Youjia Qian provides insight and artistry to new music video for DeathByRomy

From the time she was a child, Youjia Qian always had a great interest in the arts and fashion. She learned to play the flute at a young age and began painting very early in her life. Music was always a great passion of hers, with an eclectic playlist featuring many genres. She enjoys expressing her attitude and emotions through clothing and accessories, which she has all her life.

“I think clothes show the characteristic of one person and the style that they want to express at that day. Same as artworks, dressing is also an art. To me, being a stylist enables me to help others to show their attitude with clothes,” said Qian.

Now, Qian is a celebrated stylist and art director, and a leader in her industry. She has worked on many successful music videos, such as “Say Less” for Roy Woods, “Devil in California” by Burna Boy, “Talking to Me” for Gab 3 and “Hollywood Angel” by BEXEY and Gab3. She has also made her mark with commercials, working with the famous department store Barneys New York earlier this year on their “Starwalk” campaign.

“I think the greatest challenge as an art director is pre-communication, since the visual effect is hard to express with words. Sometimes customers are not able to imagine what you want to express and then I need to prepare so many cases and proposals with clearer visuals to let them know what I want to express finally. I always make sure to discuss everything with my client in detail. Any problem that arises can be overcome with patient communication,” she described.

Such an attitude is why the art director was approached by newcomer DeathByRomy to take on her debut music video. DeathByRomy needed an experienced professional at the helm to make the project a success, and she knew Qian was just the person. Qian enjoys working with young artists, giving them insight into what it takes to make a hit video.

“I am very happy to work with female artists and hope to cooperate with more girls and new artists in the future,” said Qian.

Qian was eager to work with DeathByRomy. The two had an understanding that the video would have a slightly more feminine feel, and as the two are both female, they found it easy to strike a balance in what they both envisioned. They spent a lot of time discussing the details prior to shooting. They decided to use a dreamy color to express the feeling of youth, while interspersing a lot of cute shots to express a girlish feeling.

“I think this new artist is very willing to try new ideas and styles, so the actors in the audience are some of her own friends, and the cooperation with everyone is very harmonious and happy. We can also know what kind of things and styles young people like now through the communication,” said Qian.

The video was released in June of this year and was published by Elevator. Watch it here to witness Qian’s artistry first hand.

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

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The Benatar Ship in “Avengers: Infinity War”

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

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

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

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

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Specialist Set Designer Haisu Wang

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Benatar Ship

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

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

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Designing the Escape Pod

 

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

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

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The Escape Pod

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

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

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

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The Gyroscope Pilot Chair

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

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

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Constructing the Benatar Ship

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

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

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

Josh Futcher goes dark and withdrawn for captivating performance in new award-winning film

As a child, Australia’s Josh Futcher was extremely shy. He recalls it as “debilitating”, and at the age of eight, his mother put him in acting classes to get him out of his shell. That was when his life changed. He began to fall in love with acting, and when he first performed on stage, the shyness that plagued him all his life melted away. Hearing the audience laugh at his Dracula impression with a Transylvanian accent was cataclysmic for Futcher. He knew even as a child that he was meant to pursue acting for the rest of his life. That was the first time he felt truly seen, and now audiences around the world have seen his work and know his face.

“I come from a low-income household with a single mother. No one in my family has ever been in the entertainment industry. I have built everything I have achieved in my career from hard work and determination. I’ve known this is what I’ve wanted to do since the age of eight and have never looked back or doubted it since. I’ve not had help or handouts, other than the love and support of family and friends,” said Futcher.

Futcher is known for films such as Répetez S’il-Vous-Plait, Wedgetail, From Parts Unknown, and many more. He has graced the small screen many times in hit television shows like Conspiracy 365 and No Pink Cowboys, and his face is instantly recognizable in Australia from the viral campaign for Victoria Tourism “Remote Control Tourist”, winning international awards. There is little doubt as to why he has become such a force to be reckoned with in the Australian entertainment industry.

Earlier this year, one of Futcher’s latest films, Fatal Flame, won the Audience Spotlight Award at The Idyllwild International Festival of Cinema. The film, which premiered in 2017 at the L.A Shorts Awards, where it won Best Film Noir Film, has had a tremendous run at many prestigious international film festivals. It took home the top price at the Women’s Only Entertainment Film Festival 2017 and was a Special Mention for the Award of Merit at the Accolade Global Film Competition in Los Angeles.

