DIORS SAMURAI IS ZHENG KANG’S ACTION/ROMANCE AT ITS NERDY BEST!

Doing your best and always giving one hundred percent are more important now than ever. Information is instantaneous these days and you can google anything in less time than it takes to yawn. Zheng Kang has always given his best and it is starting to supply dividends to his career. Belying his young age, Kang’s animation productions have already reached achievements like being used by faculty at USC School of Cinematic Arts for graduate animation classes (Lion Dance, in which he oversaw a group of professionals spread across five continents), working on the Comedy Central’s TripTank (contributing to every episode of the entire second season), and others. As such a recognized part of the animation community, his diverse creations are receiving great attention. one of his earliest productions, Diors Samurai, shows a different side of Zheng’s sentiment and may soon be made into a series production at a US network. Diors (Chinese for “loser”), gives a hint to the humor found in this action animated show. One cornerstone of Kang’s work is that it is always different, thematically and stylistically. A viewing of the Diors Samurai trailer (http://vimeo.com/189854381) reveals how different it is from his other work (https://vimeo.com/190416387 Baby and Granny for example). It is not hyperbolic to state that each new film Zheng starts receives the respect of him breaking his approach down and starting fresh each time. As both a director and an animator, Zheng Kang has learned to give each story the opportunity to become its own entity.

Production I.G.’s Dead Leaves (distributed in Japan, North America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the UK) and Samurai Jack (the American animated series on Comedy Central) both inspired Kang’s approach for Diors Samurai. He wanted an Eastern influence, time travel, a love story, all augmented by his sense of humor and wit. The tale of Diors Samurai is that of a hero who falls in love with a beautiful princess and is heartbroken to learn that their love is forbidden. A chance encounter with a magical elder reveals that he may marry the princess if he travels through time to find her in the dystopian future. He jumps at the chance and finds her, only to learn that she is now a successful police officer with no memory of him! Yota (the samurai) must divide his time between saving the city from ruthless organized gangs, trying to understand this confusing modern world, and hopefully sweeping the princess off her feet! While the story is full of action and danger, it’s the characters who drive the story and interest viewers the most. Yota is a very strong samurai but very tiny. He grew up with his lord’s daughter and was in-charge of protecting her every day. Yota fell in love with her but never told her as society would not approve of this. When the princess is selected to marry another lord’s son, Yota cannot do anything about it and is beside himself. While he is adept at fighting and killing, he does not know how to express his feelings and show love. The “Diors” or “loser” facet of this character comes from his unrequited love as well as his inability to express himself (a modern view of loser for certain). The princess in Diors Samurai is perhaps one of the most positive and well-rounded female Asian leads accessible to viewers these days. In ancient time she is very elegant, like every traditional princess in our mind. In the future however, she is tough, strong, and highly proficient with firearms. The princess possesses qualities that appeal to every type of fan and contradict stereotypical female roles.

While Diors Samurai is definitely an action program, Zheng confirms that it shares a common thread with all of his creations, “It’s a love story. People search every day for love and to find their partner. That’s a basic human need. I know that people have an immediate thought in their minds that a samurai/warrior is very serious and not in touch with their feelings. Their mission is always to protect and serve their king. I wanted to create someone who is just like normal people, someone who feels loves and is eager to get love. Yota has some strength but also has drawbacks. He might be a winner as a Samurai but might be a loser in life. That’s a universal story no matter what part of the world you are from or what you might do in your life. We all struggle for love and we all want it.”

Perhaps the most striking and apparent aspect of Diors Samurai is the mixture of Eastern artistic style with a western based theme and emotion. The clash/combination of the two serves to heighten the impact of both in this production. Zheng states, “I grew up with comics and manga. I began to draw them when I was a little kid. So my drawing style is highly influenced by Japanese anime and manga, which looks very Asian. I also enjoy western storytelling like Pixar and Disney features because they always have a clear and simple storyline. They’re character-driven, there are three acts, and the motivations and conflicts for every character are easy to understand. I enjoy Asian storytelling very much but I have to say, sometimes it’s too cultural and you can get confused if you’re unfamiliar with that culture.” Caroline Hu (formerly the Character Artist at Warner Bros. Animation and Conceptual Artist at Walt Disney Feature Animation/now the Artist at Warner Bros Consumer Products) notes Zheng’s successful integration of these two cultural traits. She relates, “Zheng’s approach to storytelling is both collaborative and diverse, and is exactly what Hollywood needs right now. It’s very refreshing to see. His successful marrying of two cultures, Asian and Western, to create a number of globally successful projects, is no small feat. Zheng’s animation and direction skills are superior. As a member of the Animation Faculty at USC School of Cinematic Arts, I often refer to his projects when addressing undergrad and graduate film students in my masterclass, even using Zheng’s materials as a teaching aid to show the students how things should be done!”

