Taiwanese Filmmaker Diana Chao Directs Visually Stunning Content for Innovative Subjects and Product

The renowned filmmaker Diana Chao has been reaching audiences worldwide through her directorial work for several years. Her past experience spans commercial work, short films, and even features, a few of her most celebrated titles including The Restoration, which Chao both wrote and directed, the informative short film PSA titled Violence in the Closet, and the US-China collaboration, Finding Mr. Right. As a result of her past achievements, Chao was asked to direct two key projects over the past year: an upcoming short film titled Match, and a hit promo video for an innovated product called Emora, both of which have been great successes.

After watching Chao’s first independent short The Restoration, Domingos Antonio, the producer and actor of Match, insisted she direct his forthcoming short. Chao had been referred to Antonio by Brazilian director Alexandre Peralta prior at a film festival.

“Match is a story about the apathy and the emptiness of the virtual relationships through smartphone dating apps,” Chao explained. Initially, because of her strong aversion to dating apps and websites, Chao found it humorous that she was hired as the director of the project. In order to understand the world her characters lived in and accurately depict their loneliness, Chao had to dive deep into the world of online dating and do her research via friends who regularly use various dating apps.

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Diana Chao working on Match

“I didn’t end up enrolling in any dating apps myself,” Chao said. “Some close friends of mine had been using different dating apps (Match, OKCupid, Tinder, etc.) and through them (both male and female users) I got to know the differences between the ways in which these apps functioned and how they targeted different markets. My roommate back then was planning to start online dating, so we went step-by-step through creating her a profile, held discussions involving what types of people would be attracted to certain types of photos and profile descriptions, and then tested our choices and analyzed our results.”

Chao chose to focus on Tinder the most, as the app model created for Match closely resembled the real-life dating app.

Fellow director and 1st AD, Jing Ning, who’s directed commercials for Mercedes Benz, BMW, Audi, and Volkswagen, worked closely with Chao as the 1st AD on both Match and Emora, thus receiving a good impression of her worth ethic in both short film and commercial capacities.

“Chao has a keen insight and fine sentiment,” Ning said of her coworker’s talents. “You can see those qualities in every film that she’s ever done. She created a dark and romantic tone for Match that gave the film a unique and artistic feeling. She brought out our actors’ deepest feelings to tell a story without dialogue, which exemplifies her solid directing skills.”

Match was completed in 2016 and is currently hitting the film festival circuit, including the 2017 CineGlobe International Film Festival at CERN in Switzerland, the 2016 Port Douglas Film Festival in Australia, and the 2016 Los Angeles Brazilian Film Festival in both the United States and Brazil.

Last spring, Chao completed directing the exciting commercial for Emora, a new product created by Innovart, a team of young Taiwanese inventors in the United States. In short, Emora is a smart accessory designed as a bracelet that allows one to express themselves and connect with people via color. This customizable bracelet allows one to show their style and mood by fine-tuning its colors and brightness with elegant gestures, and also has a pulsating light which fades in and out with one’s heartbeat.

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Diana Chao directing Emora

The making of the commercial was comprised of a one-day shoot at a standing set at 2010 Studios in Gardenia, California. According to Chao, the amazing Art Department of the shoot was responsible for creating seven different locations within one space – an apartment hallway, bedroom, dressing room, studio, office, bakery, and café – and did so with astounding success. “Besides the prep day prior to the shoot, the Art Department was basically setting up Location B while we were shooting Location A, and striking Location A while we were shooting Location C. The encounter of a design team, which here in this case is the team that designed and created Emora, and our entire production team must involve labor, but I was thrilled by their passion and faith in their product. Without their patience, flexibility and trust on our ability of execution, this video wouldn’t have been possible,” Chao recollected.

John-Scott Horton played the lead male of the Emora commercial, though this wasn’t his first time working with the accomplished Chao. Horton also starred in Diana’s film The Restoration back in 2013.

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Diana Chao on the set of Emora

“Truthfully, I wouldn’t have done the project [Emora] if I hadn’t been asked by Diana, but I instantly said yes because I was excited to work with her again. She used much of the same crew that worked on The Restoration and I was reminded of how good she is at assembling the team,” said Horton. “Diana is great at delegating, has an eye for aesthetic, is very efficient, and is a very effective leader. Her artistry is suited for major feature films and was not compromised for a smaller project.”

Emora was ranked as number nine in the top 17 products of CES 2017.

The CES is a global consumer electronics and consumer technology trade show that takes place every January in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Winning it’s 9th position on the best 17 products out of all of the products of 2017 shows that Emora is commercialized. With this being the product’s sole commercial, it shows the impact it’s had on showcasing and promoting the product.

 

For more information on Diana Chao, please visit:
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm6371027/
https://dianachaos.com/

For more information on Match and Emora, please visit:
For MATCHhttps://vimeo.com/184096007
For Emora: https://myemora.com/

 

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Camera operator Mike Heathcote “moves with grace and precision of a dolly” on upcoming series The Handmaid’s Tale

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Michael Heathcote is from Toronto, Ontario

Michael Heathcote is a storyteller. He does not write them, nor does he read them aloud, but his work allows film to come alive. Perhaps this is not as obvious as an actor, but Heathcote’s work as a camera/Steadicam operator allows the stories we watch on the big and small screen to come alive. It is that we don’t know he is there until his name passes by our eyes in the credits that makes him so outstanding.

