Category Archives: international Talent

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

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

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

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

Yu-Ying Chuang Serves Up No Deer for Dinner

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Chemistry; it’s vital to great filmmaking. Yes, this relates to the actors visible on the screen but even more so to the talent interacting behind the scenes. Director Yuhang Chen, Editor Yu-Ying Chuang, and Writer Otoniel Walker combined their talent for one of the most suspenseful and unique thrillers of the year in No Deer for Dinner. There’s more than one perspective on morality by the different characters in this film and it’s presented in a highly entertaining fashion because of the work of this trio. Chuang confirms that her initial discussions with the director about the story excited and convinced her to take on the editing responsibility. Her editing work has a pronounced and beneficial mark on this film which was the winner of Best Horror Short and Best Thriller Short at the Independent Shorts Awards this year. The twists and turns of the story become more understandable when viewed through his explanations of the process which sculpted it.

In a mountainous Nevada town, many people have gone missing without a trace. For the past thirty-six years, a single individual has vanished each year without any belongings left behind. When a young couple enters the town after robbing a bank, they take refuge in the home of an elderly couple by taking the residents captive. In a plot that keeps viewers guessing who is the greater threat, it becomes uncertain who is the captive and who is the captor. No Deer for Dinner is the sort of film which instills the idea that the most dangerous and lethal situations are the ones just slightly out of sight. The young felonious couple comes to the realization that hunters disappear in this Nevada town for a frightening reason.

“You might need to use editing to support me.” This was the phrase that director Yuhang Chen greeted Yu-Ying with when proposing she edit the film. His frustration was a result of conditions during the filming. Several scenes had been deleted leaving holes in the story. Chuang informs, “When I got the footage, I was surprised because it was not the same as the original script. We discussed how to solve the problem and how to create suspense from the footage we had. There was certainly some difficulty to this approach but it wasn’t impossible.”

Yu-Ying concentrated on spotlighting key scenes to make the tone more prominent. The fast pace of a frantic hunter being chased in the first scene is exponentially more panicked by the quick-cut editing. When the elderly couple are eating dinner and engaging in an unusual conversation, Chuang lets the scenes linger to an almost uncomfortable extent which maximizes the awkwardness. Describing the end of the film, Yu-Ying explains, “The penultimate scene ended in Roger killing the police and taking the gun out to shoot the female robbers. At the beginning of the last scene, I wanted to have a little suspense about what kind of a person Roger is. The first picture I used is Roger is preparing food and when the camera slowly slides back, the woman is tied on the chair and the policeman’s body is on the table. I wanted to make the audience think that it was a normal day. It’s this shocking realization that Roger hunts the hunters to eat their organs and meat.”

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While editors are referred to as filmmakers often equal to the director, in many cases they are dubbed “problem solvers.” No Deer for Dinner has a disturbing and chilling feeling most prominently because there seems to be a realistic path to this situation actually occurring. For this film, Yu-Ying Chuang has drawn and highlighted this line with great effect and success, to the benefit of the film and audiences.

Walt Disney Animation Studios Hosts Bali: Beats of Paradise

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In a moment that mirrored the artistic exchange of the film Bali: Beats of Paradise, Walt Disney Animation hosted the talent of the film for a screening at their studio. Director Livi Zheng, Executive Producer Julia Gouw, and gamelan composer Nyoman Wenten viewed the film with some of Disney’s most creative forces, including the producer of Moana and the Head of Story for Frozen. Disney’s invitation is yet another indicator of the recognition Bali: Beats of Paradise has been receiving since its US release on November 16, 2018.

Beyond exploring the culture that created Balinese gamelan music, the film displays western artists being influenced by its character; integrating gamelan into modern day western musical styles. A question and answer session followed the screening in which Wenten, Gouw, and Zheng discussed filmmaking and Indonesian culture. Nyoman Wenten remarked, “It is amazing how quickly like-minded people attract each other. I can already see the start of a beautiful relationship between Livi and the creatives at Disney. I don’t know if any other Indonesian before Livi Zheng was ever invited to show their movie in front of the top brass in Disney. This is amazing and it makes me proud today to be an Indonesian”

Receiving a hospitable tour of the Disney Animation Studios, Livi revealed, “Disney is  remembered fondly by many children around the world. I remember so many happy memories from watching Disney movies; I am very glad that today I was able to be here and introduce my unique culture to the hardworking artists at Disney”. Executive Producer Julia Gouw noted during the film’s premiere at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills last November, “Crazy Rich Asians put Singapore on the map, so we hope that Bali: Beats of Paradise will put Indonesia and Bali on the map.”

