Category Archives: Interviews & Features!

Renowned Writer Camilla Sauer Talks Top Projects

Camilla Sauer is one of Germany’s most successful head writers. Over the past 20 years of her career, she’s been accredited for her remarkable work on over a dozen different TV series, produced by some of the biggest German and European TV and Film production companies.

Getting her start as a creative writer at the young age of 19, Sauer proved early on that she was destined to spend her life creating and telling stories. Just three years after her first professional gig, she went from intern to full-time storyliner on Germany’s second highest rated TV series, Verbotene Liebe (Forbidden Love). With numerous awards won and over 4,5000 episodes aired, Verbotene Liebe circles around the lives of young men and women in Germany, their friends, and their families, and has become well known for its positive representation of LGBT characters and its presentation of controversial issues. The show is produced by UFA Serial Drama (Metropolis and The Blue Angel), one of Germany’s oldest and most distinguished entertainment brands

Sauer worked on Verbotene Liebe for two of its 20 seasons. From there, she climbed the ranks and earned what would be her first of many head writer titles for a season on the crime series Einsatz für Ellrich, of the award-winning production company, Constantin Entertainment.

“Two years later I started working for Alles Was Zählt, where I continued to work for three years,” Sauer said. “I was there from day one and was fortunate enough to be able to create this TV drama with some of the most talented writers. We were all so different, but each and every one of us was passionate about the show. We were encouraged to tell fresh, new, and compelling stories. We all put 100% of our effort into the stories – and it paid off.”

In February of 2008, while Sauer was the head writer on the show, Alles Was Zählt was awarded Blu Magazine’s Best National TV Format award for its portrayal of the relationship between two of its characters, Deniz and Roman. Additionally, Guido Reinhardt, Chief Creative Officer of UFA and producer of the groundbreaking series, provided Sauer with the opportunity to work as a creative producer together with the producer of the TV series Unter Uns, ultimately trusting her to relaunch this show and work with a different team of writers, with a different broadcast station in the process. “Camilla is truly a writer of extraordinary merit and ability,” Reinhardt recently commented of his professional colleague of over 10 years. “She possesses a talent that is rare, and it is her unique combination of talent and experience that has resulted in her becoming one of Germany’s most successful head writers.”

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Camilla Sauer

Having aired in 2006 to the present, Alles Was Zählt is one of the longest running TV dramas in Germany.

While it’s obvious that creative talent is a must-have when it comes to being a successful writer, one of Sauer’s greatest strengths that Reinhardt pointed out: life experience, along with empathy and a sense of structure, are also qualities that mustn’t be overlooked. Sauer is well versed when it comes to all of these, her expansive success as a head writer in the entertainment industry serving as proof. Expanding upon what she’s learned regarding the importance of these assets, Sauer explained, “It takes empathy to create characters and to be able to connect with how they feel and act. Not because you would do so, but because your character with his background, culture, and personality would do so. It takes some life experience because life gives you the best inspiration every day, everywhere. The best stories I’ve ever heard stem from real life experiences. Lastly, structure is needed to be able to take your story to the next level; To create a plot, a script, a scene. I know a lot of writers who are either very creative, but have issues with creating structure, and vice versa. If you have both – you are considered one of the lucky ones.”

In addition to head writer, Sauer has also worked diligently as a creative producer and story consultant on numerous distinguished projects broadcasted on some of the most established networks throughout Europe such as, Soko Familie, Herzflimmern, Unter Uns, the award winning Dahoam is Dahoam, and Lena – Liebe Meines Lebens, the latter which she first began working on a few years post her work on Alles Was Zählt.

“A story consultant in Germany is probably considered a creative producer, or a co-showrunner in the US. It’s someone who works closely with the producer and/or show runner. Together they create the story concept, characters, and the long running plots of the TV series,” Sauer said of her job title. “This particular work is not so much focused on the details like scenes or dialogue, but more so of the development of the whole concept of the TV series. The staff writers break our ideas down into episodes, scenes, and scripts.”

In 2010, Sauer was hired by the academy award winning production company, Wiedemann & Berg (The Lives of Others, WhoAmI, Welcome to Germany, and Dark), to create Lena – Liebe Meines Lebens with showrunner Günter Overman (Storm of Love, Verschollen, and Hinter Gittern – Der Frauenknast). The series title translates to Lena – Love of My Life in English, and is an adaptation of the Argentine series Don Juan y Su Bella Dama, created by Claudio Villarruel and Bernarda Llorente.

