Category Archives: Filmmakers

FILMMAKING WITH TALENT AND HEART: ZHENG HUANG

The role of producer is about money and schedules, correct? In its most simplistic terms, yes but it’s also about much more than that. For Zheng Huang it’s about art, personal connection, and the bonds that tie us to each other. While that might sound overly emotional, one should remember that we are dealing with the artist temperament; they are known to investigate feelings. A producer is the boss of a production. Everyone has experienced a boss who is only concerned with the bottom line as well as the one who is interested in you performing your job with excellence because you are happy to be there. Huang is very much the later. Every producer has a budget, schedules, etc., the nuts and bolts of their job. Approaching their role from an emotionally inspiring place is just as vital as a cinematographer who looks for the moving aesthetic in the frame (rather than one who simply makes sure everything is in focus). This approach is as intuitive as breathing for Zheng, which is likely why he has become such a sought after producer. Often the difference between good and great is how much you care; Zheng Huang cares a great deal.

Upon returning for the Cannes Film Festival, where his film “Lost” had been presented, Huang was interviewed about this by Neo. Neo was not only the host of an interview show but is also a director. Neo was instantly appreciative of Zheng’s passion for film and his unique perspective, so much that he enlisted him to take on the role of producer for his film “Never mind I Remember.”

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The film details the plight of a family who is forced to deal with an all too familiar difficulty in life. When seventy-year-old Lily loses her husband Frank to a heart attack, her son Jackie comes to her aid. He discovers very soon that his mother is dealing with a very acute case of Alzheimer’s. While Lily struggles to deal with her own constant sense of disorientation and unfamiliarity with those around her, Jackie comes to terms that he must now be the caretaker for his mother and realizes (perhaps somewhat selfishly) the impact on his own life. While both deal with the loss of Frank, Lily deals with the confusion of why her husband is not with her. The film is acted with mastery and captured with the same level of excellence. In one of the most tender and heart breaking scenes, mother and son find themselves in the same tent they used to play in decades before as Lily asks her son when Frank will return and he replies, “Let’s wait for him together.”

Zheng was drawn to this intensely emotional story by the script as well as a personal connection. He shares, “My mom’s aunt has had Alzheimer’s disease for many years but her only child never comes back home to see her. Luckily, her husband takes care of her very well. Because of genetic inheritance of Alzheimer’s, my own mother worries that one day she will begin to show signs of this disease. I am her only child and she has fears about my being too busy to take care of her properly. When she told me these fears of hers, I realized that this is a very deep and powerful topic, one which I want to explore. The son in the story is MYSELF but also every single child who has a busy career and big ambitions. Alzheimer patients can be a big burden for their children but there is no option here. Our mothers are our caretakers, our protectors from the moment we first come into this world. I directly relate to the story of this film and I know that there are many other people who do also. I knew that I wanted to be a part of telling this story and it demanded to be told with the proper emotional lens.”

The vast majority of a producer’s work for any project is in coordinating and scheduling, there’s no denying this fact. Obtaining permits, scouting locations, casting, “connecting the dots” is the norm for producers in a wide variety of settings. The secret ingredient of Huang’s approach is his focus on the communication and relationships of those he is involved with on each project. Neo, director of “Never mind I remember” reveals, “I feel extremely fortunate to have had such an excellent producer as Zheng Huang on my film.  As we were preparing for the shoot, I was having some problems with my 1st AD. This person has also directed and was giving a great deal of unsolicited opinions about the shot list. When I approached Zheng about the situation he said, ‘Neo, I will always support you whatever the decision you make in the end. If you tell me you will fire the 1st AD one day before shooting, I will be your 1st AD if you need; whatever you need, I’ll be there. The most important thing is: you have to be happy with what you do. You have to create your film, not your 1st AD’s film, or anyone else’s.’ This stirred something in me and I was able to confidently move forward and resolve the issue with my 1st AD, which meant that the entire production would benefit as well. Instances like this prove how Zheng is so much more than your average producer or someone who schedules events.”

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When discussing his definition of a producer, there are many familiar tasks and terms that Huang uses to describe his day to day. There’s a verbiage that he has in common with his peers and then there is one word which he continually refers to that stands out; empathy. It’s not something that you often hear a producer discuss as part of their skill set and yet Zheng professes that it is an essential part of what makes him successful as a producer. For someone who works with artists every day, it seems an obvious trait; to those who work with this producer, it is obviously Zheng Huang.

Producer Melina Tupa helps change lives stories in Frontline’s ‘Rape on the Night Shift’

Melina Tupa is more than a filmmaker, she takes her role and knows how many people she can affect with her work. She adds the responsibility of being a journalist, telling harsh and real stories that need to be told, and she shares them with the world. Her commitment to her craft is outstanding, and her talent is unparalleled.

With experience in both producing and journalism, Tupa has emerged as a formidable documentary filmmaker. Last year, her film The Search captivated audiences and critics alike, a trend she is well familiar with throughout her established career. Her work with networks like Turner Broadcasting and Nonstop TV have seen similar success. These accolades, however, are not important when she is doing what she loves.

