Tag Archives: Television

Brandon Lankar talks honor of contributing to CP24’s most-watched day of television

Esteemed television producer, Brandon Lankar, considers his profession akin to putting together a puzzle. Each day, with careful consideration and diligent planning, he determines where best to lay each piece in order to focus on creating the bigger picture of which story he is trying to tell. He proactively challenges himself to develop an overall purpose for each project he works on and ensures that he works hard to remain true to that vision with each step he takes. In his eyes, every piece of art has a deeper message and although they are subject to varying interpretations, there is always a takeaway. He feels that the moment his work strays away from the message he is attempting to tell his audiences, he has failed himself. Fortunately, he has an affinity for identifying a strong message and fostering it from a project’s inception to its completion. He’s the ringleader of a circus; the puppet master in a play, and at the peak of his career, he continues to demonstrate to his audiences and his coworkers just how invaluable he is to the television industry.

To date, Lankar has been the brains behind a number of popular television productions and, in turn, has earned himself a reputation for being highly skilled, yet also reliable and determined. For instance, Lankar was an instrumental player in building the well-known reality talk show, The Social, from the ground up. It is hardly a coincidence, then, that the popular daytime talk show is now ranked as the highest rated daytime talk show in all of Canada. In addition to his work on The Social, Lankar has also offered his talents to a number of other productions such as Canada AM and iHeart Radio. There are very few limits to what he can achieve when he sets his mind out to create something entertaining and his fellow creatives in the television industry are all the more grateful for it. Lankar has spent several years working on one of Toronto’s most popular news networks, CP24, and his unique prowess as a field producer is undoubtedly the reason that they continue to ask him back for different coverage needs.

Bell Media’s, CP24, is a Canadian news network based in Toronto, Ontario, that focuses on breaking, local, national and international news. Its reputation as a reliable, trustworthy news network has earned CP24 a place as one of the leading sources of news in the country. It isn’t difficult to imagine, then, that the network only selects top industry professionals to work behind the scenes on the show and to maintain their strong presence in the news community. Lankar, being one of the industry’s best, first earned himself a position at their assignment desk; however, he ended up discontinuing his work there when he was asked to move over to The Social. As The Social rose to popularity, CP24 were eager to bring Lankar back on board and requested his abilities as a field producer for various government elections. He went on to work on the 2013 Ontario Liberal Party leadership election, the 2014 Toronto mayoral election, the 2015 Canadian Federal election, and much more. Handling such high profile, important content is not something every producer is equipped to do, nor willing to embrace all of the challenges it brings. Lankar, on the other hand, was itching to pair his in-depth knowledge of Canadian politics with his expertise as a field producer and show CP24, as well as their viewers, exactly why he is so highly sought after amongst his peers.

For the elections, Lankar was tasked with finding politicians before other news networks and convincing them to appear on CP24’s programming before anyone else. Adding to his strength as a field producer, Lankar is incredibly decisive. If he knows a story is no longer worth chasing, he doesn’t feel any qualms about neglecting to pursue it. It doesn’t matter how much time he has put into following a story, he is able to identify the moment it no longer becomes newsworthy and quickly redirects his resources to the next best thing. With that, he worked alongside a reporter, a camera person, and a truck operator to chase only the most important, engaging stories throughout the election periods. He was exhilarated by the fact that he could be en route for an interview, catch wind of a more compelling story, only to turn their car around and head straight to the more interesting opportunity. It’s an adrenaline rush that no amount of preparation can prepare you for. That’s why he considers himself lucky to have the necessary skill set and the wherewithal to know how to handle such a quick turnaround and fast paced environment.

“Working in the field during an election is an electric experience. When you’re around so many people who are so passionate about whom our leaders are, you feel a sense of patriotism. With that, you also feel a responsibility to ensure you’re painting a true portrait of what’s happening in the election. Every day feels like it passed within an hour. You could have spent the day planning for different interviews and locations, but that can mean nothing when it comes to election night. On the fly, I could hear from a source that a candidate is moving from one location to another and everything would have to change. It really keeps me on my toes,” told Lankar.

