Category Archives: Australian Talents

CLOAKED IN CONTRADICTION WITH JANE JOHNSTON

As time passes, the natural evolution of things can bring previously separated entities into close proximity and result in direct interaction. For example, in the past television was often looked upon as the less able and qualified sibling of feature films. Modern technology (streaming services, downloads, etc.) has brought about a modern golden age of TV. The shows available from the deluge of networks has given birth to productions that rival and sometimes exceed those of the silver screen. The ever increasing visibility of Hollywood A-listers on TV proves that these individuals recognize the quality of work being presented on the small screen these days. While not as obvious to the viewers, the talented men and women behind the screens are also found vacillating between feature film and television productions. Producers, directors, cinematographers, and others have embraced both mediums with respect to their quality work.  Costume designer Jane Johnston is one such respected professional. With a long list of film credits that includes: The Ghost and The Whale, Mission Impossible II, Last Cab To Darwin, and Macbeth (for which she won and AFI Award for Best Costume Design), Johnston has been vetted many times over. Like the marquee names she has worked with on feature films, Jane has lent her talents to a number of TV films as well. Whether adding to the authenticity and emotion of the story or assisting the actors to play against type and find the essence of their character, Johnston’s thumbprint is always there in every production.

Jane signed on as costume designer for 2015’s “A Deadly Adoption” without any information about the cast; she simply wanted to work with Emmy award-winning director and producer Rachel Lee Goldenberg. Having worked with Rachel before, she was certain only the most talented would be involved. “A Deadly Adoption” would afford Johnston the opportunity to work with two of Hollywood’s biggest names, Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig. In contrast to what one would presume, the film is a drama. With the two leads playing against type and public expectation, Jane would need to create a look for both of them that trepidatiously went down the path of seriousness. Always approaching the character first rather than the actor, Jane notes, “I just needed to get my head into the character and not think about the actors comedic past. I dressed them as if it were any two actors playing these roles. Both of them were so great to work with. They took their roles and their jobs seriously so it was the same approach I’ve had on other films. In this case the characters that were being played by Will Ferrell and Kristin Wiig were reasonably conservative and as they were playing it ‘straight’, there wasn’t meant to be anything that alluded to the humor they are known for. This also helped to contrast to the latter part of the film where things start to go awry and the craziness begins.”

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Johnston’s process is to read the script (often multiple times) to discover who the character truly is…in much the same manner as the actors approach it. Preparing looks for the characters based on her own interpretation and conversations with the director, producer, and cinematographer, Jane finds that the fitting process with the actors often aids them in connecting to and discovering the characters. Many subtleties are taken into consideration. Jane explains, “Robert Benson (played by Ferrell) is a conservative man and it seemed to me that he came from the Midwest. He had been through some challenging times in his life and was ‘back on track’. I dressed him in classic clothing such as chinos and long sleeve button through shirts. His look didn’t change much until the later part of the film but it always remained true to his character. I think it was important to have the character look ‘straight’ particularly as it was being played by Will Ferrell and his fans will automatically have projected humor onto him. Kristen Wiig’s [role as] Sarah Benson was a little more ‘quirky’. She ran a stall at the markets and sold fresh breads and produce so I wanted her look to have that quality about it. She was also a busy mother and wife. I dressed Kristen in a few pairs of overalls and t-shirts and sneakers. She still looked cute but in a practical way. Again her look didn’t change much so it was a matter of giving the character depth and having them look believable.” Much like a game of ‘spot the difference’ anything that did not perfectly match the lifestyle and feel of these characters would take viewers immediately out of the scene and remind them that they were watching two of comedy’s biggest stars. This all meant that Johnston’s choices were highly important and ever so slight in their leanings. The film’s director, Goldenberg, proclaims, “Since both Mr. Ferrell and Ms. Wiig are arguably two of the biggest actors to star in a Marvista film, it was absolutely necessary that we have only the most talented and skilled costumer such as Jane on set. Needless to say, Jane was absolutely crucial to Marvista Entertainment as evidenced by the way that she perfectly captured the company’s brand of their films’ multi-dimensional but relatable characters. Through her impeccable costume design prowess, she became one of Marvista’s go-to department heads.”

Johnston was also brought aboard by Goldenberg for Marvista’s “Escape from Polygamy.” While this production may not have had all the instantly recognizable names of “A Deadly Adoption” the performances and the look of it resulted in overwhelming ratings. “Escape From Polygamy” was rated first in its premiere, which brought Marvista to global renown. As a result, Marvista garnered outstanding profit and saw an increase in revenue. This is the story of two young people in love who persevere in a romance in the midst of their Mormon community. The challenge for Jane was to create a look for the characters that was set in a modern polygamous compound. Sharon Bordas, EVP (Production & Development) of Marvista remarks, “I was so impressed with Jane’s professional and creative presence on set. She is resourceful and inventive. She possesses and exhibits the qualities that Marvista looks for in a costume designer: an artistic eye and the ability to find intelligent solutions, especially when working with a limited budget.”

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Utilizing high collared conservative blouses and overalls and then offsetting them with slim fitting/modern clothes and even Chuck Taylor shoes, Jane blended the traditional and contemporary to inject the struggle of the characters and their actions. When asked about the incredible ratings response to “Escape from Polygamy” and her work on this production, she reveals, “It’s definitely has a self-esteem boost to it for sure! I was very proud of my work and I received some fantastic feedback and acknowledgement from many of the actors, the producer Sharon Bordas and Rachel the director. It was my privilege to take care of the actors and their characters and to fulfill my role as costume designer.”

Designer and animator Cynthia Larenas is happy to do what she loves every day

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Animator and Designer Cynthia Larenas

Now that Cynthia Larenas is an internationally successful designer and animator, she looks back at her childhood and sees the signs that she was meant to do what she is now doing. She always had a passion for art, creating her own greeting cards and food packaging at a young age. She would design logos for her imaginary companies and hassle her mother to get her craft materials. It took her until her early twenties to fully realize creating was a part of her, but once she did, she never looked back.

