From the time she was a child, Youjia Qian always had a great interest in the arts and fashion. She learned to play the flute at a young age and began painting very early in her life. Music was always a great passion of hers, with an eclectic playlist featuring many genres. She enjoys expressing her attitude and emotions through clothing and accessories, which she has all her life.
“I think clothes show the characteristic of one person and the style that they want to express at that day. Same as artworks, dressing is also an art. To me, being a stylist enables me to help others to show their attitude with clothes,” said Qian.
Now, Qian is a celebrated stylist and art director, and a leader in her industry. She has worked on many successful music videos, such as “Say Less” for Roy Woods, “Devil in California” by Burna Boy, “Talking to Me” for Gab 3 and “Hollywood Angel” by BEXEY and Gab3. She has also made her mark with commercials, working with the famous department store Barneys New York earlier this year on their “Starwalk” campaign.
“I think the greatest challenge as an art director is pre-communication, since the visual effect is hard to express with words. Sometimes customers are not able to imagine what you want to express and then I need to prepare so many cases and proposals with clearer visuals to let them know what I want to express finally. I always make sure to discuss everything with my client in detail. Any problem that arises can be overcome with patient communication,” she described.
Such an attitude is why the art director was approached by newcomer DeathByRomy to take on her debut music video. DeathByRomy needed an experienced professional at the helm to make the project a success, and she knew Qian was just the person. Qian enjoys working with young artists, giving them insight into what it takes to make a hit video.
“I am very happy to work with female artists and hope to cooperate with more girls and new artists in the future,” said Qian.
Qian was eager to work with DeathByRomy. The two had an understanding that the video would have a slightly more feminine feel, and as the two are both female, they found it easy to strike a balance in what they both envisioned. They spent a lot of time discussing the details prior to shooting. They decided to use a dreamy color to express the feeling of youth, while interspersing a lot of cute shots to express a girlish feeling.
“I think this new artist is very willing to try new ideas and styles, so the actors in the audience are some of her own friends, and the cooperation with everyone is very harmonious and happy. We can also know what kind of things and styles young people like now through the communication,” said Qian.
The video was released in June of this year and was published by Elevator. Watch it here to witness Qian’s artistry first hand.
Dragi Ivanov has long been known as a producer aware of how to tailor his skills to a musician’s needs, while bringing his own sense of practical artistry to any track he produces.
As the producer of Terrell Hines’ hit song ‘$3.99 (model1)’ Ivanov’s seasoned skill as a recording engineer proved imperative to capturing the song’s crisp sound quality. His ability to expertly wear many hats was reflected in how he wrote, produced, recorded and mixed the song for one of music’s most promising artists today.
Hines, who is also in the hugely popular band Wake Child, attested to the critical role Ivanov played in shaping the song’s sound from its inception and how they both wanted to create something that was compelling from the get-go.
Hines says, “As creatives we were pushing the envelope, so we started gathering our ideas and organizing them and Dragi produced, mixed and mastered…3.99.”
Hines further points to the collaborative nature of the song-making process, and the respect Ivanov grants the artists he works with and to the listeners of their music.
“We both love music and are intrigued by sound so we wanted to see if we could get music out in a way not normal to the ears but relatable to the ears spreading positive informative messages to society.”
Ivanov echoes Hines’ assertion that each of the cognoscenti wished to make a song that was edgy and create a new standard of music.
“Both of us always wanted to push the envelope and just create something that is crazy and innovative,” Ivanov explains. “We just wanted to make something that we hadn’t done before and that was exciting for us, we didn’t set out to do anything specific we just wanted to see what we can do and how well we can do it.”
It’s clear that Ivanov achieved his goal of producing a song that was edgy and compelling in a really subversive way, a rarity in a crowded market where every other producer is trying to push musicians to make a statement.
With Ivanov though, he’s the real deal. Combined with Hines’ writing, with it’s biblical references that are simultaneously respectful of spirituality but not condescendingly preachy to a listener, the producer and artist break new ground. The result is an edgy and compelling rap track that offers an incisive social commentary on the way unbridled greed has compromised the moral fabric of humanity, detailing the extreme lengths people go to for things worth $3.99. Listening to the song itself on an instinctual level leaves a listener conscious of a darkness, an effect countered with hip beats that get the body moving in a manner reminiscent of Childish Gambino’s ‘This is America’ but with an even more potent punch.
Elaborating on the uniqueness of Ivanov’s approach, highlighting how the man is as interested in the process of making the music as the end result, Hines says, “Working with Dragi is therapeutic,” Hines astutely claims. “He can form any color and structure through music. When it comes to music and just sound in general he definitely has his own unique aesthetic.”
Adding his crucial creative input and mastery as a producer into the mix, Ivanov played a key role in the song’s composition, of course bouncing the ideas back and forth with Hines while producing, recording and mixing the song. He explains, “Everything you hear from the drums and bass, to the synths and the pads as well as the guitar parts and the way the whole song sounds is what I did. I created all the interesting sound design elements such as the clicky percussion parts, 808 bass, the menacing synthesizers, sound effects and vocal effects and treatment is what I did as part of the production process.”
The uniqueness of Ivanov’s skills as a music producer are reflected in the imaginative ways Hines describes Ivanov’s approach, pointing to a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ that effectively highlights the Macedonian native’s creative magic.
For instance, the song invokes Black church and gospel music style through the use of organs and tambourines, grounding it in a sense of history that is both culturally specific, and universally resonant.
In a more obvious reflection of Ivanov’s significant success within his field, it also helps to understand that the musicians Ivanov works with always enjoy a loyal and fervent fan base, ensuring that his songs reaches huge numbers of ardent listeners around the world. That, and his producing skills have equally come to be known within the industry as a secret weapon which can make an artist’s career.
Hines additionally points to the adaptability of Ivanov’s specialized skill-set as a producer who can jump between genres while also maintaining the artist’s sensibility and integrity.
