Category Archives: Canada

Canada’s Cassie Friedman found intriguing stories for Global TV

Cassie Friedman says being a producer is synonymous with being a storyteller. Sometimes she will become bogged down with logistics – coordinating schedules, booking locations, finding potential characters, etc. But when all those pieces come together, she is telling a story. As a producer, she ensures every part of a production is in order, and at the same time finds the most compelling stories to keep her audience engaged.

Now, Friedman is an internationally sought-after development producer, working with the independent production company Studio Lambert in both London and Los Angeles. Before that, however, she was working with one of Canada’s largest broadcasters, Global Television. Not only did she help produce The Morning Show, The News at Noon, and the station’s ‘Child Safety Awareness Week’, but she also greatly contributed to various other newsroom projects.

“Global is one of the major networks in Canada and I’d been watching Channel 3 my whole life. Global’s reputation was already top tier for me. It was a no-brainer for me to try to start my career there,” said Friedman.

Global Television is a privately-owned, Canadian English-language broadcast television network, now owned by Corus Entertainment. Friedman worked on many projects for the network, like the bi-weekly Making a Difference segment, the Ontario General Election in 2011 and covering Canada’s National Ballet School’s Assemblee Internationale in 2013. Her responsibilities included researching, shot listing, booking stories, and assisting cameramen on shoots.

The Global Toronto Newsroom was always abuzz and working there always felt like you were right where the action was. I was always driven to do my absolute best, because I was surrounded by the best journalists in one of Canada’s most respected newsrooms. So, I took extra care working on major projects. I used my research skills to tell a great story and ensure there were no errors,” she said.

Friedman’s contributions were essential to the newsroom’s success on a daily basis. During her time there, Global News won the 2013 Edward R. Murrow award for Overall News Excellence in Network Television, and Global Toronto won four RTDNA Edward R. Murrow awards in 2013, including the Bert Cannings Award – Best Newscast. For Friedman, the acclaim was absolutely fantastic.

“I always felt so lucky to be part of such an iconic, respected newsroom and working with a smart, committed team. It was so rewarding to be recognized for all the hard work we all put in day in and day out. I don’t think any of us did it for the recognition, so to be acknowledged, it definitely made me feel more appreciated. And confident that what we were doing was having an impact,” she said.

For a large part of her time at Global news, Friedman worked on anchor Susan Hay’s Making a Difference segment, where Hay would showcase inspiring people in the community who were doing charitable acts and helping others. Hay had been at Global for more than 20 years, and served as an inspiration for a 21-year-old Friedman. Friedman booked shoots, worked in the field and helped with scripts. On one occasion, when Friedman thought she may not find a story in time, she found out about a woman in the community who offered yoga programs for the elderly, and it ended up being one of the show’s best segments.

“What makes Cassie incredible to work with is her positive attitude. That goes a long way in the news industry. She was always full of energy, ideas, and willing to help. Her determination and passion for creativity has placed her where she is today – which is far ahead of many of her peers,” said Susan Hay, TV Host and Journalist.

Working on the show also allowed Friedman to discover new passions. While covering the provincial election, she found she had an affinity for politics. She looked at every riding, who might win, who’d won previously, which ridings swung in the federal election. She ended up choosing two Conservative and two Liberal locations. She also had to choose one for the New Democratic Party, and chose a seemingly random riding north of Toronto because it had swung NDP in the federal election. Her instincts proved fruitful.

“After lots of research, I had a feeling it would swing NDP again. I sent our cameras to the NDP candidate’s event, and low and behold, that candidate won and had a huge celebration with music and dancing. It made for great television and showcased a community that had never really been seen before. It was very exciting and what I took away from it was that digging deep into research pays off,” said Friedman.

There is no doubt that Friedman is an extraordinary producer, with natural instincts and a complete commitment to her craft. She will continue to bring success to whatever she works on, and audiences will enjoy watching her do it.

