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

jackson-2
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.

Advertisements

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

anton-bbc
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.

From Rehearsing in a Church Basement in Norway to Producing Music for International Artists: Music Producer Peder Etholm-Idsoee

Music Producer Peder Etholm-Idsoee
Music Producer Peder Etholm-Idsoee shot by Alex Winter

Today internationally recognized music producer Peder Etholm-Idsoee is best known for his work as a music producer on the BMI award-winning song ‘Que Los Mares No Se Enteren’ by Nico Farias, the multiple songs he’s produced for international artist Naïka, such as the world pop chart-topper ‘Ride,’ Lexxi Saal’s new single ‘Break a Bottle,’ Lauren Carnahan’s ‘Criminal,’ which has streamed over 600,000 times on Spotify, and more.

Etholm-Idsoee’s musical journey began back home in Oslo, Norway when he picked up the guitar at the age of 6. “This is when my rock star dream really started” he recalls. “At that time, I dreamt about playing in a band, touring the world just playing shows and making music on the go. I think somehow everyone that does music for a living has had that dream in one way or the other.”

Though he wouldn’t go on to become a ‘rock star’ in the traditional celebrity sense, that was a decision all his own. Instead he would become a major behind the scenes figure in the careers of many of today’s prominent artists.

By age 8 he was fully immersed in voice lessons, which he says he is now ‘extremely grateful for,’ and by age 10 he’d started teaching himself drums and bass, two instruments that fuelled his passion and led him to begin playing with rock bands in his youth.  

Often times rehearsing in the basement of the local church, Etholm-Idsoee recalls during one heavy metal rehearsal in particular that, to the band’s surprise, the church priest casually walked in. “We all thought that we might be in trouble because of the nature of the music we were playing.” Rather than scolding the young musicians, the priest had something else in mind. “He came over to my drum kit and he looked at me and said ‘that looks fun, do you mind if I try?… He sat down behind the drum kit and to everyone’s surprise, started shredding like a god, no pun intended, which ended up in an amazing jam session with the priest. I quickly jumped on a guitar, and we ended up playing for hours.”

Etholm-Idsoee marks that experience as one that taught him to ‘never judge a book by its cover,’ a vital lesson to his work as a producer, and a good rule of thumb for us all.

But it wasn’t until the age of 12 that he got his first recording equipment, and that is when he began laying the groundwork for his career as a music producer. “When my cousin installed my first DAW, the software to produce and record music, that really sparked my interest in the craft of producing. This resulted with me starting to produce and arrange for every band that I was in.”

After playing gigs in Norway with several bands in his youth Etholm-Idsoee soon realized that, while he loved creating and playing music, the celebrity appeal of being a ‘rock star’ was not all that appealing to him.

Music Producer Peder Etholm-Idsoee shot by Alex Winter
Music Producer Peder Etholm-Idsoee shot by Alex Winter

“I never really had the urge to be a frontman,” explains Etholm-Idsoee. “I’ve always been interested in the recording and arranging aspects of music in many different genres… I’m a nerd, I love when I can sit down and make sounds and really geek out on the technical aspect of this type of work, something that never gets old for me at all.”

By that point he’d achieved an impressive skill level on multiple instruments and had several years of experience recording and producing for all of his own bands, so it came as no surprise when he was accepted to the highly competitive Berklee School of Music in Boston, MA., where he would go on to graduate Summa Cum Laude with a degree in Music Production and Engineering.

Whilst living in Boston, he was invited to work as a music producer on Nico Farias’ single ‘Que Los Mares No Se Enteren.’ With Farias already having the song written, Etholm-Idsoee and his co-producer Jason Strong came in and arranged the song and made additions to the melody. Earning Best Song of the Year from the 2015 Latin Billboard Awards and ranking No.1 on Guatemala’s iTunes chart, ‘Que Los Mares No Se Enteren’ was the first Latin pop song Etholm-Idsoee produced, and it quickly became a major international hit.

Music Producer Peder Etholm-Idsoee shot by Alex Winter
Music Producer Peder Etholm-Idsoee shot by Alex Winter

At around the same time that he began working with Farias, Etholm-Idsoee came on board as a lead music producer for the artist Naïka, who has since signed with Capitol Records/Universal Music Group.

Naïka says, “Peder and I have been working together for almost 3 years, and he has been a part of many of my projects. Our first release together was my first single ‘Ride,’ which has done extremely well, and led to me to my record deal with Universal Music Group. Since then, Peder has contributed to most of my upcoming singles that are to be released under UMG including ‘Serpentine,’ ‘Sleeping Pill,’ ‘Oh Mama’ and ‘Lose Control’.”

Taking the No.2 spot on Spotify’s Global Viral and US Viral charts, and being selected as one of the top 50 tracks on the Viral charts for more than 12 countries, Naïka’s not embellishing one bit when she says the single ‘Ride’ has done extremely well.  