It was on Lena – Liebe meines Lebens where Sauer first worked with co-founder and CEO of Wiedemann & Berg, Quirin Berg. Berg, who thinks quite of the writer’s talents, shared, “I have had the pleasure of working with Camilla Sauer and can without a doubt certify that she is an exceptionally talented head writer, and furthermore, one of the best head writers in Germany. Camilla is extremely unique in many aspects. She is outstandingly creative, a very fast thinker, she has a wonderful ability to express her ideas clearly, create deep and three-dimensional characters, and eventually bring them to life. Additionally, she can immediately identify specific problems in a story and articulate a solution to them.”

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Camilla Sauer

Since 2012, Sauer has been staffed as the head writer for Germany’s hit series Schicksale – und plötzlich ist alles anders (Fate – and suddenly everything is different). Produced by Constantin Entertainment, the TV series has been running for eight years, consists of twelve seasons, and was recently picked up for another (1 year).

In Camilla’s words, the idea behind Schicksale – und plötzlich ist alles anders is that, “Things are not happening to you, they are happening for you. Even if it looks like something bad is happening to you, it just creates a new opportunity for us to learn, to grow, and to eventually make better decisions that lead to a better life. ‘Fate’ is about that one single moment, that ‘accident’ that might look like some random situation, that completely changes your life.”

While working on such a long running show for an extended period of time has its challenges, Sauer has demonstrated that she is an expert when it comes to contributing fresh and exciting stories to an ongoing series, and in doing so has played a pivotal role in the success of Schicksale – und plötzlich ist alles anders. Former CEO of Constantin Entertainment Christoph Knechtel raved of the head writer, “Camilla is truly a head writer of extraordinary merit and ability. I was fortunate enough to witness her extraordinary talent in screenwriting when she served as writer, head writer, and showrunner on numerous television series like K-11-Kommissare im Einsatz, Einsatz für Ellrich, Schicksale, In Gefahr, Im Namen Der Gerechtigkeit, and Soko Familie for huge networks such as Sat. 1, RTL, VOX, and more. Her demonstrated skill and unparalleled creativity on these and other projects have earned Camilla widespread recognition and international acclaim as one of German television’s leading writers.”

Presently, Sauer is in development with the German TV production companies, UFA Serial Drama, Constantin Entertainment, and Bastei Media, on a few pilots and television series while continuing to write for Schicksale – und plötzlich ist alles anders.

 

For more information on Camilla Sauer, please visit: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm4646044/?ref_=nv_sr_1
 

Article Written By: Ashley Bower

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YouTuber Ryan “Bucks” Hughes promotes Cineplex and WorldGaming for large tournament

When Ryan Hughes made his first video on YouTube, he never expected the fame he would achieve from the platform. At the time he was just 17, growing up in the small town of Horsham, England. Like many at that age, he was dealing with the social stresses of teenage years. He also was struggling with anxiety and depression, dealing with what seemed like unsurmountable personal problems at the time. He turned to YouTube as an escape; making videos under the alias “Bucks Fizz” was a way to make his audience laugh and briefly forget about the struggles he was dealing. Now, five years later, Hughes is known internationally as “Bucks”, a celebrated YouTube content creator and social media influencer, and he attributes those difficult years to the success he has today.

Hughes passions for gaming and making videos has led to his YouTube channel having over 400,000 subscribers from all over the world. When he first began his channel, he played a game called Runescape, which his first couple of years using the platform was focused on. As he began to average more views per video, he started to expand his content, playing more video games and making videos about his thoughts and opinions, as well as day-to-day experiences. Eventually, he found he could make a career out of his favorite hobby, and has never looked back.

“I found YouTube as a platform where you could be creative without having to speak, or even show your face if you didn’t want to. Reaching out to an online audience in a situation like this and receiving compliments and support on your work only motivates you to keep striving forward. Growing up through my teens, I was an avid gamer, I use to play games with my friends all the time, which brought the YouTube world of gaming to life, where we watch YouTube for guides, entertainment and more. This then sparks up personalities that you enjoy watching in relation to what you’re interested in, which is and for me, was a very desirable thing,” he said.

