Category Archives: Women in Film

Actor Tennille Read’s Award Winning Style

Actor Tennille Read’s rising star is powered by a very particular brand of creativity, one that’s equal measures sensitivity and swagger, a super-charged dramatic formula that spans the entire emotional spectrum with undeniable in-the-moment veracity. Read truly inhabits her characters, always delivering a performance subtly imbued with the full depth and breadth of the human experience. Her award winning performance in the dramatic 2018 short “I Lost My Mind” is as ideal example of her impressive natural talent, a rich gift which, ironically, she almost didn’t take seriously.

“I did a lot of school before I could accept that I actually wanted to be an actor,” Read said. “I did my undergrad in film and theatre at Queen’s University, and then a Graduate program in Communications at Concordia University. But acting always called me back. So to step up my game, I did a three year Acting Conservatory in Toronto. That was where I learned how to approach my work with discipline, unending curiosity and playfulness, and where I really committed to being a professional actor.”

Tennille Read photo by Hamish Birt 2
Tennille Read photo by Hamish Birt

Try as she might to resist the impulse, the seed had been planted years earlier. “I was about 10 and I was watching a re-run of Growing Pains—the season where Leonardo DiCaprio is on the show,” Read said. “In that episode, he has this huge emotional scene that I was spellbound by. He just seemed so raw and vulnerable. I had a lot of pre-teen hormones bubbling up inside me at the time and acting seemed like the perfect way to let them out. I remember asking my mum if I could get an agent—I’m sure that made her heart stand still for a moment. So, instead I started doing little skits and storytelling performances for my grade five class.”

With a solid grounding in live theater and on-set film experience, the Toronto-based Read specializes in spiritually liberated, audacious characters. “I’m excited by female-driven stories and a lead character that overcomes big obstacles by discovering their own potential,” Read said. “There’s a common thread with the films I adore. They usually explore different dimensions or alternate worlds, be it space or expanding possibility. I’m a bit of a nerd about that stuff. I love the idea of tapping into something that is bigger than ourselves but that is still in harmony with us when we get out of our own way—that sparks my imagination in every way.”

This distinctive approach made her an ideal choice for “I Lost My Mind”’s leading role.

“I played the character of Penelope who facilitates a community workshop on filmmaking,” Read said. “One of her students, Wolfy, becomes fascinated by her and finds his thoughts objectifying her in her class. Penelope is pure intelligence, aspiration, with a vast knowledge of her craft, based on her own directing experience. But Wolfy is stuck on her appearance and he can’t focus on what she’s teaching the group. His thoughts get LOUD, but Penelope’s intuition and smarts have him figured out and she puts him in his place with one elegant move.”

“It was easy to relate to Penelope,” Read said. “Her situation was of a woman being objectified by the male gaze. I think every woman can relate to that in some capacity. I’ve been that woman—feeling like I wasn’t being heard and but instead being seen through a narrow lens. I loved playing Penelope because she’s firm and steady in front of this group of young filmmakers and genuinely wants to teach them and have them realize their own potential. Even when she calls out Wolfy at the end, she does it from a place of kindness and good humor, but with enough pointedness to drive her message home.”

Read’s formidable skill as a dramatic interpreter significantly elevated the film’s impact and made “I Lost My Mind” a popular entry on the busy North American film festival circuit. Along the way Read was honored with the Hollywood North Film Awards 2018 Best Actor award. Director Michael Tobin sunned up the actor’s artistic essence “Her perspective on the story that I wanted to tell was invaluable to the final cut. My process has always been a collaborative one, and Tennille brought so much of her own experience to the table that not only fit the role she played, but also enhanced it beyond my expectations. Tennille brings a compelling depth to the characters she plays that I think is a result of her own authenticity.”

That authenticity has become a professional calling card for the n-demand actor. “I recently did a season on ‘Workin’ Moms,’” Read said. “It was my first fleshed-out character who had her own multi-episode story arc. Television shoots move fast and I really like the pace—you don’t have time to get stuck in your head. But I would also like to do more film, on top of the TV work I’ve been booking.”

As an actor, Read has the perfect attitude: “The simplest way is usually the best way. Try something different with each take. Use the nerves to fuel the preparation and then let go of the work.”

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Actor Jolie Chi’s Rising Star

Born and raised in Taipei, Taiwan, actor Jolie Chi is now internationally recognized for her award-winning roles. She is currently featured in the Sony family adventure feature “Destined to Ride,” 0pposite award-winning Hollywood talents Denise Richards and Joey Lawrence, the latest step in an impressive career.

A highly talented actor, Jolie Chi has established a reputation for being an invaluable asset to every production she takes part in—and many of these projects have received awards specifically because of her involvement and exceptional performances. Chi’s lead role as the title character in offbeat indie release “My Lunatic Lucy” accounts for more than half of awards which the film received, including Best Actress at the Independent Short Awards, Best Actress at the Top Shorts Film Festival, Best Actress in a Comedy at the Actor Awards, and Best Actress at the LA Short Awards.

Despite some fierce competition, Chi’s appealing charisma and high energy style practically guaranteed her being cast as “Destined to Ride”’s Amy Tsai. The character was written as much younger than Chi, a challenge which the skilled actor eagerly rose to.

“The key to portraying a character that’s younger than me was to review every little thing I went through when I was growing up,’ Chi said. “While doing that, I would write down my emotional state—excited, spoiled, easily embarrassed—and also, of course, go through the changes I have made since I have grown. I sat down, closed my eyes and thought back to how I was as a kid because I was a wild and fun one so I thought playing my younger self will make Amy stand out the most.”

jolie-chi-on-set-destined (2)

“Destined to Ride” represents a critical upshift in Chi’s already fast-moving career, one where she worked alongside, held her own and learned from a stellar roster of established stars. It was a golden opportunity which the ambitious young actor definitely made the most of.

“The interaction between Madeline Carroll and myself was so much fun,” Chi said. “She’s so positive and really inspired me. Madeline taught me to really learn about every human being so that you’ll know how to specifically mimic them.
A remarkably versatile actor, Chi also recently made a music video appearance in pop sensation Justin Timberlake’s 2018 hit single “Filthy,” and has also played lead roles in numerous high-profile commercials, including Momo (a Chinese instant-messaging service) that was featured in movie theatres and on billboards across China. Expect to see much more from Jolie Chi.

Award Winning Actor Missy Malek’s Midas Touch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

missy-malek-w-best-short-award

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

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

Female Filmmaker to Watch: Eliza Brownlie

Eliza Brownlie
Movie poster for “The After Party”

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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