An Interview with International Model Axel Swan!

Model Axel Swan shot by Anton Bjorkmann
Model Axel Swan shot by Anton Bjorkmann

Born in the UK and raised in Milan, Italy, 23-year-old Axel Swan is one fashion model whose pouty lips and bad boy style exudes the kind of sex appeal that transcends cultural boundaries. Being brought up in what is arguably the high fashion capital of the world, it’s not surprising that Axel was scouted by a plethora of agents who hoped to represent him in his teens; but at that time he had other things on his mind– like art, music and roaming the streets of Italy on his moped. The now sought after model admits that he just needed to grow up a little before he was ready to give the fashion world a try; but once he did, there was no turning back.

Currently signed to Two Management in the states and Uniko Models in Barcelona, Axel’s edgy rocker look has led major fashion companies around the world to consistently book him to be the face of their campaigns. Besides his outward appearance, which is undeniably a challenge to peel your eyes away from, what makes Axel so special in front of the camera is the fact that there is a sweet air of innocence to his personality that radiates from his photos and creates a beautiful dichotomy. To put it simply, Axel Swan is one mesmerizing model.

Some of his most recognizable campaigns and editorials to date include shooting for Junya Watanabe & Loewe’s collaborative collection, Barbara Sanchez-Kane’s “Catch as a Catch Can” collection, Urban Tribe’s “Sub Urban” collection, Hells Bells, Cult Shoes, Cotton Club and others. Axel also recently shot a campaign for Coca-Cola, which will be released later this year.

Axel was not only featured in leading men’s magazine GQ (Italy) as one of the main models in the campaign for the Junya & Loewe collection, but he was also featured in the collection’s fashion video, which was shot by Andrea Olivo and went viral in 2013. The video garnered Axel, the other models and the company a lot of attention when it was included on The Fashionisto, GQ Italia’s website and many other high profile outlets.

In addition to helping put many brands on the map in the eyes of fashion consumers, Axel has also taken his place in front of the camera shooting editorials for purely artistic purposes, like the 10-shot solo editorial he did for Papercut Magazine’s “Shiele Reloaded” spread. The photo collection, which was inspired by the work of iconic Austrian expressionist Egon Schiele, reflects Axel’s astonishing versatility and capacity for bringing intense emotions and characters to life.

To find out more about Axel Swan make sure to check out our interview below!

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

AS: My name is Axel Swan Maldini, I’m 23. I was born in a small town close to Manchester in the UK in July 1992. My mother was modelling in Milan at the time and my dad started working in a bank while he was promoting at one of Milan’s biggest nightclubs, and so they moved back to Italy when I was just 2 years old. I attended Italian schools, and I recently got my bachelors degree in fine arts at the Academy of Fine Arts of Brera.

I’ve always been really into music and skateboarding. I picked up the bass guitar at the age of 15 back when I was a punk, probably one of the few ones in Milano, Italy. All I was doing was putting soap in my hair and sewing patches of the bands I liked on my jeans and putting together some great distorted tunes with my friends. When I realised music wasn’t just about screaming and distortion I decided to attend a music school where I studied bass guitar for more than five years. In 2011 I started a band called ØJNE. We toured Europe a few times and released three vinyls.

About modeling.. I remember I was scouted by a tall young ginger haired man, on a warm day of the Italian Autumn, during my punk times. I was sitting in a corner next to a shopping mall having a beer and listening to my favourite noise, and the young lad come close to me and he smiles asking me if I could please open for a fashion show that I would have been perfect for, and that he would bring me to Elite afterwards so they could represent me.

The only thing I could do at the time was tell him to get lost… I refused his offer and wouldn’t take his business card. I just probably needed some time to figure things out and maybe grow up. Yeah I was a punk, but I was only 15. I got into modelling few years later at the age of 21.

How did you get into the industry?

AS: I remember meeting my ex-booker at a bar and we exchanged numbers. And then I received her call a couple of months later while I was driving my moped. She said a client really wanted to meet me so I accepted, and became a part of the agency.

What do you enjoy about working in the industry?

AS: Growing up I was always really shy and introverted, and I thought the industry was the right place to force myself to show my personality to others, as well as meet many talented individuals. I managed to improve my personality and kicked away most of
my shyness!

Also I’m very fascinated by what happens behind the camera, and it’s really interesting to try and understand how another person sees you and what role they give you to interpret. Being the “object” of a creative process can only improve my skill as a graphic designer,
as well as train my eyes and develop further awareness in my artistic choices.

On top of that clothes are always really, really nice. Also it’s a great opportunity to understand something more about fashion design, fabrics textures and all that comes with it!

What agencies are you with?

AS: TWO management – Los Angeles
Uniko – Barcelona

What are some of your favorite brands and why do you love them?

AS: I don’t have any favourite brands and I don’t love any one in particular. I used to be really into Rick Owens (I still am, except for the fact that billions of people started to dress with copies of the real clothes without really seeming to understand why) and all the high end brands related to it… I still think the atmosphere they recreated, it’s something unique and has taken a lot from a few different cultures and background and they put them together with a dark “goth” attitude.

On top of that there’s alway a meticulous attention to the details of the fabrics and textures. Recently I re-discovered the Scandinavian touch to fashion, which is always extremely clean and minimalistic.

How has working as a model affected your style?

AS: I don’t think working as a model has affected the way I dress. Obviously at times you need to dress accordingly to fit the client you’re going to meet, but I always do it with my own touch and taste.

I’ve always been extremely sure that in a way what you wear expresses yourself and in some ways some of your personality. I’d say music has affected my style more, as well as my mood and my growth.

I rarely wear clothes that I bought a year before or more, because being still quite young, I feel they don’t represent me anymore or they represent non-updated version of myself; and they could also remind me of periods of my life that can be either good or bad, but
still in the past.

Who are some of your go-to style inspirations?

AS: Love to mix and match. It could be a punk, a skater, another model, anyone could make me think of something new and different to put on.

Do you ever feel like you are two separate people, one when you’re in front of the camera, and a different one when you’re not working?

