Tag Archives: Director

He Wanted to Be a History Professor but He’s Making it Instead: Meet The Mill’s E.P. of Emerging Technology Dan Phillips

In his youth Dan Phillips imagined he would grow up to be a history professor, but as fate would have it, he’s making history instead. Dan, who’s currently the executive producer of emerging technology for internationally renowned production company The Mill, has spent the past decade or so concocting wildly creative concepts that utilize innovative technologies to help prominent brands stand out. 

As a producer, he has been key in bringing talented artists, tech geniuses and big name clients together to create unforgettable campaigns that have revolutionized the way brands tell stories and connect with their audience. 

Dan says, “Technology will advance whether we like it or not. I like how it intersects with the human experience. I like helping people to recognise and navigate these changes, to look over the brow of the hill and see what may be coming. Purview and perspective are key. We overestimate the change that may happen in a year, but always underestimate the change that will take place over 10.”

Dan Phillips (left) behind the scenes of the Sony Spacial Reality Display with The Mill’s Andrew Proctor (right)– Photography by Caleb Slain

Over the years Dan has been a key contributor to numerous industry-altering campaigns, such as the Guinness VR “A Sip For The Senses,” the first commercial VR experience to target all 5 senses, McDonalds’ “Reindeer Ready” Christmas campaign, their first use of Snapchat as a platform for gaming, and the Balmain “My City Of Lights” installation, which was the fashion house’s first use of VR and the first time that Oculus had allowed external design to be applied to their headset, and countless others. 

Another project that Dan was behind, which revolutionized the industry, was the joint effort to bring Mirage from the hit video game Apex Legends to life on stage during the 2019 Game Awards. The campaign was so successful that it was recently awarded the Gold Award from the 2021 Campaign Experience Awards in the Brand Experience B2C category. Some of the other awards Dan has earned for the projects he’s worked on include numerous Cannes Lions and Golden Ciclopes, the most prestigious in the industry, as well as the APA IDEAS Award for Best Mobile App, the Drum MOMA Award for Brand Awareness, the Silver Campaign Creative Tech Award for Audience Engagement, as well as 

One of the most exciting and industry changing projects Dan recently worked on for The Mill was the film that helped launch the new Sony Spacial Reality Display, which was named an Innovation Awards Honoree at CES 2021. A huge step forward in terms of 3D technology, the Sony Spatial Reality Display allows for a truly immersive and multi-dimensional viewing experience, which gives artists, architects and other creators the power to see their creation in three dimensions while they are crafting it.  

Dan explains, “With the power of Sony’s high-speed vision sensors and face tracking technology, the monitor responds to the movement of the viewer in real-time, creating a 3D imaging effect not possible on typical 2D screens and displays.” 

With the goal being to demonstrate the power of the new technology, Dan and his team at The Mill got together to create a complex and captivating CG scene powered by Unity’s game engine technology, which allowed creators to see just how far they could take this unique new tool. 

There’s no question that the Sony Spatial Display Monitor is a huge leap forward for the industry, and as the producer of the project responsible for revealing its power to the masses, Dan was key in coming up with not only the concept, but also overseeing the team that made it a reality. In fact, his role was so integral to the release campaign, that he was actually featured in the profile video that launched the campaign, which garnered nearly 300k views and counting on YouTube.

“As executive producer I not only pitched the creative to win the job alongside our creative director, but I also helped the internal team to understand the potential use of real-time CG to craft the story that we would tell within this unique new piece of display technology,” explains Dan. 

“I ensured the right artistic and developer skill set was assigned to the job to execute on the creative concept, and also acted as client lead for our agency and Sony partners, helping them to understand also the parameters for creative and visual storytelling within this new type of display.”

Having been referred to as an ‘evangelist for emerging technology,’ Dan’s role as an executive producer in the industry is quite unique. His work at The Mill has led to the development of new company-wide technology initiatives, such as the development of new pipelines for AR, VR, game engine development, virtual characters, virtual production, real-time VFX, volume and motion capture. What’s so interesting though, considering the way his work has utilized technology in a way that has forged the industry ahead, is the fact that he’s not a computer nerd– he’s a people person who knows a strong vision when he sees one.

He admits, “I am not an expert in coding or in 3d design, or in hardware and software, but I know how to see trends and how to get things made and how to bring people together effectively, and how to sell visions. They are my main attributes.”

While he may not be a coding expert, he is ahead of his time when it comes to identifying trends in the market, predicting future developments and understanding how to draw upon these to develop new and original content that will wow audiences and impact the industry on a massive scale. 

“Although it is technology and people can find that alienating, it enables us to do very human things. Ultimately I am interested in engagement and experience. I think that it is fascinating how modes of behaviour and communication that have taken such long time frames to evolve and settle in, are now moving at an incredible pace. So much so that we almost can’t keep up or reflect on it,” says Dan. 

“Think of how new media, e.g. radio, or tv or even home computing, took decades to settle in, generations, and now we have behaviours and modes of connecting and existing day to day that are commonplace in the space of months. And so it is dizzying, and yet it is still rooted in human behaviour and need.”

Dan’s fascination with human behavior, societal trends and culture in general have all underpinned his success in the field; and they’re also what almost led him to become a history professor. 

Though he was born in London, Dan spent his early life growing up in Kuwait followed by several years in Brunei, before returning to the UK to spend his teens in a small village in the Cambridgeshire countryside. 

“My dad was a developer driving the first wave of computerisation for global companies and so I was always aware of tech advances, but other than computer gaming, which was only ever a casual interest, I wasn’t really geeky or techy. I was more academic and old school into books, sports and music,” says Dan. 

“I always thought I would move into some kind of academia… I wanted to be a professor of history when I was at university completing  my Bachelors and Masters degrees.”

