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From Behind the Scenes MUA Flavia Vieira Makes Actors Glow On Screen

Diego Fontecilla; Liliana de Castro; Dylan Rourke; Jo Pratta; Paulo Nigro; Flavia Vieira. I don_t know Josh_s last nameFestival LABRFF2017 red carpet
Flavia Vieira (second to far right) and the cast and crew from “Lady Labyrinth” at LABRFF

While it’s the actor job to ‘become’ their character and bring their stories, personality and all of the mannerisms and idiosyncrasies that make them unique to the screen, it’s those behind the scenes, like makeup artist Flavia Vieira, that come together to transform the actor to look like the character in the script. In film and television believability is everything, something Vieira knows all about.

For Vieira, each actor is a canvas waiting to be transformed into someone else, someone we can watch on screen and effortlessly believe that they’re the real thing in a way that helps us get lost in their story.

Most filmmakers that have worked with Vieira call the Brazilian native back to their set for future productions due to her precision as a makeup artist and the diverse nature of her skill. Filmmaker Camila Rizzo first saw Vieira’s power as a makeup artist on the film “Oust,” which led her to tap Vieira to come on board as the makeup artist on her own films.

Rizzo explains, “‘Oust’ needed a lot of makeup work, and I saw how detailed Flavia was and I decided to invite her to work on my film ‘My Two O’Clock’.”

Flavia’s work on “My Two O’Clock” was key in making the film’s stars Nick Larice (“Je T’aime, Au Revoir”) and Henry Mark (“Grey’s Anatomy,” “Unusual Suspects”) look the part of their characters, and the film ultimately went on to win the Global Film Festival Award, the LA Shorts Awards’ Diamond Award, the Award of Recognition from The IndieFest Film Awards and was chosen as a Semi-Finalist from the Los Angeles Cinefest.

“Flavia was very effective on set and she did a great job making the right makeup,” says Rizzo, who then hired Flavia once again to come onboard as head of makeup on her newest film “Headway.”

Based on real characters, “Headway,” which wrapped production earlier this year and stars Hayden Currie (“The Mirror”) and Connor Chess (“TMI Hollywood,” “Heartbeat Away”), revolved around the converging stories of two very different characters- an autistic boy (Currie) and an MMA fighter (Chess) facing the end of his career.

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Flavia Vieira working on Connor Chess on “Headway”

“She overpassed my expectations. ‘Headway’ had difficult makeup because one of the main characters is a fighter who had just been knocked out. During the pre-production, Flavia and I had some meetings to discuss every detail of the fighter’s wounds and how she would work on the make up during the passing of 3 months time to keep the continuity,” explains Rizzo. “During one of the Headway private screenings a couple of people came to me to say how impressed they were on the continuity of the fighter’s wound and how real it was.”

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Connor Chess ready for camera in “Headway”

Second to none, Flavia’s skill in creating the kinds of special effects makeup that ranges from gory fight wounds to using prosthetics to completely transform an actor to look like an otherworldly creature, which she did for the sci-fi film “Bloody Eyes,” has brought the sought after makeup artist quite a bit of attention for her work.

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Poster for “Bloody Eyes”

Though the intense transformations she pulls off on set definitely highlight the strength of her craft when it comes to complex looks, the key for any successful makeup artist in the film industry is to understand, from the minor to the monumental, the aesthetic changes the actor needs to best fit the character in the script. And it’s that keen understanding that has made Flavia such a powerhouse behind the scenes.

“I always like to discuss the looks with directors and writers… Especially when I’m creating the looks of the characters. The writer invented the character. The director is bringing him to life on the screen. What I need is to understand the core of the character to be able to translate it into the look,” explains Flavia.

For the multi-award winning film “Becoming Lucy” directed by Luisa Novo, Flavia was tasked with doing ‘beauty makeup’ for the majority of the characters, however one character, Lucy, the lead played by Maitlyn Pezzo, required a drastic hair change, one that the overall story relied on. After Lucy’s father leaves her mother for a young blonde, and she discovers her teenage crush likes blondes as well, Lucy decides to dye her blonde in order to attract their attention, but the result is disastrous.

In order to transform Lucy’s look Flavia devoted extensive attention to finding the perfect wig, cutting it to look the actress’ real hair and color testing it until she reached the perfect ‘imperfect’ shade.

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Flavia Vieira working on actress Maitlyn Pezzo for “Becoming Lucy”

“[Flavia] was the head of makeup, hair and wardrobe… She was essential in getting the wig to look believable. Get the color and texture right, and adding the style to it that fitted each scene. Without that the story would have failed. She also did an excellent job in adding personality to each character,” explains director Luisa Novo. “Flavia doesn’t accept doing a bad job. She does whatever it is in her power to make each project the best it can be. Her makeup and hair skills are fantastic, and she treats the actor so well that they always want to work with her again.”

Key to the film’s success, Flavia’s skill and attention to detail for the characters in “Becoming Lucy” led her to receive impressive industry praise that included earning the Diamond Award for Best Makeup from the LA Shorts Awards and the Bronze Award for Best Makeup from the International Independent Awards in 2017.

Though she’s made a prominent name for herself as a movie makeup artist, Flavia Vieira is no stranger to leading the makeup departments on popular commercials and music videos. Earlier this year she was the head makeup artist on the Tropkillaz music video for ‘Milk & Honey’ featuring Aloe Blacc, which has nearly three million views on YouTube.

For the Tropkillaz music video, as well as the commercial she did for McDonald’s Brazil, which featured Tyler James Williams from the hit series “Everybody Hates Chris,” Flavia aired on the side of minimalism, using her artistry to highlight the natural features of those on screen.

Flavia says, “An actor, man or woman, wouldn’t feel comfortable in front of camera without makeup, or even without knowing a makeup expert took out the shininess out of their skin and took care of unwanted hair flyaways.”

As a makeup artist Flavia Vieira’s knowledge and seasoned skill behind the scenes keeps her working on set more than most. In addition to several upcoming films and television series, she says she is also excited to be a part this year’s 48 Hour Film Project, which takes place in August. With a production team of all women, Flavia says “We’re in it to win it!”

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Dancing with Everybody Watching: Audience Favourite Richard Rennie on His First Craft

Tinseltown News favourite Richard Rennie is back centre stage, this time to talk about his experience as a highly acclaimed international dancer.

Richard Rennie’s journey into the world of professional dance was one that started at four years of age.  Put in a ballet class by his parents, it was apparent that Richard was a star-to-be. “I remember my parents speaking about it – I was going crazy, I loved the classes so much.  And then I think I was actually quite good – I picked up the choreography well, I had great discipline, I loved to listen to the music and the teacher – I was apparently an exemplary pupil,”  Richard adds with a smile.

