Category Archives: Television

Cinematographer Ernesto Pletsch travels to home country of Brazil for new show “Desterro”

DESTERRO, 2016. Dhruv Lapsia (1stAC) and me
Dhruv Lapsia and Ernesto Pletsch on the set of Desterro

Ernesto Pletsch is one of the lucky few. Not only does he get to do what he loves every day, he is exceptionally good at it, and isn’t that the dream?

Originally from Porto Alegre, Brazil, Pletsch has seen success both domestically and abroad. Just last year, he worked on the pilot for the television series Desterro, a show in Florianópolis, Brazil. The series follows the investigations of two detectives in a witchery island located in southern Brazil.

Desterro is a thriller and crime story. My favorite genre to watch. I was very excited about the whole project and the ambition of it,” said Pletsch. “Looking back, I think that was my best experience as a cinematographer. I had a great team, working with people I already trust and felt confident with. In Brazil, I ended up meeting more awesome and talented people that were essential for this to work. Every day was a different challenge and learning to me, making Desterro a very special experience.”

Desterro was inspired in folkloric tales of the island Florianópolis. These folkloric tales were written, drawn and sculpted by a famous artist called Franklin Cascaes. A blend of witchery, mystery and gothic, creating great inspiration for Pletsch and the rest of the team.

“I loved shooting Desterro because everyone was putting their souls into the project. Everyone was doing their best. We had our moments of tension, but we also had those moments of euphoria, and when we called it a wrap and you could just see smiling faces around,” he said.

The pilot was shot during a five day time period in Santa Catarina. The people in the area had not had the opportunity to see a film production before, as the island is somewhat secluded. Pletsch and his team were viewed as true Hollywood guests, and the best treatment was offered.

DESTERRO, 2016. Mayanna Neiva (lead actress, star), Chico Caprario (actor), Dhruv Lapsia (1stAC) and me
Mayanna Neiva, Chico Caprario, Dhruv Lapsia, and Ernesto Pletsch on the set of Desterro

“Shooting in Brazil, as expected, had completely different rules, as in no rules,” Pletsch joked. “We had the freedom to do whatever we wanted to, shoot anywhere at any time. This was very exciting.”

While shooting, Pletsch was presented with the challenge of overcoming an obstacle he had no control over: the weather. Certain scenes would be completely prepared, and when it came time to shoot, it would become windy and rainy. Low tides made it difficult to carry boats to desired locations. Equipment would have to be moved and plans would have to change, but for Pletsch, a seasoned cinematographer, he says that is all part of the experience.

“It will always feel frustrating and disappointing at the time because you have a certain idea in mind, but it happens. You move on, and sometimes it comes out better than you originally thought,” he said.

According to Pletsch, shooting Desterro was different than a usual television show, saying it was shot like a movie. They had four days for twenty pages of script, which gave them a reasonable time for each scene. They took our time and made it day by day.

“Usually television shows would require more efficiency from the crew. On a film, we record five to seven pages of the script a day. For a television episode, it tends to go over ten pages. This can get pretty hectic, and sometimes you prioritize delivery over creativity. That’s how usually goes. In any production, you have to pick at least two sides of the triangle: price, quality and time. If they want something delivered fast, they better have money to accelerate the process. If you don’t have money, you may take time to do something good. But if you don’t have either money or time, you’ll probably end up with something of poorer quality,” he advised.

Despite the great success he saw on the show as the Director of Photography, Pletsch was first signed into this project as a gaffer. When he first became aware of the project, there was already an American cinematographer on board. Wanting to work in his native country, he took on the role of lighting technician, and offered to help the cinematographer understand Brazilian practices and translate for the Brazilian crew. However, three weeks before they were scheduled to shoot, the director, Mariana Má Thomé, approached Pletsch to take on the role of cinematographer, as the previous cinematographer could no longer do the role for personal reasons. Having already worked with Má Thomé before, and getting to truly work as a cinematographer in his home country, it all felt like destiny.

“I always like working with Ernesto because we combine the best of our abilities to make the perfect visual for the film. We get together references and break them down in visual palettes, styles and movement.
On set, our work is smooth. Most of it was already planned ahead, and I know I can trust him with his work. Ernesto loves what he does, and this can clearly be seen on screen. He is always striving for the best, and will work with all department heads to achieve the best picture. His work with light is spectacular, and for me, as a director, is lovely to see your vision on screen,” said Má Thomé.

The pilot premiered at Florianópolis, Brazil, on September 11, 2016. From there, they had two more public screenings, and had a lot of success with rave reviews from both locals and critics. Desterro is currently being negotiated with Brazilian and international networks.

