Director Eliza Brownlie’s Unique Visual Style Captivates Audiences

By Portia Leigh
Director Eliza Brownlie shot by Leonard Smith

It’s impossible not to watch director Eliza Brownlie’s work and not feel something. Over the past few years she’s directed commercials and fashion films for well-known brands including Dove, Canon, Cast + Combed, Top Expert, Angie Bauer Lingerie and many more. Diverging from the bright colors and over the top emotions utilized by most mainstream commercials to grab our attention, Brownlie brings a delicate subtlety to her work that is appealing enough to capture our interest. She doesn’t need to bombard or distract us with bells, whistles and bright lights.

“With commercials you are often working for a brand or a client, so you have to consider their needs and objectives. That’s always in the back of your mind when making directorial choices,” says Brownlie. “At the same time, the client often hires you because they like your filmmaking style, so I try and find a good balance of giving them what they’re looking for and putting my unique spin on it.”

The soft tones, atmospheric visuals and the fluidity of the camera movements present in most of her work gives Brownlie a recognizable style that is feminine, honest and intriguing, not to mention highly cinematic. And it is these aspects that have made her such a sought after director internationally. Though we’ll rarely see a face forcing a smile in any one of her commercials, the emotions of her actors are palpable and authentically human; and as a director, one of her strengths is working with her actors to bring out those qualities on camera.

Brownlie says, “I love collaborating with actors in developing the characters and performance, as well as creating a safe space for them to feel supported and bring ideas to the table. This always makes for a better performance and working environment in general. It can be easy to get lost in making beautiful visuals and forget about performance. I always try to remind myself that story, character, and performance are everything.”

The women featured in Imperfectionists, a series of branded documentary films Brownlie recently directed for Dove’s Self-Esteem Project, are not actors; but that says even more about her skill as a director. With each film focusing on a different artist and exploring how they overcame insecurity and learned to embrace their so-called ‘flaws,’ Brownlie brilliantly captures the story of each woman with a refreshing level of vulnerability.

In order to highlight how each artist turned their ‘imperfection’ into a strength, Brownlie had to create the space for them to open up and allow her to peer into their lives, and the way she captures it is beautiful. Through one on one interviews she manages to elicit the most intricate and personal details about their human experience, and the way she puts it all together combined with sequences of each artist fully involved in their passion makes each film incredibly inspirational.

“I used dynamic camera work to convey the uplifting tone and the joy and power that each of them derived from their art, whether that was painting, dance or music,” Brownlie explains. “I always made sure to direct the women in a way in which they felt as confident and beautiful as they are.”

The goal of Dove’s Self-Esteem Project is to empower young women of every shape, size and color to accept and love their bodies as they are, and to see themselves as strong and valuable human beings regardless of societal expectations.

Brownlie says, “I think for the majority of women, and humans in general, the journey to self-acceptance is a rocky and complicated process. It’s never a straight line. But I know that I feel my best when I’m creating, not when I’m focused on my appearance.”

Through her emphasis on the positivity and self-confidence that emerges through the process of creating, Brownlie nails the mark with the Imperfectionist series. It’s nearly impossible not to be inspired after watching one of these films.

Growing up in a small suburban community by the sea in West Vancouver, Canada, Brownlie was surrounded by natural beauty where the sky remained grey throughout most of the year, bringing a certain level of isolation. For her, the juxtaposition of bucolic scenery and melancholy weather patterns was something beneficial.

“You had a lot of time to think and find your own fun, which I guess made it conducive to creativity. I did a lot of painting, writing and photography, and also played tons of sports,” recalls Brownlie. “Since as far back as I can remember I’ve always loved film. I recall watching Kubrick’s The Shining as a kid and being completely blown away by the imagery, my parents weren’t very good at filtering what my brothers and I watched, which in retrospect I’m grateful for now.”

Though Brownlie studied communications as an undergrad, she started creating visual work on the side during her second year of college. One of her first professional projects was the music video for the Canadian alt rock band The Darcys’ single “Itchy Blood” off their debut album Warring. After reaching out to cinematographer and friend Peter Hadfield (The Basement, Is There a Picture) to collaborate, Brownlie and Hadfield joined forces and came up with a concept for the video and then pitched their idea to the band and their label, Arts & Crafts. Arts & Crafts and The Darcys were immediately on board with the concept, and just like that, Brownlie and Hadfield went to work directing the music video.

Starring Eva Bourne from ABC’s seven-time Primetime Emmy nominated series Once Upon a Time and model Jordan Swail, “Itchy Blood” explores the monotony of money and suburban life through the absurd ways two teenage girls kill time in their mid-century modern mansion.

Brownlie says, “The video is a subtle commentary on the disenchanting effects of wealth on youth, and the things young women do to escape suburban ennui. The song has a soft, dreamy quality about it that gradually builds to a haunting climax. I wanted the narrative and the visuals to reflect that.”

