Category Archives: Canadian Talent

NOT YOUR TYPICAL FUNNY MAN: JAMES PRESTON ROGERS

Actor James Preston Rogers is tight lipped about the plot details of the upcoming 2018 release Benjamin (Darius Films). What he is happy to speak about is his enjoyment of being in this film cast alongside so many comedic heavyweights. Rogers is so often noticed and cast for action roles (with a commanding physical presence of 280 lbs. and over six and a half feet tall) that displaying his comedic abilities alongside Kevin Pollak, Dave Foley, Rob Corddry, Peri Gilpin, Cheri Oteri, and numerous others was a joyful difference for him. His appearance as Ulf, a Russian semi-pro hockey player allowed James to stay close to the accent he had developed for the “Siberian” in “Frontier” (on Netflix) playing the nemesis of Jason Momoa’s lead character. The accent is as close as James gets in this film to any aspect of the melee that the Siberian or the combative aspect of Ulf’s hockey career in this comedic role. The inference of Roger’s commanding stature might be the premise of a fish out of water but James takes his place evenly matched alongside so many recognizable faces in the comedic acting world. As director and costar of Benjamin Bob Saget states, “Simply put, James is impressive. His comedy talent is obvious. He understood the role of Ulf and added great depth to it. It would have been easy to present the character as one dimensional but James portrayed Ulf as sincere, deep, and of course with the imperfections that make real people so funny. It was a pleasure to work with him and we were lucky to have him in the cast.”

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Benjamin is the title of the film as well as the character which the story focuses upon. A teen who has decided to delve into drug use, a group of family and friends hold an intervention to dissuade him. During the act of revealing the skeletons in their own closets (in hopes of eliciting a similar response from Benjamin) these individuals all come to realize how they are perhaps living more chaotic lives than the young man they came to help. Rogers appears as the Russian hockey player/boyfriend of Benjamin’s mother Marley, played by Peri Gilpin (perhaps best known as Roz from TV’s “Fraiser”). ULF comes in as Marley’s boyfriend very supportive of her and her situation. Throughout the course of the story ULF realize that he doesn’t fit into this new world he has embarked on, and need to focus more on himself to make his dreams a reality. English is Ulf’s second language. He really loves hockey and Marley and will do anything for either of them as the wild side of the sport and this woman fulfill a part of him. Amongst all the other adults who appeal to Benjamin, Ulf is the character who is likely the most unlike them and therefore has an unexpected connection with the perspective of Benjamin.

Appearing as Ulf is the second time recently that James has appeared as a Russian (the first being in “Frontier”). The language and accent are nearly second nature to this Canadian born actor who spent his childhood and early adult years amongst a variety of cultures. His childhood friends in Toronto were German, Irish, English, Scottish, and originated from many other parts of the world. This was early training for his ears, training that Rogers put to good use in his acting career. In regards to his role in Benjamin, James describes, “The advantage I have over Russian actors is that English is my first language. You need to know that the script is written in English and is for an English audience looking for a Russian accent. It can be difficult for a Russian actor who learned English as a second language to hit all of the nuances of the jokes the writer is looking for. I’m sure it would be the same for me if I were in a Russian language film. Sometimes it’s about what you don’t say and let the space be taken up for the audience to complete the joke in their own mind. This comprehension gives me an advantage and I usually book these kinds of roles over the Russian actors. Like almost anything, you need to know your audience. If you put the accents on too heavy, you will lose your audience. You need to put on just enough and know the comedic timing for the joke to get across.”

