Category Archives: Producer

Producer Albee Zhang doubles as Hometown Champion

Many people don’t realize they have a dream until they have already achieved it. This is just what happened for Albee Zhang. The Shanghai native always knew she wanted to make films, but it wasn’t until she realized she had made a career both in China and the United States that this was always what she wanted. She shows the world her culture through her work, and allows audiences to see both where she comes from and where she is now, as an internationally successful film and television producer.

This is exactly what Zhang achieved with the film Bride: Shanghai, I Love You. As a producer on the film, Zhang was essential to its success. She provided creative ideas for story meetings, prepared pitch materials, created and managed the production budget, scouted locations, recruited the crew, oversaw the art department and post-production teams to ensure deadlines, and cast the film. Without her, the film could not have been made.

“The cast she put together, the people that she put together for this project, it was really quite amazing. Albee is the master of multitasking, but never skips out on the small things. She has more drive and passion than anyone I have ever met. She is definitely a go-getter,” said the director of the film, Lian Xin.

Bride: Shanghai, I Love You is a film made for the 15th Shanghai International Film Festival, hosted by SIFF and the Information Office of Shanghai Municipality, as part of city promotional videos during the festival. It’s a story about a young photographer who meets his long-lost ex-girlfriend on her wedding day. Originally, he accused the fast pacing city life of changing them and made them break-up, but he finally realizes without all the tough times in his life, he wouldn’t be who he is right now. He moves on with relief and looks forward to the future with deep love in this city, Shanghai.

“It’s such a compelling life changing story. Any dream seeker in the big cities would find similarities to the character. The release date was in a summer, same as the graduation season in the story, which made the whole story resonate with more people. I love the idea that we started from an ordinary person’s point of view to reveal the beauty of this city,” said Zhang. “It’s a light-hearted and inspirational story to motivate the young professions to following up their dreams. We had a very young team making this film. Although they may lack of professional experience, they brought so much energy and joy to the crew. They gave us lots of ideas of how to capture a city wanderer’s life. And in return, we were trying to give these young professionals an opportunity to work on this film. All they needed was an equal chance, just like everyone else.”

Zhang wanted to share her love for her city through the film, and that is exactly what she did. She worked on the project from start to finish, from the development stage, casting, accountings, getting equipment deal and transportation, to its premiere at the festival. She was working at MT media at the time, and the director, Lian Xin, reached out to her to be a part of the film, knowing he needed the best to make the film a success.

“Lian Xin is a very hands-on director. He likes taking different jobs at the same time while making his films. He directed, wrote, filmed, and even gave lighting directions on our film set. In the editing stage, he would prefer to have a director’s cut. By looking at his works, you would know what’s a ‘Lian’s style’ movie. He was calm and quiet person off-set, but as long as the camera was rolling, he would rule the set. We had worked on few other projects before, so I knew from my heart that he had the capability to do multiple jobs on set. If it was another director, I wouldn’t let him do that. But it’s all about trust and mutual understanding. When he was in charge, I had nothing to worry about,” said Zhang.

The film was a non-profit project, and therefore had a very small crew. This required Zhang to wear many hats at the same time to ensure the production went smoothly. As a producer, she is known for her commitment to her work and to each project she works on, which is why they have gone on to see such success. Her more recent work on the film Caged has gone on to be an Official Selection at many festivals, and win several awards. She knows what it takes to achieve greatness, as that is what she continuously does. Having Bride: Shanghai, I Love You, premiere at a prestigious film festival such as The Shanghai International Film Festival was nothing out of the ordinary for this producer.

“It was a great honor to be part of the film festival program. Producing my own hometown promotion video for SIFF made me think about what my home town means to me. I was born and raised in Shanghai, and lived there for the majority of my life, but I never thought about what impression does this city leave the world, until I started brainstorming ideas for this project. It’s a place you will easily lose yourself in a materialistic life, but after all the struggles, you will eventually be deeply in love the city with and understand how inclusive this city can be,” said Zhang. “Since I am purely from Shanghai, that was a great chance show the world how great my home city is. I am proud that I can become part of the production.”