Hughes fame and influential power over his audience allows him to work with relevant brands to help grow their customer base. One of these brands was the North American theatre giant, Cineplex. When hosting their Cineplex WorldGaming Canadian Championships this year, they reached out to several influencers to help gain awareness for the competition, “Bucks” was one of those few.

It was a pleasure to work with Ryan and his agency of record Studio 71,” said Oliver Silverstein, Marketing Manager at WorldGaming. “Ryan creates compelling content on his channel and has a very loyal following. We look forward to working with Ryan again in the future.”

Hughes promoted the competition through his videos in August and September of this year. Playing the game Counter Strike: Global Offensive, he was able to inform his viewers of the competition and provide them with information of how to sign up and attend. Although he is based in England, Hughes has a large fan base in North America, which the tournament was open to. Through his campaign, he was able to generate over 200,000 impressions and create awareness for the tournament.

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Ryan “Bucks” Hughes

Earlier this year, Cineplex and WorldGaming approached Hughes to promote the competition. They knew with his vast audience and creative videos, he could find a fun and unique way to help promote the tournament. Hughes was happy to generate interest in the tournament, and was invited to the finals in Toronto from September 22nd to 24th, where the winner would take home $90,000. This was the first of its kind for this type of collaboration, as Hughes’ videos are for the entertainment aspect of gaming and are generally watched by those who play for fun, rather than the professionals. The campaign was the ideal way to integrate both the fundamental entertainment side of E-Sports games and the professional side.

“E-Sports is such a huge and increasingly dominating part of our community, and I want to support it in so many ways. Being offered this position to promote such a large tournament was an honor and beneficial to myself to shed my personal light on it. Although I’m more on the entertainment side of CS:GO opposed to the professional scene, I always look up to the professionals who are very talented in what they do. I wanted to make this video to promote a huge tournament and be involved in such a spectacular event,” said Hughes.

Hughes believes it is crucial that both the entertainment and creative side of E-Sports games, where people such as himself create entertaining videos about the games collaborate with the professional side. They are completely different to each other, the professional scene’s target audience are those who take the game very seriously, whereas the entertainment scene has a more relaxed approach, targeting a huge amount of people who just enjoy playing every so often. To combine both these huge audiences together builds our community, both synergise and help each other.

Hughes enjoyed being able to be seen as a professional for the promotion. In his initial video promoting the tournament, Hughes continued his trademark enthusiastic act, but used extensive use of sound and lighting in front of the camera to create an elite atmosphere to give insight into how “crazy” it would be to enter and win such a tournament, with a huge prize pool of $90,000. He also had to have a player photo taken, as well as work closely with other professionals of Counter Strike: Global Offensive, a favorite game for the influencer.

“I took this promotion very seriously as it’s not often to see such a collaboration. I wanted my audience to feel the professionalism, just like an average tennis player would feel how great their sport’s top athletes were,” he said.

Collaborating with Cineplex and WorldGaming was just a fraction of Hughes’ success in the past year. He was sent to Australia with PAX to have a meet and greet with fans and meet other successful social influencers, and he worked with SkinSilo to promote the platform and once again use his brand to create awareness. Despite such success, his humble beginnings are still a part of him, as he is thankful to do what he loves each day.

“If it wasn’t for finding this passion and expanding my hobby into what it has become today, I’m not quite sure where I’d be in life. It’s changed everything, from all those years ago where I feared any form of social confrontation, leaving the house, self-confidence. This has a very big impact on how seriously I take what I do. I know a lot of people that will just simply ‘put off a video’ due to being a little tired or busy, whereas I’ll stay up through all ends of the night if I have to in order to finish a project for my planned distribution time,” Hughes concluded.

An Exclusive Discussion of Award Winning Actor Christopher Capito’s Best Work

To be an actor is to be an expressive, fearless storyteller; Christopher Capito has been one of these since he was seven years old. Over the past fourteen years, it is a job he has fully embodied.

Originally from Quito, Ecuador, Capito initially got his start in a theater troupe before making the transition into film. Since then, his work has been viewed by a wide range of audiences and has been nominated for and won numerous awards at a variety of film festivals.

