Category Archives: Production

Graphic Designer Laura Suuronen’s Flair for Arresting Visuals

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

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

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

laura-book-4

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

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

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

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

laura-at-work

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

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

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

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

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Film Financing Today by the Experts

Traditional financial models are a thing of the past, with digital platforms offering a double-edged sword of bigger buying with hard-hitting competition, and with economic volatility overseas, many experts say global independent film financing is riskier than ever.

Indeed, studios released today are only franchises, “We’re in a period of uncertainty, both domestically and internationally,” told IM Global CFO Miguel Palos to Variety. Other industry heavyweights like Weinstein Co. COO/President David Glasser says, “In the U.S., you used to say, ‘If my budget is $30 [million]-$35 million and I spend $20 million on P&A, I’ll get a minimum amount from home video and a minimum MG from certain territories.’ Now Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and others are creating so much content that it’s difficult to model out what return you’ll get on your investment.”

Though the scenery is wobbly, some specialists note that the opportunities are superior now more than ever. “Independent financiers are now instrumental in the backing of almost every independent movie inside and outside of studio slates, and more often, they’re the ones that greenlight many of the most successful commercial films,” says executive producer and financial expert Angel Cassani. “This is not what the business looked like 10 years ago.”

Angel has made incredible strides on an international scale as the executive producer of critically acclaimed films such as the fast paced assassin film “Hell’s Chain” with Latin American action star Hector Echavarria from “Los extermineitors,” one of Argentina’s most successful action films in history. As an expert finance guru and film producer, Angel knows exactly what it takes to produce a high-grossing film, and his keen attention to changes in the market combined with his ability to adapt is what keeps him ahead of the curve.

Angel says, “The increased risk is moving financiers to focus on either $10 to $20 million-and-under films, and to partner with studios on select features above $60 million, where you can hopefully protect the majority of it from international presales,” Angel also believes that. “Budgets are probably lower now for international distributors, and how much product they can acquire has lessened.”

Angel has produced successful independent films and now is set to play a big part in Hollywood. Since entering the industry in 2009 as the producer of the film “Never Surrender,” starring Hector Echavarria (“Death Warrior,” “Unrivaled”), award-winning actor James Russo (“Django Unchained,” “Not a Stranger,” “Donnie Brasco”) and Patrick Kilpatrick (“Minority Report”), Angel has continued to make a powerful mark in the industry internationally. And much of that success comes from the fact that he has not only found a niche and ever-growing market by focusing on producing films that tie in the popularity of the world of UFC fighting, but also because he knows how to adapt to the demands of the industry.

An informal survey of sellers points to some of the top buyers in key international territories: eOne in the U.K., Australia, and Canada; StudioCanal in France, Germany, and the U.K.; along with several other well-capitalized distributors such as Universum, TeleMunchen, and Constantin in Germany; Metropolitan and SND in France; Roadshow in Australia; Elevation in Canada; and Entertainment Film Distributors in the U.K. “And In a lot of circumstances, we’re selling to studios’ international divisions, whether it be Sony or Universal or LionsGate,” says Solution Entertainment Group co-founder Myles Nestel.

Angel Cassani is one producer/financier taking a new approach to the way he leads the film business. “When I started producing seven years ago, there was seemingly one way we made films. We fully financed them and didn’t need foreign pre-sales in order to cash flow the film, or need to sell them for distribution to greenlight them,” says Angel. “That’s all still true, except now it feels like each movie has a creative way to be made so I have come up with the perfect formula that make sense and we are now implementing and is working at perfection.”

“China is recognizably much more significant,” Angel says, “and even though you get a smaller percentage of the box office with what the government gets to take, it’s only rising at great speed.”

Angel is known for producing some of the best fight films in recent years, such as the action-packed love story “Death Calls” starring Echavarria, Yolanda Pecoraro (“Dancing Still,” “Death Tunnel”) and Ron Roggé from the five-time Emmy Award winning series “Stranger Things,” and Echavarria’s recent film “No Way Out,” which stars “Machete” star Danny Trejo as the villain and the dazzling Estella Warren (“Transparency”)  In order to increase the profit margin, Angel brilliantly decided to have the film “No Way Out” released on Blu-Ray and DVD in Germany where he saw a special opportunity to increase sales, in addition to having the film theatrically released in the U.S.

As for new trends in film financing, Angel says while the basic formula has remained the same — a combination of debt and equity from P&A lenders, mezzanine lenders, and money providers — “there are several new mezzanine players in the marketplace who are taking a more aggressive position than traditional lenders like the banks would.”

