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Actor Jolie Chi’s High Flying “Exorcism at 60,000 Feet”

Actor Jolie Chi’s infectious mixture of enthusiasm and playfulness may give the impression that she is all about laughs and frivolity but, in reality, Chi is a dedicated artist with a zealous commitment to refining and perfecting her craft. While still at the dawn of her career, the diminutive, charming Chi is quickly building impressive professional momentum and a burgeoning roster of credits.

The Taipei-born, Hollywood based Chi’s effortless ability to succeed as actor, model, dancer and on-the-spot improv comic reflect a comprehensive, impressively holistic approach to performing. Equally at home in a stage or competition setting (beating out thousands of international talents to place in IMTA’s Top 10 Female Young Actors of 2015) as she is working in film, video, comedy clubs and commercials, Chi has been a dynamic force since her arrival the United States when she was just 16.

 

“I grew up in Taiwan and China but I never really fit in, because I was always too outgoing for the culture,” Chi said. “I decided that I wanted to be an exchange student in America, so I went to Indiana—it felt like home. I realized how much I love America because I finally felt like I was accepted and loved. I decided to stay and finish my education.”

The teenager’s choice to pursue acting came about with a particularly poignant twist. “My parents had divorced when I was six,” Chi said. “Even though my mom always pretended to smile in front of me, I knew she was unhappy. Once when I was mimicking a character we’d seen on TV, she laughed—genuinely—for the first time in years. That’s when I realized how powerful acting was.”

From that bittersweet launch—the classic pathos/comedy paradox—Chi aggressively pursued success in film and television. Studying at the prestigious New York Academy of Film’s Southern California campus, she was soon working in TV commercials, short films and Los Angeles comedy clubs. Chi exhibits such irresistible dynamism and joie de vive that she graduated to high profile parts in Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s 2018  dramedy “Destined to Ride,” starring Madeline Carroll, Denise Richards and Joey Lawrence, and landing the title role in the offbeat, award-winning comedy “My Lunatic Lucy.”

Chi’s memorable performance earned her numerous 2018 Best Actress awards win, from Top Indie Film Awards, Actors Awards, Independent Shorts Awards and the LA Shorts Awards, a hot streak of notoriety which led to her current project, another audacious indie feature, the wild horror-comedy “Exorcism at 60,000 Feet.” Forthcoming from idiosyncratic cult production company Girls & Corpses Presents, it’s about a stowaway demon wreaking havoc during a transatlantic passenger airliner’s final flight, and features American horror sci-fi stalwarts Adrienne Barbeau and Lance Henriksen alongside several of the top Hollywood-based Asian talents and Chi faced tough competition during the casting phase of production. Characteristically, she rose to the occasion with emphatic success

 

“My agent managed to get an audition for “Exorcism” and I was very excited since it stars Bai Ling and Matthew Moy, two of the most popular Asian actors in the States and because it is aimed for Netflix,” Chi said. “There were a lot of girls trying for the role and after they saw my headshot the producers wanted to turn me down. But my agent insisted that I get to read, so I went in and it was one of the best auditions I’ve ever had. I auditioned for three parts, and when they asked to improvise something for another important role, they were amazed because—without having seen the dialog—I actually spoke what was written in the script. They instantly wanted me to be in the film.”

That kind of spot-on instinct and skill is typical of the deeply talented actor, and she jumped into her part with both feet. “I was cast as Ms. Tang, a pregnant girl who is one of the main people on this airplane. She’s very spicy and just doesn’t care about anything but herself,” Chi said. “Honestly, it was quite a challenging role because I had to carry a 5 pound fake belly around with me for over 10 hours for 6 days straight. But it was also a really fun experience being able to play a pregnant lady which I’ve never done before. I was really nervous for my main scene, where I actually give birth. It was really difficult so I did my due diligence with a lot of research. I talked to friends, read up on pregnancy, watched videos of women giving birth, and all that helped a lot.”

Chi’s dedication to improving her artistry is a constant, innate pursuit and she is not one to squander any opportunity to do just that.

“It was amazing to be able to act with my idols Bai Ling and Matthew Moy,” Chi said. “They both gave me excellent advice about acting and this business. What was most interesting to me is that each of their suggestions was quite different. Matthew Moy said that studying acting and taking classes is important, because that’s what he did. But Bai Ling told me, since she didn’t to any acting school and learned on her own, that it’s important to just know your emotion—where it’s coming from— and once you know that, the rest will just flow. Either way, I loved getting their advice. So powerful.”

With her steadily ascending professional profile and reputation as a respected, formidable artist, Chi is a talent from whom the film industry will definitely be hearing a lot in the months and years ahead, a destiny which her positive attitude practically guarantees.

“My career aspiration is to make as many people laugh as possible,” Chi said. “I want to be able to make a difference in this world through my acting, to inspire the audience to smile, to reduce stress. Many people relax by watching films and I hope to help relieve their pain and make them happier.”

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Art Director Cagri Kara Mixes Creativity and Ambition for a Winning Formula

The acclaimed Turkish art director Cagri Kara always knew his destiny lay in the arts. As a teenager, Kara wasted no time, successfully creating and selling a variety of progressive, eyecatching web designs before graduating high school. After attaining design degrees at university, the ambitious, driven Kara established himself, in short order, as one of the most skilled art directors in hometown Istanbul, the biggest, most sophisticated metropolis in eastern Europe.

The international entertainment, promotion and design communities are a tight knit pool of craftspeople and Kara’s mastery of the universal language—visuals—and impeccable reputation as a reliable, intuitive and groundbreaking artist quickly spread. Kara’s early formal accolades included numerous high-profile industry awards Crystal Apple Festival of Creativity, Kirmizi Advertising and MIXX Awards and the famed Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity. All of this notably preceded his 2016 arrival in Los Angeles, where Kara’s characteristic professional alacrity found him taking on a spectrum-spanning array of assignments and campaigns for a wide variety of agencies and clients.

One of Kara’s first, key alliances in California was with the prominent Hollywood agency Forbidden Toast, a relationship which served both as proving ground and springboard for his American career.

“I’ve been working with Forbidden Toast since I’ve moved to LA,” Kara said. “It’s a high end creative services company that focuses on entertainment art work for movies and television The company’s owner, Sherry Spencer, hired me as an art director for several projects she was working on.”

It was a significant break for Kara, and also one that demanded he deliver first rate product. “Forbidden Toast has a very high quality work standard and a clear vision for the work they produce,” Kara said. “I very much respect that and enjoy working with the team. And I enjoy the challenges of producing such great work.”

