Category Archives: Canadian Talent

Writer-Producer Stuart Reid Sets New Standard for Kid’s TV

Writer-producer Stuart Reid’s appealing combination of talent, good humor and ambition has an unusual effect on just about every project he’s attached too. As soon as he joins a team, Reid’s high quality contributions typically elevate not only the task at hand, but also his role.

His first writing credit was for DHX Media and Nickelodeon’s Make It Pop, but since then, the charming Canadian has gone on to story edit, write or co-write nearly a dozen episodes of children’s television, develop original series for Sesame Street and NBCUniversal, and even been hired to simply write jokes, ‘punching up scripts’ on shows “looking for a little extra oomph in the comedy department”.

Earning industry-wide recognition is a characteristic aspect of Reid’s sure-footed career path, a journey that led him to film and television even before he finished school. “One of my first summer jobs as a teenager was with Corus Entertainment at Treehouse TV in Toronto,” Reid said. ”Working at Treehouse sort of piqued my interest and got me interested in television and production, and specifically kids. Next thing you know, cut to ten years later, and I’m living between Toronto and Los Angeles, staffing regularly and working with brands I grew up loving, like Doozers and The Jim Henson Company.”

For Reid, his professional life was firing on all cylinders. “It was a lifelong dream for me to work with Henson – a legendary brand with such a cherished and iconic history,” Reid said. “To me, it was a great accomplishment. The Doozers are those little green guys and gals from Fraggle Rock. The Doozers are always building, inventing things and engineering solutions to overcome the obstacles in front of them. There’s a real curriculum there, teaching kids to overcome adversity, and nurturing essential skills to help them creatively problem solve.”

From there, Reid continued to distinguish himself, working with writing partner Mark Purdy on an unannounced series for DHX Media and Mattel (the toy company). “Stuart is one of our primary writers,” story editor Shea Fontana said. “And he also one of the few writers that we could rely on to generate solid episode premises for a series. I knew I could always count on Stuart to deliver high quality, funny and entertaining stories. His work has been integral to our success.”

His gift for mastering the tricky balance of heart and comedy is Reid’s calling card, one that affords him many opportunities. It’s a comprehensive set of skills that allows him broad professional latitude. “Right now, now I writing on an upcoming show for Air Bud Entertainment, but mainly trying to find the time to develop more original material. It’s been a busy year.”

Reid always has one eye on the horizon, and he knows exactly what he wants. “I really enjoy working in animation, but really anything involving comedy that lets you flex the creative muscles. We love to play in big worlds with supernatural elements and larger than life stories. As long as there is heart and something real that makes our characters tick.” Reid said, “we’ve been writing on a lot of existing franchises or other people’s shows. Our ultimate goal is to get a series of our own on the air… Something original, in the truest sense of the word, that came from our tiny, tiny brains.”

PETER CHRAPKA HELPS SET HISTORY STRAIGHT

History can tell us volumes. The main shortcoming is that it is sometimes selective in what it wants to tell us. A half-truth is still akin to a lie. Anyone who presents themselves without fault is likely someone who has a major one. This is particularly applicable to countries. To deny fallacy or shortcomings is to admit that you have them to the world. When truth is omitted it is up to artists and journalists to bring these occurrences into the light. Ryan Boyko, Diana Cofini, & Editor Peter Chrapka performed the patriotic task of revealing the truth about the internment camps of World War I in Canada. The love of their country compelled them to create a 32-episode documentary series about this period. This documentary series would inspire a feature documentary to expound on the tale. Only in facing the events of the past can Canada hope to understand and avoid them in the future, a lesson that is applicable to every place on Earth…no matter where you live or your ideology.

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“The Camps” is a documentary series depicting the period between 1914 and 1920 when over 8,500 people were wrongfully imprisoned in Canada. Almost forgotten, “The Camps” honors the memory of these men, women, and children by telling the story of their affliction. This production was recognized with an Award of Recognition by Hollywood International Moving Pictures Film and an Award of Merit (Special Mention) at the IndieFest Film Awards. Director/writer/producer Ryan Boyko approached Peter about the project. Chrapka openly admits that the content was as instrumental as the process for him, stating, “After meeting Ryan, the director, I learned of the internment camps for the first time and was shocked as I’d never heard about it before. Ryan saw my previous work and hired me to set up the project and sync all the audio. Ryan noticed the great attention to detail I had in handling the footage and setting up the project properly as well as my past awards and recognitions for work in the documentary genre so he offered me the position of video editor for the ‘The Camps.’ I felt like this was an important project for all of us. There is a responsibility that comes with a career in which you have a line of communication with the public.”

