Tag Archives: Canadian Talent

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

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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

Tony Nash brings on the laughs and the screams in ‘Secret Santa’

When Tony Nash speaks of his craft, he talks with the passion of someone who truly loves what he does. When he steps onto a set, it doesn’t feel like work for him, but rather it feels like a privilege to have the opportunity to do what he believes he is meant to be doing every day. This young man of Greek-Spanish descent has been acting since his childhood and has taken the Canadian film industry by storm.

Throughout his career, Nash has worked on a series of successful film and television ventures. Movies such as Saving Dreams and Meet the Parents, and shows like Petrol and Condor, the highly anticipated Audience network thriller. With every new project he takes on, it becomes clear that he is doing what he loves.

“What I like about acting is that when it is approached with the sacredness that it deserves, it first and foremost holds a mirror up to me, revealing all my hidden desires, coping mechanisms, repressions, reservations, grudges, vulnerabilities, beauties, gifts, talents and strengths. In so doing, it enables me to understand the souls of others and thereby be qualified and capable of holding a mirror up to the entirety of human nature, as Hamlet advised in Act 3, Scene 2,” said Nash.

Nash’s first true taste of international success came with the 2015 flick Secret Santa. Secret Santa is a feature length film that tells the story of a group of eccentric college kids, struggling to get through the hectic exam period. This horror/comedy is a tribute to B-Movie Slashers but also takes the conventions and turns them upside down. A liquor filled party is planned, adding a Secret Santa exchange for fun. Little do our characters know, a killer is in town and has a special present for all the good (and bad) girls and boys. Dare to open your present? It might be your last. Nash was really drawn to this project because he really wanted a comedic role to add to his repertoire, and his character also had a sweet, love element to his story. More than anything however, he loved that it was an ode to 90’s slasher films.

In Secret Santa, Nash plays Professor Preston Ramsey. The role was a lead and critical to the project as he was the red-herring in the horror plot. Throughout the film, audiences are led to believe he is the secret killer. The role was crucial as he furthers a love story between himself and the other lead, his student, and distracts the viewer from the killer, making the ending more of a surprise, staying true to the horror genre. The character was a sweet, somewhat naive college professor. He also was in a rut romantically and when one of his students started to fall for him, he began to feel alive again. He is an academic and spent his whole life indoors studying while his friends were all outside playing football. He is also a hopeless romantic and had only been in one relationship, which lasted seven years. The character had to be lovable, charming, slightly off beat, and at the same time mysterious. Nash was able to bring all that to the character as well as some humor of his own, which made the set a fun environment to work in and everyone enjoyed themselves. He was able to bring the character to life and give him that nerdy quality he needed to have plus a mature professor vibe amongst a bunch of college kids in an unexpected bloody night. Nash was perfect for the role.

“When I got the role, the first thing I did was went out and bought a pair of glasses and a tweed jacket that I thought would suit the character well. I spent time in university halls watching professors teach their classes to bright students. Also, because my character was being seduced by one of his students I watched The Graduate. I watched Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer, more times than I can count” said Nash.

Secret Santa premiered in November 2015 at the Blood in the Snow Film Festival. The film was then shown at the Toronto International Spring Horror and Fantasy Festival, and the Buffalo Dreams Film Festival. It was distributed by Wild Eye Releasing and is available at several stores on DVD including Walmart and Best Buy. Nash’s take on the vital role of Professor Preston Ramsey was instrumental to the film’s success.

“Tony was pitch-perfect in this slasher-comedy. He was hilarious, charming and ever-so-subtly mysterious to lead us towards the edge of suspicion. It was a brilliant and nuanced performance by a highly sensitive and skilled actor. Bravo Tony,” said Mike McMurran, Writer and Director of the film.

After a friend reached out to Nash telling him about the role, Nash sent in an audition tape that instantly impressed McMurran, saying there would be no one better to play the role. They instantly connected, sharing the same vision for the character and the film as a whole. As it was Nash’s first time in a comedic role, he was eager to try out something different. His versatility shone, and he perfectly encapsulated the mysterious professor. Not only did he have fun, but he says the entire cast and crew became close friends during filming. Overall, it was an incredibly enjoyable experience for the actor.

