Category Archives: Television

Producer Rosie Kinane-Adams talks ‘America’s Got Talent’ and working with her idol Simon Cowell

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Rosie Kinane-Adams

There was never any other choice for Rosie Kinane-Adams; she always wanted to be a producer. It was more than just about wanting to behind the camera, she has an extraordinary ability to hear someone’s story and find the aspect that makes it different. There are so many stories that have been told over and over again in the same way, whether it be in reality television or film, but Kinane-Adams instinctively knows how to find that angle that makes audiences remember what they just watched. She knows that everyone has a uniqueness to them that is interesting, and finding that uniqueness and telling that story is what makes Kinane-Adams such a renowned producer, and why she loves what she does. Each job is a puzzle to her, and each piece is put together but how to properly tell the story.

Kinane-Adams has worked all around the world doing what she loves. She is internationally renowned, working at the forefront of the film and television industry. She has a resume filled with achievements, and has greatly contributed to the success of shows such as The Biggest Loser, The Bachelor, Married at First Sight, Masterchef, and First Dates. By working on these formats across the world, Kinane-Adams is able to bring the best of each country’s production techniques, and combine them to be at the height of it all globally. However, it was working on the award-winning show America’s Got Talent that was the highlight of Kinane-Adams’ esteemed career.

“Working with Simon Cowell has been beyond a doubt the highlight of my career. He is an incredibly talented executive producer and on-screen talent, and growing up in England, watching the X-Factor, it was beyond my dreams that I would ever be working with him on America’s Got Talent, one of the biggest shows in the world. He was an idol of mine throughout my career, so to be working with him was inspirational,” said Kinane-Adams.

After seeing success on the hit game show The Price is Right, Kinane-Adams was approached to work on America’s Got Talent by Fremantle Media. The show was on its eighth season, with vast success and an outstanding reputation. They knew they needed someone with an eye for story in order to eventually lead a story team that would create and pursue interesting and unique stories and bring the level of storytelling to a new high.

“My focus throughout my career in television, and at America’s Got Talent, has been story telling. Everyone has a story to tell and everyone has something interesting about them that the rest of the world wants to know. Especially on America’s Got Talent, these people have had the most interesting lives. The hardest part of my job is choosing one part of these people’s lives to focus on, because they are all truly some of the most interesting and creative people in the world,” she described.

From seasons eight to ten, Kinane-Adams’ role on the show as a producer was to create the most innovative packages for each act possible. It was essential that the quality of work Kinane-Adams was creating was some of the best in the industry- from story right through to camera techniques. On a show as successful as America’s Got Talent, the pressure is high to be the best, and Kinane-Adams storytelling talents was evident with each episode she worked on.

“It was important being on a show as successful as America’s Got Talent, that we were seen to be showing America, not only the best and most unique talent, but also the height of sophistication in terms of how we were filming things, whether this be the camera techniques, or the creative ideas for opens to the show,” she said. “America’s Got Talent is the most successful talent show in the world. It is the epitome of the American Dream, and really shows the world what people are capable of. It has been by far the highlight of my career to work on a show reaching tens of millions of people internationally. The ‘Got Talent’ format is available in 69 countries and has reached over 500 million people worldwide, and that’s a really amazing thing to be a part of.”

In addition to her story producing responsibilities, Kinane-Adams worked on post-production with an editor, bringing the interviews, b-roll and performance together to create segments of the show. She also worked in the casting department where she would scout for the best talent in the country, whether that be online, at events, or at open call casting days. This commitment to the show and each contestant’s story impressed everyone she worked with.

“I first met Rosie working on America’s Got Talent in 2012 when she joined the story team as a producer. I was immediately impressed with how she stepped into an established show with such poise and professionalism, instantly becoming an essential member of our team. She came in not only with fresh, creative ideas, but the ability to execute them efficiently, keeping a positive, problem-solving attitude throughout even our longest shoot days,” said Lindsay Tuggle, Senior Producer. “Rosie has been one of my favorite producers to work with in my 10+ years in the reality realm. She’s reliable and hardworking, endlessly creative, and a pleasure to be around. It doesn’t matter if she’s setting up logistics for a complicated shoot, coming up with a creative way to visually tell a story, directing cameras in the field or putting it all together in post-production, you know Rosie is going to tackle whatever she takes on with a refreshingly positive attitude, which can sometimes be scarce in this industry.”

