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Sound Designer Veronica Li Completes the Vision Behind Alexandre Peralta’s ‘Looking at the Stars’

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Veronica Li brings the sound design to director Alexandre Peralta’s “Looking at the Stars.”

The award-winning sound designer Veronica Li has proven herself as a talented and invaluable individual when it comes to the art of storytelling through sound. Her knack for effectively enhancing a film with her sound work is showcased throughout her most recent success, the short film, “Looking at the Stars,” written and directed by Alexandre Peralta.

Originally from Changchun, China, Li was first introduced to her craft while attending school at the University of Southern California (USC), where the art of creating sound design initially sparked her interests. “I remember when I first started doing sound design, there was a scene where a woman walked out of a hospital very upset, and my professor told me that I should make the sliding door close behind her sound like a sigh,” Li recalled. “That was the moment I fell in love with sound.”

Li’s time at USC provided her with many opportunities to collaborate on several strong, student projects. One of her earliest works titled “STAND,” consisted of a documentary about Krump Dancers in Southern LA. “It was very successful at several film festivals, and also won the Outstanding Achievement in Sound Award at the First Film Festival,” Li said.

By way of excellent recommendations, Peralta connected with Li after making contact with her during his search for a post-production sound designer for “Looking at the Stars.” Even before seeing the project, Li was enthralled by the story on its own, and also noted it as a great opportunity for sound design. “When Alex showed me the first cut, I was so moved by it,” said Li. “I loved the characters, their stories and the look of the film and thought, ‘I have to work on this project.’”

The film takes place in São Paul, Brazil, and follows the lives of extraordinary ballerinas who attend Fernanda Bianchini Ballet Association for the Blind, the world’s only ballet school for the blind. Peralta, a Brazil native, read about the ballet school one day in a magazine. After reading up on the school, Peralta said, “I realized that I lived two blocks away and would walk by the school almost everyday. Everything started out as a curiosity; I wanted to know how they were able to teach something so technical and visual like ballet to visually impaired people. When I visited the ballet school for the first time, I was even more fascinated. It was a lively and inspiring place, and I learned that ballet played and even bigger role in these girl’s lives. I needed to tell some of their stories.”

“Looking at the Stars” was aimed at inspiring a visually impaired audience, ultimately making it so that having, “A great sound design was almost more important than having a beautiful picture,” Peralta said. From the beginning, he knew that having a sound designer who understood this idea and possessed a unique talent would be essential in ensuring the film’s success. “We wanted it [the sound] to be immersive and poetic like the images that we captured. Veronica brought even more than what I expected. It became a much better movie after her amazing work.”

Li sound designed the short on her own with the help of two Foley artists. Said artists aided in capturing mainly dance moves, footsteps and other various close touching sounds.

The majority of the editing process took place over a holiday break when Peralta and Li were apart from one another, Li in China and Peralta in Brazil. “We thought the distance might create some communication issues, but it actually went very smoothly,” Li commented. “I sent him every path and he would give me clear feedback. He was also always very helpful with anything I requested of him, like recording more ADR or helping me gather Brazilian ambient sounds.”

Despite the extensiveness of the project, the team was given the same amount of time as other USC student thesis films to complete the mixing of “Looking at the Stars.” However, unlike the other student theses, Li had three different versions of the short film to mix. “It was very challenging just to get the work done,” Li said. The final product included the completion and delivery of a normal mix, a mix with English description for blind audiences and one with Portuguese description for the Brazilian release. “I’d never mixed a film with audio description before, and in order to fit the description, we had to adjust a lot of our original dialogue and sound design,” Li explained.

While perfecting the sound design for “Looking at the Stars” came with challenges, the project also allowed Li to showcase specific skills in addition to acquiring new ones. Not only did the short feature Li’s dialogue editing abilities, it also provided her ample opportunity to implement her own unique creative design.

“The sound design of the film is subtle and very effective emotionally,” Peralta explained. “You are not necessarily aware of the sound work, but you can feel it, and that’s how good sound design should be. I really like the little details that came from Veronica’s work; some of the memorable moments are in the dance sequences. When we were picture editing these sequences, they used to be like music videos. After the sound work, they became much more emotional and you could feel them in a totally different way.”

The short was awarded the Documentary Gold Award in the 42nd Student Academy Awards, one grand achievement out of many for Li. Regarding the award, Li said, “Winning the Gold Award means the project is a great film as a whole, including all aspects of filmmaking. The Student Academy Awards is one of the biggest student film awards in the world. Being a part of a team whose project won a Student Academy Award is definitely a great honor for me.”

While Peralta and Li were new to collaborating with one another prior to “Looking at the Stars,” their partnership will continue to grow throughout a second rendition of the short, as a feature film version of “Looking at the Stars” is currently in the works. “I felt the short was like a simple melody where we just follow the arc as it builds up to the end climax. The feature is more like a polyphony where we have to balance several different melodies and make them work well with one another,” said Li. This new interpretation will introduce another main character, while the stories of the short’s current characters will undergo an increase in complexity.

