Category Archives: International Creative Talents

Graphic Designer Laura Suuronen’s Limitless Creativity

Graphic designer Laura Suuronen’s mastery of expressive, dynamic visuals have made her an international success. While design relies on subtly, balance and rhythm, when effectively executed it has colossal impact. The Helsinki-born Suuronen’s command of and gift for the medium creates a consistently irresistible finished product.

“A graphic designer creates visual communications,” Suuronen said. “The field has expanded and changed tremendously over recent years, as the world’s become more visual and people’s visual literacy has grown.”

Suuronen has built upon that growth with singular alacrity, always displaying a natural skill which guarantees the success of any given assignment and frequently leads to subsequent, ever more impressive achievements. It’s a demanding discipline, but her background provided ideal preparation from an early age.

“In Finland, design is part of everyday life,” Suuronen said. “I grew up surrounded by design furniture, so I absorbed those forms and the sensibility. I learned of design as a profession in high school, as I was taking all possible art classes to balance out my other studies. I was always drawn to making art, yet I wanted to do something more useful, or, I guess, practical.”

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Visualization of branding concept for Finland’s stand at 2017 World Expo

After high school, Suuronen attended the Pekka Halonen Academy, attaining a degree in Visual Expression and continued her studies at Helsinki’s University of Art and Design, earning a BA in Graphic Design, before moving on to the Master’s program.

The gifted Suuronen settled into life as a dedicated professional—and once she did, things began to move fast.Her earliest experience was at cutting-edge mobile software development startup Max Rumpus, essentially developing apps—at a time when the touch screen didn’t yet exist.

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20th Anniversary Book for contemporary art pioneer Galerie Anhava

“The company’s goal was to create ‘good looking text messages’ that didn’t require separate software to download and view them,” Suuronen said. “This was a good first job, as I was able to do a breadth of work across mediums and was never held back. I was doing anything and everything in this startup, implementing and developing branding related projects, like packaging, brochures, manuals and random things like illustrations, expo stands, posters, business cards, interior design for a new office. Their art director was very supportive and a good mentor, with whom I still keep in touch.”

With limited opportunities for pure design at the one-product tech startup, she moved on to a post at the prestigious Hasan & Partners advertising firm. It was a critical step up for the ambitious young designer

“Being in top 3 of Finnish agencies for decades, Hasan was very different from Max Rumpus,” Suuronen said. “I was designing everything from 360 ad campaigns to art books during my time there, a lot of cool projects. Sometimes it was more art work production, sometimes it was about designing press, TV or online campaigns for leading Nordic consumer brands. I designed logos for Italian fashion brands, conceptualized press ads and posters, art directed photo-shoots, created installations, designed interactive technology-pushing websites and oversaw character and animation development. It was a great experience—to learn how the big things are done. And I got to see my work plastered around town, in newspapers and on TV constantly.”

Suuronen was off to an impressive start and her subsequent career path has steadily ascended. Now based in Los Angeles, this energetic, limitlessly creative woman stands at the forefront her field. Whether designing posters or art directing for magazines and web sites, Suuronen excels at her craft in a variety of media—from sophisticated software and computer techniques to old fashioned pen and ink drawing—and she has multiple awards, along with the respect of her colleagues, to show for it.

“Laura’s work never fails to impress,” graphic designer-illustrator Stefan Bucher said. “She pairs clear, powerful ideas with refined aesthetics, and adds just the right dash of eccentricity to keep things interesting. There’s no doubt in my mind that her American future will outshine the considerable brightness of her European past.”

Suuronen refuses to limit herself and the result is a striking roster of professional achievements, both as a designer and art director; Suuronen is adept at strategy and brand development, establishing unique visual identities for her clients, working across the full creative spectrum: books, catalogs, magazines, websites and apps, events and campaigns for a dazzling array of international agencies, including Siegel + Gale, Media Arts Lab, leading Scandinavian museums and art galleries, publishers and record labels.

“One thing that’s stuck with me from my early days at Hasan was the phrase ‘Never Satisfied,’ which was scribbled on a wall there” Suuronen said. “So, I’m always going to be looking to bring fresh thinking into a project. I like to explore new ideas and see where they lead. I’ve never been happy repeating what’s been done before—there is always further to push.”

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Actress Jannike Grut Excels on Stage and Screen

Veteran actress Jannike Grut is one of Scandinavia’s most talented, recognizable players. Whether playing drama or comedy on stage, television or the big screen, the Stockholm-born Grut’s mixture of polish, nuance and emotional involvement creates compelling fully realized characterizations that draw the audience in. It’s an elevated level of skill that many of her colleagues only dream of, but Grut consistently manifests the full dramatic spectrum with dazzling ease.

Currently delighting European viewers with her recurring role on the popular TV comedy series Katsching!, Grut is at the peak of her formidable powers. Grut’s mastery of craft easily translates across international lines—the actress has already been cast in a couple of American features, setting the tone of for a break out phase in her already impressive career. It’s the latest upshift in her reliably steady professional progress, the rich fulfillment of an almost pre-ordained creative destiny.

“My father was a renowned theater and film critic in Sweden, so I saw a lot of movies and plays in my childhood and of course we talked about the art of acting and storytelling all along,” Grut said. “I really got into a good story. I loved a good book, pop songs that told stories in the lyrics, and I really loved to see great plays and movies. I was drawn to stories that told me about life with new angles, new perspectives on things I was unfamiliar with, stories that made me hopeful or challenged my beliefs—I loved that.”

“Growing up, one of my favorite films was “Dead Poets Society” with Robin Williams,” Grut said. “I saw it with a friend, and I was crying when we walked home. I knew I had to become an actress because I wanted make an impact on the world myself, to be a part of changing it for the better. It made me go after my dream and never give up.”