Now, Larenas has worked with some of the world’s largest companies and helped define smaller businesses. She has created artwork and user interfaces for eBay and Citi, as well as boutique, socially conscious start-ups. As an animator, she has worked with Old Spice and Jack Daniels, and as a designer she has produced content for Ray-Ban and Dyson. There is no limit to what she can do.

“I create beautiful, engaging, and bold visual pieces both in static and animated formats. As a designer, I create solutions for clients that not only look visually stimulating but serve a function as well,” said Larenas.

In addition to working for companies like Electric Studios and Nectar + Co, Larenas has had her own independent practice for over four years. With her own company, she has been able to help other businesses build their brand, and has largely contributed to the success of many.

As Lead Animator for the video Elevate that was part of an immersive installation piece shown at the Vivid 2014 Festival and Sydney’s Ambush Gallery, Larenas’ talent was evident to all that got to experience the film. The piece draws upon the idea of elevating to a higher level of consciousness through a dream-like, rain cleansing, hypnotic experience. For the Ambush Gallery exhibition, this video was projected onto the ceiling under a staircase further adding to the idea of ‘rising’ or ‘elevating’. The viewers sat underneath the screen on bean bags and listened to binaural soothing beats as they watched various elements from the video coming down towards them. The final scene of the video shows rain falling down on the viewer as a symbol for a cleansing and renewal. This video was adapted and modified to be a projection mapping piece shown as part of the Vivid Festival. Vivid Festival features many of the world’s most important creative industry forums and has over 2.3 million visitors each year.

With her independent practice, she was also the designer and animator for Local Measure, a Sydney start-up with clients such as Qantas, Virgin, Village Roadshow and Hard Rock Hotel. In her position as Lead Designer for Local Measure, Larenas was responsible for all creative output for the brand including branding, product development, UX design, interface design, marketing material, website design, video direction and animation.

“I had lots of fun working at Local Measure and was so thankful that I got to use my variety of skills whilst I was there,” said Larenas.

Larenas first became involved with Local Measure when she was working at a Sydney start-up called Roamz. Having analyzed the market, the leadership team decided to take their findings from the Roamz app and apply it to a more unique and targeted market. The Roamz app then became Local Measure, a social analytics platform.

“When I first made the transition to work on Local Measure, the product did not even have a name yet,” she said. “It was an exciting time because I had the freedom to apply my wide range of skills to a multitude of creative outputs. I was really able to grow and feel like I was playing an integral part in building up the business.”

While working on Local Measure, Larenas worked alongside Aylin Ahmet. Ahmet says Larenas played a pivotal role in the successful pivot from consumer app Roamz into the B2B world, and overcame all expectations when she was tasked to design the brand, styling and product experience of Local Measure.

“Cynthia is a gem to work with. She possesses a unique blend of energy, creativity and discipline that exudes quality work in a consistent way. Cynthia is driven to make a positive difference for causes that she is passionate about. Her vast skill set beyond product design into animation, cinematics and photography makes her a truly unique, multi-faceted, talented and capable creative,” said Ahmet.

Another highlight for Larenas was working with Vince Frost as both an animator and designer, the founder and Executive Creative Director of Frost* Collective, in Sydney. She was first introduced to Frost through the Happy Billboard Project. The Happy Billboard Project is an initiative by Adelaide-based artist Sarah Connor. After taking to the streets with friends and holding up positive posters to passers-by, Connor noticed how much of a difference these simple posters made to the public. In 2014, Connor applied for a grant to take this concept to a large scale and put these messages in huge billboards around the most high-traffic areas in Sydney.

With this goal in mind, Connor approached Larenas to design these billboards. Larenas decided to create custom typography for these posters as she really wanted audiences to feel the human element behind the message. She provided Connor with two options; one colored by hand and one drawn on the computer. With the help of these posters, Connor won her $12,000 grant and made her dream a reality.

As part of the prize, Larenas was introduced to Vince Frost to serve as a design mentor for the campaign, and after seeing her portfolio, he invited her to work at his studio on a freelance basis. From there, she worked on projects such as City of Sydney, Dan Murphy’s and Green Square. In addition, while Frost was preparing for the promotion of his second book titled Design Your Life, he asked Larenas to do some visual effects and animation work for his promotional video for the book.

“Working with Vince Frost was an amazing experience because it gave me confidence to see myself as a great designer. Coming from such a respected and talented creative, who has been so highly successful is extremely humbling and rewarding,” said Larenas.

There is no doubt in anyone’s mind why Larenas is considered one of the best at what she does. Despite having such success, however, she remains humble. For the artist, it is just about doing what she loves every day.

“I really love this type of work because you get to see, experience and sometimes hold a tangible product at the end of a process. As a creator you’re incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to contribute to the environment around you,” she concluded. “I’m very thankful that I get to do what I love doing and that I took the plunge to follow what felt right.”

And those that see her work are very thankful too.

SONGWRITER DARCY CALLUS PROFESSES THAT LA IS STILL THE MELTING POT OF THE ARTS

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Sometimes the most valuable things are right in front of you and go unnoticed, or at the very least underappreciated. America constantly produces musical artists who are lauded and respected all over the world. Yet these artists often go through many years of struggle as they mature into the icons they aspire to become. The US public doesn’t often stop to consider the fact that this training ground in which we live is a shining star to artists of the world. This has always been obvious to Australian Darcy Callus. This artist has long dreamed of being a part of the musical community which he believes to be the home of the elite, Los Angeles. While there are numerous locations in the world with talented artists, Callus readily admits that the concentration of world class artists per capita in LA is unlike any other place on the planet. As an award-winning jazz pianist turned pop artist (he was one of the finalists on Australia’s X Factor), Darcy has a deep understanding of the difference between being a “one hit wonder” who got lucky and being an artist who cultivates a long career with depth. He is also not afraid to, as he puts it, “Follow his nose where it leads” him. When the opportunity to work with LA based singer/songwriter Rotana Tarabzouni presented itself to him, Darcy was eager to work with such a talented artist and spend some time in the city he considers to be the center of the industry.

