All posts by Scott Prewitt

Actor Alvaro Ramos Shines on the Big and Small Screen

Spanish actor Alvaro Ramos
Spanish actor Alvaro Ramos

Alvaro Ramos is one of those rare people who can seemingly pick up just about anything and excel at it. The worldly Spanish actor speaks four languages and has worked in virtually every city between, and including, Kiev and Anchorage. Most impressively, he boasts a list of credits that includes a multitude of hit television series and movies, a bevy of theatre productions, and a film which was showered with enough awards to drown a man.

By relying on his keen wits and unrelenting drive, Ramos has earned a lofty reputation as an actor in a class of his own. But it was his upbringing that set the stage for his future in front of the camera. Ramos was born in Madrid, a city whose flourishing culture has been legendary for centuries. His mother and sister ran a nearby travelling theatre company, and together the duo both organized and performed in countless stage productions.

The years Ramos spent immersed in that world as a boy no doubt inspired him to pursue acting as a career; it also helped prepare him for the day he was cast in the lead role of a film that went on to sweep festivals the world over and serve as a defining milestone in Ramos’ career. That film was the 2006 surrealist drama “Anonymous.”

Alvaro Ramos
Film poster for “Anonymous”

“It was the leading part so I had to deliver the best performance possible,” Ramos explained briefly. “It was a total challenge for me. I’d never played a character as intense as Fred was, [both] beautiful and hard work.”

Ramos’ character, Fred, is a writer with a looming deadline. Day after day he follows the same routine, but no matter how many hours he spends in front of his typewriter he simply can’t find the words to fill his stack of blank pages. Rather than focusing on writing, Fred’s mind is instead consumed with thoughts of Laura (Luz Altamira), the woman who lives in the apartment next door. He’s madly in love with her, but the only time he can work up the nerve to speak to her is in the stories he writes about her every night.

Alvaro Ramos
Alvaro Ramos as Fred in “Anonymous”

Terrified of missing his deadline and overwhelmed by loneliness and self-loathing, Fred cracks under the strain. He begins waking each morning to find more finished pages in his typewriter, but has no memory of writing them. With the weight of the world over his head and his sanity slipping away, Fred has to figure out what’s real, what’s just part of his dreams and what will it take to climb back out of his downward spiral.

A near-total absence of natural light throughout the film creates a dreary atmosphere which is further emphasized by the ever-present heavy and often-shifting shadows. The sounds of typewriter keys clicking and film whirring in a projector punctuate the dreamlike milieu and echo the anxiety of Fred, whose neurotic self-doubt Ramos captures brilliantly in his performance.

Perhaps the most astounding aspect of Ramos’ performance is just how much of his acting was physical, not verbal. The film’s characters speak to one another only very rarely; the rest of the time a pervasive feeling of claustrophobic isolation hangs above the already-overburdened Fred. From beginning to end, Ramos delivers a compelling rendition of a man whose mind begins to falter under the weight of it all.

The decision to cast Ramos for the part was made by the film’s director, Cristián Pozo. When Pozo first saw Ramos act in a stage production, he immediately knew beyond a doubt that he had found his leading man.

“I saw Alvaro perform… and I was totally amazed by his presence, voice and personality on the stage. He was what I was looking for for my movie,” Pozo recounted. “Alvaro Ramos is a powerful actor with an incredible stage and film presence… [and] that was reflected in the film and on the big screen. It’s clear that his fantastic performance had much to do with the great success of the film and its numerous international awards and selections in different film festivals.”

The critical response to the film was far greater than either Ramos or Pozo could have guessed. By the time the dust had settled, “Anonymous” had been screened at more than 80 film festivals worldwide. It won 20 awards from festival judges, including Best Short Film and Best Editing from the European Independent Film Festival, Best Short Film from the Anchorage International Film Festival, Best Director of a Short Film from the New York International Independent Film Festival, and Best Director from the Young Frames International Short Film Festival.