Featured by Vice outlet Noisey, Photogmusic, The Stranger, ION Magazine and many more, the music video garnered major international attention upon release. A rare accomplishment for any director’s first work, the ‘Itchy Blood’ music video was the proverbial gateway that opened the door to the industry and set her off on her way as a director. Even then, the unique style that makes her stand-out today was evident.

Since that first music video for The Darcys several years ago to her recent narrative horror film The After Party, which was an Official Selection of the Williamsburg Independent Film Festival and the Sacramento Horror Film Festival and stars Isabel Dresden (Castle, Scandal) and Tarryn Lagana (Wonderland Ave., Too Far Gone), director Eliza Brownlie has continued to make a powerful name for herself in the industry as an exceptionally talented filmmaker.

Never one to follow in the footsteps of another, Brownlie has channeled her gift for creative expression into a definitive personal style that offers up a unique kind of intimacy accompanied by the underlying feeling that something bad is about to happen. She is definitely in a league of her own and we can’t wait to see what she creates next.

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From Russia to LA: Daria Khovanova’s Journey into the Music Biz

Daria Khovanova
Management Coordinator Daria Khovanova shot by Isabella Behravan

It takes far more than music alone to keep the music industry running like the finely-tuned machine it is. Anyone with dreams of graduating from garage demos to packed stadiums needs the support of somebody with the connections and know-how necessary to make that dream a reality. For those lucky musicians whose sounds and skills have earned them her discerning confidence, management coordinator Daria Khovanova has been an invaluable lifeline in a highly competitive business.

Long before she worked her way up the ranks to her position as management coordinator, Khovanova knew her path in life would lead her to the industry. Born and raised in Moscow, she began training in piano and music theory when she was only six. As a teenager she was glued to MTV and VH1, which led in part to her lifelong love of American and British music. The local bands weren’t her style, so Khovanova set out to explore the scene out west.

“I was never inspired by the music industry back home, in Russia. There were no bands I was excited about. Most of them came from abroad,” she recalled. “So I started travelling to Europe early on to go to shows and music festivals. While also seeking out any book I could find in the vein of ‘How To Make It In The Music Industry.’”

The worldly experience she gained from her travels proved invaluable. She began establishing and growing her professional network, discovered countless new artists and influences, and built the foundation for her future career. Before long, she landed a life-changing position that gave her an opportunity to get some hands-on experience working in the field she loved.

“I managed to secure an intern position at Monotone. It’s a management company run by Ian Montone, and it has a pretty amazing artist roster including Jack White, The Kills, LCD Soundsystem, The Shins, and Vampire Weekend,” she said.

With a myriad of illustrious clients that includes legendary 12-time Grammy-winner Jack White, Monotone is exceptionally discerning in who it hires. Luck played no part in the decision to offer Khovanova the internship; even then, in her earliest days, it was clear to anyone in the know she had an innate gift for navigating the ins and outs of the labyrinthian music industry. Her natural aptitude for finding, fostering and cultivating talent is what’s enabled her to rise to the top of her field.

During her time at Monotone she discovered her talents and passions made her perfect for the role she now fills. As a management coordinator, there’s very little Khovanova doesn’t do for her clients. Khovanova is there at every step of her clients’ careers, watching like a hawk and constantly ready for any opportunity or obstacle that might arise.

“As an artist’s management coordinator you wear many hats, and that’s what I enjoy most. There’s never a dull moment,” explained Khovanova. “I realized a long time ago that working in music I didn’t want to be stuck in the office. Maintaining personal contact with the artists is of great importance to me, and it’s something I think the artists appreciate also… It’s important to be in it together, share adventures together and grow a bond.”

That level of personal involvement in the creative process requires a delicate balance. Khovanova never veers in the direction of being either controlling or detached; her finely-honed talents enable her to find the perfect middle ground where her clients are never interfered with nor neglected, but given exactly what they need to thrive. That philosophy, and Khovanova’s unbounded passion, are a large part of what her clients consider when they choose her as their ally.

Years spent immersed in the music scene of Western Europe, followed by her experience at Monotone, made Khovanova a formidable figure in her field. Through skill and sheer perseverance she earned the trust and partnership of Los Angeles rock band Allah-Las. Active for a decade in the L.A. scene, Allah-Las have become headliner darlings of the indie music scene in both the U.S. and Europe. After a long friendship between Khovanova and the band, she became their management coordinator in 2017.

“We met at SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, through mutual Angeleno friends who are now based in Berlin. We stayed in touch and crossed paths many times in Europe and Russia,” she recalled. “[It’s my job to] secure endorsement deals, take part in merchandise development and production, manage touring and advancing shows, book flights and accommodations and make sure everything runs smoothly on the road.”

