Tag Archives: Film

Varunn Pandya talks finding the right dream and pursuing it

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Varunn Pandya, photo by Chaaritha Dheerasinghe

When Varunn Pandya, 21, was growing up, he watched all kinds of movies and found himself enamored by the different journeys they took him on and the different perspectives he felt towards the world. Today, he can proudly say that love for film has only flourished and he has since established a reputation as a talented, unique screenwriter and director. He finds the concept of writing down his thoughts and ideas to be cathartic and he has spent years attempting to learn as much as possible about the arts in order to better himself for the benefit of his eventual audiences. For Pandya, the true luxury that his profession affords him is the luxury of getting to explore different characters and different worlds. Not only is this what attracted him to writing in the first place, but it is also what keeps him coming back for more time and time again.

Throughout his career, Pandya has allowed himself to pour his heart and soul into a number of phenomenal scripts. He is his own toughest critic and his own strongest motivator, pushing himself to ensure that he only brings high quality content before his viewer’s screens. For Pandya, there is no room for slacking in screenwriting and he feels as though giving 99 per cent just simply doesn’t do justice to the tales he aims to tell. He is well known for stories like Dilemma and Homeless and he has made a prominent name for himself in the industry. He has even earned a number of competitive awards, including Best Short Screenplay at Five Continents International Film Festival and at the Calcutta International Cult Film Festival in 2018. What the talented young man lacks in years of experience, he makes up for in sheer talent and so long as he has a pen and paper, he hopes to continue creating compelling stories to share with the world.

Later on in September of this year, Pandya earned himself even more recognition when his script XYZ was chosen as an Official Selection at the Trujillo International Independent Film festival and also when he won the award for Best Sci-Fi Short Screenplay at the Hollywood Just4Shorts Film and Screenplay Competition. When he sets his sights on a script, there is very little he won’t do to make it a success and these awards are a testament to that commitment.

Alongside his friend and colleague, Bader AlShuaib, Pandya developed a concept for XYZ and carefully but considerately determined how best to showcase it before the eyes of thousands. XYZ is about the human tendency to be inherently racist and biased towards people with a certain body type or complexion. In an uncertain future, it centers around Martha, a newly-wed African-American woman who convinces her husband to make her dream of having Caucasian children come true. To achieve this dream of hers, they undergo a special experimental procedure so as to be able to select each and every trait of their future children. Slowly, Martha realizes that in the process of making her dream come true, she ends up destroying everyone around her.

When AlShuaib and Pandya began brainstorming for the script, they pulled inspiration from films and shows like Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner and Black Mirror. As both works have successfully done, AlShuaib and Pandya wanted to delve into the scientific fiction genre and determine a way to challenge the minds of their audiences with a thriller-like, psychological spin. Ultimately, they wanted to explore a deeply human story against a futuristic setting. It was unlike anything Pandya had done in the past and he was awoken by the enjoyment it brought him.

“Unlike my previous work such as The House, a futuristic setting was something I hadn’t ever tackled before. The novelty of this itself made this script an interesting challenge. Even my co-writer, Bader, had not written anything like this before and, hence, was equally passionate about diving into a new world and figuring it out. The writing process was very different to my previous projects. This was the first time I was collaborating with someone and it was important to make sure that I wasn’t curbing his creativity. In my opinion, our writing relationship was very smooth. I would write a draft and send it over to him. After a week or two, he’d tweak it and send it to me. This back and forth eventually resulted in the final script – one that we’re both very proud of” shared Pandya.

Writing XYZ and having it achieve such success in its early days served as a reminder that Pandya has what it takes to pave a change in the film industry. He considers himself fortunate to have found what he truly loves to do so early on in his career. To others out there aspiring to follow their dreams and do so with success, Pandya had the following advice to offer:

“To anyone looking to pursue a career in this industry, I would advise them to be ready to have sleepless nights, go a few months without decent work or pay, and face rejection. If they can accept this, theirs is going to be a smooth ride. I would also ask them to only pick this industry if there’s nothing else they would do even if it paid better. This industry demands that kind of a passion.”

