Tag Archives: Canadian Talent

Photographer Hubert Kang combines artistry and storytelling for Metropolis Mall campaign

Hubert Kang Bio Photo by Peter Yang
Hubert Kang, photo by Peter Yang

For Canada’s Hubert Kang, his hobby and his career are the same. Being a professional photographer allows him to do what he is truly passionate about every day. He believes that is the key to driving himself forward, as he never loses interest in his work.

“I like photography as an art form. I also like working with people. Being a professional photographer allows me to work with different projects and different people almost daily. It’s exciting and interesting,” he said.

This attitude has allowed Kang to soar to the forefront of his industry in Canada. His photos have been featured in the Globe and Mail, a leading Canadian newspaper, and his images have helped large brands for campaigns for Fairmont Hotels and Fairmont Royal York, as well as Canadian Tourism.

Kang often shoots advertising campaigns for travel and tourism companies and destinations. He continued this pattern when he created imagery for the last three seasonal campaigns for Metropolis at Metrotown Mall, the largest and most successful mall in the Vancouver Area. His images were used extensively for outdoor billboards, especially in the busiest subway station in Vancouver. They were also used online and in print. The video he directed was used as a spot in cinema as pre-roll advertising before the feature movie.

Traditionally, Metropolis used mostly fashion photography for their campaigns. For their new brand, however, they wanted to take a storytelling approach showing sweet moments in life. Twice Brand therefore reached out to Kang, knowing that he would excel at such a feat. His efforts helped boost customer interaction at the mall.

“I am really proud to see the success of the campaign. Metropolis took a risk to try my photography skills, which is very different from what they usually did in the past. It was great to see that I was able to create these beautiful and effective images to reward the client taking the risk,” he said.

The central theme of the campaign is “life happens here”. Right away in the brainstorming process, Kang and the team at Twice were looking for activities that are photographically compelling and yet at the same time showing enough emotional quality and products so that they could advertise the mall. Kang came up with unique ideas for the Christmas shoot. For example, he shot a group of friends at a dinner party, showcasing all the food, gifts, decorations, cookware, and more that highlighted what could be purchased at the mall. The ad also told a story and evoked an emotional connection that people could resonate with when they looked at it.

“It is very inspiring that I can return to my documentary photography roots and apply it to a commercial project. I was also attracted to the project because of the large print implementation they planned to do with the images. It’s a very photography driven campaign and I was intrigued to lead it,” said Kang.

It was exciting and refreshing for Kang to bring a new photography concept to the largest mall in Vancouver. He and his team elevated the standard of productions for Metropolis. He was a big part of the creative process in coming up with the stories and finding locations. Then when it comes to actually shooting the photos, his approach and thoughtfulness in considering everything from production, art direction, lighting, and model performance led to images that look natural and interesting, and at the same time help Metropolis’ reach out to the targets they want to reach. This is a combination of Kang’s artistic sense and experience in both commercial and documentary photography, exemplifying what a unique skill set he possesses.

“I enjoyed this project for so many reasons, but most of all it was the people I worked with. I have worked with Twice many times throughout my career so there is a lot of trust between us. The creative team at Twice was very collaborative and open to new ideas from all members of the crew. It was a great feeling to work with a group of like minded professionals who are on top of their game in this field. I really like the execution of the project as well. Metropolis took up ads that took over one of the largest subway stations in Vancouver. It was an immersive experience to see these images printed large scale plastered all over the station. With so much advertising moving to digital these days, I really enjoyed seeing the images in print,” he said.

Kang credits his vast success as an advertising photographer to the work he does as a documentary photographer. His eagerness to tell stories for his clients rather than simply taking a photo is what makes him so in demand.

One of Kang’s most heartfelt projects in his career is the work he does in Uganda. He has gone there to document the progress of baseball development in the country, showing how the sport positively impacts the lives of the children in the country. In the future, he would like to extend the project to other sports as well, as he has seen the incredible power it has to positively influence one’s life.

“I have enjoyed teaching quite a bit. I guest lecture in our local colleges from time to time. I like being able to give back to my community since this profession has given me such an incredible life so far. I like spending time in Uganda to teach photography to the local children as I see they enjoy having another way to express themselves and tell their stories,” he said.

Kang also will soon be starting a new photo project on the relationship between people and animal. He is passionate about animal rights and likes to utilize his skills to help promote the causes he cares about. Be sure to keep an eye out for it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jamie Maunder designs without limits

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Jamieson Maunder

There are two types of people in this world: those who believe that there are limits to what an individual can achieve, and those who understand that limits only exist to be challenged. The latter group are few and far between yet tend to exist within a small percentage of society’s highest performing achievers. In the case of designer Jamie Maunder, for instance, dreaming without confines is a natural part of who he is. With each goal he sets for himself, he expects to not only complete it, but to outdo his former self. All it takes is a mere glance at Maunder’s career as Head of Design to know that he wasn’t built for an average life. He was designed for greatness and with greatness, he designs.

