Category Archives: Reviews, Interviews & Features!

Producer Ricky Cruz brings out the laughs with quirky characters in award-winning new film

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Photo by Arthur Marroquin

Ricky Cruz found his way into producing in an unconventional way. Rather than spending his early years dreaming of working behind the camera, he did the exact opposite. It was his love of acting that led him into the film industry, starring in the popular 2010 South African film Spud alongside John Cleese and Troye Sivan. It was one of the more celebrated local films and an incredible experience to be a part of. Cruz loved every second of it; he believed acting was where he could best help people, by becoming a character the audience could project themselves onto.

After Spud, Cruz found himself working in local commercial campaigns, practical joke television series and National Geographic documentary specials. It was the rewarding experience of seeing something he was a part of come together as a final product that ultimately hooked him and helped him decide that he wanted to pursue a career in entertainment and filmmaking, however, the more exposure he had to film sets, the more he realized his true passion: producing. Since that time, he has become an in-demand producer in both his home country and abroad, with a passion for what he does that translates directly into every project he takes on.

Known for films such as the documentary Improv a Saving Grace and the romance Mixed Orders, Cruz is an extremely versatile producer. Branching into the comedy genre, Cruz has another hit on his hands with the flick The Neighbor. The film tells the story of an offbeat and strange character who tries to befriend a new neighbor before finding a friend just like him. It explores friendship and the importance of being you.

The Neighbor is very much my signature tone of a quirky character in an honest situation comedy, but the deeper level of the character actually being considered an outlier by other inhabitants of the immediate world, gave the film a subtle nuance of real loneliness and rejection, which are two very powerful and very well understood emotions. The Neighbor is a comedy sketch yearning to have its message received via unconventional comedy,” said Cruz.

Currently on the festival circuit, The Neighbor has already won an Award of Merit at The indieFEST 2018, an Honorable Mention at The London International Comedy Film Festival and took part in The Battle of the Sketches 2018. It was an Official Selection at Battle of the Sketches, Portland Comedy Film Festival and Rock and Roll Film Festival Kenya. With the onscreen comedy chops of Willem van der Vegt (Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) and writer Zain Ashar, the comedy short has proven its appeal. It was also one of two projects produced by Cruz that was accepted and won an Award of Merit at the indieFEST 2018.

“The fact that The Neighbor has been such a success makes me consider all the other original and creative characters that have originated from things like off-screen improv comedy or jokes between friends. I think the origin of these sorts of characters has a lot to do with their ability to resonate so profoundly with people. They are an exaggerated but honest piece of someone’s personality and because of the respective truth involved in their creation, people tend to relate very strongly to the character. There are so many other interesting character creations that similarly explore different parts of our personality and with The Neighbor’s success, it makes me seriously consider the prospect of utilizing these empathetic and exaggerated characters in their own respective short films or one that explores many of the mentioned characters in an ensemble driven piece,” said Cruz.

Cruz was ready to produce such a unique comedy. As he started in acting, he has vast experience with improv, making him the ideal producer for this film, knowing just how to embrace elements of improv for a familiar character. He knew what parts of the character needed to be showcased best to get audiences to relate and support such an absurd creation as well as where the character would need to be further developed.

“The project really is a showcase to display the type of message I want to spread with the type of characters and humor I want to use. It’s an example of a stage sketch and improv character that translates really well onto screen and acts as evidence that material discovered or created off screen should be mined and explored and adapted if possible because, such comedically conflicted characters are excellent vessels to relay important information and messages in a way that people can easily understand and enjoy. This film offers the ability to escape and comfort simultaneously and those have always been my favorite kinds of films because it is effortless therapy and can help like-minded audience members through turbulent times without them even realizing it,” he concluded.

 

Written by Annabelle Lee

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Mozhi Li on storytelling through fashion and new film ‘Where Dreams Rest’

In her teenage years, China’s Mozhi (Leila) Li was obsessed with Broadway shows and historical films. She was transfixed by what she saw on screen, with characters in elaborate costumes reflecting their personalities. Li instantly was fascinated by how fashion could be presented through the screen and on stage, and she knew she was meant to pursue a career in costume design.

