Category Archives: Reviews, Interviews & Features!

‘Billy Elliot’ star Alexander Loxton on Acting and Dancing His Way To the Top

‘Billy Elliot’ star Alexander Loxton has managed to do what few performers do: master skills across different mediums in stage and screen. The combination, he says, has actually helped him excel in both areas because he’s constantly challenging his craft and ensures that he does not become complacent in one area.

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Alexander has had to maintain a high-level of athletic discipline in his performing career, as his roles as a dancer and actor often require copious amounts of rehearsals.

“There’s a tendency sometimes as an actor to get a little lazy, because there’s a perception you need to be natural on camera, or just say words, but I think I’ve been lucky with my background and training as a dancer as I feel that it has helped to give me a foundation and structure for staying disciplined,” he offers in our interview.

Indeed, Alexander has been working on his skills as a performer since a very young age. In a path ironically similar to Billy Elliot himself, Alexander hails from a working class background and ended up training at the Royal Ballet School. These life experiences clearly offered Alexander inspiration to draw from when it came to performing as a dancer and actor onstage for over a year, calling on the highest degree of discipline. The production, performed at The Victorian Palace Theatre on London’s West End, was sold-out on a regular basis and received rave reviews in The Sun Newspaper and Guardian. 

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Alexander performed on numerous occasions at the famed Victoria Palace Theatres on the West End in London.
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Alexander on-stage as ‘Billy’ in ‘Billy Elliot’, dancing with the younger-version of his character.

Indeed, sources advised our editors that dancers and performers in a high-profile production like Billy Elliot have to be of the highest standard as they are intended to show the greatness of what Billy can be one day potentially become. As Alexander played the role of older Billy, he was tasked with carrying the show on his literal and proverbial shoulders in showcasing to the audience how masterful a dancer Billy turns into.

“It was daunting to say the least, but I was definitely up for the challenge. There is a long routine with only young Billy and Older Billy on stage with an incredible aerial acrobatic section. The role requires very advanced classical ballet ability as well as highly skilled acting and singing skills throughout the rest of the show.”

Alexander speaks with affection when discussion how the show was a rewarding experience for him, not only professionally and commercially – as he was able to command a high-salary for the privilege – but personally too.

“It’s very rewarding to inspire a younger generation. And the whole show felt very close to home for me because it was obviously a role that I related to – I felt pulled towards dancing as a youngster but not many people understood my interests because of the town I grew up in. Now that I’m also an actor working in TV shows and films people sort of understand and love it more even if they don’t understand the industry completely’ he adds with a laugh.

The other bonus of performing in such an acclaimed production was the audience who would would enjoy Alexander’s performances on a nightly basis.

“It was pretty cool – Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher came to watch once, as well as members of the Royal Family.

The high-profile success of Alexander’s role in Billy Elliot helped reinforce his reputation as an in-demand performer known for a compelling screen presence as much as he is employed for his athletic stage presence. The by-product of having such a positive name in the industry, and being a master of multiple skills, is that Alexander has been selected for huge commercial campaigns.

For a Marks and Spencers special Christmas campaign, Alexander was selected from over 500 auditionees.

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Alexander featured front-and-centre in a campaign for leading department store Marks & Spencer, which called on Alexander’s talents as both dancer and actor.

Alexander explains. “This is a huge event as every year all the major supermarket chains release very high budget Christmas commercials. I was featured on TV and online for my dancing and acting. We were lucky enough to film at Warner Bros studios in London (in the same studio they shoot the biggest productions such as Harry Potter.)”

“British artists should support each other, especially as we continue to make headway in the United States – I feel lucky to be considered a valuable part of a small and supportive community of working artists, performers and dancers.”

