British actress Scherrikar Bell’s combination of natural talent, technical skill and intuitive gift for manifesting an emotional reality qualifies her as an extraordinary force. From her 2011 start on stage in London’s West End to her extensive film and television work (credits include roles on BBC’s “EastEnders,” “Famalam,” “Doctors”), Bell unfailingly radiates an engaging quality that profoundly enhances every portrayal.
Her memorable performance as a professional assassin in masked British rapper SL’s “FWA-Boss” music video is a prime example of the inescapable Bell charisma.
With over 100 million streams of his music to date, the enigmatic, teenaged SL is one of UK hip hop’s most important and fastest rising artists, and landing her role in the video (SL’s first single of 2019) was a plum assignment for Bell.
Helmed by the award winning director Myles Whittingham, the deeply cinematic film short showcases the masked rapper’s downbeat, almost nonchalant UK drill sound—a smooth, minimalist mid-tempo style—and Bell’s lead character anchors the video from it’s opening through to its final shot.
As SL’s low key rhymes roll above the track’s glimmering, almost meditative beats, we see Bell donning a nun’s habit, then cut away to an exterior where the Mother Superior calmly approaches an automobile, produces a wicked looking automatic handgun and shoots the vehicle’s occupant at point blank range.
It’s downright startling moment—made all the more so by Bell’s serene demeanor and measured pace—and she draws the viewer in close as we witness a series of similarly deadly encounters.
A subsequent sequence find her clad head to toe in black leather (an updated Emma Peel comes delightfully to mind) and wielding a high powered sniper’s rifle which she uses to coolly dispatch a trio of obvious ne’er do wells before breaking into a lethal Mona Lisa smile and slowly sauntering over to retrieve chrome-plated brief case from one of her victims.
The unforgettable instant when she cracks that malevolent grin is so subtly evil and cold-blooded that it qualifies as an absolutely masterly piece of acting, one that Bell makes look so easy but is, in truth, an example of deep stagecraft.
It’s the ideal set up for the next murderous tableau, a scene straight out of Hitchcock—Bell strolls wordlessly up to an approaching woman, suddenly produces a nasty looking shank from within her sleeve to adroitly deliver a swift shocking stab, another deadly encounter stunning in its almost mechanical precision.
Bell’s comprehensive involvement with the role allows her to inhabit this icy-hearted murderer so convincingly that it made the video a fan favorite, with almost 4.5 million views since its March 2019 release. Intriguingly, the video ends with her appearing in SL’s living room then fades to black with a lingering “To be continued” screen title and an open-ended question as to what she was doing there—reporting to her employer or preparing to dispatch him?
The mood and mystery of the video inspired multiple fan-made reaction videos and cemented SL’s reputation as one of the UK’s fastest rising stars, and there’s no question that Bell (currently featured on the BBC “Teach The Victorians”) and her blood curdling contributions to the video played a significant part in making it such a sensational, feverishly viral internet and commercial success.
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.”
“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.
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.”
“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.
Hailing from the small town of Don Matias, Colombia, Juliana Betancourth dreamed of one day becoming an actress since she was a little girl, and today is one of the country’s most recognizable stars. She has worked alongside renowned talent and greatly contributed to the success of celebrated productions like Therapy and Bite! as well as working with some of the world’s most recognized brands on national commercials, like Walmart.
Extending her talents to music videos, Betancourth knows how to captivate an audience within the few minutes of a song. One of her career highlights was teaming up with hit hip-hop artist Casso Blax on his video “How to Treat a Woman.”
This video was published on platforms such as The Link Up, YouTube and other download platforms. It was presented on musical channels and had a great reception in the European urban genre. After this success, Casso Blax was hired to perform in different places and cities. This song is also found on Spotify and iTunes.
You can watch the video here, and in the meantime, check out the interview below.
TTN: Why did you want to work on this project?
JB: After having worked in television, cinema, theater, and commercials … the only thing I was missing was being in a music video. Maybe because I never wanted to be in one before, I felt it was more modeling work than acting … and wow I was wrong!
