Category Archives: Entertainment

REGGAE BY WAY OF NEPAL WITH JOINT FAMILY INTERNATIONAL’S MAGNETIC DRUMMER

One of the most effective way to influence a culture is through the Arts. For example, when the music of one region permeates the world on a global scale, it’s doubtless that this region “has arrived” as a worldwide focus. Reggae has brought attention to parts of the world which might have been overlooked, giving voice to the sounds and moods of its originators with great positive effect. Kathmandu is a long way from Trench Town in Jamaica but the Nepali band Joint Family International (JFI) heard the call of reggae and took up the mantle, to great success and acclaim. In addition to their domestic and international touring, JFI won three Hits FM Music Awards (Nepal’s equivalent of the Grammy) for: Best New Artist, Best Performance by Group or Duo with Vocals, and Best Pop Composition for their debut release One Good Thing. Perhaps the most intrinsic facet of reggae is its rhythm which is so unlike the European or American ones found in Jazz, Rock, R&B, and so many other modern musical forms. Sanjay Shreshta (JFI’s founder, bandleader, and guitarist) needed the most adept drummer possible to give JFI’s rhythm section authenticity. Sanjay knows quite a bit about drummers as he is also the drummer for the famous 1974 AD band. Sanjay’s enlisted Nepali session drumming ace/instructor at the Kathmandu Jazz Conservatory Kismat Shreshta. Sanjay proclaims, “Kismat is charisma personified when it comes to playing on the stage in front of an audience who wishes for an unforgettable musical experience. I’ve never seen anyone who has a better command of groove and blends so well with the music and Bass lines. Kismat has such a deep understanding and sensitivity of what the music needs…and when he solos, it’s a treat for his bandmates as much as the audience. I knew that having him behind the drums in JFI would be the spark that would propel JFI to greatness.”

Kismat has toured and recorded with a variety of successful groups including: Albatross (Band of the Year award winner- Radio Kantipur), Urjazz (playing to crowds of thousands at the World Village Festival held in Helsinki) and various others. As the only Nepali drummer to ever have been awarded a professional endorsement from an American company (Vater sticks and percussion), Kismat is more than a respected drummer in his homeland; he has become a drum hero. While the respect and praise of others might be the icing on the cake, this drummer is always focused on the music. JFI presented Shrestha with an opportunity to dig deep into reggae. As a longtime fan of the genre, it was a welcome challenge for him. He comments, “The general idea most people have about reggae drumming is that it is easy and that’s exactly what the great drummers of reggae want you to think. They want you to feel the lightness of the music and lyrics, without noticing how amazing they are as musicians. The more I researched and studied Reggae, the more I learnt about its specifics and differences, meaning that it isn’t as easy as it sounds. I listened to the best reggae drummers and taught myself about reggae music. During JFI rehearsals, Sanjay would show us a certain grove and feel of the music, which we then took home and internalized. I also researched more on the different styles of playing to allow myself to play this kind of music as authentically as possible. There are still parts of who we are all as players that crept in to the music, it’s inevitable. I have spent my life performing jazz and rock music. I think there will always be some of that in my playing.” The song “Netaji” from JFI’s debut recording is an example of this. “Netaji” spent 3 months as the number one single atop the Nepali charts. While the song exhibits the authentic reggae sound and hopeful attitude, the linear hi hat, snare, bass drum “licks” that Kismat subtlety weaves into his drum part give a hint that his proficiency is always slightly restrained to serve the groove.

 

JFI received international accolades and garnered fans in addition to those of their homeland. The group appeared at the 2014 Kolkata Peace Festival which took place in Calcutta, India. Invited by an organization named Bangla Natak which hosted this annual music festival in association with the US embassy, JFI performed to an estimated 5,000 concert attendees. In 2015, the band travelled to Thailand as part of the Global Battle of the Bands as well as the Kathmandu Jazz Festival in 2013. JFI has been the headliner band for the Sundance Festival (in Kathmandu) from 2010-2012.

