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An Interview with Acclaimed Canadian Screenwriter, Mark Satterthwaite

Mark Satterthwaite
                                 Screenwriter Mark Satterthwaite (right) and girlfriend Carla Gallo (left)

Over the years award-winning screenwriter and producer Mark Satterthwaite has brought laugh out loud comedy to some of Canada’s most beloved television programs.

Satterthwaite is a master wielder of jokes who has doted his ingenious writing upon an array of TV shows ranging from live-action and animated series to awards programs and talk shows.

In 2006 Satterthwaite wrote and produced the highly popular single camera sketch comedy series The Morgan Waters Show. The critically acclaimed series, which aired on CBC and garnered a Gemini Award in 2006, starred Morgan Waters (The Amazing Gayl Pile, Cock’d and Gunns) and featured celebrity guests including stand-up comedian Gilson Lubin, Tyler Kite (Republic of Doyle, Instant Star), actress and musician Alexz Johnson (So Weird, Final Destination 3), Canadian television personality Ed the Sock and many other pop culture icons.

Satterthwaite, who has written several other hit television programs including the animated series Almost Naked Animals, Grojband and The Dating Guy, as well as episodes for MTV Live, CBC’s one-hour special Canada’s Smartest Person, and the second season of the game show Bet Your Ass, has a talent for sniffing out jokes that will stick with whatever audience he is writing for. As the writer, director and producer of the episode “My Brother, My Record” for the series Canadian Comedy Shorts, Satterthwaite’s work earned the award for Best Mocumentary at The World of Comedy Short Film Festival.

While his innovative writing has helped garner countless programs a long list of prestigious awards over the years, he has also written the scripts for some of Canada’s most beloved awards programs.

In 2007 he co-wrote and directed the Gemini Awards, which were televised on CBC and hosted by George Stroumboulopoulos (The Hour, Battle of the Blades, Chelsea Lately, Bystander Revolution). A successful awards program relies on strong comedy moments in order to keep audiences engaged while the hosts announce the awards for each category, and Satterthwaite’s unparalleled writing for the 2007 Gemini Awards kept fans buzzing long after the awards ceremony was over.

To find out more about this exceedingly talented screenwriter’s career and what’s next on the horizon for him, make sure to check out our interview below!

 

Where are you from and what was it like growing up there?

MS: I was born and raised in downtown Toronto, Canada. I loved growing up there cause it always felt like a *small* big city. Toronto’s super walk-able and is broken up into amazing neighborhoods, so I feel like I spent my youth on tree-covered streets with friends. Pretty good.

How have your early experiences influenced some of the work you create today?

MS: My parents used to take my sister and I to see plays when we were kids. A lot of sleuth-style, whodunit plays, and it was so much fun. I would always figure them out at the act break. Not sure what it means, but that gave me a weird confidence when I was a kid… That I could solve these scripted mysteries.

Growing up in Canada we didn’t have much of a star system so it never occurred to me that I could end up writing television for a living. It just didn’t seem plausible. When I got my first writing gig at 22, I was floored. I really couldn’t believe it.

When and how did you get into the industry as a screenwriter?

MS: Canada’s answer to MTV, a station called MuchMusic, held a yearly competition where one lucky Canuck got to work at Much for a summer, with a free apartment, a new car and $10,000. All you had to do was submit a creative video to show why you deserved it. Long story short, I wrote a short and got second place in the national competition. The next year, I wrote and animated a 3-minute short and got second place again. It was heartbreaking. But the creative director at Much, David Johnson, loved my video and hired me on as a freelancer. I owe my career to David!

What are your favorite genres and audiences to write for?

MS: I love absurdist comedy. I think that’s why I ended up doing a lot of writing in animation, because it’s such an anything goes environment. Want to create a new character? Do it! Blow something up? Sure. Morph anything into anything else? WHY NOT?!?! It’s very liberating.

I actually prefer writing animated shows to writing ALMOST anything else… Other than film. Writing big splashy, Hollywood comedies has my heart. I just finished a 90-minute ridiculous script. I’m really happy with it, and I hope you get to see it soon!

Can you tell us a little bit about some of the projects youve written over the years?

MS: Coming up as a freelance writer in the Canadian television system was tough but exciting, because I had to wear many different hats to keep the lights on and to stay creatively challenged. One week I was writing an animated series, the next I was writing jokes for a game show, and after that I was in a writer’s room, scripting a sitcom with a bunch of other writers. It was a great way to figure out what I liked.

I started writing and developing TV years ago with my friend Morgan Waters. The Canadian Broadcast Corporation asked us to put together a sitcom that would work for “tweens.” Something distinctive that could be a starring vehicle for Morgan. We were both very into an American comedy troupe called STELLA at the time (we still are) and we decided to emulate what they were doing, with our own twist, for a Canadian audience with The Morgan Waters Show. Our writing and development process was to push the humor and scenarios as far as we could, so we made sure we were challenging our audience, as opposed to holding their hands. It worked out. The show won a Canadian Screen Award in its first season.

Soon after The Morgan Waters Show ended, I was offered the job of helping to bring MTV to Canada by working on the creative for the network launch, casting the hosts and story editing the live, daily comedy show, MTV LIVE. This was such an incredible experience. We watched audition tapes from hundreds of hopeful hosts from all over Canada, worked on the creative for the launch to make sure that people noticed, and put together a live daily show like no other on Canadian TV. We had amazing leaders in Mark McInnis and Alex Sopinka, and they really trusted me to lead the team of 30 or so creatives, coming up with script ideas every morning. It was a blast. The show was a hit within a year and was doing something for Canadian comedy that hadn’t been done since SCTV.

The Canadian Screen Awards are Canada’s answer to the Golden Globes, honoring excellence in both television and in film. I’ve been lucky enough to work on dozens of projects that have won CSAs, but I also got to work on the other side of the stage when I was approached to write the awards show with a super talented writer named Paul Bates. Our job was to focus on making sure that the show ran smoothly and was super funny. This was at a time when videos were just starting to go viral, so one of our mandates was to come up with edgy sketches that could roll into the show and might get people looking online the next day. I wrote and directed a sketch about what happened to all the puppets from Canadian television shows after their shows ended, a retirement home for puppets sketch. The sketch aired in the middle of the show and the live audience roared with laughter. The sketch became a national news story and even ended up in the New York Times. Mission accomplished.

My break into animation came when a Canadian production company I had done a lot of work for, Marble Media, approached me about re-writing and punching up an entire season of a new animated series called The Dating Guy. The show had good bones but needed a lot of help in the comedy department. I had such a good time peppering in as many original jokes as I could, often pushing the limits of good taste and TV acceptability. I learned a lot from the project- namely, that it’s always better to push as far as you can with your writing and get pulled back by producers. If you come in soft, it’ll be near impossible to edge things up later on. The Dating Guy was my first foray into animated TV, and my writing and contributions were very well received, so soon after, I was getting offers to write on other animated series. I did three seasons of writers’ rooms, punch-ups, rewrites on an international hit kid’s animated series called Almost Naked Animals. It was a great show and I learned so much from it.

