Category Archives: Interview

Producer Huanglizi Sun Strives for Excellence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Q&A with leading British actor Pezh Maan

Throughout his career, Britain’s Pezh Maan has shown audiences he is a force to be reckoned with as an actor. His work as a villain in the James Bond blockbuster Spectre was an international success, and the actor quickly became recognized around the world. Since then, he has starred in television shows like BBC’s Eastenders, the award-winning French series The Bureau, and the immensely popular FX series Tyrant.

We had a chance to sit down with this dynamic actor and find out about the beginnings of his career and get some advice for those looking to follow in his footsteps. He also gives a brief preview to his upcoming American television show Deep State, which premieres on FOX in over 50 countries later this year.

Check out this interview!

Pezh Maan Promotional 2 (2017)

EWG: Where are you from?

PM: I was born in Plymouth, United Kingdom, a naval town on the south-west Coast bridging the counties of Devon and Cornwall. I spent most of my childhood and youth there before moving away at 18. Since then, I’ve lived in Cambridge in the UK, spent most of the past 20 years making London my home, except for several lengthy stints traveling the globe, once circumnavigating from the UK eastwards and arriving back via Brazil a year later, and several months in different cities in India and the Far East. My star sign is Leo born in the year of the Chinese Wood Tiger.

EWG: In your own words, how would you describe what you do as an actor?

PM: I think what I do is to interpret the words of the writer and turn them into all the facets of the living breathing human being that I am being asked to play. I get into the skin of the character whilst still being myself with all my own emotional responses. When the character is somewhat at odds with my own experiences then imagination can come to one’s aid in creating a way to relate to the character. Imagination is the lifeblood of an actor’s work and interpreting the text is an imaginative endeavor and an extremely rewarding one for me.

EWG: What initially sparked your interest in acting?

PM: Like a lot of kids, I was involved in school productions and I remember just enjoying being on the stage and being in a position to influence the audience with humor or different emotions. I developed a love for performing over the years that was nurtured as I moved through high school and began reading more about plays and watching films and I had some great teachers who inspired in us a love of drama and life, which was invaluable for us. Acting was part and parcel of understanding life it seemed to me and felt like a natural place for me to express myself.

EWG: Why did you want to be a professional actor?

PM: For several years I was involved in amateur productions in London on stage as well as on camera in low-budget short films. After a while it became clear that I needed to be doing it full-time and so it became a natural progression to take the steps of a professional actor. I began the actor’s journey of auditions, castings, knock backs and small successes. None of the joys would have been possible for me if I hadn’t taken the plunge and signed up to be full committed to the activity that was my passion since childhood. And I sort of fell into small successes that led to further work and I’ve been lucky enough to see my career grow.

EWG: What do you like about being an actor?

PM: It’s now such an integral part of my life I can’t see myself doing anything else. I like the work, and the people who are drawn to this particular way of telling stories. One thing we all have in common is the need to tell stories and actors are charged with bringing stories to audiences in a collaborative endeavor that can move people. It’s also a lot of fun. I feel in acting we are given free rein to experience the whole gamut of emotions that in everyday life we don’t get to experience that often (and rightly so!). It’s a very invigorating activity and I find it hugely inspiring.

EWG: What are the challenges to being an actor and how do you overcome them?

PM: The work you need to do as an actor on your mind body and probably soul to be best equipped to be able to produce performances that move people, that are specific and bring characters to life in that believable way that keeps audiences attentions. That entails a lot of preparation and study, especially learning lines and cues of when to make actions necessary for the story and so forth. Then there are the challenges of how to make a life and a living from a profession that has been described as the most competitive one out there. Being rejected is something that you accept as an actor and an experience you become accustomed to and probably the major part of any working actor’s success is having the resilience to keep working despite fallow periods of little or no success. It’s a real test of one’s self-belief as actors. Actors need to be in tune with their sensitivity as humans to be good actors and so it can be quite a challenge to maintain that equanimity and take the challenges in your stride.

EWG: What would you consider the highlight of your career?

PM: That is an interesting question because initially the early successes made a huge impact and it felt as if I was moving from highlight to highlight. Now that my career has a steady momentum I feel as if the highlight of my career is having a career. I’m very grateful to have had the honor of working with some great actors and directors on film and television and being cast in the Bond film Spectre will always be an experience I will remember. I’d like to think that the highlight has yet to happen and wait to see what the future will bring. That attitude keeps me fresh and not complacent which I think is detrimental for any artist.