The release date of the feature version of “Looking at the Stars” is still to be determined, however, the post-production sound mixing is set to begin in April of 2016.

When it came to Li’s contributions to the short style of “Looking at the Stars,” Peralta commented, “I can say that there was a movie before and after sound design. She definitely took the movie to another level. I am so glad we are working together again on the feature version of “Looking at the Stars.””

For more information, visit: http://www.starsdoc.com

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German actor-photographer David Mihalka shines both in front of and behind the cameras

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David Mihalka

His formula for acting is simple: interest in fellow man, being observant, educating on life and psychology, stepping out of one’s comfort zone and not being quick to judge.

It’s a proven methodology for German film and TV actor David Mihalka.

“Try to understand others. Walk in their shoes for a mile!” he said. “Always be a better version of yourself. That’s what I am working on each day.”

It’s certainly fair to say it’s been working.

Mihalka, who grew up watching many movies such as “Amadeus,” is known in the international filmmaking community for his dazzling character portrayals, chief among them his role in director John A. Mati’s feature comedy, “Monsieur Brucco.”

The Switzerland-released film follows Brucco (played by Mati), an Albanian who cuts his finger and is certified permanently unfit for work. Reluctant to accept early retirement, Brucco reinvents himself as a door-to-door toy salesman, but the new career takes a twist when he inadvertently becomes the target of the mafia.

Mihalka plays Monsieur Houstaf, captain of a spaceship.

“His mission is find a new leader for his planet,” Mihalka said. “The computer of the spaceship said that Monsieur Brucco is the chosen one. But he is a total fool and catching him becomes a challenge, since Monsieur Houstaf is a complete idiot as well.”

The role allowed Mihalka to tap into his profound comedic acting talent. He says he relished the chance of “being a fool” on screen.

“Life is so serious. Being a fool frees you! And with a captain from out of space, you have even more freedom to go overboard.”

The film was a success to the point a sequel is now filming. “All I can say is: The fool is still chasing the other fool.”

Other 2015 acting roles for Mihalka include Emilio Ferrari’s TV movie, “All I Want for Christmas,” Jonathan Moy de Vitry’s “Difficult People,” Alex Lewis’ “Driverless,” and Mickella Simone’s “The WorkPlace.”

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David Mihalka stars in the hilarious YouTube comedy series, “Zero Button.”

Mihalka’s been acting since 2014 in the comedy web series, “Zero Button,” and he played Sean Benini in writer-director Stan Harrington’s “Lost Angels,” that won four awards at the Indie Fest USA International Film Festival.

“Sean is a sleazy paparazzi in Hollywood hoping to make big bucks,” Mihalka said. “The movie is about Los Angeles, the glamour and the gutter.”

Mihalka’s filmography also includes acting in Harrington’s multi-award-winning feature mystery, “Perception” and Yu Jung Hou’s “Forever.”

In “Perception,” Mihalka played the role of Yuri and said, “Yuri is a very shy and silent student. The opposite of me. It was my first movie…exciting of course.”

Mihalka’s theatre background provided a valuable training ground before he parlayed his talents to film. From 2010 to 2012, he studied at The Stella Adler Academy of Acting in Los Angeles and starred in theatrical productions of “J.B.” and “The Diviners.”

“In theatre,” he said, “I learned to speak up and be clear in my speech to make sure the guy in the last row won’t fall asleep. Also, I learned to get used to many eyes watching me. This benefits me on set since there are as many eyes watching you like in theatre.”

Veteran actor, writer and producer Tim McNeil has appeared in more than 30 films and television shows including “Forrest Gump,” “Contact” and “Starship Troopers,” as well as in over 40 plays. McNeil directed Mihalka in his original play, “Margaret,” at the Gilbert Theatre at Stella Adler Los Angeles.

“The play is about a community’s reaction to the unexpected suicide of a 16-year old girl,” McNeil said. “Initially, nobody speaks about it, all acting as though nothing has happened. Bruce, played by David, is the most vocal about his concerns. He is a drunk who is not afraid to speak the difficult truth, bringing comedy to a very dark and dramatic play. He is critical to the production because he is the only one who challenges everybody in the neighborhood to talk about Margaret, searching for an answer as to why she did it.

“David proved outstanding in his sensibilities and his knowledge of the character. He understood both the material and his own character, and in turn, made the play feel that much more real. His ability to bring comedy to such a tragic subject, and make it all seem natural without being over the top, is a testament to his ability as an actor. David has something to offer the entire world with his exceptional talent.”

Mihalka credits other actors as having a great influence on him. “Established actors taught me two things: find the unique things about yourself and don’t be shy. Enhance them and show it to the world. The other one is: never give up!”

Mihalka’s talents don’t stop in front of the camera – one look at his work in photography verifies another field where he excels.

