From Malaysia to New York, guitarist Stewart Sellan is one to watch

Stewart Sellan is from a small town called Telok Panglima Garang located in a city called Kuala Langat within Malaysia. At 8 years old, he realized his passion for music in a church with his parents. At that time, making a career in music was a dream. Now, Sellan that dream is a reality. He lives in New York City. He is a founding member of the successful band. He is an award-winning musician. That passion for music that was realized at a young age changed his life.

Sellan is the lead guitarist of the band Beat The System. He has no formal training in any musical background, but his determination caused him to take lessons from friends in church, and use his spare time to watch videos. His perseverance paid off. His band recently won Song of The Year in Asian Voice Independent Music Awards for the single ‘Shine’.

“My interest in music grew even stronger during my college years when I found out that there are courses available for music. After being exposed to bands like Metallica, Nirvana, Megadeth, Iron Maiden I knew that I can make a career in music as well,” he said. “But due to limited opportunities in Malaysia I had to pursue my education in engineering while doing music as a hobby. During my job as an engineer I always looked out for opportunities to pursue my career in music as it was my passion to make a living as a full time musician.”

Sellan did not want to be stuck in the 9-5 job routine that he was in. He wanted to be on a stage, travel the world, and live his passion.

“My initial instrument that I chose was drums,” he described. “I played drums for 5 years in church. During that time there was an absence of bass guitarist in the church so I decided to learn how to play the bass guitar. I went to seek lessons from my music pastor and he gave me a piece of advice that I should learn to play the electric guitar first, because it will help me to learn both the electric guitar and the bass guitar simultaneously. I took his advice and learned the basics under him. As years went by I discovered the sound of distortion and overdrive, and I fell in love with it instantaneously. Since then, electric guitar has my main instrument that I wanted to focus on.”

Sellan took the lessons he learned and became involved in a Youth Alive band in hs church called JC Radix for 4 years. He was also involved in the Worship Team as a Music Director for 3 years, and eventually was performing on stage. He still remembers his first solo musical performance, which was at his uncle’s wedding in a rock club in Malaysia.

“It was a terrifying experience performing in a different crowd besides my home church. In that performance I did play some wrong notes a couple of times. I did experience stage fright, but now I have managed to overcome it,” he recalled.

Besides electric guitar, Sellan can play the acoustic guitar, bass guitar and drums on an amateur level. His innate talent is recognized by all that work with him.

“Stewart has the ability to create guitar riffs that supports the melody of the songs and this creates a very powerful composition,” said Ahmad Mokhtaza, head of A&R of Warner Music Malaysia.

“Other than the fact that he is a very gifted guitarist, there’s just something about Stewart’s choice of chords and notes in the music he creates that is magical. It’s a good blend of modern sound and catchy melody that do not take away the attention from the vocalist,” said Hermond Cheng, the General Manager of Sony Music Malaysia.

Sellan also says that Marc McClusky, who is known for his work with Weezer, Everclear and many more, helped guide him during guitar recording process on tone setting and recording techniques in order to get a good guitar tone. He was also given the opportunity to meet with Mark Tremonti of Creed and Alter Bridge and learn from him. Being given these opportunities are part of why he decided to make the move from Malaysia to New York City.

“In Malaysia most event organizers would prefer a solo artist rather than a band in order for them to save cost on backline equipment and minimize production crews. This has slowly showed decline in bands being able to make a living in music,” he described. “Music in the United States is solely judged on the quality of the songs, and an artist’s talent and opportunities are given for those deserving without prejudice which is opposite in Malaysia.”

The move has turned out well for Sellan. He is recognized as a talented guitar player on an international level, and has many plans for the future.

“I would love to have a signature series guitar under my name,” he said. “But I want to continue writing chart topping songs.”

 

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Breakout Child Actor Samuel Faraci Stars In Three Upcoming Movies

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Samuel Faraci

The award winning child actor, Samuel Faraci, has three hit movies making their first debut to audiences around the world over the next few months. In “Country Crush,” “Blood Hunters” and “The Headhunter’s Calling,” Faraci shares scenes with some of Hollywood’s most riveting stars. While all three films differ in genre, they all share one surefire similarity: they all succeed at showcasing Faraci’s sought-after talents.

“Country Crush” is an upcoming musical drama from writer and director Andrew Cymek (“Night Cries,” “Agency of Vengeance: Dark Rising” and “Dark Rising: Warrior of Worlds”) that follows a city girl named Nancy Taylor, played by newcomer Madeline Merlo, who meets good-hearted Charlie Bishop, portrayed by Munro Chambers (“Degrassi,” and “Turbo Kid”). After sparks fly and a promising romance begins, Nancy and Charlie return to New York City where Nancy’s music career is beginning to flourish, until she’s faced with a choice: Will she continue along her career path as an opportunistic music producer, or follow her heart instead? One Tree Hill’s Jana Kramer (“One Tree Hill,” “90210” and “Entourage”) also stars in the film.

“I portray Cody Bishop Jr. in “Country Crush,” who is a sweet, good-natured boy who idolizes his dad. Cody’s father is Charlie’s older brother,” said Faraci. “and a soldier who serves his country overseas.” The film was shot in the Canadian countryside of Northern Ontario during the Summer, “A beautiful landscape that was close to forests and lakes,” Faraci fondly described. After a one of a kind experience working alongside the widely known country singer and actress, he commented, “Watching her work, I realized how hard it is to sing and perform at the same time. Jana is very sweet and a wonderful actress.”

The theatrical release of “Country Crush” will be introduced this fall, the home video launch set to take place on the Q1 of next year.