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Kismat and his bandmates began JFI as a way to celebrate Bob Marley and also challenge themselves. The overwhelming acceptance of this band from Kathmandu playing music born of Jamaica has surprised them more than anyone. Kismat confirms, “Honesty, these awards came as a huge surprise for us all as we had never imagined a reggae band such as ours to receive awards and acceptance of this magnitude. The recognition we got through media and the like for winning these awards made all our efforts seem worthwhile. While we had started the band for fun’s sake, winning these awards made us even more inspired to move on.” One Good Thing is available on iTunes and multiple digital music formats.

GREENWOOD ISN’T AFRAID OF THE ANTI-SEQUEL

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There is a quote that is attributed to many fine actors that states, “Dying is easy. Comedy is difficult.” It has been repeated by Academy Award winners like Gregory Peck and Jack Lemmon (most consider Edmund Kean to be the originator) and speaks to the fact that making something seem spontaneous and light hearted takes a fair bit more convincing than a dire situation. There’s also a fairly common belief that the film industry takes itself too seriously and rejects mockery. This is a notion to which Canadian writer/producer/actor Troy Greenwood does not subscribe. As a part of the FAFC (Film Actors Fight Club), Greenwood helped create the award winning film Diamond Planet. With a very self-deprecating approach, Diamond Planet poked fun at filmmakers, the film industry, and even film students. In this production, fools abounded while intelligence was scarce. The film was so popular that Troy decided to write/produce and act in the sequel…a sequel which is in fact about a film that is not yet a film. As proof that filmmakers revel in self ridicule, Diamond Planet 2: Emerald Horizon was embraced with greater enthusiasm than the original (winning at the Calgary Film Challenge and going on to screen at the Sun and Sand Film Festival in Mississippi). Diamond Planet 2: Emerald Horizon is a testament to the fact that as long as creative individuals take themselves too seriously, there will be peers among them who remind us all how absurd they seem.

It has increasingly become commonplace for filmmakers to feed upon themselves, recycling films and themes from the past, sometimes even repeating the same current day premise but with different casts. While Diamond Planet shone a light on laughable concepts in modern film, Diamond Planet 2: Emerald Horizon turns its gaze to the film industry’s lack of originality and ingenuity. It seems that the current M.O. is to go for a wide audience that assures box office rather than fosters new ideas and artists; at least for the most part. Greenwood had a clear idea for a sequel which immediately follows the action of the first film. In Diamond Planet 2: Emerald Horizon, Ollie Swagger (the filmmaker from the original Diamond Planet) steals the idea for the “Diamond Planet” that was pitched in the first film. He’s going to try and sell the idea to a studio at the annual pitchtime event. Unfortunately for Ollie, when he was bragging about it the night before the meeting, his nemesis overheard him. The next day when they are seated together, Swagger starts into a pitch about “Diamond Planet”. In the film’s premise, the Diamond Planet will cross between the sun and the earth, magnifying the sun’s rays and burning the earth to a crisp. The government wants to send optometrists into space to change the curvature of the Diamond Planet rendering the rays harmless. However, Swagger’s nemesis jumps in, pitching his movie “Emerald Horizon” about a giant emerald planet and ophthalmologists in space. We, as the actual audience, see cuts back and forth between trailers for these films as they are pitched. Each trailer becomes more and more ridiculous until they’re basically turned into one complete parody of a movie; to which the studio’s representative responds “I like it, but how about a hamster!” The unseen wink with which Greenwood delivers the humor is obvious to all. One need not look too far into recent movie productions to see evidence of this scenario. Cutting to the core of the movie’s lesson, Troy notes, “Anything that tries too hard to purport itself is funny.”

