Talented Cinematographer Brings the Film “Dirty Laundry” To Life

Cinematographer Guy Pooles
             Cinematographer Guy Pooles shot by Michel Copeland Toft

A common theme among many Los Angeles transplants is a desire to make it big in one aspect or another of the film industry. Whether it is because they were a big fish in a small pond who have been told since they were young that they belong on camera, or they have worked their whole life to be accepted as a filmmaker in Hollywood, there is so much more to film than just being talented in one’s creative field; film is a collaboration between countless departments who must individually put their egos aside in favor of the story they are creating for the audience.

For internationally respected cinematographer Guy Pooles, this foundational aspect of filmmaking is basic knowledge; and, the process as a whole is something that allows for a level of fulfillment that far surpasses anything that stems from ego-driven motives.

According to Pooles, “Cinema is a fusion of many different art forms, from writing, to music, to costume design and so on. Good cinema is brought into being by every one of those crafts working in harmony to achieve a collective vision.”

An incredible asset to every production to which he lends his name, and believe me, there have been many as he has worked non-stop over the last five years in both the UK and the United States, Pooles is the kind of cinematographer who is not only able to bring stories to life in an extraordinary manner, but he is also heavily conscious of how is work will blend with the work of each and every other department in the final product, the mark of a true collaborative genius. He explains this necessary attitude toward filmmaking by saying, “If I’m too preoccupied with how I’m lighting a scene to notice how it destroys the subtlety of a set design, or how it distracts from an actor’s performance, then a couple of audience members might leave the cinema saying “I liked the lighting” but no one will be saying “I liked the film”.”

Originally from England, Guy Pooles reached international acclaim after working as the cinematographer on the film Dirty Laundry, which was released in 2013. Directed by Aaron Martinez (Substrata), Dirty Laundry received incredible praise, as well as an impressive list of awards last year at film festivals around the world. To name a few, Dirty Laundry garnered an award from the Directors Guild of America for Outstanding Directorial Achievement, a Golden Starfish Award at the Hampton’s International Film Festival, as well as was an Official Selection at the BUSTER Children’s Film Festival Copenhagen, LA Shorts Fest and the DC Shorts Film Festival, and a Special Mention Award at the Oberhausen International Short Film Festival. Pooles was also honored on an individual level for his cinematography work on the film with the Linwood Dunn Heritage Award from the American Society of Cinematographers.

A beautifully shot film, Dirty Laundry follows a young boy named Sam (Zander Faden) as he traverses his beyond heartbreaking childhood full of real life bullies and those of which only he can see like that of the laundry monster. After Sam’s father abandons his family, and Sam’s mother falls into a dark and paralyzing depression, the young boy is forced to fend for himself on every level from the unrelenting bullies at school to the monster inside the ever piling dirty laundry within the basement. The level of collaboration and creativity that went into Dirty Laundry all the way down to the way the team managed to bring the laundry monster to life is staggering. Using miscellaneous clothing pieces, all of which were chosen by color and texture in order to fit the film’s palette, and a hand & rod puppet that required three performers to operate, they miraculously brought the laundry monster to life in a way that was not only believable, but frighteningly beautiful as well.

Shamim Seifzadeh, the production designer on Dirty Laundry, says, “I removed the common purpose from each piece of clothing, only to re-assign them to the monsters body parts. In the end, pants became the head; back pockets became his eyes; a zipper became his mouth; and socks became his fingers…. The final design concept became a giant, hunch-backed creature. His weight would not allow him to run fast but his sheer size made him intimidating. It is important to note that the Laundry Monster isn’t evil, but rather, misunderstood.”

Pooles used his expertise as the film’s cinematographer to create a dark and eerie atmosphere within the film that fully supports Sam’s mother’s debilitating depression and the cold world Sam lives in by using little, if any, artificial light. The film is shot solely from Sam’s point of view, a choice that posed challenges, but ultimately made Dirty Laundry a riveting masterpiece that allowed the audience to feel Sam’s struggle and experience his reality with little effort.

