An Early Love for Design Led to Saif Al-Sobaihi’s Celebrated Cinematographic Career

 

Saif Al-Sobaihi
Cinematographer Saif Al-Sobaihi

While many cinematographers find their way into the field through photography and other areas of filmmaking, cinematographer Saif Al-Sobaihi, who’s made a powerful name for himself in the U.S. film industry and abroad in recent years, initially found his way to the craft through a love of visual art and design.

“I used to collect a lot of visual books, especially interior design books,” Saif explains. “I just loved looking at the lighting, composition and the smooth design… At that point I had no idea what cinematography was.”

Growing up in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Saif immersed himself in design at a young age, swiftly developing an acute visual eye and an unparalleled attention to detail. His boundless creativity  even led him to be recognized by his country whilst elementary school when he earned the First Prize Award in the Saudi Arabian national painting competition “Homeland in the Eyes of Our Children.”

Constantly collecting photographs and books focused on visual design, those roots eventually taught him to recognize such things as the interplay of objects in a room, how to achieve an aesthetic balance, and the way the light or lack there of sets the mood, have been key to his success in the film world.

As the cinematographer of highly praised films such as “La Calvita,” “El Circo,” “Pinwheel,” “SKEMO” and others, his unique ability to blend the technical and creative sides of his work in the field of filmmaking shine through flawlessly.

“Some cinematographers are more artistic and others are more technical… To me cinematography is a balance that can’t be defined. It’s a field where creativity, energy, personalities, obstacles, and the importance of timing overlap on set,” explains Saif. “Just like the way harmony in music supports the melody and provides its texture and mood, cinematography supports and even creates the texture and mood within the stories we see on screen.”

Saif has earned extensive accolades for his film work, with “Pinwheel” garnering him two Best Cinematography Awards at the Festigious International Film Festival and the Around International Film Festival in Berlin, “El Circo” earning the Southeast Regional EMMY Award for short form fiction, “La Calvita” being screened as one of “The Coming of Age Mixtape” films chosen by the Bushwick Film Festival, and “SKEMO” being chosen as an Adobe Design Achievement Semifinalist.

“El Circo” director Pablo Ramirez says, “Saif understood perfectly what I had in my head and helped me transform those ideas into beautiful images that showed the organized chaos we wanted to portray… Saif has a unique vision, he has the ability to listen to what his directos want and he also has the sensibility to express himself when he has a different opinion. Saif is one of the most professional persons with whom I’ve had the opportunity to work with.”

While he’s been key to the success of multiple narrative films, Saif actually began his professional career as the cinematographer on the music video “We Are” for well-known Swedish popstar Peg Parnevik. The vivid colors, combination of panning shots and close-ups, as well as the pace of the frames reveal Saif’s unparalleled skill behind the lens.

 With nearly two million views on YouTube, the video serves as an impressive accomplishment for even the most seasoned cinematographer, so that says quite a lot considering it was his first professional project in the field.

About the video, which he shot on a RED Scarlet Dragon 6K sensor with Zeiss CP2 primes, Saif says, “I learned a few valuable lessons from this project: lose the ego, keep things simple, and have fun!”

Out of all of his work, Saif marks the 2017 film “La Calvita” directed by Giulia Jimenez as ‘one of the most interesting projects’ he’s been the cinematographer on to date. With the saturated colors, shots of miscellaneous items such as tires, bathroom sinks and other odds and ends riddled through the streets communicating the semi-impoverished nature of the neighborhood, and a storyline that centers on Lupita (Karina Rovira), a young Latin American girl who travels to the Venezuela-Colombia border on a mission to make some money by selling her hair, it’s easy to see from the trailer alone why the film was so interesting for Saif.

In addition to being an Official Selection of the Bushwick Film Festival, “La Calvita” was also an Official Selection of the 2017 Georgia Latino Film Festival and the 2018 San Diego Film Festival.