Throughout the course of his career, Maunder has tested his hand at multiple disciplines within the design industry, including working in design studios and clothing factories, as well as print and production agencies. The skills he has acquired throughout these diverse experiences make him an invaluable part of any project he collaborates on, as was the case when he worked for entities like Loughborough Sport and the International Olympic Committee. This reality was exemplified in 2006 when Maunder began his three-year journey working with the elite sportswear brand, Stash. Having grown up being inspired by Stash’s unique, British premium sportswear, Maunder felt that this opportunity was something he absolutely had to be a part of. His ability to secure employment with Stash is a testament to Maunder’s networking skills and eye for design. At that point in his budding career, he had made a name for himself and Stash were not slow to notice.

When Maunder first began working at Stash, he was taken back by their unique setup and by their willingness to foster his development as a designer. Within their headquarters, Stash came equipped with a design studio, as well as a full production house with approximately 75 per cent of production in house. This presented Maunder with a learning experience unlike any other he had known in the past. The setup epitomized the concept of being able to see a job through from start to finish.

“Having the production under the same roof as the design facilities allowed me to witness and learn the processes involved in carrying a product through from inception, or the design phase, to being packed up and ready to be shipped. I couldn’t resist learning how to use all of the machines and this took my understanding of the development phase to a whole new level,” recalls Maunder.

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Jamieson Maunder, Kerry Williams

As he tends to do with every company he joins or project he contributes to, Maunder left a lasting impact on the employees and design protocols at Stash. He can be credited with not only introducing the first three-dimensional rugby jersey illustration during his time at Stash, but also for training his colleagues to use this method. This resulted in a significant reduction in the duration of the illustration phase of a design. It allowed Stash’s design team to provide their clients with a prompt idea of what their design would look like in reality prior to actually creating it. In addition, this allowed his co-workers to expedite these processes which, in turn, allotted him more time to develop new, exciting products and ways to increase Stash’s brand awareness.

Ultimately, during his time with Stash, Maunder was responsible for developing compression garments for some of the world’s top professional athletes. In 2009, for example, he worked with the British Bobsleigh Association to design and create cutting-edge race suits that not only looked appealing but were designed with purpose and functioned in such a way that helped these athletes remain at the top of their game. The skill set he developed here is one that he carries with him in every job he encounters today, and he considers the opportunity to invent with no barriers as having been one of the most liberating, important parts of his entire career. It felt as though he was working with the elite in order to serve the elite and the outcomes kept in theme.

It isn’t difficult to understand why Stash were honored to have Maunder on their team for such a growth-oriented period of time. In fact, Sailosi Tagikakibau, who captained for the Stash Allstars team and who’d had Rugby performance apparel created for him by Maunder, found him to be an inspiring, valuable person to have collaborated with. When asked what made Maunder such a pleasure to work with, Tagikakibau was eager to describe him as someone genuine and skilled.

“Jamie is someone that puts his heart into everything that he does. From scratch, he managed to put together a team of professional international and national players to test the products he had created and to ultimately win tournaments. He always wants to know how he can improve something, which in turn, made me very comfortable as a professional athlete. Knowing he had my personal interests in mind at all time made a world of a difference,” told Tagikakibau.

For Maunder, on the other hand, working with Stash was so much more than a resume builder. It helped him to identify a passion he hadn’t quite taken notice of in the past and one that far extended beyond simply designing and producing sportswear. Rather, he finds himself driven by the fact that his profession affords him countless opportunities to dive deep into his problem-solving skills and address issues in an unexpected, yet meaningful way.

“My time at Stash changed my whole outlook on a career in design. I became obsessed with the human form and with the way in which it moves. For this reason, my ability to design apparel that enhances an athlete’s performance was strengthened by my time at Stash and I couldn’t be better off for it,” Maunder concluded.

Aida King brings on the laughs in hilarious comedy ‘Desert Drive’

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Aida King

To succeed in acting, Aida King knows there is nothing more important than self-confidence. Never be conceited but know who you are as a person and how much you are capable of. This is her mantra that drives her and is why she is such a renowned Canadian actress. She has never lost belief in herself, and when audiences watch her on both the big and small screen, she radiates.

