Tag Archives: Modern Filmmaking

Changing with the Times: Film Producer Angel Cassani

Film Producer Angel Cassani

A film’s creative power exists in the possibility it offers us to get lost in another world, and perhaps experience life from a new perspective, but at the end of the day, making films is still a business. 

Just as changes and advances in technology have affected nearly every other existing business model, the film industry continues to experience massive changes in its own right. 

From the way we watch films to the way films are produced there’s no doubt about it, everything is changing. To be successful as a producer in the modern film world means looking to the future and anticipating where the industry is going, something that renowned producer and finance guru Angel Cassani knows all about. 

“The industry has changed a lot, starting with the platforms with their new rules, ways of buying and demanding content. In recent times the industry has grown a lot, and there have been a lot of bad productions,” explains Cassani. “Because of this, it is necessary to take a lot of aspects into consideration when choosing a project, in order to have the smaller chance of loss and to give the investor major security, this is why we present a project accompanied by a business plan to the investors. As Jerry Seinfeld once said, ‘Hollywood is Wall Street’.” 

It’s been over a decade since the Latin American finance expert burst onto the international film scene with his brilliant idea of adapting the colossal world of the UFC to the big screen.

Launching a career that marries his financial expertise with his passion for film and the UFC, Cassani quickly found himself climbing the ranks in Hollywood. In 2008 the reputable film studio Lionsgate offered him a six picture deal along with his partner, Argentinian film and television star and the former Kickboxing Champion of the World, Hector Echavarria.

The successful duo joined forces after Angel shared his impressive idea with Echavarria. 

Cassani recalls, “[Echavarria] had a spectacular film and television career in Argentina, where we had met a few years before. I had talked to him about my love of filmmaking, and I suggested I could help him with financing and production.” 

Merging Cassani’s success in finance with Echavarria’s on-screen talent, the pair teamed up for what would be the start of a very successful film collaboration.

Cassani recalls, “He [Echavarria] instantly agreed, and we produced the movie [Never Surrender] for Lionsgate studio in Hollywood.” 

Cassani effortlessly stepped into the producer role on the 2008 film “Never Surrender,” a fight-for-your-life thriller that exposes the brutal world of underground fighting, directed by and starring Echavarria.

The film also stars real life UFC fighters B.J Penn and Georges St-Pierre, who both played  fictionalised versions of themselves, as well as Patrick Kilpatrick who starred alongside Tom Cruise in “Minority Report” and James Russo of Tarrentino’s “Django Unchained.”

The film was the stepping stone to success that helped the duo capitalize on the popularity of the UFC, seeing the pair join forces on a total of eight films over a 10 year period. 

“Never Surrender” Movie Poster

Their collaborative success continued with the edgy 2015 film “No Way Out,” which was executively produced by both Echavarria and Cassani and starred Danny Trejo (“Machete,” “From Dusk till Dawn”).

Prior to following his dreams into his now successful career in filmmaking, Cassani was an established financial investor throughout South America. His advisory work earned fortunes for international corporations and clients such as BellSouth, Motorola, Avon and more.

His portfolio of financial success aided a smooth transition from finance to film, and his work since has proven him as a visionary producer who can predict trends. 

As the world continues to adapt to the towering urges of high speed internet and streaming services, industry figures are constantly being faced with the high demands of consumers who want to access films with the click of a button.

The increasing popularity of streaming platforms such as Netflix, Hulu and others are changing the way films are being made on every level, from the production and turnaround time to the budget and contract terms.

The phrase “Netflix & Chill” has literally become the latest form of dating, leaving behind the days of subtle arm-around-shoulder moves at the local movie theatre. 

Cassani reflects, “The platforms offer you to watch what content from the comfort of your home, this is why people stopped going to the cinema.” 

The demand for streaming services saw the once booming box office numbers begin to rapidly decline, forcing producers and industry figures to find a new direction to achieve success in  filmmaking. 

Using his extensive knowledge as a financial expert, Cassani took to the industry changes quickly. 

“The main challenge the studios are facing is how to adapt the new budgets to their productions,” he explains. “Investors are becoming stricter and are looking for more financially secure projects, for this reason it has become a prerequisite to have a good business plan in mind.” 

Boasting over 130 million viewers today, in 2018 Netflix spent an estimated US$13 billion on original content; and at the tail end of 2019, multinational mass media and entertainment providers Disney and Apple recently unveiled their streaming services

With these companies securing deals with some of the industry’s biggest stars for their original series, it’s becoming more apparent that the future of Hollywood is now swiftly moving towards online streaming.

Just when the industry grew accustomed to these changes, Hollywood found itself on a standstill recently when it was faced with it’s biggest challenge yet. 