“It’s a very rewarding experience to have a project that you had such a strong hand in from start to finish be as successful as it’s been. It’s been received with critical and audience acclaim since its release and I’m incredibly proud of the work,” said Futcher.

Fatal Flame follows Police Detective McDonald, played by Futcher, who is summoned by shady criminal Rico to a vantage point overlooking the wake for gangster Julian Blakley’s recently murdered father. Rico riles McDonald with news that Julian has corrupted his police colleagues; and ordered the death of McDonald’s informant. But McDonald, who suffers from PTSD, isn’t interested until he sees a mysterious beauty provoking a fight with Julian. As Julian tries to escape, McDonald is hot on their trail. But it isn’t Julian who interests him. Instead he pursues the enigmatic woman.

“I loved the fact that this man has gone through so much grief but is motivated to make sure it doesn’t happen to another innocent woman. He sees a woman being mistreated and he knows the man is no good, so he goes to warn her. I think he is a great man, with a care and respect for women. Not just as sexual objects. And in a time when so much harassment of women is being brought to the forefront – I feel this story shows men how a lady should be treated,” said Futcher.

In the film, McDonald suffers from PTSD after seeing his girlfriend murdered in front of him by a gangland boss, who discovered McDonald was undercover and betrayed him. This causes McDonald to be dark, quiet, and withdrawn, but the appeal of a magnetic femme fatale style character quickly peaks his interest. He can save her, like he wished he could have saved his girlfriend. Such a character had great appeal for Futcher, who is known for his improvisation and comedy, and gave him the chance to show off his versatility as an actor. He made McDonald a tortured soul with a dark past, but with a motivation to be better, which in turn made him human and relatable.

“I loved being able to sit in silence on the screen. As actors, we constantly feel we have to do so much to be interesting. It was so freeing to be still and silent and sit in the pain of my character. It taught me a lot about the power of stillness on screen and what it portrays for the viewer,” he described.

McDonald was originally written as a 50-year-old-man. However, after the Director, Janet Dimelow, saw what Futcher was capable of, she decided to re-write her story for Futcher to play the leading role, knowing that he was the actor who could make her film a success. For Futcher, being offered the role so early in the piece allowed him to be a part of the creative process from start to finish. He was able to have input into rewrites, and much of the creative choices for the film. In addition to this, he was appointed casting director early on, and was therefore able to hand pick the cast he wanted to work with. When it came to shooting, he took his producing hat off and focused on the role, giving the best performance he could. Obviously, his efforts paid off.

“I was excited to be the lead actor with of lot of creative sway in the pre-production, and all the way through the process,” said Futcher.

Fatal Flame is now looking into making a feature length film, with Futcher once again as the star. Keep an eye out for it in theatres next year.

 

Photo by Lachian Woods

Jeff Venida talks honor of creating a shift in today’s branding culture with Paradam

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Creative Director Jeff Venida

There are two types of people in this world: those with compelling stories to tell and those who actually tell them. One of those people is highly sought-after creative director, Jeff Venida. What sets Venida apart from most is the fact that his storytelling doesn’t come bound between two book covers or scattered through carefully arranged music notes. On the contrary, Venida uses creative branding to stimulate the minds of consumers and to take them on quests they wouldn’t have otherwise imagined traveling. He takes a thought-based, captivating approach to creative branding and shares stories with the world in a way that keeps him at the top of his industry.

Throughout his career, Venida has earned himself the opportunity to work with some of the world’s biggest brands, allowing his talents to captivate consumers in a number of different markets. He prides himself on the fact that his job, unlike many others, requires him to have a keen understanding not only of top brands and their target audiences, but also of some of the world’s most niche industries. He realized from an early stage in his career, that being a creative director would require far more than an eye for design. He would need to be able to identify important trends in society and determine how best to gauge the audiences consuming them. It has been a journey rich with learning opportunities and chances to look at parts of the world in a new light. In addition, after several years spent working for other brands and striving to bring other people’s visions to life, Venida realized that he needed to shift his focus towards putting his own ideas first and bringing them to life on a large scale. For these reasons and more, he decided that his talents could be best offered to the world by starting his own company: Paradam.

