Producer Guoqing Fu brings China and America together with award-winning film ‘Underset’

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Guoqing Fu

Filmmaking allows China’s Guoqing Fu to explore the unknown psychological world and explore his endless creativity. He feels a thrill whenever he embarks on a new project, with the purpose of reflecting and exaggerating social phenomena, to arouse resonance in people’s hearts.

“As the eighth art form of humankind, film is the crystallization of the first seven art forms, which perfectly interprets the inner artistic passion of filmmakers. The artistic and creative pleasure that cannot be obtained in the real world can be infinitely expanded in the film world,” he said.

Throughout his career, Fu has shown why he is an in-demand producer in his home country and abroad. This is exemplified with his films Gum Gum, La Pieta, and Over, to name a few. He has a sincere desire to educate and entertain the masses through his work, with no plans on slowing down.

“My goal is to better disseminate Chinese and American culture, making more collaborative projects and bringing more culture and art into the film world,” said Fu. “I feel that the film and television cooperation between China and the United States has great potential. I am willing to be a pioneer and keep working hard.”

The producer became one step closer to that goal with his film Underset. Taking place in the Republic Era of China, after the main character, Qianyue Zhang, was married, he went to his hometown to find his friend, Mingtang Wang, but he accidentally finds a dead body in his hotel room. The police take the owner of the hotel, his wife, and all the hotel customers into custody. Qianyue’s wife and her father arrive to learn about the incident, but it is all too much for him to accept, eventually leading to his death.

Premiering last June in Beijing, Underset was a great success in both China and America. Not only was it an Official Selection at many prestigious festivals around the world, it took home several awards. These include Best Feature Film and the Diamond Award at the Hollywood Film Competition, Best Feature Film at the Hollywood Film Competition, Best Original Music and Best Production at Macau International Movie Festival, Best Feature Film and the Platinum Award at the NYC Indie Film Awards, and Best Feature Film at The European Independent Film Awards.

“I am very honored as one of the most vital members of the team. It’s my first time being a producer on a truly Chinese feature film. When I heard about the awards from my friends and crew members, I was excited,” he said.

Fu was a co-producer on Underset, taking on key responsibilities like script selection, hiring team members and setting up the team. He coordinated every single department, solved any and all problems on set, ensuring everything went smoothly without any delays. He always did what needed to be done to stay on top of things, making a strong team and a great film.

Most important for Fu, Underset is a Chinese domestic film. The production environment is very different from the United States, but this producer is determined to be a bridge between Chinese and American film cooperation, a large and challenging task he is more than willing to take on.

“It was hard, but I think it was worth it. It was my first time managing a whole production in China. In the beginning, I needed to care about all the parts, because it makes me learn more about the Chinese film industry. It has some advantages, but it also has disadvantages. I love those experiences, some of them are challenging, but challenges make me stronger and a pro for next time,” he said.

Keep an eye out for Fu’s future works.

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Sound Mixer SiYao Jiang terrifies audiences with ‘Slicker’

As a sound mixer, SiYao Jiang spends his day on film sets and television productions, always experiencing something new. He comes to work each day prepared to not only excel technically, but creatively as well. He knows the importance of sound when watching your favorite movie, being able to take audiences to a different place and time through what they hear.

“I am not that kind of person who can sit in an office all day, I need to move around, and production sound mixer is the perfect job for me where I do audio and recording in different locations every time. Secondly, I get to meet different people during different sets,” said Jiang.

Jiang has spent his career impressing worldwide audiences with his talent. He has worked on national commercials with leading brands, like the Japanese air conditioning company Daikin, and on award-winning film productions, such as Apple, as well as Bag of Worms and Starf*cker. He is incredibly versatile, knowing just how to bring on the laughs or terrify audiences, just as he did in the horror Slicker.

Slicker is a suspenseful horror film about Eddie, a cocky businessman who is lost in the middle of nowhere with an empty tank of gas, and no idea what direction to take next. He finds himself seeking help from a pair of locals who are hiding a deep disdain for outsiders, and a dark secret. The help he finds is not what it seems to be, leaving Eddie fearing for his life. He is faced with a decision, and his choice leads to grave consequences.

It was the first horror Jiang mixed, so it was an interesting experience for the sound editor. He found the story fun, but also slightly disturbing, and he wanted to help scare the audience. He also found that the film was more than just a scare tactic, as it teaches something at the very end.

Slicker has gone on to see tremendous success at many film festivals around the world. It even went on to win several awards, including second place at the International Horror Hotel, and was selected into the End of Days Festival this past summer.

“I feel great that Slicker did so well. After all the challenges that the sound team faced and working so hard to overcome them, it is great that other people recognized our efforts,” said Jiang.