King is known for her work in celebrated films like The Convicted, Hemorrhage, and War of Mind. She has worked with award-winning filmmakers and well-known actors, including Alexander Michael Helisek, a veteran actor and producer in Hollywood. Known for his work on the Golden Globe Award-winning television series This Is Us, the Golden Globe Award-winning hit feature film Interstellar, which starred Matthew McConaughey and the two-time Golden Globe Award-nominated popular television series Silicon Valley, Helisek was greatly impressed with King when they worked together on Desert Drive.

“I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to work alongside Aida, as an actor, in her leading role of Missy Lee on the comedy film titled Desert Drive.Aida was absolutely essential to the critical acclaim and commercial success of the film. Her character needed to be depicted by an actress who could convey the necessary warmth, romance, comedy and sincerity that makes her a relatable character to the audience. Aida was able to accomplish all of this and more in a performance that was at once full of force and subtlety,” said Helisek.

Desert Drive follows the life of four Los Angeles based musicians who travel from Hollywood to Palm Springs for the Coachella Music Festival. Instead of harping on aimless debauchery and excessive drunkenness, the story documents the eventful two-hour ride and all the intimate conversations and crazy obstacles that transpire on the action-packed pilgrimage.

“It’s a fun slice of life story that I think people that travel together would appreciate. When travelling in close uncomfortable quarters for a long period of time, sometimes patience can run thin and emotions run high. It’s a fun comedy with interesting characters of substance,” said King.

This movie was filmed in May 2015 and premiered at a Hollywood movie theatre later that year. Not only is the trailer featured on the distinguished website “Funny or Die”, Desert Drive was also an Official Selection at the Ozark Short Film Festival in the Summer 2016. King was proud to be part of a team and found that the chemistry between the characters is why the film went on to do so well.

“I cannot deny that I love hearing people laugh when they watch this film, as that’s the biggest thrill of all for me,” she said.

King’s character, Missy Lee, is a musician who is determined to spice up intimate conversations with the other traveling musicians as they travel for many hours to their destination.

Missy Lee was a happy-go-lucky girl that was content with being in the company of friends, no matter what the situation was. She was definitely a people pleaser and tried to make the best of any situation. While she knew that she was naïve, she was comfortable with that role among her small group of oddball friends.

While she was a bit of a third wheel friend, this character brings balance to the oddball group. While every person was completely different from one another, she played the comic relief to offset tension in the storyline and also the confident when moments were more intimate. The controversial and hilarious lines are the most pivotal plot points in the entire narrative. With such an important role, King knew she had to deliver a captivating performance to bring the film to success, and that is exactly what she did.

As The Convicted was a drama, flipping over to a comedy was a great chance to present a completely different character. This was a huge opportunity to show her versatility and show her comedic creativity. As a Canadian, the comedy culture is highly regarded, so it was natural for King to want to be a part of this film.

“I appreciated working on a character that was light hearted and fun. This was my first time doing comedy, and I loved it,” said King.

King was brought on board after the successful completion of The Convicted, the Director and Producer of the film, Josh Mitchell, decided to bring the actress onto his new projects after being greatly impressed by her talent and work ethic, both of which King is well known for.

While filming, King’s greatest challenge came from filming in the desert. Far from the climate in her home in Canada, spending hours in a small van in hot temperatures was a new experience. However, she would never let this get her down, and found that it only helped her feel as if she was truly on her way to a music festival with a group of her close friends. Eventually, that is what the cast became.

Be sure to watch Desert Drive on Vimeo on Demand to catch out King’s comedic performance.

Allison Giroday on the excitement of collaborating with idol Odette Sugerman

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Allison Giroday

When an average human being looks at another individual, they tend to see a face looking back. Two eyes, one nose, a pair of lips, etc. When makeup artists look at another human being, however, they see something entirely different. They see a blank canvas, an open opportunity. They see creases, open spaces, and unique bone structure. They see potential color complements and areas for emphasis. They are inspired by a clean face. Inspired to create; inspired to change; inspired to bring about an inner beauty, hidden from within.

“I love immersing myself into the creative world. I get to meet so many fascinating, passionate people along the way who share in my understanding of hard work and drive. It’s so inspiring, but also very rewarding. Getting to help my audiences put their best face forward is in my blood. It feels as important to me as it does to them and I find myself so motivated when I see photos of them looking confident and fierce, killing it with their image and their talents. It’s the greatest thing on earth to know that there is a job out there where you can do someone’s makeup and get paid for it. I love it so much that even if I couldn’t make a living off of it, I’d need it on the side. It feeds my soul,” raved Giroday.

When highly esteemed makeup artist Allison Giroday sees a face without makeup, she is driven to show the world what she can transform it into. Her years of fruitful experience have earned her the luxury of understanding how to complement skin tones, how to hide skin texture, and how to provide her clients with the confidence to face the world and look great doing it. Contrary to popular opinion, Giroday sees makeup as a way to enhance an individual’s beauty from within, as opposed to creating a false sense of self-worth through a mask of makeup. She is energized by the way in which her profession allows her to help men and women all over the world be the best version of themselves.

