Actor Cory Dagg is a Creative Powerhouse on Screen!

Some actors seem to be in absolutely everything, and for almost 30 years Cory Dagg has been just such an actor. He’s worked with many of the biggest names in the industry, played virtually every kind of character imaginable, and has left a trail of phenomenal productions in his wake. His raw talent and vast experience are complemented by an emotive and dynamic physical appearance that allows him to blend into any role. Dagg has a rare and priceless gift — the ability to flawlessly play any role in any genre without ever appearing out of place.

 

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Sean Penn (left), Robert De Niro (center) and Cory Dagg (right) in “We’re No Angels”

 

Dagg’s career began – and nearly ended – when he was cast in the 1989 comedy “We’re No Angels,” starring Academy Award winners Robert De Niro (“Raging Bull,” “The Godfather Part II”) and Sean Penn (“Milk,” “Mystic River”). De Niro and Penn play two escaped convicts who impersonate a pair of priests in a bid to cross the border into Canada. With the law hot on their tails, the two are almost in the clear when they encounter a rather ineffective border guard (played by Dagg) whose dream is to become a famous writer.

Few if any actors can say their first big screen role involved a hilarious exchange between themselves and two already-legendary actors like Robert De Niro and Sean Penn. Though Dagg’s scene had audiences in stitches, it was in serious danger of being cut altogether. After 15 hours on set an exhausted Penn and De Niro approached the director, Academy Award winner Neil Jordan (“The Crying Game”), and Dagg feared the worst. He found himself faced with a critical decision: say nothing and risk allowing his career-making scene to be cut, or speak up and risk angering De Niro, an acting legend whose intimidating persona is iconic.

“Imagine, if you will, telling Robert De Niro and Sean Penn that they’re making a mistake. But I knew remaining quiet could cost me a huge break. Gathering up my courage, I poked my nose where De Niro made it clear it didn’t belong,” Dagg said, recalling the fear he felt when he took that make-or-break gamble. “Finally, I walked off, certain I would be fired.”

The next morning, he received a foreboding phone call telling him that De Niro wanted to speak with him on set immediately. With a sinking pit in his stomach, Dagg reported in to learn the fate of his career and braced for the worst.

“…But when DeNiro put his arm around my shoulder and told me to get ready for shooting, I knew I’d made the right decision,” he said with an obvious sense of relief. “Two days later, De Niro and Penn approached me on set to say they had seen my scene in dailies the night before, and wanted to say what a great job I had done and that they really liked my work!”

With the recognition of two universally well-known Academy Award-winning actors, Dagg’s career blossomed. Following the success of “We’re No Angels,” he was soon cast in an episode of the iconic sci-fi series “The X-Files.” Starring David Duchovny (“Californication”) and Gillian Anderson (“The Fall”) as the inimitable Agents Mulder and Scully, “The X-Files” was considered a rite of passage for up-and-coming actors in ‘90s; Seth Green (“Austin Powers,” “Robot Chicken”), Lucy Liu (“Kill Bill,” “Charlie’s Angels”) and Ryan Reynolds (“Deadpool,” “Van Wilder”) all had guest roles on the series before becoming household names.

Dagg’s role in the series was that of a mysterious bartender with an even more mysterious past in the episode “Travelers.” The episode is critical to the backstory of Agent Fox Mulder and reveals a dark secret involving his father’s work with the State Department.

“Since the episode is partially set in the 1950’s I had the chance to do a bit of period acting, which is really enjoyable for me. I like the challenge that comes with researching a role to make it more accurate, and I can actually get a little obsessive about it,” Dagg said about the role, which soon led to a flurry of interest from casting agents. “At this time I was booking a lot of white collar roles, so it was fun playing the shady guy who takes deals under the table.”

 

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Cory Dagg as General Michaelson in “The Andromeda Strain”

 

In 2008, Dagg was cast as General Michaelson in the epic four-part miniseries “The Andromeda Strain,” based on the novel by illustrious sci-fi pioneer Michael Crichton. Produced by four-time Academy Award-nominated director Ridley Scott (“Alien,” “Gladiator”), the intense doomsday thriller was lauded with praise and nominated for seven Primetime Emmy Awards, including for Outstanding Miniseries.

The series follows the efforts of scientists and by the military to stop the spread of a deadly and contagious microbe with extraterrestrial origins. Dagg’s character, General Michaelson, is the key military figure tasked with quarantining the infected town and ensuring the containment of the aggressive microorganism.

“I originally auditioned on tape for a smaller role, and sent the tape to the producers in Los Angeles,” said Dagg, recounting how he landed a lead role in a Ridley Scott production. “I got a call from my agent over three weeks later saying the producers and director loved my audition so much they were giving me the much bigger role of General Michaelson, and I ended up being in three of the four episodes! The director said later he was surprised I didn’t have military experience — that’s how convincing he thought I was.”

