Photographer Nilangana Banerjee on Balancing Artistic Inspiration & Commercial Photography

Photographer Nilangana Banerjee

One of the greatest challenges for a working artist is finding a balance between their commercial projects and their personal creative projects. Photographer Nilangana Banerjee, who’s originally from Mumbai, India but is currently based in Los Angeles, CA, is one of the rare individuals who has managed to establish an inspiring career as a successful commercial photographer who continues to produce powerful personal projects as well.

As a commercial photographer Banerjee has shot for massive brands including Forever21, Nordstrom, GLAM LA, Walmart, Urban Outfitters, Beauty Influence, Hanhoo, Masqueology, Ross, Olivia Care, Dr. Skin Feed and more. In between shooting for international clients, she is also the in-house photographer for the fashion brand Jill Roberts, as well as the beauty and lifestyle company Beauty Architects. At the same time Banerjee maintains a relentless level of dedication to shooting her personal creative projects, for which she’s gained extensive international praise. 

For Banerjee, balancing a demanding commercial photography schedule and maintaining the energy and creativity to continue shooting her personal vision is all about time management and keeping the inspiration flowing.

“I read, research and undertake creative writing of the topics I want to work on in the near future, in order to line up my projects. This allows me to stay engaged and motivated to retain my creative edge and keep productive,” explains Banerjee. 

“I also make sure I shuffle my artistic medium to take the productive break from the photographic medium by parallelly engaging in creating art across different domains like painting, making mixed media projects, composing music, playing the guitar and singing.”

“Hot Cross Buns” by Nilangana Banerjee (winner of the 2017 Chromatic Awards  in Conceptual Category at the International Color Photography Contest)

Over the years Banerjee has earned numerous awards for her work as a photographer, which includes being named ViewBug Photo Contest’s 2020 Community Choice Award winner in the Image of the Month, Inspiring Landscapes, The Wonder of the World and Change of Seasons categories, as well as the contest’s 2020 Choice Award winner in the Monochrome Masters Project category, and their 2019 Peer Choice Award winner in the Image of the Month and Emerging Talent categories. She also earned the 2018 Peer Award in the Fashion category and the Celebrity Award in the Image of the Month category from the ViewBug Photo Contest, in addition to being named the 2017 winner of the Monochrome Awards (conceptual category) at the International Black and White Photography Contest, the International Color Photography Contest’s Chromatic Award winner (conceptual category) and many more.

Banerjee is lauded for her creative eye and her ability to capture photos that lead viewers to think deeply about the subjects she tackles– such as social issues and those concerning mental health. 

One photo series that has made Banerjee stand out in a big way is her open-ended narrative project “The Selves,” which focuses on the psychological craving people have to become an ideal individual and the utter dissatisfaction they experience when judging their existing self to be somehow less than ideal. 

“The Selves” by Nilangana Banerjee

“The Selves,” which Banerjee is continually expanding, was featured in the 2017 Photo Ville global exhibition in Brooklyn, NY and the Dark Arts Exhibition at the Squid Ink gallery in Los Angeles, CA, as well as by the California Council of Arts and at the Black Box Gallery in Portland, Oregon.

“The series ‘The Selves’ is an artistic manifestation of the internal dialogue… a conflict an individual has with their inner selves in the process of choosing who they truly are or who they should be,” explains Banerjee. 

“The message of this series is simple– it aims to provide a face to the abstract psychological headspace of an individual plagued with the necessity to fulfill the un-demanded and unwanted responsibility of being the ideal self.”

“The Selves” by Nilangana Banerjee

Through Banerjee’s lens and visionary art direction, “The Selves” captures the sense of exhaustion and self-loathing that ensues when a person is entangled in an endless effort to become something or someone different. The series is filled with dark, almost gothic elements, with the photos giving way to the overall feeling that the subjects are trying to submerge parts of themselves. 

Growing up in India, Banerjee experienced first hand the way societal expectations lead people to ignore their true nature in pursuit of an ideal, oftentimes at the expense of their mental health.

“I drew my inspiration from being a part of a culture that stresses the need to be one’s ideal self at any cost,” Banerjee explains. “In most societies or generally in the world we don’t see these mental turmoil being acknowledged as real issues unless they present themselves in their aggravated forms.”

As an artist, Banerjee uses her craft as a way to shed light on many of these issues in a palpable and poignant way. 

She adds, “Believing in the quote that a picture is worth a thousand words, I feel that it is important to create art that spreads awareness and initiates the conversation about these preliminary issues which is required for the social stir we need to un-plant these seeds giving rise to an unhealthy society.”

The Selves” by Nilangana Banerjee

Some of Banerjee’s other successful personal series include “The Anomalous,” which was featured on the June 2020 cover of the fashion editorial magazine GMARO, and “The Lullaby,” which has been featured in Daily Style entertainment, Brooklyn PR Girl, Hollywood Patch, So Reckless and more.

“She works harder than anyone else and puts as much into her shoot preparation and execution as she does on her post-production. Her avocation and relaxation is by doing artwork,” says fashion model Daniel Kinske. “Her candid stills are also artistic in her approach to the finishing touches. Her care and attention to detail are the same for all subjects and her direction is very easy to follow and reassuring.” 

When she’s not shooting personal projects that carry powerful messages, Banerjee is busy working as the inhouse photographer for Jill Roberts where she is in charge of shooting the fashion brands products, accessories and clothing line. Along with photographing all of the Jill Roberts products, as well as those for the company Beauty Architects, Banerjee’s role as an inhouse photographer includes handling all of the post-production and editing, as well as wardrobe styling and art direction for the shoots. 

Banerjee says, “Since I work as an inhouse photographer at two companies while simultaneously dealing with numerous brands and freelance commercial clientele, which all run on present project timelines, balancing the time between the commercial photoshoots while still working on my personal creative fine art conceptual project is the main challenge,”

While the process of balancing commercial photography and personal projects is a tricky one, Banerjee has managed to accomplish just that by creating an efficient schedule, something that she believes, along with self-discipline, have been key to her success.

“Planning and effective time management is key… I am able to maintain this balance by having a very planned timetable for myself that enables me to achieve every single thing I want to accomplish on a daily basis and meet all my goals, without compromising the quality of my work,” she explains. 

“I have a disciplined schedule which starts very early and I follow the habit of creating a detailed plan map which I draw out for the following day, the night before. I follow it, religiously every single day and utilize time efficiently. This is what allows me to achieve everything I set.”

While most of us have encountered the image of the artist who struggles to get by as they spend their time doing nothing but following their creative and often sporadic inspiration, it doesn’t have to be that way. More and more artists, like Nilangana Banerjee, are proving that it’s possible to successfully meet the demands of their clients in the commercial sphere while simultaneously maintaining a strong creative output of personal work. 

Renan Pacheco Sheds Light on How He Became a Digitally Influencing Phenomenon

Renan Pacheco
Digital Influencer Renan Pacheco in Mykonos, Greece

As you scroll Instagram, have you ever seen someone beautiful, in an equally breathtaking setting, and wondered how they managed to land hundreds of thousands of followers? These digital influencers indeed have what seems like the best job in the world. By amassing a loyal following, they have the unique position of traveling the world as a digital influencer where their costs are footed by sponsorships from international brands.

Of course, there are millions of exceptionally beautiful faces out there, so what is it specifically that makes a digital influencer stand out? Look no further than Renan Pacheco, a French digital influencer and undeniable heartthrob with thousands of fans across the globe.

I was lucky enough to catch up with this global Instagram sensation to find out what it’s like being a digital influencer, and how he got his start. He is currently nominated for two Monaco Influencer Awards, which will take place in October.

While his insta profile currently boasts nearly 650K followers, Renan was dazzling cameras long before he made his way into his incredibly profitable career as a digital influencer, where he admits that he often earns “a five figure number per post.” Earning a minimum of $20,000 per post is a pretty impressive figure, one that makes it quite obvious that Renan’s reputation for engaging viewers with his creativity is a major profit source for the brands that ask him to come on board as an influencer in their market.

Renan Pacheco for Havaianas Europe

Though he was raised in France, Renan was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil — and you can bet that the combination of his multicultural upbringing and looks work to his benefit as an influencer. Renan was first ushered into the spotlight at the age of 14 when he won a modeling competition.

“A friend of mine sent my Facebook pictures to an online contest and only told me about it when I got selected to attend a catwalk in Paris,” Renan recalls.

“Once I got there, I looked around at the other models that were far more experienced and it seemed like they were feeling no pressure or stress whatsoever. We were all competing for some very valuable prizes and opportunities. It was my first time feeling ‘under pressure’ as a teenager and I’m proud I took it head on… Having 650,000 people seeing every day what I’m doing is something young Renan in that contest with an audience of 100 could probably not fathom!”