“I think it’s important to have fun sometimes and do things I am not used to. I think that life is hard enough and sometimes a little horror and comedy never hurt anyone. It’s important to just take a film and just create something entertaining for people who want to see something different. And I think Mike and his crew were able to do that very well. It was exciting to film and definitely will be exciting to watch as well,” he concluded.

Be sure to check out Secret Santa and let Tony Nash make you laugh and scream at the same time.

Canadian Music Week casts artists in new light with help of influencer Ashley Bruzas

When Digital Writer and Content Producer, Ashley Bruzas, looks back on her life, she cannot ever remember a time where writing was not a main component of her deepest inner passions. As a child, she recalls her mother and father encouraging her to send hand written letters to her family members, praising her for her adept ability to articulate and for the way in which she used her extensive vocabulary to express herself in an interesting way. From then on, she made a personal point of ensuring that she made full use of the resources within her reach to be able to establish well-rounded, educated points of view. For Bruzas, it was always important to embrace the historical, cultural, and personal differences of the world around her and to celebrate these variations through the stories she tells.

“I have always had a passion for writing and I have been able to use my writing and journalism background to assist me with a number of different positions that have required my skills as a writer and digital content producer. Of course, digital writing involves writing content such as news stories, editorials, opinion pieces, blogs, etc., that are published in a digital environment and that can be accessed through digital devices and online platforms that require the internet to be searched, shared, commented on, and more. It is essentially the same as a content producer; however, you are working alongside others to bring life to new ideas and create unique content that is ultimately shared across different mediums,” stated Bruzas.

One of the most essential qualities that Bruzas has developed thus far in her career is her ability to maximize her versatility at all times, be that through her skill set, her range of job opportunities, her collaboration with influential brands, and more. In fact, her versatility is undoubtably the reason that she has successfully branched out into various inherently different, yet interrelated fields. For instance, throughout her career, Bruzas has utilized her journalism skills and techniques to work for the Toronto Observer in both a print and digital fashion. In addition, she uses her online presence to obtain viewership on her prosperous lifestyle blog, WhoIsVeronika.com, as well as to earn a substantial following on other various social media platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat. When Bruzas sets her mind on something, she stops just short of nothing to not only achieve it, but to do so while exceeding all expectations of those around her. This is why, earlier on in 2017, she managed to earn herself a position working at CIUT 89.5FM, writing on air announcements, station advertisements, organizing shows, and running the control board, as well as organizing large-scale initiatives such as Canadian Music Week 2017.

For Bruzas, working at CIUT 89.5FM meant so much more than expanding upon her skill set in the field of radio journalism. It was an opportunity to explore one of the oldest forms of journalism, whilst excelling in her area of expertise: connecting with niche audiences and sharing information on a digital platform that requires elements of content production. Her in-depth understanding of how to interact through the use of social media allowed her to help CIUT 89.5FM reach audiences in ways they hadn’t ever imagined before she came on board. This, paired with her dexterity as a journalist lead to her leaving a lasting mark on the station and its counterparts. They were fortunate to have such an accomplished member on board and shared in the sentiments that she has received from previous co-workers throughout her professional career in terms of applauding her versatility and commending her unprecedented work ethic. Imad Elsheikh, for instance, who has worked with Bruzas on a number of occasions through creative agency, PIQUE, and highly esteemed brand, MooseKnuckles, celebrates her versatility and similar to those who worked with Bruzas at CIUT 89.5FM, found her to be instrumental to the success of the initiatives she shared her expertise on.

“The best word to describe Ashley would be versatile. She is able to integrate many skills, like pitching ideas, writing, interviewing, working with people, understanding target demographics and creating a final product that combines all of the elements that are needed to create original content that can be shared. She has appeared both in front of and behind the camera and delivers on her work promptly, working around the clock and with others to make sure there is a common objective for everyone on board. I have yet to work with Ashley on a project that was not well received and imitated by others in the realm of social media and content/writing,” noted Elsheikh.