“Rosie is an especially good producer because she has the ability to see projects through from conception to delivery. While many producers are only experienced in one aspect of production, Rosie has experience in every single step of the process, which makes her an invaluable asset to any team she’s on. She understands each small piece of the puzzle, but because of her keen eye for storytelling, she never loses sight of the bigger picture,” Tuggle added.

Although the show has been the most popular show of the summer for its thirteen seasons, during Kinane-Adams time, it was also nominated for a TV Choice Award and a Critics Choice Award. She worked with hundreds of contestants each day, and instilled a complicated system in order to ensure that they shot all the content they needed to shoot, and that it was of the highest quality and had that each contestant had content that had a unique stamp on it. This highly complex system is still in place today and ensures that post production has everything they need to create the successful show that they do. She has greatly contributed to the show’s recent success, and she loved every minute of her time there.

“Another wonderful aspect of the job is working with such incredible judging talent. Mel B, Howie Mandel, Howard Stern and Heidi Klum are all incredibly talented people within their field, and take their job on the show very seriously. Their passion for helping people’s dreams come true is evident, and to interview them on the acts and film with them backstage during stage breaks has been a highlight of my career,” Kinane-Adams concluded.

ALYYSA VENIECE BRINGS IT ALL, LIKE A WARRIOR

Alyssa Veniece describes herself as having alter egos which make appearances. This makes a lot of sense when you consider that she has experienced success as an actress, singer, stunt person, fitness model, swimsuit model, and dancer. It seems easier just to have the specific part of your talented personality show up that day for work while the others rest (it would actually allow her to get some rest). While she says this in half-jest/half-truth, it’s obvious that Alyssa is a driven and artistic individual who is capable of tremendous focus. Often the duality of her nature and talents is obvious in the work she presents. Her music is influenced by everyone from Boys II Men to 50 Cent. In productions like NBC’s “Warrior” she dances and acts while her modeling led to the production using stills of her face to adorn the scene. You can’t separate the ingredients of your favorite meal or dessert and still achieve the same satisfaction and this applies to the multiple talents of Alyssa Veniece as well.

What exists in 2017 is a multitalented and confident Alyssa but in the early days (back home in Canada), she was just a little girl in what she describes as a loud, crazy, and constantly laughing family. Her early predilection for casting and directing her sisters and cousins in plays was a strong indicator as to the direction she was headed. Witnessing the Olsen twins as child actors and a strong attraction to Disney movies assured young Alyssa that her career was a certainty, with the added benefit that she didn’t have to choose between acting, singing, and dancing. Her early attraction to acting still remains true all these years later. She notes, “The honesty is what it’s always been about for me. Whether someone plays a villain or a saint, they are honest with themselves in their actions. I’ve always been drawn to the truth of things, and I loved that during a movie I was constantly having realizations about life and the way people are. As an actor we get to tell stories, and teach people, while figuring ourselves out during the process. Certain shoots I’ve worked on have definitely been closure for me of times in my past.  It all connects us to each other and to something greater – anything is possible when you’re playing pretend! I hate limitations and acting frees you from any cage you ever could imagine. I love acting because it’s healing, helpful, hopeful… and ultimately, fun.”

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As audience members, we’ve all had that moment when a performance spontaneously created a strong emotional response. One of the talents that has served Veniece so well throughout her career is her ability to synthesize her different talents. Singing, acting, and dancing are different faces of the same person for this immensely versatile and creative Canadian. Her appearance on NBC’s Warrior as a Geisha was just as much due to her strength as a dancer as an actor. Her costar Jade Whitney (whose credits include Suicide Squad and FX’s “The Strain”) “Both Alyssa and I appeared as Geishas in ‘Warrior’. Not only is she an incredible actor and dancer, but she is one of the most hard working people I’ve had the pleasure to work with. One shoot was a particularly long overnight experience; it was grueling for all of us. Alyssa was focused and strived for perfection with every take yet didn’t complain or even show signs of fatigue. There are a lot of talented people in this business but I think it’s those with the right attitude that end up becoming successful throughout their career. I think Alyssa excels in this field because she cares about the craft, is open-minded, and willing to learn new things.”

