All posts by Lorraine Wilder

Producer Jamly Yang shoots in stunning locations for award winning commercial

One of the most life changing events in Jamly Yang’s life occurred when she was only a child and watched a feature film for the first time. She was transfixed by what she saw, not only by the story, but how everything looked so real. She remembers being convinced that the action shots and detailed war scenes were actually happening in front of her eyes and had to be consoled by her mother. After the movie finished, she became obsessed with the idea of one day making films of her own, with impactful stories that could touch audiences.

Now, Yang does just that, as a celebrated producer in her home country and abroad. Working on acclaimed films like Step Out, The Screenwriter in the Restroom, Billy’s Bear, and many more, Yang has combined her passion for storytelling with her determined mindset.

Yang has also worked with internationally recognized brands, such as Nike and Doritos, on many revenue generating commercials. Just last year, she worked on a commercial for Alpha Browser, an interactive mobile browser and all-in-one tool. The commercial is a powerful video that shows how Alpha Browser can help you in your daily life.

“I like how the commercial approaches it’s idea, instead of just introducing the product, which is what most tech companies would do, it shows people’s daily life, making the audience relate to the product,” said Yang.

Shooting the commercial involved a great deal of travelling between locations for the cast and crew, and Yang was in charge of organizing it all. She planned everything, from the hotel booking, to casting, to the budget, and even assisted with shooting when necessary.

“I loved the pretty location we shot in. What is different about commercials from film is the beauty of every frame. We can show a lot of pretty landscapes and use them to draw the audience’s attention. This is great for me because I love to travel, and on commercials you do a lot of it,” she said.

Under Yang’s leadership as the producer, the commercial went on to win several awards, including Best Commercial at the Calcutta International Cult Film Festival in both 2018 and 2019. It was also distributed internationally by ATK technology, directly contributing to sales for the product. Yang could not be prouder of what she and her team achieved, and as a fan of the Alpha Browser, she truly believed in the message she was putting out there.

“I like how it is designed. Every button is very clear and easy to understand. Compared to many of the other major browsers out on the market, Alpha Browser is more personalized. It’s more like your own account rather than just a browser. Whenever you use it, you feel at home, not in the internet ocean,” she said.

Yang has worked incredibly hard to get to where she is today, determined to achieve her childhood dream. Now that she has done so, she says the hard work doesn’t stop, and in order to continue her success, she treats every new project as a learning experience, constantly staying a student in an ever-changing world.

“This is an industry where you can’t expect fast success,” she said. “I guess just like every industry, there is nothing easy, and being passionate is the key. If you are still full of energy and love what you do after a long day, then don’t give up. Go for it and fear nothing.”

Watch the Alpha Browser commercial here.

 

 

Canada’s Evan Marsh goes up North for Netflix’s new hit series

Growing up in Woodstock, Ontario, Evan Marsh often found himself going through the VHS tapes in his father’s music/entertainment store. He would pick multiple movies and go home at night and watch them non-stop, learning them word-for-word. Even at a young age, he had a natural ability to understand people and their emotions, with an innate talent for mimicking voices and characters. Such a combination of skills left only one option for Marsh, and he still to this day felt he was destined to become an actor.

Now, Marsh is an industry-leading actor in Canada, having starred in many of the country’s hit films and television shows that have gone on to great international success. Most recently, audiences all over the world can see him star in DC’s newest blockbuster Shazam! and the critically-acclaimed film Giant Little Ones that is currently in theatres. His resume is filled with similar projects, having starred in the hit comedy The Space Between and the award-winning movie The Journey Is the Destination.

“I have come to learn that I have a very unique style of acting. Most people have their hit, be it ‘serious’ or ‘the villain’, etc. However, I take a lot of pride in saying I don’t have a particular hit. I enjoy surprising an audience by bringing humor to a dark scene or vice-versa. I consider myself skilled at being able to bring multiple ‘hits’ to one role without making it seem tacky or overdone. I believe it is a main reason for my success today,” said Marsh.

