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Q & A With Actress Sarah Wessendorf from Eitan Sarid’s New Film “CPH”

Sarah Wessendorf CPH Film
Actress Sarah Wessendorf shot by Callum Leo Hughes

Though different actors have a plethora of diverse personal reasons for choosing to take on a particular role or another, many will agree that there are some stories that just need to be told, ones that they just couldn’t pass up. Amongst other factors, that is one of the driving forces that drew actress Sarah Wessendorf, who’s originally from Germany, to join the Israeli film production of “CPH” directed by Eitan Sarid earlier this year. Wessendorf, who’s been acting since she was a child, recognized that “CPH” carried the potential to be one of those rare stories that could have a real impact on audiences. And she was right.

“CPH,” which was chosen as an Official Selection of the Jerusalem Film Festival where it was nominated for the prestigious Best Picture Award, depicts the postwar trauma a soldier often face years after they’ve left the battlefield. The film follows a former Israeli soldier who, along with his wife Pia played by Wessendorf, relocate to Copenhagen in hopes of starting a new life and leaving the past behind. If only it were that easy.

Shedding light on a topic that many soldiers across the globe continue to face, “CPH” is brought to life in a way that allows audience members to understand the very real traumas soldiers and their families face after the battle is over. For Wessendorf, this was a hugely important subject to dive into, and her performance as Pia in the film is simply flawless. She is caring and supportive of her husband through his trials and tribulations, yet she never fails to reveal her character’s vulnerabilities and the overwhelming difficulties that come along with being his wife and main support system.

Wessendorf says, “At some point you can not avoid facing your past. That being, said some places and people give us the strength we need to work through those painful experiences.”

An eye-opening film about trauma, healing and love, “CPH” is not to be missed; and lucky enough for us we got the chance to interview the film’s lead actress, Sarah Wessendorf.

Hey Sarah, thanks for joining us! Can you tell us a little bit about what happens in the film “CPH”? 

SW: “CPH” is about an ex Israeli soldier who moves to Copenhagen to escape from his traumatic past in Israel. He moves there with his wife Pia, who I play in the film. When he gets to Copenhagen he gets a surprise visit from his army friend who breaks into the apartment when no one is there. When these old friends finally see each other they are faced with all the trauma and fears that my husband was trying to avoid all this time. In a way, his friend breaking into the apartment symbolizes the way that trauma will find a way to break through over and over again if we are not willing to take the time to sit down with it and to look it in the eye in order to accept and transform it.

Sounds like a very heavy story– what was it that  made you want to be involved with this project?

SW: I have a deep admiration for Eitan Sarid as a director so when I saw that he was casting for the movie I immediately contacted him, and it worked out beautifully. I never shy away from a difficult or complex topic in movies. I think that those are the most important movies to be made. The only importance is to portray these topics in a respectful and sensitive way.

What is it about Eitan Sarid’s work that you admire? What was it like working with Eitan on set?

SW: Eitan Sarid is a wonderful director who gives the actors the space and freedom to bring their own ideas, knowledge and experience to the set. He has a clear idea of what he wants, but he is also open and interested to hear his actor’s own sense of the scene and the character, and then let it all come together. Working with Eitan feels safe, there is a lot of mutual respect. We became very good friends through the process of working together. I deeply respect his vision and his ability to tell stories and I’m very much looking forward to working with him in the future.

Can you tell us about your character in the film?

SW: I play Pia, the wife of the lead. She is from Denmark and so that aspect also signals a new energy that is not connected to the heaviness her husband experienced in Israel. She is next to him to help him build a new life and create a new identity. But when her husband is faced with his past trauma she too has to come to terms with the fact that she didn’t fully know her husband and that in order to love him fully she has to understand his pain and trauma.

What was it like working with Doron Amit who plays your husband in the film? How was the chemistry on set?

SW: Working with Doron was a real treat! He is a very talented actor and together we created this safe space where we both felt free to improvise and trust each other, we motivated each other to go even deeper into our characters’ feelings, fears and ultimately the bond the characters have.

 What does Pia bring to the story? And how did you feel about playing the character?

SW: Pia’s role is a vital one, she adds an element of love and support to the film. She is the one who accepts and loves her husband no matter what. She is determined to have unending and unconditional love for her husband, and this is an active choice she reinforces over and over again, which gives her husband the strength and trust to, for the first time, look into his pain and try to heal. 

