Tag Archives: acting

Antonio Vigna talks adopting mindset of a serial killer

The first time that Antonio Vigna stepped onto a stage, he realized that he has a passion to entertain flowing through his veins. As he began to take on more prominent roles, he learned that there wasn’t a single part of acting that he didn’t enjoy. To this day, he thrives on the opportunity to step into the shoes of a new, different character every time he shoots a film or television show. He feels empathy for the unique situations that his characters encounter and he delves so deeply into his roles that he often catches himself feeling as though he is actually living through their eyes. The true joy of his job, however, comes from inspiring his audiences to overcome the hardships in their lives that are similar to those of the characters he portrays. For Vigna, knowing that he may be the source of hope in even a single viewer’s life is what motivates him to continue acting.

Vigna’s relentless desire to act has earned him a variety of diverse roles in several films and television series. During his work as an actor, however, he developed a profound appreciation for all of the intricate roles involved in creating a film and found himself intrigued to learn more about each one. Eventually, he realized that he enjoyed producing films just as much as he enjoyed acting in them, and his audiences are all the more fortunate for it. His talents as a producer are unparalleled and his works have landed him in several film festivals around the world. In fact, two films that he is particularly fond of, Dia de Muertos and In a Heartbeat were featured at the prestigious Cannes Short Film Corner in 2017. Despite his esteemed career as a producer, Vigna is still an actor and balances the two professions seamlessly.

In 2015, Vigna wrote the script for Perfection which depicts the unique, thrilling tale of a young artist struggling to find the missing piece for his masterpiece. It isn’t until the artist has an accident and discovers the solution to his masterpiece is human blood, which leads him on a terrifying murder spree. When Vigna pitched the script to his director, they knew that they were going to need a high calibre actor to take on the part of the artist. Fortunately, they didn’t have to look any further than Vigna, who had the exact skill set and on-screen presence that the lead role demanded. For the highly sought-after actor, this character presented a unique opportunity to flavour his career in a newfound way and he was eager to bring his own story to life.

“Actors often find themselves playing interesting, dynamic characters; however, one of the most complicated character types to play is a serial killer. I saw this as both an opportunity and a challenge to master the complexity of his mind. I knew that I had to find element of his personality that I could relate to in order to become him on screen in a believable way, which was extremely difficult but rewarding in the end,” said Vigna.

The film’s first assistant director, Markel Goikoetxea was just as pleased with Vigna’s performance as he was. Goikoetxea, being the first assistant director, witnessed the film’s progress from conception to the finished product and he knows better than most about the value that Vigna brings to his roles. His unprecedented talents were the reason that the film showed at prestigious film festivals such as the Hollywood Screenings Film Festival and Los Angeles Cinefest. He was even nominated for Best Actor at the Barcelona Planet Film Festival for his work on Perfection.

“From the very first time I saw the director and Antonio talking about the role, I knew that he was going to nail it. He is so detail-oriented and he gives his best no matter what role he is playing. His work is a reflection of the level of care and consideration he takes to develop his characters flawlessly. He is one of the most talented and hard-working actors that I have ever met,” told Goikoetxea.

The opportunity to play such an intricate, troubled character was a thrill for Vigna. The artist, much like Vigna, is passionate beyond comprehension about his work. As the story progresses, it becomes increasingly apparent that the artist’s determination to bring perfection to his masterpiece pushes him to lose touch with reality and to be blinded by his quest for greatness. Vigna was drawn to the complexity of the role and enjoyed searching for the parallels between his passion for acting and the artist’s passion for his masterpiece. Playing the artist was a journey in itself.

So, what’s in store for the highly esteemed actor? Vigna hopes to continue acting in and producing the highest quality films possible. When asked about the highlight of his career to date, the talented actor and producer humbly replied that his career is a highlight in itself and that the best is yet to come.

Actress Isabella Richardson captivates in ‘Next of Kin’

For Isabella Richardson, acting is pushing boundaries. She throws her emotions into her characters, and therefore evokes viewers emotions, allowing them to see themselves in her portrayal. She is aware of the importance of her work and how it can impact the lives of her audience, and this knowledge allows her to fully commit to each and every role she takes on. The Australian actress is internationally sought-after, with an esteemed career at just nineteen years of age.

