Actress Sarah Wessendorf Wows Global Audiences in “Chain Opera”

 

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Actress Sarah Wessendorf shot by Lars Gehrlein

Projected in planetariums around the globe, Chain Opera and The New Infinity introduce a new medium to filmmaking that has already begun to impress international audiences.

The film Chain Opera opens in a hospital room, where a woman is faced with an existential crisis after a medical event requires her to reexamine her life. Playing an anthropomorphized role, actor Sarah Wessendorf reveals to the woman that the path she has thus far followed was not really of her own choosing, but instead a construct created by perceived expectations of society, whom Wessendorf’s character personifies. 

What’s even more intriguing than Chain Opera’s storyline, however, is the venue in which it is displayed. Unlike most film viewings, Chain Opera is projected not on a flat screen but instead on the 360-degree panoramic canvas of a planetarium. 

The incorporation of the planetarium as a post-modern theatre is the center point of The New Infinity exhibition, of which Chain Opera is a part. Created as a collaboration between the Berliner Festspiele’s Immersion series and Planetarium Hamburg, The New Infinity exhibition features a variety of films and exhibits from many award-winning producers, artists and directors, all of which are displayed in the planetarium. 

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Still of “Chain Opera”

“Planetariums have been high-tech spaces from their very inception, a sophisticated simulation of artificial worlds…” writes Berliner Festspiele about The New Infinity, “so why not use these institutions for artistic projects? The aim of this new project is not only to democratize the high technology of these places but, as an alternative to the works usually in the program, to invite contemporary artists to develop specific works of art for this ‘new’ medium, which is becoming increasingly accessible in the digital age.” 

The New Infinity debuted in a mobile planetarium designed by Planetarium Hamburg at the Berlin Art Week in late 2018 and was a popular success, attracting more than 23,000 people over the three weeks it was open. 

Since opening, The New Infinity has toured internationally and has received widespread acclaim. It debuted in the US at the Festival of Disruption by David Lynch in Los Angeles in June of 2019 and continues its tour this summer, with future installments scheduled for Hamburg (Aug 13-18), Mariannenplatz (Sept 5-17) and the Berlin Art Festival (Sept 18-Nov. 24). 

Written by Holly Herndon and Matthew Dryhurst and directed by Jos McKain, Chain Opera could not be a more appropriate story for the panoramic setting. Consider the gravity of a character contemplating their life using the planetarium as a medium… How vast that quandary must feel for not only the character, but for every member of the audience in attendance. 

What is even more uncanny is how Chain Opera  parallels the real-life experiences of Wessendorf. Similar to the bedridden character in the film who is forced to confront her mortality, Wessendorf was faced with a similar situation when she was wrongly diagnosed with cancer several years ago. 

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Actress Sarah Wessendorf shot by Lars Gehrlein

“It rocked my world,” Wessendorf said, “I felt how precious this life is and that every minute doing what I don’t want to is throwing away a chance of experiencing this beautiful gift.” This pivotal experience not only influenced Sarah to pursue acting as a full-time career, it also opened her mind to pursue a wider range of stories and roles.  

Perhaps this open-mindedness was part of what led The New Infinity to Sarah. “I was suggested to the director Jos McKain by another director who had seen my work… Looking back now,” Sarah recounted, “I believe that my path was exactly planned and every experience was meant to be.”

“[Chain Opera] forced me to question my own life… To go against what society and family expects comes with a lot of pain, confusion and anxiety. But when you realize you lose yourself and waste your precious life if you conform, it all becomes worth it. The fight… the struggle to stay true to oneself will always be the right choice in the end.” 

According to Berliner Festspielethe, the second cycle of “The New Infinity” will have its world premiere in August 2019 at Planetarium Hamburg in cooperation with the International Summer Festival Kampnagel. Returning to the Berlin Art Week in September, the new works will again be shown in the Mobile Dome, return to its original location on Berlin’s Mariannenplatz

With The New Infinity series, the Berliner Festspiele aim at making planetariums and their technical knowledge available to all types of artists, including sound artists, musicians, filmmakers, and video game designers who want to explore the immersive genre of full dome projections. 

Extending beyond the medium of the planetarium, Berliner Festspiele is pioneering the development of Virtual Reality (VR) technology. “Besides these full dome productions, we have also been producing films for VR glasses since 2016 to develop artistic works that make it possible to experience the positions of contemporary artists in this young medium.”

