One of the most life changing events in Jamly Yang’s life occurred when she was only a child and watched a feature film for the first time. She was transfixed by what she saw, not only by the story, but how everything looked so real. She remembers being convinced that the action shots and detailed war scenes were actually happening in front of her eyes and had to be consoled by her mother. After the movie finished, she became obsessed with the idea of one day making films of her own, with impactful stories that could touch audiences.
Now, Yang does just that, as a celebrated producer in her home country and abroad. Working on acclaimed films like Step Out, The Screenwriter in the Restroom, Billy’s Bear, and many more, Yang has combined her passion for storytelling with her determined mindset.
Yang has also worked with internationally recognized brands, such as Nike and Doritos, on many revenue generating commercials. Just last year, she worked on a commercial for Alpha Browser, an interactive mobile browser and all-in-one tool. The commercial is a powerful video that shows how Alpha Browser can help you in your daily life.
“I like how the commercial approaches it’s idea, instead of just introducing the product, which is what most tech companies would do, it shows people’s daily life, making the audience relate to the product,” said Yang.
Shooting the commercial involved a great deal of travelling between locations for the cast and crew, and Yang was in charge of organizing it all. She planned everything, from the hotel booking, to casting, to the budget, and even assisted with shooting when necessary.
“I loved the pretty location we shot in. What is different about commercials from film is the beauty of every frame. We can show a lot of pretty landscapes and use them to draw the audience’s attention. This is great for me because I love to travel, and on commercials you do a lot of it,” she said.
Under Yang’s leadership as the producer, the commercial went on to win several awards, including Best Commercial at the Calcutta International Cult Film Festival in both 2018 and 2019. It was also distributed internationally by ATK technology, directly contributing to sales for the product. Yang could not be prouder of what she and her team achieved, and as a fan of the Alpha Browser, she truly believed in the message she was putting out there.
“I like how it is designed. Every button is very clear and easy to understand. Compared to many of the other major browsers out on the market, Alpha Browser is more personalized. It’s more like your own account rather than just a browser. Whenever you use it, you feel at home, not in the internet ocean,” she said.
Yang has worked incredibly hard to get to where she is today, determined to achieve her childhood dream. Now that she has done so, she says the hard work doesn’t stop, and in order to continue her success, she treats every new project as a learning experience, constantly staying a student in an ever-changing world.
“This is an industry where you can’t expect fast success,” she said. “I guess just like every industry, there is nothing easy, and being passionate is the key. If you are still full of energy and love what you do after a long day, then don’t give up. Go for it and fear nothing.”
While there are many international talents that come to Hollywood from across the globe to pursue their filmmaking dreams, few have been able to seamlessly transition quite like Mohit Soni. Having worked on over 30 projects since 2013, the Rajasthan-born producer and director made major headway in the industry in a relatively short amount of time.
A testament to his incredible work ethic and ability to network within the film industry, he has worked on movies starring international celebrities such as action star Paul Logan from the films Code Red, American Warfighter, The Sandman, Circus Kane and more. Soni collaborated with Logan on Loss of Grace, a high-profile film that has been shrouded in secrecy, for which he not only managed day-to-day operations but the overall production.
While there are some producers that strictly handle the logistics of a particular project, Soni is more involved, and is genuinely interested in the motivations of the artists that he works with. He also has collaborated with writers with respect to polishing and writing skills, hiring the right talent for certain roles, and assisting with conflict management and logistics. He has also has negotiated showings in various festivals and competitions with respect to projects that he was involved in, as well.
Soni truly realized his love for production when he worked as a producer on Hinjews, and realized that he loved putting the puzzle pieces together when it came to completing a successful film project. He also loves putting his social skills to use, whether it involves mediating between personality clashes, figuring out the financial breakdown of projects with others, helping to oversee post-production, or marketing the project on a large scale.
Another notable project that Soni was heavily involved in was the 2017 movie Bridging Color, a touching South Korean drama directed by Chang Hyung Park. The movie follows a world-renowned arrogant artist that goes colorblind, and the resulting revelations that he has about his ego, status, and life in general. The touching movie has been widely praised in festivals around the world. The film was awarded at the 2017 Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Awards, the 2017 Rochester International Film Festival Awards, and the 2017 Short To The Point International Film Festival, and earned nominations from six other prestigious festivals.
Exploring themes of perception and individuality in a meaningful way, Bridging Color, which was released on Amazon this week,served as Chang-Hyun Park’s first commercial film, and Soni was integral to bringing his creative vision to life. From inception to completion, Soni’s participation as the film’s producer ensured that the production was executed smoothly.
In addition to his long list of film credits, Soni produced the music video “Ishq Nashila” by actor, rapper and film star, Sapra. Exploring the dangers of substance abuse, the video emphasizes the idea that love is more powerful than any drug, with Sapra conveying a positive message over a hypnotizing, pulsating instrumental. The expert cinematography and lush imagery helped propel the video to over 100,000 views on Youtube. Soni was inspired by the personal connection that Sapra had to the subject matter, considering that one of his close friends had fallen prey to drug addiction. Soni says he was attracted to the idea of creating a musical narrative rather than a typical music video, and the fact that it also had such a positive message.
