Category Archives: Reviews, Interviews & Features!

Award Winning Actor Missy Malek’s Midas Touch

British actor Missy Malek is a remarkably self-possessed artist, one who takes her craft so seriously that even as a teenager she aggressively pursued a life in acting. Becoming a member of the renowned National Youth Theatre of Great Britain, Malek’s dedication and natural skill allowed her to reach an elevated level of creative theatrical expression starting when she was just 14. Adept at manifesting vivid, wholly identifiable characterizations, the multi-faceted Malek is so driven that after completing the script for her award–winning 2017 short Laughing Branches, she felt compelled to personally oversee almost every aspect of the production.

“I didn’t actually intend to write, direct and produce it, but that’s exactly what I ended up doing,” Malek said. “I had a clear image in my head of what I wanted it to be like and didn’t see any reason why I shouldn’t go ahead and direct it myself.”

The offbeat project, starring Tom Hanson, Leo Suter and Malek, is an engaging, philosophical comedy-drama with a fantasy/sci-fi twist, and relates the stories of two struggling actors who contemplate—and live out—alternative futures both together and apart.

“It was obviously really challenging—I had no directing experience whatsoever,” Malek said. “But my cinematographer, David Raedeker, and my co-producer, Oliver Page, really guided me. Tom is also a really amazing actor, so he made the acting side of directing much easier. It was a very collaborative process.”

Malek’s sure-footed ambition and audacity gave Laughing Branches a unique depth, one rooted in a very personal experience.

“I came up with the idea at a time in my life where everything seemed to become a lot more ‘real,’” Malek said. “I was barely out of my teenage years and I, along with all my friends, suddenly realized that the choices we were making were very important and would have an impact on the rest of our lives. As a result, I found myself panicking, questioning every choice I was making and tried to control my future as much as I could by not allowing myself room to make mistakes.”

By the time she completed the script, written at Oxford University where she was studying philosophy, the unusual concept had grown into a thoroughly engrossing premise.

“’Laughing Branches’ is primarily about the anxiety of being young and ambitious, incorporated with a philosophical theory about infinite universes that have always fascinated me,” Malek said. “I’ve always been attracted to mind-game films that have an element of groundlessness and irresolution, yet still maintain a sense of heart and lightness.”

That twist of cosmic fantasy enabled Malek, who divides her time between hometown London and Hollywood, to really challenge herself as an actor.

“Out of all my film work, my character in Laughing Branches probably had the most range,” she said. “The element of parallel universes in the film means she goes through so many vastly different outcomes and we get peaks into the most dramatic and intense moments in those universes, so there was quite a lot to do.”

Malek’s training and experience provided an ideal context for such far reaching perspective, particularly her rich resume of live theater— at the Chelsea Theatre, she played Beatrice in Shakespeare’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ followed by  Brecht’s ‘Caucasian Chalk Circle,and, at the Burton Taylor Studio, in ‘The Lesson’ and as lead character Myra in ‘Deathtrap,’ along with Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” at The Simpkins Lee Theatre—affording her the skill to craft a persuasive series of tangible personae imbued with the full spectrum of nuance, traits and emotion as her character caroms through disparate scenarios.

“I wanted to convey the message that if you’re an ungrateful person, you’ll always look at what you don’t have and nothing will ever be enough,” Malek said. “If you’re miserable in one universe, there’s a high chance you’ll be miserable in any universe. On top of that, I wanted to show how as much as we may try to control our future and make the right choices, it really isn’t possible to do that. There’s nothing you can say and no way of intellectualizing things that will make you happy. Happiness is a perspective.”

Reaction to the film brought everyone involved a great deal of happiness—it took multiple awards at festivals around the globe, taking the Best Short awards at the Mexico International Film Festival, Lady Filmmakers Film Festival and Key West Film Festival’ best short awards and the IndieFEST Film Awards Award of Excellence for Malek’s performance as leading actress.

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“The IndieFest award I got for my acting was a huge honor,” Malek said. “Because, at times you really don’t like my character, she can be really vindictive and has a lot of anger and conflict in her. But despite that, at other times you do empathize with her.

Personally, the most rewarding experience of making the film was the confidence it gave me. To receive such a positive response from people high up in the industry meant so much. It’s a big step forward in an artist’s career to get that reassurance, to have people say ‘you’re good, keep going.’ That was the most rewarding thing.”

