Category Archives: Actors

“The Way We Get By” Star Francesca Ravera Prepares for NYC Premiere of “Espresso”

Francesca Ravera
Italian Actress Francesca Ravera shot by Mario Buscaglia

Italian actress Francesca Ravera, who has made a huge mark for herself in the U.S. film and theater industry over the past few years, recently brought her talents back to her home country where she wowed audiences with her lead role as Beth in the acclaimed production of “The Way We Get By.” 

After a hugely successful run at the Urban Stages Theater in New York earlier this year, “The Way We Get By” embarked on an Italian summer tour with performances in Milan, Turin and Genoa. 

Written by American playwright Neil LaBute and directed by Kim T. Sharp, “The Way We Get By” revolves around Beth, played by Ravera,and Doug, two young attractive singles who meet at a drunken wedding reception and end up having sex at the apartment Beth shares with her control freak roommate. However, the intimacy that commences between the two is far from organic, and the underlying root of that is one of the main complexities of the story that makes it so intriguing. 

“Beth is a sweet and sensitive girl who has been hurt by fleeting flings with boys who only wanted her for her body. Used to being seen as an object or a trophy, Beth tries to connect with Doug the only way she knows how- through seduction,” explains Ravera. 

“I enjoyed exploring her needs, her desire to connect with Doug and be free to love him. I dug into her dreams, fears and contradictions.” 

After waking Beth up with his insomniac fidgeting, Doug deflects her sexual advances and she reveals that they share a surprising bond from the past. Beyond this startling discovery, we also learn that Beth is dealing, or in the moment, not dealing, with a riddled sexual history where, having been previously objectified by men, she’s learned to rely upon her sexuality as her only way to connect.

“The role [of Beth] called for an actor who could commit to the moment while still having a complicated, conflicting history she needed to access as the action shifted,” explains director Kim T. Sharp. 

A sexy and fast-paced rom com about love, lust and life, there’s no doubt about it, Francesca Ravera was the perfect actress to play the starring role of Beth in the production.

“It was fabulous to see [Francesca] unlock one moment after another as she found the foundation of Beth. When the action shifted and Beth was faced with her past it was both surprising and, yet, understandable. Francesca brought Beth’s two worlds together in a richly satisfying way.”

Francesca Ravera
Actress Francesca Ravera shot by Giada Lefebvre

“The Way We Get By” depended heavily on Ravera, and her performances in both Italy and the U.S. did not disappoint.

“In addition to her talent and commitment, she possessed a presence on stage. ‘Presence’ is an elusive quality that keeps the audience engaged even when the actor is not talking, moving or doing business; the audience is simply drawn to the character,” says Sharp. 

“In my experience as a director, it is a rare and intriguing quality that even very talented actors don’t have access to. Francesca’s presence was an essential part of the success of the project.”

For Ravera, who moved to the States a few years ago, where she has little expectations other than to complete her training and become a better actor, coming back to Italy with the production of “The Way We Get By,” which was performed in English, is like coming full circle.

“When I moved to New York I was focusing on what I had to give and offer, as a person, and as an actor. Little did I know back then that so many offers would come my way here in the U.S.,” admits Francesca. “‘I began feeling, every day, overwhelming gratitude, which translated into an urge to give even more. It was about then that this amazing opportunity opportunity came my way, and I was able to bring my work, and the work of an incredible American Playwright, to Europe, and perform it in its original language.”

In addition to illustrious list of powerful theatrical performances, Ravera has been praised internationally for her film work. She recently took home numerous Awards for Best Actress from the Oniros Film Awards, Care Awards, the Diamond Film Awards, Best Actor Award, Milestone Worldwide Film Festival, Mindfield Film Festival Albuquerque, Five Continents International Film Festival, and Los Angeles Film Awards for her titular role in the dramatic film Claire. 

Actress Francesca Ravera
Actress Francesca Ravera shot by Claudio Catania

Directed by Andrea Silvestro and produced by Adrama, which  Ravera previously worked with on the film Ulysses: A Dark Odyssey, where she shared the screen with four-time Primetime Emmy nominee Danny Glover, Claire tells the story of a young woman who is trying to hold on to a failing relationship despite knowing deep down that her fiance no longer loves her.

Claire screened in July at the at the Venus Italian Film Festival in Las Vegas, where Ravera took home yet another Award for Best Actress, as well as the at the Chain Film Festival last month. 

Up next for the actress is the production of Canadian playwright Lucia Frangione’s “Espresso,” which is slated to run in New York in 2020. 

