Category Archives: Film

script supervisor extraordinaire tamara hansen proves to be an invaluable asset to hollywood filmmakers

The extensive and superior role of a script supervisor requires immaculate focus and attention to detail, not to mention the ability to overcome high-stress situations when unexpected curveballs are thrown their way.

With a superpower-like range of skills to her name, leading script supervisor Tamara Hansen is undoubtedly the ultimate behind the scenes ninja when it comes to filmmaking.

Script Supervisor extraordinaire Tamara Hansen – photographed by Rolan Shlain

A true master at multitasking, Hansen’s ability to go above and beyond her general job expectations made her an invaluable member behind the scenes of the recent 2020 conspiracy thriller film “18 ½”. 

The dark comedy was produced by award-winning filmmaker Terry Keefe (“Slaves of Hollywood”) and directed by award-winning producer, author and screenwriter Dan Mirvish, who was recently named one of Variety‘s Top 50 Creatives to Watch.

The film, which stars two-time Primetime Award winner Jon Cryer (“Two and a Half Men,” “Pretty in Pink”) and award winning actor John Magaro (“The Big Short,” “Carol”), is a 1970s era Watergate scandal conspiracy thriller about a Whitehouse transcriber who obtains the only copy of the infamous 18 ½ minute gap in the Nixon tapes. 

Hansen’s role on set was to ensure continuity and prepare the edit logs for all departments, including camera, lighting, sound, wardrobe, make-up and sets, helping to prevent any errors that could occur between takes. 

Considering the size of each department, Hansen’s scrupulous organizational skills along with her ability to facilitate clear communication channels between all teams were integral to ensuring that production ran smoothly.

“For a director, having a strong script supervisor is essential. Tamara was a wonderful creative collaborative partner to work with, dedicated to the film, and loyal to a fault in helping protect my creative vision for the film,” says “18 ½” director Dan Mirvish. 

He adds, “Tamara is easily the best script supervisor I’ve ever worked with, and she’s an invaluable member of the filmmaking creative community… We couldn’t have made this movie without her.”

Unfortunately, due to the global Covid-19 pandemic, the production of the film took an unexpected halt in March and only recently completed shooting in late September. 

“Tamara’s calm but determined personality was exactly what our cast and crew needed,” says the film’s producer Terry Keefe. “Nerves were very frayed because of events happening in the outside world.”

Director Dan Mirvish adds, “She’s always got a welcoming smile on her face, whether it’s first thing in the early morning, or after a long night’s worth of filming. She’s incredibly even-keeled and supportive even when the rest of the crew is freaking out or panicking.” 

“Dan always listened to my notes which was great,” says Hansen. “Now that we’re in the edit, Dan is sending me cuts of the movie to get my notes and thoughts on it, for a final edit, which is very exciting and I really appreciate his trust.”

The highly anticipated film is currently in post-production, and expected for international release in 2021.

Behind the scenes with Tamara Hansen – photographed by Greg Starr

Her exceptional work as the script supervisor on the 2020 horror “Dreamkatcher” had the film’s award-winning writer and director Kerry Harris (“Grip and Electric”) dubbing Hansen as the “Google” of filmmaking. 

“Tamara is quite simply indispensable and I fear by singing her praises I may not find her available for my next film,” says Harris. “That said, the filmmaking world deserves to know.”

“Dreamkatcher” tells the chilling story of a young boy trapped in a nightmarish entity, and stars Radha Mitchell (“Man of Fire,” “Finding Neverland”), Henry Thomas (“E.T the Extra-Terrestrial,” “Legends of the Fall”) and Lin Shaye (“Insidious,” “There’s Something About Mary”).

After applying for the role via a job posting, it was her strong determination to follow up with the director after several weeks of silence that essentially landed her the job. 

“I remember not hearing back from the line producer and thought I didn’t get the job,” she says. 

“After two to three weeks I followed up and she let me have an interview with the director. I found out later that the director didn’t like any of the others who interviewed previously that’s why they were still looking. This is the best example for when persistence works out.”

Given that Hansen is extremely diligent when it comes to detail, it was her ability to maintain strong continuity between each department that ensured every shot remained unanimous in order to cut together for the final edit.

Her flawless edit logs became invaluable to the film’s editor, who thoroughly relied on her notes to effectively bring the whole film together. 

She adds, “I made sure the editor had a record of what the director’s choices on set were, what takes he liked best, what worked out great and what didn’t. I made sure everything stayed cohesive and would cut together in the edit.”

The film, which was released in April 2020 by global entertainment corporation Lionsgate, is streaming across major digital entertainment giants such as Amazon Prime, Hulu and Netflix.

Official “Dreamkatcher” Trailer (2020)

But it’s not just Hansen’s studious leadership and organizational skills that sets her apart from the rest. 

Notorious Hollywood directors and producers often rely on her ability to make decisive verdicts on set, which inevitably improves the final result of the shoot. 

Her ability to actively support the production team extends to include more than just full-length feature films, and over the years she’s applied her unwavering work ethic to the detailed world of documented television series. 

The historic docuseries “The Food that Built America,” which was narrated by award-winning actor and producer Campbell Scott (“The Amazing Spider Man 1 & 2,” “Jurassic World: Dominion”), tells the unknown stories of the innovations and rivalries behind the American food industry’s best known tycoons. 

“Working on a tv-show is more fast paced than filming a movie,” says Hansen. “It was a recreation show, which was very interesting, because we recreated the stories of how Heinz Ketchup was invented, how McDonalds became a franchise etc., It was interesting learning and recreating real life events.” 

Coming off the run of an incredibly strong first season, which drew over 18.8 million viewers, the hit series has been renewed for a second season by leading documentary channel History, which will include 18 episodes.  

Hansen was asked by the show’s line producer to return for season two, however due to her prior commitments on a soon to be announced independent film, she was unable to commit.

“The Food That Built America” television series – History channel

When a director or producer requires integral information, whether a slight detail in a costume change, or whichever lens was used in the film’s opening scene, it’s guaranteed that with Hansen’s precise memory and intricate edit logs, she’ll always have the answer. 

“18 ½” producer Terry Keefe says, “Tamara has an almost photographic memory, or maybe she has an actual photographic memory that may be a superpower, she keeps that a secret.. that really comes in handy in her work.” 