Also a star on the small-screen, Marsh has been in many popular television shows, including the CBC’s newest hit, Northern Rescue. After the death of his wife Sarah, John West (William Baldwin) packs up his three children and transports them from their hectic urban life to his small northern hometown to take command of the local search-and-rescue service. Once there, the family struggles with their new surroundings, new friends, and accepting Sarah’s death. The children’s aunt (Kathleen Robertson), helps them and John heal as she copes with the loss of her sister and her desire to have her own family. The series from Don Carmody Television (DCTV) was created by David Cormican, Dwayne Hill and Mark Bacci.

“This story deals with an abrupt death in the West family, which is unfortunately a situation many families find themselves in. It also deals with moving forward and continuing with your life after a bump in the road. I believe a story like that is incredibly important because anyone can find hope in that. There are so many stories about superheroes and wizards, which are great in their own way, but it is nice to have a family-based drama for people to relate to,” said Marsh.

In Northern Rescue, Marsh plays Henry, a charming young man who connects Maddie West, John’s teenage daughter, with her new home of Turtle Bay Island. He immediately sparks an interest in her. He treats her like a princess and wants to be her boyfriend. Throughout the series, he become quite close with her and her family and ultimately plays a major role in the series finale with her and her father John.

Henry takes Maddie from feeling like an outcast to loving the small town, and also acts as the perfect comedic relief for a show that is otherwise dark and dramatic. Every show in this genre needs someone to make you smile and laugh to even out the sadness, and Henry is that guy; Marsh was the perfect actor to play him, ready for the task, knowing he had to be both funny and sincere. In the end, he took the role and soared, completely enchanting audiences with his portrayal and becoming a fan-favorite.

“This show was filmed in Parry Sound, Ontario, which is a beautiful place to live. I was there for the better part of four months and I loved every second of it. It allowed me and the rest of the cast to really feel like we were in the fictional town of ‘Turtle Island Bay’ while living there. Also, the cast and I became closer than I ever have on any other project. We lived in the same house and became like a family,” said Marsh.

Northern Rescue premiered March 1st, 2019 on CBC in Canada and is distributed internationally on Netflix. On top of resonating with fans all over the world, it has received tremendous critical acclaim, being listed as a must-see rising show on TVTIME, among others.

“It is very rewarding knowing Northern Rescue has had such a warm welcome from fans. I think my fellow cast members did such an amazing job with each of their characters and it really shows. The show has so much heart that it isn’t surprising how beautiful and touching the final product ended up being. Here is to seeing more Henry on Northern Rescue down the road,” said Marsh.

Northern Rescue is available on Netflix around the world. Binge-watch the entire first season to get caught up on the drama and check out Marsh’s captivating portrayal of Henry.

 

Actor Kevin Clayette is stuck in a dystopian future in ‘Doktor’

Headshot Kevin Clayette (Photograph -Lauren Orrell)
Kevin Clayette, photo by Lauren Orrell

As a seasoned and celebrated actor, Kevin Clayette still tries to approach his craft, and his life, from the mindset of a child, by always being open to and excited by new experiences, and to love and believe like a kid. With this approach, every time he steps onto a film set, he is excited by the opportunity to play make believe and tell stories. He gets to be that little five-year-old that is always inside of him, not caring what others think and simply enjoying his life. For this New Caledonia native, there is no greater sense of joy.

At only 25, Clayette has already had a formidable career, becoming a recognized leader in Australia’s entertainment industry. Audiences everywhere recognize him from the long running soap opera Neighbours, in which he played fan favorite Dustin Oliver, and in the award-winning feature film Emo the Musical, in which he showed off his versatility as a triple-threat.

Another hit on Clayette’s resume came with the 2015 science fiction horror flick Doktor. Shot at the legendary Fox Studios in Australia where many popular films, including The Matrix, have been filmed, this award-winning film tells the story of an ancient man who is awake during surgery, triggering an hallucination, but also an allusion of a disturbing new reality.

“I liked that even though this story is set in a dystopian world and therefore quite far fetched from our current reality, it deals with themes such as money and power that are very real in our world. By talking about the reality of those issues, of those vices, we allow very important conversations to happen. Projects like these make you think and question our society and yourself. It’s a very interesting topic to reflect on,” said Clayette. “What does money do to you? Would you rather live a happy and fulfilled but short-lived life, or a lonely but long life thanks to money and corruption?”