From the start, Kara’s stylish, skillful contributions fit right in.

“My responsibility with Forbidden Toast is overseeing campaigns in post-production, and ensuring the artwork is correctly executed,” he said. “The projects I worked on were highly visible and vital to the success of the films and television shows for which we developed these campaigns, and my work resulted in both increasing the company’s revenue stream and exposure in the market.”

Kara’s mixture of technical skill, instinctive flair for appealing design and comprehensive grasp on the adaptability each visual element must have is a priceless combination.

“Mainly, we do print ads, large outdoor billboards and social media campaigns,” Kara said. ”The platform is not as important as the flexibility of the art work—it needs to be effective and integrated into all types of media, both internet and large scale print campaigns.

Kara’s keen vision has created important advertising campaigns for productions by some of the biggest names in the business—Sony, HBO, Fox, Netflix, Starz, National Geographic and numerous others.

“I worked intensely with Sherry in producing the final art work for the client,” Kara said. “The art gets approved directly by the studios and, often, also by the talent. And they were all very happy with the results.”

Kara’s successful ventures include campaigns for shows with wildly disparate themes and content. He successfully worked a winning campaign for the current season of comic provocateur Bill Maher’s “Real Time” (“The show is very timely and, I feel is very important to the American political climate. It was very special to be a part of the production of the art work for this series. The art went all over the United States and the show was highly rated and successful”) preceded by one completely opposite, 2017’s launch for the National Geographic television series Genius.

“It was very exciting and challenging,” Kara said. “The talent needed to give the impression that we were actually looking at Albert Einstein. Sherry and I worked closely together to produce a successful final product that appeared not only throughout the city but also appeared on the one of the most visible billboards in the city including—the entrance of the Fox studios.”

Whether it’s documentary, fantasy, film, television, album cover art or an international promotion for FIFA giant EA Sports, Kara’s sweeping creative scale, holistic grasp of his field’s requisite elements and most effective practices create the foundational basis upon which Kara’s formidable natural skills excel—and Forbidden Toast continues to reap his bounty.

As company president Sherry Spencer said “I’ve worked closely with Cagri over the last several years—I’ve been impressed by his ability to successfully lead teams of artists and watched his creative skill and impressive talent push my company even further into creative entertainment marketing. “

 

 

AUSTRALIAN FILMMAKER ADRIAN PROSPERO TELLS THE STORIES OF CHANNEL NINE’S SUCCESS

In recent news of NBL’s 3-year partnership with Channel Nine, we sat down with the man behind Nine’s innumerable advertisement campaigns, Australian-born filmmaker Adrian Prospero to discuss his crucial role within the groundbreaking network and how his contributions have shaped Channel Nine to be Australia’s largest commercial free-to-air television network to date.

“It was an absolute honour to work with Channel Nine, and I am thrilled that the network has been skyrocketing in their success.” 

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Award-winning Director Adrian Prospero working with actors on set.

Adrian Prospero has been a force to be reckoned with in the entertainment world for the past decade having distinguished himself as a versatile filmmaker with over a 100  credits to his name as a Writer, Director, and Producer on various media platforms including television commercials, narrative films, and documentary films.

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Some of Adrian’s impressive award-winning narrative and documentary films.

We asked Prospero about his great passion for filmmaking and the many hats that he wears as a filmmaker.

“I love all aspects of filmmaking, but I would consider myself first and foremost a director.”

While the entertainment industry is known to be excruciatingly difficult to break into with thousands of filmmakers competing to get their foot in the door, Adrian Prospero has impressed many esteemed filmmakers with his success as he managed to conquer the narrative and documentary world while also making himself indispensable in the commercial and corporate world. Since the beginning of his career over a decade ago, Adrian has since been involved in dozens of advertising campaigns in the capacity of a Writer and Director for multi-billion dollar companies such as REIWA and Australia’s prominent WIN Television Network.

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Most notably, Prospero has undertaken a crucial role in the growth and success of Channel Nine. The network is equivalent to America’s paramount television networks namely ABC, CBS, and NBC.

Prospero’s skills as an extraordinary filmmaker combined with an extensive knowledge in marketing allowed him to contribute to the network primarily through cultivating client relationships, which consequently magnified the company’s revenue and strengthened the reputation of Channel Nine. In 2017, Nine reported a revenue of $720 million. During his time at the network, Adrian raked in millions of views for numerous affluent clients such as the global upscale hotel brand Novotel and the renowned multi-billion dollar real estate company, Mirvac.

In a reflection of how far Adrian has come as a director, and proving how sought after he is, Prospero can now earn up to $1570 an hour as a director. A source from Channel Nine joked “not a bad jump considering most directors are only paid about $75 an hour, and Adrian’s humble beginnings in Perth!”.

Despite his vast experience and success in the industry, Prospero remains modest when asked about his success in the commercial and corporate world.

“I am thankful to Channel Nine for entrusting me with each campaign and for allowing me the creative freedom towards these commercials.”

[above: some of the above companies who have gained millions of views for their films and commercials made by Adrian Prospero]. 

Prospero has been regarded as a terrific collaborator across all platforms. Therefore, it is no surprise that numerous companies and artists seek to work with him. His versatility in storytelling have led him to working with Songwriter and Rapper Bill Marri and Australia’s beloved electro-pop band, The Arsonist. His work on their music videos have gained these artists legions of fans globally.  

The prominent Writer and Director shares “Music videos are so much fun to work with, but what I love about it is the integration of two mediums (music and visuals) to create something powerful. You are often allowed so much creative freedom in music videos so it can be challenging in getting the balance right between the two, but when you find that balance where the two complements each other, the results are extraordinary”.

More recently, Prospero challenged himself in taking on several roles on a workplace comedy miniseries in which he wrote, produced, directed, and edited. The miniseries, Unrealty, was shot in Australia with actors Chris Buckley (Sons of Soldiers, Badgirl) and James Broadhurst (Reflection, Derelict). Adding to his great acclaim, Prospero picked up an award for the series from the Accolade Global Film Competition.

“It was really fun to shoot a comedy series. I’d definitely love to do it again.”

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Comedy miniseries written, directed, produced, and edited by acclaimed filmmaker Adrian Prospero.

Prospero was also previously awarded the Accolade Global Film Competition Award for his 2016 dramatic film The Hunt starring award-winning actor Robert Hartburn and David Pragnell. The prestigious film festival has successfully been running for 14 years, and recent winners of the competition include the films Money (starring Jesse Williams from Grey’s Anatomy) and Riley Wood (starring the James Bond and Wild Things actress Denise Richards).

