Meet Lil’ Lyss, One Female Producer Making her Mark in Modern Music

Music Producer Diana D. aka Lil' Lyss
Music Producer Diana D. aka Lil’ Lyss

Drawing influences from super producers from the early 2000s such as Scott Storch (Beyoncé, Tupac Shakur, 50 cent, Nas, Lil Wayne), Timbaland (Jay Z, Drake, Rick Ross) and Dr. Dre (Eminem, Snoop Dogg, The D.O.C., Xzibit), Bay Area based music producer Diana D., a.k.a. Lil’ Lyss, has become a driving force of innovation and style in the modern music scene.

A Bulgarian native, Lil’ Lyss has been creating dope beats and producing music for other artists for nearly a decade now. She first rose to the upper ranks of the rap and hip-hop scene when she was invited to come in as a producer on rapper Ca$his’ album The County Hound 2. Sharing producer credits on the album with major rap staples such as 15-time Grammy Award winner  Eminem (one of the world’s best-selling artists), Rikanatti, Cin-A-Matik, The Punisher, R&D, 1Down, Steve E and Ca$his, who served as executive producer, Lil’ Lyss joined the all-star team as a producer on the album’s hit single “Imma Hustla” featuring Crooked I (from Slaughterhouse) and Sullee J. She also produced the track “Imma Hustla [W.C. Remix]” featuring Crooked I, Mistah F.A.B., Roccett and Goldie Gold. Lil’ Lyss clearly nailed the mark as both tracks were instant hits that were featured all over the internet, creating quite a buzz of anticipation for the full album’s release.

Shortly after The County Hound 2 was released, Lil’ Lyss was asked to come back as a producer on Ca$his’ album The County Hound 3, this time as a producer on the album single “A-Rod” featuring Emilio Rojas. From the zig-zagging synth melody, to the fast tapping open hats and rhythmic snaps, the music Lil’ Lyss came up with for the track creates the perfect hype and energy to drive Ca$his’ lyrics.

I usually prefer minors and syncopated drum patterns. Different sections and interesting arrangements. Every beat should stand out on its own and be complemented with creative lyrics, that makes a hit song that lasts for decades,” explains Lil’ Lyss about what makes a hot beat.

“Today they say this style of production is ‘too busy’ but that’s only because today’s ‘rappers’ have no talent, so they can’t handle a musical beat with changing drum patterns. And this is why I’m here to change that. I want to take hip hop forward and hopefully in the future create opportunities for the real talents out there. Most beats today are super boring, same 4 on the floor rhythm, same 3 chords, same 808s, I’m not a fan of that.”

Anyone who’s heard the tracks she’s produced knows that Lil’ Lyss’ work is the polar opposite of boring, she definitely knows how to craft music that supports the artist’s sound and keeps listeners engaged. Aside from her chameleonic style and inimitable skill, one of the factors that has set Lil’ Lyss apart from the pack and propelled her career forward is her drive to find new artists and never stop producing. After coming across Texas rapper Nique’s music on the internet Lil’ Lyss took the initiative to reach out and see if the two could collaborate.

“I heard his music on SoundCloud and I really liked his flow, so I contacted him right away and offered to work with him,” explains Lil’ Lyss. “He liked what I sent him and it happened pretty quickly. He told me what he wanted and we did it. He wanted a fun, simple hip hop track. In this case it worked perfectly because his style is very versatile and his flow alone could be a song on its own.”

In 2014 she produced Nique’s bangin’ track “Hold Something.” Referred to by many as an instant party starter, the upbeat track is one that, thanks to the combination of Lil’ Lyss’ brilliantly crafted beats and overall production, and Nique’s catchy lyrical flow, immediately draws listeners in and makes them want to move.  

 

While Lil’ Lyss has earned quite a reputation for herself as a gifted music producer for other artists, her solo work is nothing to be ignored. Earlier this year she was selected out of hundreds of producers from around the world to perform at the iStandard Producers Showcase in Los Angeles where her unique musical stylings caught the attention of both the crowd and the judges.

While most music producers remain the unsung heroes behind the scenes with the artist they create those stellar tracks for gaining all of the attention in the mainstream, the iStandard Producers Showcase gives the best producers in the business the opportunity to step outside the studio and put their talent on display for audiences across the states. The high-profile competition takes place in more than 30 cities across North America and partners with major festivals and music conferences such as SXSW, ASCAP EXPO, A3C Festival and others.

One of the five original tracks Lil’ Lyss played for the crowd was her new high-energy instrumental trap track “Beast Race,” which has been gaining traction with fans across the internet since its release.

Swiff D, one of the judges of the competition, said, “First, your automation game is crazy and second I don’t know what you’re using but I’ve haven’t heard such sounds in my whole career.”

A testament to the unyielding ardor of her drive, Lil’ Lyss is completely self-taught when it comes to the software she uses, which is rather surprising considering her unparalleled skill. While the internet has definitely made it easier for people to learn how to use software, producing quality music requires a whole lot more than simply knowing how to push buttons.

She says, “Everyone can learn how to use a certain tool but what are you going to make out of it? My strength is definitely the unique melodies even if they are simple, and the interesting drum patterns.”

One of the many reasons artists around the world are vying to work with Lil’ Lyss as their music producer is her innovative approach to creating music that not only fits their style and is strong enough to reach audiences in the mainstream, but also pushes the boundaries of the mainstream.

Up next for Lil’ Lyss is a collaboration with renowned Brazilian R & B star Angel B, who is known for the hit songs Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet ft. Marley Waters,” “Don’t Touch It ft Lorena Simpson,” “I Gotchu,” “Money” and others. Lil’ Lyss is slated to begin producing Angel B.’s next album later this year.  

About working with Angel B., Lil’ Lyss explains, “She wants something different for her next project that doesn’t sound like everything else on the radio, that’s why she decided to work with me. She knows that when it comes to creativity I’m the right person.”

 

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Film Producer Kseniya Yorsh’s Creative, Kinetic Approach to Movie Making

Film producer Kseniya Yorsh’s approach to cinematic excellence is a high-powered mixture of meticulous attention to detail and an impressive grasp of comprehensive overall scope of any project. Although a relatively recent arrival to Hollywood, Yorsh’s brief yet fruitful career trajectory encompasses a broad spectrum, including music videos, feature films, documentary and shorts—four of which were screened at the Cannes Short Film Corner. Most recently, Yorsh produced Visitors, an engrossing Science Fiction short drama that’s been getting a lot of attention and is set to be showcased in half a dozen prestigious film festivals across the country in 2017.