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Being cast alongside so many famous comedic actors might seem intimidating, and James admits that it was at first. However, the process became so enjoyable and satisfying that any insecurities took an immediate backseat to the experience. Rogers tells that the scripted and non-scripted jokes were plentiful and the conversations off camera were intelligent and enlightening; proof that like James himself, his costars are far from one dimensional. Rogers feels drawn to roles that (similar to career courses of larger actors like Dwayne Johnson and Jason Momoa) dispel the idea that an actor who is cast in action roles does not possess the ability to be equally gifted in comedy or drama. He confirms, “Just because are tall or in good physical shape doesn’t mean that we don’t have life experiences and emotions that equip us to communicate through the camera and onto an audience. Most well-known actors get painted with one brush and it’s very rare that we get to color outside the lines. I love seeing a comedic actor cast in a dramatic role and present another side of themselves. My father was hilarious and I think that part of that comedy gene exists in me. When I was in 10th or 11th grade we’d have these things called ‘cut-fests’ at school. You’d square off with someone and trade insults. People would cut class just to watch. It was all for laughs. Between my father and the cut-fest I was working on my comedy timing through my entire childhood, I just grew into being a big guy. Benjamin has given me the chance to show that training and the fact that I’m standing alongside some of the best comedic actors in the present day entertainment industry is beyond exciting.” James Preston Rogers has taken his rightful place as the physically and comedically impressive gentleman alongside his talented cohorts and can be seen doing so in Benjamin.

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Anna Pniowsky masters different levels of fear to terrify audiences in ‘He’s Out There’

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Photo by Kevin McIntyre

Even at the age of 12, Anna Pniowsky understands that choosing to pursue a career as an actress would not be worth doing for the wrong reasons. It is a cutthroat field to work in and if you wish to become an actress for glamor or fame, it is unlikely that you will be able to withstand the pressure and the challenges that you will be faced with. Pniowsky knows that becoming an actress involves a type of perseverance that most individuals will never require in their lifetimes. She is always on her game, ready for any audition, callback, or role that she is tasked with. On top of that, she has mastered the ability to look self-doubt in the face and turn it away. Her love for acting transcends any obstacle that she comes across and by believing in herself and surrounding herself with people who support her dreams, she has no doubt that she will be acting for years to come.

“If you feel that acting is truly in your blood, remember the well-known adage – it is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes a lot of auditions before you book something. You will feel self-doubt and you will want to give up, but if you truly love it, you can push forward. You just have to believe in yourself,” told Pniowsky.

Despite her age, Pniowsky has earned herself a breadth of experience and training in her field. Just this past year, she landed the lead role in a film written, directed, and starred in by Oscar-winning actor Casey Affleck. The film, Light of My Life, is a drama about a father (played by Affleck) and his daughter (played by Pniowsky) who live on the outskirts of a society that was destroyed by a pandemic ten years ago. Buzz about Pniowsky’s role in the film is already gaining traction as being a career-defining moment for the talented young actress and audiences everywhere are eager to see what happens when it premieres.

Prior to filming Light of My Life, Pniowsky won the role of Kayla in Sony Screen Gems’ horror film, He’s Out There. He’s Out There depicts the terrifying tale of a mother and her two daughters who take a vacation to a remote lake house and wind up being tormented by a murderer in the woods. In the film, Pniowsky acted alongside celebrated actress Yvonne Strahovski, as well as her little sister, Abby. She was paramount to the film’s storyline and appears in the entire duration of the film. In order to play her character as convincingly as possible, Pniowsky endeavored to master multiple different ways of appearing frightened. Since her character is scared throughout the entirety of the film, she felt it was very important to develop her character to be dynamic and she avoided appearing one-dimensional at all costs. With that, she developed various different levels of fear that she could transition back and forth between, depending on the intensity of the scene. In doing so, she created a character that audiences can relate to, and ideally, will identify with as they embark upon the journey that the film aims to take them on.

The film’s director, Dennis Iliadis, could not have been more pleased with Pniowsky’s performance. Knowing that the quality of the film rested entirely on the performance of his cast, he was determined to find actresses that could emulate the mood of the film directly into its audience. When asked about Pniowsky’s performance, Iliadis had the following to say:

“Anna was phenomenal to work with. For such a young age, she’s an actress of incredible intelligence, sensibility and instinct. I have never worked with a young actor or actress who is so hard working, disciplined and focused. We had a very emotionally demanding and technically difficult shoot but in those very challenging conditions, Anna gave a great performance in a role of strenuous physicality and very complex and heightened emotions. Even in the most difficult situations, Anna was always prepared, always ready to go. She really made the rest of us up our game.”

