Category Archives: Feature Film

Producer Huanglizi Sun Strives for Excellence

When an audience views a motion picture they’re completely caught up in the onscreen action and story line, but there’s so much more going on behind the camera. Out of the small army of the production crew’s specialized artisans and craftsmen, there is one driving figure head—the producer—and Chinese film producer Huanglizi Sun excels in that capacity. Sun’s combination of enthusiasm, aesthetics, superb organizational skills and instinct for great storytelling qualify her as one of the brightest rising forces in international cinema.

Sun’s lifelong romance with visual storytelling made her career path almost inevitable, especially since she came of age with a major contributor to the form right in her own backward.

“I grew up in Changsha, also called ‘Star City’ which is the capital of Hunan province,” Sun said. ”Changsha is where China’s second-most-watched TV network, Hunan Television, is located and after graduating from Nanjing University of the Arts, I interned there, as assistant to the directors and producers of the 2012 Hunan TV New Year’s Concert and Spring Festival Gala.”

It was invaluable experience which led Sun to gain key insight on her professional destiny.

“After months of hard work, I realized that I wanted to become a film producer rather than a TV producer: Sun said. “Not only because I am interested in filmmaking but also always on the lookout for great stories to tell in a cinematic way. I decided to move to Hollywood where the movies are made and learn how to ‘tell’ a story as a filmmaker.”

It’s a particularly demanding role, one that encompasses virtually every aspect of a production. “A Film Producer is a person who oversees the production of a film, Sun said. “Film Producers plan and coordinate various aspects of film production, such as selecting script, coordinating writing, directing and editing, and arranging finance.”

Based in Southern California, Sun’s drive and  peerless instinct quickly distinguished her.

“I started my career as Associate Producer in Mobscene Creative Productions,” Sun said. “I coordinated multiple editors with different producing teams and acted as liaison with clients. Everything had to happen simultaneously, on a tight deadline, with a very little margin for error, since the broadcasting schedule is on the line. It honed my ability to prioritize tasks and manage a workflow, while also being adaptive and flexible in the process to the ever-changing schedules of all parties involved.”

At Mobscene, Sun quickly found success: “I produced a web-series ‘Talking to Hollywood with Betty Zhou’, which airs weekly on China Central Television Channel (CCTV) 6, Tencent and IQIYI and it quickly gained a large viewership.”

Moving on to a position with fast rising company Big Monster Productions, Sun quickly identified a unique property—the multiple award winning 2015 short, ‘Cara,’ and is currently in the process of transforming it into a full length feature

“It explores many themes and motifs that are both timely and timeless—society’s expectation of women, coming of age and the athletic soul,” Sun said. “The story focuses on a fifteen year old swimming athlete who dreams of success with the national swimming team. Two weeks prior to her most important competition, Cara learns she is pregnant. In her last attempt to reach the top, Cara needs to confront the biggest challenge of her life— a decision which could make it or break it for her.”

“In the context of a feature, those themes can be explored in more depth and detail.” Sun said. “Transitioning Cara from a short film into a feature is a decision rooted in the belief that it has the potential to succeed both critically and commercially, given that it tells a story people will truly care about.

Huanglizi Sun on the Cara set
Huanglizi Sun on the Cara set

This is where Sun’s holistic grasp on the filmmaking process really comes into play and is certain to provide the production tremendous advantage.

“Writing a short film is one thing, writing a feature can be an entirely different process, one that  presents an entirely different set of challenges,” Sun said. “The story will be significantly more complex than the original and may go through many drafts and revisions before we are satisfied. The next step is going into production and this will also prove to be a challenge—both logistically and financially. It will take meticulous planning, many supporters and a great team effort to truly bring this vision to life.”

Sun’s ability to identify, anticipate, and troubleshoot any unexpected complication or mishap is invaluable in itself, but her comprehensive vision also extends beyond film production and reaches into other key aspects of the business, branding and marketing.

“Ms.Sun is an essential member of our team,” Big Monster president Wentao Wang said. “Her expertise in producing different types of media, ranging from films, promos to branding content is paramount to Big Monster’s success. With an acutely honed ability to judge a project’s potential and the great taste to back it up, she ensures that Big Monster only brings in a roster of projects of the highest quality. From the timely story of “Cara” to pioneering the future of multi-channel network, Ms. Sun single-handedly paves the way for Big Monster to thrive for years to come.”

Having already proven herself both at home and in Hollywood, Sun is clearly a cinematic force to be reckoned with.

“I want to make successful, memorable films, focusing on small characters with big impact that definitely have the potential to take many by heart,” Sun said. As a producer, her mixture of ambition, pragmatism, artistry and understanding of what makes a story worthwhile all combine with ideal symmetry, and what really drives Sun is one simple fact: “Making films is my greatest pleasure.”

