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Prog-Rock Group Herd of Bison’s Marisol Echegoyen on the Band’s Upcoming Release

  What have you done in the time since the Covid lockdown started? Did you get into shape, binge watch multiple seasons of a show, become a better cook? For most of the music world which exists upon its interaction with and audience, the world simply stopped in early 2020. Adamant that they would make proper use of this forced pause, the reputable band Herd of Bison has been recording and preparing for the eventual return to performing in front of people. Far from the single-driven ethos so prevalent in the music industry, the band’s upcoming release is a concept album (yes, album!) of songs about how COVID has changed young people’s lives. Comprised of a group of young musicians from across the world, Herd of Bison speaks authentically through this album which is in fact being currently recorded from the group’s members in different locations. It’s hard to think of any music that might more accurately communicate the reality of a young person’s perspective on the once in a generation experience of the past year.

  The current record by Herd of Bison is not their first but it definitely signifies a new sound for the band. The group’s 2017 release “Of Course We’ve Heard of Them” is all instrumental. The addition of soloist-vocalist Marisol Echegoyen vastly expands the emotive spectrum of the band. An much-admired singer from Mexico who is deeply rooted in Jazz, Gospel, Latin Pop, Salsa, Rock, Musical Theatre, Mexican Folk, and Country, Echegoyen brings an influx of styles for this already highly experimental Prog-Rock band. Producer/composer/drummer Ben Lokuta, along with Nirupam Pratapgiri (guitar), Drae Dunning (rhythm guitar), William Bartholomew (guitar), and Sean Horvath (bass), approached the singer having been impressed by her abilities and international acclaim. Because the band has such an expansive palette of influences, Marisol’s ability to adapt to any genre made her the ideal vocalist for the music of Herd of Bison.

  It’s been noted often that the musicians of the Covid era, especially the younger ones, will have a wealth of emotions and insight to relate in what they create. As a vocalist, Marisol Echegoyen feels the responsibility and opportunity that her talent has placed her within. She relates, “The most important thing for me when singing is to tell a story and connect with listeners emotionally. In Herd of Bison, I want to tell the story of how COVID changed young people’s lives like mine. Every note that I sing will be to interpret that. The album is about the toll COVID took over our social life, mental health, family relationships, freedom, and sense of time passing by. When Covid happened, it seemed as if everyone’s lives stopped. At first, I felt scared because I did not know what was going to happen with me as a performer. Places closed and suddenly there wasn’t anywhere to perform. There were no gigs. I didn’t know when the pandemic would end. Foolishly expected it to last only a few months, I remained hopeful and excited for things to get back to normal. At the same time, it was mostly bad news in the media all about covid, deaths, police brutality, riots, impeachments, furloughs, unemployment…. It was emotionally draining. Home was my safe space before the pandemic started, after that it was my jail.” Remove the word “Covid” and these statements sound like they originated with the great music artists of the 60’s. It seems intuitive that today’s artists like Marisol and her band find themselves engulfed in a torrent of emotional experiences that are unique to any time in the past century.

  Like so many of us, Marisol Echegoyen looks forward to a return to a world of public gatherings that include concerts and other entertainment events. In addition to her work with Herd of Bison, Marisol is preparing for collaborations with Film Composer Daniele Truocchio (winner of the Best Soundtrack Award at the Valle d’Itria Film Festival as well as his work for TV series on CW, CBS, Warner Horizon Television, the History Channel, Warner Bros, and TNT) as well as her friend RnB/Pop singer/dancer Amber Olivia Kiner known for her appearance at the BET Stellar Awards with gospel-recording artist Earnest Pugh and at sold-out shows with superstar Beyonce’s Original All-Female Band.

Grant Lyndon: Juggling more than acting and his recent award-win

A sit-down editorial profile of Australian actor Grant Lyndon reveals many things for our readers. In this story, sit back, relax and get an insight into the core of what motivates an acclaimed artist and family man. 

Being able to effortlessly move between accents – American & British being his most called upon – award-winning Australian actor Grant Lyndon finds this opens up a wide range of opportunities to be the voice of many iconic brands, in addition to the father’s glittering on-screen career. 

Grant Lyndon and wife Vanessa Gray on the red carpet. Lyndon recently won an award from the New York International Film Awards.

With a newly achieved award under his belt, Grant is quickly standing out more and more by the minute. The Aussie favourite was recently awarded a ‘Best Actor’ prize by the Grand Jury at the New York International Film Awards.

While this may have been for his on-screen work, Grant’s equally known as being the voice of a number of high-rating TV series, ensuring Australians viewers are very familiar with Lyndon’s talents.

It’s apparent to anyone watching the series Aussie Lobster Men that the whole tone and feel of the show would be far less ‘Aussie’ without Lyndon’s distinct narration.

With M&C Saatchi, Grant voiced a whole summer of fresh alcohol offers in their national radio campaign. The iconic and international advertising agency network, founded back in 1995, boasts a $200 million valuation and its success is something for which Lyndon continues to benefit. Once he was in with the fold of their ad execs, the work hasn’t stopped. 

Suffice to say, he’s left an indelible mark on the portfolio of campaigns produced at M&C Saatchi and undoubtedly played an incredibly important role at the renowned company.

Ultimately, it’s clear that Lyndon has the power to make simple words sound much more meaningful than what’s on the page. There’s a belief & confidence in the messages he voices. This is a very strong card for a brand to play, when both building and maintaining a deep relationship with their audience. 

As Lyndon’s colleagues reiterate, the ABC network wouldn’t be what it is, were it not for Lyndon’s contributions over the years – starting all the way back with Rogue Nation. Grant’s role in that series quintessentially encapsulated the great and formative time in Australian history portrayed by the show, and Grant’s role reinforced his reputation as one of the few go-to actors to accurately be able to portray historical figures on screen for iconic Australian historical chapters. 

Indeed, Lyndon was irreplaceable in the highly-rating drama, ‘House of Bond’, which aired on Channel Nine. 

Lyndon in the acclaimed Channel Nine drama series, ‘House of Bond.’

Grant’s deep connection to the role of Warren Jones (after much personal research) and his ability to display the truth of the way that he sees the world thoroughly upheld the artistic quality of Channel Nine’s acclaimed mini series. 

This approach to work allows Grant to connect his acting to his real-life as well. He devotedly helps train beginner actors to reach their career potential. 

When Grant is not playing roles on screen, his belonging to the top-tier of the industry is reflected in regular invitations to run voice-over masterclass final year actors at NIDA, one of the world’s leading drama schools (and where Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett also attended). 

Lyndon’s also a VIP guest speaker at the International Screen Academy for graduates in getting industry ready, and a guest teacher at Toni Higginbothom casting.

Although Grant is inspired by many different facets in his life, the main motivator, as he says are his children. Such is reflected in how he dives deeper into fatherhood with his podcast ‘BusyDads’, where he explains how being a parent wholeheartedly is the center of his life.  

“I’m super excited about what’s ahead for me. I’m at a stage of my life where I’m more comfortable in my skin than I’ve ever  been, and most importantly, my family backs me 100%.”

Lyndon elaborates on the current industry landscape, as it recovers from COVID-19.

“There are so many great opportunities to play roles that are outside of the safe casting choices of the traditional media platforms. The diversity in storytelling that the streaming services allow for, really lights me up inside. Actors now have the opportunity to play characters outside of the known, and are collaborating to create and tell stories that are literally changing the world.”

Giving Life Through the Camera: Cinematographer Vittoria Campaner

(Cinematographer Vittoria Campaner)

            The camera is mighty! Able to sway the masses or speak to an individual’s innermost thoughts, film has altered the human mind in relation to all things. There’s nothing grandiose about this statement. The emotional power of the camera to move us is proven by the still and moving images embraced collectively by us all as a species. Italian cinematographer Vittoria Campaner recognized the magic of moving images early on and has committed her life to channeling it in order to relay messages of importance and inspiration to enlightened audiences. Her wielding this skill so masterfully has enabled her directors/collaborators to materialize the impactful messages to which all storytellers aspire. While still exhibiting her own proficiency and artistry, Campaner uses her visual sense to amplify the voice of the story. “The films I shoot are rarely conventional in their design,” proclaims Vittoria, who is known for her affinity for the long take and inclination to risk taking. “The directors I collaborate with,” she continues, “know this early. Ultimately, I believe that a DP must adapt in service to the story. The director’s vision must become my bible before I bring in my beliefs and thoughts. My work alters and mutates with each collaboration. Thus, my style can be present but should not dominate.”

