All posts by Lorraine Wilder

Actor Tennille Read Shines on “Workin’ Moms”

Award-winning actor Tennille Read’s versatility and drive have propelled her through a remarkable career, one where she gracefully slides from stage to film and television with chameleonic quicksilver grace. The charming, Toronto-based Read’s mixture of talent, training and intriguing good looks qualify her as a commanding presence, one that’s equal parts reserved dignity and combustible whimsy, an irresistible combination which serves as an ideal foundation for characterizations in any genre—comedy, drama, adventure or fantasy.

Read, who took the Best Actor award for her lead performance in the stylish drama “I Lost My Mind” at 2018’s Hollywood North Film Festival, is experiencing a burst of creative and career momentum. She recently landed her first recurring role on a television series, another significant step forward in the ambitious player’s roster of professional achievement, and one that she found particularly rewarding.

“The show is called ‘Workin’ Moms,’ on CBC in Canada,” Read said. “It’s a funny and poignant half  hour show about the struggles women face when balancing a career with motherhood, and unabashedly shows the messy challenges of parenting. I really enjoyed doing this project because the people I work with are incredibly nice and I was familiar with some of the crew from past projects. We became an ensemble, similar to being the cast of a theatre production, which really makes a difference—I like that immensely. “

For Read, this represents an upshift which signals both peer appreciation and an affirmation of her formidable capabilities—even though she can’t reveal too much about the project.

photos by Hamish Birt

“The show starts its third season in January,” Read said. “But because it hasn’t aired yet, I’m not allowed to spill any details about my character or the season’s story arc. I can’t even talk about it with friends or family. After all, if you knew what happened in advance, you probably wouldn’t want to watch it and we want all our viewers to be on the same page and see the show unfold as planned.”

Created by American sitcom veteran Catherine Reitman (“Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” “Black-ish”), who also stars, produces and writes the popular, International Emmy-nominated series, is an ideal platform for Read.

“Developing my character for ‘Workin’ Moms’ was fun, but it was also driven by many questions,” Read said. “I wasn’t given much information about my character in the beginning, only got scripts for the first few episodes so I had to really mine them for details about characterization. I think the writers were still figuring her out themselves, but that meant I got to bring a lot of my own interpretation to set and the character got crafted along the way very organically as a result.”

While she isn’t free to share any details in depth, viewers can clearly expect some emotional fireworks from the talented actor.

“My character’s story arc was very satisfying to explore,” Read said. “I can’t say much specifically, but I can say that the challenges she faced are very relevant to many women in their child-bearing years. While I haven’t personally had the experience she had, some of my friends have gone through it and I have nothing but empathy for them. My character makes some pretty bold choices from episode to episode as the season unfolds that shed more light on her inner workings.”

Read’s reputation as coolly reliable pro was tested, memorably, on what turned out to be a particularly challenging location shoot.

“On the final day of shooting it seemed like every possible obstacle came out of the woodwork,” Read said. “We were on a street in downtown Toronto on the Friday leading up to the Labor Day long weekend. There was an airshow scheduled for the weekend, but on that specific Friday, the planes were practicing their routines, right above us. So, our dialogue was already competing with aircrafts roaring by, when a random car ran out of gas on the streetcar tracks beside us. It wasn’t long before we had a bunch of streetcars piling in. Then, someone thought they smelled gas and called 911 so we had a whole fire brigade siren in. They stopped traffic in both directions while they investigated the stalled car and the “gas leak.” Trying to keep focused and to stay in the scene was no easy feat. But all the crew and actors rose to the occasion and got it done. In fact, it became ridiculously funny—we kept asking ourselves ‘what’s next?’”

Read’s poise, versatility and patience are matched only by her deep well of dramatic skill, creativity and in-the-moment flexibility. It’s a winning formula which has consistently elevated her standing in film, theater and television and is certain to continue her ascent as an in-demand actor.

“TV shoots very fast, which is what I love about it,” Read said. “It demands that I be ready, able and present from the very first rehearsal until they call wrapped. Being relaxed and open to the other actors in the scene and my own impulses is key. It’s not always easy to do when there’s so much activity swirling around me on set—but I think that’s the enjoyable challenge.”

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Challenging perspectives with esteemed screenwriter Varunn Pandya

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Varunn Pandya, photo by Chaaritha Dheerasinghe

Christopher Reeves once said, “so many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable.” For esteemed writer and screenwriter, Varunn Pandya, this mentality is all of the inspiration he needs to remind himself that with the right amount of hard work and dedication, he is able to achieve everything he sets his heart to. Growing up, the talented creative found himself inspired by Reeves’ interpretation of one of society’s token superheroes and credits his ability to play Superman as being one of the characters that initially sparked his interest in film. From there, he immersed himself into every avenue that the industry has to offer and found a love for the profession he now calls his own. As for his desire to create, it is stronger than ever before, and he has a knack for finding unique ways to showcase that will to the world.

