Category Archives: Film

WALTON CREATES A MODERN ROMANCE BY FLIPPING THE GENDER ROLES IN “THE DATING RING”

Boxers are tough. They are visceral creatures who are quick to physical action and known for few words (with the possible exception of Muhammad Ali) and disconnected from their emotions. The antithesis of this type of person is the calm, well learned, and eagerly helpful librarian. Those who find themselves in this profession are soft spoken professionals who appreciate a good razor for their beard. Wait…were you thinking of a female librarian and possibly a male boxer? Sarah Walton was likely hoping you would make this mistake when she wrote the screenplay for the film The Dating Ring. This film flips the gender roles that we have come to expect. Exploring the dynamic of a relationship between a female boxer and a male librarian, Sarah wanted to challenge both herself and the audience to see these characters as unique and not just another gender assumption. The Dating Ring won worldwide acclaim and was an Official Selection for the Lumiere Film Festival, Italy (2015). Romantic Italians loved the idea which Walton presented that every female/male relationship should be considered at face value; a lesson we’d all be better off learning. Sarah has a pedigree which includes many romantic comedies but The Dating Ring presents its action with a goal of making the viewer ponder just as much as being entertained. The ultimate question asked by this film is, “What is strength?”

When Sarah went through a bad break-up and experienced a betrayal, she did what all artists do…she created. She saw her own dating experience as combative and took the pugilist metaphor to a literal place in her screenplay. To make a clean break from her normal romantic comedy method, she wrote the initial draft without dialogue to challenge herself. This approach gave her a radically different tone for the film and exhibited a fresh approach for Walton. The gender role switch of the two main characters might sound odd on paper but works amazingly well on screen, no doubt due to the incredible performances of Emily Goddard (Shayne) and Nick Farnell (Benji). Shayne is a thirty-three-year-old female boxer, bred by her retired boxing champion mother to be a fighter but it was never Shayne’s passion. She has a maternal mother inside her dying to get out, but her tough exterior and mannerisms belie her true desire for intimacy. Benji is a gentle and compassionate man in his mid 30’s, raised by his strong single mother and two older sisters who taught him the importance of strength and compassion after they escaped from his con artist father. His Achilles heel is being lied to because he watched his mother cry herself to sleep night after night as a result of his father’s lies. He wants true love, not a ruse. Walton states, “In society, the pressure for males and females to focus predominantly on their masculine or feminine traits can be psychologically unhealthy for us as individuals, our self-expression, and the way we interact with one another. Gender role reversal in film challenges this division and promotes equality for the sexes. Within a melodramatic film it’s difficult to stray from the traditional expression and repression of female characters in stereotypical feminine behavior, in which non-diegetic music plays a role. A way of solving that problem is gender role reversal. Steering away from the historical portrayal of masculine and feminine in film will allow us to challenge stereotypes and potentially ease the pressure for men and women to feel limited by their genders in society.”

Donna Hensler (Supervising Producer on The Dating Ring) Recognized the magic in Sarah’s script immediately. She recalls, “As soon as I picked up the script for The Dating Ring I was captured by the voice of the lead character Shayne; a female boxer struggling with the trials and tribulations of love. Sarah’s writing, though commercial and mainstream, is extremely honest and original. She thinks outside the box and isn’t afraid to take a risk. Sarah is a passionate story teller and her stories reflect her unique view of the world and positive view of humanity which is perfectly suited to the romantic comedy genre.”

The Dating Ring still copy

The core of The Dating Ring is designed around fighting. The reveal of the plot is that what you think you are fighting for may not be what you really should be fighting for. With 10 years out of the dating game, Shayne gets back in the ring. She’s training for a big fight and she’s losing her game, so focus is imperative. Her boxing coach mother lets her in on the family secret to winning championships…sex the night before the fight, because it will help her loosen up and focus on the game. Shane meets a male librarian named Benji to whom she is surprisingly attracted. The fact that he’s a male librarian and has a child (she thinks children are the devil) intimidates her, causing her insecurities to flair. She struggles to break the ice with him and finds herself acting out and screaming obscenities like a Tourette’s syndrome victim. Before she knows it she has a fist full of lies to cover up and she’s in too deep. Her fighting increasingly suffers culminating in a choice between the sport she’s loved her whole life and the man of her dreams. When they kiss for the first time Shayne reveals her true self. Benji, hurt that she lied, breaks into tears. She does what any woman in her position would do…she runs off to the boxing ring for the big game. Shayne finds herself in the ring and set up for the wining punch but she can’t do it anymore. Her love for Benji has changed her and she feels compassion for the first time in a long time. She throws in her boxing gloves right then and there with the realization that gentleness is strength.