 

 

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BIG STUDIO OR INDIE, THEY’RE ALL IMPORTANT TO DIRECTOR/PRODUCER JOHN ALBANIS

Education is a good thing but, consider that education alone is not indicative of the ability to master something; it’s a springboard to jump into the race. Specifically, when it comes to artistic endeavors, vision and mastery of skills easily defeats the knowledge base of how something “should” work. One can understand painting but it doesn’t make you a painter. A knowledge of the complexities of music theory does not make one a songwriter. Film school does not make you an accomplished cinematographer. While scholarly endeavors may get you in the ballpark, they won’t insure that you will make the team. Of all the aforementioned art forms, film is the newest and thus the idea of attending film school was not available until recently. The pioneers who crafted this art form and by whose hands it evolved were the men and women who learned “on the job.” Considering the fact that film has permeated almost every culture and region of the planet, they did their jobs quite well. Following in the footsteps of these giants is John Albanis. This producer/director had not planned on entering the film industry (moving from Calgary to the UK to pursue rock stardom) but made an artistic switch when he discovered he had a natural skill set that lent itself to this medium. With no formal academic film training, John learned from those he worked with; those who recognized his ability for accelerated learning. Years later, he has cultivated quite an impressive career which rests on both huge blockbuster productions as well as carefully and emotionally crafter indie art films. Feature Films, TV movies, music videos, even recording studios make up the eclectic life of this immensely talented Canadian filmmaker.

John Albanis’s work on major studio films is instantly recognizable and is not confined to simply one genre…unless that genre is “successful.” Some films perform well at the box office and also have a second life on downloads and streaming services, as is the case the Hector and the Search for Happiness. As Co-Producer on this 2014 film starring Simon Pegg, John had the herculean task of taking the production across the planet to locations which included: Canada, the UK, South Africa, China, USA, India, and Germany. The Story and its locations are entertaining and seamless, something which Albanis is quite proud of achieving.

Contributing his full range of abilities to the film Psychic Driving, John was director, producer, and writer of this Film Noir. Inspired by the great political thrillers from the 1970s films like Three Days of the Condor, The Parallax View, All the Presidents Men and based around the CIA mind control program in the 1950’s called Project MK-Ultra (a secret program that ran experiments on human subjects, often without their knowledge), Psychic Driving’s theme was perfectly suited for the Film Noir genre. It also allowed Albanis to indulge his creative side to great length, exhibiting his multiple talents. Utilizing his connections in the film industry allowed for a quick and impressive production schedule. John relates, “When I work on studio films, I build such great relationships with the crews whom I work with. One thing I quickly learned is that there are so many talented artists who are on the verge of breaking. In the case of Psychic Driving, I had recently completed working on Miramax Films’ Shall We Dance. This was pretty early in my career; I was a director’s assistant at that point. But the director, Peter Chelsom, had me very involved creatively so I worked closely with all department heads. I forged relationships with (main Camera Operator) Peter Rosenfeld and (Art Director) Sue Chan. I had written Psychic Driving shortly after the studio film wrapped and I gave the script to both of them. They immediately signed on as Director of Photography and Production Designer respectively. Since we all have contacts in the studio system, we were each able to bring those resources to this small, indie film. That’s why it has such ambitious production values.”

Not content with Feature Films or Indie Films, John also lent his production talents to a series of highly successful made for TV films (for CBS) starring Tom Selleck. Jesse Stone: Stone Cold, Jesse Stone: Thin Ice, and Jesse Stone: No Remorse were all presented in a period of five years.

As he prepares for the next obvious progression in his career, Albanis confirms, “Los Angeles is still the heart and soul of the film and television industry; it’s where all the main players are and where all the deals are being struck. I’m transitioning from being a hired gun producer/director into developing my own projects from the ground up and Los Angeles is the best place to do that. Last year, I purchased the TV rights to a book called The Mirror Thief, which I’m developing with Peter Chelsom to direct into an 8-hr series. It’s a mind-bending thriller that follows interweaving narratives of three driven men all connected by the alchemical possibility of a mysterious book, and shifts from 16th century Venice, Italy— where famed glassmakers perfected one of the world’s most wondrous inventions, the mirror (an object of fearful fascination)— to the seedy Venice Beach waterfront of the 1950’s, to the glitzy trappings of the Venetian casino in 2003 Las Vegas.”

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Costume designer Angela Trivino talks award-winning horror flick “Fear, INC”

For Angela Trivino, a character in any film is born in the fitting room. Yes, the writer creates a character in their mind and a director creates a vision, but the character is not fully realized until they put on their costume. That is why she is an artist and a storyteller. She takes an idea and turns it into something visual. Her talent has earned her a reputation as one of the best, but her passion for what she does as a costume designer is what drives her into work each day.

Trivino completes the transition for audiences from a theatre chair into the film. Her period piece costume design for the film Tragiometry and the commercial for Environmental Working Group Setting the Bar Low, took viewers to a different time, and her work on the film The Fog encapsulated the struggles of a war veteran, even visible in what he was wearing. With this, it was her work in the feature film Fear, Inc. starring Academy Award-nominated actress Abigail Breslin, where she created a horrifying spectacle for audiences, and was pivotal to the film’s success.