In the 2017 short film Rotten Grapes, directed by Marc-Ivan O’Gorman (The Black Magic, A Kiss and a Click, and Blood Coloured Moon), Capito plays Andres De La Vega, a grandchild of a Latino woman who is recently deceased. “The film won more than two festivals, and I won the award of best ensemble with the rest of the main cast,” Capito stated.

Rotten Grapes is a sitcom that follows the De La Vega family after the loss of their beloved grandmother. With the promise of leaving the entire fortune to only one of her grandchildren – the one who holds the most family values – the story delves deeper into the lives of each grandchild, revealing their individual troubles along the way.

The cast was lead under the guidance of experienced acting coach Michael Aspinwall, who’s known for his acting work as Dr. Shelby in the 2012-2013 TV series WWE Raw, and has also worked for companies such as Titan Sports Productions, USA Network, and World Wrestling Entertainment. Given the film’s comedic tone combined with Capito’s prior experience in both short and long form improv, the pair worked well together in training. Expanding upon this, Aspinwall said, “While the other actors had trouble bringing the characters alive, Capito didn’t have to make any effort. He has a natural timing for comedy, and that’s something you can’t learn. Capito was born with that.”

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Actor Christopher Capito

Also in 2017, Capito co-wrote and starred in the three-time award winning short film Milk Fang. “In Milk Fang, I played the main character named Andrew. The project is about a young vampire who lives in a conservative vampire family. In this world of vampires, there are two types: blood drinkers (who represent the societal norm), and the milker (who are vampires who drink milk instead of blood, and are an analogy to gay people),” Capito explained. “In the story, the young vampire Andrew comes out of the coffin with his parents, and has to face the prejudice of the rest of the vampire society.”

Ultimately exemplifying its success, Milk Fang was awarded with the titles of Best Screenplay, Best LGBTQ Film, and Best Sci-Fi Short Film at three different film festivals. It was directed by Nicholas Joseph Cunha (Red Souls, Outdated, and Daisy) and written in a collaborative effort. Two-time Daytime Emmy Award winner and Primetime Emmy Nominee George McGrath (Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, On the Television, and Tracey Takes On), who also worked as one of the three writers of the film, speaks highly of his writing partner and actor Capito, affirming, “Christopher has a special talent when it comes to writing and acting out real, human stories. He also has the ability to play multiple races, such as Latino, Italian, and Iberian, as well as a wide age range of 13 to 20 years old.”

Aside from his natural talent, this criterion played a crucial role in casting Capito as the main “Chambelan” named Santiago in one of his first U.S. based short films back in 2016, Terintañera. The story of Terintañera revolves around the Quinceañera party, a celebration that is a vital part of Capito’s culture. The film was based in Los Angeles, ultimately showing how the Latin culture is a growing minority. Additionally, the role of Sebastian provided Capito with the perfect opportunity to show his ability to connect with both the American and the Latin cultures.

Elaborating on this, Capito said, “For me, playing Santiago was an amazing experience. Not only was I challenged as an actor with having to revert back to thinking as a younger version of myself in order to pull inspiration from my Latin roots via experiences from a much earlier age, but I was also given the chance to rediscover my culture and ultimately revel in the nostalgia of growing up in it.”

 

For more information on Christopher Capito, please visit: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm7462667/?ref_=tt_ov_wr

Video Editor Emeric Le Bars Has Time on His Side

Hollywood’s film community is populated by a host of specialized craftsmen and technicians, with many working behind the camera in unique, separate and distinct fields. These widely varying duties abound in the post-production stage of filmmaking and while many make limited contributions, others have a critical impact on a films audience. The editor is perhaps the single most significant of all post-production talent, with the ability to dictate the feel, pace and emotion of the finished product, and French-born video editor Emeric Le Bars is quickly proving himself as one of the best in the business.

While Le Bars has distinguished himself as an in-demand cutter with a solid reputation thanks to such as editing award winning features Lily’s Light and documentary Live Another Day, numerous episodes of TV series Say Hello, contributions to in-douse content for Smile TV and public television station PBS Socal, numerous freelance editing jobs and his own web series The French Touch. It’s a fast-growing body of work that ensures Le Bars status as a rising up and comer on a natural career path.