The wild success of “Anonymous” paved the way for Ramos’ next endeavors, including a myriad of prominent television roles. He’s had recurring roles on the long-running hit Spanish drama series “Centro Médico,” the young adult comedy “SMS, Sin Miedo a Soñar,” and a major role in “La Familia Mata,” a series about a modern Spanish family and the community they call home.

Musketeers
Still of Alvaro Ramos (center) in the BBC series “The Musketeers”

Ramos has also been featured in a number of biopics and historical dramas, including BBC’s  “The Musketeers” and National Geographic’s “Genius.” In the latter, he plays a priest whose life intersects with that of Pablo Picasso in an incredibly intimate way. The first season of the series, which centered on Albert Einstein and starred Geoffrey Rush, was nominated for a Golden Globe and 10 Primetime Emmys. Joining the cast of the second season was an exciting prospect for Ramos.

“I was working with an international cast, beside great actors such as Antonio Banderas,” Ramos said about his experience working on the series, which was produced in part by the legendary Ron Howard.

The boy growing up in Madrid, watching his mother and sister perform on stage, would have been awe-struck at the idea of working on a production with names like Antonio Banderas and Ron Howard. But after innumerable roles and thousands of hours spent on stage and in front of the cameras, Alvaro Ramos has grown into what he was always meant to be. Both critics and audiences are rightfully enamored with the brilliant actor, his work has been lauded with praise all over the world, and he has no intention of slowing down.

Additionally, we’ve been informed that Ramos is being considered for a role on the British-American series “Snatch,” which means he’d be sharing screen time with other notable actors such as Rupert Grint from the “Harry Potter” movies and Luke Pasqualino, whom he acted alongside in “The Musketeers.” We wish him the best of luck and hope to see him on the series this year!

 

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Meet VFX Artist Zhaoyu Zhou!

VFX artist Zhaoyu Zhou
VFX artist Zhaoyu Zhou

Beginning in the 1990s, a promising new technology kicked off a period of revolutionary change in the film industry. The advent of computer generated imagery made it possible to create worlds and characters that could never have been dreamed of before. From epic superhero blockbusters to beloved animation franchises, filmmakers across every genre rely more and more on visual effects artists like Zhouyu Zhou to bring to the screen what cameras alone can’t.

Years of experience, a background in photography and design, and a mastery of the complex technical aspects of the post-production process are what make Zhou such a powerful force in the field. Seamlessly weaving art and science in equal measures, he sculpts and breathes life into each production using cutting edge technology and the eye of a visionary.

“[Visual effects] consists of CG production such as modeling, rigging, look-development, pre-visualization, post-visualization, animation, lighting, rendering, and compositing in the typical pipeline,” Zhou explained. “All these aspects and elements are crucial to making the tremendous and surprising imagery.”

His skill set has proven to be an invaluable asset, particularly on projects like the ambitious 2016 film “Dancing Blue.” A creative tour de force that lies somewhere between an art exhibition and an extended length music video, “Dancing Blue” is a mesmerizing and at times abstract story told in three parts.

“‘Dancing Blue’… consists of everything from celluloid animation, computer animated graphics, and hand-drawn artwork,” Zhou said, describing the laborious process. “First we got the music, then started brainstorming and visualizing the motion and design based on the sound and music.”

Much of “Dancing Blue” is whimsical and surreal. The film starts in the vacuum of space, shifts focus to the inhabitants of a living painting, and ends with an absolutely hypnotic sequence of abstract animations. Zhou’s painstaking attention to detail is apparent in every frame, an incredible feat given the staggering amount of work he was faced with.

“One challenge was to create a 2D look by using 3D techniques… I used dynamic simulation and animated the smoke trail’s travels through space. However, in order to create the fluid experience I decided to animate the camera along with the strokes,” he said. “It was hard to pair both, so I went into the timeline to match them perfectly.”

Zhou was also the driving force behind “Reunion,” a heartwarming animated film about a young boy looking for his father after the two become separated. The film uses visual cues and a haunting score in place of spoken dialogue, making its stark, expressionist style that much more profound. The most striking thing about the film, however, is the method Zhou chose to use for the animation.