It’s virtually impossible to name an aspect of the band’s day-to-day schedule that Khovanova isn’t personally involved in. She’s the wizard behind the curtain, and everything she does as the band’s management coordinator revolves around her longtime love of the music they make.

“Their music is timeless, not affected by trends or new technologies. They like to record the tried-and-tested, old-fashioned way, which I think is very appealing,” she described. “Well, they take you in and you become part of a family. There is a certain magic in being on the road with a close-knit group of best friends… They always manage to put a smile on your face somehow. There’s never a dull moment.”

The camaraderie between the band members and Khovanova is invaluable when it comes time to plan and manage the band’s innumerable events. That was especially true when the Allah-Las headed to Texas to play the Marfa Myths festival. Khovanova handled nearly everything for the trip, ensuring it was an epic show for band and fans alike.

“[My job included] liaising with festival organizers and the record label, Mexican Summer, in preparation for the festival, negotiating set length, order of appearance, financial compensation, and more,” Khovanova said, describing the details of her unbelievably packed agenda. “I also did scheduling, handled the van rental, seeking out and booking the best accommodation options within close proximity to the venue, arranging advance shows, renting backline if needed, hiring and flying out the sound person the band trusts for the show, handling guest lists, and often settlement at the end of the night.”

Marfa, Texas
Daria Khovanova in Marfa, Texas

Handling the Allah-Las’ show at the iconic Marfa Myths festival speaks volumes to Khovanova’s abilities as their management coordinator. The festival has become a renowned showcase for artists, filmmakers and musicians at the forefront of the industry. Many of those who’ve shared their work at Marfa Myths, like Allah-Las, already have huge followings internationally. Others are receiving their first major exposure before going on to become household names. For a band like Allah-Las, nailing the perfect set at Marfa Myths meant a chance to gain thousands of new fans and an immeasurable boost in publicity. Thanks to Khovanova’s tireless work, the show went off without a hitch, further cementing her already stellar reputation.

Khovanova is extensively involved in groups and projects in addition to her work specifically with Allah-Las. She is a key member of Reverberation Radio, a creative collective of musicians who discover, create, and curate the best new tracks and deep cuts from artists around the country and internationally.

“Reverberation Radio is a close-knit group of record collectors who create weekly mixes of largely forgotten tracks drawing from decades of strange pop and instrumentals,” Khovanova described. “All members of Allah-Las are part of the collective and regular contributors to weekly mixes that come out each Wednesday.”

Working with what is essentially a think tank of musicians, Khovanova’s role is to ensure Reverberation Radio receives every possible opportunity to grow its brand and reach. By coordinating with artists, venues and event planners, she is constantly hard at work finding new ways to expand Reverberation Radio’s presence in the digital media landscape. Because of the close ties between Khovanova, the Allah-Las’ band members and the collective, she is uniquely qualified to bridge the needs of both groups. And with the westward move of a legendary East Coast venue, the popularity of Reverberation Radio exploded.

“There would often be Reverberation Radio DJ’s at the Allah-Las’ shows to ensure the right atmosphere. Lately though, with the opening of Zebulon – the legendary Brooklyn venue that relocated to LA in 2017 – the musical landscape has changed,” she described. “The Reverberation Radio dance party grew from playing smaller bars to being the most popular dance party to go to…, often with lines of people forming outside trying to get in. No one expected that kind of success, and it’s become a monthly event.”

Daria Khovanova
Daria Khovanova at Zebulon

That venue, Zebulon, is another example of a huge success that is covered in Khovanova’s fingerprints. In the time since it opened in L.A., it’s become one of the premiere Saturday night spots for the city’s young and trendy to dance, drink and discover new artists. Working hand-in-hand with Reverberation Radio, Khovanova has a key role in making the club what it is.

“I also work at Zebulon, where Reverberation Radio have a monthly dance night which has become the successful and well-attended ‘Party at Zebulon.’ Zebulon has become a new centerpiece to the nightlife in L.A. for people looking for a higher quality of music and art,” she said. “I do social media, marketing and some booking at the venue.”

The full list of duties she performs for Zebulon is seemingly endless. In a nutshell, she is responsible for all communication between the venue and Reverberation Radio. It’s a big task with bigger stakes for both the venue and the collective. Her results, however, speak for themselves. With the immense growth of popularity of both Zebulon and Reverberation Radio, the groups’ success hinges on the talents of Khovanova. Just as she’s done for Allah-Las, she’s guided both the collective and the venue along the path to becoming hugely influential forces in the industry. Through her constant networking, negotiating and coordinating, both have prospered and expanded their audiences exponentially.

What Daria Khovanova does best is organically develop mutually-beneficial relationships between musicians, venues, and the groups that promote both. The music industry is a complex network made up of thousands of tiny pieces all moving independently of one another. What Khovanova does is bring order to the chaos. With personal experience in every part of the process, an unrivaled talent for finding and making the connections her clients need, and a vast understanding of how the industry works from top-to-bottom, she is by far the most valuable asset her clients have.