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Due to the nature of “Diamond Planet” (the spoof movie) being a science fiction suspense thriller, the production value and the cast for this sequel necessitated a sizable increase from the original Diamond Planet. Because the original was so successful, it helped to propel much of the original cast and crew into busier careers and thus some key players proved unavailable for this sequel. Luckily the popularity of Diamond Planet attracted the interest and involvement of a large number of respected Canadian actors (both films are Canadian productions). This included noted theater and film actor Stuart Bentley. Greenwood’s prowess at a multitude of production roles, in addition to the script is what enticed Bentley to join the cast of Diamond Planet 2: Emerald Horizon. He comments, “Over the years, I’ve had the distinct pleasure of working with Troy Greenwood on stage and in film. In a production of Inherit the Wind Troy gave a masterfully understated and relatable performance of the accused schoolteacher, Bertram Cates. Troy effortlessly navigated this difficult character, drawing in audiences and critical approval. I had the opportunity to act in Diamond Planet 2: Emerald Horizon which Troy wrote, directed, and starred in. Troy had written a wonderfully funny script, and easily navigated the tricky job of acting and directing in his own production. He took great care of his cast and crew, and kept the production flowing on time, while being careful to ensure that every needed master and coverage shot was captured to realize his artistic vision. Diamond Planet 2: Emerald Horizon was a great success with judges and audiences and continues to be one of my favorite film projects of the past several years.” In addition to Bentley, the considerably larger cast included notables such as Jesse Collin (Fargo), Helen Young, and many others. Troy remarks, “Stuart, Louie, and Helen were all a breeze to work with. Stuart’s presence as the president had a great gravitas to it.  He really milked the moments of humour in the script, nailing the timing of lines to keep the pacing moving as the film progressed. Helen was also wonderful to work with. I had an interesting shot envisioned where the camera rotates around her before landing on the president; she was a trooper repeating the sequence a number of times while we worked out the technical kinks with the camera movement.”

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Another positive aspect of any sequel is that the success of the initial production allows for a higher production value in the second installment. The aforementioned larger cast and a greater array of interesting locations (including the Rothney Astrophysical Observatory, and the Springbank Airport Flying Club), were augmented by state of the art VFX. Greenwood relates, “I invested money to buy specific models we needed through a 3D modelling page.  Specifically, I got two distinct space ships for the two different versions of the trailer within the film, and planet models for the solar system, and then a diamond model so that my VFX artist could place them into the editor and articulate them to create the sequences you see in the film.” In fact, Troy concedes that he had to make sure the graphics were not too professional, in order to add to the humor of the trailers and the actual film itself.

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Diamond Planet 2: Emerald Horizon represents a blind spot in the film industry. While a considerable number of studios and filmmakers steer towards repeating proven ideas rather than creating new ones, Troy Greenwood has found a way to turn that concept around and use it against the very premise it represents…and still be wildly entertaining. Greenwood refers to comedy as a unique beast, remarking that you can plan all you want but often what is required is to just sit back and watch. Be careful filmmakers, you are being watched.

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COELHO CREATES MAGIC BEHIND THE LENS

The film You Cast a Spell On Me is about relationships and magic. Movie magic gives us the escapism and captivating storytelling that we all desire. This magic doesn’t happen without the relationships and communication amongst the creative professionals who produce them for our enjoyment. Director of Photography Johanna Coelho’s job title may imply that she is solely focused on imagery but one of the keys to her success is the emphasis she places on communication in filmmaking. No matter what vocation you are involved in, communication may be the most important factor to success. Johanna’s shrewd understanding of this fact and the benevolent manner in which she utilizes it has made her a much sought after DP in the film industry. As a fluent English speaker who was raised on the outskirts of Paris, Coelho has a heightened awareness of the subtleties of communication and how different individuals receive and interpret information. Of course, being from France makes her very aware of romance; which made her the ideal DP for this production. Talent, communication, and a connection with the story being told were the components of the magic that she created for You Cast a Spell On Me.