Earlier this month Naïka released the track ‘Serpentine,’ and like ‘Ride,’ music producer Peder Etholm-Idsoee played a pivotal role. Present from the very first session, Etholm-Idsoee created the bass riff in the chorus of ‘Serpentine’ using one of his synths, a key element that sets the dark and sexy mood of the track, and is the basis on which they built the rest of the song.

Amongst the many things that set him apart from other music producers in the U.S. is the fact that Etholm-Idsoee grew up in a different country. His Norwegian cultural background has not only had a huge impact on his musical influences and his approach to producing, but it has created an avenue for more creativity when it comes to working with artists in America.

“It has been such a pleasure having Peder by my side along the way,” Naïka explains. “Not only has his talent elevated my songs with his production skills, he has also helped me develop and define my artistry and my sound.”

Aside from being one of the lead producers for Naïka, he is also the music producer behind the rock band Migrant Motel, who’s newest single ‘Blue’ made it onto Spotify’s Rock Total playlist earlier this month. As Migrant Motel’s music producer since 2015, Etholm-Idsoee recorded and produced their debut album “Volume One,” which was released last year, and is currently working on the next releases, which are scheduled to drop later this year.

Peder Etholm-Idsøe - Studio Shot 2
Music Producer Peder Etholm-Idsoee shot by Alex Winter

“I love being ‘the guy behind the glass’ working for the project. So producing for other artists is just right up my alley of what I like to do,” says Etholm-Idsoee. “I honestly just want to create music that provokes an emotion in people, either it is happiness you can share with your friends, being able to relax and enjoy the present, or helping a person through a tough time in his or her life, and I can keep doing that for the rest of my career, I would say that I have achieved my goal.”

 

Canada’s Aida King is worried wife and stepmother in action flick ‘Hemorrhage’

Photo 2016-06-01, 5 13 11 PM
Aida King

Being Canadian of Filipino descent and growing up in a multicultural downtown Toronto urban neighborhood, Aida King uses her prominence as an actress to be a representative of a world population sector that is still well under-represented in the entertainment industry. Her unique appearance allows her to portray a variety of cultures and she aims to provide a deeper understanding of different ethnicities. Through the creative arts, she can provide a fresh perspective and not only entertain her audiences, but also educate. With every project she takes on, no matter the genre, she makes sure to understand her character and their background, as well as what drives them. It is such a devotion that makes her such an outstanding actress, and a leader in the industry in Canada.

Known for her versatility, King has worked on a variety of genres as an actress, showing that she is capable of anything. Whether bringing on the laughs in Desert Drive or keeping you on the edge of your seats in the thriller War of Mind, this actress knows exactly how to captivate an audience.

King not only impresses audiences, but also those she works with, as seasoned Producer and Director Josh Mitchell was so moved by the actress’ work in his film The Convicted, which went on to several prestigious international film festivals, that he immediately offered her more roles on his future projects. The two also worked together on the 2015 film Hemorrhage.

Hemorrhage tells the story of a brawling hockey player who suffers from his fourth concussion and is forced to retire. He connects with a shady old high school friend and starts flipping houses, but quickly finds himself face-to-face with a dangerous Mexican gang. When they rough up his wife and kidnap his son – the gloves come off and he takes matters into his own hands.

“Everyone thinks that a pro athlete leads only a glamourous life. That being said, not all are successful as the main stars that are showcased. So many of them face their own unique set of challenges, especially if their career gets cut shorter than expected. The movie is an age-old warning to be careful of whom you associate yourself with,” said King.

Playing the lead role of Ana Chaffe, King was ready to take on a little bit of an action hero. She was a wife and step-mother that was stereotypically cautious and suspicious of her husband’s questionable associates. She was very protective of him and had been worrying about his future, ever since he was forced to retire from his professional hockey career. Her instincts turn out to be correct as she later suffers from her stepchild being kidnapped and her husband under the control of a criminal. Ana’s worry provided pivotal foreshadowing in the film, building suspense and emotionally investing the audience.

“It was a rush to play such a strong character, fighting for her husband and step-child,” said King.

While shooting Hemorrhage, King was required to handle a gun for the first time in her career. Even though it was just a prop, she found the experience quite unnerving. She researched how to shoot a gun, and despite never actually doing so, perfectly executed the scene. This was made easier because of how comfortable she was on set, extremely familiar with the entire cast and crew. However, there was a lot of testosterone on the sports fuelled action film, she joked.

“It’s such an overall different frame of mind when you’re involved in an action focused film. I enjoyed this new approach and the comradery that goes along with it. It was a great time to channel in all great angry female roles that I have seen on TV over the years,” she said.

The trailer for Hemorrhageis featured on Daily Motion‘s website, and the full film is available via Vimeo on Demand since September 2015.

“I am very proud of its outcome. The reviews have been kind and we are grateful for it,” King concluded.