Working at CIUT 98.5FM meant writing content for a terrestrial range of more than 8 million people. Bruzas, with a personal following of over 85,000 people, was the ideal candidate for the job due to her understanding of interacting with and appealing to a large audience. She went above and beyond the call of duty in order to introduce new artists, segments, stories, and news happening in Toronto that would be relevant to the station’s target audience, and demographic that she had a strong foundational understanding about from her previous work history. She is a natural-born connector and has a profound ability to inspire others to join in her efforts to celebrate the undiscovered talents and skill sets of individuals all over the globe. When she worked on the Canadian Music Week 2017 project, in particular, she took great pride in increasing awareness of the station and bringing together artists and listeners who would find value in experiencing the programs she created. In the process, she was thrilled to be able to brush up upon her skills as an interviewer, communicator, writer, radio host, editor, and content producer.

In all, working for CIUT 98.5FM and coordinating top projects like their Canadian Music Week 2017 helped reinforce the fact that Bruzas is equipped with a rare skill set and one which she maximizes the use of on a continual basis. She takes great pride in knowing that she helps to inform and inspire through the content that she generates and she hopes to be able to continue to do so for the remainder of her career. In the long term, she endeavors to use her platform as a journalist and a digital writer to give a voice to the voiceless in our society and raise awareness about uncovered issues across the globe. In the meantime, she continues to build her online presence and tell compelling stories to all that will listen. Check out her blog for a better idea: WhoIsVeronika.com.

 

Photo by Pat Moore

Director Brett Morris showcases the drama in ‘The Real Housewives of Toronto’

Filmmaking started out as a hobby for a young Brett Morris. He was a child actor, and became exposed to movies in a different way than most other kids. The Toronto-native began making films with his sister, and it became his favorite past time. This same passion continues in his work today, and Morris is an in-demand director and producer.

Having worked on several large productions, Morris has taken the Canadian television industry by storm. Shows such as Big Brother Canada, Top Chef Canada, Hockey Wives, and So You Think You Can Dance Canada may not have achieved the success they did without him as the mastermind behind the scenes. He constantly aims to make the best product possible, and ensures all he works with do the same.

“I like to make the on-set experience an ‘idea meritocracy’ where the best idea wins.  Structuring your set this way makes for the experience to be enjoyable for everyone, and always delivers the best content. I don’t care if you’re responsible for catering, if you have an idea that will make our final product better, I’m all ears. You never know where the best idea will come from, and you have to be open and secure enough in role to listen,” he said.

Morris carried this mentality with him during his work on ten episodes of The Real Housewives of Toronto, a show that follows six of the city’s most privileged, powerful and glamorous women as they navigate the elite social scene of Canada’s largest city. This first season introduces Kara Alloway, Roxy Earle, Gregoriane (Grego) Minot, Ann Kaplan Mulholland, Joan Kelley Walker and Jana Webb. Toronto is their playground and they have the real estate, cars, and the diamonds to prove it. The show is part of the widely popular Real Housewives franchise, and when the opportunity came up for Morris to pioneer the Toronto series, he was all for it.

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Ann Kaplan and Brett Morris on the set of Real Housewives

“Working on The Real Housewives is really like working on a soap opera in the 21st century,” Morris described. “What I love about The Real Housewives is that everything is heightened.  Heightened reality television. The hair is bigger, the money is bigger, the personalities are bigger, the fights are bigger. It’s a show that seems so fabricated it has to be real, because the characters are always so magnificent.”

When the showrunner, Grant Greschuk, was looking for a director to make the Toronto version of Real Housewives a success, he reached out to producer Lara Shaw for a recommendation. Shaw instantly thought of Morris, as the two had worked together on Big Brother Canada. Once the two had a chance to talk, they instantly hit it off, and knew working together would be a triumph.

The role of director for Morris demanded a swift technical directorial eye, with a keen sense of how to arc the story to engage audiences. He led a field team of a director of photography, one assistant director, a camera operator, and a production assistant. Each one of them were extremely impressed with Morris’ directorial and leadership skills.