With an almost surreal visual style, and a transporting latin garage style score composed by Hugo Raúl Blanco, “La Calvita” has a unique appeal that’s reminiscent of of experimental psychedelic films like Alejandro Jodorowsky’s “The Holy Mountain” and Vera Chitlova’s “Daisies.”

One of the most interesting aspects of the film is the way Saif takes us into Lupita’s world through close ups on her face that allow us to truly feel the complexity of her emotions. This, coupled with the wide shots he takes to reveal the peculiar nature of her surrounding, make it feel as though she lives within her own world– one removed from the actual environment where the film takes place.

Saif shot “La Calvita” on a Sony FS7 using only the Cooke 25-250mm T4.0 Zoom as his lens for the entire film.

“As a cinematographer in stories like that where the world seems a bit surreal, you get to experiment with different equipment and techniques more comfortably. And that is a lot of fun,” explains Saif.

I wanted the look of the film to be gritty and authentic… This film talks about real social issues, so I made sure I captured not only the physical performance of the actors, but their psychological processes and inner world as well. ”

Some of the social issues Saif refers to revolve around Lupita’s economic status and feeling that selling her hair is the only option to make money to pay for her mother’s medication, and the concept of beauty promoted by society compared to what it truly means to be beautiful on an individual level.

After having her hair lopped off in exchange for $35, Lupita wanders through town looking forlorn over the messy buzz cut that sits in place of her previously long and beautiful brown locks. As she runs her fingers through her hair clearly trying to make sense of how this new look has changed her, she encounters a billboard where the model comes to life and begins speaking to her as she stands alone in the middle of a grassy field. The model tells her she wants her to feel better and that she needs hair to feel better; and like a fairy godmother, she releases a waterfall of pink flower petals that graze Lupita’s face and like magic, her hair reappears. From the viewer’s perspective the scene is touching and emotionally subtle, but on a technical level it’s easy to see that a lot of effort went into it on the part of Saif and his team.  

“The director wanted the billboard model to be commercially “well-lit” like a 90’s latin billboard commercials kind of vibe. We shot that section in a green screen studio lit with spacelights, Kino Celebs and later on used a Mole Richardson 2K” explains the cinematographer. “My gaffer Dylan Genis rigged the camera on a 12 ft ladder for the high angle shots. For the ‘low angle’ shots, we used baby sticks and hi-hats.”

He adds, “It’s great to have a team who are interested in the project and have good sense of communication and experience.”

Through narrative films like “La Calvita” it’s easy to see Saif’s talent for creating impactful visual stories that draw the audience in and evokes emotion. His attention to detail and his aptitude for blending the technical and creative sides of his work in film make it easy to understand how he got to where he is today, and it all started from his love for visual art and design.

 

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Canada’s Dan Cazzola living his dream with Endemol Shine Group

When Dan Cazzola first stepped onto a studio, he felt a rush like no other. It was at that moment when he fell in love with television production, seeing what a vast world it truly is. He finds it energetic and exciting, his passion for what he does translates directly to his work. As the Vice President of International Development for Endemol Shine North America, he is living the dream he’s had since he was only a child and has had a career that many aspire towards.

Originally from the small suburb of Ancaster, Ontario, Cazzola has travelled the world doing what he loves. Working with Endemol Shine, one of the world’s largest production companies, for the past six years, he has had a vast array of experiences working on internationally successful television shows, such as MasterChef, Big Brother,Minute To Win It and Deal Or No Deal.

“Working with Dan is always a pleasure. Not only does he ensure a healthy working relationship with all of his employees and colleagues, but he is extremely creative. Such a combination creates extremely high morale on every team he is a part of, despite the stresses that come along with such a fast-paced industry. Dan is everything you would want as a leader, and the tremendous results of his work are direct reflections of this,” said Rebecca De Young, Creative Director, Endemol Shine China.