AS: Not really. Though I have to say that I mostly get picked to be the badass boy with tattoos and in “real life” I’m definitely not the one to be tough and cocky. I think one of the most interesting parts of being a model is learning to interpret the role they give you during a shoot or a movie and try your best to feel that way in front of the camera.

Can you list some of your clients, as well as the campaigns you have shot for them?

AS: I shot a multi-platform campaign for GQ Italy x Junya Watanabe x Loewe where the editorial shots were featured in the magazine, as well as GQ’s online platform and I also shot a video for them, which was featured on Highsnobiety and The Fashionisto.

I’ve shot campaigns for Rebel Root that were featured on billboards and in the papers in Barcelona, Spain, Cult Shoes and Evin Beachwear in Italy, as well as Catherinelle Bags and the campaign for Urban Tribe’s Sub Urban Collection.

I’ve also been featured in editorials for The fashionisto exclusive, Fucking Young! x Barbara Sanchez, Liu Magazine and Rendez Vous de La Mode. The editorial for Rendez Vous de La Mode was also part of the cover story.

What kind of jobs do you usually get hired for?

AS: I’ve done a bit of everything from walking the runway and shooting high fashion editorials to commercial work and bathing suit ads, but so far I’ve done editorials more than anything else. 

What is your favorite job you’ve done as a model?

AS: I’ve really enjoyed doing them all to be honest. The one I liked most was probably shooting for Fucking Young, it was fun messing around with a painted face and some Lucha Libre pieces.

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Axel Swan shot by Szilveszter Mako

What would you say your standout characteristics/physical features are in the modeling world?

AS: I’m really skinny and long, got a bunch of tattoos but mostly concentrated on my left arm and my legs. Got some quite high cheekbones but not so edgy of a face. I can look a bit more commercial when I have a bit of a beard.

Who have been some of your favorite photographers to work with and why?

AS: Szilveszter Mako. I shot with him for Fucking Young! and Lui Magazine. I’m really into his surreal approach to photography– the atmosphere he manages to reproduce in his pictures definitely recalls his background and where he comes from. He has a really cold touch and the geometries in his pictures as well as the framing is something unusual. He definitely has a great eye.

Andrea Olivo . I shot with him for GQ. His style reminded me a bit of Terry Richardson, the shots were really simple and the atmosphere was more than laid back. The focus was just on the attitude of the models.

What would you say your strongest qualities as a model are?

AS: I think being myself has always worked pretty well. Apart from the way I look, which is very contradicting compared to who I am (people always expect me to be the badass junkie but I’m very sweet and easy going), I think having loads of passions and interests helps me get along with pretty much everyone in the industry and there’s always a lot to share about something. I’m very professional, I always do the best I can do, and I’m easy to work with.

Can you list some of the people you’ve worked with that our readers might know?

AS: Andrea Olivo, Catrinel Marlon, Francesco Chiappetta, Krizia Robustella, Szileszter Mako, Juny Watanabe x Loewe, Federico Garibaldi, Evin Beachwer, and Settimio Benedusi to name a few.

As a model, what are your plans for the future?

AS: Work as much as I can and discover as many markets as possible.

What do you hope to achieve in your career as a model?

AS: A couple of those big billboards wouldn’t hurt, must be a weird feeling seeing yourself printed that big! I would probably crash my moped If I saw myself that big while i was riding around town. Apart from that, I’d love to work with designers I’ve always admired and get to know who’s behind the “big name.”

What is it about modeling that you love?

AS: Modeling is a great way to get to know great and talented creative people and gives you the possibility to see places and travel more.

Q & A with the marvelous Canadian actress Zoe Cleland

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Zoe Cleland

We recently had the chance to sit down and visit with the talented, lovely actress Zoe Cleland, who film and TV audiences would recognize from her stand-out character portrayals in “How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town,” “Murdoch Mysteries,” “Saving Hope,” “Pay Up,” “Reign” and others.

A Toronto native, Cleland first starred on the stage before hitting the screen. She booked her debut TV role when she was just 15 and became the youngest actor to ever attend the National Theatre School of Canada.

Cleland has acted alongside famed talents such as Lauren Holly and Megan Follows, and has appeared in roles ranging from comedy to period drama to medical drama and more.

She’s been in the trenches on many productions. We’ve put the spotlight on Zoe, who shared this exclusive question and answer session that reveals just what it’s like to work nowadays as a film and TV actress. We think Zoe’s awesome and invite you to find out her story below!

 

When you read scripts and discover characters, what qualities do you look for and what aspects attract you to a role? 

ZC: I’m attracted to all kinds of characters for lots of different reasons. Great writing has a huge impact on what I want to be a part of. I think if the writing is good, it usually means there’s a level of depth to the characters and the story that is super exciting to mine as an actor. I’m also drawn to roles that I feel will illuminate some aspect of the human experience that I feel needs to be looked at, that will benefit people to empathize with…and then sometimes it’s purely selfish in that a character might be fun to play or might have an aspect that I want to explore for my own understanding or personal development. It all depends! I rely a lot on my intuition.

You booked your first role at the age of 15 when you guest starred as Eva Rookwood on “Murdoch Mysteries.” How did this character tie into the episode and what was the experience like being on a television set for the first time? 

ZC: Yeah, so I played Eva Rookwood, a British orphan who gets adopted into a well-to-do Canadian family, only to be abused by her stepfather. He ends up getting murdered and the episode revolves around solving that crime…won’t give too much away but the crime is a result of the abuse that was going on.

I remember the experience being totally thrilling and terrifying at the same time. Up to that point, I had mostly worked on stage so I really didn’t know much about working with the camera. So the experience was very very new for me. I was so excited to be on set, though, and I remember being completely entranced with how much detail went into to building each room…I remember looking at the books on the bookshelves and how much thought had been put into what they were, even though they probably would never be seen by the camera. I wasn’t used to being immersed on a set in such a realistic way and I thought I had landed in heaven.

You returned to “Murdoch Mysteries” in the role of Joanne Perly in an episode that aired earlier this year. How was this character involved in advancing the story and did you ever anticipate returning to the series? 

ZC: I never anticipated going back; I just assumed that would be it for that show but apparently not! I can’t say too much about Joanne Perly without giving too much away, but I will say that she appears to be a sweet young mother but is actually something else underneath. She ends up being an intricate part of the episode, which revolves around a bank robbery. Her baby also goes on to be adopted by the Murdochs, which was a new kind of plotline for the show.