“The Camps” received so much attention and praise that its creators decided to fashion a feature documentary entitled That Never Happened: Canada’s First National Internment Operations. The expanded production team focused on the story of the 8,500 people who were wrongfully imprisoned in concentration camps across Canada, not for anything they had done but because of where they came from, as well as the fact that in 1954 the public records were destroyed. In the 1980s, a few brave men and women began working to reclaim this chapter in history to ensure future generations would know about it. Chrapka and his fellow filmmakers became the next generation in this lineage determined to reveal and discuss the true events while learning from them. Delivering a story such as this is never easy, Peter concedes, “I commend Ryan on his pursuits to tell this story in Canada’s history that has been erased from the history books. He wants this information to reach as many Canadians as possible. This web series has been viewed by thousands of people from around the world and I think the feature documentary will greatly help in reaching thousands more.”

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It quickly became apparent to Chrapka that his task would be monumental working on the feature documentary. It involved locating and researching archived clips of the time period. Luckily, the Canadian National Film Board has a fairly large collection of footage from this era which the production was able to license. Of course, most of the records about the internment camps had been destroyed, meaning that no footage specific to the camps was available. Working with a combination of black and white footage from the 1920s as well as footage acquired from private citizens’ camcorders at special events in the 1990s up to the 2000s gave Peter some video but there was a distortion in the resolution as the quality of some of the old footage was not great quality. In documentaries, it is expected that archive clips are of lower quality. These archived clips became an integral part of telling the story and allowed the audience to visualize what the interviewees were referring to. This footage, combined with numerous interviews, gave a strong emotional component to the documentary.

The primary force behind both productions, Ryan Boyko, declares, “Peter’s incredibly important tasks included splicing stories together from the hours of interview footage we shot (which gave him creative control over what conversations made it into the finalized episodes), choosing the music for each episode from a stock cue library, splicing in our 4K drone footage (drone footage was a relatively new concept at the time, and required skill and grace to effectively edit into each episode), and overseeing the work of our color corrector, sound mixer, and other post-production personnel. All this adds up to Peter being an essential member of our crew, and a lead factor in The Camps & That Never Happened: Canada’s First National Internment Operations receiving the incredible critical and commercial success that it has. The web-series has garnered awards from the IndieFEST Film Awards (where the series won an Award of Merit for Best Documentary Short) and Hollywood International Moving Pictures Film Festival (where the film won an Award of Recognition for Best Webisode/New Media). Peter was such a vital component and essential part of the voice with which we delivered this story, I knew that he must be included in the feature documentary when we decided to move forward with it. He is inseparable from the tone we achieved in That Never Happened.”

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It’s easy to tell the kind of story which everyone wants to hear; communicating painful self-implicating ones requires bravery and introspection. It’s only by recognizing one’s own flaws that they may be overcome. Peter admits, “As a proud Canadian, I am glad I got to help in getting this story out to the world and sharing a part of Canada’s past that most Canadians have never heard of. I have learned a lot about this event in Canada’s history and have mentioned it to many of my friends and colleagues. They were as surprised as I was when I told them about this part in Canada’s history because it was never mentioned in any of our history classes growing up. I also learned a lot about storytelling and the importance of keeping the audience engaged and interested as a result of working both of these projects. I’m incredibly proud of these productions because I believe that all art is best when it is honest.”

 

ALEXANDRA HARRIS HAS AND DOES NOT HAVE “MISSED CONNECTIONS”

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Sometimes when things go wrong it can be very right. Consider Alexandra Harris. By all accounts people who know her consider her to be very positive and upbeat. There’s no implication of a duplicitous nature in regards to Harris but, opposites can play very well in cinema. As an acclaimed actress in a wide variety of productions, she exhibits all of the acting skill of the notable peers in her industry. The filmmakers of Missed Connections wanted to use Alexandra’s inherent goodness to drive a less amiable character in this production. Missed Connections is a Zero Film Festival Award-winner and was screened at esteemed events like the Raindance Film Festival and Cannes Film Festival. The protagonist of the film is Jamie (played by Joseph Cappellazzi), a man who gets ruthlessly dumped by his girlfriend Sophie (played by Harris). The fallout and aftermath leave him incredibly heartbroken and bitter. In an attempt to get back at the world (and to satiate his friends who tell him to start dating) he begins responding to the “Missed Connections” section of the paper, showing up to dates pretending to be the desired person…with less than fantastic results. Through this process, Jamie actually meets a girl he likes, Emma (played by Rebecca Perfect), and then has to come clean about what he’s done. Even more conflict arises when Jamie must decide whether he’s going to keep trying to get back together with Sophie or move on with someone new.

