Category Archives: Reviews, Interviews & Features!

Q & A with Art Director Badr Farha

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Art Director Badr Farha shot by Michelle Castro

 

Regardless of whether he’s working on a film, music video or television series, leading art director Badr Farha let’s the director’s vision for a project guide his work. The versatile nature of his creative vision compounded by his intuitive approach has allowed him to nail the mark every time.

As an art director Farha has achieved unparalleled success in the international entertainment industry garnering attention in recent years for his work on the films “A, B, C or D?,” “The Last Conversation,” “More Than Words,” “Deliver Us,” “When Negatives Collide” and many more.

It is no coincidence that practically every project that Farha has art directed to date has received coveted accolades. The film “A, B, C or D?” earned the awards for Best Short Film and Best Cinematographer at the Golden Pomegranate International Film Festival in China, in addition to being chosen as an Official Selection of the prestigious NYC Independent Film Festival and the California Independent Film Festival; and the films “More Than Words,” “Negatives Collide” and “The Last Conversation” were all shortlisted for the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year.

Back in 2014 Farha leant his inimitable skill as an art director to the film “Deliver Us” directed by Laura Elisa Pérez Rebullén. The film, which followed a young activist who unites his people in a peaceful protest against their government, was included in The Cable Show’s Imagine Film Challenge hosted by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA), which was juried by industry heavy weights such as Oscar Award winning producer Nick Reed and Golden Globe Award winning actor Rutger Hauer.

Farha helped create the bleak and somber tone of the film with his use of barbed wire spun across the tops of fences, sadly forgotten stuffed animals nailed to wooden posts and an abandoned baby carriage surrounded by trash on the street leading to the protestors’ meeting location; and, in the face of tough competition, “Deliver Us” proved victorious at the Imagine Film Challenge taking home the Best Film Award and a $10,000 Grand Prize.

Farha’s far reaching talent has also helped him gain traction as both an art director and production designer for music videos with some of his past work including the music video for famed EDM DJ Rusko’s hit song ‘Lytah,’ as well as the music video for Tisha Campbell Martin’s new single ‘Steel Here,’ which was released in September and already has over one million views on YouTube.

 

 

He also recently finished art directing several episodes of the new television series “Seven Years Switch,” which was purchase by the FYI network earlier this year, as well as the upcoming feature film “Goetia,” which is currently in postproduction.

To find out more about how art director Badr Farha got to where he is today, and what drives him to create the powerful work he does, make sure to check out our interview below!

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

BF: I’m a Dubai based filmmaker currently residing in Los Angeles. After graduating from the American University of Beirut with a bachelor’s degree in marketing, I worked in advertising at Leo Burnett as a communications executive for 2 years handling GM communications in the Middle East.

In 2006 I decided to pursue my adolescent passion of filmmaking, a world completely unknown to me at that point. While studying, I managed to direct several independent music videos while in New York City under the Irreverence Group, LLC.

My insatiable yearning to truly understand narrative storytelling led me to pursue my masters in Los Angeles and soon after I directed “The Last conversation,” a film that was accepted into the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. Right now my passions lays in other below the line areas of production, and the films “More than words,“ which I art directed, and “When Negatives collide,” which I production designed, were also shortlisted as part of the Cannes Film Festival this year.

So how did you first get into art directing and what led you to this path?

BF: During my time spent pursuing my MFA in filmmaking and in April of 2014, I was brought on board to art direct a film titled “Deliver Us,” which was created as a part of the Imagine Film Challenge, a 48 hour Film Festival that took place during The Cable Show. We won the competition and received 10,000 dollars. It was a great milestone and looking back it served me as the universe’s tiny vibration or whisper to continue on this trajectory.

Can you tell us about how you approach your project from the time you’re hired on to art direct through the time of filming?

BF: Depending on the scale and scope of the project, I am either hired as an art director and/or production designer. My process has been the same throughout my career thus far. My first question about any project I consider attaching myself to is always the same and that is to ask for a script (shooting or otherwise).

Earlier in my career and for experience sake I was never too concerned over the content that would be generated during my employment onto a project. As the years have taught me, I have a gravitational pull towards stories that come from a place of truth and those that speak to the human condition. I realize my efforts are best served if I am passionate about the story being told, more importantly, if I can find a way to relate or identify to certain characters within the story, then I am able to serve justice to the film at hand or in discussion.

After having read the script and if I find that I am able to serve the film, further discussions are typically had with the director during preproduction that would entail the director’s vision in terms of color palette, stylistic choices and references of what the movie visually communicates in terms of aesthetics. During this time I make SketchUp presentations to communicate my ideas of what construction of the sets would entail in terms of design plans, budgets and turnaround time, granted that these are pre-visualizations and are not in fact practical locations. Once approved and in parallel, set dressing and conversation with costume designers will have been spearheaded to make sure all involved stay within the scope, palette and framework of the vision of the film.

Congratulations on the films “When Negatives Collide,” “More Than Words” and “The Last Conversation” being chosen as official selections of the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, that is a huge accomplishment!! Can you tell us about your work on these films?

BF: The film “When Negatives Collide” centers on a lower class teenager whose world is turned upside down when the hidden secrets of her past suddenly resurface, and force her and her mother into a painful examination of their lives, their relationship with one another, and their mutual faith, which might heal the damages from the past.

I am extremely happy with the work I’ve done on “When Negatives Collide,” the story takes places in 3 spaces so knowing that ahead of time allowed me to fully explore and flesh out ideas I had to create the complexities of the characters and their environment. With such an emotionally loaded script, I knew the prop selection choices would be fundamental as we shot in practical locations. Moreover, discussions on color palette were extremely important and were discussed very early on for this film as it would have to remain consistent from wardrobe to props etc.

The fact that it was accepted into the 2015 Cannes Film Festival is a great milestone for the director, and I was extremely happy to be a part of the film and family of cast and crew.

The film “More Than Words” examines family, drug addiction, and the limits of love and self worth, all seen through the lens of a couples’ relationship as they face what seems to be an inevitable fate. In the story, Rachel and Nick return to their hometown in rural Colorado to greet friends and family while seeking a solution to Nick’s recent diagnosis with a rare brain disorder

As the threat of possibly dying from surgery or the condition itself loom on the horizon, Nick separates from Rachel and his mom Alli, and he begins recklessly acting out. When Alli suggests Rachel repair the past with her own family as Alli tries to work on Nick, Rachel returns to her home to discover a drug addled mother and her younger sister Bryce enabling the situation. Rachel finds her whole world crumbling around her as she tries to find the words to convince Nick to tempt fate and chance surgery to correct his life threatening disorder.

The director wrote the script so I knew it came from a personal space and time in his life. I was extremely excited to work on this film primarily because we got to travel to Albuquerque, New Mexico for three weeks to create the worlds in which these characters lived. The characters were fully fleshed out in the script, so I had a real sense of who they were when moving into the project. I came in with a clear sense of tone palette and set design elements, which brought the story to life.

It was fully immersive and completely isolated in terms of where we actually shot the film and the fact that there was no reception or connection to the outer world. This forced everybody to stay present during production times.

A funny story from the production was when we had to create a trailer park scene in a grimy part of town, so one of the days we went all around town scooping up garbage and waste from the local dumpsters to set the scene and bring the story full heartedly to life. The waste also comprised of food, which drew in all sorts of bugs, termites, and ants to the surface of the ground, which ended up trickling into the DP’s shorts! That was definitely not my proudest moment and a lesson well learned. Having been accepted into the Cannes Film festival is wonderful, and I’m extremely happy I got to work on such a wonderful film.

I directed and art directed the film “The Last Conversation,” which also garnered attention during this year’s Cannes Film Festival and definitely, it was a great accomplishment textually, but when I caught wind of this news I don’t remember fully enjoying the moment. I had been art directing a feature film in Northern California called “Goetia.”

It was at that point that I learned that in our field a sense of accomplishment or pride over your own accomplishments isn’t ever fully realized, because moving on from the work you’ve done is paramount. The quote “You’re only as good as your last film” rings very true, and I find a deep sense of satisfaction when I learn of a new script and when I get to work on it, once it’s done it’s done. I have to let it go, regardless of where it goes and who sees it, that bares no relevance to the present.