 

Written by Annabelle Lee

Australian Star Emily Gruhl: Truth on Screen at Home and Abroad

Picture1
Emily Gruhl continues to push the boundaries of acting truthfully with her groundbreaking performances.

Australian actress Emily Gruhl quickly became an audience favourite upon entering the industry, winning roles in a range of highly-esteemed projects that have helped her carve out a place at the top of what is frequently perceived as an incredibly competitive field.

A graduate of the prestigious QUT acting programme – the same school through with “Pirates of the Caribbean” star Brenton Thwaites trained – Emily hasn’t let a busy filming schedule get in the way of balancing work with artistry. She sat down with us to discuss her views on acting, and how it has helped her traverse a relatively calm journey in a notoriously difficult career.

Upon listening to her reflect about her authoritative approach to her craft, it’s not surprising to learn that Emily has enjoyed more leading roles in a range of film and television projects than some actors more than twice her age, such is the depth of her experience and the degree to which she is respected in the Australian entertainment industry.

Emily explains, “I believe the best actors strive to achieve the highest level of truth in performance possible. This is certainly something that is of the utmost importance to me. I feel a responsibility to my characters when I play them and do everything in my power to achieve this.”

In Hobby Shop, Emily delivered a leading performance in the character of Mary. Produced by the highly regarded team at Like a Phonton Creative in partnership with Screen Queensland, that film concerned a hobby shop owner who kidnaps Mary while in grief over the loss of his daughter. In a creepy twist, Mary is forced to be displayed in the shop as if she is a puppet. Without Mary, and therefore Emily’s scene-stealing acting, the film simply would not have any drama and it wouldn’t make its creepy turn into the horror genre.

The film’s directors, Stephanie Liquorish and Isabel Stanfield, elaborated on how Emily’s performance was inextricably tied to the film’s success. “Emily had a remarkable character transformation…She had developed a different gait and speech pattern. It was incredible character work…you could really feel the desperation and intense need of her character for salvation. This was all due to Emily’s wonderful screen craft and her inventiveness in the presentation of Mary.”

“Hobby Shop,” along with Emily’s masterful work, was showcased at the prestigious Chinese Theatre in Hollywood at the Screamfest Horror Film Festival – the largest and longest running horror film festival in the United States. In addition, it recently won the Gold Award at the Australian Cinematographer’s Society Awards.

IMG_7818
Emily Gruhl on set for “Hobby Shop” with the award-winning cinematographer, Lucas Tomoana.

The successful project is another example of how Emily has become a leading lady in the style of Golden Age Hollywood – a true thespian who can work like a character actress and appear in different genres, but also present herself as a true movie-star.

This is because accessing truth for Emily is more important than fame. “Last Cab to Darwin” star Mark Coles Smith offered our editors unfiltered praise when asked what sets Emily apart from other actors. ““It is not often you have a deep sense of the talent and focus of a particular artist until you get to know them, however, Emily’s unprecedented excellence was apparent from my first meeting with her.”

Such compliments are unsurprising considering her experience in theatre, well-known for providing a necessary training ground for thespians who build long-lasting careers. Emily shared the stage with Golden-Globe nominee Katherine Langford (“13 Reasons Why”) under the direction of revered coach-to-the-stars, Larry Moss. She has also worked with  star AACTA award-nominated Andrew Ryan in the Queensland NRL program, in which she had to deliver a heartfelt and challenging monologue.

“Every time I did the monologue the men were extremely affected and I really do believe we affected change during the time we were there.”

Mark Coles-Smith, who also appeared as the lead role in the SyFy series “Hunters,” elaborates even further in his praise. “It was an absolute pleasure working with Emily. She is so giving with her time and energy, which is the hallmark of a world class actor with an assured future of success. She is an incredible performer, a truly exceptional actor and gracious and giving human being.”

Ultimately, from “Hobby Shop,” to “Picnic at Hanging Rock”, and now feature film “Angel of Mine” with “Dracula” star Luke Evans, Emily has indeed proved herself more than capable from being just another actor. Emily Gruhl is truly unique.

She eloquently adds, “The character of Courtney in “Angel of Mine” is extremely different to me as a person. [Director] Kim Farrant knows me very well personally after working together so much and so she very clearly knew that I am very different to the character of Courtney.”

Extending on her comment regarding truth in performance, “Kim’s work is very personal and she kindly demands a lot from her actors to the point where she believes that putting yourself back together emotionally as an actor is as important as getting to those intense emotional places.”

Emily offers an even more specific viewpoint. “The kind of acting Kim excels at directing and enjoys the most is performances that have incredible emotional dexterity, complexity and nuance to them. This is also the style of acting I most enjoy doing and this usually requires incredible emotional depth from the actors.”