Capturing difficult scenes through his work with a camera are a testament to his gifted photographer’s eye. Mihalka’s photography captures scenes from a diverse slice of life. From the sublime to the exotic, to the baseness of life, his photographic eye catches, captures and produces exceptional and unique perspectives of people, places, and situations.

For more information, visit: http://www.davidmihalka.com and http://www.davidbehindthecamera.com

Directing Virtuoso delivers ‘the essence of the person’ in part of Fox Sports Australia rebrand

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Director Luke Farquhar

DD8, a creative, full-service company specializing in design, producing, directing, shooting and post-production, was commissioned for the rebrand of Australia’s premier sports network – Fox Sports Australia. The network includes six sports channels, a news network, sports apps and digital channels.

The catalyst for the rebranding was a series of new original “I Am” promotional video spots. Chief among the creatives behind the rebrand was visionary director Luke Farquhar, who was then a director for Fox Sports.

The Sydney based director is known for his poignant and highly stylized spots that blend together an impressive concoction of abstract imagery, strong characterization and world class storytelling.

Jean-Christophe Danoy is the acting CCO for Fox Sports Australia and he founded DD8 with Adam Duncombe and Susie Riddell. DD8 has ushered in its expansion with offices in Sydney, Singapore and Vietnam, and Danoy said, “Luke is different from the pack. Everyone in the office wishes they could do what he does. He is somehow freer – uncomplicated – and very different from any other director I’ve come across. He’s the cool one in any room. And he’s always right on brand.”

Farquhar has directed many commercials, spots, promos and branded content including for Channel [V] Australia’s music video show, “The Riff.” Farquhar has directed compelling spots for the Grammy nominated rapper ASAP Rocky, the UFC, Land Rover, Billabong, Schweppes, the Brit Music Awards and more.

“I like my spots to stand out from the rest,” Farquhar said, “so I always tried to push the envelope when coming up with the creative.”

For Fox Sports, Farquhar directed the “I Am Surfing” promo last March, which features surfers Noa Deane, Kelly Slater, Kolohe Andino, Gabriel Medina, Matt Wilkinson, Tyler Wright and others. Shooting commenced at the Australian Open of Surfing in Manly, New South Wales, Australia, and at Queensland, Australia’s Gold Coast.

“Because of my surfing background, it felt like the natural thing to do from Fox Sports’ perspective to put me in charge of the surfing re-brand, and all things that come under the Extreme Sports banner,” said Farquhar.

Set to the Ramones cover, “Beat in the Brat,” the surf promo is a 45-second rock and roll-like blitzkrieg that captures the spirit of the Australian surf scene both in and out of the water.

“I Am Surfing” received a lot of great responses, especially within the surfing communities,” Farquhar said.

Another component of the “I Am” rebranding campaign showcased Farquhar’s directing of personal narratives of acclaimed athletes such as boxer Jeff Hornet, surfer Mick Fanning, MMA star Ronda Rousey and Australian footballer Callan Ward.

“Luke’s not by fazed by fame. He can mix with anyone, and he gets a good relationship going with the talent,” said Danoy. “He’s a sports person himself and he gets them and they get him. He’s incredibly perceptive and really gets something unique from the talent. It’s in his personality. Luke has a great personality and unique perception and vision. He engages people and gets something out of them that they haven’t ever given before. He enables them to discover different parts of themselves. And they in turn enjoy the experience.”

The inspirational spots feature voiceover narration of the athletes who detail their personal stories of triumph.

“Luke gets the essence of the person,” Danoy said. “He tends not to go for the middle ground – he gets the darker or the lighter side. He gets the side that you don’t usually get to see. And he tells a story simply and clearly in a visual and emotive manner.”

Within the spots, Hornet recalls his journey to boxing and explains how he was picked on in high school, which motivated him to become a fighter.

Fanning, who survived an infamous shark attack last year, shares his wisdom on overcoming adversity, improving as a person and believing in your chosen course. “Dealing with mother nature, you never know what’s going to get thrown at you and things can turn around so quickly,” he says in the spot.

“After his nearly fatal shark attack in South Africa, Mick Fanning became not only the most popular surfer on the planet, but one of the most wanted people on the planet,” said Farquhar. “Our creative had to be different, original and worth his time.

“Being from the Gold Coast also, I knew where Mick would be and worked out my creative there. Instead of doing a “wham bam” in your face spot, I wanted to slow it down and strip it back. Mick agreed and went to work. A few days later, the job was done and got the tick of approval from Mick. Mick is a true pleasure to work with and created a very smooth work flow because of his laid back ‘yes’ attitude.”

In Rousey’s spot, she shares her story of working three jobs to make ends meet, while training full-time, and pursuing her goal of becoming not just one of the greatest women’s fighters, but one of the greatest fighters of all time.

Ward is the co-captain of the Greater Western Sydney Giants, of the Australian Football League, and in his spot, Ward explains the “Captain’s Curse,” which is the need for extreme mental toughness in conjunction with physical toughness.

