All posts by Samantha E. Pineda

Molding Magical Soundscapes: Movie Music Supervisor Anna San Juan

Music supervisor Anna San Juan
Music supervisor Anna San Juan shot by Reymark Palcon

 

In the glamorous world of movie making, one aspect of the film production process is often overlooked and vastly underrated. This refers to the musical soundscapes that help mold the film into the magical art form that we have all come to know and love. Without the extensive efforts of a film’s music supervisor, in this case the talented Anna San Juan, all of the relevant audio featured in the film, including any and all music would be nothing but an illusion.

Born and raised in Manila, Anna San Juan has proven herself to be very talented when it comes to recognizing what sound best compliments a project she is working on. Many people don’t realize that being a music supervisor is much more difficult than just picking songs for a film. The job often entails not just the creative aspect of music but the business end as well including such tasks as dealing with numerous legal aspects of clearing song licenses’, extensive research to find the right’s holders, and most importantly reaching out to labels and artists about using their music in the first place.

San Juan realized early on in life that she had a deep passion for music and film so she figured why not try to involve both in her ideal career.

“It all started when a group of incredibly talented American Film Institute fellows took a chance on me bringing me on-board their films as the music supervisor. After two years of also learning alongside them, the opportunity for a feature film [Actors Anonymous] unexpectedly came along, ” recalls San Juan.

Actors Anonymous, the film in question, was a difficult project to take on, but San Juan’s music supervision endowed the upcoming feature with captivating soundscapes that take on a life of their own. It involved the collaboration of 12 directors and featured the esteemed actor, writer and director James Franco (127 hours, The Interview) in a starring role, who also happened to be the author of the adapted novel.

At times the role of music supervisor is a grueling job with little to no recognition for doing something that truly adds an inordinate amount of substance to the finished project. Nevertheless, San Juan certainly understands the importance of what she does for everyone involved with the production.

“My all-time favorite moments are always the unexpected. Something clicks in between song and picture, and suddenly the lines are blurred.  At least this is how unique ideas blow me away. A great, innovative pick in my experience can transform and elevate the scene into more than it is.  I wouldn’t say better, just different in an amazing creative way, ” adds San Juan.

Prior to her work on Franco’s  Actors Anonymous, San Juan proved the diversity of her skill as the music supervisor on a variety of other films including Starman (2014), This Way Up (2014), Slut (2014), Young Americans (2014) and Martian American (2014). The latter two films went on to be featured at dozens of film festivals worldwide, won numerous awards, and both were presented with a prestigious Student Emmy Award in their respective categories.

Currently San Juan is working on a number of projects most notably The Chase and Pursuit, a comedy about a couple out on the run over a parking ticket, and the more serious City Limits, a crime drama that focuses on a man’s obsession with his father’s untimely death and the risk he and his friends take to uncover the dangerous truth about what really happened.

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Editor David Guthrie Nails the Perfect Cut

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Editor David Guthrie shot by Nick Nelson

 

In the entertainment industry, every creative position on a production plays a vital role to its success, and the job of the editor might be the most important of all. Even more so than the writer’s words or the actor’s lines, the editor is responsible for crafting the final version of what the spectator sees.

The editor helps make the footage speak to the audience, which is exactly why David Guthrie stands out among some of the most brilliant editors working in the industry today. Without his wonderful ability to tell a story, the sheer volume of film footage from the productions to which he’s lent his skill would lack a cohesive narrative. 

“Most of the skill in editing comes from making creative decisions, what shot to use where, what music tracks to use, the pacing, rhythm, etc. All of that is easily done on all three platforms,” according to Guthrie.

The Toronto born editor has a knack for creating an effective, riveting story regardless of how many hundreds of hours of footage he has to sort through. Guthrie has also benefited from having a background in music, which greatly enhances the cadence of his edits.

“You try a hundred different tracks of music and none of them are the right one and you just don’t know why and then you find the one that works and you just know, you can feel it and then you cut it in and the whole scene comes to life.”

Guthrie’s exceptional talent landed him the role of editor on the critically acclaimed televised adaption Billy Bishop Goes To War  directed by Academy Award nominee Barbara Willis Sweet, as well as the smash hit documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi.

Currently streaming on Netflix, Jiro Dreams of Sushi has been an official selection at numerous festivals including Toronto, Berlin, and New Zealand International Film Festivals, as well as the Tribeca Film Festival.

After the documentary’s overwhelming feat, Guthrie took on the challenge of working on the labor intensive Weather Channel reality show Cold Water Captains.

“You can give me hundreds of hours of footage with no direction and I can sift through it and find the story thread. Having a writer‘s approach to editing has always been my strong suit, as well as having a music background,” says Guthrie regarding his editing process.  

In Guthrie’s next project, he carried multiple hats as a director, writer, editor and star in the TV comedy Room & Bored. The project paid off immensely by becoming an official selection at the New York Television Festival, which led Guthrie to secure a development deal with the Gannett Network.

The outstanding editor recently completed production on the comedy series Beck & Call, produced by Rockfield Productions, Inc.  The series follows two talent agents struggling to make it in Brooklyn. Season 1 of the show is slated to be released later this year.