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BIG STUDIO OR INDIE, THEY’RE ALL IMPORTANT TO DIRECTOR/PRODUCER JOHN ALBANIS

Education is a good thing but, consider that education alone is not indicative of the ability to master something; it’s a springboard to jump into the race. Specifically, when it comes to artistic endeavors, vision and mastery of skills easily defeats the knowledge base of how something “should” work. One can understand painting but it doesn’t make you a painter. A knowledge of the complexities of music theory does not make one a songwriter. Film school does not make you an accomplished cinematographer. While scholarly endeavors may get you in the ballpark, they won’t insure that you will make the team. Of all the aforementioned art forms, film is the newest and thus the idea of attending film school was not available until recently. The pioneers who crafted this art form and by whose hands it evolved were the men and women who learned “on the job.” Considering the fact that film has permeated almost every culture and region of the planet, they did their jobs quite well. Following in the footsteps of these giants is John Albanis. This producer/director had not planned on entering the film industry (moving from Calgary to the UK to pursue rock stardom) but made an artistic switch when he discovered he had a natural skill set that lent itself to this medium. With no formal academic film training, John learned from those he worked with; those who recognized his ability for accelerated learning. Years later, he has cultivated quite an impressive career which rests on both huge blockbuster productions as well as carefully and emotionally crafter indie art films. Feature Films, TV movies, music videos, even recording studios make up the eclectic life of this immensely talented Canadian filmmaker.

John Albanis’s work on major studio films is instantly recognizable and is not confined to simply one genre…unless that genre is “successful.” Some films perform well at the box office and also have a second life on downloads and streaming services, as is the case the Hector and the Search for Happiness. As Co-Producer on this 2014 film starring Simon Pegg, John had the herculean task of taking the production across the planet to locations which included: Canada, the UK, South Africa, China, USA, India, and Germany. The Story and its locations are entertaining and seamless, something which Albanis is quite proud of achieving.

Contributing his full range of abilities to the film Psychic Driving, John was director, producer, and writer of this Film Noir. Inspired by the great political thrillers from the 1970s films like Three Days of the Condor, The Parallax View, All the Presidents Men and based around the CIA mind control program in the 1950’s called Project MK-Ultra (a secret program that ran experiments on human subjects, often without their knowledge), Psychic Driving’s theme was perfectly suited for the Film Noir genre. It also allowed Albanis to indulge his creative side to great length, exhibiting his multiple talents. Utilizing his connections in the film industry allowed for a quick and impressive production schedule. John relates, “When I work on studio films, I build such great relationships with the crews whom I work with. One thing I quickly learned is that there are so many talented artists who are on the verge of breaking. In the case of Psychic Driving, I had recently completed working on Miramax Films’ Shall We Dance. This was pretty early in my career; I was a director’s assistant at that point. But the director, Peter Chelsom, had me very involved creatively so I worked closely with all department heads. I forged relationships with (main Camera Operator) Peter Rosenfeld and (Art Director) Sue Chan. I had written Psychic Driving shortly after the studio film wrapped and I gave the script to both of them. They immediately signed on as Director of Photography and Production Designer respectively. Since we all have contacts in the studio system, we were each able to bring those resources to this small, indie film. That’s why it has such ambitious production values.”

Not content with Feature Films or Indie Films, John also lent his production talents to a series of highly successful made for TV films (for CBS) starring Tom Selleck. Jesse Stone: Stone Cold, Jesse Stone: Thin Ice, and Jesse Stone: No Remorse were all presented in a period of five years.