EWG: How would you describe your style of acting?

PM: I think that is something that critics are better placed to comment on this. Words such as naturalistic and minimalistic are ideas that resonate with me when thinking of performances on camera. I’m excited by seeing performances with those qualities and I like to think that I do my best to try and achieve that on camera. Acting for the camera is an art in itself as the camera picks up on everything you are doing, and so minimalism is amplified and goes a long way. Apart from that I would say that having no style works best for the camera, trying to be as truthful to the moment as possible without embellishing unnecessarily and being economical with gestures and actions can really enhance the portrayal you achieve on screen.

EWG: What advice would you give to those looking to pursue a career in acting?

PM: That’s an interesting question. I’ve read other actor’s responses in the past to that question which fall into the “Do/Don’t do it and Keep going you’ll get there in the end” categories. I would say that either you know you want to do it or you don’t and that you should listen to your gut and heart because then you can never go wrong and in the end if you followed your heart you will be a success whatever happens. And to avoid becoming negative or cynical because life is bigger than all of us and to keep a perspective on it is to have cracked the secret to a successful life. One I’m still trying to achieve myself.

EWG: What are your plans for the future?

I have a really interesting role in a brilliant new thriller series Deep State in Spring 2018, which was great fun to shoot and I can’t wait to see the final cut. I also have another film project that I can’t talk too much about now and a television project to shoot this year. 2018 promises to be an exciting one and we have only just begun.

Cooking for the stars: Chef Salvatore Meo

Salvatore Meo always wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father. He wanted to have his own restaurant, making authentic Italian dishes for the locals to appreciate. What he didn’t expect was to become an international success, cooking food for presidents, filmmakers, celebrities, and more.

While growing up in Lecce, Italy, cooking was Meo’s one passion. He always felt that cooking was a way to express creativity. While making classic Italian food, he found a way to express himself. However, unlike his father, he decided to expand his horizons beyond the borders of Italy, and moved to Germany to bring his food and share his culture abroad. He has shared his knowledge with his employees and his customers, always achieving success.

“I’ve learned from Salvatore to always be conscious of your surroundings. Make sure you always carry your chef’s vision when making first class dishes,” said sous chef Carlo Centonze, who worked alongside Meo at Trattoria Fornaretto.

Meo has owned and operated a series of popular Italian restaurants in Germany, including Trattoria Fornaretto, Ristorante Rossini Bischoscheim, Restaurant Zum Nudeldunker, and Ristorante Rossini Floersheim. There is little he cannot achieve.

“Experience, dedication, and the ability to handle a fast-moving industry are the most important aspects of starting your own restaurant. Overall though, I think it’s your origin of where you are from that allows you to take that wherever you go. My origin is why I like cooking,” said Meo.

As owner of the restaurant Restaurant Zur Ratsstube, Meo was in charge of every aspect of the cooking and management. He hired the staff, took care of payroll, and created the menu with his own original recipes. He also had the freedom to choose what products he wanted to work with, so he was able to build and create the menus he wanted to serve. He wanted to work with fresh products that he was able to purchase locally and farm grown or raised. The good quality had a very positive improvement to the dishes he cooked and purchasing local products helped stimulating the economy. At the time however, despite vast experience cooking, it was his first time actually owning a restaurant.

“Naturally it was exciting and scary at the same time. It was in a different country, I didn’t speak the language very well and I already had a family to support, but I fell in love with the area it was in. The Rhineland in Germany is known for its many wineries and the wine it produces. It had a very rustic ambient with a good quality kitchen and accommodations that allowed me to run my restaurant and have my family nearby,” said Meo. “The area was interesting because it resembled the part of Italy I came from with the wineries. Local wineries and wines was the foundation and the inspiration to create German and Italian Dishes that I was able to pair with the local wines. People enjoyed that because they were able to enjoy good food that was cooked and prepared with local products and paired with wine they already knew and loved.”

Building Restaurant Zur Ratsstube from the ground up did not come without its challenges. With a friendly and family style and a German and Italian country mix, Meo was bringing Italian cooking to Germany, and wanted to build a good reputation in community. He achieved his goal, as Gimbsheim was a small town that really had no Italian restaurants. Meo was bringing something new and exciting to the well-established community. People enjoyed the southern Italian food and frequently came back.

