Category Archives: Reviews, Interviews & Features!

Actress Scherrikar Bell Brings ‘The Victorians’ to Life

BELL-mee (2)

By Dean Evans

Prolific, versatile a nd boundlessly engaging, actress Scherrikar Bell is one of the most well established and recognizable forces in contemporary British television. From her earliest appearance small screen on venerable BBC series “EastEnders” Bell’s gift for creating authentic characterizations has made her a familiar and in-demand talent.

With an impressively spectrum-spanning skill set—uniformly adept at comedy, drama, action or horror—the London born-and-bred Bell is also equally at ease doing feature films, TV commercial spots and cutting edge hip-hop music videos (her mesmerizing performance as the lethal hit girl/assassin in rapper SL’s viral “FWA Boss” clip has been viewed almost 5 million times).

Along the way, Bell has become somewhat of a staple at the famed BBC network. Following her “EastEnders” debut, she graduated to roles on popular soap opera “Doctors” and currently co-stars on top sketch comedy series “Famalam” (the program earned both BAFTA and Royal Television Society UK Awards nominations in 2019).

Bell’s appreciable renown and popular cachet with viewers made her a natural choice for another significant BBC assignment, the leading role of narrator on “The Victorians.” Produced by the networks educational online Teach division and aimed at elementary school students. the collection of cross-curricular films explores contributions made by innovative 19th century Britons in the fields of science, geometry, history, arithmetic, art and music.

BELL-TEACH

While the concept may sound dry as dust, the series focuses on both the familiar (Charles Darwin, Florence Nightingale, Queen Victoria) along with lesser known characters (Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Pablo Fanque) and Bell’s light-hearted delivery—deft, loaded with charm and easy going appeal—is anything but tedious.

The presentation may seem deceptively casual but Bell, throughout, is actively involved with the instructive aspect and its particular subject—she slyly interacts with each historic figure via quips and conversational asides—creating a captivating overall tone that affords each topic an ideal showcase.

Bell’s knack for impeccably timed witticisms, put over with irresistibly cunning ease, creates a perfect persona for her youthful audience, one that thoroughly engages and informs the viewer—and making over Industrial Revolution-era civil engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel into an intriguing character is no small feat.

Bell pulls it off with a low-key yet spirited joviality that not only holds the viewer’s interest, it enhances and elevates each episode to a level where education and entertainment coexist with delightful effect. “The Victorians” is both a significant addition to Bell’s already notable resume of credits and an impressive first entry to the world of children’s television. Marvelous stuff.

Award-winning actress Liane Grant shines on the Transatlantic stage & screen

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Actress Liane Grant

The prodigious talents of British actress, Liane Grant, seems to show no ends for she has received acclaim not only for her professional work in acting, directing, writing and producing on stage, but on the screen too; and on both sides of the Atlantic, no less. 

Recently Grant co-produced, wrote and played the lead role of Meredith in the American dystopian play, “Half Me, Half You”, which debuted at the Fresh Fruit Festival in New York in July 2018, and where Grant won the Outstanding Playwright Award. The hit production also led Grant’s costar, Jennifer Fouche, to earn the Outstanding Featured Performer Award.

“Acting is so much more skilled and complex, and uses so much brain power as well as heart and soul power, more so than I think many people realize,” said Grant, who has over 26 acting credits on stage and screen.

“It also forces me to be a better person because I’m constantly having to think about different stories and different kinds of people, and look at things from a multitude of perspectives.”

An alumnus of the prestigious Cambridge University in England, Grant also studied acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts (AADA) in New York for two years. In 2015 she co-founded her own production company, RoL’n Productions, through which she’s produced “Half Me, Half You”  and other acclaimed works.

RoL’n Productions focuses on providing opportunities for women in the arts and with an all-female cast, “Half Me, Half You”, which dramatizes issues of prejudice such as on race and gender, was no exception. Grant co-founded RoL’n Productions with Roxanne Lamendola, an American actress whom she met at AADA, the alma mater of some of the best actresses of their generation, from Lauren Bacall to Anne Bancroft of yesteryear, and Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain of today.

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Poster for “Taken in Marriage”

However, Grant’s first theatre co-production for RoL’n Productions, the barbed comedy, “Taken in Marriage,” not only had an all-female cast but also linked her with yet another luminary of screen and stage, the three-time Oscar-winning actress Meryl Streep, as she performed in one of the lead roles of Andy, a part originated by Streep on Broadway in 1979.

“Working with so many talented women, knowing that we’d provided them with those opportunities to showcase their talents, was amazing,” said Grant, who ensured that seven production roles, in a variety of areas, were filled by women.

Grant co-produced “Taken in Marriage” in 2015 to be performed at the Waterloo East Theatre in London, England, with the sharp comedy focused on the character of the pretty and young Annie, as she sits in a basement on the eve of her wedding, surrounded by female family members, with long-lost feelings, frustrations and secrets on the verge of being revealed to much hilarity.