Cinematographer Tom Punch worked with Farquhar on “I Am Callan Ward,” on The Riff spot, “New Blood” and on Farquhar’s Land Rover Discovery spot.

“Luke approaches directing in an original way,” he said. “It is refreshing and I think gets the best out of people. He is in it for the love, not the money. His approach is very unique. He has taught himself to tell stories in a very obscure way. He takes risks that others wouldn’t and this makes working with him exciting! Whether it’s the narrative, or concert he wants to get across, I feel that only Luke knows what the outcome of his work will be. He leaves me in suspense until I see the final cut and each time I’m always blown away.”

Other “I Am” spots Farquhar directed included “I Am a Fanatic,” which shows the euphoria experienced by two female Australian football fans riding in a car, screaming and celebrating the thrill of victory, as well as “I Am UFC,” a gritty ad focused on the training of male and female fighters.

The “I Am” rebrand also featured spots centered on other Australian sports franchises and figures such as Melbourne Victory, La Liga, Greg Inglis, Kim Ravaillion, Tim Cahill, Scott Pendlebury, Jack Miller, Israel Folau and more.

“Overall, the “I Am” rebrand has collected multiple awards with the help of myself and other directors under the guidance of the creative director, Jean-Christophe Danoy,” said Farquhar, who is eyeing further DD8 expansion with Danoy into the U.S market.

Check out the Fox Sports rebrand here: www.dd8.tv/welcome-1

Follow Luke and check out his work on Vimeo: www.vimeo.com/lukefarquhar

 

 

 

 

 

Coca-Cola 50th Anniversary Turkish Ad Campaign features the refined talents of Art Director M. Cagri Kara

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Turkey’s 50th Anniversary Koka-Kola ad campaign features the outstanding talents of art director M. Cagri Kara

 

The accomplished art director, M. Cagri Kara, has established himself as a valuable talent in the advertising industry, and is known for his brilliant, visually stunning work with brands such as Audi, Lamborghini, Frito-Lay, FOX Television, Yamaha and Coca-Cola.

Kara’s art direction was on full impressive display with an ad campaign celebrating the Coca-Cola Company’s 50th Anniversary in Turkey.

The campaign advertised the global beverage corporation, which was founded in Georgia in 1892, and was aimed at representing the special Turkish way of optimism. The prints changed the spelling and logotype of the iconic soft drink to Koka-Kola to befit the brand’s pronunciation and spelling to Turkey’s vernacular.

The campaign’s theme encompasses security, positive tolerance and the healthy concept of living in the moment opposed to remaining stuck in the past. The ideas of optimism were linked with the Cocoa-Cola philosophy of promoting happiness, and ultimately reached the targeted Turkish audience with great success.

“The campaign’s message was clear. I didn’t want to use too many graphic elements for the print version, or in the television commercial,” said Kara. “Instead, we opted to use optimistic Turkish words that were positive, clear and strong, as in the word ‘mutluluk,’ which means ‘happiness’ in Turkish.”

KARPAT, a leading independent advertising agency in Istanbul, produced the campaign. KARPAT’s Creative Chairman, Karpat Polat, said, “Cagri was undeniably a lead contributor to the success of our company and in particular, the Coca-Cola 50th Anniversary commercial campaign.”

Prior to hiring Kara at KARPAT, the pair worked together at DDB&Co. Istanbul Group, where Polat served as President and Chief Creative Officer, and Kara, as an art director.

“From the inception of the Coca-Cola project to its completion, he [Kara] was fully attentive and engaged throughout the process, producing fantastic results day after day that led the campaign to wide acclaim and roaring success,” Polat stated.

The Coca-Cola advertisements were shown on live TV and spanned billboards, bus shelter ads and print ads featured in many magazines, each emphasizing Coca-Cola’s trademark and their stand-out color, red.

“Coca-Cola’s red is already a pretty strong reminder for the brand,” Kara said. “Because of method, our point became very clear. Instead of being overly descriptive, we only used Coca-Cola’s iconic red, their very recognizable cans with the letter ‘K,’ and the positive, optimistic words to work for us. In this case, less was very much more.”

Kara’s work on the Coca-Cola 50th Anniversary campaign was immediately well received, earning him the distinguished 2014 Crystal Apple Award for Best Integrated Campaign for his work.

Regarding this achievement, Polat explained, “This is an enormous honor, even for an art director of Cagri’s caliber. I can positively state that we could never have achieved this without his leading expertise and creative vision.”

In addition to Kara’s success with the Coca-Cola campaign, the prestigious art director has also been awarded a Crystal Apple Award for Most Creative Social Media Campaign for his work with the cosmetic brand Polisan, and the Cannes Lions Bronze Award from Finansbank’s “Evolution,” a 2013 Cannes Finalist.

