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Production Designer Alex Craig’s Extraordinary Creative Vision

English production designer Alex Craig is one of the leading proponents of his craft. Well known to UK television audiences through a sterling roster of credits, from his contributions to the avidly watched BBC National Lottery and A Question of Sport and runaway reality smash This Time Next Year, Craig has perfected a mixture of bold creativity and context sensitive design that’s made him one of the most in-demand talents in the business.

Craig arrived at his position through a somewhat circuitous route; he initially studied fine arts at a series of prestigious schools when fate intervened. “A good friend at art school was training to direct film in the Media Studies department,” Craig said. “And he told me about the role of the art director in film and TV and that immediately  interested me. My initial experience was working on music videos and fashion shows, which I loved, so it just grew from there and I became hooked. A Fine Art degree isn’t the most obvious route into production design, but in my case, it was.”

In short order, Craig established himself as a reliably creative professional with a peerless instinct for creating solid, appealing design

“Throughout my career, I’ve been lucky enough to have worked on a wide range of interesting and well known UK and international productions,” Craig said. “Many of these required a variety of studio and location work in the UK, China and Spain  Large scale entertainment shows are definitely a favorite of mine, and I’m a big music fan, so l welcome the opportunity to get involved in designing tours for bands and solo artists. As a personal project, I’d also like to experiment with some of the LED technology that is commonplace in studio design and apply it to create innovative bespoke pieces for interiors. Variety definitely keeps my designs fresh.”

One of Craig’s biggest and most challenging assignments has been as lead production designer for BBC1 TV’s long-running, start-studded annual fundraising spectacular Children in Need for almost a full decade.  Since its 1980 launch, CIN has raised 600 million British pounds for disabled children and young people, established itself as a prominent staple of British pop culture and featured many of world’s most famous entertainers—from Taylor Swift and Madonna to Rod Stewart and One Direction.

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“The show producers approached me in 2006,” Craig said. “They wanted to bring the CIN set up to date—it was beginning to look a bit old fashioned. They were impressed by my designs, as I’d been production designer on a number of high-profile BBC shows, and they thought it would be a good fit. I jumped at the opportunity.”

It was formidable job. “The telethon is a live, 7 hour primetime broadcast,” Craig said. “It features numerous ‘A list’ acts from the worlds of pop, musicals, comedy, dance, plus surprise performances. For the most part, these take place on a very large, impressive main stage. But the set also requires areas for presenters, surprise guests and more intimate performances so the set design also includes additional stages, a catwalk, multiple entrance options, several huge LED screens, plus a large studio audience. “

As a fully live, in-the-moment theatrical presentation, Craig has to not only anticipate myriad potential complications, he must be prepared to confront any issue head on. “The set also has to be flexible enough to get specific ‘performance sets’ required by any given artist, onto and off the main stage at high speed. It’s a technically complex event, which requires a mixture of creativity, logistics and a calm nature—especially when there’s less than a minute to go till the next spot and I can see an incomplete performance set still being put together on the stage.  Back in 2006 there was also a large orchestra to accommodate, and although the orchestra is now gone, the amount of technology has increased which brings its own challenges.”

“There’s a creative pressure to design a set that is going to have the style and presence to work as an appropriate backing for a diverse mix of some of the world’s biggest stars,’ Craig said. “The fact that it is live requires a lot of quick turnaround scenic setting, striking and re-setting throughout the 7 hours that we’re live on air. Backstage can become extremely cramped, with props, scenery and band equipment stacked everywhere you look. The set also incorporates a huge amount of LED technology which has to be integrated into the scenery as the set is installed. This can sometimes slow us down if there’s any kind of fault or glitch.”

Few have the drive, vision and skill to take on such monumental task, year after year, but Craig wouldn’t have it any other way. Nor would the BBC: “Alex designed the main studio set for 9 Children in Need shows, which is an outstanding achievement in itself,” executive producer Clare Pizey said. “He is an innovative and extremely talented Production Designer who has managed to give the show a visual identity which sets the tone for the night. And he is always pushing to move the look of the set to the next level, which both uplifts and inspires the audience. This is much of the reason why Children in Need has become so special to British culture as a whole.”