I think that this is something that we as humans need in order to be able to move past certain traumas, to know somehow that there is a deep well of love underneath. A love that will catch you when you fall. No matter how we think we have it, I think it is a must to have that in order to open up and become vulnerable. This well if you will, is Pia in the film for her husband. 

When you were creating your character and really becoming Pia, were there any experiences from your personal life that you looked to, or any other places that you turned to for inspiration?

SW: Definitely, I very much rely on a spiritual power to give me the strength and courage to look into childhood experiences which might not have been super and that I wanted to heal.  I feel a very strong unconditional love from a higher wisdom, call it God if you will. I was very much comparing this to the unfailing love and patience that Pia has for her husband. Also I saw someone who deeply admires her husband for his strength and I’ve definitely felt this in previous relationships too, this immense respect for the life path that someone had been on. 

Can you tell us about any challenges or memorable experiences from this project?

SW: Shooting in Israel was definitely very interesting for me. I could tell that the story was also a very personal one for the director and the other cast members since in Israel it is mandatory to go to the army. There of course you are prey to many traumatic experiences, which you will not be able to shield yourself from. Then it becomes the ultimate goal to somehow heal these experiences from the army which proves to not always be that easy. Especially when there are no therapists offered and therapy can be very expensive. It is up to the individuals to learn to cope as best as they can with those dark memories and then somehow learn to live with them.

What are your personal feelings on the fact that is so difficult for the soldiers to get approved for free therapy once they leave the army?

SW: That is of course unfortunate since a country greatly benefits from having mentally healthy citizens. It is a very complex topic though, one that could take hours to discuss. And I don’t think it is fair to a country to judge it without deeply diving into its history, its values and its hopes.

Was there any point during the filming where you felt like the story was too heavy to handle?

SW: No never. I was very much convinced that this was an important story to tell. And as a German I was very happy to be a part of it. I don’t shy away from heavy situations or topics. So this for me was rather a film that I felt honored to be a part of!

What was your favorite part of being involved in this production?

SW: There is something very special to be working as a German in an otherwise all Israeli cast. I feel very fortunate that I got the opportunity to work with such talented actors such as Yona Rozenkier and Doron Amit. Also I completely trusted Eitan Sarid’s vision. I felt very lucky to be part of a meaningful Israeli story in a film that also received such amazing reviews and feedback. But my favorite part was hands down the people. For some reason I always felt very connected to Israel and being surrounded by so much Israeli talent was a complete blast for me.

What do you hope audiences take away from this film?

SW: My biggest wish would be that people realize that it is not always the way it seems when we see a fellow human being. From the outside everything might look wonderful, carefree and easy. But we can never really know where this person has come from, what scars he or she carries, what traumas they’ve experienced. I would love for the audience to understand that we need to foster a society of compassion and empathy, and a deeper love for each other. We all run through life with our own experiences, some are joyful and some painful. No one can run away from that. My wish is that we all learn to treat each other with more care and more love.

How do you feel about the film being chosen as an Official Selection of the Jerusalem International Film Festival and the Tel Aviv International Student Film Festival?

SW: It was such thrilling news! I am so proud of all of us, because I know how hard we worked to make the movie what it is! I was not surprised that it has gotten the recognition that it did though. With all that talent around, it was easy to foresee that this movie would be an important one.

 

One of Canada’s Hottest Stars: Actress Jessica Huras

Over the last decade Canadian actress Jessica Huras has established herself as a sought after talent for high profile theater productions, TV shows and award-winning films. While her versatility and capacity for seamlessly tapping into even the most challenging roles have definitely helped her create the dazzling reputation she has today, it doesn’t hurt that she is undeniably beautiful as well.

Early on in her career Huras appeared on the two-time Gemini Award winning series This Is Wonderland. Shortly after she went on to guest star on the Lifetime TV series Missing alongside multi-award winning actress Vivica A. Fox. An investigative crime series that focuses on finding missing persons, Huras played the roles of Caroline Dunn and Luke Thompson, two characters who at first appear to be separate and unrelated, but over the course of the episode are revealed to be one in the same.

When it comes to choosing one role over another, Huras says, “I look for smart scripts that feel original in some way and that have interesting and complex roles for women.”

