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Composer Weijun Chen creates stunning chamber piece ‘Dancer’

Elegant, beautiful, and meticulously crafted. These are the most common adjectives listeners use to describe Weijun Chen’s work. As an industry-leading Chinese classical composer, he combines unique harmonic and orchestration sensibilities to create stunning pieces of music. His musical persona has been influenced by many aspects of his interests, surroundings, and diverse upbringing. His music is not meant to represent any particular musical style, but he is able to speak for his own musical identity.

“On the one hand, I grew up listening to Chinese vernacular music of the 90s. On the other hand, I was trained rigorously in Western classical music idiom, during which I developed strong interests in Renaissance music, late 19th-century Romanticism, Impressionism, contemporary music, and multimedia. However, rather than aligning myself with a particular style, or forcefully combining different styles, I simply allow my intuition to take over, and express my multitude of influences in a genuine and organic manner,” said Chen.

Throughout his esteemed career, Chen has continuously demonstrated his superb musical capabilities to audiences all around the world. His compositions, such as Watercolors, Three Earlier Songs, and Canoe tell pointed stories through beautiful melodies that evoke untold emotions to their listeners, all while playing at prestigious music festivals and venues.

One such music festival was the 2016 MATA Festival of New Music. MATA is one of the most renowned new music festivals in the world, taking place annually in New York City. Chen was chosen out of 1,156 submissions that year for the chamber version of his piece Dancer. The artist director of MATA was Du Yun at the time, a Pulitzer-Prize winner. The piece was performed by Ensemble Linea, a leading new music ensemble based in France, conducted by Jean-Philippe Wurtz. The performance took place at the National Sawdust in Brooklyn, NY. Chen received a positive review from MusicalAmerica after the premiere. It then went on to the 2016 “June in Buffalo” Festival and was performed by Ensemble Dal Niente, a leading new music group based in Chicago, conducted by Michael Lewanski and the 2018 University of South Florida New-Music Festival & Symposium, performed by the USF New Music Consortium, conducted by Matthew Kennedy.

Dancer is a difficult piece to write and even more difficult to play for the ensemble, as the detailed rhythmic notations and complex harmonic sonorities require both individual virtuosic playing as well as a high level of ensemble work. I definitely breathed a sigh of relief after the successful premiere and was grateful for Maestro JP and the musicians of Ensemble Linea,” said Chen. “It was an honor to be featured at the MATA Festival and to meet their artistic director, Du Yun. Surrounded by more than a dozen of the world’s most talented young composers and hearing everyone’s music was both humbling and eye-opening. Each one of us showcases a strong, original, and unique musical voice, that collectively shows a diverse and vibrant contemporary music scene today.”

Dancer for chamber ensemble (flute, clarinet, piano, violin, and cello) is written in four sections. The opening section features a series of scales that overlap on top of each other, creating slow harmonic movement. The second section features a prominent melody that resembles passionate Spanish dance, although the melodic line quickly starts to break down and the texture becomes increasingly erratic. This leads to the third section: It is fast and energetic, with a strong pulse in the background. After reaching the climactic point, the last section returns to the slow tempo of the opening section, although it features a much more somber tone. The scale returns as well, albeit in the form of one long and continuous descent that spans the entire section.

It took Chen over six months to write Dancer. It was a challenging project on a technical level, due to the intentional restrictive use of the materials (scales only) as well as the instrumentation itself. The quintet of flute, clarinet, piano, violin, and cello, known as the Pierrot ensemble in contemporary music, is difficult to blend and balance due to the vastly different sound quality of each instrument, according to Chen. However, these two challenges complement each other, and the distinctive color of each individual instrument crystallizes the contrapuntal development of the otherwise limited musical materials.

“This piece reflects on the moment when technique becomes art. Growing up as a child pianist, I plodded through endless scalar exercises, passing the time by imagining my fingers as dancers gliding across the keyboard. Scales, sometimes embellished, sometimes transparent, form the musical fabric of the work, which consciously tries not to evoke keyboard exercises, instead seeking an elegance beneath its technically complicated surface,” he said.

After the success of the chamber version of Dancer, Chen decided to write it for an orchestra as well. The orchestral version received great praise, and demonstrates both Chen’s vast musical knowledge, and also his versatility. Undoubtedly, he is a force to be reckoned with as a classical composer, and we can expect to hear many more beautiful compositions from him in the years to come.

“The art of composition goes beyond a pencil and pieces of paper. Live life to the fullest: go on adventures, embrace nature, and explore cultures, all of which enrich your creative life. Of course, never stop learning and perfecting your craft. Seek mentors in and out of schools, and find music communities around you. Know and love the repertoire! Listen and study the music composed by the masters of the past as well as present. Listen to music of all genres and go to concerts as often as you can,” he advised. “Concert music is meant to be experienced live, and you can also meet your fellow composers, conductors, and musicians there.”