That seemingly destined contest win led Renan to land numerous other modeling contracts, at the same time while still a teen in Paris, he went on to make a name for himself as an actor. Back in 2014, he starred in a national commercial for Danone, followed by social media campaigns for Zadig and Voltaire, L’Oréal and Jean Paul Gaultier.

Renan Pacheco with Xenia Adonts at a Jean Paul Gaultier show

Filmmaker Matthieu Khalaf says, “Renan is a ‘one cut’ actor. I rarely ever have to re-shoot something with him or edit things out which is very convenient. Renan is an artist with an engineer-like discipline. He brings creativity as well as punctuality, discipline and work ethic which inevitably compounds to putting him ahead of the pack.”

Over the past few years Renan has played leading roles in films such as “Partons, dans un baiser,” the crime series “Falco,” and the French hit “Nos Chers Voisins,” where he took on a comedy role as the love interest of the lead character. And his ease as an actor and model have definitely lent themselves to his skill as an Instagram influencer.

As Instagram grew so did brand interest in what Renan had to offer. His first contracts were for L’Oréal and French footwear giant Courir.

“I had to post about them on Instagram. Instagram was a very new tool at the time, and my follower count being only in the low 5 figures, the required posts were made as a verbal request,” recalls Renan. “No one thought at the time that there would be written contracts for this one day! My first written contract for an Instagram post was for Kapten & Son, a famous eyewear company.”

For Renan there are undoubtedly perks that include traveling the world, attending posh parties and awards ceremonies, and making a pretty penny for posting on behalf of brands. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have to put effort into what he posts. He has a unique understanding and awareness of what his audience wants to see and makes incredible efforts to deliver. On top of that, he has to bring a high level of creativity to the images and stories he posts in order to serve the high-profile brands that support him.

Renan Pacheco for Harley Davidson

In terms of blending media exposure and creativity into his posts, Renan explains, “My pictures must take both criteria into account. ‘Media exposure’ means taking into account what my community wants to see. ‘Creativity’ means including the story the brand wants to tell. Often, the picture is what will satisfy the follower, and the caption is what will satisfy the storytelling.”

While a photo can say a thousand words, Instagram photos still require some catchy and thoughtful captions, and Renan is a pro at coming up with tidbits that will keep his audience engaged.

“I love reading and listening to audiobooks. I take active notes and like to share them as short nuggets of wisdom to complement my pictures. My followers gave such fantastic feedback that I decided to start posting pictures that complement the caption and not the other way around,” admits Renan.

“Approximately 1 out of 5 of my pictures are now about a story, a painting, an artist, a movie etc. It’s challenging but very rewarding and my community has definitely responded with the best feedback.”

On top of creating engaging posts to serve both the brand and the audience, one of the reasons that Renan has developed such a loyal following is the fact that he interacts so consistently with his audience. For most us, responding to countless direct messages and comments from over 650k followers would get exhausting, but Renan admits that is something that he actually enjoys.

Another aspect of Renan’s ability to maintain such a strong following and keep his career moving forward is the fact that he doesn’t just support any old brand that approaches him, for him remaining authentic and supporting brands that he can whole-heartedly get behind have been key.

Renan Pacheco at a Vampped Event in Palm Springs, CA

“If I don’t like the product, service or storytelling, I have to pass regardless of the financial compensation. People have a sixth sense for detecting what is truthful and what isn’t, and particularly now, I I think a big part of my success is always focusing on my follower experience.”

Renan is an avid traveller and brilliant visual storyteller renown in the social media world for his hard working spirit, integrity, and exceptional track record with leading brands. Outside from all the glitz and glamour, he admits that at the end of the day his favorite part of his career as a digital influencer is, “Meeting different people from all walks of life have been the most rewarding moments across my travels. Their stories, their lessons and most often their pains have been the building blocks for my life since college and I don’t think any other experience could be a substitute to that.”

“The Way We Get By” Star Francesca Ravera Prepares for NYC Premiere of “Espresso”

Francesca Ravera
Italian Actress Francesca Ravera shot by Mario Buscaglia

Italian actress Francesca Ravera, who has made a huge mark for herself in the U.S. film and theater industry over the past few years, recently brought her talents back to her home country where she wowed audiences with her lead role as Beth in the acclaimed production of “The Way We Get By.” 

After a hugely successful run at the Urban Stages Theater in New York earlier this year, “The Way We Get By” embarked on an Italian summer tour with performances in Milan, Turin and Genoa. 

Written by American playwright Neil LaBute and directed by Kim T. Sharp, “The Way We Get By” revolves around Beth, played by Ravera,and Doug, two young attractive singles who meet at a drunken wedding reception and end up having sex at the apartment Beth shares with her control freak roommate. However, the intimacy that commences between the two is far from organic, and the underlying root of that is one of the main complexities of the story that makes it so intriguing. 

“Beth is a sweet and sensitive girl who has been hurt by fleeting flings with boys who only wanted her for her body. Used to being seen as an object or a trophy, Beth tries to connect with Doug the only way she knows how- through seduction,” explains Ravera. 

“I enjoyed exploring her needs, her desire to connect with Doug and be free to love him. I dug into her dreams, fears and contradictions.” 

After waking Beth up with his insomniac fidgeting, Doug deflects her sexual advances and she reveals that they share a surprising bond from the past. Beyond this startling discovery, we also learn that Beth is dealing, or in the moment, not dealing, with a riddled sexual history where, having been previously objectified by men, she’s learned to rely upon her sexuality as her only way to connect.

“The role [of Beth] called for an actor who could commit to the moment while still having a complicated, conflicting history she needed to access as the action shifted,” explains director Kim T. Sharp. 

A sexy and fast-paced rom com about love, lust and life, there’s no doubt about it, Francesca Ravera was the perfect actress to play the starring role of Beth in the production.

“It was fabulous to see [Francesca] unlock one moment after another as she found the foundation of Beth. When the action shifted and Beth was faced with her past it was both surprising and, yet, understandable. Francesca brought Beth’s two worlds together in a richly satisfying way.”

Francesca Ravera
Actress Francesca Ravera shot by Giada Lefebvre

“The Way We Get By” depended heavily on Ravera, and her performances in both Italy and the U.S. did not disappoint.

“In addition to her talent and commitment, she possessed a presence on stage. ‘Presence’ is an elusive quality that keeps the audience engaged even when the actor is not talking, moving or doing business; the audience is simply drawn to the character,” says Sharp. 

“In my experience as a director, it is a rare and intriguing quality that even very talented actors don’t have access to. Francesca’s presence was an essential part of the success of the project.”

For Ravera, who moved to the States a few years ago, where she has little expectations other than to complete her training and become a better actor, coming back to Italy with the production of “The Way We Get By,” which was performed in English, is like coming full circle.

“When I moved to New York I was focusing on what I had to give and offer, as a person, and as an actor. Little did I know back then that so many offers would come my way here in the U.S.,” admits Francesca. “‘I began feeling, every day, overwhelming gratitude, which translated into an urge to give even more. It was about then that this amazing opportunity opportunity came my way, and I was able to bring my work, and the work of an incredible American Playwright, to Europe, and perform it in its original language.”

In addition to illustrious list of powerful theatrical performances, Ravera has been praised internationally for her film work. She recently took home numerous Awards for Best Actress from the Oniros Film Awards, Care Awards, the Diamond Film Awards, Best Actor Award, Milestone Worldwide Film Festival, Mindfield Film Festival Albuquerque, Five Continents International Film Festival, and Los Angeles Film Awards for her titular role in the dramatic film Claire. 

Actress Francesca Ravera
Actress Francesca Ravera shot by Claudio Catania

Directed by Andrea Silvestro and produced by Adrama, which  Ravera previously worked with on the film Ulysses: A Dark Odyssey, where she shared the screen with four-time Primetime Emmy nominee Danny Glover, Claire tells the story of a young woman who is trying to hold on to a failing relationship despite knowing deep down that her fiance no longer loves her.

Claire screened in July at the at the Venus Italian Film Festival in Las Vegas, where Ravera took home yet another Award for Best Actress, as well as the at the Chain Film Festival last month. 

Up next for the actress is the production of Canadian playwright Lucia Frangione’s “Espresso,” which is slated to run in New York in 2020. 

Earlier this month “Espresso” had its first NYC premiere via a staged reading at Urban Stages Theatre in NYC directed by Kim T. Sharp, who directed Ravera in “The Way We Get By,” where it earned powerful and positive reviews. 

UK media outlet The 730 Review writes, “Clever banter and meticulous metaphors abound in Ms. Frangione’s bold and brilliant script, yet no word ever feels misplaced, forced, or indulgently included for the sake of ostentatiousness. The actors confidently give convincing performances, no matter the role they are playing in any given moment.”