In working the new country, Meo learned a lot about German culture and cuisine. It helped him improve the way he ran a business and how he cooked.

“Learning what German people appreciate in food helped me improve the quality of my food,” he said.

Because it was new and unique and one of the first to be established in the community, the combination of a rustic German kitchen mixed with a Mediterranean kitchen was extremely interesting, and people responded well what Meo had to offer. For his first restaurant, he achieved what many do in a single lifetime, and it set up the base for his now esteemed career. Despite such success, however, it is no longer just his passion for cooking that motivates Meo.

“My kids made me realize that working hard and doing what you love to do for a better quality of life is important. Although my kids chose a different profession, they both work hard to achieve their dreams and I have passed down my passion for Italian cuisine, which both of them incorporate at home in their kitchens,” he concluded.

Rhythmic gymnastics coach Ana Perez helps young Spanish athletes soar to success

Rhythmic gymnastics is so much more than simply waving a ribbon. It is about precision. It is a sport and an art form. Athletes must be in incredible shape, but be trained in ballet and other styles of dance. Spain’s Ana Perez knows this well. She is both a successful gymnast and a celebrated coach, lending her talents to help train future generations of gymnasts while still remaining in the shape of an athlete ready to step on stage.

Perez’s coaching abilities have earned her a reputation as one of Spain’s best. She is internationally sought-after, and has worked with many award-winning athletes, helping them get to where they are.

As a coach, it is very similar to being an athlete, but on the other side of the competition. I still train five days per week plus one or two days more on the weekends for competitions. Really, it’s different because you have to convey your knowledge to the girls, but I love it. The opportunity to teach girls since they were young is amazing, I enjoy a lot with my work and also, I learn a lot every day from them,” she said.

Earlier this year, Perez showed Spain and the world the caliber of coach she is while training Aitana Ramos for the Absolute Spanish World Championship, the highest level of competition that the country offers. Ramos was trained for her individual season by three coaches, as this is a rule regulated by the Spanish Federation of rhythmic gymnastics in the beginner category in the Absolute Spanish Championship. Together with two other coaches, Perez trained her with the purpose of classifying herself in the preliminary round, since she was provincial champion thanks to the sum of her three exercises. She ended up taking second place in the autonomic phase and she classified herself for the Individual Spanish Championship in June.

“You feel very proud because what I have learned since I was little, which is to do gymnastics, is now what I teach and I do so with the advances of the rhythmic gymnastics code as established by the International Gymnastics Federation. It was extremely satisfying. For Aitana, it was the first time she learned with the maces that I taught her, and her improvement was very remarkable. She performed a great competition, both in the exercise of maces and in the rest of the hands-free and ball exercises. In this way, Aitana was selected the following year by the technification team of the Valencian Community,” Perez described.

Perez was responsible for making the choreography of juggling clubs, looking for the music and creating the choreography in order to obtain strong results. She supervised the rest of the choreography with ball and hands-free. By doing so, Ramos got the best possible position with the sum of the three apparatuses, achieving very high results of the 50 beginner gymnasts that participated.

Perez’s fellow coaches, Alicia Gaspar, who trained Ramos with the ball, and Julia Marin, who trained her in hands-free, knew Perez’s contributions were pivotal to the gymnast’s success. The two of them say Perez’s choreography was “perfect” for Ramos, and she knows exactly what the sport should be. They describe her as an excellent coworker who is essential to their team, always giving advice and modifying choreography to make it the best it can be. However, they weren’t the only people impressed with Perez’s work.

“Ana is very friendly with the girls. They love her and also her work. Ana’s work during the year is very important for our Club because we have a lot of girls to pay attention to, not just during the midweek at the training, but also at the competitions during the weekend, when we have to travel with the gymnasts around different cities and places and we have to take care, motivate and have fun with the girls. Our job is our passion and Ana is the reflection of that. She always has a smile in her face and is always creating a good work environment,” said Ines Gaspar, Coach of the Morvedre Rhythmic Gymnastics Club.

Perez had seen success at the same competition three years before, bringing her team to victory and taking first place. However, this year she coached an individual rather than a team. In the individual competition, the five best gymnasts in each community of Spain in each category are chosen to compete. It is at a very high level where the best gymnasts go. Every gymnast wants to be part of it. Although Ramos did not win, Perez could not have been prouder of the young athlete.

