Tag Archives: filmmaking

Annick Jaëgy talks dressing-up, showing up, and watching her dreams come true

Some say that playing dress-up begins during childhood and never truly ends. As we age, and we experience the ups and downs that life has to offer, we do our best to look our parts and to make our way in the world. For as long as she can remember, Annick Jaëgy has had a certain fascination with playing dress-up. When she was a child, her mother would allow Annick and her friends to explore her closet, trying on her 1960’s-style outfits and “playing pretend” in her wedding dress. Annick fondly recalls the way that way dressing-up in her mother’s old clothes made her feel; she felt alive in the stories that she and her friends created through the clothing and Annick knew that no matter where her life carried her, she would always have a desire to bring her ideas to life and to share them with the world around her.

Despite the fact that Annick and her friends no longer find themselves rummaging through her mother’s closet and pretending to be the characters in their make-believe worlds, she still feels a strong connection with the emotions and creativity that those memories instilled in her.

Nowadays, she spends her time nurturing her career as a successful film producer and does everything in her power to share the joys that she learned from a young age with audiences all over the world. With over fifteen years of experience in media and production, Jaëgy takes great pride in her ability to identify a great story when she sees one and works tirelessly to bring those stories to the big screen for film fanatics to enjoy at their leisure.

“I have learned that producers need to be able to tell a great script from a mediocre one, so having a creative spark has definitely helped me. As well, having vision has been crucial. Most importantly, however, having the business acumen and salesmanship necessary to execute that vision is paramount. You cannot turn a writer’s ground-breaking idea into reality without the right amount of funding, nor without a strong team behind it. You need to actually make it happen, by pulling together all the different strands,” shared Annick Jaëgy.

Fortunately for Annick, she has mastered each of those strands. Because she wasn’t always aware that production was her calling, she worked her way through the entertainment industry, trying her hand at various different jobs involved in filmmaking and learning the ins and outs of each one. It didn’t take her long to realize that she had a pressing desire to be involved in content and getting to have her hands on every aspect of the filmmaking process from one, single position. She always felt like there was something missing from her career and after producing her first film, Soledad Canyon, she knew exactly what it was. Since producing Soledad Canyon, Annick Jaëgy has gone on to work on hit films like Mackenzie and Gubagude Ko. In fact, in 2016, she became particularly excited about the opportunity to expand her skillset into the wonderful world of musical films when she was approached by renowned director, Dana Maddox, about her unique project, That Frank. Knowing of Annick’s love for music and costumes, Maddox was confident that Annick would help her execute her vision for the film and she was itching to watch the process unfold.

“Dana and I had worked on two projects together previously, including Mackenzie. She knew my style but, furthermore, she knew my love for musicals and how this love grew through my work at a London-based musical theatre company, as well as through my position as a co-producer of the show Cabaret in London,” Annick noted.

That Frank is a film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim and George Furth’s beloved musical, Merrily We Roll Along. It is set in 1976 Los Angeles where Franklin Shepherd, a once talented Broadway composer, abandons his songwriting career to become a Hollywood film producer. At the premiere of Frank’s latest blockbuster, his oldest friend and theatre critic, Mary Flynn, urges him to return to New York in order to regain his artistic credibility. Surrounded by the intoxicating adulation of his shallow admirers, Frank must choose between his new path and his old life that he worked so hard to achieve, as well as the friendships that got him there.

For Jaëgy, working on That Frank was unlike any other job she had ever done as a producer. She found that she had to alter her thinking a lot of the time to suit the unique nature of filming musical numbers. For instance, there are a lot of different elements involved in the rehearsal and filming process of a musical. Jaëgy loved learning about all of the intricacies involved in the film’s choreography, lyrics, timing, acting, etc. It was far more complex than she could have ever anticipated; however, she found that made the final product all the more rewarding. The biggest challenge came with ensuring that the production’s budget did not limit its potential. It was very important to her that That Frank did not appear to be a low budget musical and as a result of her devotion to this intention, the film far surpassed the expectations that its budget had set. She even managed to find an innovative solution to the question of fitting costumes into the budget, as her childhood dress-up days allowed her to put her 1970’s inspired fashion items to use. She felt a great joy in seeing her cast members clothed from head to toe in her own collection and was pleased to see the authenticity that they brought to the film.