Liane Grant
Liane Grant in “Taken in Marriage”

Grant’s debut in a feature film, “Gypo,” was in the UK in 2005, but it marked a strong start to her career, as the film not only won the British Independent Film Award for Best Achievement in Production but, more so, was directed by Jan Dunn, the multi-award-winning female auteur and one of the first British directors to be listed on the Hollywood Director’s List.

“Doing ‘Gypo’ was my first professional job, and my first feature film, and for that reason it will always be a standout project, let alone the amazing team of professionals I was able to work with,” said Grant, about her first professional role nearly fifteen years ago.

Grant plays a bully in “Gypo”, which charts the breakdown of a working class family in England, when the teenage daughter of a family befriends a refugee girl, with leading roles by actors Pauline McLynn, whose credits include Tom Cruise’s “Far & Away” and “Transformers: The Last Knight” and Paul McGann, who portrayed the iconic British character, Doctor Who, in 2013. 

Gypo
Film poster for “Gypo”

Moving seamlessly from stage to screen can be challenging for any actor, but for Grant, who has performed in four Shakespeare plays for theater in the US and the UK – including as a female Julius Caesar in an all-female production – her valuable training, skills and experience make the transition back and forth almost seamless.

“Theater is wholly unique because it allows for a direct and intimate relationship with the audience: even when you can’t see the under the stage lights, even when you are lost in your character and in the moment, you feel that connection and their presence in some way,” said Grant, who has performed at the famous Edinburgh Fringe and in England and New York.

“There is certainly an electricity, literally and metaphorically, when the camera is rolling, and screen work is exciting and alive in its own way, but they are very different processes: how you prepare the character may be exactly the same, but the process for that character to be brought to life is very different.”

It is an approach that stands Grant in good stead, as she prepares in 2020 for her latest on-screen role as the character, Stephanie Miles, in the new US television series “Emergency: LA” which focuses on fictional dramas based around the emergency services of Los Angeles’ fire, police and hospital services. 

“When I watched Julie Andrews in ‘The Sound of Music’, it changed my world: I didn’t just understand the magic of film but the magic of a performance speaking to you directly,” said Grant, who also starred in film, “The Parasite,” in 2016.

“So, honestly, my ultimate goal would be to make someone else feel the way Julie Andrews made me feel, to pay the gift forward.”

 

 

From Composing UEFA Anthems to Film Scores, Yohann Zveig’s Musical Genius

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French Composer Yohann Zveig

Whether it be the film scores and trailers that touch the hearts of audiences and create palpable emotion, or the anthems played at sporting events that energize stadium goers for the anticipated event, French composer and music producer Yohann Zveig is a master at creating compositions that enrapture fans around the world.

With its power to surpass language barriers, transform a listener’s emotional state and make a listener feel something, it’s no wonder that music plays such a massive role in film, something Yohann Zveig knows all about. Zveig has composed music for countless films including Sarah-Laure Estragnat’s film “Bleu comme la mère,” which took home the Prix Saint-Germain Award, the Best Family Short Film Award from the Los Angeles Olympus Film Festival and was selected for Cannes Film Festival’s Short Film Corner, “Honni soit qui mal y pense” with Sara Mortensen (“Contact”) and many more.

Zveig also recently produced, as well as composed the score for the films “Et Voilà!” starring multi-award winning French actor Moussa Maaskri (“Mondialito,” “22 Bullets”), Samuel Wizmane (“Le Môme”) and César Award nominee Sinclair (“The First Day of the Rest of Your Life”).

A comedy film that centers on a tyrannical boss who makes the lives of his employees a living hell, “Et Voilà!” was recently chosen as an Official Selection of the Paris Court Toujours Film Festival where it will screen later this month, and the C’est Pas La Taille Qui Compte Film Festival.

“As a composer, my role is to find the right tone between the emotion of the actor and the general mood of the film by creating this binder that is music. It is a very sensitive and precise work, one must never fall into excess and yet, we must bring something more,” explains Zveig.

“So many films go through the ages because they have a very strong musical identity, I could mention a dozen of them but the first one that comes to my mind is obviously the work of Ennio Moricone who left an incredible mark to the cinema of the twentieth century.”

Having collaborated with massive names in the industry including Disney, Visual Music, Position Music, RedCola, Glory Oath+Blood, Grooveworx, Dos Brains and more, Zveig is one of the rare individuals who has managed to turn their talent into an exuberantly successful career.

Growing up in France, Zveig immersed himself in music at a young age.

He recalls, “I couldn’t help myself from hitting everything I had at hand. My parents even reproached me for making too much noise in restaurants because I was unable to stay still. I took the cutlery and hit the glasses and plates.”

A skilled drummer, pianist and bassist, Zveig proved himself to be a musical prodigy at a young age when he was able to miraculously pick up instruments and without lessons, teach himself to play simply by ear.