Just as profound as the role reversal for this story is the idea presented that we cannot judge ourselves by the way that others see us. For Shayne, it is her judgmental and pushy mother who envisions an idea of what her daughter’s life should be. Discovering your sense of self is a thread that runs through much of Walton’s writing. Consider this piece that she penned about other well-known romantic comedy characters of present times; Sarah wrote, “Bridget Jones perfected the art of imperfection.  We love watching her and characters like Carrie Bradshaw, Nina Proudman, or Ted Mosby take chances, put themselves out there and fall down (often literally) because when they make mistakes it makes us feel better about our failures.  It reassures us that it’s okay to be flawed. Mistakes and failures are merely learning curves and opportunities for growth.  Bridget and her fellow imperfectionists show us how making mistakes can lead to happiness because they always succeed in the end.  But what if happiness isn’t at the end of the film or T.V. series.  What if happiness is right now?  Not when we get that dream job, lose weight, finish a degree, earn more money, find a partner, have a baby or move house… but right now. If success is happiness and we can only achieve true happiness through mistakes and failures, then surely we should be welcoming and celebrating failure rather than trying to avoid it?  I know I’ve made a million mistakes and I’ll make a million more.  And I wouldn’t change a single one because they are part of what has gotten me here… And here is pretty great.”

The Dating Ring IMG_3997 (2)

There is a deluge of romantic comedies to choose from if you want to be entertained and feel good. If you want all of the former as well as to be challenged to consider who we are as individuals rather than easily categorized tropes, watch a film that was written by Sarah Walton.

JOHN ALBANIS BECOMES A GLOBAL SENSATION WITH HECTOR AND THE SEARCH FOR HAPPINESS

There are times when you hear about someone taking on a task so difficult, so trying, that you wonder, “Why would you put yourself through this?” Mind you, we’re not talking 127 Hours/James Franco difficult. The film Hector and the Search for Happiness (starring Simon Pegg as Hector) is truly a global experience in terms of the action on the screen and the filmmakers journey to create it. A virtually army of professionals (numbering nearly 600) shot on four different continents, dealing with differing time zones, languages, and currencies to create this masterpiece. To coordinate as well as lend creativity required a very special producer, which is exactly what John Albanis defines. The film’s director, Peter Chelsom, brought John onto this project because of his practically inhuman ability to coordinate and facilitate, all while lending an artistic eye. In order to keep the integrity of the script, a number of producers contributed financially to the film while Albanis’s role was to be the “boots on the ground” in charge. Attesting to the accomplishment of the film’s intact vision are the many awards and nominations it received. These include: 2015 nominated for a Canadian Screen Award, 2015 Leo Awards – nominated Best Motion Picture, nominated Best Production Design in a Motion Picture, nominated Best Musical Score in a Motion Picture, and many others (including a win “Jury Prize” for Peter Chelsom at the Monte-Carlo Comedy Film Festival and a win for Best Foreign Comedy Trailer by the Golden Trailer Awards). A truly stellar cast including: Simon Pegg, Rosamund Pike, Toni Collette, Stellan Skarsgard, Christopher Plummer, Jean Reno, and others was required to deliver incredible performances. Peter Chelsom was required to direct and guide the performances while Kolja Brandt captured them on camera. All of this would have been for naught if John Albanis had not set the table perfectly for all of these artists…and the table required was massive!

