Category Archives: Television

Actress Gabriella Giardina to fill audience’s small screens in multiple upcoming TV shows

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Gabriella Giardina

Gabriella Giardina believes she was born with the love of acting. She remembers watching movies as a child and being completely mesmerized. At the time, she believed the people on the screen were real, showing their real-life experiences. When her parents explained what film and acting was, she was instantly amazed. After watching a film or television show, she would run to her room and re-enact whatever she had just watched, creating the whole story and scenes from scratch. Since the age of four, she would repeat the lines of any movie she had just watched. There was never any doubt for her as to what she was meant to do, and to this day, that belief is still there. She was destined to be an actress, and audiences around the world are thankful.

Originally from the small town of Ragusa in Sicily, Italy, Gabriella has travelled the world doing what she loves, taking in new cultures and experiences and implementing that into her craft. Working as both as actress and model, she has shown the world what she is capable of, and has emerged one of the top in her field. She has worked on feature films, shorts, commercials, television series, and music videos, never afraid of taking on something different than what she has done before.

“My favorite part of acting in any kind of set, film, television, photo-shoot, music video, is to be able to express everything simply with your eyes and expression. That’s something I find very powerful. It’s really exciting when you are on set having a great song play. But I love it even more when it’s really just you, your feelings and a camera that wants to catch it all,” she said.

Music videos require just that, and Gabriella has been a large part of the success to many. This year, she was played the singer’s muse in the music video Leila by Jah Khalib, a romantic song in which the Jah Khablib sings of the muse that he has dreamed of. Jah Khalib is one of the most famous artists in Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and his popularity is spreading in very short time. In November of last year, he performed live at Flavio Briatore’s Billionaire Manson, at Burj Khalifa Blvd in Dubai.

“I love Leila, it really transported me and made me love it right away, and what the song is about to helped me understand her,” said Gabriella. “Shooting for Leila was like taking a day off to go explore and then represent beauty. The music video is so well represented that, even for those who cannot understand the lyric because of the language, the narrative is very explicit, with powerful, poetic emphasis.”

Giardina was selected for the role by the young but renowned award-winning Director Aisultan Seitov, winner of the 2016 Hollywood Boulevard Film Festival as Best Director in the category Short Meter, and he knew that Giardina had what it took to make the video a success. Published on May 11 2017, in less than one month the video-music “Leila” already achieved more than 2,650,000 views.

“I love music that tells a story, makes you feel all different kinds of emotions, dream the wildest dreams, makes you travel and go places you’ve never been or fantasize about or just travel around the world; that gives you energy and power or makes you vulnerable, makes you reach the sky. Music is very powerful and really reaches the furthest places. And music videos accompany that. They create one of the millions of scenarios of places, stories, emotions that one can express and experience. When an artist makes a song and music, they are sending a message to so many. So, to be a part of all this, to be a part of creating something so beautiful that reaches so many, that’s one of the things I really love about music videos,” she said.

Gabriella Giardina had achieved success with music videos prior to Leila, including the hit Paani Paani. The song was associated the story of the movie Yaariyan, in which Giardina had a leading role. The song sung by rapper Honey Singh and the soulful Neha Kakkar hit the right chords with the youth. The video was an enormous commercial success and registered over 18 Million views on YouTube alone.

Paani Paani was also a great experience. The director, Divya Kumar, created a set of young energic people and the singer, Yo Yo Honey Singh, brought his talent and all of us really enjoyed working on this together, getting to know one another,” she said.

All those that work with Gabriella Giardina know that she is a unique actress, which is why she is extremely sought-after. Her commitment to every project and genuine passion for what she does makes her pivotal to the success of whatever she works on. Alexandra Guarnieri, a Producer at All In Films, first worked with Gabriella in the musical A Night at the Black Cat Cabaret. She was instantly impressed, since the first audition, by Gabriella’s intensity and by her ability to closely relate to the character, and she defines Gabriella gifted of an intuitive talent, which is one of the most important quality to perform characters with emotional dynamics.

