All posts by Andrew Simpson

Experienced Journalist.

AUSTRALIAN FILMMAKER ADRIAN PROSPERO TELLS THE STORIES OF CHANNEL NINE’S SUCCESS

In recent news of NBL’s 3-year partnership with Channel Nine, we sat down with the man behind Nine’s innumerable advertisement campaigns, Australian-born filmmaker Adrian Prospero to discuss his crucial role within the groundbreaking network and how his contributions have shaped Channel Nine to be Australia’s largest commercial free-to-air television network to date.

“It was an absolute honour to work with Channel Nine, and I am thrilled that the network has been skyrocketing in their success.” 

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Award-winning Director Adrian Prospero working with actors on set.

Adrian Prospero has been a force to be reckoned with in the entertainment world for the past decade having distinguished himself as a versatile filmmaker with over a 100  credits to his name as a Writer, Director, and Producer on various media platforms including television commercials, narrative films, and documentary films.

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Some of Adrian’s impressive award-winning narrative and documentary films.

We asked Prospero about his great passion for filmmaking and the many hats that he wears as a filmmaker.

“I love all aspects of filmmaking, but I would consider myself first and foremost a director.”

While the entertainment industry is known to be excruciatingly difficult to break into with thousands of filmmakers competing to get their foot in the door, Adrian Prospero has impressed many esteemed filmmakers with his success as he managed to conquer the narrative and documentary world while also making himself indispensable in the commercial and corporate world. Since the beginning of his career over a decade ago, Adrian has since been involved in dozens of advertising campaigns in the capacity of a Writer and Director for multi-billion dollar companies such as REIWA and Australia’s prominent WIN Television Network.

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Most notably, Prospero has undertaken a crucial role in the growth and success of Channel Nine. The network is equivalent to America’s paramount television networks namely ABC, CBS, and NBC.

Prospero’s skills as an extraordinary filmmaker combined with an extensive knowledge in marketing allowed him to contribute to the network primarily through cultivating client relationships, which consequently magnified the company’s revenue and strengthened the reputation of Channel Nine. In 2017, Nine reported a revenue of $720 million. During his time at the network, Adrian raked in millions of views for numerous affluent clients such as the global upscale hotel brand Novotel and the renowned multi-billion dollar real estate company, Mirvac.

In a reflection of how far Adrian has come as a director, and proving how sought after he is, Prospero can now earn up to $1570 an hour as a director. A source from Channel Nine joked “not a bad jump considering most directors are only paid about $75 an hour, and Adrian’s humble beginnings in Perth!”.

Despite his vast experience and success in the industry, Prospero remains modest when asked about his success in the commercial and corporate world.

“I am thankful to Channel Nine for entrusting me with each campaign and for allowing me the creative freedom towards these commercials.”

[above: some of the above companies who have gained millions of views for their films and commercials made by Adrian Prospero]. 

Prospero has been regarded as a terrific collaborator across all platforms. Therefore, it is no surprise that numerous companies and artists seek to work with him. His versatility in storytelling have led him to working with Songwriter and Rapper Bill Marri and Australia’s beloved electro-pop band, The Arsonist. His work on their music videos have gained these artists legions of fans globally.  

The prominent Writer and Director shares “Music videos are so much fun to work with, but what I love about it is the integration of two mediums (music and visuals) to create something powerful. You are often allowed so much creative freedom in music videos so it can be challenging in getting the balance right between the two, but when you find that balance where the two complements each other, the results are extraordinary”.

More recently, Prospero challenged himself in taking on several roles on a workplace comedy miniseries in which he wrote, produced, directed, and edited. The miniseries, Unrealty, was shot in Australia with actors Chris Buckley (Sons of Soldiers, Badgirl) and James Broadhurst (Reflection, Derelict). Adding to his great acclaim, Prospero picked up an award for the series from the Accolade Global Film Competition.

“It was really fun to shoot a comedy series. I’d definitely love to do it again.”

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Comedy miniseries written, directed, produced, and edited by acclaimed filmmaker Adrian Prospero.

Prospero was also previously awarded the Accolade Global Film Competition Award for his 2016 dramatic film The Hunt starring award-winning actor Robert Hartburn and David Pragnell. The prestigious film festival has successfully been running for 14 years, and recent winners of the competition include the films Money (starring Jesse Williams from Grey’s Anatomy) and Riley Wood (starring the James Bond and Wild Things actress Denise Richards).

“It is incredibly humbling to be recognized by renowned festivals for doing what I feel most passionately about”.

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Recognized by Movie Maker Magazine as one of the “Top 25 Festivals” in its category.

From commercial and corporate work to music videos and narrative films, Adrian Prospero is regarded as amongst the best in his field. He takes incredible pride in everything that he does which in effect produces outstanding films, and we are confident that this extraordinary filmmaker will continue to conquer the entertainment industry.

 

 

 

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Captivating Producer and Director Federico Torrado Tobón on Filmmaking

Radiator Behind The Scenes by David Liu
Producer and Director Federico Torrado Tobón shot by David Liu

Fresh off premiering his latest film “The Plague” at the Oscar-qualifying LA Shorts Fest, visionary filmmaker Federico Torrado Tobón is one filmmaker in Hollywood we should all take note of. Now in its 22nd year, LA Shorts is the first and longest running short film festival in Los Angeles. The festival attracts Hollywood industry professionals, and is one of many eminent groups shining a light on Federico’s critically acclaimed work. The multi-hyphenate, who has experience as a writer, director and producer, speaks about his work with the grounded authority of someone who’s gained a great deal of knowledge since beginning his work in the industry nearly a decade ago.

Federico’s unique style is distinguished from other filmmakers by way of his innovative incorporation of surreal and fantastic elements into conventional narratives, an exceptionally difficult task that he continues to explore with finesse through an array of complex film projects.

“I’m a big fan of magical realism,” Federico explains. “I love stories that are grounded in reality but that have one element that doesn’t belong to this world.”

The Colombian native, who has been featured in his country’s most circulated newspaper, El Tiempo, for his achievements as a filmmaker, is clear on his artistic intentions for his career.

“I hope to create strong emotions in the viewers and produce unique feelings and atmospheres, like when you look at a painting and you don’t know exactly what’s going on yet it still manages to creates a very specific feeling.”