After university Dan spent a few years working in civil service where he oversaw the arts curriculum and museum/gallery engagement in UK schools, which occurred at a particularly poignant time in history as it coincided with free entry being granted to many of the UK’s national collections and there was a widespread push to begin digitizing collections and pushing online engagement. 

“I started to be interested in how people were using the internet and new technologies for access and interpretation to museums collections and art, and managed a load of funding programmes that were supporting these efforts in museums and galleries around the country.”

Shortly after Dan became the director of the Their Past Your Future (TPYF) programme funded by the National Lottery, which was housed in the Imperial War Museum in the UK; and he played a huge role in creating the exhibitions and digital programs that were unveiled during TYYF’s commemoration of the 60th anniversary of WWII. 

He recalls, “We developed all sorts of digitisation programs, online exhibitions, overseas visits for schools, teachers and veterans, learning resources, and there were strong threads of content production, audience engagement and virtual learning that evolved and emanated from there… When that finished in 2010 we had created a huge amount of digital material, and I wanted to try working outside of the public sector and in the agency and communication marketing space.”

After moving out of the public sector, and spending some time working with production companies in London’s digital and brand advertising industry, Dan was invited to take on a massive role at Moving Picture Company (MPC), an Academy and BAFTA Award winning VFX company. As MPC’s Head of Digital, Interactive and Immersive Media, Dan was tasked with building their digital and interactive offers, which gave him the power to help define what a digital, interactive and immersive adjunct to the company would even look like. 

He recalls, “It coincided with what I would call the 2nd wave of interactive advertising, the move from web and digital banners and flash, into mobiles and apps, and interactive screens and tech-driven experiential. Much of this has 3D or real-time tech at its heart and so it was a serendipitously ripe time to build that within a VFX studio that was master of these tools, and of the visual fidelity of assets of all types.”

Leading a division focused on experiences built for film, tv, brands, entertainment, music, art and social causes, Dan spent the next six years at MPC where he was responsible for coming up with new ways of storytelling that utilized technology. With his work being directly responsible for forging ahead the technological evolution in the fields of creative marketing and entertainment, it’s not at all surprising that MPC named him as their Global Head of Innovation across all studios. 

From helping museums make the transition into the modern age by digitizing their collections and making exhibitions like TPYF’s commemoration of the 60th anniversary of WWII more intriguing to the public, to forging new ways of storytelling by crossing technology, art and branding, there’s no questions that Dan Phillips has had a significant impact on history in his chosen professional fields. And perhaps, someday history professors will be speaking about him.

Meet Clément Oberto: A Visionary Director with a metaphoric style

French Director Clément Oberto – Photography by Pierre Ae

Oberto is among the few creatives whose talent and creative sense have helped connect global brands and contemporary artists with millions around the world. His deep understanding of the luxury world and unique eye for beauty led his work to be featured in Rolling Stone, LA Times, Billboard, Forbes and TIME, as well as on CNN and ABC with “Good Morning America.” 

Known for his ability to channel the true essence of a label, he is the director behind successful campaigns for iconic fashion brands such as the Chanel Group, Chaumet, Givenchy and Lancôme, to name only a few.

Often trusted during the early stages of brand development, the award-winning director collaborated with the French label Morreale Paris in 2018 to create the commercials that would introduce their two signature fragrances to the USA. 

Known for their bespoke scents, the brand’s mesmerizing perfumes have been called “a fragrance for royals”. Founded by Jean-Pierre Morreale, a French descendant of European knights, the honored family affair required a sophisticated director with a creative eye to embody the company’s history. With this in mind, it was Oberto’s seasoned knowledge of luxury branding that helped transfer Jean-Pierre Morreale’s dream of crafting the most luxurious fragrances into a captivating reality.

Oberto conceptualized, directed and edited the campaigns, while also providing for casting – featuring award-winning actress Logan Polish and twin models Max and Connor Haddadin.

“It was quite fascinating for me to be able to use my skills in so many creative areas, and to have the trust of Jean-Pierre Morreale and his creative director Maxime Rancon to do so”, he says. “Jean-Pierre Morreale had strong values for his brand, and he was attached to seeing them represented in the films. Honor and respect with a noble sense of transmission were some of the core messages he wanted us to incorporate,” he adds. “He also had a certain taste for the past and for whimsical worlds. So these were the elements I used to create the stories behind the three films.”

Presented as the most expensive perfume ever – according to Forbes – the brand’s image rose to prominence with the help of Oberto’s commercials, which were released over the course of several years.

He adds, “It’s rare for a director to be able to collaborate with a brand during such an extensive period of time. I am honored and humbled that they trusted me to bring their dreams and desires to the screen.”

His ability to go above and beyond, whilst remaining humble has been praised by his peers and numerous industry leaders. “I was astonished by the precision of his vision and the strength of it. Clément’s treatment was a detailed patchwork of colors and materials, landscapes and characters. The stories were very beautiful, and exciting to bring to life,” says art director and stylist Nelly Zagury, who’s known for working with Grammy-nominated artists Demi Lovato and FKA Twigs. “I truly enjoyed the challenges Clément gave me. He managed to provide enough space to both follow his directions but also surprise him with my skills.”

Oberto’s artistic vision stems from a soft use of metaphors and symbolism, combined with a strong relation with sounds and voice over. In his work he has many times captured the feminine essence and the natural beauty that every woman exudes. 

In 2018 he directed the visually stunning “Entre Ciel et Mer” commercial for the French trendsetting swimwear brand ERES, which operates under the Chanel Group. Known for being simultaneously elegant and daring, the chic label has been producing gorgeous swimwear and lingerie garments for over 40 years.

Clément Oberto was approached by producer and leading global creative agent Jordane Crantelle to design a concept that would secure the funding of the commercial, and also highlight the grace and sexiness of the new exclusive collection. Embodying the brand’s identity Oberto developed the campaign’s theme around the faint parallels between a woman’s body and architectural design. The soft lighting and bright production design created the perfect environment for the commercial, which starred French actress, model and L’Oréal Professionnel ambassador Loan Chabanol. 

