Category Archives: Entertainment

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.

Actor Peter Fall takes aim on ‘Little America’ comedy series and Alexander Pushkin western ‘Colt’

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Peter Fall will star in the comedic “Little America” YouTube series and the feature western, “Colt.”

 

Russian-Australian actor Peter Fall, known for his roles in Stan Harrington’s award-winning feature mystery film, “Perception,” and director Yaitza Rivera’s award-winning drama, “Red Poppies,” has attached to two exciting new productions — “Little America” and “Colt.”

“Little America” is a forthcoming YouTube and funnyordie.com comedy series from Cobblestone Productions that is being produced by Morayo Orija and Sam Marin. The series satires the different ethnic communities — such as Little Odessa, Little Tokyo, Little Italy and so on — that are present in metropolitan cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York.

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“For me, it sums up America,” Fall said. “All these little communities are living together as a whole. It is a hilarious, satirical look into differing minority communities that’s intended to be not only funny, but a real eye opener. It breaks down stereotypes and is a show anybody will be able to relate to.”

Fall writes for the series and will star as Harchko, the central character of the Little Odessa segment. “He is the local famous Russian American whose nephew from Russia comes to visit. Harchko thinks his Russian nephew will be unworldly and backwards, but it turns out he is a hipster who finished boarding school and college in England, and is more in-tune to American culture than his uncle. Harchko considers himself a well-assimilated migrant having American, Latino, Asian American and African American friends, something not many of his other Russian comrades can claim.”

“He is a comedic spoof of Russian hip-hop mafia hoodlum of the 90s, a tough guy who gets inebriated as much as he can, living off other people, mostly swindling them for their money. It’s a stark contrast to his straight-lace nephew, who plays ice hockey and soccer, doesn’t drink and speaks better English than him. But they still find some common ground, chasing girls, getting high and generally helping Harchko with his mischief.”

Fall described the role as a juxtaposition of characters that will throw people’s stereotypes out. “It’s a hilarious segment of the show and Harchko interacts a lot with other wacky characters from the different segments like the Latinos, Italians, Koreans, Armenians, Ethiopians, etc.”

Each “Little America” episode will be about seven and a half minutes. Season 1 principal photography is scheduled to begin March, 2017 and the series is eyeing a premiere in December, 2017.

Orija, who has acted in Victor Trevino’s feature drama, “Spit,” Stan Harrington’s award-winning feature music drama, “Lost Angels” and TV One’s “Fatal Attraction,” is attached to direct “Little America,” along with producing.

“It’s a thrill to be a part of and has been the highlight of my past three years,” she said. “This is going to be a milestone in web series, a national coast to coast production, can’t wait. The energy and talent that Peter brings to this is only matched by the scripts being put out for this web series – it is going to be a riot!”

Joining Orija is Tim McNeil, who will also direct and is an award-winning actor-writer-producer known for his roles in hit films such as “Forrest Gump,” “Contact” and “Starship Troopers.” McNeil has also acted in many TV series including “House M.D.,” “ER,” “Joan of Arcadia,” “Seinfeld” and more.

Marin, an actor and animator known for his extensive work on Cartoon Network’s Primetime Emmy-winning series, “Regular Show,” will also star in “Little America,” along with serving as producer. Actress Tiedora DeGrigo (“Coast Mafia”) and many to-be-announced Stella Adler Los Angeles alums will make up the cast.

Fall said audiences can expect “a powerhouse of comedy delivered with truth and energy that hopefully will be both fresh, highly entertaining and something that’s going to stick with them. “Little America” is pop comedy, kind of an SNL like show, where nothing is out of bounds and things will be broken. Stereotypes will be shattered and it’s going to be lough out loud funny.”

Fall is also attached to the leading role of Alexander Pushkin in the feature western drama, “Colt,” that tells the story of the final week of the famed Russian poet. Fall is also producing and teaming again with Orija and Marin, who will produce the project under the Cobblestone banner.

Pushkin was a beloved Russian poet, playwright and novelist during the early 1800s who died at the age of 37 in the aftermath of a duel with French officer Georges-Charles de Heeckeren d’Anthes. The dispute arose once Pushkin believed de Heeckeren d’Anthes was seducing his wife.

“It’s such an important figure in Russian history, claimed as Russian Shakespeare, one of the greatest love poets who ever lived,” said Fall. “Many titles are bestowed on Pushkin, yet he died so senselessly and ultimately young. It’s a story that needs to be heard and told, and his poetry needs a voice. What better way to bring it to the 21st century audience than as a Western set in the post-Civil-War era? The movie will take place in a small, passing-through town in the far west, giving western audiences a dynamic, relatable setting. It’s an untold reimagining on Pushkin, a good old classic western that’s mixed in with romance and poetry. It’s so surprising this ‘true story’ has such similarities with the Western genre itself.”

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Famed Paramount Ranch will serve as a filming location for “Colt.”

“Colt” is to film at Paramount Ranch and Melody Ranch in Los Angeles. Fall says “Colt” is a dark look at family, adultery, honor and gun violence. In fact, as Fall explained, Pushkin is a Russian term that translates to gun or cannon.

“Pushkin is a notorious womanizer,” Fall said, “which his poet celebrity gives him access too. But when his wife is ambushed by an admiring French lieutenant, Pushkin is unable to resolve it civilly. His own jealousy takes hold of him. The drama escalates when Pushkin’s father, a general in the Civil war, pushes him to man up and confront his wife’s rumored foreign lover, a confrontation that ends with his death.”

Fall co-wrote the script with fellow Stella Adler alum, Austin Iredale. “Austin’s background in English literature, his talent and his understanding of dramatic content blew this off the page. This is a story that needs to be told. It’s something that can break borders today and is relevant. “Colt” is a window into one of the greatest Russian souls that defines the humanity of its people. Pairing that in a setting so accessible to a western audience will hopefully shine a light on racial doubts and fears that still very much exist in this ‘post-Cold War’ time we live in.”