Working on projects such as the sketch comedy show You’re Skitting Me, and commercials for Beyond Blue and Sprite, Richardson has won audiences over with her naturalistic approach to her craft. She never overacts, and that is what makes her such an outstanding talent. This is exemplified yet again with her work in the acclaimed film Next of Kin.

“The story of the film is a relatable, but yet complicated interpretation of frustrations towards loved ones. We may get annoyed at the smallest things that someone you love does, but in the end, you adore them no matter what and should never take the little annoying things for granted, because you don’t know when they might be taken away from you,” said Richardson.

The short film follows a policewoman whose job is incredibly straining on her relationship with her husband, who is also her partner in the police force. She has moments in the film of annoyances towards her husband, but in the end, realizes not to take the people she is surrounded by for granted, due to receiving a call about a young boy who was caught up in a terrible accident causing his death.

“I really loved the director and his passion for movie making. The storyline of the film was incredibly deep, but also very simplistic that anyone who were to watch it would relate to the main character. I also believed that it would be an interesting character to try and put myself into,” she described.

Richardson plays Kristine, a character whose boyfriend has just fallen off a bridge and died after doing daring tricks on his skateboard. Kristine is undeniably devastated and has to come to terms with just seeing her boyfriend fall to his death. She is comforted by the police officers and asked questions of the accident immediately following it. Kristine had a broken outlook on life until she met David, but he was rebellious and would sometimes do things that made Kristine uneasy. He was thoughtless at times when it came to how Kristine felt about certain activities he took apart, specifically the people he hung out with. Kristine is the kind of person who needs someone there at all times, she is very co-dependent due to her late family’s careless upbringing, and she relies on a safety blanket, that being David. Kristine is quickly faced with another death leading her to start living an independent lifestyle with the hopes of recovering any day now from all the loss she has experienced in such a short time. It was the first moment of a turning point that led to the rest of the films outcome. It was a pivotal moment of emotion that was needed to spark the main characters and their involvement with each other, and Richardson more than met the task at hand.

“Working on Next of Kin was a truly interesting experience. I had never cried on camera, so that was probably the biggest challenge for me. I got into the mindset of this character by putting myself into her shoes. She had just seen her boyfriend fall to his death right before her eyes, so placing my own thought process into that situation brought up a lot of external emotion which I was able to translate into my characters own emotion,” she said.

When looking for an actress who could convincingly capture the vital role of Kristine, director Nicholas Carlton immediately thought of Richardson. The two had worked together previously on the moving coming for Beyond Blue, titled ‘Preventing Youth Suicide.’ Richardson’s portrayal of a seventeen-year-old troubled skateboarder greatly impressed the director, and he knew her talent would be perfect for Kristine.

“Isabella is featured in a short film that I directed called Next of Kin, and she played the character of a young girl who had just experienced her boyfriend’s death right before her eyes. Isabella brought a realistic aspect to this character. The situation is a devastating ordeal for a young girl to manage. She applied her training and techniques that she has learnt through her short years to reveal a compelling outlook of a simplistic character without any scripted lines. She worked with the me to fully understand the feelings that her character would have felt in that moment, as if she was in the characters shoes,” said Carlton.

Next of Kin went on to receive praise as an Official Selection at the Byron Bay Film Festival where it premiered. Without Richardson’s authentic portrayal of Kristine, such acclaim may not have been possible, but for the actress, she simply enjoyed working alongside great people.

“I loved being able to work with a great crew and cast. They all were incredibly lovely and I was met only with helpful, kind people. We all were there because we loved doing what we do and that was one of the things that made the whole experience so much fun,” she said.

There is little doubt that Richardson will continue to be a name to watch out for on both the big and small screen for years to come.

Actress Liya Shay is the voice in your head in film ‘From Within’

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Actress Liya Shay, photo by Collin Stark

“Taking on a new role, transforming into a new character is like a drug to us actors,” said Liya Shay. The Russian native has enjoyed acting since she was just a child, knowing she would never want to do anything else; she can’t live without it. She believes she is one of the luckiest people on the earth, getting to do what she loves every day. She is also one of the best actresses to recently come out of Russia.