Lankar was motivated by the knowledge that his work would be seen by hundreds of thousands of individuals all over the country. For instance, during his election coverage in 2014, called Your Vote, Lankar’s work was witnessed by a staggering 1.9 million viewers, making it CP24’s most-watched day in 2014 and third most-watched day throughout the show’s history. He enjoys the sense of responsibility that comes with ensuring that he is producing thorough, direct, and reliable content to his viewers.

When it comes to news, there is no way of knowing how long a viewer will tune in, so he has learned which details are most important and which fluff he can eliminate from his agenda. Ultimately, he takes pride in knowing that he is a large contributor to the fact that audiences can depend on CP24 for factual information first.

 

Written by Sean Desouza

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A how-to of staying in shape on set, a talk with celebrated actor Andrey Ivchenko

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Andrey Ivchenko, photo by John Hong

As the brilliant Toni Sorenson once said, “If it was easy, the reward at the end would mean nothing.” This statement comes from a woman, mother, and author, who grew up in an orphanage and on the streets and chose a path to victory.

In the entertainment business, victory means booking a new role in a television series, feature film, producing a project you’re passionate about, selling a script you wrote or getting it optioned and made. Most people don’t realize though how big of a part fitness plays into those, especially with actors.

Hollywood, the entertainment capital of the world, has people from all over the world, near and far, looking to pursue their dreams and to make those dreams turn into a reality. Staying in shape while in pursuit of those dreams is not only important for one’s physical health, but their mental health as well. With rejection being one of the biggest struggles someone just moving to Hollywood will have to deal with, it’s very important to always have a healthy outlet for the ups and downs you will face on your journey.

Being an actor in Hollywood isn’t for people with thin skin. It tends to focus so heavily on what its idea of the “perfect image” is as we see daily from network TV shows, to commercials, to magazines, to models on billboards, you get the idea and know what I’m talking about. This business in particular holds people’s image to a much higher standard than one would face living anywhere else in the world. With that being said, the pressures that come with that responsibility are extremely high especially for an actor that will be seen on the silver or big screen.

The reason I mentioned the above is because throughout my experience of being in Hollywood, being a big guy, everyone is constantly judging. When I began this journey, I got into stunts since it seemed like a natural fit – I’m a big guy, 6 foot 3, built, with an accent, and told I could play bad guys all day because I guess that’s the “tough guy” image I give off. Given that that’s the direction I decided to pursue, I had to make sure that my image lived up to the hype. I was in the gym for several hours a day, 6 days a week, eating 7-8 meals throughout the day that consisted of consuming approximately 5,000 calories a day. Believe it or not, eating that much every day and working out that much isn’t easy, even for the big guys that make it appear that way.

As I transitioned into the acting side of the business, I was often told I was “too big.” Too big? I was just told for years I need to be bigger and tougher looking to be the bad guy and now I needed to become less bulk and leaner because now I would be playing more leading man roles, not just henchman types, and needed to be able to be diversified that way if casting or producers saw fit. So, the process began again and now instead of going to the gym six days a week, I was going four days a week and cutting my calories to 3,000 a day. Having been an athlete my entire life since I was a child, serving in the military, and also having a master’s degree in Kinesiology, made finding the discipline to re-write my fitness programs and stick to them pretty easy for me, but they require a lot of discipline! I’d say having discipline when it comes to fitness is one of the biggest skills one can achieve. Setting goals, making plans, and sticking to them. No one ever said looking “Hollywood” good was going to be easy! However, at the end of the day making all of those challenges and sacrifices can be very rewarding mentally as well as physically.

The entertainment business as a whole has put an emphasis on fitness since it was established. From physical comedy actors like Charlie Chaplin, to Steve McQueen, Ronald, Reagan, to action heroes like Sylvester Stallone, Clint Eastwood, and Dwayne Johnson. In addition, there are also actors who perform their own stunts like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible, and Jackie Chan. Staying in shape for these guys is essential to their careers. For example, most people don’t realize what Hugh Jackman went through to achieve his transformation to become Wolverine. His training consisted of two or more hours in the gym six days a week and consuming 5,000-6,000 calories a day to gain all that muscle and then had to transition into a much lower calorie diet to lose all the water weight and increase his cardio, so he could get shredded for the role.

