Category Archives: Reviews, Interviews & Features!

No Limits: Dance Artist Faustine Lavie’s Cross Cultural Excellence

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Photos courtesy SLP Official

By Joseph West

Dance artist Faustine Lavie not only excels in one of the most demanding disciplines in all the arts–classical ballet–she also has an extraordinary ability to take on, and easily master, a diverse number of disparate styles which span the entire dance spectrum. 

Whether it’s modern, jazz or esoteric contemporary hybrids like An Nuo Spiritual Dance & Art, the French-born Faustine’s limitless capacity to learn and grow as a dance artist has solidly established her as noted and in-demand force in the high pressure dance scene.  

A prime example of this versatility is her membership in the acclaimed KADA (Korean American Dance Association) troupe.  Founded in 2011 by Korean dancer-choreographer Mee Jung, it’s a contemporary dance company focusing on cultural exchange through the arts. Jung and co-director Ae-Soon Kim, the co-director aim to fuse dance–the primary element–with visual arts, music, singing, painting, and photography presented at stage shows and festivals. 

“I wanted to be a part of this company because I love their vision and the cultural mix they are trying to achieve,” Faustine said. “I like discovering new cultures, performing to music from different parts of the world and dancing different styles of movement.” 

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For the New York based Faustine, dance has always been her passion, one that manifested itself when she was just 3 years old–when she stunned her mother by asking to be enrolled in the local dance school in her native Toulon. 

“Since she wanted me to do sports or some kind of physical movement, she agreed,” Faustine said. “I honestly can’t remember how I became interested in dance because I was so young, but I loved it so much that I’ve never stopped.” 

Later, When the Lavies relocated to Paris, Faustine enrolled in the famed l’Ecole du Ballet National de l’Opéra de Paris, moved on to attend the esteemed Ecole Supérieure de Danse de Cannes Rosella Hightower as well as the notable contemporary Parisian dance school ACTS.. With a solid grounding in ballet, modern, jazz and the Graham technique, Faustine naturally pursued a spot in revered choreographer-dancer Alvin Ailey’s world famous Ailey Certificate Program in Manhattan as the ultimate component of her training.

Blessed, after three years of rigorous study, with Ailey’s formal professional imprimatur and bringing her own boundless store of creative and athletic dance skills, Faustine quickly established herself as a reliable asset not only in i KADA, but in nearly half a dozen other high profile companies (The DynamitExperience, Arim Dance, Nathaniel’s Dance Collective, Bloodline Dance Theatre and An Nuo Spiritual Dance & Art).

The i KADA company’s almost kaleidoscopic pan-cultural style has a special place in her heart: “With i KADA, the dance stays contemporary, but with a different influence in every choreography we do,” Faustine said. “Of course, some have influences from Korea and Asia in general, but not exclusively. Last season, for example, Kim choreographed a piece with an Hispanic influence–that’s very interesting for a dancer, to go from one register to another one like that.” 

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Faustine thrives on the challenges this exotic blend offers. “Some of the pieces include movements taken from the traditional Korean dance vocabulary,” she said. “We had to work hard, especially on hand details, because we were not familiar at all with this style. It was very interesting for me to learn something new like this, that we don’t have the opportunity to try or even see in Western countries.”

 The highlight for any i KADA dancer is the annual KoDaFe (Korean Dance Festival), a four day event featuring performances, workshops and competitions held at the Ailey Studio and the famed Ailey Citigroup Theater, a unique state-of-the-art performance space located in New York’s historic Hell’s Kitchen district.

“KoDaFe was created by i KADA’s Artistic Director Mee Jung to provide a cultural exchange to artists from all over the world,” Faustine said. “For KoDaFe 2019, the company performed four different pieces and I was in two of them. The first, ‘Muse,’ was about the inspiration we have as artists and each dancer represented a different musical instrument, with its unique sound, like each dancer has their own unique way to move. The second piece ‘ChunHyang,’ was inspired by a 13th century Korean story about a noble and commoner who fall in love.” Both were choreographed by Jung and actually evolved during the rehearsal process, like a living organism all its own. 

“These were new pieces in the process of creation, so the rehearsals and preparation were very demanding,” Faustine said. “Being a part of the creation of the piece connects you more deeply to it. We dancers had to be extremely focused to capture every detail right away, as we were learning new movements. It was hard work but done with cheerfulness, always with a smile.”

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“My favorite part of the festival was the amazing people and talented dancers I shared the stage with,” Faustine said. “We became not just friends, but family. The festival is not just about art, but also humanity and love.”

Faustine’s precision, dedication, unflagging pursuit of perfection and fierce tenacity have earned a prominent position as a dance artist of remarkable creativity and interpretive prowess in New York’s very competitive dance community. She wouldn’t have it any other way. 

“What I really like about dance is how you can be a different person every time you take the stage,” Faustine said. “I love exploring diverse styles and growing as an artist, because we never stop learning. Even with a great career and a lot of experience, we always have something to learn.”