            Director Liang Zhao wanted to create a film as a love letter to her hometown of Guiyang, China; a film about how people can change in one’s absence. From A Distance shows how those you knew so well can seem unrecognizable and strange upon reintroduction. Understanding that the visual element of this story was demanding, Zhao acquired Campaner as cinematographer for the film. The tale follows a college girl named Yuan Yuan who returns home but, instead of rushing to greet her loved ones, embarks on a spying expedition following a couple and seeking to uncover the secrets they keep from each other. Following the protagonist’s POV closely, the camera indulges playfully in voyeuristic intrigue creating anticipation for a looming surprise. Through Vittoria’s visual contributions, we learn about these characters’ personalities and the connection between them as they engage in their everyday activities. As the DP explains: “We opted to make use of long takes to convey the sense of voyeurism and to play with expectations. What is our protagonist looking for? We also understand the limitations to what a voyeur can see. The camera can only tilt and pan, so vital information may be hidden behind walls. Looking at the neighbourhood from a fixed position, we wanted to make the audience a participant in this young woman’s gaze and to convey the curiosity she feels towards her former community, whom she views without judgment. This POV approach is reversed near the end of the film when Yuan Yuan herself becomes the subject of our gaze.” From A Distance is an Official Selection of this year’s Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, La Guarimba Film Festival, Flicker Rhode Island International Film Festival, and Bogotá Short Film Festival.

            With director/actress Fabianne Therese Gstottenmayr, known for her work on the films Playing It Cool (starring People’s Choice Award Winning actor Chris Evans aka Captain America of the Marvel franchise) and John Dies at the End (starring Oscar Nominated Actor Paul Giamatti), Campaner collaborated on the absurdist romantic drama The Ex, currently in post-production. Starring Odessa Young and Monica Lek, The Ex is a near hyperbolic tale of the irresistible pull a former lover can elicit. The chase becomes literal as one woman pursues the other throughout the city. Award winning actress Odessa Young, one of the film’s two leads, espouses the positive benefits of working with a cinematographer of such consummate skill, declaring: “When I met Vitto her reputation as a cinematographer preceded her. She’s as deft and sensitive behind the camera as she is in real life, in her friendships and as a creator. Vitto is down for anything and her energy and dedication are palpable on set. She’s one of those alchemists with light and image who makes a small budget and a crew of friends feel like an affair of the highest caliber. I’d let Vitto film me any day.”

            Once the Covid lockdown expires and the film industry resumes, Campaner is already set to take the cinematographer’s chair for a duo of tense yet drastically different feature films. For director Jamil Munoz she will DP Muslimah, a story about an American convert to Islam who falls in love with a Somali cab driver, which results in a complicated and forbidden romance. Bryant Terrell Griffin, well known for his decade-long tenure at Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light and Magic – where he contributed to films by George Lucas, Steven Speilberg, Gore Verbinski, Guillermo Del Toro, and others –, has procured Vittoria as his cinematographer on his Young Kings, which he will direct. Griffin illuminates his reasons for enlisting Campaner as follows: “I’m very visual when it comes to colors, compositions, space, and movement within a frame. Young Kings is an intense character piece in which I want to explore the interiority of the characters. I want to take internal restrained emotions, subtle and complex emotions, and visualize them without dialogue. It’s extremely difficult. That is what Vitto excels at in my opinion. She can take what’s inside and find ways to make it come alive on screen. Not through crazy tricks or camera moves, but subtle changes in POV, camera placement, angles, and lighting. She knows how to capture stillness in a way that is engaging. It’s very, very tough to do.”

           For her part, Vittoria Campaner sees the camera as a communicative tool. Having filmed in so many different parts of the world – from China to Italy to Norway and North America –, Vittoria has cultivated her skill to allow the images and perspectives to transcend any spoken language. The filmmakers who seek her out for their productions recognize her ability to create intimate connections between the characters of these stories as well as the audience, often in a surprising manner.

Producer Kim Shapiro Successfully Merges Creativity and Business Behind the Scenes

On set with Kim Shapiro – Photographer: Scott Hansen

It takes a unique individual to not only run a successful production in the modern entertainment industry, but also make sure it’s delivered on time. Being able to raise the necessary funding and keep the production on budget, while also managing an entire crew and ensuring the client is happy with the end result, are all key for a producer, all of which are skills producer Kim Shapiro has in spades.

A talented producer, Shapiro is best known for his ability to bring the creative visions of brands such as L’Oreal, Johnny Walker and FaceTune to life through eye-catching commercials. He has also made a powerful name for himself in the world of music videos as the part of the production team behind Nikki Vianna’s “Mambo,” which has nearly two million views on Youtube, “One Life” from internationally acclaimed music duo DJ Aron and Beth Sacks, as well as Eliya Sinai’s “Girls Like You” and Aviv Terner’s “Azman Azal.”

The music video for the recent hit track “One Life” by music producer DJ Aron feat. Beth Sacks, which was produced by Shapiro, was a whopping success, gaining over 110,000 YouTube hits in just two weeks. 

Since its world premiere on September 26, the dynamic pop video has earned rave reviews within the dance and LGBT community, with thousands of fans from around the globe dubbing the hit track as “the new anthem.” 

“The vibe of the music video is very fun, and yet emotional.” Shapiro says, “It has aspects of the LGBT community as the artist DJ Aron is a very big DJ in this community. The music video also shows a bit of a connection to the Black Lives Matter [movement].”

The track was written during the early stages of the intense Covid-19 lockdown as a way for the artists to give back to their devoted fans while keeping their hopes alive during the challenging times.

Considering the powerful message behind the lyrics, the team responsible for bringing the video to life required a clear understanding of the artists’ creative vision, something Shapiro has excelled in time and time again with all of the artists he’s worked with.

“DJ Aron and his partner Beth Sacks, are both well known and they’re amazing artists,” says Shapiro. “When I heard the song they wanted the music video for, I knew immediately that we were going to make it happen no matter what.”

Known for his focus, diligence and keen awareness of the various wants and needs of all parties involved, Shapiro’s work as the producer behind the project was integral to ensuring that the production flowed on time and came in on budget.

“Some of the challenges were to keep it all on budget,” admits Shapiro. “When I produce any project, I need to consider what the director wants, what my client wants, what the director of photography wants, and to make sure that each of them will get the most out of the shoot.” 

His level-headed approach and effective team management was the driving force that not only led to a phenomenal shoot, but ensured every artist, cast and crew member were completely satisfied. 

Shapiro says, “I feel very good about the end result of the video, I think everyone did an amazing job starting at pre-production and all the way to post-production when we edited the video and released it to the world.”

Don Shapiro (left) DJ Aron and Kim Shapiro (right) on set of “One Life” Music Video shot by Scott Hansen

A real people person at heart, Shapiro knows exactly what it takes to succeed as a producer. With an overwhelming and expansive skill set to his name, he has continued to lead the way for cutting-edge productions in today’s industry. However, it’s his superb business savvy management skills that have set him apart from the rest.

Any good producer will tell you that a detailed budget, which requires constant attention, and the ability to expect the unexpected are essential to managing a production. Through his years of experience, Shapiro has mastered the skill of factoring in every single cost when it comes to budgeting, and he ensures that the money invested is accounted for and well spent. 

He says, “My favorite part about what producers do is dealing with the money, it starts with creating a budget, and then making sure that everything will stay on budget as we move on with the creation of the project.”

His cosmic repertoire of success, which extends to writing, directing and producing, has propelled him to become a highly sought after figure amongst many international brands. Over the years Shapiro has been a key contributor to commercials for multi-billion dollar companies such as Johnnie Walker Scotch Whiskey, the leading French cosmetics company L’Oréal and the recent “Landing on the Moon” commercial for Artgrid, which was inspired by the first spaceship launch to the moon in 1969. 

