Q&A with Leading Colombian Actress and ‘Therapy’ star Juliana Betancourth

Juliana Betancourth, industry-leading actress in Colombia, is known for her talent and versatility. She has starred in countless acclaimed productions, from Bite! to La Reina de Sur. Her most recent project, Therapy, allows worldwide audiences to once again appreciate her outstanding acting capabilities.

After the great reception that the short theater play Terapia had, winning several awards of the Short & Sweet: Hollywood 2017, an adaptation of the script was made. Betancourth in the lead role of Marina, is a self-sacrificing wife who during couples therapy is discovering disturbing secrets about her husband, which causes a turning point in the story to show us a darker side of this character. Each one has a secret to reveal that seems to indicate that there is no way to fix the marriage, but the perverse sexual hobbies and fetishes of both end up uniting them and committing the greatest monstrosities; impacting the life of the person who tried to help them: their therapist. Betancourth develops an exquisite multidimensional, sensual and violent character.

The film crew is composed of successful filmmakers in Los Angeles, such as director Jhonatan Tabares, director of photography Jaime Salazar, Producer Yaniv Waisman, among others. A group that has been developing different audiovisual pieces for the Latin American industry in Hollywood.

The premiere was at the Panamanian International Film Festival, where the film took home the top prize. It then did the same at the Panamanian International Film Festival 2018 and the ELCO Film Festival, with many more expected this year.

We had a chance to sit down with Betancourth to talk about the making of this critically-acclaimed film.

IFR: Why did you want to work on this project?

JB: I already had an emotional connection with the project, and with the character of Marina who had allowed me to access very deep places acting wise.

The premise of this artistic piece was wonderful. It had a completely unexpected turning point, which was exciting for me, and as an actress it allowed me to play practically two roles in one.

I also liked working with the team involved that was composed of producers, director, cinematographer, and actors whom I’ve always admired.

IFR: Why did you want to work on this project?

JB: Therapy started as a theater play, and was directed by Jhonatan Tabares. Due to the great success it had, the Super Hero Latina production company run by Tanya Mordacci wanted to turn it into a film.

Everyone involved in the project already knew my acting work. They had seen me in the lead role in the Virginia Casta movie, and many other projects that were seen in Mexico and the United States. Also, with Jhonatan, we had already worked on previous pilots for TV shows. He knew me personally. We had already worked together in the stage version of Therapy.  It is very important when accepting a project to not only like the script, but also the quality of people who are part of it.

IFR: What do you like about the story?

JB: The story of this project is one of the most interesting in which I have worked. It is fiction, but it is an experiment that brings us closer to the understanding of human psychology. To that infinite universe of our mind, of the decisions we make and our behavior towards society.

I love that the story is transgressive. That it is perpetuated in the mind of the audience. That they want to stop seeing it, but they cannot look away. I am fascinated by social experiments.

This is why the premise of this story is important, it is also not far from reality. Within our communities are these types of dangerous individuals that are the product of our shortcomings as a society; of our injustices and oppressions; but each viewer is free to draw their own conclusions.

IFR: What was it like working on this project?

JB: The process with the director Jhonatan Tabares was special. There were many hours of rehearsals, finding the characters, their motivations, their actions, and their arcs through the written words and physical work.

I studied the behaviors of the most dangerous serial killers in world history, especially couples like Charlene & Gerald Galician, Raymond Fernandez & Martha Beck, Bonnie & Clyde, among others. I wanted to know the reasons why they killed their victims, the way they did it, and the satisfaction they found in it.

One of the things that I liked most about this project was working alongside my colleagues Ramón Valdez and Fernanda Kelly, two great Mexican actors. Also, the producer Tanya Mordacci, producer Yaniv Waisman, and the always supportive Vange Tapia. Director of photography Jaime Salazar, still photo Elena Rojas, and all those who were part of this family made this an unforgettable experience.

IFR: What was your character like?

JB: Marina is a supposed self-sacrificing woman. A Latina who lives in the United States, and who depends economically and emotionally on her husband, but this is just an act and part of a macabre game she carries out with her partner. At the turning point, we will see the real Marina, a psychopath, who finds sexual pleasure in seeing her victims die.