“I believe a lot of my style aims to be metaphorical. To me, this is the essence of poetry, and something I’m very attached to. With this video, I wanted to blur the line between anatomy and architecture,” he shares. “To never know if Loan was talking about the design of the house or the shape of her body.”

His commercial aligned perfectly with ERES’ branding, and captured the attention of many industry professionals. “He has an excellent sense of story telling and knows how to enhance the visual quality of a production. His esthetic is impeccable! And he is very easy going and sensitive to the actor. He knows what he wants and is good at communicating it,” says Loan Chabanol. “His natural sense of beauty makes him very unique and separates him from other directors.”

Among his phenomenal skills as a writer, producer and director, Oberto’s expertise of color grading, video editing and VFX gives him a wide range of actions to filter emotion into any project. In 2017 he teamed up with French DJ and record producer Gilles Bousquet aka. Mr. Flash to create the film “Cream” an audiovisual poem about loneliness, sensuality and the passage of time. 

In the film Oberto developed a unique contrast of bright reds and dark shadows to create a seductive overall tone, while Mr. Flash highlighted the depth of loneliness with a haunting soundtrack. 

Mr. Flash, who’s famous for his collaborations with Kanye West, Mos Def and Sebastian Tellier, is also one half of the band Faded Away for which Oberto created a music video back in 2018.

The visual masterpiece, which earned multiple awards, created a juxtaposition between pregnancy and a dark yet magical 80’s culture.

“Clément has a unique visual identity and brings a special artistic dimension to every project. His particular style made it clear for us that it was him we wanted to work with. Him and no one else,” says Mr. Flash. “Clément knows what he wants and pays a lot of attention to details. He works a lot in preparation to ensure the result will be close to the initial pitch. That’s a quality that I’ve very rarely witnessed when working with directors. He cares about every project and never just does something, for the sake of doing it.”

From his remarkable ability to represent million-dollar companies on a global scale, to directing edgy music videos and captivating visual stories, there’s no room to deny that Clément Oberto’s work is as beautiful as it is purposeful. His ability to direct an entire production from every angle reflects his natural skills as a leader, whose precise eye for details sets the tone for success, and we can’t wait to see what he delivers to the world next.  

Director John Wate lives childhood dream when making ‘Samurai Warrior Queens’

JW Samurai Warrior Queens
John Wade, Photo by Roberto Vivancos

Growing up in Berlin and Munich, Germany, John Wate found a passion in Manga comics at a young age. He was intrigued by the style of the Japanese graphic novels and began drawing his own at just ten years of age. Even then he knew he was meant to tell stories, but as he began transitioning away from drawing and into filmmaking, his innate drive to be a storyteller never wavered.

Now, Wate is a renowned director in his home country and abroad. Two of his past films, The Sword of the Samurai and The Samurai Bow, made it for 4 years into the top twenty of National Geographic Channel’s worldwide most popular documentaries. He is known for his unwavering dedication to his craft, and his work on projects like Epic Warrior Women, Samurai Headhunters, and Samurai Warrior Queens, projects that reminded him just why he got into filmmaking in the first place.

“One of the first manga stories I ever wrote when I was a teenager was that of a female samurai kicking ass. When I was sitting in the edit room watching Samurai Warrior Queens chasing inslow motion across a bridge towards the enemy with their blades drawn, I felt as though I was having my teenage wishes fulfilled,” said Wate.

The drama documentary Samurai Warrior Queens tells the real-life story of Samurai woman Takeko Nakano who in 1868 fights for her clans’ independence in a final battle that marks the end of the Samurai era. The legends of the Samurai seem to be an all-male affair; but contrary to popular belief, Samurai women stood their ground in countless battles and castle sieges. Takeko Nakano fights for her clans’ independence in a final battle that marks the end of the Samurai era.

“It is almost unknown that female samurai existed, let alone that they stood on the battlefield. Recent DNA from battlefields found that 30 percent of the sampled bones belonged to female fighters. However, for proud male samurai it was regarded as a shame if you had to rely on women to win your battle, so their presence was hardly ever recorded. The film can give them their place in history,” said Wate. “Takeko’s life provided a great arc and was pretty much a metaphor for the end of the samurai era as a whole. The role of female heroes has not received much attention until recent years, especially in Japan, and the story sheds a very different light on what in the West is often perceived as the general submissive and weak, moon gazing Japanese female persona.”

Wate enjoys strong female characters and had already come across different accounts of strong female samurai and wanted to show what their life was like. Their education, their ability to stand up against the more famous samurai in battle, it was all an intriguing topic that Wate wanted to really dig into.

Extensive background research of local folk tales and chronicles eventually led him to choose the life story of Takeko Nakano. She grew up in Aizu, a proud province in northern Japan where education, etiquette and martial arts were held in high esteem. Her father was a commander in a clan that understood itself as the protector of the Shogun. When the Shogun was threatened by other clans, supplied by Western firepower, the Aizu fought their last battles that eventually ended in the end of the samurai era. Takeko was very talented with the Naginata, a polearm or a samurai blade with a meter-long grip at the end. She was an instructor and took it on herself to recruit other female combatants to charge against the enemy but was eventually killed during the assault by a bullet.

To understand how she lived, how she might have seen her daily duties, why she refused to marry and fight instead, Wate traveled to her home province, went to research local archives, see their castle defenses, and really explore what her life would have been like. He then developed the script, cast the film, and got to shooting.

