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.

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For Actress Alli McLaren, Performing Runs in Her Blood

Alli McLaren
                                              Actress Alli McLaren shot by David Lee

The vast array of roles masterfully portrayed by Alli McLaren are a testament to the striking technique she’s spent her entire life honing, both onstage and in front of the camera. Following in both her mother and grandmother’s footsteps, the Australian dynamo is a third generation actor in whom the art of performance is deeply engrained.

McLaren’s unique talents stem from so much more than the impressive combination of her inherited genetics, for her upbringing in the theatre and her years of rigorous and dedicated training have put her far above the rest. One of her strongest and most valuable assets is something too many actors lack – real-life experience.

In addition to her acting prowess, McLaren is also a talented and accomplished writer for the screen. McLaren wrote the upcoming film My Year of Silence based on her own experiences. The film follows McLaren as she plays Callie, a role that shines a spotlight on the painful reality of those who cope daily with mental illness and depression.

For years, McLaren fought tirelessly to overcome long and difficult battles with illness and depression. Through that struggle, she gained an intimate and personal understanding of the peaks and depths of human emotion and an insight into the human psyche that is clearly displayed in every part she’s played. From the masterful way that she has transformed herself into the mind and body of every character she has taken on, audiences can expect yet another dazzling performance from the actress as Callie in the upcoming film My Year of Silence, which is being produced by White Night Films.

Though her dramatic flair is impeccable, her recent role in A Writer’s Block, also produced by White Night Films, gave her a chance to show off both her action and comedic chops. The project centers around two writers as the plot of their latest film begins to come to life. McLaren’s character Sophie, one of the characters in the two writers’ script, is kidnapped, and the ensuing rescue mission her older brother embarks on to save her forms the backbone of the film. The quick-action, fights and shootouts were a far cry from her other more cerebral and introspective roles, but in no time she mastered the dance-like combat moves with grace and professionalism — and a little bit of fun, too.

“There was a lot of stage fighting choreography involved in this shoot, which was new to me,” said McLaren. “But I felt like a ninja doing it, which kind of rocked.”

In one of her most powerful roles, McLaren played the lead in Infidelity, directed by Emmy Award-winning actress Blanche Baker. Based on a French script, the film centers around an experiment meant to study the faithfulness of men versus women in committed relationships.

McLaren’s character, Gretchen, is the person responsible for conducting the experiment, and as such, she holds complete control over its success. “Gretchen was really the female power in this film,” McLaren said. “It felt great to play a character with so much power and so much control.”

An exceptional actress by anyone’s standards, McLaren’s upcoming projects include the 2016 release of My Year of Silence as well as a likely sequel to follow, in addition to a planned sequel to A Writer’s Block. The young starlet will no doubt continue to raise the bar for fellow actors across the industry as a whole; and as audiences flock to My Year of Silence, they’ll no doubt witness the internationally sought after talent set new standards for dramatic writing as well.

A Saxophonist with Heart: Italy’s Gianni Vancini

Gianni Vancini
Gianni Vancini shot by Mark Montue

While there are countless professional saxophonists working in the music industry today, few have had the success of Italian musician Gianni Vancini. An award winning saxophonist, Gianni Vancini has continued to woo audiences over the past two decades with his magnificently dynamic sound, which blends elements of jazz, funk, soul, and R&B.

“It’s very hard for me to say that I play a specific genre of music,” explained Gianni Vancini. “I play what gives me the chance to share emotions.”

Vancini, who has performed all over the world, has been recognized and endorsed by several of the music industry’s most prestigious companies including Canada-based Légère Reeds, Italy’s Grassi Saxophones, as well as American-based companies Cannonball Saxophones, Theo Wanne Mouthpieces, and AMT microphones.

Having worked with an incredible list of internationally known musicians, Vancini names musician and friend Eric Marienthal as someone who has greatly shaped his personal approach music.

