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Q&A with leading British actor Pezh Maan

Throughout his career, Britain’s Pezh Maan has shown audiences he is a force to be reckoned with as an actor. His work as a villain in the James Bond blockbuster Spectre was an international success, and the actor quickly became recognized around the world. Since then, he has starred in television shows like BBC’s Eastenders, the award-winning French series The Bureau, and the immensely popular FX series Tyrant.

We had a chance to sit down with this dynamic actor and find out about the beginnings of his career and get some advice for those looking to follow in his footsteps. He also gives a brief preview to his upcoming American television show Deep State, which premieres on FOX in over 50 countries later this year.

Check out this interview!

Pezh Maan Promotional 2 (2017)

EWG: Where are you from?

PM: I was born in Plymouth, United Kingdom, a naval town on the south-west Coast bridging the counties of Devon and Cornwall. I spent most of my childhood and youth there before moving away at 18. Since then, I’ve lived in Cambridge in the UK, spent most of the past 20 years making London my home, except for several lengthy stints traveling the globe, once circumnavigating from the UK eastwards and arriving back via Brazil a year later, and several months in different cities in India and the Far East. My star sign is Leo born in the year of the Chinese Wood Tiger.

EWG: In your own words, how would you describe what you do as an actor?

PM: I think what I do is to interpret the words of the writer and turn them into all the facets of the living breathing human being that I am being asked to play. I get into the skin of the character whilst still being myself with all my own emotional responses. When the character is somewhat at odds with my own experiences then imagination can come to one’s aid in creating a way to relate to the character. Imagination is the lifeblood of an actor’s work and interpreting the text is an imaginative endeavor and an extremely rewarding one for me.

EWG: What initially sparked your interest in acting?

PM: Like a lot of kids, I was involved in school productions and I remember just enjoying being on the stage and being in a position to influence the audience with humor or different emotions. I developed a love for performing over the years that was nurtured as I moved through high school and began reading more about plays and watching films and I had some great teachers who inspired in us a love of drama and life, which was invaluable for us. Acting was part and parcel of understanding life it seemed to me and felt like a natural place for me to express myself.

EWG: Why did you want to be a professional actor?

PM: For several years I was involved in amateur productions in London on stage as well as on camera in low-budget short films. After a while it became clear that I needed to be doing it full-time and so it became a natural progression to take the steps of a professional actor. I began the actor’s journey of auditions, castings, knock backs and small successes. None of the joys would have been possible for me if I hadn’t taken the plunge and signed up to be full committed to the activity that was my passion since childhood. And I sort of fell into small successes that led to further work and I’ve been lucky enough to see my career grow.

EWG: What do you like about being an actor?

PM: It’s now such an integral part of my life I can’t see myself doing anything else. I like the work, and the people who are drawn to this particular way of telling stories. One thing we all have in common is the need to tell stories and actors are charged with bringing stories to audiences in a collaborative endeavor that can move people. It’s also a lot of fun. I feel in acting we are given free rein to experience the whole gamut of emotions that in everyday life we don’t get to experience that often (and rightly so!). It’s a very invigorating activity and I find it hugely inspiring.

EWG: What are the challenges to being an actor and how do you overcome them?

PM: The work you need to do as an actor on your mind body and probably soul to be best equipped to be able to produce performances that move people, that are specific and bring characters to life in that believable way that keeps audiences attentions. That entails a lot of preparation and study, especially learning lines and cues of when to make actions necessary for the story and so forth. Then there are the challenges of how to make a life and a living from a profession that has been described as the most competitive one out there. Being rejected is something that you accept as an actor and an experience you become accustomed to and probably the major part of any working actor’s success is having the resilience to keep working despite fallow periods of little or no success. It’s a real test of one’s self-belief as actors. Actors need to be in tune with their sensitivity as humans to be good actors and so it can be quite a challenge to maintain that equanimity and take the challenges in your stride.

EWG: What would you consider the highlight of your career?

PM: That is an interesting question because initially the early successes made a huge impact and it felt as if I was moving from highlight to highlight. Now that my career has a steady momentum I feel as if the highlight of my career is having a career. I’m very grateful to have had the honor of working with some great actors and directors on film and television and being cast in the Bond film Spectre will always be an experience I will remember. I’d like to think that the highlight has yet to happen and wait to see what the future will bring. That attitude keeps me fresh and not complacent which I think is detrimental for any artist.

EWG: How would you describe your style of acting?

PM: I think that is something that critics are better placed to comment on this. Words such as naturalistic and minimalistic are ideas that resonate with me when thinking of performances on camera. I’m excited by seeing performances with those qualities and I like to think that I do my best to try and achieve that on camera. Acting for the camera is an art in itself as the camera picks up on everything you are doing, and so minimalism is amplified and goes a long way. Apart from that I would say that having no style works best for the camera, trying to be as truthful to the moment as possible without embellishing unnecessarily and being economical with gestures and actions can really enhance the portrayal you achieve on screen.

EWG: What advice would you give to those looking to pursue a career in acting?

PM: That’s an interesting question. I’ve read other actor’s responses in the past to that question which fall into the “Do/Don’t do it and Keep going you’ll get there in the end” categories. I would say that either you know you want to do it or you don’t and that you should listen to your gut and heart because then you can never go wrong and in the end if you followed your heart you will be a success whatever happens. And to avoid becoming negative or cynical because life is bigger than all of us and to keep a perspective on it is to have cracked the secret to a successful life. One I’m still trying to achieve myself.

EWG: What are your plans for the future?

I have a really interesting role in a brilliant new thriller series Deep State in Spring 2018, which was great fun to shoot and I can’t wait to see the final cut. I also have another film project that I can’t talk too much about now and a television project to shoot this year. 2018 promises to be an exciting one and we have only just begun.

