It’s More Than Good Looks that Make Renan Pacheco a Top Digital Influencer

Digital Influencer Renan Pacheco

The global rise of instagram as a storytelling and sharing platform has given users a unique peek into the lives of people they know off screen, as well as into those they wish they knew– and from the latter, we’ve seen the global rise of the ‘digital influencer.’ 

Whether it be the products they use, the places they travel or the food they eat, everyday people look to the budding world of digital influencers for inspiration that they can bring into their own lives. Not only have the lives of digital influencers become similar to ‘fantasy’ worlds many viewers dream of living, but they’ve helped lead brands to make millions of dollars in profits. 

Born in Sao Paulo, Brazil and raised in Paris, Renan Pacheco is among the most recognizable French digital influencers in the world today, and it’s not hard to see why. In fact, earlier this year he was handpicked to be included in Kolsquare’s select group of six Influencers Under 30 to Follow in 2019.

Renan explains, “I help fashion brands tell a story. Through posts and IG stories, I tell stories to my community to promote new products and trends. I’m always happy to interact with my 650,000-plus followers when they comment or send me a direct message.”

With a continually growing Instagram following of more than 650K users, Pacheco’s heart-stopping good looks and magnetism in front of the camera coupled with his ability to help brands tell engaging stories has made him a hot commodity in the social media world. 

Pacheco has been so successful in his work as a digital influencer that he was nominated for a prestigious People’s Choice Award in 2018 in the French Pop Culture Influencer category. He has also been nominated in both the Travel and Fashion categories for the Influencer Award Monaco at the 2019 Monaco Digital Influencer Awards, which will take place this October.

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Prior to moving into his now 24/7 job as a digital influencer, Pacheco made a name for himself back home in Paris as a highly sought after actor and model. Earlier in his career, he was the featured actor in commercials for the massive French multinational food company Danone’s popular Danao beverage, and TF1’s hit series “Nos Chers Voisin,” as well as played the critical role of Stefano Cobalt in the film “Cobalt” directed by multi-award winner David Tomaszewski for Dolce and Gabbana. Though Pacheco’s looks and charisma have undoubtedly helped him along the way, he has far more going for him than simply being a good looking face. He is an extremely talented content creator, and thanks to his experience in front of the camera as both a model and an actor, he knows how to embody the perfect emotional vibe within every image captured. Simply, he knows how to tell you a story without even speaking

Though the career of a digital influencer appears to be a relatively new phenomenon, in reality it’s not all that different from those of the flocked to figures, such as actors, entertainers and athletes over the past century, who have gained sponsorships from brands to promote what they have to offer. The biggest difference is arguably the fact that the digital influencer IS a brand in itself. Everything from the way they look off camera and the way they live their lives to the content they curate has to be methodical and purposeful. Digital influencers don’t take random photos and throw them into the digital world with their fingers crossed. The best, like Pacheco, know they will make waves when they post.

We needn’t look further than Pacheco’s instagram profile for proof this. Individually each of his photos grab our attention with clean composition, an engaging subject (himself) and more often than not, the beautifully exotic and breathtaking background of a foreign country. When looking at Pacheco’s page, the tonal continuity of his collection of images immediately apparent, you can tell that he knows better than anyone that seamless continuity is integral to visual appeal. There is nothing random about what he chooses to post.

“Companies leverage us Influencers for our media exposure as well as for our creativity. My pictures must thus take both criteria into account… Often, the picture is what will satisfy the follower, and the caption is what will satisfy the storytelling” explains Pacheco. says, “Every picture immortalises a moment. When looking back 50 years from now, I know I can trust that these pictures show how things really were. I feel a responsibility to present the moment faithfully and accurately to my fans.” 

From the outside it may look like pure glitz and glamour, but at the end of the day, it is still an important job in the branding and advertising industries, albeit one that comes with more perks than most.

Pacheco admits,“Some days when your personal life takes a hit, you have to focus on your followers and make sure you’re still creating value in an up-beat, positive way. They follow you for entertainment, not for negativity, which is often inevitable in the long term.”

Pacheco’s abounding success as a digital influencer has put him in the spotlight as the star of countless digital campaigns, including those for the fragrance “Zadig et Voltaire” and the “Police Sunglasses” from @Policelifestyle. Both of these shoots were photographed by famous fashion photographer Florian Saez, who has quite a bit to say about what makes Pacheco such a uniquely powerful figure amongst the world’s top digital influencers.

“Renan has the paradoxical mix of possessing a high follower count as well as a high engagement ratio… when Influencers grow in follower count, they naturally experience a decline in engagement ratio. This is to be expected since the more followers one gets, the further form their inner circle these followers tend to be. These unknown followers tend to engage very little, decreasing the total percentage of likes and comments for posts and stories,” Saez explains confidently. 

“Despite this macro phenomenon seen across all sectors of Influencer marketing, Renan has remained in his 3 to 5 percent engagement ratio window despite consistently adding around 200,000 new followers every year. This is a characteristic unseen with other influencers and the projects he chooses to work with definitely benefit from this signature feature.” 

Over the years Renan Pacheco has not only become a digitally influential icon in the eyes of brands and Instagram users alike, but he has also been requested to shoot numerous feature editorials for magazines including Bello Mag, where he had a 10-page spread last year and Pakistan’s Good Times magazine, where he had a 4-page spread earlier this year. His international fame has also put him in the spotlight as a featured celebrity at brand events for the likes of Jean Paul Gaultier, Diesel, Messika, Berluti, Bvlgari and more.

 

At the end of the day, Pacheco says, “ I get to travel and meet people from around the world. An Influencer is no more, no less, than a storyteller. That being said, most often I find myself listening to stories, life lessons and can’t help but wonder how much more there is to learn.”

Multi-Award Winning Actor Hugo Diego Garcia Dazzles International Audiences

Hugo Diego Garcia
Actor Hugo Diego Garcia at the Beverly Hills Film Festival

Actor Hugo Diego Garcia possesses a talent that is exceedingly rare among even the most seasoned of his peers. He’s able to transition between wildly different characters and roles with the effortlessness that others might walk from one room to the next. A great deal of his uncanny ability to embody virtually anybody onscreen is no doubt due to his upbringing, immersed in three distinct cultures.

“I was born in Oyonnax, France, a small city lost in the mountains,” Garcia described, “to a Spaniard father and a mother of Italian descent.”

His upbringing in that idyllic, yet isolated, town didn’t initially afford Garcia the opportunity to see as many films as he might have had he grown up in a big city. The collection of movies he did have, however, included some of the most influential and universally-acclaimed works in the history of film. Once he’d devoured the classic films he had at home, Garcia developed an insatiable need to watch every movie he could get his hands on.

“We didn’t have many films at home, but we had some of the best. The first VHS tapes and then DVDs we had were from Cimino, Leone, Scorsese and Coppola,” Garcia recalled.

“I then watched most of the American movies that were screened on TV, I would go every week to the French version of Blockbuster and rent plenty of DVDs. Together with my best friend we’d see every movie at the local cinema in my little city. And somehow, I got lucky enough to watch some of the best cinematic works ever at a very young age.”

That early exposure to such a vast number of films and filmmakers left an indelible mark on Garcia. As he entered adulthood, he became certain his calling lay on the silver screen. For Garcia, living in such a remote part of the world was an obstacle he was determined to overcome. With unbridled determination, he began studying every book and taking every class he could find to learn and master the actors’ craft.

“It was so far from our world, both geographically and metaphorically, that I couldn’t envision it,” he said. “I bought books from masters, studied and read just about everything, tried classes everywhere, and ultimately moved to Paris where I studied full-time in three schools — including one where I was offered free tuition after several rounds of auditions.”

After years of tireless dedication to improving his craft and growing as an actor, Garcia has achieved his dream. He’s deftly honed and refined his unique style with years of devoted practice, study, and insights gained from a lifetime spent observing the greats. As a result, Garcia’s become a commanding onscreen figure, delivering powerful performances in an ever-growing number of roles.

Among Garcia’s most definitive roles to date is the forthcoming film “Cagnolino.” Beautifully written and performed, the tragic drama tells a story of loyalty, violence, and deferred dreams.

“‘Cagnolino’ is about appearances and social determinism. It talks about the fascination for violence, particularly in the ‘hoods, through the music, pop culture, cinema, TV, and other media,” he described. “It is the story of a bad encounter, based on multiple true stories.”

The film follows the young members of a small-time criminal group as their egos and hotheadedness inevitably lead them toward the tragic consequences of a fateful mistake. Garcia stars in the leading role of Dario, a member of the family torn between his familial loyalty and his desire to escape this life and build a real future.

“My character wants to emancipate himself and get a better life for himself. He wants to do what’s right and leave the family business to pursue his own life and dreams, as well as being motivated by his girlfriend,” Garcia explained. “He struggles to leave because of the weight of the family ties and the love and admiration he has for his family, including his cousin. He has this life in his blood.”

Its story unflinchingly honest and its actors’ performances unequivocally human, “Cagnolino” captures the raw and universal truth of the struggles between right and wrong, power and weakness, and loyalty and self-determination. Garcia’s performance as Dario is masterful and moving, a testament to his strength and versatility. Further illustrating his commitment to his craft are the lengths to which he went to ensure a perfect performance in the film.

“In the sequence where my character gets beat up, we were shooting by night and at 6 a.m. I had to finish the night on the floor being kicked by the other characters,” he recalled. “I got bruises all over my body, but the adrenaline and pleasure of filming got us through it.”

With filming and post-production completed this year, “Cagnolino” will begin screening at festivals soon. Also set for release in the coming year is “Death Before Mourning,” a profound film which examines the often-silent and stigmatized effects of mental illness. Impressed by Garcia’s exceptional work in other roles, “Death Before Mourning” director Ruperto Luis Sanchez handpicked Garcia for the lead role in the film.

“After seeing his work and collaborating with Hugo on several projects, I had no doubt he would be the best fit for the lead role in my movie, Death Before Mourning. Ayala, his character, is complex and dark and Hugo possessed every quality required to play such a tortured role,” Sanchez said, explaining his deliberate choice to cast Garcia.

“His charisma, rugged good looks and ability to speak perfect English and Spanish made him my first choice directly. Ayala is also a boxer and so is Hugo, which made it even more interesting.”

The film takes an appropriately dark approach to its subject matter. With mental illness becoming a more and more prevalent topic in today’s news and culture, “Death Before Mourning” is a timely film that accurately portrays both the effects and stigmas facing those who suffer from invisible diseases like depression. Garcia, a trained boxer himself, disappears into his role as a boxer fighting against a different kind of opponent within his own mind.

“‘Death Before Mourning’ is a complex, ambitious black-and-white movie about PTSD, depression and the cycle of life,” Garcia described. “I play Rene Ayala, a great prospect in boxing, who sees his dreams destroyed when he loses a fight he was supposed to win, destroying his self esteem, future and all-time dream.”

Garcia’s performance in “Death Before Mourning” is undoubtedly one of his most powerful to date. As he steps out of himself and into the character of Rene Ayala, he brings such life to the role that it becomes nearly impossible to say for sure that the struggling boxer onscreen is a work of fiction rather than a living, breathing man in his own right. That is precisely where Garcia’s greatest strength lies. Much more than an ability to become somebody else, Garcia is able to persuade audiences that his characters are alive and that he was never really there at all.

“Acting, for me, is pure pleasure. It might be cliche, but I have a passion for storytelling,” said Garcia, explaining what draws him to acting and what makes him such a superb onscreen presence. “To quote De Niro, acting is ‘living someone else’s life, without paying the price.’ It’s using part of yourself that you wouldn’t or couldn’t explore in society for any number of reasons.”

Precious few actors in cinema today can hold a candle to Garcia. Fluent in three languages, a professionally-trained boxer, and unmatched in his onscreen versatility and range, Hugo Diego Garcia is among the most talented and devoted actors to grace the screen in years. Just as he’s spent his life studying the greats who came before him, there will be a day when a new generation of actors do the same — and they will undoubtedly turn to the iconic performances of Hugo Diego Garcia.

A talk with renowned cinematographer Feixue Tang

Processed with VSCOcam with b1 presetWhen Feixue Tang thinks back to growing up in Beijing, China, she recalls her middle school and high school years as being extremely dull and oppressive. The school system only cared about high grades, and students are then rated, ranked, and sorted based on academic performances. As an escape, the young Tang started watching a lot of films in her own time. She felt her life expand through immersing herself in all those different movies around the world.

“When I was in high school, I watched Elephantby Gus Van Sant. I was very impressed by the film as it showed me the great possibilities of what film as an art form could be like. I really loved how Elephantplayed with narrative structure and perspectives to tell the story artfully and creatively and how it utilized the form to serve the best of its content. While watching behind the scenes of the film it fascinated me seeing all these different crafts and creative minds going into the making of a film,” said Tang.

As a young teenager, Tang knew she wanted to one day go on to making movies. She wanted to tell stories and share a part of herself with the world through her work. Now, she has achieved all that and more. She is an award-winning cinematographer, internationally in-demand with a series of decorated projects highlighting her resume.

Throughout her career, Tang has shown what she is capable of as a cinematographer. Earlier this year, she made headlines with the multiple awards she took home for her outstanding cinematography on the film Here & Beyond. The experience of making the film, for Tang, was one of the best of her career, and the awards and recognition are secondary to simply loving what she does.