It is a dark character, with complex psychology, special motivations and very different from conventional characters. Marina all the time is playing at being another woman different from who she is. She is a kind of actress, but her performances hide macabre intentions.

It was very interesting to work on this character because the unexpected turning point leaves the audience surprised based on how Marina was from the beginning.  She plays the role of a sheep beautifully, but in reality, she is a hungry wolf.

IFR: How did your character fit into the story?

JB: There are only three characters in the whole movie. Marina, although initially playing the role of victim in therapy with the couple’s psychologist, crying and accusing her husband of being abusive, ends up being the mastermind with a criminal plan.

Driven by her desires and impulses, she mentally dominates her partner to commit the homicides while she enjoys the process and destruction it causes. It is an incredibly complex character, one that generates uncomfortable feelings from the audience when they realize the true objective of the two main characters.

Without Marina, there is no Therapy.

IFR: What did you like about working on this project?

JB: Working on this project has been one of the best experiences of my life. Connecting with so many talented people, who have become my friends, and will be people I plan to work with again in my future projects. It was great to work and build this character, to keep experimenting until we found what worked best, and have direct and honest communication with the director.

Art projects fascinate me because it is not about business and how much money we can make, but more about character, story, and connections with the cast and crew to make a film or TV show that moves people and makes them think. That is always a beautifully motivating factor for me.

IFR: What else did you like about working on this project?

JB: We filmed in one location. The office of the psychologist. The final scene was exhausting and dramatic, that we could only film in two sequences. We both were spent when the director finally called cut.

In the play, there was no character of the psychologist. It was just a voice, and we broke the fourth wall when speaking to the voice, which made it feel like to the audience that we were speaking with them. In the film, Fernanda Kelly played the role of the psychologist, and she was marvelous in it. It was amazing to act opposite her, and it lifted our performances to another level.

IFR: How does it feel knowing the project has been such a success?

JB: I knew it would be a resounding success since I had first read the script, and saw the reaction when performing it as a theater piece. I fully trusted the director’s work, and my own. I had no doubt about the success it has had and will have for the next few years.

When you do a project, you do not think about prizes, you know if the project is good or not regardless of the recognition or criticism you receive, but I would be wrong if I said that it is not rewarding to receive the accolades.

Each time we have received these awards for Therapy I have celebrated them. I feel proud. It fuels my fire, and I long to do more great work with excellent projects.

 

Written by Annabelle Lee
Photo by Vinny Randazzo 

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Photographer Adam Flipp talks shooting in freezing Tasmanian conditions for ‘Australia’s Next Top Model’

As a fashion photographer, Adam Flipp captures feelings and energy with his viewers that communicate a message and act as aspirational for a consumer. He uses art to evoke commercialism, using his unique eye to capture visual masterpieces that many of the world’s largest companies then use to market their products and brands.

Flipp has made a name for himself in Australia as a celebrated fashion and portrait photographer, working with some of the world’s most recognizable brands. He has travelled the world doing what he loves, shooting for Hewlett Packard, Johnny Was, Magic Millions, Nike, and many more throughout his well-established career.

Throughout the years, Flipp has also shot for many high-fashion projects, including the tenth season of the iconic series Australia’s Next Top Model. Australia’s Next Top Model is the extremely popular Australian version of America’s Next Top Model, on which Flipp performed a leading and critical role as a photographer. Flipp was a photographer in the models’ screen test challenge. After this, he shot the models in a session at Cradle Mountain in Tasmania. These shoots prominently featuring Flipp aired on Episode 5 of Season 10, which aired on television in Australia, New Zealand, and throughout Asia featuring world-renowned model Gemma Ward. He worked closely with stylist Jessie Heart, who asked Flipp to join the team.

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photo by Adam Flipp

“Working in Tasmania was amazing and probably the coldest environment I’ve ever worked in. The grass crunched when you walked on it and seeing how determined the girls were to succeed in these punishing conditions was inspirational,” said Flipp.

