Category Archives: Producer

Walt Disney Animation Studios Hosts Bali: Beats of Paradise

Disney 1

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

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

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

Producer Chandra daCosta takes viewers around the world with ‘Cruise Buzz’

As a Producer, Chandra daCosta wears many hats. She is a manager, financial analyst, filmmaker, and storyteller. It is the latter that she most enjoys in her role and combining creativity with business drives her. Development is a large part of the process, which entails finding interesting stories, people, or cultures, as well as coming up with new angles/spins on ideas that are already successful. In production, it’s all about details, logistics and ensuring things run smoothly and everything is taken care of. DaCosta excels at all aspects of producing, and her talent has led her to being a respected producer in Canada’s entertainment industry.

DaCosta finds herself drawn to the “Lifestyle” genre when it comes to her work, working on shows involving real estate, food, dating, and more. Such projects include Oxygen Network’s A Wedding and a Murder, Global TV’s The Stanley Show, and Animal Planet’s Biggest and Baddest.

“Chandra is a pleasure to work with. She is a skilled negotiator and effective producer. She knows the television industry well and is good at leveraging her many contacts within the industry. She is also a remarkable creative producer. She was the driving force behind Cruise Buzz from both a business and creative perspective in addition to being the on camera host,” said Lori Massini, who worked with daCosta on Cruise Buzz. “Chandra is intuitive and knowledgeable.  She brings skills as both a business and creative producer to her projects. She has a sense for what works and doesn’t work and has great ideas for content.  In addition to being a skilled producer, Chandra is magnetic on camera and makes an excellent host.  Cruise Buzz was a terrific show and I have no doubt Chandra will continue to develop and produce top-notch content.”

It was Cruise Buzz that daCosta calls the highlight of her esteemed career. It was her show; she created it, developed it, found a production company to produce it, and put all the teams together. She was in charge of all the creative and business aspects for the show.

“I remember being on the Windstar cruise in the middle of the ocean and realizing that this was all because of my efforts. It was a real sense of accomplishment because it seemed like we were faced with road block and road block, but I just kept ploughing through. Being on the cruise ship, shooting our pilot episode was epic to me,” she said.

Cruise Buzz highlights the world of cruising, from big ships to small river cruises, all over the world.The premise of the series was “there is a cruise out there for everyone.” daCosta truly believes that. There are so many different types of cruises and itineraries to choose from, and daCosta wanted to show viewers their options. From a River Cruise through China, to the Baltic Cruise on a luxury liner, there is something that can win the heart of any traveler. Whether they want to explore the ports of call or visit foreign ports from the comfort of their stateroom deck. It’s a great and safe way to travel.

“This project was one of the best and challenging projects I’ve ever done. The idea of a travel cruise show was the perfect way to combine my love for travel and TV,” she said.

Every day daCosta worked on Cruise Buzz was an exciting and unique experience. She began with working on the pitch documents, episode ideas and brand integrations. Everyone she approached about being involved was excited about the show.

When she was trying to decide where to shoot the pilot, it was important to daCosta that the pilot episode was shot on a cruise ship that wasn’t the massive passenger cruise. She aimed to find a cruise that had an exciting and exotic itinerary and also show another side of cruising. She ultimately chose the Windstar in the Caribbean, a ship for 300 guests rather than the usual 3000 on large cruise lines. The ship had great visual appeal on camera, complete with sails, and an itinerary that visited ports that were familiar to many travelers, and also some hidden gems.

DaCosta spent almost four years of her life working on cruise ships, and she is extremely passionate about travelling. Being about to share this passion with the world was extremely rewarding for the producer.

“Getting the pilot episode made against all odds was a huge accomplishment. It was such a great feeling to know that Windstar was highlighted in such a great way that appealed to so many different travelers,” she said.

You can watch the pilot of Cruise Buzz here.

 

Written by Annabelle Lee

Mariana Mendez on helping open discussions about important issues

Now, more than ever in society, it is acceptable to take important world issues and start meaningful conversations about them. With topics ranging from mental health and sexual assault, to human rights, education, and everything in between, individuals are feeling increasingly comfortable debating the moral and ethical conducts underlying each category. One of those individuals is film producer, Mariana Mendez. For as long as she can remember, Mendez has been passionate about starting conversations before the eyes of her audiences and doing so in such a way that allows the conversation to carry on beyond the screen. Ultimately, she wants to help contribute to a society that speaks freely about change while she freely changes society through the quality content she produces before her audiences. This mentality has made her a highly sought commodity in the film industry; however, she remains simply humbled by the fact that she gets to live out her dream every day and call it a job.

