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Actor Shvan Aladdin’s Role in Hollywood Promotes Cultural Diversity

Playing a character that not only hits close to home, but also marks a time in history when cultural conversations are needed most is a rare and powerful opportunity for any actor.

Establishing success as one of the only Kurdish actors in the industry today, LA based actor Shvan Aladdin’s Middle Eastern heritage and colossal talents have helped bring a stronger sense of multiculturalism to Hollywood.

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Kurdish actor Shvan Aladdin shot by Bjoern Kommerell 

Capitalizing on his Kurdish roots, Aladdin has landed numerous leading roles across film and television productions in stories that are fundamentally relevant to today’s society.

His creative approach to depicting stories of substance on screen have helped to ensure individuals from around the world are seen and heard in a more authentic way.

“First and foremost, it’s an honor to know that I am one of the first to represent my country in a place like Hollywood,” Aladdin proudly shares. “But I really hope there will be many more than me in the future. And I hope that by me being here, it’ll open up the doors for many more who start to believe in themselves.”

Societal issues such as racial profiling, gender equality and women’s rights continue to surge news headlines. Cultural diversity amongst the entertainment industry however is a whole conversation on its own.

With independent studios and progressive filmmakers pushing the boundaries to expose stories of truth, cultural conversations are now the storyboard for many award-winning mini series and Hollywood blockbusters.

“I want to tell stories that are not out there. I am from Kurdistan and it’s so rare we see Kurdish stories being told to the greater audience,” Aladdin shares. “I want to be one of those who brings those stories to life. Aside from that, I want to work with stories that hopefully teaches me, the actor, and the audience something new.”

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Shvan Aladdin in the hit film “Martyrdom”

Despite seeing some movement in cultural diversity across Hollywood of late, many will argue that we still have a long way to go to achieve equal rights.

Recent studies from a 2019 report shows that out of 3,895 speaking or named characters had an easily identifiable race or ethnicity. Of those, a full 63.7% were white, 16.9% Black, 5.3% Latino, 8.2% Asian– but, only 1.5% were Middle Eastern/North African.

Focusing on roles behind the camera, the report also indicates that out of the 112 directors from the 100 top films of 2018, a mere 3.6% were Middle Eastern/North African.

Evidently these stats show great room for improvement, there’s no denying that. However most recently we’ve bared witness to change as some of the industry’s most reputable sources are praising diversity.

The 2019 Korean drama “Parasite” won the award for Best Film at The Oscars earlier this year, marking Hollywood history as the first non-english film to take home the prestigious award.

Arab-American star Rami Malek earned critical acclaim for his portrayal of Freddie Mercury in the incredible biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Malek became the first ever Arab-American to win an Oscar for Best Actor for his outstanding performance in 2019.

And although Egyptian born Mena Massoud skyrocketed to Hollywood fame for his role of Aladdin in the 2019 box office smash remake, the star has struggled to land auditions ever since.

Thus leads us to question, why is there a continual lack of diversity in Hollywood? And why is there still a misrepresentation of cultures in film and television today?

Being one of the only Kurdish actors in Hollywood, Aladdin recognizes the demands for further diversity, adding, “the truth of the matter is that there aren’t any Kurdish actors out here, and it’s a pity. I hope that we will get to a place where tons of other Kurdish actors move out here and get the opportunity to work in this town.”

He continues, “It’s crazy when you think about how big this city is and yet there are no Kurdish actors in it. I really hope for a change in that section.”

So how does one man from Kurdistan implement such change in Hollywood? By moving away from the stereotypical roles which questions the accurate representation of the Middle East.

A 2018 study showed that 78 percent of all Middle Eastern and North African actors were cast in villainous roles, such as terrorists or tyrants, something that Aladdin has personally experienced.

He shares, “I used to get many auditions for stereotypical roles. But then it got to a point where I just had enough. There are only so many terrorist roles you can do before you feel drained.”

Being one of the only Kurdish actors in Hollywood has come as an advantage to the talented star, who is leaving behind the typecast roles to depict characters of substance and truth.

“There have been many times where directors have been looking really hard for Kurdish actors and it’s just impossible to get a hold of them.” Aladdin continues, “I was in a film ‘Noise’ by Michael Aloyan and it took us weeks to find a Kurdish actress. The girl we ended up finding wasn’t even an actor but it worked out.”

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T.V. Carpio and Shvan Aladdin in “Noise”

The final casting was flawless, and the engaging film gained widespread viewing via Amazon Prime and was nominated for Best Short Film Award at the 2018 Austin Film Festival.