“As a youth, I was shooting a lot of small personal movies with friends and family,” Le Bars said. “And I started getting really good at video editing—the passion started there. Then when I went to college, I had classes and internships where I was doing a lot of video editing and camera work. I knew this was what I wanted to do in my life and moved from France to the United-States as soon as I graduated.”

Based in Hollywood, Le Bars keeps busy, thanks to his editing skills but has recently parlayed even more fascinating skill into a new facet of his career—time lapse photography, Time lapse, of course, is the sequential series of photos shot over a long period of time and compressed into a finished product that shows what was originally a gradual piece of action (a flower blooming, a dawn-to-dusk cityscape) at a dramatically accelerated pace. While the process sounds simple, it’s a discipline that requires comprehensive technical knowledge and painstaking attention to the camera’s mechanics to ensure a seamless final effect, and Le Bars is one of the best in the business.

“Time lapse photography is really a mix of photography and video editing,” Le Bars said. “That’s why I love it so much. I have a portfolio of more than 600 clips from all around the world. And time lapse has become a big part of my life—I now specialize in them, shooting for big companies like Skyspace LA, Google, Red Bull and, recently, on the Netflix original Real Rob.”

Le Bars’ previous work, and notable profile as a force to be reckoned with, made him a natural for the show (a charming fast paced series centered on comedian Rob Schneider’s day-to-day Hollywood life) which began to prominently feature his top quality time lapse.

“I had worked with Real Rob editor Darius Wilhere on The Hollywouldn’ts, a movie he directed,” Le Bars said. “He saw that I was also doing time lapse and asked me to edit a few for Real Rob. I wasn’t used to working on demand—usually I go out and shoot what I want, the way I want it. This time, I had to make sure I was doing what Rob Schneider wanted, make sure I am using the right interval for the subject, the right composition and the right shutter speed. The color correction is also very important as well because it has to be related to the subject is, Los Angeles, sunshine, palm trees.”

Characteristically, Le Bars nailed it: “Emeric is, without a doubt, in the top 1% of time lapse videographer-editors working in the world today,” Real Rob editor Darius S Wilhere said. “His work is gorgeous and the quality is evident to anyone who sees at it. It’s his attention to detail and his willingness to return to locations again and again until he has the exact right shot that communicates the beauty and power of a given location.”

“This level of work only comes from constant dedication to one’s craft for years and tens of thousands of hours. I applaud his diligence to the craft and look forward to working with him for many years to come. The director and producers were thrilled with his work and have asked me in advance to secure his services for season 3.”

“Rob Schneider and Netflix loved the shots,” Le Bars said. “My time lapse work ended up opening 8 episodes of season 2 and also as a few establishing shots in the episodes. It definitely is an amazing credit to have on my resume”

Having firmly established himself with a formidable catalog of professional achievements in just a few short years, the driven, ambitious Le Bars’ potential is unlimited.

“I have always been a big dreamer,” Le Bars said. “And every day I am thankful that I am where I always wanted to be, working in the field I always wanted to work in and that I am around so many creative people in the city of Angels. All of this helps me to create more and more content, to edit more and more time lapses and videos.

“Just follow your dreams in life. I know it’s easy to say, but if a young French man who came to the US with nothing and succeeds in the industry can do it, anyone can do it. Create a life that you will remember. Work hard for what matters to you, not to others.”

 

Art Director Hanna Petersson brings unique touch to packaging

Hanna Petersson is not like other art directors. She is constantly adapting, looking for a new challenge with each new day. Her style is influenced by her Swedish heritage. Scandinavian design is very scaled back, simplistic and focuses on form and function together rather than just putting things into a design solely as decoration. For Petersson, each part of a design must have a purpose, and if it does not, she knows exactly how to give it one. That is what makes her such an outstanding talent, and why she is known internationally for what she does.

At just 23, Petersson has put her artistic touch on some of the world’s largest brands. She has collaborated with many teams, creating imagery and customer engagement for Samsung, Swedish Match, and more. Her artwork captivates, and her individual exhibition at the House of Culture in central Stockholm garnered a lot of attention and earned her quite the fan base. She uses illustrations to tell a story, and uses her talent to help many brands increase sales.