“The script was really fun, and I thought it was such a clever story. I knew right from the beginning that I was going to have fun,” said Trivino.

Fear, Inc. follows a company of degenerates who can be hired for a premium to bring your greatest fears to life. But when horror junkie Joe Foster’s customized scare seemingly begins, he and his friends must decide if this company is there to scare them, or make them pawns in their own sick game. The film has 5 bloody scenes, more than 3 dramatic days in the story, 24 characters with different costume changes, and an all-star cast.  As the head of the Costume Design department, Trivino not only designed every look, but also lead her department in different office endeavors like managing finances, scheduling fittings, doing alterations, and executing breakdowns of the script in order to keep track of continuity.

“Just as the story, the characters were young, fresh, and hip, so my inspiration was mainly contemporary trends. However, the film had a dark side to it, as it was also a celebration to horror American classics such as Scream, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Shinning, and The Game. Therefore, keeping the aesthetic references from these films was key to creative process of the project,” Trivino described.

As a designer, Trivino wanted to make sure every character’s costume reflected who they were. She had multiple meetings with the principle cast to discuss their character, and the physiological layers to come up with the right look for the story. While filming, she was on set to give final approval on the looks, and assisted with any last-minute costume changes.

From the moment we met Angela, we knew that she was going to be the one ready for the challenge. Angela is a hard-working designer with the absolute best energy on set to work around actors and help them find their characters through their costume. She truly helped us tell our story using wardrobe. She really understands contemporary trends, and was able to achieve an overall hip fresh look for the cast. Angela is incredibly intuitive. We never had to manage her or worry that our cast wouldn’t be in the right wardrobe. She was consistently on top of her job. Angela went above and beyond what we asked of her and that truly shows with the success of the film,” said Luke Barnett, the writer and producer of the film.

After premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival last year, Fear, Inc. went on to be an Official Selection at the Sitges Film Festival and the San Diego Film Festival. It was then released on Amazon Video, YouTube, ITunes, Vudu, Google play, and Hulu.

 “It is so gratifying, and a total surprise that the film has done so well. I knew the film was going to do great, but I think the results totally exceeded my expectations,” said Trivino. “The film was Luke’s baby and you could feel the passion around set.”

That energy on set made all the challenges that came from shooting a horror film worth it. They shot in a short amount of time, and Trivino’s department overcame any obstacles that would ordinarily arise with a tight timeline. The experience made her want to work on even more films in the horror genre in the future.

“It was a film about horror films, so the impact of these films was huge. However, we wanted to visually quote these movies in a way that they would fit in the contemporary hip, young world that we wanted the story to have,” Trivino concluded.

Viewers wanting to see Trivino’s bloody work can watch the full-length film here.

Art Director-Motion Graphics Designer Ilya Tselyutin Thriving in Hollywood

Art Director-Motion Graphics Designer Ilya Tselyutin works in one of the most fascinating, fast moving and over looked fields in modern media. Motion Graphics is a constantly evolving, creatively fertile niche that entails creating everything from eye-popping feature film title sequences to innovative television commercial applications. It’s a complex mix of graphic design, animation and cutting edge technology that requires innate resourcefulness, meticulous attention to detail and the ability to bring life to  a very broad spectrum of images—qualities which the Russian-born Tselyutin has no shortage of.

 

“While studying computer science at university, I developed interest in 3D graphics,” Tselyutin said. “I was always curious how this technology worked. At the same time I started looking at works by some famous graphic designers and learned about typography. I wanted to bring all of this together – 3D graphics, animation and design. Also, I drew my inspiration from title sequences from Hollywood movies, as well as the special effects in sci-fi movies.”

 

A painstaking, gifted craftsman whose outstanding work has been recognized with international awards—Silver winner for Art Direction at Cannes Corporate Media & TV Awards, and a Silver Win for Graphic Design/Animation at PromaxBDA, both in 2013—Tselyutin has distinguished himself with an impressive roster of career achievements. All this has led him to the field’s epicenter, Hollywood, where he enjoys a position at the prestigious Troika Design Group, a top branding and marketing agency that specializes in working with entertainment and media companies

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“Troika is one of the most notable companies in the industry,” Tselyutin said. “I had learned about it a while ago and they were looking for a lead motion graphics designer to bring the quality of 3D graphics to the next level. Paul Brodie, the Managing Director, was closely following my work and invited me to join the company in 2016, where I am currently working as Art Director/Motion Graphics Designer.

 

At Troika’s Design Department, Tselyutin has successfully undertaken jobs for a disparate series of high profile clients. “We have a very busy schedule with plenty of projects coming my way every day,” Tselyutin said  “The most interesting projects so far have been for AT&T Sports Network and ESPN College Basketball. The video for AT&T included working with the client’s static footage. As a lead designer on this project I suggested using a special technology in Cinema 4D software to cut the static footage into several pieces an then project them onto 3D models, and the result made both the team and the client happy.”

