For a director to let go of the reigns and trust a set designer without the nagging impulse to micromanage is a sign of true excellence on the part of the decorator. That’s at least the sentiment expressed by most every director who has worked with seasoned set decorator, Nancy Niksic.
Niksic, owner of a most impressive roster of achievements, just wrapped working alongside acclaimed film director and screenwriter, Azazel Jacobs (“Terri,” “Momma’s Man,” and “The Good Times Kid”) who raved about her invaluable work. “Nancy Niksic worked as my set decorator, and possess an exceptional ability to find unique and fitting set pieces, then decorates the set with a realism that adds to the character development. Nancy has true artistic talent and is an asset to work with. She understands my vision, which is incredibly beneficial to me as a director and to the success of my shoot.”
With 24 years of experience under her tool belt, Nancy has seen a variety of TV, film and commercial sets to visual perfection as set designer and decorator. Niksic’s versatility and adaptability are part and parcel of what has earned her keep amongst the greatest in the entertainment industry — including the Canadian “Amazing Race.” Niksic worked as the art director on the 1st season of the “Amazing Race,” and as production designer on the 2nd and 3rd seasons.
Niksic is the ultimate multitasker on set, with a strong comedy leaning as her niche. “ I look at it as an opportunity to have fun and really expand my creativity” says Niksic about her comedic set decorating sensibilities. “I’ve alway been super passionate about this niche market, especially the quirkiness and how odd some pieces have to be. Being a set decorator is all about contributing, and that takes understanding the joke and the tone and the subtleties of comedy. To make comedy work, there’s a tricky balance, knowing when to be understated and when to go big and in your face.”
Niksic nails the unassuming, keeping the audience unaware of the set decor, but at the same time having the pieces contribute to the comedic tone. “The audience won’t be able to put their finger on why it’s working, but it does. Directors like that I understand this. I love to scour the city for the perfect pieces,” adds Niksic.
Her comedic touch garnered her work on two seasons of “The Jon Dore Television Show” on The Comedy Network, as well as the short film “The Truth About Head” directed by Dale Heslip, which won several awards at Cannes.
Niksic recently worked on content for the comedy webseries by Sarah Silverman, Michael Cera, Tim & Eric, and Reggie Watts called “JASH.” The content produced by cofounder Daniel Kellison (original executive producer for “Jimmy Kimmel Live”), was about three CIA agents living in horrible quarters in Aleppo, Syria, so the set had to look believable. “I had to make it look real, while also finding space to add comedic elements,” said Niksic. “I collaborated with the directors on the nuances of the set, trying to play it so the audience gets a real feel for the environment, while also putting in elements to accent the comedy.”
What sets Niksic apart from her competitors is that she is not limited to the entertainment realm alone. Niksic handled the decor and design as well as the styling of a renowned rock & roll inspired hair salon in Toronto called “Grateful Head” [pictured below]. She truly does it all. Whereas most designers who work in film wouldn’t normally venture in this space, Niksic will not turn down creative work, making her one of the most multifaceted designers in the game.
Nancy Niksic is a set designer extraordinaire, willing to work in any creative environment necessary. She knows what she, the audience and director/client want, and she stops at nothing to get it.
For Niksic, it’s about quickly understanding the director and the direction, and about establishing immediate trust while shouldering some of the weight the director carries. Her evolved sense of humor certainly comes in handy on any kind of set, keeping the list of opportunities running endlessly.
The film editor is one of cinema’s true behind the scenes wizards, one who can escalate the intensity of any sequence, deftly manipulating the action and emotion in a way few other production contributors—whether writer, actor or director—are as readily able to match. Russian editor and visual effects supervisor Pavel Khanyutin, known for cutting with surgical precision and an acute sense of pace, is an ideal example of this dynamic, almost alchemical skill.
For more than a decade, Khanyutin has exerted a strong influence on his country’s visual experience, as a film editor and through his influential use of CGI—he made significant impact supervising VFX in Timur Bekmambetov’s popular 2004 fantasy thriller Night Watch and Andrey Kavun’s 2010 war drama Kandagar. He also excels in his other professional capacity, conceiving and directing commercial advertising spots.
Khanyutin’s relish is evident in whatever he takes on, and his 16 years as a creator of television spots for high end prestige clients have been an enjoyable pursuit that has produced many notable achievements, crafting memorable pieces for Google, Coca Cola, Ikea, Pepsi’s Adrenaline Rush, Panasonic, Mars, Nike, cellular network Megafon and many others.
“In advertising the tough deadlines and limited time make the process almost like a competitive sport.” Khanyutin said. “However, there always remain enough possibilities for creative work, in the storytelling and sophisticated editing.”
