All posts by Lorraine Wilder

Actor Missy Malek Is Equally at Ease on Screen and Stage

Though essentially still in the initial phase of her professional film career, British actor Missy Malek has already distinguished herself as a capable technician and talented artist, one who inhabits each role with a masterly combination of skill and instinct. Whether it’s a gritty drama or action-adventure comedy, she deftly crafts persuasive, tangible characters imbued with the full spectrum of nuance and emotion.

Malek is a natural born performer, one who never doubted the direction of her career path. “From when I was as young as three, I’ve literally always known that I would pursue acting,” Malek said. “It was just always what I was going to do, there was never even any question about it.”

From her youthful start in school plays, Malek was hooked. “I always liked performing and getting attention as a kid,” Malek said with a laugh. “And I started to do it outside school when I was 14—I joined the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain. My parents weren’t really that keen on me getting an agent or being a child actor. I think they realized how serious I was about it when I was 18 and still wanted to act.”

The prestigious National Youth Theatre, whose alumni include the distinguished likes of Ben Kingsley and Daniel Day-Lewis, was a critical proving ground for Malek. Steeped in the almost mystical combination of technique, emotion and stagecraft which British theater is world renown for, the naturally skilled Malek gained an illimitable trove of insight and knowledge. Playing in classic works by Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams and Bertolt Brecht and studying drama and philosophy at Oxford University, Malek plunged headlong in the profession.

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Following that ambitious onstage start Malek immediately began working in feature films, making her debut in the taut urban drama Anti-Social and following that with a role in Now You See Me 2, sequel to the popular same-titled 2013 heist-thriller

“It was really different to anything I’d ever experienced,” Malek said. “I was a teenager and so excited to have my own trailer! I got to do scenes with actors like Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson, whose acting I’ve actually studied. The whole experience was just really fun, as you’d probably imagine for a young actor on their first big film set. The director, Jon M. Chu, was great to work with, he has so much clarity and makes his choices with such conviction. I am so happy for him and everything he’s gone on to achieve.”

Malek made the transition from performing for live audiences to the on-set environment with characteristic verve. “The fact that I’ve been acting in film after being in theatre plays wasn’t a conscious decision,” Malek said. “It just happened to be the case that everything I got booked for was screen work. I will definitely go back to the stage when the opportunity to do a good role comes along.”

The ambitious Malek has a comprehensive grasp on cinematic form, with an acclaimed, award-winning short, Laughing Branches, which she wrote, produced, directed and starred in (earning the IndieFEST Film Awards Award of Excellence for her performance) and she recently completed her third feature assignment

“We just wrapped production on a film called Tala,” Malek said. “It’s a comedy that sort of makes fun of the art world and deals with cultural appropriation in a pretty funny way. I play the title character, a socially awkward artist named Tala who is trying to get in with people in the art world, but she’s seen as racially different by the other characters in the film, so they’re all trying to culturally place her. I can’t really say too much, but it’s very original and unique.”

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With a fast-moving career and steadily rising professional profile, Malek radiates an appealing aura of self-assured enthusiasm, and whether she’s playing in live theater or shooting a movie, it’s clear her greatest achievements are soon to come.

“I love both forms,” Malek said. “What I think is nice about film work is that it’s always there—you have a piece of work you’ve done that you can always show. With stage, it disappears as soon as you’ve done it, but I guess that’s the beauty of it.”

 

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Visual Effects Artist Jie Meng is living his childhood dream

One of Jie Meng’s most distinctive childhood memories is watching The Lord of the Rings movies for the first time. After watching the first film, he was left speechless. Not only were these movies entertaining, but also artistic masterpieces. He began watching the films over and over again, constantly overcome by the magnitude of the stunning visual effects. He realized, even at that young age, that filmmaking could make fantasy a reality, and that was when he knew he had to be a part of that world.

Now, Meng is an in demand Visual Effects Artist. He is known for his work on countless films, including Avengers: Infinity War, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and more. His talents extend to television, such as The Americans, and Freaky Friday, as well as video games, like Quake Champions and Call of Duty: Black Ops III.

“I worked with Jie on Call of Duty: Black Ops IIIand later on Captain America: Civil War.

