MUSIC+FEAR+COMEDY=THE SENSIBILITIES OF ROGER BAINBRIDGE

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The most famous paintings of Beethoven depict him with a furrowed brow and wispy hair, a slightly mad genius furiously creating; pushing himself to produce works that never fully satisfy himself while seemingly inconceivable for the average man. Replace the piano with a comedic storyline and the symphony with a cast and film crew and you have an appropriate analogy for Roger Bainbridge. If such a phenomenon as Comedic Artistic Attention Deficit Disorder (CAADD) exists, Bainbridge is the spokesperson for it. Vacillating between formats such as; theater, film, live sketch comedy, music videos, and others, with his role as Executive Producer, writer, and actor, this Canadian comedic force has created a unique voice blending the dark and the humorous presentation of everyday life as well as fantasy. Regardless of the avenue with which he presents his ideas, Roger has created an identifiable voice in dramedy, most often presented through the vehicle of his comedy trio Tony Ho. The group, which includes Miguel Rivas and Adam Niebergall, has grown from sketch comedy into music video and film presentations. In the same way that Monty Python did some forty years ago, Tony Ho has become a brand of comedy with its own style and temperament. Modern accessibility to media and technology gave Roger the ability to experience all levels of production from conception to presentation. He used this knowledge to connect with and create the means by which Tony Ho and other artists would gain access to more ubiquitous means of presentation as their careers grew. Regardless of the production, his “fingerprint” is felt. This is surprising and satisfying in the music videos “Never Come Down” by Brave Shores and “Street Violence” by Digits. Both videos challenge us to look at dark situations and find the means by which to laugh at the ridiculousness of the situation by accepting our own lack of control of it. The “Tony Ho” brand that Bainbridge has worked so intensely to create is hard to place into words; in an effort to define it one might state that it is, “look at all the awful things that can happen in life, shouldn’t you take some respite in how ridiculous it all is and the fact that you can’t control or understand it all?”

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The success of the “Violence” video and Roger’s acclaim for his roles both behind and in front of the camera resulted in other musical groups seeking him out to be the creative force behind their music videos. When Brave Shores needed a video for their single “Never Come Down”, they reached out to Bainbridge because of his work on “Violence” and the films of Tony Ho. Jay McCarrol of Brave Shoes comments, “When I approached Roger, he pitched an idea about a bald guy who wishes for hair and suddenly gets a full head of green hair, which would be green screened to become different colors.  He pitched it in one sentence and it was perfect.  It was great to see his talent has such range. He could just put his unique spin on anything. When you work with Roger it’s because he can be so unpredictable, that’s what we wanted.  I knew he was some sort of mad genius when I saw all of the Tony Ho stuff.  Roger possess a different kind of “it” factor, the very rare kind.  Something about him is so pleasantly haunting.” Roger admits that he has always been a fan of music videos which extend the ideas and mood of the song while also becoming a piece of art themselves. With “Never Come Down” he felt there were multiple layers, as he describes, “The song was kind of an expression of ‘ignorance is bliss’, ‘I’m just gonna have fun, and go with what feels good, f*#k all this worry.’ This can be a great sentiment, to a point. I wanted to explore the idea of someone getting everything they want. Is it responsible to just live a blissed out life? Are you living in a way that considers others and yourself? My idea was to kind of sneakily make a video about the virtues of responsibility while making it feel like a party the whole time. I don’t know if that makes me a Christian Youth Counsellor or something, but it’s probably just another example of me being a contrarian. You say party, I say be a responsible father.” brave-shores-1-945x500