Regardless of the genre or medium, David Guthrie’s remarkable editing prowess has placed him among the best editors in the industry; and, as he continues to flex his skill across platforms, it seems there is literally no stopping this talented Canadian.

 

Q & A with Australian Actress Taylor Beadle-Williams

Actress Taylor Beadle-Williams
Actress Taylor Beadle-Williams shot by Sheldon Botler Photography

Whether it be in television, commercials, plays, or films, actress Taylor Beadle-Williams has proven herself to be quite the versatile talent through the plethora of roles she’s taken on in a variety of intriguing projects. Her ability to push herself to the limits in the craft of acting has distinguished her as one of the most talented actors working today.

In her recent film Clarity, Williams plays a blind photographer by the name of Celine. The character does not have any dialogue whatsoever, so Williams had to rely heavily on facial expressions in order to communicate without actually speaking a word, which is why she found this role to be a challenge, but an exciting one at that. In fact, in October of last year, the film was screened at the 59th BFI London Film Festival and grabbed the attention of the festival’s ambassador, Dame Helen Mirren, who expressed her delight with Williams’ performance being “amazingly believable and sensitive.”

Williams’ wonderful range extends to projects such as PLANS, a film series shot in 2014 and slated to be released at a number of film festivals, and online, later this year. Williams’ portrays Belle, a sociopath and lost soul who does just about anything she can to get by in life, even if it takes some manipulation to get what she desires. It’s currently Williams’ favorite role to date. The series also co-stars up-and-coming actors Rahel Romahn (The Principal, Alex & Eve) and recent AACTA nominee Alice Keohavang.

In addition to her film roles, Williams’ earlier work includes nearly a dozen commercials over the past couple years for brands such as Mazda, Hungry Jacks, Woolworths, Priceline, AboutLife and HCF among many others. However, her passion for film and her admiration for director Paul Kampf (From Grace) landed her a role in his 2014 independent film Amnesia: Who Are You?  

Williams’ jumped at the opportunity to be in such a fascinating film about a man suffering from amnesia and his attempt to piece together his fractured existence. The film went on to win an award for Best Dramatic Film at the 19th Annual IFS Festival in Los Angeles.

The dazzling actress recently wrapped up Stanley Joseph’s Love You Krishna, where she plays the role of Radhika, an angel who helps guide the lead character, Kris, through some family struggles. Having such a poignant premise and being such a pivotal role, Williams couldn’t wait to take on this character. The film is currently in post production and is slated to be released later this year.

To learn more about Taylor, check out her interview below and at http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2644984/ 

Where are you from? 

TBW: Although I was born in Sydney, Australia I grew up in Marrickville, which is near the city centre. I am actually a Kiwi because both of my parents are New Zealanders.

When and how did you get into acting?

TBW: I have always been a drama queen. I grew up in an entertainment household: my father is a well-known, established New Zealand singer, Mark Williams (currently the lead singer of the AUS/NZ band, Dragon), and my mother was a dancer, so the performing arts have always been in my veins.

During high school, which was a performing arts school, I started focusing on ballet and dance but I fell in love with acting, particularly after watching Joss Weadon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer series. It was the show’s script writing, storylines, themes, and of course, the female actors playing strong, independent, riveting characters that really struck me. I just had to be a part of that world. Buffy really enlightened me on what I could do with my life: to be an actor, to develop the potential to be anything I want – to whisk myself away from normality and put myself in another person’s shoes and experience different worlds. Although I still dance, acting took my heart and I have never looked back.

Can you tell us about some of the film projects you’ve done?

TBW: In Clarity, I play the leading role, Celine. Clarity was presented at the 59th BFI London Film Festival in October 2015 as part of Giorgio Armani’s “Films of City Frames” section. The chosen directors were briefed to create films inspired by real lives and told through the eyes and emotions of characters immersed in the reality of everyday life.

Clarity is about having a different outlook and a fresh perspective of something that has always been there right before your eyes. My character, Celine, is a blind French photographer and is critical to this film as we see Celine’s perspective on the small but important details in the city. As Celine is filmed, Clarity progresses sonically using the other main character’s, Emma, voice over. Playing a blind woman was intriguing, plus my character didn’t have any dialogue, so to be able to portray a story through actions and say so much, without actually speaking, gave me the chance to really use a wider range of expression. It was a fantastic challenge. At the screening of the film in London, my director, Chris Joys, was approached by the London Film Festival ambassador, Dame Helen Mirren, who described my performance to Mr. Joys as “amazingly believable and sensitive.” 

In Love You Krishna, I played Radhika. In 2013, while searching for the best actress to play one of the important “mistress” roles in his film production, Love You Krishna, writer/director of World Pictures Australia Stanley Joseph came across my body of work and immediately picked up the phone to contact me and see if I was interested in playing this significant role. I jumped at the chance, and it was then that our professional relationship, and friendship, began. Radhika is one of many angels’ who guides the leading character, Kris, through his journey of taking care of a family dealing with many struggles. Kris is a representative of Krishna, a worshipped Hindu deity, and I played one of his “mistresses/angels.” Love You Krishna is due for release later this year.