Another project that demanded Emily’s attention, and ability to be truthful, is “A Suburban Love Story.” In the key role of Molly, Emily worked opposite “The Mummy’s” Luke Ford and “Secret City” actor Vanessa Moltzen. Director Stephen Wallace, who has also directed Oscar-winner Russell Crowe, explained that Emily “worked extremely hard in some very difficult circumstances, never giving less than her best. She is a true professional whom I would recommend to anyone.” Extending upon his exploration for why Emily is truly a one-of-a-kind actor, Stephen added: “She is also photogenic and can produce deeply emotional performances when called on. That’s rare.”

While Emily spoke about her craft fondly, she was simply too humble to offer an assessment for why she is considered a true star. Instead, to carve out the truth about Emily’s uniquness it only made sense to seek out the opinion of one of Australia’s leading casting directors, Faith Martin (responsible for casting “Peter Pan” and “Evil Dead”). Martin notably cast Emily in her critical role in “A Suburban Love Story”

“Combined with her naturalness, her beauty and her commitment,” Faith explains, “Emily Gruhl is a force to be reckoned with.”

 

Maintaining Healthy Skin in Our 30’s

Niki Alsop shot by Lola Miche
Healer and Life Coach Niki Alsop shot by Lola Miche

At 31 my skin is changing in ways I’d never predicted. It seems to be getting drier, I’m getting way more pimples than ever before, specifically around my chin, and it’s not looking as bright and firm as it did a few years ago.

After perusing countless retinol night creams and eye serums claiming to have the anti-aging answers I never knew I needed, and the kind of price tag that made me feel weary of taking a risk, I decided it was time for some legit professional help.

The urgency to figure out what exactly my skin needs to stay young and fresh for as long as possible led me to Natural Feeling Spa on 3rd st. in Los Angeles, a beautiful space with an eco-friendly design founded by esthetician Adina Diaz.

Aside from word of mouth about Adina’s astonishing knowledge and skill as an esthetician, what drew me to Natural Feeling Spa was the fact that they only offer 100% natural holistically crafted products.  

“I’m very selective about my products,” admits Adina.

After a decade of working as a professional esthetician at a long list of places that included everything from high-end day spas to plastic surgery facilities where she felt her morals were being compromised, Adina went out on her own, opening Natural Feeling Spa in 2016.

“I was being asked at certain places I worked at to have girls as young as 18 to start looking into botox, it was against my morals and ethics because I don’t believe people should be told to do something without having alternative methods of preventative skincare before being pushed to do something so extreme,” Adina explains. “It’s nothing against people getting injections or laser treatments, but 18 I feel like you have so much to grow and to live… by just drinking more water and having a better skin care routine you can have better results, you don’t have to go so extreme. You can try different things first before going down that road.”

Adina Diaz
Skincare Guru Adina Diaz at Natural Feeling Spa (Photo Courtesy of Verite Woman)

Upon entering Natural Feeling Spa I immediately felt at home. I went for a Pumpkin Facial and after that, a much needed consultation about what will make my skin happiest. The facial was nearly an hour long and a lot of treatments went into it (an in depth post about the facial step by step coming soon). After the treatment I felt completely relaxed overall, while my skin felt more alive than ever. Adina’s upbeat personality made the whole experience fun, but it’s her gentle precision coupled with her encyclopedic knowledge of everything skincare related that’s made her stand out as LA’s go-to skincare guru. After an hour with her I learned a lot– far more than I would have if I’d devoted another three hours to researching skincare treatments on the computer without professional guidance.

As a woman in our 30s our skin is changing and there’s no way around it– but there are things we can do to slow the aging process. On the most basic level, Adina says, “Everyone should have a good cleanser, a good exfoliant and a good moisturizer, those are a necessity. What’s really good to incorporate into your 30s is having a high potency serum, something that’s going to have an AHA, a BHA and an acid that’s going to help buffer out fine lines and wrinkles and help with some of the damage you did when you were younger.”

How the skin changes from our 20’s to 30’s to 40’s

“It’s a drastic change. In the 20’s we get away with going to bed with makeup on, we get away with going to bed at 4 am and waking up for an 8-hour shift and still looking good, once you hit the 30’s that really does change. The elasticity and the collagen starts to deplete. We start to get wear and tear from how way we treated our skin in our 20’s, it starts to show in our 30’s. Hormones change. All these things combined together, plus environment, plus stress levels are different in our 20’s versus our 30’s.

So the things you want to do in your 20’s are preventative. You really want to start at a young age, start drinking lots of water, do your L-Ascorbic acid, which is vitamin C, do your hyaluronic acid, these are things that are going to help hydrate and stimulate collagen without any down time and give you that extra boost for when you get into your 30’s.

In the 30’s it’s all about the acids, it’s all about retinol, glycolic, lactic, salicylic, all of these things are going to help with the cell turn over, so it’s going to help minimize enlarged pores, fine lines, wrinkles and help kill bacteria and just really give that extra boost that most people in their 30’s need.

Once you climb over to the 40’s then there’s a lot of damage that’s settled in so you really need to have a deeper treatment, doing chemical peels, microdermabrasion and really having a rigorous skincare routine, that’s going to go a long way.”