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While Darcy has been associated with such music industry luminaries as Dave Stroud (known for his work with Prince, Justin Bieber, Justin Timberlake, Bruno Mars, Kelly Clarkson, and Michael Jackson), multi-platinum producer Bryan Todd, and others; writing with Rotana gave him the opportunity to work with a brand new artist in the States who shares an international view of the US as he does. Tarabzouni grew up in Dhahran, on the Gulf coast of Saudi Arabia. To state that her experience as an artist in her homeland was not encouraged is a drastic understatement. Women are not exactly groomed to seek out fame as a popstar in her homeland. On a family vacation in Boston, she spontaneously went to an audition and received massive encouragement. That was enough to convince Rotana that she needed to pursue her dream in America. Callus received no persecution in his native home of Australia and was even a sensation on Australia’s X Factor. Still, he also understood the potential of the US music community and opportunities which the industry’s infrastructure afforded the talented and hard working. The two met at an artists get together and recognized the musical counterpoint in each other’s talent. Darcy states, “We definitely clicked immediately in terms of wanting to create music that was original and personal, not derivative and following what was popular at the moment. Even more importantly, I understood where she was coming from as a songwriter and what she was trying to express.” Describing the process, he continues, “Rotana is truly gifted when it comes to melodies. She comes up with them quite quickly and they are very strong. All of my training in music allowed me to quickly understand what she was looking for and find the harmony to her melodies on piano. There was a specific color tone that propelled the emotion she wanted to communicate. If you can understand an artist both musically and professionally, you can help them as well as excite them about their own music.”

The US is a country which prides itself on so many aspects that are prominent in the working relationship between Darcy and Rotana. A country which accepts those from other lands, in pursuit of their dreams, with the ability to express themselves freely…it’s as representative of the American Dream as the Westward Expansion. Callus comments, “There’s no doubt that both of us feel fortunate to be here in LA among the greats. You literally can walk into a club, restaurant, coffee shop, whatever, and run into an artist you have listened to your whole life. Of course what we’re really here to do is work. It’s amazing that I can meet an artist like Rotana and immediately begin creating music with an almost unspoken approach. I’m sure that this is all because of the group of artists who are known everywhere in the world…in places like Australia, Saudi Arabia, and almost every other place on the planet. As an artist and musician, you feel like you are in the center of the universe when you are here…and that inspires you even more.”

Success in never guaranteed but is already evident in the work that Callus and Tarabzouni have done. Rotana’s debut single “Daddy” was co-written and arranged by Darcy. The single was playlisted on Apple’s “Hot Pop Tracks” for weeks as well as Spotify’s US VIRAL 50. Some of the music Callus wrote with Rotana was debuted at The 2017 Sundance Film Festival “A Celebration of Music and Film Concert”. At this concert, Rotana shared the stage with Common, Andra Day, Jim James, Hunter Hayes, Peter Dinklage, Ava DuVernay, and more. Early indicators like these give presumptions that the music which Callus and Rotana created together is going to have every bit of the impact that had hoped to achieve. Darcy smiles as he communicates, “I have quite a history of working with extremely talented female vocalists. It’s interesting that in this situation the vocalist is a woman and her femininity is celebrated while she is in control. As a man, I’m in the supportive role (playing piano). They are exhibiting strength as well as a softer side. I love that about music. It allows these situations that you won’t find in all walks of life. Artists are celebrated and encouraged to express what is unique about themselves.”

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When questioned about his experience thus far in LA, Darcy confirms, “I am Australian and I love Australia but I feel that the US audience is much more willing to have an open mind. American audiences want to give you a chance. Many artists have said that you have to become famous and accepted somewhere else and then come back home to be recognized. There’s a little truth in that. If you go anywhere else and say you are an LA musician, you are instantly seen in a different light. People assume that you are great and…to be honest, to be a successful LA artist…you have to be great!”

Actor Wadih Dona Thrives on Challenge

Australian actor Wadih Dona is a force to be reckoned with. With an impressive depth of classical theater training, a rich catalog of stage, television and film credits, the handsome, versatile player has achieved a great deal and is poised to ascend to the top of his field. For Dona, it’s been a near-lifelong pursuit.

“I don’t think you choose acting—it chooses you,” Dona said. “From a very early age I was always drawn to it. My father worked all over the Middle East and Europe, and as child I was exposed to many places and different cultures. I was always interested in people, watching them, looking at their behavior, making up stories about them. You see a couple in a restaurant and within seconds you can figure out their relationship based on their behavior. Is this a first date or a break up? I loved that.”

Acting is a particularly demanding endeavor. In order to succeed, a practitioner must demonstrate the ability to create a wholly convincing fictional experience. It’s a complex, sophisticated, painstaking discipline, and Dona does it with a sensitivity and skein of truth that reaches his audience’s empathic core to evoke a genuine response. As Nicholas Buffalo, who directed Dona on medical drama series All Saints, said, “Wadih’s incredible skills as an actor, his talent and versatility not only ensured the series’ commercial success and high viewership but also contributed to the way the show was received by critics and award bodies alike.”

This rare ability was honed and perfected by training alongside some of the world’s most prestigious educators. With studies at the renowned Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, New England University, New York University and London’s world famous Royal Shakespeare Company, Dona, since finishing his studies in the mid-90’s, has undertaken a steady stream of work and built a career of significant momentum in theatre, film and television.

