Category Archives: Film

China’s Jie Meng creates award-winning visual effects for ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’

Jie Meng is consistently fascinated by his craft. The power of visual effects, to use different algorithms and physics theories to recreate something natural, or even create something that does not exist in the real world, is enchanting to the Chinese native. With a creative imagination and a deep understanding of computer science, an FX artist can create anything, turning fantasy into reality.

“With different algorithms and techniques, FX artists can do a lot of research and develop all different kinds of effects. As an FX artist, I also enjoy coming up with my own algorithms and methods to create new effects elements when I am at home. I feel I can create anything in my mind into the CG world, which is super fun to me,” said Meng.

Meng is an internationally sought-after visual effects artist, having contributed to blockbuster films, iconic video games, and prolific commercials. Earlier this year, audiences were enchanted with his work on the record-breaking film Avengers: Infinity War and the successful TV movie Freaky Friday, just as they were previously with Captain America: Civil War and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. He is also recognized around the world for his work on video games, including Call of Duty: Black Ops III and Quake Champions.

Despite such success, Meng calls the highlight of his career his work on Marvel’s hit Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. He worked on countless shots and different kinds of effects elements in several sequences, designed and final locked over a hundred shots in only a couple of months, and finally, saw recognition for his work from the Academy with an Oscar nomination. The moment he saw his name in the movie credits, he knew that all those late nights have paid off.

“This is a milestone film project for me. It was my first time designing a procedurally generated CG environment in the film production, and it was my first time working so closely with other CG departments. I was inspired by all different artists around me, from their hard work and how they think and solve problems. There were a lot of late nights in this film project, but I was fully charged every morning, and just could not wait one second to keep working with my VFX crew members,” said Meng.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol2 3

Meng’s vast contributions to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 helped bring the film to critical acclaim around the world. Not only did it take in over $860 million at the worldwide box office, but it was recognized at prestigious award ceremonies around the world. The highpoint for Meng was when the film was nominated for Best Visual Effects at the Academy Awards.

“When the news of the Oscar nomination had spread out, all the team members that worked on this film cheered into tears. We were so proud of ourselves that we achieved a VFX masterpiece. This film motivates and encourages me to keep on going as a VFX artist and also a filmmaker in the future,” said Meng.

Meng worked on many effects shots in several different sequences in the film. His main focus was the “normal” and “angry” Ego planet sequences. Those two sequences have a huge volume of the shots, which required the artists to design and finish the effects elements in a very short amount of time. Meng was not only building effects elements, but also helping in procedural modeling, shading/look-dev, lighting, procedural layout, and digital assets sharing aspects.

He designed and finished every shot containing Ego’s environment, all thruster effects elements for Quadrant Ship and jetpack in the “angry” Ego planet sequence. This included designing and finishing every shot containing aurora effects elements in the “normal” Ego planet sequence, such as the dust and leaves blowing in the Ego ship landing sequence. He also created taser gun lightning effects in a hero shot when Rocket Racoon shoots Gamora and did some early Rocket Racoon fur tests in the Guardians squat night talk scene.

Overall, Meng contributed over 20 different kinds of effects elements and CG contents in a total of four different sequences for the film. He designed and finished over 100 shots and related to 200 shots. The technical solutions that he came up with saved a great amount of time and made sure the entire team finished every shot before the deadline. His visual effects undoubtedly brought a stronger visual impact to the film and made the film a masterpiece of sci-fi fantasy artwork.

“I had the pleasure of working with Jie on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. He is absolutely exceptional at what he does and is always striving to better himself and his craft. He is hard working, detail oriented, reliable and goes above and beyond when helping out others. He is always open to collaboration and feedback. I highly think that his skill and expertise would be a great fit for any project he works on. I look forward to working with him again on future projects,” said Dennys Herman, Lighting and Look Development Artist at MPC.

Meng had always been a big Marvel fan, and above all else, creating such a timeless film meant more to him than anything. He was determined to achieve greatness with every effect he created as he knew Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was more than just a visual spectacle.