The path was clear and Grut did not hesitate for an instant. After completing high school Grut immediately enrolled in a one year theater course, followed by two years of film school, training in comedy and film acting, a course in script writing and study in London with the acclaimed dramatic coach Doreen Cannon.

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Photos by Oren Godlman

She was working right out of the gate also. At 19, while still in theatre school, Grut was doing standup comedy in clubs and on popular Swedish television showcase ”Släng Dig I Brunnen.” Initially concentrating on stage work, At 23, the ambitious Grut also she wrote and starred in a well-received musical comedy that earned lavish praise in Sweden’s leading newspapers—an auspicious achievement, indeed, but she was just getting started.

Grut quickly became a familiar, popular presence in Scandinavian film and television, and also directed and starred in the collaborative Danish-Swedish national network TV movie “Welcome to our 7-year Itch” (Välkomna Till Vår Sjuårskris). Over the next decade, Grut’s star continued to rise, and she was prominently featured in almost thirty top notch films and TV series, winning several awards both at home and abroad, including the 2017 Best Comedy Kristallen award, Sweden’s equivalent of the Emmy.
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The hit show Katsching! provides a role that’s an ideal vehicle for her deep comedic talent, and Grut is enjoying greater fame than ever. “The series is up and running right now on Swedish National Television, it’s gotten good reviews and the audience loves it,” Grut said. “I am really grateful to be part of the cast, and also fortunate enough to act together with Per Andersson—a brilliant actor and comedian.”

Grut and Andersson make a terrific combination: “Jannike is an incredibly skilled actress and comedienne and to see her working together with the great Per Andersson is really extremely fun,” series producer Niklas Larsson said. “The contrast between her and Pers’ character is terribly funny. It was a pleasure to have Jannike on set and I really hope to have the opportunity to work with her on projects in the future.”

Grut already has two feature films—Garden Lane (already generating buzz as a potential Guldbaggen (the Swedish Oscar) nominee and action comedy The Duck Pond— set for release in the coming months, is also working on the Scandinavian TV series, ‘Finding Your Way Home,’ with esteemed Swedish director Richard Jarnhed, and, as Grut says, “I’m also one of the three leads in a new Swedish TV series, a comedy with strong female leads, but I can’t talk about it yet.”

Grut’s flawless command of English ensures her ability to entertain a rapidly expanding audience, It won’t be long before American audiences get a taste of the Grut genius; she is co-writing the feature “We are Family”, featuring Scandinavian and American actors, with renowned American screenwriter Alvaro Rodriguez (‘Machete,’ ‘From Dusk to Dawn,’), who is also producing, an intriguing combination that’s certain to highlight her natural skill as a writer and actress. .

And there’s still more going on in the actresses’ fast-moving career. “Most exiting of it all I´ve been cast in several American productions,” Grut said. “I´m going to play comedy, dramedy and action, filming in New York and in Hollywood, so, hopefully I have a real adventure ahead of me.”

“I really look forward to working internationally and in America,” Grut said. “Right now, my goal is to keep on getting good roles in TV series, and also good parts in more films.”

“I can bring something special to any part, simply by being my authentic self. As an actress it’s absolutely crucial to be curious. Ask questions, look around in fascination. And always be generous—pay it forward. So, with authenticity, curiosity and generosity, you can’t fail.”

Thailand’s Sasinun Kladpetch showcases nature in charitable Hang Art exhibition

Celebrated astrophysicist Hubert Reeves once said, “Man is the most insane species. He worships an invisible God and destroys a visible Nature. Unaware that this Nature he’s destroying is this God he’s worshiping.” This is Thai native Sasinun Kladpetch’s mantra, and where she gathers her inspiration for her art that has captivated people all over the world. She believes that nature is everything, which translates directly into her work. In her world, nature is her life, her soul and her god.

All of Kladpetch’s artwork explores the beauty of nature and explores the idea that it has been hidden among man made structure. She brought this point home at the 2016 50/50 Exhibit at the Sanchez Art Center, where she created fifty pieces all reflecting natural elements meeting modern development. To celebrate nature, Kladpetch uses organic materials and combines them with industrial elements. With this style, she saw great success at DZINE gallery and Dab Art in San Francisco.

“I love to transfer my idea into a physical artwork that people can experience. I like working with an objective; the ideas are unlimited, and I have to think in every single process. From collecting an idea, analyzing it, sketching, to making the installation, there are an infinite number of things to learn. This just encourages me to keep thinking and working to come up with something greater than what I’ve done in past. That’s what motivates me,” she said.

This artist’s point of view is that there are many natural resources, which have been wasted and neglected throughout civilization. Through her work, Kladpetch creates a voice and a platform for people to see the true beauty of nature and that humans and nature can co-exist beautifully in harmony.

“I always aim to engage my audience and encourage them to think about natural and environmental issues through my work,” she said.

Once again being inspired by the environment and humans and nature coexisting together, Kladpetch has created several installations for Hang Art Gallery. Kladpetch has taken part in several exhibitions for the gallery, including Front Lines 5.0, and Same, Same,butDifferent 5.0. The latter was an annual exhibition that all the artists representative at Hang Art Gallery participated in. Because her work on this project was so successful, Kladpetch was then offered the opportunity to participate in the San Francisco Hospitality House Auction as a gallery representative.

“Sasinun is thoughtful and generous, and thankfully these qualities come through in her creations and business practices. She has a clear vision, but soft touch. Her works combine industrialization and environment with a delicacy that coaxes the viewer to consider these paradoxes thoughtfully, without screaming politics,” said Piero Sparado, who represented Kladpetch’s work at the gallery.

For each of these exhibitions at Hang Art, Kledpetch created small sculptures and installed them in to one large installation; clients then had the opportunity to buy multiple pieces or just an individual one. The uniqueness of this project is all the small pieces could be rearranged to the buyer’s preference. She wanted the audience to essentially be a part of the installation by arranging the artworks themselves. There were no rules or guidelines when it came to installing them, but the most important thing for Kladpetch was that each piece had to work both on its own, as a whole, or with a select few pieces, which is no easy feat. However, Kladpetch made it enchanting.