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Putting the band First: Zhenya Prokopenko, One of Russia’s Most Celebrated Rock Drummers

Drummer Zhenya Prokopenko
Zhenya shot by Hakueizm Photography


Nestled at the very back of a darkened stage, a band’s drummer is probably the most overlooked and least romanticized member in the band, and yet it remains that they are the most integral part of the entire act. Responsible for keeping the beat, a drummer must act as the metronome for the whole band while also generating magnetic charisma and displaying an original and refined technique to excite the audience. World renowned drummer Zhenya Prokopenko does just this – and he makes it all look easy.

Originally from Russia, Zhenya grew up with a deep love for music. As his studies in music became more refined, so did his love for the drums.

He explains, “The first thing you hear when you listen to any modern track is a drum beat. You just can’t miss it. It’s powerful, loud and beautiful to me.”

A student of Belgorod State College of Culture and Arts, Zhenya has studied privately under acclaimed sound producers, but attributes still some of his success to the simple element of rehearsal. “No one can practice instead of you,” Zhenya says. “The most effective training for your growth is daily practice.”

Zhenya Prokopenko
Zhenya playing with his band Drumcast shot by Anna Ulianova

When most people think of Zhenya, they first think of his widespread success in Russia, particularly with his pop-punk band Velvet, which quickly became a household name in 2008 with their unforgettable hit songs ‘Follow You’ and ‘Beat the Drums!’. Velvet gained attention on the airwaves and by the summer of 2009 the band was in frequent rotation on every major radio station. Radioplay soon turned into televised concerts, and the bands popularity grew astronomically.

In fact, since its inception, Velvet has released three chart-topping studio albums, four unforgettable singles, a live concert album, and eight cinematic music videos. Two-time winners of the Golden Gramophone Award, Velvet was also awarded multiple times at the Song of the Year festival, and named as Best Pop Rock Band in Russia at FUZZ Awards in 2008 and again at the RU.TV Awards five years later.

While the success of the band can be deservingly attributed to each member, it is important to look at Zhenya, the backbone of the group, as a critical part of the equation. Not only a session member of the band, he is also is the band’s studio musician and the co-author of the rhythm section of the music. Zhenya brings a fire and energy so radiant that even the most aloof person in the crowd can be caught tapping their foot.  

“The drummer should be the anchor of the band, the reliable reference for others, the most experienced member of the band,” Zhenya maintains. “The rest of the musicians have to depend on you for every aspect of the song– tempo, volume, expression, structure, energy. So, a good drummer is a team drummer who knows that. You need to be professional and willing to work hard. You need to leave your ego and selfishness aside, and put the music first.”

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In Ukraine Zhenya also served as the drummer for singer and actress Valeria Kozlova’s solo project, Lera Lera. Kozlova put herself on the map drumming for the rock band Ranetki, which gained such popularity it became a TV series of the same name. Soon, she and her bandmates became idols to young girls across Russia, Ukraine and other ex-Soviet republics. In 2008, Kozlova received the People’s Prize of Ukraine, the Telesvezda, in the nomination Opening of the Year. She then went to form her own solo project, where she recruited the talents of Zhenya. With Zhenya on drums, they released their 2010 debut album “Give me a Sign”, which gained such notoriety that it was acknowledged as one of the best albums of the year and took 6th place at the Russian Top Awards and Kozlova was named Singer of the Year by the music TV channel RU.TV. As drummer and rhythm co-writer, Zhenya helped carry the band to remarkable success with his impeccable timing, brilliant technique, and impressive stamina.

Both Velvet and Lera Lera were undoubtedly lucky to have Zhenya backing them on the drums. His signature feel for the music combined with his identifiable groove sets drummer Zhenya aside from the rest. A truly diverse and technically studied professional, Zhenya could surely sit behind any drum set with almost any band of any style and create a memorable, natural and flawless beat.

While Zhenya is an incredibly intelligent and talented musician, his humble heart is quick to remind us that no one can be measured by his or her own talents alone. He offers the kind reminder, “You are not a person, you are part of something bigger, part of the team.”

China’s Jie Meng creates award-winning visual effects for ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’

Jie Meng is consistently fascinated by his craft. The power of visual effects, to use different algorithms and physics theories to recreate something natural, or even create something that does not exist in the real world, is enchanting to the Chinese native. With a creative imagination and a deep understanding of computer science, an FX artist can create anything, turning fantasy into reality.

