Livi Zheng recently directed the music video “Queen of the Hill” featuring Judith Hill a Grammy Award winning artist and contestant on The Voice (US season #4). “Queen of the Hill” is a unique collaboration between two genres of music: funk and Balinese gamelan. The music video itself is a kaleidoscope of funk and traditional Balinese dance and costumes.
“Queen of the Hill” was shot in the Southern California’s Joshua Tree desert. Filming in the desert is always a challenge but doing so in summer, as in the case of this music video, is even more so. Shot in a single day, the greatest challenge for the Queen of The hill team was transporting a Gamelan ensemble during rising temperatures in excess of one-hundred degrees Fahrenheit. Director/Producer Livi Zheng only had access to one set of the large gamelan ensembles and if the set broke during three-hour truck drive, or cracked under the heat…that’s it, show over.
The making of “Queen of the Hill” is featured in the full-length documentary Bali: Beats of Paradise. Also directed by Livi Zheng. Bali: Beats of Paradise will be released in theaters November 16, 2018. This epic story of Balinese music and the spread of gamelan was shot in Bali, Indonesia, and The United States. The executive producers of the film are His Excellency Ambassador Umar Hadi, Indonesian Ambassador to South Korea, former Consul General of The Indonesian Consulate in Los Angeles, and Julia Gouw.
Julia Gouw, on the list of 25 Most Powerful Women in Banking in the US, was born in Indonesia but has lived in the US for the last forty years. Her passion includes promoting Indonesian culture in the US internationally. Julia Gouw and Livi Zheng have collaborated on projects ranging from filmmaking to concert production.
China’s Youjia Qian sees herself as a very perceptual person. She has always been extremely immersed in music and words. As an art director and stylist, she has the ability to take those things and create a visual for them. Through her work, she combines her original style with the needs and wants of those she collaborates with, turning out masterpieces over and over again.
Qian is best known for her work on a number of acclaimed music videos. These include “Devil in California” by Burna Boy, “Death Wish” by DeathbyRomy, and several hits for Gab3, including “Talking to Me” and “Hollywood Angel” featuring BEXEY. She is one of the leaders in her industry in both her home country and abroad and has no plans on slowing down.
“I think being an art director enables me to effectively communicate what I want to express in my heart and show the more profound feelings in the form of a visual. I want to present what I have seen and what I have learned and experienced through my work,” she said.
Just last year, Qian collaborated with hip hop artist Roy Woods on one of her most renowned projects to date. The music video for the artist’s hit “Say Less” has amassed over four million views on YouTube alone since its debut in November. It was issued WMG (Warner Bros Label); UBEM, Sony ATV Publishing and CAMERA and four other brands.
“Roy Woods is an artist that I truly admire. I started hearing more about him in the music industry after he signed a contract with Drake. There are so many personal emotions in his music and I also feel that I could feel something that he wants to express in his music. Many of my young friends like his music,” said Qian.
Qian was brought onto the project thanks to her good professional relationship with Gab3, who directed the video. Qian has worked on several of Gab3’s music videos, and he knew she was just the right person to help make Roy Woods’ video a hit. The teamwork between the three artists led the video to enormous success.
“It is so exciting that everybody likes our work and I also hope to collaborate with all kinds of artists again in the future. I hope to continue to reach a wide range of audiences and have my work impact many people.,” said Qian.
As the song “Say Less” is filled with emotion, Qian used that to set the tone for the entire music video. To prepare for the shoot, she spent most of her time listening to the song and all of Roy Woods’ music, to understand just what type of artist he is and what he wanted to express in the song. She decided after her research on a color tone of red. The actors in the music video are filtered by this, and it creates a specific mood that fits right in with the song. Gab3 supported her decision and worked closely with Qian during the shoot.
“We had really good communication as a team. I understood what Roy Woods wanted to express in his music, so I could create what he wanted visually, including the color and the switching of lens,” Qian described. “I like his music, which helped me to have a better understanding of his direction in the project. The people that I worked with on this project were great and I felt very comfortable with, which made the work that much more enjoyable.”
Check out the video for “Say Less” and admire Qian’s outstanding work.
Japanese dancer Mao Kawakami’s graceful, kinetic precision and peerless creativity have earned her a fabulous career. Whether appearing on the movie screen, touring with major pop stars or performing show stopping numbers at major televised award shows, Kawakami’s vibrant, high-energy style commands attention. Even in an ensemble troupe setting, the charismatic Kawakami stands out—audiences can’t take their eyes off her.
The Los Angeles based Kawakami’s fascination with dance has been life-long. “At age 3, I was going crazy dancing with my fairy stick at home,” Kawakami said. “So my mom put me into a ballet studio, which turned out to be amazing! I was strictly a ballerina until I joined a dance club in middle school and was introduced to hip hop “
Even at this young age, Kawakami remained focused, steadily expanding upon her foundational training and always progressing. “I moved to Canada when I was 15,” Kawakami said. “I went to dance studio after school almost every day and that’s when I learned all genres in dance, because I wanted to learn more and have fun. I grew a lot as a dancer and teachers and choreographers also started to notice ne. The dance industry world seems really big yet it really is such a small world, so choreographers always talk to each other and you never know who’s watching.”