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The Alexander Pushkin western film, “Colt,” will feature on-location filming at Melody Ranch.

The presentation of Pushkin will include Fall’s narration of Pushkin’s poems and recitations by the character himself throughout the film. “This film will also bring to the world Pushkin’s poetry, letting people into the richness of the Russian verse and the melancholy of its history and heart,” he said.

Orija said, “This character of Alexander brings a monumental human being, a giant to such human form, with everyday problems and flaws that it hopefully makes people see humanity in everything. It is a dream come true of a role for a character actor. Plus, it’s set in the American west, but is about a Russian poet. The whole discourse of that makes it not only relatable, but genuinely original.”

“Colt” is scheduled to begin filming in September and is aiming for a summer 2017 film festival premiere.

Producing Greatness is the Reality for Brazil’s Daniel Ariano

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Producer Daniel Ariano was a force behind Brazil’s “O Aprendiz.”

 

It is pressure-packed, inspiring, impromptu and thrilling all at once. Daniel Ariano described it as a job where everything can and will happen.

“To be a producer for reality TV,” he said, “you have to be aware that everything is possible. I have to be ready to face an unexpected challenge every day. You have to be calm, easy going and most of all, you have to love it.”

It’s that passion and formula for success that Ariano has subscribed to, which has made him one of Brazil’s foremost film and TV producers. Specializing in the reality genre, Ariano has produced for hit shows such as Brazil’s “Ídolos,” “O Aprendiz” and “TUF Brasil,” which are his home country’s equivalents to the states’ “American Idol,” “The Apprentice” and “The Ultimate Fighter.”

Through it, he’s developed and refined the tools of a seasoned producer – leadership, enterprise, communication, management, problem solving and creativity. Ariano has taken on leadership roles as a producer that demand high-ranking responsibility, shifting challenges and his close collaboration with top talent who went on to compete in front of national TV audiences.

Ariano’s rise to producing prominence began with his initial inspiration and love of media. While growing up, his friends had dreams of becoming lawyers, doctors and engineers. But it was Ariano’s love of music and movies that guided his heart toward a career in film and TV.

Influenced by legends such as Woody Allen, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard and Jerry Bruckheimer, Ariano said, “All of those and more did something that made me watch and think, ‘I want to do that.’ I want to do something people will admire and watch.”

From there, it was a matter of taking the idea of what he wanted to become and putting it into action. While attending high school, Ariano, of São Paulo, worked as a music teacher. When he assimilated into college, he worked for Jovem Pan, the biggest radio station in Brazil.

His mind was still set on TV though, and the foot-in-the-door opportunity materialized. Ariano was invited to do some camera operator work and parlayed the experience into a production assistant position on the São Paulo-based “Amaury Jr. Show,” a talk show covering celebs and luxury. After learning TV production from the inside for a half a year, another opportunity arose.

“I received an invitation that changed my life,” Ariano said. “It was to be a part of the “Ídolos” production crew, my first reality show and it was a music one. After that, I knew I wanted to produce for the rest of my life! I fell in love with the storytelling and the big productions.”

Ariano began producing for “Ídolos” Season 4 in 2009. The show, created by the 14-time Emmy nominee Simon Fuller, is headquartered in São Paulo and distributed by Rede Record. Pop singer-songwriter Saulo Roston won Season Four and signed with Warner Music Brasil.

“I had the responsibility to deliver to the show and all the outside shoots with quality and with the proper storytelling,” said Ariano. “The big challenge was the winner was there in the middle of the crowd. And we had to have him since the start of the process.”

The contestants being vetted were voluminous, many with marked talent and merit for the televised competition. Ariano estimated he’d listened to thousands of hopeful voices positioning for musical glory on “Ídolos.”

“I’ve seen so much talent, so much really good singers and really good people with amazing histories,” he said. “The Idols have to have talent. This is the most important thing we look for – talent. But the story behind the talent is something that brings the Idol closer to the audience. Brazil is an enormous country filled with talented people. I just wish all of the good ones could make it.”

Ariano returned to produce “Ídolos” Season 5 in 2011, and Season 7, the show’s final run, in 2012. He also produced in 2012 “Ídolos Kids” Season 1, which followed the same premise, but searched for talented kid contestants.

In 2010, one year after Ariano’s inception into “Ídolos,” he expanded his producing career and joined the show, “O Aprendiz,” for Season 7. In the hour-long Brazilian apparent to the Donald Trump-hosted “The Apprentice,” contestants compete for employment contracts with leading companies such as the WPP Group or for investments. The show was created by five-time Emmy winner Mark Burnett, longtime producer of “Survivor” and “Shark Tank.” It was hosted by Roberto Justus.

“The Apprentice” was the most challenging job I ever had,” Ariano said.

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During filming for “O Aprendiz” in Turkey, producer Daniel Ariano (left) studies the scene setup.

Ariano worked in producing “O Aprendiz” for Seasons 7, 8, 9 and 10. Contestants ranged from college students to entrepreneurs and celebrities. The production traversed Brazil-wide and traveled to shoot in Orlando, Washington, D.C., South Africa, Italy, Turkey and Colombia. With it came droves of producing duties for Ariano.

“When you give the contestants a task, and time to do it, you never know where will they go and what will they do and it’s up to you to be ready to face everything,” he said. “Working on the show taught me everything is possible. It opened my eyes to the infinity. There is no limit. What we see on TV is just the tip of the iceberg. The production is the entire Arctic.”

Also in 2010, Ariano would produce for a season of the Brazilian version of “Artzooka,” a Gemini Award-winning kids TV show that was produced in Toronto, Canada. The series guided parents, teachers and daycare providers how to create art projects using recycled materials. It was broadcast in Brazil on Discovery Kids and featured Ariano producing in a rare role.

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Producer Daniel Ariano (right) worked closely with host Daniel Granieri to deliver “Artzooka.”

“I loved to do it because it got me into working with a Canadian crew,” Ariano said. “I do believe that this was a unique opportunity in life, that just a few people got the chance to do. I was the only Brazilian producer for the show, so I had a really big responsibility to make it great.”