“I would say the highlights of my career are the moments when as a cinematographer, you meet a director that you can communicate so well with and with whom your collaboration is so spontaneous, fluid, inspiring and creative,” said Tang. “The collaboration with director Colin West on Here & Beyond was definitely one of my highlights. We talked day after day in pre-production discussing how to create the visual world for his film Here & Beyond. That collaboration, the continuously mutual inspiring experience was definitely why I chose and love this job.”

Here & Beyond is just one of Tang’s many success stories. She was also recently nominated for Best Cinematography of a Documentary Short Film at the Asian Cinematography Awards for her work on Lumpkin, GA, which dives into the issues surrounding America’s immigration policies by documenting the stories of a small town with a huge immigration detention center right next to it.

Lumpkin, GA’s praise is hardly Tang’s first success story in the documentary genre. Her film Who We Are, a film that starts in the midst of America’s Opioid Epidemic when a Southern California family searches for meaning in the wake of their son’s death, received critical acclaim at many international film festivals.

Undoubtedly, Tang is a force to be reckoned with as a cinematographer, and she understands the intricacies of the artform more than most. She did not always know this would be her path, but she knows she is just where she is meant to be and worked hard to get there. For those who are pursuing a similar dream, she offers the following advice:

“I think in general to work in film you need to be really passionate about what you do. It’s working long hours, it’s challenging physically and intellectually, and compared to other jobs it has so many turbulences and unknowns. I think feeling that you honestly love the job and enjoy being emerged in it is very important. And then just continue learning and never stop,” she advised.

Be sure to keep an eye out for Tang’s future projects. She is about to begin work on a new feature length documentary, as well as a fictional movie. You can stay up-to-date with her work by checking out her website here.

 

By John Michael

Otavio Rabelo talks passion for graphic design and working with ‘TheWrap’

IMG_0565As an industry-leading Editorial and Marketing Designer with Deadline Hollywood, Otavio Rabelo works with typography, colors, images and other design elements to create unique graphic layouts that are printed or used digitally. He designs conceptual layouts to all sections of a magazine using all the mentioned elements on computer software, and he is responsible for checking and sending final files to printers and making sure that everything is going to be printed correctly. It is a pivotal role in the success of each issue of a magazine he touches, and he knows this well. He remains dedicated to his craft at all times, a true perfectionist.

“Publications are always trending around the most well-known people in all fields. People love to read about who is on top of the world. I work creating printed and digital content to announce nominees and winners. It’s fun to get to know before everybody else what the editorial team is thinking,” said Rabelo.

Prior to his work with Deadline, Rabelo worked with other renowned magazines, including FourTwoNine and TheWrap, the latter of which truly allowed his work to be seen by Hollywood’s elite on a regular basis.

TheWrap is a well-known entertainment magazine in Hollywood/Los Angeles. When the opportunity presented itself to me, I was excited to grow as an Editorial Designer and show my design skills to such a great audience. The magazines that I design are only distributed to the most well-known people in the industry,” he said. “TheWrapis a small company but very well- known in the entertainment industry. Working there I was able to use my own design skills as an outlet for the projects.”

Working at TheWrap presented several new and unique challenges for Rabelo, who had previously never designed for the entertainment industry. It was his first time working with Oscar and Emmy Seasons, and he had no idea how the entertainment world worked. There are always new films and TV shows being released, as well as nominations and awards, the Oscars and Emmys are extremely important and he had no idea how complex the film industry was, with new festivals always coming up that he needed to stay on top of. He loved the challenge and knew understanding the industry was extremely important in knowing the design, as he had to understand his target market. Now, he feels like a seasoned professional, and the learning curve was well worth it.

“Getting to know the inside of the entertainment industry for the first time was very new to me. I got to see the world’s most famous actors, actresses and directors in person. It was the first time that I realized that my work was important and respected by those professionals,” he said.

Rabelo was responsible for designing and creating layouts for different sections of each publication. He was also in charge of checking and sending advertisements with final editorial files to the printer. He made sure to always have a perfect copy, as if something was incorrect after the final approval, there was no way to fix it. During his time at the magazine, there was never a single mistake to be fixed.

“Since it was such a small company, everybody at TheWrap was always very connected with me and my work. People would often ask my opinions about multiple projects based on my skills. Once the magazine was out everybody would be very nice and compliment me a lot about the issues,” he said.

By Annabelle Lee

VFX Producer Julia Kerguelen Nails it Big Time on Madonna’s new “Dark Ballet” Music Video

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Art Director Julia Kerguelen shot by Lenoir Studio

If you haven’t had a chance to check out Madonna’s new music video for “Dark Ballet,” which dropped on June 6, then you are definitely missing out. The video for the song “Dark Ballet,” a single off her upcoming album, “Madame X,” pulls inspiration from French Catholic saint Joan of Arc, who’s played by African American rapper and activist Mykki Blanco in the video.

Madonna, the fourth best selling music artist in the world, is known for her ability to push the envelope and continually shock viewers with her music videos; and she does not disappoint with “Dark Ballet.” Set in a monastery, the video is symbolic of the cruel persecution of minorities at the hands of the patriarchy, with Mykki, as Joan of Arc, being jailed and burned at the stake. Madonna, who only works with the best in the industry, has a solid reputation for delivering strikingly powerful and highly cinematic music videos, and it was no different for “Dark Ballet.”

Internationally known art director and post-production supervisor Julia Kerguelen, who hails from France, is one of the key figures behind some of the video’s striking visual effects. Coming on board the music video as the post-producer in charge of VFX production, Julia, who was surrounded by an amazing team of VFX artists, oversaw the creation of many of the video’s key visual effects, such as the smoke, flying particles and flames that envelope Mykki’s body while he’s bound to the stake.

For the video, which already has upwards of 2 million views on YouTube, Julia worked through Mathematic Studio, a Paris-based animation, VFX and motion design studio that is known for other high-profile projects such as the music videos for Snoop Dog’s “So Many Pros” and Brodinski’s “Can’t Help Myself,” as well as projects for Cartier, Nike, Hennessey, Dom Perignon, Peugeot and more.

Julia, who was also the post-production supervisor on upcoming commercials for Armani and Van Cleef & Arpels, brings a pretty impressive skill set to the table so it makes perfect sense that Mathematic Studio chose her as the post-producer in charge of VFX on “Dark Ballet.”

“I think I have a good creative eye and I understand quickly where the creatives and the client want to go. Also I know exactly what we need in order to do something and I can anticipate and give advice on how to avoid tricky situations… I can check every media we receive, I can review what’s wrong in our work, etc. I know how to make tough decisions and work in a fast-paced environment and keep the pressure on myself so my team can work in good conditions and have great artistic results.”

Though Julia has undoubtedly proven herself to be an exemplary leader and skillful creator in her work as a VFX producer and post-production supervisor, she is first and foremost, an art director. Over the years she has been sought out as an art director on a slew of illustrious projects, such as Renault’s 2012 International convention of Renault business owners at the Geneva Car Show, the Airbus Pavillion at the 2015 and 2017 Paris Air Show, Valeo’s immersive exhibition at the 2016 GreenBox eXperience in Berlin, Michelin’s exhibition at the 2010 BIB Worldwide Exhibition, L’oréal’s exhibit at the 2007 International Hair Fair and many more.

Julia Kerguelen
Julia Kerguelen’s designs for Michelin

The connecting theme in much of Julia’s collective body of work is that many of the project she leads as an art director exist in the sphere of events and live shows; and there’s a reason she’s continually tapped for such high pressure projects.

She says “I used to work and prefer events because of the stage and the ‘one shot’ thing. You can’t fail, everything should be perfect ‘cause you don’t have a second chance.”

Julia’s finesse and affinity for art directing massive events stems from her early years on stage. At the age of 14 Julia began performing as a comedian on stage in a small town in the Brittany region of France where she grew up.

She recalls, “It was like a revelation to me! I felt that I had a lot to express, on stage as a dancer and a comedian. When I am on stage I cannot hide myself and I don’t need to… I can share my emotions, my stories, my colours, my way of seeing the world… I guess arts became obvious to me when I started being on stage.”

It didn’t take long before Julia relocated to the metropolitan city of Paris where she continued performing on stage as a comedian, actress and dancer; however, while in search of a more stable career, she discovered her passion for graphic design. Creating a strong foundation and reputation for herself as a graphic designer, Julia quickly moved up the ranks and was soon being called in as an art director.

“I start by analyzing the needs of the client, what is the brand, what they have to say, why they want to communicate this way or not, what are their products and what is the purpose, etc. Then when I have all this information and can see the big picture, I will write a story,” explains Julia. “Something to inject meaning, to give birth to the product as something with a soul and a purpose, to give emotions to the audience. I like to think I’m like a storyteller but with images.”

Considering Julia’s background on stage combined with her unparalleled vision when it comes to branding, she was the perfect art director to lead projects for well-known theatre company, Broadway in Paris, led by director Michael Pereira.

Michael says, “I have had the pleasure of working with Julia on a few things. She is the creator of my brand logo Broadway in Paris™. She and I collaborated on the idea and she made it come to life. I am so happy with the outcome. Later when I was searching for a project manager for my next big project, the French version of Pippin, she was the only person I wanted.”

Julia Kerguelen
Julia Kerguelen’s designs for Broadway in Paris

Knowing her history of top-notch work, Michael hired Julia to serve as the supervisor on set, art director and editor on the promo video for Broadway in Paris’s productions of  “Pippin” which use vaudevillian numbers to tell the story of a man in search of fulfillment.

“As I am very familiar with dance and I know post-production, [Michael Pereira] asked me to help him with the editing,” explains Julia. “I reached out to the cameraman, sent him some examples of framing I imagined for the edit and I tried to supervise the shooting on set to have enough material as dance is complicated to film. As I know some of the choreography it was easier for me to tell him what he should record. After that, I did the transcodes, watched all the footage and did the editing in a very short period of time.”

Julia’s personal history on stage combined with her extensive skill set as an art director, which requires her to have a comprehensive grasp over editing, graphic design, motion graphics, film editing and more, was exactly what Michael needed to create a powerful visual story on film for the company.

Michael says, “What Julia brings is an amazing global idea to this project.  I have never directed live singing and dancing for the camera before and Julia put me at ease and helped me envision angles, cuts and ideas for the camera. Also, her knowledge of movement was priceless to me.  Furthermore, when we went into the editing room her vast knowledge aided us tremendously and the result is a completely wonderful sizzle reel.”

Whether she is working as an art director or in the film and commercial world as VFX producer and post-production supervisor, Julia Kerguelen is a rare creative force who always nails her mark with innovative and seamless designs.

Julia says, “I think that because I am a dreamer I can bring some magic! I mean, there are plenty of artistic directors out there and probably better than I am but I think what makes my vision unique is the ‘vision.’ I am not here just to do some technical stuff or a beautiful image I want to create joy, hope, light, and dreams in the heart and eyes of the audience. I am a multidisciplinary artist and I’ve learned so much about the technical side that I can create everything I want. I am able to find creative solutions even with tight deadlines, short budget and high technical constraints. It’s like a giant playground to me, I know the rules, I just have to enjoy the game and make it count! ”

 

Jackson Williams talks dancing with Whitney Houston, Magic Mike Live, and living his dream

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Jackson Williams is from Peterborough, England.

Coming from Peterborough, England, Jackson Williams never imagined that one day he would dance alongside the world’s biggest stars. Growing up, he never thought he would be a dancer at all. He was always an athlete, playing rugby, soccer, swimming, and boxing, but it wasn’t until he was a teenager, when he saw his sister dance, that he realized his passion. Since that moment, his passion turned into a talent, and a talent turned into a career.

Williams is fresh off touring the globe with pop-sensation Ellie Goulding and her Delirium World Tour. He previously toured with Kylie Minogue, Australia’s most successful artist of all time, and Take That, the chart-topping boy band. He has appeared on Simon Cowell’s show X Factor, and toured with the show, and was part of the Olympic Opening Ceremonies in London in 2012.

“This is the only job I’ve ever had. It is my twelfth year professionally. I love the excitement of being on stage. I’m a down to earth kind of guy, but there is something about having a personality on stage and you can be anyone you want and there is no judgement. I love performing,” said Williams.

Despite touring with The Alesha Show and Girls Aloud previously, it was in 2009 when Williams truly shot into a different category of dancers, and was recognized as one of the best that the United Kingdom had to offer. This was when he went on tour with none other than Whitney Houston.

“It said a lot, having the statement that such a high caliber artist wanted to work with you. They could have chosen anyone in the country but they chose me. They thought I was a friendly person who worked hard. These people who had been around for years wanted me around them. They trusted me. And in terms of a dancer, it put my name on the block and I have stayed there. I was the main boy in the show with one other guy. We were Whitney’s boys,” said Williams.

The promo tour went all over Europe, and sadly ended up becoming Whitney Houston’s last tour, as she tragically passed in three years later. Williams’ knows he was one of the last dancers to ever perform with the legend, and he knows it is an honor.

“She was one of the greatest and I feel proud,” he said. “She was a mega, mega, mega, mega, mega star. You are nervous, you are scared, and you are super excited, every kind of emotion. That first time that I was on stage, I got goosebumps when she hit a note. It was like I was cold but I was sweating. That had never happened to me before, and has never happened to me since. Humming, she still sounded better than anyone else in the world. She is the most incredible singer I have ever been on stage with. It is history. It is iconic.”