These intentions are clearly apparent in all of his work, and they are especially obvious when looking at his films “The Plague” and “Wytches.”


Federico, who also directed the compelling and award-winning music video for the popular band Spaceface’s song ‘Radiator,’ which has been featured on the popular site Lost at E Minor and the prolific IndieWire, talks in earnest when asked about visuals.

He explains, “When directing a project I start with the visuals. I start pulling images and sounds, atmospheres of how I want the project to look and feel. After having that clear, I start to find the colleagues that I think are going to elevate the project…to me everything lies on the cast and crew that you bring in as a director and producer.”

Indeed, Federico has had the opportunity to direct and produce applauded projects with incredibly talented individuals in the industry today. Spaceface member Jake Ingalls is also a member of the three-time Grammy Award winning band, The Flaming Lips. When the music video Federico directed for “Radiator” won Best Music Video at New York’s Lower East Side Film Festival, the judging panel included “Sin City” and “Men in Black II” star Rosario Dawson and “Lady Bird” cinematographer, Sam Levy. Adding to this long list of endorsements for the project itself was its selection to screen at the recent 2018 LA Music Video Awards, the 2018 Bellingham Music Film Festival, which is considered to be one of the Top 50 Music Video Festivals by Radar Music Creatives, and HollyShorts, an Oscar-qualifying event that showcases only the best and brightest films from around the globe.

The instrumental role Federico plays in his projects as a director and producer shows through his capacity to assemble a top-tier cast and crew, another aspect that is apparent when looking at “The Plague.” In the film, which screened all over the world at festivals such as the LA Shorts Fest, L’Étrange Festival in Paris, and the 2017 Aesthetic Short Film Festival in York, England, Federico had the pleasure of working with some A-list talent. Dylan Riley Snyder of AMC’s “Better Call Saul” and Disney fame played the leading role of Julian, while ABC’s “The Middle” actor Casey Burke played the leading role of Julie.

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Still of Casey Burke as Julie in “The Plague”

“Federico brought a unique perspective to my experience on the set and to the project itself. Both writer and director, Federico managed to create and explore a world outside just a ‘horror’ or ‘dystopian disaster’ genre,” says actress Casey Burke. “From an extensive rehearsal period to valuable personal moments with each actor on set to ensure unbreakable connections in the portrayal of complicated characters in a unfortunate world, Fed’s passion for storytelling was obvious from the beginning until the end.”

Federico is humble but proud when asked about his team. The reassuring aspect of Federico’s attitude is that he is clearly invested in his career because he loves the craft, and the joys of being on set and collaborating with the talented creatives it affords him. In the case of “The Plague” and its numerous prestigious festival selections, Federico’s project bypassed some stringent criteria but he still emphasizes the experiences of shooting and collaborating with a great crew as its highlight.

“What made the project special to me was the people that worked on it. I had the chance to collaborate with a great cast and crew that made the whole experience amazing.”

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Still of Dylan Riley Snyder (left) and Casey Burke (right) in “The Plague”

When asked about the story, which concerns teenage siblings who take refuge in a secluded forest cabin to avoid becoming infected by a mysterious and deadly plague, Federico’s answer points to the mysterious and remarkable way by which a gifted filmmaker like himself formulates an idea.

“The story came about from an image I saw of a set of female twins looking into the camera wearing the same outfit,” Federico excitedly explains.

“That desire of telling something dual and aesthetically parallel and balanced is what motivated me to make the plague. Usually when I write something the idea comes from just a picture or a photo. That image is what fuels the rest of the script.”

While Federico might stress his enjoyment in the creative process, it’s nevertheless worth emphasizing the significance of his achievements in having his films selected and screened by such esteemed organizations like the NewFilmmakers Los Angeles (NFMLA). NFLMA is cost-hosted in partnership with The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and will screen Federico’s work at The Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills this September.

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Poster for “The Plague”

“I’m very happy that The Plague is doing well in its festival circuit,” Federico adds. “Winning best short film and having the opportunity to screen with in The New Filmmaker’s LA In Focus Latinx at Hispanic cinema exhibit at the Academy Goldwyn theater means a lot to me.”

The heightened level that Federico’s career has reached is not simply a consequence of his skills as a director. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, Federico is most definitely a multi-hyphenate, a creative who enjoys working across many fields, especially the combination of directing and producing.

“My work as a producer came from the necessity to make the stories I wanted to direct,” he attests. “When I started there was no chance of having a big team so I had to be thinking about producing it as well. Since that moment I started to produce everything I was directing.”

Elaborating with conviction Federico says, “To me a perfect production is one where the producer is fully synced with the director…What makes me capable of handling these two different roles is that I think about both simultaneously.”

Federico also exercised his diversity as a filmmaker in terms of genre with the film “Wytches,” a horror about a woman learning about her mysterious powers while staying at a strange hotel with her aunt.

“Wytches was my first attempt at making horror. The goal was to explore the genre and… find a way to tell a story by collaborating with two other directors…Three minds creating one piece.”

For Federico, the experience was both humbling and gratifying. “I learned a lot from their skills and their storytelling,” he claims. “And we all learned from each other.”

The experience has paid off, as the film was selected for competition at the Calgary Horror Con, one of the world’s best horror film festivals, as well as the first and largest convention in Canada dedicated to Horror, not to mention one that is notorious for its tough competition in terms of the films it accepts. In other exciting news, it also screened at the Midnight series at the celebrated Dances with Films festival, which was described by IndieWire as being “widely recognized as the premiere showcase of innovative cinema in the U.S.” and considered LA’s best indie film festival by the Huffington post.

While Federico’s bustling schedule keeps him quite busy as he continues to balance his work as a producer and director, his passion and motivation to share his work audiences is one of the reasons we got lucky enough to nail him down for an interview and we couldn’t be more thrilled. He’s definitely inspired us, and we hope his story will do the same for you.

  

Working at Both Ends of the Spectrum: Acclaimed Music Producer Dragi Ivanov

Deondre Jones (ShotsbyDre)
Producer and engineer Dragi Ivanov shot by Deondre Jones

Dragi Ivanov has long been known as a producer aware of how to tailor his skills to a musician’s needs, while bringing his own sense of practical artistry to any track he produces.