In his words, Heathcote describes the camera operator as the one who is responsible for physically operating and composing the camera to best tell the story. The camera operator can operate a camera on a dolly, sticks, remotely on a crane, handheld on the shoulder or with a special camera stabilization device called a “Steadicam”. A Steadicam is a specialized tool that takes years to master. The camera operator wears a vest and connects a spring arm that distributes and supports the weight of the camera counterbalanced on a post. With years of experience the camera operator can move the camera smoothly over uneven terrain, up and down stairs or in locations where a dolly track cannot be laid. The camera operator works with the director and cinematographer to help them execute their vision.

“There was just something about looking through the lens of a camera, seeing the action and performance live and being responsible for composing the frame to tell the story that excited me,” said Heathcote.

Heathcote has already had a career many dream of. The Torontonian worked on award-winning films and television series with Hollywood’s biggest stars. This past year alone, he worked on the critically-acclaimed Canadian television show Cardinal, filmed the pilot for the new show Issues, and worked alongside Academy Award winning director Alexander Payne on the upcoming film Downsizing, starring Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig, Christoph Waltz and Bruce Willis. He also filmed the Hulu original series The Handmaid’s Tale, based on the Margaret Atwood classic, that comes out this Spring.

“I feel incredibly lucky and fortunate to have worked on such an amazing TV series as The Handmaid’s Tale. There were so many talented people involved who worked very hard during pre-production, production and post-production as they prepare for the April release. It was an absolute pleasure to work with them. Every day I came to set I was excited and inspired to do my best work,” said Heathcote.

The Handmaid’s Tale is set in a near-future dystopian England, where a woman named Offred is forced to live as a concubine under a fundamentalist theocratic dictatorship. The director, Reed Morano, wanted the audience to experience the story through the lead character of Offred as though they were right there with her, experiencing and seeing things as she did. To achieve this look and feel, Heathcote would use either handheld or Steadicam very close to the actors.

“As a Director of Photography that has always acted as my own camera operator and someone who has a very particular taste when it comes to composition and framing to capture emotion and light, I had never been impressed with anyone operating for me, much less satisfied. That was until I worked with Mike Heathcote on the series I directed, The Handmaid’s Tale. Not only was I pleased with Mike’s interpretation of the visual language I had set up in the show, but his talent blew me away.  Mike, as a Steadicam operator, moves with the grace and precision of a dolly,” said Morano. “You never feel that the shot is a Steadicam shot.  You’re never aware of the camera- which to me is the sign of an amazing Steadicam move.  It’s the mark of an incredible operator.  Not only that, Mike’s skills as a handheld operator went far beyond my expectations. Operating handheld takes a certain level of intuition that cannot be taught.  You either have ‘it’ or you don’t. Mike has it. The camera was always where I wanted it to be, always elegantly framed.  And there is no greater compliment I can give. I feel so lucky to have found him.”

In addition to working with Morano, Heathcote worked closely with the cinematographer, Colin Watkinson. Morano and Watkinson recognized Heathcote’s talents early on, and encouraged him to express any ideas he had, and gave him the freedom to explore a shot.

The Handmaid’s Tale was one of the most creatively rewarding projects I have had the pleasure to work on,” described Heathcote. “We went against conventional TV framing and were trying to do something different with this project. I really enjoyed trying to find new and interesting compositions that helped tell the story. Every day I was excited to get up for work.”

Watkinson truly believes that choosing Heathcote as a Steadicam operator was one of the best decisions that they made, and his work contributed to the overall success of the series.

“Not only has he maintained a truly professional attitude throughout production, but Mike also delivered Steadicam shots of the highest quality. He has executed perfectly each director’s needs, maintained our style for the show and continues to add his own flair to raise each shot to a beautiful level. It has been an absolute honor and a pleasure to work next to someone who cares so much about his craft and at the same time showing an interest in the project, which makes him a complete team player. High praise indeed yet entirely out of merit,” said Watkinson.

It is without a doubt that with Heathcote’s talent and determination, his work will continue to impress both those who he works with, and audiences that see what he is capable of.

The Handmaid’s Tale premieres Wednesday April 26th, on Hulu. Check out the trailer here.

Alexandre Cornet inspires future artists with TLS Advertising Campaign

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Artist Alexandre Cornet 

Growing up in Paris, France, Alexandre Cornet loved drawing. As a child, he would read comics and watch cartoons, fascinated by the illustrations. At the age of 11, childhood drawings transformed into graffiti, and while living by an abandoned train station, he would watch people paint words in colors. This keen interest at such a young age meant there was only one thing for him to do with his life, and Cornet became an internationally recognized artist.

Cornet’s reputation as a visual artist, designer, and art director had led to a lot of success in his career. He has had his own exhibitions, as well as worked with large companies to help define the visual aspect of their brand. Currently, Cornet resides in Lima, Peru, and while working with on the advertising campaign for the Toulouse Lautrec Institute for Design (TLS), the entire city was able to see his artwork.