Francesca Ravera
Jesse Koehler & Francesca Ravera in the Staged Reading of “Espresso” by ACV Photography

“Espresso” revolves largely around Ravera’s character Rosa Dolores, a first generation Canadian, and her Italian family. In fact, Ravera takes on three pivotal and starkly different roles in the production, the first as Rosa, the co-narrator of the story and the daughter of the now hospitalized patriarch Vito, her grandmother Nonna, and her stepmother Cinzella. 

Ravera says, “This story is inspired by the playwright’s life, and I could feel this. ‘Espresso’ is a generous and beautifully written gift, filled with humanity and passion. It makes you laugh, and cry, and ache and think, and hope. It’s a blessing for me to have been cast in it.”

Ravera plays opposite Jesse Koehler, who interchangeably takes on the roles of Vito, Jesus and Amante, who serves as both the Holy Spirit and a symbol of Eros.

A passionate story about family values, religion, oppression and transformation centered around three women very different women in need of deep healing, “Espresso” is definitely one production theatre goers won’t want to miss. 

 

Guitarist in the Spotlight: Agam Timor of the Barns Courtney Band

Agam Timor
Guitarist Agam Timor shot by Monika Wilczynska

While the frontman in a band usually gets most, if not all, of the media’s attention, the bands we love would not be what they are without the integral contributions of the rest of the members. When it comes to the guitar stylings and overall musical contributions of Israeli musician Agam Timor, his are ones that deserve exponential recognition.

You may know Timor as the lead guitarist for the Barns Courtney band, whom he’s been touring the globe with for the past year. Signed to Capitol Records, the band has skyrocketed to international acclaim in recent years with sold out shows and several of their singles topping the charts.

“After so many gigs together, almost every night, it creates a really warm environment, like a family,” says Timor.

Timor’s rhythmic fluidity, precision on the guitar, and mesmerizing stage presence have proven to be a powerful addition to the Barns Courtney band, just as they have for a long list of other bands over the years. While Timor’s talent has helped bring him into the spotlight, his success didn’t just happen overnight. It’s the result of years of dedication and an inexhaustible passion for what he does.

Growing up in Tel Aviv, Israel, Timor discovered his love for music at the budding age of 6. Quickly picking up the violin, piano and saxophone, his passion for music grew, but it was upon discovering his connection with guitar that he found his true love.

“Since I was 12 I never put the guitar down,” admits Timor. “I immediately fell in love with it.”

Most Israeli citizens living in Israel serve in the military at some point in their lives, and while Timor is no different, he served the country in a rather unique capacity. During his three year military service he was the guitarist and arranger for Israel’s military band.

Timor says, “I enjoyed the fact that although people from different places can be very different, love different things and going through different experiences in life before joining the army . They can still go through a similar experience while watching the show, at the end of the day, people want to feel something. They want to feel the energy and forget about the tough day they had on the base”

After completing his military service Timor was free to take his musicianship to new heights and it wasn’t long before he became a national sensation in Israel. He would go onto share stages with some of the country’s most idolized talents, including singer and actress Ruthi Navon, Momi Levi and Moran Mazor, who competed in Israel’s Eurovision Song Contest, Chen Aharoni, who appeared on The X Factor UK, The X Factor Israel and Kokhav Nolad (Israel’s version of American Idol), vocalist Meital De Razon, and many more. Timor would also go on to perform as the house guitarist on the hit series The X Factor Israel, in the hit musical “Mary Lou,” as well as on Sports Channel 5 Israel, where he played the morning show hosted by Slutzki and Dominguez. Timor actually played the morning show on more than one occasion, often being called in to  play a few songs each time with a new rising artist, and then chatting with the hosts on air about life and music.

Agam Timor
Agam Timor shot by Arielle Kassulke

“I assume that any musician that keeps practicing and listening to music eventually would play great. The difference between being a professional and an amateur is pretty much the attitude and the amount of dedication one has to the project, always aim higher and keep evolving your craft,” says Timor.

Though there is definitely substantial truth in the age old saying ‘practice makes perfect,’ few will make it quite as far as Timor has over the span of his short life no matter how much they practice. At age 26, he has already proven himself to be among the world’s top guitarists. With his virtuosic talent, it’s not surprising that Timor was accepted to the Berklee College of Music, one of the most competitive music schools out there. Not only was he accepted, but he was given a scholarship, a rare award that few receive, and in 2018 he went on to graduate Summa Cum Laude.

While Timor’s strength and versatility as a guitarist has led him to be tapped to play with a pretty long list of heavy hitters in the music industry, it’s not the spotlight that drives him to perform. Behind the scenes, he is a powerhouse when it comes to writing and arranging music, and he’s used his talents in that area to create music for other artists over the years. In 2014 he worked alongside legendary producer Luis Lahav on the album for artist Or Colenberg.

“For this project I recorded all the guitars and arranged the album with my colleagues Amit Shtriker and Tom Lahav. I will never forget this project and how much we felt involved in the recorded music,” recalls Timor. “The most incredible thing is to add your own personal taste to someone else’s music and watch it become something whole.”

Another project that Timor holds dear to his heart was when he recorded the album Beit-Aba with the artist Doron Raphaeli, the founder of the popular music group Tararam.

“We spent days in the studio working on this album, I especially remember the day when we recorded the guitar solo for ‘Aguim’ that it was so late at night and Doron fell asleep in the control room while the engineer and I finished recording the song.”

With a plethora of cultural influences and experience playing diverse genres such as pop, funk, r&b, blues-rock, gospel, middle-eastern, fusion and jazz, Timor brings the full-package to the table as both a guitarist and arranger.

“When I work with artists, I first try to understand their character and what I can add from my perspective that would complement their music. When I succeed in doing that I feel that’s when the artist is being satisfied the most. Add your flavor to the same field.”

Last year Timor made another huge mark in the Israeli music industry when he was tapped to compose the intro for Omer Adam’s show, which was the first concert to be performed at the Sammy Ofer Stadium and was a sold out success. Having competed on the series Kokhav Nolad, and releasing four hit albums over the last few years, Omer Adam is arguably one of Israel’s most famous contemporary artists.

Timor admits, “I got amazing comments about the musical intro to his show and how much it enhanced Omer’s character as an artist.”

Though playing in shows such as the celebrated Israeli musical “Mary Lou” have led Agam Timor to become a celebrity in Israel, and his role in the Barns Courtney Band has led him to play in front of hundreds of thousands of fans across the globe, what Timor enjoys most is the simple art of creating music.

Guiding his life and career by the famous quote, “Do what you love, and you will never work a day in your life,” Timor is an inimitable pro at doing what he loves and doing it in a big way.

Beyond Augmented Reality

Written by Director of Emerging Technology Dan Phillips

Article by Dan Phillips

Reality is subjective. Not everyone or everything experiences the world in the same way. Sometimes differences are subtle, sometimes markedly extreme. Whether it’s how you react to an election result, hear a tone in a song, or taste a delicious dish, see a rainbow, observable reality and consistency of perception is often not as objective as we think it is.

Emerging technologies such as augmented and mixed reality will over time further expand and blur this line of perception. With AR on mobile devices and head-mounted displays, we’re well within the beginnings of what it means to live an augmented life. Humans are doing a lot of fun things right now, like bringing gaming into our physical world and making our faces into playthings of fun with endless filters and enhancements and props. We’re also starting to find utility for AR in enterprise and education and in customer experience, and with the emergence of hardware designed for specific applications in business.

But AR is not just about the future of vision changing. AR can be the technological prism through which we see the world, but for humans it will also become the common device for the combined knowledge of the species. We will expand our tech parameters beyond display technology to deeper integration with machine learning and artificial intelligences and instantly searchable databases. We will tap into the power of 5G connectivity and beyond to create new merged physical environments. We will be able to intuitively read the reactions of people we encounter based on the dilation of each other’s pupils and the pulses under our skin. Opinions and choices will be made through instantly accessible shared data. Want to make a key purchase, for example? Analyze the salesperson’s biometric response to your questions, and scan satellite imagery to see how much bargaining power you have based on how long the product has remained on the shelf.

Magic Leap, Microsoft’s Hololens and much anticipated but never confirmed moves into the wearable space by Apple give us mainstream hardware for AR. We also have next generation AR-enabled spectacles and contact lenses on the near horizon, or perhaps we will just jump straight to implants and nerve-driven control systems. If that sounds ridiculous and farfetched to you consider how the inventors of past innovations in spectacles could not have anticipated our use of laser corrected vision or human-computer interfaces used in experimental therapy today. If we think the oblong devices we carry in our pockets are the end of screen interface technology then we have learned nothing about the power and pace of technology to change and be adopted. Technologists have the free reign to debate the ethics of data driven modification where politicians and bioethicists do not. The question is not if these technologies will change our experience of reality, but how quickly.