The future is here, and art keeps up with the times. The avant garde is introduced by the most forward thinkers, of which the group of people contributing to The New Infinity, Chain Opera,  and the entire Berliner Festspiele Immersion series are. Sarah Wessendorf is no exception, communicating the same ideas both on and off the screen. 

“My personal mission for myself is to show how nothing truly differs between us except our experiences. If you would have experienced what I experienced you would understand and have compassion.” Much like the concept behind The New Infinity, “I love expressing how in the end we are all one.”

 

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Comedic Actor William Prescott on the Difference between Commercials and Streaming

William Prescott, who currently appears across two seasons of the Netflix hit series Glitch, is also widely seen in huge campaigns for companies for Ford, Sportsbet and VB.

When William Prescott started acting, he wanted to do it all. Every genre, every type of character, every medium. 

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William Prescott, photographed by Julian Dolman.

It’s rarely the case that actors’ dreams actually come to fruition, but in the case of this Melbourne local who’s now bound for the United States, William’s career has enjoyed the dreams of many a fellow actor. 

“I worked in an office for 10 years before finally getting my acting going. I didn’t start until I was 27 and it takes time to build it to a financially sustainable place. Eventually I quit the office life for good. I’m so grateful that I now get to just do what I love doing full time with no more Monday dread!”

The versatility of the acclaimed actor’s talents, which have treaded the boards for Q44 Theatre Company and shared screen-time with other award-winning Australian actors, is reflected in the dynamism of his project choices and the wide variety of roles he continues to play.

In the series Glitch, William embodies the role of Connor Carmichael with such considerable edge that only someone of his left-of-centre awareness, reminiscent of actors like Joaquin Phoenix and Christian Bale, could do so.

In one scene in this year’s new season of Glitch, William’s character of Connor returns to an unexpectedly hostile reception from “Phil” played by award winning actor Rob Collins. Without giving too much away, William plays the bumbling and friendly Connor to perfection and expertly showcases fear, panic, comedy and drama. When watching the series, it’s clear that William manages to do it all seamlessly across the two seasons. 

Also significant is the way William continues to play starring roles in campaigns for iconic Australian company Dare Iced Coffee on one end, and in another for McCain Chips. It’s no surprise that he is a firm favourite for these multinational companies and their big advertising budgets, as William naturally embodies an everyman charm which continues to posit him as an audience favourite. 

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William’s everyman appeal has been used by a plethora of multinational companies to help sell products, including this acclaimed campaign for McCain Craft Beer Batter Chips.

“I love comedy. It’s where my acting naturally sits. I find myself gravitating towards it even in drama because often it’s where the truth lies. I don’t need to think too hard about it and I find that so long as it’s not forced, making people laugh means they’re connecting to the story you’re telling.”

In an increasingly saturated media landscape, it’s rare for an actor to make a living full-time off their craft, but William is one of the lucky few who benefit from prioritising ability over the pursuit of fame or celebrity. Indeed, when examining his resume which includes critical roles in shows like Movement with Maria Angelica and The Time of Our Lives with Shane Jacobsen and Claudia Karvan (Love My Way), it’s clear that William has bided his time in forging relationships with revered industry figures. 

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William appears in the acclaimed drama The Time of Our Lives, and is credited alongside a stellar cast including Shane Jacobsen and Claudia Karvan (left).

“I worked with Shane Jacobson on The Time of Our Lives and I just remember how much he had everyone on set laughing…I was nervous. He had me at ease and sharing some banter quickly and I thought – that’s how I want to operate in the industry. I want it to be fun, all the time, even when it’s hard work.”

It’s no doubt the case that William has played a crucial role for companies like McCain and Dare given the lasting impression his hilarious performances in their campaigns leave on the minds of audiences, shaping the way the company is perceived. 

Funnily enough, William has experience playing two characters in the same project, as he did with brilliant comedic timing in Tom Cruise Disorder and The Next Big Thing. Both performances attracted notices from top industry figures. 

Justin Rupple, American actor and comedian known for his celebrity impressions and work in How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World and his performance alongside Liam Neeson in the 2016 film Operation Chromite said “William’s Tom Cruise performance in TCD might be one of the best impressions I’ve ever seen.”

The two are looking to collaborate in the US together soon on a comedy project. 