Having witnessed Giardina’s talent before and during the performances, Guarnieri cast her to be the female lead of the new television series project Sigueme. With many upcoming television series next year, Giardina is continuing to show audiences how versatile she is.

“I think doing a television show is very challenging because you bring the character you play through a very large continuous change. And you want to do it well, you want to give it justice and understand it, not judge it, love it, like your own self. Sure, you have a script and story to follow, but you have so many opportunities and various facets to take on the journey of portraying this person, this being, that you in your own way create. And it’s not just the character itself, it’s also the character relations with other people, places, life experience and everything that involves a day to day life. So, it’s that big range of opportunities on how is this character going to be, from the inside out that really fascinates me,” said Giardina.

Gabriella Giardina will be playing the role of Monica Muerte in the upcoming TV series The Legend of High Master. The show turns around a man named William who creates his own Kung Fu dojo called High Boxing. Soon Master Willie must defend the honor of his dojo and neighborhood from the attempt of the Corporate’s hegemony, and has to fight the corporation’s masters using high boxing to prove that his Kung Fu is the greatest, keeping his business, and saving his honor. Monica Muerte is the leading female character in the series. Her story is crucial in the series since it is unveiled at the beginning and evolves gaining relevance, episode by episode, as she becomes one of the reasons William is inspired to create his “High Boxing” in defense of the neighborhood. Monica is an expat with problems to settle down in a new environment. The character is complex and peculiar, and it requires uncommon acting skills to smoothly and naturally switch from a romantic to a dramatic or even comedian performance in a blink, all fulfilled at high level by Gabriella Giardina.

“What enhances my feeling about being in the show is the awareness of the complexity of the character. I cannot reveal very much about the plot but I can say that Monica is a complicated young lady. I’m particularly attracted by more complex and troubled roles and definitely Monica is a challenge; I am enthusiastic and eager to work on the series,” she said.

In addition to The Legend of High Master and Sigueme, Giardina is set to be in the upcoming television series The Poe Project, based on the life of Edgar Allan Poe. Giardina will be playing Cora Anne, a character who represents a woman who was a public reader, writer and actress herself, whose radiantly beautiful smile appears unmatched to Edgar Allan Poe. Gabriella Giardina’s experience in theatrical performance is important, as she can understand and better interpret the role.

“Cora Anne is an intriguing character. She is a lady of intellect, since she is a writer, a public reader and an actress of theatre. The role is fascinating and the script immediately captured me. She’s very feminine but strong and powerful at the same time. I love the contrast that goes so well together. It’s something new to explore and I truly look forward to portraying her,” she said.

With so much upcoming, and with so much success already, Giardina is in no way tired of doing what she loves best. Understanding a character and portraying them in a believable and sincere way is a thrill to her, and a thrill for audiences to watch.

“An actor doesn’t only have the job of reading a script and performing it at its best. An actor studies people, understands what’s behind every reason of this being you are introduced to, empathizes with and for this person, which is extremely important. Without judging it. An actor gives a voice to someone who is either not as loud or doesn’t have one. It opens the eyes of the audience, to new possibilities, new ways of seeing or approaching relationships and situations, new realities. An actor brings to life people and their stories. That’s what to me being an actress means,” she concluded.

Akira Uchida: Born to Dance

Professional dancer Akira Uchida
Dancer Akira Uchida shot by Taylor James Photography

Since the time when our ancestors danced around fires performing ceremonial rituals and entertaining their tribe, the transformational power of dance and movement in general has been around for thousands of years. Most of us have felt it– the way stress or emotional pain seems to fade away the second the music hits us and we begin moving our bodies. While many of us love to dance, there’s a huge difference between just ‘loving’ to dance and turning this magical art form into a career.

