All posts by lgreenbaulm

Actor Spotlight: Canadian Star Rebekah Miskin

Rebekah Miskin
                                                                               Actress Rebekah Miskin

Rebekah Miskin was born and raised in Toronto, Canada, and knew right from the start that she wanted to be a performer. At age three she hit the stage as a dancer, and ever since she’s been inspired by the arts. Acting, writing, producing, and DJ-ing are just a few of her talents. Aside from performing as a dancer for 18 years, Rebekah is most widely known throughout the entertainment industry for her diverse acting prowess. Over the course of her career Rebekah has performed in a myriad of  theater productions at some of the most prestigious venues for performing actors, including The Second City. Rebekah honed her skills in the comedy genre by doing impov-based sketch comedy at The Second City, which has been referred to as “A Comedy Empire” by the New York Times, and is known for turning out artists like John Candy, Chris Farley, Tina Fey, Amy Sedaris, and countless others.

In the multi-award winning film Pooka, Rebekah played the role of Kate, the not so nice high school nemesis of Pooka (Katie Boland), a teenage outcast who seems to be inept at making friends. Directed by Maurey Loeffler (Supernatural Investigator, Malcontents), the film received international praise winning the awards for Best Drama and Best Original Screenplay at the Dixie Film Festival, as well as the Golden Sheaf Award for Best Drama at the Yorkton Film Festival.

Most recently, Rebekah played the starring role of Maggie in the film Records for Maggie. The film tells the story of a young woman whose father suddenly dies, leaving behind a slew of unanswered questions and a world-renowned record shop. Co-writer of the film as well as lead actress, Rebekah describes Records for Maggie as, “a coming of age comedy that deals with a lot of the most relatable and universal issues that young women face today.” The film is scheduled to be released next year.

For Rebekah Miskin, 2014 has been one incredibly busy year. In addition to starring in Records for Maggie, Rebekah guest starred in an episode of the award-winning television series Mayday. On the show Rebekah played the challenging role of Nicole Williamson, a real life heroine who single-handedly rescued two other surviving passengers after their plane went down in the Arctic. Rebekah admits, “I guarantee you it was much easier playing the TV version of Nicole than being the real Nicole rescuing two people from a burning plane but it was so enthralling.”

The actress is also currently working on season two of the successful Hulu series Long Story, Short. Award-winning actress and one of Rebekah’s longtime collaborators, Katie Boland, originally created Long Story, Short in 2013. The duo also worked together on A Subsequent Life, a film that Rebekah and Katie both co-wrote and directed while also working on the series for Hulu. Rebekah guest stars as Anna, in Long Story, Short, a cool DJ who befriends a quirky trio of young women who comedically weave their way through the ups and downs of early adulthood.

Rebekah’s passion for performing, and her drive to create also led her to collaborate with award-winning director Bobby Roth, who is best known as the director of the television shows Grey’s Anatomy, Prison Break, and the Mentalist. Rebekah played the critical role of Lainie in Bobby Roth’s film Reviving Ophelia, which was nominated for a Humanitas Prize.

With a flourishing creative career, Rebekah has created a repertoire of work over the last few years that is both remarkable and diverse, and this is just the tip of the iceberg as this young actress has many more upcoming projects under her sleeve.

Actor Profile: Australian Heartthrob Andrew Steel


Andrew Steel
Andrew Steel shot by Az Jackson


Andrew Steel is the latest Australian actor for Hollywood to watch. With a background that includes Australia’s leading TV shows such as Home and Away and Deadbeat Dads, The Justice Lease as well as internationally renowned films including Twisted, Little Lies, Bargain and Super Awesome! Andrew has even graced the stage performing in major theatrical productions, including the rugby-themed 10,000 Beers and Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice.

Andrew is setting his sights on even bigger things, as he is set to star as the lead role of Stephen in the highly anticipated Picture Park Entertainment film, 10 Things I Hate About Life. 10 Things is a romantic comedy about a young woman and a young man falling in love with one another just as they are about to kill themselves. In this modern re-telling of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, our star-crossed lovers’ crazy shared experiences and similar emotional state forms a bond that draws them both into happiness and takes them on a rollercoaster ride of young love.

Actress Marine Lanctuit Steals the Screen and Stage

Actress Marine Lanctuit in "The Book of Days"
                                           Actress Marine Lanctuit in “The Book of Days”

Like many actors, Marine Lanctuit knew she was meant to be on stage from a very young age. Unlike many actors, however, she has put in the time and effort it takes to reach an astonishing level of success in the entertainment industry.

On film, Lanctuit has contributed her talent toward many projects. Some of the most recent productions she has led include: Creed and Lost Angels by writer and director Stan Harrington, Red Poppies, produced and directed by Yaitza Rivera, and Heroines by director Travis Geiger.

During her time on Creed and Lost Angels, Lanctuit was able to deepen her relationship with multi-award winning producer, writer and director Stan Harrington. Harrington is currently known for his management of the Stella Adler Theatre, where actors like Robert De Niro, Marlon Brando, Harvey Keitel, and Gary Ross all received guidance and instruction early in their careers.

It was at the Stella Adler Theatre where Harrington met Lanctuit, captivated by her diverse abilities as an actress in theatre and on stage. Lanctuit played Isadora in Lost Angels, a story about what a young actress will do to “make it big” in Hollywood: and the peril that can come with this search for fame and fortune.

Red Poppies achieved widespread critical acclaim for it’s depiction of war and the

political, physical and emotional violence it wreaks upon victims. In the film, Lanctuit gripped the emotions of the audience in her portrayal of Margaret Thomas, the cousin of Iris, a victim of a violent assault during wartimes. The 2013 film was nominated for best dialogue by Action on Film International USA.

Lanctuit leads as Aurore in the film Heroines, which tells the harrowing story of a woman being brainwashed by her psychiatrist as he carries out his highly unethical psychological experiments on her – without her knowledge or consent.

When it comes to theatre, Lanctuit is just as qualified as she is on film. In Paris, where she began her career, she starred in a variety of plays, includingThe Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde, Threepenny Opera by Bertolt Brecht, and The Marriage of Figaro by Beaumarchais, “a play with a cult following in France,” Lancuit described.