Australia’s Pauler Lam dances in Hotel Indigo’s newest national commercial

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Dancer Pauler Lam

When Pauler Lam was 14 years of age, he did what most teenagers did to entertain themselves at the time; he watched MTV. Upon seeing the music video for Jason Nevins & RUN DMC’s hit song “It’s Like That”, the Australian native watched the two teams featured in the video breakdance, battling each other and executing incredible dance moves. It was from that moment on that he knew he wanted to learn how to breakdance. From there, he practiced almost every day with his high school friends, doing back flips and dancing on the grass. He began watching music videos not just for entertainment, but to watch the dancers and study their moves. He came across Korean Pop (KPOP) videos, which were filled with outstanding choreography, only expanding his passion from breakdance to dance itself. Now, he is trained in multiple genres, and as a celebrated Bboy who is also extremely skilled at Hip Hop choreography, he has achieved his dream that he set out on at just 14.

“For me personally, I love being a dancer because it is fun, and it is the most genuine and positive way that I can express myself as an artist. I love the feeling of bringing music to life through movement. It is when I am the happiest. I love performing too, whether it be on camera or for a crowd of people. I also love making people happy when they watch me dance and perform. I am confident in my skills as a performer that I know that I can make people enjoy themselves while I dance.

Lam quickly rose to fame on the 2016 season of Dance Network’s hit show Steady Mobbin’, where he was a principle dancer for several episodes, and in one episode had a feature about his life and career. Since then, he has been in several Buzzfeed dance videos, amassing over a million views each, and a national commercial for American Crew. Despite such success, the highlight of Lam’s career came when he danced in the national commercial campaign for Hotel Indigo last year.

“What made it the highlight for me is that I, an Asian male, was cast to be the star. This is a big deal to the Asian American community in Hollywood. We, as Asians, are usually cast to play stereotypical roles or aren’t considered appealing to the mainstream media, so this definitely was the highlight of my career. After speaking to the team behind the project, I knew that they believed in me because of my skills as a dancer and performer, and did not care about image,” he said.

Lam was cast to play the lead role in the project, where he was followed dancing around the hotel and the surrounding attractions of Los Angeles. There were hundreds of applicants for this lead role. The production team needed the best possible candidate out of all those applicants, and Lam was the stand out. He had sent footage of himself dancing, videos showing his personality, and several photos. It wasn’t long before he was approved by all parties to lead the campaign. Everyone believed that he was the best candidate for the project and that he would be able to bring their vision to life through his artistry as a dancer. His high level of skill and versatility as well as his vibrant on-screen performance and personality that were shown in his video reel and resume made him the right choice.

The commercial, which premiered last September worldwide, was a large success for the Downtown Los Angeles hotel, and Lam’s dancing was a large part of that. His work ethic was also vital, as he is someone that can adapt quickly to any situation. He has a tremendous positive mindset, something he considers one of his best assets outside of his sense of rhythm.

“Pauler and I were like a dream team when it came to this campaign. His incredible skills as a professional dancer are out of this world. We spent a few days together planning and mapping out some dance moves and camera shots so we would all feel comfortable come shoot day. Pauler was able to make my vision come to life through his art and movement and I couldn’t be any happier with the result,” said Harrison Winter, Director of the commercial and Filmmaker at Co.Mission Content.

Winter hand-selected Lam to played the lead role for his project. They began with Skype meetings along with the producer, Dan Tundis. After easily agreeing on what they all wanted for the shoot, they spent two days together location scouting and rehearsing ideas on the spot regarding choreography. The teamwork between the three of them made everything very effortless for Lam.

“It really meant a lot that Harrison and Dan both trusted me with their vision. They even went with my recommendations for other people to be used on the shoot as other featured dancers.

Because we got along so easily and well, come shoot day, it made everything very smooth and fun. The hotel clients were also present and it didn’t take long for them to relax and trust in all of us too after seeing what we were capable of,” Lam described.

Any suggestion that Lam had for dance moves that he could perform, he was able to execute them easily, which highly impressed everyone he was working with. His friends, Bianca Vallar, Alvin De Castro, Savannah Marco, were other dancers featured in the commercial. In the end, they were all able to achieve the best possible result that they could have with the project. Working with Harrison Winter, Dan Tundis, Kris Young, Sam Nuttman, and everyone at Hotel Indigo made the experience for the principle dancer.

“I loved being able to showcase my personality and skills as a performer on such a large platform. Hotel Indigo is an internationally recognised establishment. And for me to play the lead role in their campaign was such a blessing,” said Lam. “I also loved working with all the people involved in this project. From the production team, the clients, to my friends who were featured dancers. We all did our best to achieve the best results for this project. It was a big validation on why I love being a professional dancer.” 

Lam knows that dance is a tough industry to break into, and he is extremely grateful for the success he has achieved. He never gave up on his dream, even when it seemed like it was the easy way out. However, he believes the best way to achieve success as a dancer is to simply be yourself, and to have fun, and working on this campaign gave him to opportunity to do both.

“It feels absolutely incredible knowing that people all over the country saw my work on this project. I love how the campaign turned out. I feel it definitely captures myself as a person on camera and I hope it makes everyone watching as happy as it made me feel performing that day. It’s work like this why I love doing what I do for a living. I wouldn’t have it any other way,” he said.

You can watch Pauler Lam’s impressive dance skills in the Hotel Indigo commercial here.

Q&A with Actor Dominic Kay of ‘Allies’

There is little doubt as to why Dominic Kay has become a force to be reckoned with in the United Kingdom’s film and television industry. This revered actor has proven what he is capable of in a series of demanding and versatile roles, captivating audiences around the world. Whether it is with his work in the horror White Settlers or in a comedic role in ITV’s iconic soap Coronation Street, Kay is always on the top of his game.

This year, audiences can look forward to Kay once again gracing the big screen in the upcoming 20th Century Fox feature Walk Like a Panther. The film that tells the comedic story of a group of 1980s wrestlers are forced to don the lycra once last time when their beloved local pub is threatened with closure. They put on one last show for their local town, which becomes legend.

One of the highlights of Kay’s career came when making the 2014 historical drama Allies. The film, directed by Dominic Burns and stars Downten Abbey’s Julian Ovenden. The film is close to Kay’s heart, and we had a chance to sit down and talk to him about his role in the endearing World War II movie, and once reading, be sure to check out Kay’s dynamic work in Allies. 

EWG: What made you want to work on the film?

