Category Archives: international Talent

Award Winning Actor Missy Malek’s Midas Touch

British actor Missy Malek is a remarkably self-possessed artist, one who takes her craft so seriously that even as a teenager she aggressively pursued a life in acting. Becoming a member of the renowned National Youth Theatre of Great Britain, Malek’s dedication and natural skill allowed her to reach an elevated level of creative theatrical expression starting when she was just 14. Adept at manifesting vivid, wholly identifiable characterizations, the multi-faceted Malek is so driven that after completing the script for her award–winning 2017 short Laughing Branches, she felt compelled to personally oversee almost every aspect of the production.

“I didn’t actually intend to write, direct and produce it, but that’s exactly what I ended up doing,” Malek said. “I had a clear image in my head of what I wanted it to be like and didn’t see any reason why I shouldn’t go ahead and direct it myself.”

The offbeat project, starring Tom Hanson, Leo Suter and Malek, is an engaging, philosophical comedy-drama with a fantasy/sci-fi twist, and relates the stories of two struggling actors who contemplate—and live out—alternative futures both together and apart.

“It was obviously really challenging—I had no directing experience whatsoever,” Malek said. “But my cinematographer, David Raedeker, and my co-producer, Oliver Page, really guided me. Tom is also a really amazing actor, so he made the acting side of directing much easier. It was a very collaborative process.”

Malek’s sure-footed ambition and audacity gave Laughing Branches a unique depth, one rooted in a very personal experience.

“I came up with the idea at a time in my life where everything seemed to become a lot more ‘real,’” Malek said. “I was barely out of my teenage years and I, along with all my friends, suddenly realized that the choices we were making were very important and would have an impact on the rest of our lives. As a result, I found myself panicking, questioning every choice I was making and tried to control my future as much as I could by not allowing myself room to make mistakes.”

By the time she completed the script, written at Oxford University where she was studying philosophy, the unusual concept had grown into a thoroughly engrossing premise.

“’Laughing Branches’ is primarily about the anxiety of being young and ambitious, incorporated with a philosophical theory about infinite universes that have always fascinated me,” Malek said. “I’ve always been attracted to mind-game films that have an element of groundlessness and irresolution, yet still maintain a sense of heart and lightness.”

That twist of cosmic fantasy enabled Malek, who divides her time between hometown London and Hollywood, to really challenge herself as an actor.

“Out of all my film work, my character in Laughing Branches probably had the most range,” she said. “The element of parallel universes in the film means she goes through so many vastly different outcomes and we get peaks into the most dramatic and intense moments in those universes, so there was quite a lot to do.”

Malek’s training and experience provided an ideal context for such far reaching perspective, particularly her rich resume of live theater— at the Chelsea Theatre, she played Beatrice in Shakespeare’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ followed by  Brecht’s ‘Caucasian Chalk Circle,and, at the Burton Taylor Studio, in ‘The Lesson’ and as lead character Myra in ‘Deathtrap,’ along with Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” at The Simpkins Lee Theatre—affording her the skill to craft a persuasive series of tangible personae imbued with the full spectrum of nuance, traits and emotion as her character caroms through disparate scenarios.

“I wanted to convey the message that if you’re an ungrateful person, you’ll always look at what you don’t have and nothing will ever be enough,” Malek said. “If you’re miserable in one universe, there’s a high chance you’ll be miserable in any universe. On top of that, I wanted to show how as much as we may try to control our future and make the right choices, it really isn’t possible to do that. There’s nothing you can say and no way of intellectualizing things that will make you happy. Happiness is a perspective.”

Reaction to the film brought everyone involved a great deal of happiness—it took multiple awards at festivals around the globe, taking the Best Short awards at the Mexico International Film Festival, Lady Filmmakers Film Festival and Key West Film Festival’ best short awards and the IndieFEST Film Awards Award of Excellence for Malek’s performance as leading actress.