Many animals already sense things we can’t and on spectrums not available to humans. Think of that when you put on an AR headset and find yourself motioning to the invisible. Your own visual experience can be completely unseen by the people around you, whilst remaining entirely real to you. What you see and your understanding of it will soon be different from the person next to you, and we will no longer have a common experience of our shared environment. When AR arrives in its fuller and more integrated state, the challenge for our technologically tiered society will be how we stay in sync with one another.

Director Clément Oberto Creates Iconic Music Videos for Grammy Award Winning Artists

French Director Clément Oberto behind the scenes of Gary Clark Jr.’s “Pearl Cadillac” music video Photography by Robin Mir

As fans, we are often wowed by the visual stories within our favorite music videos and taken away by the lyrics of our favorite songs, but we rarely consider the foundational work that goes into bringing these creative visions to fruition. Behind each and every chart-topping music video is a director working diligently to illustrate the music with a visual story. 

French director Clément Oberto, currently based in L.A., is one of the rare creatives whose vision, drive and talent have led him to become the creative force behind numerous award-winning music videos.

Well known for his passion and clear vision, he has caught the attention of millions of viewers. Over the past 15 years he has directed music videos for internationally acclaimed artists, such as Christina Aguilera, Gary Clark Jr. Zhavia, and John Tejada. Along with stylish music videos for French singer Lou for her track “Dans le bleu du ciel“, which already gained over 5 million YouTube streams, and Canadian pop sensation Anjulie feat. Natalia Lafourcade’s hit “Holy Water”.

One project that really turned the heads of fans and the music industry alike was his remarkable work as the director behind the music video for four-time Grammy Award winning indie artist Gary Clark Jr.’s “Pearl Cadillac”.

The soulful track was taken from Clark’s 2019 album “This Land”, which took home the 2020 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album and reached No. 6 on the Billboard Top 200 chart, making it his third consecutive top 10 album debut. 

Clark wrote the track in honour of his mother and the experience of leaving home to embark on his next chapter. In a collaboration that could only be described as ‘serendipitous’, Oberto, who at the time was journaling about his own relationship with his mother, was approached by Warner Record Executive Producer Devin Sarno; who’s known for his work with iconic bands such as Red Hot Chili Peppers, My Chemical Romance and Green Day.  

“I was diaring about the way my mom had led her life and how I wanted to make her proud, and within 5 minutes after writing this, Devin reached out with the song; asking if I was interested,” he recalls. “There was no way I wasn’t going to book that job. It was perfect timing.”

Oberto shot the video in classic black and white on 35mm film, creating a nostalgic and overall harmonic sensation to enhance the moving lyrics.

“I wanted to create a metaphorical video that would highlight memories of childhood and the passage towards adulthood while reflecting on the support Gary received from his mom,” he says. “I wanted the video to be like the song, poetic and soft, while also giving justice to that epic guitar solo.”

He used smoke and light to add symbolism to the video, which made it stand out and take home 9 awards at renowned global festivals including Best Music Video at the U.K.’s Ramsgate Film Festival and Best Cinematography at the Black Bird Film Festival in New York. 

Oberto having a laugh with Gary Clark Jr. on the set of “Pearl Cadillac”
Photography by Robin Mir

Along with directing and editing the video, he was also responsible for designing the original concept and storyline, while also building a stellar crew.

“I care to create strong relationships with my team. I surround myself with talent that I admire and I communicate a lot with them to make sure we are all on the same page,” Oberto shares. 


“There is nothing better than feeling that everyone gets you, and has your back to make sure your vision comes to life accordingly, or even better than what you imagined. For Pearl Cadillac I proposed the 35mm format and the idea of shooting the car in a studio with plates of the road projected on screens, like they used to do back in the days. This way we’d be able to have Gary laying down on the hood as the car drives by itself, without taking risks for his safety.”  

Clark shared in an interview with Billboard that it was his first video in 35mm black and white film and that “Clément was really passionate about telling the story of ‘Pearl Cadillac’.”

Producer Roger Mayer (“Antibirth,” “The Rambler”), who collaborated with Oberto on the videos for both Gary Clark Jr. and Anjulie feat. Natalia Lafourcade, shares that “Clément adds a flair unlike so many of his peers that elevates the project to an art piece… Working with Clément is a dream, he is a confident and determined filmmaker with a clear vision, and is able to communicate that to everyone working on the projects he’s attached to.”

Oberto’s ability to expedite an entire music video in record time and remain in control while bringing the artists’ vision to life are key factors that have led to his remarkable success.

In June 2020, while the world was adjusting to the unexpected global shifts of Covid-19, he directed the stunning music video for five-time Grammy Award winning pop sensation Christina Aguilera’s tracks “Reflection / Loyal Brave True.” 

The powerful song was the promotional single for the 2020 live action remake of the classic Walt Disney film “Mulan,” which was noted as Oscar worthy by Rolling Stone Magazine. 

Oberto was brought on board, not just for his unique visual identity, but also due to the fact that the entire project needed to be overturned in a matter of days in order to coincide with Aguilera’s highly anticipated live performance on “Good Morning America.”

He was approached by Grammy Award winning video producer Jamie Rabineau, the founder of Lark Creative, who’s best known for producing Kendrick Lamar’s critically acclaimed 2017 music video “Humble.” 

“The main challenge was the timing, combined with the Covid safety guidelines. To make sure everything would be safe and ready for us to shoot in a couple of days, and that we’d go over the post production process in a heartbeat,” Oberto shares. “We managed those challenges by working in confidence, hand in hand with my producer Boris Labourguigne at Left. He really made magic happen and got everything working tightly. As for Christina, it was pure bliss. She was very professional and easy to work with.” 

Proving that he is a highly adaptable and humble director, Oberto applied a simple yet highly effective approach to the aesthetics of the video, using a few pieces of floating fabric in order to shine a light on Aguilera’s signature vocals.

“I usually create concepts and aesthetics to highlight the artist and the song. We spend a lot of time building sets and working on light, effects, transition, framing… We make sure everything feels magical,” he says. “With this project it was more simple, focused on the performance and not that much on the aesthetic. My job here was more about not trying to add complications by demanding, or wanting too much.” 

Reaping over 2.6 million views on YouTube and 5 million viewers on “Good Morning America,” the music video’s end result was flawless, and it once again proved Oberto’s ability to transform an artist’s vision into reality. 

His outstanding directorial achievements on both Gary Clark Jr. and Christina Aguilera’s music videos were created with Boris Labourguigne, who is the founder and president of Left Productions, an award winning video production company with offices in Paris, Los Angeles and London.

Clément is really involved in every project from the creation to the delivery. He’s able to create a really strong relationship with clients, labels, and artists. He puts all his energy and talent to find the best solutions to do the best video possible,” says Labourguigne. 

“He’s also super flexible and can work on a large scope of projects. He loves to be challenged, and is always open to discovering new territories, new talents, new brands, new styles. It is very stimulating to collaborate with him.” 

In 2018 Oberto was also the leader behind the mysterious music video for American songwriter Zhavia’s debut single “Candlelight,” which is a bluesy R&B ballad about persevering through adversity. 

Zhavia, who has over 3.2 million followers on Instagram, had just signed with Columbia Records, one of the most prestigious labels and home for iconic artists such as Beyonce, Adele, John Mayer, Mariah Carey, Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd and Pharrel Williams. 

Honoring Zhavia’s artistic mission to motivate her fans to express their emotions while working towards their goals, the video required a thoughtful director who could turn the song into a stunning visual story. 

Record producer Jenna Andrews, who’s known for her songwriting collaborations with Lily Allen, Noah Cyrus and BANKS, approached Oberto not only to conceptualize a video that would personify the heartfelt lyrics, but here again to deliver the project in a matter of days. 

“We had to pull everything together in a heartbeat. We shot overnight, 3h from LA and created the proxies for the editor in the car on our way back to the city, so we could have our first cut on the exact same day,” he says. “It was an adventure, people at Sony and Columbia were skeptical about us delivering in time, but we did.” 

His savvy leadership allowed production to maintain the strict filming schedule, to capture every single shot in record time and to deliver the video only 5 days. 

He shares, “That was pretty wild for me. More than anything I’m happy that I was able to be there for Zhavia, to help the team in that crazy tight deadline and to sign her first single’s music video was really rewarding.”

Upon its release, the single became #1 worldwide on iTunes, along with the music video garnering a whopping 32.7 million streams and trending at #5 on YouTube.

Given the incredible demands that came with the active production, Oberto’s expertise in delivering such a brilliant final result was highly commended, not only by the record label’s executive heads, but also across the music industry. 

“From the very beginning it was clear that Clément was a true visionary, whose concepts and ideas were incredible… him and his entire team were true magicians from the first meeting to the final product. He went above and beyond to deliver under a very tight deadline from the record label and he didn’t let us down,” says Zhavia’s manager and platinum award-winning artist and producer, Thomas Barsoe. “I hope to continue to work with Clément for years to come and can’t recommend him highly enough.”

