All posts by Lorraine Wilder

Romantic Comedy at its best: Producer Ricky Cruz captivates audiences with ‘Mixed Orders’

Love has been the inspiration of art since the dawn of time. From Shakespeare writing “I love thee with a love that shall not die, till the sun grows cold and the stars grow old” to the Beatles harmonizing “All You Need Is Love” to Jack giving Rose his share of the iconic door in Titanic, love has been one of the most captivating themes throughout art, literature, and film. Throughout his life, it has been the unsuccessful pursuit of love, intimacy and relationships that, for Ricky Cruz, have made such great stories. These stories were always something that he wanted to share with the world because they are so universally enjoyable and uncomfortable.

“I began working on an anthology of quirky romantic comedy short films centered around unsuccessful endeavors into love and relationships. These were supposed to highlight the flip side of the coin when it came to conventional love stories. I always wanted to see the growth behind the guy who is left at the altar, because there’s something so familiar with that element of tragedy,” said Cruz.

With a celebrated career as a producer, Cruz had dedicated his life to telling stories that enchant audiences, and love is an underlying theme in most of his most decorated works, from the LGBTQ coming of age story Foible to drama Honor, telling the story of a woman forced into an arranged marriage by her parents. Another of his more recent projects, Mixed Orders, dives deep into such ideas. Cruz was keen to create the film because he believes seeing love stories through this specific lens is a great way to get a sense of the sort of films he is eager to bring to life in the future.

Mixed Ordersis the first film of the anthology and introduces audiences to the main character and repeat offender of the series, an offbeat lovable innocent who hopefully most will relate with because of his terrible instincts regarding intimacy. It explores the idea of knowing who you are and the importance of patience. Embracing a light-hearted tone and quirky voice, Mixed Orders gives a glimpse into Darren’s uncomfortable and premature marriage proposal to his girlfriend Clare, who is finally coming to terms with her own homosexuality.

Mixed Orders is a film that is pleasant and bitter sweet with a moment of incredible self-realization and personal growth and sometimes that’s what we need or want to see as an audience. I love the unconventional and going against the grain, and what I believe this film does is turn what would and should be a messy scene into a beautiful feel good exchange in a display of the unconventional being made easily palatable. The film has such an honest and charming tone that it’s hard not to just smile at the end of the whole thing. There are no bad people in this sort of situation, just two people who are trying to be honest with themselves and happen to generate some friction because they’re on different pages, which happens in life all the time,” said Cruz.

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Not only did Cruz produce Mixed Orders, but he also wrote the script and directed the film. He wrote the series of films a while ago and was eager to get the first one off paper. He wanted to articulate his quirky twist on a love story. He felt he owed the material an accurate rendition of the story he saw in his head because he wanted it to be familiar with some variables that he threw the audience, which is why he also took on the role of director. Leading the team, he knew he could create just the masterpiece he envisioned.

“I think selfishly, I considered myself the expert on these sorts of situations in real life which made me feel more than qualified to bring the story to life on screen and show the audience how absurd but true this character and story may be.

Cruz wanted the film to be a short and sweet story with unconventional and off beat elements. There was a lot of footage, with the actors often going off script and improvising certain takes, and Cruz managed to keep his vision throughout while incorporating such unique twists and turns. Often, some of the lines he never expected to be memorable when writing became his favorites once the scene had been shot and edited, creating a final cut he couldn’t be more proud of.

“I recommend Ricky Cruz for any and all projects, he will not only bring them to life but make them better than you could ever imagine,” said Reinaldo Garcia, who played Darren in the film.

Mixed Orders has won Best Actor and Supporting Actor in a Short Comedy at the Actors Awards, Best Romantic Comedy at TopShorts Film Festival and Best LGBT Short Film, First Audience Award, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Editing and an Honorable Mention for Direction at the South Film and Arts Academy Festival. Such success could never have been possible without Cruz, as the film was his brainchild.

Mixed Orders‘ successful reception makes me excited for the release of the remaining films comprising the anthology of unsuccessful love endeavors. It’s a huge relief to finally have a reference film to ensure the tone and approach remain consistent. While the styles of the upcoming films may differ, I feel more settled knowing that this comedy is understood and appreciated by audiences so I’m very excited at the prospect of being able to watch our repeat offender from the series in back to back short films and truly explore the uncomfortable and bittersweet romance I’m very familiar with on screen,” he said.

Be sure to keep an eye out for the remaining films in this delightful series.

 

Top photo by Arthur Marroquin

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Producer Elena Bawiec brings Flamenco dancing to the big screen with new film

ElenaAs a film producer, Elena Bawiec works tirelessly each day to ensure a project comes together, and that is what she loves. Each time she steps onto a set, she is living her dream: sharing stories with a worldwide audience. She has always had a predisposition for this type of work, where it is a mixture of communication, organization, and managing people. Most importantly however, she knows that as a producer she has to understand the story, what works and doesn’t work dramatically, and what will resonate with audiences. It is this final piece of the puzzle that has allowed Bawiec to excel to the forefront of her field, as a natural born storyteller. She knows that no matter the project, film or stage or even a commercial, it comes down to people and the story that is being told.