The concept of the campaign was the promotion of creativity, and that is why I wanted to work on it,” said Cornet. “It feels like an honour to have had my work displayed everywhere around town and that the campaign was a success and that it served to bring more people towards a creative career.”

As an artist, promoting creativity and encouraging others to attend to school and follow in Cornet’s footsteps was important to him. This idea motivated him from the beginning, and the creative area of the university’s marketing department was already a fan of Cornet’s work. They wanted him to incorporate his drawings into the skies of wide angle photographs that they had taken previously.

“I liked to be able to intervene photography and to create artwork of massive impact, some panels were about 14 meters wide placed at key intersections in the city,” he said.

To accomplish this vision, Cornet created digital illustrations featuring single characters, doing one action in particular for its easy understanding. He mainly used the color palette from the brand identity guidelines, and respected their rules for the design and layout of the branding and copy. He used an easy urban style with black outlines for easy impact and to connect with the primary target of the campaign; young adults who just finished high school and have some interest into a creative career.

“The panels had to stand out, be seen and understood in the glimpse of an eye at high traffic spots. I had to simplify and focus on the idea they had to transmit. Using colors and shapes in the best manner to fit and contrast with the photographs and the copy,” described Cornet. “I also had to complete the artwork in a record timeline, being the first time the marketing department was acting as its own advertising agency they kept trying different ideas and options.”

This ended up being easy for Cornet to overcome, as he worked director with Jean Paul Du Bois, the chief of marketing, acting as a creative director, and Lorena Solari, the sales manager. Du Bois had previously worked with Cornet, and knew he would capture the essence of the university and bring his own creative aspect to the campaign.

“I had worked with Alex before on two short films that were directed by me. His art contribution and compromise involve high quality standards that were fundamental to achieve a good finishing and to be recognized by the Peruvian Culture Ministry and other festivals around the world,” said Du Bois. “As the Head of Marketing of the Toulouse Lautrec Institute of Design, I hired him to illustrate the advertisement campaign “Some People See Reality, Others Change It,” which needed an unusual point of view, and Alex helped us to reach the pieces with high visual impact. It’s always been stimulating, at the moment of the brainstorming interesting points of view appear. His creative contribution and compromise to get quality on what he does makes him a trustworthy person on any job.”

Cornet previously worked on other campaigns for the college. In the middle of 2015, the Toulouse Lautrec Institute of Design produced the social media campaign “Career” to promote the careers that the Institute had. Cornet made a series of illustrations on digital collage through the Digital Agency Performance Group. He also designed posts of each Institute’s career for a new Instagram campaign, with great success.

As if coming full circle, it is without a doubt that Cornet’s artwork continues to inspire the next generation of artists to study and live their dream.

Actress Maryanne Emma Gilbert has full career at young age

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Maryanne Emma Gilbert enjoying Doritos while filming the “Little Thumbs” commercial.

For Maryanne Emma Gilbert, there has never been a moment of doubt about what she likes to do. At just seven years-of-age, when many children are rushing home from school to watch their favorite shows on television, Gilbert is on television. Not many her age know what they should be doing, and an even fewer amount actually start doing it. Gilbert’s natural acting talents combined with a sense of professionalism beyond her years are what have led her to be recognized across her home country of Canada as one of the best.

Despite her young age, Gilbert has already seen success that many more experienced in the field can only dream of. Having already been nominated for a Joey Award for Best Actress in a Commercial, and another for Best Actress in a Short Film, she still remains humble for what she has achieved.

“My mom makes movies. I see her make movies. I thought that it would be fun to try to act too, and it is fun. I like to make videos too,” said Gilbert.

Gilbert has starred in a nationwide commercial for McDonalds, which ran during the 2014 Summer Olympics, as well as a Canadian Tire campaign. She has appeared in the film Jewel Fools, the holiday flick Season’s Greetings, and the upcoming film Space Rippers. Millions of Canadians have seen her face on their screens, and the Calgary native has no plans on slowing down.

“I want to act more. I would like to move to another city, but keep my house. So, I want to move my house to Hollywood. There is not a lot of things in Alberta. Soon I will work on some funny documentaries that talk about USA and Canada and hopefully even more things,” she said.

This excitement for what she does is evident in everything she works on. This includes the Doritos “Crash the Superbowl” commercial she starred in, titled Little Thumbs. The commercial aired on the “Crash the Superbowl” website in 2015. Although they did not win the contest, Gilbert says it was still a great learning experience.

“We were on a big competition and we wanted to win a million dollar for that competition. It was awesome,” she said. “We didn’t win it, but I learned timing. We had to retake a scene about ten times because the other girl and I had to do our timing really well for one scene. It was super tricky.”

The commercial features a team of scouts who get lost in a forest, but Gilbert saves them by planting Doritos in the ground to retrace their steps.

“I work with a lot of kids, and Maryanne is very articulate. She listens well and follows direction very well. She is very focused. She is easy going and fun. She always has a positive spirit, which makes for a pleasant experience for the cast and crew that work with her. From a directors point of view, even though I was a producer on this commercial, it is her openness that makes her a good actress, and her willingness to listen and take direction. She is always open to the experience she is in at that moment,” said producer Barb Briggs.