“As his multitude of impressive credits clearly indicates, M. Cagri Kara is among the most sought after and prolific art directors working today. His aptitude for visual design and aesthetics is second to none, and his instincts for delivering the best work possible for a given project position him as a formidable talent nationally and internationally,” Polat said.

For more information, visit: http://www.cagrikara.com

Catherinelle Campaign Combines High-End Apparel and Accessories with model Axel Swan Maldini

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Axel Swan Maldini modeling Catherinelle handbags

 

Axel Swan Maldini, a 23-year old model from the U.K., brought his world-class modeling talents to a campaign for the highly prestigious Italian handbag company, Catherinelle.

The campaigned was photographed by esteemed photographer Settimio Benedusi, a fashion photographer most known for his work with various companies including Versace, Persol, Ferrari Spumante, Yamamay, Seventy, and Fisco, among others. Benedusi’s work as been featured in publications and magazines such as Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, Maxim Magazine, Sportsweek, Image Magazine and Digital Photographer, among others.

“The goal of the shoot was to capture multiple generations of a family using rustic, sepia tones influenced by an Eastern European aesthetic,” Benedusi said of the project. “Mr. Maldini’s look is a distinctly striking one.”

Benedusi described Maldini’s gaze in the photographs as vacant, and, “Paired with illustrated arms and [an] ominous stature,” ultimately making him the, “ideal model for this shoot.”

The campaign was shot in Milano. Regarding the location and feel of the project, Maldini explained, “The background had to resemble vintage family portraits of a gypsy family. The idea was sort of family portraits, so the poses were as traditional as possible.”

While the poses of every shoot differ from one another, Maldini said, “When it comes to shooting, I’ve always really tried for the mood of the shoot: the message it has to deliver, as well as the creative process that happens on the other side of the lens.”

For the Catherinelle campaign, Maldini said, “The poses were really natural, and they had to resemble the typical family portraits of the past. There was no particular facial expression, if not the one of a formal family portrait. The shooting was still very spontaneous, even though the team had to go through the mood-board to ensure the outcome was as desired by the designer. The main challenge was to pose without making the picture look too posey.”

Clothes featured in the shoot were from high-end designers such as Vivienne Westwood and Versace. Incorporated into each distinct look were Catherinelle bags.

“The reverence of the shoot is reinforced through the contrast of the models,” Benedusi commented. “Without Mr. Maldini in the campaign, I’m not sure that we would have celebrated the success we have had.”

Maldini has contributed his modeling talents through leading roles for Kon Streetwear, Papercut Magazine, Lui Magazine, Fucking Young! Online’s editorial “Lucha Libre,” the Zeynep Guntas Look Book, Urban Tribe, and Cult Shoes.

“My approach to each job has been very spontaneous, and I’ve always been glad to collaborate with creative people, which is definitely one of the main motivations,” he said. Maldini, a well-rounded model who has reached the peak of the industry, mastered the art of runway modeling and has made appearances through Barcelona Fashion Week and shows by Krizia Robustella.

“In the last twenty-five years,” Benedusi said, “I have worked with every type of creative in the industry. It is with this time as a photographer that I have noted what it takes to succeed in this highly competitive field. Mr. Maldini is an asset to the American and International fashion industry. He is a considerable force within the modeling world, and his continued presence on the runway and in front of the camera will only bolster his standing as a highly demanded model.”

Q & A with the marvelous Canadian actress Zoe Cleland

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Zoe Cleland

We recently had the chance to sit down and visit with the talented, lovely actress Zoe Cleland, who film and TV audiences would recognize from her stand-out character portrayals in “How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town,” “Murdoch Mysteries,” “Saving Hope,” “Pay Up,” “Reign” and others.

A Toronto native, Cleland first starred on the stage before hitting the screen. She booked her debut TV role when she was just 15 and became the youngest actor to ever attend the National Theatre School of Canada.

Cleland has acted alongside famed talents such as Lauren Holly and Megan Follows, and has appeared in roles ranging from comedy to period drama to medical drama and more.

She’s been in the trenches on many productions. We’ve put the spotlight on Zoe, who shared this exclusive question and answer session that reveals just what it’s like to work nowadays as a film and TV actress. We think Zoe’s awesome and invite you to find out her story below!

 

When you read scripts and discover characters, what qualities do you look for and what aspects attract you to a role? 

ZC: I’m attracted to all kinds of characters for lots of different reasons. Great writing has a huge impact on what I want to be a part of. I think if the writing is good, it usually means there’s a level of depth to the characters and the story that is super exciting to mine as an actor. I’m also drawn to roles that I feel will illuminate some aspect of the human experience that I feel needs to be looked at, that will benefit people to empathize with…and then sometimes it’s purely selfish in that a character might be fun to play or might have an aspect that I want to explore for my own understanding or personal development. It all depends! I rely a lot on my intuition.

You booked your first role at the age of 15 when you guest starred as Eva Rookwood on “Murdoch Mysteries.” How did this character tie into the episode and what was the experience like being on a television set for the first time? 