With those wise words for those looking to follow in his footsteps, be sure to keep an eye (and ear) out for Chen’s future works.

Sound Editor Jingjue Zhou works with Narval Films on impactful new film ‘Pier Las Vegas’

Sound. It is 50 per cent of the movie watching experience. A simple rain drop to a massive explosion would not be made possible without the hard work of the sound editors behind-the-scenes that work tirelessly to create an authentic sound that allows audiences to be immersed by what they are taking in on screen. China’s Jingjue Zhou knows this better than most. This celebrated sound editor has worked on all genres of movies and television shows and is always refining her talents. She is a true storyteller, using sound to subtly enhance a script, creating drama and emotion through the sense in a beautiful and natural way.

Whether taking in her work at SeaWorld Orlando’s “Sesame Street Land” interactive game plays, or through award-winning films such as Spring Flower, millions around the world have appreciated Zhou’s extraordinary sound work. Her versatility and commitment to storytelling through sound make her a force to be reckoned with in the industry, and despite her success, she remains committed to her craft, simply enjoying what she does.

The highlight of her esteemed career came when working with Narval Films LLC. She has worked on several films for the renowned production company, including the documentary Road to Olympia, which tells the story of a Chinese bodybuilding athlete. Long Wu is a celebrity athlete with millions of fans on social media. He is the first Chinese IFBB pro card holder and first Chinese to compete professionally in Olympia.  It’s a story about his career journey over the past 10 years. The film was broadcast on China Central Television, the biggest TV platform in China, and the social media platform Weibo, achieving 1.5M views and 6.9K likes.

“From this film, I got to learn all the hardships Long Wu has been through and the essence of success in one’s career. Long Wu, though successful, is still very humble, hardworking and extremely self-disciplined. I am proud to be on the team telling this story so more people can get to know such a cool person and sport,” said Zhou.

Zhou’s favorite project with the production company, however, is the film Pier Las Vegas. The story is about Gao Xing, a hearing-disabled and vocally impaired person from a small town in China, who works as an ordinary housekeeper at a Las Vegas casino hotel, and always rummages through the guests’ luggage secretly while cleaning the room to search for clues about his sister who was adopted by an American family long ago. However, Gao’s life changes one afternoon when a massive shooting occurs at the music festival outside of the hotel.

“This fictional story takes place during the real life event of the tragic Las Vegas mass shooting. The people killed are not numbers. They have their own life stories and families. The movie is a portrait of one of them. It’s a powerful story that helps people remember those who die in these events and reflects on our society,” said Zhou. “What’s the problem and how can we change it? This film evokes those questions.”

Pier Las Vegas is a drama with an experimental storytelling style. It is directed by Yun Xie, a talented Chinese director. Her award-winning movie Truth or Dare has had a very successful theatrical release all over China. Zhou was happy to work with her on such an important film as Pier Las Vegas.

The sound editing in the film is very heavy and challenging as the main character is constantly in and out of a dream state. Zhou had the chance to play with lots of interesting plug ins and synthesizers to generate her own sound palette.

“It’s fun and challenging when it comes to sound editing for dreamy sequences. The director always said to me that it was my moment to shine. We wanted to create a feeling of being out of place in these dream sequences. We were really happy that all the sound came organically to make the audience feel the same way the character feels,” said Zhou.

Zhou’s hard work more than paid off as Pier Las Vegas has seen immense success all over the world. The film premiered in China’s top art house film festival earlier this year and has been an Official Selection at six prestigious festivals so far. It was also nominated for several awards, and Zhou is thrilled to see where it will go next.

“I am so happy it got the recognition internationally, especially in my home country of China. It’s selected to be in the competition of First International Film Festival, taking place in Xining. Every year, all the top artists and first-class Asian film committees will attend this film festival. Some people tell me that my sound work helped them so much on understanding the style and story of the movie, and that couldn’t make me happier,” she concluded.

 

By John Michaels
Photo by Tianyi Wang

Xin Yi on finding her passion as 3D Artist

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Xin Yi

Growing up in China, Xin Yi always had a passion for drawing, but always considered it to be a hobby rather than a career. However, when she first saw the Pixar hit Up, everything began to change. She was instantly attracted to the stunning animation, with its fresh style, characters, and colors, with a beautiful story to tell. She immediately began envisioning creating similar content one day, combining her passion for the arts with her desire to tell stories. That was when she began considering a career in animation and visual effects, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Yi is now a 3D Artist, creating beautiful effects, animations, and motion graphics that have been enjoyed by millions across the globe. A 3D Generalist does a little bit of everything, whether it’s making 3D objects, texturing, shading, lighting or rigging, which is like setting up the controls to prepare them for animation. However, Yi dedicates most of her time making 3D images look as realistic as she can using those skills and techniques.