The Belarus-born Yorsh always gravitated towards the creative, a pursuit which inevitably led her to film. “As a kid and teenager I received all sorts of artistic training,” Yorsh said. “Classical piano, theater classes, film school, literary practice, and I learned 3 foreign languages. As a young adult I worked extensively in business, and all these disciplines have helped build my film producing career. Once I decided to devote myself fully to filmmaking, I came to the US, got a degree in Documentary Filmmaking at New York Film Academy and in Entertainment Business and Management at UCLA.”

Ambitious and focused, Yorsh perfected her craft with experience in almost every aspect of filmmaking. She has written, directed, acted, edited, and worked as an art director, make-up artist, production designer, even in the sound department. It’s an impressive background that’s created her near encyclopedic grasp of what a film producer must both anticipate and turn to the project’s advantage—locations, crew, casting, supervising daily operations on set—and her roster of achievements currently stands at 13 shorts and 3 feature films.

The intense, idiosyncratic Visitors, which combines themes of family dysfunction and chilling otherworldly suspense, offered Yorsh some unique opportunities for trouble shooting.

“Alon Juwal, the director, came to me with the script and the budget he had for the film and I transferred his ideas into a feasible reality,” Yorsh said. “We had some shots that were difficult from a technical standpoint. For example, we had a shot where we see the main character in a beam of light as if from a landing spaceship. We were filming at night so it had to be bright light coming from the sky, with a lot of wind, and us moving in closer and closer to his face. We had aerial shots; we had night shoots in a forest; we had a dog that we needed to film at night; we had guns, special effects.”

“When producing a short film, budget and logistical limitations make you become creative in solving technical challenges and making sure the shoot like this is done in comfortable and safe conditions for the actors and the crew. Figuring these things out was an exciting challenge for me as a producer.”

Characteristically, Yorsh met every concern head on and turned in a flawless finished product. Her vision and drive not only set Yorsh apart but also unfailingly impress her colleagues. “I first met Kseniya a few years ago and was immediately impressed by her clear vision, discipline, imagination and passion,” Sergei Stern, the film’s musical composer, said. “When I was recommended as a composer for Visitors, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Kseniya was the producer. She and Alon built a great team around this wonderful project and I think we did a solid, beautiful film that combines visual beauty with an emotional, dramatic story.”

Released in late 2016, the film—like just about every project Yorsh takes on—has been well received by audiences and recognized with awards at the Boston Science Fiction Film Festival and New York City International Film Festival. And since then, she has already produced an feature film and 2 shorts and has another currently in pre-production.

“I love producing because it’s about seizing an opportunity where one doesn’t exist before,” Yorsh said. “It’s about bringing people together and being able to recognize unique skills in a person and link it to someone else’s skills or written material. I love seeing people shine professionally and I love bringing good material to life.”

Cinematographer Ernesto Pletsch is True Storyteller for Award-Winning Film “Akirah”

AKIRAH, 2015. Dhruv Lapsia (1stAC), Derrick Cruz (director), me and Andrés Hernandez (gaffer)
Ernesto Pletsch with Dhruv Lapsia, Derrick Cruz, and Andres Hernandez

Despite always having a deep passion for art, photography, and film, Ernesto Pletsch was hesitant to follow his dream. Growing up in Porto Alegre, Brazil, there is no film industry, and not many people believe filmmaking is a sustainable career choice. However, Pletsch was determined, and refused to give up on what would make him truly happy. Audiences are thankful for this perseverance, as now he is an internationally successful cinematographer.

Pletsch sees cinematography for what it is, a true and important form of art. He is a visual storyteller, giving a voice to people that may not have had one without him. While working on the film Akirah, the voice was more metaphoric, as there was no dialogue or speaking parts. The storytelling was completely dependent on the lens of Pletsch’s camera, and he was completely up for the task.

“I liked shooting this project because I put all I had into it. Derrick, the director, trusted me and gave me freedom to try something unusual. As the film is purely visual, we had a lot to experiment with. There was lots of camera movements and dramatic lighting. I think Akirah is a cinematography guided film, so that’s why I was intrigued to work on it,” said Pletsch.

Pletsch was extremely vital to the success of the film as the director of photography, and after premiering at Warner Brothers Studios in Burbank in September of 2015, it went on to have success at international film festivals. It was an Official Selection for the Hollywood International Moving Pictures Film Festival in February 2016, where it won Best Student Short Drama, as well as the Gold Award Student Film at the International Independent Film Festival.

“It feels gratifying to have the film be so successful and recognized at these festivals. When directors, producers, actors or any other people who watched Akirah come up to me to congratulate, you feel gratified because you played an important piece in the success of it. And it’s only when each piece gets together that we can make something great,” said Pletsch.

Akirah shows the struggle of young gangs in a disturbed environment. It is a film about violence, an exploration of the psychological motivations of violence and the consequences that come with growing up in a culture of it. The film deals with our society structure and the people without a chance.

“Whoever is grown in this scenario is faded to the consequences of this culture. The culture of violence. My work was to take in consideration of this environment and try to translate this idea to spread this subject to a broader public,” said Pletsch.

To try to tell this story, Pletsch chose a specific style of cinematography, similar to that of David Fincher and Fight Club for look, colors and framing, and Akira Kurosawa in terms of the blocking of the actors and movement of camera. This approach was appreciated by director Derrick Cruz.

“Working with Ernesto has been one of the most seamless and easygoing partnerships of my career. His outstanding work lighting and composing shots speaks for itself. And I contribute his excellent craftsmanship and skill as the key factor in creating the quality and professional aesthetics of my films and TV show. But above all, what has kept me going back to Ernesto with my projects and films is his excellent on set demeanor, fearlessness and professionalism,” said Cruz. “Ernesto is great at what he does because of his passion and commitment to it. Watching him grow throughout our time together at school and now in our professional careers has been terrific. He is great at what he does because it is clear to me that every day he strives to get better and be better. And because of his dedication and love for photography and film he has continued to do so. I look forward to our continued partnership.”