ZC: Yeah, so I played Eva Rookwood, a British orphan who gets adopted into a well-to-do Canadian family, only to be abused by her stepfather. He ends up getting murdered and the episode revolves around solving that crime…won’t give too much away but the crime is a result of the abuse that was going on.

I remember the experience being totally thrilling and terrifying at the same time. Up to that point, I had mostly worked on stage so I really didn’t know much about working with the camera. So the experience was very very new for me. I was so excited to be on set, though, and I remember being completely entranced with how much detail went into to building each room…I remember looking at the books on the bookshelves and how much thought had been put into what they were, even though they probably would never be seen by the camera. I wasn’t used to being immersed on a set in such a realistic way and I thought I had landed in heaven.

You returned to “Murdoch Mysteries” in the role of Joanne Perly in an episode that aired earlier this year. How was this character involved in advancing the story and did you ever anticipate returning to the series? 

ZC: I never anticipated going back; I just assumed that would be it for that show but apparently not! I can’t say too much about Joanne Perly without giving too much away, but I will say that she appears to be a sweet young mother but is actually something else underneath. She ends up being an intricate part of the episode, which revolves around a bank robbery. Her baby also goes on to be adopted by the Murdochs, which was a new kind of plotline for the show.

Last year you made your feature film debut in Jeremy Lalonde’s comedy, “How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town,” a project just a little different from “Murdoch Mysteries.” What was your experience playing Young Cassie? 

ZC: My experience doing that film was really wonderful, it was a great set to be on and it was so exciting to be playing the leading character in the opening act. I had to have a different relationship with the camera than I’d ever had before, because the emotional heart of the opening of the film rested on me…because of that I learned a lot.

What was it like acting alongside Lauren Holly in the film? 

ZC: It was great; Lauren is really lovely and very generous.

Did you learn or absorb anything from working with her?

ZC: I did, I learned a lot just from watching her work and also from talking to her, we had a lot of time to chat in between takes and she was really open about her life in the industry, so I absorbed a lot from that.

Did the topic of “Dumb & Dumber” or Jim Carrey ever arise? 

ZC: Haha no, I’ve never actually seen the movie.

What are the characteristics a great actress possesses?

ZC: Great question! I think the ability to empathize is probably near the top, because without that there would be no acting. Apart from that, I’m going to say openness, vulnerability, bravery and imagination.

How do you try to incorporate those qualities into your own acting?

ZC: I just try to be honest with myself about whether I really feel I’m being true to a character and/or situation…whether I’m going as far as I can into whatever reality I am portraying. I think if I am I will exhibit these qualities by default.

What is one thing that people would never suspect about being a film and television actress? 

ZC: I think people tend to have ideas about film and TV acting that it is a really glamorous job…and that somehow the actors are the most important part of the whole production. In reality it is really a collaborative thing, there is so much work that goes into film from so many different people and it is truly a team effort. That’s one of the things I love about it. It also really isn’t as glamorous as people think, there’s a lot of waiting around and it takes a lot of passion and stamina to continue to be present in the work.

What’s surprised you the most or surpassed expectations about working in the industry?

ZC: I think in a way the most stunning thing about the film industry is that it even exists at all. When you realize how much work and drive it takes from so many people working together to do a project, it’s really amazing how much great work gets produced. There’s such a magical element to the film industry and it’s incredible how many people have the passion to come together to make it happen.

What’s been your single most difficult day on set? 

 

ZC: I had one day on “Reign” when they didn’t get to my scene till about 3 in the morning, so the whole day was waiting in my trailer, and then trying not to fall asleep. That was difficult purely physically because it was challenging to stay alert enough to do my best work.

What has been the most rewarding role you’ve played thus far in your career? 

ZC: I was in a production of “Three Sisters” by Anton Chekhov in theatre school that really changed my whole approach to acting, and actually made me want to go into film. I played Irina, one of the sisters, and I don’t know if I’ve ever dove more into a part than I did with her. I just got totally lost in her and her story. We had a director who really encouraged smaller, more naturalistic acting and it made me realize how much I loved that kind of intimate work.

Continuing on the theatre theme, you attended the National Theatre School of Canada. How does that training bode well for your portrayals in film and television?

 

ZC: I think my training at NTS taught me a lot about myself…that has been incredibly valuable to me on many levels. The lessons that I learned about myself there made me really know who I am and how my mind and heart work, which is so necessary to act. The school also had a really strong emphasis on building stamina when I was there and that has also served me well.

What was the best part of acting in the comedy series, “Guidance,” alongside Rob Baker? 

 

ZC: The best part of the experience was actually working with Rob, acting in those scenes with him was like being in a verbal fencing match. It was just so much fun.

You played Odette in two episodes of The CW’s award-winning period drama, “Reign.” Tell us a little about Odette.