“As a writer and screenwriter, I develop stories that I aim to show or display to the world in a way they’ve not necessarily experienced before. As I also like to direct, I try to write stories that I can bring a unique perspective to. Because I was born in India, I like to think that I bring some unique ideas to the United States and that I help to break some of the stereotypes associated with living on the Eastern side of the world,” told Pandya.

As he continues to navigate his way through the arts and entertainment industry, Pandya often finds himself taken aback by the breadth of opportunities and the amount of creative freedom he is allowed to use in order to imagine without limits and tell truly compelling stories. He has a reputation for finding areas of film that touch his audiences and he manages to do so in a way that keeps content fresh and engaging. In addition, he takes great pride in knowing that through his words and the stories that he brings to life, he has a grand platform to challenge the minds of his viewers and allow them to open their eyes to societal issues that they may or may not even be aware of. For instance, in his script XYZ where Pandya, alongside Badar AlShuaib, cast an important light on the unconscious, and sometimes conscious, bias that human beings exhibit toward their own race. In another of his scripts, The House, Pandya attempted to step outside of himself and allow his audiences to see the world from a perspective other than their own.

The House tells the story of Carl, a homeless man living in Los Angeles struggling to find a human connection amidst the repercussions of a rough upbringing. The storyline follows Carl’s daily routine as he collects metal scraps from the areas surrounding him and food from the trash in order to sustain himself. One fateful day, however, Carl comes across a family in his neighborhood and he grows a fascination for them. As the story progresses, viewers are taken on a journey through Carl and the family’s interactions. The story reminds us that regardless of our life circumstances, our skin color, our nationality, or whatever other features we use to distinguish ourselves from others, we are not all that different on the inside. We share similar emotions and at the end of the day, we are all human. Sometimes it just takes a little reminding from people like Pandya.

For The House, Pandya managed to develop a script in just four days. Writing it felt natural and he did everything in his power to keep the content as raw and powerful as possible. Wherever he could make the script seem realistic, he did just that and attempted to ensure that the script demanded empathy from its audience. He also made a particular effort to cast Carl in a different light than most homeless individuals are seen in. He wanted to show the world that not all homeless individuals intend to be, nor does their living situation make them any less human than the rest of us.

Up until The House, Pandya had only really ever worked with thrillers. What he loved most, therefore, about this project was the fact that it allowed him to step into unchartered territory and to explore an area of society he hadn’t otherwise given much thought into. He takes great pride in knowing that his script has the power to change the minds of many as they engage with the script and consider their actions from there forward. In the end, Pandya was not the only one who found a love for the script. In fact, The House went on to win a number of prestigious awards, such as Best Short Screenplay at the Five Continents International Cult Film Festival in June 2018 and at the Calcutta International Film Festival in September 2018.

“It feels great to know that the script has been widely appreciated by people all over the world. This script will always remain one of the most memorableprojects I’ve written as I think it’s the most personal story I have written despite it being based on a character that is very different from me,” he concluded.

The Sky’s the Limit for High Flying Actor Jolie Chi

Actor Jolie Chi’s infectious mixture of enthusiasm and playfulness may give the impression that she is all about laughs and frivolity but, in reality, Chi is a dedicated artist with a zealous commitment to refining and perfecting her craft. While still at the dawn of her career, the diminutive, charming Chi is quickly building impressive professional momentum and a burgeoning roster of credits.

Chi, a native of Taiwan who studied at the prestigious New York Film Academy, is globally known for her acting roles.  2018 was a phenomenal year for internationally celebrated actor; this year alone she received several accolades for her leading role in the award-winning film “My Lunatic Lucy”, including “Best Actress in a Comedy” at the Actor Awards, “Best Actress” at the LA Short Awards, and “Best Actress” at the Top Shorts Film Festival.  Additionally, she received the award of “Best Actress” at the Independent Short Awards; her selection for this title was determined by a panel of experts from both the film industry and academia against a high standard of merit—her performance was deemed outstanding based on the complexity of her role, impressive acting abilities, and the energy that she brought to the screen.

As a rising actor of international acclaim Ms. Chi has recently secured roles on anticipated feature length films and appeared in motion picture “Destined to Ride” released by Sony Pictures, opposite big-name actors Denise Richards and Joey Lawrence.   Outside of film, Ms. Chi’s latest works as an actor have included a performance on Justin Timberlake’s 2018 hit music video “Filthy”, and a role on the television series “Laff Mobb’s Laff Tracks”, as the character of Ming Ling.