When Cris Samuels, the director, looked for me through my agent, he told me about the great reception Casso Blax had in the United Kingdom, and he explained that the message of the video dignified women and love.
I felt that this could be the ideal project for making my first music video. Later I would make two more videos in Los Angeles for other artists.
TTN: How did you become part of it?
JB: Cris researched my career in Colombia and Spain and knew that I had just arrived to live in London, so he looked for me. In England, there is no strong Latin presence, so they still see women from Latin America as very exotic.
This was precisely the kind of character he wanted to show. Someone who had good chemistry with Casso Blax but who in turn contrasts racially. We had a couple of meetings, he introduced me to the artist, we did camera tests, we went to see him sing live at an event. I met his work team and his followers. They really wanted me in the project and I was convinced that it was the right one for me to break into music videos for the first time.
TTN: What was it like working with Casso Blax?
JB: He is an artist in his genre. He composes the lyrics of his songs, the music, makes live presentations. We had a very professional and respectful deal, he was very praised for the fact that I wanted to work on his music video and that I also like his music.
It was essential that we had trust and respect between the two of us, because as an actress I need those spaces to be able to do my work, especially in sensual or romantic scenes.
Casso is a singer who has had to fight a lot in his life to achieve success, has overcome the barriers of racism and an elitist industry.
TTN: What was it like working on this project?
JB: Due to the previous meetings, there was already a friendly chemistry between all of us, so the shooting day was very simple, Casso and I got in front of the camera, the song started to play and we did what we were feeling. If I wanted to dance towards him, or embrace him, while he sang or interacted with me, I did so naturally.
The directions of the director were very simple, he did not want to interfere with the organic moment, and wanted the interaction to feel natural. I always avoided accepting sensual woman projects, specifically to avoid stereotypes, but as I said before, their argument convinced me.
TTN: What was your character like?
JB: I was Casso’s official girlfriend in this video, the woman he chooses over all other women, the only one who can seduce him, and with whom he wants to spend his time.
A Latina woman with sensual movements, loving, powerful and fragile at the same time. It was a very organic character, the perfect balance between that seductive woman we all carry inside, and the woman who falls deeply in love with his masculine and protective figure.
TTN: How did your character fit into the story of the video?
JB: The whole song is written around her, that character that should be his queen, who does not have to compete with anyone else for his love. It shows Casso rejecting the seductions of the other women, but not those of my character. He talks about how he should treat her well so that she stays with him all her life.
In addition to acting skills, I had to have skills for a specific dance, sensual, but not vulgar. I needed to know how to express the rhythms of this song with movements.
TTN: What did you like about working on this project?
JB: From the beginning I liked the way Cris approached me, inviting me to meet the artist first, his music, his followers, he was in charge of showing me the music record support that Casso had and the recognition in his industry.
We were a couple with chemistry and my participation could open doors in Latin American countries and Spain. The recording was very easy and quiet, without many shots, everything was very fresh and I felt very comfortable. It’s a song that I liked. The admiration, in this case, is a determining factor for me.
TTN: What do you like about the video itself?
JB: Urban music has been sadly characterized by having misogynist lyrics, in which it is socially accepted to denigrate women or to advocate that men may have several women. This song says the opposite, speaks of monogamy, to value the woman you have, to be a true man. And this is more in alignment with my way of thinking and my values.
For the other two music videos that I have done “Déjame Ayudar” by JC Gonzales and “Si me dejas Ahora” by Fernando Rodríguez, they have been songs that defend the empowerment of women.
TTN: How does it feel knowing the project has been such a success?
JB: Knowing that my image has been going through all these European music platforms is very rewarding, as it is seeing that Casso’s career continued to rise after our video together. I never imagined that participation in a music video could bring me so many other projects. Blax fans, for example, became fans of mine and they now follow my work.
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 TheNew Infinity exhibition, of which Chain Opera is a part. Created as a collaboration between the Berliner Festspiele’s Immersion series and Planetarium Hamburg, TheNew Infinity exhibitionfeatures a variety of films and exhibits from many award-winning producers, artists and directors, all of which are displayed in the planetarium.