Oberto’s proven repertoire of success expands far beyond the director’s chair. His entrepreneurial drive also allowed him to grow within the bustling entertainment industry. In 2020 he launched Creative Film Awards, an LA based music video, short film and fashion film festival that focuses on gathering creatives from all around the world and to create a gateway for promising industry filmmakers to gain recognition. 

“The inspiration came while spending years showcasing my films in festivals. I was thinking how I could do things differently by hosting immersive events and promoting the work of the filmmakers through a community behind the festival,” Oberto shares. “I wanted to create a festival that would feel like a label, something filmmakers could feel proud of being part of, and also help them be seen by well established figures of the industry.”

The festival attracted a stellar line up of industry guest judges, including two-time Grammy award winning music video and film director Matthew Cullen, VP Creative Services at Warner Records and MTV Video Music Award winner Devin Sarno, and French actress Loan Chabanol. 

With his proven track record of success, it seems like Oberto has no plans to slow down anytime soon, in fact it’s quite the opposite. He is currently working on “Voices,” his first feature film, as well as on “Greenroom” a podcast with record producer Jenna Andrews, which focuses on mental health in the music industry. The podcast features popular music figures such as Tegan and Sara, Upsahl, Rebecca Black, Parson James, Verité, Kiesza and many more. 


With all this in mind, it’s fair to say that Clément Oberto is an unstoppable industry force whose diverse talents and relentless desire to bring stories to life will continue to captivate a global audience for a long time to come. So stay tuned.

The Ever-Expanding Lens of Chinese Photographer Jiayi Liang

Photographer Jiayi Liang with runway photographer Dan Lecca (left)

Standing ready to capture the magic of any moment, Chinese photographer Jiayi Liang is always looking for her next shot. With professional experience spanning years of brand campaigns, documentary filmmaking, and high-profile fashion photography, Liang has proven that no subject is outside of the scope of her photographic prowess—which she has been cultivating for a lifetime.

From a young age, Liang was encouraged to explore her natural proclivity for visual arts by her mother, who was herself a painter. Growing up in this artistic environment gave Liang freedom to creatively interpret the world through her own eyes. She soon became engrossed in motion pictures, and began her relationship with photography during high school. Since then, she’s never stopped shooting. 

Of course, there are many people who take up photography as a hobby or a means to capture memories. Liang, however, became obsessed with understanding the craft and its nuances; with mastering the interplay of light and shadow; and with capturing emotion to eternalize the moments she experienced.

“When you view a photograph, you can experience the feelings of that moment, even after many years,” Liang mused. “I think the meaning of photography is very important—it is a medium through which the moment becomes eternal.”

Since receiving her Master of Fine Arts Degree in Filmmaking and Cinematography from the New York Film Academy in 2014, Liang has professionally expressed her philosophical approach to photography across an impressive array of projects spanning multiple high-profile industries in New York City.

One of Liang’s more recent and prestigious career accomplishments was her coveted role as a photographer at the internationally-renowned and highly exclusive New York Fashion Week. Each year at New York Fashion Week, more than 250 of the industry’s top designers gather to present their latest collections with the world. Attendance to this high-profile event is by invitation only, and press credentials are given out on an extremely selective basis. Due to the merit of her work, however, Liang was one of the incredibly talented photographers chosen to shoot New York Fashion week.

“Being invited to photograph New York Fashion Week felt like a rare opportunity to document history,” reminisced Liang. “It was also a chance to glance into the future of the fashion industry by photographing the next quarter’s trends.”

From 2019 to 2020, Liang covered runway shows, backstage moments, presentations, private shoots, capturing the collections and styles of international fashion icons on behalf of VRAI Magazine, an American publishing house and digital fashion magazine with international readership. VRAI Magazine recruited Liang as their chosen photographer for both the New York Fashion Week and New York Bridal Fashion Week events during this period.

Jiayi Liang – Official Mori Lee Photographer at New York Bridal Fashion Week

In addition to her undeniable ability to convey the attitude and grace of high fashion through her photography, Liang also has a proven track record of helping big brands bring their vision to life. Suki Eyewear and Mott & Bayard Eyewear, two of the biggest eyewear brands in New York City, called upon Liang in 2018 to manage their photo shoots, promotional video shoots, and lookbook creation on an ongoing basis.

“Jiayi Liang often finds different perspectives and gives her images new meanings,” said Kenneth Ma, Owner of Suki Eyewear and Mott & Bayard. “Each time I finish working with her, I look forward to starting our next project together.”

Through her years at this position, which she currently holds, Liang has earned nothing but praise for her work, which includes seven campaigns for the Suki Eyewear and Mott & Bayard brands. By using her fresh and unique perspective behind the camera, Liang has been able to capture the very essence of these brands and portray them in a natural light, resulting in a win for Ma’s business.

“I’ve been using the images and footage Liang created everywhere for my stores, websites and social media,” mentioned Ma. “I saw a big impact for both of my brands after the photos and videos were released.”

Photo by Jiayi Liang

Liang doesn’t just lend her talents to big clients—she also believes in making an impact in the lives of young artists. Since 2018, Liang has been a photography instructor at the Rising Star Photography Society, a photography club for teenagers based in Princeton, New Jersey. Beyond just teaching technical skills, Liang aims to ignite a long-lasting creative spark in her students.

“It is very important to create the right environment for younger kids, because anything could unexpectedly influence them,” said Liang. “Teenagers have incredibly interesting thoughts and ideas, so I encourage them to practice and explore.”

As Liang continues to push her craft forward, both as an artist and a professional, the lens through which she interacts with photography expands to include new skills and perspectives. With an already inspiring portfolio and list of career accomplishments, Jiayi Liang is poised to capture the imaginations of not only her clients, but also her students and anyone fortunate enough to appreciate her body of work.

Prog-Rock Group Herd of Bison’s Marisol Echegoyen on the Band’s Upcoming Release

  What have you done in the time since the Covid lockdown started? Did you get into shape, binge watch multiple seasons of a show, become a better cook? For most of the music world which exists upon its interaction with and audience, the world simply stopped in early 2020. Adamant that they would make proper use of this forced pause, the reputable band Herd of Bison has been recording and preparing for the eventual return to performing in front of people. Far from the single-driven ethos so prevalent in the music industry, the band’s upcoming release is a concept album (yes, album!) of songs about how COVID has changed young people’s lives. Comprised of a group of young musicians from across the world, Herd of Bison speaks authentically through this album which is in fact being currently recorded from the group’s members in different locations. It’s hard to think of any music that might more accurately communicate the reality of a young person’s perspective on the once in a generation experience of the past year.

  The current record by Herd of Bison is not their first but it definitely signifies a new sound for the band. The group’s 2017 release “Of Course We’ve Heard of Them” is all instrumental. The addition of soloist-vocalist Marisol Echegoyen vastly expands the emotive spectrum of the band. An much-admired singer from Mexico who is deeply rooted in Jazz, Gospel, Latin Pop, Salsa, Rock, Musical Theatre, Mexican Folk, and Country, Echegoyen brings an influx of styles for this already highly experimental Prog-Rock band. Producer/composer/drummer Ben Lokuta, along with Nirupam Pratapgiri (guitar), Drae Dunning (rhythm guitar), William Bartholomew (guitar), and Sean Horvath (bass), approached the singer having been impressed by her abilities and international acclaim. Because the band has such an expansive palette of influences, Marisol’s ability to adapt to any genre made her the ideal vocalist for the music of Herd of Bison.

  It’s been noted often that the musicians of the Covid era, especially the younger ones, will have a wealth of emotions and insight to relate in what they create. As a vocalist, Marisol Echegoyen feels the responsibility and opportunity that her talent has placed her within. She relates, “The most important thing for me when singing is to tell a story and connect with listeners emotionally. In Herd of Bison, I want to tell the story of how COVID changed young people’s lives like mine. Every note that I sing will be to interpret that. The album is about the toll COVID took over our social life, mental health, family relationships, freedom, and sense of time passing by. When Covid happened, it seemed as if everyone’s lives stopped. At first, I felt scared because I did not know what was going to happen with me as a performer. Places closed and suddenly there wasn’t anywhere to perform. There were no gigs. I didn’t know when the pandemic would end. Foolishly expected it to last only a few months, I remained hopeful and excited for things to get back to normal. At the same time, it was mostly bad news in the media all about covid, deaths, police brutality, riots, impeachments, furloughs, unemployment…. It was emotionally draining. Home was my safe space before the pandemic started, after that it was my jail.” Remove the word “Covid” and these statements sound like they originated with the great music artists of the 60’s. It seems intuitive that today’s artists like Marisol and her band find themselves engulfed in a torrent of emotional experiences that are unique to any time in the past century.

