Tag Archives: international Talent

Character Technical Director Qiao Wang revolutionizes animation tech for Lexus commercials

When watching the animated 2011 hit Rango, inspiration struck Qiao Wang. At the time, he was a graphic designer, creating still images, but when watching the film, he was transfixed by the technology used to create such realistic computer animation. Always a fast learner, Wang began to study new styles of mathematics and computer science to combine with his artistic background, wanting to create similar films to that which so motivated him.

“The visual effects industry in filmmaking was still fresh and new to the world, and not a lot of people knew what it was in my country. I enjoyed what I did as a designer and artist, but I would have definitely changed my career path earlier if I knew what VFX was,” said Wang.

Since that time, the Chinese-native has gone on to become an internationally sought-after Character Technical Director and Character Effects Artist. Using his skills in both mathematics and design, Wang helps to conceptualize some of the most beloved characters in many recent popular films, including Rocket the Racoon and Groot in the mega blockbuster Avengers: Infinity War. Not limiting himself to just one medium, Wang has collaborated with Justin Timberlake on his latest music video, “Filthy”, and worked with world renowned companies, like Target, on national commercial campaigns.

“Qiao is both technical and artistic, he contributed to the team and film’s success in many aspects, including troubleshooting and solving technical issues on hero characters, and developing aesthetics for character cloth and hair simulation and skin deformation,” said Fabrice Ceugniet, Creature Pipeline Technical Director at Method Studios.

Ceugniet and Qiao worked together at Walt Disney Animation Studios on the upcoming film Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2 and Godzilla: King of Monsters. The two had previously worked together many times, and recently worked on a commercial series for the leading automotive company Lexus. The commercials, such as “2018 Lexus Golden Opportunity Sales Event: Lap the Planet” provided a unique and fun challenge for Wang, who delivered both technical and art direction to the digital Lexus vehicles. He took on many responsibilities for the commercial, working closely with the Character Supervisor, CG Supervisor, VFX Supervisor, Producer, Art Director, Model Maker, and Animators.

“Vehicles are like characters, they have characteristics. Especially Lexus vehicles; they are not only transportation tools, but also a work of art to me. To be able to help build extremely realistic CG Lexus cars sounds very cool, especially as they are the best-selling luxury cars in the United States. I’ve done human characters, cartoon characters, spaceship vehicles, utility vehicles in feature films, and more, but this was a type of project I’ve never done before. I always love to experience new challenges,” said Wang.

The goal was to create realistic CG Lexus cars to express their high performance. This meant that everything had to be exactly the same as the real cars. Wang was up to the task, so he first started doing research and development on rigging setup for cars, watching many videos to find out the details of movement of a race car’s wheels, suspensions, etc. He also had a few meetings with animators to ask them about what needed to be provided. After all that, Wang did not use the auto mastic vehicle setup tool to rig the cars. Instead, he scripted his own procedural Lexus cars rigging tool to provide animators with only a few very intuitive custom controls. He was also able to widely use the ‘Piston’ rigging system that he personally developed previously to fix bugs and improve features to make it a very powerful component in our character technology pipeline. These systems require less setup time and provide institutive and realistic controls for improving the motion of vehicles and many auto parts. On top of all this, Wang also solved wheel spinning motion blur issues to achieve the realistic yet artistic wheel effects. It requires a lot less rig rebuild time when there are model updates for over 10 vehicles. Undoubtedly, the vast technological improvements that Wang implemented saved not only him, but the entire team time, money, and effort.

“I really like the fast pace of this type of project, and the final results are fantastic. The whole production process went super smooth. I also like the different ways of logical thinking to explore and solve various fully mechanical rigging challenges for the vehicle parts,” said Wang.

The commercial series was to promote the 2018 Golden Opportunity Sales event for Lexus. Wang’s work was pivotal to the commercials’ success, and ultimately that of the sale. The company knew they needed someone with his talent, which is why they reached out to him in the first place to take the task. Wang did not take this honor lightly and is extremely happy with the outcome.

“It always feels great to know that our work is helping clients to make more money. I was amazed at how real those cars look, and how beautiful. Even though I work in the industry, if no one told me, I wouldn’t know those were computer generated cars,” he concluded.