The setting for this film was in a forest, and Jiang found shooting in such an environment challenging but fun in terms of sound. The environment was pretty difficult, with lots of people being bitten by fire-ants, including him, and the weather was very humid, so it really restricted the range of the wireless. The first day of shooting, the system wouldn’t turn on and the mic wasn’t functioning as it was getting wet. Luckily, he had a backup and it was smooth sailing from there. He made sure to come prepared with alternative options every day afterwards.

“I like challenges, and this project is really challenging. Lots of wide shots, limited space, and super humid environment which makes the sound team very difficult to work with. Luckily the production gives us enough time to sort the problem out,” he said.

Watch Slicker and prepare yourself to be terrified.

Producer and Director Ace Yue tells heartwarming LGBTQ love story with new film

As a filmmaker, Ace Yue takes an idea and brings it to life. Originally from Shenyang, a north east city of China, Yue has always had a passion for the art form and has dedicated her life to bringing captivating stories to the big and small screen. As a producer, she finds just the script and team to make a vision a reality, and as a director, she follows her instincts and provides a sound voice of leadership for her entire team.

“I like to give every character in my stories an entire life, no matter how old they are. I am building up an entire world for my cast, allowing them to feel the character, making friends with them, then, becoming them. I want the audience to be taken away by the story, creating a cathartic experience for every viewer,” said Yue.

This in-demand producer and director made headlines last year with her award-winning film Gum Gum, which she wrote based off her own life experiences, but Yue is no stranger to success. She also has highlights on her resume such as By Way of Guitar, La Pieta, K.a.i., and many more.

“I think this is a job that requires a sense of responsibility. It’s fun and full of creativity. In fact, creativity and on-the-spot ability are my most important skills of being a producer and director, because we can never predict what will happen on the set. So, having a very high ability to adapt is key,” said Yue.

Recently, Yue has seen great success with one of her newest films, the drama Hank. The film tells the story of Hank and his husband Tommy who are struggling to save their 15-year marriage and entertain the idea of an open relationship. While this might be working well for Tommy, Hank struggles to cope with the change as well as the challenges of being old.

Telling an LGBTQ story was important for Yue, who immediately said yes to the film after reading the script. She has worked on many genres and is incredibly versatile, but this was her first time telling a story about this community. She feels film can provide a voice for underrepresented groups and educate viewers on key issues, and taking such a heartfelt look into the loving marriage of two homosexual men touches on all the reasons she wanted to become a filmmaker to begin with.

“Learning to understand who we are, and respect everyone as they are, is of the utmost importance. It is the greatest aspect of this film. In real life, most people like to look at things with a preconceived perspective. In other words, people just want to see what they want to see. Rarely will we analyze and understand the problem from the perspective of others, and then everyone will have such a state of mind that they are freaks and not understood by others, and then generate inferiority and escape from life. What this film tells is that no matter how others treat themselves, they must first face themselves honestly, don’t treat themselves as aliens, bravely accept themselves, pursue what they want, each of us is equal. The gender orientation, the preference of the things themselves can be different. Don’t worry about the eyes of others. It’s right to be happy for being myself,” she said.

Hank premiered at the Burbank International Film Festival and was an Official Selection at the Hollywood International Film Festival. It was an Honorable Mention at the Los Angeles Music Awards 2019 and has a lot more expected for the year. This month, Yue and Hongyu Li, the director of Hank, are heading to HRIFF 2019, the Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival Red Carpet Press Event on February 15th.It is also an Official Selection for the world-renowned Cannes Film Festival later this year.

“The success is sensational. We use our profession to tell meaningful stories in a visual way, working hard on every detail. Being recognized by audiences around the world is also a way to make us more motivated and more determined to go do what we want to do, to tell the story, to shoot the film,” she said.

As the co-producer on the film, Yue made sure that any unexpected situation that arose on set was instantly taken care of. She helped the director create a good working environment, allowing everyone to focus solely on creating a work of art.

Yue knew the importance of the film they were creating, making it her sole focus and drive every day she was on set. The feeling was infectious, with the entire cast and crew feeling the same.

“I have a lot of LGBTQ friends. We are just like them, everyone is human, there is no difference. What I want to say is that they are not special groups. The discrimination of many people is that their own starting point is wrong. True love does not mean that men and women together breed the next generation, but a soul meets another soul that can truly understand each other,” she concluded.

Andrea Mercado designs detailed and memorable characters for cartoon web series

Andrea Mercado has been an artist for as long as she can remember. She had no distinct memory of the first time she held a pencil, ready to begin drawing; for the Peruvian native, it was her natural instinct to create. She was inspired growing up from her grandmother, a talented artist, and other family members with similar talents. She was encouraged to continue pursuing her dream as she aged, going from crayon drawings as a child to detailed illustrations. As she grew, her love for the arts transformed into much more, and she began to take a keen interest in both animation and graphic design.

“As a kid, and even now as an adult if I’m honest, I loved watching cartoons and was constantly drawing the characters. I even made my own paper dolls and comics about them,” said Mercado.