In “Warrior” Alyssa’s role is that of a Geisha for Will Yun Lee’s character, Susano. Her character is extremely well- trained, comfortable with being the center of attention, seductive, and completely at ease with her sexuality. While the mindset of this character does not correlate with Veniece’s own, she uses another of her passions to enable this…music. The actress reveals, “I’ve spent a lot of time studying my craft and using the methods that I’ve learned but I’ve also found that music is an incredibly strong tool. I like different types of music depending on what I’m doing. I typically steer towards hip-hop, trap, pop, r&b, and electronic. If I’m trying to get into character for a role, I will listen to music that I think that character would listen to. If I think they should be in a certain mood, my musical choices will reflect that to sustain my character, especially right before an audition. My song picks vary depending on the intensity of my training and I could easily be listening to a slow song by 6lack or something hardcore like Omelly or Casanova from OHB.”

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Alyssa Veniece is that type of creative individual who never suffers from interest or ability, only from lack of time to do everything she wants. The very fact that she acted and danced in “Warrior” while her very face adorned the club (add model to her credits on the show) attests that it’s not “if” she will be creative but rather “which” avenue will she choose. One thing is certain, if you keep watching you are going to see Alyssa in a film, TV production, or music video. In fact, you most likely already have.

ARROW MAKES A BOOMERANG OUT OF ALISON ARAYA

Art can run in cycles or periods of fashion. As one of the most ubiquitous art forms, TV is as susceptible as any to being a part of this. It’s no news flash that we are in the heyday of superhero entertainment. Marvel, DC, and many independent comic book/graphic novels have been featured in production after production. There’s a good reason for this; these larger than life characters depict who we want to be, the stories are epic and provide an excellent form of escapism. When it comes down to it, people truly enjoy them. These Omni-present produtions provide many actors with opportunities to utilize their skills as well as live out some personal fantasies. How many times do you get the chance to save the world in tights? While Alison Araya’s character on Arrow (distributed by Warner Brothers Television) might not be Oliver Queen (based on DC comic’s Green Arrow), her recurring role places her in the “universe” as the fans say. Her continued presence comes with the fans and attention that the show and the genre are well known for. It’s not a new source of attention for this actress who has appeared in films based on comics (Avery has appeared in both X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Watchmen). Being a part of a fantasy world that is also grounded with a large dose of reality suits Araya just fine. By her presence throughout multiple seasons (Arrow is completing its sixth season), it appears that it suits the producers of this CW series as well.

With several seasons under its belt, “Arrow” is a vetted hit in the CW line-up. Exploits of these types of heroes are among the most popular of all action hits and “Arrow” is happy to be part of this movement. What drew Alison to the program is what most fans appreciate about it; the darker element of the story. This non-genetically enhanced hero who has earned his abilities through somewhat mysterious circumstances and is tenacious in the pursuit of criminals gives a realistic quality to “Arrow” that is part Batman, part Robin Hood, and a hint of LA Confidential. Flawed characters abound in the story but not in an overly defined moral sense. As a member of the SPCD, Araya’s character Officer Lopez was originally written as a more peripheral role but Alison’s on screen charisma quickly altered this. Lopez has continually appeared throughout the last three seasons of “Arrow” and has been a part of some of the most pivotal storylines in “Arrow.” For Araya, an accomplished actor with roles in action films, there was still a learning curve to playing a police officer. She somewhat hesitantly tells, “It was much harder than I thought. In my first scene I was arresting and handcuffing a perp…there was some fumbling on my part. No one would say I’m a natural when it comes to being a law enforcement professional. I even dropped the gun several times, but I was determined to see the scene through. Shortly after that first experience my agent called to say they had booked me on another episode and that was the beginning of the development of Officer Lopez.”images (3)

In the show’s world of superheroes and super villains, Lopez is a reality anchor for the show’s fans. A stoic member of the police department, she searches for the truth and is a more relatable element for the audience to connect with and bridge the gap with the more extraordinarily powered characters. Araya portrays this character with a calm demeanor which comes off surprisingly well considering Lopez is charged with enforcing the public safety in a community of such epic parameters. Even with the somewhat hyperbolic scenes, Lopez approaches her work as any urban officer would treat an everyday disturbance.

