New York’s contemporary dance scene is a fast-moving, kaleidoscopic arena where different genres and disciplines entwine in fascinating new iterations. And at its core are thousands of highly disciplined, fiercely competitive artists whose lives are dedicated to the pursuit of pure creative expression. Prominent among these is performer Shreya Rawat, who has distinguished herself as an emerging force with a singular athletics-informed aesthetic and high-voltage on-stage style.
The New Delhi-born Rawat radiates a warm, appealing confidence, and her exceptional skill as a dancer, singer and actor has allowed her to establish a strong professional reputation in the New York theater community. A performer whose dynamic presence unfailingly commands audience attention, Rawat can currently be seen on an East Coast tour with the acclaimed Gotham Dance Theater Company, and she couldn’t be happier about it.
“What makes Gotham Dance Theater so beautiful is how they don’t claim a single dance style, like a lot of other companies do,” Rawat said. “They are very experimental in the productions and projects they delve into, and it’s a very diverse company, from the members to the performances. I take pride in being a versatile dancer and I find Gotham to be the perfect place for me to embrace that.”
That remarkable versatility is the result of her near lifelong creative pursuit: she began dancing at six and resolved to make performing her career as a teenager. After high school, the ambitious Rawat attended Delhi’s renown DanceworX Performing Arts Academy, mastering ballet, jazz and contemporary dance and became an integral part of the academy’s Senior Repertoire Company. Following graduation, she headed for the United States and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance degree from Point Park University in Pennsylvania. Then, it was on to New York, where she knew exactly which troupe to try out for.
“Gotham’s amazing work is what attracted me in the first place,” Rawat said. “I had them shortlisted when I was first planning on moving to New York, but they weren’t holding any auditions. I was pretty disappointed—but I guess it was meant to be, because a month later they sent out an audition notice, casting for their Spring and Summer Season.”
Rawat did not hesitate.
“The first step in their audition was virtual submissions,” she said. “Next, a select few were invited to an in-person audition and I was blessed to have been among those invited.”
Overseen by Gotham’s founder-director Marc Nunez and esteemed choreographer-dancer Candace Brown, the dancers were given a number tag, followed by company members demonstrating specific passages from the Gotham repertoire, which the competitors performed for the selection panel in successive rounds of auditions. Rawat ably rose to the occasion.
“They made some cuts along the way until the final round,” she said. “A week later I got the acceptance notice!”
Rawat’s exceptional skills and far-reaching capabilities virtually guaranteed such an outcome—on a similar occasion, auditioning as an ensemble dancer for the cabaret revue How I Almost Died at Prom, the show’s writer-producer, on the spot, handed Rawat the starring role.
As an official Gotham Dance Theater company member, Rawat happily fell into her new tribe’s embrace.
“I must say we are all extremely fun and it feels very much like a family,” she said. “Each member is so different and having those varied perspectives really add to what we are trying to achieve as a company.”
“Our current repertoire for the Summer Suite Tour comprises a medley of Lavani [a South Asian music and dance form], Dabke [a Middle Eastern folk style], Salsa and Street Jazz,” she said. “We have weekly rehearsals and extra brush up rehearsals closer to performance dates.”
The performer has a busy schedule at Gotham, with five upcoming dance festival performances scheduled across the city’s boroughs, appearances certain to further bolster her fast-rising professional stature.
“It has been a season of growth for me,” Rawat said. “Challenging myself not only with the versatility of the set but also the physical demands. The fact that I get to now perform with such a reputable dance company at prominent events and locations throughout New York is a dream come true for me.”
As a singer, dancer, an actor on screen and stage, award-winning performer Paris Martino enjoys a diverse artistic diet that includes multiple genres, disciplines and settings. Whether a featured soloist at star-studded galas and fundraisers or as part of an ensemble theater troupe, Paris unfailingly rises to the occasion. Her enthusiasm and wholistic proficiency illuminates every role, but recently she landed a true dream job, playing the female lead in the Weathervane Theater’s production of Tony-winning musical comedy Nice Work if You Can Get It.
“I love musical comedies,” Paris said. “They take us back to the core of musical theatre. While I do love contemporary musicals, every once in a while it’s wonderful to work on a fun, lighthearted musical that provides escapism to your audience.”
Nice Work if You Can Get It certainly delivers that. Set in the Roaring 20s, the fast-moving, boozy romp showcases the timeless songs of George & Ira Gershwin, with 9 of them performed by high-spirited female bootlegger Billie Bendix.
“I played Billie Bendix, the female lead of the show who sings the bulk of the music and had the most scene work,” Paris said. “I prepared for the role by watching many movie musicals of the time. This helped me do research, as well as develop my characterization—it was important to me to move and sound like women of the era did.”
Characteristically, the Canadian-born, Manhattan-based performer not only drew on her formidable natural talent but also the skill and knowledge acquired during the formal training she has pursued since childhood—her mother owned a dance studio where Paris began dancing at age 3! Vocal and acting lessons naturally followed and as a teen she entered the renown regional arts program at Ontario’s Mayfield Secondary School, acting in the school’s theatrical productions while also taking advantage of their dance program.
After graduating, the gifted, ambitious Paris was accepted at the famed Boston Conservatory at Berklee, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Musical Theatre and Dance. Additional intensive studies at the Performing Arts Project and New York City Dance Alliance elevated her creative capacity to an altitude that afforded her some high-profile awards, including a 2014 win in the Ontario Music Festivals Association’s musical theatre division and being named National Triple Threat at 2010’s Onstage New York Talent Competition—fiercely competitive events that saw her best 2000 contestants at the former and 500 others at the latter.
It was the Summer of 2020—the pandemic’s peak—and New Hampshire’s Weathervane Theater was one of a very few venues offering live performances, a fact that made landing the part of Billie was almost as challenging as her award competitions.
“I auditioned approximately four times, first at Weathervane’s initial auditions and then I was called back a few times to be a part of the company for that season,” Paris said. “Once I was accepted, the creative team auditioned us again, by having us read and sing songs from Nice Work. It was only after then that we were cast.”
