Category Archives: Canadian Star

DAHOV AND JEREMIH BRING MUSIC FANS TOGETHER

 

The Arts are often the key to a universal experience and language among all people of the planet. While the accent of different paintings, cinema, and music may reveal their point of origin, the ability of these mediums to convey emotion and a connection with others is often beyond the words and language they might contain. It has often been said that the work of an artist is that of bringing all peoples together by conveying the emotions we all share, regardless of our background. As technology brings the world closer, the assimilation of different cultures and their artistic contributions is clearly evident and results in a decrease of noticing the differences and an increase in the appreciation of what these differences offer to the collective global experience. The Canadian percussionist/drummer/entertainer knowns simply as Dahov performed at a concert with American artist Jeremih (Jeremih Felton) exciting the crowd at the Olympia Theatre in Montreal. Jeremih is a Chicago native whose multiple high charting hits like “Birthday Sex” and “All About You” broke into the top five on the Billboard charts. His legions of fans are based in the R&B/Hip Hop world while Dahov is a solo artist known for House, EDM, and various other musical forms with which he infuses Latin and Middle Eastern rhythmic ideas. While both artists share a love of percussion from their early teens, each of them has cultivated and evolved into their own style and brand of musical entertainment. Their performance together at the Olympia Theater shows how these artists brought their fan bases together for a night of thrilling entertainment, proving that we can appreciate the differences we have while recognizing a common thread.

For his appearance in Montreal, Jeremih and his management were seeking out a Canadian artist who would both be familiar to the crowd as well as be exciting enough to create a feverish tone for the concert. Adam Bultz (OWNER OF C3EVENTS with over 20 years of experience in the entertainment industry) was consulted and he immediately suggested Dahov. Bultz and Dahov have worked together on numerous large scale entertainment events in Canada. Bultz declares, “Dahov’s unique style and looks are definitely a selling point. With such passion in what he does, he sets the bar at a complete different level from others in this business! He is also such a wonderful person and he reflects his personality in his work ethic. He is the type of musician and entertainer who creates a special bond with his audience. Rather than setting himself above the audience, Dahov has an amazing ability to pull everyone in and making them feel as if they are in an intimate party, relaxed and able to have fun.”

STUDIO11 taken by ARA SASSOUNIAN (well known artistphotographer)

(Photo courtesy of Ara Sassounian)

This event featuring Jeremih and Dahov is a template for how different artists can create an experience for an audience that is eclectic and yet relative. While Jeremih is a singer/rapper, Dahov is a percussionist who does not sing. Both artists perform with DJ’s and/or tracks and, at least in this situation, both had dancers joining them onstage. Very similar production styles but very different content. Perhaps the most amazing aspect of Dahov’s ability is that he is able to entertain the audience by playing a hand percussion instrument know as a Darbuka. This middle eastern “goblet drum” is the core and essence of his one-man band (supplemented by tracks). It is truly amazing to see how this talented artist can drive a crowd (in this case, the 700-member audience that packed out the Olympia) to a literal feverish pitch. His technique and musicality is mesmerizing while his ability to hold the crowd in the palm of his hand and create the excitement equal to any outdoor EDM festival is…well, jaw dropping. The synergy between the artists’ performance was a great success but was not necessarily intuitive. At a meeting prior to the performance that night, Jeremih and Dahov discussed how to approach the differences in their musical styles in order to insure a cohesive quality for the crowd. While much of Jermih’s music is more relaxed in tempo (sometimes even romantic), Dahov is known for his upbeat party vibe style. Dahov explains his approach to manifesting the appropriate vibe for the evening, “We wanted to do something different than the usual upbeat show, so I used Arabic oriental techniques. This style usually calls for you to play for belly dancers and, even though there are faster beats, we performed the slower beats using the derbake percussion because it allows for very intricate and interesting rhythmic ideas. It was a perfect match to afterwards fade with Jeremih’s first song.” Dahov readily admits that, just as the crowd was exposed to different musical influences at this performance, the percussionist/entertainer himself also gained an even greater appreciation for his fellow entertainer. He notes, “Jeremih is truly an amazing talent. It’s always educational for me to see how another artist relates to the crowd, how they design the rhythm of their show, and how the crowd reacts to what they do. Anyone who has seen Jeremih perform has seen the evidence first hand of how great he is. I knew his music but seeing him live gives me a deeper understanding of his talent. I like Hip Hop and Rap but I am more into a club house, EDM, Latin kind of music. I love the feel of the beat, the melodies, especially when I perform to these kinds of music it feels like I am actually inside the music…producing it! I like Bachata, in particular Romeo Santos. Bachata is such a relaxing type of music. I enjoy listening to it whenever and wherever. It makes me feel like I’m somewhere down south sitting on the beach and watching the ocean! Another type of Latin music that I like is reggaetón. Reggaetón is all about the party; the positive mood and tropical paradise! EDM and house artists like Calvin Harris and Tiesto are my favorites. I have seen them both perform in Las Vegas and their music is on another level! Their collaborations with other artists are perfect! The melodies and sound samples they integrate enter your ears and gets your emotions jumping. I’m hoping to come to the US and pursue my own version of the path that these artists have forged. I have proven to myself and the people of Canada that a drummer can perform by himself and command the attention of sold out crowds. Performing and communicating with American artists like Jeremih has only made my desire to become a part of the great American music and entertainment industry even more attractive…and seem more possible.”