“I love how art can resonate with so many people. This exhibition challenged me to come up with something unique. I feel more than honored that I was a part of a Hospitality House auction. I’ve donated one of my sculptures through the gallery and the benefits went to the Hospitality House San Francisco,” she said.

Kladpetch’s irreplaceable style caught the audience’s eye, and Kladpetch’s work was sold at the exhibition, the profits of which were donated to Hospitality House and helped the charity raise over $75,000 for their essential neighborhood programs including the community arts program.

Hospitality House’s Annual Art Auction has brought together the local community, gallery professionals, art enthusiasts and collectors, non-profit organizations and local businesses to support our neighborhood artists whose artwork hang side-by-side with nationally renowned artists. I’m proud to be a part of that,” she concluded.

Acclaimed Director/Photographer Liam Cushing’s Mix of Substantive Realism and Ethereal Beauty

With a world-class resume of successful, high-profile collaborations with such famed luxury brands as Jimmy Choo, Valentino, H&M, Sandro Paris and Tommy Hilfiger, director/photographer Liam Cushing is one of the most acclaimed craftsmen in his field. But his extraordinary international renown and impressive achievements came about almost as a fluke, the unlikely result of a loving mother’s thoughtful gesture to her teenaged son.

“I was going on a [student] exchange in Spain and my mother took me to a second hand camera store,” Cushing said. “She bought me a Nikon F5 with 50mm lens and I was hooked right away, but had no real technical knowledge. There was a lot of trial and error after I arrived in Spain, but it really started to shape my eye, knowledge and love for photography. I took photos of everything, anyone and everywhere and I really attribute the growth of my style to my time in Spain.”

An entirely new world opened up for the Toronto-born, London-based Cushing. “My mother had always had a love of photography and it was always a part of my life growing up, but I had never really learned how to shoot,” he said. “She thought it would be great for me to learn on my own camera as I embarked for Spain and as I learned Spanish and adapted to a new culture, my photos deeply reflected this new curiosity. I still own that Nikon F5 to this day, and every once and a while I will use it just too once again have that feeling of shooting for the first time.”

Cushing quickly parlayed that youthful enthusiasm into a dedicated career path. Having completed studies at the University of Toronto with degrees in Art History and Cinema Studies, Cushing’s romance with photography—and his readily evident aptitude—enabled him to gain a foothold in this particularly fast-paced arena.

“After graduating, I applied for an internship where I could learn from the best photographers in the world,” Cushing said. “I ended up at the prestigious fashion photo agency Art Partner’s London office, which subsequently connected me to the highest levels of the industry and propelled me to get a job working for world famous photographer Mario Testino. Mario was famous for shooting the campaigns for brands such as Burberry, Versace, Gucci and Dolce and Gabbana, and who had also shot the royal family, and countless celebrities including Katy Perry, Madonna, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts.”

Testino, of course, wouldn’t hire anyone who wasn’t an absolutely first rate talent, and Cushing really came into his own, developing the visual style which became his very formidable calling card.

“During my time working under Mario, my career really started growing,” Cushing said. “I spent countless days researching, learning about my craft, investing in my tools, pursuing personal projects, chasing clients, all of which helped me get to where I am today in my career.”

“I developed I strong affinity for directing video and while I was hesitant to stop working for Mario, I felt as if I wouldn’t be able to have creative independence if I did not take the jump—I subsequently left and pursued an independent career as director/photographer.”

 

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On his own, Cushing was compelled to make his mark, a feat that required considerable drive and fortitude.

“Finding my own path was difficult as first,” Cushing said. “I was competing with some of the most talented creative minds in the world. In the first year it became apparent how difficult it was to find my place and stand out in a city where I had very little professional connections. Rejection started to feel familiar, but I persevered and began to pursue my interest in video work. My deep passion for video rubbed off on my photography, I felt more engaged than ever, and I really started to hit my stride.”

Cushing’s ace-in-the-hole was a deep passion for a particular type of communicative aesthetics unique unto himself. “I always thought of my work as something like a dream—the imagery can be abstract and ethereal while emotions and tone feel real and weighted,” he said.  “I look at every project as a challenge, so if there is no element of discomfort then I know I am not getting better at my craft. I also really value working with creative professionals at the top of their respective crafts, as it forces me to continuously push myself to higher levels of excellence.”

This creative zeal quickly distinguished Cushing from his contemporaries and his career began to ascend.

“Around this time I was hired to do stills and some video work for a Tommy Hilfiger campaign with world famous models Naomi Campbell and Claudia Schiffer. As my skills sets grew, I felt my confidence and client lists grow as well. I felt very fortunate to have worked with Mario as it opened doors for me and illustrated the standard of professionalism I had to live up to, but also the confidence to find my own path, which I continue to be on to this day.“

An in-demand professional with a sterling international reputation, Cushing’s peerless instinct and ability to wed technology to human emotion in a way that evokes power responses from his viewers—a gift that’s elevated him to the very pinnacle of success. Cushing’s gorgeously rendered evocative visuals have led to assignments in fashion with his highly successful Jimmy Choo/Off White and Sandro Paris campaigns but also in the entertainment industry, taking jobs with Capitol Records and a memorably spontaneous collaboration with UK indie rock band Glass Animals.

“I was introduced to the band Glass Animals when I was hired to be still photographer during a video shoot for the song ‘Black Mambo,’” Cushing said. “There was some downtime during the shoot, and their manager asked if I could take some band shots, so I obliged. The band and the label liked them so much, they commissioned me to shoot the press photos for the release of the upcoming album. The photos were then featured in all promotional materials and could be seen in the New York Times, Billboard magazine, SPIN and many others. I was really encouraged about the success of the images—then, Capitol Records contacted me to have my photo featured in their commemorative, Taschen-published 75th anniversary coffee table book, where the photo would be featured alongside some of the greatest photographers of the last 100 years. The book was distributed globally and elevated my work and name to a worldwide level that I had yet to experience.”

