Category Archives: Producer

EVGENY TELEGIN: EXCEEDING EXPECTATIONS IN THE COMMERCIAL INDUSTRY

The difference between good and great is most easily revealed when the pressure is on. One’s true abilities rise to the surface when instinct and “thinking on your feet” is all that is afforded. If you want to be considered the best of the best you need to possess these skills as well as surround yourself with professionals whom also embody them. Dmitry Venikov is CEO of Trehmer CGI and the in-house director of this elite Russian production house that specializes in design and three-dimensional work. When Unistream (money transfer company) needed to create nine commercials in a very immediate time frame, Venikov was relaxed knowing that expert producer Evgeny Telegin was at the helm. Telegin’s work with many international brands such as Nike, IKEA, McDonalds, Coca-Cola, and countless others gave him a proven record to handle any situation with all global and domestic clients. His respect and countless international connections in the industry reinforced his ability to insure his productions were received with high praise. Telegin’s reputation as welcoming obstacles was an attractive attribute as well. The Unistream project would test this as it required nine commercial spots to be filmed in one day! When the person in charge is relaxed and confident, this demeanor trickles down to the entire production team. As proof, Evgeny and his team delivered their work ahead of schedule and with the high level of production imagined by Unistream. With apparent pride in his voice, Venikov professes, “, It was a saving grace to have such a legendary producer as Evgeny at the helm of the production. The Unistream commercials were a triumphant success due in large part to Evgeny’s ability to handle multiple things at once while still performing each task at the highest level of skill possible. Given the strict deadline at hand, Evgeny was a lifesaver by hiring an outstanding crew and cast, which included the celebrity host of Russia’s version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, along with coordinating set construction and the preparation of the shoot. The commercials called for finding representatives of different nations, who could speak their language fluently while acting on stage.  This task was not easy to approach in such a short amount of time; however, Evgeny found everyone at a rapid pace, and they all turned out to be the perfect fit for the client’s needs.  As a result of Evgeny’s producing, the commercials aired all across Russia and CIS countries, driving Unistream’s sales up 300 percent.”

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When dealing with advertising, casting is always important. For a production discussing finances, trust is paramount. Telegin needed a star for the Unistream commercials who embodied both of these traits. Everyone in Russia knows Dmitry Dibrov; not only for his work as the host of “Who wants to be a millionaire” but also as a journalist, actor, director and musician. Highly detailed planning and preparation made the filming occur smoothly, while Evgeny credits Dibrov’s high level of professionalism (delivering everything in almost the first take each time). This highly respected and recognizable celebrity, coupled with a delivery of the message in each geographic area’s authentic language, allowed consumers to feel comfortable in a number of ways.

The communication between Dibrov and the other actors in these commercial spots reveals a truly Russian (and areas surrounding Russia) scenario. It’s quite different from what many American advertisers or even American citizens experience. It also further reinforces the challenges which Telegin and his team faced in preparation for the production. Evgeny notes, “Unistream is very popular for money transfer within the country but mainly targets post-Soviet countries like Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Armenia, etc. It’s not a secret that many neighbors of Russia come to Moscow seeking jobs. They send money that they earn back home to their families. That was the target audience for this campaign. Our goals for the commercials were to be easy to understand and informative in terms of benefits. We came up with the idea of Dmitry Dibrov doing his own small investigation about why is it that every second Armenian or every third Kazak sends money back home through Unistream. He is asking at the Unistream “random” customers why they choose Unistream. They all say in their native language what they like about it: fast service, broad network, and low rates. In the end of every story Dibrov repeats “low rates” the way the customers just said it in their language. It also adds some familiarity and comfort with Dibrov saying words in the customer’s native language.” To help create the “everyman” feel of these commercials, many first time actors were cast to interact with Dmitry. Instead of an overly polished and slick feel to the performances, viewers felt that those seen in the commercials were just as believable as themselves, which transferred the message that this was an appropriate service for them to us in their own lives.