After wrapping He’s Out There, Pniowsky gained a new appreciation for the horror film genre. Most mainstream horror films today have one goal and that is to terrify an audience. It is rare, however, to be able to act in a horror film with an underlying moral compass. Pniowsky was fortunate enough to be able to identify the deeper meanings that the story tells. Not only is it a story that highlights the unrelenting strength of a mother’s love for her children, it also does an excellent job of emphasizing a journey of personal growth in Pniowsky’s character. She found herself inspired by the presence of strong, female characters in the film and feels that young girls can learn a lot from Kayla’s will and determination to survive. She loved seeing strong female characters taking charge and fighting hard for what they believe in. It is a message that women of all ages can carry with them beyond the film and into their own personal lives and Pniowsky was honored to be able to play a role in helping foster that movement.

Actor Jeff Parazzo’s Artistic Authenticity

While Jeff Parazzo first made his professional bones in children’s television, the ambitious young actor unfailingly projects a forceful dramatic presence. The Canadian-born Parazzo imbues each role with an impressive mix of skill and instinct, and whether it’s a soul-searching dramatic feature like The Waiting Room or the dark science fiction of powerful short film Celsius 486, Parazzo deftly creates convincing characterizations that unfailingly display a rich measure of nuance and emotion.

It’s a striking combination of deft technique and natural instinct that Parazzo realized was his vocation early in life

“I was always fascinated by films and found myself enjoying drama class way back when I was in school, “Parazzo said. “When I finished my studies it just felt natural to start taking professional workshops.”

Born and raised in Toronto, he has been acting for the better part of two decades and has a strong resume of professional training.

“I’ve continually trained in Canada and Southern California,” Parazzo said “I was fortunate to work with the acclaimed Canadian coach David Rottenberg in Toronto and, in Los Angeles, with Michelle Danner from the Larry Moss Studio, as well as the Edgemar Centre for the Arts in Santa Monica.”

Early in his career, Parazzo jumped right in with a recurring co-lead in a very popular, action packed series. “I’m best known for my work as Trent Mercer, the White Dino Thunder Ranger on the Hit kids TV show Power Rangers Dino Thunder,” Parazzo said. “I went on to do the critically acclaimed Canadian indie Late Fragment as well as many more TV and film credits over the years.”

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The ease with which Parazzo transitioned from the Power Rangers glossy, fantasy adventure into the eccentric, innovative Late Fragment significantly raised the actor’s professional profile and his subsequent, fast rising stack of credits is a testament to the both his talent and broad appeal.

“For The Waiting Room, I just got a call from my agent saying they were interested in meeting me.”  Parazzo said. “At the audition the lead actor and I just played around and improvised a bunch of different thing, and a few days later I was booked. It was so fun, I’ve always loved doing indie films. There’s a freedom that comes with working on an indie that’s hard to experience on bigger studio productions—I’ve got an indie heart, so working on these types of films, with creative filmmakers, is all I could ask for.”

Parazzo’s skills once again allowed him to craft a wholly believable performance.

“I worked with Jeff on The Waiting Room, which tells the story of a once successful actor, Jasmin, who struggles in his older age to find roles,” actor-director Jordan Barker said. “Jeff played the role of Teller, who has an endearing conversation with Jasmin and comforts him in his current situation, He was so focused on the material that it didn’t feel like acting at all—just another character existing.”

Next up for Parazzo was grim sci-fi thriller Celsius 486, set in a distant overpopulated future where a government mandated sterilization program targets males  arbitrarily deemed  undesirable.

Celsius 486 was demanding but creatively fulfilling because we were working on such a tight schedule,” Parazzo said. “Everything had to be shot over a 2 day period and, as the lead whose eyes you see the story through, I was basically in for every scene.”