Last year you made your feature film debut in Jeremy Lalonde’s comedy, “How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town,” a project just a little different from “Murdoch Mysteries.” What was your experience playing Young Cassie? 

ZC: My experience doing that film was really wonderful, it was a great set to be on and it was so exciting to be playing the leading character in the opening act. I had to have a different relationship with the camera than I’d ever had before, because the emotional heart of the opening of the film rested on me…because of that I learned a lot.

What was it like acting alongside Lauren Holly in the film? 

ZC: It was great; Lauren is really lovely and very generous.

Did you learn or absorb anything from working with her?

ZC: I did, I learned a lot just from watching her work and also from talking to her, we had a lot of time to chat in between takes and she was really open about her life in the industry, so I absorbed a lot from that.

Did the topic of “Dumb & Dumber” or Jim Carrey ever arise? 

ZC: Haha no, I’ve never actually seen the movie.

What are the characteristics a great actress possesses?

ZC: Great question! I think the ability to empathize is probably near the top, because without that there would be no acting. Apart from that, I’m going to say openness, vulnerability, bravery and imagination.

How do you try to incorporate those qualities into your own acting?

ZC: I just try to be honest with myself about whether I really feel I’m being true to a character and/or situation…whether I’m going as far as I can into whatever reality I am portraying. I think if I am I will exhibit these qualities by default.

What is one thing that people would never suspect about being a film and television actress? 

ZC: I think people tend to have ideas about film and TV acting that it is a really glamorous job…and that somehow the actors are the most important part of the whole production. In reality it is really a collaborative thing, there is so much work that goes into film from so many different people and it is truly a team effort. That’s one of the things I love about it. It also really isn’t as glamorous as people think, there’s a lot of waiting around and it takes a lot of passion and stamina to continue to be present in the work.

What’s surprised you the most or surpassed expectations about working in the industry?

ZC: I think in a way the most stunning thing about the film industry is that it even exists at all. When you realize how much work and drive it takes from so many people working together to do a project, it’s really amazing how much great work gets produced. There’s such a magical element to the film industry and it’s incredible how many people have the passion to come together to make it happen.

What’s been your single most difficult day on set? 

 

ZC: I had one day on “Reign” when they didn’t get to my scene till about 3 in the morning, so the whole day was waiting in my trailer, and then trying not to fall asleep. That was difficult purely physically because it was challenging to stay alert enough to do my best work.

What has been the most rewarding role you’ve played thus far in your career? 

ZC: I was in a production of “Three Sisters” by Anton Chekhov in theatre school that really changed my whole approach to acting, and actually made me want to go into film. I played Irina, one of the sisters, and I don’t know if I’ve ever dove more into a part than I did with her. I just got totally lost in her and her story. We had a director who really encouraged smaller, more naturalistic acting and it made me realize how much I loved that kind of intimate work.

Continuing on the theatre theme, you attended the National Theatre School of Canada. How does that training bode well for your portrayals in film and television?

 

ZC: I think my training at NTS taught me a lot about myself…that has been incredibly valuable to me on many levels. The lessons that I learned about myself there made me really know who I am and how my mind and heart work, which is so necessary to act. The school also had a really strong emphasis on building stamina when I was there and that has also served me well.

What was the best part of acting in the comedy series, “Guidance,” alongside Rob Baker? 

 

ZC: The best part of the experience was actually working with Rob, acting in those scenes with him was like being in a verbal fencing match. It was just so much fun.

You played Odette in two episodes of The CW’s award-winning period drama, “Reign.” Tell us a little about Odette.

ZC: Odette is an unfortunate maid who gets involved in a lot of intrigue that she would rather stay out of. Because she is lower class, she is in some ways not part of the world of “Reign” in the same way that everyone else is. It was fun playing her because she is a bit of a deer in the headlights…someone really powerless who has to live day to day surrounded by a lot of danger in the world of the French court.

What’s the best part of acting in a big period piece? Is it the costumes, set pieces, the transformative nature of the production or something else?

 

ZC: I have always had an obsession with period pieces, so acting in them is really a dream come true for me. It’s kind of the ultimate playground for my imagination, because when you are in a period piece it really is like stepping back in time. You are totally transported into another reality in a way that you aren’t when you are in something modern.

What was it like acting with Megan Follows in “Reign”? 

 

ZC: It was wonderful acting with her, she has such a strong presence and she is so focused.

You switched gears last year and acted in the role of Brianna Pierre in the acclaimed medical drama, “Saving Hope.” How valuable is the range of an actress who goes from comedy to period drama to medical drama and more?

ZC: I think it’s valuable for sure, but to be honest I try not to think of each project as being that different from the next. It feels the most authentic to me to approach every character the same way, whether it’s a comedy or a drama. I think that’s what usually gets the best work out of me, when I’m more focused on the character and their situation, rather than trying to fit into a “style.”

 

How would you describe your character, Shawna, in Craig Macnaughton’s comedy series, “Pay Up”? 

 

ZC: I would describe her as a teenage girl who is trying to assert her power in a situation in which she feels powerless. She is an only child of recently divorced parents, and she is tying to stay connected to both of them…and to keep a feeling of security around her. Unfortunately, she doesn’t know how to do this in a way that will really serve her, so she ends up basically playing her parents off each other in order to get them to buy her things.

In “Pay Up,” Richard Lett plays a debt collector named Jack. Is Jack a guy you’d not want to cross or is he living on reputation? 

ZC: I would say Jack has more bark then bite, if he even has much bark at all. He struggles a lot to assert his power over the people he is trying to collect money from, and that’s where the funny parts come in.

What are some go-to hobbies or activities when you’re not on set?

 

ZC: I meditate a lot, and I would say I have a pretty active spiritual life, so that’s something that I commit a lot of myself to…I also watch a LOT of movies. I also like to write and paint, but I’d like to be a bit more disciplined with myself about doing those things regularly.

Who is on your short list for fellow actors or filmmakers you’d like to work with in the future? 