 

Tselyutin’s gift for surpassing expectations is a result of his widely varied cultural background and educational experience. With a Bachelors of Arts in Information Technologies and New Media from the Kuban State University, Krasnodar, Russia and a resume of jobs all over Europe, Tselyutin brings a refreshing international perspective to any project assigned him.

 

“While I was studying computer science, I started working at the local TV channel as a designer discovering the world of 3D graphics,” Tselyutin said. “I developed interest in design, typography and animation and after graduation, I moved to Moscow to work at the national largest TV network Channel One Russia, where I had the privilege to learn from the best and most experienced broadcast designers in the country.”
 

“My work brought me around the world,” Tselyutin said. “For example, I produced a 3D mapping show in at the Technology University of Mangalore, India. In 2013 I moved to work at VUCX creative agency in Cologne, Germany. Working and living in Europe with its variety of art museums, exhibitions and strong school of design was a great experience that helped me expand my portfolio and explore motion graphics even further.”

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For the driven, ambitious Tselyutin, whose formidable resume is already packed with enough accomplishments to stand as the full measure of a professional career, it is only the beginning. “I am eager to continue my personal development as an artist, 3D professional and art director while growing professionally within the company,” he said. “I see myself working on large-scale commercially successful projects.”

“My motto is: be curious, be professional, never give up.”

Film Producer Kseniya Yorsh’s Creative, Kinetic Approach to Movie Making

Film producer Kseniya Yorsh’s approach to cinematic excellence is a high-powered mixture of meticulous attention to detail and an impressive grasp of comprehensive overall scope of any project. Although a relatively recent arrival to Hollywood, Yorsh’s brief yet fruitful career trajectory encompasses a broad spectrum, including music videos, feature films, documentary and shorts—four of which were screened at the Cannes Short Film Corner. Most recently, Yorsh produced Visitors, an engrossing Science Fiction short drama that’s been getting a lot of attention and is set to be showcased in half a dozen prestigious film festivals across the country in 2017.

The Belarus-born Yorsh always gravitated towards the creative, a pursuit which inevitably led her to film. “As a kid and teenager I received all sorts of artistic training,” Yorsh said. “Classical piano, theater classes, film school, literary practice, and I learned 3 foreign languages. As a young adult I worked extensively in business, and all these disciplines have helped build my film producing career. Once I decided to devote myself fully to filmmaking, I came to the US, got a degree in Documentary Filmmaking at New York Film Academy and in Entertainment Business and Management at UCLA.”

Ambitious and focused, Yorsh perfected her craft with experience in almost every aspect of filmmaking. She has written, directed, acted, edited, and worked as an art director, make-up artist, production designer, even in the sound department. It’s an impressive background that’s created her near encyclopedic grasp of what a film producer must both anticipate and turn to the project’s advantage—locations, crew, casting, supervising daily operations on set—and her roster of achievements currently stands at 13 shorts and 3 feature films.

The intense, idiosyncratic Visitors, which combines themes of family dysfunction and chilling otherworldly suspense, offered Yorsh some unique opportunities for trouble shooting.

“Alon Juwal, the director, came to me with the script and the budget he had for the film and I transferred his ideas into a feasible reality,” Yorsh said. “We had some shots that were difficult from a technical standpoint. For example, we had a shot where we see the main character in a beam of light as if from a landing spaceship. We were filming at night so it had to be bright light coming from the sky, with a lot of wind, and us moving in closer and closer to his face. We had aerial shots; we had night shoots in a forest; we had a dog that we needed to film at night; we had guns, special effects.”

“When producing a short film, budget and logistical limitations make you become creative in solving technical challenges and making sure the shoot like this is done in comfortable and safe conditions for the actors and the crew. Figuring these things out was an exciting challenge for me as a producer.”

Characteristically, Yorsh met every concern head on and turned in a flawless finished product. Her vision and drive not only set Yorsh apart but also unfailingly impress her colleagues. “I first met Kseniya a few years ago and was immediately impressed by her clear vision, discipline, imagination and passion,” Sergei Stern, the film’s musical composer, said. “When I was recommended as a composer for Visitors, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Kseniya was the producer. She and Alon built a great team around this wonderful project and I think we did a solid, beautiful film that combines visual beauty with an emotional, dramatic story.”

Released in late 2016, the film—like just about every project Yorsh takes on—has been well received by audiences and recognized with awards at the Boston Science Fiction Film Festival and New York City International Film Festival. And since then, she has already produced an feature film and 2 shorts and has another currently in pre-production.

“I love producing because it’s about seizing an opportunity where one doesn’t exist before,” Yorsh said. “It’s about bringing people together and being able to recognize unique skills in a person and link it to someone else’s skills or written material. I love seeing people shine professionally and I love bringing good material to life.”

UK Actor Anthony Warren Nails it Again with the Film “Hard Time Bus

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Anthony Warren shot by Will Tudor

With lead roles in several highly rated BAFTA Award winning series and now the award winning feature film “Hard Time Bus” produced by 2HotFilms, Anthony Warren has enjoyed a tremendously successful acting career. The fact that he has now appeared in so many celebrated projects, and the addition of his most recent performance in “Hard Time Bus,” have made it clear that Warren’s success is a testament to his sensational skill, hard work and magnetism on screen.