By the time she arrived in Hollywood, the stars were aligning in Kawakami’s favor, and while the dancer’s professional life is often a fast moving course of one-off freelance gigs, Kawakami easily established a steadily building momentum.
“Once I got to L.A. and started to work with on music videos, the choreographers referred me to other big name choreographers,” Kawakami said. “I was working with Oththan Burnside [MC Hammer, Snoop Dogg, Rihanna] a lot, music videos for Keyshia Cole and some other projects, and she referred me to Jamaica Craft, who choreographs TLC, Usher, NE-YO, Justin Bieber, she was looking for a dancer the FOX Teen Choice Awards. I got the job and that’s when my career grew from small projects to big award shows and tours.”
Things began to move fast for the ambitious young dancer. Before long she was getting assignments for jobs with alternative hip-hop sensations N.E.R.D., interpretive dance collaborations for pop princess Pink and hitting the road with rap superstar Iggy Azalea—some of the best, most high profile performance opportunities in all of show business. Kawakami’s signature combination of high energy, interpretive skill and flawless execution make her an in-demand asset to any dance presentation.
“I have worked with Mao on multiple gigs,” Burnside said. “She ‘gets’ all aspects of work and has an ability to figure it out, in a matter of seconds, which makes things easier for all of us. Her presence is like a diamond—she brightens up the stage and makes the whole production look better. That’s the reason I keep hiring her.”
Kawakami’s sterling professional reputation professionalism and very impressive roster of credits are the result of one thing—her artistry. Her innate gift for dance colors every aspect of her life on stage, and off stage, and Kawakami embraces her art, life and career as equal parts of a holistic philosophy,
“My career really grew when I started to know myself more as a person,” Kawakami said. “Not only as a dancer, but also as a whole person. That is a big part of any successful career. Even if you’re a really good dancer, if you can’t figure out who you are, you just don’t glow the same. I think you glow the most when everything is aligned; your dance, your personality, character, and your health, mentally and physically. Everything shows from the inside out, and when I figured this out, I definitely started to book more jobs.”
Kawakami is rarely found relaxing at home between gigs and is constantly expanding her skillset and exploring new avenues of creative expression. “I love touring!! You get to see different cities and countries on top of doing a job you love.” Kawakami said. “But I also love doing movies—I just played the new Bella in Pitch Perfect 3. I got to work with my favorite choreographer Aakomon Jones and also learned to act and took vocal lessons. Singing and dancing require extra energy, so we took boot camp classes at night to keep our shapes. The whole movie experience was so amazing, we got to shoot at the biggest aquarium in the states in front of huge whales and turtles! The process went by so quickly but I would do it all over again.”
Kawakami’s intoxicating mix of raw talent, striking good looks, dynamic moves and limitless enthusiasm for her work places the dancer in a league of her own, one where she has already achieved great success and stands poised to ascend ever higher in the entertainment world.
“Everything is connected,” she said. “One experience fuels another, and that fuels another. It’s a chain reaction. So if you experience a lot, your creative flow just becomes so smooth and colorful. Dance is my job but it always has also been my escape, it is like therapy to me. It helps me express things that I can’t say with words, it is a nonverbal communication. It is art.”
Moving to music is an instinct for Maria Akpan. She always felt the need to dance, and her inspirations as a child were always those who were known around the world for their dancing abilities. Akpan is now recognized for her talent, and is one of Britain’s best dancers. She does not just follow a beat, she uses her body to tell a story. Her delivery captivates audiences, and there is little doubt why she is in such high demand.
The highlight of Akpan’s career came when honoring her idol Michael Jackson. As the lead dancer in Thriller Live, Akpan took audiences through the iconic artist’s childhood, career, and life journey. Her skillset enhanced the show, and she was pivotal to its success, as she was in every single number.
Tribute shows are now a familiar experience for the dancer. She was not only the lead dancer, but also the choreographer for Prince’s RevelationTribute Show. Working with the popular singer Mark Anthony, she choreographed the entire performance. Dancing was the true visual essence of the show, and Akpan made that happen.
Not only does Akpan dance, but she also can cheerlead. She had a main role with the group The London Cheerleaders, always front and centre in their routines and promotional videos. Her talent and commitment to every project she takes on make her extremely sought after in the industry. She was the choreographer and lead dancer in the Funky Twinz featuring N. Kay music video “Entertain You”, and she even worked with Shirlene Quigly, a former dancer for both Beyonce and Rihanna.
“Dance allows me to express myself in ways that conversations never do. Dance is something the makes me happy even at some of my saddest moments. It really does bring joy and freedom into my life,” said Akpan.
In JayEss’ “Intoxicated” music video, Akpan was once again featured doing what she does best: dancing. She was a lead dancer in the video, and had a charismatic solo piece. The dancing brought the storyline of the song to life. The video features different groups battling and then eventually coming together as a whole.
“What was it liked about working on this project was it got me to be creatively experimental, which is great when your hired as just a soloist on a gig, as it gets you to think on your feet and be more original,” said Akpan.
