Category Archives: Film

Canada’s Leading Cinematographer Jonathan Bensimon

Jonathan Bensimon
Cinematographers Vilmos Zsigmond (left), Jonathan Bensimon (center) & László Kovács (right)

Jonathan Bensimon is a rare breed of visionary. As both a director and cinematographer, he exercises precise control over both the storytelling and artistic aspects of his craft. He has worked with some of the biggest names in entertainment, and his exceptional talent behind the camera has earned him a myriad of awards from some of the most prestigious institutions in the business. His work with a camera knows no boundaries in genre or format, and includes everything from feature length and short films, documentaries, dramas and comedies, to music videos for major artists and commercials Fortune 500 companies.

Bensimon began his training in Toronto, and before long earned a coveted place in the exclusive Budapest Cinematography Masterclass, a program funded by Kodak and taught by Vilmos Zsigmond. Zsigmond himself has had an enormous impact on the field, having won an Oscar for his work on Close Encounters of the Third Kind and a BAFTA for The Deer Hunter, as well as an Academy Award nomination for the latter film. During this period, Bensimon worked hand-in-hand with Zsigmond on the inimitable Woody Allen’s Melinda and Melinda.

You Might As Well Live, Bensimon’s first feature film as a cinematographer, was a dark comedy about a “loser” trying desperately to change his fortunes. The film also marked the first feature film collaboration between director Simon Ennis and Bensimon, and garnered praise from critics at publications such as Variety and The Toronto Star. The film stars Michael Madsen (Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill Vol. I & II), and won the award for “Most Interesting Film” at the Slamdance Film Festival where it premiered in 2009.

Having proven his innate ability to capture the essence and vision of a story on film, Simon Ennis once again chose Bensimon as the cinematographer on his film Lunarcy!.

The film premiered at the world renowned Toronto International Film Festival, and has since aired on television channels around the world.

Being that the film Lunarcy! is a documentary and the subjects aren’t actors, missing the right moment means the moment is lost, it can’t be fixed by calling another take. Bensimon had to be constantly aware of the subjects in order to catch them at their most earnest, and sometimes most vulnerable, moments.

“Although this film had a comic undertone, it was also filled with heartwarming moments,” Bensimon said when describing the challenges of the documentary. “As the cinematographer on such a documentary I had to make sure the camera was in the right place at the right time to capture these moments.”

Bensimon’s artistic vision behind the camera is perhaps best exhibited in The Long Autumn, a film set in a land where seasons last 10 years. Filmed entirely in a studio, he had to rely on his raw talent to portray a beautiful environment where the passing of seasons and years is completely fabricated, yet wholly immersive and believable.

“A climactic scene takes place just before winter sets in,” said Bensimon, describing his signature technique and unique visual approach. “To light the surreal set, I used blacks and deep blues to illustrate the darkness and the drama of the scene. The film was shot on Super 16 to give the images texture and grain.”

Bensimon again applied that vision in his work on The Death of Chet Baker, a dark film about the jazz icon’s mysterious death. Exhibiting his adaptive style, Bensimon filmed primarily on a handheld camera in low light to capture the haunting mood.

His critically-acclaimed work is by no means limited to his work on films, however. He’s been receiving recognition and praise for his cinematography and directorial work on music videos for nearly a decade, and has been credited on more than 25 videos for international recording artists. Among those musicians is Grammy and Juno Award winner Nelly Furtado; Bensimon exhibited his diverse talent for cinematography in Furtado’s video, Spirit Indestructible.

Bensimon’s cinematography in the video for Canadian artist Kreesha Turner’s hit song Rock Paper Scissors was also nominated for a MuchMusic Video Award in 2012.

In addition to this immense catalog of work, Bensimon has also served as both director and cinematographer on dozens of commercials and advertising campaigns. Notably, his work directing and filming the hilarious Canadian Zombie short film, promoting the Canadian Film Festival, earned him one gold and two silver medals across three categories from the Advertising and Design Club of Canada. The promo also made the short list for the Cannes Lions, the branch of the Cannes Film Festival that awards filmmakers of advertisements; the Cannes Lions festival has been referred to as the world’s biggest ad-film festival.

His immense commercial resume also includes gold medal-winning work on several public service announcements for the World AIDS Organization, as well as both director and cinematographer credits on advertising campaigns for massive international companies such as Walmart, Honda, Mazda, Pizza Hut, Burger King, Budweiser, Tylenol, Bayer, Hitachi, Keurig and Hershey’s, just to name a few.

Nobody else in the field today can match Jonathan Bensimon’s cinematography chops. He is without a doubt one of the most talented and prolific filmmakers in the business, and his credits and commendations are sure to multiply exponentially over the coming months. Most importantly, Bensimon has exhibited a rare and masterful ability to produce work that is at times commercial, at other times entertainment, but no matter the project, his work without exception possesses the touch of a visionary and an artist.

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Sought After Film Editor Andres Vergara Lends His Talents to “Stray Dog”

Andres Vergara
Film editor and VFX artist Andres Vergara

Over the past few years Andres Vergara has worked as an editor and VFX artist on some of the biggest films alongside some of the industry’s biggest names.

A citizen of both Canada and Mexico, Vergara moved to Vancouver in his youth to pursue his career as an editor and visual effects artist in the film industry. Today he has edited and produced visual effects for films featuring Academy Award winners Denzel Washington (Safehouse), Liam Neeson (Battleship) and Mickey Rourke (Immortals).