Craig’s long stint with CIN is one of the crown jewels in his already glittering resume, and it holds a special place in the designer’s affections.

“I love designing this show and am proud of what it stands for,” Craig said. “It has become a very special annual event in my work diary and a career highlight for me. It’s an honor to have contributed to such a good cause for so many years.  The show has raised record amounts of money even during recession years, and that always spurs me on to dream up new ways of presenting a fresher, more innovative design.”

For more information on Alex Craig, visit alexcraig.com

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Katie Horbury works with Hollywood’s A-listers during BAFTA Awards

Katie Horbury says it is her job to bring ideas to life. As a producer, she takes in every aspect of the production and ensures it all runs smoothly. Without her, the television shows you know and love may not have made it to the screen. She takes on a lot of responsibility, but she loves what she does.

Originally from Pontefract in the North of England, Horbury broke from the norm. She wanted more than a quiet life in a small town, and became determined to do what she loves most: telling stories. She left for the big city when she could, and immediately started working with some of her country’s most iconic shows, such as The Only Way is Essex, Big Brother and Celebrity Big Brother, Celebs Go Dating, Don’t Tell the Bride, and Come Dine with Me. She has worked with ITV, the second largest network in the UK, as well as Disney Channel. There is no limit to what she can do.

I like telling stories and creating something that has a reaction in other people. Whether they are laughing, crying, learning something or just entertained in some way, knowing that I created an emotional response in another person is what I love doing. I love the night before a shoot when I can’t sleep because I have that nervous excitement in my stomach. I love waking up at 5 a.m. on filming days and running on adrenaline all day because your creative juices are flowing, and this is me at my best. What I love the most though, is the first few days in the edit, when it all starts coming together and you begin to see your vision come to life,” said Horbury.

While living her dream, Horbury has the opportunity to work alongside Britain’s best. Perhaps this is best represented with her work on the BAFTA Film and BAFTA TV Awards. BAFTA, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, hosts the two prominent award shows every year, honoring Britain’s film and television stars. Horbury grew up watching the award shows, inspired by the actors, directors, and especially producers that won the awards. When she was given the opportunity to then work on the award shows, she was eager to take part in the new experience.

“Working there was a completely new and different experience to any other show I had ever worked on. This was a hugely prestigious event and it is essential that everything runs smoothly,” said Horbury.

Having worked on the award shows every year since 2011, Horbury has many responsibilities, ensuring the shows go off without a hitch. She assists presenters like Stephen Fry and Graham Norton with full rehearsals. She also manages the event timings to ensure that all chaperones and their A-list citations readers are fully rehearsed, their scripts are finalized and they are backstage promptly on time to present their award, and that they go to press and are interviewed and photographed with the award winner.

Essentially, Horbury ensures that everyone is in the right place at the right time, making her essential for the live awards ceremony. Some of these talents include A-list actors such as Leonardo Dicaprio, Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Emma Stone and Meryl Streep. The ceremony also hosted royals Prince and Princess William and Kate.

“Working on this show is insane. The pressure is like nothing else I have ever experienced,” said Horbury. “I decide to go back every year because I love being part of such a celebration of British film and television, and British Culture.”

Horbury is repeatedly asked to come back to the awards shows, as her talents are imperative to the shows’ success. Initially, a fellow producer had recommended Horbury for the role, knowing that someone with a lot of skill and commitment was needed. She now works with the same team every year. In 2011, Horbury made sure one presenter was back stage at the correct time. Since then, she has been promoted and ensures every single presenter is where they need to be. Without her, there would be no one to present the awards, and fellow producer Matthew Edmondson, who worked with Horbury on the BAFTA Awards, was extremely impressed.

Working with Katie is always a pleasure and a rewarding experience. She’s hard working, easy to work with and she brings high quality production values to the productions she works on. I would love to work with her again.  Katie is an honest, trusted and experienced producer who has very high standards. She is fantastic with people which makes contributors and crew respect her. Katie is extremely well organized, confident and imaginative. She never gets flustered and never and never gives up and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend her for future jobs no matter how big or small the production is,” said Edmondson.