Currently appearing in the Sydney Theatre Company’s critically-acclaimed revival of Michael Gow’s Away at the Sydney Opera House, Dona’s trove of international include a wide range of theatrical work, recurring roles on some of Australia’s most watched television programs and made his US feature film debut in 2016’s Septembers of Shiraz. But, at home, he is perhaps best known for his role as Dr. Nick Paltos on the top-rated series Underbelly.

“I had watched the first season of Underbelly and loved it,” Dona said. ”Then I heard they were casting the second season leads, and Nick Paltos, the character I played was of Greek Australian heritage and I had a reasonable resemblance to him. Really, it was synchronicity, because the producers were interested in me, so I screen tested for it and the rest is history, as they say.”

“Unconventional stories are always the most interesting to me,” Dona said. “The character was based on a real person, a doctor who was notorious in the 70’s for smuggling the largest import of hashish into Australia—seven tons! Here was a conservative doctor, a GP, the pillar of his community, a church goer and beneath all of it he ran a huge drug racket. That, to me, was fascinating.”

Underbelly had smashed ratings records right out of the gate. As the Australian News reported, the show was “the most watched Australian Television series, with the double episode premiere attracting an average of 2,501,500 viewers nationally. The show has consistently rated highly, being the most watched show on Australian television for all episodes broadcast so far.” Dona’s striking portrayal of this infamous character kept the excitement high, and he relished every moment of it.

Underbelly was a fantastic experience,” Dona said. “But it was shot very quickly and was a true thrill. They cast strong actors because they knew the shooting time was short, so you really had to go with your instinct, as rehearsal time was also very short. Since I was playing a doctor on my first day of shooting the first scene was of me performing a colonoscopy, so it was very interesting getting the medical advisor to show me how to do that at 7 am on set!”

Since that six episode stint on Underbelly, his ongoing professional odyssey, with almost 30 television credits and eight big screen appearances, has been equally rewarding and successful. “Acting is a lifelong pursuit,” Dona said. “It’s organically happening for me now, and the opportunities coming are fantastic. There is no failure, only feedback. You have to plan to some extent but also leave some things to fate. I never want to be someone who regrets not doing something—if something challenges me, I embrace it.”

 

From the Stage to the Screen Australian Actress Natalie Page is a Knock Out!

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Australian Actress Natalie Page shot by Andrew Rouse

 

Hailing from Sydney, Australia actress Natalie Page has created a dazzling reputation for herself as a uniquely talented performer whose dynamic character portrayals continually leave audiences wanting more. Over the past three decades Page has amassed an impressive repertoire of work that spans both the stage and screen, with each character she takes on shedding light on the multi-faceted nature of her craft.

In the world of network television fans will immediately recognize Page from her critical roles in the Awgie, Logie and AFI Award winning crime drama “Water Rats,” the long-running series “Deadly Women,” “Australia’s Most Wanted,” “White Collar Blue” and more.  

Page discovered her passion for performing early on in life. Driven to take her craft to the next level she began studying at Sydney’s renowned Genesian Theatre Company in her youth, where she immersed herself in Chekhov’s vast repertoire of work.

“I can bring all of myself to acting as it involves mind, body, energy, voice and a precision that requires my focus and dedication. A craft that I can bring all of myself to is both stimulating and enormously satisfying,” admits Page.

Early on in her career Page put her flare for the art of seduction on display in the critical role of a sultry mistress in the hit romantic drama “Home and Away,” which has earned a whopping 26 Logie Awards and six Awgie Awards to date.

In the series “Water Rats” Page struck a chord with audiences with her performance as a hostage fearing for her life. Sharing the screen with Astra and Logie Award winning actress Catherine McClements (“Tangle,” “Rush”) and Film Critics Circle of Australia Award winner Colin Friels (“Tom White,” “Ground Zero,” “Malcolm”), Page held her own acting alongside Australia’s best without ever missing a beat.

Her ability to tap in and embody the fear one feels when trapped in a situation where the question of whether she will live or die lays in the hands of a desperate criminal landed her another critical role as a hostage in “Australia’s Most Wanted,” which aired on Australia’s Nine Network, one of the two highest rated networks in the country.

Page’s incredible range has allowed her to portray the victim as believably as the villain, something she proved when she took on the starring role of Marie Noe in the popular series “Deadly Women” episode “Murder of Innocence” narrated by Lynnanne Zager (“Hotel Transylvania 2,” “Transcendence,” “Kung Fu Panda 3”).

A Philadelphia housewife who gave birth to 10 children, with two of them dying at birth and the other eight dying under suspicious circumstances, which turn out to be caused by her own hands, as she admits to strangling them nearly 30 years after the fact.

The way Page taps into this sinister, real life character, mastering Marie Noe’s Philadelphia accent and embodying the character’s mannerisms on screen not only makes the story that much more believable, but one that undoubtedly sends a shiver up the spine of all who watch the episode.

The actress admits, “I like a project that will present a challenge and one in which I can bring something unique to the role.”

While Natalie Page has left an indelible mark in the minds of audiences through her on-screen roles, she’s made just as powerful of an impact through her performances on stage. In 2014 she took on the starring role of Millicent in Brett Garland’s revival of “Estranged” staged at Sydney’s Tap Gallery theatre, which debuted in Australia during the Mardi Gras Festival.

Written by renowned playwright Jason Charles, “Estranged” brings to life the story of a dysfunctional family who comes together for the wedding of one of the sons while exploring themes of sexuality, societal acceptance and the way judgement can divide us from those we love. The mother of the son to be wed, Page’s character Millicent is the divisive force who causes the original rift in the family decades prior when she passes harsh judgements on her sister and subsequently banishes her and her son from their lives. As the drama and tension plays out over the course of the nuptials, we see Millicent and her sister engage in malicious attacks against one another, with Millicent going as far as to slap her sister in the face in front of everyone, a challenging move that Page pulls of with precision.

