Category Archives: Canadian Talent

PACKING A PUNCH ON SCREEN WITH ALYSSA VENIECE

Female action heroes; yes, the time has officially arrived. Between Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman and Charlize Theron in Atomic Blonde, the age of lead action female star is upon us. There have doubtlessly been those who have preceded them but these two hit films prove that women in these roles are not only equal to their male counterparts but are currently exceeding them in popularity (to say nothing of revenue generating). Assuredly, a host of productions which offer these female alpha types and actress Alyssa Veniece is ready. She’s not just interested in pursuing these types of opportunities, they are her goal. She espouses her love of action films, especially the ones in which the females overcome emotional weaknesses and matters of the heart. As with the aforementioned actions stars, Veniece possesses not only the aesthetic beauty of a lead actress but also the athleticism which is a necessity. It’s the reason that the filmmakers of “My Ex-Ex” cast her in the role of Tina Phung for the film.

In contrast to actresses who prepare a part once they are cast, Alyssa had literally been training for years when she was serendipitously offered the role of Tina. She had been working out at Tommy Chang’s Black Belt World Taekwondo school for a year and a half prior to being offered the role and training in kickboxing and muay thai for seven years before that. Heeding her father’s advice that “success happens when preparation meets opportunity” Veniece has always been driven to make the best of use of time varying her skill set. “My Ex-Ex” was her first project as a stunt actress and first opportunity to play a character who spoke and could also use her fight technique. Tina Phung is fearless and brimming with self-confidence. Reinforcing her father’s words, her work on this film allowed Alyssa to experience what it was like to work as a professional using all the skills she’d developed specifically to land jobs in entertainment, which includes years of acting training. Mirroring the mental state of her character, the experience gave Veniece the confidence to know that she was on the right path and capable of achieving her dreams.

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“My Ex-Ex” is not the typical vehicle for an action role. It’s the tale of a recently-jilted woman (Mary) who has to decide whether to take back the man who dumped her or return to her college boyfriend. When Mary’s boyfriend Ted invites her out to a fancy restaurant she’s convinced he’s going to pop the question but instead of getting hitched, Mary gets dumped. To cheer her up, Mary’s friends take her to see a psychic who casts a spell to reconnect Mary with her ex-boyfriend. The only problem is that Mary didn’t say which one. She bumps into her college boyfriend Patrick, and despite feeling he’s completely wrong for her, she slowly falls for him again. Ted soon realizes his mistake and wants Mary back. Mary is torn between her two exes: Mr. Right on paper, and Mr. Right for her.

Alyssa appears as Tina Phung; a young, fearless, actress and skilled fighter. She is the contrast to the main character when they are both auditioning for a role, however he was not so skilled and definitely more nervous. In one of the most hilarious scenes of the film, these two characters audition for a casting director who asks for a glimpse of the character’s ninja skills. Phung rips off her Adidas tearaways and begins her (actual) fight routine: a mix of punches, spin kicks, and roundhouses. The casting director praises her and then requests the other auditionee to perform the same, which is less than extraordinary. The entire group watches him in disbelief and, in the end, the director awards Tina Phung the role, which she happily accepts while still popping her bubble gum.

Alyssa describes the charismatic Tina Phung as being part herself and part the self she aspires to become. Veniece relates, “I created Tina to be a girl who takes every moment as it comes, every challenge as it comes. She was super confident, uncomplicated, and self-assured in her talents and capabilities. I believed she came from a close-knit family who supported her and had faith that she was a star, so when she entered the audition rooms she already believed she would come out the winner. I’d describe her as a totally un-phased, free-spirit with pretty bad ass martial arts skills. Tina and I are alike in our fearlessness and sense of adventure. We like to push our boundaries and challenge ourselves without worrying about who wants to take our spot. I’d say our style is different. She’s pretty bubbly and a bit unaware of her surroundings, almost in her own happy bubble. Me on the other hand, I’m always aware of who is around me and the vibes they give off. I probably wouldn’t be the one obnoxiously popping my bubble gum in an audition room. Her confidence is quite loudly displayed, and mine is simply internal.”