The collaboration also led to Soni producing Sapra’s music video “Coco,” which explored the idea of how detrimental cocaine addiction can be. Here, Soni was able to experiment more with cinematography while again communicating the idea that passion is more important and real than a drug can ever be, and that drugs are a momentary escape rather than a real solution.
As if all of this wasn’t enough, Soni displays his versatility through his work on Blood and Water, a Victorian-era period piece about love, family, and deception. Soni was able to step in when necessary, adapt to different personalities, manage conflict, and fill in for certain roles for emergency purposes, as well.
Unlike many other producers, Soni is deeply passionate about the products that he is involved in, and enjoys working with other like-minded creative spirits. It is clear that Mohit Soni truly feels rewarded on every unique project that he has been a part of, and his abundant passion will only lead to new projects and broader horizons.
When award-winning filmmaker Taylor Paluso (“Unholy Night”) of Standard Motion Pictures was looking for a strong producer to join forces with on the upcoming feature film “Night of the Macabre,” South African producer Ricky Cruz instantly popped into his mind. Though Cruz has only been in Hollywood for a few years, he’s quickly made a noteworthy impact– the proof lay in the 15 or so awards he’s earned from festivals around the world in a relatively short amount of time.
In search of a producer with a celebrated track record of award-winning films and a strong grasp of the film’s concept and desired tone, the production team behind “Night of the Macabre” didn’t need to look further than Cruz. Having collaborated with Cruz on several occasions before, such as the film “Red Christmas,” which was chosen as an OFFICIAL SELECTION of the Horror Haus Festival last year, director Taylor Paluso knew Cruz was the perfect producer to bring on board his new horror film.
Paluso says, “I have had the pleasure of collaborating with Ricky on previous projects. He is a hard working, results driven individual who would be a valuable asset to any production. Plus we collaborate extremely well together so it was imperative to have him onboard Night of the Macabre.”
The upcoming horror film “Night of the Macabre” centers on a despondent traveling nurse who finds herself in an increasingly dark and menacing situation after accepting an invitation to spend the holidays with a colleague.
“The sinister and creepy atmosphere of the film sets the stage for a powerful narrative following one woman’s journey to find the will to live again,” explains producer Ricky Cruz. “‘Night of The Macabre’played directly into the current preferred genre I was looking to explore. After reading the script, I also realized I had an ideal location available and in mind to be used for the film, which production was still looking to secure and access to and some potential name talent who were a great fit for some characters in the script.”
With an upcoming slate of horror and thriller films on deck, such as the film “AntiHero” directed by Screen Actors Guild nominee and 48 hour Film Project Award winner Michael McCartney, Cruz felt that “Night of the Macabre” was the perfect addition to his creative roster.
“I have been a fan of horror films for as long as I can remember and have always wanted to contribute to the genre I hold so close to my heart. There’s something so wonderfully twisted about the juxtaposition of a holiday like Christmas, which is typically associated with joy, filled with horror and terror,” says Cruz. “With the recent success of the short film ‘Red Christmas,’ I was eager to return and creatively explore the horror genre. Horror films have time and again proven their commercial potential and repeat viewership and ‘Night of The Macabre’ is a horror film that offers the opportunity to produce a terrifying film with the interesting backdrop of Christmas.”
Last year Cruz dazzled horror fans with his performance in the starring role of Rico in Paluso’s film “Red Christmas,” which revolves around a serial killer’s plan to dispose of his most recent victim on Christmas Eve and the mishaps that ensue with the arrival of an unexpected guest.
“You don’t have to speak a certain language to get scared or appreciate the powerful contrast present in a Christmas horror film,” says Cruz.
Without giving too much “Night of the Macabre’s” plot line away, we can say that the film’s main character, the nurse, finds herself in a dark situation where ill-intentioned individuals work to overpower her through the use of ancient rituals– an element of the story that Cruz found particularly exciting.
He says, “The script explores a personal area of interest in the form of pagan rituals and sacrifices, that I have long considered to be a great fuel for suspense and horror films, with some of my favorite films in the genre centering around cults and their respective terrifying practices.”
Set to begin principle photography early next year, Cruz and the team behind “Night of the Macabre” are already fully involved in the planning phase of the production. Cruz is currently handling the pre-production logistics for the film, such as location scouting, facilitating communication between film departments, acquiring permits, insurance and scheduling the actual day to day flow of the production’s filming schedule. Once filming begins Cruz will also be an active member of the production team as a multi-faceted coordinator taking care of the film’s talent management, general production office and unit management.
“The opportunity to demonstrate my versatile producer abilities excites me not only because of my love for the genre but because of the opportunity to bring and implement my signature brand of off beat character humor into the genre,” says Cruz.
Through the plethora of award-winning projects he has brought to the screen over the years as an actor, director and producer, such as the films “Foible” and “The Neighbor,” which were awarded at the 2018 IndieFEST Film Awards, and “Pigeon Hole,” which took home the Jury Prize from the Lisbon Film Rendezvous, Cruz has become revered for his offbeat style. With more than 15 awards under his belt, all of which lend themselves as proof of his extraordinary talent and unique creativity, Cruz brings a special flavor to the modern film market.
