Category Archives: Interviews & Features!

A talk with renowned cinematographer Feixue Tang

Processed with VSCOcam with b1 presetWhen Feixue Tang thinks back to growing up in Beijing, China, she recalls her middle school and high school years as being extremely dull and oppressive. The school system only cared about high grades, and students are then rated, ranked, and sorted based on academic performances. As an escape, the young Tang started watching a lot of films in her own time. She felt her life expand through immersing herself in all those different movies around the world.

“When I was in high school, I watched Elephantby Gus Van Sant. I was very impressed by the film as it showed me the great possibilities of what film as an art form could be like. I really loved how Elephantplayed with narrative structure and perspectives to tell the story artfully and creatively and how it utilized the form to serve the best of its content. While watching behind the scenes of the film it fascinated me seeing all these different crafts and creative minds going into the making of a film,” said Tang.

As a young teenager, Tang knew she wanted to one day go on to making movies. She wanted to tell stories and share a part of herself with the world through her work. Now, she has achieved all that and more. She is an award-winning cinematographer, internationally in-demand with a series of decorated projects highlighting her resume.

Throughout her career, Tang has shown what she is capable of as a cinematographer. Earlier this year, she made headlines with the multiple awards she took home for her outstanding cinematography on the film Here & Beyond. The experience of making the film, for Tang, was one of the best of her career, and the awards and recognition are secondary to simply loving what she does.

“I would say the highlights of my career are the moments when as a cinematographer, you meet a director that you can communicate so well with and with whom your collaboration is so spontaneous, fluid, inspiring and creative,” said Tang. “The collaboration with director Colin West on Here & Beyond was definitely one of my highlights. We talked day after day in pre-production discussing how to create the visual world for his film Here & Beyond. That collaboration, the continuously mutual inspiring experience was definitely why I chose and love this job.”

Here & Beyond is just one of Tang’s many success stories. She was also recently nominated for Best Cinematography of a Documentary Short Film at the Asian Cinematography Awards for her work on Lumpkin, GA, which dives into the issues surrounding America’s immigration policies by documenting the stories of a small town with a huge immigration detention center right next to it.

Lumpkin, GA’s praise is hardly Tang’s first success story in the documentary genre. Her film Who We Are, a film that starts in the midst of America’s Opioid Epidemic when a Southern California family searches for meaning in the wake of their son’s death, received critical acclaim at many international film festivals.

Undoubtedly, Tang is a force to be reckoned with as a cinematographer, and she understands the intricacies of the artform more than most. She did not always know this would be her path, but she knows she is just where she is meant to be and worked hard to get there. For those who are pursuing a similar dream, she offers the following advice:

“I think in general to work in film you need to be really passionate about what you do. It’s working long hours, it’s challenging physically and intellectually, and compared to other jobs it has so many turbulences and unknowns. I think feeling that you honestly love the job and enjoy being emerged in it is very important. And then just continue learning and never stop,” she advised.

Be sure to keep an eye out for Tang’s future projects. She is about to begin work on a new feature length documentary, as well as a fictional movie. You can stay up-to-date with her work by checking out her website here.

 

By John Michael

Otavio Rabelo talks passion for graphic design and working with ‘TheWrap’

IMG_0565As an industry-leading Editorial and Marketing Designer with Deadline Hollywood, Otavio Rabelo works with typography, colors, images and other design elements to create unique graphic layouts that are printed or used digitally. He designs conceptual layouts to all sections of a magazine using all the mentioned elements on computer software, and he is responsible for checking and sending final files to printers and making sure that everything is going to be printed correctly. It is a pivotal role in the success of each issue of a magazine he touches, and he knows this well. He remains dedicated to his craft at all times, a true perfectionist.

“Publications are always trending around the most well-known people in all fields. People love to read about who is on top of the world. I work creating printed and digital content to announce nominees and winners. It’s fun to get to know before everybody else what the editorial team is thinking,” said Rabelo.

Prior to his work with Deadline, Rabelo worked with other renowned magazines, including FourTwoNine and TheWrap, the latter of which truly allowed his work to be seen by Hollywood’s elite on a regular basis.