As a VFX artist, Vergara has also been tapped to lend his expertise to blockbuster titles such as Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1 and the 2011 prequel/reboot of John Carpenter’s classic sci-fi/horror masterpiece The Thing.

Although Vergara has clearly become a sought after talent for big budget feature films, his latest project, Stray Dog, took him back to the format that originally established his presence in the industry – documentary film.

Stray Dog is a “portrait of the life” of Vietnam veteran Ron “Stray Dog Hall, and was recently shown at the New York Film Festival and BFI London Film Festival. The film won Best Documentary at the Los Angeles Film Festival, and was nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the Independent Spirit Awards as well.

“The documentary makes a strong social commentary on America, and modern society, without the need to explain or narrate things to viewers,” Vergara said. “Rather, the film lets audiences draw their own conclusions about the events and gives viewers a unique opportunity to find their own angle on it.”

Vergara worked hand-in-hand with Stray Dog director Debra Granik to select shots, edit sequences and classify scenes from the hours of footage shot in Branson, Missouri and Mexico City.

“Granik was very clear on what she was trying to find, and she communicated her vision and ideas in a way that was profound enough for me to understand the core idea of the documentary,” Vergara said.

For Vergara, editing has been an especially gratifying experience.

“To me, the privilege of being the first viewer of a project, while also making substantial decisions with the director on which scenes have to stay or go, is a hugely rewarding process to be a part of,” Vergara said.

But the talented editor hasn’t married himself to a single genre. Instead, he’s fluidly moved between non-fiction (documentary) and fiction throughout his career, which has allowed him to diversify his talents and excel far beyond those who play it safe and remain in the same genre.

“My experience in both genre’s has constantly proven to me that there is a big reward, and competitive edge, to know the rules of both games, which has lead me to exciting projects and opportunities,” Vergara said.

One of those exciting projects was the gritty, action-packed film Safehouse. Directed by multi-award winning director Daniel Espinosa who is known for the films Easy Money and Child 44 (Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace), Safehouse was set in Cape Town, South Africa, and starred two-time Oscar Award winner Denzel Washington (American Gangster, The Book of Eli, Training Day) and Ryan Reynolds (Green Lantern, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Smokin’ Aces).

As a lead VFX artist for Safehouse, Vergara seamlessly added a full crowd of people into a partially empty South African soccer stadium. He used real footage instead of CGI, which added a level of excitement and a layer of realism to the sequence that CGI could not have accomplished in such a seamless manner.

Vergara also worked as a lead VFX artist on the CGI-heavy blockbuster film Immortals. Based on Greek-mythology, Immortals was directed by iconic Indian director Tarsem Singh (The Cell, Mirror Mirror, The Fall) and starred Academy Award winner Mickey Rourke and Henry Cavill (Man of Steel, Stardust).

Shot almost entirely on green screen, Immortals took full advantage of Vergara’s talents as a VFX artist to achieve the overall stunning look audiences experienced on the screen.

But Vergara’s favorite project so far has been Stray Dog.

“The narrative of the film was structured unlike few, if any, other documentaries ever done,” Vergara said.

Andres Vergara’s refined talents as an editor and VFX artist promise to keep him successfully working in the industry for years to come; and, thanks to his ability to handle diverse projects with ease, his career will continue to be one that is assuredly dynamic in scope.

The Producer Behind “Shaya” Prepares for the Release of Two Upcoming Features

Amir Noorani (left) and Mike Gut (right) at the 2013 CAAM Film Festival
        Amir Noorani (left) and Mike Gut (right) at the 2013 CAAM Film Festival

Using his background in finance along with his creative talents as a filmmaker himself, producer Mike Gut knows how to make a winner. As a producer with Oracle Film Group, Gut recently produced the upcoming films Timber the Treasure Dog and Cowboys vs Dinosaurs, which are set for release this year.

Timber the Treasure Dog, which is being distributed by Archstone Distribution, the company responsible for distributing mega-hits such as Machete, The Rum Diary and For the Love of Money, follows a young boy and his talking pup as they embark on a hunt for grandpa’s hidden treasure in an effort to save the family home from foreclosure.

Out of all of the films Gut has produced Timber the Treasure Dog was a game-changer in this talented producer’s career. He says, “Timber the Treasure Dog was my favorite so far. The reason being is that it was the hardest film I’ve made to date, which ultimately made it that much more rewarding to pull off.”

When it came to the challenges, Gut says that they shot the film under strict time constraints with all of the actual filming taking place in a time span of less than three weeks, additionally the film’s cast included three dogs and two kids as lead actors, performers who are known throughout the industry for having unpredictable behavior on set.

“The old Hollywood adage that states– “never work with kids or dogs,” was on my mind the entire time, however I think we got lucky and had an amazing cast all around,” explains Gut.

Gut also played a huge role in another of this year’s highly anticipated flics, Cowboys vs Dinosaurs. Shot in Montana, the perfect location for a story set in the wild west, the film stars Eric Roberts, Vernon Wells, Sarah Malakul Lane and Rib Hillis. A high-energy action packed sci-fi film, Cowboys vs Dinosaurs revolves around a group of prehistoric dinosaurs that come to life after a catastrophic mining accident and the band of cowboys and girls who will stop at nothing in order to send them back to where they came from.