The unsettling Coronavirus dilemma has had a significant impact on the film and television industry, just as it has on the rest of the world. It’s estimated that nearly 200,000 people will have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. 

Cassani adds, “Nowadays we have to pay the most attention to enter into negotiations with the platformas, due to the Coronavirus crisis we don’t have cinemas open and we don’t know when they are going to open.” 

While COVID-19 is causing multiple cancellations, postponements and changes to film industry schedules, platforms such as Netflix, Hulu and others are comfortably reaping the quarantine benefits. 

With strict lockdown laws in place forcing millions to stay inside, and many without work and waiting patiently for the world to reopen, indulging in daily episode binges and movie marathons seems like the most comforting way to spend the time. 

While it’s easy to focus on the negative impact of COVID-19, not all hope has been lost in Hollywood. Streaming platforms are seeing an incredibly high demand in sourcing new content, with industry profilers finding a new burst of creation whilst in lockdown. 

Angel has kept his creativity flowing through his work alongside producer and award-winning filmmaker Joel M. Gonzales. In 2019 the pair founded Matte Pictures and have three upcoming films in pre-production; the action packed “The Sister Assassins” which again stars Danny Trejo, as well as “Power and Glory” and “Can You Hear Me.” 

When speaking on the exciting partnership between him and Gonzales, Cassani says, “We have a relationship based on respect and creative freedom, I have always felt that Joel gave me my space to exhibit my ideas.”

Cassani is also busy working on the upcoming series “DNA,” a short form series of 20 minute episodes that focus on the sudden shifts in perspective that people experience in their ordinary life. 

Illustrating a different story through each chapter, the series will bring to life subjects that could potentially have an impact on society, another impressive way in which Cassani stays relevant to change. 

“The industry is currently experiencing a lot of changes, with one of those being the platform,” Angel states. “Youth are used to watching what, when and where they want… the duration of the content is increasingly shorter.”

With online streaming services and worldwide pandemics keeping Hollywood on it’s toes, having the creative ability to adapt to change is the key to success. 

An industrialist in his own form providing expertise on all levels, Angel Cassani not only remains at the head of the game, he predicts trends that are fundamental to filmmaking today.

Staying Ahead of the Film Industry’s Technological Curve: VFX Artist Tati Leite

VFX Artist
Brazilian VFX Artist Tati Leite

For decades, the film industry has been waging an arms race with no end in sight. In the dark of the theater, ever more elaborate spectacles of cinematic magic shine upon the screen like portals to distant worlds and forgotten times. The popularity of cutting-edge effects among moviegoers has fueled the growth of their use, making them absolutely essential to the success of virtually every blockbuster in modern cinema history. As quickly as audiences are thrilled by the latest magnificent visual feat, however, the bar is raised for all films that follow. As technology and expectations grow exponentially, it falls on visual effects artists like Tati Leite to keep up with our hungry demand to not only see magic, but to believe our eyes when we do.

Leite’s story is one of dedication begetting success. For as long as she can remember she’s been enamored with the way movies use special effects to awe, amaze and inspire audiences to believe the unbelievable. That early fascination stayed with Leite during her time as a computer engineer, a field which demanded and sharpened complex technical skills that would prove invaluable to her career as a visual effects artist.

“I have always been passionate about movies and computer graphics, and visual effects is simply the perfect combination of both worlds,” Leite said. “Ever since I was young, I’ve never missed an opportunity to create videos, learn tools to modify them, create effects, and everything that could be done at the time. I paid attention to all the details of every movie I watched, and I’d watch it over and over to see the effects, the animation and all the aspects that had been introduced to the footage.”

Her years of schooling and experience as a computer engineer gave Leite more than just a leg up when she entered the field of visual effects. As a visual effects artist, most of what she does demands an expertise in computer operations and design that few without her computer science background possess.

“I love to use technology in service of a story,” she explained. “Being able to create visuals that take people’s breath away, even if only for a few seconds, is the most exciting thing about being a VFX artist.”

The spectacular effects Leite creates are never anything shy of breathtaking. Her credits to date are as impressive as they are fitting for an artist of her talent. She’s worked her VFX magic on blockbuster films including 2018’s “Mission Impossible: Fallout” starring Tom Cruise, Marvel Studios’ “Ant-Man and The Wasp” starring Paul Rudd, and Disney’s upcoming live action remake of “The Lion King,” starring Donald Glover and coming to theaters in 2019. When it comes to productions like these, with big stars and bigger budgets, studios don’t take chances on unproven talent. Leite is consistently chosen for such high-stakes projects because she’s garnered a reputation for being an effects artist of the highest caliber.