As the producer of Terrell Hines’ hit song ‘$3.99 (model1)’ Ivanov’s seasoned skill as a recording engineer proved imperative to capturing the song’s crisp sound quality. His ability to expertly wear many hats was reflected in how he wrote, produced, recorded and mixed the song for one of music’s most promising artists today.

Hines, who is also in the hugely popular band Wake Child, attested to the critical role Ivanov played in shaping the song’s sound from its inception and how they both wanted to create something that was compelling from the get-go.

Hines says, “As creatives we were pushing the envelope, so we started gathering our ideas and organizing them and Dragi produced, mixed and mastered…3.99.”

Hines further points to the collaborative nature of the song-making process, and the respect Ivanov grants the artists he works with and to the listeners of their music.

“We both love music and are intrigued by sound so we wanted to see if we could get music out in a way not normal to the ears but relatable to the ears spreading positive informative messages to society.”

Ivanov echoes Hines’ assertion that each of the cognoscenti wished to make a song that was edgy and create a new standard of music.

“Both of us always wanted to push the envelope and just create something that is crazy and innovative,” Ivanov explains. “We just wanted to make something that we hadn’t done before and that was exciting for us, we didn’t set out to do anything specific we just wanted to see what we can do and how well we can do it.”

It’s clear that Ivanov achieved his goal of producing a song that was edgy and compelling in a really subversive way, a rarity in a crowded market where every other producer is trying to push musicians to make a statement.

With Ivanov though, he’s the real deal. Combined with Hines’ writing, with it’s biblical references that are simultaneously respectful of spirituality but not condescendingly preachy to a listener, the producer and artist break new ground. The result is an edgy and compelling rap track that offers an incisive social commentary on the way unbridled greed has compromised the moral fabric of humanity, detailing the extreme lengths people go to for things worth $3.99. Listening to the song itself on an instinctual level leaves a listener conscious of a darkness, an effect countered with hip beats that get the body moving in a manner reminiscent of Childish Gambino’s ‘This is America’ but with an even more potent punch.    

Elaborating on the uniqueness of Ivanov’s approach, highlighting how the man is as interested in the process of making the music as the end result, Hines says, “Working with Dragi is therapeutic,” Hines astutely claims. “He can form any color and structure through music. When it comes to music and just sound in general he definitely has his own unique aesthetic.”

Adding his crucial creative input and mastery as a producer into the mix, Ivanov played a key role in the song’s composition, of course bouncing the ideas back and forth with Hines while producing, recording and mixing the song. He explains, “Everything you hear from the drums and bass, to the synths and the pads as well as the guitar parts and the way the whole song sounds is what I did. I created all the interesting sound design elements such as the clicky percussion parts, 808 bass, the menacing synthesizers, sound effects and vocal effects and treatment is what I did as part of the production process.”

The uniqueness of Ivanov’s skills as a music producer are reflected in the imaginative ways Hines describes Ivanov’s approach, pointing to a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ that effectively highlights the Macedonian native’s creative magic.

For instance, the song invokes Black church and gospel music style through the use of organs and tambourines, grounding it in a sense of history that is both culturally specific, and universally resonant.

In a more obvious reflection of Ivanov’s significant success within his field, it also helps to understand that the musicians Ivanov works with always enjoy a loyal and fervent fan base, ensuring that his songs reaches huge numbers of ardent listeners around the world. That, and his producing skills have equally come to be known within the industry as a secret weapon which can make an artist’s career.

Hines additionally points to the adaptability of Ivanov’s specialized skill-set as a producer who can jump between genres while also maintaining the artist’s sensibility and integrity.

“Dragi understands music from many different perspectives. He also knows what he is doing on the production side whether it is production or mastering, which I could trust him to execute every time creatively and professionally.”  

The most obvious manifestation of Ivanov’s versatility is in the work he’s done with the band Wake Child. The incredibly popular Californian group, frequently known for invoking psychedelic 60s sounds with their own unique millennial bent, clearly owe some of their success to the producing prowess of Ivanov.  

For the track ‘Hangup Blues,’ Ivanov talks about how he and the band “wanted to make a seemingly Lo-Fi sounding record but also have it be epic.”

The product is a filmic and moving track which has received over 60,000 streams on online and been promoted by multiple blogs and Spotify playlists. It’s clear that fans of Wake Child and Ivanov recognize how the song manages to expertly use vocals and guitars in a symbiotic manner that builds towards a rough and tumble crescendo that grabs a listener by the collar and pulls them into a collective, and at once, individual experience.

In essence, it proves how Ivanov – who produced, recorded and mixed the song for Wake Child – tells a story with music in a way that only the most celebrated and iconic music producers are able.

He speaks with authority with the how the song is constructed, indicative of how Ivanov is deeply connected to helping produce music that tells a story and effects emotional change within a listener.

“The song starts very small with only a Rhodes piano and vocals it eventually builds up to the first chorus which is very interesting because the relationships between the instruments change in a way that the chorus feels a lot bigger than the actual verse.”

The humble manner with which Ivanov explains how his personable nature lends him an advantage when dealing with different musicians is equally interesting and endearing.

“Another thing is [because I’m an] introvert I don’t necessarily talk too much and I am very sensitive to situations that I know how to stay away or step in when I need to and that way I am able to meet people feel comfortable in the studio and give their best performance.”

“Hangup Blues” consequently manages to be romantic and solemn at the same, echoing a deeply felt sense of love that is truly poetic. When the song hits a beat change half-way through, it shifts a listener into an aural experience that really affecting.

Producing the song itself represented a significant challenge, which Ivanov embraced with gusto

“This project was different because it was the first project where I had to produce a full band,” Ivanov clarifies.

“[I] usually work with only an artist and my job is to create the music behind the artist, whereas with this project I had to learn how to step away from being a the musician and focus on more technical and managerial side of things.”

In closing remarks, Ivanov adeptly sums up the authentic approach to his work that highlights his genuine and specialized creative spirit.

“For me I would say is that I want the music to be exciting and feel effortless.”

 

Australia’s Young Leading Man: Cooper van Grootel

Australian actor Cooper van Grootel has long been regarded as a leader of his generation. A working child actor for the past decade, who has recently wrapped filming a lead role in See Pictures’ feature film Go Karts, there’s no doubt that this young lad is reminiscent of the Australian men who paved the way before him: think Hollywood hunks Chris and Liam Hemsworth, and Avatar star Sam Worthington.