“I wanted to be a producer to be involved in all the aspects of the film. It is the only position where you can connect with all the other team members of a production. I always liked working with diverse groups and being a producer meant I could learn other skills from other production areas fairly easy. It is also a position where you can have a real impact on the final product. The producer is the thread that unifies and solidifies all the pieces of a documentary,” said Tupa.

Bernardo Ruiz, a Director and fellow Producer, worked alongside Tupa on the feature documentary The Gatherers, which has been funded by the Ford Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Sundance Documentary Institute. Ruiz was astounded by her talent, and is now looking at having her co-produce his upcoming feature documentary about California’s Napa Valley.

“Melina is an experienced and dedicated production staffer and researcher. She has an excellent reputation, having studied with some of the top documentary filmmakers in the business and I have gladly recommended her to other producers seeking top documentary talent. Not only does Melina have top tier formal training in journalism and documentary production, but she is also an experienced independent producer. Her ability to work on multiple fronts is a major asset to a production as are her language abilities, as she speaks, writes and can conduct research in at least three languages: English, Spanish and Portuguese,” said Ruiz.

Tupa’s investigate reporting and producing talent was evident once again with her work on the critically-acclaimed film Rape on the Night Shift. The chilling documentary looks into allegations of sexual abuse of immigrant women working in the janitorial industry and how companies handle the problem.

“These women who worked at the janitorial service to support their families had been raped and the perpetrators had gotten away with it. It was very important that their stories were widely known and that there could be structural changes in the janitorial service so these atrocious acts would never happen again,” said Tupa.

With her trilingual abilities aiding her, Tupa was approached by a producer on the film to come on board the project, knowing that speaking Spanish was key. Most of the main characters and interviewees on this story spoke in Spanish and it was crucial that whoever came on board could understand them. Tupa also assisted in pre-editing interviews, transcribing, and translating interviews, and assisting on overall production tasks. As documentary units are usually small, every person’s contributions are key to the success of a project, and every task is essential. Tupa’s work was no exception.

“I always wanted to work for the Investigative Reporting Program since it’s one of the most important journalism centers in the United States and the world. When I found they were working on this project in particular I knew I wanted to be part of the team,” Tupa described.

Many of the victims were undocumented immigrants, and they thought they had no rights because of this. However, once the documentary aired, the powerful story not only helped changed the lives of the victims that were interviewed, but the lives of thousands, as California law was changed to protect janitors like them from sexual violence and abuse on the job. The bill was inspired by the documentary, and Tupa could not be prouder of the part she played in impacting the lives of so many women.

“This was a very important story to tell. There were a lot of women suffering and these women never had an outlet to tell their stories before. So, I knew this documentary was going to be important and, in fact, after it aired it led to change in policy in the janitorial service,” said Tupa

The film premiered on June 23, 2015. It aired on PBS Frontline. You can also watch Rape on the Night Shift here.

 

Photo by Vanessa Arango Garcia

Producer Xueru Tang faces her fears, literally, in critically-acclaimed horror flick Emily

Xueru Tang’s life is making movies, and she loves every minute of it. Her work captivates international audiences, and her name is recognized all over the world. She is an extraordinary producer, and one of the best to recently come out of China.

While working on several esteemed projects, Tang has become an extremely sought-after producer. She has worked on films such as Locked, and Hot Pot Man. Both of these projects have gone on to do very well at several of the world’s most prestigious film festivals. However, what is perhaps the most decorated film of Tang’s career is the award-winning horror flick Emily.

“When I was asked to join the project, I was really interested. I love horror movies, but I always have trouble watching them because they scare me, so I really wanted to know how a horror movie was shot,” said Tang.

Directed by Jun Xia, the film tells the scary story of a woman named Emily. Emily dies giving birth at home after her husband, John, abandons her. However, she will have her revenge from beyond the grave when she returns as a ghost set on killing her widowed husband.

“I liked the script at first, it was short but it was interesting, and once I started working on the film, I began to really like the way the director told the story. He really caught the point at which everyone is frightened. It really made me scared. He really had his style and his visual for everything,” said Tang.

Tang was approached by co-producer Guannan Li to join the project. Li knew he needed a team of the best producers he could find, and having worked with Tang before, he knew she would be the perfect fit. Another producer on the film, Jingming Zhao, could not have agreed more.

“During development of the film, Xueru included her creative input for the film, and helped to polish the script, showcasing her creative abilities. She was responsible for renting equipment, creating and managing our budget and schedule, and making certain that this highly intensive work was made on our budget. Due to Xueru’s preeminent abilities as a creative thinker and a talented producer, she helped us to lay a foundation for the film, without which we would not have been nearly as successful. Of the many producers I have worked alongside, she is the most stand-out talent I can think of,” said Zhao.