“I use my gift and knowledge to help my clients pull their characters from the script to reality. Through communications and understanding of the story, I also use my aesthetic gift along with design principles to work as a team member with other visual departments, together to create a perfect frame in film. It’s more of a team job than individual success but that’s what makes me so determined with my job,” she said.

Throughout her career, Li has proven time and time again why she is such an in-demand costume designer and wardrobe stylist. Millions have seen her work in music videos for Jason Zhang and Yitai Wang and the films ZeroUnder Heart, and Where Dreams Rest. The last of which is one of the highlights of Li’s esteemed career.

Where Dreams Restfollows a young Chinese woman who crosses the US-Mexico border to chase after her American dream. It was an Official Selection at the Lady Filmmakers Festival, where many connected with the timely and dramatic story.

“The film talks about a strong feminine figure, who has this devoted love to her partner, which is touching. There are other immigrants with different races and characters in this film. Even though some of them are non-speaking roles, I love the details of the story given for each character, it gave some vulnerable feelings when I went through these supporting roles,” said Li.

Li was touched by the script and knew instantly she wanted to be a part of the film. The story is based on a working-class background. This created a unique challenge with choosing and aging costumes for the main character, while still ensuring her presentation would work well on cameras with all the colors balanced with the scene.

“Costumes can reflect large amount of details and stories behind each character. Especially for this project, the background is very realistic. It’s important to deliver the real-life texture to each costume by distressing and aging them professionally,” Li described.

The best part of the experience for the costume designer was the team she worked with. She thought the director was thoughtful and gifted, and the actors were passionate. She enjoyed her interactions with the art department, discussing ideas of color and fabrications.

“The story was touching, and all the characters have colorful personalities. I really enjoyed exchanging ideas and thoughts when I first met the director and production designer, they are talented and passionate young filmmakers. Everybody is devoted and played a great part in a team, that’s always the project you look forward to working with. All these factors made me feel it would be a project worth my time,” Li concluded.

 

Written by Annabelle Lee

Animator and Graphic Designer Andrea Mercado honors celebrated YouTubers with new film

As an animator, Andrea Mercado is tasked with bringing characters to life. It is one thing to make a character move, but something entirely different to make it look like it is truly alive. This is where she excels. She appreciates that the character needs to have physicality and transfer feelings to the audience, making sure they are always rooting for the protagonist, no matter how small a story. It is such a deep and thorough understanding of her craft that makes her a formidable leader in her industry, and her passion for what she does is evident in every project she takes on.

Often working on projects that inspire both herself and her audience, Mercado’s work as both an animator and graphic designer has been seen and appreciated by millions around the globe. She finds meaning in what she does with companies like NeuroNet, which manufactures learning software for children, and a recent mobile application she created for pediatricians that allows doctors to quickly find the best dosage of medicine for various conditions. She also helps to tell stories through her animation, whether for the web series Paradigm Spiral or girls video games for Driver Digital.

“I like bringing characters to life. I like knowing that people will see the animations and feel for the characters. More importantly, I like bringing joy into people’s lives, and animation is a nice way of doing that,” she said.

Recently, Mercado also debuted one of her passion projects, the film PINOF Animate! It is a film of her own creation, which features animations from various artists from around the world to recreate, shot by shot, PINOF 9. The reason for this project is to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the PINOF series, created by Mercado’s favorite YouTubers, Daniel Howell and amazingphil.

“We are just a bunch of artists from around the world who really like and admire two British dorks from YouTube,” said Mercado. “The film showcases talent from people from different ethnicities, ages and perspectives. Not all of them are professionals in the field. In fact, some of them are still in middle-school. I even received a message from one of the artists who worked with me, thanking me because now they know animation is something they are really passionate about and that a career in it is an achievable goal. At the end of the day, I think inspiring young people to follow their dreams and create their own projects is the most important thing that has come out of this project,” said Mercado.

