Jamie Maunder designs without limits

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Jamieson Maunder

There are two types of people in this world: those who believe that there are limits to what an individual can achieve, and those who understand that limits only exist to be challenged. The latter group are few and far between yet tend to exist within a small percentage of society’s highest performing achievers. In the case of designer Jamie Maunder, for instance, dreaming without confines is a natural part of who he is. With each goal he sets for himself, he expects to not only complete it, but to outdo his former self. All it takes is a mere glance at Maunder’s career as Head of Design to know that he wasn’t built for an average life. He was designed for greatness and with greatness, he designs.

Throughout the course of his career, Maunder has tested his hand at multiple disciplines within the design industry, including working in design studios and clothing factories, as well as print and production agencies. The skills he has acquired throughout these diverse experiences make him an invaluable part of any project he collaborates on, as was the case when he worked for entities like Loughborough Sport and the International Olympic Committee. This reality was exemplified in 2006 when Maunder began his three-year journey working with the elite sportswear brand, Stash. Having grown up being inspired by Stash’s unique, British premium sportswear, Maunder felt that this opportunity was something he absolutely had to be a part of. His ability to secure employment with Stash is a testament to Maunder’s networking skills and eye for design. At that point in his budding career, he had made a name for himself and Stash were not slow to notice.

When Maunder first began working at Stash, he was taken back by their unique setup and by their willingness to foster his development as a designer. Within their headquarters, Stash came equipped with a design studio, as well as a full production house with approximately 75 per cent of production in house. This presented Maunder with a learning experience unlike any other he had known in the past. The setup epitomized the concept of being able to see a job through from start to finish.

“Having the production under the same roof as the design facilities allowed me to witness and learn the processes involved in carrying a product through from inception, or the design phase, to being packed up and ready to be shipped. I couldn’t resist learning how to use all of the machines and this took my understanding of the development phase to a whole new level,” recalls Maunder.

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Jamieson Maunder, Kerry Williams

As he tends to do with every company he joins or project he contributes to, Maunder left a lasting impact on the employees and design protocols at Stash. He can be credited with not only introducing the first three-dimensional rugby jersey illustration during his time at Stash, but also for training his colleagues to use this method. This resulted in a significant reduction in the duration of the illustration phase of a design. It allowed Stash’s design team to provide their clients with a prompt idea of what their design would look like in reality prior to actually creating it. In addition, this allowed his co-workers to expedite these processes which, in turn, allotted him more time to develop new, exciting products and ways to increase Stash’s brand awareness.

Ultimately, during his time with Stash, Maunder was responsible for developing compression garments for some of the world’s top professional athletes. In 2009, for example, he worked with the British Bobsleigh Association to design and create cutting-edge race suits that not only looked appealing but were designed with purpose and functioned in such a way that helped these athletes remain at the top of their game. The skill set he developed here is one that he carries with him in every job he encounters today, and he considers the opportunity to invent with no barriers as having been one of the most liberating, important parts of his entire career. It felt as though he was working with the elite in order to serve the elite and the outcomes kept in theme.

It isn’t difficult to understand why Stash were honored to have Maunder on their team for such a growth-oriented period of time. In fact, Sailosi Tagikakibau, who captained for the Stash Allstars team and who’d had Rugby performance apparel created for him by Maunder, found him to be an inspiring, valuable person to have collaborated with. When asked what made Maunder such a pleasure to work with, Tagikakibau was eager to describe him as someone genuine and skilled.

“Jamie is someone that puts his heart into everything that he does. From scratch, he managed to put together a team of professional international and national players to test the products he had created and to ultimately win tournaments. He always wants to know how he can improve something, which in turn, made me very comfortable as a professional athlete. Knowing he had my personal interests in mind at all time made a world of a difference,” told Tagikakibau.

For Maunder, on the other hand, working with Stash was so much more than a resume builder. It helped him to identify a passion he hadn’t quite taken notice of in the past and one that far extended beyond simply designing and producing sportswear. Rather, he finds himself driven by the fact that his profession affords him countless opportunities to dive deep into his problem-solving skills and address issues in an unexpected, yet meaningful way.

“My time at Stash changed my whole outlook on a career in design. I became obsessed with the human form and with the way in which it moves. For this reason, my ability to design apparel that enhances an athlete’s performance was strengthened by my time at Stash and I couldn’t be better off for it,” Maunder concluded.

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Graphic Designer Laura Suuronen’s Limitless Creativity

Graphic designer Laura Suuronen’s mastery of expressive, dynamic visuals have made her an international success. While design relies on subtly, balance and rhythm, when effectively executed it has colossal impact. The Helsinki-born Suuronen’s command of and gift for the medium creates a consistently irresistible finished product.

“A graphic designer creates visual communications,” Suuronen said. “The field has expanded and changed tremendously over recent years, as the world’s become more visual and people’s visual literacy has grown.”

Suuronen has built upon that growth with singular alacrity, always displaying a natural skill which guarantees the success of any given assignment and frequently leads to subsequent, ever more impressive achievements. It’s a demanding discipline, but her background provided ideal preparation from an early age.

“In Finland, design is part of everyday life,” Suuronen said. “I grew up surrounded by design furniture, so I absorbed those forms and the sensibility. I learned of design as a profession in high school, as I was taking all possible art classes to balance out my other studies. I was always drawn to making art, yet I wanted to do something more useful, or, I guess, practical.”

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Visualization of branding concept for Finland’s stand at 2017 World Expo

After high school, Suuronen attended the Pekka Halonen Academy, attaining a degree in Visual Expression and continued her studies at Helsinki’s University of Art and Design, earning a BA in Graphic Design, before moving on to the Master’s program.