After completing his time at the amateur dance studio of Aberdeen, Scotland, where Richard Rennie grew up, it was clear that he was meant for something much greater in the world of dance.  “I was given the suggestion of auditioning for dance schools at the age of 15 and I knew it was where I wanted to put my focus,” explains the globe-trotting Scot.

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Richard Rennie: centre stage as the principal dancer for the world-famous Moulin Rouge

Richard then moved to Paris to study and pursue a career in professional dance.  Upon arrival, he became unstoppable in the dance world; a name that would come to be both known and revered by many in the highest elite circles of the notoriously competitive and niche community.

“I had an opportunity at age 18 to get a summer job at Disneyland Paris.  It was my first professional gig – a real dance job – and it was an amazing experience that I’ll cherish forever.  That really was the onset of my career,” Richard notes fondly of his time with the Disney Corporation.

From ages 18-21, Richard was found studying at the prestigious, Doreen Birds of London.  His studies there were ballet focused with the addition of musical theater, jazz and tap influences.  Graduating at the top of his class, Richard undoubtedly had the technique, presence, sharpness, musicality, and natural talent to become one of the highest regarded dancers in London.

“I mean in my career, I was still considered a kid.  I was just starting out but I had drive and an understanding of my talents.  My teachers and peers complimented me on my stage presence and my partner work all the time.  I knew I was ready to reach the highest level of my career – and my dance abilities were taking me there.”

After graduating, Richard’s career took off over night.  He landed a principal position in a dance production of Cinderella at The King’s Theater in Glasgow, Scotland.  He quickly went on to work with top professionals in his industry, dancing for renowned artist Florence and the Machine, Volkswagen’s Car Show, and modeling and dancing for the most elite line of dancewear in the world, Capezio DanceWear.

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Performing as a professional dancer has required Richard to develop skills that are equivalent to a top-level professional athlete. 

It was after much success that at the age of 25 Richard was offered a position at the well known Moulin Rouge.  A star within itself, established in 1889, the Moulin Rouge is the pinnacle place for dance in not only France but in all the world.  It was no wonder that Richard joined the team and rapidly rose to the top. As principal dancer for a tenure of 5 years with the company, Richard was deservingly compensated at 600 euros per night, the highest of salaries offered with the company.  Like all professional dancers with a rigorous show schedule of 6 nights a week, RIchard dealt with his bout of injuries throughout his time. However, his fortitude and dedication to his craft kept him steadily on the path to quick recoveries.

“Because of my intense ballet training, my dance technique has always been impeccable and that helps a lot (with injuries) – as long as you practice dance in a safe and controlled way, you shouldn’t get serious injuries – however with the intense nature of the Moulin Rouge: doing 2 shows a night, 6 days a week, for 5 years – it’s inevitable that you will get injuries here and there.  I was lucky though, when you get to a successful level of an established company like Moulin Rouge, and then even more so because of being a principal dancer – you are treated with the utmost care and concern – amazing physio, attention to injury and healing. I bounced back quick.”

It’s clear that it wasn’t just the extremely delicate treatment of the professionals at the Moulin Rouge that allowed Richard quick recoveries.  His training, adeptness, and skill set didn’t let him skip a beat.

Richard speaks of his time at the Moulin Rouge; “I think my fondest memory was probably my opening night (at the Moulin Rouge) because at that point I hadn’t worked in a company for a long time and hadn’t been on stage for a long time.  I’d worked on a lot of music videos and fashion shows, but not been on stage since 2008 and now it was 2011, and I remember the feeling at the beginning of the show – we’re all at the back waiting to start and the audience went wild and I remember that hitting me, being on stage again.  I mean, there is nothing better.”

He continued to live that rush of the stage life during his time in the professional tour of Chicago the Musical once he landed in the states.

If 5 years as a principal dancer wasn’t enough, Richard was found participating in the most elite showcases for modeling and dance offered in Paris – Schwarzkopf Hair Show, The Ou Café “Vivement Dimanche”, dancing for Lisa Angel and Arielle Dombasle, to name only a few.  

Out of all of that, what was the most challenging dance job?  “I think I’d have to say the Capezio Dance Fashion show – it was a tough, long, hard showcase of work – and representing a dance clothing brand, not any clothing brand, but the most renowned in the world, that was a big undertaking.”  Richard took the challenge on with grace and ease. “The choreographer, David Leighton,” the biggest name in London, “was known for very technical dancing with commercial and hip hop elements – big turns, difficult lifts – a dancer’s greatest challenge and greatest joy.  Truly a transformative experience in my career. I felt so blessed to be a part of something so colossal in the dance world.”

Capezio DanceWear can be seen worn by the most elite dancers around the world every day.  Richard, representing the line that in fact represents the entire dance community, was the greatest asset to the brand given his talent and skill that makes him the highest level of professional in his craft.

Australian star Emily Gruhl on working with a Sundance director, opposite Noomi Roopace and Luke Evans

While Emily Gruhl might be the first to concede that she’s had a few lucky breaks, a review of her recent work and history as an actor in her native Australia is a testament to her hard work and craft.

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Emily Gruhl on set for the acclaimed film “A Note to Self

The Queensland native recently joined the cast of “Angel of Mine,” directed by Sundance-director Kim Farrant, best-known for helming award-winning flick “Strangerland” with Oscar-winner Nicole Kidman and Hugo Weaving in 2015. Such is the excellent standing of Emily’s reputation in the entertainment industry, the project marks the third time the two have collaborated in a creative setting. Kim was also involved with the development of Emily’s character in Amazon Prime series “Picnic at Hanging Rock,” in which Emily stars opposite “Game of Thrones” and “Hunger Games” star Natalie Dormer.

“It’s an honour to work with Kim a third time and on such a prestigious project. Kim knows me and my acting exceptionally well after spending a lot of time as my acting coach so it was a huge compliment to myself and my acting that she cast me in her film as it showed me how highly she regards my talent and enjoys working with me.”

It’s not only Kim Farrant’s involvement in the project that has Emily and her fans excited – she’ll also be sharing the screen with BAFTA-nominated “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”  and “Prometheus” star Noomi Rapace. In the role of Courtney, Emily notably plays an antagonist. Emily explains the critical importance of her character’s arc. “There is a dramatic final scene between the two where Courtney is giving Lizzie her final pay check and Lizzie violently grabs Courtney’s wrist and berates her into submission. Without the critical character of Courtney the story would not have the convention to show the emotional fall and the gradual psychological demise of Lizzie’s character.”