Like many other makeup artists, Giroday surrounds herself with images and platforms that offer her ideas for creating new makeup looks. Growing up, she covered her walls with images of Guess Models and celebrities like Pamela Anderson, offering herself inspiration to one day make up the faces of other famous models. They were her biggest inspiration at the time, and they are the reason that she had to pinch herself when she was able to connect with world renowned photographer, Odette Sugerman. Sugerman is a household name in the fashion industry, having shot for the likes of Kate Beckinsale, Paris Hilton, Hugh Hefner and several other famous celebrities.

Sugerman’s style is unique, yet recognizable anywhere by her fans. For this reason, Giroday knew that if she wanted to work with Sugerman, she’d have to take matters into her own hands. Proactively, Giroday contacted Sugerman, providing her with samples of her artistry and detailing the flare she thought she could add to Sugerman’s work. To her avail, Sugerman absolutely loved her work and despite the fact that, at this point, Giroday had been freelancing for only a year, Sugerman invited her to get further acquainted and to discuss the type of photoshoots they could work together on. For Giroday, it was a dream come true and even today, she still considers it to be one of the highlights of her career.

“You can’t shoot with just anyone, you have to have the creative chemistry. We complement each other so incredibly well,” Giroday said.

For their project together, Giroday and Sugerman travelled around Vancouver Island with an up-and-coming model. One look at the model’s pillow lips and flawless complexion had her creative juices flowing and she was eager to get her brushes blending. Together, Giroday and Sugerman developed a concept to work toward, transforming their model’s look to appear as a wild, sassy, femme fatale. Given Giroday’s love for female empowerment and embracing the beautiful shapes and sizes that comprise the female population provided her with a vision to work toward.

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Odette Sugerman, makeup by Allison Giroday

“Once we determined the nature of the look we wanted to go for, we got to work. I prepared our model’s skin, giving it a satin finish and then counteracted it with a bold brow. With a jet black liquid liner, I applied a thick, dramatic wing which extended beyond the corner of her eye for a sexy, cat-eye effect. I wanted the liner to make a statement and to be the focal point of the look. In combination with her platinum hair and blue eyes, she really projected the sexpot, classic “Guess girl” image that Odette wanted to see,” detailed Giroday.

Giroday can often be credited for much of the success her work brings to a project; however, in this particular case, Giroday was undoubtedly instrumental in the fact that their model caught the eye of fashion emperor, Paul Marciano. The model later booked a job with Guess and feels fortunate to have had talented visionaries like Giroday and Sugerman on her side.

Getting to work with one of her idols was extremely important for Giroday on both a personal and professional level. She loves the opportunity that her job provides her to work with other talented, like-minded creatives, but also the fact that they can have fun together while they do what they do best. Their individual styles and personalities are a strong match, allowing them to produce exceptional work together and to show the world what they’re really capable of.

“Creative success really has so much to do with the people you’re working with. You want to be around great energy. It was a beautiful setting with amazing souls all doing what we love. I mean it doesn’t really get much better than that,” she concluded.

 

Liam Casey Sullivan on honor of continuing the conversation about addiction

Most successful actors will tell you that they do not act for the fame or for the fortune, they act for the thrill. They act because their job lets them connect with dozens of strangers, allowing them to contemplate the various aspects of the human condition together. They act because it is their creative outlet and their chance to take an audience along journeys they may never otherwise experience. They act because it keeps them alive. It doesn’t matter if an actor is young or old, new to the screen or a household name, actors act because unlike other professions, theirs allows them to escape reality and explore their souls before the eyes of the world. For these reasons and many more, Liam Casey Sullivan acts and with his rare combination of passion, talent, and perseverance, he is likely to live before a camera for decades to come.

“As an actor, I am required to delve into the bank of my personal experiences and surface the same feelings or emotions that my character is experiencing at any given time. Through respective research and seeking sympathy for the person I’m playing — however challenging that may be — I aim to grasp a complete understanding of their point of view so that I may be able to adopt it. Once I do this, I then embark on understanding their relationship with others by sourcing parallels from people I know in my life and from other stories. Although I may not have shared the same experiences and relationships as my character, I can revert to alternate moments I’ve lived in order to render even the slightest bit of those same reactions and capitalize upon them so I may appear as though I have lived them,” tells Sullivan.

