Andrew Steel is the latest Australian actor for Hollywood to watch. With a background that includes Australia’s leading TV shows such as Home and Away and Deadbeat Dads, The Justice Lease as well as internationally renowned films including Twisted, Little Lies, Bargain and Super Awesome! Andrew has even graced the stage performing in major theatrical productions, including the rugby-themed 10,000 Beers and Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice.
Andrew is setting his sights on even bigger things, as he is set to star as the lead role of Stephen in the highly anticipated Picture Park Entertainment film, 10 Things I Hate About Life. 10 Things is a romantic comedy about a young woman and a young man falling in love with one another just as they are about to kill themselves. In this modern re-telling of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, our star-crossed lovers’ crazy shared experiences and similar emotional state forms a bond that draws them both into happiness and takes them on a rollercoaster ride of young love.
For nearly a century Hollywood has been the one place in the world that is recognized for great filmmaking beyond all others. While Bollywood and other regions have tried to catch up to Hollywood’s annual box office results, for the most part, their efforts have paled in comparison; however, China has proven itself to be a formidable competitor for the Hollywood film industry in the last few years. According to an article published by Bloomberg.com last month, “China’s monthly box office receipts for February passed those of the U.S. for the first time.”
International Film Review recently had the opportunity to interview Chinese producer Min Dai, the producer behind the films Icebox, Device, 4 Latas,Come Wander With Me, Eat a Hot Dumpling Slowly, You Only Live Once and many others.
Last year Dai’s film Meeting Gary, which she both produced and directed, was nominated for Best Short Film and a Best Actor Award at the 2014 Texas Black Film Festival where it was chosen as an Official Selection. The film was also chosen as an Official Selection at the Action On Film International Film Festival, the San Francisco Black Film, the Arizona International Film Festival, the Langston Hughes African American Film Festival and several others.
Dai has also established herself as a leading producer in the documentary film genre bringing films like You and Me, A Trip to Tibet, Ning Xia and Momo Lee Aoi’s Wake up with Me to the screen for international audiences to enjoy.
After working as a producer on several popular television shows like Mission for Peace, The Story of Gengtian Xi, King of Silk and others back home in China, producer Min Dai transitioned into the American film industry where her ability to liaise between U.S. and Chinese productions has become an invaluable asset to a long list of productions.
To find out more about the work of producer Min Dai, and why the growing collaborative relationship between the American and Chinese film industries is imperative to the future of film, check out our interview below.
IFR: Where are you from? When and how did you begin working as a producer?
MD: I am from Beijing. I began working as a producer back in 2006. I started producing Chinese short films, commercials and television series; and in 2010, I studied directing in New York City and have extended my work as a producer to include American productions since then.
IFR: Can you tell me about some of your experiences in the industry as a producer?
MD: I am from a media centered family in Beijing. Growing up I had opportunities to learn from many field professionals in China, so by the time I was in high school I was already busy working on film projects. I have always been interested in the entertainment world. My mother’s production company, Beijing’s Voice of Time, has worked closely with the China Central Television (CCTV) for many years since the late 90s.
In 2006, I began producing short films directed by Chinese independent filmmakers, including my own short film, Reborn. In 2008 I was hired as the line producer for television shows, including the large-scale television series, Mission for Peace and King of Silk in 2009, which were produced by China International Television Corporation, and starred notable Chinese actors Ma Yili, Zhang Guangbei and so on.
My work was very crucial for the daily operations of each program, premiered on CCTV Channel 8’s Primetime Show. At that time I was often mistaken for being a much older producer while working on King of Silk production, until one day a young actor chatted with me and found out I was six months younger than her. Because of the trust Ma Runsheng, the Chairman of China International Television Corporation, had in me, I couldn’t afford to fail him or anyone else, so I worked extra hard each day during the shooting period. And, I have grown so much since then thanks to that experience, and countless others like it.
In 2010, I came to America to study film directing. I began to connect with many interesting people in the U.S. entertainment industry and I was fortunate to work with producer Jackie Subeck, the president of a production company located in Los Angeles called Footprint Worldwide. I began working on projects involving 30 seconds to Mars and Linkin Park during their tours in China where I was the co-producer for both of their projects handling the productions in China. In 2012, I worked with Carl Gilliard, the co-founder of the Duke Media Foundation, the partner of Bill Duke who is famous for his roles in Predator, Commando and Action Jack, on my film Meeting Gary. The film was an Official Selection at several international film festivals and was nominated for awards at the Texas Black Film Festival and San Francisco Black Film Festival. I also produced the film. I also produced the film One True Yarn.
PLM: With China making huge advances in their film industry, what is that makes you want to work in the U.S.? What differences do you see between the film industries in the two countries?
MD: China film industry has been booming lately, and it is very exciting. What’s more exciting is that between Hollywood and China there are countless collaborations going on where people that are familiar with both cultures like me can be of great service. China has a great history of producing good quality indie movies, and now we are on our way to producing big budget movies that are not only for Chinese audiences, but also for the world. We cannot achieve that without having a strong partnership with America, which continues to produce many of the greatest big budget movies in film history. From my experience I’ve learned that there are different processes in filmmaking between these two countries. It is much more flexible in terms of running a set in China than it is in America, where in China more spontaneous surprises can be captured and in America the sets are more professional and regulated. There are pros and cons in both styles and I think to incorporate the differences and learning from each other will enhance our film industries so both can make better movies for the world.
