Tag Archives: Filmmaker

All That Glitters is a Timeless & Timely Tale

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Liv Li on the set of All That Glitters

While great storytellers can relate any tale in a gripping manner, it’s always best when they have some direct personal attachment to it. The film All That Glitters is a story of female perseverance and empowerment; a poignant topic these days perhaps more than ever in the world. Director and writer Lincheng Yang had a strong attachment to the story (more about that later) as did first assistant director for the film Liv Li. Gender does not usurp talent but we also find ourselves in an era where thankfully it is also not prohibitive. The plot of this film is made more authentic by both the talent and experiences of these incredible women who created it.

 

The female experience permeates nearly every aspect of All That Glitters. Madison Greenlund appears as Helen Noah, a talented copywriter in her twenties who has not come into her own professionally. As a young girl, Helen (played by Sierra Anne Murphy of Paramount Pictures distributed Bumblebee) was diagnosed with scoliosis. The ridicule she received in her teen years destroyed her self-esteem and has held her back in her profession now as an adult. Her work partner [Jerry] is a charismatic handsome writer who is more than eager to take credit for Helen’s exceptional work. Judy is Helen’s feisty and well-intentioned boss who makes it her mission to challenge this young female writer to rightfully claim her recognition for her talent.

 

All That Glitters is based on Lincheng Yang’s own personal experience. Present day finds her as an acclaimed and respected film director in a primarily male dominated field. Placing Liv in the first assistant director role further ensured that the production process flowed smoothly, safely, and exceptionally at the hands of yet another female filmmaking professional. Li confirms that she has found herself in scenarios that called for a woman to step up and command the same treatment and respect that male counterparts are given. She affirms, “I think in this male-dominated industry, it’s very hard for woman to break through. Even today, we have to force ourselves to speak up in this industry. If you want to straighten a rusty and distorted pipe, the force you use to do it will always be harder than the initial power that’s placed upon it. I’m glad to see that the most powerful unions, like the DGA, are putting more attention and strength in actively helping women empowerment in this industry and other minorities of the society, like LGBTQ community and minor ethnic groups.” Juggling the logistics, preparing daily call sheets, checking cast and crew, and maintaining order on the set, Liv’s skill, talent, and determination are unquestionable. Her work and that of the entire production received numerous recognitions including Best Narrative Short Film at CineCina, Best Director & Best Short film at NXT UP, Best Cinematography at the Los Angeles Film Awards, and Official Selection of the Elijah Wells iGen Film Festival and The Film Collective.

 

The fact that female filmmakers are the creative forces behind such exceptional productions is important to state and yet the fact that it must be reiterated seems somewhat defeating. Lincheng Yang, Liv Li, and countless other female filmmakers will increasingly be recognized as leading voices in the field. While their part in the continuing exposure of their art demands long hours and difficult situations, ours responsibility as the audience is as simple as sitting back and enjoying what they have created for us.

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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

Editor Xiaodan Yang creates visual masterpiece with ‘It’s Not Just About a Film’

Xiaodan Yang knows being a film editor isn’t always the most glamorous job in the industry. When she goes to a film premiere, she will see the cast and crew and feel like she knows them so well after seeing their faces on her screen for the past few months. However, it is often the premiere where they first meet her. Editing isn’t a front-and-centre job, and often involves many isolated hours going through the same five seconds of footage trying to decide how best to use it. That being said, she absolutely loves what she does.

“I enjoy every moment during editing. I’m glad to be a participant and witness of the whole journey. Editing is my tool to communicate with audiences. It is how I put my emotions into the story. When people connect with the film, that’s my favorite moment, and I know I’ve done my job,” she said.

Born and raised in China, Yang has now taken the world by storm. Her work on films such as Witness and Sixteen received international recognition, and audiences can expect the same from her upcoming films Kayla and Summer Orange, which makes its world premiere at the renowned Cannes Film Festival Short Film Corner in May. All those she collaborates with not only appreciate what she is capable of, they admire it.

“Xiaodan is a very talented editor. We know each other because of film Snatching Sword (a.k.a Wang Shan). Snatching Sword is an action film, and over half of the scenes are action scenes. As we all know, editing action scenes is like a big trial for an editor. When Xiaodan delivered her first cut, I saw her talents instantaneously. She is sensitive to the pace of the film and knows how to use sound design to tell a story. I think that’s really important for a film editor. What’s more, she has a very collaborative attitude and the ability of responding promptly, which make her an excellent team player. My other crew members and I all enjoy working with her,” said Rachel Zhou, Director and Writer.

