Tag Archives: Filmmaking

Actress Isabella Richardson captivates in ‘Next of Kin’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Actress Liya Shay, photo by Collin Stark

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jing Wen talks becoming a web phenomenon

Jing Wen
Jing Wen

When Jing Wen sits to envision how to begin working on a new project, every fibre of her being comes to life. She is addicted to the power she experiences when she witnesses her audience feeling her story. From the very first take, she knows what she wants them to see and she commits herself to ensuring that every single step is taken with care to do her ideas justice. For the renowned director, her work allows her to be free to express herself and her opinions before the world in a way few other professions allow. It is a job unlike any other and her passion for her work is unprecedented.

For as long as Wen can remember, storytelling has been her calling and she has done so for the better of every project she has ever embarked on. In her work on films like Blossoming Flowers and Golden Eagle Festival, Wen has taken the inner workings of her mind and shared them with her audience in the most raw, authentic way possible. She is a natural connector, knowing all of the intricate roles involved in bringing a film to life and ensuring that each and every person she works with knows exactly what they need to do to help carry the film to greatness. When a problem arises, she knows exactly what to do and she makes sure that her co-workers are at ease and confident in their roles at all times.

Wen’s leadership skills are unparalleled and they have been instrumental to her success as a director. In 2016, she was tasked with re-vamping the Chinese reality show, Mom is Superman 1. The show’s producer, Baili Yuan, sought Wen’s help in the midst of a struggle to change the direction of the show after its first season. Yuan knew that the script needed the perspective of a director like Wen. Someone who had the creative edge to keep their audience fully engaged and eagerly anticipating each new episode. Yuan also knew that it needed a natural born leader. It required a skilled director who could talk the stars through their roles and establish attainable targets. To Yuan’s satisfaction, Wen agreed to share her talents with Yuan’s team and presented her vision for Mom is Superman 2.

The result was astounding. Wen far exceeded any expectations that Yuan had for her. The wildly successful web series received 1.4 million viewers online and became a Topic Discussion online over 3.2 billion times. Unsurprisingly, Mom is Superman 2 won Macau International Advertising Festival’s “2016-17 Best Program of China” award and Wen is without a doubt the reason why.

Wen’s satisfaction, however, came from the chance she seized to use her talents for the better of her viewers. She got to do what she loves more than anything else. She got to tell stories. “What I love about directing is story telling. It is the most essential part of any film. As a director, the way in which you choose to tell your story is crucial. I want my audience to feel amazed when they watch my films. More importantly, I want them to find meaning in the stories I tell,” said Wen.

Mom is superman 2 poster 2
Mom is Superman 2 poster

The challenge, for Wen, is that making her films often involves the assistance of a sponsor. She knows how difficult it can be when a sponsor pushes her to accept their advice and their suggestions. Her vast experience in the industry, however, allows her to overcome this obstacle each time she is presented with it. She is passionate about her work and she understands the need to stay true to her original ideas. In order to do so, she has grasped the ability to liaise effortlessly with her sponsors and ensure that any compromises she makes wont jeopardize the integrity of the film. Her professionalism is one of the many reasons that sponsors and producers are eager to work with her at any chance they get. Mom is Superman 2’s producer, Yuan is a prime example. Having worked with Wen on several occasions, Yuan continues to return to her whenever she is looking for a high quality director who can help take her projects to the next level.

“I first met Jing when she was a graduate but I haven’t forgotten her since. She is so full of curiosity and she thrives in a variety of situations. She is such a creative director and her experience makes her an asset on any project. She knows how to handle any emergency we encounter on set,” told Yuan.

After achieving such acclaim for Mom is Superman 2, Wen has already set her sights on an even bigger, brighter outcome for Mom is Superman 3. Every time she finishes a project, she is already thinking about the next best thing she can bring to the screen. This is because directing is a lifestyle for Wen and storytelling is her artistry. It isn’t something she can shut off, and why would she? She is fortunate enough to be able to do what she loves and to be great at what she does. She lives every artist’s dream on a daily basis and she does not plan on stopping any time soon.