“Unlike most of the films that I’ve worked on, ‘Reunion’ is primarily a sand animation, shot frame-by-frame using a live-action camera. I shot footage on the camera and then ended up compositing CGI into it to create an organic and unique aesthetic to the animation, as well as to the entire film,” Zhou said. “This film has a supremely unique and original feeling.”

In addition to handling the visual effects, Zhou also wrote, directed and animated “Reunion,” giving him complete creative control over the production. The result is a truly one-of-a-kind animated experience and a pure, unadulterated representation of Zhou’s artistic vision. Of course, having control doesn’t mean the undertaking would be easy by any means.

“Shooting frame-by-frame was a big challenge, especially because I had to deal with loose, soft sand,” Zhou said. “In post-production, all the pain from shooting live-action was relieved because I could composite all those frames and added frame-blending and re-timing some shots. Even though it was sand animation, VFX in post definitely enhanced the final look of the film.”

His expertise as an animator and mastery of CGI have made Zhouyu Zhou among the most highly sought-after visual effects artists in the industry today. But it’s his artistic and creative instincts that give him an added edge. As visual effects continue to become more and more prevalent in film, it will be up to artists like Zhou to lead the industry forward.

 

Costume Designer Spotlight: Claudia Sarbu

Costume Designer Claudia Sarbu
Costume Designer Claudia Sarbu

A passion that courses through her veins and experience far beyond her years have earned costume designer Claudia Sarbu her place at the forefront of her field. Her sheer talent is reflected in her diverse work on films ranging from the epic 2014 blockbuster “Divergent” to the heartwarming drama “20th Century Women,” released early this year. Few in the field are able to move so seamlessly between such wildly different productions, but Sarbu has been training her entire life.

She was born near Bucharest, and growing up she lived just blocks from the film studio where both her parents worked. Her mother made costumes for the studio and encouraged her daughter’s natural talent.

“I remember when I designed my teacher’s wedding outfit, and then my mom made it,” she said, recalling how she got her first taste of design. “It was very avant-garde for that kind of small town wedding, but she looked great.”

Having been immersed in the field for longer than she can remember, Sarbu knows better than anyone how crucial good costume design is to any production that aims to create a believable universe. She proved this on an enormous scale when she served as Costume Coordinator for “Divergent,” the first in a hotly anticipated series of films based on the trilogy of internationally bestselling books by Veronica Roth. As the costume coordinator, Sarbu was responsible for ensuring the film’s costumes were made and prepared perfectly.

Divergent

The cast of the film made raised the stakes for Sarbu even higher. In addition to Shailene Woodley, known for her roles in “The Fault in Our Stars” and in “The Descendants” (alongside George Clooney), the film also stars Ashley Judd (“Double Jeopardy”) and Academy Award Winner Kate Winslet (“Titanic,” “Finding Neverland”).

The events of “Divergent” take place in a dystopian future where every person must fit neatly into one of five factions, each representing a different virtue. Anyone who is unable to assimilate into one of these factions is labelled a ‘divergent’ and faces mysterious but almost certainly deadly consequences. At the heart of the story is one such divergent, Tris (Woodley), who defiantly resolves to fight back against the unjust system.

The world in which the film is set is fractured and extraordinarily complex, which is mirrored in the relationships between characters and factions. It was an indescribably difficult undertaking to create a costume for each and every character that both captures the individual’s personality and visually represents the character’s faction and their station in the world’s social hierarchy.

“The majority of the costumes for ‘Divergent’ were manufactured in Romania by two workshops, and I was in charge of overseeing both. My job was to develop and translate the illustrations into actual garments by choosing fabrics, deciding on patterning and finishing details, as well as overseeing the quality of the manufacturing, aging and distressing processes,” she said, detailing her staggering list of responsibilities. “At the same time, I had to keep up with the shoot schedule’s demands, meaning prioritizing what to ship first while working under very tight deadlines. It was almost four months of intense work, but in the end we’d delivered over 2,000 pieces of costumes.”