One of the many highlights of Cazzola’s esteemed career came when he first started working with Endemol Shine, back at Shine Group in London. Shine Group was an immense company, with operations in over 10 countries and a large footprint in the United Kingdom. In every territory, each production company had started from scratch and they were doing everything they could to get to number one above all competitors. To do this, each region needed to be on the same path, working at the same speed, achieving the same goals. As the Global Development Executive of Shine Group at the time, Cazzola was the link between all these companies. He made sure to keep all priorities in line and made every connection happen with incredible speed. He brought new ideas and strategies into Shine and helped to map out the integration of the creative business into the newly formed Endemol Shine Group when Endemol and Shine Group merged.

“At Shine Group, I was working with the best creatives in the business. Shine had grown from nothing to one of the UK’s largest production companies in just over five years. It was a huge company but felt small and nimble and everyone in the company felt like they were responsible for its growth and success. The company had an amazing culture and to this day I haven’t found a more talented group of people in one place,” Cazzola described. “I was learning new things and new territories and new markets every day. At any moment we could sell a show to Thailand, or Brazil or Norway and we’d have to make sure that the show fit that market. I learned about all the broadcasters, the key talent in each territory and what makes everyone tick.”

Cazzola first started with Shine Group when he produced MasterChef. Having worked on the show, he knew a fair amount of the executives that worked on the corporate and international side at Shine Group. When the opportunity arose to transition from content producing to a corporate look, he felt he had what it took to make the transition, and he was right.

Cazzola became the creative face of the company during his years at Shine Group. He consistently found the best way to make all of the production companies work together harmoniously. He worked to instill trust, both in him and the company as a whole. From there, he would find the strongest areas to focus the company’s efforts. He made decisions based on both fact and instincts, which with his innate talent and years of experience proved to almost always be fruitful. He always trusted his gut when it came to picking out the next big thing, talking about ten shows in a day but instantly deciding what would become the next global hit. It was this rush that drove Cazzola, and why he looks back at his time at Shine Group so fondly.

“The Shine Group years were the glory years.  I am very proud to have been a part of Shine Group and what was achieved.  The company did in five years what other TV companies couldn’t do in 10 or 20. I can see the results of my work on screen in countries all over the world. And when I see that one of our shows has sold to another territory or won an award I always feel proud,” he concluded.

Actress Romy Weltman recalls first horror film ‘The Returned’

For Romy Weltman, being an actor means getting the opportunity to not just portray another person, but to become one. She embodies each of her characters with a sense of realism, a passion for the art, and a determination that is unrivaled. It is this dedication that makes her so successful and why she has won over the hearts of audiences all over Canada.

Working in both film and television, Weltman is an extremely in demand actress in her home country. She has starred in successful films such as The Red Maple Leaf and Strike! as well as popular television shows like Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments and the Disney Channel hit Backstage.

“When I worked with Romy on Backstage, her talent and natural ability to display true emotion was evident. We had two scenes in particular that were quite emotional and Romy was nothing but an absolute professional. She raised the stakes for everybody and set a very high bar. I felt like my acting and my overall work ethic was improved tenfold when working with Romy simply because of how professional and prepared she was. Romy continues to show how great of an actress she is in all of her other projects that she has done. She is without a doubt one of the strongest actresses that I know,” said Kolton Stewart, Actor (Some Assembly Required, The Swap).

Weltman’s first taste of international success came with her film The Returned. The horror flick takes place in a world where a deadly zombie virus has infected mankind, and a single cure has been found. The cure, a treatment called the “Return Protein” which stays the effects of the virus in its host. With injections every 36 hours, the “Returned” are able to live as though they were never bit, despite the virus still coursing through their veins. When it is discovered that the protein stock is running low, chaos hits the streets. Returned who run out of the protein turn to zombies and wreak havoc, protesters turn to murderers as they try to rid the streets of the returned, and right in the middle of it all are Alex and Kate. Kate, a leading doctor in the field of zombie virus’ and Alex, a musician with a dark secret, he is a Returned. As death and fear run rampant, Alex’s secret becomes known and his dosage runs low, he and Kate must fight for a chance to live before he becomes a zombie.

“The story of The Returned is very cool, as it gives people a completely thrilling look on life. The story was different to many others. For thriller and horror movie fans, I think this story is super up their alley and I can promise there will be scares,” said Weltman.