Watch the other commercials in the series, “2018 Lexus Golden Opportunity Sales Event: Always in Your Element” and “2018 Lexus Golden Opportunity Sales Event: Higher Standard”.

 

Written by Annabelle Lee
Photo by Shino Tang

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Poland’s Maja Lakomy shines light on mental illness in acclaimed film

Growing up in Kielce, Poland, Maja Lakomy was always fascinated by performing. Whether it be in a film or on a stage, she found herself constantly impressed by what actors were capable of and the effects they could have on the audience. She began to realize even at a young age that she wanted to become like one of those incredible actors and do the same thing to the audience. She was encouraged to choose a career that could make her happy, and acting was therefore the only option for her.

Throughout her career, Lakomy has worked on a number of successful projects. Recently, her award-winning film Diminuendo saw critical acclaim at many prestigious international film festivals and is expected to continue to do so throughout the year. She also shot a music video for Andrea Bocelli, the Grammy nominated and Golden Globe winning Italian musician who has collaborated with greats such as Celine Dion, Ed Sheeran, and more. Lakomy is doing what she wished for as a child and loves every day she steps onto a set.

“I imagine that it hardly ever happens that people are so lucky to do what they love as a career. Nevertheless, I went that direction and knew I would never give up and would always keep working towards my dream. Now, I am one of those lucky people who have their passion as their job,” said Lakomy.

One of Lakomy’s first tastes of international success came from her work on the film Star House. The film was uploaded on Vimeo, the online platform for video-sharing in December 2017 and is available worldwide. The project also received attention from the prestigious Berlin Fashion Film Festival. The representatives of the festival wrote a comment, that’s visible under the video on Vimeo, leaving a compliment about the project and offering participation in the festival under the category “Fashion, Lifestyle and Beauty Film – Emerging Talent”.

Star House follows two girls who break into an intriguing home they come across in the woods and decide to stay until the owner returns. The story is very unpredictable with a fun twist, something for the audience to look forward to. The drama also showcases two distinctive characters, with a disturbing and surprising realness to their psychological construction.

“I think that a lot of women could identify with the story and the message of it. Nearly everybody has some part of themselves that they don’t accept and makes them feel weak. Everybody has somebody like my character in their lives, who let their insecurities drive their mental health to the line where sane meets insane. This story shows how obsessive one can become while pursuing perfection. It’s also a sort of commentary on body dysmorphia and the dynamic among females who have the tendency to constantly compare themselves to one another. I think all of these aspects are very important,” said Lakomy.

Lakomy’s character, Cleo, is very interesting and complex. She lacks everything that the other charactor, Rose, possesses: confidence, beauty, spontaneity. Rose also has a certain type of control over Cleo. Cleo was mesmerized and infatuated by Rose. The irony, however, in this story was that the girls look very alike, but Cleo is only able to notice her own flaws and insecurities that she believes Rose does not possess, which is why she was so compelling and perfect in Cleo’s eyes. The idea of perfection that Rose represented was only in Cleo’s head, and that is what makes this story touching.

Lakomy excelled when presenting Cleo’s feelings and what she goes through, knowing the importance of her character and story for females in the audience who may feel similarly.

“I hope women that watched it or any other film with a similar message realize that being a perfectionist is not healthy and we need to accept ourselves as we are and not let other people criticize us, bring us down and objectify us,” she said.

After being hand selected for the role by the Director, Allison Bunce, Lakomy was eager to begin playing such an insecure and controlled character, offering a challenge she had not encountered yet in her esteemed career. She had previously played a similar character in the play Angels in America, and therefore applied the same principles when it came to portraying Cleo; this time, however, in front of a camera.

“Acting with the other lead actress opposite of me was very interesting when you’re aware her character doesn’t really exist. At the same time, she was one hundred percent real to my character, so I had to focus on remembering that,” Lakomy described.

Star House was also shot on 16mm film and a Super8 camera, so it had a very unique visual style to it. Lakomy had previously never worked with this type of camera equipment and she now says she is a fan of the style. The best part of the experience for the actress, however, was those she worked with.