In the United States, Lanctuit further developed her theatrical abilities in several productions directed by Oscar-winning producer and director Milton Justice. 

Lanctuit expressed that she learned an enormous amount about how to deepen her talent as an actress during her time working with Justice. Considering his long list of accolades, this is not surprising: in addition to winning the Academy Award in 1987 for Best Documentary, Down and Out in America, Justice has produced innumerable titles in television and film.

The plays in which Lanctuit partnered with Justice include: Our Town by Thornton Wilder, Book of Days by Lanford Wilson, and Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov.

Of these plays, Lanctuit said that her role of Irina in Three Sisters was, “without hesitation,” the favorite of all the roles she’s ever played.

“It’s not with every material that you get to develop a character so much,” she explained in an insider interview. “There are 2 to 3 years between each of the four acts, so you see her evolve from a naïve young girl into a woman.”

During her theatrical career, Lanctuit has also worked closely with award-winning actor, writer, producer and stage director Tim McNeil, best known for his work in the film Forrest Gump. McNeil admired Lanctuit’s talent so much that he cast her for the lead role in two of his plays: Orange Flower Water, and The Odd Couple. Additionally, the film Red Poppies was adapted from McNeil’s script.

Currently, Lanctuit is working on Wandering Stars, directed by James Zsignmond. After wrapping this production, she has already booked film work for the next three years!

Marine Lanctuit has accrued quite an array of accomplishments during her prolific acting career, and there is no end in sight to her extraordinary level of success. We look forward to seeing where this spotlight takes her next.

Digital Artist Susie Liu a Creative Powerhouse in Advertising Production

Advertising Producer Susie Liu
Advertising Producer Susie Liu

The advertising industry calls for creativity, ingenuity and experience. Susie Liu fits all of these categories and more. This London-based advertising veteran has been in the industry for 15 years, working in all aspects of the business including design, print production and localization.

Liu’s current job as Advertising Producer for the cutting-edge global advertising firm Saatchi & Saatchi (Sectorlight) involves more leadership and logistics, but her love for design has never left her. Her true passion is to create ads that entice the viewer and leave them wanting more. She has designed campaigns for clients ranging from real estate or technology to retail businesses.

Liu has always been a right-brained thinker. Since childhood, she’s looked at the world with a more imaginative eye than most. Becoming Advertising Producer was a long time coming for Liu, who has always known what she was meant to do in life.

“I looked at ways to improve magazine articles and advertisements and change the style to my own liking by recreating visuals on the computer,” Liu said. “I’ve always gravitated toward anything visual or creative.”

For most, the immense list of responsibilities her job entails would be impossible, but her management experience and background in design makes her a powerhouse at what she does.

“I love problem solving and finding solutions,” Liu said. “It’s exciting to work for clients and people I feel passionate about and being able to deliver a great piece of work that inspires and meets their expectations.

Since her graduation from the renowned School of Art and Design at Kingston College in London in 1996, Liu has been working her way up in the design world.

Her years as a graphic designer provided her ample exposure to the hands-on aspects of design, which allowed her to appreciate her later role as Creative Artworker all the more.

“Having the design background provides me with the ideas and visual understanding of how something should look and feel and the role of a Creative Artworker gives you the technical skill set to create it,” Liu said.

Liu’s naturally creative mind and background in design gave her the knowledge she needed to generate inspiring work that met her client’s needs, but it’s her undeniable leadership abilities that earned her to the role of producer.

In addition to her work with Saatchi & Saatchi (Sectorlight), Liu has worked as Senior Creative Artworker, Production and Design Manager, Production Team Lead, Digital Artist and Designer for numerous companies including Apple, Wordsearch and HTC.

At Wordsearch, an innovative real estate advertisement firm, Liu worked as the advertising producer of the global launch of a 42-acre recreation development for the Battersea Power Station in London, which is one of cities most iconic structures.

Another notable Wordsearch project for Liu was her work for the One World Trade Center, the main building of the new World Trade Center complex in Lower Manhattan, which also happens to be the tallest building in the western hemisphere. It was crucial that the advertisement for this costly and symbolic project was attracting the maximum number of investors, which is where Liu and her team came in.

She also worked with Wordsearch as advertising producer for Masdar City. This 6- square kilometer eco-city in Abu Dhabi relies on solar and renewable energy sources and is aimed to be the hub for clean tech companies. Liu was hired to produce a series of printed and digital marketing meant to entice people into this new, not yet built, city.

In addition to Wordsearch was her involvement with Hogarth Worldwide, an international marketing implementation agency. She was the advertising producer for the London branch of HTC on the HTC One Phone. She and her team translated and localized all of the literature, in at least 40 different languages, created a variety of advertisements, point of sale and signage.

Since Liu’s thirst to create never sleeps, she is currently preparing for a job starting with 181 Fremont, a new building in the cultural heart of San Francisco’s SOMA District. She’ll be working on the artwork and production of the residential brochures. In addition, she will be working on the development of interactive presentations to create assets and components for the technical build, clean and prepare floor plan sheets for print, and retouching the final imagery for print and post production.

To find out more about the work of advertising producer Susie Liu, make sure to visit her website at www.susieliu.info.

Amazing Chinese Director Jing Wen!

Film Poster for Jing Wen's film
Film Poster for Jing Wen’s film “A, B, C or D?”

Chinese director Jing Wen is one filmmaker international audiences will definitely want to keep their eyes out for. Jing first began her career as director for television in China where she was one of the directors of the series Yulapai on Chong Qing Television Station.

As the director of a series for Jing Li US, Jing had a chance to meet and direct an interview with one of America’s most-beloved film stars, Oscar winner Susan Sarandon (Thelma and Louise, Cloud Atlas, Robot & Frank, Stepmom, The Banger Sisters). Jing also directed a show for the NGO organization Voices of Africa Mothers, which delivered in depth interviews with eight African first ladies to viewers around the world.

In 2012 she made her mark on the world as a film director and ever since she has been making huge waves in the industries of China, the U.S. and others. Her film A, B, C or D?, which was released in 2014, follows Gary, a 45-year-old underling in a corporation who is forced to choose between what is right and wrong when a conflict arises putting Gary in the line of fire as the easy scapegoat.

Does he stand up for himself and tell the truth, or let sleeping dogs lie? Well, you’ll just have to watch the film to find out.