That type of creative serendipity is typical of Cushing’s methodology, a wide open, perceptive approach based as much on instinct as it is technical skill. As one Cushing collaborator, the famed Global Creative Strategist for Facebook/Instagram/Whatsapp Dr. Jane Han, said “Having worked with many producers and directors in my lifetime, it was clear that Liam was on top of his craft with an expert sense of his work both on a technical and artistic level.  In the capacity of director, he ensured the deliverables were at the highest of levels and showed a vast amount of skill in his trade.“

The key to his impressive commercial success is, uniquely, based almost entirely on his need for purely creative expression.

“I gravitate to anything that demands emotion and exists beyond the world of pure aesthetic,” Cushing said. “That is not to say I don’t continually strive to create incredibly beautiful imagery, but it has to evoke some feeling inside the viewer that goes beyond the present physical world. It is why I always have thought of my work as falling between the abstract, ethereal world of the mind and the sheer beauty of the physical world.  Where imagery can be both associative and dissociative as it moves between real and abstract, thus giving the viewer’s imagination the opportunity to run free—where the imagery exists on a level beyond the confines of the superficial and reaches something more human and emotive.”

SUN SHINES BRIGHTLY WHILE NOT SEEN

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If you’ve ever known an artist, ever read a book about one, seen a film about one, or perhaps been one yourself…then you know that the goal is not to achieve fame (although that’s nice) or riches (also not horrible) but rather true artists simply want to create. The work for them is “work” only in the sense that it requires immense effort but not in a sense of begrudgingly performing a day to day task. Editor Wanqiu Sun eagerly communicates that she loves what she does and that every production she works on allows her to hone her skills. Ranging from TV productions to feature films to web productions and practically everything in between, Sun feels that her job is eternally one which allows her to shape a story, regardless of the medium or its presentation. While she has edited many an award-winning-film, she has also found herself utilizing her talent for commercials like those for Chang’an Automobiles. This series of 3-three minute commercials presented the company’s commitment to consumers and did so with the emotion that Sun’s touch is known for.

Chang’an’s relationship with their customers is analogous to that of editor and director. Passion, beauty, structure, and trust are requirements for a mutually beneficial partnership and pleasing results. People help display the story. In a film they are actors but in these commercials they were real employees of Chang’an. Each commercial presented an employee and how their work led to the benefit of the company’s customers. In one spot, we meet safety engineer Xin Li and the crash test dummy he works with exploring and ensuring the safety of the vehicles. Another presents the Designer Zheng Chen exploring his idea of design, how nature inspired him, and his concept of “power inside.” The final third commercial delves into the future of autonomous vehicles with Zhe Wang. This MIT graduate explains the culture which drew him to Chang’an and what lies ahead for the advancements in automobiles.

The structure of the advertisements were similar to TV and films in the sense that they were based around stories but there were still differences substantial enough to warrant a different approach from the editor. Sun focused on the initial visual impact. The ability of a commercial to attract the viewer’s attention supersedes that of a continual storyline. Wanqiu notes that the story during these productions was more prominent than most, a happy occurrence, but imagery was still the most crucial element for her to present. She explains the process stating, “For commercials, we sometimes won’t break down to what exact shots we will shoot before production. It’s more flexible in comparison to film. For these commercials, they had manuscripts before shooting. They were planning to go with a documentary style, to combine interviews with other footage. The locations were all real locations inside the factory, which meant that it looked different every day. If the majority of shots were planned before, it might have caused more problems during production. As the editor, I had to figure out where these shots could be placed according to the content we had in the manuscript. Cutting according to the original manuscript was around five minutes. I had to combine and rewrite the manuscript to bring the entire thing down to three minutes. Any information we’d lost from the manuscript had to be presented visually.”

Wanqiu’s work on these Chang’an commercials is proof that when there’s a great editor on the production team, especially one involved in pre-production, it makes the production much more efficient. Editors like Sun have the big picture and help the production team to predict problems and also fix those remaining in post. Transforming good material into great material and manifesting the unforeseen, editors are like ninjas who conceal themselves to make the cuts seamless. This analogy resonates with Wanqiu who remarks on her favorite editing, “There’s a fight scene in rain in The Grandmaster (Directed by Karwai Wong, Edited by William Chang), which is one of my favorite scenes in all of Chinese Film. Unlike other action movies, this one doesn’t focus on showing every movement of Kung Fu but more of the atmosphere and the spirit when people are fighting. It is very emotional. Everything seems so vague in the rain but you can feel their exact mood. Some people fight for power and fame and some fight for dignity. It is possible to analyze why we are feeling this way from editing.” The majority of her work has been in English speaking productions; the fact that her family in China gets to see her work every day on these Chang’an commercials gives her the chance to show that she is very much “in the ring.”

Yayun Hsu talks pressure of producing first-ever American Influencer Awards

For award-winning film producer Yayun Hsu, being one step ahead of her work has always served her well in her field. Hsu understands better than most just how unpredictable a film set can be and learned the value of proactivity very early on in her career. She has since developed a style of producing whereby she strives to eliminate her proverbial “to-do” list on any and every set she works on. This is not to suggest that she wishes to kick up her feet and relax at work; however, it motivates her to meticulously plan each film shoot to such an extent that it could hypothetically run itself. By anticipating and accounting for any possible setbacks on set, she is always on her toes and ready to react when an issue arises. Her instinctive ability to problem solve, coupled with her desire to be an invaluable asset to any film project, makes her a force to be reckoned with in the entertainment industry, and she is taking her field by storm.

