DAN WAINER IS LIVING EVERY MAN’S DREAM

For decades, men have wanted to be one of two characters; Superman or James Bond. These icons represent the epitome of masculinity. While the caped son of Krypton generally appeals to mostly prepubescent males, once a boy’s hormones begin stirring there is no one more representative of a real life scenario of having it all than 007. This charismatic, suave, self-assured archetype embodies all the qualities to which most men aspire. He almost always wins and even when he doesn’t, he handles the situation with class and composure…and he somehow always manages to capture the attention of the women he sets his sights upon. The actors who have portrayed Bond are legendary. They number in the single digits but a very select few have joined them in different mediums. Noted Brazilian model Dan Wainer has appeared representing a number of clients and graced the covers of such internationally recognized publications as Men’s Health and others but it was his work appearing in Playboy magazine for a pictorial that celebrated 007 which he counts among his career high points. No doubt Wainer was able to live out the dream, however brief, of millions of males across the globe to become James Bond for the most celebrated men’s magazine of all time. Nothing short of a Nobel Prize, winning the World Cup, or the Superbowl could have elevated his “cool” level among his gender.

When Dan’s modeling agency pitched him to Playboy for the Bond shoot, it was because he shares so many qualities with the book & film character. There’s no waifish quality to the steely stare that Wainer possesses, an it’s one that’s full of gravitas. That’s not to say that this model took the job lightly; he put plenty of time in studying the body movement and attitude of his all-time favorite 007, Sean Connery. The unexaggerated charm, strength, and humor of Connery is clearly seen in this Playboy editorial. The potentially fatal circumstances which Bond frequently finds himself in never causes his emotional barometer too skyrocket, nor does it do so in the many trysts he also experiences. What we love about Bond is that he is always a measured man regardless of the positivity or negativity of his situation, yet he’s far from cold. Viewing the photos of Wainer, this is as natural for him as any of the actors who played the spy.

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There is an emotional component to modeling but it is conveyed primarily through physicality. To create this for Playboy’s Bond editorial, Dan reveals, “This job was actually very different from most in my career because it did involve acting. I’ve done my share of studying cinema, television, and theater…as any good model does. It helps you to become a better professional. I love my job and I want to be the best I can possibly be. I didn’t have a specific Bond film that I was trying to ‘copy’ or recreate. What I wanted to do was to contain and communicate the feelings and qualities of Bond: confidence in critical moments and risk, a charm and kind way of talking to women, he always knows what to do, etc. This is a time when I feel that modeling is like acting because I need to feel these things in myself for the camera to capture them. The biggest difference between the two in this instance is that in a film the action helps you to feel the emotion but in a photograph the emotion must happen at a specific second and be frozen in the photo.”

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Even though this 007 editorial is shown in a series of still pictures, there is still a story communicated. The series of less than a dozen photos transports each of us to our favorite Bond film, proof that the template is something that so many of us hold dear and admire. Photographer Sasha Hochstetter’s images are truly cinematic and rival any of the cold war era films, with Dan perfectly placed as the centerpiece. Through the series we see Wainer and the 007 accoutrements of guns, beautiful women, and bad guys played by Aline Samie and Michel Serdan a well-known wrestling fighter in Brazil. The ubiquity of Bond includes Brazil and the trio were all well-versed in the character’s lineage. Each member of this combative trio gleefully threw themselves into the archetype characters they were embodying. Dan relates that there were some intense physical moments that were painful but all a part of being Bond. In typical 007 fashion, the final photo saw Wainer getting his in the last chapter of the story. He explains, “The last photo in the editorial was also the last photo that we shot. It shows myself in an inflatable raft in the ocean, alongside four very beautiful women while there is an explosion in the background…obviously my nemesis meeting their just ends. I have a sly smile on my face and have lost my jacket and tie but am still composed and relaxed. While everyone looks relaxed and at ease, it was far from the reality of the situation. It was the most difficult photo of the day. We had been working for more than 8 hours in several different locations in the city. Everyone was very tired but we still had to make the last epic photo. There was a small boat inside the studio, but the hull of the boat did not allow stability, even more with 4 people moving inside it. The photographer was far up on a ladder, taking the photos from top to bottom. Everyone had to be well positioned. As the boat moved, it was difficult for everyone to be balanced and still have a happy face because they had been victorious. It was certainly the most time consuming and tiring picture of the whole day. But in the end everything went well and it was a beautiful job, very rewarding.”

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The James Bond editorial caused quite a stir and resulted in greater acclaim for Wainer. This specific editorial was cited as one of the reasons he was chosen by Nova Cosmopolitan as the “Gato de Nova.” Simply being chosen by an iconic men’s publication like Playboy to portray their view of all things a man should be in James Bond, it’s an award in itself. Dan definitely thinks of it as such. He concedes that he often was stopped for months following the publication of this issue of the magazine, by men and women alike, with congratulations and recognition. While he finds it flattering, the real compensation is being able to know that if just for a little while, he became the one and only James Bond. Dan Wainer is a proud member of a very select group.