If there’s one trend in Warren’s long list of characters, it’s his inimitable ability to convincingly slip into the world of crime. Warren’s feature films include the crime drama “The Contract” where he acts opposite Golden Globe nominee John Cusack (“Serendipity,” “Maps to the Stars”), as well as the Golden Reel Award nominated crime thriller “Control” starring Ray Liotta (“Goodfellas”) and two-time Oscar nominee Willem Dafoe (“Spider-Man”).

In the world of television Warren’s taken on recurring key roles on several hit crime dramas such as the two-time BAFTA Award winning series “The Bill” where he acts alongside Simon Rouse (“The Practice”), “Eastenders” starring Patsy Palmer (“Do or Die”) and “Murphy’s Law” where he shares the screen with Golden Globe nominee James Nesbitt (“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”).

With such an impressive resume, Warren has certainly forged a distinguished and unique reputation for himself in the entertainment industry on an international level.

Warren, of course, did not wake up a success overnight. “I got into acting over twenty years ago,” Warren remarks. “Initially starting as a hobby, however, [it grew] into a passion and eventually a career choice.”

It’s clear that Warren has taken his craft seriously. After graduating from one of the UK’s leading drama schools and performing with the Ovalhouse Theatre Company, Warren has gone on to act in numerous film projects in the UK and Europe. He has worked alongside twice Academy-Award nominated director Bruce Beresford, Morgan Freeman, Michelle Rodriguez and many more household names.

 

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Poster for “Hard Time Bus”

 

Now, with “Hard Time Bus” having screened internationally and recently winning the Jury Prize at the Hollywood Black Film Festival, Warren has yet another impressive credit to his resume. Directed by Dean Charles, also known for “Birthday Treat” starring “Casualty” star Neil Reidman, “Hard Time Bus” is a multi-faceted drama that examines the complexities of modern relationships and deceptive friendships. Warren brilliantly explores the latter in the lead role of Langas, a Jamaican-Patois speaking character who has no problem with bullying or cheating money from others.

 

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Still of Anthony Warren as Longas in “Hard Time Bus”

 

In a reflection of how he skillfully portrays people far different from himself, Anthony speaks of Langas like he would an old college friend. “He is so horrible to people around him but lovable to the audience in the way he is horrible – if he was one of your friends you’d keep a distance or want to punch him in the mouth.”

The film’s iconic pool hall scene, where the characters fight after Langas trash talks the girlfriend of one of the pool players, was a particular highlight for Anthony. “The scene had actors that I had worked with before and [am] still good friends with.” 

 

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Still of Michael Ellis (left) and Anthony Warren (right) in “Hard Time Bus”

 

It’s no surprise that Anthony’s maintained friendships with his fellow actors – those in the entertainment world are fully aware of his commitment and significant contributions to the industry. Besides his work of course, he has mentored numerous young actors and actresses and developed a reputation for being a friendly collaborator with everyone on set.

He admits, “It is a really different dynamic when you work with your friends. I feel a lot more at ease due to the experience and history we have together.”

With a cast that includes Aren Devlin (from Brad Pitt’s “World War Z”), Roger Griffiths (“Holby City,” “Doctors,” “Doctor Who”) and Naomi Ryan (“Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Mr Selfridge”), “Hard Time Bus” puts Warren in a position to call some illustrious company his friends.

The added benefit of being everyone’s favorite guy on set? People want to work with you even more, so it will come as no surprise that Anthony is slated to be involved in future productions produced with the production company 2HotFilms.

Megan Waters to produce upcoming sequel of hit film Ditch Day Massacre

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Megan Waters is a producer from Toronto, Ontario.

Megan Waters is many things. She is a Canadian, born and raised in Toronto. She is a pinball enthusiast who loves retro games. She is a world traveller and describes the world is her playground. She is a salsa dancer, believing it to be an amazing dance and community. And above all else, she is an extraordinary film producer, using her skill and creativity to entertain audiences.

Waters passion for producing is evident. She has been producing for over twelve years, and has received praise and recognition for her talent. In 2012, the “Soul of a Ninja” Kawasaki USA commercial she produced won the Bronze ADDY Award at the American Advertising Awards. The first feature film she produced, Ditch Day Massacre, won the 2014 Best Feature Length Horror Film at the Burbank International Film Festival. Waters is one of those people who knows she is doing what she was meant to do.

“Why be the puppet when you can be the puppet master?” said Waters. “I got into producing because I love the business just as much as the creative process. As producer, I get to wear both hats and interact with all aspects of production.”

Now, Waters is set to continue her success of Ditch Day Massacre by producing the sequel Ditch Day Massacre II. The film will follow the character of Jenny, who is placed into a mental institution after suffering from a mental breakdown as a result of a brutal attack. Little do Jenny and her mom know that what’s inside the walls of the mental institution is far more deadly than the world outside. There will also be a documentary about behind-the-scenes look into the making of the film, which Waters will be producing.