In 2017, esteemed director, Luis Téllez set out to complete a stop motion animation film that tells the story of a black pawn who watches the chessboard around him crumble when a game ends due to the battles it has been subjected to. This, in turn, creates a new opportunity for both sides in a “game” that gathers new dimensions. The character that Téllez was looking to portray was one he had had in mind for the better part of seven years. His issue was the he couldn’t seem to make the character fit anywhere. It wasn’t until he and Mendez began discussing the feelings that human beings undergo when something undesirable happens to them. They determined that the true signs of character show in the way in which an individual reacts to these situations and from there, Mendez and Téllez knew that they had to bring this character, and these realities, to life before their audiences. What followed ended up shaping one of the best experiences of Mendez’ career.

“After we decided where we wanted to go with the script, it was fascinating to watch crew members of all different ages, from all different walks of life, come together. I am a fan of animation, but it definitely amounted to a very significant learning process. In many ways, I learned to appreciate animators and the work that they do in ways I hadn’t previously understood. Animation sets are so different than live-action sets. There are issues that arise from the puppets or software that you wouldn’t otherwise encounter on a live set. This had a large impact on the day-to-day decisions we made and I’m so glad I got to be a part of it,” she described.

For the film, Mendez proved herself to be invaluable as she handled regular production duties that had to do with scheduling, organization, and more; however, she also managed to attract investors to the project and have them help fund she and Téllez’ dream for the script. Her philosophy, as a producer, is to always lead by example and set a precedent for everyone around her. She remains respectful and welcoming, always ensuring that she fosters an environment of open communication, hard work, and dedication. She also aims to hire people based on both their abilities, as well as their personalities. Above all else, however, she prioritizes the selection of projects that reflect what is going on in society and to help spread awareness of major and minor issues alike.

Mendez, being a very detail-oriented individual, gained a new-found appreciation for the level of detail that goes into producing a stop-motion animation. She dedicated herself to learning how to shoot a stop-motion scene properly and planned her timelines and budgets accordingly. Ultimately, what she loved most about the project, was the fact that every day on set served as a reminder that we have the technology and resources available to tell just about any story out there and given her passion for storytelling, she can’t think of anything more exciting.

“Production-wise, it was an honor to be able to immerse myself in the world of animation and I gained a new-found respect for all the animators, designers, and visual effects people working in the industry. Story-wise, I loved to be able to tell such a crude and real story via such an innocent art form. I’m a very detail-oriented person and I was impressed by the amount of detail that went into it. In general, I was reminded that due to technological advances and the software we used, our own imagination is the limit, which pretty much instilled in me that I could potentially tell any kind of story in the future,” told Mendez.

When Viva el Rey premiered at Sitges Film Festival in 2017, audiences were drawn to its relatable storyline and expert animations. It later screened at other film festivals around the world and is still completing a festival circuit today. Mendez’s success with the film is the reason that she was asked to work with the same team again for their latest project, Inzomnia. She is eager to learn how audiences will receive the new film and hopes it will be just as great as the result of their work on Viva el Rey. Keep an eye out when it premieres in festivals near you.

 

Written by Joyce Cameron

All eyes on Producer Sherry Du for acclaimed new film

1,August(San Diego International Kids Film Festival)
Sherry Du

From a young age, Xiangrong (Sherry) Du always enjoyed watching film. Sitting in front of the screen, she felt the ability to transport into a whole other world. As a child in Heilongjiang, China, it was her favorite past time, and as she grew, this love for the art form did not falter. Despite such a passion, she never thought of it as a career path. It wasn’t until she was a teenager that she realized she had to pursue her passion and decided to become a producer. She wanted to have the power to change the Chinese film industry and producing was just the way to do that.

Du has since made quite a name for herself as an industry leader. Having worked on several acclaimed films like Front Door and August, she aims to tell impactful stories that resonate with worldwide audiences.

“Filmmaking is a form of art exploration; they express a feeling they want to say to an audience; they form a connection in that moment,” she said.

Earlier this year, Du’s latest film Eyes on You premiered at the Oniros Film Awards where it took home the top prize. It tells the story of a lawyer named Gilbert. He knows that his wife is dating another man, but he does not hate his wife at all. Rather, he still loves her so much, even though he is a control freak guy. He has already decided to murder a man named Duke, as he thinks that this is the only way that he can keep his wife with him. Gilbert plans to meet with Duke as another identity, so that he can have him comes to his house. Unfortunately, Gilbert kills his wife before Duke comes to meet him. Somehow, Duke manages to survive.

“Even though it’s hard to finish the film, it was definitely worth it. Every time I complete a project, it just encourages me to keep doing more,” said Du.