Emily, who judged performances in Sydney for performers vying for places in the prestigious Queensland University of Technology Acting course, is also a highly-regarded member of MEAA. Even more impressively, she has recently appeared in leading roles for films “A Note to Self” and “And Though the Music Ended, We Danced on Through the Night.” Both films garnered praise for Emily’s gripping performances and an award nomination for Best Actress.

Produced by Initi8 Productions, “A Note to Self” male lead actor Alastair Osment – best known for his work on “Home and Away” and Oscar-winner Jane Campion’s show “Top of the Lake” – sung praises about his co-star.

“Emily is a profound actor with an unparalleled level of depth and emotion. I have worked with some of the world’s best and I can attest to her extraordinary ability.

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Emily Gruhl with “Home and Away” actor, Alastair Osment in a still “A Note to Self.”

In “A Note to Self,” Emily plays Natalie – a young woman concealing a dark secret from a new love interest over the course of one night. The film, similar in style to Richard Linklater’s “Before Sunrise” trilogy, also touches on alcoholism and grief and thus demanded a performer who could bring a social awareness and credibility that went beyond their youth. Emily, as described by Alastair, brought that in spades. He added, “Emily is also characterised by a strong craft refined over her many years at the top of her field in Australia.”

Producer of “And Though the Music Ended”, Aaron Bush, offered similar compliments for the actress who has clearly built a reputation for being an old soul.

“The role of Abigail was an incredibly challenging one – we explored topics of grief and mental illness in the short film and we needed an actor of the highest quality to pull of this incredibly complex role.”

It probably helped that Emily shared screen-time with veteran actors Tom E. Lewis (“Wolf Creek”) and AACTA-winner Debra Lawrance (Pivot’s “Please Like Me”). In doing so, and upon viewing the film, it’s clear that Emily was able to not only hold her own alongside such seasoned professionals, but also enhance the film’s compelling qualities because of the captivating ways in which she holds a frame.

“Emily was able to access these dark places within herself and also draw the audience in to empathise with her – [this] was absolutely vital to the success of the production,” said Aaron.

Indeed, audiences around the world enjoyed Emily’s lead performance in “And Though the Music Ended” because the project screened at numerous prestigious festivals, such as the Orlando Film Festival, the Rome Film Awards and the Porteurs d’Images in Mauritius.

It therefore makes sense that Aaron further stressed, “Emily’s depth and complexity as a young actress can only be paralleled to that of the world’s best.”

Adding to that, it’s clear that the role of Abigail was critical to the success of the project. Sources explain, “the whole story was centered around three very different characters that are each connected to their own grief though a different form of technology. For Joanne it’s her son’s phone, for Percy it’s his computer with the videos of his history and for Abigail it’s cyber hacking technology. Without Abigail [and Emily’s performance], the film would not have made any sense.”

Audiences should therefore look forward to her work in “Angel of Mine” when it has a wide International release in 2019. The film has already been to the European Film Market in Berlin to be pre-sold.

Don’t limit Emily to just playing roles in dramatic parts though. Her agent Simon Whipp from Shanahan Management – who boasts Oscar-winners Nicole Kidman and Geoffrey Rush as clients – attests to Emily’s range.

“As a performer Emily strives to push herself outside of her comfort zone, continually surpassing people’s expectations.”

“Emily has exceptional range as an actor. Her projects are of vastly different genres and styles, and her acting transcends across comedy, romance, drama and thriller.”

Award Winning Scottish Actor Richard Rennie on Acting

Performer Richard Rennie, equally well-known around the world for his appearances and performances as a multi-talented dancer, model, presenter and host, is this week’s feature – sitting down with us and sharing some of his exceptional skills as an actor.

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Richard Rennie has masterfully juggled careers as an actor, dancer and model. His insights about acting are especially unique.

“Over the years,” Richard clarifies, “I’ve become more comfortable identifying as an actor. I’ve been in the industry for so many years doing other types of performances, but I’ve grown into my acting career in the past decade and I’m at a point in my career where things have really taken off.”

The hallmark of Richard’s acting career was noted with his acceptance of multiple awards at The TOSCARS.  The TOSCARS have been held at the prestigious Egyptian Theater, known worldwide for the handprints of the stars, the same location where the likes of Meryl Streep and Denzel Washington have premiered and been honoured for their work. Richard was honoured for his hilarious turn in the achingly funny “Call Me By Your Maid,” in which he starred opposite Deirdre McCourt, well known herself for her turn in mockumentary comedy series “DECo,” opposite Korey McIsaac (from the Oscar-winning “The Social Network”).

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Richard Rennie won ‘Best Supporting Actor’ at the TOSCARS for his role as Oliver in “Call Me By Your Maid.”

Richard’s role as Oliver marked several highlights. The first was that it solidified him as a Funny or Die favorite, as the Scot had already appeared in the award-winning “Unverified” series also on the network. Richard’s “brilliant comic timing” (as reviewed by the trades) brings life to “Unverified” in a way that only his performance could. For this reason, Funny or Die clearly recruited Richard to appear in the popular series as a Scottish meditation and guitar teacher who is out to swindle anyone who employs his services. The aftermath of that series lead to numerous notices and positive reviews, heartily contributing to Funny or Die’s 32 million viewers and its positive financial prospects in 2017.

Second, “Call Me By Your Maid” further garnered the attention of Golden-Globe nominated actor Armie Hammer, as it parodied the Oscar-winning “Call Me By Your Name”, bringing Richard’s work to the attention of millions around the world. While the mainstream became familiar with Richard’s hilarious character particularities, the upper-crust elites at the Soho House were watching his turn in “@asst”, another comedy pilot co-starring Oscar-nominee Eric Roberts. “The Soho House is notoriously exclusive, so to screen there was quite the honor,” claims show creator Craig Robert Young.

The third highlight of Richard’s role was that it reinforced his commercial viability in the world of comedic films – something already known by many in the industry, but now common knowledge amongst movie-lovers globally. Adding to that bonus was that Richard’s salary rewarded his efforts handsomely. He explains, “it is very rare to get paid acting work, so when it finally happens, it’s really comforting to know that I’ve been generously compensated.” For example, Richard earned more than $105 per hour for his work on Bachelor Lions.

Indeed, Richard’s passion as an actor was already well-known in elite film-industry circles. His position at the upper-levels of the acting field is additionally signified with his membership at BAFTA, the British equivalent of the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences (the guys who hand out the Oscars). BAFTA’s membership is reserved for those only at the top of their profession in the UK, and so it’s clearly fitting that Richard attends the organizations events whenever he gets the chance to visit home.

“It’s a shame though, as I don’t often get the chance to return home since I’ve come to the US as I’ve been so busy with work.”

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Richard has been honoured with multiple awards for his acting.