After Almost Naked Animals, production companies started coming to me to develop and write pilots and bibles for new animated series. I loved getting involved in the shaping and writing of these worlds early on. One of the shows I got to help bring to television was a kid’s concept called Winston Steinberger and Sir Dudley Ding Dong, a ridiculous absurd show about a kid and his cat in space with their alien guardian. I wrote the pilot and the bible for E1 productions, Sticky Pictures Australia, Teletoon Canada and ABC Australia. After two pilot scripts and a bible, we were green lit to series with me at the helm as head writer and story editor of the show. I worked with over 40 writers on 52 scripts to get the first season done and done well. It’s a distinctive, hilarious show and I think it’s going to be a hit when it hits the airwaves in early 2016.

What made you choose to participate in the projects you’ve done over the course of your career?

MS: Sometimes I would choose projects, and sometimes they would choose me. I always knew that Canadian TV isn’t what it should be. There is a lot of filler in there. And I made a decision early on in my career, not to write for shows that I didn’t care about. That was my goal. And because I could write jokes and scenarios for both kids and adults, I was lucky enough to move around in the business, writing on many different styles of shows. My goal was always to work on something new and different. I think that’s why I like film so much, cause you sweat onto the page for one great story, and then you move on to the next. My ADHD doesn’t allow me to do the same thing over and over.

Do you take a different approach when writing for animation opposed to live action?

MS: If I had my way, I’d be writing the absurdist style I enjoy so much for live action projects, but it really can be a different beast. So I try to inject what I can, where I can. I love that animated, “anything goes” sensibility, and I think live action could use more of it. But I also love dry British humor. I grew up with a British dad holding the remote control, so we were always watching Britcoms. I loved them all. Still do. I think my sensibilities really come from the absurdist styles of STELLA, old 80s flicks like Top Secret and Spaceballs, and dry British comedies like Alan Partridge and The Office. I think there’s a place for animated humor in live action TV. It’s just about finding a balance.

You’ve also written storylines for several commercials, can you tell us about a couple of them and how you came up with the storylines?

MS: Agency 59 came to me about writing and directing a series of PSA commercials about drinking and driving for Labatt Blue. The goal was to deliver a strong message without beating people over the head. It was an interesting challenge to keep the topic light but focused, and I was up to it. I worked with the agency writing over six spots that I think were pretty funny and delivered a strong message. Everyone was happy.

You’ve also produced many of the projects that you’ve writtencan you tell us from your perspective, how the roles of screenwriting and producing are different? How do you manage to successfully tie them together?

MS: I never used to understand what producing was in television. But yes, I would often be hired to write and produce on shows. I really enjoy wearing both of those hats cause I don’t always find it easy to write and then give a script away, leaving it up to others to execute/shoot/animate. I really care about the projects that I work on and I like to be able to see them through to broadcast, to try and ensure that they end up being as close to what I had intended when I wrote them. Sounds a little controlling, I’m sure. And I think part of it is. But I really do care and want the best product to hit the screen. I don’t think there’s any point in working in a creative industry if you won’t bleed for what you’re writing.

What have been a few of your favorite projects so far?

MS: My complete favorite project was writing the feature I just finished. Film has always felt like this elusive, glorious mountain peak that I just couldn’t get to. I almost wouldn’t let myself try. So much of writing, for me, is overcoming all the little demons in your head that tell you that you can’t do it. “Hit the couch, fat ass. Just watch some TV. It’s easier”. Being a freelance writer takes so much discipline and you really have to believe that what you’re going to write will be worth someone else’s reading time. The feature I just finished, I think, is super funny and a good heartfelt story.

Other than that, being the head writer on Winston Steinberger and Sir Dudley Ding Dong, story editing a show for MTV when it first came to Canada, creatively helming a commercial shoot in Argentina, writing absurd sketches for Funny or Die and writing award winning sitcoms with your friends is a pretty sweet gig.

What has been your most challenging project?

MS: Writing a feature, by far. It’s so impossibly hard. I’ve been writing television for over 15 years now. I really felt like I had a good understanding of structure. But 90-minute films, the good ones, are beasts. They need to have a good strong structure, characters the audience can get behind, a minimally saggy middle and a nice arc that keeps an audience active. It’s so difficult. That’s why most films aren’t that good. It’s a very difficult proposition. Honestly, writing jokes is by far the easiest part of writing. It’s the structure and guts of a good script that need your focus.

As a screenwriter, where do you get your inspiration for the projects you create?

MS: I get inspiration from so many different aspects of my life. To start, my girlfriend is one of the funniest people in the world and a writing/acting force to be reckoned with. She’s been successful in TV/film for 15 years now, so I’m always bouncing things off of her to see what she thinks. If she likes it, I like it. I also have never been able to turn off the part of me that loved 80s and 90s silly, absurd comedies- Mel Brooks, Zucker Bros, John Hughes. I just loved all of their movies so much. John Hughes found a way to make me laugh so hard but also really care about characters. Planes, Trains and Automobiles is such a perfect example of that- hilarious, heartwarming and redeeming all at the same time.

What do you hope to achieve with the projects you create?

MS: I’d like to make people laugh and feel good, and I’d like to get offers for new, challenging projects from people seeing the work I’ve done. Sometimes I’ll read comments on the Internet from people who have watched episodes of something I’ve written. “This is my favorite episode!” or “This show is the funniest thing on TV” or “WRITE MORE! MAKE MORE!,” and that always makes me feel like a million bucks. Writing scripts is hard work; it’s so nice to know that people like it.

Why are you passionate about working as a screenwriter?

MS: I’m passionate about screenwriting because it’s a huge, huge life test. All of the time. It’s fun and it kills me. Do I have the will to get this script done? Am I confident enough in myself that I can write something that stands out? Am I special enough to write a script? Do I have a point of view that will engage people? Every script is a gut check. I think that’s pretty remarkable. And sometimes the answers to these questions can be very sobering. Other times they can make you feel like a million bucks.

 

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Ingenious Production Designer Yihong Ding Wraps Production on “Mira”

Yihong Ding
Production Designer Yihong Ding

The striking talent of Yihong Ding as a production designer and art director is literally visible in every project she has touched. She moves seamlessly through the worlds of film, television and advertising; not an easy feat when one considers that the approach a person must take when designing the ambiance of a feature film to match a director’s vision is vastly different from their approach to creating the backdrop of a commercial meant to persuade an audience of consumers.

Originally from Shanghai, Ding studied in London and eventually got her master’s in production design at the world-renowned American Film Institute in Los Angeles. Since then, she has been hard at work on an ever-growing list of projects. To ensure each film, show or commercial conveys the right mood and feeling, she works closely with the director of the production to capture and physically recreate their vision. From color schemes to lighting, props to set design, she is responsible for turning the conceptual into the living, breathing worlds we see on film.