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The video shows Adam Niebergall (of Tony Ho) as the main character who is granted his wish of long luxurious (color changing, sometimes psychedelic) hair and proceeds to only care about whipping that hair and head banging. While amongst trick bikers, on the beach, or a number of settings, he casts off all responsibilities, including his now pregnant romantic interest. Karma seems to exact its penance from him at the end of the video as he has given himself a fatal neck injury…as a result of his new flowing locks. It’s a modern pop/electronic fable about not focusing on the self, delivered in the humorous and yet biting way for which Bainbridge is known. Whether creating thought provoking and laughter eliciting films or music videos that still manage to carry his voice in their message, Roger Bainbridge has become known in Canada as the person to go to when you need someone to take a project from inception to production and presentation. He is pleased to be the means by which others can further their art whether it be in the role of Executive Producer, writer, or actor. Bainbridge admits that he is still sometimes jolted back into reality, in particular in regards to his involvement with musicians and their videos. He confirms, “I love music videos. I feel like I’m part of the generation that really got the last gasp of them on television. I grew up watching them on MuchMusic, watching for hours waiting for cool ones to come on. I really loved the stuff coming out for the 90’s British bands like Blur or Radiohead or Pulp. They were so glossy and arty and different. It made the world feel a lot bigger than the small Ontario town I grew up in. But it never really occurred to me that I’d ever have the occasion to make one.”

 

 

South African producer Elena Ioulianou works to better herself and her country

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Elena Ioulianou is an internationally recognized producer

Elena Ioulianou is a South African producer who is proud of her heritage. After growing up in Johannesburg, Ioulianou has had success making films both in South Africa and internationally. However, her resume is full of projects that are designed to better her native country.

One of these projects includes the PSA Ruby’s Story. The film is shot as a point of view of a young girl’s perspective and experience of being taken through the trafficking ring. It was broadcast on numerous national television stations and used on talk shows such as GauTv to raise awareness about human trafficking in South Africa and the world as a whole. Ioulianou worked with the incredibly well-known Nigerian actor Fabian Lojede, who played the role of the Trafficker.

“It was always going to be difficult to encapsulate the horror of human trafficking that is happening in today’s world. Watching the performances made it feel uncomfortable and real. We hear many stories every day of horrifying events, yet sometimes we become desensitized,” said Ioulianou. “Our objective of Ruby’s Story was to make the audience feel uneasy and hopefully propel the viewer into helping or finding out more information on how they could potentially help.”

The film was created for Inhuman Trade and The National Freedom Network. Ioulianou had previously worked on a campaign for 1:Face Watch to tackle the issues of hunger and Aids in South Africa, and the transition seemed fitting.

There is always going to be something special about using the resources you have to fight for a cause. Although we received tons of support I don’t think there will ever be enough support for a global cause like this,” she said. “Emotionally it took a toll in me after all the research I did my heart was in a million pieces. Our world can be a very dark place sometimes and I still really struggle with this.”

Some of the images are difficult to watch, but you can watch Ruby’s Story here.

Ioulianou was the head producer with Moviworld at the time. She used this position to also work on an iEC commercial. This campaign was for the Independent Electoral Commission with the purpose of encouraging the people of South Africa to vote in the upcoming municipal elections. The commercial was a series of vignettes showing off the beautiful landscape of the South African soil and, better yet, the people of South Africa.

“I have to say this was one of my favorite but most challenging commercials,” she said. “The production traveled all over the country visiting places we had never seen before and we met interesting individuals while learning about their lives in South Africa.”

Ioulianou worked alongside Neal Sundstrom, who directed the commercial. The two had worked together on previous commercials with Moviworld, including Ruby’s Story.

“Elena is quick to learn, extremely dynamic and very hard working,” said Sundstrom. “She is incredibly passionate about film and commercial work and is always very willing to take on new challenges and responsibilities. We at Moviworld are totally confident that Elena is valuable asset to the film and commercials industry not only in South Africa but abroad as well.  She is constantly thinking out the box. She is brilliant at not only the production side of business but in marketing, acquisitions and development of films.”

The IEC Cool Campaign was broadcast on national television for a period of six months, and Ioulianou’s work truly made a difference in the elections. Ioulianou has had a lot of success, and worked on award-winning pieces, including a film nominated for an Academy Award. But despite everything she has achieved, she doesn’t forget where she comes from.