In early January, I attended the premiere of PLANS, which is a series that was shot in 2014 and will be released at various festivals and online later this year. I play Belle, one of seven lead roles. PLANS was written and directed by Do It Now Production founders, Peter-William Jamieson and Diana Popovska and is about seven young twenty something’s trying to find their own place in the world while living together. It confronts the everyday challenges and struggles facing this group: sexuality, relationships, guilt, grief, love and hate.

Belle is one of my favorite roles. A sociopath, Belle manipulates people, mostly men, to get her way. She is a lost woman, unsure of exactly what she wants in life so she uses other people as a means of controlling. Intelligent and sexy, Belle knows the power she has over people and knows how to work a room. Although, in some sense, she is aware of her control and manipulation, even Belle can surprise herself with her own power. She really disturbs a lot of the relationships in the series and causes some chaos. The series also stars recent AACTA nominee and Australian upcoming actor, Rahel Romahn (The Principal, Alex& Eve) who plays Zia, and AACTA nominee Alice Keohavong, who plays Belle’s arch-nemesis, Claire.

I also played Jeannine, in the US independent feature film, Amnesia: Who Are You?, directed by US filmmaker, Paul Kampf, which won the award for Best Dramatic Film at the 19th Annual IFS Festival in Los Angeles. Getting asked by producer, director, and writer Paul Kampf (who is now in partnership with Ted Field’s production company, Radar Pictures) was a real honor.

How about television projects?

TBW: The past 2 years have been a success: playing the lead in 10 Australian commercials for brands such as James Squire, Woolworths, Mazda 3, Telstra, Hungry Jacks, Priceline, Gravox, HCF, News.com.au, etc. This includes a cinema advertising commercial for Aboutlife. Shot as a music video, my role in the commercial was inspired by Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music. My character sings about the opening of a new AboutLife store in Surry Hills (Sydney suburb) spoofing “The Hills are Alive” song. In September 2014, I also played a role in the Sims 4.

I also played the guest role, Ginette, in the Channel 9 TV series Tricky Business, which co-starred Lincoln Lewis and Anthony Starr.

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

TBW: Diversity is a gift not many actors, or people for that matter, get to experience. There is nothing more exciting than being in someone else’s shoes for even a day or so, to trample in their footsteps and lose yourself to your own imagination. It’s exciting, it’s dynamic, and it’s creative. The best part is trying to find “yourself” in those characters, to still have the essence of you. That helps to bring truth to your roles, so they are well-rounded and 3-dimensional.

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

TBW: I love a challenge. I am a go-getter when it comes to finding a character that I can really delve into. I do not want to be put into a hole – variety is my passion. I have to see how much I can push my acting chops to the edge while maintaining a grounded life. I must never let life imitate art with some of my roles; it’s too dangerous especially when my last three stage roles were a drug addict, a prostitute, and a burlesque fan dancer!

Also, if the writing isn’t great, then I usually won’t bother going ahead with a project. Although, I can be a professional and do my best to give every role a decent go, but ultimately, if you are let down by the script then the whole project will go down, and the end result can really be disheartening.

You’ve also performed in several theatre productions over the years, can you tell us what you personally feel are some of the difference between performing in the theatre and acting on screen? Which one do you prefer and why?

TBW: I have been involved in a lot of theatre, my most favorite productions being two seasons of the Black Box Production of Trainspotting, one in Sydney, the other in Port Kembla, in which I played the only female in a cast of four. The production did not receive one negative review. In September 2014, I also performed in a new independent theatre production for Sydney Fringe Festival 2014, called Ambrosia, with Grumpy Mandrakes Theatre.

I love the flamboyancy of theatre. A mistake a lot of actors fall into is getting bored by theatre because of the repetition, but I find that is the beauty of theatre – to explore more and more, and develop more. Just like people, a character is never “finished,” there is always more to find, always more to give, and that is a gift shared with yourself as an actor, and with other actors performing with you. Keep it exciting!

The process of screen is a lot like theatre, with rehearsals and explorations of character being important in the growth of every character. The real difference between the two is how big your performance is. The screen accentuates EVERYTHING, so actions and speeches are better delivered minimally when in front of the camera. Less is more on screen, and it is this challenge that makes me prefer theatre. It’s easy to go over-the-top in theatre and screen, but harder to control it in screen.

What has been your favorite project so far and why?

TBW: Both Trainspotting and PLANS have been my most favorite projects as I was really pushed to the edge with both – completely out of my comfort zones. To explore characters and world’s so different to my own really got my heart racing.

What as been your most challenging role?

TBW: I played multiple characters in Trainspotting. Alison was my main character. Alison comes across as headstrong, experimental and aggressive, but she is still a little girl lost in a big boy’s world. She is a junkie; she has lost her grip because of heroin, and is always on a quest for a distraction from her hum-drum life. Alison’s journey starts with experiencing pain and loss, then learning to forgive herself, and move on, finding her feet, making amends with herself, and getting revenge in every aspect of her life.