“Aitana was not a winner but both my teammates, Julia, Alicia and I, we were very happy, since Aitana had managed to be among the best in Spain doing a great championship in her three choreographies. Aitana had small mistakes that are normal because she is a gymnast who is learning and because of her young age, because she was only 12, she lacked experience which she will gradually acquire,” said Perez.

With talent like Perez’s, we can continue to expect greatness from this coach. Countries around the world are looking to have her train their rhythmic gymnasts, and there is no doubt that she will continue to see them soar to success.

 

Photo from left to right: Marta Belloch, María Ripoll, Ariadna Moya, Daniela Sese, Aitana Ramos, Alba Acosta, Ana Perez

Art Director-Motion Graphics Designer Ilya Tselyutin Thriving in Hollywood

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

 

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

 

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

Troika_Office_2

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

Troika_Office_1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Director Jan Pavlacky shines light on EB disease with powerful PSA

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Director Jan Pavlacky

It was when Jan Pavlacky was nineteen-years-old that he figured out his path in life. At that time, he did not know what exactly it would involve, but he knew he had to make films. He started off in the costume department, but when he got his first taste of directing, he knew without any doubt where his true passion was, and now he is an internationally recognized director.

Pavlacky has had an extremely successful career. He directed his film award-winning film BKA 49-77, worked alongside Hollywood’s biggest stars including Bruce Willis on the set of Hart’s War, Matt Damon on the set of Bourne Identity, and Luc Besson on the set of Joan of Arc with Milla Jovovich, and made commercials for worldwide brands such as Nike. He has worked with some of the world’s best production companies, including atSwim, which has an amazing international collective of producers, directors, and creatives from around the world.

“It’s a huge honor to be a part of atSwim,” said Pavlacky. “Working with creative people from different parts of the world broadened my own perspectives and I’ve learned to create work with more universal appeal.”

One of Pavlacky’s most notable projects with atSwim was a moving PSA commercial for the esteemed Debra company. The commercial was made to raise awareness for the company, which takes care of people with EB disease, an inherited connective tissue disease. The basic symptom of the disease is blistering all over the body surface, and also affects the mucous membranes, gastrointestinal tract, respiratory tract or excretory organs.

The commercial involved creating an annual calendar with 12 famous people from the Pavlacky’s native country of the Czech Republic, including artists, fashion designers, actors, singers, and scientists. During the commercial, projections were screened on the celebrities as they recited a poem by one of the EB patients. The footage of the celebrities was then projected on various materials and architectural elements, which created an abstract and inspiring vision that left a lasting impression on everyone involved.

“I loved that fact that I could use my knowledge or talent to create something of an moral value and contribute to the good of society. EB is incurable, and in many cases deadly, with very few medical resources and no known cure. Therefore, any attention and towards DEBRA, the organization taking care of EB patients, is important,” said Pavlacky.

While bringing attention to Debra, Pavlacky came up with the visual concept of creating light projections, which symbolized a second skin for the patients and evoked the situations and mixed feelings they go through as they battle the disease. This meant the shoot was very complicated, and called for an immense amount of preparation and technical aptitude. Before filming began, Pavlacky already had every shot planned to ensure the shoot was seamless for the entire crew and the famous celebrities. Pavlacky’s commitment and consistent planning ahead is appreciated by many of his counterparts in the industry.

 “Jan has all the marks of a legendary director, and his genius is present in all of the projects he has been a part of. When atSwim was called upon to prepare a PSA commercial, I knew Jan was the right man for the job. The project was a resounding success, raising great awareness for the Debra company thanks to Jan’s groundbreaking direction, which offered a clever visual dynamic to accompany the important message. Additionally, the commercial achieved very high media buzz which was so needed by Debra, as well as helped us to further demonstrate atSwim’s distinguished nature as a leading production company.  I can’t thank Jan enough for his great work,” said producer and founder of atSwim, Tomáš Krejčí. “Jan has proven himself time and time again to be a director of extraordinary ability made clear by his list of exceptional credits.  He is truly among the top tier of directors working, and continues to impress me with each project he takes on.”

Pavlacky describes the experience of working on the commercial as wonderful, but it came with its technical challenges. There were lots of projections that were re-recorded in-camera. This process was done several times, thus creating a multilayered image all in-camera without post. He also had to synchronize all the images with sound, requiring a large amount of time in the editing room. However, one of the biggest roadblocks came from getting the celebrities on set, as they were extremely busy. Despite all of this, the commercial ended up being a huge success.