corporate2

COMEDY GODS APPEASED, JORDAN ROTH MOVES FORWARD

Sometimes rules aren’t fair. For example, in the world of music it is commonly accepted that songwriters actively pursue performing but in comedy it is the presumption that writers never (or rarely) participate in live comedy. The truth is that most writers take part in performing in some manner. It’s virtually impossible in comedy to write successfully without having been on the front lines and getting that immediate feedback of what plays well with a crowd and what does not. Canadian writer Jordan Roth has long been a live performer who has channeled his experiences into his writing. In addition to performances on Jimmy Kimmel Live and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, Jordan has been a highly recognizable part of the Chicago comedy community. Experience at theatres like iO (formerly the Improv Olympic), The Playground Theater, and The Annoyance, where he wrote and directed his show Live From a Studio Apartment It’s the Pathetic Loser Show, gave him the opportunity to develop his personal comedy perspective through performance, writing, and directing. While he has spent time in New York and LA, the romance of Chicago with its history of Second City and SNL alumni was the environment that allowed for Jordan’s discovery of his comic self without the omnipresence of the TV and movie industry. These days, major networks call on Roth for his talent. Taking his writing to new places, Roth has also become involved in the documentary film community with his own C-Rock as well as the documentary film anthology True New York. At heart, Jordan is a storyteller, whether it’s in front of the camera displaying his own ideas, writing them for others, or filming real life characters. Regardless of the method, he has a lot to say.

Anyone involved in comedy will tell you that it is a difficult road. The pull was undeniable for Roth. While the premise of “The Producers” might have been complex for most ten-year-olds, Jordan took to it immediately when his grandfather introduced him to it. Later it would be Conan O’Brien’s version of Late Night, Letterman, Seinfeld, Larry David, Woody Allen, and Mel Brooks who would inspire him. All of these unique voices carry a common thread of intelligence and humor tinged with absurdity, a trait also found in Roth’s style. The Chicago improv comedy scene enabled Jordan to channel his ideas into quick expression. Understanding what works and doing so quickly is a major asset to any writer and performer.

Comedy writer and actor Thomas Whittington experienced Roth’s talent up close and next to him onstage. Thomas comments, “Jordan is an ideal comedy writing partner because he can find the funny in pretty much anything. Many times I’ve watched him take a half-baked, ‘nothing’ premise and turn it into a sharp, surprising scene that makes me laugh hysterically. His sense of humor is a weird mix of cynicism and sweetness. He’s just a very gifted, very original voice. His ability to weave mistakes into the fabric of a show is amazing. So many times in improv, something unintentional happens; an actor misspeaks, or forgets something that had been established previously. If those things aren’t acknowledged by the performers, the audience starts to check out. Jordan not only acknowledges the mistakes, but he justifies them brilliantly, making his teammates look like they actually had this great idea all along. Performing with him, you feel taken care of in a way that’s rare.”