With a stellar repertoire of success to her name, and with consistent praise from honored Hollywood filmmakers, it’s no surprise that Tamara Hansen is renowned as the ultimate right-hand woman when it comes to filmmaking.

New WWII supernatural thriller ‘Ghosts of War’ is a haunting tale about the trauma of war

When Writer/Director Eric Bress, known for such celebrated films as Butterfly Effect and The Final Destination 2, shared an early draft of his latest film with Shelley Madison, she was immediately hooked. The Canadian Producer loves a good ghost story, and the idea for Ghosts of War was that and so much more.  Set against the very real backdrop of WWII, Eric crafted a dark supernatural, psychological thriller with deep underlying themes about PTSD and trauma. Madison saw an opportunity to both captivate audiences and broaden the discussion surrounding mental health. 

Known for her work on Terminal, starring Academy Award nominated actress Margot Robbie, and Queen of the Desert, starring Oscar Winner Nicole Kidman and nominee James Franco, Madison is clearly no stranger to working on large scale, highly-anticipated movies. Ghosts of War follows five American soldiers holding a French castle formerly occupied by Nazis, who begin experiencing inexplicable events that transform their reality into a twisted nightmare more terrifying than anything seen on the battlefield. 

“What really struck me about the script was there was an emotional depth witnessing the soldiers battle physical and psychological trauma. We all know soldiers face significant hardship due to the prolonged trauma of war: PSTD, substance use, increased chances of overdose, homelessness and even suicide. When a story can connect information to emotions, it can be very powerful. It was my hope that this film would open the door to having more conversations about the issue,” said Madison.

The film stars Brenton Thwaites (Titans, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Maleficent), Theo Rossi (Sons of Anarchy, Luke Cage), Skylar Astin (Pitch Perfect, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist), Alan Ritchson (Titans, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Hunger Games), and Kyle Gallner (A Nightmare on Elm Street, American Sniper, The Finest Hours) as the five leading soldiers. It also stars Billy Zane (Titanic, Tombstone, Demon Knight) and Shaun Toub (Iron Man, Homeland) who round out some of the other characters. 

 “We were lucky to have worked with an incredibly gifted team. Our principal cast are very talented actors and have been in front of the camera for ages having worked with many notable directors already,” said Madison.

Shelley Madison - Ghosts of War
Ghosts of War film poster

They shot in Sofia, Bulgaria, which worked well for all locations for the story, and there was also access to authentic WWII military props and vehicles which helped with prep. The mansion interior was built entirely on a soundstage, the location for the mansion exterior was Vrana Palace, which Madison describes as a perfect fit, as it is grand and beautiful while also being quite menacing, and given the mansion itself almost feels like a character in the story. Between the ideal location, props, costumes, and the score, audiences will undoubtedly feel truly transported to the terrifying and haunting battlefields of WWII.

While the film is sure to entertain audiences, while diving deep into the soldier’s psychological trauma, it offers a chance to explore ways that people can heal. Most recently, as Partner and the Chief Content Officer of the OTT network Social Club TV, the largest cannabis lifestyle content distribution platform in the world, Madison has been producing content in cannabis and plant medicine. When she came across Ghosts of War, it had another layer to it that she wanted to highlight. Psychedelics such as psilocybin, a psychoactive compound found in certain mushrooms, are having a big impact on PTSD in clinical trials, and there is a big push to legalize these substances. This new film allowed Madison to explore those ideas, and Social Club TV provides a platform to continue the discussion.  

“In my personal life I have witnessed someone close to me find transformative healing through supervised, guided use of psychedelics for therapeutic purposes to address mental health and addiction. PTSD stems from many different traumas, and anyone facing it needs multi-faceted support to help manage the pain they endure every day. No patient should have to seek solutions in an illicit environment.”  

Ghosts of War was released as a DirectTV exclusive on June 18th, 2020, but will be making its way to several more media platforms on July 17th,  available here, both on cable and various online rental services. It will then hit Netflix in October. Madison is eager to share this highly thrilling supernatural psychological thriller that brings audiences inside the mind of soldiers who are trapped in a living nightmare caused by their traumatic experiences on the battlefield.

“We have to take faster, more courageous and progressive steps to help those suffering from mental health challenges. It is my hope that research will continue to prove the therapeutic potential of cannabis and psychedelics and that we will find a path to legalization to provide people new ways to heal. In the meantime, I hope Ghosts of War allows people to feel they are not alone in what they are experiencing,” she concluded.

Be sure to check out Ghosts of War on July 17th to see this poignant horror.

#GhostsofWar is now available on DIRECTV and on VOD/Digital July 17th!  Pre-order on Apple TV TODAY

Social Club TV: the world’s largest cannabis content library, available for free on AppleTV, Roku, Amazon Prime, iOS, Android and more. www.thesocialclub.tv

Passion and Precision: Editor Bowei Yue’s Compelling Visual Style

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By Joseph West

Although the film editor works almost exclusively in a post-production capacity, he is as essential as the actors, director, even the writer. The editor exerts tremendous artistic influence over a film, controlling virtually every aspect from pacing, atmosphere and mood to how the plot line’s narrative unfolds. The editor’s visual style enhances and elevates audience experience to a profound degree, and as such, qualifies the editor as a critically important contributor to film and video. 

Film editor Bowei Yue exemplifies the demanding mixture of aesthetics and technical skill required of the successful editor. His comprehensive spectrum of skills and flair for arresting visuals have made him an internationally known force, one with multiple best editing award wins at film festivals around the world. 

It’s been Yue’s life-long passion, one he practically born into.  

“My hometown is Changchun in northeastern China, site of the earliest production company in China, Changchun Film Studio, where Chinese films were pioneered,” Yue said. “As a child, I developed an interest in films. All the kids thought films were cool, but I always thought that the people who made films were even cooler.”

After graduating high school, Yue entered the famed Beijing Film Academy. 

“I was majoring in sound, but I realized I would prefer more engaging work that is closer to storytelling itself,” he said. “Therefore, I applied to the American Film Institute for an MFA degree in editing after college.” 

The American Film Institute in Los Angeles is one of the most esteemed and discriminating conservatory’s in the film world–gaining admittance there is no small feat. 