In Doktor, Clayette plays the lead character of Gulham. In the dystopian world, Gulham is taken from the ones he loves after receiving a mysterious phone call. During that phone call, he made a deal with the devil and agreed to give his life in exchange for his family and loved one’s safety. He is then mistreated and drugged and dragged into a room before the film’s big reveal. Gulham is very ambiguous, but he is a good man, trying to do whatever it takes to save his family and loved ones. He is very brave.

Clayette knew that as the star of the film, he had to put everything he had into creating an authentic and captivating performance. Every morning, he would go through the entire script and storyboard before going on set, and every evening after leaving he would focus on creating the backstory for his character, imagining what he had been through, and then visualise what the next day would look like.

Clayette also had to prepare for his many emotional scenes, needing to portray a devastated character who sacrificed his life and knew he would never see his family again. In another scene, he was dragged down a corridor on a leash like a dog, and he had to show that hopelessness just with facial expressions. Such a challenge was exciting for the actor, who exceeded all expectations.

“Everyone in the crew was absolutely lovely, from the director to the producer to the makeup artists. It was very challenging emotionally on many levels to shoot some of the scenes I had in the movie. I liked having to get in the mindset and shoes of someone that lives a completely different life than the one I have,” he said.

Clayette had to portray a vastly emotional and dynamic performance despite the role being action focused with minimal dialogue. Using only his body language, he put everything he had into the role, creating many intense and dramatic moments in the film that greatly contributed to its later success.

Doktor was screened at many prestigious international festivals around the world. It took home Best Experimental Short Film at the Cutting Edge International Film Festival and was also selected to be showcased within the open competition category of AACTA’s Social Shorts (the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts). Clayette still feels honored by the film’s vast success.

“I’m really proud of this project and the hard work that everyone put in. It’s incredible to know that independent movies with smaller budgets can still have such an impact on our world,” he concluded.

Adam Flipp photographs luxury California fashion brand Johnny Was

Adam Flipp2From the moment Adam Flipp began exploring the art of photography, he found himself enchanted by its limitless possibilities. He knew early on that he was destined to explore a career in the medium and set out to become a still life photographer specializing in advertising. However, with his vast technical knowledge, he soon found himself in the fashion world, and he knew he was meant to become a fashion and portrait photographer.

“I think it was my destiny as my great grandfather owned a large fashion manufacturing business in New Zealand and I realized I had an understanding of fashion as it was in my blood,” he said.

Now, Flipp is a sought-after photographer in his home country of New Zealand and abroad. Millions have seen his work, whether on television with Australia’s Next Top Model, or in print, like in Marie Claire. He has shot for Nike, Canon, Converse, and more, with internationally renowned brands seeking him out for his extraordinary talent.

Across the pond, Flipp has been making quite a name for himself as well, working with well-known American brands, including California fashion company Johnny Was. Johnny Was is luxury boho chic clothing and accessories with vintage inspired style, which Flipp knew would make for a creative and fun project, and it was right in his wheelhouse. The Johnny Was Australian wholesaler reached out to the photographer after seeing work he had done for Grazia, knowing he could turn their campaign into a success.

Just like the universal and timeless appeal of a great song, Johnny Was designs clothes that cross cultures and defy trends. With a bohemian spirit and a true sense of authenticity, they take our inspiration from anything that is beautiful, genuine and special—a striking piece of artwork, the luxurious hand-stitching on a vintage dress or the natural simplicity of a vibrant bougainvillea. Their signature embroideries and effortless silhouettes are unparalleled. After more than 30 years of their artisan-inspired stitch work and luxe fabrications, the undying allure speaks for itself. For the woman looking to showcase her personal style, while appreciating the thoughtful details of timeless techniques. An aesthetic that embraces their California-based lifestyle but always with a global vision. It’s the gorgeous details in life that make it beautiful, and that’s what they strive to create with Johnny Was. Embrace the beauty, look beyond and enjoy the journey.