His role as director/animator has become commonplace for Kang these days but his work with composer Torin Borrowdale on Diors Samurai was one of his first entries into overseeing multiple facets of an animation production. Zheng understood that the mixing of cultures in his story, combined with the dichotomy of a Samurai in love, meant that he needed a soundtrack that would mesh with these ideas. Add to that, the need for intensity in the actions scenes and the music suddenly became paramount. Kang recalls, “I was always looking for high energy, with Japanese traditional instruments and elements in the music. Because it’s an action-comedy, high energy music can work very well with every sequence. Because the characters are Samurai, Japanese traditional instruments and elements can help build an authentic atmosphere. I found some reference music for Torin so he could understand what I wanted, but he also provided great ideas which made the final music much better than the reference music, suitable and unique! After this first cooperation with a composer, I understood how important music is for storytelling. I respect composers very much and would like to work with them to achieve great and unique music. For me it’s always a mind- blowing experience and learning opportunity when I work with my composers.”

The interest in Diors Samurai does not rely solely on the achievements of Kang’s more recent productions. With Official Selection Screenings at the: Trailer Fest Film Festival, London Monthly Film Festival, Direct Short Online Film Festival, Creation International Film Festival, and the Play Film Festival, Diors Samurai was highly noticed when it first was made available as a Short. Now, the industry that has become so captivated by this director/animator’s lauded animation productions has also rediscovered the time-travelling Samurai that began it all. Sword in hand and princess in heart, Yota is disproving his own moniker to his creator Zheng Kang.work-on-animation

Actress Anele Morris is jack-of-all-trades in film ‘Bloggers’

Someone with a true vision is hard to come by. It’s easy to have an idea, but bringing it to fruition is much more difficult. Anele Morris knows this better than most.

Inspiration struck, and this versatile South African actress came up with a concept for a film about the ancient African humanist philosophy ‘Ubuntu’, which shapes the journey of six young multinational blogging entrepreneurs who come together in Los Angeles to launch a blogging business. Now, Bloggers has been submitted at multiple film festivals worldwide.

The film, which Morris considers to be the highlight of her career, raised 130 per cent of its budget on Indiegogo. Morris not only has a starring role as the character Anna, but she also was the executive producer and writer. Her character, Anna, blogs about everything from dating to paying the bills. Anna decides to start and head the bloggers’ website that the film centers around.

“Working on Bloggers was a dream come true. I have always wanted to write a story like this and it was awesome being able to make my debut as a writer, producer, and actress to film festivals in this fashion,” said Morris.

Morris created the concept and worked on pre-production for it with her two best friends. They decided to fundraise for the campaign on Indiegogo, which many young filmmakers are doing. With the financial investment from the campaign they were able to create the film.

“I liked that it was a story that I could relate to in many different aspects,” said Morris. “Also having creative control in many areas was an absolute joy.”

Despite starting out as a small project between friends, the film grew to much more. The editor of Bloggers is Paul Skorich, a professional editor, producer and composer. He has produced over fifty specials for the cable network TV ONE and two of his shows have been nominated for NAACP Image Awards.  He is currently supervising post production and editing the feature film Revival! along with Emma E. Hickox (Bad Moms, Pirate Radio, A Walk to Remember). Revival! is written by Harry Lennix (Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, The Matrix: Reloaded; Revolutions) and directed by Danny Green (Star Trek, Coach Carter).

“Working with Paul introduced me to how story telling is hugely done in the editing room. Working with him was a delight,” said Morris.

In addition to Skorich, Morris also worked with the director of Bloggers J.R. Curry, the head of the film production company Benevolent Pictures. Curry previously directed M.A.G., which screened at the Martial Con Film Festival in August. He has also directed films such as Silent Voices and Butterfly which have been accepted into multiple film festivals.

“Anele’s knowledge, creativity and instinctive grasp of what makes a successful actor are all second to none. Her work has enabled her to carve a career as a talented actress in films such as Debris: The Ganymede Event and Arsenic,” said Curry.

Morris has also acted in films such as After, the upcoming film Snake Outta Compton. She also appeared in the series Adopted, where she worked with Jeff Larson. Adopted is a web series that has been running since 2013. Larson won the Vancouver Web Festival award for best overall series which he shared with three other producers of the series. One of the directors is Oscar Rene Lozoya II who has edited multiple episodes of NBC’s Chicago Fire. Despite Morris’ past achievements in acting, working on Bloggers still taught her to trust in her abilities.

“I learned to figure things out and to say what you mean and mean what you say,” she said.

The biggest challenge Morris’ experienced at the beginning of her acting career was self-confidence. Now, she is very confident in her acting abilities, but in the beginning it wasn’t so easy. She now uses what she knows to walk onto any set with the natural creativity she brings to each role, and her love of writing helps her visualize a story for each character, making her fully embody each role she portrays.

