All posts by Lorraine Wilder

Jamie Maunder designs without limits

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Jamieson Maunder

There are two types of people in this world: those who believe that there are limits to what an individual can achieve, and those who understand that limits only exist to be challenged. The latter group are few and far between yet tend to exist within a small percentage of society’s highest performing achievers. In the case of designer Jamie Maunder, for instance, dreaming without confines is a natural part of who he is. With each goal he sets for himself, he expects to not only complete it, but to outdo his former self. All it takes is a mere glance at Maunder’s career as Head of Design to know that he wasn’t built for an average life. He was designed for greatness and with greatness, he designs.

Throughout the course of his career, Maunder has tested his hand at multiple disciplines within the design industry, including working in design studios and clothing factories, as well as print and production agencies. The skills he has acquired throughout these diverse experiences make him an invaluable part of any project he collaborates on, as was the case when he worked for entities like Loughborough Sport and the International Olympic Committee. This reality was exemplified in 2006 when Maunder began his three-year journey working with the elite sportswear brand, Stash. Having grown up being inspired by Stash’s unique, British premium sportswear, Maunder felt that this opportunity was something he absolutely had to be a part of. His ability to secure employment with Stash is a testament to Maunder’s networking skills and eye for design. At that point in his budding career, he had made a name for himself and Stash were not slow to notice.

When Maunder first began working at Stash, he was taken back by their unique setup and by their willingness to foster his development as a designer. Within their headquarters, Stash came equipped with a design studio, as well as a full production house with approximately 75 per cent of production in house. This presented Maunder with a learning experience unlike any other he had known in the past. The setup epitomized the concept of being able to see a job through from start to finish.

“Having the production under the same roof as the design facilities allowed me to witness and learn the processes involved in carrying a product through from inception, or the design phase, to being packed up and ready to be shipped. I couldn’t resist learning how to use all of the machines and this took my understanding of the development phase to a whole new level,” recalls Maunder.

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Jamieson Maunder, Kerry Williams

As he tends to do with every company he joins or project he contributes to, Maunder left a lasting impact on the employees and design protocols at Stash. He can be credited with not only introducing the first three-dimensional rugby jersey illustration during his time at Stash, but also for training his colleagues to use this method. This resulted in a significant reduction in the duration of the illustration phase of a design. It allowed Stash’s design team to provide their clients with a prompt idea of what their design would look like in reality prior to actually creating it. In addition, this allowed his co-workers to expedite these processes which, in turn, allotted him more time to develop new, exciting products and ways to increase Stash’s brand awareness.

Ultimately, during his time with Stash, Maunder was responsible for developing compression garments for some of the world’s top professional athletes. In 2009, for example, he worked with the British Bobsleigh Association to design and create cutting-edge race suits that not only looked appealing but were designed with purpose and functioned in such a way that helped these athletes remain at the top of their game. The skill set he developed here is one that he carries with him in every job he encounters today, and he considers the opportunity to invent with no barriers as having been one of the most liberating, important parts of his entire career. It felt as though he was working with the elite in order to serve the elite and the outcomes kept in theme.

It isn’t difficult to understand why Stash were honored to have Maunder on their team for such a growth-oriented period of time. In fact, Sailosi Tagikakibau, who captained for the Stash Allstars team and who’d had Rugby performance apparel created for him by Maunder, found him to be an inspiring, valuable person to have collaborated with. When asked what made Maunder such a pleasure to work with, Tagikakibau was eager to describe him as someone genuine and skilled.

“Jamie is someone that puts his heart into everything that he does. From scratch, he managed to put together a team of professional international and national players to test the products he had created and to ultimately win tournaments. He always wants to know how he can improve something, which in turn, made me very comfortable as a professional athlete. Knowing he had my personal interests in mind at all time made a world of a difference,” told Tagikakibau.

For Maunder, on the other hand, working with Stash was so much more than a resume builder. It helped him to identify a passion he hadn’t quite taken notice of in the past and one that far extended beyond simply designing and producing sportswear. Rather, he finds himself driven by the fact that his profession affords him countless opportunities to dive deep into his problem-solving skills and address issues in an unexpected, yet meaningful way.

“My time at Stash changed my whole outlook on a career in design. I became obsessed with the human form and with the way in which it moves. For this reason, my ability to design apparel that enhances an athlete’s performance was strengthened by my time at Stash and I couldn’t be better off for it,” Maunder concluded.

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Aida King brings on the laughs in hilarious comedy ‘Desert Drive’

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Aida King

To succeed in acting, Aida King knows there is nothing more important than self-confidence. Never be conceited but know who you are as a person and how much you are capable of. This is her mantra that drives her and is why she is such a renowned Canadian actress. She has never lost belief in herself, and when audiences watch her on both the big and small screen, she radiates.

King is known for her work in celebrated films like The Convicted, Hemorrhage, and War of Mind. She has worked with award-winning filmmakers and well-known actors, including Alexander Michael Helisek, a veteran actor and producer in Hollywood. Known for his work on the Golden Globe Award-winning television series This Is Us, the Golden Globe Award-winning hit feature film Interstellar, which starred Matthew McConaughey and the two-time Golden Globe Award-nominated popular television series Silicon Valley, Helisek was greatly impressed with King when they worked together on Desert Drive.