Andre Chesini tackles Alzheimer’s in moving film

Andre Chesini measuring light on Chocolate
Andre Chesini behind the scenes for “Chocolate”

Ask any cinematographer what they love about film and you’re likely to get a different answer. For some, it’s about having an outlet; a way to channel the vast array of emotions, thoughts, and experiences that life has to offer. For others, it’s a platform to showcase an artist’s creativity and to entertain audiences of all sizes. It is both gruelling and competitive; however, most cinematographers will tell you that above all else, it’s about the indescribable feeling of getting to see your work come to life on screen. Filmmaking is an ever-evolving art form and over time, it has broken barriers, tested limits, and motivated human beings to see the world in different lights. For award-winning cinematographer, Andre Chesini, it is about all of this and more.

“Cinematography is a dynamic process, borrowing from different art forms to create an art form of its own. It drives me to evolve not only as an artist, but as a human being and it has helped me to learn so much about the world that we live in. It is an endless process of discovery and it has given me the opportunity to travel to new places and meet new people. It’s in those places that ideas flourish and new projects come to life,” says Chesini.

At a young age, Chesini began to work with 3D CAD modelling at a SolidWorks reseller. It was here that he earned himself various positions working for prominent companies like Alston and Embraer Suppliers as a 3D modelling designer, using mechanics to help pre-visualize ideas and concepts. In those days, Chesini thought he might eventually work toward becoming an engineer; however, he was always hungry for more. His unrelenting desire and creative insight, paired with his technical skills, drew him toward cinematography and from there, he has never looked back.

As he continued to pursue his dreams, Chesini moved to the south of Brazil to lend his talents toward projects like the award-winning, A Fábrica; a film which won over 60 awards and went on to secure a nomination at the 85th annual Oscars Awards. Another of his works was a viral music video called Oração. If not for Chesini, it is unlikely that the video would have reached three-million views in less than three days. Achieving such success so early on in one’s career can often have a negative impact on his or her ego; however, this was never the case for Chesini. He is simply grateful for the recognition and motivated to continue to produce even greater work.

With a decorated career like Chesini’s, it comes as no surprise that director Thiago Dadalt was determined to work with him. Dadalt’s familiarity with Chesini’s work on A Fábrica solidified this desire. The two worked together for the first time on the wildly hilarious television series, Life on a Leash. When Chesini was approached about the possibility of working with Dadalt again for the film Chocolate, he found himself instantly intrigued. The film portrays the beautiful tale about the power of family and hope when a suburban housewife and mother finds herself homeless in Skid Row, Los Angeles as a result of her Alzheimer’s Disease.

“I feel a strong impulse to jump on board with projects grounded in a social issue. For Chocolate, we had the opportunity to portray the life of a house-wife who finds herself homeless as a result of her early-onset Alzheimer’s, a disease that degenerates the mind. I was born in Brazil, where homelessness is a prevalent social issue and I really wanted to portray it as close to reality as we could,” tells Chesini.

The reality that often goes unseen with cinematography, however, are the challenges that filmmakers must overcome to produce high-quality content for their viewers. By the time the ensemble hits the screen, a cinematographer’s work typically appears seamless. In the case of Chocolate, Chesini, Dadalt and their entire team encountered several obstacles along the way. It is in situations like these, however, where Chesini’s natural affinity for filmmaking comes to light.

Chocolate had its production challenges. We were going to shoot in the midst of a hot summer in Los Angeles and our ideas involved several locations, as well as various moving parts. I decided to choose handheld and steadicam given our locations and hard placements to set tracks and cranes. I felt that it created a more intimate connection with the characters since the camera position was closer to the action. I also recognized that it was an emotional film for the actors, so Thiago and I decided we would use longer shots to help the actors delve deeper into their characters. Even with all of our production challenges, Thiago managed to pull a 29-minute cut. He didn’t need to re-shoot any of the material or film additional shots. The result was a consistent film that draws the audience into a tale of survival and love in the midst of the devastating reality of forgetting and losing yourself,” states Chesini.

Prior to completing the film in November 2016, Chocolate was already nominated for the London International Film Festival where it received the award for Best Supporting Actress. Following this early success, the film went on to be an Official Selection for the Hollywood and Hollyshorts Film Festivals in 2017. It later won Best Drama and Actress at the Firstglance Film Festival Los Angeles and Marché du Film at Le Festival de Cannes 2017 and continued to win awards thereafter.

So, what makes a short-film like Chocolate so successful? Naturally, it comes down to talent like Chesini. When asked about working with the cinematographer, Dadalt comments that “Andre is an outstanding professional that I feel extremely fortunate to have come across. We’re both Brazilian, so we share a mutual understanding of the unique challenge that it brings to establishing a career in Los Angeles. He is a very talented cinematographer with a keen eye for capturing the perfect moment. His input and his work ethic are a delight when filming.”

