Tag Archives: Film Festivals

Canada’s Chandra Michaels and Myke Bakich talk upcoming film ‘Nail Bait’

One of the most beautiful and complex relationships in this world is that of a mother and her daughter. This theme has been explored throughout time through art and literature, and Canadian filmmaking power couple Chandra Michaels and Myke Bakich have now contributed to that extensive and distinguished list with their upcoming film Nail Bait, which takes a unique and compelling look at the bond between a mother and her daughter.

Nail Bait, written by Michaels and Bakich, tells the story of Emma and her mother Carol, who head to a nail appointment only to discover the salon is a front for a rub & tug massage parlor. It doesn’t take long for Emma to discover that Carol has ulterior motives for their day. Emma is baited and dragged into infiltrating the underbelly of the salon with her mother to prove her father is a paying client there. After stumbling on some “hard evidence” but no sign of Dad, the women confront their issues and discover other illegal and dangerous enterprises. Before they can sneak out, they are caught, cornered and threatened, discovering they would do anything to protect one another, surprising both themselves and each other.

“We wanted to portray an honest mother-daughter relationship, that despite its challenges, when put to the test reveals how unbreakable that bond can be. We like that we’re breaking new territory exploring a location with weight and stakes we haven’t ever seen before in a mother-daughter buddy story. The story straddles a few genres; drama, comedy, action which was tricky to execute but rewarding to do,” said Michaels.

Michaels acts as writer, producer, and leading actress in the film, playing the role of Emma. When writing Nail Bait, she was inspired by visits to the spa with her own mother, questioning its integrity and wondering what could be going on behind closed doors. She and Bakich were interested in creating a film that delves into the often-ignored occurrences at such spas, while diving into the dynamics of the mother-daughter relationship and internal and external facades.

“Chandra is an incredible filmmaking partner. It’s amazing that she was able to balance the demands of playing Emma with producing the film. She was very aware of the needs of our cast and crew, managing schedules and taking care of our production while balancing her demands as a lead performer. Chandra’s got a great instinct for performance and was very involved in the editing process and finding the authenticity. She’s a great talent, shined bright throughout the entire production and was crucial in bringing this film to fruition,” said Bakich.

Bakich’s approach to the story while directing was to embrace the uncomfortable. He wanted to tell a different type of mother daughter story, one that takes place in an unexpected location and situation and see where that would go. He wanted to play into the discomfort of the bizarre juxtaposition of a rub & tug parlor. This would also allow for a project with two dynamic leading female roles, something important for both Bakich and Michaels.

Finding the ideal location was one of the biggest challenges that Bakich and Michaels faced while making Nail Bait. They required a hallway long and wide enough with many different doors to actual rooms. Bakich wanted to create distinct difference between the upstairs reception and the underbelly of the salon. The upstairs being drab, mundane, slice of life, and the massage parlour below being colorful, intense, and almost surreal.

They found a warehouse space, that was previously a grow-op, with the required hallway. However, it was only half as long as they needed. They decided to embark on an ambitious set build for the downstairs hallway and adjacent doors in the film. With a talented art department team that was diligent, the build was achieved within days. Though, even with the build, the doors and rooms still needed to be reused and connected in ways that they weren’t naturally available. The night before, Bakich plotted it all out and did his best to convey the logistics to the team. They successfully turned one hallway into two, connecting many different rooms and doorways that were in different directions and ends of the location, with changing lighting and color schemes as well. Such execution is a real testament to Myke’s strength as a visual problem solver and storyteller.

image2“Part of what attracted me to shooting Nail Baitwas creating the two worlds that the characters inhabit. I liked Myke and Chandra’s energy and commitment as well. It’s always a challenge to elevate visuals on lower budget projects, but thanks to the generosity of Panavision Canada and John Lindsay I was able to utilize some great camera tools. Shout out to the amazing crew as well who worked hard to make it all happen,” said Gregory Bennett, Director of Photography.

Bakich’s favorite scene in the film came when shooting a tracking shot down a flight of two dozen stairs. It was no easy task, but the director was up for the challenge. Filming into the early hours of the morning, he and Bennett did five takes with a heavy steadi-cam rig and totally nailed the shot. Only once it was perfected did they discover that a key prop was missing, and they had no choice but to reshoot.Bennett leapt up the stairs, willing and ready to do it again and they all followed his charge. They shot another five takes, and the end result is mesmerizing.

“Toni Ellwand who played the mother Carol, grounded her in reality, while bringing a comedic spontaneity to the role. She balanced both the serious and ridiculous nature of the situation in spectacular fashion,” said Bakich, who co-wrote and directed the film.

Ellwand is a Toronto based actress who is known for a series of popular projects, including Blindness, Murdoch Mysteries and the Emmy-award winning The Handmaid’s Tale. She had previously worked with Michaels years prior on a commercial for Ontario’s health care cards, so they were happy to reunite as mother and daughter on this exciting new project.

“Myke and Chandra are a dream team, I would work with them in a heartbeat. They both love what they do so much and are generous and enthusiastic. Chandra is an absolute dream to work with as both an actor and as a producer. Working is her happy place and it shows in everything she does when we’re on set. Myke is quietly determined. He’s gentle but he knows what he needs, and he patiently works until he gets it,” said Ellwand.

Nail Bait premieres at the Toronto Shorts International Film Festival on Saturday March 2nd, 2019. From there, the film is expected to make its way to several more festivals, seen on international screens. They are also exploring the possibility of expanding it into a series, as this film is part of a bigger mother and daughter story.

“It’s an honor to premiere at the Toronto Shorts International Film Festival where our local cast, crew, colleagues, friends and family can share in the experience,” said Michaels.