“With different algorithms and techniques, FX artists can do a lot of research and develop all different kinds of effects. As an FX artist, I also enjoy coming up with my own algorithms and methods to create new effects elements when I am at home. I feel I can create anything in my mind into the CG world, which is super fun to me,” said Meng.

Meng is an internationally sought-after visual effects artist, having contributed to blockbuster films, iconic video games, and prolific commercials. Earlier this year, audiences were enchanted with his work on the record-breaking film Avengers: Infinity War and the successful TV movie Freaky Friday, just as they were previously with Captain America: Civil War and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. He is also recognized around the world for his work on video games, including Call of Duty: Black Ops III and Quake Champions.

Despite such success, Meng calls the highlight of his career his work on Marvel’s hit Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. He worked on countless shots and different kinds of effects elements in several sequences, designed and final locked over a hundred shots in only a couple of months, and finally, saw recognition for his work from the Academy with an Oscar nomination. The moment he saw his name in the movie credits, he knew that all those late nights have paid off.

“This is a milestone film project for me. It was my first time designing a procedurally generated CG environment in the film production, and it was my first time working so closely with other CG departments. I was inspired by all different artists around me, from their hard work and how they think and solve problems. There were a lot of late nights in this film project, but I was fully charged every morning, and just could not wait one second to keep working with my VFX crew members,” said Meng.

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Meng’s vast contributions to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 helped bring the film to critical acclaim around the world. Not only did it take in over $860 million at the worldwide box office, but it was recognized at prestigious award ceremonies around the world. The highpoint for Meng was when the film was nominated for Best Visual Effects at the Academy Awards.

“When the news of the Oscar nomination had spread out, all the team members that worked on this film cheered into tears. We were so proud of ourselves that we achieved a VFX masterpiece. This film motivates and encourages me to keep on going as a VFX artist and also a filmmaker in the future,” said Meng.

Meng worked on many effects shots in several different sequences in the film. His main focus was the “normal” and “angry” Ego planet sequences. Those two sequences have a huge volume of the shots, which required the artists to design and finish the effects elements in a very short amount of time. Meng was not only building effects elements, but also helping in procedural modeling, shading/look-dev, lighting, procedural layout, and digital assets sharing aspects.

He designed and finished every shot containing Ego’s environment, all thruster effects elements for Quadrant Ship and jetpack in the “angry” Ego planet sequence. This included designing and finishing every shot containing aurora effects elements in the “normal” Ego planet sequence, such as the dust and leaves blowing in the Ego ship landing sequence. He also created taser gun lightning effects in a hero shot when Rocket Racoon shoots Gamora and did some early Rocket Racoon fur tests in the Guardians squat night talk scene.

Overall, Meng contributed over 20 different kinds of effects elements and CG contents in a total of four different sequences for the film. He designed and finished over 100 shots and related to 200 shots. The technical solutions that he came up with saved a great amount of time and made sure the entire team finished every shot before the deadline. His visual effects undoubtedly brought a stronger visual impact to the film and made the film a masterpiece of sci-fi fantasy artwork.

“I had the pleasure of working with Jie on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. He is absolutely exceptional at what he does and is always striving to better himself and his craft. He is hard working, detail oriented, reliable and goes above and beyond when helping out others. He is always open to collaboration and feedback. I highly think that his skill and expertise would be a great fit for any project he works on. I look forward to working with him again on future projects,” said Dennys Herman, Lighting and Look Development Artist at MPC.

Meng had always been a big Marvel fan, and above all else, creating such a timeless film meant more to him than anything. He was determined to achieve greatness with every effect he created as he knew Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was more than just a visual spectacle.

“I like the story of this film, as the core it is about family. The plot twists when Starlord (Peter) met his father Ego, and finally found out his father is an evil creature who killed his mother. The family theme is also relevant when Gamora and Nebula fight against Ego together, and Yondu sacrifices himself to save Peter. It’s a comedy sci-fi fantasy movie, but this core is very deep. The film is not some regular comedy where people laughed and forgot about it, but something that will be remembered,” he concluded.

Allah-Las’ Management Coordinator Daria Khovanova: The Woman Behind the Scenes

Daria Khovanova
Management Coordinator Daria Khovanova shot by Isabella Behravan

With the music industry undergoing a major transformation over the last two decades, more and more artists and bands have been able to self-produce their albums and still attain a level of success that was previously reserved for those represented by major labels. In the same way that the relationships between major record labels and today’s musical acts have changed, so too have the roles of those working behind the scenes to make sure we hear an artist’s music.