“As an art director, it is incredibly important to research the client and the target audience and to create content based off of this that is rooted in facts and human truths. A design can look amazing, but unless that design is perfectly suited to the client and target audience the design is useless. What I need to make sure is that I always do my homework on whatever project I may work on, that I am passionate about it, and that I make sure that every detail is perfect before going into the physical production of the idea. The art director comes up with an idea and is in charge of directing it all the way from idea to finalized product. It is a great responsibility and a big challenge, but also incredibly rewarding and interesting to work on,” Petersson described.

Having worked with reputable retail agencies like WorkShop and Grey, Petersson also recently worked with AdPlant. With the company, she worked on a variety of projects to create visual development and branding for big companies, which will be released next year.  Although the official projects can’t be mentioned for this reason, Petersson’s work with the company astounded all she worked with.

“Hanna is an excellent creative talent. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Hanna as both an illustrator and a communication creative for AdPlant network. She is a quick, smart person who pays attention to details in her handicraft. She is a warm and kind person who will ‘run that extra mile’ to deliver pitch perfect creative work,” said Marcus Enström, Founder of AdPlant and Lead Creative.

Petersson’s work greatly impressed AdPlant’s client. Despite not yet being released, the project she worked on has already had a lot of success, and the client is looking to have similar projects follow this one. They know it will be a hit, and they want to work with Petersson and AdPlant again after such a successful collaboration. The product category is one of the most sold in Sweden, and the designs Petersson has produced are one of a kind. They will undoubtedly increase sales and attract new customers to try the product. Petersson knew exactly how to please the company and potential customers at the same time, which is quite the challenge for many art directors.

To do this, she first had to identify exactly what was needed. In this case, it was a series of packaging designs with a unique set of illustrations that she would produce. She then needed to create a new set of color combinations to be used that would not only communicate the right feeling, but also easily convey what the product is and what it stands for. According to Petersson, designing a series of new products within the same category means that they must all be similar to each other and feel like a series, but they need to stand out from each other and be the most unique at the same time. Finding that balance takes some time and a lot of work goes into just coming up with an extraordinary amount of different variations and suggestions that then will be used to decide exactly what the finished product should look like. The process took Petersson quite a long time, because the client wanted to make sure that they were a part of the process every step of the way and got their say in the final product. As Petersson is known for her excellent communication skills, this was not a problem, and she knew exactly what they wanted before they even had to say it.

“This was a blast to work on because I really got to improve a design style I had dipped my toes in not too long before. What was also great was that I knew that these designs would be seen by hundreds of thousands of people in their everyday lives and that my work would be one of the main reasons for the success of the products,” said Petersson.

After seeing Petersson’s previous designs, Enström approached the art director knowing she would be a necessity for the success of his upcoming project. Petersson had previously done a project where she designed and sold apparel through her own shop. These designs were unique, and the founder of AdPlant later found the project in an online shop and asked her if she was interested in working on a project using a similar style of design. Despite working on other projects at the time, Petersson said yes to AdPlant. She was immediately interested in working on the project when she heard about it, and wanted to work on a packaging design project that would be a vital part in the sales of a company. She knew she would be able to influence what the design of the product category could look like and innovate the category from what it was at the time.

“It was very nice to hear that a company was interested in my designs and talents and therefore I was very happy to work on the project from the start since I knew that they wanted me specifically and therefore trusted my opinions, which let me have more freedom in my work and to really push the designs further,” said Petersson. “That I got this responsibility was a great honor and it really allowed me to trust more in myself and my skills. Not only was this a great project from an art perspective, but also from a work experience perspective as I got to communicate with a very large, international company and that they got to see my work directly,” she concluded.

Petersson’s advertising experience and her natural artistic talents make her the perfect art director. She will undoubtedly continue bringing success to anything she works on, and is definitely one to watch.

Graphic Designer Suzy van der Velden beautifully captured surf lifestyle for O’Neill

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Designer Suzy van der Velden

Suzy van der Velden was just six years old when her father made her first desk. It was then when her creativity awoke. She could sit at her desk and spend the day drawing whatever came to her. She still does this today, however, it is often for some of the world’s biggest brands.

Van der Velden has quickly become one of the best Dutch graphic designers. She has established herself through her impressive work with Lululemon, Oilily, and more. When working with the internationally successful sporting wear brand O’Neill, van der Velden once again showed the world what she was capable of.