“It is really exciting for me to have the opportunity to work with some amazing artists and use my skills to bring 3D to life. I also enjoy working with and learning from the best artists in the industry. I can learn a ton just by listening to them talk,” she said. “I really want to use my skills to tell stories and becoming a 3D Artist made my dream come true.”

Yi is known for a plethora of hit projects, including trailers for the video game Rocket League, the World of Warcraft Arena World Championship, NFL Redzone, Black Lightning, Call of Duty Black Ops 4 and Black Ops III, and many more. Every project she takes on is different, and no two days are the same.

“I face challenges almost every single day and that’s why I love what I do. It helps me learn something new every day and improve my skills. I enjoy the process of solving problems. Sometimes, of course, it can be frustrating, but just by thinking of the things that I am going to create makes it amazing. All the tiny learning pains go away, and all of the patience comes back. No matter how difficult I feel it is, I just keep in mind that I am going to make it,” she said.

Yi encourages anyone looking to get into visual effects to learn something new every day and set small goals. She used to write down her daily goals on stickers and in notebooks. This helped her maintain focus and continue to refine her skills, which she attributes to her quick growth in the industry.

“I’ve met many artists who are afraid to show people what they are doing. They think that they are not good enough or people are not going to like what they’ve created. Many times, I personally think their art is truly amazing. In my own opinion, I’ve never felt like I am super good at one thing either, but the goal is to be good at many things eventually. Everybody has different tastes; some people will like your work and others won’t. I often try to find many useful methods to improve myself so that next time when I am making a similar thing it will be even better. Just by imagining the next time, I am already happy,” she said.

Yi made it to where she is today by putting herself out there and listening to her mentors’ opinions and advice, even if she didn’t initially believe in it. Even when she doubted herself, the guidance of others pushed her to keep going. Everybody has different ways to feel motivated and finding what works for you is key.

“I originally realized that I wanted to get into art by reading and listening to fairy tales. All of the little creatures started to form in my brain, and I would just draw the little creature out or make some 3D models of them. I like to see a lot of stunning art from others, whether in the form of films, books, or paintings, etc. So, for me, I always like to check out other artists’ work and find it important in helping me grow as my own artist. There is so much amazing art in different mediums all around us. Just by looking at them I find motivation,” she concluded.
By Annabelle Lee

 

Producer Helena Sardinha recalls award-winning film ‘Pumpkin’ and finding filmmaking passion

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Helena Sardinha

Before pursuing her now prolific career in filmmaking, Helena Sardinha was a professional dancer. The more she danced, however, the more she realized it wasn’t what she wanted to spend her life doing. She had always been passionate about the various forms of artistic expression and found filmmaking to be one of the most complete art forms there is.

“If you breakdown a film, you find elements of every single art in it. In screenwriting, you have literature, poetry; in acting, theater; cinematography, painting, photography; in original scores, music; in set and costume design, architecture, sculpture, fashion; in the camera and actors movement, dance. To make films is to reproduce life the way you want it to be, and to be able to do that, I feel very privileged,” she says.

Now, Sardinha is a celebrated producer in her home country of Brazil and abroad, with many acclaimed projects on her decorated resume. Films like That Girl and Walter have gone on to win several awards at prestigious festivals around the world, a pattern that occurs with most projects she takes on. Her success as a producer is undisputed, and she believes that her experience in dance has allowed her to understand her role in filmmaking that much more.

“I believe that growing up in a dancer’s discipline environment and having an early start on my artistic endeavors was key for my development as a producer. Being connected to diverse content made me develop artistic skills and sensibility to art forms that accompanies me in my career,” she says.

One of Sardinha’s first major success stories after transitioning from dancer to producer came back in 2016 with her film Pumpkin. The film follows Alice and her best friend Dan, who lives in another country. When he tells her he’s been diagnosed with cancer, she faces the scary feeling of being away and powerless. So, Alice tries to show him support and love. Even if that means pushing away friends that are physically close to her.

Pumpkin is more than a project, it’s a life statement about love. But it’s also about pain during a time of our lives that is definitive for building our characters and notions of values. It’s not often we see teen films talking about those issues, about grief, dealing with pain. It’s important for other teens to watch this film and be able to feel a sense of belonging. To understand that pain is a part of life, and it’s healthy to talk about it. It’s a real story based on the director’s life and it really resonated with me. Losing a friend is not easy, and that was the way she found to cope with it,” says Sardinha.