Throughout her career, Shay has worked on a series of esteemed projects, solidifying her reputation as a true professional. Her portrayal of the sister in The 4th Person caught the attention of both audiences and critics, a trend that continued for her roles in Musician Evan Blum’s “Won’t Be Alright” music video, and the short film Greek Yougurt.

“If you don’t truly love acting, you would not be able to do it,” she said.

Shay has become an international success, with producers and directors looking to have her in their films. Just last year, this happened when producer Nikita Sapronov reached out to the actress to be in the film From Within. The two had worked together on the film Forever, and Sapronov knew Shay would be ideal for the role of Louise. The two have now worked on four projects together, and Sapronov is always impressed with the skill that Shay holds despite her young age. He was very impressed with how fluently she switches between accents and dialects. He helped the casting directors of the television series Cyberia find their lead character Dr. Alina Petrovska, knowing that Shay can speak Russian and do an authentic Russian accent. In the near future, Sapronov yet again will be working with the actress on the mockumentary feature film Homeschool Graduation, and believes that her talent as an outstanding actor will make her a wonderful asset to his film.

“Liya created a unique character in From Within. Fictional, yet so familiar to everybody who faces the struggle of their perfectionist self. The combination of her strong deep melodic voice together with the British accent that she portrayed flawlessly due to her background living in the UK, created a character that was unforgettable. The character was an antagonist, but Liya was able to play on different notes of the character, making her performance so unique,” said Sapronov.

From Within tells the story of Caleb, a musician who stands up to his perfectionist inner voice, accepts his faults and embraces his inner creativity, taking his performance beyond the technique. Shay believes the film tells an important story, as many people struggle with trying to be perfect and constantly feel not good enough. From Within tackles these issues.

“Our world is so reliant on competition in everything we do. There is always someone better or stronger or cleverer and we always have this voice in our heads that tells us that we are not good enough, and often this voice is the reason why we give up. In this story, we wanted to remind the audience that doing something from your heart is more important than doing it perfectly. That what we do and the way we do it is so unique to every person, that simply that makes us equally special. Trusting your instincts and not comparing yourself to anybody else is the key to success,” said Shay.

Shay’s character Louise was extremely crucial to the story of From Within, as she leads Caleb through his self-discovery. She pushes him beyond his boundaries, and makes him realize that he can achieve greatness on his own, if only he embraces his mistakes. Shay was able to portray how three dimensional her character became, despite being written as a simple antagonist.

“I loved playing around with this character. I tend to get cast in roles that show vulnerability and a lot of emotions. This character was the opposite. She was strong and in complete control over Caleb. it’s definitely a lot of fun to be the boss. Also, I was always moving around as opposed to Caleb who is always at the piano in our scenes. It gave me an opportunity to really play the devil who is always behind, always whispering in your ear. The gorgeous red dress was the icing on the cake,” said Shay.

The audience’s sympathy for both the pianist and the muse helped the film achieve such success on domestic and international film festivals. It was an Official Selections at the Mission Viejo Film Festival, Oasis Film Festival, VOB Screening Series, and Austrian International Film Festival. None of this could have been possible without Shay’s intense portrayal of Louise. She knew the importance of building a believable relationship with the character of Caleb. Because Louise was an imaginary character, Shay had to create a sense that she was not a real person, but a product of Caleb’s imagination. Although it was mainly achieved through montage in the film, she had to carry the sense of it throughout the film. She chose to often walk around in circles close to Caleb, intruding his personal space, which emphasized that they had a very close relationship, and that she was holding some sort of power over him.

“Louise has a strong mindset that can’t be changed or meddled with. Unlike Caleb, she knows exactly what she wants from him and how to get him there. Although she is the antagonist, the audience is compelled to listen to her because of the intensity that she holds in every moment,” Shay described.

Audiences should be sure to check out Shay’s portrayal of Natasha in the upcoming film Jet Lag. Check out the trailer here.