It increasingly becomes a required skill for the modern day actor to be comfortable working with what is not actually there but will appear later in post. Alison’s work on a number of feature films and TV productions has given her ample experience to master this craft. Actors are required to use their imagination but this modern technological facet takes the idea to a very literal place. Araya states, “It definitely makes for an interesting day on set. As actors we are asked to use our imaginations and drop into the reality of our scenes but days with VFX require big imagination. I love the challenge, I really have to work to create the world around me and say yes to it. You have to simply commit fearlessly!”

Alison concedes that the development of Officer Lopez into a character that would appear throughout numerous seasons of “Arrow” was as unexpected to her as anyone. Still, it’s something for which she has been continually thankful. It’s a perfect balance for the actress who has been able to accept roles in feature films, independent films, made for TV movies, and other productions simply because of the fact that Lopez is not a central part of every episode of “Arrow.” Her character’s recurring presence keeps her in the eyesight of fans of the show and gives her the freedom to pop up in other productions simultaneously. It’s the entertainment industry version of Johnny Appleseed. The situation can create a somewhat welcome growing pain for Alison who notes, “Working on the show is such a wonderful experience for me. Everyone involved is very kind and they truly interact like a family. Because I’m not there every day, I make sure to watch the show and stay on top of the story so it will make sense when I am on. That can be difficult sometimes when I’m trying to immerse myself in preparing for another role…but I’m not complaining; I’ll accept this kind of problem anytime I am fortunate enough to have it.”images (2)

These superheroes that we love to watch are exciting and inspiring to watch. They make us all feel that we are capable of doing great things and working for the common good. As Officer Lopez, Alison Araya reminds us that there are those among us who bridge that gap, that we all have the potential to aspire to service of others…and she is just plain ol’ fun to watch in the world of “Arrow.”

Actress Claire Stollery stars in upcoming film ‘Must Kill Karl’

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The cast of the upcoming film Must Kill Karl

When Claire Stollery was in Junior Kindergarten, her teacher asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up. She had two answers, an actress or a storyteller. At even four years old, she had that sense of self already to know what she was destined to do. Now, over twenty years later, her answers still remain the same, for actors and storytellers are one in the same.

Stollery’s comedic prowess is remarkable. She has won her country over with her acting in television shows like True Dating Stories and Man Seeking Woman, and the hilarious films Who is Hannah and Love in the Age of Like. She is a force to be reckoned with.

“I’ve always enjoyed making people laugh. My parents were really funny, and if I could make them laugh I knew I was doing good. They were tough critics. Comedy is tough, but also great because it’s subjective! What is funny to me may not be funny to you. There are so many times I’ve seen a film and thought, ‘What? People weren’t supposed to laugh there.’ But that’s great! We didn’t plan for that moment, but now it’s there,” said Stollery.

Audiences will soon be able to again see what makes Stollery so great in the upcoming film Must Kill Karl. The film is about that “friend” that everyone has, the one who shows up uninvited, drinks all your booze, and hits on your girlfriend – who we all secretly hate and wish would just go away; one night, a group of friends decide enough is enough and there’s only one way to get rid of him for good: they must kill Karl.

“The film is really smart and funny. Everyone has that friend like Karl that ruins every party and you can’t even remember why you were friends with them in the first place. But I love the spin Karen Moore, one of the writers, put on it where the finger is actually pointed at Karl’s friends. It’s a good message. Sometimes you’re so busy judging other people you forget to look at yourself. That is what is so great about Karen’s writing. Even when it’s hilarious she makes you stop and think,” Stollery described.

Stollery plays Alyson, the sarcastic one of the group. On the surface, it appears like she hates all her friends, especially Karl, but deep down she just wants to be accepted as part of the group, which is like all people with a tough exterior. Her character is one of the few single ones. She gets repulsed by the other couple’s affection. Alyson, Stollery says, stands in the back and observes while silently hating everything.

“There was a lot to work off of because everyone’s characters were so different from each other and seemingly shouldn’t get along, but they all share the same hatred for Karl,” she described.

Must Kill Karl was written by the Producer of the film, Karen Moore, and the Director Joe Kicak. Stollery had always wanted to work with the pair, and when Kicak came to Stollery’s house at 11 one night to pitch her the story, she was immediately on board.

“My favorite thing is watching Joe pitch an idea. He could make lighting yourself on fire while being stung by a thousand bees sound exciting. He’s the most excitable guy you will ever meet. When he came over to my house to tell me about Must Kill Karl, it was the most entertained I’ve ever been at 11 pm drinking tea,” said Stollery.