Flipp has previously seen the show and aspired to be better than any of the other photographers they had. He had found previous seasons often had stiff photographers, and he didn’t want to come across as wooden and tight, because he knew it would make the aspiring models nervous. He therefore pretended that he wasn’t being filmed and focused on doing the job as if it was like any other fashion shoot he had conducted in his past.

“The location was amazing, and the crew were really cool. They were all true professionals,” he said.

The photoshoot challenge for Flipp’s episode was to send the girls into freezing cold conditions to model in swimwear and activewear. Therefore, Flipp had to get high results quickly, especially because the models were also inexperienced and had never been shot in these conditions before. Flipp managed to produce photos that captured the beauty of the freezing scenery and the essence of each model.

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Photo by Adam Flipp

When Flipp first looked at the models, he was worried that the season would not produce a model worthy of the opportunities that the finalist receives for winning the show. However, the moment Flipp put his camera on Aleyna Fitzgerald, he knew she was the winner. He found that immensely rewarding, helping launch the career of someone so deserving. For the photographer, it felt like destiny.

“I love the fact that the end result of the show is that one of the models gets given the chance of building a really successful modelling career. In this case it was Aleyna Fitzgerald,” Flipp concluded.

 

Written by John Michaels

Jun Li Honestly Sees Son of Wanderer

Son of Wanderer

Movie fans across the world are familiar with the marquee names of actors. Directors and producers like Steven Spielberg, Stanley Kubrick, Jerry Bruckheimer, and Quentin Tarantino have also achieved the king of international notoriety that places them in the celebrity category. For each of these, there are legions of publicly unknown artists whose talent creates the stories that tug at our hearts, unearth laughter, and move us to appreciate the world we live in. Though the public may be unaware of these exceptionally skilled professionals, those who truly understand the storytelling process proclaim their contributions. Three-time Academy Award winning producer and writer Jana Sue Memel has produced more than twenty-five feature films as well as countless live action shorts airing in more than thirty countries. In discussing the film Son of Wanderer (on which she served as screenwriter) Memel points out, “The Camera Man position on a film is truly underappreciated. Jun Li was the camera operator/Steadicam operator for Son of Wanderer and his insightful contributions were a direct part of the recognitions the film has already received.” These recognitions include wins for the film at the London Independent Film Awards, Los Angeles Film awards, Rome Independent Prisma Awards, and others. While the producers, directors, and others are the brain which comprehends the story, professionals like Jun Li are the eyes which allow audiences everywhere to see first-hand the events which unfold on the screen. They are the windows to the movie’s soul. As the camera operator’s motto states “We see it first.”

 

Son of Wanderer is a story that allows us to see that holding back from those closest to us can cause a great divide. Mingzhe Li is a successful artist in the US but originally from China. He appears to have a great life with a beautiful and loving wife but he is estranged from his mother [Li]. When Li shows up unannounced at the couple’s San Francisco home, the motivation for this visit is kept secret. Through flashbacks we learn that Mingzhe’s father was a famous and talented artist in the 1970’s before the Cultural Revolution in China and alcohol led to his downward spiral. The family eventually dissolved and when her teenage son showed an inclination for art, Li quickly snuffed this notion. This planted the seed of resentment which would separate mother and child. In present day, Li finally informs her adult son that she has come to America to inform him of his father’s death. A torrent of emotion, years in the making, erupts and Li leaves for China at once. Only Li’s secret box contains the antidote to their discourse.