After working with Annick on That Frank, Maddox had to keep reminding herself that this was Jaëgy’s first time taking the role of lead producer on a musical. She was astonished by her ability to improvise, lead, and go above and beyond what was expected of her for the betterment of the film.

“Going into this journey, I needed the support of a producer that could think creatively and fight for our project. There was only one person I wanted for the job and that was Annick. She knows how to satisfy the production needs without going over budget, yet still maintaining the artistic integrity and vision that I had for the piece. I knew she would be able to carry the burden of wrangling the cast, crew, and details of production. This, in turn, enabled me to concentrate on bringing my dream to the big screen. I could not have accomplished that without Annick’s support,” said Dana Maddox, Director.

Seeing That Frank successfully screen at the Palm Springs International ShortFest, as well as the Toronto International Independent Film Festival were dignifying reminders to Jaëgy that being a film producer is what she was born to do. In addition, she was humbled by the experience of seeing Maddox, as well as That Frank’s cast and crew beaming with joy for the duration of the film’s premiere. It was an emotional experience and one that Annick wouldn’t change for the world.

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Calvin Khurniawan perfectly captures loneliness in heartbreak in Andrew Belle’s “Down”

Calvin Khurniawan believes a cinematographer’s job is much like that of a comic book artist. Both roles involve how a story is seen; they don’t write the story, but they take on the visual stimulation for audiences and readers. They add to what is originally written, and decide exactly the best way to show the story they are given. Such a unique way of looking at his job is how Khurniawan sets himself apart from other cinematographers; he can look through the lens of a camera and find the perfect and most distinctive way to capture a scene. It is what makes him so sought-after, and why he is currently one of the best Indonesian cinematographers.

 “A lot like acting, cinematographers react to actors’ inner unconsciousness by utilizing camera elements such as composition and lighting. Similar to editing, we choreograph how a scene unfolds by dictating where the audience’s eyes should look,” he said.

Earlier this year, Khurniawan worked on the viral music video “Down” by Andrew Belle. The video premiered on “Paper Magazine” in June. From there, it went on to be a “Nowness Staff Pick” and a “Vimeo Staff Pick”, amassing over one hundred thousand views on YouTube alone. The cinematography was key to such success, as it connected to aspects of the video in an artistic and meaningful way.

“It’s been delightful to hear how much people like the video. I think the biggest compliment came from the people who responded emotionally to the choreography because the cinematography is built around it,” said Khurniawan.

The choreography is what tells the story and emotions in the video, and therefore required talented dancers that Khurniawan could work with to do just that. Eventually, they found Dassy Lee from So You Think You Can Dance 2017. Together, the cinematographer and the dancers perfectly portray the loneliness in heartbreak.

The cinematographer’s input was valued for every step of the production process. Before the concept was finalized, he would create storyboards for his shots and present them to the Director, Joshua Kang, giving an expert’s opinion as to how each shot could be framed. He would then sit down with the director and the dancers to converse about what he thought would work for the video, as he knows good ideas mean nothing if they can’t be executed properly. He knew there was more to the video than dancers against a pretty background. He wanted to do more with the camera and reacted to the choreography, asking the dancers how they were feeling emotionally and designing the frames based on that. Such a unique and dedicated take was vastly appreciated by Kang.

Andrew Belle Down. Joshua Kang and Calvin Khurniawan. Photo by Kiu Kayee
Joshua Kang and Calvin Khurniawan filming “Down”, photo by Kiu Kayee

“I love working with Calvin because he is always prepared for every project. When I show him a treatment for a project in pre-production, he brings in various different ideas on how the look for the project could be, and what he thinks would be the best within the given circumstances. Having visual discussions with Calvin before the shoot always makes the job of the day easier for everyone on set. He is someone I want on set. Not only is he kind and respectful to everyone on set, he has great set skills. Working with Calvin, I trust him and his camera crew to have everything prepared and ready to shoot on time. He’s helpful in post-production. Calvin keeps in mind how the visuals will look like in post when he shoots. When we’re sitting in a color session, he gives inputs on how the color can be corrected in the best possible way. Having a director of photography like Calvin that cares about the project until it is completely finished makes him professional and reliable,” said Kang.