As he prepares for the next obvious progression in his career, Albanis confirms, “Los Angeles is still the heart and soul of the film and television industry; it’s where all the main players are and where all the deals are being struck. I’m transitioning from being a hired gun producer/director into developing my own projects from the ground up and Los Angeles is the best place to do that. Last year, I purchased the TV rights to a book called The Mirror Thief, which I’m developing with Peter Chelsom to direct into an 8-hr series. It’s a mind-bending thriller that follows interweaving narratives of three driven men all connected by the alchemical possibility of a mysterious book, and shifts from 16th century Venice, Italy— where famed glassmakers perfected one of the world’s most wondrous inventions, the mirror (an object of fearful fascination)— to the seedy Venice Beach waterfront of the 1950’s, to the glitzy trappings of the Venetian casino in 2003 Las Vegas.”

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Director and producer Ron Grebler is the real deal while showcasing real food

Ron Grebler is a storyteller. He is a creator. He is a filmmaker. He uses his creativity and imagination to transport others to different places and times. Grebler uses his talent to captivate audiences. As both a Director and Producer from Toronto, Ontario, Ron Grebler has done it all.

With fans around the world, Grebler’s work has been appreciated by many. Just last year, his promotional video for the immensely popular Netflix series Stranger Things went viral, building up anticipation for the show. He has directed and produced several successful commercials, including the innovative campaign for Axe Hair Products on Canada’s MuchMusic, and commercials for Belair Direct, Fuji Instax, and We Day.

“I would like to think that I strive for ‘quiet storytelling’, letting the idea unfold in visual images rather than be heavily driven by dialogue or voice over narration. This is the path more rarely travelled in the heavily direct messaging style of the commercial world, and often embraced by branded content. Visually, there’s something fascinating to me about extreme close-ups with limited depth of field. That perspective can take the subject and add a dimensionality to it that’s almost abstract, which I believe connects with viewers. Given that I work in the commercial world, it’s not often that I can use shots like these, but at the right moment, they can really make a spot pop. I’m very cognizant of color and contrast. There is high pressure when creating a commercial because ultimately, it’s about ‘selling’ and for many viewers there is a reticence to that. That’s why I always try to layer a spot with cues for the unconscious mind to find them entertaining, engaging and if possible, playful,” said Grebler, describing his style of directing.

With such a commitment to his craft and an appreciation of the nuances, it is no doubt as to why Grebler is considered one of the best. When working on a promotional video series for Thermador, Grebler showed his abilities to go beyond what is typical, and create something revolutionary. Real Food with Thermador was a four-part web series that was an early foray into the world of online branded content video featuring celebrity chef Jamie Kennedy.

“There was a very unique approach in the development of this project as it was meant to truly be branded content, meaning we weren’t pushing the ‘hard sell’ of Thermador products,” said Grebler. “It was really meant to focus on passion for locally grown seasonal ingredients, especially as perceived through the eyes of celebrated chef Jamie Kennedy.”

The series was shot similarly to an HGTV show or a Food Network program, educating viewers as well as entertaining. Acting as both producer and director for the project, Grebler’s vision was imperative to its success. Mike Codner, former Studio Manager with DDB Canada , sought-out Grebler to be the director and producer, knowing of his creativity, work ethic and passion for the job.

“Ron has a flexible approach to production, whether it’s a big budget or small, he treats it with the same respect. He’s a director and producer first, but he sees the big picture in terms of the clients’ needs and the reality of working within budgetary constraints. He’s passionately engaged in the process, from pre-production through the shoot and will sit in on all post production too. He takes ownership of all that he does,” said Codner.

The campaign was very successful and won both the International Association of Business Communicators Gold Quill Award and Ovation Award, the Canadian Marketing Association Award, and the Canadian Public Relations ACE Award. Grebler says he didn’t even consider awards while making the video, he just wanted to focus on the client’s goals while making something visually outstanding.

“Honestly it felt odd at first. I was told we were nominated and I kind of shrugged my shoulders. The agency told me that it was a bigger deal than I realized and when we won I was quite proud. Maybe I was naïve but I had no idea how important it was to win awards,” Grebler laughed.

