Hailing from Sarajevo, raised in Germany and trained in Los Angeles, trilingual star of the stage and screen Aleksandra Kovacevic has won over audiences on both sides of the Atlantic and become a mainstay in the industry.
In the play 4.48 Psychosis, Kovacevic takes on the difficult task of portraying both a therapist and the therapist’s patient. The play has a deeply tragic history, which is as important to the plot as the actual performance. 4.48 Psychosis was written by British playwright Sarah Kane who suffered from debilitating depression herself. After she completed writing the play, Kane committed suicide before its debut. The unsettling and grim context of the story makes it that much more powerful, and Kovacevic brought that sense of emotional magnitude to her performance in the play.
“The role of the patient was a paradox, like a free spirit trapped in her own prison. She suppresses her path and tries to reflect her fate on others,” Kovacevic said of the role. “She is Sarah Kane, and still can’t accept that she is ill. If she dies both of them die. My character is basically telling her not to give up on herself.”
Kovacevic’s work is not bound by the conventions of genre; she is as at home in comedic roles as she is in psychological dramas. In the 2015 hit Netflix Original Series Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp, she plays a counselor who auditions for the Camp Talent Show. The series is directed by David Wain (Stella, They Came Together, Role Models), two-time Emmy Award-winning co-creator of the Adult Swim live-action comedy Children’s Hospital. The role sees Kovacevic act alongside an enormous all-star cast, including Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation, Saturday Night Live, They Came Together), who plays the camp counselor and brutal camp play director Susie.
In an incredible display of her talents as both an actor and a writer, Kovacevic played the lead role in Bertilda, a film she wrote herself. As the title character Bertilda, Kovacevic portrays a marionette, which serves as a symbol for the restrictions placed on women in the past and present. Throughout the film, Bertilda gradually begins to break away from those limits. Kovacevic spoke about the ways in which she planned and visualized the production from start-to-finish.
“I started thinking about the role of the female and what I could relate to,” she said. “Things like being seen as an object, being underestimated, men thinking females can’t have a position of leadership and women being seen as the weak link. The change of the female role, now and then.”
She spent countless hours studying not only the history of women’s struggles, but also the finer details like set design and of course, the style with which she would take on the role of a marionette puppet. It takes careful choreography and precise movements to perfectly embody and portray a wooden puppet whose movements are controlled and restricted by strings, and Kovacevic did so masterfully.
“I started to develop my character in her full motion when I started to practice with strings,” said Kovacevic, who actually used both bungee cords and ropes to help her become a living puppet. “To bring this project to life, I needed to practice a lot. A puppet doesn’t have a mind, her head is made out of wood.”
Everything – from the gorgeous set, painstakingly designed like an idyllic dollhouse and overflowing with symbolism to set the mood for observant viewers, to the ‘50s style of decor and wardrobe, down to the Nutcracker-esque living doll at the core of the film – are carefully and thoroughly planned and intended to create what Kovacevic calls “a fairy tale for grown-ups.”
Audiences can catch Kovacevic in the film Bertilda, and in Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp now on Netflix. Other upcoming projects include Sebudai, set to begin shooting in winter, and Animal Lovers Anonymous, a feature length mockumentary-style comedy set to begin production in 2016.
We over at Tinsel Town News Now recently had the pleasure of interviewing dynamic Polish actress Diana Matlak, the captivating star who played Deena Kravitz in Aditya J. Patwardhan’s dramatic film Red House by the Crossroads, which screened at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, Sarah in Allen Obisesan’s film Beneath the Surface and Jenny in Yi Zhang’s film Packing Up. In 2015 alone Matlak starred in more than eight films, each one showcasing a different side of her unparalleled talent.
The kind of actress that captivates her audience with little effort, Diana Matlak has also been featured in several hit television shows including Bones, American Crime Story, The Real O’Neals, Scandal, Black-ish and many others.
Back home in Poland, Matlak was landed a role on Na dobre I na zle aka For Better or For Worse, a highly popular medical drama that is one of the country’s longest running series, as well as roles in two national commercials for Zywiec Beer and Vanish, a massive cleaning products company.
Matlak’s successful film and television career places her in the upper echelon of Polish actresses currently working in the entertainment industry internationally. One aspect of her talent that separates her from others in the industry is her long history as a professional Latin dancer, which has endowed her with a rare level of grace and an ability to move through scenes like few others can.