Ding has worked on projects ranging from The Birthday Boys starring Bob Odenkirk (Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, Mr. Show) to Mandala, the winner of the 2015 Los Angeles International Film Festival award for Best Foreign Film. She’s done several commercials for Diomany high-end lingerie and served as art director of an advertisement for the Microsoft Outlook app. It’s her work on films like Mira however that really showcases her incredible talent for production design and her awe-inspiring ability to create a self-contained world on the screen.

Working on director Amanda Tasse’s Mira, currently in post-production, Ding was given a dual-challenge. First was creating a marine biology research laboratory complete with the appropriate scientific equipment and actual jellyfish tanks. Second, she had to design an intricate “memory wall” which the title character uses to keep a log of her life.

“I had a lot of fun doing the research for this project,” said Ding, who studies every project’s background meticulously to ensure the environment seen on camera is authentic and accurate. “We ended up filming at an empty lab on Catalina Island, and dressing the lab into the jellyfish lab for the story.”

Vanessa Patel as Mira in the lab created by Yihong Ding in "Mira"
Vanessa Patel as Mira in the lab created by Yihong Ding in “Mira”

Filming on an island presented its own challenges. Ding had to personally pack all of the glass tubes and prop equipment by hand, and shipping all of the fragile items to Catalina was expensive and required her to closely observe weight restrictions and eliminate any waste in the budget while maintaining the realistic integrity of the set.

“Finding the jellyfish tank was another challenge. They were all costume-made and very expensive,” she said. “I almost had to build them myself, but luckily we found a person that was willing to rent three to us for a really great deal.”

The experience tested and proved Ding’s invaluable ability to balance the creative and financial sides of production design with aplomb. The laboratory she created is so authentic and convincing it’s absolutely indistinguishable from a research facility one might see at a university. While the lab provides the backdrop, the “memory wall” Ding created gives the viewer a personal connection to Mira’s title character.

The character of Mira suffers from a form of epilepsy that causes intense seizures and short-term memory loss of the hours preceding each attack. Mira dedicates herself to studying a species of jellyfish which may hold a cure for her disease, but her condition poses a huge challenge and she has to find a way to overcome the amnesia. So Ding helped design a “memory wall,” which becomes Mira’s method of constantly reminding herself of what’s happened before each seizure.

“She would take a picture right before she knew she was going to have a seizure… and then she would map out all the pictures on her bedroom wall,” Ding described. “It was a very complicated visual graphic to create, and I wanted to make sure that it looked real… and for the very first time I sat down and considered myself as Mira… I started to think like Mira, which was really amazing, because I found myself digging deeper into the design than I normally do.”

Yihong Ding has what many specialists lack: a multifaceted skillset combined with extensive experience in every level of design and the ability to work within any range of budget without ever compromising the quality of the project. From envisioning the conceptual to building the practical, from dressing sets to arranging the details and minutia for the perfect shot, she is a one-woman creative army.

Brazilian Hottie Fred Fleury Plays the Perfect Bad Boy

Fred Fleury
                                  Actor Fred Fleury shot by David Mueller

According to an article published by CNN Travel, American women ranked Brazilian men as the third hottest out of all of the countries in the world, and those good looks have definitely not skipped Brazilian actor Fred Fleury.

Originally born in Sao Jose dos Campos, the young stud entered the world of musical theatre back home in Brazil where he studied at the famous Escola de Atores Wolfmaya.

Fleury was not only blessed with good looks and undeniable acting talent though, he also has an astonishing singing voice, something that has definitely come in handy in the myriad of stage productions he has starred in over the years.

Prior to moving to New York to attend school several years ago, the young performer made it to the semifinals as a singer on Tudo É Possível hosted by Brazilian celebrity Ana Hickman, a popular program that airs on Rede Record de Televisão aka Record, Brazil’s second most popular television network.

Shortly after, Fleury began applying for placement in musical theatre programs in NY; and it’s not surprising that he was accepted to each and every one he applied to considering the breadth of his talent, but the prestigious Circle in The Square Theatre School where such notable stars as Kevin Bacon, Molly Shannon and Benicio del Toro attended was the one that won out.

Through his performances including productions “Periodic Maintenance,” “Marley: A Musical Tragedy,” and “The White Man Is The Right Man,” Fleury has proven his natural capacity for taking on challenging roles; but, his talent extends far beyond the stage.

Last year he landed a spot as a guest star on the Oxygen Network’s TV series My Crazy Love, which stars Isaiah Seward from the popular shows Hostages, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Black Box, The Knick and The following, Laura Lamberti from Cassanova Was a Woman, Dark Tarot, Stunods and Celebrity Ghost Stories, and Alexandra Lopez from Very Mary-Kate, CollegeHumor Originals, The Pox Show, and Jake and Amir.

Shortly after, Fleury landed another guest starring spot as Jesse on the hit comedy series Gringolandia, which recently began airing on Netflix.

The comedy series, which is currently on its second season, has amassed an impressive list of awards spanning the US and Mexico; and, prior to airing on Netflix, Gringolandia became a major hit with social media fans when the first season was released on the YouTube Channel Contento garnering over 80,000 subscribers.

While Fleury displays his knack for the comedy genre beyond a doubt through his role as Jesse in the series, the actor’s most passionate about playing more dramatic roles.

Fleury admits, “My favorite genres are drama and horror with heavy content. Actors that inspire me are Jack Nicholson in The Shining; Anthony Perkins in Psycho; Javier Bardem in No Country For Old Man; and the recent work of my Brazilian compatriot Wagner Moura as the lead in the Netflix’s Narcos has been very inspiring too.”

In Pat Williams’ 2014 film When Good Girls Kill, Fleury took on the leading role of a ruthless Russian gangster. After a heated argument with her ex-husband, Ashley, played by Samantha Rivers Cole (The Long Island Serial Killer, Guyz, Fists of Love, The Psychotics, Downtown Girls), takes her daughter to the park, but when her young child disappears terror ensues.

Panicking as she scans the park for her daughter, Ashley is taken by surprise when Fleury’s character approaches her from behind, holding her at gunpoint he threatens her with never seeing her daughter again unless she does exactly what he says.

After forcefully dragging her to his mob boss Odey, played by Jon L. Peacock (The Wolf of Wall Street, Royal Pains, Deadly Devotion, Bridge of Spies), and pushing her into an SUV, Fleury’s character explains that if she wants to see her child again she will have to commit a murder in exchange.

Caught in the middle of a battle between the Russian and Columbian drug lords, Ashley sees no way out other to kill Arturo, the Columbian drug lord that Russian’s want removed from the equation.

“It’s through my character that Ashley understands the danger and violence of the situation she’s dealing with, and it’s that latent reality that makes her control her nerves and perform a murder,” Fluery explains. “This is a type of role that I love playing (the villain) and have been called for a lot since. So it was a great opportunity.”

Fleury’s versatility as an actor combined with his good looks have made him the perfect actor to play roles like the handsome bad boy, a type of character he portrays with total believability, and one that we are assured to see him take on again and again in the future.