“Working on this project was truly a magical experience. I loved working with such a professional crew. Every single person on the set has been committed, successful, and excels at what they do. It was a great pleasure to be around them and learn from them. I think we made up a great team,” Lakomy concluded.

Check out Star House on Vimeo to see Lakomy’s outstanding performance.

 

Written by Annabelle Lee

Actor Kevin Dary talks new film ‘The Chop Shop’ and living his dream

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Actor Kevin Dary

Kevin Dary always knew he wanted to be an actor and has spent his entire life devoted to this artform. Every new character he plays allows him to explore a new part of himself. He knows that through his craft, he can heal wounds, spark new interests, or make one question their own behaviour, and he understands the responsibility behind this. He makes sure to put his entire heart into every project he does, and that is what makes him such a formidable actor.

Known for his versatility and dedication, Dary has worked on several award-winning films throughout his esteemed career, including Pandora’s Box, The Swampand Prego. Through each film, Dary conveys true depth and realism behind his characters. In his most recent film, The Chop Shop, he once again does just that.

The Chop Shop is a passion project made by award-winning director Eric Milzarski. It follows two brothers, Luther and Corey, who are drastic opposites. Luther owns a chop shop that is tied to a group of gangsters and tries to get his do-gooder brother involved. Luther gets beaten for not paying back money. After he finds comfort in his caring brother, Corey, either he must pay them back and risk jail or swallow his pride by turning legitimate.

“I love the idea of apparently terrible, sloppy people actually being a little better than you would expect. That’s why I think this story is important, because themes like forgiveness are universal, and I believe that messages that have a subtler delivery rather than being very on the nose have a stronger impact on audiences. It feels real, just like the world The Chop Shop is set in,” said Dary.

In Chop Shop, Dary plays Johnny, Luther’s right hand at the shop. He has been there since the beginning and he will be there until the end. He also trains the newest recruits. He is the catalyst for a pivotal scene in the story, when Luther has an argument with his brother trying to get him to join the shop, an incident with a rapidly spinning tire costs Johnny a thumb. Luther’s brother, who studied medicine, comes in and offers first aid. Luther jumps on the opportunity to convince him that he is definitely needed here. This moment is key in the film because this is when Luther’s brother starts heavily questioning his possible implication. It is also in that moment when the audience finally sees Luther’s true feelings for Johnny, and Johnny’s physical pain is now nothing compared to the disappointment and resentment he has for his boss. Dary knew the importance of the scene and that he had to deliver, and he impressed all he worked with.

Filming this scene involved a lot of preparation for Dary, first with makeup and visual FX to create the torn apart thumb, but more specifically with the Director, Eric Milzarski. They wanted to be absolutely sure that they could convey the idea of this pain being even stronger from Luther’s attitude towards Johnny in that terrible moment. Milzarski took the time to talk with Dary, one on one, before they even rehearsed this scene. It was an amazing moment of directing and collaboration between the two artists.

THE CHOP SHOP POSTER
The Chop Shop film poster

“Professional through and thorough, Kevin is the type of actor who welcomes harder roles. As his director on several projects, Kevin will workshop and make every character his own. Kevin is an old soul for today’s world. He will listen for hours, take notes about everything, and asking often the most bizarre questions that build his character. Between takes, he’ll quietly focus on little details like “how would my character hold his bottle?” Then the moment the cameras are on him, it’s truly magical,” said Eric Milzarski, Director of The Chop Shop.

The film premiered in September 2017 in Warner Bros Studios to a private audience of industry professionals. It is currently in the festival circuit, and so far has been in the official selection of The Grove Film Festivalin Jersey City, New Jersey, with a screening on March 28th, 2018, and of the Los Angeles Film And Script Festival, with a screening on April 22nd, 2018 at the Conplex Theater on Santa Monica Blvd. Among the prestigious upcoming film festivals, the project was submitted for is theG.I Film Festival inWashington, D.C, the largest in the Veteran community, of which Eric Milzarski is a proud member.