Working on Television shows like Nikita,XIII: The Series, and Warehouse 13, I was grateful that I was introduced to martial arts and gun skills at a young age because it really made it an authentic look for the characters I played on those shows. As well as feature films I’ve worked on like Freezerand Way of The Westthat were both very physical and challenging as well but required a lot of those trained skills that I already had.

In regards to stunt work, it’s not just about looking the part, but being able to execute the part. Doing stunts is tiresome work and requires extremely long hours and repeated choreography and actual physical fighting to get it right. Sometimes they change the whole thing altogether and you have to relearn from scratch all over again but staying focused mentally and physically is the key. You have to be really physically and mentally ready to keep up, stay alert, and be on point for every take and also take direction correctly from the stunt coordinator and the director. There are a lot of moving parts while shooting an action scene so it’s very important that it always be executed properly every time. I have worked through injury, blood, sweat, tears, and I can honestly say it was all worth the challenge in the end. Good work is applauded and recognized in the entertainment business and word of mouth about people can spread very quickly and, in some cases, can even lead you to your next job if you remain humble, keep the right mindset, and positive attitude which is the key to success in this business.

When I booked the feature film Freezer, I was eating about 3,000-4,000 calories a day to get bigger because the director wanted me to look big and intimidating in comparison to Dylan McDermott. And when I booked xXx: The Return of Xander Cage, Vin Diesel and the director, DJ Caruso, also wanted my character ‘Red Erik’ to appear really big and tough, but in some of these scenes my character was going up and down flights of stairs, so I made sure to really increase my cardio training, so I wouldn’t fatigue while shooting those scenes over and over. In addition, it required me to learn motorcycle stunt training which I hadn’t done since I was about sixteen years old. But I’d say because of my fitness level and ability it allowed me to re-learn quickly and efficiently. At the end of the day the stunts they decided to go with were so extreme they hired a stunt double for those that you see in the film, but I was still required to go through the training as if I were the one doing the stunts myself as well. Had I not been fit enough to be up to the task of creating the character vision they had and physically doing the stunts they wanted in those scenes, I don’t know if I would have booked the role at the end of the day.

Fitness, especially today, is a constantly growing trillion-dollar business that’s probably more trendy and popular now than it’s ever been before. With social media and all the pressures of having to post images and videos of your personal and professional life constantly, you frequently feel vulnerable to the pressures that Hollywood gives to always look your best. Regardless though of what the trends are, one thing always remains true which is that being healthy is essential so implement it into your everyday life regardless of your schedule or profession, and also make sure you get enough hours of sleep a night which is a key element that’s more important than most people realize. Resting the body keeps a healthy mind and allows the body to recover. Set your goals, make time for yourself and watch how many doors achieving those goals will provide in your life, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Again, as Toni Sorenson once said, “If was easy, the reward at the end would mean nothing.”

 

Written by Andrey Ivchenko

Conducting a Reality Competition Interview for TV, a how-to by Supervising Producer Emma Greenhalgh

Being a reality producer certainly comes with a lot of preconceptions, but the reality of producing, in my experience, is actually a very warm and rewarding career.

My name is Emma Greenhalgh, and I’ve spent fifteen years producing on reality competition shows for TV. It’s fair to say I’ve produced and directed hundreds of people’s life stories along the way, whether it be with the Got Talent franchise, Dancing with the Stars, and more. It’s been my job to bring people’s personal stories, experiences and emotions to the nations TV screens as part of a carefully crafted TV show. The core of sharing these stories is an on-camera interview, the moment where our subject gets to share a piece of themselves with the show and in turn the nation. It’s an opportunity to open up, to explain the road that lead them to appearing on that show and essentially garner the sympathy or empathy of the viewer at home, and it’s my job to help them do this in the most effective way.

Interviewing for reality TV is something one learns over time. I think the biggest misconception is that contestants are told what to say by a team of producers no one ever gets to see, and whilst yes, we are working hard to bring your favorite shows to your TV screen, we are not telling contestants what to say…we are helping them structure their truth in a concise way to have maximum impact. The key to conducting this kind of interview is to take a story, a personal experience, and present that to an audience in not only the most relatable way possible, but also in a very short amount of time.

