Tag Archives: Contrapelo film

Creating Realities in Film that Effectively Transport Viewers: Art Director Haisu Wang

IMG_6083
Art Director Haisu Wang shot by Tian-ran Qin

 

As the art director of the films “Is That A Gun in Your Pocket?,” “Contrapelo” and “Day One,” ABC’s hit television series “The Muppets,” the Asian television series “My Sunshine,” and commercials for major global clients including Kia, Chinese native Haisu Wang has carved out an indelible place for himself in the international entertainment industry as someone who’s skill effectively transports audiences into the world of the stories on screen, no matter how far fetched they may be.

While it is no secret that the film industry is full of oversized egos often competing for the glitz and glory, what makes Wang so special, besides his adept technical skill and unparalleled creativity, is the fact that he always lets the director’s vision for a project guide his work.

Never failing to design an atmosphere that creates the perfect environment for a story, the versatile nature of his creative vision compounded by his intuitive approach has allowed him to nail the mark every time.

“My passion is always creating environments to help storytelling,” admits Wang.

It is no coincidence that practically every project that Wang has art directed to date has received coveted accolades. As the art director of the film “Day One,” which earned a nomination for an Oscar Award at the 2016 Academy Awards, in addition to winning two Emmy Awards at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences College Television Awards in 2015, one of which earned director Henry Hughes the award for Best Director, Wang’s work garnered worldwide attention.

About Wang’s invaluable work on the film Hughes explains, “Haisu’s vision and rare skill using digital software to create some of the most challenging sets for ‘Day One’ was invaluable to our production, especially considering the geographic challenges of the location. Without his contributions it would have been nearly impossible to construct these sets in the amount of time and within the allotted budget. He is definitely a huge asset to the film industry.”

Whether he is working on a film, television series or commercial, Wang’s attention to detail combined with his logical and budget conscious approach to outfitting each set with the right props has been imperative in setting the tone and creating believable environments for each and every production he’s contributed to.

As the art director of Kia’s “Extraordinary Day” commercial, also known as “When an Ordinary Day Turns Extraordinary,” which currently has over 900,000 views on YouTube and was produced by BuzzFeed, Wang turned the sets of a simple car commercial into a project that plays visually on screen like a narrative story. From the minor knick knacks of a local garage sale, to colorful balloons falling from the ceiling after one of the character’s wins a raffle in a convenient store—Wang’s work manages to keep viewers engaged as we watch a love connection sparked between two Kia Soul drivers all started from the fact that they share the same kind of car.

For Wang, who also spent time as a visual effects artist for three-time Emmy Award winning VFX and animation company, Base FX, based in Beijing, China, art has been a major part of his life since childhood.

“I practiced Chinese calligraphy with my grandpa since I was a kid and also learned how to make shadow play puppetry with him, and I think that set the foundation of my path in art,” admits Wang.

Wang recently wrapped production as the art director of multi-award winning director Ryan Velásquez’s (“Ojalá,” “Record Breaker”) film “Drowning,” which is slated for release later this year. The film follows Gabe, played by Jovan Armand (“The Middle,” “Shameless,” “Parenthood”), an overweight teen who finally starts feeling good about himself after he musters up the courage to talk to Sarah, the girl of his dreams, and an unexpected friendship forms. However, when the high school bully and bane of Gabe’s existence makes Sarah his newest target, Gabe is forced to decide between remaining a coward in his comfort zone or standing up to the bully and fighting against injustice.

As the lead art director on “Drowning,” Wang had the difficult task of arranging a set to depict Gabe falling onto the ground combined with a montage in water. He was able to build a vertical wall on a track and dress it to appear as the floor so that the actor was able to pretend to hit the ground without hurting himself. On “Drowning,” as he has done on many of his past productions, Wang utilized his excellent CGI skills to create a revisualization animation to rehearse the timing of the scene; this assisted the director greatly in explaining how the scene could work for the actor.

Through his work on screen it is easy to see that Wang is passionate about the worlds he creates for the characters in a story; and, as all of the worlds from film to film are completely different, the versatility he’s shown across projects is just another testament to his seasoned skill in creating the perfect environment for each project on an individual level.

With “Drowning” on the verge of release, and Wang set to begin production as the digital asset art director on the highly anticipated sequel “Guardians of the Galaxy 2” later this year, audiences can look forward to seeing more of art director Haisu Wang’s ingenious work on screen very soon.