ZC: Odette is an unfortunate maid who gets involved in a lot of intrigue that she would rather stay out of. Because she is lower class, she is in some ways not part of the world of “Reign” in the same way that everyone else is. It was fun playing her because she is a bit of a deer in the headlights…someone really powerless who has to live day to day surrounded by a lot of danger in the world of the French court.

What’s the best part of acting in a big period piece? Is it the costumes, set pieces, the transformative nature of the production or something else?

 

ZC: I have always had an obsession with period pieces, so acting in them is really a dream come true for me. It’s kind of the ultimate playground for my imagination, because when you are in a period piece it really is like stepping back in time. You are totally transported into another reality in a way that you aren’t when you are in something modern.

What was it like acting with Megan Follows in “Reign”? 

 

ZC: It was wonderful acting with her, she has such a strong presence and she is so focused.

You switched gears last year and acted in the role of Brianna Pierre in the acclaimed medical drama, “Saving Hope.” How valuable is the range of an actress who goes from comedy to period drama to medical drama and more?

ZC: I think it’s valuable for sure, but to be honest I try not to think of each project as being that different from the next. It feels the most authentic to me to approach every character the same way, whether it’s a comedy or a drama. I think that’s what usually gets the best work out of me, when I’m more focused on the character and their situation, rather than trying to fit into a “style.”

 

How would you describe your character, Shawna, in Craig Macnaughton’s comedy series, “Pay Up”? 

 

ZC: I would describe her as a teenage girl who is trying to assert her power in a situation in which she feels powerless. She is an only child of recently divorced parents, and she is tying to stay connected to both of them…and to keep a feeling of security around her. Unfortunately, she doesn’t know how to do this in a way that will really serve her, so she ends up basically playing her parents off each other in order to get them to buy her things.

In “Pay Up,” Richard Lett plays a debt collector named Jack. Is Jack a guy you’d not want to cross or is he living on reputation? 

ZC: I would say Jack has more bark then bite, if he even has much bark at all. He struggles a lot to assert his power over the people he is trying to collect money from, and that’s where the funny parts come in.

What are some go-to hobbies or activities when you’re not on set?

 

ZC: I meditate a lot, and I would say I have a pretty active spiritual life, so that’s something that I commit a lot of myself to…I also watch a LOT of movies. I also like to write and paint, but I’d like to be a bit more disciplined with myself about doing those things regularly.

Who is on your short list for fellow actors or filmmakers you’d like to work with in the future? 

ZC: There’s so many! And it really changes from day to day. Lately I’ve been really getting into the work of Jane Campion. I love what she does. I’ve also been going on a Tom Hardy spree on Netflix…I have an insane crush on him in every way, and I think he’s an incredibly magnetic and dynamic actor.

Photographer Erin Simkin shares her own ‘visual’ Narrative

Erin
Erin Simkin

For Erin Simkin, the journey began eight years ago.

“Color, location and people are what drive me to create,” she said.

And create she has.

The impeccably talented photographer from Vancouver has maneuvered the trenches of action filmmaking with Dominic Purcell, Stephen Lang and Danny Glover. She’s been on set in the depths of an abandoned subway station in search of paranormal sightings with Rose McGowan and Christopher Lloyd. She’s shot for leading magazines and brands such as Toronto Life, En Route, The Grid, Peroni, Grolsch and Sephora.

Simkin’s vast list of achievements have propelled her to the top of the photography industry. Her creative and technically versed work has refined qualities and characteristics that rope in viewers time and time again.

Whether on-set photography used for film marketing and P&A, portraiture, lookbooks, editorials or branded imagery, Simkin drives her craft forward with a photographic passion that reveals itself in each and every image she captures.

“My style is very clean, colorful, bright and with an air-like openness,” she said. “I’m very much inspired by natural light, as I feel there is an inherent beauty to it that artificial lighting can’t quite match without a lot of work. I love exploring new places, meeting new people, and capturing and combining all of that in one image in order to tell a visual narrative.”

With color as the catalyst driving her vision, Simkin’s images embody texture and a dynamic use of interesting spaces. She’s most recently shot for the films “Lower Bay” (with McGowan and Lloyd) “Gridlocked” (with Purcell, Lang and Glover) and writer-director Joey Klein’s romantic drama, “The Other Half.”

“There are always great locations that we get to shoot in, amazing costumes and beautiful lighting to tell the story of the characters,” said Simkin, who shoots primarily with the Canon 5D Mark III. “I love photographing people. Each person has such a different history and tells their own story through their facial expressions, their style, hands, their energy and I love being able to document them in their world and in their work.”

Applying the same approach, Simkin photographed for the feature film, “Mean Dreams.” Due out later this year and directed by Nathan Morlando, it stars “The Book Thief” Sophie Nelisse, Josh Wiggins (“Max”) and Golden Globe nominee Bill Paxton, of “Titanic,” “Apollo 13” and “Aliens” fame. According to Variety, Paxton plays a corrupt cop and Nelisse stars in the role of his daughter. After stealing drug money from her father, Nelisse goes on the run with Wiggins’ character.