I also played pregnant June (a lonely, insecure woman, hopeless in her efforts to control her macho and abusive boyfriend, Franco); Lizzie (a sexy and fiery lassie with a short fuse); Lassie (another physical abuse victim); as well as other characters.

I enjoyed playing the multiple roles, although it was difficult at first to tweak each character’s own little niche and differences and to switch rapidly from one character to another during the show.

Besides the Scottish accent being the main challenge, being the only woman actor in the play means all the heavy subject matter falls directly on my head. I play a number of female characters, all of whom are victims. They all suffer under this machismo society, and each have to deal with it in their own way. Also, with regards to the graphic content of the play, particularly dealt with by my central character, Alison, it is sometimes difficult to tap into such emotions when her experiences have been so different from my own, but what I have realized is that this is it – this is their life – it is all they know.

What is your favorite genre to work in as an actor?

TBW: Comedy comes naturally, as I’m a quirky person, but drama is something I’ve worked hard at and therefore am getting better and better with each role I play. Crying on cue is always a challenge though! I would LOVE to be in a psychological thriller though. Or be slashed to death in a horror film. Oh, the dreams of actors!

What separates you from other actors? What are your strongest qualities?

TBW: My strongest qualities are:

– My patience and tireless efforts when it comes to character development. When I commit to something, I do it 1000%.

– My look – having an exotic “no-one can tell where you come from” appearance benefits me in picking up various roles. I love pushing for characters of all ethnicities and accents.

– I have a natural calmness, serenity and warmth to my acting too, however that is sometimes difficult to shake off when I am trying to play someone rough – take Belle in PLANS, or Alison in Trainspotting, for example.

– You have got to know how to laugh at yourself. I can never take myself too seriously, and, luckily for me, I can break out of character after the day is over, go home, and watch some trashy TV or read a book. I get so involved with each character that I HAVE to have some time to switch off. Not all actors can do that, and it really ticks me off. You cannot be too serious in this business or you will really be disappointed.

What projects do you have coming up?

TBW: Love You Krishna will be released later this year, and the series PLANS is being submitted to festivals this year, as well.

What are your plans for the future?

TBW: Travel, volunteer in Africa at a conservation reserve, and move to the States to continue my career as an actress. Those are my immediate plans. Until I achieve the latter, I will keep building my status here in Australia.

What do you hope to achieve in your career as an actor?

TBW: Success without the invasion of privacy, but that can be very tricky. Also, I want to be able to maintain that success, which can also be very tricky. This industry is very fickle and as long as you can laugh about it and you have a fantastic support system around you, then you’ll be just fine.

And to continue to be diverse in my characters – I applaud actors like Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Kate Winslet and Rose Byrne, who are able to completely transform with every character they play, yet still keep that essence of themselves within their role.

And I would love to play the lead in a psychological thriller and in a biopic.

Why is acting your passion and chosen profession?

TBW: Because I am a child at heart, I have to keep playing and having fun. A 9 to 5 p.m. desk job just won’t cut it for me. I was a wild child when I was young, and I still (to some degree) am.

Q & A with Award Winning Screenwriter Thomas Pound!

On set of series MOTIVE with Actor Dylan Walsh and Executive Producer Erin Haskett
Actor Dylan Walsh (left), writer Thomas Pound (center) & executive producer Erin Haskett (right) on set of the multi-award winning series “Motive”

 

Since breaking onto the scene in 2008 with a win as Best Writer at the Vancouver 48 Hour Film Festival, Thomas Pound has written, created, and produced some of the most groundbreaking TV series and films to date.

Tenacity and persistence are vital to make it as a working writer and/or producer in the entertainment industry, and Pound has certainly exhibited both qualities in droves with the projects he’s brought to the screen. In the early stages of his career, immersing himself in the writing process and building experience were his primary goals, something he achieved in 2008 with Universal’s third installment of the cult classic Slap Shot, Slap Shot 3: The Junior League.

In 2010, Pound went on to write, direct, and produce the film The Wilderness Within, which earned him a Silver Ace Award the following year at the Las Vegas Film Festival.

On a hot streak, there was no stopping Pound as he continued to write feature films including Anomalies, The Cold, and Nextworld until he landed his first television series Motive. Working with an established writer and executive producer like Dennis Heaton (Fido, Call Me Fitz) helped give Pound the confidence to evolve his craft and provided audience members with a deeper look into the show’s main characters, and by dong so Pound, and the Motive team, received a Canadian Screen Award’s nomination for Best Dramatic Series in 2014.

Following ABC’s Motive, Pound took on the hefty task of re-writing and executive producing the horror film Torment, with only six weeks before shooting. He ended up doing major rewrites on the script and eventually came up with a new story and screenplay in just three days, which is a major feat, and one that Pound claims he will never attempt again but definitely well worth it since the film premiered at Los Angeles Screamfest.

The next couple of years proved to be very busy yet successful ones for the Calgary, Alberta native as Pound went on to write, create, and produce his most challenging TV series to date, Rookie Blue. On Rookie Blue, Pound acted as executive story editor in addition to his usual duties as a writer.

He is currently in the process of developing two new one hour drama series for Canadian TV: The Brick and The Faculty. Both shows are currently in production and are slated for a 2016 release date.