10250052_10102526210864971_8079197257405096101_n

After Chicago, Jordan spent a great deal of his time in Los Angeles and New York City. These hubs of the comedy scene gave him numerous opportunities to exhibit his talent and gain notoriety as both a performer and a writer. Shows like ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live and CBS’s Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson provided Roth with face time but may have appeared more glamorous to the viewer than to performer. Jordan recalls, “On Ferguson, I performed in a number of sketches in front of the audience. For some reason, Craig often had myself and Bridger (Winegar), who’s now a writer on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, do bits where we were scantily clad. One time we were bees. We wore black speedos and the makeup people painted our torsos and arms in black and yellow stripes. After the show the body paint wouldn’t come off…It was bad. We were in the showers at CBS very late, long after the taping, trying to remove the paint from our bodies. I think eventually we just gave up and went home, still striped.” These late night talk show appearances gave Jordan the opportunity to be on camera as well as put his well-honed improv chops to good use. He explains, “There was a lot of movement to play around. At Kimmel, there wasn’t much time to prepare for a pre-taped bit. You’d find out about your casting in these kind of bits the day before or even the day of. It’s a mix of your own instincts and the director’s. Generally, a director will let you go and then they’ll give you direction and guidance from there.” Jen Spyra, who came up with Jordan in Chicago’s comedy scene and has written for The New Yorker, McSweeney’s, and The Wall Street Journal, declares, “As writer on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, I’m lucky enough to work with some of the sharpest minds in comedy. I can confidently say that Jordan Roth still stands out as one of the most talented writers that I know. Jordan is that rare breed of writer; he’s as brilliantly funny as he is hardworking. Jordan’s original voice and dedication have separated him from the pack in every iteration of his career: from when we were starting out together doing improv and sketch in Chicago, to when we were graduate students in screenwriting at Northwestern and then working as post grads in LA. Jordan has always done exceptional work and everyone who gets to work with him turns into a superfan. I’ve always looked to his discipline with his writing as something to emulate. He’s the whole package.”

As with so many of his heroes, Jordan Roth is the somewhat cerebral, non pandering type of comedy writer and performer; somewhat self-conscious, emotional in his own way, and always in search of a unique perspective. Canada has given the world countless purveyors of comedy: writers, performers, producers. All of these creative types prove that there is something special that comes from our neighbors to the North. We are the recipients of the minds like Roth, the ones who can’t help but find a way to guide us into a laugh reveals as much about them as it does about us.

221782_206826592682522_4024762_n

GREENWOOD ISN’T AFRAID OF THE ANTI-SEQUEL

sequence.Still001

There is a quote that is attributed to many fine actors that states, “Dying is easy. Comedy is difficult.” It has been repeated by Academy Award winners like Gregory Peck and Jack Lemmon (most consider Edmund Kean to be the originator) and speaks to the fact that making something seem spontaneous and light hearted takes a fair bit more convincing than a dire situation. There’s also a fairly common belief that the film industry takes itself too seriously and rejects mockery. This is a notion to which Canadian writer/producer/actor Troy Greenwood does not subscribe. As a part of the FAFC (Film Actors Fight Club), Greenwood helped create the award winning film Diamond Planet. With a very self-deprecating approach, Diamond Planet poked fun at filmmakers, the film industry, and even film students. In this production, fools abounded while intelligence was scarce. The film was so popular that Troy decided to write/produce and act in the sequel…a sequel which is in fact about a film that is not yet a film. As proof that filmmakers revel in self ridicule, Diamond Planet 2: Emerald Horizon was embraced with greater enthusiasm than the original (winning at the Calgary Film Challenge and going on to screen at the Sun and Sand Film Festival in Mississippi). Diamond Planet 2: Emerald Horizon is a testament to the fact that as long as creative individuals take themselves too seriously, there will be peers among them who remind us all how absurd they seem.

It has increasingly become commonplace for filmmakers to feed upon themselves, recycling films and themes from the past, sometimes even repeating the same current day premise but with different casts. While Diamond Planet shone a light on laughable concepts in modern film, Diamond Planet 2: Emerald Horizon turns its gaze to the film industry’s lack of originality and ingenuity. It seems that the current M.O. is to go for a wide audience that assures box office rather than fosters new ideas and artists; at least for the most part. Greenwood had a clear idea for a sequel which immediately follows the action of the first film. In Diamond Planet 2: Emerald Horizon, Ollie Swagger (the filmmaker from the original Diamond Planet) steals the idea for the “Diamond Planet” that was pitched in the first film. He’s going to try and sell the idea to a studio at the annual pitchtime event. Unfortunately for Ollie, when he was bragging about it the night before the meeting, his nemesis overheard him. The next day when they are seated together, Swagger starts into a pitch about “Diamond Planet”. In the film’s premise, the Diamond Planet will cross between the sun and the earth, magnifying the sun’s rays and burning the earth to a crisp. The government wants to send optometrists into space to change the curvature of the Diamond Planet rendering the rays harmless. However, Swagger’s nemesis jumps in, pitching his movie “Emerald Horizon” about a giant emerald planet and ophthalmologists in space. We, as the actual audience, see cuts back and forth between trailers for these films as they are pitched. Each trailer becomes more and more ridiculous until they’re basically turned into one complete parody of a movie; to which the studio’s representative responds “I like it, but how about a hamster!” The unseen wink with which Greenwood delivers the humor is obvious to all. One need not look too far into recent movie productions to see evidence of this scenario. Cutting to the core of the movie’s lesson, Troy notes, “Anything that tries too hard to purport itself is funny.”

