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Master Videographer Rosanna Peng Keeps Viewers Engaged

Rosanna Peng
Videographer Rosanna Peng shot by Noah Kendal

 

Living in an age of information overload brands need visual content creators who are able to create images and videos that strike a viewer on an emotional level and quickly tell a story. Videographer Rosanna Peng is one innovative visual storyteller who’s managed to leave a lasting impression on audiences with the stunning projects she’s created for brands such as J.Crew, New Balance, Canon Canada, Etsy, MTV FORA, The Creator Class and many more.

Originally from Vancouver, Canada, Peng’s artistic approach to visual storytelling draws viewers in and elicits an emotional reaction within them. Last year she was hired to shoot and edit the J.Crew on Film: J.Crew X New Balance® 997 Butterscotch video that launched the collaborative J.Crew x New Balance 997 sneaker. Featured on popular online platforms such as High Snobiety and Hype Beast, the video Peng created takes viewers inside the New Balance factory and reveals the making of the new shoe in a way that humanizes the brand and gives personality to the shoe. Through her ingenious videography and editing, Peng managed to make the inside of a shoe factory look visually stunning, something not many people are capable of achieving.

“I was trying to take the viewer through the journey of seeing the shoe being made by real people then worn in an editorial environment. I wanted to show the craftsmanship of the shoemakers,” explains Peng. “I colored the video tones to compliment the shoe’s tones and textures. The pace of the video was intended to build up the excitement for the viewers to when the shoe is revealed in the final setting.”
 


Her methodical approach and visual artistry definitely nailed the mark; and considering the viral success of the video for the New Balance 997 Butterscotch shoe, it’s not surprising that Peng was tapped by the companies once again to direct and edit the video for their collaborative J.Crew X New Balance 997 Cortado, which was released shortly after the Butterscotch. With the term ‘cortado’ referring to a coffee drink made of equal parts espresso and warm milk, Peng connected the process of the making of the drink with the new shoe.

She says, “I wanted to convey the art of coffee-making and parallel the creation of a cortado to the beauty of the Cortado shoe. I did this by capturing every step of the cortado-making in a creative and beautiful way, then editing in footage of the shoe to emphasize the textures and tones to the shoe. The pacing and jazz track for the video is a modern spin to the art of espresso.”


From the rattle of the beans being poured into the grinder all the way up to the desirable and creamy finished drink, the precise shots, angles and cuts she used create a feeling of anticipation, a brilliant strategy that effectively connected the anticipatory feeling elicited within the viewer over the coffee to the upcoming release of the Cortado 997.

Capturing the personality of the brand while making the videos relevant and visually appealing to viewers, Rosanna Peng’s work for the J.Crew/ New Balance collaboration is the perfect example of how a master videographer can make the difference between a brand’s message actually breaking through the saturated digital market and making an impression, or being passed over by consumers without a second thought. Clearly Peng’s work lands on the side of the former.

Aside from being exceptionally skilled when it comes to shooting and editing videos, Peng’s international success as a videographer is due in part to the versatile nature of her creativity combined with her keen knowledge of current trends and the understanding of what will pique the interest of specific audiences.

Rosanna Peng
Rosanna Peng shot by Jennifer Cheng


As a lead videographer for MTV FORA, a hip daily blog from MTV Canada and Clean and Clear that covers fashion, beauty, lifestyle and the best of MTV, Peng created a diverse range of videos focusing on everything from fashion and beauty tips to giving viewers a behind the scenes look at photo shoots.

“I enjoyed the freedom the FORA team gave me. They really trusted my creative vision and gave me the opportunity to expand their potential on their youtube channel,” says Peng.

Thanks to her ability to create edgy visual stories that appealed to MTV FORA’s predominantly female millennial audience, the quirky and upbeat videos garnered thousands of views on the popular blog, as well as their YouTube channel. Accompanied by short blog posts, the videos she created, such as Becoming FKA Liz 101, #WCW: Phoebe Dykstra and Audrey Kitching and Natural Beauty DIY: Pumpkin Facial, add a fun and youthful flare to the FORA site that effortlessly keeps viewers engaged while telling interesting stories.


Peng says, “During shooting and editing, I would capture funny and offbeat moments that would make the video more unique. I was able to draw from my graphic design background and edit each video to pair with the accompanying article’s look and feel. The unique combination of design with videography is the merge of my previous experiences as a graphic design student and a videographer.”