TheWrap is a well-known entertainment magazine in Hollywood/Los Angeles. When the opportunity presented itself to me, I was excited to grow as an Editorial Designer and show my design skills to such a great audience. The magazines that I design are only distributed to the most well-known people in the industry,” he said. “TheWrapis a small company but very well- known in the entertainment industry. Working there I was able to use my own design skills as an outlet for the projects.”

Working at TheWrap presented several new and unique challenges for Rabelo, who had previously never designed for the entertainment industry. It was his first time working with Oscar and Emmy Seasons, and he had no idea how the entertainment world worked. There are always new films and TV shows being released, as well as nominations and awards, the Oscars and Emmys are extremely important and he had no idea how complex the film industry was, with new festivals always coming up that he needed to stay on top of. He loved the challenge and knew understanding the industry was extremely important in knowing the design, as he had to understand his target market. Now, he feels like a seasoned professional, and the learning curve was well worth it.

“Getting to know the inside of the entertainment industry for the first time was very new to me. I got to see the world’s most famous actors, actresses and directors in person. It was the first time that I realized that my work was important and respected by those professionals,” he said.

Rabelo was responsible for designing and creating layouts for different sections of each publication. He was also in charge of checking and sending advertisements with final editorial files to the printer. He made sure to always have a perfect copy, as if something was incorrect after the final approval, there was no way to fix it. During his time at the magazine, there was never a single mistake to be fixed.

“Since it was such a small company, everybody at TheWrap was always very connected with me and my work. People would often ask my opinions about multiple projects based on my skills. Once the magazine was out everybody would be very nice and compliment me a lot about the issues,” he said.

By Annabelle Lee

Multimedia Artist Gavin Mottram talks finding inspiration

As a scholar and practitioner of different types of media that encompass traditional analogue processes to new media technologies Gavin Mottram maintains that, “in an age where contemporary media is increasingly something that is experienced sensually it is our responsibility to be critical of the techniques that are producing meaning today, amidst an increasingly consumerist modernity.”

Growing up in the nineties, Mottram developed a creatively productive relationship with ‘video’. He would constantly record material from television, mainly American Cinema, that he would watch and re-watch in conjunction with exploring ways of illustrating the scenarios he found most compelling through drawing, performance, and other inventive methods of re-enactment. It was only natural for him to become the spirited multimedia artist he is today.

“I suppose the title ‘multimedia artist’ implies flexibility, or ambiguous limitations. I am most compelled by things that skew traditional form, or that disobey or disband contours, and I desire to practice these values when creating something myself”.

Mottram made waves by applying these values last year at Gemini G.E.L., the renowned artists’ workshop and publisher of fine-art limited edition prints and sculptures. The gallery has collaborated with and published work by some of the most influential artists of the past 50 + years, such as Robert Rauschenberg, Roy Lichtenstein, Ellsworth Kelly, Frank Stella, David Hockney, Vija Clemens, Bruce Nauman, and currently Richard Serra, Anne Hamilton, Tacita Dean and Julie Mehretu.

In addition to this, living in Los Angeles and being part of a diverse community of young experimental artists and filmmakers, contributing to contemporary, independent and forward thinking projects, Mottram has been inspired in his work, which has been screened at locations such as the Echo Park Film Center, an achievement that he is very proud of.

The opportunity to screen work at the Echo Park Film Center is, to me, a great one, as the center is a hub for experimental filmmaking within the city of LA, dedicated to the practice of analogue filmmaking whilst at the same time being a space that supports innovations in new media. It is an inclusive organization committed to providing access to film/video resources to the local community, with a special focus on ‘at risk’ youth, but the center also has wider influence/impact that spans many territories” he said.

At the distinguished film center, Mottram screened a number of small interrelated experimental film/video works -16mm film, animation and digital media – that focus mainly on the relationship between the screen and subjective identity.

“My enduring interest is the notion of ‘subjectivity’ as a participant – voluntary and involuntary – of an economy of interrelated signifiers and technologies,” he said.

Mottram maintains that it is of great importance to pay attention to the relationships between the different forms of media, images, objects, technologies, that surround us, and to the manifestation of “ideologies” through popular media, into external realities.

Some of these cinematic works of art were evolutions of things he had been working on for years, and some were also the beginning of new work that he hopes to develop in the future.