It was Cruz who initially invited Pletsch to work on his film. He saw a bit of Pletsch’s work and knew he had the talent and skill to take the project to the level it needed to be. After discussing the project in detail, Pletsch was won over, and was eager to start working. Arriving to set, he knew no one, and now, two years later, the crew have made many films together with no plans of stopping.

“At first, filming Akirah was challenging. Being a film without any words, it was a big step to me in the pursuit of being a cinematographer. I was anxious. At the end of the shoot I was very pleased with the results. My crew was great, composed by talented people. Overall, it was a good stress. I was a little nervous by the responsibility put upon me, but it’s a natural process. We all have to pass through that at some point, and I did it,” Pletsch concluded.

Mike Goral’s narration truly takes viewers “Beyond the Hunt” on hit television show

Throughout his esteemed career, Mike Goral has become one of the voices of a generation. The voice actor started out as just a teenager, and his passion and commitment has led to him working with dozens of high profile networks in both his home country of Canada, and the United States. He has everything from television shows, documentaries, commercials, instructional videos, radio, and more. He is extremely versatile, and his voice is truly captivating; millions of people know this to be true.

Those watching Beyond the Hunt on The Outdoor channel have heard Goral’s compelling narration as he helped tell the story of husband and wife hunting duo Rick and Julie Kreuter on their outdoor adventures. Having heard Goral’s voice coming from their television speakers, the Kreauters reached out to Goral to be a part of the show. It was his first reality series, and it was a memorable experience for the seasoned voice actor.

“I thought this was an interesting story. I grew up in the city, and the people in this series were outdoorsy types. So, instantly, I was immersed in that culture. It was fascinating. It made me feel like I lived a real sheltered existence. They would go out into the wilderness to shoot footage for weeks. I had never met anyone who would go out into the wild for that long. I honestly don’t think I would do well in the elements for that length of time,” Goral joked.

The opportunity to work on something completely different than anything he had done before was enticing to Goral, so he immediately agreed to working on the show. Despite often just working alone in a sound booth, Goral had the opportunity to chat with Rick and Julie over the phone and through email prior to working on the show. Creating that familiarity helped to tell their story.

“There were some emotional twists and turns. Sometimes, the animal hunted would get away, and there would be times of disappointment among the cast. It was important for me to convey the tone of each scene carefully. The times, they would wait around for an animal that would never show up. It was a true game of cat and mouse,” said Goral.

The Kreuters act as producers on the show, as well as producer Jason Miller, who also scripted Goral’s lines. Miller has been producing television shows for the past 18 years, and says there is always a challenge when it comes to finding the perfect Voice-Over talent to fit a specific sound to put that perfect touch on a project.

“I was lucky to find Mike to be the Voice-Over talent for Beyond the Hunt with Rick and Julie Krueter. His voice talent, inflection, and professionalism to create the ‘perfect read’ always goes above and beyond awesome,” said Miller. “Over the years, working with Mike Goral has been a pleasure. Mike is just that professional that not only works to get the read done right, but, I’ve seen him be extremely flexible to get projects done after-hours and on weekends to help meet deadlines. Without a doubt, Mike Goral has just been awesome to work with.

He is an extremely talented voice-over artist. He has a talent for multiple sounds, inflections, and personalities to fit any project. It’s always a pleasure of mine to work with Mike.”

Goral agrees that working with Miller was a great experience, saying that his creativity added to the script. He once had Goral record the video of himself doing the voiceover session, and then used the video to actually feature him in the show. This was the first time Goral, as a voice actor, had ever made an on-camera appearance doing voice narration for a series.

“It was a lot of fun, and Jason came up with the concept on the fly. He is probably one of the friendliest producers I’ve ever worked with. We hit it off instantly. Jason was an amazing writer, so his scripts made my job such a pleasure. Really love telling great stories, and a great story starts with great writing. This was one of Jason’s many talents. He had so many creative ideas,” said Goral.

Goral’s voice was an additional character on Beyond the Hunt that viewers looked forward to hearing every week. There was no better choice as narrator, and Goral’s passion for what he does and eagerness to still learn despite his valued reputation and established career are what make him one of the best.

“I learned that it takes a lot of resilience to be out in the wild for weeks at a time. Seeing the challenges through the eyes of the cast, while recorded the narration rom my comfortable studio was very eye-opening for me. I was exposed to a culture and lifestyle totally different from my own. It was so interesting, and a lot of fun to be a part of. Nothing beats a great story to tell, and this, once again was my privilege as the in-show narrator,” Goral concluded.

“Changes” Marks Director Roberto Escamilla’s Move into Narrative Storytelling

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Director Roberto Escamilla

Originally from Mexico City, Mexico director Roberto Escamilla has carved out a remarkable reputation for himself as a diversely talented director whose work has continued to appeals to audiences in Latin America and abroad.

Escamilla recently wrote and directed the film “Changes,” which is scheduled to premiere at the UCLAxFilmFestival on May 6th in Los Angeles, as well as the Mexican Consulate in LA on May 25. Starring Joshua A Furtado (“Haunted Christmas”), Jade Lorna Sullivan (“Hold Fast Good Luck”) and Chaz Kao (“Lucifer”), “Changes” brings to life a coming of age story that follows Mitchell (Furtado), a 16-year-old boy who is taken to a brothel on his birthday where he is pressured by his friends to lose his virginity. Weaving together themes of peer-pressure, sexuality and the transition from adolescence into manhood, “Changes” is definitely a film you won’t want to miss.

Aside from “Changes” Escamilla also recently wrote and directed the first episode of the upcoming series “Baila!” starring Mario Morán (“La Doña,” “Como Dice el Dicho”), Samantha Siqueiros (“Vino El Amor”) and Leonel Deluglio (“Champs 12,” “Cuando Toca La Campana”).

Produced by Este Par Films and Escamilla’s production company Grillo Films, “Baila!” is set in a boarding school in Mexico where bullying is out of control. In an effort to combat the rise in bullying, two teachers join forces to convince the principal to reinstate the school’s artistic programs, the only problem is she won’t give them any funding. That’s when the school geography teacher Hector, played by Diego de Tovar (“El Señor de los Cielos,” “Opening Night”), reconnects with his street hip hop dance roots and opens a dance class.