While Horbury has ample experience in television, the BAFTA Awards are the only award show she has been a part of. The foundations are the same, and she remains cool, calm, collected, and professional during the award shows, as she does with each project she takes on. However, she allows herself a moment to fully appreciate the event each year.

“It is such a beautifully presented event that celebrates the most amazing film and TV productions. While the show day itself is incredibly challenging, I am so proud to be part of something that rewards the most talented people in the world when it come to my greatest passion – story telling. This is the night when you see real emotion, pride and honor in those people who are rewarded for telling exceptionally moving, honest and often heartbreaking stories through Film and TV production,” concluded Horbury.

THE SMART BET IS ON RAHUL

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For those of us who are not actors, it’s difficult to imagine getting up in front of an audience or a film crew with people watching us cycle through the emotions and the situations that many of us would rather not exhibit in public. It’ counterintuitive. It’s also ironic that the things we want to watch others do in a public viewing (film, plays, TV) are the types of things that we’d never want to have others watch us do. To ask Rahul Naulakha, actors are simply those of us who have learned how to better control and display their emotions than the typical individual. According to him, we all do some acting in our lives but actors have simply learned when to “turn it on” in a way that other’s appreciate and are entertained by. There’s a ring of truth in what Rahul says if we admit it to ourselves. Rahul’s work in the film “Place Your Bet” is an ideal example of this. Costarring with Saturday Night Live’s Steve Holland, Naulakha plays a menacing individual who is the muscle for a loan shark. As Dhruv, Rahul transitions from affable to frightening on a dime. Loaded with twists, this tale of a gambling deal gone bad displays Rahul at his best as the duplicitous Dhruv. He’s a frightening man, the type which Naulakha revels in portraying on screen.

When Allen (played by Steve Holland of Feud and Saturday Night Live) finds a nearby restaurant to watch a basketball game and escape the troubles in his life, he encounters Dhruv (played by Rahul Naulakha); a charismatic and friendly guy just hanging out, or is he? As Dhruv eases Allen into conversation, we soon learn that Dhruv has a hidden motive for chatting with him. Allen owes money to a mob boss, having lost a bet on a horserace. Trying to procrastinate in paying his debt, he hides and makes up excuses not to pay the $185,000 dollars back. When these two men meet by happenstance, they begin to discover through the conversation that they are connected through this professional relationship and things escalate.

Naulakha had worked with director Zachary Fineman before “Place You Bet” but it was his first time with his costar (and SNL cast member) Steve Holland. The experience of filming on location in North Hollywood involved more comedy than the audience can see in the film. Rahul recalls, “I had a great time working with Steve Holland both on and off screen. On screen I was doing my best to scare him out of his mind. We were both doing our very best to get into our characters. I’ve done comedic roles in films as well so I appreciated Steve’s ability to show this dramatic side of himself in the film. Off screen we joked a lot with each other, saying our lines in weird cartoon character like voices, which was hilarious.”

The mask type approach that the actors used in the film was something which Rahul applied directly to the deceptive nature of his character. While Dhruv appears to be amiable and charming, just an ordinary guy, early on, his lack of humanity appears as the story develops. Naulakha portrays him as an individual who is able to turn off his emotions and sympathy for his fellow man when the job requires him to perform his less benevolent vocational requirements. Rather than a means of living with the actions as self-preservation, we get the feeling that this man enjoys his job and throws himself into the work. Rahul concedes that he revels in playing characters of this ilk, stating, “I love playing a bad guy. This is one of my most sought out roles, mainly because you get to go out of the norms completely…you don’t have to hold anything back. When you’re the heavy in a film, you can go back to being a kid with all of its rebelliousness and fun time all at once. Most of the time when you play a good guy you are playing a version of you. There may be a slight difference of personality between your character and you (maybe he is shy, and in real life you are the most outgoing person there is) but other than that, most of the time when performing as the good guy, the main thought/emotional process is the same as in your real life. Being the antagonist often means there are less restrictions. The character doesn’t subscribe to the rules that society has agreed upon so you can literally do whatever you want. This presents a much more personally entertaining and enjoyable challenge for me as an actor. It brings out all your acting abilities such as your facial expressions, emotions, movements, and in general makes you feel more alive.”

