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Australian actress Ayeshah Rose on international projects and storytelling

Ayeshah Rose is the embodiment of an international storyteller. Now more than ever, artists whose talents and skills traverse the globe and transcend cultural barriers are in demand, and Ayeshah’s career shows no signs of slowing down.

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Ayeshah Rose

When asked about her success, Ayeshah is humble and points to her craft.

“Being trained but not strictly offers me more flexibility in my work. I am able to sense moments for a character quicker and deeper. I can indulge in a character’s identity which allows me to respond to the other actors that helps them stay empathetic.”

When looking at her body of work however, it’s clear that her consistency in building relationships with award-winning filmmakers and production companies in different facets of the industry have equally contributed to her current place atop the heap of Australian filmmakers making waves overseas. Indeed, she has recently been cast in the American film project “Vendetta”, to be shot in the US in the coming months.

“This project excites me…because of the technology involved…I’ll be working with weapons and using green screens and using skills that I’ve learnt over the years…it requires a lot of commitment and discipline.”

Ayeshah is blessed with a leading role, playing Elena, best friend to the protagonist Sofia.

“[The characters] went to school together for most of their lives. Elena recently changed schools after going down the wrong path and getting involved with a member of the mafia’s son. She’s terrified of being involved again, especially as she is the only one who knows their next target.”

In a reflection of Ayeshah’s impressive ability to connect and collaborate with highly revered filmmakers and companies, she’ll be working with Ryde Studios.

“With Ryde Studio’s reputation I am so excited to join a team that is making its mark significantly in the film industry as well as the resources I will get to experience while working on Vendetta. I am really excited to work in a professional environment which such a high calibre team that I know of so far. It’s the first big step I will have to the trajectory I hoped for. This is an opportunity to learn whilst performing which is so stimulating for me.”

Our interview soon turns to one of Ayeshah’s recent projects. In the feature film “Angel of Mine”, Ayeshah worked with Sundance award-winning filmmaker Kim Farrant (who directed Oscar-winner Nicole Kidman in the drama/thriller “Strangerland” alongside Hugo Weaving). “Angel of Mine” also boasts a top cast in “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” star Noomi Rapace (also known for her role in the “Alien” prequel, “Prometheus”) and “Fast and Furious” actor Luke Evans .   

“My character is a regular client at the hairdressing business of Noomi’s character,” Ayeshah astutely explains.

“She has a constant dialogue with Noomi’s character and serves as a confidante.”

When one understands that the film is about a woman grieving the loss of her daughter, only then to lose her grip on reality after she thinks her daughter may still be alive, it’s clear that any person considered a confidante to Noomi’s character is vitally important to story and the protagonist’s development. Ayeshah’s significance in the film therefore does not go unnoticed.

When asked about the shooting process, Ayeshah is quick to praise her co-stars while also touching on the demanding work schedule.

“Yvonne Stravoski and Noomi Rapace are both revered and honoured actresses – and rightfully so. They’re really fantastic. Being onset with both of them was exactly what I had imagined working with actors you can bounce off. Seeing their professionalism and focus was what I wanted within a professional team. I am so happy I got this moment in time where I felt I was of the same calibre.”

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Ayeshah spent valuable time on set with “Handmaid’s Tale” star Yvonne Strahovski. PHOTO CREDIT: MEDIAPUNCH/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK

Filming, Ayeshah elaborates, “required a lot of patience. My role was a crucial cross-over between Noomi’s character being confronted by Yvonne’s character about a murder.”

Not all elements of filming though were arduous, as Ayeshah is quick to reference a comical moment she shared with Noomi on set.

“In between [takes], I complimented Noomi’s nose (which I thought was very striking) and she informed me that Orlando Bloom broke it onset the film “ Unlocked” giving her that lovely nose of hers.” Ayeshah adds with a small laugh.

An ability to be flexible on set has in part been informed with Ayeshah’s other roles, including the leading character of Jane in film “My Day Job.”

“I had the ability to adlib when the other actors changed their lines by mistake and the focus was necessary for an intimate and dramatic scene. I had to also learn a Latina accent very last minute.”

Skills such as these are impressive, but ultimately, what motivates Ayeshah is not being good at something to impress a stranger, but to work in service of story and character.

“I am excited to merge into the US industry because I feel my look will be celebrated with the variety of roles I’ll be able to play, accessing all the colours and content that will allow my multi-skilled artistry to thrive and therefore I’ll be able to add value to the industry”.

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A Child Prodigy: Chapter Two

Lorenzo Pelosini
Italian Novelist Lorenzo Pelosini

What happens to child prodigies when they grow up?