For the 30 Shades Of Lips with Liz Trinnear video Peng shot model Liz Trinnear in 30 different shades of lipstick from makeup brand Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics. While the idea of watching someone try on 30 shades of lipstick might not sound all that interesting, Peng’s shots of Trinnear doing silly poses in each shade combined with her edits and the music she chose made the video incredibly fun and engaging.


She explains, “I laid out the video timeline for every shade and paced the video so the pacing would go from, in regards to Liz’s poses. This spaces out the video and makes it engaging to watch as it has a pulse to it as well.”

One of the aspects of Peng’s talent that makes her such a rare and impactful videographer is her tremendous editing skill. From the New Balance videos to those for MTV FORA, it’s easy to see the way her edits affect the mood and style of the visual story being told. While her cuts on the New Balance videos are virtually invisible and the shot transitions flow seamlessly creating an almost visceral romanticized feeling, those for MTV FORA are the polar opposite. Her inclusion of bold and brightly colored graphics and the often abrupt and in your face nature of the cuts creates an energizing feeling that perfectly supports the cutting edge style of the MTV FORA brand.

“Video editing is more than just telling a story, it’s using certain footage to make a viewer feel a certain way,” explains Peng. “Anyone can point a camera and start capturing footage, but being able to communicate an idea through video editing is a certain skill not many people possess.”  

In a world where people are bombarded by so much content day in and day out, it takes a videographer with more than just technical skill to cut through the fat and actually touch viewers. It requires someone who is able to tap in and drive home an emotion that resonates with audiences, and Rosanna Peng is definitely ahead of the pack on all fronts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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BRIAR NOLET HAS TAKEN “THE NEXT STEP”

While the entertainment industry is for the most part based around youth, it’s rare that we see someone truly grow up on camera. Ron Howard, Drew Barrymore, and a select few have come into their own and lasted in the business. In what would appear to be the most recent individual to fill this template is Canadian Briar Nolet. An artist of impressive dance and acting skills, Nolet appears on Temple Street Productions “The Next Step” about a group of young dancers. The Canadian program is equal parts astounding dance and a (fictionalized) depiction of the lives of the characters. As the youngest cast member of this program, Briar began as a member of J Troupe (the in-training group) but was so skilled that she was quickly was moved up to A Troupe and cast on the show. Throughout the several seasons of “The Next Step”, fans from across the globe have seen Briar grow from a young girl into a woman, mirroring the evolution of her acting and dance abilities. As a fan favorite, Nolet has traversed the planet with the live performances that “The Next Step” has toured with including; the UK, Australia, Europe, Canada, and many other destinations.

“The Next Step” has won many awards (Canadian Cinema Editors Award, BAFTRA, Canadian Screen Award, etc.) and received numerous nominations, but that’s not what made the show an international success. Fans from different cultures connected with the young cast members, the stories, and their struggles to pursue their dream. Frank Van Keekan (Creator of “The Next Step”) confirms that Briar was a focal point of this reaction and the show’s success. He states, “Briar Nolet burst onto the scene of The Next Step as a member of J-Troupe. J-Troupe was the junior troupe in the dance studio. We specifically designed J-Troupe to be a training ground for new actors, getting them ready to move into A-Troupe once they were old enough and if they showed enough talent. Briar was one of the few actors that made it through the ‘system’. Her dancing and acro abilities were unparalleled. We were continually gob-smacked by her performances. After a couple of seasons, we quickly had plans to grow her into one of the main cast members. As soon as she arrived there, Briar excelled, becoming one of the show’s regular cast members. During that time, and with very little effort, she grew a massive fan base and quickly became one of the stars of The Next Step. She has gone on the live tours which travel the world over. Briar is easily one of the show’s most beloved cast members and one of the show’s most in-demand characters. It’s been amazing to see how she has gone from a young J-Troupe member, to being one of the show’s stars. It’s all due to her amazing work ethic, her immense talent, and her star quality.”

Briar’s role on “The Next Step” is Richelle, a feisty and talented dancer who is singularly focused to become the greatest dancer she can. Possessing more attitude than friends, she exemplifies determination. Nolet describes, “Playing Richelle on The Next Step, really grew my skills as an actress. I have similar characteristics to Richelle; however, she does have an edge that I don’t really share with her. In saying this, it’s fun to experiment and portray emotions that are different than how I [as Briar] would react to certain things.” It is notable that one of the reasons Richelle has become such a favorite to fans of the show is for this unique personality. Richelle doesn’t fit the mold of the status quo, which many of the show’s admirers appreciate in both the character and Briar’s portrayal.