 

Director Chi Zhou and cinematographer Nan Li wanted to express the unusual coldness between mother and son in the movie, without the need for exposition. In many of the scenes, there is literally a divide between them. Jun’s skill with the Steadicam was heavily utilized in Son of Wanderer to obtain not only the composition but the feel which was so essential to this film. His carefully calculated movements with tight lock offs and use of negative space for both characters establishes a tone that belies its difficulty to create with a Steadicam. What might appear as dolly and track moves are in reality Jun’s skills operating at an exceptional level. He communicates, “I’m very delighted this film received so many cinematography awards. There are three main points made the look of this film. Because the theme of this story is a modern family drama, we based it in a realism style, emphasizing the saturation from very beginning. Secondly, in order to make each character stand out, we used a wide open lens for the whole shoot. The very shallow depth of field creates a grand cinematic look. Finally, the slow and gentle camera movements run through the entire film and transfer this sense of timing to the audience. All of these components were carefully crafted to help the viewer feel the emotions of our characters.” Camera operator/Steadicam operator Jun Li’s contributions to this production are key in presenting the story and its success. The verification of this is found in both the awards Son of Wanderer garnered as well as the deeply moving experience of watching this acclaimed film.

 

 

China’s Ranran Meng uses VFX to take audiences to dystopian future in ‘Fahrenheit 451’

When Ranran Meng was just a young, artistic child growing up in China, she became enthralled by the possibilities of the movies. She would sit in front of the screen in awe, blown away by the infinite possibilities that the medium offered, taking audiences to different places in time, and making the impossible, possible. The more films she watched, the more she began to wonder just how every element was made, and she found herself intrigued by the idea of creating something that wasn’t there during shooting and making it very real for viewers.

“The world has no limit, we can produce an image from the past or from the future, from down the road or other galaxies. Films present these worlds that are so real to us and show us something we would not experience in our day-to-day, or even our lifetime. I told myself as a child that I would one day be a part of creating these new worlds,” said Meng.

Meng now is living her childhood dream. As a compositor, Meng uses advanced visual effects techniques to create the impossible, which she has done for revolutionary projects like The Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them VR Experience, making the world of Harry Potter accessible to fans through virtual reality. She has also vastly contributed to the success of many award-winning and critically acclaimed productions, from HBO’s hit show The Deuce to Showtime’s Golden Globe winning mini-series Escape at Dannemora.

Another career highlight for Meng was working on the award-winning film Fahrenheit 451. Starring Michael B. Jordan and Michael Shannon, the film is based off the dystopian novel by Ray Bradbury, a story that Meng was a big fan of before the film was even announced.In a terrifying care-free future, a young man, Guy Montag, whose job as a fireman is to burn all books, questions his actions after meeting a young woman, and begins to rebel against society.

“The story talks about a future American society where books are outlawed and ‘firemen’ burn any that are found, focusing on the historical role of book burning in suppressing dissenting ideas. I like this story because it satirizes the society that tries to control and restrain people’s minds. This society phenomena actually still exists in our world, and it is important to present this to the audience and make them think and do something,” said Meng.

Fahrenheit 451 premiered at the world-renowned Cannes Film Festival in 2018 and aired on HBO on May 19th, 2018. Not only did it captivate audiences, but it wildly impressed critics, and went on to receive several award nominations, including five Emmy nominations. Such success makes Meng very proud, who worked tirelessly to make the film the success it became.

Rather than using VFX to create the impossible, for Fahrenheit 451, Meng used various software to refine every shot, creating an immersive experience for the audience. For this work, the goal is for viewers to not even realize she touched up a scene at all, removing background images that would take away from a shot or inserting important elements into the background to maintain consistency. For example, for the full view of the city shots, there were a lot of lighting boards on the top of the buildings; Meng removed the boards and created new building tops. Also, they shot the film during Christmas time, but that is not when the actual story takes place. Therefore, Meng had to go through every shot and eliminate any Christmas decoration or element that would imply it was the holiday season. It takes a refined eye to catch every detail, but Meng was more than up for the task.

“I like stories that are based in the future and have a science-fiction theme. This is new to me, as it was my first time working in the genre. The images are different and fun to watch or work on. They have a lot of effects in it,” said Meng. “I like the creative work in this project, I needed to change the environment from Christmas period to just a regular time of year, so I used elements in the footage to erase or fill out the scene. It was interesting for me, kind of like creating a whole new environment.”

Meng’s work for Fahrenheit 451 allowed audiences to travel from modern day to the future, just what she envisioned doing when she was a little girl. Creating a clean and complete environment for the film was pivotal to its success, and Meng was more than happy to be a part of such a moving and inspiring cinematic work of art.