“This commercial was entirely street-cast which made for an exceptional experience as we didn’t know if our cast would have a strong or any ‘on camera’ presence at all,” she said. “This spot made me more patriotic to be a South African than ever before.”

BEING NAKED CAN TEACH YOU MORE ABOUT YOUR SELF VALUE THAN JUST YOUR PHYSICAL ATTRACTIVENESS

One of the most popular and highly rated dating shows on TV in the UK right now is Naked Attraction. Just as the name states, contestants are viewed and selected in a state of complete undress. Most of us worry about being judged with our clothes off in a dimly lit room in front of our significant other, the thought of doing so in front of other people we don’t know AND on camera is unthinkable. This show would not even be thinkable without the involvement of one of UK reality TV’s most successful Associate Producers known as the master of casting, Grivas Kopti. The UK is extremely diverse and it is precisely this reason that the production chose Kopti. Grivas has been recognized for his work in the areas of LGBT representation, gender equality, multiculturalism, and celebrity culture. As a millennial who grew up with social media and the internet, Grivas and many of his generation are not encumbered by the prejudices and social constraints of previous generations. Say what you will about those of Kopti’s age but, global social interaction has made them aware of the joy and struggles that all people share, resulting in a graceful acceptance of the differences that challenge us all, hopefully creating a sense of unity. The outgoing nature Grivas possesses, as well as his stringent work ethic has made him a sought after commodity in Reality TV. The list of successful shows that have made use of Kopti’s talents are too numerous to name them all but include; Celebs Go Dating, Unbelievable, Words of Churchill, Mandela: The Prison Years, and Stripped and Stranded.

Naked Attraction is one of the most popular programs on TV of 2016 thus far with its recent ratings spiking upwards of 2 million viewers per episode. Reality TV relies on the viewer’s investment in the cast with shows of this type. Naked Attraction relies on Grivas to find the compelling people and their stories to provide the interest that keeps viewers coming back. The title alone will cause a certain portion of the population to tune in but it won’t keep them there or bring them back. Kopti’s role is part detective and part therapist. Kopti is adamant that Naked Attraction is only interested in casting individuals who are themselves motivated to be on the show. There are times when participants change their minds or their family and friends convince them that it isn’t such a good idea for them to be involved; Grivas supports this idea, often encouraging them to go away and consider whether it is truly the right choice for them. This Associate Producer doesn’t envision the show as salacious but rather as a way to achieve greater self-discovery and catharsis. Kopti describes, “I saw the contributors go on a journey, which was inspiring. They learned so much about themselves. Many learned to truly appreciate their body and what made it unique. Being complimented on your shapely thighs that you always thought were fat is so lovely and precious. As you can imagine, a lot of people’s vulnerabilities and insecurities were revealed, which I think is a beautiful thing.  You can’t really let down your guard and be capable of truly loving yourself and others if you don’t make yourself vulnerable. No stone was left unturned. We discussed it all – preferences, past sexual escapades and fetishes. People were extremely honest.”

As the leading associate casting producer, Grivas was in charge of managing the contributors. This can be a tall order when you are tasked with making someone feel comfortable being both naked and on camera. Grivas has always been able to communicate well with individuals unknown to him. Being able to discern who would handle the experience well without becoming overwhelmed or intimidated was key to Kopti’s role in Naked Attraction. He describes the characteristics he was looking for, stating, “Likeability is they first thing I look for. You want the audience to warm to them and subsequently root for them. Two attributes that serve contributors well during filming as well as after are confidence and charisma. Someone who can be strong enough to appear on television with their clothes off and handle anything they might read about themselves on social media afterwards. People aren’t always so kind online. Just as important is intelligence. The whole show works well and is engaging because our contributors can maintain a conversation with our presenter, articulating their thoughts and reasoning behind their selection process as they are selecting who they’re choosing to go on a date with. Ultimately, each main contributor will lead half of the show which is a broadcast 30 minutes. They need to have a strong character and conviction.” With a viewership of 1.4 million on its premiere episode (up 82% on the slot average) and consecutive increases, the show has been an instant success for Studio Lambert. The show’s Executive Producer Mike Cotton (Emmy nominee for Undercover Boss) confirms, “I am positive that our enormous success is due to our collaboration with Mr. Kopti, as it is his leading role that brought us much of the success that we have. His unique talent to be able to cast contributors and contestants for the program showcased his truly unparalleled ability as an associate casting producer.”