“The vibe and the clothes are beautiful. Working with brands from America is a dream come true for me as I consider the US to be at the center of the world for professionalism. My aspirations and influences are all based there,” said Flipp.

In 2018, the Jonny Was team traveled to Sydney Australia to shoot two catalogues at iconic locations in the country. Flipp shot the Spring 2018 catalogue on Sydney harbor and famous palm beach area. He shot the Summer 2018 catalogue on Hyams beach south coast NSW, which features some of the whitest sand in the world. These two catalogues were some of Johnny Was’ most successful catalogues to date.

Johnny Was1.2

“It’s fantastic. It is really great to be able to shoot such a successful catalogue to a very established brand,” said Flipp.

Flipp had never worked with the Johnny Was team before shooting that Spring catalogue, so he didn’t know what to expect. He quickly earned their trust, showcasing his extensive experience which proved essential to the job. They shot on ships, with horses, and in mega mansions, all settings he was very familiar with, which ensured a smooth shoot.

Whenever Flipp arrives on a job, he focuses on the energy of the models, making sure they are happy as that is what will come across in the pictures. He was pleased to discover Johnny Was was also all about good energy and he therefore managed to capture that in every shot.

“The team from Johnny Was were amazing. They traveled all the way from the United States, but still managed to keep the energy up the whole trip. They were so professional and a pleasure to work with,” he said.

Stay up-to-date with Flipp’s work by checking out his website.

A Chat with the Stars: Q&A with Colombian Actress Juliana Betancourth

Hailing from the small town of Don Matias, Colombia, Juliana Betancourth dreamed of one day becoming an actress since she was a little girl, and today is one of the country’s most recognizable stars. She has worked alongside renowned talent and greatly contributed to the success of celebrated productions like Therapy and Bite! as well as working with some of the world’s most recognized brands on national commercials, like Walmart.

Extending her talents to music videos, Betancourth knows how to captivate an audience within the few minutes of a song. One of her career highlights was teaming up with hit hip-hop artist Casso Blax on his video “How to Treat a Woman.”

This video was published on platforms such as The Link Up, YouTube and other download platforms. It was presented on musical channels and had a great reception in the European urban genre. After this success, Casso Blax was hired to perform in different places and cities. This song is also found on Spotify and iTunes.

You can watch the video here, and in the meantime, check out the interview below.

TTN: Why did you want to work on this project?

JB: After having worked in television, cinema, theater, and commercials … the only thing I was missing was being in a music video. Maybe because I never wanted to be in one before, I felt it was more modeling work than acting … and wow I was wrong!

When Cris Samuels, the director, looked for me through my agent, he told me about the great reception Casso Blax had in the United Kingdom, and he explained that the message of the video dignified women and love.

I felt that this could be the ideal project for making my first music video. Later I would make two more videos in Los Angeles for other artists.

TTN: How did you become part of it?

JB: Cris researched my career in Colombia and Spain and  knew that I had just arrived to live in London, so he looked for me. In England, there is no strong Latin presence, so they still see women from Latin America as very exotic.

This was precisely the kind of character he wanted to show. Someone who had good chemistry with Casso Blax but who in turn contrasts racially. We had a couple of meetings, he introduced me to the artist, we did camera tests, we went to see him sing live at an event. I met his work team and his followers. They really wanted me in the project and I was convinced that it was the right one for me to break into music videos for the first time.

TTN: What was it like working with Casso Blax?

JB: He is an artist in his genre. He composes the lyrics of his songs, the music, makes live presentations. We had a very professional and respectful deal, he was very praised for the fact that I wanted to work on his music video and that I also like his music.

It was essential that we had trust and respect between the two of us, because as an actress I need those spaces to be able to do my work, especially in sensual or romantic scenes.

Casso is a singer who has had to fight a lot in his life to achieve success, has overcome the barriers of racism and an elitist industry.

TTN: What was it like working on this project?

JB: Due to the previous meetings, there was already a friendly chemistry between all of us, so the shooting day was very simple, Casso and I got in front of the camera, the song started to play and we did what we were feeling.  If I wanted to dance towards him, or embrace him, while he sang or interacted with me, I did so naturally.

