Category Archives: Celebrity

Challis and Cooke: Actors Talk Making ‘Memories’ and Movies

Sitting with Australian actors Alistair Cooke and Mia Challis, it’s easy to forget that we’re here to talk about work, such is the fun energy they both bring into a room. After quickly discussing how they like to spend their weekends however, an assistant director reminds the actors that they’re due on set in another 30 minutes. Both quickly start sharing details about the project that’s brought everyone to set this week. ‘Memories,’ a film produced by Lachlan Ward (who has most recently found success with the film ‘Quiche’, which won the Drama Award at the Deep Cut Film Festival in Canada) and helmed by acclaimed director Cassandra Lionetto-Civa, is a perfect example of a project that manages to assemble an accomplished cast, a distinguished creative team and a unique story.

Actors Alistair Challis and Mia Cooke
Actors Alistair Cooke and Mia Challis shot by David Attwell

Lead actor Alistair, who plays Tim, offers some insights into ‘Memories’ storyline. “Without giving too much away, the film is set in the not too distant future where accessing and viewing people’s memories has become a reality.” His co-lead Mia, who plays Charlotte, is equally discerning about revealing the plot completely, but did tell our editors that it’s a “sci-fi love story.”

Aside from what is clearly a fascinating blend of genres, ‘Memories’ also reflects how an accomplished cast can elevate a project’s esteem. Cooke, who made his debut in Ben C Lucas’ award-winning feature film ‘Wasted on the Young’ opposite ‘The Originals’ star Oliver Ackland, played the critical role of Young Hammers in the SBS mini-series ‘Deep Water’. It was in that series, which only aired just recently to high acclaim, where Alistair shared the screen with ‘Orange is the New Black’ Screen Actor’s Guild winner Yael Stone. He adds: “[w]atching that woman work was incredible and so inspiring.”

Of course, being the talented actor he is, Alistair is firmly grounded in the present and not focused too much on the past. He describes current co-star Mia as “something else. During the course of our first job together I soon discovered she was a natural talent, a true professional and a force to be reckoned with. We clicked immediately and I now consider her a great friend.” Mia, whose exotic looks seem to blend the innocence of Natalie Portman with the fierceness of Jennifer Lawrence, interrupts. “Working alongside Alistair was a pleasure; I learnt a lot from him and had the best time too. He’s very talented and we clicked straight away which was a bonus!” Mia elaborates that she originally recognised Alistair from his key role as Jake in the international hit series ‘The Horizon,’ which has garnered over 54 million views worldwide.

Although Mia may have been somewhat star-struck, she is an established actor in her own right, currently juggling three projects. Along with ‘Memories’, she is currently filming ‘Backstabbers’, directed by Lauren Mazzucato and ‘The Twincident’ directed by Blake Thomson, playing identical twins Claire and Evelyn in what will surely be a funny turn in her growing body of work. When asked who was crazy enough to represent her and her busy schedule, she laughs.

Alistair: “her manager actually is crazy!”

Mia: “in a good way!”

Alistair: “she’s exactly how you would imagine a Hollywood manager to be!”

Mia and Alistair’s chemistry is proven as the stars proclaim, “[w]e have the same American manager!” launching into a discussion about their different representatives around the world.

Actress Mia Cooke
Actress Mia Challis in ‘Memories’ (photo by: David Attwell)

Most importantly, both Alistair and Mia shed light on how actors’ own traits can inform character development. Mia tells us about Charlotte: “We actually have quite a lot in common; we both can be pretty awkward and really don’t have a clue how to flirt! She is a character that cares deeply for others, isn’t afraid to take chances and follows her heart.” Regarding Tim, Alistair explains that “Tim throws himself into everything he believes in and that’s a trait that really resonates with me. I’m a passionate guy and I can really relate to his way of thinking and drive in life.”

Actors Mia Cooke and Alistair Challis on set
Actors Mia Challis and Alistair Cooke on set of ‘Memories’ (photo by: David Attwell)

While ‘Memories’ might explore the challenging terrain of technology and the questions it raises about our society’s future, the film is nevertheless grounded in a very human story. It certainly would’ve helped that the actors were guided in their direction by celebrated filmmaker Cassandra Lionetto-Civa, who beat out an incredibly competitive field to win the open category at the Hip on Heritage Film Festival in Perth, Australia just last year. It’s therefore no surprise that ‘Memories’ is fielding countless distribution options to screen right around the world.