With a cinematographer like Chesini on the scene, one can only imagine the calibre of content that he will continue to bring to the industry.

Check out some behind-the-scenes footage of Chocolate here.

Videographer and video editor Maria Aguado had “the courage to pursue her dream”

“All of our dreams come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” Maria Aguado wrote this to herself at the beginning of her career. At the time, she was just a girl from Barcelona with big dreams; she wanted to make films. Throughout her life, Aguado never stopped believing she was meant to be behind a camera, and this belief became her mantra. Now, she is one of Spain’s best videographers and video editors, and her faith to overcome any obstacle has contributed greatly to her acclaim.

Throughout her career, Aguado has shown international audiences what she is capable of with a series of celebrated projects. She worked with high-profile fashion designers Claudia Morera and Carlota Cahis, the popular shoe brand Alvarez & Moixonet, the fashion company Brownie, the iconic fitness brand Les Mills, and the eclectic Spanish shop Button Barcelona. She worked with the advertising company Puente Aereo helped the company gain new clients, her videos for the magician Nilo with MCN Magic helped put the magician on the map, and just this year, she worked with the fitness company Human Body Experience to create outstanding informational videos for consumers. Her work in both filming and editing has impressed many, and her passion for what she does inspires others.

“As editors, having another point of view is basic. Working together gives us the opportunity to fusion our minds and obtain the best results. Maria brings a very creative perspective to every project. She is very hard working and has a huge knowledge as an editor. Working with her is a pleasure,” said fellow editor Felipe Bravo.

Bravo is a well-known editor in Barcelona, and has worked alongside Aguado many times.  The two immediately connected because of their shared passion for film, and make quote the team. Last year, they worked on the award-winning short Happy Burger, a project that Aguado thinks of fondly.

“I love the feeling of being emerged. While I film or edit everything else disappears,” said Aguado. “I create a world that is later shown to an audience to express a feeling, a concept or an idea. Since the age of seven, I filmed my dolls, edited my films and wrote screenplays without being aware of what I was doing. I grew up with a camera.”

Aguado’s first job was years ago, working as a film editor for Puente Aéreo, an advertisement company. Just beginning, it helped the now esteemed filmmaker learn a lot about advertising and editing ads for television. Since that time, she has worked for countless brands. After Puente Aéreo, she moved on to working for the interactive party platform Get Wasted Events. She was ready for a new experience, and it was there was she learned exactly what style she enjoyed that has now become her signature.

“I always film with a bit of camera movement. My shots are not static and I use a lot of close ups. While filming I try to forget everything I’ve ever seen and have a new vision in each project. I play while I am filming, I don’t see it as a job. I also edit in my head while filming, I know which shot will go next to the other, it’s like building up a story,” said Aguado.

Aguado’s first time working with the fashion industry was with Carlota Cahis, a well-known designer of jewelry and clothes. By this time, Aguado already had an outstanding reputation, and the firm contacted her to film and edit Cahis’ fashion show. Cahis was instantly impressed, and contacted Aguado many times after this to shoot for her. Quickly, other designers began to notice her and to seek the videographer out. She did several fashion videos for fashion designers such as Mercedes Arnus in her “Pure White” Collection and Claudia Morera’s brand, selected in 080 Fashion Week Catwalk Barcelona.

“I’ve always known this is what I wanted to do. I grew up playing with a camera. This is what I’ve always done. Filming and creating is a huge part of me. Without filming and editing I wouldn’t be able to fully express myself,” said Aguado.

Not only does Aguado excel with advertising and fashion videos, she is highly experienced in film. She worked with director Max Larruy on the film Caperucita Roja, and later worked on the feature film Barcelona Nit destiu. She has an extraordinarily artistic eye whilst looking through a lens, and her editing experience helps her know exactly how to frame a shot. She also edits films, such as the short Blanco Roto by Director Belen Reina.

“Creating movies is a way to believe in the magic of life. It is a way to experience different lives. It is a way to be a part of new stories and experience another point of view. It is a way to make people feel, know, and experience new emotions, new ideas! It is a way to express the parts most inside of your soul, and surprise yourself in the process by opening your mind to new perspectives. It is a way to make your dreams come true while you show them to the world. Making cinema is the same as travelling around your dreams. Making movies is not letting the child you’ve got inside to die. It is a game. Being able to make cinema is a good reason to be alive,” concluded Aguado.