“Any producer looking at a program has to think about an incentives certainty in the law, in the process, and in the funding, to be sure the state or country actually has the money to pay you,” he says.

Atlanta, New York, and New Mexico are now among the top selections due to their incentives and organization, and he’s also seen a recent tendency of producers heading to Canada to take advantage of a 20%-25% tax rebate, on top of federal and provincial encouragements.

In China Dalian Wanda Group and the Qingdao municipal government’s new 40% rebate (offering $750 million over five years to attract productions) possibly impacting U.S. productions that might else go to Australia, Canada, etc.

The much-discussed arrival of Netflix and other high-end digital platforms has proven to be a mixed blessing.

Netflix is a much-appreciated buyer, “especially with U.S. distributors that have gone into bankruptcy in the last few years, and in this tumultuous period where you’re not sure if companies are going to be able to continue their services,” Palos of IM Global notes.

The ways financiers and sellers are acclimating reveal growing tendencies in global financing: more co-funding partnerships, more companies developing TV divisions, and a greater emphasis on developing projects with international appeal.

“Producers have to be open to change, take more risks, create content that’s not as U.S.-centric,” Angel says, “and not necessarily follow traditional models over the next few years, since things are up in the air.”

 

LA-Based Production Company Delphis Entertainment set to Produce Feature Film “Cocktails & Brothers”

"Cocktails & Brothers"
Film Poster for “Cocktails & Brothers”

The highly anticipated action film Cocktails & Brothers is currently in development with innovative Los Angeles-based production company Delphis Entertainment, which has earned extensive industry attention over the last two years for past productions such as the films Last Strike and Pas De Duex, and the series Unknown.

Starring Marcos Gracia (Love in Difficult Times, Paco’s Men), Isaak Gracia (Un Paso Adelante, Black Jacks), Alfredo Trueba (Corrupt Crimes, Liberty Falls, Absolute Vow), Gaia Passaler (The Chosen Path, Toenail) and Park City Music Festival Award winner John Paul Ouvrier  (Natalie Portman Lives Here, The Shickles, Boiling Pot), Cocktails & Brothers is set to begin shooting within the next few months with locations between New York City, Las Vegas and Valencia, Spain.

The film centers on two brothers who leave their home in Spain and head to Vegas where they dream of opening a cocktail bar. Upon arriving in Vegas they meet Frank, a club owner who initially appears to be exactly the kind of helpful mentor they need in order to bring their business to fruition however, not all is as it seems in Cocktails & Brothers, and Frank may turn out to be the foe who will put both their lives and their sibling relationship at risk. And as with any hit action film, there’s no absence of a building romance that’s assured to heat up the screen in the film Cocktails & Brothers. When Victor, one of the brothers, falls for Amanda, the ladder climbing manager of Frank’s club played by Gaia Passaler, the drama and the danger are heightened as everyone’s true motives are called into question.

Delphis Entertainment produced the trailer for the film, which upon it’s release has already created quite a buzz around Cocktails & Brothers, with the trailer being selected as a winner of the 2016 Creation International Film Festival and a semi-finalist at Los Angeles Cinefest, as well as being chosen as an Official Selection of the popular TMC London Film Festival, Gold Movie Awards, Indie Night Film Festival, Barcelona Planet Film Festival, TMFF and DMO Film Festival.

Delphis Entertainment, which is co-founded by brothers Isaak and Marcos Gracia, first began in 2009 in Madrid, Spain where the company quickly became a go-to production company for short films and music videos. After making a strong impact on European audiences with projects such as the films Apariencia Oculta,  Sueños Reales and Why Not?, Delphis Entertainment opened their U.S. office, where they have continued to deliver powerful and poignant productions.

Last year Delphis Entertainment produced the series Unknown, which earned impressive praise earlier this year when  it earned the Best International Web Series Award from the Sundance TV Short Competition. A sci-fi comedy that follows a young man who finds something unidentifiable in his apartment that opens up the doors to infinite phenomena, Unknown was co-created by Isaak Gracia and Esteban Ciudad (Fuera de Foco, Algo Extraño), and stars Marcos Graci and Mikie Beatty (We Are Fathers, NCIS, Secret Diary of an American Cheerleader).

"Last Strike"
Film Poster for “Last Strike”

In 2015 Delphis Entertainment produced the popular short film Last Strike starring Tyler Michael Brown from the film The Wedding Ringer starring Image and People’s Choice Award winner Kevin Hart, Varda Appleton (Rz-9, Ripe, Sleeper) and Randyll Roberts (A Killer Walks Among Us, Blood Relatives).

