Mohit Soni Refuses To Slow Down

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Producer Mohit Soni

While there are many international talents that come to Hollywood from across the globe to pursue their filmmaking dreams, few have been able to seamlessly transition quite like Mohit Soni. Having worked on over 30 projects since 2013, the Rajasthan-born producer and director made major headway in the industry in a relatively short amount of time.

A testament to his incredible work ethic and ability to network within the film industry, he has worked on movies starring international celebrities such as action star Paul Logan from the films Code Red, American Warfighter, The Sandman, Circus Kane and more. Soni collaborated with Logan on Loss of Grace, a high-profile film that has been shrouded in secrecy, for which he not only managed day-to-day operations but the overall production.

While there are some producers that strictly handle the logistics of a particular project, Soni is more involved, and is genuinely interested in the motivations of the artists that he works with. He also has collaborated with writers with respect to polishing and writing skills, hiring the right talent for certain roles, and assisting with conflict management and logistics. He has also has negotiated showings in various festivals and competitions with respect to projects that he was involved in, as well.

Hinjews
Mohit Soni’s film “Hinjews”

Soni truly realized his love for production when he worked as a producer on Hinjews, and realized that he loved putting the puzzle pieces together when it came to completing a successful film project. He also loves putting his social skills to use, whether it involves mediating between personality clashes, figuring out the financial breakdown of projects with others, helping to oversee post-production, or marketing the project on a large scale.

Another notable project that Soni was heavily involved in was the 2017 movie Bridging Color, a touching South Korean drama directed by Chang Hyung Park. The movie follows a world-renowned arrogant artist that goes colorblind, and the resulting revelations that he has about his ego, status, and life in general. The touching movie has been widely praised in festivals around the world. The film was awarded at the 2017 Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Awards, the 2017 Rochester International Film Festival Awards, and the 2017 Short To The Point International Film Festival, and earned nominations from six other prestigious festivals.

Exploring themes of perception and individuality in a meaningful way, Bridging Color,  which was released on Amazon this week, served as Chang-Hyun Park’s first commercial film, and Soni was integral to bringing his creative vision to life. From inception to completion, Soni’s participation as the film’s producer ensured that the production was executed smoothly.

"Bridging Color"
Poster for “Bridging Color”

In addition to his long list of film credits, Soni produced the music video “Ishq Nashila” by actor, rapper and film star, Sapra. Exploring the dangers of substance abuse, the video emphasizes the idea that love is more powerful than any drug, with Sapra conveying a positive message over a hypnotizing, pulsating instrumental. The expert cinematography and lush imagery helped propel the video to over 100,000 views on Youtube. Soni was inspired by the personal connection that Sapra had to the subject matter, considering that one of his close friends had fallen prey to drug addiction. Soni says he was attracted to the idea of creating a musical narrative rather than a typical music video, and the fact that it also had such a positive message.

The collaboration also led to Soni producing Sapra’s music video “Coco,” which explored the idea of how detrimental cocaine addiction can be. Here, Soni was able to experiment more with cinematography while again communicating the idea that passion is more important and real than a drug can ever be, and that drugs are a momentary escape rather than a real solution.

As if all of this wasn’t enough, Soni displays his versatility through his work on Blood and Water, a Victorian-era period piece about love, family, and deception. Soni was able to step in when necessary, adapt to different personalities, manage conflict, and fill in for certain roles for emergency purposes, as well.

Unlike many other producers, Soni is deeply passionate about the products that he is involved in, and enjoys working with other like-minded creative spirits. It is clear that Mohit Soni truly feels rewarded on every unique project that he has been a part of, and his abundant passion will only lead to new projects and broader horizons.

 

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South African Producer Ricky Cruz starts Production on Horror Film “Night of the Macabre”

Producer Ricky Cruz
Producer Ricky Cruz

When award-winning filmmaker Taylor Paluso (“Unholy Night”) of Standard Motion Pictures  was looking for a strong producer to join forces with on the upcoming feature film “Night of the Macabre,” South African producer Ricky Cruz instantly popped into his mind. Though Cruz has only been in Hollywood for a few years, he’s quickly made a noteworthy impact– the proof lay in the 15 or so awards he’s earned from festivals around the world in a relatively short amount of time.

In search of a producer with a celebrated track record of award-winning films and a strong grasp of the film’s concept and desired tone, the production team behind “Night of the Macabre” didn’t need to look further than Cruz. Having collaborated with Cruz on several occasions before, such as the film “Red Christmas,” which was chosen as an OFFICIAL SELECTION of the Horror Haus Festival last year, director Taylor Paluso knew Cruz was the perfect producer to bring on board his new horror film.

Paluso says, “I have had the pleasure of collaborating with Ricky on previous projects. He is a hard working, results driven individual who would be a valuable asset to any production. Plus we collaborate extremely well together so it was imperative to have him onboard Night of the Macabre.”