“Preparing for Billie was difficult as she is not a typical ingenue,” Paris said. “She is a bit of a tomboy which was fun to play but it was also challenging, as I had to find the delicate balance between that boisterous energy and her boy-crazy feminine nature.”
Partly based on the 1926 Gershwin music Oh, Kay, the madcap plot involves a boozy playboy’s wild bachelor party, the problem of where to stash Billie’s 400 cases of smuggled gin and the protagonist’s unlikely romance, put over via the Gershwin’s immortal show tunes.
“I grew up on Gershwin, so I am very familiar with the songs,” Paris said. “I approached the music with that knowledge and cultivated a sound that I believe did the music justice.”
Paris was reliably electrifying in the part, delivering a perfected mix of flapper-era flamboyance, impeccable comic timing and flawlessly expressive vocal delivery. She made it look easy, but the reality was quite different.
“This role was as fruitful as it was anxiety inducing,” Paris said. “Before this, I had never taken on the responsibility that a character like Billie demanded so naturally I was fearful of not rising to the occasion, and even more so as this show was headlining the theatre’s season. The anxiety faded in rehearsal as I found the similarities between myself and the feisty, loud Billie Bendix.”
Nice Work if You Can Get It rates as any performer’s ideal vehicle, smart, sophisticated, hilariously funny and loaded with some of the most gorgeous songs in Broadway’s rich history. Paris savored every moment of the show’s SRO, 4 week run.
“The experience was incredibly rewarding. I gained so much knowledge, the most important being how to lead a show and take care of myself during such an intense process,” Paris said. “Opening night was wonderful. This was definitely a highlight of my career—and I was also thrilled to star in a show that brought so much joy to people during the pandemic.”
Paris’ exceptional mixture of technical skill, emotional authenticity and high voltage creativity enable to her execute characterizations of tremendous nuance and depth, skills she also brings to bear with dazzling facility as an interpreter of the Gershwin’s stunning classics “These are some of the most beautiful love songs ever written,” she said. “I was incredibly lucky to get to perform them in a professional setting rather than in just my shower!”
In a society that maintains a cultural taboo around queer identity and expression, video editor Camila Mejía Duque has chosen to use her platform as an influential filmmaker to create purposeful stories that accurately portray and represent the LGBTQ+ community. Her main objective when working on a film is to tell stories that convey who these people are beyond their sexual orientation—a detail that filmmakers and audiences alike tend to fixate on.
When editing a film, Mejía Duque’s ability to highlight the subtle undertones of a scene helps her bring the director’s vision to life in a way that feels nuanced and true to life.
Over the years Mejía Duque has worked on several award-winning films, such as the 2017 drama “Fragile,” which won Best Indie Film at the 2018 Los Angeles Film Awards, and “The Fat One,” which was an Official Finalist at the 2017 Los Angeles CineFest. Her outstanding work on 2018’s “’64 Koufax” won the Best Editing and Best Film Awards at the 2018 Milledgeville Film Festival and the Best Short Film Award at the Barcelona Planet Festival in 2018, among numerous other awards.
Through her current position with content distribution company Digital Media Rights, Mejía Duque was recruited in 2019 as video editor for QTTV; a digital platform offering an array of cinematic perspectives for the LGBTQ+ community. QTTV’s cutting-edge films explore sensual themes and rousing coming-of-age stories, and are available for streaming via Amazon Prime Video, Samsung TV Plus and Yuyu TV.
“Camila understands what the audience wants and what the team’s goals are very quickly,” says Deli Xu, Director of Digital Media Rights. “Her creativity, enthusiasm, and dedication are qualities hard to find combined in one person, and the value she adds to our team is tremendous.”
With an audience of close to 400,000, QTTV tapped Mejía Duque’s editing expertise to entice their subscribers to stream more of their full-length feature films with seductive previews. Mejía Duque’s tantalizing edits strike a balance between sensual and engaging, showcasing the emotional depth of the films without sacrificing the integrity of the full story.
“I prioritize message over everything, and in an industry that sometimes focuses more on aesthetics, I feel that separates me from other editors,” says Mejía Duque. “I obviously want things to look good, but I will always sacrifice an aesthetically pleasing shot for a stronger performance, or for something that has more meaning.”
QTTV’s 2020 film “Godless” uncovers the sexual tensions and layered emotions between two step brothers, but due to the filial aspect of their connection, their feelings are less than ideal. Given that Mejía Duque’s target audience is mainly homosexual men, she curated an arousing edit which explores the sensitivity of the topic, while providing a sense of appropriation for her viewers.
“I always want to make the film attractive and appealing to viewers,” Mejía Duque explains. “I really wanted to showcase the fact that there’s nothing ‘perverted’ about the relationship.”
Mejía Duque’s strength in capturing the emotional and sexual chemistry between the characters, whilst remaining authentic to the script was the foundation that led to the clip garnering over 4.2 million views on YouTube. “Godless” was also an Official Selection at the 2020 Flickes Rhode Island International Film Festival, and was awarded Festival Favorite at Cinema Diverse: The Palm Springs Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in 2020.
The way Mejía Duque manipulates the rhythm within her videos leads viewers to form an emotional attachment with the storyline. Her diligence in filtering through endless hours of raw footage to find those magical character-defining shots helps to perfectly portray authentic personalities in queer films, which can often be misrepresented by the media.
The flirtatious Danish film “Speed Walking,” released via QTTV in 2020, explores a young teen’s conflicting impulses towards both men and women. Mejía Duque’s carefully curated edits helped to break down social stigmas against nonconformist relationships, and encouraged open conversation between young teens around the world about their right to express their desires freely.
“It was very important to me that the film show how genuinely confused these kids were, and how normal it is to explore romantic and sexual feelings in your adolescence,” explains Mejía Duque.