“I like the story of this film, as the core it is about family. The plot twists when Starlord (Peter) met his father Ego, and finally found out his father is an evil creature who killed his mother. The family theme is also relevant when Gamora and Nebula fight against Ego together, and Yondu sacrifices himself to save Peter. It’s a comedy sci-fi fantasy movie, but this core is very deep. The film is not some regular comedy where people laughed and forgot about it, but something that will be remembered,” he concluded.

Advertisements

Female Filmmaker to Watch: Eliza Brownlie

Eliza Brownlie
Movie poster for “The After Party”

 

Canadian filmmaker Eliza Brownlie has firmly made her mark as a director in Hollywood. A breath of fresh air in the contentious filmmaking landscape, Brownlie has solidified her reputation as a director who tells stories with a unique aesthetic style while exploring social constructs and the human experience of modern life.

Her 2016 surrealist horror film The After Party earned praise from coast to coast in the U.S. garnering a hugely successful festival run with exclusive “invitation-only” screenings at the Sacramento Horror Film Festival in California and the Williamsburg Independent Film Festival in New York.

Directed and written by Brownlie, The After Party follows an aspiring starlet who hopes to break into the Hollywood scene by attending a mysterious, late night party where she quickly discovers a darkness the lurks beneath the glitz and glamour.

With captivating visuals and an intriguing story that leaves audiences wanting more, The After Party is rendered even more interesting thanks to the distinct female lens through which it is filtered.

“I knew I wanted to make something within the horror/thriller genre and set in Hollywood. I had been living there and was interested in the idea of how this beautiful dream world could resemble more of a nightmare when you examine it a little closer,” explains Brownlie.

“I needed a context, so I thought, what more appropriate setting for a surrealist horror film than a private party in the hills. I also needed a protagonist who was naïve to this world and desperate to be a part of it, so, naturally, I decided to make the lead an aspiring starlet. The rest of the story and the characters expanded from there.”

 

 Tarryn Lagana Eliza Brownlie
Still of actress Tarryn Lagana in Eliza Brownlie’s film “The After Party”

 

The film’s star Tarryn Lagana, who’s represented by Luber Roklin Entertainment, the same talent agency that represents Disney superstar Dove Cameron and the late Oscar-nominated actor Burt Reynolds, shines on screen. Lagana was also recently signed to Abrams Artists Agency, which represents Finn Wolfhard from the Netflix series Stranger Things.

“Working with Eliza is an incredibly open experience. She loves to communicate with her actors and give them freedom to explore within the scene. Which was great for ‘The After Party’ because it gave me a chance to create the character Simone and ultimately deliver a strong performance,” says Lagana.

“Eliza is a one of a kind director… She has a very specific voice and vision that makes her stand out as one of the greatest filmmakers of her generation… She is what the industry needs right now.”

 

Director Eliza Brownlie
Cinematographer Ari Bre Bre (left), Director Eliza Brownlie (center), and producer Jessica Kelley (right) on set of a commercial for Cast + Combed

 

Well versed in directing projects across various mediums, Brownlie’s resume showcases her impressive flexibility and includes commercial, fashion films, music videos and narrative films, with her collective body of work revealing a highly stylized and dreamy nature that has reinforced her reputation as an auteur. Over the years she has directed numerous captivating and edgy commercials for an impressive list of clients including Dove, Top Expert and Canon.

In the fashion film she directed for Top Expert featuring model Breanna Box, she captures her subject with slow camera movements, creating a sultry, relaxed vibe that makes us want to dress ourselves in all of the company’s luxury basics. Brownlie effortlessly pulls us into the ethereal worlds she paints in many of her fashion films with a unique style that is simply unforgettable.

A dynamic director, another powerful aspect of her directorial prowess that has set her apart and led her to become a sought after director for more human-interest style commercial pieces is her talent for eliciting raw and vulnerable emotions from her subjects and revealing them with a rare form of elegance. As the director of the docu-style commercial series ‘Imperfectionists’ for Dove’s Self-Esteem Project, and Canon’s Female Hero series, Brownlie captures the women on screen in a way that is captivating, relatable and empowering.

