Category Archives: Canadian Star

Director and producer Ron Grebler is the real deal while showcasing real food

Ron Grebler is a storyteller. He is a creator. He is a filmmaker. He uses his creativity and imagination to transport others to different places and times. Grebler uses his talent to captivate audiences. As both a Director and Producer from Toronto, Ontario, Ron Grebler has done it all.

With fans around the world, Grebler’s work has been appreciated by many. Just last year, his promotional video for the immensely popular Netflix series Stranger Things went viral, building up anticipation for the show. He has directed and produced several successful commercials, including the innovative campaign for Axe Hair Products on Canada’s MuchMusic, and commercials for Belair Direct, Fuji Instax, and We Day.

“I would like to think that I strive for ‘quiet storytelling’, letting the idea unfold in visual images rather than be heavily driven by dialogue or voice over narration. This is the path more rarely travelled in the heavily direct messaging style of the commercial world, and often embraced by branded content. Visually, there’s something fascinating to me about extreme close-ups with limited depth of field. That perspective can take the subject and add a dimensionality to it that’s almost abstract, which I believe connects with viewers. Given that I work in the commercial world, it’s not often that I can use shots like these, but at the right moment, they can really make a spot pop. I’m very cognizant of color and contrast. There is high pressure when creating a commercial because ultimately, it’s about ‘selling’ and for many viewers there is a reticence to that. That’s why I always try to layer a spot with cues for the unconscious mind to find them entertaining, engaging and if possible, playful,” said Grebler, describing his style of directing.

With such a commitment to his craft and an appreciation of the nuances, it is no doubt as to why Grebler is considered one of the best. When working on a promotional video series for Thermador, Grebler showed his abilities to go beyond what is typical, and create something revolutionary. Real Food with Thermador was a four-part web series that was an early foray into the world of online branded content video featuring celebrity chef Jamie Kennedy.

“There was a very unique approach in the development of this project as it was meant to truly be branded content, meaning we weren’t pushing the ‘hard sell’ of Thermador products,” said Grebler. “It was really meant to focus on passion for locally grown seasonal ingredients, especially as perceived through the eyes of celebrated chef Jamie Kennedy.”

The series was shot similarly to an HGTV show or a Food Network program, educating viewers as well as entertaining. Acting as both producer and director for the project, Grebler’s vision was imperative to its success. Mike Codner, former Studio Manager with DDB Canada , sought-out Grebler to be the director and producer, knowing of his creativity, work ethic and passion for the job.

“Ron has a flexible approach to production, whether it’s a big budget or small, he treats it with the same respect. He’s a director and producer first, but he sees the big picture in terms of the clients’ needs and the reality of working within budgetary constraints. He’s passionately engaged in the process, from pre-production through the shoot and will sit in on all post production too. He takes ownership of all that he does,” said Codner.

The campaign was very successful and won both the International Association of Business Communicators Gold Quill Award and Ovation Award, the Canadian Marketing Association Award, and the Canadian Public Relations ACE Award. Grebler says he didn’t even consider awards while making the video, he just wanted to focus on the client’s goals while making something visually outstanding.

“Honestly it felt odd at first. I was told we were nominated and I kind of shrugged my shoulders. The agency told me that it was a bigger deal than I realized and when we won I was quite proud. Maybe I was naïve but I had no idea how important it was to win awards,” Grebler laughed.

Taking on the vital roles of director and producer, Grebler was responsible for implementing his vision. By making the videos appear like a television show it helped connect the audience to the product in a way that other commercials couldn’t. The videos were made in 2008, and in those early days of branded content, it was essential that the video not feel like a commercial. By giving viewers compelling content, great visuals and passionate discussion about the topic of real food, Grebler knew they’d be engaged. When the chef ended up describing some of the specific Thermador products, it was part of the flow of the show and made sense, not just like a ‘stop-and-sell-the-product’ moment.