One of Yang’s most impressive works was her film It’s Not Just About a Film. After spending the beginning of 2017 editing the project, it premiered on May 13th, and then made its way to several film festivals. Yang herself was awarded with Best Editing at the Top Shorts Film Festival and the Award of Merit in Editing at the Accolade Global Film Festival. Needless to say, the film could never have seen the success that it did without her.

“It still feels so exciting, knowing my work was recognized on a global scale. Winning those two awards, it means so much to me. To be honest, this is not that kind of regular ‘Hollywood film’. The way we decided to tell the story breaks the routine. I’m so glad there are people that can understand our intention and like it,” she said.

It’s Not Just About a Film tells the story of Max, an actor. To get the lead of a film, Max seduces and has an affair with Cameron, the lead actress and wife of the film’s investor Fabrizio. However, as the shooting goes on, Max realizes that Fabrizio is a violent person with a gangster background. Max wants to end the affair but finds himself unable to break away from it. It is a pretty stylish story, ironic and funny, but also extremely suspenseful.

Working on It’s Not Just About a Film was a very creative process. The director and I had reached a consensus that we had to break the rules. It’s a wild story that needs wild ways to edit. That’s actually not an easy thing to do, but I was ready to try. It was like a brand-new experience for me. When I was working in the editing suite with Chen, the Director, he always encouraged me to try whatever felt good. I could forget about any editing rules in my mind, and it made for an amazing experience. I still feel so lucky that I got to be part of it. All the cast and crew were amazing,” said Yang.

Knowing he wanted Yang on board right away, the director sent her the script. At the time, it was not even completed. The first time she read the script, the story impressed the editor a lot. It was completely different from the films she had edited previously, and Yang is always looking for something new and unique challenges to get her creative juices flowing.

The film follows three different timelines all happening at the same time and includes several dream sequences. These three timelines revolve around the leading character in the story, reality, his dream and the film within the film. This makes for entertaining watching, but immensely challenging editing. With so much going on, Yang knew she had to put the scenes together in not just a creative way, but also one that was logical for audiences not to get lost and confused in the different storylines. She spent a good deal of time on the first cut. Almost every scene in the film had a different location, or even different time and space. Therefore, Yang decided to use different aspect ratios to present different timelines. However, after a few cuts, she still had the concern as to whether or not the audience could understand everything. She then tried to simplify the story by losing minor details, which made the film more relaxed and funny. Yang’s understanding of storytelling proved vital.

“Since the structure of this story was so complicated, editing played an even more important role. I kept reminding myself about one thing, “What am I trying to convey to the audience here?”. Once I was sure about the answer, every decision I made should serve this purpose. Otherwise, it’s easy to get off track under this situation. That’s why my work is particularly essential for this project. I had the responsibility to control the direction of the film, and at the same time to make it interesting,” Yang described.

In addition to editor, Yang took on the role of post-production coordinator for the film. As an editor, she cares about the sound and color correction a lot, and she always sticks to the end until everything is done, making her the perfect fit for the position. She also likes to give her input to the sound designer and colorist, knowing what would work best while editing.

Undoubtedly, Yang’s contributions to It’s Not Just About a Film made the film what it is today. Her commitment to the project was evident with every decision she made. However, the awards and accolades are not important to this editor, who remains humble. For Yang, she just focuses on the story she is telling.

“As the director said, “It’s a story about dream and subjective perception of the world.” And there is always a saying that “dream is the reflection of reality”. I don’t know if there’s scientific evidence to prove it, but it makes sense to me. Based on this concept, we developed this wild, dramatic, even absurd story. For me, it’s fantastic. It stimulated my full potential as an editor,” she concluded.

Be sure to check out Yang’s outstanding work in It’s Not Just About a Film.

 

By Sean Desouza

Producer Kegan Sant talks award-winning film ‘The Bear’

Born in Trinidad and Tobago, Kegan Sant moved to Canada at just six months old. Growing up just outside of Toronto, Sant was constantly drawn to filmmaking. He has worked in varying capacities on set since he was only a teenager and enjoys shooting photography to keep the creative juices flowing. While trying out the many roles that a film set offers, there was one that spoke to him, and he ultimately decided there was only one option: he was meant to be a producer.

