Annick Jaëgy talks dressing-up, showing up, and watching her dreams come true

Some say that playing dress-up begins during childhood and never truly ends. As we age, and we experience the ups and downs that life has to offer, we do our best to look our parts and to make our way in the world. For as long as she can remember, Annick Jaëgy has had a certain fascination with playing dress-up. When she was a child, her mother would allow Annick and her friends to explore her closet, trying on her 1960’s-style outfits and “playing pretend” in her wedding dress. Annick fondly recalls the way that way dressing-up in her mother’s old clothes made her feel; she felt alive in the stories that she and her friends created through the clothing and Annick knew that no matter where her life carried her, she would always have a desire to bring her ideas to life and to share them with the world around her.

Despite the fact that Annick and her friends no longer find themselves rummaging through her mother’s closet and pretending to be the characters in their make-believe worlds, she still feels a strong connection with the emotions and creativity that those memories instilled in her.

Nowadays, she spends her time nurturing her career as a successful film producer and does everything in her power to share the joys that she learned from a young age with audiences all over the world. With over fifteen years of experience in media and production, Jaëgy takes great pride in her ability to identify a great story when she sees one and works tirelessly to bring those stories to the big screen for film fanatics to enjoy at their leisure.

“I have learned that producers need to be able to tell a great script from a mediocre one, so having a creative spark has definitely helped me. As well, having vision has been crucial. Most importantly, however, having the business acumen and salesmanship necessary to execute that vision is paramount. You cannot turn a writer’s ground-breaking idea into reality without the right amount of funding, nor without a strong team behind it. You need to actually make it happen, by pulling together all the different strands,” shared Annick Jaëgy.

Fortunately for Annick, she has mastered each of those strands. Because she wasn’t always aware that production was her calling, she worked her way through the entertainment industry, trying her hand at various different jobs involved in filmmaking and learning the ins and outs of each one. It didn’t take her long to realize that she had a pressing desire to be involved in content and getting to have her hands on every aspect of the filmmaking process from one, single position. She always felt like there was something missing from her career and after producing her first film, Soledad Canyon, she knew exactly what it was. Since producing Soledad Canyon, Annick Jaëgy has gone on to work on hit films like Mackenzie and Gubagude Ko. In fact, in 2016, she became particularly excited about the opportunity to expand her skillset into the wonderful world of musical films when she was approached by renowned director, Dana Maddox, about her unique project, That Frank. Knowing of Annick’s love for music and costumes, Maddox was confident that Annick would help her execute her vision for the film and she was itching to watch the process unfold.

“Dana and I had worked on two projects together previously, including Mackenzie. She knew my style but, furthermore, she knew my love for musicals and how this love grew through my work at a London-based musical theatre company, as well as through my position as a co-producer of the show Cabaret in London,” Annick noted.

That Frank is a film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim and George Furth’s beloved musical, Merrily We Roll Along. It is set in 1976 Los Angeles where Franklin Shepherd, a once talented Broadway composer, abandons his songwriting career to become a Hollywood film producer. At the premiere of Frank’s latest blockbuster, his oldest friend and theatre critic, Mary Flynn, urges him to return to New York in order to regain his artistic credibility. Surrounded by the intoxicating adulation of his shallow admirers, Frank must choose between his new path and his old life that he worked so hard to achieve, as well as the friendships that got him there.

For Jaëgy, working on That Frank was unlike any other job she had ever done as a producer. She found that she had to alter her thinking a lot of the time to suit the unique nature of filming musical numbers. For instance, there are a lot of different elements involved in the rehearsal and filming process of a musical. Jaëgy loved learning about all of the intricacies involved in the film’s choreography, lyrics, timing, acting, etc. It was far more complex than she could have ever anticipated; however, she found that made the final product all the more rewarding. The biggest challenge came with ensuring that the production’s budget did not limit its potential. It was very important to her that That Frank did not appear to be a low budget musical and as a result of her devotion to this intention, the film far surpassed the expectations that its budget had set. She even managed to find an innovative solution to the question of fitting costumes into the budget, as her childhood dress-up days allowed her to put her 1970’s inspired fashion items to use. She felt a great joy in seeing her cast members clothed from head to toe in her own collection and was pleased to see the authenticity that they brought to the film.

After working with Annick on That Frank, Maddox had to keep reminding herself that this was Jaëgy’s first time taking the role of lead producer on a musical. She was astonished by her ability to improvise, lead, and go above and beyond what was expected of her for the betterment of the film.