Aladdin’s genuine performance as the young Kurdish immigrant in the touching film is a character that hits close to home. He reflects, “My mother immigrated from Kurdistan to Sweden in the late 90s, so growing up being a child of an immigrant, I have enormous respect for immigrants.”

He proudly continues, “I know that no mother or father immigrates just for fun. It’s all about giving your children the opportunities you didn’t have growing up. All I am today, I have my mother to thank for.”
“Noise” tells the story of two unique individuals who find love in the most unexpected form with a deaf American woman and a young Kurdish man developing a connection based on sensory touch and vibrational rhythms. Using a notebook as a translator, the characters prove that when you remove language, communication really has no limits.

Their connection becomes tested when the pair are introduced to alternative characters who, according to societal comfort appear to be more suitable. But after a brief moment of contemplation, the two trust their instincts and find their way back to each other.

The optimism shown in the final scene proves that love can exist in all forms, with Aladdin adding, “It’s beautiful. It shows that there’s no limits when it comes to love… I’m so proud to have been part of it.”

Emerging far beyond the stereotypical roles, Aladdin’s career was inspired by the comical pleasures he gained from watching sitcoms as a young child.

Describing his upbringing as “organic,” Aladdin was born and raised in Slemani, Kurdistan. Looking back on his early childhood he reflects, “It was very interesting, sometimes it feels like I’ve gotten to live two very different lives. In Kurdistan, we didn’t have water or electricity 24/7, this was in the 90’s.”

Having water and electricity for most young children is a thought barely to even be considered, however for Aladdin and his brothers this was ultimately a different story.

“I remember having a water company on my street and huge trucks would come and fill them with clean water,” he continues. “Once they drove away, water would keep running down for some minutes before it completely turned off. My brothers and I used to run and fill buckets with clean water so we’d have it for the days to come.”

Reflecting on his past, Aladdin shares, “These are things we take for granted today but there was a time where I didn’t. And it’s interesting thinking about living life then compared to now. “

After migrating to Sweden with his family at age nine, Aladdin became absorbed in the world of network television growing up on classics such as “The Nanny,” “Family Matters,” “Friends” and “The Golden Girls.”

Influenced by these sitcoms Aladdin found direction. “Naturally after a couple of years I just realized that I wanted to do what those actors that I looked up to were doing,“ he shares. “The TV was my best friend for many years…it also taught me Swedish and English.”

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Film poster for “Akeda”

Profiting from his Middle Eastern background, Aladdin scored one of the lead roles in 2018’s “Akeda” directed by Dan Bronfeld. The award-winning film tells the story of a young orphan boy who, whilst filming a movie has his humanity tested when the director pressures him to give a violent performance that blends fiction with reality.

Aladdin plays the role of Mustapha, a filmworker who also lost his parents at a young age. Filled with empathy, Mustapha is torn between professionalism and succumbing to the relatable pressures that the young boy feels.

After reading the script Aladdin became riveted with the storyline, adding, “I think that viewing the world through a child’s perspective makes us question ourselves a lot. We forget that this crazy world we live in and witness, the children witness as well. They look up to us to reach a solution to all these problems. And at times we hand over the responsibility to them. I think that is the core of what the story [Akeda] is about.”

“Akeda” earned critical praise winning Best Film and Best Screenplay at the 2018 San Diego International Film Festival, Catalina Film Festival and Downtown Film Festival Los Angeles, as well as a further 13 nominations across global festivals.

Aladdin’s strong ability to paint a character’s depth and sorrow was proven in the 2018 drama “Martyrdom,” a dark film about a radicalised Middle Eastern man struggling to adapt to a society he sorely doesn’t fit in to.

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Shvan Aladdin in “Martyrdom”

Feelings of defeat takeover when the character’s heinous acts of crime result in the accidental murder of his wife and son, and the repercussions that follow will haunt his remaining years.

When preparing for the grieving role Aladdin shares, “It was a lot of responsibility but I worked day and night preparing for this character and making sure that I knew who he was completely. I ‘knew’ my son, my wife. I made sure to create a full background for the character so that even though I was alone in the short, I still had the life of the character out there to play around with.”

Being the starring actor in the movie, Aladdin was the driving force behind the film premiering at the Montreal Film Festival along with its nomination for Best Short Film.

Reflecting on these outstanding performances and the achievements which followed, it’s obvious that the plethora of skills Aladdin has on offer have helped establish the successful and influential career he has today.

“Thankfully, these past years I’ve gotten to play many well rounded characters that tell deep and beautiful stories.” He adds, “and that’s something that means a lot for my creativity and the vision I have of what I want to do as an actor. I’m not here to play a terrorist.”