Despite being so young, Gilbert excels at comedy, and has a natural comedic timing when delivering lines. She enjoys doing accents and imitations to make her audience laugh. She was able to display this to full-effect in the Doritos commercial, as her character’s refusal to share Doritos was very humorous.

“It was funny because my scene was really funny. I like funny stuff,” said Gilbert.

But there was one part of filming the commercial for Gilbert that made it a truly amazing experience for the young actress.

“I got to eat Doritos. I love Doritos. It was the treat at the end of the filming we could eat Doritos,” she concluded.

COELHO CREATES MAGIC BEHIND THE LENS

The film You Cast a Spell On Me is about relationships and magic. Movie magic gives us the escapism and captivating storytelling that we all desire. This magic doesn’t happen without the relationships and communication amongst the creative professionals who produce them for our enjoyment. Director of Photography Johanna Coelho’s job title may imply that she is solely focused on imagery but one of the keys to her success is the emphasis she places on communication in filmmaking. No matter what vocation you are involved in, communication may be the most important factor to success. Johanna’s shrewd understanding of this fact and the benevolent manner in which she utilizes it has made her a much sought after DP in the film industry. As a fluent English speaker who was raised on the outskirts of Paris, Coelho has a heightened awareness of the subtleties of communication and how different individuals receive and interpret information. Of course, being from France makes her very aware of romance; which made her the ideal DP for this production. Talent, communication, and a connection with the story being told were the components of the magic that she created for You Cast a Spell On Me.

It’s an obvious statement but, anyone who speaks more than one language has spent a greater amount of time dissecting and contemplating communication. It creates a deeper understanding of your own intentions as well as those of others. Life can be easier or more difficult based on the level of communication. The success of many films are based on the abilities of its creators to establish a rapport with the audience as well as to accurately depict the vision of the film. Fantasy films like You Cast a Spell On Me require someone like Johanna and Tosca Musk (director/producer) who can manifest visuals that don’t exist in our actual world. Speaking about Coelho’s work on the film, Musk declares, “Johanna’s cinematography work on this film was extremely impressive. She lead a full crew in an enjoyable environment and created visuals that were really uplifting to the story. There were also a lot of magic tricks happening in the story, and in collaboration with the art department, she brought these magic effects to life. Almost everything was done practically and it looks amazing; like real magic! She is a pleasure to work with. She was fully committed to the project and the vision I had as a Director. Johanna also was very mindful of the work of other departments, giving them their space when needed but also collaborating with everyone to have a smooth and organized shoot.”

You Cast a Spell On Me is a romance/fantasy film about a young and handsome warlock named Matt. His power is that he can charm women into finding him irresistible, literally. As one can expect, a young man with this power is apprehensive to settle down with one woman. This journey Matt takes towards finding his soulmate and depicts him losing his powers, others gaining powers, and the conflict and happy endings that one finds in romance films. Due to the nature of Matt’s character, many production departments were required to understand and work together to help create the visual “trickery” to produce the action in this film. The responsibilities of the Director of Photography can vary depending on the personality of a director. Some directors like to have a full control of the creative visuals. They have a very specific idea in mind and have a precise shot list with lighting references they want reproduced for the film. Other directors do not really want to (or know how to) deal with the visual part. They just want to focus on the actors. When similar minds meet…Coelho explains, “Sometimes you have a director in the middle of the two previous options, one that will want to share the creative approach with you. It’s a really fun process when this happens because the two of you have imaginative brains talking together about shots and exchanging visual references to find what would be the best for the story. Tosca Musk is that Director, and it was amazing to prep this film with her because we would really support each other in the process. One idea would lead to another idea and so on, giving life to ideas that might have never existed with only one person brainstorming. We were also both very open minded about each other’s input and this really helped the process.”

This template trickled down through Johanna’s ten-person camera crew. This DP makes sure to involve them in the pre-production process (especially the Gaffer and Key Grip) to keep everyone aware of the plan and prepare for lighting, etc. Johanna understands that a happy and respected crew of professionals are more motivated to work and share in a vison than those who are merely “punching the clock”, a mindset we can all relate to and understand. Perhaps one of the most overlooked parts of communicating on set is with one’s self. Coelho reveals, “It is hard to stop for a second, and really look at the frame and lighting and be sure it’s the right setup. Focusing on one thing at a time is very important. If you do everything in order, your job will go much faster. You can switch back and forth between things quickly but each thing needs to be given its own respectful moment. It is also really important to know the blocking of the scene, because you don’t want to start lighting and discover in the middle of a take that your light is in the wrong place for your actor. So following the steps is key. It’s true that with everything going on at the same time, you can get lost in your own thoughts. It happened on one of my early student movies in 2011 at AFI and I was really angry at myself for having lost my point of view on the film. A teacher who watched it pointed this out to me and told me that when he would get confused on set, he would step out into the bathroom, turn the lights off so his eyes wouldn’t get distracted, take a deep breath, and remember what the movie should be for two minutes. Then he would come back on set fresh and clear minded. This is probably one of the best pieces of advice I have ever received. I don’t go hide in the restrooms, but I do step outside into an empty corner where no one is talking to me and take a deep breath and think for two minutes. When I come back on set everything is fine and back in place in my mind.”