When Chelsom requested Albanis to join the film as a producer, it was primarily because of their successful work history (the two have worked together on multiple feature films). When you are about to spend a year of your life biting off more than you can chew, you want someone you trust sitting next to you chewing even faster than yourself. Proving that he was much more than a coordinator or purse string guardian, the relationship between John and Peter would be based on encouraging and advising creatively. Albanis notes, “I had a history of working with Peter and by this point, we’d also become close friends. I wanted Peter to bring more of his personal artistry into this film. I’m a huge fan of his early two films, which were European indies: Hear My Song and Funny Bones. His direction is masterful in those films because the tone is so unique to him. The films he’s made in Hollywood are also fantastic (and certainly financially successful), but they didn’t showcase everything that Peter was capable of achieving. For Hector, Peter needed to get back to his roots and be more creative. This mandate spilled into every decision we made. A lot of the more creative aspects of the film were brainstormed between us early on. A good example of this is the treatment of Hector’s travel journal, which we decided to animate because it afforded us some wonderful thematic and editorial transitional opportunities.”

It’s impossible to separate the diversity of stories in Hector and the Search for Happiness from the diverse situations in which the production was placed to create it. The essence of the story is that Hector (Simon Pegg) is a psychiatrist who feels disillusioned by the mundane nature of his life and emotional experience. On a quest for his own happiness, he seeks out what it is that cultivates this emotion in others. He travels the planet, interacting with and experiencing lifestyles and people completely unlike himself…only to discover that the source of happiness was always with him. The filmmakers were insistent on not using soundstage trickery to “resemble” the feel of each location, meaning that the production travelled to each location, spanning the planet with John Albanis leading the charge. Because he was in charge of scouting locations, this meant that John travelled the globe twice for this film. He explains, “We felt it was crucial to the film’s success to physically go to each country to follow Hector’s journey. And yes…we all wanted to prove it could be done. Hector was an extremely ambitious project with a modest budget — yet we still managed to film across 7 countries and 4 continents including: Vancouver (Canada), London (UK), Johannesburg (S. Africa), Shanghai (China), Los Angeles (USA), Ledakh (India), and Germany. From the very beginning, we viewed it as four indie films that made up one larger story.” A larger studio may have requested a different tone for the film so, rather than rob it of its heart…multiple entities were called upon to aid a financial hand to the artistic integrity. Ultimately, London’s Bankside Films understood the filmmakers vision and agreed with it.

Travelling to exotic destinations with world famous actors may seem glamorous, and it is at times. Producing is a demanding job that requires a clear head and split second decisions at times, especially when in foreign lands. Sometimes the situation calls for a calm demeanor in the most troubling of circumstances. Relating a particularly unsettling experience during the filming of Hector and the Search for Happiness, Albanis recalls, “There’s a section in the film where Hector travels to a Tibetan monastery. We were originally going to film the monastery sequence in rural China. During my initial scout, I sourced the most beautiful monastery in the remote Kangding, Sichuan region of China, which we’d planned to shoot immediately after Shanghai. However, upon arriving at the location, there was unrest between the local monks and the Chinese military police (unrelated to us), so we could no longer film there. This was disastrous for the film and a horrible way to end the production. We went on a hiatus for a few months to game plan how (and where) we were going to film the monastery sequence, which was pivotal to the story. Ultimately, we discovered similar-looking monasteries in Ledakh, India. However, by this time, due to budgetary restraints and cast availability, we were unable to get our entire crew to India. So we decided that I would go to India to produce and direct all of our wide exterior shots, working with a 100% Indian crew and casting a double for Hector (Simon Pegg). I then met back with the rest of the crew along with our cast in the Bavarian Alps in Germany to shoot the interiors, mid-shots, and close-up shots. Coordinating how these shots worked together was quite complicated and each shot had to be precise and storyboarded in great detail.”

IMG_6102

Hector and the Search for Happiness is a warm and tender film yet; it is also uncomfortable. What happens to Hector and those around him is sometimes joyful and affirming and sometimes frightening and unsettling. The adage, “It’s about the journey, not the destination” is accurate and somehow too simplistic to convey the tempering which we humans need to be forged into thankful creations. If the experience solidifies a sense of self, then John Albanis might be the most actualized producer in the film industry today as a result of Hector and the Search for Happiness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sound designer Randolph Zaini talks award-winning film “Paper Tiger”

randolph-newport-beach-film-fest.jpg
Sound Designer Randolph Zaini

Only someone who is truly passionate about what they do can talk about it the way that Randolph Zaini speaks about sound design. He explains the intricacies and nuances to the craft as if they are the elements in his poem. Sound design is more than a passion to him; it is a lifestyle, and it is one that he loves living.