“As I worked through the different roles on set, I realized that my skill set led more heavily towards the management and overall execution of a project. I’m a big believer in knowing one’s strengths and weaknesses and always playing to your strengths; in this case, it set me down a path of working in production and ultimately producing. Being a professional comes with the job description and something I pride myself in – running sets with integrity and calm amidst the chaos,” said Sant.

Throughout his esteemed career, Sant has worked mostly in the commercial sector primarily dealing with advertising agencies to make commercials for brands. This includes large companies such as WestJet, Woods, the CFL, and TELUS. Each and every commercial he has taken on has received national recognition in some capacity, exemplifying just what makes Sant so formidable. However, his talents are not just limited to commercials, and his track record with films is no different.

In 2015, Sant began working on The Bear. Isolated, exhausted, alone: the dramatic thriller follows three miners in a remote Yukon mining camp in Canada’s far north who swap tall tales that lead to a violent showdown with the camp’s bitter owner. Part story of man in the wilderness, part neo-noir, The Bear takes the audience into the Canadian ‘heart of darkness’.

“I think this was an important Canadian story to tell and describes an environment that not many people think about but is a reality for many miners. I liked it because it was loosely based off someone the director had met working on a documentary many years ago and it allowed for different departments to flex their creative muscles. Being able to cast the characters the director had envisioned made the story come to life that much more for me,” said Sant.

After premiering at the 2015 Fort McMurray International Film Festival, where it won for ‘Best Direction’ and ‘Best Cinematography’, The Bear went on to several other prestigious film festivals around the world. It was also an Official Selection at the Yellowknife International Film Festival, Toronto International Short Film Festival, Edinburgh Short Film Festival, Atlantic Film Festival and Austin Short Film Fest. In 2017, it was then acquired by an online VOD distributor.

“I’m proud to know that the film has been so successful and screened around the world. It means that all the hard work myself and the crew put in, was worth it. It impresses me when I think about how many films are made all over the world and what the competition is like in festival screeners these days,” said Sant.

Sant was the team’s first choice for the producer of their film. Long Format Director, Warren Sonoda, knew Sant’s reputation for being able to assemble great crews and bring a high level of production value to the project. When the Director of the film, Peter Findlay talked with Sant about the project’s merits and goals, he felt at ease that Sant was the one who could make his first narrative project come to life.

Although he works on commercials more frequently, Sant knew he wanted to work on The Bear the moment he read the script. He was happy with the team, and admired Findlay’s commitment to the story. He couldn’t pass up the opportunity to help bring the project to life.

“I had the good fortune to work with Kegan as my producer on my award-winning film The Bear. I found Kegan to be extremely professional, creative, and always working calmly behind the scenes in the best interests of the production. What makes Kegan such an asset is that he has the steely focus it takes to deliver on time and on budget – and he also just flat-out loves telling stories. A great compromise between the art and business of filmmaking,” said Findlay.

When shooting, Sant and his team worked outdoors in a remote location. He extensively prepped, knowing that once out there, it would be difficult to change anything. Sant had to build a miner’s camp set from scratch and work with the Director of Photography to find lenses that worked to help it appear that the film was shot in the Yukon rather than rural Ontario.

On top of this, he also offered the director multiple options and a chance to exercise his creativity. Sant wanted to let Findlay feel like he wasn’t rushed, knowing the importance of allowing a director the freedom and flexibility to feel comfortable with their process. Findlay had no prior experience in the narrative world. He didn’t have the crew contacts or resources to bring the project to life in a way that it needed to be produced. Sant was able to introduce him to the right key crew for the job, specifically the cinematographer and production designer.

“I enjoyed working with an experienced director that came from a different world of storytelling – it was enlightening to see the differences in process and to learn from it as well. I could learn from him and likewise, he could learn from me. It was a great working relationship and I was able to hire the best crew for the job, giving some crew opportunities that they hadn’t had before to help build their reel and portfolio, in addition to creating a short on a cool subject,” said Sant.

The Bear is just one of Sant’s many successful films, and he looks forward to working on more in the near future. He is an extremely versatile producer and is constantly adapting to be successful. Audiences can continue to expect great things from him, and for those looking to follow in his footsteps, he offers insightful advice.