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Actor Tim Hildebrand tackles important social issues in powerful film ‘BID’

Originally from the small town of Caronport, Saskatchewan, Tim Hildebrand always knew he wanted to be an actor. He remembers being just six years old, seeing the older children acting in the school play, waiting for his chance to step onto the stage. When he finally got his chance, he put everything he had into that first performance, singing a solo titled “When I Get a Flying Machine.” The applause he received was euphoric, and the rest, as they say, is history. Now, years later, Hildebrand is an internationally sought-after actor, acting coach, and writer.

With an esteemed resume, including roles in the crime series Deep Undercover, the film Embrace, and Lady Labyrinth, Hildebrand has shown the world how exceptional he truly is. He tells every story with a purpose, captivating audiences with his heartfelt performances. This was certainly the case with the film BID, which was released earlier this year. BID is an extremely timely film, addressing the scandal of billions of dollars stolen from the Brazilian government by illegal construction scams, which led to the recent impeachment of president Dilma Rousseff, and criminal investigations of eight ministers, 24 senators and 39 lawmakers in the lower house of Congress.

“This project is of such importance…. it’s a big deal. This film is the first, as far as I know, to really explore that event in a fictional format. It’s a grassroots film bursting with the heart of the Brazilian people who want reform and change,” Hildebrand described.

Hildebrand was the lead actor in this film, shot in Curitiba, Brazil. He played Bernard Leone, an American contractor who travels to Brazil to compete for building projects. He begins the film as a gruff but naïve businessman, but that soon changes as he finds himself caught up in a game he’s not prepared for, against people who will stop at nothing. Bernard’s wife and children are kidnapped, and he has to make frantic choices to secure their release.

To capture such a demanding role, he used Strasberg’s relaxation and visualization techniques to “help warm up his emotions and get them a little closer to the surface.” As cameras were being placed and lit to shoot the scene, he would sequester himself to imagine or remember scenarios that stirred similar emotions to what he would be called on to perform in the film. From there, he used a “Meisner technique” of performing a high-stakes activity (in his case, rebuilding a shredded airline ticket moments in an imagined life-and-death scenario, moments before takeoff), competing against a stopwatch. He timed the exercise to be able to take the resulting emotions straight into filming.

This kind of painstaking craftsmanship fit the urgent importance of the film, which producers called a “battle cry against corruption.” Hildebrand wanted to give the performance of a lifetime.

“It feels sometimes like democracy has become a spectator sport. We gripe and complain from our armchairs, but nobody does anything. This film is a call to action. It’s a protest. It’s a mirror held up by Brazilians to themselves and it asks the questions ‘Is this what we want? Is this the best we can do?’ And I believe it also answers that question,” said Hildebrand. “A lot of crewmembers were emotional on set.  This is real life to them.  Their country is at stake.  And anytime you witness a strong person standing up for what’s right, there’s a domino effect. Courage begets courage.”

After shooting the film in fall of last year, BID premiered at Warner Brothers Studios to great acclaim, and is now being marketed to festivals around the world.  It has so far been accepted to Festigious and the Palm Springs Film Festival, already winning two awards at Festigious. Undoubtedly, it will be accepted to many more. None of this could have been possible without Hildebrand’s honest portrayal of Leone.

“Tim was extremely committed to the character from the beginning. Since we had started working in Los Angeles way before travelling to the location in South America, and he was the only North American actor on a Brazilian movie set, he asked me for visual references from the Brazilian actors that he would be interacting with as family. Photos that he could create backstories with, etc.  He also asked for the contacts of actors playing family members so he could start communicating with them and developing personal bonds. We used real facts, situations and feelings from Tim’s personal history to create several layers for his complex character,” said Raphael Bittencourt, the director of BID.