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“The IndieFest award I got for my acting was a huge honor,” Malek said. “Because, at times you really don’t like my character, she can be really vindictive and has a lot of anger and conflict in her. But despite that, at other times you do empathize with her.

Personally, the most rewarding experience of making the film was the confidence it gave me. To receive such a positive response from people high up in the industry meant so much. It’s a big step forward in an artist’s career to get that reassurance, to have people say ‘you’re good, keep going.’ That was the most rewarding thing.”

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Art Director Cagri Kara Mixes Creativity and Ambition for a Winning Formula

The acclaimed Turkish art director Cagri Kara always knew his destiny lay in the arts. As a teenager, Kara wasted no time, successfully creating and selling a variety of progressive, eyecatching web designs before graduating high school. After attaining design degrees at university, the ambitious, driven Kara established himself, in short order, as one of the most skilled art directors in hometown Istanbul, the biggest, most sophisticated metropolis in eastern Europe.

The international entertainment, promotion and design communities are a tight knit pool of craftspeople and Kara’s mastery of the universal language—visuals—and impeccable reputation as a reliable, intuitive and groundbreaking artist quickly spread. Kara’s early formal accolades included numerous high-profile industry awards Crystal Apple Festival of Creativity, Kirmizi Advertising and MIXX Awards and the famed Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity. All of this notably preceded his 2016 arrival in Los Angeles, where Kara’s characteristic professional alacrity found him taking on a spectrum-spanning array of assignments and campaigns for a wide variety of agencies and clients.

One of Kara’s first, key alliances in California was with the prominent Hollywood agency Forbidden Toast, a relationship which served both as proving ground and springboard for his American career.

“I’ve been working with Forbidden Toast since I’ve moved to LA,” Kara said. “It’s a high end creative services company that focuses on entertainment art work for movies and television The company’s owner, Sherry Spencer, hired me as an art director for several projects she was working on.”

It was a significant break for Kara, and also one that demanded he deliver first rate product. “Forbidden Toast has a very high quality work standard and a clear vision for the work they produce,” Kara said. “I very much respect that and enjoy working with the team. And I enjoy the challenges of producing such great work.”

From the start, Kara’s stylish, skillful contributions fit right in.

“My responsibility with Forbidden Toast is overseeing campaigns in post-production, and ensuring the artwork is correctly executed,” he said. “The projects I worked on were highly visible and vital to the success of the films and television shows for which we developed these campaigns, and my work resulted in both increasing the company’s revenue stream and exposure in the market.”

Kara’s mixture of technical skill, instinctive flair for appealing design and comprehensive grasp on the adaptability each visual element must have is a priceless combination.

“Mainly, we do print ads, large outdoor billboards and social media campaigns,” Kara said. ”The platform is not as important as the flexibility of the art work—it needs to be effective and integrated into all types of media, both internet and large scale print campaigns.

Kara’s keen vision has created important advertising campaigns for productions by some of the biggest names in the business—Sony, HBO, Fox, Netflix, Starz, National Geographic and numerous others.

“I worked intensely with Sherry in producing the final art work for the client,” Kara said. “The art gets approved directly by the studios and, often, also by the talent. And they were all very happy with the results.”

Kara’s successful ventures include campaigns for shows with wildly disparate themes and content. He successfully worked a winning campaign for the current season of comic provocateur Bill Maher’s “Real Time” (“The show is very timely and, I feel is very important to the American political climate. It was very special to be a part of the production of the art work for this series. The art went all over the United States and the show was highly rated and successful”) preceded by one completely opposite, 2017’s launch for the National Geographic television series Genius.

“It was very exciting and challenging,” Kara said. “The talent needed to give the impression that we were actually looking at Albert Einstein. Sherry and I worked closely together to produce a successful final product that appeared not only throughout the city but also appeared on the one of the most visible billboards in the city including—the entrance of the Fox studios.”