Something that Nolet does share with her character is the sacrifices which a dancer must make to pursue this passion. The life of a dancer, whether real or fictional, is one of giving up time with family and friends to hone your craft. The same cause and effect applied to Briar’s work as an actress. Richelle was perhaps communicated so well by this actress because she could completely empathize with the character.

The immense talent of Briar’s dance abilities is well documented and displayed on “The Next Step.” Pushing the limits of where dance stops and acrobatics begin, her performances on screen were often unbelievable. Briar is more than amused to share as she states, “I would say something that sets me apart from everybody else is that I have no fear. As a dancer, I will always take risks and try different things that sometimes nobody could even think was possible. It’s a shock to everyone that such a little body can do that. I also have a crazy amount of energy and determination and I think that helps separate me from other people. I am one to of course be safe but at the same time just go for things. Sometimes I honestly throw my body somewhere and hope that I find my feet. Ha. A lot of my tricks that not many people can do come from just trying the impossible. These are moves I have been doing for a long time and am very comfortable with, to the point that sometimes I don’t even have to think about it. The difficulty level is the same no matter where I do them. Obviously, on camera they can edit if I mess up a trick they can make it look like I didn’t but,  on stage you can’t do that so you’ve just gotta go for it. I get super pumped up and excited when I am doing these things, I absolutely love it.”

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Briar’s fans will be happy to know that the upcoming season of “The Next Step” shows Nolet (as Richelle) to be one of most focused upon leads for the new storyline. As Briar Nolet’s star continues to rise, admirers of her acting and dancing can be certain that this talented young woman will be pushing herself to the surprise of all who watch.

PERUMAL BRINGS A NEW SLANT TO A LONG RUNNING HIT REALITY SHOW

We’ve all spent time (maybe too much time) surfing the internet and looking at random videos. While it is admittedly a time snatcher, compared to channel surfing it’s much more expeditious. This ubiquity of videos is often used by those of us who are looking for new entertainment or as an addition to our favorite programs. You can’t deny that you have found yourself on a social media platform or YouTube going down the rabbit hole which would eventually lead to you programming your DVR, downloading the season of a show, or heading to your local theater. These videos are promotion; we know it and the producers of these videos know it. There’s a science to making such a brief production interesting enough to capture and hold our attention. Editors like Vishnu Perumal are master of this. They have an algorithm in their genetic code which allows them to create a cut that will make us follow them right down the path. Vishnu was in charge of the social media operations for “COPS” where he edited numerous promos and interviews for the four time Emmy Award nominated series.

As a decades long production, “COPS” is a guilty pleasure for many, Perumal included. As a longtime fan of the show, he admits that it was a surreal experience to be working and seeing the iconic logo and the song (everyone knows it) on his computer screen. Vishnu was tasked to cut selected scenes from each week’s episodes. His audition for the production would be the template for his role. Karen Hori (Head of Production for Langley Productions, “COPS”) was impressed by his reel (specifically on “Sexcapades”), invited Perumal to meet and spontaneously asked him to cut a quick 3-minute interview of a Police Officer narrating and explaining his process as he arrived at a domestic disturbance call. She was immediately impressed with the spot and offered Vishnu the editing position.

One might assume that “COPS” producer and show runner (Zach Ragsdale) would want sensationalized content to capture the attention of viewers. Vishnu reveals that this was not the goal. He remarks, “I would approach the edits in the promos and interviews generally the same as I would for all my other projects in that I would first and foremost focus on the story and making it the most interesting piece of content that I could possibly create. The show is primarily focused on the police officers, so each web cut had to convey the entire story in a one to two-minute sequence. The focus was on telling the story in the way it always has; the way that audiences/fans have always watched it and enjoyed it. There was a sort of template, but a template that made sense. The show was all about the cops and it was important to focus on them and their duties. We didn’t want to stray away from that formula.”

