Category Archives: Documentary Filmmaker

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

Director Jacob Lundgaard Andersen Continues to Amaze

Jacob Lundgaard Andersen
Director Jacob Lundgaard Andersen

Originally from Jutland, the main peninsula of Denmark, Jacob Lundgaard Andersen is a director whose talent knows no bounds. After obtaining his undergraduate degree from the European Film College in Denmark, Andersen went on to be one of 28 directors invited each year to attend the American Film Institute Conservatory program where he received his master’s degree.

Earlier on in his career, Andersen worked with multi-award winning directors Thomas Vinterberg (Submarino, The Hunt, Metallica: The Day That Never Comes), and Nikolaj Arcel (Royal Affair, King’s Game, Truth About Men). While working as Vinterberg’s 2nd AD on the film Submarino, Andersen says, “Through intimate moments driving to and from set and as a collaborator directing his background [Thomas] taught me many valuable things, always wrapped in an anecdote. But what I learned most from just shadowing him was observing how he navigated the obstacles of the production in ways that were least compromising to his vision.”

Submarino, which received 8 awards and has been nominated for 19 others at film festivals around the world, reveals the dark subject matter of a dysfunctional family plagued by loss and substance abuse. The film puts Vinterberg’s fearless approach to cinema on display, a characteristic we also see in Andersen’s films. Andersen also worked alongside Nikolaj Arcel on the historical drama film A Royal Affair, which was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film as well as an Academy Award and several others.

Jacob Lundgaard Andersen first gained international exposure after embarking on the “This is War” World Tour with 30 Seconds to Mars, a rock band fronted by Oscar Award winning actor and multi-talented musician Jared Leto. While on tour with the band, which has received a Billboard Music Award as well as 84 other awards, Andersen worked as a videographer, shooting and editing tour footage of 30 Seconds to Mars while also helping to create several music videos and documentaries.

Jared Leto
Jared Leto on tour with his band 30 Seconds to Mars shot by Jacob Lundgaard Andersen

His successful work on the tour led him to begin working with Grammy Award winning musician Raphael Saadiq on Saadiq’s “Stone Rollin” Tour.

About his work with Saadiq, Andersen says, “I worked as a one-man-production and even though the scope was smaller, the creative responsibility was much greater and ended with me directing two tour-music videos for him. I am still collaborating with Raphael today.”

All of these projects marked the very beginning of Andersen’s career, an incredible feat considering the high profile of the artists with which he collaborated, but not all that surprising when looking at the extraordinary talent Andersen has shown through his work. In 2013 Andersen wrote, directed and produced the music video “As Long As You Watch My Heart” for Danish musician Penny Police. Andersen’s video went into heavy rotation on MTV U, which reaches an audience of 9 million, when Penny Police was chosen as one of several artists to compete for the Freshman Award, an award voted on by viewers that they won. The video was also an Official Selection at the Rahway Film Festival, and garnered Andersen the award for Best Music Video at the 2014 HollyShorts Film Festival in Los Angeles. A stop motion video, “As Long As You Watch My Heart” follows a ball of yarn traveling through nature and space. Andersen created the visually captivating video using animation, miniature models and puppetry.

Jacob Lundgaard Andersen is extremely gifted. Not only is he an incredible director with a unique vision, but he is passionate about learning every aspect of what goes into the creation of a film as well.

He says, “I love movies and every element that goes into making them and as a director you get to be involved with each of the specialized departments and learn everything from technical camera, VFX and sound things to very emotional and human experiences that comes from working with writers, actors and people management in general.”

The great lengths Andersen has gone to in order to become knowledgeable about every technical aspect of filmmaking in addition to the creative side, has put him leagues ahead of most directors and adds to his ability to bring his vision to life with each project. A perfect example of Andersen’s vast skillset, the films’ Be Here Now and Dustland showcase his creativity as a director, writer, and producer. If you’d like to find out more about Jacob Lundgaard Anderson’s work you can check out his website http://jacoblandersen.com/ and watch his video for Penny Police below!

French Film Wizard Emeric Le Bars!

Emeric Le Bars
Editor Emeric Le Bars

Although they are never seen on screen, film editors select every single shot the audience sees, a role that holds the power to make or break a project. Something of a film wizard, Emeric Le Bars is among the best European editors working in the entertainment industry today.

Originally from France, Emeric Le Bars has been honing his skills as a professional film editor for more than a decade. The talented young editor has continued to expand on his already impressive repertoire of work since moving to the United States a few years ago.

Le Bars is currently working on a feature film entitled Perception of Art, directed by German filmmaker Roana Wullinger (Moonflower, Rain Day, Brown Bag, Second Date?, Soul Bird). Set for release in February 2015, Perception of Art is a dramatic comedy about a spoiled yet struggling Italian painter who receives an opportunity to bring his art into the spotlight, but to his dismay, the opportunity requires him to collaborate with a cleaning lady. In addition to his work as lead editor on Perception of Art, Le Bars is also working as a colorist for the filmLe Bars explains, “In the film two worlds clash together and the entertainment value is impeccable.”

Emeric Le Bars first met director Roana Wullinger at Smile TV, where he is employed as an editor. Two incredibly talented individuals, Le Bars and Wullinger intend to continue collaborating after the release of the film. They have already started the groundwork for their next project, a documentary that focuses on the lives of children in the Middle East, and Le Bars says, “We want to keep working together for as long as we can!”