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Naulakha’s subtle percolation of Dhruv’s demeanor and intentions is strikingly convincing. All deference to Pete Townshend (composer of The Who’s “Behind Blue Eyes”) but Rahul feels it’s fairly easy to access the center of a “villain” and it doesn’t require a profound tragedy or searing hatred. Most of what is witnessed by the viewer as frightening is not found in the actions of the character but rather the character’s propensity to do harm; a trait which is often unspoken and lacks exhibition. He relates, “I use a lot of projection/visualization when I act. Even if I am not menacing, there is no denying the fact that we´ve all been through the same type of emotions that Dhruv has. The frustration and anger of a job interview that we didn´t get, a lost relationship, or just stepping on a rock outside your doorstep, all of these elicit something in your core. From this point it’s just a matter of how little or how much we control it. I projected moments like these that I have been through and then take it up a notch. It’s like stoking a fire from a small spark. In reality a lot of us walk around suppressing these emotions with a smile, saying we are fine but for a character like Dhruv, you can let loose and be as crazy as you want…and that’s just fun.”

RUOXUAN LI WORKS WITH A FILM ICON IN DISTANT VISION

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There are artists who create in a solitary space. Painters, sculptors, writers, and others: these are some of those who manifest their art by themselves. In contrast, many artists are involved in a collaborative effort to summon forth the works that they present to the world. The individuals of this latter group long to work with others who inspire them to reach heights that even they felt incapable of achieving. The art of storytelling in its modern form is one of the most prominent of these. Costume designer Ruoxuan Li has taken part in many varied productions but one of the most profound was her work with Francis Ford Coppola on “Distant Vision.” There are few iconic names that raise the standard of an entertainment medium and define their generation; names so universally recognized and lauded that it seems everyone appreciates their work and all participants of said art form long to work with them. Early in her career, Ruoxuan has already achieved this. It has inspired her, given her the opportunity to learn, and cultivated a drive and confidence in herself that propels her into adventurous and artistic endeavors. Li’s work with Francis Ford Coppola on “Distant Vision” gave her a look into the mind of one of our greatest filmmakers as well as vetted her as one of the brightest stars in the costume design/production community.

Ruoxuan was introduced to Mr. Coppola by Dr. Deborah Landis. Li’s design work on the opera “Cosi Fan Tutte” had impressed Landis so much that she recommended the costume designer to Coppola with great confidence. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone from any location on the planet who isn’t a fan of Coppola’s universally lauded films, and Ruoxuan is no exception. Still, being a professional means placing the admiration you might have for such an artist aside for the time being and focusing on the work; easier said than done. The story of “Distant Vision” is based on Coppola’s own family. Li found herself having meetings with the director discussing personal conversations about his family and his perspective on them. While she pressed herself to deliver her very best, Li admits that the scenario was surreal as she found herself peering through Coppola’s own family photo albums with him and discussing options. Ruoxuan reveals, “I will always remember the first meeting I had with Mr. Coppola in person; it was truly like a dream. I’ve always been a fan of his films and could never have imagined myself working with him. Add to that his kindness and generosity. Every time we talked about the costumes, he was very open to ideas and a discussion of opinions. I felt that he was very connected to and aware of all the difficulties we might have. He was so supportive and appreciative. He made the environment so comfortable that I’d forget and then suddenly think ‘This is the man whose films I have worshipped for as long as I can remember. To say that it was a positive experience for me would be an extreme understatement.”