 

Written by Annabelle Lee

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Cinematographer Majd Mazin shares impactful LGBTQ story in award-winning film

As a Cinematographer, Majd Mazin is responsible for the visual side of a film. It is his responsibility to collaborate with filmmakers to achieve his or her vision and bring it to life, using camera, lighting and movement. He recognizes the challenges of his field, with a lot of responsibility and very little limelight, but he truly loves what he does. He builds relationships with those he works with, making sure a director’s vision is satisfied and an actor’s talent is the showcase of a scene. As a camera assistant, he approaches each new project with the same determination. He is truly a master behind the camera.

“Cinematography is an art form and a technical craft, and both aspects should be balanced and worked on respectively,” he said.

Mazin is a celebrated cinematographer and camera assistant. His work extends to films like The Fat One, web series such as The Millionaires, and music videos for hit bands like Fall Out Boy and Red Velvet. With every project, he aims to make a lasting impression to his audience, which to him, is what filmmaking is all about.

This is best exemplified with his film Prodigal Son. The film tells the story of a closeted gay teenager coming out to a conservative Latino family. Mazin believes it is an important story to be told for LGBTQ teens and their relationships with their families. The lead and writer of the film Juan Felipe Restrepo, had deep connection to the script, as it was his brother’s story, and Mazin took on the responsibility of telling it in the best way visually possible.

“The story of the film is significant to any LGBTQ teen trying to come out to their friends and family. I believe that teens are faced with a very hard choice and adversity. This film helps accompany many of these individuals, reassuring themand telling them that they are not alone in this. By bringing these LGBTQ issues to the forefront, as saturated as that field might be, I believe that it helps bolster the prominence of these issues and makes them feel like they are less on the fringes,” said Mazin.

The film premiered at Warner Bros Studios in Burbank earlier this year. It is still making it’s film festival rounds, but has already impressed audiences all over the world. It won Best LGBTQ film at Festigious International Film Festival, Silver Award Best Drama at the LA Shorts Awards, Best LGBTQ Film at the Los Angeles Film Awards, Best LGBTQ Film at the Top Shorts Film Festival, and was recognized at the Actors Awards. Such success could not have been possible without Mazin behind the camera.

“It is very gratifying to me to know that a project that I invested so much in and worked so hard on, something that I was a part of is getting the recognition that it is getting. In proxy it is reassuring that my work means something and I am making films for people to see, not to sit on someone’s hard drive,” said Mazin.

Mazin came on board during pre-production. He knew they had a very short period of time to shoot, edit and color and release the project, and he wanted to make the most of it. The experience was united with the director and he was given a heavy say in the choice of the visual language. He wrote the shot list with the director, scouted the locations, and hired his crew. Overall, the experience was not only meaningful for Mazin, but also very collaborative.

“I very much enjoyed working with Director Amalia Ramirez. I felt that I was working with a very competent and visionary director. She has provided a comfortable and collaborative environment for me and the rest of the cast and crew. I enjoyed my crew as we worked as efficiently as possible while coming up with innovative ways to attack problems that we faced on the day,” he said.

A cinematographer’s work is essential to the success of any film. Without Mazin’s work, the idea that the director and writer are trying to portray cannot be told in a believable and truthful way. It is his job to not only use the visual language and style, but to make an uninterrupted visual experience that keeps the audience engaged and furthermore, expand on the story and plot. Prodigal Son was no different, and Mazin’s emotional connection to the story just made him that much more determined.

So, what’s next for Mazin? He is currentlyworking on a feature film titled The Keeper. Be sure to keep an eye out for it.

 

Written by Annabelle Lee

The Lost Soul: Victorian Horror/Thriller Premiering Next Week on Amazon Prime Streaming.

 

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NEVER MAKE A DEAL WITH THE DEVIL, NO MATTER HOW SMALL…

 PREMIERING OCTOBER 23, 2018

STREAM INSTANTLY ON AMAZON PRIME

How do you get your soul back after you sell it? You steal it.