There’s no danger of Alyssa being a one trick pony/action film based actor. Veniece got her start early on as a bikini model and purposely avoided music video work after she had been cast one too many times as the “hot girl.” These days she has numerous Hollywood blockbusters, commercials, and stunt actor roles to her credits. She readily admits that it’s like a secret hidden power when she is sized up as “just another pretty face” and then demonstrates her agility and fighting skills. She reveals, “It’s show business and you have to let people know all the abilities you bring to the table. If you’ve got it, flaunt it. When I first enrolled at Black Belt World taekwondo school, the owner took note of my skills and was dong fight coordination on the Pacific Rim production filming in Toronto. At the time I had no stunt demo reel, nothing to show for my technique, only modelling photos. He brought me to the set to meet the stunt coordinator, who took one look at the shots and said “Well, she knows how to wear a bikini.” You can imagine my disdain. I never let that happen again.”

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So what’s the most unexpected secret weapon in her arsenal that she exhibited on “My Ex-Ex”? Veniece declares without hesitation, “I can rip off my tear-away pants like any pro now. It’s pretty impressive.”

YOU CAN’T TAKE YOUR EYES OFF ALSION ARAYA IN THE UNSEEN

Faust has been the inspiration for countless films about those who make a pact with the devil to get exactly what they want but end up making a great sacrifice for their gains. There’s always a loophole “gotcha” moment. While this has nothing to do with the theme of the movie The Unseen it might be found in the story of one of the film’s stars Alison Araya. If the actress were to design an ideal situation for herself, it would be The Unseen. While Araya has made numerous appearances in blockbuster films like X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Watchmen (and many others), this was her first major role. Alison’s portrayal of the fearless Moll who is involved in a same sex relationship drew great praise from critics. She even got to act opposite one of her adolescent crushes (Aden Young as Bob Langmore) in one of the film’s most climactic and prominent scenes. Everything was perfect except…wait for the twist…The Unseen is an action/sci-fi/horror story and Araya is one of the most squeamish individuals on the planet. A self-described chicken who can’t make it through the horror film trailers at a movie theater, the actress found herself in a perfect environment save the very premise of the film. With no way out of it and too much to lose by passing on The Unseen, Araya bit the bullet and accepted the role as Moll. Alison and the entire audience benefitted from this decision. The film itself was a resounding hit whose recognitions include: two Canadian Screen Awards nominations, eight Leo Awards nominations, selection of the Molins de Rei Horror Film Festival and Vancouver Film Critics Circle, and wins at the Other Worlds Austion SciFi Film Festival, Molins de Rei Horror Film Festival, and others.Screen Shot 2017-07-03 at 3.31.23 PM

While The Unseen is based on the lore of The Invisible Man, it’s a very different and unique take. Writer/director Geoff Redknap didn’t want to update the already familiar story with new actors and VFX; he wanted to create an entirely different focus. The Unseen dissects the idea of how this fantastic situation would affect the family of the person in this very odd circumstance. The inclusion of an ex-spouse, children, extended family members, etc. is similar to looking at a 3-D picture where your eyes cross and present a totally new subject…one which was previously invisible. The character Moll is the partner of Darlene, ex-wife of Bob who has literally disappeared. She is stepmother to Eva, Bob and Darlene’s daughter and has become fiercely protective of her new family, particularly when it comes to Bob. The actress portraying Moll would need to be both fierce and tender. Redknap stipulates, “Alison stood out during the audition process. She was fierce but what captured our attention was the vulnerability she bought to the role. She could have easily played a mere foil to her step-daughter but instead Alison’s multi-layered performance brought a greater depth to her own and the other actors’ performances. Alison was not afraid to go head to head with Aden Young and they created one of the most climactic scenes in the film. We knew we ‘got it’ when the air felt like it was buzzing with the electricity of the performance Aden and Alison had just given.” Producer Katie Weekly confirms, “It was important to find an actress who could carry the gravitas of Moll. We were looking for a dynamic and strong actress who could also play the vulnerability of the character. Alison bought nuance and passion to the role and really made it her own. A different actress might have played Moll as ‘the bad guy’ but Alison brought such life to the character that her transition from the beginning to end of the movie was much more satisfying.”

