Category Archives: international Talent

Production Designer Alex Craig’s Extraordinary Creative Vision

English production designer Alex Craig is one of the leading proponents of his craft. Well known to UK television audiences through a sterling roster of credits, from his contributions to the avidly watched BBC National Lottery and A Question of Sport and runaway reality smash This Time Next Year, Craig has perfected a mixture of bold creativity and context sensitive design that’s made him one of the most in-demand talents in the business.

Craig arrived at his position through a somewhat circuitous route; he initially studied fine arts at a series of prestigious schools when fate intervened. “A good friend at art school was training to direct film in the Media Studies department,” Craig said. “And he told me about the role of the art director in film and TV and that immediately  interested me. My initial experience was working on music videos and fashion shows, which I loved, so it just grew from there and I became hooked. A Fine Art degree isn’t the most obvious route into production design, but in my case, it was.”

In short order, Craig established himself as a reliably creative professional with a peerless instinct for creating solid, appealing design

“Throughout my career, I’ve been lucky enough to have worked on a wide range of interesting and well known UK and international productions,” Craig said. “Many of these required a variety of studio and location work in the UK, China and Spain  Large scale entertainment shows are definitely a favorite of mine, and I’m a big music fan, so l welcome the opportunity to get involved in designing tours for bands and solo artists. As a personal project, I’d also like to experiment with some of the LED technology that is commonplace in studio design and apply it to create innovative bespoke pieces for interiors. Variety definitely keeps my designs fresh.”

One of Craig’s biggest and most challenging assignments has been as lead production designer for BBC1 TV’s long-running, start-studded annual fundraising spectacular Children in Need for almost a full decade.  Since its 1980 launch, CIN has raised 600 million British pounds for disabled children and young people, established itself as a prominent staple of British pop culture and featured many of world’s most famous entertainers—from Taylor Swift and Madonna to Rod Stewart and One Direction.

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“The show producers approached me in 2006,” Craig said. “They wanted to bring the CIN set up to date—it was beginning to look a bit old fashioned. They were impressed by my designs, as I’d been production designer on a number of high-profile BBC shows, and they thought it would be a good fit. I jumped at the opportunity.”

It was formidable job. “The telethon is a live, 7 hour primetime broadcast,” Craig said. “It features numerous ‘A list’ acts from the worlds of pop, musicals, comedy, dance, plus surprise performances. For the most part, these take place on a very large, impressive main stage. But the set also requires areas for presenters, surprise guests and more intimate performances so the set design also includes additional stages, a catwalk, multiple entrance options, several huge LED screens, plus a large studio audience. “

As a fully live, in-the-moment theatrical presentation, Craig has to not only anticipate myriad potential complications, he must be prepared to confront any issue head on. “The set also has to be flexible enough to get specific ‘performance sets’ required by any given artist, onto and off the main stage at high speed. It’s a technically complex event, which requires a mixture of creativity, logistics and a calm nature—especially when there’s less than a minute to go till the next spot and I can see an incomplete performance set still being put together on the stage.  Back in 2006 there was also a large orchestra to accommodate, and although the orchestra is now gone, the amount of technology has increased which brings its own challenges.”

“There’s a creative pressure to design a set that is going to have the style and presence to work as an appropriate backing for a diverse mix of some of the world’s biggest stars,’ Craig said. “The fact that it is live requires a lot of quick turnaround scenic setting, striking and re-setting throughout the 7 hours that we’re live on air. Backstage can become extremely cramped, with props, scenery and band equipment stacked everywhere you look. The set also incorporates a huge amount of LED technology which has to be integrated into the scenery as the set is installed. This can sometimes slow us down if there’s any kind of fault or glitch.”

Few have the drive, vision and skill to take on such monumental task, year after year, but Craig wouldn’t have it any other way. Nor would the BBC: “Alex designed the main studio set for 9 Children in Need shows, which is an outstanding achievement in itself,” executive producer Clare Pizey said. “He is an innovative and extremely talented Production Designer who has managed to give the show a visual identity which sets the tone for the night. And he is always pushing to move the look of the set to the next level, which both uplifts and inspires the audience. This is much of the reason why Children in Need has become so special to British culture as a whole.”

Craig’s long stint with CIN is one of the crown jewels in his already glittering resume, and it holds a special place in the designer’s affections.