“Knowing the film has been so successful is both beautiful and heartwarming, because I know this project was made with so much passion towards involving audiences that seeing it succeed at that feels so right. I have heard from the director that the scene with Johnny is often the highlight during screenings, with strong response from the audience, who seem to suffer with and for Johnny in that moment. It’s amazing for an actor when you hear something like that,” said Dary.

Although Dary had little knowledge of what happens in a chop shop prior to getting this role, he made sure to study and understand the environment his character was living in. When filming in an actual auto centre, he talked to the workers and learned how to use the machines. This greatly helped make the environment familiar and made the actor feel that he belonged in there, so he could embrace it as Johnny.

The Chop Shopis the kind of project I love working on because it has an edgy feeling to it, but only to better serve a very relatable story about sibling love and relationships. It has elements of betrayal, deception, but also redemption and forgiveness,” said Dary.

Be sure to check out The Chop Shopand Dary’s enthralling performance.

 

Written by Annabelle Lee

PRODUCING LOVE’S 2ND CHANCES: MING QIU

(By Winston Scott)

Leo Johnson - on set

Like many of us, Ming Qiu is fascinated by the complexity of relationships. Her secret superpower which separates her from most mortals is that, as a film producer, she has the power to give life to the stories of relationships which she finds interesting. Making a film is part discovery, part catharsis, and a whole lot of work. The diversity of the films she produces mirrors the vast array of relationships and their emotional toll that each of us can experience in our lives. This is what filmmakers do, they present stories that makes us laugh, inspire us, and hopefully help us to understand each other and ourselves. One day Qiu is making certain that furniture is burning properly (wait for it, you’ll find out) and the next she is reverse engineering the weather…it’s all a part of movie making and the wild ride that draws creative personalities such as Ming into an industry that gives something to the world.

Evan Bluestein gave Ming the script for his film “Leo Johnson” and she immediately knew that it was too good to not be a part of. The genre was comedy and romance but it was the deeper meaning that cinched the deal for this producer. At its core, “Leo Johnson” is about fear in a relationship and what we are willing to face. It’s an idea that Qiu would like more people to believe in, the notion that we would not only reject the fear which makes relationships so hard but that we would also face our personal fears down for those we love and cherish. Her way to promote this sensibility was to produce this film which espouses such notions.

Leo Johnson - location scout 1

Director Evan Bluestein wanted Qiu to produce because, in addition to witnessing her consummate professionalism on previous projects, her dark humor and fearlessness reminded him of the female lead in the film. He notes, “It’s always tricky to find the balance between humor and heart, and I was fortunate to work with Ming because she is such a collaborative, creative, and a passionate producer. From the beginning of our development process, Ming was an advocate for the love story and for making it the central dynamic from which the plot would grow. What I truly appreciated about working with Ming is her passion for the possibilities of the medium. She has a unique point of view that I’m sure I cannot sum up, but I know it has to do with dry humor and love and seeing the best in people. And that is something that makes its way into all of her films and is the mark of an artist.”

Leo Johnson - location scout 2

Qiu’s determination was challenged at several stages by factors which sought to impede or stop the film’s creation. The usual expected schedule conflicts, rental break downs, and even the Director of Photography leaving near the completion of film could not hamper the film and its producers resolve, in fact…it may have reaffirmed this determination. As sometimes occurs, the characters in the film itself were a metaphor for the cast and crew in so far as love kept them from giving up on their shared goal. In “Leo Johnson” the male lead (Ben) is extremely afraid of fire but he distracts his friend by setting her couch on fire so that his girlfriend Donna can escape during their ring-stealing crime scene; extreme limits for love, just as Ming wished. Being able to keep a cool and positive head during challenging times is made easier by a sense of humor. Qiu boldly states, “I can’t imagine a producer who isn’t able to be funny during these challenging moments. It’s a quality that keeps you and your team healthy during all the production headaches. In fact, all great producers I know are funny people. Film producers who are not funny probably have all pivoted to other careers.”

 

Rosita Lama Muvdi (Director of “Till I See You Again”) echoes that statement proclaiming, “Ming’s amazing sense of humor, coupled with her dedicated abilities as a talented producer, made working with her on ‘Till I See You Again’ an unforgettable experience. Her intoxicating personality made anyone on the production team excited to be around her, which, in turn, made the set a fun and productive environment to be in. With all the demands during production, Ming was always there to make sure production ran smoothly, ensuring both the cinematographer’s and my vision were able to come to life.”