“I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to work alongside Aida, as an actor, in her leading role of Missy Lee on the comedy film titled Desert Drive.Aida was absolutely essential to the critical acclaim and commercial success of the film. Her character needed to be depicted by an actress who could convey the necessary warmth, romance, comedy and sincerity that makes her a relatable character to the audience. Aida was able to accomplish all of this and more in a performance that was at once full of force and subtlety,” said Helisek.

Desert Drive follows the life of four Los Angeles based musicians who travel from Hollywood to Palm Springs for the Coachella Music Festival. Instead of harping on aimless debauchery and excessive drunkenness, the story documents the eventful two-hour ride and all the intimate conversations and crazy obstacles that transpire on the action-packed pilgrimage.

“It’s a fun slice of life story that I think people that travel together would appreciate. When travelling in close uncomfortable quarters for a long period of time, sometimes patience can run thin and emotions run high. It’s a fun comedy with interesting characters of substance,” said King.

This movie was filmed in May 2015 and premiered at a Hollywood movie theatre later that year. Not only is the trailer featured on the distinguished website “Funny or Die”, Desert Drive was also an Official Selection at the Ozark Short Film Festival in the Summer 2016. King was proud to be part of a team and found that the chemistry between the characters is why the film went on to do so well.

“I cannot deny that I love hearing people laugh when they watch this film, as that’s the biggest thrill of all for me,” she said.

King’s character, Missy Lee, is a musician who is determined to spice up intimate conversations with the other traveling musicians as they travel for many hours to their destination.

Missy Lee was a happy-go-lucky girl that was content with being in the company of friends, no matter what the situation was. She was definitely a people pleaser and tried to make the best of any situation. While she knew that she was naïve, she was comfortable with that role among her small group of oddball friends.

While she was a bit of a third wheel friend, this character brings balance to the oddball group. While every person was completely different from one another, she played the comic relief to offset tension in the storyline and also the confident when moments were more intimate. The controversial and hilarious lines are the most pivotal plot points in the entire narrative. With such an important role, King knew she had to deliver a captivating performance to bring the film to success, and that is exactly what she did.

As The Convicted was a drama, flipping over to a comedy was a great chance to present a completely different character. This was a huge opportunity to show her versatility and show her comedic creativity. As a Canadian, the comedy culture is highly regarded, so it was natural for King to want to be a part of this film.

“I appreciated working on a character that was light hearted and fun. This was my first time doing comedy, and I loved it,” said King.

King was brought on board after the successful completion of The Convicted, the Director and Producer of the film, Josh Mitchell, decided to bring the actress onto his new projects after being greatly impressed by her talent and work ethic, both of which King is well known for.

While filming, King’s greatest challenge came from filming in the desert. Far from the climate in her home in Canada, spending hours in a small van in hot temperatures was a new experience. However, she would never let this get her down, and found that it only helped her feel as if she was truly on her way to a music festival with a group of her close friends. Eventually, that is what the cast became.

Be sure to watch Desert Drive on Vimeo on Demand to catch out King’s comedic performance.

Allison Giroday on the excitement of collaborating with idol Odette Sugerman

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Allison Giroday

When an average human being looks at another individual, they tend to see a face looking back. Two eyes, one nose, a pair of lips, etc. When makeup artists look at another human being, however, they see something entirely different. They see a blank canvas, an open opportunity. They see creases, open spaces, and unique bone structure. They see potential color complements and areas for emphasis. They are inspired by a clean face. Inspired to create; inspired to change; inspired to bring about an inner beauty, hidden from within.

“I love immersing myself into the creative world. I get to meet so many fascinating, passionate people along the way who share in my understanding of hard work and drive. It’s so inspiring, but also very rewarding. Getting to help my audiences put their best face forward is in my blood. It feels as important to me as it does to them and I find myself so motivated when I see photos of them looking confident and fierce, killing it with their image and their talents. It’s the greatest thing on earth to know that there is a job out there where you can do someone’s makeup and get paid for it. I love it so much that even if I couldn’t make a living off of it, I’d need it on the side. It feeds my soul,” raved Giroday.

When highly esteemed makeup artist Allison Giroday sees a face without makeup, she is driven to show the world what she can transform it into. Her years of fruitful experience have earned her the luxury of understanding how to complement skin tones, how to hide skin texture, and how to provide her clients with the confidence to face the world and look great doing it. Contrary to popular opinion, Giroday sees makeup as a way to enhance an individual’s beauty from within, as opposed to creating a false sense of self-worth through a mask of makeup. She is energized by the way in which her profession allows her to help men and women all over the world be the best version of themselves.

Like many other makeup artists, Giroday surrounds herself with images and platforms that offer her ideas for creating new makeup looks. Growing up, she covered her walls with images of Guess Models and celebrities like Pamela Anderson, offering herself inspiration to one day make up the faces of other famous models. They were her biggest inspiration at the time, and they are the reason that she had to pinch herself when she was able to connect with world renowned photographer, Odette Sugerman. Sugerman is a household name in the fashion industry, having shot for the likes of Kate Beckinsale, Paris Hilton, Hugh Hefner and several other famous celebrities.