“I love designing this show and am proud of what it stands for,” Craig said. “It has become a very special annual event in my work diary and a career highlight for me. It’s an honor to have contributed to such a good cause for so many years.  The show has raised record amounts of money even during recession years, and that always spurs me on to dream up new ways of presenting a fresher, more innovative design.”

For more information on Alex Craig, visit alexcraig.com

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THE SMART BET IS ON RAHUL

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For those of us who are not actors, it’s difficult to imagine getting up in front of an audience or a film crew with people watching us cycle through the emotions and the situations that many of us would rather not exhibit in public. It’ counterintuitive. It’s also ironic that the things we want to watch others do in a public viewing (film, plays, TV) are the types of things that we’d never want to have others watch us do. To ask Rahul Naulakha, actors are simply those of us who have learned how to better control and display their emotions than the typical individual. According to him, we all do some acting in our lives but actors have simply learned when to “turn it on” in a way that other’s appreciate and are entertained by. There’s a ring of truth in what Rahul says if we admit it to ourselves. Rahul’s work in the film “Place Your Bet” is an ideal example of this. Costarring with Saturday Night Live’s Steve Holland, Naulakha plays a menacing individual who is the muscle for a loan shark. As Dhruv, Rahul transitions from affable to frightening on a dime. Loaded with twists, this tale of a gambling deal gone bad displays Rahul at his best as the duplicitous Dhruv. He’s a frightening man, the type which Naulakha revels in portraying on screen.

When Allen (played by Steve Holland of Feud and Saturday Night Live) finds a nearby restaurant to watch a basketball game and escape the troubles in his life, he encounters Dhruv (played by Rahul Naulakha); a charismatic and friendly guy just hanging out, or is he? As Dhruv eases Allen into conversation, we soon learn that Dhruv has a hidden motive for chatting with him. Allen owes money to a mob boss, having lost a bet on a horserace. Trying to procrastinate in paying his debt, he hides and makes up excuses not to pay the $185,000 dollars back. When these two men meet by happenstance, they begin to discover through the conversation that they are connected through this professional relationship and things escalate.

Naulakha had worked with director Zachary Fineman before “Place You Bet” but it was his first time with his costar (and SNL cast member) Steve Holland. The experience of filming on location in North Hollywood involved more comedy than the audience can see in the film. Rahul recalls, “I had a great time working with Steve Holland both on and off screen. On screen I was doing my best to scare him out of his mind. We were both doing our very best to get into our characters. I’ve done comedic roles in films as well so I appreciated Steve’s ability to show this dramatic side of himself in the film. Off screen we joked a lot with each other, saying our lines in weird cartoon character like voices, which was hilarious.”

The mask type approach that the actors used in the film was something which Rahul applied directly to the deceptive nature of his character. While Dhruv appears to be amiable and charming, just an ordinary guy, early on, his lack of humanity appears as the story develops. Naulakha portrays him as an individual who is able to turn off his emotions and sympathy for his fellow man when the job requires him to perform his less benevolent vocational requirements. Rather than a means of living with the actions as self-preservation, we get the feeling that this man enjoys his job and throws himself into the work. Rahul concedes that he revels in playing characters of this ilk, stating, “I love playing a bad guy. This is one of my most sought out roles, mainly because you get to go out of the norms completely…you don’t have to hold anything back. When you’re the heavy in a film, you can go back to being a kid with all of its rebelliousness and fun time all at once. Most of the time when you play a good guy you are playing a version of you. There may be a slight difference of personality between your character and you (maybe he is shy, and in real life you are the most outgoing person there is) but other than that, most of the time when performing as the good guy, the main thought/emotional process is the same as in your real life. Being the antagonist often means there are less restrictions. The character doesn’t subscribe to the rules that society has agreed upon so you can literally do whatever you want. This presents a much more personally entertaining and enjoyable challenge for me as an actor. It brings out all your acting abilities such as your facial expressions, emotions, movements, and in general makes you feel more alive.”