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BEBO’S CIRCUS IS ANIMATOR SOYEON YOO’S MESSAGE OF HOPE

Animator Soyeon Yoo wants to achieve something with her creations. She’s not focused on becoming rich or get millions of “shares” on social media. She wants to create stories that touch those who view them. It’s important to Soyeon that she create empathy between the stars of her animated films and everyday people. By witnessing the struggles and accomplishments of the characters she presents, it’s her hope that she’ll create some tenderness that the public can retain from the experience. Yoo’s film “Bebo’s Circus” is a delight to the eyes and brings tears to them at the same time. While the story is exceptional, it’s far from what she originally had in mind. She explains, “I wanted to make heart-warming and dramatic animated film. Originally, I had the idea of a bunny that has big teeth saving other bunnies when they were in danger but I wanted to make a film more relatable to people.” This is when the idea of an older clown who has fallen on hard times and forgotten about his passion. Soyeon wanted everyone to understand that even the most joyful of us experience trying and depressing moments in our lives. Recalling the struggles of her time in art school and how she had lost the enjoyment and curiosity of creating art, Yoo formulated the idea of a clown who struggled and then reignites his own joy…with help from a friend.

Bebo is an older clown who still performs to audiences. He reminisces about the old days when things were easier for him as an entertainer. The crowds were larger and more accepting. When he makes mistakes on stage these days, some individuals react very rudely and this disheartens Bebo. The sad clown flashes back to one particularly enthusiastic girl who loved Bebo’s act. Inspired, he returns to the stage with new vigor. Upon completion, Bebo hears a lone fan applauding. He strains to see who it is and finds the same little girl, now grown up and still holding a juggling ball from his clown act all those years ago. The woman throws the ball back to Bebo as if metaphorically returning his love of performing and being a clown to him.

The story is touching and endearing but Soyeon needed a look that would enhance the message and tone of her story. The style of the animation she used for this film is 2D traditional animation, which is all done via computer using the tablet called ‘Cintiq’.  Using computer 2D animation software called ‘TV paint’ for the animation required drawing every frame to create each sequence for the film. Soyeon would first draw a test animation to see how many frames would be needed for each sequence and then move on to drawing the entire main key poses. Following this, in-between drawing for the characters were created and then a final clean-up of all the animation. A few sentences are all it takes to describe but many weeks to manifest.

Her malleable skills were also required in regards to art direction because this was Soyeon’s self-produced animation film. One of the main uses of this was in making the “Color Script” for the film. Color script is the early stage of mapping out the color, lighting, and emotion for the story of the film. Choosing different colors according to story arc are essential to delivering the emotional impact, especially in animation. For example, Yoo decided to apply de-saturated green/grayish tones for the first arc when the main character was having a hard time and then later placed warm brown/yellowish tones gradually toward to the end of the story to convey a happy ending.

One of the most pronounced characteristics of her style is Soyeon’s use of music with animation. The two seem intertwined in a dually productive correlation in virtually all of the productions in which she has created and is involved in. It’s obvious that she feels that music and the visual aspect of animation are twins. She describes, “The role of music is one of the most important elements for this film. The music was definitely a huge part of the film that helped to enrich the story. It helps to imprint and translate the mood for the film. Instead of dialogue, the music represents old clown’s emotions. The cornet part sounds like old clown singing. I wanted the music to lead the story like a narrator.” Yoo worked with composer Steven Van Betten to create the sonic landscape that complemented her visuals. Betten declares, “I am honored and proud to have composed the score for Soyeon’s film Bebo’s Circus.  The film takes a simple and universal theme of overcoming challenges and presents it in a compelling, genuine, and heartfelt manner. I was Inspired by her creativity and ability to take artistic challenges and turn them into fuel for pushing through her creative boundaries. The finished product of the film is both strong technically and artistically inspired. I sincerely hope that I have the opportunity to collaborate with Soyeon again in the future.”

“Bebo’s Circus” received great recognition including inclusion as an official selection at the Golden Bridge International Film Festival, the Mindfield Festival (Los Angeles), in addition to receiving the Best Jury Choice Award at the Direct Monthly Online Film Festival and the Best Animation: Diamond Award at the LA Shorts Awards. While these are all appreciated by Yoo, the most important to her is that of the person who first gave her the idea of the clown…her own brother. Soyeon explains, “I’m so happy that many people in the industry enjoyed the film. While that means a great deal to me, I really created it for regular viewers to find inspiration. My brother suggested the idea of a clown. His enjoyment was so important to me because I hope it will prove to him that you can have an idea and literally create something from that idea that other people will be positively affected by and will be inspired by. That’s the real reward and my original intention.”

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From Trailers to Long-Form Projects, Editor Ge Zhai Draws Viewers in with her Work

Editor Ge Zhai
Editor Ge Zhai

After all the production meetings, castings and lengthy shoot days are finished is when the story we see in a film or series really begins to come together. Naturally the writers and director have a strong idea of how they want their project to play out, but nothing is ever fully set in stone until the project makes its way onto the editor’s desk. It’s there that the best footage is identified and methodically pieced together into the unfolding story we enjoy as viewers.

Editor Ge Zhai, who is originally from Beijing, China is one of those genius editors who manages to turn hours of footage into a seamless story that grabs the attention of viewers around the world and keeps them watching.

Since moving stateside six years ago, Zhai has made a huge impact in the industry with her work as an editor. She got her start working as an editor for KO Creative, an LA-based creative advertising and strategic marketing group that creates audio/visual and print campaigns for domestic & international theatrical motion pictures, television and more. As an editor at KO Creative Zhai served as the lead editor on over 30 film trailers.