“Working on Ditch Day Massacre has been the highlight of my career. It taught and tested me so much. It was an incredible experience as the crew all had the same level of passion and commitment to making this project go,” she said.

Waters had help on Ditch Day Massacre, with producer Michael J. Zampino as a consultant for the film. Zampino has lots of experience working on horror films, including distributing the award-winning film The Slaughter. Despite this, he was still impressed with Waters’ commitment and knowledge of the genre.

“What sets Megan apart from many producers is that she has confidence but very little ego. That’s extraordinary in our business itself. Megan moved mountains and motivated everyone to bring their A-game to complete Ditch Day Massacre in 17 days,” said Zampino. “Megan is a tireless worker who strives to carve out not one film but a career worth of films. Ultimately, the film would never have been completed, and never would have received the attention and sales that is has, if it weren’t for Megan’s drive and leadership. Megan’s successes in the international film and television industry marks her as one of the most successful and skilled producers to come out of Canada in some time.”

Waters’ success is not just limited to film. She produced the Emmy-nominated series Chop Cut Rebuild and the Speed Channel series Street Tuner Challenge. It is not the accolades that motivate her. She says every project is a creative and logistical puzzle that needs to be completed.

“I create and execute. I get an idea, script, project, client need and make it happen. I usually start from where I wish to finish and then work backwards. I think mostly in visual stories and then align the team and resources to execute,” said Waters. “When I produce I like the challenge of figuring out the puzzle pieces and then putting them together. Plus, all the hurdles that make it a one of a kind experience on each project. I love that producing offers a different road every time. I fear a career that becomes repetitive. I love the randomness and goal of planning for the unpredictable. It’s organized chaos and when you build the team that communicates, respects and share the same passion for the project amazing things happen.”

Part of this passion also comes from using film as a tool to send a meaningful and powerful message. Waters has seen. a lot of success while making PSAs, especially producing the PSA “Over Watering Is Out” about water saving gardening. Part of what makes her PSAs captivating is that she refuses to create what she would consider “boring content.”

“When I am considering film or documentary projects I look at the story. It must hold my interest and I must feel passionate it about it. I say this because it takes everything in you to complete a long format project. If you don’t have a connection to it then you will be pulled away from it and it will never get done,” she said.

There is no doubt that with the innate skillset Waters possesses alongside her passion for the industry, her name will continue to roll past the eyes of audiences in the credits for years to come. She is determined to produce quality, and she never lets anything stand in her way.

“I expect and accept challenges. It’s part of producing. I actually joke with my teams that my title may be ‘producer’ but it should be changed to ‘head problem-solver.’ I am proactive and focused on the solution when challenges arise. It’s better to work toward the solution and communicate, communicate, communicate. Some of the best creative ideas have been derived and developed because of a challenge,” she concluded.

You can look out for Waters’ work on the upcoming Accio Cine feature film From Dust to Diamonds, and of course, the anticipated Ditch Day Massacre II.

 

 

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”.

Actor Philip Moran Totally Recalls his big break

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Philip Moran as the immigration sergeant in 2012’s Total Recall.

For many actors, their breakout comes from a gruelling audition process, waiting in a room with hundreds of others, hoping to be the one left standing. There are call backs, and screen tests and waiting games, creating a stressful situation that eventually turns into something. After the process is over and everyone is cast, the rest is history. For actor Philip Moran, his career-changing role came quite differently, when he played the immigration sergeant in the 2012 blockbuster Total Recall.

Some people attribute luck or chance to their success, but Moran is not one of them. His unwavering belief that he will do something and achieve something ends up becoming a manifested truth. This is what happened with 2012’s Total Recall, starring Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, and Jessica Biel.

“It is quite extraordinary how it all happened. I felt assured that I was going to get an actor role in this blockbuster movie. I didn’t know how it was all going to happen, but I sensed it would. I posted all these positive-notes around my house to help create a strong inspiring expectation. I started making phone calls and tracking information to make things happen. For the first time, I joined the Actra union,” said Moran. “I got onto the set in a less significant role, and gradually caught the attention of Len Wisemen, the director of the movie.”

Wisemen, married to the film’s co-star Kate Beckinsale, had seen Moran on camera, and handpicked him to take on a more challenging acting role, telling Moran he could be a bigger asset to the film. The next day when Moran walked on set, he felt like the star he would soon become.

“At one point, I actually remember there were three cameras on me, and Colin Farrell, a great actor, was standing in my scene, but there weren’t any cameras on him. I felt like a star,” Moran said, almost still in disbelief. “And it felt really special. You have to get up and make it happen for yourself. You can’t wait for people or things to come to you.”

Now, Moran is the star of the upcoming feature film Adams Testament, filmed in late 2015, working alongside an all-star cast. The role has already been official selections at film festivals and brought Moran himself an award nomination at the 2017 INFAME awards. This success, he says, can all be contributed to that one fateful day in 2012 on the set of Total Recall, and the strong desire to want to be something more.