Whether it’s documentary, fantasy, film, television, album cover art or an international promotion for FIFA giant EA Sports, Kara’s sweeping creative scale, holistic grasp of his field’s requisite elements and most effective practices create the foundational basis upon which Kara’s formidable natural skills excel—and Forbidden Toast continues to reap his bounty.

As company president Sherry Spencer said “I’ve worked closely with Cagri over the last several years—I’ve been impressed by his ability to successfully lead teams of artists and watched his creative skill and impressive talent push my company even further into creative entertainment marketing. “

 

Art Director Cagri Kara Always Exceeds Expectations

Art Director Cagri Kara, whose professional reputation reaches all the way from his native Istanbul to current headquarters in Hollywood, has established himself as one of the leading, most sought after talents in his field. A renown award-winning talent whose skill and professional capacity effortlessly spans a wide variety of visual platforms – posters, billboards, web, television – Kara is currently enjoying a fruitful alliance with home entertainment giant Netflix, making key contributions to promotional campaigns for their acclaimed original series.

Most recently, Cagri was key in the launch of a groundbreaking international project for the company, one where his own Turkish heritage played a critical role. Having previously executed well received campaigns for Netflix series Santa Clarita Diet and Grace and Frank, when Kara got a call from top Hollywood entertainment marketing and advertising agency Rhubarb, the results were all but inevitable. Truly in the right place at the right time and brimming with the skill to make him indispensable, the stars aligned for Kara when he was given the green light to art direct promotional efforts for an ambitious new fantasy adventure series The Protector.

“I’d worked on several campaigns with Rhubarb in the past,” Kara said. “When Andrew told me about the project I was very excited and felt very lucky to work on this Netflix project in Istanbul. They brought me on-board right away.”

Kara’s instinctive ability to command and extend the delicate co-dependence which advertising and pop culture share is reliably invaluable. This unrivaled skill has also earned him a shelf full of awards and recognitions: his groundbreaking 2015 Woman with No Voice Campaign for Polisan Cosmetics was took both the Crystal Apple Festival of Creativity’s Most Creative Use of Social Media and the Kirmizi Advertising Awards’ Best use of Medium-length Video in Social Media honors; the year prior, Kara’s boundlessly appealing Coca-Cola 50th Anniversary in Turkey Campaign won the Crystal Apple’s Best Integrated Campaign award and along the way he’s earned additional trophies from the MIXX Awards and the prestigious Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity

Significantly, Kara’s works seamlessly in any setting, always displaying with an authority, ease and understanding of his role that is internationally successful.
“It’s important to understand the culture when you work on a project from a foreign country,” Kara said. “Advertising is basically a communication channel to speak to the public. So it’s imperative that you understand people’s cultural and societal filters, especially when they look at printed media or a TV commercial for less than 15 seconds.”
For the Protector, Kara’s heritage and comprehensive mix of intuition and commanding visual design was ideal.

“There were lots of advantages to me being a Turkish art director,” Kara said. “The story is about a young man given mystical powers by a talismanic keepsake. Fighting shadowy forces, he learns about himself and his past along the way. It is the first superhero show in Turkey and it also has a lot of historical content and deep significance that would be harder for a non-Turkish person to research and understand in such a short time. The ancient history that is woven into the show is something Turkish people cherish and are very proud of.”

Kara relished the layers of societal and cultural elements the project features, and approached the project with characteristic sensitivity.

“We had many great concepts that we needed to cover in the production,” he said. “The story plays in our current period of time, and it connects modern day Istanbul to its past. It was challenging to juxtapose the ancient history of the city with a modern execution. The photographer and motion director for the campaign were very well known and had many years of experience as artists in the field, so that made things go very smoothly. Also the cast were amazing with their patience.”

“The show’s importance for Turkish culture cannot be overstated,” Kara said. “It was very exciting for me to work on something that will be seen as groundbreaking and, eventually, a part of Turkey’s entertainment culture history”.
“I’m very satisfied with the result of the production and very excited to see the campaign out in the world. There is already a lot of buzz in print and television media about it.”