But it’s working as an editor and visual effects supervisor where he derives the most satisfaction; in Russia, after all, the art of film cutting has a particularly rich heritage, going back to groundbreaking mid-1920’s giants Sergei Eisenstein and Grigor Aleksandrov.
“In editing, the possibilities are nearly unlimited, and it’s almost impossible to overestimate its importance.” Khanyutin said. “It’s a language in which films speak to the viewer’s unconsciousness, and it can deliver every shade of emotion, just as speech does. This is the most interesting, most complicated aspect and is also what allows a film to really get inside a viewer’s head. It’s almost like metaphysics—a visual philosophy.”
“Each project is interesting in its own way.” He said. “Editing documentary films is a very special process, you could almost say that the movie is coming to life in the editing room—getting precise emotions, different shades, from the material is the challenge—to create a great piece of work. I am lucky that I had a lot of documentary experience at the beginning of my career.”
Khanyutin’s personal involvement with every project is intense. “Working on a feature film is a different matter.” Khanyutin said. “To tell a colorful story, it’s very important to really dip down into it, to lead everything through one’s own self, to believe in characters, yet always be sensible. Then every cut will be as conscious and meaningful as sounds in speech. And the time spent in the editing room—it could be one month or one year—becomes part of you. You even see it in dreams.”
That tireless commitment to film gains Khanyutin tremendous professional advantage. “I’ve worked with Pavel as directors and editors always work together—I’ve dropped material off at his door to do with as he pleases, and I’ve sat, lurking over his shoulder, for up to a dozen hours at a time.” Film maker-screenwriter Michael Kupisk said. “In both cases I found Pavel’s instinct and touch to be invaluable in terms of defining the final outcome of the product. He was able to show me angles and methods of delivering a beat or turn that I hadn’t anticipated and is always thinking of how to make the movie better. What I admire most about Pavel is his innate rhythm and instinct. He adds something to the project that is satisfying to both the filmmakers’ vision and the audience’s viewership of the material.”
Khanyutin’s singular grasp on how best to manipulate raw footage is an invaluable asset, and his singular propensity to anticipate and deliver a finished product that really reaches deep down into an audience’s emotions qualifies him as a cinema auteur with illimitable potential. For Khanyutin, his professional goals are simple and straightforward, best summed up in three words:
Much like film, television, novels, and theatre, music and song are also powerful forms of storytelling. In some instances they can stand on their own, while in others they are used as a means of enhancing and completing the expression of a particular story. Talented composer and orchestrator Emily Rice has been telling stories through sound for the past four years. Her framework of experience consists of a long list of accredited success stories, her work ranging from student films to Hollywood blockbusters. Most recently, Rice has been cordially attached to compose a new and exciting project; a documentary film called “100 Faces of Survival,” directed and produced by innovative filmmakers Jared White and Lilit Pilikian.
“100 Faces of Survival” focuses on the Armenian genocide, which had its 100-year anniversary in 2015. The documentary also partially follows the married couple, Pilikian, who is of Armenian descent, and White, as they travel to Armenia to see if they can uncover her family’s past home prior to them fleeing the genocide. “It’s a story of Armenian identity in general, but closely follows Lilit’s relationship with her own identity,” Rice said.
Elaborating on this, White added, “We had long thought about what we could do to mark the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. We didn’t want to just make another genocide documentary, as there are many well-made ones out there already. So, we landed upon our hook into the topic: exploring Armenian identity, and what it means to be Armenian 100 years after the genocide.”
Prior to “100 Faces of Survival,” Rice collaborated with Pilikian and White on two previous films, composing both shorts titled “Clone Counseling” and “Kill Me Now.” The three have been working together for nearly a year now.
With as complex of a score as “100 Faces of Survival” is expected to have in order to help guide its viewers through a range of different tones and emotions, it was important that Pilikian and White selected the right composer for the job. The duo is confident that Rice has what it takes to bring the audience to those depths. “Emily strives to always keep the audience’s experience with the film in mind as she crafts her scores. She immerses herself in the films she scores, always works to help further the story, has a deep understanding of music of all genres and flavors, and adapts to best suit the needs of the project at hand. Her music often acts as a gateway into the emotional journey of the films she works on, so we knew she would be a perfect fit for “100 Faces of Survival,”” stated White.
Originally from Harrow, England, Rice received her Bachelor’s Degree in Music from the University of York in 2008. In 2014, she moved to Los Angeles and completed her Graduate Certificate in Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television at the University of California. “I did my undergraduate degree in music, so I always knew that I wanted my life to revolve around it. I’d spent a lot of time playing in orchestras so was always drawn to that sound, and from my experiences playing in bands I knew that I liked the storytelling aspect of songs. In many ways, film music is the perfect combination of these two things as it helps tell stories through the use of almost any combination of instruments,” Rice commented.