Jie is a talented FX artist. He strives to create the highest level of quality and is constantly pushing himself to learn new techniques, either independently or from the team around him. He listens to positive feedback and can build FX setups and tools that are used by multiple artists. This makes him extremely productive, a pleasure to work with and I hope to work with him again in the future.” said Peter Claes, FX supervisor and Lead VFX artist at The Mill.

Captain America: Civil War was Meng’s first true taste of movie blockbuster success with his work. The film, the third Captain America movie and the 13thof the Avengers franchise, grossed over $1 billion at the box office. It was nominated for 17 awards at various festivals and award shows and took home five. Meng worked tirelessly to make this a possibility.

“It was a huge pleasure and honor working on this film. The success made me think of those days when I devoted myself to the work, and now I realize that all my efforts paid off,” said Meng.

The movie sees the beloved Captain America pitted against Iron Man due to political differences. A vast array of Avengers appear throughout the film, taking sides. It’s a story about friends and brothers. It’s a debate between freedom and obeying the rules. Meng had always been a fan of the Marvel franchise and the Captain America films, but he knew this film would be something special and that he had to be a part of it.

“After watching the movie, I thought a lot. It actually reflects a lot of problems in our current society, an individual always wants to be free but also needs to follow the laws. I like movies that reflect the social status and will bring up a topic and let me think about it, and Captain America: Civil War is one of them,” said Meng.

When it came to the effects, Meng worked on many shots in several different sequences. His focuses were the roof helicopter fighting sequence and the final battle scene. He finished all different kinds of effects for various sequences, with little touches that dramatically added to the film.

Meng’s main task, however, was developing the Ironman thruster tool in the final combat sequence between Captain America and Ironman, the climax of the film. Therefore, he knew that his role was of the utmost importance for the film’s success. The tool needed to be packed and shared with other artists at both Los Angeles and Vancouver studios to finish every shot that contains Ironman’s thruster. It needed to be designed as a “one-click and automatically build the thruster” tool, but also contains all kinds of functions to modify and art-direct the thruster effects. Meng re-designed the thrusters from Iron Man 3and packed in a whole new digital asset. Every time he modified and polished the tool, he optimized it and made the tool easier to use. In doing this, he gathered the feedback from different artists and made it more and more productive. The whole process of building the tool was a very valuable experience for Meng and bettered the film as a whole.

“Being part of this feature film, witnessing the whole VFX workflow in the post-production made me completely understand that the VFX process is never easy. The most comforting, and also most important part was I have learned a lot from this project about how to build a digital asset tool that can be used in the visual effects production and was inspired by all the VFX artists around me,” he said.

Meng also worked on other different effects like the debris, smoke, sparks, snow, etc. Those photo-realistic effects elements completed the movie sequence and created a stronger visual impact on the audience. The experience, overall, was a great honor for the visual effects artist, and he wouldn’t change a thing.

“When I saw the film premiere and my name on the credit list, I was so proud of myself and the whole crew members, and that was the most exciting moment to me for watching all my effort paid off and it was so worth it,” he concluded.

Editor Roma Kong shows of beauty of nail art with iconic Disney characters

Editing, to Roma Kong, is like a simultaneous combination of surgery and magic. When she gets footage, she reviews the script and gets an idea for the direction of the story. That is when she starts cutting, splicing things together, and moving things around, until every part is put together, telling a clear story; that is the surgical aspect. When it comes to the magic, Kong believes that part comes in two ways. The first being that each story must evoke a certain feeling in the viewer, so it’s not only cutting and putting things together, but also adding emotion to it, whether this be through the music, the rhythm, the speed of the cuts, etc. The second, more often than not, is transforming the footage that may not tell the story they want and making it what they need, without any reshoots or work from the crew. That is where the real work for a film editor comes into play, and that is when Kong truly shines.

Born and raised in Lima Peru, the in-demand editor has impressed the masses with her work. She often collaborates with renowned production companies like Nickelodeon, with work on their online video series BTS Nickelodeon and Inside Nick, as well as Disney.

With Disney, Kong edited DIY Disney, an online series that allowed audiences around the world to see just what she is capable of. The videos amassed over 11 million views, and featured various crafts that viewers could partake in, offering simple and fun instructions using Disney films and characters. She also created another video titled “Disney California Adventure Food Crawl”, effectively launching the Disney Eats brand. She is quite the formidable editor.

