Category Archives: Filmmaker

Composing for Hollywood – Meet French Composer Guy-Roger Duvert whose Emotive Scores are Shaping the way Movies are Portrayed

It takes a highly driven individual with a seasoned skillset to be able to truly capture a film’s narrative with the music they create for a one or two minute trailer. Seen as the film’s first impression, movie trailers build anticipation; and when they’re brilliantly composed, they help bring viewers to the box-office. 

Master composer Guy-Roger Duvert, who hails from France, is the kind of musical genius who’s capable of summarizing the vibe of a film’s story in a matter of minutes in a way that leads the audience to develop an emotional bond long before the motion picture is released. 

French Composer Guy-Roger Duvert – Photography: Loic Nicolas

With accolades ranging from film and television to soundtracks and documentary films, his eclectic array of symphonic talents have seen him compose for countless movie trailers across Hollywood, as well as creating original zombified sounds for Europe’s most expensive reality television show, “District Z.”

For over two decades, Duvert has showcased his unique ability to infuse any piece of music with raw sensation through original compositions that have captured the hearts of millions from around the globe.

Since relocating to the states in 2012, he has established a solid foundation with Pusher Music, a bespoke composition, label and publishing service that he continues to work with today. 

He says, “The first time I came to Los Angeles in 2010 I met with Pusher Music. The contact was excellent, and they tested me on a trailer. I passed the test and started working for them.”

Duvert’s creative process differs with each project and he knows that the key to a successful composition begins with a strong framework.

“Usually, I want to have a structure pretty early on in the process– for instance with a bass, some drums or some string stacs, and after I’ll add up track by track in order to make the cue whole,” he says. 

“The challenge with trailer music is that you need to respect a very precise structure… but at the same time you need to feel original, a strong theme or original sounds will help in that matter.”

Through Pusher Music he composed the trailers for the Oscar-nominated films “Lone Survivor” starring Mark Wahlberg and Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus” starring Charlize Theron, as well as Ryan Reynolds’ 2011 superhero flick “Green Lantern,” and the box-office smash “Transformers 3” directed by Michael Bay (“Armageddon,” “Pearl Harbor”). 

The “Lone Survivor” trailer, which garnered close to 20 million views on YouTube also landed him the exclusive opportunity to reorchestrate the Peter Gabriel remake of David Bowie’s song “Heroes,” which also included Duvert’s stunning self-composed classical track “Ultima Necat” (2013).

Official movie trailer for “Lone Survivor” composed by Guy-Roger Duvert

His proven musical prowess coupled with his ability to turn a project over in a matter of days are a few of the factors that have led to his remarkable success

“I’m flexible and I’m fast, which are two important qualities for this specific business, as the deadlines are very short, usually two or three days,” he says. “It has happened in the past that I was asked to provide something in a few hours only.”

Duvert’s melodic brilliance and his ability to deliver compositions that both meet the deadline and wow the audience have led him to garner widespread praise throughout the industry. 

“I believe Guy’s experience as a filmmaker strongly informs his work and allows him to more effectively create his music in a way that enhances storytelling, which is the most important part of our work,” says Netflix Music Creative and Pusher Music co-founder Rudy Chung.

“From the biggest Hollywood blockbusters to more intimate independent fare, Guy anticipates what our clients’ needs are, oftentimes before they are able to articulate it themselves.”

Through established reputation with Pusher Music, Duvert continues to create captivating film trailers for numerous award-winning filmmakers and international production companies.

He says, “I feel very lucky by the trust that Pusher has given me. Even when I had other projects on, I always tried to stay available for them, as it has always been a pleasure working with them.

What sets Duvert apart from the myriad of composers in today’s industry, is his creative perception of how a single piece of music can hold such a euphoric impact over the listener– and his ability to utilize that in support of the film. 

Acting as the musical pillar behind the scenes, he is known as the director’s right-hand-man when it comes to orchestrating original sounds to support the vision of the film. 

“The first part is to discuss with the director, in order to understand what he wants, what he feels, what he desires,” he says. 

“In some cases they can have a very strong idea of what they want, in some others, it’s very vague. Most of them don’t know music, so I need to translate their impressions into musical ideas.”

Along with his uncanny ability to summarise an entire film into a concise and captivating clip, his original score compositions have become easily recognizable within many high-profile international television programs.

In 2020 Duvert demonstrated his unparalleled musical range as the composer for the French show “District Z,” which is known for being Europe’s most expensive and ambitious game show.

