China’s Zanda Tang talks love of animation and the importance of research

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Zanda Tang

Hailing from Dalian, a coastal city in Northern China, Zanda Tang has made quite a name for himself both in his home country and around the world. With a unique style, he has become a leading Animation Concept Artist. He adopts a variety of painting techniques, always adapting to what each new project requires to best tell the story. He is constantly learning, staying up-to-date with the latest styles of painting, allowing him to jump out of his comfort zone and bring innovative ideas to whatever film he takes on.

“Animation is the least restrictive tool for spreading your ideas. It can be more exaggerated and imaginative than a movie. Compared with the words in books, it can more accurately convey your design and details. Now more and more movies use animation to help with shooting, which makes me more confident in this industry,” he said.

Tang has worked on a number of award-winning films alongside decorated colleagues. His film Lion Dance took home nine awards and was an Official Selection at over 30 international film festivals. He saw similar success with Diors Samurai and Baby and Granny, captivating audiences around the world. No matter the project, Tang makes sure to extensively research all aspects of the story, leaving no detail left behind.

“For example, if I were to design a kettle in an animation project, I would put in the work required to make it more than just a simple kettle. First of all, I would collect a lot of information about the kettle based on the story background and character information of the project. I would collect information from various fields, such as screenshots of illustrations on the ancient painting network, pictures of movies, pictures of goods online and even descriptions in books. When you have a lot of information elements, then the really interesting part starts. You can put all these different elements together and eventually you can design multiple designs based on the identity of the owner of the kettle and the environment. Each object becomes its own character, and that’s when the creativity of animation really shines,” he said.

This determination and talent is exemplified time and time again throughout Tang’s career. Last year, he had great success with many projects in China, from promotional campaigns to informational material. Early in 2018, he began working on Completion of the Compilation of the Chinese Dictionary for Baidu, the popular Chinese search engine. Tang’s work was similar to the Google Doodle, and was seen by millions.

The dictionary was compiled by more than 300 experts and scholars from Sichuan and Hubei provinces on March 9, 1968. The list includes about 56,000 words. It is the largest Chinese dictionary in the world with the largest collection of Chinese words and the most complete definitions. It is a large-scale Chinese special reference book for the purpose of explaining the shape, sound and meaning of Chinese characters. Tang took on the role of characters, props and environment designer. With the compilation of more and more materials, it gradually formed a huge Chinese dictionary, and the dictionary closed after it formed. Bai and Baidu were finally written in the data card.

In the Spring of 2018, Tang also had the honor of working with the China Academy of Space Technology on a 2D animation project. The video created shows the ancient beacon fire that was used to transmit information, and then the wild goose satellite appeared to complete the transformation of modern social satellite information transmission. This is followed by a demonstration of the practical application of the constellation of subsequent satellites in human society. Hundreds of them circle the earth and connect with each other, all of them reflecting the theme of “satellite application, light up life!”

Tang took on the visual design of the video. He used the planar design, because the proportion of the chopping screen is special. In order to make better use of the advantage of the ultra-wide screen, he used large scenes in the design to better show the world, the ocean and the universe.

Undoubtedly, Tang has had a formidable career in animation, and has no plans on slowing down. It was not always an easy road to get to where he is now, with times of self-doubt and the struggle to create. He is so glad he persisted and never gave up, and he encourages all those looking to follow in his footsteps to do the same.

“Having personality and style is a good skill. In this industry, having good painting skills and understanding more diverse painting styles is a foundation. Don’t be afraid to learn other people’s styles and don’t linger in your own safe zone. Challenge yourself so that you can bring yourself more surprises,” he advised.

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Zekun Mao talks importance of editing and new film ‘And The Dream That Mattered’

Beginning her career working on documentaries, Zekun Mao knows the power of editing in terms of filmmaking. Simply changing the order of a couple of shots can create a huge difference. Editing, therefore, is very crucial, and the final step in the storytelling process. A good editor can lift the story, not only telling the story itself, but also creating this beautiful flow for the audience. A good editor can not only tell the most powerful story, but also bring the entire audience into the film, letting them experience the story by themselves. An editor, according to Mao, can not only guide audiences’ eyes, but also their hearts.

The Chinese native is now an internationally sought-after editor, having worked on several critically acclaimed films, including Our Way HomeJie Jie, and Janek/Bastard. She always aims to be storyteller first, editor second, and this commitment to her craft is evident in all of her work.

One of Mao’s more recent films, And The Dream That Mattered, once again impressed audiences and critics alike. It follows an ambitious Asian actor who’s well on his way to Hollywood success when he returns home to Korea and soon discovers that even while reconnecting with family and loved ones, his creative journey ahead is even more lonely and difficult than he could have ever imagined.

“The ideas shown in the film are very contemporary and universal. They speak to a lot of young artists today, and the struggles they face in the modern world. I hope that by watching this, such people can find answers through their own interpretations of the film. I also hope it can encourage a lot of young artists today to pursue their dreams no matter what comes in their way. The film shows that even after a struggle, hard work eventually pays off,” said Mao.

Mao feels that the story, although it is about an actor, can apply to all artists. As an editor, she related to the story and the struggles the character goes through. She hopes many young people can feel something and know they aren’t alone when they watch the film.

Working on And The Dream That Mattered was an incredible experience for Mao. The film was shot without a typical script, in the style of a documentary, a genre she is extremely adept in. Her first step was to categorize the footage according to the emotions portrayed in it. Thereafter, she started building the narrative based on the ebb and flow of emotions in the footage. In doing so, Mao realized the film could play out like reading a book, and she decided to give each story segment a chapter name, summing up the main theme in each story.