“I would tell aspiring producers that they need to get their hands dirty. Producing is not a glamorous job, but it is fulfilling. Work in a variety of capacities on set and make sure that production is what you want. Production manage before you produce; it will help you understand the crew and different departments and needs versus wants. Know your strengths and weaknesses; it will determine whether producing is for you or not. You have to have a thick skin…you will face much rejection in your life if you choose producing as a career path. You must learn to be empathetic, as you will be the boss of an eclectic group of professionals. They will have their quirks, they will have wildly different personalities and you’ll have to learn how to manage them, understand them and realize what you as a producer are willing and able to handle and what you are not. There are many production companies and crews in the industry – if one or two don’t work out, it doesn’t mean you should give up. Perseverance is key – it is the defining difference between you and everyone else who is not a producer,” he advised.

 

Pictured left to right: Kegan Sant, Peter Findlay, Rob Comeau on set of “The Bear”, photo by Stephanie Langzik
By Sean Desouza

Through the eyes of Èlia Gasull Balada, Editor of ‘Icaros: A Vision’

Elia 2
Èlia Gasull Balada, photo by Carla Gonzalez

Film editor Èlia Gasull Balada had quite a 2017. Esquire and the The New Yorker included one of her most recent films, Icaros: A Vision, in their lists of the best films of the year. After an extensive festival circuit, Icaros had its theatrical release in the United States that summer and soon afterwards in Canada and England. The film will be released in Mexican and Italian theaters this upcoming spring as well.

With a solid experience in cutting trailers, music videos and commercials for production companies and directors such as Part 2 Pictures and Matthew Newton, Gasull Balada balances her career between feature and documentary films like the Documentary TV Series, This Is Life with Lisa Ling, and the highly anticipated social and political wonder, THE KING. Consistently ranging from documentaries to fiction work, Gasull Balada’s versatility makes her undoubtedly a multi-faceted editor.

Following a period of filming in 2014, Gasull Balada’s talents were recognized when she was recommended to edit the feature film Icaros: A Vision. When meeting with Abou Farman, the producer, as well as with the co-directors, Leonor Caraballo and Matteo Norzi, they clicked and immediately decided to start a collaboration together. Èlia was very attracted by the synergy that existed between Caraballo, Norzi and Farman. Norzi has a background as a conceptual artist and Caraballo was a photographer and a video artist in a duo collaboration with Farman, who is also an anthropologist.

Icaros: A Vision follows the life of Angelina, an American woman who travels to the Amazon in search of a miracle after exhausting all her medical options back home. In her search, she finds a group of foreign individuals seeking transcendence, companionship, and the secrets of life and death. Eventually, her perceptions are altered by the ancient psychedelic plant known as ayahuasca, as well as through her bond with Arturo, a young indigenous shaman who is losing his eyesight. When Gasull Balada embarked on this project, she faced the challenge of editing a long meditation between dreams and reality. One of her primary tasks was finding a way to escape the conventional and create an original universe that could faithfully represent  the vision that Leonor and Matteo had. In Gasull Balada’s words, Icaros: A Vision “stays with you and brings you to the Amazon in a way that you don’t expect.”  

At the outset of the film’s editing journey, Gasull Balada was working closely with Caraballo; unfortunately, Caraballo passed away before the editing finished. The film is partly based on Caraballo’s life experiences with cancer and her passing opened a big reflection about life and death for Gasull Balada. They had worked very closely till almost the very end and witnessing the departure of a young artist and creative force was a life lesson for her.

“Leonor’s commitment and vision came from the pure essence of being an artist. It is not easy to make films that talk about difficult subjects like death and she gave everything to it. Icaros wants to explore the mystery of something that goes beyond the rational. The challenge lied in bringing the audience to dark and unexplored places and blurring the  boundaries between dreams and reality. From there, we tried to find moments of truth that could become moving sensorial experiences and could lead to reflections about what it means to die,” she said.

In the wake of Caraballo’s passing, Gasull Balada, Norzi and Farman kept working together to complete the film. Because of the extraordinary and unfortunate circumstances of the project, the edit of Icaros: A Vision was a long process, providing Gasull Balada a long window of time that allowed her to experiment widely with the footage.

“It’s not common to get enough time to experiment until you exhaust all the possibilities. With this film we really pushed ourselves to try many different things until we got to places we felt very confident about. The vision was slowly constructed and we think that Leonor is very pleased with what we did,” Gasull Balada commented.