He wasted no time, cutting a series of well received projects (the award-winning Dark Wolf Gang” earned him best editing trophies at juried competitions in the US and Spain) and his recent work on two short films, “Balloon” and “New Year’s Eve” are prime examples of Yue’s formidable talent and versatility.

The former is an engaging, visual effects heavy action/fantasy about a bullied teen who develops super powers while the latter is an intense, intimate coming-of-age familyd drama, providing Yue a showcase for two very different stylistic approaches.  

“I’d already worked with ‘Balloon’ director Jeremy Merrifield on a TV pilot, a short film and 5 commercials,” Yue said. “We have cultivated a good working relationship and talked about this project long before he was conceiving the script, which was very personal to him.”

Merrifield’s vision and eye-popping action demanded much of Yue: “In this short film, we have close to 100 visual effects shots, some of which are very complicated,” he said. “These are not difficult in a big Hollywood movie because there you have a team of people to complete the work, but ‘Balloon’ is a short film, and most of the work was done by myself. So, in addition to the art of editing, I also invested a lot of energy in the post-production supervising.”

Bowei Yue_2

The result spoke eloquently for itself, making “Balloon” a sensation on the world-wide festival circuit, screening over 30 juried competitions (including AFI Fest, New Orleans Film Festival, Palm Spring International Short Fest, Hawaii International Film Festival) and winning the Oscar-qualifying Grand Prix for Best Film at the 15th annual Hollyshorts Festival as well as the audience award at the New Orleans Film Festival. But these pale in comparison to its popularity online.

“On the day of the stream launch on YouTube and as a Vimeo Staff Pick, our views quickly exceeded 100,000,” Yue said. “We were shocked–this is very rare for a short film. Now, we have more than 4 million views on the web, it’s insane! I’m really proud of the final product.”

“New Year’s Eve” took Yue in an entirely different direction. A deliberately paced ensemble cast drama directed by Hao Zheng, it relates the tension filled tale of  19-year-old Xiaoyu returning to celebrate Chinese New Year at his family home, where he must face the consequences of his unpopular decision to enroll in a kung fu school rather than university. 

“Hao is Chinese, but heavily influenced by European films,” Yue said. “His works are basically slow-paced and have an ‘endless savor.’ I personally like this type of film, but most of my works are more fast-paced and genre-leading, so he wanted my style to collide with his and see what happens with those different chemical reactions.”

The experiment was not without challenges for the editor. “The dinner table scene in the film was a very memorable sequence,” Yue said. “Anyone who knows a little about editing will tell you that dinner table scenes are the hardest to edit. There were seven actors and the dialogue content of the entire scene was very rich, with lines coming at the same time, and a lot of improv from the characters. During editing, my core work was to always pay attention to the relationship of Xiaoyu and his mother but at the same time ensure visual diversity, smoothness of cutting along with all the other elements.” 

 

Bowei Yue_3Yue flawlessly rectified any discrepancies between takes and dialog overlaps and “New Year’s Eve” was enthusiastically received at its recent premiere screening. The film will formally release at the end of this month on popular platform Short of the Week, and has already been officially selected by more than 20 film festivals in Europe. But Yue is always looking forward to his ambitious professional horizon and has several fascinating projects in the works.

These include Director-writer Íce Mrozek’s feature “About Him and Her,” a high-concept love story with unconventional, almost experimental tone, Yuxi Li’s “Sword of Destiny” a big budget period kung fu/ action feature and Erica Eng’s “Americanized” a short focused on elements of disparate cultures, athletics and a fast moving urban visual.

With an impressive skill set, Yue’s potent combination of strong visual style, ingenuity, technical skill and keen emotional tone has established him as a talent of significant range and ability. But it’s his aesthetic loyalty–an unwavering commitment to collaboration and upholding the integrity of the filmmakers original vision–that has really qualified him as an in-demand asset in the film world.

“Many editors have said that the relationship between a director and an editor is almost like a marriage,” Yue said. “Understanding and trust are very important. Film is never a one-man-band type of thing, and an editor’s work gets done by maintaining a responsible attitude to the director. But at the same time, as an editor, you need to leave your own signature on the project. Finding that sweet balance is really important for me all the time.”

The Common Thread of Great Films: Edward Line

Film editor Edward Line made his name editing commercials and music videos, working with award winning directors including Traktor, Matt Lambert, Paul Hunter, Jonas Akerlund and Lucy Tcherniak. A natural collaborator and storyteller it’s not surprising that his talent led him to cutting short films where he has continued to fine tune his craft. It’s a well-rounded career course which Line explains, “From years of cutting commercials and music videos, I have become very disciplined in how to tell stories efficiently and within a set duration. While these skills are transferable, working on short films has relieved me from editing to time restraints and allowed me to approach performances in different ways.  With short films, I’m always thinking of how an edit decision will affect the audience emotionally in a later scene, as character develops and stories unfold. This is true for commercials as well, but of course there is much more breadth in a short film which typically runs for 10-20 minutes, rather than a 30 second commercial.”

Confirming his affinity for narrative editing, Edward’s short film work has been selected and recognized at international film festivals including Tribeca, Sundance, BAFTA and The Academy Awards. Here’s a look at some of his favorite work.

The Counsellor – Hand

The Counselor 2

Not strictly a short film, but a notable promo film that showcased Edward’s sensibility for dialogue cutting.  The film was a collaboration with director Johnny Hardstaff and featured actors Michael Fassbender (Prometheus, Hunger) and Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones) in a sexually charged scene that takes place in a lingerie store.  Edward subtly edited nuanced looks and dialogue to create a tension filled scene which left the audience asking questions, as intended by the filmmakers. This promo film was used by 20th Century Fox to market the release of Ridley Scott’s film The Counselor in 2013. He communicates, I really enjoyed editing this film. Apart from enjoying the first class performances from Michael and Natalie, the suspenseful and dreamy tone of the film was really appealing.  I enhanced this mood in the edit by paying close attention to the characters subtle eye movements and breathing, then hanging on these moments for longer than comfortable. During the edit, I added the ambient dream like soundtrack which further heightened the tension and atmosphere. When I showed the director my first cut he wasn’t expecting music, but he loved my music choice and it was included in the final film.”