Now a sought-after Graphic Designer and Animator, Mercado spends every day living her childhood dream. Whether working on passion projects, like her viral film PINOF Animate! or her current work with the leading animation and design company Fractl, Mercado impresses the masses with her many artistic talents and sheer drive.

In many cases, Mercado also allows others to see their dreams come true while doing just that for herself. This is just the case when she teamed up with Mark Udarbe, a software developer with a passion for animation and characters, who commissioned Mercado to animate character-introduction videos for his indie online comic web-series called Paradigm Spiral. Ubarbe contacted Mercado directly after being vastly impressed with her portfolio.

“I like that Mark took the chance to create something of his own. He had a story and characters and wanted to bring them to life, and that is something every storyteller and animator should aspire to do in their lifetime. I think it’s important to have projects like this because it inspires other people to create their own. It has even inspired me to make more films in the future,” said Mercado.

Paradigm Spiral explores Techoon City, a marvel built from the efforts of humanity and an alien anthro race known as the Kin. Many different types of people have come to this city for their own reasons: Aura Sarim, a young mage, seeks to change the future. Riselle Suna, Kin commissioner of the police force, desires a place to call home. Dreyc Hawking, a novelist, hopes to find inspiration for his next book. Discover how all their stories come together in the series.

“I wanted to work on this project because it has always been my dream to be a part of something big. And an indie animated show is something big. The story, the characters, and the setting all had great appeal, and that motivated me to work on this even more,” said Mercado.

On top of animating the characters, Mercado was also in charge of creating the logo for the series, the web design, and the Kickstarter and social media graphics. After that, she also created the icon and header for Mark’s personal Twitter.

“As a freelancer, Andrea is very professional. She is able to keep regular communication and was very accommodating to schedules. It was not difficult to get her up to speed and have her work on different parts of the art pipeline. If possible, I would look forward to working with her again,” said Mark Udarbe, Developer at Kroger.

Mercado was absolutely essential for the animation and continued success of Paradigm Spiral. Her work animated the characters, and her graphics have not only promoted the series and the website, but Udarbe himself.

Mercado continues to have success as both a graphic designer and an animator, with many more upcoming projects to look forward to. She loves expressing her creativity and versatility with her work, and Paradigm Spiral is just one example of what a talent she is. She encourages all those looking to follow in her footsteps not to give up on their dreams, and not to be afraid to create their own work whenever possible.

“I would encourage anyone to work on their own projects since they are young and start building a portfolio. Because the world is so competitive nowadays, you have to be willing to challenge yourself and constantly improve both your technical and artistic skills. Get acquainted with the software being used in the industry. This is very important because it will be your main tool when working,” she advised. “Other than that, work hard and be curious, eager, accountable, and responsible; because that’s the kind of person everyone would like to work with.”

You can check out Paradigm Spiral’s website to stay up to date with this fun series.

Filmmaker Tom Edwards Strikes a Balance between Producing and Directing

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Producer and director Tom Edwards at the Napa Valley Film Festival

It takes a very unique talent to effectively balance the work of a producer and director simultaneously on a project. Though it is no easy task, it is one where filmmaker Tom Edwards has proven his skill time and time again.

One of Edwards’ recent projects as producer and director is the music video for folk-punk artist Sunny War’s single “Gotta Live It,” which premiered last year to great praise on Vice’s Noisey outlet, which is known for showcasing hot new music and music videos.

Edwards captures the juxtaposition of melancholy sadness and perseverance present in Sunny War’s “Gotta Live It,” which the artist says is “a very personal song about my struggle with alcoholism, my dysfunctional love life and the confusion I face daily participating in this rat race society.”

Prior to directing and producing “Gotta Live It,” Edwards directed and produced the music video for Sunny War’s  “Goodbye LA.” That first time collaboration obviously ran smoothly because the artist called him back again for “Gotta Live It.”

Working with Tom is very chill. He has a nice easy going personality but at the same time he is very organized. [He] is good at what he does… he plans every shot, communicates the ideas with you beforehand… and actually follows through,” says Sunny War. “He is also always willing to listen to any crazy ideas you might have and is kind when explaining why those ideas are crazy and won’t work.”

Though Tom Edwards’ boundless creativity as a visionary director is evident in his work, his ability to balance what does and doesn’t work from the standpoint of a producer in terms of managing the budget, shoot days and all of the other odds and ends that go into producing are what make him such a sought after talent.

“As the producer I was working with a very limited budget. It was important to find the right location and that the filming could be completed in one day. As director I needed to make sure that my vision aligned with Sunny’s and that she was happy with the idea before I started to shoot. The last thing you want when working with an artist is to find out after shooting that they don’t like the final video,” explains Edwards.

“It’s essential to have good communication skills to ensure both sides of the party agree on the expectations. My role as producer was about coordinating crew, finding locations, getting permits and making sure we had the right amount of gear to tell the story. I like to keep all the logistics out of the way when I’m directing, it’s important to make sure I have my undivided attention on the artistic choices and performance.”