“Working with Tim is very rewarding. He’s very professional, very dedicated.  He’s an actor in constant search of the truth of his characters…always intense, deeply intuitive, and yet very technical when the situation asks for it.  At the same time, he’s kind and generous as a person. He really was there to help make a film, and not to perform, you know, on a catwalk with spotlights on himself. He was the consummate team player.  I wondered sometimes if the naturalism of his interaction with his onscreen family came from me, as a director, and the efforts I made to create a comfortable working environment, or if it came from him being a truly great actor who simply made my life much easier. Probably more of the second,” Bittencourt continued.

Every person that worked on the film, like Hildebrand, knew the importance of the story they were telling. This led to a unifying rally against the unforeseeable problems that seemed to plague the film early on. At one point, a large shipment of film equipment that was flown to Brazil from Los Angeles was lost by the airline in Sao Paulo, causing shooting to be delayed. Lawyers had to be called in to fight with the airline, whom the producers suspected of confiscating the property for profit. After much back and forth the airline admitted it had indeed confiscated the equipment, claiming it had done so because it suspected the BID team of planning to illegally film the World Cup. The producers had to travel from Curitiba to Sao Paulo to get it all sorted out. Once they had finally had the  equipment, they were informed that the main shooting location for the following two days had suddenly fallen through. While the producers scouted a new location, Hildebrand would not let the time be wasted, and used it to meet his cast-mates and rehearse some scenes that otherwise would have had to be performed cold. In terms of the quality of the performances, he thinks it all ended up actually working out for the best.

“We all had a sense when the film wrapped that we had been a part of something important, that the troubles had come to stop us in some cosmic way, but that we’d beaten them. It really brought everyone together,” he concluded.

Photo: Tim Hildebrand in the film ‘BID’ photo by Priscila Forone.

Actress Claire Stollery tells her story in award-winning film ‘Who is Hannah’

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Claire Stollery as Hannah in Who is Hannah

Claire Stollery was never interested in anything other than acting. As a child growing up in Calgary, she always had this one passion. As she grew and moved around Canada, what started out as a childhood dream started to become a reality. There is no doubt that Claire Stollery was meant to be an actress, and audiences everywhere know this every time they see her on the big and small screen.

As an actor, being vulnerable is pivotal to opening yourself up to a character. Connecting with the story and allowing your experiences to come through is vital when it comes to connecting with an audience. Stollery knows this well. She starred in the award-winning film Who is Hannah, that she also co-wrote, and allowed the events in her life to guide her character, creating a cathartic experience for the actress.

“This film was very close to me. I co-wrote it with a great comedian friend of mine, John Hastings. We wanted to collaborate and create a great dark comedy, but we didn’t know what we wanted to write about. One night after a show we were sitting in my cold car, a couple days before Christmas. I told him the story of how I had met my biological father in Los Angeles when I was 21. I found his number and left him a message, lying about my identity because I wasn’t sure he’d call me back if he knew who I was. In the end I came clean and we decided to meet up. When he arrived at the coffee shop, he ended up calling me while he was standing right beside me. We had no idea what each other looked like! It was like a meet-cute you’d see in a rom-com.  John couldn’t stop laughing of the horror and awkwardness of the situation. We decided then and there we would write a film exploring that scenario and what could go wrong when you don’t know what each other look like,” Stollery described.

Who is Hannah is the awkward and unlikely tale of how one girl meets her dead dad. Stollery plays Hannah, a role that was written with her in mind. Because she helped write the film, she already had the character’s voice inside her. Hannah is a girl who just wants to belong somewhere and know where she came from. She feels lost and incomplete because she’s never known the identity of her father – only known pieces from what her mother has told her. The problem is, she discovers everything her mother has told her about her father is the plot to Indiana Jones. When she finds out that her mother completely lied to her about her father’s identity and that he’s alive and lives in the next town, she has new hope for self-completion.

