As a storyboard artist, Sabrina Yu is one of the first people responsible for taking the words of a script and turning them into a motion picture; she is the connection between the writer and the director, helping to visualize the story. She can always find the most suitable shooting angle, accurately grasping the emotional changes of the characters’, and designs the scenes to most effectively tell the story. Such a role requires her to understand every aspect of film production, every role and process from beginning to end, and as an avid film lover, that is just why she loves what she does.
Hailing from China, Yu has taken the film industry in both her native country and abroad by storm. She has worked on several award-winning films, such as Cello and Inside Linda Vista Hospital, and has no plans on slowing down. She is an extremely in demand storyboard artist, and her distinctive style enhances every project she takes on.
“I like to use the changes in black and white to show the development of the story, and then grab a little main draw, with a strong contrast. Focus on one point, like a main background or an actor’s emotional facial expressions, and blur the rest,” she said.
One of Yu’s most decorated projects to date is the 2016 film The Good Memory. Not only was the flick nominated for Best Short Film at The Chinese American Film Festival, Glendale International Film Festival, and the International New York Film Festival, but it also took home the top prize at several other prestigious international film festivals, such as the California International Shorts Festival, Hollywood Boulevard Film Festival, Hollywood International Moving Pictures Film Festival, and more.
“I like that in this film I did new things.The style of the film has a set of times,” said Yu.
The heartbreaking drama follows Eric, a husband and father who is celebrating his birthday. He meets his wife and daughter in a café for a brunch, but it is revealed to be a memory of that same day the previous year, ultimately leading to tragic consequences.
“This is a story about reminiscence, and at the end of the film, you will find everything showed in the film are just memories, which makes me feel that the story is very special and memorable,” said Yu.
The moment Yu first read the script, she was touched by the story and knew just how to illustrate it. She could picture every scene in her mind vividly and began drawing. Her storyboards created the background of the film and helped set up the story. They helped the production team see how the time change could be achieved through film, as some scenes are flashbacks.
After discussing the script with the scriptwriter, Yu first drew out the main scenes, showing them to the Director to adjust and decide the main atmosphere of the film. She suggested that the director join the light and shadow changes to reflect the warm feeling, drawing this in the storyboards to show how effective this technique could be. Her suggestion proved very fruitful.
Undoubtedly, Yu’s talents as a storyteller and filmmaker translate directly into her storyboarding. She encourages illustrators to go into the trade, as it is often overlooked but an extremely vital part of filmmaking.
“Read more, watch more movies and draw more. The creative inspiration accumulated from it has paved the way for work. Communication is very important, work with your team closely, patiently listen to other people’s opinions, but also insist on your own ideas and dare to say it,” she advised.
So, what’s next for this talented storyboard artist? She is currently expanding her talents to a children’s storybook. Keep an eye out for it as well as her future films, you definitely won’t want to miss them.
Dragi Ivanov has long been known as a producer aware of how to tailor his skills to a musician’s needs, while bringing his own sense of practical artistry to any track he produces.
As the producer of Terrell Hines’ hit song ‘$3.99 (model1)’ Ivanov’s seasoned skill as a recording engineer proved imperative to capturing the song’s crisp sound quality. His ability to expertly wear many hats was reflected in how he wrote, produced, recorded and mixed the song for one of music’s most promising artists today.
Hines, who is also in the hugely popular band Wake Child, attested to the critical role Ivanov played in shaping the song’s sound from its inception and how they both wanted to create something that was compelling from the get-go.
Hines says, “As creatives we were pushing the envelope, so we started gathering our ideas and organizing them and Dragi produced, mixed and mastered…3.99.”
Hines further points to the collaborative nature of the song-making process, and the respect Ivanov grants the artists he works with and to the listeners of their music.
“We both love music and are intrigued by sound so we wanted to see if we could get music out in a way not normal to the ears but relatable to the ears spreading positive informative messages to society.”
Ivanov echoes Hines’ assertion that each of the cognoscenti wished to make a song that was edgy and create a new standard of music.
“Both of us always wanted to push the envelope and just create something that is crazy and innovative,” Ivanov explains. “We just wanted to make something that we hadn’t done before and that was exciting for us, we didn’t set out to do anything specific we just wanted to see what we can do and how well we can do it.”
It’s clear that Ivanov achieved his goal of producing a song that was edgy and compelling in a really subversive way, a rarity in a crowded market where every other producer is trying to push musicians to make a statement.
With Ivanov though, he’s the real deal. Combined with Hines’ writing, with it’s biblical references that are simultaneously respectful of spirituality but not condescendingly preachy to a listener, the producer and artist break new ground. The result is an edgy and compelling rap track that offers an incisive social commentary on the way unbridled greed has compromised the moral fabric of humanity, detailing the extreme lengths people go to for things worth $3.99. Listening to the song itself on an instinctual level leaves a listener conscious of a darkness, an effect countered with hip beats that get the body moving in a manner reminiscent of Childish Gambino’s ‘This is America’ but with an even more potent punch.
Elaborating on the uniqueness of Ivanov’s approach, highlighting how the man is as interested in the process of making the music as the end result, Hines says, “Working with Dragi is therapeutic,” Hines astutely claims. “He can form any color and structure through music. When it comes to music and just sound in general he definitely has his own unique aesthetic.”
Adding his crucial creative input and mastery as a producer into the mix, Ivanov played a key role in the song’s composition, of course bouncing the ideas back and forth with Hines while producing, recording and mixing the song. He explains, “Everything you hear from the drums and bass, to the synths and the pads as well as the guitar parts and the way the whole song sounds is what I did. I created all the interesting sound design elements such as the clicky percussion parts, 808 bass, the menacing synthesizers, sound effects and vocal effects and treatment is what I did as part of the production process.”