As the Executive Producer and Producer of Cowboys vs Dinosaurs and Timber the Treasure Dog, Mike Gut has devoted the last year and a half to helping perfect these films to a place worthy of Hollywood critics and international audiences. But this isn’t Gut’s first rodeo; if anyone knows how to make an award-winning film it’s him.

Shaya, one of the first films he produced, along with Eric Bergemann, was an instant success on the international film festival circuit.

Directed by Amir Noorani, Shaya is loosely based on the perplexing experience of an Afghani refugee family Noorani helped move to the United States several years ago. While the story in the film includes a cast of characters with different circumstances and ethnicities compared to those in the event Noorani previously witnessed, Shaya raises similar questions concerning morality and the migratory experience many face when moving to a new land.

The film follows a tribal Pakistani refugee family who move to Los Angeles in hopes of escaping the trauma of war-torn Pakistan; however, they instead discover that moving to a new country brings an entirely new set of challenges, making them long for their former home.

Gut says, “We wanted to bring light to an authentic true story that was gripping to all of us who were involved in making the film, as well as deliver a transformational experience to the audience.”

A testament to Mike Gut’s skill as a producer, and the entire team behind Shaya, the film was chosen as an Official Selection at the Figari Film Festival in Italy, the LA International Short Film Festival, the Hawaii International Film Festival, the San Francisco Asian American Film Festival, the Sedona International Film Festival, the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, the Champs-Elysees Film Festival and the Bel-Air Film Festival. Shaya was also a finalist at the Academy Qualifying USA Film Festival in Texas, and took home the Platinum Remi Award (1st Place) at the Worldfest Houston International Film Festival, as well as Second Place at the Athens International Film & Video Festival, among other awards.

For Gut, the magic of producing lays in the fact that he is able to have a hand in every phase a film goes through on its way to the screen.

He admits, “Nothing makes me happier than when I’m on set. When I used to make films as a hobby on the weekends, I remember thinking– If I could get paid to do this, it would just be icing on the cake. It’s really rewarding to read a good script and eventually see that script come to life.”

It is also interesting to note that in addition to producing, Mike Gut has appeared in several of the films he’s produced including Shaya and Timber the Treasure Dog, as well as worked as the director of the film Unfair and Imbalanced, which he produced as well.

Sofar so good: Estefania Sequeira on the best-kept secret music movement

Ever wonder what it’s like to be one of the behind-the-scenes people in one of the most behind-the-scenes movements happening today?

Estefania Sequeira happens to be one of those very cool people. For the past few years now, Sequeira, an editor for film and music videos, has helped shape Sofar Sounds, an underground music event that’s spreading at the speed of, well, sound.

Sofar Sounds
      Estefania Sequeira capture the magic of a Sofar Sounds’ event

The movement’s formula is basic, but brilliant. Sofar Sounds brings together a group of people in a small space, for example someone’s backyard, living room or even a desolate barn out in the sticks, where attendees share the similar desire to listen to really, really good live music.

Whether it’s the result of social media and its lack of human contact, the quick and cheap downloadable tracks of our time that leave people craving real raw sound, or all those packed festivals that went on for days and days and days— for music lovers, Sofar Sounds is a grassroots breath of fresh air that offers the close-knit community experience that has been so hard to find in the modern age.

For those who have missed the global phenomenon to date, this isn’t your catchy Groupon gimmick. The story of how Sofar Sounds started is repeated just about every time the name is mentioned. This lends even more to its lore, which goes like this:

Sofar Sounds began in London in 2009, when three friends—Rafe Offer, Rocky Start and Dave Alexander—went to a pub to hear Friendly Fires, a band whose debut album the year before had cast them into success. But when these three music-loving friends got the chance to hear the amazing band—it was in front of an awful crowd.

Recalling that night, Sofar Sounds founder Rafe Offer, who is actually a Chicago native, tells the Wall Street Journal, “Rocky, Dave and I all could not believe that this superb band was playing their hearts out and yet half the room was busy talking about other things, fondling phones or clanging drinks.”

Of the guys, Dave Alexander was, himself, a musician, who invited a few friends over to his London flat to try out some of his new songs. The atmosphere at that event was so markedly different, and better, than the night at the pub that these guys decided to host another one just like it.

It didn’t take long for their idea to take off—and land overseas. One of the first major cities to latch on was San Francisco, where film editor Estefania Sequeira, a life-long music lover who earned her BFA in Motion Pictures and Television, helped firmly implement Sofar Sounds in the US.

Already making music videos, Estefania’s editing skills and knowledge of the area’s music culture made her the perfect person to translate the founders’ idea—which, remember, is meant to introduce good music beautifully.

In a way Estefania Sequeira jumpstarted Sofar Sounds SF using her background in editing to shoot and cut videos of the group’s events, among other things. “I’ve worn many different hats, as I’ve been very involved from the beginning stages,” Sequeira explains. “I was there in San Francisco when it was first starting out. I was the video production supervisor, as well as a videographer and editor. In Vancouver I took more of a leading role and managed the whole event while also being very involved in the video production.”

In addition to the San Francisco and Vancouver, Canada branches, she has also participated in some events in Costa Rica. Definitely a labor of love, Sofar Sounds requires a lot of amazing people to make these secret music events happen. Money has never been a big issue as the events are financed by attendee donations, which pay the production staff, including great talents like Estefania Sequeira, and also covers the cost of the beer, wine, and refreshments served.