Actress Jannike Grut Excels on Stage and Screen

Veteran actress Jannike Grut is one of Scandinavia’s most talented, recognizable players. Whether playing drama or comedy on stage, television or the big screen, the Stockholm-born Grut’s mixture of polish, nuance and emotional involvement creates compelling fully realized characterizations that draw the audience in. It’s an elevated level of skill that many of her colleagues only dream of, but Grut consistently manifests the full dramatic spectrum with dazzling ease.

Currently delighting European viewers with her recurring role on the popular TV comedy series Katsching!, Grut is at the peak of her formidable powers. Grut’s mastery of craft easily translates across international lines—the actress has already been cast in a couple of American features, setting the tone of for a break out phase in her already impressive career. It’s the latest upshift in her reliably steady professional progress, the rich fulfillment of an almost pre-ordained creative destiny.

“My father was a renowned theater and film critic in Sweden, so I saw a lot of movies and plays in my childhood and of course we talked about the art of acting and storytelling all along,” Grut said. “I really got into a good story. I loved a good book, pop songs that told stories in the lyrics, and I really loved to see great plays and movies. I was drawn to stories that told me about life with new angles, new perspectives on things I was unfamiliar with, stories that made me hopeful or challenged my beliefs—I loved that.”

“Growing up, one of my favorite films was “Dead Poets Society” with Robin Williams,” Grut said. “I saw it with a friend, and I was crying when we walked home. I knew I had to become an actress because I wanted make an impact on the world myself, to be a part of changing it for the better. It made me go after my dream and never give up.”

The path was clear and Grut did not hesitate for an instant. After completing high school Grut immediately enrolled in a one year theater course, followed by two years of film school, training in comedy and film acting, a course in script writing and study in London with the acclaimed dramatic coach Doreen Cannon.

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Photos by Oren Godlman

She was working right out of the gate also. At 19, while still in theatre school, Grut was doing standup comedy in clubs and on popular Swedish television showcase ”Släng Dig I Brunnen.” Initially concentrating on stage work, At 23, the ambitious Grut also she wrote and starred in a well-received musical comedy that earned lavish praise in Sweden’s leading newspapers—an auspicious achievement, indeed, but she was just getting started.

Grut quickly became a familiar, popular presence in Scandinavian film and television, and also directed and starred in the collaborative Danish-Swedish national network TV movie “Welcome to our 7-year Itch” (Välkomna Till Vår Sjuårskris). Over the next decade, Grut’s star continued to rise, and she was prominently featured in almost thirty top notch films and TV series, winning several awards both at home and abroad, including the 2017 Best Comedy Kristallen award, Sweden’s equivalent of the Emmy.
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The hit show Katsching! provides a role that’s an ideal vehicle for her deep comedic talent, and Grut is enjoying greater fame than ever. “The series is up and running right now on Swedish National Television, it’s gotten good reviews and the audience loves it,” Grut said. “I am really grateful to be part of the cast, and also fortunate enough to act together with Per Andersson—a brilliant actor and comedian.”

Grut and Andersson make a terrific combination: “Jannike is an incredibly skilled actress and comedienne and to see her working together with the great Per Andersson is really extremely fun,” series producer Niklas Larsson said. “The contrast between her and Pers’ character is terribly funny. It was a pleasure to have Jannike on set and I really hope to have the opportunity to work with her on projects in the future.”

Grut already has two feature films—Garden Lane (already generating buzz as a potential Guldbaggen (the Swedish Oscar) nominee and action comedy The Duck Pond— set for release in the coming months, is also working on the Scandinavian TV series, ‘Finding Your Way Home,’ with esteemed Swedish director Richard Jarnhed, and, as Grut says, “I’m also one of the three leads in a new Swedish TV series, a comedy with strong female leads, but I can’t talk about it yet.”

Grut’s flawless command of English ensures her ability to entertain a rapidly expanding audience, It won’t be long before American audiences get a taste of the Grut genius; she is co-writing the feature “We are Family”, featuring Scandinavian and American actors, with renowned American screenwriter Alvaro Rodriguez (‘Machete,’ ‘From Dusk to Dawn,’), who is also producing, an intriguing combination that’s certain to highlight her natural skill as a writer and actress. .

And there’s still more going on in the actresses’ fast-moving career. “Most exiting of it all I´ve been cast in several American productions,” Grut said. “I´m going to play comedy, dramedy and action, filming in New York and in Hollywood, so, hopefully I have a real adventure ahead of me.”

“I really look forward to working internationally and in America,” Grut said. “Right now, my goal is to keep on getting good roles in TV series, and also good parts in more films.”

“I can bring something special to any part, simply by being my authentic self. As an actress it’s absolutely crucial to be curious. Ask questions, look around in fascination. And always be generous—pay it forward. So, with authenticity, curiosity and generosity, you can’t fail.”

Producer Huanglizi Sun Strives for Excellence

When an audience views a motion picture they’re completely caught up in the onscreen action and story line, but there’s so much more going on behind the camera. Out of the small army of the production crew’s specialized artisans and craftsmen, there is one driving figure head—the producer—and Chinese film producer Huanglizi Sun excels in that capacity. Sun’s combination of enthusiasm, aesthetics, superb organizational skills and instinct for great storytelling qualify her as one of the brightest rising forces in international cinema.

Sun’s lifelong romance with visual storytelling made her career path almost inevitable, especially since she came of age with a major contributor to the form right in her own backward.

“I grew up in Changsha, also called ‘Star City’ which is the capital of Hunan province,” Sun said. ”Changsha is where China’s second-most-watched TV network, Hunan Television, is located and after graduating from Nanjing University of the Arts, I interned there, as assistant to the directors and producers of the 2012 Hunan TV New Year’s Concert and Spring Festival Gala.”

It was invaluable experience which led Sun to gain key insight on her professional destiny.

“After months of hard work, I realized that I wanted to become a film producer rather than a TV producer: Sun said. “Not only because I am interested in filmmaking but also always on the lookout for great stories to tell in a cinematic way. I decided to move to Hollywood where the movies are made and learn how to ‘tell’ a story as a filmmaker.”

It’s a particularly demanding role, one that encompasses virtually every aspect of a production. “A Film Producer is a person who oversees the production of a film, Sun said. “Film Producers plan and coordinate various aspects of film production, such as selecting script, coordinating writing, directing and editing, and arranging finance.”

Based in Southern California, Sun’s drive and  peerless instinct quickly distinguished her.

“I started my career as Associate Producer in Mobscene Creative Productions,” Sun said. “I coordinated multiple editors with different producing teams and acted as liaison with clients. Everything had to happen simultaneously, on a tight deadline, with a very little margin for error, since the broadcasting schedule is on the line. It honed my ability to prioritize tasks and manage a workflow, while also being adaptive and flexible in the process to the ever-changing schedules of all parties involved.”

