Category Archives: Documentary Filmmaker

Producer Melina Tupa helps change lives stories in Frontline’s ‘Rape on the Night Shift’

Melina Tupa is more than a filmmaker, she takes her role and knows how many people she can affect with her work. She adds the responsibility of being a journalist, telling harsh and real stories that need to be told, and she shares them with the world. Her commitment to her craft is outstanding, and her talent is unparalleled.

With experience in both producing and journalism, Tupa has emerged as a formidable documentary filmmaker. Last year, her film The Search captivated audiences and critics alike, a trend she is well familiar with throughout her established career. Her work with networks like Turner Broadcasting and Nonstop TV have seen similar success. These accolades, however, are not important when she is doing what she loves.

“I wanted to be a producer to be involved in all the aspects of the film. It is the only position where you can connect with all the other team members of a production. I always liked working with diverse groups and being a producer meant I could learn other skills from other production areas fairly easy. It is also a position where you can have a real impact on the final product. The producer is the thread that unifies and solidifies all the pieces of a documentary,” said Tupa.

Bernardo Ruiz, a Director and fellow Producer, worked alongside Tupa on the feature documentary The Gatherers, which has been funded by the Ford Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Sundance Documentary Institute. Ruiz was astounded by her talent, and is now looking at having her co-produce his upcoming feature documentary about California’s Napa Valley.

“Melina is an experienced and dedicated production staffer and researcher. She has an excellent reputation, having studied with some of the top documentary filmmakers in the business and I have gladly recommended her to other producers seeking top documentary talent. Not only does Melina have top tier formal training in journalism and documentary production, but she is also an experienced independent producer. Her ability to work on multiple fronts is a major asset to a production as are her language abilities, as she speaks, writes and can conduct research in at least three languages: English, Spanish and Portuguese,” said Ruiz.

Tupa’s investigate reporting and producing talent was evident once again with her work on the critically-acclaimed film Rape on the Night Shift. The chilling documentary looks into allegations of sexual abuse of immigrant women working in the janitorial industry and how companies handle the problem.

“These women who worked at the janitorial service to support their families had been raped and the perpetrators had gotten away with it. It was very important that their stories were widely known and that there could be structural changes in the janitorial service so these atrocious acts would never happen again,” said Tupa.

With her trilingual abilities aiding her, Tupa was approached by a producer on the film to come on board the project, knowing that speaking Spanish was key. Most of the main characters and interviewees on this story spoke in Spanish and it was crucial that whoever came on board could understand them. Tupa also assisted in pre-editing interviews, transcribing, and translating interviews, and assisting on overall production tasks. As documentary units are usually small, every person’s contributions are key to the success of a project, and every task is essential. Tupa’s work was no exception.

“I always wanted to work for the Investigative Reporting Program since it’s one of the most important journalism centers in the United States and the world. When I found they were working on this project in particular I knew I wanted to be part of the team,” Tupa described.

Many of the victims were undocumented immigrants, and they thought they had no rights because of this. However, once the documentary aired, the powerful story not only helped changed the lives of the victims that were interviewed, but the lives of thousands, as California law was changed to protect janitors like them from sexual violence and abuse on the job. The bill was inspired by the documentary, and Tupa could not be prouder of the part she played in impacting the lives of so many women.

“This was a very important story to tell. There were a lot of women suffering and these women never had an outlet to tell their stories before. So, I knew this documentary was going to be important and, in fact, after it aired it led to change in policy in the janitorial service,” said Tupa

The film premiered on June 23, 2015. It aired on PBS Frontline. You can also watch Rape on the Night Shift here.

 

Photo by Vanessa Arango Garcia

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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”.

Director Ben Bhatia builds a strong stomach and strong story for Channel 5’s Benidorm ER

Some may hear about Ben Bhatia’s most recent experience in Spain and assume he was a doctor. He wasn’t out soaking up the sun. He spent most of his time in the hospital, seeing the injured and ill. But he wasn’t there as a medical professional. He was there to tell their stories.

Bhatia was the director/producer on Channel 5’s hospital documentary series Benidorm ER. The show is based at the busy hospital Clinica Benidorm in Spain and shows real-life British vacationers that have been admitted to the emergency room due to an illness or an accident. Each episode follows patients from the hospital admission right through to being released. To add some additional color, Bhatia also filmed some follow-up stories that would show what the vacationers would do next to enjoy their last days in the sun.