“I love a hybrid blend between outlandish characters and awkward and uncomfortable humor because not only was that the humor I grew up on, but I think it is the most honest depiction of life,” explains Cruz. “I am attracted to real and relatable stories told through the perspective of a dynamic character. The projects that I produce differ from on another in very extreme ways but they all share a root in that the message being conveyed is being told through and/or by a quirky and unconventional means.”
With several projects on deck, such as the upcoming film “Anti-Hero,” a hand full of music videos that are yet to be announced and now, the film “Night of the Macabre,” Cruz is busy doing what he loves and bringing exciting stories to the screen.
Producing a film or television series requires an immense amount of planning, impeccable attention to detail in terms of financing, a unique style of diplomacy and the capacity to work with a plethora of different personalities and the ability to see the overall picture and end result before filming ever begins. While the actors and directors often earn the most credit in the public eye, the producer behind a project is arguably the most instrumental contributor. Without them, a project simply wouldn’t happen.
One of the beautiful things about the film industry is that every once in a while a motivated leader who’s eager to help others tell their story comes along, and that’s certainly the case with producer Clara Levy. Hailing from France, Levy moved to Los Angeles in 2017 where she helped kickstart Blackpills’ US production branch. Helping to place the Blackpills’ name on the tongue of everyone in the industry, Levy has continued to produce award-winning and globally recognized productions for the company, such as the film “Dead Women Walking,” the series “Junior,” “Do Not Disturb,” “Bonding,” “First Love” and more.
Though she is now a highly sought after producer, her entry into the film industry several years ago unfolded after a stint of working in Parisian politics. In 2013 Levy was working at Paris City Hall for Anne Hidalgo, who made history and international headlines for becoming the first female mayor of one of the most well-known cities in the world. There, Levy coordinated press campaigns for the mayor and organized massive campaigns such as the Global Conference Of Locally Elected Women, all experiences that would prepare her for the logistical skills necessary to become a Hollywood producer.
After her stint at the Mayoral Office, Levy embraced her love of film, and joined Canal+, where she helped with marketing critically-acclaimed series such as The Bureau and Spiral, and was also instrumental in creating unscripted content and documentaries.
Soon after she was hired on as a creative executive at the Blackpills office in Paris, which eventually led her to Los Angeles where she was the lead producer on the critically-acclaimed film Dead Women Walking, a film about women on death row directed by Hagar Ben-Asher. Hagar Ben-Asher had previously been nominated at the Cannes Festival for The Slut.
Dead Women Walking received standing ovations at some of the most respected film festivals in the world, including the Tribeca Film Festival, Venice Film Festival, and dozens more, which has led to many discussions about a distribution deal with various major studios. The production featured an almost all-female cast and crew, including well-known actresses such as Ashton Sanders (featured in the Oscar winning-film Moonlight), Dot Marie-Jones (Glee), and Lynn Collins of X-Men fame.
Since entering the film and television world as a producer, Levy has continued to work with the best of the best. In 2016 she began working closely with Zoe Cassavetes, daughter of the legendary John Cassavetes, on the Gotham Award nominated series Junior.
Junior is one of the first projects that Levy worked on as part of the Blackpills team, and it is special in that Zoe Cassavetes had such as specific vision for the film. Centering on the theme excitement and danger of adolescence, Junior follows a 16 year-old whose mother’s new boyfriend tempts her to explore a darker side of herself. Zoe captured the coming-of-age experience in a fresh and modern way, and Levy helped bring Zoe’s subtle genius to life.
“[Junior] tackles adolescence in a way that we can all relate. It makes you travel in time and go back to this place when you are still exploring who you are and discovering it slowly,” says Levy. “I loved being so close to an auteur such as Zoe. Her directing is very special as it brings so many additional layers to her story. It’s something very hard to achieve and she mastered it.”
Levy recently worked on the soon-to-be-released anthology series Do Not Disturb, which marks the directorial debut of internationally-known actor Jude Law. The upcoming series was chosen among thousands of series for the Cannaseries Festival, which takes place before the Cannes Festival, one of the most well-known film festivals in the world.
Do Not Disturb takes a unique look at the private lives that we hide from the world, and is unique in that the series isn’t loyal to a specific genre. Starring celebrated actors such as Monica Belluci (The Matrix Reloaded), Jack Huston (Kill Your Darlings), Ralph Ineson (The Witch) and Edward Holcroft (Vampire Academy), Do Not Disturbbrings to life the wide array of experiences that take place behind the “Do Not Disturb” signs on hotel rooms. The series is dedicated to telling personal stories that incorporate different genres and unique characters that hail from all over the world, and explores the more private and dark aspects of human nature in general.
“Do Not Disturb is really an unidentified artistic object ! It brought together so many talent and artist on such an intimate theme,” says Levy. “The theme of the project, looking into how people deal with their secret life and their dark side was amazing to tackle, and it felt that the anthology format gave us the opportunity to really explore so many side of this human problematic.”