“This project gave me a lot of creative freedom. Coming from a documentary background, the shooting style and the structure was very familiar to me. I enjoyed having nearly complete freedom in shaping the story according to what emotions I sensed throughout the footage. Because of this, I myself started reflecting on a lot of the questions that were posed in the characters’ lives. It felt not only like an editing process, but a life journey,” she said.

Mao lent a unique perspective to the narrative. The director and the actor both had their own ideas of what emotions they would emphasize in the film. Mao was able to filter through a lot of ideas from many team members and eventually put together a version that combined the best of everyone’s ideas, including her own. While working on the editing process, she suggested that the lead actor write letters to various important people in his life. These letters ended up being used as voice-overs throughout the film, which tied the film together.

And The Dream That Mattered has yet to make its way to film festivals, but it already took home the Best Independent Film Award at the Korean Cultural Academy Awards. Mao could not be more thrilled by the success the film has seen thus far. It has a lot of experimental elements to it, and it’s heartening for the editor to see such experimentation being appreciated.

“I’m happy that the writer, who is also the lead actor in the film, Jongman Kim, is getting the recognition he deserves. As the editor of this film, I’m thrilled that our hard work has the potential to bring about change to people’s lives,” she said.

Undoubtedly, Mao has had quite a career so far, and And The Dream That Matteredis just another example of what a force to be reckoned with she is. For those looking to follow their dreams and take on a career as a film editor, Mao says practice makes perfect.

“It is a hard job. It might seem very easy, just putting things together, but there is a lot more to it than meets the eye. It is an art form. You need to practice a lot. Editing is not just knowing how to use some software. It’s more about telling the stories. I would say be prepared. Be prepared to work very hard and be prepared to be criticized very hard too. Be patient, because it takes a very long time to figure out the best version of the story. Most importantly, be passionate, because it is a very exciting job,” she advised.

Canada’s Helena-Alexis Seymour plays her dream role in Amazon’s hit series

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Helena-Alexis Seymour

Helena-Alexis Seymour grew up on stage, never having an issue with being in the spotlight, literally. Growing up in the small town of Cornwall, Ontario, Canada, Seymour danced, did beauty pageants, and modeled. She loved the way she could express her creativity through such methods of performing. As she grew and started a successful modeling career, she realized another passion: acting. After booking her first commercial at only nine years old, she knew what her calling was.

“The more I acted, the more I realized that the artform was about more than me being creative, it was about how I was able to make the audience feel. Having someone watch your performance and be moved by it because they can relate, it reassures them that they are not alone. We all want to feel like we aren’t alone in this world so to be able to do that for someone makes it all worthwhile,” she said.

Now, millions around the world have seen Seymour in some of their favorite films and television shows. She is known for films like the blockbuster xXx: Return of Xander Cage starring Vin Diesel, as well as the multiple Academy Award winning film Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). The highlight of her esteemed career however, began last year when she was cast in the title role in Amazon’s award-winning original series Chronicles of Jessica Wu.

“Helena is a woman that exudes positive energy, so naturally she brightens up any room she steps in. She’s hardworking, humble, kind and so down to earth, which allowed for us to not only create great moments on camera, but many memorable moments off camera. It was a very rewarding experience and I hope it’s the first project of many that we get to work on together,” said Jasmine Hester, Seymour’s co-star on the show.

Chronicles of Jessica Wu is a story about a young girl on the Autism spectrum who has mastered martial arts. She becomes a Hero in her city and takes down some of the most ruthless villains in Los Angeles. Jessica’s genius ability and martial arts helps her become the most unique and fascinating Superhero of our time. Chronicles of Jessica Wu is a fun, action-packed, and exciting series for the entire family.

“I love how the story showed a strong, bi-racial, woman on the autistic spectrum living a very normal life. She is highly functional and lives quite like everyone else. Bringing awareness to the autism spectrum is something that we all need to experience. Being more inclusive of each other and more loving to each other. Everyone in this world is different and going through something so the more we can open our minds to it, the more compassionate as a whole we become,” said Seymour.

The character of Jessica Wu is driven, focused, ambitious, strong yet quite shy, and vulnerable all at the same time. She is loyal and expects the same loyalty in return. She believes her autism is a strength and uses it to her advantage. She is an intellectual genius and is always two steps ahead in her mind. She uses her amazing mathematical abilities to solve certain issues in her life as well as in her fighting when acting as the superhero named Equation.

“Helena-Alexis is a complete joy to work with. From her dedication, preparation, and delivery performances on and off set, she is the total package. Helena captures the true essence of an individual not defined by any disabilities or anything else. You will surely see how she brings the character Jessica Wu to a full circle of life. Her preparation and dedication to make our show the very best and to reach its maximum potential is truly appreciated. We couldn’t be more pleased and prouder of her work. Seriously, her performance on this show is must see TV,” said Brandon Larkins, Executive Producer.

Stepping into the show during its second season and taking over for the actress that played Jessica Wu in the show’s first season, Seymour had her work cut out for her; she had to honor a character that had already been established in fans’ minds while still making it her own. To do so, she extensively researched autism and what that would mean for her character. She had a great time recreating the character and experiencing life through her eyes. Seymour discovered what Jessica’s values were, what her strengths and weaknesses were, the type of music she listens to, the type of guy she crushes on and even what zodiac sign she was. With all that knowledge, she used it to mold Jessica Wu’s personality, and essentially, her soul.  Luckily, Seymour has a kickboxing/martial arts background, and was able to use those skills when playing Jessica.