The upcoming horror film “Night of the Macabre” centers on a despondent traveling nurse who finds herself in an increasingly dark and menacing situation after accepting an invitation to spend the holidays with a colleague.

“The sinister and creepy atmosphere of the film sets the stage for a powerful narrative following one woman’s journey to find the will to live again,”  explains producer Ricky Cruz. “‘Night of The Macabre’ played directly into the current preferred genre I was looking to explore. After reading the script, I also realized I had an ideal location available and in mind to be used for the film, which production was still looking to secure and access to and some potential name talent who were a great fit for some characters in the script.”

With an upcoming slate of horror and thriller films on deck, such as the film “AntiHero” directed by Screen Actors Guild nominee and 48 hour Film Project Award winner Michael McCartney, Cruz felt that “Night of the Macabre” was the perfect addition to his creative roster.

“I have been a fan of horror films for as long as I can remember and have always wanted to contribute to the genre I hold so close to my heart. There’s something so wonderfully twisted about the juxtaposition of a holiday like Christmas, which is typically associated with joy, filled with horror and terror,” says Cruz. “With the recent success of the short film ‘Red Christmas,’ I was eager to return and creatively explore the horror genre. Horror films have time and again proven their commercial potential and repeat viewership and ‘Night of The Macabre’ is a horror film that offers the opportunity to produce a terrifying film with the interesting backdrop of Christmas.”

Last year Cruz dazzled horror fans with his performance in the starring role of Rico in Paluso’s film “Red Christmas,” which revolves around a serial killer’s plan to dispose of his most recent victim on Christmas Eve and the mishaps that ensue with the arrival of an unexpected guest.

“You don’t have to speak a certain language to get scared or appreciate the powerful contrast present in a Christmas horror film,” says Cruz.

Without giving too much “Night of the Macabre’s” plot line away, we can say that the film’s main character, the nurse, finds herself in a dark situation where ill-intentioned individuals work to overpower her through the use of ancient rituals– an element of the story that Cruz found particularly exciting.

He says, “The script explores a personal area of interest in the form of pagan rituals and sacrifices, that I have long considered to be a great fuel for suspense and horror films, with some of my favorite films in the genre centering around cults and their respective terrifying practices.”

Set to begin principle photography early next year, Cruz and the team behind “Night of the Macabre” are already fully involved in the planning phase of the production. Cruz is currently handling the pre-production logistics for the film, such as location scouting, facilitating communication between film departments, acquiring permits, insurance and scheduling the actual day to day flow of the production’s filming schedule. Once filming begins Cruz will also be an active member of the production team as a multi-faceted coordinator taking care of the film’s talent management, general production office and unit management.

“The opportunity to demonstrate my versatile producer abilities excites me not only because of my love for the genre but because of the opportunity to bring and implement my signature brand of off beat character humor into the genre,” says Cruz.

Through the plethora of award-winning projects he has brought to the screen over the years as an actor, director and producer, such as the films “Foible” and “The Neighbor,” which were awarded at the 2018 IndieFEST Film Awards, and “Pigeon Hole,” which took home the Jury Prize from the Lisbon Film Rendezvous, Cruz has become revered for his offbeat style. With more than 15 awards under his belt, all of which lend themselves as proof of his extraordinary talent and unique creativity, Cruz brings a special flavor to the modern film market.

“I love a hybrid blend between outlandish characters and awkward and uncomfortable humor because not only was that the humor I grew up on, but I think it is the most honest depiction of life,” explains Cruz. “I am attracted to real and relatable stories told through the perspective of a dynamic character. The projects that I produce differ from on another in very extreme ways but they all share a root in that the message being conveyed is being told through and/or by a quirky and unconventional means.”

With several projects on deck, such as the upcoming film “Anti-Hero,” a hand full of music videos that are yet to be announced and now, the film “Night of the Macabre,” Cruz is busy doing what he loves and bringing exciting stories to the screen.

Costume Designer Lucy Song’s Attention to Detail Shines in “The Poison of Grapefruit”

Often times, the way in which a person is dressed offers one of the biggest and most immediate insights into who they are as a person. A viewer, if looking closely, forms a judgement, whether consciously or not, in regard to this person’s attitude, mannerisms, and beliefs. In a way, one’s costume becomes a visual introduction to their story, and the same thing goes for the characters in a film. A film’s costume design is a key component in building its characters and pulling us into their story, something world renowned costume designer Lucy Song knows all about.

Originally from Seoul, South Korea, Song was always fascinated and inspired by the world of costume design, but it was in Los Angeles while studying fashion design where she leaned fully into her passion.