The proof that such genius doesn’t always die off is in Lorenzo Pelosini’s last novel, River Runner – The Golden Thread. It was John Irving who first noticed Pelosini’s early development as a narrative genius. The best-selling author read The Flight of the Hawk, written by Pelosini when he was only 14 years old, and decided to promote his young fellow author with a flattering introduction to his novel. And in 2014 Pelosini’s transition into a full-grown talent was confirmed with the release of his novel River Runner- The Golden Thread.

In the case of River Runner, it was the famous critic Fabio Canessa, an Italian authority on film and international literature, who discovered the novel, and expanded its notoriety across Italy. Ironically enough, the struggle for this specific form of talent to transition from childhood to maturity is also the central conflict of the story within River Runner. In fact, it is this meta-narrative reflection that makes the novel so brilliant. The main character’s battle to escape his prison is the perfect parallel to the one the author faced himself. In spite of that, this isn’t a story fueled by narcissism. It is one that’s propelled by an authentic desire for freedom, a motivation to grow into a more honest version of oneself, something we can all relate to. Although River Runner is indeed a fantasy, at least officially, Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings aren’t the tales that come to mind, instead, it is a cross between Shawshank Redemption and The Truman Show.

While fantastic literature and movies of the same genre take us up in the air and out of our world for a ride, River Runner takes us deep within it, straight into the very core of our personal little world, where our greatest demons lie alongside the best parts of us. This is essentially why River Runner works. It succeeds where many stories fail in the sense that it offers us a looking glass into the terrifying and often hidden parts of our souls– which are arguably the most valuable. This is not to say that the novel is the best product to come out of the world of popular young adult narratives. In fact, we are not talking about excellence, but rather, transcendence. If we visualize contemporary literature as a two-dimensional flat land, to quote Edwin Abbott Abbott, excellence would be creating a product that extends miles and miles in the two dimensions that such flatland conceives. On the other hand, transcendence would be moving even just one inch up, into that third dimension which lies all around it, yet almost inconceivable.

There is so much more potential to be explored in Pelosini’s already breathtaking repertoire of work as a writer. His fluid style stretches light years beyond his age, something that is clearly revealed within the pages of River Runner. And whereas excellence is surely encrypted in this young author’s future, transcendence is already a part of his present.

There is a sharp edge in River Runner that tears a hole in the placenta that each person needs to outgrow in order to be reborn. Such birth isn’t the obligatory one we all undergo, nor is it a regular transition into adulthood. It is an alternative. A peek into something beyond our everyday existence and step onto a path that we do not often imagine. Not only is this transcendent quality rare, it is also essential to every time, decade and generation. And since hope and its nature is essentially the content of River Runner, we can only hope for Pelosini to soon deliver a successful continuation of this trans-dimensional saga. Thankfully for us, he intends River Runner to be the first novel in a highly anticipated trilogy.

 

Hollywood Recognizes Filmmaker Livi Zheng as Asian Pioneer

Livi Zheng and Terrence Howard at the Unforgettable Gala

“When I first started my career in film someone told me that I am everything wrong about a director, because I am Asian,  I am a woman and I am young.” That was the opening salvo in Livi Zheng’s speech at the Unforgettable Gala. Zheng was honored with an award as an Asian pioneer in Hollywood along with the actor John Cho and the Director of Crazy Rich Asians, Jon M. Chu.  The speech was unforgettable; the crowd cheered for the young director at the conclusion of her speech.

Already a household name in Indonesia, Zheng’s rise to fame in the United States is not a surprise to her many followers back home. She is the product of three countries: Indonesia, China, and the United States. A simple search of her name will show Zheng’s popularity amongst Indonesians and Chinese and the enthusiasm they express for this talented young filmmaker.

Who is Livi Zheng? She’s an Chinese-Indonesian director who directed her first feature film at the young age of twenty-three. Her directing debut Brush with Danger released theatrically in the US and was distributed internationally. Besides directing, Zheng has spoken and lectured at more than 30 universities worldwide including Yale University, University of Southern California (USC) and University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), Communications University of China, and the University of Indonesia. Zheng graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Washington-Seattle and a Masters in Film Production from USC. She is a prolific and respected speaker and was invited to speak at the Annual Meetings of the World Bank Group and International Monetary Fund (IMF) at the World Bank Headquarters in Washington D.C..

Zheng spent her young adult life as a martial artist. She got her start as a stuntwoman but soon realized the power of storytelling. She embarked on an odyssey to realize her dreams; that decision has catapulted her as a leader in the new generation of upcoming directors in the film business. Her remarkable confidence and bubbly personality is paired with her humility. When interviewed, Zheng never forgets to mention her roots.

Just this year, Zheng brought the vibrant world of Bali: Beats of Paradise to screens when it premiered at the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences and Arts in Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills.  The 1010 seat theater was filled to capacity.  The Academy security was even surprised at the draw this movie had compared to many big studio movies that have premiered at the same venue. The documentary narrative did so well that a Disney Animation Executive in attendance invited Zheng to screen the film for other heads of departments at Disney.