“I am very happy to see this film presented to the audiences. To show this satirical story to more people and introduce such a good novel to a larger audience, it’s great. Maybe it can make people think about how knowledge is important. I think this movie is a good influence on the world and shows people what a free world should be. I am proud that I could be a part of it,” she concluded.

 

Written by Sean Desouza

The Producer Working Outside the Box: Elliot David Hawker on Disney, Cruises, & Live Entertainment

Producers are usually understood to be the money-wranglers for feature films, or those people who talk a lot on the phone while on set. Elliot Hawker is a different kind of producer.

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Award-nominated producer Elliot Hawker photographed at his home in London.

It is one thing to be a part of producing events for Disney. Knowing your event will be judged by Simon Cowell is a whole other story. It takes someone who has experience in all realms of entertainment to pull off an event that will fulfil the magic of Disney and appease the scrutinizing eye of one of reality television’s toughest judges. Thankfully Elliot David Hawker has proven he is up to the challenge through his production feats with Disney, Royal Caribbean International, and PITT London, to name just a few.

Hailing from the UK, Hawker began his career as a dancer, receiving a prestigious 2:1 honors degree from Central School of Ballet. He spent the following six years at sea, gracing the stages of various cruise ships with Royal Caribbean International and Norwegian Cruise Lines. Those aboard quickly noticed his commitment to a guest’s overall experience. His passion drove him in directions unlike those of his fellow cast members. Hawker took on additional roles in his company including Production Show Wardrobe, Events Producer, and Crew Welfare Representative. By pursuing more than what he was initially hired for, he was offered a coveted management position and became a notable leader on board.

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Royal Caribbean (their AquaTheatre pictured) are well-known in live events and theatre circles for producing shows of incredible grandeur, all at sea. 

“For me, putting on live events and experiences is all about creating magic. Creating moments that engage with people on a different level and allowing them to experience something special,” Elliot says with a smile.

“My passion for entertainment started from a young age, and after an amazing career being on stage, it felt so natural for me to transition into producing, and being able to channel my creativity and knowledge into making memorable and unique experiences of my own.”

This change in direction brought immense success to the productions, with respect to the uniqueness of their creative execution, and would only be the beginning for Hawker as his career as a producer took off.  

Following his years at sea, Hawker uses his cultivated understanding for production to create memorable experiences for the Walt Disney Company and its millions of customers. He continues to take on a variety of roles, each of which rooted in his business savvy and understanding of guest experience. As such, Hawker is a standalone example of a millennial who has carved out a specialty by becoming an innovative multi-hyphenate (a few prestigious awards along the way for his career accomplishments haven’t hurt).

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Elliot celebrating Minnie’s influence in Fashion & Beauty on National Polka Dot Day. An event produced by Elliot and the Disney Events team in London and hosted at Duck & Dry, London

“Working with Disney has been an absolute pleasure, and I have had the opportunity to travel all over Europe coordinating character events, which has included  everything from Set Dressing, Photoshoots, TV direction & Film premiers. I love that we’re truly creating magical and memorable moments, whether it’s a 4 year old meeting Mickey Mouse for the first time, or a grown adult meeting interacting with a  Stormtrooper on the red carpet. These are the moments that are really fulfilling.

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Hawker with Disney Marketing Project Manager Clare Moores in Dublin Ireland for Mickey’s 90th Anniversary, celebrating with children & families from Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital Crumlin’

 

From On Set Character Director of The Voice Kids Germany 2019 to Photography Director of the Mickey & Minnie Iconic Landmarks Photoshoot, Hawker brings his creativity and invaluable experience in live entertainment to many different kinds of events. The most reputable of these being those held for charitable causes.

One of Hawker’s most recent achievements took place in November of last year. Disney partnered with Myriad & Co Theatre Company & Together for Short Lives and Charity Patron Simon Cowell for The Nutcracker & The Four Realms Immersive Charity Gala.

“It was a spectacular night, full of Disney magic and storytelling all in aid of raising awareness and donations that will enable the charity to support and help families make the most of every moment together” (The Walt Disney Company, 2018).