As a composer and an orchestrator, Rice’s responsibilities vary depending on what she is working on, though they always encompass a similar idea: to aid in telling a specific story. When it comes to composing, her main duty is to compose (or in other words, write) all of the music for whatever film it is that she is working on. “Sometimes, I perform on it and either record it or produce the final mixed mock-ups which will be used if live recording isn’t an option,” Rice explained of this task.
For orchestrating, Rice does this while simultaneously writing. “Orchestration is a slightly different and more complex thing to describe, but the two [orchestrating and composing] go hand in hand. Orchestration is about knowing each instrument inside out, whether they are orchestral instruments, synths, guitars, etc., and knowing which combination of instruments to use to achieve a specific sound or effect,” she said. No matter what Rice is working on, whether it be the music in a film or an episode of television, she states, “My role is always to enhance the story and emotion, not to ‘get in the way’ of it – especially of dialogue! It’s also important to me that the music has an opinion, or a ‘point of view.’ Music that blends into the background too much can seem like wallpaper, and I often try and imagine the scores I write to be another character in the story.”
For the score of “100 Faces of Survival,” this is exactly what Rice plans to do. “The consistent thread through the film is the issue of Lilit Pilikian’s identity as someone of Armenian descent,” Rice said. The film correspondingly addresses the different elements that make up ones identity, such as aspects of culture like language, religion, food, and geography. While the composer will be scoring the documentary alone, she is looking forward to working with a number of performers throughout the process in an effort to compose a number of themes based around these topics, as well as a recurring theme for Pilikian herself as audiences follow her journey. “Armenia has a number of indigenous instruments – the duduk has often been used in film scores and so I’m excited to have a legitimate excuse to use it in this score. The Armenian national anthem is also a fun piece of music, so I may weave a number of my own arrangements into the score, too,” she added.
Thus far, Rice has been reviewing rough cuts of the film in preparation for the composition work she will be creating throughout postproduction.
“I think that the score is likely to be very broad, and what I mean by that is I’m expecting there to be a number of themes to write as well as an underscore. It’ll hopefully show my capabilities composing music connected to a specific geographical place despite not being from that place, and as I’m also hoping to use live players, that should enhance the overall quality of the sound of the score,” said Rice.
With a prospective scoring deadline of mid-August, a final release date for “100 Faces of Survival” has yet to be set in stone.
“It’s really a privilege that Jared and Lilit have asked me to score such a personal story that must have so many feelings and emotions mixed in for both of them. I think that my ideas for this film are strong because the filmmakers have a clear vision and the storytelling thread through the film is also strong. I love working with them, and I feel that scoring something with such a cultural/national identity will be a huge challenge, but also a wonderful opportunity to learn more about Armenian music and have the chance to write themes, something I love doing in my scores whenever I can,” Rice stated.
Forthcoming, Rice will be involved in preparing for the scoring process of the renowned composer Brian Tyler’s (“Iron Man 3,” “Thor: The Dark World” and “Fast Five”) upcoming projects. Her work can also be heard on the hit television show “Underground,” where Rice worked with composer Laura Karpman (“The Tournament,” “Carrie” and “Man in the Chair”), playing the cello on several episodes.
Brazil’s Samar Kauss has proven herself to be a filmmaker to watch, as any project she is attached to gains immeasurable success. Hailing from Brazil, Kauss has established herself as an internationally recognized editor, lending her services to some of her home country’s most distinguished productions over the past decade.
Native Brazilians may recognize her for her sustained work on the highly popular television show GNT Fashion, the Brazilian equivalent of E! News, which examines all things fashion, pop culture, and celebrity gossip. Since 2001, Kauss worked as an editor for GNT Fashion for several years, working alongside some of the country’s most notable celebrities, directors, and creatives across the entertainment industry. The show, distributed on Brazil’s leading network TV Globo, one of the country’s largest broadcast stations, reaches over 180 million homes in Brazil, rivaling that of even some of the most popular American productions.
Kauss does not let the bar lie with only one immensely popular television show, however. She has also worked as an editor for the highly popular series Mesa Para Dois, (Table For Two), a culinary series hosted by the renowned Brazilian celebrity chefs Flavia Quaresma and Alex Atala. The two chefs are nationally famous for their entertaining, yet informative series in which Kauss’ job is to propagate the show’s energetic pacing, and to support the comedic timing of the two chefs as they dive through local community’s in search for the most rich and flavorful recipes around Brazil and internationally. As a longstanding editor on the program, Kauss ran a tight ship, and was able to understand, envision, and articulate through her cuts exactly what the directors and producers of the show had in mind for the final visual product. The show’s executive producer, Alessandra Casado, had this to say: “Thanks to the tight, polished editing skills demonstrated by Samar, Mesa Para Dois was received tremendously well and garnered a substantial viewership of up to 183 million Brazilians.”