So what’s next for these screen stars?

Alistair tells us: “I am going straight into rehearsals for my next film. A black comedy that follows an unusual friendship between an armed robber and the man he is holding hostage.”

Mia explains that she can’t talk too much about her upcoming project, but she is allowed to share some funny details.“I’ve actually just started filming a new project where I play a character that is the polar opposite of Charlotte. She is a high school student who is the leader of a group of girls who murder some of their classmates with stilettos!”

Whatever is coming up for them filming wise, audiences can rest assured that ‘Memories’ will live up to its hype and challenge us all about love and the future of technology.

 

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Model Francois Angoston travels the world doing what he loves

Francois Angoston has always had one dream. It never was what he would do when he grew up or who he would be with, it was where. He wanted to travel. The Guadelopian native spent his childhood dreaming of seeing the world, and eventually he realized the best way he could live his dream and work hard: modeling. Since that time, he has never looked back, and now is an leader in the industry.

Throughout his esteemed career, Angoston has represented some of the world’s largest stores and brands. He has worked with the world-famous department stores JC Penney and Macy’s, as well as Belk, Bon-Ton, and brands like Pendleton, SanMar, Bonobos and IZOD.

“As a model, it’s a lot about being flexible and ready, to fulfill the client’s wishes and expectations when it comes to how they want you to highlight their clothes. The best way to promote a product is when you can relate to it. I love what I do,” said Angoston.

Angoston’s charisma comes through every photograph he takes, and he has contributed to the success of many campaigns. While working with the iconic shoe company Skechers, Angoston showed what he can do to the world, allowing all to see why he is considered one of the best.

“It’s always been a great experience working with Skechers. When I began to work for them, I met the director and I have to tell you, that she was quite a bit intimidating at first. She even got me a little bit shy,” said Angoston, laughing. “She is a fire ball of energy and she never stops. But you know, when you get to know her way of working through observing, you see that strong, ambitious and big-hearted woman with other eyes. She knows what she wants and there is no way around, but she would always make sure that everyone is happy in the end. I really admire her for being so tough and ambitious.”

Angoston represented Skechers through many different mediums, including television Commercials, print campaigns, catalogues, billboards, and in-store advertisements. He held the leading role of sole model for a print ad campaign the company ran in 2015. He could be seen across the country showing off the Relaxed Fit Footwear collection.

“I liked the fact that working with Skechers offered me a lot of exposure in different sources such as magazines, billboards, TV commercial, catalogs and so on.  On set, I worked with a lot of interesting people,” said Angoston.

One of those people was Lindsey Clarke, Vice President of Creative and Advertising at Skechers. Clarke believes Angoston’s talent is one-of-a-kind. She says he has the unique ability to look totally natural and at ease while consciously modeling, a skill that is not easily found. After his first shoot, Clarke was so impressed with Angoston that she invited him back for the 2016 and 2017 campaigns, as well as the television campaigns after seeing the success of the print ads.

“Having worked closely with Francois, I can attest to how commercially invaluable he is. His dashing good looks and extraordinary modelling abilities have established him as a highly sought-after model who brings immediate prestige to any publication, brand, or production he models for. Francois’ stature in the fashion and modeling industries is monumental,” said Clarke. “Though Francois undoubtedly looks exceptional no matter what he is wearing, he is able to combine his professional-looking clothing with the Skechers in such a way that the images emit a strong sense of poise and sureness that few models could pull off.”

This unique talent transcends to all of Angoston’s work. While working in London with the brand Express Gifts, Angoston was able to show a different audience what he is capable of. Express Gifts had seen Angoston before, and knew they wanted him to represent their brand. After meeting him, they were immediately convinced, and he has been working with them for years now.

“I worked a lot already for this client and we are always having a good time. Working with Express Gifts is easy for me, as I exactly know what the client expect from me on how I represent their brand. I shoot E-Commerce content and TV commercials with them. The TV commercials are always a lot of fun. Also I became their ‘Polo Guy‘. They love to shoot Polo Shirts on me, from Superdry to Ralph Lauren,” said Angoston.

Express Gifts is a company based out of the United Kingdom. They have many different brands, ranging from clothing, to greeting cards, gifts, and home and garden items. They are an extremely popular personal shopping service. But most importantly, working with Express Gifts once again gives Angoston that chance to live out his dream.