As the editor of the theatrical trailers for films such as multi-award winning director Chris Mason Johnson’s (The New Twenty) dramatic film Test and Coury Deeb’s ( The New Sudan) documentary BBOY for LIFE, Zhai managed to streamline each story into a concise and intriguing snapshot that made audiences want to go out to watch the films; and her success in cutting each trailer needs little further proof than the international attention received by both films upon release.

She was also the lead editor for the online trailers for several films including those for the Dutch film Boys, a coming of age tale about a homosexual teen and his budding relationship with a fellow teammate on the track team, which won the Golden Calf and Dutch Critics Awards from the Nederlands Film Festival and was nominated for an International Emmy Award; and, the Image Award nominated film drama Life of  King starring Oscar Award winner Cuba Gooding Jr. (Men of Honor, Selma).

Editor Ge Zhai
Editor Ge Zhai

In addition to sifting through hours of footage, selecting the most revealing and powerful moments, and creating a streamline story that would enthrall viewers, Zhai’s work cutting trailers at KO Creative meant she had to understand the divergent audiences each trailer catered to– something the value could be seen as no more integral than when it came to cutting sales trailers, as those are the visuals that actually sell the film to distributors and ensure the project actually reaches audiences. Without a strong and appealing sales trailer, a film may languish alone and unnoticed in a filmmaker’s library and never see the light of day. Thankfully for films such as Oscar Award nominee James Franco’s 2014 film The Sound and the Fury and Adam Levins’ horror film Estranged, Ge Zhai cut strong trailers that attracted the attention of distributors and helped each film make their way onto the big screen.

“I think in today’s world, there are so many choices as to video content, you got Netflix, Hulu, Youtube, with hundreds of thousands of films/tv/videos. So for an audience, why do they spend 2 hours on this specific film? The trailer is the first step to involve your audience visually following the poster. Trailers have to grasp their attention in 20 seconds and leave them wanting to see more,” explains Zhai.

“My strength is noticing details in a shot and maximizing them to convey the intimate emotion without relying on explanatory dialogue. I’m very good at telling the story of a film in a different way that is condensed, rhythmic, gripping, while remain true to the film. Plus, I have a good sense of music, which is super important to trailers.”

Though Zhai got her start as an editor in the industry cutting trailers for massively successful film projects, which is impressive enough in itself, she quickly moved on to cutting longer form projects, such as season 4 of the series Being featuring celebrities like three-time Grammy Award winner Erica Atkins Campbell and singer & movie star Tyrese, the comedy series According to Him + Her with Monica Collier (The Watermelon Heist), the poignant documentary Just Extensions and many more.

“Ge has the magic power to make ordinary materials look stunning. It was a blessing to have Ge on our team when we expanded from a trailer house into a full service post-production facility,” explains KO Creative CEO Kristi Kilday. “She was not constrained by her past experience when facing the challenge of editing long-form content like ‘Just Extensions’ and ‘Being.’ All the storylines and characters charged with emotion reflected her talent in editing.”

Zhai’s ability to breathe life into the characters we see on screen coupled with her ability to move each story forward with her natural (and virtually unnoticeable) cuts is one of the unique assets she brings to the table, and one of the driving forces behind her success that separates her from others in the industry. She doesn’t approach her work from a mechanical, step by step process devoid of emotion– instead she allows her creativity and emotional connection to the work and to the characters to guide the process. This is one of the reasons why the end products of those she’s lent her editor’s wand to have been so successful.

When it came time for the creation of season 4 of the series Being, Centric, the show’s network, which is a cable channel owned by BET,  wanted to appeal to a more specific audience and embody a different vibe than that of previous seasons– that is where editor Ge Zhai came in.

Zhai explains, “‘Being’ previously had three seasons, but in totally different tone. For the new season they wanted to shift styles to better fit the rebranded network, which was catered towards educated African American women. I had worked with the same producers on the series ‘According to Him+Her,’ so they were aware of my skills, and at the end of the day that led to hire me to edit their number one show.”

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Poster for the series “Being”

Zhai’s storytelling skills as the editor of Being season 4 served as a massive asset in creating the season’s unfolding story in a way that touched audiences. Her ability to identify the tiny, but impactful moments that a lesser editor might miss, such as the expression of K.Michelle’s (Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta) eyes while sitting in church in season 4 episode 1 or six-time Grammy Award nominee Tyrese Gibson’s (Furious 7, Fast & Furious 6, Ride Along) joyful look as he revisited his childhood school in season 4 episode 4, were all tantamount to creating an emotionally touching story that drew audiences in and kept them engaged as the season played out.

Zhai’s work as an editor is proof enough itself, so much so that she’s climbed the ranks much quicker than the majority of her peers in Hollywood. Most recently she’s been working on the viral marketing video content for the sequel of the Chinese smash-hit Monster Hunt where her work has embraced millions of viewers.

 From beginning her career editing trailers that have been integral to drawing audiences and selling films to buyers, to serving as the editor on highly-watched long form projects that have aired on major networks, Ge Zhai’s seasoned skill as an editor combined with her unique power as a storyteller have been integral to the success of a great many projects. This is one editor we know we’ll be seeing a whole lot more from as time progresses, so keep your eyes out for her name as the credits roll.