  Like so many of us, Marisol Echegoyen looks forward to a return to a world of public gatherings that include concerts and other entertainment events. In addition to her work with Herd of Bison, Marisol is preparing for collaborations with Film Composer Daniele Truocchio (winner of the Best Soundtrack Award at the Valle d’Itria Film Festival as well as his work for TV series on CW, CBS, Warner Horizon Television, the History Channel, Warner Bros, and TNT) as well as her friend RnB/Pop singer/dancer Amber Olivia Kiner known for her appearance at the BET Stellar Awards with gospel-recording artist Earnest Pugh and at sold-out shows with superstar Beyonce’s Original All-Female Band.

Grant Lyndon: Juggling more than acting and his recent award-win

A sit-down editorial profile of Australian actor Grant Lyndon reveals many things for our readers. In this story, sit back, relax and get an insight into the core of what motivates an acclaimed artist and family man. 

Being able to effortlessly move between accents – American & British being his most called upon – award-winning Australian actor Grant Lyndon finds this opens up a wide range of opportunities to be the voice of many iconic brands, in addition to the father’s glittering on-screen career. 

Grant Lyndon and wife Vanessa Gray on the red carpet. Lyndon recently won an award from the New York International Film Awards.

With a newly achieved award under his belt, Grant is quickly standing out more and more by the minute. The Aussie favourite was recently awarded a ‘Best Actor’ prize by the Grand Jury at the New York International Film Awards.

While this may have been for his on-screen work, Grant’s equally known as being the voice of a number of high-rating TV series, ensuring Australians viewers are very familiar with Lyndon’s talents.

It’s apparent to anyone watching the series Aussie Lobster Men that the whole tone and feel of the show would be far less ‘Aussie’ without Lyndon’s distinct narration.

With M&C Saatchi, Grant voiced a whole summer of fresh alcohol offers in their national radio campaign. The iconic and international advertising agency network, founded back in 1995, boasts a $200 million valuation and its success is something for which Lyndon continues to benefit. Once he was in with the fold of their ad execs, the work hasn’t stopped. 

Suffice to say, he’s left an indelible mark on the portfolio of campaigns produced at M&C Saatchi and undoubtedly played an incredibly important role at the renowned company.

Ultimately, it’s clear that Lyndon has the power to make simple words sound much more meaningful than what’s on the page. There’s a belief & confidence in the messages he voices. This is a very strong card for a brand to play, when both building and maintaining a deep relationship with their audience. 

As Lyndon’s colleagues reiterate, the ABC network wouldn’t be what it is, were it not for Lyndon’s contributions over the years – starting all the way back with Rogue Nation. Grant’s role in that series quintessentially encapsulated the great and formative time in Australian history portrayed by the show, and Grant’s role reinforced his reputation as one of the few go-to actors to accurately be able to portray historical figures on screen for iconic Australian historical chapters. 

Indeed, Lyndon was irreplaceable in the highly-rating drama, ‘House of Bond’, which aired on Channel Nine. 

Lyndon in the acclaimed Channel Nine drama series, ‘House of Bond.’

Grant’s deep connection to the role of Warren Jones (after much personal research) and his ability to display the truth of the way that he sees the world thoroughly upheld the artistic quality of Channel Nine’s acclaimed mini series. 

This approach to work allows Grant to connect his acting to his real-life as well. He devotedly helps train beginner actors to reach their career potential. 

When Grant is not playing roles on screen, his belonging to the top-tier of the industry is reflected in regular invitations to run voice-over masterclass final year actors at NIDA, one of the world’s leading drama schools (and where Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett also attended). 

Lyndon’s also a VIP guest speaker at the International Screen Academy for graduates in getting industry ready, and a guest teacher at Toni Higginbothom casting.

Although Grant is inspired by many different facets in his life, the main motivator, as he says are his children. Such is reflected in how he dives deeper into fatherhood with his podcast ‘BusyDads’, where he explains how being a parent wholeheartedly is the center of his life.  

“I’m super excited about what’s ahead for me. I’m at a stage of my life where I’m more comfortable in my skin than I’ve ever  been, and most importantly, my family backs me 100%.”

Lyndon elaborates on the current industry landscape, as it recovers from COVID-19.

“There are so many great opportunities to play roles that are outside of the safe casting choices of the traditional media platforms. The diversity in storytelling that the streaming services allow for, really lights me up inside. Actors now have the opportunity to play characters outside of the known, and are collaborating to create and tell stories that are literally changing the world.”

Giving Life Through the Camera: Cinematographer Vittoria Campaner

(Cinematographer Vittoria Campaner)

            The camera is mighty! Able to sway the masses or speak to an individual’s innermost thoughts, film has altered the human mind in relation to all things. There’s nothing grandiose about this statement. The emotional power of the camera to move us is proven by the still and moving images embraced collectively by us all as a species. Italian cinematographer Vittoria Campaner recognized the magic of moving images early on and has committed her life to channeling it in order to relay messages of importance and inspiration to enlightened audiences. Her wielding this skill so masterfully has enabled her directors/collaborators to materialize the impactful messages to which all storytellers aspire. While still exhibiting her own proficiency and artistry, Campaner uses her visual sense to amplify the voice of the story. “The films I shoot are rarely conventional in their design,” proclaims Vittoria, who is known for her affinity for the long take and inclination to risk taking. “The directors I collaborate with,” she continues, “know this early. Ultimately, I believe that a DP must adapt in service to the story. The director’s vision must become my bible before I bring in my beliefs and thoughts. My work alters and mutates with each collaboration. Thus, my style can be present but should not dominate.”

            Director Liang Zhao wanted to create a film as a love letter to her hometown of Guiyang, China; a film about how people can change in one’s absence. From A Distance shows how those you knew so well can seem unrecognizable and strange upon reintroduction. Understanding that the visual element of this story was demanding, Zhao acquired Campaner as cinematographer for the film. The tale follows a college girl named Yuan Yuan who returns home but, instead of rushing to greet her loved ones, embarks on a spying expedition following a couple and seeking to uncover the secrets they keep from each other. Following the protagonist’s POV closely, the camera indulges playfully in voyeuristic intrigue creating anticipation for a looming surprise. Through Vittoria’s visual contributions, we learn about these characters’ personalities and the connection between them as they engage in their everyday activities. As the DP explains: “We opted to make use of long takes to convey the sense of voyeurism and to play with expectations. What is our protagonist looking for? We also understand the limitations to what a voyeur can see. The camera can only tilt and pan, so vital information may be hidden behind walls. Looking at the neighbourhood from a fixed position, we wanted to make the audience a participant in this young woman’s gaze and to convey the curiosity she feels towards her former community, whom she views without judgment. This POV approach is reversed near the end of the film when Yuan Yuan herself becomes the subject of our gaze.” From A Distance is an Official Selection of this year’s Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, La Guarimba Film Festival, Flicker Rhode Island International Film Festival, and Bogotá Short Film Festival.

            With director/actress Fabianne Therese Gstottenmayr, known for her work on the films Playing It Cool (starring People’s Choice Award Winning actor Chris Evans aka Captain America of the Marvel franchise) and John Dies at the End (starring Oscar Nominated Actor Paul Giamatti), Campaner collaborated on the absurdist romantic drama The Ex, currently in post-production. Starring Odessa Young and Monica Lek, The Ex is a near hyperbolic tale of the irresistible pull a former lover can elicit. The chase becomes literal as one woman pursues the other throughout the city. Award winning actress Odessa Young, one of the film’s two leads, espouses the positive benefits of working with a cinematographer of such consummate skill, declaring: “When I met Vitto her reputation as a cinematographer preceded her. She’s as deft and sensitive behind the camera as she is in real life, in her friendships and as a creator. Vitto is down for anything and her energy and dedication are palpable on set. She’s one of those alchemists with light and image who makes a small budget and a crew of friends feel like an affair of the highest caliber. I’d let Vitto film me any day.”

            Once the Covid lockdown expires and the film industry resumes, Campaner is already set to take the cinematographer’s chair for a duo of tense yet drastically different feature films. For director Jamil Munoz she will DP Muslimah, a story about an American convert to Islam who falls in love with a Somali cab driver, which results in a complicated and forbidden romance. Bryant Terrell Griffin, well known for his decade-long tenure at Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light and Magic – where he contributed to films by George Lucas, Steven Speilberg, Gore Verbinski, Guillermo Del Toro, and others –, has procured Vittoria as his cinematographer on his Young Kings, which he will direct. Griffin illuminates his reasons for enlisting Campaner as follows: “I’m very visual when it comes to colors, compositions, space, and movement within a frame. Young Kings is an intense character piece in which I want to explore the interiority of the characters. I want to take internal restrained emotions, subtle and complex emotions, and visualize them without dialogue. It’s extremely difficult. That is what Vitto excels at in my opinion. She can take what’s inside and find ways to make it come alive on screen. Not through crazy tricks or camera moves, but subtle changes in POV, camera placement, angles, and lighting. She knows how to capture stillness in a way that is engaging. It’s very, very tough to do.”