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Naulakha’s subtle percolation of Dhruv’s demeanor and intentions is strikingly convincing. All deference to Pete Townshend (composer of The Who’s “Behind Blue Eyes”) but Rahul feels it’s fairly easy to access the center of a “villain” and it doesn’t require a profound tragedy or searing hatred. Most of what is witnessed by the viewer as frightening is not found in the actions of the character but rather the character’s propensity to do harm; a trait which is often unspoken and lacks exhibition. He relates, “I use a lot of projection/visualization when I act. Even if I am not menacing, there is no denying the fact that we´ve all been through the same type of emotions that Dhruv has. The frustration and anger of a job interview that we didn´t get, a lost relationship, or just stepping on a rock outside your doorstep, all of these elicit something in your core. From this point it’s just a matter of how little or how much we control it. I projected moments like these that I have been through and then take it up a notch. It’s like stoking a fire from a small spark. In reality a lot of us walk around suppressing these emotions with a smile, saying we are fine but for a character like Dhruv, you can let loose and be as crazy as you want…and that’s just fun.”

Writer Victor Osorio took readers around the world with comic strip ‘Alienados’

When Victor Osorio was seven years old, he would sneak out of his room at night to watch television. When his parents caught him, they did not punish him, but rather made a deal: if he wanted to stay up at night, he had to read. Somehow, what seemed so awful at the time ended up becoming the guiding force in Osorio’s life, because he became an avid reader, which prompted his interest in writing. Soon after this, he began writing short stories and poems, and since that time, writing and creating stories has been his biggest passion.

Osorio is now an internationally celebrated writer. Originally from Barcelona, Spain, he rose to the top of his industry in his country quickly, largely due to his widely successful children’s book Cosas Que Nadie Sabe, published in both Spanish and Catalan, as well as German. He also wrote an episode for the award-winning web series Hollywood, and currently helps the company Origo Media writing short commercials and commercial videos. He is extremely versatile, and has even written software manuals for Ceinsa. His success truly began, however, when he began writing for the comic Alienados in the popular magazine Dibus!.

“Everyone at Norma Editorial, the publishing house behind Dibus! located in Barcelona, was very happy with my work. The magazine’s editors told me that they were very impressed with my skills and talent, especially since I was in my early twenties back then. and I’m so happy that I took the opportunity and did such a good job with it. I’ve always loved comic-books and when the people at Norma Editorial offered me the chance to write this comic strip for a comic-focused children’s magazine, I immediately jumped on it,” said Osorio.

The iconic comic strip tells the story of three funny and tiny aliens who crash-land on Earth and have to explore the planet with no knowledge whatsoever of the culture and traditions. In every issue, the aliens travel to a different part of the world and have comical adventures based on the fish-out-of-water cliché. The strip also teaches curiosities and traditions of the country visited to the children reading the magazine.

“Working on this was awesome. I always loved comic-books so being able to write a two-page comic strip for a famous and renowned national magazine was like a dream come true,” said Osorio.

Prior to working on Alienados, Osorio greatly impressed those at Norma while writing for their publisher’s blog. The Dibus! magazine editors quickly took note of what an exceptional writer he was, and invited him to become part of the comic. It wasn’t long afterwards when readers also began to become impressed with the writer’s talents.

“Victor is a very talented and flexible writer, able to produce a comedic comic for kids while also instilling a love for learning and travelling. He has a very clear writing style and a good eye for interesting and appealing subjects. His style is very unique and he is able to produce all sorts of content,” said Juan Avella, a fellow writer who enjoyed Osorio’s work on Alienados.

With each new issue, Osorio would begin by researching the region or country the magazine editors said the aliens were going to visit that month. During this time, he would figure out what the best thing to focus on would be to capture readers’ attention. Whether it was food, tourist attractions, famous people or locations, he always picked subjects that were not common knowledge, allowing for a more entertaining read.

“I remember using the Gauchos for the Patagonia because I could use it for a joke, and because it’s a fairly unknown, but very peculiar culture,” Osorio described.

Despite having no previous experience in writing comic strips, Osorio took the opportunity and soared. Working with just a two-page strip, he had to be very concise and effective, skills that he carries with him on every project, as they make the best style of writing.

He also was given the opportunity to work on the page design when creating the panels for the comic, which allowed him to see how his writing and the illustrator’s drawings worked seamlessly together.

“You need to take into account how the human eye reads a page and the shapes and colors that it feels attract to, the motion of the bodies in the page, fonts, and more. Learning to do all that while actually writing something that will be printed was difficult but very rewarding,” said Osorio.