The film stars David M. Edelstein from the films I Killed Last Night, The Broom Wedding, I of the Beholder, No Way Out and others.

Jing’s film A, B, C or D? won Best Short Film, as well as Best Cinematographer for Xiaolong Liu’s work, at the Golden Pomegranate International Film Festival in China. The film was also chosen as an Official Selection of the prestigious 2015 Cannes Short Film Corner, the NYC Independent Film Festival, the California Independent Film Festival and others. 

In a Q & A session with the NYFA about her work as a director earlier this year, Jing said, “I like to observe people’s facial expression, voice, and body language in order to understand them. That’s one of the most important skills a director needs to learn and practice because film ideas are inspired by observations from life and they are a reflection of reality.”

Jing’s unique ability to find the hidden stories that exist around her and dissect them into something worth bringing to audiences in the form of captivating films is what separates her from most other directors.

After the success of her film A, B, C or D?, Jing was awarded a grant to begin directing the feature film The Disappeared FishThe Disappeared Fish finished filming in China in July and is slated to have its national debut in theatres across China next year.

The film follows a migrant worker named Guo Jia Ming who was nominated for an Emmy Award for his performance in the film My Own Private Deutschland.

The film follows Gao as he is faced with a moral question of whether to save his boss’s son who was kidnapped by a group of ruthless gangsters, or let his boss deal with his own karma, considering that he treats Gao and the other workers terribly and keeps all of their pay checks for himself.

Jing is currently in pre-production with another exciting upcoming film entitled Let’s Get Married, a feature love story that will be produced by Bai Ge Zhuang Film Production Company.

You can check out some of the photos of director Jing Wen being interviewed by China’s largest media organizations including CCTV, CQTV station, Phoenix Satellite Television, Guang Sian Media, and Aidiyi Media.

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Q & A with Chinese Producer Min Dai!

Producer Min Dai
Producer Min Dai at the Texas Black Film Festival with Festival President David Small courtesy of Selig Polyscope Company

For nearly a century Hollywood has been the one place in the world that is recognized for great filmmaking beyond all others. While Bollywood and other regions have tried to catch up to Hollywood’s annual box office results, for the most part, their efforts have paled in comparison; however, China has proven itself to be a formidable competitor for the Hollywood film industry in the last few years. According to an article published by Bloomberg.com last month, “China’s monthly box office receipts for February passed those of the U.S. for the first time.”

International Film Review recently had the opportunity to interview Chinese producer Min Dai, the producer behind the films Icebox, Device, 4 Latas, Come Wander With Me, Eat a Hot Dumpling Slowly, You Only Live Once and many others.

Last year Dai’s film Meeting Gary, which she both produced and directed, was nominated for Best Short Film and a Best Actor Award at the 2014 Texas Black Film Festival where it was chosen as an Official Selection. The film was also chosen as an Official Selection at the Action On Film International Film Festival, the San Francisco Black Film, the Arizona International Film Festival, the Langston Hughes African American Film Festival and several others.

Dai has also established herself as a leading producer in the documentary film genre bringing films like You and Me, A Trip to Tibet, Ning Xia and Momo Lee Aoi’s Wake up with Me to the screen for international audiences to enjoy.

After working as a producer on several popular television shows like Mission for Peace, The Story of Gengtian Xi, King of Silk and others back home in China, producer Min Dai transitioned into the American film industry where her ability to liaise between U.S. and Chinese productions has become an invaluable asset to a long list of productions.

To find out more about the work of producer Min Dai, and why the growing collaborative relationship between the American and Chinese film industries is imperative to the future of film, check out our interview below.

 

IFR: Where are you from? When and how did you begin working as a producer?

MD: I am from Beijing. I began working as a producer back in 2006. I started producing Chinese short films, commercials and television series; and in 2010, I studied directing in New York City and have extended my work as a producer to include American productions since then.

IFR: Can you tell me about some of your experiences in the industry as a producer?

MD: I am from a media centered family in Beijing. Growing up I had opportunities to learn from many field professionals in China, so by the time I was in high school I was already busy working on film projects. I have always been interested in the entertainment world. My mother’s production company, Beijing’s Voice of Time, has worked closely with the China Central Television (CCTV) for many years since the late 90s.

In 2006, I began producing short films directed by Chinese independent filmmakers, including my own short film, Reborn. In 2008 I was hired as the line producer for television shows, including the large-scale television series, Mission for Peace and King of Silk in 2009, which were produced by China International Television Corporation, and starred notable Chinese actors Ma Yili, Zhang Guangbei and so on.

My work was very crucial for the daily operations of each program, premiered on CCTV Channel 8’s Primetime Show. At that time I was often mistaken for being a much older producer while working on King of Silk production, until one day a young actor chatted with me and found out I was six months younger than her. Because of the trust Ma Runsheng, the Chairman of China International Television Corporation, had in me, I couldn’t afford to fail him or anyone else, so I worked extra hard each day during the shooting period. And, I have grown so much since then thanks to that experience, and countless others like it.

In 2010, I came to America to study film directing. I began to connect with many interesting people in the U.S. entertainment industry and I was fortunate to work with producer Jackie Subeck, the president of a production company located in Los Angeles called Footprint Worldwide. I began working on projects involving 30 seconds to Mars and Linkin Park during their tours in China where I was the co-producer for both of their projects handling the productions in China. In 2012, I worked with Carl Gilliard, the co-founder of the Duke Media Foundation, the partner of Bill Duke who is famous for his roles in Predator, Commando and Action Jack, on my film Meeting Gary. The film was an Official Selection at several international film festivals and was nominated for awards at the Texas Black Film Festival and San Francisco Black Film Festival. I also produced the film. I also produced the film One True Yarn.

PLM: With China making huge advances in their film industry, what is that makes you want to work in the U.S.? What differences do you see between the film industries in the two countries?

MD: China film industry has been booming lately, and it is very exciting. What’s more exciting is that between Hollywood and China there are countless collaborations going on where people that are familiar with both cultures like me can be of great service. China has a great history of producing good quality indie movies, and now we are on our way to producing big budget movies that are not only for Chinese audiences, but also for the world. We cannot achieve that without having a strong partnership with America, which continues to produce many of the greatest big budget movies in film history. From my experience I’ve learned that there are different processes in filmmaking between these two countries. It is much more flexible in terms of running a set in China than it is in America, where in China more spontaneous surprises can be captured and in America the sets are more professional and regulated. There are pros and cons in both styles and I think to incorporate the differences and learning from each other will enhance our film industries so both can make better movies for the world.

