Category Archives: Reviews, Interviews & Features!

Artist Spotlight: MTV Director Pete Ireland on festivals and filmmaking

Veteran Australian filmmaker Pete Ireland has enjoyed a career all over the world. Best known amongst industry insiders for directing and producing thousands of videos while working at MTV in London, Argentina and then the US, the innovative filmmaker recently joined the Los Angeles based company of Verve, a new sales platform targeted at millennials.

PeteIrelandheadshot
Australian filmmaker Pete Ireland.

“It’s definitely challenging work but at its core it’s work I love because get to tell stories across so many different mediums from social to broadcast, my work at Verve lets me play with filmmaking in a unique way.”

As a company valued at 180 million dollars wanting to connect the media and entertainment industry with young trendsetters, it came as no surprise that Verve turned to Pete for his expertise and experience in the youth-branded content industry.

The award-winning filmmaker, whose narrative projects have screened at exclusive festivals in Europe and America, developed a reputation early-on for using a left-of-centre style which conflated quirky set-pieces with bright and honest imagery.  

“I was obsessed with movies ever since I was young. I wanted to tell stories and discovered that film was the medium I wanted to do it with. I started with editing but quickly realised directing was where I could make the most impact. When I started my own company [The Production Room] in 2010, I did really have high expectations.” Pete continued with a laugh. “But still, I never imagined that I would be in this situation, talking to you guys 10 years later.”

Of course, Pete didn’t start at Verve with the same naivety that characterised his early beginnings.

In his new role in LA, he’s in charge of building a new creative standard across a wide variety of youth-focused travel, live music, event and festival experiences by producing, directing, and editing hundreds of promotional films and video campaigns.

“I have been doing exactly that for more than six years at the MTV International, and as a producer and editor for fifteen years before that.” He added. “I really admired Verve’s mission and I am excited to be helping build a brand that I know is going to be huge not only in the US market but globally”.

mtv-logo
As MTV has become more known for, and found greater success in its series programming, Pete has found a niche in the industry playing an incredibly important part in shaping the company’s reputation and visual aesthetic.

After he directed film projects Blueberry Lane with Sleepover actress Leisa Barry Smith and Breathless with Home and Away’s Esther Anderson, Pete’s ability to capture an audience’s attention and move them with humour was recognised by both film-lovers and big businesses.

MV5BNzg3NTZmZmMtNjA2YS00Y2ExLWFhMDEtYWFmODc3YjE3MTkyXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjA5ODQ2NTY@._V1_
Pete and Home and Away actress Esther Anderson, who starred in his film Breathless, at the world renowned Bondi Film Festival celebrating the screening of their film.

“Pete has always been a master narrator who can tell stories from outside his own experience,” said prominent EVP of MTV International, Kerry Taylor when contacted to comment. “He always knows the right balance between storytelling and selling.”

In the midst of his early days running his own film production company, Pete found particular success directing a number of high-profile music videos, laying a firm groundwork for his eventual role at MTV.

The highlight was his works for X Factor Australia winner Altiyan Childs and ARIA Music Award ‘Song of the Year’ winner Tim Freedman.

“He really understood the message I wanted to convey with my music,” said Brendan Maclean. “Work with Pete was an absolute treat.”

MTV recognized Pete’s remarkable talents so they reached out to him in the midst of a his freelancing career. After his outstanding edits on promo films for MTV UK’s Geordie Shore, the company brought Pete on in a full-time capacity as a Senior Promo Producer and Creative. Three years later, he was handed the reigns of shaping MTV International’s brand across a range of mediums and channels, allowing him to flex the full range of his filmmaking muscles.

“Pete was a total package for us. Not only his creative ability, but also his leadership skills, attention to detail, and work ethic all contributed to our company,” said Kerry Taylor, Pete’s ex-boss at MTV.

Pete oversaw all promotional projects for MTV shows including Geordie Shore, Teen Mom, Catfish, Ex on the Beach, Judge Geordie, The Valleys, and many others. He worked all over Europe, mainly in London, and later in Argentina and New York, always executing work at the excellence for which he has become known, regardless of the city he was in or team of people with whom he was working.

Of course, a filmmaker’s career wouldn’t be complete without some experience in the City of Angeles itself.

“I felt called to Los Angeles, it was always the end goal for me. I’m excited to continue to explore more opportunities in different avenues of American filmmaking,” Pete offered.

He wanted to work with a company in a more hands-on capacity and work with it from the ground-up in its early stages of development.  

“This industry can certainly challenge you at times. No question. But I still have the same fire that I always had since the beginning of my career. I feel truly privileged to be able to do what I feel passionate about. I get to tell stories from many different perspectives and to be a part of worlds so different from my own. I absolutely love it, and I cannot wait for the next challenges.”