Some of the other music videos Edwards has produced and directed include “Fire” from  American ukulele virtuoso Taimane, The Main Squeeze’s “Only Time,” Westside FX “War ft. Bro Burch,” Calix’s “California Dream’n,” “Bad Blood,” and more. He’s also directed and produced commercials for brands including Lamborghini, The Sirius, Garrison Bespoke and the Shaolin Temple.

While he’s made a name for himself as a powerful producer and director in the world of commercials and music videos he’s no stranger to producing and directing narrative films.

In 2013 Edwards wrote, directed and produced the film “Ninety One: A Tainted Page,” which earned multiple awards including those for Best Overall Film, Best Actor and Best International Baccalaureate Film at the Shanghai Student Film Festival.

Actor Anson Lau, who plays the lead in the film, says, “I’ve always known Tom for his passion for making films… When he puts together a project he’s always enthusiastic… When he directs he knows exactly what he wants.”

Over the years Edwards strength as a producer has also led him to be tapped to produce a long list of projects for other directors.

He explains, “Aside from directing and producing my own films, I find a lot of pleasure helping others and bringing their visions to life. I enjoy being critical and being able to provide valuable feedback.”

One such film where Edwards proved critical in the success of the film as a producer behind the scenes is the 2016 dramatic sci-fi film “Visitors” starring Kei’la Ryan from “Escape the Night,” “The Doctors” and “American Hashtag.”

“I worked with Tom on a large number of projects, from commercials and music videos to narrative films. He always blew me away with his creativity and hard work. His work on the film ‘Visitors’ was significantly important and was one of our best collaborations,” says “Visitors” director Alon Juwal. “Tom had a large creative input both in the development phase and in the production phase. He contributed greatly in the writing of the screenplay and managed to lock some amazing crew members for the project.”

A film about two siblings who return home to their estranged father’s house after a long absence, only to find their home being invaded by a group of uninvited visitors from another world as the night progresses, “Visitors” made a strong impact on audiences and festival judges across the globe.

In addition to earning the Honorable Mention Award from the Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival and the Festival Award from the New York International Film Festival “Visitors” was nominated for several awards at festivals including the USA Film Festival, Vail Film Festival, Phoenix Comic-Con, Newport Beach Film Festival, and more.

“After careful review of the [Visitors] script, there were a few scenes that needed more attention. In one scene, the main character is blasted with a beam of light as if a spaceship about to abduct him. We had to make sure that we could get a rig and the right people to achieve this,” recalls Edwards about some of his key contributions to the project.

Edwards’ personal experience writing and directing projects have endowed him with an unparalleled understanding of what needs to happen on set for a director to be able to effectively make their vision come to life; and this is one reason why he has proven himself as such a powerful producer.

Director Alon Juwal adds, “All of my collaborations with Tom ended in successful productions. He brings a great deal of enthusiasm and grace to each project that he signs up for. Tom takes every small task that he is given with great seriousness and simply brings amazing results. He is fast, extremely efficient and a very hard worker.”

The ever busy producer and director is currently working with writer Phil Giangrande on the upcoming dystopian film “Now It Begins,” which takes place in a future society where resources are scarce and poses the question over whether it is ethical for a father to be replaced by artificial intelligence.

Edwards is also working with an a LA based production company on what he says is a “Very exciting series of educational videos that will launch sometime this year.”

Though he’s not yet able to announce the details on the upcoming video project, with such a track record of successful productions already under his belt we know it’s one you will be hearing about very soon.

China’s Zanda Tang talks love of animation and the importance of research

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Zanda Tang

Hailing from Dalian, a coastal city in Northern China, Zanda Tang has made quite a name for himself both in his home country and around the world. With a unique style, he has become a leading Animation Concept Artist. He adopts a variety of painting techniques, always adapting to what each new project requires to best tell the story. He is constantly learning, staying up-to-date with the latest styles of painting, allowing him to jump out of his comfort zone and bring innovative ideas to whatever film he takes on.

“Animation is the least restrictive tool for spreading your ideas. It can be more exaggerated and imaginative than a movie. Compared with the words in books, it can more accurately convey your design and details. Now more and more movies use animation to help with shooting, which makes me more confident in this industry,” he said.

Tang has worked on a number of award-winning films alongside decorated colleagues. His film Lion Dance took home nine awards and was an Official Selection at over 30 international film festivals. He saw similar success with Diors Samurai and Baby and Granny, captivating audiences around the world. No matter the project, Tang makes sure to extensively research all aspects of the story, leaving no detail left behind.