Cory Dagg, an industry veteran, has proven himself to be a phenomenally talented and multifaceted actor. Where others have fallen into the trap of playing “the bad guy,” “the good guy” or “the funny guy,” Dagg has expertly avoided the pitfall of typecasting. By proving his ability to play a limitless range of characters across every genre, he’s rightfully earned a reputation as an actor who can do it all. Such talent is rare in the industry today, so when an actor like Cory Dagg presents himself, casting agents are quick to take notice.

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U.K.’s EMILY RICE ENRICHES HOLLYWOOD, BLENDING TRADITION AND CONTEMPORARY

British born composer Emily Rice is a member of the club of young composers who began as serious instrumentalists but angled into the path of composition. While many gifted performers seek the adulation of a live audience, a subset chooses instead to influence and affect generations of audiences by writing music to interact with other art forms; in Emily’s case, film and television. The choice to have your work be supportive and shine the spotlight on another’s performance implies both talent as well as a complementary nature. No doubt, her early years as a cellist in London taught her the importance of each individual’s role in an ensemble, as well as the emotional impact the entire group could elicit on an audience. Following a successful series of compositional endeavors in the UK, Rice began fielding offers from Hollywood with highly successful results.MV5BMjIzMTUyNjIyMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTAzOTYzNzE@._V1_UY1200_CR165,0,630,1200_AL_ (336x640)

Najmia is a film about the last days of a pregnant twelve-year old Yemini child bride before undergoing labour. The uneasiness of the subject matter in terms of social conformity and the life endangering experience of Najmia coupled with the presentation of this piece led to a win in 2015 at the Forum on Law, Culture, & Society’s International Short Film Competition. Ethical discussions were bound to arise concerning the situation in the film but Rice states, “Our main focus was to communicate the topic of humanity, especially towards the central character Najmia. The film ends ambiguously with Najmia giving birth and the audience is left not knowing whether she survives the labour or not. The film’s aim wasn’t to make judgment on child marriage and the pregnancies that result from these marriages, but to raise awareness about the need for proper midwife training and better sanitary conditions in these situations.” The film required a score that would match the intensity of the story being displayed on screen.IMG_3063 The compositions Rice created more than achieved this goal, as proven by her nomination for Best Composer at the Underwire Film Festival in 2015 (Najmia has received four nominations in addition to those previously mentioned). Rice took some extra precautions to assist the filmmakers in avoiding any preconceptions by the audience. She comments, “We wanted the audience to come away thinking that Najmia could be any young woman, not just a young woman from the Middle East as depicted in the film, and this is why I avoided using ethnic instruments. Also, emotion is something that strings provide very effectively. As a string player (I started my musical life as a cellist), they were the obvious choice.” Emily used an early musical form known as a passacaglia as a base to create the cue in the climactic scene in which we realize that the main character is in trouble. The composer’s knowledge of the prejudices that we may carry with us helped the filmgoer experience the true message that was intended.

2015’s award winning Clone Counseling is a stark contrast in subject matter to Najmia. A comedy that concerns a man in couple’s therapy with his clone; the film needs to evoke a completely different color of the emotional spectrum when it comes to music. Emily worked hand in hand with Aaron Burch to compose a sonic backdrop to set the proper tone. The subject matter of technology and its contributions to society are not lost on Rice and her approach to composing as she utilizes a blend of organic instruments, loops, and electronics.  Highly recognized composer Bruce Broughton (Academy award-nominated, Emmy award-winning, and ASCAP award-winning) recognizes Rice’s abilities and achievements. He relates, “In all of the musical combinations, whether large or small, whether with live musicians or with electronics, regardless of the demands of musical or dramatic style, Emily does a fine job in demonstrating her skill in approaching and successfully negotiating a broad range of contrasting and dissimilar requirements.”IMG_3058

As an artist who is cognizant of the evolution of TV and Film and the need for the compositions that accompany it to grow, Emily constantly seeks out new challenges and ways to widen her palette. In addition to live action films, animation has been popular for many decades and continues to change with technology. As continued validation that Rice is clearly a respected and contemporary member of the film and music community, the Los Angeles Live Score Film Festival recognized and selected her to score the animated film Cowboys in a Saloon (awarded Best Picture at the Los Angeles Live Score Film Festival). The score was recorded by the LA based ultra modern ensemble the Helix Collective. Emily takes an active interest in the live music scene in Los Angeles but it is her deep love of film and television composing that drew her to the city and industry. Her achievements working on commercially successful films such as the Jerry Bruckheimer production “Deliver Us from Evil” (Grossing $65 MM) and the $100 MM Worldwide hit “The Last Witch Hunter”, starring Vin Diesel, have benefited from Rice’s focus as well as longer formats like the WGN’s TV series “Underground”.