Q & A with International Star Aleksandra Kovacevic

Aleksandra Kovacevic
                              Aleksandra Kovacevic in the film “Bertilda” shot by Anup Kulkarni

Over the years actress Aleksandra Kovacevic has made a lasting impression on audiences with her spellbinding performances in a wide range of films and stage productions; and, as she prepares to lend her talents to several upcoming productions including Tony Aron II’s series Crackerjack, and Magaly Monterroso’s film Sebudai, we anticipate the opportunity to see some of the actress’s new work!

Kovacevic’s emotional range is unmatched, something she’s proven through her roles in films including Hush, Room 007, Bits of Glass, Bertilda, A Fistful of Films and many more. Kovacevic is also featured in South by Southwest Film Festival Audience Award winner John Suits’ film Viral, which wrapped production earlier this year, as well as Rachel Yingxaun Zhou’s Web series Life is Horrible and the new Netflix series Wet Hot American Summer directed by David Wain.

Back home in Germany, Kovacevic starred in several theatre productions in Cologne including “Top Dogs” where she took on the challenging role of a man, Mr. Yellow, and “The Bond that Keeps Us Together” where she played the starring role of Lisa.

She also recently finished an incredibly successful run of the theatrical production of “4.48 Psychosis” at the Hyperion Lyric Theatre in Los Angeles where she took on two drastically roles as both the therapist and her patient’s other personality.

To find out more about this inspiring actress, make sure to check out our interview below. You can also find out more about Aleksandra Kovacevic through her website: http://www.aleksandra-kovacevic.com/#!home

LG: Where are you from? When and how did you get into acting?

AK: I was born in Sarajevo, but I grew up in Germany. By the age of 16 I joined our theater group in high school and ever since then I’ve continued following my passion.

LG: Can you tell me a little bit about the film and television projects you’ve done?

AK: I’ve worked on films like Hush, Room 007, Bertilda, Bits of Glass, A Fistful of Film, Caged: How to clip your birds Wings and the Netflix series Wet Hot American Summer. In Hush I portrayed the judgmental, negative thought of a man’s mind. In Room 007, I played a Russian spy that is looking for her partner in crime. In Bits of Glass I portrayed a warmhearted manager that can’t let go of her dead sister, but is forced to deal with the reality of the loss during one painful day. In A Fistful of Film I played a director that is taking her divorce out on set with her director husband. In Bertilda I played Bertilda, a marionette. The story portrays the social standards of a woman, Bertilda, and how she breaks free from the norm. In Wet Hot American Summer I portrayed a ventriloquist puppet that is auditioning with her friend for the camp talent show. In Caged: How to clip your birds Wings I played Justice, a young female that falls in love with her military girlfriend Serenity. She is not the only one who has romantic feelings for Serenity, her Boyfriend wants to marry Serenity as soon as possible. On her weeding day Serenity has doubts about getting married. Justice tries to opens her girlfriend’s eyes, and guides her to find herself and develop courage. But Serenity decides to live the lie, which Justice can’t accept.

LG: They are all very different, what made you choose to participate in these projects?

AK: I like to be challenged. If I personally feel that a role brings me to my limits and makes me discover a completely new journey—if it makes my imagination glow and provokes people to think, then I will participate in that project. Also, if I feel the script is well written and there is a great connection with the director, or a strong connection between the whole cast and crew, then I believe a project can have a better end result as well.

LG: You get approached all the time to work on projects with people, what makes you pick one role over another?

AK: As an artist you should affect people. It could be positive or negative. This is how I feel as well when picking a role. If the character affects me, evokes certain emotions in me and I feel this is a new challenge I would like to face I’ll pick the role.

LG: Can you list some of the theatre projects you’ve participated in up until now, and the roles you’ve played?

AK: I’ve participated in plays like “Top Dogs,” “The Bond That Keeps Us Together,” “Freak Show,” “The Shape of Things,” “All In” and “4.48 Psychosis.” In “Top Dogs” I played a rich, snobby manager that cares more about his lifestyle and bank account than about anything else. He was greedy for more power, more money and more influence. Until he gets fired. With the help of the New Challenge Company and six others who are in the same boat, he tries to find a new job.

In “The Bond That Keeps Us Together” I played Lisa. The play revolves around a girl and a boy from different religious backgrounds falling in love. In “Freak Show” I played Irene, a manipulative businesswoman who is always hunting for the new circus sensation for her own show. She knows what kind of affect she has on men and that she can get everything she wants with her charm.

In “The Shape Of Things” I played Evelyn, a manipulative graduate art student that makes a human transformation to her thesis masterpiece. In “All In” I played the eccentric showgirl Victoria Lichtenstein, who accepts that the Casino owns her. However she is a feisty one and has built up her rank at the Casino.

And recently in “4.48 Psychosis,” I played Sarah Kane’s psychiatrist who wants her to get better. I also played the patient that she meets in the hospital after her attempt to commit suicide. There is a connection between them, which is both heartbreaking and funny at the same time. 

LG: What has been your favorite role so far and why?

AK: One of my favorite roles so far was Irene in “Freak Show” and the therapist and patient in “4.48 Psychosis.”

I loved embodying Irene, because I saw her as some sort of a goddess, an object of desire that no one can have. She is independent and knows how to survive in a man’s world. She is smart and charming, and the fact that she owns her own circus attraction made her even more appealing to me. The oddness in her life path and her way of life was fascinating.

I also liked playing the psychiatrist and patient in “4.48 Psychosis” because it gave me a spectrum to discover and gain more knowledge about the extremes that the play contained. The play itself is an emotional marathon. Since it was an in your face theater piece and it is dealing with every extreme, it was really important for me by the end of the shows to in a sense “take off the shoes” and get back to my usual every day. It was interesting to learn more about the psychology of the human mind and body, and to understand the body’s functions and the complexity of the mind.

On the other hand the role of the patient was a paradox, like a free spirit trapped in her own prison. She suppresses her path and tries to reflect her fate on others. She is Sarah Kane and still can’t except that she is ill. If she dies both of them die. My character is basically telling her not to give up on herself. It was also a very fascinating journey and great experience for me to portray two completely different roles in one play and see myself growing. We had a fantastic crew and very talented people on board, which made this journey incredible. Everyone put so much hard work and passion into this production that I’m fortunate to have had the chance to work with such great people, which made the experience for me even more unique.

LG: What is your favorite genre to work in as an actor?

AK: I don’t really like to narrow myself down to one specific genre, but my old time favorite is Sci-Fi and fantasy genre. I can definitely see myself doing more in this genre, but I like to keep myself open to all other genre as well.

LG: What separates you from other actors?

AK: My imagination. Each and every imagination, the spectrum of the unknown is what separates us all from one another. Everyone has unique ideas and is unique in themselves.

LG: What would you say your strongest qualities as an actor are?

AK: Listening and observing. I’ve always liked to hear other people’s stories or the way they talk, the sound of a unique voice. I also like to observe and be aware of my surroundings. No matter if human, animal or just the flow of the nature. For example just observing people sitting at the bus station, at a restaurant or waiting in line, observing their habits, seeing different manners, behaving differently and reacting differently to situations in everyday life. Everyone is unique and everyone carries their own story, which makes everyone interesting in their own way.