As if all of this wasn’t enough, she has also been working diligently on the upcoming series Bonding, which was co-produced by Anonymous Content, the production company that was instrumental in such critically-acclaimed series as True Detective, The Knick, and Mr. Robot. Netflix purchased the series and the series is expected to launch sometime this month.
Levy’s curated and managed several writer’s room in Tel Aviv, all while developing and producing an astonishing portfolio of award-winning series during her time at Blackpills, which has been praised as “the future of TV” by French newspaper Le Monde. She has proved quite instrumental to Blackpills’ success, most notably because of her motivation, work ethic, and discerning eye for talent. That is why it is no surprise that in March 2017 she was promoted to Director of Development at Blackpills, where she works in her present capacity. Levy is responsible for signing talent of all kinds, including writers, directors, and digital talent to help create compelling content and grow the company. She now builds and maintains partnerships with all major US agencies and management companies.
Clara Levy is not afraid to sign new talent, shake up the status quo, or introduce new ideas to the companies that she works for, so she often proves to be a much more incredible asset than they first realize. She consistently stands out as being able to help true visionaries tell important and relevant stories, and it’s very clear that Clara Levy is not stopping anytime soon.
Xueou Yu was just a teenager when her mother bought her a book titled Top 250 IMDb Ranking Films. At the time, it seemed like a simple gift, but it quickly changed her life forever. She began watching some of the films in the book, and before she knew it, she had watched all 250. After immersing herself in the dynamic artform, Yu became in love with cinema. She could travel to far lands, go back in time, learn about different cultures, all while sitting on her couch.
Now, Yu is a celebrated film director and producer in China and abroad. She is known for her work on films like Vincent, Ka Ka Ka Ka, and Donna, as well as commercials such as Sirui Pocket. She is known for her expertise in her craft, with over 60 thousand followers on social media, who look for her posts providing feedback on current movies and television shows.
“I think film is a tool to expand our lives. To me film can maximize our life experiences. I want to spend my life giving others this kind of experience,” said Yu.
One of Yu’s first tastes of international success came with her dynamic drama Asa Nisi Masa. At the time, she was very drawn to magical realism in film, the mix of surreal and reality greatly attracting her artistic mind. She wondered what she could create with this in mind, and began exploring ideas that would draw people in while also challenging them. That is when Asa Nisi Masa was born.
Asa Nisi Masa follows a man who has never believed in magic, when one day he walks into a bar and finds out the bartender has found his true love by the help of a genie. The genie lives in the men’s bathroom in the bar, and is there to grant wishes. Yu also wrote the script, on top of producing and directing the film. It is a simple and funny story, and she wanted to convey that one never knows what will happen, even if it is something you never thought possible.
When Yu first started working on the film, she had difficulties finding a cast and crew as many were unsure of what they deemed a “weird” story. However, Yu had an important outlook: when making films, if the crew doesn’t believe in what they are creating, they won’t create a work of art. Commitment, she finds, is one of the most important aspects of filmmaking, as it is such a collaborative effort. With that in mind, she worked tirelessly to find the right people who not only could execute her vision, but who believed in it as well, and her hard work paid off.
Asa Nisi Masa premiered at the 2017 Blow-Up International Arthouse Film Fest, where it was an Official Selection. From there, it saw great success, and went on to win awards at the International Independent Film Awards and the NYC Indie Film Awards 2017. Such success could never have happened without Yu, who was the driving force of the film.
“I created this project to experiment with the language of film. I think I successfully created a mysteriously odd world. I was able to spread many of my weird thoughts and I had a lot of freedom to really do what I wanted, because I was also producing it. Experimenting is always fun, and even though there are some technical aspects that some would question, I created exactly what I wanted, and it really resonated with audiences. It is a reminder for myself to never stop experimenting,” she said.
At the early stages of pre-production, the most pressing question was asked: how will they show a genie? Was it going to be animated, or an actor in costume? Yu decided on the latter. She thought that by making the genie seem like a regular person, it further portrayed the idea that although the idea was magical, it could happen in the real world, with genies walking among us. To blend the magical aspect, she had two characters sitting at the bar based on a painting by René Magritte, adding that artistic touch for viewers. She truly mixes the surreal and real together to create a unique feeling.
“They call it magic realism, but to me the realism part is always more important because that’s how we live in this world. In this film you still see the realism play a big part,” she said.
Needless to say, Yu is a determined and talented filmmaker. She is a leader and an artist, and knows how to captivate an audience through her work. Asa Nisi Masa is just one example of what she is capable of, and audiences around the world can continue to expect great things from this filmmaker.
She believes her passion is why she has seen the success that she has, and encourages all those looking to follow in her footsteps to truly be in love with filmmaking.
“Don’t go into filmmaking because you think it looks cool or can bring you fame and you make what would please a crowd. Do it because it is what is in your heart and find the subjects you really love and just keep going. Don’t pretend to be the person who you are not, and don’t be ashamed of what you can’t become. Focus more on doing the things that you really love. This is an art, it takes talent and a lot of commitment,” she advised. “If you have both those things, never give up.”