“For example, if I were to design a kettle in an animation project, I would put in the work required to make it more than just a simple kettle. First of all, I would collect a lot of information about the kettle based on the story background and character information of the project. I would collect information from various fields, such as screenshots of illustrations on the ancient painting network, pictures of movies, pictures of goods online and even descriptions in books. When you have a lot of information elements, then the really interesting part starts. You can put all these different elements together and eventually you can design multiple designs based on the identity of the owner of the kettle and the environment. Each object becomes its own character, and that’s when the creativity of animation really shines,” he said.

This determination and talent is exemplified time and time again throughout Tang’s career. Last year, he had great success with many projects in China, from promotional campaigns to informational material. Early in 2018, he began working on Completion of the Compilation of the Chinese Dictionary for Baidu, the popular Chinese search engine. Tang’s work was similar to the Google Doodle, and was seen by millions.

The dictionary was compiled by more than 300 experts and scholars from Sichuan and Hubei provinces on March 9, 1968. The list includes about 56,000 words. It is the largest Chinese dictionary in the world with the largest collection of Chinese words and the most complete definitions. It is a large-scale Chinese special reference book for the purpose of explaining the shape, sound and meaning of Chinese characters. Tang took on the role of characters, props and environment designer. With the compilation of more and more materials, it gradually formed a huge Chinese dictionary, and the dictionary closed after it formed. Bai and Baidu were finally written in the data card.

In the Spring of 2018, Tang also had the honor of working with the China Academy of Space Technology on a 2D animation project. The video created shows the ancient beacon fire that was used to transmit information, and then the wild goose satellite appeared to complete the transformation of modern social satellite information transmission. This is followed by a demonstration of the practical application of the constellation of subsequent satellites in human society. Hundreds of them circle the earth and connect with each other, all of them reflecting the theme of “satellite application, light up life!”

Tang took on the visual design of the video. He used the planar design, because the proportion of the chopping screen is special. In order to make better use of the advantage of the ultra-wide screen, he used large scenes in the design to better show the world, the ocean and the universe.

Undoubtedly, Tang has had a formidable career in animation, and has no plans on slowing down. It was not always an easy road to get to where he is now, with times of self-doubt and the struggle to create. He is so glad he persisted and never gave up, and he encourages all those looking to follow in his footsteps to do the same.

“Having personality and style is a good skill. In this industry, having good painting skills and understanding more diverse painting styles is a foundation. Don’t be afraid to learn other people’s styles and don’t linger in your own safe zone. Challenge yourself so that you can bring yourself more surprises,” he advised.

Zekun Mao talks importance of editing and new film ‘And The Dream That Mattered’

Beginning her career working on documentaries, Zekun Mao knows the power of editing in terms of filmmaking. Simply changing the order of a couple of shots can create a huge difference. Editing, therefore, is very crucial, and the final step in the storytelling process. A good editor can lift the story, not only telling the story itself, but also creating this beautiful flow for the audience. A good editor can not only tell the most powerful story, but also bring the entire audience into the film, letting them experience the story by themselves. An editor, according to Mao, can not only guide audiences’ eyes, but also their hearts.

The Chinese native is now an internationally sought-after editor, having worked on several critically acclaimed films, including Our Way HomeJie Jie, and Janek/Bastard. She always aims to be storyteller first, editor second, and this commitment to her craft is evident in all of her work.

One of Mao’s more recent films, And The Dream That Mattered, once again impressed audiences and critics alike. It follows an ambitious Asian actor who’s well on his way to Hollywood success when he returns home to Korea and soon discovers that even while reconnecting with family and loved ones, his creative journey ahead is even more lonely and difficult than he could have ever imagined.

“The ideas shown in the film are very contemporary and universal. They speak to a lot of young artists today, and the struggles they face in the modern world. I hope that by watching this, such people can find answers through their own interpretations of the film. I also hope it can encourage a lot of young artists today to pursue their dreams no matter what comes in their way. The film shows that even after a struggle, hard work eventually pays off,” said Mao.

Mao feels that the story, although it is about an actor, can apply to all artists. As an editor, she related to the story and the struggles the character goes through. She hopes many young people can feel something and know they aren’t alone when they watch the film.

Working on And The Dream That Mattered was an incredible experience for Mao. The film was shot without a typical script, in the style of a documentary, a genre she is extremely adept in. Her first step was to categorize the footage according to the emotions portrayed in it. Thereafter, she started building the narrative based on the ebb and flow of emotions in the footage. In doing so, Mao realized the film could play out like reading a book, and she decided to give each story segment a chapter name, summing up the main theme in each story.

“This project gave me a lot of creative freedom. Coming from a documentary background, the shooting style and the structure was very familiar to me. I enjoyed having nearly complete freedom in shaping the story according to what emotions I sensed throughout the footage. Because of this, I myself started reflecting on a lot of the questions that were posed in the characters’ lives. It felt not only like an editing process, but a life journey,” she said.