“I am a lover of life and really, that’s what acting requires,” she concluded. “It requires you to be alive, to be present and open to the possibilities of any experience.”

 

You can view Blogger’s trailer here.

EDDIE TANG: FINDING THE ART IN EVERY ROLE

Every consummate and lauded professional is required to make his bones. In the movie Bird, Forrest Whitaker portrays iconic jazz musician Charlie Parker. When Parker confesses to one of his peers that he could use the work (and the pay) from playing at a Bar Mitzvah, the musicians create such a moving performance at the event that the crowd is overwhelmed by their good fortune at witnessing the artist in this setting. This perfectly portrays the truth that artists need to practice their talents in a variety of ways and earn a living through different opportunities. The prevalence of social media in today’s society serves as further proof that this idea that talent should only be packaged in certain ways is an outdated concept. When compared to commercial advertisements of just a decade ago, there are many more A-list celebrities who use their craft to empower advertisers. The stigma of yesteryear is gone. In fact, commercials that air during sporting events such as the Superbowl and the World Cup generate some of the largest profits in entertainment. In a free market system, this has driven the artistic content and production levels higher and higher. Eddie Tang, like many of his peers can be visible in film, TV, and commercial productions. Not only does this increase their recognizability but it also affords them a host of different roles to widen their artistic palette. Whether in films like the Hollywood Film Award nominated Three Sixty (in which he plays Zac, a personable kidnapper), the AACTA award-winning TV series East West 101 (as Caesar Mendez, a menacing gangster), or any number of fan favorite commercial campaigns, Eddie Tang has proven himself to be both attention grabbing and able to morph into drastically different characters. Enabling the audience to have an affinity for the friendly guy is a skill but helping them to embrace a truly awful character requires mastery…something which Tang has worked hard at achieving.

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Eddie is known for his roles in film and TV productions in which he plays darker and menacing individuals. It’s ironic that he has been so successful in his commercial work portraying benevolent characters. As the ping-pong playing, night vision goggle wearing, KFC loving, buddy in KFC’s ‘Night Vision’ commercial or as the overly exuberant but loveable fan in Panasonic’s Viera TV spot (for the 2008 Beijing Olympics); Tang effortlessly becomes the friendly guy next door. He is so believable that one almost feels there is an evil twin portraying all of his ‘bad guy’ roles in his film and TV productions. One of Eddie’s calling cards and most requested techniques is the ‘dead pan’ that endears so many viewers of his commercial roles. Matt Kamen directed Eddie in Volkswagen’s “You Just Know” campaign. Kamen professes, “Eddie Tang is one of the most talented and prodigiously successful actors I have collaborated with. Eddie’s leading role required him to perform as the face of the campaign. In the commercial, Eddie’s character is a construction worker, shown trying to fit more equipment into his truck than it can handle. Simultaneously, a Volkswagen truck pulls up and Eddie’s character looks enviously at the enormous space that the vehicle provides. Eddie perfectly showcased the client’s desired tone of the Volkswagen being an enviable vehicle, surpassing the needs of not only civilian motorists, but also the needs of various other business types. It takes a skilled actor to understand the importance not over playing or under playing a role such as this. Eddie is truly a creative force to be reckoned with and was in invaluable asset to the production of the ‘You Just Know’ commercial campaign.

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ANZ Bank made wise use of Tang’s talent in their “Travel Rewards Card” commercial. Eddie’s character of Lawrence the Boat Dad portrayed a jubilant father on vacation with his family. With his hands in the air, Lawrence enjoys a fun ride on a wave runner, carefree as he advertises his ‘pointless travel insurance’ through ANZ’s Travel Rewards Card. The role was a masterful performance due to the fact that, unknown to viewers, Eddie was incredibly sick. He reveals, “I have severe motion sickness and sea sickness. It wasn’t an ideal attribute for the lead role in this commercial but, some days are a breeze and some days are a monsoon. I was actually throwing up between each take. You can’t tell it in the commercial but I was incredibly sick the entire day. Besides the fact that I don’t enjoy boating, I’m a bit of a free spirit and hippy. I’m a complete contradiction to my character Lawrence but I like to think that we’re both very good people, just in different ways.” Director of this ANZ commercial, Paul Middlecitch, states, “The ‘Travel Rewards Card’ commercial was an enormous success, which I do not doubt is largely due to Eddie’s achievements on our production. The video was widely popular on YouTube, garnering nearly 100,000 views! This alone is a massive accomplishment that should not go unrecognized. Eddie was an invaluable member of our production and I consider the success of the commercial to be due to Eddie’s leading role. Eddie’s all-encompassing prowess as one of Australia’s elite actors has allowed him to establish himself as one of the country’s most successful talents.”