Emily continues to immerse herself in new challenges and musical experiences here in Los Angeles. The composition and orchestration for 93 Days, about a Liberian-American racing against the clock in a foreign country against the Ebola influenced panic, demands an intensity and suspense similar to other big budget films. It’s a situation to which Rice has already proven herself to be more than appropriate to contribute.  Firefly (2016, currently in production) sees Emily being challenged with the dichotomy of wonderment and suspense. The child’s perspective of Maya (the film’s central character) has led the composer to seek a nontraditional approach in order to bring something fresh to the story. The score of Firefly is based on musical motifs, including a “monster hunting” theme. Rice reveals, “The ‘monster hunting’ theme is quite rhythmic as it accompanies Maya while she prepares traps for the imaginative monster. I’ve also used a lot of instruments that are typically ‘light’ to reflect the childlike qualities in the story…mostly harp, piano, celeste, and a small amount or strings and percussion.” Sometimes it takes a light touch and approach in a score to leave a strong impression.

British Actor and Producer Fraser Precious is Making His Mark in Hollywood

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British actor and producer Fraser Precious.

Determination.

Strength.

Commitment.

These are three words that, when lived by, will lead to success. For British actor and producer Fraser Precious, they have done just that.

Originally from Cambridge, England, Fraser recently produced and starred in the short film To Feel Human. The film premiered at the Nice International Film Festival where it was nominated for several awards. Afterwards, To Feel Human made its way to the prestigious Cannes Film Festival where it received overwhelming feedback. It has since been accepted into 3 other major film festivals around the world.

“With our film To Feel Human it all happened so fast and just goes to show what you can achieve when you put your mind to something and believe in your capabilities,” said Fraser. “We constantly pushed boundaries, whether it be with budget, locations, acting or just what was physically possible to achieve in such a short space of time. I don’t believe in waiting around for something to happen. Just get out there and do it.”

To Feel Human is about an unemotional angel who wishes to experience human emotions for the first time, unaware of the consequences that lay ahead. Fraser worked with his film partner Junpei Suzuki, where together they created, wrote, produced, shot the film and edited it in the space of 2 weeks in Los Angeles.

“I wanted to create a story that inspired people to be better humans and appreciate the privileges we have on this planet, which some take for granted. The whole idea of realizing what it means to be human, the emotions we experience and our relationships with others,” explained Fraser. “We wanted the story to be told and viewed in a more physical and less dialogue driven way. We couldn’t be happier with the result”.

Easton Alexeyev, who acted alongside Fraser in the film, describes working with him as a wonderful experience.

“What stands out about Fraser’s acting is his ability to hold the space. What I mean is, he takes his time and even fills the silence with emotion and intention. His acting is never rushed; it is precise and calculated without feeling contrived. Acting alongside him, I felt as though the pauses between what he was saying were just as important as the times he was speaking. It was beautiful and inspiring to see,” said Easton. “He has this very calm quality about him that makes you instantly comfortable. It’s this quality that, as an actress, I truly appreciated because it gave me the freedom to take chances, to be bold. If I had the opportunity to work with Fraser again, I’d absolutely take it, and I think that in and of itself speaks to how I felt about the entire experience.”

Fraser feels incredibly blessed to have made the move to Los Angeles, where he says he has dreamed of working for many years.

“Growing up in the small town of Newmarket back in England feels like a world away from Hollywood but it’s thanks to my humble beginnings that I’m now able to flourish in this wonderful city. After working and living in 4 countries, I have found that nothing comes close to the incredible opportunities that are available in Los Angeles,” he said.

Fraser emerged as a musician in his teens, but transitioned to acting when he realized it was his true passion.

“Growing up as a musician I was always excited and inspired by every opportunity I had to perform, a desire that continuously pumps through my veins,” said Fraser. “It was when I moved to Sydney, Australia at 18 to begin my music degree that I came across and developed a passion for acting. I started off with small featured roles in Australian TV shows and just fell in love with the craft of acting from day one. I then began taking acting classes and training and knew straight away that I had to get to Los Angeles, to the heart of the entertainment industry, where I could really succeed as an actor.

It is now 10 years since Fraser first emerged as an actor with small roles on the Australian television program Home and Away, and does not regret transitioning from the music industry for a moment.

“I love the thrill and rush of performing a scene with other actors and really getting into a character and preparing for a challenging role. If I am performing on stage, I absolutely love feeling the captivation and connection with the audience. I find so much excitement and energy from being able to create and manipulate the characters I play using all of the mental and physical skills I have available. Utilizing every ounce of my brain and body in a role gives me immense satisfaction where I really feel I am using everything I have developed as a human being,” he said. “I always get the most satisfaction from testing and challenging myself with every role and part I am given and as a perfectionist I find that reaching the absolute peak of my powers with acting is the only challenge I should really feel and an absolute must.”

Fraser will soon be starring in the television series Jet Loungin, which he also developed and created with his partner Josh Levine. The show follows two long lost cousins navigating Hollywood with the most futuristic entertainment vehicle ever made, the Jet Lounge X. The Jet Lounge X is the revolutionary invention of TXG Studios owner and founder Devin Foxx. Currently signed on to the project are Patrick Gallagher, known for his roles in Night at the Museum, Glee, and True Blood, as well as Torrei Hart, known for Parental Discretion, American Bad Boy, and Atlanta Exes.