Art Director Ji Young is vital to success of new film ‘The Sacred Mushroom Edition’

“There are few films that show how much the art department pays attention to details. In the film Room, the art department team studied the sun’s movement and bleached the part of the wall where the sunlight comes through the shed’s skylight and hits. They believed most of the objects inside the room should have some sort of stories because the five-year-old main character personifies every object. In Danish Girl, the set starts with the gloomy grey bedroom in Copenhagen where the main character couldn’t find his real identity, and then it shifts to a colorful room with beautiful floral pattern wall and Art Nouveau style architecture in Paris where he finds his real identity as a woman and starts blooming. I love art directors who are storytellers, who transfer the words into imagery by conceptualizing, using imagination, and creating the mood with emotion, style, and feeling,” said Young.

When Ji Young Lee talks about what it is to be an art director, one immediately understands that this is someone who not only loves what they do, but someone who appreciates every intricacy of their craft so fully that their passion and commitment are unrivaled. Young wanted to be an art director because she wanted to create a world that affects people who are watching the film; she thought it was fascinating that she could make the background world that helps people believe the story, whether it is real or fantasy. This is exactly what she does, and this vision is evident on every film that features her name in its credits. Director Ryan Betshart says without Young, he would not have the success he does today.

“Ji was my art director for two projects, the first being Paper Chase, a music video that has played Ann Arbor Film festival, which was a highlight of my career. Ji did so well and was so exciting and thoughtful to work with that I hired her for my next short film The Sacred Mushroom Edition,” said Betshart. “Working with Ji helped my career so much so that I intend on hiring her again on all my future projects. Her attention to detail is second to none – no one has an eye for set design like her – meticulous yet on budget and fast, a true professional. Her communication with the other departments, as well as with her own crew is clear and effective in ways I have rarely seen on set. Things get done, and so quickly and quietly one would think magic was being used to make everything perfect. Does this make Ji a magician? Does she have magical powers like a sorcerer? I’d say yes. Everyone on set respects her. The actors love her. She is the first to show up and the last to leave. I wish I had met her sooner, my previous films would all have done much better!”

Such accolades, although flattering, are not what keeps Young going. For her, it is all about her work. The Sacred Mushroom Edition is at the beginning of its festival route, and has already seen tremendous success. It premiered at Portland Underground Film Festival on April 9, followed by the prestigious Mammoth Lakes Film Festival on May 25, the Moviate Underground Film Festival in Pennsylvania on May 28, and internationally at Winnipeg Underground Film Festival in Canada on June 1. None of this could have been possible without Young’s artistic eye, and yet, she remains humble.

“It feels very surreal and exciting to have the film be doing so well. I don’t know much about experimental films, so I had no idea what kind of films our film was going to get chosen with for the festival. I’m just very glad that now I got some experiences in experimental film, which was the world that I never got to explore before and got these great festival opportunities by working with my great friends,” said Young.

The Sacred Mushroom Edition is an ode to the 1978 version of Kenneth Anger’s film Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome and its peculiar use of Electric Light Orchestra’s album ‘El Dorado’ over images of a ritual orgy between gods. The Sacred Mushroom Edition finds two fallen angels arguing over ELO and their lead singer Jeff Lynne’s affiliated super group The Traveling Wilburys – and his connection to the dark side.

“I watched the original film and loved how stylized the set design was. It was visually stunning and very artistic. Most of the films I’ve worked on wanted the art department team to stick to what’s exactly written in the script in terms of creating the set, but Ryan loved to hear about team members’ interpretation on the script and discuss with them which sometimes led to something unexpected. This film helped me to use more imagination and understand sometimes the filmmaking is less about form or content than it is about context,” said Young.

Although Paper Chase was a music video that focused on more digital manipulation of the video with a minimum set, The Sacred Mushroom Edition was the exact opposite. The film required two different sets, with strong contrasts between the two. The film starts in a backyard, and then it transitions into a darkroom. For the backyard, Young made some colorful choices for the set dressing, because she wanted to create brightness and lightness. For the dark room, she wanted to create some intimate, gruesome and cluttered environment, and therefore put different materials and furniture that had great textures for the set dressing.

“As this film is an experimental film, what it says is very abstract and poetic. The good part is it’s very artistic and unique film, but it could be difficult to understand for the audiences who used to watch the traditional narrative films. Therefore, my job was to provide some sort of device that would allow the audience to connect themselves with the film, so they don’t feel total alienation,” said Young.

