Category Archives: Editor

Editor Rudy Vermorel Nails the Mark on the Campaign for Award-Winning Video Game Clash Royale

Often referred to as the ‘invisible art’ that takes place behind the scenes of a film, commercial and other visual media projects of the like, the work of an editor is critical to setting the tone, style, and structure of a project. While their work requires extensive skill and often long, laborious hours in order to sew hundred of hours of footage together into something that unfolds seamlessly on screen, editors rarely receive their due credit in the press; but that’s just the nature of the game, the mark of the best editors means their work goes unnoticed. One editor who deserves quite a bit of attention for his extraordinary talent though is Frenchman Rudy Vermorel.

Vermorel began his career nearly a decade ago, and what he’s accomplished since is nothing short of amazing. With a keen eye for the perfect shots and the ability to create a seamless flow on every project he lends his magic editor’s wand to, Vermorel has become known for his distinct skill through his work as the editor of commercials for auto industry leader Ford, the video game Homefront: The Revolution, and countless music videos for artists including Demi Lovato, Party Favor, Av DiVinci, Alexx Mack.

Last year Vermorel signed on as an editor at Eyestorm Productions, an LA-based creative agency whose well-known clients include Hasbro, BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse, video games such as Tom Clancy’s Endwar, Call of Juarez the Cartel, Rocksmith and Zombiu, and many more. Eyestorm Productions also did the TV Spots, behind the scenes and featurettes for “Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith,” and most recently the ad campaign for the video game Clash Royale.  

As the lead editor on all of the trailers and commercials for Clash Royale, Vermorel’s work for the game has been hugely successful on an international scale with the collection of ads garnering over 120 million combined views on Youtube, and other social media platforms.

“Last year Rudy came on board as the editor of the Clash Royale campaign, one of Eyestorm Productions latest projects. The series of commercials he edited for Clash Royale really drove home the intense competition and modern vibe of the game in a way that seamlessly represented the product to users and made them want to start playing Clash Royale. He nailed the project in every aspect,” explains Eyestorm Productions owner Michael Klima.

Released on March 2, 2016 Clash Royale was developed and published by popular mobile gaming company Supercell. Referred to as the ‘King of Gaming’ by Forbes in 2013, Supercell gained worldwide attention when its first two games, Hay Day and Clash of Clans, began pulling in $2.4 million per day.

Clash Royale is a real-time multiplayer mobile strategy game starring the Royales from the popular Clash of Clans game. Mixing together elements of a collectible card game, tower defense, and multiplayer online battle arena, Clash Royale allows users to form their own Clan and share cards to build their very own battle community. Available on Android and IOS platforms, Clash Royale quickly became No. 1 in the U.S. on the top downloads chart, as well as the top-grossing list on the iOS App Store game upon release. Last year Clash Royale also earned the coveted Google Play Award for Best Game of the Year, an award emphasizing app quality and innovation over the previous 12 months selected by a panel of experts on the Google Play team.

Over the past year Vermorel used his extraordinary editing skills to cut a plethora of commercials and In App ads for Clash Royale, including the incredibly popular “Clash Royale: Settle it with a Duel (Doctor v Doctor),” “Clash Royale: Settle Your Check With A DUEL!,” which has earned over 20 million views since it’s release last month, “Clash Royale Settle it with a Duel (Santa v. Dad)” and “Clash Royale: DEFUSE the Situation with a DUEL!” commercials.

“Clash Royale: Settle it with a Duel (Doctor v Doctor)” has earned a whopping 14 million views on Youtube since it’s debut on the Clash Royale Channel in January. The highly cinematic commercial is full of intensity and bright colors, which heightens the energy as two doctors battle it out over what treatment to give their patient– the perfect parallel to the intense competition users feel when playing Clash Royale.

Any user who sees the commercials edited by Vermorel would be hard pressed not to be pulled in by the cinematic effects, precise cuts and building energy set by the EDM music playing in the background– it’s no wonder that millions of users around the world have signed in and begun playing Clash Royale!

Vermorel says, “I love the game, and I love the company! They have a very modern way of working, each project is different, and there is always a new story.”

Rudy also edited a series of hilarious and visually modern character spots for the campaign, such as “I Am The Knight,” “The Log,” “Princess Got It,” “It’s A Goblin Barrel!,” and several more, all of which have gained incredible traction with viewers around the world garnering over a million views each on Youtube.