At Mobscene, Sun quickly found success: “I produced a web-series ‘Talking to Hollywood with Betty Zhou’, which airs weekly on China Central Television Channel (CCTV) 6, Tencent and IQIYI and it quickly gained a large viewership.”

Moving on to a position with fast rising company Big Monster Productions, Sun quickly identified a unique property—the multiple award winning 2015 short, ‘Cara,’ and is currently in the process of transforming it into a full length feature

“It explores many themes and motifs that are both timely and timeless—society’s expectation of women, coming of age and the athletic soul,” Sun said. “The story focuses on a fifteen year old swimming athlete who dreams of success with the national swimming team. Two weeks prior to her most important competition, Cara learns she is pregnant. In her last attempt to reach the top, Cara needs to confront the biggest challenge of her life— a decision which could make it or break it for her.”

“In the context of a feature, those themes can be explored in more depth and detail.” Sun said. “Transitioning Cara from a short film into a feature is a decision rooted in the belief that it has the potential to succeed both critically and commercially, given that it tells a story people will truly care about.

Huanglizi Sun on the Cara set
Huanglizi Sun on the Cara set

This is where Sun’s holistic grasp on the filmmaking process really comes into play and is certain to provide the production tremendous advantage.

“Writing a short film is one thing, writing a feature can be an entirely different process, one that  presents an entirely different set of challenges,” Sun said. “The story will be significantly more complex than the original and may go through many drafts and revisions before we are satisfied. The next step is going into production and this will also prove to be a challenge—both logistically and financially. It will take meticulous planning, many supporters and a great team effort to truly bring this vision to life.”

Sun’s ability to identify, anticipate, and troubleshoot any unexpected complication or mishap is invaluable in itself, but her comprehensive vision also extends beyond film production and reaches into other key aspects of the business, branding and marketing.

“Ms.Sun is an essential member of our team,” Big Monster president Wentao Wang said. “Her expertise in producing different types of media, ranging from films, promos to branding content is paramount to Big Monster’s success. With an acutely honed ability to judge a project’s potential and the great taste to back it up, she ensures that Big Monster only brings in a roster of projects of the highest quality. From the timely story of “Cara” to pioneering the future of multi-channel network, Ms. Sun single-handedly paves the way for Big Monster to thrive for years to come.”

Having already proven herself both at home and in Hollywood, Sun is clearly a cinematic force to be reckoned with.

“I want to make successful, memorable films, focusing on small characters with big impact that definitely have the potential to take many by heart,” Sun said. As a producer, her mixture of ambition, pragmatism, artistry and understanding of what makes a story worthwhile all combine with ideal symmetry, and what really drives Sun is one simple fact: “Making films is my greatest pleasure.”

 

 

Jason Strong Opens Up about Producing Music in the Modern Age and his Original Composition ‘Loaded’ Being Featured in the Phenoms’ Premiere

Music Producer Jason Strong
Music Producer Jason Strong shot by Alex Winter

From being the songwriter on a long list of hit songs to producing tracks for well-known international artists, music producer Jason Strong has become a sought after force behind the scenes.

Tapped to work with artists on major labels such as Capitol Records, some of Strong’s most recognizable work includes producing the song ‘Que Los Mares No Se Enteren’ by Nico Farias, which earned the coveted award for Best Song of the Year from the 2015 Latin Billboard Music Awards and placed No. 1 on the Itunes Charts in Guatemala, and Capital Records’ artist Naïka’s hit single ‘Ride,’ which has been streamed nearly four million times on Spotify and placed No. 2 on the platform’s popular Global Viral & US Viral Chart. He’s also been a songwriter behind a plethora of tracks that have garnered viral fame, such as ‘Wrong’ by Far Out ft. Emilia Ali, Lauren Carnahan’s ‘Criminal,’ ‘No Conversion’ from Thoreau ft. MNYS, and many more.

So how did a 20-something from Johannesburg, South Africa make it in one of the world’s most competitive industries?

The powerful position Strong finds himself in today comes from a combination of the creativity, innovation and skill that he brings to the table, but even more valuable is his talent for producing and writing tracks that defy genre-imposed limits.

“I think the success of a producer in a day and age where technology drives such rapid changes in creative possibilities is determined by their ability to adapt,” says Strong. “My intention is to continually learn from different styles and take from different musical words to create a blend of elements that makes for something unique and interesting. I will however, always focus on making music that is accessible to the masses, i.e. popular music.”

Strong, who began playing music in his youth, earned extensive praise for his skill as a guitarist and songwriter back home in South Africa where he was named the winner of the VIEBZ Music Competition, as well as the First Prize winner for National Eisteddfod Academy in the Best Contemporary Instrumentalist category. Forming the band Vacant Sun, Strong found himself playing alongside South Africa’s most recognizable groups, including Crash Car Burn, DJ Roger Goode, Graeme Watkins Project and others. However, upon earning a scholarship as a songwriter and guitarist to attend Berklee School of Music in the states, his dream school, leaving the world of local fame behind was a no brainer. And it was there that he first discovered his love for working as a music producer for other artists.

“Sitting down with an unproduced song leaves an endless realm of possibilities. The idea that I could dig into that creation and make it into a million different versions to appeal to a million different types of people, all within the comfort of my bedroom was insane to me. I’ve also just always loved sound and having the tools at my fingertips to manipulate sound into the crazy things I imagine in my head, and having the ability to do that got me obsessed.”

Though the numerous songs he’s written and produced for popular artists around the world have gained major attention, the interesting thing when looking at all of his works combined is just how different each one is from the others.

Strong says,“I like to think my journey thus far is unique in that I come from a diverse musical background and have experienced and lived through different cultures with different interests and diverse forms of art, which all influence who I am today and what my taste is.”

‘Que Los Mares No Se Entheren,’ the award-winning song Strong produced alongside longtime collaborator Peder Etholm-Idsoee for Nico Farias, sticks out clearly from the rest with its blend of a classic Latin vibe and an old-school British sound.

With layered instruments reminiscent of popular tracks by The Beatles, the working process Strong and Etholm-Idsoee enlisted as producers, for Strong at least, was quite different than most of his previously produced tracks.

He explains, “I usually program drums electronically as most music does nowadays, but on Nico’s project every instrument was live and played by musicians simultaneously. We would record live drums with over 20 mics on the drum kit playing at the same time as the bass guitar into a recording console in a big studio.”

The success of the song not only speaks to Strong’s astonishing talent as a music producer, but even more vital, to his ability to adapt to the needs of the artists he produces for, which often means taking an alternative approach to the process than one is used to– but that’s how new pathways are created, and it’s one of the reasons he stands out.