Sullivan’s remarkable ability to ease in and out of character is arguably his greatest asset, and something he has done successfully for a number of different on and off screen productions, such as for the hit teen drama Degrassi: Next Class and The Girlfriend Experience. What tends to differentiate Sullivan from his competition, however, is his ability to adopt and portray traits that are entirely different from his own personality. Not only does he do so exceptionally, he thoroughly enjoys playing characters entirely unlike him. In fact, he considers playing Dougie in the Canadian film, Mary Goes Round, to be the highlight of his film career solely because he had the opportunity to play a conceited, selfish character.

Mary Goes Round follows the life of Mary, a substance abuse counsellor with a drinking problem. After being arrested for drunk driving and losing her job, Mary returns to her hometown where she learns that her estranged father is dying of cancer and wants to form a bond with Mary and her teenage half-sister that she has never met. In the film, Sullivan’s character Dougie conceals his own insecurities through a mask of obnoxiousness and arrogance. His lack of true friendships and general loneliness cause him to fiend attention and subsequently irritate those around him.

Ultimately, Sullivan’s character proved instrumental to Mary Goes Round’s great success and his performance on screen, in conjunction with his input behind the camera, highlights just how valuable he can be on any given project. After premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2017, Mary Goes Round was featured in several other festivals across North America. In addition, it won three prestigious awards, including Best Narrative Feature at the Annapolis Film Festival in 2018 and The Panavision Spirit Award for Independent Cinema at the Santa Barbara Film Festival in 2018.

What Sullivan enjoyed most about playing Dougie was the fact that he was able to explore and portray a personality type that he hadn’t ever depicted before. In addition, the film’s director, Molly McGlynn, was open to experimenting with the script and offering her cast an opportunity to rework and modify their scenes as they saw fit. Under these circumstances, Sullivan was able to allow his creative nature and unique style to flourish and he quickly proved himself invaluable to the production. Ultimately, however, Sullivan was honored to have taken part in shining a light on an extremely prevalent and relatable topic. Knowing that he was able to take part in a broader conversation about addiction left Sullivan feeling fulfilled and hopeful that audiences would be able to look at this social crisis from the unfamiliar, but interesting angle he helped create.

“In all, I liked that this story rings true to how much of an ongoing struggle battling addiction can be. A drinking problem has the power to haunt you for your entire life and this story is unforgiving when it comes to highlighting the truth and the daunting reality of addiction. This story not only spreads an awareness to the public but also gives a healthy sense of hope to those who may be facing similar problems as Mary and it felt great to have played a part in that,” Sullivan concludes.

 

Top photo by Helen Tansey

Production Designer Elisia Mirabelli creates make believe to explore fundamental aspects of reality

When Elisia Mirabelli was a young child, she found learning to read to be a challenge. Because of this, she found herself stepping inside the experiences of other people through film, rather than books. This began a lifelong passion for the medium, teaching her empathy and the certainty that every single person has a story to tell.

Mirabelli’s first filmmaking experience came when she was just a teenager when she was the production designer of a short film that made its way to the esteemed Toronto International Film Festival Kids. It was then when she realized she could turn her passion for filmmaking and design into a fruitful career. She has since dedicated her life to creating the “make believe” and yet using her talent to teach audiences the most intimate aspects of reality.

“Sometimes I can’t decipher the difference between a personal memory and something that happened in a film. For me, they are one in the same. Working in film feels like I’m part of a community of magic makers fueling one giant empathy machine,” said the Toronto native.

With her contributions on the film Let Me Down Easy and the acclaimed web series Night Owl,Mirabelli shows audiences around the world just what she is capable of as a production designer. In her home country of Canada, she continues to impress with her work with Bell Media and DHX Media.

Another highlight on Mirabelli’s resume came back in 2013 with her film Pretty Thing, telling the story of an elderly man reflecting on the lost moments and broken truths surrounding the butterflies that escaped from the mouth of the girl who got away. Pretty Thingrelied heavily on production design as the film is influenced by a blend of magic realism and classic fairy tales. Although the film is rooted in a contemporary setting, the film’s protagonist looks back on moments shared between him and a lost love with a romanticized, dreamlike luminosity. These flashes of time spent together were filmed in tailored sets and locations designed to reflect the magical, surreal quality of falling in love. These sets included a stage equipped with a hand painted pastel arch and mock vintage floor lights situated in a field with wildflowers and plunging hills, a bathroom with a clawed footed tub surrounded by a sea of antique champagne bottles and a bedroom lined with teal baroque wallpaper chock-full of wilted floral bouquets and arrangements.