Actor Konstadinos Lahanas does own stunt work in popular TV show ‘The Disappearance’

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Konstadinos Lahanas

Performing has always been Konstadinos Lahanas passion. He feels as if he was meant to be an actor, and audiences around the world could not agree more. His versatility is consistently evident, seamlessly transitioning from dramatic to comedic roles throughout his career. He has emerged as one of Greece’s leading actors, and has no plans on slowing down.

Throughout his career, Lahanas has worked on a series of successful projects, whether it be film, television, commercials, or stage plays. His work in series like Family Stories (Oikogeneiakes Istories), and I Have a Secret (Eho Ena Mystiko), the film The Pilgrim (O Proskinitis), and a popular Yoplait commercial shown all over Europe has made him instantly identifiable. One of his most well-known performances was on the hit television show The Disappearance (I Exafanisi).

“I wanted to work on this hit series for many reasons.  It was considered a big production for Greek standards and something that hadn’t been done before.  The action sequences were one of a kind for this production and the director, Stratos Markidis, had a great reputation for the way he worked on set and he was on the top of my list of directors of whom I wished to work with,” said Lahanas.

The Disappearance was a popular two-season, drama-action television series distributed on Greek Television by Alpha TV. The series was directed by Stratos Markidis, starring with Natalia Dragoumi and Stavros Zalmas. The story describes the life of a happy couple, Fillipos and Alex, who are married for 17 years and have two children. When Fillipos gets promoted, the family decides to celebrate with a journey in Tinisia. In the airport there, Alex sees Mauro for the first time, a mysterious Greek-Italian doctor. After this meeting, the life of this triangle changes dramatically once Alex get lost in a local Bazaar. Then the adventure begins, as Fillipos tries desperately to find Alex in a foreign and hostile country.

“The show involves family matters, which we all hold close to our hearts. The anxiety and turmoil a family is put through when faced with such an incident is heartbreaking. Relationships and bonds within the family are tested in moments like these and often are a make it or break it factor. As humans, we can all relate to this and I feel this is what makes the story important,” said Lahanas.

In The Disappearance, Lahanas plays a young and ambitious police officer, actively participating in the chase of Mauro who had abducted Alex. The requirements of this role were demanding, requiring lots of running and combat skills, as well as successful expression of intense emotions during the scenes. The character is essential in the story development, as the police officer helps to solve the disappearance that the show is based off of.

“What I really liked about working on this project was how physically demanding the role was and how intense the emotions ran through my body, allowing me to commit to my character as needed. All of this allowed me to expand my horizons as an actor. Working on this production was extremely interesting as all the filming was done outdoors, and all the cast and crew were tested by the circumstances we had to work with, heat being a number one factor and of course all the stunts involved,” Lahanas described.

The role of the police officer required a lot of stunt work that Lahanas did himself. The character actively participated in chasing down the main suspect and finally resolving the case with success. This meant Lahanas needed to be trained in combat and stunt driving.

“Working on this production was an amazing experience. Acquiring such skills that I hadn’t had the chance to work on before and really enjoyed doing. There were times were my limits were tested on set as some shots were extremely dangerous and it was up to me to decide whether or not I wanted to take the risk. Being put in this situation helped me shape the character I wanted to portray,” he described.

These shots were risky. While filming one crucial scene in an abandoned house during the night, one of the floorboards where Lahanas was walking suddenly collapsed. Luckily, he was able to grab onto the remaining floor to prevent a serious injury, but he was still hurt. However, he did not let this interfere with his portrayal of the police officer, something that impressed all who he worked with.

“I worked with Konstadinos on The Disappearance and was immediately impressed by him. His acting skills during difficult and demanding action scenes were magnificent. I think that the biggest strengths of Konstadinos are his dedication to the needs of every role and also his ability to improvise,” said co-star Natalia Dragoumi.

Lahanas became a part of this project after the casting agent contacted him. They knew they needed someone talented that could also handle the physical demands of the role. Lahanas was the immediate choice, and once he read the script, he was hooked.

“I was immediately inspired by the high intensity of the role and all the stunts involved in the action sequences. Doing my own stunts was something I always wanted to experience as an actor,” he said.