“Dragi understands music from many different perspectives. He also knows what he is doing on the production side whether it is production or mastering, which I could trust him to execute every time creatively and professionally.”
The most obvious manifestation of Ivanov’s versatility is in the work he’s done with the band Wake Child. The incredibly popular Californian group, frequently known for invoking psychedelic 60s sounds with their own unique millennial bent, clearly owe some of their success to the producing prowess of Ivanov.
For the track ‘Hangup Blues,’ Ivanov talks about how he and the band “wanted to make a seemingly Lo-Fi sounding record but also have it be epic.”
The product is a filmic and moving track which has received over 60,000 streams on online and been promoted by multiple blogs and Spotify playlists. It’s clear that fans of Wake Child and Ivanov recognize how the song manages to expertly use vocals and guitars in a symbiotic manner that builds towards a rough and tumble crescendo that grabs a listener by the collar and pulls them into a collective, and at once, individual experience.
In essence, it proves how Ivanov – who produced, recorded and mixed the song for Wake Child – tells a story with music in a way that only the most celebrated and iconic music producers are able.
He speaks with authority with the how the song is constructed, indicative of how Ivanov is deeply connected to helping produce music that tells a story and effects emotional change within a listener.
“The song starts very small with only a Rhodes piano and vocals it eventually builds up to the first chorus which is very interesting because the relationships between the instruments change in a way that the chorus feels a lot bigger than the actual verse.”
The humble manner with which Ivanov explains how his personable nature lends him an advantage when dealing with different musicians is equally interesting and endearing.
“Another thing is [because I’m an] introvert I don’t necessarily talk too much and I am very sensitive to situations that I know how to stay away or step in when I need to and that way I am able to meet people feel comfortable in the studio and give their best performance.”
“Hangup Blues” consequently manages to be romantic and solemn at the same, echoing a deeply felt sense of love that is truly poetic. When the song hits a beat change half-way through, it shifts a listener into an aural experience that really affecting.
Producing the song itself represented a significant challenge, which Ivanov embraced with gusto
“This project was different because it was the first project where I had to produce a full band,” Ivanov clarifies.
“[I] usually work with only an artist and my job is to create the music behind the artist, whereas with this project I had to learn how to step away from being a the musician and focus on more technical and managerial side of things.”
In closing remarks, Ivanov adeptly sums up the authentic approach to his work that highlights his genuine and specialized creative spirit.
“For me I would say is that I want the music to be exciting and feel effortless.”
Calvin Khurniawan believes a cinematographer’s job is much like that of a comic book artist. Both roles involve how a story is seen; they don’t write the story, but they take on the visual stimulation for audiences and readers. They add to what is originally written, and decide exactly the best way to show the story they are given. Such a unique way of looking at his job is how Khurniawan sets himself apart from other cinematographers; he can look through the lens of a camera and find the perfect and most distinctive way to capture a scene. It is what makes him so sought-after, and why he is currently one of the best Indonesian cinematographers.
“A lot like acting, cinematographers react to actors’ inner unconsciousness by utilizing camera elements such as composition and lighting. Similar to editing, we choreograph how a scene unfolds by dictating where the audience’s eyes should look,” he said.
Earlier this year, Khurniawan worked on the viral music video “Down” by Andrew Belle. The video premiered on “Paper Magazine” in June. From there, it went on to be a “Nowness Staff Pick” and a “Vimeo Staff Pick”, amassing over one hundred thousand views on YouTube alone. The cinematography was key to such success, as it connected to aspects of the video in an artistic and meaningful way.
“It’s been delightful to hear how much people like the video. I think the biggest compliment came from the people who responded emotionally to the choreography because the cinematography is built around it,” said Khurniawan.
The choreography is what tells the story and emotions in the video, and therefore required talented dancers that Khurniawan could work with to do just that. Eventually, they found Dassy Lee from So You Think You Can Dance 2017. Together, the cinematographer and the dancers perfectly portray the loneliness in heartbreak.
The cinematographer’s input was valued for every step of the production process. Before the concept was finalized, he would create storyboards for his shots and present them to the Director, Joshua Kang, giving an expert’s opinion as to how each shot could be framed. He would then sit down with the director and the dancers to converse about what he thought would work for the video, as he knows good ideas mean nothing if they can’t be executed properly. He knew there was more to the video than dancers against a pretty background. He wanted to do more with the camera and reacted to the choreography, asking the dancers how they were feeling emotionally and designing the frames based on that. Such a unique and dedicated take was vastly appreciated by Kang.
“I love working with Calvin because he is always prepared for every project. When I show him a treatment for a project in pre-production, he brings in various different ideas on how the look for the project could be, and what he thinks would be the best within the given circumstances. Having visual discussions with Calvin before the shoot always makes the job of the day easier for everyone on set. He is someone I want on set. Not only is he kind and respectful to everyone on set, he has great set skills. Working with Calvin, I trust him and his camera crew to have everything prepared and ready to shoot on time. He’s helpful in post-production. Calvin keeps in mind how the visuals will look like in post when he shoots. When we’re sitting in a color session, he gives inputs on how the color can be corrected in the best possible way. Having a director of photography like Calvin that cares about the project until it is completely finished makes him professional and reliable,” said Kang.
Initially, Kang approached Khurniawan to work on the video. The director had seen his work and was immensely impressed. Khurniawan was interested in the project before knowing that it was for Andrew Belle, and upon hearing the artist he was immediately on board, as he was already a fan.
“Imagine getting a call to work on a music video with one of your favorites artist. It was the quickest decision I’ve ever made for a job,” Khurniawan said.
While working on the video, the ideas changed frequently, as everyone wanted to ensure it was the best it could possibly be. From a cinematography standpoint, this can create challenges, but Khurniawan never let that faze him. He was happy to work diligently to make everything effortless for those that worked alongside him. The dancers, Dassy and Jordan, were immensely appreciative of Khurniawan’s dedication to the project. He perfectly showcased their vast talent while still creating a telling and poetic video.