           For her part, Vittoria Campaner sees the camera as a communicative tool. Having filmed in so many different parts of the world – from China to Italy to Norway and North America –, Vittoria has cultivated her skill to allow the images and perspectives to transcend any spoken language. The filmmakers who seek her out for their productions recognize her ability to create intimate connections between the characters of these stories as well as the audience, often in a surprising manner.

Producer Kim Shapiro Successfully Merges Creativity and Business Behind the Scenes

On set with Kim Shapiro – Photographer: Scott Hansen

It takes a unique individual to not only run a successful production in the modern entertainment industry, but also make sure it’s delivered on time. Being able to raise the necessary funding and keep the production on budget, while also managing an entire crew and ensuring the client is happy with the end result, are all key for a producer, all of which are skills producer Kim Shapiro has in spades.

A talented producer, Shapiro is best known for his ability to bring the creative visions of brands such as L’Oreal, Johnny Walker and FaceTune to life through eye-catching commercials. He has also made a powerful name for himself in the world of music videos as the part of the production team behind Nikki Vianna’s “Mambo,” which has nearly two million views on Youtube, “One Life” from internationally acclaimed music duo DJ Aron and Beth Sacks, as well as Eliya Sinai’s “Girls Like You” and Aviv Terner’s “Azman Azal.”

The music video for the recent hit track “One Life” by music producer DJ Aron feat. Beth Sacks, which was produced by Shapiro, was a whopping success, gaining over 110,000 YouTube hits in just two weeks. 

Since its world premiere on September 26, the dynamic pop video has earned rave reviews within the dance and LGBT community, with thousands of fans from around the globe dubbing the hit track as “the new anthem.” 

“The vibe of the music video is very fun, and yet emotional.” Shapiro says, “It has aspects of the LGBT community as the artist DJ Aron is a very big DJ in this community. The music video also shows a bit of a connection to the Black Lives Matter [movement].”

The track was written during the early stages of the intense Covid-19 lockdown as a way for the artists to give back to their devoted fans while keeping their hopes alive during the challenging times.

Considering the powerful message behind the lyrics, the team responsible for bringing the video to life required a clear understanding of the artists’ creative vision, something Shapiro has excelled in time and time again with all of the artists he’s worked with.

“DJ Aron and his partner Beth Sacks, are both well known and they’re amazing artists,” says Shapiro. “When I heard the song they wanted the music video for, I knew immediately that we were going to make it happen no matter what.”

Known for his focus, diligence and keen awareness of the various wants and needs of all parties involved, Shapiro’s work as the producer behind the project was integral to ensuring that the production flowed on time and came in on budget.

“Some of the challenges were to keep it all on budget,” admits Shapiro. “When I produce any project, I need to consider what the director wants, what my client wants, what the director of photography wants, and to make sure that each of them will get the most out of the shoot.” 

His level-headed approach and effective team management was the driving force that not only led to a phenomenal shoot, but ensured every artist, cast and crew member were completely satisfied. 

Shapiro says, “I feel very good about the end result of the video, I think everyone did an amazing job starting at pre-production and all the way to post-production when we edited the video and released it to the world.”

Don Shapiro (left) DJ Aron and Kim Shapiro (right) on set of “One Life” Music Video shot by Scott Hansen

A real people person at heart, Shapiro knows exactly what it takes to succeed as a producer. With an overwhelming and expansive skill set to his name, he has continued to lead the way for cutting-edge productions in today’s industry. However, it’s his superb business savvy management skills that have set him apart from the rest.

Any good producer will tell you that a detailed budget, which requires constant attention, and the ability to expect the unexpected are essential to managing a production. Through his years of experience, Shapiro has mastered the skill of factoring in every single cost when it comes to budgeting, and he ensures that the money invested is accounted for and well spent. 

He says, “My favorite part about what producers do is dealing with the money, it starts with creating a budget, and then making sure that everything will stay on budget as we move on with the creation of the project.”

His cosmic repertoire of success, which extends to writing, directing and producing, has propelled him to become a highly sought after figure amongst many international brands. Over the years Shapiro has been a key contributor to commercials for multi-billion dollar companies such as Johnnie Walker Scotch Whiskey, the leading French cosmetics company L’Oréal and the recent “Landing on the Moon” commercial for Artgrid, which was inspired by the first spaceship launch to the moon in 1969. 

Launched in 2019 by the founders of the music licensing giant Artlist, Artgrid is one of the world’s largest websites for stock footage, where top cinematographers from around the globe can share their artistry in an authentic way.

He explains, “We booked a location that was built over a 100 years ago and we made everything look as if it actually was from the 60’s.”

To pull off this kind of detailed shoot required a team of experts, and it was Shapiro’s outstanding reputation that landed him the job, alongside his brother and business partner Don.  

He adds, “Artgrid approached my brother and I to produce this project because they saw other stuff we produced before, and they knew that we’d be the perfect team to produce for them.”

The global impact of Covid-19 meant that the director and client were unable to travel to New York for the shoot. 

However, with never being one to shy away from a challenge, Shapiro used his razor-sharp creativity to think outside of the box and adapt to the project’s unique shooting demands

“The main difference between this project and other projects I produced is that this time, my director and client were not physically on the shooting day, they were in Israel, a different country, and they saw everything through a zoom call.” 

Considering the technical skills required to bring a global team together, it was Shapiro’s genius ability to manage every department online that ensured a seamless shoot. 

He continues, “Something very interesting about it was that we had to connect the camera wirelessly to the computer so they’d be able to see exactly what the camera sees live. It was also very interesting to see the director direct the commercial from another country.”

Artgrid were so blown away by the tremendous success of his work, that they re-signed him to produce their next promotional video, which is set to be released later this year.

Artgrid official “Landing on the Moon” commercial produced by Kim Shapiro.

With a long list of incredible achievements to his name, it’s fair to say that Shapiro has truly established himself as one of the industry’s leading production experts.  

His reputation precedes him, with colleagues and friends praising not only his diverse array of talents, but also his light-hearted and welcoming approach to every cast and crew member he meets. 

“Working with Kim is always a fun and yet very professional experience,” says “One Life” production manager Scott Hansen. “He makes everything run smoothly on set and with a very happy mood amongst everyone that we work with.”

A man of many talents, Kim Shapiro has undoubtedly set himself up for an exciting career full of longevity, passion and success.  

“I’m interested in producing projects that I have the feeling that’ll get a big crowd and that I’ll have fun making. I believe that if you enjoy what you do you don’t need to work a day in your entire life, and for that reason, if I can choose, I’ll choose the projects that I’ll enjoy working on the most.”

From animation to action blockbusters: diversity is key to audio engineer Mateo barragan’s success

Mateo Barragan – Photography by Carolina Rizzotto

Becoming a successful and sought after audio engineer in the modern film industry requires someone with a meticulous ear for detail, and the ability to balance the mechanical aspects of the production’s music and overall sound, which includes everything from the sound of rain drops to the actors dialogue.

The audio engineer’s role on a film or TV production is vast and varied, with some projects calling them in to specifically edit the score or the project’s dialogue, and others requiring them to oversee the entire body of sound. Being able to not only solve any technical issues concerning the sound, but also being able to think creatively outside of the box while serving the artistic vision of the production is key.

We needn’t look further than audio engineer Mateo Barragan, who served as the score editor on “Deadpool 2,” to see the vast nature of skill that is required for an engineer to become a successful force in the industry. There’s no question that his mastery of recording, mixing and reproducing sound, all while actively listening to what the artist wants and what best fits the production, have made him stand out in a big way.

Mateo says, “To put it simply, my work as an audio engineer could be divided into three different aspects: recording, editing and mixing.”

Throughout his impressive career, Mateo has worked on everything from engineering the audio on voice-overs for video games and multimedia projects to recording Grammy Award winning albums and editing scores for hit TV series and multi-million dollar films. 

Over the past few years he’s become known for his work as an audio engineer involved in major films such as the Oscar Award winners “First Man” and “La La Land” starring Ryan Gosling, the 2018 comedy “The Spy Who Dumped Me” with Golden Globe nominee Mila Kunis (“Black Swan”), as well as the BAFTA Award winning video game Life is Strange 2 and Vicente Fernandez’s Grammy Award winning album “Un Azteca En EL Azteca.” 

One thing that makes Mateo’s work unique in comparison to most other fields is the degree of difference between his role on one project to the next– which means both his technical knowledge and creative abilities have to be incredibly expansive in order to successfully meet the varying demands of each production.

“I would say that one of my strongest qualities as an engineer is being able to adapt to any of the situations that come in my day to day work. I know there are engineers that focus on one specific type of work and I totally respect that, when I moved to LA I initially just wanted to work in music,” explains Mateo, who has spent the past four years as an audio engineer at Igloo Music Studios.