Management coordinator Daria Khovanova of Tiki Rocket, who coordinates for the incredibly popular US band Allah-Las, is a key figure who organizes everything from upcoming shows to social media posts for the bands she coordinates. She not only utilizes her social media skills to ensure that we hear her artist’s music over others, but that their live shows run smoothly, plus a whole lot more of the day to day happenings that as an audience, we don’t get to see.

If you’re not familiar with the management coordinator title, imagine the work of a tour manager, production manager, booker and social media director all rolled into one and you’ll get an idea of what Daria does for Allah-Las and the other groups she works with.

“As an artist’s management coordinator you wear many hats, and that’s what I enjoy the most. There’s never a dull moment. I realized a long time ago that working in music I didn’t just want to be stuck in the office,” Daria explains. “Maintaining personal contact with the artist is of great importance to me, and something I think the artist appreciates also. At least the ones I’m working with. It’s important to be in it together, share adventures and grow a bond.”

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Management Coordinator Daria Khovanova at the Huichica East Festival in NY

Since she first came on board as Allah-Las’ management coordinator in 2017, Daria has booked and organized a rather impressive list of shows for the group, including the Marfa Myths Festival in Marfa, TX, their three-night residency at Lodge Room in Highland Park, CA, the Off the 405 show at the Getty Center and the Huichica East festival in New York earlier this year, as well as their performances at the 2017 Desert Daze festival and more. Earlier this month she organized the band’s performance during the Open Arts & Music Festival in Glendale during Glendale Tech Week, a “Spaceland Presents” event that partnered with the Downtown Glendale Association and LA County Arts.

For the Open Arts & Music festival Daria handled all the negotiations with show promoters, coordinated the schedules of the key band members and organized additional musicians, such as Tim Hill who played keys with Allah-Las during the show, and rented all of the specialty backline equipment i.e., the amps, lights and speakers. All of that, plus she organized the merch stand and made sure the band’s performance at the event was announced on all social media channels in order to draw the largest crowd possible. While she generally handles all of these things for the other shows the band plays, those taking place outside of their home state of California, like the Oh So Slow Festival in Bali, Indonesia that they played in May, require her to take on even more.

Daria says, “I step in as a tour manager and production manager when needed… arrange interviews, photoshoots, work on collabs with clothing brands, like Billabong x Reverberation Radio, and develop merch ideas. The list is diverse.”

With Allah-Las headlining many of the shows and festivals they play, there’s the understandable added pressure of putting on a flawless performance. With Daria working from behind the proverbial curtain and handling all of the details, the band can focus their energy on the music and the show, taking comfort in knowing that if any obstacle arises she’ll be there to take care of it.

“Since October of 2017, Daria has elevated our music ensemble with expert negotiation of agreements, effective communication with internal and external partners and organized coordination of domestic and international touring itineraries,” explains the members of Allah-Las. “We know we can count on her to look after all our interests and well-being no matter where our tours may take us. Her outstanding management skills have not only helped us meet our financial and creative goals, but also taught us to work more cohesive as a small business team.”

Matt Correia
Allah-Las’ drummer Matt Correia and Daria Khovanova en route to a Show

Though Daria’s job is pretty much non-stop all of the time, she loves what she does. If she didn’t, then being available 24-hours-a-day 7-days-a-week at the drop of a hat would get old quickly. Apart from the seemingly endless list of organizational aspects, a major part of her work as a management coordinator is being personable. Before ever meeting or speaking to the band, she’s often the first one the booking agents, venues and sponsors are in contact with, so making sure she represents the vibe of the band and creates a relationship that makes people want to keep working with them is imperative to their success.

Daria says being a strong management coordinator “[Is all about] being able to juggle a lot of things at once and prioritize, plus assertiveness and the ability to act as a mediator, when needed. A good sense of humor doesn’t go amiss either. It’s all about working with people.”

Aside from going on the road with the band and organizing their bookings, Daria has been hugely responsible for securing endorsement deals. Earlier this year she secured an endorsement for the band with Danish audio equipment manufacturer Ortofon, as well as one from music industry leader, Marshall.