Using his Kurdish roots as an accurate representation of the Middle East, Shvan Aladdin is turning heads and changing minds of those who drive diversity in Hollywood. Although a long way to go, multiculturalism is on the rise as more and more industry heads, much like Aladdin are paving the way for change.

New WWII supernatural thriller ‘Ghosts of War’ is a haunting tale about the trauma of war

When Writer/Director Eric Bress, known for such celebrated films as Butterfly Effect and The Final Destination 2, shared an early draft of his latest film with Shelley Madison, she was immediately hooked. The Canadian Producer loves a good ghost story, and the idea for Ghosts of War was that and so much more.  Set against the very real backdrop of WWII, Eric crafted a dark supernatural, psychological thriller with deep underlying themes about PTSD and trauma. Madison saw an opportunity to both captivate audiences and broaden the discussion surrounding mental health. 

Known for her work on Terminal, starring Academy Award nominated actress Margot Robbie, and Queen of the Desert, starring Oscar Winner Nicole Kidman and nominee James Franco, Madison is clearly no stranger to working on large scale, highly-anticipated movies. Ghosts of War follows five American soldiers holding a French castle formerly occupied by Nazis, who begin experiencing inexplicable events that transform their reality into a twisted nightmare more terrifying than anything seen on the battlefield. 

“What really struck me about the script was there was an emotional depth witnessing the soldiers battle physical and psychological trauma. We all know soldiers face significant hardship due to the prolonged trauma of war: PSTD, substance use, increased chances of overdose, homelessness and even suicide. When a story can connect information to emotions, it can be very powerful. It was my hope that this film would open the door to having more conversations about the issue,” said Madison.

The film stars Brenton Thwaites (Titans, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Maleficent), Theo Rossi (Sons of Anarchy, Luke Cage), Skylar Astin (Pitch Perfect, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist), Alan Ritchson (Titans, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Hunger Games), and Kyle Gallner (A Nightmare on Elm Street, American Sniper, The Finest Hours) as the five leading soldiers. It also stars Billy Zane (Titanic, Tombstone, Demon Knight) and Shaun Toub (Iron Man, Homeland) who round out some of the other characters. 

 “We were lucky to have worked with an incredibly gifted team. Our principal cast are very talented actors and have been in front of the camera for ages having worked with many notable directors already,” said Madison.

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Ghosts of War film poster

They shot in Sofia, Bulgaria, which worked well for all locations for the story, and there was also access to authentic WWII military props and vehicles which helped with prep. The mansion interior was built entirely on a soundstage, the location for the mansion exterior was Vrana Palace, which Madison describes as a perfect fit, as it is grand and beautiful while also being quite menacing, and given the mansion itself almost feels like a character in the story. Between the ideal location, props, costumes, and the score, audiences will undoubtedly feel truly transported to the terrifying and haunting battlefields of WWII.

While the film is sure to entertain audiences, while diving deep into the soldier’s psychological trauma, it offers a chance to explore ways that people can heal. Most recently, as Partner and the Chief Content Officer of the OTT network Social Club TV, the largest cannabis lifestyle content distribution platform in the world, Madison has been producing content in cannabis and plant medicine. When she came across Ghosts of War, it had another layer to it that she wanted to highlight. Psychedelics such as psilocybin, a psychoactive compound found in certain mushrooms, are having a big impact on PTSD in clinical trials, and there is a big push to legalize these substances. This new film allowed Madison to explore those ideas, and Social Club TV provides a platform to continue the discussion.  

“In my personal life I have witnessed someone close to me find transformative healing through supervised, guided use of psychedelics for therapeutic purposes to address mental health and addiction. PTSD stems from many different traumas, and anyone facing it needs multi-faceted support to help manage the pain they endure every day. No patient should have to seek solutions in an illicit environment.”  

Ghosts of War was released as a DirectTV exclusive on June 18th, 2020, but will be making its way to several more media platforms on July 17th,  available here, both on cable and various online rental services. It will then hit Netflix in October. Madison is eager to share this highly thrilling supernatural psychological thriller that brings audiences inside the mind of soldiers who are trapped in a living nightmare caused by their traumatic experiences on the battlefield.

“We have to take faster, more courageous and progressive steps to help those suffering from mental health challenges. It is my hope that research will continue to prove the therapeutic potential of cannabis and psychedelics and that we will find a path to legalization to provide people new ways to heal. In the meantime, I hope Ghosts of War allows people to feel they are not alone in what they are experiencing,” she concluded.

Be sure to check out Ghosts of War on July 17th to see this poignant horror.