A career as a dancer is a massive undertaking that requires intense training, dedication and an insane amount of talent, something that Canadian dancer Akira Uchida has in spades. Uchida first began dancing at the age of 3 and he hasn’t stopped since.

He says, “Dance was always freeing to me, it felt natural and right. I only ever recall the feeling of pure joy stepping on to the stage and taking a dance class. I was extremely passionate and driven from the very beginning and loved devoting myself to learning. I can’t pinpoint a particular moment when I decided to pursue it professionally… I simply could never have imagined it apart from my career.”

In 2010, Uchida leaped into his professional career as a dancer with relentless fervor, and what he’s accomplished since is nothing short of amazing. Last year Uchida was selected as one of 22 finalists out of 200 to present his work and perform at the Capezio A.C.E Awards, a choreography competition that is held in New York and judged by some of the most recognizable dancers in the industry internationally, such as Emmy Award winner Mia Michaels, Primetime Emmy nominee Warren Carlyle and the Editor in Chief of Dance Magazine, Jennifer Stahl.

The previous year Uchida was tapped to perform in the emerging choreographer’s showcase Fresh Blood. For the competition he created a mesmerizing routine he calls “Interconnectivity,” which he says, “explores the fundamental concept that everything happens for a reason; every action happens at a specific time and place to provoke another set of actions – a snowball effect of pre-determined fate. In a physical sense, the dancers embodied atoms breaking and forming chemical bonds, constantly in flux.” The performance definitely turned heads and in the end Uchida earned Fresh Blood’s coveted Audience Choice Award.

While Uchida grew up fully immersed in the world of competitive dance where he earned quite a bit of success, he is one of the rare dancers who has actually managed to transcend the competition world and turn his work as a dancer into a full-time career. One area where he’s made an indelible mark as an exuberantly talented professional dancer has come through his work in television.

In 2012 he landed a key role as a featured dancer on the hit series Canada’s Got Talent, which followed two-time Primetime Emmy Award winner Martin Short (Saturday Night Live), Meahsa Brueggergosman (Project Runway Canada) and Oscar Award nominee Stephen Moccio (Pitch Perfect 2), three judges who travel across Canada to find the country’s best talent. The popular series brought chosen competitors, which included dancers to comedians, into the spotlight and give them a chance to win a $100,000 cash prize plus several other awards.

As with all performance driven reality competitions, having an entertaining production take place as the competitors take the stage is paramount to keeping viewers engaged and getting the audience excited about the show, and that is exactly what Uchida did for the series as one of the lead dancers. Uchida’s expert skill as a dancer, the mesmerizing way he moves his body and his ability to quickly learn a routine is what ultimately helped to land him a role on the show so early on in his career.

“We would learn a routine to go along with certain acts in each episode, and add energy and excitement to the performances,” recalls Uchida. “Being on ‘Canada’s Got Talent’ was an invigorating experience at the time because it was the first season for the Canadian edition of the ‘Got Talent’ series. The American rendition of ‘Got Talent’ was so successful and revered by all, which made being a part of the Canadian version a fresh experience. It made those of us involved feel like we were embarking on a project that was full of potential.”

After his success on the series Canada’s Got Talent Uchida was tapped to take on a starring role as a lead dance on the series Over the Rainbow. Another one of Canada’s performance driven reality series, Over the Rainbow followed Andrew Lloyd Webber as he searched across Canada for the girl to play Dorothy in Mirvish’s production of “The Wizard of Oz.” The performances on the series varied greatly week after week meaning that Uchida had to easily adapt and quickly learn the new routines without much time to practice. But for a dynamically talented dancer such as Uchida, immersing himself in a new routine each week was nothing new– for him the challenge was actually playing characters during dance performances on the series, something that both pushed him as an artist and proved his capacity to tap into unique roles on screen.