Chi’s effortless ability to succeed as actor reflects a comprehensive, impressively holistic approach to performing. Equally at home in a stage or competition setting (beating out thousands of international talents to place in IMTA’s Top 10 Female Young Actors of 2015) as she is working in film, video, and commercials, Chi has been a dynamic force since her arrival the United States when she was just 16.

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“I grew up in Taiwan and China but I never really fit in, because I was always too outgoing for the culture,” Chi said. “I decided that I wanted to be an exchange student in America, so I went to Indiana—it felt like home. I realized how much I love America because I finally felt like I was accepted and loved. I decided to stay and finish my education.”

The teenager’s choice to pursue acting came about with a particularly poignant twist. “My parents had divorced when I was six,” Chi said. “Even though my mom always pretended to smile in front of me, I knew she was unhappy. Once when I was mimicking a character we’d seen on TV, she laughed—genuinely—for the first time in years. That’s when I realized how powerful acting was.”

From that bittersweet launch—the classic pathos/comedy paradox—Chi aggressively pursued success in film and television and was soon working in TV commercials, short films, and movies. Some are currently in post-productions.

Chi’s dedication to improving her artistry is a constant, innate pursuit and she is not one to squander any opportunity to do just that.

With her steadily ascending professional profile and reputation as a respected, formidable artist, Chi is a talent from whom the film industry will definitely be hearing a lot in the months and years ahead, a destiny which her positive attitude practically guarantees.

“My career aspiration is to make as many people laugh as possible,” Chi said. “I want to be able to make a difference in this world through my acting, to inspire the audience to smile, to reduce stress. Many people relax by watching films and I hope to help relieve their pain and make them happier.”

Funk Meets Gamelan in Bali: Beats of Paradise

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Documentaries about music and musicians are extremely popular. A recent production of this ilk presents a very unique approach on the idea. Bali: Beats of Paradise explores two different artists from different cultures at divergent stages of their career. While the artists are featured, the true story is about a little explored form of music. Filmmaker Livi Zheng (along with EPs His Excellency Ambassador Umar Hadi, Indonesian Ambassador to Korea and Julia Gouw, ranked among the “25 Most Powerful Women in Banking” five times by American Banker Magazine) crafted this documentary which shows the collaboration of Grammy Award-winning vocalist Judith Hill (20 Feet from Stardom) and composer Nyoman Wenten as they collaborate on a new project which fuses contemporary music with traditional Indonesian Gamelan music.

 

Wenten has spent four decades as a purveyor and champion of Indonesian Gamelan music. Hill’s search for unique sounds peaked her interest in Gamelan. This film documents their exploration and fusion of funk and Gamelan in Hill’s work, present prominently in the “Queen of the Hill” music video. Bali: Beats of Paradise expertly displays the passing of the torch among artists of different generations while also communicating the search for new inspiration, sometimes found in preexisting sources. Gamelan may be this regions classical music but its inherent sounds and sights are dramatically different than what most of the world is accustomed to.

 

The subtext here is that the cultural identity of Indonesia is rich and relatively unexplored by the West. The sights and sounds of this documentary serve as a vacation to a visually and audibly stimulating other world. Zheng notes, “Most people will never have the chance to experience the beautiful, vibrant scenery Bali is famous for, said Zheng. “When I traveled to Bali to make this film, the most important thing was to capture the culture and traditions of everyday life – including Balinese ceremonies. Whether filled with joy or sorrow, each one is always accompanied by the traditional sounds of Gamelan.”

 

 

Bali: Beats of Paradise world premieres November 7th in Beverly Hills at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences and opens on November 16th in Los Angeles and New York.

Cinematographer Majd Mazin tells impactful story with ‘The Fat One’

Growing up in Jordan, Majd Mazin was always fascinated by film. It wasn’t just his favorite form of entertainment, but also his hobby. At a young age he began making his own movies with his brothers and friends using his parents’ camcorder. The more videos and short pieces he made, the more he wanted them to look and feel like a real film. He had to learn to do that by himself. The more he did the more he realized how difficult it is to actually create a beautiful image and create a visual language that truly immerses the viewer. Even as a child, he began researching the various roles in filmmaking, and he learned about cinematography. Subconsciously, he started making his pieces for the cinematography more than for the story.

“I was never a good writer, and I am not a good one now. I wanted to express visually and the more I dove into cinematography, the more I realized how much more I have to learn. From then on, my curiosity took the lead, and here I am now,” he said.