Initially, Kang approached Khurniawan to work on the video. The director had seen his work and was immensely impressed. Khurniawan was interested in the project before knowing that it was for Andrew Belle, and upon hearing the artist he was immediately on board, as he was already a fan.

“Imagine getting a call to work on a music video with one of your favorites artist. It was the quickest decision I’ve ever made for a job,” Khurniawan said.

While working on the video, the ideas changed frequently, as everyone wanted to ensure it was the best it could possibly be. From a cinematography standpoint, this can create challenges, but Khurniawan never let that faze him. He was happy to work diligently to make everything effortless for those that worked alongside him. The dancers, Dassy and Jordan, were immensely appreciative of Khurniawan’s dedication to the project. He perfectly showcased their vast talent while still creating a telling and poetic video.

“This is by far my favorite collaboration for a project. Joshua, the director, liked keeping a small crew and resulted a more intimate crew. We communicated easily between one another compared to having a big crew. Dassy and Jordan presented their choreography early to us then we design everything based off the choreography. Our approach is based on the choreography really, because we wanted it to be the center of the attention. My job as the cinematographer is to fully reflect on how they’re telling the story and emotion through the movements. I thought it was an interesting approach to music video,” Khurniawan concluded.

You can watch the “Down” music video here and see just how talented of a cinematographer Khurniawan is.

 

Top photo – Joshua Kang and Calvin Khurniawan, photo by Kiu Kayee

Zheng Jia highlights the importance of shaping cinematic experiences through sound

Picture sitting down on a Friday night to watch your favorite film. Your popcorn is hot and your pajamas are cozy. Just as the opening credits begin, you notice that the volume is not up. You jump up to grab the remote but to your dismay, the volume on your television appears to have stopped working. Would you continue to view the film? If so, what will you be missing? The soundtrack of the opening sequence? A character’s dialogue? Is there an interaction taking place? If so, what is going on? Is there a creature rustling in the woods? Is there a child crying? Is someone running through a crowded street? For most individuals, it would feel almost impossible to imagine grasping the full effect of a film without sound. Sound comprises the vast majority of a cinematic experience, and for a sound editor like Zheng Jia, the fate of a film often falls in her hands. She understands better than most just how integral music, dialogue, and other sounds can be to any cinematic experience. Oftentimes, it contains elements of a storyline that you cannot see but need to be aware of. It is essential to the telling of any story and it is the reason that sound editors are one of the most important members of a film production team.

When Jia began exploring the art of filmmaking, she found herself increasingly drawn to the world of sound. There was something about sound editing that gave her a sense of purpose and she never struggled to envision a future in the field.

“Gradually, as I acquired more and more experience, I realized that sound editing was not only something that I was good at, but it was also something I thoroughly enjoyed doing. I decided that I would pursue a career out of it and I never looked back. As I started to work on more and more projects, the more I understood how important sound editing is to cinematic storytelling. It’s amazing. Even though it is oftentimes a thankless job, it doesn’t make me love it any less. Despite the fact that audiences don’t always realize how creative and important my job is, it still enhances and defines their experience, so I devote myself to making it as enjoyable and engaging as possible. I love it so much,” told Jia.

Jia is a driven professional and she has acquired a breadth of experience in the years she has spent learning various sound editing techniques and styles. Her career has carried her through well-known works such as Law and Order Special Victims Unit and Farrah Goes Bang. In fact, Jia’s talents played a large role in Farrah Goes Bang’s film festival run. Screening at prestigious award ceremonies and festivals like the TriBeCa Film Festival and the Twin Cities Film Fest, Farrah Goes Bang generated a strong presence in the industry and went on to earn a number of award nominations and wins following its release. Its nomination for Best Picture at the Winter Film Awards in 2015 has much to do with Jia’s remarkable sound editing style and wouldn’t have earned the praise that it did without her contributions.