 

Drummer Ivan Copelli remains humble in his rise to fame

When hard rock musician, Ivan Copelli, began drumming as a young child, he had no idea of the impact it would have on the rest of his life. For the Brazilian-native, it was all about tending to the passion inside him and exploring himself through his music. The now wildly successful artist is used to other aspiring professional musicians asking him for the secrets to his success, but for Copelli, it is simple. He understands that regardless of whether or not you can be classed as a “good” musician or a “bad” one, you owe it to yourself to just keep playing.

As he earned success in his career, after playing with the hit Brazilian band Motores, he learned the true value of remaining true to yourself and to your original sound. He has mastered the ability to market himself effectively and ensure that he doesn’t allow major companies or record labels to take advantage of his purity as an artist. His art is his business and he works tirelessly to grow it wherever possible. He also recognizes that today, with the power of the internet, it is easier than ever before to educate yourself and keep yourself busy. There is no excuse to give up on what you love to do most.

After achieving a series of accomplishments with Motores, including winning MTV Rally’s fierce competition in 2007, Copelli was approached by another up-and-coming Brazilian band, Kiara Rocks. He was familiar with the band’s sound and had attended their shows on several occasions. The band’s lead singer, Cadu Pelegrini, was eager to work with Copelli when he heard that he had left Motores. He wanted a drummer that would attract the attention of a larger audience and to boost the band’s visibility in the industry. Fortunately, Copelli’s work with Motores positioned him well above other drummers of his kind and Pelegrini knew that his contributions to Kiara Rocks would be invaluable. Copelli jumped at the opportunity to lend his talents to the band and it was the beginning of something new and exciting for his already esteemed career.

What Copelli ended up enjoying most about playing with Kiara Rocks, however, was touring around the world and being able to share the band’s music to new audiences in new areas on a daily basis. “For the three years that I played with them, we spent most of our weekends on tour, playing in different cities and states, making new friends, and growing our fan base. We were very close as a band. We didn’t even need to look at each other when we were on stage to know what everyone was doing. We were so connected,” said Copelli.

Copelli’s ability to not only adapt himself to the style of the band he is playing with, but to enhance their sound is what makes him such a highly sought after addition to every project he is asked to work on. After Kiara Rocks appeared on the successful Brazilian web series, Showlivre.com, producer Clemente Nascimento realized just how intangible Copelli’s skills are.

“Across his time with the group, he provided expertise as a top tier drummer. He also appeared in a number of the band’s virally popular music videos. Specifically, in his role as the drummer for the band, he kept the rhythm solid and consistent and while his work does not overshadow the tones of his fellow musicians, anyone who listens to their music notices the harmonious coordination between his drumming and the bass to create a tight rhythm section. He is absolutely vital to any band he collaborates with, more so than most drummers in his field. His contributions Kiara Rocks highlight both his prowess as a drummer, as well as the impact his music had on the band’s incomparable success,” recalled Nascimento.

With Copelli’s rising success, came unexplored territory. When his first single with Kiara Rocks received over 300,000 views on YouTube, he started to see the impact that his music had on the band’s presence in a new light. He could see the difference they were making in the field of rock music on an unfamiliar scale and he was humbled by the recognition they were receiving. All of a sudden, he found himself encountering excited fans in the street, screaming at him and honking their horns. He still gets shivers down his spine when he thinks about it and he credits this success as being the to motivator driving him to create new sounds and bring even more high-quality music to the shelves for his followers.

In fact, it was during his time playing with Kiara Rocks that Copelli experienced one of the major highlights of his career. Being a die-hard rock music fan, Copelli had the distinct pleasure of working with Guns n’ Roses’ drummer, Matt Sorum. Sorum produced what Copelli considers to be one of the most important albums for the Brazilian rock music scene in years. Copelli played his heart out and to little surprise, the band’s fans were immediately addicted. Seeing his work come to life for his fans is just one of the many reasons he continues to play and produce music for a living.

So what does Copelli have in store for hard rock music fans around the world? He has a few projects in the works. Ultimately, however, he hopes to re-connect with some of the artists he has worked with in the past, as well as with new artists, in order to create unique new sounds and albums that his fans will thank him for.

A FAMILY OF FRIENDS HAS MANY FORMS IN “PARKED”

There’s something romantic and endearing about a group of people coming together to support each other’s attempt to bring out the best in themselves and their dreams. It might be possible to make it on your own but when you do it with a trusted group of confidants it’s so much more enjoyable. “Parked” is a Canadian production which tells the story of five men who attempt to navigate the highs and lows of life. It’s a theme that is synonymous with the writers who created this show. In a small writers’ room, Gorrman Lee, Executive Producers Adam O. Thomas, Tracey Mack, Siobhan McCarthy, and Actor/Co-Producer David Lewis spent many long nights together writing what ultimately became a season of six full webisodes and twenty-five interstitial videos. The struggle that artists take on to test themselves, to aspire to create something which binds viewers together, it’s just as touching as the obstacles and experiences of the characters in “Parked.” Great things are achieved in life when people work together to support each other’s dreams, whether in real life or the stories which resemble it.