“Èlia was a crucial part of our film Icaros: A Vision, which had a successful release in North America with full accolades from the press — The New York Times, Variety, The New Yorker, The Hollywood Reporter, and more. As an editor, she is technically skillful, but that is not what stands out about her. She is someone who finds solutions where none seem to exist because she is both patient and experimental. She can layer images and meanings together. That is what worked for us in our film, that deep layering of meaning and images that make a film transcend the occasion of its shooting. She also has a keen eye for detail, which for an editor means making the right decision about when to cut. Elia’s relationship to cinema is a creator’s relationship. She is committed to an aesthetic and moral vision. She ‘sees’ the film… that is, she sees through the material of the film into its deeper meanings and builds the film from there. This was a difficult film in a difficult circumstance, where the main director was on her deathbed right next to Elia as she was editing – I truly don’t believe any other person would have made it through those conditions, let alone accomplish a masterful edit,” said Farman.

Norzi and Caraballo had in mind a very clear aesthetic that it was partly influenced by the experiences they had had with ayahuasca and the Shipibo Conibo imaginary, but they wanted to bring in other elements like animation and some of the previous video art that Caraballo and Farman had created. Gasull Balada faced the challenge of finding a cohesive language that could interweave the original footage shot for the film with all this other material.

“We played with many different elements in this movie but two of them were essential to me: Nature and the Icaros, which are the songs that the shamans sing during the ayahuasca ceremonies. The jungle embraces the journey of Angelina and Arturo, as well as all the other passengers, and it is also the stage for The Vision and the sequence of hallucinations that compose the story. We experimented a lot with how the forest was going to be present throughout the film and how it would be an essential layer of the whole sensory experience. And we did the same thing with the Icaros. There’s no additional music besides the shamanic songs and those help the audience to vibrate and to navigate through different moods. The harmony of the jungle, and the wisdom of the Shipibo Conibo people come in a full circle that starts and ends with Nature. It’s based on the concept of unity and that was our guide during the editing process. Later on, the work that Tom Paul did with the sound design brought the film to another level and created a full immersive experience,” pointed Gasull Balada.

Icaros: A Vision went on to premiere at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival in the International Narrative Competition. At the Crested Butte Film Festival, Icaros: A Vision won the Special Jury Award. It went on to be an official selection at the Mill Valley Film Festival, the Warsaw Film Festival, and the Santa Fe Film Festival, and screened at International Film Festivals like La Roche Sur Yon, Guadalajara, Habana, Cleveland and Istanbul, among many others.  

 

By Sean Desouza

Filmmaker & Journalist Liliya Anisimova Reveals Her Fashionista Side on TheSTYLEtti

Journalist Liliya Anisimova
Journalist Liliya Anisimova

From her time as a news anchor for local Moscow news stations Doverie and Teleinform, to working as the host of several hit TV programs on the popular Russian Travel Guide (RTG), journalist and filmmaker Liliya Anisimova has spent a lot of time in front of the camera, and she always looks stunning. Granted, she’s a natural beauty, but her keen eye for fashion truly makes her stand out.

My mom likes to tell this story all the time of how when I was about three putting clothes on for daycare. I put my yellow track suit on, I remember that suit, it was chic yellow with colorful stars, a Juicy Couture style tracksuit. And my mom gave me pink socks,” Liliya recalls with a smile. “I looked at her and said, ‘I’m not going anywhere in a yellow suit and pink socks. I need yellow socks’… I wouldn’t go anywhere until my mom found me yellow socks. She always tells this story saying, ‘who told you about matching colors, nobody taught you how to pair colors’.”

As a journalist and filmmaker, Liliya Anisimova’s accomplishments are beyond impressive– to the point of making of us wonder if she has some super human power giving her the ability to accomplish more in a day than most. As the writer and director of the films “From Real to Reel,” “Magic of the Underground,” which earned the Best Experimental Film Award at the 2013 Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival, and the poignant documentary “Love is the Highest Law,” which screened internationally and earned numerous awards including the Award of Merit from the 2015 IndieFEST Film Awards, she’s made a strong name for herself as a talented storyteller.

Ironically though, it was Liliya’s chic style, not her seemingly endless accolades, that first caught the attention of The STYLEtti Editor-In-Chief Janea Mastrandrea. Janea recounts on TheSTYLEtti blog, “I was shooting street style in New York one day when I came upon this woman with fabulous shoes. I met filmmaker and shoe-lover Liliya Anisimova. And the next day, we began collaborating.”