Akira Uchida
Jordan Clark winner of “So You Think You Can Dance Canada” season 4 (left) and Akira Uchida (right) on set of “Over the Rainbow”

“I loved the excitement of learning new routines every week. Every week we performed with different contestants, a new pairing of dancers, and an original theme and song. It kept the rehearsal process fresh,” says Uchida. “In one of the dances, the contestant played Cinderella. I was her Prince at the ball! In another, myself and dancer Jordan Clark played a celebrity couple at a movie premiere… Playing characters was challenging but very fun!”

A phenomenally talented dancer with a powerful stage presence, Uchida’s performances on the small screen have continued to attract the attention of audiences around the world. In 2013 and 2014 he was cast as a lead dancer on several episodes of the incredibly popular four-time Primetime Emmy Award nominated series Degrassi: The Next Generation. In the episode “Hypnotize,” which guest starred Niamh Wilson (Maps to the Stars, Hemlock Grove), Uchida was one of two featured dancers who performed in a full-length contemporary dance piece that was integral to the storyline in the show. During one of the main scenes Uchida and Wilson’s character Jack Jones, the love interest of one of the main characters, performed a complex dance routine, which was a major highlight of the episode and required immense skill.

“Niamh Wilson, the guest star, was a trained dancer and we were able to engage in relatively advanced choreography for the piece,” explains Uchida.  “This was also distinctive because the piece was featured and shown in its entirety. Definitely a rare sight in TV and among my favourite moments of my career…To be able to step on the set of an iconic show for Canadian youth was a very cool experience.”

His dance performances on a plethora of hit television shows over the years have definitely helped Akira Uchida establish a flawless reputation as a sought after dancer who is able to seamlessly take on any routine with style. Aside from his lead roles on television, Uchida has also had definitive success as a lead dancer in several popular music videos. In 2015 he starred in the Much Music promo video for Sam Smith’s “That Much Closer.” Considering that Sam Smith has earned an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award, as well as several Billboard Music Awards and Grammy Awards, being chosen to be the main performer in the video for “That Much Closer” is a tell-tale sign of the caliber of work Uchida has become known for.

Caroline Torti, who choreographed the routine in the video along with dancer Bree Wasylenko, explains, “Akira is a chameleon and is able to replicate any style given to him by a choreographer. He is able to expertly take direction and create meaningful moments on whatever job he works on. Beyond that he is an artist in his own right and his unique movement quality makes him a very special member of any team.”

 

In 2015 Uchida choreographed the music video for solo artist Lights’ hit song “Same Sea,” one of the single’s off the album “Little Machine,” which earned the prestigious Juno Award for “Pop Album of the Year” (Canada’s equivalent of a Grammy Award in the U.S.) and debuted at No. 5 on the Canadian Album Charts.

The music video for the song “Same Sea,” which has garnered over 800,000 views on YouTube since its release, starts off in the year 5057 with Lights first appearing as a voyeuristic cyborg  observing the previous versions of herself over the centuries.

As the choreographer and one of the featured dancers in the music video Uchida, who handpicked the other dancers in the video as well, did a marvelous job of creating a routine that is fun and full of life. The video cuts back to the year 2011 where Lights, Uchida and the other dancers are fully involved in a dance class. Uchida infuses the routine with a lively energy that creates a stunning dichotomy between the futuristic version of Lights, who surrounded by robotic machinery and devoid of other humans, and that of her previous self.

“I sought to make the work powerful and uplifting, and chose to utilize high energy movements that would build moments of euphoria. I focused on creating strong visuals to highlight Lights and played with imagery based on the lyrics,” explains Uchida. “The song repeatedly talks about ‘the arms of the same sea,’ and inspired me to incorporate fluid wave-like movements in the piece. I wanted to involve elements of the sea and have her ‘swim’ amongst her dancers.”

Not only did Uchida choreograph a lyrically relevant routine that made the video for “Same Sea” entertaining to watch, but he was also tasked with teaching Lights the dance routine.