“Going into this journey, I needed the support of a producer that could think creatively and fight for our project. There was only one person I wanted for the job and that was Annick. She knows how to satisfy the production needs without going over budget, yet still maintaining the artistic integrity and vision that I had for the piece. I knew she would be able to carry the burden of wrangling the cast, crew, and details of production. This, in turn, enabled me to concentrate on bringing my dream to the big screen. I could not have accomplished that without Annick’s support,” said Dana Maddox, Director.

Seeing That Frank successfully screen at the Palm Springs International ShortFest, as well as the Toronto International Independent Film Festival were dignifying reminders to Jaëgy that being a film producer is what she was born to do. In addition, she was humbled by the experience of seeing Maddox, as well as That Frank’s cast and crew beaming with joy for the duration of the film’s premiere. It was an emotional experience and one that Annick wouldn’t change for the world.

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After Her Rivetting Performance in “Hypersomnia” Actress Yamila Saud is Tapped to Star in “El Encanto”

Actress Yamila Saud
Yamila Saud walks the red carpet at the Mar del Plata International Film Festival in Argentina

The stage has been Argentinian actress Yamila Saud’s second home since she was 7, and for as long as she can remember, she has come alive through acting. That passion has allowed her to become one of the most compelling actresses in film today, and her latest film is proof.

Currently streaming on Netflix, “Hypersomnia” is a dark psychological thriller from director Gabriel Grieco. Saud plays the main character, an actress named Milena who finds herself caught somewhere between nightmare and reality as the movie keeps the audience in suspense.

“Hypersomnia” is about a young actress preparing for a big stage role in a play, where her character is a sex slave who falls in love with her captor. Milena’s rehearsal experience leads her into a rabbit hole. Soon, Milena is unable to tell where her own life ends and her character’s begins. Everything begins to feel unreal and dreamlike, and Milena’s confusion quickly turns into madness.

“After an experience her character has, Milena begins to have dreams which feel very real,” Saud said. “Laly shows [the viewer] a world where women are deprived of freedom and all their rights.”

Milena’s trance-like acting exercises go haywire. The film uses the inside of a brothel as the alternate reality where Milena’s character Laly lives with other tortured sex workers. When Milena is not in the brothel playing Laly, she comes out of the trance state — from the looks of it. Yet Milena feels like the abuse and violence of playing a sex slave are all too real, like method acting gone wrong.

Saud skillfully adjusts herself to each scene as the film goes from suspenseful to dark to violent, truly embodying the character’s feeling of pain in the most believable way.

The movie was a huge challenge for me. One of the strongest and most disgusting scenes for me was when Milena is forced to enter with a client in a room, and she sits on the bed next to him,” Saud said. “The cigarettes he smoked were the same brand that my dad consumed when I was a girl. It’s horrible that girls so young are abused by men who could be their own father.”

In a huge shift from “Hypersomnia,” Saud took on a more lighthearted role as Lana in the upcoming 2018 film “El Encanto.” Directed by Juan Sasiaín and Ezequiel Tronconi, the romantic drama has both a sensual and a serious side.

The film focuses on Bruno, played by Ezequiel Tranconi, and his wife Juliana, a famous television host played by Mónica Antonópulos. Juliana is eager to have a baby, but Bruno doesn’t feel ready. The disagreement kicks off Bruno’s midlife crisis. Things get even more complicated when Saud’s character, an attractive young woman named Lara, walks into Bruno’s work.

Saud explains her critical role in the film, “My character is the knot that ties the film together. It’s because of Lara that Bruno’s character reacts and begins to realize what he really wants.”

Produced as an independent film “El Encanto,” focuses on character development. That meant Saud was able to stand out and show off her raw natural talent as an actor. The story line’s depth is explained producer Diego Corsini, saying “It’s a story of growth and maturation. It is reflecting in a poetic and sincere way that stage in which one still does not realize that he has grown and is an adult, and he wants to continue holding on to a past adolescence.”

Saud’s drive and passion for film show so pressingly in every role she plays. A dedicated artist, Saud pushes herself to go above and beyond the call of duty.

“I am a proactive actress who does not wait for the opportunity. I get completely involved in each project and don’t hold back, knowing I am making my mark.”