Charline De Luca black and white heels
Liliya’s Charline De Luca black and white heels

Wearing her Charline De Luca black and white heels, black skinny jeans and a light pink-beige soft wool cardigan jacket, Liliya was rushing to meet a friend in midtown NYC when she was approached by Janea, who ironically had no idea that she was already a celebrated journalist. 

“[Janea] was a very beautiful classy lady, one of those editor-in-chief looks. She asked about my shoes and complimented my style, and that’s how I met Janea.. and that’s how I started writing for The Styletti. It was such a privilege and joy to start writing column regularly in a fashionable glossy magazine style,” recalls Liliya.

“I’ve since written around a hundred articles about traveling, attending events, meeting outstanding people and of course, fashion.”

Since that fated encounter three years ago, which is proof that you never know who you’re going to meet out there in the world so you might as well opt for looking your best, Anisimova has continued to be a lead fashion columnist on the site.

Janea adds, “[Liliya’s] posts are among our most read.”

Growing up in Volgograd, former Stalingrad, Russia, Liliya’s love for fashion and the desire to express herself through her own unique style was something she developed early on in her youth.

She recalls, “When I was growing up it was the time when the USSR had just crashed and we didn’t have a big clothing or shoe selection in stores. So everyone pretty much looked the same, and I hated it, so I would come up with my own ideas and ask my grandmother to sew and knit me different pieces. I remember she did a knitted 100% light wool sweater and matching knitted sweatpants which I loved!”

It was only a few years later, at the age of 13, that Liliya first began working as a contributing journalist to local newspapers such as the Russian national newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda’s Volgograd regional edition, Volgogradskaya Pravda and Vecherniy Volgograd aka Evening Volgograd.

She admits, “I’ve loved to write since I was a little girl. I used to ‘publish’ my home-made magazine, I published multiple school papers while in high school, and collaborated with some local papers in my hometown before I started my undergrad in broadcast journalism.”

Liliya went on to earn her Bachelor’s in journalism, another Bachelor’s in translation in professional communications and her MFA in Journalism from Moscow State University before relocating to the states where she earned another MFA in Social Documentary Filmmaking from New York’s School of Visual Arts.

As a local news anchor in Russia Liliya covered a wide range of subjects. Occasionally those subjects intersected with her love for fashion, such as covering Moscow Fashion Week; but The STYLEtti has given her a platform to reveal her fashionista side in a different way.

Liliya explains, “For me, writing a column is very much a get away from my daily video work, I write it once a month, sometimes two if the schedule permits. I love attending events, art gallery openings, fashion shows of course, meeting photographers, designers, artists, models and other interesting people. It’s genuinely very inspiring.”

From her articles covering NYFW where she’s interviewed international designers and covered the runway, to those about attending gallery openings, such as Karim Rashid’s exhibit featuring his new design collaborations in Manhattan last Spring, Liliya writes about fashion in a way that makes the reader feel like they’re one of her close pals.

Karim Rashid
Karim Rashid and Liliya Anisimova at Rashid’s Exhibit in NYC

Dressed to impress, Liliya wore her sensible, but classy black peep-toe Gucci flats, a red Kate Spade knee length coat (featured in another post you can check out here) and her white boatneck sleeveless Raoul dress to Karim Rashid’s exhibit. With over 300 awards under his belt, Karim Rashid is considered one of the world’s most famous industrial designers; and, with the images of Liliya looking chic and stylish at the opening being featured on The STYLEtti site, the post became highly popular and offered readers insight on how to dress one’s best in such a high profile environment.

She often does #OOTD and #OOTN posts as well, which show her personal style for everyday and nightly outings, and serve as a great source of inspiration for those looking to making their wardrobe more fashion forward.

“I like to write about every day simple events, something that anyone can relate to…. I normally get more inspired to find beauty in everyday life in regular people… I think it is my background in journalism and filmmaking that makes me have the same approach to that column.”

On a personal level, Liliya’s natural style is simple, but classy, which makes sense considering her fashion icon is Audrey Hepburn. A little black dress, which she says is ‘as old as time,’ classic nude heels, which work with everything, a silk pastel colored blouse,  ajean shirt and black skinny jeans are among the basic selection of items she says are ‘must haves’ for any fashion forward female reader.