The foundation of this kind of interview really is listening. Sounds obvious, right? I have met many producers over the years who have gone in to their interview armed with a list of great questions and a plan of how they want the interview to go, but then forgetting that they have to listen and respond. Sure, ask your first question, make small talk to create a bond and put the person you’re interviewing at ease (they’ll likely be nervous) but from that point on you should be listening and responding. Hear the story you’re being told, enter the world of the person you’re interviewing, imagine how it might feel to have their life, to feel their feelings, to have seen what they’ve seen and feel what they feel. It’s surprising how often even the most hardened of interviewees can be telling you a story but the second you ask them how it feels, it leads them to emotionally connect with the experience again and the regaling of the story changes, now you have the connection and the true feelings.

Ensuring you understand how a person feels is the core of any successful interview and if I could only give one piece of advice that would be it. That said there are a number of ways you can ensure your interview for TV is as thorough and successful as it can be.

So, as you head in to a reality interview think about the following list:

Research your subject

  • Always go in to an interview knowing your interviewee’s background. Who they are, what their life has been like. Know their story in advance and how you want to tell it and have a clear idea of the structure.
  • Ideally talk to your subject in advance for a pre-interview conversation. If that’s not possible, then do your research and know as much as you can about them before you sit down.
  • Write your interview structure/questions in advance. This gives you a guideline to ensure that a) you hit all the beats and don’t miss anything and b) stops you veering off track. Of course, things may change in the interview, but that list of questions acts as your guide and will keep you from losing your way.

Start Light

  • This may seem obvious, but when you have a lot to cover in an interview and perhaps a short amount of time to get it all done, it can be tempting to get in to the heavy or core of a story straight away. This is not a good idea. Let’s face it an interview is a pretty unnatural situation. I always find it’s a good idea to have a chat off camera first, kind of outline what’s going to happen but generally just put them at ease, so they feel comfortable talking to you.
  • Once you begin the interview, always start with the light topics, who they are, where they’re from, their background, growing up etc. No one tells a story by going straight to the middle of the book, you need an introduction to ease in.

Sentence Structure

  • Always get the person to answer your question in a full sentence. The interviewers voice is rarely used. If you asked where a person grew up, if they simply answer ‘Denver Colorado’ there is no context for that answer or what you were asking. The person being interviewed needs to incorporate what was being asked in their response e.g. I grew up in Denver Colorado.

Stay Silent

  • A little less natural, but as you listen to what the person you’re interviewing says it’s important for you to remain silent. You need the audio of the interview to be clean. Thankfully, you can convey a whole range of emotions through your face without making a sound. Using your eyes and facial expressions you can easily nod, shake your head, be sympathetic, be surprised, laugh, but all without sound to encourage the person you are interviewing but not messing up your audio recording.

Be reactive and flexible

  • Often even with all the research and pre-chat before the interview starts, sometimes they just don’t go the way you expect them to. Maybe the timeline is different than you thought, maybe the person doesn’t feel the way you expected, maybe the person doesn’t want to talk about something you were hoping would be the heart of the interview, it happens. The key here is being reactive, being able to work around the hurdles, find a different story or change the direction of what you hoped to get and adapt to the new facts.

Engage and be empathetic

  • An interview shouldn’t just be a list of questions. It’s essentially a conversation. Don’t ask a question to hear an answer and then simply ask the next question on your list. React to the response, maybe it sparks another question, maybe it brings up something you never thought of, ‘hear’ what the person being interviewed says and respond to it, offer empathy, offer sympathy, ask more questions that feel natural. It’s important to remain human and imagine how it must feel for the person you’re talking to, give them space to feel and show that emotion within the interview

Respect

  • Respect the story, it’s someone’s life. Whether you are shocked, saddened, or find it funny, it’s important to respect the story and allow the person being interviewed to tell it their way in their words.

Pacing and Space

  • Don’t rush! This is both for the success of the interview and for post. Always allow room and space at the end of each response for the person to complete what they’re saying or feeling and for your editor to have a clean end before your voice starts again.
  • It’s also very important to allow the person you’re interviewing to talk at their own pace. If they clearly think something is funny, let them laugh, if they are super sad and start to cry, give them room to cry. You can of course be empathetic and sympathetic, but this is where you have to go against natural instincts a little. It may feel uncomfortable but it’s real and it allows the viewer at home to connect with the person.