 

WRITING BOTH SIDES OF A STORY WITH SHREEKRISHNA PADHYE

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Life imitates art, art imitates life…it’s all the same thing to writer Shreekrishna Padhye. His vocation as a writer has allowed him to investigate and mix the influences of each into the other. Yes, it’s a bit like playing God when you write, but it gives back as much as it takes from humanity. What is communicated is just as much based in fact as it is in the interpretation of those receiving the information. As Padhye explains, “I have always been fascinated by the transformation a script can go through in the hands of actors. No matter how specific you try to be with tone and character motivations, an actor can fundamentally change the scene with just their performance and highlight a different side of the story. I wanted to explore that with a small film, so I wrote one with obvious conflicts and had actors play the action in two different manners. In every fight/argument both sides feel like they are right and more sympathetic.” In the film “My Way, Your Way” the writer was simultaneously studying and displaying social interaction, characters, and the actors who were themselves presenting the lines and actions. Shreekrishna Padhye might just be the most modern & entertaining version of B.F. Skinner that you’ve ever seen.

Padhye openly admits that he mines the events and interactions which he sees in real life for his writing. This is not an uncommon event for a writer. What is unusual about this writer is that he likes to entertain and diffuse the negative actions and thoughts of the characters and the viewers of his films by showing just how petty and selfish they can be, served with a very humorous tone. “My Way, Your Way” is a comedy. In the story we see the events through the eyes and emotional tint of two coworkers. What is presented is almost a form of therapy for the audience and the writer. Seeing the awfulness of people presented in the absence of condescension and finger pointing allows the recognition of our own lesser desired attributes. Humor is the conduit by which Shreekrishna delivers this. “My Way, Your Way” presents the same office workplace occurrence seen through the point of view of two separate people. In the first version, John tells his friend at work (Sean) that he has just been promoted. To John’s surprise, Sean doesn’t take the news very well. Instead of being happy for his friend’s good fortune, Sean storms out of the office. In the second version, John rubs it in Sean’s face that he is being promoted. John proceeds to humiliate Sean and takes over his office, forcing him out. Both the versions have the same dialogue, but the actors put a completely different spin on it each time.

Padhye’s character driven style has made him a favorite among actors. He specifically wrote this film with the actors in mind. Watching actors interpret his words and infuse them with different tones made him more aware of the power of these professionals to shade the message. While a writer creates the setting in both books and films, the reader’s imagination colors the world while a viewer’s is heavily dependent on the actor’s portrayal. The dual presentations of the film emphasize this aspect. The first interpretation of the story depicts John as hard-working and deserving of the promotion while his friend Sean is resentful. In the following presentation (seen through Sean’s eyes) John is a suck up who is less deserving than himself. What’s amazing about the film is that these drastically opposed perspectives are done using the same dialogue.

A self-described actor’s writer, it’s his respect for the contributions of actors that led Padhye to creating this project. A writer’s words mean nothing if actors don’t bring them to life. Shreekrishna is adamant that the spark in the process is creating great dialogue. Filtering real life experiences into an interesting story starts here as he explains, “The key to making dialogue seem realistic is to develop an ear for it. Even though we hear people talking every day, we don’t focus on their choice of words, speed, or emphasis. We usually extract relevant information and move on. My job as a writer is to study people and their behavior. The manner in which people talk is fascinating to me and I have trained a part of my brain to pay attention to words and after conversation, I usually play the interaction back in my head and reexamine it. If I hear a unique phrase or pronunciation, I make a note of it. I may not ever end up using the exact words in my script but questioning the thought process behind it helps inform my characters. Even so, a conversation in a film is very different to one in real life. Real life conversations are long and slow. If portrayed verbatim on film in this way, they would seem incredibly boring. The key to keeping dialogue interesting is to keep it short and specific to conflict at hand. Every character needs to have a distinct voice. Even if the character names were scrubbed from the script, you should be able to differentiate the lines of each character.”