Following the filming of Jet Loungin, Fraser plans on tackling his own feature film titled A Precious Life based on his previous life as a professional trumpet player, which he refers to as his “masterpiece”. The film will also cover the scope of mental health issues faced by many people today and also the homeless community which together will make for an inspiring story. It is with no doubt that with the ambition, versatility, and motivation that Fraser holds, his acting and producing career will continue to flourish.

 

VERONICA LI USES CREATIVE SOUND DESIGN TO CONNECT TWO DIFFERENT PARTS OF THE WORLD AND TWO DIFFERENT WORLDS IN MANDALA

One of the key components of any renowned artist is the ability to achieve popular success while simultaneously keeping their artistic vision intact. This is no small accomplishment and can be quite a balancing act. The yin and yang of this  (whether it is music, painting,  film, etc.) is required to both satisfy the masses as well as lift the art form to new places. When executed at its highest level, art can challenge us to consider our thoughts on love, life, and the world. Technology has created a world in which we are more in touch with other cultures and lifestyles; it seems intuitive that it would bring the elite of the artistic world into a closer community. Sound Designer Veronica Li is an example of this very ideal. She has made a name for herself as a talented and in demand sound designer in Hollywood. Working on box office hits like Michael Bay’s 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (grossing 53MM) as well as artistically praised films such as STAND (for which Li won the Outstanding Achievement in Sound Award at the First Film Festival) has displayed Veronica’s ability to match the tone and scale of her work to any film and assist the filmmaker’s desired emotional impact.

Ask any director what they require to make a great film and they will tell you that it takes a highly skilled and talented team in order to achieve their vision. Ask Guan Xi, the director and writer of Mandala, about Veronica Li and she will reinforce that statement. Mandala received multiple nominations at the 2015 Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Awards including a win for LAIFF’s Best Foreign Language Film in July, as well as being recognized by the film community in Italy and India.  Guan Xi states, “Veronica’s work was critical to the success of the production, as evidenced by the numerous official selections to the industry-renowned film festivals in the U.S. and around the world.” Veronica’s achievements on award winning films like Looking at the Stars captured the attention of Xi while they were working on this film and solidified the director’s resolve to enlist Li to work on Mandala. Remarking on the experience, Guan Xi comments, “Veronica’s work as a Sound Designer and Sound Editor on the production was absolutely crucial, as the sound in a film is one of the most important facets of filmmaking. Mandala was critically lauded by some of the industry’s most prominent directors and producers. The Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker, journalist, and novelist Mark Harris called the film ‘Beautifully shot and impressively produced…’ while Amanda Pope, the Emmy Award-winning director called the film ‘A visually exquisite story of an artist torn between her modern life and her Tibetan Buddhist culture.’ Many more luminaries in the field have voiced their praises for the film.”Li 5

Mandala is a timeless and universal story of the loss of a loved one and the attempts of a female artist to overcome her pain while at the same time reconnecting with her roots. The story grounds itself in the physical world and its day to day realities, while the emotional upheaval creates a bridge to a metaphysical world. Only by dealing with the less familiar “higher plane of consciousness” does the heroine stand a chance at living a life once again free from sorrow and unattached to the tragedies life can bring. The sounds required to make viewers accept both visions of life as reality are equal to the demands of the visuals…if not even greater. Li is highly aware of the subtle yet highly important nature of her role professing, “I think sound design helps to bring a film to life. It definitely makes the environment more believable. Most of the sound designs in Mandala are so subtle that the audience won’t notice them but they will help to set the proper mood. They can really sell the shot.” The dichotomy of the setting of New York City’s Gotham and Tibet’s peaceful mysticism is stark and the sonic environment must reflect this in a “not too obvious” manner. Li’s expertise was called upon to meet this lofty goal. Guan Xi praises Veronica’s ability to exceed expectations recalling, “I needed the sound of the film to be at an exceptionally high-quality level. Veronica perfectly combined and contrasted Tibetan and NYC sound elements together, and as the Sound Designer and Sound Editor, she spent countless hours collaborating with the Composer, working seamlessly on the sound design and score of the film. Not only was I able to entrust Veronica with the sound design and sound editing of Mandala, but what most impressed me was the fact that she really understood the story and my needs as the director.” Veronica used her talent as well as some creative ideas to help link the main character’s two geographic anchors of NYC and Tibet. Li reveals, “In addition to contrasting the two places, we also wanted to connect them. Helena is someone who belongs to Tibet but is currently trapped in the city. We decided to use a very subtle Tibetan musical cue whenever we saw Helena’s Tibetan painting. The horns of the cars passing by would gradually change to Tibetan musical bells, as if Tibet was calling from inside Helena whenever she and Lobsang Lama walked by each other on the city street.