Benidorm ER was an interesting show to work on. Being based in the Spanish holiday resort of Benidorm in one of its busiest emergency rooms, I got to see the other side of a holiday that most holidaymakers would prefer not to see,” said Bhatia. “It was a real honor.”

Bhatia was recommended to work on the show after working with another producer/director Georgina Kiedrowski, who worked with him on the BBC Three documentary series, Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents. She thought that he would be an asset to the team after working on other similar projects.

“We needed a director with experience of working with sensitive and emotional contributors as well as somebody who could hit the ground running due to the tight turnaround of the show,” said Kiedrowski, the senior producer/director for Blakeway North Productions. “Ben really exceeded Blakeway North’s expectations and it was soon apparent that he was a real asset to the production. As a director, Ben is very hard working and is extremely creative. His storytelling and directing skills are impressive and his ability to think on his feet are skills that are hard to find in this industry. The fact that he is multi-skilled in being able to shoot, produce, direct and still stay companionate is a real talent.”

Apart from working with the hospital staff and patients, Bhatia mostly worked with a small crew of six people. This worked very well to cause minimum disruption and allowed normal practice to continue at the hospital. This made it easier to maintain access to the hospital. It is a big thing for a hospital to allow access to film crews, so keeping everybody happy, including staff and patients is paramount.

“This show was challenging as it was literally a case of seeking permission from the patient as soon as they walked through the door. A story which isn’t followed from the moment it starts isn’t as interesting. To watch a patient’s character develop over the period of their hospital stay is intriguing,” explained Bhatia.

Benidorm is a very popular holiday destination for the British, despite the cultural clash between the Spaniards and the Brits. Bhatia says he loved seeing how British people adapt to the Spanish culture.

“The warm personalities of the staff in this real working hospital was a delight to watch as they reassured the distressed, and sometimes in agony, holidaymakers,” described Bhatia. “To follow a story of someone first entering the hospital, watching their recovery to seeing them leaving with a smile on their face was a real pleasure.”

There was one thing Bhatia learned from the project, however, that he wasn’t expecting.

“How to have a strong stomach,” he said. “I had to film some major operations in the emergency operating room. This was something entirely new for me and after doing it, I realised I am not as squeamish as I thought!”

Brazilian Director of Photography Makes International Impact Across Australia

Photo5_Kauss
Brazilian Director of Photography Samar Kauss embodies a humanitarian sensibility within her superlative filmmaking endeavors.

 

The highly successful and prolific Director of Photography, Samar Kauss, is a Brazilian creative force who has made far reaching cultural change within the Australian Department of Health. Kauss, known for her work as a longtime editor for several of Brazil’s most popular television shows on the leading network TV Globo, has helped the Australian government lead the charge in documenting and spreading awareness on the plights of aboriginal tribes across Australia. The government-funded 2013 documentary, Big Day Out, in which Kauss performed as the Director of Photography for, aimed to raise awareness to the health issues and concerns of seclusion that the Wadeye community undergo almost 5 months out of every year. Kauss worked tirelessly to capture shots of the Wadeye and their home, in an attempt to unobtrusively capture the everyday life of a tribe member. Kauss has proven herself as an international humanitarian, as she has helped the Australian government in their strives to create a positive cultural impact through their documentaries, on which she at times found herself immersed in a community entirely different than her home back in Brazil.

Kauss was also approached again by the Australian Department of Education to create the Young Achievers Program documentary. She worked closely with the Australian government as their Director of Photography for the documentary, attempting to determine through extensive interviews whether or not the average Australian student received adequate resources to reach their academic goals. As the Director of Photography, Kauss was crucial in documenting the students in a way that empowered the argument of the filmmakers while expertly capturing the ongoing concerns surrounding the future of public education across Australia’s public school system.

Photo2_Kauss

Few filmmakers can easily make such graceful and critical strides on key social issues that Kauss has undoubtedly taken on throughout her career as a successful Editor and Director of Photography. Kauss’ history as a Director of Photography for some of the most culturally and socially impactful documentaries that the country has to offer speaks volumes to her abilities as a filmmaker of genuine impact and marks her as a key Brazilian creative force to watch.

Producer Wows Audiences Across Cultures

Producer Min Dai shot by  Jan Cain
                                                                  Producer Min Dai shot by Jan Cain

In today’s global economy, cultural exchange is a valuable tool to possess. So has been the experience of producer Min Dai, who will attest that running productions in both China and the United States has greatly developed her ability to work in varying cultural conditions.

