Category Archives: Actor

Britain’s Dionne Neish on timely new podcast ‘Purple Panties’

As a child, when Dionne Neish was being read to, she would imagine she was the main character in the stories, becoming a hero and fantasizing of traveling in spaceships and seeing other worlds, playing warriors and princesses and anything else she could imagine. It was a natural transition to go from playing a role in her head to playing one in front of a camera. She sees her job as an actor as a method to leave a lasting impact on her audience. She has known since the age of five that she was meant to get into acting and has spent every day since in love with the craft.

“I wanted to go into acting to entertain people. I loved the way I could affect another person by not being myself, by playing a role,” she said. “I wanted to be an actor as I felt characters were far more interesting than myself, why not live in another person’s shoes for a while.”

Neish is now known for her tremendous ability to captivate an audience, sometimes with just her voice. She has done just that in renowned productions, such as ABC’s long-running soap opera General Hospital, the 2018 Golden Globe nominated television series Better Things, and more.

Earlier this year, Neish also began working on yet another celebrated project, the podcast Purple Panties. The series, the first of its kind, is a scripted fictionalized erotic drama whose characters were Black female leads from the LGBTQ community, which drew Neish to the show.

“I wanted to be a part of this project because of the interesting and fun storyline, and it highlighted part of the community that I believe hasn’t been given enough main stream platforms. I’ve been lucky enough to work with several female led projects in the past. Being part of an all-Black female cast was refreshing and exciting. This is a story written by a Black woman, told by Black women. Representation matters and when you get to be a part of that it’s like coming home, and the camaraderie is electric. We need more stories from these and other POC perspectives. This is a story about the LGBTQ community without the stereotypes. It’s sexy, it’s funny and you’ll be hooked once you listen to it,” said Neish.

Created by New York Times Best Selling Author Zane, the podcast is based in Atlanta, telling the story of Maddox, Loren and Stephanie, who go against the grain when it comes to sex. But as relationships shift and physical needs change, can they keep up with the facade? This is about the sacrifices people make, the mistakes they make because of pride, and trying to find love in a world where the characters are seen as less because they are women, black, and gay.  Listeners follow them on their journey as they navigate their professional and personal lives.

In Purple Panties, Patricia is a vital role in telling an important and timely story. She is a self-made business woman who thinks she has the upper hand with Stephanie, played by Melissa Williams. Patricia soon realizes that Stephanie is smarter than she looks and isn’t going out without a fight. Professionally, she is big wig in the entertainment industry. She is a successful showrunner with lots of hands in different pies. She’d worked hard to be at the “big boys” table, a space occupied by only white men. She’s had to prove herself time and time again and now she is in a position where she gets offers from attractive women.

STITCHER_COVER_PurplePanties_3000x3000_Final“Obviously with the #MeToo movement, it reminded me of the stories that we’ve heard over the last few years of people abusing their power. This was an opportunity to get inside that mindset, what makes this person tick; why would someone with so much to lose take those chances? It was interesting to explore,” said Neish.

While recording the podcast, Neish found a sudden and unexpected source of inspiration. She walked into the same recording booth that Michael Jackson had recorded his ‘Bad’ album in the eighties. As a massive MJ fan, Neish was immediately taken aback. Knowing she stood in the same place that her idol had once stood, she was excited and inspired to work even harder.

Purple Panties premiered on Stitcher.com, which also premiered Issa Rae’s Strange Fruit, on October 11th 2018, followed by an episode every Thursday. The final episode was December 6th, but the entire series is now available to binge on Stitchers.com.

“I love having the opportunity to tell stories that inspire. Fans have reached out to me on Instagram, telling me how much they love the show and how juicy it’s getting and that warms my heart. That’s really all you wish for as an actor, that the audience is enjoying and coming along for the ride,” said Neish.

The next year promises to be very exciting for Neish. She has two projects coming out that she still can’t discuss. All she can say is that she got to work with two different Oscar winners on two highly-anticipated projects. One will be released soon, and the other on Netflix later in the year.

In the meantime, be sure to check out Purple Panties.