The uniqueness of Ivanov’s skills as a music producer are reflected in the imaginative ways Hines describes Ivanov’s approach, pointing to a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ that effectively highlights the Macedonian native’s creative magic.
For instance, the song invokes Black church and gospel music style through the use of organs and tambourines, grounding it in a sense of history that is both culturally specific, and universally resonant.
In a more obvious reflection of Ivanov’s significant success within his field, it also helps to understand that the musicians Ivanov works with always enjoy a loyal and fervent fan base, ensuring that his songs reaches huge numbers of ardent listeners around the world. That, and his producing skills have equally come to be known within the industry as a secret weapon which can make an artist’s career.
Hines additionally points to the adaptability of Ivanov’s specialized skill-set as a producer who can jump between genres while also maintaining the artist’s sensibility and integrity.
“Dragi understands music from many different perspectives. He also knows what he is doing on the production side whether it is production or mastering, which I could trust him to execute every time creatively and professionally.”
The most obvious manifestation of Ivanov’s versatility is in the work he’s done with the band Wake Child. The incredibly popular Californian group, frequently known for invoking psychedelic 60s sounds with their own unique millennial bent, clearly owe some of their success to the producing prowess of Ivanov.
For the track ‘Hangup Blues,’ Ivanov talks about how he and the band “wanted to make a seemingly Lo-Fi sounding record but also have it be epic.”
The product is a filmic and moving track which has received over 60,000 streams on online and been promoted by multiple blogs and Spotify playlists. It’s clear that fans of Wake Child and Ivanov recognize how the song manages to expertly use vocals and guitars in a symbiotic manner that builds towards a rough and tumble crescendo that grabs a listener by the collar and pulls them into a collective, and at once, individual experience.
In essence, it proves how Ivanov – who produced, recorded and mixed the song for Wake Child – tells a story with music in a way that only the most celebrated and iconic music producers are able.
He speaks with authority with the how the song is constructed, indicative of how Ivanov is deeply connected to helping produce music that tells a story and effects emotional change within a listener.
“The song starts very small with only a Rhodes piano and vocals it eventually builds up to the first chorus which is very interesting because the relationships between the instruments change in a way that the chorus feels a lot bigger than the actual verse.”
The humble manner with which Ivanov explains how his personable nature lends him an advantage when dealing with different musicians is equally interesting and endearing.
“Another thing is [because I’m an] introvert I don’t necessarily talk too much and I am very sensitive to situations that I know how to stay away or step in when I need to and that way I am able to meet people feel comfortable in the studio and give their best performance.”
“Hangup Blues” consequently manages to be romantic and solemn at the same, echoing a deeply felt sense of love that is truly poetic. When the song hits a beat change half-way through, it shifts a listener into an aural experience that really affecting.
Producing the song itself represented a significant challenge, which Ivanov embraced with gusto
“This project was different because it was the first project where I had to produce a full band,” Ivanov clarifies.
“[I] usually work with only an artist and my job is to create the music behind the artist, whereas with this project I had to learn how to step away from being a the musician and focus on more technical and managerial side of things.”
In closing remarks, Ivanov adeptly sums up the authentic approach to his work that highlights his genuine and specialized creative spirit.
“For me I would say is that I want the music to be exciting and feel effortless.”
Australian actor Cooper van Grootel has long been regarded as a leader of his generation. A working child actor for the past decade, who has recently wrapped filming a lead role in See Pictures’ feature film Go Karts, there’s no doubt that this young lad is reminiscent of the Australian men who paved the way before him: think Hollywood hunks Chris and Liam Hemsworth, and Avatar star Sam Worthington.
What sets Cooper apart however is not just his machismo, but also his access to an old soul that is more reminiscent of Emmy-winner Ben Mendehlson, who didn’t hit it big until his late 40s. The difference with Cooper however, and what sets him apart from all of these actors, is that he’s still only a teenager, but he’s already made it.
The award-winning teen, who was honoured by Media Super for Outstanding Commitment and Achievement in the industry, has carved out a niche as a true-blue Aussie with roles in prestige mini-series Mystery Road, audience favourite Jasper Jones, and films like Red Dirt and Absent that both challenge and explore the Australian identity. One exciting project in particular is the feature film, Go Karts.
For that film, Cooper was up against thousands of other actors, so it’s safe to say his hard work is paying off.
Go Karts hails from the same producers as Golden-Globe winner Simon Baker’s Breath, Netflix film OtherLife and Kylie Minogue and Guy Pearce hit, Swinging Safari. In the film, Cooper was blessed with a starring role of Dean, the film’s antagonist. In the character, Cooper relished playing the bad guy – a force to be reckoned with on and off the race track.
“Many directors and producers have remarked on Cooper’s professionalism and high standard of work ethic,” says his agent, Hallie McKeig from Film Bites in Perth.
There’s nothing arrogant about this surfer though, as many are quick to attest to Cooper’s affable nature. “They’ve also said how easy Cooper is to get along with, and how down-to-earth he is,” Hallie elaborates.
Qualities like these are infrequently found in the industry. Cooper’s American manager Karli Doumanis, of KDM, substantiates this view.
“It is really rare to find young male actors like Cooper who have a high level of confidence, self-awareness and charisma – he’s also really highly accomplished because of the number of projects he’s worked on and who he’s worked with – the American industry has already fallen in love with him.”
One of Cooper’s earlier roles was in the film project, Red Dirt, in which he played the lead role of Benny.