Sugerman’s style is unique, yet recognizable anywhere by her fans. For this reason, Giroday knew that if she wanted to work with Sugerman, she’d have to take matters into her own hands. Proactively, Giroday contacted Sugerman, providing her with samples of her artistry and detailing the flare she thought she could add to Sugerman’s work. To her avail, Sugerman absolutely loved her work and despite the fact that, at this point, Giroday had been freelancing for only a year, Sugerman invited her to get further acquainted and to discuss the type of photoshoots they could work together on. For Giroday, it was a dream come true and even today, she still considers it to be one of the highlights of her career.

“You can’t shoot with just anyone, you have to have the creative chemistry. We complement each other so incredibly well,” Giroday said.

For their project together, Giroday and Sugerman travelled around Vancouver Island with an up-and-coming model. One look at the model’s pillow lips and flawless complexion had her creative juices flowing and she was eager to get her brushes blending. Together, Giroday and Sugerman developed a concept to work toward, transforming their model’s look to appear as a wild, sassy, femme fatale. Given Giroday’s love for female empowerment and embracing the beautiful shapes and sizes that comprise the female population provided her with a vision to work toward.

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Odette Sugerman, makeup by Allison Giroday

“Once we determined the nature of the look we wanted to go for, we got to work. I prepared our model’s skin, giving it a satin finish and then counteracted it with a bold brow. With a jet black liquid liner, I applied a thick, dramatic wing which extended beyond the corner of her eye for a sexy, cat-eye effect. I wanted the liner to make a statement and to be the focal point of the look. In combination with her platinum hair and blue eyes, she really projected the sexpot, classic “Guess girl” image that Odette wanted to see,” detailed Giroday.

Giroday can often be credited for much of the success her work brings to a project; however, in this particular case, Giroday was undoubtedly instrumental in the fact that their model caught the eye of fashion emperor, Paul Marciano. The model later booked a job with Guess and feels fortunate to have had talented visionaries like Giroday and Sugerman on her side.

Getting to work with one of her idols was extremely important for Giroday on both a personal and professional level. She loves the opportunity that her job provides her to work with other talented, like-minded creatives, but also the fact that they can have fun together while they do what they do best. Their individual styles and personalities are a strong match, allowing them to produce exceptional work together and to show the world what they’re really capable of.

“Creative success really has so much to do with the people you’re working with. You want to be around great energy. It was a beautiful setting with amazing souls all doing what we love. I mean it doesn’t really get much better than that,” she concluded.

 

Award Winning Scottish Actor Richard Rennie on Acting

Entertainer Richard Rennie, equally well-known around the world for his appearances and performances as a multi-talented dancer, model, presenter and host, is this week’s feature – sitting down with us and sharing some of his exceptional skills as an actor.

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Richard Rennie has masterfully juggled careers as an actor, dancer and model. His insights about acting are especially unique. 

“Over the years,” Richard clarifies, “I’ve become more comfortable identifying as an actor. I’ve been in the industry for so many years doing other types of performances, but I’ve grown into my acting career in the past decade and I’m at a point in my career where things have really taken off.”

The hallmark of Richard’s acting career was noted with his acceptance of multiple awards at The TOSCARS.  The TOSCARS have been held at the prestigious Egyptian Theater, known worldwide for the handprints of the stars, the same location where the likes of Meryl Streep and Denzel Washington have premiered and been honoured for their work. Richard was honoured for his hilarious turn in the achingly funny “Call Me By Your Maid,” in which he starred opposite Deirdre McCourt, well known herself for her turn in mockumentary comedy series “DECo,” opposite Korey McIsaac (from the Oscar-winning “The Social Network”).

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Richard Rennie won ‘Best Supporting Actor’ at the TOSCARS for his role as Oliver in “Call Me By Your Maid.”

Richard’s role as Oliver marked several highlights. The first was that it solidified him as a Funny or Die favorite, as the Scot had already appeared in the award-winning “Unverified” series also on the network. Richard’s “brilliant comic timing” (as reviewed by the trades) brings life to “Unverified” in a way that only his performance could. For this reason, Funny or Die clearly recruited Richard to appear in the popular series as a Scottish meditation and guitar teacher who is out to swindle anyone who employs his services. The aftermath of that series lead to numerous notices and positive reviews, heartily contributing to Funny or Die’s 32 million viewers and its positive financial prospects in 2017.

Second, “Call Me By Your Maid” further garnered the attention of Golden-Globe nominated actor Armie Hammer, as it parodied the Oscar-winning “Call Me By Your Name”, bringing Richard’s work to the attention of millions around the world. While the mainstream became familiar with Richard’s hilarious character particularities, the upper-crust elites at the Soho House were watching his turn in “@asst”, another comedy pilot co-starring Oscar-nominee Eric Roberts. “The Soho House is notoriously exclusive, so to screen there was quite the honor,” claims show creator Craig Robert Young.