When asked about what made Elliot so remarkable as a producer, Co-Founder of Myriad Theatre company Simon Evans pointed to how Elliot attracts universal praise.

“Everyone at Myriad & Co. was thrilled with his creativity and adaptive skills, and the project benefited hugely from his ability to create compelling choreography and staging with our dancers and actors within a sometimes challenging venue.”

Hawker produced various choreographed acts which immersed guests into “The Kingdom of the Four Realms” giving them a chance to interact and witness their personalities up close as the dining room magically transported guests through the realm of flowers, sweets, snowflakes and amusement.

Creating an intricate piece of immersive theatre in such a unique venue would seem an impossible task, and was a first for Disney, but Hawker was able to delicately choreograph and direct his cast of dancers, bringing the story to life in a magical experience of Disney’s latest rendition of the classic tale. Hawker’s striking blend of choreography and special effects were instrumental in the overall success of the charity event. The awestruck audience of A-List celebrities left the emotional evening having raised over £350,000 for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families.

“Choreographing for this event was a humbling opportunity to be involved in something bigger than myself,” Elliot modestly exclaimed.

“Our aim was to take the guests on a magical journey, telling a fantastical tale, whilst be able to shed light on the difficult lives of these children and their families.”

This event has been one of many you may see Hawker in action, alongside his award-nominated production of An Evening with Celine Dion Starring Tracey Shield and his work as Creative Director of hawker & travis, his own digital design agency in which he produces digital content including websites, logos & brand imagery, videography & motion graphics.

Since the start of his own company, the established producer was nominated for the 2018 WIX Stunning Design Award and continues to secure his prominence in live entertainment production that brings together his expertise and understanding of choreography, visual marketing, presentation and performance.

For those reading who are spoilt for choice when it comes to their career prospects, or feel like they need to pigeon-hole themselves to one role, Hawker’s accomplishments exemplify how one can create a career that blends a wide-range of passions under one roof. His producing career, now turning to the US to work with Spark Cooperative, has become one rooted in a passion for the arts and catalyzed by a dedication to creating fulfilling and imaginative experiences.

TV star Zara Michales on the Past, Present and Future

TV star Zara Michales has been a staple on Aussie screens for nearly a decade.

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Acclaimed actress Zara Michales, as photographed by Marnya Rothe

“I feel incredibly lucky to have been given the opportunities I’ve had,” she says with a humble smile.

Most recently in the acclaimed fan-favourite Doctor Doctor, Zara made a huge impact in the developments of the season’s storyline, and managed to perfectly balance the comedic-drama tone for which the show has become known to Australian, European and US audiences via Amazon.

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Zara made yet another appearance on Aussie TV recently, this time on Channel Nine hit drama, Doctor Doctor. 

“With the role of Thomasina I was allowed to do what I wanted, character-wise, which was great because my character wasn’t your typical lawyer stereotype,” Zara offered.

Despite the fact she made only an appearance in one episode, Zara made quite the impact.

Indeed, Zara guides one of the leads Ajax (played by Matt Castley in the series) to change the course of his fate and ultimately help his family for the greater good.

Zara’s biting appearance in Doctor Doctor is just one TV appearance in a career of many.

The down-to-earth attitude with which she speaks to our editors would have any reader surprised that she’s a fan favourite amongst loyal Australian TV watchers, notorious for being reticent to embrace new talent.

Zara’s captivating screen presence however, most notably captured in her gripping performance as Steph Green on the hugely popular Home and Away, was undeniable to the fickle Australian public, and she’s been working on different genres ever since.

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Zara attracted mainstream attention for her role as antagonist ‘Steph Green’ in the award-winning favourite, Home and Away.

The character I played on Home and Away was a very controversial one that audiences did not forget.”

Zara played the very mischievous and rebellious nurse, Steph Green, who pushed boundaries in the world of ‘Summer Bay’ (where the show is set) and for the award-winning series itself.