“Artzooka” host Daniel Granieri said of Ariano, “Without him, “Artzooka” wouldn’t be able to happen. He was vital to the project. He has a look in his eyes all the time, like, he is thinking further, like he is always producing! He is an easy guy to work with and to deal with. He is very professional and very intelligent. You have to have someone like him in your production crew, if not just him. There’s a few people in the world who has an ability to deal with production like him!”

Ariano has served as producer for other shows such as Latin America’s “The Amazing Race,” HBO Brasil and for the Season 2 of “TUF Brasil” (The Ultimate Fighter Brazil), which was distributed by Rede Globo. The latter producing taught Ariano much about the globally popular UFC world, while also showing him a different side of the fighting-based programming.

“It’s talented fighters, focused on their dream and working hard to do it,” he said. “This was different than any other reality TV. It is about how do you control your body and how do you make it do the extraordinary. I loved the experience and it made me admire even more this world of art that is UFC.”

Continuing his producing prowess, Ariano is attached to work on the forthcoming debut season of “X-Factor Brasil,” and he is attached to produce writer-director Albert Dabah’s “Extra Innings,” a coming of age feature baseball drama film set in 1960s Brooklyn.

“He can do everything. I got a nickname for him: “Superman,” Dabah said. “Besides having a good eye for production and being very organized, when the time comes, he is up to everything! He can be an addition in every department. It’s hard to find someone like him, and I’m glad I found him.”

Of “Extra Innings,” Ariano said, “I’m hoping that the movie can open eyes of people about real problems of life that is there around us, in our family, in our lives, and we don’t realize it or we pretend it doesn’t exist. I think the screenwriting is perfect. I know it’s going to be a big hit.”

For more information on “Extra Innings,” visit: http://www.extrainningsmovie.com/

Check out Daniel Ariano on IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm8028896/

 

Canadian actor enters the ‘Black Forest’

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Actor Cesare Scarpone plays Paul in writer-director David Briggs’ horror film, “Black Forest.”

 

Cesare Scarpone was drawn to “Black Forest” upon first reading the script and considering all the potential in its premise. The slasher-styled horror feature from writer-director David Briggs (“Sleepwalking,” “Blood Night”) would berth an opportunity for Scarpone to act in dynamic, high-paced movie set in the woods of northern Ontario, Canada.

The story follows best friends – Bree and Jess – who have designs on a summer camping trip, but instead find themselves trapped in nightmare when they encounter Isaac, a seemingly madman with twisted visions of post-apocalyptic survival.

Scarpone’s reaction after taking the script in for the first time?

“I loved it. The story was great. It had me imagining scenes the instant I started reading. It does follow the classic style of a slasher, though the story doesn’t give you any time for rest. It leaves you in the minds of the two women leads feeling lost and trapped in the beauty of the forest.”

Starring as Bree is Marie-Josee Dionne, who acted in Danny Perez’ horror feature, “Antibirth,” and in the forthcoming “Theories” horror film from director Mike Tyrrell. Actress France Huot debuts in the role of Jess. Jayson Stewart (“REZilience,” “The Pasta Killer!”) plays the crazed Isaac.

Scarpone carries out the role of Paul, a local who acts as a guide in helping Bree and Jess navigate their way through the terror. “Paul is an easygoing guy, quiet and not too ambitious,” said Scarpone, who hails from Brampton, Ontario and grew up later in Maple, Ontario. “He cares for people and always looks for the best in them.”

A celebrated and revered talent, Scarpone is previously known for his roles in director Rob Comeau’s “Chance,” Mark Korven’s “Dead Monday,” Gabriella Bevilacqua’s “Aftermath,” Rebecca Carrigan’s “All I Need” and Omii Thompson’s “Modern Romance is Dead.” He’s acted on TV in Cineflix’s “Dual Suspects” and History’s “Curious and Unusual Deaths.”

Coming from a robust theatre background, Scarpone has studied acting at the esteemed London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. Among his impressive stage acting career, Scarpone received the Sears Drama Festival award of excellence for the York, Ontario region for his stalwart performance as Jerry in Edward Albee’s “The Zoo Story.”

Regarding acting in the horror genre in the case of “Black Forest,” Scarpone said, “There is freedom to make bold choices and enjoy playing characters with a limitless palate of justifications.”

With performing charisma, intuition for characters and a veracious passion for his art form, it comes as no surprise Scarpone’s decisive role in “Black Forest” returned an affirmative commendation from his director.

“His sense of humor and enthusiasm elevated everyone on set,” Briggs said. “Cesare’s a cool guy and a great actor to work with. I’m definitely looking forward to the next chance we have to work together.”

The film’s forest setting loomed large and fundamental to the story. It proved to be a filming location with challenges, but also attributes to the production that were felt within the cast.

“It was hard dealing with the incontrollable sounds of nature,” Scarpone said. “We’d have the odd squirrel or bird that wants their time to shine. But it was also charming and beautiful exploring areas I’d never seen before and essentially having the freedom to use whatever the forest had to offer.”

Scarpone added, “Found footage is featured in sections of the film, adding the characteristic element of being directly part of the action, keeping you on the edge of your seat.”

“Black Forest” is from Distant Field Productions. The 2015 film released at the Northern Frights Film Festival and won the Best Original Soundtrack award. It had a theatrical release across northern Ontario and has a DVD release forthcoming.

Ultimately what made “Black Forest” a success, to Scarpone, was the swiftly-paced story that drives the film. “The story being fast-paced without time for rest keeps the viewer engaged the whole way through,” he said. “The visuals and effects are also pretty good.”

Of his favorite part of participating on the project, Scarpone explained it was “working with everyone in the cast and crew and getting to enjoy the great outdoors of Ontario!”

It might not be the end though for “Black Forest” as Briggs teased: “A sequel might be in order.”