Despite the need to be in constant communication with a large amount of people and the challenges that come along with managing multiple egos while ensuring that everything runs smoothly, Daria’s personal love for music and her relationship with Allah-Las make it all worthwhile at the end of the day.

“I feel grateful to be working with the people I like… [Allah Las] take you in, you become part of a family… there is a certain magic in being on the road with a close-knit group of best friends,” says Daria. “Driving through Texas to get to a festival in Marfa was so fun, and then seeing them live score a surf documentary starring themselves on a vacation in Mexico, ‘Self Discovery for Social Survival,’ was pretty magical.”

Female Filmmaker to Watch: Eliza Brownlie

Eliza Brownlie
Movie poster for “The After Party”

 

Canadian filmmaker Eliza Brownlie has firmly made her mark as a director in Hollywood. A breath of fresh air in the contentious filmmaking landscape, Brownlie has solidified her reputation as a director who tells stories with a unique aesthetic style while exploring social constructs and the human experience of modern life.

Her 2016 surrealist horror film The After Party earned praise from coast to coast in the U.S. garnering a hugely successful festival run with exclusive “invitation-only” screenings at the Sacramento Horror Film Festival in California and the Williamsburg Independent Film Festival in New York.

Directed and written by Brownlie, The After Party follows an aspiring starlet who hopes to break into the Hollywood scene by attending a mysterious, late night party where she quickly discovers a darkness the lurks beneath the glitz and glamour.

With captivating visuals and an intriguing story that leaves audiences wanting more, The After Party is rendered even more interesting thanks to the distinct female lens through which it is filtered.

“I knew I wanted to make something within the horror/thriller genre and set in Hollywood. I had been living there and was interested in the idea of how this beautiful dream world could resemble more of a nightmare when you examine it a little closer,” explains Brownlie.

“I needed a context, so I thought, what more appropriate setting for a surrealist horror film than a private party in the hills. I also needed a protagonist who was naïve to this world and desperate to be a part of it, so, naturally, I decided to make the lead an aspiring starlet. The rest of the story and the characters expanded from there.”

 

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Still of actress Tarryn Lagana in Eliza Brownlie’s film “The After Party”

 

The film’s star Tarryn Lagana, who’s represented by Luber Roklin Entertainment, the same talent agency that represents Disney superstar Dove Cameron and the late Oscar-nominated actor Burt Reynolds, shines on screen. Lagana was also recently signed to Abrams Artists Agency, which represents Finn Wolfhard from the Netflix series Stranger Things.

“Working with Eliza is an incredibly open experience. She loves to communicate with her actors and give them freedom to explore within the scene. Which was great for ‘The After Party’ because it gave me a chance to create the character Simone and ultimately deliver a strong performance,” says Lagana.

“Eliza is a one of a kind director… She has a very specific voice and vision that makes her stand out as one of the greatest filmmakers of her generation… She is what the industry needs right now.”

 

Director Eliza Brownlie
Cinematographer Ari Bre Bre (left), Director Eliza Brownlie (center), and producer Jessica Kelley (right) on set of a commercial for Cast + Combed

 

Well versed in directing projects across various mediums, Brownlie’s resume showcases her impressive flexibility and includes commercial, fashion films, music videos and narrative films, with her collective body of work revealing a highly stylized and dreamy nature that has reinforced her reputation as an auteur. Over the years she has directed numerous captivating and edgy commercials for an impressive list of clients including Dove, Top Expert and Canon.

In the fashion film she directed for Top Expert featuring model Breanna Box, she captures her subject with slow camera movements, creating a sultry, relaxed vibe that makes us want to dress ourselves in all of the company’s luxury basics. Brownlie effortlessly pulls us into the ethereal worlds she paints in many of her fashion films with a unique style that is simply unforgettable.

A dynamic director, another powerful aspect of her directorial prowess that has set her apart and led her to become a sought after director for more human-interest style commercial pieces is her talent for eliciting raw and vulnerable emotions from her subjects and revealing them with a rare form of elegance. As the director of the docu-style commercial series ‘Imperfectionists’ for Dove’s Self-Esteem Project, and Canon’s Female Hero series, Brownlie captures the women on screen in a way that is captivating, relatable and empowering.

“I like projects that challenge or engage the viewer in an interesting way. Something in the material needs to resonate with me. There’s nothing more painful than working on something you don’t have any passion for,” says Brownlie.