Although this was Osorio’s first foray into comic-book writing, he loved every minute of the experience. He was given complete creative freedom, and was never told to make large changes, as the editors enjoyed his work so much.

“At the time, I didn’t value it as much as I do now, but doing that comic strip I got the opportunity to be entertaining and offer some knowledge at the same time for the first time in my career. The collaboration with illustrator Dani Cruz was also amazing. He would translate my words into pictures with great accuracy and he offered valuable advice and tips to solve some of the narrative challenges that I faced,” he described.

Without Osorio, the Alienados strip would not have seen the success that it did during his time at Dibus! and the experience provided the perfect learning experience for writing for children. We all know this is now something Osorio more than excels at, and we can definitely understand why.

SIMEON TAOLE DELIVERS A COMPLEX SNAPSHOT OF A LIFE IN “EVERYTHING CHANGES”

Simeon Taole believes in the power of photographs. As an actor that might seem both a redundant and ironic statement. His performance in the film “Everything Changes” immediately squelches this confusion. The film and Taole’s performance is nothing short of extraordinary. In many ways it exemplifies great storytelling. Humor, intoxicating passion, tears, and a completely unexpected ending (two of them in fact) are all communicated by both the emotional cinematography and the inspired performances of Simeon and his only costar in the film, Virginia Leigh. As the couple experiencing a first date, these two actors generate a chemistry that permeates the air. Through discussions and coy confessions about their lives and interests we are romance-inspired voyeurs who are nourished by their budding romance. As the action progresses we are witness once again to the fact that life is rarely if ever as carefree as we would hope. The repartee, the longing silence, the honesty of the two characters in this film is so convincing that we want to believe that Leigh an Taole are actually a couple. This very modern tale is a photograph of the complications of romance in this world.

It’s not serendipitous that Simeon’s character in the film is so interested in photography. The idea that a photograph displays and is simultaneously withholding in the entirety of information is a central theme to the story. Calvin’s fixation of photography is a metaphor for his desire to discover and understand himself and the world around him, and perhaps to make it a more beautiful place from his vantage point. We almost feel that if he “frames” the moments in his life correctly, he will be able to relax with them. Calvin is a character who is looking for meaning in his life. He has regrets and hopes he can rewrite his future and change things; which he hopes to begin by forging a connection with Naomi. Calvin is motivated by his desire to capture something with her and ultimately bring meaning to his life. Somewhat naively, he feels confident that he can do this. The naiveté of this is not apparent until the end of the film. Calvin is a nostalgic person and photographer who laments the fact that photographs don’t tell stories with real meaning, at least, not like they used to in Life magazine. In the end, he’s presented with a photograph that has significant meaning for them both and changes everything.

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With deep insight and information of all aspects and characters of this film, Simeon was aware of the story from many points of view and given the time to deeply understand Calvin, which resulted in the compelling and honest performance seen in “Everything Changes.” Taole states, “I had a very detailed history for both characters in the film. It was great to think about what it is that motivates a character at a granular level. I spent time thinking about what it is that’s complicated about him; the dichotomies that exist in all of us. For example, how we can show love and yet also cause pain. How no one is fully good or bad but alternates between the two. Or sometimes, even simultaneously conveys both. I think for me it’s about taking this rich history and applying the level of detailed information to other roles where I wouldn’t necessarily have all that information at the beginning.”

One of the aspects of the film that makes it so gripping and real is the lack of singularity in its approach. Moments of lighthearted playful romance are mixed with tension and even fear. Real life can go from joy to tragedy in an instant and the film does not deny or shy away from this reality. A large reason why this works so well is the measured approach Simeon uses in his performance. He takes great care to not be overly broad with the comedic moments lest the audience not feel the truth of the more dramatic ones. Most of the actor’s work has been in dramas but he notes that this has given him a conservative approach to levity which plays out well in this film.