Zheng is not only an inspiration to young women and people of color within the United States but also to people around the world. She’s truly a one of a kind director who bridges the West and the East .

“Promised” star Daniel Berini on authentic storytelling

In an industry that claims to be constantly innovating and chasing the latest trend, it’s always refreshing to encounter actors and creatives who maintain a solid grounding that renders them eternally appealing no matter what age or what the marketplace is like. Australian actor Daniel Berini has built a firm footing in his niche as a profoundly heartfelt actor who transcends time and place. Indeed, there’s a recurring trend in Daniel’s recent work of him being cast in projects set in the mid-20th century, the most obvious of which is the feature film “Promised”, co-starring “Strictly Ballroom” legend Paul Mercurio and famed-performer Tina Arena.

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Daniel Berini as shot by Marnya Rothe

“Promised” concerns two young Italians in 1970s Australia dealing with the terms of their arranged marriage as negotiated by their fathers when they were born. Set against the backdrop of an Australia that was becoming increasingly liberal alongside fading traditions, “Promised” hails from “Hippocratic Oath” filmmaker Nathan Primmer and writer/director Nick Conidi.

A celebrated and impressive roster of filmmakers might make one expect there were clashing egos on set, but Daniel attests to how the production became something of a family during shooting.

As Daniel explains, “[a]s an Italian myself, I was able to appreciate and understand the world of Promised, which made the whole experience so very rewarding. Rocking up on set everyday felt like rocking up to Christmas lunch at my Nonna’s house, surrounded by cousins that you didn’t realise you had, and enough good food to feed an army. There was a sense of family around the production; family being the central tenet of the story.”

The story, which quite literally revolves around Robert, is a heartfelt one that resonates with audiences around the world despite the specificity of its time and place setting.

As Daniel explains, “[i]t was quite refreshing to read a script that celebrated Italian culture in Australia but didn’t make fun of it. This is a story that follows two people from two Italian families in Melbourne, but it doesn’t feature Italian cliches that are so often presented in film. There are no ‘lounge suites wrapped in plastic’, ‘concrete backyards’, or colourful depictions of ‘sauce day’ and stuff like that.”

Put more distinctly, Daniel highlights why he thinks viewers relate to the story and therefore why the film is an acclaimed one. “Promised is a story about relationships, that comments on Italian culture and the changing times, but ultimately it’s about Robert and Angela. This is a love story,…audiences…relish in its ornate simplicity.”

Daniel, who’s also known for his roles in TV in shows like “The Secret Daughter” and “Black Comedy”, has been affiliated with period pieces before. Notably, he appeared in the 1970s set Logie-award winning show “Love Child” in a key role as a part of the most recent season.

“Love Child is one of Australia’s most-loved television shows, and joining the final season was a real privilege,” Daniel beams.

Daniel’s experience on family-oriented shoots like “Promised” probably serves him well in an industry that can oftentimes be intimidating. With an acclaimed career like Daniel’s however, it’s unsurprising that he’s an actor who can not only ingratiate himself into a period TV show effortlessly, but also the cast and crew that makes it happen.

“I must admit, it was a bit intimidating arriving on set amidst a show at the tail end of its run,” Daniel concedes.

“You feel like you’re intruding on a family affair in a way, everybody there has been working together for years now and are all very comfortable. However, the cast and crew of Love Child could not have been more accommodating towards me and very quickly made me feel like I was also apart of the family.”

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Daniel Berini alongside “Doctor Doctor” star Chloe Bayliss and AACTA-winner Mandy McElhinney in a scene from “Love Child”

Daniel served critical moments in the emotional arc of “Love Child”s story. His truly honest portrayal of a young man nervous about the birth of his first child was both memorable and refreshingly authentic. Daniel’s unique look, incredibly befitting of the show’s 1970s setting, proved him irreplaceable within a production that prides itself on portraying the period as authentically as possible – an element that no doubt has led to “Love Child’s” numerous award-wins. This, coupled with the fact that he shared screen-time with AACTA-nominee Andrew Ryan and “Doctor Doctor” star Chloe Bayliss as his wife, both Australian household names, firmly cements Daniel as an actor working at the top level of his field.

This aside, Daniel’s clearly committed to character and serving the story, a testament to his dedication to authenticity and artistic integrity.

“It can be really good fun diving into a ‘period piece’ as an actor. There’s a weight to your choices, as you’re not only representing a person, but you are also representing the views of a time period, and you want that to come across as genuine as possible. It goes far deeper than tone and costume. It’s about finding the truth of your world, and then allowing it to influence your motivations as that character. I feel very privileged that I’ve had this opportunity on numerous occasions.”