While those of us in the audience are blissfully unaware of all the moving parts behind the scenes of the shows and films which entertain us, the talented professionals creating them are always thinking of us and our subconscious desire to not be taken out of the film. None of that would be possible with the oversight of someone like Johanna Coelho. You Cast a Spell On Me was filmed in a staggering fourteen days; an incredible achievement for such a high quality production. This is only possible with someone such as Coelho who is planning out and paying attention to every possible time saving opportunity. Whether communicating with the AD to prep things while waiting for the actors, or planning the lighting so that the post production process runs more smoothly (Johanna states, “Colorist are key and they should have much more recognition as they’re always saving your back and make your work look better. I was happy I could assist in ways that helped the colorist. We would discuss it together for each shot.”).

It’s an obvious statement that every DP needs talent and the eye to find the images which the director needs. There are so many professionals in the world, it is those like Johanna Coelho whose ability to create a positive and efficient environment for filmmakers the set her above the rest.

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Canadian talent Kyle Meagher: “it’s a very exciting time to be a young actor”

There are many people who believe everything happens for a reason. In one instant your life can change. One decision can impact the course of your future. Fourteen-year-old actor Kyle Meagher knows this well, and his life changed in a single moment.

When the actor was just ten years old, he decided to go to an open call at the local talent agency, but he also had a hockey game later that afternoon. He knew it would be tight, but he decided he had time to head to Angie’s Models and Talent to see what would happen. However, he underestimated just how busy it would be, with almost 200 people waiting to get their big break. After waiting for over an hour, he knew he had to leave or else he would miss his hockey game. Besides, at the time, acting was just a fun past time, and not many ten-year-olds are planning their careers. Little did he know that it was when he was walking out the door that his entire life changed.

When Meagher decided to leave, Lou Seymour, the co-founder of the agency was standing at the door.  As he tried to leave, Seymour stopped him, not letting him leave, and sent him straight to the front of the line. After his audition, he was immediately asked to join the agency.

“To think I almost missed out. I am so glad Lou stopped me that day from leaving. Lou and Angie always laugh about that and say ‘Imagine you would have left without talking to us? We couldn’t let you leave’,” said Meagher.

Since that time, the Ottawa-born actor has never looked back. He continues to study his craft and take classes, and at the same time has been building an established and extensive resume. Four years after that fateful day at the open call, he is recognized around the country for his talent.

“I feel as though it’s a very exciting time to be a young actor.  The opportunities are many, with the change in technology and delivery of programming with Netflix and other services, new media and the abundance of channels, there is opportunity to get seen by a worldwide audience. We are very fortunate,” said Meagher.

And Meagher has been fortunate. His natural acting abilities combined with a good attitude and hard work have given him an abundance of opportunities. He worked with an all-star cast on the feature film Northpole, appeared in a music video for worldwide star Janelle Monáe, worked alongside his close friend on the film The Big Crunch, which is making it’s way through film festivals, and had a starring role on an episode of the award-winning series Odd Squad. Despite this success, he remains humble.

“I actually don’t like seeing myself on TV. I have been known to run out of the room in embarrassment. I guess as actors we are pretty critical of ourselves,” he said. “The only time I do like to watch myself is when I am rehearsing for an audition or for filming. I have to tape myself to watch it and see if there is anything I can do better. I still don’t like to watch it because I never seem to be satisfied, but it’s helpful.”

The people Meagher works with, however, are consistently satisfied with both his performance and demeanour. Meagher’s manager, Dimitrios Seymour, describes working with him as very rewarding.

“To have such a professional, talented and, an amazing attitude, at such a young age, isn’t something that an agent like myself sees every day. He approaches roles with such excitement, poise, and confidence that he always makes a major impression on casting and production teams. I never hesitate to pick up the phone and put myself on the line to push him through to opportunities because I know Kyle will always follow through,” said Seymour. “His natural instinctive chops are what separates him from other actors. He has great timing and understands how to really read a scene and feed off his partner. He’s also worked very hard developing his skill set in class, which has made him a versatile young actor who can bounce between comedic and dramatic scenes naturally.”

In addition to working on award-winning series and a variety of films, Meagher has also worked on many national commercial campaigns. He says the most memorable moment of his career so far was working on a web series promoting Mega Blocks, a leading building block toy owned by Mattel. As a kid, he was living the dream, when every few months he would get a box of toys sent to his house to play and build, and then head to the set with a film crew to discuss what he liked best.

“It was amazing.  I did it for Spongebob building sets, Hotwheels, Police Cruisers, Skylanders, you name it.  Then, near Christmas time, I was walking through Toys R Us and I went to see the building sets and right there on the shelf was a mini TV with push buttons where you could watch my videos right there.  My videos were across all the Toys R Us stores. I started trying to visit stores everywhere I went just to see if they were there,” said Meagher.

Promoting what you are a fan of while working on a commercial makes your job that much more enjoyable, and Meagher has worked on all sorts of campaigns for things he genuinely enjoys. As a hockey fan, getting to do a commercial for NHL gear was a fantastic experience. He has also worked on many food commercials, and getting to eat some tasty treats while filming is, of course, a bonus.

“When auditioning for a Black Diamond Cheese Spread commercial, all I had to do was sit at a table and pretend to eat crackers likeit was my favorite food. I didn’t realize I was only supposed to pretend, so I ate the crackers the casting director gave me,” said Meagher. “He had to explain I was only supposed to pretend – not actually eat them –  and he had to give me more. We laughed and laughed, but I got the job!”