“I would say my style of editing is very fluid, dynamic and fun. As a filmmaker, I strive to entertain the audience, so when I edit, telling a good entertaining story is the priority. I also love for cuts to be seamless, so I pay close attention to movement and try to make really smooth transitions between shots, even when making pop videos. I also work very fast which is something the people I’ve worked with have always appreciated,” said Kong.

Kong has a close working relationship with both Nickelodeon and Disney and is often the companies’ first editing choice when they have an innovative new online project to pursue. In 2017, Kong continued her work with Disney on their TIPS Disney series, featuring different videos showing the intricate work behind nail art, using some of Disney’s most celebrated productions.

“I think these videos really help bring more attention to a form of art many don’t really consider art. They allow the audience to truly appreciate the intricacy of the work these artists do. They give Disney fans great ideas on how to show their love for their favorite characters in very stylish ways, and they inspire other artists to create their own version,” said Kong.

The videos feature many beloved Disney film and television productions, as well as iconic characters. These include High School Musical, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Moana, Coco, Beauty and the Beast, and more. They were published through Disney’s expansive social media platforms, including YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram. Together, they gathered over 7.6 million views.

“Seeing the comments from the audience on the videos and realizing how much they love them is heartwarming. Seeing people post about their own versions of what we showed them, is amazing. Reminds you that you’re not only making things for people to watch and forget about, people actually truly love these movies and characters and love showing their love for them and your video can persuade them to make something that they hadn’t thought about before,” said Kong.

Kong’s talent as an editor is evident in the TIPS Disney videos. She is very good at editing with music beats and for Disney Style, the Digital Brand that Tips Disney falls under. Her colleagues and her audience enjoyed the rhythm Kong put into the videos and how, by doing a very musical type of editing, made them fun and entertaining to watch. Because she has a very good eye for art and style, she knew exactly what the best shots were and what made the art look the most stylish and vibrant it possibly could. She understood the vibe of the brand very quickly and knew exactly what the executives wanted before they even knew themselves.

“I loved watching the intricate process of nail art in such a detailed way. I was constantly mesmerized by how hard it is to do, and I found myself with a lot more respect for nail artists. It’s such a great art and they’re all so talented. And also, being able to play with scenes from some of my favorite movies and use them to create something new was so much fun,” said Kong.

Kong worked on TIPS Disney from October 2017 to December 2017. It was an amazing experience for the editor. The Disney Style brand is her favorite out of all the Disney Digital brands. Making multiple videos for it was a great opportunity. The audience loves their content and as a result, the brand has a lot of engagement, and as an editor, making content that a lot of people would appreciate, and love was something that truly made the experience for Kong. It’s a fun brand to work for and it fits her editing style perfectly.

“Disney is the holy grail of the entertainment industry. Working for them is like hitting the jackpot of companies you can put on your resume. Being able to do that and have a Walt Disney Company ID with your picture on it, walking into the Studios with no problem at all is quite the dream come true,” Kong concluded.

Mark Davis on transformational acting and representing well-known brands

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Mark Davis

Mark Davis describes his style of acting as transformational. To him, there is no specific way to perfect his craft; it is simply about becoming an entirely different person the moment the camera is on him. He does whatever instinctually feels right, and as a sought-after actor in both his home country of Australia and abroad, he is definitely doing something right.

“I’m blessed with an ability to adapt my physicality and appearance to suit what I need. Though sometimes I just copy the greats. Steal everything,” he joked.

Film is a way for Davis to express himself, and as many of his projects have gone on to critical acclaim around the world at some of the world’s most prestigious film festivals, he knows how to connect with an audience. Whether working on dramas like I Want You, romance’s such as Lucy, or comedies like Topdecked, the actor’s versatility shines whatever the genre.

Australians would also immediately recognize Davis’ face from several national commercials for well-known brands, including a three-year long campaign for Honda. At the time, it was his first commercial, and he remembers the audition well.

“I walked in and pretended to talk to my girlfriend whilst driving a nice car and that was it. My mate ended up marrying the girl who played my girlfriend in it which is pretty funny. We joke that we had a relationship prior to them meeting,” said Davis.

Soon after, Davis once again graced small screens around his home country in a commercial for Crownbet, one of Australia’s largest sports-betting companies. In the advertisement, he played a young, wealthy gambler in a suit having a great time. He was the main character with a bunch of friends on a rat pack style night out. It showed a high end look at what a night out at Crown could be like, with an amazing hotel, beautiful scenery and lots of fun. However, it was shot entirely in front of a green screen, so Davis had to truly be in character and not pull from his surroundings to portray a believable performance. The commercial played during the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival, which screens nationwide and gets millions of viewers.