Obviously there a so many variables when conducting an interview and no two interviews are the same, but ultimately an interview is a carefully crafted conversation where the interviewer is in control but the person being interviewed is still being given the opportunity to speak freely and honestly.

The best way to get better at TV reality interviews? Work in the field but ALWAYS work in the edit too. This way you can see precisely the mechanics and process of how the interview becomes the one-minute piece on TV. The best producers are those that work in both field and post, no question. Oh, and practice, practice, practice; like with anything, the more you do it, the better you will be.

British Actress Milanka Brooks brings on the laughs in TV Movie ‘Do Not Disturb’

As a child, Milanka Brooks found herself inspired by her late father, Harry Brooks. He was an actor, and the two would discuss theatre, film and television, and frequented the theatre together. Growing up, Milanka began seeing the theatre world as a magical space where real-time stopped and the world as she knew it only existed within the parameters of the stage. She knew from that young age that she would find herself on the same path as her father and that her future lied in acting.

Now, Brooks is an acclaimed actress, showing audiences in her home country of England and around the world just what a talent she is. Having recently starred in an episode of the popular Netflix original series Black Mirror, and the hit British television show Benidorm, the actress’ versatility is evident, and with her upcoming film Patrick being released later this year, she has no plans on slowing down.

One of Brooks’ most prolific roles was that of Svetlana in the movie Do Not Disturb. The film tells the story of Anna and John, who book into the Stratford-on-Avon hotel where they spent their honeymoon ten years earlier – separately, following Anna’s extra-marital fling, but they had paid for the room anyway. They decide to give their marriage another go but then Anna sees young Luke, the hungover best man from the previous night’s stag party, who mistakes her for a prostitute and whom she rings receptionist Sheila to get rid of. In the meantime, two real escorts arrive and assume that porter Neil is their client, to Sheila’s annoyance. Confusion arises when a blindfold Anna has sex with Luke by mistake and Neil ejects her husband John, believing him to be Luke. By the time Anna’s mother turns up there is much explaining to do.

Do Not Disturb Sian Gibson, Kierston Wareing, photo UKTV
Sian Gibson, Milanka Brooks and Kierston Wareing in Do Not Disturb, photo courtesy of UKTV

Do Not Disturb is a really fantastic romp made for audiences with a penchant for farce. Even when reading the script, I could feel the pace and energy of the film. It doesn’t shy away from being a purely energetic, entertaining spoof, full of thrills and turns that leave the audience feeling fully satiated by the end,” said Brooks.

The character of Svetlana is a very intimidating, confident and forceful escort from Russia. As one of the two escorts, Brooks’ character is hired to entertain the groom-to-be on his stag-do in a hotel in Stratford-Upon-Avon, a town that is definitely not known for this kind of behaviour. They storm in to the hotel and demand to be taken to his room. They end up entering the wrong hotel room and seducing the wrong man, which is the catalyst for the train of events to follow.

Svetlana came in to destroy what was already a fairly shattered environment, in Brooks’ opinion. The humor in the story came from a degenerate group of people, all finding themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Svetlana highlighted this by her stature, attitude and insolence of the whole situation.

“The men are quite paradoxically the scared characters in the story, and the women end up incredibly domineering and commanding. Sometimes I feel like this came a little too naturally,” Brooks joked.

Milanka press Do Not Disturb Catherine Tate, Miles Jupp, Steve Edge, Kierston Wareing, Dylan Edwards, Penny Ryder, Photo UKTV
Catherine Tate, Miles Jupp, Steve Edge, Kierston Wareing, Dylan Edwards, Penny Ryder, and Milanka Brooks in Do Not Disturb, photo courtesy of UKTV

Do Not Disturb also stars British icon Catherine Tate, which was the initial reason Brooks wanted to be a part of it. Working alongside such talented comedians inspired Brooks, saying the TV movie really felt like an ensemble piece from the beginning. Rehearsals consisted of a lot of improvisation and devising around the script. Writer and Executive Producer Aschlin Ditta was always open to the cast’s ideas and any amendments that complimented the story and supported the characters. This allowed the cast to really become comfortable with each other and their characters, playing off everyone’s comedic timing and creating laugh-out-loud funny scenes.