#GhostsofWar is now available on DIRECTV and on VOD/Digital July 17th!  Pre-order on Apple TV TODAY

Social Club TV: the world’s largest cannabis content library, available for free on AppleTV, Roku, Amazon Prime, iOS, Android and more. #JoinTheClub www.thesocialclub.tv

Small Humans Seen through the Eyes of Master Photographer Lisa Tichané 

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Shot by Lisa Tichané 

No matter what emotional state you’re in, it’s nearly impossible to look at a child playing freely or a baby giggling without incurring a little dose of second hand joy. If you’re in need of a boost, but there’s a lack of small humans around to marvel at, a surefire way to tap back into the whimsical and playful nature of life is to look at photos of babies and children doing what they do best, playing.

Capturing children and babies in their natural, fun loving state has been a lifelong passion for advertising photographer Lisa Tichané. “If you need a little more joy in your life (don’t we all?), then look no further than Lisa [Tichané’s] work. She infuses fun and happiness with every shutter click,” wrote Click Pro’s jurors when they named Lisa among the 100 Female photographers to Watch in 2020.

Lisa’s images stand out with an energy that is candid, magnetic and absorbing. Chances are you’ve seen her images on campaigns for some of the biggest international brands in baby and health care, such as Neutraderm, Physiolac, Bactidose from leading manufacturer Laboratoires Gilbert, MAM baby, Bimbies diapers and numerous others.

Last year Lisa shot the campaign for Laboratoires Gilbert’s Neutraderm, the company’s leading skincare brand, which specializes in sensitive skin for everyone from babies to adults. Considering that Neutraderm is a skincare product, the lighting for the campaign was integral, with the baby and the adult models needing to appear soft and flawless.

Lisa nailed the brief. The images, which are currently being used in both the web and print campaign, exude a delicate feeling of tenderness.

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Neutraderm Campaign shot by Lisa Tichané 

“We were seeking a very natural looking type of photography, showing families in their everyday life without artifice yet, with a subtle artistic touch and great light,” explains Laboratoires Gilbert Communication Manager Stéphanie Mottier. “What makes [Lisa’s] work unique is her refined style with emphasis on light. She is also very resourceful and a problem solver, even on very short notice. A great artist.”

While it’s not hard to fall in love with an image of a baby, capturing them in their element is no easy accomplishment. Aside from the understandable challenges of getting these tiny models to do what the client envisions for their campaign, there are limits on the amount of time a baby is legally allowed to be on a commercial shoot, which in France, is two hours. That means the photographer has to be ready at all times to get the shot.

Lisa explains, “When working with babies you have very little time to get what you want, between naps, meals and necessary breaks, the efficient time to shoot is incredibly short. You have to be perfectly ready to press the shutter at the right moment and nail every single shot because you usually don’t get a second chance to get the perfect expression if you have missed it the first time.”

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Neutraderm Campaign shot by Lisa Tichané 

Beyond the captivating lighting and quality of the shots, the intimacy reflected between the models in the Neutraderm images, who previously had never met, serves as an even deeper testament to Lisa’s talent for setting the perfect environment.

“She definitely has her way with children and knows how to get the best out of them with absolutely no pressure. Which is also a relief for parents. She is a great photographer,” explains Mottier.

Over the past decade Lisa’s career has skyrocketed, with her images being featured on the covers of the industry’s leading magazines, such as Click and Parents Magazine, as well as within the pages of French magazines such as Photo, Declic Photo and Competence Photo, Germany’s Photographie, Quebec’s Portraits d’Enfants and Korea’s MilKorea.

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Parents Magazine cover shot by Lisa Tichané 

While Lisa clearly has a creative eye, the unique skill set that she possesses in terms of being able to photograph babies and children is something that she honed at a young age. Growing up in Marseille, France, Lisa’s interest in photography commenced in middle school when her French teacher began holding a photography workshop during lunch breaks.

Lisa recalls, “I quickly discovered that I was a very lousy landscape photographer, however I was good at taking portraits of my friends and capturing true expressions and raw emotions. I was hooked.”

A few years later one of her teacher’s gave birth to a baby boy, a pivotal event that served as Lisa’s introduction to photographing babies and children.

She says, “I quickly became his favorite babysitter and practiced my new photography skills on this tiny model. It brought me so much joy that I quickly started photographing all the babies and kids in my environment. A passion was born… I never thought it would turn into a career, though.”

Those early years of shooting photos of Quentin, and the relationship she built with her first little model not only led Lisa to fall in love with photographing children, but it gave her the invaluable experience of practicing her craft in a natural environment. Not long after, Lisa was faced with the tragic passing of her mother, a loss that forever transformed the way she views photography.