Additionally, in just about a month’s time now, Faraci’s second film titled “Blood Hunters,” directed by the acclaimed Tricia Lee (“Silent Retreat” and “Clean Break”), will be presenting its world premiere at the Horror Channel FrightFest Film Festival in London, England on August 29, 2016. Faraci plays a boy named “Hunter” in the film, the lead character’s son. “I auditioned for the role of Hunter and got a quick and positive response. I was so happy because I knew how good Tricia’s work was,” Faraci said.

The indie horror flick stars Leo Award nominee Lara Gilchrist (“Bates Motel,” “Rookie Blue” and “Supernatural”) as Ellie Barnes, a single mother who overdoses and wakes up in a medical facility to find that everyone around her is dead – and that she’s nine months pregnant.

Faraci is no stranger to the style of this elevated genre creature feature, as his prior film credits consist of the full-length film “Antisocial 2” and the horror TV series “Hannibal.” Elaborating on his character in “Blood Hunters,” Faraci explained, “Hunter is a precocious boy whose mom has not been the most attentive and whose dad has never been around. He has learned to not only take care of himself, but of his mom who leaves the stove on, food too long in the fridge or forgets to go to appointments. He understands more than his mom thinks he does, but loves her very much and will defend her to the end of the earth.” Furthermore, Faraci describes his scenes in “Blood Hunters” as, “Pretty emotional.”

“The Headhunter’s Calling” is the rising star’s third upcoming project, a Mark Williams (“The Accountant,” “Flawless” and “Shuttle”) family drama, follows a ruthless corporate headhunter played by Gerard Butler (“The Ugly Truth,” “P.S. I Love You” and “300”) who arranges jobs for engineers and is more focused on his job than his family. When his child is diagnosed with cancer, Butler’s character puts his overtly successful career on hold, leading to a clash of his personal and professional priorities.

“I play Kyle who is one of Ryan’s classmates. Ryan is the son of Gerard Butler’s character,” Faraci explained. “Kyle has an exchange with Elise, Ryan’s mom, when she stops by to get Ryan’s homework at school.” The character Elise is played by Boardwalk Empire’s very own Gretchen Mol (“Boardwalk Empire,” “Life on Mars” and “Mozart in the Jungle”).

Originally, Faraci had auditioned for the main role of “Ryan,” but didn’t book it due to physical traits the character needed to match. Just days after this unfortunate news, the casting director invited Faraci to perform the role of Kyle without the need of a new audition. “While I didn’t work directly with Mr. Butler,” Faraci also mentioned, “It’s exciting to have your name involved in a big production with A-List talent such as Alison Brie (“Community,” “BoJack Horseman” and “Mad Men”), Gretchen Mol, Willem Dafoe (“Spider-Man,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “Finding Nemo”), and Alfred Molina (“Spider-Man 2,” “The Da Vinci Code” and “Angie Tribeca”).”

“The Headhunter’s Calling” will premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, also known as TIFF, this September.

 

For more information on Samuel Faraci, please visit: http://www.imdb.me/samuelfaraci/

Follow Samuel Faraci on Twitter: https://twitter.com/samuelfaraci

For more information on “Country Crush,” please visit: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3901944/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

For more information on “Blood Hunters,” please visit: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3646592/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

For more information on “The Headhunter’s Calling,” please visit: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1718924/?ref_=nv_sr_1

WRITING THE NEW SONGS: ADRIAN PUAN

Visionary is a strong word. If often conjures images of those with abilities to see into the future or those who impact the entire planet in some way. Without a doubt, the word is grandiose. Steve Jobs is the most modern example of this. It’s important to understand that the way in which Jobs excelled were his ideas, not the actual process of implementing those ideas. He was able to conceive of something that we would want before we even knew that we wanted it. It is this very concept that Adrian Puan shares with the former CEO of Apple Inc. This comparison makes Puan uncomfortable when it is mentioned but the fact is that the strength of both men in their chosen field is having the vision of greater things. Adrian Puan is a Malaysian songwriter; one who is unlike almost any songwriter you have ever heard of before. Steve Jobs had the foresight to understand how he would change everyday life for most people; one wonders if he understood that he would change the approach to songwriting that Puan is pioneering. To understand what is happening with Adrian Puan’s career is to understand how technology is increasingly changing human life. Rather than replacing the career paths of people, technology is working in tandem with it to increase the possibilities. Adrian’s story is an exciting glimpse into the symbiotic relationship that we share with machines.

Adrian is a songwriter. His career is a bit of a dichotomy. To begin with, Adrian doesn’t play any musical instruments. I don’t mean to say that he is not accomplished on any musical instruments. In fact, he does not play anything at all on a musical instrument. He doesn’t read music. He’s not a hobbyist who picks up an acoustic guitar around the campfire. He literally does not play a single note on any conventional instrument. The word conventional is paramount in this conversation because Puan uses his iPhone as an instrument. It is mostly utilized as a high tech recorder and it allows him immediate access and recall to his musical ideas, much in the same way that a pianist might sit down and work out an idea in their head and then write it down on staff paper. Purists scoff at this title for Puan. He acknowledges that some consider his unusual approach as unorthodox, even sometimes invalid. Before agreeing with them you might want to consider the notable achievements he has attained.B7P_6083