“At the shootings for Express Gifts, the team is always super nice and we’re always having a great time and good laughs. I get to travel all over Europe. Sometimes I really miss Europe, and especially the food there,” he concluded.

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.

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.”

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.”

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Shu Zhang is first ever Chinese makeup artist to work on NBA players

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Shu Zhang with DeAndre Jordan

As a makeup artist, Shu Zhang has done it all. Her time both working and volunteering around the globe doing what she does has earned her a reputation as one of the best, and that is why she works with the best. From doing the makeup for actresses attending the Academy Awards, to perfecting the image of some of the world’s best athletes, Shu has had international success.

While working with the Chinese media company Tencent, Shu had the chance to work with not only her idols, but those of her native country. The NBA has been loved and followed by generations of fans in China, and Shu was the first ever Chinese makeup artist to do the makeup for their players. Tencent had recently began the NBA network exclusive copyright for 5 years. The Tencent NBA official Propaganda “Not Just Competition” in the Chinese market turned out successfully, so Shu thought to herself “I would like to volunteer to be involved in this.”

“Being the first Chinese makeup artist to do makeup on NBA players is an honor that Shu deserves. She is great at time control and adaptable under pressure,” said Jackie C. Lin, who was working with the NBA Official Propaganda as a producer at the time.

While working on the ad campaign for the NBA, Shu had the opportunity to do the makeup for all-star players Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, and Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers. The players, with Shu’s makeup, were featured in various shots shooting baskets, dunking, and standing still, to promote the NBA.

“I feel easygoing and confident while doing makeup for celebrities, but male makeup could be tough. My application style is to guide the actor while coordinating the best makeup in a short time, before they lose patience and get less of a chance to bothered by the makeup,” Shu described.

Doing the makeup for each of the players was a very different technical experience for Shu. Chris Paul had a more sensitive skin type. To overcome any issue that would come up from this, Shu prepared medical level cosmetics and used a cotton pad. She applied a layer of anti-sensitive isolation cream before doing his makeup, and then evened out his skin tone safely and easily.

“Everything I put on the players had to be extra safe makeup, because on sport players, you have to prevent from any allergies or any other interferences that can impact their upcoming NBA game,” she said.

While working on Blake Griffin, whose skin was slightly drier, Shu knew to apply lots of toner before starting his makeup process. She then applied skin care products to hydrate, and gave him a more matte looking appearance with his wheat skin tone. She shaped his face using darker foundation, and then used light translucent powder to finish it.

While doing DeAndre Jordan, she felt extremely at ease despite his reputation as one of the best basketball players out there. She has lots of experience doing makeup for darker skin colors, which gave her the confidence to smoothly finish his makeup.

“They are not only amazing sport players but also have extremely professional work ethic,” said Shu. “DeAndre Jordan has an energetic and humorous personality, making him very easy to work with. For one shot, the production only had three chances to shoot his movement of a dunk, and aim to shoot and find facial expressions. This was a big challenge that Jordan seemed to do flawlessly, by being professional but also acting before the camera to achieve advertisement effects.”

As a makeup artist, she had to constantly work between shots to ensure the player’s real sweat did not ruin their makeup, and the fake sweat stayed on their face. There was also a time crunch on the shoot, as they were doing it in the LA Clippers Training Center. This was no problem for the makeup artist, as working with time constraints was nothing new to her.

“I kept a high efficiency in my work, doing everything I could to save time. Already being skilled in high speed makeup application, it helped me solve the problem of lacking time,” said Shu.

Her speed and talent thoroughly impressed all those she worked with, including Lin Wang, who was working with Shu on the NBA Official Propaganda shoot was the head of the art department.

“Shu is sufficient while working in high speed and still producing quality makeup application. She has an awareness for detailing, and knew to use highly safe makeup cosmetics on the professional athletes for this shoot, which is important to protect them from getting any skin irritations that could impact their game,” said Wang.

Shu’s bilingual background and flexible working style was invaluable to the process of working with both the NBA and Tencent. She values the diversified environment of working with both Western and Chinese teams. But it what truly made the experience was working with athletes, a new experience for her.