Set in a Zombie themed world, the reality show follows six celebrities who confront the living dead and overcome gruesome challenges for a chance to win gold. The incredibly successful show garnered groundbreaking ratings with more than 5 million people viewing the program in France (26% of the country’s TV viewers!).

Duvert had the enormous task of composing the score for the popular show, which required him to utilize a diverse range of original sounds.

He says, “The amount of music that I had to compose was huge, as the music editing of these kinds of shows are very different from fiction, much more ultra cut.”

Applying his vast skill set to the project, he composed over 180 differing tracks that drew upon classic Hollywood zombie themes infused with a bit of whimsy in order to harmonize the tone of the show with the mainstream audience. 

“I used strong orchestral elements packed with electronic or industrial sounds. It needed to be massive and powerful. In a way, it was sometimes close to what I’m used to doing when I work on trailer music,” says Duvert. 

“I also had to compose a pack of stressful tracks, which was fun to do. Finally, I had to compose very different music, much more lighted, as the game show is still family oriented at the end.”

Due to its overwhelming demand “District Z,” which is currently in the process of being sold internationally by SONY, has announced its second season, a move that means Duvert will return as the lead musical composer on the series, which is set for production later this year. 

“Guy-Roger is not just a music composer. The fact that he himself directed and produced films allows him to understand much more our situation and needs. We won a lot of time by working with him,” says “District Z” producer Nicolas Fuchs. 

“Also, the quality of his music is clearly superior to most of what can be heard out there, particularly when it comes to strong themes and melodies, and epic music.”

“District Z” French reality show – composed by Guy-Roger Duvert

Guy-Roger Duvert’s knack for translating an idea into an original composition, which factors in every single emotion is a profound skill that only a handful can truly master, this, among many other key attributes, has defined him as a leading composer in today’s film and television industry.

Manifesting a Shop of Eternal Life with Dara Zhao

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Creating a mood, an emotional atmosphere; this is the immense contribution of a production designer in the film world. The audience, the actors, and the crew are all required to do less belief suspension when the PD cultivates the world envisioned by the director. Dara Zhao is asked to glimpse the vision of her collaborators through their eyes, whether that be a dark one or one of optimism. It’s something she’s known for doing exceedingly well. She has been sought out by Indie filmmakers and massive production companies, as evidenced by her current work on the live-action version of The Little Mermaid. Her role as PD on Shop of Eternal Life skews to a tale much more about the foreboding and menacing topic of mysticism and the afterlife. Regardless of the subject matter, those who collaborate with an exceptional leader in the film community like Dara are eager for the opportunity because they know that her eyes can see their way to replicating the artists’ imaginings.

 

Many films are about sacrifice but Shop of Eternal Life is an original and cultural take on the specific cost of this. Every culture has its version of Aesop’s Fables, Grimm’s Fairytales, and the like; stories of foibles and redemption. Shop of Eternal Life takes place in the not so distant Twentieth Century and depicts the personal cost of trying to do something to help others. The plot follows a poor man who approaches a pawnshop owner about buying his wedding ring. Explaining that he needs money to pay medical expenses for his sick wife, the man’s offer is countered by a covertly sinister one from the shop’s owner. Rather than a small sum of money for the ring, the pawnshop owner suggests the man sell his soul for more than enough to cover all the hospital bills. When the man returns to the shop many years later, to collect his heart, the events which transpire are both shocking and telling about the potential for danger we all possess. There’s an obvious occult/metaphysical component but this applies aptly to the human character as well.

 

Shop of Eternal Life culminated in a DGA award for director/producer Yizhou Xu, who in turn praised Zhao for her ability to help realize the world he envisioned. The film which stars Award-Winning actor Jesse Wang (of the film God’s Not Dead and CBS series Code Black) as Chaofeng, Allen Theosky Rowe as Mr. Song, and Gengru Liu as Xiao Dong. Taking place in the 1920s and 1950s with nearly all of the action occuring in a pawnshop, the aging of the characters as well as the advancements in technology is subtly visible. Beyond the aesthetic challenges of manifesting this are the budgetary constraints for a smaller Indie production such as this. Dara remarks, “Yes, the most substantial obstacle for a smaller film is always the financial one. Ha. The freedom you experience is what you balance this against. I’m proud that we created two different decades in such an authentic manner. This was a really interesting environment which offered great potential. I wanted to create a narrow and isolated space; one with an unspecified location which seemed very real, especially with a sense of hopelessness at moments. Even thought this was a period piece, it was more like an allegory; a Faustian story. It was hard to combine these fantasy elements into a realism society environment. I used a lot of metaphors to support the storytelling. We used authentic props and set decorations from China but created what we needed when it didn’t exist.” The results are dramatic. Dara’s dedication and skill resulted in the world of Shop of Eternal Life transporting the looming anxiety of its characters directly into the psyche of the audience. The slow impending sense of doom and the constant comfortability one experiences when watching Shop of Eternal Life is a testament to the expertise of Dara Zhao to fully realize the world the film’s director aspired to display. Viewers don’t want to contemplate budget or lighting, or any other facet of the production process. Dara Zhao makes that concept a part of her equation when working on every production. It’s for this reason that you’ll find her working on productions throughout many different countries for quite some time.