Although Adrian is not a band member of the Malaysian band Beat The System, the group asked him to move to the US with them as a part of the writing and recording process for their first major American recording. Puan has a five year history with the band with a large fan base and has been recognized with many awards in their homeland. With success topping the charts (with multiple weeks at the number one), Beat The System(BTS)’s recognitions since Adrian’s involvement include; Asian Voice Independent Music Awards – “Shine” won Song of the Year, Best Collaboration, & Best Genre Bender. In the same year, “Shine” won Song of the Year, Best Collaboration, and was nominated for best Vocalist at the Asian Bite My Music Global Awards. In 2013, BTS won Best Rock Song for “Hero” at the Asian Bite My Music Awards. The primary songwriting team in BTS is Gerald Sellan (bandleader, drummer) and Adrian. It was Sellan who first approached Puan about writing for BTS. “Shine” was a song which partnered BTS with Malaysian Idol winner Jaclyn Victor. When Gerald was having difficulty with the lyrics for the tune, he approached Adrian for assistance. The BTS bandleader was so pleased with Puan’s contribution that he again approached him in 2013 when he was composing “Hero.” The result of the songwriting partnership resulted in two of BTS’s most successful hits. Whatever the reason, Sellan recognized the power of the chemistry the two writers created and approached Adrian to be an exclusive writer for his band. Gerald confirms, “Adrian’s songwriting is exactly the direction that Beat The System is going for. His lyrics are deep and heartfelt while his melodies are undeniable. He is one of the main reasons that American labels became aware of us and interested in signing us. I don’t think there is any way we would have gotten here without his contributions.”

Adrian’s assistance to BTS and the proof of his talent are most clearly depicted in the band’s signing with Monster Hits Music by (A&R and CEO) Diana Meltzer. Meltzer is known for signing Grammy award-winning band Creed, Evanescence, Alter Bridge, Seether, Drowning Pool, and many others. Diana travelled to Malaysia to meet and work with the band after being convinced by ten songs the band recorded in hopes of interesting her. Gerald Sellan turned to Puan to compose half of these songs. The first of the songs that Puan wrote to convince Meltzer was “Last Lullaby.” Both Sellan and Meltzer confirm that the song was so strong that it was a deal sealer. “Last Lullaby” will appear on the soon to be released American debut by BTS. Adrian reveals, “The song is a love song but not the typical one. There are so many love songs about romantic love but a love song can be about the love you share in a family. I think one of my strengths is that I don’t approach every song lyrically or melodically as everyone else does. While others might consider my approach to songwriting a weakness; it has turned out to be my greatest strength. My songs are different because I don’t approach them like 99% of the writers out there.”

Adrian new 2

Adrian has experienced his share of resistance to his process. Both back home and in the US he has heard from musicians who consider his approach invalid. These opinions are overshadowed by the awards his compositions have achieved as well as the overwhelming recognition of music industry professionals both in Malaysia and the US. Mokhtza Ahmad (Head of A&R Warner Music Malaysia) states, “Working with Adrian was a great experience. The attitude and work ethic with which he approaches his craft has placed him in the top professionals here.” Diana Meltzer echoes this sentiment stating, “I’ve seen so many different approaches to songwriting in this industry. When you have it, you just have it. Adrian definitely has it.” So the next time you see or hear of someone like Adrian Puan doing something highly unusual in their approach, you might want to consider the fact that they are not only breaking the rules; they are pioneering a modern approach.

Dancer Justin Lopes Transforms Himself For FOX Rocky Horror Reboot

“You don’t realize how exciting something is until it’s actually happening,” says Canadian dancer Justin Lopes.

For a dancer, it doesn’t get much more electrifying than landing a role in legendary director-choreographer, Kenny Ortega’s next directorial project. That’s especially true when that project happens to be a highly anticipated, made-for-television reimagining of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which makes its primetime premiere on FOX in October 2016.

Ortega, who was mentored by Gene Kelly early in his career, is best known for directing Michael Jackson’s This Is It concerts, the High School Musical trilogy, and for choreographing the film Dirty Dancing and Madonna’s Material Girl music video. Lopes, of course, felt honored to work with the industry giant.

“To even be auditioning for Rocky Horror was an incredible feeling,” says Lopes. “Booking the job and working one-on-one with Mr. Ortega was the cherry on top.”

Dancer Justin Lopes
Dancer Justin Lopes | Photo by Alvin Collantes

Lopes, it’s clear, has the ability and versatility to make it in Hollywood– and Transylvania. Dancing in a large-scale production like The Rocky Horror Picture Show requires the ability to learn at an intensely fast pace and adapt to changes quickly. According to Jeff Mortensen, the production’s assistant choreographer, whether these changes have to do with spacing or choreography, Lopes would take anything given to him and run with it.

“Justin couldn’t have been a better fit for our team,” he says. “I could always count on him to ask the right questions and help propel our Transylvanian ship in the direction it needed to go.”

Lopes stays sharp both mentally and physically for roles like this one by continuing to broaden his movement vocabulary and study different styles of dance. He considers versatility second only to expression of individuality when it comes to a dancer’s performance abilities. He is trained in contemporary, hip hop, jazz, ballet, modern, tap and acrobatic dance styles and is into athletic activities like soccer, dirt-biking, and skateboarding.

“To me, dance is movement,” he says. “All of these different styles allow me to have different languages to bring across to an audience and to project my feelings and emotions in different ways.”

Dancer Justin Lopes, Photo by Greg Tjepkema

It is his ability to immerse himself in a character that made Lopes an unquestionable fit for The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

“When we were looking for our Transylvanians we wanted to find people who could transform and take on these alien characters,” says Mortensen. “Justin’s talent not only lies in his dancing but also this transformation ability.”