By now, Mazin means an industry leading cinematographer. His work on award-winning films and television series, including Prodigal Son and The Millionaires respectively, have garnered international attention. His work on music videos, like Fall Out Boy’s recent hit “Church” and K-pop band Red Velvet’s song “Peek-A-Boo” have amassed hundreds of millions of views on YouTube, and every accolade is just further confirmation for Mazin that he was meant to be a cinematographer and camera specialist.

Last year, Mazin once again had a hit on his hands with The Fat One. The film tells the story of Annie, a woman who struggles to find her worth beyond her looks especially compared to her best friend, Elena, a beautiful runway model. Annie is afraid of rejection and of being loved, so she’s been pushing people away all her life. Now in her darkest moment, Elena must make her realize that it’s time to let go of the fear and start letting people in, before it’s too late.

“The film attacks a universal problem of us finding our worth beyond our looks and superficial attributes. We all suffer in some way or another with insecurity and that can be earth shattering for some people. This film sheds a light on how much harm this can do to a person when they are blinded from seeing what they actually can offer. The protagonist has that realization in the end. This film attacks that point head on while still being light and very funny at some parts, but heartfelt and truthful when it needed to be,” said Mazin.

The film premiered in the NCCC Film & Animation Festival where it was a finalist and has been screened at multiple festivals since. It was an Official Selection at SHORT to the Point, Ocean City Film Festival, Latino Film Market, Lady Filmmakers Festival, and Orlando Film Festival, as well as a Finalist at Los Angeles CineFest. Having his work appreciated by critics all over the world was a great feeling for Mazin.

“I enjoy making films that count and having a large audience end up seeing it. I am happy that the film succeeded and that I can be a part of it,” he said. “I enjoyed the actors’ performances, and I also enjoyed meeting the team of filmmakers, which I still work with to this day. It was really a team effort that made the film the success it is.”

The Fat One was Mazin’s third time shooting comedy. However, the film was a more typical style of comedy. He wanted to dive deeper into shooting this genre. The script was concise and well written, with funny and heartfelt moments. This drew him to the project. He also wanted to work with a new camera and test out some lighting gags that the script offered, that would play a further role in improving his craft.

Mazin also found working with Director Savannah Sivert very rewarding. She understood the nuances of the script and knew how to hit on the important moments. Together, they scouted locations and hired the crew. The shoot went smoothly, and they had a good amount of manpower for the size of the project.

“Bringing what I have learnt from my past projects and specifically from my comedy background, I felt like I could bring my style and a more grounded style to bring forward the story. I brought many resources in terms of lighting, crew and equipment from relationships I have built over the years to help the team achieve their vision,” he concluded.

Chandra daCosta talks love of producing and finding the best stories

Growing up, Chandra daCosta was inspired watching her uncle on television, an actor in McIver. Though his role was a small one, that made little difference to her. The moment she saw him on screen, she knew she wanted to be part of creating TV content. When watching a movie, she would fixate on the details, watching it over and over again, studying it. She understood that filmmaking was more than just entertaining. It was a way to share a part of herself with the masses, and she set her sights on producing.

DaCosta has worked with top production companies across Canada. She has worked on popular series like A Wedding and a Murder, Biggest and Baddest, and The Stanley Show and most recently docu-series for Lifetime.  She has collaborated with some of the industry’s finest and her work has been seen on worldwide networks like Discovery Channel, and BBC.

“As a kid, I would always beg my parents to take me to the movie theatre. I loved the glam of it, the event of it, the popcorn, the lights, the BIG screens. I knew I wanted to live in this world somehow, some way,” she said.

One of daCosta’s highlights on her resume is her work with Dale Wolfe Productions. She currently has two shows in development with Wolfe, Fish Brokers and Water ShockFish Brokers is a television series that follows the process of catching, delivering and serving sustainable, fresh seafood to high profile restaurants – “from ship to chef” – on a daily basis. Based on the book Water Rights in Southeast Asia and India by author Ross Michael Pink and published by internationally known publisher, Palgrave Macmillan, Water Shock is a documentary series exploring the paramount human rights issue of our time: clean drinking water.

“Both projects have extremely sensitive subject matter, Water Shock’s message and story are imperative, and I am proud to be working on something that will hopefully have an impact and bring awareness to a very serious issue. The shortage of water is already a reality to so many and yet, here in North America we continue on like the water will last forever,” said daCosta. “Fish Brokers is extremely exciting to work on because everyone loves a good food show! And although this isn’t just about food, that’s a part of it. I am excited to get out there with the fishermen and immerse myself into their daily life. These fishermen are not massive operations, which makes it a personal experience. Further, they are very firm in their desire to fish sustainably and ensure their product is about sustainable seafood.  The idea of following the entire process from fish to dish is something I’m passionate about.”