“Brett brought a level of camaraderie to our team that I haven’t experienced in my 14 years in the industry, and I can say I have never had such a good experience working on a show, as I did on the time spent working on Brett’s team. He had a way of raising team moral, bringing a level of levity and enjoyment to each shooting day, while working with the team to get results that brought constant positive feedback from the production management. Brett creates an extremely collaborative environment, instills confidence with his leadership and raises the confidence in his team members by constant feedback and encouragement. Brett is the kind of leader that makes you want to do your absolute best work for him. I would jump at any opportunity to work with Brett in the future as much and often as possible,” said Chris Sherry, the Director of Photography on Real Housewives of Toronto.

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Kara Alloway (Left), Ann Kaplan (Right) with Brett Morris on the set of Real Housewives

Each day, Morris and his crew would arrive two hours before the cast. They would spend this time figuring out how they would film each scene, and he says these were often his most creative hours of the day. Once the cast arrived, filming would begin. The ladies, Morris says, did not require any coaching on his part, as they were very professional, giving him more time to focus on making the best possible product.

As the director of the show, Morris’ first priority was storytelling. At the beginning of each day, he was given just the location and the cast members that would appear in the scenes. At any given time, each character had five different plots to follow, because they all have relationships with different characters. Those relationships would change on any given day and Morris always made sure to keep his head around the story despite such a challenge.

“The best part of working on The Real Housewives of Toronto was how we got to spend the summer. Sometimes in film and TV, the shooting locations and conditions aren’t the most glamorous. I’ve worked in freezing cold ice rinks, on dairy farms, dirty basements – not the most desirable of conditions.  The best part of Real Housewives was that we lived like the cast for three months. We dined at the best restaurants in the city, traveled on yachts, filmed on golf courses, even took the whole shooting crew to Barcelona for a week. The show definitely had its perks,” said Morris.

Morris is immensely proud of the work he did on the first season of The Real Housewives of Toronto. It was a small team, and with him as the leader the show championed as the number one show on the W Network where it premiered. He credits his previous work in reality television to help him bring a fresh perspective to the Real Housewives franchise. He always makes the cleanest and most efficient show he can; he aims to have the locations look as glamorous as possible; he makes sure to photograph the cast in flattering ways. Lastly, he beautifully showed his home city of “The 6” to the rest of the world.

“One of the best part of working in this industry is being able to talk with people who have seen your work. It’s the best ice-breaker to say, ‘I worked on The Real Housewives of Toronto’ because it instantaneously gets a reaction out of someone. They’ll always have an opinion about it, and always want to learn more. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking to a big jock, or an actual housewife – everyone has seen the show and everyone wants to know what it’s really like behind the scenes…. of course, though, I’ll never tell,” Morris concluded.

Dewshane Williams on exploring his love of science fiction in The Expanse

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Bobbie Draper (Frankie Adams) and Sa’id (Dewshane Williams) prepare for a Martian battle in The Expanse

What audiences tend to love most about science fiction is the fact that the realm of possibilities is endless. Science fiction is known for carrying fans into unfamiliar worlds, unexplored dimensions, and uncharted territory. Both characters and storylines defy the norms of the world we know and live in; however, social dilemmas, emotions, and personality traits often stay the same. As an actor, science fiction remains one of the most unique, interesting genres to explore. For Dewshane Williams, this is because it is a genre that allows us to determine what human beings are capable of, be that within the constraints of modern life as we know it, or beyond.

Besides science fiction, Williams has familiarized himself with a number of different genres and storylines throughout his career. For instance, Williams mastered the art of drama through his stellar performance of Frank in the film Dog Pound, which portrays the life of three juvenile delinquents who are sentenced to a correctional facility where they encounter gang violence, death, and harassment from staff and other inmates. Contrastingly, Williams immersed himself into the wonderful world of comedy in 2012 for the film The Story of Luke about a young man with autism who is thrust into a world that doesn’t expect much from him. Beyond that, Williams has tried his hand at action films, thrillers, mysteries, horror stories, and much more. There are few limits to what he can achieve when he puts his mind and his skill set to work.