The gifted Suuronen settled into life as a dedicated professional—and once she did, things began to move fast.Her earliest experience was at cutting-edge mobile software development startup Max Rumpus, essentially developing apps—at a time when the touch screen didn’t yet exist.

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20th Anniversary Book for contemporary art pioneer Galerie Anhava

“The company’s goal was to create ‘good looking text messages’ that didn’t require separate software to download and view them,” Suuronen said. “This was a good first job, as I was able to do a breadth of work across mediums and was never held back. I was doing anything and everything in this startup, implementing and developing branding related projects, like packaging, brochures, manuals and random things like illustrations, expo stands, posters, business cards, interior design for a new office. Their art director was very supportive and a good mentor, with whom I still keep in touch.”

With limited opportunities for pure design at the one-product tech startup, she moved on to a post at the prestigious Hasan & Partners advertising firm. It was a critical step up for the ambitious young designer

“Being in top 3 of Finnish agencies for decades, Hasan was very different from Max Rumpus,” Suuronen said. “I was designing everything from 360 ad campaigns to art books during my time there, a lot of cool projects. Sometimes it was more art work production, sometimes it was about designing press, TV or online campaigns for leading Nordic consumer brands. I designed logos for Italian fashion brands, conceptualized press ads and posters, art directed photo-shoots, created installations, designed interactive technology-pushing websites and oversaw character and animation development. It was a great experience—to learn how the big things are done. And I got to see my work plastered around town, in newspapers and on TV constantly.”

Suuronen was off to an impressive start and her subsequent career path has steadily ascended. Now based in Los Angeles, this energetic, limitlessly creative woman stands at the forefront her field. Whether designing posters or art directing for magazines and web sites, Suuronen excels at her craft in a variety of media—from sophisticated software and computer techniques to old fashioned pen and ink drawing—and she has multiple awards, along with the respect of her colleagues, to show for it.

“Laura’s work never fails to impress,” graphic designer-illustrator Stefan Bucher said. “She pairs clear, powerful ideas with refined aesthetics, and adds just the right dash of eccentricity to keep things interesting. There’s no doubt in my mind that her American future will outshine the considerable brightness of her European past.”

Suuronen refuses to limit herself and the result is a striking roster of professional achievements, both as a designer and art director; Suuronen is adept at strategy and brand development, establishing unique visual identities for her clients, working across the full creative spectrum: books, catalogs, magazines, websites and apps, events and campaigns for a dazzling array of international agencies, including Siegel + Gale, Media Arts Lab, leading Scandinavian museums and art galleries, publishers and record labels.

“One thing that’s stuck with me from my early days at Hasan was the phrase ‘Never Satisfied,’ which was scribbled on a wall there” Suuronen said. “So, I’m always going to be looking to bring fresh thinking into a project. I like to explore new ideas and see where they lead. I’ve never been happy repeating what’s been done before—there is always further to push.”

Australian star Emily Gruhl on working with a Sundance director, opposite Noomi Roopace and Luke Evans

While Emily Gruhl might be the first to concede that she’s had a few lucky breaks, a review of her recent work and history as an actor in her native Australia is a testament to her hard work and craft.

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Emily Gruhl on set for the acclaimed film “A Note to Self

The Queensland native recently joined the cast of “Angel of Mine,” directed by Sundance-director Kim Farrant, best-known for helming award-winning flick “Strangerland” with Oscar-winner Nicole Kidman and Hugo Weaving in 2015. Such is the excellent standing of Emily’s reputation in the entertainment industry, the project marks the third time the two have collaborated in a creative setting. Kim was also involved with the development of Emily’s character in Amazon Prime series “Picnic at Hanging Rock,” in which Emily stars opposite “Game of Thrones” and “Hunger Games” star Natalie Dormer.

“It’s an honour to work with Kim a third time and on such a prestigious project. Kim knows me and my acting exceptionally well after spending a lot of time as my acting coach so it was a huge compliment to myself and my acting that she cast me in her film as it showed me how highly she regards my talent and enjoys working with me.”

It’s not only Kim Farrant’s involvement in the project that has Emily and her fans excited – she’ll also be sharing the screen with BAFTA-nominated “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”  and “Prometheus” star Noomi Rapace. In the role of Courtney, Emily notably plays an antagonist. Emily explains the critical importance of her character’s arc. “There is a dramatic final scene between the two where Courtney is giving Lizzie her final pay check and Lizzie violently grabs Courtney’s wrist and berates her into submission. Without the critical character of Courtney the story would not have the convention to show the emotional fall and the gradual psychological demise of Lizzie’s character.”

Emily, who judged performances in Sydney for performers vying for places in the prestigious Queensland University of Technology Acting course, is also a highly-regarded member of MEAA. Even more impressively, she has recently appeared in leading roles for films “A Note to Self” and “And Though the Music Ended, We Danced on Through the Night.” Both films garnered praise for Emily’s gripping performances and an award nomination for Best Actress.

Produced by Initi8 Productions, “A Note to Self” male lead actor Alastair Osment – best known for his work on “Home and Away” and Oscar-winner Jane Campion’s show “Top of the Lake” – sung praises about his co-star.

“Emily is a profound actor with an unparalleled level of depth and emotion. I have worked with some of the world’s best and I can attest to her extraordinary ability.

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Emily Gruhl with “Home and Away” actor, Alastair Osment in a still “A Note to Self.”

In “A Note to Self,” Emily plays Natalie – a young woman concealing a dark secret from a new love interest over the course of one night. The film, similar in style to Richard Linklater’s “Before Sunrise” trilogy, also touches on alcoholism and grief and thus demanded a performer who could bring a social awareness and credibility that went beyond their youth. Emily, as described by Alastair, brought that in spades. He added, “Emily is also characterised by a strong craft refined over her many years at the top of her field in Australia.”