“It is incredibly humbling to be recognized by renowned festivals for doing what I feel most passionately about”.

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Recognized by Movie Maker Magazine as one of the “Top 25 Festivals” in its category.

From commercial and corporate work to music videos and narrative films, Adrian Prospero is regarded as amongst the best in his field. He takes incredible pride in everything that he does which in effect produces outstanding films, and we are confident that this extraordinary filmmaker will continue to conquer the entertainment industry.

 

 

 

Shining A Light on Women in VFX: Tati Leite

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Brazilian VFX Artist Tati Leite

It probably comes as no surprise that the VFX industry is among one of the many tech related fields that has been dominated primarily by men since inception; and that’s not to say that women haven’t played an equally powerful role, they just haven’t received their due credit. Though the media in general has shone somewhat of a lesser light on women in VFX, there is hope for equality in the industry now more than ever before. But this is just the starting point.

Women like Victoria Alonso, who earned the Visual Effects Society Visionary Award last year, and VFX artist and compositor Charmaine Chan, who created the video series “Women in VFX,” have both used their position in the industry to draw attention to the lack of diversity in the workforce. In order to play ball in such a male dominated arena, women have to go the extra mile to prove their worth; and one woman who’s managed to carve out a place for herself in the industry despite the obvious challenges is Brazilian born VFX artist Tati Leite.

“I think what separates me from the rest is that I have my background in computer engineering. I used to be more technical before moving to LA. But I never felt completely satisfied only using my technical skills. My artistic side was always there trying to show up too. And that’s the main reason I chose VFX,” explains Tati.

A story that proves once again that women are just as capable as their male counterparts, Tati’s journey serves as an inspiration to push ourselves as women to follow our dreams, even if it means that we have to push harder at this point in history. This is how we are going to change the face of the industry so future generations of women can be judged based on skills rather than gender.  

Creating artistic videos was a passion Tati discovered at an early age. She carefully learned how to shoot, modify and craft different effects at a time when technology was not nearly as advanced as it is today. Her close examination and methodical approach to the videos she created drove her desire to understand how it all worked.

“Every movie I watched I paid attention to all the details and watched it over and over to see the effects, the animation and all the aspects that had been introduced to the footage,” recalls Tati. “Even my choice for majoring in computer engineering was based on the fact that I wanted to acquire a deeper knowledge in computer graphics.”

This perfect fusion of art and technology is what drew Tati to become a VFX artist, and it’s one of the major assets that sets her apart. Backed with a computer engineering degree Tati was not intimidated by male dominated spaces. Not only was she well prepared to take on this highly technical position, but she realized that, in a way, it made her part of a movement towards equality for women in the industry.

“Having a wide background helped me to navigate through this world easily. But, this industry is still male dominant and we have a long way to go until we see some real changes. The future is promising, every day I think we move one step forward, but it’s far from equality,” Tati admits.

Pioneering the way for other women to delve into VFX, Tati has paved a trail of outstanding work on various projects that range from high profile motion picture films, such as the highly-anticipated film “The Lion King,” which is due out in 2019 and directed by Jon Favreau, to a plethora of award winning video games.

Video game projects not only challenged Tati and revealed her power behind the screen, but they also prepared her for the bigger tasks she’s undertaken as a VFX artist on major feature films. One of Tati’s favorite video games so far has been Making Camp created by the award winning company 7 Generation Games. It was there she found the freedom to add her own visual design and concept to the game as an animator.

She says, “This game is very special to me. Not only because I created VFX for some of the videos played in the games, but also because we completely remodeled the game visually. Icons, buttons, effects, all the assets were remade and/or adapted to a new look.”

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Tati Leite designing for 7 Generation Games

Project manager Diana Sanchez, who worked with Tati at 7 Generation Games, quickly recognized Tati’s inspiring work ethic, her capacity to effectively communicate with her team, and her ability to elevate the creative process overall. When it came down to creating games for the company, it was never a competition but a fruitful collaboration.

Sanchez says, “What makes Tati good at what she does is her ability to collaborate… When you have an idea of what you want such as an animation or image for an icon, she then takes that vision and puts her great skills to work, but the best part is her flexibility if modifications need to be made. That’s a great quality to have when collaborating on a project.”  

Executing work for 7 Generation Games is where Tati’s creativity and intelligence went hand in hand, and her background in computer engineering coupled with her keen artistic eye have her the power to produce the best visual designs.

“Creating VFX for games is exciting because you can be very creative, but at the same time you need to be smart about how you are going to do it without consume too much memory or processing.”

The 3D educational video game Fish Lake was another video game where Tati’s VFX prowess was a leading force in the game’s creation. As part of an Indian tribe, the game’s player has to overcome roadblocks related to math and history, so it’s not only fun for users but it teaches them valuable skills. For Tati, Fish Lake was not only an exciting project that utilized her seasoned skill, but it is one that challenged her in new ways.

She explains, “The big difference of this game is that it is 3D. The tools and the skills required for 3D are completely different. This was the main 3D game we had at the house at the time so it was very special to have the opportunity to work on it.”

Tati’s creativity and VFX expertise have led her to be an invaluable force in the ever evolving design concept of countless many games like the project Aztech. This educational math and social studies game for kids was sparkled with magic where students would go back in time to try and survive challenges in order to move forward, and Tati was key in creating the visual effects that kept them playing.

Tati says, “This project was really nice to work on because I could see the idea of the game evolving until it became real. Putting together the concept to create a game is a big challenge.”

When it comes to design and creating concepts in the ever growing field of visual effects for video games Tati ha become a sought after force. She’s adapted to new advances in the field at every turn, and her work makes her stand out as one of the best, but her work is by no means limited to the world of VFX for video games.

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Tati Leite at the 2017 HoloLens Hackathon

The adept nature of her talent as a VFX artist has led the film industry to take note, and though the industry department is still considered by many to be more of a ‘boys team,’ she’s definitely made her way in, and her contributions have been key in creating the incredible visuals we see on the bigger screen.

With only three women nominated in the VFX field for an Oscar, Tati aims to raise the conversation about this problem but also lead the charge in creating stellar work, proving she is just as good as any man.

“I love working on feature films,” admits Tati. “It’s very gratifying when you see the final result on the big screen helping to tell a story better.”

Aside from “The Lion King,” Tati has played a key role in the VFX departments on some of the biggest feature films of this year, including “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” “Christopher Robin,” “Mission: Impossible – Fall Out,” “Book Club” and many more.