Mike Goral’s narration of docuseries “Polar Bear Town” captivates audiences

Mike Goral has built his career in acting without the “lights, camera, action” experience. Instead, he works alone, in a small sound-proofed room, with only a microphone as his partner. Goral is a voice actor, and has narrated projects appreciated by millions, both in his home country of Canada and the United States.

While working in the industry for over twenty years, Goral has worked on promos and imaging products for some of the world’s most recognized companies, narrated television shows for some of the largest networks, and voiced segments for local radio stations that thousands listen to every single day. He is extremely versatile, and has genuine passion for what he does. While working for the television show Polar Bear Town for the Smithsonian Channel, Goral is able to do what he loves while continuously learning about something he knew nothing about, making each day completely different.

“I thought Polar Bear Town was a really cool story. I loved the script and the story. It’s always fun to work on a production that is well-planned. The production team was awesome and I was drawn to the project immediately. Nothing beats working with great people,” said Goral.

Polar Bear Town is a documentary series about a community of people in Churchill and Northern Manitoba, Canada that reside in a part of the continent where polar bears dwell at certain times of the year. People from all over the world travel to this remote community to get a close-up, in-person look at the mighty polar bear.

“I’ve heard stories about Churchill for years. It’s one of the most remote communities in Canada. I grew up in Southern Ontario, nowhere near Northern Manitoba, and the polar bear stories were legendary. I always heard that some people carried guns up there because of the imminent danger of bear attacks. I always thought it would be a cool place to visit, but haven’t made my way up there just yet,” said Goral. “I’ve learned so much about Churchill, Manitoba because of this show. I’ve experienced a different culture within my own native country. I found the people’s stories fascinating: people who make a living out of being tour guides for seeing polar bears, up-close in their natural habitat. I didn’t even know such careers existed. “

As the narrator for the show, Goral has what he describes as the unique privilege of telling a great story to a large audience of viewers. Each episode shows a different element to the story, and there are different tones in the episodes. There are parts where there is imminent danger, and Goral has to deliver his narration with a certain intensity. Then, there are parts where two of the cast members are arguing, which requires different cadence to his deliveries. The narration is key to the show’s success.

“The story takes a lot of different turns, and I have to use all that I have learned over the years to help make those make transitions when I am telling the story. It was a lot of fun, and it’s what I love to do,” he said.

Goral has now voiced the first season of Polar Bear Town, and he worked with director Jeff Newman on this most recent season. The two have a great sense of teamwork, as Goral describes the director as awesome, and a consummate professional.

“Jeff is very focused and would walk into our sessions knowing exactly what he needed done. He gave very clear direction, and was a lot of fun to work with. We shared a lot of laughs while working together too. The process was relaxed and enjoyable. I really hope to work with him again. Nothing beats good chemistry,” described Goral.

Newman agrees, and says working with Goral is fantastic and a lot of fun. As the director, he knows the importance of a voice actor, especially for a documentary type of show. Narration is pivotal to the telling of the story.

“Mike’s easy to work with, consistent, and has a great delivery. He takes direction really well and was able to give me exactly what I needed really fast,” said Newman. “This series has a wide range of reads to it, from scientific and informational, to intense adventure, to balls out fun. Mike was able to cover all the bases and provide the right tone in every scene.”

Despite discussing polar bears so frequently, Goral has found he is more scared of them than he once was, becoming more aware of how dangerous the bears are.

“There was one segment of the series that described the vicious attack of a local woman. She almost lost her life. I couldn’t imagine experiencing something like that. I think going through something like that can change a person forever,” said Goral.

While his subject matter might be harsh, the experience is a great one for Goral. Working on Polar Bear Town allows him to do what he loves on a regular basis, and although he is not featured on the screen, but rather through the speakers, fans appreciate the value that he adds to each episode.

 “I really enjoy it. When you are part of something you like, it’s a lot of fun. You get to be a part of something great. I just loved the way the series was produced. It was an awesome production team. They were true professionals, and that’s what made it such a pleasure,” he concluded.

You can watch full episodes of Polar Bear Town here.

Camera operator Mike Heathcote brings talent and artistry to Canadian television series Cardinal

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Michael Heathcote

It was when Michael Heathcote was a teenager that working with video cameras went from being a hobby to a viable career option. Growing up in Toronto, it was in a high school course when he realized the responsibility that comes when looking through a lens of a camera, having the power to shape how people see things. Since that moment, he has never looked back, and now he is an internationally successful camera and Steadicam operator.