While making Water Shock, Wolfe relies heavily on daCosta to source and secure hosting talent and utilize her contacts for Directors, cinematographers etc. Through her personal and professional relationships, she has many high-profile colleagues she can approach. This is what makes her so good at what she does; the people she works with always want to work with her again. She also works hard on the research side of the show, making sure there is always a primary and secondary story for each episode that can captivate the audience.

“Chandra is the consummate professional. She has the ability to pull together various aspects of a production and ensure it is running smoothly. Her most powerful quality is her networking skills and connections with high caliber industry professionals and the ability to bring people together,” said Dale Wolfe, Producer and Writer.

DaCosta has also been a driving force behind the development of Fish Brokers. Through the casting and the pre-interviews, she has found several companies to come on board for the show. On top of finding funding and distribution, daCosta continues to work with the cast, and source footage for the pilot episode. She continues to look for new and fresh angles, which is why fishermen are eager to participate in telling their stories.

“I worked on various development projects with Chandra. As a development executive at a top tier Vancouver production company, I often collaborated with Chandra on new ideas and pitches for broadcasters. Chandra is fantastic to work with. She was one of the few people I worked with in the television industry who not only was a pleasure to work with but also able to research, network, write and produce show ideas all at once. She is truly a triple (and beyond) threat,” said Nicole Lawson of Force Four Entertainment.

Fish Brokers has changed and evolved over time. From Fish Brokers, to Fish to Dish, to Ship to Chef and back to Fish Brokers, whatever the title, the show continues to impress industry professionals and broadcast executives.

“Working on these two shows has been so much fun. I really have a chance to dive into the different worlds and meet characters. Although both shows are about sustainability, one has a “fun” subject (food) and the other more serious (water shortages worldwide). The food aspect is always fun because part of the research is testing some of the finished product. And the chef’s love watching people marvel over their creation,” daCosta described. “The water shortage is dire, and it’s been really hard to even get myself to acknowledge the severity of our planet’s water shortages. While doing research and through the book, it’s more important than ever to get this story out there. Looking for the right host is key and so right now, I’m really focusing on the right fit for cast and crew.”

Be sure to keep an eye out for both Fish Brokers and Water Shock to see just what daCosta is capable of.

Coming on Strong: Producer Beatriz Browne Does it All

In the realm of film and video, producer Beatriz Browne is nothing less than a dynamo. Whether she’s working on television mini-series or an indie documentary, her comprehensive approach, natural flair for storytelling and spontaneous, on the spot troubleshooting skills have earned her a reputation as one of the most reliable and fastest rising forces in her field. Currently riding high at the popular online parenting brand Fatherly, Browne’s innovative series concept, ‘My Kid The . . .’ which explores the unique talents of gifted children, is the latest step forward in an impressive career as a video producer.

“A producer, quite literally, does everything from head to toe,” Browne said. “So, a producer, particularly in a media company like Fatherly, is basically in charge of everything that goes into making a video. I’m in charge of content ideation and pitching, thorough research, finding stories to tell, making sure we can have access to them, and planning everything up until the shoot date. We go out and shoot it ourselves, direct it, bring it back to edit and distribute it to our platforms.

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The enthusiastic, ambitious Browne’s fast moving, far reaching methodology is the result of her culturally rich international background and extensive training in a host of creative and intellectual disciplines.

“I was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and since the age of four I had been working in the entertainment industry,” Browne said. “When I was 10, I moved to Shenzhen, China with my family, lived there for about four years and then I did my high school years in Dubai. So having Portuguese as my first language, I was fortunate enough to also learn English, Mandarin, Spanish, and a little bit of Arabic throughout my life. Eventually, I decided to come to New York City for college and now I’m living in the city that keeps on inspiring my work.”

This characteristic whirlwind of activity, from her early start as a child actor through to her current role as producer, included studies in a broad variety of fields.

“I have a Bachelor of Sciences in Liberal Arts, which is a somewhat deceiving title as I had the freedom to design my own major.” Browne said “I was focusing on innovative storytelling and languages and that basically consisted of a lot of film classes—fiction, non-fiction, technical, history, philosophy of languages, and media studies classes. A lot of my most important training, however, came from being on set and helping out with multiple independent films. Aside from that, I have taken numerous storytelling and journalism classes in several prestigious places.”

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Browne loves nothing more than telling stories, a fact reflected in the singular concept behind her ‘My Kid The . . . ‘ series.

“The goal of the show is to feature a prodigy child in each episode,” Browne said. “It explores the challenges and experience of parenting a child chasing their dreams despite the odds. The show was formatted to be a documentary-series, but going into the first episode, we didn’t really have a clear idea of what it was going to be. Because it was a new project, it was also an obstacle course from day one, but the biggest challenge was figuring out how to tell these stories. We had to remember that we were a parenting platform and so we had to provide a show that would ideally be of service to parents.”