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Cooper van Grootel as photographed by Deanna Whyte

What sets Cooper apart however is not just his machismo, but also his access to an old soul that is more reminiscent of Emmy-winner Ben Mendehlson, who didn’t hit it big until his late 40s. The difference with Cooper however, and what sets him apart from all of these actors, is that he’s still only a teenager, but he’s already made it.

The award-winning teen, who was honoured by Media Super for Outstanding Commitment and Achievement in the industry, has carved out a niche as a true-blue Aussie with roles in prestige mini-series Mystery Road, audience favourite Jasper Jones, and films like Red Dirt and Absent that both challenge and explore the Australian identity. One exciting project in particular is the feature film, Go Karts.  

For that film, Cooper was up against thousands of other actors, so it’s safe to say his hard work is paying off.

Go Karts hails from the same producers as Golden-Globe winner Simon Baker’s Breath, Netflix film OtherLife and Kylie Minogue and Guy Pearce hit, Swinging Safari. In the film, Cooper was blessed with a starring role of Dean, the film’s antagonist. In the character, Cooper relished playing the bad guy – a force to be reckoned with on and off the race track.

“Many directors and producers have remarked on Cooper’s professionalism and high standard of work ethic,” says his agent, Hallie McKeig from Film Bites in Perth.

There’s nothing arrogant about this surfer though, as many are quick to attest to Cooper’s affable nature. “They’ve also said how easy Cooper is to get along with, and how down-to-earth he is,” Hallie elaborates.

Qualities like these are infrequently found in the industry. Cooper’s American manager Karli Doumanis, of KDM, substantiates this view.

“It is really rare to find young male actors like Cooper who have a high level of confidence, self-awareness and charisma – he’s also really highly accomplished because of the number of projects he’s worked on and who he’s worked with – the American industry has already fallen in love with him.”

One of Cooper’s earlier roles was in the film project, Red Dirt, in which he played the lead role of Benny.

Cooper smiles when recalling the filming process.

“Waking up very early and watching the sun rise over the vast landscape of outback Western Australia, that was a highlight.”

Red Dirt gave Cooper the opportunity to literally play the leader of the pack. As Benny, Cooper was the alpha male to a group of boys in a small town that an older man encounters after his car breaks down.

“Myself and the other boy actors searched for gold with metal detectors,” Cooper elaborates. “That was great fun.”

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Cooper, second from left, on the red carpet for the premiere of his film, Red Dirt with Neighbours actor Troy Coward.

Cooper also showed his chops as an actor of true range in Absent, a film from celebrated director Iain Appleyard. In that compelling film, Cooper played a mental handicapped boy at the centre of the film’s drama about a father who abandons his daughter after he accidentally kills Cooper’s character. Cooper brought the role to life with conviction, receiving praise from industry professionals in the process for his deep commitment to performing the role authentically and with respect to people with disabilities.

“Working with Cooper and watching him bring his character to life was…a highlight…for me,” Iain told our publication. “He repeatedly impressed everyone with his professionalism in a difficult role showing dedication well beyond his years.”

He articulates further. “I am proud not only of the work that I have done, but also of the skills I have acquired.”

It’s this focus on his craft and skills that is clearly keeping the screen star grounded, even while he might be sharing the screen with Golden-Globe nominated actors and household names.

“Richard Roxburgh is a man with a great sense of humour and uses that skill and applies it to improvising bits here and there during scenes,” Cooper says when asks about his fellow famous co-stars. “That was cool to watch.”

Up next for this acclaimed actor – who, like any other teenage boy also loves Aussie rules football and skateboarding – is a second season of the Funny or Die hit, Unverified where he’ll resume his leading role of Jackson.

“I really just love jumping between roles – I’m really grateful that I’ve got my family and agents and a manager who have supported my journey.”

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Cooper van Grootel is “grateful” for his acting success. Photographed by Deanna Whyte. 

 

Award-winning ‘Horizon’ actor Alistair Cooke on character work

“The stories I have been able to tell are the reason I’m an actor. Being able to give audiences the insight into the lives of other people, the experiences those characters have, is the most rewarding part of the job.”

And so begins our in-depth phone interview with Alistair Cooke, an award winning Australian actor who has built a reputation for crafting characters that layer both deep intensity and a boyish innocence.   

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Alistair Cooke, photographed by Johnny Nicolaidis.

When speaking with the young Australian, it’s apparent that he’s genuinely motivated by craft and possesses a rare capacity to simultaneously transform himself to serve a character and text, but also retain his unique, one-of-a-kind personality. An extrovert and an introvert, an artist and businessman, Alistair is full of contradictions in the way that only the most deep and provocative artists are.   

He elaborated on his chameleon like nature when we asked about it in our chat.

“My ability to take on any accent, mimic body language and have an understanding of human nature… allows me to transform into any character. The key is believing…once you’ve mastered the technicalities of people from voice, body and of course their mental state… you can’t fail.”

Perhaps best known for his award-winning performance in the acclaimed online series, “The Horizon,” Alistair is perceived as a star but has the reputation of a craftsman in the entertainment industry with an extensive repertoire of diverse challenging characters.

In that series, Alistair played the leading role of Jake, the series’ protagonist in this fish-out of water tale about an innocent small-town boy moving to the big city to embrace a progressive community.

“This character had the challenges that many people in the LGBTQI community face and being able to share this with an audience outside that community truly felt like an important part of the job.”

“The Horizon” had the benefit of not only enjoying audience numbers that exceed 63,000,000 but also claims the title of the most successful online series ever produced in Australia. Alistair has taken the success in his stride though, as the associated fame has not meant he has rested on his laurels.

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Alistair on the red carpet. While he may enjoy a high-profile as an actor, he’s not resting on his laurels.

“Sharing the experiences of ‘Jake’ in the series ‘The Horizon’ is something I am most proud of.  This character had challenges that many people in the LGBTQI community face and being able to share this with an audience outside that community truly felt like an important part of the job.”

The Perth-native also had the privilege of working with prolific and acclaimed writer Boaz Stark on “The Horizon”, himself known for producing the highest rating episode of Australian television ever for the award-winning series, “Always Greener” (Seven Network).

And the best distinction of Alistair’s role in the critical and audience favourite? Alistair was awarded “Most Outstanding Actor’ for his role in “The Horizon” from the Los Angeles Web Festival, described by Filmmaker Magazine as the “granddaddy of all webfests.”