“I wanted to showcase the funny side of the characters and design the ads in a way that made them endearing, then I opted for a modern, dynamic editing approach in order to attract the interest of a large audience,” says Vermorel about his inspiration as the editor of the campaign.  

Aside from editing the Clash Royale campaign, Vermorel also edited a plethora of successful ads for Supercell’s Clash of Clans game. From the way he’s edited the commercials for each campaign, endowing the videos with an energetic and engaging vibe that is relevant to modern gamers, one might assume that Vermorel is a gamer himself, but ironically he is not! The fact that he is not a gamer, but has managed to edit the campaigns for both Clash Royale and Clash of Clans in a way that struck an obvious chord with users says quite a lot about his creative talent as an editor.

Klima says, “Rudy’s unique creativity and extensive knowledge as an editor are what have made him so successful. From our experience working together I can easily say he is the best at what he does and that is why we’ve hired him to continue on as the editor of future campaigns for Clash Royale.”

 

ARCIONI’S ECLECTIC TALENTS PAVE A NEW PATH FOR TODAY’S EDITORS

There is no questioning the fact that the way the world disseminates and receives information and entertainment is forever changed. “Appointment TV”, a staple of the home viewing industry only ten short years ago, is almost nonexistent thanks to the DVR. You can watch a film that was released in the theater within almost three month’s time on a plane. Digital Downloads now result in more viewers watching on their computer or smartphone than any of the traditional means previously commanded. News and entertainment go everywhere on the planet and they get there quicker than ever before. While this has caused previous models to take a financial hit, it has also produced an industry that has more creative professionals involved in production that at any point in history. The belief is that that not everyone succeeds but, as the saying goes “the cream rises to the top.” Ana Arcioni is among this new breed of professionals. A highly in demand editor with a widely diverse resume, Arcioni has the ability to work with productions around the globe who seek out her consummate abilities. Empowered with a wider sphere of influence than that afforded to previous professionals means that editors like Ana are offered a host of diverse opportunities, something which is a part of Arcioni’s list of desirable qualities. Productions like the animated film Reality Takes Place, EATV (Educational Access Television), and Premiere Pictures International Inc. are just a short list of the employers who have enlisted this talented editor to make their creations even greater than before.

When Ron Merk, owner/president of San Francisco based Premiere Pictures International Inc. approached Ana about working on the company’s new S.E.Q.U.E.N.C.E. project (as a film/video Editor and Artistic Supervisor for Trailers, Promos, Teasers, and interviews), it seemed to her like an opportunity to be really creative and on the ground floor of something new to the industry. It also gave credence to the company’s belief that Arcioni could display their technology and approach to the best and brightest of the industry. The owner and president of Premiere Pictures International Inc. declares, “Ana’s work with S.E.Q.U.E.N.C.E. proves to the world that It does exactly what I had in mind; it gets the viewer intrigued and want to ask ‘what is this and when can we see it?’ Editing has its own rhythm and pace, and the project itself is going to tell you when to stop. I love that Ana can read my director’s mind and put together a video like if she was? reading my mindWe’re in the business of giving great editors great tools, look no further than Ana Arcioni as proof of this.” In addition, Ana participated in the projects Outrageous, Repeace, and Harvest during her time at Premiere Pictures International Inc..

Ana’s work with EATV is yet another example of the difference in content that she edits. Ana utilized a variety of skills at EATV; doing promos, intros and station ID’s. Some of her editing work with EATV has been viewed at the Festival of Moving Image 2016 (Roxie Theater in San Francisco) and the animation film festival at the Niles Essany Film Museum. Working with producer Jody Yvette Wirt, directed by Maya Prickett, and starring Maya K Chenille, Shoebox Circus was one of the most popular productions at EATV. Shoebox Circus’s content is meant to appeal to a mainly young audience, something that Ana sees as inconsequential to her role as editor. She states, “The fact that the programs are dedicated to children or adults is only a subtle difference, as in the case of a program of urbanism or any other nature. Politics, art, geography, travel, cooking, science, new discoveries, astronomy, there’s an infinity of things. I love them all as long as there is variety. What I love most is the absence of routine. One of the most appealing factors in my line of work is diversity. For Shoebox Circus, Jody raises the idea and gives the tone of the idea. I work with that idea with After Effects editing to have a product which matches that idea. I’m happy to be working with Jody because she has a unique voice and that makes it interesting for me.”