Costume Designer Lucy Song

“Having a strong fashion industry background built the necessary foundation for me to bridge the move to being a costume designer,” Song explains. “They are very different jobs, but they utilize a lot of the same skill sets, which allowed me to marry both fields together and develop a unique style and approach to the costume design industry.”

Without question, Song’s cross-training in the field sets her apart from others. With a larger understanding of the garment industry, her ability to dress her actors exceeds far beyond the industry standard. In fact, Song’s extensive training has even enabled her to craft stunning and elaborate costume pieces by hand, if necessary.

A critical part of the costume designer’s job is the ability to capture what a director wants to articulate about a character on a visual level. In this sense, Song is nothing short of brilliant.

“Many directors have a vision of the film’s mood and tone, but not the exact costume design or look,” says Song. “[I then do] the necessary research to present key costumes based on mood, color, texture, tone, time period, and character personalities presented in the script, so that the director’s exact visual statement is captured.”

From her research, Song creates a lookbook and costume plot for each character with hand-made sketches and photos to present to the director and the production team. Once the script is cast, she goes in again, this time tailoring her vision to each individual actor. What audiences see on screen is, in essence, the final step in a much longer process, that of which Song makes look easy and, well, rather seamless.

Costume Designer Lucy Song
Poster for “The Poison of Grapefruit”

A beaming example of her strength as a costume designer can be seen in “The Poison of Grapefruit,” which was chosen as an Official Selection of the Marina Del Rey Film Festival and the Los Angeles Film and Script Festival.

A film set primarily in a courthouse, “The Poison of Grapefruit” takes the audience into the heart of a murder trial, and into the mind of an “obnoxious but fascinating anti-hero.”

The film’s costume design is poignant and beautiful, without being distracting or cliche. As Song tells it, “My job as a costume designer in these types of situations is to provide costumes that serve the characters so the story can be conveyed in an authentic tone. I enjoyed designing the formal prison guard uniforms from that time period, as there were several details to capture; all the shapes, textures and accessories were very interesting to research and put together.”

"The Poison of Grapefruit"
Actors Mason Shortland, David Air (center) & Timothy Haug in “The Poison of Grapefruit”

When designing clothing for a film, precise attention must be paid to the color pallet. Too bold, and it can result in upstaging the action and importance of the scene itself, and too mute, and the action can be swallowed by the surroundings. To avoid this, Song refrained from using orange or white prison uniforms, and instead chose dark blue and sage uniforms to ensure an effective result. Her ability to blend while still drawing enough attention to detail is profound in the industry.

It’s easy to be pulled from the context of a film by background costumes in a scene that don’t fit into the film’s visual statement. Song didn’t only focus on the main players in the story, but she paid close attention to the background actors in “Poison of a Grapefruit” as well. Song dressed the actors in complementary tones, all while staying on schedule and true to the film’s budget.

Song’s commitment to the director from beginning to end was also exemplary. “The director needed a very specific time period to be represented, so it took some time to ensure we met that vision, but I honestly had so much fun doing it that it got me through some sleepless nights,” Song recalls.

“The vibe I wanted to create with the costumes styles was in the vein of a period drama. I ended up going with tones and colors of browns, cold navy blues, and blacks to represent and stay within the tone of the story.”

Lucy Song
Actors Mason Shortland, Mike Capozzi, and Timothy Haug in “The Poison of Grapefruit”

Not only has Song created such a world, but it all works together aesthetically– each actor’s costume seems to compliment the others, all while staying visually exciting and perfectly executed.

While many people are involved in the production of a successful film, the costume designer is an integral and often overlooked part of the equation. Lucy Song is an exceptional costume designer, creating masterpiece after masterpiece, giving each actor the gift of furthering his story visually, and sometimes even enhancing an actor’s performance by providing confidence and believability. The film industry is truly lucky to have talents like Song, and audiences everywhere await her next project with excitement and anticipation.

Producer Clara Levy Brings Powerful Stories to the Screen

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Producer Clara Levy at the Deauville Film Festival

Producing a film or television series requires an immense amount of planning, impeccable attention to detail in terms of financing, a unique style of diplomacy and the capacity to work with a plethora of different personalities and the ability to see the overall picture and end result before filming ever begins. While the actors and directors often earn the most credit in the public eye, the producer behind a project is arguably the most instrumental contributor. Without them, a project simply wouldn’t happen.

One of the beautiful things about the film industry is that every once in a while a motivated leader who’s eager to help others tell their story comes along, and that’s certainly the case with producer Clara Levy. Hailing from France, Levy moved to Los Angeles in 2017 where she helped kickstart Blackpills’ US production branch. Helping to place the Blackpills’ name on the tongue of everyone in the industry, Levy has continued to produce award-winning and globally recognized productions for the company, such as the film “Dead Women Walking,” the series “Junior,” “Do Not Disturb,” “Bonding,” “First Love” and more.