Cooper smiles when recalling the filming process.
“Waking up very early and watching the sun rise over the vast landscape of outback Western Australia, that was a highlight.”
Red Dirt gave Cooper the opportunity to literally play the leader of the pack. As Benny, Cooper was the alpha male to a group of boys in a small town that an older man encounters after his car breaks down.
“Myself and the other boy actors searched for gold with metal detectors,” Cooper elaborates. “That was great fun.”
Cooper also showed his chops as an actor of true range in Absent, a film from celebrated director Iain Appleyard. In that compelling film, Cooper played a mental handicapped boy at the centre of the film’s drama about a father who abandons his daughter after he accidentally kills Cooper’s character. Cooper brought the role to life with conviction, receiving praise from industry professionals in the process for his deep commitment to performing the role authentically and with respect to people with disabilities.
“Working with Cooper and watching him bring his character to life was…a highlight…for me,” Iain told our publication. “He repeatedly impressed everyone with his professionalism in a difficult role showing dedication well beyond his years.”
He articulates further. “I am proud not only of the work that I have done, but also of the skills I have acquired.”
It’s this focus on his craft and skills that is clearly keeping the screen star grounded, even while he might be sharing the screen with Golden-Globe nominated actors and household names.
“Richard Roxburgh is a man with a great sense of humour and uses that skill and applies it to improvising bits here and there during scenes,” Cooper says when asks about his fellow famous co-stars. “That was cool to watch.”
Up next for this acclaimed actor – who, like any other teenage boy also loves Aussie rules football and skateboarding – is a second season of the Funny or Die hit, Unverified where he’ll resume his leading role of Jackson.
“I really just love jumping between roles – I’m really grateful that I’ve got my family and agents and a manager who have supported my journey.”
“The stories I have been able to tell are the reason I’m an actor. Being able to give audiences the insight into the lives of other people, the experiences those characters have, is the most rewarding part of the job.”
And so begins our in-depth phone interview with Alistair Cooke, an award winning Australian actor who has built a reputation for crafting characters that layer both deep intensity and a boyish innocence.
When speaking with the young Australian, it’s apparent that he’s genuinely motivated by craft and possesses a rare capacity to simultaneously transform himself to serve a character and text, but also retain his unique, one-of-a-kind personality. An extrovert and an introvert, an artist and businessman, Alistair is full of contradictions in the way that only the most deep and provocative artists are.
He elaborated on his chameleon like nature when we asked about it in our chat.
“My ability to take on any accent, mimic body language and have an understanding of human nature… allows me to transform into any character. The key is believing…once you’ve mastered the technicalities of people from voice, body and of course their mental state… you can’t fail.”
Perhaps best known for his award-winning performance in the acclaimed online series, “The Horizon,” Alistair is perceived as a star but has the reputation of a craftsman in the entertainment industry with an extensive repertoire of diverse challenging characters.
In that series, Alistair played the leading role of Jake, the series’ protagonist in this fish-out of water tale about an innocent small-town boy moving to the big city to embrace a progressive community.
“This character had the challenges that many people in the LGBTQI community face and being able to share this with an audience outside that community truly felt like an important part of the job.”
“The Horizon” had the benefit of not only enjoying audience numbers that exceed 63,000,000 but also claims the title of the most successful online series ever produced in Australia. Alistair has taken the success in his stride though, as the associated fame has not meant he has rested on his laurels.
“Sharing the experiences of ‘Jake’ in the series ‘The Horizon’ is something I am most proud of. This character had challenges that many people in the LGBTQI community face and being able to share this with an audience outside that community truly felt like an important part of the job.”
The Perth-native also had the privilege of working with prolific and acclaimed writer Boaz Stark on “The Horizon”, himself known for producing the highest rating episode of Australian television ever for the award-winning series, “Always Greener” (Seven Network).
And the best distinction of Alistair’s role in the critical and audience favourite? Alistair was awarded “Most Outstanding Actor’ for his role in “The Horizon” from the Los Angeles Web Festival, described by Filmmaker Magazine as the “granddaddy of all webfests.”
“That was definitely the icing on the cake,” Alistair offered with a humble smile.
When pressed for further details, Alistair was reticent but eventually forthcoming.
“It was a shock that’s for sure! I was overseas on a shoot when I received the news and didn’t believe it at first. The Los Angeles Web Festival is one of the best in the world and it was such an honour to even be nominated! But to win, was incredible! It’s a warming feeling to know that this character and my interpretation of the role was so well received, it means I did my job, and that’s’ all I could ask for.”
“The Horizon” was also bolstered by the prominent role played by Daniel Nemes, well known for his work on SyFy hit “The Magicians” and “Unusual Suspect.”
Alistair recalled sharing the screen with the former “Home and Away” star, Nemes.
“Daniel is an absolute star…he and I had actually worked together previously, on a film “Twice Shy”…He is so easy to work with, he is open and supportive to all cast and crew.”
While Alistair might sound like his expectations for his career are fairly simple, the body of work he has built says otherwise.
The young leading man has also been prominently featured in sci-fi flick “Crawlspace” co-starring “CSI: Miami” actor Amber Clayton and “The Originals” star Peta Sergeant and action feature “John Doe: Vigilante,” in which he shared the screen with award-winning “Battlestar Galactica” actor Jamie Bamber. Cooke has won the lead in many films including ‘Memories’ alongside Mia Challis as well as Richies Shift, where he plays ‘Richie’.