Jerry Reeve, the celebrated choreographer that brought Williams on the tour, says he did so because he is one of the most highly desired dancers in the industry in the U.K., with extensive experience and unmatched talent.

“Jackson stands out on stage as a dancer of tremendous experience and flawless technique. His years of success have perfected his craft on stage and make every concert at which he dances an inevitable success. Jackson dances very vibrantly and elegantly and conveys various moods with his performances, from comedy to romance. He gives every production a unique personality with his very original footwork, while he showcases his prowess in numerous styles, ranging from ballet, to hip-hop, to jazz, keeping audiences captivated and excited. Jackson serves as a valuable asset to every production for which he dances and most definitely contributes to their successes in retaining high viewership and high-ticket sales. His sheer eclecticism is always highly rewarding, and it is always a unique pleasure to choreograph such a distinguished talent,” said Reeve.

Reeve continues to seek out Williams for tours and shows he is putting together to this day, knowing that he possesses extraordinary abilities required to captivate audiences when he dances. For Williams, performing on Whitney Houston’s tour was the first time he really started to just enjoy what he was doing, without thinking too much about it.

“You become one on stage. It becomes second nature. When you are singing in a car but you are still driving, that is what it is like. You are doing it but you are singing along to it, without thinking about the song, that is what it was like performing on stage. I was dancing but not thinking about each move. I just got to enjoy what I was doing and take it all in,” said Williams.

And he hasn’t stopped since. It seems unbelievable that there was once a time when he hid that he was dancing from his father, going to dance classes after soccer practice. Millions of people have seen him dance, and he will keep doing it until his body won’t let him. With no plans on slowing down, the dancer will soon be taking part in Channing Tatum’s Magic Mike Live in Las Vegas.

“If I was on my deathbed now, I lived a good life. I am quite chuffed,” he concluded.

Dancer Anton Engel talks the BBC Music Awards, Magic Mike Live, and doing what he loves

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Anton Engel at the BBC Music Awards.

Last month, dancer Anton Engel performed for millions dancing at the BBC Music Awards. The experience was not necessarily new for the young dancer, who has been featured on many broadcasts in his established career, but it was thrilling none-the-less.

The show, which premiered December 16th, 2016, featured Britain’s best musical talent. Engel knew what being picked as a dancer for the show meant, and would not let the pressure of performing on live television interfere with his job.

“It is always a great feeling to have such a big audience in the auditorium and at the same time watching you on the television live. The crowd was absolutely amazing,” said Engel. “We made sure we knew our material inside out so that we could would only focus on delivering a great performance and presence on stage.”

Engel, who is also a model, was given the opportunity with the show to really focus on his appearance on stage.  He was playing the role as both a dancer and model, with the responsibility of accompanying the presenters on stage with the right timing and elegance. They needed a model who would be able to take direction from a director very quickly regarding counts, placement, timing and movement. Coming from a dancing background, this was not an issue for him.

“It can be very stressful, but at the same time it is what I love. It was all about having a good quality of movement with an elegant and jazzy walk,” said Engel.

The ceremony, being one of the largest music shows in the world, had an average audience of 3.9 million people watching live on BBC One. Engel worked closely with the world-renowned team at Black Skull Creative productions, including Ross Nicholson, Dan Shipton, and choreographer Jay Revell.

“Anton will always present a great final product while keeping a professional approach to it during the process. It is always a pleasure to work with Anton, since I know that my work is in good hands. He has always delivered a great performance with a personal touch that only Anton can create. His performance quality is very original and pleasant to watch while his energetic and positive personality stays very enjoyable to work with,” said Revell.

Originally from the countryside in Switzerland, in a small town called Ballen, Engel has come a long way. He has performed for the British royal family, danced with worldwide top-charting group Fifth Harmony, toured with the sensational glamor group The Dreamboys, and been featured on Alan Carr’s New Year Specstacular. No matter how big or small his job is, he is always doing what he is truly passionate about.

“Dancing is something that I have always enjoyed. I feel like I can express myself in a way that words would not be enough. It’s that moment where you and the music become one and everything around you stops. The dance world is such a nice atmosphere, when you meet a dancer you have a lot you can relate to since you are sharing the same passion and have the honor to experience the feelings that dancing can give you. Being lucky enough to have an audience to share my passion with is the best feeling ever,” said Engel.

Engel grew up speaking three languages: German with his mother, Swedish with his father and French at school and with friends. At 13, he and his friends formed a competitive breakdancing group. He moved to Sweden by himself at the age of 16 to study dancing. At 19, he moved to London to live his dream of being a professional dancer. He is now 23 years old and have a critical place in the dance and fashion industries all over the United Kingdom, and will soon be making his way to Vegas to dance in Channing Tatum’s Magic Mike Live.

“The feeling of knowing that I will be moving to Las Vegas working for Magic Mike is unreal, I still can’t believe it. I am constantly thinking about it and it puts a smile on my face. Knowing that I will be performing for thousands of people in the iconic Hard Rock Café in Vegas is a dream coming true,” he said. “It is a huge change of lifestyle for me and I’m looking forward to it. I feel like It is time for a new chapter in my life and I have never felt so ready.”

Engel will be working alongside the director, Channing Tatum, as well as choreographer and co-director Alison Faulk, who choreographed the Magic Mike films with Tatum. He will also work with choreographer Luke Broadlick, associate choreographer and director Teresa Espinosa, and all the other professional dancers in the show. But for Engel, it is just another opportunity to do what he loves.

“When I dance I feel like everything around me stops. All my thoughts and worries are put to the side and I can enjoy life and the moment. The feeling of you being overtaken by dance, whether it is you just improvising, performing on live TV or for a big audience, the feelings and the way it makes your body feel there is nothing else like it,” he concluded.

You can buy tickets to Magic Mike Live here.

Canadian actor Philip Moran stars in feature film Adam’s Testament

Adam's Testament
Film poster for Adam’s Testament

Starring in a movie is every actor’s dream. To see their name in the lights and roll past their eyes at the top of the credits at the end of the movie, is often the end goal. However, it is easy to picture the end without the challenges of getting there. Actor Philip Moran had a challenge like no other.

Moran is the star of the film Adam’s Testament. The film is about an out of work ex-detective named Joseph Gable, played by Moran, who loses his wife to a fatal accident.  His son also goes his own path, which turns out to be the wrong one. One day, Joseph decides he is going to make good out of all the bad he has done. He is confronted with many obstacles and demons, but simultaneously he has the support of angels. Joseph seeks absolution and allows himself to receive God.  Through all this, Joseph contemplates suicide, has a heart attack, dies and resurrects.

The film is Moran’s first lead in a film, and quite a lead it was, as he alone had to memorize 65 per cent of the script.

“This film also pushed me in ways I have never experienced and made me a better actor. Being the star of this movie has been the greatest achievement to this day in my film world. I did my best and it worked effectively. I realized that I could be trusted with a big role responsibility and when faced with the obligation, I decided and conquered, something I never even fathomed before the time,” described Moran. “I am expecting bigger projects and success, and fear and doubt has left. I have the maximum 5000 friends on Facebook with people interested in following me and telling me how my success has inspired them to go after their dreams.”

This month, it was announced that Adam’s Testament has become an official selection for the Kingdom Film Festival, which has hosted films such as War Room and Miracles from Heaven. The film also had private TIFF Theater Screening in October of last year, and acquired a distributor in December. The film is expected to be screened to the public this November.

This is hardly Moran’s first venture to success. He was cast in the blockbuster film Total Recall in 2012, starring Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, and Jessica Biel. His work in Total Recall allowed him to connect with studio-head Rafael Kalamat, who is the producer of Adam’s Testament. 

“As a director, it’s ‘safe’ to work with friends. However, it’s never easy. You can work with them and ‘get away with it’ because they possibly know you will always make them look good. But with Philip it was a pleasurable and professional relationship. He had an Olympic work ethic and was more focused then some of the top talent in Canada that I have worked with. It can be very intimidating working with ‘real actors’ because they start asking difficult questions. What’s my character’s spine? Where is the arc in the scene? What is my emotional state when delivering these lines? Scene intention?
Although the cliché, ‘what’s my motivation’ sounds like actor nonsense, it’s certainly not with Philip Moran,” said Kalamat. “Trained actors like Philip desperately need this information to create a competent performance. His role in Adam’s Testament as Detective Joseph Gable is complex to say the least. As an alcoholic-faith-driven-father that dies and is resurrected, takes a lot out of you, lol. Not to mention he was on sixty-two of the one hundred-plus pages of the screenplay. He gave myself and co-director Jason Barbeck his 100 per cent every day, even on an off day. Now that says a lot about Philip as an actor and as a person.”

Moran impressed so many of the people on the set of the film, including executive producer Todd Yuill, and the writer, director, and producer Jason Barbeck

“Philip Moran was an extraordinary actor to be around while he was acting and most of all it was amazing, but he was able to stay in character for the entire time the movie was shot,” said executive producer Todd Yuill. Yuill shared the role of executive producer with his mother Elva Yuill, who passed away just after the film was completed.

“Philip was very dedicated to the role of Joseph and came to set each day ready and willing to work,” said Barbeck. “He was diligent with the script and the enormous amount of lines he had to memorize, being that he was the lead and was in pretty much every day of the shoot. Many people try to speculate as to what makes a good actor. In today’s world it seems that the audience dictates what that is. In my opinion a good actor is someone who is emotionally available and willing to go places most people would rather not. It’s the willingness to be uncomfortable and still keep going. To trust the directors vision and go with him on that journey until the end.  There are of course many degrees of this and it is a lifelong pursuit and a marathon but Philip was able to see the role of Joseph through to the end. For his first leading role I would say he did an outstanding job.”

For Moran, one of the best parts about being in the film was the people he got to work alongside with. These include Nick Mancuso, Art Hindle, Sebastian Mclean, Zoe De Grand Maison from Orphan Black, and Degrassi’s Luke Bilyk,

Adam’s Testament provided me the opportunity to work with other great actors in a much bigger capacity than other projects I worked on previously,” said Moran. “I learned so much from these actors, having done over 100 movies. They led me to grow and push boundaries unlike what I have ever done. The directors allowed for the actors’ input. We all worked in harmony to finish effectively”

Despite the success that is expected to come for the film, Moran still believes the film was a learning experience, and a great achievement.

“I learned that it’s just practice and planning your journey, and in a short while a person can live their dreams,” he concluded. “I definitely learned that I am becoming lead-actor ready.”

 

 

Canadian actress Tara Yelland hits The Target in short film

Every little girl dreams of being a princess. From watching the Disney classics at a young age, to twirling around pretending you are in a gown with a crown, it crossed many minds. Not many people get to experience the feeling, if only for a short time. Actress Tara Yelland is one of the lucky ones.

Yelland stars in the short film The Target and plays Princess Gwendolyn, a headstrong princess who refuses to marry. A challenge is arranged for the hand of Princess Gwendolyn and she finds an unlikely suitor in a poet who wishes to abolish the monarchy. The film recently premiered on June 25, at the Royal Cinema in Toronto and had an extremely positive response.

“I think being such a confident, self-possessed woman was a bit infectious. Gwen knows exactly who she is and what she wants and when you’re living in that head-space, you can’t help but take on some of those characteristics as well,” said Yelland. “It’s a really nice place to be in and I try to remember that feeling.”

The short-film was directed by Felix Gray, who has ample experience in this genre after working on the shows Reign and Beauty and the Beast, but also known for his work on the Oscar-winning film Chicago. It stars Jon Rhys (Reign, Young Badlands), Cliff Saunders (Chicago, Outlander), and Amy Lockwood (The Amy Lockwood Project).

“Tara is spectacular to work with. Not only is she a lovely woman with a stellar sense of humor, but she’s very giving as an actress. She is always prepared and enjoys rehearsing and making a connection with the other actors in the scene. I am very impressed with Tara’s ability to connect with others both onscreen and off,” said Lockwood. “Tara is fascinating to watch on set. I learned a lot from her. She takes direction very well. When she is given a direction she is able to adjust quickly and elegantly. There is a great depth and strength to her character in The Target.”

Gray agreed, saying that working with Yelland is quite a pleasure.

“Her manner going into a production is very inclusive, sharing her ideas freely and responding to the other actors as they work through a scene. She manages to put a part of herself in every part she plays. It has the unmistakable result of giving her characters have a very real base. She is responsive to direction and makes the set a Joy to come to. And she shines on camera. Her image on screen brings a glow that is hard to teach,” he said. “I love working with Tara and can’t wait for the next time we can work together.”

Gray had been impressed with Yelland’s work in the past and approached her with the script for the short film, wanting her to play the lead in the film he wrote with his father.

“I was touched that he thought of me and was happy to be involved with this family affair,” said Yelland. “Felix was very open to ideas and collaborative and I’ve known him for years, so there was an easy short-hand between us. Also, Amy played my lady in waiting and we became instant friends on set. Our sense of humors just gelled easily and we spent the whole time giggling.”

The set is regarded as beautiful, and Yelland said the costumes were one of the best parts of filming, talking about the several gowns she got to wear on set

“I couldn’t help but feel like a princess. Those corsets though, not so much fun,” she joked.

Princess Gwendolyn gave Yelland the chance to learn some new skills. The character and Yelland have many similarities, such as how she and the princess have no interest in settling in life or love, and they both direct and say what we’re thinking and feeling. However, there was an element to the character that was a learning curve for the actress.

“Gwen is an excellent archer in the film and I had zero experience with archery, so that was a bit of a challenge,” said Yelland, laughing.