Producer of “And Though the Music Ended”, Aaron Bush, offered similar compliments for the actress who has clearly built a reputation for being an old soul.

“The role of Abigail was an incredibly challenging one – we explored topics of grief and mental illness in the short film and we needed an actor of the highest quality to pull of this incredibly complex role.”

It probably helped that Emily shared screen-time with veteran actors Tom E. Lewis (“Wolf Creek”) and AACTA-winner Debra Lawrance (Pivot’s “Please Like Me”). In doing so, and upon viewing the film, it’s clear that Emily was able to not only hold her own alongside such seasoned professionals, but also enhance the film’s compelling qualities because of the captivating ways in which she holds a frame.

“Emily was able to access these dark places within herself and also draw the audience in to empathise with her – [this] was absolutely vital to the success of the production,” said Aaron.

Indeed, audiences around the world enjoyed Emily’s lead performance in “And Though the Music Ended” because the project screened at numerous prestigious festivals, such as the Orlando Film Festival, the Rome Film Awards and the Porteurs d’Images in Mauritius.

It therefore makes sense that Aaron further stressed, “Emily’s depth and complexity as a young actress can only be paralleled to that of the world’s best.”

Adding to that, it’s clear that the role of Abigail was critical to the success of the project. Sources explain, “the whole story was centered around three very different characters that are each connected to their own grief though a different form of technology. For Joanne it’s her son’s phone, for Percy it’s his computer with the videos of his history and for Abigail it’s cyber hacking technology. Without Abigail [and Emily’s performance], the film would not have made any sense.”

Audiences should therefore look forward to her work in “Angel of Mine” when it has a wide International release in 2019. The film has already been to the European Film Market in Berlin to be pre-sold.

Don’t limit Emily to just playing roles in dramatic parts though. Her agent Simon Whipp from Shanahan Management – who boasts Oscar-winners Nicole Kidman and Geoffrey Rush as clients – attests to Emily’s range.

“As a performer Emily strives to push herself outside of her comfort zone, continually surpassing people’s expectations.”

“Emily has exceptional range as an actor. Her projects are of vastly different genres and styles, and her acting transcends across comedy, romance, drama and thriller.”

Aida King brings on the laughs in hilarious comedy ‘Desert Drive’

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Aida King

To succeed in acting, Aida King knows there is nothing more important than self-confidence. Never be conceited but know who you are as a person and how much you are capable of. This is her mantra that drives her and is why she is such a renowned Canadian actress. She has never lost belief in herself, and when audiences watch her on both the big and small screen, she radiates.

King is known for her work in celebrated films like The Convicted, Hemorrhage, and War of Mind. She has worked with award-winning filmmakers and well-known actors, including Alexander Michael Helisek, a veteran actor and producer in Hollywood. Known for his work on the Golden Globe Award-winning television series This Is Us, the Golden Globe Award-winning hit feature film Interstellar, which starred Matthew McConaughey and the two-time Golden Globe Award-nominated popular television series Silicon Valley, Helisek was greatly impressed with King when they worked together on Desert Drive.

“I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to work alongside Aida, as an actor, in her leading role of Missy Lee on the comedy film titled Desert Drive.Aida was absolutely essential to the critical acclaim and commercial success of the film. Her character needed to be depicted by an actress who could convey the necessary warmth, romance, comedy and sincerity that makes her a relatable character to the audience. Aida was able to accomplish all of this and more in a performance that was at once full of force and subtlety,” said Helisek.

Desert Drive follows the life of four Los Angeles based musicians who travel from Hollywood to Palm Springs for the Coachella Music Festival. Instead of harping on aimless debauchery and excessive drunkenness, the story documents the eventful two-hour ride and all the intimate conversations and crazy obstacles that transpire on the action-packed pilgrimage.

“It’s a fun slice of life story that I think people that travel together would appreciate. When travelling in close uncomfortable quarters for a long period of time, sometimes patience can run thin and emotions run high. It’s a fun comedy with interesting characters of substance,” said King.

This movie was filmed in May 2015 and premiered at a Hollywood movie theatre later that year. Not only is the trailer featured on the distinguished website “Funny or Die”, Desert Drive was also an Official Selection at the Ozark Short Film Festival in the Summer 2016. King was proud to be part of a team and found that the chemistry between the characters is why the film went on to do so well.

“I cannot deny that I love hearing people laugh when they watch this film, as that’s the biggest thrill of all for me,” she said.

King’s character, Missy Lee, is a musician who is determined to spice up intimate conversations with the other traveling musicians as they travel for many hours to their destination.

Missy Lee was a happy-go-lucky girl that was content with being in the company of friends, no matter what the situation was. She was definitely a people pleaser and tried to make the best of any situation. While she knew that she was naïve, she was comfortable with that role among her small group of oddball friends.

While she was a bit of a third wheel friend, this character brings balance to the oddball group. While every person was completely different from one another, she played the comic relief to offset tension in the storyline and also the confident when moments were more intimate. The controversial and hilarious lines are the most pivotal plot points in the entire narrative. With such an important role, King knew she had to deliver a captivating performance to bring the film to success, and that is exactly what she did.

As The Convicted was a drama, flipping over to a comedy was a great chance to present a completely different character. This was a huge opportunity to show her versatility and show her comedic creativity. As a Canadian, the comedy culture is highly regarded, so it was natural for King to want to be a part of this film.

“I appreciated working on a character that was light hearted and fun. This was my first time doing comedy, and I loved it,” said King.

King was brought on board after the successful completion of The Convicted, the Director and Producer of the film, Josh Mitchell, decided to bring the actress onto his new projects after being greatly impressed by her talent and work ethic, both of which King is well known for.