“Distant Vision” is a concept piece that recounts the struggles and triumphs of three generations of an Italian-American family set against the birth and growth of the invention of television.” The action of the story is divided into three different periods, all of which take place in the heart of Italian Harlem, New York. Set in the 1920’s, the first act is a tragedy from Alfonso Corrado’s story who helped engineer and build the first ‘television’ machine. On this rainy Easter Sunday, a big family baptism party occurs after the festival parade on the street. Alfonso’s two eldest sons, Danny and Archie show the guest children some reels from the newly built first television. Danny accidentally falls to his death from the roof while trying to fix the signal. The 1950’s present Act Two. A flash back of 10-year old Tony Corrado, son of Archie Corrado, playing a ‘television game’ with cameras made of cardboard at home in the basement with his friend. Though caught by his mother and scolded, the scene shows young Tony developing a passion for television. The final 1980’s scene presents an adult Tony Corrado, now a celebrity director. He is shown explaining the new project he’s working on to an interviewer. Introducing his wife and daughter, he retells the camera the story of his family through generations with references of early footages and photos.

Li’s preproduction time was about two months long. The different decades were close enough to share similarities in style but different enough that each required their own subtle identities. Once research was done and early designs approved by Mr. Coppola, Ruoxuan set up a full team and shop to handle the volume of the work. The same shop which did the initial work and fittings would continue on through the filming to maintain all costuming and ensure that everything stayed with the proper actors. Emmy Award-Winning costume designer Jane Ruhm was the costume advisor on “Distant Vision” and was highly impressed by Li’s work. She declares, “Ruoxuan’s research was very thorough. It was presented in a beautifully curated book, and even included photographs from Mr. Coppola’s family photo albums. She is an accomplished artist and was able to communicate her design ideas clearly to Mr. Coppola and to the cutter/fitter who was hired to build them. Ruoxuan was an inspiration for her team which was paramount because a leader sets the tone for those she works with. In costuming, organization is so important when working with a large cast such as this. I overheard multiple actors tell her how happy they were with their costume and how it had helped them “find their character”. The various periods in the story and the overall production value of the film were totally dependent on Ruoxuan’s designs since the sets were minimal. I know how happy the producers and Mr. Coppola were with what she accomplished because they made a point of telling me about it.” This is perhaps the most prominent award one can achieve in the entertainment industry, to be respected and appreciated by both those known and unknown professionals alike. The role of a costume designer is to help individual in front of, behind, and those watching the camera’s display to lose themselves in the story and the performance. While Francis Ford Coppola is one name we all know who is a fan of Ruoxuan Li’s work, there are countless other professionals who share his same opinion when it comes to this talented costume designer.

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RUOXUAN LI WORKS WITH A FILM ICON ON DISTANT VISION

Screen Shot 2017-09-20 at 6.44.21 PM

There are artists who create in a solitary space. Painters, sculptors, writers, and others: these are some of those who manifest their art by themselves. In contrast, many artists are involved in a collaborative effort to summon forth the works that they present to the world. The individuals of this latter group long to work with others who inspire them to reach heights that even they felt incapable of achieving. The art of storytelling in its modern form is one of the most prominent of these. Costume designer Ruoxuan Li has taken part in many varied productions but one of the most profound was her work with Francis Ford Coppola on “Distant Vision.” There are few iconic names that raise the standard of an entertainment medium and define their generation; names so universally recognized and lauded that it seems everyone appreciates their work and all participants of said art form long to work with them. Early in her career, Ruoxuan has already achieved this. It has inspired her, given her the opportunity to learn, and cultivated a drive and confidence in herself that propels her into adventurous and artistic endeavors. Li’s work with Francis Ford Coppola on “Distant Vision” gave her a look into the mind of one of our greatest filmmakers as well as vetted her as one of the brightest stars in the costume design/production community.

Ruoxuan was introduced to Mr. Coppola by Dr. Deborah Landis. Li’s design work on the opera “Cosi Fan Tutte” had impressed Landis so much that she recommended the costume designer to Coppola with great confidence. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone from any location on the planet who isn’t a fan of Coppola’s universally lauded films, and Ruoxuan is no exception. Still, being a professional means placing the admiration you might have for such an artist aside for the time being and focusing on the work; easier said than done. The story of “Distant Vision” is based on Coppola’s own family. Li found herself having meetings with the director discussing personal conversations about his family and his perspective on them. While she pressed herself to deliver her very best, Li admits that the scenario was surreal as she found herself peering through Coppola’s own family photo albums with him and discussing options. Ruoxuan reveals, “I will always remember the first meeting I had with Mr. Coppola in person; it was truly like a dream. I’ve always been a fan of his films and could never have imagined myself working with him. Add to that his kindness and generosity. Every time we talked about the costumes, he was very open to ideas and a discussion of opinions. I felt that he was very connected to and aware of all the difficulties we might have. He was so supportive and appreciative. He made the environment so comfortable that I’d forget and then suddenly think ‘This is the man whose films I have worshipped for as long as I can remember. To say that it was a positive experience for me would be an extreme understatement.”