Check out the trailer on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/55137390

Follow “Black Forest” on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BlackForest

Prolific Dancer Brings all the right moves to A World Fit for Kids!

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Latoya Webley has for more than a decade been one of the world’s premier dancers. She has performed with star music artists including Rihanna, Drake and Shakira, and brings her expertise to noted organizations such as A World Fit for Kids!

BY JEREMY CURTIS

 

Toronto-born dancer Latoya Webley has graced many of the world’s biggest stages and performed with superstars Rihanna, Drake, Shakira, the Black Eyed Peas and more over the last 16 years. She’s dispatched her outstanding concoction of dancehall, African, Soca, hip-hop and street jazz dance styles internationally, on tour and for music industry leading events including the Grammy Awards, BET Awards and Much Music Video Awards, to name a few. Webley’s dance career has been characterized by persisting success that’s spanned from North America to Asia, propelling her to a coveted position at the pinnacle of the industry in which many strive for and few achieve.

Webley’s indelible, sought after talent keeps her name rolling off the lips of artists, choreographers, decision makers and audiences aplenty. But there’s a lesser known chapter of her story that’s of essential importance to her career and journey as a dancer. Webley dedicates a segment of her craft in giving back through teaching, guiding, mentoring, inspiring and empowering youth through dance. She has the rare ability to make her moves move others.

The trend can be traced back to her own origins when Webley first began dancing and teaching at community centers around Toronto, including the East Scarborough Boys and Girls Club. And since 2013, she’s engaged the same for A World Fit for Kids! (WFIT), an afterschool expanded learning program based in Los Angeles.

For the community based non-profit, Webley teaches a dance program for Virgil Middle School students that’s complete with educating in fitness, health and nutrition.

WFIT program director Ian Keiller said, “We’re a community-based non-profit in the afterschool world. With the resources we have, to have that top notch talent, it’s very difficult. We felt honored to have someone of her caliber working with her our kids.”

Webley said, “These are all life skills. It’s not all just dance. It’s a fitness package. It’s a life package.”

Founded after the 1992 Los Angeles Riots, WFIT provides award-winning, daily programs at Title I schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District, where 84 percent of students come from economically disadvantaged homes, according to WFIT’s website. Programs are for students of every grade level in elementary, middle and high schools. Parents get in on the action too. Programs feature core areas of physical activity, nutrition, academics and mentoring.

The goal is to promote physical, mental and emotional wellness, and the goals have been met. WFIT received the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports Gold Medal award and a National Community Leadership Award from the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition.

CEO Normandie Nigh explains on WFIT’s website that WFIT has brought more than $46 million to underserved LA communities, served more than 300,000 children and young people, trained over 10,000 teachers and staff and employed more than 2,900 local community residents. WFIT has also trained more than 1,500 Nike employees as physical activity volunteer leaders and Community Ambassadors, as well as others in the U.K., Australia, Canada, France and South Korea.

“What I really like about World Fit is throughout the year we do various training that tackles different aspects of health and wellness,” said Webley, who more recently is participating with the program’s Nike training extension. “As much as people may think I know, I’m always a student and learning. They always have ongoing programs that inform us on what’s new and healthy, and what we should be doing. It’s not only for us to teach the kids, it’s also for our self-awareness.”

Webley developed the dance program that serves Virgil Middle School, located north of Koreatown. Her students undergo a training program to begin and rotate different activities for different days ranging from health, fitness and nutrition that each supplement dance instruction.

“We strive to improve kids’ grades, get them to build friendships, physically release energy and sharpen problem solving skills,” she said. “We demand that from them and they have to maintain grades to participate.”

The program, which runs throughout school years, draws student dancers of all skill levels from beginners to those experienced. Some go on to compete at dance events such as Beyond the Bell and Sharp International at Knott’s Berry Farm.

“There is an array of all skill levels, so we have to create a program that has balance,” said Webley. “We start off by assessing where the kids are at. We teach routines to them. The bulk of the routines are usually hip hop, but we incorporate other styles like dancehall, breaking, African, jazz and ballet. Aside from dancing, there’s also running and strength training. We incorporate elements of stretching, flexibility and acrobatics, and we encourage kids to participate in the dance teams at their schools.”

The WFIT dance team from Virgil Middle School is this year’s Beyond the Bell reigning champion.

“She’s got a great presence and rapport with kids,” Keiller said of Webley. “She was the right temperament for middle school. It’s a tough age group to reach.”

Webley has been serving in similar roles for years. She currently choreographs for the Los Angeles SparKids, the official kids dance team of the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks, along with dancer Brandee Evans. She has taught dance at the Osaka School of Music in Japan and conducted dance workshops at Osaka’s Myster Dance Studio, AX Dance studio, Alley Opp Dance Studio and the Unity Dance Studio in Hiroshima.

Webley’s music video debut came in Sean Paul’s “Temperature/Breakout” video in 2005. She danced in Rihanna’s first video, “Pon de Replay,” in Drake’s first video, “Replacement Girl” and in the Diddy, Lenny Kravitz, Pharrell Williams video, “Show Me Your Soul.”

Webley danced in many recurring performances with the internationally famed singer, Shakira, including her “She Wolf” promo tour, NBA All-Star Weekend performance, Yahoo and Clear Channel shows, on George Lopez Tonight, Good Morning America, The Late Show with David Letterman, So You Think You Can Dance (USA) and at the 2009 American Music Awards.

She has danced and toured with Kardinal Offishall, who opened in part of the 2005 50 Cent and G-Unit tour. Webley has also toured with Sean Paul, JoJo and Jamie Foxx in America, and with Destra Garcia in Trinidad and Tobago. While working in Japan, she danced at the 2009 Japan MTV Music Video Awards with the Black Eyed Peas.

This year, Webley danced in Rihanna’s smash hit video, “Work” featuring Drake, and she’s featured in a forthcoming Drake video that recently filmed. Last year, Webley danced in Will Smith and Bomba Estereo’s “Fiesta (remix)” video and at the Latin Grammy Awards with Fifth Harmony and Maluma.