Launched in 2019 by the founders of the music licensing giant Artlist, Artgrid is one of the world’s largest websites for stock footage, where top cinematographers from around the globe can share their artistry in an authentic way.

He explains, “We booked a location that was built over a 100 years ago and we made everything look as if it actually was from the 60’s.”

To pull off this kind of detailed shoot required a team of experts, and it was Shapiro’s outstanding reputation that landed him the job, alongside his brother and business partner Don.  

He adds, “Artgrid approached my brother and I to produce this project because they saw other stuff we produced before, and they knew that we’d be the perfect team to produce for them.”

The global impact of Covid-19 meant that the director and client were unable to travel to New York for the shoot. 

However, with never being one to shy away from a challenge, Shapiro used his razor-sharp creativity to think outside of the box and adapt to the project’s unique shooting demands

“The main difference between this project and other projects I produced is that this time, my director and client were not physically on the shooting day, they were in Israel, a different country, and they saw everything through a zoom call.” 

Considering the technical skills required to bring a global team together, it was Shapiro’s genius ability to manage every department online that ensured a seamless shoot. 

He continues, “Something very interesting about it was that we had to connect the camera wirelessly to the computer so they’d be able to see exactly what the camera sees live. It was also very interesting to see the director direct the commercial from another country.”

Artgrid were so blown away by the tremendous success of his work, that they re-signed him to produce their next promotional video, which is set to be released later this year.

Artgrid official “Landing on the Moon” commercial produced by Kim Shapiro.

With a long list of incredible achievements to his name, it’s fair to say that Shapiro has truly established himself as one of the industry’s leading production experts.  

His reputation precedes him, with colleagues and friends praising not only his diverse array of talents, but also his light-hearted and welcoming approach to every cast and crew member he meets. 

“Working with Kim is always a fun and yet very professional experience,” says “One Life” production manager Scott Hansen. “He makes everything run smoothly on set and with a very happy mood amongst everyone that we work with.”

A man of many talents, Kim Shapiro has undoubtedly set himself up for an exciting career full of longevity, passion and success.  

“I’m interested in producing projects that I have the feeling that’ll get a big crowd and that I’ll have fun making. I believe that if you enjoy what you do you don’t need to work a day in your entire life, and for that reason, if I can choose, I’ll choose the projects that I’ll enjoy working on the most.”

Sarah Nasri on Bridging the Gap: by country, and by genre

Upon warmly meeting Sarah Nasri, her personable and empathetic nature is immediately palpable. 

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Sarah Nasri photographed by Savvas Christou

One might think that this energy is what affords her the ability to transcend different cultures and borders around the world with acting in international projects but, ever-so-casually, she informs us that she speaks multiple languages. 

“I’m fluent in more than half a dozen languages including Arabic, Spanish, and French,” she adds with a laugh, “as well as obviously English.”

It’s a combination of this internationalism that clearly imbues within Sarah an inherent understanding of the human experience, a point which lies at the center of any successful actor’s career. It should come as no surprise then that Sarah’s career, in the midst of a global pandemic when people are grappling for stories now more than ever, has continued to thrive. 

Originally from Tunisia, Sarah found a love for acting when she was 17 years old during summer break. After watching Leonardo DiCaprio give an interview and describe his creative process, Sarah was inspired to explore acting and a more artistic career path. 

“Even though I had already been doing it a few years, I discovered a deeper love for acting after leaving the confines of school, one that I was able to refine and cultivate even more with the freedom to explore different topics away from the syllabus.”

She continues. 

“For instance, one of the most vital areas in contemporary aesthetics concerns the experience of so-called “negative” emotions in an engagement with fiction…our imagination is powerful, and acting gives me an opportunity to tap into that.”

Sarah’s childlike curiosity has remained a constant despite the growth she has experienced in her career. Such a quality will undoubtedly serve her well ever since standout performances have attracted the attention of notable Hollywood producers.

One of those performances, for instance, was in the horror film Childhood Chills. Her gripping portrayal as a nun struggling to survive after her best friend has been attacked by an unseen evil, alongside Ashton Solecki and Curt Darling (Devil’s Hallow), is an obvious standout and distinguishes a crucial moment in the arc of the film. In each moment, Sarah echoes the audiences’ obvious terror while maintaining a commitment to her character in each and every extreme close-up frame in which she appears on-screen.

When watching her, Sarah’s particular understanding of how to balance temperament and feeling with advancing the story – never crossing the line of self-indulgence – is readily apparent. It’s a mark of a great actor. 

“Every form of art including acting has to have an arc, it should go up and down just like life. Otherwise, it will seem flat and uninteresting to the viewer,” Sara explains. “I always look for the high, the low and the ‘fake high’ in every script.”

Sarah also explains how she incorporates a variety of approaches to a script, depending on the storyline. 

“I [also] look for the music that I feel supports the atmosphere of the project and create a playlist from that – I find that really helps stimulate ideas about my story and creativity in general. ”

It’s this structured but also malleable attitude to approaching her craft which has not only served Sarah with an understanding of how to work across countries, but also genres too. 

 

Any director who’s worked with her praises her understanding of finding the humour in darkness, and the darkness in humour. 

 

Such is the case with her work in ‘Losing Your Marbles’, in which Sarah appears alongside The Art of Acting star Derick Gonzales. In that project, Sarah portrays a childlike introvert named Jenna, who struggles to overcome the recent death of her mother and is afraid to confront life on her own. In a moment that is incredibly affecting but also challenging and hilarious to watch, Sarah’s character discover’s Forest’s (Derick Gonzalez) love for her and the confusion she faced, whether to welcome him in her new life or not.”  

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Sarah Nasri in the hilarious project, Losing Your Marbles.

“What I like about comedy is that it allows you to criticize and deliver a message in an unapologetic manner. Drama, on the other hand, sheds a light on the dark realities of life.”

Comments such as these point to the universal relevance of Sarah’s mission as an artist, and her burgeoning curiosity in the American market – the American market’s curiosity in her.

“I’ve been fortunate to have been offered contracts to work in America, so I’m excited to contribute to the industry and connect with fresh stories, especially in the aftermath of COVID-19.”

As the entertainment industry looks to recover past a year marked by struggle, fresh stories – and exciting talent – are indeed in demand.

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While visiting Los Angeles for meetings and official events, Sarah was invited to exclusive premieres (pictured right).

Russian Blogger @Nioly Paves a Path for Digital Nomads

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Blogger Polina Pushkareva @nioly

Today millions of people work remotely, a luxury that affords them the freedom to manage their time without the constraints of the traditional 9 to 5, travel at will and oftentimes live wherever they want in the world. Even with the many that have managed to break away from a life of going into the office, there are millions more who are still desperately trying to figure out how to create a remote career for themselves.

A few years ago Russian blogger Polina Pushkareva, who’s known internationally by her instagram handle @nioly where she has over one million followers, figured out how to create a successful remote career for herself through blogging and social media.

She says, “Dedication, and a deep understanding of how social media functions and analytics,” are among the most important qualities to be successful in her field.

Gaining an astonishing level of success, Pushkareva’s expertise as a fashion blogger has led her to be featured in the Russian editions of Vogue, GQ, Grazia, Cosmo, Kommersant and more. She is also a columnist for OK Russia, where she regularly gives advice on blogging, with articles that include “Thinking Strategy that will Lead to High Income,” “Organizing work with Clients in the Freelance Market,” “What Character Traits Will Help You Succeed?” and many more.

“It all started in an ordinary cafe. I sat at a table and took pictures of cheesecakes for my Instagram profile, which at that time consisted of 300 subscribers,” recalls Pushkareva. “I was noticed by the owner of the establishment and offered the job as a social media management specialist. This is how I got my first job in the online field. After a short period of work with commercial accounts, I was recommended as a good specialist to a blogger.”

What makes Pushkareva so unique though is the way that she took her career beyond simply blogging. Using the knowledge she’s gathered over the years, she created an online program to help other people establish successful remote careers of their own.

Last year she launched her first online course, “Managers,” which was an instant hit in Russia. The course taught subscribers how to manage other people’s blogs, essentially helping them to learn how to become a universal specialist capable of doing everything from writing posts and purchasing advertising for promotion to targeting audiences and creating the blog’s visual vibe.