Advertisements

The Producer Working Outside the Box: Elliot David Hawker on Disney, Cruises, & Live Entertainment

Producers are usually understood to be the money-wranglers for feature films, or those people who talk a lot on the phone while on set. Elliot Hawker is a different kind of producer.

DSC_5924 edited 2
Award-nominated producer Elliot Hawker photographed at his home in London.

It is one thing to be a part of producing events for Disney. Knowing your event will be judged by Simon Cowell is a whole other story. It takes someone who has experience in all realms of entertainment to pull off an event that will fulfil the magic of Disney and appease the scrutinizing eye of one of reality television’s toughest judges. Thankfully Elliot David Hawker has proven he is up to the challenge through his production feats with Disney, Royal Caribbean International, and PITT London, to name just a few.

Hailing from the UK, Hawker began his career as a dancer, receiving a prestigious 2:1 honors degree from Central School of Ballet. He spent the following six years at sea, gracing the stages of various cruise ships with Royal Caribbean International and Norwegian Cruise Lines. Those aboard quickly noticed his commitment to a guest’s overall experience. His passion drove him in directions unlike those of his fellow cast members. Hawker took on additional roles in his company including Production Show Wardrobe, Events Producer, and Crew Welfare Representative. By pursuing more than what he was initially hired for, he was offered a coveted management position and became a notable leader on board.

rci-aqua-theater-hero
Royal Caribbean (their AquaTheatre pictured) are well-known in live events and theatre circles for producing shows of incredible grandeur, all at sea. 

“For me, putting on live events and experiences is all about creating magic. Creating moments that engage with people on a different level and allowing them to experience something special,” Elliot says with a smile.

“My passion for entertainment started from a young age, and after an amazing career being on stage, it felt so natural for me to transition into producing, and being able to channel my creativity and knowledge into making memorable and unique experiences of my own.”

This change in direction brought immense success to the productions, with respect to the uniqueness of their creative execution, and would only be the beginning for Hawker as his career as a producer took off.  

Following his years at sea, Hawker uses his cultivated understanding for production to create memorable experiences for the Walt Disney Company and its millions of customers. He continues to take on a variety of roles, each of which rooted in his business savvy and understanding of guest experience. As such, Hawker is a standalone example of a millennial who has carved out a specialty by becoming an innovative multi-hyphenate (a few prestigious awards along the way for his career accomplishments haven’t hurt).

IMG_1892
Elliot celebrating Minnie’s influence in Fashion & Beauty on National Polka Dot Day. An event produced by Elliot and the Disney Events team in London and hosted at Duck & Dry, London

“Working with Disney has been an absolute pleasure, and I have had the opportunity to travel all over Europe coordinating character events, which has included  everything from Set Dressing, Photoshoots, TV direction & Film premiers. I love that we’re truly creating magical and memorable moments, whether it’s a 4 year old meeting Mickey Mouse for the first time, or a grown adult meeting interacting with a  Stormtrooper on the red carpet. These are the moments that are really fulfilling.

Disney-14-439x800
Hawker with Disney Marketing Project Manager Clare Moores in Dublin Ireland for Mickey’s 90th Anniversary, celebrating with children & families from Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital Crumlin’

 

From On Set Character Director of The Voice Kids Germany 2019 to Photography Director of the Mickey & Minnie Iconic Landmarks Photoshoot, Hawker brings his creativity and invaluable experience in live entertainment to many different kinds of events. The most reputable of these being those held for charitable causes.

One of Hawker’s most recent achievements took place in November of last year. Disney partnered with Myriad & Co Theatre Company & Together for Short Lives and Charity Patron Simon Cowell for The Nutcracker & The Four Realms Immersive Charity Gala.

“It was a spectacular night, full of Disney magic and storytelling all in aid of raising awareness and donations that will enable the charity to support and help families make the most of every moment together” (The Walt Disney Company, 2018).

When asked about what made Elliot so remarkable as a producer, Co-Founder of Myriad Theatre company Simon Evans pointed to how Elliot attracts universal praise.

“Everyone at Myriad & Co. was thrilled with his creativity and adaptive skills, and the project benefited hugely from his ability to create compelling choreography and staging with our dancers and actors within a sometimes challenging venue.”

Hawker produced various choreographed acts which immersed guests into “The Kingdom of the Four Realms” giving them a chance to interact and witness their personalities up close as the dining room magically transported guests through the realm of flowers, sweets, snowflakes and amusement.

Creating an intricate piece of immersive theatre in such a unique venue would seem an impossible task, and was a first for Disney, but Hawker was able to delicately choreograph and direct his cast of dancers, bringing the story to life in a magical experience of Disney’s latest rendition of the classic tale. Hawker’s striking blend of choreography and special effects were instrumental in the overall success of the charity event. The awestruck audience of A-List celebrities left the emotional evening having raised over £350,000 for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families.