Tang’s decisions for the film were very fruitful, as Emily has been a stand out at film festivals. After its premiere at the Los Angeles International Film Festival in August of 2015, it went on to be praised at the following festivals: Winner Best Horror Short Film – Hollywood Horror Festival 2015, Winner Best Short Film – Mad Town Horror 2015, Winner Best Horror Short – Hollywood Boulevard Film Festival 2016, Winner Best Student Horror Short – Hollywood International Moving Picture Film Festival 2016, Winner Best Student Horror Short – United International Film Festival 2016, Winner Best Director – Chandler International Film Festival 2016, Winner Official Selection Award – Chinese American Film Festival 2016, Official Selection London Digital Film Festival 2015, Official Selection International New York Film Festival 2015, Official Selection Full Bloom Film Festival 2015, Official Selection and Screening Big House Invitation Year One 2015, Official Selection Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival 2015, Official Selection Horror Short Video Contest 2015, Official Selection Los Angeles Short Film Festival 2016, Official Selection and Screening Holly Shorts Film Festival 2016, Official Selection AFMA Film Festival 2016, Official Selection and Screening Hanhai Studio 1st Short Film Festival 2016.

“When we won the first festival, we all super happy, and one by one, after like 10, to be honest, we all started to feel like ‘okay, this is normal,’” said Tang. “When we started winning the big festival, we felt happy of course. I felt like it showed how hard we worked and how good we are. When we work it can be a really hard time and not easy for all of us, but we studied from this production and we grew because of it.”

For a film to do so well over such an extended period of time, continuing to impress audiences and critics over a full year, shows just how good it is, and Tang was a big part of that. She dealt with the crew, worked on the budget, and was responsible for hiring a team that she knew could make the film the success it became. One role in particular that she tirelessly searched for was the cinematographer, as the director Jun Xia wanted someone he could work well with and share his vision. Tang spent months searching and interviewing candidates looking for that special director of photography. This effort led to finding the ideal match, and was vital for the film.

The team worked so well together, that they decided to embark on another horror film Inside Linda Vista Hospital, which production companies were eager to be a part of after Emily’s success. The second film has gone on to achieve similar feats at many film festivals, showing audiences all over the world why Tang is so good at what she does.

JUN XIA MANIFEST THE VISION OF “SHE GIVES ME SIGHT”

In spite of what the tabloids would have you believe, filmmaking is a team effort. While directors and actors are the faces of this mode of entertainment, the success of each production owes just as much to the talented professionals who perform their feats of magic and ability behind the camera. Think of it like this; if you order a fantastic meal but it isn’t handled properly or delivered properly…then it’s no good to you. Those whom the public never sees are as responsible for the gripping and endearing stories that we all love just as much as the marquee names we all know. Jun Xia may not be a household name but this editor is widely known and respected in the film industry. His editing has enabled the stories of fright (as in “Emily” and “Inside Linda Vista Hospital”), the touching stories of love and love lost (in “The Good Memory”), and of perseverance and the human spirit in “She Gives Me Sight.” This story of a young blind boy who is given a gift stronger than that of sight by a loving family member is the type of inspirational film that simultaneously evokes tears and admiration. Honored with multiple awards (at the Hollywood Boulevard Film Festival, Love Shorts Film Festival, LA underground Film Festival, and many others), “She Gives Me Sight” has a distinct pacing that is the result of Xia’s collaboration and planning with director Jiping Liu. When viewing the film, it is apparent that this approach is a major part of how the story is delivered and thus a result of its recognition in the film community.

“She Gives Me Sight” is a story about a little boy named Cecil whose life is full of bullying and darkness. Cecil was blinded in an accident and now lives with his grandmother in a small town. His only playground is the front yard of the old house in which they live. After little Cecil lost his sight, his grandmother decides to give Cecil love and light. Rather than treating him gently or with sympathy, she treats him more strictly than before. She continually asks him to help with simple housework. The neighborhood kids laugh at Cecil and taunt him. Although his grandmother is a witness to all of this, she doesn’t say anything about it. When a mishap occurs during these common house chores, Cecil breaks down. He is astonished that his grandmother does not take his situation into consideration and treat him differently than before he lost his sight. That night, she tells Cecil a bedtime story about a rose and a butterfly and how the rose promises to fight against the wind and keep blooming. Cecil dreams that night and understand that the story is about him and the rose’s story is his own. Three years later, Cecil became a successful author and writing a book named She Gives Me Sight about his childhood, and thanks his grandmother for teaching him to persevere and find his own way.

Because such a vast amount of the story is driven by narration and dialogue, Jun had copious discussions with the film’s director Jiping Liu in regards to how the editing might add to the story’s action. It was Xia’s contention that if the film were edited in exact correlation with the script, it would not achieve its full potential. In his mind, there was more happening in this story than what was directly stated. He explains his approach commenting, “I used the method of Parallel Montage in the film. I created it on the basis of a lot of dialogue and narration of the film, which made the overall movie more interesting. In this film, when the grandmother reads,  coaxing the blind boy to sleep, the imagination in the blind little boy’s mind, the imagination of him in childhood, and in the period of growing up were interspersed with editing. In addition, the things that occurred at different times and locations were edited together, which made the rhythm of this story more compact.”