As Sophie, Jamie ex-girlfriend, Harris is cold but not completely unrelatable. Jamie has some maturing to do and the inherent likability which Alexandra possesses makes the audience question whether some of the blame falls upon his shoulders. It’s precisely because of this quality that Rory O’Donnell (casting director on Missed Connections) was adamant that Alexandra would bring depth to the character of Sophie. O’Donnell professes, “I knew she’d be a great fit. Here we were in London, with all these serious Brits and this bright bubbly American (yes, yes, I know she’s Canadian) came bouncing in and just sort of blew us all away. As a casting director, that’s what you hope for. She’s just very, very good, and very easy to work with. It’s quite simple really. She doesn’t make the production about herself and is able to roll with whatever punches may come her way.”

   Sophie has left Jamie bitter and heartbroken but instead of taking responsibility for his part in the failed relationship, he goes about trying to blame other people. Understanding that her portrayal could easily sway the view of Sophie in the eyes of the audience, Harris took care to present her as someone whom the audience could project their own ideas onto. She relates, “I saw Sophie as one of those girls with a five-year plan. The type of girl who knew where she wanted to be and was constantly evaluating herself and those around her to make sure she was on her way to achieving it. There’s nothing wrong with that but I think sometimes it makes people less flexible with the those who are in their lives. Sophie would describe herself as ‘career oriented’ for sure.”

While her performance is magnetic in Missed Connections, there were a few substantial hurdles for ALexandra to overcome in being cast for the film. It seemed highly unlikely that she would be Sophie in this production. Chris Presswell (writer and director of Missed Connections) confirms, When Rory O’Donnell (our casting director) read the script, he thought Alexandra would be great for Jamie’s love interest (Emma), however, I wanted to keep the cast British as it was supposed to be a British comedy. When Alexandra came in for a read through, I knew I wanted her in the film somehow. She’s such a talented actor, and also a genuinely good and decent person; the perfect combination. Rather than Emma, I liked the idea of her for Sophie (Jamie’s ex-girlfriend) because I knew she’d bring some vulnerability and depth to her. While Sophie’s technically the bad guy of the story, it’s boring if the audience flat out hates her; casting Alexandra was the perfect solution to that. It’s pretty hard to hate her. She’s also very fun to have on set and all that positivity was needed when shooting during the British winter as it gets dark at 4pm!”

To hear Harris tell it, the audition wasn’t as much of a cinch as the director implies. It is a testament to her abilities that an early misstep during the audition did not derail Presswell’s desire to use her in the film. It’s often said that bad choices lead to great stories and this aptly applies to Alexandra’s initial choice in the audition. Ever self-effacing, she reveals, “When I was called in, it was for Jamie’s love interest, Emma. Rory had told me it was supposed to be a British dark comedy, so I thought ‘Right, I’ll be British then.’ Keep in mind, I had only been living in the UK for about 6 months and was still under the impression that all British people sounded like Hugh Grant. I’d also never performed with a British accent (I played an American in The Last Man, which Rory had cast me in pretty much as soon as I arrived in the UK). I went in and did THE WORST British accent. It was cringe worthy. Chris was so polite and kept a straight face but I remember Rory just looking horrified. He was nice enough to take me aside and say gently ‘Why don’t you try it with your American accent.’ which I then did. I immediately felt the energy in the room change. Both Chris and Rory relaxed a lot! That experience is something that the two of them still tease me about to this day. The positive result was that I started taking accent work seriously, studying with a teacher and performing as a Brit towards the end of my time living there. I remember being so proud to invite Chris to my performance of ‘The Cherry Orchard’ where I was playing a British Charlotta and afterwards I questioned him and he just looked at me and said “Well, Alex, I’ll give it to you, for a second I thought you were British, but I’ll never forget your Emma”. It’s true what they say, first impressions are real!”