Yelland had to take several lessons to make her character truly believable, and eventually got the hang of the sport.

“I nearly ruined a take when I shot an arrow and it actually hit the bulls-eye. I wanted to scream, but instead I had to pass it off like it was ‘no biggie, I do this all the time’,” she said.

The role exemplified the actress’s versatility and commitment, and The Target is expected to be selected for several film festivals next year.

“Besides, who doesn’t want to be a princess,” she said.

We couldn’t agree with her more.

Adrian Puan is first Malaysian songwriter to be signed to U.S. label

Some people are born with talent that they don’t realize right away. With no training, they can master something that someone else has spent their life studying. That is certainly the case with Adrian Puan.

Puan was born in a small town in a state called Melaka and moved to the capital city of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur when he was 8. Now, he is recognized internationally as a songwriter and composer.

“To be honest, growing up, I never knew that one day I’d be involved in music or anything related to it, simply because I never had the interest in music, much less play it,” he said. “I guess it all started when I began organizing events in the university I studied in.”

Puan used to be an organizer during his studies, which required him to network with local musicians and constantly keep a lookout for upcoming talents to perform in my events.

“That was when I got to know the band Beat The System and we all became best friends. It wasn’t until in 2012 when Gerald, the drummer of Beat The System, asked for my assistance in writing some lyrics for a song the band was working on and he realized that I had the talent in songwriting. Gerald then began to push me to come up with melodies for a chorus, or a bridge, and subsequently a full song.”

The songs that Puan had co-written with the band went on to win multiple awards in the Asian region. “Shine” won Song of the Year, Best Genre Bender, and Best Collaboration at the Asian Voice Independent Music Awards in 2012, and another song titled “Hero” went on to win Song of the Year at the Asian Bite My Music Global Awards in 2013. Puan also won third place for a song that he submitted to the Malaysian Revival Songwriting Competition (MRSC) in 2013.

“That reassured me that I could actually write songs,” he said. “I didn’t have any sort of training. I used to write tons and tons of poems when I was younger and that’s the closest thing I did to songwriting at the time.”

Now, it is evident to everyone that works with Puan that he was meant to be a songwriter.

“Adrian has the ability to compose songs that are very relevant to the listeners now, he writes melodies that are catchy and it resonates with the listeners,” said Amelia Tan, director of Malaysian Revival Songwriting Competition.

“Working with Adrian was a great experience, he surely portrayed a very professional working attitude and took his craft very seriously,” said Mokhtaza Ahmad, head of A&R Warner Music Malaysia.

Songwriting allows Puan to write stories, to express his deepest feelings, and to channel his creative senses in melodically designed tunes that transport him to a place and time of familiarity or to a place that only he can imagine.

“It gives me no greater joy when the songs I create elicit strong emotional responses from those who heard them,” he said. “I always believe that music is an agent of cure to the human soul and I’m just glad that I get to be a part of it.”

However, the craft does not come without its challenges. Every writer experience a creative block every once in a while.

“As I don’t play the piano or guitar or any other music instruments, unlike most songwriters I can’t play some random chords and create melodies based off them. Melodies come to me by inspiration and imagination. It may happen at any time of the day like how ideas would. It comes when I’m sleeping or when I go for a walk outside or sometimes even when I’m taking a shower. There are times when I’d be able to write a few songs in a day, but there are also times when I won’t get a single song-worthy melody for months on end,” he described. “I also face certain challenges while songwriting especially when I can’t find the right words or a right tune to accurately describe what it is I want to convey. In writing lyrics, it’s particularly frustrating when the word you want doesn’t fit into what I’d call ‘a melody pocket’ whereby the sound of a syllable doesn’t pair well with a particular music note.”

He certainly overcomes all obstacles, being the very first Malaysian songwriter to get signed to a U.S. record label.

“My inspiration comes from many places. I’d say the love I have for God, my family and friends is the main inspiration for me to write music. Coming to learn of other people’s life stories and experiences inspire me to write as well. Having gone through much heartache and disappointment in my own life’s journey certainly do inspire me to write music that other people can relate to,” he said. “It’s funny how much less lonely we feel when we realize that we’re not the only ones feeling whatever it is we’re feeling and that somewhere in the world someone’s feeling the exact same thing as we are, and I believe music does that, it tells a story about the human life, its ups and downs, assuring its listeners that they’re not alone.”

Puan is now located in New York City, working with Beat The System on their upcoming album. He is officially a band member, coming a long way from being their “number one fan.” He says the music industry in American has many more possibilities for him as a songwriter.

“Coming from a small town in Malaysia where music is not as widely celebrated as it is here, my goal has always been to further my career in America as I know the people here deeply value the art of music. Back home, the English music market is too small and it’s saturated with delusional musicians who refuse to transcend the already low music standards. Instead of being supportive of one another and building each other up, they’d tear you down just to get ahead in the music scene. On the other hand, the music community that I’ve gotten to know in New York has been nothing but supportive and one can sense their genuine joy and pride whenever a musician they know has achieved something significant,” he said. “The music environment that the U.S. has created is unbelievably conducive and it is no wonder why every musician from any parts of Asia aspires to make music here. From music facilities to opportunities, no other country compares to the U.S. Like people always say, if you want to make it big in the global music scene, you’d have to make it big in America.”

Puan wants to continue to be the best songwriter he can be, and write for a variety of different artists across all genres.

“Despite pop being my absolute favorite music genre, I’ve had melodies recorded that lean toward rock, R&B, and even country music. There are also songs that I’ve written which I believe would be a perfect fit for certain artists that I look forward to working with and my goal is to make that happen,” he concluded.

Ishita Srivastava Uses Humour to Help Audiences Connect on Polarizing Topics

 

As a population we are bombarded with an influx of content and information on a daily basis, so much so that it becomes challenging to sift through the over saturated media and find stories that really matter. Regardless of whether someone wants to spread a message about an upcoming event, groundbreaking discovery, or just wants to make a YouTube video with the possibility of going viral, knowing how to produce the message in a way that will reach the most diverse audience and actually have an impact is the most fundamental building block; and, digital content producer Ishita Srivastava knows exactly how to do that.

Some of the projects she has spearheaded and produced digital content for include the “Deport the Statue” campaign that reached over 20 million people in 2013, and the “Be That Guy” campaign, which aired on the Jumbotron at the NASCAR Miami Speedway Championship in 2013 as well as every other NASCAR race across the nation over the course of 2013 and 2014.

What is even more impressive than the reach and effectiveness of the digital content Srivastava has produced to date is the fact that she uses her brilliant skill to create work that spreads awareness and mobilizes people to take a stand against injustice. The issues she focuses on in her work, such as immigration reform, violence against women and racial injustice, notoriously elicit a wide spectrum of opinions. Naturally, you are probably wondering how Srivastava has managed to create content that diverse audiences with clashing beliefs can connect with when it comes to polarizing human rights issues; and the answer is– humour!

As the Producer and Deputy Director of the U.S. branch of Breakthrough, a global human rights organization that she has worked with for the last six years, Srivastava has continually used humour and storytelling as a tool to magically transform issues like gender equality, immigration and race into topics we can come together and see as “human” issues that affect us all.

For the first video of the “Be That Guy” campaign, Srivastava was charged with the hefty task of creating content that would inspire audiences at NASCAR races across the U.S. (an event that notoriously draws a large group of beer drinking race fans, most of whom are men) to stand up against sexual harassment and violence towards women when they see it happening.

Instead of creating a PSA that vilified men (which would immediately turn off a vast majority of the audience), Srivastava created an animated short film that portrayed the sexual harasser in the video as someone we all probably know or have met in our personal lives. The video in no way tried to make us hate him, instead it made us feel a bit sorry for his ignorance, and called on audiences step up and intervene, letting him know “hands are for beer and high fives, to imply, “hey man, that’s not right.”

 

 

Over the years, Srivastava, who has directed and produced countless films including the powerful documentaries “Desigirls,” “Inside- Out: Expressions of Gender and Sexuality,” “Checkpoint Nation” and “Mansimran,” has proven herself to be a master storyteller. So, it’s not surprising that when she was asked to transform the initial NASCAR-fan targeted “Be That Guy” video into a video that would effectively spread the message to audiences at a Green Bay Packers’ tailgate party, she was up to the challenge. Set in an animated version of the Packers’ beloved Lambeau field, the video portrays a crude fan in the stands shaking a hot dog as he makes lewd sexual innuendos at the stadium waitress.

The overall message of these videos is that if an action promotes violence or sexual harassment against women, regardless of how small an act it is, then it is up to us to take a stand and let others know that it’s unacceptable.

About creating the “Be That Guy” campaign and producing videos that would make an impression on these audiences, Srivastava explains, “they were great challenge because they were totally outside of my comfort zone in every possible way.”

While using humour appears to be a seemingly simple approach that helps those with opposing views see eye to eye over issues that under normal circumstances are known to cause arguments, there are few other digital content producers, and even fewer human rights activists, who have been as effective as Srivastava in transforming the way we see many of these polarizing topics.

One of Ishita Srivastava’s most recent projects for Breakthrough is THE G WORD, a global storytelling platform that is transforming our perception of gender norms by inviting people to submit their personal stories and experiences with the subject. After launching in December, the platform has received hundreds of powerful story submissions from people of all ages all over the world, many of them are available on The G Word website: http://us.breakthrough.tv/thegword/

 

G Word homepage

 

In an interview with Sue Ding for Docubase, Srivastava explained, “We invited people, not just women but everybody, to share their story with the invitation that we all have a gender story. They range from everyday experiences of norms to really dramatic stories of discrimination and violence.”

THE G WORD brings together a collection of stories that span a wide range of subtopics such as consent, masculinity, dating violence, the women’s movement, greek life and many others, all of which are connected through the issue of gender. Besides giving people all over the world a platform to share their stories, THE G WORD has made it apparent that many issues that we might not think of as being gender related, actually are. The Chore Challenge, one of the many story categories Srivastava created for The G Word, asks audiences to contemplate what household chores they have taken on and whether they are rooted in gender roles. Simple examples such as young girls being taught to do the laundry, whereas their brothers are tasked with such things as fixing things around the house or mowing the lawn show how gender norms have been woven into the fabric of each and every one of our lives; and that these issues connects us all, whether we realize it or not.

“THE G WORD has been a dream project for me—it is characterized by all the things that I love, the things that get me to work in the morning, Some of the stories we get can be hard to read, but they’re honest and nuanced, and work so well to inspire empathy and make complex and intersectional issues relatable.”

THE G WORD  platform and the impressive collection of ‘videos for change’ that Srivastava has produced to date have not only been astonishingly effective in spreading messages about globally relevant issues, but her unique and thoughtful approach to digital content has made it possible for her work to break through the cultural and perceptual barriers that separate us, in turn providing us with a common ground where we can stand together.

Haisu Wang: From China’s Base-FX to Becoming a Leading Art Director in the U.S.

 

Tian-ran QIn
Art Director Haisu Wang shot by Tian-ran Qin

No matter how skilled the cast and director are, how polished the script is or how astronomical the budget may be, a film will never reach its full potential without an art director capable of bringing its visual essence to life. Haisu Wang has dedicated years to becoming one of the best in the industry, and has an incredible list of credits under his belt earned while working at some of the most prestigious firms in the world.

Wang, while in China, was an integral part of the Emmy award-winning BASE-FX visual effects production company. BASE-FX has worked with every major studio in the U.S. to produce some of the most stunning and revolutionary CGI effects in 21st century film and television. Wang worked on two of the three projects for which BASE-FX earned Emmy wins. The first was HBO’s gripping World War II series The Pacific, produced by Academy Award winners Tom Hanks (Best Actor – Forrest Gump, Philadelphia) and Steven Spielberg (Best Director – Saving Private Ryan, Best Picture – Schindler’s List). The Pacific won eight Primetime Emmys; the effects work done by Wang and the BASE-FX team was recognized with the 2010 Emmy for Outstanding Special Visual Effects for a Television Miniseries.

The second, Boardwalk Empire, is the critically-acclaimed HBO crime drama starring Steve Buscemi (Fargo, Reservoir Dogs, The Big Lebowski). Boardwalk Empire was nominated for 57 Primetime Emmys and won a total of 20 in an array of categories between 2011 and 2015. For its visual production work on the series, BASE-FX won the 2011 Emmy for Outstanding Special Visual Effects for a Television Series.

After two immensely successful years at BASE-FX, Wang moved to Los Angeles and was accepted into the prestigious Production Design program at the world renowned American Film Institute. It was there that he further honed his already sharp talent for visual production and established his reputation as an extraordinary art director.

In 2014, he was the art director for two films – Contrapelo and Day One – which were both honored with a long list of accolades and critical praise. Both Contrapelo and Day One also caught the attention of Academy Awards judges and were on the top-10 shortlist of nominees for the 2015 Best Live Action Short Film award.

Thanks in no small part to Wang’s position as art director, Contrapelo has taken the festival circuit by storm. It won the Phoenix Film Festival’s award for Best Live Action Short Film and was nominated for Best Overall Short Film at both the Calgary International and Oldenburg Film Festivals. At its core, Contrapelo is a philosophical film about the gray areas of morality. When he discovers that the man in his chair is a cartel boss, a Mexican barber grapples with his desire and opportunity to kill the vile man responsible for innumerable deaths and heinous crimes.