Love has been the inspiration of art since the dawn of time. From Shakespeare writing “I love thee with a love that shall not die, till the sun grows cold and the stars grow old” to the Beatles harmonizing “All You Need Is Love” to Jack giving Rose his share of the iconic door in Titanic, love has been one of the most captivating themes throughout art, literature, and film. Throughout his life, it has been the unsuccessful pursuit of love, intimacy and relationships that, for Ricky Cruz, have made such great stories. These stories were always something that he wanted to share with the world because they are so universally enjoyable and uncomfortable.
“I began working on an anthology of quirky romantic comedy short films centered around unsuccessful endeavors into love and relationships. These were supposed to highlight the flip side of the coin when it came to conventional love stories. I always wanted to see the growth behind the guy who is left at the altar, because there’s something so familiar with that element of tragedy,” said Cruz.
With a celebrated career as a producer, Cruz had dedicated his life to telling stories that enchant audiences, and love is an underlying theme in most of his most decorated works, from the LGBTQ coming of age story Foible to drama Honor, telling the story of a woman forced into an arranged marriage by her parents. Another of his more recent projects, Mixed Orders, dives deep into such ideas. Cruz was keen to create the film because he believes seeing love stories through this specific lens is a great way to get a sense of the sort of films he is eager to bring to life in the future.
Mixed Ordersis the first film of the anthology and introduces audiences to the main character and repeat offender of the series, an offbeat lovable innocent who hopefully most will relate with because of his terrible instincts regarding intimacy. It explores the idea of knowing who you are and the importance of patience. Embracing a light-hearted tone and quirky voice, Mixed Orders gives a glimpse into Darren’s uncomfortable and premature marriage proposal to his girlfriend Clare, who is finally coming to terms with her own homosexuality.
“Mixed Orders is a film that is pleasant and bitter sweet with a moment of incredible self-realization and personal growth and sometimes that’s what we need or want to see as an audience. I love the unconventional and going against the grain, and what I believe this film does is turn what would and should be a messy scene into a beautiful feel good exchange in a display of the unconventional being made easily palatable. The film has such an honest and charming tone that it’s hard not to just smile at the end of the whole thing. There are no bad people in this sort of situation, just two people who are trying to be honest with themselves and happen to generate some friction because they’re on different pages, which happens in life all the time,” said Cruz.
Not only did Cruz produce Mixed Orders, but he also wrote the script and directed the film. He wrote the series of films a while ago and was eager to get the first one off paper. He wanted to articulate his quirky twist on a love story. He felt he owed the material an accurate rendition of the story he saw in his head because he wanted it to be familiar with some variables that he threw the audience, which is why he also took on the role of director. Leading the team, he knew he could create just the masterpiece he envisioned.
“I think selfishly, I considered myself the expert on these sorts of situations in real life which made me feel more than qualified to bring the story to life on screen and show the audience how absurd but true this character and story may be.
Cruz wanted the film to be a short and sweet story with unconventional and off beat elements. There was a lot of footage, with the actors often going off script and improvising certain takes, and Cruz managed to keep his vision throughout while incorporating such unique twists and turns. Often, some of the lines he never expected to be memorable when writing became his favorites once the scene had been shot and edited, creating a final cut he couldn’t be more proud of.
“I recommend Ricky Cruz for any and all projects, he will not only bring them to life but make them better than you could ever imagine,” said Reinaldo Garcia, who played Darren in the film.
Mixed Orders has won Best Actor and Supporting Actor in a Short Comedy at the Actors Awards, Best Romantic Comedy at TopShorts Film Festival and Best LGBT Short Film, First Audience Award, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Editing and an Honorable Mention for Direction at the South Film and Arts Academy Festival. Such success could never have been possible without Cruz, as the film was his brainchild.
“Mixed Orders‘ successful reception makes me excited for the release of the remaining films comprising the anthology of unsuccessful love endeavors. It’s a huge relief to finally have a reference film to ensure the tone and approach remain consistent. While the styles of the upcoming films may differ, I feel more settled knowing that this comedy is understood and appreciated by audiences so I’m very excited at the prospect of being able to watch our repeat offender from the series in back to back short films and truly explore the uncomfortable and bittersweet romance I’m very familiar with on screen,” he said.
Be sure to keep an eye out for the remaining films in this delightful series.
As a film producer, Elena Bawiec works tirelessly each day to ensure a project comes together, and that is what she loves. Each time she steps onto a set, she is living her dream: sharing stories with a worldwide audience. She has always had a predisposition for this type of work, where it is a mixture of communication, organization, and managing people. Most importantly however, she knows that as a producer she has to understand the story, what works and doesn’t work dramatically, and what will resonate with audiences. It is this final piece of the puzzle that has allowed Bawiec to excel to the forefront of her field, as a natural born storyteller. She knows that no matter the project, film or stage or even a commercial, it comes down to people and the story that is being told.