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Editor Roma Kong shows of beauty of nail art with iconic Disney characters

Editing, to Roma Kong, is like a simultaneous combination of surgery and magic. When she gets footage, she reviews the script and gets an idea for the direction of the story. That is when she starts cutting, splicing things together, and moving things around, until every part is put together, telling a clear story; that is the surgical aspect. When it comes to the magic, Kong believes that part comes in two ways. The first being that each story must evoke a certain feeling in the viewer, so it’s not only cutting and putting things together, but also adding emotion to it, whether this be through the music, the rhythm, the speed of the cuts, etc. The second, more often than not, is transforming the footage that may not tell the story they want and making it what they need, without any reshoots or work from the crew. That is where the real work for a film editor comes into play, and that is when Kong truly shines.

Born and raised in Lima Peru, the in-demand editor has impressed the masses with her work. She often collaborates with renowned production companies like Nickelodeon, with work on their online video series BTS Nickelodeon and Inside Nick, as well as Disney.

With Disney, Kong edited DIY Disney, an online series that allowed audiences around the world to see just what she is capable of. The videos amassed over 11 million views, and featured various crafts that viewers could partake in, offering simple and fun instructions using Disney films and characters. She also created another video titled “Disney California Adventure Food Crawl”, effectively launching the Disney Eats brand. She is quite the formidable editor.

“I would say my style of editing is very fluid, dynamic and fun. As a filmmaker, I strive to entertain the audience, so when I edit, telling a good entertaining story is the priority. I also love for cuts to be seamless, so I pay close attention to movement and try to make really smooth transitions between shots, even when making pop videos. I also work very fast which is something the people I’ve worked with have always appreciated,” said Kong.

Kong has a close working relationship with both Nickelodeon and Disney and is often the companies’ first editing choice when they have an innovative new online project to pursue. In 2017, Kong continued her work with Disney on their TIPS Disney series, featuring different videos showing the intricate work behind nail art, using some of Disney’s most celebrated productions.

“I think these videos really help bring more attention to a form of art many don’t really consider art. They allow the audience to truly appreciate the intricacy of the work these artists do. They give Disney fans great ideas on how to show their love for their favorite characters in very stylish ways, and they inspire other artists to create their own version,” said Kong.

The videos feature many beloved Disney film and television productions, as well as iconic characters. These include High School Musical, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Moana, Coco, Beauty and the Beast, and more. They were published through Disney’s expansive social media platforms, including YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram. Together, they gathered over 7.6 million views.

“Seeing the comments from the audience on the videos and realizing how much they love them is heartwarming. Seeing people post about their own versions of what we showed them, is amazing. Reminds you that you’re not only making things for people to watch and forget about, people actually truly love these movies and characters and love showing their love for them and your video can persuade them to make something that they hadn’t thought about before,” said Kong.

Kong’s talent as an editor is evident in the TIPS Disney videos. She is very good at editing with music beats and for Disney Style, the Digital Brand that Tips Disney falls under. Her colleagues and her audience enjoyed the rhythm Kong put into the videos and how, by doing a very musical type of editing, made them fun and entertaining to watch. Because she has a very good eye for art and style, she knew exactly what the best shots were and what made the art look the most stylish and vibrant it possibly could. She understood the vibe of the brand very quickly and knew exactly what the executives wanted before they even knew themselves.

“I loved watching the intricate process of nail art in such a detailed way. I was constantly mesmerized by how hard it is to do, and I found myself with a lot more respect for nail artists. It’s such a great art and they’re all so talented. And also, being able to play with scenes from some of my favorite movies and use them to create something new was so much fun,” said Kong.

Kong worked on TIPS Disney from October 2017 to December 2017. It was an amazing experience for the editor. The Disney Style brand is her favorite out of all the Disney Digital brands. Making multiple videos for it was a great opportunity. The audience loves their content and as a result, the brand has a lot of engagement, and as an editor, making content that a lot of people would appreciate, and love was something that truly made the experience for Kong. It’s a fun brand to work for and it fits her editing style perfectly.

“Disney is the holy grail of the entertainment industry. Working for them is like hitting the jackpot of companies you can put on your resume. Being able to do that and have a Walt Disney Company ID with your picture on it, walking into the Studios with no problem at all is quite the dream come true,” Kong concluded.

Actor Jolie Chi’s High Flying “Exorcism at 60,000 Feet”

Actor Jolie Chi’s infectious mixture of enthusiasm and playfulness may give the impression that she is all about laughs and frivolity but, in reality, Chi is a dedicated artist with a zealous commitment to refining and perfecting her craft. While still at the dawn of her career, the diminutive, charming Chi is quickly building impressive professional momentum and a burgeoning roster of credits.

