Upon meeting Alina Nastase, her bubbly and warm nature is immediately apparent.
“I’ve always liked meeting new people, it’s why I’m an actress. I’m curious about how other people live their lives, and what motivates them to make certain decisions that will make them who they are, and that’s amazing to be able to explore and learn from it in my own life too”
The Ginger beauty speaks with the hint of an accent, a distinct marker of her Romanian-Spanish heritage which is clearly becoming an attractive feature in generating the interest of directors and producers who are clamoring to work with her.
“It is hard to learn the American English accent initially, but I am very lucky that I can speak multiple languages and work as an actor all over the world. The challenge of learning other languages has ultimately been worth it, and i’m motivated to keep learning more languages”
Indeed, Nastase’s multilingual capabilities are one of many characteristics which sets her apart from other actors who might simply trade on their looks. Nastase craves the exploration of human empathy and imagination in serving her roles. This hunger has unsurprisingly led her to being signed on for some exciting projects shooting in the United States.
Her managers and agents speak proudly when discussing their client, as they recall first impressions on their big expectations when they first signed the committed artist. These agents are the same who have also helped facilitate her engagements in two feature films shooting across the US. Each will make the most of Nastase’s European heritage and give the actress an opportunity to showcase her range.
The first involves her working with producers who have previously collaborated with Funny or Die, in a feature film titled Reunion. The second, a sci-fi drama, called The Next Earth, which poses the question of how humanity can survive if planet Earth as we know it does not.
The fact Alina is due to be working in different genres and exploring completely different characters is nothing new to European audiences, as existing in the polarity of these extremes is one of the hallmarks of her career.
Indeed, she has flourished in comedic roles before – as she did in the Warner Bros’ feature Villaviciosa de a Lado where she played the memorable character Simone, a prostitute with a heart of gold.
“I loved that movie so much – it was so much fun and everyone was so nice. I love comedies like this one, especially because this one was based on a true story”
Alina’s portrayal of Simone as a naive and warmhearted person went against both the writers’ and producers’ expectations, so much so that out of the hundreds of girls who auditioned, it was only she who could have played the role.
The experience in comedy will serve the actress well when she steps up to play Brittany Smyth in Reunion, where she will play the more beautiful and successful version of a character in a story that will explore success and why similar people with similar attributes still find varying levels of success.
“I am very excited about Reunion – it should be a lot of fun.”
Alina’s experience in the sci-fi world has set a strong foundation for another upcoming role in the US, in the project The Next Earth. Indeed, she notable appeared in the dark fantasy drama Vampyres in the starring role of Ann.
“Vampyres” was a hard shoot because it was emotionally demanding, but the pay-off was worth it.”
Shooting across Tulsa and California for The Next Earth will also allow Nastase to explore parts of the US as a tourist, as much as an artist.
“I love exploring different parts of the world, that’s what is so great about being an actor.”
There are so many pivotal contributors that come into play in the creation of a film or television series. While the director envisions the narrative story and the actors become the characters that bring that story to life, it is the cinematographer who directs the lighting and wields his camera in a way that creates the kind of visual story that dazzles our eyes.
A proven master behind the lens, French director of photography Xavier Dolléans knows exactly how to construct the lighting and capture each shot in a way that draws the audience into the unfolding story on the screen.
Xavier is the cinematographer behind the newly released French TV series “Mental” starring Horrorfest Award winner Constantin Vidal (“Mortel”), Marie-Aude Barrez (“A Billion to One”), La Rochelle TV Award winning actress Alicia Hava (“Plus Belle La Vie”) and Louis Peres.
Premiering in October on Slash TV, France Télévision’s digital platform, “Mental” has generated quite a buzz among international viewers with its engaging story, which Xavier captured brilliantly. Revealing truths about what it’s like to actually be institutionalized, “Mental” takes audiences into the lives of four young patients living in a psychiatric ward where their new found friendships with one another prove to be more potent and healing than the medicine administered.
Working closely with director Slimane-Baptiste Berhoun to determine the best way to capture the story, Xavier skillfully set up each shot sequence in a way that brings us closer to the characters and deeper into their story. From the lighting to the framing to fluidity of the camera movements, Xavier’s work behind the camera endow “Mental” with a visual tone that is raw, powerful and uniquely intriguing.
Xavier, who shot “Mental” using the Sony Venice, which he chose for its ability to cleanly capture deep low lighting, says that a key aspect in his camera work for “Mental” was being able to maintain a wide angle view whilst getting as close to the actors as possible. He explains that this technique helped “give the feeling that we are in the [character’s] head and at the same time give the viewer the feeling that something weird is going to happen.”