“I’m a problem solver at heart and I enjoy being a leader. In a book I read years back called Producer to Producer, the author noted that his students would often approach him to tell him that they could not afford a producer. To this he would reply, “You cannot afford not to have one.” This idea spoke to me and it became my goal to become invaluable as a producer in this industry. I like the idea of the crew needing me and I want to be that one producer that comes to mind whenever someone is looking to start a new project and to make it great,” told Hsu.

Throughout her career, Hsu has produced a number of highly acclaimed films, such as Because I Love You, and Caged Bird. In fact, after writing, directing, and producing the film Eli, she went on to receive prestigious awards such as Best Woman Filmmaker at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Awards in March 2017 and an Award of Distinction at the Canadian International Short Film Fest. Given that Eli was Hsu’s first major project for which she both directed and produced, she classifies it as a large accomplishment in her repertoire. It is one of the greatest highlights of her career thus far, and helped encourage her to continue pursuing filmmaking and producing for a living. In addition to Eli, Hsu considers producing the American Influencer Awards in November of this year as being another of her major career highlights to date.

“The American Influencer Awards were a unique accomplishment in my career. It represented my first “live” work, which came with its own new set of challenges. There were so many different responsibilities involved, from working with celebrities to coordinating with corporate sponsors, and more. I really learned a lot from the experience,” reflected Hsu.

The American Influencer Awards is an awards show for the online beauty influencer community. For the show, award-nominee video packages were played at the ceremony, and a live stream of the awards show was broadcasted on YouTube for fans of these wildly popular beauty influencers. With that, Hsu was responsible for conducting background research as it pertained to the nominees’ video packages, cutting demo video footage, securing an event location, a contact cast and crew, handling catering services, preparing props, and several other essential roles. In addition, during post-production, she helped edit and color-grade all of the event footage.

Interestingly, this was the first ever American Influencer Awards show and for that reason, Hsu was intrigued by the idea that she would be able to sculpt and shape something that would hopefully be such a success that its sponsors would like it to be replicated for years to come. Most importantly, however, she was both excited and nervous about the idea that she would be producing live content for the show. Her quest for perfection in her work grew with the understanding that there were no opportunities for re-dos. All of the content she was working with would be taken at face value, the first time and therefore, she exercised her best use of her skillset to ensure that her audiences could reap the benefits. She researched the show’s content, guests, and the style of live production heavily before she began planning, and after she gathered all of her ideas for nominee award packages, she and her team were able to narrow their ideas down to fifteen of the best packages for storyboarding. Her expertise was crucial in making sure that the entire production moved at a favorable pace and that the show’s events were shot with fluency. The show’s Executive Producer, Jay James, was blown away by Hsu’s contributions to the success of the show and hopes to be able to call on her again next year to make the show’s second annual awards ceremony as great as the first.

“Yayun demonstrated that she can listen well and perform under pressure. Her innate ability to multitask makes her a clear standout in my eyes. It also helped that many people that were in attendance at the event commented on how Yayun had helped them or made arrangements for them in advance, which totally gave the show an extra professional touch. We will definitely be calling her for our next American Influencer Awards show,” told James.

After months and months of tireless preparation, countless long hours, and ample effort, Hsu was relieved and grateful to hear the thanks and praise of her boss and clients. She felt proud and accomplished to know that she was responsible for the show’s success and she hopes to be able to continue that trend for future American Influencer Awards shows in years to come.

Sound Engineer Josué Catalán Discusses Hit Singles and What Can Be Expected in 2018

To this day, somewhere just over 1,250 micro-genres of popular music have been named. They’ve played a huge role in helping to describe and classify different albums and songs, and in doing so, have allowed both listeners and musicians to easily identify and categorize their preferred musical styles.

Renowned sound engineer, Josué Catalán, has experience with mixing and mastering music from a multitude of genres. This versatile experience has aided in Catalán’s growth as an artist, which in recent years has contributed to the success of two major hit singles: Pegadito a Mi Piel and Cuando La Historia Cambie, both released in 2017. Furthermore, due to his vast practice, Catalán’s been able to isolate a few of his favorite genres to work within, too.

“I have two favorite genres of music,” Catalán informed, “POP and Jazz. I love how each one represents a world on its own, and I learn a lot every time I get to work on a POP or Jazz production.”

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Josué Catalán recording at Studio 57 Pro

The song Pegadito a Mi Piel, which Catalán mixed and mastered, is a song that falls within one of the sound engineer’s two favored genres: POP. Sung by Chilean POP artist Dani Ilabel and produced by Max Donoso and Manuel Burgos, Pegadito a Mi Piel translates to “Close to my skin,” and is a song of romance. It took Catalán a total of just three days to have the final product complete and ready to be delivered to TVN (Televisión Nacional de Chile) Records, the well-known label the single was signed by.

“The main challenge while mixing and mastering this particular song was finding a certain attitude to give the sound that could make it stand out from the typical romantic ballad,” Catalán explained. “I tried to impart some character by adding subtle distortion and delivered nuances that made the sound be forward and dynamic.”

Part of what makes Catalán so uniquely brilliant when it comes to his work is his fearlessness when it comes to taking risks with sound. Anyone can learn how to engineer, but it takes a truly exceptional kind of person, one who’s willing to gamble the possibility of failure, to obtain the attention-seeking type of success Catalán has proved himself more than capable of attaining. Producer Donoso supported this thought, stating, “Josué’s the person you go to because you know he’ll make your music sound better. Not only is he the kind of engineer that knows how to translate engineering into music, which makes him so easy to work with, but he’s also not afraid of taking musical/engineering risks. His mixes tend to bring an edge to projects that helps them to stand out among the ever-crowded universe of music productions.”