“Choreographing for this event was a humbling opportunity to be involved in something bigger than myself,” Elliot modestly exclaimed.

“Our aim was to take the guests on a magical journey, telling a fantastical tale, whilst be able to shed light on the difficult lives of these children and their families.”

This event has been one of many you may see Hawker in action, alongside his award-nominated production of An Evening with Celine Dion Starring Tracey Shield and his work as Creative Director of hawker & travis, his own digital design agency in which he produces digital content including websites, logos & brand imagery, videography & motion graphics.

Since the start of his own company, the established producer was nominated for the 2018 WIX Stunning Design Award and continues to secure his prominence in live entertainment production that brings together his expertise and understanding of choreography, visual marketing, presentation and performance.

For those reading who are spoilt for choice when it comes to their career prospects, or feel like they need to pigeon-hole themselves to one role, Hawker’s accomplishments exemplify how one can create a career that blends a wide-range of passions under one roof. His producing career, now turning to the US to work with Spark Cooperative, has become one rooted in a passion for the arts and catalyzed by a dedication to creating fulfilling and imaginative experiences.

TV star Zara Michales on the Past, Present and Future

TV star Zara Michales has been a staple on Aussie screens for nearly a decade.

MV5BODZkNGFhOTgtOGQzNS00NDRjLTgzN2YtY2NjYzI3ODA4YzFlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjQwMDg0Ng@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,666,1000_AL_
Acclaimed actress Zara Michales, as photographed by Marnya Rothe

“I feel incredibly lucky to have been given the opportunities I’ve had,” she says with a humble smile.

Most recently in the acclaimed fan-favourite Doctor Doctor, Zara made a huge impact in the developments of the season’s storyline, and managed to perfectly balance the comedic-drama tone for which the show has become known to Australian, European and US audiences via Amazon.

maxresdefault
Zara made yet another appearance on Aussie TV recently, this time on Channel Nine hit drama, Doctor Doctor. 

“With the role of Thomasina I was allowed to do what I wanted, character-wise, which was great because my character wasn’t your typical lawyer stereotype,” Zara offered.

Despite the fact she made only an appearance in one episode, Zara made quite the impact.

Indeed, Zara guides one of the leads Ajax (played by Matt Castley in the series) to change the course of his fate and ultimately help his family for the greater good.

Zara’s biting appearance in Doctor Doctor is just one TV appearance in a career of many.

The down-to-earth attitude with which she speaks to our editors would have any reader surprised that she’s a fan favourite amongst loyal Australian TV watchers, notorious for being reticent to embrace new talent.

Zara’s captivating screen presence however, most notably captured in her gripping performance as Steph Green on the hugely popular Home and Away, was undeniable to the fickle Australian public, and she’s been working on different genres ever since.

Home and Away Stills #4
Zara attracted mainstream attention for her role as antagonist ‘Steph Green’ in the award-winning favourite, Home and Away.

The character I played on Home and Away was a very controversial one that audiences did not forget.”

Zara played the very mischievous and rebellious nurse, Steph Green, who pushed boundaries in the world of ‘Summer Bay’ (where the show is set) and for the award-winning series itself.

During her time on the iconic series, Zara’s character befriended Dex and got up to no good with him at the hospital. After beginning as friends, bond turned into a volatile relationship that escalated into a series a dramatic plot-lines for which Home and Away has become best known.

“My character broke a couple of rules at the hospital – eventually she was confronted to clean up her behaviour and Dex broke up with because of it. She then spirals out of control and pushes boundaries to a breaking point which eventually sees her getting fired from Summer Bay Hospital and fleeing Summer Bay itself.”

Clearly, Zara’s time on the show was indispensably linked to the ups-and-downs of the town in which the show takes place, and without her characters’ antagonistic nature, the series wouldn’t have been forgiven by the audience. It goes without saying that, were it not for Zara, Home and Away would’ve been pretty boring.

“I just feel lucky I got to make such a fondly remembered contribution to Australia’s most loved show,” Zara adds.

No doubt Zara’s time on set was made even more memorable given she got to work alongside Matrix: Revolutions actor, and star of Oscar-winner Russell Crowe’s movie The Water Diviner, Robert Mammone.

“Robert is such an experienced actor was wonderful to work with – because of the fights our characters got in, you get really heated and worked up and invested in the scenes. So it goes without saying my experience on set was pretty miserable – in the best way possible!”

Of her many roles on Australian TV though, Zara’s quick to attest to the machine-like professionalism of Home and Away and how well everything worked together.