“I enjoy watching a story begin as an idea on a blank page and then morph into a screenplay draft; then into a bustling film set with hundreds of people making one vision come to life; to visual effects, sound, and music taking over in post; and finally, when we see the first shot in a dark movie theater with an audience,” she said.

Throughout her esteemed career, Bawiec has worked on countless acclaimed films, showing the world just what she is capable of as a producer. These include award-winning hits such as The SuitcaseBlood Brothers, Megan, Only Light, and much more. She has a lot to look forward to this year as well, with many projects in the works. Her highly anticipated film, Incendium, will soon be making its way to the festival circuit.

Incendium is about the essence of creation and the correlation between life and death, visually expressed through movement. This story takes audiences on a breathtaking journey that emphasizes the equilibrium that everything with a beginning inevitable must have an ending; this is the beauty of the inescapable cycle of life. The concept behind this cinematic essay is that contrary forces cannot coexist without one another.

In conjunction with cinematic beauty, this filmic essay focuses on dance – in particular a bold reinterpretation of Flamenco.  The language of dance is universally relatable, as dance is communicated via showing, not telling. Creation is further displayed through the interplay between the heroine and the four mighty forces of nature: water, fire, earth and wind. The film explores an unpredictable force of kinetic grace, centering on the personification of the cycle of life.

“When do we get to work on something so purely visual, so raw, so fascinating? Incendium is a rare visual feast. It is one of those projects that seldom comes along, and you just have to grab it. Incendium completely captivates you with its beauty and power,” said Bawiec.

The director, Greg Strasz (VFX: Independence Day: Resurgence, Stonewall It Follows) has tremendous experience in Visual Effects and Bawiec knew that he is an exceptionally visual person who could create magic with a project like this.

“There was no question as to whether I wanted to be part of this project. The dancer, Mariam Vardanyan, is so talented, passionate, driven. The sheer hours and effort she put into training for this shoot were awe-inspiring. Now I, as the producer, needed to create the support system to have this project come to life,” said Bawiec.

As producer, Bawiec handled budgeting, scheduling, hiring and managing the crew, pre-production, location scouting, logistics of the production, and post production. Elena had agreed upon keeping the footprint small. This was a very intimate experience for Mariam, and for her performance it was beneficial to have as few people as possible, and Bawiec and her team accomplished great things with a much smaller crew than they are used to.

“We went all out with this film. We shot underwater stunt sequences, we shot with fire, we shot on a dry lake bed, and in Death Valley, at night, during the day, in the heat and in the rain. This was quite an adventure. Sometimes we literally fought the wind,” said Bawiec.

The result of the crew’s efforts is a visual spectacle that is a can’t miss. Be sure to check out Incendium and to be carried away by the artistry of the dance and the film as a whole. It is exactly films like Incendium that drive Bawiec, and she plans to spend the rest of her life dedicated to bringing powerful and visually stunning stories to the big and small screens.

“My goal is to tell stories that matter, stories that come from the heart and take the audience on a journey. Entertainment will always be a business; there will always be the bottom line and the investors to get paid, but I do not think you can really be financially successful in the long term if you do not make films that mean something to people, that spark a reaction. I think finding this balance between the creative aspect of our work and the money aspect is very important. Projects that I have currently lined up, are these kinds of stories, which show complex characters trying to make sense of the world around them. Some are based on true stories, some are thrillers or action, and others may be sci-fi, but it’s always the human condition we talk about no matter the genre. Films help us make sense of this world and to understand ourselves better,” she concluded.

Producer Guoqing Fu brings China and America together with award-winning film ‘Underset’

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Guoqing Fu

Filmmaking allows China’s Guoqing Fu to explore the unknown psychological world and explore his endless creativity. He feels a thrill whenever he embarks on a new project, with the purpose of reflecting and exaggerating social phenomena, to arouse resonance in people’s hearts.

“As the eighth art form of humankind, film is the crystallization of the first seven art forms, which perfectly interprets the inner artistic passion of filmmakers. The artistic and creative pleasure that cannot be obtained in the real world can be infinitely expanded in the film world,” he said.

Throughout his career, Fu has shown why he is an in-demand producer in his home country and abroad. This is exemplified with his films Gum Gum, La Pieta, and Over, to name a few. He has a sincere desire to educate and entertain the masses through his work, with no plans on slowing down.

“My goal is to better disseminate Chinese and American culture, making more collaborative projects and bringing more culture and art into the film world,” said Fu. “I feel that the film and television cooperation between China and the United States has great potential. I am willing to be a pioneer and keep working hard.”

