Tag Archives: International Talent

Understanding the pressure of a prime-time commercial slot with Elena Ioulianou

When esteemed producer, Elena Ioulianou looks at a concept for a content piece, she sees far more than ideas. Rather, Ioulianou sees a variety of puzzle pieces begging to be carefully and considerately weighed amongst each other, searching for the perfect fit. She picks up each piece, rotating and shifting it to ensure that she maximizes its potential and places it in the spot that is going to bring forth a masterpiece. With that, Ioulianou has earned a reputation for her ability to arrange all elements of a film in such a way that leave it destined for success. From budgets and costings, to props and plot lines, Ioulianou involves herself in all aspects of a project in order to ensure that no page goes unturned, no budget goes unbalanced, and no script is left with anything less than the greatness it deserves.

During her time as a producer, Ioulianou has tested her hand at a number of different areas in the arts and entertainment industry. She has set her efforts toward commercials, online advertisements, and digital content production, as well as films, television shows, webseries, and much more. At the mere age of 30, she has worked with several media moguls such as Reel Edge Studios and Milk & Honey Films. What she may lack for in decades of experience, she makes up for in raw talent and determination. In turn, she produces exceptional content in a profession that is more competitive than ever before. With the addition of social media and the current state of our world’s digital realm, Ioulianou must ensure that she is familiar with the latest trends and technology available for use in her field and with that, she must find a way to appeal to her clients’ needs without compromising the need to keep with the times.

The vast majority of production work that Ioulianou has conducted has taken place in her birthplace, South Africa and her work has taken her all over the world. One of her most notable employment tenures emerged when she earned herself a position working for Executive Producer, Herman Venter, and Director, Harold Holscher, for brands such as Buco Hardware, LandRover, and Marriot Insurance alongside Rolling Thunder Productions. In fact, she produced a LandRover commercial that earned Rolling Thunder a nomination as a finalist in the 2016 Lories Awards.

Ioulianou began working for Rolling Thunder Productions in 2014 when Venter and Holscher approached her to join their team after hearing of her work with Reel Edge Studios and MoviWorld. For the three aforementioned companies, Ioulianou produced six extremely successful commercials and her reputation continues to strengthen as word spreads about these projects today.

After experiencing Ioulianou in her element, Holscher and Venter were blown away.

“Without exception, every client commented on the smoothness of the execution and the professional delivery which was on time and precisely what they had envisioned. Elena is so widely noted throughout the industry for her work and what continues to amaze me during our collaborations is her ability to take an extremely limited budget and still be able to identify resources that result in an extraordinary final product every single time,” said Holscher.

For LandRover, in particular, Ioulianou was tasked with producing a series of three, 30-second commercials to air on Supersport on DSTV during the Rugby World Cup. Imaginably, only the highest quality commercials would be fortunate enough to earn air time during such a popular event and this meant that Ioulianou’s work was more than cut out for it. She rose to the challenge and credits her logistical precision as being the main reason that the success of this project was even possible.

Similarly, for Buco Hardware, Ioulianou had her work cut out for her when having to manage a choreographed piece incorporating twenty-five amateur dancers from different backgrounds, age cohorts, and more. To make matters more difficult, this had to be achieved in one cinematic tracking shot through a hardware store. Under time and budgetary constraints, Ioulianou did what she does best and ensured, once again, that this project was a true success for the clients.

For other aspiring producers out there who find themselves dreaming of one day ending up being producers and creatives she had the following advice to offer:

“The difficulties of getting started and having a fear that the opinions of others, especially those in positions of power or those that have been in the industry for longer, are right or worth more than yours. This is something I deal with on a daily basis. Different roads can lead to the same destination. Just start.”