All of Sarbu’s tireless work proved well worth it when “Divergent” was released in March 2014. It immediately shot to the top of the box office in its opening weekend as casual moviegoers and longtime fans of the novels piled into theaters to catch the first chapter in the epic trilogy.

20th Century Women
Poster for “20th Century Women”

At the complete opposite end of the spectrum lies “20th Century Women,” the exceptionally moving autobiographical story of two women who help a mother raise her son against the backdrop of Santa Barbara in 1979.

“The script for ‘20th Century Women’ is one of the closest to my heart, and also one of the most challenging ones I’ve read… spinning between past, present and future and mixed with dreams and flashbacks,” said Sarbu. “The costumes were extremely important to the film’s authenticity. We were dressing real life characters whose personalities and vibes needed to be conveyed through their style.”

The film debuted early this year and starred Annette Bening (“American Beauty”) and Elle Fanning (“Maleficent,” “Super 8”). Audiences and critics lauded “20th Century Women” with praise, and the film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Screenplay, a Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture Comedy, and a Golden Globe Best Actress nomination for Annette Bening for her powerful performance.

Despite being completely unlike “Divergent” in every conceivable way, the importance of Sarbu’s work to the industry at-large is illustrated by the fact that both of these wildly different films needed costumes, and both relied on Sarbu’s talents. For both, and for any other film, Sarbu knows that good costume design starts with understanding the characters and the worlds they live in. In this way, the process she follows for a film set in a nightmarish future is much the same as it would be for a film set in ‘70s-era Southern California. In practice, Sarbu’s process requires the instincts and training that she has honed throughout her illustrious career. When she describes what she does, however, she makes it sound straightforward and almost simple.

“Film and TV are essentially visuals,” she said, “and what people wear is essential to creating that visual.”

 

Cinematographer Yan Rymsha’s Creative Vision Flows Strong

Yan Rymsha
Yan Rymsha on set of “Zaar” shot by Ibrahim Nada

Yan Rymsha was born into a family of artists in St. Petersburg, the cultural capital of Russia and the historic home and muse to Vladimir Nabokov and Fyodor Dostoevsky, among others. A love of the arts is ingrained in the very fabric of his city and flows through his family’s veins, so it’s little wonder that Rymsha’s creative drive comes so naturally. Since childhood he has been drawn almost magnetically to the camera, a trait which was encouraged and fostered by his father.

“I [have dreamed of becoming] a director since I was 10. Of course, I had very little knowledge about directing craft,” Rymsha said, recalling how his love affair with cinematography began. “I remember my father brought me a video camera and taught me how to make very simple stop-motion films using old school techniques. He had experience with 8mm film cameras when he was my age, so he showed me dozens of awesome tricks with film.”

Rymsha swiftly mastered those first tricks, and in the years since he has mastered the craft and even invented a few tricks of his own. That mastery is evidenced in one of his most minimalistic, yet absolutely striking works, “Emerald Dream” directed by Leonid Andronov, who won the Festival Award at the International Filmmaker Festival of World Cinema in London for the film “The Admired.” The film’s dystopian story is told by an unseen narrator entirely through photographs, which required Rymsha to boil down the visual impact of an entire film and concentrate that into a series of still frames. Rymsha carefully calculated his style of photography for the film to convey as eerie and foreboding a tone as one could imagine.

Set in a dark, distant future, “Emerald Dream” tells the tale of Gary Jibbons, a man whose unusual job it is to extract dreams from donors in much the same way people donate blood. As the narrator’s story goes on, the photographs become more and more mysterious; it soon becomes clear that Jibbons has fallen hopelessly in love with a young woman with the most vivid dreams he’s ever encountered.

It speaks volumes about Rymsha’s skill as a cinematographer that using so little, he was able to create an entire world inhabited by characters whose highs and lows are so familiar they could easily be real. But it takes more than skill alone to create works of the magnitude he has; it demands a level of passion and devotion that Rymsha has in spades.