In addition to her work as an editor, Kauss also has worked hand-in-hand with the Australian government’s Department of Health as a leading Director of Photography for their government-funded educational documentary, aimed to raise international awareness and pledge support to a large and thriving aboriginal tribe known as the Wadeye Community, who live in the rural Northern Territory of Australia. The documentary has had a significant impact on the aboriginal tribes of Australia, and was hailed for its significant cultural impact across the community.
Whether it’s landing leading roles on Brazil’s leading television networks or extending her talents to a noble, humanitarian cause for Australia’s Department of Health, Editor and Director of Photography Kauss has certainly taken the international entertainment film and television industry by storm.
The inspiration was sparked for Carson Manning when he was growing up watching films and TV shows in Toronto with his grandfather, Frank Billing. Manning was raised by Billing and by his mother, Pixie, after his father left when he was born. Manning and ‘Grandfer’ took it all in together, from classics to sitcoms to reruns, and everything in between. The magic of moviemaking and television stirred an irresistible urge to be a part of it all.
“As a small boy, I never missed watching the Academy Awards, even till now,” Manning said. “I always dreamed I would work and act in the film industry. I always enjoyed the amazing talent I would see and how actors could become someone else.”
What started as a boyhood dream would materialize into a rare reality. Manning’s destiny wasn’t to view from the audience, but rather to be an on-screen figure entertaining them. He tapped into the perilous world of stunt performing and is also a formidable actor of praiseworthy merit nearly 30 years experienced.
Manning has braved car and motorcycle stunts, fight scenes, hard falls and hits in Fox’s box office smash, “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” Columbia Pictures’ “Pixels” starring Adam Sandler, 2014’s “RoboCop” reboot starring Joel Kinnaman, Sony’s “Pompeii” starring Kit Harington and New Line Cinema’s “Shoot ‘Em Up” with Clive Owen and Paul Giamatti, to name a few.
This year, Manning served as stunt performer, stunt driver and stunt rigger for the highly anticipated “Suicide Squad” from writer-director David Ayer. Warner Bros. is releasing the picture globally August 5 and it features a star-studded cast including Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie and others.
Manning has collaborated with and engaged his talents alongside a list of names analogous to the Hollywood Walk of Fame including Oscar winning actors Denzel Washington, Rod Steiger, Timothy Hutton and Halle Berry. Other notables Manning has worked with include the late comedy legends George Carlin and John Candy, as well as the famed Second City “SCTV” cast, Golden Globe winner Jim Carrey, Oscar nominees Will Smith, Hugh Jackman and Sir Ian McKellen and “Star Trek” icon Sir Patrick Stewart.
First showing a flair for performing when he was going through public school, Manning was inspired by classic comedy shows such as “Saturday Night Live,” the Dean Martin Roast and “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.” He actually went to St. Clair Jr High School with Kiefer Sutherland in Toronto and developed a reputation as a class clown who found himself in trouble often for disrupting lessons with improv and mime skits of his own creation. When the charades caught the attention of Manning’s school principal, he was made to go from class to class performing the skits that otherwise resulted in discipline. Manning would go on to take improv and comedy classes, but never ventured into the world of stand-up. His performing future laid elsewhere.
Many stunt performers come from a martial arts background that allows them to deliver the needed action sequences on film with authenticity. Manning’s path instead included stints in athletics that proved similarly befitting. He exceled in track and field, and has played hockey since he was 4 years old. When he was young, his grandfather gave him a unicycle that sharpened his balance early on, and Manning also participated in dancing, horseback riding and dirt biking.
“I used to love driving anything and fast,” he said. “So with all that, it gave me some very great skills that I learned to perfect for what I ended up doing later in life.”
Acting, though, came before stunts. Manning was initially steered to break into the business by taking extra work. One of his very early roles came in 1987 where he played a gang member on the award-winning CTV crime drama, “Night Heat.” A year later, Manning played a rioter on an award-winning CBC series called “Street Legal.” That inception to filmmaking was all Manning needed to discover his true passion.
On TV, he would go on to act in William Shatner’s “TekWar,” Paul Haggis’ “Due South,” HBO’s Golden Globe nominated “Gotti,” Fox’s hit “Goosebumps” series, the Stephen King, Emmy-winning mini-series, “Storm of the Century” and more. Manning got his start in film acting in 1994 when he played prisoner characters in both “Car 54, Where Are You?” with David Johansen and John C. McGinley, and in “Trapped in Paradise” with Nicolas Cage, Jon Lovitz and Dana Carvey. He would go on to act in the cult comedy classic “Half Baked” starring Dave Chappelle, in Bryan Singer’s “X-Men” and in “The Hurricane,” from seven-time Oscar nominated producer-director Norman Jewison (“Fiddler on the Roof,” “Moonstruck,” “Jesus Christ Superstar”).