Toronto Shorts has a special place in Michaels’ and Bakich’s hearts, as their first film, Busy Bee, had its world premiere at the festival back in 2015 and ended up winning the Best of Canada award. Here’s hoping for similar success on their latest venture.

“We love making films and we love doing so together. Creating our own projects is empowering and liberating. We really learned so much making this film and look forward to applying that knowledge to future projects. Filmmaking is really a team sport and we had an amazing team on this project,” they concluded.

Torontonians should check out Nail Bait this Saturday at 7 p.m. at Carlton Cinema. In the meantime, watch the trailer here.

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Chinese Producer Yuxiao Wang Solidifies her Name in Hollywood

Producer Yuxiao Wang
Producer Yuxiao Wang

As international partnerships between China and the U.S. continue to rise, filmmakers in Hollywood are in need of more Chinese producers who are able to liaise between the differing audiences within the U.S. and China.

“Chinese film history has evolved very differently from Hollywood. If you want to make films for the Chinese market, you need to understand that history as well as the different genres and aesthetics that work in China. What works in terms of narrative with Chinese audiences is not always the same as works in other markets. It’s essential if you want to make a film for the Chinese market to have somebody that really understands the Chinese film world, culture, aesthetics and censorship in China. So it makes perfect sense to have a Chinese producer on board,” explains Michael Berry, Professor of Contemporary Chinese Cultural Studies at UCLA and the author of Speaking in Images: Interviews with Contemporary Chinese Filmmakers, and Boiling the Sea: Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Memories of Shadows and Light.

One such producer who has been sought after by productions within China, the U.S. and co-productions between the two, is Yuxiao Wang. Over the past few years, Wang has produced an impressive list of films, television series and commercials that have aired in both countries.

Wang has become known throughout the industry for her work as the producer of the films “Harmonica,” “Locked,” “She Gives Me Sight,” “Wasteland Walker,” “Dustin & Toilet,” “Successor of the Southern Star,” “Los Angeles Kidnapping” and more. She also produced the series “West Journey,” which was shot in the U.S. but is geared towards a predominantly Asian audience. The series takes viewers around Los Angeles and across the country on Route 66 with featured guests such as NBA star Shaquille O’Neal and Metta World Peace.

“Since most of the crew traveled from China, I was the only local person who helped them with shooting. It was tough persuading different location owners to agree to let us shoot, but I managed to make it happen,” explains Wang about producing the series “West Journey.”

It’s clear to see through her past work as a producer that Wang knows how to pick award winning projects. The war drama “Harmonica” took home the Grand Prize from the Carnegie Mellon Film Festival and was awarded at the Los Angeles International Underground Film Festival, the dramatic crime film “Locked” earned several awards from the Los Angeles International Underground Film Festival, including two Best Actor awards, the Best Film Award and the award for Best Narrative Short, and the film “She Gives Me Sight” garnered several awards at Hollywood Boulevard Film Festival, Hollywood International Moving Pictures Film Festival, Direct Short Online Film Festival and the LA Underground Film Festival.

In addition to her cross-cultural experience, Wang’s extraordinary ability to find the perfect people to head each department on a production, find locations that fit both the story and budget, and pitch the project in a way that effectively gets each production the funding it needs to not only be completed, but gain distribution on an international scale, have made her a highly sought after Chinese producer in the Hollywood film industry today.  

The story of what led Yuxiao Wang to become a producer is both ironic, and telling as to the kind of tools she brings to the table. As a transfer student in Japan, before she became a producer herself, Wang was involved in the production of a film where a mishap with one of the grips happened on set, and what followed was a little out of the ordinary.

Wang recalls “The Japanese mafia came and threatened to destroy our camera, the producer, at that time, went up and tried to settle things and find a solution to the problem. That was the first time I noticed the importance of a producer, they are always ready to solve any problem.”

Like any producer, Wang has undoubtedly encountered her share of problems on the productions she’s produced, however her quick problem solving skills and ability to think outside of the box have come in handy every step of the way.

Talentik
Film Poster for Talentik

Sky Culture Entertainment hired Wang last year as a producer on the new sci-fi feature film “Talentik” starring California Women’s Film Festival Award winner Lee Chen (“Veep,” “Girl Meets World,” “Before I Got Famous”), Nick Culbertson (“Ahimsa,” “Julie and Her Friends”), Edward L. Green (“Savageland,” “First Timers”) and Jessica Treska (“Broken Pines,” “Silver Lining”). The film, which was released in China in February through the popular internet platform Sohu, quickly gained traction with audiences and garnered upwards of nine million views. While working on “Talentik” Wang was also busy producing the upcoming sci-fi feature film “Rift” from One All Entertainment.

“Rift” is yet another film that Wang was heavily involved with from the beginning of production, which was shot in the U.S., but made for Chinese audiences. The film, which is slated to be released in China within the next few months, includes a cast of both American and Chinese actors and revolves around a Chinese astrophysicist who is caught between two parallel universes. The film stars Asians On Film Festival Award winner Jack Yang from the films “Seven Pounds” starring two-time Oscar Award nominee Will Smith and “American Ultra” starring Oscar Award nominee Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart, Greg Depetro from the Platinum Reel Award winning film “For All That We Are” and the IIFC Award winning film “Abducted.” and award-winning actor Allen Theosky Rowe from the series “Hawaii Five-0” and “Far Cry 4: Fallen Country.”

Wang’s skill at creating a bridge of communication where language and cultural differences were concerned, as well as raising funding and solidifying shooting locations across Los Angeles were all integral to turning the film “Rift” into a reality– as they have been for all of the projects she’s produced to date.

As the film industries between China and the U.S. continue to join forces, having multi-talented producers like Yuxiao Wang who are well-versed in both cultures has become increasingly important.