“This is by far my favorite collaboration for a project. Joshua, the director, liked keeping a small crew and resulted a more intimate crew. We communicated easily between one another compared to having a big crew. Dassy and Jordan presented their choreography early to us then we design everything based off the choreography. Our approach is based on the choreography really, because we wanted it to be the center of the attention. My job as the cinematographer is to fully reflect on how they’re telling the story and emotion through the movements. I thought it was an interesting approach to music video,” Khurniawan concluded.
You can watch the “Down” music video here and see just how talented of a cinematographer Khurniawan is.
Top photo – Joshua Kang and Calvin Khurniawan, photo by Kiu Kayee
In order to succeed as a director in the arts and entertainment industry, it is essential to have more than just a keen eye for story telling, or an aptitude for capturing a vision and translating it onto a screen. It requires a passion strong enough to withstand adversity, grueling competition, and setbacks. It is an extremely competitive profession with a wide range of challenges. For a director like Talha Bin Abdulrahman, it is easy to remain level-headed in the face of an obstacle, for he knows that film direction is his calling. It is his reason to wake in the morning and it is the one thing he enjoys doing more than anything else in this world.
“When I encounter a difficult day on set, I take a moment to breath. I believe that there is always a way to make things work, so if ever I hit a brick wall, I move onto another scene and revisit the broken one afterwards. You have to trust your instincts, and your team. Together, they will help you through anything and you will eventually come out on top,” tells Bin Abdulrahman.
As a director, Bin Abdulrahman has earned himself an unprecedented reputation. His peers in the filmmaking community equate his name with success and he is known for using his profound talents to create stellar films like The Scapegoat, and Served Cold. For the majority of films that Bin Abdulrahman has worked on, he has been approached by a producer or a cinematographer with a compelling script that needs a director to execute its storyline. Other times, he is driven by his own passion to tell important, life-altering stories to the world. This was the case with the music video he shot for Jo Blakenbergl’s emotional song, Jellyfish in the Sky. After hearing Jellyfish in the Sky, Bin Abdulrahman was so inspired that he bought the rights to the song and raised enough money to produce a video that would do the song justice.
“I felt that I had a visual story to tell through the music and the lyrics of the song. They are so moving that I wanted to do something about it. It was like an itch,” recalls Bin Abdulrahman.
Jellyfish in the Skyis about a young, ambitious ballerina who loses both of her legs in a car accident. The story begins after the ballerina experiences a near death experience when she attempts suicide and she finds herself performing one final dance before she departs this life. The story resonated well with Bin Abdulrahman because of the parallels he could draw between the ballerina’s artistry and his own. A ballerina losing her ability to dance is similar to what it would feel like for him to lose his ability to direct, and to tell important stories like the one he was telling in his music video. He was determined to translate the ballerina’s despair into a visual masterpiece and after viewing the video, it is apparent that this is exactly what he did. He worked with highly skilled dancers, as well as a world class ballet choreographer to bring his vision to life and the result was more moving than he could have ever dreamt.
When he originally embarked upon the journey that this project would later become, Bin Abdulrahman was apprehensive about finding dancers and choreographers who would share in his love for both the song and the story he was trying to tell. He needed someone who understood the importance of the story and who would dedicate every fiber of their being to ensuring that the video was a success. To his surprise, he managed to assemble a strong team who all shared in his vision and his dedication to the storyline they were portraying. From dancers, to videographers, to costume designers, everyone involved was determined to tell this story in the best light possible. For costume designers like Oksana Derina, it was refreshing to be able to work with such a director as passionate as Bin Abdulrahman and she was pleased to see all of his hard work and dedication pay off.
“Talha is very talented and professional. He is so creative and it makes working with him very interesting and enjoyable. I find it refreshing that he is open to hearing different opinions and collaborating with other professionals. I’m glad to have had the chance to work with him on Jellyfish,” notes Derina.
For Bin Abdulrahman, the true sense of fulfillment came from the final outcome of his efforts. When he watches Jellyfish in the Sky today, he recalls the pleasure of exploring a new art form, learning about the art of ballet dancing and learning how to synchronize a theatrical performance with music. It required him to exercise his patience in a way he hadn’t ever done before and knowing that he pushed himself to his limits for the better of the video’s final outcome was a reward in itself. In addition to his personal accomplishments, he was even happier to learn that Blankenberg loved what he had done for her song. When he was ready to share it with the world, he was taken aback by the way the public received it and was humbled by the fact that it earned over 100,000 views on his official website alone.
In future, Bin Abdulrahman hopes to uncover more passion projects like Jellyfish and adapt his skills to a number of new genres or art forms along the way. He is a motivated, energized film director and is ready to take on any new project that his industry has to offer. Keep an eye out for his upcoming TV sitcom, which sheds a critical light on the current political climate for Arab Immigrants living away from home.
“I didn’t wake up to be mediocre.” This simple mantra is what pushes Australian Television Host Dan Babic every day. He doesn’t accept anything other than excellence, and those who have followed his career know this to be true. He is truly extraordinary, and at just 23, he has emerged as one of Australia’s most high-profile entertainment journalists.
Babic’s online television show AfterBuzz TV has over 20 million downloads a week in 150 countries. He has interviewed some of the world’s most recognizable celebrities, such as icons Caitlyn Jenner and Kim Kardashian, as well as Academy Award winners like Kathy Bates and Brie Larson.
“Entertainment journalism and hosting is something that chose me. As long as I can remember, it has been the only thing I have wanted to do,” said Babic. “We live in what appears to be such a dark world at times, so I live for my moment on screen where I can help provide escapism and take audiences away from the hardships they may be facing. I love the power it gives me to brighten one’s day and the ability to just make people laugh.”
In the parody music video of the hit song “Watch Me” by Silento, Babic does just what he aims to do, and gives audiences around the world the opportunity to watch a video and escape. The hilarious video features Babic dancing and rapping a line in the song. His reputation and popularity greatly contributed to the video’s massive success, going viral and amassing over 20 million views on YouTube alone.