Here’s something that any true artist will tell you, greatness is found in the idea and the manifestation of it not necessarily in the execution of it. There’s a reason that songwriters receive a larger portion of the income generated by a song than those who perform it. Creative individuals understand that the idea itself is the keystone. The modern presentation of this is the fact that many of the productions that are presented on the web rival, and sometimes exceed, the stories presented on more traditional platforms. When writer Gorrman Lee saw the pilot for “Parked” shared on Facebook he thought “They’re doing this on the web? It’s so good!” The show’s pilot is so well produced and funny that it stands as a testament to the excellence of work being created outside the traditional system in today’s marketplace. When Lee had the chance to meet Siobhan McCarthy at a pitch event, he made it his mission to convince her that he could be of benefit to the show as one of their writers. He recalls, “I was very professional about it. I told her how much I enjoyed the pilot and asked if they were looking for people to join up; if so, I’d love to have a coffee with her to discuss. Asking people to coffee in this industry is a great, low-pressure way to get an in.” To Gorrman’s delight and the shows benefit, it worked.

Parked with EP Siobhan McCarthy

“Parked” is about a group of 30-something dads, plus their one non-father pal, struggling with their late coming of age. While at first glance the characters might seem homogenous, each one has their own story to differentiate them in the group. The same can be said for the writers. As the youngest in the writing room and the only non-parent himself, Gorrman related most to the character Josh (the burnout, non-father of the group). While Lee and Josh vary greatly in personality, being of a certain age and place in your life naturally presents a shared perspective. Josh is found to be somewhat abrasive by the audience of “Parked” but Gorrman enjoyed the exercise of finding the sympathy/concealed soft side of Josh. The dichotomy of Josh was as entertaining for Lee as a writer as it was for the viewer. In episode #5, “Waiting for Kiddo”, Josh appears insufferable as he enters the scene complaining about how lame kids’ birthday parties are and how he’d much rather spend the day getting stoned. Lee’s writing shined a light on Josh’s humanity by showing just how hard he’s willing to work to get a child to attend this party with him. It looks creepy from the outside but Josh’s unawareness of this ultimately comes off as sweet because he just wants to hang out with his friends.

In a similar way to Josh’s willingness to step out of his comfort zone to keep the group together, Gorrman took on a writing assignment for “Parked” that was well outside his wheel house. Adam O. Thomas (Executive Producer of “Parked”) notes, “Gorrman was a key member of our writing room. He helped find the humor and really had a strong handle on how to shape a scene. If we were going off on a tangent, he was always the one to help bring us back around. He also made sure we never took the easy way out. I loved him for that. We broke down episodes and then assigned each writer some. Gorrman had a couple of the toughest. One was a musical episode and the other had to dance around the theme of child abduction to find the comedy in a dislikable character…. not an easy task. When he turned in his episode, I laughed out loud. It was perfect!” The musical episode referred to was entitled “Master Baker” and required Gorrman to create a Rap video. While most people think of writers as professionals who create based on something which they already know and actors as professionals who educate themselves/research about things they don’t know, Lee’s situation with this episode seems to indicate that writers are much more like actors in their approach. He was given an outline and lyrics for the song but the rest of creating the scene was up to Gorrman. He states, “I’m not really a Rap fan, my wife is though. I’m a writer of color. I’m Chinese-Canadian. It was important to me to research enough that I wasn’t being offensive or inappropriate in satirizing rap with three white, and one Indian actor. I think we pulled it off because of how silly our characters looked. The joke was on them, and not at the expense of rap.” The writer admits to feeling a great sense of accomplishment standing on set and watching the rap video sequence being filmed with Davinder/Sean Amsing is in his hot tub alongside Jimmy Z /Colin Foo. The entire cast and crew seemed to revel in the ridiculousness of the scene which Gorrman had concocted. It was obvious to all that the cast was living out the same fantasy that their characters connected with. “Parked” actor/writer David Lewis confirms, “Gorrman’s voice was definitely a distinct one. His episodes were some of our strongest. His understanding of character and story structure was invaluable. I’ve been working in this industry for over 25 years and have seen both good and bad writing. Gorrman’s writing is very good!”

Parked at Leo awards

Part of success is accepting both achievement and disappointment with grace. “Parked” received multiple nominations at the Leo Awards (Canadian based awards) in 2016 and a win for best actor (David Lewis). It was an instance of public affirmation in the industry for this production. With equal measure Lee describes, “It was a wonderful moment for all of us. While I remember that easily, I also remember the many long days and nights churning out ideas and breaking stories. I wish we could’ve come up with a way to shoot our original idea for the season finale. It was about Josh realizing that he had drunkenly donated sperm to a local sperm bank and convincing the other dads to help him break into the bank and steal it back. It was our take on a ‘bank heist’. Thinking back to this pitch still makes me chuckle. There’s always something to work towards.”

MANOJ SAKARAPANI IS A CORPORATE VILLAIN IN THE PILL

Sometimes you have to listen to your gut and sometimes you have to listen to those around you for sage advice. In the extremely rare case, you can do both. When Manoj Sakarapani was cast as the CEO of a pharmaceutical company in “The Pill” it was a great occurrence of playing against type. Sakarapani is a soft spoken, intensely polite, and thoughtful person. The money grubbing CEO which he portrays in this film which explores the morality and ethics of the industry is an ego fueled opportunist. Taking on this role allowed the actor a chance to “swim in a pool” that he always avoids. It’s a benefit of being an actor and this is something that Manoj is exceptional at; in fact, a little to exceptional. His fellow cast mates felt such disdain for Manoj’s character during the filming (and surprise by his complete reversal of personality) that they continually made him promise to never pursue any work in the pharmaceutical industry because he would be a highly successful villain in it. Sakarapani concedes that he was highly convincing in “The Pill” while also finding the reactions of his costars amusing. It’s an age old conundrum for an actor, you want to be completely believable in your role, even if that means being believable as someone who is hated.