Typically, Parazzo not only exceled but also enhanced the production.

“Celsius 486 is where I first worked with Jeff Parazzo,” writer-producer Christos Petsis said. “Jeff flourished in this role which was a very demanding character. It was amazing to see how real he made the role feel, adding a deep strength to the character that we had not seen on the page.”

Here, Petsis’ aptly summarizes the actor’s approach; a gift for creating a comprehensive dramatic presentation which Parazzo, who can currently be seen in Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut Molly’s Game starring Jessica Chastain, unfailingly achieves. It’s an essential quality for any onscreen portrayal—a subtle, particular brand of aesthetic sensitivity which Parazzo very consciously nurtures.

“I enjoy doing projects of all genres,” Parazzo said. “But I do seem to be drawn to roles that are offbeat and stylized, dealing with interesting themes, and characters that are slightly off center. I just want to continue to learn and communicate my work truthfully, authentically, while never forgetting that I am just one piece of the whole story telling puzzle.”

 

Canadian Actor Donald Heng Faces the Supernatural in SyFy’s ‘Ghost Wars’

Canadian actor Donald Heng followed a downright unorthodox route to break into the business, but it’s definitely working for him. The Vancouver-born Heng’s recurring role as Deputy Larry Foon on the new SyFy network fantasy/horror television series Ghost Wars encapsulates the Heng story, an offbeat, pan-professional mash-up of career choices that has placed him alongside some high profile stars.

“Quite frankly, I never felt I was attracted to acting for necessarily the right reasons,” Heng said. “I grew up admiring the police I saw portrayed in films and I wanted to be a police officer. I studied criminology in university. In the end, I figured being an actor would provide the positive aspects of being a cop without having to deal with the public pressure and boring administrative work.”

Born in Vancouver B.C., Heng had flirted with acting as a teenager, but after graduating high school and studying for a Bachelor of Arts Degree for Political Science and History at Simon Fraser University, he decided to obtain representation and study the craft in earnest.

“Despite that initial ambivalence, I fell in love with acting for all the right reasons. I acquired an agent and jumped in headfirst,” Heng said. “I studied acting with Jeb Beach for the next 5 years. And also worked with Matthew Harrison, Robin Nielsen and most recently, Andrew McElroy.”
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“Initially I just wanted to be on TV,” Heng said. “I can pinpoint the exact moment I decided I wanted to be an actor and that I was in it for the long run. My second class ever with Jeb Beach coincided with a deeply depressing moment in my life and Jeb helped me channel that energy into something I was able to illustrate through acting. I realized that I could take all the bad things I’d experienced in life and turn these into something good. Meryl Streep articulated it best as she remembered Carrie Fisher, ‘take your broken heart, and make it into art.’”

Heng swiftly parlayed that emotional breakthrough into a successful television career, with a small but memorable role in Disney’s T.V movie Girl Vs. Monster, a string of appearances on such series as Supernatural, Ransom, Arrow and, most recently, the elegantly terrifying Ghost Wars.

“This was a project that checked so many boxes on my list,” Heng said. “First off, I got to play a police officer which has always been a dream of mine. Secondly, I deeply respect the actors on this series. It was a wonderful experience to work with Vincent D’Onofrio [Full Metal Jacket, Netflix’s Daredevil], Meatloaf and Avan Jogia. I had some challenging experiences working on this as my character goes through some traumatic events in the series premiere. But it was a challenge that I welcomed and deeply appreciate the opportunity to have experienced it.”

His co-stars agree. “Donald was an absolute pleasure to work with,” Ghost Wars lead Avan Jogia said. “It’s so nice to act alongside someone who understands what each individual character brings to a scene and then, ultimately, the entire piece.”

Heng is also fully invested in his new role. “I am very excited about Ghost Wars,” Heng said. The horror/fantasy has experienced revitalization in recent years and demand for quality stories in the genre is at an all-time high. New shows have to meet that demand by integrating a very human story into the horror and develop a show that can stand on its own and be mainstream without just catering to a niche market. Remove the ‘creepy factor,’ and there’s still a very human story beneath it. By attaching that human component, it becomes easier to think about the character’s relationships and also about what might be at stake because of that ghostly entity.”