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Britain’s Dionne Neish on timely new podcast ‘Purple Panties’

As a child, when Dionne Neish was being read to, she would imagine she was the main character in the stories, becoming a hero and fantasizing of traveling in spaceships and seeing other worlds, playing warriors and princesses and anything else she could imagine. It was a natural transition to go from playing a role in her head to playing one in front of a camera. She sees her job as an actor as a method to leave a lasting impact on her audience. She has known since the age of five that she was meant to get into acting and has spent every day since in love with the craft.

“I wanted to go into acting to entertain people. I loved the way I could affect another person by not being myself, by playing a role,” she said. “I wanted to be an actor as I felt characters were far more interesting than myself, why not live in another person’s shoes for a while.”

Neish is now known for her tremendous ability to captivate an audience, sometimes with just her voice. She has done just that in renowned productions, such as ABC’s long-running soap opera General Hospital, the 2018 Golden Globe nominated television series Better Things, and more.

Earlier this year, Neish also began working on yet another celebrated project, the podcast Purple Panties. The series, the first of its kind, is a scripted fictionalized erotic drama whose characters were Black female leads from the LGBTQ community, which drew Neish to the show.

“I wanted to be a part of this project because of the interesting and fun storyline, and it highlighted part of the community that I believe hasn’t been given enough main stream platforms. I’ve been lucky enough to work with several female led projects in the past. Being part of an all-Black female cast was refreshing and exciting. This is a story written by a Black woman, told by Black women. Representation matters and when you get to be a part of that it’s like coming home, and the camaraderie is electric. We need more stories from these and other POC perspectives. This is a story about the LGBTQ community without the stereotypes. It’s sexy, it’s funny and you’ll be hooked once you listen to it,” said Neish.

Created by New York Times Best Selling Author Zane, the podcast is based in Atlanta, telling the story of Maddox, Loren and Stephanie, who go against the grain when it comes to sex. But as relationships shift and physical needs change, can they keep up with the facade? This is about the sacrifices people make, the mistakes they make because of pride, and trying to find love in a world where the characters are seen as less because they are women, black, and gay.  Listeners follow them on their journey as they navigate their professional and personal lives.

In Purple Panties, Patricia is a vital role in telling an important and timely story. She is a self-made business woman who thinks she has the upper hand with Stephanie, played by Melissa Williams. Patricia soon realizes that Stephanie is smarter than she looks and isn’t going out without a fight. Professionally, she is big wig in the entertainment industry. She is a successful showrunner with lots of hands in different pies. She’d worked hard to be at the “big boys” table, a space occupied by only white men. She’s had to prove herself time and time again and now she is in a position where she gets offers from attractive women.

STITCHER_COVER_PurplePanties_3000x3000_Final“Obviously with the #MeToo movement, it reminded me of the stories that we’ve heard over the last few years of people abusing their power. This was an opportunity to get inside that mindset, what makes this person tick; why would someone with so much to lose take those chances? It was interesting to explore,” said Neish.

While recording the podcast, Neish found a sudden and unexpected source of inspiration. She walked into the same recording booth that Michael Jackson had recorded his ‘Bad’ album in the eighties. As a massive MJ fan, Neish was immediately taken aback. Knowing she stood in the same place that her idol had once stood, she was excited and inspired to work even harder.

Purple Panties premiered on Stitcher.com, which also premiered Issa Rae’s Strange Fruit, on October 11th 2018, followed by an episode every Thursday. The final episode was December 6th, but the entire series is now available to binge on Stitchers.com.

“I love having the opportunity to tell stories that inspire. Fans have reached out to me on Instagram, telling me how much they love the show and how juicy it’s getting and that warms my heart. That’s really all you wish for as an actor, that the audience is enjoying and coming along for the ride,” said Neish.

The next year promises to be very exciting for Neish. She has two projects coming out that she still can’t discuss. All she can say is that she got to work with two different Oscar winners on two highly-anticipated projects. One will be released soon, and the other on Netflix later in the year.

In the meantime, be sure to check out Purple Panties.