“It was flattering to be selected to work on this kind of programming. After the scripts were written, it was less about thinking and more about doing. We had a lot of locations to cover in only a few days, so it was about maximizing our time and getting the most powerful content. It wasn’t until the edit that I really grasped how seamlessly everything cut together and that it really flowed like a segment for a TV show, nothing at all like a commercial,” Grebler described.

Grebler also succeeded in making the videos a work of art. Shooting in picturesque Prince Edward County, venturing from Jamie Kennedy’s to an artisanal cheese factory, he set up each shot to have stunning imagery. The outdoor shots showcased the perfect late summer weather, from the golden light over a tomato farm to mouth-watering close-ups of prepared dishes. The passion and depth of knowledge shown by on-camera talent Jamie Kennedy and those he would speak with also shone through.

“It was a great pleasure working on this because it was as much an on-the-fly learning process about local foods and farming and food production as much as it was the logistics of video production. We had a small and very talented crew and we had to think on our feet quickly because of limited access and time at the locations as well as working with real people. I trusted them completely and the visuals and content we got was quite captivating while engaging in passionate conversations about food with local farmers and artisanal cheesemakers,” he described.

Working with a celebrity chef and farmers was initially concerning for the director and producer, however, as he was concerned about their ability to articulate in a way that would connect with audiences. Grebler eventually learned a valuable lesson that he carries with him today.

“Find someone’s passion when you’re speaking with them and they will give you gold,” Grebler concluded.

Watch Grebler’s work on the first episode of Real Food with Thermador here.

BRIAR NOLET HAS TAKEN “THE NEXT STEP”

While the entertainment industry is for the most part based around youth, it’s rare that we see someone truly grow up on camera. Ron Howard, Drew Barrymore, and a select few have come into their own and lasted in the business. In what would appear to be the most recent individual to fill this template is Canadian Briar Nolet. An artist of impressive dance and acting skills, Nolet appears on Temple Street Productions “The Next Step” about a group of young dancers. The Canadian program is equal parts astounding dance and a (fictionalized) depiction of the lives of the characters. As the youngest cast member of this program, Briar began as a member of J Troupe (the in-training group) but was so skilled that she was quickly was moved up to A Troupe and cast on the show. Throughout the several seasons of “The Next Step”, fans from across the globe have seen Briar grow from a young girl into a woman, mirroring the evolution of her acting and dance abilities. As a fan favorite, Nolet has traversed the planet with the live performances that “The Next Step” has toured with including; the UK, Australia, Europe, Canada, and many other destinations.

“The Next Step” has won many awards (Canadian Cinema Editors Award, BAFTRA, Canadian Screen Award, etc.) and received numerous nominations, but that’s not what made the show an international success. Fans from different cultures connected with the young cast members, the stories, and their struggles to pursue their dream. Frank Van Keekan (Creator of “The Next Step”) confirms that Briar was a focal point of this reaction and the show’s success. He states, “Briar Nolet burst onto the scene of The Next Step as a member of J-Troupe. J-Troupe was the junior troupe in the dance studio. We specifically designed J-Troupe to be a training ground for new actors, getting them ready to move into A-Troupe once they were old enough and if they showed enough talent. Briar was one of the few actors that made it through the ‘system’. Her dancing and acro abilities were unparalleled. We were continually gob-smacked by her performances. After a couple of seasons, we quickly had plans to grow her into one of the main cast members. As soon as she arrived there, Briar excelled, becoming one of the show’s regular cast members. During that time, and with very little effort, she grew a massive fan base and quickly became one of the stars of The Next Step. She has gone on the live tours which travel the world over. Briar is easily one of the show’s most beloved cast members and one of the show’s most in-demand characters. It’s been amazing to see how she has gone from a young J-Troupe member, to being one of the show’s stars. It’s all due to her amazing work ethic, her immense talent, and her star quality.”