Heathcote’s success did not come overnight. He has extensive training and a natural talent that have contributed to where he is today. He worked on the highly-anticipated Hulu original series The Handmaid’s Tale set to release this Spring, based off the famous book by Margaret Atwood. Last year, he also worked on the upcoming film Downsizing, directed by Academy Award winning director Alexander Payne, with an all-star cast of Matt Damon, Kristin Wiig, Bruce Willis, Christoph Waltz, Jason Sudeikis, and Neil Patrick Harris. Currently, Canadians have the pleasure of seeing Heathcote’s artistry with a camera on the hit television show Cardinal.

“I am very proud of Cardinal. Everyone involved with the project worked incredibly hard and it’s nice to see critics and fans admiring and appreciating our work,” said Heathcote.

Cardinal is a six-part crime drama on Canadian television network CTV. It is an adaptation of the mystery novel Forty Words for Sorrow by Giles Blunt. It follows Detective John Cardinal as he attempts to catch a serial killer while also struggling to right past wrongs that could derail his investigation and end his career, as the case grows more violent and twisted, and the clock ticks down on the killer’s next victim.

“I loved the book and admire Steve Cosens, the cinematographer, and Director Daniel Grou who were also attached to the project. I knew with these two talented individuals and such an amazing story this would be a great TV series,” said Heathcote.

Cosens and Heathcote had worked together previously on feature film Mean Dreams, which was an Official Selection at some of the world’s top film festivals, including the Cannes Film Festival and Toronto International Film Festival, as well as the Canadian Screen Award nominated series Rogue. Cosens, knowing the talent that Heathcote posses, asked him to join the Cardinal series as a Steadicam operator.

“I’ve known Michael for several years and have been fortunate enough to have hired him as my A-camera/Steadicam operator on more than one occasion.  His images consistently exhibit a very strong and unique sense of composition, and his Steadicam work is, hands down, the best I’ve ever worked with, and I’ve worked around the world in the industry for twenty years.  His framing is always rigorous and fully considered and his camera movement is consistently fluid, artful and full of grace,” said Cosens.

The series was filmed in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada in the middle of winter, when the average temperature is -4 to 17 degrees Fahrenheit. Battling these brutal conditions was worth it in the end, as the cold and harsh climate enhanced the mysterious aspects of the story.

“Equipment starts to fail and camera operating in knee deep snow is very physically demanding. It was very challenging but I had a lot of fun,” said Heathcote.

Working to achieve director Daniel Grou’s vision, Heathcote had his work cut out for him. Grou planned many uninterrupted single take Steadicam shots. Single take shots are very hard to design because there is no cut away. The shot has to be perfect from the start to finish and encompass everything the audience needs to see or hear to help tell the story.

“This is very unique, and Daniel would come up with these beautifully choreographed shots daily. There is one five minute Steadicam shot in particular that Daniel designed that begins outside a school, follows our lead actor John Cardinal up and down several flights of stairs, a shoot-out and chase sequence evolve and the shot ends up back outside where we began. It was incredibly challenging physically and mentally. There aren’t a lot of projects that you get an opportunity to camera operate a shot like this and it was an absolute honor Daniel and Steve trusted me to execute it. It is definitely one I will never forget,” Heathcote described.

Grou, who has over two and a half decades of experience working internationally in the entertainment industry, was immediately impressed by Heathcote’s talents. Despite working with many talented camera/Steadicam operators over his long and awarded career, Grou says working with Heathcote this one time was enough to try and bring him on to every one of the projects he works on.

“Mike is just a complete genius at what he does technically, but artistically is where he truly shines. He can interpret a director’s or a photographer’s vision and go beyond it to find a true soul; a true magic to the images he helps us create. He is in tune with actors’ movements, as well as their fragile, ineffable emotional state as they work through a scene. He is always at the right place and in the right moment as he accompanies them on their journey. He is a treasure,” said Grou.

 

Cardinal is on CTV Wednesdays at 10 pm, or you can catch up on the series, and see Heathcote’s outstanding work, here.

Maryanne Emma Gilbert shines bright in McDonalds Commercial

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Maryanne Emma Gilbert is from Calgary, Alberta.

Maryanne Emma Gilbert discovered her calling at a young age. She didn’t know she would fall in love with performing, but she saw her mother on film and thought she wanted to try it. As a shy child, there was a lot that could go wrong. But that is how she knew what she was meant to do; when she stepped onto the stage to perform in her first play, the nerves and shyness melted away, and a star was born.

Now, those days of camera shyness seem like a distant memory, even though the Calgary-born actress is only seven-years-old. Her career has taken off, and she is recognized around the country as being one of the best for her age. She has been nominated for two Joey Awards recognizing her acting abilities, and she has performed in commercials for Doritos and Canadian Tire. She has appeared in films such as Jewel Fools, Season’s Greetings, and the upcoming science-fiction flick Space Rippers.