“Lights had little to no experience in dance before shooting this video, so I was responsible for coaching her on how to execute the movements properly and to help her feel as comfortable as possible,” recalls Uchida.

While he is still quite young, Akira Uchida has accomplished more over the past seven years than most professional dancers will in a lifetime; and we can’t wait to see what he does next!

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.

Mike Goral’s narration truly takes viewers “Beyond the Hunt” on hit television show

Throughout his esteemed career, Mike Goral has become one of the voices of a generation. The voice actor started out as just a teenager, and his passion and commitment has led to him working with dozens of high profile networks in both his home country of Canada, and the United States. He has everything from television shows, documentaries, commercials, instructional videos, radio, and more. He is extremely versatile, and his voice is truly captivating; millions of people know this to be true.

Those watching Beyond the Hunt on The Outdoor channel have heard Goral’s compelling narration as he helped tell the story of husband and wife hunting duo Rick and Julie Kreuter on their outdoor adventures. Having heard Goral’s voice coming from their television speakers, the Kreauters reached out to Goral to be a part of the show. It was his first reality series, and it was a memorable experience for the seasoned voice actor.

“I thought this was an interesting story. I grew up in the city, and the people in this series were outdoorsy types. So, instantly, I was immersed in that culture. It was fascinating. It made me feel like I lived a real sheltered existence. They would go out into the wilderness to shoot footage for weeks. I had never met anyone who would go out into the wild for that long. I honestly don’t think I would do well in the elements for that length of time,” Goral joked.

The opportunity to work on something completely different than anything he had done before was enticing to Goral, so he immediately agreed to working on the show. Despite often just working alone in a sound booth, Goral had the opportunity to chat with Rick and Julie over the phone and through email prior to working on the show. Creating that familiarity helped to tell their story.

“There were some emotional twists and turns. Sometimes, the animal hunted would get away, and there would be times of disappointment among the cast. It was important for me to convey the tone of each scene carefully. The times, they would wait around for an animal that would never show up. It was a true game of cat and mouse,” said Goral.

The Kreuters act as producers on the show, as well as producer Jason Miller, who also scripted Goral’s lines. Miller has been producing television shows for the past 18 years, and says there is always a challenge when it comes to finding the perfect Voice-Over talent to fit a specific sound to put that perfect touch on a project.

“I was lucky to find Mike to be the Voice-Over talent for Beyond the Hunt with Rick and Julie Krueter. His voice talent, inflection, and professionalism to create the ‘perfect read’ always goes above and beyond awesome,” said Miller. “Over the years, working with Mike Goral has been a pleasure. Mike is just that professional that not only works to get the read done right, but, I’ve seen him be extremely flexible to get projects done after-hours and on weekends to help meet deadlines. Without a doubt, Mike Goral has just been awesome to work with.

He is an extremely talented voice-over artist. He has a talent for multiple sounds, inflections, and personalities to fit any project. It’s always a pleasure of mine to work with Mike.”

Goral agrees that working with Miller was a great experience, saying that his creativity added to the script. He once had Goral record the video of himself doing the voiceover session, and then used the video to actually feature him in the show. This was the first time Goral, as a voice actor, had ever made an on-camera appearance doing voice narration for a series.

“It was a lot of fun, and Jason came up with the concept on the fly. He is probably one of the friendliest producers I’ve ever worked with. We hit it off instantly. Jason was an amazing writer, so his scripts made my job such a pleasure. Really love telling great stories, and a great story starts with great writing. This was one of Jason’s many talents. He had so many creative ideas,” said Goral.

Goral’s voice was an additional character on Beyond the Hunt that viewers looked forward to hearing every week. There was no better choice as narrator, and Goral’s passion for what he does and eagerness to still learn despite his valued reputation and established career are what make him one of the best.