The film was written and directed by Paula Neves, who was telling a true story based on events in her life. She knew she needed a talented producer to do her story justice, and reached out to Sardinha. They worked very well together, as Sardinha felt extremely close to the story and the project, knowing its background and the inspiration. Sardinha understood quickly what was fundamental to deliver Neves’ vision, and she put a crew together quickly and efficiently.

“It is always great to work with Helena, she is really pro-active and organized. Being on set with her or on a project produced by her is always an easy and fun experience. She is really responsible and smart-thinking. She always looks for a way of making things better without compromising time or money. Also, she is empathic to others, making sure everyone around her is well and in the best mindset. When she commits to something, you know she’ll be giving her ultimate best,” says Neves.

Pumpkin had its premiere at the world-famous Short Film Corner at Cannes in 2016, and went on to win awards and receive great praise at countless other festivals over the course of the year. Those rewards were secondary, however, for Sardinha and Neves, as they had a financial campaign to help kids with cancer through the project.

“I believe working on a project that generates awareness to any kind of issue and makes audiences move and try to change something is just a blessing. Pumpkin was one of those. Our goal as filmmakers is to be able to reach out to audiences and emotionally connect with people. Being able to receive so many notes and comments from people on the film, really pays off the entire journey of making a film,” Sardinha concludes.

 

By Annabelle Lee

Natalie Charles channels her personal life for emotional role in ‘Mary Kills People’

Acting, for Natalie Charles, was never a choice; it was a destiny. As a child, growing up in Toronto, Charles secretly put on plays alone in her room, letting her imagination run wild. At the time, it was a way to entertain herself, but now, she entertains the masses.

Charles is a sought-after actress in her home of Canada and abroad, working on many of the country’s biggest films and television shows. Fans may recognize her from Suits, Sensitive Skin, Residue, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, and so many more. One of her most recent roles was the recurring character of Nurse Connie in the award-winning series Mary Kills People.

“I am so proud to be part of such a successful show. This is not an easy subject. It must be told with care and dignity. To bring all of this to the forefront can be a daunting task. We have to be able to relate to the people on screen, which in turn may help us to give someone time and concern,” she said.

Mary Kills People follows single mother Mary Harris, a dedicated ER doctor with a deadly secret. She and her partner, a former plastic surgeon, are angels of mercy; or more commonly referred to as, angels of death, who grant terminally ill patients their wish to die with dignity.

“I had been following this project during its first season and knew I wanted to be included in telling such an important story. This topic is so divisive; it can bring out the worst in people. It is not a subject easily understood and if we are able to put a face to some of the stories, it can go a long way towards understanding and healing, instead of hostility,” said Charles.

Charles’ character Nurse Connie is one of Mary’s trusted staff, who keeps her mouth shut but her eyes open. She is meticulous at her job, and nothing gets past her. If someone wants to know something or wants the truth of a situation, they ask her. She may also let them know before they ask, but always gives the truth.

Nat MKP 2

In a pivotal storyline, Connie recognizes, as does the doctor, what is happening with a patient and does her best to calm him. She is also keenly aware of what is happening between the ‘bickering’ doctors. She then risks her job to deliver important information to a former colleague, which changes the outcome of a police investigation and lawsuit. Charles was more than up to playing such an important role in the iconic show, and heavily related to her character.

“Because of what was happening to me at the time, Nurse Connie was familiar. I had to be all knowing of what was happening in my home. All of it; eating times, Personal Support Worker arrival times, medical appointments. Connie and I shared a lot of duties,” she said. “In my personal life, if I could go back and have this discussion with family, certain things would have been done differently. This is not an easy topic, but one that deserves consideration. Everyone has the right or should have the right to decide how they say goodbye.”

Despite the serious nature of the show, the on-set environment was very lighthearted, full of laughter and enjoyment whenever Charles got to work. She entered the show’s second season, and although everyone had worked together for a year prior, they made her instantly feel like one of the team. This made it easy for her to focus on the story.

“I like the shocking reality of the storytelling in the show. As important as this topic is, we can miss the everyday aspects of life that can build up to some of these scenarios. The choices we make have origins in the simple acts or feelings of our day. You can’t decide you know what is best for an individual if you don’t understand their plight,” she concluded.

Be sure to watch Mary Kills People to see the compelling story and Charles’ captivating performance.

Director John Wate lives childhood dream when making ‘Samurai Warrior Queens’

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John Wade, Photo by Roberto Vivancos

Growing up in Berlin and Munich, Germany, John Wate found a passion in Manga comics at a young age. He was intrigued by the style of the Japanese graphic novels and began drawing his own at just ten years of age. Even then he knew he was meant to tell stories, but as he began transitioning away from drawing and into filmmaking, his innate drive to be a storyteller never wavered.