When working on the award-winning film Paper Tiger, Zaini showed audiences around the world what he is capable of. The film went to several international film festivals after premiering at the 2015 New Filmmakers Festival, and won the IndieFeast Award, Award of Recognition 2016. The film is also in discussion of being distributed through SCA channel.

“It is incredibly encouraging that the film has done so well. There were many risks that the director and I took in our approach of creating this movie, and receiving so many accolades and distribution only strengthens our belief that we take risks for the right reasons. Chances were either we’d be received with open arms or shunned out of the gates, but it wouldn’t be anything in between, which would be a more regrettable position. Luckily, we were received with very positive reactions,” said Zaini.

Paper Tiger is about a Shaolin monk undergoing an internal conflict after refusing to help a victim of assault. He is part of a traveling troupe promoting Chinese martial arts, yet at the same time, he doesn’t do anything when witnessing an actual act of violence in front of him. In this film, not only does the main character not have any line of dialogue, but he also doesn’t emote very much, coming from a stoic Shaolin background.

“I wanted to do the project because at the core, it is a story that speaks to me. Not that I am a warrior monk of any kind, but that issues of identity crisis and often feeling as if I don’t belong are two things that keep recurring in my life. I am a Chinese-Indonesian; a Chinese by ethnicity, but an Indonesian by birth and citizenship. The feeling of being displaced has always lingered at the back of my head, as well as the cry for help to be accepted without judgment. These emotions are something that are relatable to what the main character of Paper Tiger is going through. Empathy then became a gateway to my involvement in this project. It is a story, or more specifically a state of mind, that needs to be told,” said Zaini.

As a filmmaker, how do you facilitate a character who doesn’t speak and doesn’t indicate with facial expressions, yet at the same time goes through a difficult time? This is where sound design shines, and Zaini was more than up to the task. He approached this by heavily utilizing ambiance design. Introspective moments, volatile moments, anger, despair and frustration is communicated by what is heard surrounding the character. There was one moment when the monk had just performed a martial arts routine, received by a round of applause. As he walks away backstage, the announcer gives a very commercialized version of the cultural history and the business manager sells the cardboard image of the Shaolin, but slowly all that dies down, and all that can be heard are the monk’s footsteps. He is isolated, if not excluded from this world. He is displaced; a man out of his time. Through such sound treatment it becomes painfully obvious. The entire film is filled with this style of sound design that Zaini accomplished so well.

“When given free rein on the sound design process, I was able to experiment with countless techniques I had never done before. That was such a liberating feeling you don’t find that often in ambitious film projects like this. I was also performing every single sound cue for the foley effects. In that sense, I was able to construct this fully realized, complex character by how I would direct the sounds he would make in the story; be it the movement of his monk garb, his prayer beads, and even his footsteps, everything became an audio cue that I instilled into this character. It was tremendously exciting to be able to have a hands-on approach in the story to such level,” said Zaini.

Zaini’s contributions are directly linked to the film’s success. The director, Marshall “Chu-Jen” Wu knew what the sound director was capable of, and knew there was no other person that could achieve the sound he was looking for. Zaini was given complete creative freedom. As the sound design process is very abstract, many of the techniques Zaini used would usually raise questions from directors who are not experienced with ongoing sound projects, but Wu had full faith in Zaini’s capabilities.

“Throughout the entire production of the film, Randolph was able to bring in references from other films, animation, music video, and concerts. Many of those references are not known to the Western market, yet precisely on the point of the vision that I tried to create. One of the most memorable examples of this was Randolph using Japanese Taiko drum performance as the referential suggestion for the soundtrack during the climax martial arts fight in Paper Tiger. The end product is nothing but phenomenal,” said Wu.

Everyone that worked with Zaini on the film was impressed with his skill and commitment to produce flawless sound. The producer of the film, Alexander Moscato, says that every idea Zaini brought to the film only made it better.

“Randolph is an absolute pleasure to work with. He comes to work with a smile and a great sense of humor, and his dedication and passion are quite inspirational. He truly cares about the projects he works on. He takes great care to understand the director’s vision, contributing innovative ideas and insights. When you work with Randolph, it is a collaborative process of discovery, filled with lots of laughs, new insights, and stellar sound design. Randolph is an artist in every sense of the word. He has an ability to bring you into the world of the story by creating dynamic soundscapes. He knows how to tell a story through sound, as he masterfully uses sound to advance the plot, as well as the emotional experiences of the characters that drive the story,” said Moscato.