To find out more about the multitalented screenwriter and producer, check out the interview below and visit his IMDB page at http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3281909/

 

Where are you from and what was it like growing up there?

TP: I grew up in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. It was like growing up in a giant small town. The people there are salt of the earth and humble. The town is victim to subzero winters and urban sprawl, which has resulted in the people bonding much tighter and becoming much warmer than many other cities I’ve spent time in. At the time, I likely would have said the town was too quiet and too wholesome. Only since leaving have I realized the rest of the world could use a little more wholesome.

How have your early experiences influenced some of the work you create today?

TP: Everything I create today goes back to my roots. Growing up in the prairies instilled a strong sense of community, family, and wholesome living. The Brick started as a love letter to the prairies. Witnessing a small town I would spend summers in, Brooks Alberta, become hit with big box-stores and chain corporations changed the simple small town memories I had from childhood. This town was no longer what I remembered. Knowing the people from that small town and their polarizing opinions on what this means for their way of life, it was an easy creative leap to build a fictional world using this prairie touchstone. Peppering in the organized crime elements was creative freedom and no reflection of Brooks Alberta to my knowledge. The Brick became my attempt to reclaim the small Alberta town I remember fondly spending summers at the lake in.

When and how did you get into the industry as a screenwriter?

TP: I moved to Vancouver, BC immediately after high school to attend Vancouver Film School and study Film Production. I started writing feature screenplays on my own time, trying to better understand story and how to manipulate it. It was the series Lost which sparked my interest in television. I also worked in the industry as an assistant in every capacity for four years following film school.

Relocating to Toronto, Ontario was the first step towards making a concentrated focus to write full time. The few working writers I did know lived there and the executives who could hire me had offices there, so I had to move. There’s something to be said about persistence, because that’s all I shelled out for two years. Writing spec script after spec script, I knocked on doors of producers, agents, broadcasters, to learn who was being read and what projects were coming up. Eventually, pilots I wrote found homes: Anomalies was first sold to Gearshift films, and a short while later The Faculty found its home at The Nightingale Company. The relationship with Gearshift Films presented an opportunity to co-writer and executive produce a horror film they had in the works, which turned out to be Torment. Through the effort of simply trying to meet people, I suddenly had a produced feature under my belt. That same year, I was hired on as a writer for the CTV series Motive, and where I was able to co-write my first produced hour of television with Dennis Heaton. After that year with Torment and Motive, I felt comfortable introducing myself to strangers as a writer.

What kind of audience do you generally write for, and why are you passionate about writing stories for this audience?

TP: I try to write stories anyone can enjoy. I’ve always enjoyed commercial feature films and television, and enjoy delivering material which can reach the widest audience possible. That being said, every story I write has to have a human heart, an emotional anchor anyone can relate with or connect to. Whether it’s a sweeping science fiction epic or an ensemble character drama, I strive to find the heart at the core of every story, giving the audience something tangible to latch onto and pull them into the piece. I approach every story I write with the same simple question: “What would I want to feel?” The answer can be excitement, of heartbreak, or inspiration, but it always comes from a place within of what I want to feel. If I can tap into that emotion, I hope it is translated on the page and the audience feels that same sensation. That’s the beauty of television and film, the journey and triggering of emotions to audiences all over the world.

Can you tell us a little bit about some of the projects you’ve written for film and television?

TP: I was fortunate to be brought onto the horror film Torment when it was very close to start filming. There was a script, which was to be shot in six weeks, and it needed a lot of work done on the project. I was inspired by what the filmmaker, Jordan Barker, wanted to do with the film, but the existing script didn’t provide. We met in his office on a Wednesday and spent two days locked away reworking the entire story from page one. Once we had a new story and shape for the film we wanted to make, I went away and wrote the first draft of the screenplay in three days. The quick turnaround is not common, nor would I attempt or offer it again. However, with the deadline of filming starting within weeks, we needed a script to work off of. We were rewriting large chunks of the story as the weeks wore down to the start of principal photography, often turning around entire new drafts of the script within a day or two. It was an intense process, which left me feeling like my head was spinning. When filming finally began, I recall standing on set in awe. This was my first ever produced script, and dozens of people were committing incredible effort and time to make it real. I imagined a car blowing up and typed it on my computer in my tiny apartment, and now I was on location watching the flames grow and feeling the wave of heat from the vehicle engulfed in flames. Those lost weekends and evenings were worth it. Torment was my first produced film, which I also executive produced. It confirmed what I already knew: I’m in this for life.

Motive was the first series I ever wrote for. When I moved away from Vancouver to Toronto in pursuit of a writing career, I told friends I’d return one day with a show. The joke amongst us is that I had to move to Toronto to get a job in Vancouver. Low and behold, some years later, it finally happened. Working under Dennis Heaton on Motive was invaluable. He let me hit the ground running, co-writing my first episode of broadcast television with him: “Kiss of Death”. This was another case of being under the pressure of schedule. We spent weekends locked away together working out the beats of our story, a similar experience to Torment. We wanted to do something different with the show and take a deeper look into our killer’s point of view, experiencing his own hallucinations when we learn he’s been poisoned. This seems like an easy task, however, the show had never done something like this and with Dennis’ leadership, we were able to craft a story, which sold the emotion of the moment, bringing it to screen.