In Missing, Huras gives a heart wrenching performance as a transgendered college student who struggles to find his identity as a man born in a woman’s body, a challenging role that only further proves the actress’s affinity for tapping into complex characters.

Audiences across the world will also recognize Huras as Leandra from the first season of the hit television show Being Erica, where she starred alongside Erin Karpluk (Rookie Blue, Reasonable Doubt, Supernatural, Saving Hope, Flashpoint) and Reagan Pasternak (Masters of Sex, Heartland, Cake).

“This was a very theatrical role, allowing me to tap into my darker side and channel my inner Goth,” explains Huras about her character on the three-time Gemini Award and Leo Award winning series.

Similar to the way that Jamie Lee Curtis has become synonymous with the horror genre through her role as Laurie Strode in Halloween, Huras has also become something of a notable “scream queen” on film.

Through films like The Deadly Pledge where she played the role of Nikki Evans alongside Gossip Girl star Leighton Meester, James Isaac’s action packed 2006 horror film Skinwalkers, and NYC: Tornado Terror, Huras has displayed a rare talent for evoking fear within audiences through her believable performances.

Although she has carved out her place as an actress in film and television productions starring alongside some of the best in the industry, the silver screen has by no means taken away from her work as a dedicated performer in the theatre.

In 2009 Huras starred alongside Sebastien Heins from the TV series The Listener, Cracked and Darknet, and Mikaela Dyke from the films Blood Boars and Sight Unseen, in the production of David Levine’s “Reflections On Giving Birth to a Squid.” The production, which opened in Montreal and toured across Toronto, Winnipeg, Saskatoon and Edmonton as part of the Fringe Festival, received the Centaur Award for Outstanding Production from the Montreal Fringe Festival.

In 2010 the actress also founded Heart in Hand Theater company in Toronto – a revolving collective producing rare plays in need of a comeback, as well as developing new works of their own. Through Heart in Hand, Huras has produced “The Commune,” “Cowboy Mouth” where she played the starring role of Cavale alongside Broken Social Scene member Jason Collett, and “Trout Stanley” where she played the role of Grace Ducharme.

About what drives her to perform, Huras says, “I love telling stories and sharing the human experience. I think it’s the most palpable way of connecting and it’s never dull, not for a second. I’m forever challenged and inspired in this field.”

With each of her characters being completely different from the next, Huras’s dedication to continually pushing herself beyond her comfort zone as an actress has allowed her to amass a wide range of roles on both the stage and screen.

With an astonishing career already under her belt and several productions being released this year, it is clear that we will be seeing a whole lot more of Jessica Huras for years to come. Currently, you can check Huras out in the role of Natalie on the History Channel series Gangland Undercover, which began airing in February. She also wrapped production on the films Anxietyville and Teeth earlier this year, both of which are set to debut later this year.

A Saxophonist with Heart: Italy’s Gianni Vancini

Gianni Vancini
Gianni Vancini shot by Mark Montue

While there are countless professional saxophonists working in the music industry today, few have had the success of Italian musician Gianni Vancini. An award winning saxophonist, Gianni Vancini has continued to woo audiences over the past two decades with his magnificently dynamic sound, which blends elements of jazz, funk, soul, and R&B.

“It’s very hard for me to say that I play a specific genre of music,” explained Gianni Vancini. “I play what gives me the chance to share emotions.”

Vancini, who has performed all over the world, has been recognized and endorsed by several of the music industry’s most prestigious companies including Canada-based Légère Reeds, Italy’s Grassi Saxophones, as well as American-based companies Cannonball Saxophones, Theo Wanne Mouthpieces, and AMT microphones.

Having worked with an incredible list of internationally known musicians, Vancini names musician and friend Eric Marienthal as someone who has greatly shaped his personal approach music.

“Eric Marienthal takes the cake. We met in 2005, when he was recording for Italian artist Umberto Tozzi, who I’ve been touring with since 2002. The approach he has with music and life is so inspiring to me,” said Vancini. “What I really like about him music wise is his preparation, his high level of professionalism and the way he strives for perfection in everything he does.”

Marienthal, who is a Grammy Award winning contemporary American saxophonist, has released several successful records including Oasis, which ranked in the top five of the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Charts.