Never one to shy away from adversity, Browne’s holistic grasp of the numerous requisites each episode demands guaranteed a compelling result.

“Executing these mostly by myself was super challenging,” she said. “And it required a lot of time, research, and organization to make sure all aspects of production ran smoothly. It opened so many doors for me and the company in terms of creating ambitious and long-form video projects. All the episodes were not only shared by several other publishers, they also increased engagement with our audience through long-form videos, which was rare for us. Three of the episodes were our most watched videos for the month of September, and the series outperformed our average video view benchmark for the month—and we just got four more episodes sponsored, set to come out in early 2019.”

This type of commercially successful and culturally popular achievement is doubly rewarding and clearly indicates a glowing future for Browne. Her ability to conceive, realize and deliver what almost immediately became an in-demand product typifies the producer’s high voltage personal and professional style—significant attributes that are not lost upon her colleagues

“Ms. Browne is one of the best and most unique talents I have come across in my years in media and filmmaking world,” cinematographer-editor Wei Lee. “I worked on her web series “My Kid The…” and observed firsthand her tremendous capacity for film production. She is creative and detail-oriented which always makes collaborating with her a pleasure.”

Above her ongoing role as producer of “My Kid The . . .” Browne has a wide variety of outside interests and projects. In addition to her work at Fatherly (where she also produces a great deal of assorted video content, including her interviews with such celebrities as John Legend, Karamo Brown and Morgan Neville), she is currently producing passion project, ‘The Monster of Carmine Street,’ a documentary about an independent bookstore in New York City and its owner Jim Drougas (“Possibly the last bit of cultural heritage and a home to an eccentric community within the West Village in NYC” Browne said). But it’s the nurturing, helpful nature and familial quality of ‘My Kid The . . .” which makes this particular project so rewarding and well received.

“It opened so many doors for my team and the company in terms of creating ambitious projects,” Browne said. “The show demonstrated my capabilities for producing large-scale projects, both to myself and the people that I work with. By getting the recognition and results, it led me to several upcoming jobs including a new show in collaboration with Hearst Media called ‘Passing the Torch,’ a new show with celebrity guests called “The Build” and several documentary films with super talented people in the industry, which is all very humbling but I’m super excited to be a part of.”

 

Graphic Designer Bruna Imai honors veterans with award-winning SYFY campaign

As a graphic designer, Bruna Imai takes a simple idea and turns it into a visual masterpiece. She finds the aesthetic that best suits each project and the most appropriate way to communicate a message with all its potential.

“All kinds of art, music, literature, film, dance, etc. – has its own language, and the role of the designer is to interpret these arts and translate one “language” to another. Any art is about telling a story, a message. I’m a storyteller specialized in the visual language, and I use elements like illustrations, photographs, objects, movies, animation, motion and so on to tell a story,” she said.

It is exactly this attitude toward her craft that has made Imai an industry leading graphic designer. She is known for her contributions to several acclaimed campaigns, including IFC’s “No Brainer” commercial spot, Coca-Cola’s “Coke On” commercial, FIFA’s Women’s World Cup on Fox Sports, and STATE Design’s Statement. Her work has gone on to receive several awards from the most prestigious advertising agencies and awards around the world.

Another award-winning project for Imai was the 2015 SYFY Veteran’s Day campaign. The project was about a holiday spot for SYFY Network to produce a heartfelt ‘Thank You’ to the nation’s veterans. In addition to appearing on televisions all over the country, Imai’s work was also seen online. Parts of the animation were used as the opening and ending of “thank you” videos, featured in many motion graphics related sites.

Imai’s graphic design work led the project to immense success. Not only was it popular with viewers and online, but it took home several prestigious advertising awards. The project won the Channel Holiday/Special Event Spot at PromaxDBA 2016, the most important awards in entertainment marketing and design.

“I am still so happy this campaign was so successful, especially because it shows that all the trust that was placed in me was deserved. I was happy not only with the reaction from the public, but also happy about my performance, knowing that I could make something really interesting,” she said.

Imai had two main roles for this project, the storyboard, which involved transforming the script into the first sketches, and the layout, which she was solely responsible for. The project follows a color palette based on the United States flag and yellow light to add a warmth tone to the message. The entire process was done digitally in Photoshop. Imai received the script from the studio with some images they would like to use – the veterans carrying the flag, the eagle flying and a field of flags, plus some typography references of types and illustrations mixed up. She began sketching thumbnail studies and soon, the storyboard was ready.