Moll could have been presented in a variety of ways; it was this fiercely loyal woman who protects her family and her partner that attracted Alison to the role. Moll is deeply in love with Darlene (played by Camille Sullivan) and has completely bonded with and come to love Darlene’s daughter Eva (played by Julia Sarah Stone) from Darlene’s previous relationship with Bob as her own. Being the woman in Darlene’s life, Moll has a chip on her shoulder when it comes to Bob. A drifter and absent father, Moll has seen firsthand the pain Bob has caused and will stop at nothing to protect the family she calls her own. Moll is stunned when she discovers that Bob is back in town and Eva is missing. Suspicious of Bob and the company he keeps, she pursues the truth and the two. When Moll is finally let in on the family secret, she is able to make peace with the relationship Bob and Darlene will always share and relaxes with her place in Darlene’s life knowing there are no secrets. The story is family drama with a very substantial secret ingredient.

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In one of the film’s most intense scenes, Alison was called upon to do something that has been common place for her in numerous productions, exhibit the signs of seeing something that wasn’t there; which is both literal and figurative when you are in a movie about an invisible man. She recalls her process noting, “I remember struggling with that particular moment in the film, when I had to react to seeing something shocking and new to me. I remember trying to figure it out intellectually and I wasn’t getting anywhere. Then I just closed my eyes and visualized what was in front of me. Immediately my body reacted and I understood on a visceral level what was real for me. I love moments like that because we don’t always have it worked out in advance. Some moments stump me and they challenge me to look deeper into my tool belt or think outside of the box. There is no one path to the truth of the moment, there are infinite paths it’s a matter of knowing which one to follow on any given day.” One thing Araya wasn’t confused about was working with her co-star Aden Young. She admits, “Working with Aden was a career highlight for me! I was a huge fan growing up in Australia; Aden has always been on my radar. I had a huge crush on him after watching “Black Robe” and when I saw his name on the cast list, I could hardly believe it. Aden was so generous and really invited me to get inside the ring with him and go for it…and we did! It was exhilarating and scary and live. It was incredibly fulfilling and I hope to have many more moments on set just like that. I held it together and kept it very professional but there was a younger version of me inside that was going crazy with excitement.”

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The Unseen as a film is contradictory; not in the sense that it doesn’t line up in terms of story or production but rather that this movie about the unseen is made so believable by what is seen. It’s not overuse of VFX or trickery that makes it compelling, it’s the performances of Alison and her cast that pull us into believing this very fantastic situation is as real as any discomfort a non-nuclear family experiences. The filmmakers ask us as the audience to buy into quite a bit and it’s the performances onscreen that make it much easier to be at ease with and suspend our view of reality. What is seen in The Unseen looks very good.

SIMULACRUM’S ENIGMATIC SARAH FAY

Sarah Fay has always enjoyed the inner game of acting. This idea that only the actor (and the director) truly know the character, rather than laying everything out for the audience in an easily digestible manner; it’s something that has shaped many of her roles. For someone of artistic temperament, the less obvious choices make for a more engaging experience, on the part of the viewer. This is a premise that Fay has always admired whether she is an audience member or a participant in the story. She notes that her early experience acting in the film Simulacrum (which received the Norman Jewison Filmmaker Award) was instrumental in her appreciation of the subtleties possible in character presentation. A sociological sci-fi tale, Simulacrum presents many of the ways in which technology affects our culture and relationships. Although set in an alternate reality, many of the ideas presented more than fifteen years ago, are coming of age in modern society. While the overall theme questions mankind’s use of biotechnology, Fay’s stand out role gives a glimpse into the complexity that she would bring to following productions.