It’s an obvious statement but, anyone who speaks more than one language has spent a greater amount of time dissecting and contemplating communication. It creates a deeper understanding of your own intentions as well as those of others. Life can be easier or more difficult based on the level of communication. The success of many films are based on the abilities of its creators to establish a rapport with the audience as well as to accurately depict the vision of the film. Fantasy films like You Cast a Spell On Me require someone like Johanna and Tosca Musk (director/producer) who can manifest visuals that don’t exist in our actual world. Speaking about Coelho’s work on the film, Musk declares, “Johanna’s cinematography work on this film was extremely impressive. She lead a full crew in an enjoyable environment and created visuals that were really uplifting to the story. There were also a lot of magic tricks happening in the story, and in collaboration with the art department, she brought these magic effects to life. Almost everything was done practically and it looks amazing; like real magic! She is a pleasure to work with. She was fully committed to the project and the vision I had as a Director. Johanna also was very mindful of the work of other departments, giving them their space when needed but also collaborating with everyone to have a smooth and organized shoot.”

You Cast a Spell On Me is a romance/fantasy film about a young and handsome warlock named Matt. His power is that he can charm women into finding him irresistible, literally. As one can expect, a young man with this power is apprehensive to settle down with one woman. This journey Matt takes towards finding his soulmate and depicts him losing his powers, others gaining powers, and the conflict and happy endings that one finds in romance films. Due to the nature of Matt’s character, many production departments were required to understand and work together to help create the visual “trickery” to produce the action in this film. The responsibilities of the Director of Photography can vary depending on the personality of a director. Some directors like to have a full control of the creative visuals. They have a very specific idea in mind and have a precise shot list with lighting references they want reproduced for the film. Other directors do not really want to (or know how to) deal with the visual part. They just want to focus on the actors. When similar minds meet…Coelho explains, “Sometimes you have a director in the middle of the two previous options, one that will want to share the creative approach with you. It’s a really fun process when this happens because the two of you have imaginative brains talking together about shots and exchanging visual references to find what would be the best for the story. Tosca Musk is that Director, and it was amazing to prep this film with her because we would really support each other in the process. One idea would lead to another idea and so on, giving life to ideas that might have never existed with only one person brainstorming. We were also both very open minded about each other’s input and this really helped the process.”

This template trickled down through Johanna’s ten-person camera crew. This DP makes sure to involve them in the pre-production process (especially the Gaffer and Key Grip) to keep everyone aware of the plan and prepare for lighting, etc. Johanna understands that a happy and respected crew of professionals are more motivated to work and share in a vison than those who are merely “punching the clock”, a mindset we can all relate to and understand. Perhaps one of the most overlooked parts of communicating on set is with one’s self. Coelho reveals, “It is hard to stop for a second, and really look at the frame and lighting and be sure it’s the right setup. Focusing on one thing at a time is very important. If you do everything in order, your job will go much faster. You can switch back and forth between things quickly but each thing needs to be given its own respectful moment. It is also really important to know the blocking of the scene, because you don’t want to start lighting and discover in the middle of a take that your light is in the wrong place for your actor. So following the steps is key. It’s true that with everything going on at the same time, you can get lost in your own thoughts. It happened on one of my early student movies in 2011 at AFI and I was really angry at myself for having lost my point of view on the film. A teacher who watched it pointed this out to me and told me that when he would get confused on set, he would step out into the bathroom, turn the lights off so his eyes wouldn’t get distracted, take a deep breath, and remember what the movie should be for two minutes. Then he would come back on set fresh and clear minded. This is probably one of the best pieces of advice I have ever received. I don’t go hide in the restrooms, but I do step outside into an empty corner where no one is talking to me and take a deep breath and think for two minutes. When I come back on set everything is fine and back in place in my mind.”

While those of us in the audience are blissfully unaware of all the moving parts behind the scenes of the shows and films which entertain us, the talented professionals creating them are always thinking of us and our subconscious desire to not be taken out of the film. None of that would be possible with the oversight of someone like Johanna Coelho. You Cast a Spell On Me was filmed in a staggering fourteen days; an incredible achievement for such a high quality production. This is only possible with someone such as Coelho who is planning out and paying attention to every possible time saving opportunity. Whether communicating with the AD to prep things while waiting for the actors, or planning the lighting so that the post production process runs more smoothly (Johanna states, “Colorist are key and they should have much more recognition as they’re always saving your back and make your work look better. I was happy I could assist in ways that helped the colorist. We would discuss it together for each shot.”).