“Crown is a huge company in Australia and it had a big budget to match. It was over the top and I knew it would be a good laugh,” said Davis. “Crown is a Melbourne icon and I love my city, so it was cool to work with the brand.”

Another unique commercial experience for Davis was when he shot a spot for Interflora, the international flower delivery service. In the Valentine’s Day campaign, one of the most important for the retailer, Davis played a teen, a mid-twenty-year-old, and a forty-year-old, putting up a fun acting challenge to quickly transition between such different age groups. He also had to manufacture a loving relationship with his co-star that showed them through the ages. At first, he was a cheeky teenager trying to steal a kiss, then a young dad, and finally a middle-aged man giving his wife flowers. He also had to dance, and having never taken dance lessons before, he let his natural abilities shine.

“This was a great commercial to shoot. It had amazing art direction that you can expect from a flower retailer, with lots of color and beautiful locations. It’s also a quintessential romance and Valentine’s Day story. I’m not sappy, but it did have a nice sweetness to it and romance is kind of cool. It’s great because my mom loves it,” he laughed.

So, what’s next for this industry leading actor? His latest film, Fallen, comes out later this year. The WWI period drama is some of Davis’ best work and can’t be missed. Be sure to check it out.

Colorist Cynthia Chen shows emotion behind Sichuan Opera masks in award-winning film

When Cynthia Chen was a little girl growing up in China, she was always inspired by her mother. She was an art teacher, and a young Chen therefore began painting from a young age. She was always sensitive about the different colors she used and playing around with color always amused her. As she grew, this fascination only intensified, and she found it impacting her hobbies. She began to have an interest in photography just to play around with the photos while editing, changing the colors and enhancing them to create a captivating piece of art. When she began filmmaking, she realized how impactful color is to every shot in a piece, conveying emotions and acting as another way to tell a story. It can impact film styles, she realized, and when she already had an interest in editing films, she realized that being a colorist would allow her to explore this interest she had from childhood and turn it into a fruitful career.

Chen is both a highly successful editor and colorist. Her passion for what she does is unwavering, her talent unparalleled. Every project she has been a part of, including I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone, OffsprungSlingshot Prince, and The Last Page, have gone on to critical acclaim at many of the world’s most prestigious film festivals thanks to Chen’s efforts.

“Just like editing has a rhythm to tell a story, the color, as another method to express the emotions, also can have a “rhythm” when it comes to contributing to create a film. I believe a film masterpiece must be treated and polished as a great art piece. Color grading enhances the texture of a film picture which makes it become a completed art piece. Every time I finish the color grading works, the group of filmmakers I am working with are always shocked after seeing the before and after pictures. That is my proudest moment. The whole color grading process makes me believe that my talent brings this film into a higher level,” she said.

One of Chen’s greatest successes as a colorist was the film Mask. The animated drama looks into masks in Sichuan opera that are traditionally used to reveal the changes of inner feelings and emotions of the characters participating in the drama. The masks turn abstract emotions and mental states into visible and sensible concrete images, and reveal the feelings of the characters inside the story. By raising the hand, swinging a sleeve or tossing the head, an actor uses different masks to show different emotions, expressing invisible and intangible feelings through visible and tangible masks. Mask, is inspired by Sichuan Opera Face changing. It is a story behind a mysterious mask, which shows different patterns as different lights go through.

The three characters in the film are heroes from different traditional Chinese historical contents. Qingshi Huang, represents as the breadth of vision, is the first king in Qing Dynasty.  Monkey King, one of the most famous and classical characters in Chinese fairy story, the guardians of his master, as the leader protected his group on the West Road, through eighty-one trials and finally reached the goal. Zhuge Liang, the smartest military advisors from three kingdoms era, served for Bei Liu, represents wisdom and loyalty. Those characters are also three heroes in Chen’s heart. For the Chinese native, it was an honor to work on this film that has a deep Chinese culture background.