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Daniel Berini in a scene from the 1970s Channel Nine show, “Love Child”

‘THE NUTRACKER’ actor Alexander Loxton on acting, dancing and staying humble

Birmingham native Alexander Loxton is a rare breed: accomplished not only as an actor, the heartthrob is also a revered dancer, having originally trained at the Royal Ballet School where was school mates with the renowned Sergei Polunin and actress Sonoya Mizuno. This heritage laid a solid foundation for his current status as a British export taking Hollywood by storm, having recently been cast in a US feature film and currently appearing in cinemas around the world in Disney’s “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms.”

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Acting and dancing British sensation Alexander Loxton at the BAFTA awards in Los Angeles.  

Alexander’s thoughts about his role in the movie reveal a modesty often displayed by performers working at the top of their field, demonstrative of the important notion that successful entertainers need only to prioritise craft and skill above fame and work will come.

“Being a dance movie it was central to the production to have the highest calibre dancers in the world to represent “The Nutcracker” suitably and working alongside artists such as Misty Copeland displays that.”

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Alexander spent meaningful time on the same set as Oscar-nominee, Keira Knightley, in ‘The Nutcracker and the Four Realms’.

In the movie, Alexander shares the silver screen with Oscar-nominated A-lister Keira Knightly, and in doing so cements his status as one of the leading young British actors working today, having carved out a phenomenal niche for himself as a dashing Brit who often plays a charming foil to American or narcissistic characters. In College Humor series “The Britishes,” for instance, Alexander was credited as Lord Harry, while he also is listed as a series regular in hilarious comedy “Bro-Dum” where he played the suitably-British role of ‘Rupert.’

“I’m very lucky I get to use my national heritage in all of my performances, as it’s an important part of my identity that I want to share with the world. And that’s why I’m a performer.”

“Outside of dance lessons I was a typical young lad from the midlands, I was in fights at school, in detention and was more comfortable in a tracksuit than anything else. My parents were not at all artistic.”

Despite the reservations Alexander had to dancing as a child, which was the pathway that eventually lead to acting, he found himself drawn to the discipline and craftsmanship that dancing afforded him.

“I started training at a local school from the age of 8 as a tap dancer and then was persuaded into trying classical ballet and started to reluctantly find myself enjoying it. I would later train at a run down sportshall and whilst groups of men would bustle into the changing room to play football I was pulling up my tights ready to dance.”

This keen awareness of his surroundings, and the humility with which he treated his artistic pursuits, clearly forms a core part of his intuition as a performer. Such a unique curiosity about life and perspective on people is a crucial tenet of Alexander’s one-of-a-kind talents as an artist.

“I can’t help but feel pulled towards the arts – I think now more than ever we have a responsibility to keep people filled with joy, and the easiest way to do that is through moving forms of entertainment.”

When asked about Alexander’s talents, co-star Jayden Fowora-Knight sung the Brit’s praises. “Alexander is definitely a one-of-a-kind talent – he’s so charming but he’s always willing to be vulnerable, and that’s crucial for a performer. Whether he’s acting on screen, or performing on stage – he draws you in because he’s so intently focused on the present.”

Alex had to remain tight-lipped about his upcoming project. “All I can say is that I’m really excited – that I’ve been given the opportunity to work as an actor in an American feature film is the culmination of many years of hard work. I can’t wait to start!”

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Alexander mid-dance from one of his many highly regarded performances. 

From Ukraine to Hollywood: Costume Designer Viktoriia Vlasenko

Viktorria Vlasenko
Costume Designer Viktoriia Vlasenko

Now an in-demand global costume designer, Ukraine-born Viktoriia Vlasenko first discovered her love and innate talent for her craft when she was just 8 years old. Vlasenko used her spare time to make party clothes for herself, her mother and her dolls, she even designed to suit her younger brother wore to his graduation.

Keen to continue her love of costume design, Vlasenko completed a Bachelor’s degree in fashion design at the Milan Institute of Design IED (Istituto Europeo di Design) which is among the top 7 universities in the world which specialize in fashion design.

After she graduated from the prestigious university, Vlasenko went full speed ahead and participated in a number of fashion shows and causes. She showed a collection at the Fashion Show 2015 New Talents Vogue Milan for young designers, and even participated in the No War project. The No War project was something very close to her heart, as it allowed her to protest against the war in Ukraine. Her impressive creative contributions to the project were also published in the “No War” book, which sold over 100,000 copies.

Viktoriia Vlasenko is a global sensation, as her work goes a lot further than simply Milan and her home country of Ukraine. Some of her work includes creating costumes for high-profile theatre productions, philharmonic societies, music videos and more. Among her many highlights as a costume designer is creating the breathtaking wardrobe for the cast of the production of “Alice in Wonderland” directed by Dmitriy Obednokov, which was held at the Ukraine Philharmonic with musical support from the chamber choir.