Per Venida’s vision, Paradam is focused on developing a thought-based, storytelling approach to creative brand building and marketing. He sees great importance in communicating complex ideas to his clients that tap into their emotions and connect intimately with their minds. His reputation, along with his business savvy, allowed him to build a strong client base and to leave a lasting impression on all of his clients, everywhere from start-up companies to major brands. His venture has been so successful, in fact, that Paradam was featured on AdWeek’s podcast in 2017, reaching audiences on a mass scale.

“I wanted to change the way people consume media and I wanted to have a larger impact on the culture I was so clearly contributing to. I knew that I didn’t want to create a product that was ‘for sale’ because I don’t really believe that any product will have a larger impact on people’s lives. Having said that, I do believe that awareness and an opening of the mind can have a great impact on the collective consciousness of the world. I wanted to streamline my beliefs and processes in a way that others might be able to take something away from. I started Paradam so that I could disseminate my approach to a brand communication for a larger audience and hopefully leave a positive, lasting impact on the way we experience the world. It is so much more than just an agency or a company; it’s an ideology and a way of viewing the world,” told Venida.

When developing Paradam accordingly, Venida endeavored to become an agency that specializes in conscious consumerism. To the world, this may seem like too large of a feat to tackle; however, for Venida, it is unfathomable to build an agency in any other way. During Paradam’s inception, the idea of generating a fundamental change in the way people think about marketing and branding motivated Venida to honor the ideas and intentions that are embedded in Paradam’s foundation and he was shocked by how easily his ideas came to fruition. Using his photography and videography skills, he shot content for his website and created a brand video that would later draw clients into soliciting his services. He also created icons and logos to match his brand’s concept, and focused his efforts on developing a unified, coherent branding strategy to show prospective clients the sort of output they could expect from working with him. For clients like Paul Andre Pinces, knowing Paradam’s ethos and seeing the calibre of content it housed were nothing compared to what he experienced when he actually worked first hand with Venida.

“I first worked with Jeff on a project for Native Shoes in Vancouver. He had a vital role on all 2014 and 2015 seasonal campaigns, contributing to brand messaging, look-books, and online content. He defined the brand tone throughout each campaign, giving the company its distinctive voice in the market during their most vital period of growth. His company, Paradam, is an exceptional example of his command in the industry and he is certainly one of the best creative directors I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with,” raved Pinces.

Testaments from clients like Pinces serve as a reminder that the risk of stepping back from his work to focus on a passion project paid off in the end. He is humbled by the thought that through Paradam, he is able to practice what he preaches and to bring something fresh to the market.

“I can’t tell you how much it means to me that this project has become such a success. When people call me just to tell me they’ve discovered Paradam and that it really speaks to them on a personal level is indescribable.  It makes me feel like I’m on the right path. Some of the creative individuals I’ve worked with on this project have called me to tell me that the completed project is something they thought they could only dream of, and that makes me feel honored. I feel inspired to push the envelope more and try my next creative endeavor,” he concluded.

Maja Lakomy goes on ‘Vacay’ in new film

Poland’s Maja Lakomy is a true storyteller. As an actress, she tells someone’s story in her own interpretation, having respect towards the character and the narrative at the same time. Her goal is to be a part of as many spectacular stories that are written or told by great minds as possible. She aims to both entertain and move as many people as possible, whether they laugh, cry, think, or simply feel. That is what she finds satisfying.

“There are so many beautiful, thrilling, terrifying and touching stories in the world and the more people they reach, the better, in my opinion. Actors are in some sense tools that are needed for these stories to reach people. Through movies and theatre people can experience new things and educate themselves, which I think is so important,” said Lakomy.

Lakomy is known for her work in films such as Star House and Diminuendo, receiving great praise for her acting abilities at many international film festivals. This year, she has lots going on, including a music video for Italian singing sensation Andrea Bocelli. On top of this, she has several upcoming films, including Straying from You, Moral Inequity, What’s with the Doll, and the artistic flick Vacay.

Vacay offers up a unique challenge for Lakomy, as it is a creative, cinematic film with no dialogue. The film is meant to entertain of course, but also make the audience think and feel shocked, which is why Lakomy was interested in the project. Before she auditioned, she read the description of her character and knew exactly how to play her. Upon reading the script, she found the story unique and incredible.