“I had been generating the work slowly, as a collection of ideas, which allowed me to take the time to explore approaches and processes without any particular agenda or deadline but arranging the screening at EPFC required me to organize the work into some resolved/ presentable form. The opportunity to show work publicly is a valuable one, and having this deadline allowed me to achieve some progression of work that, up until that time had remained private and more like research. To show work to a group in a setting such as EPFC is extremely rewarding in receiving diverse feedback, and to remain involved in dialogue with peers and a wider network,” he said.

This year, Mottram has many artistic projects on the go, and hopes to continue showing his work to a wider audience. He feels blessed to have found himself part of a creative network where critical thinking and dialogue are the foundation, and believes that for anyone compelled to contribute, thoughtfully and creatively, in some way, to the world around them they try to do the same.

 

By John Michaels

Q&A with Leading Colombian Actress and ‘Therapy’ star Juliana Betancourth

Juliana Betancourth, industry-leading actress in Colombia, is known for her talent and versatility. She has starred in countless acclaimed productions, from Bite! to La Reina de Sur. Her most recent project, Therapy, allows worldwide audiences to once again appreciate her outstanding acting capabilities.

After the great reception that the short theater play Terapia had, winning several awards of the Short & Sweet: Hollywood 2017, an adaptation of the script was made. Betancourth in the lead role of Marina, is a self-sacrificing wife who during couples therapy is discovering disturbing secrets about her husband, which causes a turning point in the story to show us a darker side of this character. Each one has a secret to reveal that seems to indicate that there is no way to fix the marriage, but the perverse sexual hobbies and fetishes of both end up uniting them and committing the greatest monstrosities; impacting the life of the person who tried to help them: their therapist. Betancourth develops an exquisite multidimensional, sensual and violent character.

The film crew is composed of successful filmmakers in Los Angeles, such as director Jhonatan Tabares, director of photography Jaime Salazar, Producer Yaniv Waisman, among others. A group that has been developing different audiovisual pieces for the Latin American industry in Hollywood.

The premiere was at the Panamanian International Film Festival, where the film took home the top prize. It then did the same at the Panamanian International Film Festival 2018 and the ELCO Film Festival, with many more expected this year.

We had a chance to sit down with Betancourth to talk about the making of this critically-acclaimed film.

IFR: Why did you want to work on this project?

JB: I already had an emotional connection with the project, and with the character of Marina who had allowed me to access very deep places acting wise.

The premise of this artistic piece was wonderful. It had a completely unexpected turning point, which was exciting for me, and as an actress it allowed me to play practically two roles in one.

I also liked working with the team involved that was composed of producers, director, cinematographer, and actors whom I’ve always admired.

IFR: Why did you want to work on this project?

JB: Therapy started as a theater play, and was directed by Jhonatan Tabares. Due to the great success it had, the Super Hero Latina production company run by Tanya Mordacci wanted to turn it into a film.

Everyone involved in the project already knew my acting work. They had seen me in the lead role in the Virginia Casta movie, and many other projects that were seen in Mexico and the United States. Also, with Jhonatan, we had already worked on previous pilots for TV shows. He knew me personally. We had already worked together in the stage version of Therapy.  It is very important when accepting a project to not only like the script, but also the quality of people who are part of it.

IFR: What do you like about the story?

JB: The story of this project is one of the most interesting in which I have worked. It is fiction, but it is an experiment that brings us closer to the understanding of human psychology. To that infinite universe of our mind, of the decisions we make and our behavior towards society.

I love that the story is transgressive. That it is perpetuated in the mind of the audience. That they want to stop seeing it, but they cannot look away. I am fascinated by social experiments.

This is why the premise of this story is important, it is also not far from reality. Within our communities are these types of dangerous individuals that are the product of our shortcomings as a society; of our injustices and oppressions; but each viewer is free to draw their own conclusions.

IFR: What was it like working on this project?

JB: The process with the director Jhonatan Tabares was special. There were many hours of rehearsals, finding the characters, their motivations, their actions, and their arcs through the written words and physical work.

I studied the behaviors of the most dangerous serial killers in world history, especially couples like Charlene & Gerald Galician, Raymond Fernandez & Martha Beck, Bonnie & Clyde, among others. I wanted to know the reasons why they killed their victims, the way they did it, and the satisfaction they found in it.