 

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Cultures Clash in Producer Yuanhao Du’s Kung Fu Western Good Friend from the West

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It’s difficult to make a film about the wrongs that have been done by the people of one culture to another, while still making something unusually fascinating and enjoyable. Quentin Tarantino did this with Django Unchained in recent times. It’s a delicate balance that is precarious in its manifestation. Good Friend from the West evokes shades of this, juggling the cultures of White settlers, Native Americans, and Chinese railworkers in the Old West. Late nineteenth-century United States is a vibrant petri dish for exhibiting this trio of vastly different cultures and their perceptions of each, as well as their confrontations. Executive Producer Yuanhao Du is more than a talented filmmaker; he has the perspective to bring essential elements to this film. A native of China who has made films in the US and throughout the world, Yuanhao was void of the template of manifesting this era of US history even though he was well aware of it. Lacking a pre-imposed idea of “how” a story set in the Western US Frontier “should” be told, this EP and his cast & crew created an immensely unique modern Western film. With some obvious nods to martial arts filmmaking techniques, there’s even a bit of whimsy to this story which is most certainly dark in its lesson.

Good Friend from the West takes place in 1873 as a Chinese railworker (played by Zhan Wang) makes a hasty escape from his indentured servitude on the expanding westward rail system construction. During his journey, he encounters a wounded cowboy (played by Dan Rutkowski) who is himself avoiding capture by Native American soldiers. When these Native Americans descend upon the duo, one of the most satisfying, surprising, and unintuitive scenes is presented. The film integrates 70’s Kung Fu film stylings as the railworker fights off the Native Americans. Not since films like Shaun of the Dead have we seen such an unusual and positive complementing mish-mash of genres. Producer Yuanhao relates, “This story combined three cool elements for me; a Western, a physical film, and Chinese and American sensibilities. At one time,  films about Chinese and American people working together were very hot; like those Jackie Chen movies. But now, people barely can see these kind of movies. Filming has magic that can influence people’s minds. If we want to reduce the misunderstanding between these two big countries with two different cultures, then as filmmakers we need to make more of these films. We have a lot of films to show how American and Chinese people are different but more importantly, we should find out what we share in common. If we want to survive, we need to know each other and work together.”

Shot in the desert on 35 MM Film, the production costs were ample. A blending of traditional Western meets Kung Fu action is also not the most obvious and easy concept to sell to investors. Yuanhao turned to crowdfunding to ensure sufficient funds for the film. While it has the obvious result of raising the necessary capital, Yuanhao reinforces that he saw this approach as being an added source of advertisement which greatly benefited the production as well. More than most, the concept of the film was a gamble. The physical and creative efforts of the cast and crew are obvious in the truly cinematic presentation of grand vistas and cultural clashes that are visible on-screen. The film’s cultural appeal and resonance is vetted by its status as an Official Selection at important events including the Hong Kong Film Art International Film Festival, Miami Independent Film Festival, Los Angeles Film & Script Festival, and awards from WordFest-Houston International Film & Video Festival (Gold Remi Award), International Independent Film Awards, European Cinematography AWARDS, and numerous others. For Yuanhao, it’s more about the reception he sees in the audience as he states, “It always feels good when I see that people like my films because I know deep down in their hearts, they agree with the philosophy of my films. I believe that this will eventually be the foundation of reducing the misunderstanding between different cultures.”

All That Glitters is a Timeless & Timely Tale

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Liv Li on the set of All That Glitters

While great storytellers can relate any tale in a gripping manner, it’s always best when they have some direct personal attachment to it. The film All That Glitters is a story of female perseverance and empowerment; a poignant topic these days perhaps more than ever in the world. Director and writer Lincheng Yang had a strong attachment to the story (more about that later) as did first assistant director for the film Liv Li. Gender does not usurp talent but we also find ourselves in an era where thankfully it is also not prohibitive. The plot of this film is made more authentic by both the talent and experiences of these incredible women who created it.