 LOS ANGELES, CA (October 20, 2018) THE LOST SOUL, a mysterious look into the afterlife follows a man grasping at life and narrowly escaping death. Available now to stream on Amazon Prime. Distributed by Sun and Moon Films, the film is created by filmmaker Jeff Caroli (“BALI: BEATS OF PARADISE”).

 The Lost Soul is a fantasy mystery film that has been screen all around the world. The premiere was held in New York City, USA. Since, it has been screened both in Europe and Africa. The film was nominated for best cinematography for Jeff Caroli.

Jeff Caroli is an accomplished cinematographer. For the past 11 years Caroli has been a cinematographer and has garnered millions of views on Youtube.His works include “Queen of the Hill” a music video starring Grammy award winner Judith Hill and the upcoming feature films, “Bali: Beats of Paradise” and “Insight”.

 

ABOUT SUN AND MOON FILMS:

Sun and Moon Films is a US-based production company producing films locally and internationally. The company has produced in the US, China, Indonesia, and Thailand. Sun and Moon Films has had theatrical distribution as well as screenings in various film festivals around the world. The company’s film Bali: Beats of Paradise is premiering at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, November 7, 2018. Upcoming projects include Insight, starring Madeline Zima, Tony Todd, Keith David, and Sean Patrick Flannery.

China’s Jie Meng creates award-winning visual effects for ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’

Jie Meng is consistently fascinated by his craft. The power of visual effects, to use different algorithms and physics theories to recreate something natural, or even create something that does not exist in the real world, is enchanting to the Chinese native. With a creative imagination and a deep understanding of computer science, an FX artist can create anything, turning fantasy into reality.

“With different algorithms and techniques, FX artists can do a lot of research and develop all different kinds of effects. As an FX artist, I also enjoy coming up with my own algorithms and methods to create new effects elements when I am at home. I feel I can create anything in my mind into the CG world, which is super fun to me,” said Meng.

Meng is an internationally sought-after visual effects artist, having contributed to blockbuster films, iconic video games, and prolific commercials. Earlier this year, audiences were enchanted with his work on the record-breaking film Avengers: Infinity War and the successful TV movie Freaky Friday, just as they were previously with Captain America: Civil War and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. He is also recognized around the world for his work on video games, including Call of Duty: Black Ops III and Quake Champions.

Despite such success, Meng calls the highlight of his career his work on Marvel’s hit Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. He worked on countless shots and different kinds of effects elements in several sequences, designed and final locked over a hundred shots in only a couple of months, and finally, saw recognition for his work from the Academy with an Oscar nomination. The moment he saw his name in the movie credits, he knew that all those late nights have paid off.

“This is a milestone film project for me. It was my first time designing a procedurally generated CG environment in the film production, and it was my first time working so closely with other CG departments. I was inspired by all different artists around me, from their hard work and how they think and solve problems. There were a lot of late nights in this film project, but I was fully charged every morning, and just could not wait one second to keep working with my VFX crew members,” said Meng.

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Meng’s vast contributions to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 helped bring the film to critical acclaim around the world. Not only did it take in over $860 million at the worldwide box office, but it was recognized at prestigious award ceremonies around the world. The highpoint for Meng was when the film was nominated for Best Visual Effects at the Academy Awards.

“When the news of the Oscar nomination had spread out, all the team members that worked on this film cheered into tears. We were so proud of ourselves that we achieved a VFX masterpiece. This film motivates and encourages me to keep on going as a VFX artist and also a filmmaker in the future,” said Meng.

Meng worked on many effects shots in several different sequences in the film. His main focus was the “normal” and “angry” Ego planet sequences. Those two sequences have a huge volume of the shots, which required the artists to design and finish the effects elements in a very short amount of time. Meng was not only building effects elements, but also helping in procedural modeling, shading/look-dev, lighting, procedural layout, and digital assets sharing aspects.

He designed and finished every shot containing Ego’s environment, all thruster effects elements for Quadrant Ship and jetpack in the “angry” Ego planet sequence. This included designing and finishing every shot containing aurora effects elements in the “normal” Ego planet sequence, such as the dust and leaves blowing in the Ego ship landing sequence. He also created taser gun lightning effects in a hero shot when Rocket Racoon shoots Gamora and did some early Rocket Racoon fur tests in the Guardians squat night talk scene.