The Taipei-born, Hollywood based Chi’s effortless ability to succeed as actor, model, dancer and on-the-spot improv comic reflect a comprehensive, impressively holistic approach to performing. Equally at home in a stage or competition setting (beating out thousands of international talents to place in IMTA’s Top 10 Female Young Actors of 2015) as she is working in film, video, comedy clubs and commercials, Chi has been a dynamic force since her arrival the United States when she was just 16.

 

“I grew up in Taiwan and China but I never really fit in, because I was always too outgoing for the culture,” Chi said. “I decided that I wanted to be an exchange student in America, so I went to Indiana—it felt like home. I realized how much I love America because I finally felt like I was accepted and loved. I decided to stay and finish my education.”

The teenager’s choice to pursue acting came about with a particularly poignant twist. “My parents had divorced when I was six,” Chi said. “Even though my mom always pretended to smile in front of me, I knew she was unhappy. Once when I was mimicking a character we’d seen on TV, she laughed—genuinely—for the first time in years. That’s when I realized how powerful acting was.”

From that bittersweet launch—the classic pathos/comedy paradox—Chi aggressively pursued success in film and television. Studying at the prestigious New York Academy of Film’s Southern California campus, she was soon working in TV commercials, short films and Los Angeles comedy clubs. Chi exhibits such irresistible dynamism and joie de vive that she graduated to high profile parts in Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s 2018  dramedy “Destined to Ride,” starring Madeline Carroll, Denise Richards and Joey Lawrence, and landing the title role in the offbeat, award-winning comedy “My Lunatic Lucy.”

Chi’s memorable performance earned her numerous 2018 Best Actress awards win, from Top Indie Film Awards, Actors Awards, Independent Shorts Awards and the LA Shorts Awards, a hot streak of notoriety which led to her current project, another audacious indie feature, the wild horror-comedy “Exorcism at 60,000 Feet.” Forthcoming from idiosyncratic cult production company Girls & Corpses Presents, it’s about a stowaway demon wreaking havoc during a transatlantic passenger airliner’s final flight, and features American horror sci-fi stalwarts Adrienne Barbeau and Lance Henriksen alongside several of the top Hollywood-based Asian talents and Chi faced tough competition during the casting phase of production. Characteristically, she rose to the occasion with emphatic success

 

“My agent managed to get an audition for “Exorcism” and I was very excited since it stars Bai Ling and Matthew Moy, two of the most popular Asian actors in the States and because it is aimed for Netflix,” Chi said. “There were a lot of girls trying for the role and after they saw my headshot the producers wanted to turn me down. But my agent insisted that I get to read, so I went in and it was one of the best auditions I’ve ever had. I auditioned for three parts, and when they asked to improvise something for another important role, they were amazed because—without having seen the dialog—I actually spoke what was written in the script. They instantly wanted me to be in the film.”

That kind of spot-on instinct and skill is typical of the deeply talented actor, and she jumped into her part with both feet. “I was cast as Ms. Tang, a pregnant girl who is one of the main people on this airplane. She’s very spicy and just doesn’t care about anything but herself,” Chi said. “Honestly, it was quite a challenging role because I had to carry a 5 pound fake belly around with me for over 10 hours for 6 days straight. But it was also a really fun experience being able to play a pregnant lady which I’ve never done before. I was really nervous for my main scene, where I actually give birth. It was really difficult so I did my due diligence with a lot of research. I talked to friends, read up on pregnancy, watched videos of women giving birth, and all that helped a lot.”

Chi’s dedication to improving her artistry is a constant, innate pursuit and she is not one to squander any opportunity to do just that.

“It was amazing to be able to act with my idols Bai Ling and Matthew Moy,” Chi said. “They both gave me excellent advice about acting and this business. What was most interesting to me is that each of their suggestions was quite different. Matthew Moy said that studying acting and taking classes is important, because that’s what he did. But Bai Ling told me, since she didn’t to any acting school and learned on her own, that it’s important to just know your emotion—where it’s coming from— and once you know that, the rest will just flow. Either way, I loved getting their advice. So powerful.”

With her steadily ascending professional profile and reputation as a respected, formidable artist, Chi is a talent from whom the film industry will definitely be hearing a lot in the months and years ahead, a destiny which her positive attitude practically guarantees.

“My career aspiration is to make as many people laugh as possible,” Chi said. “I want to be able to make a difference in this world through my acting, to inspire the audience to smile, to reduce stress. Many people relax by watching films and I hope to help relieve their pain and make them happier.”

Mark Davis on transformational acting and representing well-known brands

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Mark Davis

Mark Davis describes his style of acting as transformational. To him, there is no specific way to perfect his craft; it is simply about becoming an entirely different person the moment the camera is on him. He does whatever instinctually feels right, and as a sought-after actor in both his home country of Australia and abroad, he is definitely doing something right.

