Category Archives: Celebrity

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.”

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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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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.

Film Director Claudio DiFede’s Date with Cinema Fate

The movie business is fraught with ambition, cynicism and expedience—qualities diametrically opposed to producer-director Claudio DiFede’s gentle, artistic nature. The Canadian-born DiFede, who is equally at home working in television and motion pictures, betrays a gentle, individualistic aesthetic that is a refreshing divergence from hard driving commercially-fixated attitude which so frequently saps the creativity from mainstream Hollywood projects.

Claudio’s aesthetic, part vulnerable hesitancy, part determined auteur, part pop culture guerilla is showcased in his unusual, career defining documentary film “Calling Spielberg.” The story is one of fateful twists and human foibles that reflects the film maker’s distinct, creative philosophy.

The origins of “Calling Spielberg” goes back to the early 1990’s, when the 22 year old Claudio was barnstorming through Tinsel Town, tuxed up and cheeky enough to finagle his way into the People’ Choice Awards ceremony at Sony Studios. This was a star-studded, formal affair with tight security which the charming film maker easily bypassed. Backstage following the presentations, Claudio came to face to face with his greatest idol, the legendary director Steven Spielberg.

“It was a once in a lifetime thing—by chance if you will!” Claudio said. Like my whole life had lead up to that moment in time. It was crazy! Spielberg had just accepted the People’s Choice Special Tribute award and I found myself, backstage, just walking right beside him. It was one of those things I’d always thought of, ‘what would you say to Spielberg if you met him?’ Well, it happened, it took a lot of chutzpha but I introduced myself and I told the biggest Director in Hollywood: ‘Take it to the bank,’ I told him. ‘You and I are going to work together one day. For a split second I thought ‘WTF did I just say to him?’ He smiled, asked my name again and replied ‘Sure kid, why not?’”

Emboldened, Claudio repeated the feat weeks later, but at even higher profile affair: the post-Academy Awards Governor’s Ball at Shrine Auditorium, a big night for Spielberg whose “Schindler’s List” had just won seven Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director.

“It happened again a few weeks later, after the Oscars,” Claudio said.  This time I found my chance, I hugged him and face to face I told him that I can only imagine what it must be like to create such an incredible, moving film as Schindler’s List. He replied ‘Thank you,’ and told me it had taken a lot out of him. I then asked, ‘So, when can I call you?'”

DiFede today would not elaborate much more on the conversation or on his reply “I don’t want to give out too much on the film,” he said. “But let’s just say; it was encouraging.”

“I drove home that evening, roof down and I remember I couldn’t contain my emotions any longer. So I let out the loudest scream!” Claudio said. ‘The fact he remembered my name from our first meeting—it was a feeling I cannot describe. We all have dreams and this was mine. It was nothing short of a crazy euphoria.”

Was it just a lark, a childhood fantasy that had unexpectedly played out? Time passed. Claudio moved along with his life, fell in love, married, and started a family.

“I never called the man,” he said. “I had the chance, and I never did. I was asking myself that question. Then It occurred to me, I must be the only human being that never called Steven Spielberg when he asked someone to. What if? What if I did call? I was thinking there must be a lot of people in my situation that have left behind many of opportunities maybe even regrets and dreams left behind. We all once had aspirations, dreams – did I miss my opportunity?  there was one way to find out.20 years later, and that was to make ‘Calling Spielberg.’”

“When I first started working with Claudio I didn’t really have any formal training in filmmaking,” Mike T. King, editor at Big Coat Productions, said. “I jumped at the opportunity. Claudio’s attitude was infectious, which got me excited to hop onboard. The amount of time and effort he has poured into ‘Calling Spielberg’ is incredible, inspiring even. It is his passion project.”

Still in post-production, Calling Spielberg promises to be a fascinating examination of the human condition. Unorthodox and compelling, equal parts documentary, philosophical seeking, self-examination and show business truth-telling, it’s a rich, multifaceted achievement.

“Things happen for a reason, and we simply cannot give up on our dreams,” Claudio said. “I have matured and what my goals were in my 20’s compared to what they are now are very different. My goal now is to truly be who I am, living out my life doing what makes me happy. Honestly, I consider being a dad, fatherhood, as my greatest achievement.“

But Claudio’s romance with film remains profound. “Professionally, I was involved in Canada’s first reality TV show, and that was a great experience,” he said. “And being part of the American Film Institute, just being immersed with such talents from all walks of life was wonderful. To collaborate with my AFI fellows was a cherished experience. I am passionate about storytelling, through television or the big screen, either way its storytelling.”

Claudio’s commitment and emotional involvement with storytelling is a compelling, legitimate creative force, one that is certain to soon reach a wide international audience.

“Claudio is a talented director and pays a great attention to detail,” composer Mark Dunnet said. “He never gives up until he gets that perfect shot or performance”.

Actor Philip Moran Totally Recalls his big break

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Philip Moran as the immigration sergeant in 2012’s Total Recall.

For many actors, their breakout comes from a gruelling audition process, waiting in a room with hundreds of others, hoping to be the one left standing. There are call backs, and screen tests and waiting games, creating a stressful situation that eventually turns into something. After the process is over and everyone is cast, the rest is history. For actor Philip Moran, his career-changing role came quite differently, when he played the immigration sergeant in the 2012 blockbuster Total Recall.