“NBA all-stars had been followed and loved by generations of Chinese fans, especially ones like Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, and Blake Griffin who are unreachable to them. I’m honored to be the first Chinese makeup artist for NBA players. It’s a great opportunity to get involved in,” she concluded.

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 Valeria Gonzalez stars in upcoming film Jaloguin

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Valeria Gonzalez, photo by Victor Crespo

Although Valeria Gonzalez studied Media and Communications in university, she was born to be an actress. Watching movies as a child with her family, she would see actors on the screen and aspire to one day do the same. Even throughout her schooling, she took acting classes, knowing what her true passion was. She moved all over the world, picking up habits and languages from people of all cultures, and with this diversity she can play almost any role. It was when she was studying her masters when Gonzalez decided to leave school to truly pursue acting, and has never looked back.

Gonzalez is a celebrated actress, recognized internationally for her talents. She has starred in many award-winning films, such as Sexy Jalapenos and Isola, as well as the web series Okupados.

“It is privilege to enjoy the whole process of creating a character and playing it, as challenging as it may seem at times, and working as a team with creative and professional people,” said Gonzalez.  

Now, Gonzalez is starring in the upcoming, anticipated film Jaloguin. The film follows Maria, the mother of a 9-year-old who is 8 months pregnant with her second child. While living in Tijuana, she decides to go to San Diego with her son to see her husband on the day of Halloween, and their journey ends up being quite an adventure.

“Maria is a loving and caring young mother, and a strong young woman who finds herself raising her son by herself, because her husband works and lives in another country. But when she finds out that her son is being bullied by other kids, and that she won’t get support from the parents of those kids, she decides to go her husband,” said Gonzalez. “I find that is very common nowadays for families to be separated due to work all around the world, and the reality of dealing with that struggle is something I was very interested in portraying, especially in such a beautiful story.”

Jaloguin is directed by Enrique Unzueta, who Gonzalez describes as being very interested in portraying the city of Tijuana as he knows it, so the locations where they filmed are very unique, adding an extra artistic element to the film.

“Valeria’s ability to connect in the most basic human level to the reality of the character is just one of her many assets. Her hard work and commitment go beyond her performance, she truly is part of the team. Valeria understands that besides an actor, she is a storyteller,” said Unzueta.

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Valeria Gonzalez in Jaloguin

Unzueta is not the only person that recognizes Gonzalez’s extraordinary abilities as an actress, as she was previously nominated for Best Female Actor in the YoungCuts Film Festival in Montreal, in 2013, when she played the role of Nicole in the film Dolce Fantasia. Nicole, an introverted day dreamer, struggles to complete a screenplay based on La Dolce Vita. She is passionate about Italian films and especially films from director Federico Fellini, her favorite movie is La Dolce Vita. Through casual glimpses of her crush, Marc, Nicole subconsciously enters Fellini-esque fantasies channeling her alluring alter ego, Nicoletta, who represents the person she would love to be, an elegant and confident Italian woman. Embodying this confident Italian muse, she captures Marc’s attention and finds the inspiration to complete her script. The film is directed by Jessica Angiuoni, and Marc is played by actor Jacob Frank.

“I felt really honored to be considered for this award. I absolutely loved the story. I related to how Nicole’s daydreams being so far from reality brought her great deception, but at the same time served to create something artistic and to learn and grow by putting herself out there with all her heart,” said Gonzalez. “I loved playing these two characters in one film, her in real life and her ideal woman in her fantasies. Working on how each of them presents herself to the world, one lacking confidence and a voice and the other one being elegant, sexy, confident and smart.”

Despite her successes, Gonzalez acknowledges that there are still challenges to her chosen career that even a skilled actress like herself has to overcome with each new role. She describes the biggest challenge as there being no right way of preparing for a character and playing it on stage or on a set. Gonzalez would tell new actors that they have to be open and ready to fail, ready to try something different, which is what helped her.

“I have learned that there are many ways I can start working and preparing, and I always feel tempted to do so in a way I haven’t tried before. Once the curtain is up or the camera is rolling, unexpected things happen, and in a way, I hope they do, since they make the performance new and real, and it makes me present,” she concluded.

Along with Jaloguin, audiences have the pleasure to see Gonzalez in two new feature films that she will be filming shortly. One of the films is about vampires, an old story adapted to modern LA, and the other is about the relationship between two sisters. Jaloguin is currently in post-production, but is expected to make its way to film festivals later this year.