Taking on the vital roles of director and producer, Grebler was responsible for implementing his vision. By making the videos appear like a television show it helped connect the audience to the product in a way that other commercials couldn’t. The videos were made in 2008, and in those early days of branded content, it was essential that the video not feel like a commercial. By giving viewers compelling content, great visuals and passionate discussion about the topic of real food, Grebler knew they’d be engaged. When the chef ended up describing some of the specific Thermador products, it was part of the flow of the show and made sense, not just like a ‘stop-and-sell-the-product’ moment.

“It was flattering to be selected to work on this kind of programming. After the scripts were written, it was less about thinking and more about doing. We had a lot of locations to cover in only a few days, so it was about maximizing our time and getting the most powerful content. It wasn’t until the edit that I really grasped how seamlessly everything cut together and that it really flowed like a segment for a TV show, nothing at all like a commercial,” Grebler described.

Grebler also succeeded in making the videos a work of art. Shooting in picturesque Prince Edward County, venturing from Jamie Kennedy’s to an artisanal cheese factory, he set up each shot to have stunning imagery. The outdoor shots showcased the perfect late summer weather, from the golden light over a tomato farm to mouth-watering close-ups of prepared dishes. The passion and depth of knowledge shown by on-camera talent Jamie Kennedy and those he would speak with also shone through.

“It was a great pleasure working on this because it was as much an on-the-fly learning process about local foods and farming and food production as much as it was the logistics of video production. We had a small and very talented crew and we had to think on our feet quickly because of limited access and time at the locations as well as working with real people. I trusted them completely and the visuals and content we got was quite captivating while engaging in passionate conversations about food with local farmers and artisanal cheesemakers,” he described.

Working with a celebrity chef and farmers was initially concerning for the director and producer, however, as he was concerned about their ability to articulate in a way that would connect with audiences. Grebler eventually learned a valuable lesson that he carries with him today.

“Find someone’s passion when you’re speaking with them and they will give you gold,” Grebler concluded.

Watch Grebler’s work on the first episode of Real Food with Thermador here.

PRODUCER ZHEN LI BRIDGES THE INTERNATIONAL GAP WITH STORIES OF REAL PEOPLE

As the producer of a few CCTV (China Central Television) shows Zhen Li has gotten the opportunity to do things in the US that many Americans only dream of doing. For example, what self-aware Star Wars fan hasn’t dreamt of finding themselves with full access to the birthplace of the magic of the film series in order to become one of the films iconic characters? Li has done this…and so much more. From getting his “Star Wars Geek” on to delving deep into the political and historical relations between these two cultures, Li has revealed the comparison and contrast of two great civilizations. From his beginnings in China (Zhen won a talent program competition to become a TV host) Zhen threw himself into behind the scenes production and quickly became one of the most sought after producers in China, one who also gained access to Hollywood via his work in Chinese productions like the CCTV programs “Documentary Dream Road” and “2014 Spring Festival Star Wars Series Special Program.” Li’s time in front of the camera enabled him to quickly become a knowledgeable, effective, and respected producer.

The Star Wars franchise is almost certainly the most influential and profitable in the history of film. Now in its fourth decade of production and creating fans, it shows no sign of slowing down. Generations of Americans share an obsessive affinity for the films, their storylines, and characters. China is no different in their love of the series. Producer Zhen Li was able to fulfill every Star Wars fan’s dream when he was sent by CCTV to oversee the filming of a three-part documentary at Industrial Light & Magic and Skywalker Sound titled, “2014 Spring Festival Star Wars Series Special Program.” Li confesses, “I’ve been a fan of Star Wars since I was very young, thus I was very excited to visit the company that produced the Star Wars series and meet with those legendary filmmakers. When I saw the original trilogy, I was 6 years-old. I believed that this world truly existed. Everything was so real at that time! As a mischievous boy, I had a great imagination about life in outer space. It was the beginning of my interest in Sci-Fi movies.”