Though she is now a highly sought after producer, her entry into the film industry several years ago unfolded after a stint of working in Parisian politics. In 2013 Levy was working at Paris City Hall for Anne Hidalgo, who made history and international headlines for becoming the first female mayor of one of the most well-known cities in the world. There, Levy coordinated press campaigns for the mayor and organized massive campaigns such as the Global Conference Of Locally Elected Women, all experiences that would prepare her for the logistical skills necessary to become a Hollywood producer.

After her stint at the Mayoral Office, Levy embraced her love of film, and joined Canal+, where she helped with marketing critically-acclaimed series such as The Bureau and Spiral, and was also instrumental in creating unscripted content and documentaries.

Soon after she was hired on as a creative executive at the Blackpills office in Paris, which eventually led her to Los Angeles where she was the lead producer on the critically-acclaimed film Dead Women Walking, a film about women on death row directed by Hagar Ben-Asher. Hagar Ben-Asher had previously been nominated at the Cannes Festival for The Slut.

Dead Women Walking received standing ovations at some of the most respected film festivals in the world, including the Tribeca Film Festival, Venice Film Festival, and dozens more, which has led to many discussions about a distribution deal with various major studios. The production featured an almost all-female cast and crew, including well-known actresses such as Ashton Sanders (featured in the Oscar winning-film Moonlight), Dot Marie-Jones (Glee), and Lynn Collins of X-Men fame.

"Junior"

Since entering the film and television world as a producer, Levy has continued to work with the best of the best. In 2016 she began working closely with Zoe Cassavetes, daughter of the legendary John Cassavetes, on the Gotham Award nominated series Junior.

Junior is one of the first projects that Levy worked on as part of the Blackpills team, and it is special in that Zoe Cassavetes had such as specific vision for the film. Centering on the theme excitement and danger of adolescence, Junior follows a 16 year-old whose mother’s new boyfriend tempts her to explore a darker side of herself. Zoe captured the coming-of-age experience in a fresh and modern way, and Levy helped bring Zoe’s subtle genius to life.

“[Junior] tackles adolescence in a way that we can all relate. It makes you travel in time and go back to this place when you are still exploring who you are and discovering it slowly,” says Levy. “I loved being so close to an auteur such as Zoe. Her directing is very special as it brings so many additional layers to her story. It’s something very hard to achieve and she mastered it.”

Levy recently worked on the soon-to-be-released anthology series Do Not Disturb, which marks the directorial debut of internationally-known actor Jude Law. The upcoming series was chosen among thousands of series for the Cannaseries Festival, which takes place before the Cannes Festival, one of the most well-known film festivals in the world.

Do Not Disturb takes a unique look at the private lives that we hide from the world, and is unique in that the series isn’t loyal to a specific genre. Starring celebrated actors such as Monica Belluci (The Matrix Reloaded), Jack Huston (Kill Your Darlings), Ralph Ineson (The Witch) and Edward Holcroft (Vampire Academy), Do Not Disturb brings to life the wide array of experiences that take place behind the “Do Not Disturb” signs on hotel rooms. The series is dedicated to telling personal stories that incorporate different genres and unique characters that hail from all over the world, and explores the more private and dark aspects of human nature in general.

“Do Not Disturb is really an unidentified artistic object ! It brought together so many talent and artist on such an intimate theme,” says Levy. “The theme of the project, looking into how people deal with their secret life and their dark side was amazing to tackle, and it felt that the anthology format gave us the opportunity to really explore so many side of this human problematic.”

"Bonding"
Poster for “Bonding”

As if all of this wasn’t enough, she has also been working diligently on the upcoming series Bonding, which was co-produced by Anonymous Content, the production company that was instrumental in such critically-acclaimed series as True Detective, The Knick, and Mr. Robot. Netflix purchased the series and the series is expected to launch sometime this month.

Levy’s curated and managed several writer’s room in Tel Aviv, all while developing and producing an astonishing portfolio of award-winning series during her time at Blackpills, which has been praised as “the future of TV” by French newspaper Le Monde. She has proved quite instrumental to Blackpills’ success, most notably because of her motivation, work ethic, and discerning eye for talent. That is why it is no surprise that in March 2017 she was promoted to Director of Development at Blackpills, where she works in her present capacity. Levy is responsible for signing talent of all kinds, including writers, directors, and digital talent to help create compelling content and grow the company. She now builds and maintains partnerships with all major US agencies and management companies.

Clara Levy is not afraid to sign new talent, shake up the status quo, or introduce new ideas to the companies that she works for, so she often proves to be a much more incredible asset than they first realize. She consistently stands out as being able to help true visionaries tell important and relevant stories, and it’s very clear that Clara Levy is not stopping anytime soon.