Pretty Thing follows the memories of an old man who is fixated on the narrative of ‘the one that got away’. As the film continues we learn that his estrangement is less of a romanticized, fairy-tale like parting and is in fact an outcome of his possessive and controlling behavior. For him, she is merely a pretty thing, an entity he wants to pin down and have for himself. There is an exploration of the way women are objectified in film. The method in which they have been traditionally objectified through the male gaze, their form sliced up in close-ups, their appearances gussied up and painted, filmed with a soft light like some angelic plaything there to be gawked at, won, saved or, if they’re in control of their autonomy, shamed, tainted, slandered, destroyed, ‘not the keeping kind’. It is an important story, even now, five years later,” said Mirabelli.

After premiering online with The National Screen Institute, Pretty Thing carried a successful festival tour, which included The Seattle International Film Festival, and took home several awards across North American festivals. However, the highlight for Mirabelli came when the filmed was screened at Cannes and was then handpicked to represent Canadian talent at the festival by Telefilm. Seeing the film at such a prestigious setting and knowing it had been selected to represent her country was one of the most surreal and fulfilling experiences of Mirabelli’s career.

Pretty Thing is a project rooted in the storytelling aptitude of production design. Each frame of the film is like a painting, not purely its splendour, but also in the sense that each piece of film the is open to interpretation, where meaning is altered by the perception of those that look upon it. Being able to disentangle a film purely through an aesthetic lens was a production designer’s dream, and an opportunity Mirabelli took full advantage of.

The most extraordinary aspect of the production design was the film’s opening and closing scenes which had a live butterfly flying out of the mouth of one of our characters. To achieve this, the butterflies had to be kept at 4° C which left them in a sleeplike state. The temperature of the actors; mouths would then awaken the butterflies, creating an incredible result far superior to any visual effects done in post-production.

Mirabelli’s work helped convey the films reference to the way many refurbish an agonizing memory to suit the narrative they tell themselves about what kind of person they are. Shaping the films design meant creating two dissimilar, nonetheless linked, worlds. Sets were first captured in their most striking, glittering almost fairy-tale like forms followed by the practice of withering them down, skinning their facades, peeling away all the layers that make them shine. Without the films production design, there really would be no Pretty Thing, and without Mirabelli, it may never have been the visual masterpiece that it is.

“The unconstrained ability to construct art that supported the story so heavily was amazing. To create a gleaming, intricate and elaborate succession of worlds only to place as much importance and thought on knocking them all down. Obliterating your work and seizing the bones of that ruin on film felt like a gift that few production designers are given,” she concluded.

Be sure to check out Pretty Thing to see not only the outstanding production design from Mirabelli, but also an impactful and relevant story.

Canada’s Dan Cazzola living his dream with Endemol Shine Group

When Dan Cazzola first stepped onto a studio, he felt a rush like no other. It was at that moment when he fell in love with television production, seeing what a vast world it truly is. He finds it energetic and exciting, his passion for what he does translates directly to his work. As the Vice President of International Development for Endemol Shine North America, he is living the dream he’s had since he was only a child and has had a career that many aspire towards.

Originally from the small suburb of Ancaster, Ontario, Cazzola has travelled the world doing what he loves. Working with Endemol Shine, one of the world’s largest production companies, for the past six years, he has had a vast array of experiences working on internationally successful television shows, such as MasterChef, Big Brother,Minute To Win It and Deal Or No Deal.

“Working with Dan is always a pleasure. Not only does he ensure a healthy working relationship with all of his employees and colleagues, but he is extremely creative. Such a combination creates extremely high morale on every team he is a part of, despite the stresses that come along with such a fast-paced industry. Dan is everything you would want as a leader, and the tremendous results of his work are direct reflections of this,” said Rebecca De Young, Creative Director, Endemol Shine China.

One of the many highlights of Cazzola’s esteemed career came when he first started working with Endemol Shine, back at Shine Group in London. Shine Group was an immense company, with operations in over 10 countries and a large footprint in the United Kingdom. In every territory, each production company had started from scratch and they were doing everything they could to get to number one above all competitors. To do this, each region needed to be on the same path, working at the same speed, achieving the same goals. As the Global Development Executive of Shine Group at the time, Cazzola was the link between all these companies. He made sure to keep all priorities in line and made every connection happen with incredible speed. He brought new ideas and strategies into Shine and helped to map out the integration of the creative business into the newly formed Endemol Shine Group when Endemol and Shine Group merged.

“At Shine Group, I was working with the best creatives in the business. Shine had grown from nothing to one of the UK’s largest production companies in just over five years. It was a huge company but felt small and nimble and everyone in the company felt like they were responsible for its growth and success. The company had an amazing culture and to this day I haven’t found a more talented group of people in one place,” Cazzola described. “I was learning new things and new territories and new markets every day. At any moment we could sell a show to Thailand, or Brazil or Norway and we’d have to make sure that the show fit that market. I learned about all the broadcasters, the key talent in each territory and what makes everyone tick.”