One of the things that I liked most about this project was working alongside my colleagues Ramón Valdez and Fernanda Kelly, two great Mexican actors. Also, the producer Tanya Mordacci, producer Yaniv Waisman, and the always supportive Vange Tapia. Director of photography Jaime Salazar, still photo Elena Rojas, and all those who were part of this family made this an unforgettable experience.

IFR: What was your character like?

JB: Marina is a supposed self-sacrificing woman. A Latina who lives in the United States, and who depends economically and emotionally on her husband, but this is just an act and part of a macabre game she carries out with her partner. At the turning point, we will see the real Marina, a psychopath, who finds sexual pleasure in seeing her victims die.

It is a dark character, with complex psychology, special motivations and very different from conventional characters. Marina all the time is playing at being another woman different from who she is. She is a kind of actress, but her performances hide macabre intentions.

It was very interesting to work on this character because the unexpected turning point leaves the audience surprised based on how Marina was from the beginning.  She plays the role of a sheep beautifully, but in reality, she is a hungry wolf.

IFR: How did your character fit into the story?

JB: There are only three characters in the whole movie. Marina, although initially playing the role of victim in therapy with the couple’s psychologist, crying and accusing her husband of being abusive, ends up being the mastermind with a criminal plan.

Driven by her desires and impulses, she mentally dominates her partner to commit the homicides while she enjoys the process and destruction it causes. It is an incredibly complex character, one that generates uncomfortable feelings from the audience when they realize the true objective of the two main characters.

Without Marina, there is no Therapy.

IFR: What did you like about working on this project?

JB: Working on this project has been one of the best experiences of my life. Connecting with so many talented people, who have become my friends, and will be people I plan to work with again in my future projects. It was great to work and build this character, to keep experimenting until we found what worked best, and have direct and honest communication with the director.

Art projects fascinate me because it is not about business and how much money we can make, but more about character, story, and connections with the cast and crew to make a film or TV show that moves people and makes them think. That is always a beautifully motivating factor for me.

IFR: What else did you like about working on this project?

JB: We filmed in one location. The office of the psychologist. The final scene was exhausting and dramatic, that we could only film in two sequences. We both were spent when the director finally called cut.

In the play, there was no character of the psychologist. It was just a voice, and we broke the fourth wall when speaking to the voice, which made it feel like to the audience that we were speaking with them. In the film, Fernanda Kelly played the role of the psychologist, and she was marvelous in it. It was amazing to act opposite her, and it lifted our performances to another level.

IFR: How does it feel knowing the project has been such a success?

JB: I knew it would be a resounding success since I had first read the script, and saw the reaction when performing it as a theater piece. I fully trusted the director’s work, and my own. I had no doubt about the success it has had and will have for the next few years.

When you do a project, you do not think about prizes, you know if the project is good or not regardless of the recognition or criticism you receive, but I would be wrong if I said that it is not rewarding to receive the accolades.

Each time we have received these awards for Therapy I have celebrated them. I feel proud. It fuels my fire, and I long to do more great work with excellent projects.

 

Written by Annabelle Lee
Photo by Vinny Randazzo 

Roma Kong takes audiences behind the scenes with Nickelodeon

Roma Kong has always been a big movie fan. Growing up in Lima, Peru, Kong’s favorite childhood pastime was taking in the latest flick, whether at the local cinema or on her couch at home. Even from that young age, she knew she wanted to eventually go on to make films like the ones she enjoyed so much.

“The moment I truly decided I wanted to make movies for the rest of my life was back in 2001 when I went to see Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring on opening night. To see these iconic literary characters and worlds come alive on the screen was mesmerizing. I remember how mind-blowing and epic the film was, and I just thought, I want to do that. I want to be one of those people who make magical worlds be a reality before the audience’s eyes,” she said.

Now, Kong is an industry leading editor in both her native country and abroad. Having worked on several prolific projects for none other than Disney, Kong has established her reputation with her versatile talent.

One of Kong’s other long-standing professional relationships is with Nickelodeon. Working on several projects for the company since 2016, Kong’s work has been appreciated by audiences all around the world. Earlier this year, she embarked on a new project for the celebrated production company, taking viewers behind the scenes of their favorite Nickelodeon shows, featuring some of the shows’ biggest creators and cast members.