343B08DC00000578-0-image-a-22_1463402511767
Home and Away is well-known for capturing Australia’s beautiful scenery and iconic Australian citizens. Zara’s edgy performances and Greek heritage was therefore all the more noticeable and helped change the show’s tone for the better, which audiences have been relishing more than ever in the years since her appearance.

“Working on Home and Away was like being in a whole different world completely. The cast and crew worked like a family. Ray who plays Alf (who the longest running character in Home and Away) is an absolute gentleman.”

The other iconic Australian series in which Zara has also played an indisputably important character is Underbelly, the famed series chronicling the criminal life of Australian history. 

Billboard- Underbelly
Zara was featured front-and-centre as a part of the marketing and billboard campaign promoting Underbelly: Badness, further cementing her relationship with Channel Nine and her high-profile in Australia.

During her time on set, Zara shared screentime with Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow actor, Matt Nable.

“Matt Nable was very focused and committed actor on set,” Zara is quick to proclaim.

“I enjoy working with people like that who are focused and passionate. It just makes my job easy.”

What was perhaps less easy was the pressure Zara faced in playing such an important role in a high-profile show.

Indeed, the series hinged on Zara, who played Pippa, and Aaron Jeffery, who played her partner Frank, as Frank was the only person the police had to connect them to the killer at the centre of the season.

 

Underbelly-on set #2
Zara and her on-screen husband, played by Aaron Jeffery in a still from Underbelly.

Though reluctant at first to help the police, the safety of Pippa’s family is put first and Frank sides with the police.

Across a series of gripping and award-winning episodes, Zara’s performance and scenes with her family brought much of the humour and lightness to the show, as well as its emotional heart. One only has to watch a few key scenes to chuckle at the realistic portrayal Zara and Aaron brought to their characters’ marriage and how they’d bicker but love each other at the same time.

The acclaimed finale, which was written in last minute, closed in on the family Pippa and Frank always wanted in the pursuit of escaping the crime world.

In Zara’s words, it was a very memorable and beautiful closing scene with which to end the season, further cementing her place at the centre of Aussie TV.

THOR Ragnarok Premiere 2017
Zara, shown here at the premiere for Thor: Ragnarok, has been cast in a project shooting in the US. Readers will have to stay tuned for details. Photo: Getty Images.

So what’s the future to hold for this character actress-turned-household name? Zara’s tight-lipped, but was able to reveal she’s been cast in a US feature, to be shot in America.

“I’m very excited – stay tuned.”

French Celebrity Trainer Nancy Marie-Claire Helps Eva Green and Matt Dillon Hit Their Mark for Upcoming Film “Proxima”

Celebrity trainer Nancy Marie-Claire
Celebrity trainer Nancy Marie-Claire

French celebrity trainer and professional dancer Nancy Marie-Claire understands that the human body is a complex machine, and it is her job to assist in challenging, strengthening, toning, and preparing each individual physically in order to maximize their success in the entertainment industry– and in life.

A native of the Caribbean, Marie-Claire entered the artistic world as a dancer, where she learned, intrinsically, the patterns of the human body in space and in motion.

She explains, “This allows me to approach my training sessions with originality and playful side ensuring that each session is always different, varied and diversified.”

But her training doesn’t end there. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in athletic training, she is a certified Level 3 pilates instructor, and an internationally trained dancer, having studied under Dominique Lisette in Japan, England, Sweden, and the United States. There is no doubt that Marie-Claire possesses willpower, determination, organization and structure the likes of which most people can only dream of.

While Marie-Claire’s impressive resume undoubtedly helps her land countless celebrity training jobs, it is her compassion, adaptability, and charisma that set her apart from the rest, ensuring a long list of referrals and returning clients. Marie-Claire is most recently celebrated for her outstanding work on the film Proxima, which is expected to be released later this year.

Marie-Claire’s integral contribution to the film coaching star Eva Green (Penny Dreadful, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children) can be seen through Green’s physical stamina on set. In the film, Green portrays an astronaut who is preparing to leave on an excursion to the moon, with the film following her character as she evolves, trains, and prepares for the arduous journey.

“I had to learn about astronaut training methods, which turned out to be very interesting and so rewarding,” Marie-Claire says.

IMG_6734
Celebrity trainer Nancy Marie-Claire

Once she grasped completely what this training should look like, Marie-Claire made the important decision to couple Green’s physical training with a nutritional program as well.

“Because Eva’s goals for this film included weight loss with upper-body mass gain especially on the arms and shoulders we worked primarily on endurance, speed, and force, allied with a carefully planned nutritional program,” explains Marie-Claire.

Marie-Claire worked with Green for three months leading up to the beginning of the shoot.