Earlier this month “Espresso” had its first NYC premiere via a staged reading at Urban Stages Theatre in NYC directed by Kim T. Sharp, who directed Ravera in “The Way We Get By,” where it earned powerful and positive reviews. 

UK media outlet The 730 Review writes, “Clever banter and meticulous metaphors abound in Ms. Frangione’s bold and brilliant script, yet no word ever feels misplaced, forced, or indulgently included for the sake of ostentatiousness. The actors confidently give convincing performances, no matter the role they are playing in any given moment.”

Francesca Ravera
Jesse Koehler & Francesca Ravera in the Staged Reading of “Espresso” by ACV Photography

“Espresso” revolves largely around Ravera’s character Rosa Dolores, a first generation Canadian, and her Italian family. In fact, Ravera takes on three pivotal and starkly different roles in the production, the first as Rosa, the co-narrator of the story and the daughter of the now hospitalized patriarch Vito, her grandmother Nonna, and her stepmother Cinzella. 

Ravera says, “This story is inspired by the playwright’s life, and I could feel this. ‘Espresso’ is a generous and beautifully written gift, filled with humanity and passion. It makes you laugh, and cry, and ache and think, and hope. It’s a blessing for me to have been cast in it.”

Ravera plays opposite Jesse Koehler, who interchangeably takes on the roles of Vito, Jesus and Amante, who serves as both the Holy Spirit and a symbol of Eros.

A passionate story about family values, religion, oppression and transformation centered around three women very different women in need of deep healing, “Espresso” is definitely one production theatre goers won’t want to miss. 

 

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.

Actress Sarah Wessendorf Wows Global Audiences in “Chain Opera”

Sarah Wessendorf
Actress Sarah Wessendorf shot by Lars Gehrlein

Projected in planetariums around the globe, Chain Opera and The New Infinity introduce a new medium to filmmaking that has already begun to impress international audiences.

The film Chain Opera opens in a hospital room, where a woman is faced with an existential crisis after a medical event requires her to reexamine her life. Playing an anthropomorphized role, actor Sarah Wessendorf reveals to the woman that the path she has thus far followed was not really of her own choosing, but instead a construct created by perceived expectations of society, whom Wessendorf’s character personifies. 

What’s even more intriguing than Chain Opera’s storyline, however, is the venue in which it is displayed. Unlike most film viewings, Chain Opera is projected not on a flat screen but instead on the 360-degree panoramic canvas of a planetarium. 

The incorporation of the planetarium as a post-modern theatre is the center point of The New Infinity exhibition, of which Chain Opera is a part. Created as a collaboration between the Berliner Festspiele’s Immersion series and Planetarium Hamburg, The New Infinity exhibition features a variety of films and exhibits from many award-winning producers, artists and directors, all of which are displayed in the planetarium. 

PastedGraphic-2
Still of “Chain Opera”

“Planetariums have been high-tech spaces from their very inception, a sophisticated simulation of artificial worlds…” writes Berliner Festspiele about The New Infinity, “so why not use these institutions for artistic projects? The aim of this new project is not only to democratize the high technology of these places but, as an alternative to the works usually in the program, to invite contemporary artists to develop specific works of art for this ‘new’ medium, which is becoming increasingly accessible in the digital age.” 

The New Infinity debuted in a mobile planetarium designed by Planetarium Hamburg at the Berlin Art Week in late 2018 and was a popular success, attracting more than 23,000 people over the three weeks it was open. 

Since opening, The New Infinity has toured internationally and has received widespread acclaim. It debuted in the US at the Festival of Disruption by David Lynch in Los Angeles in June of 2019 and continues its tour this summer, with future installments scheduled for Hamburg (Aug 13-18), Mariannenplatz (Sept 5-17) and the Berlin Art Festival (Sept 18-Nov. 24). 

Written by Holly Herndon and Matthew Dryhurst and directed by Jos McKain, Chain Opera could not be a more appropriate story for the panoramic setting. Consider the gravity of a character contemplating their life using the planetarium as a medium… How vast that quandary must feel for not only the character, but for every member of the audience in attendance. 

What is even more uncanny is how Chain Opera  parallels the real-life experiences of Wessendorf. Similar to the bedridden character in the film who is forced to confront her mortality, Wessendorf was faced with a similar situation when she was wrongly diagnosed with cancer several years ago. 