“Speed Walking,” which has over 3.4 million views on YouTube, reached international acclaim at the Chicago International Film Festival (2020), the Danish Film Awards (2020), and the Bodil Awards in Denmark (2020).
Camila Mejía Duque’s unwavering success in curating sensual content which blurs the lines between gender and sexuality, much like her work with QTTV, has helped people around the world to identify with their own sexual orientation. Through her comprehensive film edits, she continues to defy taboos around queer identity and draw focus to an authentic representation of LGBTQ+ culture in media.
As fans, we are often wowed by the visual stories within our favorite music videos and taken away by the lyrics of our favorite songs, but we rarely consider the foundational work that goes into bringing these creative visions to fruition. Behind each and every chart-topping music video is a director working diligently to illustrate the music with a visual story.
French director Clément Oberto, currently based in L.A., is one of the rare creatives whose vision, drive and talent have led him to become the creative force behind numerous award-winning music videos.
Well known for his passion and clear vision, he has caught the attention of millions of viewers. Over the past 15 years he has directed music videos for internationally acclaimed artists, such as Christina Aguilera, Gary Clark Jr. Zhavia, and John Tejada. Along with stylish music videos for French singer Lou for her track “Dans le bleu du ciel“, which already gained over 5 million YouTube streams, and Canadian pop sensation Anjulie feat. Natalia Lafourcade’s hit “Holy Water”.
One project that really turned the heads of fans and the music industry alike was his remarkable work as the director behind the music video for four-time Grammy Award winning indie artist Gary Clark Jr.’s “Pearl Cadillac”.
The soulful track was taken from Clark’s 2019 album “This Land”, which took home the 2020 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album and reached No. 6 on the Billboard Top 200 chart, making it his third consecutive top 10 album debut.
Clark wrote the track in honour of his mother and the experience of leaving home to embark on his next chapter. In a collaboration that could only be described as ‘serendipitous’, Oberto, who at the time was journaling about his own relationship with his mother, was approached by Warner Record Executive Producer Devin Sarno; who’s known for his work with iconic bands such as Red Hot Chili Peppers, My Chemical Romance and Green Day.
“I was diaring about the way my mom had led her life and how I wanted to make her proud, and within 5 minutes after writing this, Devin reached out with the song; asking if I was interested,” he recalls. “There was no way I wasn’t going to book that job. It was perfect timing.”
Oberto shot the video in classic black and white on 35mm film, creating a nostalgic and overall harmonic sensation to enhance the moving lyrics.
“I wanted to create a metaphorical video that would highlight memories of childhood and the passage towards adulthood while reflecting on the support Gary received from his mom,” he says. “I wanted the video to be like the song, poetic and soft, while also giving justice to that epic guitar solo.”
He used smoke and light to add symbolism to the video, which made it stand out and take home 9 awards at renowned global festivals including Best Music Video at the U.K.’s Ramsgate Film Festival and Best Cinematography at the Black Bird Film Festival in New York.
Along with directing and editing the video, he was also responsible for designing the original concept and storyline, while also building a stellar crew.
“I care to create strong relationships with my team. I surround myself with talent that I admire and I communicate a lot with them to make sure we are all on the same page,” Oberto shares.
“There is nothing better than feeling that everyone gets you, and has your back to make sure your vision comes to life accordingly, or even better than what you imagined. For Pearl Cadillac I proposed the 35mm format and the idea of shooting the car in a studio with plates of the road projected on screens, like they used to do back in the days. This way we’d be able to have Gary laying down on the hood as the car drives by itself, without taking risks for his safety.”
Clark shared in an interview with Billboard that it was his first video in 35mm black and white film and that “Clément was really passionate about telling the story of ‘Pearl Cadillac’.”
Producer Roger Mayer (“Antibirth,” “The Rambler”), who collaborated with Oberto on the videos for both Gary Clark Jr. and Anjulie feat. Natalia Lafourcade, shares that “Clément adds a flair unlike so many of his peers that elevates the project to an art piece… Working with Clément is a dream, he is a confident and determined filmmaker with a clear vision, and is able to communicate that to everyone working on the projects he’s attached to.”
Oberto’s ability to expedite an entire music video in record time and remain in control while bringing the artists’ vision to life are key factors that have led to his remarkable success.
In June 2020, while the world was adjusting to the unexpected global shifts of Covid-19, he directed the stunning music video for five-time Grammy Award winning pop sensation Christina Aguilera’s tracks “Reflection / Loyal Brave True.”
The powerful song was the promotional single for the 2020 live action remake of the classic Walt Disney film “Mulan,” which was noted as Oscar worthy by Rolling Stone Magazine.
Oberto was brought on board, not just for his unique visual identity, but also due to the fact that the entire project needed to be overturned in a matter of days in order to coincide with Aguilera’s highly anticipated live performance on “Good Morning America.”
He was approached by Grammy Award winning video producer Jamie Rabineau, the founder of Lark Creative, who’s best known for producing Kendrick Lamar’s critically acclaimed 2017 music video “Humble.”
“The main challenge was the timing, combined with the Covid safety guidelines. To make sure everything would be safe and ready for us to shoot in a couple of days, and that we’d go over the post production process in a heartbeat,” Oberto shares. “We managed those challenges by working in confidence, hand in hand with my producer Boris Labourguigne at Left. He really made magic happen and got everything working tightly. As for Christina, it was pure bliss. She was very professional and easy to work with.”
Proving that he is a highly adaptable and humble director, Oberto applied a simple yet highly effective approach to the aesthetics of the video, using a few pieces of floating fabric in order to shine a light on Aguilera’s signature vocals.
“I usually create concepts and aesthetics to highlight the artist and the song. We spend a lot of time building sets and working on light, effects, transition, framing… We make sure everything feels magical,” he says. “With this project it was more simple, focused on the performance and not that much on the aesthetic. My job here was more about not trying to add complications by demanding, or wanting too much.”
Reaping over 2.6 million views on YouTube and 5 million viewers on “Good Morning America,” the music video’s end result was flawless, and it once again proved Oberto’s ability to transform an artist’s vision into reality.