IFR: You’ve also produced several documentaries– can you tell me about them?
MD: In 2009 I produced my first travel documentary, A Trip to Tibet, directed by independent director King Zhang in China. We followed a group of city teachers from Beijing who volunteered at an elementary school for three weeks in Tibet. The school conditions were extremely poor and there was only one local teacher in the whole village. The shooting was very difficult considering many members of the crew experienced altitude sickness. We were able to finish all of the shooting on schedule within the time frame that we were there; and the film was screened at the Beijing International Film Festival in 2014, and the 2014 Shanghai International Film Festival.
In 2010 I had the opportunity to produce and direct the documentary film You and Me, which concerned the living conditions of elderly people in the Washington County Home, and documented their daily lives. The film revealed the dark side of elderly caretaking in the region, showing that many of them were abandoned and forgotten, but County Home took them in even though many of them couldn’t afford to live there. Our crew went to the home for interviews and for most of the shooting, and we spent a lot of time with the residents there, including eating and chatting with them. The film was used as the election material at the Washington County for fundraising in 2010.
IFR: What is it about producing documentary films that you are passionate about?
MD: I love documentaries because they challenge you to face reality and reveal some of the dark corners of human history. At times I find documentaries create a much stronger impact, sometimes more intense than a thriller. I think filmmakers that are interested in documentary films feel a social responsibility and want things to change for the better. I want to make things for the better and that’s why I am passionate about documentary films.
IFR: Can you tell me about some of the music videos you’ve produced?
MD: I had a couple experiences producing music videos. I found it a bit relaxing producing music videos since they are fairly short and easy to shoot based on the scale of the productions I worked on so far. But they are a great fun to work on because of the people involved. I also produced my own music film Transparent Thing, and the music video for “Chasing Happiness” by Chinese singer Kelly Cha.
IFR: They are all very different, what made you choose to participate in these projects?
MD: I actually like the fact that I am able to work on so many different projects. That’s the fun part of producing, you can use what you know and your ability to make so many projects happen and help so many people. It works that way in documentaries as well as in music videos.
IFR: Why are you passionate about working as a producer?
MD: I think my passion for making things happen is a great motive of being a producer. I don’t want to let people down. I have participated in most of these projects because they are honest and present an important matter that I care about. I think it is a very precious thing to produce something honest in this industry.
IFR: What production companies have you worked with in the past?
MD: In 2008 I began working with China International Television Corporation as a producer and line producer w on several of their television series. The corporation produces television shows in China nationwide. The projects I worked on ranged from 10 episodes to over 49 episodes. As an executive producer, I have also worked with King’s Film and WIN China group for their short films and commercials.
In 2010, I produced multiple projects for Footprint Worldwide and became close friends with the founder of the company, Jackie Subeck. The company works closely with Chinese productions and China related projects. I produced numerous films since 2010 in the U.S. including many award winners. In 2012, I worked with Hollywood actor Carl Gilliard on the film Meeting Gary. I have and will be working with him closely in the future.
IFR: What production companies or agencies are you currently working with?
MD: I am going to work with Gilliard Media Group founded by actor/ producer Carl Gilliard. Carl has a successful career as an actor with over 70 film credits including Inception, Coach Carter, Red Eye and hit television show 24.
Next year I will be working with Duke Media Foundation, Time Pieces founded by independent filmmaker Alice Millar, Mano a Mano Productions founded by independent filmmakers Victor Martin and Fabian Martin, as well as others.
IFR: You get approached all the time to work on projects with people, what makes you pick one project over another?
MD: I’ve picked most of these projects because the project itself intrigued me, or because I thought I was capable of helping these specific projects. I have a strong feeling when someone really needs me, for example, in 2013 I helped produce a project for LA tourism that was geared towards the Chinese consumer to help boost Los Angeles tourism in the future. The project was in need of a Chinese-speaking producer who knew the market in China to guide them through, and that was where I found myself being the most helpful to the project. When the need is great and you can help, the motivation is strong.
IFR: What have been a few of your favorite projects so far and why?
MD: It’s a very hard question because I have many favorite projects. I think I am a fan of working on film projects, because it is intense and you must make sure you are making the best decisions for the cast and crew at all times.
IFR: What would you say your strongest qualities as a producer are?
MD: I’m very hardworking. I think that’s the fundamental quality of doing anything successful. I think producers must have the instinct to discover valuable materials and finding appropriate resources. So far I’m doing good on those aspects.
IFR: What projects do you have coming up?
MD: I have projects lined up including the documentary film Wake Up With Me, produced by InterMix Productions, the web series Tina, produced by Wilson Becton and other projects including feature films and TV movies with Gilliard Media Group and Duke Media Foundation. I also have an exciting documentary film coming up about dogs and human relations in China.
IFR: What are your plans for the future?
MD: I have found myself happily working as a producer and creating stories and I want to keep doing what I love for many years to come.
IFR: What do you hope to achieve in your career?