“I enjoy watching a story begin as an idea on a blank page and then morph into a screenplay draft; then into a bustling film set with hundreds of people making one vision come to life; to visual effects, sound, and music taking over in post; and finally, when we see the first shot in a dark movie theater with an audience,” she said.
Throughout her esteemed career, Bawiec has worked on countless acclaimed films, showing the world just what she is capable of as a producer. These include award-winning hits such as The Suitcase, Blood Brothers, Megan, Only Light, and much more. She has a lot to look forward to this year as well, with many projects in the works. Her highly anticipated film, Incendium, will soon be making its way to the festival circuit.
Incendium is about the essence of creation and the correlation between life and death, visually expressed through movement. This story takes audiences on a breathtaking journey that emphasizes the equilibrium that everything with a beginning inevitable must have an ending; this is the beauty of the inescapable cycle of life. The concept behind this cinematic essay is that contrary forces cannot coexist without one another.
In conjunction with cinematic beauty, this filmic essay focuses on dance – in particular a bold reinterpretation of Flamenco. The language of dance is universally relatable, as dance is communicated via showing, not telling. Creation is further displayed through the interplay between the heroine and the four mighty forces of nature: water, fire, earth and wind. The film explores an unpredictable force of kinetic grace, centering on the personification of the cycle of life.
“When do we get to work on something so purely visual, so raw, so fascinating? Incendium is a rare visual feast. It is one of those projects that seldom comes along, and you just have to grab it. Incendium completely captivates you with its beauty and power,” said Bawiec.
The director, Greg Strasz (VFX: Independence Day: Resurgence, Stonewall It Follows) has tremendous experience in Visual Effects and Bawiec knew that he is an exceptionally visual person who could create magic with a project like this.
“There was no question as to whether I wanted to be part of this project. The dancer, Mariam Vardanyan, is so talented, passionate, driven. The sheer hours and effort she put into training for this shoot were awe-inspiring. Now I, as the producer, needed to create the support system to have this project come to life,” said Bawiec.
As producer, Bawiec handled budgeting, scheduling, hiring and managing the crew, pre-production, location scouting, logistics of the production, and post production. Elena had agreed upon keeping the footprint small. This was a very intimate experience for Mariam, and for her performance it was beneficial to have as few people as possible, and Bawiec and her team accomplished great things with a much smaller crew than they are used to.
“We went all out with this film. We shot underwater stunt sequences, we shot with fire, we shot on a dry lake bed, and in Death Valley, at night, during the day, in the heat and in the rain. This was quite an adventure. Sometimes we literally fought the wind,” said Bawiec.
The result of the crew’s efforts is a visual spectacle that is a can’t miss. Be sure to check out Incendium and to be carried away by the artistry of the dance and the film as a whole. It is exactly films like Incendium that drive Bawiec, and she plans to spend the rest of her life dedicated to bringing powerful and visually stunning stories to the big and small screens.
“My goal is to tell stories that matter, stories that come from the heart and take the audience on a journey. Entertainment will always be a business; there will always be the bottom line and the investors to get paid, but I do not think you can really be financially successful in the long term if you do not make films that mean something to people, that spark a reaction. I think finding this balance between the creative aspect of our work and the money aspect is very important. Projects that I have currently lined up, are these kinds of stories, which show complex characters trying to make sense of the world around them. Some are based on true stories, some are thrillers or action, and others may be sci-fi, but it’s always the human condition we talk about no matter the genre. Films help us make sense of this world and to understand ourselves better,” she concluded.
Filmmaking allows China’s Guoqing Fu to explore the unknown psychological world and explore his endless creativity. He feels a thrill whenever he embarks on a new project, with the purpose of reflecting and exaggerating social phenomena, to arouse resonance in people’s hearts.
“As the eighth art form of humankind, film is the crystallization of the first seven art forms, which perfectly interprets the inner artistic passion of filmmakers. The artistic and creative pleasure that cannot be obtained in the real world can be infinitely expanded in the film world,” he said.
Throughout his career, Fu has shown why he is an in-demand producer in his home country and abroad. This is exemplified with his films Gum Gum, La Pieta, and Over, to name a few. He has a sincere desire to educate and entertain the masses through his work, with no plans on slowing down.
“My goal is to better disseminate Chinese and American culture, making more collaborative projects and bringing more culture and art into the film world,” said Fu. “I feel that the film and television cooperation between China and the United States has great potential. I am willing to be a pioneer and keep working hard.”
The producer became one step closer to that goal with his film Underset. Taking place in the Republic Era of China, after the main character, Qianyue Zhang, was married, he went to his hometown to find his friend, Mingtang Wang, but he accidentally finds a dead body in his hotel room. The police take the owner of the hotel, his wife, and all the hotel customers into custody. Qianyue’s wife and her father arrive to learn about the incident, but it is all too much for him to accept, eventually leading to his death.
Premiering last June in Beijing, Underset was a great success in both China and America. Not only was it an Official Selection at many prestigious festivals around the world, it took home several awards. These include Best Feature Film and the Diamond Award at the Hollywood Film Competition, Best Feature Film at the Hollywood Film Competition, Best Original Music and Best Production at Macau International Movie Festival, Best Feature Film and the Platinum Award at the NYC Indie Film Awards, and Best Feature Film at The European Independent Film Awards.