There is little doubt as to why Young is considered one of Korea’s best recent art directors, and even less doubt that we will continue to see her name attached to many high-profile l films for years to come.

Musician Jose Roman captures the feelings of film ‘30 Days with My Brother’ in song

premier 30 days
Jose Roman at the premiere of 30 Days with My Brother

When Jose Roman thinks of his childhood, growing up in Quito, Ecuador, he recalls being exposed to a great variety of different music genres, artists and styles. As far back as he can remember, his dad would play him classical music, from Bach to Chopin. His mother, a self-taught pianist, inspired him to try playing the electric organ in his house. Later, when his parents purchased an acoustic piano, Roman experienced for the first time, the sensation of falling in love. He knew, no matter where life took him, the piano would be his driving force, and now at 27 years old, this remains his truth.

Roman has become an internationally successful musician, gaining fame as a member of the rock band Daphne’s Roots. He has always been a strong composer, writing hit songs and catchy melodies. His keyboard skills are instantly identifiable on a track, and his classical roots are an evident source of inspiration, no matter what genre he is playing.

“As my musical background grew while I aged, I listened to more keyboard driven bands such as Deep Purple, Pink Floyd, Queen and Dream Theater, just to name a few, the transition to play the keyboards was a given. My love for music was then solidified,” he said. “But now, I always try bending different flavours in my playing from my classical roots to blues, rock and even some electronic music.”

Despite his success with Daphne’s Roots, Roman’s versatility lends itself to all mediums, from accompanying individual artists, such as Sahandra Sundstrom’s Thinkin’ Out Loud, and even films. The 2016 drama 30 Days with My Brother, features an original song accompanied by Roman, as the producer Omar Mora, had heard the pianist’s previous work and knew he needed him to be a part of the music department.

“Once I heard how the concept of the song related to the movie, I knew exactly what I needed to do in order to make a top quality compelling work as a keyboardist. I realized that the style of the song was right on my ally. I was very inspired the whole time I was working on my keyboards part and I felt very comfortable doing it. I really liked the song so working on it was very pleasing and the keyboard arrangements came to me very naturally,” Roman described.

The song titled “Never Too Late” was written by Andrea Sandoval, the singer. When Roman started working on the track, the melody and basic structure were already taken care of, so his job was to enhance the harmony, write and perform all the keyboard parts. The song was mainly piano and vocals driven with some strings arrangement that Roman also wrote and recorded. It was vital to the film’s story and the film’s success.

“When I first heard about this movie I was immediately fascinated by how original and interesting the plot was. Then when I was asked to be part of the music department and record and arrange the keyboard part for the main song featured in the movie I was very excited. It was a no brainer for me since I love to collaborate with these amazing talents. When I heard the demo of the song and how it relates to the film I knew this was an amazing opportunity to create something memorable,” he said.

With a 92 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes and a 5-star rating on Fandango, 30 Days With my Brother has resonated with audiences. It tells the story of Alexis and Jonathan, two brothers from Puerto Rico that were separated after a terrible family tragedy. After 17 years, Alexis has become a doctor while Jonathan has become entangled with a dangerous group of people. One day, suddenly, Alexis packs up his things and moves to Los Angeles on a mission to reconnect with his long-lost brother. The two brothers meet and are forced to face their past, themselves and try to restore the bonds of brotherhood.

“It’s always satisfying to know that good movies are recognized and well received. It is particular rewarding to be part of such an extraordinary project that is highly celebrated. I always knew from the very beginning that 30 Days with My Brother was going to be a great success, since it has heart and top-quality production. I feel honoured to have been part of this project,” said Roman.

After premiering at the famous American Cinematheque’s historic Egyptian Theaterin Hollywood in April of last year, the film was picked up by AMC for national distribution across the United States. The song was essential for the film, and Roman’s contributions greatly affected the feeling, encapsulating the story and the struggles the brothers were going through. The song is piano driven, with intimate vocals. It has a memorable piano hook at the beginning, and a very sensitive keyboard interlude in the middle of the song.

“I believe that the balance between the vocals and piano accompaniment was essential for the song success within in the film. It is a very simple, but at the same time very touching piano ballad,” said Roman.

Producer and writer Omar Mora could not agree more. When he first heard the song, he was ecstatic, giving Roman the confidence to know that they had accomplished something special. Mora was so impressed, in fact, that he asked Roman to work alongside him once again on future projects.