In “The Pill” a virus is spreading and a pharmaceutical company has found a cure for it, deliverable in the form of a pill. Once the pill is distributed and released to public, reports surface about its cures against the virus but also revealing deaths due to side effects of the pill. The CEO of the company sees an opportunity to take the company global and ignore the facts that the pill offers some cure but avoids the possibly fatal side effects. He puts intense pressure on the scientists and the quality control specialists and his team to produce large quantities and release the pill worldwide. While fending off direct conflicts the Scientist who discovered the pill and his team, the CEO also is confronted by the news media. A reporter interviews the CEO and the team regarding the discovery but secretly wants to uncover the truth of the drug and expose the CEO and his company to the public as money driven and disregarding of the serious damage to life. In a final heated discussion with the CEO, the scientist and the rest of the team refuse to release the pill. The big reveal and catharsis happens when the scientist forces the CEO to take one of these pills and tries to shove it down his throat. All of this is exposed to the public through media by the TV reporter who secretly tapes the whole thing with the aid of her camera operator.

As Brenden Fletcher in the movie, Manoj portrays a man who is money minded and who will do anything to take his company global. Fletcher is blindsided by the potential income and shows complete disregard for the potentially malevolent effects of this drug on members of society. He is willing to sacrifice his moral and ethical values because as it was so eloquently stated in the film Wall Street “Greed is good.” Sakarapani did not see the character as one sided and felt that the role was quite challenging. He explains, “As an actor you have to be versatile here because you are playing a really good guy with the media who states that he wants to save lives and cure humanity as your number one priority. At the same time, you have to play the greedy guy who wants this done right away before there are more complications and more negative news comes out about this drug.  I enjoyed the versatility needed to play these contrasts with my acting range to convey the subject and the message to the audience that my character needed to deliver. My role tends to be more of a Chameleon because that is what I am doing with the reporter when I’m talking to her in person and with my team during conversations and heated discussions.”

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The presentation of the film is non-linear, which helps to intensify the emotional impact of the story as well as provide some interesting twists and turns for the audience. The story was built in a way which wouldn’t have made sense in a linear approach. The story starts with a reporter trying to investigate why this Pharmaceutical company is still thriving but being tight lipped when asked about the deaths being reported. The reporter states that she wants to focus on the success of the company, which causes the CEO to perceive this as an opportunity for positive press. gets nice media for the company. Fletcher relaxes and begins to profess his aspirations to help humanity. At this point, flashback being to present the back story involved, revealing the CEO and team discussing the drug’s merits and shortcomings. The film vacillates between members of the team being interviewed by the reporter until she finally sneaks in to a live meeting that the CEO and his team are having which ends up dramatically against the CEO, publicly exposing him. This constant paradigm shift slowly revealed the layers of deception and intent on the part of Manoj’s character.  The final shot of the film which slowly roles in on Sakarapani communicates the solace and defeat of a man who has gambled and lost it all, and he knows it.

Vanessa Gibuea, one of Manoj’s costars in “The Pill” states, “The only way to describe Manoj in this film is chilling. He plays it close to his chest. He’s not maniacal or overtly abusive in his portrayal; it’s not cartoonish. This is what makes it so frightening. What Manoj did was to present his character as a very real person. A real person makes a series of mistakes that eventually lead into one very big and bad decision. Brenden Fletcher is a person who lost sight of himself and his fellow man. That happens more often that we’d all like to admit. What was so striking about the way Manoj presented him is that he found all of those little decisions in his performance and you felt them rather than someone showing you them or telling about them all. It was amazing.”

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PROTECTOR OF THE FILM & MUCH MORE: XIN GONG

When director Yiqiong Li was preparing to make his film “A Gift” he did what most filmmakers do, he referred to the list he keeps of professionals that are both talented and enjoyable to work with. Li had recently served as Assistant Director on the film “Promise Land” and he immediately thought of the Xin Gong the DIT (Digital Imaging Technician) on that film and contacted her for this upcoming project. A DIT is one of those professions that many people do not fully understand but is integral to the camera crew operating efficiently and at full power. It’s a “boots on the ground” role in filmmaking and one which the director and cinematographer rely upon heavily. “A Gift” received numerous accolades including: Award of Recognition – Hollywood International Moving Picture Film Festival, a nomination at the International Filmmaker Festival of World Cinema London, and was an official selection at film festivals in the US, Berlin, Rome, and others. The dream of a filmmaker cannot be realized without the daily utilized talent of professionals like Xin Gong; skilled artists who will never see their name on the marquee but will always be the support of those who do.

“A Gift” is a film which concerns itself with the choices and potential found in all people. Kindness and redemption are something which can only be offered up, never can they be forcefully taken. The film tells the story of Jack, a young thief who breaks into the home of Margaret. Margaret is a blind elderly woman who mistakes Jack for her son. Margaret comes to realize that Jack is not her son but she still covers for him, protecting him from being discovered when police and neighbors come looking for a dangerous young man in the neighborhoods. The thief comes to realize the error of his ways and is moved by Margaret’s gift of understanding, forgiveness, and non-judgement.