“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 Operacould 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.
“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 TheNew 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.”
Helena-Alexis Seymour grew up on stage, never having an issue with being in the spotlight, literally. Growing up in the small town of Cornwall, Ontario, Canada, Seymour danced, did beauty pageants, and modeled. She loved the way she could express her creativity through such methods of performing. As she grew and started a successful modeling career, she realized another passion: acting. After booking her first commercial at only nine years old, she knew what her calling was.
“The more I acted, the more I realized that the artform was about more than me being creative, it was about how I was able to make the audience feel. Having someone watch your performance and be moved by it because they can relate, it reassures them that they are not alone. We all want to feel like we aren’t alone in this world so to be able to do that for someone makes it all worthwhile,” she said.
Now, millions around the world have seen Seymour in some of their favorite films and television shows. She is known for films like the blockbuster xXx: Return of Xander Cage starring Vin Diesel, as well as the multiple Academy Award winning film Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). The highlight of her esteemed career however, began last year when she was cast in the title role in Amazon’s award-winning original series Chronicles of Jessica Wu.
“Helena is a woman that exudes positive energy, so naturally she brightens up any room she steps in. She’s hardworking, humble, kind and so down to earth, which allowed for us to not only create great moments on camera, but many memorable moments off camera. It was a very rewarding experience and I hope it’s the first project of many that we get to work on together,” said Jasmine Hester, Seymour’s co-star on the show.
Chronicles of Jessica Wu is a story about a young girl on the Autism spectrum who has mastered martial arts. She becomes a Hero in her city and takes down some of the most ruthless villains in Los Angeles. Jessica’s genius ability and martial arts helps her become the most unique and fascinating Superhero of our time. Chronicles of Jessica Wu is a fun, action-packed, and exciting series for the entire family.
“I love how the story showed a strong, bi-racial, woman on the autistic spectrum living a very normal life. She is highly functional and lives quite like everyone else. Bringing awareness to the autism spectrum is something that we all need to experience. Being more inclusive of each other and more loving to each other. Everyone in this world is different and going through something so the more we can open our minds to it, the more compassionate as a whole we become,” said Seymour.
The character of Jessica Wu is driven, focused, ambitious, strong yet quite shy, and vulnerable all at the same time. She is loyal and expects the same loyalty in return. She believes her autism is a strength and uses it to her advantage. She is an intellectual genius and is always two steps ahead in her mind. She uses her amazing mathematical abilities to solve certain issues in her life as well as in her fighting when acting as the superhero named Equation.
“Helena-Alexis is a complete joy to work with. From her dedication, preparation, and delivery performances on and off set, she is the total package. Helena captures the true essence of an individual not defined by any disabilities or anything else. You will surely see how she brings the character Jessica Wu to a full circle of life. Her preparation and dedication to make our show the very best and to reach its maximum potential is truly appreciated. We couldn’t be more pleased and prouder of her work. Seriously, her performance on this show is must see TV,” said Brandon Larkins, Executive Producer.
Stepping into the show during its second season and taking over for the actress that played Jessica Wu in the show’s first season, Seymour had her work cut out for her; she had to honor a character that had already been established in fans’ minds while still making it her own. To do so, she extensively researched autism and what that would mean for her character. She had a great time recreating the character and experiencing life through her eyes. Seymour discovered what Jessica’s values were, what her strengths and weaknesses were, the type of music she listens to, the type of guy she crushes on and even what zodiac sign she was. With all that knowledge, she used it to mold Jessica Wu’s personality, and essentially, her soul. Luckily, Seymour has a kickboxing/martial arts background, and was able to use those skills when playing Jessica.
“I loved everything about working on this. I loved playing a double life as Jessica Wu and Equation,” said Seymour. “I loved working on set with such inspiring and grounded cast and crew members. When you are surrounded by love, light and greatness you naturally will vibrate to that frequency, so I am so grateful that every day was positive and that we were free to create great art together.”
The Chronicles of Jessica Wu is truly fun for the entire family. Seymour is excited by the show’s success already, and for the future seasons to come. She knows the importance of shows like this and is happy to be portraying a such a unique character that the world needs to see.