“You always want to make your current film better than anything you’ve done before. Otherwise you’ll never grow,” Rymsha beamed. “I put part of my soul into my work. It’s more than just time and energy.”

"The Rat"
Film poster for “The Rat”

That philosophy is a defining quality of Rymsha’s work, an excellent example being the 2015 film “The Rat.” Once again he was tasked with making a film that would test the extent of his talents. Rather than a series of photographs however, “The Rat” required Rymsha to shoot the entire film from inside a single car. As events spiral out of control, audiences share the tense, caged-up sensation with the characters onscreen.

“The challenging part of it was that the whole story took place in the car, so the main goal was to make the audience attracted to the visuals. I spent a huge amount of time picking locations,” Rymsha said. “A location must be interesting with some action going around. My favorite was the airport, with planes taking off and landing.”

It was up to Rymsha to leap into action and scout all possible filming locations. A whirlwind tour of the city later, and he had his list.

“When I got a script I was quite surprised because the whole story was happening in the car. It was challenging to figure out how to make the move visually attractive, and the same time follow rhythm and beat of the storyline,” he explained of the process. “The story was gradually intensifying, so the visuals also had to follow.”

The crime thriller starred Jonte LeGras (“Scandal,” “Grey’s Anatomy”), was nominated at the Burbank International Film Festival, and its director Vasily Chuprina has been recognized for his Outstanding Achievement in Filmmaking by the Newport Beach Film Festival for “The Boy By The Sea,” among a dozen other awards.

“When I got the synopsis of the movie, the first associations that popped into my head were of postmodernism with a huge element of restrained film noir style,” Rymsha said. “I thought that this combination will perfectly fit to the story of such genre.”

Rymsha also served as director of photography for director Ibrahim Nada’s 2016 “Zaar,” the dramatic story of a would-be suicide bomber who has second thoughts. A philosophical head turner fraught with suspense, the film has the distinction of being one of Rymsha’s favorite projects. The film itself has won prizes at more than half a dozen festivals, including a Best Cinematography win for Rymsha from the renowned Santa Monica Film Festival.

Constantly driven to take on the most challenging projects he can, Yan Rymsha has proven time and again what he can do with a camera and a little imagination. He has dedicated his entire life to the pursuit of cinematic greatness, and it would seem now that there is nothing left standing between him and that dream.

Unstoppable Actress Karishma Bhandari

Karishma Bhandari
Actress Karishma Bhandari shot by Karen Scott

 

The job description of an actor is unlike that of any other professional. With every role an actor must become a completely new person in a completely new world. For British actress Karishma Bhandari, that part of the job came naturally. As the London-born daughter of Indian immigrants, growing up hasn’t always been easy — but her experiences have been an immeasurable asset to her craft.

“I grew up with working class parents… The only time we sat down as a family was to go to the cinema, or watch films on TV. They were really busy working,” recalled Bhandari. “Because I grew up seeing them laugh at the TV, I always just wanted to be on TV to have their attention too. I know it may sound silly, but that’s how it all started and it really pushed me to become a good actress ― into something they would be proud of.”

Now, after devoting years to training and honing her craft, Bhandari has far exceeded her childhood goals. The long list of her credits includes the cult British comedy “The Inbetweeners 2,” Disney’s “The Muppets Most Wanted,” and even a guest appearance on the critically acclaimed series “24,” which starred Kiefer Sutherland and won 70 awards during its nine year run on FOX, including eight Primetime Emmys and two Golden Globes.

But of all Bhandari’s roles, no two better illustrate the breadth of her maneuverability as an actress than the flamboyant Bollywood musical “Club Dancer” and the gritty drama “Six Rounds.”

“‘Six Rounds’ was based around the 2011 London riots,” Bhandari said. “Between August 6th through 11th in 2011 thousands of people rioted in London’s boroughs, and in cities and towns across England.”