The film premiered in 2013 and made its way to several international film festivals. At the 2014 Nevermore Film Festival, it even won the Audience Award. Weltman’s work was pivotal for The Returned’s success, as she played the younger version of the main character Kate. Young Kate was a strong character who faces a very difficult challenge in her life when she witnesses her mother being attacked by zombies. Playing the younger version of a character is extremely essential to a story. It is important for the audience to see what the character had been through in their lifetime and why they are who they are. Kate, being the lead, had lots of layers to her story. Playing young Kate gave Weltman the opportunity to bring those layers to the table and show the audience who Kate really was as a child. Weltman was only twelve years of age at the time, but still captivated audiences while providing pivotal backstory required to understand the film.

“This project was so awesome. I had never worked on a horror film or movie set at all yet. At this point of my career, this role was a dream come true. I couldn’t wait to see all the action and how horror movies were really filmed,” said Weltman.

Of course, as Weltman did not have her own life experience to pull from when it came to seeing her character’s mother getting eaten by zombies, her creative juices were flowing to determine how best to portray the child’s horror in such an important scene. She managed to perfectly encapsulate such a difficult emotion, and throughout the filming process, Weltman made sure to take in and connect the thriller ideas to her own life. By doing so, it allowed her to truly get into the mind of her character.

“Even though I was just a kid when I worked on this, it really inspired me to keep working and it made me hungry to be on more sets. I can credit that experience to the success I’ve had since,” said Weltman.

Be sure to check out Weltman in Backstage on the Family Channel in Canada on Fridays at 6:30 p.m. EST.

Go behind-the-scenes of ‘Pumpkin and Fried Noodle’ with Editor Meibei Liu

From the time Meibei Liu was a child, growing up in Shanghai, China, she loved watching movies. They would make her laugh, they would make her cry, and spending two hours enjoying a film became her favorite pastime. But being so young she would only take in the entire production, not appreciating the many roles scrolling past in the credits that it took to achieve the movie that just entertained her. However, this all changed when she was a teenager and decided to try making a movie of her own for fun. Despite enjoying films all her life, she knew nothing when it came to actually making one. It was a much harder process than she could have ever imagined, but she found herself constantly playing, pausing, rewinding, and cutting down parts of the film that she had made. She was a natural editor, and it was then when she fell in love with the art of editing. Now, years later, she has never looked back.

“Although the story was as naïve as it could be, the fun of making and editing the film just aroused my huge interest in filmmaking and also changed my life,” she said.

This past year, Liu has seen a lot of success worldwide. Her work on The Ballerina, The Shoemaker, and His Apprentice,Headshot, Dear Mamá, and Faith Need Not Change Her Gown have been celebrated at many international film festivals. Her first taste of such success, however, came back in 2013 when she worked on the documentary Pumpkin and Fried Noodle.

Pumpkin and Fried Noodleis a short documentary shot in Taiwan. It tells the stories of how two different families make their living as an outsider in a small village. Though tough, they still find their ways for inner peace and happiness. The film was selected for the Golden Sugarcane Film Festival, Taiwan’s first film festival where the filmmakers have to shoot and edit on site.

“I really liked that the documentary showed the culture of the village, and documented that beautiful, peaceful and friendly place, which was very different to the culture I was in growing up. It tells stories of outsiders in the villages and shows how they fight to live a better life and struggle to be part of the society over there. It’s also a story about women empowerment, telling how they managed to support the whole family without any help. Making a documentary about them was important because their way of living life and being in a difficult situation needed to be seen by others,” said Liu.

Because of the circumstances of the Golden Sugarcane Film Festival, only a pitch was submitted in hopes of qualifying as one of the ten slots. Once Liu and the rest of her team were selected, they were invited to Taiwan to make the film. During the week, Liu was with other filmmakers finding the subject to shoot and finding structure and stories. This allowed for faster editing, as she was able to spot what would work while filming. Then she finished each day with the editing. On top of this, she conducted interviews each day.