ZC: There’s so many! And it really changes from day to day. Lately I’ve been really getting into the work of Jane Campion. I love what she does. I’ve also been going on a Tom Hardy spree on Netflix…I have an insane crush on him in every way, and I think he’s an incredibly magnetic and dynamic actor.

Theatre Review: “Hot l Baltimore” in Los Angeles!

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“Hot l Baltimore” directed by Che Walker and produced by Rochelle Rossman at Stella Adler in Los Angeles.

Cast: Mona Lisa Abdallah, Liselotte Alfons, Anastasia Burenina, Christina Blum, Ana Roza Cimperman, Robert Oliver Gislason, Christian Hoha, Ninni Holm, Edward Macgregor, Tatiana Olaya, Johann Schulte-Hillen, Kayla Strada, Nuno Sousa and Abel Vivas.

 

Los Angeles, CA- Director Che Walker’s production of Lanford Wilson’s 1973 play “Hot l Baltimore,” which had a successful run on the Gilbert Stage at the iconic Stella Adler Theatre in Los Angeles, brought together a mishmash of colorful characters who all have one thing in common– they are all on the verge of homelessness as the seedy Hotel Baltimore that they call home is slated for demolition.

Set in the lobby of the dilapidated hotel, “Hot l Baltimore,” which pulls its title from the neon marquee with the burnt out ‘e’ that sits above the dying building, follows the trials and tribulations of the soon to be evicted characters as they live out their final days at the hotel.

The cast of the show gives audiences a brilliant slice of life peek into the lives of these characters, which range from naive hopefuls and over-the-top eccentrics, to cynical prostitutes who’ve seen too much sorrow to ever fully recover and the hotel’s less than chipper staff that seem to go out of their way to make all of the ‘guests’ feel like they’re the scum of the earth.

Mona Lisa Abdallah first takes the stage as the hotel’s daytime desk clerk Mrs. Oxenham, and boy does this actress bring her easily flustered, germaphobic and overly conservative character to life with distinct style. From her fidgety, nail biting mannerisms to her unrelenting nosey-ness and constant eavesdropping, Mona Lisa makes Mrs. Oxenham into a character we all love to hate.

The interactions between Oxenham and Paul (played by Robert Oliver Gislason), a former tenant who returns to the hotel (after being sent away to a work farm for two years due to a drug conviction) in search of his grandfather, serves as the perfect example of the disconnect between the two societal classes portrayed by the story’s hotel staff and their ‘customers.’ Instead of being willing to help, Oxenham brushes off Paul’s requests and treats him as if he his less than human, further solidifying the idea that these down-on-their-luck characters are really just worthless individuals undeserving of respect.

While the play is definitely tragic in the way it portrays the less than glamorous lives of the majority of its characters, it is not devoid of comic relief. The way Mona Lisa’s character uses a tissue to pick up the old rotary phone, and takes several minutes to lick the adhesive on an envelope just to mail a letter, definitely brings a bit of quirky humor to the show.

On top of taking on the pivotal role of Mrs. Oxenham, Mona Lisa was also cast to take on the role of Dopey, a new character written into the production by director Che Walker. Mona Lisa reveals her wide range as an actress through her portrayal of these two very different characters within the same production, something she accomplishes with astonishing ease.

 

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Mona Lisa Abdallah as Dopey in “Hot l Baltimore”

 

As Dopey, one of the hotel’s resident hookers, Mona Lisa gives an engaging monologue about the struggles of being a prostitute in the lower rungs of society, where the girls continually spend their money to look glamorous in the eyes of their revolving door of Johns, have little left over for themselves and still battle the unceasing  yearning for the familiar touch of true love– a sad cycle few are able to escape.

The young and lovably naive prostitute known as The Girl, played by Kayla Strada, gives us a little insight into how some of the older prostitutes started out their lives in the ‘business,’ probably holding onto a glimmer of  hope that they would some day escape the murky underworld that’s sadly trapped them.

And then there is Jackie, played by Tatiana Olaya, a rebellious young thing who’s travelling with her little brother trying to gather enough money to start an organic farm back in Utah. After using all of her money to purchase the land for the farm (which she has yet to see), she goes about trying to convince Mr. Katz, the hotel manager played by Ninni Holm, to cosign a loan so she can get the start-up money she needs for the farm. But when that doesn’t work out, she decides to steal jewels from Morse’s room; however, she is caught and gets herself kicked out of the hotel. Even sadder than the fact that Jackie has no chance of really making a go of it with the farm, is that she leaves her brother Jamie, who’s not-all-there mentally, behind.

Through Millie, played by Johanna Schulte-Hillen, a retired waitress with a pension for reminiscing over the past, audiences are privy to a character who represents a different kind of ‘failed’ existence– one where the person doesn’t even reason that their life is in shambles. The character, who always seems to be telling ghost stories (that she clearly believes) in her somewhat soothing southern drawl, has a sweet, but melancholy quality about her– as if she had a beautiful future ahead of her at one point, but somehow took a turn for the worse.

The drama that ensues as the conflicting personalities of the characters clash, and the tragic, sometimes hard to swallow, display of their personal turmoil, kept viewers engaged throughout the run of the show. From the soon to be destroyed building, where hot water is simply not a thing and a working elevator is a memory long past, to the decaying youth of the play’s struggling band of prostitutes, “Hot L Baltimore” is imbued with themes of human struggle and cultural decay, and the actors involved do a marvelous job of breathing life into this 1973 play in the modern age.

 

 

Photographer Erin Simkin shares her own ‘visual’ Narrative

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Erin Simkin

For Erin Simkin, the journey began eight years ago.

“Color, location and people are what drive me to create,” she said.

And create she has.

The impeccably talented photographer from Vancouver has maneuvered the trenches of action filmmaking with Dominic Purcell, Stephen Lang and Danny Glover. She’s been on set in the depths of an abandoned subway station in search of paranormal sightings with Rose McGowan and Christopher Lloyd. She’s shot for leading magazines and brands such as Toronto Life, En Route, The Grid, Peroni, Grolsch and Sephora.

Simkin’s vast list of achievements have propelled her to the top of the photography industry. Her creative and technically versed work has refined qualities and characteristics that rope in viewers time and time again.