“I can’t really relate to Hannah’s feeling of incompleteness because I was lucky enough to have a dad growing up. My mom met my father who raised me when I was six months old. But even then, you always wonder what that other person is like. Are you like them? Do you look like them? There are always those thoughts at the back of your mind,” Stollery described. “Everyone wants to know where they come from. We want to know our history; it’s a universal desire. For those people who are searching for their identity, we wanted a film that let them know they are not alone. Since making the film I have had a lot of people write me or come up to me after screenings telling me about their experience or a friend’s experience of meeting a biological parent. There are a lot of those stories out there, but people don’t talk about them that often. There’s a lot of shame in having parents abandon their children. For the kid, it is a terrifying journey seeking out and meeting a parent for the very first time. You’ve imagined and built up this person your entire lifetime. There’s a lot of pressure for fantasy to match reality. It was important for John and me to write a film that finds the humour in such a bizarre but impactful moment in someone’s life.”

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Behind the scenes of Who is Hannah

Because of Stollery’s deep understanding of her character, the film went on to do exceptionally well at many international film festivals. It was an Official Selection at The Atlantic Film Festival where it premiered last year, and then went on to be an Official Selection at The Hamilton Film Festival, The Toronto International Short Film Festival, Hollywood North Film Festival and The Toronto Independent Film Festival. At the Lakeshorts International Film Festival where it was also an Official Selection, Who is Hannah took home the Cinespace Jury’s Choice Award and the People’s Choice Award.

“When it finally premiered we were so happy people liked it and were laughing. Because we had been with it for so long, we had no idea if it was even funny anymore. And you start second guessing yourself and wondering, was it ever funny? Were we just delirious on set when we filmed it at 4 am?” said Stollery. “And it was amazing to receive the Jury’s Choice Award. They always have such talented and revered people on their jury, so their opinion meant a lot. I’m so tickled when anyone likes something I make. It was a great honour to receive it and even better feeling to receive the People’s Choice award. We didn’t know anyone at the screenings, and to have a room full of strangers resonate with your film was really a special moment for us. There really is nothing better than sitting in a theatre and listening to people laugh at something you wrote and eaves dropping on people saying good things about it afterwards.”

Part of what makes Stollery so good at what she does is her ability to improvise. Although this is sometimes not encouraged on set, the Director of Who is Hannah, Mark O’Brien, was all for it. He knew what Stollery was capable of, and knew what she could add to both the character and the film. His instincts were right.

“Claire is an extremely talented actress and writer. She’s a very open-minded artist who knows how to collaborate well, while at the same time making her work authentic and unique. She works hard, and that is a rarity in this business. There’s a lot of talk in the entertainment industry, but Claire goes out and gets it done. And really, that’s what you want most from someone you’re working with. And she does it well,” said O’Brien. “She’s a very natural actress, very real. Acting is a tough skill that can be improved through training, but I do believe that there must be some inherent talent in the person first. Claire has a foundation of incredible talent that will take her very far. Anyone who has the chance to work with her should count themselves lucky.”

It was more than just the story and character that Stollery could connect with, even the set meant something to her. They filmed in an old, abandoned farm house that the actress had actually grown up in, as well as a hotel that was the first place Stollery went to when she visited Toronto as a child.

“Even though the film is a comedy, it is rooted in real issues. There’s a fine line tonally with dark comedies. You don’t want to make it too comedic otherwise you lose the truth of the situations. But you don’t want to make it too dark, otherwise you lose the comedic release. It’s a balancing act doing those types of films” she said.

But the most important part of the process for Stollery was not the awards, accolades, or why she embarked on the project, it was what it turned into.

“Filming was therapeutic for me. I had just lost my father who raised me a couple years prior, we were filming in the house I grew up in, the story was loosely based on my experience with meeting my biological father. And I realized I never really talked about it with my father who raised me. I regret that I didn’t check in with him more about the whole situation and considered his feelings more. But he was great about it and knew it was something I needed to do. He didn’t interfere. Not to mention my mother wasn’t too happy I was making a film about a man who had left us, even though it was very loosely inspired by him. But that was how she saw it. So it’s safe to say there were a lot of emotions surrounding the project!” Stollery concluded.