Costume Designer-Wardrobe Stylist Paola Erazun’s Winning Style

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Paola Erazun with actor Martin Starr

By Dean Evans

With a deep background in both the demading world of high end haute couture and on-set experience in film and video, Costume designer/Wardrobe stylist Paola Erazun is a powerhouse force. Her combination of audacious originality, comprehensive understanding of an assignment’s full spectrum needs and ability to troubleshoot unexpected challenges with the lyric grace of a master  jazz musician’s improvisation have established Erazun as an in-demand top hand.

The Madrid-based, Argentine-born Costume designer’s affinity for fashion has been a lifelong romance. “Even when I was a child, I always loved wardrobe and I’m very creative,” Erazun said. “I am always looking at people’s outfits and I love to make people look good!”

\With degrees from Italy’s famed Istituto Europeo di Design and Madrid’s venerable Universidad Complutense, she quickly built up a resume studded with such stellar clients as Dior Cosmetics, Guerlain Paris, Audi, Givenchy, Cartier, Burger King and Chase Bank, Erazun’s flexible capacity and intuitive style allows her to take on a broad variety of platforms, from music videos to television commercials to virtually any type of branded content.

Her transition from fashion to film and video was a natural extension of Erazun’s far- reaching talents. As lead costume designer for the Spanish edition of  ‘X Factor,’ Erazun’s team created costumes for contestants, styled the judges and dressed the X Factor girls, invaluable experience that led her to a career path as costume designer.

“Working in fashion was a dream come true,” Erazun said. “I love the fashion world and everything that surrounds it but after 15 years there was a moment where I felt that something was missing. At this point, I started doing more costume design and wardrobe styling in commercials and music videos. I realized that I like storytelling more than fashion world.”

After her X Factor stint, Erazun suited word to action. “I did creative production and styling in London,” Erazun said. “I was working with many high end brands there for five years and then moved to Los Angeles.”

Relocating to Hollywood to work full time as a Costume designer/Wardrobe stylist was an ideal professional evolution, as her recent work with the acclaimed British electro-pop septet Hot Chip on their “Hungry Child” music video makes clear.

“This was a fantastic opportunity because I love this band,” Erazun said. “Such great songs, they get stuck in my head and I can dance to them all day. I’d met [director] Saman Kesh the late last year and we did some jobs together. Then he called me and said ‘I have a music video with Hot Chip and I know you will be great for this!’”

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It was practically a family affair: “When Saman told me that [actor] Martin Starr would star in the video I was very excited,” she said. Not only because I’m a big fan, but after this video I styled him for events several times and he’s such a great, professional and funny guy. Now, definitely, this video was a dream come true!”

“As Costume designer, music videos are always challenging because of budgets and timing is always tight but we made it work,” Erazun said. “I was concentrating on the wardrobe styling end, and the video’s focus was on the story line, so we wanted something very real, normal, wardrobe that, really, is not even noticed.”

“Martin and Milana played a couple and their colors were mostly in browns, green and beige,  but the other characters added a lot–the Uber driver was in a Hawaiian shirt that was great for that scene. popping some colors and a cool pattern inside the car. The therapist wore an African print shirt, we wanted her to be a kind of a guru someone a bit weird, so that shirt was the one–it couldn’t be more perfect for the story!”

Erazun’s meticulous attention to 8detail and unflaggingly creative approach were significant factors in the finished product.

“I really enjoyed it,” she said. “Working with Martin Starr and Milana Vayntrub a great experience, although it was stressful because it was such a long day shoot but the actors made my life easy, the entire team was fantastic. We all are very proud of this project.”

It was very well received, winning the prestigious 2019 Association of Independent Music’s best independent video award, and also garnering a best dance music video nomination from the UKMVA [Music Video Awards], significant events widely recognized as the premier celebrations of global music video and filmmaking.

For Erazun, it was another winning step along her colorful, steadily ascending career path.

“Right now I’m into more creative projects, colorful ones, projects with strong, engaging themes,” she said. “I really want to get into storytelling, create deeply emotional characters, based on what they feel, what the story’s situation is. And I love period pieces, recreating past eras, doing more of that is also a goal.”

With her exceptional roster of impressive credits, far-reaching versatility and profound dedication to her craft, Erazun lives and breathes the essence of the wardrobe stylist’s demanding skill set. For her, it’s the natural order of things.

“”My philosophy is always treat small and big projects exactly the same—and always put the absolute best of myself into the job.”

 

Trans Actor Jesse Todd Shines Light on Gender Non-Conformity through the Films “Parry Riposte” and “We Forgot to Break Up”

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Actor Jesse Todd shot by Jessica D’Angelo

Jesse Todd is more than just a great actor, he is at the forefront of a movement that embodies the most misunderstood and underrepresented people in Hollywood: the transgender community.

The ability to express yourself freely without judgement or criticism of others is a lifelong journey that Jesse has experienced his whole life.

“When I started questioning my gender it really opened the door for me to reflect on all aspects of myself and who I want to be. To me acting is all about honesty and lending your truth to the character you play. Understanding myself and my truth through transitioning has allowed me to approach every character I’ve played with a deeper level of empathy,” Jesse explains.  