Talent, experience, and connections are a requirement of every producer, but Evgeny points out one attribute that is often overlooked…awareness. He confesses, “I think a good producer has knowledge of what is popular, what is trendy at the moment. For example, there was a time in Russia when viral videos were very popular. If you know these kind of tendencies, you can come up with interesting and fresh ideas for great productions. No doubt that all the world looks closely at productions done in the US. I would say it’s the main course of style and techniques. You might want to monitor this direction if you want to succeed. Another direction would be international festivals. You see who wins or is nominated so you can find some young and unknown talents to offer to your clients. These young talents are fired up to work and extend their experience in other countries while the clients/agencies are happy because you bring something new and fresh to the productions. It’s a win-win. You must be sure that this young director will be able to produce the results you expect. You have to use your ‘6th producers sense’ based on your experience. Being an effective communicator allows you to tell if it will work out or not.” Telgin requires the same traits that Dmitry Venikov attributed to him. His achievements give increased validity to the professionals he works with, bringing those with a similar desire for exceptional work cultivates greatness at all levels. Delivering greatness is what drives this exemplary Russian producer to get up and face a new challenge every day.

 

Executive Producer Angel Cassani Continues to Bring Hit Actions Film to the Screen

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Angel Cassani (left) and Hector Echavarria (right) on set of the upcoming film “The Pastor”

When watching an epic film, our eyes glued to the screen and our physical bodies seemingly frozen in time, it can seem as if the real world, the one outside of the theatre, completely disappears. After all, that’s one of the many reasons so many people love the medium– for the escape it provides, the possibility of spending time in another world, and experiencing life from a different perspective.

No viewer sits in their seat contemplating the magnitude of effort and the multiplicity of collaborations that took place between departments before the film’s visual story reeled them in– yet they remain tantamount to the project’s creation.

The directors, editors, DPs, actors, writers, costumers and production designers come together, uniting their creativity with the single goal of taking something abstract and turning it into something we can experience– but first, someone had to go through the deliberate process of hand selecting each creative and forming a team where everyone’s talents could be fused together. Someone had to go through the process of pitching the project to studios and raising the funding to actually make it happen– and that person, more often than not, is the film’s executive producer. Someone like Argentina’s Angel Cassani.

Since diving full force into his film career as an executive producer back home in Argentina nearly a decade ago with the dramatic action feature film “Never Surrender” starring Hector Echavarria (“Death Warrior,” “Unrivaled”), award-winning actor James Russo (“Django Unchained,” “Not a Stranger,” “Donnie Brasco”) and Patrick Kilpatrick (“Minority Report”), Cassani has gone on to produce a plethora of hit action films.

“To me it is one of the most exciting parts of the film industry, as you take an idea, develop it into a script and then you bring all the elements together and make into reality what was written on paper,” explains Cassani about his work as a producer.

Since the 2010 release of the MMA-driven cage fight hit “Never Surrender,” Cassani has made incredible strides on an international scale as the executive producer of critically acclaimed films such as the fast paced assassin film “Hell’s Chain” from Latin American action star Hector Echavarria from “Los extermineitors,” one of Argentina’s most successful action films in history, the action-packed love story “Death Calls” starring Echavarria, Yolanda Pecoraro (“Dancing Still,” “Death Tunnel”) and Ron Roggé from the two-time Golden Globe nominated series “Stranger Things,” and Echavarria’s recent film “No Way Out,” which stars “Machete” bad boy Danny Trejo as the villain and the ever- stunning Estella Warren from the Leo Award winning film “Transparency.”

Considering the heavy film competition in Hollywood, it’s easy to see that it takes more than just a good story to get a film into theatres; but thanks to Cassani’s invaluable producing efforts and gift for rallying support, “No Way Out” has gained distribution from industry leader Lions Gate. The film is slated to have its U.S. theatrical release later this year.

“The story was intriguing and fascinating and it combined my two favorite genres: Action and Drama and it was largely filmed in South America,” Cassani explains about producing the film.

“The biggest challenge was matching the scenes we filmed in Hollywood with the scenes that we filmed in South America- we really had to pay attention to the details.”