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As one of Australia’s in-demand and prominent actors, Eddie Tang continues to prove his abilities and immense talent on a variety of platforms. You might see him on the big screen, on your TV, even on the web but, you will certainly take notice of him when you see his commanding yet endearing presence.

 

 

Producer Michelle Solomon talks award-winning film Emma and telling important stories

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Actor Simon Paluck and Michelle Solomon at the Breckenridge Film Festival premiere of Emma.

“I will never forget the universal and palpable emotional state the audience was in while the film played. It was the first time the audience was not made up of family or friends. It was a humbling reminder of how communicative film can be and that it’s important to use the medium to tell meaningful stories.”

Those are the words of Toronto-born producer and graphic designer Michelle Solomon when talking about the highlight of her career. She was talking about her first feature film Emma premiering internationally at the Breckenridge Festival of Film in Breckenridge, Colorado.

Solomon has had ample amounts of success in her career. She transformed the brand Ace Building Materials by making them current and relevant with her graphic design skills. She produced the award-winning film Chalk Dust and the upcoming film Sunny Side Up. She is set to work on a television show with former NBA star Kareem Rush, and co-founded the production company Picosphere Inc. She founded the company Adoorn, an app which will revolutionize social shopping right in the palm of your hand, which is set to release early next year. Despite all of these successes and achievements, and being known internationally for both her producing and design abilities, the premiere of Emma still stays with her, and working on the film shaped who she is today.

Emma is a realistic look at the world of childhood cancer and how the disease goes beyond just the person diagnosed. It’s important to not commodify and exploit a very real experience that, unfortunately, many kids and their families go through,” said Solomon.

Emma tells the story of seventeen-year-old Jayson. Jayson thinks too much. He is introverted, friendless, and wakes up wanting the day to end. That is until he meets Emma, the captain of his school’s dance team. After his psychiatrist tells him to be more involved, Jayson joins the school newspaper and is sent to write an exposé on Emma’s rumored pregnancy. Instead, Jayson uncovers that Emma has cancer. Suddenly, Jayson is pulled into a vibrant world where real love and true sacrifice flourishes. Through Emma, Jayson learns about life, love, and the importance of letting go.

Emma was a story that needed to be told. It was based on the personal experiences of the writer, Simon Paluck. What initially drew me to the film was the way that childhood cancer wasn’t glamorized or made effusive. Many films showcasing kids with terminal illnesses, often portray an idealized version of the truth. The illness becomes a tool that convinces characters to fall in love or travel the world. Experiences surrounding childhood cancer goes deeper than that. It is specific and nasty. With Emma, I like to think we showed one of many truths,” said Solomon.

The film has gone on to win a list of awards. These include: the “Royal Reel Award”, Canada International Film Festival, in 2015, the “Best Feature: Venture Category” at the Paris Online Film Festival 2016, “Freaky Feature” (Best Feature) at the Broken Knuckle Film Festival, 2016, and “Best Indie Film” at the Los Angeles Film Awards, 2016. At this year’s Festigious International Film Festival it won “Best of Fest”, Best Narrative Feature”, and “Audience Choice Award: Narrative Feature”.

“It’s entirely humbling to know many are responding to the film’s message.  With film production, there is always a moment of doubt where you think others will not understand what you’re trying to do and critique it unmercifully. Thankfully, this has not been the case for Emma,” said Solomon.

But what is perhaps Emma’s greatest achievement is not the official selections at film festivals or it’s long list of awards, but the work it has done for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

To raise funds for the film, Solomon came up with the innovative idea to partner with Make-A-Wish foundation and hold a silent auction. She wanted to give back to the community through the film, so the silent auction was to raise funds for both the film and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

“This type of innovative fundraising is just one of the ways Michelle has proven she is a natural, talented producer,” said Veronica Porfilio, the film’s executive producer.

As a non-writing producer, Solomon says she is always trying to find creative ways to expand a film’s reach.

“My personal mantra is that instead of thinking outside of the box, recognize that there is no box,” said Solomon. “Personally, I felt compelled to use the film to make a greater difference. I was able to gather over $17,000 worth of donations and raised enough money to not only finish funding the film but also donate a major portion to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Our contacts at the organization really took to the idea of spreading awareness through the ‘show-don’t-tell’ approach of film.”

Solomon’s approach to producing earned the entire cast and crew’s respect immediately, despite being her first feature. The film had a small budget for such a massive project. They employed union actors and shot at over ten locations. Solomon would not let these challenges negatively impact the story.

“Michelle was able to secure a highly sought after location that was instrumental to our film without going over-budget. Without that location the film would not have been as successful as it was. When she first spoke with the location manager it seemed we would not be able to use the space to film Emma, but that did not deter Michelle from bargaining because she knew the location was key to the film’s success. After weeks of negotiation Michelle secured the location.