DIAMOND PLANET 2 Final Cut.mp4.Still001

Due to the nature of “Diamond Planet” (the spoof movie) being a science fiction suspense thriller, the production value and the cast for this sequel necessitated a sizable increase from the original Diamond Planet. Because the original was so successful, it helped to propel much of the original cast and crew into busier careers and thus some key players proved unavailable for this sequel. Luckily the popularity of Diamond Planet attracted the interest and involvement of a large number of respected Canadian actors (both films are Canadian productions). This included noted theater and film actor Stuart Bentley. Greenwood’s prowess at a multitude of production roles, in addition to the script is what enticed Bentley to join the cast of Diamond Planet 2: Emerald Horizon. He comments, “Over the years, I’ve had the distinct pleasure of working with Troy Greenwood on stage and in film. In a production of Inherit the Wind Troy gave a masterfully understated and relatable performance of the accused schoolteacher, Bertram Cates. Troy effortlessly navigated this difficult character, drawing in audiences and critical approval. I had the opportunity to act in Diamond Planet 2: Emerald Horizon which Troy wrote, directed, and starred in. Troy had written a wonderfully funny script, and easily navigated the tricky job of acting and directing in his own production. He took great care of his cast and crew, and kept the production flowing on time, while being careful to ensure that every needed master and coverage shot was captured to realize his artistic vision. Diamond Planet 2: Emerald Horizon was a great success with judges and audiences and continues to be one of my favorite film projects of the past several years.” In addition to Bentley, the considerably larger cast included notables such as Jesse Collin (Fargo), Helen Young, and many others. Troy remarks, “Stuart, Louie, and Helen were all a breeze to work with. Stuart’s presence as the president had a great gravitas to it.  He really milked the moments of humour in the script, nailing the timing of lines to keep the pacing moving as the film progressed. Helen was also wonderful to work with. I had an interesting shot envisioned where the camera rotates around her before landing on the president; she was a trooper repeating the sequence a number of times while we worked out the technical kinks with the camera movement.”

DIAMOND PLANET 2 Final Cut.mp4.Still017

Another positive aspect of any sequel is that the success of the initial production allows for a higher production value in the second installment. The aforementioned larger cast and a greater array of interesting locations (including the Rothney Astrophysical Observatory, and the Springbank Airport Flying Club), were augmented by state of the art VFX. Greenwood relates, “I invested money to buy specific models we needed through a 3D modelling page.  Specifically, I got two distinct space ships for the two different versions of the trailer within the film, and planet models for the solar system, and then a diamond model so that my VFX artist could place them into the editor and articulate them to create the sequences you see in the film.” In fact, Troy concedes that he had to make sure the graphics were not too professional, in order to add to the humor of the trailers and the actual film itself.

DIAMOND PLANET 2 Final Cut.mp4.Still012

Diamond Planet 2: Emerald Horizon represents a blind spot in the film industry. While a considerable number of studios and filmmakers steer towards repeating proven ideas rather than creating new ones, Troy Greenwood has found a way to turn that concept around and use it against the very premise it represents…and still be wildly entertaining. Greenwood refers to comedy as a unique beast, remarking that you can plan all you want but often what is required is to just sit back and watch. Be careful filmmakers, you are being watched.

DIAMOND PLANET 2 Final Cut.mp4.Still013

Actress Maryanne Emma Gilbert has full career at young age

Doritos Commercial
Maryanne Emma Gilbert enjoying Doritos while filming the “Little Thumbs” commercial.