“I loved showing the world of the samurai, their attitude, ideals of honor and courage from a female perspective. In some ways they had to endure more than their male counterparts. Not only because they were often the pawns in the marriage game, but also because they had to fight and stand in for the actions of their husbands, their clan and the Shogun. I also found it fascinating and horrifying at the same time how they were taught to pursue grace even in death. Female samurai carried a dagger with them at all times once they reached womanhood to defend their honor. If they were in danger to be captured and raped, they would often have to commit suicide and were taught already as teenagers to tie their knees together with their belts, so that their legs would still look graceful after their death,” he described.

The film was distributed worldwide and nominated on the short list for the IMPACT Award, losing to the Academy-Award winning film Lincoln. It aired in the United States on the Smithsonian Network in 2015 where it still plays regularly, and is available to stream currently on various platforms, including Amazon and Hulu.

By Sean Desouza

Director/Producer Jamly Yang shoots moving commercial for Nike

As an industry leading producer and director, whenever Jamly Yang steps onto a film set, she is a leader. She is in charge of both the artistic and business sides of the production, ensuring everyone works harmoniously to make the best piece of art possible. When directing, she is highly creative, looking at each shot from an artistic standpoint to make the film a success, and when she is producing, she ensures each project she embarks on reaches its maximum potential.

“The responsibility of a producer is not just making sure the production makes a profit, but also to have eyes for stories that can change people’s lives,” said Yang.

These stories are what Yang is known for and are evident in her films The Screenwriter in the Restroom, The Invisible Superman, The Milk Tea, and many more. She also brings that sense of storytelling to her commercials, and with award-winners like the Alpha Browser Commercial, Doritos Campaign, Folgers Coffee, and beyond, she knows how to make an advertisement that not only resonates with consumers, but also entertains.

Yang has worked with many renowned brands throughout her career, including Nike. Yang shot for the iconic sporting wear company back in 2017 for a campaign that went on to win Best Commercial at the San Francisco International New Concept Film Festival 2018.

“This is a trend in the commercial industry, using stories to sell products. It is a trend I both enjoy and believe in, and I love making commercials that move audiences not only to buy something, but also get them to feel something,” said Yang.

The commercial tells the story of three generations of a family. A man gave all the best to his son, and now that the son is a father, he tries to impart some of his own father’s wisdom to his son, and Nike is a part of that. It is a beautiful story.

“Most Nike commercials we see are all about strength and power, but how do you bring more customers who are not entirely about that lifestyle, but who are just normal people who need to exercise every day? You need a touching story. Everyone has a father, everyone runs. Everyone has something from their parents that they cherish. For this Nike commercial, it’s a pair of running shoes that ties to three generations,” said Yang.

The commercial was shot at Land’s End, one of San Francisco’s most iconic spots and a beautiful scenic backdrop for the video. Yang directed, produced, and wrote the commercial, handling the majority of the responsibilities from casting to distribution. She is thrilled to play such a large part in such a successful commercial, especially because she is and has always been a fan of Nike.

“Everyone likes Nike. It’s so iconic to the point where they almost don’t need commercials at all. It is more like a culture than just a sporting wear company, and that’s how Nike differs from other brands,” she concluded.

Check out Yang’s moving Nike commercial here.

 

By John Michaels

Producer and Director Yuanhao Du dives into mother/son relationships in new film

Filmmaking, for Yuanhao Du, is magic; it is the ability to turn the impossible, possible. As an industry leading producer and director, Du is an extraordinary magician. His ability to take words on a page and turn them into a beautiful cinematic production is unparalleled, and as his name continues to become more and more recognized around the world, his passion for what he does only intensifies.

Throughout his esteemed career, this Chinese native has continuously impressed international audiences with his work. Award-winning films like Patrick, On the Other Side, Off to Care, and more encapsulate what a talent Du is, often working as both producer and director for a single project, taking on a vast amount of responsibility to ensure each and every film he works on is a roaring success.

Du’s acclaimed hit A Mother’s Love is just another example of what this filmmaker is capable of. The film is about a young man and his control freak mother after she discovers the son’s one-night stand died on his bed. Together, they have to find a way to fix this catastrophic problem. The story dives into deep-rooted themes like responsibility and, of course, a mother’s love.

“I guess some people have those types of moms who always try to help you do everything and make all decisions for you. We love that but we also don’t like it. We enjoy doing things without taking any responsibilities, but at the same time, we also hate to be controlled by other people. If you want to control your own life, you have to take responsibility for yourself. We can’t run away from that, no matter what,” said Du. “All parents love their children. They would do anything to protect their kids from anything. However, if parents do that too often, it will cause their kids to become either spoiled or weak. Both of these things are not good for them when they grow up. So, parents accept the truth that eventually kids will have to take responsibility for themselves. This film explores that notion.”

Once Du found the script, he took the time to find the perfect team. He had already done the extensive preparations necessary to turn the script into a film, planning the shot list, storyboard, and researching the themes in other films and literature. Once he had that completed, finding his crew was seamless, as he knew just what to ask of each and every individual.

“I enjoyed the tension that we created. We challenged ourselves and pushed ourselves to be better filmmakers. I love creating a story and being part of story development, but this time I just got a final draft script. It’s quite interesting because as director I need to respect the script and also put my ideas, my point of view into it as that helps make a good movie,” he said.

A Mother’s Love premiered last year, and has recently started making its way to several renowned film festivals. It was an Official Selection at both the Jersey City Popup Film Festival and The Brightside Film Festival 2019, a Finalist at the ONIROS Film Awards and a Semi-Finalist at the Utah Film Festival. Although Du led the team, he remains humble in the wake of the film’s continued success.

“The biggest success is that everyone in my team knows each other well and that is the cornerstone of the whole production. Those experiments when preparing and shooting this project became a valuable resource for me when making even bigger projects in the future. At the same time, this project tested my limitations. It’s a good example to measure my directing and producing abilities,” he said.

A Mother’s Love shows the commitment and talent Du brings to every project he takes on, two fundamental aspects of filmmaking. He directs and produces because he loves it, and he knows that is the key to his success.