Throughout the last 10 years, Min has been in charge of the production process for countless film, television, and musical projects in both China and the US.

In addition to her work in editing and production, Min has extensive experience in writing, directing, visual effects, sound and cinematography. With such rich, far-reaching expertise in these areas, one can safely say that Min fully knows the ins and outs of the filmmaking process.

Her knowledge about the production process began long before she was able to contribute. As a child, Min learned what it took to run a successful production company from her mother. As a teenager, Min began writing, producing, and directing her own films, as well as those for independent filmmakers.

As a young adult, she began her professional career with the China International Television Corporation. During her time there, Min was put in charge of the production for several television series, including Mission for Peace and King of Silk, which starred major Chinese actors such as Ma Yili and Zhang Guangbei.

While in China, Min also served as executive producer for the King’s Film Company as well as the WIN China Group, where she spearheaded the production and editing processes for many films and commercials.

Min began to collaborate on projects in the United States upon partnering with Jackie Subeck of Footprint Worldwide, a company that works closely with Chinese productions. While working with Footprint, Min led live production for Linkin Park and 30 Seconds to Mars for the Chinese portion of their international tours.

It was not long after these experiences that Min brought her talent to the United States. During her time in the US, Min has focused on film, which she describes as her favorite type of production.

While Min has produced many dramatic films, including Eat a Hot Dumpling Slowly, Device, Icebox, Meeting Gary and 4 Latas, she has also thrived as a producer of documentary films.

“At times,” Min said, “I find documentaries have a much stronger social impact, [and are] sometimes more intense than a thriller.”

Two of these documentaries that were of particular social impact were A Trip to Tibet and You and Me.

A Trip to Tibet followed a group of teachers from Beijing who volunteered to help in a Tibetan school. During their time there, they found that the conditions were far worse than they had imagined, calling attention to the current struggle in Tibet and the country’s need for support.

You and Me offered a somber glimpse into “the dark side of elderly care taking” in the Washington region. The film showed how many senior citizens are abandoned and treated poorly, and highlighted the Washington County Home, which takes in many elderly lacking resources and access to care.

Min recently worked with InterMix Productions on another documentary, entitled Wake Up With Me, which is currently in post-production. The film features a group of people living in New York, and attempted to answer the question: does social media help people connect, or does it prevent them from doing so?

As she has continued to demonstrate her abilities in the US, Min has developed relationships with high-ranking figures in the entertainment industry. One such example is Carl Gilliard, whom Min met during the filming of Meeting Gary.

Gilliard is not only known for his role as an actor in more than 70 films, including Inception, Coach Carter, and the television series 24, but he is also the founder of the Gilliard Media Group. Min is currently working with the Gilliard Media Group on several upcoming projects.

Min’s dedication to making the best decisions in the production process is evident, as she has had a tremendous role as producer of countless critically acclaimed films, television series’, commercials, and events to which she has lent her talent; and she shows no signs of stopping.

 

 

 

Film Editor Marta Bonet de Gispert Connoisseurs the Perfect Cut

Marta Bonet de Gispert
                                                  Film Editor Marta Bonet de Gispert

Hailing from a family of lawyers, Barcelona native Marta Bonet de Gispert left law school to pursue her creative passions in the film world, a move that has delighted international audiences and filmmakers alike.

Marta Bonet de Gispert went on to attend the prestigious School of Cinema and Audiovisual de Catalunya (ESCAC). About switching professions, Bonet de Gispert recalls, “I started my law degree following my family’s tradition in law. But after a few years, I felt unfulfilled. I had to face my mistake and find a better path. Even though I knew it was a difficult industry, I chose film school. Something inside me told me it was the right thing to do.”

Now an award-winning film editor, it is clear that Bonet de Gispert made the right choice. Her exceptional talent and painstaking attention to detail is apparent in every frame of every film that she’s done so far. Her extensive international resume includes the films Soldados (Soldiers), Padre Modelo (Role Model Father), Devil May Call, as well as many others. She was also the editor on the television shows Latino Dub and Califorma.

It may seem like quite a drastic change to switch from law school to film school, but in truth, both professions require a person who possesses a strong eye for details and an immense understanding of the technical intricacies of their craft. Even more critical in each though, is a person’s ability to use that perceptiveness and knowledge to adapt to a client’s needs—something Bonet de Gispert has accomplished, proven by the sheer number of awards her films have won over the years.