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Editor Roma Kong shows of beauty of nail art with iconic Disney characters

Editing, to Roma Kong, is like a simultaneous combination of surgery and magic. When she gets footage, she reviews the script and gets an idea for the direction of the story. That is when she starts cutting, splicing things together, and moving things around, until every part is put together, telling a clear story; that is the surgical aspect. When it comes to the magic, Kong believes that part comes in two ways. The first being that each story must evoke a certain feeling in the viewer, so it’s not only cutting and putting things together, but also adding emotion to it, whether this be through the music, the rhythm, the speed of the cuts, etc. The second, more often than not, is transforming the footage that may not tell the story they want and making it what they need, without any reshoots or work from the crew. That is where the real work for a film editor comes into play, and that is when Kong truly shines.

Born and raised in Lima Peru, the in-demand editor has impressed the masses with her work. She often collaborates with renowned production companies like Nickelodeon, with work on their online video series BTS Nickelodeon and Inside Nick, as well as Disney.

With Disney, Kong edited DIY Disney, an online series that allowed audiences around the world to see just what she is capable of. The videos amassed over 11 million views, and featured various crafts that viewers could partake in, offering simple and fun instructions using Disney films and characters. She also created another video titled “Disney California Adventure Food Crawl”, effectively launching the Disney Eats brand. She is quite the formidable editor.

“I would say my style of editing is very fluid, dynamic and fun. As a filmmaker, I strive to entertain the audience, so when I edit, telling a good entertaining story is the priority. I also love for cuts to be seamless, so I pay close attention to movement and try to make really smooth transitions between shots, even when making pop videos. I also work very fast which is something the people I’ve worked with have always appreciated,” said Kong.

Kong has a close working relationship with both Nickelodeon and Disney and is often the companies’ first editing choice when they have an innovative new online project to pursue. In 2017, Kong continued her work with Disney on their TIPS Disney series, featuring different videos showing the intricate work behind nail art, using some of Disney’s most celebrated productions.

“I think these videos really help bring more attention to a form of art many don’t really consider art. They allow the audience to truly appreciate the intricacy of the work these artists do. They give Disney fans great ideas on how to show their love for their favorite characters in very stylish ways, and they inspire other artists to create their own version,” said Kong.

The videos feature many beloved Disney film and television productions, as well as iconic characters. These include High School Musical, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Moana, Coco, Beauty and the Beast, and more. They were published through Disney’s expansive social media platforms, including YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram. Together, they gathered over 7.6 million views.

“Seeing the comments from the audience on the videos and realizing how much they love them is heartwarming. Seeing people post about their own versions of what we showed them, is amazing. Reminds you that you’re not only making things for people to watch and forget about, people actually truly love these movies and characters and love showing their love for them and your video can persuade them to make something that they hadn’t thought about before,” said Kong.

Kong’s talent as an editor is evident in the TIPS Disney videos. She is very good at editing with music beats and for Disney Style, the Digital Brand that Tips Disney falls under. Her colleagues and her audience enjoyed the rhythm Kong put into the videos and how, by doing a very musical type of editing, made them fun and entertaining to watch. Because she has a very good eye for art and style, she knew exactly what the best shots were and what made the art look the most stylish and vibrant it possibly could. She understood the vibe of the brand very quickly and knew exactly what the executives wanted before they even knew themselves.

“I loved watching the intricate process of nail art in such a detailed way. I was constantly mesmerized by how hard it is to do, and I found myself with a lot more respect for nail artists. It’s such a great art and they’re all so talented. And also, being able to play with scenes from some of my favorite movies and use them to create something new was so much fun,” said Kong.

Kong worked on TIPS Disney from October 2017 to December 2017. It was an amazing experience for the editor. The Disney Style brand is her favorite out of all the Disney Digital brands. Making multiple videos for it was a great opportunity. The audience loves their content and as a result, the brand has a lot of engagement, and as an editor, making content that a lot of people would appreciate, and love was something that truly made the experience for Kong. It’s a fun brand to work for and it fits her editing style perfectly.