“If you just want to be famous, don’t become a filmmaker. There are many things you’ll need to do, and you always need to be ready for the coming challenge. Directing is not just a job, but also a big part of your life. You need to learn how to get those inspirations from your daily life and be ready for suffering when you don’t have inspirations. Your inspirations will come from your life, just be patient and pay attention to the little things. Learn everything you can about film, and always be a student to learn from every filmmaker you work with. Don`t be afraid to ask questions. Filmmaking is teamwork. Nobody really works for you; they work with you. Be nice to everyone, but also be strong as a leader,” he advised.

 

By John Michaels

Producer and Director Gianlorenzo Albertini’s new film explores PTSD in veterans

Director-Gianlorenzo Albertini
Gianlorenzo Albertini

Hailing from Naples, Italy, Gianlorenzo Albertini was drawn to film at a young age. At the time, he believed everything that was happening in the movies actually occurred at that moment in time, somewhere in the world. As he grew, he realized that they were in fact stories, but the magic of movies was not lost on him. He daydreamed about all sorts of futures, from being a professional athlete, a rock star, an army pilot, a poet, a doctor, a detective, the pope. Although he knew that these were not all reasonable options, he knew the one path he could take where everything was possible: filmmaking.

“Films combine all the best things that I love in life: music, photography, writing, painting with light, portraying different characters, and any art,” he said.

As a celebrated director and producer, Albertini is currently releasing his most recent film, The Ribbon on the Kite, to worldwide audiences. The film follows a woman who, after discovering a homeless man living on the riverbank, tries to help him against his wishes. As you watch, you begin to see there is a greater history behind the homeless man than initially seems. Albertini, who also co-wrote the film, wanted to explore the emotional effects of war on individuals and draw attention to the hardships and the devastating effects of physical and psychological trauma that vets who have severe PTSD and are forced to endure due to governmental neglect. He wanted to place emphasis on veterans’ life after war upon, on the grief and horror of the battlefield they are forced to endure, oftentimes keeping the struggle to themselves, and on their difficult transition adjusting to civilian life. The film shows how frequently veterans end up being deliberately homeless because of their psychological inability to cope with the mental abuse inflicted on them, ultimately choosing to suffer in isolation.

As the writer and director of the film, Albertini did not have the experience and the full understanding of the plight of war. However, during his childhood, he often heard the stories told by his grandparents, about the horrors and atrocities during WWII they lived in their youth; they were his first understanding of the harsh and frightening conditions of war. He knew that, as a filmmaker, it was his responsibility to show the world just what so many veterans go through as realistically and explicitly possible.

poster the ribbon on the kiteThe Ribbon on the Kite is making its way in the festival circuit. It’s been screened at and won several awards at various festivals around the world such as the Richmond International Film Festival, Maryland International Film Festival, Kansas City FilmFest, Garden State Film Festival, Soma Film festival, Oniros Film Awards, L.A. Shorts Awards, New Filmmakers New York, Hollywood International Moving Pictures Film Festival, Los angeles Independent Film festival Awards, Los Angeles CineFest, St. Lawrence International Film Festival, European Independent Film Award, and Largo Film Awards. After the festival run, Albertini is planning on distributing the film through VOD platforms such as Amazon and Fandor.

During the research and writing phase, Albertini made sure to research exactly what life is like for war veterans. He talked with friends of his, who gave the director vast insight regarding their physical and psychological traumas and what might ultimately drive them to isolation. This created an even deeper drive for Albertini, who had the chance to perceive and recognize their struggles and eventually apply them to the film.

The authenticity of the script was mostly achieved on set during filming, due to the fact that the script barely contains any dialogue. Therefore, all the real emotional traits are not said but instead shown by the work of the actors. This also made Albertini’s work as the director that much more vital, as he had to choose just how to visually convey the authenticity and purity of the story in every shot.

While filming, one of the most significant challenges was working with natural lighting and the unpredictable changes in weather; the natural light of course would eventually fade away, meaning shooting would stop for the day, even if Albertini and his team were in the middle of a scene. For the last scene in the film, they shot at sunset during “magic hour”, which may be short, and took more effort to finalize, but was incredibly worth it.

They shot the film along a riverbank in Los Angeles. The location was beautiful but is known for flooding. During production, the water level began to rise. The crew quickly began packing up their things, but the shot ended up being quite beautiful.

“The equipment almost got swept away by the strong current – that was quite an adventure, but we filmed the flooding of the river and that ultimately ended up in the movie,” he concluded.

Be sure to check out The Ribbon on the Kite. In the meantime, however, you can watch the trailer here.

 

Top photo from left to right: Actress Julia Yusupova, Actor Greg Hill, and Director Gianlorenzo Albertini

Shaan Memon writes of the harms of bullying in new film

Article05-pdsdocu02Shaan Memon believes a film is made three times. At first, it is the writers; they are responsible for visualizing the tale in their mind and creating the characters, personalities and setting. Then comes the actual filming process, which is at the hands of the directors; they see the script and turn words into worlds that will transport audiences from their seats to another reality. Finally, the editors have the responsibility to turn shots into a story; they put everything together in a way that flatters the actors, compliments the set, and captivates audiences. As a true film lover, when Shaan was choosing which path to take in filmmaking, these roles all spoke to him, and he decided to pursue all three. As a celebrated writer, director, and editor, Shaan is showing not just his home country of India, but also the rest of the world, what he is capable of.

No matter the medium or genre, Shaan’s understanding of filmmaking is outstanding. Whether making a commercial, like the ones he recently did for Dickens Fair, a documentary, such as Purpose Driven Study for Dharoi Canal Command Area, or films like his new drama Fitting In and the acclaimed The Unreal, Shaan’s talents are on full display. He is a consummate professional, consistently impressing audiences and peers.