Using cell phones and other recording devices is usually discouraged during the gigs, so having someone like Sequeira, a trained videographer and editor, there to record the acts and putting out excellent quality videos of Sofar concerts is incredible. Those videos will be the only chance most people ever get to see these gigs, since the number invited to attend is so low.

However, even though Sofar Sounds’ attendees are hand picked, it’s worth the effort and so much fun to try and gain acceptance. First go onto the Sofar Sounds website and sign up for the newsletter. Pick a city (again, with the popularity there’s bound to be one nearby) and fill out a brief survey. Yes, survey—to determine if you’ll be selected to attend.

The locations are kept secret until hours before. Even the performers’ names are not usually disclosed. For those invited to attend, they arrive and are guaranteed an unforgettable music experience. For those performing, it’s a chance to gain new fans as well as make contacts with other musicians. Sofar is about really cool people, like Estefania Sequeira, who love good music and want to hear it, rather than watch a mass of phone screens float in the darkness of a crowded club.

Sofar Sounds
                                       One of Sofar Sounds’ events in San Francisco shot by Estefania Sequeira

Half-Korean and half-Costa Rican, Estefania describes how the movement is universal at its core. She says, “I think people love how global it is. How you can experience the same event in different parts of the world. Also, both the musicians and the guests relate to the respect for music that Sofar Sounds represents.”

So what once was known as “Songs from a Room” has morphed into Sofar Sounds. And what once was a room in a London flat has grown into a worldwide movement.

Sequeira, who continues to also work full-time on her documentary films and music video projects as well as with the movement, says Sofar should never lose its essence, the closeness to the music and to others.

“People love Sofar Sounds because of how intimate it is and because of the music you’re able to discover through it,” she says. “It will always hold a special place in my heart. It’s a truly special community to be a part of.”

Producer Meric Aydin Unveils His Highly Anticipated Upcoming Projects

Meric Aydin
Producer Meric Aydin

Visionary producer Meric Aydin has displayed a keen eye and untiring work ethic through his work on projects such as the critically acclaimed Zayiat. While Zayiat did incredibly well on the international film festival circuit being chosen as an Official Selection of the 2013 SXSW Film Festival, the International Film Festival of Colombo in Sri Lanka, and the !f Istanbul International Independent Film Festival, Aydin’s upcoming projects are set to be his most ambitious yet.

As a producer, Aydin is heavily involved in every aspect of a production, giving him a great deal of responsibility for and influence on every production to which he lends his name.

“The producer is the person who’s with the project from the beginning to the very end, doing whatever it takes to achieve production and release,” Aydin explained about his work. “I genuinely enjoy every stage.”

Working from behind the scenes, Aydin’s mastery of the filmmaking process ensures his projects run like a Swiss clock. This year will mark the release of two highly anticipated feature films from Eclectic Pictures, both bearing Aydin’s distinct touch. The first, Septembers of Shiraz, is a thriller with a backdrop of political turmoil. The film centers on a Jewish family in Tehran after the Iranian Revolution, and their lives following the fall of the Shah. Septembers of Shiraz will feature an all-star cast, including Salma Hayek (Frida, Once Upon a Time in Mexico) and Adrien Brody who received an Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in The Pianist.

Also set for release later this year is Frankenstein, a project in which Aydin played a critical role in getting off the ground, and one that is sure to terrify audiences. A contemporary metamorphosis of Mary Shelley’s classic novel led by director Bernard Rose (Candyman), whose work has been known to give millions of people nightmares, for fans of the horror genre the new Frankenstein will undoubtedly be on the top of list of films to see this year.

As for lovers of films riddled with suspense, Meric Aydin recently began the first phases of production on The Census Taker, a film destined to keep audiences on the edge of their seats. Inspired by the classic style of Alfred Hitchcock, this enthralling mystery follows a wealthy New York couple who find the body of a real estate developer in their apartment. When a census taker arrives at the house and witnesses the scene, a police investigation ensues, but the plot begins to thicken when the census taker disappears. The Census Taker is being produced by Eclectic Pictures.

With his experience touring the festival circuit, it’s fitting that one of Aydin’s most ambitious productions yet is set in Cannes. Du Cap follows a former paparazzo as she is called back for one final job covering the famed Cannes Film Festival. Staying in the glitzy Hotel Du Cap and reporting undercover, she becomes wrapped up in a series of events, which culminate in the murder of a star. Aydin will be working with producer Heidi Jo Markel (Olympus Has Fallen, As I Lay Dying) on Du Cap, which is being produced by Eclectic Pictures as well.

As he has climbed the ladder to the top of the film industry Meric Aydin has proven that he is the kind of producer that makes successful films, but beyond success Aydin is dedicated to making pictures that bare a deeper meaning.

“I’d like to achieve the creative power to tell thought provoking stories that bring up issues of misrepresented people, topics that are controversial to deal with and causes that we all care about; environment, animal welfare and poverty alleviation. I also wish to add to these exciting and engaging storytelling,” said Aydin.

Aydin’s interest in political, philosophical and humanitarian issues is apparent in both his work, as well as his personal life. In his native Turkey, Aydin volunteered with the philanthropic organization UNIRC where he taught children about cinematography and helped to cultivate the next generation of filmmakers.