On my second year, I was able to write an episode I’m deeply proud of – “The Glass House”. The idea of this episode had been brewing since my first year on Motive. It started with a very simple emotional anchor “A Father trying to get his daughter back”. I didn’t know the story, I didn’t know the character, all I knew was the core emotional drive, and it was what I constantly went back to in crafting the story. I was given tremendous freedom on Motive to tell the story I wanted. I believe this came from always servicing the emotion of the story first.

You’ve also produced some of these projects, is that correct? Can you tell us a little bit about the projects you’ve both written and produced and how tackling both jobs draws upon your different skill sets?

TP: With Torment, I was also the executive producer on the film. In writing, you rely on the ether of imagination, allowing the story and characters take you wherever they need to go. As we were counting down to the start of shooting on Torment, my role as producer on the project involved constant collaboration with the production. If we lost a location, I would have to find a creative solution in the screenplay to make the new one work. I would work closely with every department to develop the ideas of how a particular action sequence would play out, knowing they wouldn’t get the new script for several days, but they still needed to move forward in prep. It was a constant juggling of guiding production concerns as the script changed and vice versa. You have to be malleable and see how things can shift if circumstances change on a film. Things will seldom go how you planned on a film, writing and producing to those changes is an essential skill set.

Do you prefer to produce the projects you write?

TP: When given the opportunity, I prefer to produce the projects I write. I love the entire process of putting a television or feature project together. I have tremendous admiration of every department that it takes to pull off such an incredible feat. By producing the project I write, it gives me a chance to work as closely as possible with every department and collaborate our ideas. Producing something you write gives you, and the entire team, the opportunity to have constant transparency as to why a particular action or moment plays out a specific way. While production issues will arise, as the writer and producer, I can offer creative solutions, which maintain the sanctity of the story, yet allow us to film what needs to be filmed.

You’ve also been called in as a story editor on projects like the TV series Rookie Blue, and Motive—can you tell us about how your role as the story editor on these projects differ from others where you have been the main writer? How much influence do you have over the story in these cases?

TP: The difference between being the main writer and a story editor is that as a story editor, it is your job to fulfill the show runner’s vision of the show. On Motive, I would have countless meetings with Dennis Heaton to fully understand the big picture story he wanted to tell in the series. Once I understood his intentions, I would be able to craft my writing and my episodes to facilitate that particular vision. The same can be said for Rookie Blue, where I can bring my ideas to the table, but they ultimately must facilitate what the show runner wants to do with the characters. It’s a vital role in aiding to bring the voice of the series to the surface as easily as possible. I have a great deal of influence on the stories in these cases; however it’s an incredibly collaborative process. I may bring my seed of an idea to the show runner, and it may inspire him to take the story in a new direction. Together, we will arrive at an entirely new story. It’s still my job to write it, and it was birthed through collaboration, however as long as it serves the show, it is fulfilling its purpose.

From your perspective as screenwriter, what are some of the differences between writing for television and writing a screenplay for a film?

TP: One of the greatest differences between writing for television and writing for film is the pace. Television is a marathon. As soon as the gun fires and you’re off to the races, you’re cranking out story after story with the writing team and shooting a new episode every eight business days. It’s easy to drop the ball, but it’s an incredibly rewarding journey, which can create incredible partnerships with your colleagues. Feature films are much slower to produce and thus the writing can take quite a while as well. In features, you’re ideally writing about the characters most interesting day in his entire life. In television, every day has to be the characters most interesting day. You can concentrate a core theme or message much more succinctly in film; however you can build much broader and complex worlds in television.

Do you have a preference for one or other?

TP: I prefer the collaboration of television, writing with a team and building an entire world on a television landscape. However, I do love the intimacy of writing a personal screenplay and shepherding it through production on your own. I prefer whichever story idea more personally resonates with my soul.

What made you choose to participate in the projects you’ve done over the course of your career?

TP: In many ways, the project chose me. I have had the luxury of knowing talented individuals in film and television, and as soon as the windows opened to work together on their projects I leaped at the opportunity. For Motive, it was an incredible chance to work with Dennis Heaton, and join a show that expertly delves into the psychology of what drives an average person to become a murderer. I love studying psychology and this was a chance to look at the human condition on a deeper level. With Rookie Blue, the opportunity came to join the team of an already established series which I was a fan of. I believe writing should always be a fun experience, even when you’re writing about dark stories. Rookie Blue was an opportunity to play with wonderful relationship dynamics and romances on screen which I hadn’t done before. It became a wonderful experience which sought me out.

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

TP: Motive truly gave me my first opportunity in television. For that, I will always look back fondly on the project. I have remained near and dear to many of my colleagues on that series and became a part of a series I am incredibly proud of. Torment was a project which turned out far better than I could have imagined, through an experience that was incredibly draining and intense. I never imagined it would premiere in Los Angeles Screamfest, or be sold internationally in theaters. For this, I walked away with a tremendous amount of pride for what we accomplished together.

