Category Archives: Director

BIG STUDIO OR INDIE, THEY’RE ALL IMPORTANT TO DIRECTOR/PRODUCER JOHN ALBANIS

Education is a good thing but, consider that education alone is not indicative of the ability to master something; it’s a springboard to jump into the race. Specifically, when it comes to artistic endeavors, vision and mastery of skills easily defeats the knowledge base of how something “should” work. One can understand painting but it doesn’t make you a painter. A knowledge of the complexities of music theory does not make one a songwriter. Film school does not make you an accomplished cinematographer. While scholarly endeavors may get you in the ballpark, they won’t insure that you will make the team. Of all the aforementioned art forms, film is the newest and thus the idea of attending film school was not available until recently. The pioneers who crafted this art form and by whose hands it evolved were the men and women who learned “on the job.” Considering the fact that film has permeated almost every culture and region of the planet, they did their jobs quite well. Following in the footsteps of these giants is John Albanis. This producer/director had not planned on entering the film industry (moving from Calgary to the UK to pursue rock stardom) but made an artistic switch when he discovered he had a natural skill set that lent itself to this medium. With no formal academic film training, John learned from those he worked with; those who recognized his ability for accelerated learning. Years later, he has cultivated quite an impressive career which rests on both huge blockbuster productions as well as carefully and emotionally crafter indie art films. Feature Films, TV movies, music videos, even recording studios make up the eclectic life of this immensely talented Canadian filmmaker.

John Albanis’s work on major studio films is instantly recognizable and is not confined to simply one genre…unless that genre is “successful.” Some films perform well at the box office and also have a second life on downloads and streaming services, as is the case the Hector and the Search for Happiness. As Co-Producer on this 2014 film starring Simon Pegg, John had the herculean task of taking the production across the planet to locations which included: Canada, the UK, South Africa, China, USA, India, and Germany. The Story and its locations are entertaining and seamless, something which Albanis is quite proud of achieving.

Contributing his full range of abilities to the film Psychic Driving, John was director, producer, and writer of this Film Noir. Inspired by the great political thrillers from the 1970s films like Three Days of the Condor, The Parallax View, All the Presidents Men and based around the CIA mind control program in the 1950’s called Project MK-Ultra (a secret program that ran experiments on human subjects, often without their knowledge), Psychic Driving’s theme was perfectly suited for the Film Noir genre. It also allowed Albanis to indulge his creative side to great length, exhibiting his multiple talents. Utilizing his connections in the film industry allowed for a quick and impressive production schedule. John relates, “When I work on studio films, I build such great relationships with the crews whom I work with. One thing I quickly learned is that there are so many talented artists who are on the verge of breaking. In the case of Psychic Driving, I had recently completed working on Miramax Films’ Shall We Dance. This was pretty early in my career; I was a director’s assistant at that point. But the director, Peter Chelsom, had me very involved creatively so I worked closely with all department heads. I forged relationships with (main Camera Operator) Peter Rosenfeld and (Art Director) Sue Chan. I had written Psychic Driving shortly after the studio film wrapped and I gave the script to both of them. They immediately signed on as Director of Photography and Production Designer respectively. Since we all have contacts in the studio system, we were each able to bring those resources to this small, indie film. That’s why it has such ambitious production values.”

Not content with Feature Films or Indie Films, John also lent his production talents to a series of highly successful made for TV films (for CBS) starring Tom Selleck. Jesse Stone: Stone Cold, Jesse Stone: Thin Ice, and Jesse Stone: No Remorse were all presented in a period of five years.

As he prepares for the next obvious progression in his career, Albanis confirms, “Los Angeles is still the heart and soul of the film and television industry; it’s where all the main players are and where all the deals are being struck. I’m transitioning from being a hired gun producer/director into developing my own projects from the ground up and Los Angeles is the best place to do that. Last year, I purchased the TV rights to a book called The Mirror Thief, which I’m developing with Peter Chelsom to direct into an 8-hr series. It’s a mind-bending thriller that follows interweaving narratives of three driven men all connected by the alchemical possibility of a mysterious book, and shifts from 16th century Venice, Italy— where famed glassmakers perfected one of the world’s most wondrous inventions, the mirror (an object of fearful fascination)— to the seedy Venice Beach waterfront of the 1950’s, to the glitzy trappings of the Venetian casino in 2003 Las Vegas.”