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According to those three different characters, Chen decided basic color tunes for each one. The king Qingshi Huang has a yellow and green color tune because in Ancient China, yellow means power in social classes. Zhuge Liang, who represents wisdom and loyalty, uses a blue color tune as the main color base. In the color theory, blue connects to calmness and cool emotions. Chen set golden and orange color tune for the brave Monkey King as those colors stand for positive minds, passion and braveness. Therefore, the scenes where those three characters appear, and the weapons on their hands, have the unite color tunes.

As the entire film was CGI, the renders had a strong contrast in colors, which Chen thought looked very digital. To solve this problem, she decreased the contrast of the entire picture, adding some yellow color tune and film grains. She then adjusted each scene for each character, and finally finished the color grading work. She helped to bring the whole picture to a new stylized level.

“This short film had a very large creative space for me to try on the different color palettes and stylize the picture, which made this piece very interesting and fun to work with. The CGI images contain more color information than the images shot by cameras, so there was a lot of space for me to adjust the color for this film,” said Chen.

Mask had a tremendous film festival run with the help of Chen. It was an Official Selection at the New Media Film Festival and the Asian Film Festival of Dallas 2018. It also went on to win the Award of Excellence at both the Best Shorts Competition 2018 and the One-Reeler Short Film Competition 2017. Chen could not be happier about the film’s many accolades.

“It was such an honor to work on this project that explores such an important part of Chinese culture. This is a milestone project in that it was a brand-new experience for me. The success of this film encouraged me to do more color grading work in the future which has more culture background,” she said.

The new works Chen has contributed to, feature film Indivisible and documentary Fantastic Fungi, are expected to be released later this year. Be sure to check them out to witness this colorist’s talent first hand.

Art Director Cagri Kara Mixes Creativity and Ambition for a Winning Formula

The acclaimed Turkish art director Cagri Kara always knew his destiny lay in the arts. As a teenager, Kara wasted no time, successfully creating and selling a variety of progressive, eyecatching web designs before graduating high school. After attaining design degrees at university, the ambitious, driven Kara established himself, in short order, as one of the most skilled art directors in hometown Istanbul, the biggest, most sophisticated metropolis in eastern Europe.

The international entertainment, promotion and design communities are a tight knit pool of craftspeople and Kara’s mastery of the universal language—visuals—and impeccable reputation as a reliable, intuitive and groundbreaking artist quickly spread. Kara’s early formal accolades included numerous high-profile industry awards Crystal Apple Festival of Creativity, Kirmizi Advertising and MIXX Awards and the famed Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity. All of this notably preceded his 2016 arrival in Los Angeles, where Kara’s characteristic professional alacrity found him taking on a spectrum-spanning array of assignments and campaigns for a wide variety of agencies and clients.

One of Kara’s first, key alliances in California was with the prominent Hollywood agency Forbidden Toast, a relationship which served both as proving ground and springboard for his American career.

“I’ve been working with Forbidden Toast since I’ve moved to LA,” Kara said. “It’s a high end creative services company that focuses on entertainment art work for movies and television The company’s owner, Sherry Spencer, hired me as an art director for several projects she was working on.”

It was a significant break for Kara, and also one that demanded he deliver first rate product. “Forbidden Toast has a very high quality work standard and a clear vision for the work they produce,” Kara said. “I very much respect that and enjoy working with the team. And I enjoy the challenges of producing such great work.”

From the start, Kara’s stylish, skillful contributions fit right in.

“My responsibility with Forbidden Toast is overseeing campaigns in post-production, and ensuring the artwork is correctly executed,” he said. “The projects I worked on were highly visible and vital to the success of the films and television shows for which we developed these campaigns, and my work resulted in both increasing the company’s revenue stream and exposure in the market.”

Kara’s mixture of technical skill, instinctive flair for appealing design and comprehensive grasp on the adaptability each visual element must have is a priceless combination.

“Mainly, we do print ads, large outdoor billboards and social media campaigns,” Kara said. ”The platform is not as important as the flexibility of the art work—it needs to be effective and integrated into all types of media, both internet and large scale print campaigns.

Kara’s keen vision has created important advertising campaigns for productions by some of the biggest names in the business—Sony, HBO, Fox, Netflix, Starz, National Geographic and numerous others.

“I worked intensely with Sherry in producing the final art work for the client,” Kara said. “The art gets approved directly by the studios and, often, also by the talent. And they were all very happy with the results.”