“Because the story is set in a small town in Mexico in the 1990s, the main challenge was recreating the Mexican barbershop interior and the abandoned travel agent office – the hideout used by the leader of the drug cartel – in a soundstage in L.A.,” Wang said. “My personal challenge was designing these two main sets in a short amount of time, and also quickly gathering a really effective construction team to build them in one-and-a-half weeks.”

With his extensive 3D computer design skills, Wang was quickly able to create a digital mock-up of the sets. This enabled the director to visualize blocking and plan shots in earnest, and allowed the crew to prepare camera and rigging placements to meet those demands. Construction crews used Wang’s designs to begin building the sets while all of the planning was being done simultaneously using the same shared computer layouts. Rather than having to wait until the sets were completed, Wang’s quick thinking shaved weeks off of the tight production schedule.

Day One, the emotional true story of an American interpreter in Afghanistan, was also a top-10 Academy Award contender for Best Live Action Short Film. Though the film was set in the Afghan desert, it was filmed in the desert outside Los Angeles. The terrain proved a significant hurdle for the production, but once again Wang was able to apply his high-tech know-how to navigate the situation with ease.

“One of the main challenges of this set build was the uneven ground condition in the desert,” Wang said, describing another instance where his technical expertise proved essential to a production’s success. “I was able to use my digital skills to analyze the topography of the desert location, and I created a 3D model of the real location. I then helped the designer create the set in my 3D replica model.”

A huge critical success, Day One centers around a recently divorced woman joins the military and is deployed to Afghanistan as an interpreter. On her first day in the country she encounters a terrorist bomb-maker and his wife, who has just gone into labor. Her life is forever changed when she must help the woman deliver the child. At the 2015 Academy of Television Arts and Sciences College Television Awards, Day One received Emmys for both Best Drama and Best Directing. The British Academy of Film and Television Arts, Los Angeles (BAFTA/LA) also awarded the film’s director, Henry Hughes, with the 2015 award for Best Director.

Hughes says, “Haisu’s vision and rare skill using digital software to create some of the most challenging sets for ‘Day One’ was invaluable to our production, especially considering the geographic challenges of the location. Without his contributions it would have been nearly impossible to construct these sets in the amount of time and within the allotted budget. He is definitely a huge asset to the film industry.”

Wang’s skill, experience and qualifications put him in the same class as many lifelong industry veterans. A person with Wang’s talent and drive is a rare and precious asset in this business, and his awe-inspiring list of credits and accolades continues to grow every day. He is a master of the craft, gifted with an instinctive ability to visualize and execute both the subtle and the overt artistic and creative nuances of a film. A film is only as good as its art director, and when a film calls for the very best Haisu Wang is will be there to surpass even the highest expectations.

Q & A with Leading Canadian Actor Ian Fisher

Fans of the hour-long action-packed crime series Covert Affairs will probably recognize Canadian actor Ian Fisher immediately from his recurring role as Patrick on the fifth and final season of the Golden Globe nominated series, which aired internationally on USA Network last year.

While Fisher undoubtedly displays his capacity for drama in the fast-paced series, an aspect of his craft that he has shown through his performances in multiple other high-profile productions as well, the actor is also equipped with an unparalleled sense of humor and incredible comedic timing—something that easily shines through the text over the course of the interview below.

Last year Fisher both co-wrote and starred in the acclaimed production of “World Pride and Prejudice,” which ran during the 2014 World Pride Festival in Toronto at The Second City. He also recently wrapped production on the film Glory River directed by Black McWilliam, who produced the film The Little Deputy, which was nominated for awards at the Sundance Film Festival and SXSW Film Festival earlier this year.

Fisher’s unique upbringing, which he reveals in the interview, has allowed him to understand some of the most challenging characters and bring them to life on both the stage and screen with seamless precision. To find out more about this dazzling star, make sure to read below!

You can also find out more about his work through his IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3965339/?ref_=fn_al_nm_2

 

Where are you from? When and how did you get into acting?

IF: I’m originally from Vernon, a small town in the mountains of British Columbia. I’ve lived in Toronto for the last six years though.

I was always a pretty big dreamer. When I was a kid, I wanted to do it all. I wanted to be a doctor, a lawyer, a spy, even being a jewel thief looked pretty intriguing. I was pretty disheartened when I learned that even in a best-case scenario I’d likely have to pick only one of those things to dedicate my life to, since pursuing any of them would take so much time. So I decided if I wouldn’t be alive long enough to do everything, why not just pretend to do everything. Plus I didn’t really know what any of those jobs really entailed outside of what I saw on TV, so I guess the answer was in front of my face the whole time.

My father died when I was three. He was this local legend in terms of athletics; he was one of those guys who was good at any sport he played. We had tons of photos of him skateboarding, surfing, skiing, playing baseball, and that’s pretty much all we knew of him, so growing up, my younger brother and I had this desire to become that in a way. And my brother was, he was the best natural athlete I’d ever seen but unfortunately for me, I wasn’t. I really had to work hard to get good at things. Eventually, by persistently practicing I got decent enough at most of them that I could compete but on the way up I was on a lot of losing teams, if I even made the teams at all. In university, during a pick up game of basketball or something, I heard someone describe me as a natural athlete–I kind of scoffed at that. None of it was “natural.” It was all hard work. I was never really a natural anything until I started acting.

I’d always done voices and accents for as long as I can remember, and once I started doing plays, it started to all come together. I finally knew what it felt like to stand out in something. I quit the high school basketball team to do a play and since I’m not 6’8, I haven’t really looked back.

I booked my first paid job in 2009, the first TV audition I ever went to, and within a few years I was working consistently, so I guess that’s when I became a professional technically.

Can you tell me a little bit about the film and television projects you’ve done?

IF: My most prominent role was a recurring role on the fifth and final season of Covert Affairs where I played a young CIA agent named Patrick who was the personal assistant of the director of the Domestic Protection Division, Calder Michaels (played by Hill Harper from CSI: New York, Limitless.) At first I approached the role with the mentality, and I stole this line from Ocean’s Eleven, but it stuck with me: “you want him to like you, but forget you.” So I’d always enter the room with that in mind. Since there are so many classified conversations in a CIA office, I wanted to get in, and get out before I heard something above my pay grade. My main job on the show was to show up and deliver bad news.

During the later episodes, since my character was so involved in his boss’s life, I was one of the few characters who knew that Calder was having an affair with an escort. So in addition to managing a CIA director’s professional life, I was also juggling his personal one. Since so many characters get killed on that show, I was always nervous that I would get a script and it would say that my office would get blown up or a stray bullet would come through a window. Unfortunately for everyone, the show ended on a cliffhanger so we’ll never really know the fate of Patrick. But I like to think he’s out there in an alternate universe, stressed out and delivering bad news perpetually.

I’m very excited about a film I did recently called Glory River, which is about a small town obsessed with its hockey team. It’s kind of along the same lines of what Friday Night Lights did with football. The film, which is actually intended to expand into a series after the festival circuit, shows that even if you’ve been the best on your team your entire life, the odds are still so small at actually making it professionally. I play Noah Gallagher, the town’s star player who, for as long as he’s been able to walk, has been told he’s destined to make the NHL. He has the entire community’s hopes and dreams on his shoulders, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to pan out after all.

As good as he is, he’s still not good enough. It’s tough since there’s never been a back up plan for him, if he fails at this then he feels he’ll have nothing else left, which is a lot of pressure for a teenager. My character has a working class single mother whose played by Rachel Hayward, who’s sacrificed her entire life for this goal for him by working a brutal job on the oil rigs up in northern Alberta, so if he fails, he also feels like he’s failing her. She’s a drunk who’s relentless in the pressure she puts on him to succeed, so there’s also that weighing on him on top of everything else.

I had worked with the film’s director, Blake McWilliam, on another film called Camp about a year ago, and when I heard about this project I was really interested. I never actually played hockey myself, nor did I really follow it, but it’s still such a part of Canadian culture that it’s impossible to be completely removed. The fictional town, Glory River, for which the film is named after, for me that was my hometown of Vernon. I knew these people, I knew this world, even if I wasn’t directly involved in it.

I was also very interested in Noah’s relationship with his mother, since I was raised by a single mother myself, this really resonated with me. Initially there was a concern about casting me since they wanted someone who had actually played hockey, since there would also be a lot of in-game footage. Because I had this relationship with the director from our last film, I was lucky enough to have a line to talk to him. So as I was testing for the part, I was also able to talk to him about the story, and I was able to share with him my personal experience with my mom. I think that really helped me get the role, because even though hockey had never been a part of my life, I knew this character better then anyone. What he was going through was similar to what I had gone through in my own life in a way. Hockey can be learned, what it feels like to be raised with one parent cannot.

A lot of my training has been method based, and I always like to draw from my own life for my characters. This character and I shared so many similarities that I already had a head start, and I was really dying to bring him to life. After I booked the part, I actually hired an All College Hockey America player to work with me privately on my own hockey skills. I knew I’d never really be able to become a great skater or hockey player in only a few weeks, however I wanted to be able to cheat it enough in between stunt double footage that I didn’t look like a complete idiot. So I got her to make sure I was never holding a stick in a way that looked awkward, or doing things that they would never actually do. I still have a little scar on my ankle from skating in brand new skates as much as I did during those prep weeks. I’m very proud of this film and excited to see what happens with it, and if it does become a series, I would love to remain involved with it in some capacity. It’s currently playing at the Calgary International Film Festival on Sept 29th and Oct 4th.

The Epitaph is a film I co-wrote and produced with funding from the BravoFACT foundation and Bell Media. It’s directed by Kris Holden-Ried (The Tudors, Lost Girl) and will air on Bravo. The main concept of the film is: “What would you do if you knew the day you were going to die, but not the year.”

It’s a unique twist on a story about fate. This was a very cool experience because it was the first time that something I had written, was being produced and will air on a major network. Plato Fountindakis, who was an executive producer on the SyFy series Lost Girl for five seasons, came onboard early as our executive producer and was a really great mentor for me. I had produced small films and web series’ before however this was the first time I was involved in something this big.

I initially had the idea for the concept while bored at a bar one night and I turned to my friend and asked “If you could know the day you are going to die, but not the year, would you want to know?” It all grew from there. My co-writers Jason Gosbee, Scott Cavalheiro and I really started exploring that concept. Since we use a 365-day calendar, I’m fascinated by the fact that every year we pass the day that will eventually be our last without giving it a second thought. We celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, all these days with so much meaning, but the one that will have the most effect on us and our loved ones, remains a mystery –until it happens. Your kids or friends or family will be aware of a day that you pass blindly every year, that right now means nothing to you, but they’ll never forget. So in the universe we’ve created with our film, this day is no longer a mystery. We get to see the effect that knowledge of your own fate has on the world. Ideally, we want to expand it into a full-length feature or TV series. I do also make a cameo in the film. My own little ode to Hitchcock.

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

IF: I’m often excited to play all kinds of characters, and I’m confidant playing a range of different people. What’s harder for me is putting my ego aside and turning things down when I’m not right for it. I think as young actors we sometimes just want to be working or we feel like we can do anything, even if the character is not right for us. So sometimes I have to reevaluate a script, or a project and say, “No, I’m just not the guy,” even if I really want to be. It’s way more beneficial than trying to force something that isn’t working. A great script or a great director can be a game changer too. After Glory River, I’ll do anything Blake McWilliam wants me for. He’s truly an actor’s director and I did some my proudest work on that film because of the freedom and environment he created on set.

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

IF: The last live show I did outside of comedy clubs was a sketch show called “World Pride and Prejudice” at The Second City. We wrote and performed it over the course of a year through the Second City’s signature style of writing through improv. It ran during the World Pride festival in Toronto in 2014. That was lots of fun. Being on the same stage that John Candy, Dan Akroyd, Eugene Levy, all these great comic actors have been on, that was really an honor.

For the most part, outside of comedy, I stopped doing live theatre a few years ago. I’m such a big fan of film as a medium and the spontaneity of doing it authentically or differently take to take. Once you do it once, you don’t have to try to recreate anything, the camera’s already captured that moment, so you have room to play and try new things. I find that happens in the rehearsal process of a play, but is often lost in the performance since you might find something great once, but then you try to hit that again 8 times a week for 3 months. Too many actors make the mistake of trying to get it right again, instead of just working moment to moment. There are actors who can pull it off and love doing it but for now, I want to work with the camera.

What has been your favorite role so far and why?

IF: That’s tough. I don’t know about a favorite but right now my top 3 would be, Covert Affairs, Glory River, and Reign. All for different reasons. Playing Patrick on Covert Affairs gave me an opportunity to work with some great actors who really knew their characters. I came into that show for the final season so by the time I was there some of them had been playing these characters for four or five years, so it was really valuable to see how they would talk things over with the writers or directors. Because the nature of episodic TV, almost all of the episodes have a different director, so that gave me an opportunity to see a range of styles and work with a variety of different people. Even though we were the same characters, on the same sets, each director had their own take and vision for their episode. It was also cool because by the time I got there the crew had been making this show for five seasons so it was such a well-oiled machine. They already had a system in place, I was coming into their world and they really made me feel welcome.