IFR: You’ve also produced several documentaries– can you tell me about them?

MD: In 2009 I produced my first travel documentary, A Trip to Tibet, directed by independent director King Zhang in China. We followed a group of city teachers from Beijing who volunteered at an elementary school for three weeks in Tibet. The school conditions were extremely poor and there was only one local teacher in the whole village. The shooting was very difficult considering many members of the crew experienced altitude sickness. We were able to finish all of the shooting on schedule within the time frame that we were there; and the film was screened at the Beijing International Film Festival in 2014, and the 2014 Shanghai International Film Festival.

In 2010 I had the opportunity to produce and direct the documentary film You and Me, which concerned the living conditions of elderly people in the Washington County Home, and documented their daily lives. The film revealed the dark side of elderly caretaking in the region, showing that many of them were abandoned and forgotten, but County Home took them in even though many of them couldn’t afford to live there. Our crew went to the home for interviews and for most of the shooting, and we spent a lot of time with the residents there, including eating and chatting with them. The film was used as the election material at the Washington County for fundraising in 2010.

IFR: What is it about producing documentary films that you are passionate about?

MD: I love documentaries because they challenge you to face reality and reveal some of the dark corners of human history. At times I find documentaries create a much stronger impact, sometimes more intense than a thriller. I think filmmakers that are interested in documentary films feel a social responsibility and want things to change for the better. I want to make things for the better and that’s why I am passionate about documentary films.

IFR: Can you tell me about some of the music videos you’ve produced?

MD: I had a couple experiences producing music videos. I found it a bit relaxing producing music videos since they are fairly short and easy to shoot based on the scale of the productions I worked on so far. But they are a great fun to work on because of the people involved. I also produced my own music film Transparent Thing, and the music video for “Chasing Happiness” by Chinese singer Kelly Cha.

IFR: They are all very different, what made you choose to participate in these projects?

MD: I actually like the fact that I am able to work on so many different projects. That’s the fun part of producing, you can use what you know and your ability to make so many projects happen and help so many people. It works that way in documentaries as well as in music videos.

IFR: Why are you passionate about working as a producer?

MD: I think my passion for making things happen is a great motive of being a producer. I don’t want to let people down. I have participated in most of these projects because they are honest and present an important matter that I care about. I think it is a very precious thing to produce something honest in this industry.

IFR: What production companies have you worked with in the past?

MD: In 2008 I began working with China International Television Corporation as a producer and line producer w on several of their television series. The corporation produces television shows in China nationwide. The projects I worked on ranged from 10 episodes to over 49 episodes. As an executive producer, I have also worked with King’s Film and WIN China group for their short films and commercials.

In 2010, I produced multiple projects for Footprint Worldwide and became close friends with the founder of the company, Jackie Subeck. The company works closely with Chinese productions and China related projects. I produced numerous films since 2010 in the U.S. including many award winners. In 2012, I worked with Hollywood actor Carl Gilliard on the film Meeting Gary. I have and will be working with him closely in the future.

IFR: What production companies or agencies are you currently working with?

MD: I am going to work with Gilliard Media Group founded by actor/ producer Carl Gilliard. Carl has a successful career as an actor with over 70 film credits including Inception, Coach Carter, Red Eye and hit television show 24.

Next year I will be working with Duke Media Foundation, Time Pieces founded by independent filmmaker Alice Millar, Mano a Mano Productions founded by independent filmmakers Victor Martin and Fabian Martin, as well as others.

IFR: You get approached all the time to work on projects with people, what makes you pick one project over another?

MD: I’ve picked most of these projects because the project itself intrigued me, or because I thought I was capable of helping these specific projects. I have a strong feeling when someone really needs me, for example, in 2013 I helped produce a project for LA tourism that was geared towards the Chinese consumer to help boost Los Angeles tourism in the future. The project was in need of a Chinese-speaking producer who knew the market in China to guide them through, and that was where I found myself being the most helpful to the project. When the need is great and you can help, the motivation is strong.

IFR: What have been a few of your favorite projects so far and why?

MD: It’s a very hard question because I have many favorite projects. I think I am a fan of working on film projects, because it is intense and you must make sure you are making the best decisions for the cast and crew at all times.

IFR: What would you say your strongest qualities as a producer are?

MD: I’m very hardworking. I think that’s the fundamental quality of doing anything successful. I think producers must have the instinct to discover valuable materials and finding appropriate resources. So far I’m doing good on those aspects.

IFR: What projects do you have coming up?

MD: I have projects lined up including the documentary film Wake Up With Me, produced by InterMix Productions, the web series Tina, produced by Wilson Becton and other projects including feature films and TV movies with Gilliard Media Group and Duke Media Foundation. I also have an exciting documentary film coming up about dogs and human relations in China. 

IFR: What are your plans for the future?

MD: I have found myself happily working as a producer and creating stories and I want to keep doing what I love for many years to come.

IFR: What do you hope to achieve in your career?

MD: I started working in this industry at a young age and I’ve found myself growing stronger and wiser as time goes on. But most importantly I learned a lot about life and how to be a better person. My work has become my lifestyle. More than the wealth and the fame my career can bring, what I hope to do is create better and more unique projects that most people will remember and love for many years to come.

IFR: What kind of training have you done, and how has it helped you in your field of work?

MD: I have a bachelor’s degree in Television & Broadcasting and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Film Directing. I have had extensive training in all aspects of production of television and film from pre-production to post-production. I also think the experience of running productions in both China and the U.S. has expanded my ability in working in different culture conditions.

Dwayne Hill: The Funny Man Behind Many of Our Favorite Characters!

Dwayne Hill
Canadian actor Dwayne Hill

The most valuable skill an actor can possess is the ability to completely transform themselves and become so unrecognizable from one role to the next that a viewer no longer sees the actor, but the character. In doing so they bring that role to life, they immerse the audience in the story and make them forget for a while that they’re watching a work of fiction.