“The collaboration was very interesting. The celebrities from the PSA came from different backgrounds, some of them were experienced being in front of the camera some were totally unused to. I liked the balance between the professional and the authentic,” concluded Pavlacky.

You can view Pavlacky’s work on the powerful PSA here.

Alexandre Cornet inspires future artists with TLS Advertising Campaign

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Artist Alexandre Cornet 

Growing up in Paris, France, Alexandre Cornet loved drawing. As a child, he would read comics and watch cartoons, fascinated by the illustrations. At the age of 11, childhood drawings transformed into graffiti, and while living by an abandoned train station, he would watch people paint words in colors. This keen interest at such a young age meant there was only one thing for him to do with his life, and Cornet became an internationally recognized artist.

Cornet’s reputation as a visual artist, designer, and art director had led to a lot of success in his career. He has had his own exhibitions, as well as worked with large companies to help define the visual aspect of their brand. Currently, Cornet resides in Lima, Peru, and while working with on the advertising campaign for the Toulouse Lautrec Institute for Design (TLS), the entire city was able to see his artwork.

The concept of the campaign was the promotion of creativity, and that is why I wanted to work on it,” said Cornet. “It feels like an honour to have had my work displayed everywhere around town and that the campaign was a success and that it served to bring more people towards a creative career.”

As an artist, promoting creativity and encouraging others to attend to school and follow in Cornet’s footsteps was important to him. This idea motivated him from the beginning, and the creative area of the university’s marketing department was already a fan of Cornet’s work. They wanted him to incorporate his drawings into the skies of wide angle photographs that they had taken previously.

“I liked to be able to intervene photography and to create artwork of massive impact, some panels were about 14 meters wide placed at key intersections in the city,” he said.

To accomplish this vision, Cornet created digital illustrations featuring single characters, doing one action in particular for its easy understanding. He mainly used the color palette from the brand identity guidelines, and respected their rules for the design and layout of the branding and copy. He used an easy urban style with black outlines for easy impact and to connect with the primary target of the campaign; young adults who just finished high school and have some interest into a creative career.

“The panels had to stand out, be seen and understood in the glimpse of an eye at high traffic spots. I had to simplify and focus on the idea they had to transmit. Using colors and shapes in the best manner to fit and contrast with the photographs and the copy,” described Cornet. “I also had to complete the artwork in a record timeline, being the first time the marketing department was acting as its own advertising agency they kept trying different ideas and options.”

This ended up being easy for Cornet to overcome, as he worked director with Jean Paul Du Bois, the chief of marketing, acting as a creative director, and Lorena Solari, the sales manager. Du Bois had previously worked with Cornet, and knew he would capture the essence of the university and bring his own creative aspect to the campaign.

“I had worked with Alex before on two short films that were directed by me. His art contribution and compromise involve high quality standards that were fundamental to achieve a good finishing and to be recognized by the Peruvian Culture Ministry and other festivals around the world,” said Du Bois. “As the Head of Marketing of the Toulouse Lautrec Institute of Design, I hired him to illustrate the advertisement campaign “Some People See Reality, Others Change It,” which needed an unusual point of view, and Alex helped us to reach the pieces with high visual impact. It’s always been stimulating, at the moment of the brainstorming interesting points of view appear. His creative contribution and compromise to get quality on what he does makes him a trustworthy person on any job.”

Cornet previously worked on other campaigns for the college. In the middle of 2015, the Toulouse Lautrec Institute of Design produced the social media campaign “Career” to promote the careers that the Institute had. Cornet made a series of illustrations on digital collage through the Digital Agency Performance Group. He also designed posts of each Institute’s career for a new Instagram campaign, with great success.

As if coming full circle, it is without a doubt that Cornet’s artwork continues to inspire the next generation of artists to study and live their dream.

German TV Writer-Producer Kirsten Ittershagen Runs Her Shows with Passion, Precision

Driven, versatile and passionate, German television writer-producer Kirsten Ittershagen, who works as a Showrunner for German and international TV series, has ascended to the top of her field thanks to a powerful combination of raw talent and creative vision. In a decade’s time she went from an entry level aspirant to become the creator, writer and producer on one of the nation’s top series, Alibi Agency, a program that deftly combines comedy and drama into a singular, intriguing format.