During her time on the iconic series, Zara’s character befriended Dex and got up to no good with him at the hospital. After beginning as friends, bond turned into a volatile relationship that escalated into a series a dramatic plot-lines for which Home and Away has become best known.

“My character broke a couple of rules at the hospital – eventually she was confronted to clean up her behaviour and Dex broke up with because of it. She then spirals out of control and pushes boundaries to a breaking point which eventually sees her getting fired from Summer Bay Hospital and fleeing Summer Bay itself.”

Clearly, Zara’s time on the show was indispensably linked to the ups-and-downs of the town in which the show takes place, and without her characters’ antagonistic nature, the series wouldn’t have been forgiven by the audience. It goes without saying that, were it not for Zara, Home and Away would’ve been pretty boring.

“I just feel lucky I got to make such a fondly remembered contribution to Australia’s most loved show,” Zara adds.

No doubt Zara’s time on set was made even more memorable given she got to work alongside Matrix: Revolutions actor, and star of Oscar-winner Russell Crowe’s movie The Water Diviner, Robert Mammone.

“Robert is such an experienced actor was wonderful to work with – because of the fights our characters got in, you get really heated and worked up and invested in the scenes. So it goes without saying my experience on set was pretty miserable – in the best way possible!”

Of her many roles on Australian TV though, Zara’s quick to attest to the machine-like professionalism of Home and Away and how well everything worked together.

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Home and Away is well-known for capturing Australia’s beautiful scenery and iconic Australian citizens. Zara’s edgy performances and Greek heritage was therefore all the more noticeable and helped change the show’s tone for the better, which audiences have been relishing more than ever in the years since her appearance.

“Working on Home and Away was like being in a whole different world completely. The cast and crew worked like a family. Ray who plays Alf (who the longest running character in Home and Away) is an absolute gentleman.”

The other iconic Australian series in which Zara has also played an indisputably important character is Underbelly, the famed series chronicling the criminal life of Australian history. 

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Zara was featured front-and-centre as a part of the marketing and billboard campaign promoting Underbelly: Badness, further cementing her relationship with Channel Nine and her high-profile in Australia.

During her time on set, Zara shared screentime with Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow actor, Matt Nable.

“Matt Nable was very focused and committed actor on set,” Zara is quick to proclaim.

“I enjoy working with people like that who are focused and passionate. It just makes my job easy.”

What was perhaps less easy was the pressure Zara faced in playing such an important role in a high-profile show.

Indeed, the series hinged on Zara, who played Pippa, and Aaron Jeffery, who played her partner Frank, as Frank was the only person the police had to connect them to the killer at the centre of the season.

 

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Zara and her on-screen husband, played by Aaron Jeffery in a still from Underbelly.

Though reluctant at first to help the police, the safety of Pippa’s family is put first and Frank sides with the police.

Across a series of gripping and award-winning episodes, Zara’s performance and scenes with her family brought much of the humour and lightness to the show, as well as its emotional heart. One only has to watch a few key scenes to chuckle at the realistic portrayal Zara and Aaron brought to their characters’ marriage and how they’d bicker but love each other at the same time.

The acclaimed finale, which was written in last minute, closed in on the family Pippa and Frank always wanted in the pursuit of escaping the crime world.

In Zara’s words, it was a very memorable and beautiful closing scene with which to end the season, further cementing her place at the centre of Aussie TV.

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Zara, shown here at the premiere for Thor: Ragnarok, has been cast in a project shooting in the US. Readers will have to stay tuned for details. Photo: Getty Images.

So what’s the future to hold for this character actress-turned-household name? Zara’s tight-lipped, but was able to reveal she’s been cast in a US feature, to be shot in America.

“I’m very excited – stay tuned.”

French Celebrity Trainer Nancy Marie-Claire Helps Eva Green and Matt Dillon Hit Their Mark for Upcoming Film “Proxima”

Celebrity trainer Nancy Marie-Claire
Celebrity trainer Nancy Marie-Claire

French celebrity trainer and professional dancer Nancy Marie-Claire understands that the human body is a complex machine, and it is her job to assist in challenging, strengthening, toning, and preparing each individual physically in order to maximize their success in the entertainment industry– and in life.