I loved everything about working on this. I loved playing a double life as Jessica Wu and Equation,” said Seymour. “I loved working on set with such inspiring and grounded cast and crew members. When you are surrounded by love, light and greatness you naturally will vibrate to that frequency, so I am so grateful that every day was positive and that we were free to create great art together.”

The Chronicles of Jessica Wu is truly fun for the entire family. Seymour is excited by the show’s success already, and for the future seasons to come. She knows the importance of shows like this and is happy to be portraying a such a unique character that the world needs to see.

“This is only the beginning of major change in the television and film industry. We need more ethnic superheroes on the big and small screen. The world is full of different people with different backgrounds. We must continue to open our eyes to them and the gifts that they have to offer not only to this generation but the younger generations to come. It is up to us to show the youth that they matter and that there is someone just like them on the screen who is strong, capable and worthy. Being able to do that for a young child whether with autism or not means that I have done my job,” she concluded.

Be sure to check out the second season of Chronicles of Jessica Wu on Amazon when it is released on April 2nd.

Down To Earth Casey Wright: A (Stunt) Actor’s (Stunt) Actor

It’s more often than not a stunt actor’s job to not get any attention, which is why award-winning stunt performing veteran Casey Wright was somewhat resistant to being interviewed for this feature.

“I tend to stay on the sidelines, I don’t like the limelight too much – probably a big part of why I do what I do and I’m not a TV or film actor,” Casey adds with a chuckle.  

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Stunt actors risk their lives every day, often without the kudos regular actors receive. 

Casey’s recent bursts of success however have meant it was difficult for our editors to keep themselves from profiling this down-to-earth home-grown talent who, in an era of crowded filmmaking and TV production, has truly made a name for himself as one of the few likeable guys working in the industry today.

“The best advice I was ever given was ‘Don’t get a big head’. You realise pretty quickly how lucky you are to be in the industry, and there’s no room for egos. The performers I look up to, the ones with the most successful careers – there’s no ego there. So I try to model myself on that” Casey adds

Since his win at the illustrious SAG-awards for Best Stunts in Mel Gibson’s Oscar-winning “Hacksaw Ridge”, Casey’s career has continued to go from strength-to-strength.

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A scene from Mel Gibson’s Oscar-winning “Hacksaw Ridge,” for which Casey was awarded with a SAG award for Best Stunts.

Only just last year, he worked as a stunt double to Dan Fogler in the acclaimed feature film, In Like Flynn, a sweeping biopic of the swashbuckling Australian screen legend Errol Flynn.

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Casey performed crucial stunts in the biopic “In Like Flynn,” helmed by “Teen Wolf” director Russell Mulcahy.

Instead of regaling tales of celebrity that others may have spilled in relation to the filming process, true to Casey’s nature, he offers a tidbit about his role in offering crucial safety guidance during the shoot.

“Dan…had tweaked his ankle during a scene where he was being chased by headhunters. I was called in to double Dan. This meant that I had to perform the actions required in character, which involved sprinting through the bush, swimming across running rivers, and more. My work meant that Dan was able to rest and heal up, and filming wasn’t disrupted.”

The humble way in which Casey reflects on this experience is a testament to his practical nature, and clear aspirations to only offer meaningful contributions to the project as a whole rather than use it for his own entertainment leverage.

The other project that has benefited from Casey’s hard-working nature is the acclaimed TBS comedy series, Wrecked.

Working on 2 seasons of Wrecked, Casey had to not only perform the requisite stunt and safety actions also do them in character as Brian Sacca’s persona, Danny. This meant taking cues from Brian’s body language and immersing himself in how Brian holds himself in a scene, and so on.

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Casey (right), acted as stunt double to “Wolf of Wall Street” actor Brian Sacca. 

Casey’s remarkable success in doing this role effortlessly meant viewers are never taken out of the scenes while watching the comedy favourite. As a corollary to this, Casey’s actions had to match the comedic tone of the show that meant he stretched his performing wheelhouse.

“Most of my work has been on big action films,” Casey goes to explain. “Explosions, runaway horses, all that kind of stuff. Working on a comedy like Wrecked was a whole different beast. At one point a crew member came up to me and said ‘Just remember – it doesn’t matter if you stuff up. Sometimes that can be even funnier than what’s planned.”

Casey adds to that last thought.

“Coming from a world where everything was marked to a tee, that took all the pressure off me. I still had to be safe, but I didn’t have to be perfect. It was a very different experience, but it was one of the best of my career.”

Casey is equally complimentary of the TBS team and Brian too, when asked about his experience.

“I had a great time. Everyone was warm and welcoming, and made me feel right at home. When I came back for Season 3, I was greeted with a big hug from Brian – I found out later that he had actually gone up to the stunt coordinator for the new season and requested me back personally.”

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TBS hit comedy “Wrecked” is known for being a hilarious parody of the iconic TV show, “Lost.”

No doubt Casey’s vital contributions to the show’s success were reason for him being brought back, and the personal request of his return to the set is valuable proof in demonstrating how he offered indispensable contributions to the show’s success.

“I’m very lucky to do different things – and am looking forward to doing more of it in the US.”

There’s no doubt Casey would be embraced by the American community, as he already proved on the Fiji set of the American produced series

“I was told by the [“Wrecked”] stunt coordinator that I may have been the most accurate stunt double he has ever hired. During breaks in filming, I had producers, the director and others come up to me to to discuss upcoming scenes. Once they heard my Australian accent, they jumped back, as they had no idea it wasn’t actually the actor they were speaking to. Everyone loved it, and it made me really feel at home with the crew.”