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Jiping concedes, “Jun is a very smart when it comes to filmmaking, especially for editing. His approach is always well thought out and is about serving the message of the film. It was a great experience to work with such a fantastic film editor. Jun agrees noting, “I can’t overstate how important I feel that it is to be a modest filmmaker and editor. Receiving advice from others whom I respect about my own editing methods will only lead to increasing the integrity of the film.”

While a plethora of awards, nominations, and “official selection” accolades point to the widespread recognition of “She Gives Me Sight” by the film community, it’s the power that the film has on the individual when viewed that reveals its true impact. The film’s tone creates such a strong connection between the audience and young Cecil that it is almost unfathomable to think of its presentation as any other way. What Jun Xia and Jiping Liu created together is a moving and epic story of love overcoming life’s harsh blows. The rose that defies the wind can be found inside any of us; Jun Xia made certain that all viewers understand this lesson.

Production Designer Shuhe Wang contributes to the delightful horror of ‘Inside Linda Vista Hospital’

Making something from nothing is what all filmmakers achieve every day. They are creators, they are storytellers, and they are artists. Shuhe Wang knows this well. She takes the pages of a script and transforms them into sets. She creates a visual world, turning each nothing, such as a meaningless prop, into something, creating a masterpiece. She is a one-of-a-kind production designer.

While working on films such as Stay, Dancing for You, Red String, and Cartoon Book, audiences were given the opportunity to see Wang’s ability to transform a drama into a completely immersive experience, making it evident why she is considered one of the best. However, this past year, Wang has brought her extraordinary talent to a new genre: horror. Working on the film Inside Linda Vista Hospital, Wang’s production design skills were on full-display, helping to fully immerse audiences in the terrifying story.

“This is a classic horror style film, so I focused more on how to show and even amplify the emotion and tense by color, texture and overall set dressing. Even each small prop can be an important storytelling step. That quite an adventure for production designer,” said Wang.

Inside Linda Vista Hospital tells the story of a young girl who wakes up in a hospital surrounded by police covered in the blood of her boyfriend. With the help of a video camera, she slowly pieces together what happened, and she may not like what she finds.

“Horror stories are connected with our real lives, but with different point of view. I needed to find and create the elements to scare the audience and keep the emotion of the storyline in the right place, and at the same time the elements should make sense in the world.
Color and tone are always the most important parts in designing a horror story. Even a tiny subtle difference would affect the whole feeling of the set,” said Wang.

The film has gone one to do exceptionally well at some of the world’s most prestigious film festivals. It was an Official Selection at the Festival de Cannes Short Film Corner and the Pasadena International Film Festival, it won Best Director and Best Horror at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival, Best Editing at the United International Film Festival, and Film of the Year at the AFMA Film Festival of Young Cinema 2017.

“Horror story is always a popular style, but there are a bunch of these type of films that are terrible when it comes to actual storytelling, that is what divides a good horror film from a bad one. This film is a good one because it shows a tense, strong and simple story, which perfectly matches the horror genre, so I think the film totally deserves all those awards,” said Wang.

The production design directly contributed to the film’s success. She had to design in accordance to many special effects and stunt work, and the film is set in a true historical building, and the cultural importance of this influences the story in an important way. To make the set highlight this, she researched and applied this to her work.

“It was a dramatic and kind of emotional showing story. I watched a lot of classic experimental and psychology films to get more inspiration and insight into how to let the audience feel the inner world through the production design,” said Wang.

This commitment to both the genre and the film impressed all that worked alongside Wang on Inside Linda Vista Hospital. The director, Jun Xia, knew no one else could do the job but her.

Working with Shuhe was a great experience, she was familiar with each of the details of the whole story, and her plan for working was effective for the shooting process. Shuhe is sensitive with color and designing, and she knows how to create and decide the correct textile and color to present the emotion. That is actually a really important part of the horror genre,” said Xia.

Xia approached Wang to work on his film, knowing he needed the best to make the film the success that it eventually became. When he sent Wang the reference of the visual style, so knew she wanted to take part in the project, as it was quite similar to the style she always loves.

“I felt confident and interested in designing this film after talking about the film and the story. Jun is a talented horror film director, he is always enthusiastic, and he is really insistent on what he wants which is good for making a great film,” Wang said. “What I really liked was how I could see how the set dressing worked so well when the lights and performance came together. It makes the visual complete and seemed like we accomplish the original idea of the director.”

There are many nuances to production design that are easy to get lost in the big picture of a film, but with Wang as the designer, audiences are sure to take in each and every part of it.

