Graphic Designer Jiping Liu: An Unstoppable Force In Modern Film

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Graphic Designer Jiping Liu

From designing props and key costumes to the film titles and posters that grab our attention and make us want to run out and watch them on the big screen, graphic designer Jiping Liu has found a unique niche for herself in the film industry, both in the U.S. and China.

By the time Liu made the decision to break into the film industry, her talent as a graphic designer at home in Beijing, China was already well-known throughout the design industry thanks to her work as a lead designer for Tencent and Inforgence. While the endless creative opportunities and potential collaborations Liu could immerse herself in through film ignited her inner passion, the choice to step away from a good job as a designer in the corporate world required her to set the safety net aside and take a leap of faith.

After graduating with her bachelor’s degree in digital media from Beijing Jiaotong University, Liu says, “I got the chance to go for my master’s degree with a full scholarship in China and I was also offered a good graphic design job, but I felt I was too young to settle, so I gave up the opportunities and applied to school in America to study filmmaking.”

This was barely three years ago, but the number of high-profile film productions she has contributed her skills to since confirm that the life changing choice she made leaving everything she knew behind in order to pursue her true passion was definitely the right one, as is often the case, but rarely do the results come as quickly as they have for Liu.

For Liu 2016 has been insanely busy with her doing the graphic design for the films “Red Cherries,” “She Gives Me Sight,” which earned awards at the Hollywood Boulevard Film Festival, LA underground Film Festival and the Hollywood International Moving Pictures Film Festival, “Escape,” “Don’t Touch Me,” “Successor of the Southern Star” and several others.

Her adept skill as a graphic designer combined with her knowledge of the filmmaking process has provided Liu with a strong creative foundation that has allowed her to apply her talents to various other areas of a production such as costume design as well. Earlier this year Liu costume designed the dramatic crime film “Locked” directed by Ye Kuang (“Harmonica,” “Love Behind”), whose film “Harmonica” took home the Grand Prize at the Carnegie Mellon International Film Festival.

As the costume designer of the production Liu used her graphic design background to draw out all of the costumes we see in the film before constructing them.  “Locked,” which stars Leanne Agmon from “Blue Bloods” and “Unforgettable,” and Johanna Finn from the multi-award winning film “14 Days” and the series “My Haunted House,” has proven to be a resounding success with the film taking home the LAIUFF Awards for Best Actor and Best Narrative, as well as the Audience Award for Best Film and Best Actor at the 2016 Los Angeles International Underground Film Festival,

Liu used her design skills once again as the costume designer of the recently released “Lordwolf” commercial for Beard Guyz directed by Mauro Borrelli (“The Ghostmaker,” “Haunted Forest”) who earned the Audience Award at the Los Angeles Italian Film Awards for “Goodbye, Casanova” and the Venice Film Festival’s AIACE Award for “La Donna del Moro.”

As a graphic designer Liu has an expert eye when it comes to color, a necessary strength and crucial component in designing the costume for the commercial’s leading wolf man played Daniel Sobieray from “Days of Our Lives” and “The Young and The Restless.”   You can check out the new commercial here.

Since moving stateside Liu has landed a job as the lead graphic designer for Alpha Pictures, a Chinese based production company that recently opened their LA branch.

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Poster for the film “The Death God’s Plot” by Jiping Liu

“We are trying to turn the most popular comics in China to feature films in next two years in America,” Liu says about her work with the successful production company. “I love both filmmaking and design, so I feel very lucky to be a graphic designer at a film production company, because I’m passionate about my work.”

Liu has put her creativity to paper designing a plethora of posters and presentations that Alpha is currently using to gain funding and get the word out about several upcoming films such as “Female Robot,” “Spore,” “The Death God’s Plot,” “Rain Village,” “Meet William,” “Moon Vortex,” “Requiem Street” and many more.

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Poster for the film “Spore” designed by Jiping Liu

Whether she’s designing film posters to grab the audience’s attention or spark the interest of potential investors, or using her graphic design talent to create graphic props and costumes for productions, Jiping Liu is one creative artists who’s found her rightful place in the international film industry.

 

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Zeon’s Music Video Journey

Alejandro Salinas discovered MTV when he was just 10 years old. As a child growing up in Mexico City, he would listen to songs and always think about what the music video would look like. When he saw a new one come out and it would not match his expectations, he would become thrilled at the idea of making his own version. When one came out that was better than he imagined, he would become overwhelmed with excitement and the new possibilities that those amazing ideas had brought on for the industry, the world, and his creative perception. The love for music and inspiration it draws generates a need for him to create visuals for it.

Now, that young boy from Mexico City goes by Zeon, and is recognized around the world as an outstanding director and editor. Despite working on films and fashion films and achieving extraordinary success, he still knows his passion is the same as the 10-year-old boy who would watch MTV all day.

I make music videos. I create a visual world from a song. I direct and edit the process, and I’m very detail-oriented. It’s the most rewarding discipline for me. It encompasses so many different art forms and you’ll never be bored by it. There will always be new songs to be inspired from to create new visuals, and that keeps me coming back to them,” said Zeon.

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Zeon in Lady Gaga’s “Til It Happens to You”

One of Zeon’s greatest accomplishments was working with Lady Gaga on the music video for her Academy Award nominated song “Til It Happens to You”, showing the stories of women who are raped on college campuses. The video has been viewed over 37.5 million times on YouTube.

“I love Lady Gaga and she is someone I look up to,” he said. “But I also wanted to work on this because of the importance of the video and the impact it would have on society and rape culture. I was there behind, in front of and beside camera throughout the whole process, and it was a very fulfilling and honoring experience to have taken part of.”

Jamie Holt, the producer of “Til It Happens to You” was impressed with Zeon’s work and asked him to be involved with her next projects, the music videos for the band Icon for Hire, for their songs “Now You Know” and “Supposed To Be”. “Now You Know” premiered February 2016 and has over 1.4 million views on YouTube. “Supposed To Be” premiered June of this year and has over 826 thousand views.