What has been your most challenging project and why?

TP: The most challenging project to date was Torment, primarily because of the timeline to write the entire screenplay when we were only several weeks out from filming. It was a real “sink or swim” scenario in many ways. With new information of casting issues, location changes, schedule shifts, coming in every day, the script was a constant moving target, at times to an overwhelming extent. In the end, we brought it together in a wonderful way and I have walked away with pride for what we did. It was a great lesson that the most challenging experiences can also be the most rewarding.

Can you tell us about some of the awards you’ve received over the course of your career and what you won them for?

TP: I was fortunate to win the Silver Ace Award from the Las Vegas Film Festival in 2011 for writing and directing my short film The Wilderness Within. It was a gratifying achievement for a project I solely wrote, directed, and produced on my own. I was also a part of the Motive team when we were nominated for the Canadian Screen Award for Best Dramatic Series in 2014. Seeing the season I worked on being honored with a nomination was a tremendous achievement.

Out of all of your awards so far, which one has meant the most to you personally?

TP: The Silver Ace Award means the world to me as it was the first award I received for bringing together a project that only exists because of the kind efforts of those who believed in me. I believe it’s important to remember where you started out, and this award embodies the person I was before ever getting the chance to make movies or television.

What projects do you have coming up?

TP: I have been currently developing two new series for broadcasters in Canada. The Brick is a one hour drama for TMN with Bell Media, geared to be one of their first original cable one hour dramas. It is a series about a fictional small prairie town, simple and untouched by big box stores of today, and what happens when a major city crime organization aims to turn this town into their new home base, and how the hardware store owner decided to take a stand. He’ll create his own mob to fight the big city mob. I have been developing this project with Bell Media and Pier 21 in Toronto since the summer of 2015, and aim to have an announcement early 2016 on the predicted release.

I am also continuing to develop The Faculty, a one hour drama series for Shaw Cable. The series is about life following a school shooting in a small prairie town, and how the faculty members return to work and strive to pick the pieces up and transcend tragedy through hope. We have been developing the series for a year, and aim to bring it out into American markets in early 2016.

As a screenwriter, where do you get your inspiration for the projects you create?

TP: As a screenwriter, I take as much inspiration as possible from my own life. Whether it be a particular experience or a specific relationship in my life, I always start inwards. If I can connect with a specific emotion I feel in relation to a story I would like to tell, I can build a script from there. I am always able to return to that place within me where it originated from. It’s as close to a “method’ approach to writing as one can get.

What do you hope to achieve with the projects you create?

TP: Ultimately, I simply want my audience to connect with the projects I create. If they are able to connect and feel the specific emotion I felt when writing it, that’s a pretty incredible journey. In anything I create, I hope there is always a personal honesty and deep truth which resonates to anyone, no matter what their background.

Why are you passionate about working as a screenwriter?

TP: I believe stories unite mankind. Films and television travel all around the world and leave immense cultural wakes, and soaring ripple affects through time. Stories challenge the way we think and how we communicate. Films and television have the ability to bring honesty and truth to an audience who may shy away or be unaware of it in their own lives. At the simple core of it, a story can help them escape and relive the sense of wonder we’ve all had at one point in our lives. My passion for screenwriting comes directly from the drive to share the wonder I have for the human experience. If I can find a way to share those stories in an entertaining way, then I’ve done my job.

Do you think you’ll stick to writing TV shows or is there another area of screenwriting you’d like to explore?

TP: I’ll absolutely stick to writing television, however I’d love to expand on the breadth of the TV I work with. I would love to be writing multiple television series as well as feature films at the same time. Of course I can only write so much, but the passion and ability to work with other writers, and find the stories they’re passionate about drives me. I’d love to explore an avenue of producing other material and using my experience to bring it to the screen and share their stories.

 

Tate McRae: The Canadian Triple Threat to Watch

 

ChrisReillyPhotography
          Tate McRae shot by Chris Reilly Photography

The ultra talented Tate McRae is a dream for any casting director. The 12 year old Canadian actor possesses multiple skills; aside from acting as the character voice of Spot Splatter Splash on the popular Nickelodeon series Lalaloopsy, McRae is also a singer and professional dancer.

While watching dance classes at her mother’s studio early on in life McRae knew without a doubt that she had an infatuation for performing. By the time she was 6, McRae enrolled in her first ballet class. It didn’t take long for her to realize that dancing was something she had a God-given talent for; and, by the tender age of 8, McRae was absolutely captivated by dancing as she prepared to perform at her first Dance Nationals competition in New York City.

McRae has garnered much praise and attention for her mesmerizing abilities as a dancer including a slew of awards such as Mini Best Dancer at the Dance Awards in NYC in 2013 and the Silver Medal Solo Winner at the 2015 YAGP Finals in NYC.

In fact, McRae’s confidence in dancing and the sheer exposure it has brought her has been a huge factor in catapulting her career as an actress.

“I got into acting through my dancing and singing. I love musical theater and had to learn to develop characters for my songs. Then, the same day I got an agent I booked a job doing voice-overs for the show Lalaloopsy!” says McRae.