Editor Minghao Shen talks impactful new film ‘Cartoon Book’

Only someone that truly loves what they do can enjoy it the way that Minghao Shen enjoys film editing. His understanding of his craft and his commitment to the artistic elements of it allow him to excel at what he does. Not many people are lucky enough to be so talented and so passionate about their work. Shen is one of those fortunate few, and on top of this, he is considered one of the best Chinese film editors right now.

While working on award-winning films such as Red String, Emily, Inside Linda Vista Hospital, and Stay, Shen’s editing skills were extremely evident for both audiences and critics.

“I am a creative minded person, so I love the re-creative part of editing a lot. There are many ways to make a film, and I feel editing is one of the best ways to engage in the filmmaking production,” said Shen.

Shen engaged in both the filmmaking production and with audiences with his work on the film Cartoon Book. Cartoon Book is about a little boy who tries to go against the school and teacher under severe rules. Afterwards, it seems that the teacher gradually controls the boy by using his vulnerability and letting the rebel boy become a tool to manage other students. The boy draws cartoons, but he feels it is hard to choose between his desire or his morals when the teacher bribes him to be her spy who needs to betray his friends.

“It is a kind of classic tone film, so rather than edit it ‘correctly’, director more like to keep the smooth and stressful feeling by editing. That is why I, as the editor, needed to understand the story indeed,” said Shen. “We had a lot of footage, so it was quite a lot of work at the beginning. But, all the effort and hard work was worth it.
The director had her own style for the entire pace of the film, and the film had really good results.”

The film went on the be an Official Selection at the prestigious Cannes Short Film Corner where it premiered last year, as well as the Berlin Student Film Festival, the Goa Shots International Short Film Festival, and the Accolade Global Film Festival Competition.

“I had a feeling that the film would see a lot of success in festivals, so when I found out the film got some awards I was not surprised, and I think it deserves even more and bigger awards,” said Shen. “The director is good at screenwriting. The first time I read the story I was so intrigued and really connected with the story. I was really looking forward to work with the director and making great film, which we did. It was not the first time we worked together. We know and understand each other very well. She is natural born storyteller and I always looking forward to work with her.”

The film was written and directed by Shuhe Wang, who had previously worked with Shen on her film The Regret, and was immediately impressed by his talents. Knowing they work well together, and that she needed the best to make her new film a success, she reached out to Wang to join her on Cartoon Book.

“I worked with Minghao on my award-winning short film Cartoon Book. I was the director and he was the editor. We worked together really well. He was so full of thoughts and understood the story deeply. When we were on set, Minghao watched the footage carefully on each shooting day. His did the rough cuts very quickly and helped me to get the overall storyline,” said Wang.

Shen was vital to the successful of the film. He says working on Cartoon Book was unlike any project he had worked on in the past. He read a lot of the director’s notes and talked about the story more than just the editing technique with the director. He would meet the cinematographer and communicate about the shot, knowing they all needed to be on the same page for the overall tone of the film. This understanding of not just his role, but the entire filmmaking process, is outstanding.

“The most exciting part of making this film was the journey of the main character. There were many twists and turns in it. It is a bit challenging for editing because the complex storyline, but on another hand, it offered a variety options for editing, and that is what makes my job fun,” Shen concluded.

Actress Gabriella Giardina to fill audience’s small screens in multiple upcoming TV shows

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Gabriella Giardina

Gabriella Giardina believes she was born with the love of acting. She remembers watching movies as a child and being completely mesmerized. At the time, she believed the people on the screen were real, showing their real-life experiences. When her parents explained what film and acting was, she was instantly amazed. After watching a film or television show, she would run to her room and re-enact whatever she had just watched, creating the whole story and scenes from scratch. Since the age of four, she would repeat the lines of any movie she had just watched. There was never any doubt for her as to what she was meant to do, and to this day, that belief is still there. She was destined to be an actress, and audiences around the world are thankful.

Originally from the small town of Ragusa in Sicily, Italy, Gabriella has travelled the world doing what she loves, taking in new cultures and experiences and implementing that into her craft. Working as both as actress and model, she has shown the world what she is capable of, and has emerged one of the top in her field. She has worked on feature films, shorts, commercials, television series, and music videos, never afraid of taking on something different than what she has done before.

“My favorite part of acting in any kind of set, film, television, photo-shoot, music video, is to be able to express everything simply with your eyes and expression. That’s something I find very powerful. It’s really exciting when you are on set having a great song play. But I love it even more when it’s really just you, your feelings and a camera that wants to catch it all,” she said.

Music videos require just that, and Gabriella has been a large part of the success to many. This year, she was played the singer’s muse in the music video Leila by Jah Khalib, a romantic song in which the Jah Khablib sings of the muse that he has dreamed of. Jah Khalib is one of the most famous artists in Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and his popularity is spreading in very short time. In November of last year, he performed live at Flavio Briatore’s Billionaire Manson, at Burj Khalifa Blvd in Dubai.

“I love Leila, it really transported me and made me love it right away, and what the song is about to helped me understand her,” said Gabriella. “Shooting for Leila was like taking a day off to go explore and then represent beauty. The music video is so well represented that, even for those who cannot understand the lyric because of the language, the narrative is very explicit, with powerful, poetic emphasis.”