Authenticity was paramount in the approach to producing Mandala. With the exception of the lead roles of Helena (Sarah Yan Li, also know for Fast & Furious 6) and Paul (Omar Avila, also know for The Punisher), all the other lead actors were Tibetan. To ensure that the original Tibetan Buddhist culture was presented correctly, the production team consulted eight living Buddha about every detail in the movie. Tibet contains the highest plateau in the world making it quite difficult for non-Tibetans to do strenuous activities. Even though the filming could have taken place at a less “difficult” location, the audience needs to feel, see, and hear the real Tibet. In the rare cases that a modification needed to be done, they were delicately handled with the highest level of professionalism.  Since shooting is forbidden in a real Tibetan temple, a temple was recreated in Los Angeles for filming interiors. Editor Cheng Fang describes his experience working on the film with Veronica commenting, “In Mandala there is a scene in which the female character is taking a test in a Tibetan Buddhist Temple to see if she is the reincarnation of the Rinpoche that passed away several years ago. During the scene, the character has several ‘visions’ and eventually has a mental breakdown. We finished the picture editing of the scene but everyone knew there was something missing. The picture itself was just not powerful enough. The mental breakdown of the character seemed to end abruptly. Veronica went to work on it. After she finished, we viewed the scene again…it was now so powerful! Veronica successfully combined the sound of Tibetan music instruments with mysterious murmuring; transforming the mental journey of the character into a crescendo as the music got louder, resulting in an intense ending.”Li 6 When a poem that was already recorded was unable to fit due to time constraints, Guan Xi once again called on Veronica Li and her expertise. The director explains, “Veronica helped me choose the certain words from the poem, and reorganize them so they could fit the style of the movie but still deliver the message I wanted to tell. To be able to change such an important sequence in the film, yet stay true to a Director’s vision is one of the most difficult tasks in filmmaking, but Veronica was able to flawlessly execute it.”

Veronica Li and the message of Mandala share a few striking similarities; each is the story of a woman from one culture, living in another culture, striving for excellence in the arts, all the while using the best of each part of the world to tell the universal stories we all share.

Teddy Fan’s Pan-Pacific Guitar Blazes from West to East

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Rock & roll has an almost supernatural power—it reached half away around the world, took hold of guitarist Fan Tsz Him and won’t let go. But the Los Angeles based musician, best known for work with YouTube sensation Jason Chen, wouldn’t have it any other way. The Hong Kong-born Him, known professionally as Teddy Fan, arrived in Los Angeles in 2013, completed a two year course at Hollywood’s famed Musician Institute and, upon completion, was immediately offered a position there as teaching assistant.

Fan is an in-demand musician who specializes as a guitarist. His versatility has well served him, leading him to steady work with the disparate likes of Los Angeles-based contemporary country singer, Christie Huff, Mexico City born singer-songwriter Daniel Sobrino and Chinese singing stars Lilia Duan, Yogo Jiang—an international roster of talent, each trading in very different genres, a fact that underscore’s the guitarist’s impressive flexibility and skill

“To me, watching a rock band playing on stage was always one of the coolest things ever,” Fan said. “When I was 12 years old, my school required every student to either learn an instrument or decide on an art form to study, so I chose guitar, and that was the first time I played music.”

He quickly mastered the instrument. “Of course, at that time I was only playing for fun, but, from the start, I really liked to do it. And I was not really a ‘school person,’ I didn’t make very good grades on my school work, so that was when I started thinking about making music my career.”

Following his graduation, Fan hit the ground running and was able to gain significant professional traction almost immediately. “It’s a long way from where I first started—I never thought I’d be traveling all around the world because I could play guitar!” Fan said. “So far, I have played in so many different venues, everywhere from Los Angeles to Chicago to Boston and in casinos and auditoriums all over Asia.”

Fan is adept and astute not only as a musician but also in the way he conducts his professional career path, eschewing the near-extinct business model of major label record industry in favor of a new, web based digital-age approach. Collaborating with Los Angeles independent artists and established international stars like Jason Chen, the Asian pop YouTube sensation with 1,300,000 subscribers and astronomical multi-million video views, Fan navigates this exciting territory with an instinctive skill and natural grace.

“The job I am proudest of definitely, has been touring with Jason Chen. I am a long way from where I started,” Fan said. “In Asia, it is really hard to get support for doing music as a career, but ‘never give up’ is my first philosophy–without that I wouldn’t be here today.”

Fan’s impressive cache of talent is matched only by his drive and perfectionism, as his mentor, producer-arranger-composer and Hollywood Musicians Institute Vocal Program Instructor Katsuya Sezaki detailed.

“Teddy has always displayed a high degree of integrity, responsibility and ambition. He has a very strong work ethic and has shown tremendous improvement as an arranger and guitarist,” Sezaki said. “The results are clear to see–now, he’s playing for Jason Chen’s shows at  all the big venues, and has successfully done many sessions for artists I’ve produced.”