Audiences can see Who Is Hannah at the end of this year on CBC.

Innovator Rosanna Peng’s Videography Inspires Creatives Across the Globe

Videographer Rosanna Peng
Videographer Rosanna Peng

Today videographer Rosanna Peng is known around the world for her remarkable ability to tell relevant and impactful stories through video. Her unparalleled creativity, the diverse nature of her work and her expertise in editing are a few of the things that have made Peng standout over the last few years, not to mention the high caliber of clients that have specifically sought her out to create visual content to showcase their brand in a way that grabs people’s attention.

Last year she created the videos for the launch of the J.Crew x New Balance 997 Butterscotch and 997 Cortado sneakers, edited EST Fest: The Documentary, which was featured on Trill HD and follows multi-award winning rapper Machine Gun Kelly at EST Fest and gives viewers a closer look into Kelly’s fan base, as well as created several video tutorials for the popular craft marketplace, ETSY, that teach users how to set up their own shop. On top of that Peng was tapped by Society 6 to shoot a series of photo stories that were featured on their website. Her work in 2016 alone has revealed her to be one videographer whose creative talent truly knows no bounds.

 

 

Still in her early 20s, Peng’s story is rather unique considering the level of international attention she has already received and the fact that she is primarily self taught. Originally from Vancouver, Canada, Rosanna Peng first discovered her innate talent and passion for telling stories through videos while taking an editing class back in high school, and from that point on she was hooked.  

“I was a shy girl and being able to express myself through videos was something I became addicted to. I couldn’t see myself doing anything else,” admits Peng.

In 2014, Peng was tapped as the lead videographer for FREE, a Toronto-based creator studio and digital agency built for modern creative entrepreneurs and progressive brands. The first videographer at the agency, Peng’s work with FREE gave her the chance to really begin exploring her skill as a videographer without boundaries.

She explains, “I experienced a lot of creative freedom, which was essential to the videographer I am today… I dedicated my weekends and evenings to producing content for the agency and I was oddly satisfied with that, knowing I was crafting my own style with every video that I made.”

Her work as FREE’s videographer put her in charge of creating and editing all of the video content for The Creator Class, a cutting-edge online channel designed by and for creators around the world that brings viewers innovative content centered around music, art, style, culture and adventure. A collaboration between FREE and Canon Canada, The Creator Class has been featured by publications and online platforms such as Booooooom, Fast Company, Highsnobiety, Hypebeast, It’s Nice That, Nowness and Vimeo, and has become a driving force in the social revolution of how users around the world approach creativity through photography and videography.

Rosanna Peng
Rosanna Peng shot by Mike Rodriguez

Peng says, “The Creator Class is a space for creatives to be inspired by one another, but also a platform for them to share their work with like-minded people. It is an important space for young creatives because they need to be reminded that even though there is an over-saturation of image consumption today, their vision and voice is still important.”

The videos Peng has created for The Creator Class over the last three years span the gamut in terms of subjects. From those that highlight the work of leading figures in the art and music scene, to the ‘Cheat Sheet’ segment of videos, which teach viewers how to use specific photography tools and achieve certain effects, Peng’s work has helped to both inspire and inform other creatives.

 

The ORIGINALS: Go & Get It w/ WondaGurl, ft. DJ P-Plus video she created, which has garnered over 600,000 views on Youtube, gives viewers a rare peek into the creative process, personal inspiration and unique path to success of music producer WondaGurl, who began making beats at age 9 and has since been tapped by the music industry’s leading artists, such as  Travis Scott, Jay Z, Drake, SZA, Young Thug and Kanye West, to produce some of the hottest tracks on the market today.

“I feel proud of the finished video because I’m happy to share young female creative’s stories. I think a lot of people, male or female, view WondaGurl to be an immense source of inspiration and aspiration. Being able to share her story was a very rewarding feeling,” says Peng about the video.