MD: I started working in this industry at a young age and I’ve found myself growing stronger and wiser as time goes on. But most importantly I learned a lot about life and how to be a better person. My work has become my lifestyle. More than the wealth and the fame my career can bring, what I hope to do is create better and more unique projects that most people will remember and love for many years to come.
IFR: What kind of training have you done, and how has it helped you in your field of work?
MD: I have a bachelor’s degree in Television & Broadcasting and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Film Directing. I have had extensive training in all aspects of production of television and film from pre-production to post-production. I also think the experience of running productions in both China and the U.S. has expanded my ability in working in different culture conditions.
Film has been a passion of millions of people all over the world for more than a century. But for Italian producer Filippo Nesci, film is much more than just a passion. It’s a birthright.
Nesci’s family history with film goes back to the early 1900s when his great grandfather, the Baron Arturo Nesci, was a photography enthusiast.
A generation later, Nesci’s grandfather, Michele Nesci, established himself as a filmmaker, photographer and finally, a film professor at the prestigious Roberto Rossellini Film School of Rome. While Filippo Nesci’s father, Domenico Nesci M.D., took a different path, becoming a creative psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, Domenico was also heavily influence by film; and, in the last decade he has incorporated the medium into a innovative creative psychotherapy training that he invented for medical students known as “The Workshop Movies and Dreams.”
After helping his father make a documentary for the Italian online scientific journal of psychotherapy “Doppio Sogno” several years ago, Filippo Nesci was hooked on the filmmaking process, and his innate skill in the industry immediately propelled him on the track to becoming a producer.
Nesci’s breakout production was the music video for singer-songwriter Meg Myers haunting, beautiful, tour de force Monster. The video garnered more than 1 million views on YouTube despite Myers not being attached to a label or a publicist at the time of its production, which was an impressive feat for Filippo Nesci to pull off.
“It was organizing, planning and getting everything for the director (Abram Pineda-Fisher) in order to make his vision come true,” Nesci said.
Pineda-Fisher’s vision included a night scene in a forest that involved Myers being soaked in buckets of cold water. During the filming of that scene, Nesci went above and beyond the typical call of duty for a producer as he assisted his crew with keeping Myers as comfortable as possible during the challenging shoot.
“I was very impressed with the commitment she had for her first big music video,” Nesci said.
Myers has since signed with major label Atlantic Records, thanks in part to the organic success of the Monster video that Nesci produced. Atlantic Records is part of Warner Music Group, one of the “big three” recording companies and one of the largest and most successful labels in the world.
Nesci parlayed the success of Monster into more music videos, including 80s Fitness by British electronic music production duo KOAN Sound. The video featured an elaborate production of two fitness enthusiast teams who used a combination of parkour and martial arts to whimsically compete to the death in front of intricate, beautifully designed background sets that were created from miniatures.
“This was an extremely ambitious production considering this music video had a very limited budget,” Nesci said.
Nesci went out and covered vital expenses such as food, production design and additional staff that kept the production going. He even found two production designers to build a small gym on set, and scheduled the transportation, construction and overall management of the gym’s creation.
“The results were an amazing music video, and an extremely happy artist crew and record label,” Nesci said. “The director (Tim Hendrix) kept getting more work thanks to the success of the video.”
80s Fitness went on to win Best International Video at the 2013 FirstGlance Film Festival, a 2013 Jury Award for Best Music Video at the National Film Festival for Talented Youth, and a College Emmy.
Another Nesci production, the film Wrecks and Violins, also took home multiple awards. The story of a disoriented teenager who needed to overcome a stranger’s bizarre torment with nothing more than a violin and a monkey-suited comrade earned the Golden Ace Award at the Las Vegas Film Festival and was a 2012 NFFTY Audience Award Winner.
Nesci used his innate people skills to create a light and relaxed atmosphere throughout the film’s entire production process which was vital to the project finishing on time and within budget. His most remarkable accomplishment during the film’s production was when he used his diplomatic talents to obtain a permit to film a key scene in the parking lot of the Rose Bowl in Pasadena without spending a dime.
“(It was) not easy to get,” Nesci said. “It required all my unique communication skills.”
But perhaps the most impressive of Nesci’s production feats was when he found a white alpaca for a commercial for the Scotch whiskey distillery Lagavulin. The commercial’s director specifically wanted a white alpaca and a field in which to film the South American llama lookalike. Nesci found not only a white alpaca, but an entire alpaca farm.
“I found him the exact alpaca he wanted, and I also found other different ones that we later filmed just to have more options in post-production,” Nesci said.
The find paid off for Nesci and Lagavulin as the commercial won a 2014 Clio Award.
Nesci has already build an impressive resume of award-winning projects such as films, music videos and commercials, and will no doubt add many more to it in the future.
Living in the modern age we are bombarded by hundreds of commercials per day. As viewers when most of these ads hit the screen we often tune out in order to deal with the overwhelming overload of these messages.
So what does it take for a commercial to stand out and strike the interest of an audience in a world oversaturated with visual sales pitches?
Well, having a seasoned motion graphics designer like Vitaly Verlov behind the screen has proven to be an integral factor in the success of campaigns for global companies like Max Factor, Mitsubishi, Peugeot, Volkswagen, Nokia, Samsung and countless others.