Originally, Jayess had heard of Akpan’s esteemed reputation and knew he wanted her on his video. At the time, he did not know how to get in touch with her, and spent a lot of time searching. After giving up, he eventually spotted Akpan at a talent search. He was ecstatic to finally find her. Akpan did not even have to audition. The entire team was impressed with her from the beginning.
“Maria is such a hard-working talent, she never settles for anything average and always wants more than 100 per cent. Her passion for arts and dance is like no other that I have ever seen before, and her hard work shows through in her work. Working with her, I know my vision of my song and music video was in the best and right hands. Maria is definitely unique, I would have her work for me again in no time,” said Jablil Saheeb, also known as Jayess.
Akpan was a large part of the video’s success, which has over 40,000 views on YouTube alone. Akpan was consistently approached about her dancing in the video, and she felt proud to be in such a project. She brought Jayess’ version to life, as he wanted much more than just a normal music video. Akpan came up with original choreography on the spot, and danced completely alone for a part of the video.
Each dancer was given a different trait to embody in the video, and Akpan was given “peace”. With every move she made, she exudes that trait in a peaceful and powerful way. There was no rehearsal time, so Akpan just did what came naturally. The results are inspiring.
“After hearing the concept of the music video, I knew I am wanted to be apart. Two groups one driven by negativity and the other driven by positivity. The two groups battling each other than overcoming their differences for the better, completely pulled me in,” concluded Akpan.
Akpan is now fresh off many projects. She danced for Skepta at the 02 in London. She also was a part of Global 12 Festival, dancing for new soloist Kiara Marzella. In addition, she is taking her successful London dance class “#LinesNsaucewithmimi” international.
“I plan to take this class all over the world and inspire young women to believe in themselves, to achieve what they dream of, and to then succeed,” she said.
In the meantime, be sure to check out Akpan is the “Intoxicated” video here.
Jen Tioseco is a strong and passionate individual, and this has always translated into her work. From the time she was just eleven years old, growing up in North Vancouver, British Columbia, she always had a job. She started with a paper route, then became a cashier, and then a retail associate. She then decided life wasn’t about simply working, it was about doing what you love. That is when she became a makeup artist. It is her drive and determination that has gotten her to where she is today, as an internationally successful makeup artist, and nothing will ever stop her from continuing to live her dream. For Tioseco, anything is possible, and if you can dream it, you can do it.
Tioseco is truly extraordinary at what she does. She enhances natural beauty, and takes her clients favorite features and brightens them in a way where they still feel done up, but also like themselves. That is no easy task. In a world full of young girls making makeup tutorials on YouTube and Instagram, Tioseco aims to show the world that it doesn’t have to be that challenging to feel beautiful
“I would say my style is ‘Glam Chic’. With the social media makeup artist being so trendy right now, girls have forgotten that we don’t need to wear ten layers of makeup,” she said.
Tioseco manages to do just that when working on two recent music videos for alternative-pop singer Dani LeRose. She worked with LeRose’s ideas and then looped in with the stylist to ensure everything tied together in the end. Tioseco’s input was vital to the videos’ success. Given her background in fashion, she was actually able to make suggestions to the stylist that she ended up incorporating into the videos. These little additions, whether it was a scarf or a jacket, really helped the makeup pop.
“Dani has such trust in me as an artist. She was able to convey what she wanted for each look, knowing I could execute each one with ease. She was also very open to color on the lips and eyes, so I had a blast playing with her face,” said Tioseco.
Tioseco had worked on LeRose previously for a concert. The singer absolutely loved her makeup and asked Tioseco to come on board for her videos from that point forward, refusing to work with anyone else. LeRose recognized Tioseco was the best instantly, and since that time, the two have worked on two music videos, the first of which, Love U More premiered in November of last year.
“There were scenes in Love U More where Dani needed to appear as though she was crying or ‘worn out’. As Dani was not able to cry on que, I was able to use makeup to create the illusion she had. It really set the mood for the different scenes,” Tioseco described.
The Love U More video was featured on Much Music’s emerging new artist category after its release. After Tioseco met LeRose and Director Chad Rook, she fell in love with their concept for the shoot. The video is shot in the middle of a sand dune with a drone filming from above, a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the makeup artist.
“It was amazing, not only is Dani beautiful and talented, Chad Rook the director was incredible. Chad is actually an actor as well, he can be seen as one of the top billed cast members in the upcoming Planet of the Apes. His experience as an actor made the attention to detail in each video phenomenal. From a simple shot beside a radiator to an explosively emotional fight in a hotel room, you are hooked from beginning to end of each video,” said Tioseco.
The second video, I’ve Told Lies, has been an instant success since its premiere earlier this month, with lots of media attention and tens of thousands of views. It was shot in a historic motel, one of Tioseco’s favorite locations to date. LeRose’s look, and therefore Tioseco’s work, was pivotal to the video’s success.
“Jen is a true professional. Her positivity makes her a great addition to any set I’ve had her on. Jens Attention to detail made working with her so easy. I didn’t have to do any cosmetic adjustments post-production, saving me so much time on the back end,” said Chad Rook.