“That was definitely the icing on the cake,” Alistair offered with a humble smile.  

When pressed for further details, Alistair was reticent but eventually forthcoming.

“It was a shock that’s for sure! I was overseas on a shoot when I received the news and didn’t believe it at first. The Los Angeles Web Festival is one of the best in the world and it was such an honour to even be nominated! But to win, was incredible! It’s a warming feeling to know that this character and my interpretation of the role was so well received, it means I did my job, and that’s’ all I could ask for.”

“The Horizon” was also bolstered by the prominent role played by Daniel Nemes, well known for his work on SyFy hit “The Magicians” and “Unusual Suspect.”

Alistair recalled sharing the screen with the former “Home and Away” star, Nemes.

“Daniel is an absolute star…he and I had actually worked together previously, on a film “Twice Shy”…He is so easy to work with, he is open and supportive to all cast and crew.”

While Alistair might sound like his expectations for his career are fairly simple, the body of work he has built says otherwise.

The young leading man has also been prominently featured in sci-fi flick “Crawlspace” co-starring “CSI: Miami” actor Amber Clayton and “The Originals” star Peta Sergeant and action feature “John Doe: Vigilante,” in which he shared the screen with award-winning “Battlestar Galactica” actor Jamie Bamber. Cooke has won the lead in many films including ‘Memories’ alongside Mia Challis as well as Richies Shift, where he plays ‘Richie’.

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Alistair in character mode for one of his many film projects.

In addition, Cooke has carved out an impressive track record on stage, ensuring his craft has a solid foundation, having ‘treaded the boards’ (as insiders call it) for many years. Indeed, Alistair received critical acclaim for his leading stage performances in “Ladders by the Sea,” a role performed under the direction of Ron Hadeley.

“I ultimately need to be able to serve any character on a whim – it’s a hard job, but I love it.”

Millie Samuels: Film and TV and Everything in Between

Millie Samuels is the first to admit that she’s busy, constantly criss-crossing between different projects and characters. Indeed, what’s perhaps most notable about this young Australian is that she has built an excellent standing for being able to work as an actor across film, television, stage and online content.

“Acting is acting whether for theatre or the screen! The process is the same it is simply understanding how close your audience is. These days people are watching content so closely on their lap tops and are demanding utter truth and transparency which is really exciting to explore as an actor.”

We’re chatting over the phone, and she continues rapid fire. “I’ve been quite lucky that creatives and companies seem to want to work with me again and again. We Aussie’s are a loyal bunch” the blonde actress adds with a touch of Australian wit.

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Millie Samuels, as shot by Imogen Grist.

One example of a successful creative partnership is the inextricable role she has played with Peter Andrikidis’ company Zenmost. Andrikidis’, possibly Australia’s most prolific and successful screen directors, cast Millie in the critical role of Mary in Catching Milat, and then again offered her the role of Clare in critically acclaimed feature film Alex and Eve. Peter’s belief in Millie’s ability to deliver an outstanding performance for the latter was so great that he offered her the role without even having to audition her.

“I’ve said this before: I’m really blessed,” Millie reiterates.

In Alex and Eve, Millie shared the screen with fellow Australian actors Andrea Demetriades and Richard Brancatisano – who, like Millie, are well-known as Australians who have reached the top of their profession by playing leading roles in American series. In their case, CBS drama Murder and ABC Family show Chasing Life, respectively. Filming with Peter Andrikidis on a second occasion was only one part in a series of highlights in her journey as a cast member in the fan-favourite feature. The romantic comedy, which currently screens on Foxtel Movies, was one of the most popular films at the Santa Barbara Film Festival in the US in 2016 and also screened at the Cannes Film Festival Cannes Cinéphiles.

A source advised us, “It was a sell out having to turn away more than a hundred patrons!”

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Millie in “Alex and Eve,” where she played Claire.

Millie explains why she thinks Peter has forged this creative partnership. “Peter appreciated my versality as an actor and recognised that I had strengths in drama and well as comedy. I have also been asked to help facilitate his Masterclasses with Australian Film Television and Radio School which was also an honour.”

Multiple-award-winning actor Simon Elrahi, who played the role of Bassam in Alex and Eve, offered nothing but praise when asked about Millie’s role in the film and why her command of her craft leaves her constantly in demand for acting projects.

“After working with Millie on Alex and Eve I knew I had to cast her in my own (award winning) short film Flow. She is a brave actor with incredible intuitions,” Simon adeptly explains. “I needed Millie’s vivacious energy as part of the cast; the story is very dark and full of tension and Millie was able to bring such great light and ease to balance the dynamics of the film. It was an absolute privilege to work with her.”

Aside from the enjoyable challenge that comes from being able to work with top-tier television talent, Millie relished the commercial and critical acclaim that came with being a part of Andrikidis’ Catching Milat as it enjoyed the highest ratings for free-to-air Australian TV in 2015. It’s no surprise given that the mini-series covered the life of one of Australia’s most notorious serial killers Ivan Milat, with Millie playing the critical role of one of Milat’s first victims, Mary.

“Mary and her friend Therese were the only victims of Milat’s who were able to get away from their kidnapper. My performance was used for the promotion of the series and played an integral part in drawing in a large audience and eventually lead to over 1.4 million views in Australia.” This writer acknowledges that such numbers are unheard of in the Australia market, as the land down-under only has a population of 24 million.

Network Seven no doubt loved the numbers that came from the show, as it helped them take up nearly 28 per cent of all Australian audiences.

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Millie had a prominent role in Channel Seven’s ‘Catching Milat’ and was featured across all of the television marketing.

While it’s clear though that Millie’s role at Andrikidis’ company will continue to be a lucrative one, her relationship with MetroScreen is a testament to her commitment to her artistry and willingness to challenge herself in grittier independent projects.

MetroScreen, a company that was instrumental in developing community access to video and television production through training, productions and capital investment in equipment and facilities, cast the two-time Heath Ledger Scholarship finalist in two esteemed films: The Passenger and Three Heart. 

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Millie at the Heath Ledger Scholarship Awards, for which she has been twice nominated.

When asked about the development process, Millie confidently sheds light on the topic. “The films were green lit as a result of my involvement due to my professional credentials. The films required a lead actor with enough credits and experience to be able to push it into film festivals.”