Kara’s successful ventures include campaigns for shows with wildly disparate themes and content. He successfully worked a winning campaign for the current season of comic provocateur Bill Maher’s “Real Time” (“The show is very timely and, I feel is very important to the American political climate. It was very special to be a part of the production of the art work for this series. The art went all over the United States and the show was highly rated and successful”) preceded by one completely opposite, 2017’s launch for the National Geographic television series Genius.

“It was very exciting and challenging,” Kara said. “The talent needed to give the impression that we were actually looking at Albert Einstein. Sherry and I worked closely together to produce a successful final product that appeared not only throughout the city but also appeared on the one of the most visible billboards in the city including—the entrance of the Fox studios.”

Whether it’s documentary, fantasy, film, television, album cover art or an international promotion for FIFA giant EA Sports, Kara’s sweeping creative scale, holistic grasp of his field’s requisite elements and most effective practices create the foundational basis upon which Kara’s formidable natural skills excel—and Forbidden Toast continues to reap his bounty.

As company president Sherry Spencer said “I’ve worked closely with Cagri over the last several years—I’ve been impressed by his ability to successfully lead teams of artists and watched his creative skill and impressive talent push my company even further into creative entertainment marketing. “

 

 

Working All the Angles at Eddie’s with Will Shivers

Will is Daren Willis it's a play on words as Will is Daren Willis

(Photos courtesy of Robert Kozak)

It has been said that you are known by the company you keep; this also applies to talent. In the case of Will Shivers and his latest work in the television series Eddie’s, it’s relevant to both. Alex Scrymgeour (writer and executive producer of Eddie’s) met Shivers three decades ago when they were both young lads at a boarding school in Pomfret, Connecticut. While most of their classmates were jocks looking to announce their masculinity, Will and Alex were fixated on humor and entertainment…creating their own that is. Present day finds them both with successful careers in Hollywood and finally working together. Scrymgeour’s latest production is Eddie’s, starring Eddie McGee (CBS’s Big Brother, NCIS: Los Angeles, Mutatnt X), George Wendt (Cheers, Fletch), and Shivers as Daren Willis. Alex openly admits that it was Will’s talent in front of (Shivers is a co-producer and editor of the show) and behind the scenes which assured the writer that he was a key component to its success.

 

When the show’s writer approached Shivers about the role in a family friendly show which takes place in a Bar & Grille in Venice, California…the actor immediately expressed an interest. Will confirms, “I for one am done with everything having to be dark and mean in comedies. At one point Eddie actually says ‘Don’t be a jerk.’ It’s a basic life lesson that is too often overlooked these days. I think people are seeking a refuge from all the grim news and entertainment out there; I know I am. Eddie’s [the program] offers up some dysfunctionally good-hearted people who have each other’s backs. They don’t judge but they also don’t tolerate jerks.”

 

Shivers appears as Daren Willis on the show. Daren is a bit dichotomous, in a pleasing manner. He is a high tech nerd working in AI who’s also very conscious and present, having done a lot of yogic and meditative work. Willis is a socially awkward genius, very self-aware and craving improvement with social interaction. It’s this expertise with complicated things and simultaneous uncomfortablity with simple human interaction which is endearing to Will’s presentation of Willis. Shivers is not unfamiliar with complexity and navigating it. The actor not only stars in Eddie’s but he is also one of the show’s producers and the editor. Appearing on screen while also working in a capacity that necessitates he produce off camera could become problematic for anyone. Co-producing with Eddie’s co-producer and writer David Brzozowski (21 Jump Street, Anamorph) allowed Will to vacillate between his dual roles. He notes, “David is incredible so I never had to worry. I found ways to split my time. The script was so good that I just had to be involved in some way. When Alex wrote a role specifically for me, it makes things more complicated but also more enjoyable for me. I loved development and watching it blossom into something more and more with each draft. And then to show up on the shoot day and actually feel it as it came to life on set as an actor and then to take over as editor? I mean there is nothing more satisfying than being a part of all of those stages of the process.”

 

The tagline to Eddie’s is “Where all are welcome.” While dark humor can most certainly be funny it can also be the path of least resistance. Will Shivers, Alex Scrymgeour, David Brzozowski, director Michael Lange, and everyone involved in Eddie’s aspired to do much more than this. The goal was not to make something easy that would sell but rather to make the best television they could and be motivational in message and comedy, rather than being reactive and following the status quo. Eddie’s is most certainly different and is most certainly full of laughs.