Such success also goes hand in hand with working amongst a team of talented individuals, who also happen to deeply care about professionalism and camaraderie within the workplace. Not only have Catalán, Donoso, and Ilabel worked as a unit on Pegadito a Mi Piel, but they’ve also collaborated on several tracks and albums together. “When you work with talented people who also care about teamwork, work ethics, and human relationships, it’s hard not to learn and see yourself grow. Working with Max has showed me that big challenges must be taken step by step and that nothing is impossible in terms of dreams and vision. He taught me to value simple things in music; an honest song will resonate better with the audience, and actually, that’s something one can even relate to life,” Catalán elaborated.

While Pegadito a Mi Piel was the first of songs that Catalán mixed and mastered to be aired on national television, it certainly wasn’t the last. In fact, some of the most notorious tracks the trio has worked on together have been featured on multiple shows of the main Chilean TV channel, TVN. It was, however, Pegadito a Mi Piel’s great success which opened new doors for young singer Ilabel. Not only was the single used as the main soundtrack for the 2017 soap opera La Colombiana starring Felipe Braun, Elizabeth Minotta, and María José Illanes, but it was also named one of the 50 most viral songs in Chile on Spotify for two weeks, ultimately reaching second place on the list.

In simple terms, as Catalán puts it, “A successful song can position an artist so that he or she can spark interest of the label or producers that are managing the artist.” And, this is exactly what the finished product Pegadito a Mi Piel did.

Currently, there is another Ilabel single that will also be mixed and mastered by Catalán in the works. While an official release date is still to be determined, one can remain on the lookout for the song as it is set to be titled Cuenta Conmigo (Count on Me). Ilabel’s latest single that was mixed and mastered by Catalán, Eres Mi Otra Mitad (You Are My Better Half), was released quite recently, and has been airing on TV for about three months now.

Branching out some from the familiar and favorited territory of the POP music genre, Catalán contributed to yet another hit single this past year: The Country-Rock single Cuando La Historia Cambie sung by the famed Jano Letelier.

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Josué Catalán recording Jano Letelier’s single Cuando La Historia Cambie

Cuando La Historia Cambie is a powerful song that speaks of the injustice and wracked government system in Chile. Elaborating on the subject he’s quite familiar with, Catalán explained, “Chile, because of the military dictatorship in the 70-80s, is one of the most “Neoliberal” countries in the world. Everything is private and the system encourages social and economic inequality. People have to wait six months to get an appointment with a doctor in the public system. Meanwhile, the private hospitals are like luxury hotels and are very expensive. Also, people are retiring with pensions not greater than 10% of their former income, and this is a system managed by private companies. And these are just a few examples of what is going on within the country.”

The compelling and fresh production of Cuando La Historia Cambie was recorded, mixed, and mastered by Catalán, and has been transmitted by several online radio stations, including as the Todos Junto Radio, as well as FM radios such as Radio Futuro, one of the largest Rock and Blues radio stations in all of Chile.

“The first time I heard Cuando LA Historia Cambie on Radio Futuro, I felt so proud and excited and was full of adrenaline. I am proud of having worked on delivering the powerful message of the song to tons of people through one of the biggest radio stations in the country,” Catalán reminisced.

Contributing to the overall production of the single was drummer Arturo Salinas, bass player Sebastian Cordova, and studio assistant Nicolas Moris.

Prior to entering the recording studio, the team had prepared the songs and all ideas, resulting in a smooth process of production.  The band was recorded live with all musicians playing at the same time, and the final mix of the song was listened to repeatedly until Catalán and Letelier were certain they’d achieved a flawless sound.

“Josue’s preparation, responsibility, good hearing, and good will to work makes him very good at what he does,” Letelier commented. Catalán’s great ear for sound quality and comprehensive talent for engineering was also noticed by several radio listeners; After Cuando La Historia Cambie first aired on a radio show, Catalán instantly received praising comments comparing the sound quality of Letelier’s song to various others of the same style that were aired among his on the station that day. Adding to her previous words, Letelier concluded, “When working with him, you can see that he is happy doing what he loves and puts his positive energy into the projects.”

Presently, Catalán has mixed two additional Jano Letelier singles that are set to be released in early 2018, along with an entire album that should see the light by mid 2018. “The new album is a fresh view of Chilean music based mainly on blues and rock. It serves as an example of the talent that we have in Chile and will bring many different topics to the table in a very honest and powerful way,” Catalán shared. “Jano’s vision of Chilean music is very unique yet very representative of the national scene. The whole process of working with him has been very educative.”

 

For more information on Josué Catalán, please visit: www.josuecatalan.com
To listen to Pegadito a Mi Piel, please visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k-SzcAHUHek
To listen to Cuando La Historia Cambie, please visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6E3mIjDZBw

Creative Director Mitch Crook talks Nike and establishing a successful business

When Mitch Crook recalls what initially sparked his interest in design, he credits an inspirational art teacher from his youth. Mr. Dominic Culkin, from Crook’s high school in Hertfordshire, England, would inform his student about exhibitions to see what books to read, and what magazines to buy. This teacher’s ability to connect his class to art and design opened up a world and sparked a passion for a young Crook that shaped his entire future, and he still possesses today. Little did Mr. Culkin know the impact he would have on not only his pupil, but the United Kingdom as a whole. Crook is now the Founder and Creative Director at his company Hotel Creative, a design agency behind some of the country’s most renowned retail advertising campaigns.

Despite not having heard of Mitch Crook before, you have most likely seen his work. His company, Hotel Creative, is a multi-disciplined creative consultancy based in London. His team specializes in concepts, visual design and art direction for brand communications, experiences and pinnacle retail. They pride themselves on great ideas, quality production and a high standard of delivery, combining attention to detail with a no-limits attitude. With Crook at the helm, he constantly impresses both colleagues and clients, and after seven years in business, Hotel Creative has become a leader in the industry.

“I have never come across a more brilliant, talented and charismatic Creative Director than Mitch. I am constantly astounded by the innovative experiential campaigns he creates on behalf of his clients,” said Marcus Price, Associate Creative Director R/GA, New York.