“Jose is very easy to work with, and he is very professional,” said producer Omar Mora.

The next short film Mora is producing, titled White Orchid, is expected to premiere late this year. Audiences once again will be privy to Roman’s original music while watching that film. It is definitely something to look forward to.

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

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Claire Stollery as Hannah in Who is Hannah

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

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

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

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

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

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Behind the scenes of Who is Hannah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Producer Melina Tupa talks upcoming documentary ‘Slaves Among Us’

Melina Tupa always has always had two passions: film and journalism. Growing up, it never really occurred to her that there was a way to combine both of these things. Then, one fateful day, she had an epiphany that changed her life. She could be a documentary filmmaker. Being a journalist, she believes, gives her an extra responsibility as a film producer to pursue stories that are of public interest and that will help the communities she lives in. Since coming to that realization, Tupa has been committed to making impactful documentary films, and that is why she is so sought-after around the world for what she does.

Over the past few years, Tupa has delivered hard-hitting documentaries that share truths many are unaware of or afraid to talk about. When producing the PBS Frontline film Rape on the Night Shift, audiences everywhere became aware of the horrifying stories of many janitorial workers who have dealt with sexual assault. With her film The Search, she told the story of a grandmother’s search for her long-lost grandchild, which dives into the Argentinean “Dirty War.” All who work alongside Tupa are not only impressed, but also inspired by her commitment to her work.

“I had the honor of being a Consulting Producer with Melina on her documentary The Search. It was a pleasure working with Melina: she’s smart, driven, tenacious, creative, and yet is open to different perspectives and ideas that are not her own, which means that she is also confident. What makes Melina good, but great is a better word, is that she always has a big vision for her work,” said Director and Producer Spencer Nakasako.

Soon, audiences will once again have the chance to see Tupa’s formidable producing abilities in the upcoming Investigative Reporting Program (IRP) film Slaves Among Us. The documentary will expose the many layers of human trafficking, from the recruiter in the home country to the smuggler, trafficker and subcontractor that make it possible for major corporations to profit from forced labor in the United States. The documentary will tell the story of a group of teens from Guatemala who, with the inadvertent aid of the American government, fall into the hands of a criminal enterprise. This investigation will show who makes money off such victims and how the American consumer benefits from their mistreatment.

“I wanted to work on this project because I believed this was a very important story that needed to be widely known by the audience. The fact that in 2017 we still have forced labor is outrageous,” said Tupa.

Tupa was approached to work on Slaves Among Us after her success with the Investigative Reporting Program on the documentary Rape on the Night Shift. The producers of the documentary knew she had a very good reputation and she had an asset that was key to work on the field: she is bilingual in Spanish and most of the characters on this story are Spanish-speaking individuals. As a field producer, this was vital.

“I liked that I had direct contact with the sources of the story. I did old school reporting: just knocking on people’s doors and asking what they have seen or heard about the case. I was able to get to know the community I was reporting on thoroughly. And I was also able to gain the character’s trust. A lot of them are undocumented immigrants and many times they are afraid of telling wrongdoings because they are afraid of the retaliation they might get,” Tupa described.

Working in Ohio, Tupa reported on the trailer park where Guatemalans (adults and minors) trafficked to the United States were living. She was able to conduct interviews with more than thirty individuals there. She was able to secure three interviews (one in shadow, two full face) where the sources confirmed the story about the trafficking scheme she was after. She was also able to establish a connection with a very important source who had worked with the main characters of the story. This led to finding and securing and exclusive interview with one of the victims of labor trafficking.

Back at Investigative Reporting Program office, she worked as a Researcher. She found archival videos, photos and newspapers on the DeCoster Egg Farm violations, unaccompanied children entering the United States across the border, egg industry facilities, and the case of immigrant minors working on an egg farm. This information was pivotal to illustrate the story.

“I believe it is important to tell this story because nobody should be living in slave conditions in 2017. It’s important to let people know this is happening so this could result in a change of policy, for example, in unaccompanied minors entering the United States or for the poultry industry to have highest safety standards for its employees,” said Tupa.

Slaves Among Us is expected to be released in 2019. Based on Tupa’s track record, audiences can expect an outstanding film once again.