The story begins with Marvin, played by Vidal, a 17-year-old boy who arrives in the hospital accompanied by police. Over the course of the first episode we begin to understand that Marvin’s criminal issues stem from a mental illness, and as the series unfolds, we begin to see what life is like for young patients living in a mental institution.
Though the first season is only partly under way, “Mental” has gained extensive industry attention and has already taken home its first award, the prestigious La Rochelle TV Award for Best Television Series from the 2019 Festival de la Fiction TV.
With his career as a cinematographer spanning more than two decades, over which he’s earned numerous awards for his work including the Best Cinematography Award from the 2016 Warsaw Independent Film Festival for the film “Rocambolesque,” Best Cinematography Award from the 2017 Slum Film Festival for the film “Animal” and the Festival Prize for Best Cinematography at the 2015 Festival Alto Vicentino for his work on the film “Mecs Meufs” aka “Guys Girls,” Xavier is well versed in both the creative and technical aspects of capturing the stories that enthrall us on screen.
With his body of work spanning every genre and format imaginable, Xavier has amassed unparalleled knowledge of what’s needed in terms of lighting, framing and pacing, as well as the technical equipment required to nail each shot, in order to seamlessly bring each story to life in a way that does justice to the story. Whereas directors often become known for the overarching style that connects their body of work, the power of a cinematographer rests in their capacity to adapt their style to creatively deliver the vision and vibe of each production.
For Xavier, it is important to approach each project from a different standpoint as no two stories are the same; and with his seasoned knowledge of cinematography at his disposal, he has the rare capacity to bring a new flavor to each project depending on the director’s vision. When it came to shooting “Mental” one of the unique approaches he brought to the table was configuring the Sony Venice with an extension module that allowed him to detach from the sensor, making the rig light enough that he was able to move with the actors and improvise as they shot each scene.
“I think every cinematographer is different. You have different ‘families,’ some more technical, some more artistic, and everything in between. I think my strongest quality as a cinematographer is my sensitivity,” admits Xavier.” My sensitivity to interpret the director’s vision. Then, because of my experience on tv series I know I can be very fast and efficient with minimal equipment and crew without scaring the quality. And I always try to discover new techniques. Reinventing myself is a challenge I want to have every day.”
Xavier is also the cinematographer behind the mega-hit series “Skam France,” which has reached more than 80 million viewers, and is slated to release season 5 later this year. Xavier has shot every episode of the popular series, which follows five teenagers as they traverse the highs, lows and tumultuous dramas of high school and stars Axel Auriant (“Jamais Contente”), Théo Christine (“War of the Worlds”), Lula Cotton-Frapier (“Bula”) and Marilyn Lima (“Hungry for Love”).
As it is with any of the world’s top cinematographers, lighting and color are of extreme importance to Xavier. The way a scene is lit and its dominant color schemes set the visual tone and create an energy the audience can feel, and it’s something Xavier paid quite a bit of attention to for “Skam France,” especially seasons 3 and 4.
“This show is full of energy… most of the time we are very close to the actors, so it is important to me that they appear at their best. I’m very sensitive about the lighting of the faces… On season 3 and 4 we worked with colors a lot to create a world that suited every character,” explained Xavier.
“Elliot’s world is tenebrous and he brings Lucas into it…. for every sequence involving Elliot, everything was darker in terms of lighting and set design. With Assa on season 4, things were a bit different. She was very often alone, isolated and at the same time at a school full of people. I decided to use a specific thin full-frame cinematography depth of field to emphasize this loneliness. I really used the lens aperture as a tool to give the viewer the ability to feel the level of loneliness in each sequence.”
Xavier’s experience shooting hundreds of episodes of hit TV shows, such as “Mental,” “Red Shadows” and “Skam France,” require him to work quickly under pressure while simultaneously ensuring the highest cinematic value of the production, something he is able to achieve thanks to numerous decades in the industry.
He is undoubtedly among the small handful of not only France’s top cinematographers, but those in the world. Aside from being praised with several awards for his individual contributions to the historical comedy film “Rocambolesque,” Xavier’s skill behind the lens helped the film take home numerous other awards, including the Audience Award from the Paris BD6Né and Rouen Film Festivals, and the film “Animal” to earn several other awards from the Slum Film Festival, FEFFS Strasbourg Film Festival, Dublin Sci-Fi Festival, Audincourt’s Bloody Weekend and more.
At the end of the day, Xavier admits, “I think my favorite projects are the ones where I have the most possibilities to express myself visually.”
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