“In working with Eva, I challenged her with bodybuilding techniques, pilates, and electrostimulation, which has become one of our favorite practices, despite the effort and concentration that it requires.”

Electrostimulation is the application of electric current to stimulate bone or muscle tissue for therapeutic purposes, such as facilitation of muscle activation and muscle strengthening, and is a technique Green found incredibly helpful.

Actress Eva Green explains, “With Nancy’s electro-muscular-stimulation training, she was able to help me gain added strength in a shorter time frame and, above all, meet the needs of the director who insisted we follow a training program as strict as that of the astronauts.”

With her cross-training in electrostimulation, Marie-Claire is able to set up actors for success in a much different way than the average trainer.

Academy Award nominee Matt Dillon (Crash, There’s Something About Mary) also benefited greatly from Marie-Claire’s training and nutritional expertise during the filming of Proxima.

“My main focus with Matt involved staging different movements and exercises,” says Marie-Claire. “For example, there was a particularly fun and challenging scene involving a treadmill. Matt had to get on the treadmill and run for a significant amount of time while shooting. I helped train him to focus on his stamina and posture, so that the performance would be believable and genuine.”

While it is important to get the physical aspect of the job done safely and correctly, it is also critical to be understanding and patient as the trainee works to achieve their goals. Marie-Claire shines in this category as well, and celebrities are not shy in singing her praise.

“What’s great about Nancy is her natural empathy, her generosity and her ability to push you out of your comfort zone, getting you to trust her and yourself, completely,” says Eva Green. “Nancy is a person who listens to you, advises, takes the time to know your schedule, to adapt, gives you the best of herself and consequently makes you want to dig down and give the very best of yourself.”

Another trainer perhaps less focused on the individualized aspects of the job could inadvertently discourage an actor, which could lead to poor performance, or even giving up and failing entirely.

It is often said that an actor’s body is the most important tool in their toolbox, and Nancy Marie-Claire’s unrivaled skill, dedication, creative, safe, and effective techniques are instrumental in the maintaining and betterment of this tool.

Eva Green sums it up the best, “As an actor, I need to keep my body in tip top condition, ready to meet the demands of any role, and now that I’ve found Nancy, I know that I can call on her any time, for any project and she will help in my preparation, and accompany me throughout the film, and that is priceless!”

Canada’s Chandra Michaels and Myke Bakich talk upcoming film ‘Nail Bait’

One of the most beautiful and complex relationships in this world is that of a mother and her daughter. This theme has been explored throughout time through art and literature, and Canadian filmmaking power couple Chandra Michaels and Myke Bakich have now contributed to that extensive and distinguished list with their upcoming film Nail Bait, which takes a unique and compelling look at the bond between a mother and her daughter.

Nail Bait, written by Michaels and Bakich, tells the story of Emma and her mother Carol, who head to a nail appointment only to discover the salon is a front for a rub & tug massage parlor. It doesn’t take long for Emma to discover that Carol has ulterior motives for their day. Emma is baited and dragged into infiltrating the underbelly of the salon with her mother to prove her father is a paying client there. After stumbling on some “hard evidence” but no sign of Dad, the women confront their issues and discover other illegal and dangerous enterprises. Before they can sneak out, they are caught, cornered and threatened, discovering they would do anything to protect one another, surprising both themselves and each other.

“We wanted to portray an honest mother-daughter relationship, that despite its challenges, when put to the test reveals how unbreakable that bond can be. We like that we’re breaking new territory exploring a location with weight and stakes we haven’t ever seen before in a mother-daughter buddy story. The story straddles a few genres; drama, comedy, action which was tricky to execute but rewarding to do,” said Michaels.

Michaels acts as writer, producer, and leading actress in the film, playing the role of Emma. When writing Nail Bait, she was inspired by visits to the spa with her own mother, questioning its integrity and wondering what could be going on behind closed doors. She and Bakich were interested in creating a film that delves into the often-ignored occurrences at such spas, while diving into the dynamics of the mother-daughter relationship and internal and external facades.

“Chandra is an incredible filmmaking partner. It’s amazing that she was able to balance the demands of playing Emma with producing the film. She was very aware of the needs of our cast and crew, managing schedules and taking care of our production while balancing her demands as a lead performer. Chandra’s got a great instinct for performance and was very involved in the editing process and finding the authenticity. She’s a great talent, shined bright throughout the entire production and was crucial in bringing this film to fruition,” said Bakich.

Bakich’s approach to the story while directing was to embrace the uncomfortable. He wanted to tell a different type of mother daughter story, one that takes place in an unexpected location and situation and see where that would go. He wanted to play into the discomfort of the bizarre juxtaposition of a rub & tug parlor. This would also allow for a project with two dynamic leading female roles, something important for both Bakich and Michaels.