Whether on-set photography used for film marketing and P&A, portraiture, lookbooks, editorials or branded imagery, Simkin drives her craft forward with a photographic passion that reveals itself in each and every image she captures.

“My style is very clean, colorful, bright and with an air-like openness,” she said. “I’m very much inspired by natural light, as I feel there is an inherent beauty to it that artificial lighting can’t quite match without a lot of work. I love exploring new places, meeting new people, and capturing and combining all of that in one image in order to tell a visual narrative.”

With color as the catalyst driving her vision, Simkin’s images embody texture and a dynamic use of interesting spaces. She’s most recently shot for the films “Lower Bay” (with McGowan and Lloyd) “Gridlocked” (with Purcell, Lang and Glover) and writer-director Joey Klein’s romantic drama, “The Other Half.”

“There are always great locations that we get to shoot in, amazing costumes and beautiful lighting to tell the story of the characters,” said Simkin, who shoots primarily with the Canon 5D Mark III. “I love photographing people. Each person has such a different history and tells their own story through their facial expressions, their style, hands, their energy and I love being able to document them in their world and in their work.”

Applying the same approach, Simkin photographed for the feature film, “Mean Dreams.” Due out later this year and directed by Nathan Morlando, it stars “The Book Thief” Sophie Nelisse, Josh Wiggins (“Max”) and Golden Globe nominee Bill Paxton, of “Titanic,” “Apollo 13” and “Aliens” fame. According to Variety, Paxton plays a corrupt cop and Nelisse stars in the role of his daughter. After stealing drug money from her father, Nelisse goes on the run with Wiggins’ character.

Filming commenced in Sault Saint Marie and Simkin said, “The pure beauty of the landscape and light paired with the incredibly talented actors all combined seamlessly into such beautiful imagery.”

“Mean Dreams” features the work of cinematographer Steve Cosens, a five-time Gemini Award nominee who won a Leo for his cinematography in Keith Behrman’s “Flower and Garnet.” With “Mean Dreams,” Cosens shot using ambient lighting, which provided a challenge for Simkin to match her still camera shots with that of the motion picture camera.

Simkin shot for the film using a lower shutter speed equipped to capture images in low light scenarios. “The resulting images I was able to capture was worth the challenge of shooting in low light constantly,” she said. “The photos I was able to get while working on the film were extremely poetic and it allowed us to capture the delicate and subtle natural light working that far up north.”

For TV, Simkin shot for the CBC’s “Baroness Von Sketch Show,” a new comedy due out this summer. She was hired to shoot set stills and create key art for advertising the show.

“The cast of incredibly funny and talented women made this project so enjoyable,” she said. “We went for a “Vanity Fair” Hollywood style gallery shoot and both the cast and the producers loved the final images. We had so much fun creating the style of the gallery shoot, yet I still made sure to stay true to the characters and the visual tone and style of the show with its various sketches and characters that our cast played.”

Simkin worked again in the comedy genre in writer-director Matt Sadowski’s 2014 romantic comedy feature, “Pretend We’re Kissing,” that starred Dov Tiefenbach, Tommie-Amber Pirie and Zoe Kravitz. With a huge filmmaking presence in Toronto, the tax-friendly filming location is often used as a simulated location rather than as its own true setting. The Canadian theme resonated with Simkin, who currently resides and works in Toronto.

“I got to work with some amazing actors on a really fun film that heavily featured Toronto actually as Toronto,” Simkin said. “Many native Torontonians commented on how they had been living here for x number of years and they’ve never seen Toronto shot the way that we showed them, which was exciting because it meant that we were able to show a new side to the city which is relevant to the story as the main character [Tiefenbach] falls in love and then views the city in a different way. Working with Zoe Kravitz was a real pleasure, as she was so driven and fun to work with as her character was an extremely memorable one.”

Simkin’s photographic journey has included her work for Lindsay Mackay’s family drama, “Wet Bum” (also known as “Surfacing”), that received seven international award nominations. She also worked as photographer for the documentary, “Sweet Daddy Siki,” which covers the life and times of Siki, one of the first African-American pro wrestlers.

“I had the chance to visit with Sweet Daddy Siki for a few hours in his home and was asked to photograph his story, his history, and take his portrait. He was so gracious and open to anything, including putting on his old wrestling costumes, which added so much to the portrait that we took,” said Simkin. “I felt like I was opening up a time capsule and meeting an icon.”

Simkin credits her mentors in the still photography world including Kimberley French (“The Revenant,” “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” “Brokeback Mountain”) and Cate Cameron (“Arrow,” “Bates Motel,” “The 100”). “Their help and advice and support have been invaluable,” she said.

While also a long-established portrait photographer, Simkin worked with Elle Ziegler of Blissful Back, a Toronto-based retailer of yoga and meditation support accessories and contoured pillows.

“We have a family business and needed our images to tell the story of my father and I’s amazing relationship, and the uniqueness of our father-daughter business,” said Ziegler. “Erin’s best quality is her ability to tell a story though her lens. She captures vulnerability and honesty in her portraits by making people feel completely open and comfortable in front of the camera. She made decisions based on the locations, sunlight, shadows, props and backgrounds – things that we never could have predicted and things that I didn’t even notice – that resulted in stunning images.”

Talia Chai, founder of Talia Chai Wellness, echoed similar sentiments. Simkin shot portrait, lifestyle and blog photos for Chai’s wellness brand. The shoot featured a combination of people and interior spaces.

“I think Erin has a fine-tuned, expert eye when it comes to photography,” Chai said. “She multitasked effortlessly, working the lights, me, props and of course the camera all at once. She was in complete control of her environment and knew exactly how to take advantage of natural elements already found in the space. She has an incredible eye for detail, lighting, color, shadow and uses these elements both strategically and intuitively to create absolutely stunning images that stand out.”

Simkin’s other photography experience includes her shooting key art for Brendan Canning’s new forthcoming album, for a Samsung Vue social media campaign and boardroom wall photography for Accelerated Connections Inc. She’s shot at events for the Toronto International Film Festival and Russell Peters Live at the ACC, as well as for the Globe & Mail, Toronto Star, National Post, Peroni, Samsung, GAP, Scotia Bank, Women of Influence, Women of Action, the Jewish National Fund, Sharp Magazine, Flare Magazine, Canadian Cinematographer and more.