DK: Well what had me interested in this particular project was pretty much everything about it. Firstly, the genre, being a period war movie set during World War II. Ever since I first watched Band of Brothers I have always wanted to be in a period war project. I just love everything about them to be honest. The uniforms, weaponry, language and dialogue are all factors in my interest in a project like this. Also having family members who fought in the war and hearing harrowing stories from my grandfather was a key factor. I had often imagined what it was like to be fighting in a war and I guess this was an opportunity to experience a little bit of that. It was kind of a way of experiencing what it would have been like back then. I love watching movies like these and period dramas. I love everything about them really. It’s not every day you get to go back into the past and wear those uniforms, fire those old classic weapons and act in a way fitting with that period. I guess I’m a classic soul.

The script was a big positive for me as well. It was great and had me hooked from start to finish. It gave a very accurate representation of the war as we know it.

EWG: What is the film about?

DK: The film is set around the ‘D Day’ landings in Normandy France in World War II.
The Germans were occupying France and obliterated pretty much all of the resistance. The next step for them was crossing the English Channel and invading the United Kingdom. The Brits had set up a crack team enlisting the help of the French resistance and help from an American captain. Their mission was to be dropped behind enemy lines in France and to connect with the French resistance, causing as many problems for the Germans as possible in an attempt to shorten and even end the war. The story of the film is particularly important as it is based on true events that hold significant importance in European history. Hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives during this grueling war and many of them were children. To give an accurate and believable performance and do justice to a topic with this magnitude is of paramount importance. Many people growing up today don’t realize what sacrifices their predecessors made for them and I think giving them a glimpse of what it was like can be a good thing.

EWG: What character do you play? How does your character fit into the story?

DK: My character is ‘Coresman’. He is a soldier and field medic. His duties are to firstly fight but also patch up injured soldiers as best as he can and save as many lives as possible. He is placed in amongst this group of elite soldiers and assists them in their mission in trying to push the Germans back, retrieving as much land as possible and ultimately defeat them. He has a lot riding on him as the team is constantly under fire and involved in some pretty ferocious battles. His abilities are constantly called upon and heartache ensues when he realizes he can’t save everyone.

EWG: What was a day on set like?

DK: For me personally it was a complete joy to be on set daily. It was my first experience of anything like this. Even when the weather turned sour it didn’t really dampen anyone’s spirits due to the fact it was so much fun. That being said, it comes with a lot more pressure than usual as to reset and re-shoot scenes took time and a lot of money. So, everyone knew they had to be on point all of the time.

EWG: What did you like about working on this film?

DK: With a production like this there is obviously a lot of fighting and battle scenes with a lot of cast and extras. I mean, you know you have to give an accurate account of what happened, but sometimes you just can’t help your inner child coming out. Running around with firearms and weapons, riding motorcycles, riding around in tanks, fighter planes flying overhead and not to mention huge explosions and pyrotechnics going off all over the place. It was just brilliant.

EWG: What was the highlight about working on the film?

DK: There were quite a few highlights for me regarding working on this film to be honest with you. It was just such an absolute adrenaline rush from start to finish. Long days, bad weather, delays, etc. didn’t distract from the fact that I was having a ball every day I was on set.

The cast was just awesome. There were no bad apples complaining or whining, just great people pulling their socks up and mucking in. Everyone really worked for each other which made it that much more special to be involved in. The main highlight for me though has to be being involved in such a good factual representation of a piece of history that is not just close to my heart but to hundreds of millions of people. Having watched this with my grandfather and seeing the emotion on his face was a real sobering moment for me. Although it did show me that the film had got across what it wanted and was a huge success.

Canadian Music Week casts artists in new light with help of influencer Ashley Bruzas

When Digital Writer and Content Producer, Ashley Bruzas, looks back on her life, she cannot ever remember a time where writing was not a main component of her deepest inner passions. As a child, she recalls her mother and father encouraging her to send hand written letters to her family members, praising her for her adept ability to articulate and for the way in which she used her extensive vocabulary to express herself in an interesting way. From then on, she made a personal point of ensuring that she made full use of the resources within her reach to be able to establish well-rounded, educated points of view. For Bruzas, it was always important to embrace the historical, cultural, and personal differences of the world around her and to celebrate these variations through the stories she tells.

“I have always had a passion for writing and I have been able to use my writing and journalism background to assist me with a number of different positions that have required my skills as a writer and digital content producer. Of course, digital writing involves writing content such as news stories, editorials, opinion pieces, blogs, etc., that are published in a digital environment and that can be accessed through digital devices and online platforms that require the internet to be searched, shared, commented on, and more. It is essentially the same as a content producer; however, you are working alongside others to bring life to new ideas and create unique content that is ultimately shared across different mediums,” stated Bruzas.

One of the most essential qualities that Bruzas has developed thus far in her career is her ability to maximize her versatility at all times, be that through her skill set, her range of job opportunities, her collaboration with influential brands, and more. In fact, her versatility is undoubtably the reason that she has successfully branched out into various inherently different, yet interrelated fields. For instance, throughout her career, Bruzas has utilized her journalism skills and techniques to work for the Toronto Observer in both a print and digital fashion. In addition, she uses her online presence to obtain viewership on her prosperous lifestyle blog, WhoIsVeronika.com, as well as to earn a substantial following on other various social media platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat. When Bruzas sets her mind on something, she stops just short of nothing to not only achieve it, but to do so while exceeding all expectations of those around her. This is why, earlier on in 2017, she managed to earn herself a position working at CIUT 89.5FM, writing on air announcements, station advertisements, organizing shows, and running the control board, as well as organizing large-scale initiatives such as Canadian Music Week 2017.

For Bruzas, working at CIUT 89.5FM meant so much more than expanding upon her skill set in the field of radio journalism. It was an opportunity to explore one of the oldest forms of journalism, whilst excelling in her area of expertise: connecting with niche audiences and sharing information on a digital platform that requires elements of content production. Her in-depth understanding of how to interact through the use of social media allowed her to help CIUT 89.5FM reach audiences in ways they hadn’t ever imagined before she came on board. This, paired with her dexterity as a journalist lead to her leaving a lasting mark on the station and its counterparts. They were fortunate to have such an accomplished member on board and shared in the sentiments that she has received from previous co-workers throughout her professional career in terms of applauding her versatility and commending her unprecedented work ethic. Imad Elsheikh, for instance, who has worked with Bruzas on a number of occasions through creative agency, PIQUE, and highly esteemed brand, MooseKnuckles, celebrates her versatility and similar to those who worked with Bruzas at CIUT 89.5FM, found her to be instrumental to the success of the initiatives she shared her expertise on.