There’s no denying that a great deal of the heart in “Everything Changes” comes from the intoxicating chemistry between the two (and only) cast members. While it might be expected that a cast so small would make the viewer perhaps long for other characters but Calvin and Naomi (played by Virginia Leigh) go through a myriad of emotional evolutions that it’s impossible to remove one’s focus from them. Taole remarks, “I do feel a cast of only two does create a sense of intimacy in the film that would not necessarily be there with a larger cast. We both had to be fully engaged. Our chemistry was important because we carry the film and this really works for this story. I don’t think it affected the way I prepared for the role but it may have meant we had less downtime during the shoot because we were in every scene.” Leigh concedes, “Simeon and I didn’t really know each other before this film but I found immediate chemistry with him and this showed on screen. We had a warm, funny connection that engaged the audience and led to an ending that was shocking after such a strong build. Our natural bond was a key strength of Simeon who can read actors and find the paths to organic connection off which the audience can feed. Of course, he was the central leader to this film, and his performance was key to the ensuing success. Simeon carries this film in his performance as Calvin. He brings the audience into the over-compensating, overly- confident young man who one cannot help but root for.”

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“Everything Changes” has been an immense hit of the film festival circuit with screenings at: at 2016 San Francisco Black Film Festival, 2016 Hollywood Glam Gala, 2016 Las Vegas Lift-Off Festival, 2015 Toronto International Shorts Film Festival, the 2016 North York Arts Anniversary and Cultural Hotspot Closing Party, and a win for “Best Short Film” at the 2016 San Diego Black Film Festival. As Calvin, Simeon Taole is a proxy for the audience. He encourages us to dig to find meaning and connection with those around us. What reveals can be both beautiful and shocking, an idea delivered with impact via Simeon’s incredible performance.

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YOUNG ACTRESS JAEDA LEBLANC IS ACTING WITH SOME OF THE BIGGEST NAMES IN HOLLYWOOD

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Jaeda LeBlanc may be the best kind of actor. She delivers powerful performances which are emotionally moving yet young enough that she is completely unaffected when it comes to the incredible fame and notoriety of those she works with. This powerful professional cocktail results in an individual focused on doing her best and disinterested in any vocational or social politics involved. As proof, Jaeda is too young to watch the most popular TV program in the world “Game of Thrones” …that will make more sense as you keep reading. LeBlanc is a young actor in age but her performances certainly belie this fact. She’s appeared in comedy kid shows (Odd Squad), acclaimed medical dramas (Saving Hope), even crime dramas (Real Detective), but in the upcoming The Death and Life of John F. Donovan she is set to receive the kind of notoriety that follows the marquee names she appears with in the film. LeBlanc appears in the film alongside names such as: Kit Harington (GOT’s Jon Snow), Natalie Portman, Kathy Bates, Susan Sarandon, and a host of other accomplished professionals. The core of the film is about fame, how we perceive those who have it and how it affects their lives. While this young Canadian actress has experienced accolades in her home country, “The Death and Life of John F. Donovan” prepares to project her into the arena of international fame. In discussing the film and her involvement, we get a glimpse into Jaeda’s view of fame and how it correlates to the industry and her involvement.Screen Shot 2017-09-18 at 9.19.19 PM

So many iconic names in the field of film give gravitas to this story’s exploration of fame; how it affects those who possess it as well as colors the vision of those who witness it. It appears that everyone in society finds the idea of fame appealing. In a culture which lists “social media influencer” as a valid job title there can be little doubt that the pursuit of fame is air to many in the world. The Death and Life of John F. Donovan challenges perception and reality. A decade after the death of an American TV star, a young actor reminisces on the written communication he shared with him as well as the impact those letters had on both their lives. American movie star (Kit Harington in the lead role) finds his correspondence with an 11-year-old actor exposed, prompting assumptions that begin to destroy his life and career. Jaeda also appears as a young fan of Donovan’s in the film. The main character is encouraged to interact with her by his manager Barbara Haggermaker (played by Kathy Bates) as a means of creating positive press.Screen Shot 2017-09-18 at 9.19.42 PM

It’s doubtless that millions of GOT fans are envious of LeBlanc’s interaction with Harington but the fantasy show’s more adult themes prohibit Jaeda’s parent from allowing her to view it, leaving her to see Kit as more of a coworker and star of the soon to be released film rather than the dashing bastard heir to the throne. The most impressive individual in Jaeda’s assessment was the film’s director Xavier Holland who helped her focus the approach for her role in the film. Holland comments, “When I saw Jaeda’s audition tape I was very impressed by this little girl’s acting ability. I also started acting at a very young age so when I saw Jaeda, she immediately reminded me of myself at an earlier age. Seeing her on the screen, I was immediately drawn to her character because she has that special kind of connection with the camera and the audience. Jaeda has a strong artistic ability. It allows you to see the picture of the character that she is painting, otherwise I don’t think she would be able to display such a strong image of what she wants her character to be. The camera loves Jaeda! She has an amazing stage presence. Like most artists, Jaeda knows how to create emotions but what impressed me the most were the little moments when she was not talking, just before crying; she was just quiet, still, and sad, but yet she was still making us feel something. That is what I love the most in an actor. Jaeda is an extremely talented young artist and I hope she knows that”.