The producer became one step closer to that goal with his film Underset. Taking place in the Republic Era of China, after the main character, Qianyue Zhang, was married, he went to his hometown to find his friend, Mingtang Wang, but he accidentally finds a dead body in his hotel room. The police take the owner of the hotel, his wife, and all the hotel customers into custody. Qianyue’s wife and her father arrive to learn about the incident, but it is all too much for him to accept, eventually leading to his death.

Premiering last June in Beijing, Underset was a great success in both China and America. Not only was it an Official Selection at many prestigious festivals around the world, it took home several awards. These include Best Feature Film and the Diamond Award at the Hollywood Film Competition, Best Feature Film at the Hollywood Film Competition, Best Original Music and Best Production at Macau International Movie Festival, Best Feature Film and the Platinum Award at the NYC Indie Film Awards, and Best Feature Film at The European Independent Film Awards.

“I am very honored as one of the most vital members of the team. It’s my first time being a producer on a truly Chinese feature film. When I heard about the awards from my friends and crew members, I was excited,” he said.

Fu was a co-producer on Underset, taking on key responsibilities like script selection, hiring team members and setting up the team. He coordinated every single department, solved any and all problems on set, ensuring everything went smoothly without any delays. He always did what needed to be done to stay on top of things, making a strong team and a great film.

Most important for Fu, Underset is a Chinese domestic film. The production environment is very different from the United States, but this producer is determined to be a bridge between Chinese and American film cooperation, a large and challenging task he is more than willing to take on.

“It was hard, but I think it was worth it. It was my first time managing a whole production in China. In the beginning, I needed to care about all the parts, because it makes me learn more about the Chinese film industry. It has some advantages, but it also has disadvantages. I love those experiences, some of them are challenging, but challenges make me stronger and a pro for next time,” he said.

Keep an eye out for Fu’s future works.

Sound Mixer SiYao Jiang terrifies audiences with ‘Slicker’

As a sound mixer, SiYao Jiang spends his day on film sets and television productions, always experiencing something new. He comes to work each day prepared to not only excel technically, but creatively as well. He knows the importance of sound when watching your favorite movie, being able to take audiences to a different place and time through what they hear.

“I am not that kind of person who can sit in an office all day, I need to move around, and production sound mixer is the perfect job for me where I do audio and recording in different locations every time. Secondly, I get to meet different people during different sets,” said Jiang.

Jiang has spent his career impressing worldwide audiences with his talent. He has worked on national commercials with leading brands, like the Japanese air conditioning company Daikin, and on award-winning film productions, such as Apple, as well as Bag of Worms and Starf*cker. He is incredibly versatile, knowing just how to bring on the laughs or terrify audiences, just as he did in the horror Slicker.

Slicker is a suspenseful horror film about Eddie, a cocky businessman who is lost in the middle of nowhere with an empty tank of gas, and no idea what direction to take next. He finds himself seeking help from a pair of locals who are hiding a deep disdain for outsiders, and a dark secret. The help he finds is not what it seems to be, leaving Eddie fearing for his life. He is faced with a decision, and his choice leads to grave consequences.

It was the first horror Jiang mixed, so it was an interesting experience for the sound editor. He found the story fun, but also slightly disturbing, and he wanted to help scare the audience. He also found that the film was more than just a scare tactic, as it teaches something at the very end.

Slicker has gone on to see tremendous success at many film festivals around the world. It even went on to win several awards, including second place at the International Horror Hotel, and was selected into the End of Days Festival this past summer.

“I feel great that Slicker did so well. After all the challenges that the sound team faced and working so hard to overcome them, it is great that other people recognized our efforts,” said Jiang.

The setting for this film was in a forest, and Jiang found shooting in such an environment challenging but fun in terms of sound. The environment was pretty difficult, with lots of people being bitten by fire-ants, including him, and the weather was very humid, so it really restricted the range of the wireless. The first day of shooting, the system wouldn’t turn on and the mic wasn’t functioning as it was getting wet. Luckily, he had a backup and it was smooth sailing from there. He made sure to come prepared with alternative options every day afterwards.

“I like challenges, and this project is really challenging. Lots of wide shots, limited space, and super humid environment which makes the sound team very difficult to work with. Luckily the production gives us enough time to sort the problem out,” he said.

Watch Slicker and prepare yourself to be terrified.

Producer and Director Ace Yue tells heartwarming LGBTQ love story with new film

As a filmmaker, Ace Yue takes an idea and brings it to life. Originally from Shenyang, a north east city of China, Yue has always had a passion for the art form and has dedicated her life to bringing captivating stories to the big and small screen. As a producer, she finds just the script and team to make a vision a reality, and as a director, she follows her instincts and provides a sound voice of leadership for her entire team.

“I like to give every character in my stories an entire life, no matter how old they are. I am building up an entire world for my cast, allowing them to feel the character, making friends with them, then, becoming them. I want the audience to be taken away by the story, creating a cathartic experience for every viewer,” said Yue.