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Actors from “Alice in Wonderland” in costumes designed by Viktoriia Vlasenko

She has dressed stars such as Latin-Grammy-nominated singer and actress Natalia Oreiro for the red carpet, and has designed for SaM (Samvel Arzumanov) and his Freedom International label.

Vlasenko also designed dazzling costumes that singer Olga Pechko, the winner of the All-Ukrainian competition, wore during her performances earlier this year while on tour across Ukraine. Pechko discovered Vlasenko’s unique style after stumbling upon one of the designer’s doll collections, an area of design that she has become increasingly well known for over the years.

“She saw my Forged Iron Dummies collection and envisioned them as garments for her show and then asked me to design her costumes,” recalls Vlasenko.

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Forged Iron Dummy by Viktoriia Vlasenko

In addition to designing countless theatrical productions and costumes for the stars, Vlasenko has been tapped as the costume designer on an impressive list of films including multi-award winning director Catharine Lin’s (“Twenty Years After”) romantic film “Mr. Heart” starring Greyson Todd (“Mind, Body and Bullshit,” “Let Me Go”) and Ivan Sharudo (“The Lincoln”). As every project is unique in itself and requires something completely different to take it the next level, Vlasenko’s creative process understandably varies from project to project.

When it comes to designing costumes for the cast of a film production, like that of the upcoming Ukrainian film “Unworld,” Vlasenko says, “I read the scenario; then I learn the subject of costume and film epoch.. Then I think over the ideas, calculate the production and how much time it will take, then start to draw the design, select fabric and materials. After this – purchase of materials and the costume production itself after agreement of the design with the film director.”

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Costume for “Unworld” designed by Viktoriia Vlasenko

As the costume designer on “Unworld,” an upcoming urban fantasy film directed by Mykhailo Andriiets, Vlasenko created a series of highly-technical costumes. While “Unworld” depicts a war between futuristic robots equipped with powerful digital technology and the mythical monsters of yore, the dystopian film has an underlying message of unity. In the midst of an all out war, the film’s seemingly disadvantaged human characters band together and use the robot’s digital technology in order to bring down the established order.

Bringing to mind images of films like “V for Vendetta” and “Blade Runner,” but placing her own unique spin on things, Vlasenko’s costumes for “Unworld” are incredibly stylized; and they’re a key in transporting the audience into such a far-out world. You can get a sneak peak into Vlasenko’s designs for the film from the clip below.

“Viktoriia created the concept images, designed the costumes, coordinated accessories and worked out the technical elements for the costumes to work for the actors performances, she pretty much did the work of a concept artist, costume designer, technologist, seamstress, and prop master,” says Ukrainian director Mykhailo Andriiets.

“Working with Viktoriia is inspiring… you can not see where the boundaries of her talent and optimism ends. She is a great professional because of her boundless imagination and diligence… She believes in success and does everything possible to achieve it.”

Though Vlasenko has made a strong name for herself in Ukraine, her unique skill as a costume designer has also attracted the attention of filmmakers in the US, such as Avi Agarwal (“Pieces”) who tapped Vlasenko as the costume designer on his 2016 dramatic comedy film “Loose Ends” starring Justine An from the film “A World of Contradictions.” Awarded at the 2016 Hollywood Boulevard film Festival, “Loose Ends”  depicts a young collegiate partier who’s potential futures flash before his eyes during different encounters over the course of the film, with the most rattling outcome being one of total vagrancy.

In stark contrast to her work on “Unworld,” Vlasenko’s task as the costume designer on “Loose Ends” required her to err on the side of minimalism to create a more realistic wardrobe in support of the story.

Vlasenko says, “I watched the vagrants and homeless people around Los Angeles, taking note of how they behaved and what they wore, as well as that of  prisoners. This project was actually very simple for me, but this is exactly what the film director wanted, it was his vision of the project.”

Always working in support of the story– that is the true role of the costume designer, as well as for anyone else working on a film crew, something Vlasenko knows all about. While her wildly outrageous designs for films like “Unworld” reveal her capacity as a creative, her ability to let the story guide the way is tantamount to the success of the films she works on.

“I can work with various materials, which some other costume designers tend to be afraid to work with,” Vlasenko says. “I can invent, implement and realize my designs, using my own hands to bring them life, I can make a more cost-effective costume design budget when I have to.”

“Small Town Hackers” star Caris Eves on her thriving career

“Small Town Hackers” actor Caris Eves has had an interesting journey as an actor, globe-trotting between the US, UK and Australia on various projects. For now, the blonde-beauty is firmly rooted at the top of the Australian entertainment industry with her recent starring turn in an award-winning comedy series from acclaimed production company, Mad Kids. “Small Town Hackers” was most recently nominated for Best Online Series at Australia’s answer to the Emmys and Oscars, the AACTAs. It’s an achievement befitting of one of the busiest actresses in Australia.