As any fan of the TV series would expect, viewing countless episodes is both a shocking and oddly amusing experience. The program depicts both the sobering and ridiculous elements that occur day to day in the careers of these public servants. The temperament of the show is carefully crafted and is a major component of why “COPS” has been so successful. The news presents these types of stories but lacks the emotional quality that “COPS” so adeptly delivers. Editing these smaller productions, Perumal needed to assimilate to this tone while viewing the uncut and raw versions of them. Creating these presentations for social media platforms gave Vishnu deeper insight as to what the public finds so enticing about the program. “I think social media has had a huge impact on the entertainment industry, allowing fans and viewers a sense of community for their favorite shows. Managing the website, Facebook group and the YouTube channel, I discovered that there are many people out there who are huge fans of the show and will genuinely interact and show their support whenever they can. Social media provides the immediate feedback that there are genuine fans out there and it keeps a show relevant. Before social media, the only way to really figure out if a show is popular was through the ratings system. But now with social media, it vocalizes the popularity of a show directly through its fans, which is beneficial in having a show run for so long.” states Perumal.

 

KEN KARPEL: DIRECTING FOR NETFLIX, CAR COMPANIES, AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN

Eclectic. This may be the most appropriate word to describe the work and life of Australian director Ken Karpel. The background, experiences, and influences that led to the work of this multiple award-winning director is the plot to a movie in itself. While his early years are exotic and full of character (sometimes ridiculously so), the mixture has created one of the Australian industry’s most unique and successful directors. Karpel’s creativity has manifested numerous successful and lauded commercial campaigns for internationally recognized companies such as: Nestlé’s, Kellogg’s, Jeep, Adidas, Hyundai, and countless others. While clients sometimes raise an eyebrow about his methods, the results are undeniable. These achievements and awards include: ‘Best Integrated Campaign’ at the 2014 PromaxBDA Global Excellence Awards (Jeep); 2014 ASTRA Industry Excellence Award for Best Consumer Advertising Campaign (Nutri-Grain), 2014 Best Brand Integrated Spot at PromaxBDA ANZ Awards (Kellogg’s), a 2013 PromaxBDA Global Excellence Award for ‘Best Integrated Campaign’ (Topdeck), 2013 PromaxBDA ANZ Award in the ‘Best Integrated Campaign’ Category (Adidas), a 2012 Promaxbda ANZ Award for Best Sponsor Integrated Spot (V-Rentals), and many others.

The Award-winning and world travelling director is a long way from his early days growing up in Ukraine. His most recent professional ventures prove that Ken is always on the move and looking for a new challenge. A boy from Kharkov isn’t the most obvious choice to helm a documentary for Netflix about an Australian Hip Hop group but Karpel has used his unique upbringing and perspective to bring insight to all his work, no mater the subject. He grew up speaking Russian and watching…well, non-age appropriate films. He recalls, “I used to lie to my dad about sleeping in daycare so I could watch the R-rated Jean-Claude Van Damme opus ‘Bloodsport’… I was three at the time. That was the first movie I remember watching. The second was ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ and the third was John Waters’ ‘Cry Baby’. I did not watch any age appropriate TV until I moved to Sydney, Australia when I was five. Having newly emigrated to Australia, Ken’s parents were focused on work and providing for their family while Ken was fixated on film and TV. When his grandparents forced him to stop watching TV to go out and play with the other neighborhood kids, Karpel used the opportunity to recreate his favorite films with these make shift actors. He relates, “We watched Karate Kid and started practicing karate on each other in the park; after Home Alone we developed an intricate plan to catch burglars that ended up in me ruining my grandparents couch; following Happy Gilmore we all became interested in Subway and golf.”

Ken moved from film fan to participant at age seven when, after being inspired by Goodfellas (yes, at age seven), he immediately began writing films about his family and friends, complete with storyboards. He cites Quentin Tarantino with being the first person whom he noticed with three credits in Reservoir Dogs: actor, writer, director. He began to investigate what a director’s role was and study its intricacies.

Years later, when asked what it is about the profession he loves, Ken states, “I love every aspect of it. Pre-production is great because you’re figuring it out and that’s the best it will be. There’s no compromise yet. I love playing it all out in my head over and over again trying to visualize it before it’s even shot. Being on set is fantastic because there’s so many people there trying to achieve the same goal. I love the problem solving aspect of it. You’ve thought about this moment for so long and now something’s gone wrong…or it’s not working out the way you thought and everyone’s looking at you to solve it. I love that high-pressure environment and adrenaline; solving problems and collaborating with everyone for this common goal. There’s nothing like the moment when something magical happens that you didn’t anticipate. Where the camera moves in a direction and the light hits it a certain way or the performer does something you didn’t plan. I just love finding things in the moment. It is exciting to me. I also enjoy being in control of every single element in the frame. You’re creating a reality that you’re in charge of and it’s representative of your perceptions. You’re making something you hope people will relate to but it’s really a part of yourself. You’re putting yourself out there.”