“The percussions and drums were my first preferred instrument. I’ve always been attracted by rhythm and groove, and more generally by drummers. Then I played the piano for the melodies and harmony,” Zveig explains. “I had a musical ear and was able to play the tunes I could hear on the radio at our at home. After this, the fourth instrument I played was the bass, mostly on stage since I sang and played the bass together.”

The multi-talented musician first began singing and playing bass on stages across France with well known-musicians such as Mino Cinelu (Sting, Miles Davis, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles), Vic Emerson (10 CC), Patrice Renson (Salif Keita, Vanessa Paradis, Mathieu Chedid) and Matthieu Chedid.

Whilst in his teens Zveig got his first computer, the Atari 520, a revolutionary moment in his life that allowed him to begin creating his own demos. From there, Zveig’s career unfolded at an incredible pace. His ability to create powerful, rhythmic and exciting compositions soon caught the attention of major sports franchises, such as the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), which brought him on to create the famous anthem for the Europa League in 2009.

“I included strings, brass, choirs and a lot of percussions.The piece had to be recognizable, it had to be an anthem in its own right, and it had to go through the times and gather the fans in the stadium,” says Zveig.

Played in 185 countries around the world, as well as in commercials, Zveig’s UEFA Europa League anthem was played during all of the matches in the competition and it was the sound fans heard through the speakers as the players entered the field

He admits, “At each final the stadiums were full of 80,000 people. It was an incredible emotion, a crazy joy to hear so many people chant my anthem”

After composing for the UEFA Europa League Zveig went on to compose the anthem for the German Federation of Football aka Deutscher Fussball Bund, the biggest Football Association of Europe, and an associate of the UEFA. Another huge mark in his career, and one that was heard by fans across the world, Zveig’s anthem was the one that played when Germany won the FIFA World Cup in Brazil in 2014.

Though Zveig has achieved inimitable success composing anthems for sports teams around the world, his capacity to create music that help bring the stories within films to life and touch audiences on a deeper level is one of the aspects of his talent that makes him so unique.

“Overall I’ve been passionate about music and cinema forever,” explains Zveig. “Unconsciously I think I’ve always been attracted to film scores. For instance, I could go to the cinema to watch a movie only to listen to the score. I think I’ve listened to more than 300 films scores. I really love it.”

In 2016 Zveig earned a nomination for the Jury Prize from the Sundance Channel Shorts for his work as the composer on the French film “Premier Jour.” Directed by Yohann Charrin (“Ta Mort en Salopette”) and starring Luchon International Film Festival Award winner Thierry Neuvic (“Hereafter”) and Alain Figlarz (“The Bourne Identity”),“Premier Jour” also won the Silver Award from the Mindfield Film Festival Los Angeles, as well as Best Short from the Cognac Festival du Film Policier.

“I am convinced that some films would never have had the success they received from the public without the music they had… music is able to seek other emotions, stronger emotions, from people. Many theme songs are so recognizable and engraved that they will remain forever in people’s minds. I think this is the true talent of a composer,” admits Zveig. “Saying this, I immediately think of the score of ‘Back to the Future’ written by Alan Silvestri, which I adore and which carried me away… as much as the story in this movie. Just at the thought of it I have shivers down my spine. I am a big fan of American composers, I can not deny it.”

Inspired by the composer of yore, Zveig has become quite the inspirational composer himself and his work on films like “Half the Sky” aka “La Moitié du Ciel,” which earned numerous awards from the International Marrakech Film Festival, Tanger Film Festival, Tetouan Film Festival, Alexandria International Film Festival and more, are only the tip of the iceberg.

Recently Zveig composed the score for the rivetting horror film “Play or Die,” which was released earlier this year and directed by Jacques Kluger.

About composing for films, Zveig says, “The score of a film is there to emphasize, and I insist on the word emphasize, the emotions in a movie. At no time should the music be at odds with the dialogue or the acting of the actors.”

For “Play or Die,” which stars Charley Palmer Rothwell (“Darkest Hour”), Roxanne Mesquida (“Gossip Girl”) and Marie Zebukovic (“Interrail”), Zveig created a score that heightens the emotions and piques the audience’s anticipation at every turn.

“A horror movie is an alchemy between images and music. Yohann’s creation came to enrich my creation to make the film. What Yohann has created is an indispensable piece to the puzzle that constitutes the film. The music he imagined is very strong because it creates the chills and anxieties necessary for a good horror film,” explains “Play or Die” director Jacques Kluger.

“I wanted a music that supports the atmosphere and emotions that I wanted to create by the image. Yohann very quickly understood what I imagined and how to create a sound universe that enriches the images. We worked together in sharing to create a true entertainment experience.”