A native of the Caribbean, Marie-Claire entered the artistic world as a dancer, where she learned, intrinsically, the patterns of the human body in space and in motion.

She explains, “This allows me to approach my training sessions with originality and playful side ensuring that each session is always different, varied and diversified.”

But her training doesn’t end there. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in athletic training, she is a certified Level 3 pilates instructor, and an internationally trained dancer, having studied under Dominique Lisette in Japan, England, Sweden, and the United States. There is no doubt that Marie-Claire possesses willpower, determination, organization and structure the likes of which most people can only dream of.

While Marie-Claire’s impressive resume undoubtedly helps her land countless celebrity training jobs, it is her compassion, adaptability, and charisma that set her apart from the rest, ensuring a long list of referrals and returning clients. Marie-Claire is most recently celebrated for her outstanding work on the film Proxima, which is expected to be released later this year.

Marie-Claire’s integral contribution to the film coaching star Eva Green (Penny Dreadful, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children) can be seen through Green’s physical stamina on set. In the film, Green portrays an astronaut who is preparing to leave on an excursion to the moon, with the film following her character as she evolves, trains, and prepares for the arduous journey.

“I had to learn about astronaut training methods, which turned out to be very interesting and so rewarding,” Marie-Claire says.

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Celebrity trainer Nancy Marie-Claire

Once she grasped completely what this training should look like, Marie-Claire made the important decision to couple Green’s physical training with a nutritional program as well.

“Because Eva’s goals for this film included weight loss with upper-body mass gain especially on the arms and shoulders we worked primarily on endurance, speed, and force, allied with a carefully planned nutritional program,” explains Marie-Claire.

Marie-Claire worked with Green for three months leading up to the beginning of the shoot.

“In working with Eva, I challenged her with bodybuilding techniques, pilates, and electrostimulation, which has become one of our favorite practices, despite the effort and concentration that it requires.”

Electrostimulation is the application of electric current to stimulate bone or muscle tissue for therapeutic purposes, such as facilitation of muscle activation and muscle strengthening, and is a technique Green found incredibly helpful.

Actress Eva Green explains, “With Nancy’s electro-muscular-stimulation training, she was able to help me gain added strength in a shorter time frame and, above all, meet the needs of the director who insisted we follow a training program as strict as that of the astronauts.”

With her cross-training in electrostimulation, Marie-Claire is able to set up actors for success in a much different way than the average trainer.

Academy Award nominee Matt Dillon (Crash, There’s Something About Mary) also benefited greatly from Marie-Claire’s training and nutritional expertise during the filming of Proxima.

“My main focus with Matt involved staging different movements and exercises,” says Marie-Claire. “For example, there was a particularly fun and challenging scene involving a treadmill. Matt had to get on the treadmill and run for a significant amount of time while shooting. I helped train him to focus on his stamina and posture, so that the performance would be believable and genuine.”

While it is important to get the physical aspect of the job done safely and correctly, it is also critical to be understanding and patient as the trainee works to achieve their goals. Marie-Claire shines in this category as well, and celebrities are not shy in singing her praise.

“What’s great about Nancy is her natural empathy, her generosity and her ability to push you out of your comfort zone, getting you to trust her and yourself, completely,” says Eva Green. “Nancy is a person who listens to you, advises, takes the time to know your schedule, to adapt, gives you the best of herself and consequently makes you want to dig down and give the very best of yourself.”

Another trainer perhaps less focused on the individualized aspects of the job could inadvertently discourage an actor, which could lead to poor performance, or even giving up and failing entirely.

It is often said that an actor’s body is the most important tool in their toolbox, and Nancy Marie-Claire’s unrivaled skill, dedication, creative, safe, and effective techniques are instrumental in the maintaining and betterment of this tool.

Eva Green sums it up the best, “As an actor, I need to keep my body in tip top condition, ready to meet the demands of any role, and now that I’ve found Nancy, I know that I can call on her any time, for any project and she will help in my preparation, and accompany me throughout the film, and that is priceless!”

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