The feeling was mutual; Kicak was highly impressed with Stollery from the moment she stepped on set. Having known each other before, but never worked together, there were high expectations, and Stollery did not disappoint.

“Claire brings so much subtlety to a scene that her performance continues to surprise me in the cut. Her reactions are so wonderful that you find yourself cutting back to her constantly. She possesses a calming force that arouses other actors around her to a natural state,” said Joe Kicak.

Despite their comradery, the film still required extremely talented actors and filmmakers to overcome some of the challenges that came when shooting. It was shot entirely at night, and therefore required 5 pm to 5 am shoots, which as Stollery says, upset a neighbor so much that they decided to play loud music to prevent the filming. Futhermore, the majority of the film was shot outside, and one night, there was a large thunderstorm. A tarp was placed over the actors’ heads, but the rain was so loud that it again made it difficult to hear. The actors kept their cool, and this was no problem for Stollery, who says despite everything, the experience was so fun that it felt like a summer camp.

“The joke was we all said we knew what Karen and Joe really thought of us based on how they cast us in the film. Jamie Spilchuk was the preppy but kinky husband, Sara Power and Peter Mooney were the annoyingly in love couple, Scott Cavalheiro was the secret psychopath and I was the bitchy single friend. I always seem to play the bitchy friend! I don’t know what that says about me,” she joked.

The role was not a walk in the park, however, as Stollery was faced with an unexpected challenge. That being said, she ended up finding it easier to get over than she may have once thought.

“In the film I had to be repulsed by my fiancé, Scott, who was playing the weirdo in the group. He’s extremely handsome in real life, but they didn’t want his character to be, so they gave him a terrible haircut. Just the greasiest hairdo you’ve ever seen. Combine that with this accent he had for the film and his wardrobe… let’s just say their mission was accomplished,” Stollery concluded.

Must Kill Karl will premiere on Bravo in January and then CBC in February of 2018.

Canada’s Olivia Scriven talks ‘Degrassi’ and becoming Maya Matlin

Acting is more than just portraying a character. It is embodying another person and becoming someone else. It is about connecting to a part of you that may have always been there, or discovering a new aspect of yourself. Canadian actress Olivia Scriven understands the nuances to the craft. She knows what it is to transform on stage or in front of a camera, creating a sincere connection with her character that captivates audiences.

At twenty years old, Scriven has soared to the top of the Canadian film and television industry. Her portrayal of Patti in the HBO film The Yard six years ago introduced the world to the outstanding talent she is, and the role earned her a Young Artist Award nomination with the rest of the cast for Outstanding Young Ensemble in a TV series. Shortly after this, she played Bailey Martel in the Hallmark Christmas film Mistletoe Over Manhattan, where she secured yet another Young Artist Award nomination, this time singled out for Best Performance in a TV Movie, Miniseries or Special – Supporting Young Artist. At the time, she was only fourteen, but she understood exactly what it was to act.

“I think that when you are doing it, acting that is, that it is just part of who you become, or maybe who you always were. I think what resonates with me, with actors that I am drawn to, and in my own performances, is honesty. I strive to make a character real. Humans are so wonderfully complicated and layered and as an actress, I feel that my performances reflect that. I want to embody beauty and lightness and at the same time be able to draw on the darker, more troubled aspects of my nature, to create characters that are full and complex, and thus, real,” said Scriven.

After her tremendous success in The Yard and Mistletoe Over Manhattan, Scriven’s reputation made her one of Canada’s most sought-after young actresses, something that remains true to this day. It was only a matter of time before she was cast on the hit show Degrassi: The Next Generation. The Degrassi series is arguably one of the most successful Canadian television shows of all time, leading to the fame of artists such as Drake and Nina Dobrev, making it the goal for many young actors in the country.

Degrassi is iconic. It really has been, for a while, one of the only coming of age television shows that merges drama with comedy in a very real way, to talk about major social and psychological issues that go on within a high school, all while using real teenagers to portray the characters. because of this, I felt it was a very important project for a Canadian teen actor to be a part of,” she said.

Working on Degrassi: The Next Generation for four years, until it ended in 2015, Scriven’s character of Maya Matlin became a fan favorite. Yet again, her talent did not go unnoticed. She was nominated for multiple Young Artist Awards her role in Degrassi: The Next Generation in the Best Performance in a TV Series (Comedy or Drama) – Leading Young Actress for two consecutive years. Despite such success, the actress remains humble, crediting the writers for giving her a character with a lot of depth.