I remain humbled by the response to the film and the fact that it was well received.

Can you tell us about some of the other projects you’ve art directed so far?

I worked on DJ Rusko’s music video ‘Lyta,’ which I thoroughly enjoyed. Just by having read through the treatment the director’s vision was clear and I knew the execution. Even though it wasn’t story boarded or even shot listed I knew a lot would have to be thought in scene and on the day of (improv), therein lies a major risk of it being a blessing or a curse. Luckily it proved to be a blessing.

I’ve art directed 3 of Julian De La Chica’s music videos in New York City, which have gathered over 100,000 views to date. At the time of production budgets are usually next to none, so a lot of the world that I along with my team have to create end up having to be extremely resourceful and limited. With this limitation I find comes the greatest challenge and if you’re able to serve absolute justice to the projects completion, that’s the greatest satisfaction you can hope for.

I got the opportunity to art direct Tisha Campbell Martin’s music video titled “Steel Here,” which was a great experience and I am really happy with the end result. I hadn’t seen her since her days on “Martin” and this was her breakthrough moment into music. I appreciate both the music video and film worlds, but in terms of fulfillment I find total comfort and enjoyment in the process of working in film as it’s far less forgiving, which is justified simply by the fact that you have time to fully create these characters’ worlds.

Why are you passionate about working as an art director?

BF: Being entrusted to decide on what goes into a frame is a grave responsibility that not too many people understand, at least the audience at large, when they watch a great film. Art direction always suggests consistency in themeless color tones, a “natural sense of placement,” being meticulous and attention to detail. These are some of the things I’ve always noticed in myself, and I have questioned the natural timidity and yearning I had in my earlier years, but they’ve proven to be useful in creating sets and deciding on the overall creative approach.

Can you tell us about any of the challenges you’ve faced on your way to the top of the industry—or any memorable “aha” moments where you felt like “hey this is the key to success”?

BF: Sometimes in this field when I have a minute to re-charge my batteries, I often think of something someone said to me– “Your own intellect can very much work against you”– at the time I never really understood it, but I now live by that very notion, which is simple really and with time I have learned to accept it. I tend to over analyze situations and dwell in certain moments far after the moment has passed. Milan Kundera’s book “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” speaks to this very notion and answers it beautifully and provided a great breakthrough moment that has gravely helped me navigate in this industry.

What have been a few of your favorite projects so far and why?

BF: Every project I work on is always my favorite because the process is always the same for me. The projects that are less volatile are the ones I tend to worry about , which typically begs further questioning.

What would you say your strongest qualities as an art director are?

BF: I’d say I am highly adaptable, meticulous and detailed. It helps that I possess excellent communication skills, both personally and professionally.

What projects do you have coming up?

BF: I will be working on the feature film “1982” and the documentary film “Free America.”

What are your plans for the future?

BF: I’d like to return to my first love of directing, but thoroughly enjoy art directing in the present and plan to continue down that path for the next 5 years.

What do you hope to achieve in your career?

BF: An Oscar. No more, no less.

What kind of training have you done, and how has it helped you in your field of work?

BF: Being on set is the best training in this field. I have seen my work grow over the past few years, or rather my eye has become sharper creatively.

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Tate McRae: The Canadian Triple Threat to Watch

 

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          Tate McRae shot by Chris Reilly Photography

The ultra talented Tate McRae is a dream for any casting director. The 12 year old Canadian actor possesses multiple skills; aside from acting as the character voice of Spot Splatter Splash on the popular Nickelodeon series Lalaloopsy, McRae is also a singer and professional dancer.

While watching dance classes at her mother’s studio early on in life McRae knew without a doubt that she had an infatuation for performing. By the time she was 6, McRae enrolled in her first ballet class. It didn’t take long for her to realize that dancing was something she had a God-given talent for; and, by the tender age of 8, McRae was absolutely captivated by dancing as she prepared to perform at her first Dance Nationals competition in New York City.

McRae has garnered much praise and attention for her mesmerizing abilities as a dancer including a slew of awards such as Mini Best Dancer at the Dance Awards in NYC in 2013 and the Silver Medal Solo Winner at the 2015 YAGP Finals in NYC.

In fact, McRae’s confidence in dancing and the sheer exposure it has brought her has been a huge factor in catapulting her career as an actress.

“I got into acting through my dancing and singing. I love musical theater and had to learn to develop characters for my songs. Then, the same day I got an agent I booked a job doing voice-overs for the show Lalaloopsy!” says McRae.

Lalaloopsy is an animated TV series on the Nickelodeon network and is based on the lives of a group of dolls living in Lalaloopsyland. McRae voiced the character Spot Splatter Splash for 17 episodes. The show’s success led to a few spin-off videos including Lalaloopsy Ponies: The Big Show (2014) and Lalaloopsy: Band Together (2015), in which McRae reprised her role as Spot.

“It is hard recording voice-overs. You are the only one in the recording booth and there are lots of people online from the states directing you. I usually got a 30-page script 1 to 2 days before we recorded, so you have to go through it and figure out how your expression is going to be,” says McRae.

McRae’s excitement and drive to perform voice-over work led her to play additional characters in other Lalaloopsy projects. She played Nutmeg in Lala-oopsies: A Sew Magical Tale (2013) and the role of Harmony in the Lalaloopsy DS Game, her favorite role to date.

Her experience on TV helped McRae land several other jobs including a Toyota commercial and music videos for the song ‘Rule the World’ by the band Walk off the Earth. You can check out her incredible dancing skills alongside dancer Myles Erlick in the WOTE music video below.

 

Working with big names in the dance industry such as Travis Wall from the Emmy award winning show So You Think You Can Dance, and famous choreographer Blake McGrath (Dance Moms, Dancelife) has greatly increased exposure in the entertainment industry for McRae.  Having such close friends with extensive connections, coupled with the triple threat talent she already possesses can only help broaden McRae’s opportunities in the future.

McRae continues to work on projects that incorporate her love of both dancing and singing along with acting, as well as focus more time on modeling and commercial work. She has already modeled for a few clothing lines such as Miss Behave Girls, Schatzi, and Capezio.

 

Q & A with French Band Ze Gran Zeft!

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Sideman (left), Da Kid & Boots (right) of Ze Gran Zeft shot by Anthony Dubois

 

Fans of the former nonconformist bands Rage Against the Machines and The Beastie Boys will be floored with delight when they hear Ze Gran Zeft’s modern amalgamation of hip-hop and rock if they haven’t already.

The band, which is comprised of singer, songwriter and guitarist Boots, Sideman on bass and Da Kid on drums, have created a unique discography of energetically charged tracks full of ill beats, radical guitar riffs, screams and raps that make it impossible not to do some good old head bangin’ when they blow through the speaker.

ZGZ started working with renowned producer and musical genius Charles “Kallaghan” Massabo shortly after the band’s formation in 2010, with Kallaghan helping to reel in the boys’ diverse interests into a common focus, not to mention his creation of powerful sound design on most of their tracks. Earlier this year the song ‘Just Like You,’ which was written by Kallaghan for the well known post-hardcore band Falling in Reverse, charted at No. 21 on the Billboard Top 200. Falling in Reverse’s former lead guitarist and backing vocalist, Jacky C Vincent, is featured on ZGZ’s single ‘Spaceman,’ which was released earlier this year and is one of the hits of the band’s forthcoming album “JOI,” which will drop in 2016. Another notable single off the upcoming album titled ‘Millennial Kids’ features non-other than Mopreme Shakur, Tupac’s older brother.

To find out more about the boys of ZGZ make sure to check out our interview below.

You can listen to some of the tracks of their previous albums through their bandcamp/iTunes page: https://zegranzeft.bandcamp.com/music

https://itunes.apple.com/fr/artist/ze-gran-zeft/id622794779

As well as through their website: http://www.zegranzeft.com

Where are you guys from originally?

Boots: We come from Toulon, in the South East of France.

How would you describe your sound to listeners who haven’t heard your music yet?

Boots: The future.

What is your writing and recording process like?