“When I realized that I couldn’t cope with my many responsibilities anymore, and 24 hours a day wasn’t enough, I began to think about training assistants for myself…. that’s when I unconsciously identified the urgent need all bloggers have for a qualified ‘helper’,” explains Pushkareva.

“That’s how I created my first course, ‘Managers.’ It was an absolutely spontaneous project. But it sold out completely on my first day of sales, even though my blog only had 30 to 50 thousand subscribers at the time. The first round was immediately followed by the second, third, and fourth editions.”

With a million followers herself, and also managing blogs for brands and celebrities with millions of followers, Pushkareva was constantly overseeing the output of creative content to meet the demands of her various audiences.

She quickly realized that an opportunity to create a new career field in the social media industry existed– one that would help the bloggers, as well as those who wanted to create a remote career for themselves. This was a few years ago, and at the time the idea of someone being specifically trained to manage other people’s blogs and instagram profiles hadn’t fully taken off yet– Polina was on the forefront of a new industry.

“The popularity of my course grew instantly. After all, this info product had a specific goal to help both sides at the same time. All the talented people got an opportunity to learn a remote profession, and bloggers freed up their time for more important and interesting things,” explains Pushkareva.

One of the key reasons Polina’s course was such an instant success, and something that speaks to her keen insight as a business developer, is the mutual benefit she saw in creating the role of a social media manager.

She says, “Bloggers are people who live a normal life, but also have a great responsibility to their readers. They have lists of things to do on a daily basis besides blogging. And all these bloggers have long been in need of such a helper to free them from the routine stuff on Instagram, such as buying ads, creating content, and writing posts.”

Since 2019 Pushkareva has trained hundreds of thousands of people through her “Managers” course, which pulls from her years of experience as a blogger and her knowledge of what it takes to successfully manage all aspects of a blog and instagram account from the front and back end in a way that makes everything run smoothly and increases traffic.

Though she’s still in her early 20s, Pushkareva has accomplished more than most, and it seems everything she does, she does well. Not only was she named Fashion TV Russia’s Best Extraordinary Blogger in 2019, but she also recently took on her first ever acting role, and it was no small feat. She recently wrapped production on the upcoming feature film “WarHunt” where she acts alongside none other than iconic star and Oscar Award nominee Mickey Rourke from “Sin City,” “The Wrestler” and “Iron Man 2. ”

“We invited Polina to act in the role of a radio operator. As a blogger with one million followers, she will help us to attract a younger audience to watch this film. The shooting was in Latvia, in Riga. I was impressed by her self discipline,” says Julia Kim-von Den Driesch, one of the producers of the film.

“She is not afraid to try new things, she is not afraid to fail. All of her ups and downs are part of transformations and developments. She has a sixth sense in visual content. I think she is doing the right thing so that her generation can become independent from their circumstances.”

As a blogger, Pushkareva is a leading figure in her field, and as such, she’s been invited to give talks at the well-known international business forum, Synergy, which has featured other powerful speakers such as Tony Robbins, Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and many more.

Polina Pushkareva’s story of how she got to where she is today is one that reaffirms the power of self-determination, and it’s inspiring. Originally from Kovrov, a small town in eastern Moscow, Russia, Pushkareva worked as a waitress to put herself through school while studying sociology at Saint Petersburg State University. The owner of the restaurant she worked at approached her with a curiosity about social media so Pushkareva took it upon herself to learn everything she could about the business.

“I did not have any clue about this field, but I needed to earn extra money as a student. I told him yes and I started to learn and try something new with social media management everyday. This moment changed my life,” recalls Pushkareva.

“A couple of years ago the huge number of Instagram promotion training courses out there now weren’t available, so I had to learn all the skills necessary for the work by myself, watching videos, looking for and collecting all the information on the internet or from friends who were already well versed in this field. In addition to working as a manager on my blog, I also tested all the existing ways of promotion.”

She quickly took note of the rise of social media and the potential it offered to create a lucrative business, and she knew she could make more money. While in college Pushkareva made a trip to the U.S., which proved to be a major turning point for her.

She explains, “I flew to America on an exchange program and that’s where I realized that I urgently had to do something with my life… I realised that US bloggers needed a manager… At the time, the profession didn’t even exist, nobody knew what the job of a ‘blogger manager’ was… I knew exactly what I wanted to do in the future and I started to independently develop schemes and mechanisms of net promotion.”

Pushkareva’s newest course is called “Millionaires,” which is targeted towards training people to use social media to increase their personal income and become millionaires. Since releasing the new 11-day intensive training course in January, she has trained 4,000 people. The course, which is currently geared towards Russian speakers will be available in an English version at the end of the year.

She says, “Million follower bloggers is a new trend in our reality. To handle everything related to the blog professionally you have to be surrounded by a professional team… on the new course I teach people how to become a millionaire, how to deal with blogs of a million subscribers and how to manage everyday life.”

For Pushkareva, who began her own instagram by blogging about ‘student life, coffee, guys, and dreams,’ the platform has been hugely lucrative. Today, with one million followers herself, Pushkareva’s instagram account @nioly, takes audiences on a journey across the world with every picture telling a story.

Producer Julia Kim-den Driesch says, “Polina motivates people to do things and to move towards their goals. She built a strong and recognizable brand called @Nioly. Millions of followers watch her and she is a role model for young and dynamic girls around the globe, and she has a mission to provide affordable online education as a blog manager.”

Seeing how instagram and blogging could be a powerful tool for brands to gain attention and for people around the world to tell their stories, and the growing number of people in search of the digital nomad lifestyle, Pushkareva has become a sought after leader in the digital generation. With all of the opportunities she’s made available online, Pushkareva is one of the people who have helped make the days of being tied to a desk, one country and a predictable lifestyle something that is optional, not mandatory.

Composer Gabriel Torrado’s Musical Genius Leads Him Across the Globe

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Composer Gabriel Torrado

A proven master of composition who understands that music is key in setting the tone of a film or television series, Gabriel Torrado is one composer who’s in high demand in the entertainment industry today. With an ability to create a piece of music that matches the director’s vision perfectly, his track record of success has led him to work alongside internationally recognized filmmakers and well-known networks from around the world. 

Torrado’s extensive work as composer includes creating the music for numerous network television shows, including the four-time Primetime Emmy Award winning series “Life Before Zero” on National Geographic, Bravo’s two-time Primetime Emmy Award nominated series “Million Dollar Listing New York,” VH1’s GLAAD Media and Golden Derby Award winning series “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” the hit Netflix series “Dancing Queen” and Bravo’s “Real Estate Wars” among many others. 

Raised in Bogotá, Colombia, Torrado began developing his musical talent at the age of 4 when he received his first violin, a pivotal moment in his life that eventually led him to cultivate his skills on the piano, guitar, numerous percussion instruments and ultimately, writing music.

Dream Boy

Most recently, Torrado composed the score for Auden Bui’s (“The Lost City of Tomorrow”) dramatic film “Dream Boy or the Pursuit of Being” starring Jordan Prentice from “Mirror Mirror,” “In Bruges” and “Howard The Duck,” and Anna Lore from “Doom Patrol,” “Faking It” and “Training Day.” 

Showcased at the 2019 Oscar qualifying Aesthetica Short Film Festival, one of the UK’s leading international festivals, “Dream Boy or the Pursuit of Being” tells the story of George Swoot, a middle aged little person who struggles to catch his big break in Hollywood. Torrado’s score set the perfect tone for the film, with his use of low pulsating beats and the sound of shimmering lyrical pads bringing the sombre character to life in a palpable way.

He explains, “The overall effect that I was trying to achieve with my music was a dreamy, ethereal sound, using a very melodic approach to synth writing.” 

The storyline begins with George sitting alone in his car confronted by rejection and sadness. Feeling defeated by society and unable to escape his loneliness, he enters a seedy strip club to find comfort from an exotic dancer. 

“I used a high melody of synths to open the scene, and then built intensity by adding more layers,” explains Torrado. “As the dance gets more active, I also include a rhythmic synth that sets a forward moving pace.”