“Acting is super awesome because I make tons of super cool new friends. Also the food is good. And people are really nice. And I like to tell my family to watch me in movies,” she said.

Despite all of this success, for Gilbert, the highlight of her young but blossoming career was when she appeared in a Canadian nationwide McDonalds commercial. The commercial appeared during the 2016 Summer Olympics, and millions of Canadians began to see Gilbert’s face regularly in their living rooms.

“My whole family in Quebec saw me at every Olympics commercial. My grandpas and grandmas said they saw me all the time at the Olympics commercial. They called me. So I got to talk to my grandparents, and my cousins and aunts and uncles too. They said they saw me. Even a stranger we were talking to recognized us, that was funny,” said Gilbert. “Also, my dad loves to eat McDonalds. He would eat there every day if he could. Also, there was a cow named cupcake.”

The commercial is one of McDonalds’ campaigns trying to show canadians that their food is Canadian. This one was Alberta beef. The commercial features a group of children going to a local farm to learn about cows.

“We got to learn how the beef gets to our plate at mcdonalds and how the cows are treated and where the cows live. We meet the cows and the farmer and we run in the field. There were many things I did not know. It was interesting to see cows. I live in the city and rarely see cows that close,” said Gilbert.

During the commercial, the children follow around the farmer and run around in a field. The director, Tom Feiler, was impressed with Gilbert’s natural instincts as a performer. At one point, when she was supposed to be running around the field with the other children, Gilbert stopped to pick up some flowers, a moment that made it into the final cut and one of the highlights of the commercial.

“I only wanted the best and brightest young actors to be part of the shoot. What struck me the most about Maryanne was her ability to provide a lively performance, while still maintaining a great degree of focus, which increased the productivity of the other kids as well,” said Feiler. “I can’t tell you how proud I am to have directed Maryanne in her leading role.”

Even though she had to battle the cold weather that occurred the day of the shoot, Gilbert’s professionalism and genuine passion for what she is doing shines on screen. For her, it isn’t about just getting to try new things and learn something, it is about who she is with along the way.

“I love meeting new friends. This commercial was with other kids. I met a good friend, Victoria. The other kids were super nice. The crew was really nice too. It was not easy as it was cold that day but everybody was still really nice,” she said. “Also we got to run around lots. I like to run. And it was great to discover a farm. I don’t have one.”

You can see Gilbert in the McDonalds commercial here.

LIVI ZHENG EARNS HER REPUTATION AS AN INTERNATIONAL FILMMAKER

Many of us from the West are mesmerized by the martial arts. Though we might pretend otherwise it’s mostly about self-protection peppered with a dash of “I’m cool.” The difference is that those from the part of the world in which this discipline originated and who truly understand it is this; it’s a way of life. There is a mastery of self that transfers to all parts of one’s life. It becomes a lifestyle rather than an expertise with combat. Yes, the physical benefits are there but the mental and spiritual one’s supersede them. Livi Zheng is a respected producer and director began her career as a stuntwoman and actress due to her mastery of martial arts on the enormously popular Asian television program Admiral Zheng He. Immersing herself in the production world, she began assisting in all of the different department until she became the assistant to the producer. Quickly thereafter she was working on scripts, doing research, prepping for shoots, and finally became the producer herself. The immensely popular program about Admiral Zheng He led to a film about this historic Chinese figure. As a testament to the benefits of her martial arts training, Livi assessed what was needed to conquer the production world; achieving great acclaim in the ever-expanding Asian TV and film industry; no small achievement for even the most accomplished professionals.

Livi is originally from Indonesia but moved to Beijing, China with her brother to further pursue martial arts training. While her excellence in the discipline would lead her to working on the hugely popular TV show about one of the most respected historical figures of China, it would also take her life down an entirely different path. The Admiral Zheng He TV series is a massive hit in Indonesia; to simply be an actor on the show would already register as a great success for Livi. But she was so interested in the workings she saw behind the camera that she immediately began the pursuit of assisting in the many different parts of production. Her dedication to learning every aspect of production paid off when she began her role as a producer on the program. In her role on the series as Suhita she was a Javanese queen regnant and the sixth monarch of the Majaphit empire (the biggest empire in Southeast Asia), ruling from 1429 to 1447. Somewhat mirroring that character, Livi oversaw productions that took place in China, Indonesia, and Thailand. It’s poetic that Zheng would learn the lifestyles of each of her people (the cast and crew) and then rule (produce) with the knowledge and empathy gained.