Lopes is thrilled to be a part of the continuing history of this cult classic, and feels he’s grown from the experience and the leadership on set. Still, the work is not always glamorous. Lopes says the project took 2 full months and did take a toll on his body. He’s got no regrets, however, and considers Rocky Horror the most positive, fulfilling, and rewarding thing he’s yet done in his still young but flourishing dance career.

“When you’re surrounded by that much inspiration everyday, it definitely makes every bruise, scrape, and all the hours put in, worth it.”

Dancer Nick Phillips Embraces The Thrill Of Performing Live With Legends

No matter how many times he crosses the boards on stage or hits his mark in front of a camera, nerves and adrenaline are expected and even welcomed in the life of a performer. Still, as dancer Nick Phillips knows first-hand, some extraordinary career experiences go beyond normal nerves and excitement, especially at the start. Performing on stage with Oscar-winning actress Hayley Mills has been one such highlight for Phillips.

“To be honest I was incredibly nervous the first time we rehearsed,” recalls Phillips, “but [Mills] was so lovely and supportive the nerves subsided very quickly and by performance time I felt very comfortable and relaxed.”

Legends, which toured Australia in 2015 is a comedy starring Mills and her sister Juliet Mills as two rival film stars. Phillips, an in-demand dancer from Melbourne, stepped into the role of Boom Boom Johnson, a high-energy part that called upon Phillips’ remarkable versatility. He had to dance, perform acrobatics, beatbox, rap, and deliver dialog with comedic timing that held its own opposite two veteran actresses.

Nick Phillips, Photo by Jackson Ross

“To work with [the Mills sisters] was truly a privilege. I learned a lot from them about performance stamina– they were able to hold the audience’s attention for two hours while on stage practically the whole time.”

To wow a seasoned actress like Hayley Mills, is surely a noteworthy accomplishment. However, that’s exactly what Phillips achieved when he took on this character with the cheerful enthusiasm of one who lives for the challenge of live performance.

“When he had to step in and fill the breach left by a fellow actor,” remembers Mills, “he did so with alacrity and total professionalism, was word perfect, and danced brilliantly– we were all thrilled by his performance and very impressed.”

High praise aside, touring a show can be grueling. According to Phillips, traveling between cities is frequently lonely and it is common to experience some homesickness. Not to mention, the challenge of keeping the show fresh.

“When you’re doing eight shows a week, it can be hard to give the same high energy performance every night, especially with a character like Boom Boom,” says Phillips. “It can also take quite the toll on your body. I had to make sure I was always warmed up properly.”

Fortunately, a well-trained professional is accustomed to hard work. Phillips, who has gone from a young breakdancer with a relatively late start in any formal dance training to a sought-after performer for stage, television and commercial events, has shown great mastery of both the physical and mental challenges of the work. This natural ability may have much to do with his attitude.

“[Phillips] is a great company member, being positive and enthusiastic,” says Mills, “qualities that enhance the experience for everyone.”

Australian Dancer, Actor Nick Phillips

Though playing a very specific role as opposed to performing in an ensemble was different for Phillips he looks forward to tackling more roles that stretch him as a dancer and performer. And, though he loves the accessibility and experience of film and television, he enjoys the unpredictable response and instant validation of live performances like the one he gave in Legends.

“My favorite part was most definitely the surprise element. From the moment Boom Boom first storms onstage to the firing of his confetti-filled gun before he busts into a strip dance, the audience reactions are absolutely priceless.”

DRUMMER BRINGS THE BEAT TO THE SYSTEM

“Addicted To That Rush” is the first song off the debut record by American band MR. BIG. It’s about a romantic relationship but it’s also an analogy for anyone who feels the compulsion of an uncontrollable force in their life. It’s the way Gerald Sellan feels about drums. Even though Sellan is the leader of his band Beat The System (BTS) and a composer of many of their songs, he quickly confirms that he is a drummer through and through. When asked if he had to don just one role in his band, he quickly exclaims, “Of course I’d play drums! That’s what brought me to music. When I was going to church in my home country of Malaysia, I’d always watch the drummer. The band was playing music like Hillsong which is basically rock music but with a spiritual message. It’s funny because now I am living in New York and playing Hillsong music.” Truly a child of his generation, Sellan also credits YouTube with having a great impact on his abilities. The easy accessibility to watching amazing drummers (known and unknown) from around the world supplied a boundless curriculum for his education. Sellan’s story is truly a modern one which epitomizes the ever increasingly communicative global community. Being influenced by the music from the opposite side of the planet has led to Gerald and his band relocating to New York, thanks to talent and technology.

Gerald Sellan is not the norm for drummers. Ask any musician and they tell you that bands love to tell drummer jokes; the most common is “What do you call someone who hangs out with musicians? A drummer!” Tell this joke to Sellan and he laughs, partially because he has proven time and time again how incorrect this is. Gerald has been co-writer on many of BTS’s award winning hits. In 2010 BTS won the award for Best Rock Song for “Penipuan Berwaris”as well as Tipped to be the Next Big Thing. They quickly followed this with “Shine” (featuring Malaysian Idol winner Jaclyn Victor) which won Song of the Year, Best Collaboration, and Best Genre Bender at the Asian Voice Independent Music Awards. Gerald was involved up to this point as a co-writer but as the band started to make a move towards a mixture of pop and rock influences, he began to take a lead role in writing and the overall direction of the band. The dichotomous nature of Sellan’s musical tastes have always mixed well in his writing and drumming approach. He comments, “I’ve always loved both rock and pop music. I’m just as happy listening to Mariah Carey as I am with Iron Maiden. I remember the first time I saw Iron Maiden in concert in Malaysia. I was crying I was so happy. I’ve always loved visual and musical drummers like Nicko McBrain, Tommy Lee, Tommy Aldridge, Taylor Hawkins. I feel their excitement. As an audience member I want to be excited as well as enjoy how well they are playing. That’s important to me when I am performing as well. That being said, the music has to be catchy to me. If you can’t walk away humming that melody…maybe the songs aren’t that great. I can’t separate the two; melody and great drumming go hand in hand.”