In addition, Cooke has carved out an impressive track record on stage, ensuring his craft has a solid foundation, having ‘treaded the boards’ (as insiders call it) for many years. Indeed, Alistair received critical acclaim for his leading stage performances in “Ladders by the Sea,” a role performed under the direction of Ron Hadeley.
“I ultimately need to be able to serve any character on a whim – it’s a hard job, but I love it.”
Nothing is more exciting for a music fan than getting tickets to see your favorite artist live in concert. The feeling of your body vibrating to the bass of a beloved song in a giant arena is simply euphoric. However, when enjoying the experience, it is easy to forget how many people it took to make the concert so incredible. Not only is there the talent, dancers, and band that one can see, there are also many that have worked tirelessly behind-the-scenes. Rupa Rathod is one of those people. As an industry leading motion graphics designer, the intricate visuals displayed on the giant screens of the show are her masterpieces.
Having worked with several iconic musicians, such as Shania Twain and Kylie Minogue, Rathod’s work has been seen and appreciated on a global scale. She loves what she does, not only working alongside some of the world’s biggest stars, but also being able to merge her passions for music and design.
“Everything catches my eye; shapes, colors, photography, art and perspective, they’re all influences. I’m constantly working out how to turn anything I see into something graphical, abstract and moving. I’m very practical and hands on so my interest in design and art have always been very much a part of who I am,” said Rathod.
Two years ago, Rathod saw great success with her work on the “Wild, Wild World Tour” for the popular band Bastille. The global tour allowed the motion graphics artist to work closely with award-winning Creative Director, Rob Sinclair, band management, and the band themselves to create and produce the screen content with LA based production company and studio, Blink.
“I developed a good working relationship with the band. It’s the notion that you understand their world and so you have their trust on something so important to them. It’s what grounds me the most during these projects and what I aspire to always have with artists and bands,” Rathod described.
Loosely set in a slightly playful dystopian world, the vision for the tour visuals was very specific but also required a lot of collaborative development. The brief for this tour was the notion that big brother was watching and controlling you, set in a future where the whole world was ruled by a fictional corporation, World Wide Communications. Rathod’s understanding of Sinclair and the band’s vision was trusted by the entire design team instantly.
“It’s unusual for a tour, especially with an indie band to have such a strong narrative, so I was sold from the moment I read the concept. In my mind, there was no end to the amount of scenarios that could be created in this dystopian world. I was completely submerged in this environment and pitching my designs, having them approved and then being able to develop all the ideas into real working visuals was hugely rewarding,” said Rathod.
On a tour such as Bastille’s, the set design is always the beginning of the process. Rathod and her team began producing strong concepts and inspirational references. Once the setlist was completed, Rathod got to work.
As Producer, her role was to develop the initial brief, and oversee and direct the team of animators and visual artists. This involved digging a bit deeper into the references and going back with an initial design. Once her approach was approved, she collaborated Blink’s team of motion graphics artists to bring the visuals to life.
As she is so hands on when it comes to the visual aspect of the production, Rathod is ideally placed to see the project through the final stages of rehearsals. For her, it all comes together when she gets into a production rehearsal with the full band, lighting and all departments working together. As a creator of visual content, her job isn’t just to make great visuals, it’s to create content that’s cohesive with a huge live concert spectacle. Some of the best video moments in the show were not conceived until this rehearsal block, so a big part of Rathod’s job was turning ideas around sometimes overnight to test them on screen the next day. This also allowed her to form a good relationship with the band.
“I worked with Rupa on the “Wild World” world tour across 2016 and 2017, where she was in charge of creating all the video content for our live show. Her creative abilities are second to none and to be able to interact with her on an artistic level was a hugely fulfilling experience. We hope to use her again and again during the next touring cycles. She is without doubt one of the best in the industry at what she does, quite apart from being one of the nicest,” said Dan Smith, the lead singer of Bastille.
Rathod stayed on this tour for the first few shows, which allowed two weeks to tweak and change content prior to the band’s first big night at the O2 in London. Seeing the fans’ responses from her work made the entire experience even more worth it.
“The reaction from fans as well as reviews acknowledged the visuals I produced and was a welcome recognition of how important the visuals are to the overall concert experience. It’s a completely multi-sensory experience and seeing it through from start to finish is always the most rewarding part. It’s always such a priceless moment when you see it go live, a feeling that I don’t think will ever leave me,” she concluded.
To stay up-to-date with Rathod’s work at Blink Inc., check out their website.
Top Photo: Rupa Rathod, Tom Colbourne and Steve Price working on Bastille Tour
Millie Samuels is the first to admit that she’s busy, constantly criss-crossing between different projects and characters. Indeed, what’s perhaps most notable about this young Australian is that she has built an excellent standing for being able to work as an actor across film, television, stage and online content.
“Acting is acting whether for theatre or the screen! The process is the same it is simply understanding how close your audience is. These days people are watching content so closely on their lap tops and are demanding utter truth and transparency which is really exciting to explore as an actor.”
We’re chatting over the phone, and she continues rapid fire. “I’ve been quite lucky that creatives and companies seem to want to work with me again and again. We Aussie’s are a loyal bunch” the blonde actress adds with a touch of Australian wit.
One example of a successful creative partnership is the inextricable role she has played with Peter Andrikidis’ company Zenmost. Andrikidis’, possibly Australia’s most prolific and successful screen directors, cast Millie in the critical role of Mary in Catching Milat, and then again offered her the role of Clare in critically acclaimed feature film Alex and Eve. Peter’s belief in Millie’s ability to deliver an outstanding performance for the latter was so great that he offered her the role without even having to audition her.
“I’ve said this before: I’m really blessed,” Millie reiterates.