Proving that her work bridges the gap between child and adult is the animated production Reality Takes Place. This inspirational drama discusses friendship, positive perspective and thinking, as well as death vs. life. The topics can be light and then switch quickly to having substantial gravitas. Reality Takes Place was selected and screened at: City Shorts Film Festival at Diego Rivera, Artist Television Access, Festival of the Moving Image, and the Bernal Heights Outdoor Cinema. Ana felt that her work on this production revealed things to her about editing as well as the role of all filmmakers. She explains, “Reality Takes Place is drawn and animated by myself using the Adobe Flash program. The voices are recorded in a small studio through Pro Tools, as well as the Foley effects. The first-line editing was made with AVID. The tweaks, and retouches (including sound design) were made with Final Cut Pro. On and off it was a total one-year project. In my opinion (and I know that not everyone will agree) every independent filmmaking process starts from the editor’s point of view. The more you get to edit and the more you gain experience at it, the more expert you become in shooting and in directing because you know what you want, you know the type of shots that you need. If an editor has a say in the production, or has a good relationship with a director who listens to him/her then the film benefits. I think the editor is the one who understands the most because they have the film in their head and know what shots are needed in order to make the finished piece look good. The editor can advise the director with insight like “don’t do that because it will be impossible to fix in post” or the opposite, “don’t worry about that because I can fix it in post. Being a part of any production is about teamwork. Of course I see the importance of my role as an editor. I also understand that my greatest asset is my ability to make everyone else’s work look even better, that’s why I enjoy editing so much.”

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Zeon’s Music Video Journey

Alejandro Salinas discovered MTV when he was just 10 years old. As a child growing up in Mexico City, he would listen to songs and always think about what the music video would look like. When he saw a new one come out and it would not match his expectations, he would become thrilled at the idea of making his own version. When one came out that was better than he imagined, he would become overwhelmed with excitement and the new possibilities that those amazing ideas had brought on for the industry, the world, and his creative perception. The love for music and inspiration it draws generates a need for him to create visuals for it.

Now, that young boy from Mexico City goes by Zeon, and is recognized around the world as an outstanding director and editor. Despite working on films and fashion films and achieving extraordinary success, he still knows his passion is the same as the 10-year-old boy who would watch MTV all day.

I make music videos. I create a visual world from a song. I direct and edit the process, and I’m very detail-oriented. It’s the most rewarding discipline for me. It encompasses so many different art forms and you’ll never be bored by it. There will always be new songs to be inspired from to create new visuals, and that keeps me coming back to them,” said Zeon.

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Zeon in Lady Gaga’s “Til It Happens to You”

One of Zeon’s greatest accomplishments was working with Lady Gaga on the music video for her Academy Award nominated song “Til It Happens to You”, showing the stories of women who are raped on college campuses. The video has been viewed over 37.5 million times on YouTube.

“I love Lady Gaga and she is someone I look up to,” he said. “But I also wanted to work on this because of the importance of the video and the impact it would have on society and rape culture. I was there behind, in front of and beside camera throughout the whole process, and it was a very fulfilling and honoring experience to have taken part of.”

Jamie Holt, the producer of “Til It Happens to You” was impressed with Zeon’s work and asked him to be involved with her next projects, the music videos for the band Icon for Hire, for their songs “Now You Know” and “Supposed To Be”. “Now You Know” premiered February 2016 and has over 1.4 million views on YouTube. “Supposed To Be” premiered June of this year and has over 826 thousand views.

“It was a lot of fun. Each video presented different ways to be explored creatively,” said Zeon. “Jamie allowed me to fulfill her vision through editing by expanding the ideas she had in mind and by also adding my personal touch to make it impacting.”

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Still from Icon for Hire’s “Now You Know” music video.

Zeon’s first taste of true success came when working on the music video for “Arrójame” for the legendary 80s/90s Mexican rock band La Lupita, a humbling experience for Zeon, who had his music video on TV debut with this video.

“It was very emotional moment when I saw the video on television for the first time. I never knew when or how it would ever happen, that a music video of mine would be on TV, but when I was watching the premiere with my cousin and grandma and the video came up, it felt very touching to see a video I worked on debuting on national television,” he said. “I loved the song and I thought I could create an interesting video for the band. They are very talented and hardworking people. Even after years, they’re still hustlers and I found that very inspiring.”