Livi’s work was so successful and lauded by the viewing audience as well as the production company that she was asked to produce the film inspired by the TV program’s success; The Empire’s Throne. Her abilities as an actor together with her skill as a producer, handling the production schedule and budget, made Livi the two most valuable people involved in the series.

Managing hundreds of extras and animals on set with lead actors is quite a feat for any producer. Zheng is frank about the fact that The Empire’s Throne was all about spectacle with expansive vistas and huge numbers of foot soldiers and cavalry. Recalling one scene she states, “There was a very big fight scene with a many horses and challenging stunts. We prep it ahead of time but there was still so many details to work out on the day of; such as getting all the stunt people and extras in the period costumes and props. I hired an extra crew just to get everyone ready faster. I wanted to maximize the shooting time rather than using it to prep the hundreds of people involved in front of the camera.”

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The Empire’s Throne is a colossal dramatic action film, based on the story of the empire Majapahit, the most powerful Empire in Southeast Asia. The film tells the story of the epic struggle for the throne of this kingdom. It features a huge cast, stunning Southeast Asian sets, costumes, locations, and music. This epic period piece possesses a unique cultural aspect. Its spectacular production design is extravagant and unique in the eyes of US audiences, so much so that it garnered an official selection in Boston International Film Festival. It’s of great relevance that one of the stars of both the TV series Admiral Zheng He and The Empire’s Throne took note of Livi’s professionalism and excellence on these productions. In addition to being a star of the show, Saifullah Yusuf (also known as Gus Ipul Job) also has the distinction of being the Indonesian State Minister for National Development Planning (2004-2007) and Deputy governor of East Java, Indonesia (2009- Current) …meaning that he understands the historical accuracy and authentic recreation of these tales. as Saifullah Yusuf related,

 

”Livi Zheng is a talented and dedicated producer who has shown herself capable of executing sophisticated productions with significant budgets. On the TV series Admiral Zheng He (Laksamana Cheng Ho) and the feature film The Empire’s Throne she coordinated a cast of over 1000 extras along with hundreds of horses while shooting in three different countries. In the action genre her personal experience as a multiple award-winning martial artist gives her unique insight into the stories she produces. Not only was I impressed by her ability to access her prodigious skills and experience, but also by her devotion to depicting realistic portrayals of the locations and historic periods in her films. To this end she spent a good deal of time gathering research from museums around China to add authenticity to the production.”

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Director/producer Nirattisai Kaljaruek has worked with American household names such as Nicholas Cage and Bon Jovi. Regarding his experience working with Livi on these multiple productions, he comments

 

“Livi’s upbeat spirit and strong vision were an inspiration to our cast and crew, helping them realize the tone and spirit of the film. Her energy and passion are infectious. She manages to oversee everything with compelling detail, while paying attention to budgetary and scheduling constraints. Having grown up in Indonesia and China, and then continuing her education in the United States, she brings a unique multicultural perspective to all of her creative work.”

 

Zheng’s work on the productions concerning this popular historic figure continued as producer on the feature film Legend of the East. The film was a huge hit with notable achievements, including:  Nominated at the Madrid International Film Festival for Best Foreign Language Feature Film –Legend of the East (Livi Zheng and Nirattisai Kaljaruek), Best Director of a Foreign Language Feature Film (Nirattisai Kaljaruek), won Best Actor for Foreign Film and Best Supporting Actress for Foreign Film. With her successful directing credits adorning her resume  Zheng continues to expand her role as a respected filmmaker, more recently producing and directing the suspenseful Victorian period-piece The Lost Soul. Livi is currently fielding several  offers in the US.

(Title featured image courtesy-of-marie-claire-indonesia-by-irfan-hartanto-2)

Q & A with Souleiman Bock from “River”

Actor Souleiman Bock
Actor Souleiman Bock shot by Kirill Kozlov

Actor Souleiman Bock’s intriguing and versatile look coupled with his phenomenal acting skill have been integral to the actor becoming a hit both at home in London and abroad. Considering that Bock landed one of his first roles on the hit British TV series “MI-5,” aka “Spooks,” it was an easy bet that the uber talented actor would soon be hot on everyone’s radar, and he has become just that! In “MI-5” Bock took on a major role as an ill intentioned terrorist who plans to bomb London’s House of Parliament and takes a ship hostage along the way. For anyone who has had the chance to watch his performance and how he embodied a man of evil deception down to the most minute detail, it’s easy to see why he has continued to land roles of a similar nature.