Consider this; the Chinese Spring Festival is a time of year which is known for family viewing of special programming and higher than normal viewership. As the only nationwide professional film channel, CCTV-6 covers a population of 852 million. Its average annual ratings and market share in the national TV channels is among the best. The “2014 Spring Festival Star Wars Series Program” was among the top three rated programs in its time slot, meaning a viewership in the hundreds of millions.

CCTV 6 special Program about Making the STAR WARS SERIES-Li Zhen with Oscar winner Ben Burtt @ Skywalker Sound 000

Besides hiring the entire local crew for this production, Li Zhen also coordinated the shooting in Lucas Film, Industrial Light & Magic, Skywalker Sound, organized and conducted interviews with important figures, such as John Knoll (Oscar winning VFX supervisor known for AVATAR, Star Wars IV & VI, Mission Impossible, Pirates of Caribbean), Chief Creative Officer at Industrial Light & Magic; Benjamin A. Burtt (2 times Oscar Sound Award Winner known for Wall-E, Star Wars IV, Kong: Skull Island, Jurassic World, etc.);  Matthew Wood (3 time Oscar Nominee known for Star Wars I & III,  Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Rogue One, Guardians of Galaxy, etc.). While the massive attention the viewers gave this series was the most rewarding, Zhen admits to a close second stating, “I was C3PO for an hour. I put on a motion capture suit which had more than 30 reflection dots attached. The suit covered my body from my head to my hands and feet. I walked in to the motion capture stage where I believe there were more than twenty-four cameras placed from different angles capturing my every movement. On the computer screen I saw C3PO moving as I do. Somewhere deep inside me, my six-year-old self was jumping in the air with joy, but I was cool and professional on the outside.”

“Documentary Dream Road” is a CCTV 32-episode series telling the story of China’s last century of history, through revolution, destruction, construction, and reform, that offers an accurate and well-rounded explanation of how this nation achieved everything it has today.  Zhen Li was a producer on this incredibly popular program. The two episodes which focused on China/US relations, the “Sino-US icebreaking” and “Big country diplomacy” were filmed in the United States. During the shooting, Li Zhen visited the headquarters of Boeing in Seattle, Microsoft headquarters, Amazon headquarters, and also visited the Nixon Memorial Museum located in the city of Yorba Linda.

Li Zhen with President Nixon's grandson Christopher Nixon Cox at Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace- producing documentary DREAM ROAD for China Central Television 002

One of the most influential US figures in American relations with China was President Richard M. Nixon. Nixon’s grandson, Christopher Nixon Cox, travelled to California to be interviewed for the program about the former president’s historic trip to China in 1972 attempting to build a bridge between the two countries. While the discussion of these two international powers was at ease, the requirements of the production was not the same. Zhen confirms, “Besides the 30 episodes shot in China, I only had a month to deliver the footage of the two episodes shot in the US. As the producer, I needed to build up a camera department and sound team within a week; then find good cameras, lighting, and sound equipment within budget…and of course negotiate contracts with them. At the same time, I got a list of people’s names to interview, but none of the them had been contacted yet. I immediately began approaching them about being in the program. By default, I was the one to interview them, which meant that I also needed to prepare more questions in addition to the ones the Chinese team had given me. All this work overlap made it quite stressful. In the end, the results were amazing…but it’s not the type of schedule one hopes for.”

Even though Zhen Li is comfortable on camera and is sometimes pulled back in front of it, he admits that his true desires exist on the other side of the camera, far from the public view. It’s the stories and the challenge of setting the essential parts in place, in a proper order, that really entices him. The eclectic nature of his work: documentaries, films, TV, all of these share one common element…a producer who propels them to greatness.

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chinese Film Producer Yuxiao Wang Nails the Mark in Hollywood!