“Milanka is a very fine actress and comedienne and someone I would work with again without a second thought. As a performer she is brilliant and skilful, with a rare eye for both comedy and drama, and as a professional she is faultless. Milanka is incredibly thorough both in her preparation and execution, an exceptional talent, and while she undoubtedly delivers in performance she is also a team player who is a joy to be around. Her energy, talent, insight and humour make her an actress to grace any production,” said Aishlin Ditta, Writer and Executive Producer of Do Not Disturb.

A lot of Brooks’ performance was based on her on-screen relationship with fellow actress Kierston Wareing. The chemistry between the two, playing escorts, had to be comedic and believable to bring audiences in, so the two spent a lot of time getting to know each other outside of rehearsals and filming. The result was perfect timing between the two characters.

Working alongside such a stellar cast and crew, including Wareing, Ditta, and Tate is why Brooks enjoyed creating Do Not Disturb as much as she did. With such comedic energy all around, it was easy to see the humor of the story on set.

We ended up shooting in this beautiful country house a little outside of London. If any neighbors were watching they would have likely called the police given the absurd nature of a lot of people running in and out of rooms half dressed, but fortunately for us we were in the middle of nowhere,” she concluded.

 

Written by Annabelle Lee

Top photo by Faye Thomas

Production Designer Elisia Mirabelli creates new worlds through her artistic eye

For Canada’s Elisia Mirabelli, Production Design is an element of acting, inhabiting another person, stepping inside of their world, and feeling their story. Each time she begins a project, the seasoned production designer tries to imagine herself as the character whose space she is creating. She asks herself why each object in the space remains there, the history behind it, the psychology of how and why a space is divided the way it is. How much time has been spent there? Who a character lets into their space? What it looks like if their alone in it vs what it looks like if a friend is over? She maps out a life in artifacts, creating backstory, revealing loves, interests, experiences, peeling back another layer.

“Production Design for me is really designing and shaping the insides of a person outwardly. In a practical sense, production design is the construction and creation of a film’s overall look through its set and prop design,” she said.

Mirabelli has a decorated resume, with esteemed projects such as Night Owl, Pretty Thing, Let Me Down Easy, and many more. She has created the background for celebrated music videos and popular commercials and collaborated with some of Canada’s biggest networks.

A highlight of Mirabelli’s career came in 2013 when she did the production design for the prolific network MTV. Working with Bell Media and MTV Canada, Mirabelli designed the promo spot MTV #IN24, a collaboration between FORD and MTV promoting MTV’s new cross-platform series #IN24. It aired domestically across the country on MTV Canada and online at MTV.ca and was winner of the 2014 Media Innovation Awards and also received the Silver Award from Best in Cars & Automotive Services.

For the commercial, Mirabelli designed an indoor forest equipped with real foliage, taxidermy and textured dirt flooring. She and her team built the forest set around the Ford Fiesta. The set included a pathway for actors to dance on and a green screen backdrop for day and night simulated VFX.

“Working with MTV was always a dream of mine. It’s such an iconic production company with a history in creating unique, youth focused, genre pushing content. Additionally, the task of designing and creating an in-studio forest set was super exciting. Designing for a company as iconic and groundbreaking as MTV was a career milestone,” she said.

Mirabelli’s time with Bell Media was filled with exceptional projects. She did the production design for a commercial for CP24, a Canadian news network that reaches more than 3.1 million viewers a week and 3.7 million in all of Ontario. The commercial CP24 Moving at the Speed of Your Morning aired nationally on CP24. It went on to win the 2017 Promax Promotion, Marketing and Design Award.

When working on the commercial, Mirabelli refitted an outdated living room with new furnishings, lighting and small props and set accessories to make the location feel more modern, fresh and bright. She built five custom, faux LED screens that were set in each of the four locations. The LED screens played a pivotal role in the promo as they acted as the transition between scenes, with the camera travelling in and out of each of them. Additionally, her team managed the food styling for forty plus extras.