Dwayne Hill is one of the greats. He is the recipient of an ever-growing number of international awards and nominations, the man behind hundreds of characters in both film and television, and the voice of countless advertisements for some of the biggest companies in the world. If you’ve been within earshot of a television this week, chances are pretty good you’ve heard his inimitable voice.

In his capacity as a voice-over actor in advertising, Hill’s contributions are legion. He has done more than 1,000 commercials for innumerable businesses including Toyota, 7/11 and MasterCard. Presently, he serves as the voice of Vonage.

Hill played the fan-favorite role of Coach Carr in Mean Girls, easily the most iconic high school comedy of the 2000s and arguably since John Hughes’ films of the 80’s. His performance as Coach Carr, the hyperbolic sex education teacher with a “scared straight” approach, made him one of the film’s most quotable characters, and a source of frustration for the protagonist, played by Lindsay Lohan (Freaky Friday, The Parent Trap).

Coach Carr was exactly the kind of ridiculously outlandish teacher that exists at virtually every high school, believable in his absurdity. The screenplay for Mean Girls was written by the amazing Tina Fey (Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) whose trademark blend of dry wit and whimsical satire are apparent in the Coach Carr character, which Hill brings to life perfectly.

“I had a great time playing Coach Carr,” said Hill, praising both the role and the writing. “Tina Fey is a genius.”

Incredibly gifted as a screen actor, Hill also possesses an exceedingly rare talent for breathing life into animated characters through his amazingly varied voice-over work.

“I somewhat unconsciously become the character I play,” Hill said, describing the way a person of his talents gets in character when that character happens to be a cartoon. “I stoop my back and flail my arms; to an outsider I’m sure I look like a madman, but I really can’t help it.”

He has mastered 40 accents, and has voiced hundreds of roles in over 70 animated series. Recently, he became the voice of Cat on the PBS cartoon Peg + Cat.

“It has been the most challenging and rewarding experience of my career. It’s a show that makes math fun for kids, and it does it through songs and great stories,” Hill said. “If you’ve got kids aged two to five they’ll love it, I promise.”

Peg + Cat has been a huge hit with not only kids, but also with parents who have come to rely on the exceedingly high standards of PBS programming to supplement the early childhood education of their children. The show has won four Daytime Emmy Awards, and Hill’s vocal talents earned him a Daytime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program.

Another of Hill’s long list of star-studded credits is the wildly popular Gemini Award-winning animated television series Braceface, starring and loosely based on the life of MTV Movie Award winner and Golden Globe-nominated actress Alicia Silverstone (Clueless, Batman & Robin). Hill’s incredible voice talents earned him the role of Silverstone’s dentist on the show, which helped launch the career of Canadian Comedy Award winner Michael Cera (Juno, Superbad, Arrested Development).

Hill’s most massive television undertaking, Atomic Betty, saw him playing 26 different characters. Each of the roles he voiced in the popular Canadian animated series was a distinct individual, entirely original and with their own unique personality. His huge contributions to the show earned him the 2009 Gemini Award for Best Individual or Ensemble Performance in an Animated Program or Series.

Atomic Betty was an amazing experience,” Hill said. “Kevin Gillis, who produced the series, is one of the most supportive people I’ve ever worked with. He trusted the talent to meet every challenge, and it was truly inspiring.”

His reputation as a prolific actor with a gift for assuming any character he plays or voices has made Hill one of the most sought after names in an ever-growing business.

Alan Morrell, Dwayne’s business manager at Creative Management Partners, says “Dwayne is truly one of the greats and at the tip of the iceberg for his career accomplishments current and future. His road ahead is going to be stellar.”

Q & A with Genius VFX Artist & Motion Graphics Designer Vitaly Verlov

Eric Roberts
Actor Eric Roberts (Left) and Filmmaker Vitaly Verlov (Right) shot by Maria Artos

Living in the modern age we are bombarded by hundreds of commercials per day. As viewers when most of these ads hit the screen we often tune out in order to deal with the overwhelming overload of these messages.

So what does it take for a commercial to stand out and strike the interest of an audience in a world oversaturated with visual sales pitches?

Well, having a seasoned motion graphics designer like Vitaly Verlov behind the screen has proven to be an integral factor in the success of campaigns for global companies like Max Factor, Mitsubishi, Peugeot, Volkswagen, Nokia, Samsung and countless others.

Over the years Verlov has amassed prodigious knowledge in terms of the technical methods involved in creating everything from multi-layered motion graphics to seamless visual effects. Beyond his technical skills though, his creative vision has made him a highly sought after talent in the industry. In fact, earlier this year he handled all of the visual effects on the upcoming film Redux, a sci-fi film starring Oscar nominee Eric Roberts from the films Inherent Vice, The Dark Knight, The Cable Guy and many more. What is even more astonishing is the fact that Verlov also wrote and directed the highly anticipated film.

His prowess as a motion graphics designer and visual effects artist have allowed him to take on projects that others in the industry who are only skilled in one of these two areas could not.

While you may not know the face of Vitaly Verlov, if you’ve ever tuned into MTV, VH1, Friday! Or Russia’s RUTV, then there’s a pretty good chance that you’ve seen his work more than once over the last decade.

To find out more about Vitaly Verlov’s captivating work make sure to check out our interview below!

You can also see some of his work through his website: http://primevalues.ru/

 

IFR: Where are you from?

VV: My name is Vitaly Verlov and I was born in the city of Novosibirsk, Russia. After graduating in 2007 I moved to Moscow to work as a motion graphics designer and visual effect artist for television and film.

IFR: How and when did you first get into doing visual effects work?

VV: In high school and university I did a lot of computer programming because I was a computer geek back then, and even before that I came across an international computer art subculture called Demoscene. Essentially it’s a community where young programmers, artists and musicians get together – for fun – to make demos: computer programs that produce audio-visual presentations in real-time. The visual side of creating a demo implies that you actually program algorithms to achieve a certain artistic effects on screen. To put it short, it’s awesome. As soon as my programming skills got up to speed, I started making graphical demos with some cool looking visual effects and showcasing them on so called “demoparties.” As a matter of fact, my thesis work was focused on developing a toolset for real-time motion graphics and visual effects production.