In the film, Lakomy plays Veronica, the “mysterious messenger” in the story. Nobody knows exactly what the history is between her and the main man, played by Juan Blasquez, but one can suspect that something deep and unresolved occurred between those two. She goes through many different phases of emotion, adding necessary and intense drama to her scenes. She is a tough woman on the facade, who leads an independent and successful life. Once audiences see a little more of her, we find out that underneath, she carries some trauma from the past that sometimes she isn’t able to cover. She is like a ticking bomb of emotions that if she doesn’t manage to contain, might explode.

“I like that the story is light and entertaining for the most part but gets intense and shocking in some moments. I also like the style of it, that it’s told without any dialogue, which makes it universal and even more powerful. I think the story is important because it touches upon some relevant and controversial matter, but at the same time entertains the audience, leaving them with a lot to think about after watching it, maybe even with an unsettling feeling,” said Lakomy.

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Lakomy was asked to audition for the part of Veronica by the director of the film. He had previously seen the actress’s work and was greatly impressed. Upon meeting her, he slightly altered the part to make it a principle role, knowing Lakomy could make a difference to his film. Such a reaction was incredibly touching for Lakomy.

Vacay began filming at the end of last month. Currently, Lakomy focuses on getting into the mindset of her character. A very important part of the process is connecting with one of the lead actors who her character has a strong history with. They are working on building the relationship so that when they act together, they can make the story between them as believable as possible, even without any words.

“I love that the whole film has no dialogue, so the story is told through the actors’ actions, facial expressions and the scenery. I like working on this specific aspect of acting, where drastic transitioning between different emotions is required. I enjoy challenges like that. I really appreciate working with great actors and an incredibly passionate director. I like that everybody who’s involved in this project fully engages with it and gives a hundred percent of their energy into it,” said Lakomy.

Vacay will be finished and submitted to film festivals later this year. There is little doubt that it will impress, and that Lakomy’s performance will be incredibly captivating. After its film festival run, it will be made available on various digital on demand platforms. Be sure to check it out.

Needless to say, Lakomy is a dynamic and in demand actress. She never gave up on her dream of acting, despite various roadblocks that came up on her journey. She encourages all those with the same dream to keep pushing, because eventually it will be worth it.

“As actors and artists in general it’s hard to be satisfied with yourself. There’s never a perfect answer or way to do something when it comes to acting. This profession is very subjective and it’s important to remember that we can’t always make everybody happy. My advice would be stay determined and work on yourself instead of comparing yourself to other people’s successes and failures. And even when you hear “no” way more than you hear “yes”, as long as acting brings you joy, don’t ever quit,” she advised.

Captivating Producer and Director Federico Torrado Tobón on Filmmaking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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Still of Casey Burke as Julie in “The Plague”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Poster for “The Plague”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  

Top tips for becoming a judge at film festivals

Photo by Adam Sheridan-Taylor
Xiao Sun, photo by Adam Sheridan-Taylor

Film Festivals are outstanding opportunities for filmmakers around the world to share their work and network. Getting your film into a festival is an honour and winning an award and being recognized for your work is the height of prestige for anyone in the industry.

 

However, what many overlook when it comes to festivals is actually judging them. Being a panelist on a festival is an ideal opportunity to meet other professionals in the industry and learn what they are doing, and maybe you will be inspired by what you see.

That being said, how does one become a panelist at a film festival? I sat down with Xiao Sun, an industry Chinese Canadian actress hailing from Montreal, who has starred in films alongside Charlize Theron, Jennifer Lawrence, and Seth Rogan, to name a few. Xiao was recently a jury member at the Toronto Korean Film Festival, which ran from July 11-15 in Toronto. Here are her tips at not only becoming a panelist, but also on what to do while judging the films.

Tips on getting into festivals

  1. Stay in the know

Get to know as many film festivals as possible and stay updated on entertainment news. Toronto, for example has this great website to always be up-to-date on festivals in the area

  1. Attend festivals

Once you find out when and where the festivals are, attend them yourself and submit your work to them. Get to know their programmers when they have mixers. For my local Toronto people, TIFF is an amazing place to be. Start to prepare early, get an early bird priced badge, go to as many network events as you can find, and get your account on Cinando – you’ll see which company and which person is coming to a festival and their contact information. Get access on IMDB pro, educate yourself with top production companies, agencies and filmmakers in the industry and keep updated on their recent work.

  1. Network

Get info about the festivals from your friends whose work has entered/won awards at the festivals before, get involved with your local Industry community, get connected on festivals’ Facebook group. Also, remember to consult your local ACTRA representative for on-camera and behind-the-scenes workshops.