 

Photo by Vanessa Arango Garcia

Director and Producer Sonia Bajaj has fast success with new film ‘Bekah’

Sonia Bajaj realized her true calling while in Pune, India. During this period of transition, she was introduced to people from different cultural backgrounds and varied interests. She was in constant touch with daily happenings in the world and she also began to have a better understanding of art forms like music and literature. She was introduced to several films, television series and documentaries from all over the world, thereby exposing her to different styles of filmmaking. She began experimenting, and soon these experiments translated in experiences. She knew she had to be a filmmaker.

Originally from Mumbai, Bajaj has been able to travel the world doing what she loves. She thoroughly enjoys the aspects of making a film. As a producer, she is responsible for overseeing all five stages of filmmaking: development, pre-production, production, post-production and distribution. She creates a business plan, budget, and schedule, handle creative and business affairs, and gather cast and crew. But that is not all she does, she also is a successful director.

“While making multiple short films, I realized how thoroughly I enjoy myself during the entire process of making a film. Being a director is similar to being the captain on a ship. You have your entire team helping you, yet the responsibility of a successful sail lies entirely on your shoulders. When I direct a film, I have the opportunity to take the audiences to the world of my characters through my eyes. That’s what I like about being a director,” she said. “I look forward to narrating stories that touch the heart, that inspire an individual to overcome obstacles and live his dream, stories that educate and entertain.”

As both a director and producer, Bajaj has had a formidable career. She has worked on award-winning films such as Rose, Hari, The Best Photograph, A Broken Egg and Impossible Love. She is also the curator for the women in film series at Downtown Los Angeles Film Festival, where her responsibilities include reviewing and judging films around the globe. She has an esteemed reputation, and is respected by all she works with.

“Sonia is a professional and a pleasure to work with. She has a superb eye for truth when it comes to filmmaking and making an actor feel connected and safe on set. I would work with her again in an instant,” said Tony Ruiz, who worked alongside Bajaj on her film Rose.

With her new film Bekah, Bajaj is impressing both audiences and critics yet again. The film was just completed in May, and was first recognized at LA Shorts Awards where it won an award for Best Drama. Since that time, it has already been an Official Selection at the UK Monthly Film Festival, a Semi Finalist at Hollywood International Moving Pictures Film Festival and Los Angeles Cine Fest and a Finalist at Eurasia International Monthly Film Festival. It won the Award of Merit at Accolade Global Film Competition, the Gold Award at NYC Indie Film Awards, and the Platinum Award at Mindfield Film Festival, with many more film festivals expected for the powerful film.

“With Bekah, I had the opportunity to direct and produce the story of a young African American woman. Our entire cast comprised of African American Actors, and crew from different parts of the world, giving me the opportunity to work in a culturally diverse project. Our goal was to inspire and encourage our viewers through Bekah’s eyes. We’ve been successful in achieving that in a short span of time,” said Bajaj.

Bekah is the story of an idealistic young writer and college dropout who pursues her dream of becoming a full-time writer, motivated by the spirit of her deceased fiancé. She leaves her dysfunctional home and goes it alone facing a world that is less idealistic.

The story focuses on the struggles of a young writer trying to break into the real world. It’s a tale of overcoming the loss of love, by fulfilling a promise that was made. At the end, it becomes all about how families need to be connected and support each other.  We wanted to tell this story to encourage families to support each other, encourage youngsters to pursue their dreams despite the difficulties that they may face,” Bajaj described.

After looking at Bajaj’s success of her other films, the main lead and co-producer Charlie Cakes, also known as Charlotte Makala, asked her to be a part of the project, knowing her needed someone of her caliber to make the film the success it has already become. Looking at the diverse nature of the film, Bajaj instantly got on board. As they began producing the film, they realized that 80 per cent of the cast and crew were all women.

“This definitely was refreshing experience to produce a film made by women and about women,” said Bajaj. “The very fact that our team was so diverse, it was essential to have a director who wasn’t familiar with the culture of the characters. I had my own take to the production, which helped us to create a fresh outlook to the story we wanted to convey.”

There were many rehearsals, and script revisions, and Bajaj, both the director and producer of the film, experimented with different techniques before filming. This enabled her to create a fast-paced productive environment on set, allowing her to get all the shots she set out for in a skilled and quick manner.

“I enjoyed directing my actors in their accent. The lingos were so different that it was a learning experience to get out of my comfort zone, learn a different style of talking and build emotions out of that. It helped to broaden my horizon and work on building varied layers to the characters,” Bajaj described.

Bekah is just one of many films that Bajaj has put her winning touch on. She is a formidable director and producer, and one that audiences can expect to continue hearing about for years to come.