“Although we truly believed in the project, nothing is more validating than knowing all your hard work has paid off. While we were confident in the final result, my grandmother taught me to ‘never count your chickens before they hatch.’ There is always that slight feeling of fear upon releasing a video to the world that your intention of proving joy and laughter could be ill-conceived and taken out of context. Reading all the comments from fans provides the upmost feeling of joy knowing that through my talent and work I was able to make someone smile. It’s why I get up every day and continue to have the success I have in the entertainment industry. I see what I do as service to others.”
The video, by YouTube sensation Bart Baker, is four minutes of talent. It was written by Eli Braden, who is responsible for some of Howard Stern’s, Jimmy Kimmel’s and Joan Rivers’ most successful content. Babic had always wanted to work with the writer, and therefore jumped at the opportunity when it arrived. Knowing the necessity of having a distinct leader in the industry who would not only boost views on the video, but also who have the ability to make audiences laugh, Babic was approached to be a part of the parody. There are several controversial moments in the video, which are necessary for the humor, and Babic’s role provides the light-hearted moment needed to capture audiences.
“Production chose not to take the risk of using an on-camera personality without a notable acclaimed track record and requested my work on the project. Having notoriety in the television industry is something I don’t take nonchalantly. I am well aware of that my regard is rare and the ability to entertain millions though my personality is a true gift. I was therefore thrilled to have the confidence and respect of acclaimed industry professionals and was very excited to collaborate with successful individuals at the top of their field,” said Babic.
The video largely takes place in a gymnasium, with various characters dancing in the background and appearing on screen. Regardless of his crucial role in the parody, Babic says working on the project was very relaxed and filled with constant laughter. He was working alongside comedic experts, an exciting experience for the television host. When shooting the parody’s make-or-break moment, he felt completely confident in his ability to use his improvisational skills to create laughter. He trusted his instincts, and helped make the moment triumphant and made a moment with darker humor very tasteful. His versatility is evident, and his cameo impressed many around the world.
“The parody was an instant hit, and Dan’s leading and critical role as a television personality held tremendous weight in the production. His role in the music video worked similarly to having film stars in music videos, as fans looked forward to seeing one of their favorite TV hosts in the music video, where he was even key in pointing out the surprising twist at the end of the music video. The parody video of ‘Watch Me’ garnered an incomprehensible 20 million views on YouTube, an impressive feat which highlights not only the immeasurable success of the music video itself, but of the impact Dan’s role had on attracting viewers to come and pick out his part. This, paired with overwhelming praise from fans as well as over 180,000 likes for the video on YouTube, is incontrovertible evidence of the massive commercial success of the music video, and of Dan’s leading and critical role therein,” said Heidi Jo Markel, CEO of Eclectic Pictures who has worked with Babic in the past.
The day-to-day structure involved each industry professional staying in their lane and using their well-regarded creative instincts to ensure the project’s success. Babic was surrounded by other industry leaders on the video, and when everyone from different fields came together with one goal in mind, it was the best part of the experience for the entertainment journalist.
“Working with notable, celebrated professionals in the entertainment industry is inspiring, the project allowing us to each learn from one another and admire each other’s unique gifts and rare talent. I’m a big believer that you are your environment and felt extremely grateful to be in the position I am in,” Babic concluded. “I never take this for granted and as a host live for bringing people together in laughter, entertainment and good times. With so many views of the parody, it is safe to say our work put a smile on millions of people’s faces across the world. That’s what the world needs more of after all.”
You can watch the “Watch Me” parody video here, and prepare to feel the sense of escapism that Babic always aims for, and always achieves.
Anyone can move around with a camera to their eye, in fact, many people try. However, Andre Chesini understands what it is to be extraordinary at what he does. Chesini’s unwavering passion for filmmaking extends back as early as his childhood and his perspective derives from years of immersing himself in the arts. He understands that the artistry of cinematography comes from controlling what the audience sees and doesn’t see. As a cinematographer, he doesn’t just strive to make a frame beautiful, he tries to create images that evoke emotions and enhance the storytelling. That is what makes him such a rare talent.
Chesini has adopted a style of cinematography that many of the world’s most recognized strive and fail to achieve. For him, lights are motivated by nature, not only by the actors. He searches for a naturalistic cinematic sense of reality. He worked on several documentaries in the beginning of his career, and is an experienced Steadicam operator. This experience translates into his cinematography.
“Documentaries are based on working with the environment and searching for the natural and available light. That shaped me a strong bond for an alive camera and strong naturalistic sense of reality. Thus, I’m looking for a life-like images. A design that is closer to reality, yet enhancing the cinematic look making the ordinary into extraordinary. Every cinematographer is unique; it is about the inner voice that each of us have. How it echoes with the director and all the people involved in a film,” said Chesini. “Steadicam operation is an amazing skill that makes my senses for motion and blocking of the actors very sensitive. I can feel the energy that the scene requires, capture the emotion of the actors and translate it through the movement of the camera.”
Having worked on several award-winning films, such as Chocolate, Tereza, and A Fabrica, as well as the television show Life on a Leash, Chesini put his work on the world stage, showing audiences everywhere what he is capable of. However, this versatile cinematographer has had limitless success, and his work on three music videos for Banda Mais Bonita da Cidade displays that perfectly.
“Music allows you to have more freedom in style as a cinematographer. It is a great territory to experiment and push your visual limits as a creator. “Oração” was actually the first music video that I shot. I mostly work in narrative. I believe that this narrative background weighs on the decisions and how I could contribute for the impact of the music video,” said Chesini.
Three days after its release, “Oração” already had over three million views on YouTube. It now has over 27 million. Chesini went on to be interviewed by Fantastico, a popular Brazilian Sunday evening program, to comment on the video. Later that year, “Oração” won the Best Web Video for the MTV Video Music Brazil Awards.