Kara’s involvement and enthusiasm are second only to his elevated sense of craft and ingenuity, attributes which define both his acclaimed professional reputation and the accomplished depth of skill he brings to any project. This winning formula—which makes Kara’s presence indispensable— guarantees an ever heightening professional profile.

As the Rhubarb agency’s owner-creative director Andrew Irving said, “When Netflix asked us to help with their first original Turkish series, I immediately thought of Cagri. He flew to Istanbul to direct the marketing photo-shoot, which was shot by Tamer Yilmaz, one of Turkey’s leading fashion photographers. He played an integral role in creating the marketing campaign, and Cagri directed the cast with such finesse that the client said she didn’t know how we would have accomplished the shoot without him.”

Graphic Designer Laura Suuronen’s Flair for Arresting Visuals

Graphic designer Laura Suuronen’s command of virtually every conceivable visual format—designing everything from billboards and logos to web sites and product packaging—has established her as one of the preeminent leaders in her field. Suuronen’s gift for delivering a final product which surpasses her client’s original expectations is a skill that’s earned her an international reputation of significant renown.

She has a particular affinity for projects from the world of art and publishing—sophisticated platforms where her impeccable visual style and deep well of skill and instinct really come into play and one of Suuronen’s most striking achievements was her design of a monograph on famed artist Timo Heino for a retrospective exhibition at the Helsinki Art Museum.

“Timo Heino was represented by Galerie Anhava, the leading contemporary art gallery in Finland, who is a client of mine,” Suuronen said. “I’d seen his installation ‘Addiction’ when it was exhibited there, but otherwise I wasn’t familiar with his work. I’d already designed the 20th anniversary book for Anhava, and when Heino asked the gallery directors for recommendations on designers to do the catalog for his retrospective at the Helsinki Art Museum, they dropped my name.”

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This was no simple task. Heino is an acclaimed artist with a distinct approach that frequently emphasizes a striking juxtaposition of man-made and organic substances, and Suuronen relished the chance to complement his visual style. The project required her to bring all of her creative techniques to the table—art direction, graphic design, typography, photo editing, layout design—and the book she produced was a stunning example of Suuronen’s versatile design genus.

She managed every aspect of the challenging task from the top down, and typically, expanded her role to also create a visual identity for both the exhibition and its promotional materials.  “I created the entire book,” Suuronen said. “The client only provided me text files and photographs. I art directed and designed the whole thing book from the format, materials and photo editing on up. I decided the size and shape of the book, how it’s bound, selected the papers. I chose the typefaces, designed the typography, selected the images, and conceived the structure of the book, its rhythm, its pace, and further highlighted that by the use of different paper stocks.”

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From there, Suuronen went directly to the source to finalize the project. The whole process was pretty informal and most of what I presented got approved straight away, from the structure and layout style to paper stocks,” Suuronen said. “For the cover I offered several options, and they chose the one which best fit Heino’s work—we made it into a curious object, a hard cover book complete with soft, squishy cover boards. Seriously, who makes a book to be like an egg?”

Upon publication, Suuronen’s eye-catching mixture of elegance and eccentricity quickly earned significant notice. The monograph was recognized as a Beautiful Book by the prestigious Finnish Book Art Committee’s annual Most Beautiful Books competition and also by the Finnish Art Society with an honorable mention in its Literature Awards category. The Book Art Committee described Suuronen’s work with particular enthusiasm: “What is this? Human skin, animal hide, marble? The cover of this book casts the reader straight into the physical nature of contemporary art: grab, squeeze, open. Anyone who dares to venture into this book is rewarded with a fine introduction to the artist´s works and a pleasant reading experience. The difference between the natural-yellow of the text pages and the chalk-white paper of the photo pages, the calm and well-paced layout and the modern typeface all deserve due thanks.”