The pivotal moment of the film is when, in a moment of pure desperation, a wrong decision in a dark back alley leads the character on a revenge fueled killing spree. Torrado draws our attention to the film’s climax with a driving heartbeat like rhythm that effectively highlights the action. 

This is a very tense moment, and I wanted to highlight that using a low, pulsing, dark synth,” Torrado adds. “As things escalate, our main character becomes a killer… I marked the action with loud percussive synth hits, which ended up being extremely effective.”

Torrado’s keen understanding of the narrative story and his ability to create rhythms and melodies that drew the audience into the unfolding story were key to the overall success of “Dream Boy or the Pursuit of Being.” 

“I think the music has a huge responsibility in film and to me it is fascinating the fact that we are creating worlds and landscapes with music,” says Torrado. “I have always loved music and film, so being able to write music for film is undoubtedly my dream job.”

 Over the years Torrado’s work as composer has helped lead countless films to be chosen as an Official Selection at some of the world’s most esteemed international festivals. Earning international acclaim for his work, Torrado was the composer behind the film “The Plague,” which received the Jury Prize at the First Look Film Festival, “Manmade Waters,” which earned the Best Conservation Film Award at the Catalina Film Festival and “Margaux in America,” which took home the Award of Excellence for Female Filmmakers at the Best Shorts Competition.  

Not only has Torrado’s musical journey taken him into the lives of intriguing characters and fascinating cinematic stories, but it has taken him across the world, literally.

In 2011 Torrado’s love for music led him to move to the US to study at the world renowned Berklee College of Music, which was ranked No. 3 on the 2019 Forbes list of top schools in the U.S and is responsible for producing notable Hollywood alumni such as John Mayer, Quincy Jones, Charlie Puth and many more who have achieved commercial success in the entertainment industry.  

Torrado says, “I always felt profound admiration for classical and film composers, and so once I got accepted into Berklee, I felt very encouraged and decided to pursue a career as a composer.” 

Berklee served as a pivotal stepping stone in his path to becoming the powerful composer that he is today. Shortly after graduating he relocated to Los Angeles where he co-founded his own film and music production company, Waking Whale, alongside his brother, film producer and director Federico Torrado Tobón. While Torrado is a proven master when it comes to composing scores for film, he also has a powerful gift for creating the perfect tune to fit advertising projects, which need to catch the audience’s attention quickly. 

Through Waking Whale, which specializes in writing and producing original music for advertisements, Torrado has composed music for reputable brands including Mountain Dew, the NBA, Coca-Cola, Spectrum and more. 

In 2018 Torrado was tapped as the composer for Spectrum’s FIFA World Cup commercial, which screened across the U.S. for several months during the World Cup and featured an upbeat composition that drove home the excitement of the international competition.

“Gabriel’s music was energetic and celebratory, the perfect composition for a World Cup commercial,” explains Carlos Correa, who produced the commercial. “If the music doesn’t capture the audience they might change the channel and that’s something we cannot risk, so it is imperative that we use effective music, and Gabriel can do that at the highest level.”

Further adding to his success, Torrado’s skill at composing for Spectrum led the brand to rehire him as the composer for three more of their commercials. In addition to composing for film, television and major advertisements, Torrado uses his talent to craft orchestral compositions, which he says, “are the purest expression of my art.” 

One orchestral composition that he’s been busy creating is his newest passion project “Serenade for Strings,” which has earned him a place in the internationally recognized Jóvenes Interpretes competition in Colombia. 

Torrado shares “The inspiration for this piece came from a yearning to write concert music as well as music for media. I have always admired classical and concert composers so I also wanted to create music for the sake of music.” 

Torrado’s knowledge and experience married with inexhaustible passion and drive have cemented him as one of today’s most prominent music composers. Whether it’s a catchy advertisement jingle or a nail-biting thriller, Torrado fuses emotion into every piece of music he creates, which has helped pave the road to success for every project he’s worked on.

Q&A with Multi-Award Winning Motion Graphics Designer Emanuele Marani

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Italian Motion Graphics Designer Emanuele Marani

The work of a motion graphics designer is arguably one of the more challenging creative professions to define in terms of what’s required due to the multitude of skills it calls for from one project to another. Depending on the project a motion graphics designer could be exercising their skill as a designer, animator and storyboard artist one day and an editor, illustrator and 3D artist the next. It is through the modern art of motion graphics that images, text, graphics and sound take shape to tell a story through moving images. ⁣

The combination of colors, text, styles, images and whatever else the artist wants to include are virtually endless, and that’s what Italian motion graphics designer Emanuele Marani loves most. Some of his most recent work includes the new Facebook Faceversary animation videos that debuted in February, the opening logo motion graphic for New Republic Pictures founded by Academy Award-nominated producer Brian Oliver, the opening title for “The Morning Show” and more.⁣


As a motion graphics designer Marani has designed commercials, idents, advertisements and more for the likes of Baskin Robbins, Oreo, Target, Apple, Facebook, Uber, BMW, Apple TV, Adobe, Oculus, Instagram and countless others. Growing up in Italy, Emanuele Marani loved to draw, as well as shoot photos and tell stories through film; yet, he found each of the mediums to be too limiting on their own.⁣

“I felt really limited by having a still frame or a drawing as a form of my expression, this was a huge problem for me- I wanted to see what I had in my mind taking life. I was looking for something that was able to mix my passion for storytelling, drawing, photography and film.”⁣


Upon discovering the world of motion graphics Marani fell head over heels in love– finally, a medium where all of his interests could intersect to create whatever he imagined. As a man with a seemingly endless well of creativity, Marani has not only managed to stay ahead of the curve in the ever-evolving industry, but he’s also established himself as an innovative force.⁣

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GIF Created for Baskin Robbins by Emanuel Marani

 

Last month Marani earned a Bronze Award from the 99th annual ADC Awards for the opening title he designed for “The Morning Show,” which airs on Apple TV+ and stars household names Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell. Earlier on his career Marani was also recognized with numerous awards, including the PromaxBDA Silver and Bronze Awards, and the Silver and Bronze World Medals from New York Festivals for his work as a designer on the 2013 Italian promotional campaign for season eight of the hit series “Criminal Minds.”⁣

Over the years Marani has worked as a motion graphics designer for numerous TV networks such as Fox Channel Italy, MTV Germany, MTV Italy and Italy’s leading TV network RAI, as well as legendary studios including Elastic TV, Psyop LA, Buck LA , Man vs Machine LA, We Are Royale, Hello Scholar and more.⁣

Needless to say, Emanuele Marani is among the industry’s best and most experienced artists to shed a little light on the field of motion graphics. In our interview he fills us in on what goes into the job, some of the keys to success and above all, the importance of remaining authentic and staying true to yourself with your work. ⁣


So, what led you to motion graphics– how did you first discover the field?⁣

EM: When I was in high school I used to borrow my dad’s old reflex and camera to shoot photos and videos, and create short movies with friends. I felt a strong passion for drawing, but I felt really limited by having a still frame or a drawing as a form of my expression, this was a huge problem for me- I wanted to see what I had in my mind taking life. I was looking for something that was able to mix my passion for storytelling, drawing, photography and film.⁣

While researching film schools in Rome, I discovered an institute of design that was doing an exhibition with projects from recent graduates. It was in that moment that I discovered motion graphics, I instantly fell in love. Through motion graphics I found a way to mix all the different techniques that I’d always loved and create what I’d envisioned in my mind without any limits.⁣

For those who don’t know, can you tell us what a motion graphics designer does?⁣

EM: I can really only say what a motion graphic designer is for me from my perspective. The motion graphics designer has to know how to handle all the different techniques that will help develop the story. ⁣

So for me, it’s not a 3D artist, it’s not an illustrator, and it’s not an animator, but someone who does a bit of everything. But most of all, besides the technique, they have to know how to tell a story, and make that story interesting, to catch the attention of the viewer using the right design and language depending on what the story and the concept is about. They also have to know how to tell a story with the right timing and point of view. So basically for me a motion designer is both a designer and a director who has the power to create an interesting visual story.⁣

What is it about motion graphics design that you love?⁣

EM: That’s simple. The freedom that it gives you in terms of storytelling. There’s always the potential to find a way to tell the story you have in mind using different techniques, the only limit of motion graphics is your mind.⁣