At its heart, “Six Rounds” is the story of a morally-conflicted boxer and the trials he faces during a dark week of unrest in Britain. The boxer finds himself forced to choose between leaving everything he knows behind him, or giving up what might be his last chance to make a brighter future for himself. Bhandari’s character is a member of the protagonist’s old street gang, and she serves as a symbol of the harsh life that awaits if he strays from his new course. By setting the story against the backdrop of the 2011 Riots, director Marcus Flemmings created the boxer as an allegory for the divisive choice facing England — stay in the past, or embrace the future.

“She is passionate about being successful and will go to great lengths to achieve what is required of her by others and herself,” said Flemmings when asked about Bhandari. “I can honestly say Karishma Bhandari is one of the most exceptional people I have worked with – both with her professional craft and as an outstanding individual.”

Being brought up immersed in the cultures of both East and West has given her an insight into and an understanding of the human condition that no amount of practice could bestow. For an actor, being able to recognize where cultural differences end and human commonalities begin is key to portraying characters that are not just believable, but real in their own rights.

That insight is what enabled Bhandari to seamlessly transition into the role of a gangster in “Six Rounds,” following her run on the dance floor as Geeta in the feelgood Bollywood musical “Club Dancer.” In the film, Bhandari plays the betrothed sister of a man who bears a striking resemblance to a murderer who has just been killed by police. The film follows the outlandish and hysterical events that unfold as Geeta’s brother works to save up for his sister’s wedding. The role presented Bhandari with a number of challenges, but rather than slowing her down, they only motivated her further.

“It felt great playing this character. I speak Punjabi at home, and the film was in Hindi, so I was faced with a different language and accent I had to learn. I had Bollywood dance training, but to do it on a massive set in front of a lot of people was scary,” Bhandari recalled humbly. “But everyone complimented me after I filmed the song, as that was my first thing I had to shoot.”

The time and energy it took to blend into a totally foreign role is staggering, but Bhandari’s commitment is resolute. That drive is exactly what directors have come to expect and rely on from the gifted actress.

“I believe as an actor you have to be willing to learn, willing to explore yourself,” she said. “Some people get put into brackets and characters because they play them well. But as an actor you should be a chameleon.”

That willingness to step outside her comfort zone is why she’s so respected as an actress. It’s also why her performances in a wildly diverse range of roles have been so successful. Bhandari’s range is unrivaled, her drive is unwavering, and she is blessed with a natural talent that shines brighter each time she steps in front of the cameras.

 

The Story Behind Alon Juwal’s Riveting Films

Alon Juwal
Producer/director Alon Juwal shot by Tom Edwards

Every story ever told, whether carved in stone or projected on a screen, contains within it another, much more subtle narrative — the story inside the story. Just as a trained eye can distinguish and analyze the meaning behind each individual brushstroke on a canvas, so too can observant readers and listeners and viewers catch an intimate glimpse into the mind and heart of a storyteller.

Today, Israeli producer and director Alon Juwal is known and envied throughout the industry for his uncanny gift for weaving together the visual and the cerebral elements of storytelling into his films. But it was when he was just a boy that he first fell in love with cinema, and long before taking his first steps into filmmaking, Juwal could almost always be found seated in the dark rows of his neighborhood’s movie theater. Growing up in Tel Aviv, Juwal saw movies as being like magic portals facing outward from reality; life at home had been challenging from an early age, and his lifelong love affair with cinema began as just an escape.

“My parents got divorced when I was just four years old, and I spent most of my time with my mother growing up,” Juwal said, recounting what may well be the most formative chapter of his life — both as a filmmaker and as a man. “Even though I saw my father quite often we were always pretty distant with one another.”

All he needed to do was buy a ticket and grab a seat, and he’d find himself transported to the far-off places and times projected on the big screen. But it wasn’t long before he realized that films offered him more than an escape; through filmmaking, Juwal gained the ability to deconstruct and illuminate the complex mix of emotions he’d long held within him.

“Ever since I was a child I always found film to be magical. I used to skip school just to get a chance to watch a movie one more time,” Juwal said with a note of nostalgia. “But it wasn’t until I was in my late teens that I felt like I wanted to make movies as well. Being moved by a film was always satisfying to me; but watching people being moved by my own film was a whole other level of experience.”