It’s an obvious statement that every DP needs talent and the eye to find the images which the director needs. There are so many professionals in the world, it is those like Johanna Coelho whose ability to create a positive and efficient environment for filmmakers the set her above the rest.

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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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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”.

THIS CANADIAN ACTRESS PROVES THAT HER ACTING AND DANCING ARE ON POINTE

Lanie McAuley is a dancer, and she plays one on film. In real life, McAuley made the switch from concentrating on a dance career to choosing acting as her focus. However, she returned to dance with her role in Center Stage: On Pointe. It’s not often that one gets to appreciate who they were as a younger person and who they are just a few years later with such contrast. As a gifted young dancer from Canada, Lanie moved to New York when she won the audition for a production there. These days, as a successful actress she spends her days on film sets. Though she still pursues a creative life, the avenue which she pursues flexes different muscles, literally and figuratively. McAuley is a self-described practical person yet the vocations she has chosen to pursue seem to contradict that idea. A dreamer who began her professional career a little more than a week after high school graduation (with great success), it seems impossible to imagine her doing a job which involves a nine to five schedule and a 401K. Lanie’s view of herself is probably a product of her middle-class work ethic coupled with a desire to work her entire life at something which inspires passion in her. Even when she alters her path, Lanie McAuley always finds her way back to doing something creative…sometimes a number of things at the same time. It’s serendipitous that years after leaving dance for acting, Lanie’s acting career has brought her back to dance to star in the sequel to her all-time favorite dance film, the original Center Stage.

A young Lanie followed her sister’s footsteps into dance. At 18, McAuley attended a dance competition called New York City Dance Alliance, where auditions were being held for a tap/jazz show called Revolution. Her dance teacher suggested she go to the audition just for the experience; hundreds of female dancers were narrowed down to four and soon, Lanie was offered a spot in the show. She had just graduated from high school a week before. Suddenly she found herself moving into an apartment in Queens and taking the train to Manhattan every day for rehearsals. Literally overnight, she went from high school and living as her parents’ sheltered little girl to living alone in New York with a full time dance job. The hours were long and it was both physically and mentally exhausting. She was the youngest member in the cast and had to learn quickly. It was a quick and amazing kick off to adulthood and a professional career in dance. In addition to the achievement of being in a successful New York production, Lanie also made it into the finals of So You Think You Can Dance. Her focus changed from dance to acting as she became keenly aware of certain factors. She reveals, “I was clear on my love of dance but I started questioning how viable my career options were in that world. I’m a very practical person and the idea that an injury can blow your entire career seemed so frightening to me. I’d been acting since I was a toddler and acting had always been a part of my life. Though I still loved dance, I’d always wanted to make acting more of a focal point in my life rather than a side interest. I think my background in dance has been a huge asset in helping me gain roles as an actress. It made me very comfortable performing, whether on stage or in front of a camera. My dance training definitely gave me a posture and poise that I never would have had otherwise. I also think growing up in the dance world (particularly ballet) gave me a lot of discipline. Being an actor requires a lot of discipline, involving everything from memorizing sides, to committing to a scene, to taking care of yourself emotionally.”