“My goal is always to make something that is the perfect combination of familiar and unfamiliar. Unique and unfamiliar enough to catch the listener’s attention, but familiar enough to keep the listener engaged. I love sound and am always hitting the most random objects to see if there’s any sound I can record that will make listeners go ‘woah what was that?’ I think many producers are scared of thinking outside the box, but I try to live outside the box.”

Despite having achieved a rare level of success as a music producer, Strong continues to expand on his already impressive repertoire of work. One of his newest forays is into the world of film and television. Strong’s original composition ‘Loaded’ will be featured in the first episode of the highly anticipated premiere of the FOX Sports series “Phenoms,” which airs May 25 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.

Strong admits, “I’ve done a lot of sync work for social media platforms but in the realm of television this is my first, of many to come.”

A five-part global sports documentary series “Phenoms” depicts the journey of the world’s greatest soccer players as they prepare to represent their respective countries in the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Created by award-winning storytellers including Jeff and Michael Zimbalist, Leo Pearlman, David Brooks and more, “Phenoms” gives viewers behind-the-scenes access to iconic players such as Dele Alli, Davinson Sanchez, Marco Asensio, Paulo Dybala, Gabriel Jesus, Ousmane Dembele, Adrien Rabiot, Leon Goretzka, Corentin Tolisso, Hirving Lozano and Marquinhos.

About the composition featured in the first episode, Strong says, “I aimed for something that was uptempo and danceable, with big and aggressive sounds to echo the high energy that you would experience when watching a great soccer game in a stadium.”

Much of what makes audiences remember scenes from a film or television series comes from the level of emotional attachment they develop from a combination of striking visuals and the music synced up to the unfolding story. Just as the music is key in eliciting emotional responses within viewers and effectively drawing them deeper into the story, it is vital for the composer to know when to hold back.

“Composing for film is humbling in that you have to learn to take a step back and let the visuals do the work. My job is to enhance a very sense stimulating experience, and to over stimulate multiple senses for the viewer is detrimental,” explains Strong.

“Knowing how to keep things simple and find ways to enhance the visual experience is key. This is similar to pop music in that I have to leave space for the song and vocals to speak, but at least in that case it’s only one sense being stimulated and the listener’s attention is less easily diverged.”

Approaching every project with intention, Jason Strong’s knowledge of how much to give and to hold back when it comes to the music he produces for other artists, as well as taking into account the medium the music is being used for is one of the reasons he’s been so successful at his craft as a producer. Make sure to keep your eyes and ears peeled for his work in the premiere episode of “Phenoms” on May 25. He also produced the album for Capital Records artist Naïka, which is due out later this year.  

 

An Early Love for Design Led to Saif Al-Sobaihi’s Celebrated Cinematographic Career

 

Saif Al-Sobaihi
Cinematographer Saif Al-Sobaihi

While many cinematographers find their way into the field through photography and other areas of filmmaking, cinematographer Saif Al-Sobaihi, who’s made a powerful name for himself in the U.S. film industry and abroad in recent years, initially found his way to the craft through a love of visual art and design.

“I used to collect a lot of visual books, especially interior design books,” Saif explains. “I just loved looking at the lighting, composition and the smooth design… At that point I had no idea what cinematography was.”

Growing up in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Saif immersed himself in design at a young age, swiftly developing an acute visual eye and an unparalleled attention to detail. His boundless creativity  even led him to be recognized by his country whilst elementary school when he earned the First Prize Award in the Saudi Arabian national painting competition “Homeland in the Eyes of Our Children.”

Constantly collecting photographs and books focused on visual design, those roots eventually taught him to recognize such things as the interplay of objects in a room, how to achieve an aesthetic balance, and the way the light or lack there of sets the mood, have been key to his success in the film world.

As the cinematographer of highly praised films such as “La Calvita,” “El Circo,” “Pinwheel,” “SKEMO” and others, his unique ability to blend the technical and creative sides of his work in the field of filmmaking shine through flawlessly.

“Some cinematographers are more artistic and others are more technical… To me cinematography is a balance that can’t be defined. It’s a field where creativity, energy, personalities, obstacles, and the importance of timing overlap on set,” explains Saif. “Just like the way harmony in music supports the melody and provides its texture and mood, cinematography supports and even creates the texture and mood within the stories we see on screen.”

Saif has earned extensive accolades for his film work, with “Pinwheel” garnering him two Best Cinematography Awards at the Festigious International Film Festival and the Around International Film Festival in Berlin, “El Circo” earning the Southeast Regional EMMY Award for short form fiction, “La Calvita” being screened as one of “The Coming of Age Mixtape” films chosen by the Bushwick Film Festival, and “SKEMO” being chosen as an Adobe Design Achievement Semifinalist.

“El Circo” director Pablo Ramirez says, “Saif understood perfectly what I had in my head and helped me transform those ideas into beautiful images that showed the organized chaos we wanted to portray… Saif has a unique vision, he has the ability to listen to what his directos want and he also has the sensibility to express himself when he has a different opinion. Saif is one of the most professional persons with whom I’ve had the opportunity to work with.”

While he’s been key to the success of multiple narrative films, Saif actually began his professional career as the cinematographer on the music video “We Are” for well-known Swedish popstar Peg Parnevik. The vivid colors, combination of panning shots and close-ups, as well as the pace of the frames reveal Saif’s unparalleled skill behind the lens.

 With nearly two million views on YouTube, the video serves as an impressive accomplishment for even the most seasoned cinematographer, so that says quite a lot considering it was his first professional project in the field.

About the video, which he shot on a RED Scarlet Dragon 6K sensor with Zeiss CP2 primes, Saif says, “I learned a few valuable lessons from this project: lose the ego, keep things simple, and have fun!”

Out of all of his work, Saif marks the 2017 film “La Calvita” directed by Giulia Jimenez as ‘one of the most interesting projects’ he’s been the cinematographer on to date. With the saturated colors, shots of miscellaneous items such as tires, bathroom sinks and other odds and ends riddled through the streets communicating the semi-impoverished nature of the neighborhood, and a storyline that centers on Lupita (Karina Rovira), a young Latin American girl who travels to the Venezuela-Colombia border on a mission to make some money by selling her hair, it’s easy to see from the trailer alone why the film was so interesting for Saif.

In addition to being an Official Selection of the Bushwick Film Festival, “La Calvita” was also an Official Selection of the 2017 Georgia Latino Film Festival and the 2018 San Diego Film Festival.

With an almost surreal visual style, and a transporting latin garage style score composed by Hugo Raúl Blanco, “La Calvita” has a unique appeal that’s reminiscent of of experimental psychedelic films like Alejandro Jodorowsky’s “The Holy Mountain” and Vera Chitlova’s “Daisies.”