For more information, visit: www.erinsimkin.com

 

‘The Most Dangerous Women in Hollywood’ is a Virtual Reality Production that will Transport Viewers to the Next Level

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Virtual Reality Group MightyVR, Momentum Entertainment and Sports Network, Interpix, Inc. and Replay Collective are pleased to announce the production of “The Most Dangerous Women in Hollywood,” an unprecedented 360 degree virtual reality movie and game series.

Viewers journey on a fully immersive experience by wearing a headset that allows the virtual reality experience of trying out jets, sports cars and choosing one of “The Most Dangerous Women in Hollywood” to join up with and get away from the bad guys. Headset options range from high end models such as the Oculus to a $20 Google Cardboard set.

“We believe the entertainment industry is on the verge on a complete shift in media consumption because of virtual reality and, soon, augmented reality,” said Replay Collective producer Siddharth Ganji. “As storytellers, we are always looking at how technology will shape storytelling, and there is no doubt that VR is the next big evolution in this arena.”

The exciting new project is dedicated to all of the daring stunt actresses who provide audiences with an array of thrills including flying military planes, racing sports cars and more.

Dallas Santana is directing the project, which is scheduling to film this month in Las Vegas. He is the creator, director and producer of “Destination X Hawaii,” “Destination X California” and “Destination X Puerto Rico.”

Starring in “The Most Dangerous Women in Hollywood” are the selectable and delectable Olga Safari, a model and actress known for her role in Thomas J. Churchill’s “Check Point,” Jennifer Irene Gonzalez, an FHM cover girl and former Miss Taiwan, Tara Rice, a model and actress who has appeared in “Piranha 3D,” “Austin Powers in Goldmember” and “Entourage,” and Michelle Watterson, a leading MMA fighter and model.

Producing the project along with Ganji are Replay Collective’s achieved line producer Varun Verma and producer Raghav Murali. Replay Collective produces engagement-driven content and is known for producing viral YouTube videos for artists such as Trisha Paytas and Ricky Dillon.

“With MightyVR, we are working on an action-oriented, interactive short. You choose a character and make consecutive decisions in an effort to “stay alive,’” Verma said.

Murali explained, “Virtual reality takes consumer engagement to the next level. Rather than just feel involved, consumers can in essence attend events minus their actual physical presence.”

In tandem with the movie and game series, the new initiative includes a 360 degree video, an HD short video, a companion picture book and e-book.

“The Most Dangerous Women in Hollywood” will be released on MightyVR’s distribution platform as an app that may be purchased. It will be also be available online, for smartphones and its book releases will be sold by Amazon.com and Borders.com.

Filming VR of course requires a specialized approach to production. The end result is a product that is entirely VR. “We have a special GoPro rig provided by MightyVR that we will be using. It’s an interesting approach to production where we have to pre-light everything in such a way that we don’t see any stands or lights,” said Ganji. “When the shooting takes place, everyone needs to disappear from set, and it will only be the performing talent performing the action.”

Murali noted that most virtual reality camera rigs are created using multiple cameras such as the GoPro, which are fitted and film in a way where images overlap. “The stitching of these images creates the three dimensional 360-degree effect,” he said. “Most VR software requires the stitching to be done in post, but there is also software being developed that allows real time stitching, enabling filmmakers to watch their content in real-time.

A VR-focused, immersive production means there is no fourth wall to hide behind during filming. “No crew or equipment should be seen by the camera. This requires lots of rehearsal and planning, making it a rather different experience to traditional filmmaking,” said Verma.

Ganji, from Mumbai, India, sees this dynamic new technology as having many valuable, inventive uses. “A strong benchmark for what is coming is to look at the video game industry and how immersive and interactive those games/worlds have become,” he said. “On the flip side, I have a 79 year-old grandmother who has never visited me in the U.S., and probably won’t be able to because of health issues. I’d love to be able to visit her, pull out my phone and let her experience her own journey of wonderment as she literally walks down the Santa Monica beach. The possibilities for technology are so vast, but what this boils down to is finding a human connection to the content.”

That human connection could also expand to immersive training materials for a variety of industries.

Said Ganjji, “Imagine you’re a newly-hired electrician and your company is training you. I see VR eventually entering into entirely non-entertainment related industries as a tool for training. Look at how many companies are gamifying their businesses now to increase employee productivity. VR completely aligns with that goal, and, I believe, will have huge market potential for hiring and attracting young generations.”

The technology is also one that presents an alternative to 3D. “I think VR is next level 3D,” Murali said. “Rather than simply being shown a world from one perspective in 3D, one gets to experience the VR world in full 3D.”

For more information, visit:

http://www.mightyvr.com and http://www.replaycollective.com

 

An Interview with Sarah Wessendorf from “Gone”

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Sarah Wessendorf shot by Callum Leo Hughes

In our process of growth as individuals many of us come to the realization that in order for us to move forward we have to heal our past. It has become a common practice for people around the world to travel to far-off destinations to attend retreats focused on healing and spiritual evolution, and that is exactly what happens in the recently released German film “Gone.” 

Written and directed by Judith Schöll, “Gone” aka “Verschollen,” brings to the screen an all female cast with a powerful and poignant story to tell. Chosen as an Official Selection of the Pula Film Festival and the Ljubljana International Film Festival “Gone” stars Sarah Wessendorf, Emily Yetter and Love Bailey.

“Gone” follows three women who travel to Croatia for a retreat where they soon come to realize that the journey towards healing and wholeness is far from an easy one. With “Gone” continuing to garner widespread attention across Europe, we got lucky enough to sit down with the film’s star, Sarah Wessendorf, about the story, her character and what it was like filming in beautiful Croatia.

Last year Sarah earned praise for her powerful role in the Israeli film “CPH” from well-known director Eitan Sarid. Chosen as an Official Selection of the Jerusalem Film Festival where it was nominated for the Best Picture Award. Sarah has a natural affinity for portraying strong, layered and often challenging roles that push her as an actress. In “CPH” she took on the role of Pia, the wife of an ex-military man from Israel who struggles to move on with his life and deal with the traumatic memories and experiences from war. Sarah breathed life into Pia with delicate vulnerability and strength that allowed audiences to see how challenging it can be for the loved one of a PTSD victim to watch as they suffer, and the importance of sticking by their side in their journey towards healing.