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Caris Eves in a shot by Chris Huzzard.

“Working on ‘Small Town Hackers’ was the most fun I could ever imagine having on a film set!” she enthusiastically exclaims.

Caris elaborates on the significance of her character to the plot of the series.

“My character Lucy Boddington as an homage to Laura Palmer from Twin Peaks. The comedy series is set in a small country town of Durran and revolves around the death of Lucy.”

The fun has continued, it seems, as the doe-eyed thespian recently joined the cast of new ABC-show The Heights in an important recurring role.

Jumping between projects like this might cause any actor a bit of stress, but Caris takes it all in her stride.

“It’s what I love to do,” she thoughtfully adds.

“Mad Kids production were an amazing team to work for and are incredibly supportive and generous so I was very thankful to be part of it.”

Caris’ unique talents as an actor is incredibly rare to find in a statuesque and elegant package like hers: the comic timing and vulnerability required of her role in Small Town Hackers demanded an emotional agility that is only seen by actresses working in the top echelon of the industry.

Caris delivered a compelling performance that has commanded viewers’ attention since the series’ debut. It confirms her reputation as a performer who is not soon forgotten by viewers, as her fierceness and sensitivity as an actor allows her an ability to be relatable, while also domineering on screen. It is this combination that makes Caris the epitome of a leading actor.

In one moment, Caris had to deliver a look to another character that was captured by CCTV footage, letting the other characters in on an important clue to the mystery to her character’s disappearance.

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Caris in a still from ‘Small Town Hackers’, a series revolving around the disappearance of her character that industry insiders have labelled a comedic homage to ‘Twin Peaks’. Many of Caris’ key scenes took the form of a flashback.

Caris also tells us about other experiences she’s had as an actor which have motivated her to continue to challenge herself as an artist.

“One of the most powerful acting experiences I have had links back to one of the first film productions I was ever In. It was an awareness campaign for people struggling with mental health Issues and at that time my best friend had taken her life. I didn’t tell anyone on set that only days prior my friend had taken her life, as I didn’t want to be treated any differently. I wanted to represent something that was honest and raw, and captured the feelings and thoughts going through the minds of the people in these emotional states. It was challenging because I so deeply understood her decisions and at the same time was confronted by the choice she made and wondered if I could have done anything to change the outcome. I’ve grown a lot as a person and as an actor as a result of It. You don’t always have to feel comfortable to achieve the right take.  I never had an experience that I felt so personally connected to or could relate to.”

Like most great actors, Caris’ skills and care for her craft such as what was proven on that early filming experience, were actually honed on stage in the beginning stages of her her career. Caris performed a leading role in a production of Red Cross by Sam Shephard, written while the acclaimed playwright was dating Patti Smith. It was experiences like these that grounded Caris in a deeply committed appreciation of her craft, as she developed a sophisticated understanding of her voice, talent and emotional range in order to service characters across a wide range of genres.

Aside from working with a distinguished company like Mad Kids, “Small Town Hackers” enjoyed an awards success when it won for best directing of an online comedy project at the recent Director’s Guild of Australia awards – one of the nation’s highest honours for screen content. Adding to the list of the series’ accomplishments is its international online distribution with Saturday Night Live online multi-channel network, Above Average.

“It’s attracted over 400k viewers since the release late last year!” Caris proudly adds, also pointing to how she shared screen time with “OtherLife” and “Parallax” actor, Luke Hewitt.

“Luke was great to work with!”

Aside from her critical roles across TV and online projects, the profile of Caris’ acting career has led to her endorsing some impressive companies for national commercials. In a recent road-safety campaign for RAC, Caris worked on a set that had a budget of $5 million, and flew its director in from the UK. She explains the challenge of acting on a fast-paced commercial set, one that was very different from her earlier experiences as an acclaimed stage actor.

“The director worked in a high intensity environment and was focused on achieving the perfect shot. He had me changing my emotional states very quickly in order to achieve the desired results, which saw me crying one moment to laughing hysterically the next. It was an exciting project to be part because of the pace, expectation and importance of the campaign.”

Adding to the experience of filming itself, the campaign’s success and millions of views it has received online since its release confirm Caris as being at the centre of a powerful social campaign.

Up next for the accomplished actress? “I’m excited to be joining the cast of some really cool projects – unfortunately I can’t quite say what they are yet, but my agents and manager and I are all very excited!”