Missed Connections was Alexandra’s first time shooting in London and second time filming in the UK. Her first British film, The Last Man, was shot in the woods outside of London in Essex. Filming in London proper is a much different experience than in Essex, her Canadian homeland, or even Hollywood. The Brits are some of the best actors in the world and Harris took every advantage to soak up the experience of the unique British approach. UK productions are more grass roots and unpolished compared to other film centers, on purpose. The feeling on UK shoots of “we’re all in this together” permeates all levels of production. This lack of hierarchy was something to which Harris was unaccustomed but welcomed. This however does not mean that it was any less challenging. The actress notes, “Chris [Presswell] is soooo British. When I say that, I mean that he doesn’t’t suffer fools and really doesn’t overpraise. When he offers a compliment, it’s genuine and it means a lot. We were on the same page from the beginning so we didn’t’t have to talk about the character too much. I would say ‘I’ve been that girlfriend’ and he would say ‘I’ve dated that girl’ so we knew where to go from there. We knew we didn’t want Sophie to be a bitch but rather someone who was at their ropes end.”

The short days and the brutal London winter temperature were unsuccessful in squelching Alexandra’s well-known positivity. Through her performance and a shrewd stroke of casting, she presented Sophie as an emotionally complex character. What might have originally been a secondary antagonist for this film became a stand-out character which captivated audiences. Mentioning how being different was a prominent facet of her character and her involvement in Missed Connections, Harris recalls, “It became the running joke on set that I had to be called the ‘evil American’ because Canadian’s can’t be mean; however, I think my character proved them wrong.”

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Anja Ellam captivates audiences with her writing of new film “The Woods”

There is one thing about her that shines above all else: she is an entertainer. She is extremely multi-talented, and uses her writing and acting skills to captivate audiences around the world, whether through film, YouTube, or various social media platforms. There is truly no limit to what she can accomplish.

Ellam has tens of thousands of followers on her Instagram, with a strong impact on Twitter as well, and as an influencer has helped many companies and shows gain a following and audience. Working with AwesomenessTV, both her writing and influencing skills have boosted the show to have millions of views. With the extremely popular app, the ArsenicTV Snapchat story gets over 500,000 views daily, and as a host and influencer for the show, Ellam is a large part of that. However, it was with the film The Woods where Ellam’s impressive natural writing talents became truly evident to worldwide audiences.

“Relationships between siblings can be complicated, especially if they’re teenagers. I wanted to show why the older sister in the film was so angry, because this is a common conflict between sisters,” said Ellam.

The Woods tells the story of two sisters at a party, who get lost in the woods while leaving. The film is about two sisters who get lost in the woods while leaving a party. They quickly realize they’re lost and will have to work together to get out, and push through the fighting and angst between them.

“I wanted to do something simple: two characters, one location,” Ellam described. “The sisters’ relationship is based on my sisters and my relationship.”

Ellam wrote the film entirely by herself. Originally, she wanted to experiment with her writing and work on a project that her friends could be a part of. She wrote the script while trying to think of the simplest way to make a short, but the story developed the more she wrote.

“The story is all dialogue driven which is a fun challenge for me as a writer. I also ended up directing it, which is something I’m not familiar with but my team believed in me, and I did know the script and the vision, so I hope the viewers can see it too,” she said.

Viewers definitely see the vision. The film has gone on to be shown at several prestigious international film festivals.  After premiering at the UK Monthly Film Festival, Ellam won the new filmmakers award at the Mediterranean Film Festival (MedFF). It also was just selected as a semi-finalist for the Miami Epic Trailer Festival.

“It’s a really amazing feeling that the film has been so well-received. It’s one thing to write something that people like ,but actually making it and still having people want to watch it is really cool. I know that sounds weird to say, but we did this on a very small budget with only one shooting day. It’s nerve racking because if something doesn’t work it’s almost like you can’t redo it. I’m glad people think we were able to do a good job. It’s had to get your vision across so I’m glad people saw what we were going for,” Ellam said.

All those that worked with Ellam on the film immediately saw that she was an extraordinary writer, and all of the success that the film has received could never have been possible without the vision and talent she brought with her. Maxwell Peters, a Los Angeles based Screenwriter, Director, and Producer, produced The Woods. He says her commitment to the film made it the success that is it.