In “The Hurricane” – that stars Denzel Washington as Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, who was wrongfully imprisoned for murder – Manning played a prison guard and shared scenes with Washington. In one on-screen instance, Carter meets Canadians in prison for the first time who are trying to help him. Carter gets mad and tries to leave his table when Manning’s character gets in his way and assures him to relax.
“It was a nice, moving scene,” Manning said. “It was a pleasure to work with him and of course having Norman Jewison direct me. It was a big thrill working and acting for Mr. Jewison.”
Manning’s stunt performing career is littered with coveted credits both on TV and the big screen. He got started with stunts in 1993 on CBS’ Gemini-nominated action series, “Top Cops.” Since then, Manning has performed, rigged, coordinated and doubled stunts for shows such as FX’s “The Strain,” the CW’s “Beauty and the Beast,” Syfy’s “Defiance,” History’s “Gangland Undercover,” the CW’s Emmy-nominated “Nikita,” Syfy’s “Alphas” and more. Manning has most recently performed stunts for the independent action film, “Gridlocked,” starring “Prison Break” star Dominic Purcell. He’s also done stunts for and plays an assassin in NBC’s forthcoming “Taken” prequel series based on the film franchise that starred Liam Neeson.
Stunt coordinator/performer Brian Jagersky has worked on more than 100 different films and TV series including “The Incredible Hulk,” “300” and “X-Men.” Jagersky and Manning have collaborated in delivering stunts for several productions, namely “Shoot ‘Em Up,” “Pompeii” and for the Emmy-nominated CW action series, “Nikita.”
For “Nikita,” Jagersky served as stunt coordinator and said, “Carson performed stunts in many key scenes in the show, demonstrating his extraordinary prowess in precision driving and fighting skills. One of his most notable action scenes was a scene where he breaks into a house to look for someone. After stepping into a kitchen with all-glass windows, machine guns and explosions begin bursting the windows and Manning gets hit causing a big chest explosion, and then gets jerked across the room backwards into a large gas stove. This scene was incredibly performed and demonstrated his exceptional technique.”
Training and fine tuning the body is a necessity for stunt performing, but it doesn’t stop there. “As a stunt man, you always have to be training and keeping your body in tune and you have to have the skills to accomplish stunts that you are called upon to do,” said Manning.
Those types of skills showed up again with Manning’s work with TJ Scott, a 30-year, Canadian Screen Award winning director-writer-producer. Scott has directed hit shows such as “Orphan Black,” “Gotham,” “Spartacus,” “Longmire,” “Dark Matter” and many more.
Scott directed Manning in episodes of “The Strain” and “12 Monkeys.” “In “The Strain,” Scott said, “Mr. Manning performed wonderful stunt acting that totally brought the episodes to life with his natural way of simulating action. He played a father being harassed by a group of marauders who ends up getting away in a car with his family and crashes into stuff along the road. On the episode of “12 Monkeys,” Carson played a scientist who gets killed in a cross fire of an important scene. Mr. Manning is a stunt performer who has done wonders in both the film and television industry, and is certainly well-known and revered to come out of Canada.”
Manning has stunt doubled for many actors throughout his career including talents such as Hugh Jackman, Joe Penny, Graham Greene, Tim Daly, Victor Webster, Colm Feore, Scott Highland, Jay O. Sanders, John Shea and others.
“As a stunt double, I work very close with actors so they feel confident that they have a double who is going to make them look good, as well as be there for them when they need me,” he said. “Sometimes the lead actor will do his own stunts, so it is my job to make sure the actor is safe along with the stunt coordinator. I will make sure the actor is padded in case they have to fall down or if the actor is throwing a punch or taking a punch, I demonstrated the proper way to execute that without actually getting punched in the face, but make it look like it did happen.”
Combining Manning’s dual talents – stunt performing and acting – makes for an invaluable qualification when it comes to film and TV production that’s few and far between. It’s not often casting decision makers elect stunt performers for character roles, but the paradox is one defied by Manning’s career achievements. He brings a wealth of know-how from stunt perspectives and has also proven to be a talented asset as an actor, a notion that makes budgeting sense for producers.
“Being a good stunt performer who can act is great for a production,” Manning said, “as they save money by having an actor who can do his own stunts, as well they do not have to spend more money bringing in a separate double for the actor too.”
In looking back from when he was a boy watching movies and TV shows with his grandfather to where he’s ascended to today, Manning says, “All I can say is I love the business, I feel very fortunate and to be a part of it has been a thrill.”
The journey continues for Manning, who has been attaching to act and perform stunts for forthcoming projects in 2016 including writer Sebastian MacLean’s feature film, “Tuff,” writer-director Travis Grant’s “Time Man” and other exciting projects that are presently under wraps.