Working on music videos with singers is a slice of what Tioseco looks to continue doing with her esteemed career. She enjoys working with celebrities, creating a natural but enhanced look.
“I love to travel on press events, glam for the red carpet, and do magazine editorials,” said Tioseco.
Another exciting step for the makeup artist? She is in the process of designing a makeup tool that will eventually expand into her own entire makeup line. We can definitely continue to expect exciting things from her.
Whether it’s being in the right place at the right time, unceasing ambition and unwillingness to slow down after hearing a dreaded ‘no,’ or a combination of the two, some people discover their dreams and go to work paving the way for them to come true much earlier than most of the population.
Like the inspirational and semi-autobiographical story Cameron Crowe brought to life in the Oscar Award winning film Almost Famous, which follows a talented teenage journalist who joins the band Stillwater on tour in the 70s and covers the journey for Rolling Stone, music industry aficionado Duarte ‘Duda’ Figueira experienced a similar rise to success back home in Portugal at the ripe age of 16.
Today Duda, as he is known affectionately throughout the industry, is known for his impressive achievements as a music producer/A& R specialist and major force behind some of Portugal’s best known artists such as reggae/dance hall singer Richie Campbell, the rapper Regula and producer Lhast, to name a few.
Duda, who is now 26, took a leap of faith in his early teens and reached out to Lisbon’s leading reggae promoter at the time, Fernando Cabral, with an e-mail pitch that would come to change his life forever. Duda knew the market for reggae music in Portugal was huge, but he felt that the information about reggae events was not reaching the country’s fans as effectively as it should– so he offered himself up as a flyer boy. He was immediately given a one-time job postering the cities with flyers about an upcoming concert featuring the bands No Joke Sound, Stepacide, and the one and only Gregory Isaacs who sadly passed away in 2010.
“My mom drove me there. I got a chance to meet [Cabral] and the rest of the partners, and I was given a bunch of flyers and posters, and a guarantee of having a free ticket for the show. And that was great!,” recalls Duda.
The following week what began as a one-time job turned into much more when, fuelled by a rare level of confidence for someone his age, Duda decided to pop over to Cabral’s office to thank him for the ticket, have a chat about music, and ultimately offer his services on the public relations side of the business. There he was introduced to the members of the band No Joke Sound, who were on site recording a live set.
“As an aspiring Selector and MC, bumping into them was kind of a ‘star-struck’ moment,” admits Duda. “The moment I walked in Fernando said to them ‘this is the kid that sent the email!.’ They were surprised.”
The band members’ understandable surprise at seeing a kid so young walk nonchalantly into the country’s leading music promotion agency with big ideas of how they could better reach their target audience quickly faded once Duda began to speak about the music industry and what fans were looking for, but not necessarily getting. Duda exchanged contacts with No Joke Sound member Bernardo “Ben” Miranda, who subsequently invited him to come along the following week to the No Mercy Soundclash, Portugal’s first ever reggae soundclash event.
“I met Ben’s cousin, Gonçalo Leitão, also known as ‘Krpan.’ After the event, we went to Ben’s house, and inside of his kitchen, Ben looked at both of us and said: ‘You and you! You are going to have a sound system together.’ And the rest is history… From that week until today, Ben has been my ultimate mentor. He was the one who pushed me to have a career in music,” Duda recalls fondly.
At only 17 Duda, along with Ben’s cousinKrpan, created Fyah Box Sound, a reggae/dancehall sound system, which is a style of music collective that originated in Jamaica and includes a DJ, MC and engineer. Duda geniously developed the “Triple Threat” concept for Fyah Box, a series of weekly videos that include everything from artists freestyling to debut song releases. Upon inception the concept helped make Fyah Box a huge success in Portugal, and it has since become a leading source of music for reggae and dancehall fans across the world.
Building Fyah Box Sound up from the ground floor, Duda created a recognizable name for the collective by bringing in world-renowned artists such as Anthony B, Ikaya, Richie Campbell, Regula, Short Size, Blasph, Dillaz, Xeg, JLZ, Kristoman, DJ Nelassassin and several others to collaborate. What started as a reggae/dance hall collective quickly turned into a cross-cultural music platform thanks to Duda’s decision to open the collective to other styles of music such as R&B, rap, and hip hop.
Now, a decade later, Duda has definitely carved out a prominent position in Portugal’s music scene as a highly sought after music producer/A& R specialist. Considering the extent of what he does for the artists and projects he oversees, which includes everything from working as a booking agent, manager, fashion advisor and lead A&R man, Duda’s music producer/A& R specialist title is the only one that fits, as he coordinates literally everything that goes into both the planning of a production and the artist’s overall career.
A year after starting Fyah Box Sound, Duda began working as the A& R specialist for Portuguese artist Richie Campbell, who started the band Stepacide and was also a member of No Joke Sound prior to going solo. With Duda coordinating everything from planning releases, coordinating events, deciding on singles and album art, and crafting his image and musical approach, Campbell has been met with incredible international success as a solo artist.