In the dramatic crime series “River,” which aired last year, Bock took on the critical role of Khaalid Mohamoud, a hard-working immigrant who harbours a game-changing secret to protect a friend. In “River,” which earned the Golden Nymph Award from the Festival de Television de Monte Carlo, as well as a BAFTA TV Award nomination, Bock acted alongside one of his icons, multi-award winning actor Stellan Skarsgard (“Good Will Hunting” “The Avengers”), a memorable experience to say the least.

Bock recently wrapped filming on an episode of the upcoming series “Riviera,” which stars Golden Globe nominee Julia Stiles from (“The Bourne Ultimatum,” “10 Things I Hate About You”). In the series Bock takes on the critical role of a doctor acting alongside multi-award winning actor Idal Naor from hit series “The Honourable Woman” and “The House of Saddam.”

With undeniable magnetism on screen, those with even the toughest of standard will conclude that Souleiman Bock is a gifted performer. Aside from bringing some of the most challenging characters to life, Bock is fluent in English, French and Somali, something that gives him an edge over others in the industry.  

To find out more about Souleiman Bock and some of his exciting upcoming projects make sure to check out our interview below!

Hey Souleiman thanks for joining us! Can you start by telling us where you are from? 

SB: I was born in Djibouti, East Africa. I traveled a lot as a kid because my dad was in the French army, we then settled in Paris when I was about 10. But I have been living in London for almost 10 years now.

When and how did you get into acting?

SB: Acting was always on my mind growing up since I loved films. Although i wanted to play soccer professionally as a kid and almost ended up doing it, when I turned 20 I went to my first acting class in Paris and after that I was hooked and never looked back.

When did you land your first onscreen role? What was the project and how did it feel being a part of it?

SB: MY first professional acting job was on the British Drama “Spooks” or “MI-5” as it’s known outside the UK, I was really happy getting the role since I had been a fan of the show before and I considered it to be the best spy/action drama anywhere. It was quite an experience being on a show of that quality with a really great cast and crew.

You’re currently shooting the upcoming series “Riviera,” can you tell us about the show’s story?

SB: The show is about a rich family who inherits an empire from their father when he dies in the South of France. But all hell break loose as they discover all the dark secrets he left behind. The lead actress is American actress Julia Stiles.

What character do you play and why are they important to the story?

SB: I’m not allowed to go into to much details right now since the show is in production, but I can say that I am playing a Doctor who is key to the storyline, and there is a nice plot twist regarding him.

Did you face any challenges in bringing this character to life?

SB: Being quite young, playing a Doctor with a lot of experience and weight to him has been a very interesting challenge.

What was it like working with director Damon Thomas and the rest of the cast on the series?

SB: I think this has been my best shooting experience so far since we were shooting in the South of France in some amazing locations. The director was really experienced and efficient, and the cast and crew are really friendly, which always makes things better.

How about the crime series “River,” what was that about?

SB: “River” I would say is my best job to date, and definitely my most demanding job as an actor. It was a great experience bringing Khaalid to life because of the complexities of the story and the character. Also acting opposite Stellan Skarsgard which I considered before I met him on set to be one of the best actors out there, was a really amazing experience. I learned a lot watching him work and grew a lot from it as a result.

TV series River Souleiman Bock
Still of Stellan Skarsgård (left) and Souleiman Bock (right) in “River”

How did it feel when you found out you had landed a recurring role on the series?

SB: I was really happy, again because I knew I was going to work with Stellan Skarsgard and the story I felt was really different and special. The show has has some amazing reviews on its quality and originality.

Can you tell us about your character Khaalid Mohamoud? What kind of guy is he and what happens to him in the story?

SB: He’s an immigrant in the UK who has been working hard to support his family and struggles to find his place in society, he’s central to the story because he’s hiding information in an effort to try and protect someone, a move that could change the course of the story.

You are also in the series “Call the Midwife,” can you tell us about your character?

SB: I actually just finished shooting and I am in season 6. I play a British Merchant Navy Seaman in the show. It is set in the 60’s and my character is trying to have his wife go back to Africa to give birth and that’s when all the drama begins.

What is the series about?

SB: The story is about midwives in the 60’s in post war London, and the job they did. It is a very popular show worldwide with great reviews.

In the episode you are in, how did your character fit into the story?

SB: I will be in season 6 episode 6, which comes out in 2017. The entire episode is dedicated to my storyline and that of my wife in the show. It’s a really heavy and sad story that will be very interesting to watch.

How did the character challenge you as an actor?

SB: Having to play a man living in the 60’s was the challenge, since people of that time had a completely different view on things but we had an amazing script to help, and I asked for details from my parents to find out what it was like for them during the 60’s as well.

Can you tell us about the project “Spooks”?