The Los Angeles-based actress, Jaclyn Fleming, is a woman of immeasurable skill and talent. She’s the kind of person who’s been a performer since the day she could walk, and has now acted professionally for nine successful years.
After graduating from the renowned Second City Toronto, Fleming recently relocated from Canada to California in October of 2013, where she’s since worked on a number of shows. Her past and present credits span numerous media outlets and platforms, her most current work including heavy involvement with Tennessee Williams Improvised, The Second City Hollywood’s “Bubbelplast” and “Milk Tooth,” and Impro Studio Theatre’s “The Gauntlet” and “Netflix with Matt and Jack,” to name a few.
“I became involved with Impro Studios upon recommendation from Producer/Stage Manager Matthew Pitner,” Fleming said. The pair had previously studied at Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) together for improv acting, along with Paul Vonasek. “We had all come from a background of narrative and genre based improv and immediately felt a kinship.”
Fleming auditioned to be a part of an ongoing study for Tennessee Williams and an in-depth acting technique taught by the highly talented Brian Lohmann. From there, she relished the opportunity of doing several runs of Tennessee Williams Improvised, and has subsequently performed in the style for several independent shows at the Studio Theatre.
“The Gauntlet” and “Netflix with Matt and Jack” are two continuing shows that Fleming stars in at Impro Studio Theatre regularly. Produced by Matthew Pitner, “The Gauntlet” challenges Impro Main Company members to perform through a gauntlet of genres with performers from the studio.
“Jaclyn is truly a master of her craft,” Pitner recalled fondly of the performer. “As the nature of much of our work at theatre is transitory by nature, it is all the more reason why individuals like Jaclyn are so vitally important to the world. Her performances are highly praised by the community and inspire more support for the theatre as a whole, ranging from an increase in patrons to new students. The ways in which she has grown further confirms my belief that she belongs on the stage and screen and will have continued longevity throughout her career as an artist.”
Additionally, “Netflix with Matt and Jack” is an Impro Studio Theatre monthly show where Fleming and Pitner also come together in collaboration. “This show is raw and vulnerable for performers and audiences alike,” Fleming explained. “It is centered around building deep, emotionally-grounded relationships, all in the comforts of a faux apartment, while we watch Netflix. What comes out of it is moving and hilarious.”
Similar to her improv work with Impro Studio Theatre, Fleming has served as a valuable member of The Second City Hollywood since 2014. In 2015, Fleming was hand picked by Director, Writer, Actor, and Producer Dave Colan to be a part of Second City’s “Milk Tooth,” an ensemble made up of eight cast members who performed each Friday night.
“Jaclyn acted as a vital member and contributed beyond the regular expectations of the cast requirements,” said Colan of Fleming’s talents. “She brings depth, presence and life to the stage every time she performs.”
The cast rehearsed weekly, spending multiple hours building a solid ensemble that never failed to exceed audience’s expectations. After having been a part of ensemble driven performing in Toronto, Fleming’s move to The Second City Hollywood was a natural progression that led to an increase in viewership from outside theaters as well as the opportunity to perform in various festivals in the LA-area.
“I’ve been fortunate to have been asked to do “Cake Batter’s Funny Women Festival, which runs annually,” Fleming said. “The festival focuses specifically on women in comedy, in various categories.” Moreover, Fleming’s dabbled with musical improv as a part of “One Night Only” on several occasions, as well as participate as a frequent performer of the Venice Art Crawl, which takes place in Venice Beach, California a few times a year.
Post “Milk Tooth,” Fleming continued performing with The Second City Hollywood in her latest hit show “Bubbelplast,” produced by Celeste Pechous. Like “Milk Tooth,” “Bubbelplast” is also comprised of a hand picked, eight-person ensemble (Jaclyn Fleming, Molly Donnelly, Maya Gwynn, Jacob Sorling, Joshua Dickinson, Paul Heredia, David Anthony Luna, and Cassie Townsend) and includes a night of hilarious, Long Form improv at every show.
Together, the eight rehearse weekly where they are given the freedom to create. “We have some of the most energetic and physicals shows and rehearsals,” Fleming explained. “Working with the others within the ensemble constantly allows for me to grow. Each one of them has such a unique and amazing way of bringing life to the stage. I get to take lessons not only from what Celeste provides us as a director, but every time I watch each of them do something. Working in an ensemble reminds me that we are all in this together. It allows for me to let go and relinquish the need to be ‘perfect.’”