Aside from Aydin’s upcoming film projects, he is also working on an hour-long television drama called Reminiscence. Proof that his talents extend beyond producing; Aydin was honored by the renowned Final Draft Big Break Competition where he was selected as a quarterfinalist for Reminiscence, which he wrote and plans to produce next year.

Reminiscence tells the story of a dystopian society where memory implantation and extraction have become so widespread that people no longer know what version of the past is true. The story follows a dissenting faction of the futuristic society that is dedicated to discovering and exposing the lost truth. Through the narrative Aydin explores the motif of censorship. “The general debate is a philosophical one: should you tell the truth no matter what, or should you restrain it,” said Aydin in a recent interview.

As for the future, Aydin said, “My plan is to raise the bar for filmmaking; as innovations occur, I am constantly learning new ways of doing our business. I’m open to improvements and I’d like to see opportunities in what some call cable cutting. The Internet came and started converging with how we are living in every way, and this has inescapably reflected upon our industry. Now if a film can’t find a place in movie theatres for one reason or the other, they can always go to VODs. And this doesn’t mean the traditional is going to decay forever. It is all about content; great stories will always be great stories. The main point is who tells those stories. Successful creators and content makers will define that by who they go to. And I would like to be that person that they go to.”

Talented Cinematographer Brings the Film “Dirty Laundry” To Life

Cinematographer Guy Pooles
             Cinematographer Guy Pooles shot by Michel Copeland Toft

A common theme among many Los Angeles transplants is a desire to make it big in one aspect or another of the film industry. Whether it is because they were a big fish in a small pond who have been told since they were young that they belong on camera, or they have worked their whole life to be accepted as a filmmaker in Hollywood, there is so much more to film than just being talented in one’s creative field; film is a collaboration between countless departments who must individually put their egos aside in favor of the story they are creating for the audience.

For internationally respected cinematographer Guy Pooles, this foundational aspect of filmmaking is basic knowledge; and, the process as a whole is something that allows for a level of fulfillment that far surpasses anything that stems from ego-driven motives.

According to Pooles, “Cinema is a fusion of many different art forms, from writing, to music, to costume design and so on. Good cinema is brought into being by every one of those crafts working in harmony to achieve a collective vision.”

An incredible asset to every production to which he lends his name, and believe me, there have been many as he has worked non-stop over the last five years in both the UK and the United States, Pooles is the kind of cinematographer who is not only able to bring stories to life in an extraordinary manner, but he is also heavily conscious of how is work will blend with the work of each and every other department in the final product, the mark of a true collaborative genius. He explains this necessary attitude toward filmmaking by saying, “If I’m too preoccupied with how I’m lighting a scene to notice how it destroys the subtlety of a set design, or how it distracts from an actor’s performance, then a couple of audience members might leave the cinema saying “I liked the lighting” but no one will be saying “I liked the film”.”

Originally from England, Guy Pooles reached international acclaim after working as the cinematographer on the film Dirty Laundry, which was released in 2013. Directed by Aaron Martinez (Substrata), Dirty Laundry received incredible praise, as well as an impressive list of awards last year at film festivals around the world. To name a few, Dirty Laundry garnered an award from the Directors Guild of America for Outstanding Directorial Achievement, a Golden Starfish Award at the Hampton’s International Film Festival, as well as was an Official Selection at the BUSTER Children’s Film Festival Copenhagen, LA Shorts Fest and the DC Shorts Film Festival, and a Special Mention Award at the Oberhausen International Short Film Festival. Pooles was also honored on an individual level for his cinematography work on the film with the Linwood Dunn Heritage Award from the American Society of Cinematographers.

A beautifully shot film, Dirty Laundry follows a young boy named Sam (Zander Faden) as he traverses his beyond heartbreaking childhood full of real life bullies and those of which only he can see like that of the laundry monster. After Sam’s father abandons his family, and Sam’s mother falls into a dark and paralyzing depression, the young boy is forced to fend for himself on every level from the unrelenting bullies at school to the monster inside the ever piling dirty laundry within the basement. The level of collaboration and creativity that went into Dirty Laundry all the way down to the way the team managed to bring the laundry monster to life is staggering. Using miscellaneous clothing pieces, all of which were chosen by color and texture in order to fit the film’s palette, and a hand & rod puppet that required three performers to operate, they miraculously brought the laundry monster to life in a way that was not only believable, but frighteningly beautiful as well.

Shamim Seifzadeh, the production designer on Dirty Laundry, says, “I removed the common purpose from each piece of clothing, only to re-assign them to the monsters body parts. In the end, pants became the head; back pockets became his eyes; a zipper became his mouth; and socks became his fingers…. The final design concept became a giant, hunch-backed creature. His weight would not allow him to run fast but his sheer size made him intimidating. It is important to note that the Laundry Monster isn’t evil, but rather, misunderstood.”

Pooles used his expertise as the film’s cinematographer to create a dark and eerie atmosphere within the film that fully supports Sam’s mother’s debilitating depression and the cold world Sam lives in by using little, if any, artificial light. The film is shot solely from Sam’s point of view, a choice that posed challenges, but ultimately made Dirty Laundry a riveting masterpiece that allowed the audience to feel Sam’s struggle and experience his reality with little effort.