The directions of the director were very simple, he did not want to interfere with the organic moment, and wanted the interaction to feel natural. I always avoided accepting sensual woman projects, specifically to avoid stereotypes, but as I said before, their argument convinced me.

TTN: What was your character like?

JB: I was Casso’s official girlfriend in this video, the woman he chooses over all other women, the only one who can seduce him, and with whom he wants to spend his time.

A Latina woman with sensual movements, loving, powerful and fragile at the same time. It was a very organic character, the perfect balance between that seductive woman we all carry inside, and the woman who falls deeply in love with his masculine and protective figure.

TTN: How did your character fit into the story of the video?

JB: The whole song is written around her, that character that should be his queen, who does not have to compete with anyone else for his love. It shows Casso rejecting the seductions of the other women, but not those of my character. He talks about how he should treat her well so that she stays with him all her life.

In addition to acting skills, I had to have skills for a specific dance, sensual, but not vulgar. I needed to know how to express the rhythms of this song with movements.

TTN: What did you like about working on this project?

JB: From the beginning I liked the way Cris approached me, inviting me to meet the artist first, his music, his followers, he was in charge of showing me the music record support that Casso had and the recognition in his industry.

We were a couple with chemistry and my participation could open doors in Latin American countries and Spain. The recording was very easy and quiet, without many shots, everything was very fresh and I felt very comfortable. It’s a song that I liked. The admiration, in this case, is a determining factor for me.

TTN: What do you like about the video itself?

JB: Urban music has been sadly characterized by having misogynist lyrics, in which it is socially accepted to denigrate women or to advocate that men may have several women. This song says the opposite, speaks of monogamy, to value the woman you have, to be a true man. And this is more in alignment with my way of thinking and my values.

For the other two music videos that I have done “Déjame Ayudar” by JC Gonzales and “Si me dejas Ahora” by Fernando Rodríguez, they have been songs that defend the empowerment of women.

TTN: How does it feel knowing the project has been such a success?

JB: Knowing that my image has been going through all these European music platforms is very rewarding, as it is seeing that Casso’s career continued to rise after our video together. I never imagined that participation in a music video could bring me so many other projects. Blax fans, for example, became fans of mine and they now follow my work.

 

Photo by Jhonatan Tabares 

Compositor Ranran Meng takes audiences back to 1970s NYC for HBO’s ‘The Deuce’

For Ranran Meng, compositing is like decorating a building; as the final step of the filmmaking process, her role as a compositor, is to make a scene look complete and beautiful, just as an interior decorator would a room. She makes the footage look the best it can possibly look, ready for audiences all over the world to be taken in by the story, transported to different places and time, and to be purely entertained.

Meng has put her extraordinary touch on many of the world’s most popular recent films and television shows. These include Netflix’s hit rom-com Set it Up, Amazon’s award-winning television series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and the Emmy-nominated film Fahrenheit 451, to name a few. Her talents extend to commercials, collaborating with iconic brands like Microsoft, as well as virtual reality, having worked on the Harry Potter franchise award-winning video game The Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them VR Experience in 2018.

Last year, Meng also worked on the second season of HBO’s Golden Globe nominated series The Deuce, starring James Franco and Maggie Gyllenhaal. Based in 1970s New York, this show gives a raw and gritty portrayal of the prostitution business that was so publicly executed at that time. As a result of police crack-down, the characters are forced to venture towards relatively safer and more discrete forms of the same work.

Meng, already a fan of the show’s first season, was happy to use her talents on such an enticing story, even if it meant she would be exposed to some spoilers.

I have not watched any show talk about the porn industry before, so this was a really unique project to be a part of. The story involves the government and police corruption, the violence of the drug epidemic and the real-estate booms and busts that coincided with the change. It really allows viewers to imagine what 1970s New York City was like,” she said. “I love the old stories and the older looking sets, it’s like seeing something from the past, even if it is not a true story. It gives an idea of what the old society was like, making it real for audiences.”