Keiller credited Webley’s credentials as an asset to her work with WFIT and said the students “respond to people who really know what they’re talking about.”

It’s all collectively made for a positive experience that Webley helps cultivate.

“Her teams were always top notch, very organized and not only good performers, but a good group of kids,” said Keiller. “That stems from the leadership and the example she demonstrated. She was able to give them something to strive for to give them focus, keep them committed and set goals for themselves to strive to do their best.”

‘Zero Button’ Holds Back Nothing in Delivering Absurd Impromptu Comedy

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Actors Stephan Bosch (left) and David Mihalka bring comedic genius to the YouTube series, “Zero Button.”

 

The idea behind the hilariously uninhibited YouTube series, “Zero Button,” is actually a hidden message conceptualized by actors David Mihalka and Stephan Bosch.

“On the TV remote, when you enter the zero button, there is nothing. The message is: the best program is the imagination,” Mihalka said. “That’s what we do! We take our wildest imagination – inspired through real situations – and the result is “Zero Button.”

The sketch comedy series is a riot. Mihalka and Bosch, who co-created the series, star as an assortment of larger than life characters who encounter zany scenarios and predicaments. “It’s like a contract from a lawyer,” Mihalka said. “There are the obvious jokes, but also the fine print, where you have to pay attention to the words and subtle things happening.”

Mihalka often plays gangsters and fools in “Zero Button.” “The challenge lies in not playing a clown,” Mihalka said, “but rather to be serious in the scenes and still funny. That’s the art.”

Bosch described the characters as, “real and imaginary characters under real and imaginary situations. We have no rules at all, and we are not planning on having them.”

The parody series is directed, written and produced by Mihalka and Bosch. It features a load of improv and overall comedic genius.

As to developing ideas for sketches, Mihalka said, “We don’t come up with anything. They come to us! There are so many situations in daily life that are funny. You just exaggerate and let your imagination flow, and you have scene!”

The latest episode – “The Typical Driver” – released Sunday and features Mihalka playing a driver with road rage who gets the favor returned by an angry pedestrian at the end.

Saturday saw the release of “LangWhich,” an episode where Mihalka converses with a passerby at a park who asks Mihalka if he speaks English. “No, I don’t speak English,” Mihalka says in perfect English. “I used to, but no, I don’t like it.” The paradox continues in Spanish, French, German and Sign Language – all of which Mihalka’s character can speak – and ends when the passerby suggests in sign that they have sex, prompting Mihalka to give the guy the middle finger.

There’s episodes where Mihalka plays robbers, thieves, bad guys, a therapist, philosopher and other ambiguous, side-splitting roles.

There are How To episodes such as “How to Solve ALL your Problems” (by drinking a glass of alcohol) and “How to Stop Smoking” that shows Mihalka lighting up a mouthful of cigarettes, then taking a bucket of water to the face.

One episode features an intellectual conversation regarding two percent milk. Another parody is titled “Citizen Pain.” Another shows a Rubik’s cube conundrum called “YouCube?” and there are cultural parodies such as the amusing “Bank of Armenia” episode.

“Our most views and likes are the scenes together with Stephan,” Mihalka said. “We have the same frequency, a good connection. It just works. I can’t explain it.”

The dynamic duo shine on the sketches “Hairdresser,” “Monk,” “Bench,” “Change is Good,” “American Impress,” “How To Solve All Your Problems” and “Pool.”

“If I think about it, David plays a lot of bad guys, which is the opposite of what David really is,” said Bosch, whose other acting credits include “Juventud” and “7 Days” from directors George Blumetti and Maurice Kelly. “He knows what he is good at. His life, plus acting experience, can easily be seen through his performances.”

Mihalka enjoys both current and classic comedy styles including the work of legends such as Steve Martin, Roberto Benigni, Peter Sellers and Jacques Tati.

“What makes something funny is the perception of things,” he said. “For example, recently I have been to a fancy restaurant to make a reservation for a special day. While making a reservation, I noticed behind me many cops with a dog entering the restaurant. They told the dog: ‘Search, Search!’ When I left the restaurant, I told my mum, ‘I know what happened! A guest had a cake with icing sugar, which left traces of sugar under his nose and they thought it was cocaine and called the police!’ A new scene is born.”

No stranger to film and TV, Mihalka, from Germany, has shined on screen in his numerous roles including in the John A. Mati feature Swiss comedies, “Monsieur Brucco” and “Monsieur Brucco 2.” He acted in writer-director Stan Harrington’s “Lost Angels,” which won four awards at the Indie Fest USA International Film Festival, and in Harrington’s four-time-award-winning feature mystery, “Perception.”

Mihalka’s other film and TV roles include in Mickella Simone’s “The WorkPlace,” Alex Lewis’ “Driverless,” director Emilio Ferrari’s “All I Want for Christmas” and “Difficult People” from director Jonathan Moy de Vitry. Theatrically, Mihalka acted in the Stella Adler Los Angeles production of “Margaret,” an original play directed by actor-writer-producer Tim McNeil (“Contact,” “Forrest Gump”).

Mihalka also doubles as a photographer with a premier aesthetic and captivating imagery. Check out his behind the camera work here: www.davidbehindthecamera.com

Keep up with the latest and greatest from “Zero Button” by subscribing to its YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/user/ZeroButtonFILMS

Says Mihalka: “Hit subscribe! A small step for man, but a giant leap for your laughing muscles. Hit it! What are you still doing here?”

For more information, visit: www.davidmihalka.com

For the multitalented Zoe Cleland, acting ‘never seemed like a choice’

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Actress Zoe Cleland has shined in her roles in “How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town,” “Murdoch Mysteries,” “Reign” and more.

 

 

For Canadian actress Zoe Cleland, the journey began on the stage, advanced to the screen and has featured her becoming many memorable characters across comedy, drama, mystery and more.

“I think every time I do a new project, I grow as an actor and as a human being,” she said. “One of the things I love about acting is that it’s not static. Every job requires me to expand myself and my vision of the world.”