St. Patrick’s Day 

St. Patrick's Day 1

In 2015 Edward teamed up with director Gary Shore to edit the film St. Patrick’s Day.  The film concerns a teacher who gets pregnant, with her doctor warning her, “we’re not certain with what.” It turns out to be (in a riff on the legend of st. Patrick expelling snakes from Ireland) a reptile, but her maternal love has no limits. The dark comedy was part of the “Holidays” anthology feature film and selected for the Tribeca film festival in 2016. Edwards relates, “I was keen to work with Gary Shore on a film after we had collaborated on two commercials in 2015.  Unlike the commercials, which were action packed and heavy in visual effects, this film is a pure narrative dark comedy. The film had over 12 scenes and included several nods to horror and comedy genres, which were fun to play with in the edit. These included creating a comical 1980s style documentary about the myth of St. Patrick. I edited this in a more literal ‘see-say’ style where the voiceover describes exactly what the images are doing, but in an exaggerated way. In the edit, we added a VHS video effect and traditional Irish music to add authenticity. We were so pleased with the resulting ‘mini-film’ that we used it for the opening scene.”

The Painters

The Painters

In 2016 Edward teamed up with longtime collaborator and director Sam Larsson (of multi award-winning collective Traktor) to edit “The Painters”.  Edward recalls, “Sam and I worked together on my first commercial edit in 2011 and have collaborated numerous times since, so when he wrote his first short film it felt natural that we’d team up again.”

The short film follows four house painters who kill time in a parked van as they philosophize about life and recall anecdotes, revealing a glimpse of who they really are. The editor communicates, “This film was a dark comedy with some serious undertones and an editorial challenge being a pure dialogue piece that takes place in one location, inside a van. The success of the film relied heavily on my edit to keep it entertaining and it took some experimenting before we found the film’s rhythm. During the edit I wasn’t shy to cut lines from Sam’s script that we felt were not helping the story, and Sam was very open to my ideas and choices.  As ever with editing, it was important to cut in order to move the story forwards and for emotion, and this was a perfect film to test that theory.” Larrson notes his affinity for the professional partnership he has experienced with Line as he states, “I have always held held Ed Line in high regards for his professionalism and dedication ever since I started to work with him back in the mid 2000. Ed is a great collaborator and very adept at his craft. His intelligent story-telling and comedic instincts have made him a pleasure to work with on every job we have done together. His skills for sound design and broad musical knowledge are invaluable and elevate the films we have worked on. He has a profound dedication to each project and will often stay involved even after his defined role is complete. He is one of the first editors I turn to when I am crewing up for a project.”

The Painters was selected for L.A. Shorts Festival in 2019 and will continue to be seen on the festival circuit into 2020.

Wale

Wale1

Inspired by racial tensions in East London, “Wale” follows the story of an 18-year-old mobile mechanic, who learned his trade whilst serving time in a young offenders institution.  After his release, he attempts to get his business going after being hired by the mysterious character O’Brien.

The ongoing tone that permeates the film the story is one of suspense and masterfully achieved through a blend of the director’s vision and editor’s pacing. Edward’s influence is prominent from the opening montage of Wale in which the footage slows down, causing the image to ‘strobe’ as it repeats frames. This editorial technique helps to convey danger and unpredictability and sets the mood for the rest of the film.  Later, in the scene where Wale [the main character] goes to O’Brien’s house to discuss fixing his car; Edward identifies nuanced moments in the character’s performance and lingers on shots to cultivate an uneasy and mysterious tone. The editing is full of restraint in a key driving scene where Wale wrestles with many emotions as Edward holds the shots longer than one might think possible; allowing the audience to really feel Wale’s emotions and try to understand where his mind might be taking him. Edward magnanimously states, “sometimes not cutting is the best decision an editor can make.”

Director Barnaby Blackburn recalls, “Ed has an extraordinarily natural talent for storytelling. He is able to quickly grasp the vision of the filmmaker and translate it on to screen in addition to his innate understanding of the appropriate tone, pacing, and emotion for every film he works on. Ed is not afraid to experiment beyond the traditional norms of film editing, which continually makes for groundbreaking work that pushes the craft of editing, and filmmaking in a broader sense, forward.”

Wale was very well received and boasts an impressive festival run, winning the prestigious Grand Jury Award at Dances With Films and ‘Best Short Film’ at a further five festivals.  The culmination of its success came in being shortlisted for an Academy Award (Oscar) and subsequently being nominated for a BAFTA in the ‘Best Short Film’ category.

The success of the film points to the strength of the relationship between Director Barnaby Blackburn and Edward who have forged a strong working relationship.  As such, they collaborated again in 2019 and completed another short film Dad Was’. This film follows the story of Mattie, an eight –year-old boy as he gives the eulogy at his father’s funeral. The production reunited many of those who worked on ‘Wale’ and will be submitted to festivals in 2020.

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(Editor Edward Line at work)

 

An Empathetic Approach to Filmmaking with Producer Summer Xinlei Yang

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Producer Summer Xinlei Yang appears to have the golden touch when it comes to filmmaking. There are equal portions of passion and commitment applied to her work, the results of which speak for themselves. Her films repeatedly become Official Selections of Academy Award Qualifying Festivals and are met with overwhelmingly enthusiastic responses from the audiences who view them. As with anyone in the film industry, success is met when talent chooses the stories that they are most suited to tell. These days, Hollywood is discovering more than ever that certain individuals are perfectly suited to tell a certain kind of story. For Xinlei, this often means the tales of people involved in multicultural situations. As a native of China who has experienced success in both her home country and the US, Summer always finds the connective tissue of her experiences and that of the characters in the lauded films she has worked on.

The Way Home is director Yiran Zhou’s heart wrenching tale of the modern day immigrant and an Official Selection at Academy Qualifying Film Festivals, including the 35th Santa Barbara International Film Festival, the 10th BronzeLens Film Festival, and winner of the International Vision Award at the Flickers’ Rhode Island International Film Festival. The Way Home is the story of two immigrants; 18-year-old Chinese-American Jimmy who seizes the opportunity to prove himself to a Chinatown hooligan and thirty-year-old Haiyang who followed a Coyote through the US-Mexican border years ago while his younger brother [Bin] fell ill. As Jimmy and Haiyang venture toward their own goals, it becomes clear that there is a very high price to pay. The film intimately follows them on their emotional, physical, and moral journeys, providing a timely exploration of family, identity, and sacrifice. The story was inspired by the director’s acquaintance with some Chinese factory workers in a Chinese food warehouse. Most of the employees at the establishment worked ninety hours or more per week. Contrasting the misconception that they were looking for a free ride, these workers came to America for the opportunity to make money to send home and support their loved ones. The film’s producer informs, “This story is about two different generations of Chinese immigrants is relevant and meaningful for the director and I as we are both from China. From the beginning of creating this story, both of us were adamant that the film should have a retrospective and dark tone to show the gap between the reality and immigrants’ American Dreams.” The Way Home was also selected by the 22nd Shanghai International Film Festival for its longest running competition, the Golden Goblet Award.