In Alex and Eve, Millie shared the screen with fellow Australian actors Andrea Demetriades and Richard Brancatisano – who, like Millie, are well-known as Australians who have reached the top of their profession by playing leading roles in American series. In their case, CBS drama Murder and ABC Family show Chasing Life, respectively. Filming with Peter Andrikidis on a second occasion was only one part in a series of highlights in her journey as a cast member in the fan-favourite feature. The romantic comedy, which currently screens on Foxtel Movies, was one of the most popular films at the Santa Barbara Film Festival in the US in 2016 and also screened at the Cannes Film Festival Cannes Cinéphiles.
A source advised us, “It was a sell out having to turn away more than a hundred patrons!”
Millie explains why she thinks Peter has forged this creative partnership. “Peter appreciated my versality as an actor and recognised that I had strengths in drama and well as comedy. I have also been asked to help facilitate his Masterclasses with Australian Film Television and Radio School which was also an honour.”
Multiple-award-winning actor Simon Elrahi, who played the role of Bassam in Alex and Eve, offered nothing but praise when asked about Millie’s role in the film and why her command of her craft leaves her constantly in demand for acting projects.
“After working with Millie on Alex and Eve I knew I had to cast her in my own (award winning) short film Flow. She is a brave actor with incredible intuitions,” Simon adeptly explains. “I needed Millie’s vivacious energy as part of the cast; the story is very dark and full of tension and Millie was able to bring such great light and ease to balance the dynamics of the film. It was an absolute privilege to work with her.”
Aside from the enjoyable challenge that comes from being able to work with top-tier television talent, Millie relished the commercial and critical acclaim that came with being a part of Andrikidis’ Catching Milat as it enjoyed the highest ratings for free-to-air Australian TV in 2015. It’s no surprise given that the mini-series covered the life of one of Australia’s most notorious serial killers Ivan Milat, with Millie playing the critical role of one of Milat’s first victims, Mary.
“Mary and her friend Therese were the only victims of Milat’s who were able to get away from their kidnapper. My performance was used for the promotion of the series and played an integral part in drawing in a large audience and eventually lead to over 1.4 million views in Australia.” This writer acknowledges that such numbers are unheard of in the Australia market, as the land down-under only has a population of 24 million.
Network Seven no doubt loved the numbers that came from the show, as it helped them take up nearly 28 per cent of all Australian audiences.
While it’s clear though that Millie’s role at Andrikidis’ company will continue to be a lucrative one, her relationship with MetroScreen is a testament to her commitment to her artistry and willingness to challenge herself in grittier independent projects.
MetroScreen, a company that was instrumental in developing community access to video and television production through training, productions and capital investment in equipment and facilities, cast the two-time Heath Ledger Scholarship finalist in two esteemed films: The Passenger and Three Heart.
When asked about the development process, Millie confidently sheds light on the topic. “The films were green lit as a result of my involvement due to my professional credentials. The films required a lead actor with enough credits and experience to be able to push it into film festivals.”
Her casting clearly paid off for the MetroScreen and the producers, as Three Hearts was nominated for an award at the highly-regarded Dances With Films festival and enjoyed a world premiere at the Chinese Theatres in Hollywood, while The Passenger premiered on the ABC network in 2014. The latter added to the strong connection Millie also boasts with the ABC network.
In her closing remarks, Millie is articulate and thoughtful. “As an actor regardless of the medium or the genre I know there is importance in the work we do. As the world becomes increasingly disembodied and dehumanised by fear and greed it is through our work that can bring change. I am able to remind the world of our humanity through the many characters and stories I am so grateful to be apart of.”
We recently had a chance to catch up with Norwegian music producer Peder Etholm-Idsoee, and rock and roll power duo David Stewart Jr (vocals, bass, guitar) and Chava (drums, live loops) of the band Migrant Motel, for an interview on their collaboration and upcoming releases.
As a producer Peder draws upon a wide range of skills to help shape and co-create projects with the bands and artists he produces. A highly trained multi-instrumentalist and brilliant songwriter who’s known for his work on a lengthy repertoire of hits, such as Nico Farias’ single ‘Que Los Mares No Se Enteren,’ which took home the Song of the Year Award from the 2015 Latin Billboard Awards, Peder’s passion for experimentation and innovation has been key in the success of many artists.
As much as Peder brings a diverse range of influences into his work as a producer, so do the guys of Migrant Motel. With David Stewart Jr. coming from Peru, and Chava hailing from Mexico, they’re collaboration emits a heavy rock and roll sound that is made even more intriguing by the modern synths, musical arrangement and various cultural influences.
Released last year, Migrant Motel’s album “Volume One,” which Peder produced, offers everything from hard-hitting power ballads and wailing guitar solos through songs such as ‘Snapshot’ to more jazz and blues driven songs like ‘Bottleman.’ Likened to a modern version of Lenny Kravitz’s ‘Are You Gonna Go My Way,’ their powerful single ‘New Religion’ appears on top Spotify rock playlists, such as Dirty Rock and New Noise. A strong and compelling first album that brings in elements of the old and the new, “Volume One” showcases the band’s musical range and magnetic energy, not to mention their potent lyrics.
While some artists can strike it big on their own, most artists who ‘make it,’ whether they’re in the art or music industry, having a visionary backing them like producer Peder Etholm-Idsoe. Someone who sees the bigger picture and acts as a force to ground, inspire and fuel the creative collaboration, makes a world of difference in an artist’s career, and that’s exactly what we see through this collaboration.
Thanks for joining us guys!
First, Peder can you tell us what you feel makes a great producer?