“This is only the beginning of major change in the television and film industry. We need more ethnic superheroes on the big and small screen. The world is full of different people with different backgrounds. We must continue to open our eyes to them and the gifts that they have to offer not only to this generation but the younger generations to come. It is up to us to show the youth that they matter and that there is someone just like them on the screen who is strong, capable and worthy. Being able to do that for a young child whether with autism or not means that I have done my job,” she concluded.
Be sure to check out the second season of Chronicles of Jessica Wu on Amazon when it is released on April 2nd.
As an actress, Janine Gateland’s primary responsibility is simple: to tell stories. She takes words off a page and transforms them into a living, breathing person. Whether it be through a camera lens, on stage, or just with her voice and a microphone, she brings a character to life, causing an emotional reaction from her audience. For Gateland, she loves the world of make believe and being able to portray different people in different situations, dealing with life’s obstacles and challenges is what she lives for.
“Acting is unpredictable. It’s never mundane, it’s always an adventure because you don’t always know what job is going to come next. One minute you could be filming in a studio lot or on stage and the next in the woods or up a mountain. From the moment you pick up the script you are at the start of a journey of that character and their story. I love the fact that you learn so much about yourself through storytelling,” she said.
Gateland’s passion translates directly into every project she takes on and is exactly why she is such a sought-after actress both in her home of the United Kingdom and internationally. This is exemplified with her films such as Modern American Nightmare, which will soon be available on Amazon Prime’s streaming service,and The Closing, as well as the highly-anticipated new television series Illville.
One of the highlights of Gateland’s esteemed career came when working on the 2017 film F***, Marry, Kill. The horror flick follows three sisters traveling through the Mojave Desert on their way to their brother’s wedding. A sinister turn of events leads them to a twisted, maddening town where a psychotic, cult-like community kidnaps women and forces them to marry, procreate or be sacrificed. These residents seem hell bent on making it their final destination.
“I like the story because it is so real. F***, Marry, Killis actually based on a game. People tend to play it at office parties, and I had heard Howard Stern was playing it on the radio. In the film we are playing the game in the car journey for fun, little did we know that would end up being our fate. The main guy in the film who you think is sweet and harmless ends up kidnapping my sister. Like most siblings, we knew we had to go on this car journey and somehow get along. What I like about the film is, even though all 3 sisters come from different lifestyles and bicker, they become a girl powered strong team when things go badly wrong,” said Gateland.
The film is, in Gateland’s words, “very girl powered”. Her character, Tiffany, is the oldest of the siblings. She had a great job, husband, and she was happy. However, everything went wrong when her husband cheated on her. She turned to drowning her sorrows with alcohol and becoming a bit too much of a free spirit. She shows up on the road trip to her brother’s wedding with her new fling of the month, who also happens to be a drug dealer. As the eldest sibling, she knows she’s always being judged by her sisters, but after everything she has been through, she doesn’t care anymore. When the journey takes a turn for the worst and their lives are in danger, Tiffany realizes she has to step up and becomes the strong, ballsy sister who has to protect her sisters. The role really pushed Gateland’s boundaries both physically and mentally as an actor.
F***, Marry, Kill premiered in 2017 at Sunscreen Film Festival. From there, it had an incredible film festival run. It has won several awards, including the Semi-Finalist Award at Los Angeles CineFest, Honorable Mention at Los Angeles Movie Awards, and was a winner at Hollywood Verge Film Awards and Direct Monthly Online Film Festival, to name a few. Such success could never have been possible without Gateland’s captivating performance as Tiffany.
“It is a wonderful feeling and I am so proud to be a part of it. A lot of hard work went into the film and I know I worked hard to make my role as memorable as possible. We were very lucky because we made time for rehearsals too, which doesn’t always happen in film. I am so pleased the film has got into so many festivals around the world and there is still more we are waiting on,” said Gateland.