Giardina was selected for the role by the young but renowned award-winning Director Aisultan Seitov, winner of the 2016 Hollywood Boulevard Film Festival as Best Director in the category Short Meter, and he knew that Giardina had what it took to make the video a success. Published on May 11 2017, in less than one month the video-music “Leila” already achieved more than 2,650,000 views.

“I love music that tells a story, makes you feel all different kinds of emotions, dream the wildest dreams, makes you travel and go places you’ve never been or fantasize about or just travel around the world; that gives you energy and power or makes you vulnerable, makes you reach the sky. Music is very powerful and really reaches the furthest places. And music videos accompany that. They create one of the millions of scenarios of places, stories, emotions that one can express and experience. When an artist makes a song and music, they are sending a message to so many. So, to be a part of all this, to be a part of creating something so beautiful that reaches so many, that’s one of the things I really love about music videos,” she said.

Gabriella Giardina had achieved success with music videos prior to Leila, including the hit Paani Paani. The song was associated the story of the movie Yaariyan, in which Giardina had a leading role. The song sung by rapper Honey Singh and the soulful Neha Kakkar hit the right chords with the youth. The video was an enormous commercial success and registered over 18 Million views on YouTube alone.

Paani Paani was also a great experience. The director, Divya Kumar, created a set of young energic people and the singer, Yo Yo Honey Singh, brought his talent and all of us really enjoyed working on this together, getting to know one another,” she said.

All those that work with Gabriella Giardina know that she is a unique actress, which is why she is extremely sought-after. Her commitment to every project and genuine passion for what she does makes her pivotal to the success of whatever she works on. Alexandra Guarnieri, a Producer at All In Films, first worked with Gabriella in the musical A Night at the Black Cat Cabaret. She was instantly impressed, since the first audition, by Gabriella’s intensity and by her ability to closely relate to the character, and she defines Gabriella gifted of an intuitive talent, which is one of the most important quality to perform characters with emotional dynamics.

Having witnessed Giardina’s talent before and during the performances, Guarnieri cast her to be the female lead of the new television series project Sigueme. With many upcoming television series next year, Giardina is continuing to show audiences how versatile she is.

“I think doing a television show is very challenging because you bring the character you play through a very large continuous change. And you want to do it well, you want to give it justice and understand it, not judge it, love it, like your own self. Sure, you have a script and story to follow, but you have so many opportunities and various facets to take on the journey of portraying this person, this being, that you in your own way create. And it’s not just the character itself, it’s also the character relations with other people, places, life experience and everything that involves a day to day life. So, it’s that big range of opportunities on how is this character going to be, from the inside out that really fascinates me,” said Giardina.

Gabriella Giardina will be playing the role of Monica Muerte in the upcoming TV series The Legend of High Master. The show turns around a man named William who creates his own Kung Fu dojo called High Boxing. Soon Master Willie must defend the honor of his dojo and neighborhood from the attempt of the Corporate’s hegemony, and has to fight the corporation’s masters using high boxing to prove that his Kung Fu is the greatest, keeping his business, and saving his honor. Monica Muerte is the leading female character in the series. Her story is crucial in the series since it is unveiled at the beginning and evolves gaining relevance, episode by episode, as she becomes one of the reasons William is inspired to create his “High Boxing” in defense of the neighborhood. Monica is an expat with problems to settle down in a new environment. The character is complex and peculiar, and it requires uncommon acting skills to smoothly and naturally switch from a romantic to a dramatic or even comedian performance in a blink, all fulfilled at high level by Gabriella Giardina.

“What enhances my feeling about being in the show is the awareness of the complexity of the character. I cannot reveal very much about the plot but I can say that Monica is a complicated young lady. I’m particularly attracted by more complex and troubled roles and definitely Monica is a challenge; I am enthusiastic and eager to work on the series,” she said.

In addition to The Legend of High Master and Sigueme, Giardina is set to be in the upcoming television series The Poe Project, based on the life of Edgar Allan Poe. Giardina will be playing Cora Anne, a character who represents a woman who was a public reader, writer and actress herself, whose radiantly beautiful smile appears unmatched to Edgar Allan Poe. Gabriella Giardina’s experience in theatrical performance is important, as she can understand and better interpret the role.

“Cora Anne is an intriguing character. She is a lady of intellect, since she is a writer, a public reader and an actress of theatre. The role is fascinating and the script immediately captured me. She’s very feminine but strong and powerful at the same time. I love the contrast that goes so well together. It’s something new to explore and I truly look forward to portraying her,” she said.

With so much upcoming, and with so much success already, Giardina is in no way tired of doing what she loves best. Understanding a character and portraying them in a believable and sincere way is a thrill to her, and a thrill for audiences to watch.