In reference to the technical cinematographic decisions that went into the film Pooles recalls, “Our first rule was that the camera would always be at the exact eye- height of Sam… This meant that when the other characters of the film towered over Sam in height, they were towering over the camera, and thus, the audience too. Another tool we utilized was to maintain the relative distance of objects and other characters. So if Sam sees something that’s on the other side of the room from him, the camera will then observe it from the other side of the room.”

While these elements combined to create the film’s general perspective as it unfolds before the audience, there was another more philosophical approach that went into providing the film with its capacity to touch the audience emotionally.

“The strongest tool we utilized was the notion of Pathetic Fallacy, where we render the world surrounding Sam, not how it would realistically appear, but rather how it feels to Sam. Examples of us doing this were: lighting each scene to feel de-saturated and overcast, helping the audience to feel the lack of warmth and colour in Sam’s life,” explains Pooles. “We would also often place Sam in a frame so that he was very small in relation to his empty environment, allowing the audience to understand the extent of the isolation that he feels.”

An even greater testament to this talented young Englishman’s auteur is the fact that Pooles wrote the film in addition to working as its cinematographer, no small feat, but one he seamlessly accomplished as proven by the shear number of awards the film received. Aside from Pooles’ work on Dirty Laundry, he has worked as the cinematographer on the films Happenstance, Martha, Jobe, What Must Be Done. What The Monkey Saw, Wake, Chronophobia, as well as the music video for Bryarly’s hit song ‘In The Bright Daylight’ and the documentary Best of The Pacific Northwest.

Guy Pooles is undoubtedly a cinematographer whose creative vision, backed by his highly specialized technical skills, will continue to impress for decades to come; and frankly, we can’t wait to see what he comes up with next!

 

Spotlight on Canadian Actor & Model Steven Van Nguyen

Canadian Actor and Model Steven Van Nguyen
Canadian Actor and Model Steven Van Nguyen photo by Marc Shultz and styling by Paul Langill

Originally from Waterloo, a small town in Ontario, Canada, Steven Van Nguyen rose to the top of the Canadian entertainment industry as an actor and a model several years ago. As an actor Steven has starred in the films The White Samurai, Deception, Checkmate, Add To Cart, M.E.G.O., Cheese The Musical and others, as well as an impressive list of commercials for companies including Canadian multinational coffee and doughnut restaurant chain Tim Hortons, Voxx Sports, Emerald City Condos, Mani Wonders, mobile game developer Emoteplay, OCMT College, and Clipter, a collaborative video stories app for Apple operating systems.

Steven played the starring role of Ryan in the dramatic Web series UNDERside, which was nominated for an Upper Year Script Award at the 56th Annual TARA Awards last year. Produced by V.O.P. Media, UNDERside centers on youths from different socioeconomic classes and seeks to reveal how the financial class one grew up in affects their overall outlook on life. Through Steven’s character Ryan audiences see how growing up wealthy without ever having to work can lead to ignorance and hinder one’s ability to create authentic relationships. Steven gave a stellar performance in the show where he starred alongside Lisa Lau (Covert Affairs, Purple Squirrels, Her Shadow, Poker Night, Broken Earth). 

Over the course of his career it has become clear that Steven has a look casting directors are dying to cast for a variety of roles, but more importantly he has shown through his work that he is a great actor with incredible versatility. Collectively, his projects span virtually every genre imaginable. While his uniquely handsome appearance is what helped Steven first break into the industry after he signed with Geoffrey Chapman Model & Talent Agency, which has received 24 consecutive Reader’s Choice Awards including the Award for Best Model & Talent Agency for the past three years, the young actor’s dedication to his craft is what has made him truly successful. Nguyen is also signed to Talent INK and MoonStar Management.

In 2013, Steven Van Nguyen took on the role of the Demon in the horror noir film The White Samurai. Produced by Gorgeous Horror Entertainment and D.B. Films, The White Samurai is a film about a man who must break his oaths and reclaim his former identity as the White Samurai after his daughter is taken from her bed in the middle of the night. While the White Samurai will stop at nothing to rescue his beloved daughter, evil natured villains like the Demon, played by Steven Van Nguyen, challenge his tumultuous journey at every corner.

Steven admits, “My favorite role so far was playing the Demon in ‘The White Samurai’ because the role was solely based on my acting abilities and not on my looks. I was able to express freely without any restrictions from the director on how I thought my character should be portrayed from how he sounded to his little ticks.”

Not only did the role allow him to showcase his acting prowess without the limitations posed by the audience’s perception of his physical features, as he underwent 10 hours of prosthetic make-up before each shoot in an effort to make him look as evil as possible, but the role offered him the challenge he was looking for. He says, “I’m not a sadistic person so I had to really dig deep and find a memory in the past that made it possible to be an evil, sadistic character.”

In addition to his growing Canadian fan base, Steven Van Nguyen is in negotiations with Plaza 7 Talent and several other agencies for representation in the U.S., a move which guarantees audiences across the United States will be seeing a whole lot more of this talented young star.

Editing Alchemist Andrew Coutts

 Renowned film director David Fincher (Gone Girl, The Social Network, Zodiac) said in an article published by Den of Geek,“The best editors are alchemists. They’re equal parts poet and blacksmith. They can forge something – they make pieces go together that should never work. They can take footage that was intended for one thing, and use it to illuminate a whole new idea in a sequence that you maybe never conceived.” We couldn’t agree more.