Over the years Verlov has amassed prodigious knowledge in terms of the technical methods involved in creating everything from multi-layered motion graphics to seamless visual effects. Beyond his technical skills though, his creative vision has made him a highly sought after talent in the industry. In fact, earlier this year he handled all of the visual effects on the upcoming film Redux, a sci-fi film starring Oscar nominee Eric Roberts from the films Inherent Vice, The Dark Knight, The Cable Guy and many more. What is even more astonishing is the fact that Verlov also wrote and directed the highly anticipated film.
His prowess as a motion graphics designer and visual effects artist have allowed him to take on projects that others in the industry who are only skilled in one of these two areas could not.
While you may not know the face of Vitaly Verlov, if you’ve ever tuned into MTV, VH1, Friday! Or Russia’s RUTV, then there’s a pretty good chance that you’ve seen his work more than once over the last decade.
To find out more about Vitaly Verlov’s captivating work make sure to check out our interview below!
VV: My name is Vitaly Verlov and I was born in the city of Novosibirsk, Russia. After graduating in 2007 I moved to Moscow to work as a motion graphics designer and visual effect artist for television and film.
IFR: How and when did you first get into doing visual effects work?
VV: In high school and university I did a lot of computer programming because I was a computer geek back then, and even before that I came across an international computer art subculture called Demoscene. Essentially it’s a community where young programmers, artists and musicians get together – for fun – to make demos: computer programs that produce audio-visual presentations in real-time. The visual side of creating a demo implies that you actually program algorithms to achieve a certain artistic effects on screen. To put it short, it’s awesome. As soon as my programming skills got up to speed, I started making graphical demos with some cool looking visual effects and showcasing them on so called “demoparties.” As a matter of fact, my thesis work was focused on developing a toolset for real-time motion graphics and visual effects production.
Later on I became more interested in non real-time photorealistic imaging and switched from computer graphics programming to producing visual effects, design and animation in a more traditional industry-applicable form and started doing broadcast motion graphics for television.
IFR: What inspired you to pursue this profession?
VV: After seeing some television channels that were neatly designed from a graphical standpoint or motion pictures packed with great visual effects, I really wanted to become a part of it.
IFR: Are there any particular artists that inspire you?
VV: In my early days I was fascinated with some of the broadcast design graphics on TV and dreamed about getting to this level of quality and impression. That’s what basically inspired me to learn, more than personalities. However after moving to Moscow, I had an opportunity to meet with some of the great guys behind those outstanding designs and work with them.
IFR: What kind of training was involved in order to become a VFX artist? How important is formal education to getting a job in the industry?
VV: I personally don’t have any special VFX related training. Nor do most of the other artists I know. Basically, to become a VFX artist or motion designer, it’s important to have a natural artistic sense and a good eye plus the ability to efficiently handle technical tools and software. On the other hand, it’s also a matter of specialty in the industry, for instance: environmental concept artists or matte painters often have a background in fine arts. One thing is true for everyone working in VFX: you don’t stop learning, no matter what your specialty is.
IFR: What is that you love about being a VFX artist?
VV: The ability to create something impressive out of nothing; and the ability to impress girls at parties, of course.
IFR: What is your specialty in the field?
VV: As a VFX artist, I consider myself a generalist which means that I can pull off a wide variety of tasks myself, including modeling, texturing, animating, rendering, compositing. There are fields that I prefer more, and there are fields I’m not involved in at all – like character modeling and rigging.
As a motion/broadcast graphics designer and art director, again, I can do a lot, starting from initial creative concept to final delivery.
IFR: What is your typical workflow like in terms of collaborating with other artists on a film?
VV: It depends on a project and/or studio. Sometimes workflow is precise, broken down into stages and compartmentalized with strict deadlines, sometimes it’s a complete mess and overnight hell. The most positive experience is of course when you focus on something specific you really like and are good at. This way of collaborating is very efficient and creative at the same time.
IFR: You also work as a motion graphics designer, can you tell us a little bit about what that entails?
VV: Sure. Essentially motion graphics design is an animation-oriented subset of graphic design. Graphic design is just a single picture. Motion design is graphic design in sequence, in motion, and you see it pretty much everywhere: opening sequences for TV shows, film titles, game console menus, or photo-realistic 3D smartphone magically spinning in mid-air in a smartphone TV or Web commercial, or even user interface animation within that smartphone. In other words, any animated piece in visual medium is a subject of motion design.
That’s what I’ve been doing for various television channels including MTV, VH1, Friday!, and others. Sometimes there is client input on the initial concept of what we’re trying to achieve, sometimes there is no input. When there is no input, I also work as a copywriter where I suggest different ideas or scripts on how an end result might look and what meanings/themes it might have behind it. When the concept is approved, we move on to actual motion design.
IFR: How does being a motion graphics editor differ from working as a VFX artist?
VV: Motion graphics is a general term. It’s something that visually can be executed in different ways and styles. It can be two-dimensional, flat design-ish/illustrated looking as well as filmic three-dimensional. I think my direction is more filmic/three-dimensional oriented, that’s why it depends substantially on the visual effects techniques. For example, for a commercial spot for Peugeot the idea was to make a realistic car driving along a stylized miniature street – stuff like that directly relies on VFX techniques because it requires 3D modeling, rendering and compositing as a part of the workflow. In a sense, for such projects VFX is a way to implement the creative idea. That’s where motion graphics and VFX come together.