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Sarah Wessendorf shot by Callum Leo Hughes

While both “CPH” and “Gone” share a similar theme centered around healing, the two stories, as well as Sarah’s characters in the films, are polar opposites. Sarah’s capacity for portraying diverse characters across various genres prove her astonishing range as an actress and we are extremely excited to share our interview with this talented performer with you. Enjoy!

Hey Sarah, thanks for joining us! Can you start off by telling us about the film “Gone” aka “Verschollen”

SW: In “Gone” a group of women from all different countries and paths of life decide to

go on an all women’s retreat in the middle of the Croatian countryside. The retreat is offered to help heal old wounds, trauma, etc. Every woman comes there with different motives and different expectations. Some are more skeptical than others, while others come with the belief that they are already pretty far ahead in their journey of enlightenment and healing.

The film follows them as they face each other daily throughout the retreat where they are forced to come to terms with the fact that healing is messy. They trigger each other. My character falls in love with another woman and it becomes clear that real healing takes place when the veil of perfection is lifted. Through group meetings every night, healing through art and painting, and shouting into the landscape, it slowly becomes possible for each of them to look at themselves with more honesty than ever before. These women spend the week at the retreat learning what it means to heal and how to be honest with themselves.

When the retreat comes to an end, they leave with a feeling that they’ve looked at themselves and each other with a level of honesty they had never felt before. Through this, they each develop acceptance and the realization that healing is not easy. It’s messy and at times it’s ugly, but through the retreat they develop friendships that will help them along their individual paths of healing.

Sarah Wessendorf
Sarah Wessendorf shot by Callum Leo Hughes

How did you get cast in the film?

SW: Judith Schöll and I knew each other through colleagues she and I had been working with. There was a mutual respect apparent from the first day of meeting each other. It just came very natural that she suggested a role for me in her movie

What made you want to be involved with this project?

SW: I think it is very important to strengthen the support we have for each other as women, and as humans in general. The human experience isn’t always an easy one. I find it extremely important that we

learn to become more compassionate towards each other and towards ourselves. This movie shows that at the end honesty and acceptance of the not so pretty sides of growth needs to be present in order for actual transformation to take place. And we need each other for support.

Can you tell us about your character in the film?

SW: I play Hanna, a Buddhist women from Berlin that is quite convinced that she is far ahead in her healing process, but soon realizes during the retreat that what she thought she knew about herself was a carefully constructed structure– one that has actually prevented her from seeing herself fully and truly with all her mistakes and flaws. The actual process for her in the end is learning to love herself even though she is not as pure and free of ego as she previously thought she was.

Why is Hanna important to the story? And how did you feel about playing her on screen?

SW: My character is important because she symbolizes the large group of spiritual people who like to think that they have figured it all out, but are actually quite entangled in their ego mind. Ironically in the end, it almost seems like all of the other women had a way more honest view of themselves. There is this risk with spirituality to hide behind an image of one’s self. Hanna realizes that she needs to be humble, she is forced to realize that she is just as clueless as the other women. 

I felt that it was very important to keep Hanna’s experience in mind. Going into spirituality doesn’t save you from making mistakes and being led by your ego. It can help by making you aware of your shortcomings, but at the end there is also a risk of hiding behind the images and ideals of spirituality. As I myself travel on my own journey of self discovery, I very much appreciate playing a role that goes through the process of being humbled.

Was this your first time playing a character who falls in love with another woman? What was that particular experience like for you as an actress?

SW: It actually was yes! I’ve always been interested in the concept of non defined gender and sexuality. So for me I don’t necessarily define a person as male and female, but rather focus on them being a soul. This made it very natural for me to see the soul behind the character and to connect with that. It was fun though representing an experience of two women falling in love, and portraying how natural, intimate and loving that can be.

Sarah Wessendorf
Sarah Wessendorf shot by Callum Leo Hughes

Can you tell us a little bit about the way you created your character– what were the most important elements of Hannah’s personality that you felt you needed to embody to really get into her character?

SW: I could very much relate to Hannah in the sense that I too am very interested in learning and embodying spiritual truths. It was important for me to show her deep yearning for truth, for authenticity and for real connection. This is what drives her. Later on when she has to come to terms with the fact that she might have been hiding behind some spiritual aspects, it’s this deep inner drive of hers for truth that makes it possible for her to stay open, vulnerable and able to let go of some of her fears. In the end, she just needed to feel that she would be loved and appreciated no matter what, something we all can relate to at some point I’m sure.

Is there any personal connection with your character’s life and personality and your own, is there any relation between the two of you?

SW: For sure. I have definitely been on a spiritual journey to dive deeper into who I am, to discover what I’m here to do on this earth, to look at my fears and so on. This gave me a very solid base from which to relate to Hannah’s wishes. I do think that she used spirituality more so to protect herself, which is something that actually made me question some of my beliefs about myself in connection to spirituality. It was an interesting journey to realize that maybe I too had been using some practices to keep me from facing my own fears. I think it is a very healthy thing to keep questioning your own motives as someone diving into spirituality. This was something I really realized through the process of getting to know my character in this film.

Can you tell us about any challenges or memorable experiences from this project?

SW: It was beautiful to be surrounded by an all female cast. The warmth and support was really extraordinary and it seemed like we all had a lot of personal interest in the topic of spirituality and healing. Just like the women we portrayed, we all came from very different paths of life and found ourselves working together in the middle of Croatia. I remember one morning taking one of the crew member’s dogs for a walk early in the morning in nature and I felt so at peace and so grateful to be doing what I’m doing and to be able to work on projects that truly inspire and challenge me, and also help me along in my own process of growth.

What was your favorite part of being involved in this production?

SW: It was beautiful to realize that we as humans all need support and love for and from one another. Also, the other cast mates and I formed a friendship just like our characters do in the film; and through all of our differences we too realized that being human means to support each other on our individual journeys.