Boots: We work as a “rock band” but with a “hip-hop” approach– the beat/instrumentals are made first, then I would write some hooks keeping the best one to build a powerful chorus. The inspiration/recording/writing process stays the same for us, we create a vibe, we just fool around until we reach the positive vibe to create and record a track. And basically that is what ZGZ is made of.

When did you guys start playing together?

Da Kid: In 2009 after I met BOOTS at a band contest, we started the basis of ZGZ. I introduced Sideman to the project, as we were working the same job at the time, and after the first rehearsal the band was created.

What was the vibe like between you guys back then compared to now—was it instant chemistry or were there things you had to work through in order to mesh well together?

Da Kid: Total chemistry, we have a lot of influences and that makes ZGZ’s richness, and it’s been like that from the beginning. It’s been 6 years since we started working together and it’s still the same craziness!

How did you end up working with producer Charles “Kallaghan” Massabo?

Da Kid: I contacted him in 2010 while he was still working at his studio in the French Riviera. He liked the demo I sent him and we started working together a couple of month after that.

Can you guys tell me about the work that went into the EPs “Watch The Crown,” and “Crunked Vizion” that you released in 2013?

Sideman: Both EPs were recorded at the same time, that’s the reason why the vibe is the same. That was actually the first album Kallaghan produced and mixed in Los Angeles.

We worked on a 10-track album back in 2012, and when he went to settle down in LA the album was ready. He mixed it at Mudrock’s Hobby Shop studio. That was our first international production between France and the U.S. We also had the opportunity to work with Arn Gyssels for the artwork on both EPs, after discovering his work for Bring Me The Horizon’s “Sempiternal.”

Can you talk a little about your inspiration for each EP?

Boots: I usually write lyrics about stuff that amuses me, like partying with friends, having a good time, and most of all: SEX. We like the 80s vibe before grunge came out with all their penis problems haha… But we are also huge fans of 90s music and that paradox is ZGZ’s main direction: the crossover. We’re just a bunch of kids that love to fool around and annoy elder people.

Did anyone else collaborate with you on those EPs?

Sideman: We recorded all the gang vocal parts with our friends from HELL RULES HEAVEN, who are from France and who work with Kallaghan too. We had a great time screaming like dumbasses into a microphone haha!

You also released the EP “The Debra Experience” in 2013 can you tell us a little bit about that project?

Da Kid: Hahaha! This has been the lamest and at the same time the most fantastic stuff we’ve done! We recorded Kallaghan’s ex-cat on that album. Then after the EP came out the cat went nuts, some issues with the royalties I think. In the end the cat kept the house and the PlayStation 3, and we kept the rights. Lame story.

It seems a bit lighter than the other two, more hip-hop and no heavy guitar riffs—can you tell us what inspired you guys to make that EP?

Boots: We recorded this EP with absolutely no instruments except for a bad quality folk guitar. Everything else is synths and beats. That has been our very first approach with hip-hop, and influenced the following work that made our first upcoming album. We wanted to try something new, and the final product is something cute, but boring. That’s why we named it “The Debra Experience” because Debra Morgan is cute but really boring.

How did you guys come to start working with Jacky C Vincent on the ‘Spaceman’ track you released earlier this year?

Boots: Kallaghan started working with Jacky after he met him by way of Ronnie Radke. He worked on his mixtape and then was involved in the production of Falling In Reverse’s third album “Just Like You.” Kallaghan and Jacky became friends, so when he introduced ZGZ to Jacky, he liked the concept and accepted to drop a crazy ass shred solo. He’s English you know, he’s able to feel real talent. That’s a European quality.

What was the experience like working with him?

Boots: This guy is a rock star, he’s talented, and his hair looks great. He has a purple guitar too. Does Van Halen have a purple guitar? I don’t think so…

You’re also about to release the single ‘Millennial Kids,’ of off your upcoming album- what inspired you guys to create this song and why do you think it will go over well with your audience?

Boots: The Sega Genesis, The Snes, Baywatch, and Dragon Ball Z. This song is our generation. It affects everyone that grew up between 1980 and the 00s, cause it’s dedicated to this period. Every kid dreamed about taking a nap on Pamela’s breast after pushing a giant Kameha. So if you don’t love it or even get it, you surely are from those who use “Pardon my French” before swearing, or use “kiddo”…

How did you guys get connected with Tupac’s brother Mopreme Shakur for the new single?

Sideman: It’s still Kallaghan’s shenanigans haha! Seriously this guy is a real big brother for us, we would never have thought we could write a song with a Shakur one day… We knew Mopreme from his old project with Tupac, “The Outlawz” and “Thug Life,” and Kallaghan had the opportunity to meet him. He was mixing the track by the time, and Mopreme accepted to write a 16 on it… We come from Toulon, and we have a song with one of the most important family members of the hip-hop history!

What’s the name of your upcoming full-length album and when can audiences expect it to be released?

Boots: The name of the album is “JOI” and it’s ready to be released in 2016.

What do you have planned for the future after the release of the album?

Boots: Our first objective is to go on a big tour, to introduce people to the next iconic band of the generation. We are also working on our next album and have the same urge to work with a lot of different artists. This is something we share within Kallaghan Records crew, the union. As we use to say in French “L’union fait la force” (United we stand)…

What tours have you been on so far?

Boots: We had the opportunity to tour in Eastern Europe back in spring 2013 with the Romanian band Dirty Shirt. We love these guys and we had the greatest time ever over there. We also toured in France since the band was created, and played with a couple of local bands.

What has been the most memorable and/or craziest thing that has happened to you guys on tour so far?

Boots: Having a proper PA and something to drink. Honestly, I think the 100% filled rider doesn’t exist. That’s why Van Halen asked for special M&M’s; when you crash at the gig, go check the PA, especially when you need bass, and go check if you have water and something to eat. If you got everything, then yeah, you’ll have a memorable gig, and that’s the craziest thing that can happen to you. And we are in the 21st century.

What was the first show you played together?

Da Kid: The very first show we played together was in 2010 near Toulon, for a band contest organized by a local music store by way of a local festival. We won, and then played on the main stage that night.

What was it like being on stage together for the first time?

Boots: Have you ever eaten a warm croissant during a trip to France? This is kind of new for you but then you feel the pleasure and feel instantly that this is the right thing to do at this exact moment.

What other shows have you guys played aside from the tours you been on together?

Boots: We’ve only played local shows. If you don’t already know about France’s Southeast scene, then let me tell you there’s nothing. France in general, has never been a good spot for composition and live shows; people here are more interested in nightclubs or bars. So if you’re not playing an EDM mix you don’t have 99 choices to play in proper places, and most of all, earn enough money to live from it.

Why do you guys love playing music?

Boots: Cause we all failed our studies, so music remained the easiest way to get girls and money. And that’s one of the only jobs where people love to hear you complain about how life isn’t easy. And sometimes the melody affects our feelings.

Can you describe the feeling you get when you’re on stage?

Da Kid: I feel surrounded by tons of stuffs I can hit the hardest I want, unless the PA sucks, but most of the time that’s the better place to be. Regarding the two others and the way they jump everywhere, I think they enjoy it a lot too.

What bands were you playing in before you got together?

Sideman: We played in small bands, like the one you got into in college after discovering MTV. All our projects were really rock/metal sounding, cause we’ve all grown up with Korn/Tool/Nirvana/etc. We’ll never bash on our first projects cause first, we experienced what is like to be ridiculous and learned to accept it. And then, we created ZGZ after understanding what we really wanted to do in music. It’s been a successful practice.

If you weren’t musicians, what other job do you think you’d have?

Boots: Da kid could work in the fashion industry, he doesn’t particularly have good tastes, but he’d love to be surrounded by people like Lagerfeld, Jacobs or Gautier. Regarding Sideman, he’s really good with computers and technology, so I think he would succeed in creating a webcam show platform for people like Lagerfeld, Jacobs and Gautier and Da Kid. And me, I think I’d really like to become a famous bar tender in a famous 90’s style house club from Chicago or from Castro in SF to spend the night with all those aforementioned fellas.

Can you tell me briefly how each one of you got into music?

Sideman: I decided to play bass in a metal band after discovering ‘Blind’ at the end of Street Fighters II The Movie

Boots: I was raised on the Woodstock scene, The Police and David Bowie. Things follow the logical way.