 

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Natalie Page (left) & Lena Sandberg (right) in “Estranged” shot by Brett Garland

 

Page explains, The reason I liked this role is because my struggle to accept such a mean spirited person was vast– I had to overcome this and be prepared to allow people to see me in a very ugly light, even slapping my sister across the face… When I completely surrendered to the role my work flourished.”

It comes as no surprise that the production received rave reviews across Australia as Page gave a phenomenal performance as the mean spirited Millicent in a portrayal that made her character one who is easily loathed by audiences.

While Page’s acting skill and commanding presence on the stage and screen have made her an easy fan favorite, these qualities have also been a huge draw factor for high-profile companies across the globe who have cast her as their lead actress. In 2014 she starred in a commercial for the popular Australian noodle company Maggi, and most recently she landed the lead role in a commercial for Australian Seniors Funeral Insurance, which is currently airing nationally across Australia.

EDDIE TANG: FINDING THE ART IN EVERY ROLE

Every consummate and lauded professional is required to make his bones. In the movie Bird, Forrest Whitaker portrays iconic jazz musician Charlie Parker. When Parker confesses to one of his peers that he could use the work (and the pay) from playing at a Bar Mitzvah, the musicians create such a moving performance at the event that the crowd is overwhelmed by their good fortune at witnessing the artist in this setting. This perfectly portrays the truth that artists need to practice their talents in a variety of ways and earn a living through different opportunities. The prevalence of social media in today’s society serves as further proof that this idea that talent should only be packaged in certain ways is an outdated concept. When compared to commercial advertisements of just a decade ago, there are many more A-list celebrities who use their craft to empower advertisers. The stigma of yesteryear is gone. In fact, commercials that air during sporting events such as the Superbowl and the World Cup generate some of the largest profits in entertainment. In a free market system, this has driven the artistic content and production levels higher and higher. Eddie Tang, like many of his peers can be visible in film, TV, and commercial productions. Not only does this increase their recognizability but it also affords them a host of different roles to widen their artistic palette. Whether in films like the Hollywood Film Award nominated Three Sixty (in which he plays Zac, a personable kidnapper), the AACTA award-winning TV series East West 101 (as Caesar Mendez, a menacing gangster), or any number of fan favorite commercial campaigns, Eddie Tang has proven himself to be both attention grabbing and able to morph into drastically different characters. Enabling the audience to have an affinity for the friendly guy is a skill but helping them to embrace a truly awful character requires mastery…something which Tang has worked hard at achieving.

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Eddie is known for his roles in film and TV productions in which he plays darker and menacing individuals. It’s ironic that he has been so successful in his commercial work portraying benevolent characters. As the ping-pong playing, night vision goggle wearing, KFC loving, buddy in KFC’s ‘Night Vision’ commercial or as the overly exuberant but loveable fan in Panasonic’s Viera TV spot (for the 2008 Beijing Olympics); Tang effortlessly becomes the friendly guy next door. He is so believable that one almost feels there is an evil twin portraying all of his ‘bad guy’ roles in his film and TV productions. One of Eddie’s calling cards and most requested techniques is the ‘dead pan’ that endears so many viewers of his commercial roles. Matt Kamen directed Eddie in Volkswagen’s “You Just Know” campaign. Kamen professes, “Eddie Tang is one of the most talented and prodigiously successful actors I have collaborated with. Eddie’s leading role required him to perform as the face of the campaign. In the commercial, Eddie’s character is a construction worker, shown trying to fit more equipment into his truck than it can handle. Simultaneously, a Volkswagen truck pulls up and Eddie’s character looks enviously at the enormous space that the vehicle provides. Eddie perfectly showcased the client’s desired tone of the Volkswagen being an enviable vehicle, surpassing the needs of not only civilian motorists, but also the needs of various other business types. It takes a skilled actor to understand the importance not over playing or under playing a role such as this. Eddie is truly a creative force to be reckoned with and was in invaluable asset to the production of the ‘You Just Know’ commercial campaign.

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ANZ Bank made wise use of Tang’s talent in their “Travel Rewards Card” commercial. Eddie’s character of Lawrence the Boat Dad portrayed a jubilant father on vacation with his family. With his hands in the air, Lawrence enjoys a fun ride on a wave runner, carefree as he advertises his ‘pointless travel insurance’ through ANZ’s Travel Rewards Card. The role was a masterful performance due to the fact that, unknown to viewers, Eddie was incredibly sick. He reveals, “I have severe motion sickness and sea sickness. It wasn’t an ideal attribute for the lead role in this commercial but, some days are a breeze and some days are a monsoon. I was actually throwing up between each take. You can’t tell it in the commercial but I was incredibly sick the entire day. Besides the fact that I don’t enjoy boating, I’m a bit of a free spirit and hippy. I’m a complete contradiction to my character Lawrence but I like to think that we’re both very good people, just in different ways.” Director of this ANZ commercial, Paul Middlecitch, states, “The ‘Travel Rewards Card’ commercial was an enormous success, which I do not doubt is largely due to Eddie’s achievements on our production. The video was widely popular on YouTube, garnering nearly 100,000 views! This alone is a massive accomplishment that should not go unrecognized. Eddie was an invaluable member of our production and I consider the success of the commercial to be due to Eddie’s leading role. Eddie’s all-encompassing prowess as one of Australia’s elite actors has allowed him to establish himself as one of the country’s most successful talents.”

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As one of Australia’s in-demand and prominent actors, Eddie Tang continues to prove his abilities and immense talent on a variety of platforms. You might see him on the big screen, on your TV, even on the web but, you will certainly take notice of him when you see his commanding yet endearing presence.