“Unlike so many, Shaan knows what is important to the production of film. He listens to advice, eagerly pursues the best, and delivers. He’s quite professional. He’s definitely a man of his word. When he says he will get the job done, he gets it done,” said Doug Campbell, Director.

Article02-bullied02Last year, Campbell consulted Shaan while writing his film Bullied, a story of a gay teenage boy who is being bullied by a gang of older boys in his high-school and living with his single mother. He decides to take revenge by killing the leader of the gang. On the verge of executing his plan, he remembers his mother’s words of wisdom.

“Many that have been bullied commit suicide or go through a lot of mental stress and it affects their health and career hugely. This story teaches not to take revenge. It takes a lot of courage and many times we have to face huge losses. This movie teaches the path to redemption with being responsible, smart and courageous. I think this story is very important in today’s world,” said Shaan.

Shaan was inspired to write a story about bullying after experiencing it first hand in his first semester of University in India. He was brutally bullied by senior students who were politically very powerful. Under such circumstances, he had no one to turn to, as everyone was intimidated by such influential people. He struggled a lot, and experienced anxiety from the events for three more years. However, he did not let the experience break him, and he decided to write this script to encourage a positive outlook for victims, showing the value of life beyond bullying.

“It was a great experience sharing each other’s experiences and learning from this. I found out that the problem of bullying is much larger than we think, and a lot of people need help with this. Helping people and making positive changes in someone’s life gives me satisfaction, and that is what I liked about working on this project,” he said.

While writing the script, Shaan researched online, in books, and travelled to many schools to talk to students who had been bullied about their experiences. He also talked to teachers and staff to see what the repercussions and protocol were in such situations. He found that an overwhelming number of students in the LGBT community experienced bullying every day, and therefore wanted his protagonist to be homosexual to show the reality of what these students face. He wanted their stories to be heard and displayed as authentically as possible, so he rewrote his script dozens of times while consulting with various filmmakers and victims until it was perfect.

Article02-Bullied03“I wanted to convey my thoughts and tell these stories to the viewers as truthfully as possible, as I had imagined them in my mind. I never start a project until and unless I want to convey something through that. This script is near to my heart as I had struggled a lot for several years. I had a lot to show and say about my experience. I did a lot of research, writing and rewriting to create a powerful script with a good message. And I hope once this film is made, it will help a lot of people,” said Shaan.

Currently, Bullied is still just a script, but Shaan is looking at making it into a film in the near future. Despite this, however, the film has already received attention from many film festivals based on the story. It was an Official Selection at Oaxaca International Film Festival, Mexico, where it was nominated for Best Emerging Writers Award and Best Overall Script, an Official Selection at the Urban Mediamakers Film Festival, Atlanta, where it was nominated for Best Short Script Award, and a Semi-Finalist at the Oxford Film Festival where it has been nominated for Best Short Screenplay.

“It is incredibly satisfying that the script alone is receiving so much attention, because this is not just a film; it is my small effort to spread positivity in this world. I hope that once it is made, the film gets selected to more and more festivals and a huge number of people watch it, because my main goal in making it is to spread awareness. The medium of filmmaking itself is very powerful and it has magic to move people’s heart. If used properly, it can create wonders, and that is exactly what I am trying to do here,” he concluded.

Brett Morris sheds insight into his journey from Young Magneto to seasoned producer

Human beings are known to set limits and work within them. With that, we understand and evaluate the world through binary opposites like black versus white, up versus down, in versus out, and so on. Then, sometimes, positive disrupters emerge and they challenge us to read between the lines; to understand the world’s wonders along spectrums rather than within extremes. They empower us to test the limits that we set for ourselves and to determine alternative understandings of our world that we might not have otherwise considered. More often than not, these disrupters are known as artists, innovators, and pioneers. In the case of Brett Morris, however, titles like “cinematographer,” “editor,” “director,” and “producer” come to mind. For the highly sought-after creative, there are no lengths that he will not go to in order to stimulate the minds of his audiences and allow them to wander into worlds that they have never explored before.

“What I love about producing, in particular, is that, when challenged to produce something, you’re only limited by your own resourcefulness. Not your resources. If there is a will, there is a way and I love being able to solve a multitude of problems. My job is to make the day go as smoothly as possible and appear as if there was never a challenge in the first place,” said Morris.

Having kick started his career as a child actor, Morris has built himself from the ground up, experimenting with just about every role involved in the creation and production of a film or television show. As such, he has earned a certain understanding and appreciation of the intricacies of his art form that other artists may never fully experience. At the age of 12, Morris landed himself the role of Young Magneto in the hit film, X-Men, and was inspired by talented actors like Ian McKellen and Hugh Jackman. What he hadn’t anticipated; however, was how fascinated he became by the role of the director. He was determined to become a part of the directing community and today, he can be credited with producing and directing fan-favorites like Big Brother Canada, Hockey Wives, So You Think You Can Dance, and many more. 

In 2016, Insight Productions were looking to re-boot the widely adored series, Top Chef, for a fifth season with an added “all-star” twist. Top Chef Canada is a Canadian reality competition television series airing on Food Network Canada. Each week, chef contestants compete against each other in culinary challenges and are subsequently judged by a panel of professional food and wine gurus. At the end of each week, one or more contestants are eliminated in order to determine who Canada’s “Top Chef” will be.

For Top Chef Canada All-Star, the show’s production team was intent on finding a field producer with the skill and expertise necessary to take it to the next level without sacrificing any of the elements that made their show the success it is today. Essentially, a field producer is responsible for handling all in-field directing, as well as conducting on-camera competitor interviews. The role typically involves juggling technical in-field directing abilities with achieving optimal story beats in order to effectively craft each episode during post-production. Fortunately for Morris, the decision to select a field producer landed in the hands of a former co-worker and member of Top Chef’s production team, Eric Abboud, who knew that Morris was the ideal candidate for the job. Abboud approached Morris about the opportunity to work alongside the show’s story team, including talented writer, Jennifer Pratt, and highly skilled story-editor, Liam Colle. For Morris, joining such a high performing team acted as further motivation to show Food Network lovers everywhere just what he is capable of.