This encouraging space and experience has permitted Fleming to evolve and showcase her sought after talents, where she’s ultimately received a large amount of praise and recognition for her work. “‘Bubbelplast’ has allowed me to clearly show audiences my adeptness within the realms of physical comedy, musical improv and in-depth character work. I have received many compliments for bringing professionalism, my attention to detail, genuine emotional connection, and grounded performing to each show I am a part of,” Fleming stated. Not only has Fleming achieved recognition within the theatre community around Hollywood, her exposure via The Second City Hollywood has sparked the attention of several well-known directors who have pursued efforts of collaboration.
Currently, Fleming is in the process of diving into a bit of a different realm of comedic theatre acting. Set to begin production this summer is “Ginger Snaps,” a One Woman Show directed by Jamie Janek and staring Fleming. The show is a 50-minute staged comedic sketch play that tells the story of one Ginger and her life adventures thus far.
“I am so excited to be working on all of these projects,” said Fleming, elated. “I am getting the opportunity to work with some of the most gifted people in the country and to hone in on my skills as a performer. I am excited for what is to come of all of these endeavors and to see where they take me.”
Kayla Strada, an Australian actress known for her award-winning performance as Chelsea Johnson in the short drama film, “Next,” has been dazzling international audiences for years for her refined character portrayals in film, TV, commercials and theatre. The enticing Strada has a track record of swelling success. With demanded talent, passion for the craft and a look tailor made for a career in front of the cameras, Strada has risen to international prominence for her standout acting facilities.
Strada’s star quality was recognized in no time by the ultra-competitive industry that is acting. When she was just 17 years old, Strada was cast among thousands of auditioning actors as the beloved character, Betty Boop, for Universal Studios Singapore.
She’s since gone on to act in films championed by award-winning filmmakers such as Stan Harrington and Tessa Blake. Strada has acted in “Home and Away,” a 28-year running soap opera that’s the most awarded show in Logie history (Australia’s version of the Emmys), in commercials for Universal and Fox and in theatrical productions of quintessential shows such as “A Streetcar Named Desire,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “West Side Story” and more.
Strada was tabbed for a coveted scholarship at the McDonald College — Australia’s top performing arts school headquartered in Sydney — and also perfected her craft at Australia’s National Institute for Dramatic Arts.
After moving to the U.S., Strada attended Los Angeles’ renowned Stella Adler Academy of Acting, which boasts famed alums such as Oscar winner Benicio del Toro (“Traffic”), Oscar nominee Mark Ruffalo (“Spotlight”) and Golden Globe winner Henry Winkler (“Happy Days”), among dozens more.
“The real art of acting, I feel, starts from theatre,” Strada said. “The theatre background shaped me as an actress because of the amount of work involved in the collaboration with others. Working with other people’s ideas and your own brings what’s on paper to life. With theatre, you’re never really finished. It’s taught me it’s an ongoing learning experience.”
Strada hails from the city of Gosford that is situated on the Central Coast of New South Wales, Australia, just outside of Sydney. Part of her initial lure to acting came after watching Universal’s 2003 reimagining of an iconic story that’s moved audiences for decades.
“The story all began after watching Peter Pan,” Strada said. “And no, it’s not the story of ‘I never want to grow up, so that’s why I act.’ I think I was about 13, kinda when I thought of myself as a woman. I had a child crush on Peter Pan, then played by Jeremy Sumpter, and really wanted to meet him. The only way to meet him was to be an actor myself. Obviously, my inspiration for acting changed, but that’s where it semi-started.”
Strada’s early taste in film and TV was influenced by her mother, Mary, who made a point to have Strada and her brother, Joseph, watch movies based on true stories.
Added Strada, “I am a big fan of Cate Blanchett. She is a big inspiration because she still goes back to her foundation and still does a lot of theatre, as well as the film side. She knows how to juggle both really well.”
Strada’s own performing began on the stage. Her first big role came in the Gosford Musical Society production of “West Side Story,” where she played Anybody’s, the stubborn tomboy who joins the Jets gang in the story.
“It was super funny for me because I was probably the most European looking girly girl playing the part of an American tomboy, but I had a blast exploring that character,” she said.
It was another character, however, that Strada first performed on stage who holds a special place in her heart and has served as the catalyst for recurring success. Strada debuted one of her favorite characters — Chelsea Johnson — for a memorable high school theatre project. She developed and performed the character, who was a familiar someone that hit close to home.
“Chelsea Johnson’s secret is the same as mine,” Strada said. “We both share the fact that we are dyslexic.”
And both equally brave. Chelsea is a character Strada describes as a bubbly, bright go-getter who has her sights set on being a star actress, despite her impediment. “Cold reads are her obstacles and she is motivated to prove to herself and to others that she can do it.”
Effectively performing a monologue brings its own share of challenges, but delivering one all the while overcoming dyslexia is a feat of remarkable merit. That’s precisely what Strada did.