There is little doubt as to why, with such extraordinary talent, Lahanas is such a successful and acclaimed actor, and audiences can expect to continue to see him on both their big and small screen for years to come.

 

Actress Claire Stollery tells her story in award-winning film ‘Who is Hannah’

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Claire Stollery as Hannah in Who is Hannah

Claire Stollery was never interested in anything other than acting. As a child growing up in Calgary, she always had this one passion. As she grew and moved around Canada, what started out as a childhood dream started to become a reality. There is no doubt that Claire Stollery was meant to be an actress, and audiences everywhere know this every time they see her on the big and small screen.

As an actor, being vulnerable is pivotal to opening yourself up to a character. Connecting with the story and allowing your experiences to come through is vital when it comes to connecting with an audience. Stollery knows this well. She starred in the award-winning film Who is Hannah, that she also co-wrote, and allowed the events in her life to guide her character, creating a cathartic experience for the actress.

“This film was very close to me. I co-wrote it with a great comedian friend of mine, John Hastings. We wanted to collaborate and create a great dark comedy, but we didn’t know what we wanted to write about. One night after a show we were sitting in my cold car, a couple days before Christmas. I told him the story of how I had met my biological father in Los Angeles when I was 21. I found his number and left him a message, lying about my identity because I wasn’t sure he’d call me back if he knew who I was. In the end I came clean and we decided to meet up. When he arrived at the coffee shop, he ended up calling me while he was standing right beside me. We had no idea what each other looked like! It was like a meet-cute you’d see in a rom-com.  John couldn’t stop laughing of the horror and awkwardness of the situation. We decided then and there we would write a film exploring that scenario and what could go wrong when you don’t know what each other look like,” Stollery described.

Who is Hannah is the awkward and unlikely tale of how one girl meets her dead dad. Stollery plays Hannah, a role that was written with her in mind. Because she helped write the film, she already had the character’s voice inside her. Hannah is a girl who just wants to belong somewhere and know where she came from. She feels lost and incomplete because she’s never known the identity of her father – only known pieces from what her mother has told her. The problem is, she discovers everything her mother has told her about her father is the plot to Indiana Jones. When she finds out that her mother completely lied to her about her father’s identity and that he’s alive and lives in the next town, she has new hope for self-completion.

“I can’t really relate to Hannah’s feeling of incompleteness because I was lucky enough to have a dad growing up. My mom met my father who raised me when I was six months old. But even then, you always wonder what that other person is like. Are you like them? Do you look like them? There are always those thoughts at the back of your mind,” Stollery described. “Everyone wants to know where they come from. We want to know our history; it’s a universal desire. For those people who are searching for their identity, we wanted a film that let them know they are not alone. Since making the film I have had a lot of people write me or come up to me after screenings telling me about their experience or a friend’s experience of meeting a biological parent. There are a lot of those stories out there, but people don’t talk about them that often. There’s a lot of shame in having parents abandon their children. For the kid, it is a terrifying journey seeking out and meeting a parent for the very first time. You’ve imagined and built up this person your entire lifetime. There’s a lot of pressure for fantasy to match reality. It was important for John and me to write a film that finds the humour in such a bizarre but impactful moment in someone’s life.”

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Behind the scenes of Who is Hannah

Because of Stollery’s deep understanding of her character, the film went on to do exceptionally well at many international film festivals. It was an Official Selection at The Atlantic Film Festival where it premiered last year, and then went on to be an Official Selection at The Hamilton Film Festival, The Toronto International Short Film Festival, Hollywood North Film Festival and The Toronto Independent Film Festival. At the Lakeshorts International Film Festival where it was also an Official Selection, Who is Hannah took home the Cinespace Jury’s Choice Award and the People’s Choice Award.