From the outside looking in, it is easy to see how intense and pressure-ridden each Top Chef competition can be for contestants, whether or not you’re watching a regular season or an all-star edition. What is more difficult to imagine, therefore, is the type of demand that places on a production crew to capture each and every moment as authentically as possible. Morris recalls episodes being shot in the span of two days, across multiple locations. When the chefs were cooking, Morris was behind the camera crew, prompting them to speak loudly about their creative process and having to break their heavy focus in order to heighten the drama-filled, entertainment factors of the show. Other times, while chefs were navigating their weekly budget to shop for groceries, Morris was directing crews of six camera operators and three audio engineers in order to effectively capture all of the suspense. Then, for each episode, he was tasked with keeping track of every action-packed second of filming in order to know which content to probe the chefs about during their interview segments afterward. Despite the demanding nature of this role, Morris loved every moment. Particularly, he enjoyed the unique chance he had to interact with all of the chefs up close and personally.

“These chefs are true all-stars, restaurant owners, and at the top of their field. Any time you get to immerse yourself into the world of an expert, it is exciting. From the way they prepared their ingredients, to the meticulousness of cleaning their work stations, everything was like a rehearsed dance to them. It was exhilarating to watch. I found that I became a “foodie” by proximity and I took that learning with me every time I order at a restaurant or prepare a dish at home. It was an unbelievable experience,” recalled Morris.

Ironically, while Morris found himself fascinated by the opportunity to witness these culinary experts in their element, his co-workers, like Colle, were experiencing similar sentiments while watching him at work. According to Colle, working with Morris was a learning experience in itself and he enjoyed the distinct pleasure he had to learn Morris’ approaches and techniques for his own use. When asked what makes him so great at what he does, Colle had the following to say:

“I’ve never come across anyone else with the skill set and talent of Brett Morris. He is whip-smart, with an uncanny ability to tell compelling stories and deliver polished and professional productions. I think a big part of what makes him so good at what he does is that he’s got the perfect mix of creativity and analytics. Whether it’s in the edit suite or on set, his instincts are always on point and the finished product is never less than impressive,” told Colle.

Despite the fact that Top Chef Canada All-Star was breaking the show’s three-year hiatus from Food Network Canada, the result was better than ever. Canadian audiences still felt a deep connection with the show and Morris’ work was extremely well received. In fact, with the help of Morris, the show earned the green light to be renewed for a sixth season which will air in 2018.

“The fact that the audience loved it and it got picked up for another season means that not only did we do our job well, we were successful. It is always satisfying to see your hard work pay off,” he concluded.

 

Top photo by David Leyes

Calvin Khurniawan on the impressionistic art of cinematography

There is an age old saying that tells us “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” For many different art forms, these words could not be truer. For instance, by nature, the art of cinematography is entirely subjective. What may appeal to one person, may disinterest another. What you consider beautiful, your peer may deem hideous. It all amounts to the different ways in which individuals perceive the world. In order to succeed as a cinematographer, therefore, an artist must be able to speak to multiple different audiences at once. They need to understand how to channel the vast array of emotions, thoughts, and experiences that life has to offer into their medium of choice. They require a different kind of creativity and they must use it to entertain audiences of all different sizes. They need to see the world the way that Calvin Khurniawan does and once they do, they need to share their artistry with people from all walks of life, challenging them to see their surroundings in new lights.

“It seems obvious, but if you ask ten different painters to paint a tree, you’ll wind up with ten different styles of paintings of the same tree. It truly comes down to an artisanal approach. No other cinematographer would be able to replicate and do the same thing as the other, even with the same material to focus on. Everyone will light and place the camera differently. For that reason, I would say that cinematography is an impressionistic art. It makes my job all the more enjoyable because I get to determine how I’d like to tell a story and then I get to bring it to life,” told Khurniawan.

Khurniawan’s unwavering passion for filmmaking extends back as early as his childhood and his perspective derives from years of immersing himself in the arts. At a young age, Khurniawan’s father allowed him to use the family camera to take photographs of their vacation and he became addicted to the feeling of seeing his photos once he had them developed. He began to notice the different ways to manipulate an image he’d like to depict and loved the depth of emotions he could capture. It wasn’t until he began taking videos with his first ever mobile phone that he realized how intrigued he was by filmmaking. From there, he never looked back. His work as a photographer and cinematographer has landed him success with a number of films, many of which he ended up winning awards. For instance, Khurniawan’s film Alchemist won Best Student Film at festivals like the Around the World International Festival, the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival, the New York Film Festival, and more. His other films, such as Antifilm and Kudeta, have also earned Official Selections at a number of prestigious festivals, as well as praise from his peers. He is a force to be reckoned with in the filmmaking industry and he has no plans of stopping any time soon.

In July of this year, Khurniawan collaborated with fashion guru Peggy Hartanto to bring Kudeta to life. The film juxtaposes modern choreography with modern fashion as it portrays Hartanto’s finesse in the fashion industry. The simplicity of her design doesn’t simply translate as modern, but rather it signifies a daring take on modern wear. Essentially, the basic idea of the film was to dress female warriors in dresses and present them like they hadn’t ever been seen before. It created an anti-thesis to fashion film and Khurniawan is drawn to the idea of bringing unexpected notions to life before his audiences. Prior to filming, however, Khurniawan was apprehensive given the amount of VFX shots that he would need to create. Rather than succumbing to the pressure, he dedicated every fiber of his being to learn how to use VFX to the best of his abilities and the result was profound. In fact, his mastery of VFX and his eye for filmmaking made him an instrumental key to the film’s success.