The third highlight of Richard’s role was that it reinforced his commercial viability in the world of comedic films – something already known by many in the industry, but now common knowledge amongst movie-lovers globally. Adding to that bonus was that Richard’s salary rewarded his efforts handsomely. He explains, “it is very rare to get paid acting work, so when it finally happens, it’s really comforting to know that I’ve been generously compensated.” For example, Richard earned more than $105 per hour for his work on Bachelor Lions.

Indeed, Richard’s passion as an actor was already well-known in elite film-industry circles. His position at the upper-levels of the acting field is additionally signified with his membership at BAFTA, the British equivalent of the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences (the guys who hand out the Oscars). BAFTA’s membership is reserved for those only at the top of their profession in the UK, and so it’s clearly fitting that Richard attends the organizations events whenever he gets the chance to visit home.

“It’s a shame though, as I don’t often get the chance to return home since I’ve come to the US as I’ve been so busy with work.”

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Richard has been honoured with multiple awards for his acting. 

Producer Huanglizi Sun Strives for Excellence

When an audience views a motion picture they’re completely caught up in the onscreen action and story line, but there’s so much more going on behind the camera. Out of the small army of the production crew’s specialized artisans and craftsmen, there is one driving figure head—the producer—and Chinese film producer Huanglizi Sun excels in that capacity. Sun’s combination of enthusiasm, aesthetics, superb organizational skills and instinct for great storytelling qualify her as one of the brightest rising forces in international cinema.

Sun’s lifelong romance with visual storytelling made her career path almost inevitable, especially since she came of age with a major contributor to the form right in her own backward.

“I grew up in Changsha, also called ‘Star City’ which is the capital of Hunan province,” Sun said. ”Changsha is where China’s second-most-watched TV network, Hunan Television, is located and after graduating from Nanjing University of the Arts, I interned there, as assistant to the directors and producers of the 2012 Hunan TV New Year’s Concert and Spring Festival Gala.”

It was invaluable experience which led Sun to gain key insight on her professional destiny.

“After months of hard work, I realized that I wanted to become a film producer rather than a TV producer: Sun said. “Not only because I am interested in filmmaking but also always on the lookout for great stories to tell in a cinematic way. I decided to move to Hollywood where the movies are made and learn how to ‘tell’ a story as a filmmaker.”

It’s a particularly demanding role, one that encompasses virtually every aspect of a production. “A Film Producer is a person who oversees the production of a film, Sun said. “Film Producers plan and coordinate various aspects of film production, such as selecting script, coordinating writing, directing and editing, and arranging finance.”

Based in Southern California, Sun’s drive and  peerless instinct quickly distinguished her.

“I started my career as Associate Producer in Mobscene Creative Productions,” Sun said. “I coordinated multiple editors with different producing teams and acted as liaison with clients. Everything had to happen simultaneously, on a tight deadline, with a very little margin for error, since the broadcasting schedule is on the line. It honed my ability to prioritize tasks and manage a workflow, while also being adaptive and flexible in the process to the ever-changing schedules of all parties involved.”

At Mobscene, Sun quickly found success: “I produced a web-series ‘Talking to Hollywood with Betty Zhou’, which airs weekly on China Central Television Channel (CCTV) 6, Tencent and IQIYI and it quickly gained a large viewership.”

Moving on to a position with fast rising company Big Monster Productions, Sun quickly identified a unique property—the multiple award winning 2015 short, ‘Cara,’ and is currently in the process of transforming it into a full length feature

“It explores many themes and motifs that are both timely and timeless—society’s expectation of women, coming of age and the athletic soul,” Sun said. “The story focuses on a fifteen year old swimming athlete who dreams of success with the national swimming team. Two weeks prior to her most important competition, Cara learns she is pregnant. In her last attempt to reach the top, Cara needs to confront the biggest challenge of her life— a decision which could make it or break it for her.”

“In the context of a feature, those themes can be explored in more depth and detail.” Sun said. “Transitioning Cara from a short film into a feature is a decision rooted in the belief that it has the potential to succeed both critically and commercially, given that it tells a story people will truly care about.

Huanglizi Sun on the Cara set
Huanglizi Sun on the Cara set

This is where Sun’s holistic grasp on the filmmaking process really comes into play and is certain to provide the production tremendous advantage.

“Writing a short film is one thing, writing a feature can be an entirely different process, one that  presents an entirely different set of challenges,” Sun said. “The story will be significantly more complex than the original and may go through many drafts and revisions before we are satisfied. The next step is going into production and this will also prove to be a challenge—both logistically and financially. It will take meticulous planning, many supporters and a great team effort to truly bring this vision to life.”

Sun’s ability to identify, anticipate, and troubleshoot any unexpected complication or mishap is invaluable in itself, but her comprehensive vision also extends beyond film production and reaches into other key aspects of the business, branding and marketing.

“Ms.Sun is an essential member of our team,” Big Monster president Wentao Wang said. “Her expertise in producing different types of media, ranging from films, promos to branding content is paramount to Big Monster’s success. With an acutely honed ability to judge a project’s potential and the great taste to back it up, she ensures that Big Monster only brings in a roster of projects of the highest quality. From the timely story of “Cara” to pioneering the future of multi-channel network, Ms. Sun single-handedly paves the way for Big Monster to thrive for years to come.”