Creating PINOF Animate! was the most fun Mercado has had working on any project in her career, but it was also very stressful. She had the opportunity to work with over 30 artists from around the world and before she could assign each of them their shots, she had to group the people based on their experience and quality of work. Advanced animators got longer shots, intermediate animators got shots that were only a few seconds long, and beginner animators got the shortest shots. She also received messages from artists who didn’t know animation but who wanted to join to project, so she gave them a few shots that would work perfectly as illustrated stills.

“Working with Andrea was a very relaxed and easy experience. She was very organized on this project, and kept the collaborators involved frequently updated with full transparency. She demonstrated full understanding if an artist was having trouble meeting their deadline. She also encouraged and supported the idea of artists showcasing to their social media any progress made along the way. I would definitely work with Andrea on any future projects,” said Victoria Putinski, Layout Artist at Wild Kratts Animation Studio who created several shots for the film.

Once PINOF Animate! was completed, Mercado uploaded it to YouTube. It did not take long for Daniel Howell and amazingphil to discover the film and tweet the link, which resulted in hundreds of thousands of viewers who quickly became fans of the unique project. Mercado was touched by such a response.

“It feels incredible. It was stressful and a lot of work, but in the end it paid off. All the fans that watched our video gave us amazing reviews and kept asking if we were going to do another one next year. Some people even emailed me saying they are ready to join the next project, even though I won’t be recruiting new talent until July. And of course, Phil Lester (amazingphil, one of the youtubers), linked our animation in one of his tweets and said it was amazing. Everyone started congratulating us and we felt very validated,” she concluded.

You can watch PINOF Animate! here.

 

Written by Annabelle Lee

Industry leading Casting Executive Helen Finnimore provides insight and advice

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Helen Finnimore

Helen Finnimore always envisioned working in the creative industry. As a child, growing up in Bristol, United Kingdom, she had a fascination with everything that happened behind the scenes. Even at a young age, she would sit and watch the credits at the end of a film or television program, seeing all the different roles it took to make a masterpiece. Now, years later, she still watches the credits, but she sees several familiar names among them, including her own.

In her youth, Finnimore joined the prestigious ITV Television Workshop in Bristol, England, their motto: “training tomorrow’s talent, today!” The workshop was established in 1985 and a resource offering experience for young people aged five to 25 in performance and production skills required for Film, Television, Theatre and Radio. Some very famous faces have walked through its doors! While at the workshop, she secured a children’s presenter role fronting a Channel 5 educational programme for two-five years olds called Look.

“In each programme I would pop up at a different location and chat about where I was and what I was up to,” said Finnimore.

Some 300 programmes later, as well as fronting the programme, Finnimore did everything on camera from feeding penguins, giraffes and lemurs and holding a lion cub to making Easter treats and Christmas crafts.

“I even got to travel to Wilmington in America and present an episode at Peggy Farrell costumes. I absolutely loved it, and it was here that gave me a real sense of what it’s really like in front of the camera,” she said.

Now, Finnimore is currently a Senior Casting Producer in the UK, and a leader in the industry behind the camera. Soon, she will be heading across the pond to Los Angeles to take on the role of Casting Executive for Lazy Bear Productions Inc., and she could not be more excited.

Lazy Bear Productions, based in Los Angeles, has headhunted Finnimore to work on a number of upcoming projects. One of which will be as a Casting Executive on Chatterbox, a new family primetime game show, and another of which is Off the Scale!, a large-scale entertainment show following a cappella groups around the United States. She will be working across both series, from pre-production through to filming.

“I’m looking forward to what the future has in store. 2019 is going to be an exciting year ahead as I’ve been approached by a television company in Los Angeles to work across and head up some of their new major projects, which I’m really excited about. Although I’ll never tire of working in casting in the UK, I am keen to broaden my horizons and pursue other opportunities,” said Finnimore.