YouTuber James “Jameskii” Prime meets fans in-game playing “Ring of Elysium”

Having always has a passion for playing video games, James “Jameskii” Prime spends each and every day doing what he loves. The popular YouTuber has millions of fans across the globe, that tune into each and every new video he uploads. His unique parody style content based on video games and web culture has vastly resonated with his audience.

“I can be anywhere at any point of time and create content for people across the entire globe just with an access to a phone or computer. Being raised in a poor neighborhood, I would’ve never imagined that it would even be possible. It’s incredible. Influencers and internet personalities are a huge part of our modern culture now and we take it for granted these days. I can’t even imagine it being taken away from us one day. I reckon if we were still stuck with 56 kb/s dial up internet modems, things would be completely different, in a bad way of course,” he said.

Jameskii currently has over 1.4 million subscribers on YouTube. His videos amass anywhere between 600 thousand and 11 million views, with continuous comments from fans supporting his work. Just last year, he attended the biggest event for video game streamers in the world, Twitchcon, as a Twitch partner, and co-hosted the Jingle Jam 2018, a series of livestreams that are shown over the course of December each year with the intention to raise money for various charities.

With his immense popularity, Jameskii also had the opportunity last year to strike a brand deal with Tencent Games, the world’s largest gaming company, and one of the most valuable technology conglomerates, largest social media companies, and largest venture capital firms and investment corporations in the world.

“When Tencent Games reached out to me with a brand deal I just couldn’t say no. I’m usually down to do brand deals with products I like, use or would recommend to someone, so it was a win-win for everyone really,” he said.

As part of Jameskii’s deal with Tencent, he was asked to make a dedicated promotional video for the game Ring of Elysium. In doing so, he handled everything, including recording gameplay with friends, writing down ideas to setting up skit situations in-game and editing the outcome footage. The result of his efforts turned out to be a hilarious montage of his adventures in the snow land of Ring of Elysium.

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Jameskii’s in-game meetup in “Ring of Elysium”

“It was pretty much like working on any other video of mine, still the same bizarre style and total hilarious nonsense. I like messing around in games and doing things that aren’t really intended by the developers, so we tried a lot of random stuff like launching cars in the sky for example. The developers really loved my approach which means a lot to me. I love game studios with a sense of humor,” he said.

Tencent games also provided Jameskii with access to hosting his own private lobbies for his viewers. He held multiple games allowing fans to join him during his live streams, inviting his fans to meet him in-game. In one instance, he had over fifty fans joining him for a snowboard race, which is no small feat considering the size of the map, and the fact that the objective of the game is to eliminate other players.

“Even if it’s a brand deal, I can’t see myself making boring videos that aren’t fun for me and my viewers. I always want to be sure my content is enjoyable for everyone,” he said. “This game hadn’t been released in Europe yet, so I loved the fact that I got an early access to the game I was already excited for. I like trying out new games especially with unusual genres or unique mechanics, so it was a fun experience.”

The partnership between Jameskii and Tencent proved fruitful for all parties involved. The video created a vast amount of interest in the game for viewers, bringing many new players to the game that helped jump-start its popularity during the game’s launch in Europe. As of now, it is one of the most popular and most played games according to Steam statistics. Jameskii’s initial video featuring game play has over 800,000 views.

“It’s cool that influencers like me have an ability to jump start new projects. I love discovering and trying out new things, so it’s always awesome to bring life to a new project which allows its creators to do more creative decisions with unpredictable results. Creativity and originality are essential when it comes to entertainment in my opinion. I reckon it would be worse if all games had mechanics that are way too similar because the developers would be afraid to innovate in fear of the project’s failure. Of course, you can always rely on ideas that worked for years, but I think influencers heavily encourage people to try out new things, both when it comes to creation and consumption,” he concluded.

Jameskii is one of YouTube’s most popular video game content creators, and he has no plans on slowing down. Check out his YouTube channel for more funny videos and updates to what promises to be another exciting year.

Karlisha Hurley: At the Top of Her Game

Karlisha Hurley arrives to our interview fresh from a pre-release screening of her latest film, Wrapped, directed by Calen Coates. In it, she plays the lead role, Abby, who overcomes her insecurities and learns to stand up for herself by stealing back a birthday present from a drug dealer who has robbed her. The unopened present was from her mother who had recently been killed in a car accident. Abby’s journey is just like life itself; it’s both comedic and tragic.

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Karlisha Hurley celebrating film in Los Angeles on a night off from her busy schedule.

A particularly captivating scene in Wrapped is during the kidnapping of the two lead characters, Karlisha and Sawyer, played by actor Danny Irizarry. The scene is an emotionally difficult one because of the detail Karlisha has to go within the character to honestly portray the actions and depth of the overall situation. The diversity of Karlisha’s skills are superbly conveyed here as she speaks to Sawyer. Not only is she frightened and angry about the situation she finds them in but she begins to openly grieve about her mother’s passing and exposes her own guilt and self-destruction as she blames herself. Karlisha’s natural reaction combined with masterful technique captures the audience’s sympathy and draws them into her character so deeply they are mesmerised into willing her to succeed.

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Karlisha in a particularly intense scene from the set of feature film Wrapped, in which she has a leading role.

The role marks a continuation of a trend in Karlisha’s career – that of appearing in compelling film projects, while also staying in the public consciousness through a successful run of commercially driven projects befitting any young Hollywood star.