The producer of the video, Estívaliz Zaragoza, had worked with Zeon previously and says she would never miss an opportunity to collaborate with him.

“Working with Zeon is full satisfaction, because he is always on top of his responsibilities and tasks, he never hesitates on helping his team mates. His creativity and ideas are refreshing and right on spot. He always has something to share, knowledge, helpful information and useful ideas. He has a mixture of skills that make you want to have him in your team and collaborate in his projects: He is proactive, disciplined, detail-oriented, a team player, and super creative,” said Zaragoza.

From there, Zeon’s career took off. He worked on the fashion film Dieode and the celebrated fashion documentary Mextilo, and worked on the music video for the iconic collaboration of legendary Mexican singer Lila Downs, the Spanish Niña Pastori, and the Argentinian Soledad for their song “Que Nadie Sepa Mi Sufrir”. The video has amassed over 2.5 million views on YouTube, and their album received a Grammy nomination.

“It was a very exciting opportunity to work a new project with such legendary artists from different Spanish-speaking countries,” said Zeon. “I didn’t have an award in mind at all, I just wanted to make sure I could deliver a video that worked best for such great artists, but it’s very honoring to know that you took part in such a great achievement in an artist’s career. The album not only got nominated, but actually won the Latin Grammy in 2014 for Best Folk Album. And then the next year it got nominated for the 2015 Grammy Awards for Best Latin Pop Album, which is amazing as well.”

Zeon knows he has the power to push an artist’s vision even further. He has been studying music videos for almost his entire life, and can sense what works and what doesn’t. He strives for perfection, and that is what he is known for achieving.

“I love the emotional, narrative and visual impact I can have on the final result of a video. It can completely shift an artist’s career. It thrills me to push alongside them, because we’re both moving forward in ways we never imagined” he concluded.

 

TV COMMERCIAL EDITOR PAVEL KHANYUTIN IS A MASTER OF THE 60 SECOND EPIC

Small is beautiful—the economy and discipline of the short form, whether a haiku poem or one minute television commercial can be as rewarding, in its own way, as a feature length project. But that spare intimate moment also poses a tremendous creative challenge, one which only an acutely capable craftsman can master, and Pavel Khanyutin epitomizes that nuanced, subtle skill.

The Russian-born film editor-visual effects supervisor’s instinct, delicacy and precision have allowed Khanyutin to build a solid professional reputation as a master of both thirty second TV spots and feature length films. Navigating such a broad spectrum takes a very special gift, and the ease with which he manages it only underscores Khanyutin’s natural talents.

Khanyutin’s earliest experience was cutting documentaries, a genre where the straight expositional narrative succeeds largely due to how the editor frames and delivers that information.

“I started doing advertising at the beginning of my career in 2000,” Khanyutin said. “At that time I already had experience in editing documentary films and I’d been working with computer graphics for several years.”

“Advertising, of course, can’t be compared with films in complexity,” he said. “Time spent in the editing room and the tasks differ a lot. However, advertising is strongly connected with film. To my thinking, this goes both ways and dozens of techniques move from ad to film and back, improving and gathering sensibility along the way.”

Khanyutin soon found himself working for all the top Russian ad production companies—DAGO, Bazelevs, Robusto, Action Film , Park Production and international agencies like Instinct (BBDO Group) and Leo Burnett Worldwide.

“These gave me fantastic opportunities, within a short time, to edit dozens of TV promotions in many genres, to work with different directors and studios, for various brands and in different formats.” Khanyutin said

The ability to infuse cinematic qualities into a television commercial gained Khanyutin a great advantage in the field and he has done successful spots for such major international clients as Mars, P&G, Garnier, Pepsi, Toyota, Google, IKEA, Tele2, Megafon cellular and many others.

“The skill of editing commercials has a lot to do with one’s ability to pinpoint the soul of a story and convey it in the most economical way possible,” commercial director Rachel Harms said. “Pavel’s brilliance is evident at every stage of the editorial process. He’s a master at uncovering the choice moments, shaving them down to their essence, establishing rhythm and musicality, and finally juxtaposing images in a way that achieves maximum impact.”