“For some reason, I was expecting it, like it was part of my universal plan. During filming, I was walking on the set as if I was one of the main actors. When Len Wisemen asked to talk to me, I was definitely very excited and felt my plan was working. Even though I believed it would happen, I was still a bit shocked, but I knew it was happening,” he said.

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Philip Moran is from Toronto, Ontario.

The role was Moran’s bread and butter. Having attended school years before to train as a police officer, he had training on firing a gun, which was one of the requirements of the role. Everything was working out for him. He was prepared, excited, ready, and expected the perfect opportunity.

“I brought my mother and my sisters to see the film at a Cineplex theatre, and they saw me on the screen in a big feature film. People were paying to be there. It was great,” said Moran. “My mom thought it was wonderful. I brought her to things before, like small film festivals and short film premieres, but nothing as special as seeing a big blockbuster movie and seeing your son on the big screen and his name scrolling in the cast list.”

The role provided Moran with the breakthrough he needed. From there, he became sought after and recognized in the industry. He started creating some acting workshops, and shared excitement with other people through those classes. Director Rafael Kalamat was inspired after seeing Moran’s acting scene, and offered his services as Moran’s personal publicist. Kalamat was then motivated to open his own production company and in 2015, he cast Moran as the starring role in his film Adams Testament.

“Philip is a flexible actor who can be a lead in an independent feature like Adams Testament or a day player on a Hollywood blockbuster like 2012’s Total Recall,” said Kalamat.

Moran said the scene came with a price, as it was a very popular scene in the original 1990 Total Recall film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. In Moran’s scene, Colin Farrell, disguised as someone else, is sneaking through immigration at the airport. When the officers realize it is him, a fight erupts. Wanting to make the scene not only as memorable, but better than the original film was important to the director.

“There were a lot of stunts, and a lot of bullets shells flying. That whole scene, it’s one cut. There were 450 background people on set, and approximately another 50 were stunt performers. It was so exciting,” said Moran. “I remember in one take I got hit with one of the machine gun shells and when it hit me on the cheek, it burnt. I saw the red mark, I got some gun powder in my eye when I held the gun up in the air. But being a professional I flinched and continued filming. It was a sacrifice, because that’s what good actors do.”

Working on the film was Moran’s first career-changing role acting with an ensemble cast, which he says gave him an amazing opportunity to learn from some of Hollywood’s best. After previously working as a warrior on the 1995 film Johnny Mneamonic with Keanu Reeves, this was his first opportunity since then to combine stunt work with his acting skills in a major film. For Moran, it was kind of a déjà vu.

“It’s funny, because my first film I worked on was Johnny Mneamonic back in 1995. The movie was about a man who had something in his brain that bad people wanted. When you think of 2012’s Total Recall, it’s a lot like Johnny Mneamonic and the 1990 Total Recall combined. There I am almost 20 years later, working on a film combining the two. It was magical. I came full circle to realize my career was made,” he said.

There is no doubt that Moran’s experience on 2012’s Total Recall ignited his career, and being singled out by a top Hollywood director justified any struggles he would have or had already experienced. Since that time, he maintains that having belief in yourself and the right attitude, combined with skill and opportunity, will get anyone wanting success to where they need to be. And it looks like that plan is working out pretty well for him so far.

“I felt like I was on my way to something but I didn’t know what. People are always saying you can’t see what’s ahead, and I tell them it’s based on what’s happening to you now, your interpretation of it, planning your work, and working your plan” he concluded.

MCWILLIAM EXHIBITS A MYRIAD OF TALENTS IN MODERN FILM SCORES

There are many avenues to pursue in the modern day music industry. While the opportunities for bands and artists may have decreased in the last decade or two, other vocations in the music world have gained new venues within which to be employed. James McWilliam is a prime example of this. He may have had adolescent dreams of pop/rock stardom as a drummer but after veering towards jazz and classical music in his studies, he has become a noteworthy composer, conductor, and orchestrator in his native UK. Although working primarily in the UK, McWilliam has worked with and led ensembles in Paris and Macedonia as well. As a professional whose credits include the films; The Book of Life, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Masterminds, Standing Tall, and many others, James is widely sought after by filmmakers looking for music to enhance the emotional impact of their creations. Whether working on big budget feature films, Independent movies, or even video games, McWilliam is known for creating and/or implementing the audio accompaniment to perfectly present the goal of its creator. An overview of James’ work on his many projects gives proof to the idea that this musician/composer is challenged to be creative in a wide array of media presentations.

Don’t Look Down is a documentary which follows urban free climber James Kingston as he travels the world scaling 100m cranes, 200m radio towers, tall buildings and bridges…all without the use of any safety equipment. Composing the music for Don’t Look Down was attractive to James for a number of reasons. He states, “The production company wanted a score that followed and heightened the tension of the subject matter, whilst appealing to an age group of between 18-30 years of age; the show therefore needed a contemporary score. I turned to a more electronic based sound with lots of percussion and heavy synths.  This show worked a little differently than other things I’ve worked on previously. Rather than writing to picture, the production company asked me to write longer pieces of music that they could then edit alongside the show.  This is quite liberating for a composer but perhaps not as much fun; personally, I’m inspired by what’s happening on screen and prefer to write music specifically to picture.”