In a very clever manner, Simulacrum presents the possibilities of our own world, by presenting the events in one, which we feel could not exist. Asking the audience to suspend their sense of reality, immediately disarms them into accepting any possibilities. The story takes place in a pre-apocalyptic Soviet world. Dallas is a young technician who has a clone (common place in this futuristic society) who seeks her assistance. The clone needs her to help with a government test because the two share the same DNA. What unfolds is a story of deceit, governmental constriction/abuse which eventually sees Dallas fleeing for her freedom. At the heart of the story is the question “What is identity? What is self?”, and the answer is not easily defined for the viewer.

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Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the film is that the lines between right and wrong are not presented in a clearly defined manner. The living embodiment of this, in the film, is Sarah’s character who, in congruent fashion, is known only as “Taxi Driver”. This only enhances the mystery and mystique of this pivotal character in Dallas’s search for truth and resolution. Fay so convincingly plays the unknown intentions of the character, who is both taxi driver and either governmental agent or agent of freedom, that viewers of the film differ in their conclusion of her motives. Sarah remarks, “An actor must always make clear, defined choices within themselves. I knew who I was and why, as the Taxi Driver and that was decided with the Director and in my own creative discovery. I don’t see a duplicitous character as undefined. Both types of characters have an alliance to themselves. A good wholesome character has an alliance to themselves and their belief in good, truth, and love. They act with those motivations. An evil character has less honorable motivations but is still true to themselves. They may not have a moral compass but they will defend their actions. A duplicitous character will flow with the wind but still remain true to their own survival and their self- alliance. Both the audience and society like to label. I think part of the joy of acting, for me, is discovering the true gray area of human existence, in different circumstances. The more layers you have as a character, the more real you are, the less you fully fit into a label of completely one way or another. Either way a character must have consistency to be connected to and duplicitous characters have that too.”

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A role like this is intriguing for any actor, but can only be presented as such when the director also sees the potential for the role. Sarah worked extensively with Director Anita Doran to present this character in terms of dialogue and physicality to create the mystery that made her so fascinating. Doran saw a quality in Fay from the very beginning and notes, “I hired Sarah for the film because I saw a lot of stand-out qualities in her audition. She took great care to understand her character with a depth that many others would miss. Sarah was precise and concentrated, revealing a dedication to craft that has only grown since this early state. Once on the set, she was generous with her creativity and a consummate professional. I’ve rarely seen an actor throw themselves so deeply into a role. She had immense commitment and made it her responsibility to add as much as she could to the overall quality of the film, and I think the end product is exponentially better thanks to her presence.” Fay confirms that this is her normal approach. Her intense discipline and dedication has served her well since this early experience. Contrary to being restricting or overwhelming, she finds this intensity frees her in roles and allows for less thinking and more feeling. These days, as an LA resident she finds that this mindset is expected in an entertainment centered city. Sarah states, “I’m pretty obsessive and singular in my focus and strive for success, but it makes me happy. To be in L.A. doing this, I am living my dream. In terms of the others in my life, everyone knows if I have an audition…I’m going to need to cancel with them. That’s part of the thing I love about living in LA. It’s an actor and industry town. People understand and we are all here to succeed, so they get it. All the people in my life get it. In Toronto, I experienced a little more frustration and eye rolling. I’d hear, ‘No really, when are you going to give it up and find something stable?” a lot more. That just doesn’t happen in LA. The key to life is finding a place where you fit in and I feel like I’ve found it here.  I am working on filming ‘CON’, a great film that is also going to be a series, with Oscar nominated producer Joseph Wesley Adams and I just got a couple new roles I am overjoyed about. When you work towards a goal your entire life and people see it as a positive rather than negative, it makes you feel that you finally fit in. Taking chances like I took in Simulacrum were part of the journey that got me here.”

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.