While some viewers or even critics may point to a voyeuristic factor that brings a viewing audience to Naked Attraction, Kopti has much more high minded goals for contributors and the TV public. Grivas declares, “We are bombarded with messages daily by mainstream media on how we should look and what and who we should find beautiful. In a subtle way, we wanted to call BS on that and tell the truth, inspiring our considerably big influential audience of the 16-35 age bracket. Not one size or color fits all and beauty can be many things. Couples in interracial relationships still report facing prejudice, which is shocking and something we wanted to address. Why is this still happening? Is some of this generation expressing intolerance taught by their elders? A lot of questions were raised but ultimately, the magic in this show is that we can talk about it honestly and respectfully. I’m very proud that we were able to represent those labeled as disabled. I think we communicated quite effectively that being classed disabled doesn’t render you any less sexy or capable of a fulfilling, loving relationship. We had a good few disabled contributors, visibility is key. Above all, they were fantastic characters with a lot to offer – regardless of their circumstances. One of the underappreciated strengths of my generation is that it is very hard to shock us. Naked Attraction isn’t just about the naked part. Every individual has a story to tell; things they have overcome and personal triumphs they want to celebrate, that’s the real message of our show.”

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Voice actor Mike Goral narrates Polar Bear Town for Smithsonian network

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Mike Goral started as a radio DJ before transitioning to voice acting

Millions of people hear Mike Goral’s voice every day, and don’t even know it. He is not as instantly recognizable as Brad Pitt or Meryl Streep, but you likely know his work.

Goral is a voice actor who has worked with A&E, HBO, Showtime, Cartoon Network, Food Network, The Weather Channel, Discovery, HGTV, DIY, and many more. Now, he will be adding the Smithsonian Network to this extensive list with their new series Polar Bear Town, which he will be narrating.

Polar Bear Town is a documentary series about a community of people in Northern Manitoba, Canada that reside in a part of the continent where polar bears dwell at certain times of the year. People from all over the world travel to this remote community to get a close-up, in-person look at the mighty polar bear.

“I have been fascinated by Churchill, Manitoba for many years, so when I was approached to narrate this series, it was such a joy,” said Goral. “It’s a great production team too, which makes the job so much fun when you have great people around you.”

Goral is working under the supervision of Andy Blicq. Blicq is the post-production story editor on the documentary series made by Merit Motion Pictures for the Smithsonian Channel in the U.S.A.  The two agree they make a dynamic team.

“Andy is a fantastic director and I feel we have a really great chemistry. I really enjoy working with him. He brings a lot to the table because he’s a true professional,” said Goral.

“Mike is a top tier narrator. He’s a professional who gets the work done quickly.  He knows exactly what to do. He takes direction well and adapts quickly to suggestions when we are recording narration.  It was a pleasure to work with him,” said Blicq. “Narration work is challenging.  Each documentary series is different and a good voice actor brings his or her own creative talent to the production. Mike knows exactly what to do, adjusting his accent and performance to match the content and the emotion on the screen and the script. He executed this very well during the recording of the six one-hour episodes. We are going to work with him again, now, on a new season of this series.”

Goral is from Canada himself. He is originally from Oakville, Ontario, a town outside of Toronto. The project brought him back to his native country after living in Los Angeles and then Scottsdale where he currently resides. He has been voice acting for around twenty years.