 

The female experience permeates nearly every aspect of All That Glitters. Madison Greenlund appears as Helen Noah, a talented copywriter in her twenties who has not come into her own professionally. As a young girl, Helen (played by Sierra Anne Murphy of Paramount Pictures distributed Bumblebee) was diagnosed with scoliosis. The ridicule she received in her teen years destroyed her self-esteem and has held her back in her profession now as an adult. Her work partner [Jerry] is a charismatic handsome writer who is more than eager to take credit for Helen’s exceptional work. Judy is Helen’s feisty and well-intentioned boss who makes it her mission to challenge this young female writer to rightfully claim her recognition for her talent.

 

All That Glitters is based on Lincheng Yang’s own personal experience. Present day finds her as an acclaimed and respected film director in a primarily male dominated field. Placing Liv in the first assistant director role further ensured that the production process flowed smoothly, safely, and exceptionally at the hands of yet another female filmmaking professional. Li confirms that she has found herself in scenarios that called for a woman to step up and command the same treatment and respect that male counterparts are given. She affirms, “I think in this male-dominated industry, it’s very hard for woman to break through. Even today, we have to force ourselves to speak up in this industry. If you want to straighten a rusty and distorted pipe, the force you use to do it will always be harder than the initial power that’s placed upon it. I’m glad to see that the most powerful unions, like the DGA, are putting more attention and strength in actively helping women empowerment in this industry and other minorities of the society, like LGBTQ community and minor ethnic groups.” Juggling the logistics, preparing daily call sheets, checking cast and crew, and maintaining order on the set, Liv’s skill, talent, and determination are unquestionable. Her work and that of the entire production received numerous recognitions including Best Narrative Short Film at CineCina, Best Director & Best Short film at NXT UP, Best Cinematography at the Los Angeles Film Awards, and Official Selection of the Elijah Wells iGen Film Festival and The Film Collective.

 

The fact that female filmmakers are the creative forces behind such exceptional productions is important to state and yet the fact that it must be reiterated seems somewhat defeating. Lincheng Yang, Liv Li, and countless other female filmmakers will increasingly be recognized as leading voices in the field. While their part in the continuing exposure of their art demands long hours and difficult situations, ours responsibility as the audience is as simple as sitting back and enjoying what they have created for us.

Filmmaker & Journalist Liliya Anisimova Reveals Her Fashionista Side on TheSTYLEtti

Journalist Liliya Anisimova
Journalist Liliya Anisimova

From her time as a news anchor for local Moscow news stations Doverie and Teleinform, to working as the host of several hit TV programs on the popular Russian Travel Guide (RTG), journalist and filmmaker Liliya Anisimova has spent a lot of time in front of the camera, and she always looks stunning. Granted, she’s a natural beauty, but her keen eye for fashion truly makes her stand out.

My mom likes to tell this story all the time of how when I was about three putting clothes on for daycare. I put my yellow track suit on, I remember that suit, it was chic yellow with colorful stars, a Juicy Couture style tracksuit. And my mom gave me pink socks,” Liliya recalls with a smile. “I looked at her and said, ‘I’m not going anywhere in a yellow suit and pink socks. I need yellow socks’… I wouldn’t go anywhere until my mom found me yellow socks. She always tells this story saying, ‘who told you about matching colors, nobody taught you how to pair colors’.”

As a journalist and filmmaker, Liliya Anisimova’s accomplishments are beyond impressive– to the point of making of us wonder if she has some super human power giving her the ability to accomplish more in a day than most. As the writer and director of the films “From Real to Reel,” “Magic of the Underground,” which earned the Best Experimental Film Award at the 2013 Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival, and the poignant documentary “Love is the Highest Law,” which screened internationally and earned numerous awards including the Award of Merit from the 2015 IndieFEST Film Awards, she’s made a strong name for herself as a talented storyteller.

Ironically though, it was Liliya’s chic style, not her seemingly endless accolades, that first caught the attention of The STYLEtti Editor-In-Chief Janea Mastrandrea. Janea recounts on TheSTYLEtti blog, “I was shooting street style in New York one day when I came upon this woman with fabulous shoes. I met filmmaker and shoe-lover Liliya Anisimova. And the next day, we began collaborating.”

Charline De Luca black and white heels
Liliya’s Charline De Luca black and white heels

Wearing her Charline De Luca black and white heels, black skinny jeans and a light pink-beige soft wool cardigan jacket, Liliya was rushing to meet a friend in midtown NYC when she was approached by Janea, who ironically had no idea that she was already a celebrated journalist. 