“Going there to make the documentary without knowing whether it will work or not; finding the story during shooting was like an adventure that needed a great sense of filmmaking, which I liked and wanted to be part of,” Liu recalled.

The film exemplifies how important editing is. Liu and the other nine filmmakers on the crew conducted several interviews with over ten different people, but in the editing room, Liu cut that down drastically, only showing two of the subjects that were interviewed. The film focused on their lives in detail, showing their philosophy of living rather than small aspects of many lives. Liu also made the decision of blending the two stories rather than showing one after the other, which helped lead to the warm and touching climax at the end.

“Meibei is very hard working. She edited our entire film within three days. She was very easy to work with, always there in the pre-production, making sure everything was right and very insightful about the story and production. In the post-production, she sacrificed her own personal time, which made the impossible schedule work in the end. Meibei is an editor who is very insightful and creative about creating story structure. She is amazing in terms of editing skills and at the same time, also very sensitive of capturing emotions of characters,” said Song Huang, Director.

Because of the competition, time was limited when making Pumpkin and Fried Noodle, requiring a fast, hardworking and passionate editor like Liu. On top of this, she was able to connect with the two women’s stories in a way that audiences can instantly see when watching the film, making it a true masterpiece.

 

Aussie Actor Joel Hogan: A Good Judge of Character

Joel Hogan represents part of the new wave of successful young actors reaching their mark via a variety of platforms and mediums. In the past year alone, the trained thespian has served as an official juror for the Annual Los Angeles Diversity Film Festival (LADFF), and appeared in a lead role in the hit mockumentary series Unverified for Funny Or Die, produced by Will Ferrell, as well as a critical role in long-running Channel Seven hit show, Home and Away.

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Joel with fellow “Home and Away” stars James Stewart and Tania Dolan.

These accomplishments, all on top of his other leading acting roles around the world, mark what Joel calls “the result of many years of hard work and determination.”

But before we get to that, Joel sits down with us to talk about how his career has reached such awesome heights. “I’ve been extremely blessed.”

After moving to Los Angeles to feature as the lead of innovative filmmaker Marcus Mizelle’s film “Actor for Hire, opposite CSI actor JT Alexander, Joel was invited to attend numerous award ceremonies in celebration of “Actor for Hire’s” success. Additionally, he received an award for his acting work from the Orlando Film Festival for his role in the film. The festivals, which also included the Laugh or Die Comedy Fest, and HollyShorts Film Festival (which qualified the project for Oscar-contention), brought Joel in direct contact with key decision makers in Hollywood.

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“Actor for Hire” was profiled right around the world.

“Many people I met along the way were already familiar with my work, so meeting these power players face-to-face I think just gave a more relatable face to my name.” Some of that work with which those power players were familiar include Joel’s leading role in “Dirty Dancing: The Time of your Life,” which brought him worldwide fame to millions of viewers, and the title role in feature “Travis Jenkins.”

Prior to this, Joel enjoyed starring roles in other Australian films like “Bush Boys.” Since its release “Bush Boys” has been continually screened to audiences worldwide and is well known for selling over 50,000 copies in its first 2 months of release – a significant figure in the Australian entertainment industry. The film’s fan base stems from Mr Hogan’s continued success and high profile in other film productions like Actor for Hire and Home and Away, which screen around the world including the United Kingdom where Home and Away is the highest rated show. 1500 Steps has enjoyed similar levels of extraordinary success, reaching millions of viewers around the world through distribution on Amazon Prime.

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Joel Hogan front and centre, with his co-stars, on the poster for Australia’s “Hangover”, Bush Boys.”
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Joel with legendary “Anchorman” actor, Fred Willard, and fellow Australian actor, Myles Forster (“So, You Want to be a Gangster?”) at an event in Hollywood.

Those roles in part attracted the people behind the LADFF, a world-renowned film festival helmed by industry leaders Hollis McLachlan and Sonja Mereu (producer at Flathead Films), to invite Joel to be a judge for their slate of films. Sonja explained that Joel’s vote “specializ[ed] in acting performance and storytelling.”