Funk Meets Gamelan in Bali: Beats of Paradise

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Documentaries about music and musicians are extremely popular. A recent production of this ilk presents a very unique approach on the idea. Bali: Beats of Paradise explores two different artists from different cultures at divergent stages of their career. While the artists are featured, the true story is about a little explored form of music. Filmmaker Livi Zheng (along with EPs His Excellency Ambassador Umar Hadi, Indonesian Ambassador to Korea and Julia Gouw, ranked among the “25 Most Powerful Women in Banking” five times by American Banker Magazine) crafted this documentary which shows the collaboration of Grammy Award-winning vocalist Judith Hill (20 Feet from Stardom) and composer Nyoman Wenten as they collaborate on a new project which fuses contemporary music with traditional Indonesian Gamelan music.

 

Wenten has spent four decades as a purveyor and champion of Indonesian Gamelan music. Hill’s search for unique sounds peaked her interest in Gamelan. This film documents their exploration and fusion of funk and Gamelan in Hill’s work, present prominently in the “Queen of the Hill” music video. Bali: Beats of Paradise expertly displays the passing of the torch among artists of different generations while also communicating the search for new inspiration, sometimes found in preexisting sources. Gamelan may be this regions classical music but its inherent sounds and sights are dramatically different than what most of the world is accustomed to.

 

The subtext here is that the cultural identity of Indonesia is rich and relatively unexplored by the West. The sights and sounds of this documentary serve as a vacation to a visually and audibly stimulating other world. Zheng notes, “Most people will never have the chance to experience the beautiful, vibrant scenery Bali is famous for, said Zheng. “When I traveled to Bali to make this film, the most important thing was to capture the culture and traditions of everyday life – including Balinese ceremonies. Whether filled with joy or sorrow, each one is always accompanied by the traditional sounds of Gamelan.”

 

 

Bali: Beats of Paradise world premieres November 7th in Beverly Hills at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences and opens on November 16th in Los Angeles and New York.

Chandra daCosta talks love of producing and finding the best stories

Growing up, Chandra daCosta was inspired watching her uncle on television, an actor in McIver. Though his role was a small one, that made little difference to her. The moment she saw him on screen, she knew she wanted to be part of creating TV content. When watching a movie, she would fixate on the details, watching it over and over again, studying it. She understood that filmmaking was more than just entertaining. It was a way to share a part of herself with the masses, and she set her sights on producing.

DaCosta has worked with top production companies across Canada. She has worked on popular series like A Wedding and a Murder, Biggest and Baddest, and The Stanley Show and most recently docu-series for Lifetime.  She has collaborated with some of the industry’s finest and her work has been seen on worldwide networks like Discovery Channel, and BBC.

“As a kid, I would always beg my parents to take me to the movie theatre. I loved the glam of it, the event of it, the popcorn, the lights, the BIG screens. I knew I wanted to live in this world somehow, some way,” she said.

One of daCosta’s highlights on her resume is her work with Dale Wolfe Productions. She currently has two shows in development with Wolfe, Fish Brokers and Water ShockFish Brokers is a television series that follows the process of catching, delivering and serving sustainable, fresh seafood to high profile restaurants – “from ship to chef” – on a daily basis. Based on the book Water Rights in Southeast Asia and India by author Ross Michael Pink and published by internationally known publisher, Palgrave Macmillan, Water Shock is a documentary series exploring the paramount human rights issue of our time: clean drinking water.

“Both projects have extremely sensitive subject matter, Water Shock’s message and story are imperative, and I am proud to be working on something that will hopefully have an impact and bring awareness to a very serious issue. The shortage of water is already a reality to so many and yet, here in North America we continue on like the water will last forever,” said daCosta. “Fish Brokers is extremely exciting to work on because everyone loves a good food show! And although this isn’t just about food, that’s a part of it. I am excited to get out there with the fishermen and immerse myself into their daily life. These fishermen are not massive operations, which makes it a personal experience. Further, they are very firm in their desire to fish sustainably and ensure their product is about sustainable seafood.  The idea of following the entire process from fish to dish is something I’m passionate about.”

While making Water Shock, Wolfe relies heavily on daCosta to source and secure hosting talent and utilize her contacts for Directors, cinematographers etc. Through her personal and professional relationships, she has many high-profile colleagues she can approach. This is what makes her so good at what she does; the people she works with always want to work with her again. She also works hard on the research side of the show, making sure there is always a primary and secondary story for each episode that can captivate the audience.

“Chandra is the consummate professional. She has the ability to pull together various aspects of a production and ensure it is running smoothly. Her most powerful quality is her networking skills and connections with high caliber industry professionals and the ability to bring people together,” said Dale Wolfe, Producer and Writer.

DaCosta has also been a driving force behind the development of Fish Brokers. Through the casting and the pre-interviews, she has found several companies to come on board for the show. On top of finding funding and distribution, daCosta continues to work with the cast, and source footage for the pilot episode. She continues to look for new and fresh angles, which is why fishermen are eager to participate in telling their stories.