S.Wessendorf-52-LarsGehrlein
Actress Sarah Wessendorf shot by Lars Gehrlein

“It rocked my world,” Wessendorf said, “I felt how precious this life is and that every minute doing what I don’t want to is throwing away a chance of experiencing this beautiful gift.” This pivotal experience not only influenced Sarah to pursue acting as a full-time career, it also opened her mind to pursue a wider range of stories and roles.  

Perhaps this open-mindedness was part of what led The New Infinity to Sarah. “I was suggested to the director Jos McKain by another director who had seen my work… Looking back now,” Sarah recounted, “I believe that my path was exactly planned and every experience was meant to be.”

“[Chain Opera] forced me to question my own life… To go against what society and family expects comes with a lot of pain, confusion and anxiety. But when you realize you lose yourself and waste your precious life if you conform, it all becomes worth it. The fight… the struggle to stay true to oneself will always be the right choice in the end.” 

According to Berliner Festspielethe, the second cycle of “The New Infinity” will have its world premiere in August 2019 at Planetarium Hamburg in cooperation with the International Summer Festival Kampnagel. Returning to the Berlin Art Week in September, the new works will again be shown in the Mobile Dome, return to its original location on Berlin’s Mariannenplatz

With The New Infinity series, the Berliner Festspiele aim at making planetariums and their technical knowledge available to all types of artists, including sound artists, musicians, filmmakers, and video game designers who want to explore the immersive genre of full dome projections. 

Extending beyond the medium of the planetarium, Berliner Festspiele is pioneering the development of Virtual Reality (VR) technology. “Besides these full dome productions, we have also been producing films for VR glasses since 2016 to develop artistic works that make it possible to experience the positions of contemporary artists in this young medium.”

The future is here, and art keeps up with the times. The avant garde is introduced by the most forward thinkers, of which the group of people contributing to The New Infinity, Chain Opera,  and the entire Berliner Festspiele Immersion series are. Sarah Wessendorf is no exception, communicating the same ideas both on and off the screen. 

“My personal mission for myself is to show how nothing truly differs between us except our experiences. If you would have experienced what I experienced you would understand and have compassion.” Much like the concept behind The New Infinity, “I love expressing how in the end we are all one.”

 

Actor Tennille Read Shines on “Workin’ Moms”

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

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

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

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

photos by Hamish Birt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

jolie-imta

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

missy-malek-2

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.”

missy-malek-3

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.”

 

Q & A with Actress Sarah Wessendorf from “Chain Opera” and The New Infinity Exhibition

Sarah Wessendorf
Actress Sarah Wessendorf

 

German actress Sarah Wessendorf, who plays a key role in the film Chain Opera, is one of the few actors in the world who can confidently say that one of their films has been broadcast in planetariums around the world.

An amalgamation of a narrated story, choral music, and filmed material, director Jos McKain’s Chain Opera is an innovative blend of a film and a documented performance, and it’s a main feature of The New Infinity exhibition. Debuting in Berlin earlier this year where it drew more than 23,000 visitors, The New Infinity is a planetarium-inspired immersive art experience that utilizes digital audio and visual technology to create a full-dome experience. 

Chain Opera, a major highlight of the exhibition, invites audiences to lay down their traditional assumptions about life – and the movie-going experience – and open their minds to alternative ideas. The film questions the influential power society holds over each and everyone of us, and its far-reaching effects on the decisions and paths we take in life.

We were lucky enough to catch up with Sarah Wessendorf, who’s character in Chain Opera acts as a symbol of society, to interview her about the film. When asked about what drew her to the project, Wessendorf explained, “I was captivated by the topic of how society influences us… which often can prevent us from living out our true passion and our calling in life. If we cannot stop these voices and actually start listening to what is true and what is authentic to us, we might have to come to terms with the fact that we have wasted a big portion of our life either working for someone else’s dream or fulfilling the expectations our parents, neighbours, teachers and society at large… The consequences of this can be far more painful than actually taking the leap and trusting that the universe has got our back.”

Sarah Wessendorf
Actress Sarah Wessendorf

For Wessendorf, the power of the film’s message is deeply personal. Though she grew up performing on stages as an actress, she admits that she was influenced by a slew of external forces, including her family and society, to veer away from her career as an actress and choose something more ‘stable.’ It wasn’t until she was falsely diagnosed with cancer several years ago that she experienced a major wake-up call that life is short and you should do what you love. She’s dedicated her life to her passion and career as an actress ever since, and she’s become quite a successful one at that.