 

Written by Annabelle Lee

Walt Disney Animation Studios Hosts Bali: Beats of Paradise

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

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

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

Actor Elvira Sinelnik Makes Dreams Come True

Actor Elvira Sinelnik has perfected both the art and science which her profession demands. As a raw, expressive emotional conduit and precise, impeccable technician Sinelnik is an unrivaled practitioner, one capable of presenting wholly convincing, on-target characterizations. And while her native Moscow has deep roots in the dramatic arts, Sinelnik’s early career path was something like a fairy tale with a modern twist—the naturally talented golden girl caught in the corporate web of Russia’s monolithic bureaucracy who made a surprise Hollywood elopement live out to follow her dreams.

“I was born and raised in Russia, Moscow,” Sinelnik said. ““From my childhood I dreamt of becoming an actress, attended acting classes, dance classes, took part in a lot of plays in camps during summer holidays. When I was 16 I was cast as a host for a show on a very famous TV channel, but due to some personal and family reasons I had to reject it.”

Despite pressure that pushed her in the opposite direction, the tenacious Sinelnik refused to give up.

“Regardless of my education in economics at the State University of Management, followed by prestigious and well-paid job in the upper chamber of the Russian Federation parliament and a number of private companies, I always dreamed, studied and prepared to become an actress. It required time and effort but I finally moved to Hollywood to pursue my dream.”

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Photo by Maria Artos (Top Photo by @K.i.n.o.f.a.c.e)

In Southern California, Sinelnik immersed herself in the craft seeking out some of the leading forces in the field, studying at the prestigious Los Angeles campus followed by courses with the leading educators.

“My acting education continued at well-known Broadway actor-writer William Burns’ Actors Gym,” Sinelnik said. “Also James Franco’s Studio 4, the Bernard Hiller Studio theatre by, and classes with award winning instructor Anthony Montes where I learned the Meisner technique.”

The skilled young actor was a natural and she thrived in the studio setting. “Elvira is a very special person,” Hiller, one of Hollywood’s top Acting and Life Coaches, said. “I wassurprised at how quickly she understood all the latest acting techniques I taught her. She has a unique ability to become the person she is playing in a role and anyone who gets a chance to work with her would be lucky.”

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Photo by Justinia Romanova

Montes was equally enthusiastic: “In my 30 years of teaching Elvira is one of the most talented, hard-working actors I have ever encountered. She constantly sought out more work than was given her. She was always prepared, on time and supportive of her classmates. She has a passion for the work that is unmatched. She is not one to idly wait for her phone to ring in hopes of getting an audition—she is someone that will create her own opportunities.”

Sinelnik quickly moved on to independent shorts and the grind of the audition circuit.

“I audition for a feature movie where I played mafia boss, a cold-blooded, cynical, power-hungry woman,” Sinelnik said. “I became so caught up in the character that even my husband didn’t recognize me when I came back from the audition. I got the part, but for some financial reasons the film wasn’t shoot. But that experience was truly amazing.”

In short order, she began to appear in such feature films as Franco’s dark,intense “The Institute,” Kasra Farabani’s thriller “The Good Neighbor,” Jaden Hwang action film “Bloody Hands,” all fabulous opportunities for Sinelnik to gain additional exposure and work alongside stellar cast featuring luminaries like Franco, Orlando Brown and James Can.

“Being on set with James Franco for ‘The Institute,’ was wonderful,” Sinelnik said. “I was playing a nurse, but felt more like a fan. It was a really incredible experience to observe how he becomes immersed in his character and always be absolutely truthful on camera.”

None of this was lost on Sinelnik, whose depth of talent and ability, taken with an acute regard for, and total absorption of, her particularly rich resume of dramatic training, qualifies her as one of Hollywood’s fastest rising assets.

As Willow Tree Entertainment Films producer Elena Bleskina said: “I met Elvira when I was casting for a feature film project based on the novel ‘A Hero of Our Time.’ I saw something very special in this pretty girl with the beautiful blue eyes, and now she is a part of our team at Willow Tree. Elvira is sensitive and sensual actress willing to train hard to become the best she can be.  I am proud to know her and I know there are lots of successful projects in her future.”