Photographer Jennifer Roberts creates visual masterpieces for ‘The Globe and Mail’

From the time Jennifer Roberts was a child, she was always artistic. Originally from the small town of Port Hope, Ontario, she would travel to Toronto with her parents to visit art galleries and cultural events. Even then, at a young age, she was captivated, and understood the power that it was to create something beautiful. It was only natural for her to want to do the same, and that is when she found her way to photography. Now, she is an internationally celebrated photographer.

Roberts is a renowned editorial photographer who specializes in portraiture and documentary stories, and also does work for commercial clients. Her documentary style works well for newspapers while my more produced portraiture work fits in magazines. She truly loves what she does, and everyone she works with impressed with her talents.

“I’ve commissioned Jennifer on various shoots for Maclean’s magazine over the last two years. She is an outstanding photographer and my go-to for any high-profile portrait or reportage assignments. I fully trust her professionalism and ability to give the magazine what it needs on every shoot we give her,” said Sarah Palmer, Contributing Photo Editor Maclean’s Magazine.

In addition to Maclean’s, Roberts has shown not only Canada, but the world what she is capable of with her work in The Wall Street Journal, as well as Canadian Business, MoneySense Magazine, and Getty, including her work for the 2016 International Film Festival, photographing Oscar-nominated actors. Her success has been outstanding, and she believes her career truly began when she started working for The Globe and Mail back in 2008.

“Working with one of Canada’s largest newspapers is exciting. Some of my favourite Canadian photographers are regular contributors to The Globe so it feels great to be in such fantastic company. The Globe photo editors provide a helpful amount of direction so I know what type of photography they need for their story. However, they also leave lots of room for the photographer to be creative and bring their story telling abilities to the shoots. Shoots for The Globe are often for really interesting national and international stories that I’m very proud to work on,” said Roberts.

Initially, Roberts was hired by The Globe and Mail for a four-month summer contract. Before this, she shot a documentary photo project about refugees in Myanmar living in Thailand, which highly impressed the newspaper, and they wanted her to join their team. She relocated to Vancouver, British Columbia for the job. When she completed my contract, she moved back to Toronto, but the newspaper didn’t want to let her go, and kept her very busy with freelance work. She has been shooting for them ever since.

“I feel lucky that even when my placement was over I was given regular assignments with The Globe. Being a regular contributor is very exciting as it leads to so many diverse projects. The Globe work has allowed me to shoot a variety of celebrities, to shoot major news events, to shoot beautiful interiors, amazing food and restaurants and meet so many different people for portrait shoots. Working as an editorial photographer means every day is different. I feel like I have the best job in the world,” she said. “Working as a freelance photographer for The Globe and Mail is always interesting. I started my career there doing a lot of news stories but I now tend to shoot more food, lifestyle and portrait work. I make decisions about how to frame and light things based on what the story is and conceptually what makes the most sense. It’s important to always be true to the story you’re telling. Sometimes what makes the best picture isn’t the best way of telling the story and telling a true story is always the most important,” she described.

Since that time, Roberts has done a variety or large and important projects for the paper, where her photography was essential to the project. She did a large portrait of “Project of Women” during the March on Washington, in Washington DC. on January 21, 2017, something that she considers the highlight of her career. It started as an Instagram story but because the portraits were so successful they ended up running on A1 (the cover) of the newspaper and as a massive two-page spread in the interior of the paper.

“It was an amazing time to be in Washington and meeting and photographing all the women out demonstrating was so powerful,” said Roberts.

Roberts has done many more projects for the paper. She recently shot celebrities like -Recent Actress Kate Mara, Actor Stephan James, and Novelist Lawrence Hill, known for The Book of Negroes. She regularly shoots many features, including “My Favourite Room” for the Style Section, as well as business portraits, portraits for the news section, and a weekly shoot for restaurant reviews for the Saturday Edition, the largest edition of the paper.

“I enjoy the pace of this work and the process of being able to conceptualize and light the scenes. I like how working with The Globe is always different and always interesting. One day I might be shooting a story for the Style section about a beautiful living room and the next day it might be a CEO in their office. I like how every day and every shoot is a new chance to be creative and think of innovative and true ways to best tell a story,” said Roberts.