Zveig seems to live in the mode of ceaseless creation. Back in 2004 he founded the Paris-based music label and production company Boburst Productions, followed by the production company NJNL in 2016, which is based in Los Angeles. Over the past few years he’s composed and released several major albums including “Amsterdam Rhapsody,” “Bucharest Rhapsody,” “Dublin Rhapsody” and “Hamburg Rhapsody.”  Last year Zveig was tapped by Position Music in the U.S. to compose and produce the album “Darkwater.” With Position Music specializing in releasing music for trailers, Zveig went to work creating a thoroughly diverse album of 12 tracks where each song boasts a uniquely powerful rhythm using an array of instruments and emotive percussion.   

One of Zveig’s tracks off “Darkwater” was snatched up earlier this year to be used in the official trailer for the Lionsgate produced crime-thriller “Crypto” with Golden Globe nominated actor Kurt Russell and Luke Hemsworth from “Westworld.” 

Whether he is using his talent to convey the thrill of competition that fuels the hopes of eager footballers, or composing brilliant scores that help take the films he works on to the next level, Yohann Zveig is truly a rare breed of genius and he’s one that we can bet on hearing a lot more from for years to come.

Zveig says, “I’ve always loved creating melodies and themes from scratch, listening to my inspiration. Music is a bearer of emotions and this is precisely what I’ve always searched for in composing music– to feel strong emotions that I could give to people.”

The Common Thread of Great Films: Edward Line

Film editor Edward Line made his name editing commercials and music videos, working with award winning directors including Traktor, Matt Lambert, Paul Hunter, Jonas Akerlund and Lucy Tcherniak. A natural collaborator and storyteller it’s not surprising that his talent led him to cutting short films where he has continued to fine tune his craft. It’s a well-rounded career course which Line explains, “From years of cutting commercials and music videos, I have become very disciplined in how to tell stories efficiently and within a set duration. While these skills are transferable, working on short films has relieved me from editing to time restraints and allowed me to approach performances in different ways.  With short films, I’m always thinking of how an edit decision will affect the audience emotionally in a later scene, as character develops and stories unfold. This is true for commercials as well, but of course there is much more breadth in a short film which typically runs for 10-20 minutes, rather than a 30 second commercial.”

Confirming his affinity for narrative editing, Edward’s short film work has been selected and recognized at international film festivals including Tribeca, Sundance, BAFTA and The Academy Awards. Here’s a look at some of his favorite work.

The Counsellor – Hand

The Counselor 2

Not strictly a short film, but a notable promo film that showcased Edward’s sensibility for dialogue cutting.  The film was a collaboration with director Johnny Hardstaff and featured actors Michael Fassbender (Prometheus, Hunger) and Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones) in a sexually charged scene that takes place in a lingerie store.  Edward subtly edited nuanced looks and dialogue to create a tension filled scene which left the audience asking questions, as intended by the filmmakers. This promo film was used by 20th Century Fox to market the release of Ridley Scott’s film The Counselor in 2013. He communicates, I really enjoyed editing this film. Apart from enjoying the first class performances from Michael and Natalie, the suspenseful and dreamy tone of the film was really appealing.  I enhanced this mood in the edit by paying close attention to the characters subtle eye movements and breathing, then hanging on these moments for longer than comfortable. During the edit, I added the ambient dream like soundtrack which further heightened the tension and atmosphere. When I showed the director my first cut he wasn’t expecting music, but he loved my music choice and it was included in the final film.”

St. Patrick’s Day 

St. Patrick's Day 1

In 2015 Edward teamed up with director Gary Shore to edit the film St. Patrick’s Day.  The film concerns a teacher who gets pregnant, with her doctor warning her, “we’re not certain with what.” It turns out to be (in a riff on the legend of st. Patrick expelling snakes from Ireland) a reptile, but her maternal love has no limits. The dark comedy was part of the “Holidays” anthology feature film and selected for the Tribeca film festival in 2016. Edwards relates, “I was keen to work with Gary Shore on a film after we had collaborated on two commercials in 2015.  Unlike the commercials, which were action packed and heavy in visual effects, this film is a pure narrative dark comedy. The film had over 12 scenes and included several nods to horror and comedy genres, which were fun to play with in the edit. These included creating a comical 1980s style documentary about the myth of St. Patrick. I edited this in a more literal ‘see-say’ style where the voiceover describes exactly what the images are doing, but in an exaggerated way. In the edit, we added a VHS video effect and traditional Irish music to add authenticity. We were so pleased with the resulting ‘mini-film’ that we used it for the opening scene.”

The Painters

The Painters

In 2016 Edward teamed up with longtime collaborator and director Sam Larsson (of multi award-winning collective Traktor) to edit “The Painters”.  Edward recalls, “Sam and I worked together on my first commercial edit in 2011 and have collaborated numerous times since, so when he wrote his first short film it felt natural that we’d team up again.”

