit both the story and budget, and pitch the project in a way that effectively gets each production the funding it needs to not only be completed, but gain distribution on an international scale, have made her a highly sought after Chinese producer in the Hollywood film industry today.  

The story of what led Yuxiao Wang to become a producer is both ironic, and telling as to the kind of tools she brings to the table. As a transfer student in Japan, before she became a producer herself, Wang was involved in the production of a film where a mishap with one of the grips happened on set, and what followed was a little out of the ordinary.

Wang recalls “The Japanese mafia came and threatened to destroy our camera, the producer, at that time, went up and tried to settle things and find a solution to the problem. That was the first time I noticed the importance of a producer, they are always ready to solve any problem.”

Like any producer, Wang has undoubtedly encountered her share of problems on the productions she’s produced, however her quick problem solving skills and ability to think outside of the box have come in handy every step of the way.

Talentik
Film Poster for Talentik

Sky Culture Entertainment hired Wang last year as a producer on the new sci-fi feature film “Talentik” starring California Women’s Film Festival Award winner Lee Chen (“Veep,” “Girl Meets World,” “Before I Got Famous”), Nick Culbertson (“Ahimsa,” “Julie and Her Friends”), Edward L. Green (“Savageland,” “First Timers”) and Jessica Treska (“Broken Pines,” “Silver Lining”). The film, which was released in China in February through the popular internet platform Sohu, quickly gained traction with audiences and garnered upwards of nine million views. While working on “Talentik” Wang was also busy producing the upcoming sci-fi feature film “Rift” from One All Entertainment.

“Rift” is yet another film that Wang was heavily involved with from the beginning of production, which was shot in the U.S., but made for Chinese audiences. The film, which is slated to be released in China within the next few months, includes a cast of both American and Chinese actors and revolves around a Chinese astrophysicist who is caught between two parallel universes. The film stars Asians On Film Festival Award winner Jack Yang from the films “Seven Pounds” starring two-time Oscar Award nominee Will Smith and “American Ultra” starring Oscar Award nominee Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart, Greg Depetro from the Platinum Reel Award winning film “For All That We Are” and the IIFC Award winning film “Abducted.” and award-winning actor Allen Theosky Rowe from the series “Hawaii Five-0” and “Far Cry 4: Fallen Country.”

Wang’s skill at creating a bridge of communication where language and cultural differences were concerned, as well as raising funding and solidifying shooting locations across Los Angeles were all integral to turning the film “Rift” into a reality– as they have been for all of the projects she’s produced to date.

As the film industries between China and the U.S. continue to join forces, having multi-talented producers like Yuxiao Wang who are well-versed in both cultures has become increasingly important.

 

Actor Varick Addler: One Talented German on Everyone’s Radar

Varick Addler
Actor Varick Addler shot by Chris Janik

Germany has a lot of claims to fame. The country has produced innovative scientists, ground-breaking philosophers, brilliant artists and composers, not to mention some of the best beers in the world; and with award-winning actor Varick Addler on the list, they can count captivating screen talent among their many notable attributes.

In 2012 Varick Addler took home the Audience Award for Best Performance in a Supporting Role at the Nuremberg Human Rights Film Festival (NIHRFF) for his remarkable performance in the film “Mimikry – Upside Down.” Early on in his career Addler honed his skills at some of the most recognizable acting school across the globe, including the NYFA New York Film Academy in Los Angeles, the William Esper School in New York, the Munich Film Academy and more.

With a plethora of lead roles in film and television projects that span virtually every genre, Addler’s brilliant repertoire of work reveals him as an actor with impressive range, one who easily inhabits his characters and seamlessly brings them to life on screen.

One of Addler’s first professional roles on screen came nearly a decade ago when he played a key Soldier in the 2008 action film “The German,” which took home the Nando Award from the Novara Cine Festival. Directed by Nick Ryan, whose 2012 documentary “The Summit” was awarded at the Sundance Film Festival and earned the Irish Film and Television Award for Best Documentary and Best Feature Documentary, as well as the Boulder International Film Festival’s BIFF Award for Best Adventure Film, “The German” gave viewers the first taste of Varick Addler’s unparalleled skill in the action genre– an area of his craft that he’s become increasingly well-known for on an international level in years since.