One of Ken’s most recent projects is his work with Collider & Particle films. The production is a mini-documentary to promote Baz Luhrmann’s Netflix TV show “The Get Down”. The content piece follows Australian Hip Hop act ‘Horror Show’ as they prepare to perform their biggest show. It looks at the birth of hip hop in the Bronx during the 70s, and draws a line between that period and its continued influence on artists today, some 40 years later. Karpel envisioned a documentary in which the audience would be swept up in the artist’s world and experience it through their eyes. He would shoot each environment in one unbroken take. The camera would create a pace and perspective that which enables the viewer to feel as if they are in the room alongside the group. Once they begin their show on stage, when they’re in their element is when the real excitement of the concert is communicated. This took some convincing.

Ken concedes, “I’m glad we were able to convince the Artists and their management to let us shoot the live show on stage with them. We needed an up close and personal view of the show from the artist’s perspective, not the audience. Their whole tour, and thus their story, was building up to this show and from a narrative point of view we needed to be there on stage with them as close to their faces as possible. We ended up shooting so close to them you could see the sweat dripping from their brow.”

Rachael Ford-Davies of Collider & Particle Films declares, “We represent some of the best commercial directors in the business and based on his previous work, I knew Ken was the right person for the job. His high-energy visual storytelling places him in a unique position on our roster of directors at Collider & Particle Films.”

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Working with a totally different type of Australian group, Ken created a series of emotive and energetic spots that follows nine different people in the Australian Defence Force, juxtaposing their work lives with their personal lives. A total of nine 60 second spots were created. Revealing the humanity in these individuals, a series of match cuts matched the personal lives of these individuals with their Army ones. For instance, a helicopter pilot puts his helmet on to ride his bike to work and there is a match cut to him putting his helmet on in his helicopter at work; an infantry man is cutting up ingredients for a meal he’s cooking at home followed by a match cut that to him assembling his rifle at work. Always searching for an emotional aspect in a production, Ken comments, “It was important to have emotion and empathy for these people but also portray their work as energetic and fast paced. To achieve this, I interviewed each person off-camera and added their voice over to the images; this way they’re telling their own stories.  While shooting I realized that we had a lot of high energy action shots but to instill this empathy we needed a balance. I was getting a lot of very emotional stories (in the voice over interviews) that wouldn’t just work over fast-paced imagery. I decided to start shooting pensive moments with each of our characters where we see them take a quiet, reflective moment. Most of these moments were improvised in environments we found on the day: a locker room, a kitchen at sunrise, a bench following a heavy workout. The result gave the spots everything it needed: a high energy visual piece, with emotional tonal shifts that reflected the character’s difficult journey to get to where they are.

The best indicator that one is doing great work is when others seek you out your abilities and talents. For Karpel, this came in the form of his signing for representation in Australia with Collider & Particle, Target pictures in the Czech republic, and most recently Bakery Films in Germany.  As Anna Stolzenberg (Sales Executive at Bakery films) recalls, “At Bakery Films we had been aware of Ken’s work for some time. In November last year I contacted him to see if he’d be interested in discussing representation with us. Serendipitously he was in Prague directing a commercial. I decided to travel from Germany to Prague to meet him. I was expecting Ken to be older, but was surprise at how young he actually was. Over a long lunch we discussed the possibility of Ken being represented by us in the German market. A couple of weeks later Ken signed with us. Ken is an extremely talented director whose work defies advertising categories. He is able to do emotive, authentic and energetic storytelling pieces, comedic spots, visually stunning pieces and pretty much everything in between. The through line of all his work however are honest performances, a striking visual style, authenticity, heart and humor. It’s amazing to me that someone his age has already worked with so many international brands and I see him becoming one of the most in demand directors working around the world.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