“I learned that it takes a lot of resilience to be out in the wild for weeks at a time. Seeing the challenges through the eyes of the cast, while recorded the narration rom my comfortable studio was very eye-opening for me. I was exposed to a culture and lifestyle totally different from my own. It was so interesting, and a lot of fun to be a part of. Nothing beats a great story to tell, and this, once again was my privilege as the in-show narrator,” Goral concluded.

Esi Conway brings her line producing talent to Britain’s Next Top Model

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Line producer Esi Conway

Esi Conway’s natural instincts are what make her such a gifted line producer and production manager. Her innate talent for pulling people together combined with her outstanding organizational skills have earned her a spot as one of the best. She has worked for many of the world’s best television stations and some of the most recognizable shows, and throughout it all, she is doing what she loves.

One of the highlights of Conway’s career was working as a Production Manager for Britain’s Next Top Model. The mega successful television show, based off America’s Next Top Model, gave the line producer the chance to be both a fan and a large contributor to the show’s success. Having already been familiar with the Top Model brand because of the American format, she jumped at the opportunity to work for the British version.

“It was a great opportunity to get a diverse range of experience working with leading figures in fashion, acting, and the arts. The fast-paced nature of reality television meant that I would be kept on my toes, with story lines moving and impacting the brief of the show on a day-to-day basis,” she said.

Conway worked on the series for its first nine series, and is largely responsible for making the show what it is today. After the first season, she was given the chance to work primarily on the show’s foreign shoots, allowing her to travel ahead of the production team, and immersing herself in the country of her choice while negotiating deals with local talent.

“No two days were ever the same, from setting up a make shift production office in the middle of the Moroccan desert to working with Jimmy Choo to come up with challenges for the contestants in Malaysia,” she said.

It was an executive producer of the show that Conway had previously worked with that recommended her for the position on the show. He knew from first-hand experience that she was a skillful line producer, with experience in negotiating deals with brands and thriving in a fast-paced environment, and would be a great fit on the show. From there, all those that worked with her on Britain’s Next Top Model were instantly impressed. Robert Pearson, currently a senior producer for the hit show Real Housewives of New York, worked with Conway in Argentina on the show. Together, they went ahead of the team to work out challenges for the contributor, and meet with contractors. He describes working with the line producer as a pleasure.

“Esi is a level-headed problem solver and an excellent people manager.  She is a dedicated team member who is able to motivate others. Her can-do attitude is an asset as well as her commitment to any project,” said Pearson.

Conway agrees that working with Pearson was a great experience, and the relationships she gained from working on the show was part of what made it invaluable. She also thoroughly enjoyed the opportunities the show gave her to work with local designers and creative talents, and gave them the chance to showcase their capabilities on a show watched by millions.

“I love the varied nature of the show, knowing that each day would come with a new set of challenges and problems to solve. I loved working with people in different countries across the globe to pull together to make a great show. I also enjoyed seeing the ideas and concepts come together seeing the contributors getting excited by the challenges the team had thought up or about receiving one the prizes that I had negotiated,” she concluded.

From her work with BBC, MTV, Animal Planet, Investigation Discovery, and many more, there is no doubt to both audiences and colleagues as to why Esi Conway is internationally recognized as an extraordinary Line producer/ Production Manager. Those first nine seasons of Britain’s Next Top Model were just the beginning, and now, years later, the world is not only appreciative, but also thankful for her talent.

Actor Wadih Dona Thrives on Challenge

Australian actor Wadih Dona is a force to be reckoned with. With an impressive depth of classical theater training, a rich catalog of stage, television and film credits, the handsome, versatile player has achieved a great deal and is poised to ascend to the top of his field. For Dona, it’s been a near-lifelong pursuit.

“I don’t think you choose acting—it chooses you,” Dona said. “From a very early age I was always drawn to it. My father worked all over the Middle East and Europe, and as child I was exposed to many places and different cultures. I was always interested in people, watching them, looking at their behavior, making up stories about them. You see a couple in a restaurant and within seconds you can figure out their relationship based on their behavior. Is this a first date or a break up? I loved that.”