“I think these videos give the audience an idea of what it’s like to work in the industry. It shows them that we are all human and not this kind of over the top industry where everything is super glamorous. That people that are part of this industry also do all the silly things everyone else does at work, we all joke and we all work incredibly hard to make the content that everyone loves watching. It grounds the industry for the audience and makes it more accessible for everyone,” said Kong.

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Roma Kong at Nickelodeon

The online video series includes a behind-the-scenes look into the Fairly Odd Phantom, Butch Hartman’s new crossover animated short, and has exclusive interviews with the casts of The Fairly Odd Parents, T.U.F.F. Puppy, Danny Phantom, and Bunsen is a Beast. They were all published through Nickelodeon’s Social Media platforms, including YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. Together they are some of the most viewed social media videos published by the studio, amassing over 400,000 views.

“I’ve always loved working on BTS projects. They’re always fun because not only are you looking to give the audience a glimpse of how their favorite shows and movies are made but also, you’re looking to catch those extra special funny moments that only happen behind the scenes. Making these for Nick and editing videos with some of their biggest creators at work really stood out for me,” said Kong.

Kong was the sole editor for every one of the BTS Nickelodeon videos. As the videos were very time sensitive, the production company needed an editor that was effective working at a fast pace. Even working quickly, Kong excels at catching great moments that not only are humorous and entertaining, but that look good on camera. On top of this, she has a unique ability to edit to the rhythm of the music in the video, making them that much more captivating. The use of music was essential to each videos success, which could not have been achieved without Kong’s touch.

“I loved these because it was awesome watching the footage and seeing these people in action. Being able to catch great moments of their personalities and how much they love what they do and being able to tell a story with those moments was fantastic. It was great watching the action go on and then something completely unexpected and funny would happen and I would just burst out laughing and call my teammates and we would have a great team moment. They were incredibly fun to work on,” she said.

Storytelling was a fundamental element for Kong when editing the videos. Even though they were just going behind the scenes of a show, she knew she still needed to tell the audiences a story. She was given all the footage and went through everything to find the best moments and tell a coherent story. Because they were behind the scenes videos, at the beginning, it was difficult to figure out how to structure it for everything to make sense and not just be a series of funny bits or bloopers. Kong therefore decided to first separate sections of the video, parts where everyone was laughing, parts where they were recording voices, etc., and then, depending on the video, she would either keep the sections separate or intercut them, jumping from one section to the other. She then added small sections from the actual show to help the audience make the connection between the part that was being made and the exact moment in the piece.

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Roma Kong at Nickelodeon

“Nickelodeon is one of the big ones. Every kid grows up watching Nickelodeon and adults my age all had their lives impacted by them. Everyone knows them and what they stand for and their great reputation. It fills you with a sense of pride knowing that you’re working for a company that so many consider part of their lives. Whenever I talked to my friends about the shows they used to watch growing up, 90 per cent of those shows are Nickelodeon shows. It feels amazing to work for a company that has been so influential for so long,” she said.

Kong worked on BTS Nickelodeon from January to May of this year. Every video she did provided a new learning experience for the editor, which is why she loves what she does so much. Every time she steps into the editing studio, she remembers what it was like as a child, being so captivated with movie magic, and she strives to engages her audiences the way she was once so engaged. That drive is what makes her such a tremendous editor, and for those looking to follow in her footsteps, she encourages you to never give up.

“Never ever think that you can’t be a part of this industry, you absolutely can. It’s a very intense industry. It’s not glamour and glitz as they like to show, it’s long hours, very short deadlines, hard work and lots of different personalities to deal with. So, you have to be sure this is what you want to do for a living. Really sure. Once that’s settled, educate yourself. Filmmaking is a creative line of work but it’s also very technical. You need to learn how to do it. Watch all the content you can, no matter how good or bad you think it might be. You’ll be surprised how much one learns from bad movies. Learn the tools of writing and storytelling, your job is to tell stories, so learn how to properly tell them. Lastly, talk to people, reach out to people already in the industry, ask for their advice, ask if you can meet up for a cup of coffee. We all started somewhere and we all know how much talking to people already working helped us,” she advised.

Character Technical Director Qiao Wang revolutionizes animation tech for Lexus commercials

When watching the animated 2011 hit Rango, inspiration struck Qiao Wang. At the time, he was a graphic designer, creating still images, but when watching the film, he was transfixed by the technology used to create such realistic computer animation. Always a fast learner, Wang began to study new styles of mathematics and computer science to combine with his artistic background, wanting to create similar films to that which so motivated him.