The Lost Soul: Victorian Horror/Thriller Premiering Next Week on Amazon Prime Streaming.

 

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NEVER MAKE A DEAL WITH THE DEVIL, NO MATTER HOW SMALL…

 PREMIERING OCTOBER 23, 2018

STREAM INSTANTLY ON AMAZON PRIME

How do you get your soul back after you sell it? You steal it.

 LOS ANGELES, CA (October 20, 2018) THE LOST SOUL, a mysterious look into the afterlife follows a man grasping at life and narrowly escaping death. Available now to stream on Amazon Prime. Distributed by Sun and Moon Films, the film is created by filmmaker Jeff Caroli (“BALI: BEATS OF PARADISE”).

 The Lost Soul is a fantasy mystery film that has been screen all around the world. The premiere was held in New York City, USA. Since, it has been screened both in Europe and Africa. The film was nominated for best cinematography for Jeff Caroli.

Jeff Caroli is an accomplished cinematographer. For the past 11 years Caroli has been a cinematographer and has garnered millions of views on Youtube.His works include “Queen of the Hill” a music video starring Grammy award winner Judith Hill and the upcoming feature films, “Bali: Beats of Paradise” and “Insight”.

 

ABOUT SUN AND MOON FILMS:

Sun and Moon Films is a US-based production company producing films locally and internationally. The company has produced in the US, China, Indonesia, and Thailand. Sun and Moon Films has had theatrical distribution as well as screenings in various film festivals around the world. The company’s film Bali: Beats of Paradise is premiering at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, November 7, 2018. Upcoming projects include Insight, starring Madeline Zima, Tony Todd, Keith David, and Sean Patrick Flannery.

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.”

Ken Zheng: Indonesia’s Action Star Phenomenon

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Actors like Tom Cruise and Jackie Chan are famed worldwide for their talent and their drive. Artists of this ilk are deeply involved in the productions they star in, evident in their performances. Many are referring to Indonesian actor and writer Ken Zheng in a similar manner as the aforementioned celebrities. His work as an action star and as a screenwriter has made him an international sensation in the last few years. Athlete (Zheng was part of the Indonesian National Team for Kickboxing and became the youngest Champion in Indonesia’s history) turned stuntman turned marquee name, this talent from Indonesia seems to revel in the action genre. His roles in US films and those abroad have seen him starring alongside long-established actors, vetting him as a peer and a major force in the international film industry.

2017’s Down by the River stars Zheng as a prison escapee making his way through the wilderness to the Rio Grande river while being hunted by a killer. It’s a classic tale of survival driven by a small cast. No less frightening is the film Hitman in which a woman inadvertently witnesses a drug deal gone wrong and pays the price for doing the right thing. Second Chance pits two hired killers against each other. Zheng is perfectly paired in this tale, starring alongside Trent Moore (of the Coen Brothers multiple Oscar-winning films No Country for Old Men). Concerning his work in these thrilling productions, Ken communicates, “I see the beauty in action and I love bringing thrills to the audience when they watch a movie. The action itself is always supplementary to the story and the visuals help the audience integrate to the world of the movie”

Currently, in post-production, Ken starred in the upcoming feature film he wrote called Insight. The story goes beyond the label “action film” as it is centered on two siblings who possess the gift of clairvoyance. Escaping an abusive home, they are recruited by a counter-terrorism agency. The brothers grow apart as they enter adulthood and this motivates the action of the story. As Qiang, the younger of two siblings, Ken delivers an emotional and visceral performance alongside such celebrated talents as Keith David (multiple Primetime Emmy winner) and John Savage (The Deer Hunter-winner of five Oscars, Hair-winner of two Golden Globes). Zheng concedes, “There’s always room to learn as an actor. Working with John and Keith was an opportunity to learn from their experience and talent. They’ve both been in so many extraordinary films; to see them creating on set like that…it was an incredible learning opportunity. As an actor who is also a writer, it also gave me the chance to see what I could do with the script to help the actors. When I first moved to the United States I tried to bridge the East and West as each has its own unique stories. Moreover, I always try to keep my stories rooted and grounded to real emotion and real relationship between the characters. The movie itself is not always self- contained but the relationship between the characters is always clearly defined in my stories.”

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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. “