Having already proven herself both at home and in Hollywood, Sun is clearly a cinematic force to be reckoned with.

“I want to make successful, memorable films, focusing on small characters with big impact that definitely have the potential to take many by heart,” Sun said. As a producer, her mixture of ambition, pragmatism, artistry and understanding of what makes a story worthwhile all combine with ideal symmetry, and what really drives Sun is one simple fact: “Making films is my greatest pleasure.”

 

 

Experience Chen Xu’s 5-channel surround sound method in hit Chinese film ‘The Wasted Times’

When Chen Xu thinks back to his childhood, he fondly recalls the way in which his admiration for sound shaped his youth and ultimately, his career in sound mixing and sound design. For the highly sought-after sound designer, it is difficult to recall a time where sound design wasn’t his main passion. At the age of 17, Xu watched Forrest Gump and notes the experience as being the first time he ever truly fell in love with a film. It inspired him to focus on a career in sound design and gave him the confidence boost he needed to take the film industry by storm. The now 36-year old, award-winning creative is just as enthused about his art form today as he was back then. His life is enriched by the opportunity to do what he loves day in and day out and he has no desire to stop any time soon.

A typical day as a sound mixer and sound designer requires the skill and expertise to be able to record sound and mix it creatively. Although this may sound relatively straightforward, it is no small feat to achieve on a daily basis. For instance, when Xu works on set, he is required to carefully position microphones in such a way that will capture sound as clearly and concisely as possible. In addition, he must learn a film’s storyline inside and out in order to thoroughly understand the types of sounds that will complement the characters’ conquests. In addition, during the post-production process, Xu must awaken his creative tendencies and use them to apply sounds in the most unique, yet appropriate manner possible. Where Xu truly shines, however, is when he is tasked with location sound mixing for a film’s script. Knowing how to effectively capture sound in a complex location is what Xu does best. He is a master of extracting compelling sounds from a loud, busy location and ensuring that there is nothing compromising the sound in order to enhance an audience’s viewing pleasure.

“When I’m sound mixing, my work is more focused on creativity. I need to design some unique sound effects according to the images and the storyline before me. Then, I need to edit and record some foley and sound effects before I can arrange each sound element to fit perfectly into each moment within the film. All of these steps allow me to help develop and compliment the storyline” noted Xu.

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In 2015, Xu was given a script for a film titled The Wasted Times, by well-known Chinese director, Er Cheng, who was confident that Xu possessed the skills necessary to take his script to the next level. Having already secured a $23.6 million budget and two of Asia’s most accomplished and award-winning stars, Ge You and Zhang Ziyi, Cheng was determined to make this film his most successful yet. In addition, he was intent on making the sound design in The Wasted Times unlike anything his audiences had ever heard before. With that, beyond dialogue alone, he wanted to use as many location sounds as possible and to make best use of live recorded sound effects and foley. Given the film’s budget, cast, and unique content, he needed someone with both the experience and creative edge required to rise to the challenge. Fortunately for Cheng, Xu was compelled by the script and eager to take part.

The Wasted Times depicts the life of a legendary mafia boss in modern Chinese history. Through the use of a biographical narrative, the film follows a violent and betrayal-ridden deal between the Japanese army and criminals in Shanghai. For Xu, working on The Wasted Time presented a number of challenges he hadn’t previously encountered in his career. For instance, due to the fact that several of the film’s scenes were shot inside state- and city-level protected historic buildings, he had to master the ability to capture vocal exchanges in historical settings, as opposed to the more modern buildings he was used to working in. In order to do so, Xu led his team in adopting a pioneering approach whereby he recorded a 5-channel surround sound effect during production sound mixing. In addition, he made use of two additional stereo microphones in order to account for any and all reverberation, echoes, and delay of sounds in real time. This led to Xu having recorded and mixed approximately 80% of the film’s final dialogues and about 50 per cent of the sound effects using his location sound. It therefore goes without saying that Xu proved himself to be instrumental throughout the entire process, being able to provide carefully thought-out solutions to each potential problem the crew encountered. He is undoubtedly a strong contributor to The Wasted Times’widespread success and feels honored knowing that the film went on to receive four award wins and ten nominations from some of the industry’s most acclaimed organizations and festivals, including the Asian Film Awards, China Film Director’s Guild Awards, and the prestigious Macau International Movie Festival.

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For Xu, however, the true highlight of working on The Wasted Times was embedded within the reality that for him, this film was far more than just a sound production process. Being able to film at authentic locations such as the residence of Pu Yi, China’s last empire, as well as in a 1920s car loaned from an antique car museum helped Xu acquaint himself with the type of lifestyle of the individuals depicted in the film. He credits the experience of working on this film as helping build his understanding of people’s lives in that era and helping make it feel familiar to him. It was both a cultural and career-building opportunity and Xu couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome.