Richie Campbell’s manager Bernardo “Ben” Miranda explains, “Duarte is someone we know we can always count on for both the creative and strategic process as well as the execution. Over the past 9 years that we’ve worked together it was a joy to see him grow into the person and the professional he is today. His ambition, creativity, commitment, loyalty and organization make him one of the most desirable professionals in the Portuguese music industry.”
As Campbell’s music producer and A&R specialist, Duda has played a major role in the production and release of each of the artist’s albums since 2010, including “My Path,” “Focused,” and “In the 876,” as well as Campbell’s 2010 EP “Richie Campbell” and the album and accompanying DVD “Live at Campo Pequeno.” Fans across Portugal went wild upon the release of Campbell’s 2015 album “In the 876,” which quickly topped charts and became No. 1 on the digital store sales chart within a few hours of its release– something that hadn’t been seen in the country since the release of Beyonce’s 2013 self-titled album.
Over the years Duda has also coordinated a slew of high-profile events featuring Campbell, such as Campo Pequeno 2011 and 2013, Sumol Summer Fest 2012, which pulled in 25,000 people, as well as Sudoeste 2013 and Festival do Crato 2013, which each had more than 50,000 people attend– astronomically large numbers for Portugal!
In 2016 Duda was the A&R man on Campbell’s hit song “Do You No Wrong,” which has garnered over 10 million views on YouTube, and earned a Gold and Platinum Award on the Portuguese market. A major hit in Portugal, “Do You No Wrong” was produced by Lhast, who Duda also works with as a music producer and A& R specialist. Duda also coordinated the release of the artist’s 2017 single “Heaven,” as well as the music video, which has garnered more than two million views since being release at the tail end of April.
Campbell says, “What I appreciate the most about working with Duda is his versatility as a career advisor/manager and the way he can balance a deep understand of the current music business while never forgetting that an artist needs to be in touch with his audience. This enables him to provide great input on how an artist should work the business aspect of his career without ever jeopardizing the relationship with his fans.”
In 2014 Duda formed Bridgetown Talent Agency with Bernardo Miranda, Afonso Ferreira and Richie Campbell. Today Bridgetown Talent Agency, which has become one of the most successful booking agencies in Portugal, represents a wide range of artists including Dengaz, Mishlawi, Curt Davis, Plutonio, DJ Dadda and the comedians Luís Franco-Bastos and Pedro Teixeira da Mota.
In 2015 Duda also started DGF Agency, an imprint agency that handles counseling, A&R, management, releases, PR and promotions for its artists. Some of the major artists Duda oversees as a music producer and A& R specialist through DGF include Lhast, Karetus, Krativ and Andre Melo. He is also working as a lead A&R man at Rebeleon Entertainment where he is handling the release of several upcoming albums, EPs and a few highly anticipated singles for artists such as La Santa Cecilia, Gloria Trevi, Alejandra Guzman, Mon Laferte, and Enjambre.
A well-known name throughout the U.S. music industry, Rebeleon Entertainment partnered with BMI last year to produce the 6th Annual ‘Los Producers’ event in Las Vegas during the Grammy Awards, which included performances from Latin Grammy nominees and music from other trendsetters in the Latin music industry.
After 10 years in the industry Duarte ‘Duda’ Figueira has not only managed to rise to the top of the music industry in Portugal and make his name known across the world, but he continues to bring the same level of fervor and adept skill to every project he takes on.
In the end Duda says, “I would love to look back to my career and feel proud of the work that I have put in, the results of it, and the impression that it had on society. Hopefully someone can feel inspired to create more and take some energy out of my experiences.”
From the time Ariel Zhang was a child, she always wanted to be a performer. Singing and acting were always her passions, and growing up in Beijing, China, she began to explore these passions, by studying vocal music, dance, and stage drama. At that time, she enjoyed being at center of the stage, being in the spotlight and being admired. As she grew, she began to appreciate the nuances to acting more and more. She wanted a colorful life, where she could constantly have different experiences and see through many different perspectives. She came to truly appreciate Sir Alex Guiness’ words “Acting is happy agony.” This realization solidified her future, and acting became her true love. Now, she is an award-winning actress, with international audiences appreciative of her talent.
“I bring life to screen. Being an actress, I can pass all my energy to the audience with my performance. The successful performance of an actress gives vivid and direct descriptions of the hero to affect the inner heart of all the audiences. It also means that I could have the chance to experience the eternity of time and space as well as the immortality of life, as I could have the chance to act in roles from the far past to the never-ending future,” said Zhang.
And Zhang has done just that. She has portrayed characters from the ancient times, like in the film Mo Zi when she had the leading role of Song. She has represented large companies, such as Citic Bank, when they launched a campaign and commercial to help Chinese immigrants coming to the United States. She has used both her singing and acting capabilities while teaching young children English and Chinese with the interactive computer game PreSchool Play with Skoolbo. And she has captivated audiences around the world with her award-winning performance as a schizophrenic in the film Consumemate. There is no limit to what this versatile actress can achieve.