In addition to collaborating with such well known artists as Andrea Bocelli, and Sting, Vancini has also used his musical genius to help raise money for charity organizations like Terra Mosse; an organization which came into being after two earthquakes with magnitudes of 5.8 and above hit Northern Italy within 10 days of each other leaving businesses in shambles and thousands of people homeless.

“I did a song for a benefit two years ago after a series of tremendous earthquakes hit my birthplace in Mirandola, Italy. Together with a famous radio station, we decided to put together an all-star band to raise money for the territory,” explained Vancini.

“The song is called ‘Insieme’ (Together) and it became a single CD for the association called Terre Mosse, which is taking care of all the major businesses that were damaged by the earthquakes.”

The all-star band, which included Gianni Vancini (saxophone), Claudio Dirani (drums), Marco Dirani (bass), and Emiliano Fantuzzi (guitar), released the single CD entitled Insieme, which was produced by the Italian radio station Radio Pico, in 2013.

Vancini is currently represented in America by the artist management company Max Bernard Management, which also represents internationally known musicians Terry Wollman, Maltida Madison, Rob “Funksta” Bacon, among others.

As for the future, Gianni Vancini plans to continue his life-long passion of playing music around the world and hopes to embark on another tour in the United States later this year.

Cinematographer Johanna Coelho Pulls Us In with Powerful Imagery

Cinematographer Johanna Coelho
                 Cinematographer Johanna Coelho

French cinematographer Johanna Coelho is not only a phenomenal director of photography who has a background working with an array of different genres, but she is capable of shooting on any format, a feature that sets her apart from the masses.

“Film and digital have the same purpose: create images for telling a story. There’s a lot of discussion going on about what is best between shooting on film or digital. For me in a sense, it’s like having a discussion about which lense to use. It’s a decision that concerns one’s choice, taste and style,” explained Coelho.

With the global technological advancements we have experienced over the last two decades, the most noticeable shift when it comes to the film industry can be found in the format in which films are shot.

For instance, feature films that were once shot on 35mm filmstrips are now predominantly shot on digital, the reason being that digital technology is cheaper to reproduce, and easily transferrable.

The question of whether to shoot on digital or 35mm will always come down to the aim of the director and what the film’s director of photography (DP) feels is the most viable option for producing the director’s vision. However, for the DP to even consider taking one of these two routes they must first be capable of shooting on both formats, a skill Johanna Coelho can accomplish in her sleep.

“I think it’s amazing to want and know how to shoot both, because today we still have a choice, ” said Coelho. “I pick one over another depending on the project, story, shooting conditions, and visual style. There is a sharpness to digital that is really appreciated nowadays, and film will always give you this beautiful grainy image that gives a really cinematic aspect to your film. They do not look the same, and that’s the great thing about it.”

Coelho’s talent as a cinematographer and her ability to choose whether to shoot on film or digital depending on what will be the most compelling for the overall project, has allowed her to be far more creative than most in the craft.

The film Broken Leaves, which was directed by award-winning director Sasa Numic, follows two teenage best friends, Lana and Annie, as they go on a picnic with three boys in the woods. The film focuses on Lana’s jealousy over the attention Annie is receiving from the boys, a feeling that quickly turns to anger and leads her to do something that she immediately regrets.

Coelho worked her magic as the director of photography for the film, which was shot solely in the woods using 35mm film. Coelho’s use of the perfect filter and film, in addition to the way she captured the sunlight breaking through the trees creates a hazy, almost dreamlike feeling, one that visually supports the film’s storyline of Lana’s rash actions being grounded somewhere outside of reality.

Broken Leaves is a story that is supposed to feel like it was shot in the 70’s, so I felt shooting on film was appropriate in order to give a realistic and beautiful grain to the images,” explained Coelho.

“Also, there is a really nice warm look created with the filter I used in the camera throughout the whole film. This particular color created with the filter worked because of the type of film I chose to use, Kodak Vision 3 5213, 200T. So it wasn’t only about the grain, but also about the choice of emulsion. Colors on film can be truly amazing if you know how to use them.”

As the director of photography for the film The Black Room, which was also shot on 35mm film and follows a convicted woman who dances away the reality of her jail sentence by imagining she is a cabaret dancer, Johanna Coelho shows her finesse and versatility with the camera. Because The Black Room was based on the incredible camera tricks invented by French illusionists and cinema genius Georges Méliès, Ms. Coelho chose to shoot on film in order to remain authentic to Méliès’ discoveries.