Briar’s role on “The Next Step” is Richelle, a feisty and talented dancer who is singularly focused to become the greatest dancer she can. Possessing more attitude than friends, she exemplifies determination. Nolet describes, “Playing Richelle on The Next Step, really grew my skills as an actress. I have similar characteristics to Richelle; however, she does have an edge that I don’t really share with her. In saying this, it’s fun to experiment and portray emotions that are different than how I [as Briar] would react to certain things.” It is notable that one of the reasons Richelle has become such a favorite to fans of the show is for this unique personality. Richelle doesn’t fit the mold of the status quo, which many of the show’s admirers appreciate in both the character and Briar’s portrayal.

Something that Nolet does share with her character is the sacrifices which a dancer must make to pursue this passion. The life of a dancer, whether real or fictional, is one of giving up time with family and friends to hone your craft. The same cause and effect applied to Briar’s work as an actress. Richelle was perhaps communicated so well by this actress because she could completely empathize with the character.

The immense talent of Briar’s dance abilities is well documented and displayed on “The Next Step.” Pushing the limits of where dance stops and acrobatics begin, her performances on screen were often unbelievable. Briar is more than amused to share as she states, “I would say something that sets me apart from everybody else is that I have no fear. As a dancer, I will always take risks and try different things that sometimes nobody could even think was possible. It’s a shock to everyone that such a little body can do that. I also have a crazy amount of energy and determination and I think that helps separate me from other people. I am one to of course be safe but at the same time just go for things. Sometimes I honestly throw my body somewhere and hope that I find my feet. Ha. A lot of my tricks that not many people can do come from just trying the impossible. These are moves I have been doing for a long time and am very comfortable with, to the point that sometimes I don’t even have to think about it. The difficulty level is the same no matter where I do them. Obviously, on camera they can edit if I mess up a trick they can make it look like I didn’t but,  on stage you can’t do that so you’ve just gotta go for it. I get super pumped up and excited when I am doing these things, I absolutely love it.”

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Briar’s fans will be happy to know that the upcoming season of “The Next Step” shows Nolet (as Richelle) to be one of most focused upon leads for the new storyline. As Briar Nolet’s star continues to rise, admirers of her acting and dancing can be certain that this talented young woman will be pushing herself to the surprise of all who watch.

Writer Sarah Stunt tells inspiring and impactful story in award-winning film ‘Girl Unbound’

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Actress/writer Sarah Stunt, photos by Alexis Dickey

Growing up, Sarah Stunt always loved stories. The Toronto native was always a big reader, reading her first novel, Little Women, at just nine years old. She loved the history and romantic setting, drawing her to the visual, and she was immediately taken by the characters, seeing herself in the passionate and independent writer Jo March. At the time, the only way she could describe the feelings the book gave her was on paper. It was something that changed her life. Now, her talent communicating through the written word, and that passion that started at just nine-years-old, has propelled Stunt’s career, and she is recognized around the world as an outstanding writer.

 

Stunt’s work has impressed international audiences for many years, but it was writing the impactful documentary Girl Unbound that she considers the highlight of her career. The film is about an exceptionally brave girl living in Waziristan, Pakistan, “one of the most dangerous places on earth.” Maria Toorpakai defies the Taliban, disguising herself as a boy, so she can play sports freely, something the Taliban strictly prohibits girls from doing. However, when she becomes a rising squash star, her true identity is revealed.

“I love working on documentaries as a writer. It’s always a long-term, nurturing relationship that changes and grows as time goes on. The lives of the characters are real. You don’t have to envision the conflicts, the inciting incidents or arcs, they evolve naturally on their own. Being able to capture it on the page is where the magic before the magic takes place, because in a matter of pages, your essence of the film presents itself and sets the stage moving forward. Being able to create some sort of affect, as the subject matter is usually from a human-interest point-of-view, is always the greatest outcome. You learn to champion your characters and unlike fiction, their stories continue to evolve after production is complete. It has a long-lasting affect,” said Stunt.

As the film’s writer, Sarah worked closely with the Producer, Cassandra Sanford-Rosenthal, to develop the film’s basic concept, and from those initial ideas, she wrote the film’s script. Rosenthal says without Stunt, the film could never have been possible.