Later on I became more interested in non real-time photorealistic imaging and switched from computer graphics programming to producing visual effects, design and animation in a more traditional industry-applicable form and started doing broadcast motion graphics for television.

IFR: What inspired you to pursue this profession?

VV: After seeing some television channels that were neatly designed from a graphical standpoint or motion pictures packed with great visual effects, I really wanted to become a part of it.

IFR: Are there any particular artists that inspire you?

VV: In my early days I was fascinated with some of the broadcast design graphics on TV and dreamed about getting to this level of quality and impression. That’s what basically inspired me to learn, more than personalities. However after moving to Moscow, I had an opportunity to meet with some of the great guys behind those outstanding designs and work with them.

IFR: What kind of training was involved in order to become a VFX artist? How important is formal education to getting a job in the industry?

VV: I personally don’t have any special VFX related training. Nor do most of the other artists I know. Basically, to become a VFX artist or motion designer, it’s important to have a natural artistic sense and a good eye plus the ability to efficiently handle technical tools and software. On the other hand, it’s also a matter of specialty in the industry, for instance: environmental concept artists or matte painters often have a background in fine arts. One thing is true for everyone working in VFX: you don’t stop learning, no matter what your specialty is.

IFR: What is that you love about being a VFX artist?

VV: The ability to create something impressive out of nothing; and the ability to impress girls at parties, of course.

IFR: What is your specialty in the field?

VV: As a VFX artist, I consider myself a generalist which means that I can pull off a wide variety of tasks myself, including modeling, texturing, animating, rendering, compositing. There are fields that I prefer more, and there are fields I’m not involved in at all – like character modeling and rigging.

As a motion/broadcast graphics designer and art director, again, I can do a lot, starting from initial creative concept to final delivery.

IFR: What is your typical workflow like in terms of collaborating with other artists on a film?

VV: It depends on a project and/or studio. Sometimes workflow is precise, broken down into stages and compartmentalized with strict deadlines, sometimes it’s a complete mess and overnight hell. The most positive experience is of course when you focus on something specific you really like and are good at. This way of collaborating is very efficient and creative at the same time.

IFR: You also work as a motion graphics designer, can you tell us a little bit about what that entails?

VV: Sure. Essentially motion graphics design is an animation-oriented subset of graphic design. Graphic design is just a single picture. Motion design is graphic design in sequence, in motion, and you see it pretty much everywhere: opening sequences for TV shows, film titles, game console menus, or photo-realistic 3D smartphone magically spinning in mid-air in a smartphone TV or Web commercial, or even user interface animation within that smartphone. In other words, any animated piece in visual medium is a subject of motion design.

That’s what I’ve been doing for various television channels including MTV, VH1, Friday!, and others. Sometimes there is client input on the initial concept of what we’re trying to achieve, sometimes there is no input. When there is no input, I also work as a copywriter where I suggest different ideas or scripts on how an end result might look and what meanings/themes it might have behind it. When the concept is approved, we move on to actual motion design.

IFR: How does being a motion graphics editor differ from working as a VFX artist?

VV: Motion graphics is a general term. It’s something that visually can be executed in different ways and styles. It can be two-dimensional, flat design-ish/illustrated looking as well as filmic three-dimensional. I think my direction is more filmic/three-dimensional oriented, that’s why it depends substantially on the visual effects techniques. For example, for a commercial spot for Peugeot the idea was to make a realistic car driving along a stylized miniature street – stuff like that directly relies on VFX techniques because it requires 3D modeling, rendering and compositing as a part of the workflow. In a sense, for such projects VFX is a way to implement the creative idea. That’s where motion graphics and VFX come together.

On the other hand, there are motion graphics projects where VFX techniques are not required for natural reasons. For instance, I have experience making on-screen graphics as a part of graphics package for several television stations where the task was to design the look and feel of info graphic elements that pop up during a broadcast. While these elements look pretty minimalistic, they should have a thought-out motion behavior and structure that keeps the integrity of the overall design. Sometimes the way these elements pop up on screen, interact with the viewer, and disappear is hard to conceptualize. That’s where “design” in the “motion graphics design” title comes to the forefront.

IFR: How has having skills as both a VFX artist and a motion graphics designer separated you from others in the industry?

VV: I think VFX and motion graphics are storytelling devices, and I always try to approach projects from the storytelling perspective. So for me the primary task is not making a neat looking animation or effect but supporting and enhancing the context it is a part of. Motion graphics is about guiding the viewer’s attention and it’s also very important for visual effects shots. What separates me is a good understanding of these aspects which, in real life, means that a client is usually happy with the timing, pace and accents I put into designs during the early stages of production, which is cool because it eliminates the need to reiterate on that so I can spend more time perfecting the visuals.

IFR: What companies have you worked with in the industry?

VV: Since I consider myself motion graphics oriented, I have more experience working on commercials and on-air broadcast design.

As a lead designer and VFX artist, I worked for the Russian branch of MTV and VH1 Networks and nation-wide entertainment television channel Friday! As an art director and motion graphics designer, I’ve done quite a few projects for a major music television channel, RUTV. Specifically, I created motion graphics and the overall design for the RUTV 2014 annual music awards ceremony, and some pieces for its 2015 installment.

As a freelance designer and VFX artist, I’ve done a bunch of commercials for international brands, including Mitsubishi, Peugeot, Volkswagen, Max Factor, Nokia, Samsung, Eurovision, Sensation, plus a variety of Russian brands like Beeline (a major mobile operator in Russia).

As a lead VFX artist, I have several projects done for the US-based boutique postproduction company Coat of Arms. Also, I have great experience working for the international visual effects company Pixomondo (Game of Thrones) as a lead 2D effects artist.

Working for various international companies and clients gives a pretty solid understanding of how the global industry works as well as flexibility in the way you approach projects in terms of planning and workflow because the process makes the result.

IFR: Can you tell us a little bit about the television and film projects you’ve worked on; and the specific contributions you made?

VV: I’ve done a lot of TV show openers and channel idents, in a team of designers and by myself, including works for MTV Networks, nation-wide channels Friday!, and RUTV.