Another film Cassani executive produced, which is definitely worth taking note of, is the 2013 film “Chavez Cage of Glory” directed by, and starring, Hector Echavarria. The film definitely has its brawls and action thrills, but it offers more on an emotional level than any old fight film.  “Chavez Cage of Glory” follows Hector Chavez (played by Echavarria), a father and former fighter who, struggling to cover his son’s medical bills, returns to his fighting roots in the underbelly of L.A. in order to give his son the care he needs– even if it means risking his life. Released in 2013, the film garnered a major theatrical release across the U.S. thanks to Cassani.

About the genre of films he chooses to produce, Cassani explains, “Action drama as it is the most after sought genre from buyers around the world.”

Spoken like a true a businessman because, while he loves the art and process of filmmaking, he still know what sells, which is a necessary point for any executive producer who wants to be successful in the industry.

His previous work as a leading figure in the finance industry endowed Cassani with a strong foundation as both a money manager and fundraiser, two integral strengths that have proven to be major assets in the film industry, and have helped him to create a powerful reputation for himself within South America, and abroad, as one of the most effective executive producers in the industry today.

Cassani also has several other upcoming films in the works, such as the Christian faith-based feature “The Pastor” (which promises to offer a heavy dose of action) starring Echavarria and Saturn Award nominee Kevin Sorbo (“Hercules,” “Andromeda”), which is slated to be released later this year, as well as the martial arts action film “Duel of Legends,” which is currently in post-production.

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Film Poster for “Duel of Legends”

Starting off in China in the late 1960s, “Duel of Legends” revolves around Dax, a young boy whose parents are murdered leaving him to fend for himself until he is taken in and trained in Martial Arts by a Shawling Temple Monk. The film follows him to Los Angeles as an adult where he is tasked with helping the FBI solve a case involving a massive human trafficking ring, an undercover operation that requires him to compete against the world’s best martial artists in a secret competition. While the competition may be the key to solving who’s behind the human trafficking ring, it also brings him head to head with the opponent of a lifetime, one who holds the answers to the mysterious murder of his parents.

The highly anticipated film stars Hector Echavarria as Dax, as well as Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa from Amazon’s two-time Primetime Emmy Award winning series “The Man in the High Castle” and Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson from the film “Fire with Fire” starring Golden Globe Award winner Bruce Willis (“Die Hard”) and Rosario Dawson (“Sin City”).

PRODUCER GIGI HUANG HAS AN ECLECTIC WORK PALETTE

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For Chinese producer Huang Zhe (known in the industry as Gigi) it has never been a decision of nurture vs nature but rather both. Raised and educated early on in China, she chose to pursue a career in production based on an acting experience the summer after graduating high school. While she didn’t fully embrace acting, the idea of telling stories has always been something to which she was drawn. Beijing China is known universally for Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall but, this Beijing native refers to “HuTong” as the personal defining spot in her home city. As she explains, “My favorite place in Beijing is still the Alley that we call ‘HuTong. The  ‘HuTong’ culture still retains its own character, which attracts everyone’s attention.” This fixation with authenticity, history, and character is a trait which Huang has brought to the many productions and type of productions with which she has been involved, making her an indispensable part of each. Whether aiding a director to achieve his/her vision, tweaking budgetary and scheduling constraints, or helping to produce stories which she feels emotionally attached to; Gigi has become a much sought after and respected producer in the modern film industry.

A great producer, much like a great actor or any other exemplary professional, feels that every project shares the same importance in the sense that it is an opportunity to create greatness. Gigi has produced a variety of commercial productions alongside notable directors such as Zhen Pan and Bianca Yeh. Working with animals, minors, brutal weather conditions, all variables are welcomed by Gigi as she thrives on problems solving. While adversity dissuades others, Gigi comments, “A producer must be a thorough and excellent problem-solver. We always stand in the position where the problem exists. There are so many details I have to think of in advance, requiring not just ‘a plan’ but a plan B or plan C for each situation.” Director Zhen Pan worked with Huang on commercials for Lepow [electronics] and declares, “It was a great experience working with Huang Zhe on the Lepow Branding Commercial. She’s such a leader, great listener, and talented individual. If you need help, she’s always there no matter what you need or which department you are in. She always thinks outside the box, managing to figure out a best way to help you solve the problem which, as a director is what I value more than any other trait.” While cats are notoriously independent/non-team players, the spots which Gigi produced with director Bianca Yeh for Katris appear seemingly effortless. It was such a positive experience that Yeh made sure Huang was signed on as producer for the spots she directed for JieLing Liquid Repellent spray, and Zephyr (high end stove/range), even though the production efforts had to be based on completely opposite sides of the country.