According Escamilla, through the class “the students find an escape from their problems, with the class opening them up to a new world that will help them build strong friendship with each other.”

The highly anticipated new series is currently in negotiations with several networks in Mexico and is expected to be released within the next two years, so stay tuned for that!

Poster for the series "Baila!"
Poster for the series “Baila!”

For Roberto Escamilla the film “Changes” and the upcoming series “Baila!” mark a transition into more narrative storytelling. Prior to these, he made his mark as a sought after commercial director, directing commercials for well-known brands such Karo, Nescafe Taster’s Choice and Sky Blue To Go.

In 2014 and 2015 he was invited to join the Mexican Association of Advertising Agencies (AMAP) in France for the Cannes Lions Awards, which celebrates the best creative work in the world. There he produced and directed coverage of the awards, as well as exclusive interviews with notable figures such as “Baywatch” star David Hasselhoff, Ogilvy & Mather creative director Tham Khai Meng, and Mexican jurors Sebastián Arrechedera, Jessica Apellaniz and Hector Fernandez. The interviews were televised by AMAP as part of #CannesEnMexico and you can check out one of them below.

Last year Escamilla was called in to work as the second unit director on location in Mexico on the critically acclaimed Dodge commercial “Bandits” with director Mati Moltrasio. Moltrasio is well-known throughout the advertising industry for his work directing commercials for Kraken Rum, Jeep, Toyota, TNT, Dominoes, the hit series “Game of Thrones” and many more.

Moltrasio says, “Roberto was in the project from the very beginning working with me and making decisions. He was in charge of casting the whole secondary cast in Durango… During the shooting day he was in charge of the second unit, doing close ups and inserts for the spot. He also worked with me helping with the most difficult shots of the spot. The final product wouldn’t be the same without his approach and creative ideas.”

In the commercial, which stars Danny Trejo (“From Dusk til Dawn,” “Machete”), Trejo leads an unassuming car buyer out of the dealership doors for a routine test-drive, but instead of walking onto a concrete lot, the two find themselves in the middle of the desert. In front them waits a shiny B5 Blue Dodge Challenger, and in the distance, a gang of bandits on horseback quickly approaches. They hop in the car and the new car buyer is immediate sold as he does donuts in the desert and coats the men on horseback with dust.

As they were shooting two commercials simultaneously and the team’s main base was in Mexico City, Escamilla travelled ahead to Durango, Durango where most of the “Bandits” commercial was shot in order to lay the groundwork and scout the location.

Escamilla explains, “For this project I traveled to Durango a couple times before the official production to do the casting with locals, see the horses, because it involved horses, the scouting etc.,  I also did the tech scout with the DP, and all of the shooting plans. Once the main unit arrived I took care of directing the second unit since we needed to cover a lot of stuff in one day.”

Besides just being a hit with audiences and undoubtedly boosting sales for the Dodge Challenger, the “Bandits” commercial earned the Bronze Award in the ‘Craft/ Film Craft/ Direction’ category at the 2016  U.S. Hispanic Idea Awards, a major award ceremony that celebrates outstanding creative achievement in advertising generated by Hispanic or general market agencies targeting Hispanic consumers.

In addition to the award for “Bandits,” Escamilla’s work as the director of the promos for the popular Mexican historical drama “The Eagle’s Spell” also earned the 2012 PromaxBDA Gold Award for Best Package Design.

Escamilla’s work directing commercials has definitely garnered attention from audiences around the world, but his work as a narrative director is where his artistic vision is given the breadth to truly shine; and with the upcoming releases of  “Changes” and “Baila!,” we know we’ll be seeing a whole lot more from director Roberto Escamilla.

“I really feel grateful that I’m able to tell stories to the people. I love that with my profession I can reach people’s hearts by telling my stories. We get to live from art, not every profession allows this,” explains Escamilla.

 

DAHOV AND JEREMIH BRING MUSIC FANS TOGETHER

 

The Arts are often the key to a universal experience and language among all people of the planet. While the accent of different paintings, cinema, and music may reveal their point of origin, the ability of these mediums to convey emotion and a connection with others is often beyond the words and language they might contain. It has often been said that the work of an artist is that of bringing all peoples together by conveying the emotions we all share, regardless of our background. As technology brings the world closer, the assimilation of different cultures and their artistic contributions is clearly evident and results in a decrease of noticing the differences and an increase in the appreciation of what these differences offer to the collective global experience. The Canadian percussionist/drummer/entertainer knowns simply as Dahov performed at a concert with American artist Jeremih (Jeremih Felton) exciting the crowd at the Olympia Theatre in Montreal. Jeremih is a Chicago native whose multiple high charting hits like “Birthday Sex” and “All About You” broke into the top five on the Billboard charts. His legions of fans are based in the R&B/Hip Hop world while Dahov is a solo artist known for House, EDM, and various other musical forms with which he infuses Latin and Middle Eastern rhythmic ideas. While both artists share a love of percussion from their early teens, each of them has cultivated and evolved into their own style and brand of musical entertainment. Their performance together at the Olympia Theater shows how these artists brought their fan bases together for a night of thrilling entertainment, proving that we can appreciate the differences we have while recognizing a common thread.

For his appearance in Montreal, Jeremih and his management were seeking out a Canadian artist who would both be familiar to the crowd as well as be exciting enough to create a feverish tone for the concert. Patrick Farah (owner of Sky Entertainz) was consulted and he immediately suggested Dahov. Patrick and Dahov have worked together on numerous large scale entertainment events in Canada. Farah declares, “Dahov’s unique style and looks are definitely a selling point. With such passion in what he does, he sets the bar at a complete different level from others in this business! He is also such a wonderful person and he reflects his personality in his work ethic. He is the type of musician and entertainer who creates a special bond with his audience. Rather than setting himself above the audience, Dahov has an amazing ability to pull everyone in and making them feel as if they are in an intimate party, relaxed and able to have fun.”