In 2015, Williams earned himself a role in Universal SYFY Networks’s hit series, The Expanse as Corporal Sa’id. The show follows the lives of a police detective a spaceship crew who discover a conspiracy, the first officer of an interplanetary ice freighter, and an earth-bound United Nations executive director, who slowly discover a conspiracy threatening the Earth’s rebellious colony on the asteroid belt. Between Williams’ fascination with space travel and Sa’id’s passion for serving others, Williams became enthralled with the project. In the series, Sa’id serves as part of an elite Marine Firing Squad; however, what Williams respected most about his character was embedded within Sa’id’s devotion to his planet. His willingness to save his planet inspired Williams and motivated him to adopt every trait and mannerism that accompanied that level of selflessness. Fortunately, one of Williams’ greatest attributes is his ability to transform himself into the character at hand. For some actors, identifying with a specific style of acting comes naturally; however, for professionals like Williams, it is impossible to categorize himself. He does not act according to a specific set of styles or rules. On the contrary, his versatility allows him to adapt himself to a variety of different emotions and character traits.

“The story of this show is so important because we live in an age of Space X and interplanetary travel. I think it is important to embrace the possibilities that our future holds. The concept of space travel and exploration is very real. We’re doing it now, which is incredible. This show, in a way, sheds light on what we may go through as an evolving species. It shows what we may be capable of doing; both positive and negative. Not to mention, most of the concepts in the show are scientifically possible. For all of the future space explorers out there, this might be the inspiration they need to take us where no one has gone before,” gushed Williams.

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Dewshane Williams recording voiceover work for The Expanse virtual reality Game Battle For Mars.

As an avid science fiction fan, Williams loved getting into character and immersing himself in the costumes and props on set. When he was being fitted for his costume, Williams noticed something familiar about the design and upon inquiring about their origin, he learned that they were made by the same company who produce Iron Man’s iconic suit. His enthusiasm about the project grew with each day on set and the more he explored the script, the more he realized the potential that the storyline held. In fact, the show’s VFX Supervisor, Bob Munroe, took notice of Williams’ devotion to the project and solicited his help to act as the lead for a virtual reality video game based on the show’s premise. Williams was extremely humbled about the possibility of expanding The Expanse’s presence in the world of science fiction and eagerly accepted the offer to work on the video game, The Battle on Mars. It comes as little surprise, therefore, that Munroe was equally as thrilled to have Williams on board.

“The moment I met Dewshane, I knew he was a rare talent. I had such a great experience working with him that I later enlisted him to star in our virtual reality game. Considering how much VFX was required while shooting our opening scene on mars, Dewshane had to exercise a lot of patience. Not to mention, he had to wear a 40-pound suit on a hot day. It would’ve been very easy to complain but he never did. Instead, his generosity and attitude made him a standout. When I had the opportunity to create a video game for the TV show, he was the first person I called. His enthusiasm is so contagious,” said Munroe.

Now finished its second season, The Expanse has established a strong following, as well as a large amount of recognition in the industry. It has garnered a number of award nominations, as well as a win for Best Dramatic Presentation at the Hugo Awards in 2017. If you are curious to see Williams in action, as well as to see what the show’s hype is all about, start watching The Expanse now and stay tuned for the premiere of Season 3 in 2018.

 

Top photo: Dewshane Williams in the Virtual Reality Game “The Expanse: Battle on Mars”.

Canada’s Victor Gilbert enchants audiences in new film ‘The Walking Man’

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Victor Gilbert

With his mom being a cinematographer and sister being an actress, Victor Gilbert’s impressions of movies are quite different than most children his age. He doesn’t just see something to entertain him, he understands the whole filmmaking process, and has for most of his life. At only ten years old, he can navigate a film set and understand the intricacies of what is required to make a film like many much older. That is perhaps why he already knows he wants to spend the rest of his life acting, and he is in demand not just in his home country of Canada, but internationally as well.