Michelle’s talent as a producer shone through every task while working on Emma, and it shaped the producer she is today,” said Porfilio.

Including Solomon, there were ten young, dedicated professionals lead our executive team working on Emma. Solomon says each person was there because they were committed to telling the story.

“That type of energy is powerful and we kept each other motivated, especially through the challenging parts of independent filmmaking,” she concluded.

Megan Waters to produce upcoming sequel of hit film Ditch Day Massacre

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Megan Waters is a producer from Toronto, Ontario.

Megan Waters is many things. She is a Canadian, born and raised in Toronto. She is a pinball enthusiast who loves retro games. She is a world traveller and describes the world is her playground. She is a salsa dancer, believing it to be an amazing dance and community. And above all else, she is an extraordinary film producer, using her skill and creativity to entertain audiences.

Waters passion for producing is evident. She has been producing for over twelve years, and has received praise and recognition for her talent. In 2012, the “Soul of a Ninja” Kawasaki USA commercial she produced won the Bronze ADDY Award at the American Advertising Awards. The first feature film she produced, Ditch Day Massacre, won the 2014 Best Feature Length Horror Film at the Burbank International Film Festival. Waters is one of those people who knows she is doing what she was meant to do.

“Why be the puppet when you can be the puppet master?” said Waters. “I got into producing because I love the business just as much as the creative process. As producer, I get to wear both hats and interact with all aspects of production.”

Now, Waters is set to continue her success of Ditch Day Massacre by producing the sequel Ditch Day Massacre II. The film will follow the character of Jenny, who is placed into a mental institution after suffering from a mental breakdown as a result of a brutal attack. Little do Jenny and her mom know that what’s inside the walls of the mental institution is far more deadly than the world outside. There will also be a documentary about behind-the-scenes look into the making of the film, which Waters will be producing.

“Working on Ditch Day Massacre has been the highlight of my career. It taught and tested me so much. It was an incredible experience as the crew all had the same level of passion and commitment to making this project go,” she said.

Waters had help on Ditch Day Massacre, with producer Michael J. Zampino as a consultant for the film. Zampino has lots of experience working on horror films, including distributing the award-winning film The Slaughter. Despite this, he was still impressed with Waters’ commitment and knowledge of the genre.

“What sets Megan apart from many producers is that she has confidence but very little ego. That’s extraordinary in our business itself. Megan moved mountains and motivated everyone to bring their A-game to complete Ditch Day Massacre in 17 days,” said Zampino. “Megan is a tireless worker who strives to carve out not one film but a career worth of films. Ultimately, the film would never have been completed, and never would have received the attention and sales that is has, if it weren’t for Megan’s drive and leadership. Megan’s successes in the international film and television industry marks her as one of the most successful and skilled producers to come out of Canada in some time.”

Waters’ success is not just limited to film. She produced the Emmy-nominated series Chop Cut Rebuild and the Speed Channel series Street Tuner Challenge. It is not the accolades that motivate her. She says every project is a creative and logistical puzzle that needs to be completed.

“I create and execute. I get an idea, script, project, client need and make it happen. I usually start from where I wish to finish and then work backwards. I think mostly in visual stories and then align the team and resources to execute,” said Waters. “When I produce I like the challenge of figuring out the puzzle pieces and then putting them together. Plus, all the hurdles that make it a one of a kind experience on each project. I love that producing offers a different road every time. I fear a career that becomes repetitive. I love the randomness and goal of planning for the unpredictable. It’s organized chaos and when you build the team that communicates, respects and share the same passion for the project amazing things happen.”

Part of this passion also comes from using film as a tool to send a meaningful and powerful message. Waters has seen. a lot of success while making PSAs, especially producing the PSA “Over Watering Is Out” about water saving gardening. Part of what makes her PSAs captivating is that she refuses to create what she would consider “boring content.”

“When I am considering film or documentary projects I look at the story. It must hold my interest and I must feel passionate it about it. I say this because it takes everything in you to complete a long format project. If you don’t have a connection to it then you will be pulled away from it and it will never get done,” she said.

There is no doubt that with the innate skillset Waters possesses alongside her passion for the industry, her name will continue to roll past the eyes of audiences in the credits for years to come. She is determined to produce quality, and she never lets anything stand in her way.

“I expect and accept challenges. It’s part of producing. I actually joke with my teams that my title may be ‘producer’ but it should be changed to ‘head problem-solver.’ I am proactive and focused on the solution when challenges arise. It’s better to work toward the solution and communicate, communicate, communicate. Some of the best creative ideas have been derived and developed because of a challenge,” she concluded.

You can look out for Waters’ work on the upcoming Accio Cine feature film From Dust to Diamonds, and of course, the anticipated Ditch Day Massacre II.