The road which led her from a career in advertising to television and Alibi Agency was one marked by fate and determination, an odyssey that began when Ittershagen was a child and came to fruition, years later, after a dramatic leap of faith. “I’ve been a TV fan since childhood,” Ittershagen said. “It all started with Love Boat, Magnum, P.I. and Beverly Hills 90210. My mom was always concerned that I didn’t read as much as my sister did—I came home from school and enjoyed the afternoon by watching German and American TV shows.”

“It became my passion,” she said. “Even during my studies of Sociology, Cultural Studies and Psychology at the University of Hamburg, I still watched TV in the afternoon or evenings. After I graduated, I began working in advertising but still dreamed of a career in the TV Industry. I had to follow my passion in order to be happy and very spontaneously, I quit my job, moved to Berlin and decided to be a writer. It was a big risk, but luckily it worked out.”

Against some steep odds, Ittershagen’s determination and skill began to pay off. Starting as an intern at GrundyUFA (an independent TV subsidiary of the fabled UFA film studio), Ittershagen soon graduated to working out plots as “storyliner” moved on to story editing and before long found herself the head writer on popular, long-running dramas Unter Uns (Among Us), Gute Zeiten, Schlechte Zeiten (Good Times, Bad Times”) and the writer-producer of Verbotene Liebe (Forbidden Love)

“My biggest dream came true,” Ittershagen said. “I got job writing for the company which produced my favorite TV series that I’d watched for years.”

A story teller second to none, her ability to imprint a unique twist on a familiar scenario has served her well, and Ittershagen managed it in a particularly demanding sector of the industry—the high pressure world of TV series. This is an arena of inescapable deadlines, where a writer must not only meet an almost impossibly tight schedule but also maintain consistent quality and narrative poise.

And she did it with impressive skill. “Kirsten combines exceptional creative talent with the management strength necessary to run a room of writers, each of whom has their own character,” said Jan Diepers, Gute Zeiten, Schlechte Zeiten executive producer. ”I remember several occasions where it seemed impossible to continue with a storyline; whether due to budgeting reasons or an unforeseeable incident, but Kirsten never lost focus or her positive, creative attitude. She would usually return from the writer’s room with an even better idea and solution.”

 

Ittershagen’s extraordinary talent isn’t just known in Germany. As a passionate traveler Ittershagen loves to work internationally and for different cultures. For the international company FremantleMedia, Ittershagen worked in Croatia on the show Ruza Vjetrova (Rose of the Wind) for Croation broadcaster RTL, heading up their international writers room. Typically for Ittershagen, the show become one of the most successful in that country. She also developed a TV series called The Mall for the same company, set in Dubai and marketed to air in the Middle East.

 

Following this international success she also became the first German writer-producer invited to join the faculty at Serial Eyes Program, the groundbreaking European postgraduate high-level TV series writing and producing program in Berlin, where she mentors up and coming European scriptwriters and producers.

Her creation and subsequent success of Alibi Agency was almost inevitable. “Ten years ago I had the idea about a guy who helps people to cheat on their spouses” Ittershagen said. “I started research and found an actual alibi agency which offered all the professional lies, fake worlds and realities you need, hiding an affair, two families or even a disease like cancer or HIV from bosses or a job in porn or escort from families.”. I’m a very honest person and I was fascinated and disgusted in the same time. But I realized, in creating these stories, how important is to discuss the value of truth and, also, the easy way out with lies. It resonates with audiences and they reflect on their own lives—‘Would I do the same? Who I can trust?’  And now, on top of that, ten years later, we live in a world full of lies, in the news, the internet, all around us. Whistleblowers coming out with some truths we never wanted to hear, or did we? That’s why Alibi Agency mirrors the contemporary feeling of society.”

 

Her precision, vigor and ability to consistently turn out world class scripts earned her a formidable reputation among her peers—her daily drama shows average 4 million viewers each, and earned her the prestigious German Soap Award in 2012 for “responsible social and humanitarian storytelling” for her teenage HIV-themed story of  the show Unter Uns (Among Us).

Her background in sociology and psychology lend canny depth to her scripts and Ittershagen’s crisp, articulate dialog, sense of pacing and sheer reach of storyline benefit every project to which she contributes. For Ittershagen, with an already significant level or professional achievements, the sky is the limit; as Jan Diepers points out, “Kirsten has an extraordinary ability to spin ideas further than most writers I know.”