On the other hand, there are motion graphics projects where VFX techniques are not required for natural reasons. For instance, I have experience making on-screen graphics as a part of graphics package for several television stations where the task was to design the look and feel of info graphic elements that pop up during a broadcast. While these elements look pretty minimalistic, they should have a thought-out motion behavior and structure that keeps the integrity of the overall design. Sometimes the way these elements pop up on screen, interact with the viewer, and disappear is hard to conceptualize. That’s where “design” in the “motion graphics design” title comes to the forefront.
IFR: How has having skills as both a VFX artist and a motion graphics designer separated you from others in the industry?
VV: I think VFX and motion graphics are storytelling devices, and I always try to approach projects from the storytelling perspective. So for me the primary task is not making a neat looking animation or effect but supporting and enhancing the context it is a part of. Motion graphics is about guiding the viewer’s attention and it’s also very important for visual effects shots. What separates me is a good understanding of these aspects which, in real life, means that a client is usually happy with the timing, pace and accents I put into designs during the early stages of production, which is cool because it eliminates the need to reiterate on that so I can spend more time perfecting the visuals.
IFR: What companies have you worked with in the industry?
VV: Since I consider myself motion graphics oriented, I have more experience working on commercials and on-air broadcast design.
As a lead designer and VFX artist, I worked for the Russian branch of MTV and VH1 Networks and nation-wide entertainment television channel Friday! As an art director and motion graphics designer, I’ve done quite a few projects for a major music television channel, RUTV. Specifically, I created motion graphics and the overall design for the RUTV 2014 annual music awards ceremony, and some pieces for its 2015 installment.
As a freelance designer and VFX artist, I’ve done a bunch of commercials for international brands, including Mitsubishi, Peugeot, Volkswagen, Max Factor, Nokia, Samsung, Eurovision, Sensation, plus a variety of Russian brands like Beeline (a major mobile operator in Russia).
As a lead VFX artist, I have several projects done for the US-based boutique postproduction company Coat of Arms. Also, I have great experience working for the international visual effects company Pixomondo (Game of Thrones) as a lead 2D effects artist.
Working for various international companies and clients gives a pretty solid understanding of how the global industry works as well as flexibility in the way you approach projects in terms of planning and workflow because the process makes the result.
IFR: Can you tell us a little bit about the television and film projects you’ve worked on; and the specific contributions you made?
VV: I’ve done a lot of TV show openers and channel idents, in a team of designers and by myself, including works for MTV Networks, nation-wide channels Friday!, and RUTV.
While working for Friday! I had a positive interaction with the broadcast design department of Les télécréateurs (Paris) who designed overall on-air look of this station. I’ve made a few show openers and extra identity pieces based on the existing visual style of the station. And for RUTV I created motion graphics and design for the RUTV 2014 annual music awards ceremony which was a pretty huge amount of work (a show opener, a set of nominees, promo spots, press materials) on a tight schedule – that’s where the ability to sit focused for 18 hours came in handy.
Also, recently I had a chance to work as a lead 2D VFX artist on a Chinese big budget sci-fi feature film called Impossible, which is scheduled to hit the market sometime this year. I came in when the postproduction was in full swing, and my job was to complete a bunch of VFX shots, mostly energy fields and portal effects.
I should mention that I’m a filmmaker myself with two sci-fi live action films already under my belt. The latest one, Redux, features the well-known Hollywood actor Eric Roberts (The Dark Knight, The Expendables). It’s a short character-driven story with the ’80s/retro-futuristic vibe to it. I wrote, directed and edited this film and did visual effects.
IFR: Why is motion graphics design important to modern filmmaking?
VV: In its pure form, motion graphics design is critical for television and Internet – that’s for sure. Filmmaking also takes advantage of it, particularly big budget sci-fi & fantasy films and movie trailers, which are a marketing device. Film credits or sleek futuristic computer interfaces you see in a sci-fi flick is a product of motion graphics design. Sometimes it enhances the narrative story of a film, sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s in there. Moreover, since motion design and VFX are somewhat interrelated fields, motion graphics can be essentially found in any film featuring visual effects. That’s also a good way to save some time and money during production, which is important, especially for independent narrative filmmakers like myself. Can a modern live action film be done with no VFX and motion design? Probably yes. But if it’s a mainstream (commercial) film, there should be a marketing/ad campaign involved and that’s where motion graphics comes for you again.
IFR: What has been your favorite project so far and why? What projects do you have coming up?
VV: Not sure about all-time favorites, but I can name a couple of recent ones. I was a part of a team who made a STRAFE® promotional spot for a successful Kickstarter compaign. STRAFE® is an independent old school first-person shooter video game. On this commercial, I worked as a lead VFX/motion design artist.
And of course I loved working on my second film Redux because I think it looks pretty neat, has a coherent story and stars well-known Hollywood actors.
As to the projects to come, some of my past TV clients have a brand new music channel in the works, and while there’s not much info available at this point it looks like I will be creating an onscreen design and several VFX heavy idents shot on green screen.
IFR: Do you have a passion for working on a specific kind of film or project, if so what kind of project and why?