Gilbert’s career is already very formidable. Just this year he worked on a powerful commercial for Alberta’s public service union AUPE, and his film The Kiss has made its way to several prestigious film festivals. He has starred in five seasons of Netflix’s hit series Hell on Wheels, and even with this, he feels like he is just getting started.

“I would really like to be an actor full-time when I grow up and don’t have to be in school,” said Gilbert.

Despite not being a full-time actor, Gilbert is still quite the professional. Just last year he starred in the film The Walking Man. The film tells the story of a man who is compelled to leave his job and become a homeless wanderer. His friends and acquaintances share their opinions, and audiences are left to ponder his purpose. In the film, Gilbert plays Eric, one of the principal children who talked to the camera about “The Walking Man”. Eric was once a player for the soccer team that The Walking Man coached prior to quitting and abandoning his life. Having a child’s perspective about why the man began wandering was essential to the story’s development and how audiences felt about the entire concept.  Eric is a young boy who loves to play video games and doesn’t really take his attention away from his game when he talks. He is a ‘rough’ boy who is not very interested by what is going on with his old coach. He is asked to speak about what he saw, but doesn’t really want to since he’s so busy with his games. The disinterest in such a unique showcases a child’s innocense, and required a talented young actor to embody such a character. This is where Gilbert shined.

“My mom says many adults, like the main character of the movie, question themselves and their lives at some point, so the topic is very accurate and recurrent and impactful. It’s not always easy to deal with all the bills, and many people probably feel like they want to quit. It’s good because it teaches everybody that they are not alone and there are options and people out there to help. Maybe it’s important to take pauses in life to stop and relax and just walk, and it’s ok. Basically, don’t stress about things, and ask questions in life,” said Gilbert.

The Walking Man had its premiere screening at Orange Lofts Condos in March of last year, and now is making its way to film festivals. It was previously selected for the Winnipeg Real to Reel Festival, and the Central Alberta Film Festival. It is expected to have screenings at even more festivals soon. Such success may not have been possible without Gilbert’s portrayal of Eric. He had many lines throughout the film, and he had to stay very serious. He was only 8-years-old when the filming took place, and this is no easy task for someone of that age. However, Gilbert understood the importance of his character, and even learned the whole script by heart to comprehend the story’s importance. He then did his entire scene in just one take.

“The fact that he was able to pull through his character so well makes his presence on screen quite remarkable as you can tell he masters his lines even if he is so young. In this scene, he has to look straight at the camera and deliver his lines. He did not budge, he delivered the full script and added very brilliant luminosity to the film, as his bright eyes and his lovely and joyful character pierce the screen for those scenes,” said Derek Selinger, the Writer and Director of The Walking Man. “I worked with Victor many times before. I keep hiring Victor because of all the various faces he can pull, his lovely personality, the fact that he can remember lines so well and because he is so professional. When I called him up on filming day to come sit on the couch to deliver his lines, he came right away.”

Selinger, a well-known magician, knew Gilbert was the right person for the role in his film. Gilbert had to sit on the couch and play on a Nintendo GameBoy, and then talk to the camera. While saying his many lines, he always stayed in character and very serious. He describes The Walking Man and what his character saw, and does so in a confessional sort of way. Such a style requires extreme focus, as the camera sees every aspect of your face. It also requires a rawness, as the scene had to present in the style of a documentary interview. With the distraction of the video game console, this could have been difficult for many child actors, but Gilbert embodied it perfectly. Besides, for the young actor, this was a dream come true, as he still got to play video games, something he already enjoys. 

Derek is just really nice. He is not stressful, he helps his actors and makes the set very comfortable. He takes his time to explain the set, he is all prepared already when we show up on set, so things go super fast. Like, the fastest I have seen,” Gilbert described.

However, even though he got to play video games and work with people he liked, the best part of Gilbert’s experience shooting The Walking Man came from an unexpected source.

“Derek is a magician. A real magician! He does shows on big stages. So, he is a very interesting person. He does magic tricks sometimes on set,” said Gilbert.

Check out the tralier for The Walking Man here.