An incredibly painful experience for someone of any age, but arguably more so for a 13 year old, Lisa was distraught to discover after her mother’s passing that there were no photos of them together, as her mom was always the one behind the camera.

“This painful gap made me realize that photography is so much more than a fun hobby, it’s also a powerful way to freeze time and preserve memories forever,” explains Lisa.

 

“Before I became an advertising photographer, my first call was to photograph families. I really wanted to make sure that all of the kids that crossed my path would have meaningful images of themselves with their moms and dads to cherish forever.”

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Lisa Tichané with her sons

In 2010 Lisa opened her photography studio Tout Petit Pixel a.k.a. Tiny Little Pixel, where she focused on shooting children and families; and she’s since shot photos for hundreds of families.

For Lisa, photography has been a lifelong practice imbued with passion and inspiration, but it didn’t culminate into a career path until later in her adult life. Perhaps it is the fact that she had to make such a great effort to leave behind a comfortable career in order to pursue what really made her tick, that makes her such a passionate and uniquely skilled artist.

After graduating business school Lisa went onto work as a product manager for Sara Lee, which placed her behind the scenes on advertising photo shoots and gave her expert insight into what clients are looking for.

“Seeing the advertising photography world from the client side is something that has deeply nurtured my work as a professional photographer later on,” explains Lisa. “It has made me more aware of the client’s point of view, understanding their needs and fear, thus creating the conditions for a better professional relationship with my clients.”

For an advertising photographer there is a lot riding on getting the perfect shot, something that becomes exponentially more difficult when one’s models aren’t known for their ability to take direction.

Lisa says, “The deep challenge of being an advertising kids photographer is creating the conditions for the brief to come to life while your little models aren’t even aware that they are following your rules.”

While others may struggle to get their little models into poses, the confidence and joy that Lisa brings to her work sets the stage for a smooth and carefree set– she knows she’s going to get the shot, so she’s not afraid to let her little subjects create their own rules and enjoy the experience.

Mottier says, “Her major strength is this very special connection with children. It is also a real gain of time during shootings as they feel very at ease with her. She knows how to capture special moments.”

While the majority of photographers avoid shooting babies and children at all costs, Lisa Tichané flocks to them with love. Though her subjects are by no means easy to shoot, her passion for capturing them is clear and you can see that carefree nature and joy overflowing from her photos.

“Kids nurture me, they feed my playful soul. I know they can feel how genuine my joy is when I am with them, and it helps them connect with me instantly… Another key factor is experience. By working exclusively with babies and kids I have gathered a ton of experience which is incredibly useful to be able to handle any kind of tricky situation, and believe me, there are always tricky situations during a baby shoot,” says Lisa.

“Years of experience and hundreds of shoots have given me enough skills and confidence to truly enjoy my work without being stressed out by the many challenges of the job.”

Lisa’s unparalleled talent coupled with her years of experience shooting her favorite little subjects have led her to be considered among the best photographers in her field; and she’s earned numerous awards that prove it. In recent years Lisa was chosen as the winner of PHOTO magazine’s prestigious 2016 photo contest, as well as a finalist in the 2014 to 2017 editions of the Voice International Photo Competition, and a finalist in the 2019 Medals of Professional Photography. She was also nominated as one of the Top 10 Lifestyle Photographers in the world by the International Lifestyle Photographers Association, in addition to earning prestigious awards from l’Eté des Portraits a.k.a. The Summer of Portraits, Europe’s largest outdoor portrait photography exhibition, which features over 1,000 images biennially.

When it comes to excelling in photography, Lisa says, “My main advice is to shoot only what you truly love, because this is how your work will shine. Although I have the technical knowledge to shoot nearly anything, if I photograph something that doesn’t make my heart beat, it shows… While photography requires lots of professional skills to succeed, strong and memorable images are created with your guts first. Follow your gut.”

SPOTLIGHT ON CREATIVES: Profile On Celebrity Makeup Artist Joanna Faivre

Most articles with creatives center on those in front of the camera, rarely  those behind it. Even then, it might be a feature with the director or powerful producer. In this sit-down though, our editors thought it was worth branching out to other crew who are as equally responsible for making a film or magazine shoot as distinct as the talent who become the faces of it. 

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Joanna Faivre is used to playing a leading part in what a magazine shoot looks like, but rarely is she used to being the subject herself! Shot here by Sarah Desti. 

For make-up artist to the stars Joanna Faivre, she’s quite literally responsible for composing those very faces which become synonymous with a cover, a movie poster or an iconic advertising campaign.