“It’s not necessarily planned – I just gravitate towards what roles I’m interested in and they are often gritty, challenging and highly emotional roles. As it happens, those types of roles and projects – I guess, the more ‘indie’ ones – are what attracts more commercial opportunities.”

It’s a common pattern: big-budget producers generally want to borrow from the street cred of artistically driven actors like Karlisha. Oscar-winner Casey Affleck has built a career on it, much like Oscar-nominee Chloé Sevigny or Michelle Williams.

While Karlisha has jumped from edgy film projects like Red Wire (directed by Gary O’Toole), Hello Tom Sullivan (directed by David Raynor) and Hostages: Don’t Take Another Step (from Kristine May), shot all over the world, she’s most recently garnered the attention of audiences in her role in O.A.R.’s music video – Miss You All the Time – which attracted nearly 4 million views.

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Karlisha’s appearance in the music video “Miss You All The Time

Indeed, it would be entirely untruthful to say that Karlisha turns her back on the mainstream parts of the industry. For one, the industry has embraced her with awards from the Hollywood International Moving Pictures Film Festival, the same year that Constance Ejuma of Black Panther and Robert Clohessy of The Avengers, The Wolf of Wall Street and The Place Beyond the Pines, with Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper, won acting awards. Adding to that triumph, Karlisha maintains a tie to her home country by playing a major role at Australians in Film (AIF), the esteemed organisation that has solidified Australian A-listers’ places in the film and TV worlds of Los Angeles.

“AIF is so supportive, I’m really lucky to be an Industry Member there.”

Karlisha’s ‘industry membership’, reserved only for VIPs in the same vein of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, is one such watershed in the career of the young Miss Hurley, who in the past several years has had work screen at a number of international and American film festivals.

Among these were the San Francisco Film Awards and LA Independent Film Festival for projects like Hello Tom Sullivan and Karlisha and Morgan, directed By David Raynor. Industry insiders acclaimed Karlisha’s work, which in the performance of Karlisha and Morgan – playing two roles in the same film – demonstrated a nuanced sense of her craft few other young performers are able to showcase.

One example was the scene in which she plays ‘Morgan’, the spirit of a dead teenager who has suicided after being bullied at school; she is angry and wants the world to stop ‘sweeping under the carpet’ student suicides and do something about addressing their cause. The intensity of Karlisha’s anger balanced with her empathy for the victims and shown through the deep control of her revealing stare, her emotional facial expression and reactive body movement are all captivating and disturbing, demonstrating an award winning performance of a quality well beyond her years.

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Karlisha is well-known for her award-winning performance in the acclaimed film project, Karlisha and Morgan. 

The Other Project, Hello Tom Sullivan – in which Karlisha rescues a disadvantaged teenage boy, Tom Sullivan, from bullying – called for Karlisha to deliver an immense level of strength and sympathy for the role of Cynthia. When Cynthia and Tom meet for the first time, you can see a genuine evolving spark between the two characters, showing a high level of skill and technique delivered naturally by Karlisha. When introducing a character to an audience, it can be difficult for an actor to portray exactly the emotions and qualities of the character as envisioned by a director, but Karlisha depicts the essence of the character beautifully. As Cynthia walks Tom home after rescuing him, Karlisha’s body movement and emotion when talking to him gives the audience a perfect idea of what her character is like; her quirkiness and innocence, rising beneath her need for affirmation and acceptance.     

Producer/Director Lucinda Bruce (The Faceless Man, 350 Days and FSM) says: “Karlisha has an amazing presence about her. Her acting is beautifully structured and I can’t wait to see all the projects she has in the making.”

Editor of Sharknado William Boodell, who directed Karlisha in Sister Mercy, says: “Karlisha is truly a remarkable performer able to work under high pressure on difficult material with great finesse.”

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Despite the pressures of a leading role, Karlisha always maintains a relatable and self-effacing nature on set. Here, she’s pictured in a close-up while filming her leading role in the feature Wrapped.

Performances such as these have not gone unnoticed by mainstream media, as Karlisha has been featured prominently in publications like the Northern Territory News, Surfcoast Times, Leader newspapers and Cinema Australia.

“I’m so grateful for the amount of interest and support I get from the media. Honestly I’m just happy they love hearing about my latest films and enjoy my contributions to the Hollywood film industry as much as I do.”

Behind the Scenes with Yoshie Morino

On the heels of the Golden-Globe nominated and box-office sensation Crazy Rich Asians, there’s no doubt that Hollywood has started to embrace a more diverse casting strategy when it comes to filling out the roster of its biggest films.

Japanese actress Yoshie Morino, well-known for her turns in Sharknado with Tara Reid and The Cat Diaries TV series, is one such beneficiary.

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Morino at the premiere of Sharknado 5. Photo credit: Ethan Miller, Getty Images

“I’m really excited to be a part of this new wave of talent, and to bring much needed diversity to the American filmmaking and acting landscape.”

Morino has recently joined the cast of Team 4, cementing her place within the company of celebrated filmmaker Len Davies, known for directing Emergency: LA. Indeed, Morino is currently working on two projects with Davies, who’s also been acclaimed for his work producing Bomber Command and World Association of Wrestling.

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Renowned producer Len Davies has worked on many different projects, and Morino is thrilled to be working with him.

“I’m very lucky to be working with Len on multiple projects – it’s validating as an actress to be a part of a production family. It means I can make meaningful economic and creative contributions to my industry, and to America more generally.”

In Team 4, Morino plays the leading role of Kumiko Kobayashi, a controller and leader in the mission preparation laboratory.