While working for Friday! I had a positive interaction with the broadcast design department of Les télécréateurs (Paris) who designed overall on-air look of this station. I’ve made a few show openers and extra identity pieces based on the existing visual style of the station. And for RUTV I created motion graphics and design for the RUTV 2014 annual music awards ceremony which was a pretty huge amount of work (a show opener, a set of nominees, promo spots, press materials) on a tight schedule – that’s where the ability to sit focused for 18 hours came in handy.

Also, recently I had a chance to work as a lead 2D VFX artist on a Chinese big budget sci-fi feature film called Impossible, which is scheduled to hit the market sometime this year. I came in when the postproduction was in full swing, and my job was to complete a bunch of VFX shots, mostly energy fields and portal effects.

I should mention that I’m a filmmaker myself with two sci-fi live action films already under my belt. The latest one, Redux, features the well-known Hollywood actor Eric Roberts (The Dark Knight, The Expendables). It’s a short character-driven story with the ’80s/retro-futuristic vibe to it. I wrote, directed and edited this film and did visual effects.

IFR: Why is motion graphics design important to modern filmmaking?

VV: In its pure form, motion graphics design is critical for television and Internet – that’s for sure. Filmmaking also takes advantage of it, particularly big budget sci-fi & fantasy films and movie trailers, which are a marketing device. Film credits or sleek futuristic computer interfaces you see in a sci-fi flick is a product of motion graphics design. Sometimes it enhances the narrative story of a film, sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s in there. Moreover, since motion design and VFX are somewhat interrelated fields, motion graphics can be essentially found in any film featuring visual effects. That’s also a good way to save some time and money during production, which is important, especially for independent narrative filmmakers like myself. Can a modern live action film be done with no VFX and motion design? Probably yes. But if it’s a mainstream (commercial) film, there should be a marketing/ad campaign involved and that’s where motion graphics comes for you again.

IFR: What has been your favorite project so far and why? What projects do you have coming up?

VV: Not sure about all-time favorites, but I can name a couple of recent ones. I was a part of a team who made a STRAFE® promotional spot for a successful Kickstarter compaign. STRAFE® is an independent old school first-person shooter video game. On this commercial, I worked as a lead VFX/motion design artist.

And of course I loved working on my second film Redux because I think it looks pretty neat, has a coherent story and stars well-known Hollywood actors.

As to the projects to come, some of my past TV clients have a brand new music channel in the works, and while there’s not much info available at this point it looks like I will be creating an onscreen design and several VFX heavy idents shot on green screen.

IFR: Do you have a passion for working on a specific kind of film or project, if so what kind of project and why?

VV: In the TV world, I would say, a show opener. When making a TV show opener, you’re actually making a focused 10-15 second piece which tells a story visually, and that’s what attracted me to the visual medium in the first place.

In film, I have a passion for working on my own films.

IFR: What would you say was your first foot in the door to the industry, and what advice would you give to aspiring artists?

VV: In 2006 I believe, I started making what I called the daily images: the goal was to make one new artistic image every day, just for fun and training, and post it on the Internet into a corresponding design community. I ended up making just a couple of images a week, but after a year of this marathon I was invited to work full-time at a prominent postproduction studio in Moscow, N3, because they liked my pictures. That’s basically how I got into this industry. So I guess my advice would be, stop being aspiring and start actually making something just for the sake of it, start the process and watch how everything unfolds.

Actor Shvan Aladin Continues to Gain Recognition Across the Globe

424998_origSo much of establishing oneself as a successful actor in the world of film and television comes down to an actor’s ability to be chameleonic in their pursuit of a role in order to make a casting director believe that they aesthetically fit the character.

While the mark of a great actor entails a level of finesse and understanding of the human condition that extends far beyond the depths of one’s surface appearance, when it comes to initially breaking out on the silver screen, looks tend to have a lot to do with who gets cast and who doesn’t. This seemingly unfair truth gone awry is apparent in the careers of many actors who seem to have fallen victim to the dreaded typecast, forever struggling to break out of that one role in which they’ve been ushered into playing over and over again.

Actor Shvan Aladin has created a diverse repertoire of work over the past decade that proves the extraordinary capacity of his craft. Through the wide range of roles he’s already portrayed across genres, Aladin has made his mark as an actor who cannot be pigeonholed into one role; but, being from the Middle East, more specifically, from Kurdistan, has endowed him with features that are easily stereotyped.

Over the years the actor, who moved to Sweden at the age of 9, has been strategically selective about his roles on the screen, but when you’re good at what you do and you look a certain way, ethnic stereotypes, like the “terrorist” in his case, just seem to weasel their way in.

If he wasn’t such a professionally seasoned actor, being called in for roles like this might get a little annoying, but he says, “I try to look at the human being that I’m playing as being different from the ones I’ve played in the past. Because every character is different from each other, just like in life. One of the most valuable lessons I was taught during my training at the Stella Adler academy was to never judge a character while playing it.”

He adds, “It doesn’t mean that I personally would approve of the actions some characters (such as the terrorist ones) I play do, but I try to put my personal emotions on the side while researching and trying to understand the brain of that specific human being and his justifications for doing what he is doing.”

In the past year audiences across the globe have seen Shvan Aladin star in a national commercial for the U.S. Army, the feature film Always Faithful, where he plays a terrorist, and the Swedish television series Blå ögon, also known as Blue Eyes.

While all of these productions in one way or another emphasize his ethnic appeal, the actor brilliantly transforms himself from one character to another without ever encroaching on clichés.

About acting in the commercial for the U.S. Army’s campaign “Tunnel Special Forces,” the actors says, “It was an amazing experience, and the director, Peter Berg made it even better. It felt wonderful being directed by a director whose movies I’ve been watching since I was a child, it really made the entire experience unforgettable!”

A two-time Emmy nominee, Berg was also the director of the recent hit film Lone Survivor starring Mark Wahlberg.

Shvan Aladin
Elvin Ahmad (left) and Shvan Aladin (center) during a protest on the SVT series “Blå ögon” shot by Johan Paulin

In the new political drama Blå ögon, Shvan Aladin plays the dynamic and challenging role of Sharhyar, a young Persian teen who is the only true friend that Simon, one of the other lead characters in the series, has. However, due to the fact that Simon’s mother Annika Nilsson, played by the Guldbagge Award winning actress Anna Bjelkerud, happens to be a political candidate for the openly racist party, Trygghetspartiet, some begin to question the authenticity of Simon and Sharhyar’s friendship.