“Because of the wide range of clients and projects that Igloo Music has, I had to learn from recording a band, editing an orchestra for a movie score to record dialog for an animated series or a video game. Each of these projects have their different workflows but you still need to be able to deliver your best work as an engineer so adapting to all situations is essential.” 

Adaptability, drive and passion have all been key to Mateo’s success. In 2016 Mateo landed a key spot as an audio engineer at Igloo Music (“A Star Is Born,” “Mary Poppins Returns”) founded by five-time Grammy Award winning engineer and producer Gustavo Borner.

It was through Igloo that Mateo was tapped to come on board as the score editor of the hit Marvel film “Deadpool 2” starring Golden Globe nominee Ryan Reynolds (“The Proposal”) and Josh Brolin (“Avengers: Endgame”). 

As the score editor of “Deadpool 2,” which grossed over $785 million dollars worldwide and took home numerous awards including four Golden Trailer Awards, Mateo played an integral role in ensuring the film’s music seamlessly matched up with the final cut viewed by audiences.

“We recorded a full orchestra, percussion plus a choir,” explains Mateo. “It is important to edit the recorded music of a score because we are looking to obtain the best quality of sound for the music while maintaining the musical performance of the musicians.”

Working with a brilliant score composed by Tyler Bates  (“Guardians of the Galaxy,” “John Wick”), it came down to Mateo and the team at Igloo to digitally edit out any background noises while also ensuring the timing of the score matches the necessary parts of the film.

He says, “Regarding timing we have to make sure that the recorded music fits in naturally with all the other elements of the music… [But] it is really important to never ‘over edit’.”

“Deadpool 2” Movie Poster

Following the success of his work on “Deadpool 2,” Mateo was called in as the score editor on the Neil Armstrong biopic “First Man” directed by Damien Chazelle (“La La Land,” “Whiplash,” “10 Cloverfield Lane”).

The critically acclaimed masterpiece, which depicted the life story of American astronaut Neil Armstrong and the legendary space mission that led him to become the first man to walk on the moon, led Mateo to once again work alongside score mixer Nicholai Baxter (“Aladdin,” “The Disaster Artist”), whom he worked with on “Deadpool 2.” 

“On this specific project my role was very demanding because of the tight deadline we had, we needed to edit everything that was recorded immediately,” explains Mateo. 

“To put it in perspective, Nicholai was recording the orchestra at the scoring stage during the day. At night we would receive the recordings, we’d do a backup of the recorded files to our drives and then start editing immediately.” 

Mateo’s meticulous attention to detail, dedication, and ability to quickly solve audio problems once again proved to be integral to delivering a seamless edit for the film’s score. In the end, “First Man” was a major hit, with the film taking home an Oscar Award, as well as over 190 other nominations and 31 awards. 

“Mateo has been part of Igloo music for almost four years now and he has taken part in several projects during this time. We have worked together on a couple of albums such as ‘Un Azteca En El Azteca’ by Mexican artist Vicente Fernandez, two MTV Unplugged Albums/Dvds, and on several films such as ‘Deadpool 2’ and ‘Hobbs and Shaw’,” says Igloo founder Gustavo Borner.

“He is not only a skilled engineer and knowledgeable on the technical aspects needed for each project, but he is also a very dedicated person and always brings a great attitude to the team which is also a very important aspect of working with people.”

Undoubtedly what has set Mateo apart from others is the knowledge and skill that he has developed over the years which has allowed him to easily transition from one project to another. For example, shortly after working as the score editor on the hit films “Deadpool 2” and “First Man,” he was able to pivot his attention and take on the role as the dialog editor on the animated YouTube original series “Sherwood.” 

A refreshing take on the classic tale of Robin Hood created by Diana Manson (“Lucky Break”) and Megan Laughton (“Peter Rabbit”), the series tells the story of 14 year-old Robin and her friends, who embark on an inspiring journey to overcome inequality in a fight for justice.

Mateo Barragan – Photography by Carolina Rizzotto

As the dialog editor of the series Mateo was in charge of making sure the audio was as clear as possible, which meant removing any background or mouth noises from the part of the actors, as well as ensuring that the dialog matched up with the script and the visuals. With millions of views, “Sherwood” was yet another hit program where Mateo’s work as an audio engineer proved invaluable to its success.

“I really enjoy working in voice over projects for series and animations however my passion and love will always be with music,” admits Mateo. “Being in a city like LA gives you the opportunity to meet and collaborate with so many talented musicians, artists and producers.”

With a booming track record of success, Mateo Barragan is a prime example of what it takes to become a powerful force in the industry. At the end of the day, it takes more than just talent to make it as an audio engineer in film and television, it takes the ability to transition between projects and handle various roles with ease, something Mateo has proven time and time again.

Sarah Nasri on Bridging the Gap: by country, and by genre

Upon warmly meeting Sarah Nasri, her personable and empathetic nature is immediately palpable. 

unnamed-4
Sarah Nasri photographed by Savvas Christou

One might think that this energy is what affords her the ability to transcend different cultures and borders around the world with acting in international projects but, ever-so-casually, she informs us that she speaks multiple languages. 

“I’m fluent in more than half a dozen languages including Arabic, Spanish, and French,” she adds with a laugh, “as well as obviously English.”

It’s a combination of this internationalism that clearly imbues within Sarah an inherent understanding of the human experience, a point which lies at the center of any successful actor’s career. It should come as no surprise then that Sarah’s career, in the midst of a global pandemic when people are grappling for stories now more than ever, has continued to thrive. 

Originally from Tunisia, Sarah found a love for acting when she was 17 years old during summer break. After watching Leonardo DiCaprio give an interview and describe his creative process, Sarah was inspired to explore acting and a more artistic career path. 

“Even though I had already been doing it a few years, I discovered a deeper love for acting after leaving the confines of school, one that I was able to refine and cultivate even more with the freedom to explore different topics away from the syllabus.”

She continues. 

“For instance, one of the most vital areas in contemporary aesthetics concerns the experience of so-called “negative” emotions in an engagement with fiction…our imagination is powerful, and acting gives me an opportunity to tap into that.”

Sarah’s childlike curiosity has remained a constant despite the growth she has experienced in her career. Such a quality will undoubtedly serve her well ever since standout performances have attracted the attention of notable Hollywood producers.

One of those performances, for instance, was in the horror film Childhood Chills. Her gripping portrayal as a nun struggling to survive after her best friend has been attacked by an unseen evil, alongside Ashton Solecki and Curt Darling (Devil’s Hallow), is an obvious standout and distinguishes a crucial moment in the arc of the film. In each moment, Sarah echoes the audiences’ obvious terror while maintaining a commitment to her character in each and every extreme close-up frame in which she appears on-screen.

When watching her, Sarah’s particular understanding of how to balance temperament and feeling with advancing the story – never crossing the line of self-indulgence – is readily apparent. It’s a mark of a great actor. 

“Every form of art including acting has to have an arc, it should go up and down just like life. Otherwise, it will seem flat and uninteresting to the viewer,” Sara explains. “I always look for the high, the low and the ‘fake high’ in every script.”

Sarah also explains how she incorporates a variety of approaches to a script, depending on the storyline. 

“I [also] look for the music that I feel supports the atmosphere of the project and create a playlist from that – I find that really helps stimulate ideas about my story and creativity in general. ”

It’s this structured but also malleable attitude to approaching her craft which has not only served Sarah with an understanding of how to work across countries, but also genres too. 

 

Any director who’s worked with her praises her understanding of finding the humour in darkness, and the darkness in humour. 

 

Such is the case with her work in ‘Losing Your Marbles’, in which Sarah appears alongside The Art of Acting star Derick Gonzales. In that project, Sarah portrays a childlike introvert named Jenna, who struggles to overcome the recent death of her mother and is afraid to confront life on her own. In a moment that is incredibly affecting but also challenging and hilarious to watch, Sarah’s character discover’s Forest’s (Derick Gonzalez) love for her and the confusion she faced, whether to welcome him in her new life or not.”  

Screen Shot 2020-07-23 at 2.32.17 pm
Sarah Nasri in the hilarious project, Losing Your Marbles.

“What I like about comedy is that it allows you to criticize and deliver a message in an unapologetic manner. Drama, on the other hand, sheds a light on the dark realities of life.”

Comments such as these point to the universal relevance of Sarah’s mission as an artist, and her burgeoning curiosity in the American market – the American market’s curiosity in her.

“I’ve been fortunate to have been offered contracts to work in America, so I’m excited to contribute to the industry and connect with fresh stories, especially in the aftermath of COVID-19.”

As the entertainment industry looks to recover past a year marked by struggle, fresh stories – and exciting talent – are indeed in demand.

unnamed-1
While visiting Los Angeles for meetings and official events, Sarah was invited to exclusive premieres (pictured right).

Everything you ever wanted to know about Hollywood's who's-who.