Where do you get your inspiration from and how do you maintain your creative edge? ⁣

EM: This is a hard question. It’s hard to predict what can inspire me. I can talk about real inspiration, but that can be different from the creative process you have to deal with when you work on a project with a deadline.⁣

Creativity is something that’s born from your mind and your thoughts, so I can get inspiration from different things. Sometimes it can be music and the environment we are surrounded by, and other times it can be a person you’re talking with, a place you’re visiting, some specific image, painting or sculpture that gets your attention. Anything that makes my mind vibrate. The most important thing is to find a way to travel with your mind and your thoughts and let the inspiration come to you. Honestly, the times when I force myself to get inspired are the times I never find the inspiration. I think there are no rules about getting inspired, everyone has his one way. Creativity is about your individual mind, it’s about getting your thoughts to move freely… if your mind is not free I’m not sure you can be creative.⁣


Can you tell us what you feel is needed to be successful in the industry, how does someone set themselves apart?⁣

EM: When I started the industry was not as competitive, but over the years it’s become really hard to be successful and unique in this industry. I see a lot of really good designers, but also a lot of the same stuff.⁣ I think that more than anything the most important thing is to be yourself and follow what you really love. The saddest thing you can do is copy someone else, just because you see that kind of stuff is working doesn’t mean that you need to follow the same rules.⁣

It is rare to find someone with an original point of view and something interesting to represent. You can put a lot of creativity into a single frame, but this only comes if you follow yourself and what you really love, otherwise you’ll just be a boring copy of something else.⁣

The tool that can help you to be successful is yourself, not the techniques, but your creativity and your ideas. With all of the social networks and the way things are now, especially with instagram, so many people are interested and getting likes and followers so they just start to create things following the current hype, making what everyone else is making because that is the trend. I think that we need to take the time to stop and experiment by ourselves, to make mistakes and learn from them, and to step by step understand our unique characteristics that can make each of us unique, interesting and successful as individuals.⁣

What are some of the changes and advances the motion graphics industry has seen in recent years, how is the modern industry different than say, 10 years ago?⁣

EM: Yes sure. The industry has changed a lot. The technologies and the software right now are more accessible and easy to learn with a lot of tutorials online, and there’s huge power with the current software allowing you to develop something really professional from your home. You need to know a lot of technologies and techniques to stay competitive. The evolution has led the market to run faster and faster, and make the competition more intense, but it’s also given birth to a lot more studios and companies, which has two sides. On one side it is pretty positive since those who have talent are able to express themselves easily, and they have more opportunities to get noticed and start a career in this field. There are more work opportunities and the chance to prove yourself. On the negative side, or as I see it, is the risk of losing the creativity and originality in order to run and follow the rhythms of the market. There’s the risk of becoming just a machine that produces a product because there is less time to work on personal projects, to experiment and do what you need to in order to keep the creativity high.⁣

How do you stay up to date on the advances in the industry?⁣

EM: I think that really depends on what kind of jobs and projects you are looking to work on and your approach to the industry. In terms of the techniques and software, it’s starting to get harder year by year since there is alway a new release from the software house and the plug ins etc., so you just need to keep learning and understanding what’s going to be useful for you and what’s not, in order to stay competitive but also to use your time wisely and stay focused in the right direction. ⁣

You also need to stay updated about the design languages that are used in the present market. It’s not hard nowadays to stay updated on all of this. You can follow what the studios are releasing thanks to the online platforms, and some studios are more famous than others for experimenting and bringing something new that will automatically become the new trend. This is the fastest way to keep yourself up to date. But again, I’ll say that you should always continue to experiment by yourself in order to keep your mind fresh because if you lose your creativity, you’re going to lose your passion and your motivation.⁣


Can you tell us about one of your early jobs as a designer for Fox Italy? Why was this an important stepping stone for you and what were you doing for them?⁣

EM: I started working for Fox a few months after graduating from the European Institute of Design. At that time it was a huge company in Rome full of talented and creative people, and it was an innovative and professional environment to grow in as a designer. ⁣

I was working as motion designer for different Fox channels, creating graphic packages for their TV shows, but also short idents that gave me the chance to express myself and my creativity. The environment was amazing since the art directors let the designers freely present their ideas for the production of the graphics, and that was really important for me .⁣

I was working with people with years of experiences so I was able to learn a lot and grow quickly, and the professional level was really high since I was working for national television, which taught me how to create and present a high level product. Fox helped me refine and improve on what I’d learned at the institute of design. I was working within a small team of motion designers and art directors, and because the team was small each one of us had the opportunity to contribute from the initial phases of a creative brief. We used to share ideas and concepts, and we had the freedom to develop and experiment both by ourselves and under the supervision of our art directors, which allowed me to express myself at 100% and push myself over the limit every time a new brief came along.⁣


Can you tell us a little bit about the projects you worked on at Fox?⁣

EM: I worked on a lot of projects over the course of my four years with Fox, from little graphic packages for their TV shows to complex idents and huge campaigns. My role was to create all the graphic packages that went on air with a tv show, which include elements called bumpers, end pages, elevators, and idents. All of those elements have to represent the mood of the show, so I used to take a look at a few episodes in advance, come to an understanding of what kind of graphic and animation style was most suitable for the show, and then design and animate those elements. ⁣

A project that represents my work best was the graphic pack I created for “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” a TV show that was produced by Marvel for FOX . This graphic pack included a really cool ident I developed entirely by myself starting from the idea all the way to the final stages. That project was from 2014, but I’m still really proud about it and I can still consider that ident to be fresh and modern. ⁣


What do you hope to achieve in your career?⁣

EM: I’d love to keep doing what I do with passion and love, to be able to create new art and new projects that I can devote my creativity to– my main goal is to keep being creative and to have fun with my work. I think if you can do what you love you’ll achieve whatever you want. It can be from a position within a company or on your own, but always trying to do it with passion and fun.⁣

What advice would you give to those who aspire to do what you do?⁣

EM: Do it for fun, for passion and for your own satisfaction, and most of all, don’t take yourself too seriously, we are not saving lives here, we are artists.⁣

Renowned Events Coordinator Nathalie Woog Leads the Way in Events Planning

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International Events Coordinator Nathalie Woog

“There are some people who live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality; and then there are those who turn one into the other.”  -Douglas H. Everett

There are extraordinary party planners who create events that draw crowds in the hundreds through a combination of great music, enticing venues and eye-catching acts; and then there are corporate event organizers. While each needs to draw a crowd and make sure guests have one hell of a time, the latter of the two needs to deliver on a much larger scale. Providing an unforgettable experience to thousands of people compared to a mere hundred is an arguably more challenging feat, but it is one that Parisian corporate events organizer Nathalie Woog excels at at a global level.

Nathalie Woog founded Paradise Events in 2015, and has organized roughly 20 events in Florida, for high-profile clients and companies in the fields of advertising, design, finance, and insurance, as well as a host of other prestigious organizations.  In recognition of her achievements and standing as a business leader in her field, Nathalie Woog was recently selected to join the Forbes Business Council. An invitation-only organization, the Forbes Business Council is a high-profile professional community that brings together the most successful entrepreneurs and business leaders in the world. In order to be considered for acceptance, one has to be a proven owner, founder, or executive leader of a business who has generated at least $500,000 USD in annual revenue or funding.

Though Woog has clearly reached an astounding level of success in her field, with her acceptance into the Forbes Business Council being a mere one of the several accolades that reveal her shining reputation, creating innovative and unforgettable events is more than just a job for her, it is an art form and a challenge that never gets old.

I take this quest to organize innovative events more as a challenge, as a challenge to be taken up every time. There is never a rest, because when an event is held, you have to think about the next one, which must be even more innovative,” explains Nathalie Woog. 

“I need to be amazed at every event. If I am not, then the event is not innovative.  So I keep my eyes open all the time, I’m interested in everything that’s going on around me and I try to imagine possible combinations, with all the suppliers I come across, in each place I walk through, to find the unique concept that will hit the bull’s eye.”