The presentation of entertainment productions has transformed immensely in the last few years. Productions are created for online presentation and are used by more traditional studios and networks to find exciting new productions and artists to add to their brand. “My Way, Your Way” garnered immense attention from both the industry and the public with 100,000 views on YouTube. There was a time not so long ago that these studios and networks had a vision of entertainment that would appeal to everyone but the popularity of online formats have proven that the most unusual and creative ideas can unify a very committed fan base. In all artistic endeavors, a strong voice will find an audience. Shreekrishna embraces these opportunities and the experience commenting, “I’m lucky to have started my career right in the middle of this seismic shift the internet has brought to the entertainment industry. Streaming services have become so ubiquitous that it no longer matters what method of distribution a piece of content was originally produced for (Broadcast, Cinema, Cable or Streaming). Because of all the new outlets, content production is at an all-time high. This is great for all artists as it provides many more opportunities. The greatest strength is also the greatest obstacle as it is possible for a piece of art to get lost in a sea of great content. Even so, the viewer is always the winner.” Each film Padhye writes seems to receive more and more praise. If his goal is to create stories that stories that allow people to see themselves and their potential selves, it seems to be an idea that the world is open to contemplating.

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Actress Ingrid Haubert’s Magnetism On Screen Captivates Audiences

MpireStudios
Actress Ingrid Haubert shot by Mpire Studios

Some actresses have a certain magnetism when they hit the screen that captivates audiences and makes us want to watch them. Australian actress Ingrid Haubert, who’s known for her starring roles in the films “2Survive,” “Ambrosia,” “Painkiller” and more, is one of those dynamically talented performers who draws us in with every role she takes on.

While Haubert, who resides in LA, has only been in the states for a few years, she began her acting career early on whilst living in Australia. “I always wanted to be an actor, I think I came out of the womb wanting to act,” she says with a laugh. “I began acting professionally when I was 15 and attended the Australian Academy of Dramatic Art.”

With her white blonde bob, piercing blue eyes and pale skin, Haubert is not only uniquely beautiful, but the way she brings her characters to life on screen makes it impossible to peel our eyes away. Through the wide range of performances she’s given to date, such as portraying the snobbish stylist in season 5 of MTV’s multi-award winning series “Awkward.,” to Dawn, the cunning girlfriend of the lead character in “Painkiller” who orchestrates an elaborate plan to help her love escape from prison, it’s easy to see that Ingrid Haubert has a powerful range on screen. Clearly acting was what she was born to do.

Ingrid Haubert
Ingrid Haubert shot by Abigail R. Collins

Haubert explains, “There are so many things about acting that fill my soul… I think I’d have to say the biggest thing for me always comes back to the story. I love stories. When my mum would read to me at bed time when I was a child I just wanted to be in the story, I wanted to have adventures, and feel, and experience. When I read a script with great story I get so excited to create what is happening on the paper and bring it to life.”

In 2015 Haubert took on the lead role of Amber in the dramatic adventure film “2Survive” directed by Tom Seidman (“Horizontal Accidents,” “The Christmas Bunny”), which is available to stream on AmazonPrime, Google Play and vudu.

A ‘found footage’ film, “2Survive” follows a cast of reality show contestants into the desert where they compete against one another in hopes of winning the $100,000 grand prize; however, after only one night in the desert the contestants wake up to find the cameraman, the only one of them who’s in contact with those running the show, is dead.

Starring alongside Golden Globe Award nominee Erik Estrada (“CHiPs,” “Finding Faith”), Jonathan Camp (“S.W.A.T.,” “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”) and Michael Laurie (“Nuclear,” “CollegeHumor Originals”) Ingrid Haubert gave an impeccable performance as Amber, a cute but naive waitress from Studio City, who’s a pivotal contestant on the show.

“She starts out as this seemingly stupid, helpless girl, but over the course of the film realises her strength and ability and comes into her power as a woman,” explains Haubert about her character.

Stranded in the desert with no way of contacting anyone from the show and only a day’s worth of food and water, the remaining contestants decide that their only option is to continue on with the missions in hopes that it will lead them out of the desert. Their individual weaknesses and strengths come out as they try to piece together the clues that will lead to the next destination; however when Peter, one of the contestants, finds a clue and keeps it to himself as the competition is still on, the situation becomes increasingly dire for the rest.

Out of all of the characters, Amber (played by Haubert) is by far the most dynamic and intriguing, and as more and more layers of her personality are revealed she serves as the driving force that keeps viewers watching to see what will happen next. Initially appearing as no more than the blonde bombshell assumedly chosen to compete due to her good looks, we soon learn that Amber has a unique capacity to solve intricate problems, which prove invaluable to the team.

“I really enjoyed playing Amber, she was a lot of fun. I was determined though, not to let her just be an airhead. I wanted her to have substance and vulnerability, something to make the audience care about her and root for her,” explains Haubert. “In the story she forms a close bond with Bruce, as they are both lonely people. I made my objective for her to bring Bruce back. I felt that this was something that audiences could connect to as the character of Bruce is so lovable.”