Heng stands at the cusp, savoring a rich, loaded professional moment in a fast moving career that has already come far and is poised to reach full bloom

“I just want to make good movies and TV,” Heng said. “And I want to do it for the same reasons that I fell in love with acting—I want to continue to push that goal of consolidating all the bad that is in my life and make it into something beautiful.”

Donald Heng will next appear as a guest star on episode 2 of the 4th season of The Flash airing on the CW, Tues., Oct.17th.

CREATING A STATE OF THE ART LOOK FOR FLATLINERS

At the end of this month (September 29th in the US) the Cross Creek Pictures/Columbia Pictures distributed drama/horror/sci-fi film Flatliners will open worldwide. Why does Hollywood choose to remake such a film (the original Oscar nominated production was released in 1990)? There are numerous reasons but one of the most prominent is that the ability to tell the story has become better, at least in certain genres; that’s code for technology. There’s no denying that there have always been great artists and professionals creating films but technological advances make the unbelievable more believable. As someone who works in this field as a VFX Coordinator, Jacquelyn Racine is always working with the latest developments. The soon to be released remake of the 1990’s film Flatliners (starring Ellen Page, Diego Luna, and star of the original 90’s film Kiefer Sutherland) has a remarkable look thanks to the work of Racine and her team at Spin VFX. Movie audiences have become savvy in regards to VFX, leaving the professionals who create them with the task of creating exceptional visuals that are somewhat grounded in reality. This is especially challenging within the story of Flatliners with its otherworldly settings. The mediator at the heart of this is Jacquelyn Racine.

Spin VFX is a large-scale visual effects studio in Toronto. One of the top three companies which most L.A. based networks outsource their work to, it has over 100 employees working on up to/over 20 projects at a time. As a VFX Coordinator at Spin VFX, Jacquelyn oversaw three groups of artists, assessing strengths and assigning work according to deadlines. Perhaps more than any other professional around her, the human aspect was paramount. The director’s vision needed to be communicated clearly and manifested by those whose individual skill set best met the need. The very nature of the art being created for the film necessitated a two-way street in communication with Jacquelyn as the roundabout.

The look of the film is not the only difference from the original. The new production has a markedly more supernatural turn on the idea of the afterlife that was investigated in the 90’s story. Technological advancements in cinema have made this a much more viable course. When each of the characters in the film go into their ‘flatline’, they enter an alternate universe with magical components. These paranormal experiences follow them back to reality and haunt them in everyday life. The students push themselves so close to the limits of human life that they almost kill themselves to chase a high of the unusual alternate reality. The 2017 film uses the idea of the original as more of a starting point. The work of Spin VFX empowered the filmmakers to take the idea much further than before. It is meant to be a separate film even though it’s a remake. The characters are different and it takes place in modern day, meaning that the same initial aspects remain the same but the overall look can change and has given the story a different bent.

While the flatline experiences were hinted at in the 90’s film, VFX allows them to be deeply explored and displayed in this new version. In this rendition of Flatliners, the visual effects play an integral role, essentially becoming another character within the film as they help direct the plot. A deliberate vagueness makes it hard to differentiate between reality and the ‘flatline’ in a number of scenes. The result of this is that the audience becomes somewhat disoriented in a similar way to the characters in the film. Jacquelyn worked with her team and the filmmakers to develop a look for each of the characters’ ‘flatline’ world based on their history. Some are meant to be ethereal and beautiful while others are enhanced versions of reality. The VFX in the film adds a visual spectacle to a unique story that would otherwise be quite sad.