“Sarah is an exquisite writer whose skill and talent for her craft is obvious. Girl Unbound could not have been made without her guidance and her amazing abilities. The fantastic record of success the film had could not have been achieved if not for Sarah’s prodigious talents,” said Sanford-Rosenthal.

After being asked to premiere at the world-renowned Toronto International Film Festival last year, Girl Unbound received rave reviews from such top industry publications as The Hollywood Reporter and screened at more major international film festivals such as the DOC NYC (where the film was nominated for the festival’s Grand Jury Prize), Cleveland International Film Festival (where the film was nominated for Best Documentary), Athena Film Festival, and the Human Rights Watch Film Festival.

“I am so proud that the film has done so well. So much work, dedication and time went into the making of this film. With all the ups and down, everything from capturing the characters and their lives to the struggles of filmmaking in general, the final film is beautiful and powerful and executed in a way that will continue to generate a conversation after the film has been screened. This, in my opinion, is the true purpose of documentary film,” said Stunt.

With experience in writing for documentary, which for obvious reasons does not have scripted lines but requires a strict outline, Stunt was asked to join the film. The filmmakers knew they needed an experienced and skilled writer to properly tell such an important and captivating story. Originally, Stunt came to work on the film for a short time, but ended up as the lead writer, watching over the process from start to finish.

“The messaging is inspiring. The themes are varied with a focus on human rights, girls in sport, the right to education, and identity, but the courage of this one girl and the support of her family to use their platforms to inspire and make change is why it’s so important. Our main subject Maria is a force to be reckoned with, and if she can win and continue to do so, then it spreads the message of hope for others to do the same,” said Stunt. “The story was so strong and ever evolving. It took a lot of risk, courage and strength for all involved to actualize the final product and it inspired me to do my part as a writer, even though I wasn’t on the ‘frontlines’ of it all.”

In a world with a growing stereotype towards the Middle East, the story of Girl Unbound is of increasing importance. For Stunt, working on the film was not about the many awards and recognition both she and the film received, but about educating the viewers and inspiring audiences through Maria’s story.

“I loved working on this project. It took on many lives but the story that is out is the one that needs to be told. It has so much heart and invites viewers into a world that is both complicated and beautiful. It expels Western notions of Pakistan, sheds light on the lives of many but especially women and children and challenges old world notions that this generation of youths are trying to identify with and evolve from,” she concluded.

Actress Shauna Bonaduce takes audiences back in time in “Embrasse-moi comme tu m’aimes”

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Canadian actress Shauna Bonaduce, photo by Andréanne Gauthier.

Acting has always been a part of Shauna Bonaduce’s life. As a child growing up around Montreal, performing was a favorite past time, and the stage was a second home. As a teen, she was shy and thought maybe she should consider a different field, but acting kept coming back to her, as true loves do, and audiences both in Canada and around the world are thankful, as she is a truly unique actress.

Bonaduce’s versatility in her craft is evident with every role she takes. Whether it be comedic in the hit teen show Comment devenir une legende, or serious in the popular Quebec series 30 vies, Bonaduce knows how to captivate audiences. Her work last year in the period drama Embrasse-moi comme tu m’aimes did just that.

“Era movies are great. I love getting to explore an era that I would otherwise never have the chance to get acquainted with. I love researching and having the chance to travel back in time, and getting to explore how the women of these different periods lived.  And love the dresses and hairstyles of these periods. What a chance to be able to play dress up and be paid for it,” Bonaduce joked. “Also, the cast and crews of that movie as well as the director himself were just perfect. I consider this project as one of my most memorable ones.”

The story follows twenty-two year old Pierre Sauvageau , in the year 1940. Pierre wants to join the army, but he must take care of his twin sister Berthe who is paraplegic from birth. This closeness awakens Berthe’s sensuality, who then tries to seduce her brother. Pierre rejects her advances, but when he falls in love, he is haunted by the fantasy of his sister. He would like to get rid of it, but the fantasy of Berthe is very persistent.