The short film follows four house painters who kill time in a parked van as they philosophize about life and recall anecdotes, revealing a glimpse of who they really are. The editor communicates, “This film was a dark comedy with some serious undertones and an editorial challenge being a pure dialogue piece that takes place in one location, inside a van. The success of the film relied heavily on my edit to keep it entertaining and it took some experimenting before we found the film’s rhythm. During the edit I wasn’t shy to cut lines from Sam’s script that we felt were not helping the story, and Sam was very open to my ideas and choices.  As ever with editing, it was important to cut in order to move the story forwards and for emotion, and this was a perfect film to test that theory.” Larrson notes his affinity for the professional partnership he has experienced with Line as he states, “I have always held held Ed Line in high regards for his professionalism and dedication ever since I started to work with him back in the mid 2000. Ed is a great collaborator and very adept at his craft. His intelligent story-telling and comedic instincts have made him a pleasure to work with on every job we have done together. His skills for sound design and broad musical knowledge are invaluable and elevate the films we have worked on. He has a profound dedication to each project and will often stay involved even after his defined role is complete. He is one of the first editors I turn to when I am crewing up for a project.”

The Painters was selected for L.A. Shorts Festival in 2019 and will continue to be seen on the festival circuit into 2020.

Wale

Wale1

Inspired by racial tensions in East London, “Wale” follows the story of an 18-year-old mobile mechanic, who learned his trade whilst serving time in a young offenders institution.  After his release, he attempts to get his business going after being hired by the mysterious character O’Brien.

The ongoing tone that permeates the film the story is one of suspense and masterfully achieved through a blend of the director’s vision and editor’s pacing. Edward’s influence is prominent from the opening montage of Wale in which the footage slows down, causing the image to ‘strobe’ as it repeats frames. This editorial technique helps to convey danger and unpredictability and sets the mood for the rest of the film.  Later, in the scene where Wale [the main character] goes to O’Brien’s house to discuss fixing his car; Edward identifies nuanced moments in the character’s performance and lingers on shots to cultivate an uneasy and mysterious tone. The editing is full of restraint in a key driving scene where Wale wrestles with many emotions as Edward holds the shots longer than one might think possible; allowing the audience to really feel Wale’s emotions and try to understand where his mind might be taking him. Edward magnanimously states, “sometimes not cutting is the best decision an editor can make.”

Director Barnaby Blackburn recalls, “Ed has an extraordinarily natural talent for storytelling. He is able to quickly grasp the vision of the filmmaker and translate it on to screen in addition to his innate understanding of the appropriate tone, pacing, and emotion for every film he works on. Ed is not afraid to experiment beyond the traditional norms of film editing, which continually makes for groundbreaking work that pushes the craft of editing, and filmmaking in a broader sense, forward.”

Wale was very well received and boasts an impressive festival run, winning the prestigious Grand Jury Award at Dances With Films and ‘Best Short Film’ at a further five festivals.  The culmination of its success came in being shortlisted for an Academy Award (Oscar) and subsequently being nominated for a BAFTA in the ‘Best Short Film’ category.

The success of the film points to the strength of the relationship between Director Barnaby Blackburn and Edward who have forged a strong working relationship.  As such, they collaborated again in 2019 and completed another short film Dad Was’. This film follows the story of Mattie, an eight –year-old boy as he gives the eulogy at his father’s funeral. The production reunited many of those who worked on ‘Wale’ and will be submitted to festivals in 2020.

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(Editor Edward Line at work)

 

Alice Del Corso’s Novel “Magnolia Hearts On Fire: Vol 1” Becomes Award-Winning Film

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Film Poster for “Magnolia: Hearts on Fire Vol. 1”

When it was published in Italy in November 2018, “Magnolia: Hearts on Fire Vol. 1” was undoubtedly a runaway success novel for its author, Alice Del Corso, but it was her proficient skills as a screenwriter that led the source material to be transformed into a multi-award winning film.

Resting on Del Corso’s penmanship of the triumphant novel and its successful transfer to the cinema screen, the film version of “Magnolia” won the Best Short Awards at the Rolling Ideas, Etna, Via dei Corti, Couch and The Monthly Film Festivals, as well as the Best Short Awards at the Crown Wood and Creation International Film Festivals. 

“I was living in London when I started to imagine this girl; her past, her dreams, but I had no time to write that story so I just paused it, waiting for a better moment to write it,” said Del Corso, whose industrious film career has included being a story editor and script doctor in the UK.

“That moment came three years later and it is a story that really made me feel so many emotions that I will always carry it in my heart.”

Hailing from Tuscany, Italy Del Corso has established an internationally acclaimed career as a screenwriter through her work on lauded films, such as “Inside,” “Apeiron, “Suspensum,” and “Alba,” for which she has remarkably already won eight awards and two nominations. 

In addition to her awards for “Magnolia,” Del Corso’s accolades for screenwriting for “Apeiron” have included winning the Best Short Film Award at the Hollywood Film Competition and Los Angeles CineFest, Best Drama Short Award at the Hollywood International Moving Pictures Film Festival,  Diamond Award Winner at the International Independent Film Awards, the Best of the Year Award at the Gold Movie Awards, as well as nominations at the Depth of Field International Film Festival Competition.