“I like projects that challenge or engage the viewer in an interesting way. Something in the material needs to resonate with me. There’s nothing more painful than working on something you don’t have any passion for,” says Brownlie.

From the extensive repertoire of work that she has released to date it is clear that Brownlie is passionate about her subjects. She is definitely one contemporary female filmmaker that has made a powerful mark in both Hollywood and on a global scale, and she’s one that we will continue to look towards for inspiration.  

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

HR_2653
Mark Davis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Written by Annabelle Lee

Writer Sonia Gumuchian Crafts Enthralling Stories for Film and TV

Poster for the new film “Home Entertainment”
Poster for the new film “Home Entertainment”

Every fiction contains at least a kernel of truth, but a great writer knows when not to let the truth get in the way of a good story. Taking inspiration from the people and experiences in her own life, Canadian writer Sonia Gumuchian is in a class of her own. With boundless curiosity, keen instincts and extraordinary perception, Gumuchian constantly watches and listens to the world around her, filtering everything she observes through the prism of her rich imagination.

Her most recent project, the film “Home Entertainment,” which Gumuchian wrote, co-directed, produced and edited, reveals her uncanny ability to translate real life experiences into laugh out loud stories that resonate with audiences. Told in three parts, the film takes place in a house that is rented out to temporary residents each weekend by its owner, who has a voyeuristic streak.

“Every story in this anthology, believe it or not, was heavily inspired by true stories- whether they were based off of our personal experiences or ignited with the help of a fascinating person that, at some point, crossed our path,” explain Gumuchian and her co-director Katherine Eaton in a Director’s Statement.

From a couple’s floundering romantic getaway to an unconventional sex-driven memorial and more, “Home Entertainment” follows a different set of house guests each weekend, all watched by the homeowner’s group of rich oddball dinner party guests through livestream security camera footage.

Eaton says, “Working alongside Sonia, it is evident that she is nothing short of an amazing writer, whose vision and leadership stands out beyond the norm. Apart from her great work ethic, she has this incredible creative ability to tell great stories, which are not only outrageously funny but also grabs and tugs at the hearts and minds of her audience — essentially getting people to think. I believe these elements make her an incredible asset in any film environment.”

Sonia Gumuchian

Gumuchian’s talent for creating captivating stories based, at least in part, on truths from her own experiences, was apparent even in her earliest work, and it’s one of the reasons her writing is so magnetic. Her vivid imagination proved invaluable when, as a young girl, Gumuchian was rarely surrounded by kids her own age. Aside from her parents and grandparents, her closest companions were often books, movies and TV. By the time she was a teenager, Gumuchian had taken to creating her own stories. During her first year of high school she met a strange boy with a bizarre hobby, and he quickly became her first muse.

“His name was Liam, and he told me stories of how he loved spending hours stalking people he barely knew, gathering intel on their lives, and even going as far as breaking into his school’s office and reading up on everyone’s medical history. Suffice to say, Liam and his strange addiction fascinated me,” Gumuchian said. “So one day, I sat down and wrote an entire novel from his point of view. It was through that experience that I found how exciting it was to spend hours escaping into someone else’s point of view.”

It was soon abundantly clear that the young Gumuchian was a bona fide prodigy. As soon as the ink was dry in her novel about Liam she focused her full attention on training with LEAP, a prestigious academy for promising young playwrights in Vancouver. By the time she finished high school she had already distinguished herself as the writer of two one-act plays, both of which were chosen to be produced and performed by the community of professional stage actors and writers at the Vancouver Arts Club Theatre Company.