“I think that being an actress is a great almost holy job, where you can redeem people’s souls, just like doctors do to save people’s physical lives. I think that a theater is like a church, where people will get their souls purified. Watching the work of the actors, the audience will be able to look into their own minds, from which they will view the world and the society with some kind of criticism. Staying in a theater for two or three hours, the audience can be there observing themselves from the depths of their heart with quietness. This is the charm of the stage drama, which communicates with the audience by the performance of the actors. That is why I hope to have such power to influence the audience by my acting,” said Zhang.
While Zhang tells important stories, she always enjoys what she does. She always has fun, no matter what role she is playing. And sometimes, she plays roles just to have fun, going back to that thought she had as a child, that when you act, each day is different. That is exactly what happened when she was a dancing girl in Mexican pop band CD-9’s collaboration music video with South Korean girl group Crayon Pop, titled Get Dumb.
“It was fun to be one of the dancing girls. This music video doesn’t really have a proper story line to follow, so your character feels freer to do whatever feels right. In a commercial or a film, you can experiment with the character, but you know where the story is taking you, so this was different and fun,” said Zhang.
As a dancing girl in the video, Zhang got to dance in a pool that was in a fancy car, just laughing and having fun. The video gave her the opportunity to keep expanding her horizons, and work with foreign singers, something the actress had never done before.
“I felt out of my comfort zone, since I was dancing a different kind of music of that I usually listen to. But I felt comfortable enough to be myself and have fun with it. Also, as a dancer, the floor is my world, but having the unique opportunity of doing it in water, it was a nice experience,” she described.
Fellow actress Sabrina Percario worked with Zhang on the video, and describes her as extremely pleasant to work with, a reputation she carries with whatever she works on.
“Ariel is a sweetheart and very professional actress. She is a unique, dynamic and much desired creative artist. She brings to her work both enthusiasm and creative magic, and she excels in many specific areas that take her beyond the range of most artists in her peer group. She is able to play very different characters,” said Percario.
The video, produced by Sony Music, has over 2.5 million hits on YouTube alone. It is an upbeat song, made for dancing. That is exactly what Zhang did when she first saw the final product, and it made the experience even better.
“I was really happy with the video. When I got to see the music video online, I was so excited, that I danced and sang along with it,” she said. “CD-9 and Crayon Pop have so much energy, it’s contagious. Even though everyone was working so hard, they never went off. They kept the set working in a positive way with a smile in their faces. Everyone seemed to be happy to be working there that day.”
Despite working all around the world, Cynthia Larenas’ upbringing is very important to her. She was born in Quito Ecuador, and moved to Australia at the age of four. Growing up in Adelaide, she still stuck to her Spanish roots and is completely bilingual. Her heritage is something that she wants to keep alive while travelling for her work.
Larenas is a designer and animator, working for large companies and small businesses to create apps, videos, print designs, and much more. Her extreme versatility lends it hands to many mediums, and she has worked with some of the biggest brands in the world, including eBay.
“I wanted to work at eBay because I thought it would be a great opportunity to learn new things, to challenge myself, and experience working at a large company. I wanted to undertake the rebranding projects because I thought it was a fun and exciting opportunity to produce work that would be seen at such a huge scale,” said Larenas.
As only one of two in-house designers for eBay Australia and New Zealand, Larenas’ responsibilities included rebranding Group Deal, Flash Sale and Fashion Gallery creative, and leading the design of eBay’s fashion Gallery brand towards a more Gen Y demographic. She created eDM design and build, was involved in casting, photo and design direction of external agencies, created promotional material for in-house employee engagement campaigns, and did animation work for eBay’s 2013 Christmas Campaign. Her work was featured on the homepage of eBay Australia and New Zealand every day for a year.
“It was great to work at eBay and I got to learn a lot, particularly what is involved to run and maintain the creative on such a big website. It was also fun seeing what you had worked on up on the website and seeing that the hard work you were doing were converting to sales. It’s been the best place where I have been able to get direct results of my creative,” she said.
While working with eBay, Larenas had the ability to measure her work, test mobile placements, pitch ideas, and challenge herself. For the Fashion Gallery rebranding project, the aim was to attract a more Gen Y audience to the gallery. This meant she got to research and create some fun pieces that brought something different to the eBay site, directly contributing to their sales and growth.
“It was really cool to see. I remember I was subscribed to eBay eDMs before I worked there, and shortly after I started, I received an email as I normally did, however this time I saw my work on there being shared out to me. It was a funny and proud moment in my career,” said Larenas.
Larenas’ work continued to impress with the different companies she worked for. While working as an animator with Electric Studios, she helped on campaigns for Bosistos, Old Spice, and Jack Daniels. She also was a Creative Director, Designer, and Animator for Nectar + Co, and Designer at Imano, where she helped shape Ray-Ban’s app “Never Hide” during that time.
“I love that I get to make things look good and have then opportunity to influence the world around me,” said Larenas.