Lalaloopsy is an animated TV series on the Nickelodeon network and is based on the lives of a group of dolls living in Lalaloopsyland. McRae voiced the character Spot Splatter Splash for 17 episodes. The show’s success led to a few spin-off videos including Lalaloopsy Ponies: The Big Show (2014) and Lalaloopsy: Band Together (2015), in which McRae reprised her role as Spot.

“It is hard recording voice-overs. You are the only one in the recording booth and there are lots of people online from the states directing you. I usually got a 30-page script 1 to 2 days before we recorded, so you have to go through it and figure out how your expression is going to be,” says McRae.

McRae’s excitement and drive to perform voice-over work led her to play additional characters in other Lalaloopsy projects. She played Nutmeg in Lala-oopsies: A Sew Magical Tale (2013) and the role of Harmony in the Lalaloopsy DS Game, her favorite role to date.

Her experience on TV helped McRae land several other jobs including a Toyota commercial and music videos for the song ‘Rule the World’ by the band Walk off the Earth. You can check out her incredible dancing skills alongside dancer Myles Erlick in the WOTE music video below.

 

Working with big names in the dance industry such as Travis Wall from the Emmy award winning show So You Think You Can Dance, and famous choreographer Blake McGrath (Dance Moms, Dancelife) has greatly increased exposure in the entertainment industry for McRae.  Having such close friends with extensive connections, coupled with the triple threat talent she already possesses can only help broaden McRae’s opportunities in the future.

McRae continues to work on projects that incorporate her love of both dancing and singing along with acting, as well as focus more time on modeling and commercial work. She has already modeled for a few clothing lines such as Miss Behave Girls, Schatzi, and Capezio.

 

From Commercials to International Ad Campaigns, Model Vlada Verevko Is a Knock Out!

 

When the average person thinks of modeling, images and ideas that usually come to mind revolve around fashion, travel and gorgeously, slender women. The modeling industry is highly competitive and highly selective, with strict guidelines such as height (5’8” to 5”11”), weight (90 to 120 lbs) and age (16-21) being factored in just for a young hopeful to be considered. Education and personality are only secondary in this aesthetically driven industry, and with 99% of the focus being centered on beauty, it’s no wonder that most perceive models as unintelligent. However, Vlada Verevko is the exception to this rule. She’s a prime example that a model can have both brains and beauty.

Vlada Verevko is not your run-of-the-mill model. In fact modeling was never a consideration for this Russian born beauty, at least not originally.

“I didn’t exactly choose modeling. Modeling chose me. I was always skeptical about it as a career and for that reason for the first few years I was only doing it part-time while getting my degree,” says Verevko.

Obtaining a psychology degree was always Verevko’s number one priority, and she stayed the path until her degree was completed before actually giving her all to the modeling world. As a travel-lover, modeling has given Verevko the opportunity to explore the world on a scale that psychology research never could.

The modeling industry first took notice of Verevko back in 2002 when she won the Miss European beauty pageant in Russia, which led her to sign with Ultima Models, one of Moscow’s leading modeling agencies, subsequently after.

Since that fateful encounter nearly 14 years ago, Verevko has certainly made a name for herself in the industry as the face of an illustrious list of international ad campaigns, as well as a featured model in national television commercials. For the past six years Verevko has been represented by Elite Models, the same agency that’s helped household names such as supermodels Cindy Crawford, Gisele Bundchen, Tyra Banks, and Adriana Lima skyrocket to international success.

Standing at 5’8″, Verevko’s height barely made the cut for the runway, considering that most female runway models are around 5’11”, but whatever she lacks in height she makes up for in other areas.

Despite such limitations, she has strutted down the catwalk for big name designers like Louis Vuitton, Betsey Johnson, Nine West, Agent Provocateur, and L’Oreal, proving that she can captivate an audience in a designer’s new line better than anyone.

It’s as a print model however, where Verevko has clearly set herself apart from the masses. Verevko’s natural and mesmerizing beauty has garnered her much attention as a leading face in the makeup industry through her work for companies such as Sephora, Sally Hanson, Dermaglow, Elizabeth Arden, and many other iconic brands.

Aside from Verevko’s intelligence and energetic personality, her versatility in front of the camera has been a driving force in her career. She prides herself on her chameleon-like ability to adapt and transform into whatever character a shoot calls for. Her work in front of the camera ranges from sporty to classy, and fierce to seductive.

“In front of the camera I feel comfortable doing things that I probably wouldn’t do in real life,” she adds. This approach has earned her a number of editorial spreads in high-profile magazines such as Vogue UK, Kismet, Elevate, Clin D’oeil and T&M magazine.

Recently Verevko has shifted gears and has been working steadily on TV commercials for Herbal Essence, Venus, Mr. Clean and Quaker Oats. Her look has also landed her a plethora of roles in television and film productions, appearing on television shows over the years such as USA Network’s “Suits,” The CW’s “Beauty and the Beat,” Fox’s “The Listener” and “Degrassi: The Next Generation,” as well as the films “A Beautiful Side,” “Hacker,” “White Blossoms” and “Kalore.”