Du had previously worked with the Director of Eyes on You, Guoqiang Sheng, on the film August back in 2017. Sheng was instantly impressed with the producer’s work ethic and asked her to take part in his independent film.

“Guoqiang is a really hard-working person, the exact type of director I like teaming up with. The moment he asked me to join his project, I said yes,” said Du.

When it came to filming, Du found it to be one of her favorite experiences of her career. Everything went smoothly on set, and one of the easiest ones she has worked on. The crew had worked together previously, and a certain chemistry existed that was unparalleled.

The one challenge was the location. Finding the ideal place, the shoot provided some obstacles that Du was quick to overcome. Her vast experience producing allowed her to get the permits she needed.

“Once we had the location all set, I didn’t need to worry about too many things since the crew knew each other. Once I got them fed each day, everything went perfectly,” she joked.

Growing up, Du could only dream of having the career that she does now. Producing is where her heart lies, and she encourages other children in China to never give up on the same dream if that is their passion.

“Make sure you love your job otherwise it’s a waste of your time. Producers need patience and need to know how to work under stressful conditions. Work hard but don’t give up your own story,” she advised.

 

Written by Sara Fowler

Olivia Jun helps Rain Zheng bring ‘Esther’ to life in blood curdling horror film

Olivia Jun headshot
Olivia Jun

Unlike many niche professions in the Arts and Entertainment industry, film producers wear many different hats under one blanket title. There is no one-size-fits-all version of their job and they tend to assume responsibility for a wide variety of different tasks involved in seeing a script through from inception to completion. For instance, some producers handle budgetary planning, whereas others oversee contracts, permits, and hiring duties. Some work on set, others do not. Despite this reality, one thing remains constant: they are always in charge of collaborating with each department involved in making the film and ensuring that each and every member of the production is on the same page in terms of how they want the film to turn out. Esteemed Chinese producer, Olivia Jun, understands these demands all too well. Throughout her career as a producer, Jun has learned that it is her job to find the ideal avenue to achieve the best possible result for any project she works on. She is a master at her craft and she knows that with the right amount of hard work and dedication, she will be able to continue helping tell compelling stories and entertain audiences for the rest of her days.

As a film producer, Jun has lent her talents to a number of successful films and commercials over the years. For instance, in 2017, Jun produced an advertisement for eHi Car Service, which featured the highly esteemed, professional basketball player, Stephen Curry. She is also no stranger to the movie world, having produced films like Luz, The Gift, and Donna. She has even tested her hand at the art of producing documentaries, music videos, and prestigious events such as Jackie Chan’s Yaolai International Cinema Open Ceremony/The Karate Kid Premiere. There are few limits to what she can achieve when she sets her sights on a goal and she is energized knowing that she gets to do it time and time again for each new project that comes her way.

Earlier on this year, an old colleague of Jun’s, Rain Zheng, requested that she join him in bringing his script for a horror film, Esther, to life. Her reputation, coupled with their shared interest and passion for the film’s script, made for the ideal team to make this dream a reality. Estherfollows the story of a teenage girl living in a remote, rural outpost in an undisclosed nation in the late 19th century. The events of the story kick off when the girl discovers a bloodcurdling message written on her bedroom wall: “you’re mine to kill.” The subsequent events that transpire are enough to send shivers down the spine of even the most avid horror film lovers.

Although Zheng was the brainchild of the film’s story, Jun helped him to develop the script and determine how best to bring the film success. Due to its historical elements, Jun ensured that she researched and studied the time period in order to determine the best shooting locations, product designs, wardrobes, hair and makeup looks, special effects, and cinematography. During her research, she came across a house called Cohen Bray House in Oakland, California, which accurately captured the type of house represented in the script. She then liaised with each department to bring them up to speed on her and Zheng’s plans for the film, detailing exactly what they’d need to do to keep audiences on the edge of their seat for the duration. She also satisfied the role of guiding Zheng through pre-production, selecting cast and crew members, whilst dealing with budget planning and scheduling matters. As a result of her contributions, the team were equipped with an exceptional shooting plan, schedule, permits, insurances, release forms, agreements, locations, equipment, transportation, and much more. She was instrumental to the entire process and Zheng quickly learned that he had made the correct choice when he approached her about the opportunity.

Upon completing the film, Jun distributed it to more than 50 festivals where it went on to receive an astonishing 16 awards/official selections and counting at a number of well-known film festivals like the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival and the Top Indie Film Awards. She, Zheng, and the rest of their cast and crew were blown away by how well received the film was and felt an overwhelming sense of pride in knowing that their hard work and dedication had paid off in such a big way. Overall, what Jun enjoyed most about this experience, however, was the unwavering amount of passion and joy she shared with her fellow cast and crew members from the very start of the project to the very end.