“It was an invaluable learning experience working on Degrassi. I am so appreciative of the opportunities the writers and directors gave me within the show. My character goes through so many changes, she has so many terrible experiences and so many wonderful happy ones, and I really got to challenge and demonstrate my range as an actor thanks to them,” she said. “I also got to work with some really inspiring directors. In my opinion, directors can really make or a break an actor’s performance, and I have been blessed to have made such a good connection with those who I worked with on this show. With directors like Bruce McDonald, Phil Earnshaw, and Eleanor Lindo, I was given the freedom and confidence to make both bold and subtle choices. I have the entire crew and cast mates to thank for things like award nominations and praise, and the knowledge that I have gained along the way.”

As Maya, Scriven says the role allowed her to explore different things that she had never done in any other role before. She had to break down in tears, sing and play guitar and cello, and kiss passionately on-screen. Such experiences allowed her to become a mature actress even at a young age, giving her the skills that many years older than her do not possess. It is one thing for an actress to portray their character, it is another thing for them to become it, and this is exactly what Scriven achieved.

“I worked many days on set, and the writing for Maya’s character was very undeviating, so as soon as the words were coming out of my mouth, I felt like Maya. She is this very, dedicated, emotional person, who cares so much about things to the point that it causes her anxiety, so there was this tune she had that I would always try to tap into. Physically, I feel like she always has this strained look of stress, an intensity even in her voice, which tends to pitch higher than mine does in real life. She is different from who I am and what my personality is like as a whole, but we do bear some similarities. I definitely brought a bit of myself into the role partly because as a young actor, it was the first time that I was required to portray such charged emotions, and it needed to come from someplace genuine in order for me to reach the desired performance,” Scriven described.

When Degrassi: The Next Generation came to an end, its popularity did not. The saga returned to Netflix and Canada’s Family Channel with a new series titled Degrassi: Next Class last year. Once again, Scriven stepped into Maya’s shoes, and continues to do so with new episodes. The fourth season hit Netflix earlier this month.

Her portrayal caught the eye of Philip Kalen-Hadju, a Canadian Screen Award nominated producer and writer. He has worked in various capacities since 1997 and has produced, line produced, and associate produced on features, TV, and award winning digital series for many Canadian and international companies, including Oxygen Media (NBCUniversal), Canal Evasion, Radio-Canada (CBC), and his most recently produced feature is getting its world premiere at the SXSW 2017 Film Festival. He worked with Scriven on the new series Skal. The show recently premiered on the new mobile platform Blackpills, which is currently working with stars such as James Franco, and filmmakers such as Luc Besson. Kalen-Hadju was impressed with the Degrassi actress’ abilities from the very beginning.

“In order for Skal to shine, we wanted to ensure that our series would have only top talent. We auditioned dozens of women for the role of Emma, but none held a candle to Olivia’s interpretation of the character. The second our executive producers saw her, the reaction was unanimous and fast: she was the only choice for the role. There wasn’t even a close second,” said Kalen Hadju. “Olivia delivered a nuanced and personal performance and was a professional in every respect. While still young, she has vast experience. She learned her trade from years being the star of Degrassi, and she brings this knowledge to every part she plays. She lights up the camera and draws in the audience. She makes subtle and smart choices and she brings her characters to life. It was a pleasure to watch her make Emma real; the director and I could not have been more pleased.”

No matter what she is working on or the continued accolades she receives, Scriven stays entirely committed to what she does best: acting. With such an established career already behind her, audiences around the world can continue to watch out for what is ahead for this extraordinary young talent. There was never a question for her about what she wanted to do, and evidently, her passion led to enormous success.

“At a young age, I knew that I couldn’t wait until I was an adult for my chance to begin my career. I loved the stage and the immediacy of performing live, but it is film, with its magical ability to create whole worlds within which the exchange between actors is integrated, that has always by far been my passion,” she concluded. “For me, it has always felt so natural and satisfying to slip into the mode of another person, to be able to convincingly act as someone other than yourself was and still is a thrill.”