In reference to the technical cinematographic decisions that went into the film Pooles recalls, “Our first rule was that the camera would always be at the exact eye- height of Sam… This meant that when the other characters of the film towered over Sam in height, they were towering over the camera, and thus, the audience too. Another tool we utilized was to maintain the relative distance of objects and other characters. So if Sam sees something that’s on the other side of the room from him, the camera will then observe it from the other side of the room.”

While these elements combined to create the film’s general perspective as it unfolds before the audience, there was another more philosophical approach that went into providing the film with its capacity to touch the audience emotionally.

“The strongest tool we utilized was the notion of Pathetic Fallacy, where we render the world surrounding Sam, not how it would realistically appear, but rather how it feels to Sam. Examples of us doing this were: lighting each scene to feel de-saturated and overcast, helping the audience to feel the lack of warmth and colour in Sam’s life,” explains Pooles. “We would also often place Sam in a frame so that he was very small in relation to his empty environment, allowing the audience to understand the extent of the isolation that he feels.”

An even greater testament to this talented young Englishman’s auteur is the fact that Pooles wrote the film in addition to working as its cinematographer, no small feat, but one he seamlessly accomplished as proven by the shear number of awards the film received. Aside from Pooles’ work on Dirty Laundry, he has worked as the cinematographer on the films Happenstance, Martha, Jobe, What Must Be Done. What The Monkey Saw, Wake, Chronophobia, as well as the music video for Bryarly’s hit song ‘In The Bright Daylight’ and the documentary Best of The Pacific Northwest.

Guy Pooles is undoubtedly a cinematographer whose creative vision, backed by his highly specialized technical skills, will continue to impress for decades to come; and frankly, we can’t wait to see what he comes up with next!

 

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Spotlight on Canadian Actor & Model Steven Van Nguyen

Canadian Actor and Model Steven Van Nguyen
Canadian Actor and Model Steven Van Nguyen photo by Marc Shultz and styling by Paul Langill

Originally from Waterloo, a small town in Ontario, Canada, Steven Van Nguyen rose to the top of the Canadian entertainment industry as an actor and a model several years ago. As an actor Steven has starred in the films The White Samurai, Deception, Checkmate, Add To Cart, M.E.G.O., Cheese The Musical and others, as well as an impressive list of commercials for companies including Canadian multinational coffee and doughnut restaurant chain Tim Hortons, Voxx Sports, Emerald City Condos, Mani Wonders, mobile game developer Emoteplay, OCMT College, and Clipter, a collaborative video stories app for Apple operating systems.

Steven played the starring role of Ryan in the dramatic Web series UNDERside, which was nominated for an Upper Year Script Award at the 56th Annual TARA Awards last year. Produced by V.O.P. Media, UNDERside centers on youths from different socioeconomic classes and seeks to reveal how the financial class one grew up in affects their overall outlook on life. Through Steven’s character Ryan audiences see how growing up wealthy without ever having to work can lead to ignorance and hinder one’s ability to create authentic relationships. Steven gave a stellar performance in the show where he starred alongside Lisa Lau (Covert Affairs, Purple Squirrels, Her Shadow, Poker Night, Broken Earth). 

Over the course of his career it has become clear that Steven has a look casting directors are dying to cast for a variety of roles, but more importantly he has shown through his work that he is a great actor with incredible versatility. Collectively, his projects span virtually every genre imaginable. While his uniquely handsome appearance is what helped Steven first break into the industry after he signed with Geoffrey Chapman Model & Talent Agency, which has received 24 consecutive Reader’s Choice Awards including the Award for Best Model & Talent Agency for the past three years, the young actor’s dedication to his craft is what has made him truly successful. Nguyen is also signed to Talent INK and MoonStar Management.

In 2013, Steven Van Nguyen took on the role of the Demon in the horror noir film The White Samurai. Produced by Gorgeous Horror Entertainment and D.B. Films, The White Samurai is a film about a man who must break his oaths and reclaim his former identity as the White Samurai after his daughter is taken from her bed in the middle of the night. While the White Samurai will stop at nothing to rescue his beloved daughter, evil natured villains like the Demon, played by Steven Van Nguyen, challenge his tumultuous journey at every corner.

Steven admits, “My favorite role so far was playing the Demon in ‘The White Samurai’ because the role was solely based on my acting abilities and not on my looks. I was able to express freely without any restrictions from the director on how I thought my character should be portrayed from how he sounded to his little ticks.”