“I service clients in all areas of the media industry with my voiceover services – everything from national TV shows, to product commercials, to corporate educational training courses for everything from banks to bakeries. I record most of my daily work from my own home studio facilities. But, some clients require I record at their studios instead of my own,” he described.

Goral does his work alone in a room, using only his voice to display the emotions that actors use their bodies, voices, scenery, props, and fellow actors for. It is no easy feat. The advantage, however, is that it is not quite as tiring.

“I don’t plan on retiring. The beauty of this kind of work is that it’s not physically taxing. Guys can do this type of work into their nineties,” said Goral. “And if they enjoy it like I do, they probably don’t really have plans to retire.”

Goral has a long time before he has to start thinking like that, and with more new episodes of Polar Bear Town ahead of him, he has a lot to look forward to.

“I’d love to do more long form documentary series. They are a lot of fun, and always a joy when those opportunities come around,” he said.

You can watch full episodes of Polar Bear Town here.

Mexican cinematographer Guillermo Garza is in charge of “visual experience for the film”

As a child, choosing your path in life often comes from a film or television program. It is the greatest exposure to different jobs we have in the modern world. However, many are inspired by the characters in the film, not what is going on behind the scenes. This was not the case for Guillermo Garza.

As a child growing up in Monterrey Mexico, Garza had an obsession with his mother’s video camera. He loved holding it, looking through it, and eventually filming scenes with his brother and sister. Many children’s interests change as they grow, but not for Garza. Now, he is a successful cinematographer, living his childhood dream.

Garza’s inspiration came from many classic films. As a child, he would stay up late recreating scenes from Monty Python and the Holy Grail with his GI-Joe figurines. In his teens, he watched a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the Star Wars original films.

“That’s where I figured out that making movies was an actual job you could have,” he said. “Ever since I was a teenager all I could think of ever being was a cinematographer. That is what I have always said when people asked what I wanted to do.”

His instincts have proven to be right, and Garza has achieved a lot in his career. Flores Para el Soldado, his first film out of film school, went on to win the Mexican Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

“An important moment in my career was straight of school. I was invited to shoot the documentary Flores Para el Soldado,” said Garza. “It was a very personal and difficult project with a very low budget. We were quite inexperienced, but we gave it our best and focused on the story.”

Later on, he was the cinematographer for the commercial campaign Native/Time Out Magazine Mexico, which won the Cannes Bronze Lion award.

“The job of the cinematographer is a very complex one, because no two jobs are alike,” described Garza. “I have to take what is on the director’s mind and the screenplay’s pages, and then use the camera, lights, time and space to create the visual experience of the film,”

Success continued for Garza with the films Camino a Marte and Paraiso Perdido. Andres Almeida is an actor, composer, and production designer who worked with Garza on both projects. Almeida describes both experiences as amazing.

“Guillermo’s unique sensibility and understanding of light, as well as his construction of the scene through image, make him one of the best cinematographers working in Mexican cinema right now. The easiness with which he moves through the set with the camera and with actors themselves make him a great partner and enjoyable person to work with. He is both dedicated and passionate in his work and a true professional in all senses,” said Almeida.

Garza’s Mexican heritage is important to him, and he is an admirer of his fellow Mexican cinematographers that, as he says, continue to raise the standards of what is expected of a cinematographer and the cinematic experience.

By chance, Garza had the opportunity to connect with Oscar-winning director Guillermo del Toro. He was buying some books at a bookstore in Madrid where Garza was buying textbooks for film school. Garza says the experience changed his life.

“I approached him and told him how much I admired his work as a director, and that I was in film school hoping to one day be a cinematographer. I told him how one day I wanted to be able to work and create films as good as his,” said Garza. “He was really nice and said that we could have a coffee after he paid for his books. We sat down for thirty minutes and he gave me some great advice and a point of reference of what to expect from a career in film. He gave me his email and told me that I was welcome to come by his set for the film he was going to shoot in Madrid. Six months later he started shooting and I went to the set. He introduced me to his cinematographer Guillermo Navarro, who let me stick around the set for a few weeks. That was the first time in my life that I was on a real film set.”