“It was a lot of fun. Each video presented different ways to be explored creatively,” said Zeon. “Jamie allowed me to fulfill her vision through editing by expanding the ideas she had in mind and by also adding my personal touch to make it impacting.”

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Still from Icon for Hire’s “Now You Know” music video.

Zeon’s first taste of true success came when working on the music video for “Arrójame” for the legendary 80s/90s Mexican rock band La Lupita, a humbling experience for Zeon, who had his music video on TV debut with this video.

“It was very emotional moment when I saw the video on television for the first time. I never knew when or how it would ever happen, that a music video of mine would be on TV, but when I was watching the premiere with my cousin and grandma and the video came up, it felt very touching to see a video I worked on debuting on national television,” he said. “I loved the song and I thought I could create an interesting video for the band. They are very talented and hardworking people. Even after years, they’re still hustlers and I found that very inspiring.”

The producer of the video, Estívaliz Zaragoza, had worked with Zeon previously and says she would never miss an opportunity to collaborate with him.

“Working with Zeon is full satisfaction, because he is always on top of his responsibilities and tasks, he never hesitates on helping his team mates. His creativity and ideas are refreshing and right on spot. He always has something to share, knowledge, helpful information and useful ideas. He has a mixture of skills that make you want to have him in your team and collaborate in his projects: He is proactive, disciplined, detail-oriented, a team player, and super creative,” said Zaragoza.

From there, Zeon’s career took off. He worked on the fashion film Dieode and the celebrated fashion documentary Mextilo, and worked on the music video for the iconic collaboration of legendary Mexican singer Lila Downs, the Spanish Niña Pastori, and the Argentinian Soledad for their song “Que Nadie Sepa Mi Sufrir”. The video has amassed over 2.5 million views on YouTube, and their album received a Grammy nomination.

“It was a very exciting opportunity to work a new project with such legendary artists from different Spanish-speaking countries,” said Zeon. “I didn’t have an award in mind at all, I just wanted to make sure I could deliver a video that worked best for such great artists, but it’s very honoring to know that you took part in such a great achievement in an artist’s career. The album not only got nominated, but actually won the Latin Grammy in 2014 for Best Folk Album. And then the next year it got nominated for the 2015 Grammy Awards for Best Latin Pop Album, which is amazing as well.”

Zeon knows he has the power to push an artist’s vision even further. He has been studying music videos for almost his entire life, and can sense what works and what doesn’t. He strives for perfection, and that is what he is known for achieving.

“I love the emotional, narrative and visual impact I can have on the final result of a video. It can completely shift an artist’s career. It thrills me to push alongside them, because we’re both moving forward in ways we never imagined” he concluded.

 

Cooking for the stars: chef Vincenzo Pezzella talks working at Naples’ top restaurant

In the city of Naples, Italy, on the pebble beach of Seiano in Vico Equense underneath the Torre del Saraceno, sits the world renown Torre del Saracino restaurant. Guests from around the globe head there for exquisite Italian and Mediterranean cuisine prepared by the famous chef Gennaro Esposito. It has not just one, but a two Michelin star rating, and seats politicians, athletes, and celebrities regularly. It also happens to be where chef Vincenzo Pezzella started his career.

Pezzella now is known internationally for his skills as a chef, moving to Paris after working under Esposito at Torre del Saracino and becoming the head chef at the popular Mamma Prima Ristorante in Paris. He moved quickly up the kitchen ranks, and the success of the restaurant can be attributed to his creativity in the kitchen. He remains humble, however, and attributes his success to what he learned working as a line cook at Torre del Saracino.

“It was really hard, but also amazing working at Torre del Saracino. Any time you work for a two star Michelin restaurant, perfection is the only thing you learn how to do. I wanted to run away as much as I was proud to be a part of it. The experience was unlike anything I will ever encounter in my career,” said Pezzella. “The kitchen was masterful. It was definitely well worth the time spent there.”

Few are fortunate enough to learn from legends, but Pezzella is one of them. Working under Esposito, he quickly picked up what was important in terms of running a kitchen, and learning what it meant to make authentic Italian cuisine while staying true to what you know. Being from Naples himself, working in such a high profile restaurant right in his backyard was everything while he was learning.

“It was incredible working under chef Gennaro Esposito. I learned everything that is my base through that man. I learned not only what it is to be in a kitchen but how to respect it and everyone around it. I learned that you could be from Naples and still manage a kitchen in that style and that demeanor,” said Pezzella. “I still call him from time to time to see how he is doing and hopefully to catch a lesson from him.”

The relationship is one that Esposito also admires, and remembers the days that Pezzella worked for him fondly.

“He was a listener. Vincenzo understood what he was being taught and followed through. He will have a great career,” said Esposito.

Working in a Michelan star restaurant, Pezzella also learned what perfection in cooking truly was. Sometimes, dishes needed to be made and remade again and again until they were exactly what Esposito envisioned. The environment can be stressful for a newcomer, but the ideal place to grow as a chef.

“Being perfect is never easy. We overcame it by taking our time and making sure everything fit the necessary criteria, and then we moved on,” said Pezzella. “Despite what some may think, I learned perfection working here that perfection in a kitchen does exist. It’s not an easy thing to obtain, but it is possible none the less.”

This attitude is what led Pezzella and the rest of the kitchen crew to such grand success. Constantly receiving positive feedback, locals and vacationers alike would go to the restaurant just to say they did.

“The restaurant pushed limits on Neapolitan cuisine because it could and the result is priceless,” said Pezzella.

Now that he has relocated to France and runs his own kitchen, Pezzella looks back at his time at Torre del Saracino as an invaluable learning experience. He liked everything about it, even the stressful and intimidating parts of the job. But what truly made the experience was cooking in the city he loves, the city he grew up in.

“To work where I grew up is the way it should always be. To get up and be around your people, knowing that your product is top notch is definitely a gift. Being able to do something as easy as walk to work and trace the steps you have done since your birth is an awesome way to live and build your career,” he concluded.

Director of Photography Sergey Savchenko “not working for industry, but making it”

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Sergey Savchenko was born in Siberia.