The Executive Producer of Farrah Goes Bang, Laura Goode, was impressed with the quality of work that Jia offered to her production. She couldn’t believe how committed Jia was to the film and after experiencing the value that Jia added to the film’s final footage, she realized just how talented the Chinese-native really is.

 

“Zheng shows exceptional drive and determination when she works, as well as a healthy store of natural talent. Her enthusiasm for film culture, as well as her prowess within filmmaking itself make her an invaluable asset to have on board any film production team,” stated Goode.

In 2014, Jia was asked to lend her talents to a Chinese blockbuster called Crazy New Year’s Eve. Crazy New Year’s Eve features several A-list stars and was comprised of several small storylines that were inevitably merged together to create one main premise. What Jia enjoyed most about the project was her ability to experience filming for a Chinese production, as she was most familiar with American-style productions in the past. She found that she was given more flexibility than she’d typically receive on an American production and enjoyed the creative authority she had to express her own interpretation of the film’s elements as she edited through each of the its components. Her role also required her to liaise between public relations specialists, sponsors, visual effects companies, editors, trailer companies, actors, and more. It was an entirely new experience for her; however, Jia is not one to step down from a challenge. She embraces any opportunity to discover new territory within her art form and she patiently tackled each new obstacle that she encountered.

“I worked with Zheng on Crazy New Year’s Eve. She’s an absolute pleasure to work with. She’s professional, punctual, creative and very easy to get along with. Zheng has got not just great knowledge of the technical skills that are required for the job, but also she’s got superb creative senses that make her have a way better understanding of how to tell the story through sound perspective, and create the sonic picture that brings the story up to the next level,” said Emma Tang, co-writer of the film.

One of the largest, most satisfying parts of being one of Crazy New Year’s Eve’s lead sound editors was embedded in the fact that each of the film’s sub-stories occurred in different parts of China. With that, she had to ensure that each different geographical location and environment was developed as authentically as possible throughout the film. She refined atmospheres surrounding cold, small, snowy towns, as well as touristy tropical islands, major cities, and more. Each of the film’s events presented a new territory to explore and the film’s success is a testament to her devotion to making each scene as realistic as humanly possible. Given the fact that only two of the five major human senses are involved in experiencing a film, she was handed a crucial amount of responsibility; however, she handled it with ease and remained professional throughout the duration of her time working on the film.

When Crazy New Year’s Eve was released in February of 2015, it screened at both the Shanghai International Film Festival where it won the Special Jury Award. It was a strong addition to Jia’s already esteemed career and gained her a number of new techniques she hadn’t mastered in the past. As for her future, Jia is optimistic. In the short term, Jia is excited about an upcoming Chinese feature film for which she will be the leading sound editor. In the long term, she hopes to acquire new projects that will allow her to develop her skill set even further and ensure that she is never limited by a specific style, genre, or type of sound editing. She is a force to be reckoned with in her field and you can expect only great things from the rest of her career.

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.

Michael Whalley talks playing make believe for a living

Headshot pic Sheridan Harbridge
Michael Whalley, photo by Sheridan Harbridge

When adults are asked what they miss most about childhood, their answers tend to have to do with the loss of their imagination. Children are known to imagine without limits and to dream without fear or understanding of failure. With that, children allow their minds to carry them into different worlds; worlds through which they create, discover, fantasize, and invent. Much like children, actors and actresses transform themselves into the characters that they portray and they do so without constraining their imaginations. They will stop at no lengths to mold their characters to fit into a plot line and they devote themselves to telling stories as convincingly and engagingly as possible. For actors like Michael Whalley, there has always been an undefinable intrigue to playing make-believe for a living and he has established a remarkable career out of exploring the industry that goes along with it.