Her own story is one characterized by ambition, talent and success. She began performing for theatrical productions as a child and made her TV debut on “Murdoch Mysteries” at the age of 15. By the age of 17, Cleland was among a dozen actors – and the youngest ever – to be chosen for the National Theatre School of Canada, a milestone selection into her home country’s top conservatory training program.

“I literally knew I wanted to be an actress when I was about 5,” Cleland said. “It never seemed like a choice to me. It was always just part of who I was. For about a year, when I was really little, I used to watch “The Wizard of Oz” every day and told everyone at my school that my name was Dorothy! My parents took me to a lot of theatre as a kid. They would take me to the Stratford Festival every year and I remember that being the first time I started thinking of acting as a profession beyond playing dress-up at home. I remember being about 4 years old and seeing a production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” that seemed like the most magical thing on earth.”

Cleland, a Toronto-born talent, is classically trained and among her performing arsenal, she’s studied dramatic combat and is well versed in singing, dialects and accents including British, Irish, Scottish and American.

While attending the National Theatre School, Cleland starred in eight productions at the conservatory including her own self-written solo show, “Drawing White,” and in a production of Anton Chekhov’s “Three Sisters,” in the role of Irina, one of the sisters.

“I also played the Fool in “King Lear,” which was a lot of fun. Sometimes just doing scene work in a lot of detail was most rewarding,” said Cleland. “The great thing about theatre school is that they give you so much time to just totally dive into things and pick everything apart as much as you want, so sometimes just doing scene study was great because you got the chance to look at something from every possible angle.”

The training and experience helped groom Cleland, 24, into a dynamic, well-rounded and brilliant actress with a world of authenticity and performing charisma.

“I think in all honesty going to theatre school taught me more about how I am as a person than any one thing about acting,” she said. “I went when I was really young, 17-19, so I was really still just trying to figure out who I was. The whole thing was such an intense experience and it changed me so much. I think overall it taught me to trust my own internal guidance system and let that lead me in my work, rather than looking to the outside for someone to tell me what I should do.”

Cleland later went on to star in the theatre productions of “Wishes of This & the Other Thing” directed by Rose Plotek and “The Chimes” directed by Nancy Palk. In 2013, Cleland received the Theatre Centre Emerging Artist Award at the Summerworks Festival for her starring role in “Girls! Girls! Girls!” directed by Donna Marie Baratta and Jessica Carmichael. The play is about a group of 14-year-olds who one night decide to attack one of their peers.

“It is written in a poetic, playful style that makes it kind of otherworldly,” Cleland said. “I played Jam, who is a follower just trying to fit in and be liked. She ends up getting in way over her head in the violence that her friends are perpetrating. She struggles with her integrity when she realizes that they have gone too far.”

Parlaying her strong theatre background into TV recognition, Cleland went on to land recurring roles on the CW’s fantasy drama series, “Reign,” starring Adelaide Kane and Megan Follows, and Bite TV’s comedy series, “Guidance” starring Rob Baker.

Millie Tom has worked in the casting of more than 50 films and 19 different TV titles including “A History of Violence,” “The Incredible Hulk” and “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.” She said, “I have known Zoe since she was 15 years old, when she first started auditioning. I believe she has a unique, magnetic quality that lends itself perfectly to film and television. I cast her in two projects since she graduated the National Theatre School, one being “Guidance,” a comedy series about three inept guidance counselors working in a high school.”

In five episodes of “Guidance,” Cleland played Morgan, a student who approaches the counselors for help.

“She was so good as Morgan, a precocious teenager who was being bullied,” Tom said. “She nailed her role as the ‘straight man’ to Rob Baker, who played opposite her, while at the same time pulling off the comedic timing that made the show a success.”

Cleland kept the momentum going and booked roles on the History Channel’s “Brainwashed,” Craig Macnaughton’s comedy webseries, “Pay Up” and in the hit supernatural medical drama, “Saving Hope” starring Erica Durance.

Most recently, Cleland returned for a guest starring role in “Murdoch Mysteries,” for the episode – “Raised on Robbery” – that aired in January on the CBC. She also made her feature film debut in writer-director Jeremy LaLonde’s comedy, “How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town,” that’s been screening on the independent film circuit and won Best Feature and Best Ensemble awards at the 2016 Canadian Filmmakers’ Festival. The film stars Jewel Staite, Lauren Lee Smith and Lauren Holly.

“I loved the sense that we were all collaborating and making something together, and that everyone’s thoughts were valued and taken into consideration,” Cleland said.

We’re excited to see Zoe Cleland in many future roles to come. Check out Zoe’s work on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/zoecleland and follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ZoeCleland

 

 

 

Female lead is ‘lovable, but hopeless with guys’ in Katie Micay’s Romantic Comedy ‘Flirt’

 

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Kelsey Impicciche (middle), Lexi Giovagnoli (left) and Tyler Mauro star in writer-producer Katie Micay’s “Flirt.”

 

The short romantic comedy film, “Flirt” from Canadian writer-producer Katie Micay has all the ingredients of a champion paradigm of filmmaking. Micay wrote the high concept script featuring an endearing protagonist who faces a relatable obstacle and features a strong character arc. There’s a torrent of comedy stemming from firsthand source material, strong supporting characters with palpable chemistry and on-location shooting captured with refined cinematography.

The story follows Taylor (Kelsey Impicciche), a quirky college senior who lacks in the oft-tricky art of flirting and is on a quest to land the hottest guy in school as her date to her final sorority formal.

“Flirt” is a romantic comedy about a girl who is very lovable, but hopeless with guys,” Micay said. “Ultimately, she is focused on things that aren’t important and needs to learn to find someone who appreciates her for who she is.”

Impicciche, who has acted in the films, “Suicide Note,” “The Toy Soldiers” and “The Mastery,” said, “I loved the idea of the project and of this character who can’t flirt and ended up in many awkward situations. I loved the idea that this character really needed a date to a dance. I’ve honestly had this problem many times.”