 

Written by Annabelle Lee

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Actor Elvira Sinelnik Makes Dreams Come True

Actor Elvira Sinelnik has perfected both the art and science which her profession demands. As a raw, expressive emotional conduit and precise, impeccable technician Sinelnik is an unrivaled practitioner, one capable of presenting wholly convincing, on-target characterizations. And while her native Moscow has deep roots in the dramatic arts, Sinelnik’s early career path was something like a fairy tale with a modern twist—the naturally talented golden girl caught in the corporate web of Russia’s monolithic bureaucracy who made a surprise Hollywood elopement live out to follow her dreams.

“I was born and raised in Russia, Moscow,” Sinelnik said. ““From my childhood I dreamt of becoming an actress, attended acting classes, dance classes, took part in a lot of plays in camps during summer holidays. When I was 16 I was cast as a host for a show on a very famous TV channel, but due to some personal and family reasons I had to reject it.”

Despite pressure that pushed her in the opposite direction, the tenacious Sinelnik refused to give up.

“Regardless of my education in economics at the State University of Management, followed by prestigious and well-paid job in the upper chamber of the Russian Federation parliament and a number of private companies, I always dreamed, studied and prepared to become an actress. It required time and effort but I finally moved to Hollywood to pursue my dream.”

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Photo by Maria Artos (Top Photo by @K.i.n.o.f.a.c.e)

In Southern California, Sinelnik immersed herself in the craft seeking out some of the leading forces in the field, studying at the prestigious Los Angeles campus followed by courses with the leading educators.

“My acting education continued at well-known Broadway actor-writer William Burns’ Actors Gym,” Sinelnik said. “Also James Franco’s Studio 4, the Bernard Hiller Studio theatre by, and classes with award winning instructor Anthony Montes where I learned the Meisner technique.”

The skilled young actor was a natural and she thrived in the studio setting. “Elvira is a very special person,” Hiller, one of Hollywood’s top Acting and Life Coaches, said. “I wassurprised at how quickly she understood all the latest acting techniques I taught her. She has a unique ability to become the person she is playing in a role and anyone who gets a chance to work with her would be lucky.”

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Photo by Justinia Romanova

Montes was equally enthusiastic: “In my 30 years of teaching Elvira is one of the most talented, hard-working actors I have ever encountered. She constantly sought out more work than was given her. She was always prepared, on time and supportive of her classmates. She has a passion for the work that is unmatched. She is not one to idly wait for her phone to ring in hopes of getting an audition—she is someone that will create her own opportunities.”

Sinelnik quickly moved on to independent shorts and the grind of the audition circuit.

“I audition for a feature movie where I played mafia boss, a cold-blooded, cynical, power-hungry woman,” Sinelnik said. “I became so caught up in the character that even my husband didn’t recognize me when I came back from the audition. I got the part, but for some financial reasons the film wasn’t shoot. But that experience was truly amazing.”

In short order, she began to appear in such feature films as Franco’s dark,intense “The Institute,” Kasra Farabani’s thriller “The Good Neighbor,” Jaden Hwang action film “Bloody Hands,” all fabulous opportunities for Sinelnik to gain additional exposure and work alongside stellar cast featuring luminaries like Franco, Orlando Brown and James Can.

“Being on set with James Franco for ‘The Institute,’ was wonderful,” Sinelnik said. “I was playing a nurse, but felt more like a fan. It was a really incredible experience to observe how he becomes immersed in his character and always be absolutely truthful on camera.”

None of this was lost on Sinelnik, whose depth of talent and ability, taken with an acute regard for, and total absorption of, her particularly rich resume of dramatic training, qualifies her as one of Hollywood’s fastest rising assets.

As Willow Tree Entertainment Films producer Elena Bleskina said: “I met Elvira when I was casting for a feature film project based on the novel ‘A Hero of Our Time.’ I saw something very special in this pretty girl with the beautiful blue eyes, and now she is a part of our team at Willow Tree. Elvira is sensitive and sensual actress willing to train hard to become the best she can be.  I am proud to know her and I know there are lots of successful projects in her future.”

Look for her next in dramatic forthcoming feature “City of Stars,” further evidence that the ambitious, charming Sinelnik is up for just about any conceivable role the dramatic spectrum can throw at her.