“Disney is the holy grail of the entertainment industry. Working for them is like hitting the jackpot of companies you can put on your resume. Being able to do that and have a Walt Disney Company ID with your picture on it, walking into the Studios with no problem at all is quite the dream come true,” Kong concluded.

Character Technical Director Qiao Wang brings iconic characters to national Target campaign

It is not often that one individual is both technically and artistically inclined. Such skills normally find themselves separated, considered two different ways of thinking entirely. However, this is not the case for China’s Qiao Wang, where the fusion of both technology and art have led to a dynamic skill set that most do not possess. As a Character Technical Director (Character TD) or Character Effects Artist (CFX), Wang combines his technological way of thinking with his innate artistic talent. Compared to other roles in a CG animated film or a visual effects driven film, a Character TD tends to be both artistic and technical, and most of the time requires more technical knowledge and skill sets than other roles. As Wang was trained in both art and science, he knew those two roles would be a great fit for his career path, and he has dedicated himself to it ever since.

Wang now finds himself as a leader in his industry, having worked on several prolific projects. Whether he is working on films, such as Avengers: Infinity War, music videos, including the hit “Filthy” by Justin Timberlake, or commercials, including a series of recent ads for Lexus, Wang’s talent is evident, using CGI to create extremely realistic looking characters and objects.

“To me, design is to create a better experience or better life for users. The artwork, character animation system or whatever I design, is simply trying to make the users happy, to create the most efficient setup to make their lives easier. I think that’s my design style,” said Wang.

One of Wang’s ongoing professional relationships is with the iconic department store Target. He has worked on many commercials for the company over the past couple of years and enjoys it every time. They were one of the first series of projects that he did at Method Studios and they incorporate many aspects of what he likes about his job. The commercials offered a variety of digital characters, from Marvel superheroes, Lego characters, Trolls, ponies, Barbie dolls, etc. They all have different body types and they all require different rigging and character FX setups.

The challenge was creating such an array of characters, and Wang was eager to develop them.

Last year, Wang worked on the store’s Holiday campaign, including “Together’s The Joy | Target Holiday 2017”, “What Are You Thankful For This Thanksgiving | Target Holiday 2017”, “A Home For The Holidays | Target Holiday 2017”, “Order Pickup | Target Holiday 2017” and “Super Mario Odyssey – Now at Target 2017”. This year, he has worked on two commercials for the company’s “Jurassic World” campaign, “Target 2018 – Giant Steps” and “Target 2018 – Dino Clash”.

“All these spots are all over the internet and TV, and they’ve got millions of views, with very positive reviews. It feels great that consumers love the creative content that we did for our clients. I was so happy reading the reviews on YouTube, kids are very into the toys, cartoon characters, and the short stories. I feel very happy to see all these characters come to life, and I’m very excited about getting ready for the new Target holiday commercials in 2018 and creating more fun characters,” he said.

On every commercial, Wang jumped into production and started creating characters’ rigs including skeleton animation system, cloth and hair/fur simulation effects right away due to the tight schedule and large amount of CG content. He built characters and wrote thousands of lines of code for tons of different types of digital characters, props, vehicles, and massive environments.

Wang was also responsible for cloth and hair/fur simulation, muscle effects along with various other character finishing tasks and shot finishing tasks. He essentially is a groomer for the hair and fur, and characters like Trolls have a lot of hair to be managed. His skills in hair/fur simulation were essential. There was only one groomer in the studio besides Wang, who was quite busy at the time, so he stepped up and helped deliver high quality hair grooming and simulations.

One of Wang’s greatest accomplishments for the Target commercials was the system he developed to create generic rigging templates for Lego characters, Minions, and Barbie doll characters, which he was then able to apply to many other characters that had similar body types. It helped create facial rigs, and lip syncs to improve characters’ facial workflow and performances. The cartoon character facial setup system saved Wang and his team a lot of time, as the old system was broken. Wang’s new system saved the entire production.