This in-demand producer and director made headlines last year with her award-winning film Gum Gum, which she wrote based off her own life experiences, but Yue is no stranger to success. She also has highlights on her resume such as By Way of Guitar, La Pieta, K.a.i., and many more.

“I think this is a job that requires a sense of responsibility. It’s fun and full of creativity. In fact, creativity and on-the-spot ability are my most important skills of being a producer and director, because we can never predict what will happen on the set. So, having a very high ability to adapt is key,” said Yue.

Recently, Yue has seen great success with one of her newest films, the drama Hank. The film tells the story of Hank and his husband Tommy who are struggling to save their 15-year marriage and entertain the idea of an open relationship. While this might be working well for Tommy, Hank struggles to cope with the change as well as the challenges of being old.

Telling an LGBTQ story was important for Yue, who immediately said yes to the film after reading the script. She has worked on many genres and is incredibly versatile, but this was her first time telling a story about this community. She feels film can provide a voice for underrepresented groups and educate viewers on key issues, and taking such a heartfelt look into the loving marriage of two homosexual men touches on all the reasons she wanted to become a filmmaker to begin with.

“Learning to understand who we are, and respect everyone as they are, is of the utmost importance. It is the greatest aspect of this film. In real life, most people like to look at things with a preconceived perspective. In other words, people just want to see what they want to see. Rarely will we analyze and understand the problem from the perspective of others, and then everyone will have such a state of mind that they are freaks and not understood by others, and then generate inferiority and escape from life. What this film tells is that no matter how others treat themselves, they must first face themselves honestly, don’t treat themselves as aliens, bravely accept themselves, pursue what they want, each of us is equal. The gender orientation, the preference of the things themselves can be different. Don’t worry about the eyes of others. It’s right to be happy for being myself,” she said.

Hank premiered at the Burbank International Film Festival and was an Official Selection at the Hollywood International Film Festival. It was an Honorable Mention at the Los Angeles Music Awards 2019 and has a lot more expected for the year. This month, Yue and Hongyu Li, the director of Hank, are heading to HRIFF 2019, the Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival Red Carpet Press Event on February 15th.It is also an Official Selection for the world-renowned Cannes Film Festival later this year.

“The success is sensational. We use our profession to tell meaningful stories in a visual way, working hard on every detail. Being recognized by audiences around the world is also a way to make us more motivated and more determined to go do what we want to do, to tell the story, to shoot the film,” she said.

As the co-producer on the film, Yue made sure that any unexpected situation that arose on set was instantly taken care of. She helped the director create a good working environment, allowing everyone to focus solely on creating a work of art.

Yue knew the importance of the film they were creating, making it her sole focus and drive every day she was on set. The feeling was infectious, with the entire cast and crew feeling the same.

“I have a lot of LGBTQ friends. We are just like them, everyone is human, there is no difference. What I want to say is that they are not special groups. The discrimination of many people is that their own starting point is wrong. True love does not mean that men and women together breed the next generation, but a soul meets another soul that can truly understand each other,” she concluded.

Andrea Mercado designs detailed and memorable characters for cartoon web series

Andrea Mercado has been an artist for as long as she can remember. She had no distinct memory of the first time she held a pencil, ready to begin drawing; for the Peruvian native, it was her natural instinct to create. She was inspired growing up from her grandmother, a talented artist, and other family members with similar talents. She was encouraged to continue pursuing her dream as she aged, going from crayon drawings as a child to detailed illustrations. As she grew, her love for the arts transformed into much more, and she began to take a keen interest in both animation and graphic design.

“As a kid, and even now as an adult if I’m honest, I loved watching cartoons and was constantly drawing the characters. I even made my own paper dolls and comics about them,” said Mercado.

Now a sought-after Graphic Designer and Animator, Mercado spends every day living her childhood dream. Whether working on passion projects, like her viral film PINOF Animate! or her current work with the leading animation and design company Fractl, Mercado impresses the masses with her many artistic talents and sheer drive.

In many cases, Mercado also allows others to see their dreams come true while doing just that for herself. This is just the case when she teamed up with Mark Udarbe, a software developer with a passion for animation and characters, who commissioned Mercado to animate character-introduction videos for his indie online comic web-series called Paradigm Spiral. Ubarbe contacted Mercado directly after being vastly impressed with her portfolio.

“I like that Mark took the chance to create something of his own. He had a story and characters and wanted to bring them to life, and that is something every storyteller and animator should aspire to do in their lifetime. I think it’s important to have projects like this because it inspires other people to create their own. It has even inspired me to make more films in the future,” said Mercado.

Paradigm Spiral explores Techoon City, a marvel built from the efforts of humanity and an alien anthro race known as the Kin. Many different types of people have come to this city for their own reasons: Aura Sarim, a young mage, seeks to change the future. Riselle Suna, Kin commissioner of the police force, desires a place to call home. Dreyc Hawking, a novelist, hopes to find inspiration for his next book. Discover how all their stories come together in the series.