His outstanding directorial achievements on both Gary Clark Jr. and Christina Aguilera’s music videos were created with Boris Labourguigne, who is the founder and president of Left Productions, an award winning video production company with offices in Paris, Los Angeles and London.
“Clément is really involved in every project from the creation to the delivery. He’s able to create a really strong relationship with clients, labels, and artists. He puts all his energy and talent to find the best solutions to do the best video possible,” says Labourguigne.
“He’s also super flexible and can work on a large scope of projects. He loves to be challenged, and is always open to discovering new territories, new talents, new brands, new styles. It is very stimulating to collaborate with him.”
In 2018 Oberto was also the leader behind the mysterious music video for American songwriter Zhavia’s debut single “Candlelight,” which is a bluesy R&B ballad about persevering through adversity.
Zhavia, who has over 3.2 million followers on Instagram, had just signed with Columbia Records, one of the most prestigious labels and home for iconic artists such as Beyonce, Adele, John Mayer, Mariah Carey, Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd and Pharrel Williams.
Honoring Zhavia’s artistic mission to motivate her fans to express their emotions while working towards their goals, the video required a thoughtful director who could turn the song into a stunning visual story.
Record producer Jenna Andrews, who’s known for her songwriting collaborations with Lily Allen, Noah Cyrus and BANKS, approached Oberto not only to conceptualize a video that would personify the heartfelt lyrics, but here again to deliver the project in a matter of days.
“We had to pull everything together in a heartbeat. We shot overnight, 3h from LA and created the proxies for the editor in the car on our way back to the city, so we could have our first cut on the exact same day,” he says. “It was an adventure, people at Sony and Columbia were skeptical about us delivering in time, but we did.”
His savvy leadership allowed production to maintain the strict filming schedule, to capture every single shot in record time and to deliver the video only 5 days.
He shares, “That was pretty wild for me. More than anything I’m happy that I was able to be there for Zhavia, to help the team in that crazy tight deadline and to sign her first single’s music video was really rewarding.”
Upon its release, the single became #1 worldwide on iTunes, along with the music video garnering a whopping 32.7 million streams and trending at #5 on YouTube.
Given the incredible demands that came with the active production, Oberto’s expertise in delivering such a brilliant final result was highly commended, not only by the record label’s executive heads, but also across the music industry.
“From the very beginning it was clear that Clément was a true visionary, whose concepts and ideas were incredible… him and his entire team were true magicians from the first meeting to the final product. He went above and beyond to deliver under a very tight deadline from the record label and he didn’t let us down,” says Zhavia’s manager and platinum award-winning artist and producer, Thomas Barsoe. “I hope to continue to work with Clément for years to come and can’t recommend him highly enough.”
Oberto’s proven repertoire of success expands far beyond the director’s chair. His entrepreneurial drive also allowed him to grow within the bustling entertainment industry. In 2020 he launched Creative Film Awards, an LA based music video, short film and fashion film festival that focuses on gathering creatives from all around the world and to create a gateway for promising industry filmmakers to gain recognition.
“The inspiration came while spending years showcasing my films in festivals. I was thinking how I could do things differently by hosting immersive events and promoting the work of the filmmakers through a community behind the festival,” Oberto shares. “I wanted to create a festival that would feel like a label, something filmmakers could feel proud of being part of, and also help them be seen by well established figures of the industry.”
The festival attracted a stellar line up of industry guest judges, including two-time Grammy award winning music video and film director Matthew Cullen, VP Creative Services at Warner Records and MTV Video Music Award winner Devin Sarno, and French actress Loan Chabanol.
With his proven track record of success, it seems like Oberto has no plans to slow down anytime soon, in fact it’s quite the opposite. He is currently working on “Voices,” his first feature film, as well as on “Greenroom” a podcast with record producer Jenna Andrews, which focuses on mental health in the music industry. The podcast features popular music figures such as Tegan and Sara, Upsahl, Rebecca Black, Parson James, Verité, Kiesza and many more.
With all this in mind, it’s fair to say that Clément Oberto is an unstoppable industry force whose diverse talents and relentless desire to bring stories to life will continue to captivate a global audience for a long time to come. So stay tuned.
What have you done in the time since the Covid lockdown started? Did you get into shape, binge watch multiple seasons of a show, become a better cook? For most of the music world which exists upon its interaction with and audience, the world simply stopped in early 2020. Adamant that they would make proper use of this forced pause, the reputable band Herd of Bison has been recording and preparing for the eventual return to performing in front of people. Far from the single-driven ethos so prevalent in the music industry, the band’s upcoming release is a concept album (yes, album!) of songs about how COVID has changed young people’s lives. Comprised of a group of young musicians from across the world, Herd of Bison speaks authentically through this album which is in fact being currently recorded from the group’s members in different locations. It’s hard to think of any music that might more accurately communicate the reality of a young person’s perspective on the once in a generation experience of the past year.
The current record by Herd of Bison is not their first but it definitely signifies a new sound for the band. The group’s 2017 release “Of Course We’ve Heard of Them” is all instrumental. The addition of soloist-vocalist Marisol Echegoyen vastly expands the emotive spectrum of the band. An much-admired singer from Mexico who is deeply rooted in Jazz, Gospel, Latin Pop, Salsa, Rock, Musical Theatre, Mexican Folk, and Country, Echegoyen brings an influx of styles for this already highly experimental Prog-Rock band. Producer/composer/drummer Ben Lokuta, along with Nirupam Pratapgiri (guitar), Drae Dunning (rhythm guitar), William Bartholomew (guitar), and Sean Horvath (bass), approached the singer having been impressed by her abilities and international acclaim. Because the band has such an expansive palette of influences, Marisol’s ability to adapt to any genre made her the ideal vocalist for the music of Herd of Bison.