Not only did the role allow him to showcase his acting prowess without the limitations posed by the audience’s perception of his physical features, as he underwent 10 hours of prosthetic make-up before each shoot in an effort to make him look as evil as possible, but the role offered him the challenge he was looking for. He says, “I’m not a sadistic person so I had to really dig deep and find a memory in the past that made it possible to be an evil, sadistic character.”

In addition to his growing Canadian fan base, Steven Van Nguyen is in negotiations with Plaza 7 Talent and several other agencies for representation in the U.S., a move which guarantees audiences across the United States will be seeing a whole lot more of this talented young star.

Juno Nominated Film Composer Headed for Greener Pastures

Film Composer Rob Teehan
                                             Film Composer Rob Teehan

Rob Teehan has decided to head south to thaw out from the Canadian winter in the warm California sun.   When we got wind that one of Canada’s top film composers was coming Stateside, we decided to catch up with him to talk about his eminent migration.

Rob Teehan started his career as a performer, playing the guitar, flute, and tuba, before moving into classical choral and orchestral composition, which led him to his forever-home of film composition. He has gone on to score more than a dozen films, including the award winning films Tulip, Texas and Us, and The Sugar Bowl. In addition to film scoring, Teehan is perhaps best known for his work with the acclaimed Lemon Bucket Orkestra, with whom he has toured Canada and Europe, as well as being a member of the European Saida Baba Talibah jazz band, and, currently, the Heavyweights Brass Band, whose music is regularly played on jazz radio stations across Canada.

Virtually every major music award from coast to coast in Canada has recognized Teehan’s extraordinary work. Since 2010, he has been nominated for an impressive list of awards, which includes three Juno Awards, the first of which marked him as the youngest person to be nominated for a Juno in the Classical Composition category. He has also been nominated for a staggering seven Canadian Folk Music Awards, four of which were for his work with the Lemon Bucket Orkestra, one for his work with The Boxcar Boys, and two for his work as the engineer and producer of the Ventanas’ self-titled album. He also earned a nomination for Best World Group of the Year at the Sirius Radio Indie Awards in 2014 for his work with the Lemon Bucket Orkestra. Other accolades include a Toronto Independent Music Award nomination, a 2nd place finish at the SoCan Foundation Awards, as well as numerous top finishes at choral competitions across Canada as well as internationally.

When asked about some of his most memorable film projects, he singles out a few of the films that stand out to him. The first film he mentions is Hogtown, which was directed by Canadian actor turned director Nick Latimer, and features among its cast WWF wrestling legend Jake “the Snake” Roberts. Teehan describes the film as “avant garde” and the experience as one he “can never forget.” Hogtown is the name of the city where the film is set, a futuristic version of Toronto, which has slid into poverty and debauchery. The protagonist, Boris (aka Baxi) is Hogtown’s only pig-mask wearing insomniac “baxi” driver, which means that in lieu of shuttling people around in a taxi, he spends his evenings transporting his fares from Point A to Point B on his back. When the dirt, grime, and depravity of his surroundings become too much for him to take, Baxi takes it upon himself to clean up the streets in a gory wave of vigilante justice. The film screened at the Shaved II Film Festival, as well as enjoyed several underground screenings, which sparked the major cult following the film has today.

Despite the independent vibe of the film, it drew the attention of Mississauga Life mag, as well as the famous Toronto culture site Blog TO and Zee Big Bang, who covered the film’s making and release. Rob Teehan’s work with the Heavyweight Brass Band on the film’s score was a big selling point for the film.

The next film he cites as a favorite is Tulip, Texas, and Us, a charming love story uniquely set to Balkan brass music, scored by Teehan. One of the things that stand out about this film is its international reach and appeal. Tulip, Texas and Us was the winner of the Grand Prix at the Zubroffka International Film Festival in Poland, and was also selected for the Kustendorf International Film and Music Festival (Serbia) and the Timishort Film Festival (Romania). Teehan was interviewed on CBC Radio 3 about his work on the film, which he describes as “quirky”.