I loved playing Noah in Glory River because of the personal connection I felt to him, we came from very similar worlds. We were both raised by single mothers, both from small towns and both have big goals. I knew I could do him and that story justice. It’s a story that is so engrained in the lives of Canadians, and I was really excited to be able to bring it to the screen. That was a really great set experience and it gave me a chance to see parts of the country that I had never been too before. We shot it in Red Deer, and Edmonton Alberta, two cities I had never been too prior to doing this film. It was great to work with these local crews and seeing Alberta’s film industry first hand. Working with the director Blake McWilliam and the Director of Photography Mike McLaughlin is always a lot of fun. Because we’d already done one film together in the past, it was like being on set with your friends. Both of those guys are so good at what they do; it was really great to not only have respect for them as filmmakers, but to also enjoy being around them as well. Because we know each other, and each other’s work, we already have a trust built in. We never have to doubt what the end product might look like, so it’s one less thing on the mind. That gave us all the freedom to take some risks and find some really nice stuff for this film.

Reign was a great experience because that was the first time I got to play a character from a different time period, so even on the level of costumes and accents it was unique to me. It’s not everyday that you show up to work and there are horses and castles everywhere, at least it’s not for me. I’m a big history fan and this show allowed me to go back in time for a little bit, or as close as I’ll ever get to being able to actually do that. Director Jeff Renfroe was really easy to work with, he really trusted what I prepared with for the character, which gave me the confidence to just go to work.

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

IF: Drama and comedy are my favorites; I’m lucky enough that I happen to be a strong dramatic actor, who is also funny. In a perfect world I’d love to do what Jamie Foxx or Robin William’s can do and have done. These guys are Oscar Award winning actors, who are also great stand ups and have done great comedies. You’re telling me Ray is that funny in Horrible Bosses? The fact that that’s the same guy is very impressive. Two very different skill sets and to be a master of both is incredible. I love making dramatic movies. I’m a big fan of subtlety and working with people who live as truthfully as possible under the circumstances. But comedies are also great, and they seem to stay in people’s consciousness in such a lasting way. I love going to the movies in the fall when all the Best Picture nominees are coming out, those are my favorite type of movies to watch, but comedies touch people in a different way. People from my generation still quote Anchorman, Mean Girls, or Superbad. Those are the movies people watch over and over again. So I’d love to be able to have a career in both. I’d love to be in the kind of films Paul Thomas Anderson or Wes Anderson make…maybe I just have a thing for Anderson’s…

What separates you from other actors?

IF: I’m not afraid to work for it. A lot of actors I know sit around and wait for the phone to ring. Which is so deadly. I did that for about 2 months after I got my first agent and I started to go crazy. That’s when I first started taking classes. Now I’m always training because whether or not I’ll get auditions or offers is out of my control, but if I’m always practicing, then I’m always getting better, and when those opportunities do come up, I’m even better and more prepared then I would have been. Actors are often entitled and they feel like they don’t need to work for it. If a musician never worked on their strings or a basketball player never took shots outside of games they would be awful, but often actors think they’re an exception. If I’m not shooting anything then I’m taking a class, writing or doing stand up, or producing my own stuff; but I’m never sitting around. I don’t want to look back in ten years and think that I could have done more or blame anyone else for how my career went. If I’m up against someone for a part, they better have done their homework, because I definitely did. I’m also in a smaller boat because I’m not a comic actor who also does drama, or a dramatic actor who also does comedy. It would be hard to box me into one category. It’s two separate stands for me and I’m lucky enough, or have practiced enough to be exceling at both at the moment. In a dream world, I’d love to have careers like Marlon Brando & Dave Chappelle. I guess Jamie Foxx pretty much did that…and he also sings right…that guy’s a talent.

What would you say your strongest qualities as an actor are?

IF: I’ve been told that it’s interesting watching me think. Which I think is a great compliment for an actor– that there’s lot happening behind my eyes. Whether we’re doing a comedy or a drama, if we’re doing a scene together I’m going to really be listening to you. I’m also an experienced improviser, which allows us to go off script and improvise dialogue or situations if desired. Comedy and drama are obviously different but at the same time, they aren’t, so much of it is about good listening.

What projects do you have coming up?

IF: The Netflix original series Between has been picked up for a second season, I guest starred in one of the last episodes of the first season and it looks like my character is potentially coming back for season 2. I play John, a devout Mennonite who finds out one of the lead characters, Gord (Ryan Allen) has been having an affair with my wife Hanna. (Rebecca Liddard.) My character shows up and creates quite a conflict and we haven’t seen how it’s resolved yet. It ends on a cliffhanger, and I’m very curious about what happens next and am excited about the possibility of coming back and exploring that further.

A new episode of my series The Party Show will be coming out soon. We’re always in a state of making one of those when we can.

What are your plans for the future?

IF: Planning to move to L.A for 2016, in addition to TV & films, I’d like to take some UCB classes and to start doing stand up regularly in L.A. And also surf a few times a week. It’s been awhile since I’ve surfed without a wetsuit. In-N-Out Burger, that’s on the list.

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

IF: I have some big goals, but at the end of the day I want to make the kind of movies or TV that I like watching. When I was a little kid my mom used to dress up to watch the Oscars. I would love to be able to take her there someday.

Why is acting your passion and chosen profession?

IF: Being funny is like having a super power. I was never the bravest, best looking, fastest or strongest, but I’ve always been able to make people laugh. That separated me and gave me something special. I attribute so many of the good things in my life to my sense of humor. Most of my friends or my relationships, professional and personal, wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for that. I don’t want to just be a really funny stockbroker, or the funniest guy at the party. If I don’t do something with this it seems like it’s such a waste. Quite simply, I’m good at this, I love doing it and I work very hard to be better and better. I truly believe I’m not suited better for anything else. Oh and the money.

Q & A with Genius VFX Artist & Motion Graphics Designer Vitaly Verlov

Eric Roberts
Actor Eric Roberts (Left) and Filmmaker Vitaly Verlov (Right) shot by Maria Artos

Living in the modern age we are bombarded by hundreds of commercials per day. As viewers when most of these ads hit the screen we often tune out in order to deal with the overwhelming overload of these messages.

So what does it take for a commercial to stand out and strike the interest of an audience in a world oversaturated with visual sales pitches?

Well, having a seasoned motion graphics designer like Vitaly Verlov behind the screen has proven to be an integral factor in the success of campaigns for global companies like Max Factor, Mitsubishi, Peugeot, Volkswagen, Nokia, Samsung and countless others.

Over the years Verlov has amassed prodigious knowledge in terms of the technical methods involved in creating everything from multi-layered motion graphics to seamless visual effects. Beyond his technical skills though, his creative vision has made him a highly sought after talent in the industry. In fact, earlier this year he handled all of the visual effects on the upcoming film Redux, a sci-fi film starring Oscar nominee Eric Roberts from the films Inherent Vice, The Dark Knight, The Cable Guy and many more. What is even more astonishing is the fact that Verlov also wrote and directed the highly anticipated film.

His prowess as a motion graphics designer and visual effects artist have allowed him to take on projects that others in the industry who are only skilled in one of these two areas could not.

While you may not know the face of Vitaly Verlov, if you’ve ever tuned into MTV, VH1, Friday! Or Russia’s RUTV, then there’s a pretty good chance that you’ve seen his work more than once over the last decade.

To find out more about Vitaly Verlov’s captivating work make sure to check out our interview below!

You can also see some of his work through his website: http://primevalues.ru/

 

IFR: Where are you from?

VV: My name is Vitaly Verlov and I was born in the city of Novosibirsk, Russia. After graduating in 2007 I moved to Moscow to work as a motion graphics designer and visual effect artist for television and film.

IFR: How and when did you first get into doing visual effects work?

VV: In high school and university I did a lot of computer programming because I was a computer geek back then, and even before that I came across an international computer art subculture called Demoscene. Essentially it’s a community where young programmers, artists and musicians get together – for fun – to make demos: computer programs that produce audio-visual presentations in real-time. The visual side of creating a demo implies that you actually program algorithms to achieve a certain artistic effects on screen. To put it short, it’s awesome. As soon as my programming skills got up to speed, I started making graphical demos with some cool looking visual effects and showcasing them on so called “demoparties.” As a matter of fact, my thesis work was focused on developing a toolset for real-time motion graphics and visual effects production.

Later on I became more interested in non real-time photorealistic imaging and switched from computer graphics programming to producing visual effects, design and animation in a more traditional industry-applicable form and started doing broadcast motion graphics for television.

IFR: What inspired you to pursue this profession?

VV: After seeing some television channels that were neatly designed from a graphical standpoint or motion pictures packed with great visual effects, I really wanted to become a part of it.

IFR: Are there any particular artists that inspire you?

VV: In my early days I was fascinated with some of the broadcast design graphics on TV and dreamed about getting to this level of quality and impression. That’s what basically inspired me to learn, more than personalities. However after moving to Moscow, I had an opportunity to meet with some of the great guys behind those outstanding designs and work with them.

IFR: What kind of training was involved in order to become a VFX artist? How important is formal education to getting a job in the industry?

VV: I personally don’t have any special VFX related training. Nor do most of the other artists I know. Basically, to become a VFX artist or motion designer, it’s important to have a natural artistic sense and a good eye plus the ability to efficiently handle technical tools and software. On the other hand, it’s also a matter of specialty in the industry, for instance: environmental concept artists or matte painters often have a background in fine arts. One thing is true for everyone working in VFX: you don’t stop learning, no matter what your specialty is.

IFR: What is that you love about being a VFX artist?

VV: The ability to create something impressive out of nothing; and the ability to impress girls at parties, of course.

IFR: What is your specialty in the field?

VV: As a VFX artist, I consider myself a generalist which means that I can pull off a wide variety of tasks myself, including modeling, texturing, animating, rendering, compositing. There are fields that I prefer more, and there are fields I’m not involved in at all – like character modeling and rigging.

As a motion/broadcast graphics designer and art director, again, I can do a lot, starting from initial creative concept to final delivery.

IFR: What is your typical workflow like in terms of collaborating with other artists on a film?

VV: It depends on a project and/or studio. Sometimes workflow is precise, broken down into stages and compartmentalized with strict deadlines, sometimes it’s a complete mess and overnight hell. The most positive experience is of course when you focus on something specific you really like and are good at. This way of collaborating is very efficient and creative at the same time.

IFR: You also work as a motion graphics designer, can you tell us a little bit about what that entails?

VV: Sure. Essentially motion graphics design is an animation-oriented subset of graphic design. Graphic design is just a single picture. Motion design is graphic design in sequence, in motion, and you see it pretty much everywhere: opening sequences for TV shows, film titles, game console menus, or photo-realistic 3D smartphone magically spinning in mid-air in a smartphone TV or Web commercial, or even user interface animation within that smartphone. In other words, any animated piece in visual medium is a subject of motion design.

That’s what I’ve been doing for various television channels including MTV, VH1, Friday!, and others. Sometimes there is client input on the initial concept of what we’re trying to achieve, sometimes there is no input. When there is no input, I also work as a copywriter where I suggest different ideas or scripts on how an end result might look and what meanings/themes it might have behind it. When the concept is approved, we move on to actual motion design.

IFR: How does being a motion graphics editor differ from working as a VFX artist?

VV: Motion graphics is a general term. It’s something that visually can be executed in different ways and styles. It can be two-dimensional, flat design-ish/illustrated looking as well as filmic three-dimensional. I think my direction is more filmic/three-dimensional oriented, that’s why it depends substantially on the visual effects techniques. For example, for a commercial spot for Peugeot the idea was to make a realistic car driving along a stylized miniature street – stuff like that directly relies on VFX techniques because it requires 3D modeling, rendering and compositing as a part of the workflow. In a sense, for such projects VFX is a way to implement the creative idea. That’s where motion graphics and VFX come together.

On the other hand, there are motion graphics projects where VFX techniques are not required for natural reasons. For instance, I have experience making on-screen graphics as a part of graphics package for several television stations where the task was to design the look and feel of info graphic elements that pop up during a broadcast. While these elements look pretty minimalistic, they should have a thought-out motion behavior and structure that keeps the integrity of the overall design. Sometimes the way these elements pop up on screen, interact with the viewer, and disappear is hard to conceptualize. That’s where “design” in the “motion graphics design” title comes to the forefront.

IFR: How has having skills as both a VFX artist and a motion graphics designer separated you from others in the industry?

VV: I think VFX and motion graphics are storytelling devices, and I always try to approach projects from the storytelling perspective. So for me the primary task is not making a neat looking animation or effect but supporting and enhancing the context it is a part of. Motion graphics is about guiding the viewer’s attention and it’s also very important for visual effects shots. What separates me is a good understanding of these aspects which, in real life, means that a client is usually happy with the timing, pace and accents I put into designs during the early stages of production, which is cool because it eliminates the need to reiterate on that so I can spend more time perfecting the visuals.

IFR: What companies have you worked with in the industry?

VV: Since I consider myself motion graphics oriented, I have more experience working on commercials and on-air broadcast design.

As a lead designer and VFX artist, I worked for the Russian branch of MTV and VH1 Networks and nation-wide entertainment television channel Friday! As an art director and motion graphics designer, I’ve done quite a few projects for a major music television channel, RUTV. Specifically, I created motion graphics and the overall design for the RUTV 2014 annual music awards ceremony, and some pieces for its 2015 installment.

As a freelance designer and VFX artist, I’ve done a bunch of commercials for international brands, including Mitsubishi, Peugeot, Volkswagen, Max Factor, Nokia, Samsung, Eurovision, Sensation, plus a variety of Russian brands like Beeline (a major mobile operator in Russia).