“I think what excites me most about VFX is exactly that race. The challenge of doing something better, faster and differently is something that drives my passion for this industry. It’s not only about art, and not only about technology. It’s this thrilling mix of both that makes me want to become better and push the bar higher and higher,” Leite said, describing the thrill of being on the frontlines of the visual effects arms race. “Working for big budget productions [intensifies] the challenges because not only do we have to do our very best work to get it just right, but we also have to contend with tight deadlines and the pressure to deliver something even better than the last time.”

Grossly oversimplified, Leite’s job is to visualize, design and create the brilliant spectacles which astound ever-more discerning audiences. Her every keystroke is a meticulously calculated marriage between her unrivaled technical abilities and her unbridled imagination.

Her success has been guided every bit as much by her computer engineering experience as it has by her lifelong love of films, comics and games — and the ways they all use visual artistry to immerse their viewers, readers and players.

“My work on the movie ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ has special meaning to me because it was my first Marvel movie,” Leite explained excitedly. “As an old fan, I couldn’t be more glad to be a part of it.”

While her skill as a VFX artist has led her to be tapped to work on some of the year’s most highly anticipated films on a global scale, her love for her craft and her passion for film means Leite doesn’t choose her projects based merely on blockbuster status. She recently edited and led the VFX for the upcoming indie feature film “In Transit” from esteemed Brazilian director Julia Camara (“Open Road,” “Occupants”). Starring Oliver Rayon (“Workaholics”), award-winning actress Kim Burns (“Painless”) and Karina Federico (“Piel Salvaje”) “In Transit” tells the inspiring story of Olga and Daniel, two strangers whose chance encounter while waiting at an airport restaurant for flights to their respective countries change one another’s lives forever.

“In Transit” is yet another film where Leite’s finesse in post-production has proven to be crucial to the success of the production. Camara, who’s earned more than 25 awards for her work, including the Silver Telly Award and the Platinum Award from the European Independent Film Awards, needed a talented VFX artist and editor who spoke both English and Brazilian Portuguese for “In Transit,” and she found just the post-production superhero she was looking for in Leite.

“She was instrumental to the completion of the film… Not many others would have signed on to work on an experimental feature film… In an industry saturated with male editors, working with another woman was so refreshing. She brings her unique world view and sensibilities this industry desperately needs,” explains Camara. “The success of the film is largely due to her contribution to the project.”

With its festival run is just getting under way, “In Transit” has already been chosen as an Official Selection by the Glendale International Film Festival and is slated to screen between October 5 to 13 in Glendale, California.

There was a time when films had a monopoly on visual effects. But over the last two decades another multi-billion dollar industry has emerged, one which has fueled an explosion in demand for visual effects artists with talents like Leite’s. The rise of the video gaming industry seems to have no end in sight, and VFX has become as crucial to this growing field as it is to Hollywood. The largest video game development studios have already begun to compete with film production studios for VFX artists and other talent — as illustrated by Leite’s extensive VFX work within the gaming industry. As blockbuster video games continue to generate billions of dollars for the burgeoning industry, game developers increasingly realize the importance of visual effects artists.

In just a few short decades, the industry has evolved from a niche market of serious gamers to a cultural powerhouse with serious market control. Video and computer games today are far more than mindless entertainment, evidenced by their use in a vast array of educational settings. Working with the award-winning development company 7 Generation Games, Leite has helped create games that serve as interactive learning experiences for children.

This tactile approach to learning has come a long way since the days of iconic classroom games like “Oregon Trail.” Through games like “Aztech,” “Fish Lake” and “Making Camp,” Leite is helping to shape and grow the next generation of curious young minds. Her work has also earned 7 Generation Games the distinction of being named one of Homeschool.com’s Top Back to School Resources, a highly influential accolade in the world of education. The group is also the only U.S.-based firm to be a finalist at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in India.

“It’s fantastic that 7 Generation Games has won so many awards, but for me personally, the best award is when I see the kids playing it without even blinking. 7 Generation Games creates educational games, and it’s kind of hard to keep children as interested in them compared to ‘regular’ games,” said Leite, describing the challenge of creating a product that is both informative and engaging to the young audience. “All the awards we won are very gratifying, but seeing kids playing over and over, even though they include math, social studies and learning, is priceless. It’s one of those moments you think, ‘Hm, I think we made something right.’”

In the field of visual effects, knowing the audience is key. Leite has an innate understanding of what audiences and players want to see; for all her immense technical know-how, she never treats the creative process as a formulaic affair. Just as each production is unique and wholly original, so too is her approach to every new challenge that comes her way. Whether she’s working alongside industry effects giants in the Marvel universe or helping young children discover a lifelong love of mathematics and science, Tati Leite is an unrivaled force within an industry that continues to fascinate and captivate imaginations of all ages.