For Maryanne Emma Gilbert, there has never been a moment of doubt about what she likes to do. At just seven years-of-age, when many children are rushing home from school to watch their favorite shows on television, Gilbert is on television. Not many her age know what they should be doing, and an even fewer amount actually start doing it. Gilbert’s natural acting talents combined with a sense of professionalism beyond her years are what have led her to be recognized across her home country of Canada as one of the best.

Despite her young age, Gilbert has already seen success that many more experienced in the field can only dream of. Having already been nominated for a Joey Award for Best Actress in a Commercial, and another for Best Actress in a Short Film, she still remains humble for what she has achieved.

“My mom makes movies. I see her make movies. I thought that it would be fun to try to act too, and it is fun. I like to make videos too,” said Gilbert.

Gilbert has starred in a nationwide commercial for McDonalds, which ran during the 2014 Summer Olympics, as well as a Canadian Tire campaign. She has appeared in the film Jewel Fools, the holiday flick Season’s Greetings, and the upcoming film Space Rippers. Millions of Canadians have seen her face on their screens, and the Calgary native has no plans on slowing down.

“I want to act more. I would like to move to another city, but keep my house. So, I want to move my house to Hollywood. There is not a lot of things in Alberta. Soon I will work on some funny documentaries that talk about USA and Canada and hopefully even more things,” she said.

This excitement for what she does is evident in everything she works on. This includes the Doritos “Crash the Superbowl” commercial she starred in, titled Little Thumbs. The commercial aired on the “Crash the Superbowl” website in 2015. Although they did not win the contest, Gilbert says it was still a great learning experience.

“We were on a big competition and we wanted to win a million dollar for that competition. It was awesome,” she said. “We didn’t win it, but I learned timing. We had to retake a scene about ten times because the other girl and I had to do our timing really well for one scene. It was super tricky.”

The commercial features a team of scouts who get lost in a forest, but Gilbert saves them by planting Doritos in the ground to retrace their steps.

“I work with a lot of kids, and Maryanne is very articulate. She listens well and follows direction very well. She is very focused. She is easy going and fun. She always has a positive spirit, which makes for a pleasant experience for the cast and crew that work with her. From a directors point of view, even though I was a producer on this commercial, it is her openness that makes her a good actress, and her willingness to listen and take direction. She is always open to the experience she is in at that moment,” said producer Barb Briggs.

Despite being so young, Gilbert excels at comedy, and has a natural comedic timing when delivering lines. She enjoys doing accents and imitations to make her audience laugh. She was able to display this to full-effect in the Doritos commercial, as her character’s refusal to share Doritos was very humorous.

“It was funny because my scene was really funny. I like funny stuff,” said Gilbert.

But there was one part of filming the commercial for Gilbert that made it a truly amazing experience for the young actress.

“I got to eat Doritos. I love Doritos. It was the treat at the end of the filming we could eat Doritos,” she concluded.

Canadian talent Kyle Meagher: “it’s a very exciting time to be a young actor”

There are many people who believe everything happens for a reason. In one instant your life can change. One decision can impact the course of your future. Fourteen-year-old actor Kyle Meagher knows this well, and his life changed in a single moment.

When the actor was just ten years old, he decided to go to an open call at the local talent agency, but he also had a hockey game later that afternoon. He knew it would be tight, but he decided he had time to head to Angie’s Models and Talent to see what would happen. However, he underestimated just how busy it would be, with almost 200 people waiting to get their big break. After waiting for over an hour, he knew he had to leave or else he would miss his hockey game. Besides, at the time, acting was just a fun past time, and not many ten-year-olds are planning their careers. Little did he know that it was when he was walking out the door that his entire life changed.

When Meagher decided to leave, Lou Seymour, the co-founder of the agency was standing at the door.  As he tried to leave, Seymour stopped him, not letting him leave, and sent him straight to the front of the line. After his audition, he was immediately asked to join the agency.

“To think I almost missed out. I am so glad Lou stopped me that day from leaving. Lou and Angie always laugh about that and say ‘Imagine you would have left without talking to us? We couldn’t let you leave’,” said Meagher.

Since that time, the Ottawa-born actor has never looked back. He continues to study his craft and take classes, and at the same time has been building an established and extensive resume. Four years after that fateful day at the open call, he is recognized around the country for his talent.