Look for her next in dramatic forthcoming feature “City of Stars,” further evidence that the ambitious, charming Sinelnik is up for just about any conceivable role the dramatic spectrum can throw at her.

“I’m interested in challenging characters,” Sinelnik said. “Roles that force me to leave my comfort zone, immerse into my deep fears and overcome them through the role. I’d love to play a really bad character. I would find inside of myself one of her negative features, even the smallest one, and develop that into a full-fledged personality. I want to create inspiring films that can change people’s thoughts, and give even more hope to this fantastic world.”

 

 

Varunn Pandya talks finding the right dream and pursuing it

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Varunn Pandya, photo by Chaaritha Dheerasinghe

When Varunn Pandya, 21, was growing up, he watched all kinds of movies and found himself enamored by the different journeys they took him on and the different perspectives he felt towards the world. Today, he can proudly say that love for film has only flourished and he has since established a reputation as a talented, unique screenwriter and director. He finds the concept of writing down his thoughts and ideas to be cathartic and he has spent years attempting to learn as much as possible about the arts in order to better himself for the benefit of his eventual audiences. For Pandya, the true luxury that his profession affords him is the luxury of getting to explore different characters and different worlds. Not only is this what attracted him to writing in the first place, but it is also what keeps him coming back for more time and time again.

Throughout his career, Pandya has allowed himself to pour his heart and soul into a number of phenomenal scripts. He is his own toughest critic and his own strongest motivator, pushing himself to ensure that he only brings high quality content before his viewer’s screens. For Pandya, there is no room for slacking in screenwriting and he feels as though giving 99 per cent just simply doesn’t do justice to the tales he aims to tell. He is well known for stories like Dilemma and Homeless and he has made a prominent name for himself in the industry. He has even earned a number of competitive awards, including Best Short Screenplay at Five Continents International Film Festival and at the Calcutta International Cult Film Festival in 2018. What the talented young man lacks in years of experience, he makes up for in sheer talent and so long as he has a pen and paper, he hopes to continue creating compelling stories to share with the world.

Later on in September of this year, Pandya earned himself even more recognition when his script XYZ was chosen as an Official Selection at the Trujillo International Independent Film festival and also when he won the award for Best Sci-Fi Short Screenplay at the Hollywood Just4Shorts Film and Screenplay Competition. When he sets his sights on a script, there is very little he won’t do to make it a success and these awards are a testament to that commitment.

Alongside his friend and colleague, Bader AlShuaib, Pandya developed a concept for XYZ and carefully but considerately determined how best to showcase it before the eyes of thousands. XYZ is about the human tendency to be inherently racist and biased towards people with a certain body type or complexion. In an uncertain future, it centers around Martha, a newly-wed African-American woman who convinces her husband to make her dream of having Caucasian children come true. To achieve this dream of hers, they undergo a special experimental procedure so as to be able to select each and every trait of their future children. Slowly, Martha realizes that in the process of making her dream come true, she ends up destroying everyone around her.

When AlShuaib and Pandya began brainstorming for the script, they pulled inspiration from films and shows like Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner and Black Mirror. As both works have successfully done, AlShuaib and Pandya wanted to delve into the scientific fiction genre and determine a way to challenge the minds of their audiences with a thriller-like, psychological spin. Ultimately, they wanted to explore a deeply human story against a futuristic setting. It was unlike anything Pandya had done in the past and he was awoken by the enjoyment it brought him.

“Unlike my previous work such as The House, a futuristic setting was something I hadn’t ever tackled before. The novelty of this itself made this script an interesting challenge. Even my co-writer, Bader, had not written anything like this before and, hence, was equally passionate about diving into a new world and figuring it out. The writing process was very different to my previous projects. This was the first time I was collaborating with someone and it was important to make sure that I wasn’t curbing his creativity. In my opinion, our writing relationship was very smooth. I would write a draft and send it over to him. After a week or two, he’d tweak it and send it to me. This back and forth eventually resulted in the final script – one that we’re both very proud of” shared Pandya.