VV: In the TV world, I would say, a show opener. When making a TV show opener, you’re actually making a focused 10-15 second piece which tells a story visually, and that’s what attracted me to the visual medium in the first place.
In film, I have a passion for working on my own films.
IFR: What would you say was your first foot in the door to the industry, and what advice would you give to aspiring artists?
VV: In 2006 I believe, I started making what I called the daily images: the goal was to make one new artistic image every day, just for fun and training, and post it on the Internet into a corresponding design community. I ended up making just a couple of images a week, but after a year of this marathon I was invited to work full-time at a prominent postproduction studio in Moscow, N3, because they liked my pictures. That’s basically how I got into this industry. So I guess my advice would be, stop being aspiring and start actually making something just for the sake of it, start the process and watch how everything unfolds.
So much of establishing oneself as a successful actor in the world of film and television comes down to an actor’s ability to be chameleonic in their pursuit of a role in order to make a casting director believe that they aesthetically fit the character.
While the mark of a great actor entails a level of finesse and understanding of the human condition that extends far beyond the depths of one’s surface appearance, when it comes to initially breaking out on the silver screen, looks tend to have a lot to do with who gets cast and who doesn’t. This seemingly unfair truth gone awry is apparent in the careers of many actors who seem to have fallen victim to the dreaded typecast, forever struggling to break out of that one role in which they’ve been ushered into playing over and over again.
Actor Shvan Aladin has created a diverse repertoire of work over the past decade that proves the extraordinary capacity of his craft. Through the wide range of roles he’s already portrayed across genres, Aladin has made his mark as an actor who cannot be pigeonholed into one role; but, being from the Middle East, more specifically, from Kurdistan, has endowed him with features that are easily stereotyped.
Over the years the actor, who moved to Sweden at the age of 9, has been strategically selective about his roles on the screen, but when you’re good at what you do and you look a certain way, ethnic stereotypes, like the “terrorist” in his case, just seem to weasel their way in.
If he wasn’t such a professionally seasoned actor, being called in for roles like this might get a little annoying, but he says, “I try to look at the human being that I’m playing as being different from the ones I’ve played in the past. Because every character is different from each other, just like in life. One of the most valuable lessons I was taught during my training at the Stella Adler academy was to never judge a character while playing it.”
He adds, “It doesn’t mean that I personally would approve of the actions some characters (such as the terrorist ones) I play do, but I try to put my personal emotions on the side while researching and trying to understand the brain of that specific human being and his justifications for doing what he is doing.”
In the past year audiences across the globe have seen Shvan Aladin star in a national commercial for the U.S. Army, the feature film Always Faithful, where he plays a terrorist, and the Swedish television series Blå ögon, also known as Blue Eyes.
While all of these productions in one way or another emphasize his ethnic appeal, the actor brilliantly transforms himself from one character to another without ever encroaching on clichés.
About acting in the commercial for the U.S. Army’s campaign “Tunnel Special Forces,” the actors says, “It was an amazing experience, and the director, Peter Berg made it even better. It felt wonderful being directed by a director whose movies I’ve been watching since I was a child, it really made the entire experience unforgettable!”
A two-time Emmy nominee, Berg was also the director of the recent hit film Lone Survivor starring Mark Wahlberg.
In the new political drama Blå ögon, Shvan Aladin plays the dynamic and challenging role of Sharhyar, a young Persian teen who is the only true friend that Simon, one of the other lead characters in the series, has. However, due to the fact that Simon’s mother Annika Nilsson, played by the Guldbagge Award winning actress Anna Bjelkerud, happens to be a political candidate for the openly racist party, Trygghetspartiet, some begin to question the authenticity of Simon and Sharhyar’s friendship.
“My character was a hard working young man with a beautiful heart,” explains Aladin. “In the show Sharhyar is the only one who stands up for Simon because he knows that Simon doesn’t share the same opinions as his mother.”
Over the course of the first season, Aladin’s character Sharhyar is framed for the murder of Simon’s mother– a perfect example of how stereotypes can turn an innocent man in to a falsely accused criminal.
“The political drama ‘Blue Eyes’ is about racism taking over in Sweden; but the subject is globally relevant. It’s a subject that has always existed unfortunately, especially in Europe today,” admits Aladin. “I want to be a part of those who fight against racism, and I believe that you can change people through art. My passion in life is acting and that is my art.”
Early on in his career, Aladin starred in the Swedish television shows Andra Avenyn also known as Second Avenue, and Riverside. And while he has undoubtedly made his name known on the screen, the actor’s talents extend to the stage as well. In fact, even with all the glitz and glamour that come along with being a film and television star, the actor marks his role as Ruckley, a lobotomized patient, in the theatre production of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest in Los Angeles as one of his most memorable to date.
Aladin recalls, “It was the best play that I have been a part of in my life, and playing someone with a mental disability is something that I researched a lot… I will never forget the things I learned during the production. I remember thinking during closing weekend: I will remember this character when I’m on my deathbed.”
The actor has also taken the spotlight in the theatre productions of The Hasty Heart directed by Harry Mastrogeorge and J.B directed by Oscar winner Milton Justice, as well as Our lady of 121st Street, and the remake of the Opera Carmen, which was held in Sweden at the Backa Theater.