To play on the boys team Tati realized early on that has to be the best at every aspect in the field, and that means staying on top of every new technique, but her passion for the craft and her individual creative eye has made her unbeatable. There are somethings that can not be taught like work ethic, cohesive collaboration, and artistic skill, and Tati possesses all of these traits in spades.  

At the end of the day, Tati says, “For me the secret is always do your best. Never consider any of your jobs smaller or less valuable. In every job you will get something from it, it can be learning something new, improving some skills, experience dealing with a tough client, or even if it’s just making money. It does not matter. If you consider that all the jobs are very important and you give them your best, you will grow and build the bridge to the next level of your career.”

 

Sonia Gumuchian: One Gifted Writer to Keep your Eyes On

 

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Writer Sonia Gumuchian

It’s no wonder that internationally acclaimed writer Sonia Gumuchian has caught America’s attention. An award-winning writer with sharp dialogue, hilarious stories and impeccable timing, Gumuchian’s ability to turn real life situations into fun and engaging scripts will leave any person wanting more.

Originally from Vancouver, Canada, Gumuchian has a way with words that is an impeccable blend of both natural talent and deliberately honed skill. With her first novel under her belt before she finished high school, and then graduating from the University of Southern California with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Writing for Screen and Television, Gumuchian’s talents were quickly recognized by major powerhouse networks in Hollywood.

Working for respected TV networks such as HBO and FOX, as well as ABC Studios, Gumuchian attended table reads and provided coverage on potential scripts, which helped her learn the ropes of what goes into developing some of today’s most watched shows. Gumuchian even worked with the Hallmark Channel where the ideas she pitched were taken into consideration in the development of the 2016 Kitten Bowl, the nation’s most beloved rescue pet adoption of the year. THE KITTEN BOWL, guys.

Her pilot “Hi Again” has been met with glowing praise and interest. Centering on a young woman who wakes up as an android that’s been built by her ex boyfriend, yikes, Gumuchian’s script for “Hi Again” was awarded as a second rounder at the esteemed Austin Film Festival, an honor that only 15 to 20 percent of almost 10,000 submissions receive.

“At the time, I was inspired by the technology centered around transhumanism and the surge of science fiction content we were receiving,” Gumuchian explains. “After personally visiting AI symposiums and conducting interviews with scientists who are creating the next generation of materials made to simulate human faces, I wanted to write my own spin of the genre. What if someone was brought back to life, but not on their own terms?”

And that’s exactly what happens. The story begins in 1987, when 21-year-old Kat tragically dies from a drunken bowling accident, leaving her friends, family, and loving boyfriend, Toby, behind. Cut to 2018 and Toby, now a successful scientist, finally succeeds in downloading Kat’s consciousness onto an android, only for Kat to break up with him the second she wakes up (something she was meaning to do before she died). Now, faced with a world far into the future, Kat must navigate new waters and become reacquainted with her loved ones. With “Hi Again” Gumuchian pulls at heartstrings while exploring the depths of human connection and making the reader laugh out loud, pretty much all of the time.

One priceless mark of a great writer is their ability to pick up and expand upon a contemporary idea and make it into something more– a throughline regularly seen in sci-fi novels and scripts, but Gumuchian does it with comedy. A a certifiable pro, that’s exactly what she did with her “Good Cop, Old Cop” script drawing inspiration from the series “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.” The script, which is only one of several that will leave audiences rolling on the floor laughing, earned her attention once again when, going up against 800 other entries, it made it into the Top 7 in Filmmakers.com’s TV Script Writing Competition.

The story follows Jake and Amy as they go undercover to infiltrate a fake ID epidemic, which leads Jake to the painful realization that he can’t connect to the youth anymore; meanwhile, Boyle distrusts Rosa’s new boyfriend, as Mike and Scully investigate a suspicious Chinese restaurant. The script’s ingenuity lies within Gumuchian’s seamless creation of fresh new material cut from a preexisting cloth, an invaluable asset to any writers room. Honestly, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if she starts writing for Saturday Night Live or the like very soon.

With talents expanding from screenwriting to journalism, Gumuchian has been chosen to contribute as a staff writer to a plethora of popular magazines and media outlets such as The Fullest Magazine, and Neon Tommy.

Covering countless red carpet events and movie premieres for media outlet Neon Tommy, her review of  “A Million Ways to Die in the West” not only gained major traction with audiences, but it was retweeted by Alex Borstein, one of the film’s stars. A gratifying moment for any writer.

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Sonia Gumuchian covering the premiere of “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1”

“On one of my most glamorous nights, I was invited to join the red carpet of the ‘Hunger Games,’ and got to chat with the likes of Julianne Moore, Elizabeth Banks and Jennifer Lawrence” Gumuchian recalls.

The voice found in Gumuchian’s writing is gripping and visceral, hilarious and deliberate, engaging and unwasted. She is an unparalleled and important presence behind a keyboard, a mind behind the pages that continue turn the world of entertainment on its side, in a good way.

She admits, “I’m the type of person where I’ll say yes to nearly any experience, and no matter how dangerous or silly my adventures may be, I usually encounter an interesting story or person along my way, and most of my stories do come that real-life inspiration. I live life as a gatherer of stories. Every new day is an opportunity for inspiration, meeting strangers, and getting whisked off to new locations.”

Though she’s gained international attention for her storytelling capacity in the realm of pop culture and comedy, Gumuchian’s gift extends far beyond that alone. Her ability to speak bravely and candidly about tragedies such as the Armenian genocide in the piece “Coming to Terms with Genocide” has helped to shed light on heavy and hard hitting world events while also giving readers a deeper look into her personal world.

She explains, “One piece that I’m proud of is a reflection I wrote about the anniversary of the Armenian Genocide and my personal experience with it growing up. It was a hard piece to write, as I had to explore sometimes painful parts about not just the genocide itself, but my part in keeping the legacy alive.”

Without passionate, honest, and gifted writers such as Gumuchian, we, the human race, would never really know the true impact of incredibly sensitive, and even painful, events our cultures and societies have endured.  Gumuchian’s article about immigration and her family’s personal migration history can be found in the ‘Volume 5’ print edition of The Fullest Magazine.

As a writer Sonia Gumuchian is one powerful storyteller who’s creative genius clearly spans the gamut and she is definitely one to keep your eyes on.

 

Specialist Set Designer Haisu Wang, A Key Figure Behind Some of the Marvel Films’ Coolest Vehicles!

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The Benatar Ship in “Avengers: Infinity War”

If you’ve ever been curious about the design process of some of the insanely intricate and high-tech sets in many of today’s blockbuster films, then you’ll definitely be interested in the work of specialist set designer Haisu Wang.