As a lead VFX artist, I have several projects done for the US-based boutique postproduction company Coat of Arms. Also, I have great experience working for the international visual effects company Pixomondo (Game of Thrones) as a lead 2D effects artist.

Working for various international companies and clients gives a pretty solid understanding of how the global industry works as well as flexibility in the way you approach projects in terms of planning and workflow because the process makes the result.

IFR: Can you tell us a little bit about the television and film projects you’ve worked on; and the specific contributions you made?

VV: I’ve done a lot of TV show openers and channel idents, in a team of designers and by myself, including works for MTV Networks, nation-wide channels Friday!, and RUTV.

While working for Friday! I had a positive interaction with the broadcast design department of Les télécréateurs (Paris) who designed overall on-air look of this station. I’ve made a few show openers and extra identity pieces based on the existing visual style of the station. And for RUTV I created motion graphics and design for the RUTV 2014 annual music awards ceremony which was a pretty huge amount of work (a show opener, a set of nominees, promo spots, press materials) on a tight schedule – that’s where the ability to sit focused for 18 hours came in handy.

Also, recently I had a chance to work as a lead 2D VFX artist on a Chinese big budget sci-fi feature film called Impossible, which is scheduled to hit the market sometime this year. I came in when the postproduction was in full swing, and my job was to complete a bunch of VFX shots, mostly energy fields and portal effects.

I should mention that I’m a filmmaker myself with two sci-fi live action films already under my belt. The latest one, Redux, features the well-known Hollywood actor Eric Roberts (The Dark Knight, The Expendables). It’s a short character-driven story with the ’80s/retro-futuristic vibe to it. I wrote, directed and edited this film and did visual effects.

IFR: Why is motion graphics design important to modern filmmaking?

VV: In its pure form, motion graphics design is critical for television and Internet – that’s for sure. Filmmaking also takes advantage of it, particularly big budget sci-fi & fantasy films and movie trailers, which are a marketing device. Film credits or sleek futuristic computer interfaces you see in a sci-fi flick is a product of motion graphics design. Sometimes it enhances the narrative story of a film, sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s in there. Moreover, since motion design and VFX are somewhat interrelated fields, motion graphics can be essentially found in any film featuring visual effects. That’s also a good way to save some time and money during production, which is important, especially for independent narrative filmmakers like myself. Can a modern live action film be done with no VFX and motion design? Probably yes. But if it’s a mainstream (commercial) film, there should be a marketing/ad campaign involved and that’s where motion graphics comes for you again.

IFR: What has been your favorite project so far and why? What projects do you have coming up?

VV: Not sure about all-time favorites, but I can name a couple of recent ones. I was a part of a team who made a STRAFE® promotional spot for a successful Kickstarter compaign. STRAFE® is an independent old school first-person shooter video game. On this commercial, I worked as a lead VFX/motion design artist.

And of course I loved working on my second film Redux because I think it looks pretty neat, has a coherent story and stars well-known Hollywood actors.

As to the projects to come, some of my past TV clients have a brand new music channel in the works, and while there’s not much info available at this point it looks like I will be creating an onscreen design and several VFX heavy idents shot on green screen.

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

VV: In the TV world, I would say, a show opener. When making a TV show opener, you’re actually making a focused 10-15 second piece which tells a story visually, and that’s what attracted me to the visual medium in the first place.

In film, I have a passion for working on my own films.

IFR: What would you say was your first foot in the door to the industry, and what advice would you give to aspiring artists?

VV: In 2006 I believe, I started making what I called the daily images: the goal was to make one new artistic image every day, just for fun and training, and post it on the Internet into a corresponding design community. I ended up making just a couple of images a week, but after a year of this marathon I was invited to work full-time at a prominent postproduction studio in Moscow, N3, because they liked my pictures. That’s basically how I got into this industry. So I guess my advice would be, stop being aspiring and start actually making something just for the sake of it, start the process and watch how everything unfolds.

Alexander Davis: A Child Actor That Needs to Be On Everyone’s Radar

Alexander Davis
Alexander Davis shot by Denise Grant

To find one’s calling can take a lifetime, but Canadian actor Alexander Davis found his in acting when he was just three years old.

Since then, the eight-year-old prodigy has already played lead roles on stage (A Christmas Story, The Little Mermaid) and in film (The Closet, Volition).

Davis portrayed the lead character of Randy Parker in A Christmas Story, which ran for 48 shows in just six weeks at the Neptune Theatre in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Davis’ portrayal of the quirky Parker was so well done that it earned him a 2015 Young Artist Award for Best Performance in Live Theatre.

Though Davis’ work in A Christmas Story was a resounding success, it was not without its challenges. Just before intermission of one of the shows, Davis fell on the set’s stairs and hurt his leg. He was bleeding, in pain, and his next stage direction was to walk out the door. That’s when he learned the meaning of “the show must go on.”

“My acting mom was amazing. She just carried on with the show and picked me up to carry me out the door,” Davis said. “I don’t know if the audience knew what had happened was real or not. During intermission, I put ice on my leg and went back out and finished the show. Now that’s show business.”

Despite working through injury, Davis was hungry to act again when the show’s run ended. On the flight home from Halifax, he asked his mother if he could go back for more.

“I feel like I was born to perform,” Davis said. “I loved performing to sold out audiences and making the crowd laugh. I think my role at the Neptune Theatre really prepared me well.”

But Davis’s budding brilliance has not been confined to just the stage. He played the lead character in The Closet, a film in which he flawlessly executed the difficult proposition of playing his own twin.

“I had to be exact with where I stood to make sure the shot worked with both of us in the scene,” Davis said. “They edited it or layered the scene to make it look like there were two of me. You learn a lot being an actor.”

Davis’s rapidly expanding reservoir of acting knowledge continued to expand when he played the lead character in Volition, a film about a terrorist who saw the world through a different lens after he met Davis’ character on a train.

The film’s production schedule forced Davis to adapt, which he did with flying colors.

“We filmed late every night on the train, so I had to change the time I went to bed,” Davis said. “It was worth it and so much fun.”

Volition co-star Romaine Waite (Antisocial, One Night a Stranger) liked Davis’ performance so much that he asked the emerging star to be in a music video for rapper Pas Da’ Millz that Waite would later direct.

From stage to film, Davis has achieved more before his ninth birthday than many actors do in a lifetime. But the young Canadian has barely scratched the surface of his brilliance, and is already taking his career to the next level.

While in L.A. to receive his Young Artist Award earlier this year, Davis caught the attention of veteran Hollywood executive producer Irene Dreayer (The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, The Suite Life on Deck, Smart Guy).

Dreayer’s known as an honest-but-tough executive producer who’s often told parents of young actors that L.A.’s not a starting point for a growing career, but rather an end result of a successful career. She’s usually recommended to families they go home, but that was not the case for Davis, according to the young actor’s parents.

Instead, Dreayer spent a lot of time convincing Davis’ parents that L.A. was where the sought after actor should be, according to Davis.

Most recently, the young thespian used his voiceover chops to portray the characters Brownie and Checkers in the animated TV series Super Why!, a popular, animated kids show about the magical adventures of reading-powered superheroes on PBS.

Whether on stage, film or television, Alexander Davis has proven himself to be a talented, reliable and dedicated actor who will no doubt make his presence felt in Hollywood and beyond for many years to come.

One of Canada’s Hottest Stars: Actress Jessica Huras

Over the last decade Canadian actress Jessica Huras has established herself as a sought after talent for high profile theater productions, TV shows and award-winning films. While her versatility and capacity for seamlessly tapping into even the most challenging roles have definitely helped her create the dazzling reputation she has today, it doesn’t hurt that she is undeniably beautiful as well.

Early on in her career Huras appeared on the two-time Gemini Award winning series This Is Wonderland. Shortly after she went on to guest star on the Lifetime TV series Missing alongside multi-award winning actress Vivica A. Fox. An investigative crime series that focuses on finding missing persons, Huras played the roles of Caroline Dunn and Luke Thompson, two characters who at first appear to be separate and unrelated, but over the course of the episode are revealed to be one in the same.

When it comes to choosing one role over another, Huras says, “I look for smart scripts that feel original in some way and that have interesting and complex roles for women.”

In Missing, Huras gives a heart wrenching performance as a transgendered college student who struggles to find his identity as a man born in a woman’s body, a challenging role that only further proves the actress’s affinity for tapping into complex characters.

Audiences across the world will also recognize Huras as Leandra from the first season of the hit television show Being Erica, where she starred alongside Erin Karpluk (Rookie Blue, Reasonable Doubt, Supernatural, Saving Hope, Flashpoint) and Reagan Pasternak (Masters of Sex, Heartland, Cake).

“This was a very theatrical role, allowing me to tap into my darker side and channel my inner Goth,” explains Huras about her character on the three-time Gemini Award and Leo Award winning series.

Similar to the way that Jamie Lee Curtis has become synonymous with the horror genre through her role as Laurie Strode in Halloween, Huras has also become something of a notable “scream queen” on film.

Through films like The Deadly Pledge where she played the role of Nikki Evans alongside Gossip Girl star Leighton Meester, James Isaac’s action packed 2006 horror film Skinwalkers, and NYC: Tornado Terror, Huras has displayed a rare talent for evoking fear within audiences through her believable performances.

Although she has carved out her place as an actress in film and television productions starring alongside some of the best in the industry, the silver screen has by no means taken away from her work as a dedicated performer in the theatre.

In 2009 Huras starred alongside Sebastien Heins from the TV series The Listener, Cracked and Darknet, and Mikaela Dyke from the films Blood Boars and Sight Unseen, in the production of David Levine’s “Reflections On Giving Birth to a Squid.” The production, which opened in Montreal and toured across Toronto, Winnipeg, Saskatoon and Edmonton as part of the Fringe Festival, received the Centaur Award for Outstanding Production from the Montreal Fringe Festival.

In 2010 the actress also founded Heart in Hand Theater company in Toronto – a revolving collective producing rare plays in need of a comeback, as well as developing new works of their own. Through Heart in Hand, Huras has produced “The Commune,” “Cowboy Mouth” where she played the starring role of Cavale alongside Broken Social Scene member Jason Collett, and “Trout Stanley” where she played the role of Grace Ducharme.

About what drives her to perform, Huras says, “I love telling stories and sharing the human experience. I think it’s the most palpable way of connecting and it’s never dull, not for a second. I’m forever challenged and inspired in this field.”

With each of her characters being completely different from the next, Huras’s dedication to continually pushing herself beyond her comfort zone as an actress has allowed her to amass a wide range of roles on both the stage and screen.

With an astonishing career already under her belt and several productions being released this year, it is clear that we will be seeing a whole lot more of Jessica Huras for years to come. Currently, you can check Huras out in the role of Natalie on the History Channel series Gangland Undercover, which began airing in February. She also wrapped production on the films Anxietyville and Teeth earlier this year, both of which are set to debut later this year.

Cinematographer Johanna Coelho Pulls Us In with Powerful Imagery

Cinematographer Johanna Coelho
                 Cinematographer Johanna Coelho

French cinematographer Johanna Coelho is not only a phenomenal director of photography who has a background working with an array of different genres, but she is capable of shooting on any format, a feature that sets her apart from the masses.

“Film and digital have the same purpose: create images for telling a story. There’s a lot of discussion going on about what is best between shooting on film or digital. For me in a sense, it’s like having a discussion about which lense to use. It’s a decision that concerns one’s choice, taste and style,” explained Coelho.

With the global technological advancements we have experienced over the last two decades, the most noticeable shift when it comes to the film industry can be found in the format in which films are shot.

For instance, feature films that were once shot on 35mm filmstrips are now predominantly shot on digital, the reason being that digital technology is cheaper to reproduce, and easily transferrable.

The question of whether to shoot on digital or 35mm will always come down to the aim of the director and what the film’s director of photography (DP) feels is the most viable option for producing the director’s vision. However, for the DP to even consider taking one of these two routes they must first be capable of shooting on both formats, a skill Johanna Coelho can accomplish in her sleep.

“I think it’s amazing to want and know how to shoot both, because today we still have a choice, ” said Coelho. “I pick one over another depending on the project, story, shooting conditions, and visual style. There is a sharpness to digital that is really appreciated nowadays, and film will always give you this beautiful grainy image that gives a really cinematic aspect to your film. They do not look the same, and that’s the great thing about it.”

Coelho’s talent as a cinematographer and her ability to choose whether to shoot on film or digital depending on what will be the most compelling for the overall project, has allowed her to be far more creative than most in the craft.

The film Broken Leaves, which was directed by award-winning director Sasa Numic, follows two teenage best friends, Lana and Annie, as they go on a picnic with three boys in the woods. The film focuses on Lana’s jealousy over the attention Annie is receiving from the boys, a feeling that quickly turns to anger and leads her to do something that she immediately regrets.

Coelho worked her magic as the director of photography for the film, which was shot solely in the woods using 35mm film. Coelho’s use of the perfect filter and film, in addition to the way she captured the sunlight breaking through the trees creates a hazy, almost dreamlike feeling, one that visually supports the film’s storyline of Lana’s rash actions being grounded somewhere outside of reality.

Broken Leaves is a story that is supposed to feel like it was shot in the 70’s, so I felt shooting on film was appropriate in order to give a realistic and beautiful grain to the images,” explained Coelho.

“Also, there is a really nice warm look created with the filter I used in the camera throughout the whole film. This particular color created with the filter worked because of the type of film I chose to use, Kodak Vision 3 5213, 200T. So it wasn’t only about the grain, but also about the choice of emulsion. Colors on film can be truly amazing if you know how to use them.”