Collaborating with Nike, Hotel Creative was responsible for many of their most successful product launches, directly contributing to increased awareness and commercial sales. Through his work, Crook has been partly responsible for Nike being the dominant sportswear brand in retail across the United Kingdom and Western Europe.

“Nike is the best brand in the world. Their vision for the future is streets ahead of their competition. I’m a massive Nike fan, love their product, love their demand for excellence and how innovative they are across all fields of play. The way they took on soccer with a clear mission to be the biggest brand was outrageous, but totally Nike and look how they’ve achieved that over the last 15 years. So much of what I see in Nike reflects why I set up Hotel Creative, we share similar creative goals to do things that haven’t been done before,” said Crook.

Specializing in apex visual experiences for luxury brands, Crook is a Nike brand expert and a global design influencer. Earlier in his career, before Hotel Creative, Crook was given great insight into working with Nike whilst working his way up in the creative world. At the time, online shopping was beginning to take off, with e-commerce sites like Amazon and eBay beginning to emerge as the giants that they are today. Despite this, Crook had a vision for retail that went against this trend; he believed that physical retail could still be more successful than ever if more of an artistic and creative approach was taken, making it bigger and better than ever. It was this idea that sparked the creation of Hotel Creative, and he pitched his concept to Nike UK, and they agreed to be his founding client. The promise of work gave Crook the courage and confidence to launch his own agency, and Nike has been his principal client ever since.

“Mitch has been responsible for, and involved with some of the most iconic Nike campaigns in the world. He always looks to push the boundaries of retail design,” said Adrian Fenech, Senior Brand Director, Nike Inc.

Crook’s loyalty and passion for Nike is evident in Hotel Creative’s work with the sporting brand. His direct experience with the company and his understanding of the field gives Hotel Creative an intimate knowledge of what works. Crook says his team pushes their own boundaries every single day to consistently produce high-achieving results for Nike. Nike respects this, and gives Crook a lot of creative freedom to explore new and unique ideas, something that has become a bit of a trademark for Hotel Creative, as no other creative consultants have achieved for Nike what they have. Crook treats every project through a fresh lens, and he does not have one house style that Nike simply adopts. Every single campaign is different, and each is visually stimulating for consumers.

“We have to react, find new things, new techniques, continually adapt our creative approach to what will excite and capture the imagination of consumers and what enhances and communicates Nike’s product,” he described.

Such an approach makes Nike the best and most challenging client in the world, according to Crook. Not only do they work with Nike on local territory campaigns around the UK, Hotel Creative also works on them at a global creative level, creating future campaign directives that set the tone for their creative rollouts across the world. There is never a moment with Crook’s company is not dealing with Nike. Projects typically take about four weeks, sometimes even less, but can last up to three months. The creative process involves Hotel Creative presenting a number of creative directions and refining them to align with Nike’s product and their audience. Every day is different, processes and order are often hard to impose, but they have built up a lot of trust between each other. Crook knows what is expected of him, and never rests on his laurels.

“Nike have an unnerving sense of the future and that futuristic vision excites and inspires me. Over the last 30 or so years they have transformed into such a globally innovative brand, continually pushing technologies to create new products for both elite sports and everyday consumers. This cutting-edge approach is a magnetic force for many creatives and I’m proud of what we’ve achieved working with Nike, given they have the ability to pick the best,” added Crook.

With such a passion for his work, there is little doubt as to why both Crook and Hotel Creative have become international success stories. Crook never let his connections with Nike die down as he was building his business, and he encourages all those who look to follow in his footsteps to remember, it’s not what you know, it’s who.

“Study, work hard, play hard. Work the system and build your contacts. Surround yourself with like-minded individuals. Look who’s doing work you love or aspire to do. Contact them and ask if you can assist in any way at all,” he advised. “All knowledge is good knowledge, even if it’s a bad experience, it is something you know not to do again. Always learn and reflect on what you did and what you could have done better. Then you are ready for next time.”

DESTING OR DELUSION IN A TECH FORMATTED ROMANCE: MATCHED

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Technology is supposed to make our lives easier. This is the allure and attraction we have to it. Blinking lights and high res displays are not the entirety of the advancements that we embrace. Some of them are unseen and often taken “on faith.” There are certain areas in which the jury is still out and one of these is relationships/dating. Human emotions are so complex and dating rituals are so culturally biased that it’s almost impossible to apply science to matters of the heart. It has been attempted for decades with success and failure. The upcoming release Matched tackles this issue. The soon to be released Brian Enciso film of modern romance via technological assistance is equal parts comedy and sobering drama in its discussion of what society is willing to give up in terms of romance in the search for one’s soulmate. Two tech-crossed would-be lovers Jacob Hill (Ithamar Francois) and Allie Benson (Ariane Ryan) seem both destined and doomed in their love connection in this depiction of the uncertainty of a certain connection.

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While the film is futuristic, it’s a stretch to refer to it as Science Fiction. It’s more accurate to describe Matched as a story about where we are soon headed if we continue along the relationship trend that the world has been careening towards. The story is in no way a condemnation of the integration of tech and one’s relationship status but rather an offering about what the next iteration may be.

When a heartbroken young man named Jacob receives a strange package in the mail, he finds a device inside informing him that a company named E-rose has found his perfect match based on science, data, and profiling. Her name is Allie Benson and while she does seem to be a good match, the discomfort of having her complete profile in the palm of his hand is too much for Jacob to bare. Out of curiosity, he goes to the restaurant where she works as a waitress and confirms that the E-rose profile was accurate. He avoids contacting Allie on this first occurrence but she later seeks him out. The two are forced to deal with the fact that they may be perfect for each other in spite of the sterile/unromantic means which has brought them together. As a proxy for modern couples everywhere, the duo contemplates what love truly is; a mathematical formula, a choice, or something altogether different.