 

 

Australian actor Luke O’Sullivan will star in upcoming Netflix series Dear White People

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Luke O’Sullivan plays Conner in Dear White People

Growing up in Melbourne, Australia, Luke O’Sullivan always loved psychology and understanding what makes people tick. Eventually he began applying that natural curiosity to acting, and has never looked back. Now, he will be appearing in the new Netflix original series Dear White People.

Dear White People is a comedy series based on writer/director/producer Justin Simien’s critically-acclaimed, Sundance award-winning satirical indie film. Simien was the recipient of the 2014 Sundance Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Talent, and will be continuing his success on the film with the show. The series is produced by Lionsgate, whose sister company Roadside Attractions released the original film in 2014.

Set among a diverse group of students of color as they navigate a predominantly white Ivy League college where racial tensions are often swept under the rug, Dear White People is a send up of “post-racial” America that also tells a universal story about forging one’s own unique path. O’Sullivan plays Conner, one of the students at the college who is integral to the storyline of one of the series’ main characters.

It means so much to be on such a great, meaningful show,” said O’Sullivan. “It felt like all the difficulties I had gone through to get here had been worth it just to have the amazing experience I had on Dear White People. It was also a lot of fun and I’m really excited for it to come out next year.”

O’Sullivan is first introduced to audiences in the second episode, where his character becomes friends with one of the central characters. Conner is a very outgoing, confident character who encourages others to be themselves.

“I love the character but he’s very different to me,” he said. “I’m a lot more shy and introverted than Conner, but that makes him a really fun character to play.”  

The 25-year old actor has seen success before. He had a role as a British pop star on Disney’s hit show Austin & Ally and has been seen in several national commercials, including a national anti-tobacco commercial for the FDA which has over 2.3 million views on YouTube. He showed what a versatile actor he is when he starred in the stage play Holding the Man, where he played a total of 11 characters in a production directed by legendary acting coach Larry Moss.

“I love being able to experience things through other people’s perspective and embodying that perspective as fully as possible. And I love being able to do that for a whole range of different characters, of different backgrounds and personalities,” said O’Sullivan.

Nate Jones, co-founder of the Australian Theatre Company and executive producer of Holding The Man, discovered Luke at the perfect time.

As soon as I met Luke I knew he was perfect for Holding the Man. We had been looking for someone to play his challenging and demanding role for some time and knew as soon as we met Luke that he was it,” said Jones. “Very few actors are versatile enough to play 11 completely different characters, but Luke did it with skill and talent that is rare for any actor, let alone one so young. We knew he’d be great, but Luke’s blew everyone away with his performance.”

The play’s director, Larry Moss, is an internationally renowned acting coach to Academy Award winners such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Hillary Swank and Helen Hunt.

“I went to a Masterclass with Larry Moss when he was visiting Melbourne, and that was when I fell in love with acting. So working with him so closely was a dream come true. It was so exciting to work with someone I’d looked up to for so long and he certainly did not let me down. He was a brilliant director and a great man to work with. I learned so much from working with him.”

O’Sullivan has had the opportunity to work with some of the industry’s best. Susan Batson, another acting coach who has coached A-list stars to win Academy Awards, worked with O’Sullivan in Melbourne and was the reason he moved to New York. After seeing his work she invited him to study with her further at her studio in New York City.

“Besides being young and handsome, Luke can really act,” said Batson. “He’s deeper than the Euphrates River, but funny and very, very smart.”

With talent like O’Sullivan’s, audiences can expect to see a lot more of him on both the big and small screens. The 10-episode, 30-minute series Dear White People will premiere on Netflix around the world in 2017.

“You have to accept that there is no certainty and that nothing is ever secure or guaranteed. There are so many things out of our control… It’s really hard to put your heart and soul into something when you don’t know if it’s going to pay off. But you have to remember how much you love it,” he concluded.

BRIDGING THE GAP: CALEB CHERNYSH

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Childhood, for most of us, is a wonderful time when we are provided for and loved unconditionally; we have the feeling that anything is possible. This is the spring from which the ideas that make up fairytales flows. The world seems to be such a welcoming and magical place that almost anything is possible…even the magically impossible. Adulthood is quite a different place. The real-world practicality and day to day of surviving and providing is the experience of most adults. Still, children often give the adults the motivation and joy to accept a sense of selflessness. There is a space between these two worlds and this is the inspiration for Mark Pedlow’s film The Gap. This film is comprised of three different tales about the curveballs life can sometimes throw us which begins to pull our life experience from this comforting fairytale world into the realities (and dangers) of the real world. The Gap has a lofty goal in its attempt to link the world we aspire to with the one we are forced to accept. The unique approach of The Gap is what first interested actor Caleb Chernysh to the film. Chernysh has played a heroin addict (in Mule), a serial killer (Fractured), even a  father of twin sons…one whom “sees” his dead brother everywhere (James in Sea Change), but never before has he been a young father.

As a student of the Actor’s Centre (the same Australian school which has produced actors such as Hugh Jackman), Caleb continually searches out varied and challenging roles by which to challenge himself and increase his palette of experience. Chernysh recalls how he came to the film, “Mark Pedlow, creator and director of The Gap, was holding auditions for John, the father in one of the three stories contained in The Gap. I was attracted by the script, as I’ve never played a young father and it would involve fight training. When I got the script, I fell in love with it and begged Mark to let me audition. I wasn’t aware of this fact but Mark already knew that he wanted me for the part. I’m thankful that he was aware of my work and abilities but he didn’t want me to know that. He wanted me to audition, not to see if I would be good enough, but to confirm that I seriously wanted to do whatever it took to get the role of John. After the audition, I was thrilled when he said I would be John in The Gap.” Pedlow states, “I had a lot of applicants, but Caleb’s resume stood out the most. I decided to meet him and asked him what he thought of John. When Caleb described his version of John, it felt like he brought more layers to the character then I even thought of.gap-5

Getting the part may have been the easiest facet of his involvement as Caleb had to venture into a completely unknown area for him, fight training. Chernysh was excited to train but admits that it had its uncomfortable moments. He notes, “The Gap was the first movie which I was in that had fight choreography. I was so excited! There were nights where we had to train leading up to production and I would come home bruised and sore…but with a smile on my face. When it came to the shoot, we added some more fight sequences. I still remember getting an uppercut from one of the thugs and I literally picked myself up and threw my body backwards onto a box. It must have been impressive, because I remember people gasping when I crashed into the box. When I got up, people were saying ‘Geez, you’ll do anything for your performance!’ It looked like the uppercut was real and had a powerful force behind it.”