“He’s always had a great presence on a stage as a performer. Teddy started out as pop-rock guitarist, but was always ready to try new styles–folk, blues, country, and funk,” Sezaki said. “The level of his musicality has improved significantly, and now he constantly receives calls to play with Chinese celebrities and local artists who are seeking a ‘great guitarist.’”

With outstanding merit already established, Teddy Fan is in that sweet spot where he steadily works as in-demand session and touring player, yet he is poised to one day make the big break out as a solo artist.

“Even though I am mainly known a guitarist now, I really want to be a singer-songwriter too. Most importantly, to me, is doing the music that I like rather than doing music the market likes. Trust me, it’s no fun at all to trying copy the music other people like all day,” Fan said. “My goal is take the knowledge and experience that I learned here in the U.S. back to Hong Kong and create a whole new style. The music industry in Hong Kong is dying, there is no quality new music and people are so tired of hearing only pop. So, I hope I can save the industry and make some real impact back in my hometown.”

 

Actor Peter Fall takes aim on ‘Little America’ comedy series and Alexander Pushkin western ‘Colt’

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Peter Fall will star in the comedic “Little America” YouTube series and the feature western, “Colt.”

 

Russian-Australian actor Peter Fall, known for his roles in Stan Harrington’s award-winning feature mystery film, “Perception,” and director Yaitza Rivera’s award-winning drama, “Red Poppies,” has attached to two exciting new productions — “Little America” and “Colt.”

“Little America” is a forthcoming YouTube and funnyordie.com comedy series from Cobblestone Productions that is being produced by Morayo Orija and Sam Marin. The series satires the different ethnic communities — such as Little Odessa, Little Tokyo, Little Italy and so on — that are present in metropolitan cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York.

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“For me, it sums up America,” Fall said. “All these little communities are living together as a whole. It is a hilarious, satirical look into differing minority communities that’s intended to be not only funny, but a real eye opener. It breaks down stereotypes and is a show anybody will be able to relate to.”

Fall writes for the series and will star as Harchko, the central character of the Little Odessa segment. “He is the local famous Russian American whose nephew from Russia comes to visit. Harchko thinks his Russian nephew will be unworldly and backwards, but it turns out he is a hipster who finished boarding school and college in England, and is more in-tune to American culture than his uncle. Harchko considers himself a well-assimilated migrant having American, Latino, Asian American and African American friends, something not many of his other Russian comrades can claim.”

“He is a comedic spoof of Russian hip-hop mafia hoodlum of the 90s, a tough guy who gets inebriated as much as he can, living off other people, mostly swindling them for their money. It’s a stark contrast to his straight-lace nephew, who plays ice hockey and soccer, doesn’t drink and speaks better English than him. But they still find some common ground, chasing girls, getting high and generally helping Harchko with his mischief.”

Fall described the role as a juxtaposition of characters that will throw people’s stereotypes out. “It’s a hilarious segment of the show and Harchko interacts a lot with other wacky characters from the different segments like the Latinos, Italians, Koreans, Armenians, Ethiopians, etc.”

Each “Little America” episode will be about seven and a half minutes. Season 1 principal photography is scheduled to begin March, 2017 and the series is eyeing a premiere in December, 2017.

Orija, who has acted in Victor Trevino’s feature drama, “Spit,” Stan Harrington’s award-winning feature music drama, “Lost Angels” and TV One’s “Fatal Attraction,” is attached to direct “Little America,” along with producing.

“It’s a thrill to be a part of and has been the highlight of my past three years,” she said. “This is going to be a milestone in web series, a national coast to coast production, can’t wait. The energy and talent that Peter brings to this is only matched by the scripts being put out for this web series – it is going to be a riot!”

Joining Orija is Tim McNeil, who will also direct and is an award-winning actor-writer-producer known for his roles in hit films such as “Forrest Gump,” “Contact” and “Starship Troopers.” McNeil has also acted in many TV series including “House M.D.,” “ER,” “Joan of Arcadia,” “Seinfeld” and more.

Marin, an actor and animator known for his extensive work on Cartoon Network’s Primetime Emmy-winning series, “Regular Show,” will also star in “Little America,” along with serving as producer. Actress Tiedora DeGrigo (“Coast Mafia”) and many to-be-announced Stella Adler Los Angeles alums will make up the cast.

Fall said audiences can expect “a powerhouse of comedy delivered with truth and energy that hopefully will be both fresh, highly entertaining and something that’s going to stick with them. “Little America” is pop comedy, kind of an SNL like show, where nothing is out of bounds and things will be broken. Stereotypes will be shattered and it’s going to be lough out loud funny.”

Fall is also attached to the leading role of Alexander Pushkin in the feature western drama, “Colt,” that tells the story of the final week of the famed Russian poet. Fall is also producing and teaming again with Orija and Marin, who will produce the project under the Cobblestone banner.