Mao lent a unique perspective to the narrative. The director and the actor both had their own ideas of what emotions they would emphasize in the film. Mao was able to filter through a lot of ideas from many team members and eventually put together a version that combined the best of everyone’s ideas, including her own. While working on the editing process, she suggested that the lead actor write letters to various important people in his life. These letters ended up being used as voice-overs throughout the film, which tied the film together.

And The Dream That Mattered has yet to make its way to film festivals, but it already took home the Best Independent Film Award at the Korean Cultural Academy Awards. Mao could not be more thrilled by the success the film has seen thus far. It has a lot of experimental elements to it, and it’s heartening for the editor to see such experimentation being appreciated.

“I’m happy that the writer, who is also the lead actor in the film, Jongman Kim, is getting the recognition he deserves. As the editor of this film, I’m thrilled that our hard work has the potential to bring about change to people’s lives,” she said.

Undoubtedly, Mao has had quite a career so far, and And The Dream That Matteredis just another example of what a force to be reckoned with she is. For those looking to follow their dreams and take on a career as a film editor, Mao says practice makes perfect.

“It is a hard job. It might seem very easy, just putting things together, but there is a lot more to it than meets the eye. It is an art form. You need to practice a lot. Editing is not just knowing how to use some software. It’s more about telling the stories. I would say be prepared. Be prepared to work very hard and be prepared to be criticized very hard too. Be patient, because it takes a very long time to figure out the best version of the story. Most importantly, be passionate, because it is a very exciting job,” she advised.

Canada’s Helena-Alexis Seymour plays her dream role in Amazon’s hit series

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Helena-Alexis Seymour

Helena-Alexis Seymour grew up on stage, never having an issue with being in the spotlight, literally. Growing up in the small town of Cornwall, Ontario, Canada, Seymour danced, did beauty pageants, and modeled. She loved the way she could express her creativity through such methods of performing. As she grew and started a successful modeling career, she realized another passion: acting. After booking her first commercial at only nine years old, she knew what her calling was.

“The more I acted, the more I realized that the artform was about more than me being creative, it was about how I was able to make the audience feel. Having someone watch your performance and be moved by it because they can relate, it reassures them that they are not alone. We all want to feel like we aren’t alone in this world so to be able to do that for someone makes it all worthwhile,” she said.

Now, millions around the world have seen Seymour in some of their favorite films and television shows. She is known for films like the blockbuster xXx: Return of Xander Cage starring Vin Diesel, as well as the multiple Academy Award winning film Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). The highlight of her esteemed career however, began last year when she was cast in the title role in Amazon’s award-winning original series Chronicles of Jessica Wu.

“Helena is a woman that exudes positive energy, so naturally she brightens up any room she steps in. She’s hardworking, humble, kind and so down to earth, which allowed for us to not only create great moments on camera, but many memorable moments off camera. It was a very rewarding experience and I hope it’s the first project of many that we get to work on together,” said Jasmine Hester, Seymour’s co-star on the show.

Chronicles of Jessica Wu is a story about a young girl on the Autism spectrum who has mastered martial arts. She becomes a Hero in her city and takes down some of the most ruthless villains in Los Angeles. Jessica’s genius ability and martial arts helps her become the most unique and fascinating Superhero of our time. Chronicles of Jessica Wu is a fun, action-packed, and exciting series for the entire family.

“I love how the story showed a strong, bi-racial, woman on the autistic spectrum living a very normal life. She is highly functional and lives quite like everyone else. Bringing awareness to the autism spectrum is something that we all need to experience. Being more inclusive of each other and more loving to each other. Everyone in this world is different and going through something so the more we can open our minds to it, the more compassionate as a whole we become,” said Seymour.

The character of Jessica Wu is driven, focused, ambitious, strong yet quite shy, and vulnerable all at the same time. She is loyal and expects the same loyalty in return. She believes her autism is a strength and uses it to her advantage. She is an intellectual genius and is always two steps ahead in her mind. She uses her amazing mathematical abilities to solve certain issues in her life as well as in her fighting when acting as the superhero named Equation.

“Helena-Alexis is a complete joy to work with. From her dedication, preparation, and delivery performances on and off set, she is the total package. Helena captures the true essence of an individual not defined by any disabilities or anything else. You will surely see how she brings the character Jessica Wu to a full circle of life. Her preparation and dedication to make our show the very best and to reach its maximum potential is truly appreciated. We couldn’t be more pleased and prouder of her work. Seriously, her performance on this show is must see TV,” said Brandon Larkins, Executive Producer.

Stepping into the show during its second season and taking over for the actress that played Jessica Wu in the show’s first season, Seymour had her work cut out for her; she had to honor a character that had already been established in fans’ minds while still making it her own. To do so, she extensively researched autism and what that would mean for her character. She had a great time recreating the character and experiencing life through her eyes. Seymour discovered what Jessica’s values were, what her strengths and weaknesses were, the type of music she listens to, the type of guy she crushes on and even what zodiac sign she was. With all that knowledge, she used it to mold Jessica Wu’s personality, and essentially, her soul.  Luckily, Seymour has a kickboxing/martial arts background, and was able to use those skills when playing Jessica.