“I loved my cast and crew. I could sense their passion and their efforts throughout the entire process. We may be from different countries, and we may all do different jobs, but we had one dream in mind for the film and we made it come true. All of the crew worked for free, donating their time and talent. Still, they came up with the best work that they could, encouraging each other and making each other love being present on the project every day. It was a passion project, and I could not be prouder of the outcome,” she concluded.

 

Written by Sean Desouza

Producer Chenlin Qian sheds light on difficult teenage years and importance of family in new film

Chenlin Qian was just three years of age when she started playing the piano. Growing up in Shanghai, China, she always found that music was a way to release all of her emotions. As she aged, she found that different artistic mediums had this effect on people all over the world, and she began to explore them. That is how she found her way into filmmaking.

When watching the movie Amour, Qian was astounded by how moved she could be from a film. She noted the director’s choices and how he chose to display something as harsh and sad as death in a warm beautiful way. She realized that filmmakers had the power to completely influence their audiences, in an even more immersive way than music, and she found herself developing a new passion. She knew from then on that she wanted to make movies and has since become an award-winning producer.

“Film to me, is not a product, it’s more like a tool to help me to express myself to others,” she said.

Qian is now internationally sought-after for what she does. Her film Cowards saw great success at several prestigious film festivals, a pattern that continued for many of her other projects last year, including the drama Sixteen.

Sixteen tells the story of 16-year-old Jennifer, a girl with a perfect life who discovers her early pregnancy, breaks the image of a good girl and looks for her real self. Throughout Jennifer’s life, every choice is made by her parents. When she finds out she is pregnant, Jennifer decides to take control of her destiny, and be herself for once.

“It’s a movie about a teenager’s loss. Everyone has experienced this period of their life, it’s a time where we can so easily get lost. This story showcases the really sincere love of a family during a trying and difficult time,” said Qian.

Sixteen went on to win Best Short at the California International Shorts Festival, the Silver Award at the North America Film Awards, and Honorable Mention at the Los Angeles Film Awards. Such acclaim could never have been possible without Qian, who is said to have saved the project. Without her, the production was at risk of delays and losing money, but she knew just how to rectify the situation and produce an outstanding film.

“Although there is not a very happy beginning, there is a good ending of this film, and a story that needed to be told. It was really thanks to everybody who worked on this project, didn’t complain during the tight pre-production, and instead worked harder for the production to ensure everything went smoothly,” she said.

Yiyun Zhang, the Director of Sixteen, had previously worked with Qian on Cowards, and after it’s immense success, she hired the producer immediately to take part in her new film. Initially, a different producer was working on the film, but left with just two weeks left before shooting was supposed to start. When Qian came on board, she knew she had to work both quickly and efficiently to stay on schedule. From there, Qian began her work, and in just half a month, she began conducting auditions, finding locations and getting permits, organizing the crew, scheduling the shooting plan and getting insurance on sets and equipment. Qian also supervised the post-production for this project.

Last year was a busy time for Qian, who on top of working on Sixteen and Cowardsalso produced WhirlwindandTake Me Back. The latter was the producers first comedy, a refreshing change from the heavy topics and pointed dramas she often makes.

Take Me Back follows a pair of roommates who greatly dislike each other, but after a ridiculous body exchange, they start to understand each other’s lives. The film was nominated by Direct Monthly Online Film Festival and by Newark Short Film Contest.

“It’s a happy ending. I think this movie can bring the audience a positive attitude to life, when you don’t like someone, think and look in a different angle, maybe you will find the shining part of them. After seeing this short, you remember the happiness it brought to you but also you will start to ask yourself, those who I don’t like, do they have some good part I never discovered? If we exchanged bodies, would I do what he did or even worse than he did? I think, this movie can help us to understand other people’s actions. It takes the classic mantra of living in someone else’s shoes and makes it literal,” said Qian.

As Take Me Back was Qian’s first comedy, she conducted a lot of research to see what sort of tone needed to be set to make the film a success. She realized that the new genre was another way to get the audience to feel something while they watched, reminding her why she got into filmmaking in the first place.

“It’s fun to work with people who can bring others happiness. It brought me a fresh filmmaking take, reminding me that movies can not only talk about serious problems, but also can just entertain people,” she concluded.

Written by Annabelle Lee

Conducting a Reality Competition Interview for TV, a how-to by Supervising Producer Emma Greenhalgh

Being a reality producer certainly comes with a lot of preconceptions, but the reality of producing, in my experience, is actually a very warm and rewarding career.