The other film that immediately stood out to Teehan was the film simply titled Joe, a documentary chronicling the true story of musician Joe Garisto, a musical genius whose career is threatened by a debilitating anxiety disorder and an addiction to the medication used to treat it. The intense film, directed by Patrick Collins and Scott Williamson, was released on DVD as well as on iTunes.

Taking on such varied musical themes as mental illness, young Eastern European love, or futuristic dystopia is no small feat, and shows the breadth of Rob Teehan’s great talents.

Teehan insists that the themes and music in his next films are so varied that they will continue to defy categorization in any particular musical genre. They include the Italian animated short film Life is a Coin, about the exciting travels of a 2-Euro coin named Dante who travels across Europe, followed closely by the release of the documentary feature The Babushkas of Chernobyl, a film about the old women of Chernobyl who chose to sneak back into the contaminated zone after the nuclear meltdown in Chernobyl, Ukraine in the 1980’s to live out their last days in their hometown, rather than suffer through a relocation to a new uncontaminated city, as well as the Venezuelan documentary film Flor de la Mar about a well-hidden archeological treasure found on the Venezuelan island of Cubagua, and the feature documentary The Unsinkable Captain John about a historic Toronto ship facing and fighting eviction after generations in the Toronto harbor.

After many successful years in his native Canada, Rob Teehan is heading to Hollywood, not only for the warm sun but to bring his music to more Hollywood films. We wish him good luck, fame, and fortune, and can’t wait to see this top talent hit Tinseltown!

Untitled excerpt from Life as a Coin composed by Rob Teehan

“Caracas” composed by Rob Teehan for the upcoming documentary film Flor de la Mar

Director Jacob Lundgaard Andersen Continues to Amaze

Jacob Lundgaard Andersen
Director Jacob Lundgaard Andersen

Originally from Jutland, the main peninsula of Denmark, Jacob Lundgaard Andersen is a director whose talent knows no bounds. After obtaining his undergraduate degree from the European Film College in Denmark, Andersen went on to be one of 28 directors invited each year to attend the American Film Institute Conservatory program where he received his master’s degree.

Earlier on in his career, Andersen worked with multi-award winning directors Thomas Vinterberg (Submarino, The Hunt, Metallica: The Day That Never Comes), and Nikolaj Arcel (Royal Affair, King’s Game, Truth About Men). While working as Vinterberg’s 2nd AD on the film Submarino, Andersen says, “Through intimate moments driving to and from set and as a collaborator directing his background [Thomas] taught me many valuable things, always wrapped in an anecdote. But what I learned most from just shadowing him was observing how he navigated the obstacles of the production in ways that were least compromising to his vision.”

Submarino, which received 8 awards and has been nominated for 19 others at film festivals around the world, reveals the dark subject matter of a dysfunctional family plagued by loss and substance abuse. The film puts Vinterberg’s fearless approach to cinema on display, a characteristic we also see in Andersen’s films. Andersen also worked alongside Nikolaj Arcel on the historical drama film A Royal Affair, which was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film as well as an Academy Award and several others.

Jacob Lundgaard Andersen first gained international exposure after embarking on the “This is War” World Tour with 30 Seconds to Mars, a rock band fronted by Oscar Award winning actor and multi-talented musician Jared Leto. While on tour with the band, which has received a Billboard Music Award as well as 84 other awards, Andersen worked as a videographer, shooting and editing tour footage of 30 Seconds to Mars while also helping to create several music videos and documentaries.

Jared Leto
Jared Leto on tour with his band 30 Seconds to Mars shot by Jacob Lundgaard Andersen

His successful work on the tour led him to begin working with Grammy Award winning musician Raphael Saadiq on Saadiq’s “Stone Rollin” Tour.

About his work with Saadiq, Andersen says, “I worked as a one-man-production and even though the scope was smaller, the creative responsibility was much greater and ended with me directing two tour-music videos for him. I am still collaborating with Raphael today.”