PE: The ability to be as versatile as possible. Always be open to new genres and experiment as much as possible outside of your own comfort zone of genres. It is easy to make the decisions that you are used to and you know come easy for you, which works of course for a while, but at one point you will plateau your own development and that’s a huge point with music for me, it is always developing.
When did you guys first start working together?
PE: We started or collaboration a little over two years ago now. I saw them play at a club back in Boston, Massachusetts and decided to approach them after their set to word my enthusiasm about the band, and that I would love to collab with them.
How did you know you were the right fit for one another as artist and producer?
MM: After working on one song, “Blue,” we realized the chemistry and final product was unlike anything we’d ever done before. We immediately signed him on for a full album and dove into work.
PE: I truly enjoyed the experience after the first song we did together. Working with raw talent like these guys is always a pleasure for a producer.
Would you say Peder had a pretty strong role in shaping the direction of ‘Volume One’?
MM: Absolutely! Without his help, I don’t think we would have the success that we’re having right now. He was quintessential in the development of our sound, look and vibe.
When did you guys sign with InGrooves and how did that come about?
MM: Our manager Marya Meyer knew of InGrooves for a while and when it was time to choose a distribution method, they seemed like an obvious choice. We met a few times and really enjoyed their energy and enthusiasm for our work, so we signed off on a 3 year deal with them. It’s been a great add to the team.
I hear you have some music videos coming out for two songs off the debut album ‘Volume One’– can you tell us about those?
MM: We have re-releases planned for “Bourbon” and “Physical,” a couple very fun videos for each. There’s still a lot of life in this album that we wanna make sure to explore before moving on to new material.
What other projects do you have planned for the coming months?
MM: We have 3 brand new singles already plotted out with Peder, all of which we are extremely excited about. We can’t wait to share and give more details in the coming months.
As their producer, what was the collaboration like on the new songs?
PE: One word. Fun! Since we are so used to too working together it makes the creative process really fluid. And we trust each other when someone wants to “take a risk” with a musical decision, because 99% of the time it really works out.
Can you guys tell us a little bit about the music videos you have coming out for these songs?
MM: It’ll be a wide range since the 3 songs are vastly different. One may or may not include some very RuPaul inspired themes however! We are working with Christian Klein, a cinematographer based in LA, and his team, and are in the midst of pre-production now.
When are they expected drop?
MM: Sometime mid winter
Peder, how do you fit into the mix when it comes to ideas and the process of creating the music videos for Migrant Motel?
PE: The guys usually bounces ideas during our sessions about music video ideas which makes the whole product really well thought out. It makes the whole project really coherent.
How has working with Peder changed the game for you guys as a band since you first began working together?
MM: Thanks to Peder’s contributions in a technical and artist aspect, we’ve reached almost half a million streams on Spotify, opened for bands like Journey and Cafe Tacuba, and are preparing to tour internationally this year. Working with Peder has ABSOLUTELY changed the game for us.
Why do you enjoy working together?
MM: Peder’s ability to be creative and artistic within his production is something I haven’t seen from anyone else. His fluidity on a technical level is astounding but, above all, the care and passion he brings to each second of every song is what we look for in a great producer.
PE: The natural talent and passion the guys are bringing to the table is a really amazing motivator to “bring your best” to every session, which makes the whole process really fun every time. Also that David and Chava are some of the nicest and caring people you will meet doesn’t hurt either.
Make sure to checkout Migrant Motel’s social media page to stay up to date with their new releases:
While it’s the actor job to ‘become’ their character and bring their stories, personality and all of the mannerisms and idiosyncrasies that make them unique to the screen, it’s those behind the scenes, like makeup artist Flavia Vieira, that come together to transform the actor to look like the character in the script. In film and television believability is everything, something Vieira knows all about.
For Vieira, each actor is a canvas waiting to be transformed into someone else, someone we can watch on screen and effortlessly believe that they’re the real thing in a way that helps us get lost in their story.
Most filmmakers that have worked with Vieira call the Brazilian native back to their set for future productions due to her precision as a makeup artist and the diverse nature of her skill. Filmmaker Camila Rizzo first saw Vieira’s power as a makeup artist on the film “Oust,” which led her to tap Vieira to come on board as the makeup artist on her own films.
Rizzo explains, “‘Oust’ needed a lot of makeup work, and I saw how detailed Flavia was and I decided to invite her to work on my film ‘My Two O’Clock’.”
Flavia’s work on “My Two O’Clock” was key in making the film’s stars Nick Larice (“Je T’aime, Au Revoir”) and Henry Mark (“Grey’s Anatomy,” “Unusual Suspects”) look the part of their characters, and the film ultimately went on to win the Global Film Festival Award, the LA Shorts Awards’ Diamond Award, the Award of Recognition from The IndieFest Film Awards and was chosen as a Semi-Finalist from the Los Angeles Cinefest.
“Flavia was very effective on set and she did a great job making the right makeup,” says Rizzo, who then hired Flavia once again to come onboard as head of makeup on her newest film “Headway.”
Based on real characters, “Headway,” which wrapped production earlier this year and stars Hayden Currie (“The Mirror”) and Connor Chess (“TMI Hollywood,” “Heartbeat Away”), revolved around the converging stories of two very different characters- an autistic boy (Currie) and an MMA fighter (Chess) facing the end of his career.
“She overpassed my expectations. ‘Headway’ had difficult makeup because one of the main characters is a fighter who had just been knocked out. During the pre-production, Flavia and I had some meetings to discuss every detail of the fighter’s wounds and how she would work on the make up during the passing of 3 months time to keep the continuity,” explains Rizzo. “During one of the Headway private screenings a couple of people came to me to say how impressed they were on the continuity of the fighter’s wound and how real it was.”