My name is Emma Greenhalgh, and I’ve spent fifteen years producing on reality competition shows for TV. It’s fair to say I’ve produced and directed hundreds of people’s life stories along the way, whether it be with the Got Talent franchise, Dancing with the Stars, and more. It’s been my job to bring people’s personal stories, experiences and emotions to the nations TV screens as part of a carefully crafted TV show. The core of sharing these stories is an on-camera interview, the moment where our subject gets to share a piece of themselves with the show and in turn the nation. It’s an opportunity to open up, to explain the road that lead them to appearing on that show and essentially garner the sympathy or empathy of the viewer at home, and it’s my job to help them do this in the most effective way.

Interviewing for reality TV is something one learns over time. I think the biggest misconception is that contestants are told what to say by a team of producers no one ever gets to see, and whilst yes, we are working hard to bring your favorite shows to your TV screen, we are not telling contestants what to say…we are helping them structure their truth in a concise way to have maximum impact. The key to conducting this kind of interview is to take a story, a personal experience, and present that to an audience in not only the most relatable way possible, but also in a very short amount of time.

The foundation of this kind of interview really is listening. Sounds obvious, right? I have met many producers over the years who have gone in to their interview armed with a list of great questions and a plan of how they want the interview to go, but then forgetting that they have to listen and respond. Sure, ask your first question, make small talk to create a bond and put the person you’re interviewing at ease (they’ll likely be nervous) but from that point on you should be listening and responding. Hear the story you’re being told, enter the world of the person you’re interviewing, imagine how it might feel to have their life, to feel their feelings, to have seen what they’ve seen and feel what they feel. It’s surprising how often even the most hardened of interviewees can be telling you a story but the second you ask them how it feels, it leads them to emotionally connect with the experience again and the regaling of the story changes, now you have the connection and the true feelings.

Ensuring you understand how a person feels is the core of any successful interview and if I could only give one piece of advice that would be it. That said there are a number of ways you can ensure your interview for TV is as thorough and successful as it can be.

So, as you head in to a reality interview think about the following list:

Research your subject

  • Always go in to an interview knowing your interviewee’s background. Who they are, what their life has been like. Know their story in advance and how you want to tell it and have a clear idea of the structure.
  • Ideally talk to your subject in advance for a pre-interview conversation. If that’s not possible, then do your research and know as much as you can about them before you sit down.
  • Write your interview structure/questions in advance. This gives you a guideline to ensure that a) you hit all the beats and don’t miss anything and b) stops you veering off track. Of course, things may change in the interview, but that list of questions acts as your guide and will keep you from losing your way.

Start Light

  • This may seem obvious, but when you have a lot to cover in an interview and perhaps a short amount of time to get it all done, it can be tempting to get in to the heavy or core of a story straight away. This is not a good idea. Let’s face it an interview is a pretty unnatural situation. I always find it’s a good idea to have a chat off camera first, kind of outline what’s going to happen but generally just put them at ease, so they feel comfortable talking to you.
  • Once you begin the interview, always start with the light topics, who they are, where they’re from, their background, growing up etc. No one tells a story by going straight to the middle of the book, you need an introduction to ease in.

Sentence Structure

  • Always get the person to answer your question in a full sentence. The interviewers voice is rarely used. If you asked where a person grew up, if they simply answer ‘Denver Colorado’ there is no context for that answer or what you were asking. The person being interviewed needs to incorporate what was being asked in their response e.g. I grew up in Denver Colorado.

Stay Silent

  • A little less natural, but as you listen to what the person you’re interviewing says it’s important for you to remain silent. You need the audio of the interview to be clean. Thankfully, you can convey a whole range of emotions through your face without making a sound. Using your eyes and facial expressions you can easily nod, shake your head, be sympathetic, be surprised, laugh, but all without sound to encourage the person you are interviewing but not messing up your audio recording.

Be reactive and flexible

  • Often even with all the research and pre-chat before the interview starts, sometimes they just don’t go the way you expect them to. Maybe the timeline is different than you thought, maybe the person doesn’t feel the way you expected, maybe the person doesn’t want to talk about something you were hoping would be the heart of the interview, it happens. The key here is being reactive, being able to work around the hurdles, find a different story or change the direction of what you hoped to get and adapt to the new facts.

Engage and be empathetic

  • An interview shouldn’t just be a list of questions. It’s essentially a conversation. Don’t ask a question to hear an answer and then simply ask the next question on your list. React to the response, maybe it sparks another question, maybe it brings up something you never thought of, ‘hear’ what the person being interviewed says and respond to it, offer empathy, offer sympathy, ask more questions that feel natural. It’s important to remain human and imagine how it must feel for the person you’re talking to, give them space to feel and show that emotion within the interview

Respect

  • Respect the story, it’s someone’s life. Whether you are shocked, saddened, or find it funny, it’s important to respect the story and allow the person being interviewed to tell it their way in their words.