“I’m interested in challenging characters,” Sinelnik said. “Roles that force me to leave my comfort zone, immerse into my deep fears and overcome them through the role. I’d love to play a really bad character. I would find inside of myself one of her negative features, even the smallest one, and develop that into a full-fledged personality. I want to create inspiring films that can change people’s thoughts, and give even more hope to this fantastic world.”

 

 

Actor Tennille Read’s Award Winning Style

Actor Tennille Read’s rising star is powered by a very particular brand of creativity, one that’s equal measures sensitivity and swagger, a super-charged dramatic formula that spans the entire emotional spectrum with undeniable in-the-moment veracity. Read truly inhabits her characters, always delivering a performance subtly imbued with the full depth and breadth of the human experience. Her award winning performance in the dramatic 2018 short “I Lost My Mind” is as ideal example of her impressive natural talent, a rich gift which, ironically, she almost didn’t take seriously.

“I did a lot of school before I could accept that I actually wanted to be an actor,” Read said. “I did my undergrad in film and theatre at Queen’s University, and then a Graduate program in Communications at Concordia University. But acting always called me back. So to step up my game, I did a three year Acting Conservatory in Toronto. That was where I learned how to approach my work with discipline, unending curiosity and playfulness, and where I really committed to being a professional actor.”

Tennille Read photo by Hamish Birt 2
Tennille Read photo by Hamish Birt

Try as she might to resist the impulse, the seed had been planted years earlier. “I was about 10 and I was watching a re-run of Growing Pains—the season where Leonardo DiCaprio is on the show,” Read said. “In that episode, he has this huge emotional scene that I was spellbound by. He just seemed so raw and vulnerable. I had a lot of pre-teen hormones bubbling up inside me at the time and acting seemed like the perfect way to let them out. I remember asking my mum if I could get an agent—I’m sure that made her heart stand still for a moment. So, instead I started doing little skits and storytelling performances for my grade five class.”

With a solid grounding in live theater and on-set film experience, the Toronto-based Read specializes in spiritually liberated, audacious characters. “I’m excited by female-driven stories and a lead character that overcomes big obstacles by discovering their own potential,” Read said. “There’s a common thread with the films I adore. They usually explore different dimensions or alternate worlds, be it space or expanding possibility. I’m a bit of a nerd about that stuff. I love the idea of tapping into something that is bigger than ourselves but that is still in harmony with us when we get out of our own way—that sparks my imagination in every way.”

This distinctive approach made her an ideal choice for “I Lost My Mind”’s leading role.

“I played the character of Penelope who facilitates a community workshop on filmmaking,” Read said. “One of her students, Wolfy, becomes fascinated by her and finds his thoughts objectifying her in her class. Penelope is pure intelligence, aspiration, with a vast knowledge of her craft, based on her own directing experience. But Wolfy is stuck on her appearance and he can’t focus on what she’s teaching the group. His thoughts get LOUD, but Penelope’s intuition and smarts have him figured out and she puts him in his place with one elegant move.”

“It was easy to relate to Penelope,” Read said. “Her situation was of a woman being objectified by the male gaze. I think every woman can relate to that in some capacity. I’ve been that woman—feeling like I wasn’t being heard and but instead being seen through a narrow lens. I loved playing Penelope because she’s firm and steady in front of this group of young filmmakers and genuinely wants to teach them and have them realize their own potential. Even when she calls out Wolfy at the end, she does it from a place of kindness and good humor, but with enough pointedness to drive her message home.”

Read’s formidable skill as a dramatic interpreter significantly elevated the film’s impact and made “I Lost My Mind” a popular entry on the busy North American film festival circuit. Along the way Read was honored with the Hollywood North Film Awards 2018 Best Actor award. Director Michael Tobin sunned up the actor’s artistic essence “Her perspective on the story that I wanted to tell was invaluable to the final cut. My process has always been a collaborative one, and Tennille brought so much of her own experience to the table that not only fit the role she played, but also enhanced it beyond my expectations. Tennille brings a compelling depth to the characters she plays that I think is a result of her own authenticity.”

That authenticity has become a professional calling card for the n-demand actor. “I recently did a season on ‘Workin’ Moms,’” Read said. “It was my first fleshed-out character who had her own multi-episode story arc. Television shoots move fast and I really like the pace—you don’t have time to get stuck in your head. But I would also like to do more film, on top of the TV work I’ve been booking.”