Healer and Coach Niki Alsop shot by Lola Miche
Niki Alsop shot by Lola Miche

How Often Should We Get Facials In Our 30’s?

“With family, friends, work, life our budget can be tight, but ideally once a month. The cell turnover is about 27 or 28 days, that’s the natural process that your skin naturally sluffs off the dead skin cells. Living in a place, particularly like Los Angeles, California there’s smog, there’s dirt, there’s pollution, so it is a different kind of environment that we live in, we are exposed to more pollution and free radicals than in other places, so it’s really a great idea to stay on top of your skincare routine and do it once a month for good results– I like to say to people: If you want a six-pack you wouldn’t go to the gym once a week, you’d go every single day. If you want good skin you would do skincare every single day, have a good routine down, and then follow up by having good skincare treatments done.”

And If You Can’t Afford a Facial a Month? Adina has advice on that too:

“If budget is an issue, you want to have your arsenal at home, you want to have your little soldiers ready in the cupboard. A good mask goes a long way, and a good enzyme peel, a safe one that you can do at home will go a long way. There’s  a lot of peels that I sell, a wild blueberry that’s an 8% lactic, a raw cacao peel that’s a 10%, these are light treatments you can do on yourself that will help prolong the lifespan of the facial, and also address the issues at hand, so you get a  little bit more bang for your buck and also feel like that when you do have some dullness creeping up or some hormonal breakouts you can address it, you have the tools at home. When in doubt spend the money on good skincare and when you can indulge, go for the deeper treatments.”  

But What Kind of Facial is Best for the 30’s? There are so many out there, how do I choose?!

Adina says, “The pumpkin facial is a go-to because there’s no downtime. It’s a light enzyme so it will eat away the dead skin cells, brighten, tighten and tone the area… It’s a really strong peel with a low pH so it will have a lot of effect on the skin, so a lot of people will do that before a red carpet event, a wedding, a speech, something where they want to have an extra glow to their skin. That’s a really good one for people to start with.”

**Again, this is the one I had, with the added boost of LED Light Therapy, and it is mind boggling how refreshed and active my skin still feels, and I left the spa 5 hours ago!

adina diaz
Inside Natural Feeling Spa (Photo Courtesy of Verite Woman)

What Chemicals Should We Avoid?

Parabens
Aluminium
Aluminoxide
Dimethicone
Silicone
Mineral Oil
PEGS
Dyes and Fragrances

Adina adds, “Though some of these are ingredients are not on the ‘extreme’ toxicity level in the blood, they’re still going to be toxic and clogging. For example, dimethicone is not “toxic” in the blood stream, however it weighs on top of the skin not allowing anything to go in or.  It’s basically like wrapping saran wrap around your face or body, so when your sweating and have makeup on it literally cannot escape, so in my opinion when your skin can’t ‘breathe’ you’re aging your skin faster and it is toxic because nothing is able to be expelled.”

So What is the Take Away?

The things that worked for us (and the things we could get away with) in our 20’s change drastically once we hit our 30’s. The normal aging process causes our hormones to change, the cell turnover rate to slow and collagen production to drop--ahhh so are we doomed? Not by a long shot!

There are so many things we can do to keep our skin looking bright and youthful. On the most basic level it’s vital that you begin a daily skincare routine that works for you. Find a good enzyme cleanser, moisturizer and exfoliant. In order to help the cell turn over rate, find serums and moisturizers that include retinol, and a glycolic, lactic, or salicylic acid. If it’s within your means try to get facials every four to five weeks, and consult a dermatologist or esthetician to assess your skin type so that before you go spending hundreds of dollars on products, you can learn which ones are going to be the most beneficial for you.

***

Adina’s been featured on Better Nutrition, Green Beauty Love, Wallace and James, Beauty Banter, The Carat Diet, Wella Bella, Coco Perez, Kuyam, Bond En Avant, HelloGiggles, West Hollywood Lifestyle, Beauty Style Watch, and The Organic Life Blog. Some of her celebrity clients include actress Sundy Carter (“Soul Plane,” “Bringing Down the House”), actress and TV host Vanessa Simmons (“Project Runway: Threads,” “Run’s House”), vegan chef and blogger Jenné Claiborne, body positive model Dana Isabella and more.

***

Photos of Adina and Natural Feeling Spa are from a recent interview she did with Veritewoman.com which you can check out here: https://veritewoman.com/life-green-beauty-advice-from-las-favored-skincare-guru/

Canada’s Romaine Waite terrifies audiences in sci-fi horror flick ‘Antisocial’

WAITE_6
Canadian Actor Romaine Waite

Romaine Waite has always been an outgoing person, a trait he believes has helped him greatly as an actor. When he was a child, growing up in Canada, he participated in school plays and drama programs, not because he thought it would be his career, but simply because that is what he enjoyed. It wasn’t until his early twenties when he realized he could truly follow his passion, and the second he got his first professional part, he knew that acting was his calling.