Da Kid: I was hitting my friends at Kindergarten, my parents decided to buy me a plastic drum kit so I could hit something else.

Can you talk about some of the musicians and bands that have influenced you over the years and why they’ve been important in your growth in musicians?

Boots: Jimi Hendrix and David Bowie, cause they are related to my father who’s a big fan. They also represent the new wave of their own genre; they brought a revolutionary sound and are icons for modern music. Then Dimebag Darell, who is to me the greatest musician of all times. The Notorious BIG, 2Pac and Kendrick Lamar, for all that they represent for music, and their writing skills.

Sideman: I grew up listening to David Bowie, Stevie Wonder, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Jamiroquai. They heavily influenced my playing style at first. Currently, the musicians that influenced me the most are Adam Nolly Getgood (Periphery), Dick Lövgren (Meshuggah) and Jean-Michel Labadie (Gojira). Their sound and approach to bass helped me make a lot of crucial choices choosing my bass brands, effects, and live configuration.

Da Kid: Slipknot. The intention, their ideas (at least on the 2 first albums) were limitless. But I grew up with many different bands and artists like Paco Sery who’s my favorite, Maceo Parker and Prince, who changed the conception of beat making. The most inspiring current drummer to me is Mark Guiliana.

 

Thanks ZGZ for the rad interview! If you want to find out more about them and what they’re up to, make sure to stop by their social media pages:

https://www.facebook.com/ZeGranZeft

https://twitter.com/zegranzeft

https://www.instagram.com/zegranzeft

 

 

From Commercials to International Ad Campaigns, Model Vlada Verevko Is a Knock Out!

 

When the average person thinks of modeling, images and ideas that usually come to mind revolve around fashion, travel and gorgeously, slender women. The modeling industry is highly competitive and highly selective, with strict guidelines such as height (5’8” to 5”11”), weight (90 to 120 lbs) and age (16-21) being factored in just for a young hopeful to be considered. Education and personality are only secondary in this aesthetically driven industry, and with 99% of the focus being centered on beauty, it’s no wonder that most perceive models as unintelligent. However, Vlada Verevko is the exception to this rule. She’s a prime example that a model can have both brains and beauty.

Vlada Verevko is not your run-of-the-mill model. In fact modeling was never a consideration for this Russian born beauty, at least not originally.

“I didn’t exactly choose modeling. Modeling chose me. I was always skeptical about it as a career and for that reason for the first few years I was only doing it part-time while getting my degree,” says Verevko.

Obtaining a psychology degree was always Verevko’s number one priority, and she stayed the path until her degree was completed before actually giving her all to the modeling world. As a travel-lover, modeling has given Verevko the opportunity to explore the world on a scale that psychology research never could.

The modeling industry first took notice of Verevko back in 2002 when she won the Miss European beauty pageant in Russia, which led her to sign with Ultima Models, one of Moscow’s leading modeling agencies, subsequently after.

Since that fateful encounter nearly 14 years ago, Verevko has certainly made a name for herself in the industry as the face of an illustrious list of international ad campaigns, as well as a featured model in national television commercials. For the past six years Verevko has been represented by Elite Models, the same agency that’s helped household names such as supermodels Cindy Crawford, Gisele Bundchen, Tyra Banks, and Adriana Lima skyrocket to international success.

Standing at 5’8″, Verevko’s height barely made the cut for the runway, considering that most female runway models are around 5’11”, but whatever she lacks in height she makes up for in other areas.

Despite such limitations, she has strutted down the catwalk for big name designers like Louis Vuitton, Betsey Johnson, Nine West, Agent Provocateur, and L’Oreal, proving that she can captivate an audience in a designer’s new line better than anyone.

It’s as a print model however, where Verevko has clearly set herself apart from the masses. Verevko’s natural and mesmerizing beauty has garnered her much attention as a leading face in the makeup industry through her work for companies such as Sephora, Sally Hanson, Dermaglow, Elizabeth Arden, and many other iconic brands.

Aside from Verevko’s intelligence and energetic personality, her versatility in front of the camera has been a driving force in her career. She prides herself on her chameleon-like ability to adapt and transform into whatever character a shoot calls for. Her work in front of the camera ranges from sporty to classy, and fierce to seductive.

“In front of the camera I feel comfortable doing things that I probably wouldn’t do in real life,” she adds. This approach has earned her a number of editorial spreads in high-profile magazines such as Vogue UK, Kismet, Elevate, Clin D’oeil and T&M magazine.

Recently Verevko has shifted gears and has been working steadily on TV commercials for Herbal Essence, Venus, Mr. Clean and Quaker Oats. Her look has also landed her a plethora of roles in television and film productions, appearing on television shows over the years such as USA Network’s “Suits,” The CW’s “Beauty and the Beat,” Fox’s “The Listener” and “Degrassi: The Next Generation,” as well as the films “A Beautiful Side,” “Hacker,” “White Blossoms” and “Kalore.”

 

 

 

 

 

Q & A with Leading Film Editor Sunghwan Moon

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Korean Film Editor Sunghwan Moon

Today Korean-born film editor Sunghwan Moon is living out his childhood dream of working on large-scale narrative film productions, but, as is the way with turning most worthwhile dreams into reality, his rise to the top didn’t come without a lot of hard work and effort on his part.

After spending several years as a lead editor for movie and TV series trailers including the ones for the film Kong-Zi, the series Iris and the promos for the film 71- Into The Fire and those for the Disney and Disney Jr. channels in Korea, Moon moved to Los Angeles to attend American Film Institute, a prestigious conservatory program that only accepts a maximum of 14 film editors from around the world every year. A major stepping-stone in his career, Moon received his master’s in film editing from AFI, which allowed his to make further connections in the American film industry while making his mark as a leading editor for films.

Prior to working as the editor of the films And The Wind Falls, Tracks, Head Trauma, Together Alone, The Lost Generation and many others, Moon was already well-versed in editing hours of footage into seamless stories for the screen. Earlier on in his career he established himself as a leading international music video editor through his work on the videos for Loveholics’ song “A Good Tain Knows,” Winterplay’s “Cha-Cha,” Shin Seung-hun’s “Love of Iris,” Baek Ji-young’s “Don’t Forget Me,” and K-pop artist Standing Egg’s songs “Kiss Me,” “MAM-E-GEOL-LYEO,” and “NA-O-NEUL-TTA-RA.”

The unfortunate truth is that many people sit around and wait for their dreams to happen to them, believing that their fated break into what ever industry they wish will just come if they are patient– Moon’s story is the exact opposite. Instead, his is one of perseverance and tenacity. After years of slowly working his way to the top and never losing sight of his end goal, all of his dedication paid off. To find out more about how Sunghwan Moon got to where he is today make sure to check out our interview below!                                                                                                         

Where are you from? 

SM: I spent my childhood moving around until third grade due to my father’s job. We lived in a mid sized town called Gwangju, Korea until I was in high school, and then I moved to Seoul for university. After serving three years in the Air Force, I moved to Oakland, CA, before moving back to Seoul where I worked for a while and got married. Now I’m living in the US again.

How and when did you first get into working as an editor?

SM: I’ve always liked filmmaking so I dropped out of the university where I was majoring in Law in Korea and entered a small arts college in Oakland/S.F. in California as filmmaking major. At first, I wanted to be a director, but soon I found out that I enjoyed editing more than any other fields in filmmaking. I kept working that path, and got my first job at a small company that was creating video pieces for mobile services such as Verizon. After that, I ended up working mostly on trailers, promos, and music videos. After doing that for about eight years, I was accepted to AFI and now I work mostly on narrative movies.

What inspired you to pursue this profession?

SM: I always liked watching movies as a child. I would skip school, which I’m not so proud, and go to a theater and watch the same movie again and again. I always wanted to do something related to film. I first wanted to be a film critic, but while attending college, I found that editing was the most fun thing to do. You shape the performance, the rhythm, the emotion– the movie is really created in a cutting room.

How important is formal education to getting a job in the industry?

SM: It’s important in a sense because it can help you make connections. People say how good you are is the most important, but it’s also important whom you know.

Can you describe some of the projects you’ve worked on and some of the challenges you’ve faced?