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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.

KEN KARPEL: DIRECTING FOR NETFLIX, CAR COMPANIES, AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN

Eclectic. This may be the most appropriate word to describe the work and life of Australian director Ken Karpel. The background, experiences, and influences that led to the work of this multiple award-winning director is the plot to a movie in itself. While his early years are exotic and full of character (sometimes ridiculously so), the mixture has created one of the Australian industry’s most unique and successful directors. Karpel’s creativity has manifested numerous successful and lauded commercial campaigns for internationally recognized companies such as: Nestlé’s, Kellogg’s, Jeep, Adidas, Hyundai, and countless others. While clients sometimes raise an eyebrow about his methods, the results are undeniable. These achievements and awards include: ‘Best Integrated Campaign’ at the 2014 PromaxBDA Global Excellence Awards (Jeep); 2014 ASTRA Industry Excellence Award for Best Consumer Advertising Campaign (Nutri-Grain), 2014 Best Brand Integrated Spot at PromaxBDA ANZ Awards (Kellogg’s), a 2013 PromaxBDA Global Excellence Award for ‘Best Integrated Campaign’ (Topdeck), 2013 PromaxBDA ANZ Award in the ‘Best Integrated Campaign’ Category (Adidas), a 2012 Promaxbda ANZ Award for Best Sponsor Integrated Spot (V-Rentals), and many others.

The Award-winning and world travelling director is a long way from his early days growing up in Ukraine. His most recent professional ventures prove that Ken is always on the move and looking for a new challenge. A boy from Kharkov isn’t the most obvious choice to helm a documentary for Netflix about an Australian Hip Hop group but Karpel has used his unique upbringing and perspective to bring insight to all his work, no mater the subject. He grew up speaking Russian and watching…well, non-age appropriate films. He recalls, “I used to lie to my dad about sleeping in daycare so I could watch the R-rated Jean-Claude Van Damme opus ‘Bloodsport’… I was three at the time. That was the first movie I remember watching. The second was ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ and the third was John Waters’ ‘Cry Baby’. I did not watch any age appropriate TV until I moved to Sydney, Australia when I was five. Having newly emigrated to Australia, Ken’s parents were focused on work and providing for their family while Ken was fixated on film and TV. When his grandparents forced him to stop watching TV to go out and play with the other neighborhood kids, Karpel used the opportunity to recreate his favorite films with these make shift actors. He relates, “We watched Karate Kid and started practicing karate on each other in the park; after Home Alone we developed an intricate plan to catch burglars that ended up in me ruining my grandparents couch; following Happy Gilmore we all became interested in Subway and golf.”

Ken moved from film fan to participant at age seven when, after being inspired by Goodfellas (yes, at age seven), he immediately began writing films about his family and friends, complete with storyboards. He cites Quentin Tarantino with being the first person whom he noticed with three credits in Reservoir Dogs: actor, writer, director. He began to investigate what a director’s role was and study its intricacies.

Years later, when asked what it is about the profession he loves, Ken states, “I love every aspect of it. Pre-production is great because you’re figuring it out and that’s the best it will be. There’s no compromise yet. I love playing it all out in my head over and over again trying to visualize it before it’s even shot. Being on set is fantastic because there’s so many people there trying to achieve the same goal. I love the problem solving aspect of it. You’ve thought about this moment for so long and now something’s gone wrong…or it’s not working out the way you thought and everyone’s looking at you to solve it. I love that high-pressure environment and adrenaline; solving problems and collaborating with everyone for this common goal. There’s nothing like the moment when something magical happens that you didn’t anticipate. Where the camera moves in a direction and the light hits it a certain way or the performer does something you didn’t plan. I just love finding things in the moment. It is exciting to me. I also enjoy being in control of every single element in the frame. You’re creating a reality that you’re in charge of and it’s representative of your perceptions. You’re making something you hope people will relate to but it’s really a part of yourself. You’re putting yourself out there.”