Xinlei worked with director Angela Chen on the film Our Home Here which was an Official Selection of the 22nd Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival (Past winners and attendees include Oscar nominated actress Rosie Perez; Emmy nominee JT Takagi; Sundance Film Festival nominee Terence Nance; Golden Globes and Emmy nominee Issa Rae, Ebony Jo-Ann, Screen Actors Guild Awards nominee Margot Bingham). This story centers around four individuals in a Texas city; nineteen-year-old Dylan, his older sister Rose, fourty-three-year-old fast-food worker Celine, and a twenty-one-year-old addict named Sean. Unbeknownst to these four, their lives will soon come together in a violent clash at the Sunny Meals drive-thru when Sean’s drug-bender takes a sinister turn, forever changing the trajectories of their lives, their careers, and their relationships. The film explores the desires for control, identity and family, as we intimately follow these characters during the day leading up to the incident. Although the story takes place in Texas, the actual filming location was in Los Angeles.

An even darker tale is found in the film When the Shadow Falls which Summer produced for director Jeseung Woo. After witnessing the suicide of a stranger, a woman named Jane becomes overwhelmingly haunted by the question of whether she could have done anything to help. Inspired by the director’s actual witnessing of a stranger’s suicide in Seoul, the subject matter hearkens back to the idea of many of Summer’s films which asks, “What is the pain that other’s experience which I am unaware of and how would this knowledge allow me to change my view of them?”

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If there is one unifying thread here, it is empathy. Film may be the most powerful tool in helping society feel what goes overlooked in the challenges of its members. To this end, filmmakers like Summer Xinlei and her peers offer the most benevolent choices for us all. The producer plans on maximizing this with her talent on an upcoming project, the documentary feature tentatively titled Frozen Fertility. She relates, “Soon after I decided to make a documentary about reproductive rights for women in China, a director friend of mine forwarded me the news of Teresa Xu, a women rights activist who hopes to freeze her eggs while she works to save money for a future family. Since China bars single women from the procedure, she decided to mount China’s first legal challenge of a law that limits fertility treatments to married couples only. I was so excited when I saw the news, and right away I reached out to her lawyer and herself about my documentary. Our shared understanding and first-hand experience with the subject immediately led her to agree to join our documentary filming. We were able to capture her story of going through the court and facing both local and international media. Her unique story appeared just as I was looking for subjects for my documentary feels like fate. I am just following my heart. The minute I saw the news I thought ‘I must take action now to film this significant moment.’ Summer is prompting all of us to take action with the incredible films she produces.

Filmmaking Team Philip Morelli and Alice Del Corso Behind the Upcoming Film “Memoria”

"Memoria"
Film Poster for “Memoria”

Italian filmmakers Philip Morelli and Alice Del Corso are creating quite a buzz with news of their upcoming sci-fi feature film “Memoria,” which is slated to begin shooting in Atlanta, GA next year.

With Philip as the director and Alice as the screenwriter behind all of their joint projects, the duo, who happen to be married, have carved out a strong reputation for delivering award-winning work, such as the multi-award winning films “Magnolia: Hearts on Fire Vol. 1” and “Apeiron.” 

Taking place 20 years in the future, “Memoria” depicts an emotionless society where drastic changes in human evolution resulting from Memoria’s technology have further compounded the   ethnic and socioeconomic divide between people on earth. “Memoria” brings to the screen a relatable and foreshadowing story of the far-reaching effects of technology gone wrong, one where a new and innovative technology that could have been used to improve people’s lives and cure illnesses has instead been used to increase the money gap and further divide people.

Philip and Alice initially found their inspiration for “Memoria” after reading a 2017 article about a brain technology that could expand human intelligence and provide the possibility to upload and download data through the cloud. 

“We started to think about all the implications that this technology could have in real life, and that’s where it all started,” says Alice. 

The buzz the highly-anticipated film “Memoria” has been earning around the globe is due in part to the couple’s previous success in the genre. Back in 2015 Philip directed the sci-fi film “Apeiron,” which Alice wrote the screenplay for; and their joint efforts garnered extensive international praise. The brilliant sci-fi film depicts a highly cinematic post-apocalyptic story that took audiences and festival judges by storm, with “Apeiron” earning numerous awards including the Best of the Year Award from the Gold Movie Awards, Best Short Award from the Hollywood Film Competition, Best Trailer Award from the International Independent Film Awards, Best Drama Short Award from the Hollywood International Moving Pictures Film Festival, the Best Short Awards from both the 2017 and 2019 editions of  Los Angeles CineFest, and more. We need not look further than “Apeiron” to see just how effectively Philip and Alice can bring a powerful sci-fi story to the screen. 

“Apeiron” lead actress Beatrice Gattai (“Wedding in Rome”) says, “Alice’s writing and Filippo’s visions are something most could only wish to aim at. They are a truly inspiring artistic couple. They are a great team. She has the imagination and he has the sensitivity to understand and bring to life what she had imagined… The stories they create are mind blowing.”

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Philip Morelli on set of “Apeiron” shot by Donatello Gradassi

Though their previous success has undoubtedly given Philip and Alice a strong foundation to stand upon as a filmmaking team, what they have come up with for “Memoria” is unique, relevant and appealing on its own.

“Technology has really changed lives in a better way, but every progress brings some light and some darkness with it,” says Philip. “With Memoria I want to go deep and bring all these aspects to the light, in the most real way, as it could happen tomorrow. I want to connect with the audience, give them a close look at the characters, then going close-up in the suburbs and extreme wide in the city. My characters have real issues, so I will shoot in 35 mm to bring these feelings out in the light.”