No matter what job he works on, Meagher enjoys what he does, and at just fourteen years old, he is definitely off to quite the start. Having passion for your chosen career path is important at any age, and his commitment to keep improving and refining his natural abilities shows a maturity that many people much older do not possess. He will definitely be on our screens for years to come.

“Being on set is an incredible feeling.  The people are always fun to be with and amazing to be around. It’s like instant friendship. It’s exciting to be able to suddenly be someone I am not. For instance, I tend to get to play the villain a lot. In reality, I am usually a quieter guy who is often concerned about people’s feelings but when I get into character, I can play the mean guy.  How many other people get to be different people every time they go to work?  While it can be hard work, it is always fun,” he concluded.

Andrew Searles is seriously funny in upcoming film Cereal Killer

While growing up in Montreal, Andrew Searles always knew he wanted to perform. As a child, he would watch Star Trek: The Next Generation and be captivated not only by the special effects and storyline that made the show what it was, but the performances of the actors. He watched every episode he could, studying how the show was made, fascinating him even more. When was watching other movies and shows, recognizing actors but seeing them play different characters, he was enchanted. He knew that he had to follow in the same footsteps. And he has, Searles is an incredibly versatile actor, just like those whom he idolized as a child.

While also being an established stand-up comedian, Searles is of course capable to deliver a comedic scene. He understands improvisation, and exactly how to deliver a joke that will leave the audience in stiches. However, it is his more serious side of acting that leaves audiences bewitched. He really can do it all.

“I like the aspect of portraying somebody else who isn’t me,” said Searles. “Taking on a new persona, a new identity, embodying their traits and creating an entirely new person, or taking on the personality of whomever I’m supposed to be portraying.”

Searles flexibility as an actor is exemplified further in the upcoming film Cereal Killer, written and directed by Fabrice Barthelemy. Cereal Killer is a comedy that follows Jimmy, a young man who loves eating his cereal. However, things take a turn for the worst when someone in his neighborhood keeps breaking into his apartment and eating his cereal. Jimmy, along with his best friend, Sean, team up to begin an investigation of who keeps eating Jimmy’s cereal. Searles plays Gus, the antagonist in the film. Gus is a very mild mannered, quiet, reserved, caretaker of an apartment building. He often says inappropriate things without realizing he said them. When Jimmy is searching for whomever has been breaking into his apartment and eating his cereal, it eventually turns out Gus was the culprit the whole time.

“Portraying a character like Gus allowed me to ‘get my hands dirty’. I wanted Gus to be a very dark, twisted, soulless type of character. I wanted to use this opportunity to break away from being a ‘comedic’ actor in a sense, and shine as someone playing a character who is disturbed. Even though Gus’s lines would still be comedic in nature, I figured his lines would come off even funnier if they were delivered in a dark, morbid tone, rather than from a goofy, comedic character,” said Searles.

Gus was not originally intended to be a dark character, but it was Searles’ intuition that brought the character to life, and the twist added even more humor to the film.

“I created his personality and traits and integrated them into the film. I also learned how to embody a very serious, dark character, darker than I’ve ever played on camera. I learned how to keep the balance of playing a very serious somber character while playing with the comedic lines and aspects of the film. I wanted to be dark enough so the darkness of his character shined through, and the audience felt that, but not too much where the comedy aspect of the film is off balance,” he explained.

And does his technique ever work. In a pivotal scene in the film, when Gus is being confronted for being the cereal thief, he is extremely serious, as if confessing to an actual murder. He even puts his hands up to be handcuffed after his confession, as if he committed a large crime, but he is just being told he is fired.

“Fabrice originally intended the role to be a fun, goofy, type of character, but wanting to play something different than just a type casted comedic role, I played it my way at the table read and Fabrice lost his mind and hollered at how much he loved my angle on Gus. He was so ecstatic and in awe because he never envisioned his character to be that dark, and it’s his dark humor and awkwardness that made Gus even better on screen. I figured that if funny lines from a funny character are expected and normal, then funny lines from an unfunny and dark character would be even funnier, because it’s not what the audience would be expecting,” said Searles.

Although Searles went in to read for the character of Gus, he was actually approached and asked to play the part without an audition. The Assistant Director and Assistant Writer of the film, Sara Sommers, knew that Searles possessed extraordinary acting capabilities that would make the film even better.

“Andrew is an extremely driven and talented individual. During filming, he displayed his incredible acting and comedic talents. There is no doubt in my mind that he was the correct person for the role. No one else could bring this character to life the way Andrew did. His portrayal was done magnificently and effortlessly and I am sure that he will bring these attributes to all his future roles. Andrew is the type of talent that we do not meet on a day to day basis. He is unique, one of a kind and truly remarkable. He is the type of actor that not only would directors and producers love to work with, but also will be loved by audience members as they will be struck by his presence. I would work with Andrew on a future project in a heartbeat. He truly is a talent to look out for,” said Sommers.

Cereal Killer is expected to be released later this year.