“I’m blessed with an ability to adapt my physicality and appearance to suit what I need. Though sometimes I just copy the greats. Steal everything,” he joked.

Film is a way for Davis to express himself, and as many of his projects have gone on to critical acclaim around the world at some of the world’s most prestigious film festivals, he knows how to connect with an audience. Whether working on dramas like I Want You, romance’s such as Lucy, or comedies like Topdecked, the actor’s versatility shines whatever the genre.

Australians would also immediately recognize Davis’ face from several national commercials for well-known brands, including a three-year long campaign for Honda. At the time, it was his first commercial, and he remembers the audition well.

“I walked in and pretended to talk to my girlfriend whilst driving a nice car and that was it. My mate ended up marrying the girl who played my girlfriend in it which is pretty funny. We joke that we had a relationship prior to them meeting,” said Davis.

Soon after, Davis once again graced small screens around his home country in a commercial for Crownbet, one of Australia’s largest sports-betting companies. In the advertisement, he played a young, wealthy gambler in a suit having a great time. He was the main character with a bunch of friends on a rat pack style night out. It showed a high end look at what a night out at Crown could be like, with an amazing hotel, beautiful scenery and lots of fun. However, it was shot entirely in front of a green screen, so Davis had to truly be in character and not pull from his surroundings to portray a believable performance. The commercial played during the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival, which screens nationwide and gets millions of viewers.

“Crown is a huge company in Australia and it had a big budget to match. It was over the top and I knew it would be a good laugh,” said Davis. “Crown is a Melbourne icon and I love my city, so it was cool to work with the brand.”

Another unique commercial experience for Davis was when he shot a spot for Interflora, the international flower delivery service. In the Valentine’s Day campaign, one of the most important for the retailer, Davis played a teen, a mid-twenty-year-old, and a forty-year-old, putting up a fun acting challenge to quickly transition between such different age groups. He also had to manufacture a loving relationship with his co-star that showed them through the ages. At first, he was a cheeky teenager trying to steal a kiss, then a young dad, and finally a middle-aged man giving his wife flowers. He also had to dance, and having never taken dance lessons before, he let his natural abilities shine.

“This was a great commercial to shoot. It had amazing art direction that you can expect from a flower retailer, with lots of color and beautiful locations. It’s also a quintessential romance and Valentine’s Day story. I’m not sappy, but it did have a nice sweetness to it and romance is kind of cool. It’s great because my mom loves it,” he laughed.

So, what’s next for this industry leading actor? His latest film, Fallen, comes out later this year. The WWI period drama is some of Davis’ best work and can’t be missed. Be sure to check it out.

Colorist Cynthia Chen shows emotion behind Sichuan Opera masks in award-winning film

When Cynthia Chen was a little girl growing up in China, she was always inspired by her mother. She was an art teacher, and a young Chen therefore began painting from a young age. She was always sensitive about the different colors she used and playing around with color always amused her. As she grew, this fascination only intensified, and she found it impacting her hobbies. She began to have an interest in photography just to play around with the photos while editing, changing the colors and enhancing them to create a captivating piece of art. When she began filmmaking, she realized how impactful color is to every shot in a piece, conveying emotions and acting as another way to tell a story. It can impact film styles, she realized, and when she already had an interest in editing films, she realized that being a colorist would allow her to explore this interest she had from childhood and turn it into a fruitful career.

Chen is both a highly successful editor and colorist. Her passion for what she does is unwavering, her talent unparalleled. Every project she has been a part of, including I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone, OffsprungSlingshot Prince, and The Last Page, have gone on to critical acclaim at many of the world’s most prestigious film festivals thanks to Chen’s efforts.

“Just like editing has a rhythm to tell a story, the color, as another method to express the emotions, also can have a “rhythm” when it comes to contributing to create a film. I believe a film masterpiece must be treated and polished as a great art piece. Color grading enhances the texture of a film picture which makes it become a completed art piece. Every time I finish the color grading works, the group of filmmakers I am working with are always shocked after seeing the before and after pictures. That is my proudest moment. The whole color grading process makes me believe that my talent brings this film into a higher level,” she said.

One of Chen’s greatest successes as a colorist was the film Mask. The animated drama looks into masks in Sichuan opera that are traditionally used to reveal the changes of inner feelings and emotions of the characters participating in the drama. The masks turn abstract emotions and mental states into visible and sensible concrete images, and reveal the feelings of the characters inside the story. By raising the hand, swinging a sleeve or tossing the head, an actor uses different masks to show different emotions, expressing invisible and intangible feelings through visible and tangible masks. Mask, is inspired by Sichuan Opera Face changing. It is a story behind a mysterious mask, which shows different patterns as different lights go through.