“Eric Marienthal takes the cake. We met in 2005, when he was recording for Italian artist Umberto Tozzi, who I’ve been touring with since 2002. The approach he has with music and life is so inspiring to me,” said Vancini. “What I really like about him music wise is his preparation, his high level of professionalism and the way he strives for perfection in everything he does.”

Marienthal, who is a Grammy Award winning contemporary American saxophonist, has released several successful records including Oasis, which ranked in the top five of the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Charts.

In addition to collaborating with such well known artists as Andrea Bocelli, and Sting, Vancini has also used his musical genius to help raise money for charity organizations like Terra Mosse; an organization which came into being after two earthquakes with magnitudes of 5.8 and above hit Northern Italy within 10 days of each other leaving businesses in shambles and thousands of people homeless.

“I did a song for a benefit two years ago after a series of tremendous earthquakes hit my birthplace in Mirandola, Italy. Together with a famous radio station, we decided to put together an all-star band to raise money for the territory,” explained Vancini.

“The song is called ‘Insieme’ (Together) and it became a single CD for the association called Terre Mosse, which is taking care of all the major businesses that were damaged by the earthquakes.”

The all-star band, which included Gianni Vancini (saxophone), Claudio Dirani (drums), Marco Dirani (bass), and Emiliano Fantuzzi (guitar), released the single CD entitled Insieme, which was produced by the Italian radio station Radio Pico, in 2013.

Vancini is currently represented in America by the artist management company Max Bernard Management, which also represents internationally known musicians Terry Wollman, Maltida Madison, Rob “Funksta” Bacon, among others.

As for the future, Gianni Vancini plans to continue his life-long passion of playing music around the world and hopes to embark on another tour in the United States 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.

A Magician of the Cut: Film Editor Vladimir Boboshin

Film Editor Vladimir Boboshin
Film Editor Vladimir Boboshin

For most people who do not work in the film industry there is a grave misconception of the scope of work and talent involved in an editor’s work. Often times editors are thought to simply compile footage selected by the director and sequence sounds created by the music department, but this is rarely, if ever the case.

The editor is a creative cornerstone of any production, he or she is the one who sifts through hundreds and sometimes thousands of takes and personally selects and sequences the best scenes in a way that brings the story to life. An integral force in the creation of hundreds of visually and auditorily captivating productions, Russian native Vladimir Boboshin is the kind of editor that leads a project to success.

Earlier this year Vladimir worked as an editor on the world’s first 24-hour music video which featured seven-time Grammy Award winning artist Pharrell Williams’ hit song “Happy.” “Happy” received the award for Song of the Year at the BBC Music Awards and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song in the film Despicable Me 2 earlier this year.

Something that sets Vladimir Bobshin apart from other editors his love for music and sound in general. The editor explains, “I’m sort of a sound nut and maybe I pay more attention to the sound edit than others. I can edit, cleanup and mix the sound if needed and I did that for the Serta Sleep Systems and Fast Company projects this year here in LA.”

As the editor of several spots for Fast Company’s “Business Simplified” campaign including the spots entitled ‘Simple Advice on Making Creative Ideas Happen,’

‘Simple Advice For Optimizing Social Media,’ and ‘Simple Advice For Working Smarter, Not Harder,’ Vladimir was able to create a series of short, yet highly informative, advice driven projects that assist business owners in reaching their goals, while also promoting the company. Vladimir’s ability to sync and create a symbiotic relationship between the project’s visual and audio elements helped create an end product that is both easy for viewers to understand and entertaining at the same time.

Vladimir Boboshin also worked as the editor of five spots for the Serta Sleep Systems’ promo entitled “iComfort Challenge” earlier this year. The spots follow actual Serta customers using their new iComfort mattress over the course of several weeks comparing their experiences with their previous mattress and their new iComfort. Mixing all of the music in the spots himself, Vladimir creates a feeling that is light, fun and whimsical, and entices audiences to embark on a new life with the Serta’s new iComfort mattress.

Vladimir discovered his passion for the relationship between sound and visuals and the feelings evoked by the combination in his youth. The editor makes it a point to pay special attention to the sound aspects of every project he works on, a feature that continues to pull audiences into each and every story he brings to life on screen.