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(Right to Left) Donel Jack’sman, Fary, Michael Guez, Nathalie Woog, and Kyan Khojandi at an event featuring famous artists at Cirque Phenix Paris (Photo by Libre Comme L’Art Agency Paris)

Nathalie Woog launched her career as a leading events director for the French multinational technology consulting and engineering company Alten in 1996. There, she spent nearly two decades knocking people’s socks off with the large scale events she created for the company, which employs over 25,000 people and has offices in 25 countries. 

When it comes to throwing large scale corporate events, the planner behind the scenes takes into account everything from the range of clientele the event is targeting to the personality of the brand and how to creatively meet the desires of both. But Nathalie Woog does more than just meet their desires, she brings a special kind of wow factor to every event that she creates. Doing more than just drawing in attendees, Nathalie Woog makes audiences feel like her events are something they cannot miss and ensures that they’re remembered long after they’ve passed.

“I always ask myself how to get as many participants as possible to join and participate in a particular event. How can I obtain general satisfaction on each of my events?,” explains Nathalie Woog. “I usually draw inspiration from my environment. I’ve always loved the world of shows and dance in all its forms. The performance of the athletes and especially the innovation, precisely in the shows and their staging … I have this ability to marvel every time I see a show, as children do, and I think that you have to look at your whole environment with children’s eyes to always keep this state of wonder.”

Initially, Nathalie Woog began as the corporate events director for an Alten subsidiary, but before long she was managing the events for 12 separate Alten subsidiaries, a role that led her to create events around the globe. Her talent for bringing together top-tier talents to recreate iconic spaces and deliver mesmerizing events placed her in a tier of her own. 

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Nathalie Woog front and center at an event she organized at the Paris Air Show Bourget

Over the years, Nathalie Woog has created, managed and overseen events at some of the world’s most prestigious venues, such as the Grand Palais in Paris in France, where her event garnered more than 5,000 attendees, as well as at The Zenith de Paris, The International Paris Air Show Bourget, The Eiffel Tower, The Opéra Garnier, The Palais de Tokyo, The Louvre, The Musée d’Orsay, The Coupole du Printemps Haussmann, The Cirque d’Hiver, The Château de Versailles, Chantilly, Cirque Phenix, The Fouquet’s, Chez Maxim’s, L’Atelier des Chefs, The Musée National des Invalides, and more.

“Since I was a child, I have always been attracted to going out, discovering new places, finding original activities to do, discovering friendly and festive places and above all, meeting many people and socializing,” admits Nathalie Woog. “I’m always in search of exceptional places to organize events, conventions, seminars, evenings, conferences, fairs, and incentive travel.”

In addition to having an expansive contact list that includes many of the most well-known venues across the globe, Nathalie Woog has an eye for talent, and she’s inexhaustibly on the lookout for the next big act to include in her events. Over the years, she’s managed to recruit internationally in-demand acts for her events, such as Gad Elmaleh, Bérengère Krief, Jérome Daran, Dany Boon, French actor Donel Jack’sman, Verino, Eric et Ramzy, Fary, Michael Guez, Jean Marc Dumontet Productions, Jerome Sordillon and Michael Levinas, and more.

“The choice of location remains a must for me. Choosing prestigious, mythical or inaccessible places to open to the public is my motto. One of my private events held at the Grand Palais de Paris in 2008, for 5000 people, was just incredible because it was very difficult to imagine such a grandiose place transformed for one evening into a private reception and scripted for 5000 people,” explains Nathalie Woog. “The adrenaline you feel every time you start an event is something exhilarating. And of course, the thanks of the participants at the end of each event is always very rewarding.”

For Nathalie Woog, who has established a shining reputation as a leading corporate events organizer over the past two decades, throwing unforgettable events is what makes her heart sing. Hailing from Paris and born into a family of artists, Nathalie Woog discovered early on what connotes creative appeal and it shows in her work. Something unique about her story is the fact that in her early 20s she was diagnosed with incurable Leukaemia, and though none of her doctors thought she would survive, she proved her fighting nature. 

“It was then in shock, and with courage, that I decided to fight with strength and conviction, having only one objective in mind–surviving and living to achieve great projects,” recalls Nathalie Woog. “To the general surprise of the medical profession, I won my one year battle for life, and decided to use this experience where I came close to death, as a personal force, to lead in my wake, all the people who would now be with me, in order to disperse the joy of living.”

After beating Leukemia, Nathalie Woog dedicated her life to following her passion, which centers around brightening the lives of those around her, something she’s managed to achieve through her work in the events sector. Through her work as an events specialist creating large-scale international events for huge international companies, Nathalie Woog’s innovative approach and continued success has led her to establish a shining reputation over the past 15 years. With a reputation that precedes her, her role has extended beyond creating events to the point where other leaders in the industry turn to her as a consultant for advice when organizing their own events.

While working with Alten, Nathalie Woog has regularly been invited as a judge for various opportunities for the organization where she was part of the jury in charge of selecting the best events and event service providers. She was also the lead reference for the company when it came to establishing specialized guidelines for organizing the company’s events, which were disseminated throughout the organization’s team of communication professionals and ushered her into a speaking role at conferences where she has shared her knowledge of the industry with others.

Nathalie Woog adds, “I also had the privilege of presenting at conferences in universities throughout France, exposing the best practices in the field of event communication.”

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Nicolas Laugero Lasserre, Nathalie Woog, and ZDEY at the Art Basel Icart Event in Miami at Sagamore Hotel Miami Beach

In 2015, Nathalie Woog started her own event company, Paradise Events, in Miami. Through Paradise Events, she has spearheaded numerous events, including those for EFAP ICART at Art Basel. In 2018, she facilitated the meeting of 10 world renowned artists during Art Basel Miami, where each of the artists painted live during the event in front of an audience of professionals in the artistic sector.

Nathalie Woog says, “During my 15 years of experience prior to founding Paradise Events, I was able to see all possible situations in terms of requests, customers, suppliers, management, and unforeseen events.  You have to have a strong heart to face all these elements. You have to know how to manage stress, both your own and that of the people you work with, customers or suppliers.”

Based on her professional integrity and the significant impact she’s had in the field of events organization and management, Nathalie Woog was recently elected as the Vice President of Events for the 2020 Board of Directors for SITE, the Society for Incentive Travel, for the Florida and Caribbean Chapter. Founded in 1973, SITE is a professional association of 2,000 senior level members located in 90 countries, working in corporations, agencies, airlines, cruise companies and across the entire destination supply chain. With 29 chapters around the world, SITE is the only global organization dedicated to strengthening and supporting the incentive travel industry, and as such, the organization has gone to great lengths to fund research and establish guidelines on sustainable travel.

As the new Vice President of Events for the Florida and Caribbean Chapter, Woog’s role as a chapter leader places her in charge of promoting all of the events for her chapter and ensuring that they are educational, while also maintaining the ethical standards of what constitutes sustainable travel in today’s market.

“Being part of this association is a privilege because it gives me the opportunity to communicate with more than 2,000 personalities from the world of travel and events,” says Nathalie Woog. “I can bring all my knowledge in travel and events, all my expertise, give advice, and participate in many networking events, and organize interesting big events.” 

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Site Florida & Caribbean Sustainable Meeting Event at the 1 Hotel Miami South Beach (Photo by Christie’s Photographic Solutions)

While there are countless event organizers across the globe, there remain few that have made it to the point of creating events on the scale that Nathalie Woog has, so it’s no surprise that SITE chose her as the new Vice President of Events for their Florida & Caribbean Chapter.

At the end of the day, Nathalie Woog says, “My overall creative philosophy is to always have your eyes open, to be generous with others, to know how to give a person a chance, to let yourself be won over by emotions and to have the desire to pass them on to others, and finally, to have this constant desire to share, because happiness is above all to read it on the faces of others. That’s what matters most to me in the world.”

 

 

Transforming the Food, Beverage and Nightlife Industry: the Journey of Villa Azur Owner Jean Philippe Bernard 

Aristotle famously wrote, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not a single act, but a habit.” For French restaurateur and nightlife impresario Jean-Philippe Bernard, co-owner of Azur Hospitality Group, excellence is a cornerstone of his life’s work, which in a nutshell, consists of creating unforgettable experiences for guests across the globe.