“It was an insane reaction, from no recognition to international recognition, being published in Rolling Stone and Washington Post, among others. The Banda Mais Bonita da Cidade became recognized artists and in that year, and have recently released their third album,” said Chesini.
Vinicius Nisi, the creator of the band and the keyboard player, called Chesini to be part of the video. The proposal was to record three music videos in one weekend, the main video being “Oração,” a one-shot video while recording the live audio at the same time. Such a task was enormous, and Chesini was the only one for the job. Chesini’s Steadicam experience once again was vital for the music video, as his knowledge of where to place the camera and follow the talent to have the six-minute film be one shot was fundamental. The two other videos shot were “Boa Pessoa” and “Canção para não voltar.”
“Given the success of “Oração”, our band became full time job, becoming our main source of income. We owe this to the talent and love that Andre has,” said Nisi. “Andre is an easy-going person and very easy to work with. He is always with good-humored and is very communicative. He likes to know all details in order to do a good job. His technical and artistic capabilities are undeniable.”
“What I most like working with him, is that he is secure, calm and aware. He is also really humble, and would listen all my directions and when was necessary he was pro-active in resolving issues that would appear. Andre focuses on making his work pristine. He studies the video, techniques, equipment and always makes his best. Andre knows his immense responsibility as the first viewer of the everybody work. At the same time, he does that gently and with kindness,” Nisi continued.
It took 8 shots for Chesini to get the one-shot film that was needed. This technique was a fundamental factor for the success of the video. It required skills and a sensibility as cinematographer and camera operator that Chesini always displays.
“I’m really proud of that video and its success also gave me strength to continue to pursue my dream of film,” said Chesini. “The challenge of a one-shot film is quite exciting, and being a steadicam operator, I felt compelled to immerse myself in this challenge. The long shot also requires working together with all the musicians, extras and everybody involved and seeing the involvement of everybody was really rewarding to see.”
You can watch Chesini’s work in the “Oração” music video here.
Gabriella Giardina believes she was born with the love of acting. She remembers watching movies as a child and being completely mesmerized. At the time, she believed the people on the screen were real, showing their real-life experiences. When her parents explained what film and acting was, she was instantly amazed. After watching a film or television show, she would run to her room and re-enact whatever she had just watched, creating the whole story and scenes from scratch. Since the age of four, she would repeat the lines of any movie she had just watched. There was never any doubt for her as to what she was meant to do, and to this day, that belief is still there. She was destined to be an actress, and audiences around the world are thankful.
Originally from the small town of Ragusa in Sicily, Italy, Gabriella has travelled the world doing what she loves, taking in new cultures and experiences and implementing that into her craft. Working as both as actress and model, she has shown the world what she is capable of, and has emerged one of the top in her field. She has worked on feature films, shorts, commercials, television series, and music videos, never afraid of taking on something different than what she has done before.
“My favorite part of acting in any kind of set, film, television, photo-shoot, music video, is to be able to express everything simply with your eyes and expression. That’s something I find very powerful. It’s really exciting when you are on set having a great song play. But I love it even more when it’s really just you, your feelings and a camera that wants to catch it all,” she said.
Music videos require just that, and Gabriella has been a large part of the success to many. This year, she was played the singer’s muse in the music video Leila by Jah Khalib, a romantic song in which the Jah Khablib sings of the muse that he has dreamed of. Jah Khalib is one of the most famous artists in Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and his popularity is spreading in very short time. In November of last year, he performed live at Flavio Briatore’s Billionaire Manson, at Burj Khalifa Blvd in Dubai.
“I love Leila, it really transported me and made me love it right away, and what the song is about to helped me understand her,” said Gabriella. “Shooting for Leila was like taking a day off to go explore and then represent beauty. The music video is so well represented that, even for those who cannot understand the lyric because of the language, the narrative is very explicit, with powerful, poetic emphasis.”
Giardina was selected for the role by the young but renowned award-winning Director Aisultan Seitov, winner of the 2016 Hollywood Boulevard Film Festival as Best Director in the category Short Meter, and he knew that Giardina had what it took to make the video a success. Published on May 11 2017, in less than one month the video-music “Leila” already achieved more than 2,650,000 views.
“I love music that tells a story, makes you feel all different kinds of emotions, dream the wildest dreams, makes you travel and go places you’ve never been or fantasize about or just travel around the world; that gives you energy and power or makes you vulnerable, makes you reach the sky. Music is very powerful and really reaches the furthest places. And music videos accompany that. They create one of the millions of scenarios of places, stories, emotions that one can express and experience. When an artist makes a song and music, they are sending a message to so many. So, to be a part of all this, to be a part of creating something so beautiful that reaches so many, that’s one of the things I really love about music videos,” she said.
Gabriella Giardina had achieved success with music videos prior to Leila, including the hit Paani Paani. The song was associated the story of the movie Yaariyan, in which Giardina had a leading role. The song sung by rapper Honey Singh and the soulful Neha Kakkar hit the right chords with the youth. The video was an enormous commercial success and registered over 18 Million views on YouTube alone.
“Paani Paani was also a great experience. The director, Divya Kumar, created a set of young energic people and the singer, Yo Yo Honey Singh, brought his talent and all of us really enjoyed working on this together, getting to know one another,” she said.
All those that work with Gabriella Giardina know that she is a unique actress, which is why she is extremely sought-after. Her commitment to every project and genuine passion for what she does makes her pivotal to the success of whatever she works on. Alexandra Guarnieri, a Producer at All In Films, first worked with Gabriella in the musical A Night at the Black Cat Cabaret. She was instantly impressed, since the first audition, by Gabriella’s intensity and by her ability to closely relate to the character, and she defines Gabriella gifted of an intuitive talent, which is one of the most important quality to perform characters with emotional dynamics.
Having witnessed Giardina’s talent before and during the performances, Guarnieri cast her to be the female lead of the new television series project Sigueme. With many upcoming television series next year, Giardina is continuing to show audiences how versatile she is.