“Over the course of the past two years I’ve worked with Anja on multiple projects. Most recently I produced her short film The Woods, which she wrote and directed. Anja is easy to work with and had a firm grasp on what she was doing. She worked with her actors with ease and was able to get wonderful performances out of all of them, aside from that she was able to work with crew in an effective and efficient manner,” said Peters.

Even without all the accolades and awards, the experience of writing The Woods was unforgettable for Ellam. She knew what she wanted to do from the beginning, and using her creativity, she was able to make something unforgettable for audiences as well. The film even has a twist ending, which was just plain fun for Ellam to write.

“I liked writing the ending the best. I didn’t know how I was going to end it at first, but I knew I wanted it to be unexpected. I had a lot of fun experimenting with different ending options,” said Ellam. “I took this ending honestly because I think happy endings are boring. I considered having them not make it out but I thought leaving it a little more open ended was a bit more surprising. I love twist endings.”

Be sure to check out what happens to the two sisters by seeing Ellam’s fabulous work in The Woods.

Director and Producer Ron Grebler talks living his dream and captivating audiences

Ever since Ron Grebler was a child, he knew he wanted to direct for the big and small screen. Growing up in Toronto, Canada, he loved watching movies. He always enjoyed being transported to a new world through a film, with each image impacting his emotions. When he would watch, he felt fully engaged, and knew from early on that he wanted to be a cinematic storyteller. Now, he is a top Director and Producer in Canada.

While working with AXE and “Canada’s MTV’s MuchMusic”, Grebler helped take a revolutionary advertisement to the next level. Promoting AXE Hair Products, Grebler produced and directed a series of branded videos for the network’s “Spring Break Special.” The first of its kind on the network, three segments were seamlessly integrated into the hugely successful special to look like programming, not commercials.

“It was flattering to be chosen to work on a new concept of content with such an entertaining and iconic brand. As a commercial and branded content producer and director, it’s a rare opportunity to be asked to launch a new product for a successful brand. AXE was known for its body sprays and very entertaining commercial spots. When they were launching their first line of hair care products it was hard not to jump at the opportunity,” said Grebler.

What made the project fun for Grebler was the “hidden camera” aspect of the commercial. Part of the videos featured the main talent of the commercial asking vacationers questions about his hair, and the unsuspecting vacationers were unaware they were being filmed. This created a fun energy that was maintained throughout the three videos.

“It’s easy to work with Ron. He genuinely loves the craft of producing and directing and wants to put as much as possible into every commercial. We continually chose Ron because of his reliability, professionalism and his creative style. He was a ‘one stop shop’ for production, and we were confident that the final product would be engaging and of high quality. He has a producer/director’s ‘personality’. He’s creative and quick thinking, clear-headed, and dedicated to crafting the best programming possible with the budgets he’s given,” said Randall Graham, the Creative Director of Brand Partnerships and Commercial Production at Bell Media.

The campaign went on to be a large success for both AXE and MuchMusic. Despite the challenges that arose from shooting in Cancun, Mexico, the most popular Spring Break vacation destination, Grebler rose to the occasion. Without him, the campaign could not have achieved what it did.

“Working with Ron is often a fast paced and well thought out environment. Ron is always determined to exceed the expectations of his clients which often means maximizing every available minute. Being in a foreign country with limited tools at our disposal outside of what we brought allowed Ron and crew to think and operate outside of the box yet maintain high standards of production. Working with Ron is, at its core a job but also a classroom. Ron is a vast vault of production and creative knowledge which he is happy and eager to share. In all my years of knowing Ron, he’s always had the mentality that learning never stops and teaching others is always an available opportunity. Ron is always encouraging, positive and motivational on set which makes the complicated and sometimes unpredictable production days not just manageable but fun as well,” said KJ Fuhrman, the Production Coordinator of the campaign.

Grebler is known for his outstanding and memorable commercials. In addition to the AXE campaign with Much, he recently worked on a group of national  commercials for Belair Direct. The campaign was seen by millions of viewers across Canada and was highly successful for both Belair Direct and Grebler.

“Working on a commercial of this magnitude was a lot like juggling 300 hundred balls at once. There were so many little details, all time-oriented and interconnected, and if one falls, the others fall too. It was crazy but it was fun,” said Grebler. “There’s also that satisfying feeling of turning on the TV and seeing the spot I worked on for 3 months appear on different major networks. It’s also cute when my mom and dad call me to say they saw my spot on TV.”