Scrimmy and Will Shivers on set in between takes

(Eddie’s Place creator Alex Scrymgeour and Shivers on the set of Eddie’s Place)

Photographer Hubert Kang combines artistry and storytelling for Metropolis Mall campaign

Hubert Kang Bio Photo by Peter Yang
Hubert Kang, photo by Peter Yang

For Canada’s Hubert Kang, his hobby and his career are the same. Being a professional photographer allows him to do what he is truly passionate about every day. He believes that is the key to driving himself forward, as he never loses interest in his work.

“I like photography as an art form. I also like working with people. Being a professional photographer allows me to work with different projects and different people almost daily. It’s exciting and interesting,” he said.

This attitude has allowed Kang to soar to the forefront of his industry in Canada. His photos have been featured in the Globe and Mail, a leading Canadian newspaper, and his images have helped large brands for campaigns for Fairmont Hotels and Fairmont Royal York, as well as Canadian Tourism.

Kang often shoots advertising campaigns for travel and tourism companies and destinations. He continued this pattern when he created imagery for the last three seasonal campaigns for Metropolis at Metrotown Mall, the largest and most successful mall in the Vancouver Area. His images were used extensively for outdoor billboards, especially in the busiest subway station in Vancouver. They were also used online and in print. The video he directed was used as a spot in cinema as pre-roll advertising before the feature movie.

Traditionally, Metropolis used mostly fashion photography for their campaigns. For their new brand, however, they wanted to take a storytelling approach showing sweet moments in life. Twice Brand therefore reached out to Kang, knowing that he would excel at such a feat. His efforts helped boost customer interaction at the mall.

“I am really proud to see the success of the campaign. Metropolis took a risk to try my photography skills, which is very different from what they usually did in the past. It was great to see that I was able to create these beautiful and effective images to reward the client taking the risk,” he said.

The central theme of the campaign is “life happens here”. Right away in the brainstorming process, Kang and the team at Twice were looking for activities that are photographically compelling and yet at the same time showing enough emotional quality and products so that they could advertise the mall. Kang came up with unique ideas for the Christmas shoot. For example, he shot a group of friends at a dinner party, showcasing all the food, gifts, decorations, cookware, and more that highlighted what could be purchased at the mall. The ad also told a story and evoked an emotional connection that people could resonate with when they looked at it.

“It is very inspiring that I can return to my documentary photography roots and apply it to a commercial project. I was also attracted to the project because of the large print implementation they planned to do with the images. It’s a very photography driven campaign and I was intrigued to lead it,” said Kang.

It was exciting and refreshing for Kang to bring a new photography concept to the largest mall in Vancouver. He and his team elevated the standard of productions for Metropolis. He was a big part of the creative process in coming up with the stories and finding locations. Then when it comes to actually shooting the photos, his approach and thoughtfulness in considering everything from production, art direction, lighting, and model performance led to images that look natural and interesting, and at the same time help Metropolis’ reach out to the targets they want to reach. This is a combination of Kang’s artistic sense and experience in both commercial and documentary photography, exemplifying what a unique skill set he possesses.

“I enjoyed this project for so many reasons, but most of all it was the people I worked with. I have worked with Twice many times throughout my career so there is a lot of trust between us. The creative team at Twice was very collaborative and open to new ideas from all members of the crew. It was a great feeling to work with a group of like minded professionals who are on top of their game in this field. I really like the execution of the project as well. Metropolis took up ads that took over one of the largest subway stations in Vancouver. It was an immersive experience to see these images printed large scale plastered all over the station. With so much advertising moving to digital these days, I really enjoyed seeing the images in print,” he said.

Kang credits his vast success as an advertising photographer to the work he does as a documentary photographer. His eagerness to tell stories for his clients rather than simply taking a photo is what makes him so in demand.

One of Kang’s most heartfelt projects in his career is the work he does in Uganda. He has gone there to document the progress of baseball development in the country, showing how the sport positively impacts the lives of the children in the country. In the future, he would like to extend the project to other sports as well, as he has seen the incredible power it has to positively influence one’s life.

“I have enjoyed teaching quite a bit. I guest lecture in our local colleges from time to time. I like being able to give back to my community since this profession has given me such an incredible life so far. I like spending time in Uganda to teach photography to the local children as I see they enjoy having another way to express themselves and tell their stories,” he said.