One of Ken’s most recent projects is his work with Collider & Particle films. The production is a mini-documentary to promote Baz Luhrmann’s Netflix TV show “The Get Down”. The content piece follows Australian Hip Hop act ‘Horror Show’ as they prepare to perform their biggest show. It looks at the birth of hip hop in the Bronx during the 70s, and draws a line between that period and its continued influence on artists today, some 40 years later. Karpel envisioned a documentary in which the audience would be swept up in the artist’s world and experience it through their eyes. He would shoot each environment in one unbroken take. The camera would create a pace and perspective that which enables the viewer to feel as if they are in the room alongside the group. Once they begin their show on stage, when they’re in their element is when the real excitement of the concert is communicated. This took some convincing.

Ken concedes, “I’m glad we were able to convince the Artists and their management to let us shoot the live show on stage with them. We needed an up close and personal view of the show from the artist’s perspective, not the audience. Their whole tour, and thus their story, was building up to this show and from a narrative point of view we needed to be there on stage with them as close to their faces as possible. We ended up shooting so close to them you could see the sweat dripping from their brow.”

Rachael Ford-Davies of Collider & Particle Films declares, “We represent some of the best commercial directors in the business and based on his previous work, I knew Ken was the right person for the job. His high-energy visual storytelling places him in a unique position on our roster of directors at Collider & Particle Films.”

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Working with a totally different type of Australian group, Ken created a series of emotive and energetic spots that follows nine different people in the Australian Defence Force, juxtaposing their work lives with their personal lives. A total of nine 60 second spots were created. Revealing the humanity in these individuals, a series of match cuts matched the personal lives of these individuals with their Army ones. For instance, a helicopter pilot puts his helmet on to ride his bike to work and there is a match cut to him putting his helmet on in his helicopter at work; an infantry man is cutting up ingredients for a meal he’s cooking at home followed by a match cut that to him assembling his rifle at work. Always searching for an emotional aspect in a production, Ken comments, “It was important to have emotion and empathy for these people but also portray their work as energetic and fast paced. To achieve this, I interviewed each person off-camera and added their voice over to the images; this way they’re telling their own stories.  While shooting I realized that we had a lot of high energy action shots but to instill this empathy we needed a balance. I was getting a lot of very emotional stories (in the voice over interviews) that wouldn’t just work over fast-paced imagery. I decided to start shooting pensive moments with each of our characters where we see them take a quiet, reflective moment. Most of these moments were improvised in environments we found on the day: a locker room, a kitchen at sunrise, a bench following a heavy workout. The result gave the spots everything it needed: a high energy visual piece, with emotional tonal shifts that reflected the character’s difficult journey to get to where they are.

The best indicator that one is doing great work is when others seek you out your abilities and talents. For Karpel, this came in the form of his signing for representation in Australia with Collider & Particle, Target pictures in the Czech republic, and most recently Bakery Films in Germany.  As Anna Stolzenberg (Sales Executive at Bakery films) recalls, “At Bakery Films we had been aware of Ken’s work for some time. In November last year I contacted him to see if he’d be interested in discussing representation with us. Serendipitously he was in Prague directing a commercial. I decided to travel from Germany to Prague to meet him. I was expecting Ken to be older, but was surprise at how young he actually was. Over a long lunch we discussed the possibility of Ken being represented by us in the German market. A couple of weeks later Ken signed with us. Ken is an extremely talented director whose work defies advertising categories. He is able to do emotive, authentic and energetic storytelling pieces, comedic spots, visually stunning pieces and pretty much everything in between. The through line of all his work however are honest performances, a striking visual style, authenticity, heart and humor. It’s amazing to me that someone his age has already worked with so many international brands and I see him becoming one of the most in demand directors working around the world.”

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Processed with VSCO with c7 preset

“Changes” Marks Director Roberto Escamilla’s Move into Narrative Storytelling

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Director Roberto Escamilla

Originally from Mexico City, Mexico director Roberto Escamilla has carved out a remarkable reputation for himself as a diversely talented director whose work has continued to appeals to audiences in Latin America and abroad.