SM: I was the sole editor on the trailers for Iris, the No.1 hit TV series in Korea in 2009, which consisted of 20 episodes, and I cut the trailers for each episode. The schedule here in the US can be crazy, but in Korea it is very common to shoot an episode in the morning and then air it that same night. I would get the script they were out shooting, and do a paper cut – meaning I would select the lines and shots based on the script, then select the music, then do the basic editing on paper. Once they finished shooting, I’d request the footage and quickly grab what I had pre-selected. Then if I felt I needed something else, I would look into other parts of the footage. This might not be an ideal method, but given such a short time to cut, it worked well for me.

Disney launched the Disney and Disney Jr. channels in Korea in July 2011 and I joined the team in January as the leader of the editing team, as well as a lead editor for the On-Air-Promotions team. We created all the promos/previews for these two channels. As a team leader, I also had to supervise other editors on their work and I really enjoyed working with the other team members. In many cases, creating the promos involved a meeting with the producers and editors since sometimes what the producers imagined in their heads wasn’t possible. We had to create many promos every week with a fairly tight schedule, but everyone collaborated well and it always went well.

I was the editor on the 8 series scripted show Fall Into Me for Lifetime. The story of the series I worked on was pretty classical – a normal girl meets a billionaire who she used to know in high school, but they wanted to give a bit of an ‘indie movie’ feel to it. We had to try to balance between a romantic comedy and an indie movie. I’ve known the director since AFI, so it was easy for both of us to communicate. Although we had never worked together before, we still shared the same education, which provided us with the same basic foundation and let us speak the same language. From a creative point of view, most challenges come from a lack of communication with the director; but that wasn’t the case this time. The director knew what she wanted and she understood what could be done and what she had to let go of.

I also edited the film And The Wind Falls, which was a bit of challenge since the story wasn’t typical. It was written in a way so that the story would unfold with subtlety. Things happen to the main character, but so many things are only implied that you will miss them if you’re not engaged completely. I’ve worked with the director before this – we worked on two music videos and then a web series pilot together after this project. We worked hard and I’m glad that our hard work got some recognitions from others including getting a Special Mention at Singapore Short Film Awards.

The director’s vision here was very clear for the film Tracks. He and the DP shot the film in a way so that the camera looks at the main character all the time like a documentary. Our reference movie was Fish Tank, directed by Andrea Arnold. During pre-production, I was very curious about how the director and the editor on Fish Tank worked together. So, I managed to find the editor’s contact info, I emailed him and we ended up having a conversation. We met a little later when he came to the U.S. to edit Still Alice (starring Julianne Moore), and became friends. He told me the story of how he approached Fish Tank, and it helped me a lot. The actor did a great job so I didn’t have to worry about making cuts to the performance, which helped me immensely. As I said, it was shot in a way that the camera never rests, and it keeps following the main character. I tried to respect how it was shot and edit accordingly. And this film got into many festivals around the world including this year’s AFI FEST.

What tools do you use to edit? Avid? Final Cut? Etc. And what are the primary differences?

SM: My main tool is Avid, but I also use other software such as Final Cut Pro and Premiere. The only difference is the speed just because I’m more used to Avid than others. There are certain things that one is better at accomplishing than the others; and I feel Avid is better for cutting narrative films than other programs are.

What is it that you love about working as an editor?

SM: I respect what everyone does in the process of making a film. However, I feel it’s in the cutting room that the film is finally created in its final form. I love the feeling of being able to shape the rhythm, the performance, and finally create the story and the emotion through the film.

Also, if you are lucky and get to work with a good director, you’ll learn a lot while working with them. In a small editing suite, you talk to a director a lot. And you get to learn a lot. I think I’ve been lucky in that sense. So, in a sense, a cutting room is a working place as well as a learning place to me.

What separates you from the rest of the pool of editors in Hollywood? What is your specialty in the field?

SM: I have a background as an editor on trailers/music videos for eight years. I believe it has given me a better rhythmic sense. Also, I have a different cultural background as well, and I am sure it provides a unique point of view on a story.

Can you tell me a little bit about your editing process? Once you get the footage, where do you start?

SM: Once I get the footage, I try to understand what a director wants to achieve in each take and scene. If a director does multiple takes, I try to understand why. Once I get the footage, I don’t rely on the script as much. Yes, I’ll go back to a script to make sure I haven’t missed any small things that are intended for the story; however, I try to see what is actually captured in camera. In general, I believe how the footage is shot tells you how to edit. The footage tells you how to cut.

What is the collaboration process like in terms of working with the other departments on a project?

SM: There is a very popular comment from Jeong-min Hwang, the most famous actor in Korea. He once said something like, “All the other people prepared such a great meal. I did nothing. I just added my fork and knife, and enjoyed the meal. It was all possible because of them who prepared the meal.” I feel pretty much the same. So, I try to maintain solid communication with everyone so that there’s no room for misunderstandings.

Up to how long can it take to complete the editing on a project?

SM: It all depends on a project.

I’ve heard people say an editor can be sitting at their computer for up to 14 hours a day working on something—is this accurate? If so how do you stay focused?

SM: Yes, that’s possible. When I worked for a trailer company, I used to have to work even longer than 24 hours straight many times. I do not have any special way to focus. Since I do what I like to do, I don’t have to struggle to focus. I think all editors like their jobs. But I have to say it’s not healthy and it’s less productive to work for too long without taking a break. You get to be more creative when you take a break.

What projects do you have coming up?

SM: I’m currently working as the assistant editor on the feature film In Dubious Battle, directed by James Franco.

Do you have a passion for working on a specific kind of film or project, if so what kind of project and why?

SM: Although I’m leaning towards feature films, I wouldn’t mind doing a TV series as long as it has a good story. A good story is probably the only thing that matters.

 

 

 

Q & A with Dynamic Actress Erica Deutschman!

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Canadian Actress Erica Deutschman shot by Karen Benedict

Today audiences around the world will probably recognize actress Erica Deutschman best from her role as Beth in the dramatic fantasy series Being Human, where she transforms from the innocent girl next door to an eerie hauntress who makes the main character’s life unbearable. Never failing to captivate her audience, Deutschman’s impressive range coupled with her drop dead gorgeous looks have made her a leading lady for a long list of film and television productions across genres including The Howling Reborn, Hidden, Reign, Fatal Vows, Blue Mountain State, Sex Addict/Love Addict and others.

Earlier in her career Deutschman starred in Christos Sourligas dramatic feature film Happy Slapping, which premiered at the Montreal International Film Festival in 2011.

According to The Hollywood Reporter the film was the world’s first feature length project to be shot entirely using Apple’s iPhone 4. Happy Slapping revolved around five suburban teens that roam the streets at night attacking random victims and recording the assaults with their phones. Deutschman’s character Belle, who’s the polar opposite of most of the characters the actress has taken on over the years, was the antagonizing one of the bunch who continually eggs the other four, upping the ante and leading each action to be more atrocious than the one before.

Shortly after the release of Happy Slapping Deutschman went on to guest star on the hit television show Lost Girl, as well as A Stranger in My Home, before landing the recurring role of Beth on SyFy’s multi-award winning series Being Human. This year Deutschman wrapped production on multi-award winning director Deepa Mehta’s film Beeba Boys, which was chosen as an Official Selection of the prestigious 2015 Toronto International Film Festival where it had it’s world premier on September 13.

While Deutschman has undoubtedly made her name known as an actress in hit film and television productions, she has also proven her capacity to command the stage through her roles in high-profile theatre productions including “Nutcracker,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Coppelia,” and “The Comedy of Love and War.”

With a collective body of work that spans the gamut, Deutschman has displayed herself as the kind of actress who can take on virtually any role with ease and natural finesse. The actress is currently working on the upcoming comedy series Cross Rhodes where she will take on the starring role of Erica Rhodes.

To find out more about her and what’s next on the horizon for this talented Canadian beauty make sure to check out our interview below. You can also find out about more of her work on screen through her IMDb page: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm4264669/

 

Where are you from? 

ED: I’m from Montreal, Canada.

When and how did you get into acting?