Actor Kevin Dary brings himself into his character with award-winning performance in ‘The Swamp’

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Kevin Dary, photo by Brad Buckman

With every role Kevin Dary takes on, he brings a small piece of himself and merges it with his character. To transform into another person, he puts himself in their shoes, seeing what parts of his own life connect with theirs. He forgets who he is until he hears the director call “cut” and that is what makes him such a captivating actor.

“I see actors as toys for a director. It’s as if the director is this kid using his imagination and playing around, telling a story, and the actors are his action figures,” he described.

Having worked on many esteemed films, such as Pregoand Pandora’s Box, Dary has shown audiences around the world what he is capable of as an actor. His versatility is evident with every project he takes on, spanning across a variety of genres and mediums. This is exemplified yet again with his work on the 2017 drama The Swamp.

The Swamp was the first project where Dary had the opportunity to work with director Wenhao Gao, originally from China. He was immediately attracted to the script because one of the main themes for Gao was the perception of someone and the judgement from others that this perception brings. Dary played the main character, Vincent, who is accused of killing the dog of his neighbor. It is a dramatic and emotional film that encourages audiences to think outside of the box, not just about the story but their actions in general. Have you ever been in Vincent’s situation? Or have you been one of the accusers? This story, while extreme, does make you think, and not just through its shock value of a little girl’s pet that gets killed.

“I worked together with Wenhao, who also wrote the project, to bring a fully fleshed out character and I offered some of my personal experience in dealing with the way people look at you, for this is a subject that I know all too well, and I still face today,” said Dary.

The film premiered to a limited audience in The Burbank Studios, Burbank, in November 2017. The film was awarded an Award of Recognition, category Lead Actor, for Dary’s performance as Vincent, from the Best Shorts Competitions in March 2018, and the Gold Award for Best Short Film from the LA Shorts Awards in that same month. It will be continuing its festival run in June. Such success could never have been possible without Dary’s outstanding performance.

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Kevin Dary as Vincent in The Swamp, photo by Mairi Sõelsepp

“Working with Kevin is very pleasant and a good experience. I was really happy to have him in my project as the leading actor. Kevin not only has good acting skills, but also his nice personality made our cooperation go well. Kevin has very good understanding of a script and his character. When we did rehearsals and polished the details, I felt that he really put himself into the story, not just to finish a job. As a director, it’s really important to be able to get some new inspirations and ways to make the characters vivid through communicating with actors. From his performance and feedback, Kevin showed me more possibilities of who and what his character can be, and how to serve the story better,” said Wenhao Gao, Director of The Swamp.

Vincent is the lead character of this film and the story is told through his point of view. Because of this, Dary knew the importance of his work and made sure to keep the audience guessing. Many scenes cater to this, with the lead character showing a lot of anger and confusion. Dary wanted to push this even further, choosing to yell in certain scenes to show he may be capable of anything, but also exude the emotion behind each action, showing that each reaction was very human.

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The Swamp film poster

“I remember that when I first read about the breakdown of Vincent, I was intrigued by the idea of this guy described as ‘not a slacker, not a bad guy, just has had a really long night’. When I got to take a look at the whole script and found out his motivations and what he was going through. The film is a great story about prejudices and stereotypes, with an ending that goes against the traditional Hollywood happy ending,” said Dary.

What was unique about this story, and Vincent’s character, is that by the end of the movie it is not revealed if he is guilty of what he was accused of. The writer and director however, told Dary he could make that choice on his own and then act with that choice in mind. What do you think he decided? You’ll have to watch The Swampto find out.

“I love tackling the idea of prejudices and preconceived ideas about people. As someone who has a different style than ‘the norm’, I have been prone to judgment from others. You get to witness how far people are willing to take their assumptions, just based on what they heard, saw, or even think they saw. Sure, it made me stronger in the end, but just like Vincent, I still suffer from that today and it can be hard to stay true to yourself when you feel overwhelmed. Getting to do a piece about that issue that is still dear to me felt good. It shows that while there still sadly is a need for such stories, the battle is definitely not lost as long as we stay strong,” he concluded.

Editor Ran Ro uses fashion as means of storytelling in new video

Born and raised in South Korea, Ran Ro loves being a film and video editor. She enjoys arranging different shots together to tell a cohesive story, especially when a project largely relies on sound and music. As an editor, she gets to create moments between characters and helps the audience feel and see the world from the perspectives of those characters, and that, for her, is pretty special.

“Editing for me is almost similar to speaking in public except I get to trim or cut out parts that aren’t necessary before the speech happens. I’m a terrible public speaker though so editing is a much better way of communication for me because I can then finesse the ‘speech’, so to speak,” said Ro.

Ro has become a leader in the editing industry and recently has worked on many prolific projects, including a commercial for BackBeatRags celebrating their environmentally-friendly clothing line as well as a series of videos for Tastemade, creating culinary travel videos for digital distribution across all platforms, from Facebook to Instagram and everything in between. The highlight of Ro’s career, however, came just last year after her film In Between premiered and was recognized at film festivals around the world.