Inspired by a true story, the touching film drama Last Strike tells the story of Samuel, played by Brown, an 11-year-old boy who makes it his mission to beat the odds and hit a homerun in the most important baseball game of his life in order to fulfill his dying grandfather’s last wish.

Delphis Entertainment clearly hit a home run with Last Strike with the film receiving a rave reception and being chosen as an Official Selection of the ROMA Cinema Doc film festival and the Indie Night Film Festival.

You can check out the trailer for the short-form version of Last Strike below, but don’t be surprised if this quick peak gets you amped to watch the feature-length version, which is currently be developed by Delphis Entertainment.

With their multicultural approach, seemingly endless creative and several highly anticipated feature films in development, Delphis Entertainment is assured to be a powerhouse in terms of cutting edge film and television content in the U.S. as it is in Spain.

A Star Behind the Scenes: Victoria Marino on Adventurous Filming Around the World.  

Victoria Marino
Production Coordinator Victoria Marino representing Brazilian Production Services at the Los Angeles Brazilian Film Festival

 

The rapid pace and apparent dangers of reality competition shows set in the jungle and outback might suggest that productions simply throw contestants into unchartered territories, leaving them to fend for themselves. In actuality, hugely successful shows like “The Wheel” on which Victoria Marino is a production coordinator, require a detailed set of procedures, top-notch crew, and a precise plan of action to coordinate. We sat down with Victoria to discuss the importance of her role, how she got to where she is in her career, and why she loves her position in the entertainment industry.

That Victoria has a diverse skill set is simply one reason why she has provided indispensable contributions to film and television productions, particularly those shows filmed in South America. It helps that the company through which she completes most of her assignments, Figura Media (aka Brazil Production Services), specializes in premium documentaries shot in Brazil and has been responsible for the Netflix hits “Chef’s Table” and “Fearless.”

“Speaking the local language, understanding the work culture, having the local contacts of competent crew, equipment houses, etc, and having knowledge of Brazilian locations is what allows me to do my job,” explains Victoria.

She also tells us that her bilingual skill set definitely sets her apart, explaining, “The fact that I am Brazilian, but have lived in the US for a few years now, speak perfect English and have knowledge of American culture allows me to completely understand the needs of my clients and deliver results up to their expectations or hopefully, surpass them.”

For the survival show “The Wheel,” which airs on the Discovery Channel, Victoria had the critical responsibility of being the production coordinator for two of the Brazilian shooting locations out of the show’s six. Because those two locations were the Amazon Rainforest and the Pantanal certainly would have added obvious challenges, not to mention that Victoria helped lead a team of 40 people employed over a period of three months to make this production happen.

Ultimately though, Victoria enjoyed overcoming such obstacles. “‘The Wheel’ was a project in which I learned a lot because it was so big and so fast paced. I had to be connected with the crew at all times, and be ready to solve any problems as fast and as efficiently as possible.”

Brazil Production Services not only works on reality shows like “The Wheel,” but as Victoria explains, acts for a number of other high-profile companies: “We serve a variety of clients for fiction, institutional and commercial projects, including but not limited to several shoots for the UFC, an institutional photoshoot for Addison Design and PEPSICO, a second unit for a Marvel Disney feature and others.”

That Marvel feature was just one example out of a large number of big-budget projects in which Victoria has played a critical role. She elaborates, “I love that I get to work on a variety of projects that have different a theme, size and scope, and allow me to learn about the many different aspects of producing while adapting to the specific needs of each job.”

It’s not just Victoria who holds the opinion that she played a key part in the success of these projects produced by Brazil Production Services. Jud Franklin, VP of Production at PIV who is also well known in the industry for his executive roles in UFC shows, proudly exclaimed that his team “could not have been happier with the expertise and critical role provided by [Victoria],” adding that they “look forward to [their] continued work with her at [BPS].”

So it’s probably safe to assume that there are more dangerous adventures coming up for this successful globetrotter.

“This year, some of the exciting projects we have coming up are a premium documentary about MMA for Netflix, an episode of the NBC show ‘The Voyager’ with Josh Garcia and the second unit of a Brazilian feature film shooting in Orlando.” She adds, “I am leading new marketing initiatives at BPS to get new Brazilian clients that want to film here in the USA also, since most of our clients are foreign clients that want to film in Brazil.”