Finding the ideal location was one of the biggest challenges that Bakich and Michaels faced while making Nail Bait. They required a hallway long and wide enough with many different doors to actual rooms. Bakich wanted to create distinct difference between the upstairs reception and the underbelly of the salon. The upstairs being drab, mundane, slice of life, and the massage parlour below being colorful, intense, and almost surreal.

They found a warehouse space, that was previously a grow-op, with the required hallway. However, it was only half as long as they needed. They decided to embark on an ambitious set build for the downstairs hallway and adjacent doors in the film. With a talented art department team that was diligent, the build was achieved within days. Though, even with the build, the doors and rooms still needed to be reused and connected in ways that they weren’t naturally available. The night before, Bakich plotted it all out and did his best to convey the logistics to the team. They successfully turned one hallway into two, connecting many different rooms and doorways that were in different directions and ends of the location, with changing lighting and color schemes as well. Such execution is a real testament to Myke’s strength as a visual problem solver and storyteller.

image2“Part of what attracted me to shooting Nail Baitwas creating the two worlds that the characters inhabit. I liked Myke and Chandra’s energy and commitment as well. It’s always a challenge to elevate visuals on lower budget projects, but thanks to the generosity of Panavision Canada and John Lindsay I was able to utilize some great camera tools. Shout out to the amazing crew as well who worked hard to make it all happen,” said Gregory Bennett, Director of Photography.

Bakich’s favorite scene in the film came when shooting a tracking shot down a flight of two dozen stairs. It was no easy task, but the director was up for the challenge. Filming into the early hours of the morning, he and Bennett did five takes with a heavy steadi-cam rig and totally nailed the shot. Only once it was perfected did they discover that a key prop was missing, and they had no choice but to reshoot.Bennett leapt up the stairs, willing and ready to do it again and they all followed his charge. They shot another five takes, and the end result is mesmerizing.

“Toni Ellwand who played the mother Carol, grounded her in reality, while bringing a comedic spontaneity to the role. She balanced both the serious and ridiculous nature of the situation in spectacular fashion,” said Bakich, who co-wrote and directed the film.

Ellwand is a Toronto based actress who is known for a series of popular projects, including Blindness, Murdoch Mysteries and the Emmy-award winning The Handmaid’s Tale. She had previously worked with Michaels years prior on a commercial for Ontario’s health care cards, so they were happy to reunite as mother and daughter on this exciting new project.

“Myke and Chandra are a dream team, I would work with them in a heartbeat. They both love what they do so much and are generous and enthusiastic. Chandra is an absolute dream to work with as both an actor and as a producer. Working is her happy place and it shows in everything she does when we’re on set. Myke is quietly determined. He’s gentle but he knows what he needs, and he patiently works until he gets it,” said Ellwand.

Nail Bait premieres at the Toronto Shorts International Film Festival on Saturday March 2nd, 2019. From there, the film is expected to make its way to several more festivals, seen on international screens. They are also exploring the possibility of expanding it into a series, as this film is part of a bigger mother and daughter story.

“It’s an honor to premiere at the Toronto Shorts International Film Festival where our local cast, crew, colleagues, friends and family can share in the experience,” said Michaels.

Toronto Shorts has a special place in Michaels’ and Bakich’s hearts, as their first film, Busy Bee, had its world premiere at the festival back in 2015 and ended up winning the Best of Canada award. Here’s hoping for similar success on their latest venture.

“We love making films and we love doing so together. Creating our own projects is empowering and liberating. We really learned so much making this film and look forward to applying that knowledge to future projects. Filmmaking is really a team sport and we had an amazing team on this project,” they concluded.

Torontonians should check out Nail Bait this Saturday at 7 p.m. at Carlton Cinema. In the meantime, watch the trailer here.

Cinematographer Carl Nenzén Lovén Enjoys International Acclaim

carl-1Cinematographer Carl Nenzén Lovén’s sterling professional reputation is distinguished by his signature mix of gorgeously captured visuals, encyclopedic knowledge of camera equipment and his unflagging zeal on location—no matter how challenging the setting may be. In just a few years’ time, the Swedish-born Lovén has emerged as an international force, one whose quickly growing resume of professional achievements reflects his generosity of spirit.

Whether it’s a music video, short or feature Lovén delivers spectacular results, working not just as lead cinematographer but also, when a project appeals, serving in innumerable capacities in the camera department, sometimes as assistant cameraman or working the crucial on set function of focus puller.

Lovén’s expertise proved invaluable on his most recent assignment, ‘Go Back to China,’ the forthcoming dramedy feature from noted producer-director Emily Ting.