Most of Huang’s film productions are based around a more serious and contemplative tone. While she enjoys this approach in the film’s message, Gigi feels that it is in a large part her responsibility to set a positive an upbeat tone for the crew and cast who create the film. The 2016 film Promise Land dealt with the struggle of a man and woman of Jewish descent and their avoidance of the German military in the late 1930’s. Behind the scenes, the cast and crew were dealing with filming in very cold weather conditions. Gigi appealed to their sense of determination by appealing to their stomachs…and some very fine meals. Produced by Huang in the same year was I Heard the Flowers Blooming When I Was 80, a film which communicates that it is never too late to realize a childhood dream. This movie was originally crippled and seemed to be out of commission until its director persuaded Huang to come aboard and essentially “reboot” this project (which would go on to win for Best Screenplay at the 4th Golden Panda International Short Film Festival). One of the essential characters in the film is an old piano. As one can imagine, transporting this instrument across streets during filming was not an enviable task. Gigi’s planning of locations and “alterations” to the piano made for a very appreciative crew as well as a successful and award-winning completion. Max and Aimee, which Huang produced in 2015 was close to her as it deals with the topics of dementia and Alzheimer’s which has directly affected her own family. The film received worldwide critical acclaim and awards including a Special Mention Award: International Open Film Festival (IOFF)Lima Bean Film Fest (and countless others). Max and Aimee’s director/writer: Michael Alex Pearce was so impressed with how the film turned out that he approached Huang recently about creating a Virtual Reality version of it (which was completed in early 2017). Definitely a new type of production for Gigi but one which she threw herself into completely, as with all her projects. Kathleen Courtney (line producer of the 2013 feature film The Boy Next Door starring by Jennifer Lopez) enlisted Huang to work on this feature film and states, “I enjoy Gigi’s enthusiasm, as did everyone on set. I hope to work with her again in the future.”

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Even though she has steered so many successful productions, Gigi leans on her early experiences and states, “I really like working behind the stage rather than being on the stage or in front of the camera. When I think of that first experience I had, after graduating from high school; when a few of my best friends and I went on a trip and filmed a movie for my friend’s portfolio to get into USC…I learned so much during that trip. We didn’t have advanced equipment, the only thing that we had was only a video camera, but we used different ways to solve problems. I still remember using small sprinklers to make the raining scene and using a bicycle instead of a moving dolly; I was riding on a friend’s shoulder and finished the high angle shot. In many ways, this experience taught me that if you want to make a film, you find a way to make it happen. My resources may be more plentiful and available, the cameras and gear and more advanced, the cast and crew more talented but, once you have a problem or snag in the production, you fall back onto what you know. For me, I learned that what I know is that I have to plan as much as possible and improvise when all else fails.” Isn’t that exactly what every filmmaker wants to hear from the mouth of their producer?