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It has often been said that nothing worth having comes easy. This can be true even if you have a head start. When McAuely’s agent called her about the audition for Center Stage: On Pointe, the actress was ecstatic. The original [Center Stage] is her favorite dance movie of all time and a highly motivated actress with a strong dance background was required for the role. Lanie’s character, Wendy, is meant to be a strong dancer who’s the measuring stick against which Bella (played by Nicole Munoz) is compared at the audition. The legendary Director X was involved in the production and ran a rigorous dance audition composed of ballet and modern dance styles. McAuley notes, “Auditioning for Director X was an intimidating experience. At the dance audition, I remember doing the ballet combo and him saying, ‘Again. Again. Again.’ I think he was testing my endurance. By the time I’d done it four or five times at 110%, I was exhausted. I had to hold my breath when they spoke with me afterward to hide how badly I was panting.” Lanie was awarded the role of Wendy in the film. Her costar, Nicole Munoz comments confirming the facets which made McAuley such a vital part of the film, “Captivating to watch, Lanie performed a contemporary dance solo. Her commitment and bright energy inspired the other dancers and raised morale on set. Multi-talented, Lanie was able to bring the character ‘Wendy’ to life by bringing an emotional depth that touched the cast and crew. We were filming on a tight schedule. Being a true professional, Lanie was able to bring a powerful energy to each take. Never once stumbling, she was always more than prepared. Lanie stands out from the crowd with her multiple talents, each and every one of them groomed and ready to go.”

Center Stage: On Pointe premiered with great success on the Lifetime network. While Lanie feels fortunate to have been in the cast of this popular film as well as challenging herself to unearth her dance proficiency, she concedes that she feels a reaffirmation that she made the correct choice in acting. She declares, “I think the main similarity between a career as a dancer and as an actress is that both careers are based on art and passion. Most people don’t enter these careers for the money; they enter them because they love the work. There are definitely some big differences between the two. Truthfully, acting is more lucrative, if you’re able to find success in it. There just doesn’t seem to be the same kind of funding and opportunity in the dance world that it deserves. There are certainly people who are enterprising enough to have thriving careers in dance (I’m so impressed by their drive and initiative) but for me, my passion for dance didn’t run deep enough to create those opportunities for myself. That’s likely because my practical brain couldn’t rationalize the risk of injury and the deterioration of opportunity with age. One of the coolest things about acting is that you can act professionally at any age. Acting is the art form of life…and life is all ages. When you’re 75 years old, there’s still a role for you. That’s a big part of why I focused on acting as my career.”

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VON SCHWERIN: A MODERN INTERPRETATION OF ORWELL IN PEACEFORCE

Award-winning director David Gerson describes Beatrice von Schwerin professing, “Beatrice is the epitome of a doer. A producer who always gets the job done as effectively as possible, inventively, and with deep respect for the directors she works with. She grew up a member of the Swedish nobility, spending her youth hunting in the south of Sweden. I believe that hunting nature in her is what makes her such an excellent producer. She treats a film shoot like the hunt; a task to be cautiously, precisely, and effectively maneuvered.” Gerson has worked with von Schwerin on a number of productions such as: Automatic at Sea, All These Voices, Destiny’s Child, and others. Having worked closely with her he knows well that Beatrice can be seen leading the charge just as should would during a hunt. These days, von Schwerin is respected as a producer with many productions to her credit. It’s fitting that Gerson views her as a huntress as we revisit the first film she produced, Peaceforce, as the subject matter is a hunt…a hunt which is much more complex than it appears to be. Beatrice concedes that her forthrightness, determination, and loud speaking voice, are all products of her noble lineage and rearing; attributes that serve her well in leading a film production. More at ease facing challenges on set than relaxing in her family’s castle, this Swedish baroness prefers a life of creative pursuits in an industry that cares nothing about her heritage and yet appreciates every ounce of her talent and hard-work ethic. A dissection of her first production shows that the very template for her approach was a solid foundation which has served her and the films she enables to result in many achievements.