 

 

Film Director Claudio DiFede’s Date with Cinema Fate

The movie business is fraught with ambition, cynicism and expedience—qualities diametrically opposed to producer-director Claudio DiFede’s gentle, artistic nature. The Canadian-born DiFede, who is equally at home working in television and motion pictures, betrays a gentle, individualistic aesthetic that is a refreshing divergence from hard driving commercially-fixated attitude which so frequently saps the creativity from mainstream Hollywood projects.

Claudio’s aesthetic, part vulnerable hesitancy, part determined auteur, part pop culture guerilla is showcased in his unusual, career defining documentary film “Calling Spielberg.” The story is one of fateful twists and human foibles that reflects the film maker’s distinct, creative philosophy.

The origins of “Calling Spielberg” goes back to the early 1990’s, when the 22 year old Claudio was barnstorming through Tinsel Town, tuxed up and cheeky enough to finagle his way into the People’ Choice Awards ceremony at Sony Studios. This was a star-studded, formal affair with tight security which the charming film maker easily bypassed. Backstage following the presentations, Claudio came to face to face with his greatest idol, the legendary director Steven Spielberg.

“It was a once in a lifetime thing—by chance if you will!” Claudio said. Like my whole life had lead up to that moment in time. It was crazy! Spielberg had just accepted the People’s Choice Special Tribute award and I found myself, backstage, just walking right beside him. It was one of those things I’d always thought of, ‘what would you say to Spielberg if you met him?’ Well, it happened, it took a lot of chutzpha but I introduced myself and I told the biggest Director in Hollywood: ‘Take it to the bank,’ I told him. ‘You and I are going to work together one day. For a split second I thought ‘WTF did I just say to him?’ He smiled, asked my name again and replied ‘Sure kid, why not?’”

Emboldened, Claudio repeated the feat weeks later, but at even higher profile affair: the post-Academy Awards Governor’s Ball at Shrine Auditorium, a big night for Spielberg whose “Schindler’s List” had just won seven Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director.

“It happened again a few weeks later, after the Oscars,” Claudio said.  This time I found my chance, I hugged him and face to face I told him that I can only imagine what it must be like to create such an incredible, moving film as Schindler’s List. He replied ‘Thank you,’ and told me it had taken a lot out of him. I then asked, ‘So, when can I call you?'”

DiFede today would not elaborate much more on the conversation or on his reply “I don’t want to give out too much on the film,” he said. “But let’s just say; it was encouraging.”

“I drove home that evening, roof down and I remember I couldn’t contain my emotions any longer. So I let out the loudest scream!” Claudio said. ‘The fact he remembered my name from our first meeting—it was a feeling I cannot describe. We all have dreams and this was mine. It was nothing short of a crazy euphoria.”

Was it just a lark, a childhood fantasy that had unexpectedly played out? Time passed. Claudio moved along with his life, fell in love, married, and started a family.

“I never called the man,” he said. “I had the chance, and I never did. I was asking myself that question. Then It occurred to me, I must be the only human being that never called Steven Spielberg when he asked someone to. What if? What if I did call? I was thinking there must be a lot of people in my situation that have left behind many of opportunities maybe even regrets and dreams left behind. We all once had aspirations, dreams – did I miss my opportunity?  there was one way to find out.20 years later, and that was to make ‘Calling Spielberg.’”

“When I first started working with Claudio I didn’t really have any formal training in filmmaking,” Mike T. King, editor at Big Coat Productions, said. “I jumped at the opportunity. Claudio’s attitude was infectious, which got me excited to hop onboard. The amount of time and effort he has poured into ‘Calling Spielberg’ is incredible, inspiring even. It is his passion project.”

Still in post-production, Calling Spielberg promises to be a fascinating examination of the human condition. Unorthodox and compelling, equal parts documentary, philosophical seeking, self-examination and show business truth-telling, it’s a rich, multifaceted achievement.

“Things happen for a reason, and we simply cannot give up on our dreams,” Claudio said. “I have matured and what my goals were in my 20’s compared to what they are now are very different. My goal now is to truly be who I am, living out my life doing what makes me happy. Honestly, I consider being a dad, fatherhood, as my greatest achievement.“

But Claudio’s romance with film remains profound. “Professionally, I was involved in Canada’s first reality TV show, and that was a great experience,” he said. “And being part of the American Film Institute, just being immersed with such talents from all walks of life was wonderful. To collaborate with my AFI fellows was a cherished experience. I am passionate about storytelling, through television or the big screen, either way its storytelling.”

Claudio’s commitment and emotional involvement with storytelling is a compelling, legitimate creative force, one that is certain to soon reach a wide international audience.

“Claudio is a talented director and pays a great attention to detail,” composer Mark Dunnet said. “He never gives up until he gets that perfect shot or performance”.