On screen his rare ability to translate both vulnerability and resilience through his performances, such as those in the hit films Parry Riposte and We Forgot to Break Up, have continued to pull at heartstrings around the world. His leading role in We Forgot to Break Up has no doubt brought the film to become recognized as an award winning work of art. It was the winner of the 2017 Best Canadian Shortwork Award at the Whistler International Film Festival, the Audience Award at the 2018 Chicago Critics Film Festival, and a Grand Jury Nominee at the 2018 SXSW Film Festival, to name a few. 

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As a trans actor Jesse taps into the important yet sometimes uncomfortable conversation of change, especially in terms of the way one’s physical transformation alters their previous world entirely. We Forgot to Break Up, as well as numerous other films he’s been apart of, unravel the many emotions people might have towards this type of change, even when they claim to “accept” you. This conversation has made Jesse a source of inspiration, something that led him to be invited as a panelist at 2018 Trans Summit at Outfest in LA. For Jesse, sharing his experience at the summit was a way to give-back and it’s one that he was proud to have been apart of. 

The best part of the trans summit was speaking with the mostly trans audience. After a Q and A with the panelists, there was an open forum discussion. It was a safe space to talk about the experience of being a trans artist in an industry that has historically excluded us and created problematic narratives and depictions of us,” explains Jesse. “I was able to talk about some of the challenges I faced with a group of people who had had similar experiences.” 

Many of Jesse’s roles to date have shed light on the transgender community and the daily trials they face in their world. To no surprise Jesse’s leading role as Evan Stroker in We Forgot to Break Up left an unforgettable mark that carried the film to its fullest potential. The film portrays the reaction of characters of a rock band and their unresolved conflicting emotions towards Jesse’s character, who goes through a gender affirming transition and returns to meet the band after a long absence. The interactions between Evan and the band members leave the audience feeling uncomfortable, raw, and emotional.

“Evan Strocker shows up to a gig of a band he used to manage but hasn’t seen in years. These are people that he grew up with and eventually walked out on. He has written a memoir and is hoping to leave it for the guitarist, his ex-lover,” explains Jesse. “Before he’s able to sneak out the way he came in, he’s found by the current manager. Tension is very high as Evan faces each band member; they’re not exactly happy to see him.”

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Jesse Todd in “We Forgot to Break Up” by Cabot McNenly

Evan Strocker was the manager for the band “Heidegger” for years and was somewhat responsible for their fame. The tumultuous relationship between himself and the band members give rise to feelings of dread, shame, rage and despair. Jesse carefully goes in and out of his pain using his own experience to drive home Evan’s emotional experience in a way that is real and powerful. 

“To bring this character to life I really focused on those relationships of the past. I drew upon my own experiences with letting go of relationships in order to find my truth. It can be very painful and jarring to finally put your own needs first and separate yourself from people who are holding you back, especially when you love them.”

Beyond the physical aspects of transitioning, the film focuses on how other people respond and reconnect with someone who returns in their new, more authentic state. The story depicts the layers of unprocessed and uncomfortable emotions that everyone involved faces and provides the audience with a raw and palpable perspective on the journey many within the transgender community face. It’s no wonder it was the Winner of Best Canadian Shortwork.

“I like to tell stories about people who feel real and allow themselves to be vulnerable.There is nothing in this world more strange and interesting to me than people. I’ve always been interested in trying to figure them out,” explains Jesse. 

“I hope that my work can help viewers look inward and feel something deeply. I hope that I can fill viewers with creative energy that motivates them to work on their own art, whatever that may be,” 

Jesse’s natural talent coupled with his depth and courage to portray his character’s unapologetic and most authentic self on screen holds the capacity to change the hearts and minds of viewers.

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Jesse Todd in “Parry Riposte” shot by Goldbloom Micomonaco

In the film Parry Riposte Jesse takes on the starring role of Liam directed by Goldbloom Micomonaco, a QueerTrans Jewish writer, director, and producer of projects under Goldbloom Films and Made By Muses. They have created powerful films like Wet (2018), an Official Selection of TiffxInstgram, Twigg Drive Freestyle (2018), and Hunger (2017), an Official Selection of the Toronto New Wave Film Festival. Their work has permeated into community spaces such as LIFT and the Trans Collective RSU

In Parry Riposte Jesse’s character grapples with the fact that he must guide a group of traumatized teenagers who have been victimized by a traumatic transphobic event at their school. Jesse delves into his leading role in a dynamic and believable way, and leaves a memorable impression on audiences.

Parry Riposte revolves around a fencing team of gender nonconformists who have to learn to stand together after their practice studio is vandalized by transphobics within their community. 

Jesse explains, “Each member of the club deals with the traumatic events in their own way. And my character, Liam, the senior athlete, is trying to pick up the pieces.”

The story is about finding ones community and chosen families, and the lengths trans and non-binary people go to in order to make space for each other. Conjuring up the endurance it takes to face adversity against the odds and inspiring those in pain to do the same, Jesse beautifully embodies his role as Liam on screen.