 

 

PRODUCING A PAINFUL WAR FILM WITH “DAVID” YU HAO SU IN “RESURGENT”

Yu Hao Su is Harvey Keitel. Okay, maybe he isn’t the Oscar nominated actor but just like Keitel’s character Mr. White in Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, David (as Su in known) has a reputation for being a “fixer” in the film industry. When the 2016 Action/Thriller Resurgent needed to do a reshoot for scenes which take place in Afghanistan, David was contacted to contribute his exemplary producing skills. A reshoot is so crucial to a film because it has to match the existing footage in so many ways as to seem and feel that it was part of the original filming. Any deviation from the tone and mood of the existing principal footage could derail the already massive amount of work a production has executed, to say nothing of completely distracting the audience. As the editor of this film, no one is more qualified than James Stiegelbauer to comment on the work of David on the reshoot. Stiegelbauer proclaims, “Yu-Hao was calm under pressure. When our director made last minute script changes, everyone was concerned it couldn’t be pulled off but Yu-Hao didn’t even flinch. He made a few calls and quickly got everything that was needed. Yu-Hao is detail oriented, resourceful, and is never afraid to get his hands dirty. I would ask him to work on every job if I could. We could not have finished Resurgent without his hard work. He coordinated with the actors, locations, and crew quickly making all the necessary arrangements to meet our needs. As an Editor, I’m not on set, but I do need to be in constant communication with the director and cinematographer. Yu-Hao was crucial in this communication. This ability to be able to keep the work flowing even as unforeseen factors arise and must be dealt with…that’s what the truly great producers possess.”

Resurgent is a film which depicts the story of a mercenary who must come to terms with a botched mission in order to return to the battlefield. Max, the main character (played by Manny Cartier) is suffering from the pain of his partner who has died in a military missionary with him in Afghanistan. The action and military theme of this film necessitates stunts, something which David is familiar in dealing with. Setting the table in a safe manner for these stunts is highly important to him. He notes, “We have a lot of stunt in the film. I need to make sure the stunts are done right in order to make sure the actors are completely safe. We not only have the stunt coordinator on set but also a set medic. This may seem obvious but every little situation must be planned for regardless of if it ever needs to be used. We also have a weapon wrangler on set to make sure people are aware on set, even though the weapons are just props. My job is not only to make sure the stunt scenes are well-planned but also to make sure the set is safe. I take stunts very seriously. Because it’s an action film with a lot of stunts (and we filmed in a dessert to cheat it as Afghanistan) I needed to make sure our production was a self-contained unit with everything we could possibly need at a moment’s notice. It’s not easy to shoot stunt scenes with weapon props in the desert. I need to make sure everyone is safe not only because of the stunt actions but also the difficult shooting environment.”

For those of us who don’t work in the film industry, it might be hard to understand exactly what a producer does on set. For those who do work in film, it’s difficult to overemphasize the impact a producer has on any film. A producer’s role can be described as parent, police officer, president, healer, and best friend…all in one person. A producer is the person who supplies what you need even before you understand and comprehend that you need it. It’s a conflicting situation for most producers. They love what they do but they rarely are afforded the opportunity to lose themselves in the fun of watching the movie magic they help to create. David states, “Being in charge of the reshoot for Resurgent was fun, there’s no mistaking that. I just had to always be thinking a few steps ahead. There is really no time for losing yourself in the moment. It’s interesting to shoot an action film. The stunt sequences with the stunt coordinator are fun and look amazing in the film. Watching that when the film is finished is fun. There are always challenges that are unique to each film. The desert location we filmed didn’t have a phone signal or Internet. It’s very hard to run a set without this technical stuff. We ended up planning it well and got the work done in spite of this. There is nothing to complain about for me. I’m so excited to be a part of this industry. To focus on the story and tell the story from an essential human’s point of view. I believe truth and humanity is the key to delivering a story everyone can understand and connect to.”

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ALL HEED THE MESSAGE OF AWAKEN