For a small taste of why Zaini has such an esteemed reputation, you can view his work on the drum scene from Paper Tiger here.

Production designer Andrea Leigh is a visual storyteller

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can view the commercial here.

Innovator Rosanna Peng’s Videography Inspires Creatives Across the Globe

Videographer Rosanna Peng
Videographer Rosanna Peng

Today videographer Rosanna Peng is known around the world for her remarkable ability to tell relevant and impactful stories through video. Her unparalleled creativity, the diverse nature of her work and her expertise in editing are a few of the things that have made Peng standout over the last few years, not to mention the high caliber of clients that have specifically sought her out to create visual content to showcase their brand in a way that grabs people’s attention.

Last year she created the videos for the launch of the J.Crew x New Balance 997 Butterscotch and 997 Cortado sneakers, edited EST Fest: The Documentary, which was featured on Trill HD and follows multi-award winning rapper Machine Gun Kelly at EST Fest and gives viewers a closer look into Kelly’s fan base, as well as created several video tutorials for the popular craft marketplace, ETSY, that teach users how to set up their own shop. On top of that Peng was tapped by Society 6 to shoot a series of photo stories that were featured on their website. Her work in 2016 alone has revealed her to be one videographer whose creative talent truly knows no bounds.

 

 

Still in her early 20s, Peng’s story is rather unique considering the level of international attention she has already received and the fact that she is primarily self taught. Originally from Vancouver, Canada, Rosanna Peng first discovered her innate talent and passion for telling stories through videos while taking an editing class back in high school, and from that point on she was hooked.  

“I was a shy girl and being able to express myself through videos was something I became addicted to. I couldn’t see myself doing anything else,” admits Peng.

In 2014, Peng was tapped as the lead videographer for FREE, a Toronto-based creator studio and digital agency built for modern creative entrepreneurs and progressive brands. The first videographer at the agency, Peng’s work with FREE gave her the chance to really begin exploring her skill as a videographer without boundaries.

She explains, “I experienced a lot of creative freedom, which was essential to the videographer I am today… I dedicated my weekends and evenings to producing content for the agency and I was oddly satisfied with that, knowing I was crafting my own style with every video that I made.”

Her work as FREE’s videographer put her in charge of creating and editing all of the video content for The Creator Class, a cutting-edge online channel designed by and for creators around the world that brings viewers innovative content centered around music, art, style, culture and adventure. A collaboration between FREE and Canon Canada, The Creator Class has been featured by publications and online platforms such as Booooooom, Fast Company, Highsnobiety, Hypebeast, It’s Nice That, Nowness and Vimeo, and has become a driving force in the social revolution of how users around the world approach creativity through photography and videography.

Rosanna Peng
Rosanna Peng shot by Mike Rodriguez

Peng says, “The Creator Class is a space for creatives to be inspired by one another, but also a platform for them to share their work with like-minded people. It is an important space for young creatives because they need to be reminded that even though there is an over-saturation of image consumption today, their vision and voice is still important.”

The videos Peng has created for The Creator Class over the last three years span the gamut in terms of subjects. From those that highlight the work of leading figures in the art and music scene, to the ‘Cheat Sheet’ segment of videos, which teach viewers how to use specific photography tools and achieve certain effects, Peng’s work has helped to both inspire and inform other creatives.

 

The ORIGINALS: Go & Get It w/ WondaGurl, ft. DJ P-Plus video she created, which has garnered over 600,000 views on Youtube, gives viewers a rare peek into the creative process, personal inspiration and unique path to success of music producer WondaGurl, who began making beats at age 9 and has since been tapped by the music industry’s leading artists, such as  Travis Scott, Jay Z, Drake, SZA, Young Thug and Kanye West, to produce some of the hottest tracks on the market today.

“I feel proud of the finished video because I’m happy to share young female creative’s stories. I think a lot of people, male or female, view WondaGurl to be an immense source of inspiration and aspiration. Being able to share her story was a very rewarding feeling,” says Peng about the video.