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LeBlanc did her due diligence preparing for the role just as she would any other. Holland’s appraisal of her performance is the epitome of the idea of preparation meeting opportunity. The chance to be in such a major film is exciting for the young actress but even more so is the opportunity to watch so many accomplished actors on set and witness their method and approach towards their characters and scenes. Jaeda’s humility is admirable as she concedes that, as a young actress there are many opportunities ahead to learn and she makes a point to be astute and aware as they present themselves. Names like Bates, Portman, and Sarandon are desirable tutors for a young actress such as LeBlanc. With such exciting circumstances, one would expect the young actress’s favorite moment of this project to be one of heartfelt advice from any of these acclaimed veterans of film…yet, Jaeda’s most memorable moment is seen through the eyes of her own mother. Jaeda recalls, “Yes, there are a lot of famous actors in this movie and I was excited to play along with them so I could study their ways of working and see how I could improve my own skills by learning from them. Now, after working with them I realize that I am like them in the sense that I have the same work ethic. So yes, working with big names is definitely a bonus in this choice of career. But…my favorite moment was when I went to get breakfast. I was in the lineup with my mom when she turned she saw a lady behind her. She smiled at her, then she looked back because that person looked so familiar. My mom’s face started to change at that moment as she realized that it was Kathy Bates. She turned to her and nervously said ‘hello’ to Kathy. I had to take over because my mom looked like she was going to pass out. lol. I said hello to Kathy and just let her know that my mom was acting a little weird because she liked her so much. Kathy was very nice about it. When I think about it, I guess I learned two lessons about being an accomplished actor on this film: how to perform well and how to be gracious to fans. This was a very sweet moment that I still remember fondly.”

 

GORMAN LEE: THE DARK SIDE OF “I REALLY LIKE YOU”

A working relationship can be like a romantic relationship. Set aside the sexual politics and you are focused on whether or not your interaction with someone else makes you a happier and better person. It can also end you. Thankfully, the professional relationship between writers Jason Karman and Gorrman Lee (who also served as story editor) on the film “I Really Like You” was much more benevolent than the story’s two main characters Michael (played by Steve Bradley) and Brandt (Garrett Black). Michael’s pursuit of Brandt has fatal consequences, while Karman’s pursuit of Lee as a writing partner gave new life to this tale. The 2014 drama/thriller is one of the most frightening of the genre because of its believability. The darkness in each person has the potential to be exorcized or cultivated, and in the action of “I Really Like You” the two writers collaborated to display the fragility of that decision in the characters. Using a commonplace venue but presenting circumstances that become more twisted and the story unfolds, Lee and Karman peel back layer after deceptive layer until a surprise ending shouts to the audience that the only thing they can rely on is that they don’t know where the story will lead.

Jason Karman is a Vancouver-based screenwriter and director whose short films have screened at festivals in Brazil, Hong Kong, Australia, across Europe, United States and Canada. He has a very specific point of view, making films from both an LGBT voice as well as an Asian voice. Jason was already aware of Gorrman’s notoriety as a writer in Canada when the two met at an event put on by the Praxis Centre for Screenwriters in Vancouver. With an idea for a new film already brewing in his thoughts Karman states, “Having worked with Gorrman as a story editor on a previous film, I jumped at the opportunity to work with him again to develop the story of ‘I Really Like You’. His sharp insights, thoughtful notes, and natural instinct for story and structure allowed us to hone in on the themes and character arcs that I wanted to explore. The film would not have been the success that it was without having Gorrman hammering on the story with me.” Although Jason would see the film through its production and release, Gorrman’s hectic TV schedule would only allow his involvement in the writing process.