“I can say that I’ve always been writing stories,” said Del Corso, who has enjoyed critical praise for her work since her 20’s. “I had a journal where I used to try my ‘writing experiments,’ as I called them: some poems, ideas, dialogues of some characters I had imagined; everything that popped into my mind.” 

Taking nearly two years to complete, Del Corso’s 520-page book of “Magnolia” focuses on the romance, and subsequent drama, between Elise Sodderland, a raven-haired troubled young woman who has fled Glasgow to come to London after something terrible happens, and Colin Knight, a famous English entrepreneur.

“When I’m writing a story, I primarily follow the characters, their space inside the plot, their needs and goals, giving them priority above everything else,” said Del Corso. “I think that the only way to have a story that feels true is to create characters so real that it’s like knowing someone intimately.”

A quick hit in Italy, “Magnolia” regularly sells around 700 copies a month, a very significant number for the Italian market and a fitting testament to Del Corso’s highly-consummate writing.

Released in November 2018, the film version of “Magnolia” was directed by Del Corso’s husband, Philip Thomas Morelli, through their joint company, Castle View Studio, which they founded in 2013. In addition to garnering numerous awards, “Magnolia” earned Morelli a nomination for the Best Director Award at the 2020 Mabig Film Festival, which will take place next year. 

“In the film, we see the key moments of Elise’s life,” said Del Corso, about the film which has also received several nominations such as Best Director, Actor, Actress and Directing for the 2020 Mabig Film Festival as part of its official selection.

 “Her past, her fears, and also the moment that will change her life which is her first meeting with Colin, the male character of this story.”

“Magnolia” stars two Italian actors as its two romantic leads: Sara Matteucci, who has starred in the film “Love 14” and TV series “Sketch Up,” and whose character for the film is listed as Magnolia Queen; and Amedeo Andreozzi, who stars in the film “99.9%” and the TV series “Don Matteo”, who plays Colin.

Matteucci has been nominated for the Best Lead Actress Role for “Magnolia” at the 2020 Mabig Film Festival, whilst Rocco Fasano of “Skam Italia’ fame has been nominated for the Best Lead Actor for his portrayal of the lead antagonist, Ryan Mcneal. 

“Alice is the sweetest human being and a very talented writer: she has an immense inner world which very generously opens up to the audience,” said Fasano, who was also the lead male actor in Del Corso’s award-winning sci-fi film “Apeiron.”

“She’s proven herself capable of dealing elegantly with human emotions as well as with the design of different universes… she’s sensitive and her narrations are beautifully structured.”

In February 2019, Del Corso commenced writing her second novel, “Blossom,” and the sequel of “Magnolia” is scheduled to reach the silver screen in 2020, in which Fasano will once again take on a leading role.

Del Corso is also set to begin production on her Hollywood cinematic debut with the upcoming feature film “Memoria,” which is slated to begin filming in Atlanta, Georgia and will be directed by Morelli.

“We signed with an executive production company in Hollywood and we have a famous American actor attached to the project in the leading role, who really loved the story,” said Del Corso, who has written both the story and 125-page screenplay for the project.

“Unfortunately, we cannot reveal anything else at the moment.”

 

 

Cinematographer Xavier Dolléans alternates between French primetime TV and Disruptive Digital

Cinematographer Xavier Dolléans
Cinematographer Xavier Dolléans on set of “Mental” shot by Thomas Gros

Internationally lauded French cinematographer Xavier Dolléans, who earned the Jury Award for Best Cinematography at the Slum Film Festival for his work on the film “Animal,” is no stranger to the technical intricacies of top-tier filmmaking. 

Dolléans, a proven master behind the lens, is the cinematographer responsible for shooting the first four seasons of “Skam France,” the largest global adaptation of the Norwegian teen drama, as well as the show’s upcoming fifth and sixth season.

As a cinematographer, versatility is one of his seasoned and sought after strengths, so it’s not at all surprising that he followed up “Skam France” by shooting two very different projects. After the first two seasons of “Skam France,” Dolléans came on board as the cinematographer behind the hit series “Red Shadows” (“Les Ombres Rouge”), which was broadcast during primetime on France’s C8, as well as the psychological youth drama “Mental,” which streams on the disruptive digital platform Slash TV owned by state broadcaster, France TV. 

“Red Shadows was a primetime show with a great cast, a very experienced director and big sets,” said Dolléans, who has won numerous awards for his work as a cinematographer. “I’m particularly happy with a party sequence where we had to reconstruct a full club with all the lights and sets as the whole crew did an amazing job, rigging and programing everything the way I wanted it to be.”

While “Red Shadows” was aimed at peak-viewing French TV and “Mental” was a purely digital content production aimed at modern viewers, the seasoned cinematographer navigated the differing productions with ease. Dolléans has built a formidable cinematography repertoire. For every project he takes on, he steps into the role as the leader of the entire camera department, and as such he is the one on set responsible for the art of photography and visual storytelling, including all of the on-screen visual elements from lighting and framing to camera angles and color palette.