Joel elaborates on his experience judging at the LADFF. “It was really fun and inspiring – it felt like such an honour to have my opinion about these films valued. One of the films I awarded, For Better, For Worse has gone on to win the Casablanca Award for Best Drama at the Humphrey Bogart Film Festival in Florida, as well as the Audience Choice Award at the DC Shorts film festival.”

Festival founders explained to our editors that judges are appointed based on their accomplishments, and strong standing with respect to a social cause. Joel, they explained, was appointed because of his wealth of acting experience, his position as an extraordinarily successful foreign actor, and his diverse talents across acting, singing and dancing. So well received was Joel’s service, he has since been invited to also judge at the Los Angeles Film Awards, the Actor Awards Los Angeles and Top Shorts, the world’s leading online film festival.

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Joel Hogan and well-known actor, Paul Michael Draper (“Lucid”, “Lemon Drop”)

But judging films is not entirely what has kept Joel occupied recently. In fact, he’s been busy with a slew of acting and industry projects that have reinforced his position as a trailblazer in entertainment. Impressively, he’s been featured on Access Hollywood as part of his role for the Lionsgate hit, “Open Water 3.” Coming up? He notably stars in a leading role in the US films Newave and Caged, as well as the lead role of Simon in the feature film “C.A.M” opposite “Pirates of the Caribbean” actor, Rupert Raineri. “Rupert was fantastic to work with,” Joel explains. “It’s always nice to share screen-time with people who are working hard, and aren’t distracted by the big-budget nature of the project.”

Joel adds, “We’re just there to tell a good story.”

Showing off his talent for exploring a wide range of genres, Joel moved onto playing the lead role of Derek (also spelled Derequé in a hilarious plot point) in the hit mockumentary series, “Unverified.” Distributed by the comedy powerhouse Funny Or Die, from founders Will Ferrell and Adam McKay (“The Big Short”), “Unverified” found awards success at the Accolade Global Film Festival, was given glowing reviews by TubeFilter and Film Ink among others, and co-starred Alex Cubis (“Mako Mermaids”), Courtney Dlugos (“South Beach”) and Landon Merrell (the upcoming “Dumplin’ with Jennifer Aniston).

Up next for the busy Australian?

“I’ve got a number of big film projects lined up, one of which is a collaboration with the award winning director David Tracy. David, alongside his mentor, David S. Goyer, the writer of “Batman Begins”, “Blade”, “Man Of Steel”, have been developing a film for me to star in for the last two years. I must admit, to say I am excited to work with these two influential Hollywood players would be a great understatement.”

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Joel in character from one of his many upcoming film projects.

Copywriter Aahana Pereira teams up with celebrity DJs for Motul Rhythm campaign

Despite always having a love for writing, Aahana Pereira never expected in her youth that her passion would translate into advertising. In junior college, she was studying science and math, but she hated it. She quickly switched to Mass Media, not because of an interest in communications, but simply because it would mean she no longer had to take math. However, those three years changed her life. The more she learned about advertising, the more she knew she would be happy in the field. She would watch old advertisements from all over the world, read long copy print ads and learned a great deal about famous copywriters. She wanted to be like them. Combining her interests in writing and advertising, Pereira decided to pursue a career in copywriting, and has never looked back.

“On most days as a copywriter I follow a brief and write copy with as many options I have time for. It is not every day that we get an exciting brief or a project, so day to day is, so to say, average. That being said, I still push to make average better. Most days we work on small budget campaigns, and I aim to make each and every campaign, whatever the size, achieve greatness and make something I am proud of. Then, once in a while, we do get a brief where we get to showcase our creativity at the highest level, and that is just plain fun,” said Pereira.