Since his debut action role in “The German,” Addler has gone on to give memorable performances in a pretty impressive list of well-known action-packed films and series including the 2010 Golden Globe nominated film “Red” starring Golden Globe Winner Bruce Willis (“Die Hard”) and Oscar Award winner Helen Mirren (“The Queen”), CBS’s two-time Primetime Emmy Award winning series “CSI: Miami” and the Primetime Emmy nominated crime series “NCIS: Los Angeles” starring Golden Globe nominee Chris O’Donnell (“Batman & Robin”), “Law & Order: LA” and Germany’s long-running cop drama “Tatort,” which has earned over 96 award including seven Bambi Awards and six Adolf Grimme Awards, one of the most prestigious awards presented in German television.

Varick Addler
Actor Varick Addler

While Addler’s appeal as an action star is undeniable, his magnetism on-screen is by no means limited to the fast-paced, heart-pumping genre alone.

German audiences will immediately recognize Addler for his recurring lead role as Johnas Schneller on the hit romantic drama series “Verbotene Liebe,” aka “Forbidden Love,” which earned the Golden Rose Award at the Rose d’Or Light Entertainment Festival. The long-running series initially centered on the wealthy Anstetten family and the middle-class Brandner family– specifically on the forbidden love between Jan Bradner and Julia von Anstetten which, although unknown to them, are twins separated at birth.

As the series progressed “Verbotene Liebe” moved away from the drama of Jan and Julia’s love affair and centered instead on a new family, the Lahnsteins, and that’s when viewers really get to see Addler in action. A family with dark and dirty secrets by the plenty, Addler’s character comes onto the show as the unpredictable and abusive father of series star Tanja von Lahnstein, played by Miriam Lahnstein (“The Peppercorns”).

Over the course of the series Addler reveals his ability to go from charismatic to manipulative and downright scathing. Addler breathes such vile life into Johnas Schneller that he easily became the show’s character everyone loved to hate. Out of all his atrocious acts though, the worst and most defining comes when Schneller who, in the middle of beating his daughter Tanja, pushes his son Thomas down the stairs to his death. To make matters worse, Schneller blames the murder on Tanja, a key plot points that sends Tanja into a mental institution for several years after her brother’s death.

It was a very challenging role, since it is not easy to deal properly with the issue of child abuse. I am now father myself of two little boys and the thought that something could happen to my children makes me very sad and angry. More incomprehensible how a father can torment his own child in such a way,” Addler admits.

“I don’t have much in common with that character, however, as an actor I must be able to getting into the character and understand their motivation. Preparation is more than knowing your lines. It is embodying the life of the character.”

While fans of Tanja’s character were understandably thrilled when Addler’s character was reported to have died as she did time in an institution, Tanja was far from being free of her noxious father. The series brought Schneller back again and again as a ghost returning from the dead to haunt Tanja with repeated attacks, which says a lot about the character, and the actor, as he was clearly too strong of a draw factor for audiences for the show’s creators to let him die out.

With a number of riveting performances in both European and U.S. productions, Varick Addler has established an indelible reputation for himself as a captivating and dynamic performer whose boundary pushing talent allows him to portray characters within every genre.

Up next for Addler is the highly anticipated action film “Out for Vengeance” directed by Angel Film Award winner Salar Zarza.

AFTER 30 YEARS IN THE BIZ ACTRESS NATALIE PAGE STILL CAPTIVATES US

Natalie Page
Actress Natalie Page shot by Andrew Rouse

Since first taking to the stages of Australia in the starring role of Scapin in The Rock Players’ production of “The Scoundrel Scapin” back in 1987 actress Natalie Page has created a marvelous repertoire of work, spanning both the stage and screen, which reveals her as an unstoppable performer capable of taking on any role.

On screen Page has captivated audiences several times over through critical roles in popular crime series such as “Water Rats” and “Australia’s Most Wanted,” where she showcased her ability to play the victim, “Deadly Women” where she took on the starring role of Marie Noe, a villainous murderer, and “White Collar Blue” where she played a key role as a judge.