“I’ve always had this innate ability to connect with people in some way, making people laugh or causing disruptions, depends on who you ask,” he joked.

Now, Waite is a celebrated actor. His work in television series such as Star Trek: Discovery,Frankie Drake Mysteries, and The Mistimpressed audiences in not only Canada, but the rest of the world. His versatility knows no bounds, and he is always looking for a new way to explore his talents.

“Romaine is great. He makes my job a lot easier. He is the consummate professional and a very dedicated and crafter artist. It is always pleasurable working with him,” said Alan Moy, Producer who worked alongside Waite on Murdoch Mysteries and Usher the Usher.

Waite recalls his first real taste of international success as the sci-fi horror flick Antisocial. The movie follows five university friends who gather at a house party to ring in the New Year. Unbeknownst to them, an epidemic has erupted outside, causing outbreaks around the world. With nowhere else to turn, they barricade themselves indoors with only their phones, laptops, and other tech devices. They use their devices to research the possible cause of this outbreak. Information and video footage over flow their computers as they descend further into the cause and the ensuing chaos. As the virus spreads, the mood in the house changes from fear to paranoia. Who is safe? Who can they trust? Reality becomes blurred as they slowly discover the source of the virus causing the sickness… and there is no going back.

“I thought the story was clever it takes something that everyone was familiar with, being social media, and took it to the extreme. If you take away the gore, it’s basically what we’re experiencing today. Snapchat, Instagram, etc. have become these tools that are allowing people to share every single aspect of their life. In a way, I think the film talks about a very important subject in our society — what are the effects of social media and what are the limits and consequences of sharing too much on social media,” said Waite.

In the film, Waite plays Steve, one of the five friends gathering to celebrate New Year’s Eve. He was jovial and sincere university student. Audiences got to see him enjoy time with his close friends and girlfriend. Unfortunately, he was first in the house to experience the epidemic that trapped them in the house. This is pivotal, as Waite was responsible for getting the audience to truly understand the epidemic, and therefore the film. Within the film, Steve was the only individual who the audience was able to see go through a full transition. With this, the audience knew what the signs were and what would happen if another character was to get infected.

“It was really important to me that people felt the struggle of this character. As he tried to figure out what was happening to him without revealing anything to others in house. Through my portrayal, I hoped the audience would feel like they were a friend to my character and miss this him when he was gone,” Waite described.

The film had its premiere at the Fantasia Film Fest in Montreal back in 2013, and from there went to several high-profile international film festivals, including Calgary International Film Fest, Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival, Toronto After Dark Film Festival, and the Cannes Film Festival. From there, it was distributed through Monster Pictures on DVD, through Super Channel, and on iTunes. Such success could not have been possible without Waite’s portrayal of Steve, hooking audiences to the story early on.

“It’s always nice to see an indie film do well. It takes so many people and long days to make a film. To me the success is in completing the project. I am proud of everyone involved,” said Waite.

Antisocial was Waite’s first horror feature film, and five years later he still looks back and coals the experience amazing. At the time, he was still very curious about the process of filmmaking and how it all would come together, and he could not have been happier with the result. Everyone on set was professional and inspired, creating a contagious energy. He found himself watching everyone on set, from the cinematographer to the special effects make-up artist, taking everything in and reminding himself why he wanted to be an actor in the first place.

“I liked the comradery. Everyone was really passionate about the project. We were all stuck in a house for weeks. Friendships were built, and some good memories were made. I hadn’t done anything like that before. Overall it was a great experience,” he said.

Be sure to check out Antisocial to see Waite’s terrifying performance as Steve.

Finessing the Footage: Film Editor Oliver Harwood

Oliver Harwood
Film Editor Oliver Harwood

Like a well trained surgeon, award-winning film editor Oliver Harwood’s ability to carefully cut together media is as inspired as it is precise. A storyteller at his core, Harwood’s impressive body of work spans widely across a decade, boasting perfect examples of both skill and art in dozens of films, including the multi-award winning “Waste” and the international sensation “A Meditation,” which was chosen as an Official Selection of more than 25 film festivals across the globe.

Originally from Northamptonshire, UK, Harwood is far from just a “set of hands” in the editing room. In the industry, Harwood’s strong ability to work symbiotically with the director is a coveted talent, setting him apart from other editors who let their own personal style get in the way of the director’s vision.

“As an editor, I feel that my personal taste is a secondary concern to the director’s intention,” he remarks. “I like to think that my personal style is to have no personal style. In other words, it’s about bringing out the personal style of the director. If an editor’s primary concern is to impose an intrinsic style on every project they do, they should quit editing and be a director,” he says with a smile.