To find out how this inspiring artist got to where she is today, and what’s next for her in terms of upcoming projects, make sure to check out our interview below!
TTNN: Where are you from? When and how did you get into acting?
DM: I was born and raised in Poland. I got into acting after I finished my dancing career. I am a professional Latin dancer. I have been training and competing for 15 years. I have the highest, international Class in Latin, and after I finished dancing I started to teach. Even though I liked it, I felt empty and I wasn’t completely satisfied. I knew I had to be on stage. So I started taking different acting classes: theater, acting for film, Meisner etc., and I fell in love with acting and I knew that this is it. I landed an agent and started going out on auditions. I did a couple of commercials in Poland as well as a TV show and in 2012 I started considering coming to the US.
TTNN: Can you tell me a little bit about the film, television and commercials projects you’ve done?
DM: In Poland I was in a national Zywiec Beer commercial, which aired on all of the main Polish TV stations, as well as a commercial for Vanish cleaning products. Both times I had a blast on set. I played a patient on the Polish TV series Na dobre i na złe, (For better or For Worse), a medical drama series broadcast on TVP2. The show is currently on its 17th season, and with over 600 episodes, it is the longest-running primetime drama on Polish TV. The show revolves around the lives of doctors and patients in a hospital in Leśna Góra near Warsaw.
I played Deena Kravitz in the film Red House by the Crossroads directed by Aditya J. Patwardhan. The film follows Ester Kravitz, my character’s mother, whose husband was murdered during the Second World War at the hands of a fleeing Nazi officer, and as fate would have it, that officer’s estranged son, Edward Melies, is her doctor. The story is about a man’s face-off with the sins of his father and a woman’s contemplation for finishing the cycle of revenge.
My character was responsible for her mother, who was struggling with the illness and who couldn’t forget about what happened during the war. Deena was also responsible for her mentally sick, younger brother. My role was very demanding, because Deena was supposed to be a very strong young woman who helps her family, in fact she is responsible for the family, but it was a challenge because of all of the obstacles in her life, for example: the situation in the house, no father, a mentally ill younger brother and a sick mother. Deena was actually very sad and overwhelmed, but she never shows it.
In the film Stay directed by Yining Yan I played Lady in Red. The film has two parallel stories, one where a pregnant woman is having contractions with her husband standing by her side, and the other where the husband, who dresses like a detective, chases a drug-dealer. In the film, as the wife’s time-line goes backwards into the past, the husband’s time-line goes forward with the ending revealing that the detective actually died in the mission and chose to stay with his wife as a ghost. My character, which is the couple’s neighbor, watches the sees the detective get shot and does everything she can to save his life.
I played the leading lady in the music video for Gaurav Bhatt & Shikha Bhatt hit song “Katra- Katra,” which was directed by Aditya J. Patwardhan. The video revolves around a girl who finds unfinished sheet music on the beach. She is very intrigued and curious about the composer that created it and she wants to finish the piece. She is almost obsessed with finishing it. She meets a friend and tells him that it looks like the composer couldn’t express the feelings he wanted to, and when she finally finishes the music, she meets the composer.
In the film Bring me flowers directed by Siru Wen I played the lead role of Emma, a former photographer who works in a brothel. Emma suffered from depression for years; and when her boyfriend, the biggest love of her life, breaks up with her she doesn’t know what to do, her depression only gets worse until she finally decides to start working in a brothel. She hates it. She is very unhappy, and doesn’t know how to deal with all of the issues she has. Ultimately she wants love and understanding. Sage comes into the brothel and develops feelings for her and slowly falls in love with her. But she still thinks about her ex boyfriend. Emma likes Sage but everything reminds her of her ex boyfriend. Emma is overwhelmed and she doesn’t know what to do, and finally depression wins. She decides to finish her life committing suicide. While Sage is in her room she jumps out of the window.
I was also in the films Mac Daddys Vegas Adventure directed by Mac Jay, Perfect Illusion, a comedy directed by Allen Obisesan, Dead Heart directed by Ogemdi Udegbumam, Speak Softly, a dramedy directed by Chad Figuredo, Something good and Packing up directed by Yi Zhang, With You directed by Colin Yan, Beneath the Surface directed by Allen Obisesan, Touch directed by Rishab Gulati, Shameless directed by Monique Oberholzer, Bethany directed by James Cullen Bressack, Buddy Solitaire, a comedy directed by Kuang Lee, Cans and Candles directed by Tarak Ojaghi, Restoration, a horror film directed by Zack Ward, Coincidental Romance directed by Joseph Brandon and Roller Coaster directed by Bradley Howkins.