While she’s made a name for herself covering hard-hitting news and travel stories, as well as through her work as a documentary filmmaker, where she primarily focuses on human interest stories relevant to present times, fashion has been a part of Liliya Anisimova’s life all along. So, having her own fashion column is not only the perfect grounds for her talent and personal interests to intersect, but it also continues to draw readers to The STYLEtti site.

Janea says, “Liliya’s sense of humor and understanding of what interests our audience has helped grow our exposure and keeps readers coming back for her influence and entertainment.”

Lili Huang casts an honest lens on the life of “Xixi” in award-winning documentary

Alfred Hitchcock once said, “To make a great film, you need three things: a great script, a great script, and a great script.” For award-winning screenwriter and producer, Lili Huang, these words resonate deeply. If her career has taught her anything, in fact, it is that a well-written script is absolutely essential to the success of a film. For this reason, Huang pours her heart and soul into ensuring that when she writes a script, she fine-tunes each and every detail to perfection, regardless of its size. This dedication to scriptwriting, coupled with her business acumen and knowledge of film production, make her a rarity in the entertainment business and an asset to any project she works on.

“For me, screenwriting is about using my writing skills to take a simple idea and turn it into a gripping story for an audience. I enjoy the entire creative process of writing, from developing each character, to building the structure, planting every small or large detail, and ultimately, of course, presenting a final story that people will eventually fall in love with,” told Huang.

When Huang looks back on her career, however, she recognizes that originally, her passion for screenwriting and producing were not as clear cut as most. On the contrary, they have slowly and progressively built over the course of the last decade and as she continues to explore the film industry, her love for the two professions only grows stronger. To date, Huang has written upward of thirty film and web series scripts and makes no plans to stop any time soon. In addition, she has received a number of prestigious awards for her unique set of skills and techniques. For instance, in 2011, Huang tested her abilities as a screenwriter, director, producer, and editor when she created her film, The Flower of the Future, and earned herself a nomination for Best Screenplay at the Golden Panda Awards in China. For another of her films, Mei Mei, Huang won Best Film at the Golden Rooster and Hundred Flowers Film Festival, earned herself an Official Selection at the IndieFest USA International Film Festival, and more.

To little surprise, Huang is used to receiving a substantial amount of praise for her work from her peers and fellow film-lovers. For instance, well-known Chinese director, Xuehua Hu, acted as both a mentor and colleague to Huang over the years, considers her to be an asset in the industry. When asked about what makes Huang so good at her job, Hu had the following to say:

“Lili Huang has a rare professional dedication and passion for filmmaking. Throughout her career, she has gained a comprehensive understanding of the filmmaking industry, especially as it pertains to the differences between filmmaking in China and in other parts of the world. I can say confidently that she is an invaluable, professional filmmaker.”

After years of developing her skills in the genre of drama, Huang felt that she was ready to branch out of her comfort zone and explore the realm of creating a documentary-style film. Given that documentaries interest her greatly, Huang was confident that this was an area of filmmaking through which her talents could prosper. In 2012, she felt compelled to tell the story of Xixi, a girl who was born in China, immigrated to the United States as a child, and moved back to Shanghai, China, as a young adult. Huang spent the next eight months gathering raw footage of Xixi’s daily life, endeavoring to capture every moment of happiness, hardships, romance, friendship, and more. Ultimately, Huang wanted to shed a light on the Xixi’s unique life circumstances and allow audiences to draw their own conclusions about the intricacies of Xixi’s cultural transitions.

“I wanted to show my audience what her daily life is really like. For her, having had just moved back from the United States to China, she was definitely experiencing life in a very different way than local Chinese people were. I wanted to share her point of view on her new life in Shanghai, on how she was adopting new customs, etc. I also wanted to audience to draw their own conclusions after watching the film,” she said.

Once she had concluded her filming process, Huang edited her footage and eventually, in 2013, Xixi premiered at the Golden Panda Film Festival in China. Later, at that same festival, she received a nomination for Best Director of a Documentary Film, and was overwhelmed with pride. Director Haiying Wu, who acted as an advisor for the project, offered a great deal of praise for Huang and had only positive things to say about the film. Xixi, in conjunction with Huang’s other achievements in her field, have proven that there are very few limits to what she can achieve when she sets her mind to it and fortunately, she intends to continue dedicating her efforts to telling meaningful stories and continuing to help contribute the art of film for years to come.