While new opportunities and challenges lie in wait across the pond, Finnimore has made quite a name for herself on British soil. She has worked on countless successful film and television projects, and had the honor of sitting on the RTS Awards Selection Panel. She’s also interviewed the likes of Pierce Brosnan, Jake Gyllenhaal and George Clooney on the red carpet at the BAFTAS. She was responsible for securing talent on the UK’s debut series of The Voice Kids, something she never grew tired of, as was constantly amazed by the children she came across.

“I’ve always loved working on children’s programming and of course jumped at the chance to work on The Voice Kids. A big brand format with quite a reputation, I couldn’t wait to take on the challenge,” she said.

After meeting with the Creative Directors at ITV, one of the UK’s largest networks, Finnimore was tasked with finding the best casting talent to join the team, and once they were secured, she had the challenging task of figuring out how to approach the series, from an already well-established format. Word of the UK launching its first Voice Kids series got some serious attention and the pressure was on to deliver, and with Finnimore at the casting helm it did just that.

“We uncovered some remarkable talent over the series, some of which have continued on making an even bigger name for themselves, such as Courtney Hadwin, the Janis Joplin phenom with YouTube clips viewed over 50 million times,” said Finnimore.

Despite her vast success, Finnimore credits working on a bunch of educational programs for a company based in Sweden as the highlight of her career. She was able to travel the world doing what she loves most, casting for what the company deemed as the “project of all projects”. Finnimore had to cast 12 different teenagers living in different parts of the world, ready to tell the story of their life. She worked on her own, scouting and securing the cast, setting up shoots, securing licenses and permits, coordinating with film offices and tourist boards, managing the budget, booking the crew, and more. Once the cast was signed off, she spent weeks liaising with the scriptwriters and talent. When it came to film, she flew out and worked as the sole Producer/Director on location as well as the location stills photographer. She was the driving force of the show and got to meet some incredible teens with captivating stories.

“I met with local crews and filmed in London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast, Nassau, Ottawa, New York, and Los Angeles. When I returned back to the UK I continued to work for the company, casting shoots in New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and India – it’s the most I’ve ever learned in my career. Having all that responsibility and workload, working out of an office at home, certainly gave me some incredible skills. It has to be the hardest job I’ve ever done – but I’m so glad I had the opportunity to do it,” she said.

Undoubtedly, Finnimore has had a career many can only dream of, just as she did as a child staring at the names moving across the screen on the credits. Although it is a hard path, she encourages all those looking to follow in her footsteps and achieve their dream of working in the creative industry to never give up, just as she did.

“Don’t let anything stop you. It’s a fantastic career; it’s challenging, relentless, ever-changing, exciting and fulfilling. No two days are the same, no two projects are the same and if you’re good at what you do, you’ll get plenty of exciting offers on the table,” she advised.

Be sure to check out Off the Scale! and more of Finnimore’s exciting new projects throughout the year.

 

Written by Annabelle Lee

Daniel Berini on “Promised”

It’s a rainy morning but Daniel Berini has brightened up our press room, charming every assistant and journalist with his warmth and self-deprecating sense of humour.

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Daniel Berini never fails to charm an audience.

The young actor is here to discuss his latest feature film, Promised, a new Australian work which boasts a standout cast. In the lead role of Robert is Daniel himself, another addition to a long list of projects which have consistently showcased the Perth-native’s gripping screen talent, among them, film projects like Madhouse and Terminal 1. When talking about Promised however, it’s clear that Daniel hasn’t developed an ego that would otherwise be expected from a young leading man.

“We were nearing the end of the shoot, on location, in the middle of nowhere and it was ridiculously hot. All I had to do, on this particular day, was pretend to play a game of cricket, and then notice someone back at the house and walk off. But for the life of me I just could not swing the bat…”

Daniel continues the story with a laugh. “…I’ve never been a cricket fan, but I’ve certainly watched a game or two and get the general gist. But, no matter how hard I tried to look cool swinging this bat (and I was supposed to be pretty good at it) I just made it look so wrong. What should have been a quick scene became a half day ordeal, with nearly every member of the crew stepping in at one point to show me how it’s done. It must have been the heat but the more I tried the more I laughed uncontrollably, and so on it went. They ended up cutting that part of the scene I think.”