Escamilla recently wrote and directed the film “Changes,” which is scheduled to premiere at the UCLAxFilmFestival on May 6th in Los Angeles, as well as the Mexican Consulate in LA on May 25. Starring Joshua A Furtado (“Haunted Christmas”), Jade Lorna Sullivan (“Hold Fast Good Luck”) and Chaz Kao (“Lucifer”), “Changes” brings to life a coming of age story that follows Mitchell (Furtado), a 16-year-old boy who is taken to a brothel on his birthday where he is pressured by his friends to lose his virginity. Weaving together themes of peer-pressure, sexuality and the transition from adolescence into manhood, “Changes” is definitely a film you won’t want to miss.

Aside from “Changes” Escamilla also recently wrote and directed the first episode of the upcoming series “Baila!” starring Mario Morán (“La Doña,” “Como Dice el Dicho”), Samantha Siqueiros (“Vino El Amor”) and Leonel Deluglio (“Champs 12,” “Cuando Toca La Campana”).

Produced by Este Par Films and Escamilla’s production company Grillo Films, “Baila!” is set in a boarding school in Mexico where bullying is out of control. In an effort to combat the rise in bullying, two teachers join forces to convince the principal to reinstate the school’s artistic programs, the only problem is she won’t give them any funding. That’s when the school geography teacher Hector, played by Diego de Tovar (“El Señor de los Cielos,” “Opening Night”), reconnects with his street hip hop dance roots and opens a dance class.

According Escamilla, through the class “the students find an escape from their problems, with the class opening them up to a new world that will help them build strong friendship with each other.”

The highly anticipated new series is currently in negotiations with several networks in Mexico and is expected to be released within the next two years, so stay tuned for that!

Poster for the series "Baila!"
Poster for the series “Baila!”

For Roberto Escamilla the film “Changes” and the upcoming series “Baila!” mark a transition into more narrative storytelling. Prior to these, he made his mark as a sought after commercial director, directing commercials for well-known brands such Karo, Nescafe Taster’s Choice and Sky Blue To Go.

In 2014 and 2015 he was invited to join the Mexican Association of Advertising Agencies (AMAP) in France for the Cannes Lions Awards, which celebrates the best creative work in the world. There he produced and directed coverage of the awards, as well as exclusive interviews with notable figures such as “Baywatch” star David Hasselhoff, Ogilvy & Mather creative director Tham Khai Meng, and Mexican jurors Sebastián Arrechedera, Jessica Apellaniz and Hector Fernandez. The interviews were televised by AMAP as part of #CannesEnMexico and you can check out one of them below.

Last year Escamilla was called in to work as the second unit director on location in Mexico on the critically acclaimed Dodge commercial “Bandits” with director Mati Moltrasio. Moltrasio is well-known throughout the advertising industry for his work directing commercials for Kraken Rum, Jeep, Toyota, TNT, Dominoes, the hit series “Game of Thrones” and many more.

Moltrasio says, “Roberto was in the project from the very beginning working with me and making decisions. He was in charge of casting the whole secondary cast in Durango… During the shooting day he was in charge of the second unit, doing close ups and inserts for the spot. He also worked with me helping with the most difficult shots of the spot. The final product wouldn’t be the same without his approach and creative ideas.”

In the commercial, which stars Danny Trejo (“From Dusk til Dawn,” “Machete”), Trejo leads an unassuming car buyer out of the dealership doors for a routine test-drive, but instead of walking onto a concrete lot, the two find themselves in the middle of the desert. In front them waits a shiny B5 Blue Dodge Challenger, and in the distance, a gang of bandits on horseback quickly approaches. They hop in the car and the new car buyer is immediate sold as he does donuts in the desert and coats the men on horseback with dust.

As they were shooting two commercials simultaneously and the team’s main base was in Mexico City, Escamilla travelled ahead to Durango, Durango where most of the “Bandits” commercial was shot in order to lay the groundwork and scout the location.