STUDIO11 taken by ARA SASSOUNIAN (well known artistphotographer)

(Photo courtesy of Ara Sassounian)

This event featuring Jeremih and Dahov is a template for how different artists can create an experience for an audience that is eclectic and yet relative. While Jeremih is a singer/rapper, Dahov is a percussionist who does not sing. Both artists perform with DJ’s and/or tracks and, at least in this situation, both had dancers joining them onstage. Very similar production styles but very different content. Perhaps the most amazing aspect of Dahov’s ability is that he is able to entertain the audience by playing a hand percussion instrument know as a Darbuka. This middle eastern “goblet drum” is the core and essence of his one-man band (supplemented by tracks). It is truly amazing to see how this talented artist can drive a crowd (in this case, the 700-member audience that packed out the Olympia) to a literal feverish pitch. His technique and musicality is mesmerizing while his ability to hold the crowd in the palm of his hand and create the excitement equal to any outdoor EDM festival is…well, jaw dropping. The synergy between the artists’ performance was a great success but was not necessarily intuitive. At a meeting prior to the performance that night, Jeremih and Dahov discussed how to approach the differences in their musical styles in order to insure a cohesive quality for the crowd. While much of Jermih’s music is more relaxed in tempo (sometimes even romantic), Dahov is known for his upbeat party vibe style. Dahov explains his approach to manifesting the appropriate vibe for the evening, “We wanted to do something different than the usual upbeat show, so I used Arabic oriental techniques. This style usually calls for you to play for belly dancers and, even though there are faster beats, we performed the slower beats using the derbake percussion because it allows for very intricate and interesting rhythmic ideas. It was a perfect match to afterwards fade with Jeremih’s first song.” Dahov readily admits that, just as the crowd was exposed to different musical influences at this performance, the percussionist/entertainer himself also gained an even greater appreciation for his fellow entertainer. He notes, “Jeremih is truly an amazing talent. It’s always educational for me to see how another artist relates to the crowd, how they design the rhythm of their show, and how the crowd reacts to what they do. Anyone who has seen Jeremih perform has seen the evidence first hand of how great he is. I knew his music but seeing him live gives me a deeper understanding of his talent. I like Hip Hop and Rap but I am more into a club house, EDM, Latin kind of music. I love the feel of the beat, the melodies, especially when I perform to these kinds of music it feels like I am actually inside the music…producing it! I like Bachata, in particular Romeo Santos. Bachata is such a relaxing type of music. I enjoy listening to it whenever and wherever. It makes me feel like I’m somewhere down south sitting on the beach and watching the ocean! Another type of Latin music that I like is reggaetón. Reggaetón is all about the party; the positive mood and tropical paradise! EDM and house artists like Calvin Harris and Tiesto are my favorites. I have seen them both perform in Las Vegas and their music is on another level! Their collaborations with other artists are perfect! The melodies and sound samples they integrate enter your ears and gets your emotions jumping. I’m hoping to come to the US and pursue my own version of the path that these artists have forged. I have proven to myself and the people of Canada that a drummer can perform by himself and command the attention of sold out crowds. Performing and communicating with American artists like Jeremih has only made my desire to become a part of the great American music and entertainment industry even more attractive…and seem more possible.”

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Film Editor Fei Zheng Masterfully Edits Narrative Film “Red”

 

Film Editor Fei Zheng
Film Editor Fei Zheng

So much goes into a film in order to create the visual story that unfolds on the screen, but in the end, it’s the editor who truly sets the tone and pace of the story. Without them, all there’d be is hundreds of hours of costly, disconnected footage. Someone has got to sew it all together in a way that piques our interest and touch us on an emotional level, and one of those uniquely talented individuals is Fei Zheng.

Over the past five years Zheng’s work as an editor has become increasingly well known throughout China and the United States. Regardless of whether she is editing narrative films, television series, commercials or music videos, Zheng is a master of the cut. She knows exactly what shots to choose, where to slow down and where to speed up the footage, and what color tones to use in order to set the mood.

While her work as a film editor, specifically on the 2016 films “Red,” “She” and “Broken,” have proven her artistry when it comes to cutting together highly impactful narratives, she began her career editing television series back homes in China several years ago. Before moving to the U.S., Zheng was the lead editor at Maya Village Culture Communication Company in Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China. There she edited Hangzhou Television’s popular series “Ye You Shen,” which airs weekly on China’s HTV-2, and “Xiao Yaer,” a weekly program that airs on HTV-5, Hangzhou Television’s children’s channel.

With the series “Ye You Shen” focusing on Hangzhou nightlife, and “Xiao Yaer” being a children’s series about interesting places, Zheng not only perfected her skill at simultaneously editing two shows with totally different concepts, but also editing under an incredibly short deadline. Whatsmore, Zheng was not only the editor of both TV series, she was also the director; and, she would often have only three days between coming up with the concept for each episode to the day it aired on national television!

“I would create an idea for new episode and write the script in one day…  After one day of shooting, I would translate the footage to my computer and begin to edit. I would arrange the footage and do rough cut based on my script in one day, because I already directed everything on set, so I was familiar with the footage. The third day, I would include the voice overs, music, sound effects, and subtitles,” explains Zheng.

“This experience helped me to learn to edit under tight deadlines, how to quickly spot the best shots to tell the story, and how to clearly present the information in the show within a short time slot.”

Since moving to the U.S. several years ago, Zheng has focused her editing talents on cutting together narrative films, but she hasn’t left short form content behind completely. She recently edited the “K-Drama” and Marble” commercials for Myanmar’s leading dairy brand Alpine Dairy, which began airing across Asia earlier this year. While her skill editing commercial campaigns has been a huge draw factor for the post-production companies that hire her, it’s through narrative projects that her gift as an editor truly has the chance to shine.

Last year she edited the touching romance film “Red” directed by Yuxin Zhang. Centering on a Chinese man named Moyan who moved to San Francisco to find work, the film follows Moyan as he runs into the lover he left back home in China 14 years earlier. The beautifully shot film perfectly portrays the understandable heart-ache and nostalgia that erupts between the two people as a random coincidence brings them back together again.

Zheng’s work as the editor of the film was key in driving home the film’s emotionally touching story. Upon its release in 2016, “Red” garnered a unanimously positive response from festivals across the U.S. with the film earning awards at the LA Spotlight Film Festival, being nominated at Mississippi’s 5th Sun and Sand Festival, as well as being chosen as an Official Selection of the  8th Downtown Film Festival Los Angeles, the SFAI Showcase, 18th Annual NewFilmmakers New York screening event in Manhattan, and more.