Despite funny anecdotes such as this, Daniel’s latest role in Promised reinforces the trend of him being a remarkably capable film actor, as many in the Australian industry will attest.

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Daniel Berini and Aquaman actress Sophia Forrest on the red carpet for the premiere of Oscar-winner Russell Crowe’s movie, The Water Diviner.

“Daniel has always shown a great emotional capacity within his work. His ability to connect with a character in an honest and authentic way is extremely compelling, a skill that has resonated with audiences,” said prominent Australian casting director Micaeley Gibson when contacted to comment.

Daniel’s performance in Promised combines sensitivity with an ardent understanding of Australian masculinity as it was in the 1970s, fuelling his portrayal of Robert to be more than just another representation of a ‘coming-of-age’ saga. Indeed, the storyline about a young couple’s arranged marriage called for a more demanding understanding of love that would generally be beyond the reach of someone as young as Daniel, but it’s clear his refined understanding of craft – coupled with that aforementioned wit and sense of humour – came in handy during the filming process.

“I found it easy to identify with Robert. He’s the oldest son in a traditional Italian family living in a place that has inherently changed them but also allowed them to thrive. He loves his family, family is everything to him, but he is also driven by his own ambitions and desire to make something of his own… It was quite refreshing to read a script that celebrated Italian culture in Australia but didn’t make fun of it. This is a story that follows two people from two Italian families in Melbourne, but it doesn’t feature Italian cliches that are so often presented in film.”

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Daniel in a still from Promised, with co-star Antoinette Iesue

Daniel also experienced the bonus of working with entertainment legend, Tina Arena.

“Working with [her] was an absolute treat. She plays my mother in law, Rosalba, and despite this being her maiden foray into film, Tina’s 40-plus year career in the entertainment industry brought a wealth of knowledge and experience to the set. She has such a playful quality, her personality shines through Rosalba, it’s wonderful to watch.”

In scenes opposite his The Good Place co-star Antoinette Iesue, Daniel’s performance evokes genuine selfless involvement with a measured subtlety, allowing an audience to follow his character with ease. This is in stark contrast with the tense grit that has become the norm in so many other actors’ performances in recent pedigree films that have been born out of the current socio-political discourse of anxiety.

The WAAPA-graduate’s understanding of how to build character in film has been sharpened over many years and projects. Daniel is credited with Home and Away actress Felicity McKay in Jennifer’s Coming Home, in which he’s listed as one of the cult members in the home belonging to the titular character’s mother. The reveal of the cult is the dramatic climax of the story, and represented a dark story that stands in strong juxtaposition to a feature film like Promised.

“I’ve been very fortunate to have not been typecast into any particular category, and constantly find myself playing a variety of characters.”

In the 2015 project Madhouse, Daniel is credited alongside Secret City actor Aleks Mikic, himself known for his turn opposite Oscar-nominee Virginia Madsen in Safe Neighbourhood.

Daniel is listed as the character of Silvio, who tries to break into Max’s new ‘bachelor pad’ where all the action unfolds.

The role allowed Daniel to show off an understanding of action and comedy, something which he hopes to do more of in the near future.

“They’re obviously good fun.”

And nothing was perhaps more surprising than Daniel’s refreshing turn in How to Beat A Spell, a musical-comedy shot in its entirety in one full day within the backstreets of Perth city, his hometown capital. Daniel played the humorously named ‘garbage guy’ who intercepts the protagonist Will and sends him on a different path in search for his love, the Music Lady. By directly intervening in Will’s trajectory, Daniel’s character represented something of an antagonist which is in the vein of another archetype he’s interested in pursuing further.

“Actors like Ben Mendehlson have grown into playing antagonistic characters later in their career as they’re so interesting and so much fun, so I’m looking forward to actively chasing those types of characters and stories in the future.”

With Promised making waves, it would be surprising that those artistic challenges don’t come any day now.