The series, which is about agents enhanced with nanotechnology who risk all to protect their world from evil forces, will showcase the character of Kumiko as having to shoulder the responsibility of programming the very nanotechnology inside each of the team members.

The role has therefore required Morino to access her strong sense of power and authority that, in real life she says, doesn’t come very easily.

“I’m very shy in real life, but that’s why I love acting – I get to play a part and do things that I would feel like I have to apologize for in my everyday world.”

The series also relied on Morino’s ability to effortlessly demonstrate her grasp of scientific terminology, as her character was an assistant on the original project that created the nanotechnology system and has the highest level security clearance from the NSA.

It’s not all serious business for Morino, though, as she enjoys some lighthearted scenes with another character who is a student to whom Kumiko imparts her knowledge. This allows the procedure to be carried on in the form of a legacy, as Morino’s character is the only person who understands the procedure and is therefore vitally important to the progression of the series’ hero journeys.

“My character Kumiko is totally unique in her field,” Morino adds proudly.

Aside from the character’s role in the plot, the role has also called on Morino’s unique screen talents and heritage to bring some authenticity to the project. Her gripping and powerful presence on camera brings out the best in the character of Kumiko Kobayashi, as well as revealing a vulnerability that engages viewers in a really effective (suggested: visceral ) way. Ultimately, as the director Len Davies and Morino both attest, Morino’s Japanese heritage grounds the series with an authentic representation of Asian culture that helps the series connect with audiences all over the world.

 

The other project Morino will be working on with Len Davies and his company is the feature film Astral Princess.

Don’t think though that Morino is intimidated at all by the change in medium, as it simply represents another opportunity to give service to a character and story.

Morino’s role is similarly demanding in Astral Princess, as she plays Ami Sato, an FBI field agent working with the lead agent Joel Finn.

“Joel,” Morino tells us, “is assigned to work on Suzannah Foster’s unique situation and as the pilot story develops, they become more involved in her abilities and the saving of Ricky Santos from the kidnappers. As the series progresses Ami becomes the liaison between the FBI and Suzannah.”

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Morino will be called on to participate and act in a wide range of high-octane action and stunt sequences. 

It’s clear that Morino’s multi-cultural heritage gives her the added ability to transcend cultures in order to deliver a compelling performance that relates to viewers of different backgrounds, a skillset that marks her as an actress at the top of her game.

“I think actors have a responsibility to relate to as many humans as possible, as we’re supposed to give life to the human experience and make people think and feel things they don’t otherwise get to experience in real life.”

Morino’s position as an Asian actress carving out a place at the top of Hollywood has been recently cemented with her contributions to the Glendale International Film Festival.

“The President of the Glendale International Film Festival even requested me to present the closing awards,” Yoshie tells us with a big smile.

“It was an amazing experience to present the awards to fellow filmmakers.”

Overall, the experience of being a judge also allowed her to use her own experiences to help others.

“I am grateful to be a part of these prestigious, well-known film festivals and to have been able to contribute my own acting experience.”

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The Glendale International Film Festival is considered ‘The Most Elegant Film Festival in the World.’ 

Aside from this integral perspective on her artistry, Yoshie’s successful career and relationships with illustrious companies have also brought her a degree of commercial success that would make any other actor envious. Perhaps a role in Crazy Rich Asians sequel is on the cards?

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The success of “Crazy Rich Asians” has sparked a wave of interest in actors of non-Caucasian heritage like Morino.

“I can’t quite say,” Yoshie says with a coy smile.

She adds, “I don’t think about the numbers, or money, I just think about the art.”

Britain’s Janine Gateland stars in award-winning new horror flick

As an actress, Janine Gateland’s primary responsibility is simple: to tell stories. She takes words off a page and transforms them into a living, breathing person. Whether it be through a camera lens, on stage, or just with her voice and a microphone, she brings a character to life, causing an emotional reaction from her audience. For Gateland, she loves the world of make believe and being able to portray different people in different situations, dealing with life’s obstacles and challenges is what she lives for.

“Acting is unpredictable. It’s never mundane, it’s always an adventure because you don’t always know what job is going to come next. One minute you could be filming in a studio lot or on stage and the next in the woods or up a mountain. From the moment you pick up the script you are at the start of a journey of that character and their story. I love the fact that you learn so much about yourself through storytelling,” she said.

Gateland’s passion translates directly into every project she takes on and is exactly why she is such a sought-after actress both in her home of the United Kingdom and internationally. This is exemplified with her films such as Modern American Nightmare, which will soon be available on Amazon Prime’s streaming service,and The Closing, as well as the highly-anticipated new television series Illville.

One of the highlights of Gateland’s esteemed career came when working on the 2017 film F***, Marry, Kill. The horror flick follows three sisters traveling through the Mojave Desert on their way to their brother’s wedding. A sinister turn of events leads them to a twisted, maddening town where a psychotic, cult-like community kidnaps women and forces them to marry, procreate or be sacrificed. These residents seem hell bent on making it their final destination.

“I like the story because it is so real. F***, Marry, Killis actually based on a game.  People tend to play it at office parties, and I had heard Howard Stern was playing it on the radio. In the film we are playing the game in the car journey for fun, little did we know that would end up being our fate. The main guy in the film who you think is sweet and harmless ends up kidnapping my sister. Like most siblings, we knew we had to go on this car journey and somehow get along. What I like about the film is, even though all 3 sisters come from different lifestyles and bicker, they become a girl powered strong team when things go badly wrong,” said Gateland.