“Till I See You Again” is a benevolent tale about time travel. While most time travel tales are about riches or crime (and end up with karma serving justice), this tale focuses on a father who simply wants to take care of his daughter. An older man (James) calls his daughter but is ignored. He is given a chance to travel back and have a younger version of himself shower his daughter with gifts and love. Through the experience we see that father and daughter in present day have a warm and full relationship.

Till I See You Again - film festival

What was so unusual and challenging for the filmmakers of “Till I See You Again” was that there was essentially no dialogue in this story. Qiu admits that she is fond of dialogue in her productions and this was new territory for her. What was also unique was the writer’s determination to film one particular scene that communicated the time travel effectively to the audience. Ming describes the scene and how it was created, “Rather than use VFX, We shot the scene with everything moving in reverse direction with the rain from a rain tower. Our actor had to rehearse quite a few times to make sure his walking backwards looked 100% like walking forward when the footage was rewound. The visuals turned out amazing. Looking back at our night in/next to cold rain, all of us felt that having certain constraints actually pushed our creativity to a new level.”

There are many attributes which make Ming such a fine producer: an understanding of the workings of each department of the production team, extraordinary communication and organizational skills, insight into story development, and others…but it’s her curiosity which she feels makes her most important. The desire to find a creative solution to a shared goal is one she shares with the characters in these films. For another film she currently produced titled “My Zombie Club” the Art Department was having difficulty discovering a means to attach vines growing around the main characters derriere (a curse given him by a zombie lord). A diligent producer, Qiu researched until she found the perfect wardrobe piece that would serve both the art department, VFX department, and still allow the actor to retain some modesty. While it’s an unusual and humorous example, this is the challenge of any relationship…finding a solution that we can all live with. Ming Qiu is an living/professional model of the ideas illustrated in her films.

 

Production Designer Laura Santoyo talks new film ‘Falling’

Learning about various aspects of humanity is a passion of Colombia’s Laura Santoyo Dangond. Originally from Colombia, she has also lived in Peru and Canada, and loves to travel to experience different cultures and learn new languages, fluent in Spanish, English, French, German, and Portuguese. This desire to learn about the world and its people is part of what led her into filmmaking. With every new project she embarks on, she gets to tell a different story and learn something new about history, society, the human mind, and more. Beyond the stories, she works with people from all over the world that have different backgrounds and ways of seeing life, and together they share and experience their differences through their art. As a production designer, Santoyo takes everything she has seen and practiced and channels that into creating visually stunning and captivating sets and props that fully transport audiences into what they are watching.

“I make an effort to stay true to the story and what the characters are. I do a lot of research on the characters and the environment where they live. I also try to have many exchanges with the director where we discuss characters and share research and inspiration images, etc. to understand their vision and the direction they are taking the story to. I like to play with colors and used them to imply aspects of the story that are not explicitly spoken by the characters,” she said.

Santoyo is known for her work on award-winning films such as Lockdown and Tim of the Jungle, both of which made their way to several of the world’s most prestigious film festivals. Last year, her film The Plague premiered, reminding audiences of what she is capable of, as Santoyo created a dystopian world. Her most recent film premiered just last month at the Slamdance Festival, and once again Santoyo shows she is unrivaled as a production designer.

Falling set_2
Bill Bowles, Laura Santoyo Dangond and Ewen Wright on the set of Falling, photo by Sam Shaib

“As soon as I finished reading the script I felt like I had to be part of the project. It is one of the most original scripts I have read, very intelligent and I thought that it was a story that had to be told and that I wanted to tell it,” she said. “The script of this film describes a number of absurd situations and uses humor to address subjects that are affecting our society. It was very important that the design of the movie supported the comedic tone without ridiculing the situations.”

The film tells the story of a potentially psychosomatic white man, a woman stuck in a vortex of mansplaining, and a young black man confronted by the racial disconnect of society, each trying to make sense of their lives as their worlds are set on an inevitable collision course in this surrealist comedy.