Khanyutin relishes the challenge television ads present. “During editing, I consider a TV ad to be like a short film,” he said. “There are many possibilities in spite of the very restricted format, but you also face a limitation of possibilities. As an example, there are ads with a lot of dialogue or an overload of text information, and you must always consider the strict time limit of 30 seconds to one minute.”

“Another type is the ‘branding’ or ‘mood’ ad. These have a much less strict structure. The characters do not speak much or don’t speak at all. Here you almost unlimited possibilities for editing, with many variants on how and where to put focuses–to solve the task rhythmically. All small details are of great importance. One flash of half a second may finish the composition in full, if you find its right position in editing.”

Khanyutin’s focus, dedication, comprehensive vision and innate knack for conceiving and presenting the ideal cut on any given assignment has kept him in demand as a TV commercial editor for more than fifteen years

“I’ve worked with countless editors across the globe in the course of my career as a commercial director,” Harms said. “It’s rare to find such extraordinary intelligence and insight wrapped in such a collaborative heart. Pavel listens well and quickly attunes to a director’s vision, yet he never loses his own strong point of view.”

“After a shoot, I know that my material will either live, die or thrive in an editor’s hands. This is the final critical stage where everything will either come together or will be derailed. With Pavel as my editor, I’m always confident the finished product will be exceptional.”

Shayar Bhansali’s Editing on “Against Night” Earns International Recognition

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“Against Night” team from left to right: editor Shayar Bhansali, Elena Caruso (actor), Stefan Kubicki (writer/director), Saba Zerehi (producer), Konstantin Lavysh (actor) and Lucas Lechowski (composer) at AFI Fest in Los Angeles

 

Getting his start as an editor in the world of narrative film with none other than the iconic India based production company, Yash Raj Films International, Shayar Bhansali seemed destined for greatness even at the very the beginning of his career. And, the international success he’s received over the last few years through his work on multi-award winning films including “Wild & Precious” and “Kicks” make it undeniably clear that he’s already made it to the top.

One of Bhansali’s recent projects as lead editor, and one that proves why he is such a sought after talent in the film industry, is “Against Night” from writer/director Stefan Kubicki.

Set in the 1960s, “Against Night” starring Konstantin Lavysh (“Five Days of War,” “Karaganda,” “Juke Box Hero”) as Vitali, multi-award winning actress Elena Caruso (“Paper,” “Cloverfield”) as Marina, and Eve Korchkov  (“Joseph,” “A Night at Christmas”) as Lenka, follows Vitali, a cosmonaut who crash lands in a seemingly desolate stretch of snow-covered land in Mongolia.

Climbing out of the small capsule, Vitali stumbles his way through the ostensibly endless miles of snow and nothingness in the midst of a blizzard until he finds himself at the door of a lamp lit yurt in the middle of nowhere. The home of a reticent and shaman-like man, once Vitali steps into the yurt, the real emotional drama and the film’s underlying story begins to reveal itself. As he drifts into a deep and feverish dream-state, Vitali’s present world intermixes, through a series of flashbacks that serve as a major source of plot development, with painful memories of the daughter and wife he lost in a tragic accident years prior.

“[The film] explores the relationship we have with time and memory,” explains Bhansali. “Part of the challenge with the project was to find a good handle on tone, and to be able to maintain the style and rhythm achieved by production through the edit.”

The numerous awards Bhansali earned from festivals across continents prove that he nailed the task with his work taking home the Festival Prize for Best Editing at India’s 2015 Kolkata International Film Festival and the LAIFF June Award for Best Editing from the 2015 Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Awards.

Immediately drawing viewers in with a heart-pumping scene of Vitali and his co-pilot struggling to remain calm as their capsule malfunctions and begins to crash, Bhansali’s precise edits created a beautiful and dynamic rhythm for the unfolding story throughout the entirety of the film. Through his edits Bhansali provides the necessary pauses to allow viewers to really understand and feel the pain of Vitali’s loss when the emotional aspects of the dram are at their height.

While “Against Night” was shot with Russian dialogue, Bhansali admits that there were many similarities in his approach to editing regardless of the language. “I’ve worked with other languages before and the interesting thing for me is how similar the process is – I still spend a lot of time watching dailies and making decisions about performance, thinking about structure and the emotional rhythm of the piece and putting together a first cut within the time frame that’s expected for a project like this. The thing that’s a little different is how the director and I end up spending our time – initially a lot more of it was spent looking at dialogue delivery and sculpting performance.”