All of these projects marked the very beginning of Andersen’s career, an incredible feat considering the high profile of the artists with which he collaborated, but not all that surprising when looking at the extraordinary talent Andersen has shown through his work. In 2013 Andersen wrote, directed and produced the music video “As Long As You Watch My Heart” for Danish musician Penny Police. Andersen’s video went into heavy rotation on MTV U, which reaches an audience of 9 million, when Penny Police was chosen as one of several artists to compete for the Freshman Award, an award voted on by viewers that they won. The video was also an Official Selection at the Rahway Film Festival, and garnered Andersen the award for Best Music Video at the 2014 HollyShorts Film Festival in Los Angeles. A stop motion video, “As Long As You Watch My Heart” follows a ball of yarn traveling through nature and space. Andersen created the visually captivating video using animation, miniature models and puppetry.

Jacob Lundgaard Andersen is extremely gifted. Not only is he an incredible director with a unique vision, but he is passionate about learning every aspect of what goes into the creation of a film as well.

He says, “I love movies and every element that goes into making them and as a director you get to be involved with each of the specialized departments and learn everything from technical camera, VFX and sound things to very emotional and human experiences that comes from working with writers, actors and people management in general.”

The great lengths Andersen has gone to in order to become knowledgeable about every technical aspect of filmmaking in addition to the creative side, has put him leagues ahead of most directors and adds to his ability to bring his vision to life with each project. A perfect example of Andersen’s vast skillset, the films’ Be Here Now and Dustland showcase his creativity as a director, writer, and producer. If you’d like to find out more about Jacob Lundgaard Anderson’s work you can check out his website http://jacoblandersen.com/ and watch his video for Penny Police below!

Editing Alchemist Andrew Coutts

 Renowned film director David Fincher (Gone Girl, The Social Network, Zodiac) said in an article published by Den of Geek,“The best editors are alchemists. They’re equal parts poet and blacksmith. They can forge something – they make pieces go together that should never work. They can take footage that was intended for one thing, and use it to illuminate a whole new idea in a sequence that you maybe never conceived.” We couldn’t agree more.

Andrew Coutts
Editor Andrew Coutts

A film editor is a vital force in bringing the stories audiences see on the screen to life. Not only are they responsible for selecting the right shots and sequences out of hundreds, and sometimes, thousands of hours of footage, but they also decide the timing and pace of the story that unfolds before us.

Continually executing the aforementioned in a way that is seamless and virtually unnoticeable by the audience, the work of Canadian editor Andrew Coutts procures him a place among the world’s best editors. An alchemist in his own right, some of Coutts’ film work as an editor includes Saw V, Saw VI, Saw 3D: The Final Chapter, The Day, Nurse 3D, Altergeist, The Man Who Loved Flowers, Sequence, Anguish, Blood Sucking Bastards, Grizzly, 10:17, and the series Sleepy Hollow, The Line, Hungry, and more.

Andrew Coutts was the editor of the horror film Saw VI, the sixth installment of the seven-part Saw franchise. The film, which grossed an impressive $68,233,629 at the box office internationally, was nominated for two Most Memorable Mutilation Awards at the Scream Awards in 2010 for “The Pound of Flesh Trap” and “The Needle Trap” scenes.

“I had a lot of fun cutting the traps on the saw films, since they tend to be pretty visually intense and you can try some pretty fun techniques in editing as part of the scenes, jump cuts, flash frames, using off-speed camera ramps,” recalled Coutts.

Visually intense is a light description of the traps in Saw VI, they were down right horrifying, but after all that is the point. The way Coutts combines jarring sound effects and swift cuts during the film’s traumatic torture scenes effectively heighten the intensity to the point of making your heart feel like it might just jump out of your chest. The opening pound of flesh scene where Jigsaw’s most recent victims, Simone and Eddie, race the clock to see who will cut of the most flesh in order to survive is so frightening that I actually had to close my eyes at a point, and even then, the fluctuation and rapidity of the sound effects intermixed with the actors’ screams was enough to keep me squirming in my seat.

Coutts, who has been working as an editor for over 15 years, is above all passionate about bringing stories to life and he views editing as a powerful means for evoking reactions in his audience. “Whether it’s a tension filled horror scene where through editing and pacing we’ve built suspense and shock the audience with a scare moment, or putting together poignant performances from the actors that resonates emotionally with the audience, or a heart pounding action scene that is an exciting thrill ride, it’s all of these moments in editing that I love,” said Coutts.