LG: What projects do you have coming up?

AK: I have a new series coming up, which is called Crackerjack. It’s about a woman who sees art in the murders of a serial killer. I will be working with filmmaker Tony Aaron II. Season 1 will be released in a few months and I will be in season 2, which will begin shooting this winter.

I will also be working on a play called “Florescene” written by Cassandra Shea. “Florescene” is the journey of a young girl with a wild imagination who grows into a world where it’s hard to express that imagination. She believes she holds an ocean inside her and doesn’t know how to express the immense depth of her feelings until she meets a boy who believes he was created from the earth. When they meet the question is posed: can they sustain a steady relationship or are they destined to be separate elements?

I’m also cast in the feature film ALA (animal lovers anonymous) written by Cassandra Shea, and preproduction starts September 2016, shoot dates are scheduled for late 2016. It is a comedy film in the style of the TV show The Office and Parks And Recreation. It centers on an anonymous group meetup that doesn’t understand what it means to be anonymous. The leader of the anonymous group decides to hire a team of filmmakers that films the journey of the 7 members of the group over the span of three days. As problems arise from the introduction of the film crew and new members, the leader begins to wonder how long the group will last together.

I will be also working on another film Sebudai written and directed by Magaly Monterroso, which is slated to shoot this winter. It is a fairy tale for grownups that follows a young girl named Samantha who becomes friends with the monster under her bed. Growing up in a foster home, her foster mother isn’t really amused by Samantha’s stories. But Samantha loves to read Dracula, Frankenstein and all the other classics. When an unfamiliar creature visits her one night, she fears him at first, but they quickly become friends. He seems to be the only one she is able to share her passion for stories with. When Samantha is visited by a social worker to move to another home she knows that she won’t see her friend anymore. As Samantha grows into a young woman she decides to visit her old home. It is shabby and there is a “For Sale” sign in front of the yard. As she indulges and reminiscences, her old childhood friend appears, and she finally can finish telling him her own story.

LG: What kind of training have you done?

AK: I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting for Film& Television. I did Comedy and Improve, Scene Study, Acting Techniques (Konstantin Stanislavski, Sanford Meisner, Stella Adler, Lee Strasberg, Uta Hagen, etc.) Audition Techniques, Master Class for Actors with Matthew Modine; and before coming to LA, I participated in a Theatre Workshop at Stage Studio Cologne.

LG: Who are some of the people who have inspired you over the years?

AK: Some of the people that have inspired me and my work include Tim Burton, Federico Fellini, Marina Abramovic, Robert Wiene, Helena Bonham Carter, Johnny Depp and Tom Hardy.

LG: What is your favorite film?

 AK: My favorite movie is Pan’s Labyrinth. I love Del Toro’s combination of Fantasy and historical context in this movie. A well done horror fairy tell for grown-ups, which keeps a thin line between reality and fantasy. The visuals are magic and the build of the movie is incredible. A movie you can get lost in and be ready to experience all emotional ranges.

An Interview with One of Canada’s Hottest Actresses, Sarah Jurgens!

Sarah Jurgens
Actress Sarah Jurgens for “In the Tub” photography project in support of Breast Cancer Research

Over the last five years UK-born actress Sarah Jurgens has amassed an impressive repertoire of work on both the stage and screen; and as she continues to grow her artistry with new projects and diverse roles audiences around the world can rest assured that we will be seeing a whole lot more from her for years to come.

Jurgens landed one of her first television roles as Gaia on the hit Gemini Award winning series Lost Girl, followed up by her role as Karina Vost on the Golden Globe nominated series Covert Affairs. 

A breath-taking beauty by anyone’s standards, what makes Jurgens so special, aside from her aesthetic appeal, is her emotional range. Her ability to get inside each and every one of her characters and seamlessly bring them to life regardless of the genre has made her a sought after actress for roles in the international entertainment community.

The actress recently wrapped production on the TV miniseries Green-ish directed by multi-award winning filmmaker Matthew Kowalchuck, and she is slated to star in the upcoming film Country Time, which will be directed by Jonathan Bensimon.

To find out more about Sarah Jurgens make sure to check out our interview below. You can also check out some of her theatre work through her production company’s website: http://www.bloodprojects.com/

PLM: Where are you from? When and how did you get into acting?

SJ: I was born in Epsom, United Kingdom. My family is from Cape Town, South Africa. We immigrated to Canada and I grew up in British Columbia. I was hooked on the power of theatre the day my dad took me to see “Cats” on Broadway in London, England when I was 5. I got involved in musicals in high school for fun, and then decided to train as an actor through the acting conservatory at York University.

PLM: Can you tell me a little bit about the film and television projects you’ve done? 

SJ: I played the Russian wife of a big time business man in Two Hands To Mouth, a drug addicted photographer who loses all sense of reality in The Man In The Shadows, and the girlfriend of a Trailer Park Boy driven mad by jealousy with an obsession over an ex-punk rock star in Swearnet.

Two Hands To Mouth is a dark, comedic, politically-driven feature film where eight blind folded guests assemble at a secret pop-up restaurant. Chef Michael Bradori is back, sober and ready to reclaim his former glory. Food, wine, greed and lust fuel the appetites in the room. Things take a shocking turn when the dining room is transformed into a minefield of political and personal danger where the characters come under threats of guns and violence. I played Anya, the Russian wife of a business man named Frank, who was played by Joe Pingue from the films Drive, The Book of Eli, Pompeii.

Working with a Russian dialect opened up a very specific emotional range for me. It was incredibly fun to play a woman so secure in her sexuality and power. It was also an invaluable learning experience working with veterans like Kate Trotter, Ernie Grunwald, and Vincent Walsh.

In The Man In The Shadows I played Rachel, a photographer addicted to prescription drugs who starts to lose her sense of reality as she grapples with her broken marriage and her nightmares. The most challenging thing about this project was arcing the character’s decent into delusion. It was a small team of people, so we were able to get to know each other well and had a ton of fun. It opened at the Dances with Films Festival in LA, Cinefest and Scare-A-Con in New York where it was nominated for Best Feature and Best Actress.

Filming Swearnet was the most fun I’ve ever had on a set. Mike Smith, Rob Wells, John Paul Tremblay and Tom Green were constantly improvising, keeping the scenes fresh and hilarious. I played Julie, the girlfriend of Rob Wells, who is consumed by jealousy. The director, Warren P. Sonoda, created a working environment that was fast-paced and creatively freeing. We were often encouraged to stretch the boundaries of the characters actions, and the improv elements kept me on my toes. Julie spends the majority of the film making her boyfriend’s life a living hell. I anchored her destructive behaviour in deep insecurity and an insatiable desire for attention and drama. It was such a blast to be able to run wild with her. The amount of laughter and playfulness that surrounded the set everyday was an uplifting environment to be in. I developed some life long friends on that set.