The arts have been the creative analogous tool of creative types for centuries. This format to communicate the real life situations with which society is confronted must often be done in a covert manner. In order to avoid strife and previously held opinions, avenues like music, literature, theater, and film, are utilized to help us see things from other perspectives. This methodology often finds us sympathizing in a first person sense, placing ourselves in the shoes of others and their circumstances. Historically, great art has struck a chord in the collective society and spurred on movements that create change. This is the story told in the film Awaken by Bruce Sze Han Chen. It is a lofty idea that he proposes in the film. In order to successfully bring about his vision, Bruce obtained the successful production talents of “David” Yu Hao Su. The many accolades and recognitions that the film has received prove that this decision was well founded for all involved parties. Some of the achievements include: Accolade Competition 2015 (Winner-Award of Merit), Alaska International Film Festival (Winner-Northern Lights Emerging Talent Award), California Film Awards (Winner-Diamond Award), Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Awards (Best Production Design), Mexico International Film Festival (Winner-Golden Palm Award), World Film Awards, Jakarta (Award of Merit), and on and on. Regardless of geographic location, audiences were captivated by Awaken’s message, a message which was delivered exactly as its creator had envisioned thanks to the support and talent of his producer David (as well as co-producer Pin Chun Liu). As with any great artist, having the professionals around you to allow you the freedom to create your art is paramount.

Awaken is a story which is applicable to any society, political system, or theology on the planet. The heroine of the film is Sophie. She has spent her life working in an enormous factory. In this facility, the workers’ minds are controlled by the music which is ubiquitous. One day, Sophie is suddenly impervious to the effects of the music and she decides to destroy the music system in order to free everyone from its effects and the factory’s dictator who is in control. The message is thinly veiled but easily understood; be in control of your own life rather than to unconsciously follow a path which is handed down to you by others, others who may be less concerned about your well-being than their own. As a producer on Awaken, it was David’s role to assist Bruce (the director) to find a production designer, costume designer, and other principle team members. Location and casting was a particularly vital part of this film. The lead actress playing Sophie is a minor which meant that scheduling needed to be coordinated around strict guidelines. The futuristic location of a massive factory was coordinated among three different venues. To further complicate things, an enormous amount of extras were cast and then supplemented with VFX to complete the proper feel of the factory and its workers. David reveals, “We needed to create a lot of workers to show how big the factory is and how many people are controlled by the dictator. We decide to use VFX to duplicate the workers. We found an excellent VFX team to helps us prepare the work and coordinate it with the Camera and Art departments. Even though we decided to use VFX to duplicate the workers in the factory, we still needed a huge amount of extras to create the materials for the VFX team. Also the location we had for the factory was huge, so it required us to have an enormous amount of extras on set. My production team and I posted casting information online and called all the actors we knew in order to have so many extras come to our set. The VFX works is the most challenging part for me because we had a very limited budget and time to plan the VFX. It ended up that the VFX scene worked very well and it’s all because of the teamwork each department devoted.” To fully understand the role David played in Awaken, consider that the actual principal filming took five days. His preproduction involvement began two months prior to filming and his post-production work took place for three months following its conclusion. That’s a ratio of 1/20 or more. The beauty and strength of the message in Awaken solidify the fact that when creative artists of all vocations work together, they can create and communicate in a manner that reaches the public and critics. The beauty of this film lies not only in its aesthetic but also in its content, both of which are fueled by the amazing team that brought it into existence.

 

 

 

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Producer Michelle Solomon talks award-winning film Emma and telling important stories

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Actor Simon Paluck and Michelle Solomon at the Breckenridge Film Festival premiere of Emma.

“I will never forget the universal and palpable emotional state the audience was in while the film played. It was the first time the audience was not made up of family or friends. It was a humbling reminder of how communicative film can be and that it’s important to use the medium to tell meaningful stories.”

Those are the words of Toronto-born producer and graphic designer Michelle Solomon when talking about the highlight of her career. She was talking about her first feature film Emma premiering internationally at the Breckenridge Festival of Film in Breckenridge, Colorado.

Solomon has had ample amounts of success in her career. She transformed the brand Ace Building Materials by making them current and relevant with her graphic design skills. She produced the award-winning film Chalk Dust and the upcoming film Sunny Side Up. She is set to work on a television show with former NBA star Kareem Rush, and co-founded the production company Picosphere Inc. She founded the company Adoorn, an app which will revolutionize social shopping right in the palm of your hand, which is set to release early next year. Despite all of these successes and achievements, and being known internationally for both her producing and design abilities, the premiere of Emma still stays with her, and working on the film shaped who she is today.