A sought after force behind the scenes, Haisu has been a key counterpart in designing some of the incredibly stylized sets in big budget films, such as the recent and upcoming Marvel films “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” “Avengers: Infinity War,” and the 2019 “Untitled Avengers Movie.”

“It is always very exciting to work on films like this… I know that for these types of movies, I can always fully express my creative voice,” admits Haisu. “You work with the best team in the industry to achieve new ideas and hopefully inspire the next generation.”

From designing the Escape pod used by Rocket and Thor in “Avengers: Infinity War” to the cockpit and galley of the Benatar ship, the new spaceship that the Guardians of the Galaxy fly in, which we learned in “Avengers: Infinity War,” Haisu’s unique blend of creative and technical skill have led him to be tapped to work on some of today’s most popular films.

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Specialist Set Designer Haisu Wang

Prior to making his mark as a specialist set designer Haisu spent many years as a leading art director and production designer on indie films with comparably lower budgets; but he says, “The design process of big blockbuster films is pretty similar to my previous work.”

With an all-star ensemble cast, including household names such as Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch and Don Cheadle, and a layered and exciting story that makes it watchable over and over again, “Avengers: Infinity War” pulled in over $2bn, making it another one of the Marvel superhero films to reign at the box office.

While the fact that the frenzied films he works on these days will be watched by millions of viewers doesn’t make a huge difference to Haisu as a designer, that doesn’t mean there aren’t still aspects of collaborating on projects of this caliber that get him excited.

“Now I am more inspired by the level of talented artists and designers I work with more than the actual projects themselves,” admits Haisu.

For “Avengers: Infinity War” Haisu worked directly with Primetime Emmy Award nominated production designer Charles Wood (“Doctor Strange,” “Avengers: Age of Ultron”) to design the Escape Pod and the Benatar Ship’s cockpit and galley.

“As the production designer Charlie has a more comprehensive understanding of the story and how the vehicles fit into the visual arc so he gave me pretty clear set of goals of what the vehicles were supposed to feel like,” explains Haisu. “He gave me enough freedom in terms of designing the form and details of the vehicle and then guided me towards the right texture and color combinations.”

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The Benatar Ship

As a specialist set designer, Haisu’s carved out his niche in designing vehicles and special equipment, an area of focus where his artistic genius has not only flourished, but one where his vast technical knowledge has been integral in the multi-phase construction process of actually bringing the designs to fruition.

Giving us keen insight into his technical design process, Haisu explains, “I use Cinema 4D to block out rough concepts and render them in Octane Render. Sometimes I bring the model to Unreal Engine to set up a VR walk through. I use Solidworks and Rhino during the set design phase mainly because they are designed to work with a CNC machine really well, which becomes very important to the construction department.”

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Designing the Escape Pod

 

Taking something based on a comic book and turning it into a physical form that fits the filmmakers’ vision that can be shot by the film’s camera crew is no easy task. These designs undergo numerous transformations from the initial concept to the actual construction, and the vehicles Haisu designed for “Avengers: Infinity War” are no exception.

He explains, “The early version of the Escape Pod had a really slick form compared to the final version, and the surface detail was much more simple and minimalistic. But Charlie preferred the surface to look more like an insect and for the exposed equipment to look a little more complex to match the personality of ‘Rocket,’ the owner of the pod.”

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The Escape Pod

As a specialist set designer, developing these sets to serve the story is the most vital element of Haisu’s work behind the scenes, and his ability to innovate on past designs taken from ‘reality’ has proven to be a powerful contribution– something that is readily apparent in the impressive pilot’s chair he developed for the Escape Pod.

“I spent a good amount of time designing the Gyro Pilot Chair,” says Haisu. “We thought a lot about how to make the pilot seat to be self stabilized so that the pilot would not spin with the ship and lose consciousness like what happened to Neil Armstrong during his first space flight.”

Using his knowledge of design and industrial technology, Haisu was critical in designing a seat that could rapidly spin around a mounted axis, making it free to move according to the pilot’s desires despite the changing directions of the ship.

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The Gyroscope Pilot Chair

Beyond the creative talent it takes to design the kinds of sets that grab viewers attention and serve the story, those in Haisu’s particular field of work are required to have an incredibly broad and comprehensive skill set that includes understanding the manufacturing processes for these sets, such as vacuum forminglaser cutting, and using a multi-axis CNC and waterjet, which Haisu say are integral in ‘building sets that are visual effect friendly.’

He adds, “The set design phase and the construction phase are very well integrated. I design the aesthetic of the set with the sense of  fabrication always in my mind. Since the vehicles of this type of movie tend to have a complex forms. The fabrication process is less labor intensive but more automation based. Preparing clean and fabrication friendly model is the key to saving time and money.”

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Constructing the Benatar Ship

Giving him an additional edge over others in the field in terms of knowing how to communicate with the VFX department, which plays a huge part in massive productions like “Avengers: Infinity War,” Haisu also spent several years as a VFX artist at the three-time Emmy Award winning company Base FX before transitioning into his work as a specialist set designer.

Drawing from his experience as an art director and production designer while bringing a refined skill set to the table that allows him to design elaborate and highly technical sets for some of the most watched films today, Haisu Wang has solidified a strong position for himself in the industry.

Haisu is currently working on the eagerly anticipated continuation of the “Avatar” film series. With “Avatar 2” expected for release in 2020, fans of “Avatar” have waited nearly a decade to find out what happens next; however he won’t be the one to disclose any of that information. But he does say, “I am very excited about the world that we are creating and very proud to be part of the ‘Avatar’ team.”

Captivating Producer and Director Federico Torrado Tobón on Filmmaking

Radiator Behind The Scenes by David Liu
Producer and Director Federico Torrado Tobón shot by David Liu

Fresh off premiering his latest film “The Plague” at the Oscar-qualifying LA Shorts Fest, visionary filmmaker Federico Torrado Tobón is one filmmaker in Hollywood we should all take note of. Now in its 22nd year, LA Shorts is the first and longest running short film festival in Los Angeles. The festival attracts Hollywood industry professionals, and is one of many eminent groups shining a light on Federico’s critically acclaimed work. The multi-hyphenate, who has experience as a writer, director and producer, speaks about his work with the grounded authority of someone who’s gained a great deal of knowledge since beginning his work in the industry nearly a decade ago.

Federico’s unique style is distinguished from other filmmakers by way of his innovative incorporation of surreal and fantastic elements into conventional narratives, an exceptionally difficult task that he continues to explore with finesse through an array of complex film projects.

“I’m a big fan of magical realism,” Federico explains. “I love stories that are grounded in reality but that have one element that doesn’t belong to this world.”