ED: I always knew I wanted to be an actress. I must have been 6 when I decided that it was my dream. But I was first a ballet dancer, and so I waited on the acting thing until I was 18, which is when I got an agent and really started doing it professionally.

Can you tell us about some of the film projects you’ve done?

ED: One of the film projects that I am most excited about is an indie I did in Montreal called Happy Slapping. It was the super gritty project with some really well developed and troubled characters. I played Belle; one of the five leads in the film. She is a party girl with a troubled family life, who turns to her vices too often for solace and definitely has a lot of issues but, she is also very charming and lots of fun.

Playing Belle was crazy, it’s sort of like exploring a side of yourself that doesn’t exist but when you think of certain scenarios, you wonder if it could really come out. I got to play and have lots of fun, but I also had to find this darkness and this trouble within and I really enjoyed doing that work. She completes part of the puzzle in this story, she is a bad influence on the kids around her and she pushes them into doing things that they might not be completely comfortable with—things they may even regret.

Mostly all of the shoots during the production were night shoots and we were exhausted a lot of the time, so by the time of the wrap party, I was passed out by midnight. I just couldn’t wait to sleep through the night again. But I wouldn’t change my experience for anything and I made some lifelong friends in the process. I look back on it really fondly. Look for Happy Slapping on IMDb and iTunes!!

My latest project was Academy Award nominated director Deepa Metah’s film, Beeba Boys. I played one of the boy’s girlfriends at the beginning of the film. First of all, what an awesome movie! It’s about the Sikh gangs in British Columbia and it follows their intense pursuit for power no matter what it takes. It was so exciting to work with Deepa Mehta, she’s insanely talented and I’m a really big fan of hers. The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, and that’s something that I’m really proud of.

How about television projects?

ED: My favorite television project I’ve worked on has to be Being Human. It shot in my home city of Montreal and it was an awesome set to be on and a really cool project to be a part of. I recurred in seasons 2 through 4 and I played a ghost who was killed by Aidan, the vampire, and I come back to haunt him throughout the rest of the series. Not only was it a really fun and sassy role to play, but it was also great to get to know all of the amazing cast and crew we got to collaborate with. It was a really excellent experience.

Being Human PhotoImogen Hayworth and Connor Price
Still shot of actors Imogen Hayworth (left), Connor Price and Erica Deutschman (right)  in “Being Human”

You get approached all the time to work on projects with people, what makes you pick one role over another?

ED: What I look for in a project is first and foremost an interesting character. The parts that I enjoy playing the most are characters that either have a sordid past or interesting personality. Of course that requires good writing, but when I read something and think I can really make it my own, that’s when I get the most excited.

What as been your most challenging role?

ED: I think my most challenging role was Belle in Happy Slapping. She had so many dimensions underneath and it was definitely challenging to be able to portray all of that. I find that it makes a character so much more interesting when you give them layers and as challenging as it can be, character development is so important for the general outcome of the film.

What is your favorite genre to work in as an actor?

ED: I would have to say that my favorite genre not only to watch but also to play in is comedy. I am currently working on a really funny series called Cross Rhodes. I would say one of my favorite things to do as an actress, and in general, is to make people laugh! And in comedy, I get to laugh and make people laugh. I just get so much joy out of it, as you should.

Can you list some of the theatre projects you’ve participated in up until now, and the roles you’ve played? From your perspective how does performing in the theatre differ from performing in on camera projects?

ED: I haven’t done theatre in a little while but as a young dancer, I did productions of the “Nutcracker” for eight consecutive years. I actually snagged the lead role of Clara when I was in high school. I also got to perform on stage a bunch when I was in school, which was a really awesome experience. I got to play the leading lady in “Commedia dell’arte,” the leading part in our Christmas Wishes Play, since I am bilingual, I also got to perform in all the French productions that we put on and in my last year, and I won the school’s drama award! As much as I enjoyed theatre though, my real passion is in film and television. I love the realism it captures and it’s also nice that you get to do more than one take so you can try different things.

What separates you from other actors? What are your strongest qualities?

ED: I think to be an actor, first and foremost, you have to have really tough skin. You have to let things roll off your back because with all the amazing parts you do get, there will also be a lot of really cool parts that you don’t get. The most important thing is to believe when one door closes another door opens and that some amazing opportunities are right around the corner. I think the fact that I’ve never lost sight of why I’m doing what I’m doing is also another key to surviving in this industry. Because at the end of the day, no matter how competitive it gets and no matter how critical some people can be, it is what I love to do so that’s really all that matters.

I’ve also been training for a really long time. A quality that I possess is that I really love going to class, learning from others and a desire to continue to grow as an actor. I think I’ve grown a lot over the past few years and I also know that I will continue to grow as an actor in the future. I think it’s really important to stay sharp by continuing to work, and I think that’s what really gives me my edge.

Have you been in any commercials?

ED: I have been in a bunch of commercials over the years. Actually, my first real project as a professional actor was a promo video for D-Box, you know, those movie theatre seats that move. That was so cool, because I didn’t have to audition. My agent called me up and was like ‘The D-Box people saw your demo on my website, they love your enthusiasm, they’re going to get you in the union.’ It was awesome, thank you D-Box!

I also did a PSA to raise awareness about rape for the Canadian Women’s Foundation, and commercials for Tax Free Credit Report, Samcon condos, as well as a couple videogames with UB Soft and Gameloft… I’m pretty much all over the map.

What projects do you have coming up?

ED: I am very very excited to announce my upcoming series Cross Rhodes. We just got the green light on it and we actually start shooting tomorrow! I play a character named Erica Rhodes (which is where the series gets its witty title) and she plays an actress who is followed by a documentary film crew. It’s a mockumentary, which is one of my favorite types of comedy so it’s basically a dream come true. My friend Jesse and I have been working on it becoming reality for about a year now, so the fact that it’s actually happening and we get to work with so many amazing actors as well, is just so fantastic.

What do you hope to achieve in your career as an actor?

ED: I’m headed to LA for my next round of pilot season in January and I’m psyched because I also get to work on a really cool indie film while I’m out there called Ice. I can’t say much more than that about the project, but I think it’s going to be really cool, no pun intended. I just want to go out and work on as much as I can and continue to learn from some more great directors and fellow actors. It’s hard to put into words how much I would like to achieve, but at the moment the sky is the limit and I am very excited to see what kind of projects will be coming my way. I would love to do a funny movie next, seeing as that is my favorite genre and I think I have a knack for it.

Why is acting your passion and chosen profession?

ED: Before I had ever acted professionally, I knew it was what I wanted to do. There was something about the way movies and television made me feel that made me decide I needed to be a part of the magic. Every since my first job up until now, there is no better feeling for me than being on set. I love the environment, the people and the whole process. As an actor, you work so hard on your off time, it is so exciting when you also get to show the world what you can do. There is no better feeling than booking that big part you wanted and once you do have it, challenging yourself and pushing yourself to be the best version of that character that you can be. I could go on, but that’s basically it in a nutshell.

 

 

 

Q & A with Canadian Actress Eliana Jones!

StephanieBeely
Actress Eliana Jones shot by Stephanie Beely

 

Over the last five years Canadian actress Eliana Jones has skyrocketed to the top of the entertainment industry internationally. If you watch television at all then chances are you’ve seen Jones working her magic on screen in one role or another.

In recent years she’s played multiple recurring roles on the hit television shows Hemlock Grove, Saving Hope, The Stanley Dynamic, Nikita and others. She also recently wrapped production on the first season of the new series Backstage, which is slated to begin airing on DHX Television’s Family Channel in 2016.

Jones’ collective performances reveal her as an exceedingly dynamic actress who is capable of portraying almost any character with ease and believability. Aside from her far-reaching talent, Jones’ ascetic appeal has assisted in making her the sought after actress that she is today; but, she remains humble just the same.

For Eliana Jones acting is about exploring other perspectives and pushing herself to see life through the eyes of her characters; and although at times, this can be a challenging experience, she admits, “I find that the most wonderful thing about being an actor is the array of different people and perspectives you get to play around with… each show/film is completely different and that just helps me grow, not only as an actress, but as a human being.”