“The best word to describe Ashley would be versatile. She is able to integrate many skills, like pitching ideas, writing, interviewing, working with people, understanding target demographics and creating a final product that combines all of the elements that are needed to create original content that can be shared. She has appeared both in front of and behind the camera and delivers on her work promptly, working around the clock and with others to make sure there is a common objective for everyone on board. I have yet to work with Ashley on a project that was not well received and imitated by others in the realm of social media and content/writing,” noted Elsheikh.

Working at CIUT 98.5FM meant writing content for a terrestrial range of more than 8 million people. Bruzas, with a personal following of over 85,000 people, was the ideal candidate for the job due to her understanding of interacting with and appealing to a large audience. She went above and beyond the call of duty in order to introduce new artists, segments, stories, and news happening in Toronto that would be relevant to the station’s target audience, and demographic that she had a strong foundational understanding about from her previous work history. She is a natural-born connector and has a profound ability to inspire others to join in her efforts to celebrate the undiscovered talents and skill sets of individuals all over the globe. When she worked on the Canadian Music Week 2017 project, in particular, she took great pride in increasing awareness of the station and bringing together artists and listeners who would find value in experiencing the programs she created. In the process, she was thrilled to be able to brush up upon her skills as an interviewer, communicator, writer, radio host, editor, and content producer.

In all, working for CIUT 98.5FM and coordinating top projects like their Canadian Music Week 2017 helped reinforce the fact that Bruzas is equipped with a rare skill set and one which she maximizes the use of on a continual basis. She takes great pride in knowing that she helps to inform and inspire through the content that she generates and she hopes to be able to continue to do so for the remainder of her career. In the long term, she endeavors to use her platform as a journalist and a digital writer to give a voice to the voiceless in our society and raise awareness about uncovered issues across the globe. In the meantime, she continues to build her online presence and tell compelling stories to all that will listen. Check out her blog for a better idea: WhoIsVeronika.com.

 

Photo by Pat Moore

Watch Ryan Hughes give back to his community in special “CS:GO” charity edition

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Ryan Hughes is widely known under the alias ‘Bucks”

It can be argued that Western society has progressed quicker in the last decade than in the last 50 years combined. With the rise of technology and the ever-changing way in which information is created, distributed, and consumed, it is easier than ever before to spread a given message or idea across the globe. In the wake of this fast-paced societal transformation, there lies a community that was seemingly inconceivable for generations gone by: a network of online personalities, social media moguls, and internet gurus. More commonly, we now understand these individuals as being social media influencers: social media users who have established credibility within a specific industry and who have access to a large audience, allowing them to persuade their followers by virtue of their authenticity and reach. While it may appear to be a glamorous profession, in reality, social media influencers undergo immense amounts of pressure and public scrutiny for the views they put forth before others. For the most part, however, they attract large followings of supporters who value their efforts and find inspiration in their content. For one social media influencer in particular, Ryan Hughes, it is a dream job and one that he cherishes dearly. It is his pride and joy and the British-native works tirelessly to ensure that it is everything his followers desire and more.

“Being an influencer, especially on YouTube, is a 24/7 job. There isn’t a time of day where it is not on your mind. You’re constantly juggling your next idea, your future ideas, your current online performance, any increase or decrease in growth, any upcoming deadlines, any contracts, or sponsorships, etc. It takes a great toll on you mentally,” said Hughes.

Hughes began his YouTube career in 2012 when he created a channel under the alias, “BuckFizz,” a name which he later shortened to “Bucks.” It wasn’t until he began attracting thousands upon thousands of followers that he decided to leave his role at a large, global digital marketing agency to pursue a full-time occupation as a professional social media influencer. Today, his YouTube channel hosts to over 400,000 subscribers and all of his videos combined have earned a remarkable 62,839,195 views and counting. In addition, Hughes Instagram and Twitter accounts have earned upward of 90,000 and 72,000 followers respectively. As he continues to create and publish his content, those numbers are only sure to rise. His reach is wide and his motivation to expand his presence in the online entertainment industry is stronger than ever before.

At the beginning of his YouTube career, Hughes set out to create a channel that would act as a source of entertainment and laughter within the online gaming community. He recorded himself playing popular online games, full of tips and tricks as well as elements of his own quirky personality. Today, he has expanded his content to include not only gaming material, but also personal vlogs, product promotions, and much more. For instance, earlier this year, Hughes was selected as a candidate to promote and endorse a Cineplex and WorldGaming tournament in Canada which has earned nearly 100,000 views in total and can be found online here. In another of his brand collaborations, Hughes was approached by the app, Skinsilo, to promote their inflammable mobile phone case. In situations like this, companies will reach out to social media influencers in order to use their creative space and their strong followings to promote their products. These influencers are often given full creative reign to create a video using and reviewing the chosen product. In his collaboration with Skinsilo, Hughes entertainingly set fire to a phone, which you can watch here.

Hughes is well known for his unusual, captivating antics and his followers continue to tune into his videos time and time again knowing that they will get to see whatever exciting new idea he has conjured up. Another of his more notable characteristics, however, which makes him an even larger source of inspiration for his subscribers, is the fact that he is consistently looking for ways to not only connect with his followers, but to reach out to them and to give back to the community in whichever way he can. He recognizes that social media platforms provide influencers like himself a unique opportunity to raise money and awareness about prominent social issues and he is proud to work in an industry that makes a great effort to support individuals and communities in our society that experience hardship in their daily lives.

“Charity is a very important thing in my life. As a child, I always vowed that I would support charities at all costs, no matter what sort of salary I’m making. There are so many people in this world that experience unfair situations and I think it is imperative that as humans, we join together and help,” Hughes noted.

On May 22, 2017, a homemade bomb was detonated at the end of an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena in Manchester, United Kingdom. In the wake of this devastating attack, twenty-three people were killed and over 500 others were injured. When Hughes learned of this news, he was extremely affected and determined to find a way to lend his support to the victims and loved ones of this horrific event. In June, he learned of a crowdfunding page hosted by the website, www.justgiving.com, and decided that he would find a unique way to raise money to donate to the cause.