Andrew Coutts
Editor Andrew Coutts

A film editor is a vital force in bringing the stories audiences see on the screen to life. Not only are they responsible for selecting the right shots and sequences out of hundreds, and sometimes, thousands of hours of footage, but they also decide the timing and pace of the story that unfolds before us.

Continually executing the aforementioned in a way that is seamless and virtually unnoticeable by the audience, the work of Canadian editor Andrew Coutts procures him a place among the world’s best editors. An alchemist in his own right, some of Coutts’ film work as an editor includes Saw V, Saw VI, Saw 3D: The Final Chapter, The Day, Nurse 3D, Altergeist, The Man Who Loved Flowers, Sequence, Anguish, Blood Sucking Bastards, Grizzly, 10:17, and the series Sleepy Hollow, The Line, Hungry, and more.

Andrew Coutts was the editor of the horror film Saw VI, the sixth installment of the seven-part Saw franchise. The film, which grossed an impressive $68,233,629 at the box office internationally, was nominated for two Most Memorable Mutilation Awards at the Scream Awards in 2010 for “The Pound of Flesh Trap” and “The Needle Trap” scenes.

“I had a lot of fun cutting the traps on the saw films, since they tend to be pretty visually intense and you can try some pretty fun techniques in editing as part of the scenes, jump cuts, flash frames, using off-speed camera ramps,” recalled Coutts.

Visually intense is a light description of the traps in Saw VI, they were down right horrifying, but after all that is the point. The way Coutts combines jarring sound effects and swift cuts during the film’s traumatic torture scenes effectively heighten the intensity to the point of making your heart feel like it might just jump out of your chest. The opening pound of flesh scene where Jigsaw’s most recent victims, Simone and Eddie, race the clock to see who will cut of the most flesh in order to survive is so frightening that I actually had to close my eyes at a point, and even then, the fluctuation and rapidity of the sound effects intermixed with the actors’ screams was enough to keep me squirming in my seat.

Coutts, who has been working as an editor for over 15 years, is above all passionate about bringing stories to life and he views editing as a powerful means for evoking reactions in his audience. “Whether it’s a tension filled horror scene where through editing and pacing we’ve built suspense and shock the audience with a scare moment, or putting together poignant performances from the actors that resonates emotionally with the audience, or a heart pounding action scene that is an exciting thrill ride, it’s all of these moments in editing that I love,” said Coutts.

Coutts also served as the lead editor on the final film in the Saw franchise, Saw 3D: The Final Chapter. The film grossed $136,150,434 at the box office internationally and was nominated for another Most Memorable Mutilation Award at the Scream Awards, this time for the “Reverse Bear Trap” scene, as well as an award in the horror movie category at the Teen Choice Awards. Once again Coutts used his exceptional eye as an editor to create a terrifying sequence of shots that was further intensified by the 3D element in the film.

“One of the biggest challenges on this film was finding a way to introduce 3D on both a creative and technical level into the already strongly stylistic Saw world. Shooting and editing a film in 3d brings certain requirements for brighter lighting and slower cutting than the Saw films typically had,” explained Coutts. “Working with the director and cinematographer we had to find a way to push the limits of 3D as far as we could to bring it as close in line as we could with the previous films looks.”

Putting his unparalleled talents as a horror editor on display, there is no doubt about it, Andrew Coutts nailed the mark on both Saw VI and Saw 3D: The Final Chapter, and we can not wait to see what he has in store for us next.

One of Mexico’s Brightest Stars, Actress Ale Fips!

Ale Fips
Mexican Actress Ale Fips

Originally born in Guadalajara, Mexico, actress Ale Fips began her career on some of the most prestigious stages in Mexico at the age of 8. The young Fips was first chosen to work with the International Book Festival known as the FIL, with which she performed for four years putting on a new a play each season for audiences in the hundreds.

Ale Fips got her first big break when she was cast in the starring role of Princess Nadia in the musical theatre production of “El Príncipe Rana,” also known as “The Frog Prince,” when she was barely 16-years-old. The production follows Princess Nadia, a spoiled young girl who loses a golden ball in the water, as she begins to cry a mysterious frog appears and promises to return her prized possession as long as she promises to let him live in the palace from then on. The princess agrees, but quickly forgets her promise until the frog appears at the palace as an honored dinner guest later that night. The moral of the story revolves around honoring one’s promises, as well as not judging others by their outer appearance a point which is furthered by the fact that frog turns into a prince towards the end of the story.

Ale Fips proved her tenacious dedication to her craft as she continually wowed audiences in her portrayal of Princess Nadia over the course of the production’s three season run in Mexico. While “El Príncipe Rana” proved the power of Fips’s magnetic stage presence as an actress, the production also gave her the opportunity to vocalize her impressive range as a singer, an asset to the production that kept audiences coming back over and over again. “El Príncipe Rana” was performed in several theaters in Guadalajara including Foro de Arte y Cultura de Guadalajara, Centro Cultural Jaime Torres Bodet, and Guadalajara Teatro del IMSS.