Throughout his career, Whalley has acted in a number of award-winning films, such as Slow West and Jean. He has earned himself a reputation for his profound ability to bring his characters to life before his audience’s eyes and he accepts nothing less than the best from himself, regardless of the role or film. Just this past year, Whalley landed himself the role of Hugo in The Pretend One. The Pretend One depicts the emotional rollercoaster that unfolds when an adult woman’s imaginary childhood friend, Hugo, finds his existence threatened by a real, live love interest. Essentially, Hugo is the product of the main character, Charlie, who attempts to combat her loneliness after the death of her mother. As adults, Hugo and Charlie have to navigate their feelings for each other and their relationship when Charlie’s romantic interests steer in different directions. Hugo’s very existence is dependent upon Charlie’s attention and he is therefore determined to keep himself and their love alive.

“Hugo is pivotal to the storyline because he is the reason that the film was written in the first place. The unique thing about this story is that it deals with the existence of an adult imaginary friend, even though we typically associate imaginary friends with children. To think that an imaginary friend can have as many complex feelings as we do is something I hadn’t seen before. Witnessing Hugo grow aware of life and it’s worth was enlightening. His quest to become real is the burning centerpiece of the film,” told Whalley.

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Michael Whalley with Geraldine Hakewill, photo by Benedict Wall

Not only was The Pretend One an unusual storyline, it was also filmed in an extremely unique fashion. Whalley recalls it as being one of the rawest and fulfilling experiences of his career, having much to do with the fact that he and the other cast and crew members of the film disconnected themselves from reality to enhance their focus on their work and to produce the most organic, authentic performances that they could conjure up. They filmed on a cotton farm, far from cell phone and internet reception. In addition, cast and crew members all lived in mining huts on location while filming, requiring them to bathe in the farm’s lake, to eat the local cuisine, and to detach from modern day pleasantries.

When it came time to film their scenes, the actors and actresses were expected to deliver a wholesome, fully attuned performance. They rehearsed where possible, and improvised where necessary to sell each scene effectively. Whalley, who has a profound ability to gain the trust of his director, adopted what he calls a “two for you, one for me” rule while filming whereby he received permission to shoot two options: the first one as the way that the director wished, followed by one take where Whalley could feel out the scene and act as he saw fit. Fortunately for Whalley, the majority of scenes that he took creative authority over ended up making the film’s final cut.

Dinusha Ratnaweera, who produced The Pretend One, had nothing but positive things to say when asked about Whalley’s performance. He was astounded by the way the actor’s performance has been received by those who have seen the film so far and is eager to see what will be said once the film actually premieres. After seeing Whalley dedicate himself to the part of Hugo and doing everything in his power to meet the demands of the film, Ratnaweera earned a new appreciation for his talents.

“This was not the most traditional territory to film in, but based on test screenings that we’ve had so far, Michael’s performance has been very well received and praised. I believe he took a risk with this role, but he more than achieved a nuanced, sensitive, compelling portrayal of what is indeed a very complex role,” said Ratnaweera.

The Pretend One is set to premiere in 2018 and Shoreline Entertainment will be responsible for its worldwide sales and representation. In addition, cinemaaustralia.com.au recently gave the film an extremely rare, 5-star review. Whalley is very excited to see how the film will fare with the public and hopes that it will reflect the hard work and dedication that each member of the project put into it. As for the rest of his career, Whalley is taking things one part at a time. He is currently preparing for the world premiere of Muriel’s Wedding: The Musical. Upon closing Muriel’s Wedding: The Musical, he will embark upon his first pilot season and from there, he hopes to continue playing make believe for as long as he possibly can.

 

Top photo: Michael Whalley and Geraldine Hakewill in ‘The Pretend One’, photo by Rob Morton

Wait ‘till you see Anna Pniowsky in “Wait ‘Till Helen Comes”

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Photo by Kevin McIntyre

When most parents ask their child what they would like to be when they grow up, they often expect to hear answers like “actress” or “singer,” and simply hope that the novelty will wear off with age. For Anna Pniowsky’s parents, however, this is not the case. Not only does Pniowsky have a burning passion to be an actress, she is not ready to wait until she’s an adult. At the young age of 12, Pniowsky is proving to be a force to be reckoned with in the entertainment industry, and she is certain that this is what she wants to be doing for the rest of her life. For Pniowsky, acting provides her with a platform to unleash her creativity, and it is an outlet to transform herself into each new role that she takes on. She loves all aspects of her job, and she soaks up any opportunity to learn from other professionals every time she steps on set. From camera operators, to hair and makeup, she will stop at nothing and at no one to expand her knowledge and skills in the acting world. Knowing that she has an opportunity to evoke unfamiliar emotions from her audience is what motivates her to keep her head down and focus on her craft, something which she aims to continue doing as she builds her career.