The film is, in Gateland’s words, “very girl powered”. Her character, Tiffany, is the oldest of the siblings. She had a great job, husband, and she was happy. However, everything went wrong when her husband cheated on her. She turned to drowning her sorrows with alcohol and becoming a bit too much of a free spirit. She shows up on the road trip to her brother’s wedding with her new fling of the month, who also happens to be a drug dealer. As the eldest sibling, she knows she’s always being judged by her sisters, but after everything she has been through, she doesn’t care anymore.  When the journey takes a turn for the worst and their lives are in danger, Tiffany realizes she has to step up and becomes the strong, ballsy sister who has to protect her sisters. The role really pushed Gateland’s boundaries both physically and mentally as an actor.

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F***, Marry, Kill premiered in 2017 at Sunscreen Film Festival. From there, it had an incredible film festival run. It has won several awards, including the Semi-Finalist Award at Los Angeles CineFest, Honorable Mention at Los Angeles Movie Awards, and was a winner at Hollywood Verge Film Awards and Direct Monthly Online Film Festival, to name a few. Such success could never have been possible without Gateland’s captivating performance as Tiffany.

“It is a wonderful feeling and I am so proud to be a part of it. A lot of hard work went into the film and I know I worked hard to make my role as memorable as possible. We were very lucky because we made time for rehearsals too, which doesn’t always happen in film. I am so pleased the film has got into so many festivals around the world and there is still more we are waiting on,” said Gateland.

Undoubtedly, Gateland is an exceptional actress, with an impressive career behind her and much more to look forward to. She has no plans on slowing down, as each time she steps onto a film set, she feels the same adrenaline rush that she did the first time. For those looking to follow their dreams into acting, she offers some wise words based off her years of experience.

“Make sure it’s something that you can’t imagine living life without. It has to be your passion and you have to be good. The amount of rejection you get can have an effect on your confidence. You have to be able to take risks and have a real drive to really want it, otherwise go home. You can’t be lazy, you have to put in the work 150 per cent and keep at it. To be successful can take years of training, experience and building relationships. It’s usually very rare to get that ‘big break’ when someone notices you, so you have to go out and find the work yourself.  Plus having a strong support system is tremendously important and having a motivated and well-connected representation that has your back,” she advised.

Check out F***, Marry, Kill, and be sure to keep an eye out for Gateland’s future works.

 

Top photo by Joseph Sinclair

Australian actress Ayeshah Rose on international projects and storytelling

Ayeshah Rose is the embodiment of an international storyteller. Now more than ever, artists whose talents and skills traverse the globe and transcend cultural barriers are in demand, and Ayeshah’s career shows no signs of slowing down.

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Ayeshah Rose

When asked about her success, Ayeshah is humble and points to her craft.

“Being trained but not strictly offers me more flexibility in my work. I am able to sense moments for a character quicker and deeper. I can indulge in a character’s identity which allows me to respond to the other actors that helps them stay empathetic.”

When looking at her body of work however, it’s clear that her consistency in building relationships with award-winning filmmakers and production companies in different facets of the industry have equally contributed to her current place atop the heap of Australian filmmakers making waves overseas. Indeed, she has recently been cast in the American film project “Vendetta”, to be shot in the US in the coming months.

“This project excites me…because of the technology involved…I’ll be working with weapons and using green screens and using skills that I’ve learnt over the years…it requires a lot of commitment and discipline.”

Ayeshah is blessed with a leading role, playing Elena, best friend to the protagonist Sofia.

“[The characters] went to school together for most of their lives. Elena recently changed schools after going down the wrong path and getting involved with a member of the mafia’s son. She’s terrified of being involved again, especially as she is the only one who knows their next target.”

In a reflection of Ayeshah’s impressive ability to connect and collaborate with highly revered filmmakers and companies, she’ll be working with Ryde Studios.

“With Ryde Studio’s reputation I am so excited to join a team that is making its mark significantly in the film industry as well as the resources I will get to experience while working on Vendetta. I am really excited to work in a professional environment which such a high calibre team that I know of so far. It’s the first big step I will have to the trajectory I hoped for. This is an opportunity to learn whilst performing which is so stimulating for me.”

Our interview soon turns to one of Ayeshah’s recent projects. In the feature film “Angel of Mine”, Ayeshah worked with Sundance award-winning filmmaker Kim Farrant (who directed Oscar-winner Nicole Kidman in the drama/thriller “Strangerland” alongside Hugo Weaving). “Angel of Mine” also boasts a top cast in “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” star Noomi Rapace (also known for her role in the “Alien” prequel, “Prometheus”) and “Fast and Furious” actor Luke Evans .   

“My character is a regular client at the hairdressing business of Noomi’s character,” Ayeshah astutely explains.

“She has a constant dialogue with Noomi’s character and serves as a confidante.”

When one understands that the film is about a woman grieving the loss of her daughter, only then to lose her grip on reality after she thinks her daughter may still be alive, it’s clear that any person considered a confidante to Noomi’s character is vitally important to story and the protagonist’s development. Ayeshah’s significance in the film therefore does not go unnoticed.

When asked about the shooting process, Ayeshah is quick to praise her co-stars while also touching on the demanding work schedule.

“Yvonne Stravoski and Noomi Rapace are both revered and honoured actresses – and rightfully so. They’re really fantastic. Being onset with both of them was exactly what I had imagined working with actors you can bounce off. Seeing their professionalism and focus was what I wanted within a professional team. I am so happy I got this moment in time where I felt I was of the same calibre.”

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Ayeshah spent valuable time on set with “Handmaid’s Tale” star Yvonne Strahovski. PHOTO CREDIT: MEDIAPUNCH/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK

Filming, Ayeshah elaborates, “required a lot of patience. My role was a crucial cross-over between Noomi’s character being confronted by Yvonne’s character about a murder.”