“I really like how the commercials merged characters from different worlds, different productions into one story, and made them look like they belonged to the same world. I like to work on different types of characters to face different challenges. I really enjoyed being able to contribute to the character technology pipeline and workflow for the studio. The story and the lines are very entertaining and working on them makes me feel like the holiday season is right around the corner. Even though these are VFX commercial projects, we really treated them as top-notch fully CG animated short films,” he described.

Keep an eye out for the 2018 Target Holiday campaign to see more of Wang’s outstanding work.

 

Photo by Dustin Han

Jeff Venida talks honor of creating a shift in today’s branding culture with Paradam

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Creative Director Jeff Venida

There are two types of people in this world: those with compelling stories to tell and those who actually tell them. One of those people is highly sought-after creative director, Jeff Venida. What sets Venida apart from most is the fact that his storytelling doesn’t come bound between two book covers or scattered through carefully arranged music notes. On the contrary, Venida uses creative branding to stimulate the minds of consumers and to take them on quests they wouldn’t have otherwise imagined traveling. He takes a thought-based, captivating approach to creative branding and shares stories with the world in a way that keeps him at the top of his industry.

Throughout his career, Venida has earned himself the opportunity to work with some of the world’s biggest brands, allowing his talents to captivate consumers in a number of different markets. He prides himself on the fact that his job, unlike many others, requires him to have a keen understanding not only of top brands and their target audiences, but also of some of the world’s most niche industries. He realized from an early stage in his career, that being a creative director would require far more than an eye for design. He would need to be able to identify important trends in society and determine how best to gauge the audiences consuming them. It has been a journey rich with learning opportunities and chances to look at parts of the world in a new light. In addition, after several years spent working for other brands and striving to bring other people’s visions to life, Venida realized that he needed to shift his focus towards putting his own ideas first and bringing them to life on a large scale. For these reasons and more, he decided that his talents could be best offered to the world by starting his own company: Paradam.

Per Venida’s vision, Paradam is focused on developing a thought-based, storytelling approach to creative brand building and marketing. He sees great importance in communicating complex ideas to his clients that tap into their emotions and connect intimately with their minds. His reputation, along with his business savvy, allowed him to build a strong client base and to leave a lasting impression on all of his clients, everywhere from start-up companies to major brands. His venture has been so successful, in fact, that Paradam was featured on AdWeek’s podcast in 2017, reaching audiences on a mass scale.

“I wanted to change the way people consume media and I wanted to have a larger impact on the culture I was so clearly contributing to. I knew that I didn’t want to create a product that was ‘for sale’ because I don’t really believe that any product will have a larger impact on people’s lives. Having said that, I do believe that awareness and an opening of the mind can have a great impact on the collective consciousness of the world. I wanted to streamline my beliefs and processes in a way that others might be able to take something away from. I started Paradam so that I could disseminate my approach to a brand communication for a larger audience and hopefully leave a positive, lasting impact on the way we experience the world. It is so much more than just an agency or a company; it’s an ideology and a way of viewing the world,” told Venida.

When developing Paradam accordingly, Venida endeavored to become an agency that specializes in conscious consumerism. To the world, this may seem like too large of a feat to tackle; however, for Venida, it is unfathomable to build an agency in any other way. During Paradam’s inception, the idea of generating a fundamental change in the way people think about marketing and branding motivated Venida to honor the ideas and intentions that are embedded in Paradam’s foundation and he was shocked by how easily his ideas came to fruition. Using his photography and videography skills, he shot content for his website and created a brand video that would later draw clients into soliciting his services. He also created icons and logos to match his brand’s concept, and focused his efforts on developing a unified, coherent branding strategy to show prospective clients the sort of output they could expect from working with him. For clients like Paul Andre Pinces, knowing Paradam’s ethos and seeing the calibre of content it housed were nothing compared to what he experienced when he actually worked first hand with Venida.