Through the film Chain Opera Wessendorf’s poignant performance has been seen by audiences across the globe as The New Infinity art installation continues to tour internationally. Reinventing the wheel in a way, the exhibition has innovated upon the use of planetariums as a venue for science and education, and turned them into a space for contemporary art; and it is slated to be on view in Wisdome LA’s 360-degree dome theatre next year. 

CW: Hey Sarah, thanks for joining us! Can you start by telling us a little more about The New Infinity exhibition?

SW: The program series is a collaboration between Berliner Festspiele and Planetarium Hamburg. It has and will continue to feature selected filmmakers, visual artists, sound artists and game developers until the conclusion of its cycle in 2020. Some of those featured include David OReilly, Holly Herndon, Mathew Dryhurst and Fatima Al Qadiri. All of the projects are broadcast in a mobile planetarium that is setup in each new location.

New Infinity is a very captivating project. The idea behind it was to connect humans through the ancient form of coming together, looking past ourselves and gazing into the stars. We as humans have done this for centuries, wondering what is out there, who we are beyond this experience. 

New Infinity implies that we, as humans, still crave to look beyond who we are on this world and into the infinite night sky, but have lost touch with this as we have expanded technology and innovation. The goal of the New Infinity project is to combine this ancient longing with modern technology.  

CW: How about the film Chain Opera?

SW: In the film, a woman is stuck in a hospital room at the charité in Berlin. she is pained with agony because she realizes that her life goals weren’t her own, they were dictated by society. All her struggles, all her losses on the way, were in vain. She has to confront the fact that her life in the end was wasted by the expectation that society had of her, one that she happily and readily accepted. Society (which I play) shows her the crushing truth of her life, and leads her into an existential crisis– one where, if she doesn’t completely reinvent herself on her own terms she will be forever lost. 

This all is shown through either monologues or dialogues with my character, Society. It is a very abstract and artistic film… there isn’t a direct moment to moment story line. It is fear, pain and agony expressed in different pictures, frames and situations.

Sarah Wessendorf
Actress Sarah Wessendorf

CW: Did you see Chain Opera in the planetarium? What was that like? 

SW: I saw the film during Berlin’s Art Week in the mobile dome constructed in front of the Bethanien Art Institute, an iconic and breathtaking architectural landmark. Just like the concept behind New Infinity, the planetarium reminds you of gatherings when humans were living in times of simplicity, under the night sky, hearing stories, learning and coming together. The impermanence of the planetarium’s construction gave it the unique feeling of both stability and elusiveness, which could be interpreted as a nod to human existence. 

Bringing the audience of my generation into planetariums is such a wonderful idea! It reanimates places usually geared toward a specific group of people. Watching almost in a laying position gave the whole experience a calm, meditative feeling. It was a completely new way of taking in a film. Because they were in a dome, everybody sat in circles together… so much more connected than in cinema rows. These showings felt very intimate. I felt involved, captivated…  as though the characters surrounded me; I had to look, find, focus on specific parts. It made for an unforgettable experience and it was very inspiring to see the forms of architecture, technology and art come together in that way.  

CW: Chain Opera debuted during the Berlin Art Week. Did you attend, and can you tell us a little more about Berlin Art Week as a whole?  

SW: Since the early 20s, Berlin has been a city for artists. Even now, in certain areas, everyone seems to be creating, planning and being inspired by art. Berlin Art Week is a week in which Berlin showcases all the amazing, modern art that is created in the vibrant city. 

During this festival, artists, museums, buyers, and collectors all come together to connect. Art brings people together, no matter the nationality, religion, or beliefs. If art is not shown to the world, it remains unknown; it is about being seen and experienced! This is why Berlin Art Week is so important.

I was able to attend the festival and see the film debut. It was an amazing experience! I really enjoyed being with my cast members and viewing all the other projects, but also hearing about how our film influenced the thinking and minds of the audience that watched it. 

Sarah Wessendorf
Actress Sarah Wessendorf

CW: How was working with the director Jos McKain as you mentioned you knew each other from before?

SW: Jos McKain, the director, asked if I wanted to become part of Chain Opera. He and I became very close friends and I could not have asked for a better director. Jos comes from a dancing background, which we have in common. To approach filmmaking from this background helps immensely with intensifying the physical expression and aspect. It made for a very powerful combination of monologue and using the body to portray emotions, beliefs and opinions. 

It was a joy working with someone who takes their craft so seriously and is not afraid to take risks. I admired this about Jos very much, and it helped me to give back the same trust and passion while working on the film.

CW: Is there any other story or part of your experience in Chain Opera you’d like to share?