The film was Pan´s Labyrinth, and Guillermo Navarro went on to win an Oscar for his achievement in cinematography for his work on the film. For Garza, having this opportunity is a highlight in both his career and his life. He took the most of a chance meeting, and it allowed him to learn from one of the pros. Now, he is considered a pro himself.

“The way I approach challenges in my job is to be adaptable and flexible and to really be able to trust in my experience, my taste, and my crew,” he said.

Garza will be shooting the film Bayoneta in the new year. It is a project he is very excited for. It´s about a Mexican boxer during a dark time in his life, he is coaching a new Finnish boxer while running away from his past.

“I love that every job has its unique set of challenges and puzzles to solve. I love that even though we try very hard to plan and control outcomes in this job there is also room for unpredictability, and that those unpredictable or unplanned moments sometimes are the best, the most real, and beautiful,” he concluded.

MCWILLIAM EXHIBITS A MYRIAD OF TALENTS IN MODERN FILM SCORES

There are many avenues to pursue in the modern day music industry. While the opportunities for bands and artists may have decreased in the last decade or two, other vocations in the music world have gained new venues within which to be employed. James McWilliam is a prime example of this. He may have had adolescent dreams of pop/rock stardom as a drummer but after veering towards jazz and classical music in his studies, he has become a noteworthy composer, conductor, and orchestrator in his native UK. Although working primarily in the UK, McWilliam has worked with and led ensembles in Paris and Macedonia as well. As a professional whose credits include the films; The Book of Life, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Masterminds, Standing Tall, and many others, James is widely sought after by filmmakers looking for music to enhance the emotional impact of their creations. Whether working on big budget feature films, Independent movies, or even video games, McWilliam is known for creating and/or implementing the audio accompaniment to perfectly present the goal of its creator. An overview of James’ work on his many projects gives proof to the idea that this musician/composer is challenged to be creative in a wide array of media presentations.

Don’t Look Down is a documentary which follows urban free climber James Kingston as he travels the world scaling 100m cranes, 200m radio towers, tall buildings and bridges…all without the use of any safety equipment. Composing the music for Don’t Look Down was attractive to James for a number of reasons. He states, “The production company wanted a score that followed and heightened the tension of the subject matter, whilst appealing to an age group of between 18-30 years of age; the show therefore needed a contemporary score. I turned to a more electronic based sound with lots of percussion and heavy synths.  This show worked a little differently than other things I’ve worked on previously. Rather than writing to picture, the production company asked me to write longer pieces of music that they could then edit alongside the show.  This is quite liberating for a composer but perhaps not as much fun; personally, I’m inspired by what’s happening on screen and prefer to write music specifically to picture.”

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Standing Tall is a French feature film directed by Emmanuelle Bercot which deals with France’s treatment of disadvantaged youths.  In addition to seven nominations, the film was selected to open the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, won two Cesar Awards, and a Lumiere Award. Eric Neveux sought out McWilliam to serve as Orchestrator & Conductor in Paris. Neveux confirms, “James has been a valuable member of my team for over 4 years now and as an orchestrator has played an integral role in the scores of many of my films.  Standing Tall opened the Cannes 2015 film festival and was a very important composing project for me. I knew I could rely on James’ orchestration skills to help me deliver the score for this superb film. As an orchestrator, James brings a great depth of sound to my work, utilizing his extensive skill and knowledge of an orchestra.  No matter how complex the project might appear to be, he always works tirelessly to achieve the best result possible.” The score was recorded at the famous Studio Ferber, known for the recording of many iconic pop musicians and film scores since the 1970’s. Concerning his role in Standing Tall’s score, James stipulates, “I think that the real skill in orchestration is being able to interpret a composer’s demo in such a way that what you do is clearly a huge improvement on the demo and yet it still sounds identical to the music signed off by the director.  This balance (which is quite a fine art to master) is always changing from score to score and cue to cue; how you decide on this is through a lot of discussion with the composer.  I truly enjoyed working with someone else’s music, especially on projects where I feel like I’ve had a significant impact on the end result. Of course, the balance I refer to above can be difficult to find especially when working with a new composer and sometimes a greater period of time is needed at the beginning of the process to understand where each other is coming from.”