“I loved the script when I read it,” Lovén said. “The story follows Sasha, a trust fund baby who will lose her fortune unless she returns to China to work for her father’s toy company. It explores the complex relationship between a neglectful father and a daughter who’s been brought up in a wildly different culture, so it’s a really interesting combination of elements.”

“I was first assistant camera for the Hong Kong, and China portions of the movie,” Lovén said. “I was the only one flown in from the US as camera crew, to oversee, and act as connection between our DP (director of photography) Josh Silfen and the local crew. Since I’d spent roughly four years of my life there, studying Specialty Cinematic Arts at Hong Kong City University, I was well equipped to interact with the locals—far better than someone who had just arrived.”

While he could navigate the cultural landscape with ease, Lovén was presented with a different challenge—limited technical resources.

“I helped in the pre-production picking camera body for the China portion, as well as advising [on] lenses,” Lovén said “When presented with a new project I usually go through my mental library and evaluate why I would select a certain camera or a certain lens, consider why we would shoot on film, or why shooting digital would be the better choice. For ‘Go Back to China,’ it wasn’t so much choice, but more based on the rental house’s existing equipment, I got us the best gear we needed for the job.”

The cinematographer routinely mixes art and science, and Lovén also served as de facto trouble-shooter. “As first assistant my main job is to save time, and make my DP’s job easier,” he said. “That means advising on maybe how to make a shot different, or foresee things that have to be taken care of later. Apart from being second in command for camera crew, and head of gear, I was also focus puller.”

’Pulling focus’ is the act of changing a lens’ focus in correspondence to a moving subject’s distance from the focal plane, to maintain a sharp, consistent image. It’s a subtle but critical element: if an actor moves away within a shot, the focus puller will change the distance setting on the lens in precise relation to his changing position, or shift focus from one subject to another within the frame, as dictated by what the shot requires. Thus the focus puller/cinematographer is hands-on steward of a film’s entire visual narrative, and Loven’s technical skill and intimate knowledge of cinematographic and optical theory is second to none.

”Carl was an essential member of the team on Go Back to China,” DP Silfen said “He always rolled with the punches, navigating the challenges of working with local crew in a foreign country, and his focus pulling was spot on.”

Lovén always impresses with his characteristic blend of involvement, energy, technical knowledge and distinct knack for dynamic visuals. Not surprisingly, director Ting tasked him with some additional follow up.

“When the Asia portion of the movie wrapped up, I was called back to Los Angeles to do the pickup shots as well,” Lovén said, “It will premiere at SXSW this year, will be screened at the San Jose Film Festival and they are securing more festivals each day.”`

“It was a great experience, and I am really excited to see how the film turned out.”

Casey Wright: Australia’s Best Known (Anonymous) Performer

You’ve seen him a million times before but you may not even know it. Here, Casey Wright gives insight into being Australia’s hardest working anonymous performer, as mascot for the big leagues and stunt double to the stars.

1923925_23186527721_5072_n
You can’t make out his face, but what’s important to a stunt actor and mascot performer like Casey is that you’re focusing on the action, not him specifically. Pictured: an explosion at the Stunt Academy on the Gold Coast, at which Casey contributed to a number of advanced level courses.

Stunt doubles and mascot performers occupy an interesting space in the entertainment industry. Rarely known unlike their acting colleagues, but oftentimes working more consistently, a performer like Casey Wright has had his fair share of set-time with A-listers than any Oscar-winner, but a regular movie goer or sport lover couldn’t be faulted for not knowing his name.

And that’s just the way Casey likes it. As he claims, he didn’t get into this business to become famous, but instead always wanted to make sincere contributions to an industry that he loved.

“I always loved movies growing up, and now more than ever I enjoy the creative process – I have found though that I love spending time on set and having conversations with stunt coordinators, directors and producers about that process.”

The result of his steadfast pursuit for the past decade in his field as a performer who dabbles in many areas of film and live event work, is a fascinating study of how someone can be working at the top of their field and yet walk down the street without someone knowing their name.

“I ultimately just really love helping make a film or TV production the best that it can be – it’s so fun to be on set, and to speak with everyone who’s a part of the creative process, but not to have to shoulder the marketing spin like regular actors do.”

Nothing is perhaps more obvious a high-profile but anonymous gig on Casey’s resume than his work on the most recent Pirates of the Caribbean film. In that production, Wright had to shoulder the safety responsibilities of stunt actors during a particularly tense filming sequence, while also completing stunt acting in a believable way so as to allow the audience to suspend their disbelief.

r_piratesofthecaribbeandeadmentellnotales_header_postst_a2b0f97a
Casey beams with pride when asked about his experience on Pirates of the Caribbean 5.

“On Pirates, roles like mine were essential to the production. During the big scenes, there were sometimes over 250 extras running around on set. That meant then when action was called, it was mayhem. It was up to the stunties to position ourselves closer to the action, and shield the extras from danger.”