From the Stage to the Screen Tatiana Romao Nails the Mark

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Actress Tatiana Romao at the Hollywood Brazilian Film Festival

At barely 12-years-old, an age where few of us really knew the exact direction our future careers would take, Brazilian actress Tatiana Romao was already busy putting in work and developing her craft as an actress. While she comes from a family of doctors, the world revealed itself to her as a stage beckoning to be performed upon, and she quickly took to the spotlight without ever looking back.

Romao says, “Acting has been my passion and a need in my life since I came to really know myself as a person. It all started as an after school, extracurricular activity and as time went by it became my goal in life.”

Hailing from Sao Paulo, Romao began her professional acting career on the stages of Brazil where she starred in a lengthy list of high profile theatrical productions such as “The Secret of Fatima” directed by Grand Othelo and Coca-Cola Award winner Ronaldo Ciambroni, “The Exception and the Rule” directed by Gabriel Carmona, “Life of Drugs” directed by São Paulo Association of Art Critics and Prêmio Contigo Award winner Walcyr Carrasco (Seven Sins, Watercolor of Love), “Waltz No. 6” directed by Marcelo Lazzaratto, “The Long Goodbye” directed by Shell Award and Gabriela Paulista Cooperative Theater Award winner Nelson Baskerville (Seize the Day, Maysa: When the Heart Sings) and many more.

“Theatre is so different from film, I have to say that my heart does beat a lot faster for theatre. The passion, the thrill, the family feeling, learning and always discovering new things in a scene, a script, having beautiful words to say and find their meanings… the list is endless,” admits Romao. “It was one of the main reasons why I fell in love with acting… It gave me all these different feelings and sensations that I wasn’t finding anywhere else considering I was born in a fast paced somewhat cold city.”

While Romao is undeniably magnetic on stage, her skills have easily carried over to the silver screen where she has garnered substantial recognition on an international level as a diversely talented actress capable of embodying virtually any character.

Romao’s first foray into the film world took place nearly a decade ago when she landed the lead role of Paula in Brazilian director Bruno Costa’s film Encantacao aka Enchantment. Set in a puritanical town, Encantacao revolves around a peculiar family of three whose lives are turned upside down after Romao’s character Paula, who is embittered by her husband leaving her, begins spreading rumors that the wife and her teenage daughter are witches. Paula’s powerful conviction permeates not only the minds of the town’s people, but also the two women accused, who begin to believe that they really are connected in someway to the dark side. A powerful and seething first role on the screen, Romao nailed the mark making Encantacao a success, and giving audiences a chance to see just how powerful an actress she would become as her career progressed. During the filming of Encantacao Romao worked closely with famed Brazilian acting coach Fatima Toledo, who is known for her work on the four-time Oscar Award nominated film City of God, and the multi-award winning films Elite Squad and Elite Squad: The Enemy Within.

“It was a delight to play a villain for the first time and to immerse in this experience… I discovered so many other nuances of myself as an actress, of myself as a villain, you learn and find real and cohesive reasons for that role, that person to be doing and saying what she is saying. I embraced Paula, I understood and processed her point of view of things. She was a lonely bitter woman,” explains Romao.

“For me it wasn’t much of a challenge as it was a learning process. How to access that side of you, how to understand that role, how to understand yourself, how to bring that feeling…The growth I had working with Fatima and Bruno was gigantic. I will never forget that experience.”

Since that telling first role, actress Tatiana Romao has worked non-stop giving a slew of unforgettable lead performances in a wide range of projects across multiple continents.

In 2015 she took on the starring role of Sarah in Lips, written and directed by ConCorto Award nominee and Nyon Visions du Réel Award winning director Andrea La Mendola (Echoes, Lost in Gray, Just One Shot). Starring alongside award-winning actor Ruben Navarro (Barbal Zoralo, She Wants Me, Till Death Do Us Part), Romao gives a magnetic and sometimes painful performance as Sarah, a young woman caught in an abusive relationship who struggles to find the strength to leave her boyfriend.

“That role was very intriguing and a challenge for me because I tend to always play the stronger roles and this time I had to be more fragile, defenceless and submissive. It was a bit of a struggle to go on set and ‘not fight back’ and just take it. Even though it’s a great challenge for me it is interesting how it feels almost ‘wrong’ to play that for me. I guess I can say that it made the role even more interesting,” admits Romao.

In addition to Lips, Romao has become known for her work in Marco Ferrari’s Castell Award winning drama Simple Being where she stars alongside Tony Award winner Paul Sand (The Main Event), Elephant Clan starring Burt Culver (To Survive, Ghostline), multi-award winning director Giulio Poidomani’s film Disruption starring Ron Gilbert (Inertia, Desire), Abberation starring Andrew Bongiorno (NCIS, Live By Night), as well as the series What You Want? with Elle Han (Til We Meet Again) and Evgeniya Radilova (Limitless) and many more.