“Working on this involved playing on the sponsored website, CSGORoll.com, which essentially offers Vegas-style games to bet on using onsite credit which can be exchanged and withdrawn in the form of in-game cosmetics for CS:GO. To raise money, I filmed myself playing on the website to earn as much money as possible to donate to the charity. In the end, myself and the website put forward a total of over $1700.00. In addition, the amount that my audience donated in total is unknown due to the fact that they were contributing to a large-scale crowdfunding page; however, it is thought to have added a substantial amount to their total. You can watch the video here,” indicated Hughes.

Hughes’ manager and agent, Ryan Fenwick, took great pride in knowing that he is representing such a courageous, giving individual and supported Hughes every step of the way for this initiative. He was astounded by Hughes’ drive to carry this project out carefully and considerately. He wanted to raise as much money as possible, whilst still appealing to his audiences and making sure that the entertainment and fun they know and love about him was not compromised at any given point.

“Ryan and I worked very closely to come up with a highly effective way to make a positive impact. Not only did Ryan show great support and love, he went above and beyond to complete the video in a timely manner. I’ve never seen someone miss so much sleep over a charity video before, but I could really tell that Ryan cared and his fans did the same. He has one of the most sickening work ethics I’ve ever seen and he is truly dedicated to creating as much valuable content as possible. He’s by far the greatest social influencer I get to work with on a daily basis.

For Hughes, being able to use his YouTube channel to generate awareness about this tragic event, but also a financial contribution to its victims, was indescribable. He felt that being able to bring such a powerful meaning to this particular video gave it a very intense feel and he made a strong effort to raise as much money as he possibly could in order to donate. Being able to combine his creative and philanthropic interests was unlike anything he had ever done before on his channel and it inspired him to continue to do so for as long as his YouTube and social media influencing career will permit.

 

Join Dixie Chan in honoring Borneo’s unsung environmental heroes

At the outset of her career as a documentary film producer, Dixie Chan made it a long-term goal to one day use her talents to cast a light on an important social issue. For Chan, being a film producer allows her to research compelling people, places, and customs across the globe and share them with interested audiences alike. In her eyes, it is a privilege to be able to take advantage of the social platform that her profession provides her and if she can make a difference in the life or social awareness of even one individual, she’ll have succeeded.

“Being able to tell a good, compelling story that will resonate with people for a long time requires experience, technique, patience and empathy — all elements which I believe can be honed when you are learning and working with the best in the field. During my college years, I started going to film festivals and getting more exposed to independent documentaries and films, many of which were centered around social issues. I became so fascinated by the visual and narrative power of these films and I knew I had to be a part of it,” Chan discussed.

As Chan became more and more involved in the realm of narrative documentary filmmaking, she realized that her dreams to raise awareness about socially charged issues was not at all unrealistic. In fact, she has gone on to work on several documentary films and shows that cast a light on various places and people around the world who share in her desire to educate the masses about important issues, be they cultural, environmental, historical, political, religious, etc. In her role as the producer of an upcoming project, Chan had the unique opportunity to bring viewers inside a world where a group of passionate individuals ensure that China’s ancient trees are protected and its legacy of woodcraft is preserved for prosperity. Similarly, when she acted as the Story Producer for Frontier Borneo, Chan was not only able to work in one of the world’s most spectacular rainforests, but she was able to do so whilst supporting their local environmental conservation efforts.

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Frontier Borneo is a Discovery Channel documentary series showcasing a breathtaking, action-packed journey following the lives of remarkable men and women and unforgettable creatures on the third largest island on the planet. Interesting and unusual feats like dealing with home-made bombs in the oceans, exploring uncharted jungles, rescuing endangered animals and coming face to face with deadly creatures are all in a day’s work for the characters featured. Chan was asked to produce this awe-inspiring documentary in March of 2016 and later, when it premiered on February 28, 2017, it became apparent why.

“This project was an especially challenging production that was shot across 6 months in some of Borneo’s most treacherous terrain. Dixie was able to manage production of one shoot, which typically covers jungles, crocodile-infested rivers and seas, while doing the preproduction work of researching and casting of an upcoming shoot, all at the same time. Despite her ability to coordinate different aspects of the production simultaneously, she remains extraordinarily meticulous and hands on at every step and this enabled production to move forward seamlessly with minimal delay,” told Jacqueline Leow, Production Manager, who currently works at Beach House Pictures, one of Asia’s largest media company producing content for the international market.

Not only was she the most experienced producer working on the project, but she also proved to be invaluable to the entire initiative. She has an ability to juggle competing priorities with ease and to logistically map out every task involved with a project to such a degree that other cast and crew members are never left wondering what is required of them. For this particular project, Chan made it a top priority to establish and facilitate effective working relationships with her team, as well as the locals, due to the intimate nature of their filming location. She inspired each and every member involved to treat Frontier Borneo as a passion project, as opposed to an average job. In addition, her experience working in rural areas of China on other career projects gave her an advantage when liaising between crew members and local conservationists. Her adept understanding of Chinese working culture allowed her to bridge any cultural gaps they encountered and helped the planning, filming, and production processes unfold seamlessly.

“The rapport that I was so intent on building with the locals helped immensely in production, from accessing hard-to-film areas to getting information post-shoot, and even getting translators for interviews done in the tribal languages,” Chan reflected.

All in all, in order to make Frontier Borneo the true success that it was, Chan had to immerse herself mentally and physically into this expansive Malaysian rainforest and wildlife sanctuary. Whether they were shooting about marine conservation or mountain marathons, Chan was directly involved and on scene. To be so heavily engaged in such a hands-on Discovery Channel documentary is something that few producers can say they’ve ever done, let alone well enough to earn awards and accolades along the way. For Chan, however, being professionally recognized for her efforts meant little in comparison to the humbling knowledge that she and her team were able to truly celebrate the livelihood and struggles of the selfless individuals fighting to protect our Earth’s enriched wildlife and environment. Acknowledging the heroes of Borneo on such a large, influential scale gratifies her in an indescribable way and served as a safe reminder that she is doing exactly what she wants to be doing with her life.