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The enthusiasm that is essential to Gerald’s approach is readily apparent when you witness him perform; it belies the fact that he has become the primary songwriter for BTS. Names like Phil Collins and Dave Grohl serve as well known reminders that these two vocations are not incongruent. The same spark of inspiration and emotion that creates an infectious groove can be applied to a melody. Sellan has proven this quite often recently as a writer of songs such as “Hero” and “Journey” which will be on BTS’s first US release, also entitled Journey. Songs like this are what convinced Diana Meltzer (A&R, Chief Executive Officer of Monster Hits Music) to sign BTS and convince them to relocate to NYC to work with her on the band’s American debut. Meltzer notes, “I have worked with many great songwriters and drummers from Creed, Evanescence, Alterbridge, and many more. Gerald has exactly what it takes to stand among these artists in the US music industry.” During one of their initial conversations, Sellan promised Meltzer he would deliver 10 songs in 30 days that would be better than the ones that initially peaked her interest. As proof of the results, BTS soon relocated to the US at Meltzer’s prompting. Being driven has always been a character trait of Gerald’s and an asset to his band. He confirms, “I always want to improve myself and be a positive influence to others. Rick Allen (drummer of Def Leppard) is so inspiring! He was in a car wreck, lost and arm, and pushed himself to get right back into drumming. He is as good as or better than so many great drummers out there. The world needs people like that who don’t let their circumstances dictate who they are.”

Often, the dream does not live up to expectations once you are there. In Sellan’s case, it’s even better than he had hoped. Journey will soon be released and another box will be checked off of Sellan’s list in becoming a successful musician in the US. The record was produced by Andy Anderson (four time Dove award-winning producer) and engineered by Grammy-nominated Damien Page Lewis. Gerald is especially happy about this revealing, “We were given several different choices as a producer and we all agreed that Andy was the best choice. A lot of the producers were great but Andy in particular has a real sense of modern sounds. We needed someone who is really on top of some of the more modern sonic approaches and Andy delivered extremely well on that.” Sellan states, “I typically use a 14 inch rack tom, 16 inch and 18 inch floor toms, and a 22 inch bass drum. Those are big rock and roll drums. I love that sound but the band also loves the modern sound that utilizes electronics. For most of the songs on the new record, we mixed my acoustic drums with loops, etc…so the approach to the parts I played was dictated by that. Most of the time, the drums are the last thing to go down when we are recording. As a songwriter who is also a drummer, that is ideal for me. It gives me more choices and a wider range of things to choose from. It also makes me push myself as a drummer to come up with a great drum part that serves to support the song rather than just my ego.”

Beat The system’s forth coming album JOURNEY will soon be released. The first two singles “Hero” and “Be Your Own” are currently available.B7P_6083

Nick Fulton: from paper route to successful writer

“As a kid, I was always creating things and using my imagination to make up characters,” said New Zealand writer Nick Fulton. “I had a paper route and I used to script a fake radio show and act it out as I rode around the neighborhood on my bike.”

Fulton has come a long way from the boy with the paper route and big dreams. He is now an accomplished writer, with a long list of achievements in his career.

“I’ve always enjoyed sitting down and tackling a really tough task, so I think that is where my love of writing comes from,” he said.

The real success started while Fulton was studying at Victoria University in Wellington in the early 2000s when a friend suggested starting a blog. He was then spurred on by others.

“His encouragement was what got me started, but I had another good friend who was a talented writer. Being able to share and talk about ideas with her gave me the confidence to pursue writing,” he described.

This motivation is what started Einstein Music Journal (EMJ),  New Zealand’s foremost music blog, from 2007 to 2012. EMJ went on to be a finalist in the Music category of Concrete Playground’s Blogger Awards in 2011, and was awarded Blog of the Week by Breakthru Radio in New York City in 2009.

“I like being part of a community of creative people. I’m lucky enough to have friends in Melbourne who also write creative fiction and longer editorial pieces, so I have a community of real-life and virtual friends. I’ve made great connections through writing, and when I traveled to the US in 2012 I was able to visit and stay with many of them. Those connections will last a lifetime.” he said. “Continuing to be a part of a supportive creative community is the most important thing for me.”

Fulton focuses on writing culture pieces, and telling stories that may not be told unless he writes them.

“The biggest challenge is often convincing an editor that there’s a decent story to be told. A lot of my writing is about unusual theories or themes that I think others will be interested in too. Some editors are happy to take a risk and trust my judgement, but it doesn’t always work out that way,” he described. “Right now, I’m lucky enough to be working with an excellent editor named Tim Scott, over at Noisey. He’s very good at assessing my ideas and finding a way to reposition them to appeal more broadly.”

Fulton has written multiple successful feature pieces for Noisey Australia/New Zealand, over the last year, and Scott describes him as being skilled, reliable and thorough music writer.

“His writing pitches and story ideas are fresh, engaging and presented with a keen understanding of the Noisey audience,” said Scott. “Work that I have commissioned to him has been submitted on time and with a level of quality and professionalism. I look forward to reading and publishing more of Nick’s work.”

Fulton’s versatility and talent lead him to stories no one has thought to write before. He describes one of his favorite pieces written for Cuepoint in 2015. He had heard a song on SoundCloud that sampled Eric Garner and his now infamous final words “I can’t breathe”, when inspiration struck.