With Philip and Alice behind the film “Memoria,” the film is assured to be a flawless production and surefire hit with audiences. Last year the duo turned heads with their award-winning film “Magnolia: Hearts on Fire Vol. 1,” which starred Rocco Fasano (“Tender Eyes,” “SKAM Italia”), Amedeo Andreozzi (“Don Matteo”) and Sara Matteucci (“Sketch Up,” “Love 14”).

Rocco Fasano, who plays the villain in the film, says “Working with [Philip and Alice] was an absolutely beautiful, enriching experience. They work as a couple and they work as a team, and they manage to deliver an idea in a clean, rational, straight forward way, and they give so much room for you as an actor.”

Based on Alice’s novel of the same name, “Magnolia: Hearts on Fire Vol. 1” is a uniquely crafted romance film that follows Elise, a young woman who desperately tries to escape her traumatic past by changing her name and moving to London. Viewers are led into Alice’s life through a series of flashbacks that reveal her past and her first encounter with Colin, a man that would forever change her life; with the overall message of the story begging the question of whether the very thing one is running from is in fact, the only thing that can make them happy in the end.

Turning Alice’s engaging novel into the screenplay for the first in a series of “Magnolia” films that the couple intend to make, Philip drew upon his expansive creativity and took a unique approach with his direction for “Magnolia: Hearts on Fire Vol. 1.”

“Being that this a romance, I tried to do something completely different from my usual style. Longer takes in order to spend more time with the characters and catch their emotions, which also gave the audience some time to feel each shot,” Philip explains. 

“I played a lot with silhouettes, making them more evocative and I used slow motion to emphasize the dramatic parts of the story. Mixing all of these techniques I tried to show the love between Elise and Colin, without hiding the sadness that sometimes we feel in the plot.”

Alice Del Corso and Philip Morelli
Alice Del Corso and Philip Morelli

One of the things that makes Philip and Alice such a cutting edge team is their desire to stay ahead of the curve and infuse their work with innovative techniques. A prime example is the scene in “Magnolia: Hearts of Fire Vol 1” where they captured ink in water in motion. 

“In Magnolia there’s a lot that happens on the outside, but there’s also a lot that happens on the inside, in the subconscious, and I wanted to represent this with water,” explains Philip. “I used this technique that involves a particular ink which has a density that makes it move in slow motion without the need to use a high-frame rate in the camera. I used it both for the quotes that represent Elise’s thoughts, and also for a real book copy that I submerged in a tank.”

Released in 2018, “Magnolia: Hearts of Fire Vol 1” earned astonishing praise throughout the industry with the film taking home numerous awards from festivals earlier this year, including the Crown Wood International Film Festival, Creation International Film Festival, Via dei Corti, TMFF Film Festival, Rolling Ideas, Etna Film Festival, Couch Film Festival and more. The film has also been chosen as an Official Selection of the 2020 Mabig Film Festival, where it has been nominated for several awards including Best Directing, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Editing.

They prepare everything from the smallest details, and they always make each crew member feel comfortable,” says Lorenzo Costagliola, the cinematographer behind “Magnolia: Hearts of Fire Vol 1” and “Apeiron.” 

“Philip and Alice have plenty of ideas, and they have enough experience to understand if an idea is working or not, without wasting anyone’s time. What makes them really strong is the ability to create harmony on set. They solve everything with tranquility and professionalism and no one ever complained. Is not that easy to find those qualities in other projects, that’s why I always love working with them, because it’s like having your family on set.”

Aside from their upcoming film “Memoria,” Philip and Alice are also in the process of making the follow-up film for “Magnolia,” which is expected to be released next year.

At the end of the day, Philip and Alice are a brilliant filmmaking team due to their ability to merge their individual creative talents together in service of the story. Even more importantly though is that their respect for the power of collaboration doesn’t with them, it extends to include their entire crew, so it’s no wonder why those they work with, such as cinematographer Lorenzo Costagliola and actor Rocco Fassano, who were each involved in “Apeiron” and “Magnolia: Hearts of Fire Vol 1,” continue to work with them time and time again.

“Cinema is made by people, so the first important thing is to be surrounded by people you trust, that have good ideas and are willing to get involved in that journey with you. Teamwork is the key word, not only in cinema but in everything else,” says Philip. “A solid story is another important aspect of making movies, a story that you can feel moving inside you just by reading the script. The audience’s acceptance is always the major challenge, but if you have a really good story and a really good team, you will make good cinema for sure.” 

The founders of the production company Castle View Studio, Philip Morelli and Alice Del Corso are in no shortage of powerful and inspiring stories, and having proven that they have the talent to bring them to life on screen, they’re definitely a team audience’s should get to know.

 

Sound Editor Jingjue Zhou works with Narval Films on impactful new film ‘Pier Las Vegas’

Sound. It is 50 per cent of the movie watching experience. A simple rain drop to a massive explosion would not be made possible without the hard work of the sound editors behind-the-scenes that work tirelessly to create an authentic sound that allows audiences to be immersed by what they are taking in on screen. China’s Jingjue Zhou knows this better than most. This celebrated sound editor has worked on all genres of movies and television shows and is always refining her talents. She is a true storyteller, using sound to subtly enhance a script, creating drama and emotion through the sense in a beautiful and natural way.

Whether taking in her work at SeaWorld Orlando’s “Sesame Street Land” interactive game plays, or through award-winning films such as Spring Flower, millions around the world have appreciated Zhou’s extraordinary sound work. Her versatility and commitment to storytelling through sound make her a force to be reckoned with in the industry, and despite her success, she remains committed to her craft, simply enjoying what she does.

The highlight of her esteemed career came when working with Narval Films LLC. She has worked on several films for the renowned production company, including the documentary Road to Olympia, which tells the story of a Chinese bodybuilding athlete. Long Wu is a celebrity athlete with millions of fans on social media. He is the first Chinese IFBB pro card holder and first Chinese to compete professionally in Olympia.  It’s a story about his career journey over the past 10 years. The film was broadcast on China Central Television, the biggest TV platform in China, and the social media platform Weibo, achieving 1.5M views and 6.9K likes.

“From this film, I got to learn all the hardships Long Wu has been through and the essence of success in one’s career. Long Wu, though successful, is still very humble, hardworking and extremely self-disciplined. I am proud to be on the team telling this story so more people can get to know such a cool person and sport,” said Zhou.