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Typical of Suuronen’s intuitive style, the book’s design itself reveal as great a depth of insight to the subject as the text and illustrations. “The book presents an experience similar to viewing Heino’s work in a museum setting, but with deeper insight into the artist’s philosophy and approach,” Suuronen said. “The text pages are printed in black only on uncoated cream-colored paper, while the projects are presented in full color on bright white, coated pages. The differences in paper stock not only create rhythm and pace into the flow of the book, but also make each section better functioning: the text sections are easier to read from the off-white, and the artworks are better reproduced on the coated paper. There’s also a few underlying narratives that run hidden throughout the book, should a reader really commit to the experience… there’s different levels in it.”

This is key to Suuronen’s constantly expanding international profile—her innate ability to enhance and elevate a project to the point where it assumes an even greater impact and significance for its audience. As the esteemed American designer Vanessa B. Dewey, formerly Mattel’s Lead in Creative and Development Experience and current LA Design Festival Board of Directors member, said, “I’ve been a fan of Laura’s work for some time—it is a fresh voice that stands out from current design. It possesses a refreshing elegance that catches your eye and pulls you in. While exploring, you’ll discover thoughtfully designed books with brilliantly sophisticated type to vibrant sculptural branding or poster design. Overall, it’s intelligent, simply brilliant design that’s never forced.”

The Los Angeles based Suuronen’s professional recognition steadily grows with each project, making her one of the most in-demand graphic designers anywhere—so much so that her current, very high-profile work load is subject to client mandated non-disclosure agreements. But, with her distinctive flair for arresting visuals, you’ll know it when you see it.

“I’d designed books and record covers before,” Suuronen said. “And these are the most permanent and culturally relevant mediums in the field of graphic design. I actually prefer making things that stand the test of time, as opposed to short lived, more commercial projects. I’m not interested in adding to the noise and clutter, but seek to create work that connects with people. I do love what we ended up with—I live for this stuff.”

From “Intrusos” to Hollywood Cinema: Actress Nazarena Nóbile

Nazarena Nóbile
Argentinian Actress Nazarena Nóbile

Argentinian beauty Nazarena Nóbile will be making her debut in U.S. cinemas later this year with roles in the upcoming feature films “Summer Night” and “Intolerance: No More.”

Directed by Satellite Award winner Joseph Cross “Summer Night” stars Victoria Justice (“Victorious,” “Zoey 101,” “The First Time”), Justin Chatwin (“War of the Worlds,” “Shameless”) and Analeigh Tipton (“Manhattan Love Story,” “Two Night Stand”).

“Joseph Cross is amazing. He is such a wonderful person. I mean, I knew him as an actor but he surprised me as a director,” says Nóbile. “He is such a nice guy. And his wife and his little daughter Amelia is a sweetheart. In fact, she played my baby daughter in the film.”

Prior to making the move to the U.S. with her husband Juan Baldini three years ago, Nóbile  established herself as an actress through featured roles on several popular Telemundo series such as the multi-award winning show “Silvana Sin Lana,” as well as “Quien es Quien” and “Eva la Trailera.”

Aside from her onscreen reputation in Latin America, Nóbile emphasizes the help of producer and fellow Argentinian, Angel Cassani (“Never Surrender,” “The Pastor”), in connecting her with the right people in the states and sparking her transition into the U.S. film industry.

She explains, “I met Joseph Cross and producer Tara Ansley thanks to Angel Cassani. We met through a skype conference because I was in Buenos Aires at that time, my father had health issues and I had to keep him company for a few months last year. And suddenly they told me there was a part for me. I played Harmony’s sister… It was a small part but I was so happy to be involved in that movie. It was my first important project in LA and I truly appreciate they had thought of me for that.”

In the upcoming film “Summer Night” Nóbile’s character is the disturbed sister of the lead character Harmony who is played by Victoria Justice.

“It’s about growing up…. And how difficult it is to go from adolescence to grown up life,” says Nóbile about the film.