While filming, King’s greatest challenge came from filming in the desert. Far from the climate in her home in Canada, spending hours in a small van in hot temperatures was a new experience. However, she would never let this get her down, and found that it only helped her feel as if she was truly on her way to a music festival with a group of her close friends. Eventually, that is what the cast became.

Be sure to watch Desert Drive on Vimeo on Demand to catch out King’s comedic performance.

Allison Giroday on the excitement of collaborating with idol Odette Sugerman

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Allison Giroday

When an average human being looks at another individual, they tend to see a face looking back. Two eyes, one nose, a pair of lips, etc. When makeup artists look at another human being, however, they see something entirely different. They see a blank canvas, an open opportunity. They see creases, open spaces, and unique bone structure. They see potential color complements and areas for emphasis. They are inspired by a clean face. Inspired to create; inspired to change; inspired to bring about an inner beauty, hidden from within.

“I love immersing myself into the creative world. I get to meet so many fascinating, passionate people along the way who share in my understanding of hard work and drive. It’s so inspiring, but also very rewarding. Getting to help my audiences put their best face forward is in my blood. It feels as important to me as it does to them and I find myself so motivated when I see photos of them looking confident and fierce, killing it with their image and their talents. It’s the greatest thing on earth to know that there is a job out there where you can do someone’s makeup and get paid for it. I love it so much that even if I couldn’t make a living off of it, I’d need it on the side. It feeds my soul,” raved Giroday.

When highly esteemed makeup artist Allison Giroday sees a face without makeup, she is driven to show the world what she can transform it into. Her years of fruitful experience have earned her the luxury of understanding how to complement skin tones, how to hide skin texture, and how to provide her clients with the confidence to face the world and look great doing it. Contrary to popular opinion, Giroday sees makeup as a way to enhance an individual’s beauty from within, as opposed to creating a false sense of self-worth through a mask of makeup. She is energized by the way in which her profession allows her to help men and women all over the world be the best version of themselves.

Like many other makeup artists, Giroday surrounds herself with images and platforms that offer her ideas for creating new makeup looks. Growing up, she covered her walls with images of Guess Models and celebrities like Pamela Anderson, offering herself inspiration to one day make up the faces of other famous models. They were her biggest inspiration at the time, and they are the reason that she had to pinch herself when she was able to connect with world renowned photographer, Odette Sugerman. Sugerman is a household name in the fashion industry, having shot for the likes of Kate Beckinsale, Paris Hilton, Hugh Hefner and several other famous celebrities.

Sugerman’s style is unique, yet recognizable anywhere by her fans. For this reason, Giroday knew that if she wanted to work with Sugerman, she’d have to take matters into her own hands. Proactively, Giroday contacted Sugerman, providing her with samples of her artistry and detailing the flare she thought she could add to Sugerman’s work. To her avail, Sugerman absolutely loved her work and despite the fact that, at this point, Giroday had been freelancing for only a year, Sugerman invited her to get further acquainted and to discuss the type of photoshoots they could work together on. For Giroday, it was a dream come true and even today, she still considers it to be one of the highlights of her career.

“You can’t shoot with just anyone, you have to have the creative chemistry. We complement each other so incredibly well,” Giroday said.

For their project together, Giroday and Sugerman travelled around Vancouver Island with an up-and-coming model. One look at the model’s pillow lips and flawless complexion had her creative juices flowing and she was eager to get her brushes blending. Together, Giroday and Sugerman developed a concept to work toward, transforming their model’s look to appear as a wild, sassy, femme fatale. Given Giroday’s love for female empowerment and embracing the beautiful shapes and sizes that comprise the female population provided her with a vision to work toward.

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Odette Sugerman, makeup by Allison Giroday

“Once we determined the nature of the look we wanted to go for, we got to work. I prepared our model’s skin, giving it a satin finish and then counteracted it with a bold brow. With a jet black liquid liner, I applied a thick, dramatic wing which extended beyond the corner of her eye for a sexy, cat-eye effect. I wanted the liner to make a statement and to be the focal point of the look. In combination with her platinum hair and blue eyes, she really projected the sexpot, classic “Guess girl” image that Odette wanted to see,” detailed Giroday.

Giroday can often be credited for much of the success her work brings to a project; however, in this particular case, Giroday was undoubtedly instrumental in the fact that their model caught the eye of fashion emperor, Paul Marciano. The model later booked a job with Guess and feels fortunate to have had talented visionaries like Giroday and Sugerman on her side.

Getting to work with one of her idols was extremely important for Giroday on both a personal and professional level. She loves the opportunity that her job provides her to work with other talented, like-minded creatives, but also the fact that they can have fun together while they do what they do best. Their individual styles and personalities are a strong match, allowing them to produce exceptional work together and to show the world what they’re really capable of.

“Creative success really has so much to do with the people you’re working with. You want to be around great energy. It was a beautiful setting with amazing souls all doing what we love. I mean it doesn’t really get much better than that,” she concluded.

 

Award Winning Scottish Actor Richard Rennie on Acting

Entertainer Richard Rennie, equally well-known around the world for his appearances and performances as a multi-talented dancer, model, presenter and host, is this week’s feature – sitting down with us and sharing some of his exceptional skills as an actor.

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Richard Rennie has masterfully juggled careers as an actor, dancer and model. His insights about acting are especially unique. 

“Over the years,” Richard clarifies, “I’ve become more comfortable identifying as an actor. I’ve been in the industry for so many years doing other types of performances, but I’ve grown into my acting career in the past decade and I’m at a point in my career where things have really taken off.”

The hallmark of Richard’s acting career was noted with his acceptance of multiple awards at The TOSCARS.  The TOSCARS have been held at the prestigious Egyptian Theater, known worldwide for the handprints of the stars, the same location where the likes of Meryl Streep and Denzel Washington have premiered and been honoured for their work. Richard was honoured for his hilarious turn in the achingly funny “Call Me By Your Maid,” in which he starred opposite Deirdre McCourt, well known herself for her turn in mockumentary comedy series “DECo,” opposite Korey McIsaac (from the Oscar-winning “The Social Network”).