Emma is a realistic look at the world of childhood cancer and how the disease goes beyond just the person diagnosed. It’s important to not commodify and exploit a very real experience that, unfortunately, many kids and their families go through,” said Solomon.

Emma tells the story of seventeen-year-old Jayson. Jayson thinks too much. He is introverted, friendless, and wakes up wanting the day to end. That is until he meets Emma, the captain of his school’s dance team. After his psychiatrist tells him to be more involved, Jayson joins the school newspaper and is sent to write an exposé on Emma’s rumored pregnancy. Instead, Jayson uncovers that Emma has cancer. Suddenly, Jayson is pulled into a vibrant world where real love and true sacrifice flourishes. Through Emma, Jayson learns about life, love, and the importance of letting go.

Emma was a story that needed to be told. It was based on the personal experiences of the writer, Simon Paluck. What initially drew me to the film was the way that childhood cancer wasn’t glamorized or made effusive. Many films showcasing kids with terminal illnesses, often portray an idealized version of the truth. The illness becomes a tool that convinces characters to fall in love or travel the world. Experiences surrounding childhood cancer goes deeper than that. It is specific and nasty. With Emma, I like to think we showed one of many truths,” said Solomon.

The film has gone on to win a list of awards. These include: the “Royal Reel Award”, Canada International Film Festival, in 2015, the “Best Feature: Venture Category” at the Paris Online Film Festival 2016, “Freaky Feature” (Best Feature) at the Broken Knuckle Film Festival, 2016, and “Best Indie Film” at the Los Angeles Film Awards, 2016. At this year’s Festigious International Film Festival it won “Best of Fest”, Best Narrative Feature”, and “Audience Choice Award: Narrative Feature”.

“It’s entirely humbling to know many are responding to the film’s message.  With film production, there is always a moment of doubt where you think others will not understand what you’re trying to do and critique it unmercifully. Thankfully, this has not been the case for Emma,” said Solomon.

But what is perhaps Emma’s greatest achievement is not the official selections at film festivals or it’s long list of awards, but the work it has done for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

To raise funds for the film, Solomon came up with the innovative idea to partner with Make-A-Wish foundation and hold a silent auction. She wanted to give back to the community through the film, so the silent auction was to raise funds for both the film and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

“This type of innovative fundraising is just one of the ways Michelle has proven she is a natural, talented producer,” said Veronica Porfilio, the film’s executive producer.

As a non-writing producer, Solomon says she is always trying to find creative ways to expand a film’s reach.

“My personal mantra is that instead of thinking outside of the box, recognize that there is no box,” said Solomon. “Personally, I felt compelled to use the film to make a greater difference. I was able to gather over $17,000 worth of donations and raised enough money to not only finish funding the film but also donate a major portion to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Our contacts at the organization really took to the idea of spreading awareness through the ‘show-don’t-tell’ approach of film.”

Solomon’s approach to producing earned the entire cast and crew’s respect immediately, despite being her first feature. The film had a small budget for such a massive project. They employed union actors and shot at over ten locations. Solomon would not let these challenges negatively impact the story.

“Michelle was able to secure a highly sought after location that was instrumental to our film without going over-budget. Without that location the film would not have been as successful as it was. When she first spoke with the location manager it seemed we would not be able to use the space to film Emma, but that did not deter Michelle from bargaining because she knew the location was key to the film’s success. After weeks of negotiation Michelle secured the location.

Michelle’s talent as a producer shone through every task while working on Emma, and it shaped the producer she is today,” said Porfilio.

Including Solomon, there were ten young, dedicated professionals lead our executive team working on Emma. Solomon says each person was there because they were committed to telling the story.

“That type of energy is powerful and we kept each other motivated, especially through the challenging parts of independent filmmaking,” she concluded.

Megan Waters to produce upcoming sequel of hit film Ditch Day Massacre

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Megan Waters is a producer from Toronto, Ontario.

Megan Waters is many things. She is a Canadian, born and raised in Toronto. She is a pinball enthusiast who loves retro games. She is a world traveller and describes the world is her playground. She is a salsa dancer, believing it to be an amazing dance and community. And above all else, she is an extraordinary film producer, using her skill and creativity to entertain audiences.