Cazzola first started with Shine Group when he produced MasterChef. Having worked on the show, he knew a fair amount of the executives that worked on the corporate and international side at Shine Group. When the opportunity arose to transition from content producing to a corporate look, he felt he had what it took to make the transition, and he was right.

Cazzola became the creative face of the company during his years at Shine Group. He consistently found the best way to make all of the production companies work together harmoniously. He worked to instill trust, both in him and the company as a whole. From there, he would find the strongest areas to focus the company’s efforts. He made decisions based on both fact and instincts, which with his innate talent and years of experience proved to almost always be fruitful. He always trusted his gut when it came to picking out the next big thing, talking about ten shows in a day but instantly deciding what would become the next global hit. It was this rush that drove Cazzola, and why he looks back at his time at Shine Group so fondly.

“The Shine Group years were the glory years.  I am very proud to have been a part of Shine Group and what was achieved.  The company did in five years what other TV companies couldn’t do in 10 or 20. I can see the results of my work on screen in countries all over the world. And when I see that one of our shows has sold to another territory or won an award I always feel proud,” he concluded.

Actress Romy Weltman recalls first horror film ‘The Returned’

For Romy Weltman, being an actor means getting the opportunity to not just portray another person, but to become one. She embodies each of her characters with a sense of realism, a passion for the art, and a determination that is unrivaled. It is this dedication that makes her so successful and why she has won over the hearts of audiences all over Canada.

Working in both film and television, Weltman is an extremely in demand actress in her home country. She has starred in successful films such as The Red Maple Leaf and Strike! as well as popular television shows like Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments and the Disney Channel hit Backstage.

“When I worked with Romy on Backstage, her talent and natural ability to display true emotion was evident. We had two scenes in particular that were quite emotional and Romy was nothing but an absolute professional. She raised the stakes for everybody and set a very high bar. I felt like my acting and my overall work ethic was improved tenfold when working with Romy simply because of how professional and prepared she was. Romy continues to show how great of an actress she is in all of her other projects that she has done. She is without a doubt one of the strongest actresses that I know,” said Kolton Stewart, Actor (Some Assembly Required, The Swap).

Weltman’s first taste of international success came with her film The Returned. The horror flick takes place in a world where a deadly zombie virus has infected mankind, and a single cure has been found. The cure, a treatment called the “Return Protein” which stays the effects of the virus in its host. With injections every 36 hours, the “Returned” are able to live as though they were never bit, despite the virus still coursing through their veins. When it is discovered that the protein stock is running low, chaos hits the streets. Returned who run out of the protein turn to zombies and wreak havoc, protesters turn to murderers as they try to rid the streets of the returned, and right in the middle of it all are Alex and Kate. Kate, a leading doctor in the field of zombie virus’ and Alex, a musician with a dark secret, he is a Returned. As death and fear run rampant, Alex’s secret becomes known and his dosage runs low, he and Kate must fight for a chance to live before he becomes a zombie.

“The story of The Returned is very cool, as it gives people a completely thrilling look on life. The story was different to many others. For thriller and horror movie fans, I think this story is super up their alley and I can promise there will be scares,” said Weltman.

The film premiered in 2013 and made its way to several international film festivals. At the 2014 Nevermore Film Festival, it even won the Audience Award. Weltman’s work was pivotal for The Returned’s success, as she played the younger version of the main character Kate. Young Kate was a strong character who faces a very difficult challenge in her life when she witnesses her mother being attacked by zombies. Playing the younger version of a character is extremely essential to a story. It is important for the audience to see what the character had been through in their lifetime and why they are who they are. Kate, being the lead, had lots of layers to her story. Playing young Kate gave Weltman the opportunity to bring those layers to the table and show the audience who Kate really was as a child. Weltman was only twelve years of age at the time, but still captivated audiences while providing pivotal backstory required to understand the film.

“This project was so awesome. I had never worked on a horror film or movie set at all yet. At this point of my career, this role was a dream come true. I couldn’t wait to see all the action and how horror movies were really filmed,” said Weltman.

Of course, as Weltman did not have her own life experience to pull from when it came to seeing her character’s mother getting eaten by zombies, her creative juices were flowing to determine how best to portray the child’s horror in such an important scene. She managed to perfectly encapsulate such a difficult emotion, and throughout the filming process, Weltman made sure to take in and connect the thriller ideas to her own life. By doing so, it allowed her to truly get into the mind of her character.

“Even though I was just a kid when I worked on this, it really inspired me to keep working and it made me hungry to be on more sets. I can credit that experience to the success I’ve had since,” said Weltman.

Be sure to check out Weltman in Backstage on the Family Channel in Canada on Fridays at 6:30 p.m. EST.