Typically, we only read about famous personalities and their jet-set lives but not often enough do we hear about the team that works in the background fixing, styling and putting together the looks that make the stars shine real bright. 

Posts on instagram of stars heading towards award shows or models on set of a shoot often read: “It takes a village.” This is where an artist like Faivre comes in. 

“I love bringing out a person’s natural beauty, and also maximising and leveraging their public appeal,” explains the French-born make-up artist.

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Joanna Faivre in action behind-the-scenes for a film shoot (photo by Sarah Desti). 

The talented makeup artist is full of original ideas and her enthusiastic personality is contagious upon meeting.. It comes with no surprise that over the years she has established her as one of the go-to makeup artists high-profile individuals and companies frequently hire. Among her notable credits are features in Vulkan magazine, campaigns for Maybelline, and the holy-grail of the fashion industry – Vogue. Faivre is known for delivering the ‘perfect’ look that is on point and suitable to the job brief. 

She confirms, “staying relevant is imperative to succeed in this industry and that means for me to keep up with trends in not only the beauty industry but also look beyond and educate myself on the latest products, fashion trends and ever changing taste-standards in various cultures.” 

It definitely takes a lot of expertise to become a bankable brand name in the beauty business. Honing her skills in the age of constant change and ever evolving beauty standards, the almost obsessive fascination and passion about the industry served her well with her international clientele. With an impressive roster of clients, the French makeup artist has been painting famous faces such as Grammy nominated American singer/songwriter Stokley William, Baptiste Giabiconi (French male model and face of Chanel, Fendi and Karl Lagerfeld campaigns),  international models among them Eline Lykke, Fiona Briseno and Maud Lefort.

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A sample of some of Joanna’s more edgy work, a testament to how she has had to specialise her skillset to continue pushing boundaries in the photographic and creative industry. (photo: Margaux Rodriguez)

As mentioned, One of her career highlights was the photoshoot for an editorial spread in Vogue (Arabia edition). The shoot’s subject Haya Maraka put all her trust in Joanna and the results of the collaboration were incredibly tasteful. 

Another amazing experience for Joanna was the opportunity to work on an advertising campaign for Maybelline. After the pre-production meeting at the L’Oreal Office, the beauty expert created the entire looks – makeup and hair. “It was a delicate job because the campaign would run online on different social media platforms. I was honored the company put so much trust in my work and they were graciously relying on my creative vision.”

If one were to look at any of these photo shoots, it goes without saying that they literally would not be as impressive – from an aesthetic standpoint, or beneficial in serving the subject – were it not for Joanna Faivre’s involvement.

Joanna even has massive collaborations under her belt working together with big-name photographers such as Marie Rouge, Emmanuel Pampuri, Vincent Demarly and Ami Colberg. 

When asked what her secret is to her success, she explains that “as a makeup artist my role is to help the artist/singer/dancer during a show or actor during a movie making, not only in the way they look, but also help them go deeper into the character they have to play, by creating the according look. For a live performance, the human part is appreciated and most important to form the artist’s confidence. They need to feel they are well taken care of and it makes them more relaxed. Both my attitude and my makeup skills are important, the energy and human interaction before an artist goes on to perform.”

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Joanna is equally adept at creating elegant looks with an understated finish for clients of all backgrounds. Shot by Margaux Rodriguez.

Joanna’s one-of-a-kind portfolio combined with her positive attitude and kind personality have now opened new doors for her to take the next step in her already remarkable career. She is about to take on the American market as she will head to Los Angeles soon. There, she will get to offer her knowledge and apply her talent in upcoming commercial productions for top clients, including E-47 records and Talia Bella. 

“I am very excited about this new door opening for me, to be offered a path in the number one country in the world pushes me to be at my best. I am honored and fulfilled to have this career opportunity in the United States, I can’t wait to sublimate the talents that America has and show how passionate I am about it!

Passion and Precision: Editor Bowei Yue’s Compelling Visual Style

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By Joseph West

Although the film editor works almost exclusively in a post-production capacity, he is as essential as the actors, director, even the writer. The editor exerts tremendous artistic influence over a film, controlling virtually every aspect from pacing, atmosphere and mood to how the plot line’s narrative unfolds. The editor’s visual style enhances and elevates audience experience to a profound degree, and as such, qualifies the editor as a critically important contributor to film and video. 

Film editor Bowei Yue exemplifies the demanding mixture of aesthetics and technical skill required of the successful editor. His comprehensive spectrum of skills and flair for arresting visuals have made him an internationally known force, one with multiple best editing award wins at film festivals around the world. 

It’s been Yue’s life-long passion, one he practically born into.  