I’ve also been featured on the television shows Scandal, Bones, American Crime Story, The Real O’Neals, Black-ish, Heartbreaker, Rosewood and Grace and Frankie.
In terms of commercials outside of Poland, I’ve been in major international campaigns for Greetings from Europe – EXPO 2015, Heineken Beer, and a Super Bowl commercial for Chambord. I was also in music videos for the artists Arash, and Neo.
TTNN: They are all very different, what made you choose to participate in these projects?
DM: All of the projects are very different, but they have one thing in common – all of them are very interesting. The scripts are well written, the stories are exciting and the people working on these projects are fun to work with, but at the same time very professional.
TTNN: You get approached all the time to work on projects with people, what makes you pick one role over another?
DM: I always read the script first, and then if I like the story and my character, most of the time I’ll want to do the project. For me stories are very important.
TTNN: What has been your favorite role so far and why?
DM: It is a very difficult question because over the course of my career I’ve played a lot of challenging roles. But there are some roles that because, either they were more challenging than others, or because I had more fun with them, they became my favorite.
I enjoyed playing the depressed girl from Bring me flowers because it was really challenging, it was so dark and I had to find these dark situations within my character. I am not a pessimistic person, instead I am super optimistic and I always trying to find a positive side, so it was really challenging to play this character, because she is so different from who I am. I stayed very focused on set– always with headphones on just trying to get into my dark place… I had a lot of fun and it was a great lesson for me.
My second favorite role was Hannah from Coincidental Romance. This role on the other hand was very challenging, because the character was very similar to me. Hannah is a dancer and she wanted to pursue her dancing career in Los Angeles, but after her boyfriend breaks up with her and she gets depressed, it is very difficult for her to move forward… It was really very interesting to play this role, because even though the character and I had a lot of in common, Hannah is a different person, she’s not me. I remember when I was preparing for the role I had to find Hanna’s motivation and her unique objective in life.
TTNN: What is your favorite genre to work in as an actor?
DM: I like all genres. I worked on comedies, horrors and dramas, and I’ve had fun with all of them. Comedies are always fun to work on because the atmosphere is really great. When it comes to dramas, I like to get really deep into my character, so many times I listen to music on set so I can stay focused and concentrate…I’ve worked on two horror films so far, and I would like to work in this genre more as well.
TTNN: What separates you from other actors?
DM: I think that every actor is very unique and exceptional. I know I have a lot to offer as I am a professional Latin dancer, as well as a fitness, aqua aerobic and snowboard instructor. I have trained as a downhill skier for 8 years and I also studied Physical Education at the Academy of Physical Education in Warsaw. I am a sports teacher as well. I have been training Stage Combat for a year and I am really fit. I speak several different languages including Polish, German, English and basic Russian, and I can also do Russian, German and Polish accents.
TTNN: What would you say your strongest qualities as an actor are?
DM: I think the fact that I am committed and hardworking, and that I always prepare for my roles really sets me apart. I am not afraid of preparing for my roles, and I really take my time. I use different acting techniques to create the best character I can. I love to rehearse. I’ve also travelled a lot, and got to know different cultures and interesting people, which I think is very important for actors, because we have to portray people that are often so different from us. I am always open to learn, I observe people and try to learn from them and understand their behavior.
TTNN: What projects do you have coming up?
DM: In December I will be in a music video, directed by Aditya J. Patwardhan. I worked with Aditya on two projects, and I think that he is a great director. I can’t wait. Red House by the Crossroads, a drama that I was in, which was written and directed by Aditya J. Patwardhan, premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2015. I am very excited to start working with Aditya again. In January 2016 I will be playing one of the leads in Lotta-ditsy flirt, a film directed by Stephanie Nauli.
TTNN: What are your plans for the future?
DM: My plans are to act, act and act. I love being on set, and I plan to work as much as possible, and of course audition, because without auditioning getting a role is pretty hard. I still take classes at Ivan Chubbuck Studio and I want to continue taking classes, because I think as an actor it is very important to work on your craft all of the time.
TTNN: What do you hope to achieve in your career as an actor?
DM: I would love to make beautiful movies, tell amazing stories and work with great actors and directors. I would love to get challenging roles.
TTNN: Why is acting your passion and chosen profession?