Waters passion for producing is evident. She has been producing for over twelve years, and has received praise and recognition for her talent. In 2012, the “Soul of a Ninja” Kawasaki USA commercial she produced won the Bronze ADDY Award at the American Advertising Awards. The first feature film she produced, Ditch Day Massacre, won the 2014 Best Feature Length Horror Film at the Burbank International Film Festival. Waters is one of those people who knows she is doing what she was meant to do.

“Why be the puppet when you can be the puppet master?” said Waters. “I got into producing because I love the business just as much as the creative process. As producer, I get to wear both hats and interact with all aspects of production.”

Now, Waters is set to continue her success of Ditch Day Massacre by producing the sequel Ditch Day Massacre II. The film will follow the character of Jenny, who is placed into a mental institution after suffering from a mental breakdown as a result of a brutal attack. Little do Jenny and her mom know that what’s inside the walls of the mental institution is far more deadly than the world outside. There will also be a documentary about behind-the-scenes look into the making of the film, which Waters will be producing.

“Working on Ditch Day Massacre has been the highlight of my career. It taught and tested me so much. It was an incredible experience as the crew all had the same level of passion and commitment to making this project go,” she said.

Waters had help on Ditch Day Massacre, with producer Michael J. Zampino as a consultant for the film. Zampino has lots of experience working on horror films, including distributing the award-winning film The Slaughter. Despite this, he was still impressed with Waters’ commitment and knowledge of the genre.

“What sets Megan apart from many producers is that she has confidence but very little ego. That’s extraordinary in our business itself. Megan moved mountains and motivated everyone to bring their A-game to complete Ditch Day Massacre in 17 days,” said Zampino. “Megan is a tireless worker who strives to carve out not one film but a career worth of films. Ultimately, the film would never have been completed, and never would have received the attention and sales that is has, if it weren’t for Megan’s drive and leadership. Megan’s successes in the international film and television industry marks her as one of the most successful and skilled producers to come out of Canada in some time.”

Waters’ success is not just limited to film. She produced the Emmy-nominated series Chop Cut Rebuild and the Speed Channel series Street Tuner Challenge. It is not the accolades that motivate her. She says every project is a creative and logistical puzzle that needs to be completed.

“I create and execute. I get an idea, script, project, client need and make it happen. I usually start from where I wish to finish and then work backwards. I think mostly in visual stories and then align the team and resources to execute,” said Waters. “When I produce I like the challenge of figuring out the puzzle pieces and then putting them together. Plus, all the hurdles that make it a one of a kind experience on each project. I love that producing offers a different road every time. I fear a career that becomes repetitive. I love the randomness and goal of planning for the unpredictable. It’s organized chaos and when you build the team that communicates, respects and share the same passion for the project amazing things happen.”

Part of this passion also comes from using film as a tool to send a meaningful and powerful message. Waters has seen. a lot of success while making PSAs, especially producing the PSA “Over Watering Is Out” about water saving gardening. Part of what makes her PSAs captivating is that she refuses to create what she would consider “boring content.”

“When I am considering film or documentary projects I look at the story. It must hold my interest and I must feel passionate it about it. I say this because it takes everything in you to complete a long format project. If you don’t have a connection to it then you will be pulled away from it and it will never get done,” she said.

There is no doubt that with the innate skillset Waters possesses alongside her passion for the industry, her name will continue to roll past the eyes of audiences in the credits for years to come. She is determined to produce quality, and she never lets anything stand in her way.

“I expect and accept challenges. It’s part of producing. I actually joke with my teams that my title may be ‘producer’ but it should be changed to ‘head problem-solver.’ I am proactive and focused on the solution when challenges arise. It’s better to work toward the solution and communicate, communicate, communicate. Some of the best creative ideas have been derived and developed because of a challenge,” she concluded.

You can look out for Waters’ work on the upcoming Accio Cine feature film From Dust to Diamonds, and of course, the anticipated Ditch Day Massacre II.