SW: Chain Opera was shot in a historic part of the Charité, the largest university hospital in Europe. The charité is one of the most renowned institutions in Germany, and gave birth to more than half of all German Nobel Prize winners in Medicine and Physiology, including Robert Koch and Paul Ehrlich.

We filmed the majority of the production in an old classroom, with extremely high ceilings and a round shaped room. The room had not been restored; it was almost falling apart but at the same time had kept the essence of years and years of medical teaching and discovery. To shoot the film there felt important and daring at the same time. 

 

Mark Davis on transformational acting and representing well-known brands

HR_2643
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.

Josh Futcher goes dark and withdrawn for captivating performance in new award-winning film

As a child, Australia’s Josh Futcher was extremely shy. He recalls it as “debilitating”, and at the age of eight, his mother put him in acting classes to get him out of his shell. That was when his life changed. He began to fall in love with acting, and when he first performed on stage, the shyness that plagued him all his life melted away. Hearing the audience laugh at his Dracula impression with a Transylvanian accent was cataclysmic for Futcher. He knew even as a child that he was meant to pursue acting for the rest of his life. That was the first time he felt truly seen, and now audiences around the world have seen his work and know his face.

“I come from a low-income household with a single mother. No one in my family has ever been in the entertainment industry. I have built everything I have achieved in my career from hard work and determination. I’ve known this is what I’ve wanted to do since the age of eight and have never looked back or doubted it since. I’ve not had help or handouts, other than the love and support of family and friends,” said Futcher.

Futcher is known for films such as Répetez S’il-Vous-Plait, Wedgetail, From Parts Unknown, and many more. He has graced the small screen many times in hit television shows like Conspiracy 365 and No Pink Cowboys, and his face is instantly recognizable in Australia from the viral campaign for Victoria Tourism “Remote Control Tourist”, winning international awards. There is little doubt as to why he has become such a force to be reckoned with in the Australian entertainment industry.

Earlier this year, one of Futcher’s latest films, Fatal Flame, won the Audience Spotlight Award at The Idyllwild International Festival of Cinema. The film, which premiered in 2017 at the L.A Shorts Awards, where it won Best Film Noir Film, has had a tremendous run at many prestigious international film festivals. It took home the top price at the Women’s Only Entertainment Film Festival 2017 and was a Special Mention for the Award of Merit at the Accolade Global Film Competition in Los Angeles.

“It’s a very rewarding experience to have a project that you had such a strong hand in from start to finish be as successful as it’s been. It’s been received with critical and audience acclaim since its release and I’m incredibly proud of the work,” said Futcher.

Fatal Flame follows Police Detective McDonald, played by Futcher, who is summoned by shady criminal Rico to a vantage point overlooking the wake for gangster Julian Blakley’s recently murdered father. Rico riles McDonald with news that Julian has corrupted his police colleagues; and ordered the death of McDonald’s informant. But McDonald, who suffers from PTSD, isn’t interested until he sees a mysterious beauty provoking a fight with Julian. As Julian tries to escape, McDonald is hot on their trail. But it isn’t Julian who interests him. Instead he pursues the enigmatic woman.

“I loved the fact that this man has gone through so much grief but is motivated to make sure it doesn’t happen to another innocent woman. He sees a woman being mistreated and he knows the man is no good, so he goes to warn her. I think he is a great man, with a care and respect for women. Not just as sexual objects. And in a time when so much harassment of women is being brought to the forefront – I feel this story shows men how a lady should be treated,” said Futcher.

In the film, McDonald suffers from PTSD after seeing his girlfriend murdered in front of him by a gangland boss, who discovered McDonald was undercover and betrayed him. This causes McDonald to be dark, quiet, and withdrawn, but the appeal of a magnetic femme fatale style character quickly peaks his interest. He can save her, like he wished he could have saved his girlfriend. Such a character had great appeal for Futcher, who is known for his improvisation and comedy, and gave him the chance to show off his versatility as an actor. He made McDonald a tortured soul with a dark past, but with a motivation to be better, which in turn made him human and relatable.

“I loved being able to sit in silence on the screen. As actors, we constantly feel we have to do so much to be interesting. It was so freeing to be still and silent and sit in the pain of my character. It taught me a lot about the power of stillness on screen and what it portrays for the viewer,” he described.