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Richard Rennie won ‘Best Supporting Actor’ at the TOSCARS for his role as Oliver in “Call Me By Your Maid.”

Richard’s role as Oliver marked several highlights. The first was that it solidified him as a Funny or Die favorite, as the Scot had already appeared in the award-winning “Unverified” series also on the network. Richard’s “brilliant comic timing” (as reviewed by the trades) brings life to “Unverified” in a way that only his performance could. For this reason, Funny or Die clearly recruited Richard to appear in the popular series as a Scottish meditation and guitar teacher who is out to swindle anyone who employs his services. The aftermath of that series lead to numerous notices and positive reviews, heartily contributing to Funny or Die’s 32 million viewers and its positive financial prospects in 2017.

Second, “Call Me By Your Maid” further garnered the attention of Golden-Globe nominated actor Armie Hammer, as it parodied the Oscar-winning “Call Me By Your Name”, bringing Richard’s work to the attention of millions around the world. While the mainstream became familiar with Richard’s hilarious character particularities, the upper-crust elites at the Soho House were watching his turn in “@asst”, another comedy pilot co-starring Oscar-nominee Eric Roberts. “The Soho House is notoriously exclusive, so to screen there was quite the honor,” claims show creator Craig Robert Young.

The third highlight of Richard’s role was that it reinforced his commercial viability in the world of comedic films – something already known by many in the industry, but now common knowledge amongst movie-lovers globally. Adding to that bonus was that Richard’s salary rewarded his efforts handsomely. He explains, “it is very rare to get paid acting work, so when it finally happens, it’s really comforting to know that I’ve been generously compensated.” For example, Richard earned more than $105 per hour for his work on Bachelor Lions.

Indeed, Richard’s passion as an actor was already well-known in elite film-industry circles. His position at the upper-levels of the acting field is additionally signified with his membership at BAFTA, the British equivalent of the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences (the guys who hand out the Oscars). BAFTA’s membership is reserved for those only at the top of their profession in the UK, and so it’s clearly fitting that Richard attends the organizations events whenever he gets the chance to visit home.

“It’s a shame though, as I don’t often get the chance to return home since I’ve come to the US as I’ve been so busy with work.”

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Richard has been honoured with multiple awards for his acting. 

Actress Jannike Grut Excels on Stage and Screen

Veteran actress Jannike Grut is one of Scandinavia’s most talented, recognizable players. Whether playing drama or comedy on stage, television or the big screen, the Stockholm-born Grut’s mixture of polish, nuance and emotional involvement creates compelling fully realized characterizations that draw the audience in. It’s an elevated level of skill that many of her colleagues only dream of, but Grut consistently manifests the full dramatic spectrum with dazzling ease.

Currently delighting European viewers with her recurring role on the popular TV comedy series Katsching!, Grut is at the peak of her formidable powers. Grut’s mastery of craft easily translates across international lines—the actress has already been cast in a couple of American features, setting the tone of for a break out phase in her already impressive career. It’s the latest upshift in her reliably steady professional progress, the rich fulfillment of an almost pre-ordained creative destiny.

“My father was a renowned theater and film critic in Sweden, so I saw a lot of movies and plays in my childhood and of course we talked about the art of acting and storytelling all along,” Grut said. “I really got into a good story. I loved a good book, pop songs that told stories in the lyrics, and I really loved to see great plays and movies. I was drawn to stories that told me about life with new angles, new perspectives on things I was unfamiliar with, stories that made me hopeful or challenged my beliefs—I loved that.”

“Growing up, one of my favorite films was “Dead Poets Society” with Robin Williams,” Grut said. “I saw it with a friend, and I was crying when we walked home. I knew I had to become an actress because I wanted make an impact on the world myself, to be a part of changing it for the better. It made me go after my dream and never give up.”

The path was clear and Grut did not hesitate for an instant. After completing high school Grut immediately enrolled in a one year theater course, followed by two years of film school, training in comedy and film acting, a course in script writing and study in London with the acclaimed dramatic coach Doreen Cannon.

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Photos by Oren Godlman

She was working right out of the gate also. At 19, while still in theatre school, Grut was doing standup comedy in clubs and on popular Swedish television showcase ”Släng Dig I Brunnen.” Initially concentrating on stage work, At 23, the ambitious Grut also she wrote and starred in a well-received musical comedy that earned lavish praise in Sweden’s leading newspapers—an auspicious achievement, indeed, but she was just getting started.

Grut quickly became a familiar, popular presence in Scandinavian film and television, and also directed and starred in the collaborative Danish-Swedish national network TV movie “Welcome to our 7-year Itch” (Välkomna Till Vår Sjuårskris). Over the next decade, Grut’s star continued to rise, and she was prominently featured in almost thirty top notch films and TV series, winning several awards both at home and abroad, including the 2017 Best Comedy Kristallen award, Sweden’s equivalent of the Emmy.
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The hit show Katsching! provides a role that’s an ideal vehicle for her deep comedic talent, and Grut is enjoying greater fame than ever. “The series is up and running right now on Swedish National Television, it’s gotten good reviews and the audience loves it,” Grut said. “I am really grateful to be part of the cast, and also fortunate enough to act together with Per Andersson—a brilliant actor and comedian.”

Grut and Andersson make a terrific combination: “Jannike is an incredibly skilled actress and comedienne and to see her working together with the great Per Andersson is really extremely fun,” series producer Niklas Larsson said. “The contrast between her and Pers’ character is terribly funny. It was a pleasure to have Jannike on set and I really hope to have the opportunity to work with her on projects in the future.”