“I slowed down the pacing for the film and used the limited footage to make each frame interesting…. I checked the footage back and forth to choose the best shot for each character’s performance. I also sped up some parts to create a big contrast with the emotional and slow parts,” explains Zheng about her work on the film. “At the same time, I did the color correction to make the frames more attractive and layered, which also improved the emotion of the film. “

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Fei Zheng at the screening of “Red: during The Los Angeles Spotlight Film Festival

Besides being a supremely gifted film editor who sews together the footage and creates a seamless and highly impactful story like the one that unfolds in the film “Red,” Zheng is an expert when it comes to color correction.

About the color correction and overall editing Zheng did for the film, director Yuxin Zhang says,”Fei Zheng was the producer, editor and color corrector on the film. Her work made the story more emotional and visually beautiful than I ever could have imagined. She is definitely one of the best editors I’ve worked with, and I look forward to working with her on other projects in the future.”

Having successfully carved out a prominent position for herself in the U.S. film industry as a multi-talented editor whose extraordinary ability to turn hundreds of hours of footage into a seamless story that touches audiences on an emotional level, it comes as no surprise that a long list of productions are vying to attach Fei Zheng to their projects as a lead editor.

Zheng is currently slated to edit 65 episodes of Mango Television’s upcoming series “We fall in love in New York,” and the series “The Brightest Star In The Night Sky” starring Chinese celebrities Zitao Huang (“Edge of Innocence,” “Railroad Tigers”) aka Z. Tao, and Yi Sun (“My Original Dream,” “The Legend of Miyue”), as well as the thriller series “The Decoding Game,” which is currently being developed by executive producer Han Sanping, who was a producer on the films “Shaolin,” “The Karate Kid,” “Mission: Impossible III” and several other notable features.

 

Fashion Photographer In Focus: Irem Harnak

Some photographers have the rare ability to flawlessly capture a scene through the lens of their camera and create images that are nearly impossible to forget. And Turkish born fashion photographer Irem Harnak, who is known for her work as the photographer behind campaigns for Birdy & Grace, Titika, Joeffer Caoc, Zubaida Zang and Albert Yuen, is one of them.

While Harnak has become one of Canada’s leading fashion photographers since moving there over 13 years ago, she didn’t begin her photography career until she moved to London to study multimedia during college. There she says she was “inspired by the city, it’s rhythm, speed, architecture as well as various cultures…”

Harnak earned quite a bit of international attention in 2010 when she was selected as the Merit Winner of PDN’s international fashion photography competition, “The Look.” For the competition, which focuses on fashion and beauty imagery, Harnak captured her male subjects in a striking black and white photos series that tells a story of classic mod glamour.

“The photos are of male models getting ready at a fashion show backstage. It is a cinematic capture of the anticipation, stress and boredom of people at a hectic environment of a fashion show,” explains Harnak.

Over the years the cream of the crop of magazine publications, such as Marie Claire China, Superior Magazine, Flare, Fashion, Fantastics, 1968, Pause, FAB, Fiasco, The Fashionisto, PRESS the Fashion magazine and many more have all featured Harnak’s captivating work.

Whether she shooting high fashion editorials or attention grabbing street-style photographs, Harnak knows exactly how to set the scene and pose her subject in order to create captivating imagery. Her versatility behind the camera is immediately evident when comparing the slew of striking editorials she has shot for the popular Canadian magazine, PRESS The Fashion magazine, over the last few years.

 Irem Harnak
Katya R. shot by Irem Harnak

In a 2013 editorial for the magazine, Harnak captured Elite Model Katya R. with a visual flavor that screams dark, vintage androgyny. What’s unique about the photos is the way Harnak manages to keep Moore’s feminine side intact, even in the midst of the highly contrasted images and the model’s wardrobe of suits.

 Irem Harnak
Carly Moore shot by Irem Harnak

In 2013 Harnak had another editorial included in PRESS the Fashion magazine, this time depicting model Carly Moore, who’s been featured in Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar on several occasions and has walked the runway for the world’s top designers including Gucci, Calvin Klein and John Galliano. Dressed in high-end Chanel and Dior pieces, Harnak captures Moore looking fresh, edgy and fierce in a black and white spread that undoubtedly caught the attention of PRESS’ readers.

 Irem Harnak
Eunique shot by Irem Harnak

Her shots of Eunique from Emer Olsen Models for the ‘Summer Flux’ editorial featured in PRESS The Fashion’s Summer 2015 issue are both fierce and fun. Through her use of a popping tangerine background in the shots of Eunique, who wears a dark hoodie by Silence + Noise and hip sliders by Opening Ceremony, Harnak created the perfect juxtaposition of fun summer vibrance with sporty chic sensibility.

“On each story I came up with the mood and did the casting to find the perfect girl that would fit the concept. For that reason it was really liberating and fun,” says Harnak about the editorials she shot for PRESS The Fashion magazine.  

In addition to being the photographer behind numerous high-profile campaigns, Harnak works regularly with leading Toronto modeling agencies such as Elite, Sutherland, Elmer Olsen, Spot6, Ciotti, B&M and Lang for editorial and commercial work– something that has provided her with the perfect pool of diverse talents when casting for shoots.

While the striking editorials Harnak has shot for countless publications over the years have brought her to the forefront of the fashion photography industry, it’s her versatility as a photographer that has made her such a successful and sought after artist. As the photographer behind famous women’s golf apparel company Birdy & Grace’s spring 2014 campaign, Harnak proved her ability to capture commercial print photographs just as easily as she does high fashion. Her shots of Golf Channel’s spokesperson Win McMurry for the Birdy & Grace are stunning and right on point with the classy, upscale Birdy & Grace brand.

Irem Harnak
Win McMurry for Birdy & Grace shot by Irem Harnak

Over the past decade Irem Harnak has become one of the hottest fashion photographers in the industry today, however her skills are by no means limited to shooting fashion projects alone.

Harnak says “being able to capture a cinematic moment” is what drew her to photography in the first place. With that in mind, it’s not at all surprising that with her skill and creativity she has also been chosen to work as the director of photography on several film projects over the years.

To get a look at her work cinematic work in motion, make sure to check out the feature film “Personal Space,” a beautifully shot romantic drama starring Mark DeNicola from the series “Omega” and James McDougall from the award-winning film “SOS: Save Our Skins” and “ABCs of Death 2.”