“Distant Vision” is a concept piece that recounts the struggles and triumphs of three generations of an Italian-American family set against the birth and growth of the invention of television.” The action of the story is divided into three different periods, all of which take place in the heart of Italian Harlem, New York. Set in the 1920’s, the first act is a tragedy from Alfonso Corrado’s story who helped engineer and build the first ‘television’ machine. On this rainy Easter Sunday, a big family baptism party occurs after the festival parade on the street. Alfonso’s two eldest sons, Danny and Archie show the guest children some reels from the newly built first television. Danny accidentally falls to his death from the roof while trying to fix the signal. The 1950’s present Act Two. A flash back of 10-year old Tony Corrado, son of Archie Corrado, playing a ‘television game’ with cameras made of cardboard at home in the basement with his friend. Though caught by his mother and scolded, the scene shows young Tony developing a passion for television. The final 1980’s scene presents an adult Tony Corrado, now a celebrity director. He is shown explaining the new project he’s working on to an interviewer. Introducing his wife and daughter, he retells the camera the story of his family through generations with references of early footages and photos.

Li’s preproduction time was about two months long. The different decades were close enough to share similarities in style but different enough that each required their own subtle identities. Once research was done and early designs approved by Mr. Coppola, Ruoxuan set up a full team and shop to handle the volume of the work. The same shop which did the initial work and fittings would continue on through the filming to maintain all costuming and ensure that everything stayed with the proper actors. Emmy Award-Winning costume designer Jane Ruhm was the costume advisor on “Distant Vision” and was highly impressed by Li’s work. She declares, “Ruoxuan’s research was very thorough. It was presented in a beautifully curated book, and even included photographs from Mr. Coppola’s family photo albums. She is an accomplished artist and was able to communicate her design ideas clearly to Mr. Coppola and to the cutter/fitter who was hired to build them. Ruoxuan was an inspiration for her team which was paramount because a leader sets the tone for those she works with. In costuming, organization is so important when working with a large cast such as this. I overheard multiple actors tell her how happy they were with their costume and how it had helped them “find their character”. The various periods in the story and the overall production value of the film were totally dependent on Ruoxuan’s designs since the sets were minimal. I know how happy the producers and Mr. Coppola were with what she accomplished because they made a point of telling me about it.” This is perhaps the most prominent award one can achieve in the entertainment industry, to be respected and appreciated by both those known and unknown professionals alike. The role of a costume designer is to help individual in front of, behind, and those watching the camera’s display to lose themselves in the story and the performance. While Francis Ford Coppola is one name we all know who is a fan of Ruoxuan Li’s work, there are countless other professionals who share his same opinion when it comes to this talented costume designer.

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Writer Victor Osorio took readers around the world with comic strip ‘Alienados’

When Victor Osorio was seven years old, he would sneak out of his room at night to watch television. When his parents caught him, they did not punish him, but rather made a deal: if he wanted to stay up at night, he had to read. Somehow, what seemed so awful at the time ended up becoming the guiding force in Osorio’s life, because he became an avid reader, which prompted his interest in writing. Soon after this, he began writing short stories and poems, and since that time, writing and creating stories has been his biggest passion.

Osorio is now an internationally celebrated writer. Originally from Barcelona, Spain, he rose to the top of his industry in his country quickly, largely due to his widely successful children’s book Cosas Que Nadie Sabe, published in both Spanish and Catalan, as well as German. He also wrote an episode for the award-winning web series Hollywood, and currently helps the company Origo Media writing short commercials and commercial videos. He is extremely versatile, and has even written software manuals for Ceinsa. His success truly began, however, when he began writing for the comic Alienados in the popular magazine Dibus!.