“When it finally premiered we were so happy people liked it and were laughing. Because we had been with it for so long, we had no idea if it was even funny anymore. And you start second guessing yourself and wondering, was it ever funny? Were we just delirious on set when we filmed it at 4 am?” said Stollery. “And it was amazing to receive the Jury’s Choice Award. They always have such talented and revered people on their jury, so their opinion meant a lot. I’m so tickled when anyone likes something I make. It was a great honour to receive it and even better feeling to receive the People’s Choice award. We didn’t know anyone at the screenings, and to have a room full of strangers resonate with your film was really a special moment for us. There really is nothing better than sitting in a theatre and listening to people laugh at something you wrote and eaves dropping on people saying good things about it afterwards.”

Part of what makes Stollery so good at what she does is her ability to improvise. Although this is sometimes not encouraged on set, the Director of Who is Hannah, Mark O’Brien, was all for it. He knew what Stollery was capable of, and knew what she could add to both the character and the film. His instincts were right.

“Claire is an extremely talented actress and writer. She’s a very open-minded artist who knows how to collaborate well, while at the same time making her work authentic and unique. She works hard, and that is a rarity in this business. There’s a lot of talk in the entertainment industry, but Claire goes out and gets it done. And really, that’s what you want most from someone you’re working with. And she does it well,” said O’Brien. “She’s a very natural actress, very real. Acting is a tough skill that can be improved through training, but I do believe that there must be some inherent talent in the person first. Claire has a foundation of incredible talent that will take her very far. Anyone who has the chance to work with her should count themselves lucky.”

It was more than just the story and character that Stollery could connect with, even the set meant something to her. They filmed in an old, abandoned farm house that the actress had actually grown up in, as well as a hotel that was the first place Stollery went to when she visited Toronto as a child.

“Even though the film is a comedy, it is rooted in real issues. There’s a fine line tonally with dark comedies. You don’t want to make it too comedic otherwise you lose the truth of the situations. But you don’t want to make it too dark, otherwise you lose the comedic release. It’s a balancing act doing those types of films” she said.

But the most important part of the process for Stollery was not the awards, accolades, or why she embarked on the project, it was what it turned into.

“Filming was therapeutic for me. I had just lost my father who raised me a couple years prior, we were filming in the house I grew up in, the story was loosely based on my experience with meeting my biological father. And I realized I never really talked about it with my father who raised me. I regret that I didn’t check in with him more about the whole situation and considered his feelings more. But he was great about it and knew it was something I needed to do. He didn’t interfere. Not to mention my mother wasn’t too happy I was making a film about a man who had left us, even though it was very loosely inspired by him. But that was how she saw it. So it’s safe to say there were a lot of emotions surrounding the project!” Stollery concluded.

Audiences can see Who Is Hannah at the end of this year on CBC.

Australian Actress Sunny Koll helps sheds light on cyber-bullying in ‘Zach’s Story’

Sunny Koll doesn’t just tell stories, she embodies them. She brings a story to life. As an actress, she tries to find within her character a commonality, a humanity, that connects each of us together. From that connection, people are able to see themselves within the story. That is what makes her one of the best, and that is why she is recognized around the world for her talents.

This ability to connect with audiences transcends to every project Koll embarks on. She takes audiences with her on her path of ending human trafficking in the series Traffik, and in the comedic television show Flat Whites, viewers feel for her character Stacy, as she has been duped by the two main characters in their attempt to win her affections. However, in the film Zach’s Story, Koll not only connects with her audience, but she helps to tell the impactful story, raising awareness on the important and timely issue of cyber-bullying.

“The script was empowering for kids who have experienced cyber bullying. Within Australia, there has been a lot of action taken within schools to stop bullying and celebrate differences, as the Australian government is getting behind this, I really wanted to be a part of it,” said Koll. “I liked how important this project is. Today’s world moves at such a fast pace and there’s so much pressure on teenagers, I can’t even imagine what it’s like to have the speed of the internet added into the mix of bullying. I really liked that this campaign offers answers with how to deal with these situations, so you don’t feel alone, which only breeds more pain and long-term shame.”

Zach’s Story is part of the “ReWrite Your Story” campaign, an anti-cyberbullying campaign for the Australian Government Office of Children’s eSafety Commissioner. “Rewrite Your Story” consists of a series of short films focusing on different cyberbullying scenarios. Zach’s Story tells the story of Zach, a high school student who is being cyber bullied. The film highlights various ways a family unit can deal with these situations.