“From Sydney With Love” Star Karan Sagoo in the Upcoming Film “Followed”

Karan Sagoo
Karan Sagoo shot by Toranj Kayvon

Indian-born actor Karan Sagoo recently wrapped production on the upcoming horror film “Followed,” which also stars Satellite Award Winner John Savage from the seven-time Oscar nominated film “The Godfather: Part III” and the five-time Oscar Award winning film “The Deer Hunter,” Blanca Blanco (“Bullet,” “American Romance”) and Kelsey Griswold from the two-time Golden Globe Award winning series “American Crime Story.”

Expected for release later this year, the film is depicted through a series of video blog posts made by an unseen vlogger whose interest in the macabre leads him to take his show, and a crew of three friends, to a famous Los Angeles hotel with a reportedly haunted past. As the group traverses the hotel in search of answers, they soon find themselves getting more than what they bargained for when they encounter an evil entity with malicious intentions. And that is where Karan first comes into play.

A key character and driving force in the plot, Karan seamlessly embodies the masked demonic character using his body movements to elicit fear within the amateur film crew in “Followed.” His spot-on performance is definitely the driving force behind the film’s suspense.

Oddly enough, Karan was initially cast in the role of an aggressive and mentally unstable drug dealer who goes after the crew as they document the hauntings (a critical role which he plays in the film as well) however, after the film’s director, Antoine Le (“Bar Union”), saw Karan’s extraordinary command over his movements and body language, he immediately cast him to play the lead role as the film’s main antagonist.

“Karan is an incredibly talented actor. After watching the way he used his body as the deranged drug dealer in my film, I asked him to try to embody the evil demon for the film and he nailed it. I cast him for the second role right away. He was able to bring both characters to life, from their mannerisms to their body language, perfectly. Having him in the film has definitely been a huge asset,” says Le.

It will come as no surprise to those that have followed Karan’s career to date that his mastery over his body caught the attention of “Followed” director Antoine Le. Prior to embarking on his acting career, Karan Sagoo carved out a prominent position for himself in the fashion and advertising industries as a model, a field of work he continues to be sought after for today.

Over the course of his career Karan has been featured in some of the world’s most popular magazines, including Elle magazine, DNA, Yuva Youth magazine, Rolling Stone magazine, Man’s World, Society magazine and more. His charisma, good looks and ability to transform himself and embody different looks and personalities (which has been a huge asset in his acting career as well) has led him to be featured in ads for a diverse list of global companies such as Virgin Atlantic, Toyota, UK Trade and Investment, Videocon, Liril Soap, Max Lifestyle, Union bank, Focus T-shirts, E-Zone, Ernst and Young and others.

Having been on billboards and inside the pages of countless magazines, Karan Sagoo is probably one of the most recognizable male models in the eyes of viewers across India; but what he’s achieved as an actor has made his name known on a global scale. Karan first hit the big time when he played one of the lead bachelor’s in the hit series “The Bachelorette India,” which aired on India’s major TV network Life OK. While his role on the series definitely made him a major heartthrob in the eyes of women across in India several years ago, his dynamic talent as an actor is what has kept him on everyone’s mind.

karan sagoo
From Sydney With Love film poster

In 2012 Karan starred in the hit romantic comedy film “From Sydney With Love,” which follows Megha, a small town girl from West Bengal, India, who is in for a major culture shock when she travels to Sydney, Australia for college.

Starring alongside some of India’s most sought after actors, including Bidita Bag (“X: Past is Present,” “Icche”) who plays Meghaa, as well as Ronjini Chakraborty (“Man’s World,” “At The End of it All”) and Evelyn Sharma (“Gadaar: The Traitor,” “Kuch Kuch Locha Hai”), Karan takes on the lead role of Suhail Syed in the film. A narcissist from an extremely wealthy family, Karan’s character Suhail becomes the film’s major antagonist through his relationship with Megha, who he sees as a challenge, which leads him to pursue her romantically.

Karan’s performance as Suhail is definitely one of the highlights in “From Sydney With Love,” as he easily embodies the attractive, but overly egotistical character in a way that makes him easy to hate.

Directed by Prateek Chakravorty, who produced the hit series “Born Stylish” and the films “Jomer Raja Dilo Bor”and “Tujhya Vin Mar Javaan,” “From Sydney with Love” premiered in

Sydney, Australia and was screened across the globe in the U.S., Australia, Canada, England and India. The film was produced by Pramod Films, one of the most recognizable names in Bollywood cinema as the production company behind major hits such as “Deedar,” “Barood,” “Jagir,” “Azad” and others.  

In addition to “From Sydney With Love,” Karan is known for his lead roles as Professor Drew in the docu-drama series “Cry Wolfe,” Mukul Sinha in the crime series “Khotey Sikkey,” as well as the series “Rishta.com” and the multi-award winning film “Band Baaja Baaraat.”

Karan took on the lead role of Vikram in the romantic comedy “Band Baaja Baaraat,” which won the coveted Aspara Award, Filmfare Award and many more. Directed by Maneesh Sharma (“Fan,” “Ladies vs. Ricky Bahl”),  “Band Baaja Baaraat” follows two wedding planners, Shruti played by Zee Cine Award winner Anushka Sharma (“Sultan,” “PK,” “Nh10”) and Bittoo played by BIG Star Entertainment Award winner Ranveer Singh (“Finding Fanny”), tasked with planning the weddings of three very different and demanding couples.

Karan Sagoo
Band Baaja Baarat film poster

One of the couples is Vikram, played by Karan, and his fiance Preity, played by Kanksha (“Paranoia”). Due to Vikram’s family wealth and status, he has the means to give Preity the wedding she always dreamed of, even if it means bringing in India’s biggest star to perform at the wedding. A key character in the film, Karan’s memorable and magnetic performance as Vikram in the critically acclaimed film “Band Baaja Baaraat” definitely earned the actor quite a bit of attention both in India and abroad.

Aside from playing two lead roles in the upcoming horror film “Followed,” Karan is currently featured in a commercial for TagFi, a popular new social networking app that allows users to connect and find groups of people with common interests and passions, and easily make plans. In the commercial Karan plays Neil, an on-the-go business professional who is unable to meet and make connections with people due to his busy lifestyle, but thanks to TagFi, Neil’s social life is buzzing.