As with most positive relationships, our counterparts challenge us to become better, which is precisely why Karman persuaded Lee to join him in writing this script. He did not disappoint. Lee recalls, “I questioned everything about the scripts. I was beginning to fear that Jason thought I hated the project! It was a kind of tough love. I looked at everything with my own expertise and would tell him what wasn’t working, offered new ideas, a new structure, and told him where he should be focusing. It’s true with writers as with many professionals in production, you cannot exist without honesty. We had to be brutally up front with each other in order to create an exceptional script…and I feel that is exactly what we got. The plot of the film and the characters are very unique and fresh. Nothing is ever completely new in a film but your presentation of it and the motivations of the characters can be, and ours definitely were in this story. I’m very proud of it.”

“I Really Like You” follows Michael, a loveless and lonely man who runs a diner that’s known as a casual hook-up spot. As he begins closing up for the night, Michael finds himself drawn to a late customer, the handsome and innocent looking Brandt. There’s just something about Brandt that reminds Michael of a past love. As Michael and Brandt bond over food, Michael thinks back to how his past love, Colby, rejected him, and the outcome of that relationship. After Michael shows Brandt his shoe collection (in truth, a collection of shoes he’s taken from his past loves) they have a casual tryst in the bathroom. When Michael asks to see Brandt again and is rejected, all of his loneliness and anger begins to resurface. What happens next is unexpected and will require you to view the movie to find out.

The story depicted in the film is far from what was the original idea of the story, but the dark romantic tone was the essence which both writers were committed to retain. With the proper intent and drive written into a character, a writer can explore almost anything. Gorrman and Jason are certainly not violent people at all but concede that they have both experienced the pain that comes with unrequited love. This is what allowed them to access and explore the motivations and following actions of the characters in this story. For “I Really Like You” it all came down to identifying what Michael wanted, what hurt him, and how he wanted to fix that hurt; his drive and his intention. Once that was nailed down in an authentic way, it was safe for the writers to explore the darker and more violent impulses that drove him. If the writing is exceptional and done correctly, this should make it easier for an actor to channel the authenticity as well without having to go to a method acting place (a potentially dangerous and sometimes unreliable prospect for everyone).

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“I Really Like You” received tremendous accolades, but was lauded nowhere more than at numerous festivals which understood and reflected an aspect intrinsic to the storyline including: Boston LGBT Film Festival, Shanghai Pride Film Festival, Rio Festival Gay de Cinema, Vancouver Queer Film Festival, Inside/Out Toronto Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, as well as many others. It’s worth mentioning that the film is at heart a very gripping action/drama. While Gorrman finds himself most comfortable with Science Fiction, he is an immense fan of the attributes of the action/thriller and the opportunities it affords a writer like himself. He notes, “The action/drama genre is certainly one of my favorites. There’s a latitude and broadness that the genre affords. ‘I Really Like You’ is rather character driven but still has the mystery and excitement of a more action-oriented thriller. What drew me to it, and what I bring to it as well, is the need to externalize the drama. That’s what good action/drama/thrillers should do: come up with a complex inner struggle and have interesting and compelling ways to externalize those conflicts. “I Really Like You” is all of these things and embodies the concept of “edge of your seat” viewing…all created courtesy of Gorrman Lee and Jason Karman’s clever writing.

SAKARAPANI PROVES HIMSELF AMONG THE GREATS IN SIVALINGA

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When considering the industries that America is known for, the ones that originate here and which have preeminence in the world, filmmaking is the most noteworthy. While numerous companies and industries are famous for their contributions, Hollywood has spent more than a century as the world’s leader in the art form. One needs only to stand for a minute at the corner of Hollywood & Highland, near the famed Grauman’s Chinese Theater to witness the eclectic group of nationalities represented in the tourists that travel from all over the world to visit the city which has inspired dreamers and admirers of cinema. The films produced here inspire audience and other film industries across the planet. India is the number three ranked in volume of films produced each year (closely behind China and the US). The past decade has seen the inclusion of many more talented actors of this country than ever before in US productions. While these professionals are lauded household names in their own county, their aspirations to be part of the most established and most respected film production community in the world drives them to Hollywood. It’s an idea that has been in the mind of Indian actor Manoj Sakarapani. He has already starred in a number of Canadian productions (The Pill, Don’t Let Go, Show Cop, and others) but admits that Hollywood holds a special place in the hearts and minds of actor from every country. That statement carries a lot of weight when one considers that Sakarapani was in this year’s massively successful AP International (India) release Sivalinga. The actor delivered a riveting and emotional performance as the antagonist in this 2017 Horror film by legendary Indian Filmmaker P. Vasu.