“An actor doesn’t only have the job of reading a script and performing it at its best. An actor studies people, understands what’s behind every reason of this being you are introduced to, empathizes with and for this person, which is extremely important. Without judging it. An actor gives a voice to someone who is either not as loud or doesn’t have one. It opens the eyes of the audience, to new possibilities, new ways of seeing or approaching relationships and situations, new realities. An actor brings to life people and their stories. That’s what to me being an actress means,” she concluded.

Sound designer Randolph Zaini says film “Mosquito: The Bite of Passage” is highlight of his esteemed career

Randolph Performing Foley Footsteps
Randolph Zaini working on “Mosquito: The Bite of Passage”

Randolph Zaini is more than a sound designer. He is an artist; the video is his canvas and audio clips are his paint. He is a storyteller, and sound is both the setting and the characters. He sees sound as one of the most important aspects of a film, and those that have seen his work can hear this immediately. There is no doubt as to why he is so sought-after in his industry.

Of all the films he has worked on, with many esteemed awards and praise, the highlight of Zaini’s career he says is working on the film Mosquito: The Bite of Passage, which was just shortlisted for the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA). The film tells the story of a young mosquito brought out by her mother on her first hunt for blood. The issue, however, is that she doesn’t like blood, and but fears disappointing her mother. Though the main story is simple and clear, there is a complex message underneath. It has much to do with being accepted for who you are. It exemplifies the best form of storytelling, where it can both entertain and illuminate.

“It was a great screenplay filled with heartwarming and funny moments,” said Zaini.

Since the story deals with opposing perspectives, it is imperative to give the appropriate sound design treatment on each subject matter. The mother has set her eyes on a single human: a slob who lives alone in his dingy apartment. When there is a switch back and forth between the perspectives of said human and the mosquitoes, audiences should hear the differences in ambiance. Everything feels gigantic in the perspective of the mosquitoes, even the air feels heavier; they are in the land of giant beings. Although Mosquito: The Bite of Passage is a hybrid live-action/animation, there was no production sound provided to Zaini, even on the live-action part of the film. This meant on top of creating every bit of audio clips for the mosquitoes, he also had to recreate the sounds of the human character, played by a live actor, from scratch as well.

“Every bit of sound that the animated character made, from the mosquitoes’ helmets, suits, boots and blood-bag was created by me in the foley recording studios. As for the human character, I also performed all his movement sounds, which then got a frequency manipulation treatment to make him feel gigantic when seen through the eyes of the mosquitoes,” Zaini described.

The film ended up becoming a large success after premiering at the prestigious Telly Awards, where it won Best Animated Short. In addition to BAFTA, it was an Official Selection at the Chinese International New Media Short Film Festival, Edmonton International Film Festival, New Orleans Film Festival, Haryana International Film Festival, African International Film Festival, 9th CMS International Children’s Film Festival, Newport Beach Film Festival, New Voices in Black Cinema, and more. It has gained offers for representation by CAA, WME, Paradigm and Verve. None of this could have been possible without Zaini’s work as sound designer, and he was recognized for it with the Outstanding Sound Award nomination at the 2017 First Look Film Festival.

“It was incredible. We make these movies to connect with audiences, to tell a story worth telling, with a hidden message worth sharing. Winning awards is always secondary. But I’d be lying if I say winning Telly Award for the second time did not give any affirmation that I was doing something right, that my passion was not misguided, and that people do appreciate the result of hard work and the vast amount of passion being put into it,” said Zaini.

Randolph Performing Foley
Randolph Zaini recording foley for “Mosquito: The Bite of Passage”

The detail Zaini put in to each and every sound in the film is outstanding. To create the sound of the mosquito wings, he used a combination of hummingbird wings flapping, plastic cards being run through bicycle spokes, and small airplane engines flying in the air, among other sounds that helped sell the integrity of the wings that carry these mosquitoes. Every single sound file was designed with the storytelling effectiveness in mind.

“Randolph is the best sound editor, ADR editor, foley artist, and re-recording mixer I have encountered. To cite a specific example, for Mosquito: The Bite of Passage, Randolph created the sound of the entire film from scratch. There was no production sound going in. He was notably innovative in his approach to creating a new world of sound for the macro world of the mosquitos in the film. Using devices like leather jackets, his own voice for various flight sounds, and other unique concepts, he made a deeply immersive experience. This film relied heavily on the sound design given its heavy science fiction component. I was very happy with the results,” said Brian Rhodes, the director of the film. “Randolph is extremely hard working, dependable, diligent and a wonderful human being to be around. I greatly look forward to working with Randolph the rest of my career. He pushes the boundaries of what is possible and is a visionary.”

Rhodes, who previously worked with Zaini on the award-winning film Harold’s Fish Sticks, refused to have another sound designer work with him on the project. He even pushed back the timeline to work with the sound designer, knowing he needed the best. Although it was a long process from start to finish, there was not a moment of it that Zaini did not like.

“It was work that I enjoyed wholeheartedly. Mosquito: The Bite of Passage is an action-filled movie, which means there are a lot of high-paced sequences that were fun to design. I had a blast planning, recording, and editing the sounds I created,” said Zaini.