“I wanted to be part of O’Neill because it’s a brand with a rich heritage. Not a lot of brands have a real story, but O’Neill does and it’s a great one. Rooted in surf, it’s founder Jack O’Neill has changed and touched the lives of many by inventing the wetsuit. That mindset of innovation and to see how we can enjoy nature for longer is something that really attracted me to the brand. As an outdoor enthusiast, I love spending time exploring nature and to be part of a brand that views nature as a playground is an amazing thing,” said van der Velden.

While with O’Neill, van der Velden was responsible for all artwork for the Women’s & Girls collection, including swim wear, snow jackets, lifestyle, outerwear and collaborations such as Liberty London. With such a vast range of work, she researched the different categories extensively, looking to find what the best print techniques were, what was suitable for them, and how to push the limits to innovate and what the trends were. With a shift towards craftsmanship in the company, van der Velden was then free to use her creative freedom, producing the high-quality artwork she is known for, which was more expressive and pushed the brand forward. She worked to create an image for each specific product, as well as the brand as a whole.

“For Swim, I would design in a different way than for a Snow jacket so to say. This could have to do with scale, but also the esthetic would differ and use of color. This made the role interesting and never dull. I became a specialist in knowing what was the best way to approach all the different categories,” she described.

Van der Velden’s passion for the brand was evident in each piece of work she produced. She designs with the end customer in the back of her mind, and at O’Neill she gained a strong understanding of the action sport industry and the lifestyle that goes with it. The energy of the board sports, she says, is reflected in the collections, making it a really diverse and fun environment to be in. Van der Velden also travelled frequently for work, and she really got to see how the brand was appreciated beyond just the walls of her office. She immediately noticed the team spirit from those that wear it.

“I loved the fact that the product I worked on gave people the opportunity to enjoy what they loved most. My greatest reward was being able to see my designs come to life and seeing people wear my clothes in all areas around the world,” she said.

It wasn’t just customers that were impressed with what van der Velden produced. She was able to take trends and translate them into her work in a way that made sense for the brand, greatly contributing to its success. She consistently hit the right tone for each specific product, and her artistic instincts were greatly appreciated by all she worked with.

“It was great working with Suzy and I personally really enjoyed it. She was very well respected by the entire team and had an easy yet professional nature. I found that Suzy could bring a graphic story and direction across with natural authenticity and could get people to buy into the big picture with her simple but very educated communication style,” said David Henry, the Global Snow Performance Product Manager and European Accessories Product Manager at O’Neill. “Three words spring to mind when I think of Suzy: easy going, knowledgeable, and professional. Suzy was always on top of things and this gave me confidence that we were on the right track. She was also always open to others point of view and the resulted in meetings that were well balanced. Suzy always brought a sense of calm with sometimes big egos and I really liked that about her.”

Initially, van der Velden wanted to work at O’Neill for the experience, but it quickly became much more than that. As soon as she started working at O’Neill, she knew she wanted to stay a part of the team of young talented individuals with a passion for action sports. Although it was initially a temporary position, van der Velden’s work ethic and talent quickly impressed, and she was offered a permanent spot not long after.

Van der Velden also was inspired by the story of the founder, Jack O’Neill, who invented the wetsuit. This allowed people to surf in all areas of the world that were never able to otherwise. The goal of the company is to ensure people can surf no matter the water temperature. Their mission is ‘to surf longer’. O’Neill is known for its extraordinary athletes that are always pushing the boundaries, causing people to always be engaged to what the brand is going to do next. Van der Velden’s designs captured those ideals perfectly.

“Innovation is in the brands DNA and this makes sure O’Neill is ahead of the game, plus there is always an element of fun keeping it light,” said van der Velden.

The six years van der Velden spent at O’Neill, were in her words, a “blast.” However, it was always the inspiring story of Jack O’Neill that appealed to her, which she describes as timeless.

“Jack O’Neill passed away on the second of June of this year. It’s sad to see such a legend pass away, but I’m grateful for what he has built and that I’ve been able to be a part of the experience in a way,” she concluded.