The film co-stars Lexi Giovagnoli as Jenna, Taylor’s sorority sister and best friend. Playing Taylor’s love interests are Tyler Mauro as Liam and Shane R. Kennedy as Brad. “Flirt” was filmed on location at Loyola Marymount University (LMU) in Los Angeles and went on to be an Official Selection at the Reality Bytes Film Festival in 2013.

Micay is known for her writing and producing of “Limited Engagement,” a comedy short that won an Award of Merit at the Women’s Independent Film Festival and was an Official Selection at the Los Angeles Women’s International Film Festival.

“Flirt” came on the heels of Micay’s “My So Called Family,” a darker, quirky dramedy she wrote and produced in 2013. “I was ready to just make something different,” she said. “I got to use a lot of wit and dry humor and I hadn’t done that before. My friends and I are hopeless at flirting and it was something we always joked about! After seeing “Easy A,” I was inspired to try writing “Flirt.”

The premise was one where art imitated life. Micay is a member of LMU’s Tri Delta Sorority. Her inception into sorority life was an unexpected one and an experience that would later lay the framework for filmmaking inspiration.

“I came into college with a very sour idea of Greek life,” Micay said. “But when my friend convinced me to try it, it turned out to be the best decision of my college life. I still live with my sorority twin!”

In the case of sorority formals, it’s the girls who find dates and ask out guys. “It was definitely stressful for my friends and I,” Micay said.

The fabric of the leading character, Taylor, was also derivative, on a certain level. “I’m not as expressive or over-the-top as Taylor can be, but she stemmed from me. When we auditioned Kelsey, she really took to the character right away. Through rehearsals, we built the character up to be what you see on the screen.”

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Katie Micay (middle) unifies the vision behind the romantic comedy, “Flirt.”

Said Impicciche, “Katie had a solid grip on what she wanted, and was very helpful with guiding me towards her vision, while still allowing me a lot of creative freedom. There was a lot of physical comedy she wrote for the character, which was incredibly fun to do.”

The relationship between characters Taylor and Jenna was based on one of Micay’s friendships, “one where you are essentially sisters,” she noted.

“For me, the characters made the story,” Impicciche said. “As soon as I describe them, other girls immediately can identify people in their own lives that relate to these characters. They’re very real.”

From a producer’s standpoint, Micay was charged the task of navigating the project among its multiple on-campus locations including a dormitory and a working lab classroom that required a filming permit with the needed safety protocol.

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Actor Shane R. Kennedy plays Brad, the elusive love interest  of Taylor, played by Kelsey Impicciche in “Flirt.”

 

“When shooting on a college campus, you have to go by their rules so when they will let you shoot really dictates a lot. We also shot outside with a dolly track during school hours so that completely killed our audio,” said Micay. “We went back and used ADR in post. During the shoot, I relied heavily on Alyssa Brocato, my cinematographer. We planned as much as possible ahead of time because we knew timing would be tough. On the day it was about getting everything we needed.”

Micay’s diligent producing paid dividends and led to the film becoming a success. “Katie ran a really professional and fun set. Everything ran very smoothly,” Impicciche said. “I was really impressed with how she organized everyone and how she kept everyone on track and doing their best work. She was a joy to work with.”

Most recently, Micay wrote and produced “The Firefly Girls” that starred the award-winning Savannah Paige Rae of “Parenthood” and “Date Night” fame. “The Firefly Girls” screened this year at the Sonoma International Film Festival and the Equinox Women’s Film Festival.

For more information, visit: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm5084812/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1

Watch “Flirt” here: https://vimeo.com/81416130

Follow Katie on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/katiemicay

Multitalented game designer and producer Zi Li effectively changes the game

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Zi Li combined her passions – art and science – into a thriving game design career.

 

The innovative game designer and game producer Zi Li has spent years studying various forms of media and entertainment. Originally from Guangdong, China, the experienced creator has demonstrated a proficiency of filmmaking and animation in addition to her expertise in the world of gaming.

With four years of game designing under her belt and two years of game producing, Li is known for her work with companies such as Firefly Games Inc., Floor 84 Game Studio, and Ericsson Communications Company. As a designer, producer and artist, Li has contributed to top, award winning games of various genres, including “Dissonance,” “Leviathan,” “Dungeon Crash,” “Epic Knights,” “Paralect,” and “MiraLab.”

As a game designer, Li’s role is similar to that of a film director’s, where as a game producer is in charge of overseeing the development of a video game, acting as a liaison between everyone involved with the project.

At an early age, Li developed a passion for science and art. “Unlike a lot of game developers, I didn’t fall in love with games first,” Li stated. “I spent more than six years studying paintings. I always thought I could become a part-time artist. Later, I dabbled in animation, however, neither satisfied my needs of expressing my engineering mindset. Eventually, I understood that in the gaming industry, science intersects art. For me, games are a media that allow both areas to collapse together.”

Li first got her start in the industry as a graduate game design student at the University of Southern California (USC). Through her extensive work on various independent projects, Li was able to gradually figure out her strengths, ultimately learning what it takes to become an effective inventor aside from the expected creative and technical aspects. “One of my main strengths is execution,” said Li. “As a game designer and programmer, I can execute myself very well. As a game producer, I can push other people to execute ideas well and understand every aspect of the game.”

Steve Cha, producer and fellow Collaborator on “Dissonance,” raved about Li’s talents. “Zi is not only about coming up with ideas, but also completing them with efficient ways. Dissonance is a game with relatively new gameplay and needed time to implement. Since everything in the game has two shadows, the team needed to make a system that casted two shadows for one object. Some talked about recalculating the vertices and some suggested using black 3D objects to make the shadows. Zi came up with the idea of using two cameras and casting images from these cameras to the walls. Her ideas efficiently solved the issue without slowing down the computing process. Zi can always find efficient ways to solve problems and keep everything running forward simultaneously.”