Her casting clearly paid off for the MetroScreen and the producers, as Three Hearts was nominated for an award at the highly-regarded Dances With Films festival and enjoyed a world premiere at the Chinese Theatres in Hollywood, while The Passenger premiered on the ABC network in 2014. The latter added to the strong connection Millie also boasts with the ABC network.

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Millie’s acting has led to a very strong relationship with Australia’s ABC network.

In her closing remarks, Millie is articulate and thoughtful. “As an actor regardless of the medium or the genre I know there is importance in the work we do. As the world becomes increasingly disembodied and dehumanised by fear and greed it is through our work that can bring change. I am able to remind the world of our humanity through the many characters and stories I am so grateful to be apart of.”

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Imogen Grist Photography

Dancing with Everybody Watching: Audience Favourite Richard Rennie on His First Craft

Tinseltown News favourite Richard Rennie is back centre stage, this time to talk about his experience as a highly acclaimed international dancer.

Richard Rennie’s journey into the world of professional dance was one that started at four years of age.  Put in a ballet class by his parents, it was apparent that Richard was a star-to-be. “I remember my parents speaking about it – I was going crazy, I loved the classes so much.  And then I think I was actually quite good – I picked up the choreography well, I had great discipline, I loved to listen to the music and the teacher – I was apparently an exemplary pupil,”  Richard adds with a smile.

After completing his time at the amateur dance studio of Aberdeen, Scotland, where Richard Rennie grew up, it was clear that he was meant for something much greater in the world of dance.  “I was given the suggestion of auditioning for dance schools at the age of 15 and I knew it was where I wanted to put my focus,” explains the globe-trotting Scot.

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Richard Rennie: centre stage as the principal dancer for the world-famous Moulin Rouge

Richard then moved to Paris to study and pursue a career in professional dance.  Upon arrival, he became unstoppable in the dance world; a name that would come to be both known and revered by many in the highest elite circles of the notoriously competitive and niche community.

“I had an opportunity at age 18 to get a summer job at Disneyland Paris.  It was my first professional gig – a real dance job – and it was an amazing experience that I’ll cherish forever.  That really was the onset of my career,” Richard notes fondly of his time with the Disney Corporation.

From ages 18-21, Richard was found studying at the prestigious, Doreen Birds of London.  His studies there were ballet focused with the addition of musical theater, jazz and tap influences.  Graduating at the top of his class, Richard undoubtedly had the technique, presence, sharpness, musicality, and natural talent to become one of the highest regarded dancers in London.

“I mean in my career, I was still considered a kid.  I was just starting out but I had drive and an understanding of my talents.  My teachers and peers complimented me on my stage presence and my partner work all the time.  I knew I was ready to reach the highest level of my career – and my dance abilities were taking me there.”

After graduating, Richard’s career took off over night.  He landed a principal position in a dance production of Cinderella at The King’s Theater in Glasgow, Scotland.  He quickly went on to work with top professionals in his industry, dancing for renowned artist Florence and the Machine, Volkswagen’s Car Show, and modeling and dancing for the most elite line of dancewear in the world, Capezio DanceWear.

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Performing as a professional dancer has required Richard to develop skills that are equivalent to a top-level professional athlete. 

It was after much success that at the age of 25 Richard was offered a position at the well known Moulin Rouge.  A star within itself, established in 1889, the Moulin Rouge is the pinnacle place for dance in not only France but in all the world.  It was no wonder that Richard joined the team and rapidly rose to the top. As principal dancer for a tenure of 5 years with the company, Richard was deservingly compensated at 600 euros per night, the highest of salaries offered with the company.  Like all professional dancers with a rigorous show schedule of 6 nights a week, RIchard dealt with his bout of injuries throughout his time. However, his fortitude and dedication to his craft kept him steadily on the path to quick recoveries.

“Because of my intense ballet training, my dance technique has always been impeccable and that helps a lot (with injuries) – as long as you practice dance in a safe and controlled way, you shouldn’t get serious injuries – however with the intense nature of the Moulin Rouge: doing 2 shows a night, 6 days a week, for 5 years – it’s inevitable that you will get injuries here and there.  I was lucky though, when you get to a successful level of an established company like Moulin Rouge, and then even more so because of being a principal dancer – you are treated with the utmost care and concern – amazing physio, attention to injury and healing. I bounced back quick.”

It’s clear that it wasn’t just the extremely delicate treatment of the professionals at the Moulin Rouge that allowed Richard quick recoveries.  His training, adeptness, and skill set didn’t let him skip a beat.

Richard speaks of his time at the Moulin Rouge; “I think my fondest memory was probably my opening night (at the Moulin Rouge) because at that point I hadn’t worked in a company for a long time and hadn’t been on stage for a long time.  I’d worked on a lot of music videos and fashion shows, but not been on stage since 2008 and now it was 2011, and I remember the feeling at the beginning of the show – we’re all at the back waiting to start and the audience went wild and I remember that hitting me, being on stage again.  I mean, there is nothing better.”

He continued to live that rush of the stage life during his time in the professional tour of Chicago the Musical once he landed in the states.

If 5 years as a principal dancer wasn’t enough, Richard was found participating in the most elite showcases for modeling and dance offered in Paris – Schwarzkopf Hair Show, The Ou Café “Vivement Dimanche”, dancing for Lisa Angel and Arielle Dombasle, to name only a few.  

Out of all of that, what was the most challenging dance job?  “I think I’d have to say the Capezio Dance Fashion show – it was a tough, long, hard showcase of work – and representing a dance clothing brand, not any clothing brand, but the most renowned in the world, that was a big undertaking.”  Richard took the challenge on with grace and ease. “The choreographer, David Leighton,” the biggest name in London, “was known for very technical dancing with commercial and hip hop elements – big turns, difficult lifts – a dancer’s greatest challenge and greatest joy.  Truly a transformative experience in my career. I felt so blessed to be a part of something so colossal in the dance world.”

Capezio DanceWear can be seen worn by the most elite dancers around the world every day.  Richard, representing the line that in fact represents the entire dance community, was the greatest asset to the brand given his talent and skill that makes him the highest level of professional in his craft.

Australian star Emily Gruhl on working with a Sundance director, opposite Noomi Roopace and Luke Evans

While Emily Gruhl might be the first to concede that she’s had a few lucky breaks, a review of her recent work and history as an actor in her native Australia is a testament to her hard work and craft.