Production Designer Mercedes Hachuel: The Dynamics are in the Details

Venezuelan-Spanish production designer Mercedes Hachuel’s lyrical sense of aesthetics, keen professionalism and zesty, enthusiastic creativity allows her to successfully take on just about any type of film job. Equally at home designing for commercials, music videos, motion pictures and television, Hachuel’s dedication and drive have earned her both a strong reputation and fast-growing resume of noteworthy credits.

For Hachuel, a lifelong romance with storytelling and art provided the ideal background for her choice of career. “I was born in Caracas, Venezuela and as a child I’d read books and draw the worlds that I imagined the characters living in.” Hachuel said. “My favorites were Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, so you can imagine that when the films were released I just felt in love with those worlds and wanted to create something like that myself. I loved ideas, I loved creativity so I studied social communication with a major in film in the Andres Bello Catholic University, the best in the country. Meantime I worked in a small advertising agency where we produced all our commercials in-house, and I realized I had to do something related to film That’s when I moved to Los Angeles to study production at UCLA.”

Arriving in Hollywood, she wasted no time. “I met Leslie Dilley, the art director of the first Star Wars and production designer of Aliens, Deep Impact  and many other amazing films.” Hachuel said. “He became my mentor and explained to me that everything I had done up to that point was actually production design. He taught me the secrets and the real magic behind the work. Everything I heard and did made me love production design even more and that’s when I realized it was my passion—what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, to create magic worlds and make fantasies reality. I think that was the best decision I ever made.”

Her industry peers certainly agree. Whether she’s assigned to a dark comedy like He Matado a Mi Marido (“I Killed My Husband”), the bittersweet family dramedy of The Astronaut, an intense thriller like The Cards or famed dancer-singer Brian Puspos’ atmospheric music video Murder She Wrote , Hachuel leaves her own distinctive imprint even as she ensures a seamless production.

“Mercedes is passionate, talented and reliable—characteristics that make her a great asset for any project,” Murder She Wrote producer Gonzalo Wagner said. “She has a great ability to adapt herself to new situations and solve last minute problems. You can rely on her and know that you don’t have to worry because she’s ready for anything.”

Production Design is a necessarily collaborative discipline and Hachuel excels at bringing a team together; her professional background—advertising, set decoration and art department experience—provides a rich cumulative basis which produces invariably superlative results.

“As production designer, I realized how important it is for the audience to be able to immerse themselves in the story, “ Hachuel said. “If we do not achieve that, it doesn’t work. It’s really important to have design and sets that support the narrative and backstory of the film. And to capture that—to set the tone—the art department, camera department, lighting, all have to work together, because only the right mix of set decoration, color, shadows and highlights not only tells the story, they also add depth to it.”

Elie Sfeir
Hachuel, with second assistant director Gavin McFarland, prepares to build another world (photo by Elie Sfeir)

“Mercedes is always attentive and passionate about her work,” Guillermo Polo, director of photography on The Astronaut, said. “She is always ready to change something in order to make the shot perfect, and is always ready for the next shot, which is really great for my department. That attention to detail is what makes her work unique.”

“I really do believe in details,” Hachuel said. “You have to be looking out for them all the time, to add or take them out and you design and build while always thinking about those little elements, because they are what will make what you are creating unique and believable. You can’t create another world if you do not pay attention to what should really be there, and those little details are what make all the difference in the end.”

Even for a short form music video project, Hachuel reliably gives her best, creative all.

“On Murder She Wrote, the director and I discussed every small detail so we could get a shared vision of the artistic concept,” she said. “It was the story of a man that lost everything he cared about and murdered his lover. We played with the idea of having all the sets suspended in a black hole that was infinite, timeless and dead, but it had to look classy at the same time. So, I had to be really careful with the color, since I needed to work with that stark contrast. Finally, I choose a color palette of gold, red and white—these represented the value and purity of love but also, at the same time, the blood and passion of those violent emotions. Experimenting with those colors, I composed and selected each set piece and everyone liked the results.

For Hachuel, every production design assignment is an artistic challenge, and she takes a great measure of satisfaction in crafting the most complimentary and ideal presentations a story requires

“I love projects where I have to create different props and build things,” Hachuel said. “I always do a great deal of research before I actually begin, to give myself enough information to be able to create a believable world. That’s my ultimate goal—to let the audience feel that the world I created could really exist.”