Intolerance: No More
Poster for Sergio Guerrero’s “Intolerance: No More”

In the upcoming film “Intolerance: No More,” a cop drama directed by Sergio Guerrero who earned the Cartagena Film Festival’s  Golden India Catalina Award and the Gramado Film Festival’s Special Jury Award for the film “A Day Without A Mexican,” Nóbile will be taking on a larger role as Lucy, the wife of a cop who’s struggling with concepts of life, death and justice. Produced by Yeniffer Behrens (“The Power of One,” “Encounters,” “Between the Lights”).

Nóbile says, “The film is about the abuse of power, which is in the spotlight a lot these days. It’s a very interesting movie. And it is filmed in a very interesting way. I think it’s gonna be a great surprise for a lot of people.”

Nóbile also has a producer credit on the upcoming film “On the Other Side,” a film that centers on immigration and is currently in post production. Clearly this multi-talented Argentinian has been busy making moves in the states. She is also planning to relocate from Miami to Los Angeles very soon.

I’m so happy living in the US. I love this country, Miami, New York, Chicago, but Los Angeles is my favorite place in the world. I feel most at home there.”

Though Nazarena Nóbile began acting as a child, it was actually while working as a journalist in Argentina that her name first became synonymous with ‘celebrity’ across Latin America. She admits, “I started to work as a journalist for very important Argentinian newspapers and TV networks. I mean, even though acting was my first and true love, journalism was my first important job in the entertainment industry.”

And it was upon landing a recurring role on the entertainment show “Intrusos,” Argentina’s version of “TMZ,” where she was a regular entertainment journalist and panelist for several years, that Nóbile such a well-known figure across Latin America. Though she says she doesn’t regret the decision to move to the U.S., that doesn’t mean leaving her home country and her position at “Intrusos” behind didn’t bring some sadness.

“‘Intrusos’ is one of the most important TV shows in South America. It was very hard for me to leave” she explains. “I love my country so much. It’s such a beautiful place to live. And the people are amazing there, Argentinians are very special people. I miss a lot of things.”

But it seems as though she’s adapted to stateside living quite quickly as well. And with both “Summer Night” and “Intolerance: No More” in post-production and expected to be released in the upcoming months, it’s safe to say audience in the states who didn’t know Nóbile before, will definitely know her after.

 

SALLY KINGSFORD IS HAPPY TO BE THE HEAVY IN THE AWARD-WINNING “STAMP”

Headshot 3Australia’s Sally Kingsford in known for playing comedic roles. She’s good at it and both peers and public know this. Being funny on camera is an inherent trait for some actors and it most certainly applies to Kingsford…she understands this. As Ashely in the award-winning and commercial hit Australian television comedy series “Summer Heights High”, Sally became an instantly recognizable comedic personality in her homeland, Europe (BBC 3), the US (HBO and Netflix) and other parts (such as the Comedy Channel in Canada). Numerous other productions have made use of the actress’s propensity for comedic moments but it was award-winning director Lukas Menitjes who wanted to flip that concept. He asked Kingsford to appear as the heavy, known as “The Suit” in his film “Stamp.” More known for being the always positive and often abused well natured character, Sally’s portrayal of “The Suit” in “Stamp” is that type of person we all love to hate, or at least strongly dislike. The actress was eager to show a greater breadth of range to her abilities in this film. While she has been often praised for the performances she’s given in a host of beloved productions, “Stamp” allowed her to show how she can bring a darkness to comedy as well.

Lukas Menitjes wanted to create an absurd comedy in “STAMP” and he felt that Kingsford would be the perfect villain for his story. As “The Suit” Sally appears as an obnoxious, self-involved, self-important professional with an over-inflated ego demanding others cater to her demands and condescending attitude. There’s plenty of comedy, based on reality in events of one Monday morning in a coffee shop. Rebecca (the barista) is hounded by a customer (Andrew) to get a free coffee after she refuses to give him an extra stamp on his coffee rewards card. Andrew tries various disguises to trick Rebecca into serving him. Rebecca eventually relents but takes solace in making Andrew the wrong coffee. “The Suit” adds to the chaos of the film (and Rebecca’s stress) by making her life at work a living hell with her demands. In a passive aggressive display, she complains on the phone to her friend about the barista right in front of her. “The Suit” serves to contribute a strong sense of reality by providing a more realistic character for Rebecca (the barista) to interact with in contrast to Andrew’s over-the-top characterisation and actions.