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Emily Gruhl on set for the acclaimed film “A Note to Self

The Queensland native recently joined the cast of “Angel of Mine,” directed by Sundance-director Kim Farrant, best-known for helming award-winning flick “Strangerland” with Oscar-winner Nicole Kidman and Hugo Weaving in 2015. Such is the excellent standing of Emily’s reputation in the entertainment industry, the project marks the third time the two have collaborated in a creative setting. Kim was also involved with the development of Emily’s character in Amazon Prime series “Picnic at Hanging Rock,” in which Emily stars opposite “Game of Thrones” and “Hunger Games” star Natalie Dormer.

“It’s an honour to work with Kim a third time and on such a prestigious project. Kim knows me and my acting exceptionally well after spending a lot of time as my acting coach so it was a huge compliment to myself and my acting that she cast me in her film as it showed me how highly she regards my talent and enjoys working with me.”

It’s not only Kim Farrant’s involvement in the project that has Emily and her fans excited – she’ll also be sharing the screen with BAFTA-nominated “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”  and “Prometheus” star Noomi Rapace. In the role of Courtney, Emily notably plays an antagonist. Emily explains the critical importance of her character’s arc. “There is a dramatic final scene between the two where Courtney is giving Lizzie her final pay check and Lizzie violently grabs Courtney’s wrist and berates her into submission. Without the critical character of Courtney the story would not have the convention to show the emotional fall and the gradual psychological demise of Lizzie’s character.”

Emily, who judged performances in Sydney for performers vying for places in the prestigious Queensland University of Technology Acting course, is also a highly-regarded member of MEAA. Even more impressively, she has recently appeared in leading roles for films “A Note to Self” and “And Though the Music Ended, We Danced on Through the Night.” Both films garnered praise for Emily’s gripping performances and an award nomination for Best Actress.

Produced by Initi8 Productions, “A Note to Self” male lead actor Alastair Osment – best known for his work on “Home and Away” and Oscar-winner Jane Campion’s show “Top of the Lake” – sung praises about his co-star.

“Emily is a profound actor with an unparalleled level of depth and emotion. I have worked with some of the world’s best and I can attest to her extraordinary ability.

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Emily Gruhl with “Home and Away” actor, Alastair Osment in a still “A Note to Self.”

In “A Note to Self,” Emily plays Natalie – a young woman concealing a dark secret from a new love interest over the course of one night. The film, similar in style to Richard Linklater’s “Before Sunrise” trilogy, also touches on alcoholism and grief and thus demanded a performer who could bring a social awareness and credibility that went beyond their youth. Emily, as described by Alastair, brought that in spades. He added, “Emily is also characterised by a strong craft refined over her many years at the top of her field in Australia.”

Producer of “And Though the Music Ended”, Aaron Bush, offered similar compliments for the actress who has clearly built a reputation for being an old soul.

“The role of Abigail was an incredibly challenging one – we explored topics of grief and mental illness in the short film and we needed an actor of the highest quality to pull of this incredibly complex role.”

It probably helped that Emily shared screen-time with veteran actors Tom E. Lewis (“Wolf Creek”) and AACTA-winner Debra Lawrance (Pivot’s “Please Like Me”). In doing so, and upon viewing the film, it’s clear that Emily was able to not only hold her own alongside such seasoned professionals, but also enhance the film’s compelling qualities because of the captivating ways in which she holds a frame.

“Emily was able to access these dark places within herself and also draw the audience in to empathise with her – [this] was absolutely vital to the success of the production,” said Aaron.

Indeed, audiences around the world enjoyed Emily’s lead performance in “And Though the Music Ended” because the project screened at numerous prestigious festivals, such as the Orlando Film Festival, the Rome Film Awards and the Porteurs d’Images in Mauritius.

It therefore makes sense that Aaron further stressed, “Emily’s depth and complexity as a young actress can only be paralleled to that of the world’s best.”

Adding to that, it’s clear that the role of Abigail was critical to the success of the project. Sources explain, “the whole story was centered around three very different characters that are each connected to their own grief though a different form of technology. For Joanne it’s her son’s phone, for Percy it’s his computer with the videos of his history and for Abigail it’s cyber hacking technology. Without Abigail [and Emily’s performance], the film would not have made any sense.”

Audiences should therefore look forward to her work in “Angel of Mine” when it has a wide International release in 2019. The film has already been to the European Film Market in Berlin to be pre-sold.

Don’t limit Emily to just playing roles in dramatic parts though. Her agent Simon Whipp from Shanahan Management – who boasts Oscar-winners Nicole Kidman and Geoffrey Rush as clients – attests to Emily’s range.

“As a performer Emily strives to push herself outside of her comfort zone, continually surpassing people’s expectations.”

“Emily has exceptional range as an actor. Her projects are of vastly different genres and styles, and her acting transcends across comedy, romance, drama and thriller.”

Charlotte Chimes At the Top of Her Game in “One Eight Zero”

Well-known Australian actress Charlotte Chimes has recently wrapped a lead role in the production  “One Eight Zero”, opposite “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” actor, Rupert Raineri.

One would think that working with such high-profile talent in a highly-anticipated project would cause any actor nerves, but it was a process that Charlotte took in her stride. “The shoot was challenging, but well worth it. I got to learn how to ride a horse, and we shot some beautiful scenes in (Australia’s capital city), Canberra.”

In explaining why Charlotte was cast, the director and production team could not be more enthusiastic in highlighting that Charlotte was the only actress in Australia who could have played the lead role of Lucy. Director Denai Gracie was particularly favourable. Gracie is well-known in Australia for her film work and producing the award-winning film “Battle Ground” with “X-Men” star Tim Pocock. “Reviewing [Charlotte’s] previous work gave me such confidence in her ability to excel in the role, that I didn’t feel the need to audition her. She did not disappoint!!…Charlotte instinctively resonated with the character of Lucy, bringing the perfect blend of sincerity and authenticity to the role, and delivered a powerhouse performance.”