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Producer Yuxiao Wang shot by Yiting Lyu

While the face of producers may not appear on movie posters or on the big screen, Yuxiao Wang’s name appearing in the credits is reason enough to get excited about a project. That’s because she has been singularly responsible for the development, production and distribution of a large number of incredible projects. In the process, the emergence of Yuxiao as a leading figure in the global film industry has marked a new wave of super-producers from China taking over Hollywood.  

In addition to her association with distinguished companies like Huayi Brothers, Enmaze Pictures and Sky Culture Entertainment, Yuxiao’s hugely successful run in the entertainment industry has been made clear by her involvement in numerous noteworthy projects in the US. Her romantic drama film “Yesterday Once More” starred Lauren Mendoza, who also worked with Academy-Award winning directors The Coen Brothers on “Hail Caesar!” and will appear in the upcoming mystery crime-comedy “Suburbicon” with George Clooney and Matt Damon. The cross-cultural themes are a direct reflection of Yuxiao’s multi-cultural background, as she grew up in China, but studied in Japan and the United States. Her film’s concerns are also evidence for her abilities as a producer who tells stories that transcend boundaries and resonate with audiences around the world.

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Yuxiao Wang at the 12th Chinese American Film Festival

Two projects in particular stand out for Yuxiao when discussing her resume. The psychological drama “Harmonica” is another favourite of Yuxiao’s, as it gave her the opportunity to showcase her unique ability of transforming an ordinary location into an extraordinary one on screen. The shoot in reality took place in contemporary Los Angeles, but Yuxiao “worked really hard…to make things look like [they were] happening in Europe” circa WWII. Her other project “Locked” also brought her together with “That 70s Show” and “My Crazy Ex” TV star Corey Landis, as well as Leanne Agmon from the Emmy-nominated “Blue Bloods.” In the film, a man loses his wife and creates an imaginary world in which he fights with himself to save his wife and find the truth of her death. While A-listers marked the film’s screen time, the sounds of “Locked” were helmed by “Spiderman 3” composer, Aldo Shllaku.

Harmonica Yuxiao Wang
Film poster for “Harmonica” by Ye Kuang

Yuxiao’s success in securing an all-star cast and production team is not a feat that should go unnoticed; it’s something producers are rarely able to pull off because of the politics of Hollywood and the demands of actors and crew. Yuxiao’s exceptional capacity to communicate, envisage an inspired story, coordinate financing and wrangle impressive team members are all factors in why she has developed such an outstanding reputation to which industry professionals continue to flock.

Special effects, TV stars and award-winning crew members aside, “Locked” is a highlight on Yuxiao’s impressive resume because of its selection for the 70th annual Cannés Court Metragé as well as its prize of Best Narrative Short at the Los Angeles International Underground Film Festival in 2016. The outstanding final cut is a direct product of Yuxiao’s creative vision and executive talents, and ultimately proves how she marries creativity with business in a way that only the best Hollywood producers can. As she admits herself, she is “very good at management, which helps a lot in scheduling and budgeting projects.”

Yuxiao Wang
Film poster for “Locked” by Ye Kuang

While she may have strong ties to her native homeland, American directors and studios can’t seem to have enough of her and are keeping her firmly placed here. Her distinct ability to ensure a production is delivered not only on time and on budget, but also in a manner that is artistically inspired, functions as a magnet for other filmmakers in need of effective producers. As she proudly attests, she has “four projects coming up this year.” The series “100 Reasons of Not Being an Emperor” is headed to an online streaming platform (details need to be kept hush-hush), while three feature length projects showcase her wide-ranging story-telling interests: one deals with a female prison, another a psychological thriller and another an adrenaline fueled romantic caper.

A hugely impressive resume aside, it might just be the fact that people like Yuxiao’s personality for why she has built such a fantastic name for herself. As she simply puts: “I am friendly, considerate and kind, so people don’t get mad at me…it is important to let the conversation continue when you meet someone.” In Hollywood, a little nice clearly goes a long way.  

 

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.”

New Year in Trehmer_2

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.