It’s been noted often that the musicians of the Covid era, especially the younger ones, will have a wealth of emotions and insight to relate in what they create. As a vocalist, Marisol Echegoyen feels the responsibility and opportunity that her talent has placed her within. She relates, “The most important thing for me when singing is to tell a story and connect with listeners emotionally. In Herd of Bison, I want to tell the story of how COVID changed young people’s lives like mine. Every note that I sing will be to interpret that. The album is about the toll COVID took over our social life, mental health, family relationships, freedom, and sense of time passing by. When Covid happened, it seemed as if everyone’s lives stopped. At first, I felt scared because I did not know what was going to happen with me as a performer. Places closed and suddenly there wasn’t anywhere to perform. There were no gigs. I didn’t know when the pandemic would end. Foolishly expected it to last only a few months, I remained hopeful and excited for things to get back to normal. At the same time, it was mostly bad news in the media all about covid, deaths, police brutality, riots, impeachments, furloughs, unemployment…. It was emotionally draining. Home was my safe space before the pandemic started, after that it was my jail.” Remove the word “Covid” and these statements sound like they originated with the great music artists of the 60’s. It seems intuitive that today’s artists like Marisol and her band find themselves engulfed in a torrent of emotional experiences that are unique to any time in the past century.
Like so many of us, Marisol Echegoyen looks forward to a return to a world of public gatherings that include concerts and other entertainment events. In addition to her work with Herd of Bison, Marisol is preparing for collaborations with Film Composer Daniele Truocchio (winner of the Best Soundtrack Award at the Valle d’Itria Film Festival as well as his work for TV series on CW, CBS, Warner Horizon Television, the History Channel, Warner Bros, and TNT) as well as her friend RnB/Pop singer/dancer Amber Olivia Kiner known for her appearance at the BET Stellar Awards with gospel-recording artist Earnest Pugh and at sold-out shows with superstar Beyonce’s Original All-Female Band.
A sit-down editorial profile of Australian actor Grant Lyndon reveals many things for our readers. In this story, sit back, relax and get an insight into the core of what motivates an acclaimed artist and family man.
Being able to effortlessly move between accents – American & British being his most called upon – award-winning Australian actor Grant Lyndon finds this opens up a wide range of opportunities to be the voice of many iconic brands, in addition to the father’s glittering on-screen career.
With a newly achieved award under his belt, Grant is quickly standing out more and more by the minute. The Aussie favourite was recently awarded a ‘Best Actor’ prize by the Grand Jury at the New York International Film Awards.
While this may have been for his on-screen work, Grant’s equally known as being the voice of a number of high-rating TV series, ensuring Australians viewers are very familiar with Lyndon’s talents.
It’s apparent to anyone watching the series Aussie Lobster Men that the whole tone and feel of the show would be far less ‘Aussie’ without Lyndon’s distinct narration.
With M&C Saatchi, Grant voiced a whole summer of fresh alcohol offers in their national radio campaign. The iconic and international advertising agency network, founded back in 1995, boasts a $200 million valuation and its success is something for which Lyndon continues to benefit. Once he was in with the fold of their ad execs, the work hasn’t stopped.
Suffice to say, he’s left an indelible mark on the portfolio of campaigns produced at M&C Saatchi and undoubtedly played an incredibly important role at the renowned company.
Ultimately, it’s clear that Lyndon has the power to make simple words sound much more meaningful than what’s on the page. There’s a belief & confidence in the messages he voices. This is a very strong card for a brand to play, when both building and maintaining a deep relationship with their audience.
As Lyndon’s colleagues reiterate, the ABC network wouldn’t be what it is, were it not for Lyndon’s contributions over the years – starting all the way back with Rogue Nation. Grant’s role in that series quintessentially encapsulated the great and formative time in Australian history portrayed by the show, and Grant’s role reinforced his reputation as one of the few go-to actors to accurately be able to portray historical figures on screen for iconic Australian historical chapters.
Indeed, Lyndon was irreplaceable in the highly-rating drama, ‘House of Bond’, which aired on Channel Nine.
Grant’s deep connection to the role of Warren Jones (after much personal research) and his ability to display the truth of the way that he sees the world thoroughly upheld the artistic quality of Channel Nine’s acclaimed mini series.
This approach to work allows Grant to connect his acting to his real-life as well. He devotedly helps train beginner actors to reach their career potential.
When Grant is not playing roles on screen, his belonging to the top-tier of the industry is reflected in regular invitations to run voice-over masterclass final year actors at NIDA, one of the world’s leading drama schools (and where Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett also attended).
Lyndon’s also a VIP guest speaker at the International Screen Academy for graduates in getting industry ready, and a guest teacher at Toni Higginbothom casting.
Although Grant is inspired by many different facets in his life, the main motivator, as he says are his children. Such is reflected in how he dives deeper into fatherhood with his podcast ‘BusyDads’, where he explains how being a parent wholeheartedly is the center of his life.
“I’m super excited about what’s ahead for me. I’m at a stage of my life where I’m more comfortable in my skin than I’ve ever been, and most importantly, my family backs me 100%.”
Lyndon elaborates on the current industry landscape, as it recovers from COVID-19.
“There are so many great opportunities to play roles that are outside of the safe casting choices of the traditional media platforms. The diversity in storytelling that the streaming services allow for, really lights me up inside. Actors now have the opportunity to play characters outside of the known, and are collaborating to create and tell stories that are literally changing the world.”
The camera is mighty! Able to sway the masses or speak to an individual’s innermost thoughts, film has altered the human mind in relation to all things. There’s nothing grandiose about this statement. The emotional power of the camera to move us is proven by the still and moving images embraced collectively by us all as a species. Italian cinematographer Vittoria Campaner recognized the magic of moving images early on and has committed her life to channeling it in order to relay messages of importance and inspiration to enlightened audiences. Her wielding this skill so masterfully has enabled her directors/collaborators to materialize the impactful messages to which all storytellers aspire. While still exhibiting her own proficiency and artistry, Campaner uses her visual sense to amplify the voice of the story. “The films I shoot are rarely conventional in their design,” proclaims Vittoria, who is known for her affinity for the long take and inclination to risk taking. “The directors I collaborate with,” she continues, “know this early. Ultimately, I believe that a DP must adapt in service to the story. The director’s vision must become my bible before I bring in my beliefs and thoughts. My work alters and mutates with each collaboration. Thus, my style can be present but should not dominate.”