Temporada 92-93 (Season 92-93), one of Bonet de Gispert’s first credits as editor, was a resounding success at international film festivals. Set in Spain where for many fútbol is a religion, Temporada 92-93 tells the comedic story of two inseparable friends united in their love for soccer. One is celebrating his child’s birthday as both split their attention between the festivities and a historic soccer match playing over the radio.

“We had to be careful in selecting the takes we would use,” explains Bonet de Gispert. “Also, as in all comedy, finding the right rhythm was essential. Jokes don’t work well if they’re not on the right pace.”

Winning a staggering 44 festival awards, Temporada 92-93 was incredibly well received by judges and critics alike. Among the honors was the Best Editing Award from the Film Festival Terrassa, an incredible achievement for Bonet de Gispert, whose career had only just begun.

It is the editor’s job to thoroughly understand the director’s vision, to see the story as the director imagines it. Then, with that understanding, the editor uses the footage to turn an intangible idea, concept or even a feeling, into the story that unfolds before us.

Able to seamlessly shift from one genre to another, Bonet de Gispert’s work shows that a great editor doesn’t rely on a film’s subject so much as they rely on the vision of the filmmaker.

In Devil May Call, Bonet de Gispert’s ability to convey that vision was once again put to the test, and once again she surpassed everyone’s expectations with flying colors. What had once been just a nightmarish idea, Bonet de Gispert transformed into a physical manifestation of sheer, unadulterated horror.

Not for the faint of heart, Devil May Call is centered on Sam, an operator for a phone counseling hotline. Sam, played by award-winning actress Corri English (Planes: Fire & Rescue, Holliston) is training her replacement on the night shift; but when one of her regular callers, who happens to be a serial killer, hears that she’s quitting, he cuts off power to the building and traps Sam and the other employees inside. Devil May Call was filmed in Los Angeles and debuted at the 2013 Marches du Film event in Cannes, a dream for many filmmakers.

Bonet de Gispert also recently finished the films El Otro Lado and Gored. El Otro Lado, or The Other Side, is one of three films premiering as part of the Summer Of Shorts event, featuring films from three Spanish filmmakers bringing their work to American audiences. El Otro Lado is about a lawyer who finds himself losing his sense of morality as he goes from laundering money for the cartels to an even darker path. An even greater testament to the fact that she chose the right path by embarking on a career in film, Bonet de Gispert also directed El Otro Lado in addition to working as the editor. Produced by renowned production company La Panda, the film is scheduled to premiere in the U.S. this summer.

Gored, is a documentary about, fittingly, the bullfighter that holds the record for being the most gored in Spanish history. In a fascinating approach to a subject that hasn’t seen much coverage since Hemingway, the film follows Antonio Barrera as he grapples with the decision of a lifetime: whether to leave the ring and join his family while he’s ahead, or to commit himself to a glorious death against his lifelong adversary. The film will debut later this month at the Tribeca Film Festival where it has been chosen as an Official Selection, and is set to screen at several more festivals over the course of 2015.

Documentary Filmmaker Liliya Anisimova!

Director and TV Journalist Liliya Anisimova
         Director and TV Journalist Liliya Anisimova

Liliya Anisomova is a driven journalist who has always known what she wanted. As a young girl she would climb inside the cardboard box turned TV set, created by her grandparents, and drift away into her fantasy. For years she would play pretend, imagining herself as a news anchor; but she wouldn’t have to pretend much longer, as her ambition would soon make her dream a reality.

Even though she had been freelancing since the age of 13 it wasn’t until age 16 that Liliya kicked her goals into overdrive. Not one to wait around for things to come to her, Liliya moved from her hometown of Volgograd, Russia to Moscow to become a TV Journalist. Her forward thinking and direct approach has lead her to many opportunities. When she felt like she wasn’t getting the experience she needed she didn’t sit around feeling sorry for herself, she got up and did something about it.

When Liliya, a self confessed travel junkie, stumbled across the Russian Travel Guide one afternoon it was love at first site. After contacting RTG TV, she was a part of the team in less than 24 hours. Through her role at RTG, she was lucky enough to work with a range of talented directors, which planted the seed for her next move.

She says, “The more I was watching experienced directors working on documentaries for Russian Travel Guide the more I wanted to try it myself. I learned a lot while working there, but I knew it was time I did it myself.”