Grut already has two feature films—Garden Lane (already generating buzz as a potential Guldbaggen (the Swedish Oscar) nominee and action comedy The Duck Pond— set for release in the coming months, is also working on the Scandinavian TV series, ‘Finding Your Way Home,’ with esteemed Swedish director Richard Jarnhed, and, as Grut says, “I’m also one of the three leads in a new Swedish TV series, a comedy with strong female leads, but I can’t talk about it yet.”

Grut’s flawless command of English ensures her ability to entertain a rapidly expanding audience, It won’t be long before American audiences get a taste of the Grut genius; she is co-writing the feature “We are Family”, featuring Scandinavian and American actors, with renowned American screenwriter Alvaro Rodriguez (‘Machete,’ ‘From Dusk to Dawn,’), who is also producing, an intriguing combination that’s certain to highlight her natural skill as a writer and actress. .

And there’s still more going on in the actresses’ fast-moving career. “Most exiting of it all I´ve been cast in several American productions,” Grut said. “I´m going to play comedy, dramedy and action, filming in New York and in Hollywood, so, hopefully I have a real adventure ahead of me.”

“I really look forward to working internationally and in America,” Grut said. “Right now, my goal is to keep on getting good roles in TV series, and also good parts in more films.”

“I can bring something special to any part, simply by being my authentic self. As an actress it’s absolutely crucial to be curious. Ask questions, look around in fascination. And always be generous—pay it forward. So, with authenticity, curiosity and generosity, you can’t fail.”

Producer Huanglizi Sun Strives for Excellence

When an audience views a motion picture they’re completely caught up in the onscreen action and story line, but there’s so much more going on behind the camera. Out of the small army of the production crew’s specialized artisans and craftsmen, there is one driving figure head—the producer—and Chinese film producer Huanglizi Sun excels in that capacity. Sun’s combination of enthusiasm, aesthetics, superb organizational skills and instinct for great storytelling qualify her as one of the brightest rising forces in international cinema.

Sun’s lifelong romance with visual storytelling made her career path almost inevitable, especially since she came of age with a major contributor to the form right in her own backward.

“I grew up in Changsha, also called ‘Star City’ which is the capital of Hunan province,” Sun said. ”Changsha is where China’s second-most-watched TV network, Hunan Television, is located and after graduating from Nanjing University of the Arts, I interned there, as assistant to the directors and producers of the 2012 Hunan TV New Year’s Concert and Spring Festival Gala.”

It was invaluable experience which led Sun to gain key insight on her professional destiny.

“After months of hard work, I realized that I wanted to become a film producer rather than a TV producer: Sun said. “Not only because I am interested in filmmaking but also always on the lookout for great stories to tell in a cinematic way. I decided to move to Hollywood where the movies are made and learn how to ‘tell’ a story as a filmmaker.”

It’s a particularly demanding role, one that encompasses virtually every aspect of a production. “A Film Producer is a person who oversees the production of a film, Sun said. “Film Producers plan and coordinate various aspects of film production, such as selecting script, coordinating writing, directing and editing, and arranging finance.”

Based in Southern California, Sun’s drive and  peerless instinct quickly distinguished her.

“I started my career as Associate Producer in Mobscene Creative Productions,” Sun said. “I coordinated multiple editors with different producing teams and acted as liaison with clients. Everything had to happen simultaneously, on a tight deadline, with a very little margin for error, since the broadcasting schedule is on the line. It honed my ability to prioritize tasks and manage a workflow, while also being adaptive and flexible in the process to the ever-changing schedules of all parties involved.”

At Mobscene, Sun quickly found success: “I produced a web-series ‘Talking to Hollywood with Betty Zhou’, which airs weekly on China Central Television Channel (CCTV) 6, Tencent and IQIYI and it quickly gained a large viewership.”

Moving on to a position with fast rising company Big Monster Productions, Sun quickly identified a unique property—the multiple award winning 2015 short, ‘Cara,’ and is currently in the process of transforming it into a full length feature

“It explores many themes and motifs that are both timely and timeless—society’s expectation of women, coming of age and the athletic soul,” Sun said. “The story focuses on a fifteen year old swimming athlete who dreams of success with the national swimming team. Two weeks prior to her most important competition, Cara learns she is pregnant. In her last attempt to reach the top, Cara needs to confront the biggest challenge of her life— a decision which could make it or break it for her.”

“In the context of a feature, those themes can be explored in more depth and detail.” Sun said. “Transitioning Cara from a short film into a feature is a decision rooted in the belief that it has the potential to succeed both critically and commercially, given that it tells a story people will truly care about.

Huanglizi Sun on the Cara set
Huanglizi Sun on the Cara set

This is where Sun’s holistic grasp on the filmmaking process really comes into play and is certain to provide the production tremendous advantage.

“Writing a short film is one thing, writing a feature can be an entirely different process, one that  presents an entirely different set of challenges,” Sun said. “The story will be significantly more complex than the original and may go through many drafts and revisions before we are satisfied. The next step is going into production and this will also prove to be a challenge—both logistically and financially. It will take meticulous planning, many supporters and a great team effort to truly bring this vision to life.”

Sun’s ability to identify, anticipate, and troubleshoot any unexpected complication or mishap is invaluable in itself, but her comprehensive vision also extends beyond film production and reaches into other key aspects of the business, branding and marketing.

“Ms.Sun is an essential member of our team,” Big Monster president Wentao Wang said. “Her expertise in producing different types of media, ranging from films, promos to branding content is paramount to Big Monster’s success. With an acutely honed ability to judge a project’s potential and the great taste to back it up, she ensures that Big Monster only brings in a roster of projects of the highest quality. From the timely story of “Cara” to pioneering the future of multi-channel network, Ms. Sun single-handedly paves the way for Big Monster to thrive for years to come.”