Pushkin was a beloved Russian poet, playwright and novelist during the early 1800s who died at the age of 37 in the aftermath of a duel with French officer Georges-Charles de Heeckeren d’Anthes. The dispute arose once Pushkin believed de Heeckeren d’Anthes was seducing his wife.

“It’s such an important figure in Russian history, claimed as Russian Shakespeare, one of the greatest love poets who ever lived,” said Fall. “Many titles are bestowed on Pushkin, yet he died so senselessly and ultimately young. It’s a story that needs to be heard and told, and his poetry needs a voice. What better way to bring it to the 21st century audience than as a Western set in the post-Civil-War era? The movie will take place in a small, passing-through town in the far west, giving western audiences a dynamic, relatable setting. It’s an untold reimagining on Pushkin, a good old classic western that’s mixed in with romance and poetry. It’s so surprising this ‘true story’ has such similarities with the Western genre itself.”

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Famed Paramount Ranch will serve as a filming location for “Colt.”

“Colt” is to film at Paramount Ranch and Melody Ranch in Los Angeles. Fall says “Colt” is a dark look at family, adultery, honor and gun violence. In fact, as Fall explained, Pushkin is a Russian term that translates to gun or cannon.

“Pushkin is a notorious womanizer,” Fall said, “which his poet celebrity gives him access too. But when his wife is ambushed by an admiring French lieutenant, Pushkin is unable to resolve it civilly. His own jealousy takes hold of him. The drama escalates when Pushkin’s father, a general in the Civil war, pushes him to man up and confront his wife’s rumored foreign lover, a confrontation that ends with his death.”

Fall co-wrote the script with fellow Stella Adler alum, Austin Iredale. “Austin’s background in English literature, his talent and his understanding of dramatic content blew this off the page. This is a story that needs to be told. It’s something that can break borders today and is relevant. “Colt” is a window into one of the greatest Russian souls that defines the humanity of its people. Pairing that in a setting so accessible to a western audience will hopefully shine a light on racial doubts and fears that still very much exist in this ‘post-Cold War’ time we live in.”

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The Alexander Pushkin western film, “Colt,” will feature on-location filming at Melody Ranch.

The presentation of Pushkin will include Fall’s narration of Pushkin’s poems and recitations by the character himself throughout the film. “This film will also bring to the world Pushkin’s poetry, letting people into the richness of the Russian verse and the melancholy of its history and heart,” he said.

Orija said, “This character of Alexander brings a monumental human being, a giant to such human form, with everyday problems and flaws that it hopefully makes people see humanity in everything. It is a dream come true of a role for a character actor. Plus, it’s set in the American west, but is about a Russian poet. The whole discourse of that makes it not only relatable, but genuinely original.”

“Colt” is scheduled to begin filming in September and is aiming for a summer 2017 film festival premiere.

Producing Greatness is the Reality for Brazil’s Daniel Ariano

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Producer Daniel Ariano was a force behind Brazil’s “O Aprendiz.”

 

It is pressure-packed, inspiring, impromptu and thrilling all at once. Daniel Ariano described it as a job where everything can and will happen.

“To be a producer for reality TV,” he said, “you have to be aware that everything is possible. I have to be ready to face an unexpected challenge every day. You have to be calm, easy going and most of all, you have to love it.”

It’s that passion and formula for success that Ariano has subscribed to, which has made him one of Brazil’s foremost film and TV producers. Specializing in the reality genre, Ariano has produced for hit shows such as Brazil’s “Ídolos,” “O Aprendiz” and “TUF Brasil,” which are his home country’s equivalents to the states’ “American Idol,” “The Apprentice” and “The Ultimate Fighter.”

Through it, he’s developed and refined the tools of a seasoned producer – leadership, enterprise, communication, management, problem solving and creativity. Ariano has taken on leadership roles as a producer that demand high-ranking responsibility, shifting challenges and his close collaboration with top talent who went on to compete in front of national TV audiences.

Ariano’s rise to producing prominence began with his initial inspiration and love of media. While growing up, his friends had dreams of becoming lawyers, doctors and engineers. But it was Ariano’s love of music and movies that guided his heart toward a career in film and TV.

Influenced by legends such as Woody Allen, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard and Jerry Bruckheimer, Ariano said, “All of those and more did something that made me watch and think, ‘I want to do that.’ I want to do something people will admire and watch.”

From there, it was a matter of taking the idea of what he wanted to become and putting it into action. While attending high school, Ariano, of São Paulo, worked as a music teacher. When he assimilated into college, he worked for Jovem Pan, the biggest radio station in Brazil.

His mind was still set on TV though, and the foot-in-the-door opportunity materialized. Ariano was invited to do some camera operator work and parlayed the experience into a production assistant position on the São Paulo-based “Amaury Jr. Show,” a talk show covering celebs and luxury. After learning TV production from the inside for a half a year, another opportunity arose.

“I received an invitation that changed my life,” Ariano said. “It was to be a part of the “Ídolos” production crew, my first reality show and it was a music one. After that, I knew I wanted to produce for the rest of my life! I fell in love with the storytelling and the big productions.”