While working as an editor for Smile TV, Le Bars has lent his creative talents to more than 15 interstitials for PBS SoCal and 2 segments through the series LAaRT, which highlights the Los Angeles art scene and airs on PBS Southern California. Proving his incredible diversity in the industry, Le Bars served as chief editor and director of photography on an episode of LAaRT entitled “Homeless Karaoke.” He describes the episode like this, “After a day of quietly asking for change, this diverse group of people comes in from the street to hear and be heard.” At a venue that enables the homeless population of Skid Row to lift themselves up through music and companionship, Le Bars admits, “The talent will surprise you!”

Over the years Le Bars has displayed his passion and talent for editing in numerous projects, and he continues to give life to the footage he edits on a daily basis. “I love creating a story from nothing, sharing emotion and feeling,” remarks Le Bars. “There are thousands of ways to edit one video and you choose the one you want. You decide how you want to tell the story and what feelings you want to share.”

In this way, Le Bars accurately describes just how important someone in his position is to the production process, and we look forward to seeing what he creates next.

Italy’s Leading Producer Nicola De Stefani

Nicola De Stefani in Brooks Range Alaska
Nicola De Stefani in Brooks Range Alaska

The diverse work of Italian line producer Nicola (Nick) De Stefani has taken him around the world several times over, and although his work on countless award-winning commercials and documentaries has put him in many perilous situations, his love for his work and dedication to getting the shot has kept him calm and motivated even in the face of life-threatening danger.

While De Stefani has fulfilled the role of producer on several documentaries, his most consistent role over the last 25 years has been that of a line producer, which means he functions as the key manager of daily operations for the majority of projects he takes on.

During his time as co-owner and producer with World Watching Film from 1990 to 1995, De Stefani produced nearly 20 documentaries informing audiences on everything from the indigenous people, native plants and animals, and magnificent, yet equally treacherous mountain ranges, which exist in various parts of the world.

A dedicated producer, Nick De Stefani explains, “it was my production company that was producing and realizing the projects so it was my job to work at my best, even at the cost of being bitten or strangled by a snake, eaten alive by a nearby tiger that no one knew was around, or stomped by an Indian rhino.”

Some of his documentary titles include Tsaatan, Gli Uomini Renna (Tsaatan, The Reindeer Men) and I Nomadi Kazaki Degli Altai (The Kazak nomads of the Altai), which he shot in Mongolia, Il Mondo Perduto – Roraima (The Lost World ­– Roraima) and La Pianura Infinita – Llanos (The Endless Plain – Llanos), which he shot in Venezuela, Il Destino Del Gigante – Chitwan (The fate of the giant – Chitwan) and Il Parco di Chitwan (The Park of Chitwan), which he shot in Nepal, as well as many others.

“In the forests of southern Nepal, at Chitwan National Park, I had to tackle and handle a 10-foot constrictor snake by the tail, while my working partner was filming it. I did the same thing in Venezuela with a 12 foot injured anaconda, which had an extended mycosis on one side,” admits De Stefani.

In addition to taking on his main role as the producer of these documentaries, De Stefani also fulfilled various other roles while on location including co-director, sound recorder, art director, grip, electrician, and cameramen.

“Making these kind of documentaries means that you alone, or you and your working partner, will do the job an entire crew does while filming a feature film or a commercial,” says De Stefani. “You have to have the knowledge and the skills to cover all the roles.”

After De Stefani and his partner Rolando Menardi closed World Watching Films in 1995, De Stefani switched his focus from documentary filmmaking to the commercial world, an area in which he has found unparalleled success.

While Nick De Stefani’s love for exploration and the wild unknown made him an asset and key developer in the production of documentaries, these same traits have also made him an irreplaceable counterpart as the line producer on multiple award-winning commercials for high profile brands including Fiat, Mercedes-Benz, Nike, Ariston Aqualtis, Tuborg, Ferrero, Vodafone, Volvo and many more. For the last two decades De Stefani has been a go-to line producer for commercials for some of the world’s leading ad agencies like BBDO, Saatchi & Saatchi, Leo Burnett Worldwide, Lowe Pirella, and Grey.

On a commercial for Snam, a division of Italy’s largest gas company, Nick used his knowledge of Alaska and his vast skills as a line producer to make the commercial a success.

“It is not everyday that you have the chance to shoot in the middle of the ice and in my personal experience these, along with the desert, are the most challenging grounds you have to cope with… Nick helped us all, with a perfect blend of a professional and friendly attitude. It is important, especially when you are in a tough ground, to have very focused people around you who can help solve problems, but at the same time capable  smiling and keeping the atmosphere light and pleasant, even in the most difficult situations,” explained Simona Ferraro, who is an executive producer at Filmmaster Service based in Rome.

Nick’s ability to think quickly and always find the tools necessary for the director and the rest of the team to create a successful production has been an asset to every project he has worked on.

Check out one of the commercials Nick De Stefani produced for Indesit Company’s Ariston Aqualtis washing machine below! Indesit Company is one of the leading European manufacturers and distributors of major domestic appliances. The commercial was directed by Italy’s three-time Advertising Director of the Year, Dario Piana. Piana has shot over 650 commercials over the course of his career, as well as received countless awards including four Gold, three Silver and four Bronze Lion Awards at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, and a Clio Grand Prix Award.