As the videographer, Peng was in charge of not only shooting the video, but like most videos on The Creator Class channel, she edited the entire work as well. Her unique way of capturing her subjects, combined with her expertise as an editor and keen sense of pacing and rhythm, has endowed each video with a deeply personal aspect that gives viewers the experience of feeling as though they are right there in the room having a conversation with the subject in the video.

“I am naturally an introverted and sympathetic person. When I experience situations, I usually sit back and observe. My personality type lends itself to be a great videographer and editor because of my tendency to express myself through videos,” admits Peng. “I have a natural sense of pacing and timing in telling the story. I am also drawn to catching moments that most people look past or ignore. This allows my work to stand out from other work that captures more generic imagery.”


Coming on board as The Creator Class videographer early on in the channel’s inception, the visual content she’s created has bolstered the channel’s social media following exponentially  and established the tone and style the channel has become known for. Considering that one of the main reasons people turn to The Creator Class is to discover information about a broad range of topics through the videos they publish online, videos that for the most part have been created by Peng, it’s not a stretch to say that her work is the foundation on which The Creator Class community has formed.

She says, “Every video was output through my computer to make sure the editing tone and aesthetic matched the channel’s. I have a natural understanding of what current video trends were and brought those elements to the channel growing them to the 40,000 plus subscription base on YouTube and 154,000 follower count on Instagram today.“

Thanks in no small part to Peng’s inspiring work, The Creator Class earned the prestigious 2016 Gold AToMiC Shift Award, which honors breakthrough achievements in the realm of advertising, media, creativity, technology and content.

Former FREE Channel Manager Danielle Reynolds says, “Working with Rosanna is always an inspiring experience. She always pushes the creative boundaries while still maintaining an attention to fine detail. It amazes me how she has been able to teach herself videography.”

While she is primarily self taught as a videographer, Rosanna Peng studied graphic design in college, an area of study that has undoubtedly come in handy as quite a bit of the visual content she creates for clients are embedded alongside stationary graphics and text online. Her understanding of how the style of the video she is creating connects with the attitude of the brand and the overall visual layout has been imperative to her unparalleled ability to create a striking finished project that commands the attention of viewers across the globe– something that can easily be seen through her work as a videographer for MTV FORA and as a photographer for Society 6.

Last year Peng was hired by Society 6, an online marketplace that connects international artists and gives them a platform to sell their work, to photograph the images featured within the popular articles  LA Photographer Fauxly On The Realness of the Hustle and Art in the Wild: A Photo Essay. Considering that Society 6 has a massive reach with 344,000 followers on Instagram and 476,000 monthly viewers on their website in the U.S. alone, Peng’s shots for each project gained quite a bit of attention.

Screen Shot 2017-05-22 at 9.23.06 PM
Photographer Fauxley shot by Rosanna Peng for Society 6

For the Fauxley feature Peng captured LA photographer Fauxly in a series of dynamic and architecturally intriguing shots that reveal her in a way that feels natural and aesthetically lines up with the overall layout of the interview on the Society 6 site making it visually pleasing for viewers to read.

Peng explains, “I wanted to shoot her organically without too much posing. This was my approach for this photoshoot because the environments I brought her to had a lot of symmetry in architecture. By balancing an organic subject with a structured environment, it made for a well-balanced juxtaposition between the two.”

Rosanna Peng
Photo by Rosanna Peng for Society 6

For the Art in the Wild: A Photo Essay she was tapped to translate some of her favorite Society 6 designs into photographs in various outdoor environments. The unique images she captured create a bridge between the natural world and the Society 6 designs in a way that is mesmerizingly beautiful. Clearly Peng’s creative eye extends beyond videography and her design degree has been put to good use.

Rosanna Peng’s innovative, inspiring and diverse work has definitely struck a chord with audiences around the world. Stay tuned for the release of her next Society 6 project, which is a lookbook video shoot slated to be released on June 1. She is also currently working on a promo video for Canon Canada’s macro lens, which will be released in August.