“I meet people, I listen to their stories and watch their lives. I see and try to understand the visual styles and colors of different countries and places. Every day I try to develop myself, to apply my experience in creating my own style, and hone my skills.”

Those are the words of Siberian born Sergey Savchenko, when describing what he does as a director of photography. Those are the words of someone who does what they do because they love it. Every project Savchenko works on is a learning opportunity. He constantly aims to be better, and he is already respected in the industry for what he does.

“Once, when I was experimenting with video, I noticed something. It was a feeling that I was not previously familiar with. It was seeing how my thoughts and ideas became a reality through film. I understood that I can capture a mood, an attitude, a feeling. It was the spark of creation. I can’t compare this feeling with anything else. I can not only consume, but create. From that moment, this feeling for me becomes one of the most strong and pleasant. I feel that I’m alive when filming and create a certain style or idea,” he said.

Savchenko’s work is recognized across the globe, and has been nominated for several awards. He worked with REN-TV on That’s My House, which was a finalist when it was nominated for “Best Leisure and Lifestyle program spot” at the Promax BDA Europe in 2015. This year, his work on the promo Americans won Bronze in the “Best Drama Promo” category of the Promax BDA UK awards. Savchenko considers these true victories, but they still came as a big surprise.

The feeling is hard to describe. In our work, we constantly ‘run’, focusing on the ‘road’, not looking around. When your job gets to the finals of the international competition, you start to ‘look around’, trying to figure out where you are and realize that you are ‘running’ in the company of giants like the BBC and Discovery. It’s an interesting feeling,” he said.

While at REN-TV, Savchenko worked closely with Roman Toloknov, the chief Director of the Promo Department and the two became close. Tolokonov says Savchenko has a loud voice, joking that he can’t decide if it is a good thing or not, as he Savchenko is never afraid to tell even his boss when something “sucks.”

“Sergey came to our department in late summer of 2013. I immediately saw in him a man who can give good advice and bring our ideas to life. We worked for three years and got a huge number of promotional projects. Sergey is like an engine. You start the engine and it works,” he said. “Sergey has this massive energy, he loves what he does – that’s what really got to me when he came for an interview. He is not working for the industry, he is making the industry.” 

Savchenko describes Toloknov as having an excellent sense of style and humor, producing more great ideas than he team can manage to film. For Savchenko, despite the awards and recognition, it’s the people he has worked with that have made his career into something he loves.

“You know, it is always a surprise to receive awards, it’s very nice, but this joy fades away. It’s always a pleasure to share this joy with someone, but a reward by itself does not bring happiness. The award is a measure of official recognition, it affects to your confidence, but the support of a family and friends, and their faith in you, is much stronger than any award,” he said.

Having this attitude keeps Savchenko humble. Despite his many accolades, he does what he loves for himself and the people he loves. He is motivated by the challenges of the profession, which one can only do when they are truly passionate about something. He knows that every take can have a different approach, and every other director of photography will do it differently, but he takes his time and finds the best approach.

“It’s similar to how you tune a musical instrument, feeling only the vibration from it in your body. You don’t hear the sound, you only see the faces of those who listen to your music. The best gift is to see smiles on faces, this means that your music is resonance in the hearts of the audience. Your instrument is tuned. Constant practice and selfless love helps along the way. Any task has 100 ways to solve and we are always looking for the best choice. The storytelling language, the style and the color is very similar to our speech, if we start talking randomly – we might upset or offend someone, nobody likes scrappy speech. Video products directly affect the consciousness and sub consciousness of an audience, therefore it is necessary to control the quality and check 10 times to make sure, that what you’re doing is right and carries a beautiful thought,” he advised.

Savchenko is not simply a director of a photography. He is an artist. He is a creator. He knows this, but uses his gift to positively affect not only the people directly around him, but those that see his work. There is no doubt that his name will continue to roll through the credits in film and television for years to come.

“I want to grow as a director of photography and work in the film industry. I truly love what I do the more than anything in the world,” he concluded.

From the Screen to Magazines Andreas Holm-Hansen is Red Hot

Hailing from Copenhagen, Denmark international actor and model Andreas Holm-Hansen was born with perfect bone structure, fiery red hair and a freckled and fit physique that effortlessly turns heads.

Over the last few years redheaded models with a healthy dose of freckles have gotten a major boost in the eyes of the public thanks to the work of leading photographers like Michelle Marshall, Maja Topcagic and her 2015 photo series “Freckled,” and Keith Barraclough’s “The Redhead Project,” but the list would not be complete without mentioning the innovative work of Thomas Knights.

In 2014 Knights released the Red Hot 100 book, a photo series that has been called ‘the ultimate bible for hot ginger men,’ and with his good looks and natural red hair it’s not at all surprising that Andreas Holm-Hansen made the cut, which makes him one of ‘the 100 sexiest Red Hot Guys in the World.’

Knights and Holm-Hansen clearly had a successful collaboration as the photographer called him back to shoot his newest exhibition and book “Red Hot II” earlier this year. Not only is Holm-Hansen featured throughout the book, but he also nabbed the cover shot for the “Red Hot II,” which was released in October. You can also check out Holm-Hansen in the highly seductive video that was made to promote the book, which reveals him in all is red headed freckled glory. Anyone who watches the video would find it difficult to say that Holm-Hansen is anything but on fire.

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Andreas Holm-Hansen on the cover of Red Hot II by Thomas Knights

 

In 2012 Holm-Hansen also landed a featured role in the music video for three-time Grammy Award winning artist P!nk’s “Blow Me (One Last Kiss),” which has been astonishingly well-received by fans earning more than 72 million views on YouTube.

As a model Holm-Hansen’s international appeal has been a driving force in his success. Earlier this year he landed a massive campaign for Väla Centrum in Helsingborg, Sweden; if the local Swedes didn’t know him before, they definitely know him now, considering his face is plastered to the outer walls of the popular shopping center, and he is featured on the cover of the center’s Winter issue of Väla Magazine.