While the other characters get wrapped up in their desperation to survive and begin to turn against one another, Amber maintains her benevolent nature and devotes herself to helping Bruce, an overweight gay buddhist, keep up as they try to make it out alive.

Ingrid Haubert
Actors Michael Laurie, Jonathan Camp, Stephanie Greco and Ingrid Haubert at the Los Angeles premiere of “2Survive”

Haubert’s costar Stephanie Greco (“Phoenix Falling,” “Rest for the Wicked”), who played Violet in the film, says, “Ingrid was a dream castmate… She is incredibly talented. I remember there were times when I was done shooting for the day but I stayed around to watch her scenes. She has an energy about her that draws people in and she lights up any room she enters. She’s magnetic and I’ve worked in this business for over a decade now and can say that is a quality most people desire, but rarely have. For her, it is just a part of who she is.”

Besides the appeal of both the story and her character, another aspect of “2Survive” that made Haubert decide the project was one she wanted to be a part of us was the unique way that the film was shot. As viewers watch the film they soon notice that all of the contestants’ helmets are equipped with cameras which, in the film’s story, are intended to capture footage from their personal perspective as they compete on the show. This was key as key element in both the fictional story and the shooting of the actual film, as Haubert explains, “We did actually film with the cameras that were strapped to our helmets, a lot of people don’t believe this, but it is true. We would often be filming a scene but having to stand in weird poses in order to ‘get the shot,’ but then also having to be natural.” She adds, “The whole making of the film was a memorable experience. It’s not everyday that you are an actor and camera operator at the same time.”

Ingrid Haubert is one actress who’s continued to captivate audiences across continents with her performances in both the theatre and on screen, and she continues to push her craft to new heights. In recent years she’s expanded the scope of her work to include performing stand-up comedy on stages across Los Angeles.

“I had a number of friends who also do stand up who had been bugging me for years to try it due to my comedic abilities. And one day, I decided to. It’s really invigorating that I can make my own material, direct myself, and basically have control over all aspects of the performance,” explains Haubert. “I’ve done shows at EXTRA Comedy Show, which is held at Junior High, Drunk on Stage at Akbar, The Comedy Stew at Bar Lubitsch, and Late Nights at the Loft Ensemble to name a few.”

Up next for Australian actress Ingrid Haubert is the sci-fi film “Birth,” which is slated to begin filming later this month and will be directed by award-winner Brett G. Walker (“The Groundskeeper,” “Box 3125”). Haubert will take on the lead role of Tehra, an alien lost in a new world.

 

Dewshane Williams on exploring his love of science fiction in The Expanse

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Bobbie Draper (Frankie Adams) and Sa’id (Dewshane Williams) prepare for a Martian battle in The Expanse

What audiences tend to love most about science fiction is the fact that the realm of possibilities is endless. Science fiction is known for carrying fans into unfamiliar worlds, unexplored dimensions, and uncharted territory. Both characters and storylines defy the norms of the world we know and live in; however, social dilemmas, emotions, and personality traits often stay the same. As an actor, science fiction remains one of the most unique, interesting genres to explore. For Dewshane Williams, this is because it is a genre that allows us to determine what human beings are capable of, be that within the constraints of modern life as we know it, or beyond.

Besides science fiction, Williams has familiarized himself with a number of different genres and storylines throughout his career. For instance, Williams mastered the art of drama through his stellar performance of Frank in the film Dog Pound, which portrays the life of three juvenile delinquents who are sentenced to a correctional facility where they encounter gang violence, death, and harassment from staff and other inmates. Contrastingly, Williams immersed himself into the wonderful world of comedy in 2012 for the film The Story of Luke about a young man with autism who is thrust into a world that doesn’t expect much from him. Beyond that, Williams has tried his hand at action films, thrillers, mysteries, horror stories, and much more. There are few limits to what he can achieve when he puts his mind and his skill set to work.