“I am very honored as one of the most vital members of the team. It’s my first time being a producer on a truly Chinese feature film. When I heard about the awards from my friends and crew members, I was excited,” he said.
Fu was a co-producer on Underset, taking on key responsibilities like script selection, hiring team members and setting up the team. He coordinated every single department, solved any and all problems on set, ensuring everything went smoothly without any delays. He always did what needed to be done to stay on top of things, making a strong team and a great film.
Most important for Fu, Underset is a Chinese domestic film. The production environment is very different from the United States, but this producer is determined to be a bridge between Chinese and American film cooperation, a large and challenging task he is more than willing to take on.
“It was hard, but I think it was worth it. It was my first time managing a whole production in China. In the beginning, I needed to care about all the parts, because it makes me learn more about the Chinese film industry. It has some advantages, but it also has disadvantages. I love those experiences, some of them are challenging, but challenges make me stronger and a pro for next time,” he said.
As a filmmaker, Ace Yue takes an idea and brings it to life. Originally from Shenyang, a north east city of China, Yue has always had a passion for the art form and has dedicated her life to bringing captivating stories to the big and small screen. As a producer, she finds just the script and team to make a vision a reality, and as a director, she follows her instincts and provides a sound voice of leadership for her entire team.
“I like to give every character in my stories an entire life, no matter how old they are. I am building up an entire world for my cast, allowing them to feel the character, making friends with them, then, becoming them. I want the audience to be taken away by the story, creating a cathartic experience for every viewer,” said Yue.
This in-demand producer and director made headlines last year with her award-winning film Gum Gum, which she wrote based off her own life experiences, but Yue is no stranger to success. She also has highlights on her resume such as By Way of Guitar, La Pieta, K.a.i., and many more.
“I think this is a job that requires a sense of responsibility. It’s fun and full of creativity. In fact, creativity and on-the-spot ability are my most important skills of being a producer and director, because we can never predict what will happen on the set. So, having a very high ability to adapt is key,” said Yue.
Recently, Yue has seen great success with one of her newest films, the drama Hank. The film tells the story of Hank and his husband Tommy who are struggling to save their 15-year marriage and entertain the idea of an open relationship. While this might be working well for Tommy, Hank struggles to cope with the change as well as the challenges of being old.
Telling an LGBTQ story was important for Yue, who immediately said yes to the film after reading the script. She has worked on many genres and is incredibly versatile, but this was her first time telling a story about this community. She feels film can provide a voice for underrepresented groups and educate viewers on key issues, and taking such a heartfelt look into the loving marriage of two homosexual men touches on all the reasons she wanted to become a filmmaker to begin with.
“Learning to understand who we are, and respect everyone as they are, is of the utmost importance. It is the greatest aspect of this film. In real life, most people like to look at things with a preconceived perspective. In other words, people just want to see what they want to see. Rarely will we analyze and understand the problem from the perspective of others, and then everyone will have such a state of mind that they are freaks and not understood by others, and then generate inferiority and escape from life. What this film tells is that no matter how others treat themselves, they must first face themselves honestly, don’t treat themselves as aliens, bravely accept themselves, pursue what they want, each of us is equal. The gender orientation, the preference of the things themselves can be different. Don’t worry about the eyes of others. It’s right to be happy for being myself,” she said.
Hank premiered at the Burbank International Film Festival and was an Official Selection at the Hollywood International Film Festival. It was an Honorable Mention at the Los Angeles Music Awards 2019 and has a lot more expected for the year. This month, Yue and Hongyu Li, the director of Hank, are heading to HRIFF 2019, the Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival Red Carpet Press Event on February 15th.It is also an Official Selection for the world-renowned Cannes Film Festival later this year.
“The success is sensational. We use our profession to tell meaningful stories in a visual way, working hard on every detail. Being recognized by audiences around the world is also a way to make us more motivated and more determined to go do what we want to do, to tell the story, to shoot the film,” she said.
As the co-producer on the film, Yue made sure that any unexpected situation that arose on set was instantly taken care of. She helped the director create a good working environment, allowing everyone to focus solely on creating a work of art.
Yue knew the importance of the film they were creating, making it her sole focus and drive every day she was on set. The feeling was infectious, with the entire cast and crew feeling the same.
“I have a lot of LGBTQ friends. We are just like them, everyone is human, there is no difference. What I want to say is that they are not special groups. The discrimination of many people is that their own starting point is wrong. True love does not mean that men and women together breed the next generation, but a soul meets another soul that can truly understand each other,” she concluded.
It takes a very unique talent to effectively balance the work of a producer and director simultaneously on a project. Though it is no easy task, it is one where filmmaker Tom Edwards has proven his skill time and time again.
One of Edwards’ recent projects as producer and director is the music video for folk-punk artist Sunny War’s single “Gotta Live It,” which premiered last year to great praise on Vice’s Noisey outlet, which is known for showcasing hot new music and music videos.