The Colombian native, who has been featured in his country’s most circulated newspaper, El Tiempo, for his achievements as a filmmaker, is clear on his artistic intentions for his career.

“I hope to create strong emotions in the viewers and produce unique feelings and atmospheres, like when you look at a painting and you don’t know exactly what’s going on yet it still manages to creates a very specific feeling.”

These intentions are clearly apparent in all of his work, and they are especially obvious when looking at his films “The Plague” and “Wytches.”


Federico, who also directed the compelling and award-winning music video for the popular band Spaceface’s song ‘Radiator,’ which has been featured on the popular site Lost at E Minor and the prolific IndieWire, talks in earnest when asked about visuals.

He explains, “When directing a project I start with the visuals. I start pulling images and sounds, atmospheres of how I want the project to look and feel. After having that clear, I start to find the colleagues that I think are going to elevate the project…to me everything lies on the cast and crew that you bring in as a director and producer.”

Indeed, Federico has had the opportunity to direct and produce applauded projects with incredibly talented individuals in the industry today. Spaceface member Jake Ingalls is also a member of the three-time Grammy Award winning band, The Flaming Lips. When the music video Federico directed for “Radiator” won Best Music Video at New York’s Lower East Side Film Festival, the judging panel included “Sin City” and “Men in Black II” star Rosario Dawson and “Lady Bird” cinematographer, Sam Levy. Adding to this long list of endorsements for the project itself was its selection to screen at the recent 2018 LA Music Video Awards, the 2018 Bellingham Music Film Festival, which is considered to be one of the Top 50 Music Video Festivals by Radar Music Creatives, and HollyShorts, an Oscar-qualifying event that showcases only the best and brightest films from around the globe.

The instrumental role Federico plays in his projects as a director and producer shows through his capacity to assemble a top-tier cast and crew, another aspect that is apparent when looking at “The Plague.” In the film, which screened all over the world at festivals such as the LA Shorts Fest, L’Étrange Festival in Paris, and the 2017 Aesthetic Short Film Festival in York, England, Federico had the pleasure of working with some A-list talent. Dylan Riley Snyder of AMC’s “Better Call Saul” and Disney fame played the leading role of Julian, while ABC’s “The Middle” actor Casey Burke played the leading role of Julie.

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Still of Casey Burke as Julie in “The Plague”

“Federico brought a unique perspective to my experience on the set and to the project itself. Both writer and director, Federico managed to create and explore a world outside just a ‘horror’ or ‘dystopian disaster’ genre,” says actress Casey Burke. “From an extensive rehearsal period to valuable personal moments with each actor on set to ensure unbreakable connections in the portrayal of complicated characters in a unfortunate world, Fed’s passion for storytelling was obvious from the beginning until the end.”

Federico is humble but proud when asked about his team. The reassuring aspect of Federico’s attitude is that he is clearly invested in his career because he loves the craft, and the joys of being on set and collaborating with the talented creatives it affords him. In the case of “The Plague” and its numerous prestigious festival selections, Federico’s project bypassed some stringent criteria but he still emphasizes the experiences of shooting and collaborating with a great crew as its highlight.

“What made the project special to me was the people that worked on it. I had the chance to collaborate with a great cast and crew that made the whole experience amazing.”

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Still of Dylan Riley Snyder (left) and Casey Burke (right) in “The Plague”

When asked about the story, which concerns teenage siblings who take refuge in a secluded forest cabin to avoid becoming infected by a mysterious and deadly plague, Federico’s answer points to the mysterious and remarkable way by which a gifted filmmaker like himself formulates an idea.

“The story came about from an image I saw of a set of female twins looking into the camera wearing the same outfit,” Federico excitedly explains.

“That desire of telling something dual and aesthetically parallel and balanced is what motivated me to make the plague. Usually when I write something the idea comes from just a picture or a photo. That image is what fuels the rest of the script.”

While Federico might stress his enjoyment in the creative process, it’s nevertheless worth emphasizing the significance of his achievements in having his films selected and screened by such esteemed organizations like the NewFilmmakers Los Angeles (NFMLA). NFLMA is cost-hosted in partnership with The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and will screen Federico’s work at The Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills this September.

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Poster for “The Plague”

“I’m very happy that The Plague is doing well in its festival circuit,” Federico adds. “Winning best short film and having the opportunity to screen with in The New Filmmaker’s LA In Focus Latinx at Hispanic cinema exhibit at the Academy Goldwyn theater means a lot to me.”

The heightened level that Federico’s career has reached is not simply a consequence of his skills as a director. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, Federico is most definitely a multi-hyphenate, a creative who enjoys working across many fields, especially the combination of directing and producing.

“My work as a producer came from the necessity to make the stories I wanted to direct,” he attests. “When I started there was no chance of having a big team so I had to be thinking about producing it as well. Since that moment I started to produce everything I was directing.”

Elaborating with conviction Federico says, “To me a perfect production is one where the producer is fully synced with the director…What makes me capable of handling these two different roles is that I think about both simultaneously.”

Federico also exercised his diversity as a filmmaker in terms of genre with the film “Wytches,” a horror about a woman learning about her mysterious powers while staying at a strange hotel with her aunt.

“Wytches was my first attempt at making horror. The goal was to explore the genre and… find a way to tell a story by collaborating with two other directors…Three minds creating one piece.”

For Federico, the experience was both humbling and gratifying. “I learned a lot from their skills and their storytelling,” he claims. “And we all learned from each other.”

The experience has paid off, as the film was selected for competition at the Calgary Horror Con, one of the world’s best horror film festivals, as well as the first and largest convention in Canada dedicated to Horror, not to mention one that is notorious for its tough competition in terms of the films it accepts. In other exciting news, it also screened at the Midnight series at the celebrated Dances with Films festival, which was described by IndieWire as being “widely recognized as the premiere showcase of innovative cinema in the U.S.” and considered LA’s best indie film festival by the Huffington post.

While Federico’s bustling schedule keeps him quite busy as he continues to balance his work as a producer and director, his passion and motivation to share his work audiences is one of the reasons we got lucky enough to nail him down for an interview and we couldn’t be more thrilled. He’s definitely inspired us, and we hope his story will do the same for you.

  

Sabrina Yu combines artistry and storytelling for ‘The Good Memory’

As a storyboard artist, Sabrina Yu is one of the first people responsible for taking the words of a script and turning them into a motion picture; she is the connection between the writer and the director, helping to visualize the story. She can always find the most suitable shooting angle, accurately grasping the emotional changes of the characters’, and designs the scenes to most effectively tell the story. Such a role requires her to understand every aspect of film production, every role and process from beginning to end, and as an avid film lover, that is just why she loves what she does.