To find out more about this captivating star make sure to check out our interview below. You can also find out more about Eliana Jones’ work on screen through her IMDb page: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm4107867/

And you can follow her on instagram at: @elianajones and twitter at: @elianajonnes

 

 

Where are you from? 

EJ: I was born and raised in Toronto, Canada.

When and how did you get into acting?

EJ: When I was about 8 years old, I was a competitive gymnast and that is what I spent almost all of my time doing, besides school. I went to gymnastic classes everyday for about five to six hours, then I would come home, do my homework, go to bed and restart the routine. I started getting notified by my doctor at the age of 11 that it might be time to throw in the towel because of the injuries I was receiving and the amount that the sport was stunting my growth. I finally agreed to quit gymnastics when I was 12 years old and had a back injury; I had bruised tissue around my spinal cord. It almost seemed as though it was meant to be though because during the next week or so, my mother and I were driving in the car and we heard an advertisement on the radio for some special acting, singing, modeling etc., school. I thought I might give it a go as a hobby type thing since I had nothing else to do as I was saying goodbye to gymnastics.

After that audition I became part of that school, and here I am now; 18 years old, making a career out of something I find so much passion and happiness in. I went to Los Angeles for auditions and networking and slowly but surely found myself absolutely falling in love with the craft. I never found that it was about the fame or money for me. I started realizing that I loved this craft when I was getting lost while watching movies and so inspired after watching a well-played, well-written film or television show. I wanted to be as talented and well respected as the people I spent almost all my time watching, observing and admiring. I got into acting when I was 12 years old and now I cannot imagine myself stepping out of this industry. I’ve found my calling!

Can you tell us about some of the film projects you’ve done?

EJ: I have done mainly television work however I was beyond excited to find out that I had booked the lead role in the children’s film Step Dogs. I can’t even begin to explain the feeling that ran through my veins when I received the call. In this comedic, fast paced film, I got the pleasure of playing Lacey; the obnoxious, self absorbed, conceited niece of a film and television star. We filmed in Saskatchewan for just under two months, and it was a fantastic experience.

Step Dogs is about a pampered girl, Lacey who is living in Hollywood with her Aunt Sabrina, and a down to earth boy, Josh who lives in Saskatchewan with his father. These two stories never should have crossed, but they did. Lacey is forced to move to Saskatchewan with Aunt Sabrina because she fell in love with Josh’s father. Lacey is one of the leads of this film and the audience gets to see her go from the claws out, angry teenager that could not be bothered, to a humbled girl that people actually enjoy spending time with. She was resourceful however she was hiding behind the fact that her parents’ passed away when she was younger as a license to be spiteful and hateful to every one around her. Throughout the film she is thrown into situations that bring her back to real life and show her how to connect with normal, genuine people. There was lots of comedic relief on Lacey’s behalf because of the idiotic and stereotypical things she would say. She was the classic stereotype of a Hollywood girl. It was really interesting feeling her perspective on the world change in a positive way throughout the film.

Playing Lacey was extremely fun because I found that she was completely the opposite of the person I am! It was super fun to pipe my voice up to a high pitched, annoying tone and aggravate every person as soon as I walked in the room. It felt amazingly horrible to play Lacey. It was amazing to play her because she was so big and fun and sharp-tongued however it was also horrible because I found myself apologizing after every take for sounding so condescending and rude! I eventually got over it and just basked in the fun of playing her. I also really enjoyed that Lacey had a story that unfolded throughout the film. She was very misunderstood and hid behind the facade of being a mean girl to block everyone out of her life, since her parents passed away. By the end of the film, Lacey begins to mesh more with her new family and starts getting comfortable in the cold, but cozy Saskatchewan.

I found myself being challenged because this was my first lead role, in a different town, with new people. I’m a very outgoing person but this experience had me feeling very intimidated in the beginning! Other than that, I enjoyed the challenge of memorizing chunks of lines each day and adapting to new people. Change is good. Another challenge I faced was the struggle of having about six dogs and animals on set everyday and trying to stay focused. Super fluffy, super cute.

A hilarious and memorable moment from this film/set is: In the very last scene of the film, Lacey brings a “cat” in the house from the backyard. Everyone in the room except for Lacey knew that it was a skunk. SO. My memorable moment. We used a real skunk for this scene and for the most part he was super cute and cuddly however he got scared very, very easily. When we were shooting for the movie poster we put Mister Skunk in with me and he got so frustrated and nervous that he actually pooped all over my bare arm. All I could hear on the walkie-talkies was “Eliana just got pooed on. Is she okay?” Let me tell you, it’s a moment that will last a lifetime!

How about television projects?

EJ: I played Alexa Sworn on:Eli Roth’s Netflix original series Hemlock Grove. Alexa is a shrewd vixen, with is a twin sister. Alexa and Alyssa completely tormented everyone around them and made sure that their presence was known. My character was the slight comic relief in this horrific, nail biting series. I got the opportunity to work with well-known artists such as Famke Janssen, Dougray Scott, Bill Skarsgard, Landon Liboiron, and many other talented actors. This Netflix original is currently in its third and final season.

Although a fun character to play, Alexa was a real pill to swallow. Alexa Sworn’s character was the best friend of lead character, Christina, played by Freya Tingley. The twin sisters were aggressors and peer pressuring friends; which made my character the antagonist to Christina’s storyline. Alexa and Alyssa made fun of everyone and we became the comedic relief of this horrific series. Some of the scenes involved mocking students in the hallways, or calling our best friend a prude because she wouldn’t make out with her crush at the time. Alexa and her partner in crime, Alyssa would spend hours making fun of people on their online pages, but at the end of the day, they were just regular teenage girls.

On the CBC series Saving Hope I got the rare opportunity to act alongside Wendy Crewson as her daughter, Molly. On the show, I start off as a regular teenage girl living with her single mother; but, I eventually drift into three more episodes where my character overdoses on drugs and is sent to rehab. My story was vital to the show because it created mystery in Dana’s (Wendy Crewson) life however also created a more deep-rooted storyline for Dana and her struggles, fears and joys.

Playing this character was especially fun because of the type of girl she was– high on opiates, drunk at a house party. Molly is a real mess. It was super fun playing her because I had lots of research to do! Pretending to be in this state of mind and body for a character really takes a lot out of you, however it was interesting to see myself transform when I watched the episode. I really found that the research I did came through in that episode. One of my favorite characters and episodes I have done! A fun little memory from this episode was: when I had to overdose, I was forced to lay in fake vomit. The fake vomit was a mixture of lentil soup and yogurt. I hate both of those things! Just from the smell, I almost made the vomit real! Everyone really enjoyed watching me suffer in agony from the stench hahaha.

When I booked the role of Rachel Skarsten’s younger version of herself on The CW series Lost Girl I was extremely excited for the platinum blonde hair, the opportunity to meet these talented individuals, and the learning experience I would receive from being on set with these phenomenal, well rounded people. My character in the couple episodes I starred on was “Teen Tamsin.” Rachel’s character gets sucked into a time warp and becomes young again, which is where I come in to play. It was critical for the audience to know what background Tamsin came from and how she dealt with situations as a youngling, which made my character important to the show.

Nikita on The CW was my very first show and I feel blessed to have been able to work on it. Maggie Q, Shane West, Lyndsy Fonseca; It was completely unbelievable. I worked as Lyndsy’s younger self. My character had a Russian accent, and I often spoke Russian throughout the show, which is something that I had to spend hours learning. My role was important to the storyline of Alexandra Udinov, and became a reoccurring character throughout the seasons that the show aired, which was a true honor and huge learning experience. I felt like a real adult when I found myself surrounded by all these established and talented actors. I loved playing the younger version of Lyndsy Fonseca because it challenged me to meet her level of acting by being her younger version. I really was excited and happy to become a part of the Nikita family. Something I will hold very dear to my heart for a very long time. I learned so much on that show!

YTV’s The Stanley Dynamic is a new show that I have been working extremely hard on. My character, Summer Dewhurst, is the competitive, sporty and fun-loving girl, who lives next door to the lead character of the show, Larry Stanley. Throughout season one and mid way through season two I have worked with acclaimed actors such as Michael Gross! This show was and is a huge learning experience for me as well because this was my very first multi-cam style show. We used four cameras to shoot and everything is extreme high energy and super funny. I loved playing Summer because she is similar to the person I actually am. Super competitive but means well all the time and really values friends and family. Summer and Larry constantly get into friendly battles over who is better and it makes for some great TV comedy gold!