As an actor, Read has the perfect attitude: “The simplest way is usually the best way. Try something different with each take. Use the nerves to fuel the preparation and then let go of the work.”

Actor Jolie Chi’s Rising Star

Born and raised in Taipei, Taiwan, actor Jolie Chi is now internationally recognized for her award-winning roles. She is currently featured in the Sony family adventure feature “Destined to Ride,” 0pposite award-winning Hollywood talents Denise Richards and Joey Lawrence, the latest step in an impressive career.

A highly talented actor, Jolie Chi has established a reputation for being an invaluable asset to every production she takes part in—and many of these projects have received awards specifically because of her involvement and exceptional performances. Chi’s lead role as the title character in offbeat indie release “My Lunatic Lucy” accounts for more than half of awards which the film received, including Best Actress at the Independent Short Awards, Best Actress at the Top Shorts Film Festival, Best Actress in a Comedy at the Actor Awards, and Best Actress at the LA Short Awards.

Despite some fierce competition, Chi’s appealing charisma and high energy style practically guaranteed her being cast as “Destined to Ride”’s Amy Tsai. The character was written as much younger than Chi, a challenge which the skilled actor eagerly rose to.

“The key to portraying a character that’s younger than me was to review every little thing I went through when I was growing up,’ Chi said. “While doing that, I would write down my emotional state—excited, spoiled, easily embarrassed—and also, of course, go through the changes I have made since I have grown. I sat down, closed my eyes and thought back to how I was as a kid because I was a wild and fun one so I thought playing my younger self will make Amy stand out the most.”

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“Destined to Ride” represents a critical upshift in Chi’s already fast-moving career, one where she worked alongside, held her own and learned from a stellar roster of established stars. It was a golden opportunity which the ambitious young actor definitely made the most of.

“The interaction between Madeline Carroll and myself was so much fun,” Chi said. “She’s so positive and really inspired me. Madeline taught me to really learn about every human being so that you’ll know how to specifically mimic them.
A remarkably versatile actor, Chi also recently made a music video appearance in pop sensation Justin Timberlake’s 2018 hit single “Filthy,” and has also played lead roles in numerous high-profile commercials, including Momo (a Chinese instant-messaging service) that was featured in movie theatres and on billboards across China. Expect to see much more from Jolie Chi.

Award Winning Actor Missy Malek’s Midas Touch

British actor Missy Malek is a remarkably self-possessed artist, one who takes her craft so seriously that even as a teenager she aggressively pursued a life in acting. Becoming a member of the renowned National Youth Theatre of Great Britain, Malek’s dedication and natural skill allowed her to reach an elevated level of creative theatrical expression starting when she was just 14. Adept at manifesting vivid, wholly identifiable characterizations, the multi-faceted Malek is so driven that after completing the script for her award–winning 2017 short Laughing Branches, she felt compelled to personally oversee almost every aspect of the production.

“I didn’t actually intend to write, direct and produce it, but that’s exactly what I ended up doing,” Malek said. “I had a clear image in my head of what I wanted it to be like and didn’t see any reason why I shouldn’t go ahead and direct it myself.”

The offbeat project, starring Tom Hanson, Leo Suter and Malek, is an engaging, philosophical comedy-drama with a fantasy/sci-fi twist, and relates the stories of two struggling actors who contemplate—and live out—alternative futures both together and apart.

“It was obviously really challenging—I had no directing experience whatsoever,” Malek said. “But my cinematographer, David Raedeker, and my co-producer, Oliver Page, really guided me. Tom is also a really amazing actor, so he made the acting side of directing much easier. It was a very collaborative process.”

Malek’s sure-footed ambition and audacity gave Laughing Branches a unique depth, one rooted in a very personal experience.

“I came up with the idea at a time in my life where everything seemed to become a lot more ‘real,’” Malek said. “I was barely out of my teenage years and I, along with all my friends, suddenly realized that the choices we were making were very important and would have an impact on the rest of our lives. As a result, I found myself panicking, questioning every choice I was making and tried to control my future as much as I could by not allowing myself room to make mistakes.”