“My hometown is Changchun in northeastern China, site of the earliest production company in China, Changchun Film Studio, where Chinese films were pioneered,” Yue said. “As a child, I developed an interest in films. All the kids thought films were cool, but I always thought that the people who made films were even cooler.”

After graduating high school, Yue entered the famed Beijing Film Academy. 

“I was majoring in sound, but I realized I would prefer more engaging work that is closer to storytelling itself,” he said. “Therefore, I applied to the American Film Institute for an MFA degree in editing after college.” 

The American Film Institute in Los Angeles is one of the most esteemed and discriminating conservatory’s in the film world–gaining admittance there is no small feat. 

He wasted no time, cutting a series of well received projects (the award-winning Dark Wolf Gang” earned him best editing trophies at juried competitions in the US and Spain) and his recent work on two short films, “Balloon” and “New Year’s Eve” are prime examples of Yue’s formidable talent and versatility.

The former is an engaging, visual effects heavy action/fantasy about a bullied teen who develops super powers while the latter is an intense, intimate coming-of-age familyd drama, providing Yue a showcase for two very different stylistic approaches.  

“I’d already worked with ‘Balloon’ director Jeremy Merrifield on a TV pilot, a short film and 5 commercials,” Yue said. “We have cultivated a good working relationship and talked about this project long before he was conceiving the script, which was very personal to him.”

Merrifield’s vision and eye-popping action demanded much of Yue: “In this short film, we have close to 100 visual effects shots, some of which are very complicated,” he said. “These are not difficult in a big Hollywood movie because there you have a team of people to complete the work, but ‘Balloon’ is a short film, and most of the work was done by myself. So, in addition to the art of editing, I also invested a lot of energy in the post-production supervising.”

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The result spoke eloquently for itself, making “Balloon” a sensation on the world-wide festival circuit, screening over 30 juried competitions (including AFI Fest, New Orleans Film Festival, Palm Spring International Short Fest, Hawaii International Film Festival) and winning the Oscar-qualifying Grand Prix for Best Film at the 15th annual Hollyshorts Festival as well as the audience award at the New Orleans Film Festival. But these pale in comparison to its popularity online.

“On the day of the stream launch on YouTube and as a Vimeo Staff Pick, our views quickly exceeded 100,000,” Yue said. “We were shocked–this is very rare for a short film. Now, we have more than 4 million views on the web, it’s insane! I’m really proud of the final product.”

“New Year’s Eve” took Yue in an entirely different direction. A deliberately paced ensemble cast drama directed by Hao Zheng, it relates the tension filled tale of  19-year-old Xiaoyu returning to celebrate Chinese New Year at his family home, where he must face the consequences of his unpopular decision to enroll in a kung fu school rather than university. 

“Hao is Chinese, but heavily influenced by European films,” Yue said. “His works are basically slow-paced and have an ‘endless savor.’ I personally like this type of film, but most of my works are more fast-paced and genre-leading, so he wanted my style to collide with his and see what happens with those different chemical reactions.”

The experiment was not without challenges for the editor. “The dinner table scene in the film was a very memorable sequence,” Yue said. “Anyone who knows a little about editing will tell you that dinner table scenes are the hardest to edit. There were seven actors and the dialogue content of the entire scene was very rich, with lines coming at the same time, and a lot of improv from the characters. During editing, my core work was to always pay attention to the relationship of Xiaoyu and his mother but at the same time ensure visual diversity, smoothness of cutting along with all the other elements.” 

 

Bowei Yue_3Yue flawlessly rectified any discrepancies between takes and dialog overlaps and “New Year’s Eve” was enthusiastically received at its recent premiere screening. The film will formally release at the end of this month on popular platform Short of the Week, and has already been officially selected by more than 20 film festivals in Europe. But Yue is always looking forward to his ambitious professional horizon and has several fascinating projects in the works.

These include Director-writer Íce Mrozek’s feature “About Him and Her,” a high-concept love story with unconventional, almost experimental tone, Yuxi Li’s “Sword of Destiny” a big budget period kung fu/ action feature and Erica Eng’s “Americanized” a short focused on elements of disparate cultures, athletics and a fast moving urban visual.

With an impressive skill set, Yue’s potent combination of strong visual style, ingenuity, technical skill and keen emotional tone has established him as a talent of significant range and ability. But it’s his aesthetic loyalty–an unwavering commitment to collaboration and upholding the integrity of the filmmakers original vision–that has really qualified him as an in-demand asset in the film world.