Overall, Meng contributed over 20 different kinds of effects elements and CG contents in a total of four different sequences for the film. He designed and finished over 100 shots and related to 200 shots. The technical solutions that he came up with saved a great amount of time and made sure the entire team finished every shot before the deadline. His visual effects undoubtedly brought a stronger visual impact to the film and made the film a masterpiece of sci-fi fantasy artwork.

“I had the pleasure of working with Jie on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. He is absolutely exceptional at what he does and is always striving to better himself and his craft. He is hard working, detail oriented, reliable and goes above and beyond when helping out others. He is always open to collaboration and feedback. I highly think that his skill and expertise would be a great fit for any project he works on. I look forward to working with him again on future projects,” said Dennys Herman, Lighting and Look Development Artist at MPC.

Meng had always been a big Marvel fan, and above all else, creating such a timeless film meant more to him than anything. He was determined to achieve greatness with every effect he created as he knew Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was more than just a visual spectacle.

“I like the story of this film, as the core it is about family. The plot twists when Starlord (Peter) met his father Ego, and finally found out his father is an evil creature who killed his mother. The family theme is also relevant when Gamora and Nebula fight against Ego together, and Yondu sacrifices himself to save Peter. It’s a comedy sci-fi fantasy movie, but this core is very deep. The film is not some regular comedy where people laughed and forgot about it, but something that will be remembered,” he concluded.

Australia’s Mark Davis talks passion for acting and starring in ‘I Want You’

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Mark Davis

Despite having other passions, Mark Davis found himself acting from a young age. Growing up in Melbourne, Australia, his father had an old VHS camcorder, and to pass the time, Davis’ brother and his friend used to use the camera, recording small skits. Being the youngest, Davis was always made to be a bad guy who gets beaten up, or he would be dressed up in his mother’s clothes to play a woman. At the time, he was just happy to be spending time with his big brother, but little did he know he would grow to be a celebrated actor.

Throughout his esteemed career, Davis has been a part of several acclaimed projects, from award-winning movies to prolific commercials. He has starred in films like Lucy and Topdecked, which he also wrote, as well as the upcoming period drama Fallen. Australians also know his face from national commercials for Honda, Crownbet, Interflora, and more.

“I knew acting was always something I had a natural affinity for. Instinctually the acting process made sense to me and even though I was quite shy, I felt freedom when taking on a role. I feel like acting is a culmination of many art forms and for me movement and being in touch with something like your emotions and imagination as a profession just made sense. I like taking a walk in other people’s shoes and to get paid to swear, cry, fall in love and throw chairs is a privilege,” said Davis.

One of Davis’ first tastes of international success came with the 2013 romantic drama I Want You. The story follows Maya, who is deeply in love with a boy who lives in Israel. Maya struggles to maintain her faith in a relationship that unfolds largely on a computer screen after she meets another man who can provide the tangible aspects missing from her relationship. Although tempted, Maya has to ask herself, will this new relationship give her what she truly wants?

“The story really demonstrates that good people can be tempted to do things that are against their morals and who they are. In the end, however, the film is about forgiveness and that message is very strong,” said Davis.

In the film, Davis plays Ethan, a character who was very much the other man in a love story. Ethan had to seduce Maya, who was in a very healthy relationship. He was the protagonist in the film. He came into a healthy environment and had to be the perfect blend of nice and endearing whilst also being the bad guy who is going to ruin a relationship purely for his own sexual gratification. Therefore, Davis had to be extremely charming, and managed to do so in tough shooting conditions. It was extremely hot on set, as they were filming in many different locations during the Australian summer.

“I liked being cheeky and being a person with low morals dressed as a nice guy. I’m more self-deprecating and awkward in real life so I had to channel my inner Brando to pull it off. That’s the joy in acting and I definitely had fun on this film. I’ve always said that no one cares about your enlightenment, the audience will watch because they want to see your darkness. It’s more relatable,” said Davis.