SB: “Spooks” was my first job on TV. It’s a Spy/Drama and was one of the influences for the “Bourne” movies, it is a very gritty and realistic show about the Spy world. “Spooks” is slang for spy in government official circles. I was playing one of the terrorists who planned to bomb the house of parliament in London and took a boat hostage. As this was my first experience with a show of that scale, I had to overcome a bit of nerves at first but was quickly put at ease by the cast and crew. The director of this show was Paul Whittington and I was playing opposite Richard Armitage (“The Hobbit”)  who was the main Spy I took hostage in the episode and Iain Glenn, who went on to be one the main character of “Game of Thrones.”

You’ve had quite a bit of success as an actor on television so far– do you have plans to focus more on film work anytime soon?

SB: Definitely in the future that is my goal!

What is it about working in television that you enjoy?

SB: Television has become such a great quality media that you would really miss on a lot of opportunities if you didn’t look at it. Plus it is a great way for an actor to show their skills as you could have more time to develop a character, and really these days TV has amazing quality shows!

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

SB: Around the same time I was shooting “Spooks,” I had my first role on the big budget film “Gulliver’s Travels.”  I was playing a soldier and it was a great experience. It was a massive shoot and Jack Black was really great to work with and very friendly. I also did a film with French director Mass Youssoupha called “Conscience” that we are looking to show at film festivals next year and I am really excited about that but I can’t really talk much about the story as I’m forbidden to do so. Also I have the typical actor’s story when I started I did a couple of background jobs in film to pay for for acting school, and that was also a great learning experience.

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

SB: At the moment, for example, the movie “Conscience” that we hope will be selected for festivals, the main reason I did this film was the director Mass Youssoupha. He saw my work on “River” and wrote that story for me specifically so I was really keen to work with him. In the beginning of my career working on films was not my priority, of course if you get an amazing project you will do it, but I was more focused on TV and now that my name is out there I go for castings for some great movie projects with great directors, and that’s what you want as an actor really– to create a window for you to have access to quality projects.

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

SB: Now that my name is getting known it’s really about choosing that quality project that will make a difference in my career, that’s why I am very picky of what I want to be associated with. That’s why if you look at my work on TV so far it’s only be quality work. I am choosing quality over quantity!

Do you feel that you get cast to play a certain type of character more than others?

SB: At the beginning of your career you get typecast always, but you have to get your opportunities and show what you can do, and now really I get all kinds of characters. “River” has been a turning point for me really. But I would definitely say that I usually get the intense sometimes menacing type.

Out of all your productions both in the theatre and on screen, what has been your favorite project, or projects, so far and why?

SB: My favorite job so far has been the show “River,” this was where I learned the most and also the complexities of the character were so fun to play! Acting with Stellan Skarsgard has been the highlight of my career so far because I really admire him as an actor.

What has been your most challenging role?

SB: My character Khaalid on “River” was the most challenging, the range of emotions was great, and my character was always on the edge. This is really challenging as an actor.

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

SB: Definitely drama, I think this is where I shine the most really. And it is also my favorite genre to watch.

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

SB: I have always been told that I have this sort of presence which is menacing and charming at the same time so maybe that, although it’s quite hard to judge yourself but I suppose I would agree with that.

Have you been in any commercials or music videos?

SB: Yes I did a Spring Water commercial for “Voslauer” with supermodel Agyness Dein, you can actually still see it on youtube it’s called “Voslauer Part II”.

What projects do you have coming up?

SB: Coming out next year are my roles in “Call the Midwife” and “Riviera.”

What are your plans for the future?

SB: I would love to be as versatile as possible as an actor and maybe learn a new language to act in, that would be really great since I have a passion for language.

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

SB: Hopefully grow as an actor and do lots of quality work.

Why are you passionate about working as an actor?

SB: It’s always such a joy for me really to disappear into a character, there is nothing like it!!

If you  weren’t an actor what other profession do you think you might have chosen?

SB: My dream as a kid was to be a professional soccer player, so definitely that! I am still very much passionate about soccer and sports in general, i also love the NBA.