When asked about what initially lead her to the idea of becoming an actress, Pniowsky cannot pinpoint an exact moment. For as long as she can remember, acting has been a world that she was drawn to and that passion has only ever grown with time. Despite her age, Pniowsky has already won herself lead roles in films working with well-known cast members and directors, such as her lead role in Light of My Life, for which Pniowsky was directed by and co-starred with Oscar-winner Casey Affleck. When she sets her sights on a role, there are few limits to what she can achieve and she immerses herself into roles in ways that some established actors and actresses could only admire. Pniowsky is wise beyond her years and she has pieced together a remarkable career path very early on in her life.

At the mere age of eight, Pniowsky landed herself her first ever role in the film Wait ‘Till Helen Comes. The film, which can also be known as A Little Girl’s Secret, is about a reconstructed family who moves to a converted church in the country. When a 14-year old Molly realizes she has a gift that she must use, she has to face her deepest fears and save her troubled step-sister from a dangerous relationship with the ghost of a lonely little girl. In this role, Pniowsky played the powerful role of a young girl that goes missing, walks into a river and drowns. Her character was instrumental to the horror film’s plot line and needed to be played by a highly attuned actress who would know how to keep with the atmosphere and the mood of the storyline. By walking into the river and drowning, Pniowsky’s character helps the audience to draw the chilling conclusion that the story’s antagonist, Helen, targets young girls and leads them into the river to drown. Pniowsky set the scene for the entire film, and without her talents, the film would not have earned the reputation that it did.

As a learning experience, Pniowsky could not have asked for more. Not only did she gain exposure to working with other actors on set, as well as taking direction from a vetted production crew, Pniowsky also gained experience shooting a physically and psychologically demanding scene. She was tasked with shooting the film’s opening scene in close to freezing water. The water was so cold, in fact, that she was immediately pulled from the water and placed in a hot tub when the scene wrapped in order to ensure that there was no damage done to her body from the cold. Pniowsky handled the tasking scene with a high degree of professionalism and ease. Even when there was a flaw with the camera, and she was asked to shoot the scene again, Pniowsky got back into the character and executed the scene flawlessly for a second consecutive time.

Victoria Sanchez-Mandryk, who produced Wait ‘Till Helen Comes, was shocked to experience the caliber of acting that she received from Pniowsky at such a young age. She learned very quickly that Pniowsky’s acting skills rival that of highly experienced actors and actresses who have dedicated a lifetime to their craft. According to Sanchez-Mandryk, “Anna is like an old soul, who quietly watches and listens with wisdom beyond her years, taking everything in. When action is called, she delivers in full force.” To receive such high praise from a professional like Sanchez-Mandryk is not a small feat. For Pniowsky, however, it simply motivates her to continue mastering her artistry and showing the world what she is capable of.

As Pniowsky patiently awaits the release of Light of My Life, she continues to search for new ways to challenge herself and push her acting abilities to the limit. She considers herself extremely fortunate to have earned the experience that she has earned thus far in her career, but aims to build on those successes for many years to come. Keep an eye out for Pniowsky as she continues to rise to the top.

Cinematographer Ismaël Lotz talks award-winning film ‘Who is Alice’

Ismaël Lotz sees life through the viewfinder of his camera. He knows the power that film can have, and the artistry that comes from making one. As a cinematographer, he ensures that every single shot is perfect. Everything is important; from lighting, to lenses, to the smallest movement of his camera. Such dedication takes more than just talent, it takes unparalleled drive. Very little people actually possess such a trait, and Lotz is one of those few. His work ethic and outstanding capabilities as a Director of Photography have led him to be one of The Netherland’s best, and he is now internationally in demand.