Director Liang Zhao wanted to create a film as a love letter to her hometown of Guiyang, China; a film about how people can change in one’s absence. From A Distance shows how those you knew so well can seem unrecognizable and strange upon reintroduction. Understanding that the visual element of this story was demanding, Zhao acquired Campaner as cinematographer for the film. The tale follows a college girl named Yuan Yuan who returns home but, instead of rushing to greet her loved ones, embarks on a spying expedition following a couple and seeking to uncover the secrets they keep from each other. Following the protagonist’s POV closely, the camera indulges playfully in voyeuristic intrigue creating anticipation for a looming surprise. Through Vittoria’s visual contributions, we learn about these characters’ personalities and the connection between them as they engage in their everyday activities. As the DP explains: “We opted to make use of long takes to convey the sense of voyeurism and to play with expectations. What is our protagonist looking for? We also understand the limitations to what a voyeur can see. The camera can only tilt and pan, so vital information may be hidden behind walls. Looking at the neighbourhood from a fixed position, we wanted to make the audience a participant in this young woman’s gaze and to convey the curiosity she feels towards her former community, whom she views without judgment. This POV approach is reversed near the end of the film when Yuan Yuan herself becomes the subject of our gaze.” From A Distance is an Official Selection of this year’s Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, La Guarimba Film Festival, Flicker Rhode Island International Film Festival, and Bogotá Short Film Festival.
With director/actress Fabianne Therese Gstottenmayr, known for her work on the films Playing It Cool (starring People’s Choice Award Winning actor Chris Evans aka Captain America of the Marvel franchise) and John Dies at the End (starring Oscar Nominated Actor Paul Giamatti), Campaner collaborated on the absurdist romantic drama The Ex, currently in post-production. Starring Odessa Young and Monica Lek, The Ex is a near hyperbolic tale of the irresistible pull a former lover can elicit. The chase becomes literal as one woman pursues the other throughout the city. Award winning actress Odessa Young, one of the film’s two leads, espouses the positive benefits of working with a cinematographer of such consummate skill, declaring: “When I met Vitto her reputation as a cinematographer preceded her. She’s as deft and sensitive behind the camera as she is in real life, in her friendships and as a creator. Vitto is down for anything and her energy and dedication are palpable on set. She’s one of those alchemists with light and image who makes a small budget and a crew of friends feel like an affair of the highest caliber. I’d let Vitto film me any day.”
Once the Covid lockdown expires and the film industry resumes, Campaner is already set to take the cinematographer’s chair for a duo of tense yet drastically different feature films. For director Jamil Munoz she will DP Muslimah, a story about an American convert to Islam who falls in love with a Somali cab driver, which results in a complicated and forbidden romance. Bryant Terrell Griffin, well known for his decade-long tenure at Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light and Magic – where he contributed to films by George Lucas, Steven Speilberg, Gore Verbinski, Guillermo Del Toro, and others –, has procured Vittoria as his cinematographer on his Young Kings, which he will direct. Griffin illuminates his reasons for enlisting Campaner as follows: “I’m very visual when it comes to colors, compositions, space, and movement within a frame. Young Kings is an intense character piece in which I want to explore the interiority of the characters. I want to take internal restrained emotions, subtle and complex emotions, and visualize them without dialogue. It’s extremely difficult. That is what Vitto excels at in my opinion. She can take what’s inside and find ways to make it come alive on screen. Not through crazy tricks or camera moves, but subtle changes in POV, camera placement, angles, and lighting. She knows how to capture stillness in a way that is engaging. It’s very, very tough to do.”
For her part, Vittoria Campaner sees the camera as a communicative tool. Having filmed in so many different parts of the world – from China to Italy to Norway and North America –, Vittoria has cultivated her skill to allow the images and perspectives to transcend any spoken language. The filmmakers who seek her out for their productions recognize her ability to create intimate connections between the characters of these stories as well as the audience, often in a surprising manner.
Becoming a successful and sought after audio engineer in the modern film industry requires someone with a meticulous ear for detail, and the ability to balance the mechanical aspects of the production’s music and overall sound, which includes everything from the sound of rain drops to the actors dialogue.
The audio engineer’s role on a film or TV production is vast and varied, with some projects calling them in to specifically edit the score or the project’s dialogue, and others requiring them to oversee the entire body of sound. Being able to not only solve any technical issues concerning the sound, but also being able to think creatively outside of the box while serving the artistic vision of the production is key.
We needn’t look further than audio engineer Mateo Barragan, who served as the score editor on “Deadpool 2,” to see the vast nature of skill that is required for an engineer to become a successful force in the industry. There’s no question that his mastery of recording, mixing and reproducing sound, all while actively listening to what the artist wants and what best fits the production, have made him stand out in a big way.
Mateo says, “To put it simply, my work as an audio engineer could be divided into three different aspects: recording, editing and mixing.”
Throughout his impressive career, Mateo has worked on everything from engineering the audio on voice-overs for video games and multimedia projects to recording Grammy Award winning albums and editing scores for hit TV series and multi-million dollar films.
Over the past few years he’s become known for his work as an audio engineer involved in major films such as the Oscar Award winners “First Man” and “La La Land” starring Ryan Gosling, the 2018 comedy “The Spy Who Dumped Me” with Golden Globe nominee Mila Kunis (“Black Swan”), as well as the BAFTA Award winning video game Life is Strange 2 and Vicente Fernandez’s Grammy Award winning album “Un Azteca En EL Azteca.”
One thing that makes Mateo’s work unique in comparison to most other fields is the degree of difference between his role on one project to the next– which means both his technical knowledge and creative abilities have to be incredibly expansive in order to successfully meet the varying demands of each production.