Second to none, Flavia’s skill in creating the kinds of special effects makeup that ranges from gory fight wounds to using prosthetics to completely transform an actor to look like an otherworldly creature, which she did for the sci-fi film “Bloody Eyes,” has brought the sought after makeup artist quite a bit of attention for her work.
Though the intense transformations she pulls off on set definitely highlight the strength of her craft when it comes to complex looks, the key for any successful makeup artist in the film industry is to understand, from the minor to the monumental, the aesthetic changes the actor needs to best fit the character in the script. And it’s that keen understanding that has made Flavia such a powerhouse behind the scenes.
“I always like to discuss the looks with directors and writers… Especially when I’m creating the looks of the characters. The writer invented the character. The director is bringing him to life on the screen. What I need is to understand the core of the character to be able to translate it into the look,” explains Flavia.
For the multi-award winning film “Becoming Lucy” directed by Luisa Novo, Flavia was tasked with doing ‘beauty makeup’ for the majority of the characters, however one character, Lucy, the lead played by Maitlyn Pezzo, required a drastic hair change, one that the overall story relied on. After Lucy’s father leaves her mother for a young blonde, and she discovers her teenage crush likes blondes as well, Lucy decides to dye her blonde in order to attract their attention, but the result is disastrous.
In order to transform Lucy’s look Flavia devoted extensive attention to finding the perfect wig, cutting it to look the actress’ real hair and color testing it until she reached the perfect ‘imperfect’ shade.
“[Flavia] was the head of makeup, hair and wardrobe… She was essential in getting the wig to look believable. Get the color and texture right, and adding the style to it that fitted each scene. Without that the story would have failed. She also did an excellent job in adding personality to each character,” explains director Luisa Novo. “Flavia doesn’t accept doing a bad job. She does whatever it is in her power to make each project the best it can be. Her makeup and hair skills are fantastic, and she treats the actor so well that they always want to work with her again.”
Key to the film’s success, Flavia’s skill and attention to detail for the characters in “Becoming Lucy” led her to receive impressive industry praise that included earning the Diamond Award for Best Makeup from the LA Shorts Awards and the Bronze Award for Best Makeup from the International Independent Awards in 2017.
Though she’s made a prominent name for herself as a movie makeup artist, Flavia Vieira is no stranger to leading the makeup departments on popular commercials and music videos. Earlier this year she was the head makeup artist on the Tropkillaz music video for ‘Milk & Honey’ featuring Aloe Blacc, which has nearly three million views on YouTube.
For the Tropkillaz music video, as well as the commercial she did for McDonald’s Brazil, which featured Tyler James Williams from the hit series “Everybody Hates Chris,” Flavia aired on the side of minimalism, using her artistry to highlight the natural features of those on screen.
Flavia says, “An actor, man or woman, wouldn’t feel comfortable in front of camera without makeup, or even without knowing a makeup expert took out the shininess out of their skin and took care of unwanted hair flyaways.”
As a makeup artist Flavia Vieira’s knowledge and seasoned skill behind the scenes keeps her working on set more than most. In addition to several upcoming films and television series, she says she is also excited to be a part this year’s 48 Hour Film Project, which takes place in August. With a production team of all women, Flavia says “We’re in it to win it!”
Yang Shao always knew he wanted to be a filmmaker. He loved the idea of sharing his views with the world, and filmmaking is the ultimate way to do so. Born and raised in the Eastern part of China, he wants to share his passion and viewpoints with the world and bring heartfelt stories to the cinema.
“Modern cinema being predominantly shaped by the western culture is in my opinion missing some jigs of the puzzle which I think eastern culture can offer. Films can be entertaining without having one guy kill everybody around him. Life is so much more than just guns and murders. Beauty and soul of the world – that’s what I want to share with the world through my cinematography,” he said.
It is such a philosophy that has made Shao an internationally sought-after cinematographer. His contributions to films such as A Better World, Under, and Once More have asked audiences some of life’s biggest questions while captivating them with their stories, and the comedy horror television series Life is Horrible has brought joy and tears of laughter to viewers all over the world.
In Shao’s most recent film, The Great Guys, he explores a magical world through the lens of his camera. The film follows a fairy who comes to earth to look for the greatest kid to keep in her home, which is in a fairytale world. She meets eight kids and hears eight different stories. At the end of the story, she decides to bring all those eight kids back to her home together. The story reminded Shao of his childhood.
“To be honest with you, as a kid I always believed in magic. I was a naïve kid when I was growing up and I think that helped me become and achieve those results in the film industry. I try to always stay curious and allow things to surprise me. I think that’s what drew me to this story. I wanted to share this magical world with the young generation, including my own kids who are growing up in a completely different world today,” said Shao.
The Great Guys premiered at the San Francisco International Film Festival where it received the Best Director Award. The movie then was distributed in theaters across China. After a successful run, The Great Guys was sold to one of the biggest streaming platforms in China iQiyi. The Director, Jin Zhang, thanks Shao for the success the film received.
“An artist friend of mine recommended Yang as a highly professional and aesthetically exceptional cinematographer. Talented artists have their own vision of things, of ideas and scripts. We managed to find the midpoint where our visions met. To create an outstanding product, you need an extraordinary talent. I’m lucky to have had Yang on my movie,” said Jin Zhang.