With over 50 credits under his belt as a renowned director of photography, the most recent accolades in Dolléans’ 15-year career include winning the Best Cinematography Prize for “Rocambolesque” and “Animal” and at the Warsaw and Slum Film Festivals, and having his high-caliber work as the cinematographer behind the film “Ames Soeurs” featured at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival.

Dolléans’ vast skills and expansive experience in the field of cinematography allow him to be professionally ambidextrous in the projects he contributes to, allowing him to efficiently and effectively change gears from the big-budget series “Red Shadows” to more intimate productions like “Mental.”

“‘Mental’ was very different from ‘Red Shadows, as first of all, everything takes place inside the same building, the hospital,” said Dolléans. “Out of the 25 days of principal photography, 22 days were shot inside this place, with so many sets located inside it as well.”

Xavier Dolléans
Poster for “Red Shadows” aka “Les Ombres Rouges”

Broadcast in 2019 with all six episodes expertly shot by Dolléans, “Red Shadows” is a crime drama that tells the story of Aurore Garnier, played by French actress Nadia Farès, a policewoman who searches for the truth after she discovers new clues about the disappearance of her five-year old sister in 1993.

Dolléans was hired on the show by Alban Etienne, the CEO of Banijay Studios France, a subsidiary of the Banijay Group, the world’s largest independent content producer in the world with revenues of around USD $1 billion. Etienne had previously worked with Dolléans on the first two seasons of “Skam France.” 

Despite “Red Shadows” being set in the famously vibrant region of Côte d’Azur region of France, Dolléans’ color palette for lensing the show was, in fact, decidedly absent of vibrant colors. 

“The show was set in the south of France, between Marseille and Aix-en-Provence… we absolutely wanted to avoid all clichés, meaning no big sun with blue sky,” said Dolléans. “We were actually at the opposite end, with a lot of darkness, and a harsh and inhospitable sun:  no red at all, but a lot of browns, dark greens and metallic blue skies.”

Despite the expansiveness of the vision of the series, and the resources and budget to match it, challenges arouse around capturing this on screen, but Dolléans’ work bears testimony to his highly-esteemed skills behind the camera.

He explains, “On this show, we had so many locations that it was very challenging to be ready in terms of the preparation time for each of them… Also, the weather was a big concern, we had a lot of rain during the first weeks and then a lot of wind that prevented us from using use butterfly and frame diffusions outside, as we originally planned.”

Despite the challenges though, Dolléans nailed his mark, endowing the series with a masterful visual language, just as the director had envisioned. 

In contrast, the upcoming series “Mental,” which follows four teenagers in a psychiatric hospital and consists of 10 episodes, allowed Dolléans’ a bit more freedom to innovate and exercise his exemplary camerawork due to the fact that the consistent nature of the set.

“I like working differently on every show. On ‘Mental’ I used the camera with an extension module that allowed me to detach the sensor and to be very lightweight. This configuration gave me the ability to be with the actor, very close, to move intuitively and to improvise a lot with them and with the director. It was interesting to shoot it this way,” explained Dolléans.

Xavier Dolléans
Xavier Dolléans on set of “Mental” shot by Thomas Gros

Though “Mental” has yet to be released, the series has already begun garnering awards, including the 21st La Rochelle Fiction TV Festival’s Best Series Award in the 26-minute category. Dolléans was recommended to join “Mental” after a headhunt from France TV, which also saw him team up with a previous collaborator from his previous four seasons on “Skam France.”

“On ‘Mental,’ we worked very closely with the production designer Edwige Le Carquet, who I know from my past collaborations on Skam France seasons one through four, to get a very distinctive look for this show,” said Dolléans. “We worked a lot during preparation time to define the color palette, which is fundamental for me when we want to set a look.”

Dolléans, who was key in the film “Speed/Dating” winning the Best Short Award at the Alpe D’Huez Film Festival in 2017, ensured the cinematic production value of  the series“Mental” by utilizing cameras on the set that are typically used for feature films.

 “In terms of equipment, I used the Sony Venice camera again after ‘Skam France,’ as I like it a lot for its perfect color rendition and its ability to go very deep in low lights,” said Dolléans. 

Following the highly anticipated release of the series “Mental,” Dolléans is slated to begin shooting the fifth season of the praised series “Skam France,” the first time the series, which has become a global phenomenon, will have original content separate from its Norwegian counterparts. He has also been tapped as the cinematographer for a new documentary film drama centered on the world-famous opera house in Paris, the Palais Garnier.

 “It’s a very interesting project about the Opéra Garnier’s creation and all the inventiveness and tenacity of Charles Garnier, its architect, during its construction,” said Dolléans about the elegant building commissioned by Emperor Napoleon III in France’s capital from 1861 to 1875.