In 2015, Williams earned himself a role in Universal SYFY Networks’s hit series, The Expanse as Corporal Sa’id. The show follows the lives of a police detective a spaceship crew who discover a conspiracy, the first officer of an interplanetary ice freighter, and an earth-bound United Nations executive director, who slowly discover a conspiracy threatening the Earth’s rebellious colony on the asteroid belt. Between Williams’ fascination with space travel and Sa’id’s passion for serving others, Williams became enthralled with the project. In the series, Sa’id serves as part of an elite Marine Firing Squad; however, what Williams respected most about his character was embedded within Sa’id’s devotion to his planet. His willingness to save his planet inspired Williams and motivated him to adopt every trait and mannerism that accompanied that level of selflessness. Fortunately, one of Williams’ greatest attributes is his ability to transform himself into the character at hand. For some actors, identifying with a specific style of acting comes naturally; however, for professionals like Williams, it is impossible to categorize himself. He does not act according to a specific set of styles or rules. On the contrary, his versatility allows him to adapt himself to a variety of different emotions and character traits.

“The story of this show is so important because we live in an age of Space X and interplanetary travel. I think it is important to embrace the possibilities that our future holds. The concept of space travel and exploration is very real. We’re doing it now, which is incredible. This show, in a way, sheds light on what we may go through as an evolving species. It shows what we may be capable of doing; both positive and negative. Not to mention, most of the concepts in the show are scientifically possible. For all of the future space explorers out there, this might be the inspiration they need to take us where no one has gone before,” gushed Williams.

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Dewshane Williams recording voiceover work for The Expanse virtual reality Game Battle For Mars.

As an avid science fiction fan, Williams loved getting into character and immersing himself in the costumes and props on set. When he was being fitted for his costume, Williams noticed something familiar about the design and upon inquiring about their origin, he learned that they were made by the same company who produce Iron Man’s iconic suit. His enthusiasm about the project grew with each day on set and the more he explored the script, the more he realized the potential that the storyline held. In fact, the show’s VFX Supervisor, Bob Munroe, took notice of Williams’ devotion to the project and solicited his help to act as the lead for a virtual reality video game based on the show’s premise. Williams was extremely humbled about the possibility of expanding The Expanse’s presence in the world of science fiction and eagerly accepted the offer to work on the video game, The Battle on Mars. It comes as little surprise, therefore, that Munroe was equally as thrilled to have Williams on board.

“The moment I met Dewshane, I knew he was a rare talent. I had such a great experience working with him that I later enlisted him to star in our virtual reality game. Considering how much VFX was required while shooting our opening scene on mars, Dewshane had to exercise a lot of patience. Not to mention, he had to wear a 40-pound suit on a hot day. It would’ve been very easy to complain but he never did. Instead, his generosity and attitude made him a standout. When I had the opportunity to create a video game for the TV show, he was the first person I called. His enthusiasm is so contagious,” said Munroe.

Now finished its second season, The Expanse has established a strong following, as well as a large amount of recognition in the industry. It has garnered a number of award nominations, as well as a win for Best Dramatic Presentation at the Hugo Awards in 2017. If you are curious to see Williams in action, as well as to see what the show’s hype is all about, start watching The Expanse now and stay tuned for the premiere of Season 3 in 2018.

 

Top photo: Dewshane Williams in the Virtual Reality Game “The Expanse: Battle on Mars”.

Calvin Khurniawan perfectly captures loneliness in heartbreak in Andrew Belle’s “Down”

Calvin Khurniawan believes a cinematographer’s job is much like that of a comic book artist. Both roles involve how a story is seen; they don’t write the story, but they take on the visual stimulation for audiences and readers. They add to what is originally written, and decide exactly the best way to show the story they are given. Such a unique way of looking at his job is how Khurniawan sets himself apart from other cinematographers; he can look through the lens of a camera and find the perfect and most distinctive way to capture a scene. It is what makes him so sought-after, and why he is currently one of the best Indonesian cinematographers.

 “A lot like acting, cinematographers react to actors’ inner unconsciousness by utilizing camera elements such as composition and lighting. Similar to editing, we choreograph how a scene unfolds by dictating where the audience’s eyes should look,” he said.

Earlier this year, Khurniawan worked on the viral music video “Down” by Andrew Belle. The video premiered on “Paper Magazine” in June. From there, it went on to be a “Nowness Staff Pick” and a “Vimeo Staff Pick”, amassing over one hundred thousand views on YouTube alone. The cinematography was key to such success, as it connected to aspects of the video in an artistic and meaningful way.

“It’s been delightful to hear how much people like the video. I think the biggest compliment came from the people who responded emotionally to the choreography because the cinematography is built around it,” said Khurniawan.