Continuing with this trend, Larenas worked with the American musician, vocalist, producer and DJ, Egyptian Lover. He was an important part of the L.A. dance music and rap scene in the early 1980s. He is widely known as being ‘The King’ of the Roland-TR 808. For the release of his song “Into the Future”, Larenas and Carl Jiorjio were asked to create an animated music video for it. Jiorjio and Larenas have worked together on a few different promotional animations and music videos for artists in the UK and US, but the most notable was for Egyptian Lover last year.
“Cynthia is one of the most dedicated and hardworking individuals I have worked with. For as long as I have known her she has always been working hard on different projects that have been keeping her busy in the creative industry. What I like most about working with Cynthia is her ability to push herself when it comes to a project, often studying to expand her skill set and knowledge for the greater good of the projects she undertakes. I’ve also admired her fearlessness when it comes to design or animation challenges, always pushing to provide creative and powerful solutions. She is motivated by pressure and never turns down a job because it’s too hard. I have witnessed her time and time again take up challenges, learn new programs and techniques that exceed clients’ expectations. Her all-round knowledge and broad range of skills are rare in the design world these days,” said Jiorjio.
“Having worked all around the world has helped her not only to understand different cultures and approaches, but it has also resulted in her applying a professional and easy to work with ethic. I have never seen her become defeated by a job and have recommended her highly throughout my career,” he continued.
Jiorjio served as creative guidance and did the final editing of the clip. As the two of them were fully responsible for the music video, from concepts to storyboards, to animation and final editing, it meant they had complete creative freedom to explore our imaginations as far as they wanted.
“Working on the Egyptian Lover video was rewarding, challenging, fun and one of my favorite projects to date,” said Larenas. “I love collaborating with musicians or other artists because I get to work with really talented creative people that push me to do better.”
Her tasks involved art direction, storyboarding, compositing, 2D and 3D animation and illustration. Although the video was released only a couple of months ago, it has received an extremely positive response. It already has over 8,500 hits on YouTube and was shown on LA television station Link TV which reaches 33.7 million US homes and 6.7 million regular viewers. None of this could have been possible without Larenas’ dedication to the project.
“Making this clip for Egyptian Lover was also humbling as he is a pioneer in electronic music, with thousands of adoring fans across the world,” said Larenas. “Although it was a massive task, that spanned over a year, it was extremely rewarding when it was finished.”
Larenas’ extraordinary talent is evident to all those that saw the Egyptian Lover music video, and all of her other work. With such innate talent, there is no doubt as to why she is so respected in the industry, and considered one of the best at what she does.
Many people are haunted by the idea of what they should spend their life doing. Finding a career path that pays the bills and makes one truly happy seems almost impossible. Luckily for Jan Pavlacky, a chance job on a film set ignited a dream, and that dream has turned into the reality of becoming an award-winning director.
Pavlacky’s talents are recognized around the world by both colleagues and audiences that see his work. His directing on his film BKA 49-77 received international acclaim and was screened at some of the world’s most prestigious film festivals. His exceptional directing abilities have been appreciated by companies such as Nike when he did a commercial campaign for them, as well as world re-known production companies such as Savage and atSwim. He has excelled in directing commercials, films, and even music videos, including his work on the music video for the Please The Trees song “It’s Not Me.” The music video called for Pavlacky to shoot in difficult conditions during the middle of winter, on the highest mountain in the Czech Republic. When it came time for the shoot, there was a massive snowstorm, and temperatures fell below zero degrees.
“We drank a lot of hot tea and mountain rum and wore warm clothes. We were fighting against extremely low visibility but luckily we had several walkie-talkies that we were able to hide in the actors costumes so we I could direct them during the shot. We had the chance to shoot on film stock, which, due to the extreme weather conditions, was the only way how to shoot, since the temperatures were too low for a digital camera,” said Pavlacky. “I love when the conditions are somehow extreme. It makes me somehow more focused towards the one single goal. We were really lucky to have such harsh weather conditions since the weather played a crucial part in the story.”
“It’s Not Me” was Please The Trees’ first music video. Although such extreme weather conditions were not originally part of the plan, Pavlacky used it to add an extra element to the story, thinking it was the best way to show a man finding his soul in the emptiness, which is what the song is about.
“Rather than giving up, Jan pushed forward in order to convey the deep subject matter through the visual medium. The final product ended up being a beautiful piece of art, showcasing gorgeous shots of the white-out conditions. Since its release, the video has accrued tens of thousands of views and kick-started the successful career of the band,” said Alessio Spinelli of Milk and Honey Pictures, the production company that did the music video. “The band wouldn’t be where they are now if it weren’t for Jan’s incredible work as lead director on that first music video.”
Milk and Honey is a production company that focuses not only on commercials and music videos, but also on feature films and television series. They are one of the biggest production houses in Prague, and have an impressive reputation not just in Pavlacky’s native country of the Czech Republic, but also worldwide.
“Milk and Honey have been in the business for more than 20 years. They’ve produced big Hollywood Blockbusters and countless foreign commercials, and working such an important company was a huge step in my career,” said Pavlacky.
Pavlacky’s impressive work with Milk and Honey goes far past the “It’s Not Me” video. He was also the lead director for multiple Milk and Honey projects including commercials for Theraflu and GS Enerix. The Theraflu commercial was his first experience working on a project for the U.S. market and worldwide renowned digital agency Wunderman.