MV5BMjJmNmEyZjItMGIyNS00ZjVjLThiZDctNmViYmU1YWZmOTVjXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMzgwNjU4NzE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,707,1000_AL_I Want You also stars Australian superstar Viva Blanca, best known for her role on the television series Spartacus. The film marked the actress’ directorial debut, and she felt the pressure. Knowing she had to have the perfect casting to make her film a success, she gave Davis the role of Ethan.

With the help of Davis, the film went on to be screened at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, the Newport Beach film festival and the St Kilda Film Festival, seeing great success around the globe.

“It was one of the first films I was involved with and I’m glad it was so highly regarded. Viva is a great creative mind and an amazing talent,” he concluded.

 

Written by Annabelle Lee

Colorist and Editor Cynthia Chen artistically portrays grief and loss in ‘The Last Page’

“To me, filmmaking is like making a delicious meal. The process of shooting is like gathering the ingredients for the food, whereas post editing is like cooking. Editors reorder the different materials, and create different dishes through proper dressing and seasoning,” she said.

Chen is recognized around the world for what she does. Having edited highly successful films such as Slingshot Prince, Offsprung, and most recently, I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone, Chen is an industry leading editor in China with her work celebrated both there and abroad.

Chen is also a celebrated colorist, often combining her roles on many films. She has enhanced many films through color with her work, including Maskand The Last Page. The latter was a motivational project for the Chinese native, as she was telling a true story about another artist.

The Last Page is a short film that follows the story of a once famed comic book writer Emanuel Delgado. After a long career of award winning comics, and a mega fan base, it’s been nearly a decade since Emanuel abruptly ended his career because of the death of his brother. He is living in a house littered by the drunken debris of his depression until one of his fans show up who is the same age as his brother and encourages him to restart drawing comic books.

“I like this film because it carries positive energy and is both motivating and encouraging. It’s a story about a person coping after the big mental trauma of losing everything to picking himself up and changing his miserable life. It encourages people to never give up on their dreams, reminding them there are always other people supporting and caring about them. We need to cherish our own lives and do more meaningful things in the limited time that we have. I was totally touched when I finished watching this film. It is not only about remembering the people we’ve lost, but also encourages those people who lost their hope from losing the one they love to get out of the deep sorrow and tell them that there is always somebody else supporting and caring about them,” said Chen.

The film premiered at the Los Angeles Independent Film Awards 2017, where it took home the top prize. Chen was both happy and surprised when she heard that The Last Page was an award-winning film, knowing that it touched audiences the same way it touched her.

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“I remembered those countless nights that I was talking with the director about the color grading ideas and how we could make this film into a better piece of art. And right now, we can all be proud of ourselves that we made it to the end, although it was just a small step on a long road ahead of me, I will keep up and be more creative as a filmmaker,” she said.

Chen was in charge of all the color grading for this project. The director described what kind of color effects he wanted for each scene after showing her the editing. Chen marked down every detail he mentioned and spent weeks turning his vision into a reality.

There are a lot of scenes in the film that express a decadence and hopeless feeling, and Chen used color to enhance these emotions. She used a heavy yellow and green color tune for showing the messy house environment. After the character’s internal emotion changed, she used some bright and clean color tunes to represent the delightful changes in his life. The whole color tune changed from cold to warm. Her color grading works highlighted the transitions of the moods and echoed the arc of the story, different color rhythms made this whole film vivid and lifelike. Her work took the film to a new level.

“The film had a big creative space for me to do the color grading, through the discussion with the director, I understood what he wanted and started to do the individual color design. Throughout the whole process I had a chance to use the color analyse from other different film types and apply them to this film project. I like the color tunes from Fight Club very much, and I was always trying to get a chance to apply them into my film projects. This short film fulfilled the wish for me by using the Fight Club dirty color tunes to highlight the messy house when the main character was at his lowest point. Also, it created a big comparison later when the main character was back into his normal life,” she said.

Be sure to watch The Last Page to see Chen’s outstanding work and be moved by Emanuel Delgado’s story.