“I would say that one of my strongest qualities as an engineer is being able to adapt to any of the situations that come in my day to day work. I know there are engineers that focus on one specific type of work and I totally respect that, when I moved to LA I initially just wanted to work in music,” explains Mateo, who has spent the past four years as an audio engineer at Igloo Music Studios.
“Because of the wide range of clients and projects that Igloo Music has, I had to learn from recording a band, editing an orchestra for a movie score to record dialog for an animated series or a video game. Each of these projects have their different workflows but you still need to be able to deliver your best work as an engineer so adapting to all situations is essential.”
Adaptability, drive and passion have all been key to Mateo’s success. In 2016 Mateo landed a key spot as an audio engineer at Igloo Music (“A Star Is Born,” “Mary Poppins Returns”) founded by five-time Grammy Award winning engineer and producer Gustavo Borner.
It was through Igloo that Mateo was tapped to come on board as the score editor of the hit Marvel film “Deadpool 2” starring Golden Globe nominee Ryan Reynolds (“The Proposal”) and Josh Brolin (“Avengers: Endgame”).
As the score editor of “Deadpool 2,” which grossed over $785 million dollars worldwide and took home numerous awards including four Golden Trailer Awards, Mateo played an integral role in ensuring the film’s music seamlessly matched up with the final cut viewed by audiences.
“We recorded a full orchestra, percussion plus a choir,” explains Mateo. “It is important to edit the recorded music of a score because we are looking to obtain the best quality of sound for the music while maintaining the musical performance of the musicians.”
Working with a brilliant score composed by Tyler Bates (“Guardians of the Galaxy,” “John Wick”), it came down to Mateo and the team at Igloo to digitally edit out any background noises while also ensuring the timing of the score matches the necessary parts of the film.
He says, “Regarding timing we have to make sure that the recorded music fits in naturally with all the other elements of the music… [But] it is really important to never ‘over edit’.”
Following the success of his work on “Deadpool 2,” Mateo was called in as the score editor on the Neil Armstrong biopic “First Man” directed by Damien Chazelle (“La La Land,” “Whiplash,” “10 Cloverfield Lane”).
The critically acclaimed masterpiece, which depicted the life story of American astronaut Neil Armstrong and the legendary space mission that led him to become the first man to walk on the moon, led Mateo to once again work alongside score mixer Nicholai Baxter (“Aladdin,” “The Disaster Artist”), whom he worked with on “Deadpool 2.”
“On this specific project my role was very demanding because of the tight deadline we had, we needed to edit everything that was recorded immediately,” explains Mateo.
“To put it in perspective, Nicholai was recording the orchestra at the scoring stage during the day. At night we would receive the recordings, we’d do a backup of the recorded files to our drives and then start editing immediately.”
Mateo’s meticulous attention to detail, dedication, and ability to quickly solve audio problems once again proved to be integral to delivering a seamless edit for the film’s score. In the end, “First Man” was a major hit, with the film taking home an Oscar Award, as well as over 190 other nominations and 31 awards.
“Mateo has been part of Igloo music for almost four years now and he has taken part in several projects during this time. We have worked together on a couple of albums such as ‘Un Azteca En El Azteca’ by Mexican artist Vicente Fernandez, two MTV Unplugged Albums/Dvds, and on several films such as ‘Deadpool 2’ and ‘Hobbs and Shaw’,” says Igloo founder Gustavo Borner.
“He is not only a skilled engineer and knowledgeable on the technical aspects needed for each project, but he is also a very dedicated person and always brings a great attitude to the team which is also a very important aspect of working with people.”
Undoubtedly what has set Mateo apart from others is the knowledge and skill that he has developed over the years which has allowed him to easily transition from one project to another. For example, shortly after working as the score editor on the hit films “Deadpool 2” and “First Man,” he was able to pivot his attention and take on the role as the dialog editor on the animated YouTube original series “Sherwood.”
A refreshing take on the classic tale of Robin Hood created by Diana Manson (“Lucky Break”) and Megan Laughton (“Peter Rabbit”), the series tells the story of 14 year-old Robin and her friends, who embark on an inspiring journey to overcome inequality in a fight for justice.
As the dialog editor of the series Mateo was in charge of making sure the audio was as clear as possible, which meant removing any background or mouth noises from the part of the actors, as well as ensuring that the dialog matched up with the script and the visuals. With millions of views, “Sherwood” was yet another hit program where Mateo’s work as an audio engineer proved invaluable to its success.
“I really enjoy working in voice over projects for series and animations however my passion and love will always be with music,” admits Mateo. “Being in a city like LA gives you the opportunity to meet and collaborate with so many talented musicians, artists and producers.”
With a booming track record of success, Mateo Barragan is a prime example of what it takes to become a powerful force in the industry. At the end of the day, it takes more than just talent to make it as an audio engineer in film and television, it takes the ability to transition between projects and handle various roles with ease, something Mateo has proven time and time again.
British actress Scherrikar Bell’s combination of natural talent, technical skill and intuitive gift for manifesting an emotional reality qualifies her as an extraordinary force. From her 2011 start on stage in London’s West End to her extensive film and television work (credits include roles on BBC’s “EastEnders,” “Famalam,” “Doctors”), Bell unfailingly radiates an engaging quality that profoundly enhances every portrayal.
Her memorable performance as a professional assassin in masked British rapper SL’s “FWA-Boss” music video is a prime example of the inescapable Bell charisma.
With over 100 million streams of his music to date, the enigmatic, teenaged SL is one of UK hip hop’s most important and fastest rising artists, and landing her role in the video (SL’s first single of 2019) was a plum assignment for Bell.
Helmed by the award winning director Myles Whittingham, the deeply cinematic film short showcases the masked rapper’s downbeat, almost nonchalant UK drill sound—a smooth, minimalist mid-tempo style—and Bell’s lead character anchors the video from it’s opening through to its final shot.