Hailing from China, Yu has taken the film industry in both her native country and abroad by storm. She has worked on several award-winning films, such as Cello and Inside Linda Vista Hospital, and has no plans on slowing down. She is an extremely in demand storyboard artist, and her distinctive style enhances every project she takes on.

“I like to use the changes in black and white to show the development of the story, and then grab a little main draw, with a strong contrast. Focus on one point, like a main background or an actor’s emotional facial expressions, and blur the rest,” she said.

One of Yu’s most decorated projects to date is the 2016 film The Good Memory. Not only was the flick nominated for Best Short Film at The Chinese American Film Festival, Glendale International Film Festival, and the International New York Film Festival, but it also took home the top prize at several other prestigious international film festivals, such as the California International Shorts Festival, Hollywood Boulevard Film Festival, Hollywood International Moving Pictures Film Festival, and more.

“I like that in this film I did new things.The style of the film has a set of times,” said Yu.

The heartbreaking drama follows Eric, a husband and father who is celebrating his birthday. He meets his wife and daughter in a café for a brunch, but it is revealed to be a memory of that same day the previous year, ultimately leading to tragic consequences.

“This is a story about reminiscence, and at the end of the film, you will find everything showed in the film are just memories, which makes me feel that the story is very special and memorable,” said Yu.

The moment Yu first read the script, she was touched by the story and knew just how to illustrate it. She could picture every scene in her mind vividly and began drawing. Her storyboards created the background of the film and helped set up the story. They helped the production team see how the time change could be achieved through film, as some scenes are flashbacks.

After discussing the script with the scriptwriter, Yu first drew out the main scenes, showing them to the Director to adjust and decide the main atmosphere of the film. She suggested that the director join the light and shadow changes to reflect the warm feeling, drawing this in the storyboards to show how effective this technique could be. Her suggestion proved very fruitful.

Undoubtedly, Yu’s talents as a storyteller and filmmaker translate directly into her storyboarding. She encourages illustrators to go into the trade, as it is often overlooked but an extremely vital part of filmmaking.

“Read more, watch more movies and draw more. The creative inspiration accumulated from it has paved the way for work. Communication is very important, work with your team closely, patiently listen to other people’s opinions, but also insist on your own ideas and dare to say it,” she advised.

So, what’s next for this talented storyboard artist? She is currently expanding her talents to a children’s storybook. Keep an eye out for it as well as her future films, you definitely won’t want to miss them.

Working at Both Ends of the Spectrum: Acclaimed Music Producer Dragi Ivanov

Deondre Jones (ShotsbyDre)
Producer and engineer Dragi Ivanov shot by Deondre Jones

Dragi Ivanov has long been known as a producer aware of how to tailor his skills to a musician’s needs, while bringing his own sense of practical artistry to any track he produces.

As the producer of Terrell Hines’ hit song ‘$3.99 (model1)’ Ivanov’s seasoned skill as a recording engineer proved imperative to capturing the song’s crisp sound quality. His ability to expertly wear many hats was reflected in how he wrote, produced, recorded and mixed the song for one of music’s most promising artists today.

Hines, who is also in the hugely popular band Wake Child, attested to the critical role Ivanov played in shaping the song’s sound from its inception and how they both wanted to create something that was compelling from the get-go.

Hines says, “As creatives we were pushing the envelope, so we started gathering our ideas and organizing them and Dragi produced, mixed and mastered…3.99.”

Hines further points to the collaborative nature of the song-making process, and the respect Ivanov grants the artists he works with and to the listeners of their music.

“We both love music and are intrigued by sound so we wanted to see if we could get music out in a way not normal to the ears but relatable to the ears spreading positive informative messages to society.”

Ivanov echoes Hines’ assertion that each of the cognoscenti wished to make a song that was edgy and create a new standard of music.

“Both of us always wanted to push the envelope and just create something that is crazy and innovative,” Ivanov explains. “We just wanted to make something that we hadn’t done before and that was exciting for us, we didn’t set out to do anything specific we just wanted to see what we can do and how well we can do it.”

It’s clear that Ivanov achieved his goal of producing a song that was edgy and compelling in a really subversive way, a rarity in a crowded market where every other producer is trying to push musicians to make a statement.

With Ivanov though, he’s the real deal. Combined with Hines’ writing, with it’s biblical references that are simultaneously respectful of spirituality but not condescendingly preachy to a listener, the producer and artist break new ground. The result is an edgy and compelling rap track that offers an incisive social commentary on the way unbridled greed has compromised the moral fabric of humanity, detailing the extreme lengths people go to for things worth $3.99. Listening to the song itself on an instinctual level leaves a listener conscious of a darkness, an effect countered with hip beats that get the body moving in a manner reminiscent of Childish Gambino’s ‘This is America’ but with an even more potent punch.    

Elaborating on the uniqueness of Ivanov’s approach, highlighting how the man is as interested in the process of making the music as the end result, Hines says, “Working with Dragi is therapeutic,” Hines astutely claims. “He can form any color and structure through music. When it comes to music and just sound in general he definitely has his own unique aesthetic.”

Adding his crucial creative input and mastery as a producer into the mix, Ivanov played a key role in the song’s composition, of course bouncing the ideas back and forth with Hines while producing, recording and mixing the song. He explains, “Everything you hear from the drums and bass, to the synths and the pads as well as the guitar parts and the way the whole song sounds is what I did. I created all the interesting sound design elements such as the clicky percussion parts, 808 bass, the menacing synthesizers, sound effects and vocal effects and treatment is what I did as part of the production process.”

The uniqueness of Ivanov’s skills as a music producer are reflected in the imaginative ways Hines describes Ivanov’s approach, pointing to a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ that effectively highlights the Macedonian native’s creative magic.

For instance, the song invokes Black church and gospel music style through the use of organs and tambourines, grounding it in a sense of history that is both culturally specific, and universally resonant.

In a more obvious reflection of Ivanov’s significant success within his field, it also helps to understand that the musicians Ivanov works with always enjoy a loyal and fervent fan base, ensuring that his songs reaches huge numbers of ardent listeners around the world. That, and his producing skills have equally come to be known within the industry as a secret weapon which can make an artist’s career.

Hines additionally points to the adaptability of Ivanov’s specialized skill-set as a producer who can jump between genres while also maintaining the artist’s sensibility and integrity.

“Dragi understands music from many different perspectives. He also knows what he is doing on the production side whether it is production or mastering, which I could trust him to execute every time creatively and professionally.”  