Zhou’s favorite project with the production company, however, is the film Pier Las Vegas. The story is about Gao Xing, a hearing-disabled and vocally impaired person from a small town in China, who works as an ordinary housekeeper at a Las Vegas casino hotel, and always rummages through the guests’ luggage secretly while cleaning the room to search for clues about his sister who was adopted by an American family long ago. However, Gao’s life changes one afternoon when a massive shooting occurs at the music festival outside of the hotel.

“This fictional story takes place during the real life event of the tragic Las Vegas mass shooting. The people killed are not numbers. They have their own life stories and families. The movie is a portrait of one of them. It’s a powerful story that helps people remember those who die in these events and reflects on our society,” said Zhou. “What’s the problem and how can we change it? This film evokes those questions.”

Pier Las Vegas is a drama with an experimental storytelling style. It is directed by Yun Xie, a talented Chinese director. Her award-winning movie Truth or Dare has had a very successful theatrical release all over China. Zhou was happy to work with her on such an important film as Pier Las Vegas.

The sound editing in the film is very heavy and challenging as the main character is constantly in and out of a dream state. Zhou had the chance to play with lots of interesting plug ins and synthesizers to generate her own sound palette.

“It’s fun and challenging when it comes to sound editing for dreamy sequences. The director always said to me that it was my moment to shine. We wanted to create a feeling of being out of place in these dream sequences. We were really happy that all the sound came organically to make the audience feel the same way the character feels,” said Zhou.

Zhou’s hard work more than paid off as Pier Las Vegas has seen immense success all over the world. The film premiered in China’s top art house film festival earlier this year and has been an Official Selection at six prestigious festivals so far. It was also nominated for several awards, and Zhou is thrilled to see where it will go next.

“I am so happy it got the recognition internationally, especially in my home country of China. It’s selected to be in the competition of First International Film Festival, taking place in Xining. Every year, all the top artists and first-class Asian film committees will attend this film festival. Some people tell me that my sound work helped them so much on understanding the style and story of the movie, and that couldn’t make me happier,” she concluded.

 

By John Michaels
Photo by Tianyi Wang

Producer Helena Sardinha recalls award-winning film ‘Pumpkin’ and finding filmmaking passion

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Helena Sardinha

Before pursuing her now prolific career in filmmaking, Helena Sardinha was a professional dancer. The more she danced, however, the more she realized it wasn’t what she wanted to spend her life doing. She had always been passionate about the various forms of artistic expression and found filmmaking to be one of the most complete art forms there is.

“If you breakdown a film, you find elements of every single art in it. In screenwriting, you have literature, poetry; in acting, theater; cinematography, painting, photography; in original scores, music; in set and costume design, architecture, sculpture, fashion; in the camera and actors movement, dance. To make films is to reproduce life the way you want it to be, and to be able to do that, I feel very privileged,” she says.

Now, Sardinha is a celebrated producer in her home country of Brazil and abroad, with many acclaimed projects on her decorated resume. Films like That Girl and Walter have gone on to win several awards at prestigious festivals around the world, a pattern that occurs with most projects she takes on. Her success as a producer is undisputed, and she believes that her experience in dance has allowed her to understand her role in filmmaking that much more.

“I believe that growing up in a dancer’s discipline environment and having an early start on my artistic endeavors was key for my development as a producer. Being connected to diverse content made me develop artistic skills and sensibility to art forms that accompanies me in my career,” she says.

One of Sardinha’s first major success stories after transitioning from dancer to producer came back in 2016 with her film Pumpkin. The film follows Alice and her best friend Dan, who lives in another country. When he tells her he’s been diagnosed with cancer, she faces the scary feeling of being away and powerless. So, Alice tries to show him support and love. Even if that means pushing away friends that are physically close to her.

Pumpkin is more than a project, it’s a life statement about love. But it’s also about pain during a time of our lives that is definitive for building our characters and notions of values. It’s not often we see teen films talking about those issues, about grief, dealing with pain. It’s important for other teens to watch this film and be able to feel a sense of belonging. To understand that pain is a part of life, and it’s healthy to talk about it. It’s a real story based on the director’s life and it really resonated with me. Losing a friend is not easy, and that was the way she found to cope with it,” says Sardinha.

The film was written and directed by Paula Neves, who was telling a true story based on events in her life. She knew she needed a talented producer to do her story justice, and reached out to Sardinha. They worked very well together, as Sardinha felt extremely close to the story and the project, knowing its background and the inspiration. Sardinha understood quickly what was fundamental to deliver Neves’ vision, and she put a crew together quickly and efficiently.

“It is always great to work with Helena, she is really pro-active and organized. Being on set with her or on a project produced by her is always an easy and fun experience. She is really responsible and smart-thinking. She always looks for a way of making things better without compromising time or money. Also, she is empathic to others, making sure everyone around her is well and in the best mindset. When she commits to something, you know she’ll be giving her ultimate best,” says Neves.

Pumpkin had its premiere at the world-famous Short Film Corner at Cannes in 2016, and went on to win awards and receive great praise at countless other festivals over the course of the year. Those rewards were secondary, however, for Sardinha and Neves, as they had a financial campaign to help kids with cancer through the project.

“I believe working on a project that generates awareness to any kind of issue and makes audiences move and try to change something is just a blessing. Pumpkin was one of those. Our goal as filmmakers is to be able to reach out to audiences and emotionally connect with people. Being able to receive so many notes and comments from people on the film, really pays off the entire journey of making a film,” Sardinha concludes.

 

By Annabelle Lee

Director John Wate lives childhood dream when making ‘Samurai Warrior Queens’

JW Samurai Warrior Queens
John Wade, Photo by Roberto Vivancos

Growing up in Berlin and Munich, Germany, John Wate found a passion in Manga comics at a young age. He was intrigued by the style of the Japanese graphic novels and began drawing his own at just ten years of age. Even then he knew he was meant to tell stories, but as he began transitioning away from drawing and into filmmaking, his innate drive to be a storyteller never wavered.

Now, Wate is a renowned director in his home country and abroad. Two of his past films, The Sword of the Samurai and The Samurai Bow, made it for 4 years into the top twenty of National Geographic Channel’s worldwide most popular documentaries. He is known for his unwavering dedication to his craft, and his work on projects like Epic Warrior Women, Samurai Headhunters, and Samurai Warrior Queens, projects that reminded him just why he got into filmmaking in the first place.