Acting is a particularly demanding endeavor. In order to succeed, a practitioner must demonstrate the ability to create a wholly convincing fictional experience. It’s a complex, sophisticated, painstaking discipline, and Dona does it with a sensitivity and skein of truth that reaches his audience’s empathic core to evoke a genuine response. As Nicholas Buffalo, who directed Dona on medical drama series All Saints, said, “Wadih’s incredible skills as an actor, his talent and versatility not only ensured the series’ commercial success and high viewership but also contributed to the way the show was received by critics and award bodies alike.”

This rare ability was honed and perfected by training alongside some of the world’s most prestigious educators. With studies at the renowned Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, New England University, New York University and London’s world famous Royal Shakespeare Company, Dona, since finishing his studies in the mid-90’s, has undertaken a steady stream of work and built a career of significant momentum in theatre, film and television.

Currently appearing in the Sydney Theatre Company’s critically-acclaimed revival of Michael Gow’s Away at the Sydney Opera House, Dona’s trove of international include a wide range of theatrical work, recurring roles on some of Australia’s most watched television programs and made his US feature film debut in 2016’s Septembers of Shiraz. But, at home, he is perhaps best known for his role as Dr. Nick Paltos on the top-rated series Underbelly.

“I had watched the first season of Underbelly and loved it,” Dona said. ”Then I heard they were casting the second season leads, and Nick Paltos, the character I played was of Greek Australian heritage and I had a reasonable resemblance to him. Really, it was synchronicity, because the producers were interested in me, so I screen tested for it and the rest is history, as they say.”

“Unconventional stories are always the most interesting to me,” Dona said. “The character was based on a real person, a doctor who was notorious in the 70’s for smuggling the largest import of hashish into Australia—seven tons! Here was a conservative doctor, a GP, the pillar of his community, a church goer and beneath all of it he ran a huge drug racket. That, to me, was fascinating.”

Underbelly had smashed ratings records right out of the gate. As the Australian News reported, the show was “the most watched Australian Television series, with the double episode premiere attracting an average of 2,501,500 viewers nationally. The show has consistently rated highly, being the most watched show on Australian television for all episodes broadcast so far.” Dona’s striking portrayal of this infamous character kept the excitement high, and he relished every moment of it.

Underbelly was a fantastic experience,” Dona said. “But it was shot very quickly and was a true thrill. They cast strong actors because they knew the shooting time was short, so you really had to go with your instinct, as rehearsal time was also very short. Since I was playing a doctor on my first day of shooting the first scene was of me performing a colonoscopy, so it was very interesting getting the medical advisor to show me how to do that at 7 am on set!”

Since that six episode stint on Underbelly, his ongoing professional odyssey, with almost 30 television credits and eight big screen appearances, has been equally rewarding and successful. “Acting is a lifelong pursuit,” Dona said. “It’s organically happening for me now, and the opportunities coming are fantastic. There is no failure, only feedback. You have to plan to some extent but also leave some things to fate. I never want to be someone who regrets not doing something—if something challenges me, I embrace it.”

 

Camera operator Mike Heathcote “moves with grace and precision of a dolly” on upcoming series The Handmaid’s Tale

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Michael Heathcote is from Toronto, Ontario

Michael Heathcote is a storyteller. He does not write them, nor does he read them aloud, but his work allows film to come alive. Perhaps this is not as obvious as an actor, but Heathcote’s work as a camera/Steadicam operator allows the stories we watch on the big and small screen to come alive. It is that we don’t know he is there until his name passes by our eyes in the credits that makes him so outstanding.