DM: I must say that I never thought that I would become an actress, but acting chose me, and I am very happy that happened. I love my job. I love everything about it: studying the roles, working on sets and even the entire audition process. The best part is, that I get to portray different characters
For all the fans that feel a bit sad every time an episode of the hit show Trailer Park Boys ends after only 30 minutes, the release of Swearnet: The Movie probably came as quite a delight. Distributed by E1 Films Canada, Netflix and Dada Films, the 2014 release of the film Swearnet: The Movie pulled together the stars of Trailer Park Boys, with the added bonus of Tom Green, Carrot Top and Sarah Jurgens, for 112 minutes of crude laugh out loud comedy.
When CNT denies the next season of their show due to offensive language, Mike Smith, Rob Wells, John Paul Tremblay and Patrick Roach decide to form their own television network known as Swearnet, a haven for all those anti-censorship swear-a-holics, who just can’t seem to curb their tongue.
It seems the boys are back on top, as long as Wells can keep the new network a secret from his psycho girlfriend Julie, played by Jurgens, who brings the perfect dichotomy of anxiety and comedy to the film. The epitome of that crazy, overbearing girlfriend we’ve all known at one time or another, Julie makes Wells’ life a living hell throughout the film.
“I anchored her destructive behavior in deep insecurity and an insatiable desire for attention and drama. It was such a blast to be able to run wild with her,” recalls Sarah Jurgens.
Most viewers will recognize Jurgens from her more dramatic roles on the television shows Covert Affairs, Lost Girl, Republic of Doyle and Beauty and the Beast, but we get to see a totally different side of her in this film.
About working on Swearnet: The Movie, Jurgens says, “The director, Warren P. Sonoda, created a working environment that was fast-paced and creatively freeing. We were often encouraged to stretch the boundaries of the characters behavior, and the improv really kept me on my toes.”
Viewers will have the chance to see Jurgens in a starkly different role than Julie in the psychological drama film The Man in the Shadows, where she plays the role of Rachel Darwin. The film revolves around Jurgens’ character, a newlywed photographer who is haunted by a mysterious man in the shadows who continually appears wearing a brimmed hat.
Based on hundreds of accounts from people around the world who have had similar experiences with this mysterious presence, The Man in the Shadows premiered recently at the Dances with Films Festival in Los Angeles and is slated to screen again at the Cinefest Sudbury International Film Festival on September 22.
“‘The Man In The Shadows’ gave me the permission to explore the experience of being haunted, hunted and stalked,” explains Jurgens. “I was given the opportunity to live in a state of mental unraveling. I enjoyed the challenge of playing a character who was wrestling with truth and illusion, experiencing the slippage of her own sanity.”
The film was also chosen as an Official Selection of the 2015 SCARE-A-CON Film Festival where Jurgens is nominated for a Best Actress Award, and the film is nominated for a Best Feature Award.
In today’s global economy, cultural exchange is a valuable tool to possess. So has been the experience of producer Min Dai, who will attest that running productions in both China and the United States has greatly developed her ability to work in varying cultural conditions.
Throughout the last 10 years, Min has been in charge of the production process for countless film, television, and musical projects in both China and the US.
In addition to her work in editing and production, Min has extensive experience in writing, directing, visual effects, sound and cinematography. With such rich, far-reaching expertise in these areas, one can safely say that Min fully knows the ins and outs of the filmmaking process.
Her knowledge about the production process began long before she was able to contribute. As a child, Min learned what it took to run a successful production company from her mother. As a teenager, Min began writing, producing, and directing her own films, as well as those for independent filmmakers.
As a young adult, she began her professional career with the China International Television Corporation. During her time there, Min was put in charge of the production for several television series, including Mission for Peace and King of Silk, which starred major Chinese actors such as Ma Yili and Zhang Guangbei.
While in China, Min also served as executive producer for the King’s Film Company as well as the WIN China Group, where she spearheaded the production and editing processes for many films and commercials.
Min began to collaborate on projects in the United States upon partnering with Jackie Subeck of Footprint Worldwide, a company that works closely with Chinese productions. While working with Footprint, Min led live production for Linkin Park and 30 Seconds to Mars for the Chinese portion of their international tours.
It was not long after these experiences that Min brought her talent to the United States. During her time in the US, Min has focused on film, which she describes as her favorite type of production.