Not all elements of filming though were arduous, as Ayeshah is quick to reference a comical moment she shared with Noomi on set.

“In between [takes], I complimented Noomi’s nose (which I thought was very striking) and she informed me that Orlando Bloom broke it onset the film “ Unlocked” giving her that lovely nose of hers.” Ayeshah adds with a small laugh.

An ability to be flexible on set has in part been informed with Ayeshah’s other roles, including the leading character of Jane in film “My Day Job.”

“I had the ability to adlib when the other actors changed their lines by mistake and the focus was necessary for an intimate and dramatic scene. I had to also learn a Latina accent very last minute.”

Skills such as these are impressive, but ultimately, what motivates Ayeshah is not being good at something to impress a stranger, but to work in service of story and character.

“I am excited to merge into the US industry because I feel my look will be celebrated with the variety of roles I’ll be able to play, accessing all the colours and content that will allow my multi-skilled artistry to thrive and therefore I’ll be able to add value to the industry”.

From 1st AC to DP: Carl Nenzén Lovén’s Journey to Leading the Camera Department

Cinematographer Carl Lovén
Cinematographer Carl Nenzén Lovén

Today we live in a visually driven society more than ever before, but when it comes to film and television, striking visuals have always been key to drawing audiences into the stories on screen. Yet with all of the visual content out there today, having spot-on visuals are even more paramount to the success of a production.  

As the cinematographer and head of the camera departments on recent projects such as the film “Saili- The Light,” an Official Selection of the San Francisco Dance Film Festival, the upcoming feature film “I Will Make You Mine” and the music video for the band Twiceyoung’s hit song “Keep,” Carl Nenzén Lovén knows all about creating powerful visuals.  

Managing an entire department on any film crew is an arduous task, but being the head of the camera department is arguably one of the most challenging. From overseeing the lighting, the shot sequences and angles, and so much more, being a project’s cinematographer requires vast technical knowledge, not mention immense creativity.

Before making his way to the head of the camera department, Lovén honed his skills as the 1st AC on a plethora of high-profile projects, such as multi-award winning director Emily Ting’s dramatic film “Go Back to China” starring award-winning actress Anna Akana (“Youth and Consequences”), and Shuaiyu Liu’s film “Underground” starring John Carney from the award-winning thriller “Jake’s Dead” and Barnaby Falls from the award-winning film “Ride.”

For those who aren’t familiar with the work of the 1st AC, they are the ones behind the scenes who help recommend the proper camera, lenses and support gear, and they’re often the one responsible for hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of gear. From ordering the gear before production begins to setting up the equipment and ensuring the shots are blocked off so the cameras are ready to roll once the director calls “Action,” Lovén quickly proved himself as an adept figure within the camera department.

“I like to look at the job as 1st AC as the nerd of the camera crew. If the camera operator is the quarterback, the 1st is the one that knows all the plays, and is ready to feed them to the operator,” explains Lovén. “He or she is the expert of the camera team, and everything it entails, and also the MacGyver that is suppose to solve any issue when they happen on set. But also a person of fine motor skills, being able to read each situation and adjust focus for every camera move.”

Hailing from Sweden, Lovén actually began working as a photographer in his teens, but found the medium too limiting for the time of stories he wanted to tell. Still, his early experiences as a photographer, combined with his work as a 1st AC, have endowed him with a rare and masterful knowledge concerning the best cameras, lenses and other technical equipment needed to capture the shots required by the vast range of productions he leads as a cinematographer.

When asked about how working as a 1st AC has helped lead him to become a better cinematographer, Lovén said, “To me, this is like asking, ‘Have being a mechanic helped you become a better race car driver?’ Anyone can get inside the car and drive Daytona, but not everyone can get that car running if anything happens. Being a 1st AC have given me the opportunity to learn so much about the camera and how it works in tandem with the lenses.”

Considering the look and vibe of the visuals vary greatly from project to project, having a keen understanding of the precise equipment needed to deliver the director’s vision is key to Lovén’s work as a cinematographer. With the variety of projects Lovén’s shot to date ranging from feature films and music videos to commercials for the likes of CarGurus, a leading online auto sales website, he has used practically every tool of the trade.

Setting aside the cameras and lenses that are needed for specific projects, Lovén admits that his camera of choice is the Aaton LTR, which shoots on 16mm film.

“I have used it a few times. And it is the successor to the camera I own myself, the Eclair ACL… it just works. It’s a no-nonsense, no-bullshit camera. It is French, it is perfectly balanced, it shoots film, and it is quiet.”

But in the modern age where so much of what we see is digitally shot, Lovén also has his favored camera for shooting digital.

“If I had to pick a digital one, I would go with the Alexa Classic EV. I really try to stay away from digital, but the old Alexa is a workhorse really. You can throw anything at it, and it just works, any day of the week.”

Though choosing an effective camera body for the job is imperative, having the right lens is probably even more important. Considering that there is definitely no shortage of lenses on the current market, knowing which one to choose takes an experienced practitioner.

Lovén says, “The classical Zeiss Super Speeds Mark I or II are my favourite. They just look amazing in whatever camera you put them on. They take away that digital feel on modern cameras, but throw it on a Arricam LT and it will do the same job.”

Having spent years immersed in the camera departments on numerous projects, Carl Nenzén Lovén is well-versed in the world of cameras, lenses and all of the other technical equipment required to make a project a success; and all of this has added up to make him the sought after cinematographer he is today.