As they were working on a tight timeline, Imai came up with the pivotal idea of most of the animation efforts into bold transitions and keeping the layouts simple but captivating in most scenes. She conceptualized the designs, especially the transitions in the theme of “freedom”, representing it with elements of “air”, which audiences can see in the flight of an eagle, the movement of the flag and leaves being carried by the wind. The illustrations were finished with a broad brush and sketchy edges to emphasize this movement and flow, making the animation finalization process easier.

“This project was a very challenging one and wouldn’t be possible to do on time without the studio’s trust in my work, giving me creative freedom. I loved working on a project that I could use my full potential as a designer. Also, the communication with the studio during the project was excellent, and is what made me feel like being part of the team. It would have been impossible to deliver this result without our good relationship,” she said.

As the sole designer for the project, Imai was vital to the Veteran’s Day campaign’s success. She expedited the process, considering the design and transitions even in the process of storyboarding. Because of her talents as a storyboard artist, she also saved the company money in doing multiple roles. Her versatility and vast understanding of her craft is unparalleled. For those looking to follow in her footsteps, she offers encouraging words of wisdom.

“There is a tendency for students to focus on learning the software and tools, but it is essential to study academic subjects of art and design to be able to do a solid project with cohesion. When you study theory, you learn how to “see” images and references. It is a study of how to analyze critically and technically a designer’s choice,” she advised. “Also, I would say to feed on various types of references, not just graphic design. There are so many languages of art in so many senses! Music, dance, photography, movies, sculpture, literature, gastronomy, performing, folk art, everyday experiences and so on. Just as languages are translatable from one to another, all kinds of artistic expression and experiences are translatable between them. We can see a great example illustrating this “translation” in the film Ratatouille, in the part in which the characters describe the flavors of the strawberry and cheese in graphical forms. I believe that it’s essential to be the professional who can see and navigate between different languages, have a fresh mind that continues to play and to experiment.”

Writer and Director Claire Leona Apps takes showcases the Great North Run in acclaimed film

Writing has always come naturally to Claire Leona Apps. She loves telling stories and loves how they serve society; they can teach us and warn us, they can entertain while serving a greater purpose. A good story can create conversation and express ideas that help us relate to new points of view. It’s a powerful tool, and Apps understands that. Her passion for storytelling translates directly into her work as both a screenwriter and a director, from the words she puts down on a page to the way she puts it together in front of a camera, and she captivates worldwide audiences with films.

Apps is an in-demand writer and director, with a series of decorated projects highlighting her esteemed resume. These include her acclaimed films Gweipo, Aceh Recovers, Ruminate, and And Then I Was French. She is known for her ability to showcase the lives of underrepresented characters and bring a dark sense of humour to a story.

“I try not to get so caught up on the real world with my work. I have to deal with that every day anyway. I like a little surrealism, a little irony, and films that are a little self-aware,” she said.

That is exactly the message Apps puts out with her film Girl Blue Running Shoe. The film follows the daughter of a runner participating in the Bupa Great North Run as she makes a film as he trains and runs the race. The film begins calmly with a serene domestic set-up, building pace as the race begins, cutting between the training day and the marathon. At points which demonstrate the intensity of running, a special zoetrope effect is used, breaking down the movement of running into paused actions, reflecting the rhythm of the action – the steady thumping of shoes on gravel, a beating heart, breathing. The piece is shot solely on Super 8, edited to emulate both the excitement of the daughter as an observer and the adrenaline of the participator. With a soundtrack of enhanced natural noises, Girl Blue Running Shoeis an evocative celebration of the human body whilst also telling the simple story of a father-daughter relationship.

“It’s a story about loving and sharing in the experiences of the people you love. It also dissects the movements of running,” said Apps. “Usually I do pretty dark things. It was nice to do something that ended up in a children’s film festival line up. It’s nice to just show love, simple straight forward love between a father and daughter,” she said.

Apps wrote the story and pitched it to the British Arts Council to commission the film. When she got the commission, she immediately began directing, coming up with a new camera technique for the film. The story has two components. One is a daughter watching her father run the race. He is doing his hobby, running, and she is doing hers, filmmaking. She films him running on a Super 8 camera. Therefore, as the director, Apps decided to shoot the whole film on Super 8 cameras. This truly allowed audiences to immerse themselves in the girl’s point of view. Apps also had the idea to use the sprocket holes of the physical film and the division between the different pictures to create a zoetrope like film effect. She did this all by hand: slowing the footage down and cranking it through a projector to be re-filmed.

Shooting took place at the Great North Run in Newcastle, England, one of the biggest half marathons in the world. This presented a unique challenge for Apps, who had to shoot a fictional story around a live marathon. Therefore, the actual shoot was extremely fast. She had to make quick decisions to deal with whatever came their way. There were roads shut off, spectators everywhere, and of course the runners themselves, and they had to move all around them with a child actress.