“Many editors have said that the relationship between a director and an editor is almost like a marriage,” Yue said. “Understanding and trust are very important. Film is never a one-man-band type of thing, and an editor’s work gets done by maintaining a responsible attitude to the director. But at the same time, as an editor, you need to leave your own signature on the project. Finding that sweet balance is really important for me all the time.”

PROFILE: CAMPBELL GREENOCK Transitioning from an on-stage thespian to an acclaimed screen actor 

Born in Perth, Australia, Campbell Greenock quickly made quite a splash in on small and big screens not only in his home-country but also, now, in the North American film and television market. 

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Aussie talent Campbell Greenock shot by Sally Flegg.

At a young age, Campbell set his mind to becoming an esteemed actor who would focus on being well-trained refining his talent before eventually accepting on-screen roles. 

“I first discovered acting when I was about three years old. Me and my older sister, Scarlett, would put on ‘shows’ for our parents, dressing up and putting on funny voices. I think a part of me has known since then that this is what I wanted to do with my life.”

Since then, he followed the advice of Hugh Jackman (also a WAAPA alumni) “Say yes to everything.” Campbell really takes this advice to heart. You never know what is around the corner, but you shouldn’t say no to opportunities in the hopes that something better will come up. 

He studied at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), one of the world’s leading performance training institutions. It is recognized nationally as well as internationally for the quality of its alumni, including A-listers such as Hugh Jackman, Frances O’Connor, Marcus Graham, and William McInnes. 

After school he started his professional acting career in theater. Like Oscar-winning Australian actors before him – Cate Blanchett, Russell Crowe, Nicole Kidman – Campell mastered his on-stage performing skills before tackling a different medium. When asked about comparing acting in the different mediums, Campbell explains that training in theater truly doesn’t leave any room for mistakes. He goes on explaining “Stage actors have to memorize lines for the entire production and they don’t have the luxury of a director yelling cut in the middle of a scene to reshoot a moment the actor didn’t get right the first time.”

When asked about what theatre has taught him and how this experience shaped his acting style which undoubtedly informed his success that can be admired in the hit show Metro Sexual or the films Trembling Waves, and Pray.

“I believe my experience with the WA Youth Theatre Company is vital to my success on screen. In theater you have to be engaging every night, you can never let your performance become stale, so you are always looking to find the deeper truth. I always try to bring this to my film performances, and I hope that it helps my characters really connect with the audience.”

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Campbell performing in The Dreaming Hill, a production for the Western Australian Museum.

 

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Campbell was the star of The Dreaming of Hill, one of many theater productions which utilised his talents.

The actor certainly puts all his acquired experience into his memorable performance in the feature, Whiteley, in which Campbell takes on the lead in depicting one of Australia’s most celebrated artists, Brett Whiteley. The extremely successful film won 4 Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards. Also known as the AACTA awards, they are considered to be the Australian counterpart of the Academy Awards in the U.S. and the BAFTA Awards in the UK. The film also took home the Film Critics Circle of Australia (FCCA) Award.

Whiteley is the youngest person to ever have his art acquired by the Tate gallery. His painting The Olgas for Ernest Giles became the most expensive Australian painting when it was sold at auction for 3.5 million dollars. Unfortunately, Whiteley developed a severe dependence on alcohol and heroin, his ‘muse’ Wendy Whiteley, with whom he had a daughter, divorced him. A storied life required an actor with the deep emotional bandwith to give him justice, and Campbell continues to attract praise for his work in the award-winning film. He appears as Whiteley in his 20s.

 

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Campbell as famed artist Brett Whiteley in the award-winning Whiteley.

Campbell talks about how he was given ample opportunity to research. “[His 20’s were] a pivotal time in Brett’s life, as it is when he was first thrust into the spotlight as an artist. I was given unprecedented access to Brett’s home videos and photos, as well as interviews with him. Being able to really embody that young carefree spirit that Brett had, and how it is lost down the track, is one of the most beautiful parts of the film, and without my vulnerability and innocence that was brought to the role, that vital theme would have been lost.”

Unsurprisingly, Campbell’s journey from stage to screen is now seeing his sights set on Los Angeles. He is attached to several U.S. productions, including one involving him filming in California. The role will call for him to use his well-rounded artistry. 

As his agents at Morrissey Management, one of Australia’s leading agencies expressed unwavering praise when asked about Campbell’s prospects and future. Simultaneously, they pointed to his willingness to continually evolve.

“I love to think of every time I am on set as an opportunity to learn. As an actor, I don’t think I will ever be finished developing my craft, and the best way to do that is to build on every experience. We must always push ourselves out of our comfort zone; that’s when actors deliver incredible performances.”

 

 

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.