ASHLEY-GIANNA HALLETT: CREATIVELY USING TECHNOLOGY IN THE FASHION WORLD

The way in which we conduct business, just as with our social lives’, has changed dramatically in the past decade. In fact, less than a decade. Cyber Monday is a term that everyone understands. While there are many examples of how technology can be cumbersome, the consumer experience is one which has become much less difficult. Online marketing and shopping was in its early stages in 2009 when Ashley-Gianna Hallett was working at Burberry in London during their entrée into the online world. As a lead force in Burberry’s approach to their website and virtual shopping, Hallett was an important part of enabling fans of this iconic British luxury fashion house with access to ready to wear items while still retaining the signature style for which it has become known. Much of the world approached online shopping with trepidation in these early days but Ashley dove in headfirst with a confidence that resonated with the company and the variety of professionals she worked with, resulting in the successful online shopping presence Burberry has to this day. As during her time with Elite Model Management London (as Talent Manager and Women’s Model Booker), Hallett has always proven that her forward thinking and love of fashion are a union which serves to make each half better.

It’s always a good idea to treat others well because you never know what the future will bring. Ashley has become a force in the London fashion world these days but just a decade ago she was still studying at university. She was just a girl from a big family in South East London who loved the Arts and Fashion. At twenty-one, while finishing up her studies, she began working as a temp Assistant in the showroom of Burberry HQ. She was quickly recognized and would soon join Burberry as a member of the Digital Commerce team. This was a fairly new venture at the time, one which differs greatly from means of the past. Comparing print media and ecommerce, Ashley relates, “E-commerce and print media are different. Print tends to be advertising/advertorial whereas e-commerce is the selling of individual products with detail shots to follow- the customer can directly purchase a product. E-commerce can fit into website advertising via a landing page. A landing page on a website is also like a small scale campaign that focuses on a feel, a look, a story, a collaboration of models wearing several looks from that particular collection. It all depends on the context of the image that is used and where it sits on the website. On most occasions, imagery used for print media will also be used for the site but would can also have a ‘clickable’ feature to purchase individual pieces. These shots would have the same feel although there would be a focal point on each product which is important for the customer. One of the problematic but exciting factors of this avenue is that the aim would be to shoot the collection reflecting the styling of the initial shoot (i.e. Runway show/Advertising campaign). The challenges we faced were reflecting the initial styling whilst also being able to show the customer the product for exactly what it is. An issue that is apparent with all commerce styling from my knowledge and experience of working with several other online brands.”

In creating an online Look book for Burberry, Ashley needed to understand the needs and perspectives of all involved parties from the company through to the production teams and eventually the consumers. This required laying out all aspects and logistics on a granular basis.

The needs and desires of all these groups required a massive amount of preparation, communication, and anticipation. Hallett would meet with the Marketing and Production Design teams to identify the entire collection, breaking down the product lists into Ready-To-Wear and accessories. The collections being shot would be coordinated with the desired models and their schedules. Ashley worked on successful projects/collections such as Prorsum Look Book (2012), ‘Burberry Nude (2011), ‘April Showers(2011), ‘Winter Storm (2010) during her time at Burberry. Coordinating and planning shoots with the studio teams (photographers, stylists, retouchers) while ensuring that the availability of the product, model, and creative teams were all in sync, necessitated that Hallett and her 6-member team were always on top of things and held the Burberry image as paramount. The online shopping presence which Ashley was so instrumental in facilitating during her time at Burberry is the standard of the industry in fashion these days, even though it came into being less than a decade ago. Hallett recalls, “So much has changed in such a short amount of time. When I began at Burberry within the Digital team, some of our processes for shooting were manual. It was a way of being meticulous with the many products housed in the showroom. It was an exciting time as we could develop our own ways of working influenced by the structure and needs of the business. I had a template which was working fine although, as time moved forward and the Digital aspect of the business was rapidly growing, it was only natural for us to refresh our ways of working. I think it was surprising to everyone in the industry how fast things moved. Working closely with styling teams to determine how to shoot from a creative vs e-commerce perspective, model choices for collections, styling guidelines, ensuring we had a faster turnaround of delivering the finished imagery to the website teams…all variables for the normal presentation of products had to evolve quickly. We were growing with the needs of the department and business. Speaking to all teams to ensure we were all aligned with how to produce a slick and seamless structure of shooting key products meant that communication was key and going with a gut decision was most often a necessity.” One of the results that Ashley was proudest of was her oversight of quality control during the re-shoot process. This is often one of the areas which can lead the process to a standstill. Over a two-year period, Ashley was able to minimize the re-shoots by forty percent. Currently considering the further evolution of her career in the Fashion industry, Ashley reveals, “To have a key role in the strategy and brainstorming of creative concepts, to develop an idea and turn a thought and vision into something real and substantial alongside a client, to have creative input into all aspects of a project from the strategy, idea, location, talent, stylist, photographer, budget, retouchers, contractors, set designs…that is a deeper involvement and a lofty goal but I’ve always believed in myself and believed that I could work with other talented and hard working professionals who are committed to greatness as well. Pursuing a career that is creative and in which I am surrounded by creatives, that’s the way I want to look back and see my life.”