While Min has produced many dramatic films, including Eat a Hot Dumpling Slowly, Device, Icebox, Meeting Gary and 4 Latas, she has also thrived as a producer of documentary films.
“At times,” Min said, “I find documentaries have a much stronger social impact, [and are] sometimes more intense than a thriller.”
Two of these documentaries that were of particular social impact were A Trip to Tibet and You and Me.
A Trip to Tibet followed a group of teachers from Beijing who volunteered to help in a Tibetan school. During their time there, they found that the conditions were far worse than they had imagined, calling attention to the current struggle in Tibet and the country’s need for support.
You and Me offered a somber glimpse into “the dark side of elderly care taking” in the Washington region. The film showed how many senior citizens are abandoned and treated poorly, and highlighted the Washington County Home, which takes in many elderly lacking resources and access to care.
Min recently worked with InterMix Productions on another documentary, entitled Wake Up With Me, which is currently in post-production. The film features a group of people living in New York, and attempted to answer the question: does social media help people connect, or does it prevent them from doing so?
As she has continued to demonstrate her abilities in the US, Min has developed relationships with high-ranking figures in the entertainment industry. One such example is Carl Gilliard, whom Min met during the filming of Meeting Gary.
Gilliard is not only known for his role as an actor in more than 70 films, including Inception, Coach Carter, and the television series 24, but he is also the founder of the Gilliard Media Group. Min is currently working with the Gilliard Media Group on several upcoming projects.
Min’s dedication to making the best decisions in the production process is evident, as she has had a tremendous role as producer of countless critically acclaimed films, television series’, commercials, and events to which she has lent her talent; and she shows no signs of stopping.
Multi-instrumentalist musician, composer and producer Omri Efrat has been making waves with his innovative cross-genre style of electronic music for years, both in his native Israel and in the U.S. At the age of just 11, Efrat began working with digital compositions, combining samples and loops while still in grade school. In addition to creating and performing his original work under the stage name RazoracK, he uses his years of experience to produce work for artists whose styles range from electronic dance music to metal to traditional rock.
As a producer, Efrat has worked with a wide array of performers, including the immensely popular Israeli progressive metal band Distorted Harmony. Formed in 2009, the band has attained a huge following and immense success, and their album Utopia was nominated for Classic Rock Magazine’s Progressive Music Award for New Blood. Efrat said working with Distorted Harmony was fun and gave him a chance to mesh his unique style with theirs.
“I love to work with people from the metal community, they’re very open minded and enthusiastic about new ideas and new directions,” Efrat said. “When I was working with them I tried not to step on any toes and not to take over the production, but to be part of the band, which worked out great because everyone was very pleased with the fusion that we created.”
Efrat plays drums and keyboard and performs vocals, all of which he incorporates into much of his own work. His compositions encompass the full spectrum of electronic dance music, and while the common roots of those compositions are grounded in EDM their varied styles defy genre conventions.
“I feel like the EDM scene tends to sound very monotonic,” he said. “I wanted to prove that you can have EDM elements, a groove you can dance to and hard-hitting sounds, but at the same time you can have a story, a purpose and something of which to relate to.”
The massively popular EDM-centric YouTube channel VitalFM described Efrat’s work as “RockStep,” a label Efrat embraces but believes is too narrow. More often than not his work falls outside the dubstep category, and he prides himself on his genre-blending approach to composing and recording.
“I like the term ‘Electronic Rock,’” he said. “They’re rock songs – they all have a story and a meaning – they’re just built with electronic elements instead of traditional instruments.”
Showcasing his ability to work adaptively around artists’ personal styles, Efrat recently produced Israeli musician Evyatar Sivan’s EP Inside the Abalone. His touch can be felt on the title track, which centers around Sivan’s vocals and soft guitar but bears the mark of electronic ambiance, with a subtle chamber-like echo and rich harmonies.
“After some experimenting with sound design and different instruments we ended up having really huge and epic productions with many different and exotic instruments and it really gave a deep and unique tone to the production,” Efrat said. “We used a broken flute for the end of one of the songs and it sounded really weird at first, but after experimenting with different effects and secret sound design tricks we ended up with something that sounded like a war horn.”
That innovative, outside-the-box approach is what Efrat loves the most, and is perhaps his strongest asset as a producer. With each performance and artist collaboration, his repertoire grows and his style becomes even more distinct. Such a multi-faceted skillset is rare in a musician, and rarer in a producer, so Efrat has understandably become a hot commodity.
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