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Jesse Todd in “Parry riposte” by Goldbloom Micomonaco

“Jesse has an acting skill that is nuanced and advanced… The role of Liam was originally very angry and loud, but Jesse’s interpretation of the role grounded the performance and brought Liam to life in a way that was unlike anyone else we considered for the role,” explains Parry Riposte director Goldbloom Micomonaco. “Jesse’s reputation as an actor in Toronto preceded him, and I had known his work beforehand from other film productions… Working together was an amazing opportunity.”

In the wake of his own journey Jesse’s ability to deeply connect with the characters he takes on make his performances more than realistic, they are magnetic. His honest connection with his roles establishes the same honest connection with the audience. 

As is the case with most great actors, Jesse’s background has helped lay the foundation for him to tap into the raw and authentic emotions of his characters. 

Born and raised in Ontario, Canada with a single mother and two siblings, Jesse’s family endured many hardships with a lack of money and a lot of bad luck. However, these trials did not harden Jesse’s spirit but instead, made him a more self aware and empathetic human being. Through the arts, he found a positive environment where he could utilize his talents and escape his troubles at home. 

“It was my dream to be an actor when I was a kid, and I was always performing, I was such a ham. It helped me to feel free and have an escape from my reality,” Jesse recalls. “It was what I wanted to do with my life.  But as I got older, it didn’t seem like a possibility for me anymore. I wasn’t comfortable in my body and I didn’t want to be under any spotlight.” 

It wasn’t until his transition in his 20’s that Jesse felt more comfortable and confident moving throughout the world. His journey into self awareness and the courage to allow his truest and most authentic self to shine through, allowed him to connect with his life in a deeper way; and in finding himself, he was led him back to his first love, acting.

Jesse says, “I hadn’t thought about acting in years but an opportunity presented itself and I fell in love with performing all over again.  I see acting as an opportunity to reflect on all of my experiences and apply what I’ve learned throughout my life. It’s the best job in the world.”   

Jesse’s ability to not only represent and take on the weight of a suppressed community is, in a way, heroic. He has reached the root of his authentic self in a way that takes courage and deserves recognition. The transition process of reflecting on all aspects of himself and coming to terms with who he is has made Jesse a better actor, one that is able to carry heavy roles with vulnerability in a way that is familiar and even comfortable. 

“What I have to offer is myself, my experiences and my outlook on life. I have spent a long time trying to find strength and value in myself. I’ve figured out that everything I’ve been through has given me the tools to be a great actor,” explains Jesse. “My strongest qualities are my ability to listen, empathize, and respond thoughtfully. I see every acting job as an opportunity to both learn about myself and celebrate my life experiences through the character I’m playing.”

“Outlander’s” Fergus Grows Up: All Eyes On French Actor Romann Berrux

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Romann Berrux and Caitriona Balfe in “Outlander

For the talented French actor Romann Berrux, family means everything, and these days his extended family of fans spans the globe. Through his portrayal of Fergus Fraser in the critically acclaimed Starz series “Outlander,” Berrux quickly became a fan favorite who stole the hearts of audiences across the world with his performance as a young pickpocket.

Based on the “Outlander” series of books by Diana Gabaldon, “Outlander” stars BAFTA award winner Caitriona Balfe (“Escape Plan”) and People’s Choice Award winner Sam Heughan (“A Princess for Christmas”), telling the story of a married combat nurse from 1945 who’s mysteriously swept back in time to Scotland in 1743.

Out of all the genres, period pieces are often dubbed the most challenging for an actor due to the multitude of nuances that actors must bring to their characters in order to help transport the audience to another place and time– for Berrux, it meant having to adapt his way of acting to the 18th century.

Discussing how he confronted this challenge, Berrux explains, “I really worked on pronunciation so that I could be as clear as possible, so I didn’t sound like someone from the 21st century. Also, the outfits and the atmosphere was really different. I was so into it that I sometimes forgot that we were actually in the 21st century.”

That dedication and preparation paid off, culminating in an epic recurring performance on Berrux’s part, one that led audiences to fall in love with his character every time he appeared on-screen. Over the course of Seasons 2 and 3, Berrux was a main character, starring in some of the show’s most talked about episodes, including one where his character Fergus’ loyalty is put to the test.

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Sam Heughan and Romann Berrux in “Outlander”

In Episode 2 of Season 3, ‘Surrender,’ we find Jamie (Heughan) living in the forest hiding from the English soldiers who desperately want to catch and imprison him. Following Fergus into the forest in hopes of finding Jamie, the soldiers begin to close in on the show’s valiant hero, but before they can capture him Fergus jumps in the way, risking his life to save Jamie, and losing his hand as a result. It was a pivotal episode for the show and it was one that Berrux personally loved shooting.

“I loved shooting this episode, it was so tense, and I was nervous but I dedicated all my heart to this episode because I really wanted to be as good as possible for the upcoming scene where I would lose my hand,” said Berrux. “I tried to figure out a way of feeling pain through my character. It was so nice to see people’s reactions when they saw the episode and all the heartwarming messages I received when it aired.”