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Andreas Holm-Hansen on a billboard at Väla Centrum

From massive billboards to a lengthy list of high-profile commercials, Holm-Hansen’s captivating aesthetic appeal has made him a go-to talent among advertisers across the world. Audiences across Europe will immediately recognize him for his featured roles in popular commercials for brands and organizations such as Miracle Whip, Telmore Play, Eovendo, Synoptik, Danske Bank, Norwegian Airlines, Komplett, The Zulu Comedy Festival and others.

In addition to being featured in a number of magazines such as Tantalum Magazine, Visionarios Magazine, Elléments Magazine and PAF Magazine, he’s also been the face of a number of massive print campaigns including B&O’s H6 Limited Edition, Phoamy, Arbejdernes Landsbank, DSB and Sundhedsstyrelsen’s Stop for 5.

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While his unique look has definitely put him in the spotlight, Andreas Holm-Hansen has a whole lot more than a just good-looking face going for him. Through a series of lead acting roles in productions such as Benjamin Murray’s crime mystery “The Hit” and “Don’t Bring Guns to a Knife Fight,” Jose Rico’s “Blood Legacy,” Jesper Holm Pedersen’s “Shit Happens” and David B. Sørensen’s “Bellum,” Holm-Hansen has proven himself to be a diversely talented actor who can bring virtually any character to life. His knock-out performances to date have revealed him as the rare kind of actor who is capable of captivating his audience regardless of the genre.

One performance that really stands out though was when Holm-Hansen took to the screen in the recurring lead role of ‘Mad’ Mads Steen in the satirical series “Dreaming in Mono.” Presented mockumentary style, “Dreaming in Mono” follows the rivalry of two Nordic ski champions, one of which desperately wants to break a record on a monoski and starts his own team of underdog skiers who actually think it’s possible, they are Team Monoski!

We first encounter Holm-Hansen’s character ‘Mad’ Mads Steen trying to fix his broken down car in the middle of blizzard wearing nothing but his underwear, furry hat and boots, making it easy to see how he earned the nickname ‘Mad.’ Unfortunately for Mad his skiing skills have something to be desired, which makes total sense considering his prior ski experience consisted of using his ski poles to thrust himself across the flat grass-covered lands of Denmark. It’s not a stretch to say that Holm-Hansen is one of the leading comedy highlights in the series, as we continually watch his character lose his balance and flail uncontrollably down the slope every time he clicks into his skis and sets down on actual snow.

Mad could easily be considered Team Monoski’s awkward rebel, but his constant boundary pushing ways eventually put him on thin ice with his teammates. In fact, “Dreaming in Mono” dedicates an entire episode to an intervention with Holm-Hansen’s character where the team tries to get the brash Dane to curb his unsportsmanlike ways, which leads Mad to huff and puff and storm his way all the way back to his hotel room; but thankfully for the team he comes around in the end.

 

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Poster from “Dreaming in Mono”

 

Produced by the Swedish production company Happy Fiction and created by the international creative agency Perfect Fools “Dreaming in Mono” was written and directed by multi-award winner Jens Jonsson, who earned the Grand Jury Prize from the prestigious Sundance Film Festival for the film “Ping-pongkingen” in addition to being nominated for two Guldbagge Awards, which are the Sweden’s equivalent of an Academy Award.

The seven episode series was broadcast by four major TV networks in the Nordic countries, with Andreas Holm-Hansen dazzling audiences the whole way through. The series, which was ironically created to promote McDonald’s in the Nordic countries, but rarely,  if ever, mentions  the fast food chain verbally, also stars Bernard Cauchard (“Superhjältejul,” “It’s My Turn Now”) and Alexandra Alegren (“Gåsmamman,” “Madness of Many,” “Olivia Twist”).

With a rather astonishing list of leading roles in film and television projects, and even more high-profile modeling campaigns already under his belt, Andreas Holm-Hansen is one of the few actor/models we can confidently say will be doting his wide-spread talents upon both industries for years to come, so make sure to keep your eyes peeled for this talented Dane.

 

THIS CANADIAN ACTRESS PROVES THAT HER ACTING AND DANCING ARE ON POINTE

Lanie McAuley is a dancer, and she plays one on film. In real life, McAuley made the switch from concentrating on a dance career to choosing acting as her focus. However, she returned to dance with her role in Center Stage: On Pointe. It’s not often that one gets to appreciate who they were as a younger person and who they are just a few years later with such contrast. As a gifted young dancer from Canada, Lanie moved to New York when she won the audition for a production there. These days, as a successful actress she spends her days on film sets. Though she still pursues a creative life, the avenue which she pursues flexes different muscles, literally and figuratively. McAuley is a self-described practical person yet the vocations she has chosen to pursue seem to contradict that idea. A dreamer who began her professional career a little more than a week after high school graduation (with great success), it seems impossible to imagine her doing a job which involves a nine to five schedule and a 401K. Lanie’s view of herself is probably a product of her middle-class work ethic coupled with a desire to work her entire life at something which inspires passion in her. Even when she alters her path, Lanie McAuley always finds her way back to doing something creative…sometimes a number of things at the same time. It’s serendipitous that years after leaving dance for acting, Lanie’s acting career has brought her back to dance to star in the sequel to her all-time favorite dance film, the original Center Stage.