When working on The Deuce, Meng had a tremendous amount of responsibilities, making sure the VFX would really allow audiences to transport back in time to the 1970s without being noticeable. To do this, she used compositing techniques like 2D tracking, 3D tracking, roto and paint skills. In the original footage, there were modern things in the background that wouldn’t work with the time period, so she used her software to replace this with older images, making every detail work for 70s New York City.

These small details included erasing modern road stripes or signals and replacing them with the older styles, which meant she had to 3D track the scene and simulate a 3D scene of it, and then use paint techniques to paint out a newer, cleaner, no-stripes road image. She would then project the new painted road image on the 3D space and bring in a 2D plate, and then add new render stripes footage. Finally, after bringing back the cars, she used 2D tracking and roto/paint skills to do the motion work and to simulate the exact same traffic lights and shadows to bring them back to the scene. This made the scenes still have the same shooting elements, but with a perfect, older environment. Viewers may not notice things like the road signals in the background of a dramatic scene, but they would notice them if they were modernized, which is why Meng takes such care and pride in her job.

“This project is the story about the 1970s in New York, so it is interesting to make a modern city into an old-time city. I enjoyed the process of seeing how the city changed. It let me know how accurate the scene should be for output, as even a little light sign should be changed back to that period. It really magnified my attention to detail,” said Meng.

Meng’s work allowed The Deuce to be more believable and precise, allowing viewers to have the ideal entertainment experience from the couch of their homes. She used advanced high compositing techniques to achieve photoreal effects, making her indispensable to putting together such a high-end television show.

“I am proud of myself to have been a part of this great project. The post-production did a very good job and presented a real 1970s New York City to the audiences. I had a good experience working with my team and I am very much looking forward to the show’s next season,” she concluded.

The Deuce will return later this year on HBO.

Zichen Tang uses cinematography to show a story, not tell it

The importance of cinematography, says Zichen Tang, a master of his craft, does not lie with whether an image is real or not, but if one can make the audience believe it is real. With this approach, Tang continuously transports audiences to different places and times, immersing his viewers in the world he has created through his work. He likes to express himself through his art, knowing his fans enjoy his individualistic approach.

“Cinematography is sharing your story not by telling it, but showing it,” he said.

Throughout his esteemed career, Tang has proven time and time again why he is a sought-after cinematographer in his home of China and internationally. Whether creating a viral video, like the humorous and enlightening Unspoken Rules of Chinese Gift Giving or an award-winning film such as The Last Lesbian, Tang’s talents are always on display.

Yet another success story for Tang came last year with his award-winning film The Somnium. It is the story of a single mother who can’t recover from the loss of her beloved son and joins a research program to live in a dream state of her memories, while her mom fights with her to keep her in the present reality.

“The story was interesting. When I first read the story, it reminded me of an episode of my favorite show, Black Mirror. I always wanted to make a film like that. I like it because it’s not an ordinary ‘happy ending’ film, but the type of story that makes people think. On the surface, it alarms the potential harm that technology could bring to us, but deep down it was the mom’s choice that caused the tragedy. So, the core is really about humanity,” said Tang.

The Somnium premiered last year at the Los Angeles Independent Film Awards, where Tang was nominated for Best Cinematography. He was awarded Best Cinematography at the Los Angeles Film Awards, where the film also took home Best Director and Best Editing. The film made its way to several more festivals throughout the year, winning more awards and enthralling audiences all over the world with the help of Tang’s work.

“I was thrilled when the awards started to be announced one by one, while at the same time I feel we deserved it. Everyone on this project was talented and worked really hard. They believe in the story,” said Tang.

Tang was asked to come on board by Director Jingyu Liu, who had always wanted to work with the cinematographer after seeing his work. Tang was eager to form a partnership, advising her on her previous film, Shallow Grave, which was nominated for Golden Reel Award. When Liu sent Tang the script, he knew instantly this would be a great project for them to take on together.