PLM: They are all very different, what made you choose to participate in these projects?

SJ: Two Hands To Mouth allowed me to work in the world of money-laundering, power-plays and female politics in a mans world.

The Man In The Shadows gave me the permission to explore the experience of being haunted, hunted and stalked. By playing the character of Rachel, I was given the opportunity to live in a state of mental unraveling. I enjoyed the challenge of playing a character that was wrestling with truth and illusion, experiencing the slippage of her sanity.

Playing Julie in Swearnet gave me a chance to play with jealousy and extreme insecurity in a world of over-the-top comedy. Her unpredictable behaviour made her a loose canon, and the working environment allowed for much improv and play.

PLM: You get approached all the time to work on projects with people, what makes you pick one role over another?

SJ: I choose roles based on challenge. If any sort of fear bubbles up when I encounter the script, I know it’s because the material is resonating with me, and whatever the character represents is a chance to explore that aspect of myself. I also get really inspired when the creative team is composed of artists who are equally passionate about telling the same story, and taking risks with it.

PLM: Can you list some of the theatre projects you’ve participated in up until now, and the roles you’ve played?

SJ: One of my favourite theatrical experiences was acting in the play, “The Bewitched.” Set in 17th century Spain, “The Bewitched” is the story of the last of the Hapsburg royal line, a family of rulers so inbred that their diseases prevent them from producing an heir to the throne.

The physical manifestation of corruption mirrors the appalling deterioration of the state and church, in an interpretation of the irrational fanaticism that led to the War of the Spanish succession. I played the role of Queen Anna through Theatre @ York directed by Nigel Shawn Williams. It was an incredible experience playing a historical figure. Maria Anna of Neuburg was Queen of Spain from 1689 to 1700 as the second wife of King Charles II. It allowed me to explore her explosive anger, resulting in seizures and phantom pregnancies.

Since then I’ve acted in and produced new Canadian plays with my production company The Blood Projects.

In “Little Tongues,” I played Tessa, the jaded daughter of a broken family. The production received extraordinary reviews from several outlets including Now Toronto and Mooney on Theatre.

I also played Eve in “This Is It,” a young woman navigating her way through a relationship guided by a broken heart, which received rave reviews as well.

PLM: What has been your favorite role so far and why?

SJ: My favorite role to play so far was actually in a Nightwood Theatre’s Director’s Summit Workshop. It was a short theatrical experience, but one of the most profound I’ve ever had. A group of actresses were gathered together for a workshop where a team of female directors were guided by world-renowned director and playwright Yael Farber. We explored Margaret Atwood’s play, “The Penelopiad,” Atwood’s daring response to Homer’s “The Odyssey.”

It was empowering to work with an inspiring collective of female artists, because everyone in the room was willing to take risks under the leadership and artistic genius of Yael Farber. I would love to work with her again in the future.

PLM: What is your favorite genre to work in as an actor? 

SJ: I find myself fluctuating between drama and comedy. Drama is usually my preferred genre to work in, but comedy provides a fierce challenge that I respond to as an actor because as everybody knows, it’s incredibly difficult to pull it off successfully.

PLM: What separates you from other actors?

SJ: I’m passionate about character exploration and really enjoy using different techniques to approach the work. Because I grew up with the gift and privilege of traveling to different areas of the world where my extended family resides, I developed a keen ear for dialects and accents. I really enjoy dialect work, it often opens up an entirely new inner-landscape for me to draw on as an actor, and it brings an edge to the character that I otherwise may not have found. I am also inspired by painting, singing, boxing and dancing, so I try to bring whatever alternative artistic experiences I have at the time into the project I’m working on as an actor. My goal is to continue growing, and for my work to come from a place of spontaneity and authenticity.

PLM: What projects do you have coming up?

SJ: I’m currently writing my own feature length script and am about to work on a film called Country Time with director Jonathan Bensimon and producer by Evan Landry.

PLM: What are your plans for the future?

SJ: I want to keep creating the type of theatre and film that I’m interested in. I work to write and act from a personal place. I’m currently working on a feature length script as well as a photography project about the relationship between a woman and her body.

PLM: What do you hope to achieve in your career as an actor?

SJ: I would like to play strong female characters who aren’t written as stereotyped or defined by patriarchal ideas but rather deeply human. I would like to work with Xavier Dolan, Lena Dunham, Patty Jenkins and Yael Farber. I would like to work on film and theatre that isn’t afraid to engage audience members and ask pressing questions about the nature of our humanity. Some films in recent years that have shaped me as an artist include The Tribe, Blue is the Warmest Color, and Mommy. I hope to get to a point where I can strike a balance between acting in and producing my own projects.

PLM: What kind of training have you done?

SJ: I trained in the acting department at York University and graduated with my BFA. I continued to study with David Rotenberg (pro-actors lab) and Michèle Lonsdale Smith.

PLM: Why is acting your passion and chosen profession?

SJ: I chose acting as my chosen passion and profession for selfish reasons really. It was the art form that I found most challenging and demanding in terms of self-exploration. As I grow as an individual, I also grow as an artist. It is an ever-evolving process and it’s one that keeps me asking questions, and keeps me engaged with life. I have been profoundly shaped by fellow actors, directors, writers, theatre-makers and filmmakers. It is a world where I feel the most at home, and the most alive.

Q & A with Genius VFX Artist & Motion Graphics Designer Vitaly Verlov

Eric Roberts
Actor Eric Roberts (Left) and Filmmaker Vitaly Verlov (Right) shot by Maria Artos

Living in the modern age we are bombarded by hundreds of commercials per day. As viewers when most of these ads hit the screen we often tune out in order to deal with the overwhelming overload of these messages.

So what does it take for a commercial to stand out and strike the interest of an audience in a world oversaturated with visual sales pitches?

Well, having a seasoned motion graphics designer like Vitaly Verlov behind the screen has proven to be an integral factor in the success of campaigns for global companies like Max Factor, Mitsubishi, Peugeot, Volkswagen, Nokia, Samsung and countless others.

Over the years Verlov has amassed prodigious knowledge in terms of the technical methods involved in creating everything from multi-layered motion graphics to seamless visual effects. Beyond his technical skills though, his creative vision has made him a highly sought after talent in the industry. In fact, earlier this year he handled all of the visual effects on the upcoming film Redux, a sci-fi film starring Oscar nominee Eric Roberts from the films Inherent Vice, The Dark Knight, The Cable Guy and many more. What is even more astonishing is the fact that Verlov also wrote and directed the highly anticipated film.

His prowess as a motion graphics designer and visual effects artist have allowed him to take on projects that others in the industry who are only skilled in one of these two areas could not.

While you may not know the face of Vitaly Verlov, if you’ve ever tuned into MTV, VH1, Friday! Or Russia’s RUTV, then there’s a pretty good chance that you’ve seen his work more than once over the last decade.

To find out more about Vitaly Verlov’s captivating work make sure to check out our interview below!

You can also see some of his work through his website: http://primevalues.ru/

 

IFR: Where are you from?