“The message is incredibly important. Bullying of any kind erodes self-esteem and is usually done to the most sensitive of people. The effects of bullying can take years to heal. The real tragedy is that the bullies themselves have something broken within them and are usually dealing with some horrific power plays of their own in their family homes and are only acting out to gain power somewhere else,” said Koll. “It’s very satisfying to know it’s reached so many people and that people want to make a change. It’s also so incredibly brilliant for Christopher Benz for taking out the Best Director’s Award in an Online Drama Project for his work on Rewrite Your Story at the Australian Director’s Guild Awards. He really is a brilliantly talented artist who continuously gives and works very hard, never resting on his laurels and I can’t wait to see what he brings out next. To also win Gold at the World Media Festival and the Bronze World Medal at the New York Festivals Television & Film Awards is so fantastic for him and his team at Brave TV.”

Zach’s Story premiered online, on the “Rewrite Your Story” site and on the “Rewrite Your Story” Facebook page. The Rewrite Your Story campaign has had almost one million views online with 133 thousand of them being for Zach’s Story. The film went on to win the Bronze World Medal at the New York Festival’s Television and Film Awards, and the campaign won the Gold Award at the World Media Festival 2017.

“It’s very satisfying to know it’s reached so many people and people want to make a change. To also win the Bronze World Medal at the New York Festivals Television & Film Awards, and for the entire Rewrite Your Story campaign, to win Gold at the World Media Festival, is fantastic as it means these topics are getting the air time they deserve,” said Koll.

Koll played the vital role of Leanne, Zach’s mother. Due to the cyber bullying, Zach was withdrawing, which caused concern for his parents. After his father discovered the cyber bullying pages, the parents worked together to create a safe family atmosphere where Zach could talk openly about his feelings and they could work out a plan of action. She’s doing her best to keep a normal relaxed home life, so Zach feels safe to express his feelings. For this role, Koll researched bullying in all its aspects, including the effects it has not only on the person being bullied, but also the entire family, as there can be radical changes within the person being bullied. This commitment to her performance was appreciated by all she worked with.

“Working with Sunny was a breeze. She is very much a team player and in tune with cast and crew. She’s also very open to direction, which is important. Sunny is a dedicated, passionate actress. She puts time into her preparation and turns up ready to work. She’s driven to create and combines working hard with natural ability, to find the layers, truth and need within each of her characters,” said Christopher Benz, Director of Zach’s Story.

The accolades and the awards, however, are not why Koll is proud to be a part of the project. For her, she wanted to educate, knowing that education can heal all parties involved with bullying. Showing young children that their actions can have such effects is important, as Koll knows firsthand.

“My uncle is a holocaust survivor, and regularly goes to schools to talk with the students. At one school a student approached him after his talk and said that his entire life he had treated people very badly and since hearing about the holocaust first hand wanted to make changes. It works out this boy was the school bully and nobody had been able to get through to him, but for whatever reason on this day in this moment he was reached and forever changed. This is what the power of continuing the message of compassion and acceptance does,” she said.

To learn more about the “ReWrite Your Story” campaign, and to watch Koll’s performance in Zach’s story, you can click here.

Actress Erika Garces: The Next Generation

Erika Garces
Actress Erika Garces

Born in Ecuador to an Ecuadorian father and German mother, actress Erika Garces’ undeniable beauty has been turning the heads of viewers around the world for the past seven years, but it’s her skill as a leading lady on both the stage and screen that’s responsible for the indelible mark that she’s made in the minds of fans.

Over the years she has become known for her performances in an impressive range of projects including the 2011 dramatic Argentinean film Milán directed by Festival Internacional Latin UY Award Nominee Alejandro Cuberos, Hollywood International Moving Pictures Film Festival Award winner Samuel Gonzalez Jr.’s film Here with Me featuring TV Star James Scott from Days of our Lives, the 2016 dramatic comedy film Social Norm, which earned the Best Narrative Feature Award from the California Film Awards, and many more.