Jean Philippe & Paul Young
Jean-Philippe and Paul Young

As one of the first people in the industry to meld an atmosphere of fine dining and nightlife into a single locale nearly 30 years ago, Bernard has had a massive impact on the food and beverage industry; and he’s continued his legacy with Villa Azur. Bernard began Villa Azur Miami, Azur Hospitality Group’s first restaurant, back in 2012 alongside partners Michael Martinez and famous actor Olivier Martinez, who many will recognize as Halle Berry’s boyfriend. 

A destination for fine food, great music and a rare ambience that transports restaurant goers into a world of flawlessly fresh Mediterranean magic the second they step foot inside the door, Villa Azur quickly became one of the posh beach city’s hot spots, attracting the likes of Paris Hilton, Robin Thicke, Leonardo Di Caprio, Ronaldo, Gael Monfils, Gabriella Sabatini, Florent Pagny, Johnny Halliday, Eric Cohet, Enrique Iglesias, Gerard Butler, Adriana Lima, Donatella Versace, David Guetta, Bob Sinclar, Gerard Depardieu, amongst others. 

Bernard has constructed Villa Azur in a way that places it in a league of its own; however, long before opening Villa Azur he was already one of the biggest influencers in the nightlife and food world. His hospitality concepts with Villa Azur, Nikki Beach, and Le Patio, to name only a few, have had a lasting impact on the development of new trends and international hotspots.

“If you want success for a business like this in hospitality, spectacular food is a priority, and then the decoration, so you’re coming into a space and you have beautiful decorations, and finally, you have to have great service,” explains Bernard. 

“When you have this combination you create the right atmosphere. Then you bring in the music, and you can catch people, they feel comfortable, you can see them moving with the music, they really feel free to dance on tables and enjoy themselves.”

Villa Azur
Inside Villa Azur Miami

Bernard has a unique affinity for creating a comfortable, yet luxurious atmosphere, which shows through his work with the famous Nikki Beach Group, where he was a part of the leadership responsible  for opening and developing Nikki Beach St. Tropez, St. Barth and Miami, as well as opening the popular Corsican restaurant lounge Le Patio and more. 

Now, three decades into his career, it would be difficult to find a posh restaurant owner, impresario or foodie who doesn’t know his name. From creating the ambiance of the places he’s managed and owned through the decor and lighting to the cocktails and cuisine, to the party themes and music, and putting in place the perfect team, Bernard creates the kinds of experiences that guests will never forget.

“Jean-Philippe is a 360 degree person, he knows about the hospitality on both sides from a customer experience point of view, as well as on the operation side of things,” says Celia Serra, the director of operations for the world famous Nikki Beach Group. 

“Being so knowledgeable in so many different areas gives him a full overview of any hospitality venue… Normally in our business people are only good on one side of the business, not on both.”

Bernard began carving out his reputation as a nightlife impresario back in 1989 when, at the age of 19, he was asked to help open the Le Passport nightclub in France.

“A friend of mine was buying a nightclub and he asked me to help him. I’d never worked in a nightclub but he knew I was really conscious of everything I did,” Bernard explains. When I start something I do it correctly or I don’t do it. I very quickly understood how the nightlife worked and knew it was an area I wanted to get involved in.”

On top of creating the menu and cocktails and booking the DJs that appealed to the clientele, Bernard created  the ordering system, service bar, and the additional front and back of the house positions that turned Le Passport into a buzzing nightclub. It wasn’t long before his reputation expanded beyond Marseille. 

He explains, “After that people started to know about me because the nightclub was doing super well… and then I was asked to start running another nightclub and then a restaurant…”

It wasn’t long before the general director of Nikki Beach Group, asked Bernard to join them as the General Manager of Nikki Beach St. Tropez, opening this beach club and eventually Nikki Beach St. Barth. 

With destinations around the world, Nikki Beach is known for its opulent atmosphere and is often referred to as the first luxury beach club concept to combine elements of  music, dining, entertainment, fashion, film and art all in one

With Bernard as the GM, Nikki Beach St. Tropez was hosting 1200 to 1500 guests per day, making it the most popular beach club around. Famous celebrities like Puff Daddy, Beyonce, Brad Pitt, Mike Tyson, Sting, Mick Jagger, Michael Schumacher and other international jet-setters were in frequent attendance.

He recalls, “It was the place to be and it was the place to be seen.”

Bernard attributes much of Nikki Beach’s success to the fact that for literally the first time in the industry, the venue offered both a comfortable and luxurious atmosphere combined with fabulous entertainment and incredible food. 

“The decoration was Bali, Indonesia inspired, the chairs, cabanas and sun beds with the white and blue, beautiful drapes, but what made us the best was the food. Because it was a beach club where people were coming to party, but they wanted to eat and they wanted to eat well,” explains Bernard. 

“Our chef was spectacular and I was really aware of the dishes, just because you are on the beach, it doesn’t mean you are going to eat sandwiches.”

As the GM, Bernard was in charge of nearly everything about the beach club. He decided the menu and cocktail list, created theme-based parties for his guests, and developed new experiences for his ever-growing high-class clientele. Above all though, he was there to ensure that they turned a strong profit, handling the business side of things and constructing a passionate team to making sure Nikki Beach remained the best in its class. He also managed the Nikki Beach pop-ups at prestigious film festivals around the world, including those at the Cannes Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival and Venice Film Festival.

Being a lover of new challenges, Bernard joined a friend and opened Le Patio in Porto-Vecchio on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica. Le Patio soon proved to be another major accomplishment under his belt.

He recalls,  “It was 2004 and I was the first one to bring a live DJ to that part of town in Porto-Vecchio.”

When he began Le Patio it was a simple bar, but Bernard quickly turned it into a happening spot that attracted numerous French celebrities. Using his eye for decor, Bernard transformed the look of Le Patio by adding a chic lounge atmosphere, resplendent lighting and an enticing cocktails and tapas menu designed for people to enjoy their evening before hitting the nightclubs.  

Now 16 years later, Le Patio remains a go to spot for Corsicans and travelers from abroad who want to settle into a comfortable space surrounded by traditional Corsican architecture with a modern feel, delicious cocktails, food and great music.

It seems that above all, Bernard has a keen eye for trends and creating a captivating atmosphere that people want. After Le Patio, Bernard returned to Nikki Beach, where he would spend the next nine years as General Manager for Nikki Beach St. Tropez, St. Barth and finally Nikki Beach Miami.

In 2011, Bernard left his position with the group in order to devote his full attention to opening Villa Azur, and what he’s created since is nothing short of amazing. 

Bernard fused an upscale dining atmosphere and a “nightclub” together, something that was unheard of before he began his work as a restaurateur and nightlife impresario back in the 90s. 

Villa Azur offers the finest cuisine and a luxury lounge atmosphere, then transitions effortlessly at night into a go-to spot for live music and dancing.

There’s no doubt that Bernard knows exactly how to turn any space into the ‘it’ place to be, and that’s exactly what he’s done with Villa Azur. Shortly after opening, Villa Azur Miami was ranked by Haute Living as one of the Top 5 Most Romantic Restaurants in Miami 2013.

Villa A 2
Villa Azur Miami

Bernard says, “There’s one very important thing when you do this job and that is that ‘No’ doesn’t exist. You are here to make people happy, you want them to leave with a smile and already start thinking ‘when am I coming back.’ We have to do our best to make whatever they want possible, and 99 percent of the time we are able to deliver on their request.”

Bernard ensured Villa Azur made its way into the public eye in a big way through his creation of numerous pop-ups around the world, including those in Montréal, Toronto, New York City, Art Basel Miami, and more, all featuring a variation of their signature dishes and cocktails amidst an unforgettable party. 

Over the course of his 30 year career, Jean-Philippe Bernard’s passion, innovation and inexhaustible attention to detail in terms of developing a mouth watering cuisine and a luxurious atmosphere backed by the kind of entertainment that draws guests from around the world have made him one of the most prominent restaurateur and impresarios on the planet; and he shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. Before his arrival on the scene back in the 90s, the concept of a festive restaurant where people could simultaneously enjoy the nightlife and fine food didn’t exist; but thanks to Bernard, it has become the staple of what constitutes an unforgettable night on the town.