“I was thrilled after reading the script. It was still a draft, but I could already tell its potential. The director and I have very similar tastes, so during pre-production, instead of trying to convince each other of things, we were inspiring each other. Often there would be many disagreements between cinematographers and directors, but on this project, we seldom had a disagreement. Instead, we have been focusing on finding better and more creative ways to tell the story, making the process rather delightful,” said Tang.

Making The Somnium was fun and rewarding for Tang. As a cinematographer, he was heavily involved in the script, putting his heart into the project from the very beginning to the very end, going through almost 20 drafts as it changed from the first draft to the final production.

“I was developing the story with the director all the time, and during that process, we had been talking about how we should shoot it as well. Often filmmakers have a problem when they find out something in the script is wonderful in theory but can’t be expressed visually. That was never a problem for this project. I was a visual consultant during script development and made sure this is a story that would be best told in the form of film,” he described.

The Somnium was just one of Tang’s many award-winning projects last year, and he has a lot lined up this year to continue his success and keep showing the world his outstanding talent as a cinematographer. It wasn’t always an easy path to get to where he is today, but he always persevered, and it was well worth it. He knows he will never stop learning new tricks of the trade and is eager for every new project he takes on.

“The best way to make it in cinematography is to learn from others. There’s a saying, ‘good artists copy, but great artists steal.’ It’s not encouraging plagiarism or anything, but saying that we should watch what other artists have done, think why they did it, and learn from them,” he advised.

Art Director Li Li talks living her dream and working with Only in Beverly Hills

10625162_10202971608393258_9079929232043761374_nLi Li spent her teenage years captivated by the popular television series Mad Men. The iconic series, following Don Draper and one of the most prestigious advertising agencies in the world, did not only entertain Li, but inspired her. She wanted to be a part of the same world, working with prolific brands and creating unique advertising content. With a passion for the arts and business savvy, it didn’t take her long to emerge as an in-demand art director in her home country of Taiwan and abroad.

Li spends every day doing what she loves, and that passion translates directly into her work. Award-Winning Jewelry Designer Evelyn Huang has been greatly impressed with Li’s work, bringing her on board to promote both her brands EvelynH Jewelry and Light Legion, seeing tremendous growth from Li’s efforts. She saw similar success working with lifestyle brand Neon Beige and has no plans on slowing down.

“There’s no limitation to how you want to complete a project as an art director, as long as you have a great team and good connections. It is always interesting to work with various talents around you. It is also very rewarding when I can bring the best out of someone and put everything together as a masterpiece,” said Li.

Li currently works with the exclusive brand Only in Beverly Hills. One of the city’s newest boutiques has become the number one spot for gifts that celebrate the inimitable glamour of Beverly Hills.

“I like the idea of celebrating Beverly Hills and especially that the products are not limited to apparel but accessories, home goods, and books. I thought it would be a great opportunity to discover art direction in a different category,” said Li. “I like how the owners are very open to new ideas and are always willing to try something new. The idea of the brand is also original, and I think it’s one of the keys to success of building a business.”

Li took over as Art Director for the store almost a year ago and has a variety of tasks that are essential to its success. She arranges/directs photoshoots for marketing materials and lookbooks, manages the social media and creates original content for the channels, and designs promotional artwork such as posters, store cards, and flyers.

“I love to be included in the design process as well as promotion decisions. The two owners value my marketing ideas and aesthetics. This gives me a lot of opportunities to grow the business,” said Li.

Processed With DarkroomOn top of her everyday responsibilities, Li has found other ways to help the brand grow. She brought in Vogue model Hanna Gebrehiwet to be featured in the promotional material for Only in Beverly Hills. Besides photoshoots, she also brainstorms with the owners each week regarding new promotional ideas.

Li has improved the aesthetic of the brand, allowing the new business to emerge as a Beverly Hills staple. She feels grateful when she sees continued sales increases due to her efforts, her hard work paying off. Most importantly, in her opinion, she builds content for daily posts online.

“When people hear of a brand, they go on its Instagram and scroll through to get an idea of what the brand is about, especially millennials. This is why social media is so important to business nowadays. It can be a good catalogue as well as a bridge between business and consumer,” she concluded.

Go to Li’s website and follow her Instagram @li58li.