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Manoj plays Rahul in Sivalinga. The jealous boyfriend of leading lady Ritika Singh, Rahul discovers her talking to another man (Raheem) and approaches her father, who sends thugs to beat him up. Things go too far and the beating becomes a murder. The crux of the movie is when this murdered man returns as a ghost to haunt the other characters in the film. When police officer Shivalingesh is assigned to investigate the case, the ghost possesses the officer’s wife, leading him to the clues to crack the case.

Sakarapani was admittedly excited to be in this major feature film release, as well as being the film’s main villain. In his estimation, the primary “bad guy” in the film allows for a wider emotional palate as well as avoids the responsibility that comes with being the centerpiece of the story. For an actor who wants to act and be challenged while still avoiding the publicity game, it’s an ideal situation. Being the villain is something that Manoj is becoming somewhat known for and which he embraces. Rather than focusing on the title or categorization of the character, this actor prefers to find the character which he finds most exciting and interesting…which somehow lean towards the less amiable ones.

Vasu cast Sakarapani as Rahul based on the strength of his audition. Vasu has directed, written, and produced one hundred fourty-one motion pictures in India and worked with some of the biggest stars including Super Star Rajnikanth, K. Bhagyaraj, Sathyaraj, and others. All of this has honed his sense of charisma meets talent in an actor, which he applied to Manoj. Sivalinga saw Manoj working with some of the most established actors in the Indian film world, comparable to Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, Octavia Spencer, etc. Because the character of Rahul was so integral to the story, the filmmaker and actor had intensive discussion about how he should be portrayed on film. Sakarapani explains, “Mr. P. Vasu didn’t want Rahul to be seen as a crazy villain, a brutal villain, or a notorious one. That was too dramatic and somewhat cartoonish. We discussed Rahul being a very normal type of person at first, one who doesn’t realize that he has the potential to do such harm. He is a college student and that’s where I meet my girl Satya whom I develop a crush on which turns into jealousy. Everything goes downhill from there. Rahul doesn’t see himself as murderous. I played him as an angry, mean, rude, and rich boyfriend who is immature and takes everything personal.”

Standing on set acting with the most acclaimed veteran actors of his country was intimidating for Manoj. He credits P. Vasu with assisting him in navigating the situation. At one point early in the filming, the director pulled him aside and informed him that he was very talented and this role was a blessing, he could choose to relax and perform with the talent he already possessed or allow the experience to overwhelm him. The actor recalls that the minute Vasu yelled “Action” he followed his instinct, finding himself going toe to toe with the actors and actresses he had grown up watching; it was truly an empowering and inspirational occurrence for him. Sivalinga’s co-director Krishnan states, “Manoj found himself in a very difficult situation for this film. Most of our cast members were highly recognized and celebrated actors while he was the ‘new face.’ This can be a very uncomfortable place for an actor to exist in and can lead to making a character too big. Manoj did none of this though. His portrayal of Rahul, the impetus for the tragedy in the film, was performed with great restraint. The performance Manoj gave belied his youth. Rather, he acted as a veteran, a complete and actualized professional. I couldn’t be happier with what he brought to our film; it truly made the story much more compelling and believable.”

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Sivalinga was a huge success in India at the box office and with fans. While stating that the greatest benefit of his involvement was the chance to work closely with so many accomplished actors and use the knowledge of this experience in his approach towards other roles, he concedes that the attention he received from the public was both unexpected and something he had to learn to react to gracefully. He recalls, “Seeing this on the screen for the first time with the public was an odd situation. I was sweating and hiding my face because people started noticing me and pointing in my direction in the theatre. After the movie they came running to me saying, ‘Hey look, it’s Rahul! They came and took selfies and got autographs from me and wished me well. They told me even though I am a star now, I don’t act like one. They told me that I’m very down to earth like their next door neighbor.” It sounds like Manoj Sakarapani would fit into Hollywood very well.