Undoubtedly, Gateland is an exceptional actress, with an impressive career behind her and much more to look forward to. She has no plans on slowing down, as each time she steps onto a film set, she feels the same adrenaline rush that she did the first time. For those looking to follow their dreams into acting, she offers some wise words based off her years of experience.
“Make sure it’s something that you can’t imagine living life without. It has to be your passion and you have to be good. The amount of rejection you get can have an effect on your confidence. You have to be able to take risks and have a real drive to really want it, otherwise go home. You can’t be lazy, you have to put in the work 150 per cent and keep at it. To be successful can take years of training, experience and building relationships. It’s usually very rare to get that ‘big break’ when someone notices you, so you have to go out and find the work yourself. Plus having a strong support system is tremendously important and having a motivated and well-connected representation that has your back,” she advised.
Check out F***, Marry, Kill, and be sure to keep an eye out for Gateland’s future works.
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 Infinityexhibition. 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.”
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.
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.
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.
Actress Alina Smolyar knows the challenges of her chosen career path. Memorizing large amounts of text, researching characters, drastic physical appearance changes, lack of sleep, transforming into another person, working in extreme weather conditions, the list goes on. However, without such challenges, acting wouldn’t be what she fell in love with when she was only a child. For this internationally sought-after actress, these obstacles are what drives her.
Every project any actor takes on has its own set of challenges, and Smolyar not only accepts this fact, but enjoys it. When working on her film Molehill, which is perhaps the actress’ most decorated film to date, she was faced with what seemed like an endless list of obstacles to overcome, and although it was daunting, this is where she shined.
“Honestly, Molehill was one of the most challenging projects I’ve ever worked on. I thought it would be a disaster! No jokes. But this journey made it all the more rewarding when everything came together,” said Smolyar.
Molehill is an artistic film that follows a group of friends at a party. Audiences are kept guessing until the very end, never knowing what is going to happen next. The ending is completely unpredictable, encouraging audiences to think long after the film concludes, giving the impression that it is a beginning rather than an end.
“I like when it’s unexpected in movies, we as an audience always remember this type of film,” said Smolyar.
Smolyar’s character in Molehill is Leigh, an adult in her early 20s who became older earlier than she’s supposed to. She has a full-time job, her mother is going through health issues, and she has a lot to deal with at home. She finds the need to protect her younger brother Sid, who upon turning 21 becomes very wild. For him, he is having fun, but for Leigh, it is another problem to take care of. She doesn’t have time for herself, to enjoy life or to go out and find a guy. She is incredibly stressed. Her character works in a contrast with everybody and everything around her. From the very beginning we can hear and see a party, people are having fun and this black spot named Leigh who’s so serious and stressed and everything goes wrong for her.
“You know when we are over stressed and it’s so hard to focus on something positive, because it’s like a tornado? You just keep dealing with all this craziness around you. That is the exact struggle Leigh is facing,” said Smolyar.
Smolyar faced a similar struggle when she began working on the film. As a writer of Molehill, she had a different idea of where to take the story, but it wouldn’t work for the film. At the time, she had no idea what else she wanted to share or how to share it. Upon meeting with her director and producers, inspiration struck and she was able to come up with a story she liked.
“You know that feeling when you have to do everything very fast, but you have a white sheet or a monkey with plates in your head? That was me. I had no idea what else I wanted to tell, and we were running out of time,” she recalled.
When making the film, Smolyar was also one of the producers, a role she had never taken on before as she typically focuses on acting. She found her experience as an actress helped with her producing role.
When it came to acting, she put herself fully into Leigh, understanding her struggles and motivation behind every move she made. The arc of the character was important to Smolyar. It was part of her initial idea and was vital for the film.
“It was complicated for me. I guess at one point it worked very well for my acting perspective, because you can definitely see that contrast which I needed for Leigh. I was as stressed in my real life as Leigh was in hers. However, all my preparation for the project as both producer and actress helped to create my Leigh,” said Smolyar.
Being the writer, producer, and star of the film was an enormous amount of responsibility for Smolyar, but she enjoyed that. Molehill truly felt like her film, more so than any other project she had done before. She found wearing so many hats allowed her to become a better actress, and when the film became so successful, she knew she had done her job right.