 

Written by Annabelle Lee

Australia’s Stephanie Evison Williams talks ‘Lazy Boy’ and truthful acting

Stephanie Evison Williams’ day always starts with a coffee. She then will walk her dog and head to a fitness class. She knows how you begin your day as an actress is vital to your success. It is about getting in the right headspace, so when she walks on set she is someone else entirely. She devotes herself completely to those she portrays, even trying to dream about future scenes while embodying her character. That, for Evison Williams, is what being an actress is all about.

From a young age, Evison Williams loved musical theatre, and as an overly creative kid and sometimes, as she describes, a loud child, she found her way into acting. In her high school years, she played Sally Bowles in a small production of Cabaret and that was when she knew. There was nothing else in this world she wanted to pursue, and since that time, she has devoted herself solely to acting, quickly rising and becoming one of Australia’s most sought-after actresses.

“I love the people, like-minded creative people who observe the world slightly differently to most, people who people watch and who go through life with a scalpel trying to understand why people behave like they do. I love the feeling when you are so ‘in’ a moment, it’s the best form of mindfulness or meditation because you are so present, listening and reacting. Creative flow. It’s a drug, acting,” she said.

Known for her work in the Netflix series Rostered On, as well as films such as Playgroundand In the Wake, Evison Williams has had a formidable career, with many highlights decorating her resume. One such project was the award-winning film Lazy Boy, which saw critical acclaim at many prestigious international film festivals, despite being made for the infinitesimal budget of $600 AUD.

Lazy Boy was awarded a 2016 Flickerfest finalist and nominated for the Flickerfest National Tour as well as a SciFi Film festival nomination. It received a Heathcote Film Festival nomination and was an Official Selection and a Top 100 Short Film at the 2016 St Kilda Film Festival. In 2017, it toured theatrically around the United Kingdom with Discover Film.

“It’s fantastic. I am really proud of the film. It’s an amazing story. It’s a great sci-fi-esque, time travel concept with a sinister undertone and a lot of heart,” said Evison Williams.

Lazy Boy tells the story of Ray and when he brings home a new purchase, his pregnant girlfriend is not impressed. Banished to the garage he soon realizes the old La-Z-Boy recliner he bought is in fact a one-minute time machine. Audiences are asked the question: will Ray learn from his mistakes, or is he destined to repeat them forever?

In the film, Evison Williams plays Sarah, Ray’s girlfriend. Although the synopsis may present her as simply hormonal, she is far from it, and she and their unborn baby end up being the catalyst of the story, ultimately affecting Ray’s decision on whether to use the time machine for good. Sarah is trying to hold it all together, and Evison Williams perfectly portrays her struggle. She is pregnant and has a partner who is not rising to the occasion, she hormonal, working and doing all the preparation for the new baby. She is pulled very thin.

To prepare for the role, Evison Williams spent a lot of time working with her scene partner, Steve Carroll, who played Ray. They wanted to ensure they had good chemistry while in front of the camera, as the success of the film hindered on their authentic performance as a couple. For Evison Williams, a large part of her research also went in to studying how a pregnant woman may be feeling when stressed. It would have been easy for her to come off as a “nag” or “buzz kill” and Evison Williams was very conscious of showing her heart and struggle.

“I didn’t want to continue that persistent sexist stereotype. Choices were made to motivate why she is saying and behaving as she is. Not that Dave wrote her like this, but it would have been the easier choice as an actor,” she described.

The Writer and Director of the film, Dave Redman, is a prolific storyteller with a passion for film and television. He has worked in the Australian film and television industry for over 20 years and has established a solid career as a film and television editor, cutting five feature films, 160+ episodes of TV, hundreds of TVCs and more than 45 short films that have played at festivals worldwide. When Evison Williams saw the opportunity to work with him, she was eager to take part. When she read the script, she was hooked.

The story allowed for Evison Williams to dive deep into a character that could have been very two-dimensional if she allowed. In exploring Sarah, her performance was real, and that is what Evison Williams aims for in every performance, a truthful style.

“Even when doing comedy or character I am always aiming for truth. I would prefer watching a scene about ‘what’s for dinner’ more than two people not listening and performing an idea,” she concluded.

 

Written by Sara Fowler