Producer Kegan Sant helps TELUS give back with inspiring charitable campaign

It seems funny to Kegan Sant that there was once a time where he thought he wanted to be a director. Many people going into filmmaking initially see themselves leading the film set, and Sant was no different. However, when he found his way into producing, he realized it was exactly where he was meant to be. Sant understands the nuances to the role, that it isn’t just balancing a budget. The producer is responsible for making sure every single aspect of the production goes off without a hitch. That, for Sant, is what makes it so thrilling.

“I like to be busy and being a producer, there is always something to do. No matter how simple a project is, attention to detail is everything to me. I find that fun and challenging. Not many positions offer the flexibility in schedule, opportunity to see the world and ability to employ thousands of people over short periods of time. It’s invigorating to work with different directors as everyone has unique ways of working and dynamic thought processes. It’s incredibly satisfying to conceptualize a project with a director, budget it out, execute it, and see it come to life in post,” said Sant.

Sant’s passion for what he does translates into every project he takes on. He is perhaps most well-known for his work on the Westjet Christmas Miracle, one of the first real people/real time commercials that went viral online. He also made the award-winning Grey Cup flagship commercial for the CFL, What We’re Made Of, and last year, his work on Woods Is There campaign celebrated the company’s 100th anniversary and Canada’s 150th birthday while captivating viewers across the country with stunning scenery. His work extends to film, and his movie The Bear went on to several international film festivals, taking home prizes and impressing viewers and critics alike.

Sant’s creativity is ignited when he believes in what a project represents, and his 2016 commercial for TELUS was no different. The commercial promoted #TheGivingEffect, a campaign to encourage acts of kindness. With every act of kindness, big or small, TELUS encouraged citizens across Canada to share themselves giving back to their community with the hashtag #TheGivingEffect, with the goal of having the entire nation help each other. TELUS would then select up to five individuals who took part in the challenge and award them with $5000 to donate to the charity of their choice.

“I think this campaign is important because it sways social consciousness in the direction of doing something about problems and issues they see. It lets people know that everything counts – small or big and that it doesn’t have to be material or monetary to count. Having more of that in the world is inspiring change in the right direction and I believe this stemmed from the actual employees of TELUS giving back to their own organizations, which inspired the corporation to do the same. Truly the spirit of giving,” said Sant.

The campaign began with a 90-second video with short stories ranging from an informal bottle cleanup on a beach to a young woman shaving off her long hair to support a sick friend. The tagline is “every act of giving inspires another.” The commercial was shot in over five locations in just one day in April of 2016. There was a national TV buy for this campaign and it also lived on an online platform. It was also picked up and recognized by a couple of national marketing magazines.

“I liked that we were able to defy all norms on this project, like shooting in several locations in a single shoot day with actresses that had special FX makeup, and first-time experiences like shaving their head. I liked that this project pushed boundaries and forced me to constantly think on my feet. Being able to produce a job that matched the director’s vision was incredibly satisfying and having a happy production company, agency, client and director means I did my job well,” said Sant.

What is perhaps the most interesting and challenging part of the commercial is the scene with the girl donating her hair for her sick friend. Sant had to find an actress that was actually willing to shave her head for the scene and donate her hair. He vowed that they would make it happen, despite the casting director being confident they wouldn’t find one. The director, Stash Capar, had a vision, and it involved an actress actually shaving their head. Sant made sure to deliver. At the last minute, Sant found an actress who was happy to show her support for the cause, really selling the authenticity of the piece. Because of his commitment to the project, Sant immensely impressed all those he worked with, who he now continues to collaborate with to this day.

“You know you’re in good hands with Kegan. No matter what problems befall the project, he will find solutions and the show will go on. Kegan is the hardest working producer I know.  He finds efficiencies and strategies that other producers later mimic. He is an agent of change in the world of commercials.  An example of this was the Westjet Christmas Miracle spot, which Kegan masterminded. His methods were later copied, spawning an entire genre of copycat “surprise and delight” commercials,” said Stash Capar, Director.

When Sant was given the opportunity to work on #TheGivingEffect it felt like he had come full circle. As a teenager, his first “real job” was working for TELUS in their customer service department. He remembers wondering what it would be like to produce a commercial for them one day. Getting to do so while promoting a good cause and giving back to his community was more than he could ever have dreamed of.

“It’s a great feeling to know that the project was so successful. I’m happy to have delivered a job that met the expectations of everyone involved and was instrumental in reaching people, promoting the idea of giving back. It’s on my reel as a heartfelt piece of emotional storytelling, not only for the final product itself but the messaging it shares,” he concluded.

 

Photo by Kevin Sarasom