Kang also will soon be starting a new photo project on the relationship between people and animal. He is passionate about animal rights and likes to utilize his skills to help promote the causes he cares about. Be sure to keep an eye out for it.

Character Technical Director Qiao Wang brings iconic characters to national Target campaign

It is not often that one individual is both technically and artistically inclined. Such skills normally find themselves separated, considered two different ways of thinking entirely. However, this is not the case for China’s Qiao Wang, where the fusion of both technology and art have led to a dynamic skill set that most do not possess. As a Character Technical Director (Character TD) or Character Effects Artist (CFX), Wang combines his technological way of thinking with his innate artistic talent. Compared to other roles in a CG animated film or a visual effects driven film, a Character TD tends to be both artistic and technical, and most of the time requires more technical knowledge and skill sets than other roles. As Wang was trained in both art and science, he knew those two roles would be a great fit for his career path, and he has dedicated himself to it ever since.

Wang now finds himself as a leader in his industry, having worked on several prolific projects. Whether he is working on films, such as Avengers: Infinity War, music videos, including the hit “Filthy” by Justin Timberlake, or commercials, including a series of recent ads for Lexus, Wang’s talent is evident, using CGI to create extremely realistic looking characters and objects.

“To me, design is to create a better experience or better life for users. The artwork, character animation system or whatever I design, is simply trying to make the users happy, to create the most efficient setup to make their lives easier. I think that’s my design style,” said Wang.

One of Wang’s ongoing professional relationships is with the iconic department store Target. He has worked on many commercials for the company over the past couple of years and enjoys it every time. They were one of the first series of projects that he did at Method Studios and they incorporate many aspects of what he likes about his job. The commercials offered a variety of digital characters, from Marvel superheroes, Lego characters, Trolls, ponies, Barbie dolls, etc. They all have different body types and they all require different rigging and character FX setups.

The challenge was creating such an array of characters, and Wang was eager to develop them.

Last year, Wang worked on the store’s Holiday campaign, including “Together’s The Joy | Target Holiday 2017”, “What Are You Thankful For This Thanksgiving | Target Holiday 2017”, “A Home For The Holidays | Target Holiday 2017”, “Order Pickup | Target Holiday 2017” and “Super Mario Odyssey – Now at Target 2017”. This year, he has worked on two commercials for the company’s “Jurassic World” campaign, “Target 2018 – Giant Steps” and “Target 2018 – Dino Clash”.

“All these spots are all over the internet and TV, and they’ve got millions of views, with very positive reviews. It feels great that consumers love the creative content that we did for our clients. I was so happy reading the reviews on YouTube, kids are very into the toys, cartoon characters, and the short stories. I feel very happy to see all these characters come to life, and I’m very excited about getting ready for the new Target holiday commercials in 2018 and creating more fun characters,” he said.

On every commercial, Wang jumped into production and started creating characters’ rigs including skeleton animation system, cloth and hair/fur simulation effects right away due to the tight schedule and large amount of CG content. He built characters and wrote thousands of lines of code for tons of different types of digital characters, props, vehicles, and massive environments.

Wang was also responsible for cloth and hair/fur simulation, muscle effects along with various other character finishing tasks and shot finishing tasks. He essentially is a groomer for the hair and fur, and characters like Trolls have a lot of hair to be managed. His skills in hair/fur simulation were essential. There was only one groomer in the studio besides Wang, who was quite busy at the time, so he stepped up and helped deliver high quality hair grooming and simulations.

One of Wang’s greatest accomplishments for the Target commercials was the system he developed to create generic rigging templates for Lego characters, Minions, and Barbie doll characters, which he was then able to apply to many other characters that had similar body types. It helped create facial rigs, and lip syncs to improve characters’ facial workflow and performances. The cartoon character facial setup system saved Wang and his team a lot of time, as the old system was broken. Wang’s new system saved the entire production.

“I really like how the commercials merged characters from different worlds, different productions into one story, and made them look like they belonged to the same world. I like to work on different types of characters to face different challenges. I really enjoyed being able to contribute to the character technology pipeline and workflow for the studio. The story and the lines are very entertaining and working on them makes me feel like the holiday season is right around the corner. Even though these are VFX commercial projects, we really treated them as top-notch fully CG animated short films,” he described.

Keep an eye out for the 2018 Target Holiday campaign to see more of Wang’s outstanding work.

 

Photo by Dustin Han