Legendary filmmaker Guillermo del Toro is highly stylized in his approach to movie making. For the animated film The Book of Life (which garnered 27 nominations including a Golden Globe, 3 wins, and a Worldwide gross of $94MM) the highly respected and successful del Toro trusted Gustavo Santaolalla to compose the music the he wanted to capture the feel of a past and modern Mexico. Hired by the score’s arranger and conductor Tim Davies, James set to work orchestrating the music of  Santaolalla. The rich, colorful themes and rhythms were as entertaining as the animation and action on the screen. The process of bringing the music of The Book of Life to manifestation truly depicts the modern and global means by which artists cooperate. James notes, “It’s not often that I’m hired by another orchestrator/arranger to work on a film but when I do it’s always a pleasure to be part of the team.  It’s more common on larger US projects to have multiple orchestrators so when I do find myself in this position it’s often on a big budget production.  I love the work of Guillermo del Toro so this was a particularly exciting project and something I was very pleased to do. It’s interesting when you work for another orchestrator because it makes you evaluate your own approach to things and working with US based orchestrators in particular really keeps you on your toes. This was such an enjoyable score to work on; the music Gustavo Santaolalla created for the film is brilliant.”

Projecting a completely different tone and subject matter are two feature films which saw McWilliam seated at the composer’s helm; The Patrol (nominated for a British Independent Film Festival Award and winner of a Raindance Film Festival Award) and Born of War. James defines the difference of these two stipulating, “Born of War isn’t really a war film although, like The Patrol it is set in Afghanistan.  The two filmmakers work couldn’t be more different and the scores reflect this.  Whist the score for The Patrol deliberately avoided emotive strings and Middle Eastern sounding instruments, Born of War fully embraced these sounds and they became an integral part of the character of the film.  The film begins in 1980’s Afghanistan, moves to present day Oxford/London and then back to Afghanistan but in the present day.  All these changes had to be reflected in the score and we did this through balancing the use of real orchestra and synths/percussion with influences from the Middle East.  The score wasn’t about reinventing the wheel, this was more about fitting into a specific genre of films and playing it for everything it’s worth. The orchestral score was recorded in Macedonia. It was a lot of fun!” Rupert Whitaker (Born of War’s Producer) comments about the film’s score, “Vicky Jewson, our director, had a very specific sound in mind for Born of War; a sound that was going to cost a lot of money, which our budget couldn’t stretch to. As soon as we spoke to James about our vision for the score, we knew we were in safe hands. The size of the task ahead of him meant that James decided to assemble an eclectic team of highly skilled people, all of whom added a huge amount of value to the project.  Not only did he strive to make Vicky’s ambition a reality but he supplied us with numerous creative possibilities that enhanced the picture, aiding the drama and bringing a whole new life to the film. James is not simply a powerful creative force; he is also a highly skilled technician in his field. I was very fortunate to have him contribute to the success of the picture.”

Rather than touring the world in a van or a bus as a drummer who plays to crowds at clubs or theaters, James has become a respected and valued member of a global music and filmmaking tapestry performing to peers who are among the most talented artists in the world. From a young boy thrashing about on the drumkit to leading the world’s most gifted orchestras, James McWilliam seems incredibly grounded…so much so that one wonders if he actually realizes that he has exceeded his own youthful goals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sound designer Cindy Takehara plans to “keep doing what she loves most”

cover-photo-for-once-articleCindy Takehara was born and raised in Japan. Her father is Japanese and her mother from Colombia. She did not always know growing up and going between both countries that she would be an internationally successful sound designer, but now she can’t imagine anything else.