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Romann Berrux in “Outlander”

As the Starz hit series grew in popularity, so did Berrux’s international fan club. Berrux, who was already widely known in France for his role as Hugo Roche in the comedy-drama series “Detectives,” became an even bigger international sensation through his starring role in “Outlander,” with his performances capturing the attention of other major film and television productions.

“Performing is the best moment for an actor, it’s the achievement of long hours of work and rehearsals,” said Berrux. “It’s the only moment where I can be someone else, totally different from my personality and that’s what I love the most.”

The passion for performing started at a young age for Romann Berrux, who was street cast at the age of 5 to take on his first film role in the popular French movie “Le coeur des hommes 2.” Since that first seemingly destined role, Berrux went on to play numerous other leading roles in films and series such as “Miroir, mon beau miroir” and TV series including “Joséphine, ange gardien,” “Brigade Navarro,” “Medical Emergency,” “Detectives,” and most recently “Huguette.”

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Actor Romann Berrux

“I think the most important thing is to love the character and the role. I have always been able to choose my roles since I live with my parents and I am not forced to do roles for money,” explains Berrux. “Acting has always been a passion for me and not something related to money. I choose each role for the love of acting and for the love of the story. I hope to always be able to continue like that. Loving the role and character helps make my job easier because I think about the character all the time and I become it.”

Berrux’s performances and the overall success of his television work led him to be cast in the key recurring role of Damien Forrest in the popular television series, “The Inside Game,” created by Academy Award-winning director Jean-Xavier de Lestrade and Antoine Lacomblez.

Though he has accrued an incredible level of success to date, Berrux admits that his career path was “very random.” But to fans around the world and the productions he’s worked on, it is clear that he was destined for a career as an actor.

“Being a child actor might seem weird for some people but it really wasn’t and in my opinion it was the best thing that could have happened to me. I had the opportunity to spend weeks on shoots learning so much about human values, respect and maturity,” recalls Berrux. “I was spending most of my time with adults who considered me as an actor and not a child, which I think definitely changed me in a good way.”

While Berrux continued to attend school like a regular kid, he maintained a calm and humble focus, admitting that he never really discussed his work as an actor when he wasn’t on set.

“I felt like it wasn’t really necessary. I was raised in a simple manner, and besides, I know that all of this is not real life,” said Berrux. “I have a very close family and friends who are always there for me.”

In a way, working on the set of the “Outlander” series brought a similar sense of closeness for Berrux as he fell in love with the story, his cast and crew and found a unique bond with his character Fergus, who he found to be similar to himself.

“I would say that we are both very spontaneous, and we are both very loyal to the people we love,” admits Berrux.

Berrux said he woke up each morning with a smile on his face knowing he was working with a fantastic crew and spending time with cast mates that he became friends with, Heughan and Balfe, so it’s no wonder that he fell in love with the whole “Outlander” atmosphere and enjoyed being a part of the show.

Those friendships even found themselves on display on social media with co-star Sam Heughan, a People’s Choice Award winner and accomplished stage and screen actor best known for his roles “A Princess for Christmas” and “A Very British Sex Scandal,” cheekily teasing Berrux on Twitter. Balfe, a two-time winner of the People’s Choice Award and three-time Golden Globe nominee, also has joined in on the fun.

It was the scene where Fergus pickpockets Heughan’s character who then proceeds to chase him on the streets of Paris, which happened to have been shot on Berrux’s birthday. It also happened to be Berrux’s first night shoot and his first time learning stunts. All told it was a great day, or in his own words, “a purely awesome day and a good gift for my birthday!”

With more than a decade of acting credits to his name, Berrux continues to surprise and impress fans around the world with his brilliant work. You can currently catch Berrux in the lead role of Rémi in the recently released film “Huguette” from director Antoine Garceau (“Presque Adultes,” “Call My Agent”), which debuted on the Arte Channel in Europe on December 6.

The film follows Huguette, played by three-time Cesar Award nominated actress Line Renaud (“Let’s Dance,” “Monte Carlo”), a 78-year-old former school principal who nearly ends up homeless before her her neighbor Marion, offers her a deal– a roof in exchange for her help in preventing her teenage son Rémi (Berrux) from dropping out of school.

“This movie meant a lot to me as I have always been a fan of Line Renaud’s work and Antoine Garceau’s movies,” said Berrux.

Having been an actor for nearly his entire life, Romann Berrux possesses the kind of range on screen that most actors spend decades trying to hone. There’s no doubt that this talented Frenchman will continue to wow audiences around the world with his work for years to come.

Actress Scherrikar Bell Brings ‘The Victorians’ to Life

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By Dean Evans

Prolific, versatile a nd boundlessly engaging, actress Scherrikar Bell is one of the most well established and recognizable forces in contemporary British television. From her earliest appearance small screen on venerable BBC series “EastEnders” Bell’s gift for creating authentic characterizations has made her a familiar and in-demand talent.

With an impressively spectrum-spanning skill set—uniformly adept at comedy, drama, action or horror—the London born-and-bred Bell is also equally at ease doing feature films, TV commercial spots and cutting edge hip-hop music videos (her mesmerizing performance as the lethal hit girl/assassin in rapper SL’s viral “FWA Boss” clip has been viewed almost 5 million times).