Yayun Hsu talks pressure of producing first-ever American Influencer Awards

For award-winning film producer Yayun Hsu, being one step ahead of her work has always served her well in her field. Hsu understands better than most just how unpredictable a film set can be and learned the value of proactivity very early on in her career. She has since developed a style of producing whereby she strives to eliminate her proverbial “to-do” list on any and every set she works on. This is not to suggest that she wishes to kick up her feet and relax at work; however, it motivates her to meticulously plan each film shoot to such an extent that it could hypothetically run itself. By anticipating and accounting for any possible setbacks on set, she is always on her toes and ready to react when an issue arises. Her instinctive ability to problem solve, coupled with her desire to be an invaluable asset to any film project, makes her a force to be reckoned with in the entertainment industry, and she is taking her field by storm.

“I’m a problem solver at heart and I enjoy being a leader. In a book I read years back called Producer to Producer, the author noted that his students would often approach him to tell him that they could not afford a producer. To this he would reply, “You cannot afford not to have one.” This idea spoke to me and it became my goal to become invaluable as a producer in this industry. I like the idea of the crew needing me and I want to be that one producer that comes to mind whenever someone is looking to start a new project and to make it great,” told Hsu.

Throughout her career, Hsu has produced a number of highly acclaimed films, such as Because I Love You, and Caged Bird. In fact, after writing, directing, and producing the film Eli, she went on to receive prestigious awards such as Best Woman Filmmaker at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Awards in March 2017 and an Award of Distinction at the Canadian International Short Film Fest. Given that Eli was Hsu’s first major project for which she both directed and produced, she classifies it as a large accomplishment in her repertoire. It is one of the greatest highlights of her career thus far, and helped encourage her to continue pursuing filmmaking and producing for a living. In addition to Eli, Hsu considers producing the American Influencer Awards in November of this year as being another of her major career highlights to date.

“The American Influencer Awards were a unique accomplishment in my career. It represented my first “live” work, which came with its own new set of challenges. There were so many different responsibilities involved, from working with celebrities to coordinating with corporate sponsors, and more. I really learned a lot from the experience,” reflected Hsu.

The American Influencer Awards is an awards show for the online beauty influencer community. For the show, award-nominee video packages were played at the ceremony, and a live stream of the awards show was broadcasted on YouTube for fans of these wildly popular beauty influencers. With that, Hsu was responsible for conducting background research as it pertained to the nominees’ video packages, cutting demo video footage, securing an event location, a contact cast and crew, handling catering services, preparing props, and several other essential roles. In addition, during post-production, she helped edit and color-grade all of the event footage.

Interestingly, this was the first ever American Influencer Awards show and for that reason, Hsu was intrigued by the idea that she would be able to sculpt and shape something that would hopefully be such a success that its sponsors would like it to be replicated for years to come. Most importantly, however, she was both excited and nervous about the idea that she would be producing live content for the show. Her quest for perfection in her work grew with the understanding that there were no opportunities for re-dos. All of the content she was working with would be taken at face value, the first time and therefore, she exercised her best use of her skillset to ensure that her audiences could reap the benefits. She researched the show’s content, guests, and the style of live production heavily before she began planning, and after she gathered all of her ideas for nominee award packages, she and her team were able to narrow their ideas down to fifteen of the best packages for storyboarding. Her expertise was crucial in making sure that the entire production moved at a favorable pace and that the show’s events were shot with fluency. The show’s Executive Producer, Jay James, was blown away by Hsu’s contributions to the success of the show and hopes to be able to call on her again next year to make the show’s second annual awards ceremony as great as the first.

“Yayun demonstrated that she can listen well and perform under pressure. Her innate ability to multitask makes her a clear standout in my eyes. It also helped that many people that were in attendance at the event commented on how Yayun had helped them or made arrangements for them in advance, which totally gave the show an extra professional touch. We will definitely be calling her for our next American Influencer Awards show,” told James.

After months and months of tireless preparation, countless long hours, and ample effort, Hsu was relieved and grateful to hear the thanks and praise of her boss and clients. She felt proud and accomplished to know that she was responsible for the show’s success and she hopes to be able to continue that trend for future American Influencer Awards shows in years to come.

Lili Huang reflects on “Mei Mei”, one of the highlights of her career

When Lili Huang looks back on her life, she finds it difficult to pinpoint the exact moment that she decided to pursue her dreams of becoming a filmmaker. As a young child, she lived with her grandparents and fondly recalls making up stories to entertain them during family time. She would dream up a world of little ideas, laughing hysterically as she acted them out for her audience and looking forward to the next time she would get to bring her characters to life before their eyes. She was always bursting with tales to share and she quickly learned that making movies allowed her to channel that creative energy productively. Today, the talented screenwriter, director, editor, and producer, has proven herself to be a strong presence in the industry and hopes to continue to grow that reputation for several years to come.

Throughout her career, Huang as lent her talents to a number of esteemed projects. In conjunction with other filmmakers, she has worked on several international feature film productions, such as The Jade Pendant and The Bombing. For projects like these, Huang often poses not only as a contributor to the filmmaking process, but also as a communicator between Mandarin-speaking colleagues on the Chinese side of production and English-speaking colleagues on the American side of production. Her vast amount of experience working within and outside of her native country give her a unique edge above her competition.

In addition to her work with international film productions, Huang writes, directs, edits, and produces her own scripts. Through her original concept films such as Xixi, and The Flower of the Future, Huang endeavors to broaden the perspectives of her audiences and open their eyes to cultural and intellectual issues across the globe. In fact, one of the highlights of her career thus far was in 2014 and 2015, when she created Mei Mei. Mei Mei follows the life of a Chinese girl living in the United States with her American adoptive parents. At school, a new boy joins Mei Mei’s class after moving from China to America with his mother. Struggling to make friends and assimilate to American culture, Chris attempts to bond with Mei Mei over their shared heritage; however, to his dismay, she is not so keen. As time elapses, Chris begins to teach Mei Mei the Chinese language. The story eventually comes to an end when Chris must move back to China due to his illness. Fortunately, Mei Mei has their time together to cherish in her memory and is finally able to come to terms with her own identity struggles.