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That uppercut comes courtesy of one of the attempted kidnappers of John’s daughter. In one of the tensest parts of the film, Caleb’s character John (one of the lead character’s in this film) has gone to a café with his young daughter and, while she wanders downstairs, two men attempt to kidnap her. This particular scene which so clearly states the film’s theme of the difference between the fantasy life’s abrupt collision with reality, was highly motivating to Caleb. Though not a father himself, Chernysh believes that in each man resides the protective fatherly instinct towards his children. It was that character trait that he unearthed for John commenting, “I’ve never played a young father before. So I really needed to put myself into the role and imagine that I have created this beautiful life and have raised it for 8 years. This beautiful life is the most treasured being in my world and I would not let anyone or anything harm it. That was my mindset in the performance, which also helped the fight scene.”

Caleb Chernysh is currently working on a webseries in which he plays Boris Djerkich, a man who want to be the next Eurovision star. One character is Bosnian born Boris Djerkich who has moved to Australia and wants to be the next Eurovision star. Caleb also plays Cameron Tomes, a flamboyant ex-dancer who goes to a job interview and it bombs! Caleb is working on extending his series with more characters.You can subscribe and view on YouTube.

Nick Fulton: from paper route to successful writer

“As a kid, I was always creating things and using my imagination to make up characters,” said New Zealand writer Nick Fulton. “I had a paper route and I used to script a fake radio show and act it out as I rode around the neighborhood on my bike.”

Fulton has come a long way from the boy with the paper route and big dreams. He is now an accomplished writer, with a long list of achievements in his career.

“I’ve always enjoyed sitting down and tackling a really tough task, so I think that is where my love of writing comes from,” he said.

The real success started while Fulton was studying at Victoria University in Wellington in the early 2000s when a friend suggested starting a blog. He was then spurred on by others.

“His encouragement was what got me started, but I had another good friend who was a talented writer. Being able to share and talk about ideas with her gave me the confidence to pursue writing,” he described.

This motivation is what started Einstein Music Journal (EMJ),  New Zealand’s foremost music blog, from 2007 to 2012. EMJ went on to be a finalist in the Music category of Concrete Playground’s Blogger Awards in 2011, and was awarded Blog of the Week by Breakthru Radio in New York City in 2009.

“I like being part of a community of creative people. I’m lucky enough to have friends in Melbourne who also write creative fiction and longer editorial pieces, so I have a community of real-life and virtual friends. I’ve made great connections through writing, and when I traveled to the US in 2012 I was able to visit and stay with many of them. Those connections will last a lifetime.” he said. “Continuing to be a part of a supportive creative community is the most important thing for me.”

Fulton focuses on writing culture pieces, and telling stories that may not be told unless he writes them.

“The biggest challenge is often convincing an editor that there’s a decent story to be told. A lot of my writing is about unusual theories or themes that I think others will be interested in too. Some editors are happy to take a risk and trust my judgement, but it doesn’t always work out that way,” he described. “Right now, I’m lucky enough to be working with an excellent editor named Tim Scott, over at Noisey. He’s very good at assessing my ideas and finding a way to reposition them to appeal more broadly.”

Fulton has written multiple successful feature pieces for Noisey Australia/New Zealand, over the last year, and Scott describes him as being skilled, reliable and thorough music writer.

“His writing pitches and story ideas are fresh, engaging and presented with a keen understanding of the Noisey audience,” said Scott. “Work that I have commissioned to him has been submitted on time and with a level of quality and professionalism. I look forward to reading and publishing more of Nick’s work.”

Fulton’s versatility and talent lead him to stories no one has thought to write before. He describes one of his favorite pieces written for Cuepoint in 2015. He had heard a song on SoundCloud that sampled Eric Garner and his now infamous final words “I can’t breathe”, when inspiration struck.

“I was troubled by it, and I knew others would be too. I decided to speak with the musician who made the song and find out what motivated him to create it. He was very sincere and had the best intentions,” described Fulton.

Fulton’s writing is often recognized by other publications. Last year, he wrote an article for Pitchfork, which started a bigger conversation around people shooting pictures with their phones at gigs. The article received an excellent response on social media and a direct response to the article was published in The Village Voice.

“Jonathan Shecter, one of the co-founders of legendary hip hop magazine The Source once emailed me and told me he loved my writing. That was a pretty big moment. He emailed me in relation to a piece I’d self-published on Medium and asked to republish it on Cuepoint, a publication he currently runs that’s housed on the Medium platform,” said Fulton. “I ended up writing regularly for Cuepoint and wrote several features and a weekly review column.”

Fulton’s skillful writing was also recognized by Genevieve Callaghan, a writer for Smith Journal, a brother publication to Frankie. She reached out to him in the early stages of her career for guidance.

“Nick as a mentor helped me to refine my approach to becoming a published writer, clarifying and strengthening strategies that could bring me into closer contact with relevant publications, editors, and other writers. Having since written copy for inspiring institutions like The School of Life, Melbourne, and Parisian refugee organization, SINGA, I am now working as one of the main writers of online content for Smith Journal, and contributing regularly to the Smith Journal magazine. I attribute much of this professional success to Nick’s encouragement and counsel,” said Callaghan.

Fulton’s success in Australia and New Zealand has inspired him to move to the United States, and fully experience the culture here.