With every project he takes part in, no matter how successful, Zaini is living his dream. As a child, he told stories, always putting in captivating sound effects. He may not have known at the time it would be his future, but he always knew what his passion was.

“Like most children, I grew up watching animations. Though I wasn’t always aware of the sound design aspects of those cartoons, it had always sold the believability of these drawn and sculpted worlds and characters, being brought to live with sound. To think that what I do now is breathing life into these lovable characters, it is like having an important role behind a magician’s performance,” he said.

Working on Mosquito: The Bite of Passage was just another chance for Zaini to live out his dream.

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.

Actress Ariel Zhang captures split personalities in award-winning performance

International film festival
Ariel Zhang 

Despite being an award-winning actress, Ariel Zhang remains humble. For the Chinese native, she is just thankful to be doing what she loves each day. Audiences around the world have had the opportunity to appreciate her talents, and with each project she takes on, it shows how versatile she truly is. This was never more evident than when she shot her film Consumemate.

Consumemate tells the story of Amalthea, a writer who wants to write a perfect story, but has her own internal struggles. It shows the consequences of Amalthea losing herself in her art. She sinks into madness as she immerses herself in her drive for perfection to live in the character of Piner, the protagonist of her story. She develops a split personality and cannot distinguish between reality and fantasy. Zhang played both Amalthea and Piner in the film.

“I like the theme of the project that is about success and ruin. The acme of desire is ruin, it’s difficult and important to make a balance. I believe the aim of every artist is to achieve perfection of execution. As an actress and artist, I always hope to find roles that are challenging and have perfect performances. Setting a goal is the whole life. In order to achieve that goal, I have to eliminate all the obstacles. Sometimes the obstacle is ourselves, so I start to fight with myself and seek a breakthrough,” said Zhang. “As an actress, I have to put myself into some imaginary circumstances and feel my characters. I have to have my heart open and be vulnerable. Sometimes, if I go deeply and stay in that imaginary circumstances for a long time, it can feel hard to get out. I also have a negative side in my body and feel self-denial and self-doubt. The feeling of failure is like an evil power, just like the writer Amalthea. The harder part was the ghost, Piner. She represents the dark side of people, she is like a powerful evil. I had to overcome my fears. I had to find out the dark side beyond myself.”

Although Consumemate just started its film festival run, it has already seen a lot of success, and was the winner of the Festigious International Film Competition 2017. Zhang has been recognized internationally for her outstanding performance. She won the Award of Merit – Leading Actress at the Best Shorts Competition 2017, the Festival Award – Best Actress at the Festigious International Film Festival 2017, the Bronze Award – Best Actress at the NYC Indie Film Awards, and was an Honorable Mention – Best Actress at the Los Angeles Film Awards.

still of Consumemate
Ariel Zhang as Amalthea in Consumemate

“When we were working on the first steps of rehearsals of this film, I thought this could be a great movie, so I gave my best, as everyone did. The fact that this film is doing so well on an international level is something that makes me feel really proud, and inspires me to keep working hard, because every victory means more and more work,” said Zhang. “It was fun and challenging having two different characters in the same movie. They were so opposite that I really needed my space and to work with each of them, and the director and the rest of the crew were really helpful about that.”

The success of the film truly came down to Zhang, as she had to fully capture both of the characters she had created. The director, Jun Xia, says he cannot imagine any other actress for Consumemate other than Zhang, and her acting in the film was complete perfection.

“Ariel nailed every single scene. Her understanding of the character and her journey was 110 per cent accurate, and even more important, believable. And for sure, she can make a project awesome just by having her as part of it. She has such a high level of professionalism as an actress. Also, the fact that she can deliver any emotion on screen completely real, makes the product basically perfect. She understands and works the character of the film as much as the director, so they end up giving life to any single detail of the film,” said Jun Xia, the director of the film.

In addition to being the lead actress, Zhang also wrote the film. Her idea to create the two characters were to create contrasts between them. She says the challenge is not only that the two characters have totally different personality characteristics, but they also live in different times. She was seeking to find different characteristics for each character. To do this, she explored the symptoms in schizophrenic patients, ensuring the feel was believable and raw. To set up the tone of ancient people, she also read a lot of ancient literature and watched many ancient themed movies. She truly wanted to explore more details to create a believable and truthful performance.

“After I created the two characters and the story, I also learned a lot of things from my characters. In a personal aspect, I learned that I need to appreciate the imperfect self, imperfect art and imperfect life. In a professional aspect, I found deeper areas of both myself and my role. I learned how to use acting skills and techniques to create characters, and not just playing myself. I knew more about my capability which will help me with developing different types of characters and different genres of films,” Zhang described.

Consumemate has been officially selected for the Los Angeles CineFest and Digital Griffix Online Film Festival, and there is no doubt that Zhang’s performance will once again be appreciated by those audiences, and many more.