From the extensive repertoire of work that she has released to date it is clear that Brownlie is passionate about her subjects. She is definitely one contemporary female filmmaker that has made a powerful mark in both Hollywood and on a global scale, and she’s one that we will continue to look towards for inspiration.  

Staying Ahead of the Film Industry’s Technological Curve: VFX Artist Tati Leite

VFX Artist
Brazilian VFX Artist Tati Leite

For decades, the film industry has been waging an arms race with no end in sight. In the dark of the theater, ever more elaborate spectacles of cinematic magic shine upon the screen like portals to distant worlds and forgotten times. The popularity of cutting-edge effects among moviegoers has fueled the growth of their use, making them absolutely essential to the success of virtually every blockbuster in modern cinema history. As quickly as audiences are thrilled by the latest magnificent visual feat, however, the bar is raised for all films that follow. As technology and expectations grow exponentially, it falls on visual effects artists like Tati Leite to keep up with our hungry demand to not only see magic, but to believe our eyes when we do.

Leite’s story is one of dedication begetting success. For as long as she can remember she’s been enamored with the way movies use special effects to awe, amaze and inspire audiences to believe the unbelievable. That early fascination stayed with Leite during her time as a computer engineer, a field which demanded and sharpened complex technical skills that would prove invaluable to her career as a visual effects artist.

“I have always been passionate about movies and computer graphics, and visual effects is simply the perfect combination of both worlds,” Leite said. “Ever since I was young, I’ve never missed an opportunity to create videos, learn tools to modify them, create effects, and everything that could be done at the time. I paid attention to all the details of every movie I watched, and I’d watch it over and over to see the effects, the animation and all the aspects that had been introduced to the footage.”

Her years of schooling and experience as a computer engineer gave Leite more than just a leg up when she entered the field of visual effects. As a visual effects artist, most of what she does demands an expertise in computer operations and design that few without her computer science background possess.

“I love to use technology in service of a story,” she explained. “Being able to create visuals that take people’s breath away, even if only for a few seconds, is the most exciting thing about being a VFX artist.”

The spectacular effects Leite creates are never anything shy of breathtaking. Her credits to date are as impressive as they are fitting for an artist of her talent. She’s worked her VFX magic on blockbuster films including 2018’s “Mission Impossible: Fallout” starring Tom Cruise, Marvel Studios’ “Ant-Man and The Wasp” starring Paul Rudd, and Disney’s upcoming live action remake of “The Lion King,” starring Donald Glover and coming to theaters in 2019. When it comes to productions like these, with big stars and bigger budgets, studios don’t take chances on unproven talent. Leite is consistently chosen for such high-stakes projects because she’s garnered a reputation for being an effects artist of the highest caliber.

“I think what excites me most about VFX is exactly that race. The challenge of doing something better, faster and differently is something that drives my passion for this industry. It’s not only about art, and not only about technology. It’s this thrilling mix of both that makes me want to become better and push the bar higher and higher,” Leite said, describing the thrill of being on the frontlines of the visual effects arms race. “Working for big budget productions [intensifies] the challenges because not only do we have to do our very best work to get it just right, but we also have to contend with tight deadlines and the pressure to deliver something even better than the last time.”

Grossly oversimplified, Leite’s job is to visualize, design and create the brilliant spectacles which astound ever-more discerning audiences. Her every keystroke is a meticulously calculated marriage between her unrivaled technical abilities and her unbridled imagination.

Her success has been guided every bit as much by her computer engineering experience as it has by her lifelong love of films, comics and games — and the ways they all use visual artistry to immerse their viewers, readers and players.

“My work on the movie ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ has special meaning to me because it was my first Marvel movie,” Leite explained excitedly. “As an old fan, I couldn’t be more glad to be a part of it.”

While her skill as a VFX artist has led her to be tapped to work on some of the year’s most highly anticipated films on a global scale, her love for her craft and her passion for film means Leite doesn’t choose her projects based merely on blockbuster status. She recently edited and led the VFX for the upcoming indie feature film “In Transit” from esteemed Brazilian director Julia Camara (“Open Road,” “Occupants”). Starring Oliver Rayon (“Workaholics”), award-winning actress Kim Burns (“Painless”) and Karina Federico (“Piel Salvaje”) “In Transit” tells the inspiring story of Olga and Daniel, two strangers whose chance encounter while waiting at an airport restaurant for flights to their respective countries change one another’s lives forever.