Having already proven herself both at home and in Hollywood, Sun is clearly a cinematic force to be reckoned with.

“I want to make successful, memorable films, focusing on small characters with big impact that definitely have the potential to take many by heart,” Sun said. As a producer, her mixture of ambition, pragmatism, artistry and understanding of what makes a story worthwhile all combine with ideal symmetry, and what really drives Sun is one simple fact: “Making films is my greatest pleasure.”

 

 

Experience Chen Xu’s 5-channel surround sound method in hit Chinese film ‘The Wasted Times’

When Chen Xu thinks back to his childhood, he fondly recalls the way in which his admiration for sound shaped his youth and ultimately, his career in sound mixing and sound design. For the highly sought-after sound designer, it is difficult to recall a time where sound design wasn’t his main passion. At the age of 17, Xu watched Forrest Gump and notes the experience as being the first time he ever truly fell in love with a film. It inspired him to focus on a career in sound design and gave him the confidence boost he needed to take the film industry by storm. The now 36-year old, award-winning creative is just as enthused about his art form today as he was back then. His life is enriched by the opportunity to do what he loves day in and day out and he has no desire to stop any time soon.

A typical day as a sound mixer and sound designer requires the skill and expertise to be able to record sound and mix it creatively. Although this may sound relatively straightforward, it is no small feat to achieve on a daily basis. For instance, when Xu works on set, he is required to carefully position microphones in such a way that will capture sound as clearly and concisely as possible. In addition, he must learn a film’s storyline inside and out in order to thoroughly understand the types of sounds that will complement the characters’ conquests. In addition, during the post-production process, Xu must awaken his creative tendencies and use them to apply sounds in the most unique, yet appropriate manner possible. Where Xu truly shines, however, is when he is tasked with location sound mixing for a film’s script. Knowing how to effectively capture sound in a complex location is what Xu does best. He is a master of extracting compelling sounds from a loud, busy location and ensuring that there is nothing compromising the sound in order to enhance an audience’s viewing pleasure.

“When I’m sound mixing, my work is more focused on creativity. I need to design some unique sound effects according to the images and the storyline before me. Then, I need to edit and record some foley and sound effects before I can arrange each sound element to fit perfectly into each moment within the film. All of these steps allow me to help develop and compliment the storyline” noted Xu.

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In 2015, Xu was given a script for a film titled The Wasted Times, by well-known Chinese director, Er Cheng, who was confident that Xu possessed the skills necessary to take his script to the next level. Having already secured a $23.6 million budget and two of Asia’s most accomplished and award-winning stars, Ge You and Zhang Ziyi, Cheng was determined to make this film his most successful yet. In addition, he was intent on making the sound design in The Wasted Times unlike anything his audiences had ever heard before. With that, beyond dialogue alone, he wanted to use as many location sounds as possible and to make best use of live recorded sound effects and foley. Given the film’s budget, cast, and unique content, he needed someone with both the experience and creative edge required to rise to the challenge. Fortunately for Cheng, Xu was compelled by the script and eager to take part.

The Wasted Times depicts the life of a legendary mafia boss in modern Chinese history. Through the use of a biographical narrative, the film follows a violent and betrayal-ridden deal between the Japanese army and criminals in Shanghai. For Xu, working on The Wasted Time presented a number of challenges he hadn’t previously encountered in his career. For instance, due to the fact that several of the film’s scenes were shot inside state- and city-level protected historic buildings, he had to master the ability to capture vocal exchanges in historical settings, as opposed to the more modern buildings he was used to working in. In order to do so, Xu led his team in adopting a pioneering approach whereby he recorded a 5-channel surround sound effect during production sound mixing. In addition, he made use of two additional stereo microphones in order to account for any and all reverberation, echoes, and delay of sounds in real time. This led to Xu having recorded and mixed approximately 80% of the film’s final dialogues and about 50 per cent of the sound effects using his location sound. It therefore goes without saying that Xu proved himself to be instrumental throughout the entire process, being able to provide carefully thought-out solutions to each potential problem the crew encountered. He is undoubtedly a strong contributor to The Wasted Times’widespread success and feels honored knowing that the film went on to receive four award wins and ten nominations from some of the industry’s most acclaimed organizations and festivals, including the Asian Film Awards, China Film Director’s Guild Awards, and the prestigious Macau International Movie Festival.

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For Xu, however, the true highlight of working on The Wasted Times was embedded within the reality that for him, this film was far more than just a sound production process. Being able to film at authentic locations such as the residence of Pu Yi, China’s last empire, as well as in a 1920s car loaned from an antique car museum helped Xu acquaint himself with the type of lifestyle of the individuals depicted in the film. He credits the experience of working on this film as helping build his understanding of people’s lives in that era and helping make it feel familiar to him. It was both a cultural and career-building opportunity and Xu couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome.

Jason Strong Opens Up about Producing Music in the Modern Age and his Original Composition ‘Loaded’ Being Featured in the Phenoms’ Premiere

Music Producer Jason Strong
Music Producer Jason Strong shot by Alex Winter

From being the songwriter on a long list of hit songs to producing tracks for well-known international artists, music producer Jason Strong has become a sought after force behind the scenes.

Tapped to work with artists on major labels such as Capitol Records, some of Strong’s most recognizable work includes producing the song ‘Que Los Mares No Se Enteren’ by Nico Farias, which earned the coveted award for Best Song of the Year from the 2015 Latin Billboard Music Awards and placed No. 1 on the Itunes Charts in Guatemala, and Capital Records’ artist Naïka’s hit single ‘Ride,’ which has been streamed nearly four million times on Spotify and placed No. 2 on the platform’s popular Global Viral & US Viral Chart. He’s also been a songwriter behind a plethora of tracks that have garnered viral fame, such as ‘Wrong’ by Far Out ft. Emilia Ali, Lauren Carnahan’s ‘Criminal,’ ‘No Conversion’ from Thoreau ft. MNYS, and many more.