The work of Racine and her team at Spin VFX is not as simple as just sitting down at a monitor and using software and…Voila, everything looks amazing! From the very beginning, the producers and directors of a film like Flatliners understand the visual needs of their story are great. Racine and Spin VFX were heavily involved in the previsualization meetings that took place before shooting. This included creating mock-ups of some of the more complicated sequences. They created a blocking for the actors and production team members to use on set for complex camera movement scenes (often involving the use of a techno dolly). Bringing a simplified video example on set can help the director understand and perhaps alter the way they choose to shoot a given scene. Jacquelyn was in charge of overseeing all the work being brought on set and ensuring it was completed on time and on schedule. She explains, “The animation team at Spin VFX, with my management and the VFX Supervisor’s direction, created previsualization videos to give guidance to the team on set. It included a bird’s eye view and camera view of the set, actors, and equipment on location. We used software called ‘Maya’ to create a fully computer generated version of what they were seeing in real life. It demonstrated where the camera would need to be placed to perform the required camera movement. It also included each set piece placed to scale (based on location measurements), so it was a realistic depiction of the production. The video was played for the director and DP to determine whether their vision could be achieved in the space or not. We discovered that the actors would need to be relocated since the camera would interact with them. This was something we wanted to avoid, so we rearranged the placement of the elements in the video and demonstrated the new version to the director. This ensured that when they got on set to shoot the sequence it was clear what needed to be done, and no time was wasted.”

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Spin VFX’s Wes Sewell professes, “It was my distinct pleasure to work with Jacquelyn on the feature film Flatliners. We worked closely together at Spin VFX with the animation, effects, and tracking departments. With Jacquelyn’s oversight, we developed a previsualization system for the film. Her excellent and precise management of these teams of artists made it possible to deliver the on-set materials within a tight schedule. It’s not only her knowledge and abilities, it’s that I know I can trust her to keep everything moving. It always gives me comfort to know she’s there. Every success is built on the talent of those involved but also on their commitment and reliability; Jacquelyn is a master of all these.”

SIMEON TAOLE DELIVERS A COMPLEX SNAPSHOT OF A LIFE IN “EVERYTHING CHANGES”

Simeon Taole believes in the power of photographs. As an actor that might seem both a redundant and ironic statement. His performance in the film “Everything Changes” immediately squelches this confusion. The film and Taole’s performance is nothing short of extraordinary. In many ways it exemplifies great storytelling. Humor, intoxicating passion, tears, and a completely unexpected ending (two of them in fact) are all communicated by both the emotional cinematography and the inspired performances of Simeon and his only costar in the film, Virginia Leigh. As the couple experiencing a first date, these two actors generate a chemistry that permeates the air. Through discussions and coy confessions about their lives and interests we are romance-inspired voyeurs who are nourished by their budding romance. As the action progresses we are witness once again to the fact that life is rarely if ever as carefree as we would hope. The repartee, the longing silence, the honesty of the two characters in this film is so convincing that we want to believe that Leigh an Taole are actually a couple. This very modern tale is a photograph of the complications of romance in this world.

It’s not serendipitous that Simeon’s character in the film is so interested in photography. The idea that a photograph displays and is simultaneously withholding in the entirety of information is a central theme to the story. Calvin’s fixation of photography is a metaphor for his desire to discover and understand himself and the world around him, and perhaps to make it a more beautiful place from his vantage point. We almost feel that if he “frames” the moments in his life correctly, he will be able to relax with them. Calvin is a character who is looking for meaning in his life. He has regrets and hopes he can rewrite his future and change things; which he hopes to begin by forging a connection with Naomi. Calvin is motivated by his desire to capture something with her and ultimately bring meaning to his life. Somewhat naively, he feels confident that he can do this. The naiveté of this is not apparent until the end of the film. Calvin is a nostalgic person and photographer who laments the fact that photographs don’t tell stories with real meaning, at least, not like they used to in Life magazine. In the end, he’s presented with a photograph that has significant meaning for them both and changes everything.