 “I want to continue to work in the fiction world, as it is the place where I like expressing my sensitivity most,” adds Dolléans. “In my career, I hope to achieve many beautiful and important feature films… By important movies, I envision those with a universal scope that touches every person. I need to feel that my work has an impact in the everyday lives of people .”

 

 

 

An Empathetic Approach to Filmmaking with Producer Summer Xinlei Yang

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Producer Summer Xinlei Yang appears to have the golden touch when it comes to filmmaking. There are equal portions of passion and commitment applied to her work, the results of which speak for themselves. Her films repeatedly become Official Selections of Academy Award Qualifying Festivals and are met with overwhelmingly enthusiastic responses from the audiences who view them. As with anyone in the film industry, success is met when talent chooses the stories that they are most suited to tell. These days, Hollywood is discovering more than ever that certain individuals are perfectly suited to tell a certain kind of story. For Xinlei, this often means the tales of people involved in multicultural situations. As a native of China who has experienced success in both her home country and the US, Summer always finds the connective tissue of her experiences and that of the characters in the lauded films she has worked on.

The Way Home is director Yiran Zhou’s heart wrenching tale of the modern day immigrant and an Official Selection at Academy Qualifying Film Festivals, including the 35th Santa Barbara International Film Festival, the 10th BronzeLens Film Festival, and winner of the International Vision Award at the Flickers’ Rhode Island International Film Festival. The Way Home is the story of two immigrants; 18-year-old Chinese-American Jimmy who seizes the opportunity to prove himself to a Chinatown hooligan and thirty-year-old Haiyang who followed a Coyote through the US-Mexican border years ago while his younger brother [Bin] fell ill. As Jimmy and Haiyang venture toward their own goals, it becomes clear that there is a very high price to pay. The film intimately follows them on their emotional, physical, and moral journeys, providing a timely exploration of family, identity, and sacrifice. The story was inspired by the director’s acquaintance with some Chinese factory workers in a Chinese food warehouse. Most of the employees at the establishment worked ninety hours or more per week. Contrasting the misconception that they were looking for a free ride, these workers came to America for the opportunity to make money to send home and support their loved ones. The film’s producer informs, “This story is about two different generations of Chinese immigrants is relevant and meaningful for the director and I as we are both from China. From the beginning of creating this story, both of us were adamant that the film should have a retrospective and dark tone to show the gap between the reality and immigrants’ American Dreams.” The Way Home was also selected by the 22nd Shanghai International Film Festival for its longest running competition, the Golden Goblet Award.

Xinlei worked with director Angela Chen on the film Our Home Here which was an Official Selection of the 22nd Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival (Past winners and attendees include Oscar nominated actress Rosie Perez; Emmy nominee JT Takagi; Sundance Film Festival nominee Terence Nance; Golden Globes and Emmy nominee Issa Rae, Ebony Jo-Ann, Screen Actors Guild Awards nominee Margot Bingham). This story centers around four individuals in a Texas city; nineteen-year-old Dylan, his older sister Rose, fourty-three-year-old fast-food worker Celine, and a twenty-one-year-old addict named Sean. Unbeknownst to these four, their lives will soon come together in a violent clash at the Sunny Meals drive-thru when Sean’s drug-bender takes a sinister turn, forever changing the trajectories of their lives, their careers, and their relationships. The film explores the desires for control, identity and family, as we intimately follow these characters during the day leading up to the incident. Although the story takes place in Texas, the actual filming location was in Los Angeles.

An even darker tale is found in the film When the Shadow Falls which Summer produced for director Jeseung Woo. After witnessing the suicide of a stranger, a woman named Jane becomes overwhelmingly haunted by the question of whether she could have done anything to help. Inspired by the director’s actual witnessing of a stranger’s suicide in Seoul, the subject matter hearkens back to the idea of many of Summer’s films which asks, “What is the pain that other’s experience which I am unaware of and how would this knowledge allow me to change my view of them?”

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If there is one unifying thread here, it is empathy. Film may be the most powerful tool in helping society feel what goes overlooked in the challenges of its members. To this end, filmmakers like Summer Xinlei and her peers offer the most benevolent choices for us all. The producer plans on maximizing this with her talent on an upcoming project, the documentary feature tentatively titled Frozen Fertility. She relates, “Soon after I decided to make a documentary about reproductive rights for women in China, a director friend of mine forwarded me the news of Teresa Xu, a women rights activist who hopes to freeze her eggs while she works to save money for a future family. Since China bars single women from the procedure, she decided to mount China’s first legal challenge of a law that limits fertility treatments to married couples only. I was so excited when I saw the news, and right away I reached out to her lawyer and herself about my documentary. Our shared understanding and first-hand experience with the subject immediately led her to agree to join our documentary filming. We were able to capture her story of going through the court and facing both local and international media. Her unique story appeared just as I was looking for subjects for my documentary feels like fate. I am just following my heart. The minute I saw the news I thought ‘I must take action now to film this significant moment.’ Summer is prompting all of us to take action with the incredible films she produces.