Writing XYZ and having it achieve such success in its early days served as a reminder that Pandya has what it takes to pave a change in the film industry. He considers himself fortunate to have found what he truly loves to do so early on in his career. To others out there aspiring to follow their dreams and do so with success, Pandya had the following advice to offer:

“To anyone looking to pursue a career in this industry, I would advise them to be ready to have sleepless nights, go a few months without decent work or pay, and face rejection. If they can accept this, theirs is going to be a smooth ride. I would also ask them to only pick this industry if there’s nothing else they would do even if it paid better. This industry demands that kind of a passion.”

 

Written by Annabelle Lee

Actor Jolie Chi’s Rising Star

Born and raised in Taipei, Taiwan, actor Jolie Chi is now internationally recognized for her award-winning roles. She is currently featured in the Sony family adventure feature “Destined to Ride,” 0pposite award-winning Hollywood talents Denise Richards and Joey Lawrence, the latest step in an impressive career.

A highly talented actor, Jolie Chi has established a reputation for being an invaluable asset to every production she takes part in—and many of these projects have received awards specifically because of her involvement and exceptional performances. Chi’s lead role as the title character in offbeat indie release “My Lunatic Lucy” accounts for more than half of awards which the film received, including Best Actress at the Independent Short Awards, Best Actress at the Top Shorts Film Festival, Best Actress in a Comedy at the Actor Awards, and Best Actress at the LA Short Awards.

Despite some fierce competition, Chi’s appealing charisma and high energy style practically guaranteed her being cast as “Destined to Ride”’s Amy Tsai. The character was written as much younger than Chi, a challenge which the skilled actor eagerly rose to.

“The key to portraying a character that’s younger than me was to review every little thing I went through when I was growing up,’ Chi said. “While doing that, I would write down my emotional state—excited, spoiled, easily embarrassed—and also, of course, go through the changes I have made since I have grown. I sat down, closed my eyes and thought back to how I was as a kid because I was a wild and fun one so I thought playing my younger self will make Amy stand out the most.”

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“Destined to Ride” represents a critical upshift in Chi’s already fast-moving career, one where she worked alongside, held her own and learned from a stellar roster of established stars. It was a golden opportunity which the ambitious young actor definitely made the most of.

“The interaction between Madeline Carroll and myself was so much fun,” Chi said. “She’s so positive and really inspired me. Madeline taught me to really learn about every human being so that you’ll know how to specifically mimic them.
A remarkably versatile actor, Chi also recently made a music video appearance in pop sensation Justin Timberlake’s 2018 hit single “Filthy,” and has also played lead roles in numerous high-profile commercials, including Momo (a Chinese instant-messaging service) that was featured in movie theatres and on billboards across China. Expect to see much more from Jolie Chi.

Motion Graphics Designer Rupa Rathod talks working with Kylie Minogue and living her dream

Being a motion graphics designer gives Rupa Rathod the opportunity to channel her vast creativity. While designing and creating LED screen content for pop tours, events, television performances, and awards shows, she has the freedom to create anything and everything while working with some of her musical idols. Each treatment differs from the last, and she is always challenged to interpret a client’s concept, something that she finds hugely fulfilling. For this English native, there’s nothing that can’t be achieved, and she enjoys all aspects of the journey; it’s a feeling of achievement that she doesn’t think will ever go away, and what keeps her constantly motivated.

“Combining the two passions I have; music and the creativity of motion graphics design was like taking two perfect past times and fusing them together. It seemed like a natural progression in my career, to channel my creativity as a motion graphics artist into music. I was determined to make this happen any way I could,” said Rathod.