XIANG NAN GONG ENABLES THE PRODUCTIONS THAT TELL THE STORIES OF CHINA TO THE WORLD

IMG_4375

It has been said that everyone has a story. In the world of television and film production, writers and directors are considered to be the creators of these stories. While this may be true, without the mastery of a technical director and producer…none of these tales would ever reach an audience. Having a vision is a very different thing from having the skills and knowledge to manifest it. Xiang Nan Gong has served this role for decades at Shandong Radio and Television, earning him the status as one of China’s most respected professionals in this field. During his time with Shandong he oversaw the multiple technical facets in the creation of documentary and scripted series. From massive scale variety shows to location documentary series which told the history of the Chinese people, Gong designed and facilitated lighting, staging, sound, and a myriad of other components which are essential to delivering the filmmakers vision. Xiang Nan might be the least well-known member the production team but he is definitely the most vital.

As with all cultures, the Chinese people are interested in the history of their ancestors and land. A country of such immense size and variety of inhabitants has many stories to tell. “The Story of Yili River” is a documentary depicting the Yili River from the perspective of the cheerful running water line.  It explores the Yili river people’s folk customs, rich life, and delicacy. Gong focused on his expertise as a recording engineer for this production, recording and placing the authentic music of the inhabitants of this region to tell the folk customs of the people on both sides of the Yili River.

Xiang Nan worked closely with the director and a small team of professionals in the studio to create and recreate the sounds of the Yimeng People for the “Shandong Report.” Layering a series of sounds and sound patterns, Gong created the sound design with a mixture of authentic music, location recordings, and studio sonics which depicted the hard lives of these people. This village is surrounded by high mountains and steep cliffs, streams, and other harsh natural environmental factors. To properly recreate and communicate what these inhabitants experience required a consummate expert like Xiang Nan.

As technical director and producer on Shandong’s “Sun Bin Military Strategist”, Gong aided this production which tells of a man who also lived through a difficult situation but persevered and elevated himself to the level of great respect. Famous for receiving the punishment of face tattooing and having his knee caps removed, Sun Bin later became one of the most respected and trusted strategist of his country’s era. While remarking that his difficulties were nothing compared to Sun Bin’s, Xiang Nan concedes that the equipment of the 90s which he used was less than desirable for this thirteen-episode historical series. He tells, “Historical dramas are grand in scale with many layers of sound. This is what makes it so believable to the viewer. While your conscious mind may not notice it, something in your unconscious tells you that you are really there amidst these battle scenes and different locations due to the small details. Today’s state of the art technology makes the process much less cumbersome but back when we made this series, it took many hours to achieve what can happen in minutes now. Regardless, the finished product is what is important and ‘Sun Bin Military Strategist’ was very well received and popular.”

Another of Gong’s productions, “44 Notes” received international and domestic acclaim. “44 Notes” won the first prize from the State Council Information Office and the Ministry of radio and television, the “Golden Bridge Award” in the United States, Japan, Germany, Taiwan, Hong Kong and other countries and regions, and was adapted for television drama production at the center in Beijing. This documentary shows the bicycling trip of teacher Du Xiangjun and forty- four of his students (of the Zibo Normal School in the Shandong Province) as they made their way to the capitol to perform a concert. Along the way, they sing and experience a number of hardships on their journey. Half way between reality TV and unscripted drama, “44 Notes” called upon Gong to be prepared for an unlimited amount of variables that could affect the filming and recording of this production. Its international acclaim is a testament to his expertise on this project.

As a loving husband and proud father of a daughter, Xiang Nan was especially happy to assume the duties of technical director and producer of Shandong’s “The Charm of Women.”

The program is the first female Chinese series about female characters with outstanding contributions from all walks of life. It introduces the work, study, life, and successful careers of each woman. Shot in documentary style, Gong took particular care to oversee the lighting and sound to present these women with the respect and admiration which their achievements deserve. While certainly not the most famous subjects of the many productions he has overseen, Xiang Nan professes that they are among the most important because they serve as an example to current and future generations like his daughter, exhibiting the great importance and impact that Chinese women have on their families and society.

As the professional who literally “sets the stage” and supplies the sounds on a wide variety of productions, telling the stories of China’s past and present; with international award-winning productions to his credit, the respect of his industry, and a long history at Shandong Radio and Television, Xiang Nan Gong is among the elite technical directors and producers who continues to bring new ideas to an ever expanding production community.