Along the way, Bell has become somewhat of a staple at the famed BBC network. Following her “EastEnders” debut, she graduated to roles on popular soap opera “Doctors” and currently co-stars on top sketch comedy series “Famalam” (the program earned both BAFTA and Royal Television Society UK Awards nominations in 2019).

Bell’s appreciable renown and popular cachet with viewers made her a natural choice for another significant BBC assignment, the leading role of narrator on “The Victorians.” Produced by the networks educational online Teach division and aimed at elementary school students. the collection of cross-curricular films explores contributions made by innovative 19th century Britons in the fields of science, geometry, history, arithmetic, art and music.

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While the concept may sound dry as dust, the series focuses on both the familiar (Charles Darwin, Florence Nightingale, Queen Victoria) along with lesser known characters (Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Pablo Fanque) and Bell’s light-hearted delivery—deft, loaded with charm and easy going appeal—is anything but tedious.

The presentation may seem deceptively casual but Bell, throughout, is actively involved with the instructive aspect and its particular subject—she slyly interacts with each historic figure via quips and conversational asides—creating a captivating overall tone that affords each topic an ideal showcase.

Bell’s knack for impeccably timed witticisms, put over with irresistibly cunning ease, creates a perfect persona for her youthful audience, one that thoroughly engages and informs the viewer—and making over Industrial Revolution-era civil engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel into an intriguing character is no small feat.

Bell pulls it off with a low-key yet spirited joviality that not only holds the viewer’s interest, it enhances and elevates each episode to a level where education and entertainment coexist with delightful effect. “The Victorians” is both a significant addition to Bell’s already notable resume of credits and an impressive first entry to the world of children’s television. Marvelous stuff.

Award-winning actress Liane Grant shines on the Transatlantic stage & screen

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Actress Liane Grant

The prodigious talents of British actress, Liane Grant, seems to show no ends for she has received acclaim not only for her professional work in acting, directing, writing and producing on stage, but on the screen too; and on both sides of the Atlantic, no less. 

Recently Grant co-produced, wrote and played the lead role of Meredith in the American dystopian play, “Half Me, Half You”, which debuted at the Fresh Fruit Festival in New York in July 2018, and where Grant won the Outstanding Playwright Award. The hit production also led Grant’s costar, Jennifer Fouche, to earn the Outstanding Featured Performer Award.

“Acting is so much more skilled and complex, and uses so much brain power as well as heart and soul power, more so than I think many people realize,” said Grant, who has over 26 acting credits on stage and screen.

“It also forces me to be a better person because I’m constantly having to think about different stories and different kinds of people, and look at things from a multitude of perspectives.”

An alumnus of the prestigious Cambridge University in England, Grant also studied acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts (AADA) in New York for two years. In 2015 she co-founded her own production company, RoL’n Productions, through which she’s produced “Half Me, Half You”  and other acclaimed works.

RoL’n Productions focuses on providing opportunities for women in the arts and with an all-female cast, “Half Me, Half You”, which dramatizes issues of prejudice such as on race and gender, was no exception. Grant co-founded RoL’n Productions with Roxanne Lamendola, an American actress whom she met at AADA, the alma mater of some of the best actresses of their generation, from Lauren Bacall to Anne Bancroft of yesteryear, and Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain of today.

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Poster for “Taken in Marriage”

However, Grant’s first theatre co-production for RoL’n Productions, the barbed comedy, “Taken in Marriage,” not only had an all-female cast but also linked her with yet another luminary of screen and stage, the three-time Oscar-winning actress Meryl Streep, as she performed in one of the lead roles of Andy, a part originated by Streep on Broadway in 1979.

“Working with so many talented women, knowing that we’d provided them with those opportunities to showcase their talents, was amazing,” said Grant, who ensured that seven production roles, in a variety of areas, were filled by women.

Grant co-produced “Taken in Marriage” in 2015 to be performed at the Waterloo East Theatre in London, England, with the sharp comedy focused on the character of the pretty and young Annie, as she sits in a basement on the eve of her wedding, surrounded by female family members, with long-lost feelings, frustrations and secrets on the verge of being revealed to much hilarity.

Liane Grant
Liane Grant in “Taken in Marriage”

Grant’s debut in a feature film, “Gypo,” was in the UK in 2005, but it marked a strong start to her career, as the film not only won the British Independent Film Award for Best Achievement in Production but, more so, was directed by Jan Dunn, the multi-award-winning female auteur and one of the first British directors to be listed on the Hollywood Director’s List.

“Doing ‘Gypo’ was my first professional job, and my first feature film, and for that reason it will always be a standout project, let alone the amazing team of professionals I was able to work with,” said Grant, about her first professional role nearly fifteen years ago.

Grant plays a bully in “Gypo”, which charts the breakdown of a working class family in England, when the teenage daughter of a family befriends a refugee girl, with leading roles by actors Pauline McLynn, whose credits include Tom Cruise’s “Far & Away” and “Transformers: The Last Knight” and Paul McGann, who portrayed the iconic British character, Doctor Who, in 2013. 