Now, Wate is a renowned director in his home country and abroad. Two of his past films, The Sword of the Samurai and The Samurai Bow, made it for 4 years into the top twenty of National Geographic Channel’s worldwide most popular documentaries. He is known for his unwavering dedication to his craft, and his work on projects like Epic Warrior Women, Samurai Headhunters, and Samurai Warrior Queens, projects that reminded him just why he got into filmmaking in the first place.

“One of the first manga stories I ever wrote when I was a teenager was that of a female samurai kicking ass. When I was sitting in the edit room watching Samurai Warrior Queens chasing inslow motion across a bridge towards the enemy with their blades drawn, I felt as though I was having my teenage wishes fulfilled,” said Wate.

The drama documentary Samurai Warrior Queens tells the real-life story of Samurai woman Takeko Nakano who in 1868 fights for her clans’ independence in a final battle that marks the end of the Samurai era. The legends of the Samurai seem to be an all-male affair; but contrary to popular belief, Samurai women stood their ground in countless battles and castle sieges. Takeko Nakano fights for her clans’ independence in a final battle that marks the end of the Samurai era.

“It is almost unknown that female samurai existed, let alone that they stood on the battlefield. Recent DNA from battlefields found that 30 percent of the sampled bones belonged to female fighters. However, for proud male samurai it was regarded as a shame if you had to rely on women to win your battle, so their presence was hardly ever recorded. The film can give them their place in history,” said Wate. “Takeko’s life provided a great arc and was pretty much a metaphor for the end of the samurai era as a whole. The role of female heroes has not received much attention until recent years, especially in Japan, and the story sheds a very different light on what in the West is often perceived as the general submissive and weak, moon gazing Japanese female persona.”

Wate enjoys strong female characters and had already come across different accounts of strong female samurai and wanted to show what their life was like. Their education, their ability to stand up against the more famous samurai in battle, it was all an intriguing topic that Wate wanted to really dig into.

Extensive background research of local folk tales and chronicles eventually led him to choose the life story of Takeko Nakano. She grew up in Aizu, a proud province in northern Japan where education, etiquette and martial arts were held in high esteem. Her father was a commander in a clan that understood itself as the protector of the Shogun. When the Shogun was threatened by other clans, supplied by Western firepower, the Aizu fought their last battles that eventually ended in the end of the samurai era. Takeko was very talented with the Naginata, a polearm or a samurai blade with a meter-long grip at the end. She was an instructor and took it on herself to recruit other female combatants to charge against the enemy but was eventually killed during the assault by a bullet.

To understand how she lived, how she might have seen her daily duties, why she refused to marry and fight instead, Wate traveled to her home province, went to research local archives, see their castle defenses, and really explore what her life would have been like. He then developed the script, cast the film, and got to shooting.

“I loved showing the world of the samurai, their attitude, ideals of honor and courage from a female perspective. In some ways they had to endure more than their male counterparts. Not only because they were often the pawns in the marriage game, but also because they had to fight and stand in for the actions of their husbands, their clan and the Shogun. I also found it fascinating and horrifying at the same time how they were taught to pursue grace even in death. Female samurai carried a dagger with them at all times once they reached womanhood to defend their honor. If they were in danger to be captured and raped, they would often have to commit suicide and were taught already as teenagers to tie their knees together with their belts, so that their legs would still look graceful after their death,” he described.

The film was distributed worldwide and nominated on the short list for the IMPACT Award, losing to the Academy-Award winning film Lincoln. It aired in the United States on the Smithsonian Network in 2015 where it still plays regularly, and is available to stream currently on various platforms, including Amazon and Hulu.

By Sean Desouza

Editor Haansol Rim’s Creativity Lights the Way

Profile_1_by Joseph R Barrett
Haansol Rim shot by Joseph R. Barrett

The creative mind of the filmmaker requires a complex mixture of aesthetic vision, deep technical capability and a passionate devotion to the form itself. For New York-based editor-creative editor Haansol Rim, these are defining characteristics, a dynamic formula which constantly propels him forward.

A true international force—born in Germany to Korean parents—Rim came to cinema through a particularly rich background in the arts, which has ingrained a far reaching depth of knowledge that colors all of his endeavors. It’s been a lifelong pursuit for Rim and his mastery at multiple disciplines provides him a significant advantage.

“I was always an artsy kid, since I was really young,” Rim said. “I used to paint a lot, and I played cello professionally. I went to college for fine art. Simultaneously, I started to produce and compose music—I really enjoyed the two, and didn’t want to give up one over the other, so I found a medium that would allow me to pursue both—motion pictures. I decided to pursue film, since I could focus on both visual and sound art.”