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More than simple entertainment, the film is a springboard for discussion about love in current times…at least for those seeking love. The discussions and life-planning presented by the characters of the film could appear weighty and cumbersome but this is offset by the score of Matched. The obvious choice of cold digital synths was rejected for this film which instead utilizes Folk music instruments such as acoustic guitar, piano, banjo, mandolin, cello, and assorted folk percussion. There’s an intuitive lighthearted and comedic sensibility to the instrumentation and score that composer Chris Wotherspoon has fashioned for Matched. A primary example of this is when Jacob makes the decision to burn the profile he has received in the mail about Allie. As it is burning, Jacob receives a call from Allie telling him she wants her personal information package back. As he literally and figuratively puts out fires, a series of folk percussion elements and a chaotic pizzicato string arrangement (still organic and folky) creates a feeling of disjointedness and comedy.

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People seem to be in constant search of a means to improve every aspect of their life. Cars, telephones, dating services…these are all merely modern accoutrements of the courting process. Services similar to the one at the center of Matched are very near existence already, it’s likely that they will soon be here. Matched gives us something to think about as we feel the oncoming changes and we must decide if what we have right now is good enough or do we risk it for what could be better…or worse?

HOW YOU WILL SEE, HEAR, & FEEL “CHRISTMAS IN MISSISSIPPI”

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In the entertainment world there are those who seek the spotlight and then there are those like YuXin Boon. This sound editor prefers the work off screen creating and supporting the performers and story onscreen. It’s not a vocation for those who love attention but for the professional who finds their fulfillment in creativity and empowering the story, it’s the perfect environment. Boon’s work is always about creating the perfect environment. It often focuses on the background sound elements which, if they weren’t in the periphery, might take one out of the story because of their omission. For the Lifetime Television film “Christmas in Mississippi” she was tasked with using her abilities to draw viewers into the relaxing holiday atmosphere that supported the storyline. As the background editor, YuXin created a cheerful ambience that many of us associate with one of the happiest seasons in our year.

“Christmas in Mississippi” perfectly communicates the sentiment behind the season in modern times. Photographer Holly Logan (Jana Kramer) returns to her hometown of Gulfport, Mississippi for Christmas as the town is recovering from a terrible hurricane that devastated it years earlier. Holly finds herself working alongside her high school sweetheart, Mike (Wes Brown) who she discovers gave up his music dream to take care of his brother’s son while his brother served in the country’s military. The two are swept up in the rekindling of their feelings and the joy of the season. The production’s post-sound supervisor Eric M. Klein loved Boon’s work on ‘Enchanted Christmas’ and thought the skills and professionalism she showed on that project could help take the sound of the new project [“Christmas in Mississippi”] to a new level.

YuXin’s approach to her work as Ambience and Foley editor is something she enjoys because it is both methodical & calculated as well as highly creative. During early spotting session that displayed characters walking inside a warehouse with numerous background actors preparing props for light show, Boon divided the movements into sub groups like: present wrapping group, decoration group, and tools carrying group. She inserted the sounds of paper rustling sound for the wrapping, cable tangle sound for decoration, and metal clicking for tools, all contributions via the Foley artist on the film.  Adding ambience for another room in the warehouse in order to make them sound as if coming from the other side of the wall increased the depth and multidimensional feeling of a natural space. The essence of great sound/Foley editing is to present several perspectives of the sounds we experience in real life. YuXin’s highly detailed and though out plan for her work has made her such a sought out professional in a variety of productions. She gives a deeper insight into her mindset when creating as she explains, “I found out the recreation of warehouse ambience was the most difficult part of my work in this movie. The warehouse had a myriad of sounds happening at the same time. (Construction, decoration, paper wrapping, people talking, goods loading, fan spinning, etc.) and I wanted to cover those background movements as much as possible while keeping them balanced. Most of the construction ambiences I found in the [sound] libraries were too heavy for this movie and just didn’t match the scene. Instead of using one construction background with multiple sounds like drilling and sawing, I chose the ambience with one particular movement and combined different layers. For the scene with light construction, I added hammer, ladder, and pallet jack sound to make the scene sound busy. In this way, I provided more options to the director and supervising sound editors. It was easier for me to take out the ambience they didn’t like and keep others.”

There’s perhaps no better way to gain appreciation for those whom you work with as well as improve and excel in your own work than to experience firsthand the challenges of others. Boon was particularly excited that “Christmas in Mississippi” gave her the opportunity to work alongside Martin Quinones (ADR & Foley Recordist of ‘Christmas in Mississippi’) …literally! Because Boon was so microscopically aware of the actions of the actors/characters in the film, Quinones invited her on one of the session to do some of the actual Foley work, creating the recorded sounds that make audible movie magic, like squeezing a moist cloth to mimic the sound of straw stirring the cream in milkshake or the simple sounds of fabric rustling. While it could be easily overlooked and considered mundane, Boon felt that the simple recordings of leather and denim rubbed on a boom microphone would add to the believability of Mike (Holly’s high school sweetheart) during one particular scene, giving emphasis to his movement…which of course it did. Martin professes, “This was the second movie that ‘Wendy’ YuXin Boon and I worked on together and I was able to realize how thorough and detail oriented she is. Her laser-focus approach to sound editing, as well as her willingness to learn new methods and techniques clearly confirms that she makes the process of filmmaking better and more efficient.”

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While she works at it, YuXin readily admits that being hyper focused and detailed is simply a part of her nature. Noticing every small detail might be an irritating trait for a person to have but finding a way to use it in a beneficial manner, such as this editor has done, results in appreciation and a successful career. Using the correct tool for the job is the way that YuXin Boon approaches her work on every production she takes part in and it’s doubtless that this is the way that those who hire her view her contributions to their productions. “Christmas in Mississippi” feels like the holidays and thanks to YuXin it most definitely SOUNDS like it as well.