“It was very meaningful to me since the project was written based on my childhood experience of growing up with my grandmother. I was initially very hesitant to make the film, especially with difficult scenes that were set in otherworldly places and were complicated to execute. But with the help of my crew, we were able to make it happen and it was rewarding to see that the viewers resonated with the story,” she said.

Earlier this year, Ro collaborated with Elite Models to create a teaser video showcasing the new face of the agency. After noticing a lack of videos for the Los Angeles based branch, the director and Ro reached out to Elite Model Management and pitched an idea about making a showcase video for the new models at Elite. Once the project was approved to be made, Ro reached out to a team to get them on board, and the work began.

“It was incredible to work with such a passionate team and help Elite Model Management to showcase the new models by making content with beautiful imageries and a high production value,” said Ro.

Elite Model Management is one of the top agencies worldwide, and Ro recognized the need for a high-production value video for their marketing. The main goal on this project was to highlight the natural beauty of the models. Ro and her team had an idea of building a spacious palace with sheer linens where the sunlight would diffuse through them. She worked on making a visual treatment together with the director, pitched the idea to the management, and also found the music piece that best complimented the video. Also acting as a producer on the project, Ro recruited many that she believed would be a good fit.

Knowing that her editing would be driven by the music that would be chosen, Ro communicated with the cinematographer about the pace of the music, which affected his decision on the use of slow motion effects. She was very specific about the speed of the slow motion and it really enhanced the editing.

By understanding the director’s vision thoroughly while still having a vision of her own, Ro was essential to the project’s success. She was involved from the very beginning, and her commitment is evident in the final piece. She made sure that every detail in the production – from styling to the choice of music – was in line with the concept that was initially pitched. Her deep understanding of the project also facilitated the editing process, as throughout the entirety of filming she had a clear idea of which shot to use and how to structure the video while blending the visuals and music together to tell a powerful story about the agency.

“In addition to the company’s immense success, I really admire Elite’s mission – they embrace diversity, change and inclusiveness – I think those are the values that we need to be reminded of as filmmakers,” she said.

Using fashion as a means of storytelling was fascinating for the editor, and she believes it broadened her horizon as an editor. She knows the importance of versatility in her career and is always looking for new mediums to explore with her talents. She encourages those looking to follow in her footsteps to do the same.

“I think it’s extremely helpful to work on as many projects possible as an editor to find your editing style and what kind of content that you want to edit. I found it very helpful to work on the administrative side of post-production, as I learned and gained knowledge about the business and the post production workflow,” she concluded.

 

 

Liam Casey Sullivan on honor of continuing the conversation about addiction

Most successful actors will tell you that they do not act for the fame or for the fortune, they act for the thrill. They act because their job lets them connect with dozens of strangers, allowing them to contemplate the various aspects of the human condition together. They act because it is their creative outlet and their chance to take an audience along journeys they may never otherwise experience. They act because it keeps them alive. It doesn’t matter if an actor is young or old, new to the screen or a household name, actors act because unlike other professions, theirs allows them to escape reality and explore their souls before the eyes of the world. For these reasons and many more, Liam Casey Sullivan acts and with his rare combination of passion, talent, and perseverance, he is likely to live before a camera for decades to come.

“As an actor, I am required to delve into the bank of my personal experiences and surface the same feelings or emotions that my character is experiencing at any given time. Through respective research and seeking sympathy for the person I’m playing — however challenging that may be — I aim to grasp a complete understanding of their point of view so that I may be able to adopt it. Once I do this, I then embark on understanding their relationship with others by sourcing parallels from people I know in my life and from other stories. Although I may not have shared the same experiences and relationships as my character, I can revert to alternate moments I’ve lived in order to render even the slightest bit of those same reactions and capitalize upon them so I may appear as though I have lived them,” tells Sullivan.

Sullivan’s remarkable ability to ease in and out of character is arguably his greatest asset, and something he has done successfully for a number of different on and off screen productions, such as for the hit teen drama Degrassi: Next Class and The Girlfriend Experience. What tends to differentiate Sullivan from his competition, however, is his ability to adopt and portray traits that are entirely different from his own personality. Not only does he do so exceptionally, he thoroughly enjoys playing characters entirely unlike him. In fact, he considers playing Dougie in the Canadian film, Mary Goes Round, to be the highlight of his film career solely because he had the opportunity to play a conceited, selfish character.

Mary Goes Round follows the life of Mary, a substance abuse counsellor with a drinking problem. After being arrested for drunk driving and losing her job, Mary returns to her hometown where she learns that her estranged father is dying of cancer and wants to form a bond with Mary and her teenage half-sister that she has never met. In the film, Sullivan’s character Dougie conceals his own insecurities through a mask of obnoxiousness and arrogance. His lack of true friendships and general loneliness cause him to fiend attention and subsequently irritate those around him.

Ultimately, Sullivan’s character proved instrumental to Mary Goes Round’s great success and his performance on screen, in conjunction with his input behind the camera, highlights just how valuable he can be on any given project. After premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2017, Mary Goes Round was featured in several other festivals across North America. In addition, it won three prestigious awards, including Best Narrative Feature at the Annapolis Film Festival in 2018 and The Panavision Spirit Award for Independent Cinema at the Santa Barbara Film Festival in 2018.