A young Lanie followed her sister’s footsteps into dance. At 18, McAuley attended a dance competition called New York City Dance Alliance, where auditions were being held for a tap/jazz show called Revolution. Her dance teacher suggested she go to the audition just for the experience; hundreds of female dancers were narrowed down to four and soon, Lanie was offered a spot in the show. She had just graduated from high school a week before. Suddenly she found herself moving into an apartment in Queens and taking the train to Manhattan every day for rehearsals. Literally overnight, she went from high school and living as her parents’ sheltered little girl to living alone in New York with a full time dance job. The hours were long and it was both physically and mentally exhausting. She was the youngest member in the cast and had to learn quickly. It was a quick and amazing kick off to adulthood and a professional career in dance. In addition to the achievement of being in a successful New York production, Lanie also made it into the finals of So You Think You Can Dance. Her focus changed from dance to acting as she became keenly aware of certain factors. She reveals, “I was clear on my love of dance but I started questioning how viable my career options were in that world. I’m a very practical person and the idea that an injury can blow your entire career seemed so frightening to me. I’d been acting since I was a toddler and acting had always been a part of my life. Though I still loved dance, I’d always wanted to make acting more of a focal point in my life rather than a side interest. I think my background in dance has been a huge asset in helping me gain roles as an actress. It made me very comfortable performing, whether on stage or in front of a camera. My dance training definitely gave me a posture and poise that I never would have had otherwise. I also think growing up in the dance world (particularly ballet) gave me a lot of discipline. Being an actor requires a lot of discipline, involving everything from memorizing sides, to committing to a scene, to taking care of yourself emotionally.”

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It has often been said that nothing worth having comes easy. This can be true even if you have a head start. When McAuely’s agent called her about the audition for Center Stage: On Pointe, the actress was ecstatic. The original [Center Stage] is her favorite dance movie of all time and a highly motivated actress with a strong dance background was required for the role. Lanie’s character, Wendy, is meant to be a strong dancer who’s the measuring stick against which Bella (played by Nicole Munoz) is compared at the audition. The legendary Director X was involved in the production and ran a rigorous dance audition composed of ballet and modern dance styles. McAuley notes, “Auditioning for Director X was an intimidating experience. At the dance audition, I remember doing the ballet combo and him saying, ‘Again. Again. Again.’ I think he was testing my endurance. By the time I’d done it four or five times at 110%, I was exhausted. I had to hold my breath when they spoke with me afterward to hide how badly I was panting.” Lanie was awarded the role of Wendy in the film. Her costar, Nicole Munoz comments confirming the facets which made McAuley such a vital part of the film, “Captivating to watch, Lanie performed a contemporary dance solo. Her commitment and bright energy inspired the other dancers and raised morale on set. Multi-talented, Lanie was able to bring the character ‘Wendy’ to life by bringing an emotional depth that touched the cast and crew. We were filming on a tight schedule. Being a true professional, Lanie was able to bring a powerful energy to each take. Never once stumbling, she was always more than prepared. Lanie stands out from the crowd with her multiple talents, each and every one of them groomed and ready to go.”

Center Stage: On Pointe premiered with great success on the Lifetime network. While Lanie feels fortunate to have been in the cast of this popular film as well as challenging herself to unearth her dance proficiency, she concedes that she feels a reaffirmation that she made the correct choice in acting. She declares, “I think the main similarity between a career as a dancer and as an actress is that both careers are based on art and passion. Most people don’t enter these careers for the money; they enter them because they love the work. There are definitely some big differences between the two. Truthfully, acting is more lucrative, if you’re able to find success in it. There just doesn’t seem to be the same kind of funding and opportunity in the dance world that it deserves. There are certainly people who are enterprising enough to have thriving careers in dance (I’m so impressed by their drive and initiative) but for me, my passion for dance didn’t run deep enough to create those opportunities for myself. That’s likely because my practical brain couldn’t rationalize the risk of injury and the deterioration of opportunity with age. One of the coolest things about acting is that you can act professionally at any age. Acting is the art form of life…and life is all ages. When you’re 75 years old, there’s still a role for you. That’s a big part of why I focused on acting as my career.”

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Actor Philip Moran Totally Recalls his big break

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Philip Moran as the immigration sergeant in 2012’s Total Recall.

For many actors, their breakout comes from a gruelling audition process, waiting in a room with hundreds of others, hoping to be the one left standing. There are call backs, and screen tests and waiting games, creating a stressful situation that eventually turns into something. After the process is over and everyone is cast, the rest is history. For actor Philip Moran, his career-changing role came quite differently, when he played the immigration sergeant in the 2012 blockbuster Total Recall.

Some people attribute luck or chance to their success, but Moran is not one of them. His unwavering belief that he will do something and achieve something ends up becoming a manifested truth. This is what happened with 2012’s Total Recall, starring Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, and Jessica Biel.

“It is quite extraordinary how it all happened. I felt assured that I was going to get an actor role in this blockbuster movie. I didn’t know how it was all going to happen, but I sensed it would. I posted all these positive-notes around my house to help create a strong inspiring expectation. I started making phone calls and tracking information to make things happen. For the first time, I joined the Actra union,” said Moran. “I got onto the set in a less significant role, and gradually caught the attention of Len Wisemen, the director of the movie.”

Wisemen, married to the film’s co-star Kate Beckinsale, had seen Moran on camera, and handpicked him to take on a more challenging acting role, telling Moran he could be a bigger asset to the film. The next day when Moran walked on set, he felt like the star he would soon become.

“At one point, I actually remember there were three cameras on me, and Colin Farrell, a great actor, was standing in my scene, but there weren’t any cameras on him. I felt like a star,” Moran said, almost still in disbelief. “And it felt really special. You have to get up and make it happen for yourself. You can’t wait for people or things to come to you.”

Now, Moran is the star of the upcoming feature film Adams Testament, filmed in late 2015, working alongside an all-star cast. The role has already been official selections at film festivals and brought Moran himself an award nomination at the 2017 INFAME awards. This success, he says, can all be contributed to that one fateful day in 2012 on the set of Total Recall, and the strong desire to want to be something more.

“For some reason, I was expecting it, like it was part of my universal plan. During filming, I was walking on the set as if I was one of the main actors. When Len Wisemen asked to talk to me, I was definitely very excited and felt my plan was working. Even though I believed it would happen, I was still a bit shocked, but I knew it was happening,” he said.

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Philip Moran is from Toronto, Ontario.

The role was Moran’s bread and butter. Having attended school years before to train as a police officer, he had training on firing a gun, which was one of the requirements of the role. Everything was working out for him. He was prepared, excited, ready, and expected the perfect opportunity.