With an accomplished repertoire of work with world-renowned directors spanning both the American and European entertainment industries already under his belt, Shvan Aladin does admit that there is one director that he has a strong desire to work with.
“I have always had a dream of working with director Bahman Ghobadi so I will also try to include my third country Kurdistan, which is where I’m originally from and so, hopefully I will get to work with him sometime soon,” says Aladin. “I remember watching his movie ‘A Time for Drunken Horses’ as the first movie I saw in the cinema in Sweden after moving there. I immediately fell in love with the movie and his directing, and I was only 10 years old at that time.”
Currently, you can catch Shvan Aladin in the role of Jacob in the horror film Mansion of Blood, which was directed by Mike Donahue (Surge of Power, Pooltime) and was released earlier this month.
Born into a family of entertainers, actress Jessica Waters has been in the spotlight her entire life. Together with her four siblings and her father, the lead singer of a local band, she was playing music, dancing and acting beginning at just five years old. By the time she was eight she had her heart set on acting professionally, and in the years since she has grown from one of the most promising young Australian talents into an international powerhouse of the screen.
In 2014, Waters joined the cast of The War That Changed Us, a four-part documentary drama series recounting the stories of real-life Australians who fought in World War I. Waters played a nurse traveling with soldiers on the front lines, and said she fell in love with the role.
“This has to be one of my favorite TV shows I have worked on,” Waters said. “I loved the costumes, and dressing in all the lovely clothes they wore really made me feel like I was back in that time, and I had to do some nurse training for the role.”
The War That Changed Us aired by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in 2014 to commemorate the centennial anniversary of Australia’s entry into the war.
Recently, Waters acted alongside Sam Worthington (Avatar, Terminator: Salvation, Clash of the Titans) in Paper Planes. The film tells the story of a young boy who, after suffering the loss of his mother, finds solace and hope in a competition to design the ultimate paper airplane. Filmed in her hometown of Perth, Waters played the mother of one of the children competing in the whimsical tournament and said it was a fun project to be a part of. The film received nominations at both the Australian Directors’ Guild Awards and the Berlin International Film Festival.
In her latest television role, she plays an American reporter in the SyFy Channel adaptation of the Arthur C. Clarke classic novel Childhood’s End. As an Australian, the role was a unique challenge for her, and required a great deal of intensive voice training to master the accent required for the part.
“I’ve been training my American accent for a year,” she said. “They loved my accent, and I got the part on the spot.”
Childhood’s End is the first screen adaptation of the science fiction masterpiece. Following the arrival on Earth by a race of mysterious but benevolent aliens, the human race begins to thrive and prosper; however, almost immediately suspicions begin to grow among people about their new isolationist neighbors. As a reporter, Waters is on the scene to cover their arrival. The series airs on SyFy later in 2015.
Waters played a reporter once before in The Great Mint Swindle, the true story of a massive 1982 Australian heist where more than $2 million in gold bars were stolen from the Perth Mint. The crime remains unsolved, adding to the mystery and making it one of Western Australia’s greatest and most famous true crime stories.
“I love being in true stories,” Waters said. “The set was very Australian, and I enjoyed being a news reporter because if I didn’t decide to be an actor, I was going to be a TV reporter.”
Not limited to film and television, Waters’ experience as a performer shines in her work onstage as well.
“I have spent three years working with the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Western Australia,” Waters said. “I was not only an actor, but I was also the dance choreographer and a singer.”
In her time with the Shakespeare Theatre Company, she’s worked on iconic Shakespearean plays including A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, The Tempest and Comedy of Errors.
Audiences can catch Jessica Waters in her upcoming feature film Reality, a satirical comedy in which Waters plays the lead.
“I just know it’s going to be a fantastic film. The script is amazing,” she said. “I have a lead role and it’s a film that kind of makes fun of reality TV shows.”
Reality is currently in the process of filming so eager fans will have to wait to learn more about the project. However, it’s guaranteed to be a fresh look at a genre, which provides a goldmine of comedic fodder.
Over the last decade Canadian actress Jessica Huras has established herself as a sought after talent for high profile theater productions, TV shows and award-winning films. While her versatility and capacity for seamlessly tapping into even the most challenging roles have definitely helped her create the dazzling reputation she has today, it doesn’t hurt that she is undeniably beautiful as well.
Early on in her career Huras appeared on the two-time Gemini Award winning series This Is Wonderland. Shortly after she wenton to guest star on the Lifetime TV series Missing alongside multi-award winning actress Vivica A. Fox. An investigative crime series that focuses on finding missing persons, Huras played the roles of Caroline Dunn and Luke Thompson, two characters who at first appear to be separate and unrelated, but over the course of the episode are revealed to be one in the same.
When it comes to choosing one role over another, Huras says, “I look for smart scripts that feel original in some way and that have interesting and complex roles for women.”
In Missing, Huras gives a heart wrenching performance as a transgendered college student who struggles to find his identity as a man born in a woman’s body, a challenging role that only further proves the actress’s affinity for tapping into complex characters.
Audiences across the world will also recognize Huras as Leandra from the first season of the hit television show Being Erica, where she starred alongside Erin Karpluk (Rookie Blue, Reasonable Doubt, Supernatural, Saving Hope, Flashpoint) and Reagan Pasternak (Masters of Sex, Heartland, Cake).