Coutts also served as the lead editor on the final film in the Saw franchise, Saw 3D: The Final Chapter. The film grossed $136,150,434 at the box office internationally and was nominated for another Most Memorable Mutilation Award at the Scream Awards, this time for the “Reverse Bear Trap” scene, as well as an award in the horror movie category at the Teen Choice Awards. Once again Coutts used his exceptional eye as an editor to create a terrifying sequence of shots that was further intensified by the 3D element in the film.

“One of the biggest challenges on this film was finding a way to introduce 3D on both a creative and technical level into the already strongly stylistic Saw world. Shooting and editing a film in 3d brings certain requirements for brighter lighting and slower cutting than the Saw films typically had,” explained Coutts. “Working with the director and cinematographer we had to find a way to push the limits of 3D as far as we could to bring it as close in line as we could with the previous films looks.”

Putting his unparalleled talents as a horror editor on display, there is no doubt about it, Andrew Coutts nailed the mark on both Saw VI and Saw 3D: The Final Chapter, and we can not wait to see what he has in store for us next.

One of Mexico’s Brightest Stars, Actress Ale Fips!

Ale Fips
Mexican Actress Ale Fips

Originally born in Guadalajara, Mexico, actress Ale Fips began her career on some of the most prestigious stages in Mexico at the age of 8. The young Fips was first chosen to work with the International Book Festival known as the FIL, with which she performed for four years putting on a new a play each season for audiences in the hundreds.

Ale Fips got her first big break when she was cast in the starring role of Princess Nadia in the musical theatre production of “El Príncipe Rana,” also known as “The Frog Prince,” when she was barely 16-years-old. The production follows Princess Nadia, a spoiled young girl who loses a golden ball in the water, as she begins to cry a mysterious frog appears and promises to return her prized possession as long as she promises to let him live in the palace from then on. The princess agrees, but quickly forgets her promise until the frog appears at the palace as an honored dinner guest later that night. The moral of the story revolves around honoring one’s promises, as well as not judging others by their outer appearance a point which is furthered by the fact that frog turns into a prince towards the end of the story.

Ale Fips proved her tenacious dedication to her craft as she continually wowed audiences in her portrayal of Princess Nadia over the course of the production’s three season run in Mexico. While “El Príncipe Rana” proved the power of Fips’s magnetic stage presence as an actress, the production also gave her the opportunity to vocalize her impressive range as a singer, an asset to the production that kept audiences coming back over and over again. “El Príncipe Rana” was performed in several theaters in Guadalajara including Foro de Arte y Cultura de Guadalajara, Centro Cultural Jaime Torres Bodet, and Guadalajara Teatro del IMSS.

Ale Fips
Ale Fips as Princess Nadia in “El Príncipe Rana”

Some of Ale Fips’s other theater productions include “Monstruos El Musical” where she played the role of Dr. Jekyll’s daughter Belinda, “La Mulata de Cordova” where she played the starring role of La Mulata, “Fondo De Cultura Económica” where she played the role of Maya, as well as many others. While Fips’s dynamic abilities as both an actress and a singer have made her a highly sought after talent for high profile musical theater productions, her abilities have also made her an integral actress on some of the most popular television shows in Mexico.

“I moved to Mexico City when I was 18 because I was cast for the Latin version of High School Musical on TV Azteca. It was an amazing experience; we were on primetime television for five months on Canal 13, TV Azteca’s most popular channel,” recalled Ale Fips. “Then I continued my career in theater until I was called to start working on La Rosa de Guadalupe on Televisa.”

Ale Fips played several leading roles in the hit series La Rosa de Guadalupe, a dramatic anthology series that began in 2008 and continues to bring high viewership ratings today. Fips has starred in eight episodes of the series including “La Luz de la Verdad,” “La Semilla del Bien,” “Perdonar con Amor,” “Vivir en Paz,” “Con pies de Plomo,” “Donde está el Sol,” as well as others.

Now in her early 20s, the actress has advanced her craft with leaps and bounds and has come to be recognized throughout Mexico for her diverse acting skills. Fips is currently working on the production of “Judgment on A Gray Beach” where she will play the starring role of Leni. The production is scheduled to open at New York’s renowned La MaMa theater in 2015.