“The movie takes place in the 1940’s, Second World War, so research on that time was mandatory for the process. In my creative processes though, mostly when the rest has settled down (learning the lines, researches, reading the script, etc.), the costume also has some importance in helping find the character. It really helps me become the person I’m portraying. How she walks, moves, talks, holds herself, her hair, it’s very stimulating. Is she the ‘good girl’ type or more frivolous? Trendy or conservative? Feminine or more one of the boys? The costume chosen by the production always influences my performances and I’m always exited when it’s fitting day to discover what they will bring along,” said Bonaduce.

Bonaduce plays Madeleine, a pivotal character to the story, as she is Pierre’s first serious date in a long time. He takes her out to dance that night at Café Bleu. When he gets in the car with her to drive her back home, the attraction is palpable and they start kissing. But as always, his sister is there to haunt him and, confused, he decides to pretend Madeleine has bad breath and that he will just take her back home.

“Shauna truly brought the role to life, with simplicity and genuineness while still keeping it firmly rooted in the period in which the film took place. This is a valuable feat, and not one that I have seen many actors attempt successfully. Shauna’s authentic portrayal brought us back to that time. She was engaging yet had the more reserved, prim decorum that women of that time so often had. She kept enough of her personal, modern flair to remain relatable to contemporary audiences, while still offering them a genuine, organic glimpse into their nation’s past. Without a doubt, we were delighted to have Shauna amongst our actors and she definitely contributed to the success of the film, which was greatly appreciated by the audience and rewarded by two awards at the Montreal International Film Festival last September. I would work with her again anytime,” said the director Andre Forcier.

In fact, he was so impressed with Bonaduce’s portrayal of Madeleine that another collaboration between the two is already being worked on for his next feature film, though the project remains secret at this time and can’t be elaborated on. He thinks Bonaduce was able to bring the perfect balance that Madeleine needed, the poetic and theatrical yet realistic and authentic approach that characterises most of the director’s work. Bonaduce is very eager to collaborate with Forcier again.

“Andre is a great director and quite unique too. There’s only one like him and I had the chance to work on what lots of us consider like one of his bests movies. I feel extremely privileged” said Bonaduce.

Going back in time and portraying characters from other eras is one of Bonaduce’s favorite things to do as an actress. In the film La passion d’Augustine, she had to play a trendy young woman in Catholic Quebec during the 1960s.

“I definitely did some research about that era and how things where done in that time; the role of women, the convent, the importance of religion in people’s lives at that time, etc,” said Bonaduce.

In the film, Mother Augustine provides a musical education to young women no matter their socio-economic background in a small convent school in rural Quebec. She helps Alice, a young music prodigy; realize her aspirations. However, with the looming changes brought by Vatican II and Quebec’s Quiet Revolution, the school’s future is at peril. Bonaduce plays Françoise, a trendy young woman who believes in modernity and evolution. She finds this convent completely passé and is quite happy that it is under serious threat of being shot down. When leaving the Church where a meeting was organized by the nuns in a desperate attempt to save the convent, she is requested by two students of the convent to sign their petition to save it. Françoise refuses immediately, since she is very much against that idea. 

“Historical movies are my favorites and I had the chance to take part in this great movie, with a very talented director. There are too little female directors in our industry. Lea Pool in one of our great ones and she truly inspires me. She is bold, outspoken and determined. There were also lots of great Quebec actresses on the cast, from whom I admire the work a lot, Celine Bonnier is one of them, and just felt blessed to be able to see them work and learn from them. It was just such a great experience,” she concluded.

Mike Goral’s narration truly takes viewers “Beyond the Hunt” on hit television show

Throughout his esteemed career, Mike Goral has become one of the voices of a generation. The voice actor started out as just a teenager, and his passion and commitment has led to him working with dozens of high profile networks in both his home country of Canada, and the United States. He has everything from television shows, documentaries, commercials, instructional videos, radio, and more. He is extremely versatile, and his voice is truly captivating; millions of people know this to be true.