By the time she completed the script, written at Oxford University where she was studying philosophy, the unusual concept had grown into a thoroughly engrossing premise.

“’Laughing Branches’ is primarily about the anxiety of being young and ambitious, incorporated with a philosophical theory about infinite universes that have always fascinated me,” Malek said. “I’ve always been attracted to mind-game films that have an element of groundlessness and irresolution, yet still maintain a sense of heart and lightness.”

That twist of cosmic fantasy enabled Malek, who divides her time between hometown London and Hollywood, to really challenge herself as an actor.

“Out of all my film work, my character in Laughing Branches probably had the most range,” she said. “The element of parallel universes in the film means she goes through so many vastly different outcomes and we get peaks into the most dramatic and intense moments in those universes, so there was quite a lot to do.”

Malek’s training and experience provided an ideal context for such far reaching perspective, particularly her rich resume of live theater— at the Chelsea Theatre, she played Beatrice in Shakespeare’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ followed by  Brecht’s ‘Caucasian Chalk Circle,and, at the Burton Taylor Studio, in ‘The Lesson’ and as lead character Myra in ‘Deathtrap,’ along with Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” at The Simpkins Lee Theatre—affording her the skill to craft a persuasive series of tangible personae imbued with the full spectrum of nuance, traits and emotion as her character caroms through disparate scenarios.

“I wanted to convey the message that if you’re an ungrateful person, you’ll always look at what you don’t have and nothing will ever be enough,” Malek said. “If you’re miserable in one universe, there’s a high chance you’ll be miserable in any universe. On top of that, I wanted to show how as much as we may try to control our future and make the right choices, it really isn’t possible to do that. There’s nothing you can say and no way of intellectualizing things that will make you happy. Happiness is a perspective.”

Reaction to the film brought everyone involved a great deal of happiness—it took multiple awards at festivals around the globe, taking the Best Short awards at the Mexico International Film Festival, Lady Filmmakers Film Festival and Key West Film Festival’ best short awards and the IndieFEST Film Awards Award of Excellence for Malek’s performance as leading actress.

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“The IndieFest award I got for my acting was a huge honor,” Malek said. “Because, at times you really don’t like my character, she can be really vindictive and has a lot of anger and conflict in her. But despite that, at other times you do empathize with her.

Personally, the most rewarding experience of making the film was the confidence it gave me. To receive such a positive response from people high up in the industry meant so much. It’s a big step forward in an artist’s career to get that reassurance, to have people say ‘you’re good, keep going.’ That was the most rewarding thing.”

Ken Zheng: Indonesia’s Action Star Phenomenon

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Actors like Tom Cruise and Jackie Chan are famed worldwide for their talent and their drive. Artists of this ilk are deeply involved in the productions they star in, evident in their performances. Many are referring to Indonesian actor and writer Ken Zheng in a similar manner as the aforementioned celebrities. His work as an action star and as a screenwriter has made him an international sensation in the last few years. Athlete (Zheng was part of the Indonesian National Team for Kickboxing and became the youngest Champion in Indonesia’s history) turned stuntman turned marquee name, this talent from Indonesia seems to revel in the action genre. His roles in US films and those abroad have seen him starring alongside long-established actors, vetting him as a peer and a major force in the international film industry.

2017’s Down by the River stars Zheng as a prison escapee making his way through the wilderness to the Rio Grande river while being hunted by a killer. It’s a classic tale of survival driven by a small cast. No less frightening is the film Hitman in which a woman inadvertently witnesses a drug deal gone wrong and pays the price for doing the right thing. Second Chance pits two hired killers against each other. Zheng is perfectly paired in this tale, starring alongside Trent Moore (of the Coen Brothers multiple Oscar-winning films No Country for Old Men). Concerning his work in these thrilling productions, Ken communicates, “I see the beauty in action and I love bringing thrills to the audience when they watch a movie. The action itself is always supplementary to the story and the visuals help the audience integrate to the world of the movie”