Casey’s frequent mention of safety regulations reveal a key aspect of his character clear to anyone who meets him – he’s willing to sacrifice his ego for the benefit of the whole project, a clear reasoning for why he was drawn to the more anonymous but equally challenging work as a stunt and mascot performer than a screen actor.

“If you saw a sword-fight in the film, with people running closer to the swinging blades, that was myself and other stunt performers working as blockers to keep the production safe.

It was also essential to showcase the enormity of the action on screen.”

Casey elaborates.

“[H]earing the call of “Action!”, and then watching a team of men on horseback drag a building through the streets does make you wonder how the hell you ended up here. I love that part of the job.”

pirates-of-the-caribbean-dead-men-tell-no-tales-bts-image-3
Behind the scenes on the set of Pirates of the Caribbean 5, on which Casey played an incredibly important role in the execution of a number of stunts surrounded by hundreds of extras (pictured). Credit: Paul Cameron.

Casey’s excitement about the filming process isn’t complete without an expression of his gratitude, as he discusses how well the stunt performers were treated.

“Dressing gowns and hand warmers when it was cold, freshly made juices when we wanted, access to food whenever we were hungry – boy, were we spoilt!”

When watching the movie on a second viewing, the impressive significance of Casey’s contributions are clear. In one scene, a giant building rumbling through the street needed people diving out of the way to create an exciting visual, and Casey was one of the few stunt performers who helped create that visual that became a cornerstone to the film’s marketing and social media campaign around the world, an impressive real-action sequence that did not rely on CGI and helped the movie attract a franchise best of critical appraisal.

For instance, one review referred to the opening sequence and how “visually interesting it was”, and that “even the brief slapstick elements [are] far more creative than they have any right to be. The first sequence, in which Jack and his crew attempt to steal a bank vault, is an absolute delight.” (Denofgeek) –

Of course, a discussion about Pirates can’t be had without mention of its leading man, Johnny Depp, for whom Casey worked beside his stunt doubles.

“…when Depp came in for his scene, it was was awesome. From the moment he stepped on set, he was Captain Jack Sparrow. Even when the scene was finished, he walked back to his trailer, chatting with the extras and stunt performers, still in character.”

Casey’s meaningful experience with A-listers is not limited however, as his role on action blockbuster disaster movie San Andreas with Oscar-nominee Paul Giamatti and movie-star Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson showcases.

Giamatti Double
Casey with Oscar-nominee Paul Giamatti on the set of Dwayne Johnson $110 million blockbuster San Andreas, on which Casey was Paul’s stunt double.

Paul, Casey says “was an incredibly nice guy, and willing to get in and get his hands dirty too, which is not something you see from a lot of actors of his level.”

“[My role on that movie involved] performing challenging actions in character. Stepping outside of that would break the suspension of disbelief from the audience, and once that happens, it’s hard to get back into it. If you see a boom mike in the middle of a Gladiator movie, you’re taken out of it. It’s the same thing with [San Andreas].”

Casey also had to ensure not only his safety, but the safety of another performer – not another stunt performer, but a nine year old actress, with no prior stunt training.

“We had a good chat with the young actress, explaining all the risks involved. She was 100% fine with everything – asking questions, making sure we all had her covered. I know performers that don’t ask as many questions as she did.” Casey added with a grin.

When seeing the movie, any viewer would be entertained by the marvel of the overall story. But after having spoken with Casey and rewatching the particular scenes he was involved with, the great extent of how dangerous his job is and how important his contributions are to the movie are very apparent.

San-Andreas-2015-movie-poster
A blockbuster disaster epic like San Andreas (poster above) required a number of stunts to deliver the story in a believable way, thus ensuring an incredible audience turnout and huge box office returns. Casey without a doubt played an important role as he was stunt double to Oscar-nominee Paul Giamatti, one of the lead actors in the movie.

The actress was suspended on wires, and thrown towards Casey, who had to catch her and then safely cradle her to the concrete floor below. Being able to rise to the challenges put in front of Casey, and executing it successfully, helped ensure the actress stayed safe, and the expensive shoot was not disrupted.

“We put safety pads on her, and rehearsed the sequence several times. Just before we shot it, I gave her a big hug and told her that I’ve got her. She looked me right in the eyes and said, “I know”.

It was incredibly intense, but we were able to get through it safely. “

And it’s details like that for why Casey’s effortless but hardworking contributions have earned him a glowing reputation within the industry, not outside of it.

“I’d rather just my colleagues know me as a great stunt actor or mascot performer.”

Casey adds with a laugh: “I compare stunts to magic . You have much more fun if you don’t think about how the rabbit got in the hat.”