Readers of The Globe and Mail can keep an eye out for the visual masterpieces that are Roberts’ photos.

 

Makeup artist Jen Tioseco works with singer Dani LeRose on new music video

Jen Tioseco is a strong and passionate individual, and this has always translated into her work. From the time she was just eleven years old, growing up in North Vancouver, British Columbia, she always had a job. She started with a paper route, then became a cashier, and then a retail associate. She then decided life wasn’t about simply working, it was about doing what you love. That is when she became a makeup artist. It is her drive and determination that has gotten her to where she is today, as an internationally successful makeup artist, and nothing will ever stop her from continuing to live her dream. For Tioseco, anything is possible, and if you can dream it, you can do it.

Tioseco is truly extraordinary at what she does. She enhances natural beauty, and takes her clients favorite features and brightens them in a way where they still feel done up, but also like themselves. That is no easy task. In a world full of young girls making makeup tutorials on YouTube and Instagram, Tioseco aims to show the world that it doesn’t have to be that challenging to feel beautiful

“I would say my style is ‘Glam Chic’. With the social media makeup artist being so trendy right now, girls have forgotten that we don’t need to wear ten layers of makeup,” she said.

Tioseco manages to do just that when working on two recent music videos for alternative-pop singer Dani LeRose. She worked with LeRose’s ideas and then looped in with the stylist to ensure everything tied together in the end. Tioseco’s input was vital to the videos’ success. Given her background in fashion, she was actually able to make suggestions to the stylist that she ended up incorporating into the videos.  These little additions, whether it was a scarf or a jacket, really helped the makeup pop.

“Dani has such trust in me as an artist. She was able to convey what she wanted for each look, knowing I could execute each one with ease.  She was also very open to color on the lips and eyes, so I had a blast playing with her face,” said Tioseco.

Tioseco had worked on LeRose previously for a concert. The singer absolutely loved her makeup and asked Tioseco to come on board for her videos from that point forward, refusing to work with anyone else. LeRose recognized Tioseco was the best instantly, and since that time, the two have worked on two music videos, the first of which, Love U More premiered in November of last year.

“There were scenes in Love U More where Dani needed to appear as though she was crying or ‘worn out’. As Dani was not able to cry on que, I was able to use makeup to create the illusion she had.  It really set the mood for the different scenes,” Tioseco described.

The Love U More video was featured on Much Music’s emerging new artist category after its release. After Tioseco met LeRose and Director Chad Rook, she fell in love with their concept for the shoot. The video is shot in the middle of a sand dune with a drone filming from above, a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the makeup artist.

“It was amazing, not only is Dani beautiful and talented, Chad Rook the director was incredible.  Chad is actually an actor as well, he can be seen as one of the top billed cast members in the upcoming Planet of the Apes.  His experience as an actor made the attention to detail in each video phenomenal.  From a simple shot beside a radiator to an explosively emotional fight in a hotel room, you are hooked from beginning to end of each video,” said Tioseco.

The second video, I’ve Told Lies, has been an instant success since its premiere earlier this month, with lots of media attention and tens of thousands of views. It was shot in a historic motel, one of Tioseco’s favorite locations to date. LeRose’s look, and therefore Tioseco’s work, was pivotal to the video’s success.

“Jen is a true professional. Her positivity makes her a great addition to any set I’ve had her on. Jens Attention to detail made working with her so easy.  I didn’t have to do any cosmetic adjustments post-production, saving me so much time on the back end,” said Chad Rook.

Working on music videos with singers is a slice of what Tioseco looks to continue doing with her esteemed career. She enjoys working with celebrities, creating a natural but enhanced look.

“I love to travel on press events, glam for the red carpet, and do magazine editorials,” said Tioseco.

Another exciting step for the makeup artist? She is in the process of designing a makeup tool that will eventually expand into her own entire makeup line. We can definitely continue to expect exciting things from her.