The young writer’s remarkable abilities and accomplishments earned Gumuchian acceptance into the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, which was once again ranked by the Hollywood Reporter as the #1 film school in the country — where she studied Writing for Film and Television. Gumuchian was quickly tapped by networks, producers and prominent figures spanning every corner of the industry to contribute her skills much earlier than most writers. Though still in school, she began taking her first steps as a writer by learning from the brightest executives who oversaw shows on FOX, HBO, ABC, and virtually every network and studio from across the industry’s proverbial alphabet soup, such as “Big Little Lies,” “Barry,” “Silicon Valley, “Game of Thrones,” “Family Guy,” “Once Upon a Time,” “Black-ish,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and more.

“After working at TV and cable networks, at studios, and on independent films, I fell in love with the process of bringing stories to life,” said Gumuchian, recalling her early experiences as a writer in the industry. “From script to screen, my exposure to the inner workings of content creation taught me a lot about the craft and… shaped the industry professional I am today.”

Years working in creative development at many of the biggest networks in the world gave Gumuchian a staggering wealth of experience. XS Media Director of Development Julie Zhang, who worked alongside Gumuchian at HBO, says, “Sonia brings a contagious energy to the table that hooks you from minute one. Apart from amazing taste and her eye for good stories, she is a go-getter, and very determined to achieve the goals she sets for herself. In this business it’s sometimes more important to be perseverant than talented, so it’s good that she is both.”

As she grew in experience, so too did she grow in her determination to write and share with the world a story entirely of her own. With her 2017 script for the ambitious fantasy-comedy series “Loyal Royals” — which she created as well as wrote — that Gumuchian revealed once again that she is an imaginative and engaging writer in the modern era of television. The story is at once a whimsical and refreshing comedy, a farcical fantasy set in a world of knights and dragons and magic.

“Set in a medieval town, the recently divorced King Robert is forced to move into his daughter’s castle across the lands and aims to regain the little dignity he has left,” she explained. “Princess Lilian and Robert, her conservative dad, are at odds when he disapproves of her engagement to a frog, pisses off a local population of culturally sensitive unicorns, and continues causing ruckus in her kingdom.”

 

Her original pilot for “Loyal Royals” was exceptionally well received by critics and festival judges. Spotlighting Gumuchian’s talent on an international level, “Loyal Royals” earned First Place at the Hollywood Hills Screenplay Competition, Fifth Place at the London Film Awards, the Los Angeles Film and Script Festival’s Honorable Mention Award, the Jack Oakie Doubletake Award for Exceptional Achievement in Comedy, as well the award for Best Unproduced Script at the London Filmmaker Festival. “Loyal Royals” was also chosen an Official Finalist of the World Series of Screenwriting, a Semi-Finalist at the Screenplay Festival, as well an Official Selection of the Atlanta Comedy Film Festival. The success of the script proved once again that she is on par with the best writers in the industry, and it opened the door for her next project, the film “Home Entertainment.”

Ambitious and original, “Home Entertainment,” which Gumuchian marks as her biggest project to-date, stars Brock Ciarlelli (ABC’s “The Middle”) and features a soundtrack composed by guitarist Benjamin Sturley, known for his work with Noah Cyrus and Grammy-winner Selena Gomez. Hilarious and thoroughly unexpected, the film recently had its Los Angeles screening and is preparing to begin its festival run.

A31J2269
Actor Brock Ciarlelli & Gumuchian on set of “Home Entertainment” (Photo by Penelope Eaton)

Perhaps Gumuchian’s greatest asset as a storyteller is an uncanny talent for identifying and appreciating the huge reserves of untapped narrative potential hidden in the most unexpected, overlooked and eschewed recesses of everyday life. Borne of her innate perception and indefatigable imagination, an endless stream of stories pour from Gumuchian’s mind — their impact compounded exponentially by the years she’s devoted to honing her already razor-sharp writing skills. Curiosity, imagination and an unrivaled mastery over the written word enabled Sonia Gumuchian to deftly ascend the ranks of cinematic academia, and she’s fully on her way to becoming one of the most sought-after writers in this burgeoning new golden age for film and television.