The most obvious manifestation of Ivanov’s versatility is in the work he’s done with the band Wake Child. The incredibly popular Californian group, frequently known for invoking psychedelic 60s sounds with their own unique millennial bent, clearly owe some of their success to the producing prowess of Ivanov.  

For the track ‘Hangup Blues,’ Ivanov talks about how he and the band “wanted to make a seemingly Lo-Fi sounding record but also have it be epic.”

The product is a filmic and moving track which has received over 60,000 streams on online and been promoted by multiple blogs and Spotify playlists. It’s clear that fans of Wake Child and Ivanov recognize how the song manages to expertly use vocals and guitars in a symbiotic manner that builds towards a rough and tumble crescendo that grabs a listener by the collar and pulls them into a collective, and at once, individual experience.

In essence, it proves how Ivanov – who produced, recorded and mixed the song for Wake Child – tells a story with music in a way that only the most celebrated and iconic music producers are able.

He speaks with authority with the how the song is constructed, indicative of how Ivanov is deeply connected to helping produce music that tells a story and effects emotional change within a listener.

“The song starts very small with only a Rhodes piano and vocals it eventually builds up to the first chorus which is very interesting because the relationships between the instruments change in a way that the chorus feels a lot bigger than the actual verse.”

The humble manner with which Ivanov explains how his personable nature lends him an advantage when dealing with different musicians is equally interesting and endearing.

“Another thing is [because I’m an] introvert I don’t necessarily talk too much and I am very sensitive to situations that I know how to stay away or step in when I need to and that way I am able to meet people feel comfortable in the studio and give their best performance.”

“Hangup Blues” consequently manages to be romantic and solemn at the same, echoing a deeply felt sense of love that is truly poetic. When the song hits a beat change half-way through, it shifts a listener into an aural experience that really affecting.

Producing the song itself represented a significant challenge, which Ivanov embraced with gusto

“This project was different because it was the first project where I had to produce a full band,” Ivanov clarifies.

“[I] usually work with only an artist and my job is to create the music behind the artist, whereas with this project I had to learn how to step away from being a the musician and focus on more technical and managerial side of things.”

In closing remarks, Ivanov adeptly sums up the authentic approach to his work that highlights his genuine and specialized creative spirit.

“For me I would say is that I want the music to be exciting and feel effortless.”

 

Australia’s Young Leading Man: Cooper van Grootel

Australian actor Cooper van Grootel has long been regarded as a leader of his generation. A working child actor for the past decade, who has recently wrapped filming a lead role in See Pictures’ feature film Go Karts, there’s no doubt that this young lad is reminiscent of the Australian men who paved the way before him: think Hollywood hunks Chris and Liam Hemsworth, and Avatar star Sam Worthington.

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Cooper van Grootel as photographed by Deanna Whyte

What sets Cooper apart however is not just his machismo, but also his access to an old soul that is more reminiscent of Emmy-winner Ben Mendehlson, who didn’t hit it big until his late 40s. The difference with Cooper however, and what sets him apart from all of these actors, is that he’s still only a teenager, but he’s already made it.

The award-winning teen, who was honoured by Media Super for Outstanding Commitment and Achievement in the industry, has carved out a niche as a true-blue Aussie with roles in prestige mini-series Mystery Road, audience favourite Jasper Jones, and films like Red Dirt and Absent that both challenge and explore the Australian identity. One exciting project in particular is the feature film, Go Karts.  

For that film, Cooper was up against thousands of other actors, so it’s safe to say his hard work is paying off.

Go Karts hails from the same producers as Golden-Globe winner Simon Baker’s Breath, Netflix film OtherLife and Kylie Minogue and Guy Pearce hit, Swinging Safari. In the film, Cooper was blessed with a starring role of Dean, the film’s antagonist. In the character, Cooper relished playing the bad guy – a force to be reckoned with on and off the race track.

“Many directors and producers have remarked on Cooper’s professionalism and high standard of work ethic,” says his agent, Hallie McKeig from Film Bites in Perth.

There’s nothing arrogant about this surfer though, as many are quick to attest to Cooper’s affable nature. “They’ve also said how easy Cooper is to get along with, and how down-to-earth he is,” Hallie elaborates.

Qualities like these are infrequently found in the industry. Cooper’s American manager Karli Doumanis, of KDM, substantiates this view.

“It is really rare to find young male actors like Cooper who have a high level of confidence, self-awareness and charisma – he’s also really highly accomplished because of the number of projects he’s worked on and who he’s worked with – the American industry has already fallen in love with him.”

One of Cooper’s earlier roles was in the film project, Red Dirt, in which he played the lead role of Benny.

Cooper smiles when recalling the filming process.

“Waking up very early and watching the sun rise over the vast landscape of outback Western Australia, that was a highlight.”

Red Dirt gave Cooper the opportunity to literally play the leader of the pack. As Benny, Cooper was the alpha male to a group of boys in a small town that an older man encounters after his car breaks down.

“Myself and the other boy actors searched for gold with metal detectors,” Cooper elaborates. “That was great fun.”

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Cooper, second from left, on the red carpet for the premiere of his film, Red Dirt with Neighbours actor Troy Coward.

Cooper also showed his chops as an actor of true range in Absent, a film from celebrated director Iain Appleyard. In that compelling film, Cooper played a mental handicapped boy at the centre of the film’s drama about a father who abandons his daughter after he accidentally kills Cooper’s character. Cooper brought the role to life with conviction, receiving praise from industry professionals in the process for his deep commitment to performing the role authentically and with respect to people with disabilities.

“Working with Cooper and watching him bring his character to life was…a highlight…for me,” Iain told our publication. “He repeatedly impressed everyone with his professionalism in a difficult role showing dedication well beyond his years.”

He articulates further. “I am proud not only of the work that I have done, but also of the skills I have acquired.”

It’s this focus on his craft and skills that is clearly keeping the screen star grounded, even while he might be sharing the screen with Golden-Globe nominated actors and household names.

“Richard Roxburgh is a man with a great sense of humour and uses that skill and applies it to improvising bits here and there during scenes,” Cooper says when asks about his fellow famous co-stars. “That was cool to watch.”

Up next for this acclaimed actor – who, like any other teenage boy also loves Aussie rules football and skateboarding – is a second season of the Funny or Die hit, Unverified where he’ll resume his leading role of Jackson.

“I really just love jumping between roles – I’m really grateful that I’ve got my family and agents and a manager who have supported my journey.”

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Cooper van Grootel is “grateful” for his acting success. Photographed by Deanna Whyte.