“As challenging as this industry can be at times, I can think of no other job that would bring me greater satisfaction. I’ve never met harder working, more passionate, creative and brilliant people in my life, and it feels like a huge privilege to be able to do what I do. I get to explore characters so different to myself, and be apart of stories so different to my own. It is such a ride at times, and I absolutely love it. I can’t wait for what’s next!”

Karlisha Wrapped Up in Success in More Ways Than One

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Karlisha Hurley, starring in the new feature film Wrapped, at the G’Day USA Gala in Los Angeles – representing another Aussie success story in Hollywood.

While award-winning actress Karlisha is still young, as she sits down to discuss some of her latest projects with us, it’s clear this Australian is no naive ingenue. In fact, Karlisha is well-known amongst industry insiders for her wise-beyond-her-years quality that has propelled her to the top of casting directors and producers’ lists when it comes to casting young screen talent.

“I had to grow up quickly as one of two siblings of a separated parent. I hadn’t even started school when my mother took us on a world trip to ensure I grew up with an understanding that the world was vast and full of opportunities and I could go anywhere and do what I wanted.”

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Karlisha in a promotional shot for Wrapped.

In many ways Karlisha, currently appearing in feature films Wrapped and a new Rob Malenfant film still being kept under wraps, has forged a place in the select few of edgy, young actresses once occupied by stars like Dakota Fanning and Amanda Seyfried. Comparisons aside, Karlisha’s Australian heritage (she’s originally from the small city of Darwin near where Crocodile Dundee was spawned) and gripping talent has meant she’s quickly built a reputation that belies her less-than-two-decades on Earth.

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Karlisha with fellow Aussie A-lister, Margot Robbie

“As a kid, I was inspired by Rose from Titanic. I grew up believing I could do anything and be anything no matter what anyone else thought of me because of Rose, who had a chance to embark on an adventure within herself that the rest of the world was against, or fall in line and have no real feeling of purpose. I feel really blessed to have the career I’ve had.”

Perhaps best-known for her acclaimed role in the gripping film project Karlisha & Morgan, for which she won Best Actress awards at the Accolade Global Film Competition and the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival, Karlisha had already been acting in Australia for 8 years prior to moving to the United States. A childhood comprised of auditions, acting classes and taking days off school, soon jettisoned into film shoots, rehearsals and eventually, accent lessons.

“Once you start working in Australia at a young age and travel to LA for training which I did each year since I was 11, agents in the US become interested in you. I was very lucky that the transition to the US was so smooth.”

After booking roles with Ventura Court Productions and the web series Sharing is Caring, Karlisha solidified her place as a vital component of that production company, as she also joined the cast of Hostages Don’t Take Another Step and The Safe Zone. She has also been cast in the company’s series, ‘How to Identify a Serial Killer’ which begins shooting in March. While booking any acting job is an accomplishment, building creative partnerships is often the hallmark of an indie film star. Once those actors partner with either a director or producer early in their career, the track record of other stars suggests that those creatives usually grow together. One only need look to the collaborations of Martin Scorsese and Leonardo Dicaprio, and more recently Ryan Coogler and Michael B Jordan (from Fruitvale Station to Black Panther) to understand how lucrative such professional relationships can be.

The critical nature of Karlisha’s role in Kristine May’s career is mirrored by the importance of Karlisha’s position in David Raynor’s company Bad Hat Films, as she has also worked with him on numerous occasions. These projects include Hello Tom Sullivan, Dark Angels, The Birthday Party and Karlisha and Morgan.

In this regard, Karlisha marks her position at the top of casting agents’ wish-lists.

Karlisha’s upcoming lead role in the series, How to Identify a Serial Killer, follows the path of a paranoid teenager Alice who struggles to distinguish the difference between reality and her imagination in a world full of serial killers and murderers, particularly while living with her best friend and crime reporter Jemma – played by star of 1, Kylie Riddle.   

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Karlisha on set filming one of her many projects.

Adding to her filmography, Karlisha’s preeminence as one of the brightest stars in independent film has recently been confirmed in her appointment as Program Director of the Port Stephens International Film Festival, a position which calls for her to judge numerous films with a focus on bullying and the acting performances of her contemporaries.