“I think doing a television show is very challenging because you bring the character you play through a very large continuous change. And you want to do it well, you want to give it justice and understand it, not judge it, love it, like your own self. Sure, you have a script and story to follow, but you have so many opportunities and various facets to take on the journey of portraying this person, this being, that you in your own way create. And it’s not just the character itself, it’s also the character relations with other people, places, life experience and everything that involves a day to day life. So, it’s that big range of opportunities on how is this character going to be, from the inside out that really fascinates me,” said Giardina.
Gabriella Giardina will be playing the role of Monica Muerte in the upcoming TV series The Legend of High Master. The show turns around a man named William who creates his own Kung Fu dojo called High Boxing. Soon Master Willie must defend the honor of his dojo and neighborhood from the attempt of the Corporate’s hegemony, and has to fight the corporation’s masters using high boxing to prove that his Kung Fu is the greatest, keeping his business, and saving his honor. Monica Muerte is the leading female character in the series. Her story is crucial in the series since it is unveiled at the beginning and evolves gaining relevance, episode by episode, as she becomes one of the reasons William is inspired to create his “High Boxing” in defense of the neighborhood. Monica is an expat with problems to settle down in a new environment. The character is complex and peculiar, and it requires uncommon acting skills to smoothly and naturally switch from a romantic to a dramatic or even comedian performance in a blink, all fulfilled at high level by Gabriella Giardina.
“What enhances my feeling about being in the show is the awareness of the complexity of the character. I cannot reveal very much about the plot but I can say that Monica is a complicated young lady. I’m particularly attracted by more complex and troubled roles and definitely Monica is a challenge; I am enthusiastic and eager to work on the series,” she said.
In addition to The Legend of High Master and Sigueme, Giardina is set to be in the upcoming television series The Poe Project, based on the life of Edgar Allan Poe. Giardina will be playing Cora Anne, a character who represents a woman who was a public reader, writer and actress herself, whose radiantly beautiful smile appears unmatched to Edgar Allan Poe. Gabriella Giardina’s experience in theatrical performance is important, as she can understand and better interpret the role.
“Cora Anne is an intriguing character. She is a lady of intellect, since she is a writer, a public reader and an actress of theatre. The role is fascinating and the script immediately captured me. She’s very feminine but strong and powerful at the same time. I love the contrast that goes so well together. It’s something new to explore and I truly look forward to portraying her,” she said.
With so much upcoming, and with so much success already, Giardina is in no way tired of doing what she loves best. Understanding a character and portraying them in a believable and sincere way is a thrill to her, and a thrill for audiences to watch.
“An actor doesn’t only have the job of reading a script and performing it at its best. An actor studies people, understands what’s behind every reason of this being you are introduced to, empathizes with and for this person, which is extremely important. Without judging it. An actor gives a voice to someone who is either not as loud or doesn’t have one. It opens the eyes of the audience, to new possibilities, new ways of seeing or approaching relationships and situations, new realities. An actor brings to life people and their stories. That’s what to me being an actress means,” she concluded.
When it comes to the world of art and music, turning one’s creativity into a profitable career is no easy task. There’s a reason that so many talented artists and musicians throughout history have toiled away working odd jobs only for their work to be discovered posthumously. The business side of becoming a successful artist is imperative for someone to actually make a living from their work, but for most of the world’s wildly creative people, business and art just don’t line up.
Thankfully for those in the music industry however, there are people like Music Producer/A& R Specialist Duarte Geraldes Figueira, founder of the imprint agency, DGF Agency, and co-founder of one of Portugal’s leading booking agency, Bridgetown Talent Agency. Hailing from Lisbon, Portugal, ‘Duda,’ as he is known widely throughout the music industry, began his career coordinating projects for some of Portugal’s most recognizable musical acts back in his teens. After starting the incredibly popular sound system Fyah Box Sound back in 2007, Duda began coordinating the careers of Richie Campbell, Lhast, Regula and many other well-known artists.
“I think the fact that I did everything available in the work field allowed me to learn from all perspectives. With Fyah Box Sound I was in charge of being the creative input for the new campaigns, marketing director, booking agent, MC, promoter, event producer, and all other business aspects of it,” explains Duda.
As a music producer/A&R specialist, Duda handles everything from planning the image of the artist and their musical approach, to organizing their events, releases, PR and much more. What makes him such a uniquely talented individual that artists around the world want to work with is the versatile nature of his skill and his ability to organize their careers in a way that actually brings a profit.
In 2012 he began coordinating the career of famed Portuguese rapper Regula. The two started working together just before Regula’s hit album “Gancho” was about to be released. Duda invited him to come on board and release some of his tracks through Fyah Box Sound and that’s what really got the word out about the artist’s upcoming album.
Duda recalls, “After doing a collaboration with Fyah Box for the song ‘Casanova feat. Leftside,’ and releasing the single ‘Berco D’Ouro,’ people were just expecting the new album like nothing else we have ever seen before. The streets were hot for it.”
Knowing that he had a winner on his hands, Duda went to the biggest CD retailer in Portugal and convinced them to put “Gancho” on the shelves. Not only did the album sell out within hours of making it into the store, but it sold more copies than those of Rihanna, Beyonce and Tony Carreira had sold in a week! Next Duda went to work paving the way for Regula to reach a wider audience by coordinating several shows across Portugal. He got Regula on the bill of some of Portugal’s biggest concerts, including a 2014 show at Semana Academica de Lisboa, Campo Pequeno with Valete in 2012, headlining for a hip hop festival at Coliseu de Lisboa in 2013, as well as the Sudoeste Festival in 2014.
“Working with Duda is, and has been, a constant learning process. The success that I have obtained during these times, is due to the teamwork that we built, where Duda is an essential element because of the commitment that he assumes,” explains Regula. “His innovative spirit and vision that he transmits, his effort and dedication that are characteristic of him, and the responsibility that we both took to the process.”