What was the chemistry like on set between you and the other actors?

SW: It was lovely! Being surrounded by all women was a pure joy. There was so much warmth, so much understanding, a lot of laughter and if I had to find one word for it I would say “ease.” Although I usually try not to define people by their gender, I have to admit that there was something very soft, vulnerable and loving about being surrounded by all female identified actors, with one being a trans-women.

What was it like working with Judith Schöll?

SW: Judith is a lovely person to work with! She was very committed to the process of creating an honest, deep, true and captivating film. It was a real pleasure working with her. She made us all feel like we belong, like we were in an environment of trust where we could let go and go all in and still feel like we were being held.

You shot the film in Croatia, is that correct? What was it like shooting there? 

SW: Croatia is just beautiful. It was very scenic. I think it definitely became one of my favorite spots in the world. It was the perfect place for us to shoot this movie. We all felt very connected to the land, and the people were all so friendly, always smiling and helpful. But because most people there don’t speak english we ended up gesticulating and smiling a lot!

Why do you think this is an important story for audiences to see?

SW: Because of the all women cast and the fact that it offers up a storyline that really shows in depth what it means to be human, to be a woman and to be on this planet trying to figure yourself out. I think that this is a very important story to tell because I think we all have so many more questions, doubts and fears than we usually allow ourselves to show and admit. 

The more we talk about the struggles, how to overcome them and possibly even laugh about them, the better! Also, I find it very important to show that we are not alone in this. That if we choose to open ourselves up that there are many people that can relate to us, strengthen us and make the journey easier.

 

Stunt Performer and Actor Carson Manning Attaches to Superhero Film ‘Time Man’

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Stunt performer and actor Carson Manning, who has daringly delivered stunts for more than 70 different film and TV titles such as the highly anticipated “Suicide Squad,” “X-Men: Days of Future Past” and FX’s “The Strain,” has attached to play the leading role of Michael in “Time Man,” an exciting upcoming feature film written and directed by Travis Grant. 

Now in development, “Time Man,” will take place in a present day, urban New York City or Chicago-type city setting. The drama-filled, action feature film will tell the tale of a middle-aged, disgraced superhero named Michael, who is looking to redeem his name. Similar to many superheroes, Michael does have an expected heroic ability, however, the nature of his is presently under wraps. 

No stranger to action, Manning has employed his expert stunt work in recent releases such as Henry Nader’s “Shoot the Messenger,” Allan Ungar’s “Gridlocked,” Columbia Pictures’ “Pixels” and “RoboCop” (2014) and Sony’s “Pompeii.” His stunt performing and utility stunts for “X-Men: Days of Future Past” led to a 2015 Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble. 

Manning’s acted in Fox’s “X-Men” in 2000, in Universal’s Oscar-nominated “The Hurricane” starring Denzel Washington and he performed stunts for New Line Cinema’s “Shoot ‘Em Up” starring Clive Owen and Paul Giamatti. 

After reading the script for “Time Man,” Manning immediately knew he wanted to be a part of this high-concept, highly original superhero story. “The character Michael is multi-dimensional,” Manning said. “At the beginning of it, you can’t figure out who this guy is. I had already done all of the superhero films and thought ‘Wow, this is really different.’ The writing and the scenes were so compelling.” 

Standing apart from the formula of superhero studio films, Grant, who is previously known for known for “Nick Ryan,” “Maybe Tomorrow” and “Paper Trail,” meticulously worked to create an original superhero story. 

“I loved superheroes when I was a kid. When I first sat down with this, I felt like there was a bit of a hole. They’ve [the studios] glossed over character moments. They’re trying to make a big budget tent pole film,” said Grant, of his initial ideation regarding filling a gap in the current marketplace among superhero movies. “There are other superheroes you can explore that aren’t DC or Marvel properties.” 

From this inspiration, Grant created “Time Man,” who is known as Michael in the story’s opening. On the character himself, Grant said, “He was looked up to as a shining beacon for the city. He became obsessed with one bad guy he couldn’t catch. He made a poor decision and that cost him everything – his powers, friends and family. He became a loner, about as far as rock bottom as you can get.”

The film will contain flashbacks, ultimately telling two stories at once. “‘You’re kind of seeing who he [Michael] became and also his fall. It’s reverse arcs at the same time. They converge at one pivotal scene at the very end,” Grant revealed. 

The audience will find that the villain will play a very important role, as Grant also noted the character is integral to Michael getting back on his feet. Furthermore, alongside Manning, actor Ryan Barton (“Co-Ed”, “Owl River Runners” and “Nick Ryan”) has been cast. 

Manning’s vastly impressive achievements as a stunt performer and actor have spanned nearly three decades and dozens of distinguished productions. Due to his wide-spanning, world-class experience in filming stunts, Manning is a person who can make judgment calls concerning safety, and recommendations pertaining to what realistically can and cannot be done budget wise. 

In addition to starring in “Time Man,” Manning will also be coordinating and performing his own stunts, too. “To me, having an actor who is able to do all or most of their stunts is invaluable,” Grant said when describing Manning’s type of talent. “You’re not limited as to how you can shoot the scene. You can tell a story within the fight.” 

Manning’s tour de force stunt performing and acting has also been engaged in many acclaimed TV series that have had international viewership. He acted in all three parts of ABC’s Primetime Emmy winning “Storm of the Century,” which was a miniseries event from writer Stephen King. Manning performed stunts for seven episodes of the Gemini Award winning action adventure series, “Mutant X,” six episodes of Syfy’s hit series, “Alphas” and for three episodes of The CW’s Primetime Emmy nominated “Nikita.” 

Last year, Manning’s stunt performing was seen in Guillermo del Toro’s “The Strain,” The CW’s “Beauty and the Beast,” Syfy’s Primetime Emmy nominated “Defiance” and “12 Monkeys,” Global Television’s “Remedy” and the History Channel’s “Gangland Undercover.” 

The action-packed, feature film “Time Man” will allow Manning to utilize both of his specialties at once as he delves into the mindset of his new role as Michael. “Time Man” is projecting to shoot this year and release in 2017. 

For more information, visit http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0543248/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1 and 
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3807026/?ref_=fn_al_nm_2

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