Alon Juwal
Kei’la Ryan, Alon Juwal, Tim Juliano, and Nick Unger on set of “Visitors” shot by Polina Krasovicka

“The first thing they teach you in film school is to write about what you know, so I always tried to channel these experiences to my work. My latest film, ‘Visitors,’ is about a family struggling through an alien invasion,” said Juwal who, while otherwise known for being soft-spoken and modest, could nonetheless barely mask how proud he felt. “But at its core, it’s really the story of a father and son trying to rebuild their broken relationship.”

Thanks in large part to the raw narrative and emotional power of “Visitors” – which is set against the intense and captivating backdrop of a humanity faced with almost-certain extinction – Juwal was honored at the world-renowned New York City International Film Festival with the prestigious award for Best Director of a Sci-Fi Short.

“When I wrote the film, I tried to channel as much of my personal experience into it as I could. I knew almost nothing about aliens, but I knew a lot about growing up with an absent father,” said Juwal, opening a brief window into the film’s deeper symbolic meaning. “One of the film’s main themes is forgiveness, so when I watch it on the big screen with other viewers I hope that they’ll be thinking about their families, and I hope that they’ll re-evaluate the importance of family.”

Juwal was lauded by critics and audiences for his exceptional work as not only the director of “Visitors,” but as the film’s writer and producer as well. The added advantage of having near-unilateral control over the production allowed Juwal to create exactly the film he’d envisioned — a gamble which could have easily backfired and devastated his reputation, had he been a less talented filmmaker.

Instead, “Visitors” has been praised by critics from Madrid to New York as one of the year’s most innovative science fiction films. And as the film continues to take the international festival circuit by storm, more and more moviegoers are watching Juwal closely with a sense of eager anticipation.

“Only after I finished my military service in Israel I found the will and the discipline to take my film career seriously.”

As the producer of “Visitors,” as well as other award-winning films, like “Castor,” Alon Juwal stands out in the film industry thanks to his unique set of skills. As a producer and director whose talent offers a powerful combination of the business side of making films happen and the creative artistry that makes them worth watching, Juwal is definitely one filmmaker we will be seeing a whole lot more of for years to come.

 

From the Theatre to the Silver Screen: Erika Garces is a Knockout

Erika Garces
Actress Erika Garces shot by Shane Russeck

The famous quote from three-time Tony Award nominee Terrence Mann– “Movies will make you famous; Television will make you rich; But theatre will make you good,” says a lot about the skills of many of the most recognized actors in the spotlight today.

Ecuadorian actress Erika Garces is one performer whose skill on both the stage and screen have ushered her into a prominent position in the international entertainment industry. While her name was already known throughout South America, Garces has been making waves in the U.S. film and television industry since she moved stateside a few years ago. In May, national audiences saw her take on a featured role as U.S. Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s escort on ABC’s hit three-time Primetime Emmy Award winning late nite TV series Jimmy Kimmel Live!.

Garces, has created a dazzling reputation for herself as a diversely talented on-screen actress, but she went through years of classical theatre training before making her way onto the silver screen. In Los Angeles alone Garces has starred in numerous sold-out theatre productions at the Adler Theater, such as “Largo Desolato” directed by Academy Award winner Milton Justice, “The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui”  directed by Susan Bonito, “Agnes of God” directed by Tim Mcneal, whose film “Anything” premiered earlier this month and was produced by three-time Oscar Award nominee Mark Ruffalo (Hulk from The Avengers), giving the Adler Theater a greater reputation.

Garces starring role as Agnes in “Agnes of God,” which ran for two months at the Adler Theatre in Los Angeles in 2015, is marked proof of just how dynamically talented Erika Garces is when it comes to taking on challenging characters. Centering on Garces’ character Agnes, “Agnes of God” tells the story of a novice nun who was sexually abused in her youth and struggles to decipher reality from personal delusions. While in the convent Agnes gives birth, which she claims to be the result of immaculate conception, something that causes an uproar among the other nuns and brings much of Agnes’ past abuse to the forefront.