The choreography is what tells the story and emotions in the video, and therefore required talented dancers that Khurniawan could work with to do just that. Eventually, they found Dassy Lee from So You Think You Can Dance 2017. Together, the cinematographer and the dancers perfectly portray the loneliness in heartbreak.

The cinematographer’s input was valued for every step of the production process. Before the concept was finalized, he would create storyboards for his shots and present them to the Director, Joshua Kang, giving an expert’s opinion as to how each shot could be framed. He would then sit down with the director and the dancers to converse about what he thought would work for the video, as he knows good ideas mean nothing if they can’t be executed properly. He knew there was more to the video than dancers against a pretty background. He wanted to do more with the camera and reacted to the choreography, asking the dancers how they were feeling emotionally and designing the frames based on that. Such a unique and dedicated take was vastly appreciated by Kang.

Andrew Belle Down. Joshua Kang and Calvin Khurniawan. Photo by Kiu Kayee
Joshua Kang and Calvin Khurniawan filming “Down”, photo by Kiu Kayee

“I love working with Calvin because he is always prepared for every project. When I show him a treatment for a project in pre-production, he brings in various different ideas on how the look for the project could be, and what he thinks would be the best within the given circumstances. Having visual discussions with Calvin before the shoot always makes the job of the day easier for everyone on set. He is someone I want on set. Not only is he kind and respectful to everyone on set, he has great set skills. Working with Calvin, I trust him and his camera crew to have everything prepared and ready to shoot on time. He’s helpful in post-production. Calvin keeps in mind how the visuals will look like in post when he shoots. When we’re sitting in a color session, he gives inputs on how the color can be corrected in the best possible way. Having a director of photography like Calvin that cares about the project until it is completely finished makes him professional and reliable,” said Kang.

Initially, Kang approached Khurniawan to work on the video. The director had seen his work and was immensely impressed. Khurniawan was interested in the project before knowing that it was for Andrew Belle, and upon hearing the artist he was immediately on board, as he was already a fan.

“Imagine getting a call to work on a music video with one of your favorites artist. It was the quickest decision I’ve ever made for a job,” Khurniawan said.

While working on the video, the ideas changed frequently, as everyone wanted to ensure it was the best it could possibly be. From a cinematography standpoint, this can create challenges, but Khurniawan never let that faze him. He was happy to work diligently to make everything effortless for those that worked alongside him. The dancers, Dassy and Jordan, were immensely appreciative of Khurniawan’s dedication to the project. He perfectly showcased their vast talent while still creating a telling and poetic video.

“This is by far my favorite collaboration for a project. Joshua, the director, liked keeping a small crew and resulted a more intimate crew. We communicated easily between one another compared to having a big crew. Dassy and Jordan presented their choreography early to us then we design everything based off the choreography. Our approach is based on the choreography really, because we wanted it to be the center of the attention. My job as the cinematographer is to fully reflect on how they’re telling the story and emotion through the movements. I thought it was an interesting approach to music video,” Khurniawan concluded.

You can watch the “Down” music video here and see just how talented of a cinematographer Khurniawan is.

 

Top photo – Joshua Kang and Calvin Khurniawan, photo by Kiu Kayee

Bulgarian Producer Assya Dimova: Defying Cultural Standards to Follow a Dream

The fact that certain cultures see some professions as king and count others as unworthy ‘hobbies’ should come as no surprise, but for many kids growing up in cultures where their personal dreams are seen as unacceptable, this can have a debilitating affect on their ability to confidently pursue the path they desire. We see it everyday through stereotypes, such as those of Asian and Indian descent being pushed into careers in tech and computer engineering, or others that push their youth to become doctors or lawyers. While satisfying one’s parents and conforming to cultural expectations can be heavily weighted, sometimes the inner pull of what one feels is their destiny is strong enough to defy the expectations– even if it takes a while to develop the courage to defy the standard.

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Bulgarian producer Assya Dimova shot by Megan Cooper

Esteemed Bulgarian film producer Assya Dimova is a prime example of one woman who was expected to pursue a path other than the one she felt she was personally meant for; but after making the definitive choice to devote herself to working as a film producer, everything seemed to fall into place naturally. Dimova, who recently produced the films “Stygian” and “Our Blood is Wine,” has secured a strong place for herself in the film industry on an international level; but it didn’t happen overnight.