Tips on Judging at festivals

  1. Don’t research

Watch every film thoroughly as if you know nothing about it. I prefer not to read the synopsis, or the director/actors work before watching, so I don’t prejudge the work.

  1. Take Breaks

Take a breather and get some fresh air between watching each film, even if they’re short films, as you would cleanse your palette before tasting a new dish.

  1. Follow your heart

Let the film touch you, don’t use it to judge or to pick on their imperfections, and see which story/performance tugs at your heartstrings.

Romaine Waite takes audiences back in time in ‘Frankie Drake Mysteries’

Exploration and research. Those are the two words that come to mind when Canada’s Romaine Waite is asked to describe what he does as an actor. He is required to research humanity and explore every character he plays. As an actor, he wears many different hats depending on the subject of a project. At the surface it is entertainment, but in a way, for Waite, it is therapy.

“I believe as an actor I’m an interpreter of words and ideas manifested through physicality and emotion. We’re also guides into unknown worlds and situations. At the highest level, we are responsible for bringing people together to experience a common idea or emotion,” he said.

Audiences around the world would recognize Waite immediately from his recurring role in the iconic television series Star Trek: Discovery. He has also starred in many successful projects, such as The Mist, and Antisocial. Earlier this year, Canadian viewers also got to see him on the small screen in the hit show Frankie Drake Mysteries.

Frankie Drake Mysteries is a hit television series on the Canadian network CBC. It premiered last November and is currently filming its second season. The show follows Toronto’s only female private detective in the 1920s as she takes on the cases the police don’t want or can’t handle. Along with her partner Trudy, Frankie and the Drake Detective Agency take on cases of all shapes and sizes. From airplanes and booze running to American G-men, Communists and union busters, Frankie’s fearless sense of adventure gets her into all kinds of trouble, but she always manages to find her way out.

“I like that the story is centered around women of the ‘20s. I don’t think many people are aware of the accomplishments and contributions women have made in that time period. It’s amazing to showcase the impact that women have had, but also showing women in a strong positive light, not just for inclusion in the history books but to hopefully inspire young women that watch the show. I think representation is of the utmost importance in media,” said Waite.

In the show, Waite plays Bill Peters. Bill is a genuine man, and his intentions are as pure as they come. He has a simple job, goes to church and tries his best to help with investigations when asked by Trudy Clarke.

From the first season, the groundwork was laid for a potential romance to blossom between Trudy and Bill in addition to providing crucial information for investigations in the show. Waite played the part perfectly, establishing the relationship between the two characters. Through this relationship, audiences get to see a well-rounded character in Trudy.

“The production company for this series, has an amazing reputation of putting together great shows, but more importantly it was the premise of the show. Centred around two amazing women, I wanted to be a part of the narrative that showcases women in a positive manner. I think this show can be empowering for young women,” said Waite.

After working with the director on a previous show, Murdoch Mysteries, Waite was selected for the role of Bill without an audition as they knew he was ideal for the part. The character has now become pivotal for the series and will be featured once again in the shows second season.

Working on the show has been a wonderful experience for Waite. The actor has had a lot of freedom to explore the character and how he interacts in the world. Although viewers don’t know too much about Bill Peters yet, they can see a bit of who he is by the way he treats Trudy. He’s compassionate, devoted, honest, and even at times naive. Playing such a role was natural for Waite, as he found himself to be very similar to Bill in many aspects.

Once Waite researched about the time period, he found it easy to embody the character. This was made easier by the outstanding production design, with the set looking very much like 1920’s Toronto. The costumes fit right in with the time period, as did the props, and Waite describes the experience as being like a “mini history lesson.” Walking around the sets, seeing the detailed work, he found it easy to be inspired.

I’m always proud of great Canadian content. There is sometimes this notion that good shows only come from the other side of the border, but it’s certainly not the case with this one. From the creators to the leading cast, I think the show is successful on so many levels. But the most relevant to conversations society is having now, is portrayal of independent, forward-thinking women. I think this show contributes to that narrative in a fresh way. I am happy that I can be included in telling this story. My hope is that a young girl watching this show will feel inspired to be who she wants to be in any capacity,” Waite concluded.

Be sure to check out Waite’s next endeavours, Netflix’s new holiday feature The Christmas Calendar and the upcoming indie film Salvage.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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