“To have the audience laughing at me at the beginning, then to not hear a pin drop by the end of my monologue was the most satisfying feeling as an actor,” said Strada. “To have a judge who was examining my performance tear up at the end of my high school performance exam was more then worth it.”
What was gained beyond acing the dramatic test?
“She taught me to never give up,” Strada said.
And Strada didn’t give up the character either. She reprised Chelsea Johnson for a short film called “Next,” whereby this time Chelsea auditions for Hamlet, but has unwittingly memorized the wrong lines and is asked to cold read for the part in Shakespeare’s tragedy.
“Chelsea is forced to face her fears and insecurities to reveal her hidden secret,” Strada said.
Strada’s groundbreaking performance in “Next” was recognized with a Best Actress award at the 2016 Nova Film Fest (Virginia) in April. “Next” was also nominated for Best Short and was the runner-up for Best Dialogue Short at the 2015 Action on Film Festival (Monrovia, Calif.).
Stan Harrington directed “Next” and is a multi-award-winning director, producer and actor known for “Lost Angels,” “Perception,” “The Craving Heart,” and many more.
“I asked Stan if he would film it. When he said, ‘No,” I asked if he would just read the script first. He came back the next day and said, ‘We’re filming it this weekend,’” said Strada.
The pair would collaborate again on the short romantic drama, “Love Is…” with Harrington writing and directing, and Strada starring in the role of Maddie.
The film follows Nick (Bryan Lee Wriggle) and Maddie, who fall in love at first sight, but find their relationship stalling and themselves searching for the true meaning of love.
“The nature of a shoot required to make a movie like “Love is…” is exceptionally trying, so getting to work with actors that not only come prepared, but also have incredible talent and insight, like Kayla, makes everything just that little bit easier,” said Harrington.
Strada described her character as a relatable girl with universal themes including wanting her boyfriend to show his love instead of only saying it. The story picks up where Nick and Maddie are at a routine stage in their relationship, but Maddie is trying to change things because she doesn’t believe Nick has been trying to show Maddie he loves her, even though he has and his efforts went unnoticed.
“It has been a privilege to work with someone like Kayla Strada,” said Wriggle, who has also acted in Harrington’s “Bella” and Relativity Media’s hit “21 & Over.” “She brings a professional attitude and great work ethic to set each day. I feel honored to work with actors that take control of their work and ‘bring it’ on set each and every time!”
Actress Daphne Tenne (“Monkey Say, Monkey Do,” “Vort”) co-starred in the role of Liz. “This project has been an amazing journey,” she said. “Kayla is extraordinary at what she does, truly a professional at work. Acting alongside Kayla in this film was a journey that I will take with me forever. I am very fortunate to have had the opportunity to be a part of the project and I learned a lot about myself and about love.”
The “Love Is…” story had thematic elements inspired by events from Strada’s life. “My uncle passed away and my mother, back home in Australia, was noticing all these five cent coins all over the house. She started to put things together that it was my uncles’ way of telling my family that he his around watching them and things are okay. It may sound strange, but I have had other people come up to me after watching the film, saying they have had similar experiences, so although this is based around a couple, the inspiration came from my uncle.”
“Love Is…” became an Official Selection at the Nova Film Fest, is expected to screen at forthcoming film festivals and will be shot as a feature film adaptation. “The team we had…it became a real family and I love that,” Strada said. “It’s a project that we have worked so hard to tell a story that we are all passionate about.”
Strada’s other film roles include playing an ER Nurse in “Upended,” a short drama directed by the award-winning Tessa Blake (“Election Night”). The film tells the story of an unstable single mother who looks after her young son, who is rushed to a hospital after eating what he though were acceptable brownies. Strada’s character enters the plot and tries to help the boy survive.
She also acted as Nancy in the Nick Seabra-directed film, “Cold Milk.” The role saw Strada carry out the victimized Nancy, who is taken hostage by an unfamiliar, crazed man who wants Nancy to impersonate his daughter, who was taken away from him.
For TV, Strada performed in the role of Gypsy for the Discovery Channel’s “Deadly Women” docu-crime series that chronicles true crime stories of female killers, and in writer-director-producer Sophie Webb’s, “Same Sex.” She’s also acted in Australia in the Nine Network’s “Underbelly” and 7 Network’s hit soap opera, “Home and Away.”
Strada has acted in the music video, “Here’s to the Sunrise,”for the pop/hip-hop group, Kicking Sunrise (Right Coast Music), and co-hosted on YouTube’s popular “The Naked Traveller” adventure series with Tyson Mayr. She most recently presented at the 2016 Los Angeles Greek Film Festival with host Mena Suvari, star of “American Beauty” and “American Pie.”
We’re looking forward to seeing Kayla Strada in many more exciting roles to come! For all the latest, visit her official site, www.kaylastrada.com.
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