Currently, in post-production, Ken starred in the upcoming feature film he wrote called Insight. The story goes beyond the label “action film” as it is centered on two siblings who possess the gift of clairvoyance. Escaping an abusive home, they are recruited by a counter-terrorism agency. The brothers grow apart as they enter adulthood and this motivates the action of the story. As Qiang, the younger of two siblings, Ken delivers an emotional and visceral performance alongside such celebrated talents as Keith David (multiple Primetime Emmy winner) and John Savage (The Deer Hunter-winner of five Oscars, Hair-winner of two Golden Globes). Zheng concedes, “There’s always room to learn as an actor. Working with John and Keith was an opportunity to learn from their experience and talent. They’ve both been in so many extraordinary films; to see them creating on set like that…it was an incredible learning opportunity. As an actor who is also a writer, it also gave me the chance to see what I could do with the script to help the actors. When I first moved to the United States I tried to bridge the East and West as each has its own unique stories. Moreover, I always try to keep my stories rooted and grounded to real emotion and real relationship between the characters. The movie itself is not always self- contained but the relationship between the characters is always clearly defined in my stories.”

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Australia’s Mark Davis talks passion for acting and starring in ‘I Want You’

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Mark Davis

Despite having other passions, Mark Davis found himself acting from a young age. Growing up in Melbourne, Australia, his father had an old VHS camcorder, and to pass the time, Davis’ brother and his friend used to use the camera, recording small skits. Being the youngest, Davis was always made to be a bad guy who gets beaten up, or he would be dressed up in his mother’s clothes to play a woman. At the time, he was just happy to be spending time with his big brother, but little did he know he would grow to be a celebrated actor.

Throughout his esteemed career, Davis has been a part of several acclaimed projects, from award-winning movies to prolific commercials. He has starred in films like Lucy and Topdecked, which he also wrote, as well as the upcoming period drama Fallen. Australians also know his face from national commercials for Honda, Crownbet, Interflora, and more.

“I knew acting was always something I had a natural affinity for. Instinctually the acting process made sense to me and even though I was quite shy, I felt freedom when taking on a role. I feel like acting is a culmination of many art forms and for me movement and being in touch with something like your emotions and imagination as a profession just made sense. I like taking a walk in other people’s shoes and to get paid to swear, cry, fall in love and throw chairs is a privilege,” said Davis.

One of Davis’ first tastes of international success came with the 2013 romantic drama I Want You. The story follows Maya, who is deeply in love with a boy who lives in Israel. Maya struggles to maintain her faith in a relationship that unfolds largely on a computer screen after she meets another man who can provide the tangible aspects missing from her relationship. Although tempted, Maya has to ask herself, will this new relationship give her what she truly wants?

“The story really demonstrates that good people can be tempted to do things that are against their morals and who they are. In the end, however, the film is about forgiveness and that message is very strong,” said Davis.

In the film, Davis plays Ethan, a character who was very much the other man in a love story. Ethan had to seduce Maya, who was in a very healthy relationship. He was the protagonist in the film. He came into a healthy environment and had to be the perfect blend of nice and endearing whilst also being the bad guy who is going to ruin a relationship purely for his own sexual gratification. Therefore, Davis had to be extremely charming, and managed to do so in tough shooting conditions. It was extremely hot on set, as they were filming in many different locations during the Australian summer.

“I liked being cheeky and being a person with low morals dressed as a nice guy. I’m more self-deprecating and awkward in real life so I had to channel my inner Brando to pull it off. That’s the joy in acting and I definitely had fun on this film. I’ve always said that no one cares about your enlightenment, the audience will watch because they want to see your darkness. It’s more relatable,” said Davis.

MV5BMjJmNmEyZjItMGIyNS00ZjVjLThiZDctNmViYmU1YWZmOTVjXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMzgwNjU4NzE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,707,1000_AL_I Want You also stars Australian superstar Viva Blanca, best known for her role on the television series Spartacus. The film marked the actress’ directorial debut, and she felt the pressure. Knowing she had to have the perfect casting to make her film a success, she gave Davis the role of Ethan.

With the help of Davis, the film went on to be screened at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, the Newport Beach film festival and the St Kilda Film Festival, seeing great success around the globe.

“It was one of the first films I was involved with and I’m glad it was so highly regarded. Viva is a great creative mind and an amazing talent,” he concluded.

 

Written by Annabelle Lee