Although Garces has taken on a number of layered and emotionally complex characters in both film and television, she marks her role as Agnes as having been one of her most challenging to date. Garces recalls, “This character, no doubt, expanded my emotional abilities as an actress tremendously. There was definitely no chance, for a second, to lie on stage. It had to be as pure and as powerful as possible. And it was so gratifying to hear the emotional response from the audience.”

She also stood out in 2014 and 2016 with her live performances at the Orpheus Awards from the Los Angeles Greek Film Festival. The first year she beautifully portrayed the young lover Juliet in  “Romeo and Juliet” staged at the iconic Egyptian Theatre and directed by Yorgos Karamihos (The Durrells in Corfu, NCIS), a play Garces also performed in front of Jim Gianopulos and J.K. Simmons. During Erika’s second time performing at the Orpheus Awards where she took the room’s breath away with her portrayal of a 1920s seductress.

Her undeniable skill in the theatre has definitely carried over to her work in film and television with her giving one knock-out performance after another. Some of her film and TV credits to date include the films Accidental Muse where she acts alongside David Aranovich (Mission: Impossible- Ghost Protocol), One Day of Freedom, the California Film Award-winning family comedy Social Norm, the dramatic series Sangre Negra starring Oscar nominee Eric Roberts (Inherent Vice) and award-winning actor Danny Arroyo (Richard III, Saints & Sinners), and many more.

Earlier this year she also earned the Women’s Film Challenge Award from the Audience Awards in Los Angeles for her work as the lead actress and co-producer of the film City of Dreams. This popular and successful film produced by Freedom Way Films first premiered at the Action on Film Festival in September 2016. About working on the film, Garces says, “It was such an interesting experience for me to play this part because at one time or another, we all get a feeling of being trapped in a situation, at a job or in a relationship and you start thinking to yourself, what if I just left?”

Garces spot-on performance has been integral to the impressive reception City of Dreams has received to date, which includes being chosen as an Official Selection of the Nova Film Festival, Action on Film Festival and BAFICI in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Before that, Freedom Way Films had hired Erika to be the lead in a romantic thriller titled The Perfect Plan. This fast-growing production company has been gaining popularity in the recent years. In fact, we’ve heard rumours around town that the actress and the team at FWF have created such a tight collaborative and artistic communication (such as the one with director David O’Russell and actors Bradley Cooper, Robert DeNiro and Jennifer Lawrence), where Munalula, the CEO at Freedom Way Films has hired Garces once again for their upcoming motion picture set to be released in 2019.

As a highly skilled actress whose body of work stretches across every platform, it comes as no surprise that Erika Garces has been invited to judge the work of other actors. Earlier this year she was invited to judge the prestigious English Speaking Union’s annual Shakespeare competition, where she helped determine the six finalists who would go on to compete at the ESU National finals at New York’s Lincoln Center. In the past Garces was also chosen to judge the Premios Colibri competition, which is held in Ecuador.

One of the things that has made Erika Garces such a unique and successful actress is the diversity of her work. In addition to being in countless high-profile theatre productions, award-winning films and hit television shows, she’s also been tapped for several commercials over the years, such as those for leading hair brand Wella and the car sharing app Maven, which have led her to become an even more recognizable talent in the industry.

Last year Garces starred in a commercial for the Dos Equis beer, which you can check out below. Her fun loving attitude and facial expressions throughout the ad are definite highlights, and the judges at the 2016 MOFILM competition thought so too, as the commercial took home the 3rd Place Award out of thousands of submissions.

Garces early theatre training has been tantamount to the actress developing the dynamic skill she has become known for today; and thanks to her relentless drive to keep growing as a performer, we know that she will continue to impress fans around the world with her flawless performances on both the stage and screen. Up next for Erika Garces is the dramatic film The Change of Heart from director Ronnie Ashury, which is slated to wrap production this summer, the premiere of The Hudson Case and the filming of two features: Dozen Roses and Look Ahead.