“I wanted to work on this project because it has always been my dream to be a part of something big. And an indie animated show is something big. The story, the characters, and the setting all had great appeal, and that motivated me to work on this even more,” said Mercado.

On top of animating the characters, Mercado was also in charge of creating the logo for the series, the web design, and the Kickstarter and social media graphics. After that, she also created the icon and header for Mark’s personal Twitter.

“As a freelancer, Andrea is very professional. She is able to keep regular communication and was very accommodating to schedules. It was not difficult to get her up to speed and have her work on different parts of the art pipeline. If possible, I would look forward to working with her again,” said Mark Udarbe, Developer at Kroger.

Mercado was absolutely essential for the animation and continued success of Paradigm Spiral. Her work animated the characters, and her graphics have not only promoted the series and the website, but Udarbe himself.

Mercado continues to have success as both a graphic designer and an animator, with many more upcoming projects to look forward to. She loves expressing her creativity and versatility with her work, and Paradigm Spiral is just one example of what a talent she is. She encourages all those looking to follow in her footsteps not to give up on their dreams, and not to be afraid to create their own work whenever possible.

“I would encourage anyone to work on their own projects since they are young and start building a portfolio. Because the world is so competitive nowadays, you have to be willing to challenge yourself and constantly improve both your technical and artistic skills. Get acquainted with the software being used in the industry. This is very important because it will be your main tool when working,” she advised. “Other than that, work hard and be curious, eager, accountable, and responsible; because that’s the kind of person everyone would like to work with.”

You can check out Paradigm Spiral’s website to stay up to date with this fun series.

Filmmaker Tom Edwards Strikes a Balance between Producing and Directing

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Producer and director Tom Edwards at the Napa Valley Film Festival

It takes a very unique talent to effectively balance the work of a producer and director simultaneously on a project. Though it is no easy task, it is one where filmmaker Tom Edwards has proven his skill time and time again.

One of Edwards’ recent projects as producer and director is the music video for folk-punk artist Sunny War’s single “Gotta Live It,” which premiered last year to great praise on Vice’s Noisey outlet, which is known for showcasing hot new music and music videos.

Edwards captures the juxtaposition of melancholy sadness and perseverance present in Sunny War’s “Gotta Live It,” which the artist says is “a very personal song about my struggle with alcoholism, my dysfunctional love life and the confusion I face daily participating in this rat race society.”

Prior to directing and producing “Gotta Live It,” Edwards directed and produced the music video for Sunny War’s  “Goodbye LA.” That first time collaboration obviously ran smoothly because the artist called him back again for “Gotta Live It.”

Working with Tom is very chill. He has a nice easy going personality but at the same time he is very organized. [He] is good at what he does… he plans every shot, communicates the ideas with you beforehand… and actually follows through,” says Sunny War. “He is also always willing to listen to any crazy ideas you might have and is kind when explaining why those ideas are crazy and won’t work.”

Though Tom Edwards’ boundless creativity as a visionary director is evident in his work, his ability to balance what does and doesn’t work from the standpoint of a producer in terms of managing the budget, shoot days and all of the other odds and ends that go into producing are what make him such a sought after talent.

“As the producer I was working with a very limited budget. It was important to find the right location and that the filming could be completed in one day. As director I needed to make sure that my vision aligned with Sunny’s and that she was happy with the idea before I started to shoot. The last thing you want when working with an artist is to find out after shooting that they don’t like the final video,” explains Edwards.

“It’s essential to have good communication skills to ensure both sides of the party agree on the expectations. My role as producer was about coordinating crew, finding locations, getting permits and making sure we had the right amount of gear to tell the story. I like to keep all the logistics out of the way when I’m directing, it’s important to make sure I have my undivided attention on the artistic choices and performance.”

Some of the other music videos Edwards has produced and directed include “Fire” from  American ukulele virtuoso Taimane, The Main Squeeze’s “Only Time,” Westside FX “War ft. Bro Burch,” Calix’s “California Dream’n,” “Bad Blood,” and more. He’s also directed and produced commercials for brands including Lamborghini, The Sirius, Garrison Bespoke and the Shaolin Temple.

While he’s made a name for himself as a powerful producer and director in the world of commercials and music videos he’s no stranger to producing and directing narrative films.

In 2013 Edwards wrote, directed and produced the film “Ninety One: A Tainted Page,” which earned multiple awards including those for Best Overall Film, Best Actor and Best International Baccalaureate Film at the Shanghai Student Film Festival.

Actor Anson Lau, who plays the lead in the film, says, “I’ve always known Tom for his passion for making films… When he puts together a project he’s always enthusiastic… When he directs he knows exactly what he wants.”

Over the years Edwards strength as a producer has also led him to be tapped to produce a long list of projects for other directors.