“I feel as though it’s a very exciting time to be a young actor.  The opportunities are many, with the change in technology and delivery of programming with Netflix and other services, new media and the abundance of channels, there is opportunity to get seen by a worldwide audience. We are very fortunate,” said Meagher.

And Meagher has been fortunate. His natural acting abilities combined with a good attitude and hard work have given him an abundance of opportunities. He worked with an all-star cast on the feature film Northpole, appeared in a music video for worldwide star Janelle Monáe, worked alongside his close friend on the film The Big Crunch, which is making it’s way through film festivals, and had a starring role on an episode of the award-winning series Odd Squad. Despite this success, he remains humble.

“I actually don’t like seeing myself on TV. I have been known to run out of the room in embarrassment. I guess as actors we are pretty critical of ourselves,” he said. “The only time I do like to watch myself is when I am rehearsing for an audition or for filming. I have to tape myself to watch it and see if there is anything I can do better. I still don’t like to watch it because I never seem to be satisfied, but it’s helpful.”

The people Meagher works with, however, are consistently satisfied with both his performance and demeanour. Meagher’s manager, Dimitrios Seymour, describes working with him as very rewarding.

“To have such a professional, talented and, an amazing attitude, at such a young age, isn’t something that an agent like myself sees every day. He approaches roles with such excitement, poise, and confidence that he always makes a major impression on casting and production teams. I never hesitate to pick up the phone and put myself on the line to push him through to opportunities because I know Kyle will always follow through,” said Seymour. “His natural instinctive chops are what separates him from other actors. He has great timing and understands how to really read a scene and feed off his partner. He’s also worked very hard developing his skill set in class, which has made him a versatile young actor who can bounce between comedic and dramatic scenes naturally.”

In addition to working on award-winning series and a variety of films, Meagher has also worked on many national commercial campaigns. He says the most memorable moment of his career so far was working on a web series promoting Mega Blocks, a leading building block toy owned by Mattel. As a kid, he was living the dream, when every few months he would get a box of toys sent to his house to play and build, and then head to the set with a film crew to discuss what he liked best.

“It was amazing.  I did it for Spongebob building sets, Hotwheels, Police Cruisers, Skylanders, you name it.  Then, near Christmas time, I was walking through Toys R Us and I went to see the building sets and right there on the shelf was a mini TV with push buttons where you could watch my videos right there.  My videos were across all the Toys R Us stores. I started trying to visit stores everywhere I went just to see if they were there,” said Meagher.

Promoting what you are a fan of while working on a commercial makes your job that much more enjoyable, and Meagher has worked on all sorts of campaigns for things he genuinely enjoys. As a hockey fan, getting to do a commercial for NHL gear was a fantastic experience. He has also worked on many food commercials, and getting to eat some tasty treats while filming is, of course, a bonus.

“When auditioning for a Black Diamond Cheese Spread commercial, all I had to do was sit at a table and pretend to eat crackers likeit was my favorite food. I didn’t realize I was only supposed to pretend, so I ate the crackers the casting director gave me,” said Meagher. “He had to explain I was only supposed to pretend – not actually eat them –  and he had to give me more. We laughed and laughed, but I got the job!”

No matter what job he works on, Meagher enjoys what he does, and at just fourteen years old, he is definitely off to quite the start. Having passion for your chosen career path is important at any age, and his commitment to keep improving and refining his natural abilities shows a maturity that many people much older do not possess. He will definitely be on our screens for years to come.

“Being on set is an incredible feeling.  The people are always fun to be with and amazing to be around. It’s like instant friendship. It’s exciting to be able to suddenly be someone I am not. For instance, I tend to get to play the villain a lot. In reality, I am usually a quieter guy who is often concerned about people’s feelings but when I get into character, I can play the mean guy.  How many other people get to be different people every time they go to work?  While it can be hard work, it is always fun,” he concluded.

Andrew Searles is seriously funny in upcoming film Cereal Killer

While growing up in Montreal, Andrew Searles always knew he wanted to perform. As a child, he would watch Star Trek: The Next Generation and be captivated not only by the special effects and storyline that made the show what it was, but the performances of the actors. He watched every episode he could, studying how the show was made, fascinating him even more. When was watching other movies and shows, recognizing actors but seeing them play different characters, he was enchanted. He knew that he had to follow in the same footsteps. And he has, Searles is an incredibly versatile actor, just like those whom he idolized as a child.