“I was troubled by it, and I knew others would be too. I decided to speak with the musician who made the song and find out what motivated him to create it. He was very sincere and had the best intentions,” described Fulton.

Fulton’s writing is often recognized by other publications. Last year, he wrote an article for Pitchfork, which started a bigger conversation around people shooting pictures with their phones at gigs. The article received an excellent response on social media and a direct response to the article was published in The Village Voice.

“Jonathan Shecter, one of the co-founders of legendary hip hop magazine The Source once emailed me and told me he loved my writing. That was a pretty big moment. He emailed me in relation to a piece I’d self-published on Medium and asked to republish it on Cuepoint, a publication he currently runs that’s housed on the Medium platform,” said Fulton. “I ended up writing regularly for Cuepoint and wrote several features and a weekly review column.”

Fulton’s skillful writing was also recognized by Genevieve Callaghan, a writer for Smith Journal, a brother publication to Frankie. She reached out to him in the early stages of her career for guidance.

“Nick as a mentor helped me to refine my approach to becoming a published writer, clarifying and strengthening strategies that could bring me into closer contact with relevant publications, editors, and other writers. Having since written copy for inspiring institutions like The School of Life, Melbourne, and Parisian refugee organization, SINGA, I am now working as one of the main writers of online content for Smith Journal, and contributing regularly to the Smith Journal magazine. I attribute much of this professional success to Nick’s encouragement and counsel,” said Callaghan.

Fulton’s success in Australia and New Zealand has inspired him to move to the United States, and fully experience the culture here.

“Every kid that grew up in New Zealand in the 80s and 90s was surrounded by American culture. Many of the things I write about have an American element, or speak about someone based in the US, he said. “Some of my best writing has been for American publications like Pitchfork and CMJ, but the opportunity to write deeper, more thoughtful pieces only really comes with the lived experience. Living in Australia, it’s hard to get a true perspective on American culture.”

“My goal is to keep writing informative pieces that start conversations and get people thinking about those around them,” he concluded. “Adding something to the community and helping people share their own ideas is important too.”

SARAH GOODING WRITES ABOUT THE GENIUS OF MUSIC AND POP CULTURE

In the early 1800’s, people would refer to a railway steam locomotive as the “devil’s wagon” and proclaim, “You’ll never get me on one of those things. Who needs to go 20 miles per hour anyway? Nobody needs to go that fast.” This proves that things change. It’s better to figure out how to make new templates work than to accept defeat because you cannot acclimate. The latest version of this example might be the statement that print is dead. Although literal “print” does not fair well, the discipline of telling tales and delivering news is just as alive as it ever was; it has simply taken on a new form. As proof, you are reading this on a screen right now. Our current day writers, like Sarah Gooding, are more comfortable with a keyboard than a pen or quill (if you are from the 19th century). Sarah and her peers cast a net as wide as any of the great auteurs of the past and with greater immediacy. That’s not to say that current day writers are necessarily more gifted, simply that they have acclimated to the pace and focus of society. The freedom of content is wider than ever and yet, there are limitations…you sometimes have to be brilliant in 140 characters. Sarah Gooding arrived at her career just as everything was changing.

Originally from New Zealand, Gooding has worked with a variety of publications. Most of these have been online and one of the most notable was Einstein Music Journal (EMJ). This award-winning site, devoted to music and art, is the place to which Gooding credits a great deal of her writing DNA, but she did not set out on that course originally. After studying communications at university, Sarah interned at Real Groove magazine in New Zealand. Writing for Real Groove (and its sister magazine Groove Guide), she interviewed artists such as; The Velvet Undergound’s John Cale, legendary singer Mavis Staples, Keith Flint of Prodigy, and (a somewhat grumpy) Ryan Adams. Interviewing these iconic musicians is an achievement in itself. Most importantly, she discovered the widely creative possibilities of writing based on her own interest and love of pop culture. But just as importantly, an article in the magazine covered a new music blog and its founder Nick Fulton. Fulton was looking for a writer and soon the two were working together. This venture morphed into Einstein Music Journal.

Einstein Music Journal gave Sarah the frequency and volume to hone her craft at a fast pace as well as the platform to reach a global audience. Gooding’s writing became so respected that many US artists premiered songs on EMJ (as on online publication, EMJ displays both written articles and video/audio) and many of her articles were syndicated on websites around the world like The Guardian and Art Rocker. The romanticism that surrounded record shops in the ‘90s was being realized in a new medium with EMJ. Writers like Gooding and Fulton were writing about things that they were extremely passionate about exposing. Gooding reveals a lesson which she learned at EMJ that still hold true for her, stating, “I really enjoy giving a voice to people that are doing really important and interesting work; work that might not otherwise get attention. It’s important on a personal level, but it also makes for valuable writing.” It’s that type of heartfelt sincerity that led to achievements like EMJ’s recognition as a finalist in Concrete Playground’s Blogger Awards and New York City’s Breakthru Radio’s Blog of the Week. In this new era, the music blog is what the original version of San Francisco’s Rolling Stone was in 1967; young passionate writers who felt music and social change intertwined.Sarah Gooding work