Charlotte’s role was not only the lead, but also represented an artistic challenge that gave her the opportunity to do detailed character work. The film, a coming-of-age story, completely revolves around Lucy’s character journey and therefore the film simply would not function were it not for Charlotte’s commanding, central performance. “After surviving a life altering accident Lucy must rebuild her life and establish what truly is valuable to her,” Charlotte explains with the eloquence expected of a leading actress. “It was important to me that she was portrayed as a multifaceted human being going through immense upheaval with grace, resilience and integrity.”

“One Eight Zero” represents one of many recent esteemed productions in which Charlotte plays a lead or critical role. For one, she recently stole the small-screen in her performance as Holly for horror anthology series, “Scary Endings,” produced by Strangler Films and John Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick is well known for his work on the long-running CW favorite, “Supernatural.”

“I feel incredibly blessed to have worked with such preeminent international producers – the experience on “Scary Endings” was a fun one. It’s not as scary shooting horror projects as it is watching them!”

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Charlotte having fun with producers and cast from the comedy cable network, trueTV. Charlotte is well-known in the industry for her fun-loving nature.

On the other end of the character and genre spectrum is Charlotte’s impressive acting work in “BedHead,” from the “Fresh Blood: Pilot Season” series produced by one of Australia’s most highly-regarded network, ABC (Australia’s Broadcasting Corporation). In the key role of Corvana, Charlotte represented a comic foil to lead actor Paul Ayre, who would later win Best Actor at the LA WebFest. Earning raves from the hundreds of thousands of viewers exposed to “BedHead” and the critics who reviewed it, Charlotte notably earned the highest praise from the director himself, Ben Mathews.

“Charlotte is a brilliant actress, both at drama and comedy. Her performance in “BedHead” was absolutely hysterical and no matter how many times I have seen the show (and I’ve seen it a lot) her performance still makes me laugh.” Mathews, who won a Jury Award and Best Film Award from the prestigious Newport Beach Film Festival for directing “Emily”, a film starring “Once Upon a Time” star Meegan Warner, clearly knows what he’s talking about when it comes to established acting talent in Australia. His praise of Charlotte’s unique acting talents and accomplishments is one of many that are heard whenever the young star’s name is mentioned.  

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Charlotte at last year’s Oscar’s ceremony, with Academy-Award winning director Tom McCarthy (“Spotlight”, starring Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams, and winner of Best Picture and Best Screenplay)

“I’ve been very fortunate to develop my reputation in the Australian entertainment industry, but I’ve also worked very hard.” Indeed, Charlotte also credits her experiences on projects like “Friend Request” (with “Syd2030” star Daniel Frawley) and “Suzie: Uncut” (opposite “Doctor Doctor” actor Craig Walker), as characters which helped her round out her career. Amidst laughter, she explains “[p]eople frequently remark that I’ve developed a complex body of work that reflects my distinctive talent – I’ll take that as a compliment!”

 

Strong UK Actor Larry Olubamiwo Dominates the Screen in “Catface”

Actor Larry Olubamiwo brings strength and authority into every room in which he enters, so it comes as no surprise that directors and producers frequently highlight the authority he brings to the table by casting him to take on characters with similar strength. This coupled with his deep voice and commanding 6-foot-4-inch frame not only make him a go-to for strong and dominant roles, but as someone at the top of their career, also prove him to be a rare breed of male actor when compared to his contemporaries.

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UK Actor Larry Olubamiwo shot by Karen Scott

In the frightening horror film “Catface”, which won Best Film Award at the prestigious African Magic Viewer’s Choice Awards, the African equivalent to the People’s Choice Awards,  Larry plays the lead role of Kaka. The film, about a vigilante born through supernatural means who decides to take revenge on a violent cult of internet serial killers, co-starred Fanny Escobar from ‘Revenge’ and the beautiful Katrina Nare, who is celebrated for her work on the hit series “Holby City.”

Larry describes his character as having “mystical powers who brings back to life a victim of a serial killer.” The murderer, Larry explains, “preys on people on the internet to exact revenge and prevent him doing it again.” The film is certainly a fitting tale for today’s age of an unscrupulous internet that continues to mystify people all over the world.

When asked about working with Larry, “Catface” director Ogo Okpue explains, “Larry is my go to actor when it comes to the projects I am working on. I have worked with him on three occasions now… His input into the project goes beyond just acting and he gives everything into the projects I have worked with him on.”

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Still of Larry Olubamiwo as Kaka in “Catface”

In a role and project that couldn’t be further from “Catface,” and one that further proves the fact that Larry Olubamiwo is an actor of incredible emotional range, the sought after actor also played a lead role in “Life of Hers.”

Another award-winning production under his belt, “Life of Hers” explores the lives and friendships of a group of people in a cosmopolitan city set against the backdrop of African diaspora. In the lead role of Mr. Balogun, Larry plays a Nigerian businessman who finds success after emigrating to the UK with his wife. In the story Balogun wants his daughter to “follow in his footsteps,” explains Larry. She, however, “wants something different for her life as she is influenced by her friends.”

Larry’s incredible performance, while different from his portrayal in “Catface,” was notably awarded when cast received an award for Best Ensemble at the 2014 Screen Nation Awards. It probably didn’t hurt their chances that the cast with whom Larry shared the screen included TV heartthrob and international sensation Tyson Douglas, known for his work in the hugely successful series “Doctors,” and Juliet de Gannes, who starred in the award-winning film “Hard Time Bus.” That Larry shares the screen in leading roles opposite such illustrious company is merely one more element that proves the long-held industry view that he is truly an actor of unique and extraordinary ability.

“Life of Hers” director Ola Masha explains, “When working with Larry I had peace of mind that he would be able to bring the character Mr Balogun to life. He had a great grasp of the narrative and would make great contributions not only in his acting but in the actually setting of the scene. Larry cooperates greatly with everyone on set and makes the shooting of the scene fly by.”

In further proof of the enthusiastic industry response to “Life of Hers,” the series screened at the British Urban Film Festival.

So what’s in store for the future of this powerful English actor?

“Catface” director Ogo Okpue mentions that he “will be making a feature film soon about people trafficking in which Larry has already been cast.”

Regardless of the incredible projects he has to look forward to, Larry Olubamiwo’s drive to perform is always comes down to his love for the craft, a testament to his integrity and exceptional ability as an actor who authentically brings characters to life, no matter the project or the genre.

When asked what it is that drives him to act, Larry explains, “For me it’s the ability to be able to immerse myself into a character, embody that character and give my interpretation of that character.”