In 2010 Duda began working as the A&R specialist for multi-award winning artist Richie Campbell. The two have continued to work together ever since, and the collaboration has been beyond fruitful for both of them. As Campbell’s A&R specialist, Duda has handled the A&R side of practically every album Campbell has released as a solo artist.
Duda says, “My journey with Richie towards the beginning of his career as a solo artist. I was part of every aspect of his career. From the music, to the brand, to the shows, to the personal life… me and Richie are friends and work partners. I’ve worked with him as A&R, as driver, as fashion advisor, as event producer, PR, marketing planner, counselor, and anything else you can imagine. It has been such a long journey that I can’t even remember all the stories.”
Over the years Duda has played a major role in the release and success of several of Richie Campbell’s albums, such as “My Path” (2010), “Focused” (2012), “Live at Campo Pequeno” (2014), “In The 876” (2015) and the EP “Richie Campbell” (2010).
Aside from coordinating a plethora of major international events for Campbell, Duda was also the A&R man behind the artist’s hit 2016 single “Do You No Wrong.” The song topped the charts earning a Gold and Platinum Award on the Portuguese sales charts and was a major viral success garnering more than 10 million views on YouTube. Earlier this year Campbell released the single “Heaven,” yet another hit production led by Duda. The song was an immediate success and garnered more than two million views on YouTube in a little over a month after its release.
“I love being around the creation. I feel like we are always leaving a legacy, anytime that we develop something. It’s a joy to see the results of our work connecting so deeply with people. The creation and the way we put it out is a beautiful experience as a human being,” explains Duda.
“A moment that made it really clear for me was during a Richie Campbell performance watching every fan going crazy over the song ‘Piece of Bread.’ We went to Berlin to record a couple of songs for his album Focused, and that was one of them. I remember the amazing days that we had and the recording process in detail. I remember how important it was for the vibe to be right. Those conversations, those laughs, those moments, everything that happened is why I work as a music producer/A& R specialist.”
While his work involves coordinating for highly-acclaimed artists, those are not the only professionals he represents. Through his meticulous planning, ingenious sense of how to form powerful artistic collaborations and ability to manage a team, Duda has been hugely influential in the career of Portuguese music producer Lhast. Over the years Duda has connected Lhast with a long list of artists and coordinated collaborations that have been invaluable for both Lhast as a producer, and the artists, whose songs have gone on to become major hits.
Some of the hit song collaborations that Duda has coordinated for producer Lhast include Diogo Picarra’s “Historia,” which has over five million views on YouTube, Regula’s “Tarzan,” Profjam’s “Xama,” Plutonio’s “Nao Vales Nada,” and Valas’ hit songs “As Coisas,” “Alma Velha” and “Acordar Assim.” Duda is also the one who connected Lhast as the producer of Richie Campbell’s award-winning hit “Do You Know Wrong.”
“I’ve worked with Duda for a long time on a bunch of different successful projects, since the beginning he has always pushed me to deliver the best and stay focused,” explains Lhast. “I think he strives in this industry because of his great understanding of both the artistic and business side. He always finds a strategy that fits the artist concept and always executes it with ease.”
After making a name for himself in Europe, Duda moved to the United States where he has continued to lead the way as a music producer/A& R specialist for many well-known artists. As an A&R specialist at Rebeleon Entertainment, he is currently working on the upcoming releases for artists that include La Santa Cecilia, Gloria Trevi,Mon Laferte, Latin Grammy Award winner Alejandra Guzman, Enjambre, Mitre and several others.
“Being around the creation, and then seeing it come to life, and then watching people singing out loud the words and harmonies that you saw being created is what brings me joy to be a project coordinator,” says Duda. “The passion for being behind the scenes and seeing everything happen out of nothing is what lights my career.”
A decade after his career first began, Duda has come fully into his own as one of the most sought after music producer/A&R specialists on an international scale. When it comes to overseeing an artist’s career and taking them to the top, Duda has proven himself to be a driving force behind the success of some of the music industry’s best-known talents. With his keen sense of business, timing, meticulous planning and knowledge of what audiences are looking for, Duda’s role is a rare gift that allows the artists he works with to stay focused on their creativity, while he manages everything else.
Andrea Leigh is not just a production designer. She is an artist. She is a creator. She produces a specific world, completely designed with the goal of portraying a message, or developing a character, or evoking a feeling in an audience member that no human being on the screen saying their lines could. Being able to do that through her work gives meaning to every job she works on, and she is outstanding at it.
Working on several award-winning and celebrated projects, such as the film Friends Like Us and the web series Whatever Linda, audiences and critics at the world’s most prestigious film festivals have appreciated Leigh’s work. She also has worked on many celebrated commercials, including the award-winning Prickly for Scotts Weed B Gone, the viral E.L.F. Play Beautifully advertisement, and the insanely popular 2015 Teleflora Mother’s Day campaign that received international media attention and 11 million YouTube hits. However, Leigh’s success does not end there. She has also worked on some captivating music videos, including Downtown for the Juno award-winning rock band The Sheepdogs, as well at the Thugli music video Sic Em.
“The guys of Thugli were great. They loved the director Amos LeBlanc’s vision and loved how we brought all their ideas to life,” said Leigh.
Amos LeBlanc has directed a controversial video that was widely successful, and he had won “Best Video of the Year” the previous Much Music Video Awards (MMVA). The tone of the Sic Em video was dark and thoughtful, and this made Leigh want to work on it.
“It was great working with the director Amos Leblanc, he had a very clear aesthetic image that he wanted to portray, clean, modern, dramatic skyline, lots of smoke and special effects. He was always interested in hearing what kind of changes I thought we could make art direction wise. It’s nice to have your creative vision valued when shooting something so specific and thoughtful,” said Leigh.
Music videos are usually long days packed with many shots and not enough time, but this was a two-day shoot that Leigh used to her full advantage, and had the time to do exactly what she wanted. That also meant they had that magic hour lighting two days in a row, something she describes as quite spectacular.