It was important for Santoyo and the rest of the team to differentiate the three storylines that run parallel to each other and to show the absurdity of the situations without being too over the top. Therefore, they assigned one color to each character.

The first story, about a man who can’t walk, represents the feeling of impotence that someone watching the news at night can feel when they see injustices with no way to help. This character takes the “sickness” he feels to the extreme. Therefore, they decided to use the color blue with him, which is very clinical.

The second story, about a woman who’s caught in male-dominated conversations turmoil, was assigned the color red. She is often angry and frustrated, and all the men that she’s with see her and other women as objects. Santoyo felt red reflected these feelings.

The third story is about a black man, who in the most absurd situation, ends up being shot by the police. The filmmakers gave him the color green, because he’s young and innocent at the beginning and at the end it is his case that makes the man in the first story sick.

“As a society, we are still fighting against racism, social injustice and women’s equality and this film raises awareness on these subjects in a comedic tone. I believe that it is very important to have films like this one because we can start generating discussions that could eventually lead to change,” said Santoyo.

Working on Falling has been one of the most fun experiences Santoyo has had throughout her career. From the first time she read the script, she knew it was going to be challenging because there were many locations with three different stories that at the end become one. Each story had elements of magical realism that could also be difficult to achieve in production design. Santoyo wanted to enhance the experiences of the character through the set, but not overdo it to a point that the messages behind each scene were lost. She managed to find the perfect balance, always keeping in mind the color palette they had decided for each character early on in production.

“I think many things make Laura an excellent designer, collaborator, and professional. The first thing that comes to mind is passion. She’s clearly passionate about what she does – she made it clear that she seeks out work that she connects with on a personal and aesthetic level. Once she’s onboard, she’s obviously all-in. That shows at every phase of a project when you see her initial ideas, the hours she’s putting in, the attitude she brings to every meeting and production day, and the diligence with which she executes. Beyond that, she’s a professional with outstanding training, instincts, and experience. She knows how to present her ideas clearly – both verbally and visually, she has leadership skills, she remains calm under pressure, she knows how to prioritize, stay organized, and keep others motivated to work at a high standard,” said Ewen Wright, Director.

Wright was looking through portfolios and films for a costume designer when Santoyo’s work caught his eye. He asked the costume designer who the production designer was that possessed such talent. He immediately reached out to Santoyo, who was extremely responsive and receptive to the idea of the film. They immediately began a strong partnership and shared ideas about the film.

Falling Set
Ewen Wright, Laura Santoyo Dangond and Yonit Olsen, photo by Sam Shaib

“Laura has a creative voice, and in a key role on a collaboration that can’t be undervalued. She brings her lifelong sense of design, studied theory, and just pure instinct to her work in a way that gives her work a through-line. I really enjoyed developing a shorthand with her. Lastly, she has a phenomenal attitude and work ethic. She went above and beyond for our production – and even when things went wrong, or the hours ran long, Laura was a reliable source of positivity and joy. As a leader on the team, she set a tone for those around her that I know contributed to all of us doing better. When I was stressed or needed a moment, I always knew I could rely on Laura for a laugh – just as the rest of the time I relied on her for her eye on the image,” Wright continued.

Working with such a committed team was one of Santoyo’s favorite parts about filming Falling. She found everyone came together to tell such an intricate story, and she was constantly inspired by those she worked alongside. However, it was the message behind the film that truly made the experience for the production designer.

“I am so proud to have been a part of this film. I think it’s a story that captures the feeling that something is wrong in the world and the willingness to change it, but not knowing how to go about doing so. I think many people feel that now. I’m thrilled to know that it’s being watched by many people and it can maybe inspire some change in our society,” she said.

Now that Falling has begun its film festival run, Santoyo is looking forward to her next project. Undoubtedly, she has a very bright future ahead of her, and audiences can continue to look for her name rolling past their eyes in movie credits for years to come.

“I want to keep exploring and finding new stories to tell and more talented people to work with. I am looking forward to creating more worlds where magic is possible. I want my work to reach even larger audiences and present stories to the public that entertain them and that touches them. I have a couple of projects in line for this year that hopefully will help me accomplish this,” she concluded.