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German TV Writer-Producer Kirsten Ittershagen Runs Her Shows with Passion, Precision

Driven, versatile and passionate, German television writer-producer Kirsten Ittershagen, who works as a Showrunner for German and international TV series, has ascended to the top of her field thanks to a powerful combination of raw talent and creative vision. In a decade’s time she went from an entry level aspirant to become the creator, writer and producer on one of the nation’s top series, Alibi Agency, a program that deftly combines comedy and drama into a singular, intriguing format.

The road which led her from a career in advertising to television and Alibi Agency was one marked by fate and determination, an odyssey that began when Ittershagen was a child and came to fruition, years later, after a dramatic leap of faith. “I’ve been a TV fan since childhood,” Ittershagen said. “It all started with Love Boat, Magnum, P.I. and Beverly Hills 90210. My mom was always concerned that I didn’t read as much as my sister did—I came home from school and enjoyed the afternoon by watching German and American TV shows.”

“It became my passion,” she said. “Even during my studies of Sociology, Cultural Studies and Psychology at the University of Hamburg, I still watched TV in the afternoon or evenings. After I graduated, I began working in advertising but still dreamed of a career in the TV Industry. I had to follow my passion in order to be happy and very spontaneously, I quit my job, moved to Berlin and decided to be a writer. It was a big risk, but luckily it worked out.”

Against some steep odds, Ittershagen’s determination and skill began to pay off. Starting as an intern at GrundyUFA (an independent TV subsidiary of the fabled UFA film studio), Ittershagen soon graduated to working out plots as “storyliner” moved on to story editing and before long found herself the head writer on popular, long-running dramas Unter Uns (Among Us), Gute Zeiten, Schlechte Zeiten (Good Times, Bad Times”) and the writer-producer of Verbotene Liebe (Forbidden Love)

“My biggest dream came true,” Ittershagen said. “I got job writing for the company which produced my favorite TV series that I’d watched for years.”

A story teller second to none, her ability to imprint a unique twist on a familiar scenario has served her well, and Ittershagen managed it in a particularly demanding sector of the industry—the high pressure world of TV series. This is an arena of inescapable deadlines, where a writer must not only meet an almost impossibly tight schedule but also maintain consistent quality and narrative poise.

And she did it with impressive skill. “Kirsten combines exceptional creative talent with the management strength necessary to run a room of writers, each of whom has their own character,” said Jan Diepers, Gute Zeiten, Schlechte Zeiten executive producer. ”I remember several occasions where it seemed impossible to continue with a storyline; whether due to budgeting reasons or an unforeseeable incident, but Kirsten never lost focus or her positive, creative attitude. She would usually return from the writer’s room with an even better idea and solution.”

 

Ittershagen’s extraordinary talent isn’t just known in Germany. As a passionate traveler Ittershagen loves to work internationally and for different cultures. For the international company FremantleMedia, Ittershagen worked in Croatia on the show Ruza Vjetrova (Rose of the Wind) for Croation broadcaster RTL, heading up their international writers room. Typically for Ittershagen, the show become one of the most successful in that country. She also developed a TV series called The Mall for the same company, set in Dubai and marketed to air in the Middle East.

 

Following this international success she also became the first German writer-producer invited to join the faculty at Serial Eyes Program, the groundbreaking European postgraduate high-level TV series writing and producing program in Berlin, where she mentors up and coming European scriptwriters and producers.

Her creation and subsequent success of Alibi Agency was almost inevitable. “Ten years ago I had the idea about a guy who helps people to cheat on their spouses” Ittershagen said. “I started research and found an actual alibi agency which offered all the professional lies, fake worlds and realities you need, hiding an affair, two families or even a disease like cancer or HIV from bosses or a job in porn or escort from families.”. I’m a very honest person and I was fascinated and disgusted in the same time. But I realized, in creating these stories, how important is to discuss the value of truth and, also, the easy way out with lies. It resonates with audiences and they reflect on their own lives—‘Would I do the same? Who I can trust?’  And now, on top of that, ten years later, we live in a world full of lies, in the news, the internet, all around us. Whistleblowers coming out with some truths we never wanted to hear, or did we? That’s why Alibi Agency mirrors the contemporary feeling of society.”

 

Her precision, vigor and ability to consistently turn out world class scripts earned her a formidable reputation among her peers—her daily drama shows average 4 million viewers each, and earned her the prestigious German Soap Award in 2012 for “responsible social and humanitarian storytelling” for her teenage HIV-themed story of  the show Unter Uns (Among Us).

Her background in sociology and psychology lend canny depth to her scripts and Ittershagen’s crisp, articulate dialog, sense of pacing and sheer reach of storyline benefit every project to which she contributes. For Ittershagen, with an already significant level or professional achievements, the sky is the limit; as Jan Diepers points out, “Kirsten has an extraordinary ability to spin ideas further than most writers I know.”

And the multi-faceted Ittershagen—writer, producer, series creator, showrunner—wouldn’t have it any other way. “It is an astonishing feeling when you see your ideas, characters and stories come alive on the screen,” she said. “Television is a mass medium that has major impact on society and I want to use it for greater good. I see my purpose as a writer in sending important, uplifting messages to my audience. There is enough fear, pain, violence, hate and terror out there—I think the world needs hope, love, light and laughter. And as a TV writer I have the chance to make the world a better place, at least a little.”