“In Transit” is yet another film where Leite’s finesse in post-production has proven to be crucial to the success of the production. Camara, who’s earned more than 25 awards for her work, including the Silver Telly Award and the Platinum Award from the European Independent Film Awards, needed a talented VFX artist and editor who spoke both English and Brazilian Portuguese for “In Transit,” and she found just the post-production superhero she was looking for in Leite.

“She was instrumental to the completion of the film… Not many others would have signed on to work on an experimental feature film… In an industry saturated with male editors, working with another woman was so refreshing. She brings her unique world view and sensibilities this industry desperately needs,” explains Camara. “The success of the film is largely due to her contribution to the project.”

With its festival run is just getting under way, “In Transit” has already been chosen as an Official Selection by the Glendale International Film Festival and is slated to screen between October 5 to 13 in Glendale, California.

There was a time when films had a monopoly on visual effects. But over the last two decades another multi-billion dollar industry has emerged, one which has fueled an explosion in demand for visual effects artists with talents like Leite’s. The rise of the video gaming industry seems to have no end in sight, and VFX has become as crucial to this growing field as it is to Hollywood. The largest video game development studios have already begun to compete with film production studios for VFX artists and other talent — as illustrated by Leite’s extensive VFX work within the gaming industry. As blockbuster video games continue to generate billions of dollars for the burgeoning industry, game developers increasingly realize the importance of visual effects artists.

In just a few short decades, the industry has evolved from a niche market of serious gamers to a cultural powerhouse with serious market control. Video and computer games today are far more than mindless entertainment, evidenced by their use in a vast array of educational settings. Working with the award-winning development company 7 Generation Games, Leite has helped create games that serve as interactive learning experiences for children.

This tactile approach to learning has come a long way since the days of iconic classroom games like “Oregon Trail.” Through games like “Aztech,” “Fish Lake” and “Making Camp,” Leite is helping to shape and grow the next generation of curious young minds. Her work has also earned 7 Generation Games the distinction of being named one of Homeschool.com’s Top Back to School Resources, a highly influential accolade in the world of education. The group is also the only U.S.-based firm to be a finalist at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in India.

“It’s fantastic that 7 Generation Games has won so many awards, but for me personally, the best award is when I see the kids playing it without even blinking. 7 Generation Games creates educational games, and it’s kind of hard to keep children as interested in them compared to ‘regular’ games,” said Leite, describing the challenge of creating a product that is both informative and engaging to the young audience. “All the awards we won are very gratifying, but seeing kids playing over and over, even though they include math, social studies and learning, is priceless. It’s one of those moments you think, ‘Hm, I think we made something right.’”

In the field of visual effects, knowing the audience is key. Leite has an innate understanding of what audiences and players want to see; for all her immense technical know-how, she never treats the creative process as a formulaic affair. Just as each production is unique and wholly original, so too is her approach to every new challenge that comes her way. Whether she’s working alongside industry effects giants in the Marvel universe or helping young children discover a lifelong love of mathematics and science, Tati Leite is an unrivaled force within an industry that continues to fascinate and captivate imaginations of all ages.

 

Meet Danish Director of Photography Sophie Gohr

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Cinematographer Sophie Gohr

Though the career paths for many go undecided until later in life, ‘signs’ of a person’s natural gifts and interests are often apparent in childhood– we just have to know how to spot them.

Growing up in Espergærde, a small fishing village outside of Copenhagen, Denmark, Sophie Gohr was surrounded by a bucolic countryside that fueled her creative imagination. After attending a National Geographic photo exhibit, she went home and made her own camera out of cardboard. She was 6.

I was absolutely in love, I knew I wanted to do something like that when I got older,” recalls Gohr.

With a lens made out of a toilet paper roll, Gohr would take her ‘camera’ across town, going on photo adventures and capturing everything ‘mentally.’ Quickly taking notice of their daughter’s budding interest, Gohr’s parents bought her a camera. It was then that the young Dane began cultivating the creative eye that would later lead her to become a sought after cinematographer.

I would sneak up to the library in school at every chance I got to look at photography books,” says Gohr. “My favorite photographers were Steve McCurry and Yann Arthus. The photographs were telling a story and it was like magic to me, I could feel it, smell it and it was like I was there.”

With a painter for a grandfather, and a fashion designer and dance instructor for a mother, Gohr grew up surrounded by creatives who supported and nurtured her developing interest in the arts. Some of her earliest memories are of her grandparents taking her to museums to look at paintings, and attending ballets, opera houses and Riverdance performances with her parents.