 

Top photo by Jesper Duelund

Ask an Expert: Executive Producer Ed Egan provides insight and advice

I’m Executive Producer Ed Egan, and for over 15 years I have worked in the television industry, becoming recognized as one of the leading game show producers in the world. As Executive Producer, I am responsible for leading teams who produce great television shows, but I am also tasked with developing new ideas to create formats which have the potential to sell all around the world. I have worked on many leading gameshow formats around the world, in the US, UK and Australia, for networks such as NBC, ABC, BBC, ITV, Network Ten among others.

Gameshow formats are notoriously difficult to crack and small, seemingly insignificant tweaks can have profound repercussions if they are not discovered through intensive gameplay testing. The last thing you want is to discover a flaw whilst filming a show, as there can be millions of dollars at stake. This is why an experienced Executive Producer, who can put together a strong team, is vital in the production of any new format. I have become well known for working on pilots and first seasons for my ability to tweak gameplay and iron out any potential problems that could arise.

I believe the most important role of an Executive Producer is to lead a team in a way that ensures every member provides their best possible work on a production and feels valued in what they are making.

Here are my quick tips to leading a production team to produce the best shows possible:

Choose the right team

It all comes from having a great team. Not only does it make your life as an Exec easier, it also makes the best product. Meet lots of people and spend time interviewing them. Some people give great interviews, and some don’t, but it’s important to make a distinction between those that can talk well and those that can actually do the job! Make sure to always check as many references as possible. Personality is also important though, as the people you are employing are going to be a team and will need to work well together. Finding a good, balanced mix with strong abilities is the key.

Stay in contact with people you’ve worked with.

It’s important to know what the availability is of people you like that you’ve worked with previously so that you can plan for when productions begin. Sometimes it can take weeks to get a full team on board and the more aware you are of who is and isn’t available at all times, the better prepared you will be.

Note down ideas

Keep notes in your phone when you see something you like or that inspires you. A film, another television show or even the design of a restaurant you happen to be in – if there’s something visual you like it may be useful in a show at some point. Commercials are often very useful starting points when trying to explain your vision of a project to people for the first time. Also, keep notes on possible talent that you see, whether this be TV, film or theatre, as you might want to use them in the future.

Enjoy it

We’re very fortunate to work in a creative industry that often affords us the chance to go to exciting places, meet interesting people and we get to be creative. Enjoy it, encourage it in others and aim to inspire those who you are working with. They will be running teams in the not so distant future, so try to set a good example.

Believe in yourself

Like so many other Execs, we question ourselves and our abilities all the time and that’s not a bad thing. But, you are at the level you’re at for a reason, so make those decisions and stick to them. It’s important to remember that at times, especially when the going gets tough.

And finally…

Work hard and be nice to people!

STUNTWOMAN EBONY DE LA HAYE HAS AN EXCITING CAREER BUILT ON WATER

Film and TV 2

The saying goes, “Choose a job you love and you’ll never work another day in your life.” Those who have found a way to monetize their passion and interests are considered lucky. You could say that Ebony De La Haye is one of the lucky few but that would be a complete misnomer as luck has no part in her story. While still in the early stages of grade school, Ebony began training in her lifelong love of water skiing. Countless competitions and awards later, she took a foray into performing as a stuntwoman and morphed into a new career that became very successful. There’s no denying her ability to turn her love of what she does on the water into an internationally praised body of work, just as there is no denying her incredible abilities. For anyone who feels that you establish yourself and then sit back, De La Haye serves as an example that you are best served doing the antithesis of this. She has systematically built her beginnings as a child prodigy in waterskiing into that of an acrobatic/fight trained entertainer…sometimes doing so while delivering lines in an array of different languages. Whether it’s a calculated plan or simply her ability to continually embellish her skill set, Ebony is literally and figuratively constantly in motion.