“Notably working for the US market is always something special and it is a benchmark for many directors in my field, so obviously, the responsibility was huge, and I was extremely happy that the shoot ended up successfully. The collaboration with the New York creative team brought some great ideas into the shoot. I also had a great Director of Photography on board who shot many feature films and together we delivered a great commercial and had an amazing and creative time on the set,” said Pavlacky.
The commercial was shot at many different locations around Prague, creating a visual experience that impressed both Wunderman and the American audience. His work on the GS Enerix commercial also did wonders in the Czech market, airing to thousands of viewers on television. It helped to improve all brand indexes, including brand recognition, purchase intent and sales. With results like this, it is no doubt that Pavlacky’s impact will continue to impress audiences on both the big and small screen for years to come.
Growing up in Mexico City, Alejandro Salinas was captivated by the artistry of music videos. Crafting images and story to music, and the creativity that went along with it, was something he knew he wanted to be a part of. Eventually, this transitioned from a dream to a reality, and now he is professionally known around the world as Zeon, an extraordinary director and editor who isn’t just passionate about what he does, but this passion translates to talent, making him one of the best.
Zeon’s career has been filled with accomplishments making music videos and films. This past year, he also saw success in the fashion world, which he calls one of the highlights of his career so far. Zeon directed and edited first Mexican fashion documentary, titled Mextilo.
“I travelled to Paris, met all these important fashion designers and saw how far a simple idea can take you,” said Zeon. “It was an amazing experience. I collaborated with a very hard working and talented team, who are now great friends who I keep working with. We’re like a family now and I’m glad this project allowed all of us to come together.”
The documentary did so well that it’s now being turned into a book, something Zeon is very proud of. He originally wanted to work on the film because the producer, Gustavo Prado, was someone he had always admired and wanted to work with. However, after being exposed to the project, it being the first of its kind made it even more attractive to get involved with.
“I worked very closely with Gustavo. I had a great time, because he’s not just a co-worker, but a good friend and someone I learned a lot from. The editors are now friends of mine with whom I’ve worked on in different music videos. They are all very talented and fun,” said Zeon. “But getting to know all these designers, the fashion history behind my culture, and this whole visual world I got to explore by making the documentary made working on Mextilo amazing.”
The film had a long process of editing and re-editing, shooting interviews and making the film better with each cut, but having a clear structure and organization allowed Zeon to push through. This perseverance led to outstanding results. In addition to the book deal, Mextilo was the first Mexican fashion documentary premiered at ASVOFF film festival in Paris.
“I feel very honored to have been personally invited by Diane Pernet to the festival. Working so hard on a project locally and seeing how it was much bigger when seen from a worldwide perspective was very rewarding,” said Zeon.
Although it was the first Mexican fashion documentary to appear at the festival, Mextilo was not Zeon’s first taste of success in the world of fashion film. He previously worked on the fashion film and music video Dieode.
“It’s motivating to have such recognition because it proves I’m not the only one who sees potential in what I do, and even though some people in my country don’t seem to appreciate it, the rest of the world does, even more than I expected,” said Zeon. “It was great being involved in all the creative aspects of the film and getting to develop my creative vision with many talented people that further expanded everything in the best way.”
Dieode went on to be an official selection at various festivals, which is satisfying to Zeon as he was in charge of creating the entire concept of the film from scratch, and he worked hands-on with every single creative department.
“Zeon strives for perfection–he’s one hundred percent focused on the work in all the videos or films he’s involved in, always with a lot of responsibility, communication and passion. He’s very detail oriented,” said Kether González, the producer of Dieode. “He is very friendly and kind with the people he works with. He is definitely one of the most dedicated and responsible people that I know in this business.”
The film premiered in early 2014 at the Cineteca Nacional in Mexico City, with full attendance in the theatre. Zeon was very humbled to see this video finally done, and that people enjoyed it so much.
“People were silent until the very end of the video, and when up until the final credits showed up on screen, everyone clapped euphorically,” he said.
Despite having worked on music videos in the past, Dieode was Zeon’s first time fusing fashion with music videos. He wanted to create his own version of that hybrid.
“It was a very strong and simple idea I thought could work. It would allow me to push my limitations by working with other creative disciplines alongside me,” he said.
With his true passion being in making music videos, Zeon has worked alongside Lady Gaga on the video for her Academy Award nominated song ‘Til it Happens to You, as well as La Lupita, Icon for Hire, and the Raíz collaboration of Lila Downs, Niña Pastori, and Soledad. No matter who he is working with, he knows directing and editing is what he was meant to do.
“I wanted to get into this field because I would be watching music videos that were already released and thinking: “No, this needs to cut faster! It’s the chorus of the song and the most emotional part! How come we’re in a static shot?!” I felt that only by doing it myself would I be able to get my vision across,” said Zeon.
“There’s so many feelings that can be accentuated and drawn just from the right editing, and I’m obsessed with making that happen,” he concluded.
International Entertainment, and the Talents that Leave us Buzzing….