PETR GOLIKOV USES HIS PRODUCING SKILLS TO CREATE AWARD-WINNING DOCUMENTARIES

As far back as we can trace the history of mankind is how long storytelling has existed; that’s because storytelling allows us to communicate our own history. At some point (most likely around a campfire) storytelling became an art and, as art does, the tales became more grand and entertaining. Through the ages, the means by which stories were communicated has evolved; oratory, legible, theatrical, and eventually we came to our modern cinematic means. Moving Pictures may be just a skooch over a century old but they have already transformed in so many ways and have escalated the art of storytelling on a global scale. Hollywood may be the epicenter of TV and film but many countries in the world have ingrained some form of the industry into their social fabric. Hollywood can be proud that its child has become loved everywhere on planet Earth. All the corners of the world use this means to tell their tales. By studying the productions of different countries we can understand more about them as well as gain insight into how they see themselves. Petr Golikov is a Russian producer who has had immense success in the world of commercial production but who has also been a producer on many documentaries which present the history of his country as well as how historical figures have effected Russian society. Because of his successful career as a producer and his respect for US productions, he has a healthy respect for Americas contributions. Viewing the documentaries, he has produced allows one to have an insider’s look at many historical figures and social aspects of Russian society that are not often presented to the US. It’s particularly interesting that a producer like Petr, who has such a lauded career (working with well-known US companies like: PUMA, Gillette, Kraft Foods, Ford, Phillips; with campaigns that won awards such as: an Effie Award, a Silver Prize at the Kiev International Advertising Festival, and a Golden Prize at the Golden Hammer International Advertising Festival, as well as others) is always searching for a way to hone his abilities and challenge his approach. Golikov left the world of commercial producing for a period of time to work at the award-winning Studio Ostrov. Studio Ostrov is a recipient of many prestigious awards including:  an Emmy Award, Bafta Award, and Nika Award. This award-winning production company was founded by the award-winning filmmaker Sergey Miroshnichenko. Petr admits that when he was offered the opportunity to work with an artist as important as Sergey Miroshnichenko, he could not forego the experience. It is a scenario that has altered his approach to production ever since, particularly his style of communication with directors.

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The production Gogol: The Farewell Letter mixed actual letters of correspondence from one of the most celebrated Russian writers with a very artistic presentation. The film was recognized and awarded at the Kiev International Film Festival in 2009. The film is based on Nikolai Gogol’s correspondence with friends and contains reconstructed scenes from the life of this writer and the intellectual debates which he led with them. The main role was played by Eugeniy Voskresenskiy (he won an award at the Kiev International Film Festival for this role). Golikov describes the creative approach which the film is known for, stating, “Three-fourths of the film took place in the set designed and built to look like a huge head of Gogol. People appeared there like ghosts or thoughts or images. We wanted the viewer’s to feel that they were inside Gogol’s head and we took the metaphor to a very literal place, which the audience seemed to really enjoy.”

One of the films Petr produced (at Studio Ostrov) which received the most accolades was The Word. This film is about the life of famed writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. The Word received a TEFI Best TV film nominee, a LAVR (2009) Best documentary film award, and a special award at the 2nd New York Festival of Russian documentary (2009). The Word was filmed shortly before Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn death in 2008 and discussed the writer’s book The Gulag Archipelago, his ideas, & future plans. The documentary contains rare footage of his life outside Russia and unpublished exclusive interviews in which he discusses modern literature and the future of Russian in the 21st century. Because the film discussed one of the most important writers and thinkers who witnessed such an extensive change in the world, it was paramount that it present his firsthand take on history and the literature of his lifetime.

One of the most intriguing documentaries which Golikov produced for Studio Ostrov is titled Closest. This is a riveting and poignant documentary which views the city of Kazan in Russia. This location is extraordinary in the fact that its population is comprised of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim people who live peacefully together. It is a model which attempts to explain if we can live amongst each other with these differences without strife and war. The production asks if “love thy neighbor” can truly exist. Filmed on location over a ten-day period, Closest gives first-hand accounts of what these different ideological groups think of each other and how they implement their religious teachings.

Reaching much further back into Russia’s history, Petr produced Pyotr and Fevroniya: Story of Eternal Love for Studio Ostrov. The Orthodox Church in Russia has declared this couple saints and the keepers of family and marriage. According to lore, Pyotr and Fevroniya were buried in separate tombs but the following day their bodies were discovered together in the same tomb. Many people visit this tomb and ask for intercession. Golikov communicates, “I had to approach the story with great care before it was presented to channel’s producer. There was a presentation for a priest from the Orthodox church because this couple is recognized as saints. The church was happy with it and the film crew was actually very moved by the story, as were the viewers…which gave us such high ratings. It’s a wonderful love story.

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Petr’s acclaim as a producer of both documentaries and commercials in Russia has led to upcoming productions with Feel Good Video in the US. Golikov has been enlisted to bring his talents to a number of projects for Feel Good Video including the documentaries Dreams by the Ocean and Twinsters in addition to a series of commercials for both Dyno Wave and Joe To Door brands. Petr’s immensely popular and acclaimed work in the past is a causality to the effect of these international offers. The best reward for a professional such as Golikov is the abundance of offers that continue to find their way to this consummate producer.

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