Molehill premiered last May and then made its way to several festivals both in the United States and around the world. It was an Official Selection at Cine Fest, Festigious International Film Festival, and Mindfield. Smolyar herself was also awarded with Best Actress at the Actors Awards, New York Film Awards, Los Angeles Film Awards, and Oniros where she won Best Acting Duo. The result astounded Smolyar, who although had tremendous success with past projects, did not expect it for her own film.
“It still feels pleasurable, especially when you didn’t expect this kind of success. It feels great when you’re getting recognition for what you’ve been working on and especially when you do what you love,” she concluded.
Be sure to check out Smolyar’s upcoming films 1stBorn, and Skeleton in the Closet.
To succeed in acting, Aida King knows there is nothing more important than self-confidence. Never be conceited but know who you are as a person and how much you are capable of. This is her mantra that drives her and is why she is such a renowned Canadian actress. She has never lost belief in herself, and when audiences watch her on both the big and small screen, she radiates.
King is known for her work in celebrated films like The Convicted, Hemorrhage, and War of Mind. She has worked with award-winning filmmakers and well-known actors, including Alexander Michael Helisek, a veteran actor and producer in Hollywood. Known for his work on the Golden Globe Award-winning television series This Is Us, the Golden Globe Award-winning hit feature film Interstellar, which starred Matthew McConaughey and the two-time Golden Globe Award-nominated popular television series Silicon Valley, Helisek was greatly impressed with King when they worked together on Desert Drive.
“I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to work alongside Aida, as an actor, in her leading role of Missy Lee on the comedy film titled Desert Drive.Aida was absolutely essential to the critical acclaim and commercial success of the film. Her character needed to be depicted by an actress who could convey the necessary warmth, romance, comedy and sincerity that makes her a relatable character to the audience. Aida was able to accomplish all of this and more in a performance that was at once full of force and subtlety,” said Helisek.
Desert Drive follows the life of four Los Angeles based musicians who travel from Hollywood to Palm Springs for the Coachella Music Festival. Instead of harping on aimless debauchery and excessive drunkenness, the story documents the eventful two-hour ride and all the intimate conversations and crazy obstacles that transpire on the action-packed pilgrimage.
“It’s a fun slice of life story that I think people that travel together would appreciate. When travelling in close uncomfortable quarters for a long period of time, sometimes patience can run thin and emotions run high. It’s a fun comedy with interesting characters of substance,” said King.
This movie was filmed in May 2015 and premiered at a Hollywood movie theatre later that year. Not only is the trailer featured on the distinguished website “Funny or Die”, Desert Drive was also an Official Selection at the Ozark Short Film Festival in the Summer 2016. King was proud to be part of a team and found that the chemistry between the characters is why the film went on to do so well.
“I cannot deny that I love hearing people laugh when they watch this film, as that’s the biggest thrill of all for me,” she said.
King’s character, Missy Lee, is a musician who is determined to spice up intimate conversations with the other traveling musicians as they travel for many hours to their destination.
Missy Lee was a happy-go-lucky girl that was content with being in the company of friends, no matter what the situation was. She was definitely a people pleaser and tried to make the best of any situation. While she knew that she was naïve, she was comfortable with that role among her small group of oddball friends.
While she was a bit of a third wheel friend, this character brings balance to the oddball group. While every person was completely different from one another, she played the comic relief to offset tension in the storyline and also the confident when moments were more intimate. The controversial and hilarious lines are the most pivotal plot points in the entire narrative. With such an important role, King knew she had to deliver a captivating performance to bring the film to success, and that is exactly what she did.
As The Convicted was a drama, flipping over to a comedy was a great chance to present a completely different character. This was a huge opportunity to show her versatility and show her comedic creativity. As a Canadian, the comedy culture is highly regarded, so it was natural for King to want to be a part of this film.
“I appreciated working on a character that was light hearted and fun. This was my first time doing comedy, and I loved it,” said King.