EMJ was interviewing artist like St. Vincent, Vampire Weekend, and Beach House as they were just beginning to emerge onto the global scene, as well as developing a presence for New Zealand bands. At the same time, due to her writing with EMJ, Gooding’s career was having an inverse correlation to this. Major publications were noticing her ability to transfer her enthusiasm in an online format as well as her cross-genre relatability. REMIX magazine asked her to write the cover story (a lengthy eighteen pages) about New Zealand’s top fashion designers. This led to Sarah taking over the official onsite daily newsletters for New Zealand Fashion Week and eventually, a staff role with New Zealand’s biggest selling magazine New Zealand’s Woman’s Weekly. Giving further weight to her writing credentials and online presence, New York Times columnist David Carr shared an essay which Gooding wrote with his 250,000 Twitter followers. This archetype using the vehicle of Twitter validated Sarah to a young generation as well as possibly a more traditional one. Steve Duck of Complex magazine investigated Gooding’s writing skills by assigning her a story about a jacket; one that was created for pop icon Kim Kardashian. The content might seem mundane (with the exception of Kardashian’s noteworthy status), but the article presented much more than the obvious content. Duck notes, “I was particularly interested in the references to French philosopher Jean Baudrillard’s ‘Simulacra and Simulation.’ I was thrilled with the story. It did great page view numbers for us. I sent it on to my peers at Complex in the US, who republished it on their site, where it once again did great numbers. The piece was a perfect blend of accessible content, intelligent analysis, and fun storytelling.”

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The application of writing in an online platform is commonplace nowadays. While Einstein Music Journal gave Gooding a foundation for her writing and approach, the proliferation of feedback online has created a new dynamic for modern writers. Rather than shying away from this, Gooding basks in it. She reveals, “There’s nothing better than being a part of a global community of readers and writers on the internet. When a US magazine published a response article challenging my essay on Medium, I didn’t expect that. I also didn’t expect to be contacted by an author in Las Vegas who wanted to quote my writing in his new book about business communication but that also happened.” It is serendipitous that so many writers and publications in the US are taking note of Gooding’s skills and achievements as she has a great affinity for American culture and writers. Sarah confirms, “I have always felt like the most exciting voices, publications, and organizations are in the US. I’ve always thought working there would be the pinnacle. I travelled there on holiday and instantly felt at home.” The original moniker of EMJ was “Einstein, Disguised as Robin Hood” taken from a Bob Dylan lyric. Perhaps the most widely know of Dylan’s lyrics is “The Times They Are-A-Changin”…which is also the most appropriate description of current day writers and Sarah Gooding’s role.

Sarah Gooding wide shot

KAYLA STRADA IS MINDFUL OF HER FOOTPRINT

“It’s gotta be da shoes!” Spike Lee’s fictional character from “She’s Gotta Have It” was everywhere in the mid to late 80’s. The immensely successful ad campaign for Nike attribute the secret ingredient of Michael Jordan’s command of the court to…at least in some part, his sneakers; that was long before there ever was a Kayla Strada. Spike’s character (Mars Blackmon) had an almost supernatural belief in shoes, a belief shared by Strada, but not in regards to the NBA. The shoes she believes in are the ones of which Stella Adler speaks. Kayla confirms, “Shoes is a big thing Stella Adler always talks about and shoes are a big Kayla thing.” The young Australian actress might have Carrie Bradshaw as her spiritual guide because her choice of proper acting “footwear” has led to several successful roles including the female lead in the full length feature “Love Is…” The film has been expanded to a full length feature because of the overwhelmingly positive feedback on the original short, due in no small part to Strada’s convincing and emotional performance as Maddie, the female lead in the story. The film is the beginning of Hollywood’s exposure to Strada, an actress who has been receiving increasing notoriety and achievements in her homeland of Australia and parts beyond.IMG_3267

There are some universal experiences and themes in the world and love is likely the most prominent of these. It crosses every line; culture, religion, gender, financial. You can be a farmer in Singapore, a Member of Parliament in London, or a young actress in Australia…everyone needs it and everyone wants it. We all understand our own feelings of love but the who, how, or why in which others place this emotion doesn’t always make sense to us. This is why find it particularly attractive when an actor or actress can communicate their feelings about love in such a way that we instantly empathize. It is a gift that Kayla possesses and is prominently exhibited in “Love Is…” This production, written and directed by Stan Harrington, was quickly promoted from short to full length feature…that’s a major achievement and vote of confidence in Hollywood. Maddie and Nick (played by Bryan Lee Wriggle) are two young people who fall in love practically at first sight but their relationship stalls almost as suddenly, resulting in a search for the meaning of true love. Other unforeseen factors have immense impact on the main characters and their view of love (no spoilers here). Just as in real life, these characters have different “love languages” and struggle to understand and relate to each other in an unencumbered manner. Knowing yourself and possessing the words to express it properly help you connect with that special someone. These are the exact same attributes which allow Strada to so convincingly portray Maddie. She reveals, “When Maddie first meets Nick, she goes through a rollercoaster of emotions. A lot of what she deals with is based on certain ideas that are very original to this story. In contrast, there are some very universal experiences in the film that we all share. You see it happening and think to yourself, ‘Oh yeah, that happened to me.’ One thing I can say about Maddie is that she is very determined. That is something I can really relate to. Playing Maddie and discovering her was such a joy.” Strada further notes, “Dialogue is important and it is important how you deliver it. If the script is good, you can really play with it. The majority of the work is done for you already in the script.” Writer and Director Harrington makes this avenue a two way street commenting, “The nature of a shoot required to make a movie like Live Is…is exceptionally trying, so getting to work with actors who, not only come prepared, but also have incredible talent and insight, such as Kayla, makes everything a little easier.”