I loved everything about working on this. I loved playing a double life as Jessica Wu and Equation,” said Seymour. “I loved working on set with such inspiring and grounded cast and crew members. When you are surrounded by love, light and greatness you naturally will vibrate to that frequency, so I am so grateful that every day was positive and that we were free to create great art together.”

The Chronicles of Jessica Wu is truly fun for the entire family. Seymour is excited by the show’s success already, and for the future seasons to come. She knows the importance of shows like this and is happy to be portraying a such a unique character that the world needs to see.

“This is only the beginning of major change in the television and film industry. We need more ethnic superheroes on the big and small screen. The world is full of different people with different backgrounds. We must continue to open our eyes to them and the gifts that they have to offer not only to this generation but the younger generations to come. It is up to us to show the youth that they matter and that there is someone just like them on the screen who is strong, capable and worthy. Being able to do that for a young child whether with autism or not means that I have done my job,” she concluded.

Be sure to check out the second season of Chronicles of Jessica Wu on Amazon when it is released on April 2nd.

Down To Earth Casey Wright: A (Stunt) Actor’s (Stunt) Actor

It’s more often than not a stunt actor’s job to not get any attention, which is why award-winning stunt performing veteran Casey Wright was somewhat resistant to being interviewed for this feature.

“I tend to stay on the sidelines, I don’t like the limelight too much – probably a big part of why I do what I do and I’m not a TV or film actor,” Casey adds with a chuckle.  

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Stunt actors risk their lives every day, often without the kudos regular actors receive. 

Casey’s recent bursts of success however have meant it was difficult for our editors to keep themselves from profiling this down-to-earth home-grown talent who, in an era of crowded filmmaking and TV production, has truly made a name for himself as one of the few likeable guys working in the industry today.

“The best advice I was ever given was ‘Don’t get a big head’. You realise pretty quickly how lucky you are to be in the industry, and there’s no room for egos. The performers I look up to, the ones with the most successful careers – there’s no ego there. So I try to model myself on that” Casey adds

Since his win at the illustrious SAG-awards for Best Stunts in Mel Gibson’s Oscar-winning “Hacksaw Ridge”, Casey’s career has continued to go from strength-to-strength.

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A scene from Mel Gibson’s Oscar-winning “Hacksaw Ridge,” for which Casey was awarded with a SAG award for Best Stunts.

Only just last year, he worked as a stunt double to Dan Fogler in the acclaimed feature film, In Like Flynn, a sweeping biopic of the swashbuckling Australian screen legend Errol Flynn.

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Casey performed crucial stunts in the biopic “In Like Flynn,” helmed by “Teen Wolf” director Russell Mulcahy.

Instead of regaling tales of celebrity that others may have spilled in relation to the filming process, true to Casey’s nature, he offers a tidbit about his role in offering crucial safety guidance during the shoot.

“Dan…had tweaked his ankle during a scene where he was being chased by headhunters. I was called in to double Dan. This meant that I had to perform the actions required in character, which involved sprinting through the bush, swimming across running rivers, and more. My work meant that Dan was able to rest and heal up, and filming wasn’t disrupted.”

The humble way in which Casey reflects on this experience is a testament to his practical nature, and clear aspirations to only offer meaningful contributions to the project as a whole rather than use it for his own entertainment leverage.

The other project that has benefited from Casey’s hard-working nature is the acclaimed TBS comedy series, Wrecked.

Working on 2 seasons of Wrecked, Casey had to not only perform the requisite stunt and safety actions also do them in character as Brian Sacca’s persona, Danny. This meant taking cues from Brian’s body language and immersing himself in how Brian holds himself in a scene, and so on.

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Casey (right), acted as stunt double to “Wolf of Wall Street” actor Brian Sacca. 

Casey’s remarkable success in doing this role effortlessly meant viewers are never taken out of the scenes while watching the comedy favourite. As a corollary to this, Casey’s actions had to match the comedic tone of the show that meant he stretched his performing wheelhouse.

“Most of my work has been on big action films,” Casey goes to explain. “Explosions, runaway horses, all that kind of stuff. Working on a comedy like Wrecked was a whole different beast. At one point a crew member came up to me and said ‘Just remember – it doesn’t matter if you stuff up. Sometimes that can be even funnier than what’s planned.”

Casey adds to that last thought.

“Coming from a world where everything was marked to a tee, that took all the pressure off me. I still had to be safe, but I didn’t have to be perfect. It was a very different experience, but it was one of the best of my career.”

Casey is equally complimentary of the TBS team and Brian too, when asked about his experience.

“I had a great time. Everyone was warm and welcoming, and made me feel right at home. When I came back for Season 3, I was greeted with a big hug from Brian – I found out later that he had actually gone up to the stunt coordinator for the new season and requested me back personally.”