And the multi-faceted Ittershagen—writer, producer, series creator, showrunner—wouldn’t have it any other way. “It is an astonishing feeling when you see your ideas, characters and stories come alive on the screen,” she said. “Television is a mass medium that has major impact on society and I want to use it for greater good. I see my purpose as a writer in sending important, uplifting messages to my audience. There is enough fear, pain, violence, hate and terror out there—I think the world needs hope, love, light and laughter. And as a TV writer I have the chance to make the world a better place, at least a little.”

3D graphic artist Ohenewa Anno takes illustrations to next level

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What’s That Spooky Sound? cover art.

Everyone has a memorable childhood book that stays with them well beyond their early years. These books held stories and characters that came to life through the words of the writer, the voices of the loved ones who would read them aloud, and, of course, the illustrations carefully crafted by the artists. Illustrators can lead to a story continuing to be engaging and memorable at any age. Ohenewa Anno is one such illustrator who created the captivating visuals for the recently published What’s That Spooky Sound, a rhyming Halloween story for children written by Jim Horsman.

What’s That Spooky Sound follows three children as they go trick-or-treating through their neighborhood. As a graduate from Ringling College of Art and Design with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Computer Animation, Anno brings a unique look to the story through the use of 3D modelling. Jim Horsman, the author, chose to work with Anno after seeing her extensive portfolio of digital work.

“Ohenewa’s illustrations captivated me immediately,” Horsman said. “I found her 3D imagery to be a perfect fit for my project. Her creativity and talent was crucial in giving the book life and image.”

Anno was the illustrator for the entirety of the book. She designed the three main characters of the book based on the character descriptions and an understanding of the aesthetic Horsman was trying to acheive: a balance between a spooky Halloween story and a playful children’s book. This balancing act was artfully handled by Anno.

“It was very important to research different moods for both Halloween and children’s books to develop the overall aesthetic,” Anno said. “Most children’s books are very bright, but I wanted to experiment with keeping most elements besides the children themselves very dark.”

The design of the main characters, kept bright and relatable, stand out with their friendly faces and remain relatable to the target audience of children.

“The word most often used to describe Ohenewa’s illustrations is ‘adorable’,” Horsman commented, speaking of the design of the exceedingly adorable main characters of What’s That Spooky Sound.

The moody backgrounds and environments portrayed in What’s That Spooky Sound were fully developed by Anno’s talents with 3D modelling, texturing and lighting techniques. She also made the creative choice to include elements of 2D digital painting to soften the 3D aspects and integrate the story more effectively with the pages of a book.

Anno has mastered the use of multiple programs that she uses in her projects. For the illustrations in What’s That Spooky Sound, she used Autodesk Maya, Pixar’s Renderman, Adobe Photoshop and Adobe InDesign. These programs were used to set up controllers for the eye movement of the characters, creating a skeleton rig for each character and using intricate tools from each program to bring depth and life to the final image. This blending of her artistic and technological skills across these programs lead to high quality still images that moved the story forward.

Supporting the storyline is a crucial part of storybook illustration. Having strong illustrative storytelling alongside a well-crafted use of language by the author will lead to a successful story. What’s That Spooky Sound has received only positive reviews on Amazon, where it is currently available for purchase. Horsman has noted that the book’s success is due to a combination of the writing and the illustrations.

“We have received numerous positive responses to the book, with equal kudos for the story line and the illustrations,” Horsman said.

The book’s success has prompted Horsman to look for further ways to expand on the adventures of the three main characters. As he moves forward with these goals, he stated that he would definitely include his illustrative partner Anno.

“Through the book development process, Ohenewa was extremely professional and responsive.  So much so that I am pursuing growth for this project and others,” Horsman enthused. “Indeed, I am preparing to pitch this project to national retailers as well as production companies for potential movie and TV rights.  The potential for future development of the three characters is large. Ohenewa’s role in future development is crucial.”

For Anno’s part, her professional career as an illustrator is already taking off with projects spanning different applications for her impressive 3D artistry. She was the 3D designer, website designer, and graphic designer for a leather saddlery company based in Switzerland called Sattleria. She is also engaged in the creative design work as a 3D character modeler bringing even more characters to life for GenZed, an animated comedy.