Working with FUJI, Grebler reached an even bigger audience than Canada, as his advertisements were seen all around the world. Working as the director for the campaign, Grebler created two separate commercials, one for national television, and the other for internet use.

“It was an intense, short project that necessitated a lot of focus and particular attention to detail. I was strongly involved in the pre-production and production design, especially when it came to sourcing props and building sets. I was very hands on because for both the agency and client, the overall look of the set was extremely important. Since the concept included having a hand built craft to be used as a ‘hero’ prop, I specifically chose the artist to construct it and oversaw and approved the construction and color scheme,” said Grebler.

The decisions that Grebler made for the commercials led them to be immensely successful. FUJI then decided to launch the commercials in Japan, and are considering a roll out to other international markets.

Ron brings a fresh creative perspective as well as a lot of focused energy, enthusiasm and organization to every project. He has a depth of experience across many different brand categories and demographics and knows how to make every video unique, visually appealing and successful in its goal. He excels at translating the agency creative and client brief and crafting it into engaging video content that will keep consumers and audiences tuned in … and that’s the whole point of a commercial,” said Rebecca Hamilton, Chief Executive Officer Fish Out of Water Design, the agency that created the commercials.

Grebler’s reputation of being extremely thorough while working extremely quickly make him extremely sought-after not only in Canada, but internationally as well. He is truly exceptional at what he does, and his passion for what he does shows in every project he works on.

You can watch the FUJI commercials here.

 

Production designer Andrea Leigh is a visual storyteller

What started out as a love for building retail window displays turned into a successful career as a production designer for Toronto based Andrea Leigh. She always loved building something captivating from nothing, where passers-by would turn to see what was not just her work, but also her art. This innate talent turned into a career, and now she is one of Canada’s best production designers.

It seems like a long time ago that Leigh was fixing window displays, as she has worked on several celebrated projects as a production designer, including the award-winning film Friends Like Us. Leigh knew after reading just a few pages of the script that she needed to design for the film.

“The minimal and sleek vision the director had for the main home really drew me to the project. It’s always fun to work on a job where you actually enjoy the content. The script was funny. The dynamic was entertaining, and it was nice to work with the amazing and talented Toronto cast,” said Leigh.

Friends Like Us tells the tale of a struggling couple – broke and pregnant – who find success through ripping off their friends. The plot twists when one of the women finds out about the affair two of them have been having and they accidentally murder their husbands with a piece of modern art.

“I got to feature some of my favorite artists in the main location we shot. Huge pieces, some abstract, some minimalist. Overall, the opportunity to design a space that said so much by not having much in it was a nice challenge. It really reflected the characters’ sense of new found wealth,” Leigh described.

The film went on to have enormous success at many prestigious international film festivals, and was even nominated for “Best Short Film” by the Director’s Guild of Canada. The production design was vital to the success of the film, and the recognition the film received was amazing for Leigh.

“It’s exciting to know it made it beyond just a ‘project’. You never know what will come of features and shorts. Sometimes they don’t make it anywhere. Sometimes they get wide recognition and reviews. Toronto can feel like a small city sometimes, so when something truly great comes out of it, word gets out fast,” she said.

Success such as this follows Leigh with each project she embarks on, showing audiences around the world why she is so exceptional with what she does. While working with the popular cosmetics brand E.L.F., the commercial Play Beautifully was aired on televisions across North America, and went on to have more than 2 million hits on YouTube alone.

“I feel a lot of young women connected with this commercial, and connected with the brand. It feels like we really got the message across, and that it was more than a commercial. It was more of a story, following the girl,” said Leigh.

The commercial featured an all-female cast, and was shot at numerous locations across Toronto. Leigh says it hardly felt like work, going to coffee shops, bars, rooftops, and more in the middle of the day. Leigh, who has also worked as an interior designer, says designing rooms for young women came naturally to her, and her own living space was even used as one of the shooting locations. She truly felt right at home.

 I have worked closely with Andrea on numerous productions and virally popular commercials, and have become familiar with the level of professionalism and skills required to be a top tier production designer and art director. My experience has led me to believe that Andrea is one of the most prodigiously successful professionals in her field,” said David Quinn, the director of the Play Beautifully commercial who has worked with Leigh on many commercials with the production company Skin & Bones.

The idea was to make the commercial look more like a short film than an advertisement. This is what drew Leigh into the story in the first place. She is a story teller, and her designs play a pivotal part in any story, almost as an extra character. It was a story brought to life by what she describes as amazing cast members. It was also relatable in so many ways for lots of young women.