In his words, Heathcote describes the camera operator as the one who is responsible for physically operating and composing the camera to best tell the story. The camera operator can operate a camera on a dolly, sticks, remotely on a crane, handheld on the shoulder or with a special camera stabilization device called a “Steadicam”. A Steadicam is a specialized tool that takes years to master. The camera operator wears a vest and connects a spring arm that distributes and supports the weight of the camera counterbalanced on a post. With years of experience the camera operator can move the camera smoothly over uneven terrain, up and down stairs or in locations where a dolly track cannot be laid. The camera operator works with the director and cinematographer to help them execute their vision.

“There was just something about looking through the lens of a camera, seeing the action and performance live and being responsible for composing the frame to tell the story that excited me,” said Heathcote.

Heathcote has already had a career many dream of. The Torontonian worked on award-winning films and television series with Hollywood’s biggest stars. This past year alone, he worked on the critically-acclaimed Canadian television show Cardinal, filmed the pilot for the new show Issues, and worked alongside Academy Award winning director Alexander Payne on the upcoming film Downsizing, starring Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig, Christoph Waltz and Bruce Willis. He also filmed the Hulu original series The Handmaid’s Tale, based on the Margaret Atwood classic, that comes out this Spring.

“I feel incredibly lucky and fortunate to have worked on such an amazing TV series as The Handmaid’s Tale. There were so many talented people involved who worked very hard during pre-production, production and post-production as they prepare for the April release. It was an absolute pleasure to work with them. Every day I came to set I was excited and inspired to do my best work,” said Heathcote.

The Handmaid’s Tale is set in a near-future dystopian England, where a woman named Offred is forced to live as a concubine under a fundamentalist theocratic dictatorship. The director, Reed Morano, wanted the audience to experience the story through the lead character of Offred as though they were right there with her, experiencing and seeing things as she did. To achieve this look and feel, Heathcote would use either handheld or Steadicam very close to the actors.

“As a Director of Photography that has always acted as my own camera operator and someone who has a very particular taste when it comes to composition and framing to capture emotion and light, I had never been impressed with anyone operating for me, much less satisfied. That was until I worked with Mike Heathcote on the series I directed, The Handmaid’s Tale. Not only was I pleased with Mike’s interpretation of the visual language I had set up in the show, but his talent blew me away.  Mike, as a Steadicam operator, moves with the grace and precision of a dolly,” said Morano. “You never feel that the shot is a Steadicam shot.  You’re never aware of the camera- which to me is the sign of an amazing Steadicam move.  It’s the mark of an incredible operator.  Not only that, Mike’s skills as a handheld operator went far beyond my expectations. Operating handheld takes a certain level of intuition that cannot be taught.  You either have ‘it’ or you don’t. Mike has it. The camera was always where I wanted it to be, always elegantly framed.  And there is no greater compliment I can give. I feel so lucky to have found him.”

In addition to working with Morano, Heathcote worked closely with the cinematographer, Colin Watkinson. Morano and Watkinson recognized Heathcote’s talents early on, and encouraged him to express any ideas he had, and gave him the freedom to explore a shot.

The Handmaid’s Tale was one of the most creatively rewarding projects I have had the pleasure to work on,” described Heathcote. “We went against conventional TV framing and were trying to do something different with this project. I really enjoyed trying to find new and interesting compositions that helped tell the story. Every day I was excited to get up for work.”

Watkinson truly believes that choosing Heathcote as a Steadicam operator was one of the best decisions that they made, and his work contributed to the overall success of the series.

“Not only has he maintained a truly professional attitude throughout production, but Mike also delivered Steadicam shots of the highest quality. He has executed perfectly each director’s needs, maintained our style for the show and continues to add his own flair to raise each shot to a beautiful level. It has been an absolute honor and a pleasure to work next to someone who cares so much about his craft and at the same time showing an interest in the project, which makes him a complete team player. High praise indeed yet entirely out of merit,” said Watkinson.

It is without a doubt that with Heathcote’s talent and determination, his work will continue to impress both those who he works with, and audiences that see what he is capable of.

The Handmaid’s Tale premieres Wednesday April 26th, on Hulu. Check out the trailer here.