King was brought on board after the successful completion of The Convicted, the Director and Producer of the film, Josh Mitchell, decided to bring the actress onto his new projects after being greatly impressed by her talent and work ethic, both of which King is well known for.
While filming, King’s greatest challenge came from filming in the desert. Far from the climate in her home in Canada, spending hours in a small van in hot temperatures was a new experience. However, she would never let this get her down, and found that it only helped her feel as if she was truly on her way to a music festival with a group of her close friends. Eventually, that is what the cast became.
Be sure to watch Desert Drive on Vimeo on Demand to catch out King’s comedic performance.
For Romy Weltman, being an actor means getting the opportunity to not just portray another person, but to become one. She embodies each of her characters with a sense of realism, a passion for the art, and a determination that is unrivaled. It is this dedication that makes her so successful and why she has won over the hearts of audiences all over Canada.
Working in both film and television, Weltman is an extremely in demand actress in her home country. She has starred in successful films such as The Red Maple Leaf and Strike! as well as popular television shows like Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments and the Disney Channel hit Backstage.
“When I worked with Romy on Backstage, her talent and natural ability to display true emotion was evident. We had two scenes in particular that were quite emotional and Romy was nothing but an absolute professional. She raised the stakes for everybody and set a very high bar. I felt like my acting and my overall work ethic was improved tenfold when working with Romy simply because of how professional and prepared she was. Romy continues to show how great of an actress she is in all of her other projects that she has done. She is without a doubt one of the strongest actresses that I know,” said Kolton Stewart, Actor (Some Assembly Required, The Swap).
Weltman’s first taste of international success came with her film The Returned. The horror flick takes place in a world where a deadly zombie virus has infected mankind, and a single cure has been found. The cure, a treatment called the “Return Protein” which stays the effects of the virus in its host. With injections every 36 hours, the “Returned” are able to live as though they were never bit, despite the virus still coursing through their veins. When it is discovered that the protein stock is running low, chaos hits the streets. Returned who run out of the protein turn to zombies and wreak havoc, protesters turn to murderers as they try to rid the streets of the returned, and right in the middle of it all are Alex and Kate. Kate, a leading doctor in the field of zombie virus’ and Alex, a musician with a dark secret, he is a Returned. As death and fear run rampant, Alex’s secret becomes known and his dosage runs low, he and Kate must fight for a chance to live before he becomes a zombie.
“The story of The Returned is very cool, as it gives people a completely thrilling look on life. The story was different to many others. For thriller and horror movie fans, I think this story is super up their alley and I can promise there will be scares,” said Weltman.
The film premiered in 2013 and made its way to several international film festivals. At the 2014 Nevermore Film Festival, it even won the Audience Award. Weltman’s work was pivotal for The Returned’s success, as she played the younger version of the main character Kate. Young Kate was a strong character who faces a very difficult challenge in her life when she witnesses her mother being attacked by zombies. Playing the younger version of a character is extremely essential to a story. It is important for the audience to see what the character had been through in their lifetime and why they are who they are. Kate, being the lead, had lots of layers to her story. Playing young Kate gave Weltman the opportunity to bring those layers to the table and show the audience who Kate really was as a child. Weltman was only twelve years of age at the time, but still captivated audiences while providing pivotal backstory required to understand the film.
“This project was so awesome. I had never worked on a horror film or movie set at all yet. At this point of my career, this role was a dream come true. I couldn’t wait to see all the action and how horror movies were really filmed,” said Weltman.
Of course, as Weltman did not have her own life experience to pull from when it came to seeing her character’s mother getting eaten by zombies, her creative juices were flowing to determine how best to portray the child’s horror in such an important scene. She managed to perfectly encapsulate such a difficult emotion, and throughout the filming process, Weltman made sure to take in and connect the thriller ideas to her own life. By doing so, it allowed her to truly get into the mind of her character.
“Even though I was just a kid when I worked on this, it really inspired me to keep working and it made me hungry to be on more sets. I can credit that experience to the success I’ve had since,” said Weltman.
Be sure to check out Weltman in Backstage on the Family Channel in Canada on Fridays at 6:30 p.m. EST.
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