McDonald was originally written as a 50-year-old-man. However, after the Director, Janet Dimelow, saw what Futcher was capable of, she decided to re-write her story for Futcher to play the leading role, knowing that he was the actor who could make her film a success. For Futcher, being offered the role so early in the piece allowed him to be a part of the creative process from start to finish. He was able to have input into rewrites, and much of the creative choices for the film. In addition to this, he was appointed casting director early on, and was therefore able to hand pick the cast he wanted to work with. When it came to shooting, he took his producing hat off and focused on the role, giving the best performance he could. Obviously, his efforts paid off.

“I was excited to be the lead actor with of lot of creative sway in the pre-production, and all the way through the process,” said Futcher.

Fatal Flame is now looking into making a feature length film, with Futcher once again as the star. Keep an eye out for it in theatres next year.

 

Photo by Lachian Woods

Maja Lakomy goes on ‘Vacay’ in new film

Poland’s Maja Lakomy is a true storyteller. As an actress, she tells someone’s story in her own interpretation, having respect towards the character and the narrative at the same time. Her goal is to be a part of as many spectacular stories that are written or told by great minds as possible. She aims to both entertain and move as many people as possible, whether they laugh, cry, think, or simply feel. That is what she finds satisfying.

“There are so many beautiful, thrilling, terrifying and touching stories in the world and the more people they reach, the better, in my opinion. Actors are in some sense tools that are needed for these stories to reach people. Through movies and theatre people can experience new things and educate themselves, which I think is so important,” said Lakomy.

Lakomy is known for her work in films such as Star House and Diminuendo, receiving great praise for her acting abilities at many international film festivals. This year, she has lots going on, including a music video for Italian singing sensation Andrea Bocelli. On top of this, she has several upcoming films, including Straying from You, Moral Inequity, What’s with the Doll, and the artistic flick Vacay.

Vacay offers up a unique challenge for Lakomy, as it is a creative, cinematic film with no dialogue. The film is meant to entertain of course, but also make the audience think and feel shocked, which is why Lakomy was interested in the project. Before she auditioned, she read the description of her character and knew exactly how to play her. Upon reading the script, she found the story unique and incredible.

In the film, Lakomy plays Veronica, the “mysterious messenger” in the story. Nobody knows exactly what the history is between her and the main man, played by Juan Blasquez, but one can suspect that something deep and unresolved occurred between those two. She goes through many different phases of emotion, adding necessary and intense drama to her scenes. She is a tough woman on the facade, who leads an independent and successful life. Once audiences see a little more of her, we find out that underneath, she carries some trauma from the past that sometimes she isn’t able to cover. She is like a ticking bomb of emotions that if she doesn’t manage to contain, might explode.

“I like that the story is light and entertaining for the most part but gets intense and shocking in some moments. I also like the style of it, that it’s told without any dialogue, which makes it universal and even more powerful. I think the story is important because it touches upon some relevant and controversial matter, but at the same time entertains the audience, leaving them with a lot to think about after watching it, maybe even with an unsettling feeling,” said Lakomy.

vacay

Lakomy was asked to audition for the part of Veronica by the director of the film. He had previously seen the actress’s work and was greatly impressed. Upon meeting her, he slightly altered the part to make it a principle role, knowing Lakomy could make a difference to his film. Such a reaction was incredibly touching for Lakomy.

Vacay began filming at the end of last month. Currently, Lakomy focuses on getting into the mindset of her character. A very important part of the process is connecting with one of the lead actors who her character has a strong history with. They are working on building the relationship so that when they act together, they can make the story between them as believable as possible, even without any words.

“I love that the whole film has no dialogue, so the story is told through the actors’ actions, facial expressions and the scenery. I like working on this specific aspect of acting, where drastic transitioning between different emotions is required. I enjoy challenges like that. I really appreciate working with great actors and an incredibly passionate director. I like that everybody who’s involved in this project fully engages with it and gives a hundred percent of their energy into it,” said Lakomy.

Vacay will be finished and submitted to film festivals later this year. There is little doubt that it will impress, and that Lakomy’s performance will be incredibly captivating. After its film festival run, it will be made available on various digital on demand platforms. Be sure to check it out.

Needless to say, Lakomy is a dynamic and in demand actress. She never gave up on her dream of acting, despite various roadblocks that came up on her journey. She encourages all those with the same dream to keep pushing, because eventually it will be worth it.

“As actors and artists in general it’s hard to be satisfied with yourself. There’s never a perfect answer or way to do something when it comes to acting. This profession is very subjective and it’s important to remember that we can’t always make everybody happy. My advice would be stay determined and work on yourself instead of comparing yourself to other people’s successes and failures. And even when you hear “no” way more than you hear “yes”, as long as acting brings you joy, don’t ever quit,” she advised.