“This was a very theatrical role, allowing me to tap into my darker side and channel my inner Goth,” explains Huras about her character on the three-time Gemini Award and Leo Award winning series.
Similar to the way that Jamie Lee Curtis has become synonymous with the horror genre through her role as Laurie Strode in Halloween, Huras has also become something of a notable “scream queen” on film.
Through films like The Deadly Pledge where she played the role of Nikki Evans alongside Gossip Girl star Leighton Meester, James Isaac’s action packed 2006 horror film Skinwalkers, and NYC: Tornado Terror, Huras has displayed a rare talent for evoking fear within audiences through her believable performances.
Although she has carved out her place as an actress in film and television productions starring alongside some of the best in the industry, the silver screen has by no means taken away from her work as a dedicated performer in the theatre.
In 2009 Huras starred alongside Sebastien Heins from the TV series The Listener, Cracked and Darknet, and Mikaela Dyke from the films Blood Boars and Sight Unseen, in the production of David Levine’s “Reflections On Giving Birth to a Squid.” The production, which opened in Montreal and toured across Toronto, Winnipeg, Saskatoon and Edmonton as part of the Fringe Festival, received the Centaur Award for Outstanding Production from the Montreal Fringe Festival.
In 2010 the actress also founded Heart in Hand Theater company in Toronto – a revolving collective producing rare plays in need of a comeback, as well as developing new works of their own. Through Heart in Hand, Huras has produced “The Commune,” “Cowboy Mouth” where she played the starring role of Cavale alongside Broken Social Scene member Jason Collett, and “Trout Stanley” where she played the role of Grace Ducharme.
About what drives her to perform, Huras says, “I love telling stories and sharing the human experience. I think it’s the most palpable way of connecting and it’s never dull, not for a second. I’m forever challenged and inspired in this field.”
With each of her characters being completely different from the next, Huras’s dedication to continually pushing herself beyond her comfort zone as an actress has allowed her to amass a wide range of roles on both the stage and screen.
With an astonishing career already under her belt and several productions being released this year, it is clear that we will be seeing a whole lot more of Jessica Huras for years to come. Currently, you can check Huras out in the role of Natalie on the History Channel series Gangland Undercover, which began airing in February. She also wrapped production on the films Anxietyville and Teeth earlier this year, both of which are set to debut later this year.
The vast array of roles masterfully portrayed by Alli McLaren are a testament to the striking technique she’s spent her entire life honing, both onstage and in front of the camera. Following in both her mother and grandmother’s footsteps, the Australian dynamo is a third generation actor in whom the art of performance is deeply engrained.
McLaren’s unique talents stem from so much more than the impressive combination of her inherited genetics, for her upbringing in the theatre and her years of rigorous and dedicated training have put her far above the rest. One of her strongest and most valuable assets is something too many actors lack – real-life experience.
In addition to her acting prowess, McLaren is also a talented and accomplished writer for the screen. McLaren wrote the upcoming film My Year of Silence based on her own experiences. The film follows McLaren as she plays Callie, a role that shines a spotlight on the painful reality of those who cope daily with mental illness and depression.
For years, McLaren fought tirelessly to overcome long and difficult battles with illness and depression. Through that struggle, she gained an intimate and personal understanding of the peaks and depths of human emotion and an insight into the human psyche that is clearly displayed in every part she’s played. From the masterful way that she has transformed herself into the mind and body of every character she has taken on, audiences can expect yet another dazzling performance from the actress as Callie in the upcoming film My Year of Silence, which is being produced by White Night Films.
Though her dramatic flair is impeccable, her recent role in A Writer’s Block, also produced by White Night Films, gave her a chance to show off both her action and comedic chops. The project centers around two writers as the plot of their latest film begins to come to life. McLaren’s character Sophie, one of the characters in the two writers’ script, is kidnapped, and the ensuing rescue mission her older brother embarks on to save her forms the backbone of the film. The quick-action, fights and shootouts were a far cry from her other more cerebral and introspective roles, but in no time she mastered the dance-like combat moves with grace and professionalism — and a little bit of fun, too.
“There was a lot of stage fighting choreography involved in this shoot, which was new to me,” said McLaren. “But I felt like a ninja doing it, which kind of rocked.”
In one of her most powerful roles, McLaren played the lead in Infidelity, directed by Emmy Award-winning actress Blanche Baker. Based on a French script, the film centers around an experiment meant to study the faithfulness of men versus women in committed relationships.
McLaren’s character, Gretchen, is the person responsible for conducting the experiment, and as such, she holds complete control over its success. “Gretchen was really the female power in this film,” McLaren said. “It felt great to play a character with so much power and so much control.”
An exceptional actress by anyone’s standards, McLaren’s upcoming projects include the 2016 release of My Year of Silence as well as a likely sequel to follow, in addition to a planned sequel to A Writer’s Block. The young starlet will no doubt continue to raise the bar for fellow actors across the industry as a whole; and as audiences flock to My Year of Silence, they’ll no doubt witness the internationally sought after talent set new standards for dramatic writing as well.
International Entertainment, and the Talents that Leave us Buzzing….