Watching directors work their magic sparked something within Liliya. She wanted to share her vision and help others share their stories; and, ever since she began her directing journey, she has continued to produce compelling documentaries.

She moved to New York soon after where she began directing her first documentary, Magic of the Underground. The film details the life of Steve, a generous New York Subway magician who not only got people to notice him, but also brought laughter to his audience. As this was her first documentary, Liliya learned a lot about the relationship between a director and their subject– something that would serve as an important lesson for all of her future film projects.

About working with Steve, Liliya explains, “He let me into his life. Sometimes it was even overwhelming, as he would call me in the middle of the night crying and complaining about depression, or other personal problems.”

Liliya’s more recent film Love is the Highest Law, which was released at the end of 2014, is just as touching, but this time she chose to take on the politically charged and controversial topic of gay rights in Russia. As an Official Selection of the Queer Film Festival, Liliya’s film screened at the University of Oregon where she was invited to talk about gay rights and her experience making the film.

Something that comes across in all of Liliya’s work is her incessant bravery. She is not afraid to be honest, share tough stories and speak up for what she believes in, characteristics that make all of her projects as informative as they are groundbreaking.

Nuh Omar uses his Imagination to Create Powerful Stories

Nuh Omar
Nuh Omar shot by Khawer Jadoon Photography

The clear-plastic cup of water trembled more intensely with every step. The once-extinct Tyrannosaurus reached the pair of SUVs, came face-to-face with their inhabitants and let out a thunderous roar.

Pakistan-born Nuh Omar watched the genre-defining, blockbuster film Jurassic Park in the theater as a five-year-old and knew what he wanted to do for the rest of his life – direct films. Though it wasn’t the first movie he’d seen, it was the first time it really clicked that he was watching the creative work of another person. He immediately set his sights on filmmaking, and continued to develop his talents as a screenwriter in his teens.

Omar’s first feature film as writer and director, tentatively called Untitled Imaginary Friends Project, is set for release in 2017. The film’s groundbreaking plot is about the journey of an imaginary friend, and what happens to imaginary friends when children are finished with them.

“It’s a fun, journey movie, a fantasy drama, inspired by Pixar films and E.T.,” Omar said.

Monster in the Closet, one of Omar’s earlier films, was also inspired by Pixar. Omar wrote and co-directed the live-action fantasy film about a boy fighting a monster in his closet with Rebecca Hodges (Rust, Loves Me Not, The Usual Stuff).

Omar, a toy collector, was overjoyed to see his “toy characters” come to life as humans on-screen.

But Omar’s talents have stretched well beyond the childhood-inspired portion of his deep imagination. He directed Lazy Accident, a THX 1138 and 2001: A Space Odyssey-inspired dark comedy, with Justin Graniero (A.C.O.D.) and Michael Robertson (A Measure of Faith).

“The setup for the punchline was important,” Omar said. “We knew we had to approach the film with the mindset that this was satire.”

Thematic elements have always been Omar’s key to success.

“They are fantastical, surreal and aberrant,” Omar said. “My style takes the real world and mixes in the abnormal as if it was something ordinary.”

Omar’s use of nostalgia is another way the skilled director has hooked his audiences.

“I try to make each one reach out and connect with something in the audience’s past, something we all have in common,” Omar said. “That varies from project to project, but the sense of it remains the same across.”

Omar is undoubtedly a masterful director, but he hasn’t limited his talent to just the silver screen. He also developed a comic book series called I’m Here, which is a 12-issue project about a crypto-journalist named Jonas who tells the stories of urban myths and legends from their perspective.

Thematically, the comic book is about the disappearance of American values told through the eyes of an observer who is merely a part of a larger story arc.

“It’s a scary step,” Omar said. “I’m a comic book fan, but attempting to do one is surreal. It’s a very difficult feeling. I’ve never written a comic script, so the experience was enlightening.”

Like the Tyrannosaurus in Jurassic Park, Omar learned to thrive in a new, unfamiliar world. The multi-talented director and writer has undoubtedly earned his stripes on the big screen and in the world of comics.

“I hope that someone out there gets to enjoy a story, and become inspired to do something different as I was,” Omar said.

Omar’s forthcoming Untitled Imaginary Friends Project will release in 2017, and will unquestionably break new storytelling ground with its fresh spin on the classic concept of imaginary friends.