The three characters in the film are heroes from different traditional Chinese historical contents. Qingshi Huang, represents as the breadth of vision, is the first king in Qing Dynasty.  Monkey King, one of the most famous and classical characters in Chinese fairy story, the guardians of his master, as the leader protected his group on the West Road, through eighty-one trials and finally reached the goal. Zhuge Liang, the smartest military advisors from three kingdoms era, served for Bei Liu, represents wisdom and loyalty. Those characters are also three heroes in Chen’s heart. For the Chinese native, it was an honor to work on this film that has a deep Chinese culture background.

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According to those three different characters, Chen decided basic color tunes for each one. The king Qingshi Huang has a yellow and green color tune because in Ancient China, yellow means power in social classes. Zhuge Liang, who represents wisdom and loyalty, uses a blue color tune as the main color base. In the color theory, blue connects to calmness and cool emotions. Chen set golden and orange color tune for the brave Monkey King as those colors stand for positive minds, passion and braveness. Therefore, the scenes where those three characters appear, and the weapons on their hands, have the unite color tunes.

As the entire film was CGI, the renders had a strong contrast in colors, which Chen thought looked very digital. To solve this problem, she decreased the contrast of the entire picture, adding some yellow color tune and film grains. She then adjusted each scene for each character, and finally finished the color grading work. She helped to bring the whole picture to a new stylized level.

“This short film had a very large creative space for me to try on the different color palettes and stylize the picture, which made this piece very interesting and fun to work with. The CGI images contain more color information than the images shot by cameras, so there was a lot of space for me to adjust the color for this film,” said Chen.

Mask had a tremendous film festival run with the help of Chen. It was an Official Selection at the New Media Film Festival and the Asian Film Festival of Dallas 2018. It also went on to win the Award of Excellence at both the Best Shorts Competition 2018 and the One-Reeler Short Film Competition 2017. Chen could not be happier about the film’s many accolades.

“It was such an honor to work on this project that explores such an important part of Chinese culture. This is a milestone project in that it was a brand-new experience for me. The success of this film encouraged me to do more color grading work in the future which has more culture background,” she said.

The new works Chen has contributed to, feature film Indivisible and documentary Fantastic Fungi, are expected to be released later this year. Be sure to check them out to witness this colorist’s talent first hand.

Art Director Cagri Kara Mixes Creativity and Ambition for a Winning Formula

The acclaimed Turkish art director Cagri Kara always knew his destiny lay in the arts. As a teenager, Kara wasted no time, successfully creating and selling a variety of progressive, eyecatching web designs before graduating high school. After attaining design degrees at university, the ambitious, driven Kara established himself, in short order, as one of the most skilled art directors in hometown Istanbul, the biggest, most sophisticated metropolis in eastern Europe.

The international entertainment, promotion and design communities are a tight knit pool of craftspeople and Kara’s mastery of the universal language—visuals—and impeccable reputation as a reliable, intuitive and groundbreaking artist quickly spread. Kara’s early formal accolades included numerous high-profile industry awards Crystal Apple Festival of Creativity, Kirmizi Advertising and MIXX Awards and the famed Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity. All of this notably preceded his 2016 arrival in Los Angeles, where Kara’s characteristic professional alacrity found him taking on a spectrum-spanning array of assignments and campaigns for a wide variety of agencies and clients.

One of Kara’s first, key alliances in California was with the prominent Hollywood agency Forbidden Toast, a relationship which served both as proving ground and springboard for his American career.

“I’ve been working with Forbidden Toast since I’ve moved to LA,” Kara said. “It’s a high end creative services company that focuses on entertainment art work for movies and television The company’s owner, Sherry Spencer, hired me as an art director for several projects she was working on.”

It was a significant break for Kara, and also one that demanded he deliver first rate product. “Forbidden Toast has a very high quality work standard and a clear vision for the work they produce,” Kara said. “I very much respect that and enjoy working with the team. And I enjoy the challenges of producing such great work.”

From the start, Kara’s stylish, skillful contributions fit right in.

“My responsibility with Forbidden Toast is overseeing campaigns in post-production, and ensuring the artwork is correctly executed,” he said. “The projects I worked on were highly visible and vital to the success of the films and television shows for which we developed these campaigns, and my work resulted in both increasing the company’s revenue stream and exposure in the market.”

Kara’s mixture of technical skill, instinctive flair for appealing design and comprehensive grasp on the adaptability each visual element must have is a priceless combination.

“Mainly, we do print ads, large outdoor billboards and social media campaigns,” Kara said. ”The platform is not as important as the flexibility of the art work—it needs to be effective and integrated into all types of media, both internet and large scale print campaigns.

Kara’s keen vision has created important advertising campaigns for productions by some of the biggest names in the business—Sony, HBO, Fox, Netflix, Starz, National Geographic and numerous others.