“The visual effects industry in filmmaking was still fresh and new to the world, and not a lot of people knew what it was in my country. I enjoyed what I did as a designer and artist, but I would have definitely changed my career path earlier if I knew what VFX was,” said Wang.

Since that time, the Chinese-native has gone on to become an internationally sought-after Character Technical Director and Character Effects Artist. Using his skills in both mathematics and design, Wang helps to conceptualize some of the most beloved characters in many recent popular films, including Rocket the Racoon and Groot in the mega blockbuster Avengers: Infinity War. Not limiting himself to just one medium, Wang has collaborated with Justin Timberlake on his latest music video, “Filthy”, and worked with world renowned companies, like Target, on national commercial campaigns.

“Qiao is both technical and artistic, he contributed to the team and film’s success in many aspects, including troubleshooting and solving technical issues on hero characters, and developing aesthetics for character cloth and hair simulation and skin deformation,” said Fabrice Ceugniet, Creature Pipeline Technical Director at Method Studios.

Ceugniet and Qiao worked together at Walt Disney Animation Studios on the upcoming film Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2 and Godzilla: King of Monsters. The two had previously worked together many times, and recently worked on a commercial series for the leading automotive company Lexus. The commercials, such as “2018 Lexus Golden Opportunity Sales Event: Lap the Planet” provided a unique and fun challenge for Wang, who delivered both technical and art direction to the digital Lexus vehicles. He took on many responsibilities for the commercial, working closely with the Character Supervisor, CG Supervisor, VFX Supervisor, Producer, Art Director, Model Maker, and Animators.

“Vehicles are like characters, they have characteristics. Especially Lexus vehicles; they are not only transportation tools, but also a work of art to me. To be able to help build extremely realistic CG Lexus cars sounds very cool, especially as they are the best-selling luxury cars in the United States. I’ve done human characters, cartoon characters, spaceship vehicles, utility vehicles in feature films, and more, but this was a type of project I’ve never done before. I always love to experience new challenges,” said Wang.

The goal was to create realistic CG Lexus cars to express their high performance. This meant that everything had to be exactly the same as the real cars. Wang was up to the task, so he first started doing research and development on rigging setup for cars, watching many videos to find out the details of movement of a race car’s wheels, suspensions, etc. He also had a few meetings with animators to ask them about what needed to be provided. After all that, Wang did not use the auto mastic vehicle setup tool to rig the cars. Instead, he scripted his own procedural Lexus cars rigging tool to provide animators with only a few very intuitive custom controls. He was also able to widely use the ‘Piston’ rigging system that he personally developed previously to fix bugs and improve features to make it a very powerful component in our character technology pipeline. These systems require less setup time and provide institutive and realistic controls for improving the motion of vehicles and many auto parts. On top of all this, Wang also solved wheel spinning motion blur issues to achieve the realistic yet artistic wheel effects. It requires a lot less rig rebuild time when there are model updates for over 10 vehicles. Undoubtedly, the vast technological improvements that Wang implemented saved not only him, but the entire team time, money, and effort.

“I really like the fast pace of this type of project, and the final results are fantastic. The whole production process went super smooth. I also like the different ways of logical thinking to explore and solve various fully mechanical rigging challenges for the vehicle parts,” said Wang.

The commercial series was to promote the 2018 Golden Opportunity Sales event for Lexus. Wang’s work was pivotal to the commercials’ success, and ultimately that of the sale. The company knew they needed someone with his talent, which is why they reached out to him in the first place to take the task. Wang did not take this honor lightly and is extremely happy with the outcome.

“It always feels great to know that our work is helping clients to make more money. I was amazed at how real those cars look, and how beautiful. Even though I work in the industry, if no one told me, I wouldn’t know those were computer generated cars,” he concluded.

Watch the other commercials in the series, “2018 Lexus Golden Opportunity Sales Event: Always in Your Element” and “2018 Lexus Golden Opportunity Sales Event: Higher Standard”.

 

Written by Annabelle Lee
Photo by Shino Tang

Graphic Designer Laura Suuronen’s Flair for Arresting Visuals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

laura-at-work

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

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

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

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