“I think this film is so important because identities are crucial to each and every single person, no matter where they’re from. It’s a question of who we are, where we come from, where we’ll go, and how we will recognize and appreciate the culture we belong to. So many people face these kinds of issues on a daily basis, especially if they’re exploring a new culture or place. For some people, it takes a lifetime to come to terms with these internal struggles. Mei Mei does an effective job of showing that as long as you find confidence and comfort in your own identity, the peace inside your heart will allow your bravery to shine through,” stated Huang.

As the sole creator of Mei Mei, Huang had to exercise her abilities as a screenwriter, director, producer, and editor, all at the same time. With that, she had to finesse every single detail from conceptualizing, to filming, to post-production. She began by developing her script and upon receiving approval from her advisors and mentors, she solicited the help of a cast and crew. Together, they filmed each scene, carefully ensuring that they captured all of Chris and Mei Mei’s emotional conquests. Once they were certain that they had footage that they could be proud of, Huang edited it together to create her final project. Xuhua Hu, who was fortunate enough to work with Huang on the film, was impressed by the way in which her own experiences working in China and the United States helped her to form the film’s underlying mood and emotional tones.

“Lili has accumulated a vast amount of experience and understanding of film production resources through her work in China and the United States. After working with her, I can confidently say that she is an invaluable professional filmmaker. Not only that, but she is a talented and outstanding screenwriter,” said Hu.

Mei Mei premiered in May of 2015 and Huang was extremely humbled by the way her audience received it. She was showered with praise and recognition for the hard work and dedication that she had put into ensuring that the project was a success. To her added delight, Mei Mei garnered a substantial amount of acclaim when it screened at festivals around the world. In fact, the film earned her an Official Selection at the Rhode Island International Film Festival, as well as at the Indie Fest USA International Film Festival. It was also nominated for Best Film, and won Best Screenplay at the Golden Panda Awards in 2015. Though she does not conduct her work solely in pursuit of awards and praise, Huang was extremely humbled by the Mei Mei’s tremendous success. She felt that these awards were a testament to the devotion she had for the film and to her career as a whole.

So, what’s next for this talented filmmaker? Recently, Huang was hired to be the screenwriter of an animated feature film called Sang Sang, which is being developed by Shanghai Animation Film Studios. If Huang were able to tell her childhood self that she would one day write a screenplay for the number one animation production company in China, she would be overwhelmed with joy.

A new take on what it means to be a triple threat with Yana GoodDay

There is an unspoken understanding within the modeling community that confidence will carry you a greater distance than looks ever will; however, a healthy dose of both will help to build a strong career. Unlike most other professions, models are required to sell themselves within the promotion of a product. They strive to attract the focus and attention of consumers in order to increase awareness of particular brands, companies, products, and more. From fashion to glamor, to fitness and swimsuits, models are featured in a variety of media formats that surround us each and every day and they are an integral element of Western culture. With that, the modeling industry has gained a substantial amount of interest and following throughout history, with the number of working models growing and the amount of available jobs shrinking. It can, therefore, be argued that in today’s society, it is more difficult than ever to stand out in the modeling world and thrive amongst the industry’s top contenders. For Russian model, Yana GoodDay, on the other hand, rising to the top of her field has been a lifelong journey and today, she is taking her profession by storm.

Ever since she can remember, GoodDay has found herself energized by the idea of showcasing her unique allure before the world. As a young girl, she often caught herself daydreaming about the idea of seeing her face on magazine covers and walking down fashion runways in beautiful outfits. As she began turning her daydreams into a reality, she realized that not only were her talents rare in the modeling community, but they were transferable to other related professions. She decided to test her hand at acting for films such as Kids in the Cage and The Waiting, as well as television hosting. With time, she learned to balance the three job types in order to build a more well-rounded career. She has since landed herself a number of notable jobs as a model, actress, and television hostess. For instance, when the 2014 Olympic Games were hosted in Sochi, Russia, GoodDay earned herself a job as the hostess of the Games’ official welcoming ceremony.

Earlier that year, Dynamic Project Group Agency were selected to help with the preparation and coordination of the 2014 Sochi Olympic and Paralympic Games. For their official welcoming ceremony, which gathered nearly 3000 athletes from all 88 participating countries, Alena Kremer, of Dynamic Project Group Agency, was looking for a hostess who would provide a familiar face for Russian audiences, as well as one who would represent Russia flawlessly before the eyes of other audiences around the globe. Having formerly served as a reporter for Pro-TV, participated in countless runway fashion shows, posed for covers of well-known magazine companies, hosted national television programs, and more, Kremer was certain that GoodDay was the ideal candidate for the event.

“When we auditioned Yana to host the Olympic Games Welcoming Ceremony, she naturally and effortlessly drew the attention of everyone in the room from the moment she walked in. Her outstanding acting skills and outer beauty is only surpassed by her kind, sweet, down-to-earth nature and her astute intelligence. She is a lovely woman who just happens to be extraordinarily beautiful and talented. She was uniquely dedicated and highly qualified to work in this particularly demanding capacity. Fluent in both English and Russian, she possessed the ability to effortlessly switch languages according to the needs of the audience. Reliable, talented, and hardworking, Yana played a critical role in making this welcoming ceremony the successful event that it was,” raved Kremer, Managing Partner.

Beyond her work as an actress and a television hostess, GoodDay strives to stay true to her modeling roots whenever the opportunity arises. In fact, she honored this effort when she earned herself a role as a lead cover and promotional model for a number of VJ Dunraven Productions’ novels. VJ Dunraven Productions is a highly reputable production company, having released a number of renowned novels written by VJ Dunraven, such as The Promise, and The Captive Shifter. As a lead cover model, GoodDay has established a profound reputation for being able to adapt herself and her looks to suit any genre she is tasked with posing for.

“For the Captive Shifter, Yana posed in an effortlessly angelic stance as she gazed over her shoulder with a sense of purity that was, at once, innocent and mysterious in the most beautiful way,” told Maria Chronis, Founder, Executive Producer, and Director of VJ Dunraven Productions.