“Love Is…” has the moniker of both comedy and drama, with the obvious romantic setting. While the romance of Maddie and Nick drives the movie, it is Maddie’s best friend, Liz (played by Daphne Tenne), who supplies much of the comic relief. The bond between Liz and Maddie lifts some of the heavier moments on screen, similarly to the actresses support off screen. Tenne states, “Kayla is extraordinary at what she does, truly a professional at work. Acting alongside Kayla in this film was a journey that I will take with me forever.” Bryan Lee Wriggle (Nick) shares a similar comment about Kayla and the other actors involved in “Love Is…” stating, “It has been a privilege to work with someone like Kayla Strada. She brings a professional attitude and amazing work ethic to the set every day. I feel honored to work with actors who take control of their work and strive to make each take exceptional.”

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It is not often that a movie is required to take place in a particular city, but sometimes the location enhances the feeling of the movie in a way that is undeniable. Italy has many beautiful cities but who can think of Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita” taking place anywhere except Rome? In the same way, San Francisco becomes a character in “Love Is…” The Bay, the twisting roads, the hills, the skyline, all these terrains become synonymous with the numerous and varied emotions one feels when dealing with love. Strada emphatically confirms that the locale is essential to the feel of the film declaring, “San Francisco was a deliberate filming choice! Visually, it’s a romantic and beautiful setting for the story. I don’t think the movie could have had the same impact if it were filmed in LA…or anywhere else. The way that you feel when you’re there…it makes you think about the possibilities and dream of greater things happening in your life.”

With “Love Is…” making the switch to full-length feature film and Kayla as the female lead, the young actress is hoping to explore more opportunities in Hollywood. Having experienced a good deal of fame and success in her homeland, she is excited about the roles she might land as well as the possibilities of working with those whom she has admired in film. She states, “I really hope to work alongside the people whom I look up to in the industry; the Cate Blanchett’s of the world who take their work to another level. I had the opportunity to work with Mena Suvari and it was a real moment for me. I realized, not only do I get to learn from her talent but it was also nice to see how humble she still is. There is always something creative going on here in Hollywood. It really is the heart of entertainment. I think I had to be here to truly understand that.”IMG_3268

TV COMMERCIAL EDITOR PAVEL KHANYUTIN IS A MASTER OF THE 60 SECOND EPIC

Small is beautiful—the economy and discipline of the short form, whether a haiku poem or one minute television commercial can be as rewarding, in its own way, as a feature length project. But that spare intimate moment also poses a tremendous creative challenge, one which only an acutely capable craftsman can master, and Pavel Khanyutin epitomizes that nuanced, subtle skill.

The Russian-born film editor-visual effects supervisor’s instinct, delicacy and precision have allowed Khanyutin to build a solid professional reputation as a master of both thirty second TV spots and feature length films. Navigating such a broad spectrum takes a very special gift, and the ease with which he manages it only underscores Khanyutin’s natural talents.

Khanyutin’s earliest experience was cutting documentaries, a genre where the straight expositional narrative succeeds largely due to how the editor frames and delivers that information.

“I started doing advertising at the beginning of my career in 2000,” Khanyutin said. “At that time I already had experience in editing documentary films and I’d been working with computer graphics for several years.”

“Advertising, of course, can’t be compared with films in complexity,” he said. “Time spent in the editing room and the tasks differ a lot. However, advertising is strongly connected with film. To my thinking, this goes both ways and dozens of techniques move from ad to film and back, improving and gathering sensibility along the way.”

Khanyutin soon found himself working for all the top Russian ad production companies—DAGO, Bazelevs, Robusto, Action Film , Park Production and international agencies like Instinct (BBDO Group) and Leo Burnett Worldwide.

“These gave me fantastic opportunities, within a short time, to edit dozens of TV promotions in many genres, to work with different directors and studios, for various brands and in different formats.” Khanyutin said

The ability to infuse cinematic qualities into a television commercial gained Khanyutin a great advantage in the field and he has done successful spots for such major international clients as Mars, P&G, Garnier, Pepsi, Toyota, Google, IKEA, Tele2, Megafon cellular and many others.

“The skill of editing commercials has a lot to do with one’s ability to pinpoint the soul of a story and convey it in the most economical way possible,” commercial director Rachel Harms said. “Pavel’s brilliance is evident at every stage of the editorial process. He’s a master at uncovering the choice moments, shaving them down to their essence, establishing rhythm and musicality, and finally juxtaposing images in a way that achieves maximum impact.”

Khanyutin relishes the challenge television ads present. “During editing, I consider a TV ad to be like a short film,” he said. “There are many possibilities in spite of the very restricted format, but you also face a limitation of possibilities. As an example, there are ads with a lot of dialogue or an overload of text information, and you must always consider the strict time limit of 30 seconds to one minute.”

“Another type is the ‘branding’ or ‘mood’ ad. These have a much less strict structure. The characters do not speak much or don’t speak at all. Here you almost unlimited possibilities for editing, with many variants on how and where to put focuses–to solve the task rhythmically. All small details are of great importance. One flash of half a second may finish the composition in full, if you find its right position in editing.”

Khanyutin’s focus, dedication, comprehensive vision and innate knack for conceiving and presenting the ideal cut on any given assignment has kept him in demand as a TV commercial editor for more than fifteen years

“I’ve worked with countless editors across the globe in the course of my career as a commercial director,” Harms said. “It’s rare to find such extraordinary intelligence and insight wrapped in such a collaborative heart. Pavel listens well and quickly attunes to a director’s vision, yet he never loses his own strong point of view.”

“After a shoot, I know that my material will either live, die or thrive in an editor’s hands. This is the final critical stage where everything will either come together or will be derailed. With Pavel as my editor, I’m always confident the finished product will be exceptional.”