One of the most interesting aspects of the film is the way Saif takes us into Lupita’s world through close ups on her face that allow us to truly feel the complexity of her emotions. This, coupled with the wide shots he takes to reveal the peculiar nature of her surrounding, make it feel as though she lives within her own world– one removed from the actual environment where the film takes place.

Saif shot “La Calvita” on a Sony FS7 using only the Cooke 25-250mm T4.0 Zoom as his lens for the entire film.

“As a cinematographer in stories like that where the world seems a bit surreal, you get to experiment with different equipment and techniques more comfortably. And that is a lot of fun,” explains Saif.

I wanted the look of the film to be gritty and authentic… This film talks about real social issues, so I made sure I captured not only the physical performance of the actors, but their psychological processes and inner world as well. ”

Some of the social issues Saif refers to revolve around Lupita’s economic status and feeling that selling her hair is the only option to make money to pay for her mother’s medication, and the concept of beauty promoted by society compared to what it truly means to be beautiful on an individual level.

After having her hair lopped off in exchange for $35, Lupita wanders through town looking forlorn over the messy buzz cut that sits in place of her previously long and beautiful brown locks. As she runs her fingers through her hair clearly trying to make sense of how this new look has changed her, she encounters a billboard where the model comes to life and begins speaking to her as she stands alone in the middle of a grassy field. The model tells her she wants her to feel better and that she needs hair to feel better; and like a fairy godmother, she releases a waterfall of pink flower petals that graze Lupita’s face and like magic, her hair reappears. From the viewer’s perspective the scene is touching and emotionally subtle, but on a technical level it’s easy to see that a lot of effort went into it on the part of Saif and his team.  

“The director wanted the billboard model to be commercially “well-lit” like a 90’s latin billboard commercials kind of vibe. We shot that section in a green screen studio lit with spacelights, Kino Celebs and later on used a Mole Richardson 2K” explains the cinematographer. “My gaffer Dylan Genis rigged the camera on a 12 ft ladder for the high angle shots. For the ‘low angle’ shots, we used baby sticks and hi-hats.”

He adds, “It’s great to have a team who are interested in the project and have good sense of communication and experience.”

Through narrative films like “La Calvita” it’s easy to see Saif’s talent for creating impactful visual stories that draw the audience in and evokes emotion. His attention to detail and his aptitude for blending the technical and creative sides of his work in film make it easy to understand how he got to where he is today, and it all started from his love for visual art and design.

 

Aussie Actor Joel Hogan: A Good Judge of Character

Joel Hogan represents part of the new wave of successful young actors reaching their mark via a variety of platforms and mediums. In the past year alone, the trained thespian has served as an official juror for the Annual Los Angeles Diversity Film Festival (LADFF), and appeared in a lead role in the hit mockumentary series Unverified for Funny Or Die, produced by Will Ferrell, as well as a critical role in long-running Channel Seven hit show, Home and Away.

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Joel with fellow “Home and Away” stars James Stewart and Tania Dolan.

These accomplishments, all on top of his other leading acting roles around the world, mark what Joel calls “the result of many years of hard work and determination.”

But before we get to that, Joel sits down with us to talk about how his career has reached such awesome heights. “I’ve been extremely blessed.”

After moving to Los Angeles to feature as the lead of innovative filmmaker Marcus Mizelle’s film “Actor for Hire, opposite CSI actor JT Alexander, Joel was invited to attend numerous award ceremonies in celebration of “Actor for Hire’s” success. Additionally, he received an award for his acting work from the Orlando Film Festival for his role in the film. The festivals, which also included the Laugh or Die Comedy Fest, and HollyShorts Film Festival (which qualified the project for Oscar-contention), brought Joel in direct contact with key decision makers in Hollywood.

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“Actor for Hire” was profiled right around the world.

“Many people I met along the way were already familiar with my work, so meeting these power players face-to-face I think just gave a more relatable face to my name.” Some of that work with which those power players were familiar include Joel’s leading role in “Dirty Dancing: The Time of your Life,” which brought him worldwide fame to millions of viewers, and the title role in feature “Travis Jenkins.”

Prior to this, Joel enjoyed starring roles in other Australian films like “Bush Boys.” Since its release “Bush Boys” has been continually screened to audiences worldwide and is well known for selling over 50,000 copies in its first 2 months of release – a significant figure in the Australian entertainment industry. The film’s fan base stems from Mr Hogan’s continued success and high profile in other film productions like Actor for Hire and Home and Away, which screen around the world including the United Kingdom where Home and Away is the highest rated show. 1500 Steps has enjoyed similar levels of extraordinary success, reaching millions of viewers around the world through distribution on Amazon Prime.

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Joel Hogan front and centre, with his co-stars, on the poster for Australia’s “Hangover”, Bush Boys.”
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Joel with legendary “Anchorman” actor, Fred Willard, and fellow Australian actor, Myles Forster (“So, You Want to be a Gangster?”) at an event in Hollywood.

Those roles in part attracted the people behind the LADFF, a world-renowned film festival helmed by industry leaders Hollis McLachlan and Sonja Mereu (producer at Flathead Films), to invite Joel to be a judge for their slate of films. Sonja explained that Joel’s vote “specializ[ed] in acting performance and storytelling.”

Joel elaborates on his experience judging at the LADFF. “It was really fun and inspiring – it felt like such an honour to have my opinion about these films valued. One of the films I awarded, For Better, For Worse has gone on to win the Casablanca Award for Best Drama at the Humphrey Bogart Film Festival in Florida, as well as the Audience Choice Award at the DC Shorts film festival.”

Festival founders explained to our editors that judges are appointed based on their accomplishments, and strong standing with respect to a social cause. Joel, they explained, was appointed because of his wealth of acting experience, his position as an extraordinarily successful foreign actor, and his diverse talents across acting, singing and dancing. So well received was Joel’s service, he has since been invited to also judge at the Los Angeles Film Awards, the Actor Awards Los Angeles and Top Shorts, the world’s leading online film festival.

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Joel Hogan and well-known actor, Paul Michael Draper (“Lucid”, “Lemon Drop”)

But judging films is not entirely what has kept Joel occupied recently. In fact, he’s been busy with a slew of acting and industry projects that have reinforced his position as a trailblazer in entertainment. Impressively, he’s been featured on Access Hollywood as part of his role for the Lionsgate hit, “Open Water 3.” Coming up? He notably stars in a leading role in the US films Newave and Caged, as well as the lead role of Simon in the feature film “C.A.M” opposite “Pirates of the Caribbean” actor, Rupert Raineri. “Rupert was fantastic to work with,” Joel explains. “It’s always nice to share screen-time with people who are working hard, and aren’t distracted by the big-budget nature of the project.”