Film Poster for "Waste"
Film Poster for “Waste”

And acclaimed director Justine Raczkiewicz of “Waste” may agree. Her film, edited magnificently by Harwood, took home many awards through a large circuit, including Best Female Director at the Hollyshorts Film Festival and a Finalist at the USA Film Festival, as well as multiple Official Selections for festivals including the Brooklyn Film Festival, Chicago Underground Film Festival, Fantasia Film Festival and more.

“Waste” tells the story of Roger, a shy and reclusive man working at a medical waste disposal facility. In the film, Roger becomes infatuated with his roommate Olive, a woman who models herself after a 1950’s housewife and seems to be more interested in pursuing the latest culinary fads rather than finding a mate.

Roger finds her quirkiness endearing, but learns one night over dinner that they have slightly variant food preferences (read: Olive eats human beings.) Roger politely dines with Olive, apprehensively crunching a sauteed human tongue which she has procured from a website selling ‘the discarded tongues of Buddhist monks who cut them out to be closer to God.’

Awoken now to a grizzly new world, Roger must balance his feelings for her with this dark new insight into who she is. After nodding off at work, Roger experiences a series of disturbing and strange dreams which ultimately lead him to confess his love for Olive.

Roger arrives, flowers in hand, to find Olive in a ball on the floor. She has severed her own toes and, barely hanging onto consciousness, she tells Roger that she’s tried to saute them. The picture changes to a black screen, and credits roll over audio of Olive instructing Roger on how to perfectly cook the toes, and Roger seems to be obeying.

Harwood does a brilliant job telling an unsettling love story using carefully selected lingering shots and impeccably timed cuts. At times, thanks to the editing technique, the viewer’s own levels of discomfort seem to perfectly match what the characters are feeling in that moment.

Harwood articulates his method best, explaining that “typically, a scene would start with a wide shot to establish the space, and then gradually work into the close ups, where the best performances are usually found… But with this one, we decided to start some [scenes] with a closeup shot, and then work our way to the wider shots. This helped reinforce the weird and uncomfortable tone of the story by creating ambiguity to some of the physical spaces used in the film.”

In film, when genres are combined, it takes an experienced, intelligent, and talented editor to tell the story correctly, without playing up one genre more than the other, and Harwood delivers this impeccably.

“When a film chooses to explore darker subject matters with a comical slant to it, the story must remain engaging enough to stand on its own and not be overridden by the themes,” he explains. “Otherwise, the overall feeling of the piece can be left feeling a bit pretentious without a strong emotional narrative to back it up. I tried to remove all thoughts of deeper meaning and intellectual subtext when editing and focused on the emotional through lines that guide the audience.”

Film Poster for "A Meditation"
Film Poster for “A Meditation”

Able to get into the minds of all types of genres, Harwood also displays exceptional work in the film “A Meditation,” which took home six awards from festivals including the MedFF and the Red Corner Film Festival, and screened as an Official Selection of the BLOW-UP International Arthouse Film Festival, Eindhovens Film Festival, Lisbon Film Festival, Oaxaca Film Festival, Kansas City Film Festival, and the San Francisco Black Film Festival to name a few.

This film, on the surface, does not appear to have much going on in terms of the story itself. “It revolves around a man who seems to be ambling through a particularly aimless point in his life,” Harwood describes. “He has no quest, no great adversity, just a vague sense of anxiety that comes with anyone who fears the existential dread of an empty weekend. He meditates, feeds his cat and browses the news, everything done without any particular enthusiasm or resentment.  He seems to be just passing the time.”

The subject is awoken from a midday nap to his doorbell ringing; a young woman wants to buy a DVR he listed on Craigslist earlier that day. She wants to ensure that the machine works, so she follows him into the house to test it out. While in the bedroom, she notices marijuana on the dresser and asks, rather bluntly, if he’d like to smoke. They do, laughing together, and then the woman suggests they take off their clothes and get into bed. The initial awkwardness wears off quickly, and the pair embrace each other warmly until they are interrupted by the woman’s ringing cellphone. Her boyfriend has called, and she has to go.

She leaves, her warmth and presence from moments before replaced with a curt, aloof awkwardness, and the male subject goes about his daily routine of nothingness.

Harwood leans into the simplistic tone of the film by making similar editing choices at the top of the movie. “Because this is rather a simple story, I felt as if the editing of the piece should reflect that. Before the girl arrives, nothing of much significance seems to be happening, though there is a heavy emphasis on establishing a mood and tone,” explains Harwood. “To be able to do this effectively and as economically as possible is something that I believe is vital to a story of this kind.”

However, when the film moves in a more sexually explicit direction and the characters start to open up to each other, the shots became much closer and more personal.

Harwood says, “It was this break in style that influenced me to shift from a rather ‘matter of fact’ and simple editing practice to more abstract and emotionally driven choices.”

The shift is seamless; the viewer cannot quite put their finger on what has happened, but rather they can suddenly feel a change in energy, and this is the mark of a very, very good editor.