“The ad has been featured on app download services worldwide such as iTunes and the Apple App Store, and has been viewed millions of time. Karan is super professional and dedicated to his craft. He has a very natural charisma and gravitas as an actor that really comes across on screen. He has played a lead role in endearing Tagfi to millions around the globe,” says award-winning director Cole Mueller, who directed the Tagfi commercial.

In the commercial world, Karan is also known for being the face of major ads for Mother Dairy ice cream, Samsung, Raymonds suits, Ariel detergent, Lipton iced tea, Sompo insurance, Lux soap, Fiama Di Wills body wash, Volkswagen and more.

From his lead roles in several highly acclaimed films to his illustrious career as an international model, it’s easy to call Karan Sagoo one of India’s hottest exports– and he’s definitely one you should keep your eyes out for!

CLOAKED IN CONTRADICTION WITH JANE JOHNSTON

As time passes, the natural evolution of things can bring previously separated entities into close proximity and result in direct interaction. For example, in the past television was often looked upon as the less able and qualified sibling of feature films. Modern technology (streaming services, downloads, etc.) has brought about a modern golden age of TV. The shows available from the deluge of networks has given birth to productions that rival and sometimes exceed those of the silver screen. The ever increasing visibility of Hollywood A-listers on TV proves that these individuals recognize the quality of work being presented on the small screen these days. While not as obvious to the viewers, the talented men and women behind the screens are also found vacillating between feature film and television productions. Producers, directors, cinematographers, and others have embraced both mediums with respect to their quality work.  Costume designer Jane Johnston is one such respected professional. With a long list of film credits that includes: The Ghost and The Whale, Mission Impossible II, Last Cab To Darwin, and Macbeth (for which she won and AFI Award for Best Costume Design), Johnston has been vetted many times over. Like the marquee names she has worked with on feature films, Jane has lent her talents to a number of TV films as well. Whether adding to the authenticity and emotion of the story or assisting the actors to play against type and find the essence of their character, Johnston’s thumbprint is always there in every production.

Jane signed on as costume designer for 2015’s “A Deadly Adoption” without any information about the cast; she simply wanted to work with Emmy award-winning director and producer Rachel Lee Goldenberg. Having worked with Rachel before, she was certain only the most talented would be involved. “A Deadly Adoption” would afford Johnston the opportunity to work with two of Hollywood’s biggest names, Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig. In contrast to what one would presume, the film is a drama. With the two leads playing against type and public expectation, Jane would need to create a look for both of them that trepidatiously went down the path of seriousness. Always approaching the character first rather than the actor, Jane notes, “I just needed to get my head into the character and not think about the actors comedic past. I dressed them as if it were any two actors playing these roles. Both of them were so great to work with. They took their roles and their jobs seriously so it was the same approach I’ve had on other films. In this case the characters that were being played by Will Ferrell and Kristin Wiig were reasonably conservative and as they were playing it ‘straight’, there wasn’t meant to be anything that alluded to the humor they are known for. This also helped to contrast to the latter part of the film where things start to go awry and the craziness begins.”

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Johnston’s process is to read the script (often multiple times) to discover who the character truly is…in much the same manner as the actors approach it. Preparing looks for the characters based on her own interpretation and conversations with the director, producer, and cinematographer, Jane finds that the fitting process with the actors often aids them in connecting to and discovering the characters. Many subtleties are taken into consideration. Jane explains, “Robert Benson (played by Ferrell) is a conservative man and it seemed to me that he came from the Midwest. He had been through some challenging times in his life and was ‘back on track’. I dressed him in classic clothing such as chinos and long sleeve button through shirts. His look didn’t change much until the later part of the film but it always remained true to his character. I think it was important to have the character look ‘straight’ particularly as it was being played by Will Ferrell and his fans will automatically have projected humor onto him. Kristen Wiig’s [role as] Sarah Benson was a little more ‘quirky’. She ran a stall at the markets and sold fresh breads and produce so I wanted her look to have that quality about it. She was also a busy mother and wife. I dressed Kristen in a few pairs of overalls and t-shirts and sneakers. She still looked cute but in a practical way. Again her look didn’t change much so it was a matter of giving the character depth and having them look believable.” Much like a game of ‘spot the difference’ anything that did not perfectly match the lifestyle and feel of these characters would take viewers immediately out of the scene and remind them that they were watching two of comedy’s biggest stars. This all meant that Johnston’s choices were highly important and ever so slight in their leanings. The film’s director, Goldenberg, proclaims, “Since both Mr. Ferrell and Ms. Wiig are arguably two of the biggest actors to star in a Marvista film, it was absolutely necessary that we have only the most talented and skilled costumer such as Jane on set. Needless to say, Jane was absolutely crucial to Marvista Entertainment as evidenced by the way that she perfectly captured the company’s brand of their films’ multi-dimensional but relatable characters. Through her impeccable costume design prowess, she became one of Marvista’s go-to department heads.”

Johnston was also brought aboard by Goldenberg for Marvista’s “Escape from Polygamy.” While this production may not have had all the instantly recognizable names of “A Deadly Adoption” the performances and the look of it resulted in overwhelming ratings. “Escape From Polygamy” was rated first in its premiere, which brought Marvista to global renown. As a result, Marvista garnered outstanding profit and saw an increase in revenue. This is the story of two young people in love who persevere in a romance in the midst of their Mormon community. The challenge for Jane was to create a look for the characters that was set in a modern polygamous compound. Sharon Bordas, EVP (Production & Development) of Marvista remarks, “I was so impressed with Jane’s professional and creative presence on set. She is resourceful and inventive. She possesses and exhibits the qualities that Marvista looks for in a costume designer: an artistic eye and the ability to find intelligent solutions, especially when working with a limited budget.”

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Utilizing high collared conservative blouses and overalls and then offsetting them with slim fitting/modern clothes and even Chuck Taylor shoes, Jane blended the traditional and contemporary to inject the struggle of the characters and their actions. When asked about the incredible ratings response to “Escape from Polygamy” and her work on this production, she reveals, “It’s definitely has a self-esteem boost to it for sure! I was very proud of my work and I received some fantastic feedback and acknowledgement from many of the actors, the producer Sharon Bordas and Rachel the director. It was my privilege to take care of the actors and their characters and to fulfill my role as costume designer.”