VV: My name is Vitaly Verlov and I was born in the city of Novosibirsk, Russia. After graduating in 2007 I moved to Moscow to work as a motion graphics designer and visual effect artist for television and film.

IFR: How and when did you first get into doing visual effects work?

VV: In high school and university I did a lot of computer programming because I was a computer geek back then, and even before that I came across an international computer art subculture called Demoscene. Essentially it’s a community where young programmers, artists and musicians get together – for fun – to make demos: computer programs that produce audio-visual presentations in real-time. The visual side of creating a demo implies that you actually program algorithms to achieve a certain artistic effects on screen. To put it short, it’s awesome. As soon as my programming skills got up to speed, I started making graphical demos with some cool looking visual effects and showcasing them on so called “demoparties.” As a matter of fact, my thesis work was focused on developing a toolset for real-time motion graphics and visual effects production.

Later on I became more interested in non real-time photorealistic imaging and switched from computer graphics programming to producing visual effects, design and animation in a more traditional industry-applicable form and started doing broadcast motion graphics for television.

IFR: What inspired you to pursue this profession?

VV: After seeing some television channels that were neatly designed from a graphical standpoint or motion pictures packed with great visual effects, I really wanted to become a part of it.

IFR: Are there any particular artists that inspire you?

VV: In my early days I was fascinated with some of the broadcast design graphics on TV and dreamed about getting to this level of quality and impression. That’s what basically inspired me to learn, more than personalities. However after moving to Moscow, I had an opportunity to meet with some of the great guys behind those outstanding designs and work with them.

IFR: What kind of training was involved in order to become a VFX artist? How important is formal education to getting a job in the industry?

VV: I personally don’t have any special VFX related training. Nor do most of the other artists I know. Basically, to become a VFX artist or motion designer, it’s important to have a natural artistic sense and a good eye plus the ability to efficiently handle technical tools and software. On the other hand, it’s also a matter of specialty in the industry, for instance: environmental concept artists or matte painters often have a background in fine arts. One thing is true for everyone working in VFX: you don’t stop learning, no matter what your specialty is.

IFR: What is that you love about being a VFX artist?

VV: The ability to create something impressive out of nothing; and the ability to impress girls at parties, of course.

IFR: What is your specialty in the field?

VV: As a VFX artist, I consider myself a generalist which means that I can pull off a wide variety of tasks myself, including modeling, texturing, animating, rendering, compositing. There are fields that I prefer more, and there are fields I’m not involved in at all – like character modeling and rigging.

As a motion/broadcast graphics designer and art director, again, I can do a lot, starting from initial creative concept to final delivery.

IFR: What is your typical workflow like in terms of collaborating with other artists on a film?

VV: It depends on a project and/or studio. Sometimes workflow is precise, broken down into stages and compartmentalized with strict deadlines, sometimes it’s a complete mess and overnight hell. The most positive experience is of course when you focus on something specific you really like and are good at. This way of collaborating is very efficient and creative at the same time.

IFR: You also work as a motion graphics designer, can you tell us a little bit about what that entails?

VV: Sure. Essentially motion graphics design is an animation-oriented subset of graphic design. Graphic design is just a single picture. Motion design is graphic design in sequence, in motion, and you see it pretty much everywhere: opening sequences for TV shows, film titles, game console menus, or photo-realistic 3D smartphone magically spinning in mid-air in a smartphone TV or Web commercial, or even user interface animation within that smartphone. In other words, any animated piece in visual medium is a subject of motion design.

That’s what I’ve been doing for various television channels including MTV, VH1, Friday!, and others. Sometimes there is client input on the initial concept of what we’re trying to achieve, sometimes there is no input. When there is no input, I also work as a copywriter where I suggest different ideas or scripts on how an end result might look and what meanings/themes it might have behind it. When the concept is approved, we move on to actual motion design.

IFR: How does being a motion graphics editor differ from working as a VFX artist?

VV: Motion graphics is a general term. It’s something that visually can be executed in different ways and styles. It can be two-dimensional, flat design-ish/illustrated looking as well as filmic three-dimensional. I think my direction is more filmic/three-dimensional oriented, that’s why it depends substantially on the visual effects techniques. For example, for a commercial spot for Peugeot the idea was to make a realistic car driving along a stylized miniature street – stuff like that directly relies on VFX techniques because it requires 3D modeling, rendering and compositing as a part of the workflow. In a sense, for such projects VFX is a way to implement the creative idea. That’s where motion graphics and VFX come together.

On the other hand, there are motion graphics projects where VFX techniques are not required for natural reasons. For instance, I have experience making on-screen graphics as a part of graphics package for several television stations where the task was to design the look and feel of info graphic elements that pop up during a broadcast. While these elements look pretty minimalistic, they should have a thought-out motion behavior and structure that keeps the integrity of the overall design. Sometimes the way these elements pop up on screen, interact with the viewer, and disappear is hard to conceptualize. That’s where “design” in the “motion graphics design” title comes to the forefront.

IFR: How has having skills as both a VFX artist and a motion graphics designer separated you from others in the industry?

VV: I think VFX and motion graphics are storytelling devices, and I always try to approach projects from the storytelling perspective. So for me the primary task is not making a neat looking animation or effect but supporting and enhancing the context it is a part of. Motion graphics is about guiding the viewer’s attention and it’s also very important for visual effects shots. What separates me is a good understanding of these aspects which, in real life, means that a client is usually happy with the timing, pace and accents I put into designs during the early stages of production, which is cool because it eliminates the need to reiterate on that so I can spend more time perfecting the visuals.

IFR: What companies have you worked with in the industry?

VV: Since I consider myself motion graphics oriented, I have more experience working on commercials and on-air broadcast design.

As a lead designer and VFX artist, I worked for the Russian branch of MTV and VH1 Networks and nation-wide entertainment television channel Friday! As an art director and motion graphics designer, I’ve done quite a few projects for a major music television channel, RUTV. Specifically, I created motion graphics and the overall design for the RUTV 2014 annual music awards ceremony, and some pieces for its 2015 installment.

As a freelance designer and VFX artist, I’ve done a bunch of commercials for international brands, including Mitsubishi, Peugeot, Volkswagen, Max Factor, Nokia, Samsung, Eurovision, Sensation, plus a variety of Russian brands like Beeline (a major mobile operator in Russia).

As a lead VFX artist, I have several projects done for the US-based boutique postproduction company Coat of Arms. Also, I have great experience working for the international visual effects company Pixomondo (Game of Thrones) as a lead 2D effects artist.

Working for various international companies and clients gives a pretty solid understanding of how the global industry works as well as flexibility in the way you approach projects in terms of planning and workflow because the process makes the result.

IFR: Can you tell us a little bit about the television and film projects you’ve worked on; and the specific contributions you made?

VV: I’ve done a lot of TV show openers and channel idents, in a team of designers and by myself, including works for MTV Networks, nation-wide channels Friday!, and RUTV.