JAYDA JEON TRAVELS THE WORLD BY MEANS OF HER INCREDIBLE MUSICAL TALENT

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One of the biggest perks of being a successful musician is that you get to travel and see the world while getting paid and being the center of attention. Doing what you love as a career, exotic locations, good pay, built in respect and admiration; it’s not a bad way to earn a living. Jayda Jeon has travelled extensively as a singer with California’s Liquid Blue whose moniker is “The World’s Most Travelled Band.” Visiting many domestic and foreign destinations has taught her things; some of the most important of which are that people everywhere love great music and travelling internationally can be hard on a singer’s voice. Seasoned through worldwide stage experience, Jayda has written mega-hit pop songs and performed with Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees. While she has many great stories to tell, she has even more knowledge to share. Her recent trips to Macau typify the exciting life Jeon leads as well as the wisdom that helps her maintain such a productive career.

Tatler is a British Magazine focusing on fashion and lifestyle as well as coverage of high society and politics. It is targeted towards the British upper-middle class, upper class, and those interested in society events. Tatler also offers editions in the native languages of mainland China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, and Thailand.

The Tatler Ball is a high-class annual meeting where V.I.P. guests and celebrities mingle and socialize. Due to the magazine’s focus on fashion, guests don luxury attire and walk on the red carpet for the press. Everything about this event oozes glamour in every way. If you happen to receive the hand-delivered invitation to this event, you have certainly made it to the elite list because this is an invite that cannot be bought.

Tatler hired Californian band Liquid Blue to appear as the entertainment at the Tatler Ball. As vocalist for the band, Jayda was a main focal point for the evening. Jeon was just as excited as the attendees to be at this event as she states, “This particular show got me really excited since it was an international gig and I had never been to China or Hong Kong. I was really happy that I had the opportunity to perform there.” As part of the Guinness World Book recording holding and Billboard charting Liquid Blue, there was no doubt that the band would wow the crowd but sometimes different cultures can have unexpected reactions. Jayda tells, “Never having been to Macau before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. We perform for sold out crowds and do a number of encores in the US and other locations but this was undiscovered territory for us in 2016. I noticed that when we were performing, some of Asian audience members were listening and watching us perform, remaining quiet rather than dancing on the floor. While not the common US crowd reactions, this gesture shows their respect for the performers. In most Asian cultures (particularly East Asian culture), being respectful for others is very important. We understood and appreciated it. After a few drinks, everyone relaxed more and interacted.”

Jeon and her bandmates also performed at the Grand Opening for The Parisian Hotel in Macau. This took place in September of 2016 and was one of the biggest events attended by Hong Kong and Chinese celebrities, and socialites from all over the world. Macau is known as the Las Vegas of Asia; the city of night where all entertainment is going on. The Parisian hotel is a larger version of The Paris hotel in Vegas. Performing pop, hip-hop, and rock music as guests filled the dance floor, the band proved that great music has no language barrier. Many citizens of China speak English because of its prominence in the business world and the availability of English classes. Many of the attendees at both events were fans of US music. (as evidence in this video (http://hk.asiatatler.com/society/the-2016-hong-kong-tatler-ball-the-highlights).

International celebrities such as Joanna Hotung, Vacheron Constantin, Crazy Rouge, Jenny Chau, Feiping Chang, Steve McCurry, Sean Fitzpatrick, Kristine Li, Kent Ho, and other V.I.P. guests not only interacted with the band but, some even found their way onstage to join them.

The entire experience was more than Jayda had hoped for and she adamantly states how much she enjoyed performing there as well as seeing the sights and meeting the people of Macau. She does reveal that the international flights and travel can be especially taxing for a vocalist like herself. She relates, “It is very important for a singer to take care of their health first and foremost because, unlike other musicians who use an instrument, as a singer your body is your instrument. Your voice is very much likely to be affected by your health condition. When you travel, particularly when you’re stuck on a plane for a long time, you are not able to fully recover or sleep well…which hugely affects your condition. Sleeping is the most efficient natural human recovery system for your body. If you cannot sleep well, your body will immediately show it, especially in regards to your voice. Environmental changes also affect your immune system. I’ve had experiences where I was sick during traveling gigs in the past but as I got used to those gigs and searched what I could do to kep my immune system high, I was able to keep my health from intact with these type of routines. I never understood those stories of rock singers going crazy, partying all the time and never taking care of their health; I guess that’s why I’m a professional singer/arranger rather than a rockstar. Ha.”

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