Pacing and Space

  • Don’t rush! This is both for the success of the interview and for post. Always allow room and space at the end of each response for the person to complete what they’re saying or feeling and for your editor to have a clean end before your voice starts again.
  • It’s also very important to allow the person you’re interviewing to talk at their own pace. If they clearly think something is funny, let them laugh, if they are super sad and start to cry, give them room to cry. You can of course be empathetic and sympathetic, but this is where you have to go against natural instincts a little. It may feel uncomfortable but it’s real and it allows the viewer at home to connect with the person.

Obviously there a so many variables when conducting an interview and no two interviews are the same, but ultimately an interview is a carefully crafted conversation where the interviewer is in control but the person being interviewed is still being given the opportunity to speak freely and honestly.

The best way to get better at TV reality interviews? Work in the field but ALWAYS work in the edit too. This way you can see precisely the mechanics and process of how the interview becomes the one-minute piece on TV. The best producers are those that work in both field and post, no question. Oh, and practice, practice, practice; like with anything, the more you do it, the better you will be.

Producer and Director Gianlorenzo Albertini’s new film explores PTSD in veterans

Director-Gianlorenzo Albertini
Gianlorenzo Albertini

Hailing from Naples, Italy, Gianlorenzo Albertini was drawn to film at a young age. At the time, he believed everything that was happening in the movies actually occurred at that moment in time, somewhere in the world. As he grew, he realized that they were in fact stories, but the magic of movies was not lost on him. He daydreamed about all sorts of futures, from being a professional athlete, a rock star, an army pilot, a poet, a doctor, a detective, the pope. Although he knew that these were not all reasonable options, he knew the one path he could take where everything was possible: filmmaking.

“Films combine all the best things that I love in life: music, photography, writing, painting with light, portraying different characters, and any art,” he said.

As a celebrated director and producer, Albertini is currently releasing his most recent film, The Ribbon on the Kite, to worldwide audiences. The film follows a woman who, after discovering a homeless man living on the riverbank, tries to help him against his wishes. As you watch, you begin to see there is a greater history behind the homeless man than initially seems. Albertini, who also co-wrote the film, wanted to explore the emotional effects of war on individuals and draw attention to the hardships and the devastating effects of physical and psychological trauma that vets who have severe PTSD and are forced to endure due to governmental neglect. He wanted to place emphasis on veterans’ life after war upon, on the grief and horror of the battlefield they are forced to endure, oftentimes keeping the struggle to themselves, and on their difficult transition adjusting to civilian life. The film shows how frequently veterans end up being deliberately homeless because of their psychological inability to cope with the mental abuse inflicted on them, ultimately choosing to suffer in isolation.

As the writer and director of the film, Albertini did not have the experience and the full understanding of the plight of war. However, during his childhood, he often heard the stories told by his grandparents, about the horrors and atrocities during WWII they lived in their youth; they were his first understanding of the harsh and frightening conditions of war. He knew that, as a filmmaker, it was his responsibility to show the world just what so many veterans go through as realistically and explicitly possible.

poster the ribbon on the kiteThe Ribbon on the Kite is making its way in the festival circuit. It’s been screened at and won several awards at various festivals around the world such as the Richmond International Film Festival, Maryland International Film Festival, Kansas City FilmFest, Garden State Film Festival, Soma Film festival, Oniros Film Awards, L.A. Shorts Awards, New Filmmakers New York, Hollywood International Moving Pictures Film Festival, Los angeles Independent Film festival Awards, Los Angeles CineFest, St. Lawrence International Film Festival, European Independent Film Award, and Largo Film Awards. After the festival run, Albertini is planning on distributing the film through VOD platforms such as Amazon and Fandor.

During the research and writing phase, Albertini made sure to research exactly what life is like for war veterans. He talked with friends of his, who gave the director vast insight regarding their physical and psychological traumas and what might ultimately drive them to isolation. This created an even deeper drive for Albertini, who had the chance to perceive and recognize their struggles and eventually apply them to the film.

The authenticity of the script was mostly achieved on set during filming, due to the fact that the script barely contains any dialogue. Therefore, all the real emotional traits are not said but instead shown by the work of the actors. This also made Albertini’s work as the director that much more vital, as he had to choose just how to visually convey the authenticity and purity of the story in every shot.

While filming, one of the most significant challenges was working with natural lighting and the unpredictable changes in weather; the natural light of course would eventually fade away, meaning shooting would stop for the day, even if Albertini and his team were in the middle of a scene. For the last scene in the film, they shot at sunset during “magic hour”, which may be short, and took more effort to finalize, but was incredibly worth it.