Ariano began producing for “Ídolos” Season 4 in 2009. The show, created by the 14-time Emmy nominee Simon Fuller, is headquartered in São Paulo and distributed by Rede Record. Pop singer-songwriter Saulo Roston won Season Four and signed with Warner Music Brasil.

“I had the responsibility to deliver to the show and all the outside shoots with quality and with the proper storytelling,” said Ariano. “The big challenge was the winner was there in the middle of the crowd. And we had to have him since the start of the process.”

The contestants being vetted were voluminous, many with marked talent and merit for the televised competition. Ariano estimated he’d listened to thousands of hopeful voices positioning for musical glory on “Ídolos.”

“I’ve seen so much talent, so much really good singers and really good people with amazing histories,” he said. “The Idols have to have talent. This is the most important thing we look for – talent. But the story behind the talent is something that brings the Idol closer to the audience. Brazil is an enormous country filled with talented people. I just wish all of the good ones could make it.”

Ariano returned to produce “Ídolos” Season 5 in 2011, and Season 7, the show’s final run, in 2012. He also produced in 2012 “Ídolos Kids” Season 1, which followed the same premise, but searched for talented kid contestants.

In 2010, one year after Ariano’s inception into “Ídolos,” he expanded his producing career and joined the show, “O Aprendiz,” for Season 7. In the hour-long Brazilian apparent to the Donald Trump-hosted “The Apprentice,” contestants compete for employment contracts with leading companies such as the WPP Group or for investments. The show was created by five-time Emmy winner Mark Burnett, longtime producer of “Survivor” and “Shark Tank.” It was hosted by Roberto Justus.

“The Apprentice” was the most challenging job I ever had,” Ariano said.

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During filming for “O Aprendiz” in Turkey, producer Daniel Ariano (left) studies the scene setup.

Ariano worked in producing “O Aprendiz” for Seasons 7, 8, 9 and 10. Contestants ranged from college students to entrepreneurs and celebrities. The production traversed Brazil-wide and traveled to shoot in Orlando, Washington, D.C., South Africa, Italy, Turkey and Colombia. With it came droves of producing duties for Ariano.

“When you give the contestants a task, and time to do it, you never know where will they go and what will they do and it’s up to you to be ready to face everything,” he said. “Working on the show taught me everything is possible. It opened my eyes to the infinity. There is no limit. What we see on TV is just the tip of the iceberg. The production is the entire Arctic.”

Also in 2010, Ariano would produce for a season of the Brazilian version of “Artzooka,” a Gemini Award-winning kids TV show that was produced in Toronto, Canada. The series guided parents, teachers and daycare providers how to create art projects using recycled materials. It was broadcast in Brazil on Discovery Kids and featured Ariano producing in a rare role.

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Producer Daniel Ariano (right) worked closely with host Daniel Granieri to deliver “Artzooka.”

“I loved to do it because it got me into working with a Canadian crew,” Ariano said. “I do believe that this was a unique opportunity in life, that just a few people got the chance to do. I was the only Brazilian producer for the show, so I had a really big responsibility to make it great.”

“Artzooka” host Daniel Granieri said of Ariano, “Without him, “Artzooka” wouldn’t be able to happen. He was vital to the project. He has a look in his eyes all the time, like, he is thinking further, like he is always producing! He is an easy guy to work with and to deal with. He is very professional and very intelligent. You have to have someone like him in your production crew, if not just him. There’s a few people in the world who has an ability to deal with production like him!”

Ariano has served as producer for other shows such as Latin America’s “The Amazing Race,” HBO Brasil and for the Season 2 of “TUF Brasil” (The Ultimate Fighter Brazil), which was distributed by Rede Globo. The latter producing taught Ariano much about the globally popular UFC world, while also showing him a different side of the fighting-based programming.

“It’s talented fighters, focused on their dream and working hard to do it,” he said. “This was different than any other reality TV. It is about how do you control your body and how do you make it do the extraordinary. I loved the experience and it made me admire even more this world of art that is UFC.”

Continuing his producing prowess, Ariano is attached to work on the forthcoming debut season of “X-Factor Brasil,” and he is attached to produce writer-director Albert Dabah’s “Extra Innings,” a coming of age feature baseball drama film set in 1960s Brooklyn.

“He can do everything. I got a nickname for him: “Superman,” Dabah said. “Besides having a good eye for production and being very organized, when the time comes, he is up to everything! He can be an addition in every department. It’s hard to find someone like him, and I’m glad I found him.”

Of “Extra Innings,” Ariano said, “I’m hoping that the movie can open eyes of people about real problems of life that is there around us, in our family, in our lives, and we don’t realize it or we pretend it doesn’t exist. I think the screenwriting is perfect. I know it’s going to be a big hit.”

For more information on “Extra Innings,” visit: http://www.extrainningsmovie.com/

Check out Daniel Ariano on IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm8028896/

 

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