Some people attribute luck or chance to their success, but Moran is not one of them. His unwavering belief that he will do something and achieve something ends up becoming a manifested truth. This is what happened with 2012’s Total Recall, starring Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, and Jessica Biel.

“It is quite extraordinary how it all happened. I felt assured that I was going to get an actor role in this blockbuster movie. I didn’t know how it was all going to happen, but I sensed it would. I posted all these positive-notes around my house to help create a strong inspiring expectation. I started making phone calls and tracking information to make things happen. For the first time, I joined the Actra union,” said Moran. “I got onto the set in a less significant role, and gradually caught the attention of Len Wisemen, the director of the movie.”

Wisemen, married to the film’s co-star Kate Beckinsale, had seen Moran on camera, and handpicked him to take on a more challenging acting role, telling Moran he could be a bigger asset to the film. The next day when Moran walked on set, he felt like the star he would soon become.

“At one point, I actually remember there were three cameras on me, and Colin Farrell, a great actor, was standing in my scene, but there weren’t any cameras on him. I felt like a star,” Moran said, almost still in disbelief. “And it felt really special. You have to get up and make it happen for yourself. You can’t wait for people or things to come to you.”

Now, Moran is the star of the upcoming feature film Adams Testament, filmed in late 2015, working alongside an all-star cast. The role has already been official selections at film festivals and brought Moran himself an award nomination at the 2017 INFAME awards. This success, he says, can all be contributed to that one fateful day in 2012 on the set of Total Recall, and the strong desire to want to be something more.

“For some reason, I was expecting it, like it was part of my universal plan. During filming, I was walking on the set as if I was one of the main actors. When Len Wisemen asked to talk to me, I was definitely very excited and felt my plan was working. Even though I believed it would happen, I was still a bit shocked, but I knew it was happening,” he said.

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Philip Moran is from Toronto, Ontario.

The role was Moran’s bread and butter. Having attended school years before to train as a police officer, he had training on firing a gun, which was one of the requirements of the role. Everything was working out for him. He was prepared, excited, ready, and expected the perfect opportunity.

“I brought my mother and my sisters to see the film at a Cineplex theatre, and they saw me on the screen in a big feature film. People were paying to be there. It was great,” said Moran. “My mom thought it was wonderful. I brought her to things before, like small film festivals and short film premieres, but nothing as special as seeing a big blockbuster movie and seeing your son on the big screen and his name scrolling in the cast list.”

The role provided Moran with the breakthrough he needed. From there, he became sought after and recognized in the industry. He started creating some acting workshops, and shared excitement with other people through those classes. Director Rafael Kalamat was inspired after seeing Moran’s acting scene, and offered his services as Moran’s personal publicist. Kalamat was then motivated to open his own production company and in 2015, he cast Moran as the starring role in his film Adams Testament.

“Philip is a flexible actor who can be a lead in an independent feature like Adams Testament or a day player on a Hollywood blockbuster like 2012’s Total Recall,” said Kalamat.

Moran said the scene came with a price, as it was a very popular scene in the original 1990 Total Recall film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. In Moran’s scene, Colin Farrell, disguised as someone else, is sneaking through immigration at the airport. When the officers realize it is him, a fight erupts. Wanting to make the scene not only as memorable, but better than the original film was important to the director.

“There were a lot of stunts, and a lot of bullets shells flying. That whole scene, it’s one cut. There were 450 background people on set, and approximately another 50 were stunt performers. It was so exciting,” said Moran. “I remember in one take I got hit with one of the machine gun shells and when it hit me on the cheek, it burnt. I saw the red mark, I got some gun powder in my eye when I held the gun up in the air. But being a professional I flinched and continued filming. It was a sacrifice, because that’s what good actors do.”

Working on the film was Moran’s first career-changing role acting with an ensemble cast, which he says gave him an amazing opportunity to learn from some of Hollywood’s best. After previously working as a warrior on the 1995 film Johnny Mneamonic with Keanu Reeves, this was his first opportunity since then to combine stunt work with his acting skills in a major film. For Moran, it was kind of a déjà vu.

“It’s funny, because my first film I worked on was Johnny Mneamonic back in 1995. The movie was about a man who had something in his brain that bad people wanted. When you think of 2012’s Total Recall, it’s a lot like Johnny Mneamonic and the 1990 Total Recall combined. There I am almost 20 years later, working on a film combining the two. It was magical. I came full circle to realize my career was made,” he said.

There is no doubt that Moran’s experience on 2012’s Total Recall ignited his career, and being singled out by a top Hollywood director justified any struggles he would have or had already experienced. Since that time, he maintains that having belief in yourself and the right attitude, combined with skill and opportunity, will get anyone wanting success to where they need to be. And it looks like that plan is working out pretty well for him so far.

“I felt like I was on my way to something but I didn’t know what. People are always saying you can’t see what’s ahead, and I tell them it’s based on what’s happening to you now, your interpretation of it, planning your work, and working your plan” he concluded.