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With deep insight and information of all aspects and characters of this film, Simeon was aware of the story from many points of view and given the time to deeply understand Calvin, which resulted in the compelling and honest performance seen in “Everything Changes.” Taole states, “I had a very detailed history for both characters in the film. It was great to think about what it is that motivates a character at a granular level. I spent time thinking about what it is that’s complicated about him; the dichotomies that exist in all of us. For example, how we can show love and yet also cause pain. How no one is fully good or bad but alternates between the two. Or sometimes, even simultaneously conveys both. I think for me it’s about taking this rich history and applying the level of detailed information to other roles where I wouldn’t necessarily have all that information at the beginning.”

One of the aspects of the film that makes it so gripping and real is the lack of singularity in its approach. Moments of lighthearted playful romance are mixed with tension and even fear. Real life can go from joy to tragedy in an instant and the film does not deny or shy away from this reality. A large reason why this works so well is the measured approach Simeon uses in his performance. He takes great care to not be overly broad with the comedic moments lest the audience not feel the truth of the more dramatic ones. Most of the actor’s work has been in dramas but he notes that this has given him a conservative approach to levity which plays out well in this film.

There’s no denying that a great deal of the heart in “Everything Changes” comes from the intoxicating chemistry between the two (and only) cast members. While it might be expected that a cast so small would make the viewer perhaps long for other characters but Calvin and Naomi (played by Virginia Leigh) go through a myriad of emotional evolutions that it’s impossible to remove one’s focus from them. Taole remarks, “I do feel a cast of only two does create a sense of intimacy in the film that would not necessarily be there with a larger cast. We both had to be fully engaged. Our chemistry was important because we carry the film and this really works for this story. I don’t think it affected the way I prepared for the role but it may have meant we had less downtime during the shoot because we were in every scene.” Leigh concedes, “Simeon and I didn’t really know each other before this film but I found immediate chemistry with him and this showed on screen. We had a warm, funny connection that engaged the audience and led to an ending that was shocking after such a strong build. Our natural bond was a key strength of Simeon who can read actors and find the paths to organic connection off which the audience can feed. Of course, he was the central leader to this film, and his performance was key to the ensuing success. Simeon carries this film in his performance as Calvin. He brings the audience into the over-compensating, overly- confident young man who one cannot help but root for.”

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“Everything Changes” has been an immense hit of the film festival circuit with screenings at: at 2016 San Francisco Black Film Festival, 2016 Hollywood Glam Gala, 2016 Las Vegas Lift-Off Festival, 2015 Toronto International Shorts Film Festival, the 2016 North York Arts Anniversary and Cultural Hotspot Closing Party, and a win for “Best Short Film” at the 2016 San Diego Black Film Festival. As Calvin, Simeon Taole is a proxy for the audience. He encourages us to dig to find meaning and connection with those around us. What reveals can be both beautiful and shocking, an idea delivered with impact via Simeon’s incredible performance.

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YOUNG ACTRESS JAEDA LEBLANC IS ACTING WITH SOME OF THE BIGGEST NAMES IN HOLLYWOOD

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Jaeda LeBlanc may be the best kind of actor. She delivers powerful performances which are emotionally moving yet young enough that she is completely unaffected when it comes to the incredible fame and notoriety of those she works with. This powerful professional cocktail results in an individual focused on doing her best and disinterested in any vocational or social politics involved. As proof, Jaeda is too young to watch the most popular TV program in the world “Game of Thrones” …that will make more sense as you keep reading. LeBlanc is a young actor in age but her performances certainly belie this fact. She’s appeared in comedy kid shows (Odd Squad), acclaimed medical dramas (Saving Hope), even crime dramas (Real Detective), but in the upcoming The Death and Life of John F. Donovan she is set to receive the kind of notoriety that follows the marquee names she appears with in the film. LeBlanc appears in the film alongside names such as: Kit Harington (GOT’s Jon Snow), Natalie Portman, Kathy Bates, Susan Sarandon, and a host of other accomplished professionals. The core of the film is about fame, how we perceive those who have it and how it affects their lives. While this young Canadian actress has experienced accolades in her home country, “The Death and Life of John F. Donovan” prepares to project her into the arena of international fame. In discussing the film and her involvement, we get a glimpse into Jaeda’s view of fame and how it correlates to the industry and her involvement.Screen Shot 2017-09-18 at 9.19.19 PM