Gong served as a Digital Imaging Technician or (DIT) for “A Gift.” As the guardian in change of protecting the footage for a film, the DIT not only serves as the gatekeeper but also assists many different parts of the film crew and the filming process insuring that instrumentation is working properly and capturing the action properly. Xin’s naturally detailed personality and discernment make her an easy fit for this role in any production. Also known as a talented editor, the duality of her skill set has made her more proficient of both sides of the production process (filming and post). The two complement each other well. Xin describes, “When I work as an editor, I organize the footage, putting different labels on for different footages. In editing software, I’ll put the dialogue into the first track, sound effects are on the second track, and music is on third track. When you know the process intimately after filming, it heightens your awareness for potential problems or mistakes as they occur during the filming process. This is initially what interested me in pursuing work as a DIT. The first time I took on this role [DIT] I began catching things immediately which I understood would be problematic during the post process. I alerted the DP and director about this and corrections were made instantly. Everyone was very appreciative that we had just saved a lot of time and effort, which was a great feeling for me.”

A skill which is paramount for both a DIT and an editor is color correction. This happens to be something which Gong is highly adept at and quite known for. This skill was vital to her work on “A Gift” as she explains, “One of the most problematic scenes for the film was the opening scene. As this is the first impression the audience will have of the film, everyone was aware of its importance. The scene starts at night as the main character breaks into the house. Unfortunately, the production couldn’t shoot at night and were forced to film this scene in the daytime. This was a big part of the reason I was chosen to work for this production. It was a challenge for me. Before they shot, the director and director of photography asked if I could do some color correction to make the “Day to night” when I was on set. Using DaVinci Resolve to change the gamma and highlight, I then did some color correction of the sky. The final result relieved everyone involved and once again, I felt appreciated…that never gets old.” Director of photography for the film, Chuan Li, reiterates, “DIT is a very complicated job. I think it too often goes underappreciated and doesn’t receive the respect it deserves. As someone who is on the camera the entire time, I relax when I have Xin Gong on a film set because I know she has thought for and prepared for more obstacles and how to avoid them than I ever would. I also know that when there is a problem, she is the first on jumping in to fix it. She sets a tone and example that others would do well to follow.”

 

If Companies Could be Movie Stars: SIC and Entertainment Success

While movie lovers and fans generally know the names of the actors who grace TV and film screens, the names of production companies sometimes don’t roll off the tongue as easily. That doesn’t mean, however, that a company like See in Color (otherwise known as ‘SIC’) doesn’t exert power and influence in the notoriously challenging and tricky waters of entertainment. SIC, with a hugely successful collection of video content in their library and on their upcoming production slate, was formed with a singular mission that brings credence to an industry otherwise known for superficiality and money-making values that come at the expense of artistic integrity. Indeed, they stand by a mission to challenge the odds, defy stereotypes and encourage the world to “see in color,’ a set of values of which their team is rightfully proud.

Even more worthy of a celebratory mention, in addition to their grounded mission statement, are two of their upcoming projects. “Viral”, an episodic drama thriller about a group of scientists attempting to save humanity from an alien virus, represents the company’s ambitious foothold over the hugely lucrative sci-fi TV show genre. Then there’s “Singled Out”, a feature film about drugs, crime and corruption in the Atlanta Police Department, speaks to SIC’s capacity to bring raw heart to a real-life setting in the spirit of the Oscar-winning “Moonlight” and Kathryn Bigelow’s recent “Detroit”. So how is the company able to create such a varied selection of projects that speak to audiences around the world, and not only that, but also rake in substantial receipts at the box office?

Well, first, there’s SIC’s well-known ability to create visually stunning, emotionally compelling, intellectually engaging and share-worthy video content that will capture the hearts and minds of audiences everywhere. That isn’t just a sales pitch, but is an ethos that’s proven with the success of past projects like “Cyberversity,” a short film about the lack of diversity in the cybersecurity field. It premiered at IBM headquarters in NYC and Symantec headquarters in Silicon Valley. On the feature side, “Pseudo Blood Of Our Own,” was a 2011 co-production with the world-renowned Canadian Bollywood Films.

The second, and perhaps more glamorous reason for SIC’s incredible triumphs, is the renowned talent involved with SIC productions. Indeed, “Reuben,” a short film directed by SIC Vice President, Kaisania Calubaquib, won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Short at the 2017 Universe Multicultural Film Festival). The International Consortium of Minority Cybersecurity Professionals (ICMCP) also hired SIC to produce a Mission Video Series in 2014-2016

It’s therefore appropriate that both “Viral” and “Singled Out” have attracted top-levels of talent. In the leading role of Emma Greene is New Zealand A-lister Sophie Renée, known for critical roles in Frankie Contino’s “Living Together” and“50 Ways To Kill Your Lover” by Hanna Berrigan, where she starred opposite Nigel Barber  (known for “Mission Impossible” and the James Bond movie, “Spectre”). Sophie’s reputation seems to align with SIC’s. She adds: “I constantly get told after shoots that I bring an indescribable positive energy on set and that I make everyone else a: up their game and b: that I lift the mood…I love that that is my professional reputation!”

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Renée will star in the new TV series “Viral.”