While also being an established stand-up comedian, Searles is of course capable to deliver a comedic scene. He understands improvisation, and exactly how to deliver a joke that will leave the audience in stiches. However, it is his more serious side of acting that leaves audiences bewitched. He really can do it all.

“I like the aspect of portraying somebody else who isn’t me,” said Searles. “Taking on a new persona, a new identity, embodying their traits and creating an entirely new person, or taking on the personality of whomever I’m supposed to be portraying.”

Searles flexibility as an actor is exemplified further in the upcoming film Cereal Killer, written and directed by Fabrice Barthelemy. Cereal Killer is a comedy that follows Jimmy, a young man who loves eating his cereal. However, things take a turn for the worst when someone in his neighborhood keeps breaking into his apartment and eating his cereal. Jimmy, along with his best friend, Sean, team up to begin an investigation of who keeps eating Jimmy’s cereal. Searles plays Gus, the antagonist in the film. Gus is a very mild mannered, quiet, reserved, caretaker of an apartment building. He often says inappropriate things without realizing he said them. When Jimmy is searching for whomever has been breaking into his apartment and eating his cereal, it eventually turns out Gus was the culprit the whole time.

“Portraying a character like Gus allowed me to ‘get my hands dirty’. I wanted Gus to be a very dark, twisted, soulless type of character. I wanted to use this opportunity to break away from being a ‘comedic’ actor in a sense, and shine as someone playing a character who is disturbed. Even though Gus’s lines would still be comedic in nature, I figured his lines would come off even funnier if they were delivered in a dark, morbid tone, rather than from a goofy, comedic character,” said Searles.

Gus was not originally intended to be a dark character, but it was Searles’ intuition that brought the character to life, and the twist added even more humor to the film.

“I created his personality and traits and integrated them into the film. I also learned how to embody a very serious, dark character, darker than I’ve ever played on camera. I learned how to keep the balance of playing a very serious somber character while playing with the comedic lines and aspects of the film. I wanted to be dark enough so the darkness of his character shined through, and the audience felt that, but not too much where the comedy aspect of the film is off balance,” he explained.

And does his technique ever work. In a pivotal scene in the film, when Gus is being confronted for being the cereal thief, he is extremely serious, as if confessing to an actual murder. He even puts his hands up to be handcuffed after his confession, as if he committed a large crime, but he is just being told he is fired.

“Fabrice originally intended the role to be a fun, goofy, type of character, but wanting to play something different than just a type casted comedic role, I played it my way at the table read and Fabrice lost his mind and hollered at how much he loved my angle on Gus. He was so ecstatic and in awe because he never envisioned his character to be that dark, and it’s his dark humor and awkwardness that made Gus even better on screen. I figured that if funny lines from a funny character are expected and normal, then funny lines from an unfunny and dark character would be even funnier, because it’s not what the audience would be expecting,” said Searles.

Although Searles went in to read for the character of Gus, he was actually approached and asked to play the part without an audition. The Assistant Director and Assistant Writer of the film, Sara Sommers, knew that Searles possessed extraordinary acting capabilities that would make the film even better.

“Andrew is an extremely driven and talented individual. During filming, he displayed his incredible acting and comedic talents. There is no doubt in my mind that he was the correct person for the role. No one else could bring this character to life the way Andrew did. His portrayal was done magnificently and effortlessly and I am sure that he will bring these attributes to all his future roles. Andrew is the type of talent that we do not meet on a day to day basis. He is unique, one of a kind and truly remarkable. He is the type of actor that not only would directors and producers love to work with, but also will be loved by audience members as they will be struck by his presence. I would work with Andrew on a future project in a heartbeat. He truly is a talent to look out for,” said Sommers.

Cereal Killer is expected to be released later this year.

Producer Michelle Solomon talks award-winning film Emma and telling important stories

simon-paluck
Actor Simon Paluck and Michelle Solomon at the Breckenridge Film Festival premiere of Emma.

“I will never forget the universal and palpable emotional state the audience was in while the film played. It was the first time the audience was not made up of family or friends. It was a humbling reminder of how communicative film can be and that it’s important to use the medium to tell meaningful stories.”

Those are the words of Toronto-born producer and graphic designer Michelle Solomon when talking about the highlight of her career. She was talking about her first feature film Emma premiering internationally at the Breckenridge Festival of Film in Breckenridge, Colorado.