They shot the film along a riverbank in Los Angeles. The location was beautiful but is known for flooding. During production, the water level began to rise. The crew quickly began packing up their things, but the shot ended up being quite beautiful.

“The equipment almost got swept away by the strong current – that was quite an adventure, but we filmed the flooding of the river and that ultimately ended up in the movie,” he concluded.

Be sure to check out The Ribbon on the Kite. In the meantime, however, you can watch the trailer here.

 

Top photo from left to right: Actress Julia Yusupova, Actor Greg Hill, and Director Gianlorenzo Albertini

Producer Kegan Sant talks award-winning film ‘The Bear’

Born in Trinidad and Tobago, Kegan Sant moved to Canada at just six months old. Growing up just outside of Toronto, Sant was constantly drawn to filmmaking. He has worked in varying capacities on set since he was only a teenager and enjoys shooting photography to keep the creative juices flowing. While trying out the many roles that a film set offers, there was one that spoke to him, and he ultimately decided there was only one option: he was meant to be a producer.

“As I worked through the different roles on set, I realized that my skill set led more heavily towards the management and overall execution of a project. I’m a big believer in knowing one’s strengths and weaknesses and always playing to your strengths; in this case, it set me down a path of working in production and ultimately producing. Being a professional comes with the job description and something I pride myself in – running sets with integrity and calm amidst the chaos,” said Sant.

Throughout his esteemed career, Sant has worked mostly in the commercial sector primarily dealing with advertising agencies to make commercials for brands. This includes large companies such as WestJet, Woods, the CFL, and TELUS. Each and every commercial he has taken on has received national recognition in some capacity, exemplifying just what makes Sant so formidable. However, his talents are not just limited to commercials, and his track record with films is no different.

In 2015, Sant began working on The Bear. Isolated, exhausted, alone: the dramatic thriller follows three miners in a remote Yukon mining camp in Canada’s far north who swap tall tales that lead to a violent showdown with the camp’s bitter owner. Part story of man in the wilderness, part neo-noir, The Bear takes the audience into the Canadian ‘heart of darkness’.

“I think this was an important Canadian story to tell and describes an environment that not many people think about but is a reality for many miners. I liked it because it was loosely based off someone the director had met working on a documentary many years ago and it allowed for different departments to flex their creative muscles. Being able to cast the characters the director had envisioned made the story come to life that much more for me,” said Sant.

After premiering at the 2015 Fort McMurray International Film Festival, where it won for ‘Best Direction’ and ‘Best Cinematography’, The Bear went on to several other prestigious film festivals around the world. It was also an Official Selection at the Yellowknife International Film Festival, Toronto International Short Film Festival, Edinburgh Short Film Festival, Atlantic Film Festival and Austin Short Film Fest. In 2017, it was then acquired by an online VOD distributor.

“I’m proud to know that the film has been so successful and screened around the world. It means that all the hard work myself and the crew put in, was worth it. It impresses me when I think about how many films are made all over the world and what the competition is like in festival screeners these days,” said Sant.

Sant was the team’s first choice for the producer of their film. Long Format Director, Warren Sonoda, knew Sant’s reputation for being able to assemble great crews and bring a high level of production value to the project. When the Director of the film, Peter Findlay talked with Sant about the project’s merits and goals, he felt at ease that Sant was the one who could make his first narrative project come to life.

Although he works on commercials more frequently, Sant knew he wanted to work on The Bear the moment he read the script. He was happy with the team, and admired Findlay’s commitment to the story. He couldn’t pass up the opportunity to help bring the project to life.

“I had the good fortune to work with Kegan as my producer on my award-winning film The Bear. I found Kegan to be extremely professional, creative, and always working calmly behind the scenes in the best interests of the production. What makes Kegan such an asset is that he has the steely focus it takes to deliver on time and on budget – and he also just flat-out loves telling stories. A great compromise between the art and business of filmmaking,” said Findlay.

When shooting, Sant and his team worked outdoors in a remote location. He extensively prepped, knowing that once out there, it would be difficult to change anything. Sant had to build a miner’s camp set from scratch and work with the Director of Photography to find lenses that worked to help it appear that the film was shot in the Yukon rather than rural Ontario.

On top of this, he also offered the director multiple options and a chance to exercise his creativity. Sant wanted to let Findlay feel like he wasn’t rushed, knowing the importance of allowing a director the freedom and flexibility to feel comfortable with their process. Findlay had no prior experience in the narrative world. He didn’t have the crew contacts or resources to bring the project to life in a way that it needed to be produced. Sant was able to introduce him to the right key crew for the job, specifically the cinematographer and production designer.