Rathod started working for Blink in 2014, where she was employed as an editor initially focused on screens for music festivals. She pushed herself to prove her talent and was quickly given an opportunity to work on a high-profile tour with Robin Thicke. Since that time, her work in creating graphics for concerts has gone from strength to strength and is now well recognized and well respected at the top of the industry.

“My style of designing is always very much influenced by the music I’m working to, whether it’s a pop song, metal, drum and bass, indie, it all determines the style the content needs to be in.

I’m fascinated by light installations and lighting design which is always very sharp, bright and tightly timed to music, so everything I design always has that accuracy to beat responsiveness and the biggest moments in music always need to be visually bigger. I focus on making obvious moments in a track very obvious on screen and the ability to be able to do that is what I would define as my own style,” she said.

This past September, Rathod worked alongside Kylie Minogue for a second time on her most recent European tour, Golden. Rathod had previously worked with the pop icon on her “Kiss Me Once” Tour in 2014, and the two formed a close professional relationship when working on her Sleepwalker film.

Having turned 50 this year, Kylie’s new album channeled her country side, and “Golden” was released. The album was recorded mostly in Nashville, giving it a very authentic country feel and setting the tone for her new tour. The concept for this 2018 “Golden” Tour revolved around a journey from a desert landscape to Nashville, which would eventually all come together in a 70’s spaghetti Western style movie interpreted on stage with Kylie as the protagonist. Rathod was brought onto the team right away, creating content for the tour while Kylie promoted the album, and the motion graphics designer was extremely excited about the concept.

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Kylie Minogue performing “All The Lovers” on her “Golden” tour

“I loved the conceptual idea of creating a 1970’s movie executed through the medium of a full multi-sensory concert and working with filmed content to create a cinematic visual was a beautiful piece of art,” said Rathod. “This tour was a completely new direction for Kylie and her dedicated team. It was a bold new move for everyone involved and to see it met with such positivity was gratifying.”

While working on the “Golden” tour, Rathod worked closely with Creative Director Rob Sinclair, who she has worked with on many projects throughout her career, including Kylie’s “Kiss Me Once” tour. Sinclair trusts Rathod’s ability to take his references and turn them into more graphical visual concepts. They understand each other’s styles and they work well developing them. For the “Golden” tour, there was a lot of filmed content, which is not often done; it adds a decadent touch and requires a large scale of planning. Rob and Kylie’s vision featured a lot of filmed content, which is what made the show so rich and so bespoke. It spoke for itself and helped to narrate the journey the audience were being taken on. The desert scenes at the beginning half of the show were filmed in California and Nevada deserts which was handled by Kylie’s longterm Video Producer, Tom Colbourne and the Blink team in Los Angeles. The second half of the show was shot in a London studio which was handled by Producer, Kirsten McFie and and Rupa in London. Rathod worked closely with Sinclair on the shoot, who was feeding his thoughts and notes to her on the day, which helped her get a sense of how it would sit in the show. She ended up working across all the content through the London post production and onsite rehearsals near Birmingham right up to opening night in Newcastle.

“This tour was an incredible experience to be a part of, not only because Kylie’s team remain wonderfully warm and welcoming, but also because Kylie herself has a huge amount of input into every aspect of her shows and she’s always so grateful to everyone involved. Her enthusiasm and excitement make all the hard work and devotion worthwhile. Kylie is genuinely just a very lovely artist who appreciates the hours of hard work and dedication that everyone puts into creating her shows with her,” said Rathod.

Having just wrapped up this latest tour, Rathod has a lot to look forward to. She recently won a prestigious award for her work on rock band The Killers’ most recent tour, and she has a lot more in the pipeline. She has worked hard to get where she is now, and for those looking to follow in her footsteps, she offers some wise words.

“For those looking to pursue a career in motion graphics, my advice to them would be to not be afraid of having your own style. It may take you a while to develop it, but you’ll have one and to have conviction in the work that you do, because if you don’t, no one else will,” she advised.

 

Written by Sean Desouza