“The opportunity to create and work on a commercial for CP24’s morning show was really exciting. CP24’s morning programming brings in millions of unique viewers a week, so it was really incredible to work on something knowing that it would be reaching such a large audience,” said Mirabelli.

That same year, Mirabelli also worked with The Space Channel on their holiday programming, creating the commercial Spacemas and highlighting The Doctor Who Christmas Special. To do so, she designed a string of sets that replicated a collection of unique living rooms, fitted with holiday décor. The main set included a 14-foot Christmas tree that sat next to a scaled replica of the Doctor Who Tardis, brought in for the shoot from outside the province. The promo relied heavily on its production design and the ability to design a string of living room sets all captured during a single day of shooting. It went on to receive the 2017 Promax Promotion, Marketing and Design Award: Channel: Holiday or Special Event Spot.

“Space Channel is known for creating content that’s wonderfully lively and ultramodern, an ode to its fantastical programming. Working with props from the BBC’s ‘Doctor Who’ series was a real thrill. Additionally, working with the creative director of The Space Channel was awesome and I’m such a fan of his originality,” Mirabelli described.

Once again in the holiday spirit, Mirabelli worked on Christmas commercials for Gusto, Bell Media’s speciality food channel. The set of commercials launched Gusto and was their first national holiday campaign, an opportunity that excited the production designer. After the commercial series, Gusto was nominated for International Channel of the Year at the 2016 Content Innovation Awards. It aired domestically across Gusto’s sister channels (34 channels total, including The Discovery Channel and TSN).

To create the commercial, Mirabelli built a winter wonderland themed set equipped with half a dozen 8-foot-high white trees, 250 presents, a snow machine, teal lights and custom-made glass ornaments spelling out the names of the program’s hosts, which included Jamie Oliver and Martha Stewart. They were able to design and build two unique, modernized Christmas sets that completely distinguished the promo in an ever-crowded market of holiday programming, which was no easy feat.

“Reimagining the look of a holiday promo into something fresh, modern and cool was fantastic,” Mirabelli said.

Undoubtedly, Mirabelli will continue to be a formidable force in Canada’s film and television industry. Keep an eye out for her work.

 

Written by Annabelle Lee

Go behind-the-scenes of Korean hit ‘The Society Game’ with TV Exec Dan Cazzola

For Dan Cazzola, a career in television was always what intrigued him. He never had a back-up plan, and never needed one. Starting out as a producer, he found his calling, as every day he was doing something different and meeting new people; every day was a learning experience. Overseeing every aspect of a show, from beginning to end, was exciting to this Canadian native, and as a producer, he brought shows to success in both his home country and internationally.

Cazzola has now moved on from producing just one show and is currently the Vice President of International Development for Endemol Shine North America, the world’s largest television production group. Working on the corporate side allows him to lend his talent to a variety of current and upcoming shows. Having previously worked for Shine Group in the United Kingdom, he brings years of experience to his role.

“I worked with Dan over many years at Endemol Shine, and he is one of the hardest working people I have ever met. He continuously strived to make every single project we worked on top-notch, and always managed to succeed. On top of all this, he is an extremely positive force in the workplace, always encouraging everyone to do their best work. He is a leader, and I am happy to also consider him a friend,” said Fotini Paraskakis, Managing Director, Endemol Shine Asia.

One of Cazzola’s largest successes abroad was with his work on The Society Game, a South Korean reality TV series, which he co-created. The format was similar to Big Brother, where contestants are isolated from the outside world, but instead featured two teams competing against each other with the twist that one side had to live as a democracy and the other a dictatorship. It was a social experiment to see which society was more effective and which types of leaders would rise to the top and win the game. The show premiered on TVN in October 2016 as their tenth anniversary special series where it was extremely popular and was picked up for a second season.

When creating the idea for the show, Cazzola tried to think of a format that could take place in Korea but resonate with other countries. While brainstorming, he asked himself, what is something many people associate with Korea? His answer was the North and South divide. This is when inspiration struck to have a reality competition show with one team representing dictatorship and the other democracy to see which was ultimately better.

“My favorite thing about working on this project was that we actually shot it outside Seoul close to the border of North Korea. It was a constant reminder that the show we were filming actually was real life for these two countries. We would see the military helicopters flying over every morning and night and the rugged mountain range that we could see in every aerial shot was the physical barrier between us and the DMZ,” Cazzola described.