Throughout his esteemed career, Lotz has worked on many critically-acclaimed projects. His documentary I am Famous tells the story of Tom Wilson, famous for his role as the antagonist Biff in the Back to the Future films, and living with that notoriety. As a child, that series was one of Lotz’ inspirations for becoming a filmmaker, and now, those he idolized he now works alongside.

The highlight of Lotz’ career, however, is his recent film Who is Alice. This internationally-acclaimed comedic drama whisks the audience away on a humorous, non-conventional quest to avoid suffering and find happiness. Lotz, known for his work in cinematography, also took on the roles of co-director and editor for the film, knowing that understanding such positions would make him a better cinematographer. His involvement from pre-production to post-production helped make the film an enormous success.

“The reason we wanted him as Director and Director of Photography is because of his talent and passion. He is known as one of the best Directors of Photography in The Netherlands and the quality of his work is outstanding,” said Paul Smit, the Writer and Producer of Who is Alice. “It’s always a pleasure to be working with Ismaël. He is passionate, creative, intelligent and able to exceed people’s expectations. Actors that I’ve worked with told me that they had never seen a Director of Photography like Ismaël. Normally it takes two cameramen to do what he is doing all by himself. Besides his talent, he is very easy to work with and always aims for the highest level.”

Who is Alice premiered in the city of Helmond, where the film was shot, with several sold-out shows. It then went on to several prestigious film festivals, such as the Los Angeles Film Awards, Festigious International Film Competition, London Independent Film Awards, Miami Independent Film Festival, Hollywood International Moving Pictures Film Festival, TMC London Film Festival, Actors Awards, and the Move Me Productions Film Festival. winning over 25 awards throughout them.  Amongst these accolades, Lotz was recognized for his outstanding work as Director of Photography, and took home the prize of Best Cinematography at the New York Film Awards, not to mention the recognition he received for his work as Director and Editor all over the world.

“It’s very rewarding and feels great that the film has achieved what it has. I am so proud on what we’d accomplished with our work. It brings a big light on my future endeavours as an international filmmaker,” said Lotz. “It makes me very proud to have won the award for Best Cinematography. But besides the awards for several departments on the film, the biggest reward is that complete strangers approached me and told me what they think of the film. It leads to very pleasant conversations with all kinds of different people. It’s inspires me to keep working on more projects like this.”

On-set, Lotz worked closely with his co-director Robert van den Broek to ensure the all-star cast was working to their fullest potential, and that the two directors were always on the same page, which was essential to Lotz’ cinematography. Many times while shooting, problems can arise and situations can change, making what was planned in pre-production alter drastically. As a cinematographer, adapting quickly to these situations and coming up with equal or better alternatives is a must. At one point while shooting, Lotz and his team lost a lot of time because of a power outage. The solution was to do the scene in one take. In hindsight, it is now one of Lotz’ favorite scenes of the film, as one take scenes are immensely challenging for everyone involved, but create an authenticity for viewers, truly transporting them into the film.

Lotz is known for the energy he brings behind the camera. He is a team player and plays to his crew’s strengths. This brings a creative freedom for everyone to work toward his vision, creating a harmonious working environment, which is essential to the success of any film. It was working on such a great team that made the experience of making Who is Alice extraordinary for this cinematographer, and knowing the story they were telling was important and would impact audiences is why the filmmaker began this journey in the first place.

Who is Alice carries us on a funny, compelling and sometimes cringe-worthy journey into the highs and lows of what human beings will do to try to avoid pain and connect to happiness. It’s about being yourself in a world full of big egos. It shows how big the power plays are in the entertainment industry in a funny way. While it also shows the drama of Alice’s life, I think the movie carries a lot of spiritual elements with it. Who are you? And if you found out who you are, what are you doing with that knowledge?” Lotz concluded.

Who is Alice is now available on worldwide streaming services such as Amazon, iTunes, and Hulu. Those in China and Japan can also look forward to seeing the film soon, as a distribution deal has just been signed. No matter where you are, be sure to check out Lotz’ outstanding work on the film.