Escamilla explains, “For this project I traveled to Durango a couple times before the official production to do the casting with locals, see the horses, because it involved horses, the scouting etc.,  I also did the tech scout with the DP, and all of the shooting plans. Once the main unit arrived I took care of directing the second unit since we needed to cover a lot of stuff in one day.”

Besides just being a hit with audiences and undoubtedly boosting sales for the Dodge Challenger, the “Bandits” commercial earned the Bronze Award in the ‘Craft/ Film Craft/ Direction’ category at the 2016  U.S. Hispanic Idea Awards, a major award ceremony that celebrates outstanding creative achievement in advertising generated by Hispanic or general market agencies targeting Hispanic consumers.

In addition to the award for “Bandits,” Escamilla’s work as the director of the promos for the popular Mexican historical drama “The Eagle’s Spell” also earned the 2012 PromaxBDA Gold Award for Best Package Design.

Escamilla’s work directing commercials has definitely garnered attention from audiences around the world, but his work as a narrative director is where his artistic vision is given the breadth to truly shine; and with the upcoming releases of  “Changes” and “Baila!,” we know we’ll be seeing a whole lot more from director Roberto Escamilla.

“I really feel grateful that I’m able to tell stories to the people. I love that with my profession I can reach people’s hearts by telling my stories. We get to live from art, not every profession allows this,” explains Escamilla.

 

Director Jan Pavlacky shines light on EB disease with powerful PSA

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Director Jan Pavlacky

It was when Jan Pavlacky was nineteen-years-old that he figured out his path in life. At that time, he did not know what exactly it would involve, but he knew he had to make films. He started off in the costume department, but when he got his first taste of directing, he knew without any doubt where his true passion was, and now he is an internationally recognized director.

Pavlacky has had an extremely successful career. He directed his film award-winning film BKA 49-77, worked alongside Hollywood’s biggest stars including Bruce Willis on the set of Hart’s War, Matt Damon on the set of Bourne Identity, and Luc Besson on the set of Joan of Arc with Milla Jovovich, and made commercials for worldwide brands such as Nike. He has worked with some of the world’s best production companies, including atSwim, which has an amazing international collective of producers, directors, and creatives from around the world.

“It’s a huge honor to be a part of atSwim,” said Pavlacky. “Working with creative people from different parts of the world broadened my own perspectives and I’ve learned to create work with more universal appeal.”

One of Pavlacky’s most notable projects with atSwim was a moving PSA commercial for the esteemed Debra company. The commercial was made to raise awareness for the company, which takes care of people with EB disease, an inherited connective tissue disease. The basic symptom of the disease is blistering all over the body surface, and also affects the mucous membranes, gastrointestinal tract, respiratory tract or excretory organs.

The commercial involved creating an annual calendar with 12 famous people from the Pavlacky’s native country of the Czech Republic, including artists, fashion designers, actors, singers, and scientists. During the commercial, projections were screened on the celebrities as they recited a poem by one of the EB patients. The footage of the celebrities was then projected on various materials and architectural elements, which created an abstract and inspiring vision that left a lasting impression on everyone involved.

“I loved that fact that I could use my knowledge or talent to create something of an moral value and contribute to the good of society. EB is incurable, and in many cases deadly, with very few medical resources and no known cure. Therefore, any attention and towards DEBRA, the organization taking care of EB patients, is important,” said Pavlacky.

While bringing attention to Debra, Pavlacky came up with the visual concept of creating light projections, which symbolized a second skin for the patients and evoked the situations and mixed feelings they go through as they battle the disease. This meant the shoot was very complicated, and called for an immense amount of preparation and technical aptitude. Before filming began, Pavlacky already had every shot planned to ensure the shoot was seamless for the entire crew and the famous celebrities. Pavlacky’s commitment and consistent planning ahead is appreciated by many of his counterparts in the industry.

 “Jan has all the marks of a legendary director, and his genius is present in all of the projects he has been a part of. When atSwim was called upon to prepare a PSA commercial, I knew Jan was the right man for the job. The project was a resounding success, raising great awareness for the Debra company thanks to Jan’s groundbreaking direction, which offered a clever visual dynamic to accompany the important message. Additionally, the commercial achieved very high media buzz which was so needed by Debra, as well as helped us to further demonstrate atSwim’s distinguished nature as a leading production company.  I can’t thank Jan enough for his great work,” said producer and founder of atSwim, Tomáš Krejčí. “Jan has proven himself time and time again to be a director of extraordinary ability made clear by his list of exceptional credits.  He is truly among the top tier of directors working, and continues to impress me with each project he takes on.”