Ale Fips
Ale Fips as Princess Nadia in “El Príncipe Rana”

Some of Ale Fips’s other theater productions include “Monstruos El Musical” where she played the role of Dr. Jekyll’s daughter Belinda, “La Mulata de Cordova” where she played the starring role of La Mulata, “Fondo De Cultura Económica” where she played the role of Maya, as well as many others. While Fips’s dynamic abilities as both an actress and a singer have made her a highly sought after talent for high profile musical theater productions, her abilities have also made her an integral actress on some of the most popular television shows in Mexico.

“I moved to Mexico City when I was 18 because I was cast for the Latin version of High School Musical on TV Azteca. It was an amazing experience; we were on primetime television for five months on Canal 13, TV Azteca’s most popular channel,” recalled Ale Fips. “Then I continued my career in theater until I was called to start working on La Rosa de Guadalupe on Televisa.”

Ale Fips played several leading roles in the hit series La Rosa de Guadalupe, a dramatic anthology series that began in 2008 and continues to bring high viewership ratings today. Fips has starred in eight episodes of the series including “La Luz de la Verdad,” “La Semilla del Bien,” “Perdonar con Amor,” “Vivir en Paz,” “Con pies de Plomo,” “Donde está el Sol,” as well as others.

Now in her early 20s, the actress has advanced her craft with leaps and bounds and has come to be recognized throughout Mexico for her diverse acting skills. Fips is currently working on the production of “Judgment on A Gray Beach” where she will play the starring role of Leni. The production is scheduled to open at New York’s renowned La MaMa theater in 2015.

Editor Vladimir Boboshin Proves that Passion Fuels Success

Vladimir Boboshin
             Film and Commercial Editor Vladimir Boboshin

Originally from Moscow, Russia, film and commercial editor Vladimir Boboshin has taken the film and advertising industries by storm with his unparalleled ability to create captivating stories from raw footage.

“Editing film, regardless of the genre and form, is very much like assembling a jigsaw puzzle, with one major difference: you don’t have a reference picture. You find pieces that match together and then find their neighbors and so on,” explains Vladimir. “I like to see how the story shapes up out of the chaos.”

Vladimir Boboshim is supremely talented; anyone who can make an Ikea commercial touch audiences on an emotional level deserves some serious attention and praise, thankfully the numerous awards his productions have received speak for themselves. In an industry where behind the scenes contributors rarely get the attention they deserve, Vladimir Boboshin has managed to make a name for himself as one of the advertising industry’s most sought after editors.

Some of his editing work in the commercial world includes Coca-Cola’s “Olympics,” “Exam,” “Christmas,” “Open Up for Happiness” and “Rucheyok,” Canon’s “Stolen”, “Handover” and “Breach,” 20 commercials for Ikea, 11 commercials for Nestle, four commercials for Road Safety Russia, one of which entitled “Belt” received the Grand Prix Award at the Meribel Ad Festival and the Gold Award at the Road Safety Film Awards, and many more. Vladimir also worked as the editor of the Russian comedy series Univer, where he edited 99 episodes, and the show Nasha Russia, where he edited 74 episodes. He was also the editor for the promo-trailers for the films Silent Souls, High Security Vacation, and The Practice of Beauty.

While Vladimir has developed an effective style in editing commercials for advertisers whose main goal is to sell their products, he is not pigeonholed in his talents, something proven by the vast spectrum of his work. He has managed to create a portfolio of work that is both impressive and diverse, something he partially attributes to the fact that he is from another country.

“I’m bilingual and I‘ve worked with so many different people from all over the world, so over the course of my career I’ve learned to see and understand different visual styles and work ethics,” says Vladimir. “Many Hollywood editors haven’t been exposed to the same variety of international approaches as I have, because here in the US the work is more channeled. You get pigeonholed into a category – like car editor or comedy editor – and then most of your work only comes from those areas.”

As the post-production supervisor of the multi-award winning film Franz + Polina, Vladimir was in charge of overseeing the work of an entire team of editors, a feat he accomplished with ease. The film received three awards at the Avanca Film Festival, the Gold FIPA Award at Biarritz International Festival of Audiovisual Programming, the Golden Frog at Camerimage, the Magnolia Award at the Shanghai International TV Festival, among others.

The ability to successfully manage an entire team of professional editors comes down to more than just being technically astute in the field, it requires a certain type of personality. Being a talented editor by no means equates to being a people person with strong communication skills, but Vladimir is one editor who does happen to have these traits.

He explains, “The most definitive experience I got from large-scale projects was the importance of communication and soft control. With so many creative egos involved arguments are inevitable and my role oftentimes was to channel the argument into a positive flow so the parties involved come to an agreement and everyone is satisfied in the end.”

One aspect of Vladimir Boboshin’s journey as an editor that is incredibly unique is the fact that he didn’t undergo any formal education in order to break into the industry. However, that is not to say that he hasn’t spent years training himself in the tools of the trade, and when it comes to working as an editor in the film industry one must be a master of these tools.

“I never had any formal training or mentoring before I become an editor. All of my studies were on the job in the heat of the moment and there was no one to help,” admits Vladimir. “As for film language, one can learn as much as he is willing to, I think this sphere of knowledge depends on the person. I believe that the real way to hone one’s craft in the industry happens on the job, bit by bit.”

And that is just how Vladimir did it, bit by bit he managed to learn and master the same tools that took most other editors several years to figure out. Vladimir is proof that when a person’s passion is what fuels them to achieve their goals, obstacles begin to seem less daunting and instead become exciting challenges and a means to improve.