“I brought my mother and my sisters to see the film at a Cineplex theatre, and they saw me on the screen in a big feature film. People were paying to be there. It was great,” said Moran. “My mom thought it was wonderful. I brought her to things before, like small film festivals and short film premieres, but nothing as special as seeing a big blockbuster movie and seeing your son on the big screen and his name scrolling in the cast list.”

The role provided Moran with the breakthrough he needed. From there, he became sought after and recognized in the industry. He started creating some acting workshops, and shared excitement with other people through those classes. Director Rafael Kalamat was inspired after seeing Moran’s acting scene, and offered his services as Moran’s personal publicist. Kalamat was then motivated to open his own production company and in 2015, he cast Moran as the starring role in his film Adams Testament.

“Philip is a flexible actor who can be a lead in an independent feature like Adams Testament or a day player on a Hollywood blockbuster like 2012’s Total Recall,” said Kalamat.

Moran said the scene came with a price, as it was a very popular scene in the original 1990 Total Recall film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. In Moran’s scene, Colin Farrell, disguised as someone else, is sneaking through immigration at the airport. When the officers realize it is him, a fight erupts. Wanting to make the scene not only as memorable, but better than the original film was important to the director.

“There were a lot of stunts, and a lot of bullets shells flying. That whole scene, it’s one cut. There were 450 background people on set, and approximately another 50 were stunt performers. It was so exciting,” said Moran. “I remember in one take I got hit with one of the machine gun shells and when it hit me on the cheek, it burnt. I saw the red mark, I got some gun powder in my eye when I held the gun up in the air. But being a professional I flinched and continued filming. It was a sacrifice, because that’s what good actors do.”

Working on the film was Moran’s first career-changing role acting with an ensemble cast, which he says gave him an amazing opportunity to learn from some of Hollywood’s best. After previously working as a warrior on the 1995 film Johnny Mneamonic with Keanu Reeves, this was his first opportunity since then to combine stunt work with his acting skills in a major film. For Moran, it was kind of a déjà vu.

“It’s funny, because my first film I worked on was Johnny Mneamonic back in 1995. The movie was about a man who had something in his brain that bad people wanted. When you think of 2012’s Total Recall, it’s a lot like Johnny Mneamonic and the 1990 Total Recall combined. There I am almost 20 years later, working on a film combining the two. It was magical. I came full circle to realize my career was made,” he said.

There is no doubt that Moran’s experience on 2012’s Total Recall ignited his career, and being singled out by a top Hollywood director justified any struggles he would have or had already experienced. Since that time, he maintains that having belief in yourself and the right attitude, combined with skill and opportunity, will get anyone wanting success to where they need to be. And it looks like that plan is working out pretty well for him so far.

“I felt like I was on my way to something but I didn’t know what. People are always saying you can’t see what’s ahead, and I tell them it’s based on what’s happening to you now, your interpretation of it, planning your work, and working your plan” he concluded.

SIMU FENG CREATES A DARK AND MYSTERIOUS CHINA IN “SHOP OF ETERNAL LIFE”

Shop of Eternal Life is the passion project of director/writer/producer Yizhou Xu. In the film, he uses an almost literal metaphor to show the dangers we humans can make in times of desperation. It’s an evergreen tale that applies to all peoples of this planet. It just so happens that Xu’s film takes place in two by gone eras of his homeland, 1920’s and 1950’s China. Not only is there an other-worldly occult thread in the film but the obstacle of transforming downtown Los Angeles into an almost hundred-year-old China. While giving great credit to his crew and cast, Xu admits that his secret weapon for this transformation appearing so convincingly on screen was Shop of Eternal Life’s cinematographer Simu Feng. The award-winning Yizhou Xu declares, ““Simu is the most professional cinematographer I have ever worked with. Simu is such a vital part of this project because he is the metronome of the production. The most time consuming part of any film production is the lighting and camera positioning. We had a lot of shots in the film and it was paramount to have a cinematographer with the confidence to finish those shots with the highest quality and to do so very quickly. Simu finished the task without wasting a single second; and his efficiency didn’t harm the result of the image at all. Simu knows how to take limitations and challenges and transfer them into creativity.” The filmmaker’s peers and public definitely agreed with the finished product as it was an official selection at: the 36th Hawaii International Film Festival, the 20th Los Angeles International Short Film Festival, the 10th Bali International Film Festival, and the 8th San Jose International Short Film Festival. The look which Feng bestowed upon Shop of Eternal Life belies the budgetary confines which Xu relates. A story which spans the struggles of its main character, his transformation, and the cautionary tale it communicates deserves a beautiful and elegant aesthetic; one which it richly possesses thanks to Simu Feng.

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Shop of Eternal Life is a film full of fantasy and terror, relating the choices we sometimes make and the unexpected results they have on us as well as others. Even the best of intentions can result in malevolent outcomes for all involved parties. The film is the story of a poor man in 1920’s China who ventures to a pawnshop, hoping to sell his wedding ring to save his sick wife. The shop owner offers only a pittance…or a deal. Rather than money, the pawn shop owner suggests that the husband sell his heart for a great deal of money to him. The man feels he has no choice but to take the offer in hopes of saving his spouse’s life. Many years later, the husband returns to the shop to redeem his heart, but his time without a heart has transformed him into a monster. He discovers that his heart is no longer at the shop. Doomed to a heartless life (literally), he kills the pawnshop owner and assumes duties as its proprietor.