The course was set; after completing training in editing, directing, cinematography and production design and earning a BFA at the Academy of Art University, Rim wasted no time in relocating to Manhattan. The ambitious young editor quickly landed a position at the prestigious creative agency-production company MATTE Projects, where a successive series of film and video assignments—each expertly complemented by the advantage of his sophisticated fine arts background—served as a very fertile proving ground.

Rim demonstrated impressive capabilities as a creative editor and editor on numerous productions, both at MATTE and well known international production company 37thdegree, but the driven young talent was also launching his own personal projects, and his work on Seoul-based electro-pop star Sailli’s 2018 music video “The Light” provides an insight into both Rim’s impeccable methodology and limitless ingenuity. While the project turned out to be far more arduous than anticipated, Rim rose to the challenge with verve and aplomb, creating a unique visual achievement that was chosen as an Official Selection of the 2018 San Francisco **DANCE** Film Festival, the 2019 Atlanta Film festival and the 2019 Bucharest International Dance Film Festival where it earned a Special Mention in the international competition.

 

“I knew Sailli from back when I was producing music,” Rim said. “We ran in the same circles and once I became a creative editor and director, he asked me to make his music video.”

“He explained that the song is about self–discovery—finding the inner light of one’s true self. I held onto that intention and started brainstorming.”

Rim’s invaluable blend of instinct and artistic simpatico—a rare intellectual and emotional proficiency—enabled him to really analyze and elevate Sailli’s concept, refining it to a strikingly impactful and collaborative creation. As editor on the video, Rim undertook a fascinating, less-is-more approach, one reliant on pure visual design, a fixed camera and a single, continuous shot.

“In this work, I wanted to express the sense of a motion picture,” he said. “I wanted to make the film feel literally like a single moving photograph, to encapsulate the idea of ‘a picture paints a thousand words.”

The simplicity and affect of this idiosyncratic, minimalistic work is arresting and heightened further by a very unusual graphic design element, one that broke some important new technological ground, another key aspect of Rim’s far-ranging skill and vision.

“The 2D collage effect was something completely new,” Rim said. “Even my team was hesitant of the feasibility of it, since it was something they hadn’t seen previously.”

While the finished product seems deceptively simple, for Rim it became a trial by fire.

“Pre-production was perfect, but the post-production creative editing was pure hell,” he said. “It was a very effect heavy edit, and as an editor with no experience in CGI, it was painstaking and miserable. I literally cried at one point.”

“Since this was a single take shot film, there wasn’t any room for trial and error–if I was unsatisfied with a frame, I couldn’t simply transition to another one. I had to be very intentional with the whole project and understand the confines of the footage.”

The dedicated auteur nonetheless saw it through, rising to meet each challenge head on and always refusing to accept anything but the full blown realization of his own perfected intention.

“It was very tough, and definitely different from my other works,” he said. “It was also such a memorable process, with lots of emotional ups and downs, efficiency and strain. There is no room for error, and no way to edit the flaws out. You just have to stick it through, and make sure that each frame is as great as could be. We worked on 5000 individual photographs that ended up making this great motion picture. Ultimately, it worked out and all these elements and challenges made this work enjoyable.”

Most importantly, he remained true to himself: “I was able to convey my vision as I had pictured it—which made it all the more satisfying. I made it work, and my first true baby was born into the world.”

Although still at the dawn of his career as an editor-creative editor, Rim has already established himself as a powerhouse force in New York’s highly competitive film and video arena, one whose ability to stand out—from the start—is his professional calling card. Rim’s winning combination of uncompromising creativity, technical knowledge, aggressive trouble-shooting skills and steadfast dedication to pure artistic expression places the editor in a league of his own and accounts for impressive, and his steadily rising, reputation.

“My personal creative philosophy is that there is no single right answer to anything,” Rim said. “The world isn’t black or white, its shades of grey—anything and everything can happen. I think good art is that which you can hear the artist’s unique voice, see the artist’s unique color and perspective. Most importantly, the artist must stay true to himself.”

 

Actress Elysia Rotaru on breaking into performance capture work

ELYSIA_7439My name is Elysia Rotaru and I have been working as a professional actress since 2008. You may recognize me from the hit show Arrow and the voice of Beatrice Villanova in FIFA 2018, FIFA 2019, and FIFA 2020, as well as countless other films and television series.

In 2010, I also began my voice over career. As a voice artist, I have lent my voice to over 1000 projects, ranging from, commercials, animations, video games, promo spots for TV Networks and selected shows, educational videos, phone systems, A.I technologies and operating systems and many more, working with clients in the USA and Canada on a global scale.