Aside from being an undeniably gifted actress, one of the aspects of Page’s career that makes her unique is the way she has managed to steadily maintain her success over the course of 30 years. Many may ask how she’s accomplished such a feat in an industry where the competition is exponentially higher than virtually any other, and everyone seems to be looking for the next hot young star to sell their project to viewers. The answer is diversity. Page’s unparalleled ability to embody an astonishingly diverse range of characters, coupled with her magnetic on screen presence, has been key to the sought after actress’ continued success.

Page has accrued an impressive list of film credits including “Hydra,” Donovan Renn’s (“The End”) ‘“They Were the Ones,” “A Sense of Syntex,” David Frtenik’s “Fret Not,” Steve Anthopoulos’ (“The 21 Conspiracy,” “Farid in the West”) “How Long Can You Hold Your Breath” and Caleb Shaffer’s (“One Word”) hard hitting thriller “Finding Polish” where she acts alongside Javed Khan from the BAFTA Award nominated series “Coming Up.” Out of all of her film work though, the one that substantially sticks out and shines a light on her innate talent is undoubtedly the riveting feature film “Nude Study.”

Directed by Stefan Popescu, who won the Best Director Award at the Melbourne Underground Film Festival for his film “Rosebery 7470” and the Monster Jury Award at Monster Fest for the film “Vixen Velvet’s Zombie Massacre III,” “Nude Study” takes place in the wild Canadian arctic and follows a young filmmaker who’s desperate to leave the old version of herself behind– and she gets her chance when she meets Sarah, an alluring local girl who will change her life forever.

In the film Natalie Page takes on the lead role of Sarah’s mother Glynnis, an aging woman whose family’s hostility towards one another is causing them to fall apart. Although her health is clearly failing, we see Page’s character Glynnis put on a ‘happy’ face as she pretends that every is okay; and, while she is painfully close to death, her illness does have one positive impact, and that is that it helps bring a broken family closer together.

Page explains,  “She brought a family together that previously shared little to no affection or understanding for each other.”

With a collection of powerful performances already under her belt, it’s not at all surprising that Page managed to deeply immerse herself into such a challenging character and flawlessly portray Glynnis’ slow deterioration, even if the character is the exact opposite of herself.

About the process of getting into her character Page admits, “I needed to remove myself from much of the activity around me… my usual vital energy needed to be contained as I moved closer to filming, as  death and energy was definitely waning.  It was quite a solo experience, one where I imagined reaching the final stages of life, visiting the local graveyard and getting in touch with grief and the inevitable departure of this earthly existence we call life.”

Natalie Page
Behind the scenes of Natalie getting into character for “Nude Study”

In the film Page gives a captivating performance starring alongside Jackie Alixander from the hit Primetime Emmy Award winning series “Xena: Warrior Princess,” the Indie Series Award winning show “Keith Broke His Leg” and “Dark Knight,” and Marty Rhone from the 12-time Logie Award winning series “Neighbours.”

“Nude Study” had its Australian premiere at the popular Revelation Perth International Film Festival and was chosen as an Official Selection of the London Underground Film Festival, Buffalo Niagara Film Festival, the New York International Film Festival and the OutLook Film Festival, as well as screened at the Dawson City International Film Festival.

Natalie Page
Film poster for “Nude Study”

From taking on lead roles in hit crime dramas to portraying a deeply burdened dying mother in “Nude Study,” actress Natalie Page is one of Australia’s best talents, one who will undoubtedly continue to captivate us for years to come.

From Commercials to Film, Director Roberto Escamilla is a Visionary Artist!

Director Roberto Escamilla
Director Roberto Escamilla

Many directors find success directing commercials and/or music videos and choose to stay there throughout their careers; and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that as artists and brands need someone who can direct great commercials and music videos in order to keep their audience engaged. In the same breath though, there are many directors who have chosen to use their experience directing commercials and music videos as a stepping stone into directing narrative films, and Mexican director Roberto Escamilla is one of them.