TV, as Cazzola says, is a universal language. However, its development greatly varies around the world. The Society Game was Cazzola’s first experience with the Korean market and television production in the country. Not only were there language barriers to overcome, but processes were different than what Cazzola was accustomed to. This provided a pivotal learning experience for Cazzola, who at the time had only worked on television programs in Europe and North America. Cazzola and his team set many strict targets and made sure everyone knew exactly what the plan was. In the end, they developed, filmed, and aired the show all within a mere nine months.

“I loved that I not only got to work on an exciting new reality format idea but that I learned all about Korea and how they make TV there. So much of TV can be inward facing and the best part of my role was that I learned how it all comes together there. I learned new ways of doing things and also saw great creativity from the team there. I had a huge amount of respect for them,” said Cazzola.

The Society Game was a large success for Cazzola, as it was his idea that sparked the hit. Now it is a successful format currently being adapted to sell around the world, and Cazzola’s understanding of various markets are one of his greatest assets when scoping out international formats for American television.

Tips from the experts: Supervising Producer Jonathon Ridgard

My name is Jonathon Ridgard, and for over ten years, I have been working as a successful television producer all around the world, predominantly on prime-time entertainment shows such as The X Factor, American Idol, Got Talent franchises, Undercover Boss and Dancing with the Stars. As a Supervising Producer, I am responsible for leading teams of producers, associate producers and production assistants to create great television shows. I have worked on many leading entertainment formats around the world, in the US, UK and Australia, for networks such as NBC, ABC, FOX, BBC, ITV, Network Ten, and more.

No two jobs are the same; no two days are ever the same. To thrive in this industry and have a successful career, you will need perseverance, commitment, and to be prepared to put in a lot of hard work. It certainly isn’t an industry that nurtures the bewildered – you’ll want confidence to work on your skills, experience and contacts and not be afraid to work from the bottom up – with no ego.

Here are my tips, insight, and advice on what it takes to get into television and become a successful producer:

STARTING OUT – PRODUCTION ASSISTANT

My biggest advice to those starting a career in television is to start at the bottom. Irrespective of whatever degree you got in university – leave the ego at the door and learn your craft from the ground up. As a production assistant, you will get to work in every department on a show, work with equipment, and get a real insight into what life is like as a producer. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for advice. Showing a keen interest and being pro-active with your role will only make you stand out to a producer. But remember, choose the right time to ask those questions! Approach every single task, however big or small, with enthusiasm as if your life depended on it. Do the coffee run, make perfect notes, anticipate the needs of your producer and you will be off to a good start.

WATCH TV / HAVE IDEAS

One of the things that I am always surprised at when speaking to people starting out in television is the amount of time they spend watching TV – or lack of. It is so important to watch TV, films, commercials, music videos, short films – anything that might give you inspiration. Mark Twain once said, “There is no such thing as a new idea”, but what a successful producer can do is look at and take inspiration from what they see around them. I have drawn so much inspiration from the stuff that I have watched, adapted it and created something myself.

Constantly make a list of your ideas, whether it’s for a new type of show, a segment of a particular type of show, an interesting game or a particular shot that you liked. You will never know when that might work.

BE SOCIAL

I can’t stress how important it is to get to know as many people as you can, especially in the first few years of your career. Making connections is the key to success in the television industry. Jobs are rarely, if ever advertised. Most people get jobs through word of mouth, reputation and recommendation. So being a strong, creative worker with a good network is definitely an advantage. I haven’t had a ‘job interview’ in seven years and I have worked consistently. All of my work is through recommendations and network executives or executive producers reaching out and wanting me.

And finally…

ENJOY YOURSELF AND BE NICE

Working in television should be a fun, creative experience – remember that, even when things get stressful. This career has given me the opportunity to work and travel the world, meet some of the most interesting people and have the most amazing, life changing experiences – take a moment to take them in.

Remember, always be nice. It’s very easy to develop an ego in this industry, but the one thing I always remember is while it’s nice to be important, it’s important to be nice.

 

Jonathon Ridgard is currently working on the newest season of American Idol, premiering March 11th on ABC.