“The festival topic of bullying is something I experienced and I used acting to deal with it. I now draw on that pain; it empowers me; it gives me something to connect to; and it allows me to take my acting to a completely different level. It’s timely with the Me Too and Time’s Up movements making ground and I hope the festival will give strength to other victims and make them stronger, too.”

The Port Stephens International Film Festival is partnered with the Singapore Film Festival and winning films are screened internationally at the festival of its UK partner, Out of the Can Film Festival in England.

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Karlisha is not only a regular attendee of film festivals around the world via her leading roles; she’s also judging at the Port Stephens International Film Festival as an Artistic Director.

Festival Director Guy Perrine: “We were excited to bring Karlisha on board for this role. Her international award-winning success as an actor and experience in filmmaking for both the Australian and American film industry, writing and producing, as well as her contribution to AusPol Media as a Junior Producer and regular attendance at festivals and director Q and A sessions, have made her an enormous asset to the Port Stephens International Film Festival in her role heading up the judging of our program dealing with bullying.

Professional resume builders aside, at the core of Karlisha’s success is an imitable craft that continues to reveal an understanding of humanity that only true artists demonstrate. Much like a young Natalie Portman in the Al Pacino film Heat, Karlisha’s natural instincts on camera consistently demonstrates a creative fierceness that’s balanced with a deep understanding of technique.

This is clearly demonstrated in a scene in one of her upcoming films, Sister Mercy, in which Karlisha plays a street waif abandoned by her mother and abused by her father, Phoenix. Phoenix, ran away from her grandmother and is looking for a family and someone to trust when she dates a man who tries to get her addicted to drugs so he can prostitute her. The scene where Phoenix later sees her friend Mercy again for the first time – played by actress Dominika Van Santen – is an emotionally difficult one because of the depth Karlisha has to go within the character to make her reactions real; she is disorientated, frightened, hopeful and determined. Karlisha’s skilled use of technique balanced with natural instinct is masterfully portrayed through the look in her eyes – seeing a friendly face amidst all this doubt and chaos – and  draws in the audience to connect with her character in a way that has everyone willing her to succeed.

As we sit and discuss Sister Mercy, directed by the editor of Sharknado, William Boodell, Karlisha draws on a quote from Annette Bening who once said ‘acting is not about being famous, it’s about exploring the human soul’ and she says that is what she tried to do here.

This comment leads us on to a discussion about filming her most recent project Wrapped, which has already attracted media attention and interviews with Noah Wilson from iHollywood TV.

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Karlisha post-interview with iHollywood TV host, Noah Wilson.

Wrapped, directed by Calen Coates, is a coming of age film that explores the journey of an ordinary girl in an extraordinary position, who comes to terms with the value of overcoming her insecurities, despite the people who tell her otherwise.”

Karlisha continues: “I play the lead role of Abby, a young teenager who learns to stand up for herself by taking back the one item her now deceased mother had given to her, from a drug dealer. I’m a teenager dealing with many demons in my closet – as well as a victim of abuse – but I manage to find both mental and physical ways to not only fight back against the perpetrators but also to combat my own mental health issues. I also believe the film tackles the theme of grief. This present is the last thing Abby has of her mother. By fighting to get it back, we see what a teenager is willing to deal with in order to find a sense of closure. The journey I take – which is full of emotion, car chases, guns and fighting – is  both funny and tragic; just like life itself.”

Karlisha’s proven track record would suggest her future is even brighter. She has lots of projects coming out in 2019 – in which she mostly plays female empowering, gritty roles – including Bet the Demon wins, now in post-production, and Stitched Up  and she will appear in a regular role in the co-host series 2 of the web TV show #Me4TV. Karlisha is also in discussion with other US and Australian producers and directors. Wrapping up our chat (no pun intended), she says she can’t wait to share more about other upcoming projects and is excited about the busy year ahead.

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Karlisha Hurley: focused and ready for the busy year ahead.