A film that has had an incredible impact on audiences, “Against Night” actors Konstantin Lavysh and Eve Korchkov earned the Best Actor and Best Actress Awards at the Long Island International Film Expo for their performances in the film. Aside from the awards Bhansali and the two lead actors earned for their work on the film, “Against Night” also won the Cinematic Achievement Award from THESS International Short Film Festival, the National Jury Award from the USA Film Festival, the Maverick Award and the Jury Prize from the Woodstock Film Festival, the Best Narrative Award from the Ojai Film Festival and several others.

You check out the trailer for the multi-award winning film “Against Night” edited by Shayar Bhansali below:

Some of Shayar Bhansali’s other work includes Mattson Tomlin’s drama “Persuasion,” Sahirr Sethhi’s “Zoya,” Shuming He’s comedy “La Bella” and the drama “Loveland.”

About the powerful force Bhansali brings to the table as an editor, “Persuasion” director Mattson Tomlin (whose film “Rene” Bhansali is currently editing) explains, “The work of the director, cinematographer, and the actors very often falls on the editor’s shoulders. A great editor is able to champion the best of the best performances and manipulate even those at their worst into something emotional and resonating. In the case of Mr. Bhansali, I have seen him time and time again act as both a problem solver and a treasure hunter, often finding the key moments to make a scene work in the most unintended places.”

Over the years Bhansali has proven his ability to tackle some of the most challenging stories and translate them into seamless visual productions through his precision as an editor. While he earned his master’s in film editing from AFI, he initially began his collegiate career many years ago studying psychology, something that has proven to be incredibly useful in his work as an editor because it allows him to understand the mindsets and emotions of the characters in the stories he creates with his edits.

“As filmmakers, I believe we are constantly working with the medium to guide the way our viewers feel – and to do this successfully one has to have to be sensitive to the way we think. I’m not sure I realized this at the time but my interest in psychology and the way our minds work definitely helped me shape emotions and characters,” explains Bhansali.

“Whether it’s a fictionalized post apocalyptic world with a robot as it’s protagonist or a based-on-reality story about a soldier fighting in WWII – the thing that makes these movies resonate with me is the humanity within the story and characters.”

Brazilian Director of Photography Makes International Impact Across Australia

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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.

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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.

VERONICA LI USES CREATIVE SOUND DESIGN TO CONNECT TWO DIFFERENT PARTS OF THE WORLD AND TWO DIFFERENT WORLDS IN MANDALA

One of the key components of any renowned artist is the ability to achieve popular success while simultaneously keeping their artistic vision intact. This is no small accomplishment and can be quite a balancing act. The yin and yang of this  (whether it is music, painting,  film, etc.) is required to both satisfy the masses as well as lift the art form to new places. When executed at its highest level, art can challenge us to consider our thoughts on love, life, and the world. Technology has created a world in which we are more in touch with other cultures and lifestyles; it seems intuitive that it would bring the elite of the artistic world into a closer community. Sound Designer Veronica Li is an example of this very ideal. She has made a name for herself as a talented and in demand sound designer in Hollywood. Working on box office hits like Michael Bay’s 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (grossing 53MM) as well as artistically praised films such as STAND (for which Li won the Outstanding Achievement in Sound Award at the First Film Festival) has displayed Veronica’s ability to match the tone and scale of her work to any film and assist the filmmaker’s desired emotional impact.

Ask any director what they require to make a great film and they will tell you that it takes a highly skilled and talented team in order to achieve their vision. Ask Guan Xi, the director and writer of Mandala, about Veronica Li and she will reinforce that statement. Mandala received multiple nominations at the 2015 Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Awards including a win for LAIFF’s Best Foreign Language Film in July, as well as being recognized by the film community in Italy and India.  Guan Xi states, “Veronica’s work was critical to the success of the production, as evidenced by the numerous official selections to the industry-renowned film festivals in the U.S. and around the world.” Veronica’s achievements on award winning films like Looking at the Stars captured the attention of Xi while they were working on this film and solidified the director’s resolve to enlist Li to work on Mandala. Remarking on the experience, Guan Xi comments, “Veronica’s work as a Sound Designer and Sound Editor on the production was absolutely crucial, as the sound in a film is one of the most important facets of filmmaking. Mandala was critically lauded by some of the industry’s most prominent directors and producers. The Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker, journalist, and novelist Mark Harris called the film ‘Beautifully shot and impressively produced…’ while Amanda Pope, the Emmy Award-winning director called the film ‘A visually exquisite story of an artist torn between her modern life and her Tibetan Buddhist culture.’ Many more luminaries in the field have voiced their praises for the film.”Li 5