Australia’s Stephanie Evison Williams talks ‘Lazy Boy’ and truthful acting

Stephanie Evison Williams’ day always starts with a coffee. She then will walk her dog and head to a fitness class. She knows how you begin your day as an actress is vital to your success. It is about getting in the right headspace, so when she walks on set she is someone else entirely. She devotes herself completely to those she portrays, even trying to dream about future scenes while embodying her character. That, for Evison Williams, is what being an actress is all about.

From a young age, Evison Williams loved musical theatre, and as an overly creative kid and sometimes, as she describes, a loud child, she found her way into acting. In her high school years, she played Sally Bowles in a small production of Cabaret and that was when she knew. There was nothing else in this world she wanted to pursue, and since that time, she has devoted herself solely to acting, quickly rising and becoming one of Australia’s most sought-after actresses.

“I love the people, like-minded creative people who observe the world slightly differently to most, people who people watch and who go through life with a scalpel trying to understand why people behave like they do. I love the feeling when you are so ‘in’ a moment, it’s the best form of mindfulness or meditation because you are so present, listening and reacting. Creative flow. It’s a drug, acting,” she said.

Known for her work in the Netflix series Rostered On, as well as films such as Playgroundand In the Wake, Evison Williams has had a formidable career, with many highlights decorating her resume. One such project was the award-winning film Lazy Boy, which saw critical acclaim at many prestigious international film festivals, despite being made for the infinitesimal budget of $600 AUD.

Lazy Boy was awarded a 2016 Flickerfest finalist and nominated for the Flickerfest National Tour as well as a SciFi Film festival nomination. It received a Heathcote Film Festival nomination and was an Official Selection and a Top 100 Short Film at the 2016 St Kilda Film Festival. In 2017, it toured theatrically around the United Kingdom with Discover Film.

“It’s fantastic. I am really proud of the film. It’s an amazing story. It’s a great sci-fi-esque, time travel concept with a sinister undertone and a lot of heart,” said Evison Williams.

Lazy Boy tells the story of Ray and when he brings home a new purchase, his pregnant girlfriend is not impressed. Banished to the garage he soon realizes the old La-Z-Boy recliner he bought is in fact a one-minute time machine. Audiences are asked the question: will Ray learn from his mistakes, or is he destined to repeat them forever?

In the film, Evison Williams plays Sarah, Ray’s girlfriend. Although the synopsis may present her as simply hormonal, she is far from it, and she and their unborn baby end up being the catalyst of the story, ultimately affecting Ray’s decision on whether to use the time machine for good. Sarah is trying to hold it all together, and Evison Williams perfectly portrays her struggle. She is pregnant and has a partner who is not rising to the occasion, she hormonal, working and doing all the preparation for the new baby. She is pulled very thin.

To prepare for the role, Evison Williams spent a lot of time working with her scene partner, Steve Carroll, who played Ray. They wanted to ensure they had good chemistry while in front of the camera, as the success of the film hindered on their authentic performance as a couple. For Evison Williams, a large part of her research also went in to studying how a pregnant woman may be feeling when stressed. It would have been easy for her to come off as a “nag” or “buzz kill” and Evison Williams was very conscious of showing her heart and struggle.

“I didn’t want to continue that persistent sexist stereotype. Choices were made to motivate why she is saying and behaving as she is. Not that Dave wrote her like this, but it would have been the easier choice as an actor,” she described.

The Writer and Director of the film, Dave Redman, is a prolific storyteller with a passion for film and television. He has worked in the Australian film and television industry for over 20 years and has established a solid career as a film and television editor, cutting five feature films, 160+ episodes of TV, hundreds of TVCs and more than 45 short films that have played at festivals worldwide. When Evison Williams saw the opportunity to work with him, she was eager to take part. When she read the script, she was hooked.

The story allowed for Evison Williams to dive deep into a character that could have been very two-dimensional if she allowed. In exploring Sarah, her performance was real, and that is what Evison Williams aims for in every performance, a truthful style.

“Even when doing comedy or character I am always aiming for truth. I would prefer watching a scene about ‘what’s for dinner’ more than two people not listening and performing an idea,” she concluded.