“Everyone at Norma Editorial, the publishing house behind Dibus! located in Barcelona, was very happy with my work. The magazine’s editors told me that they were very impressed with my skills and talent, especially since I was in my early twenties back then. and I’m so happy that I took the opportunity and did such a good job with it. I’ve always loved comic-books and when the people at Norma Editorial offered me the chance to write this comic strip for a comic-focused children’s magazine, I immediately jumped on it,” said Osorio.

The iconic comic strip tells the story of three funny and tiny aliens who crash-land on Earth and have to explore the planet with no knowledge whatsoever of the culture and traditions. In every issue, the aliens travel to a different part of the world and have comical adventures based on the fish-out-of-water cliché. The strip also teaches curiosities and traditions of the country visited to the children reading the magazine.

“Working on this was awesome. I always loved comic-books so being able to write a two-page comic strip for a famous and renowned national magazine was like a dream come true,” said Osorio.

Prior to working on Alienados, Osorio greatly impressed those at Norma while writing for their publisher’s blog. The Dibus! magazine editors quickly took note of what an exceptional writer he was, and invited him to become part of the comic. It wasn’t long afterwards when readers also began to become impressed with the writer’s talents.

“Victor is a very talented and flexible writer, able to produce a comedic comic for kids while also instilling a love for learning and travelling. He has a very clear writing style and a good eye for interesting and appealing subjects. His style is very unique and he is able to produce all sorts of content,” said Juan Avella, a fellow writer who enjoyed Osorio’s work on Alienados.

With each new issue, Osorio would begin by researching the region or country the magazine editors said the aliens were going to visit that month. During this time, he would figure out what the best thing to focus on would be to capture readers’ attention. Whether it was food, tourist attractions, famous people or locations, he always picked subjects that were not common knowledge, allowing for a more entertaining read.

“I remember using the Gauchos for the Patagonia because I could use it for a joke, and because it’s a fairly unknown, but very peculiar culture,” Osorio described.

Despite having no previous experience in writing comic strips, Osorio took the opportunity and soared. Working with just a two-page strip, he had to be very concise and effective, skills that he carries with him on every project, as they make the best style of writing.

He also was given the opportunity to work on the page design when creating the panels for the comic, which allowed him to see how his writing and the illustrator’s drawings worked seamlessly together.

“You need to take into account how the human eye reads a page and the shapes and colors that it feels attract to, the motion of the bodies in the page, fonts, and more. Learning to do all that while actually writing something that will be printed was difficult but very rewarding,” said Osorio.

Although this was Osorio’s first foray into comic-book writing, he loved every minute of the experience. He was given complete creative freedom, and was never told to make large changes, as the editors enjoyed his work so much.

“At the time, I didn’t value it as much as I do now, but doing that comic strip I got the opportunity to be entertaining and offer some knowledge at the same time for the first time in my career. The collaboration with illustrator Dani Cruz was also amazing. He would translate my words into pictures with great accuracy and he offered valuable advice and tips to solve some of the narrative challenges that I faced,” he described.

Without Osorio, the Alienados strip would not have seen the success that it did during his time at Dibus! and the experience provided the perfect learning experience for writing for children. We all know this is now something Osorio more than excels at, and we can definitely understand why.

SIMEON TAOLE DELIVERS A COMPLEX SNAPSHOT OF A LIFE IN “EVERYTHING CHANGES”

Simeon Taole believes in the power of photographs. As an actor that might seem both a redundant and ironic statement. His performance in the film “Everything Changes” immediately squelches this confusion. The film and Taole’s performance is nothing short of extraordinary. In many ways it exemplifies great storytelling. Humor, intoxicating passion, tears, and a completely unexpected ending (two of them in fact) are all communicated by both the emotional cinematography and the inspired performances of Simeon and his only costar in the film, Virginia Leigh. As the couple experiencing a first date, these two actors generate a chemistry that permeates the air. Through discussions and coy confessions about their lives and interests we are romance-inspired voyeurs who are nourished by their budding romance. As the action progresses we are witness once again to the fact that life is rarely if ever as carefree as we would hope. The repartee, the longing silence, the honesty of the two characters in this film is so convincing that we want to believe that Leigh an Taole are actually a couple. This very modern tale is a photograph of the complications of romance in this world.