Joel adds, “We’re just there to tell a good story.”

Showing off his talent for exploring a wide range of genres, Joel moved onto playing the lead role of Derek (also spelled Derequé in a hilarious plot point) in the hit mockumentary series, “Unverified.” Distributed by the comedy powerhouse Funny Or Die, from founders Will Ferrell and Adam McKay (“The Big Short”), “Unverified” found awards success at the Accolade Global Film Festival, was given glowing reviews by TubeFilter and Film Ink among others, and co-starred Alex Cubis (“Mako Mermaids”), Courtney Dlugos (“South Beach”) and Landon Merrell (the upcoming “Dumplin’ with Jennifer Aniston).

Up next for the busy Australian?

“I’ve got a number of big film projects lined up, one of which is a collaboration with the award winning director David Tracy. David, alongside his mentor, David S. Goyer, the writer of “Batman Begins”, “Blade”, “Man Of Steel”, have been developing a film for me to star in for the last two years. I must admit, to say I am excited to work with these two influential Hollywood players would be a great understatement.”

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Joel in character from one of his many upcoming film projects.

Maria Venturini’s Style Reminds Viewers of the Creative Power of Cinema

Maria C. Venturini
Maria C. Venturini on set of “Waiting for Adams”

Throughout cinematic history, the most exalted and iconic filmmakers have been those who’ve had the vision and audacity to defy convention and blur the line between narrative and art. Italian director Maria Chiara Venturini is reminding audiences of cinema’s origin as an extension of the imagination.

Through her films, Venturini lovingly channels a nostalgic, avant-garde aesthetic that’s been absent from the silver screen for too long. Among her productions is the 2015 film “Ancien Régime,” an ode to the French New Wave and a thinly-veiled critique of vapid materialism. The film captured critics’ attention at festivals around the globe, and was chosen as the winner by judges at the Sprockets Film Festival in Toronto. At the heart of the sophisticated send-up is the iconic brand Chanel and its instantly recognizable style of highbrow black-and-white advertising.

“This was my first approach to black-and-white 16mm film. I liked the idea of creating something that would fit the look of the media itself — a dystopian world where a fashion dictator imposes his fashion rules on society seemed perfect,” Venturini described. “The film takes place in a classroom where the only word that people are allowed to say and teach is ‘Chanel,’ and the only solution for arithmetic problems is ‘N°5,’ like the perfume.”

To the untrained eye “Ancien Régime” is virtually indistinguishable from any of Chanel’s countless ad campaigns. Stark black-and-white cinematography, minimalist mise en scène and a strong focus on physical acting and borderline absurdism are defining characteristics of both “Ancien Régime” and the perfume giant it satirizes. To a great extent, however, Venturini’s affectionately ironic admonishment uses the iconic brand as a synecdochic catch-all for the kind of fanatical devotion many high-fashion brands elicit.

“We live in a society where sometimes we [confuse] real priorities with what’s [secondary]. Fashion… for some people comes before many more important issues. I wanted to pay homage to such a great brand, but also shake that part of the audience that behaves this way,” explained Venturini adding that, “with a smile you can make people understand the concept better too.”

Drawing inspiration from the surrealism of Salvador Dali and the eccentricity of Henry Selick, her 2015 film “The Laboratory of Dr. Enerd” offers a brilliantly dreamlike glimpse into the director’s mind.

“‘The Laboratory of Dr. Enerd’ is made with a stop-motion technique called pixelation that merges animation with human characters,” Venturini described. “I was exploring this new part of the world of animation but I still wanted to make a piece that will make the audience feel the same way I feel when I see other pixelation projects.”

Using the experimental new technology in combination with her years of experience in fine art photography, Venturini created a film which can only be described as simultaneously stop-motion and live-action. What may sound like a contradiction in terms is actually a mesmerizing, almost magical film about a young scientist and the outré experiments she conducts in her laboratory.

“Dr. Enerd is trying to follow her mother’s recipe to make something a little unusual,” explained Venturini. “Also bizarre are the ingredients and tools she decides to use in this preparation: unicorns, gummy bears, syringes and a stethoscope.”

The film is a meticulously calculated spectacle of imagination. From costuming and set design down to the finest details of every prop in the whimsical lab, every frame of “The Laboratory of Dr. Enerd” was crafted and vetted by Venturini with enormous care. That level of attention to color and design are perhaps what most distinguish the director as an artist first, filmmaker second. It’s also what earned the film the honor of being an official selection at the Citizen Jane Film Festival, as well as enabling it to reach audiences as far away as the Chinese festival circuit.

Venturini built on some of the stylistic eccentricities of “The Laboratory of Dr. Enerd” with her 2016 film “Waiting For Adams.” A much less vibrant film in comparison, “Waiting For Adams” instead takes on a more dreary aesthetic in its focus on a mysterious waiting room that seems disconnected from time and reality.

“‘Waiting for Adams’ is so far the most ethereal piece I’ve ever done. The whole project could be seen as just a dream,” she described. “People gave me lots of different interpretations of the story, and I felt like a psychiatrist that shows those inkblots to his patients.”

The film opens on a nun signing in at the reception desk of an indescript doctor’s office. As she takes a seat, keen-eyed cinephiles will recognize that she and the other waiting room patients are all characters from films that were nominated-but-snubbed at the Academy Awards.

“Only a movie geek could possibly know that all those characters are from movies that were nominated for an Oscar but lost. Thus, a desire for redemption brought them to consult one of the craziest plastic surgery doctors in order to change their look and have a second chance,” Venturini explained “Dr. Adams, inspired by Patch Adams, has no real surgery skills and ends up transforming everybody into monsters.”

One-by-one, a string of familiar characters enter the office of the insane Dr. Adams, and one-by-one they return as horrific beasts that would seem right at home in a Tim Burton movie. Meanwhile, the characters in the waiting room engage in awkward banter and show off their idiosyncrasies. The entire film is delightfully unusual and thoroughly original. Every detail is deliberately and painstakingly crafted to be like a dream — ethereal and open to interpretation. With “Waiting For Adams,” Venturini once again proved herself both a visionary director and artiste. Critics in Venturini’s native Italy rallied behind “Waiting For Adams,” choosing the film as an official selection at the Scrittura e Immagine Corto Film Festival.

More than a century ago, cinema began as an exciting new medium for artistic experimentation. Every few years since then, some brilliant mind will break through the mundane and familiar, uncovering for the first time some virgin territory in the limitless expanse of cinema’s artistic potential. In this generation of filmmakers, there are few figures as likely to follow in those revolutionary footsteps as Maria Venturini.