Producer/Director Xueou Yu experiments with magical realism in award-winning film

Xueou Yu was just a teenager when her mother bought her a book titled Top 250 IMDb Ranking Films.  At the time, it seemed like a simple gift, but it quickly changed her life forever. She began watching some of the films in the book, and before she knew it, she had watched all 250. After immersing herself in the dynamic artform, Yu became in love with cinema. She could travel to far lands, go back in time, learn about different cultures, all while sitting on her couch.

Now, Yu is a celebrated film director and producer in China and abroad. She is known for her work on films like VincentKa Ka Ka Ka, and Donna, as well as commercials such as Sirui Pocket. She is known for her expertise in her craft, with over 60 thousand followers on social media, who look for her posts providing feedback on current movies and television shows.

“I think film is a tool to expand our lives. To me film can maximize our life experiences. I want to spend my life giving others this kind of experience,” said Yu.

One of Yu’s first tastes of international success came with her dynamic drama Asa Nisi Masa. At the time, she was very drawn to magical realism in film, the mix of surreal and reality greatly attracting her artistic mind. She wondered what she could create with this in mind, and began exploring ideas that would draw people in while also challenging them. That is when Asa Nisi Masa was born.

Asa Nisi Masa follows a man who has never believed in magic, when one day he walks into a bar and finds out the bartender has found his true love by the help of a genie. The genie lives in the men’s bathroom in the bar, and is there to grant wishes. Yu also wrote the script, on top of producing and directing the film. It is a simple and funny story, and she wanted to convey that one never knows what will happen, even if it is something you never thought possible.

When Yu first started working on the film, she had difficulties finding a cast and crew as many were unsure of what they deemed a “weird” story. However, Yu had an important outlook: when making films, if the crew doesn’t believe in what they are creating, they won’t create a work of art. Commitment, she finds, is one of the most important aspects of filmmaking, as it is such a collaborative effort. With that in mind, she worked tirelessly to find the right people who not only could execute her vision, but who believed in it as well, and her hard work paid off.

By Reina Du
Xueou Yu on the set of Asa Nisi Masa, photo by Reina Du

Asa Nisi Masa premiered at the 2017 Blow-Up International Arthouse Film Fest, where it was an Official Selection. From there, it saw great success, and went on to win awards at the International Independent Film Awards and the NYC Indie Film Awards 2017. Such success could never have happened without Yu, who was the driving force of the film.

“I created this project to experiment with the language of film. I think I successfully created a mysteriously odd world. I was able to spread many of my weird thoughts and I had a lot of freedom to really do what I wanted, because I was also producing it. Experimenting is always fun, and even though there are some technical aspects that some would question, I created exactly what I wanted, and it really resonated with audiences. It is a reminder for myself to never stop experimenting,” she said.

At the early stages of pre-production, the most pressing question was asked: how will they show a genie? Was it going to be animated, or an actor in costume? Yu decided on the latter. She thought that by making the genie seem like a regular person, it further portrayed the idea that although the idea was magical, it could happen in the real world, with genies walking among us. To blend the magical aspect, she had two characters sitting at the bar based on a painting by René Magritte, adding that artistic touch for viewers. She truly mixes the surreal and real together to create a unique feeling.

“They call it magic realism, but to me the realism part is always more important because that’s how we live in this world. In this film you still see the realism play a big part,” she said.

Needless to say, Yu is a determined and talented filmmaker. She is a leader and an artist, and knows how to captivate an audience through her work. Asa Nisi Masa is just one example of what she is capable of, and audiences around the world can continue to expect great things from this filmmaker.

She believes her passion is why she has seen the success that she has, and encourages all those looking to follow in her footsteps to truly be in love with filmmaking.

“Don’t go into filmmaking because you think it looks cool or can bring you fame and you make what would please a crowd. Do it because it is what is in your heart and find the subjects you really love and just keep going. Don’t pretend to be the person who you are not, and don’t be ashamed of what you can’t become. Focus more on doing the things that you really love. This is an art, it takes talent and a lot of commitment,” she advised. “If you have both those things, never give up.”

 

Photo by Daren You

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