“The hardest thing about this project was finding the right kid to play the lead. It is a large ask to have a child give you full energy for a few hours of extreme intensity, but Adrianna Bertola, who played the lead, was a dream,” said Apps.

The film premiered on BBC during the Great North Run the following year. It went on to be at the Great North Museum for an exhibition. It was also an Official Selection at the Cork International Film Festival. The success was wonderful for Apps, as the shoot was a chaotic and fun experience.

Now, Apps is currently working on another feature film. She is a truly exceptional filmmaker, engaging viewers of all ages, which is evident with her work on Girl Blue Running Shoe. She knows the key to her success is working hard, and she encourages all those looking to follow in her footsteps to do the same.

“Prepare yourself for a lot of hard work and don’t expect anyone to discover you. We live in a world at the moment where you can generate a lot of attention by yourself and you can make films on your phone. Make something and keep going,” she advised.

Understanding the pressure of a prime-time commercial slot with Elena Ioulianou

When esteemed producer, Elena Ioulianou looks at a concept for a content piece, she sees far more than ideas. Rather, Ioulianou sees a variety of puzzle pieces begging to be carefully and considerately weighed amongst each other, searching for the perfect fit. She picks up each piece, rotating and shifting it to ensure that she maximizes its potential and places it in the spot that is going to bring forth a masterpiece. With that, Ioulianou has earned a reputation for her ability to arrange all elements of a film in such a way that leave it destined for success. From budgets and costings, to props and plot lines, Ioulianou involves herself in all aspects of a project in order to ensure that no page goes unturned, no budget goes unbalanced, and no script is left with anything less than the greatness it deserves.

During her time as a producer, Ioulianou has tested her hand at a number of different areas in the arts and entertainment industry. She has set her efforts toward commercials, online advertisements, and digital content production, as well as films, television shows, webseries, and much more. At the mere age of 30, she has worked with several media moguls such as Reel Edge Studios and Milk & Honey Films. What she may lack for in decades of experience, she makes up for in raw talent and determination. In turn, she produces exceptional content in a profession that is more competitive than ever before. With the addition of social media and the current state of our world’s digital realm, Ioulianou must ensure that she is familiar with the latest trends and technology available for use in her field and with that, she must find a way to appeal to her clients’ needs without compromising the need to keep with the times.

The vast majority of production work that Ioulianou has conducted has taken place in her birthplace, South Africa and her work has taken her all over the world. One of her most notable employment tenures emerged when she earned herself a position working for Executive Producer, Herman Venter, and Director, Harold Holscher, for brands such as Buco Hardware, LandRover, and Marriot Insurance alongside Rolling Thunder Productions. In fact, she produced a LandRover commercial that earned Rolling Thunder a nomination as a finalist in the 2016 Lories Awards.

Ioulianou began working for Rolling Thunder Productions in 2014 when Venter and Holscher approached her to join their team after hearing of her work with Reel Edge Studios and MoviWorld. For the three aforementioned companies, Ioulianou produced six extremely successful commercials and her reputation continues to strengthen as word spreads about these projects today.

After experiencing Ioulianou in her element, Holscher and Venter were blown away.

“Without exception, every client commented on the smoothness of the execution and the professional delivery which was on time and precisely what they had envisioned. Elena is so widely noted throughout the industry for her work and what continues to amaze me during our collaborations is her ability to take an extremely limited budget and still be able to identify resources that result in an extraordinary final product every single time,” said Holscher.

For LandRover, in particular, Ioulianou was tasked with producing a series of three, 30-second commercials to air on Supersport on DSTV during the Rugby World Cup. Imaginably, only the highest quality commercials would be fortunate enough to earn air time during such a popular event and this meant that Ioulianou’s work was more than cut out for it. She rose to the challenge and credits her logistical precision as being the main reason that the success of this project was even possible.

Similarly, for Buco Hardware, Ioulianou had her work cut out for her when having to manage a choreographed piece incorporating twenty-five amateur dancers from different backgrounds, age cohorts, and more. To make matters more difficult, this had to be achieved in one cinematic tracking shot through a hardware store. Under time and budgetary constraints, Ioulianou did what she does best and ensured, once again, that this project was a true success for the clients.

For other aspiring producers out there who find themselves dreaming of one day ending up being producers and creatives she had the following advice to offer:

“The difficulties of getting started and having a fear that the opinions of others, especially those in positions of power or those that have been in the industry for longer, are right or worth more than yours. This is something I deal with on a daily basis. Different roads can lead to the same destination. Just start.”