“[Janea] was a very beautiful classy lady, one of those editor-in-chief looks. She asked about my shoes and complimented my style, and that’s how I met Janea.. and that’s how I started writing for The Styletti. It was such a privilege and joy to start writing column regularly in a fashionable glossy magazine style,” recalls Liliya.

“I’ve since written around a hundred articles about traveling, attending events, meeting outstanding people and of course, fashion.”

Since that fated encounter three years ago, which is proof that you never know who you’re going to meet out there in the world so you might as well opt for looking your best, Anisimova has continued to be a lead fashion columnist on the site.

Janea adds, “[Liliya’s] posts are among our most read.”

Growing up in Volgograd, former Stalingrad, Russia, Liliya’s love for fashion and the desire to express herself through her own unique style was something she developed early on in her youth.

She recalls, “When I was growing up it was the time when the USSR had just crashed and we didn’t have a big clothing or shoe selection in stores. So everyone pretty much looked the same, and I hated it, so I would come up with my own ideas and ask my grandmother to sew and knit me different pieces. I remember she did a knitted 100% light wool sweater and matching knitted sweatpants which I loved!”

It was only a few years later, at the age of 13, that Liliya first began working as a contributing journalist to local newspapers such as the Russian national newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda’s Volgograd regional edition, Volgogradskaya Pravda and Vecherniy Volgograd aka Evening Volgograd.

She admits, “I’ve loved to write since I was a little girl. I used to ‘publish’ my home-made magazine, I published multiple school papers while in high school, and collaborated with some local papers in my hometown before I started my undergrad in broadcast journalism.”

Liliya went on to earn her Bachelor’s in journalism, another Bachelor’s in translation in professional communications and her MFA in Journalism from Moscow State University before relocating to the states where she earned another MFA in Social Documentary Filmmaking from New York’s School of Visual Arts.

As a local news anchor in Russia Liliya covered a wide range of subjects. Occasionally those subjects intersected with her love for fashion, such as covering Moscow Fashion Week; but The STYLEtti has given her a platform to reveal her fashionista side in a different way.

Liliya explains, “For me, writing a column is very much a get away from my daily video work, I write it once a month, sometimes two if the schedule permits. I love attending events, art gallery openings, fashion shows of course, meeting photographers, designers, artists, models and other interesting people. It’s genuinely very inspiring.”

From her articles covering NYFW where she’s interviewed international designers and covered the runway, to those about attending gallery openings, such as Karim Rashid’s exhibit featuring his new design collaborations in Manhattan last Spring, Liliya writes about fashion in a way that makes the reader feel like they’re one of her close pals.

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Karim Rashid and Liliya Anisimova at Rashid’s Exhibit in NYC

Dressed to impress, Liliya wore her sensible, but classy black peep-toe Gucci flats, a red Kate Spade knee length coat (featured in another post you can check out here) and her white boatneck sleeveless Raoul dress to Karim Rashid’s exhibit. With over 300 awards under his belt, Karim Rashid is considered one of the world’s most famous industrial designers; and, with the images of Liliya looking chic and stylish at the opening being featured on The STYLEtti site, the post became highly popular and offered readers insight on how to dress one’s best in such a high profile environment.

She often does #OOTD and #OOTN posts as well, which show her personal style for everyday and nightly outings, and serve as a great source of inspiration for those looking to making their wardrobe more fashion forward.

“I like to write about every day simple events, something that anyone can relate to…. I normally get more inspired to find beauty in everyday life in regular people… I think it is my background in journalism and filmmaking that makes me have the same approach to that column.”

On a personal level, Liliya’s natural style is simple, but classy, which makes sense considering her fashion icon is Audrey Hepburn. A little black dress, which she says is ‘as old as time,’ classic nude heels, which work with everything, a silk pastel colored blouse,  ajean shirt and black skinny jeans are among the basic selection of items she says are ‘must haves’ for any fashion forward female reader.

While she’s made a name for herself covering hard-hitting news and travel stories, as well as through her work as a documentary filmmaker, where she primarily focuses on human interest stories relevant to present times, fashion has been a part of Liliya Anisimova’s life all along. So, having her own fashion column is not only the perfect grounds for her talent and personal interests to intersect, but it also continues to draw readers to The STYLEtti site.

Janea says, “Liliya’s sense of humor and understanding of what interests our audience has helped grow our exposure and keeps readers coming back for her influence and entertainment.”