Gypo
Film poster for “Gypo”

Moving seamlessly from stage to screen can be challenging for any actor, but for Grant, who has performed in four Shakespeare plays for theater in the US and the UK – including as a female Julius Caesar in an all-female production – her valuable training, skills and experience make the transition back and forth almost seamless.

“Theater is wholly unique because it allows for a direct and intimate relationship with the audience: even when you can’t see the under the stage lights, even when you are lost in your character and in the moment, you feel that connection and their presence in some way,” said Grant, who has performed at the famous Edinburgh Fringe and in England and New York.

“There is certainly an electricity, literally and metaphorically, when the camera is rolling, and screen work is exciting and alive in its own way, but they are very different processes: how you prepare the character may be exactly the same, but the process for that character to be brought to life is very different.”

It is an approach that stands Grant in good stead, as she prepares in 2020 for her latest on-screen role as the character, Stephanie Miles, in the new US television series “Emergency: LA” which focuses on fictional dramas based around the emergency services of Los Angeles’ fire, police and hospital services. 

“When I watched Julie Andrews in ‘The Sound of Music’, it changed my world: I didn’t just understand the magic of film but the magic of a performance speaking to you directly,” said Grant, who also starred in film, “The Parasite,” in 2016.

“So, honestly, my ultimate goal would be to make someone else feel the way Julie Andrews made me feel, to pay the gift forward.”

 

 

From Composing UEFA Anthems to Film Scores, Yohann Zveig’s Musical Genius

Yohann
French Composer Yohann Zveig

Whether it be the film scores and trailers that touch the hearts of audiences and create palpable emotion, or the anthems played at sporting events that energize stadium goers for the anticipated event, French composer and music producer Yohann Zveig is a master at creating compositions that enrapture fans around the world.

With its power to surpass language barriers, transform a listener’s emotional state and make a listener feel something, it’s no wonder that music plays such a massive role in film, something Yohann Zveig knows all about. Zveig has composed music for countless films including Sarah-Laure Estragnat’s film “Bleu comme la mère,” which took home the Prix Saint-Germain Award, the Best Family Short Film Award from the Los Angeles Olympus Film Festival and was selected for Cannes Film Festival’s Short Film Corner, “Honni soit qui mal y pense” with Sara Mortensen (“Contact”) and many more.

Zveig also recently produced, as well as composed the score for the films “Et Voilà!” starring multi-award winning French actor Moussa Maaskri (“Mondialito,” “22 Bullets”), Samuel Wizmane (“Le Môme”) and César Award nominee Sinclair (“The First Day of the Rest of Your Life”).

A comedy film that centers on a tyrannical boss who makes the lives of his employees a living hell, “Et Voilà!” was recently chosen as an Official Selection of the Paris Court Toujours Film Festival where it will screen later this month, and the C’est Pas La Taille Qui Compte Film Festival.

“As a composer, my role is to find the right tone between the emotion of the actor and the general mood of the film by creating this binder that is music. It is a very sensitive and precise work, one must never fall into excess and yet, we must bring something more,” explains Zveig.

“So many films go through the ages because they have a very strong musical identity, I could mention a dozen of them but the first one that comes to my mind is obviously the work of Ennio Moricone who left an incredible mark to the cinema of the twentieth century.”

Having collaborated with massive names in the industry including Disney, Visual Music, Position Music, RedCola, Glory Oath+Blood, Grooveworx, Dos Brains and more, Zveig is one of the rare individuals who has managed to turn their talent into an exuberantly successful career.

Growing up in France, Zveig immersed himself in music at a young age.

He recalls, “I couldn’t help myself from hitting everything I had at hand. My parents even reproached me for making too much noise in restaurants because I was unable to stay still. I took the cutlery and hit the glasses and plates.”

A skilled drummer, pianist and bassist, Zveig proved himself to be a musical prodigy at a young age when he was able to miraculously pick up instruments and without lessons, teach himself to play simply by ear.

“The percussions and drums were my first preferred instrument. I’ve always been attracted by rhythm and groove, and more generally by drummers. Then I played the piano for the melodies and harmony,” Zveig explains. “I had a musical ear and was able to play the tunes I could hear on the radio at our at home. After this, the fourth instrument I played was the bass, mostly on stage since I sang and played the bass together.”

The multi-talented musician first began singing and playing bass on stages across France with well known-musicians such as Mino Cinelu (Sting, Miles Davis, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles), Vic Emerson (10 CC), Patrice Renson (Salif Keita, Vanessa Paradis, Mathieu Chedid) and Matthieu Chedid.

Whilst in his teens Zveig got his first computer, the Atari 520, a revolutionary moment in his life that allowed him to begin creating his own demos. From there, Zveig’s career unfolded at an incredible pace. His ability to create powerful, rhythmic and exciting compositions soon caught the attention of major sports franchises, such as the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), which brought him on to create the famous anthem for the Europa League in 2009.