The storyline itself immediately conjures mental images of fright and fantasy infused characters and their surroundings. It was Simu’s task to make the images visible on screen to match the reality of China in the 20’ and 50’s as well as the mystic ideas presented by the subject matter. Feng relates, “The film’s visual dark tone is the key element for the story. We did this through lighting and camera work. I did thorough tech scouting with my long time gaffer Toshi Kizu and planned out the whole low key lighting scheme. I wanted the pawnshop owner character to be part of this darkness; I wanted him to feel inseparable from the shop itself. We hid several single tube kinoflos to give some small pools of light in the room and to add to the depth of the set. Camera movement was also very carefully planned out so the move was always motivated. We didn’t want the audience to feel the existence of the camera. Combined with the blocking of actors, we were able to create tension and a sense of the mystery at the same time. I’ve always felt that, by planning things out appropriately, you can help the audience forget about the technical aspects of a film and thereby lose themselves in the story…which is what we want as filmmakers and what the audience wants as well.” Yizhou Xu confirms, “Simu achieved a very strong visual style in Shop of Eternal Life; a mystery and a sense of darkness. I think this stylish look is the most important part of the film and it’s the first thing people talk about concerning this film. Because of the fascinating visual style, people have the patience to dig deeper on the subject and theme of the film. As a filmmaker, that helps me to tell the story.” Feng continues to explain the look of the film in commenting, “Because the film consists of two different time periods (the 1920’s and the 1950’s.), we wanted them to be really different, making sure the audience gets the idea that the poor man has changed into a monster. The production designer (Dara Zhao) did a great job building the set to be authentic to the time periods yet retaining our own dark and mysterious style. When we discussed the practical lights in the shop, we decided that for the 1920’s we would dress the shop with candle lanterns, and for the 1950s we went with tungsten bulbs. The practical lights are always important for me because all my lighting is motivated from these practical lights. The warm color given off by the lanterns, combined with the black pro-mist filter I put in front of the lenses, gave the 1920’s a softer and warmer tone. I shot the 1950’s with no filter and the tungsten bulbs flaring directly into the lens, making the look harsher and brighter. With more desaturation in color correction, the 1950’s looked pale and cold, fitting the change of the character.”

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Both the look of Shop of Eternal Life and the lesson of the film itself are entertaining and gripping. Yizhou Xu uses his film to communicate the idea that in our sacrificial attempts to help those we love; we risk the danger of turning into monsters. Making a deal with the devil may be very literal in this film but it has great relevance to many everyday choices. The film production itself conceals the challenges that the cast and crew overcame to create such a polished film. Simu Feng is thankful for the creative and unique approaches the production was forced to invent as he states, “Working on a small budget film is always difficult but it can be a truly fun experience if the filmmakers try to make a difference. Every filmmaker will face the situation in which they don’t have enough resources to achieve what they imagined and planned. I always believe certain limitations help yield better result by forcing creative people to come up with ‘poor man’ solutions. The luxury of a big budget does make a lot of things easier, but working on small-scale project helps me to keep the spirit of being flexible and the ability to adapt myself to changing circumstances.”

 

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Featured Actor: Canada’s Nathan Mitchell!

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Canadian Actor Nathan Mitchell shot by Rebecca Eady

 

For Canadian born actor Nathan Mitchell, who is known for his roles in an impressive list of hit films such as “Twist of Fate,” “Newlywed and Dead” and Lifetime’s “The Real MVP: The Wanda Durant Story,” as well as the multi-award winning series “Arrow” and “Motive,” the acting bug bit at a young age, and he hasn’t turned back since.

Mitchell says, “What’s appealing about acting for me is that it’s an art form that requires genuine connection with other people. You really have to listen; you really have to let yourself be affected by the other person to create something dynamic. When you’re that tuned into someone else you have this fun, meaningful experience.”

Starting out in the industry nearly a decade ago, Mitchell skyrocketed to the top of the Canadian TV scene almost immediately when he took on the recurring lead role of Jeffrey on The CW’s comedy “Aliens in America.” Mitchell’s character Jeffrey is the on-and-off boyfriend of lead character Claire Tolchuck, played by Lindsay Shaw from the multi-award winning series “Pretty Little Liars.”

A coming of age comedy about a Pakistani exchange student who moves to America to live with the Tolchuck family and attend high school in a foreign country, “Aliens in America” was an immediate fan favorite thanks to the way it wove together relatable storylines about the dramatic experiences of being a teenager in a way that left viewers feeling good.

One of Mitchell’s funniest and most unforgettable moments in the series was in the second episode when Claire tries to break up with him. Instead of fading out, he stands on her front lawn with a boombox on his shoulder blasting ‘In Your Eyes,’ an icon and effective move on his part.

While “Aliens in America” was the perfect venue for Mitchell to show off his comedy side, but what audiences have come to know the actor best for is his unparalleled skill in drama.

Over the years he’s given numerous memorable performances on hit TV series such as the Golden Globe nominated crime series “Covert Affairs,” the two-time Primetime Emmy nominated sci-fi series “Falling Skies,” the Gemini and Canadian Screen Award winning series “How to Be Indie,” the Joey Award winning series “The Tomorrow People” and more.

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Nathan Mitchell in a dramatic moment as Russell Bowman in “Motive”

In season 4 of the dramatic crime series “Motive” Mitchell took on a starring role as famed BC Furies quarterback Russell Bowman, a distraught husband mourning the loss of his murdered wife.

“There was a weight to this character because he is dealing with the most monumental loss of his life. We get to see some of the happy times they had as a couple. But then you’re dealing with the heaviness of going through such a deep loss,” recalls Mitchell about playing Russell Bowman on the series.

“He has to deal with losing the most important person in his life. Seeing how he handles that is just as interesting as solving the murder itself. Those two parts of the narrative keep you on your toes.”

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Kristin Lehman (left), Nathan Mitchell (center) & Brendan Penny (right) in “Motive”

Mitchell’s riveting performance as Bowman is emotional, honest and impossible to peel our eyes away from, the actor definitely has a gift for bringing challenging and multi-layered characters to life on screen.

With the craze of comic book inspired blockbuster films and hit television series that have swept the entertainment industry over the last few years, it’s not at all surprising that Mitchell is a part of that world too, the DC Universe to be specific.

In season 3 of The CW’s “Arrow,” Mitchell guest starred as Isaac Stanzler, a key character in the developing plot between Oliver aka Arrow, played by Stephen Amell (“The Flash,” “Legends of Tomorrow”), and Roy aka Arsenal, played by Colton Hayes (“San Andreas,” “Teen Wolf”).

The abandoned protege of Wildcat (J.R. Ramirez), Isaac appears on the scene embittered from the betrayal and ready to make Wildcat pay by framing him for a string of mysterious murders.