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Beatrice worked in the Danish film industry for 9 years before producing Peaceforce. Denmark is one of the strongest countries when it comes to film production in Europe. Copenhagen has a solid film industry and is equipped to modern standards. In many ways it mirrors the productivity of Hollywood’s industry and community. Peaceforce was the first film on von Schwerin’s long list of producing credits. She confirms, “This is the first production where I realized that I really, REALLY wanted to be a producer. I knew that if I could get the cast and crew through all the challenges, then I could do anything. This film was the ‘AHA’ moment in my career, the one that made me love my job even more than I did previously.” Jonas Allen of Miso Films recognized her talents and placed her in the Producer role for the film. Peaceforce is loosely based on the George Orwell essay “Shooting an Elephant.” The film is set in the near future, in a world where capitalism has run its course. Daniel, a young Peaceforce officer, meets Jesper, a prominent local citizen. Jesper claims that an elephant is running amok in the city and killing people. Spurred on by his idealism and desire to do good, Daniel follows Jesper deep into the heart of a desolate city. Daniel believes he can make a difference by helping the wounded and dealing with the elephant. Not long into his mission, Daniel discovers that he’s in way over his head when he meets a little girl who is the sole survivor of the group that cared for the elephant. Daniel understands that he has been misled by Jesper. Jesper and his hungry entourage keeps breathing down Daniel’s neck. Fearing for his life, Daniel feels forced to make conflicting promises to Jesper and the girl. Soon Daniel finds himself confronted by the magnificent beast, a live elephant. Daniel desperately searches for a way out of this dilemma as he has no desire to kill the beautiful animal. The mob grows ever more impatient and hungry for blood. Daniel finally relents and shoots the beast, thereby betraying not only his own word, but also all that he believes in. It’s an epic and tragic tale. The components used to portray the action on-screen were grand as well. Peaceforce was a challenging shoot, with many different pieces that needed to match. Beyond the typical cast, crew, and locations logisitics, there were elephants, children, extras, & VFX to contend with on this production. Recognizing early on that she could lead with positivity to create momentum, Beatrice began with the animals. She recalls, “We spent two days shooting in a field outside of Copenhagen, close to a circus, where we rented an elephant for the shoot. One day was spent with the elephant and one day with the extras. We had three elephants on set with us and we used one of them. Elephants are flock animals and if you split them up, they are not happy. To contend with this, we had the two elephants not used in front of camera, close by so that they could be in contact with one another. Every now and then during the shoot, we’d have our star [elephant] head over to the others for some down time. It was a great and exciting day for both us and the elephants. I always try to have a positive attitude, no matter how challenging the day may be. I know that if I’m smiling and keeping positive, it trickles down to the cast and crew. It’s always important to show kindness and respect and I try to do that. I don’t separate my crew members from cast members. I really want everyone to feel equal, like one big happy family!” It’s a template that resulted in a happy and committed production family and a successful film as well. Peaceforce received a nomination at the Robert awards (Danish equivalent to Academy Awards) and garnered a Canal+ Award at the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival. Director Peter Gornstein couldn’t be happier as he notes, “Making Peaceforce with Beatrice was such a positive experience. I have known and worked with Beatrice for more than 8 years. We have won international awards together as well as developing several other projects. Beatrice is truly a one of a kind person and producer. Her positive energy and go getter mentality is something that spreads to everyone that she works with. Not only does she have a fantastic personality but her skills, and more importantly, her moral compass are beyond reproach. I’ve had to face some tough obstacles in the course of projects we’ve worked on together and no matter how hard or difficult the situation was; Beatrice would always guide me towards taking the high road. When I’ve wavered I have always been able to count on Beatrice to help me make not only the right choices for the projects, but also the moral choices.”

It isn’t always easy to keep that sunshine attitude. Persevering through the sometimes tedious portions of filmmaking are the obstacles that teach von Schwerin how to remain cool and collected. She describes, “Sometimes it’s not going over schedules or obtaining a piece of gear that is the challenge. Quite often it is just getting all the bricks in the puzzle to fall into place! We had so many moving parts on this film. It took what felt like (at the time) an army to get it made. The shoot was only two weeks, but the VFX was done in post and took almost 10 months to complete. When you are coordinating between VFX artist Ivo Horvat being in LA and the Director being in Copenhagen, you sometimes wonder where you are and what time it is.” These days, Beatrice von Schwerin knows exactly where she has been and she is considering heading to Hollywood as she fields offers to be a part of city that is the epicenter of film. One thing is for certain, Hollywood could use another producer who puts a smile on everyone’s face.

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