Advertisements

Editor Oliver Harwood turns Good Stories into Great Films

Editor Oliver Harwood
                                                                 Editor Oliver Harwood

Oliver Harwood understands better than most what it takes to turn a good story into a great story. His work spans the Atlantic, he’s been trained in one of the most exclusive and prestigious film schools in the world, and his talent has been essential to the success of an ever-growing list of award-winning films. So what does it take to make a good story great? It takes the keen eyes and ears of an editor.

Just this year, Share, a film edited by Harwood and directed by Pippa Bianco, premiered at the massive Austin-based SXSW 2015 festival where it won the Special Jury Recognition Award for Narrative Short. Share tells the story of a young girl’s return to school after being in a sex tape that gets shared online.

Harwood fell in love with film-editing inadvertently, when as a teenager he and a friend began filming their own comedy sketches. He became enthralled with cutting, splicing and arranging the clips, and in so doing found that the way stories are told on film come down to decisions made by the editor. Within a few short years, the young Brit was enrolled at the American Film Institute, known the world over for producing some of the biggest names in entertainment and filmmaking.

In 2013, Harwood edited Gala Goliani’s (What the Monkey Saw, Worship) film Red Rider, a dystopian thriller set eight years after a disaster turns the world into a wasteland. The intense action follows Adena, played by Abigail Wilson (Cigarette, The Half Man), as she roams the wastes seeking revenge on a vicious biker gang. A marvelous editing job to say the least, Harwood uses the character’s voice to narrate her thought process as she plans her mission, which gives viewers entry into her world without the overuse of dialogue to explain her plight.

The film was an Official Selection by several film festivals in 2014 including the San Jose International Short Film Festival, the La Femme International Film Festival and the NewFilmmakers New York Winter Festival. It also won the awards for Best Actor and Best Cinematographer at the Los Angeles New Wave Intl’ Film Festival.

After Red Rider, Harwood was tapped by director Leonard LoBiondo (Inheritance) to edit the film Reaver starring Kelly Blatz (Prom Night, 90210, Chicago Fire). A hair-raising chiller, Reaver is the haunting story of two siblings who come face-to-face with the evil specter that spirited-away their father. Reaver won the festival prize for Best Lovecraft Short at the 2014 A Night Of Horror Film Festival.

“Starting Reaver, I was pretty comfortable with myself as an editor, and was ready to experiment with my approach to collaborating with a director,” Harwood said.

A huge part of making a great film comes from knowing how to communicated and collaborate best with your fellow filmmakers. Harwood has been editing films long enough to what he needs to achieve the best possible film, and for him, that has to do with having his own space to create without someone looking over his shoulder. So, when it came time to start editing Reaver, Harwood suggested the use of a separate monitor where the director could view the progress without looking over his shoulder.

That decision really paid off. Harwood recalled, “It helped the director keep a better sense of perspective on the movie… he was much more able to astutely observe how much tension we could bring out from each shot, and how the following shot could be used to further enhance and build on that tension.”

Hot on the heels of Reaver, Harwood began work on Contrapelo in 2014. Directed by Gareth Dunnet Alcocer (Dig!, Exodo), Contrapelo was a huge change of scenery for Harwood. While the film’s dialogue was in Spanish, a language Harwood didn’t speak a word of, he managed not only to do the job, but to edit it into an awe-inspiring and gripping film. Contrapelo focuses on a cartel boss, a barber, a straight razor, and one of the most difficult decisions a person can be forced to make.

“Because I was unable to understand what was being said, I was able to decontextualize the line and turn the dialogue into something like music,” said Harwood, explaining that in a way the language barrier helped him with editing. “The rhythm and tone of the words being spoken helped me guide each cut based on feeling.”

The film’s recognitions included countless awards including Best Indie Short Film and the Audience Award at the 2014 Cine Gear Expo, the Best Short Awards from the Las Vegas International Film Festival and the Los Cortos International Film Festival, as well as nominations for Best Overall Short Film at the Calgary International Film Festival, the German Independence Award for Best Short Film at the 2014 Oldenburg Film Festival, and Best Narrative Short at the world-renowned Tribeca Film Festival.

Harwood’s mastery of his craft is the result of his incredible training, extensive experience and raw, innate talent. He possesses the rare skill to find the exact crossroads between technical genius and creative visionary. His work is certain to leave viewers not just satisfied with the cinematic experience, but contemplating some of the most serious issues facing the world today. And that, after all, is the difference between a good story, and a great story.