“I worked intensely with Sherry in producing the final art work for the client,” Kara said. “The art gets approved directly by the studios and, often, also by the talent. And they were all very happy with the results.”

Kara’s successful ventures include campaigns for shows with wildly disparate themes and content. He successfully worked a winning campaign for the current season of comic provocateur Bill Maher’s “Real Time” (“The show is very timely and, I feel is very important to the American political climate. It was very special to be a part of the production of the art work for this series. The art went all over the United States and the show was highly rated and successful”) preceded by one completely opposite, 2017’s launch for the National Geographic television series Genius.

“It was very exciting and challenging,” Kara said. “The talent needed to give the impression that we were actually looking at Albert Einstein. Sherry and I worked closely together to produce a successful final product that appeared not only throughout the city but also appeared on the one of the most visible billboards in the city including—the entrance of the Fox studios.”

Whether it’s documentary, fantasy, film, television, album cover art or an international promotion for FIFA giant EA Sports, Kara’s sweeping creative scale, holistic grasp of his field’s requisite elements and most effective practices create the foundational basis upon which Kara’s formidable natural skills excel—and Forbidden Toast continues to reap his bounty.

As company president Sherry Spencer said “I’ve worked closely with Cagri over the last several years—I’ve been impressed by his ability to successfully lead teams of artists and watched his creative skill and impressive talent push my company even further into creative entertainment marketing. “

 

 

Working All the Angles at Eddie’s with Will Shivers

Will is Daren Willis it's a play on words as Will is Daren Willis

(Photos courtesy of Robert Kozak)

It has been said that you are known by the company you keep; this also applies to talent. In the case of Will Shivers and his latest work in the television series Eddie’s, it’s relevant to both. Alex Scrymgeour (writer and executive producer of Eddie’s) met Shivers three decades ago when they were both young lads at a boarding school in Pomfret, Connecticut. While most of their classmates were jocks looking to announce their masculinity, Will and Alex were fixated on humor and entertainment…creating their own that is. Present day finds them both with successful careers in Hollywood and finally working together. Scrymgeour’s latest production is Eddie’s, starring Eddie McGee (CBS’s Big Brother, NCIS: Los Angeles, Mutatnt X), George Wendt (Cheers, Fletch), and Shivers as Daren Willis. Alex openly admits that it was Will’s talent in front of (Shivers is a co-producer and editor of the show) and behind the scenes which assured the writer that he was a key component to its success.

 

When the show’s writer approached Shivers about the role in a family friendly show which takes place in a Bar & Grille in Venice, California…the actor immediately expressed an interest. Will confirms, “I for one am done with everything having to be dark and mean in comedies. At one point Eddie actually says ‘Don’t be a jerk.’ It’s a basic life lesson that is too often overlooked these days. I think people are seeking a refuge from all the grim news and entertainment out there; I know I am. Eddie’s [the program] offers up some dysfunctionally good-hearted people who have each other’s backs. They don’t judge but they also don’t tolerate jerks.”

 

Shivers appears as Daren Willis on the show. Daren is a bit dichotomous, in a pleasing manner. He is a high tech nerd working in AI who’s also very conscious and present, having done a lot of yogic and meditative work. Willis is a socially awkward genius, very self-aware and craving improvement with social interaction. It’s this expertise with complicated things and simultaneous uncomfortablity with simple human interaction which is endearing to Will’s presentation of Willis. Shivers is not unfamiliar with complexity and navigating it. The actor not only stars in Eddie’s but he is also one of the show’s producers and the editor. Appearing on screen while also working in a capacity that necessitates he produce off camera could become problematic for anyone. Co-producing with Eddie’s co-producer and writer David Brzozowski (21 Jump Street, Anamorph) allowed Will to vacillate between his dual roles. He notes, “David is incredible so I never had to worry. I found ways to split my time. The script was so good that I just had to be involved in some way. When Alex wrote a role specifically for me, it makes things more complicated but also more enjoyable for me. I loved development and watching it blossom into something more and more with each draft. And then to show up on the shoot day and actually feel it as it came to life on set as an actor and then to take over as editor? I mean there is nothing more satisfying than being a part of all of those stages of the process.”

 

The tagline to Eddie’s is “Where all are welcome.” While dark humor can most certainly be funny it can also be the path of least resistance. Will Shivers, Alex Scrymgeour, David Brzozowski, director Michael Lange, and everyone involved in Eddie’s aspired to do much more than this. The goal was not to make something easy that would sell but rather to make the best television they could and be motivational in message and comedy, rather than being reactive and following the status quo. Eddie’s is most certainly different and is most certainly full of laughs.

Scrimmy and Will Shivers on set in between takes

(Eddie’s Place creator Alex Scrymgeour and Shivers on the set of Eddie’s Place)