Pavlacky describes the experience of working on the commercial as wonderful, but it came with its technical challenges. There were lots of projections that were re-recorded in-camera. This process was done several times, thus creating a multilayered image all in-camera without post. He also had to synchronize all the images with sound, requiring a large amount of time in the editing room. However, one of the biggest roadblocks came from getting the celebrities on set, as they were extremely busy. Despite all of this, the commercial ended up being a huge success.

“The collaboration was very interesting. The celebrities from the PSA came from different backgrounds, some of them were experienced being in front of the camera some were totally unused to. I liked the balance between the professional and the authentic,” concluded Pavlacky.

You can view Pavlacky’s work on the powerful PSA here.

Taiwanese Filmmaker Diana Chao Directs Visually Stunning Content for Innovative Subjects and Product

The renowned filmmaker Diana Chao has been reaching audiences worldwide through her directorial work for several years. Her past experience spans commercial work, short films, and even features, a few of her most celebrated titles including The Restoration, which Chao both wrote and directed, the informative short film PSA titled Violence in the Closet, and the US-China collaboration, Finding Mr. Right. As a result of her past achievements, Chao was asked to direct two key projects over the past year: an upcoming short film titled Match, and a hit promo video for an innovated product called Emora, both of which have been great successes.

After watching Chao’s first independent short The Restoration, Domingos Antonio, the producer and actor of Match, insisted she direct his forthcoming short. Chao had been referred to Antonio by Brazilian director Alexandre Peralta prior at a film festival.

“Match is a story about the apathy and the emptiness of the virtual relationships through smartphone dating apps,” Chao explained. Initially, because of her strong aversion to dating apps and websites, Chao found it humorous that she was hired as the director of the project. In order to understand the world her characters lived in and accurately depict their loneliness, Chao had to dive deep into the world of online dating and do her research via friends who regularly use various dating apps.

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Diana Chao working on Match

“I didn’t end up enrolling in any dating apps myself,” Chao said. “Some close friends of mine had been using different dating apps (Match, OKCupid, Tinder, etc.) and through them (both male and female users) I got to know the differences between the ways in which these apps functioned and how they targeted different markets. My roommate back then was planning to start online dating, so we went step-by-step through creating her a profile, held discussions involving what types of people would be attracted to certain types of photos and profile descriptions, and then tested our choices and analyzed our results.”

Chao chose to focus on Tinder the most, as the app model created for Match closely resembled the real-life dating app.

Fellow director and 1st AD, Jing Ning, who’s directed commercials for Mercedes Benz, BMW, Audi, and Volkswagen, worked closely with Chao as the 1st AD on both Match and Emora, thus receiving a good impression of her worth ethic in both short film and commercial capacities.

“Chao has a keen insight and fine sentiment,” Ning said of her coworker’s talents. “You can see those qualities in every film that she’s ever done. She created a dark and romantic tone for Match that gave the film a unique and artistic feeling. She brought out our actors’ deepest feelings to tell a story without dialogue, which exemplifies her solid directing skills.”

Match was completed in 2016 and is currently hitting the film festival circuit, including the 2017 CineGlobe International Film Festival at CERN in Switzerland, the 2016 Port Douglas Film Festival in Australia, and the 2016 Los Angeles Brazilian Film Festival in both the United States and Brazil.

Last spring, Chao completed directing the exciting commercial for Emora, a new product created by Innovart, a team of young Taiwanese inventors in the United States. In short, Emora is a smart accessory designed as a bracelet that allows one to express themselves and connect with people via color. This customizable bracelet allows one to show their style and mood by fine-tuning its colors and brightness with elegant gestures, and also has a pulsating light which fades in and out with one’s heartbeat.