“One of the first manga stories I ever wrote when I was a teenager was that of a female samurai kicking ass. When I was sitting in the edit room watching Samurai Warrior Queens chasing inslow motion across a bridge towards the enemy with their blades drawn, I felt as though I was having my teenage wishes fulfilled,” said Wate.

The drama documentary Samurai Warrior Queens tells the real-life story of Samurai woman Takeko Nakano who in 1868 fights for her clans’ independence in a final battle that marks the end of the Samurai era. The legends of the Samurai seem to be an all-male affair; but contrary to popular belief, Samurai women stood their ground in countless battles and castle sieges. Takeko Nakano fights for her clans’ independence in a final battle that marks the end of the Samurai era.

“It is almost unknown that female samurai existed, let alone that they stood on the battlefield. Recent DNA from battlefields found that 30 percent of the sampled bones belonged to female fighters. However, for proud male samurai it was regarded as a shame if you had to rely on women to win your battle, so their presence was hardly ever recorded. The film can give them their place in history,” said Wate. “Takeko’s life provided a great arc and was pretty much a metaphor for the end of the samurai era as a whole. The role of female heroes has not received much attention until recent years, especially in Japan, and the story sheds a very different light on what in the West is often perceived as the general submissive and weak, moon gazing Japanese female persona.”

Wate enjoys strong female characters and had already come across different accounts of strong female samurai and wanted to show what their life was like. Their education, their ability to stand up against the more famous samurai in battle, it was all an intriguing topic that Wate wanted to really dig into.

Extensive background research of local folk tales and chronicles eventually led him to choose the life story of Takeko Nakano. She grew up in Aizu, a proud province in northern Japan where education, etiquette and martial arts were held in high esteem. Her father was a commander in a clan that understood itself as the protector of the Shogun. When the Shogun was threatened by other clans, supplied by Western firepower, the Aizu fought their last battles that eventually ended in the end of the samurai era. Takeko was very talented with the Naginata, a polearm or a samurai blade with a meter-long grip at the end. She was an instructor and took it on herself to recruit other female combatants to charge against the enemy but was eventually killed during the assault by a bullet.

To understand how she lived, how she might have seen her daily duties, why she refused to marry and fight instead, Wate traveled to her home province, went to research local archives, see their castle defenses, and really explore what her life would have been like. He then developed the script, cast the film, and got to shooting.

“I loved showing the world of the samurai, their attitude, ideals of honor and courage from a female perspective. In some ways they had to endure more than their male counterparts. Not only because they were often the pawns in the marriage game, but also because they had to fight and stand in for the actions of their husbands, their clan and the Shogun. I also found it fascinating and horrifying at the same time how they were taught to pursue grace even in death. Female samurai carried a dagger with them at all times once they reached womanhood to defend their honor. If they were in danger to be captured and raped, they would often have to commit suicide and were taught already as teenagers to tie their knees together with their belts, so that their legs would still look graceful after their death,” he described.

The film was distributed worldwide and nominated on the short list for the IMPACT Award, losing to the Academy-Award winning film Lincoln. It aired in the United States on the Smithsonian Network in 2015 where it still plays regularly, and is available to stream currently on various platforms, including Amazon and Hulu.

By Sean Desouza

Producer Gaurang Bhat terrifies audience with horror flick ‘Vengeance’

As a celebrated film producer in his home country of India, for Gaurang Bhat, the most fundamental aspect of his role is simple: storytelling. Every captivating film tells a powerful story, and Bhat never takes on a project unless he believes in the script. He knows that the filmmaking process is a collaboration, and he always makes sure his team has the same goal as he does, to create a great film that entertains the masses, and to tell a great story.

This devotion to his craft is evident on every project he takes on. He has been pivotal to the success of many acclaimed films, including Never Too Late, Sushi Man, Nimbus, and SPARSH: A Leprosy Mission, which has received great praise at many prestigious international film festivals. He also has contributed to popular television shows, including Netflix’s hits Chefs Table Season 6and Street Food Asia as a consultant.

One of Bhat’s first tastes of international success came back in 2015 with his film Vengeance. The horror flick tells the story of four friends who, when a common friend dies in a car accident, decide to go in a house away from the city to film their own eulogies before the funeral. The situation turns dark when a fifth person menaces to kill them.

Vengeance“I always wanted to be part of a horror film. I have been a fan since I was a kid. I wanted to try my hand at a fun slasher movie, but this film has so much more than just gore, blood, and violence. That’s why as soon as Luca Ripamonti completed the script, I knew I was working on the film. This story takes a little bit of a different approach as its more about the creeping human fear of a mysterious masked figure. You rarely see the masked figure in the film. It’s all very grounded and psychological,” said Bhat.

From the moment Bhat began working on Vengeance, everything was smooth sailing. He and his team completed the project with ease. Bhat had a lot of creative inputs on the project. He worked on securing the funds and marketing and was involved in making sure that they completed the film as efficiently as possible, overlooking the whole development and production of the film. Based on the ease of filming, he more than did his job.

“It was a very good experience and it’s always great to work with friends. Luca and I have known each other for the longest time now. We still speak every day discussing films and new projects,” said Bhat.

Bhat’s work in marketing the film made it a tremendous success, as the film was selected for many prestigious film festivals, including Infinity Film Festival, Roma Doc and Visionaria, and the world-renowned Cannes Short Film Corner.

“I am ecstatic that the film was such a success. Not everyone can say that their project has been to Cannes. It’s such an honor. I am delighted beyond words. It’s sure been a long project but we got there, and it was great. It was always a dream to have film at Cannes,” said Bhat.

Needless to say, Bhat is at the top of his game as a producer, constantly creating successful projects that captivate audiences in India and around the world. He spends every day living his dream, and although it wasn’t always an easy road to get to the esteemed point in his career he is at now, he knows that working hard does indeed pay off.

“If you too want to be a producer, just keep working and do whatever odd jobs you get. Keep making connections in the field, keep being productive. You never know when you’ll meet someone who might offer you their next project, sometimes it just depends on luck and being there at the right moment. Also, be nice to everyone and be patient, it’s the most important thing in this industry, I can’t stress enough. When I was young, I might have burned some bridges, but I hope others don’t make the same mistake,” he advised.

 

By John Michaels