“Every kid that grew up in New Zealand in the 80s and 90s was surrounded by American culture. Many of the things I write about have an American element, or speak about someone based in the US, he said. “Some of my best writing has been for American publications like Pitchfork and CMJ, but the opportunity to write deeper, more thoughtful pieces only really comes with the lived experience. Living in Australia, it’s hard to get a true perspective on American culture.”

“My goal is to keep writing informative pieces that start conversations and get people thinking about those around them,” he concluded. “Adding something to the community and helping people share their own ideas is important too.”

KAYLA STRADA IS MINDFUL OF HER FOOTPRINT

“It’s gotta be da shoes!” Spike Lee’s fictional character from “She’s Gotta Have It” was everywhere in the mid to late 80’s. The immensely successful ad campaign for Nike attribute the secret ingredient of Michael Jordan’s command of the court to…at least in some part, his sneakers; that was long before there ever was a Kayla Strada. Spike’s character (Mars Blackmon) had an almost supernatural belief in shoes, a belief shared by Strada, but not in regards to the NBA. The shoes she believes in are the ones of which Stella Adler speaks. Kayla confirms, “Shoes is a big thing Stella Adler always talks about and shoes are a big Kayla thing.” The young Australian actress might have Carrie Bradshaw as her spiritual guide because her choice of proper acting “footwear” has led to several successful roles including the female lead in the full length feature “Love Is…” The film has been expanded to a full length feature because of the overwhelmingly positive feedback on the original short, due in no small part to Strada’s convincing and emotional performance as Maddie, the female lead in the story. The film is the beginning of Hollywood’s exposure to Strada, an actress who has been receiving increasing notoriety and achievements in her homeland of Australia and parts beyond.IMG_3267

There are some universal experiences and themes in the world and love is likely the most prominent of these. It crosses every line; culture, religion, gender, financial. You can be a farmer in Singapore, a Member of Parliament in London, or a young actress in Australia…everyone needs it and everyone wants it. We all understand our own feelings of love but the who, how, or why in which others place this emotion doesn’t always make sense to us. This is why find it particularly attractive when an actor or actress can communicate their feelings about love in such a way that we instantly empathize. It is a gift that Kayla possesses and is prominently exhibited in “Love Is…” This production, written and directed by Stan Harrington, was quickly promoted from short to full length feature…that’s a major achievement and vote of confidence in Hollywood. Maddie and Nick (played by Bryan Lee Wriggle) are two young people who fall in love practically at first sight but their relationship stalls almost as suddenly, resulting in a search for the meaning of true love. Other unforeseen factors have immense impact on the main characters and their view of love (no spoilers here). Just as in real life, these characters have different “love languages” and struggle to understand and relate to each other in an unencumbered manner. Knowing yourself and possessing the words to express it properly help you connect with that special someone. These are the exact same attributes which allow Strada to so convincingly portray Maddie. She reveals, “When Maddie first meets Nick, she goes through a rollercoaster of emotions. A lot of what she deals with is based on certain ideas that are very original to this story. In contrast, there are some very universal experiences in the film that we all share. You see it happening and think to yourself, ‘Oh yeah, that happened to me.’ One thing I can say about Maddie is that she is very determined. That is something I can really relate to. Playing Maddie and discovering her was such a joy.” Strada further notes, “Dialogue is important and it is important how you deliver it. If the script is good, you can really play with it. The majority of the work is done for you already in the script.” Writer and Director Harrington makes this avenue a two way street commenting, “The nature of a shoot required to make a movie like Live Is…is exceptionally trying, so getting to work with actors who, not only come prepared, but also have incredible talent and insight, such as Kayla, makes everything a little easier.”

“Love Is…” has the moniker of both comedy and drama, with the obvious romantic setting. While the romance of Maddie and Nick drives the movie, it is Maddie’s best friend, Liz (played by Daphne Tenne), who supplies much of the comic relief. The bond between Liz and Maddie lifts some of the heavier moments on screen, similarly to the actresses support off screen. Tenne states, “Kayla is extraordinary at what she does, truly a professional at work. Acting alongside Kayla in this film was a journey that I will take with me forever.” Bryan Lee Wriggle (Nick) shares a similar comment about Kayla and the other actors involved in “Love Is…” stating, “It has been a privilege to work with someone like Kayla Strada. She brings a professional attitude and amazing work ethic to the set every day. I feel honored to work with actors who take control of their work and strive to make each take exceptional.”

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It is not often that a movie is required to take place in a particular city, but sometimes the location enhances the feeling of the movie in a way that is undeniable. Italy has many beautiful cities but who can think of Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita” taking place anywhere except Rome? In the same way, San Francisco becomes a character in “Love Is…” The Bay, the twisting roads, the hills, the skyline, all these terrains become synonymous with the numerous and varied emotions one feels when dealing with love. Strada emphatically confirms that the locale is essential to the feel of the film declaring, “San Francisco was a deliberate filming choice! Visually, it’s a romantic and beautiful setting for the story. I don’t think the movie could have had the same impact if it were filmed in LA…or anywhere else. The way that you feel when you’re there…it makes you think about the possibilities and dream of greater things happening in your life.”

With “Love Is…” making the switch to full-length feature film and Kayla as the female lead, the young actress is hoping to explore more opportunities in Hollywood. Having experienced a good deal of fame and success in her homeland, she is excited about the roles she might land as well as the possibilities of working with those whom she has admired in film. She states, “I really hope to work alongside the people whom I look up to in the industry; the Cate Blanchett’s of the world who take their work to another level. I had the opportunity to work with Mena Suvari and it was a real moment for me. I realized, not only do I get to learn from her talent but it was also nice to see how humble she still is. There is always something creative going on here in Hollywood. It really is the heart of entertainment. I think I had to be here to truly understand that.”IMG_3268