Regardless of the novel’s plot line or character basis, GoodDay has a natural affinity for attracting a reader’s attention. Her modeling compliments the contents of each novel and is undoubtedly the reason that so many readers feel compelled to find out what lies beneath her engaging covers. For GoodDay, it is a dream come true to be able to see herself on the cover of each novel and it reminds her of when she would gaze at books and magazines in stores as a child, wondering what it would be like to see her face on them one day. In fact, in the span of two years, she found her face on over 35 different novel covers published by VJ Dunraven Productions.

Being able to live out her childhood dreams is an indescribable feeling, and she considers herself extremely fortunate to be able to truly love what she does for a living. Between acting in films, hosting television shows, and modeling, she has established a remarkable career and she looks forward to building it day by day, and job by job in the future. For those aspiring to develop a reputation like GoodDay’s and to build the type of confidence necessary to accomplish what she has, GoodDay had the following to say:

“Whatever you choose to do, study that subject and its history. Dedicate yourself to it and be brave, but refrain from letting that bravery become arrogance or shamelessness. Work on yourself to be the best version of you that you can be. Finally, don’t forget to get some rest from time to time.”

Director Brett Morris showcases the drama in ‘The Real Housewives of Toronto’

Filmmaking started out as a hobby for a young Brett Morris. He was a child actor, and became exposed to movies in a different way than most other kids. The Toronto-native began making films with his sister, and it became his favorite past time. This same passion continues in his work today, and Morris is an in-demand director and producer.

Having worked on several large productions, Morris has taken the Canadian television industry by storm. Shows such as Big Brother Canada, Top Chef Canada, Hockey Wives, and So You Think You Can Dance Canada may not have achieved the success they did without him as the mastermind behind the scenes. He constantly aims to make the best product possible, and ensures all he works with do the same.

“I like to make the on-set experience an ‘idea meritocracy’ where the best idea wins.  Structuring your set this way makes for the experience to be enjoyable for everyone, and always delivers the best content. I don’t care if you’re responsible for catering, if you have an idea that will make our final product better, I’m all ears. You never know where the best idea will come from, and you have to be open and secure enough in role to listen,” he said.

Morris carried this mentality with him during his work on ten episodes of The Real Housewives of Toronto, a show that follows six of the city’s most privileged, powerful and glamorous women as they navigate the elite social scene of Canada’s largest city. This first season introduces Kara Alloway, Roxy Earle, Gregoriane (Grego) Minot, Ann Kaplan Mulholland, Joan Kelley Walker and Jana Webb. Toronto is their playground and they have the real estate, cars, and the diamonds to prove it. The show is part of the widely popular Real Housewives franchise, and when the opportunity came up for Morris to pioneer the Toronto series, he was all for it.

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Ann Kaplan and Brett Morris on the set of Real Housewives

“Working on The Real Housewives is really like working on a soap opera in the 21st century,” Morris described. “What I love about The Real Housewives is that everything is heightened.  Heightened reality television. The hair is bigger, the money is bigger, the personalities are bigger, the fights are bigger. It’s a show that seems so fabricated it has to be real, because the characters are always so magnificent.”

When the showrunner, Grant Greschuk, was looking for a director to make the Toronto version of Real Housewives a success, he reached out to producer Lara Shaw for a recommendation. Shaw instantly thought of Morris, as the two had worked together on Big Brother Canada. Once the two had a chance to talk, they instantly hit it off, and knew working together would be a triumph.

The role of director for Morris demanded a swift technical directorial eye, with a keen sense of how to arc the story to engage audiences. He led a field team of a director of photography, one assistant director, a camera operator, and a production assistant. Each one of them were extremely impressed with Morris’ directorial and leadership skills.

“Brett brought a level of camaraderie to our team that I haven’t experienced in my 14 years in the industry, and I can say I have never had such a good experience working on a show, as I did on the time spent working on Brett’s team. He had a way of raising team moral, bringing a level of levity and enjoyment to each shooting day, while working with the team to get results that brought constant positive feedback from the production management. Brett creates an extremely collaborative environment, instills confidence with his leadership and raises the confidence in his team members by constant feedback and encouragement. Brett is the kind of leader that makes you want to do your absolute best work for him. I would jump at any opportunity to work with Brett in the future as much and often as possible,” said Chris Sherry, the Director of Photography on Real Housewives of Toronto.

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Kara Alloway (Left), Ann Kaplan (Right) with Brett Morris on the set of Real Housewives

Each day, Morris and his crew would arrive two hours before the cast. They would spend this time figuring out how they would film each scene, and he says these were often his most creative hours of the day. Once the cast arrived, filming would begin. The ladies, Morris says, did not require any coaching on his part, as they were very professional, giving him more time to focus on making the best possible product.

As the director of the show, Morris’ first priority was storytelling. At the beginning of each day, he was given just the location and the cast members that would appear in the scenes. At any given time, each character had five different plots to follow, because they all have relationships with different characters. Those relationships would change on any given day and Morris always made sure to keep his head around the story despite such a challenge.

“The best part of working on The Real Housewives of Toronto was how we got to spend the summer. Sometimes in film and TV, the shooting locations and conditions aren’t the most glamorous. I’ve worked in freezing cold ice rinks, on dairy farms, dirty basements – not the most desirable of conditions.  The best part of Real Housewives was that we lived like the cast for three months. We dined at the best restaurants in the city, traveled on yachts, filmed on golf courses, even took the whole shooting crew to Barcelona for a week. The show definitely had its perks,” said Morris.

Morris is immensely proud of the work he did on the first season of The Real Housewives of Toronto. It was a small team, and with him as the leader the show championed as the number one show on the W Network where it premiered. He credits his previous work in reality television to help him bring a fresh perspective to the Real Housewives franchise. He always makes the cleanest and most efficient show he can; he aims to have the locations look as glamorous as possible; he makes sure to photograph the cast in flattering ways. Lastly, he beautifully showed his home city of “The 6” to the rest of the world.

“One of the best part of working in this industry is being able to talk with people who have seen your work. It’s the best ice-breaker to say, ‘I worked on The Real Housewives of Toronto’ because it instantaneously gets a reaction out of someone. They’ll always have an opinion about it, and always want to learn more. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking to a big jock, or an actual housewife – everyone has seen the show and everyone wants to know what it’s really like behind the scenes…. of course, though, I’ll never tell,” Morris concluded.