Throughout her esteemed career, Pereira has worked on many projects for prolific corporations known worldwide. She has travelled the world doing what she loves, and consistently finds unique approaches to promote a product. This is exemplified with her work on commercials for Palmolive, Colgate, IBN 7, and many more. The highlight of her career came when she was given the opportunity to work on the Drink Up campaign, an initiative by First Lady, Michelle Obama in partnership for a Healthier America that encourages people to drink more water. Most recently, she worked with Falcon Agency in Malaysia on several successful campaigns, impressing all she collaborated with.

“Aahana and I have worked on several projects since we first met in 2017 – Motul Rhythm, Meet the Sydneyporeans, just to name a few. I really enjoy working with Aahana as her ideas are strong and always on brief. I love the passion she has for her work,” said Liz Leow, Regional Account Director, Falcon Agency Malaysia.

Working on Motul Rhythm was a project that excited Pereira. It was one of the first projects she worked on at Falcon Agency as a solo copywriter. Motul, a company that produces high-performance motor oils and lubricants, is not typically associated with music, making the campaign extremely original. The idea was to hold an online contest across the Asia-Pacific area where anybody could submit their original music, made completely from the sounds of their motorcycles. They asked fans to create sounds and upload it to the Motul Rhythm website. The prize for the winners was a chance to co-produce their own music track with Asia’s most well-known DJs, such as Terence c, Idham and Flickswitch. The selected winners were also sent to the MOTO GP event held in Malaysia in 2017, and the music track mixed by the DJs was then launched at an event in Kuala Lumpur.

“I thought the idea was good. A brand like Motul, which is such a low involvement category, was getting its fans excited. The idea was true to the brand values that stands by performance. In this campaign, performance has dual application – performance of the lubricant and oils meets performance in music. It was a synergy,” said Pereira.

Although the idea of Motul Rhythm already existed before, Pereira and her team adapted it. The idea was to get audiences to participate in a competition, where they had to submit sounds from their bike and reputable DJs would take the best sounds and mix it into a music track especially for Motul. However, the challenge was to entice them in a way that would encourage motorbike fans. As a team, they concluded that the hook would be that participants would get a chance to co-produce the music track by submitting their audio clip. This was discussed over a period of discussions. However, Pereira had never worked on Motul before or even the oil and lubricant category, so this meant she had to do a lot of research to figure out just the right way to target consumers. She had a sense of the Asian market but wanted to find just the right way to reach bike enthusiasts. It was more than just making them aware of the competition, it was getting them to participate in it. With the help from the team in Singapore and support from the team in Malaysia, they managed to launch this campaign, and those lucky few consumers managed to have their dream come true by working with DJs to create a track.

Other than launching the Motul Rhythm microsite, Pereira’s team created Facebook advertisements and digital banners to get the word across. This was the first point of communication and a way to generate awareness. It was very important to write copy that would make people stop and click, not to mention character limits in digital ads. Pereira met the task with determination and commitment.

“This project was fun. It incorporated bikes and music. I loved working on it and it was amazing to hear what people could create with the sounds of their bikes,” she said.

The Motul Rhythm campaign is just one example of Pereira’s creativity and determination. She took a unique idea and targeted just the right audience. Such talent is required to be a success in her industry, and for those looking to follow in her footsteps, she offers some important advice.

“One, be persistent. Keep aiming for good work even if they are not the big budget briefs.

Two, watch films, shows, read books that will expose you to different stories and styles of writing. You never know what will inspire you. Three, have a voice in your team. No matter what your title is, say something,” she advised.

 

Photo by Biel Calderon

Violinist Hui Cao brings joy of music to Zhuhai Jinwan while leading the Chamber Orchestra

From the time Hui Cao was just a baby, he would listen to his mother sing. As he grew, he began to sing with her, and his innate musical talents were evident even then. He could easily identify each note, and without any lessons, he effortlessly would carry a tune. The same occurred when he first lifted a violin; it felt like he was meant to play the instrument and has been doing so since he was a child. Now, he is one of China’s most prolific violinists.