As SL’s low key rhymes roll above the track’s glimmering, almost meditative beats, we see Bell donning a nun’s habit, then cut away to an exterior where the Mother Superior calmly approaches an automobile, produces a wicked looking automatic handgun and shoots the vehicle’s occupant at point blank range.
It’s downright startling moment—made all the more so by Bell’s serene demeanor and measured pace—and she draws the viewer in close as we witness a series of similarly deadly encounters.
A subsequent sequence find her clad head to toe in black leather (an updated Emma Peel comes delightfully to mind) and wielding a high powered sniper’s rifle which she uses to coolly dispatch a trio of obvious ne’er do wells before breaking into a lethal Mona Lisa smile and slowly sauntering over to retrieve chrome-plated brief case from one of her victims.
The unforgettable instant when she cracks that malevolent grin is so subtly evil and cold-blooded that it qualifies as an absolutely masterly piece of acting, one that Bell makes look so easy but is, in truth, an example of deep stagecraft.
It’s the ideal set up for the next murderous tableau, a scene straight out of Hitchcock—Bell strolls wordlessly up to an approaching woman, suddenly produces a nasty looking shank from within her sleeve to adroitly deliver a swift shocking stab, another deadly encounter stunning in its almost mechanical precision.
Bell’s comprehensive involvement with the role allows her to inhabit this icy-hearted murderer so convincingly that it made the video a fan favorite, with almost 4.5 million views since its March 2019 release. Intriguingly, the video ends with her appearing in SL’s living room then fades to black with a lingering “To be continued” screen title and an open-ended question as to what she was doing there—reporting to her employer or preparing to dispatch him?
The mood and mystery of the video inspired multiple fan-made reaction videos and cemented SL’s reputation as one of the UK’s fastest rising stars, and there’s no question that Bell (currently featured on the BBC “Teach The Victorians”) and her blood curdling contributions to the video played a significant part in making it such a sensational, feverishly viral internet and commercial success.
It seems Britain’s Ron Carroll has always known what he was destined to do in life. As a child in Liverpool, he used to play newsrooms in his bedroom, obsessed with typewriters and tape recorders. Even at that young age, the idea of being a journalist and creating compelling stories for the world excited him. When he finished university, he never felt lost the way so many do, wondering what their next move was. He knew he was going to be a writer, and quickly got his first job working for a newspaper.
Now, as a showrunner and development producer, Ron’s passion for detailed and accurate storytelling is seen on a grand scale. He traded in a pen and notebook for scripts and sets and has never looked back. Once his career in print journalism had taken off, he began wondering what else he could sink his teeth into. Television became the obvious next step.
The transition started when Ron was working as a senior producer on US talk shows. He went back to work in Britain for a while and got a really interesting opportunity, which came to him the moment he stepped off the plane. Sky TV, one of the UK’s largest networks, was launching a new daytime television show. It was live with phone-ins. They asked Ron to develop the format for the show and produce it, and that really put him on the career path he is on today, an industry leader in his country, developing new formats and launching new TV and Digital projects.
“It may not be everyone’s dream job, but it was one of mine. I loved producing talk shows. I still do, if I get the opportunity. Nothing is better than writing a funny line for the host or having a guest share a story and getting an immediate reaction from a live audience,” said Ron. “I get to meet all kinds of people. I have interviewed A-list celebrities, got to produce shows that make life-changing dreams come true for people, and in some small ways made a difference.”
Audiences all around the world have enjoyed Ron’s shows, whether binge-watching Blown Away on Netflix or waiting each week for the newest episode of Canada’s Next Top Model or Game of Homes. Ron knows how to tell a good story, and his roots in journalism only fuel his passion for reality television.
“When I am developing a new show, whether it’s my own idea or it belongs to a production company that hires me to help bring it to life, I am very guttural about it. Over-thinking can be the curse of death. I have witnessed great show ideas get grinded to a pulp because producers over-think. I always say know what you like and make the shows you love. I like to produce shows that have heart, humor and hope. Shows that genuinely make a difference to people’s lives, which is why producing Undercover Boss was so rewarding. At the end of the day, I am a viewer first and a producer second,” he said.
Ron has developed a “3-H formula” based on his success: Heart, Humor and Hope. These characteristics are always at the forefront of whatever he produces. When he looks back on his career, he has had many highlights, but it is making a real difference through his work that fuels him.
“I was the lead story producer on an ITV show that aired live across Britain on Christmas Day, and I had people in tears on both sides of the camera because of surprise reunions, uniting families across the globe. Well-crafted shows should connect with viewers in real and tangible ways,” he said.
So what’s next for this industry titan? Ron has several new shows that are at various stages of development, including the community-uniting format “The Tree” that he is very excited about. He also has several other shows in the works, in conjunction with collaborators, which include an exciting new design competition format, a reno series, and a fun food competition show. In addition, he has a strong and growing reputation as a content consultant. He is in increasing demand, working with production companies in the US, Canada and the UK, helping trouble-shoot their shows and help devise formats, pilots and presentations for both TV and Digital platforms. For those looking to follow in his footsteps, he offers some wise words:
“It worries me that so many people seem to leave media courses and not know how to apply for a job. That’s a problem and they are being disserviced by colleges and universities. Know what you want and network. That’s code for pick up the phone and write emails to heads of departments. CC-in Human Resources if they have them but don’t rely on HR. Reach out and ask for meetings directly with frontline creatives. You have to be bold and tenacious. It’s a tough business and breaking into it is more competitive than ever. Some people will love you and some people won’t, because they don’t get you. There will be times when doors won’t open and you’ll get career-blocked. But, generally, if you don’t have too big an ego and you are willing to listen and learn and work hard, you will be welcomed with open arms, across all departments. And when you finally get to break into the industry, don’t work for free or at a reduced rate. Know your worth. Every time someone works for free or at a reduced rate, they devalue the industry they want to be part of,” he advised.
Everything you ever wanted to know about Hollywood's who's-who.