Mandala is a timeless and universal story of the loss of a loved one and the attempts of a female artist to overcome her pain while at the same time reconnecting with her roots. The story grounds itself in the physical world and its day to day realities, while the emotional upheaval creates a bridge to a metaphysical world. Only by dealing with the less familiar “higher plane of consciousness” does the heroine stand a chance at living a life once again free from sorrow and unattached to the tragedies life can bring. The sounds required to make viewers accept both visions of life as reality are equal to the demands of the visuals…if not even greater. Li is highly aware of the subtle yet highly important nature of her role professing, “I think sound design helps to bring a film to life. It definitely makes the environment more believable. Most of the sound designs in Mandala are so subtle that the audience won’t notice them but they will help to set the proper mood. They can really sell the shot.” The dichotomy of the setting of New York City’s Gotham and Tibet’s peaceful mysticism is stark and the sonic environment must reflect this in a “not too obvious” manner. Li’s expertise was called upon to meet this lofty goal. Guan Xi praises Veronica’s ability to exceed expectations recalling, “I needed the sound of the film to be at an exceptionally high-quality level. Veronica perfectly combined and contrasted Tibetan and NYC sound elements together, and as the Sound Designer and Sound Editor, she spent countless hours collaborating with the Composer, working seamlessly on the sound design and score of the film. Not only was I able to entrust Veronica with the sound design and sound editing of Mandala, but what most impressed me was the fact that she really understood the story and my needs as the director.” Veronica used her talent as well as some creative ideas to help link the main character’s two geographic anchors of NYC and Tibet. Li reveals, “In addition to contrasting the two places, we also wanted to connect them. Helena is someone who belongs to Tibet but is currently trapped in the city. We decided to use a very subtle Tibetan musical cue whenever we saw Helena’s Tibetan painting. The horns of the cars passing by would gradually change to Tibetan musical bells, as if Tibet was calling from inside Helena whenever she and Lobsang Lama walked by each other on the city street.

Authenticity was paramount in the approach to producing Mandala. With the exception of the lead roles of Helena (Sarah Yan Li, also know for Fast & Furious 6) and Paul (Omar Avila, also know for The Punisher), all the other lead actors were Tibetan. To ensure that the original Tibetan Buddhist culture was presented correctly, the production team consulted eight living Buddha about every detail in the movie. Tibet contains the highest plateau in the world making it quite difficult for non-Tibetans to do strenuous activities. Even though the filming could have taken place at a less “difficult” location, the audience needs to feel, see, and hear the real Tibet. In the rare cases that a modification needed to be done, they were delicately handled with the highest level of professionalism.  Since shooting is forbidden in a real Tibetan temple, a temple was recreated in Los Angeles for filming interiors. Editor Cheng Fang describes his experience working on the film with Veronica commenting, “In Mandala there is a scene in which the female character is taking a test in a Tibetan Buddhist Temple to see if she is the reincarnation of the Rinpoche that passed away several years ago. During the scene, the character has several ‘visions’ and eventually has a mental breakdown. We finished the picture editing of the scene but everyone knew there was something missing. The picture itself was just not powerful enough. The mental breakdown of the character seemed to end abruptly. Veronica went to work on it. After she finished, we viewed the scene again…it was now so powerful! Veronica successfully combined the sound of Tibetan music instruments with mysterious murmuring; transforming the mental journey of the character into a crescendo as the music got louder, resulting in an intense ending.”Li 6 When a poem that was already recorded was unable to fit due to time constraints, Guan Xi once again called on Veronica Li and her expertise. The director explains, “Veronica helped me choose the certain words from the poem, and reorganize them so they could fit the style of the movie but still deliver the message I wanted to tell. To be able to change such an important sequence in the film, yet stay true to a Director’s vision is one of the most difficult tasks in filmmaking, but Veronica was able to flawlessly execute it.”

Veronica Li and the message of Mandala share a few striking similarities; each is the story of a woman from one culture, living in another culture, striving for excellence in the arts, all the while using the best of each part of the world to tell the universal stories we all share.