Takehara holds a bachelor degree in Music and Sound Engineering. She first got involved in the audio industry through music while in university. As a student, she had the opportunity to learn and do sound for motion pictures.

“Since then, I’ve never looked back and continued to pursue a career in audio post production for Film and other visual media,” she said.

Her first work as a Sound Designer was Suciedad Ltda, which received attention from film festivals all over the world. It also went to the AES (Audio Engineering Society) student recording competition in San Francisco. The judges were the Academy winners Shawn Murphy and Lora Hirschberg.

“I still remember hearing them acknowledging and praising my hard work.  It was inspiring meeting them but also, it encouraged me to keep doing what I love doing the most,” she said.

Since that time, Takehara has had many achievements throughout her sound design career. One of these achievements is the film Once, which premiered at the world-renowned TCL Chinese Theater in Los Angeles, during the HollyShorts Festival.

Once is about an old man in a wheelchair, who lives in loneliness and numbness, desperately trying to reach a blackbird pin which carries his memories. On the way to getting the pin back, the audience sees his happiest moments in his life.

“I liked the minimalistic storytelling and its astonishing cinematography. This project required us to tell a story through sound and music without any dialogue between characters, so it was a great opportunity for me to experiment with sound. At the same time, the sound also represented the psyche of the main character and his memory,” said Takehara.

The director opted to shot the film without having any boom operator on set to record the sound, so when Takehara received the picture, there was absolutely no sound in it.

“There were no footsteps, no movement or breathing sound, nothing. I had to create every sound from the scratch,” she said. “I learned not to over design while creating a soundscape for a certain type of film. On this one, because of its minimalistic character, detailed Foley sound was important but overall design had to be executed tenderly with subtle changes.”

Takehara also worked with the music on the film, which was pre-existing music, meaning that it wasn’t composed specifically for this film. Therefore, it required a delicate editing to fit the music to the scene, and the transition had to be smooth.

“During the music editing process, it was crucial to pick the right time to start the music, and to pick the right note to start the cue and blend together,” she described. “In the beginning of this film, where the old man starts to bring up his memory, the music starts very subtle, almost unrecognizable. By using audio processing such as the equalization, and the use of the right amount of reverberation in the music, it was able to represent the scene sonically, as if he were searching his memory that it gradually appears.”

After finish editing all the necessary sound and music, they had to be “mixed together” not only in terms of volume or levels for each sound, but also, to create the adequate mood during a specific scene or event, and keep the transition of the story engaging for the audience. Takehara’s job in the last part of re-recording mixing process was to enhance this audiovisual experience by determining how these each sound element was put together.

The film allowed for Takehara to be reunited with director Xuexue Pan, who she had worked with previously on the music video The Mariner’s Revenge. Pan reached out to Takehara to work with her once again for Once.

“It’s always a pleasure working with Cindy. She can deliver sonically what a director sees in the image. She has a great artistic sensibility and she is also highly skilled in Sound Design techniques,” said Pan. “I worked with her previously and she was able to create this immersive underwater experience by carefully using the surround mixing techniques. I was amazed.”

Takehara says it is important to work with someone when you share the same vision for a project, which she and Pan did.

“We both agreed that the role of sound and music will be important in this project, since they are the key element that can evoke emotion to the audience,” said Takehara.

Despite all of her technical knowledge, what makes Takehara truly successful is her passion for the art of sound designer. To her, it is not just playing with a computer to get what you want, but something entirely more profound.

“To be a sound designer means that you are at the intersection of where art, emotion, and technology meets. You’ll need technical skills, tools and knowledge to manipulate sound, but also, it requires artistic sensitivity, good taste and creativity. I’m always aware of sound around me in daily experience and it fascinates me all the time. I believe that sound itself can move people emotionally, and I can use this as a tool when working with the visual media, and provide a meaning, an emotion, and an immersive auditory experience complementing the visual,” she said. “There’s something magical about this job, and that’s why I love doing what I do.”