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Standing Tall is a French feature film directed by Emmanuelle Bercot which deals with France’s treatment of disadvantaged youths.  In addition to seven nominations, the film was selected to open the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, won two Cesar Awards, and a Lumiere Award. Eric Neveux sought out McWilliam to serve as Orchestrator & Conductor in Paris. Neveux confirms, “James has been a valuable member of my team for over 4 years now and as an orchestrator has played an integral role in the scores of many of my films.  Standing Tall opened the Cannes 2015 film festival and was a very important composing project for me. I knew I could rely on James’ orchestration skills to help me deliver the score for this superb film. As an orchestrator, James brings a great depth of sound to my work, utilizing his extensive skill and knowledge of an orchestra.  No matter how complex the project might appear to be, he always works tirelessly to achieve the best result possible.” The score was recorded at the famous Studio Ferber, known for the recording of many iconic pop musicians and film scores since the 1970’s. Concerning his role in Standing Tall’s score, James stipulates, “I think that the real skill in orchestration is being able to interpret a composer’s demo in such a way that what you do is clearly a huge improvement on the demo and yet it still sounds identical to the music signed off by the director.  This balance (which is quite a fine art to master) is always changing from score to score and cue to cue; how you decide on this is through a lot of discussion with the composer.  I truly enjoyed working with someone else’s music, especially on projects where I feel like I’ve had a significant impact on the end result. Of course, the balance I refer to above can be difficult to find especially when working with a new composer and sometimes a greater period of time is needed at the beginning of the process to understand where each other is coming from.”

Legendary filmmaker Guillermo del Toro is highly stylized in his approach to movie making. For the animated film The Book of Life (which garnered 27 nominations including a Golden Globe, 3 wins, and a Worldwide gross of $94MM) the highly respected and successful del Toro trusted Gustavo Santaolalla to compose the music the he wanted to capture the feel of a past and modern Mexico. Hired by the score’s arranger and conductor Tim Davies, James set to work orchestrating the music of  Santaolalla. The rich, colorful themes and rhythms were as entertaining as the animation and action on the screen. The process of bringing the music of The Book of Life to manifestation truly depicts the modern and global means by which artists cooperate. James notes, “It’s not often that I’m hired by another orchestrator/arranger to work on a film but when I do it’s always a pleasure to be part of the team.  It’s more common on larger US projects to have multiple orchestrators so when I do find myself in this position it’s often on a big budget production.  I love the work of Guillermo del Toro so this was a particularly exciting project and something I was very pleased to do. It’s interesting when you work for another orchestrator because it makes you evaluate your own approach to things and working with US based orchestrators in particular really keeps you on your toes. This was such an enjoyable score to work on; the music Gustavo Santaolalla created for the film is brilliant.”

Projecting a completely different tone and subject matter are two feature films which saw McWilliam seated at the composer’s helm; The Patrol (nominated for a British Independent Film Festival Award and winner of a Raindance Film Festival Award) and Born of War. James defines the difference of these two stipulating, “Born of War isn’t really a war film although, like The Patrol it is set in Afghanistan.  The two filmmakers work couldn’t be more different and the scores reflect this.  Whist the score for The Patrol deliberately avoided emotive strings and Middle Eastern sounding instruments, Born of War fully embraced these sounds and they became an integral part of the character of the film.  The film begins in 1980’s Afghanistan, moves to present day Oxford/London and then back to Afghanistan but in the present day.  All these changes had to be reflected in the score and we did this through balancing the use of real orchestra and synths/percussion with influences from the Middle East.  The score wasn’t about reinventing the wheel, this was more about fitting into a specific genre of films and playing it for everything it’s worth. The orchestral score was recorded in Macedonia. It was a lot of fun!” Rupert Whitaker (Born of War’s Producer) comments about the film’s score, “Vicky Jewson, our director, had a very specific sound in mind for Born of War; a sound that was going to cost a lot of money, which our budget couldn’t stretch to. As soon as we spoke to James about our vision for the score, we knew we were in safe hands. The size of the task ahead of him meant that James decided to assemble an eclectic team of highly skilled people, all of whom added a huge amount of value to the project.  Not only did he strive to make Vicky’s ambition a reality but he supplied us with numerous creative possibilities that enhanced the picture, aiding the drama and bringing a whole new life to the film. James is not simply a powerful creative force; he is also a highly skilled technician in his field. I was very fortunate to have him contribute to the success of the picture.”

Rather than touring the world in a van or a bus as a drummer who plays to crowds at clubs or theaters, James has become a respected and valued member of a global music and filmmaking tapestry performing to peers who are among the most talented artists in the world. From a young boy thrashing about on the drumkit to leading the world’s most gifted orchestras, James McWilliam seems incredibly grounded…so much so that one wonders if he actually realizes that he has exceeded his own youthful goals.