It’s not serendipitous that Simeon’s character in the film is so interested in photography. The idea that a photograph displays and is simultaneously withholding in the entirety of information is a central theme to the story. Calvin’s fixation of photography is a metaphor for his desire to discover and understand himself and the world around him, and perhaps to make it a more beautiful place from his vantage point. We almost feel that if he “frames” the moments in his life correctly, he will be able to relax with them. Calvin is a character who is looking for meaning in his life. He has regrets and hopes he can rewrite his future and change things; which he hopes to begin by forging a connection with Naomi. Calvin is motivated by his desire to capture something with her and ultimately bring meaning to his life. Somewhat naively, he feels confident that he can do this. The naiveté of this is not apparent until the end of the film. Calvin is a nostalgic person and photographer who laments the fact that photographs don’t tell stories with real meaning, at least, not like they used to in Life magazine. In the end, he’s presented with a photograph that has significant meaning for them both and changes everything.

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With deep insight and information of all aspects and characters of this film, Simeon was aware of the story from many points of view and given the time to deeply understand Calvin, which resulted in the compelling and honest performance seen in “Everything Changes.” Taole states, “I had a very detailed history for both characters in the film. It was great to think about what it is that motivates a character at a granular level. I spent time thinking about what it is that’s complicated about him; the dichotomies that exist in all of us. For example, how we can show love and yet also cause pain. How no one is fully good or bad but alternates between the two. Or sometimes, even simultaneously conveys both. I think for me it’s about taking this rich history and applying the level of detailed information to other roles where I wouldn’t necessarily have all that information at the beginning.”

One of the aspects of the film that makes it so gripping and real is the lack of singularity in its approach. Moments of lighthearted playful romance are mixed with tension and even fear. Real life can go from joy to tragedy in an instant and the film does not deny or shy away from this reality. A large reason why this works so well is the measured approach Simeon uses in his performance. He takes great care to not be overly broad with the comedic moments lest the audience not feel the truth of the more dramatic ones. Most of the actor’s work has been in dramas but he notes that this has given him a conservative approach to levity which plays out well in this film.

There’s no denying that a great deal of the heart in “Everything Changes” comes from the intoxicating chemistry between the two (and only) cast members. While it might be expected that a cast so small would make the viewer perhaps long for other characters but Calvin and Naomi (played by Virginia Leigh) go through a myriad of emotional evolutions that it’s impossible to remove one’s focus from them. Taole remarks, “I do feel a cast of only two does create a sense of intimacy in the film that would not necessarily be there with a larger cast. We both had to be fully engaged. Our chemistry was important because we carry the film and this really works for this story. I don’t think it affected the way I prepared for the role but it may have meant we had less downtime during the shoot because we were in every scene.” Leigh concedes, “Simeon and I didn’t really know each other before this film but I found immediate chemistry with him and this showed on screen. We had a warm, funny connection that engaged the audience and led to an ending that was shocking after such a strong build. Our natural bond was a key strength of Simeon who can read actors and find the paths to organic connection off which the audience can feed. Of course, he was the central leader to this film, and his performance was key to the ensuing success. Simeon carries this film in his performance as Calvin. He brings the audience into the over-compensating, overly- confident young man who one cannot help but root for.”

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“Everything Changes” has been an immense hit of the film festival circuit with screenings at: at 2016 San Francisco Black Film Festival, 2016 Hollywood Glam Gala, 2016 Las Vegas Lift-Off Festival, 2015 Toronto International Shorts Film Festival, the 2016 North York Arts Anniversary and Cultural Hotspot Closing Party, and a win for “Best Short Film” at the 2016 San Diego Black Film Festival. As Calvin, Simeon Taole is a proxy for the audience. He encourages us to dig to find meaning and connection with those around us. What reveals can be both beautiful and shocking, an idea delivered with impact via Simeon’s incredible performance.

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