“I included strings, brass, choirs and a lot of percussions.The piece had to be recognizable, it had to be an anthem in its own right, and it had to go through the times and gather the fans in the stadium,” says Zveig.

Played in 185 countries around the world, as well as in commercials, Zveig’s UEFA Europa League anthem was played during all of the matches in the competition and it was the sound fans heard through the speakers as the players entered the field

He admits, “At each final the stadiums were full of 80,000 people. It was an incredible emotion, a crazy joy to hear so many people chant my anthem”

After composing for the UEFA Europa League Zveig went on to compose the anthem for the German Federation of Football aka Deutscher Fussball Bund, the biggest Football Association of Europe, and an associate of the UEFA. Another huge mark in his career, and one that was heard by fans across the world, Zveig’s anthem was the one that played when Germany won the FIFA World Cup in Brazil in 2014.

Though Zveig has achieved inimitable success composing anthems for sports teams around the world, his capacity to create music that help bring the stories within films to life and touch audiences on a deeper level is one of the aspects of his talent that makes him so unique.

“Overall I’ve been passionate about music and cinema forever,” explains Zveig. “Unconsciously I think I’ve always been attracted to film scores. For instance, I could go to the cinema to watch a movie only to listen to the score. I think I’ve listened to more than 300 films scores. I really love it.”

In 2016 Zveig earned a nomination for the Jury Prize from the Sundance Channel Shorts for his work as the composer on the French film “Premier Jour.” Directed by Yohann Charrin (“Ta Mort en Salopette”) and starring Luchon International Film Festival Award winner Thierry Neuvic (“Hereafter”) and Alain Figlarz (“The Bourne Identity”),“Premier Jour” also won the Silver Award from the Mindfield Film Festival Los Angeles, as well as Best Short from the Cognac Festival du Film Policier.

“I am convinced that some films would never have had the success they received from the public without the music they had… music is able to seek other emotions, stronger emotions, from people. Many theme songs are so recognizable and engraved that they will remain forever in people’s minds. I think this is the true talent of a composer,” admits Zveig. “Saying this, I immediately think of the score of ‘Back to the Future’ written by Alan Silvestri, which I adore and which carried me away… as much as the story in this movie. Just at the thought of it I have shivers down my spine. I am a big fan of American composers, I can not deny it.”

Inspired by the composer of yore, Zveig has become quite the inspirational composer himself and his work on films like “Half the Sky” aka “La Moitié du Ciel,” which earned numerous awards from the International Marrakech Film Festival, Tanger Film Festival, Tetouan Film Festival, Alexandria International Film Festival and more, are only the tip of the iceberg.

Recently Zveig composed the score for the rivetting horror film “Play or Die,” which was released earlier this year and directed by Jacques Kluger.

About composing for films, Zveig says, “The score of a film is there to emphasize, and I insist on the word emphasize, the emotions in a movie. At no time should the music be at odds with the dialogue or the acting of the actors.”

For “Play or Die,” which stars Charley Palmer Rothwell (“Darkest Hour”), Roxanne Mesquida (“Gossip Girl”) and Marie Zebukovic (“Interrail”), Zveig created a score that heightens the emotions and piques the audience’s anticipation at every turn.

“A horror movie is an alchemy between images and music. Yohann’s creation came to enrich my creation to make the film. What Yohann has created is an indispensable piece to the puzzle that constitutes the film. The music he imagined is very strong because it creates the chills and anxieties necessary for a good horror film,” explains “Play or Die” director Jacques Kluger.

“I wanted a music that supports the atmosphere and emotions that I wanted to create by the image. Yohann very quickly understood what I imagined and how to create a sound universe that enriches the images. We worked together in sharing to create a true entertainment experience.”

Zveig seems to live in the mode of ceaseless creation. Back in 2004 he founded the Paris-based music label and production company Boburst Productions, followed by the production company NJNL in 2016, which is based in Los Angeles. Over the past few years he’s composed and released several major albums including “Amsterdam Rhapsody,” “Bucharest Rhapsody,” “Dublin Rhapsody” and “Hamburg Rhapsody.”  Last year Zveig was tapped by Position Music in the U.S. to compose and produce the album “Darkwater.” With Position Music specializing in releasing music for trailers, Zveig went to work creating a thoroughly diverse album of 12 tracks where each song boasts a uniquely powerful rhythm using an array of instruments and emotive percussion.   

One of Zveig’s tracks off “Darkwater” was snatched up earlier this year to be used in the official trailer for the Lionsgate produced crime-thriller “Crypto” with Golden Globe nominated actor Kurt Russell and Luke Hemsworth from “Westworld.” 

Whether he is using his talent to convey the thrill of competition that fuels the hopes of eager footballers, or composing brilliant scores that help take the films he works on to the next level, Yohann Zveig is truly a rare breed of genius and he’s one that we can bet on hearing a lot more from for years to come.

Zveig says, “I’ve always loved creating melodies and themes from scratch, listening to my inspiration. Music is a bearer of emotions and this is precisely what I’ve always searched for in composing music– to feel strong emotions that I could give to people.”