He explains, “Aside from directing and producing my own films, I find a lot of pleasure helping others and bringing their visions to life. I enjoy being critical and being able to provide valuable feedback.”

One such film where Edwards proved critical in the success of the film as a producer behind the scenes is the 2016 dramatic sci-fi film “Visitors” starring Kei’la Ryan from “Escape the Night,” “The Doctors” and “American Hashtag.”

“I worked with Tom on a large number of projects, from commercials and music videos to narrative films. He always blew me away with his creativity and hard work. His work on the film ‘Visitors’ was significantly important and was one of our best collaborations,” says “Visitors” director Alon Juwal. “Tom had a large creative input both in the development phase and in the production phase. He contributed greatly in the writing of the screenplay and managed to lock some amazing crew members for the project.”

A film about two siblings who return home to their estranged father’s house after a long absence, only to find their home being invaded by a group of uninvited visitors from another world as the night progresses, “Visitors” made a strong impact on audiences and festival judges across the globe.

In addition to earning the Honorable Mention Award from the Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival and the Festival Award from the New York International Film Festival “Visitors” was nominated for several awards at festivals including the USA Film Festival, Vail Film Festival, Phoenix Comic-Con, Newport Beach Film Festival, and more.

“After careful review of the [Visitors] script, there were a few scenes that needed more attention. In one scene, the main character is blasted with a beam of light as if a spaceship about to abduct him. We had to make sure that we could get a rig and the right people to achieve this,” recalls Edwards about some of his key contributions to the project.

Edwards’ personal experience writing and directing projects have endowed him with an unparalleled understanding of what needs to happen on set for a director to be able to effectively make their vision come to life; and this is one reason why he has proven himself as such a powerful producer.

Director Alon Juwal adds, “All of my collaborations with Tom ended in successful productions. He brings a great deal of enthusiasm and grace to each project that he signs up for. Tom takes every small task that he is given with great seriousness and simply brings amazing results. He is fast, extremely efficient and a very hard worker.”

The ever busy producer and director is currently working with writer Phil Giangrande on the upcoming dystopian film “Now It Begins,” which takes place in a future society where resources are scarce and poses the question over whether it is ethical for a father to be replaced by artificial intelligence.

Edwards is also working with an a LA based production company on what he says is a “Very exciting series of educational videos that will launch sometime this year.”

Though he’s not yet able to announce the details on the upcoming video project, with such a track record of successful productions already under his belt we know it’s one you will be hearing about very soon.

China’s Zanda Tang talks love of animation and the importance of research

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Zanda Tang

Hailing from Dalian, a coastal city in Northern China, Zanda Tang has made quite a name for himself both in his home country and around the world. With a unique style, he has become a leading Animation Concept Artist. He adopts a variety of painting techniques, always adapting to what each new project requires to best tell the story. He is constantly learning, staying up-to-date with the latest styles of painting, allowing him to jump out of his comfort zone and bring innovative ideas to whatever film he takes on.

“Animation is the least restrictive tool for spreading your ideas. It can be more exaggerated and imaginative than a movie. Compared with the words in books, it can more accurately convey your design and details. Now more and more movies use animation to help with shooting, which makes me more confident in this industry,” he said.

Tang has worked on a number of award-winning films alongside decorated colleagues. His film Lion Dance took home nine awards and was an Official Selection at over 30 international film festivals. He saw similar success with Diors Samurai and Baby and Granny, captivating audiences around the world. No matter the project, Tang makes sure to extensively research all aspects of the story, leaving no detail left behind.

“For example, if I were to design a kettle in an animation project, I would put in the work required to make it more than just a simple kettle. First of all, I would collect a lot of information about the kettle based on the story background and character information of the project. I would collect information from various fields, such as screenshots of illustrations on the ancient painting network, pictures of movies, pictures of goods online and even descriptions in books. When you have a lot of information elements, then the really interesting part starts. You can put all these different elements together and eventually you can design multiple designs based on the identity of the owner of the kettle and the environment. Each object becomes its own character, and that’s when the creativity of animation really shines,” he said.

This determination and talent is exemplified time and time again throughout Tang’s career. Last year, he had great success with many projects in China, from promotional campaigns to informational material. Early in 2018, he began working on Completion of the Compilation of the Chinese Dictionary for Baidu, the popular Chinese search engine. Tang’s work was similar to the Google Doodle, and was seen by millions.

The dictionary was compiled by more than 300 experts and scholars from Sichuan and Hubei provinces on March 9, 1968. The list includes about 56,000 words. It is the largest Chinese dictionary in the world with the largest collection of Chinese words and the most complete definitions. It is a large-scale Chinese special reference book for the purpose of explaining the shape, sound and meaning of Chinese characters. Tang took on the role of characters, props and environment designer. With the compilation of more and more materials, it gradually formed a huge Chinese dictionary, and the dictionary closed after it formed. Bai and Baidu were finally written in the data card.