With an impressive resume both playing and teaching, Cao’s career as a violinist has been extraordinary. He aims to share musical culture with both his admirers and his students. In 2013, he began teaching violin classes at Pooi To Middle School in Macau, a city on China’s South Coast. The popularity of the instrument rose dramatically when he was there, having such a celebrated musician teaching. He is currently practicing for the 2018 Music String Festival in Zhuhai Jinwan, a large festival in China. Not only will Cao be a soloist at the event, but he is also responsible for inviting other violinists to partake in a masterclass that he will then conduct.

“I feel like I can’t live without music. I like to play the violin to audiences and enjoy every moment,” he said.

Cao’s influence in Zhuhai Jinwan began in 2015 when he started playing in the Zhuhai Jinwan Chamber Orchestra. Founded only the year beforehand, Cao was instrumental to making it the success it is today. He was hired as the music director and concertmaster, in charge of every musician in the orchestra. During the three years that Cao has been leading the orchestra, they have played over 30 charity concerts and educated over 60,000 people in music.

We love to perform right in the community, whether that be in schools or small businesses. It brings lots of fun and music to the local people, and playing for charity is always a good thing. I think, as a musician, you play music that will hopefully help some people in this world. That is a wonderful thing, which is why I think performing for charity is so very important,” said Cao.

When Cao was invited to take part in the orchestra, it was still very new. He was immediately interested, wanting to help spread the joy of music whenever possible, and he felt Zhuhai Jinwan was the ideal location to do so. It is a relatively new city, and therefore music and the arts were not as developed as many other cities in the region. The local government wanted to change this, and therefore created the orchestra as a non-profit organization.

“People who lived in Zhuhai Jinwan did not have the opportunity to experience good, classical music the way that so many others do in the larger Chinese cities. I wanted to be the person to help change that,” said Cao.

After getting in touch with the sponsors, Cao began working immediately. He started with finding musicians for the orchestra and followed by choosing the perfect music. He wanted to select pieces that would excite the locals and allow them to appreciate classical music. When recruiting players for the orchestra, he reached out to the residents of the city, allowing them to get excited at the prospect of the first chamber orchestra in Zhuhai Jinwan.

“We are very honored to have Hui as our music director for the chamber orchestra. He is a talented musician and gives us a lot of support. The first day we met Hui we knew he could help us build this chamber group to a great success,” said Mok Ian Ian, Director of Zhuhai Jinwan Cultural Affairs Bureau.

Once Cao filled every spot on the orchestra, they started rehearsing twice a week. He helped the players practice, teaching them how to perform and offering insight from his many professional experiences. Most of the musicians were not trained, and it was Cao’s responsibility to do so. Under his direction, the entire orchestra went from many individual musicians to one entity, playing seamlessly. He also supported the guest conductor during rehearsals while still planning the music for each performance.

“I really admire the local musicians and their love of music. It was my job to help them become better players and make sure they improved, but you can’t teach passion. Directing these musicians was easy because of how much they enjoyed what they were doing,” said Cao. “I am also very thankful to the government and all the support we received from them. It was the people I worked with that made this such a special project. Everyone wanted to bring music to the community.”

Cao and the orchestra held their opening concert at the Zhuhai City Hall in 2015. It was extremely successful, and from there, they have continued to be recognized and praised by all sectors of society. Now, just a couple of years later, the orchestra is seen as a prestigious group of musicians.

“After three years of work, I saw the Zhuhai Jinwan chamber orchestra get more popular and professional. I am very happy, it has been like watching my kids grow up. I put lots of my time and energy into the group, and the results more than paid off,” he said.

Evidently, Cao is an incredible musician and director. What he accomplished with the Zhuhai Jinwan Chamber Orchestra is just one example of what this talented violinist is capable of. He truly loves what he does, and for those looking to follow in his footsteps, he says that is of the most vital importance.

“As a musician, I have only one piece of advice to those who are looking to pursue a career in music, and that is to love the music and enjoy the music. Music is always a great and interesting hobby, but if someone wants to become a professional musician, the path is very difficult. You have to persist and practice and remain focused on your goal every step of the way. That is why passion is key. If you do not have this, you will never be a true musician,” he concluded.

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