Creating a mesmerizing sequence of imagery using double and triple exposures on film, Coelho draws audiences in with the way she captures the character’s movements to a place where they too forget that the woman they are watching is in jail.

Concerning the use of double and triple exposure, Coelho admits, “We can do that with digital now, but it’s not as challenging or as fun! Making all of your effects happen in the camera is an incredible experience that shows you the real power of shooting on film.”

While the up and coming generations will most likely switch to shooting solely digital, there are elements of 35mm that continue to be widely cherished throughout the film industry today, and Johanna Coelho’s films serve as a testament to the importance of cinematographers having the capacity to work with both.

“Film is the very first format of cinema, and I think there is something really special about that,” said Coelho.

A Magician of the Cut: Film Editor Vladimir Boboshin

Film Editor Vladimir Boboshin
Film Editor Vladimir Boboshin

For most people who do not work in the film industry there is a grave misconception of the scope of work and talent involved in an editor’s work. Often times editors are thought to simply compile footage selected by the director and sequence sounds created by the music department, but this is rarely, if ever the case.

The editor is a creative cornerstone of any production, he or she is the one who sifts through hundreds and sometimes thousands of takes and personally selects and sequences the best scenes in a way that brings the story to life. An integral force in the creation of hundreds of visually and auditorily captivating productions, Russian native Vladimir Boboshin is the kind of editor that leads a project to success.

Earlier this year Vladimir worked as an editor on the world’s first 24-hour music video which featured seven-time Grammy Award winning artist Pharrell Williams’ hit song “Happy.” “Happy” received the award for Song of the Year at the BBC Music Awards and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song in the film Despicable Me 2 earlier this year.

Something that sets Vladimir Bobshin apart from other editors his love for music and sound in general. The editor explains, “I’m sort of a sound nut and maybe I pay more attention to the sound edit than others. I can edit, cleanup and mix the sound if needed and I did that for the Serta Sleep Systems and Fast Company projects this year here in LA.”

As the editor of several spots for Fast Company’s “Business Simplified” campaign including the spots entitled ‘Simple Advice on Making Creative Ideas Happen,’

‘Simple Advice For Optimizing Social Media,’ and ‘Simple Advice For Working Smarter, Not Harder,’ Vladimir was able to create a series of short, yet highly informative, advice driven projects that assist business owners in reaching their goals, while also promoting the company. Vladimir’s ability to sync and create a symbiotic relationship between the project’s visual and audio elements helped create an end product that is both easy for viewers to understand and entertaining at the same time.

Vladimir Boboshin also worked as the editor of five spots for the Serta Sleep Systems’ promo entitled “iComfort Challenge” earlier this year. The spots follow actual Serta customers using their new iComfort mattress over the course of several weeks comparing their experiences with their previous mattress and their new iComfort. Mixing all of the music in the spots himself, Vladimir creates a feeling that is light, fun and whimsical, and entices audiences to embark on a new life with the Serta’s new iComfort mattress.

Vladimir discovered his passion for the relationship between sound and visuals and the feelings evoked by the combination in his youth. The editor makes it a point to pay special attention to the sound aspects of every project he works on, a feature that continues to pull audiences into each and every story he brings to life on screen.

“I try to find the musical balance in the sequence of pictures, and make them play well with each other,” says Vladimir. “I edit music pretty heavily when needed altering the level balance, as well as EQ and filters, as those are, in my opinion, very underrated tools that help to make the music cue work.”

Over the course of his career Vladimir Boboshin has worked as the lead editor on a variety of commercial, music video, television and feature film productions. Vladimir has been the editor of numerous award-winning commercials including “Chase” for Tele-2, which received the Bronze Award at the 25 kaDR Professional Contest for Television Advertising, “Army” and “Office” for Alfabank, which received the Grand Prix Award at the Red Apple Moscow International Advertising Festival, Ikea’s “Sleepwalker,” which received the Bronze Award at the Red Apple Moscow International Advertising Festival, as well as many more.

To check out some of Vladimir Boboshin’s unparalleled editing work check out his website http://pixtrim.com/portfolio_tag/best/