Sought After Film Editor Andres Vergara Lends His Talents to “Stray Dog”

Andres Vergara
Film editor and VFX artist Andres Vergara

Over the past few years Andres Vergara has worked as an editor and VFX artist on some of the biggest films alongside some of the industry’s biggest names.

A citizen of both Canada and Mexico, Vergara moved to Vancouver in his youth to pursue his career as an editor and visual effects artist in the film industry. Today he has edited and produced visual effects for films featuring Academy Award winners Denzel Washington (Safehouse), Liam Neeson (Battleship) and Mickey Rourke (Immortals).

As a VFX artist, Vergara has also been tapped to lend his expertise to blockbuster titles such as Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1 and the 2011 prequel/reboot of John Carpenter’s classic sci-fi/horror masterpiece The Thing.

Although Vergara has clearly become a sought after talent for big budget feature films, his latest project, Stray Dog, took him back to the format that originally established his presence in the industry – documentary film.

Stray Dog is a “portrait of the life” of Vietnam veteran Ron “Stray Dog Hall, and was recently shown at the New York Film Festival and BFI London Film Festival. The film won Best Documentary at the Los Angeles Film Festival, and was nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the Independent Spirit Awards as well.

“The documentary makes a strong social commentary on America, and modern society, without the need to explain or narrate things to viewers,” Vergara said. “Rather, the film lets audiences draw their own conclusions about the events and gives viewers a unique opportunity to find their own angle on it.”

Vergara worked hand-in-hand with Stray Dog director Debra Granik to select shots, edit sequences and classify scenes from the hours of footage shot in Branson, Missouri and Mexico City.

“Granik was very clear on what she was trying to find, and she communicated her vision and ideas in a way that was profound enough for me to understand the core idea of the documentary,” Vergara said.

For Vergara, editing has been an especially gratifying experience.

“To me, the privilege of being the first viewer of a project, while also making substantial decisions with the director on which scenes have to stay or go, is a hugely rewarding process to be a part of,” Vergara said.

But the talented editor hasn’t married himself to a single genre. Instead, he’s fluidly moved between non-fiction (documentary) and fiction throughout his career, which has allowed him to diversify his talents and excel far beyond those who play it safe and remain in the same genre.

“My experience in both genre’s has constantly proven to me that there is a big reward, and competitive edge, to know the rules of both games, which has lead me to exciting projects and opportunities,” Vergara said.

One of those exciting projects was the gritty, action-packed film Safehouse. Directed by multi-award winning director Daniel Espinosa who is known for the films Easy Money and Child 44 (Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace), Safehouse was set in Cape Town, South Africa, and starred two-time Oscar Award winner Denzel Washington (American Gangster, The Book of Eli, Training Day) and Ryan Reynolds (Green Lantern, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Smokin’ Aces).

As a lead VFX artist for Safehouse, Vergara seamlessly added a full crowd of people into a partially empty South African soccer stadium. He used real footage instead of CGI, which added a level of excitement and a layer of realism to the sequence that CGI could not have accomplished in such a seamless manner.

Vergara also worked as a lead VFX artist on the CGI-heavy blockbuster film Immortals. Based on Greek-mythology, Immortals was directed by iconic Indian director Tarsem Singh (The Cell, Mirror Mirror, The Fall) and starred Academy Award winner Mickey Rourke and Henry Cavill (Man of Steel, Stardust).

Shot almost entirely on green screen, Immortals took full advantage of Vergara’s talents as a VFX artist to achieve the overall stunning look audiences experienced on the screen.

But Vergara’s favorite project so far has been Stray Dog.

“The narrative of the film was structured unlike few, if any, other documentaries ever done,” Vergara said.

Andres Vergara’s refined talents as an editor and VFX artist promise to keep him successfully working in the industry for years to come; and, thanks to his ability to handle diverse projects with ease, his career will continue to be one that is assuredly dynamic in scope.

Juno Nominated Film Composer Headed for Greener Pastures

Film Composer Rob Teehan
                                             Film Composer Rob Teehan

Rob Teehan has decided to head south to thaw out from the Canadian winter in the warm California sun.   When we got wind that one of Canada’s top film composers was coming Stateside, we decided to catch up with him to talk about his eminent migration.

Rob Teehan started his career as a performer, playing the guitar, flute, and tuba, before moving into classical choral and orchestral composition, which led him to his forever-home of film composition. He has gone on to score more than a dozen films, including the award winning films Tulip, Texas and Us, and The Sugar Bowl. In addition to film scoring, Teehan is perhaps best known for his work with the acclaimed Lemon Bucket Orkestra, with whom he has toured Canada and Europe, as well as being a member of the European Saida Baba Talibah jazz band, and, currently, the Heavyweights Brass Band, whose music is regularly played on jazz radio stations across Canada.