“Outside of the technical skill to handle the physical editing of the film, Oliver brought his unique and specific talents and approach to storytelling which is why I selected him to be the editor,” says Joe Petricca, the director of “A Meditation.” “He has great taste in and knowledge of film.”

The director and cinematographer may get all the coverage in the world, but when it comes down to it, how those shots are carefully stitched together bares some serious weight in regard to the final outcome and impact of the project. Oliver Harwood is undoubtedly a gem amongst ediors in the industry, and his refined and invaluable skill set is truly an asset both to the industry and to audiences worldwide.

 

Using makeup to embrace womanhood with Allison Giroday

Allison picture sitting down
Allison Giroday, photo by Liz Rosa

There is a common understanding in the fashion industry that clothing, and makeup are products that you buy, but style is what you do with them. Style is eternal. It doesn’t fade when new trends emerge, or when old trends divulge. For makeup artist, Allison Giroday, style is inherent, running deep through her veins. She credits her love for fashion and makeup to the fact that she grew up in one of fashion’s most acclaimed decades: the 1990s. She recalls herself as a young girl, inspired by the token 90s bombshells she’d see on billboard signs and magazine covers. She even remembers her 13-year-old self, locking herself in her school bathroom, trying all sorts of tips and tricks to achieve Pamela Anderson’s signature smudged-eye and baby pink lip look.

“I thought those women were just the most beautiful women in the world and I would stare at their pictures, studying their makeup. I collected fashion magazines and watched Fashion File. I never anticipated that I’d be in the position I am, looking back on those days. Now, the greatest feeling in the whole entire world is when a client gets excited over the reflection she sees in my mirror. It doesn’t matter whether she gasps, smiles, tears up, or sits up taller, it brings me a pride like no other. Every woman deserves to feel beautiful, powerful, and confident. I love the fact that I get to be a part of that,” raved Giroday.

Fortunately for Giroday, she has been able to be a part of that journey for a number of different people, projects, and publications over the duration of her career. For instance, Giroday was referred to hit Canadian artist, Lights, in order to do her makeup for Canada’s largest, most prestigious music event, The Juno Awards. She has also worked for several other celebrities such as professional basketball player, Steve Nash, and successful rap artist, Lil John. Her work has even found its way into publications such as Glassbook Magazine, British GQ, Life & Style, Reader’s Digest, and several others. When founder and editor-in-chief of Mother Muse Magazine saw Giroday’s work, she knew she had to bring her on board for her publication.

Mother Muse is a fashion and lifestyle printed coffee table book, available worldwide, that focuses on the quality of slow living and modern motherhood. It is rich with artwork, articles, interviews, and editorials intended to inspire everyday women and everyday mothers to follow their passions and to live life to the fullest. Due to its heavy emphasis on style, Mother Muse is often full of unique images of models, beautiful color schemes, and several other style inspirations. It is important, therefore, that Mother Muse work with exceptionally talented artists to shoot images that will captivate their readers’attention at first glance.

They begin every shoot with a mood board selected and prepared by the editor with a description of the woman or women that will be featured. This is when Giroday begins to determine how best to match her model’s facial makeup with her other style and hair elements. In a constant determination to outdo her former self, Giroday places great emphasis on keeping her makeup looks current and ensuring that she doesn’t fall behind on the latest trends. With that, she conducts research in her own time to ascertain that she is providing her clients with the latest and greatest that the cosmetics industry have to offer.

“Success has the ability to breed complacency and that’s an easy trap for an artist to fall into because at that point, you stop continuing to grow. It’s important to want to stay inspired so that you never fall out of love with what you are doing. To me, the term makeup artist really is about the art. I don’t just apply makeup, I paint the canvas. My goal is to make my client feel like it’s the best makeup they’ve ever had and I’m so passionate about that,” noted Giroday.

In addition to her passion for makeup itself, Giroday loves working for Mother Muse, as it allows her to explore femininity with every shoot and to embrace the qualities of a goddess. She has crafted her talents so much over the years that she manages to evoke emotions of power and wisdom through the makeup looks she presents and with that, her work tends to flow seamlessly alongside the rest of the magazine’s team. She loves being able to work with other organized, motivated individuals to promote and celebrate the nuances of motherhood, and womanhood in general. What’s more, is that Giroday gets to see the final outcome of her work in print form, a dying art. She loves the fact that she can pick her work up, hold it beneath her fingers and touch it. The amount of dedication and love she puts into her work makes it all the more exciting when she gets to hold it in her hands.

Overall, Giroday considers herself fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with Mother Muse in the past. Every time she is brought on board for a project with them, she remembers exactly why she fell in love with their publication in the first place. She also takes great pride in knowing that Mother Muse has been covered internationally by Yahoo Australia, as well as the Daily Mail. It has also showcased the faces of popular celebrities like Selma Blair and Brie Bella. Next time you’re walking by a copy, pick one up and witness Giroday’s greatness with your own eyes.

 

Written by Sean Desouza

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