“I try to find the musical balance in the sequence of pictures, and make them play well with each other,” says Vladimir. “I edit music pretty heavily when needed altering the level balance, as well as EQ and filters, as those are, in my opinion, very underrated tools that help to make the music cue work.”

Over the course of his career Vladimir Boboshin has worked as the lead editor on a variety of commercial, music video, television and feature film productions. Vladimir has been the editor of numerous award-winning commercials including “Chase” for Tele-2, which received the Bronze Award at the 25 kaDR Professional Contest for Television Advertising, “Army” and “Office” for Alfabank, which received the Grand Prix Award at the Red Apple Moscow International Advertising Festival, Ikea’s “Sleepwalker,” which received the Bronze Award at the Red Apple Moscow International Advertising Festival, as well as many more.

To check out some of Vladimir Boboshin’s unparalleled editing work check out his website http://pixtrim.com/portfolio_tag/best/

A Knockout from the Theatre to the Screen!

Alex Luukkonen
Alex Luukkonen in “Ravenscroft” shot by Julio J. Vargas

The incredible stage and screen talents of Scandinavian actor Alex Luukkonen have moved audiences to laughs and tears on three continents, and his latest projects are without a doubt some of his most ambitious to date. A native of Finland, he’s also worked throughout Europe, Asia and the U.S., which has taught him the intricate nature of the human condition, the common denominators of mankind beyond any cultural differences.

Luukkonen, in one of his many theatre roles, joined Academy Award winner Milton Justice’s (Down and Out in America) cast in a production of Clifford Odets’ classic Waiting for Lefty. Set in the years before World War II, the play consists of a series of vignettes, which tie together to address the prominent issues of the impending war, the struggle of workers in the Great Depression, the fear of growing communist sympathies and love trying to survive the desperate times.

In his role as Miller, a chemist with a moral quandary and one of the leading characters, Luukkonen worked closely with the esteemed Justice to perfect his performance. Miller, a lab assistant, is told by his boss that he will be given a raise and promotion but that he must now work under a chemist tasked with developing chemical weapons. An argument erupts between Miller and his boss, and in one of the more dramatic events in the play, Miller angrily refuses the job after punching his boss.

In addition to his role in Waiting for Lefty, as well as the productions of other iconic plays such as Much Ado About Nothing and Grease, Luukkonen is also a seasoned actor on the silver screen where his innate skill and charm complemented by his worldly experience make all of his performances something to write home about.

One of Luukkonen’s latest projects, Pastry, is slated for release this year. The film examines the pressure that society places on women to conform to preconceived standards of body image and sexuality. Directed by Eduardo Barreto, Luukkonen acts alongside Maureen Younger who plays Caroline in the film, a young woman who falls in love with a waitress and lets go of her obsession with dieting. Pastry is a delectably sweet work of powerful social critique that showcases Luukkonen’s acting prowess.

Luukkonen, whose character bears witness to the gradual process of Caroline’s enlightenment, admits that it was an incredible experience working with the British cast of the film.

“Theater is the king in London,” said Luukkonen. “So you get a lot more theater trained and talented people overall per capita.”

Recently, he played the inquisitive son of a detective in Outsider, an exciting pilot starring Luukkonen and Dean Bruggeman. In it, Luukkonen’s character discovers a startling video of a man being held captive by a psycho in clown makeup. He brings it to his father, played by Bruggeman (Don’t Pass Me By, The Time Capsule), who digs into the case. It all leads up to a shocking cliffhanger, which is sure to leave viewers on the edge of their seats.

In every role that he’s played to date Luukkonen’s passion for his craft shines through so clearly that it is almost tangible. That kind of performance, delivery and dedication comes only from love, and it is obvious in everything that he’s done that Luukkonen truly loves his art.

“I chose acting because I love it, and fortunately, I had the opportunity to pursue it,” he said. “I wish more people had the chance to pursue their dreams.”

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