 

Written by Sara Fowler

Poland’s Maja Lakomy shines light on mental illness in acclaimed film

Growing up in Kielce, Poland, Maja Lakomy was always fascinated by performing. Whether it be in a film or on a stage, she found herself constantly impressed by what actors were capable of and the effects they could have on the audience. She began to realize even at a young age that she wanted to become like one of those incredible actors and do the same thing to the audience. She was encouraged to choose a career that could make her happy, and acting was therefore the only option for her.

Throughout her career, Lakomy has worked on a number of successful projects. Recently, her award-winning film Diminuendo saw critical acclaim at many prestigious international film festivals and is expected to continue to do so throughout the year. She also shot a music video for Andrea Bocelli, the Grammy nominated and Golden Globe winning Italian musician who has collaborated with greats such as Celine Dion, Ed Sheeran, and more. Lakomy is doing what she wished for as a child and loves every day she steps onto a set.

“I imagine that it hardly ever happens that people are so lucky to do what they love as a career. Nevertheless, I went that direction and knew I would never give up and would always keep working towards my dream. Now, I am one of those lucky people who have their passion as their job,” said Lakomy.

One of Lakomy’s first tastes of international success came from her work on the film Star House. The film was uploaded on Vimeo, the online platform for video-sharing in December 2017 and is available worldwide. The project also received attention from the prestigious Berlin Fashion Film Festival. The representatives of the festival wrote a comment, that’s visible under the video on Vimeo, leaving a compliment about the project and offering participation in the festival under the category “Fashion, Lifestyle and Beauty Film – Emerging Talent”.

Star House follows two girls who break into an intriguing home they come across in the woods and decide to stay until the owner returns. The story is very unpredictable with a fun twist, something for the audience to look forward to. The drama also showcases two distinctive characters, with a disturbing and surprising realness to their psychological construction.

“I think that a lot of women could identify with the story and the message of it. Nearly everybody has some part of themselves that they don’t accept and makes them feel weak. Everybody has somebody like my character in their lives, who let their insecurities drive their mental health to the line where sane meets insane. This story shows how obsessive one can become while pursuing perfection. It’s also a sort of commentary on body dysmorphia and the dynamic among females who have the tendency to constantly compare themselves to one another. I think all of these aspects are very important,” said Lakomy.

Lakomy’s character, Cleo, is very interesting and complex. She lacks everything that the other charactor, Rose, possesses: confidence, beauty, spontaneity. Rose also has a certain type of control over Cleo. Cleo was mesmerized and infatuated by Rose. The irony, however, in this story was that the girls look very alike, but Cleo is only able to notice her own flaws and insecurities that she believes Rose does not possess, which is why she was so compelling and perfect in Cleo’s eyes. The idea of perfection that Rose represented was only in Cleo’s head, and that is what makes this story touching.

Lakomy excelled when presenting Cleo’s feelings and what she goes through, knowing the importance of her character and story for females in the audience who may feel similarly.

“I hope women that watched it or any other film with a similar message realize that being a perfectionist is not healthy and we need to accept ourselves as we are and not let other people criticize us, bring us down and objectify us,” she said.

After being hand selected for the role by the Director, Allison Bunce, Lakomy was eager to begin playing such an insecure and controlled character, offering a challenge she had not encountered yet in her esteemed career. She had previously played a similar character in the play Angels in America, and therefore applied the same principles when it came to portraying Cleo; this time, however, in front of a camera.

“Acting with the other lead actress opposite of me was very interesting when you’re aware her character doesn’t really exist. At the same time, she was one hundred percent real to my character, so I had to focus on remembering that,” Lakomy described.

Star House was also shot on 16mm film and a Super8 camera, so it had a very unique visual style to it. Lakomy had previously never worked with this type of camera equipment and she now says she is a fan of the style. The best part of the experience for the actress, however, was those she worked with.

“Working on this project was truly a magical experience. I loved working with such a professional crew. Every single person on the set has been committed, successful, and excels at what they do. It was a great pleasure to be around them and learn from them. I think we made up a great team,” Lakomy concluded.