Aside from the critical acclaim such performances generate, William’s roles in campaigns like McCain, Dare and also Sportsbet reflect a considerable degree of success in helping the Australian companies generate a substantial return for stakeholders and investors. 

Indeed, each campaign has seen a return or increase in a customer base, a commercial accomplishment that can without a doubt be attributed back to the memorable performances of William. 

“I remember the first time I performed in the ABC series Glitch in season 2, I really didn’t know anyone. I had a scene with Hannah Monson who I hadn’t met before. The first time we did meet was 3 mins before we filmed the scene during a rehearsal. Fortunately she was a total champion as was everyone else. But walking out onto the outdoor set and meeting everyone, thinking about the scene, the lines, etc. It tests your ability to focus on the reason you’re there – to help tell a story.”

William’s performances in other projects, like his memorable turns as Teddy in Beat Bugs or as Sam in Lucky Stryke alongside Leticia Monaghan (Neighbours) and Mark Kenfield (Underbelly). In those projects, William’s abilities to deliver short sharp bursts of comedy  were readily apparent. More than that, William stole every scene he was in much the same way he continues to do so with all the campaigns that currently air all over the world. 

“When I get cast in something, anything, I just feel grateful. It goes back to the office stuff for me. This acting life is all just one big game that I get paid to play. It’s a reminder that I don’t need to be unhappy in my working life. I don’t believe that anybody does.”

It’s no surprise that William has been offered work in the US – the specifics of the projects are under wraps, but it goes without saying that this hard-working actor is excited. 

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William has been offered a role in an upcoming comedy project filming in the United States. Details have been kept under wraps, but the actor is “thrilled.”

“I’m thrilled to have an opportunity to work in the U.S. It’s going to be an adventure and I’m interested to see where it takes my career. I’m open to all possibilities.” 

Behind the Scenes: Internationally Celebrated VFX Supervisor and Flame Artist Gurvand Tanneau

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“Better Than Love” Director Ted Carney and VFX Supervisor Gurvand Tanneau (right)

Gurvand Tanneau has spent the past two decades setting the screen on fire with his highly acclaimed skills as a senior flame artist and VFX supervisor. Widely regarded as an accomplished post-production effects artist, he’s been tapped to lead VFX work for some of the biggest names in the business, such as Method, Moving Picture Company (MPC), EightVFX, Mikros Image Group, Mac Guff, Ntropic, and Logan. A clear reflection of his standing in the industry, Tanneau’s credits include VFX works for clients such as Apple, Audi, Adidas, Mercedes, Budweiser, Peugeot, Armani, L’Oreal, Toyota, Dodge,  and Coca Cola, to name just a few. 

Now working at the height of the industry, Tanneau recalls how he got started working in the industry back in 2001, “After working on some junior jobs at an editing company, I was given the opportunity to make some basic visual effects tests for an offline edit of a commercial. I had a great time doing them… They turned out to be a success and the producer liked my work enough to offer me a position at a visual effects company, Def2Shoot, to go further.”   

Tanneau’s talents have since been integral to the success of numerous advertising campaigns such as the Super Bowl commercials for Mercedes-Benz’s “The Science,” Anheuser-Busch’s “Buschhhh,” Acura’s “The Dark Horse” and Suzuki’s “Sled,” as well as commercials for Geico’s “The Giant,” “Spaceship” and “The Whale,” and Nissan’s “The Chase.” 

As the VFX supervisor on a production, Gurvand Tanneau is responsible for guiding the entire VFX team, ensuring the seamless continuity of the work and making the necessary changes when things fall short, which is a rare occurrence when he is the one behind the scenes. With his expertise in all aspects of special effects, Tanneau helps to make the impossible, possible. 

“I worked extensivly on a lot of commercials for the luxe industry, many of which have been high-end perfumes and cosmetic brands. The demand for quality is extremly high in this industry; the work must be seamless. It is a very rigorous environment with tight time timelines and where everything is judged by a standard of flawless perfection. Starting my career in that kind of environment has allowed me to develop an eye and sensibility for projects that depend on the aesthetic of an image,” explains Tanneau.