While working for Friday! I had a positive interaction with the broadcast design department of Les télécréateurs (Paris) who designed overall on-air look of this station. I’ve made a few show openers and extra identity pieces based on the existing visual style of the station. And for RUTV I created motion graphics and design for the RUTV 2014 annual music awards ceremony which was a pretty huge amount of work (a show opener, a set of nominees, promo spots, press materials) on a tight schedule – that’s where the ability to sit focused for 18 hours came in handy.

Also, recently I had a chance to work as a lead 2D VFX artist on a Chinese big budget sci-fi feature film called Impossible, which is scheduled to hit the market sometime this year. I came in when the postproduction was in full swing, and my job was to complete a bunch of VFX shots, mostly energy fields and portal effects.

I should mention that I’m a filmmaker myself with two sci-fi live action films already under my belt. The latest one, Redux, features the well-known Hollywood actor Eric Roberts (The Dark Knight, The Expendables). It’s a short character-driven story with the ’80s/retro-futuristic vibe to it. I wrote, directed and edited this film and did visual effects.

IFR: Why is motion graphics design important to modern filmmaking?

VV: In its pure form, motion graphics design is critical for television and Internet – that’s for sure. Filmmaking also takes advantage of it, particularly big budget sci-fi & fantasy films and movie trailers, which are a marketing device. Film credits or sleek futuristic computer interfaces you see in a sci-fi flick is a product of motion graphics design. Sometimes it enhances the narrative story of a film, sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s in there. Moreover, since motion design and VFX are somewhat interrelated fields, motion graphics can be essentially found in any film featuring visual effects. That’s also a good way to save some time and money during production, which is important, especially for independent narrative filmmakers like myself. Can a modern live action film be done with no VFX and motion design? Probably yes. But if it’s a mainstream (commercial) film, there should be a marketing/ad campaign involved and that’s where motion graphics comes for you again.

IFR: What has been your favorite project so far and why? What projects do you have coming up?

VV: Not sure about all-time favorites, but I can name a couple of recent ones. I was a part of a team who made a STRAFE® promotional spot for a successful Kickstarter compaign. STRAFE® is an independent old school first-person shooter video game. On this commercial, I worked as a lead VFX/motion design artist.

And of course I loved working on my second film Redux because I think it looks pretty neat, has a coherent story and stars well-known Hollywood actors.

As to the projects to come, some of my past TV clients have a brand new music channel in the works, and while there’s not much info available at this point it looks like I will be creating an onscreen design and several VFX heavy idents shot on green screen.

IFR: Do you have a passion for working on a specific kind of film or project, if so what kind of project and why?

VV: In the TV world, I would say, a show opener. When making a TV show opener, you’re actually making a focused 10-15 second piece which tells a story visually, and that’s what attracted me to the visual medium in the first place.

In film, I have a passion for working on my own films.

IFR: What would you say was your first foot in the door to the industry, and what advice would you give to aspiring artists?

VV: In 2006 I believe, I started making what I called the daily images: the goal was to make one new artistic image every day, just for fun and training, and post it on the Internet into a corresponding design community. I ended up making just a couple of images a week, but after a year of this marathon I was invited to work full-time at a prominent postproduction studio in Moscow, N3, because they liked my pictures. That’s basically how I got into this industry. So I guess my advice would be, stop being aspiring and start actually making something just for the sake of it, start the process and watch how everything unfolds.

One of Canada’s Hottest Stars: Actress Jessica Huras

Over the last decade Canadian actress Jessica Huras has established herself as a sought after talent for high profile theater productions, TV shows and award-winning films. While her versatility and capacity for seamlessly tapping into even the most challenging roles have definitely helped her create the dazzling reputation she has today, it doesn’t hurt that she is undeniably beautiful as well.

Early on in her career Huras appeared on the two-time Gemini Award winning series This Is Wonderland. Shortly after she went on to guest star on the Lifetime TV series Missing alongside multi-award winning actress Vivica A. Fox. An investigative crime series that focuses on finding missing persons, Huras played the roles of Caroline Dunn and Luke Thompson, two characters who at first appear to be separate and unrelated, but over the course of the episode are revealed to be one in the same.

When it comes to choosing one role over another, Huras says, “I look for smart scripts that feel original in some way and that have interesting and complex roles for women.”

In Missing, Huras gives a heart wrenching performance as a transgendered college student who struggles to find his identity as a man born in a woman’s body, a challenging role that only further proves the actress’s affinity for tapping into complex characters.

Audiences across the world will also recognize Huras as Leandra from the first season of the hit television show Being Erica, where she starred alongside Erin Karpluk (Rookie Blue, Reasonable Doubt, Supernatural, Saving Hope, Flashpoint) and Reagan Pasternak (Masters of Sex, Heartland, Cake).

“This was a very theatrical role, allowing me to tap into my darker side and channel my inner Goth,” explains Huras about her character on the three-time Gemini Award and Leo Award winning series.

Similar to the way that Jamie Lee Curtis has become synonymous with the horror genre through her role as Laurie Strode in Halloween, Huras has also become something of a notable “scream queen” on film.

Through films like The Deadly Pledge where she played the role of Nikki Evans alongside Gossip Girl star Leighton Meester, James Isaac’s action packed 2006 horror film Skinwalkers, and NYC: Tornado Terror, Huras has displayed a rare talent for evoking fear within audiences through her believable performances.

Although she has carved out her place as an actress in film and television productions starring alongside some of the best in the industry, the silver screen has by no means taken away from her work as a dedicated performer in the theatre.

In 2009 Huras starred alongside Sebastien Heins from the TV series The Listener, Cracked and Darknet, and Mikaela Dyke from the films Blood Boars and Sight Unseen, in the production of David Levine’s “Reflections On Giving Birth to a Squid.” The production, which opened in Montreal and toured across Toronto, Winnipeg, Saskatoon and Edmonton as part of the Fringe Festival, received the Centaur Award for Outstanding Production from the Montreal Fringe Festival.

In 2010 the actress also founded Heart in Hand Theater company in Toronto – a revolving collective producing rare plays in need of a comeback, as well as developing new works of their own. Through Heart in Hand, Huras has produced “The Commune,” “Cowboy Mouth” where she played the starring role of Cavale alongside Broken Social Scene member Jason Collett, and “Trout Stanley” where she played the role of Grace Ducharme.

About what drives her to perform, Huras says, “I love telling stories and sharing the human experience. I think it’s the most palpable way of connecting and it’s never dull, not for a second. I’m forever challenged and inspired in this field.”

With each of her characters being completely different from the next, Huras’s dedication to continually pushing herself beyond her comfort zone as an actress has allowed her to amass a wide range of roles on both the stage and screen.

With an astonishing career already under her belt and several productions being released this year, it is clear that we will be seeing a whole lot more of Jessica Huras for years to come. Currently, you can check Huras out in the role of Natalie on the History Channel series Gangland Undercover, which began airing in February. She also wrapped production on the films Anxietyville and Teeth earlier this year, both of which are set to debut later this year.