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Ask a director and they’ll likely tell you that the actors they choose for their villains are the ones who present them with a sense of humanity and relatability rather than one dimensional and cartoonish. In spite of her character’s exhibited negativity and rudeness, Sally sees her as very sensitive and donning a harsh defensive exterior to avoid being hurt. Meintjes confirms that it’s the actress’s ability to go deep into a character that caused him to approach Kingsford for the role. He professes, “Sally is an incredibly talented and diligent performer. In STAMP she delivered an excitingly bold and magnetic performance as ‘The Suit.’ The best actors have an insatiable inquisitiveness; this obsession enables them to create memorable performances. I can’t think of a more fitting description for Sally. Her passion is quite unlike the motivation I’ve seen in other actors. She is determined, honest, and possesses unequivocal integrity.”

Kingsford describes her preparation for roles as detective work but perhaps not in the traditional manner followed by most actors. Rather than delving deep into her own character first, Sally prefers a holistic sense of story, viewing the characters and actions from different angles/perspectives and then honing in on her place in the “big picture.” When she finally began focusing on her role in “STAMP” she looked outward. She communicates, “I did a lot of people watching. There is a street in Melbourne called Collins Street and the top end of it is known as the ‘Paris end’; it’s where all the most expensive designer stores are and where the most elite businesses and firms have their offices. This was the kind of place I imagined ‘The Suit’ going to work. I loitered around and watched people going to work in the morning paying particular attention to their physicality and imagined the kind of lives they lived. I knew that Andrew’s actions in the film were going to be over the top so I approached ‘The Suit’ in a very natural manner. I really enjoyed this role that was really a dramatic character in a comedy. I’ve done a lot of work in comedies being the funny one and it was nice to switch that around in this film.”

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Not only was “STAMP” embraced by the public but the short film received three nominations and a win at Australia’s Martini Awards. While the film industry peers who voted for the it appreciated Kingsford and her fellow cast and crew’s talent, the general audience recognized a part of their own lives that was delivered in a way that somehow made a common & difficult occurrence entertaining and enjoyable. Beyond the experience of working with the talented production members of “STAMP”, the woman in “The Suit” notes that there are some valuable life lessons to be taken from the film: 1) Don’t try and cheat the system, it won’t work, 2) Hard work and determination doesn’t always pay off, & 3) Don’t work as a barista…the customers are either incredibly rude or crazy.

 

Animator Sijia Huang brings joyful characters to life in new film ‘Breakfast’

As an only child, Sijia Huang was always looking for ways to entertain herself. She didn’t have any siblings to play with, and growing up in Chongqing, China, she immersed herself into movies from a young age, finding that it not only passed the time, but consumed her every thought. She knew she had to be a part of that world, and loving drawing from an early age, she became committed to knowing everything she could about animation. She studied her favorite films and scoured video stores to find new movies she could learn from. Now, she is an acclaimed animator, winning audiences around the world over with her unique style and commitment to her craft.

Her films Box Home, Quitting Brave Victory, Measures and Frames and Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil, See No Evil have allowed the world to see just what Huang is capable of. Her ability to generate smooth animation while still maintaining a good balance between tension and looseness generate the perfect rhythm for her films. She knows that in animated films, her work is the entirety of the visual aspect, making up 50 per cent of the movie goers experience, and she knows how to make that lasting impression.

“Just like having good actors or actresses in a film, a professional animator can create lively characters that will contribute lots to the story. A good story is one of the most important parts of a film. The power of a well animated character, a good story, and the aesthetic value behind an animated film is why I want to be a professional animator,” she said.