Edwards captures the juxtaposition of melancholy sadness and perseverance present in Sunny War’s “Gotta Live It,” which the artist says is “a very personal song about my struggle with alcoholism, my dysfunctional love life and the confusion I face daily participating in this rat race society.”
Prior to directing and producing “Gotta Live It,” Edwards directed and produced the music video for Sunny War’s “Goodbye LA.” That first time collaboration obviously ran smoothly because the artist called him back again for “Gotta Live It.”
“Working with Tom is very chill. He has a nice easy going personality but at the same time he is very organized.[He] is good at what he does… he plans every shot, communicates the ideas with you beforehand… and actually follows through,” says Sunny War. “He is also always willing to listen to any crazy ideas you might have and is kind when explaining why those ideas are crazy and won’t work.”
Though Tom Edwards’ boundless creativity as a visionary director is evident in his work, his ability to balance what does and doesn’t work from the standpoint of a producer in terms of managing the budget, shoot days and all of the other odds and ends that go into producing are what make him such a sought after talent.
“As the producer I was working with a very limited budget. It was important to find the right location and that the filming could be completed in one day. As director I needed to make sure that my vision aligned with Sunny’s and that she was happy with the idea before I started to shoot. The last thing you want when working with an artist is to find out after shooting that they don’t like the final video,” explains Edwards.
“It’s essential to have good communication skills to ensure both sides of the party agree on the expectations. My role as producer was about coordinating crew, finding locations, getting permits and making sure we had the right amount of gear to tell the story. I like to keep all the logistics out of the way when I’m directing, it’s important to make sure I have my undivided attention on the artistic choices and performance.”
Some of the other music videos Edwards has produced and directed include “Fire” from American ukulele virtuoso Taimane, The Main Squeeze’s “Only Time,” Westside FX “War ft. Bro Burch,” Calix’s “California Dream’n,” “Bad Blood,” and more. He’s also directed and produced commercials for brands including Lamborghini, The Sirius, Garrison Bespoke and the Shaolin Temple.
While he’s made a name for himself as a powerful producer and director in the world of commercials and music videos he’s no stranger to producing and directing narrative films.
In 2013 Edwards wrote, directed and produced the film “Ninety One: A Tainted Page,” which earned multiple awards including those for Best Overall Film, Best Actor and Best International Baccalaureate Film at the Shanghai Student Film Festival.
Actor Anson Lau, who plays the lead in the film, says, “I’ve always known Tom for his passion for making films… When he puts together a project he’s always enthusiastic… When he directs he knows exactly what he wants.”
Over the years Edwards strength as a producer has also led him to be tapped to produce a long list of projects for other directors.
He explains, “Aside from directing and producing my own films, I find a lot of pleasure helping others and bringing their visions to life. I enjoy being critical and being able to provide valuable feedback.”
One such film where Edwards proved critical in the success of the film as a producer behind the scenes is the 2016 dramatic sci-fi film “Visitors” starring Kei’la Ryan from “Escape the Night,” “The Doctors” and “American Hashtag.”
“I worked with Tom on a large number of projects, from commercials and music videos to narrative films. He always blew me away with his creativity and hard work. His work on the film ‘Visitors’ was significantly important and was one of our best collaborations,” says “Visitors” director Alon Juwal. “Tom had a large creative input both in the development phase and in the production phase. He contributed greatly in the writing of the screenplay and managed to lock some amazing crew members for the project.”
A film about two siblings who return home to their estranged father’s house after a long absence, only to find their home being invaded by a group of uninvited visitors from another world as the night progresses, “Visitors” made a strong impact on audiences and festival judges across the globe.
In addition to earning the Honorable Mention Award from the Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival and the Festival Award from the New York International Film Festival “Visitors”was nominated for several awards at festivals including the USA Film Festival, Vail Film Festival, Phoenix Comic-Con, Newport Beach Film Festival, and more.
“After careful review of the [Visitors] script, there were a few scenes that needed more attention. In one scene, the main character is blasted with a beam of light as if a spaceship about to abduct him. We had to make sure that we could get a rig and the right people to achieve this,” recalls Edwards about some of his key contributions to the project.
Edwards’ personal experience writing and directing projects have endowed him with an unparalleled understanding of what needs to happen on set for a director to be able to effectively make their vision come to life; and this is one reason why he has proven himself as such a powerful producer.
Director Alon Juwal adds, “All of my collaborations with Tom ended in successful productions. He brings a great deal of enthusiasm and grace to each project that he signs up for. Tom takes every small task that he is given with great seriousness and simply brings amazing results. He is fast, extremely efficient and a very hard worker.”
The ever busy producer and director is currently working with writer Phil Giangrande on the upcoming dystopian film “Now It Begins,” which takes place in a future society where resources are scarce and poses the question over whether it is ethical for a father to be replaced by artificial intelligence.
Edwards is also working with an a LA based production company on what he says is a “Very exciting series of educational videos that will launch sometime this year.”
Though he’s not yet able to announce the details on the upcoming video project, with such a track record of successful productions already under his belt we know it’s one you will be hearing about very soon.
Everything you ever wanted to know about Hollywood's who's-who.