Check out Star House on Vimeo to see Lakomy’s outstanding performance.

 

Written by Annabelle Lee

Mariana Mendez on helping open discussions about important issues

Now, more than ever in society, it is acceptable to take important world issues and start meaningful conversations about them. With topics ranging from mental health and sexual assault, to human rights, education, and everything in between, individuals are feeling increasingly comfortable debating the moral and ethical conducts underlying each category. One of those individuals is film producer, Mariana Mendez. For as long as she can remember, Mendez has been passionate about starting conversations before the eyes of her audiences and doing so in such a way that allows the conversation to carry on beyond the screen. Ultimately, she wants to help contribute to a society that speaks freely about change while she freely changes society through the quality content she produces before her audiences. This mentality has made her a highly sought commodity in the film industry; however, she remains simply humbled by the fact that she gets to live out her dream every day and call it a job.

In 2017, esteemed director, Luis Téllez set out to complete a stop motion animation film that tells the story of a black pawn who watches the chessboard around him crumble when a game ends due to the battles it has been subjected to. This, in turn, creates a new opportunity for both sides in a “game” that gathers new dimensions. The character that Téllez was looking to portray was one he had had in mind for the better part of seven years. His issue was the he couldn’t seem to make the character fit anywhere. It wasn’t until he and Mendez began discussing the feelings that human beings undergo when something undesirable happens to them. They determined that the true signs of character show in the way in which an individual reacts to these situations and from there, Mendez and Téllez knew that they had to bring this character, and these realities, to life before their audiences. What followed ended up shaping one of the best experiences of Mendez’ career.

“After we decided where we wanted to go with the script, it was fascinating to watch crew members of all different ages, from all different walks of life, come together. I am a fan of animation, but it definitely amounted to a very significant learning process. In many ways, I learned to appreciate animators and the work that they do in ways I hadn’t previously understood. Animation sets are so different than live-action sets. There are issues that arise from the puppets or software that you wouldn’t otherwise encounter on a live set. This had a large impact on the day-to-day decisions we made and I’m so glad I got to be a part of it,” she described.

For the film, Mendez proved herself to be invaluable as she handled regular production duties that had to do with scheduling, organization, and more; however, she also managed to attract investors to the project and have them help fund she and Téllez’ dream for the script. Her philosophy, as a producer, is to always lead by example and set a precedent for everyone around her. She remains respectful and welcoming, always ensuring that she fosters an environment of open communication, hard work, and dedication. She also aims to hire people based on both their abilities, as well as their personalities. Above all else, however, she prioritizes the selection of projects that reflect what is going on in society and to help spread awareness of major and minor issues alike.

Mendez, being a very detail-oriented individual, gained a new-found appreciation for the level of detail that goes into producing a stop-motion animation. She dedicated herself to learning how to shoot a stop-motion scene properly and planned her timelines and budgets accordingly. Ultimately, what she loved most about the project, was the fact that every day on set served as a reminder that we have the technology and resources available to tell just about any story out there and given her passion for storytelling, she can’t think of anything more exciting.

“Production-wise, it was an honor to be able to immerse myself in the world of animation and I gained a new-found respect for all the animators, designers, and visual effects people working in the industry. Story-wise, I loved to be able to tell such a crude and real story via such an innocent art form. I’m a very detail-oriented person and I was impressed by the amount of detail that went into it. In general, I was reminded that due to technological advances and the software we used, our own imagination is the limit, which pretty much instilled in me that I could potentially tell any kind of story in the future,” told Mendez.

When Viva el Rey premiered at Sitges Film Festival in 2017, audiences were drawn to its relatable storyline and expert animations. It later screened at other film festivals around the world and is still completing a festival circuit today. Mendez’s success with the film is the reason that she was asked to work with the same team again for their latest project, Inzomnia. She is eager to learn how audiences will receive the new film and hopes it will be just as great as the result of their work on Viva el Rey. Keep an eye out when it premieres in festivals near you.

 

Written by Joyce Cameron