In addition to his contributions to the field of marketing and advertising, Gurvand Tanneau has also been a key VFX artist and supervisor on hit television series including “Chicago Fire,” and has contributed to Top 40 music videos with celebrities like Janet Jackson, in her 2016 “Dammn Baby” video, which has over 9 million views on YouTube. He has also worked on cutting-edge films such as the thriller “lll Wind” directed by Stephane Allagon, the dramatic film “La Pirogue” directed by Morussa Toure and the dramatic comedy “Odette Toulemonde” starring Catherine Frott and Albert Dupontel.

Born in Brittany, France, Tanneau realized his passion for visual effects at the age of 12 after discovering he could manipulate chemicals to produce certain effects that he could then introduce into films. He has been living and working in Los Angeles for the past six years, where he is represented by Digital Artists Agency. By the time he was 21, he moved to Paris to pursue a career in film production. It was there that he began to make a name for himself working on commercials for BMW led by MPC London, Schweppes led by NOZON Brussels, and H&M campaigns created by CHIMNEY Stockholm. 

Tanneau recalls, “While In Paris I was working essentially on beauty commercials, including cosmetics, perfumes, and fashion.” 

While in Paris, in 2004, Tanneau ventured out as the animator and visual effects flame artist for the popular cartoon “Obras” directed by Hendrick Dusollier (“A Day in the Life of a Dictator”), which earned numerous awards including those from the Aubagne International Film Festival, the Dresden Film Festival and the Lutins du Court-Metrage, as well as nominations from the Cesar Awards and the Lyon Festival of New Generation Cinema. He was also a key member of the visual effects team on the 2010 Guldbagge Award nominated biographical film “Cornelius.” 

Six years ago, Tanneau was brought to Los Angeles where he has since been represented by the Digital Artists Agency, to further develop his skills and provide specialized VFX support to major U.S. and global brands. When working on a project, Tanneau’s involvement begins in the early concept planning stages where he lends his expertise to developing the creative elements that are designed to captivate and intrigue audiences. From proposing artistic direction and determining which technology would be the most effective, his role is both creative and technical. He meticulously follows through the entire process, collaborating with the post production teams to implement the stunning effects that ultimately enthrall viewers. Tanneau attributes his success, in part, to those who he has learned from.  

Tanneau explains, “Having a background in photography and having been surrounded by artists most of my life has allowed me to cultivate a strong aesthetic and critical eye for images. I have been very fortunate to learn from and work closely with many talented artists who have come from photography, particularly fashion photography. The work I do is very similar, particularly when considering the light in a scene. Except in my work, that light is moving, and I can use that light to enhance the details of the form and quality of materials.”

The special effects graphics expert brings 20 years of experience to the table.  He has the uncanny ability to apply his knowledge and skills in a seemingly effortless fashion in a way that brings magic to life on the screen. His optical and digital work-streams are inspiring, along with his superior experience in specialized areas as stop-motion, motion graphic design, on-set practical effects, and VFX supervision that are simply phenomenal. 

With a dazzling portfolio that proves he is both dynamic and exceptionally talented, Tanneau has been tapped to work as a VFX supervisor and specialized flame artist on a wide variety of production in countries such as England, Sweden, Italy, Belgium, Spain, Australia, Czech Republic, and Russia. In 2016 Tanneau was VFX supervisor on the indie movie “Better than Love” directed by Ted Carney, starring Andrew Lawrence (“Bean,” “Bones”), Alexandra Rodriquez (“The X Factor,” “East Los High”) and Matthew Lawrence (“Mrs. Doubtfire”).

Tanneau’s work in the world of visual effects ranges from the highly technical creative design of graphic visuals like the ones seen in the L’Oreal commercial below, to integral changes to live action film footage, such as removing elements that cannot be seen in the final product, and much more.

For “Better than Love” Tanneau had the heft task of removing a number of things present in the live captures.  

“On set we found out there would be things to erase from the picture, like billboards for example. Or we would need to change or remove names and images from things like posters, mailboxes, and TV screens. Removing these in post helps to ensure continuity and is often more efficient due to the cost and time it often takes during the live capture,” explains Tanneau. 

All of Tanneau’s work comes down to serving the storyline, and without his work, many of these projects would not only cost the production exorbitant amounts of money, but some of them may never see the light of day.

Tanneau’s unabridged combination of experience, knowledge and talent in the visual effects industry make him a leading artist that is sought after by the biggest names in the business and judging from his popularity, it doesn’t appear the fire will be dying down anytime soon.