In “Singled Out,” SIC have lured accomplished UK actor Neil Reidman to play the leading role of James Montgomery. Neil then acted alongside Mackenzie Crook on the BAFTA award winning comedy series, “The Detectorists” as Dr Tendai  and played the lead role of Errol in a stage production of ‘Routes’ at the Welsh Millennium Centre which was also filmed for Made in Cardiff TV. He also headed up the feature film “Hard Time Bus,” which won Best Film at the Hollywood Black Film Festival. Yet another feather in the cap both for SIC and for Neil to be working hand in hand – the meeting of two great players in the entertainment field.

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Reidman played the lead role in the successful feature film, “Hard Time Bus.” He will be playing James Montgomery in “Singled Out.”

If production companies could be famous, then SIC would be followed by paparazzi and social-media hungry fans all the time. It’s more fitting then that, as a lucrative business, they can focus on their roster of projects, and continue entertaining audiences all over the world instead. Also coming up for the company is “Picture This,” a romantic comedy feature currently shooting, about an aspiring photographer embarking on a hilarious journey after she finds an enchanted camera, and “Today is the Day,” a short film revealing the disturbing nature of a man suffering from emotional trauma and mental illness (expected release, March 2018). A diverse range of projects for a company which prides itself on celebrating diversity for global audiences.

Greek actor Konstadinos Lahanas shows comedic skills in hit show ‘Lola’

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Konstadinos Bahamas

From the time Konstadinos Lahanas was a young boy, he always has been artistic. At the time, there was no preferred medium. He would paint a picture, or perform on a stage, and expressing himself in such a way was consistently a thrill. As he grew, his love of acting began to take over. He was able to express his emotions and change who he was for a brief moment, entertaining his audiences. He continues to do this today.

Now one of Greece’s most reputable actors, Lahanas shares his culture and talent with the world. His esteemed resume exemplifies the versatility he possesses, and his work on various film, television, and commercial projects have gone on to receive critical acclaim. These include popular television shows The Disappearance (I Exafanisi), Family Stories (Oikogeneiakes Istories), and I Have a Secret (Eho Ena Mystiko), the film The Pilgrim (O Proskinitis), and the popular Yoplait commercial, filmed in Croatia, which was shown all over Europe.

“I suppose the need to express my inner feelings was what initially sparked my interest in acting, and it has been my passion ever since,” said Lahanas.

When working on the popular Greek television series Lola, Lahanas once again captivated his audiences with his outstanding performance. Lola has over 200 episodes, and is distributed in Greek Television by Antenna TV. The series was directed by Kostas Kostopoulos and stars Christos Vasilolpoulos (Gregory) and Ada Livitsanou (Lola). The story is about a man (Leonidas) turning into a woman (Lola) through a magical spell activated by a disappointed and furious ex-girlfriend. Since that day, Leonidas struggles to continue his life and keep his job, by acting that his new female nature is his sister, Lola.

“I wanted to work on the hit television series of Lola, as it was based on a popular Brazilian hit television series that was brought to Greece. The high ratings the series had already acquired were intriguing to me, as was the story. I really wanted to participate and be a part of the cast in such a production,” said Lahanas.

Lahanas played a young friend of Gregory’s named George, a commercial manager. Alongside Gregory, George attempts to influence feelings of one Gregory’s ex-girlfriends. The requirements of this role were demanding, requiring Lahanas to convincingly flirt in a humorous way, while still telling the story.

“My character has to sell Gregory’s ex-girlfriend a product. Under Gregory’s guidance, my character was required to approach and flirt with his ex-girlfriend for the purpose of humiliating her in order for him to take revenge for her hurting him in the past,” Lahanas described. “I got into the mindset of the character by observing how men and women interact and how important it is to psychologically evaluate the behaviour of both sexes.”

When Lahanas was first approached about taking on the role in Lola, he immediately accepted. The producers had seen his performance in The Disappearance, and although the role was a dramatic one, they knew the actor was not only capable, but ideal, for the comedic role in Lola. They required an attractive and fit actor, and Lahanas was eager to make audiences laugh.

“What I liked the most about working on this project were the requirements to demonstrate specific social skills such as flirting and storytelling. as well as the importance of charm, in order to be convincing in this specific role. This was a fun attempt in trying out my comedic side and it was interesting, as it crossed a fine line between humiliation and admiration,” Lahanas described.

Many of Lahanas’ scenes in Lola, except for the scenes shot around the city, were filmed in one of Greece’s largest studios, Kappa Studios. Lahanas thoroughly enjoyed his time working on the show, and impressed all he worked with. The casting director on the show was so impressed with the actor that he immediately began recommending Lahanas for other projects, and is always eager to work alongside him once more. Lahana’s co-star, Christos Vasilopoulos, also said working with him was a great experience.

“I have the luck of being friends with Konstadinos ever since we worked together on Lola. Working with Konstadinos is always a very pleasant experience because he is a very positive and cooperative person. He always makes the person he is acting beside feel safe and cheerful,” said Vasilopoulos.

Lahanas’ performance in Lola was essential to the story of the episode, and the character development of the main character. Lahanas’ understood the responsibility of such a role, and gave an exemplary performance, as he is known to always do. However, at the end of the day, Lahanas is a storyteller, and like most storytellers, the message behind the words is always of vital importance.

“The story of the show is important, as it teaches the audience a lesson about behaviour between males and females. It really shows the kind of behaviour between a male and a female that can surface after a hurtful break up between a couple, as well as the consequences of seeking revenge. Audiences can really relate to the story, and see themselves in the characters, and as an actor, that is all you can ask for,” Lahanas concluded.