Mitchell explains, “I came out of the shadows to frame Wild Cat for giving up on me and leaving me in the hands of criminals. It was exhilarating getting to be a part of the DC Comics Universe and bring comic book lore to life.”

A critical subplot in “Arrow’s” overall story arc, the relationship between Isaac and Wildcat reveal what could happen to Arrow if he were to be abandoned by Arsenal in the future; but only time will tell how that plays out.

Nailing the mark with his performance in “Arrow,” Mitchell brings his character to life seamlessly by tapping into the hurt and resentment Isaac has towards Wildcat. In the heart pumping fight scene where Isaac takes on Arsenal, Mitchell makes it’s clear that what’s driving his character is the need for vengeance, which makes him a relatable villain that we hate and feel sorry for at the same time.

As an actor, Nathan Mitchell brings a rare level of diversity to the table thanks to his ability to find the root of what drives each of his characters, an asset that has allowed him to play a wide range roles across practically every genre.

He explains, “The more I truly explore my roles the more I become aware of different facets of myself. There’s a huge psychological component to it. You’re taking the script and deducing how one would act based on the circumstances. You’re always learning about human nature. It’s very fulfilling.”

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Rose McIver (left), Nathan Mitchell (center) & Malcolm Goodwin (right) in the season 2 finale of “iZombie”

Up next for Nathan Mitchell is season 3 of the TV series “iZombie,” which airs in 2017, as well as the upcoming sci-fi film “Scorched Earth,” where he takes on the critical role of Zee. Audiences will also be able to catch him in the upcoming film “The Marine 5: Battleground,” where he takes on the key role of Cole.

 

NEW ZEALAND’S NATALIA GORELOVA ISN’T ALLERGIC TO FAME…OR THE HARD WORK NEEDED TO GET THERE.

What do the people on this list have in common: Angelina Jolie, Sofia Vergara, Cameron Diaz, Uma Thurman, Jennifer Connelly, and Amanda Seyfried? They all started their careers in modeling. In this day of YouTube stars, this and that Idol, and “Top (insert profession here )”, it’s easy to forget that there was a time when professionals in entertainment took the path of working slowly to gain the experience to make a career last for life. That’s not to say that there aren’t many highly talented individuals in the aforementioned productions, just that there is something to be gained through gradually experiencing the many opportunities and scenarios that a developing career bestows. Sometimes the factor which allows creative types to develop as an artist is the ability to learn from the challenges and inevitable mistakes that come their way in less obvious ways. Natalia Gorelova has been travelling this path and successfully making the move from magazine covers and the catwalk to the TV screen. The wide variety of situations she has been called upon to perform in have resulted with her becoming a model who understands all of the subtleties of using verbal and nonverbal communication to portray whatever her role requires. While you might previously have seen her on the cover of Idealog or Headwave magazine, you’d more likely see her these days on TV doing a spot for Jaguar or Green Giant. Taking risks, doing the hard work, and believing in herself is the MOD for Gorelova. She grew up in Russia, then moved to New Zealand and was discovered. Going to unfamiliar places and jumping in the deep end has always been an attribute well exercised by Natalia. It has served her well giving her new opportunities and granting her access to other professionals who empowered her vocational pursuits.

Most models have to learn to make peace with the idea of auditioning. It’s an essential part of the business that most people accept as necessary in order to gain access to the opportunities they desire. In strong contrast to shying away from this, Gorelova describes a recent international TV spot for Zyrtec stating, “I decided that I had to play it very confident and warm. In one scene I was a member of a couple so I just went for it. Spontaneous intimacy with a stranger in a room in front of a camera can be an awkward experience. The key is to make it look like this is real and commonplace; you are in love with this guy you’ve never met before but you’re happy cuddling. It has to happen instantly. I made the point of talking to my casting partner before we got inside the room to break the ice a little. It worked and the audition went well. We felt at ease with each other which made the casting director happy, of course. I got a callback right away.”

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An important reason for Gorelova’s casting was the director on the project, Gregor Nicholas. Nicholas in an Emmy Award finalist with international awards (at Cannes Lions for example) with films in the Permanent Film Collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (Pacific 3-2-1-Zero) and was called “One of New Zealand’s hottest directors” by the Hollywood Reporter. He communicates, “Natalia demonstrates an extraordinary range, both comedic and dramatic. Her versatility as a performer allows her to handle any theme or attitude, whether in a movie, television, or a commercial. Rarely have I collaborated with an artist who has worked so consistently with so many leading commercial and fashion brands. It is clear that Natalia is a truly gifted model with exceptional abilities.” Gregor was in the room during the casting session and recognized her talent immediately. His praise was particularly poignant for Gorelova as she had been aware of his work since first moving to New Zealand. She reveals, “I remember the time when I just moved to New Zealand from Russia and I was watching a lot of TV to help me learn English more quickly and I saw a Telecom commercial about a guy who travels a lot while his wife is back home pregnant and missing him. The man scans his hand and emails the image to his wife. Upon receiving the email, his wife touches the screen with her palm against the image of her husband’s. It was so emotional and cinematic. From casting, to music, to lighting, to the idea; all of it was wonderfully detailed and elegantly filmed. I never got sick of watching that commercial. Later, when I started working in the commercial world, I hoped that I would get to make something that beautiful and cinematic. When I realized that Gregor was directing this Zyrtec project, I became very nervous because I wanted the part so bad!”

The commercial aired frequently to great response, making Zyrtec quite happy. Gorelova admits that although she should focus on this, it is hard for her to get past enjoying the work so much because she works alongside professionals whom she respects. Having made a successful career in and being well-received by brands and customers alike is an achievement she is quite happy about. Of course, the fact that the Zyrtec campaign and her performance was successful is a happy outcome. Natalia confirms, “Working with the entire cast and crew, and learning from Gregor was incredible; but also, working for a huge American brand was really exciting. To me, it meant that I am marketable in the U.S. and that started giving me hope that I could one day end up doing what I love in the country that I also love.”

 

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