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Diana Chao directing Emora

The making of the commercial was comprised of a one-day shoot at a standing set at 2010 Studios in Gardenia, California. According to Chao, the amazing Art Department of the shoot was responsible for creating seven different locations within one space – an apartment hallway, bedroom, dressing room, studio, office, bakery, and café – and did so with astounding success. “Besides the prep day prior to the shoot, the Art Department was basically setting up Location B while we were shooting Location A, and striking Location A while we were shooting Location C. The encounter of a design team, which here in this case is the team that designed and created Emora, and our entire production team must involve labor, but I was thrilled by their passion and faith in their product. Without their patience, flexibility and trust on our ability of execution, this video wouldn’t have been possible,” Chao recollected.

John-Scott Horton played the lead male of the Emora commercial, though this wasn’t his first time working with the accomplished Chao. Horton also starred in Diana’s film The Restoration back in 2013.

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Diana Chao on the set of Emora

“Truthfully, I wouldn’t have done the project [Emora] if I hadn’t been asked by Diana, but I instantly said yes because I was excited to work with her again. She used much of the same crew that worked on The Restoration and I was reminded of how good she is at assembling the team,” said Horton. “Diana is great at delegating, has an eye for aesthetic, is very efficient, and is a very effective leader. Her artistry is suited for major feature films and was not compromised for a smaller project.”

Emora was ranked as number nine in the top 17 products of CES 2017.

The CES is a global consumer electronics and consumer technology trade show that takes place every January in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Winning it’s 9th position on the best 17 products out of all of the products of 2017 shows that Emora is commercialized. With this being the product’s sole commercial, it shows the impact it’s had on showcasing and promoting the product.

 

For more information on Diana Chao, please visit:
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm6371027/
https://dianachaos.com/

For more information on Match and Emora, please visit:
For MATCHhttps://vimeo.com/184096007
For Emora: https://myemora.com/

 

DIORS SAMURAI IS ZHENG KANG’S ACTION/ROMANCE AT ITS NERDY BEST!

Doing your best and always giving one hundred percent are more important now than ever. Information is instantaneous these days and you can google anything in less time than it takes to yawn. Zheng Kang has always given his best and it is starting to supply dividends to his career. Belying his young age, Kang’s animation productions have already reached achievements like being used by faculty at USC School of Cinematic Arts for graduate animation classes (Lion Dance, in which he oversaw a group of professionals spread across five continents), working on the Comedy Central’s TripTank (contributing to every episode of the entire second season), and others. As such a recognized part of the animation community, his diverse creations are receiving great attention. one of his earliest productions, Diors Samurai, shows a different side of Zheng’s sentiment and may soon be made into a series production at a US network. Diors (Chinese for “loser”), gives a hint to the humor found in this action animated show. One cornerstone of Kang’s work is that it is always different, thematically and stylistically. A viewing of the Diors Samurai trailer (http://vimeo.com/189854381) reveals how different it is from his other work (https://vimeo.com/190416387 Baby and Granny for example). It is not hyperbolic to state that each new film Zheng starts receives the respect of him breaking his approach down and starting fresh each time. As both a director and an animator, Zheng Kang has learned to give each story the opportunity to become its own entity.

Production I.G.’s Dead Leaves (distributed in Japan, North America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the UK) and Samurai Jack (the American animated series on Comedy Central) both inspired Kang’s approach for Diors Samurai. He wanted an Eastern influence, time travel, a love story, all augmented by his sense of humor and wit. The tale of Diors Samurai is that of a hero who falls in love with a beautiful princess and is heartbroken to learn that their love is forbidden. A chance encounter with a magical elder reveals that he may marry the princess if he travels through time to find her in the dystopian future. He jumps at the chance and finds her, only to learn that she is now a successful police officer with no memory of him! Yota (the samurai) must divide his time between saving the city from ruthless organized gangs, trying to understand this confusing modern world, and hopefully sweeping the princess off her feet! While the story is full of action and danger, it’s the characters who drive the story and interest viewers the most. Yota is a very strong samurai but very tiny. He grew up with his lord’s daughter and was in-charge of protecting her every day. Yota fell in love with her but never told her as society would not approve of this. When the princess is selected to marry another lord’s son, Yota cannot do anything about it and is beside himself. While he is adept at fighting and killing, he does not know how to express his feelings and show love. The “Diors” or “loser” facet of this character comes from his unrequited love as well as his inability to express himself (a modern view of loser for certain). The princess in Diors Samurai is perhaps one of the most positive and well-rounded female Asian leads accessible to viewers these days. In ancient time she is very elegant, like every traditional princess in our mind. In the future however, she is tough, strong, and highly proficient with firearms. The princess possesses qualities that appeal to every type of fan and contradict stereotypical female roles.