Virtually every major music award from coast to coast in Canada has recognized Teehan’s extraordinary work. Since 2010, he has been nominated for an impressive list of awards, which includes three Juno Awards, the first of which marked him as the youngest person to be nominated for a Juno in the Classical Composition category. He has also been nominated for a staggering seven Canadian Folk Music Awards, four of which were for his work with the Lemon Bucket Orkestra, one for his work with The Boxcar Boys, and two for his work as the engineer and producer of the Ventanas’ self-titled album. He also earned a nomination for Best World Group of the Year at the Sirius Radio Indie Awards in 2014 for his work with the Lemon Bucket Orkestra. Other accolades include a Toronto Independent Music Award nomination, a 2nd place finish at the SoCan Foundation Awards, as well as numerous top finishes at choral competitions across Canada as well as internationally.

When asked about some of his most memorable film projects, he singles out a few of the films that stand out to him. The first film he mentions is Hogtown, which was directed by Canadian actor turned director Nick Latimer, and features among its cast WWF wrestling legend Jake “the Snake” Roberts. Teehan describes the film as “avant garde” and the experience as one he “can never forget.” Hogtown is the name of the city where the film is set, a futuristic version of Toronto, which has slid into poverty and debauchery. The protagonist, Boris (aka Baxi) is Hogtown’s only pig-mask wearing insomniac “baxi” driver, which means that in lieu of shuttling people around in a taxi, he spends his evenings transporting his fares from Point A to Point B on his back. When the dirt, grime, and depravity of his surroundings become too much for him to take, Baxi takes it upon himself to clean up the streets in a gory wave of vigilante justice. The film screened at the Shaved II Film Festival, as well as enjoyed several underground screenings, which sparked the major cult following the film has today.

Despite the independent vibe of the film, it drew the attention of Mississauga Life mag, as well as the famous Toronto culture site Blog TO and Zee Big Bang, who covered the film’s making and release. Rob Teehan’s work with the Heavyweight Brass Band on the film’s score was a big selling point for the film.

The next film he cites as a favorite is Tulip, Texas, and Us, a charming love story uniquely set to Balkan brass music, scored by Teehan. One of the things that stand out about this film is its international reach and appeal. Tulip, Texas and Us was the winner of the Grand Prix at the Zubroffka International Film Festival in Poland, and was also selected for the Kustendorf International Film and Music Festival (Serbia) and the Timishort Film Festival (Romania). Teehan was interviewed on CBC Radio 3 about his work on the film, which he describes as “quirky”.

The other film that immediately stood out to Teehan was the film simply titled Joe, a documentary chronicling the true story of musician Joe Garisto, a musical genius whose career is threatened by a debilitating anxiety disorder and an addiction to the medication used to treat it. The intense film, directed by Patrick Collins and Scott Williamson, was released on DVD as well as on iTunes.

Taking on such varied musical themes as mental illness, young Eastern European love, or futuristic dystopia is no small feat, and shows the breadth of Rob Teehan’s great talents.

Teehan insists that the themes and music in his next films are so varied that they will continue to defy categorization in any particular musical genre. They include the Italian animated short film Life is a Coin, about the exciting travels of a 2-Euro coin named Dante who travels across Europe, followed closely by the release of the documentary feature The Babushkas of Chernobyl, a film about the old women of Chernobyl who chose to sneak back into the contaminated zone after the nuclear meltdown in Chernobyl, Ukraine in the 1980’s to live out their last days in their hometown, rather than suffer through a relocation to a new uncontaminated city, as well as the Venezuelan documentary film Flor de la Mar about a well-hidden archeological treasure found on the Venezuelan island of Cubagua, and the feature documentary The Unsinkable Captain John about a historic Toronto ship facing and fighting eviction after generations in the Toronto harbor.

After many successful years in his native Canada, Rob Teehan is heading to Hollywood, not only for the warm sun but to bring his music to more Hollywood films. We wish him good luck, fame, and fortune, and can’t wait to see this top talent hit Tinseltown!

Untitled excerpt from Life as a Coin composed by Rob Teehan

“Caracas” composed by Rob Teehan for the upcoming documentary film Flor de la Mar