Producer Melina Tupa helps change lives stories in Frontline’s ‘Rape on the Night Shift’

Melina Tupa is more than a filmmaker, she takes her role and knows how many people she can affect with her work. She adds the responsibility of being a journalist, telling harsh and real stories that need to be told, and she shares them with the world. Her commitment to her craft is outstanding, and her talent is unparalleled.

With experience in both producing and journalism, Tupa has emerged as a formidable documentary filmmaker. Last year, her film The Search captivated audiences and critics alike, a trend she is well familiar with throughout her established career. Her work with networks like Turner Broadcasting and Nonstop TV have seen similar success. These accolades, however, are not important when she is doing what she loves.

“I wanted to be a producer to be involved in all the aspects of the film. It is the only position where you can connect with all the other team members of a production. I always liked working with diverse groups and being a producer meant I could learn other skills from other production areas fairly easy. It is also a position where you can have a real impact on the final product. The producer is the thread that unifies and solidifies all the pieces of a documentary,” said Tupa.

Bernardo Ruiz, a Director and fellow Producer, worked alongside Tupa on the feature documentary The Gatherers, which has been funded by the Ford Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Sundance Documentary Institute. Ruiz was astounded by her talent, and is now looking at having her co-produce his upcoming feature documentary about California’s Napa Valley.

“Melina is an experienced and dedicated production staffer and researcher. She has an excellent reputation, having studied with some of the top documentary filmmakers in the business and I have gladly recommended her to other producers seeking top documentary talent. Not only does Melina have top tier formal training in journalism and documentary production, but she is also an experienced independent producer. Her ability to work on multiple fronts is a major asset to a production as are her language abilities, as she speaks, writes and can conduct research in at least three languages: English, Spanish and Portuguese,” said Ruiz.

Tupa’s investigate reporting and producing talent was evident once again with her work on the critically-acclaimed film Rape on the Night Shift. The chilling documentary looks into allegations of sexual abuse of immigrant women working in the janitorial industry and how companies handle the problem.

“These women who worked at the janitorial service to support their families had been raped and the perpetrators had gotten away with it. It was very important that their stories were widely known and that there could be structural changes in the janitorial service so these atrocious acts would never happen again,” said Tupa.

With her trilingual abilities aiding her, Tupa was approached by a producer on the film to come on board the project, knowing that speaking Spanish was key. Most of the main characters and interviewees on this story spoke in Spanish and it was crucial that whoever came on board could understand them. Tupa also assisted in pre-editing interviews, transcribing, and translating interviews, and assisting on overall production tasks. As documentary units are usually small, every person’s contributions are key to the success of a project, and every task is essential. Tupa’s work was no exception.

“I always wanted to work for the Investigative Reporting Program since it’s one of the most important journalism centers in the United States and the world. When I found they were working on this project in particular I knew I wanted to be part of the team,” Tupa described.

Many of the victims were undocumented immigrants, and they thought they had no rights because of this. However, once the documentary aired, the powerful story not only helped changed the lives of the victims that were interviewed, but the lives of thousands, as California law was changed to protect janitors like them from sexual violence and abuse on the job. The bill was inspired by the documentary, and Tupa could not be prouder of the part she played in impacting the lives of so many women.

“This was a very important story to tell. There were a lot of women suffering and these women never had an outlet to tell their stories before. So, I knew this documentary was going to be important and, in fact, after it aired it led to change in policy in the janitorial service,” said Tupa

The film premiered on June 23, 2015. It aired on PBS Frontline. You can also watch Rape on the Night Shift here.

 

Photo by Vanessa Arango Garcia

DIRECTOR ALEXANDRA LA ROCHE ON HAVING FUN WITH EUREKA

Science and Tech nerds are the new rockstars. There was a time when the brains behind these types of advancements were kept hidden away while the powers that be put a public face on those they deemed marketable. Carl Sagan, Steve Jobs, and many others completely changed that. Sci-Fi Channel’s “Eureka” presented the idea of an entire community of these brilliant minds. The Emmy nominated and Leo award-winning TV show was a ratings hit during its six year run as one of Sci Fi’s highest rated series. One of the brilliant minds behind the scenes of “Eureka” was director Alexandra La Roche. The writers of the series are self-proclaimed science geeks who structured many of their themes on real or postulated science. This coupled with the show’s heavy oversight by actual science consultants not only informed La Roche but required her to be on her toes. In contrast to the normal greed, sex, and ensuing power struggle, “Eureka” episodes presented conflict of a more cerebral nature. Alexandra concedes that it’s one of the most unusual and fun shows she has ever directed precisely due to this aspect.