In the Spring of 2018, Tang also had the honor of working with the China Academy of Space Technology on a 2D animation project. The video created shows the ancient beacon fire that was used to transmit information, and then the wild goose satellite appeared to complete the transformation of modern social satellite information transmission. This is followed by a demonstration of the practical application of the constellation of subsequent satellites in human society. Hundreds of them circle the earth and connect with each other, all of them reflecting the theme of “satellite application, light up life!”

Tang took on the visual design of the video. He used the planar design, because the proportion of the chopping screen is special. In order to make better use of the advantage of the ultra-wide screen, he used large scenes in the design to better show the world, the ocean and the universe.

Undoubtedly, Tang has had a formidable career in animation, and has no plans on slowing down. It was not always an easy road to get to where he is now, with times of self-doubt and the struggle to create. He is so glad he persisted and never gave up, and he encourages all those looking to follow in his footsteps to do the same.

“Having personality and style is a good skill. In this industry, having good painting skills and understanding more diverse painting styles is a foundation. Don’t be afraid to learn other people’s styles and don’t linger in your own safe zone. Challenge yourself so that you can bring yourself more surprises,” he advised.

Zekun Mao talks importance of editing and new film ‘And The Dream That Mattered’

Beginning her career working on documentaries, Zekun Mao knows the power of editing in terms of filmmaking. Simply changing the order of a couple of shots can create a huge difference. Editing, therefore, is very crucial, and the final step in the storytelling process. A good editor can lift the story, not only telling the story itself, but also creating this beautiful flow for the audience. A good editor can not only tell the most powerful story, but also bring the entire audience into the film, letting them experience the story by themselves. An editor, according to Mao, can not only guide audiences’ eyes, but also their hearts.

The Chinese native is now an internationally sought-after editor, having worked on several critically acclaimed films, including Our Way HomeJie Jie, and Janek/Bastard. She always aims to be storyteller first, editor second, and this commitment to her craft is evident in all of her work.

One of Mao’s more recent films, And The Dream That Mattered, once again impressed audiences and critics alike. It follows an ambitious Asian actor who’s well on his way to Hollywood success when he returns home to Korea and soon discovers that even while reconnecting with family and loved ones, his creative journey ahead is even more lonely and difficult than he could have ever imagined.

“The ideas shown in the film are very contemporary and universal. They speak to a lot of young artists today, and the struggles they face in the modern world. I hope that by watching this, such people can find answers through their own interpretations of the film. I also hope it can encourage a lot of young artists today to pursue their dreams no matter what comes in their way. The film shows that even after a struggle, hard work eventually pays off,” said Mao.

Mao feels that the story, although it is about an actor, can apply to all artists. As an editor, she related to the story and the struggles the character goes through. She hopes many young people can feel something and know they aren’t alone when they watch the film.

Working on And The Dream That Mattered was an incredible experience for Mao. The film was shot without a typical script, in the style of a documentary, a genre she is extremely adept in. Her first step was to categorize the footage according to the emotions portrayed in it. Thereafter, she started building the narrative based on the ebb and flow of emotions in the footage. In doing so, Mao realized the film could play out like reading a book, and she decided to give each story segment a chapter name, summing up the main theme in each story.

“This project gave me a lot of creative freedom. Coming from a documentary background, the shooting style and the structure was very familiar to me. I enjoyed having nearly complete freedom in shaping the story according to what emotions I sensed throughout the footage. Because of this, I myself started reflecting on a lot of the questions that were posed in the characters’ lives. It felt not only like an editing process, but a life journey,” she said.

Mao lent a unique perspective to the narrative. The director and the actor both had their own ideas of what emotions they would emphasize in the film. Mao was able to filter through a lot of ideas from many team members and eventually put together a version that combined the best of everyone’s ideas, including her own. While working on the editing process, she suggested that the lead actor write letters to various important people in his life. These letters ended up being used as voice-overs throughout the film, which tied the film together.

And The Dream That Mattered has yet to make its way to film festivals, but it already took home the Best Independent Film Award at the Korean Cultural Academy Awards. Mao could not be more thrilled by the success the film has seen thus far. It has a lot of experimental elements to it, and it’s heartening for the editor to see such experimentation being appreciated.

“I’m happy that the writer, who is also the lead actor in the film, Jongman Kim, is getting the recognition he deserves. As the editor of this film, I’m thrilled that our hard work has the potential to bring about change to people’s lives,” she said.

Undoubtedly, Mao has had quite a career so far, and And The Dream That Matteredis just another example of what a force to be reckoned with she is. For those looking to follow their dreams and take on a career as a film editor, Mao says practice makes perfect.

“It is a hard job. It might seem very easy, just putting things together, but there is a lot more to it than meets the eye. It is an art form. You need to practice a lot. Editing is not just knowing how to use some software. It’s more about telling the stories. I would say be prepared. Be prepared to work very hard and be prepared to be criticized very hard too. Be patient, because it takes a very long time to figure out the best version of the story. Most importantly, be passionate, because it is a very exciting job,” she advised.