There are several required characteristics a game designer must have in order to be successful in their career. Every game has a target audience, and as a designer, it is his or her job to be aware of said audience. “Game designers communicate with the players through their games. A game designer should love his or her players and aim to work their design around their audience in order to provide a complete gaming experience,” said Li.

When it comes to her games in particular, Li works hard to engage these qualities that will ensure audience fulfillment as well as personal success in her own designing approach. Commenting on the matter, Li said, “I love being able to see into other people’s minds through their work, and I try to provide my players with a glimpse into my own through mine. My passion is communicating with people through the game as a form of art rather than just being passionate about making a game with no meanings.”

As a designer, it is Li’s responsibility to apply design and aesthetics to a game for its players to enjoy. More often than not, this type of work expresses the theme of the game. “For example,” Li explained, “I came up with the mechanics that translate the idea of psychological concept related to dualism in “Dissonance.” The two shadows involved in the came are casted from different lighting and visualize the abstract concept of dualism. One shadow represents logic and actions, while the other represents intuition and feelings. This approach I’ve created is unique and has never been done before. The game communicates the psychological concept through gameplay and people can see the idea even if they don’t speak the language – one of the main reasons why I believe “Dissonance” gets recognition from so many countries.”

“Dissonance,” an award winning, video game developed by Team Dissonance, is a puzzle-adventure game. After six months of development, what started out as Li’s personal thesis project, expanded to a team of over ten people. The developers transmitted the psychological concept about dualism into the core mechanics of the game to make it more than just a puzzle.

Since it’s initiation, “Dissonance” has received awards such as Most Innovative Game in Indie Prize and Experimental Game Finalist in Out of Index Festival, as well as appreciation from several different countries and organizations.

“I draw inspiration from all sorts of things,” Li answered, when asked from where she draws her ideas. “I often find myself motivated by other media, biology, psychology, and life experiences.” “Orbanism,” a game Li created with her friend Anisha, is inspired by the biology concept of mutualism and interspecific competition. Regarding how the game works, Li said, “It’s a two player game in which players are competing against one another and working as a team to overcome obstacles.”

Similarly, Li’s game called “Greek to Me,” is a game in which each player hears multiple different languages and has to distinguish which is English in order to reach their goal. “The game shows how hard it is for a foreigner to achieve things in a strange country,” said Li, detailing its purpose.

Li’s years of experience in designing and producing video games have allowed her to explore various diverse genres, ultimately rounding out her impressive framework of success. Her projects range from the puzzle genre to games that fall into the category of RPGs, ultimately proving a type of versatility that not every game designer carries.

“Through working on various projects, I can easily understand different aspects of a game and, overall, the image of each project. Though they all vary from one another, every step of the process teaches me new skills and perspectives of game development. These experiences contribute to me becoming a better designer who can be creative and resourceful. Thanks to my past experiences, I have learned how to be a better leader and am very confident approach to game designing and producing,” said Li.

“Dungeon Crash” and “Epic Knights” are two of Li’s mainstream mobile RPG games. With over 1 million download, “Dungeon Crash” was featured at both Android and Apple Stores, and was rated as a top-grossing Android game. With 50,000 downloads from over 100 countries, Li’s “Epic Knights” was rated the same.

Observing Li’s leadership abilities, Annie Chan, associate producer of “Dungeon Crash,” affirmed, “The developers of all games always want to put every fun element into their game, which not only slows down the development, but often creates a lot of bugs. Zi quickly spots this tendency and puts a stop to it. She directs the team to focus on improving the current version of the game and providing users with a user-friendly experience. Since Zi has stepped in and corrected the direction of “Dungeon Crash,” the overall performance of the game as well as its player reviews has gone up.”

Aside from Li’s sought after designing and producing abilities, her work as an art director has also reached a massive number of audience members. As the art director of “Leviathan,” Li is accountable for the overall look and feel of the Leviathan-world, as ensures the quality and style of the world as it is built.

The game itself is a bold and daring mix of virtual reality, augmented reality, cinema, and the novel based on the celebrated steampunk series by Scott Westerfield.

For her role, Li was required to conduct research in order to offer various ideas for the creation of an assortment of creatures for the game. “Zi came up with creatures that carried the story plot and were consistent with the rest of the world,” explained the creative director of “Leviathan,” Sunil Kalwani. “In the ship of “Leviathan,” the main characters need a communication tool. Zi designed Messenger Lizard, which is similar to a mobile phone, which offers an incredible user experience. Messenger Lizard’s skin color can change based on the emotion of the person on the other side. In this way, users can see the visualized emotion of the messages and choose if they would like access to whatever type of emotion or person. Zi’s creativity brings vivid life and a friendly, visualized experience to the Leviathan-world.”

“Leviathan” won the award for New Frontier Project at the Sundance Film Festival and has been featured on The Creators Project, a joint celebrity blog of art and technology by VICE, as well as at the internationally renowned Consumer Electronics Show.

In an industry that is still dominated by males, Li takes pride in being a successful, Asian female game designer. “Every time I’ve attended a game festival, I’ve noticed that the majority of the developers are male,” Li recalled. “As an Asian, female game designer and producer, I realize that my background is definitely different from most of the game developers I know.”

As a child, Li was fascinated with the Asian culture, art pieces that speak universal languages, and struggled with being both logical and sentimental. Now, she’s discovered her voice in the industry, and doesn’t hesitate to own her perspectives, thoughts or feelings. “I like to express my progressive, Feminist views through my work. I am proud to be a woman working in a field that used to be entirely dominated by men. I hope I can bring more of my unique viewpoints to the table and push the game industry to be more progressive with my knowledge and skills,” said Li.

Continuing that thought, Li added, “Contrary to popular belief and stigmatism, games aren’t always products used to simulate violent actions in the virtual world. Games can be used for educational, medical or experimental purposes. For me, I would like people to have fun and also find satisfaction within the spiritual communication through the gameplay when they play my games. That is what I aim to achieve.”

For more information, please visit: http://liizii.com/