“I remember my mom telling me to draw or paint what I felt the opera or dance was about and how it made me feel. To me that has been such a gift in making the connection of feeling something and putting it down on paper,” says Gohr.

“My mom also started meditating and doing visualizations with me when I was 10. I think a lot of these things influence you, especially having parents that supports you in your art emotionally.”

Cinematographer Sophie Gohr
Cinematographer Sophie Gohr

Today, Gohr’s ability to seamlessly infuse the shots she captures with emotive qualities and create a visual language that pulls viewers into the story on screen is one of the key elements that sets her apart from others in her field. Whether she is leading the camera department as the cinematographer on films such as “Wretched” and “Madeleine,” or on tv series such as the upcoming Danish comedy “Frida and Karo” and the upcoming docuseries “A Woman’s Story,” Gohr has a unique talent for nailing the director’s vision.

The new comedy series “Frida and Karo,” which Gohr recently wrapped production on, is directed by award-winning director Jonas Risvig, who’s known for his work as the director behind several cinematic music videos such as Felix Cartal’s “Get What You Give,” Sopico’s “Paradis,” and Tritonal’s “Call Me.”  

Sophie was our prefered cinematographer for the project and made us able to visualize our humor in the aesthetics of the piece,” explains Risvig. “She has a great eye for details and visual identities.”

Starring Karoline Brygmann from the series “Yes No Maybe” and “Something’s Rockin’,” Frida Brygmann and Peter Zandersen from the series “Follow the Money” and “Ride Upon the Storm,” and produced by Reinvent Studios, the series “Frida and Karo” is set in the modern age and follows the lives of two friends. Gohr’s seasoned skill in terms of lighting and visual composition has made her a powerful cinematographer who knows exactly how to frame and light each scene in a way that supports the story.

Gohr says they were going for a ‘very bright and happy’ look in terms of the visuals for the upcoming series. “Since it’s a comedy I decided on warm tones for the lighting, and get sunlight vibe. And I used soft vintage Leica lenses to create the feeling of softness,” explains Gohr. “I used my RED weapon to get the clean cinematic look. The director really wanted the framing to be very simple as if it was a Youtube channel show. A living room type of situation, that turned out really fresh and different.”

Through cinematography Gohr has not only found a field that utilizes her unique range of skills, but it’s one where she gets to shoot projects like the ones she dreamed of doing in her youth. Earlier this year she began working as the cinematographer on the upcoming docuseries “A Woman’s Story” from director Nathalie Jornheim. With each episode taking place in a different country, the show depicts stories about specific women across the globe and incorporates aspects of the local culture and cuisine from the countries portrayed.

“I can’t talk too much about the show yet because it hasn’t been released and we are still shooting,” explains Gohr. “But I love the theme, cultural documentaries are what I fell in love with as a kid. I’m enjoying observing the stories of each of these women, and having a director who is very visual makes it an awesome project to be a part of.”

As the head of the camera department, Gohr is in charge of creating more than just the visual look of the series, but overseeing her department’s budget and the work of those on her team. About some of the differences between shooting docuseries such as “A Woman’s Story” and some of her other work, Gohr says, “You have to be ready and on your toes at all times, to get that special moment. Where as commercials and narrative projects are usually shot in more controlled environments, and there is more prep time.”

Though the release date for the series “A Woman’s Story” is not set just yet, Gohr confides that the creators of the series are in talks with Amazon, Netflix and Youtube as potential platforms.

Though she was born and raised in Denmark, Gohr moved to London at the age of 16 to study music prior to moving into photography. “At that time I really wanted to be a rockstar and photography was something that would happen in the ‘future’ for me,” recalls Gohr. “I have now learned that sometimes what you think is only going to be a hobby, actually ends up becoming the love of your life.”

The hobby has undeniably turned into a full-fledged career for Gohr, and it’s one that continues to fuel her curiosity, ignite her passion and draw on all of her skills. In addition to working on a plethora of film and television series, Gohr regularly works as the special on set photographer on projects from Pink Banana Studios, an award winning creative production company based in London, which earned 9 AVA Digital Media Awards this year. As the special photographer, Gohr has captured crucial behind the scenes shots on numerous commercials for Pink Banana Studios, including ones for Dove, Green Berger, the Huggle App and more.