Solomon has had ample amounts of success in her career. She transformed the brand Ace Building Materials by making them current and relevant with her graphic design skills. She produced the award-winning film Chalk Dust and the upcoming film Sunny Side Up. She is set to work on a television show with former NBA star Kareem Rush, and co-founded the production company Picosphere Inc. She founded the company Adoorn, an app which will revolutionize social shopping right in the palm of your hand, which is set to release early next year. Despite all of these successes and achievements, and being known internationally for both her producing and design abilities, the premiere of Emma still stays with her, and working on the film shaped who she is today.

Emma is a realistic look at the world of childhood cancer and how the disease goes beyond just the person diagnosed. It’s important to not commodify and exploit a very real experience that, unfortunately, many kids and their families go through,” said Solomon.

Emma tells the story of seventeen-year-old Jayson. Jayson thinks too much. He is introverted, friendless, and wakes up wanting the day to end. That is until he meets Emma, the captain of his school’s dance team. After his psychiatrist tells him to be more involved, Jayson joins the school newspaper and is sent to write an exposé on Emma’s rumored pregnancy. Instead, Jayson uncovers that Emma has cancer. Suddenly, Jayson is pulled into a vibrant world where real love and true sacrifice flourishes. Through Emma, Jayson learns about life, love, and the importance of letting go.

Emma was a story that needed to be told. It was based on the personal experiences of the writer, Simon Paluck. What initially drew me to the film was the way that childhood cancer wasn’t glamorized or made effusive. Many films showcasing kids with terminal illnesses, often portray an idealized version of the truth. The illness becomes a tool that convinces characters to fall in love or travel the world. Experiences surrounding childhood cancer goes deeper than that. It is specific and nasty. With Emma, I like to think we showed one of many truths,” said Solomon.

The film has gone on to win a list of awards. These include: the “Royal Reel Award”, Canada International Film Festival, in 2015, the “Best Feature: Venture Category” at the Paris Online Film Festival 2016, “Freaky Feature” (Best Feature) at the Broken Knuckle Film Festival, 2016, and “Best Indie Film” at the Los Angeles Film Awards, 2016. At this year’s Festigious International Film Festival it won “Best of Fest”, Best Narrative Feature”, and “Audience Choice Award: Narrative Feature”.

“It’s entirely humbling to know many are responding to the film’s message.  With film production, there is always a moment of doubt where you think others will not understand what you’re trying to do and critique it unmercifully. Thankfully, this has not been the case for Emma,” said Solomon.

But what is perhaps Emma’s greatest achievement is not the official selections at film festivals or it’s long list of awards, but the work it has done for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

To raise funds for the film, Solomon came up with the innovative idea to partner with Make-A-Wish foundation and hold a silent auction. She wanted to give back to the community through the film, so the silent auction was to raise funds for both the film and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

“This type of innovative fundraising is just one of the ways Michelle has proven she is a natural, talented producer,” said Veronica Porfilio, the film’s executive producer.

As a non-writing producer, Solomon says she is always trying to find creative ways to expand a film’s reach.

“My personal mantra is that instead of thinking outside of the box, recognize that there is no box,” said Solomon. “Personally, I felt compelled to use the film to make a greater difference. I was able to gather over $17,000 worth of donations and raised enough money to not only finish funding the film but also donate a major portion to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Our contacts at the organization really took to the idea of spreading awareness through the ‘show-don’t-tell’ approach of film.”

Solomon’s approach to producing earned the entire cast and crew’s respect immediately, despite being her first feature. The film had a small budget for such a massive project. They employed union actors and shot at over ten locations. Solomon would not let these challenges negatively impact the story.

“Michelle was able to secure a highly sought after location that was instrumental to our film without going over-budget. Without that location the film would not have been as successful as it was. When she first spoke with the location manager it seemed we would not be able to use the space to film Emma, but that did not deter Michelle from bargaining because she knew the location was key to the film’s success. After weeks of negotiation Michelle secured the location.

Michelle’s talent as a producer shone through every task while working on Emma, and it shaped the producer she is today,” said Porfilio.

Including Solomon, there were ten young, dedicated professionals lead our executive team working on Emma. Solomon says each person was there because they were committed to telling the story.

“That type of energy is powerful and we kept each other motivated, especially through the challenging parts of independent filmmaking,” she concluded.