The world of voice over is vast, fast and a ton of fun, and is a great compliment to working on camera, if you can maintain the balance and stay open to the opportunities.

Performance capture work is a great way to expand your skill set as an actor. Remember Avatar? Or Gollum in Lord of the Rings? These performances used performance capture technology to blend real life and animation, allowing you to film someone live and transfer them into computerized form. If you are looking to branch out into this genre of the field, but don’t quite know how to get your foot in the door, I’ve included some helpful tips and insider information below.

How to prep

Well there are now classes you can take to get familiar with all the oddities of the performance capture world, and I recommend pairing that with acting classes and voice over classes, if you’re just starting out in the biz in general. Also any extraordinary skills like martial arts, sword work, stunting, dance etc. are a bonus in my eyes. This area is one of the most challenging ones to break into, so having a great voice and/or on-camera agent who is in-the-know about this work would be great. A voice over demo and video reel showcasing your physical skill sets is a huge step up as well and hopefully gets you through the door to an audition.

During the audition

With performance capture video games, they may not only be looking for “realistic, grounded and engaging ” voice performances, they are also looking to hire you for your aesthetic and physical portrayal of your character(s). This area of the voice over world is a unique blend of theater, on camera and perhaps stunt work. Therefore, the more training you have, especially in specific areas like sword work, dance, firearms etc. might give you an advantage.

When it comes time to audition, one must prepare the script to be off-book. They ask that you also show off as much physicality as possible from the given stage directions and if there are none, time to use your imagination to show off your range, creativity and commitment to the work. Also, wear form fitting clothes, as the casting director will usually have that noted in detail.

It’s important to remember the audition is usually a full-body frame, where all your physical life can be seen. I know they also appreciate facial expressions, as that is a huge element to performance capture.

Now also note: the projects are 99.9% of the time super confidential with strict NDA’s and the material you’re auditioning with may not be the actual script. So, it’s really up to you to do the best you can with your prep and bring it to life, fully articulated in voice and body and have fun!

The job

When you book the job and get on to a performance capture set, it’s a magical experience.

Your preparation must be amazing in regards to having the text memorized/off-book. Depending on the project, you can usually figure out what you’re prep work will entail.

However, you should be able to create character choices that support the story ahead of time and bring in your choices, an also be ready to let go of them too, if new direction is presented on the day.

Be ready to work in a Velcro bodysuit, covered in reflective balls with a tiny camera attached to headgear pointed at your face the whole time and dots marked on your face. This isn’t the on camera glam you can experience on a TV or film set so be ready to feel a little vulnerable and out of your comfort zone, that is until you get in the zone.

You will be working with a large group of people: a dev team, make-up artists, producers, a voice director, cinematic director, the rest of the cast, and more, so be ready to learn new rules that are particular to performance capture, that after repeating a few times, will become second nature in that environment.

The crew usually helps build you a basic set, but most often, your imagination and guidance from the directors are what you play by. In some cases, you might be given new lines to memorize on the day, like a soap opera and with a limited number of takes to execute the scenes.

The work takes place in what is normally called a “volume”, a large space with hundreds of cameras lining the walls and ceiling to capture every single movement the actors in the scenes will perform. From a grand gesture like walking and waving, to the tiniest movement, like a pinky finger twisting and the furrow of a brow. Having a great sense of spatial and physical awareness is a great asset, hence why I see a lot of actors with theater training booking work in the performance capture world. That is not to say you must have that as a background, as anyone with a desire to learn and the passion for the craft of acting and voice work can have great opportunities and a fulfilling career working in performance capture.

A talk with renowned cinematographer Feixue Tang

Processed with VSCOcam with b1 presetWhen Feixue Tang thinks back to growing up in Beijing, China, she recalls her middle school and high school years as being extremely dull and oppressive. The school system only cared about high grades, and students are then rated, ranked, and sorted based on academic performances. As an escape, the young Tang started watching a lot of films in her own time. She felt her life expand through immersing herself in all those different movies around the world.

“When I was in high school, I watched Elephantby Gus Van Sant. I was very impressed by the film as it showed me the great possibilities of what film as an art form could be like. I really loved how Elephantplayed with narrative structure and perspectives to tell the story artfully and creatively and how it utilized the form to serve the best of its content. While watching behind the scenes of the film it fascinated me seeing all these different crafts and creative minds going into the making of a film,” said Tang.

As a young teenager, Tang knew she wanted to one day go on to making movies. She wanted to tell stories and share a part of herself with the world through her work. Now, she has achieved all that and more. She is an award-winning cinematographer, internationally in-demand with a series of decorated projects highlighting her resume.