Since beginning his career many years ago, Escamilla has become known for his work as the director behind a slew of popular commercials and music videos, as well as for his work as the director of the opening sequences for the hit telenovelas “Pasión y Poder” (aka “Passion and Power”) starring Jorge Salinas (“Que Bonito Amor”) and Fernando Colunga (“Soy Tu Dueña”), “Corona De Lágrimas” (aka “Crown of Tears”) starring Victoria Ruffo (“Triunfo del Amor”) and Alejandro Nones (“La Piloto”), and the romantic drama “La Que No Podía Amar” (aka “The One Who Couldn’t Love”) starring Susana González (“La Candidata”) and Anna Brenda Contreras (“Blue Demon”).

Over the years Escamilla’s reputation as a skilled director has spread far beyond Mexico as more and more international audiences have had the opportunity to see his work. In 2015 Escamilla was hired by Mexico-based production company Curiosity Media and award winning advertising agency Y & R to direct the “”Hot Cakes de Película” commercial for leading maple syrup brand Karo. The commercial is modern, funny and so visually enticing that it will make you want to smother your pancakes in Karo’s maple syrup the next chance you get! As the director of the commercial Escamilla definitely nailed the mark.

In 2012 Escamilla gained quite a bit of attention for his work as the director of the promos for the hit Mexican biographical series “El Encanto Del Águila” (aka “The Eagle’s Spell”) starring Carlos Corona from the multi-award winning film “Cantinflas” and Ariel Award nominee Emilio Echevarría from the Oscar Award nominated film “Y Tu Mamá También.” The stunning promotions Escamilla directed for “El Encanto Del Águila” earned the Gold Award of Excellence for Total Package Design at the 2012 PromaxBDA Awards, one of the leading awards events recognizing innovations within the marketing and design industry around the world.

While his work as a commercial and music video director has brought him extensive praise, what drives Escamilla to direct is his passion for delivering stories that touch the audience on an emotional level– those with an impact that lingers longer than what’s possible within the confines of a music video or commercial project, where the end goal is more concerned with sales than delivering a powerful story.

Escamilla admits, “I see cinema as an art medium. Yes people that work on it need to make a living from it, but we need to always remember that this is a profession that allows us to express ourselves and also to deliver a message.”

Even from Escamilla’s early work as a commercial director it’s easy to see his flare for narrative storytelling, so it will come as no surprise to those who know his work that he has progressively moved into directing more and more film projects.

Film poster for "Changes"
Film poster for Roberto Escamilla’s film “Changes”

“Changes,” Escamilla’s latest film, is a coming of age dramedy starring Joshua Furtado from the upcoming film “Charlie, Charlie” (starring Golden Globe nominee Tom Sizemore), Jade Lorna Sullivan (“Simple Lives,” “Camelot”), Chaz Kao (“Lucifer,” “Fall Into Me”) and Danny Parker-Lopes (“Minority Report,” “King Rikki”). Written and directed by Escamilla, “Changes” portraits one boy’s transition into “manhood” on the eve of his 16th birthday.

“I know how important is for a young man to prove himself in front of his friends…. That’s why I wanted to create a film that reflects this and at the same time I wanted to deliver a message about diversity and acceptance,” explains Escamilla about his inspiration for the film.

Under the heavy influence of peer pressure from his friends, the film’s main character Mitchell (played by Furtado) is taken to a brothel where he loses his virginity to a prostitute named Destiny (played by Sullivan), or at least that’s what his friends think. Filled with twists nobody would expect, “Changes” offers as a beautiful insight into the peer pressures of becoming a man, staying true to oneself and the importance of compassion.

Escamilla’s highly anticipated film “Changes” is slated to have its U.S. premiere at the UCLAxFilmFestival in Los Angeles on May 6 where it has been chosen as an Official Selection. The Mexican Consulate in LA will also be screening “Changes” on May 25th.

About the completed film, Escamilla says, “I feel it’s a big accomplish, it looks great, the casting is perfect and the message of love and acceptance it delivers touches me every time I see it…. and I’ve seen how it moves the audience which is the most important thing.”

While Escamilla has undoubtedly made a name for himself as a sought after director in Mexico, his ability to create powerful narrative film stories has clearly struck a chord with audiences around the world; and we can’t wait to see what he comes up with next!