Those watching Beyond the Hunt on The Outdoor channel have heard Goral’s compelling narration as he helped tell the story of husband and wife hunting duo Rick and Julie Kreuter on their outdoor adventures. Having heard Goral’s voice coming from their television speakers, the Kreauters reached out to Goral to be a part of the show. It was his first reality series, and it was a memorable experience for the seasoned voice actor.

“I thought this was an interesting story. I grew up in the city, and the people in this series were outdoorsy types. So, instantly, I was immersed in that culture. It was fascinating. It made me feel like I lived a real sheltered existence. They would go out into the wilderness to shoot footage for weeks. I had never met anyone who would go out into the wild for that long. I honestly don’t think I would do well in the elements for that length of time,” Goral joked.

The opportunity to work on something completely different than anything he had done before was enticing to Goral, so he immediately agreed to working on the show. Despite often just working alone in a sound booth, Goral had the opportunity to chat with Rick and Julie over the phone and through email prior to working on the show. Creating that familiarity helped to tell their story.

“There were some emotional twists and turns. Sometimes, the animal hunted would get away, and there would be times of disappointment among the cast. It was important for me to convey the tone of each scene carefully. The times, they would wait around for an animal that would never show up. It was a true game of cat and mouse,” said Goral.

The Kreuters act as producers on the show, as well as producer Jason Miller, who also scripted Goral’s lines. Miller has been producing television shows for the past 18 years, and says there is always a challenge when it comes to finding the perfect Voice-Over talent to fit a specific sound to put that perfect touch on a project.

“I was lucky to find Mike to be the Voice-Over talent for Beyond the Hunt with Rick and Julie Krueter. His voice talent, inflection, and professionalism to create the ‘perfect read’ always goes above and beyond awesome,” said Miller. “Over the years, working with Mike Goral has been a pleasure. Mike is just that professional that not only works to get the read done right, but, I’ve seen him be extremely flexible to get projects done after-hours and on weekends to help meet deadlines. Without a doubt, Mike Goral has just been awesome to work with.

He is an extremely talented voice-over artist. He has a talent for multiple sounds, inflections, and personalities to fit any project. It’s always a pleasure of mine to work with Mike.”

Goral agrees that working with Miller was a great experience, saying that his creativity added to the script. He once had Goral record the video of himself doing the voiceover session, and then used the video to actually feature him in the show. This was the first time Goral, as a voice actor, had ever made an on-camera appearance doing voice narration for a series.

“It was a lot of fun, and Jason came up with the concept on the fly. He is probably one of the friendliest producers I’ve ever worked with. We hit it off instantly. Jason was an amazing writer, so his scripts made my job such a pleasure. Really love telling great stories, and a great story starts with great writing. This was one of Jason’s many talents. He had so many creative ideas,” said Goral.

Goral’s voice was an additional character on Beyond the Hunt that viewers looked forward to hearing every week. There was no better choice as narrator, and Goral’s passion for what he does and eagerness to still learn despite his valued reputation and established career are what make him one of the best.

“I learned that it takes a lot of resilience to be out in the wild for weeks at a time. Seeing the challenges through the eyes of the cast, while recorded the narration rom my comfortable studio was very eye-opening for me. I was exposed to a culture and lifestyle totally different from my own. It was so interesting, and a lot of fun to be a part of. Nothing beats a great story to tell, and this, once again was my privilege as the in-show narrator,” Goral concluded.

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. Patrick Farah (owner of Sky Entertainz) was consulted and he immediately suggested Dahov. Patrick and Dahov have worked together on numerous large scale entertainment events in Canada. Farah 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.”

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(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.”

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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.”

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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.

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GREENWOOD ISN’T AFRAID OF THE ANTI-SEQUEL

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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Actress Maryanne Emma Gilbert has full career at young age

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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.