What Sullivan enjoyed most about playing Dougie was the fact that he was able to explore and portray a personality type that he hadn’t ever depicted before. In addition, the film’s director, Molly McGlynn, was open to experimenting with the script and offering her cast an opportunity to rework and modify their scenes as they saw fit. Under these circumstances, Sullivan was able to allow his creative nature and unique style to flourish and he quickly proved himself invaluable to the production. Ultimately, however, Sullivan was honored to have taken part in shining a light on an extremely prevalent and relatable topic. Knowing that he was able to take part in a broader conversation about addiction left Sullivan feeling fulfilled and hopeful that audiences would be able to look at this social crisis from the unfamiliar, but interesting angle he helped create.

“In all, I liked that this story rings true to how much of an ongoing struggle battling addiction can be. A drinking problem has the power to haunt you for your entire life and this story is unforgiving when it comes to highlighting the truth and the daunting reality of addiction. This story not only spreads an awareness to the public but also gives a healthy sense of hope to those who may be facing similar problems as Mary and it felt great to have played a part in that,” Sullivan concludes.

 

Top photo by Helen Tansey

Yuito Kimura uses unique cinematography style to create masterful pieces of art

As a child, Yuito Kimura always enjoyed watching mystery and crime movies. At the time, he would just watch them as a source of entertainment. Now, he appreciates them from an artistic standpoint, noting how each shot is framed and how the filmmakers chose to tell the story. As a celebrated cinematographer, Kimura’s style was inspired by such films, being dark, contrasted, and stylized, using practical lighting. He carefully pays attention to framing, camera angles and movement depending on the scene and what the character is doing. If there is a scene about a girl crying by herself, he won’t just frame the character without having meaning behind why he chose to do so. His job is to tell her emotions by choice of lens, framing and camera movement. Such attention to detail makes Kimura a standout in his industry and shows just how much talent he possesses.

No matter what project he takes on, Kimura makes sure it is the best he can visually be with his work. The Japanese native has shot everything from music videos, such as “We are Stars” by Snowy Angels, to commercials, like the one for Townforst, to acclaimed films including Star Wars: Amulet of Urlon and Back to the Future?. He consistently impresses all those he works alongside with his commitment to his work.

“Yuito was wonderful to work with – he always showed up on time and when he came to work, he brought his creative suggestions on how to make a scene better. His extensive knowledge about camera lenses and how to angle the camera had a positive impact on many of our scenes in the film. Yuito also put together a hard-working crew who never complained and always had a positive attitude while on set. He has a unique way of looking at a scene and telling a story. He is very thorough and made sure that my vision was being brought to light during filming. The fact that he is willing to take risks when capturing a shot for a scene makes him vastly different than a lot of other DPs who tend to stick to what’s safe and traditional,” said Christina Kim, Director who worked with Kimura on the film Dropping the S Bomb.

Dropping the S Bomb tells the story of the not so book smart Cassie, who, after discovering that the guy of her dreams plans on attending Stanford, does whatever it takes to be accepted, even if it means doing things that may get her kicked out of school if she gets caught.

“I really like the idea of the story. The girl is trying to get into Stanford because the boy she likes goes there. She does do whatever it takes to get into school and I really like those funny and silly decisions and actions that she would do for him. Throughout the story, I’ve learned that nothing is impossible. It reminds me of my school era. It gives me sympathy,” said Kimura.

While shooting this film, Kimura made sure to always stay focused despite a fast shooting rotation. This is what he enjoyed most about working on the film. With such a fast-pace, he had to come up with ideas quickly, and he was given a lot of freedom to do so. He needed to think about more than he usually did and deeply understand the story compared to other projects.

The film was then screened at Action on Film International Film Festival 2016, Nice International Film Festival 2016, Action on Film International Film Festival 2016, Hollywood Dreamz International Film Festival 2017, and Phoenix Comicon Film Festival 2017. Kimura is proud of what they could achieve through hard work and a great story.

Most recently, Kimura shot a commercial for Townforst Slip Resistant Shoes for both television and online. It follows an Asian businessman who encounters an unexpected event after he goes back to his office at night. It is a sexual comedy, and although it is a commercial, Kimura knew the importance of telling a good story.

In this project, Kimura used two kinds of contrast styles to achieve a mysterious mood and add to the comedy. He used one style for the visual, and another style for the story. From the beginning shot to climax, all shots are contrast. When it hits the climax, he then used a more flattering lighting style to show what was truly going on. The moment he read the script, he came up with this idea to help enhance the story, knowing that as a cinematographer, he is vital to telling it.

“Yuito is an extraordinary cinematographer. He works really hard and focuses on his profession, treating every detail so seriously. He is also a very creative cinematographer who always has new ideas and concepts to make the films better. He has a unique eye and is an asset to every production he works on. He really loves what he does. His passion is totally on this field,” said Phenix Jiangfu Miao, Director and Production Designer.

Watch the Townforst Slip Resistant Shoes spot here, the winner of Best Commercial at the Los Angeles Film Festival 2018.