“Eureka” is the story of a scientific community, in large part based on the perspective of the town’s sheriff Jack Carter. Carter cooperates with scientific geniuses in the community who work for Global Dynamics. They often find approaches to resolving situations that require more cerebral effort than “stop in the name of the law.” A perfect example of this is “Up in the air.” This episode was based on the opening sequence of the show which depicts the town floating away as the Sheriff watches. The opening had never been explored as a story before. What seemingly starts out as a normal bank robbery quickly became a situation in which the entire bank had been taken, the whole building! An element of the Higgs Bosen (based on real science) has been stored in the bank and somehow is effecting everything in the town. Carter is tasked with having to get the element contained and bring everything back to earth. Unfortunately, the bank is floating 4 miles above the earth and nothing can fly him there. He does make it, but the bank is on a terrible tilt and when he does get the element contained, the bank starts to plummet, listing back and forth and sending him in all directions with amazing physical comedy from Carter, played by Colin Ferguson. The day is saved at the last minute and order is restored. Even though “Up in the air” employed extensive use of VFX and filming trickery to make the scenes believable, Alexandra believes that the performances of the actors are the cornerstone to any production. For this particular episode, the physical comedy performed by Colin Ferguson (starring as sheriff Jack Carter) due to the gravity challenged nature of the situation was a high note (no pun intended). On working with La Roche, Ferguson proclaims, “Alexandra is one of, if not the best, director I have ever worked with.
I think it is fair to say that I have a deep understanding and appreciation for Alexandra’s talent. When we worked together, we worked in tandem to improve, correct, defend, and in short, save eighty plus hours of television from lesser hands than hers. She has the rare ability to follow the story, hear the actors, know the technical, and bring it all together in a manner that gets better, quantifiable results, faster than most, and in the form that others only dream they could achieve. This is exceptional. She always helped. She was never wrong. Not once. Our show had the quality that it did because of Alexandra La Roche. When I am asked by someone which episodes to watch to see if they will like I show I always say ‘Up in the Air’ or ‘Smarter Carter’, both of which are Alexandra’s episodes. She is an ally, she is a friend and she is someone I will always look up to.” Perhaps the reason that Alexandra is so respected and appreciated by the actors she works with is due to her honesty with them. She stipulates, “I had an excellent rapport with all the actors on ‘Eureka.’ Our deal was simple; I did not lie. If Colin wanted an honest opinion, he knew he would get it from me. Actors are so used to smoke being blown up their asses, they were really quite happy for me to say what I really thought. Of course, I never approach any situation with a negative. If I see a problem, I only mention it if I have a solution or proposal on how to solve it. This is what I know endeared me to the entire cast, with a particularly close working relationship with Colin as he trusted me implicitly.”

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One of La Roche’s favorite experiences directing for Eureka was the episode “Smarter Carter.” It combined many of the elements that were so endearing about the series: science, VFX, and comedic performances. A confrontation between sheriff Carter and two disembodied legs in the town square was a scene which Alexandra had conceived of herself. Kevin Blake (played by Trevor Jackson) and the sheriff square off with the legs in an attempt to capture them. The director describes, “It was written as a simple chase through the town square ending in a crash into the café patio. Parkour was just getting really popular so I expanded the scene and created a sequence where the legs jump, leap, and hang all over the town square ending up with Carter pinned in a head lock. This was a massive sequence and I had to call out to the actors every beat and every move because the legs were all CGI.  I had no voice left by lunch!! We had to use green screen elements as well. It took 7 hours to shoot, but it was a great scene, very funny and well worth it.” These situations give evidence that La Roche had a deep understanding of the personality the producers wanted “Eureka” to project. While executing these scenes can be taxing and stressful, the final result was well worth it. Screen Shot 2017-06-26 at 8.58.16 AM

While “Eureka” left a lasting impression on its fans and science nerds everywhere, the road is two-way. Alexandra admits that to this day that she gravitates towards science magazines on plane rides and whenever she has free time. The experience working on “Eureka” led not only to many more professional opportunities (La Roche has directed CW’s “Flash”, USA network’s “Dead Zone”, and many others) but left her with a lifelong interest in science. Sometimes the conduit for learning resides in unobvious means.

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