As the director of photography for the film The Black Room, which was also shot on 35mm film and follows a convicted woman who dances away the reality of her jail sentence by imagining she is a cabaret dancer, Johanna Coelho shows her finesse and versatility with the camera. Because The Black Room was based on the incredible camera tricks invented by French illusionists and cinema genius Georges Méliès, Ms. Coelho chose to shoot on film in order to remain authentic to Méliès’ discoveries.

Creating a mesmerizing sequence of imagery using double and triple exposures on film, Coelho draws audiences in with the way she captures the character’s movements to a place where they too forget that the woman they are watching is in jail.

Concerning the use of double and triple exposure, Coelho admits, “We can do that with digital now, but it’s not as challenging or as fun! Making all of your effects happen in the camera is an incredible experience that shows you the real power of shooting on film.”

While the up and coming generations will most likely switch to shooting solely digital, there are elements of 35mm that continue to be widely cherished throughout the film industry today, and Johanna Coelho’s films serve as a testament to the importance of cinematographers having the capacity to work with both.

“Film is the very first format of cinema, and I think there is something really special about that,” said Coelho.

Actress Scherrikar Bell Brings ‘The Victorians’ to Life

BELL-mee (2)

By Dean Evans

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

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

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

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

BELL-TEACH

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

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

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

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

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

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Actress Liane Grant

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taken-in-Marriage-poster
Poster for “Taken in Marriage”

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

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

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

Liane Grant
Liane Grant in “Taken in Marriage”

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

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

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

Gypo
Film poster for “Gypo”

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Yohann
French Composer Yohann Zveig

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Common Thread of Great Films: Edward Line

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

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

The Counsellor – Hand

The Counselor 2

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

St. Patrick’s Day 

St. Patrick's Day 1

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

The Painters

The Painters

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

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

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

Wale

Wale1

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

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

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

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

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

Edward Line 5

(Editor Edward Line at work)

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Filmmaking Team Philip Morelli and Alice Del Corso Behind the Upcoming Film “Memoria”

"Memoria"
Film Poster for “Memoria”

Italian filmmakers Philip Morelli and Alice Del Corso are creating quite a buzz with news of their upcoming sci-fi feature film “Memoria,” which is slated to begin shooting in Atlanta, GA next year.

With Philip as the director and Alice as the screenwriter behind all of their joint projects, the duo, who happen to be married, have carved out a strong reputation for delivering award-winning work, such as the multi-award winning films “Magnolia: Hearts on Fire Vol. 1” and “Apeiron.” 

Taking place 20 years in the future, “Memoria” depicts an emotionless society where drastic changes in human evolution resulting from Memoria’s technology have further compounded the   ethnic and socioeconomic divide between people on earth. “Memoria” brings to the screen a relatable and foreshadowing story of the far-reaching effects of technology gone wrong, one where a new and innovative technology that could have been used to improve people’s lives and cure illnesses has instead been used to increase the money gap and further divide people.

Philip and Alice initially found their inspiration for “Memoria” after reading a 2017 article about a brain technology that could expand human intelligence and provide the possibility to upload and download data through the cloud. 

“We started to think about all the implications that this technology could have in real life, and that’s where it all started,” says Alice. 

The buzz the highly-anticipated film “Memoria” has been earning around the globe is due in part to the couple’s previous success in the genre. Back in 2015 Philip directed the sci-fi film “Apeiron,” which Alice wrote the screenplay for; and their joint efforts garnered extensive international praise. The brilliant sci-fi film depicts a highly cinematic post-apocalyptic story that took audiences and festival judges by storm, with “Apeiron” earning numerous awards including the Best of the Year Award from the Gold Movie Awards, Best Short Award from the Hollywood Film Competition, Best Trailer Award from the International Independent Film Awards, Best Drama Short Award from the Hollywood International Moving Pictures Film Festival, the Best Short Awards from both the 2017 and 2019 editions of  Los Angeles CineFest, and more. We need not look further than “Apeiron” to see just how effectively Philip and Alice can bring a powerful sci-fi story to the screen. 

“Apeiron” lead actress Beatrice Gattai (“Wedding in Rome”) says, “Alice’s writing and Filippo’s visions are something most could only wish to aim at. They are a truly inspiring artistic couple. They are a great team. She has the imagination and he has the sensitivity to understand and bring to life what she had imagined… The stories they create are mind blowing.”

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Philip Morelli on set of “Apeiron” shot by Donatello Gradassi

Though their previous success has undoubtedly given Philip and Alice a strong foundation to stand upon as a filmmaking team, what they have come up with for “Memoria” is unique, relevant and appealing on its own.

“Technology has really changed lives in a better way, but every progress brings some light and some darkness with it,” says Philip. “With Memoria I want to go deep and bring all these aspects to the light, in the most real way, as it could happen tomorrow. I want to connect with the audience, give them a close look at the characters, then going close-up in the suburbs and extreme wide in the city. My characters have real issues, so I will shoot in 35 mm to bring these feelings out in the light.”

With Philip and Alice behind the film “Memoria,” the film is assured to be a flawless production and surefire hit with audiences. Last year the duo turned heads with their award-winning film “Magnolia: Hearts on Fire Vol. 1,” which starred Rocco Fasano (“Tender Eyes,” “SKAM Italia”), Amedeo Andreozzi (“Don Matteo”) and Sara Matteucci (“Sketch Up,” “Love 14”).

Rocco Fasano, who plays the villain in the film, says “Working with [Philip and Alice] was an absolutely beautiful, enriching experience. They work as a couple and they work as a team, and they manage to deliver an idea in a clean, rational, straight forward way, and they give so much room for you as an actor.”

Based on Alice’s novel of the same name, “Magnolia: Hearts on Fire Vol. 1” is a uniquely crafted romance film that follows Elise, a young woman who desperately tries to escape her traumatic past by changing her name and moving to London. Viewers are led into Alice’s life through a series of flashbacks that reveal her past and her first encounter with Colin, a man that would forever change her life; with the overall message of the story begging the question of whether the very thing one is running from is in fact, the only thing that can make them happy in the end.

Turning Alice’s engaging novel into the screenplay for the first in a series of “Magnolia” films that the couple intend to make, Philip drew upon his expansive creativity and took a unique approach with his direction for “Magnolia: Hearts on Fire Vol. 1.”

“Being that this a romance, I tried to do something completely different from my usual style. Longer takes in order to spend more time with the characters and catch their emotions, which also gave the audience some time to feel each shot,” Philip explains. 

“I played a lot with silhouettes, making them more evocative and I used slow motion to emphasize the dramatic parts of the story. Mixing all of these techniques I tried to show the love between Elise and Colin, without hiding the sadness that sometimes we feel in the plot.”

Alice Del Corso and Philip Morelli
Alice Del Corso and Philip Morelli

One of the things that makes Philip and Alice such a cutting edge team is their desire to stay ahead of the curve and infuse their work with innovative techniques. A prime example is the scene in “Magnolia: Hearts of Fire Vol 1” where they captured ink in water in motion. 

“In Magnolia there’s a lot that happens on the outside, but there’s also a lot that happens on the inside, in the subconscious, and I wanted to represent this with water,” explains Philip. “I used this technique that involves a particular ink which has a density that makes it move in slow motion without the need to use a high-frame rate in the camera. I used it both for the quotes that represent Elise’s thoughts, and also for a real book copy that I submerged in a tank.”

Released in 2018, “Magnolia: Hearts of Fire Vol 1” earned astonishing praise throughout the industry with the film taking home numerous awards from festivals earlier this year, including the Crown Wood International Film Festival, Creation International Film Festival, Via dei Corti, TMFF Film Festival, Rolling Ideas, Etna Film Festival, Couch Film Festival and more. The film has also been chosen as an Official Selection of the 2020 Mabig Film Festival, where it has been nominated for several awards including Best Directing, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Editing.

They prepare everything from the smallest details, and they always make each crew member feel comfortable,” says Lorenzo Costagliola, the cinematographer behind “Magnolia: Hearts of Fire Vol 1” and “Apeiron.” 

“Philip and Alice have plenty of ideas, and they have enough experience to understand if an idea is working or not, without wasting anyone’s time. What makes them really strong is the ability to create harmony on set. They solve everything with tranquility and professionalism and no one ever complained. Is not that easy to find those qualities in other projects, that’s why I always love working with them, because it’s like having your family on set.”

Aside from their upcoming film “Memoria,” Philip and Alice are also in the process of making the follow-up film for “Magnolia,” which is expected to be released next year.

At the end of the day, Philip and Alice are a brilliant filmmaking team due to their ability to merge their individual creative talents together in service of the story. Even more importantly though is that their respect for the power of collaboration doesn’t with them, it extends to include their entire crew, so it’s no wonder why those they work with, such as cinematographer Lorenzo Costagliola and actor Rocco Fassano, who were each involved in “Apeiron” and “Magnolia: Hearts of Fire Vol 1,” continue to work with them time and time again.

“Cinema is made by people, so the first important thing is to be surrounded by people you trust, that have good ideas and are willing to get involved in that journey with you. Teamwork is the key word, not only in cinema but in everything else,” says Philip. “A solid story is another important aspect of making movies, a story that you can feel moving inside you just by reading the script. The audience’s acceptance is always the major challenge, but if you have a really good story and a really good team, you will make good cinema for sure.” 

The founders of the production company Castle View Studio, Philip Morelli and Alice Del Corso are in no shortage of powerful and inspiring stories, and having proven that they have the talent to bring them to life on screen, they’re definitely a team audience’s should get to know.

 

Sound Editor Jingjue Zhou works with Narval Films on impactful new film ‘Pier Las Vegas’

Sound. It is 50 per cent of the movie watching experience. A simple rain drop to a massive explosion would not be made possible without the hard work of the sound editors behind-the-scenes that work tirelessly to create an authentic sound that allows audiences to be immersed by what they are taking in on screen. China’s Jingjue Zhou knows this better than most. This celebrated sound editor has worked on all genres of movies and television shows and is always refining her talents. She is a true storyteller, using sound to subtly enhance a script, creating drama and emotion through the sense in a beautiful and natural way.

Whether taking in her work at SeaWorld Orlando’s “Sesame Street Land” interactive game plays, or through award-winning films such as Spring Flower, millions around the world have appreciated Zhou’s extraordinary sound work. Her versatility and commitment to storytelling through sound make her a force to be reckoned with in the industry, and despite her success, she remains committed to her craft, simply enjoying what she does.

The highlight of her esteemed career came when working with Narval Films LLC. She has worked on several films for the renowned production company, including the documentary Road to Olympia, which tells the story of a Chinese bodybuilding athlete. Long Wu is a celebrity athlete with millions of fans on social media. He is the first Chinese IFBB pro card holder and first Chinese to compete professionally in Olympia.  It’s a story about his career journey over the past 10 years. The film was broadcast on China Central Television, the biggest TV platform in China, and the social media platform Weibo, achieving 1.5M views and 6.9K likes.

“From this film, I got to learn all the hardships Long Wu has been through and the essence of success in one’s career. Long Wu, though successful, is still very humble, hardworking and extremely self-disciplined. I am proud to be on the team telling this story so more people can get to know such a cool person and sport,” said Zhou.

Zhou’s favorite project with the production company, however, is the film Pier Las Vegas. The story is about Gao Xing, a hearing-disabled and vocally impaired person from a small town in China, who works as an ordinary housekeeper at a Las Vegas casino hotel, and always rummages through the guests’ luggage secretly while cleaning the room to search for clues about his sister who was adopted by an American family long ago. However, Gao’s life changes one afternoon when a massive shooting occurs at the music festival outside of the hotel.

“This fictional story takes place during the real life event of the tragic Las Vegas mass shooting. The people killed are not numbers. They have their own life stories and families. The movie is a portrait of one of them. It’s a powerful story that helps people remember those who die in these events and reflects on our society,” said Zhou. “What’s the problem and how can we change it? This film evokes those questions.”

Pier Las Vegas is a drama with an experimental storytelling style. It is directed by Yun Xie, a talented Chinese director. Her award-winning movie Truth or Dare has had a very successful theatrical release all over China. Zhou was happy to work with her on such an important film as Pier Las Vegas.

The sound editing in the film is very heavy and challenging as the main character is constantly in and out of a dream state. Zhou had the chance to play with lots of interesting plug ins and synthesizers to generate her own sound palette.

“It’s fun and challenging when it comes to sound editing for dreamy sequences. The director always said to me that it was my moment to shine. We wanted to create a feeling of being out of place in these dream sequences. We were really happy that all the sound came organically to make the audience feel the same way the character feels,” said Zhou.

Zhou’s hard work more than paid off as Pier Las Vegas has seen immense success all over the world. The film premiered in China’s top art house film festival earlier this year and has been an Official Selection at six prestigious festivals so far. It was also nominated for several awards, and Zhou is thrilled to see where it will go next.

“I am so happy it got the recognition internationally, especially in my home country of China. It’s selected to be in the competition of First International Film Festival, taking place in Xining. Every year, all the top artists and first-class Asian film committees will attend this film festival. Some people tell me that my sound work helped them so much on understanding the style and story of the movie, and that couldn’t make me happier,” she concluded.

 

By John Michaels
Photo by Tianyi Wang

International Entertainment, and the Talents that Leave us Buzzing….