During her youth growing up in Sofia, Bulgaria Dimova had an unwavering love for visual storytelling and a special knack for bringing creative talents together to realize a single vision. She recalls, “At the time, back home, the arts were not a traditional career path, especially for a girl. So I did the next best thing, I moved to Italy and enlisted in business school while actively building a taste for emerging talent,” adding however, that “the fascination with the magic of visual storytelling was just not going away, and I desperately wanted to one day be a part of bringing all those talents together.”

While in Italy, Dimova attained her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and her Master of Science in Economics and Management of Innovation and Technology, and even though she hadn’t made the leap into the film world just yet, in a way she was already working as a producer. She began utilizing her natural ability for recognize creative talents and bringing them together

She explains, “I’ve always had the tendency to bring a group of friends together and lovingly push them to show off their talents in plays and short films. The first bigger endeavor was probably while I was living in Italy and with a small group of friends decided to create a series of concerts, cultural nights of sorts, where we presented Bulgaria to a diverse audience. We handled every aspect, from all the logistics, to involving talent, getting sponsorships, working with local media.”

By the time she was 25 Assya Dimova came to the firm realization that there was no other satisfying path for her, so instead of sticking it out in a career that didn’t utilize her natural gifts, she whole-heartedly dedicated herself to her passion– producing. Dimova relocated to the states soon after where she completed her Master of Arts in Creative Producing for Film and Television at Columbia College.

“As a producer my goal has always been to find and cultivate relationships with inspirational filmmakers who have an individual voice,” explains Dimova. And the work she’s done in the industry prove that she knows how to discover strong and innovative filmmakers with powerful stories to tell, and she’s the right producer to bring their tales to the screen.

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Poster for “Stygian” directed by Josh Garvin

In 2015 Assya Dimova began production on Josh Garvin’s (“Daisy,” “Uncle Evan”) dramatic western “Stygian,” a silent film that follows an old gunslinger on a perilous trek across a barren desert. The climax of the film commences when the gunslinger falls from his horse and incurs a fatal injury that leaves him suffering from dehydration and a vicious infection on the desert floor where he is left to ponder his past mistakes.

As both the producer and the line producer on the film, Dimova did everything from raising funds and managing the film’s budget, to solidifying the shooting locations in New Mexico, pulling together the right people to head each department and also managing the day to day progress of the production.

About what led her to produce “Stygian,” Dimova explains, “On one hand, there was the creative aspect. The central themes of sin, guilt and atonement make for a powerful and thought-provoking story. Josh Garvin’s vision was nuanced and passionate and it was a no brainer decision.”

Being chosen as an Official Selection of the Wild Bunch Film Festival, Globe International Silent Film Festival, New Filmmakers Los Angeles, Santa Fe Independent Film Festival and the Grand OFF World Independent Film Awards, the overwhelming acceptance “Stygian” received from film festivals around the world make it clear that Dimova chose the right story to the bring to the screen.

Besides her ability to ensure the productions she chooses are completed in time and on budget whilst remaining to true to the director’s creative vision, one of the unique strengths that Dimova brings to the table as a producer is the ease with which she is able to navigate cross-cultural film productions. A polyglot, Dimova is fluent in German, English, Bulgarian and Italian, and as someone who’s lived and worked in multiple countries over the course of her life she understands how the filmmaking process differs vastly between countries. This skill proved to be incredibly valuable in her work as the line producer on Emily Railsback’s (“The 6th Stage of Sugar,” “WarBaby”) documentary feature “Our Blood Is Wine,” which was shot in the country of Georgia earlier this year and is slated for release in 2018.

With several films and television series under her belt as a producer, and a seasoned eye for creative talent, Dimova’s experience in the industry has also led her to be tapped as a curator for film festivals around the world. Some of the festivals she’s curated over the years include the Netherland’s 2016 Leiden International Film Festival, as well as the 2016 and 2017 Beloit International Film Festival in Wisconsin, and the 2016 and 2017 Hollywood Film Festival. As a film festival curator Dimova plays a key role in the screening and voting process that determines what feature and short form narrative and documentary films will be included in each festival, in addition to be involved in discussing the festivals proposed programming.

“As a producer, one must have a wide range of taste and ability to spot up-and-coming talent. With my international experience and background, I am able to critique submissions for both their production and creative value,” explains Dimova. “As in my personal producing career, I always go for story first and how captivating, original and authentic it is. I always look for something fresh that surprises me.”

In the end, producer Assya Dimova’s success in the film industry is proof that societal and cultural expectations sometimes have to be defied in order for one’s dreams to become fully realized.

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