Filming commenced in Sault Saint Marie and Simkin said, “The pure beauty of the landscape and light paired with the incredibly talented actors all combined seamlessly into such beautiful imagery.”

“Mean Dreams” features the work of cinematographer Steve Cosens, a five-time Gemini Award nominee who won a Leo for his cinematography in Keith Behrman’s “Flower and Garnet.” With “Mean Dreams,” Cosens shot using ambient lighting, which provided a challenge for Simkin to match her still camera shots with that of the motion picture camera.

Simkin shot for the film using a lower shutter speed equipped to capture images in low light scenarios. “The resulting images I was able to capture was worth the challenge of shooting in low light constantly,” she said. “The photos I was able to get while working on the film were extremely poetic and it allowed us to capture the delicate and subtle natural light working that far up north.”

For TV, Simkin shot for the CBC’s “Baroness Von Sketch Show,” a new comedy due out this summer. She was hired to shoot set stills and create key art for advertising the show.

“The cast of incredibly funny and talented women made this project so enjoyable,” she said. “We went for a “Vanity Fair” Hollywood style gallery shoot and both the cast and the producers loved the final images. We had so much fun creating the style of the gallery shoot, yet I still made sure to stay true to the characters and the visual tone and style of the show with its various sketches and characters that our cast played.”

Simkin worked again in the comedy genre in writer-director Matt Sadowski’s 2014 romantic comedy feature, “Pretend We’re Kissing,” that starred Dov Tiefenbach, Tommie-Amber Pirie and Zoe Kravitz. With a huge filmmaking presence in Toronto, the tax-friendly filming location is often used as a simulated location rather than as its own true setting. The Canadian theme resonated with Simkin, who currently resides and works in Toronto.

“I got to work with some amazing actors on a really fun film that heavily featured Toronto actually as Toronto,” Simkin said. “Many native Torontonians commented on how they had been living here for x number of years and they’ve never seen Toronto shot the way that we showed them, which was exciting because it meant that we were able to show a new side to the city which is relevant to the story as the main character [Tiefenbach] falls in love and then views the city in a different way. Working with Zoe Kravitz was a real pleasure, as she was so driven and fun to work with as her character was an extremely memorable one.”

Simkin’s photographic journey has included her work for Lindsay Mackay’s family drama, “Wet Bum” (also known as “Surfacing”), that received seven international award nominations. She also worked as photographer for the documentary, “Sweet Daddy Siki,” which covers the life and times of Siki, one of the first African-American pro wrestlers.

“I had the chance to visit with Sweet Daddy Siki for a few hours in his home and was asked to photograph his story, his history, and take his portrait. He was so gracious and open to anything, including putting on his old wrestling costumes, which added so much to the portrait that we took,” said Simkin. “I felt like I was opening up a time capsule and meeting an icon.”

Simkin credits her mentors in the still photography world including Kimberley French (“The Revenant,” “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” “Brokeback Mountain”) and Cate Cameron (“Arrow,” “Bates Motel,” “The 100”). “Their help and advice and support have been invaluable,” she said.

While also a long-established portrait photographer, Simkin worked with Elle Ziegler of Blissful Back, a Toronto-based retailer of yoga and meditation support accessories and contoured pillows.

“We have a family business and needed our images to tell the story of my father and I’s amazing relationship, and the uniqueness of our father-daughter business,” said Ziegler. “Erin’s best quality is her ability to tell a story though her lens. She captures vulnerability and honesty in her portraits by making people feel completely open and comfortable in front of the camera. She made decisions based on the locations, sunlight, shadows, props and backgrounds – things that we never could have predicted and things that I didn’t even notice – that resulted in stunning images.”

Talia Chai, founder of Talia Chai Wellness, echoed similar sentiments. Simkin shot portrait, lifestyle and blog photos for Chai’s wellness brand. The shoot featured a combination of people and interior spaces.

“I think Erin has a fine-tuned, expert eye when it comes to photography,” Chai said. “She multitasked effortlessly, working the lights, me, props and of course the camera all at once. She was in complete control of her environment and knew exactly how to take advantage of natural elements already found in the space. She has an incredible eye for detail, lighting, color, shadow and uses these elements both strategically and intuitively to create absolutely stunning images that stand out.”

Simkin’s other photography experience includes her shooting key art for Brendan Canning’s new forthcoming album, for a Samsung Vue social media campaign and boardroom wall photography for Accelerated Connections Inc. She’s shot at events for the Toronto International Film Festival and Russell Peters Live at the ACC, as well as for the Globe & Mail, Toronto Star, National Post, Peroni, Samsung, GAP, Scotia Bank, Women of Influence, Women of Action, the Jewish National Fund, Sharp Magazine, Flare Magazine, Canadian Cinematographer and more.

For more information, visit: www.erinsimkin.com