Being on a show with more kids my age is also super fun because I feel more relaxed and at ease. I get to be silly and work with such phenomenal people. It truly is a blessing. A funny and memorable moment from this set is: during season one, Madison, the young girl who plays Lori on the show, absolutely loved pranking people. Long story short, I walked into my dressing room filled with: toilet paper, post it notes and laughter from all the pranking!

The Family Channel’s Backstage is a new show that follows a bunch of extremely talented and interesting artists such as dancers, singers, painters, actors, djs etc. I got the pleasure of working as Mel, the student teacher of a dance class. The show is airing most likely mid January.

They are all very different, what made you choose to participate in these projects?

EJ: I find that the most wonderful thing about being an actor is the array of different people and perspectives you get to play around with. I have never turned down an opportunity to be in a television or film because each show/film is completely different and that just helps me grow, not only as an actress, but as a human being.

Adapting to a new character, new cast and crew is truly an extraordinary path that I have chosen and gotten the blessing to be a part of. In the past I was working on two different shows at the same time, (The Stanley Dynamic and Saving Hope) and the characters I play on the shows are just so completely different; one being a drug addict that has spun out of control and one being a competitive teenager that loves basketball and skateboarding. Jumping from set to set really just accentuates the incredible notion that I can be whoever I want to be within the walls of this industry. I have the ability to be an extremely sad, angry teenager and then switch to being a happy, carefree, 15 year old.

You get approached all the time to work on projects with people, what makes you pick one role over another?

EJ: Thankfully I haven’t actually had to choose between roles because everything I book somehow works out to be filming/rehearsing on different days. I have gotten the chance to participate in every single role and job that has come my way. I feel truly honored and blessed to be able to say that. I do not actually know what I would do if I had to choose between two separate roles. It would be so difficult, the “what if” would always linger through my mind.

Can you list some of the theatre projects you’ve participated in up until now, and the roles you’ve played?

EJ: I went to a performing arts high school, which gave me the opportunity to play in numerous theatre projects. I acted in “Chicago,” “Almost, Maine,” “Zapped” and a few others. “Chicago” was my favorite one because I got to be in cellblock tango and perform number seventeen – the spread eagle. In “Almost, Maine” I got to play alongside my friend, being two best friends that turn out to be gay and then find out that we are in love with each other. As I mentioned earlier I just really enjoy getting to play different people with different mind frames.

What has been your favorite project so far and why?

EJ: This is such a tough question! I’ve absolutely loved every single show I got the pleasure of working on however I found Hemlock Grove and Saving Hope to be my favorites. Here’s why: While working on Hemlock Grove, I got to be a part of one of my favorite genres of film/television; horror/thriller. I got the chance to be splattered with blood and let out some scary loud screams from time to time. I also got to work with Eli Roth, which was extremely cool and humbling because of how much I admire his work ethic and work in general!

Saving Hope is also a favorite of mine because I got to tap into my “drunk mess” side. I had to overdose on opiates, which was something I found interesting to research. It was difficult to get into that frame of mind and body language but once I got there it was crazy awesome. With those two being my favorites, I also have Nikita, which was extremely emotional and allowed me to show a side of myself as my character that had not been shown to an audience before. The Stanley Dynamic and Backstage are shows that I got to be on set with a bunch of people my age or younger and just sit around and be super silly and super funny with! Lost Girl was also such a fulfilling experience because of the big wig, the frantic, air headed girl I got to play around with. I’ve gotten the chance to play some very intricate and phenomenal characters so it really is hard to narrow it down to one favorite.

What as been your most challenging role?

EJ: My role as Molly Kinney in Saving Hope was the most challenging for me. Molly is the chief of plastic surgery’s daughter; and within the three episodes I played in, it has been a different experience each time; episode one was being a hot headed, self indulgent teenager, episode two included stealing drugs from the hospital while I was interning, episode three involved me being a drunk mess, a teenager stoned on opiates, an emotional and angry comatose teenager that overdosed and didn’t think of the consequences after those events. I’ve been in rehab for a while and my fourth episode is currently in the works.

Saving Hope was challenging for me as an actress because it pushed me to do more research on my character and the details of the script (overdosing, slowing down my breath to feel dizzy and nauseous, getting the perfect amount of day dreaming to look disconnected from my consciousness). I also found that working alongside Wendy Crewson and Erica Durance for the majority of this episode helped me learn more about being a true actor. While doing my scenes with Wendy it was mind blowing how committed and in the moment she became. Wendy (and Erica) being so unbelievably present in the scenes really helped me become more present and aware of my surroundings, rather than getting caught up in the lines and actions behind the intentions. When the actors around you are giving 110 percent, it makes you bump up your game and meet them at the same level! Challenging, however, it was a fantastic learning experience that I still bring with me to every audition and set.

What is your favorite genre to work in as an actor?

EJ: I really enjoy working all genres because I love learning about new and different types of acting however I have really come to enjoy comedy. I love the little tidbits of funny jokes that are written in for my characters! Working on television shows that are comedic are just extreme high energy and super fun to be a part of.

What separates you from other actors? What are your strongest qualities?

EJ: Honestly, there are so many outstanding actors and actresses and I am often just honored to work on the same set as some of them. I think the only thing that separates me from other actors is that I am a one of a kind version. There are not any clones of me (to my knowledge J )… So I like to believe that I bring a fresh face with a unique and bubbly personality to the table. I try really hard not to be nervous in auditions because the people sitting at the table in front of me are humans just as myself and they’re rooting for me just as much as I’m rooting for myself. I think that my strongest quality is that I am personable and approachable and I am most definitely not afraid to be myself, whether it be on set, in the audition room, or in my day to day life. All actors are extremely talented and I don’t find myself more talented than any person but I do believe that I work extremely hard and I push myself to be at the places I want to be.

What about commercials?

EJ: One of my very first jobs was a KFC commercial, and let me tell you, it included a lot of finger licking good chicken and to die for fries. I was in junk food heaven to say the least!

What projects do you have coming up?

EJ: I am currently working on Saving Hope again which is a huge honor, and I am working on season two of The Stanley Dynamic!

What do you hope to achieve in your career as an actor?

EJ: I really just hope to achieve greatness. I want to be a notable and extremely talented actress and I wont stop working until the day I die. I want to be a good influence on those who are just entering this industry. I hope to build a solid body of work as an actress and I would really like to make myself proud of my achievements by being the best that I can be, and learning as much as I can; and hopefully ill have an Oscar sitting on my shelf one day. I really look up to actresses like Meryl Streep and Sandra Bullock because of their astounding performances in everything they do. It is also inspiring seeing young girls like Abigail Breslin and Chloe Grace Moretz become so successful because that’s what I am striving towards! Its extremely admirable and I try to work towards that every day!

What kind of training have you done?

EJ: I have done so much training it is actually hard to remember ahah! I have done a lot of “new students” classes, in front of the camera classes, what to expect in an audition classes, how to be what the casting directors want, the basic fundamentals of acting. I am now enrolled in master and advanced classes with David Rotenberg, which I am finding very eye opening and a fantastic learning experience. I learn something new from each coach I go to. My brain is just filled with acting tips! I still don’t think I have enough training yet because there is always room for improvement, but I truly am loving every minute of it.

Why is acting your passion and chosen profession?

EJ: Although some may find it an odd and rarely successful career path, I find that acting and performing brings me true and genuine happiness. It blows my mind every day that I am doing what I love for a living. I love the freedom of expression that acting gives me. I love that I can play so many different people and characters. I really find it a blessing to have found my passion at such a young age. I love learning more about myself everyday through my craft and I also love that it gives me the opportunity to meet new and exciting people. I love that one character can be a drunken mess, but the next one can be an innocent little girl that has lost her way. I absolutely love that sometimes the projects I work on involve travelling. Being an actress has combined everything I love into one perfect little craft. I can’t really explain completely why acting is my passion, but I can assure you that it fills my heart and soul with joy and that’s more than enough for me.