“That’s one of my favorite shots in the video, where the guys are all standing in single file formation with the magic hour sky behind them,” Leigh described. “The cast was a blast to work with. It was a night shoot so naturally things can get a little silly when everyone’s trying their best to stay awake. Lots of jokes, lots of laughs. It always helps on a long shoot when the cast and crew hit it off.”
With the help of Leigh’s eye for production design, the video went on to win the Much Music Video Award for “Best Dance Video.” The music video also earned over 75,000 views on YouTube, sparking widespread popularity among fans and critics. Leigh says she feels like they really accomplished something with the video, and the producer Geoff MacLean says it wouldn’t have been possible without her help. MacLean is a very respected and accomplished Executive Producer. Vision productions is an iconic production company that has produced work for several internationally renowned artists, such as Prince, Rihanna, Drake, The Weeknd, Calvin Harris and countless more.
“The music video is, thanks to Andrea, a fascinating visual production which instantly captures the attention of the viewer. She coordinated closely with the director, the choreographer, and other experienced creatives on set to determine the placement of the props, and the organization of the set. While the entire production is a visual achievement thanks to Andrea, specifically her work arranging the set for the dancers, as well as the props and décor for that segment gave the music video its down to earth and ‘back to the basics’ feel, which was the goal of the client. I credit a great deal of the video’s success to Andrea’s leading role, and attribute her with much of the music video’s all around commercial success and critical acclaim,” said Geoff MacLean.
“Andrea’s achievements throughout her career are reflective of top performing production designers and art directors in her field. The success of her productions is indicative of this fact, to be sure,” MacLean added.
Alejandro Salinas discovered MTV when he was just 10 years old. As a child growing up in Mexico City, he would listen to songs and always think about what the music video would look like. When he saw a new one come out and it would not match his expectations, he would become thrilled at the idea of making his own version. When one came out that was better than he imagined, he would become overwhelmed with excitement and the new possibilities that those amazing ideas had brought on for the industry, the world, and his creative perception. The love for music and inspiration it draws generates a need for him to create visuals for it.
Now, that young boy from Mexico City goes by Zeon, and is recognized around the world as an outstanding director and editor. Despite working on films and fashion films and achieving extraordinary success, he still knows his passion is the same as the 10-year-old boy who would watch MTV all day.
“I make music videos. I create a visual world from a song. I direct and edit the process, and I’m very detail-oriented. It’s the most rewarding discipline for me. It encompasses so many different art forms and you’ll never be bored by it. There will always be new songs to be inspired from to create new visuals, and that keeps me coming back to them,” said Zeon.
One of Zeon’s greatest accomplishments was working with Lady Gaga on the music video for her Academy Award nominated song “Til It Happens to You”, showing the stories of women who are raped on college campuses. The video has been viewed over 37.5 million times on YouTube.
“I love Lady Gaga and she is someone I look up to,” he said. “But I also wanted to work on this because of the importance of the video and the impact it would have on society and rape culture. I was there behind, in front of and beside camera throughout the whole process, and it was a very fulfilling and honoring experience to have taken part of.”
Jamie Holt, the producer of “Til It Happens to You” was impressed with Zeon’s work and asked him to be involved with her next projects, the music videos for the band Icon for Hire, for their songs “Now You Know” and “Supposed To Be”. “Now You Know” premiered February 2016 and has over 1.4 million views on YouTube. “Supposed To Be” premiered June of this year and has over 826 thousand views.
“It was a lot of fun. Each video presented different ways to be explored creatively,” said Zeon. “Jamie allowed me to fulfill her vision through editing by expanding the ideas she had in mind and by also adding my personal touch to make it impacting.”
Zeon’s first taste of true success came when working on the music video for “Arrójame” for the legendary 80s/90s Mexican rock band La Lupita, a humbling experience for Zeon, who had his music video on TV debut with this video.
“It was very emotional moment when I saw the video on television for the first time. I never knew when or how it would ever happen, that a music video of mine would be on TV, but when I was watching the premiere with my cousin and grandma and the video came up, it felt very touching to see a video I worked on debuting on national television,” he said. “I loved the song and I thought I could create an interesting video for the band. They are very talented and hardworking people. Even after years, they’re still hustlers and I found that very inspiring.”
The producer of the video, Estívaliz Zaragoza, had worked with Zeon previously and says she would never miss an opportunity to collaborate with him.
“Working with Zeon is full satisfaction, because he is always on top of his responsibilities and tasks, he never hesitates on helping his team mates. His creativity and ideas are refreshing and right on spot. He always has something to share, knowledge, helpful information and useful ideas. He has a mixture of skills that make you want to have him in your team and collaborate in his projects: He is proactive, disciplined, detail-oriented, a team player, and super creative,” said Zaragoza.
From there, Zeon’s career took off. He worked on the fashion film Dieode and the celebrated fashion documentary Mextilo, and worked on the music video for the iconic collaboration of legendary Mexican singer Lila Downs, the Spanish Niña Pastori, and the Argentinian Soledad for their song “Que Nadie Sepa Mi Sufrir”. The video has amassed over 2.5 million views on YouTube, and their album received a Grammy nomination.
“It was a very exciting opportunity to work a new project with such legendary artists from different Spanish-speaking countries,” said Zeon. “I didn’t have an award in mind at all, I just wanted to make sure I could deliver a video that worked best for such great artists, but it’s very honoring to know that you took part in such a great achievement in an artist’s career. The album not only got nominated, but actually won the Latin Grammy in 2014 for Best Folk Album. And then the next year it got nominated for the 2015 Grammy Awards for Best Latin Pop Album, which is amazing as well.”
Zeon knows he has the power to push an artist’s vision even further. He has been studying music videos for almost his entire life, and can sense what works and what doesn’t. He strives for perfection, and that is what he is known for achieving.
“I love the emotional, narrative and visual impact I can have on the final result of a video. It can completely shift an artist’s career. It thrills me to push alongside them, because we’re both moving forward in ways we never imagined” he concluded.
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