“It was truly challenging at first because I knew there were going to be a lot of VFX shots, but I trained and I took my time to understand the tools. I stayed up all night prior to each shoot in order to prepare so that I could be confident that I would capture the best content as possible,” recalled Khurniawan.

Another of Khurniawan’s favorite aspects of his profession is getting to collaborate with other top artists in the industry. For Kudeta, Khurniawan was fortunate enough to work with Hartanto and explore the world of modern fashion. He was also able to work with other designers and film enthusiasts on set. For instance, Kudeta’s production designer, Indrianty Lihardinata was humbled by the experience of working with Khurniawan for the film. Most artists who work with him are taken aback by the caliber of professionalism and expertise that he brings to the table when he works. According to Lihardinata, in fact, Khurniawan was the ideal combination of professional and enjoyable to create with.

“My favorite part about working with Calvin is his willingness to spend time with key departments to discuss the different aspects of the film. Kudeta was a fun one because it is a high-speed fashion film and so he would shoot everything in a high frame rate to accentuate the movement of the dancers. He is the coolest person to work with because he would take the time to frame every minor detail to ensure that it had a strong “wow” factor,” emphasized Lihardinata.

In all, Khurniawan takes great pride in the content he created for Kudeta. For this reason, he was even more pleased when Kudeta earned the recognition that it did so early on in its festival run. It was chosen as an Official Selection at both Tampa Bay Underground Film Festival in Florida, as well as the Short to the Point Festival in Bucharest and will likely go on to inspire even more audiences as time progresses. In the meantime, the esteemed cinematographer is excited to try his hand at creating a documentary. He believes that it will allow him to exercise his instinct as opposed to allowing technical elements to dominate his content. Stay tuned for more.

 

Photo by Joshua Kang

Saudi Arabia’s Talha Bin Abdulrahman is director extraordinaire

As a child, growing up in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Talha Bin Abdulrahman’s father used to rent movies and watch them with his family. This quality time together meant even more for the oldest brother, as he was enthralled by the films in a different way than the rest of his family. Bin Abdulrahman knew then that he was meant to be a filmmaker, and has spent his life making that dream a reality.

Now, as a director, Bin Abdulrahman does exactly what he always dreamed of. He creates all new worlds, and sees his job as gathering all the pieces of a puzzle and putting them together just right. This viewpoint is that of a perfectionist, which is exactly what Bin Abdulrahman is when it comes to filmmaking. His newest film, The Scapegoat, is a telling tale of a writer going through a rough spot, and is expected to be a strong contender at many of the world’s most prestigious film festivals. This is no different than his previous work. His comedic musical Film School Musical is an award-winning look at the difficulties a young filmmaker can go through, and his feature Viral Night, although still in pre-production, is a thriller that audiences can already look forward to.

“The rush of being on set, there’s nothing quite like it. You get to see performances of talented people giving you their best with what they were given, even when things go south there’s always some kind of silver lining or a lesson to be learned so you avoid it in future situations,” said Bin Abdulrahman.

One of the director’s favorite films to work on was the 2015 dramatic thriller Served Cold. Honoring television shows like Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, Bin Abdulrahman wanted to tell a story about the drug world, showing that there is no clear-cut black and white in this world. Therefore, Served Cold is about a former drug lord who is sentenced to life in prison after killing an undercover cop. With the help of his shady attorney, he has to take desperate measures in order to be with his teenage daughter.

“There is a lot of interesting grey areas to discover and I wanted this project to shed some light on that theme. It’s essentially a cold revenge story about a criminal lawyer who poisons one of his clients who was sentenced to do a life sentence for illegal drug trafficking and killing the undercover DEA agent, who is also the lawyer’s father by adoption. This scheme doesn’t go as planned,” said Bin Abdulrahman. “Revenge stories can be very emotionally engaging and it’s a good way to see the characters faced with their worst nightmare, the rage behind the revenge fuels the whole story and it’s satisfying for the audience to go through this emotional journey.”

Bin Abdulrahman’s vision for the film was achieved when it won the “Audience Choice” at the SFA awards in January 2015, which was being held at the same time and place as the Sundance Film Festival. The film’s rights were then sold to ShortsHD, an international cable channel, where it was such a hit with audiences that it has aired twelve times during 2015.

“It feels very rewarding to be validated by awards and audience reactions. I think to myself that I must be headed on the right direction. It feels reassuring after five months of work to know that it wasn’t for nothing and it boosts you to move on to your next project,” said Bin Abdulrahman.

After writing the script himself and self-financing the production with his producer, Bin Abdulrahman made the decision to also direct the film. After finding the right cinematographer, the project took off. Immediately, Bin Abdulrahman became committed to telling the story of Served Cold with a specific vision in mind. He knew the look and feel that was appropriate for the genre and worked hard to bring the script to life. The story is very moody and has layers of dark tones, so maintaining that feeling depended a lot on the actors and how realistic their performances were, so as the director, Bin Abdulrahman strived to get the best out of his cast, and his efforts paid off. It gave him quite a lesson on finding the best way to get his actors in the mood and to get them be very serious, as all of the scenes were extremely intense. Throughout filming, the director strived to be fully harmonious with his crew, and he succeeded.

“Working with Talha is a blessing. He comes to set extremely prepared, knows what he wants and is very easy to work with. I enjoy working with directors like Talha who makes a producer’s life easier,” said Maan B., the Producer of Served Cold. “Talha is a very talented, creative, and visionary director. I experienced it on set with him; we came to set one day with something we have long prepared for, but something did not work, so Talha came up with a better idea on the spot and we continued with our day without losing money. That’s the kind of directors I like. He’s not married to his ideas. He’s open to suggestions and anything else that will help the project for the better.”

Bin Abdulrahman knows just how to bring the best out of those he works with, and the best out of himself. It is what makes him such an in-demand director, and why he will continue to have such a prosperous career.