When Ken Clark of Action Horizons contacted De La Haye about the position as stunt double for actress Kiersey Clemons in the film Sweetheart, she was already interested in more film work. The fact that filming was taking place in Fiji certainly didn’t dissuade her compulsion to accept the position. Ebony served double duty, arriving two weeks prior to filming to train Clemons for the scenes which would not allow for a stunt double. In addition to being a physical match for the stunt scenes, serving as a mentor/trainer to the actress strengthened the trust bond between the two…resulting in an ease of performance in the more physical scenes of the film. Director J.D. Dillard had worked to take full advantage of De La Haye’s abilities by creating highly dynamic fight scenes that incorporated weaponry and aerial wire work. Because the filming took place on an island, the rigging set ups had to be assembled on site in an environment atypical for normal productions. The film also contains a great deal of underwater work like scuba diving. Countless opportunities for danger required immense planning and preparation to ensure the safety of the cast and crew. These environments were familiar to Ebony, as was the climate (De La Haye spent time starring as the female lead Helen in Universal Studios Singapore’s live Waterworld production). She relates, “The climate in Fiji was very similar to Singapore. The sun took a toll on everyone but we took advantage of filming on an island and took lunch dips in the ocean. It was important to stay incredibly hydrated and take electrolytes in order to do the job with energy and focus. The ocean caused some difficulties as the water conditions were unpredictable. The cast and crew would travel to and from the island we filmed on by boat every day, sometimes in very rough water conditions. This was a daring task. We also encountered some difficulties with the unpredictability of the ocean when filming underwater scenes. Natural elements such as rain or tidal movement would affect water clarity and therefore the overall quality of the shot able to be produced on that day. We very much had to work in sync with mother nature.

This same skill set and exemplary performance led Action horizons to enlist De La Haye to become a part of their stunt team for the Horror/Thriller Prey. The second (and most demanding) part of filming took place in Johor Bahru, Malaysia where an enclosed submergible set was built. For twenty days of filming, Ebony’s role as stunt double required her to be submerged in confined spaces utilizing controlled breath holding and scuba safety. While not as outwardly/visibly demanding, the risk levels were perhaps much greater. The experience of working in Malaysia presented some challenges. Due to shooting on remote islands off Langkawi, the entire production had to be loaded onto small local taxi boats before each shoot day, including all equipment. This meant preempting any stunt or safety equipment needed and preparing contingency plans for all the possible scene variations and running sequences of the day. Travel boats were small and space was limited. Some of the islands are only accessible during high tide, requiring the use of tide charts to map the tide conditions and ensure the production would be able to get on and off the islands safely. All of this served to increase the potential risk for Ebony and increased the need for someone of her skill and experience. She adds, “Prior to working on Prey I had done stunt work on two television productions, “Serangoon Road” and “Indian Summers”. Prey was the first feature film I had worked on. I was excited to be doubling the lead actress and to be on set for the full duration of the shoot. To begin with, I was nervous as it was something I had wanted to do for a while. I felt pressure to do a good job for both the production and myself. We had two weeks of prep time for stunt training with the actors. We created the fight choreography for the action scenes and worked in a pool to establish swimming skills and the underwater action scenes. By the time it came to shoot I was no longer nervous and just really excited to make a movie.”

Stunt coordinators and stunt performers are a highly proficient group requiring immense trust and respect between them. Ken Clark of Action Horizons declares, “Both these films required not only talent but also intelligence and quick thinking. While our goal is to get an amazing and thrilling take, our number one priority is safety. A lot of the time this means performing while being hyper aware of your surrounding and anticipating the potential for danger. On both the features Sweetheart and Prey Ebony was the stunt double for the lead actress, which required her to be on set for the duration of the shoot. Whilst filming Sweetheart Ebony was required to execute numerous stunts involving aerial wire work, performing fight scenes, and the use of her scuba skills to achieve deep under water scenes with a specialized scuba film crew. The filming of Prey also required these scuba skills, working in submerged sets and deep water film tanks, as well as utilizing Ebony’s stunt fighting skills in the choreography and performance of multiple fight scenes. As the stunt coordinator of Prey and Sweetheart, Ebony impressed on both of these projects. A stunt performer is the ultimate team player. They take all the risk to make the star look great. Ebony De La Haye makes her stars look incredible!”