So how did a 20-something from Johannesburg, South Africa make it in one of the world’s most competitive industries?

The powerful position Strong finds himself in today comes from a combination of the creativity, innovation and skill that he brings to the table, but even more valuable is his talent for producing and writing tracks that defy genre-imposed limits.

“I think the success of a producer in a day and age where technology drives such rapid changes in creative possibilities is determined by their ability to adapt,” says Strong. “My intention is to continually learn from different styles and take from different musical words to create a blend of elements that makes for something unique and interesting. I will however, always focus on making music that is accessible to the masses, i.e. popular music.”

Strong, who began playing music in his youth, earned extensive praise for his skill as a guitarist and songwriter back home in South Africa where he was named the winner of the VIEBZ Music Competition, as well as the First Prize winner for National Eisteddfod Academy in the Best Contemporary Instrumentalist category. Forming the band Vacant Sun, Strong found himself playing alongside South Africa’s most recognizable groups, including Crash Car Burn, DJ Roger Goode, Graeme Watkins Project and others. However, upon earning a scholarship as a songwriter and guitarist to attend Berklee School of Music in the states, his dream school, leaving the world of local fame behind was a no brainer. And it was there that he first discovered his love for working as a music producer for other artists.

“Sitting down with an unproduced song leaves an endless realm of possibilities. The idea that I could dig into that creation and make it into a million different versions to appeal to a million different types of people, all within the comfort of my bedroom was insane to me. I’ve also just always loved sound and having the tools at my fingertips to manipulate sound into the crazy things I imagine in my head, and having the ability to do that got me obsessed.”

Though the numerous songs he’s written and produced for popular artists around the world have gained major attention, the interesting thing when looking at all of his works combined is just how different each one is from the others.

Strong says,“I like to think my journey thus far is unique in that I come from a diverse musical background and have experienced and lived through different cultures with different interests and diverse forms of art, which all influence who I am today and what my taste is.”

‘Que Los Mares No Se Entheren,’ the award-winning song Strong produced alongside longtime collaborator Peder Etholm-Idsoee for Nico Farias, sticks out clearly from the rest with its blend of a classic Latin vibe and an old-school British sound.

With layered instruments reminiscent of popular tracks by The Beatles, the working process Strong and Etholm-Idsoee enlisted as producers, for Strong at least, was quite different than most of his previously produced tracks.

He explains, “I usually program drums electronically as most music does nowadays, but on Nico’s project every instrument was live and played by musicians simultaneously. We would record live drums with over 20 mics on the drum kit playing at the same time as the bass guitar into a recording console in a big studio.”

The success of the song not only speaks to Strong’s astonishing talent as a music producer, but even more vital, to his ability to adapt to the needs of the artists he produces for, which often means taking an alternative approach to the process than one is used to– but that’s how new pathways are created, and it’s one of the reasons he stands out.

“My goal is always to make something that is the perfect combination of familiar and unfamiliar. Unique and unfamiliar enough to catch the listener’s attention, but familiar enough to keep the listener engaged. I love sound and am always hitting the most random objects to see if there’s any sound I can record that will make listeners go ‘woah what was that?’ I think many producers are scared of thinking outside the box, but I try to live outside the box.”

Despite having achieved a rare level of success as a music producer, Strong continues to expand on his already impressive repertoire of work. One of his newest forays is into the world of film and television. Strong’s original composition ‘Loaded’ will be featured in the first episode of the highly anticipated premiere of the FOX Sports series “Phenoms,” which airs May 25 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.

Strong admits, “I’ve done a lot of sync work for social media platforms but in the realm of television this is my first, of many to come.”

A five-part global sports documentary series “Phenoms” depicts the journey of the world’s greatest soccer players as they prepare to represent their respective countries in the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Created by award-winning storytellers including Jeff and Michael Zimbalist, Leo Pearlman, David Brooks and more, “Phenoms” gives viewers behind-the-scenes access to iconic players such as Dele Alli, Davinson Sanchez, Marco Asensio, Paulo Dybala, Gabriel Jesus, Ousmane Dembele, Adrien Rabiot, Leon Goretzka, Corentin Tolisso, Hirving Lozano and Marquinhos.

About the composition featured in the first episode, Strong says, “I aimed for something that was uptempo and danceable, with big and aggressive sounds to echo the high energy that you would experience when watching a great soccer game in a stadium.”

Much of what makes audiences remember scenes from a film or television series comes from the level of emotional attachment they develop from a combination of striking visuals and the music synced up to the unfolding story. Just as the music is key in eliciting emotional responses within viewers and effectively drawing them deeper into the story, it is vital for the composer to know when to hold back.

“Composing for film is humbling in that you have to learn to take a step back and let the visuals do the work. My job is to enhance a very sense stimulating experience, and to over stimulate multiple senses for the viewer is detrimental,” explains Strong.

“Knowing how to keep things simple and find ways to enhance the visual experience is key. This is similar to pop music in that I have to leave space for the song and vocals to speak, but at least in that case it’s only one sense being stimulated and the listener’s attention is less easily diverged.”

Approaching every project with intention, Jason Strong’s knowledge of how much to give and to hold back when it comes to the music he produces for other artists, as well as taking into account the medium the music is being used for is one of the reasons he’s been so successful at his craft as a producer. Make sure to keep your eyes and ears peeled for his work in the premiere episode of “Phenoms” on May 25. He also produced the album for Capital Records artist Naïka, which is due out later this year.  

 

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