Huang’s most recent film is titled Breakfast, in which she was both the director and leading animator. She designed and crafted all the puppets and did all the stop-motion animation. Breakfast is a combination of 2D and stop-motion animation. The character design is what intrigued Huang to take part in the film, with a unique take on stop-motion puppets. She also found the script interesting, with funny and unique characters.

The story begins with two hands hitting two eggs. As the hitting goes on, the two eggs start to crack and finally explode into pieces. Two creatures come out of the eggs. One is a duck with hairy human legs. The other one is a muscular man with duck feet. The duck and the man both have a crush on each other and start to dance. In the middle of the dance, the two hands interrupt them by hitting them on their heads. A chase and fight commence. In the end, it turns out all the encounters and fights are happening in a child’s imaginary world when he plays with his toys – a rubber duck and an action figure, during his breakfast.

“The story is more about viewing the world with children’s perspective and the positive messages behind the story include love, support and equality,” said Huang.

Huang began working on the animation back in 2015, and it took over two years to perfect every image. After premiering at the New York Short Film Festival 2018 where it was an Official Selection, the film has already seen great acclaim. It was an Official Selection at the 2018 GUKIFF Animated Short, UK Monthly Film Festival, and the Oniros Film Awards. It also had an Official Screen at the Oregon Shorts section in the 41st Portland International Film Festival. At the Los Angeles Movie Awards, Huang was awarded with Best Animation for her work on the film, and at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival she won Best Director. Needless to say, none of the film’s success could have been possible without her considerable contributions.

“Knowing the film has been so successful means a lot to me, as the director and the leading animator on this film, I had a lot of pressure. At the beginning, I didn’t know if the audiences would like the characters or not. This film is all about these interesting characters, which I personally love and had lots of fun on animating. It turns out that audiences really like it too, Every effort paid off at the end,” said Huang.

Huang was responsible for all the stop-motion animation in Breakfast, which was 90 per cent of the entire animation. Stop-motion requires working with puppets. While making the puppets, she was very careful when it came to the mold and cast process, one of the greatest challenges. When she began the process, she had no experience in casting them, and through trial and error, eventually created characters that were even better than the original design.

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Sijia Huang, Stan Lee, and Yifu Zhou with the Digital Domain team

“I first met Sijia when we worked together on some digital content pieces for Stan Lee, and immediately recognized her exceptional talent and matchless vision. She is one of these rare talents, as she clearly demonstrated in Breakfast, and her reputation precedes her in the industry. Her stop-motion work is renowned for being refreshing in the animation world, as it is simultaneously mature, artistic, and avant-garde,” said Yifu Zhou, Vice President and Visual Effects Supervisor at Digital Domain.

Although they are not human actors, Huang says the puppets require a lot of care. For example, the Duck character has a pair of hairy legs that need special handling and care when animating. Therefore, she chose to only touch the joints that she needed to bend so that the leg hair would not fall off. She also used baby powder to help reduce the stickiness of the silicon surface.

“The ball and socket armatures were so fun to animate. I enjoyed the experience of animating on stage. It is hard to imagine without the ball and socket armatures, how to work on some of the shots. The most difficult part is to animate characters in the air. Two characters in the film are made of silicon and super sculpted. The materials and steal ball and socket armatures make the puppets heavy to animate. In order to stable them in the air, I used special designed rigs, so I can tie the puppets to the flying rigs to create movement in the air,” Huang described.

Music was also a big part of the film. Not only did Huang find the ideal composer in Lance Trevino, she also needed the choreography to be perfect. This required an ample amount of research on Tango dancing in order to perfectly execute the animation. To do so, Huang analyzed the patters of the dance steps and extracted the key movements to fit the animation style. Her dedicated resulted in the Tango being the highlight of the film.

“I loved the film, so animating it was really fun. When you see the characters on this film, you will know why I love them so much,” she concluded.

Be sure to check out Breakfast to know just what Huang is talking about.