“I worked on various development projects with Chandra. As a development executive at a top tier Vancouver production company, I often collaborated with Chandra on new ideas and pitches for broadcasters. Chandra is fantastic to work with. She was one of the few people I worked with in the television industry who not only was a pleasure to work with but also able to research, network, write and produce show ideas all at once. She is truly a triple (and beyond) threat,” said Nicole Lawson of Force Four Entertainment.

Fish Brokers has changed and evolved over time. From Fish Brokers, to Fish to Dish, to Ship to Chef and back to Fish Brokers, whatever the title, the show continues to impress industry professionals and broadcast executives.

“Working on these two shows has been so much fun. I really have a chance to dive into the different worlds and meet characters. Although both shows are about sustainability, one has a “fun” subject (food) and the other more serious (water shortages worldwide). The food aspect is always fun because part of the research is testing some of the finished product. And the chef’s love watching people marvel over their creation,” daCosta described. “The water shortage is dire, and it’s been really hard to even get myself to acknowledge the severity of our planet’s water shortages. While doing research and through the book, it’s more important than ever to get this story out there. Looking for the right host is key and so right now, I’m really focusing on the right fit for cast and crew.”

Be sure to keep an eye out for both Fish Brokers and Water Shock to see just what daCosta is capable of.

Actor Missy Malek Is Equally at Ease on Screen and Stage

Though essentially still in the initial phase of her professional film career, British actor Missy Malek has already distinguished herself as a capable technician and talented artist, one who inhabits each role with a masterly combination of skill and instinct. Whether it’s a gritty drama or action-adventure comedy, she deftly crafts persuasive, tangible characters imbued with the full spectrum of nuance and emotion.

Malek is a natural born performer, one who never doubted the direction of her career path. “From when I was as young as three, I’ve literally always known that I would pursue acting,” Malek said. “It was just always what I was going to do, there was never even any question about it.”

From her youthful start in school plays, Malek was hooked. “I always liked performing and getting attention as a kid,” Malek said with a laugh. “And I started to do it outside school when I was 14—I joined the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain. My parents weren’t really that keen on me getting an agent or being a child actor. I think they realized how serious I was about it when I was 18 and still wanted to act.”

The prestigious National Youth Theatre, whose alumni include the distinguished likes of Ben Kingsley and Daniel Day-Lewis, was a critical proving ground for Malek. Steeped in the almost mystical combination of technique, emotion and stagecraft which British theater is world renown for, the naturally skilled Malek gained an illimitable trove of insight and knowledge. Playing in classic works by Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams and Bertolt Brecht and studying drama and philosophy at Oxford University, Malek plunged headlong in the profession.

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Following that ambitious onstage start Malek immediately began working in feature films, making her debut in the taut urban drama Anti-Social and following that with a role in Now You See Me 2, sequel to the popular same-titled 2013 heist-thriller

“It was really different to anything I’d ever experienced,” Malek said. “I was a teenager and so excited to have my own trailer! I got to do scenes with actors like Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson, whose acting I’ve actually studied. The whole experience was just really fun, as you’d probably imagine for a young actor on their first big film set. The director, Jon M. Chu, was great to work with, he has so much clarity and makes his choices with such conviction. I am so happy for him and everything he’s gone on to achieve.”

Malek made the transition from performing for live audiences to the on-set environment with characteristic verve. “The fact that I’ve been acting in film after being in theatre plays wasn’t a conscious decision,” Malek said. “It just happened to be the case that everything I got booked for was screen work. I will definitely go back to the stage when the opportunity to do a good role comes along.”

The ambitious Malek has a comprehensive grasp on cinematic form, with an acclaimed, award-winning short, Laughing Branches, which she wrote, produced, directed and starred in (earning the IndieFEST Film Awards Award of Excellence for her performance) and she recently completed her third feature assignment

“We just wrapped production on a film called Tala,” Malek said. “It’s a comedy that sort of makes fun of the art world and deals with cultural appropriation in a pretty funny way. I play the title character, a socially awkward artist named Tala who is trying to get in with people in the art world, but she’s seen as racially different by the other characters in the film, so they’re all trying to culturally place her. I can’t really say too much, but it’s very original and unique.”

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With a fast-moving career and steadily rising professional profile, Malek radiates an appealing aura of self-assured enthusiasm, and whether she’s playing in live theater or shooting a movie, it’s clear her greatest achievements are soon to come.

“I love both forms,” Malek said. “What I think is nice about film work is that it’s always there—you have a piece of work you’ve done that you can always show. With stage, it disappears as soon as you’ve done it, but I guess that’s the beauty of it.”