“My character was a hard working young man with a beautiful heart,” explains Aladin. “In the show Sharhyar is the only one who stands up for Simon because he knows that Simon doesn’t share the same opinions as his mother.”

Over the course of the first season, Aladin’s character Sharhyar is framed for the murder of Simon’s mother– a perfect example of how stereotypes can turn an innocent man in to a falsely accused criminal.

“The political drama ‘Blue Eyes’ is about racism taking over in Sweden; but the subject is globally relevant. It’s a subject that has always existed unfortunately, especially in Europe today,” admits Aladin. “I want to be a part of those who fight against racism, and I believe that you can change people through art. My passion in life is acting and that is my art.”

Early on in his career, Aladin starred in the Swedish television shows Andra Avenyn also known as Second Avenue, and Riverside. And while he has undoubtedly made his name known on the screen, the actor’s talents extend to the stage as well. In fact, even with all the glitz and glamour that come along with being a film and television star, the actor marks his role as Ruckley, a lobotomized patient, in the theatre production of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest in Los Angeles as one of his most memorable to date.

Aladin recalls, “It was the best play that I have been a part of in my life, and playing someone with a mental disability is something that I researched a lot… I will never forget the things I learned during the production. I remember thinking during closing weekend: I will remember this character when I’m on my deathbed.”

The actor has also taken the spotlight in the theatre productions of The Hasty Heart directed by Harry Mastrogeorge and J.B directed by Oscar winner Milton Justice, as well as Our lady of 121st Street, and the remake of the Opera Carmen, which was held in Sweden at the Backa Theater.

With an accomplished repertoire of work with world-renowned directors spanning both the American and European entertainment industries already under his belt, Shvan Aladin does admit that there is one director that he has a strong desire to work with.

“I have always had a dream of working with director Bahman Ghobadi so I will also try to include my third country Kurdistan, which is where I’m originally from and so, hopefully I will get to work with him sometime soon,” says Aladin. “I remember watching his movie ‘A Time for Drunken Horses’ as the first movie I saw in the cinema in Sweden after moving there. I immediately fell in love with the movie and his directing, and I was only 10 years old at that time.”

Currently, you can catch Shvan Aladin in the role of Jacob in the horror film Mansion of Blood, which was directed by Mike Donahue (Surge of Power, Pooltime) and was released earlier this month.

Tone Innset: The Producer Behind some Of Norway’s Favorite TV Shows

Tone Innset
                                              Producer Tone Innset shot by Mark Newton

Documentary series producer Tone Innset has been wildly successful as the creative force behind some of Norway’s best reality television shows. For the past five years she has continued to produce the kind of work that glues audiences to their TVs with the captivating and often intimate personal accounts of those whom she presents with the honed expertise of a storyteller.

As Norway’s top showrunner in the docuseries genre, Innset has produced more than 160 episodes of an array of titles, including 118 episodes spanning 12 seasons of Unge Mødre, the Norwegian version of MTV’s Teen Mom. Much like its American counterpart, the show gives viewers a glimpse into the lives of young women and teens who are either pregnant or have given birth as they deal with the day-to-day blessings and adversities of their newfound family lives.

Filming a show like Unge Mødre comes with its own difficulties, which is one area where Innset’s knowledge and expertise prove how valuable an asset she is to the entire production.

“These are young adults and teenagers with a lot of responsibility on their hands and a lot on their plate,” Innset said. “You also have to remember that in these kinds of series you follow someone’s life, and the most interesting things in a person’s life doesn’t necessarily happen between nine and five.”

Innset was also the producer of 12 episodes of Charterfeber aka Charter Fever, a series that follows a group of real-life Norwegian vacationers as they travel to exotic locales in southern Europe. The show documents their lives as they prepare for the trip, their time on holiday and their return home at the end of the journey.

“I loved that because it was really funny,” Innset said. “You know Scandinavians love to escape the cold weather and go to southern Europe to have fun… We filmed for two months on the Spanish island of Gran Canaria. It’s a humorous and edgy series, and a lot of people relate to the characters and have a laugh.”

Her intense hands-on work on Charterfeber made the show’s 2013 premiere the highest-rated premiere on the TV3 Norway channel in four years. Charterfeber’s widespread popularity garnered the series a nomination for the prestigious Gullruten Norwegian Television Award. The show is also known for having helped launch the career of one of Norway’s hottest celebrities, Svein Tore Ostvik.

Innset’s latest project is the second season of the food series Norges Grillmester aka Norway Grill Master, a star-studded cooking show, which sees contestants facing off through challenges to be named the titular Grill Master. The popular docuseries is hosted by Norway’s golden boy, actor Stig Henrik Hoff (The Thing, Into The White, Lilyhammer), and world-renowned chef Jonas Lundgren.

As a producer with a reputation for being someone who is always on-call and prepared to handle any curve ball in order to keep a production running smoothly, Innset was quick to respond when logistical complications threatened the filming process of Norges Grillmester. After an unforeseeable obstacle arose where a massive tent that had been specially designed as the set for one of the episodes was erected without all of the necessary pieces, it was Innset who came to the rescue.

“Well, on Thursday, we saw that a quarter of the floor in the tent was missing; it never got delivered, and that kind of flooring was very hard to come by,” explained Innset. “Somehow we miraculously managed to find a place where we could get a material similar to the floor we already had, so we painted it to look the same and it all worked out.”

This is only one out of hundreds of examples of the way Innset’s quick thinking and experience has helped to keep one of her productions on track. This particular season of Norges Grillmester premiered April 13 in Norway, and has been an exciting ride with unpredictable twists and turns from contestants Per Thorvald Thorgesen and Terje Inngjerdingen dropping out for health reasons to Sylvia and Luis Vavik winning the title earlier this month.

Innset is also working on the next season of Unge Mødre, which is set to premiere this fall. Her passion for the documentary series genre, which has made her a prolific name in the field and shines in the quality of her productions, stems from a human-interest perspective.

“I strongly believe that when people feel that they are seen and heard they feel a kind of ownership over the project, and when you feel ownership you put a lot more energy into it,” she said. “I have a great passion and love for telling stories, and I am a curious people person.”