“I enjoyed working with an experienced director that came from a different world of storytelling – it was enlightening to see the differences in process and to learn from it as well. I could learn from him and likewise, he could learn from me. It was a great working relationship and I was able to hire the best crew for the job, giving some crew opportunities that they hadn’t had before to help build their reel and portfolio, in addition to creating a short on a cool subject,” said Sant.

The Bear is just one of Sant’s many successful films, and he looks forward to working on more in the near future. He is an extremely versatile producer and is constantly adapting to be successful. Audiences can continue to expect great things from him, and for those looking to follow in his footsteps, he offers insightful advice.

“I would tell aspiring producers that they need to get their hands dirty. Producing is not a glamorous job, but it is fulfilling. Work in a variety of capacities on set and make sure that production is what you want. Production manage before you produce; it will help you understand the crew and different departments and needs versus wants. Know your strengths and weaknesses; it will determine whether producing is for you or not. You have to have a thick skin…you will face much rejection in your life if you choose producing as a career path. You must learn to be empathetic, as you will be the boss of an eclectic group of professionals. They will have their quirks, they will have wildly different personalities and you’ll have to learn how to manage them, understand them and realize what you as a producer are willing and able to handle and what you are not. There are many production companies and crews in the industry – if one or two don’t work out, it doesn’t mean you should give up. Perseverance is key – it is the defining difference between you and everyone else who is not a producer,” he advised.

 

Pictured left to right: Kegan Sant, Peter Findlay, Rob Comeau on set of “The Bear”, photo by Stephanie Langzik
By Sean Desouza

Tips from the experts: Supervising Producer Jonathon Ridgard

My name is Jonathon Ridgard, and for over ten years, I have been working as a successful television producer all around the world, predominantly on prime-time entertainment shows such as The X Factor, American Idol, Got Talent franchises, Undercover Boss and Dancing with the Stars. As a Supervising Producer, I am responsible for leading teams of producers, associate producers and production assistants to create great television shows. I have worked on many leading entertainment formats around the world, in the US, UK and Australia, for networks such as NBC, ABC, FOX, BBC, ITV, Network Ten, and more.

No two jobs are the same; no two days are ever the same. To thrive in this industry and have a successful career, you will need perseverance, commitment, and to be prepared to put in a lot of hard work. It certainly isn’t an industry that nurtures the bewildered – you’ll want confidence to work on your skills, experience and contacts and not be afraid to work from the bottom up – with no ego.

Here are my tips, insight, and advice on what it takes to get into television and become a successful producer:

STARTING OUT – PRODUCTION ASSISTANT

My biggest advice to those starting a career in television is to start at the bottom. Irrespective of whatever degree you got in university – leave the ego at the door and learn your craft from the ground up. As a production assistant, you will get to work in every department on a show, work with equipment, and get a real insight into what life is like as a producer. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for advice. Showing a keen interest and being pro-active with your role will only make you stand out to a producer. But remember, choose the right time to ask those questions! Approach every single task, however big or small, with enthusiasm as if your life depended on it. Do the coffee run, make perfect notes, anticipate the needs of your producer and you will be off to a good start.

WATCH TV / HAVE IDEAS

One of the things that I am always surprised at when speaking to people starting out in television is the amount of time they spend watching TV – or lack of. It is so important to watch TV, films, commercials, music videos, short films – anything that might give you inspiration. Mark Twain once said, “There is no such thing as a new idea”, but what a successful producer can do is look at and take inspiration from what they see around them. I have drawn so much inspiration from the stuff that I have watched, adapted it and created something myself.

Constantly make a list of your ideas, whether it’s for a new type of show, a segment of a particular type of show, an interesting game or a particular shot that you liked. You will never know when that might work.

BE SOCIAL

I can’t stress how important it is to get to know as many people as you can, especially in the first few years of your career. Making connections is the key to success in the television industry. Jobs are rarely, if ever advertised. Most people get jobs through word of mouth, reputation and recommendation. So being a strong, creative worker with a good network is definitely an advantage. I haven’t had a ‘job interview’ in seven years and I have worked consistently. All of my work is through recommendations and network executives or executive producers reaching out and wanting me.

And finally…

ENJOY YOURSELF AND BE NICE

Working in television should be a fun, creative experience – remember that, even when things get stressful. This career has given me the opportunity to work and travel the world, meet some of the most interesting people and have the most amazing, life changing experiences – take a moment to take them in.

Remember, always be nice. It’s very easy to develop an ego in this industry, but the one thing I always remember is while it’s nice to be important, it’s important to be nice.

 

Jonathon Ridgard is currently working on the newest season of American Idol, premiering March 11th on ABC.