“You have a rough time, a bad break up, your friends are there for you and sometimes you just need to throw on some lipstick, build your confidence back up after a broken heart and head out on the town with your ladies,” Leigh concluded.

You can view the commercial here.

Mike Goral’s narration of docuseries “Polar Bear Town” captivates audiences

Mike Goral has built his career in acting without the “lights, camera, action” experience. Instead, he works alone, in a small sound-proofed room, with only a microphone as his partner. Goral is a voice actor, and has narrated projects appreciated by millions, both in his home country of Canada and the United States.

While working in the industry for over twenty years, Goral has worked on promos and imaging products for some of the world’s most recognized companies, narrated television shows for some of the largest networks, and voiced segments for local radio stations that thousands listen to every single day. He is extremely versatile, and has genuine passion for what he does. While working for the television show Polar Bear Town for the Smithsonian Channel, Goral is able to do what he loves while continuously learning about something he knew nothing about, making each day completely different.

“I thought Polar Bear Town was a really cool story. I loved the script and the story. It’s always fun to work on a production that is well-planned. The production team was awesome and I was drawn to the project immediately. Nothing beats working with great people,” said Goral.

Polar Bear Town is a documentary series about a community of people in Churchill and Northern Manitoba, Canada that reside in a part of the continent where polar bears dwell at certain times of the year. People from all over the world travel to this remote community to get a close-up, in-person look at the mighty polar bear.

“I’ve heard stories about Churchill for years. It’s one of the most remote communities in Canada. I grew up in Southern Ontario, nowhere near Northern Manitoba, and the polar bear stories were legendary. I always heard that some people carried guns up there because of the imminent danger of bear attacks. I always thought it would be a cool place to visit, but haven’t made my way up there just yet,” said Goral. “I’ve learned so much about Churchill, Manitoba because of this show. I’ve experienced a different culture within my own native country. I found the people’s stories fascinating: people who make a living out of being tour guides for seeing polar bears, up-close in their natural habitat. I didn’t even know such careers existed. “

As the narrator for the show, Goral has what he describes as the unique privilege of telling a great story to a large audience of viewers. Each episode shows a different element to the story, and there are different tones in the episodes. There are parts where there is imminent danger, and Goral has to deliver his narration with a certain intensity. Then, there are parts where two of the cast members are arguing, which requires different cadence to his deliveries. The narration is key to the show’s success.

“The story takes a lot of different turns, and I have to use all that I have learned over the years to help make those make transitions when I am telling the story. It was a lot of fun, and it’s what I love to do,” he said.

Goral has now voiced the first season of Polar Bear Town, and he worked with director Jeff Newman on this most recent season. The two have a great sense of teamwork, as Goral describes the director as awesome, and a consummate professional.

“Jeff is very focused and would walk into our sessions knowing exactly what he needed done. He gave very clear direction, and was a lot of fun to work with. We shared a lot of laughs while working together too. The process was relaxed and enjoyable. I really hope to work with him again. Nothing beats good chemistry,” described Goral.

Newman agrees, and says working with Goral is fantastic and a lot of fun. As the director, he knows the importance of a voice actor, especially for a documentary type of show. Narration is pivotal to the telling of the story.

“Mike’s easy to work with, consistent, and has a great delivery. He takes direction really well and was able to give me exactly what I needed really fast,” said Newman. “This series has a wide range of reads to it, from scientific and informational, to intense adventure, to balls out fun. Mike was able to cover all the bases and provide the right tone in every scene.”

Despite discussing polar bears so frequently, Goral has found he is more scared of them than he once was, becoming more aware of how dangerous the bears are.

“There was one segment of the series that described the vicious attack of a local woman. She almost lost her life. I couldn’t imagine experiencing something like that. I think going through something like that can change a person forever,” said Goral.

While his subject matter might be harsh, the experience is a great one for Goral. Working on Polar Bear Town allows him to do what he loves on a regular basis, and although he is not featured on the screen, but rather through the speakers, fans appreciate the value that he adds to each episode.

 “I really enjoy it. When you are part of something you like, it’s a lot of fun. You get to be a part of something great. I just loved the way the series was produced. It was an awesome production team. They were true professionals, and that’s what made it such a pleasure,” he concluded.

You can watch full episodes of Polar Bear Town here.