Last year Garces gave a dazzling performance in the comedy action film City of Dreams, where she took on the starring role of Audrey, a wife who leaves her husband only to be tracked down by one of his hitmen. As the lead actress and co-producer of the film, Garces earned the Women’s Film Challenge Award from the Audience Awards in Los Angeles earlier this year, as well as several other accolades for her work.

The ethnic ambiguity of Garces look has endowed her with the rare asset of being able to visually embody a wide range of characters from around the world, something that has definitely come in handy over the course of her career. Having taken on characters ranging from a Persian protestant in Rayka Zehtabchi’s (We Home, The Pad Project) film Madaran, which earned the HollyShorts Film Festival Jury Award in 2016, to a Spanish reporter in Gotham Independent Film Award nominee Mayon Denton’s crime mystery Distortion, Garces repertoire of work proves her versatility. As a performer who is always looking for a challenge, there are some character types that she has purposefully chosen to avoid.

The actress says, “I definitely stay away from the ‘cute girlfriend’ type. Not much to do.”

About what she looks for in a project, Garces adds, “One of the main things I focus on is the story…. Is there a message or a subject that I’m interested in working with. Is my character something new I haven’t been challenged with before, or is it a personal connection to something about this character that I would like to tell her story and communicate…”

The Perfect Plan
Poster for “The Perfect Plan”

In 2016 Garces took on the starring role of Agent E. in the action-packed romance film The Perfect Plan directed by Siena Sivrican (The Hitchhiker). The film revolves largely around Garces’ character Agent E. and Agent R. played by Akende Munalula (From the upcoming series Counterpart with JK Simmons, and Boo2A Medea Halloween with Tyler Perry), two CIA special agents tasked with bringing down a corrupt French company owned by three brothers that stands behind a massive money laundering operation.

While the adrenaline pumping espionage that unfolds over the course of the film is a major draw,  what makes The Perfect Plan even more intriguing is the unexpected romance that erupts between Agents E. and R., something that makes the ending of the film that much more tragic.

About working with Garces, Akende Munalula, who played Agent R. as well as wrote the screenplay for The Perfect Plan, says, “Her dedication to character and story telling is like I’ve never seen before. She truly immerses herself into her character and is always going deeper. I learned so much from watching her work.”

The Perfect Plan
Akende Munalula and Erika Garces in “The Perfect Plan”

Garces gives a knockout performance in The Perfect Plan, embodying both the cunning strength and seductive nature of a female secret agent, as well as the human vulnerability that allows the audience to see that the relationship between her character and Agent R. has grown into much more than a cover.

While Garces has taken on countless powerful authority-driven roles overs the course of her career, such as her role as Officer Johnson in the upcoming film La Cougars, Officer Greene in Decades Apart and Sergeant Lodge in The Hudson Case, the film The Perfect Plan provided the actress with a few intimate challenges she hadn’t experienced in the past.

“A new challenge I faced with this shoot is the intimacy that was required and the chemistry between the two leading characters. There were many kissing scenes, and implied sex scenes, no nudity, all implied, but it was new for me to live that on set as oppose to the stage,” admits Garces.

To any viewer who’s seen Garces performance in The Perfect Plan, or any of her other film work to date for that matter, it’s immediately apparent why the actress has managed to achieve the international level of success that she has over the last few years– her skill and magnetism on screen are virtually unparalleled.

About what drives her to perform, Garces explains, “It’s about telling a story that you’re passionate about. A story that affects the society, a story perhaps, that represents voices that can’t speak for themselves, but when they go to the theater (movie or stage) they identify themselves with these characters. I love the opportunity to be able to speak up for someone that cannot, through art.”

Having carved out a prominent position for herself as a sought after actress in both the U.S. and abroad, we know Erika Garces is one actress we will be seeing a whole lot more of on screen in the future. Keep your eyes peeled for Garces in the upcoming dramatic feature film Elevate from multi-award winning director Angela Matemotja (The Encounter, The Untimely Concurrence), as well as Marc Logan’s (Sweet 6teen, Solitary, Rats) crime film The Hudson Case.

Erika Garces will also be hosting Fashion Gossip at the magazine’s 2017 Maxim Hot 100 Party on Saturday, June 24th in Los Angeles.