She says, “Acting is a need in my life, it’s not an option of whether or not I will do it, it is what I have to do, it’s what I do and a great part of who am. Acting has shaped all my life. The feeling, the emotion, hearing from the audience how you moved them, how you touched them, it is indescribable.”

With a dazzling repertoire of work already under her belt it’s clear that actress Tatiana Romao is one Brazilian talent who is destined to stay on the radar for years to come. Audiences will soon be able to catch her in the horror film Valentine DayZ, which is due out later this year and also stars Carrie Keagan (Reno 911). She also recently wrapped production on Apple Ng’s (1 Corinthians 13) upcoming film The Process where she takes on the starring role of Lindsay.

Dance Is a Way of Life for Belly Dancer, Nataly Hay

Nataly Hay has never even considered what she would do if not dance. The Israeli belly dancer has been dancing all her life. From the age of three she started, as many dancers do, with ballet, jazz and other forms of stage dance. Then, at age 16, Hay took a belly dance class for the first time and fell in love.

Hay began taking belly dance classes regularly, was soon recognized for her considerable talent and received an offer to work as a teacher.

“I started teaching classes for students from kindergarten to adults and meanwhile studied my degree to become an official belly dance instructor of the Israeli Sport Institute. Since then I haven’t stopped belly dancing,” explains Hay.

Bellydancer Nataly Hay
Nataly Hay shot by Dvir Lahar

 

Teaching may have been the start of her professional career in belly dance but Hay didn’t stop there.

Hay’s ability to captivate audiences with her unique beauty and talent have made her a well-known dancer in Israel. According to Gilad Malkin, an Israeli TV producer, her television performances shine because Hay knows how to work with the camera and it shows on screen.

“Nataly is a very good dancer, very talented, beautiful, responsible and professional,” remarks Malkin. “We can always count on her for the best performance we expect. Nataly is the top dancer in Israel.”

Hay’s talents aren’t limited to belly dance. Well-versed in Latin dance styles and the Spanish language, she was a winner in Israel’s Kizomba competition, and has received invitations to perform for fans in the United States, Brazil and Mexico. Hay also took home a trophy at the European Belly Dance competition in Amsterdam last year and is a frequent performer and instructor at International Bellydance Festival, a four-day event held in Eilat, Israel that is host to dancers all over the world.

natalyhay
Nataly Hay shot by Dvir Lahar

“Nataly is a very talented dancer;” says Yael Moav, the organizer of the festival, “compelling and charismatic as well as being wise and serious. Working with Nataly, I know the job is done with accuracy and on time as required [of] a professional and a true artist.”

In order to maintain her physical skills and perform for a long time on stage without much physical effort, Hay works out consistently.

“The strength of the body helps me develop new dance movements and improve my technique more easily,” explains Hay.

Hay insists a supportive family has also been part of her success, providing mental strength in addition to her physical strength. Commitment to her art, a positive attitude and belief in herself have also elevated Hay’s career as a dancer. Her performances have become a feature in high-profile events.

Just months ago, Hay was invited to perform for 100,000 people as part of the Juno Reactor international tour. The trance-oriental musical act includes deejay, Stephen Watkins, two singers, a drummer and guitarist, and Hay, who adds her own blend of belly dance, African, modern and Latin dance to the performances.

“Nataly is one of the most graceful of dancers I have seen or worked with,” says Watkins. “Sensual and captivating, she has forged her own style and personality to fit inside Juno Reactor. She is also a pleasure to work with.”

The group is invited to perform in festivals worldwide. Last August, as headliners at the Ozora festival in Hungary, Juno Reactor produced a show with 20 more dancers from Russia and the Ukraine and Hay onstage as a belly dancer.

“The outfits, accessories, choreography and chemistry on stage were outstanding,” Hay recalls of the experience.

Traveling the world has been a dream come true for Hay, who enjoys getting to know new artists, singers, composers and dancers, and appreciates the exposure to cultures outside of her own. This is a good thing because the offers to teach and perform internationally keep rolling in for Hay, particularly since a bellydance video of her went viral on YouTube, reaching 22 million views and counting.

Clearly, though the massively popular video demonstrates Hay’s strong dance technique, it appeals to more than just belly dance lovers. The response has been phenomenal.

“Many belly dance lovers have tried to study this dance at home and perform it in their home countries. Moreover, I’ve received a lot of invitations to perform and teach around the world thanks to that video,” remarks Hay.

Still, her global success is only a perk of the job. It’s the dancing that Hay truly loves and finds most rewarding. In fact, she says that sometimes she gets chills or sheds tears of happiness while performing.

“For me dancing is the most powerful feeling,” muses Hay. “When I am dancing I am the happiest person on earth, I forget everting and my soul and body are free.”

 

See more of Nataly Hay’s incredible dancing at her website or YouTube channel which has 17K subscribers.