While Diors Samurai is definitely an action program, Zheng confirms that it shares a common thread with all of his creations, “It’s a love story. People search every day for love and to find their partner. That’s a basic human need. I know that people have an immediate thought in their minds that a samurai/warrior is very serious and not in touch with their feelings. Their mission is always to protect and serve their king. I wanted to create someone who is just like normal people, someone who feels loves and is eager to get love. Yota has some strength but also has drawbacks. He might be a winner as a Samurai but might be a loser in life. That’s a universal story no matter what part of the world you are from or what you might do in your life. We all struggle for love and we all want it.”

Perhaps the most striking and apparent aspect of Diors Samurai is the mixture of Eastern artistic style with a western based theme and emotion. The clash/combination of the two serves to heighten the impact of both in this production. Zheng states, “I grew up with comics and manga. I began to draw them when I was a little kid. So my drawing style is highly influenced by Japanese anime and manga, which looks very Asian. I also enjoy western storytelling like Pixar and Disney features because they always have a clear and simple storyline. They’re character-driven, there are three acts, and the motivations and conflicts for every character are easy to understand. I enjoy Asian storytelling very much but I have to say, sometimes it’s too cultural and you can get confused if you’re unfamiliar with that culture.” Caroline Hu (formerly the Character Artist at Warner Bros. Animation and Conceptual Artist at Walt Disney Feature Animation/now the Artist at Warner Bros Consumer Products) notes Zheng’s successful integration of these two cultural traits. She relates, “Zheng’s approach to storytelling is both collaborative and diverse, and is exactly what Hollywood needs right now. It’s very refreshing to see. His successful marrying of two cultures, Asian and Western, to create a number of globally successful projects, is no small feat. Zheng’s animation and direction skills are superior. As a member of the Animation Faculty at USC School of Cinematic Arts, I often refer to his projects when addressing undergrad and graduate film students in my masterclass, even using Zheng’s materials as a teaching aid to show the students how things should be done!”

His role as director/animator has become commonplace for Kang these days but his work with composer Torin Borrowdale on Diors Samurai was one of his first entries into overseeing multiple facets of an animation production. Zheng understood that the mixing of cultures in his story, combined with the dichotomy of a Samurai in love, meant that he needed a soundtrack that would mesh with these ideas. Add to that, the need for intensity in the actions scenes and the music suddenly became paramount. Kang recalls, “I was always looking for high energy, with Japanese traditional instruments and elements in the music. Because it’s an action-comedy, high energy music can work very well with every sequence. Because the characters are Samurai, Japanese traditional instruments and elements can help build an authentic atmosphere. I found some reference music for Torin so he could understand what I wanted, but he also provided great ideas which made the final music much better than the reference music, suitable and unique! After this first cooperation with a composer, I understood how important music is for storytelling. I respect composers very much and would like to work with them to achieve great and unique music. For me it’s always a mind- blowing experience and learning opportunity when I work with my composers.”

The interest in Diors Samurai does not rely solely on the achievements of Kang’s more recent productions. With Official Selection Screenings at the: Trailer Fest Film Festival, London Monthly Film Festival, Direct Short Online Film Festival, Creation International Film Festival, and the Play Film Festival, Diors Samurai was highly noticed when it first was made available as a Short. Now, the industry that has become so captivated by this director/animator’s lauded animation productions has also rediscovered the time-travelling Samurai that began it all. Sword in hand and princess in heart, Yota is disproving his own moniker to his creator Zheng Kang.work-on-animation