As the videographer, Peng was in charge of not only shooting the video, but like most videos on The Creator Class channel, she edited the entire work as well. Her unique way of capturing her subjects, combined with her expertise as an editor and keen sense of pacing and rhythm, has endowed each video with a deeply personal aspect that gives viewers the experience of feeling as though they are right there in the room having a conversation with the subject in the video.

“I am naturally an introverted and sympathetic person. When I experience situations, I usually sit back and observe. My personality type lends itself to be a great videographer and editor because of my tendency to express myself through videos,” admits Peng. “I have a natural sense of pacing and timing in telling the story. I am also drawn to catching moments that most people look past or ignore. This allows my work to stand out from other work that captures more generic imagery.”


Coming on board as The Creator Class videographer early on in the channel’s inception, the visual content she’s created has bolstered the channel’s social media following exponentially  and established the tone and style the channel has become known for. Considering that one of the main reasons people turn to The Creator Class is to discover information about a broad range of topics through the videos they publish online, videos that for the most part have been created by Peng, it’s not a stretch to say that her work is the foundation on which The Creator Class community has formed.

She says, “Every video was output through my computer to make sure the editing tone and aesthetic matched the channel’s. I have a natural understanding of what current video trends were and brought those elements to the channel growing them to the 40,000 plus subscription base on YouTube and 154,000 follower count on Instagram today.“

Thanks in no small part to Peng’s inspiring work, The Creator Class earned the prestigious 2016 Gold AToMiC Shift Award, which honors breakthrough achievements in the realm of advertising, media, creativity, technology and content.

Former FREE Channel Manager Danielle Reynolds says, “Working with Rosanna is always an inspiring experience. She always pushes the creative boundaries while still maintaining an attention to fine detail. It amazes me how she has been able to teach herself videography.”

While she is primarily self taught as a videographer, Rosanna Peng studied graphic design in college, an area of study that has undoubtedly come in handy as quite a bit of the visual content she creates for clients are embedded alongside stationary graphics and text online. Her understanding of how the style of the video she is creating connects with the attitude of the brand and the overall visual layout has been imperative to her unparalleled ability to create a striking finished project that commands the attention of viewers across the globe– something that can easily be seen through her work as a videographer for MTV FORA and as a photographer for Society 6.

Last year Peng was hired by Society 6, an online marketplace that connects international artists and gives them a platform to sell their work, to photograph the images featured within the popular articles  LA Photographer Fauxly On The Realness of the Hustle and Art in the Wild: A Photo Essay. Considering that Society 6 has a massive reach with 344,000 followers on Instagram and 476,000 monthly viewers on their website in the U.S. alone, Peng’s shots for each project gained quite a bit of attention.

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Photographer Fauxley shot by Rosanna Peng for Society 6

For the Fauxley feature Peng captured LA photographer Fauxly in a series of dynamic and architecturally intriguing shots that reveal her in a way that feels natural and aesthetically lines up with the overall layout of the interview on the Society 6 site making it visually pleasing for viewers to read.

Peng explains, “I wanted to shoot her organically without too much posing. This was my approach for this photoshoot because the environments I brought her to had a lot of symmetry in architecture. By balancing an organic subject with a structured environment, it made for a well-balanced juxtaposition between the two.”

Rosanna Peng
Photo by Rosanna Peng for Society 6

For the Art in the Wild: A Photo Essay she was tapped to translate some of her favorite Society 6 designs into photographs in various outdoor environments. The unique images she captured create a bridge between the natural world and the Society 6 designs in a way that is mesmerizingly beautiful. Clearly Peng’s creative eye extends beyond videography and her design degree has been put to good use.

Rosanna Peng’s innovative, inspiring and diverse work has definitely struck a chord with audiences around the world. Stay tuned for the release of her next Society 6 project, which is a lookbook video shoot slated to be released on June 1. She is also currently working on a promo video for Canon Canada’s macro lens, which will be released in August.