Throughout her career, Tang has shown what she is capable of as a cinematographer. Earlier this year, she made headlines with the multiple awards she took home for her outstanding cinematography on the film Here & Beyond. The experience of making the film, for Tang, was one of the best of her career, and the awards and recognition are secondary to simply loving what she does.

“I would say the highlights of my career are the moments when as a cinematographer, you meet a director that you can communicate so well with and with whom your collaboration is so spontaneous, fluid, inspiring and creative,” said Tang. “The collaboration with director Colin West on Here & Beyond was definitely one of my highlights. We talked day after day in pre-production discussing how to create the visual world for his film Here & Beyond. That collaboration, the continuously mutual inspiring experience was definitely why I chose and love this job.”

Here & Beyond is just one of Tang’s many success stories. She was also recently nominated for Best Cinematography of a Documentary Short Film at the Asian Cinematography Awards for her work on Lumpkin, GA, which dives into the issues surrounding America’s immigration policies by documenting the stories of a small town with a huge immigration detention center right next to it.

Lumpkin, GA’s praise is hardly Tang’s first success story in the documentary genre. Her film Who We Are, a film that starts in the midst of America’s Opioid Epidemic when a Southern California family searches for meaning in the wake of their son’s death, received critical acclaim at many international film festivals.

Undoubtedly, Tang is a force to be reckoned with as a cinematographer, and she understands the intricacies of the artform more than most. She did not always know this would be her path, but she knows she is just where she is meant to be and worked hard to get there. For those who are pursuing a similar dream, she offers the following advice:

“I think in general to work in film you need to be really passionate about what you do. It’s working long hours, it’s challenging physically and intellectually, and compared to other jobs it has so many turbulences and unknowns. I think feeling that you honestly love the job and enjoy being emerged in it is very important. And then just continue learning and never stop,” she advised.

Be sure to keep an eye out for Tang’s future projects. She is about to begin work on a new feature length documentary, as well as a fictional movie. You can stay up-to-date with her work by checking out her website here.

 

By John Michael

Otavio Rabelo talks passion for graphic design and working with ‘TheWrap’

IMG_0565As an industry-leading Editorial and Marketing Designer with Deadline Hollywood, Otavio Rabelo works with typography, colors, images and other design elements to create unique graphic layouts that are printed or used digitally. He designs conceptual layouts to all sections of a magazine using all the mentioned elements on computer software, and he is responsible for checking and sending final files to printers and making sure that everything is going to be printed correctly. It is a pivotal role in the success of each issue of a magazine he touches, and he knows this well. He remains dedicated to his craft at all times, a true perfectionist.

“Publications are always trending around the most well-known people in all fields. People love to read about who is on top of the world. I work creating printed and digital content to announce nominees and winners. It’s fun to get to know before everybody else what the editorial team is thinking,” said Rabelo.

Prior to his work with Deadline, Rabelo worked with other renowned magazines, including FourTwoNine and TheWrap, the latter of which truly allowed his work to be seen by Hollywood’s elite on a regular basis.

TheWrap is a well-known entertainment magazine in Hollywood/Los Angeles. When the opportunity presented itself to me, I was excited to grow as an Editorial Designer and show my design skills to such a great audience. The magazines that I design are only distributed to the most well-known people in the industry,” he said. “TheWrapis a small company but very well- known in the entertainment industry. Working there I was able to use my own design skills as an outlet for the projects.”

Working at TheWrap presented several new and unique challenges for Rabelo, who had previously never designed for the entertainment industry. It was his first time working with Oscar and Emmy Seasons, and he had no idea how the entertainment world worked. There are always new films and TV shows being released, as well as nominations and awards, the Oscars and Emmys are extremely important and he had no idea how complex the film industry was, with new festivals always coming up that he needed to stay on top of. He loved the challenge and knew understanding the industry was extremely important in knowing the design, as he had to understand his target market. Now, he feels like a seasoned professional, and the learning curve was well worth it.

“Getting to know the inside of the entertainment industry for the first time was very new to me. I got to see the world’s most famous actors, actresses and directors in person. It was the first time that I realized that my work was important and respected by those professionals,” he said.

Rabelo was responsible for designing and creating layouts for different sections of each publication. He was also in charge of checking and sending advertisements with final editorial files to the printer. He made sure to always have a perfect copy, as if something was incorrect after the final approval, there was no way to fix it. During his time at the magazine, there was never a single mistake to be fixed.

“Since it was such a small company, everybody at TheWrap was always very connected with me and my work. People would often ask my opinions about multiple projects based on my skills. Once the magazine was out everybody would be very nice and compliment me a lot about the issues,” he said.

By Annabelle Lee