So many iconic names in the field of film give gravitas to this story’s exploration of fame; how it affects those who possess it as well as colors the vision of those who witness it. It appears that everyone in society finds the idea of fame appealing. In a culture which lists “social media influencer” as a valid job title there can be little doubt that the pursuit of fame is air to many in the world. The Death and Life of John F. Donovan challenges perception and reality. A decade after the death of an American TV star, a young actor reminisces on the written communication he shared with him as well as the impact those letters had on both their lives. American movie star (Kit Harington in the lead role) finds his correspondence with an 11-year-old actor exposed, prompting assumptions that begin to destroy his life and career. Jaeda also appears as a young fan of Donovan’s in the film. The main character is encouraged to interact with her by his manager Barbara Haggermaker (played by Kathy Bates) as a means of creating positive press.Screen Shot 2017-09-18 at 9.19.42 PM

It’s doubtless that millions of GOT fans are envious of LeBlanc’s interaction with Harington but the fantasy show’s more adult themes prohibit Jaeda’s parent from allowing her to view it, leaving her to see Kit as more of a coworker and star of the soon to be released film rather than the dashing bastard heir to the throne. The most impressive individual in Jaeda’s assessment was the film’s director Xavier Holland who helped her focus the approach for her role in the film. Holland comments, “When I saw Jaeda’s audition tape I was very impressed by this little girl’s acting ability. I also started acting at a very young age so when I saw Jaeda, she immediately reminded me of myself at an earlier age. Seeing her on the screen, I was immediately drawn to her character because she has that special kind of connection with the camera and the audience. Jaeda has a strong artistic ability. It allows you to see the picture of the character that she is painting, otherwise I don’t think she would be able to display such a strong image of what she wants her character to be. The camera loves Jaeda! She has an amazing stage presence. Like most artists, Jaeda knows how to create emotions but what impressed me the most were the little moments when she was not talking, just before crying; she was just quiet, still, and sad, but yet she was still making us feel something. That is what I love the most in an actor. Jaeda is an extremely talented young artist and I hope she knows that”.

Teen Choice Award

LeBlanc did her due diligence preparing for the role just as she would any other. Holland’s appraisal of her performance is the epitome of the idea of preparation meeting opportunity. The chance to be in such a major film is exciting for the young actress but even more so is the opportunity to watch so many accomplished actors on set and witness their method and approach towards their characters and scenes. Jaeda’s humility is admirable as she concedes that, as a young actress there are many opportunities ahead to learn and she makes a point to be astute and aware as they present themselves. Names like Bates, Portman, and Sarandon are desirable tutors for a young actress such as LeBlanc. With such exciting circumstances, one would expect the young actress’s favorite moment of this project to be one of heartfelt advice from any of these acclaimed veterans of film…yet, Jaeda’s most memorable moment is seen through the eyes of her own mother. Jaeda recalls, “Yes, there are a lot of famous actors in this movie and I was excited to play along with them so I could study their ways of working and see how I could improve my own skills by learning from them. Now, after working with them I realize that I am like them in the sense that I have the same work ethic. So yes, working with big names is definitely a bonus in this choice of career. But…my favorite moment was when I went to get breakfast. I was in the lineup with my mom when she turned she saw a lady behind her. She smiled at her, then she looked back because that person looked so familiar. My mom’s face started to change at that moment as she realized that it was Kathy Bates. She turned to her and nervously said ‘hello’ to Kathy. I had to take over because my mom looked like she was going to pass out. lol. I said hello to Kathy and just let her know that my mom was acting a little weird because she liked her so much. Kathy was very nice about it. When I think about it, I guess I learned two lessons about being an accomplished actor on this film: how to perform well and how to be gracious to fans. This was a very sweet moment that I still remember fondly.”