Shao did indeed find ways to make each scene visually shine. He aims to light up every scene in a way that drives the story forward. There are different ways to do that, but specifically for this project, he decided to experiment with using only soft filling light of warm colors. He wanted to put more emphasis on the characters. The light therefore is what draws audiences’ attention to various parts of the scene, highlighting what to focus on. In this story, it also shows the difference between the protagonist and the antagonist.
Shao also used a hand-held camera to film, having long takes between cuts. With a magical story, he wanted that feeling to be conveyed at all times. Lots of colored filling light helped to achieve bright and colorful picture that played well with the story and highlighted the emphatic world saturated with magic.
“One thing that I particularly like is the dedication of the crew and the entire team to the craft. I really enjoy working with people who are not only professionals but who also are passionate about what they do. Passion is really what shapes the work and how you see yourself dealing with those people. Nine out of ten times when I’ve seen people had some issues on the set is when they were not driven by their passion. Passionate-driven people on set come from a very different place and in my opinion the final outcome is different in this case. More intimate and personal,” said Shao.
Shao’s favorite part of making the film, however, is the interest he received from his daughter. At the time he was reviewing the screenplay, she was only five years old. He was unsure if he had the time to take on the project, so he read the script many times trying to make a decision. When his daughter asked what he was doing, he began to explain the technical aspects of filmmaking. He realized, that rather that talk to a young child about these things, he’d explain the fairy tale script instead. Immediately, his daughter was enthralled.
“At that moment I thought that with this movie maybe I can get her closer to the magic and not let her think that our life depends only on technological progress. And I did. With that movie my daughter and I started talking about more fun and kid stuff,” he said.
So, what’s next for this industry leading cinematographer? Keep an eye out for Shao’s three upcoming features, Need, In the Middle of the Night, and Excel on the Highway.
Actress Alina Smolyar knows the challenges of her chosen career path. Memorizing large amounts of text, researching characters, drastic physical appearance changes, lack of sleep, transforming into another person, working in extreme weather conditions, the list goes on. However, without such challenges, acting wouldn’t be what she fell in love with when she was only a child. For this internationally sought-after actress, these obstacles are what drives her.
Every project any actor takes on has its own set of challenges, and Smolyar not only accepts this fact, but enjoys it. When working on her film Molehill, which is perhaps the actress’ most decorated film to date, she was faced with what seemed like an endless list of obstacles to overcome, and although it was daunting, this is where she shined.
“Honestly, Molehill was one of the most challenging projects I’ve ever worked on. I thought it would be a disaster! No jokes. But this journey made it all the more rewarding when everything came together,” said Smolyar.
Molehill is an artistic film that follows a group of friends at a party. Audiences are kept guessing until the very end, never knowing what is going to happen next. The ending is completely unpredictable, encouraging audiences to think long after the film concludes, giving the impression that it is a beginning rather than an end.
“I like when it’s unexpected in movies, we as an audience always remember this type of film,” said Smolyar.
Smolyar’s character in Molehill is Leigh, an adult in her early 20s who became older earlier than she’s supposed to. She has a full-time job, her mother is going through health issues, and she has a lot to deal with at home. She finds the need to protect her younger brother Sid, who upon turning 21 becomes very wild. For him, he is having fun, but for Leigh, it is another problem to take care of. She doesn’t have time for herself, to enjoy life or to go out and find a guy. She is incredibly stressed. Her character works in a contrast with everybody and everything around her. From the very beginning we can hear and see a party, people are having fun and this black spot named Leigh who’s so serious and stressed and everything goes wrong for her.
“You know when we are over stressed and it’s so hard to focus on something positive, because it’s like a tornado? You just keep dealing with all this craziness around you. That is the exact struggle Leigh is facing,” said Smolyar.
Smolyar faced a similar struggle when she began working on the film. As a writer of Molehill, she had a different idea of where to take the story, but it wouldn’t work for the film. At the time, she had no idea what else she wanted to share or how to share it. Upon meeting with her director and producers, inspiration struck and she was able to come up with a story she liked.
“You know that feeling when you have to do everything very fast, but you have a white sheet or a monkey with plates in your head? That was me. I had no idea what else I wanted to tell, and we were running out of time,” she recalled.
When making the film, Smolyar was also one of the producers, a role she had never taken on before as she typically focuses on acting. She found her experience as an actress helped with her producing role.
When it came to acting, she put herself fully into Leigh, understanding her struggles and motivation behind every move she made. The arc of the character was important to Smolyar. It was part of her initial idea and was vital for the film.
“It was complicated for me. I guess at one point it worked very well for my acting perspective, because you can definitely see that contrast which I needed for Leigh. I was as stressed in my real life as Leigh was in hers. However, all my preparation for the project as both producer and actress helped to create my Leigh,” said Smolyar.
Being the writer, producer, and star of the film was an enormous amount of responsibility for Smolyar, but she enjoyed that. Molehill truly felt like her film, more so than any other project she had done before. She found wearing so many hats allowed her to become a better actress, and when the film became so successful, she knew she had done her job right.
Molehill premiered last May and then made its way to several festivals both in the United States and around the world. It was an Official Selection at Cine Fest, Festigious International Film Festival, and Mindfield. Smolyar herself was also awarded with Best Actress at the Actors Awards, New York Film Awards, Los Angeles Film Awards, and Oniros where she won Best Acting Duo. The result astounded Smolyar, who although had tremendous success with past projects, did not expect it for her own film.
“It still feels pleasurable, especially when you didn’t expect this kind of success. It feels great when you’re getting recognition for what you’ve been working on and especially when you do what you love,” she concluded.
Be sure to check out Smolyar’s upcoming films 1stBorn, and Skeleton in the Closet.
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