Canada’s Helena-Alexis Seymour plays her dream role in Amazon’s hit series

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Helena-Alexis Seymour

Helena-Alexis Seymour grew up on stage, never having an issue with being in the spotlight, literally. Growing up in the small town of Cornwall, Ontario, Canada, Seymour danced, did beauty pageants, and modeled. She loved the way she could express her creativity through such methods of performing. As she grew and started a successful modeling career, she realized another passion: acting. After booking her first commercial at only nine years old, she knew what her calling was.

“The more I acted, the more I realized that the artform was about more than me being creative, it was about how I was able to make the audience feel. Having someone watch your performance and be moved by it because they can relate, it reassures them that they are not alone. We all want to feel like we aren’t alone in this world so to be able to do that for someone makes it all worthwhile,” she said.

Now, millions around the world have seen Seymour in some of their favorite films and television shows. She is known for films like the blockbuster xXx: Return of Xander Cage starring Vin Diesel, as well as the multiple Academy Award winning film Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). The highlight of her esteemed career however, began last year when she was cast in the title role in Amazon’s award-winning original series Chronicles of Jessica Wu.

“Helena is a woman that exudes positive energy, so naturally she brightens up any room she steps in. She’s hardworking, humble, kind and so down to earth, which allowed for us to not only create great moments on camera, but many memorable moments off camera. It was a very rewarding experience and I hope it’s the first project of many that we get to work on together,” said Jasmine Hester, Seymour’s co-star on the show.

Chronicles of Jessica Wu is a story about a young girl on the Autism spectrum who has mastered martial arts. She becomes a Hero in her city and takes down some of the most ruthless villains in Los Angeles. Jessica’s genius ability and martial arts helps her become the most unique and fascinating Superhero of our time. Chronicles of Jessica Wu is a fun, action-packed, and exciting series for the entire family.

“I love how the story showed a strong, bi-racial, woman on the autistic spectrum living a very normal life. She is highly functional and lives quite like everyone else. Bringing awareness to the autism spectrum is something that we all need to experience. Being more inclusive of each other and more loving to each other. Everyone in this world is different and going through something so the more we can open our minds to it, the more compassionate as a whole we become,” said Seymour.

The character of Jessica Wu is driven, focused, ambitious, strong yet quite shy, and vulnerable all at the same time. She is loyal and expects the same loyalty in return. She believes her autism is a strength and uses it to her advantage. She is an intellectual genius and is always two steps ahead in her mind. She uses her amazing mathematical abilities to solve certain issues in her life as well as in her fighting when acting as the superhero named Equation.

“Helena-Alexis is a complete joy to work with. From her dedication, preparation, and delivery performances on and off set, she is the total package. Helena captures the true essence of an individual not defined by any disabilities or anything else. You will surely see how she brings the character Jessica Wu to a full circle of life. Her preparation and dedication to make our show the very best and to reach its maximum potential is truly appreciated. We couldn’t be more pleased and prouder of her work. Seriously, her performance on this show is must see TV,” said Brandon Larkins, Executive Producer.

Stepping into the show during its second season and taking over for the actress that played Jessica Wu in the show’s first season, Seymour had her work cut out for her; she had to honor a character that had already been established in fans’ minds while still making it her own. To do so, she extensively researched autism and what that would mean for her character. She had a great time recreating the character and experiencing life through her eyes. Seymour discovered what Jessica’s values were, what her strengths and weaknesses were, the type of music she listens to, the type of guy she crushes on and even what zodiac sign she was. With all that knowledge, she used it to mold Jessica Wu’s personality, and essentially, her soul.  Luckily, Seymour has a kickboxing/martial arts background, and was able to use those skills when playing Jessica.

I loved everything about working on this. I loved playing a double life as Jessica Wu and Equation,” said Seymour. “I loved working on set with such inspiring and grounded cast and crew members. When you are surrounded by love, light and greatness you naturally will vibrate to that frequency, so I am so grateful that every day was positive and that we were free to create great art together.”

The Chronicles of Jessica Wu is truly fun for the entire family. Seymour is excited by the show’s success already, and for the future seasons to come. She knows the importance of shows like this and is happy to be portraying a such a unique character that the world needs to see.

“This is only the beginning of major change in the television and film industry. We need more ethnic superheroes on the big and small screen. The world is full of different people with different backgrounds. We must continue to open our eyes to them and the gifts that they have to offer not only to this generation but the younger generations to come. It is up to us to show the youth that they matter and that there is someone just like them on the screen who is strong, capable and worthy. Being able to do that for a young child whether with autism or not means that I have done my job,” she concluded.

Be sure to check out the second season of Chronicles of Jessica Wu on Amazon when it is released on April 2nd.