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TBS hit comedy “Wrecked” is known for being a hilarious parody of the iconic TV show, “Lost.”

No doubt Casey’s vital contributions to the show’s success were reason for him being brought back, and the personal request of his return to the set is valuable proof in demonstrating how he offered indispensable contributions to the show’s success.

“I’m very lucky to do different things – and am looking forward to doing more of it in the US.”

There’s no doubt Casey would be embraced by the American community, as he already proved on the Fiji set of the American produced series

“I was told by the [“Wrecked”] stunt coordinator that I may have been the most accurate stunt double he has ever hired. During breaks in filming, I had producers, the director and others come up to me to to discuss upcoming scenes. Once they heard my Australian accent, they jumped back, as they had no idea it wasn’t actually the actor they were speaking to. Everyone loved it, and it made me really feel at home with the crew.”

YouTuber James “Jameskii” Prime meets fans in-game playing “Ring of Elysium”

Having always has a passion for playing video games, James “Jameskii” Prime spends each and every day doing what he loves. The popular YouTuber has millions of fans across the globe, that tune into each and every new video he uploads. His unique parody style content based on video games and web culture has vastly resonated with his audience.

“I can be anywhere at any point of time and create content for people across the entire globe just with an access to a phone or computer. Being raised in a poor neighborhood, I would’ve never imagined that it would even be possible. It’s incredible. Influencers and internet personalities are a huge part of our modern culture now and we take it for granted these days. I can’t even imagine it being taken away from us one day. I reckon if we were still stuck with 56 kb/s dial up internet modems, things would be completely different, in a bad way of course,” he said.

Jameskii currently has over 1.4 million subscribers on YouTube. His videos amass anywhere between 600 thousand and 11 million views, with continuous comments from fans supporting his work. Just last year, he attended the biggest event for video game streamers in the world, Twitchcon, as a Twitch partner, and co-hosted the Jingle Jam 2018, a series of livestreams that are shown over the course of December each year with the intention to raise money for various charities.

With his immense popularity, Jameskii also had the opportunity last year to strike a brand deal with Tencent Games, the world’s largest gaming company, and one of the most valuable technology conglomerates, largest social media companies, and largest venture capital firms and investment corporations in the world.

“When Tencent Games reached out to me with a brand deal I just couldn’t say no. I’m usually down to do brand deals with products I like, use or would recommend to someone, so it was a win-win for everyone really,” he said.

As part of Jameskii’s deal with Tencent, he was asked to make a dedicated promotional video for the game Ring of Elysium. In doing so, he handled everything, including recording gameplay with friends, writing down ideas to setting up skit situations in-game and editing the outcome footage. The result of his efforts turned out to be a hilarious montage of his adventures in the snow land of Ring of Elysium.

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Jameskii’s in-game meetup in “Ring of Elysium”

“It was pretty much like working on any other video of mine, still the same bizarre style and total hilarious nonsense. I like messing around in games and doing things that aren’t really intended by the developers, so we tried a lot of random stuff like launching cars in the sky for example. The developers really loved my approach which means a lot to me. I love game studios with a sense of humor,” he said.

Tencent games also provided Jameskii with access to hosting his own private lobbies for his viewers. He held multiple games allowing fans to join him during his live streams, inviting his fans to meet him in-game. In one instance, he had over fifty fans joining him for a snowboard race, which is no small feat considering the size of the map, and the fact that the objective of the game is to eliminate other players.

“Even if it’s a brand deal, I can’t see myself making boring videos that aren’t fun for me and my viewers. I always want to be sure my content is enjoyable for everyone,” he said. “This game hadn’t been released in Europe yet, so I loved the fact that I got an early access to the game I was already excited for. I like trying out new games especially with unusual genres or unique mechanics, so it was a fun experience.”

The partnership between Jameskii and Tencent proved fruitful for all parties involved. The video created a vast amount of interest in the game for viewers, bringing many new players to the game that helped jump-start its popularity during the game’s launch in Europe. As of now, it is one of the most popular and most played games according to Steam statistics. Jameskii’s initial video featuring game play has over 800,000 views.

“It’s cool that influencers like me have an ability to jump start new projects. I love discovering and trying out new things, so it’s always awesome to bring life to a new project which allows its creators to do more creative decisions with unpredictable results. Creativity and originality are essential when it comes to entertainment in my opinion. I reckon it would be worse if all games had mechanics that are way too similar because the developers would be afraid to innovate in fear of the project’s failure. Of course, you can always rely on ideas that worked for years, but I think influencers heavily encourage people to try out new things, both when it comes to creation and consumption,” he concluded.

Jameskii is one of YouTube’s most popular video game content creators, and he has no plans on slowing down. Check out his YouTube channel for more funny videos and updates to what promises to be another exciting year.

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