“I first worked with Jeff on a project for Native Shoes in Vancouver. He had a vital role on all 2014 and 2015 seasonal campaigns, contributing to brand messaging, look-books, and online content. He defined the brand tone throughout each campaign, giving the company its distinctive voice in the market during their most vital period of growth. His company, Paradam, is an exceptional example of his command in the industry and he is certainly one of the best creative directors I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with,” raved Pinces.

Testaments from clients like Pinces serve as a reminder that the risk of stepping back from his work to focus on a passion project paid off in the end. He is humbled by the thought that through Paradam, he is able to practice what he preaches and to bring something fresh to the market.

“I can’t tell you how much it means to me that this project has become such a success. When people call me just to tell me they’ve discovered Paradam and that it really speaks to them on a personal level is indescribable.  It makes me feel like I’m on the right path. Some of the creative individuals I’ve worked with on this project have called me to tell me that the completed project is something they thought they could only dream of, and that makes me feel honored. I feel inspired to push the envelope more and try my next creative endeavor,” he concluded.

Maja Lakomy goes on ‘Vacay’ in new film

Poland’s Maja Lakomy is a true storyteller. As an actress, she tells someone’s story in her own interpretation, having respect towards the character and the narrative at the same time. Her goal is to be a part of as many spectacular stories that are written or told by great minds as possible. She aims to both entertain and move as many people as possible, whether they laugh, cry, think, or simply feel. That is what she finds satisfying.

“There are so many beautiful, thrilling, terrifying and touching stories in the world and the more people they reach, the better, in my opinion. Actors are in some sense tools that are needed for these stories to reach people. Through movies and theatre people can experience new things and educate themselves, which I think is so important,” said Lakomy.

Lakomy is known for her work in films such as Star House and Diminuendo, receiving great praise for her acting abilities at many international film festivals. This year, she has lots going on, including a music video for Italian singing sensation Andrea Bocelli. On top of this, she has several upcoming films, including Straying from You, Moral Inequity, What’s with the Doll, and the artistic flick Vacay.

Vacay offers up a unique challenge for Lakomy, as it is a creative, cinematic film with no dialogue. The film is meant to entertain of course, but also make the audience think and feel shocked, which is why Lakomy was interested in the project. Before she auditioned, she read the description of her character and knew exactly how to play her. Upon reading the script, she found the story unique and incredible.

In the film, Lakomy plays Veronica, the “mysterious messenger” in the story. Nobody knows exactly what the history is between her and the main man, played by Juan Blasquez, but one can suspect that something deep and unresolved occurred between those two. She goes through many different phases of emotion, adding necessary and intense drama to her scenes. She is a tough woman on the facade, who leads an independent and successful life. Once audiences see a little more of her, we find out that underneath, she carries some trauma from the past that sometimes she isn’t able to cover. She is like a ticking bomb of emotions that if she doesn’t manage to contain, might explode.

“I like that the story is light and entertaining for the most part but gets intense and shocking in some moments. I also like the style of it, that it’s told without any dialogue, which makes it universal and even more powerful. I think the story is important because it touches upon some relevant and controversial matter, but at the same time entertains the audience, leaving them with a lot to think about after watching it, maybe even with an unsettling feeling,” said Lakomy.

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Lakomy was asked to audition for the part of Veronica by the director of the film. He had previously seen the actress’s work and was greatly impressed. Upon meeting her, he slightly altered the part to make it a principle role, knowing Lakomy could make a difference to his film. Such a reaction was incredibly touching for Lakomy.

Vacay began filming at the end of last month. Currently, Lakomy focuses on getting into the mindset of her character. A very important part of the process is connecting with one of the lead actors who her character has a strong history with. They are working on building the relationship so that when they act together, they can make the story between them as believable as possible, even without any words.

“I love that the whole film has no dialogue, so the story is told through the actors’ actions, facial expressions and the scenery. I like working on this specific aspect of acting, where drastic transitioning between different emotions is required. I enjoy challenges like that. I really appreciate working with great actors and an incredibly passionate director. I like that everybody who’s involved in this project fully engages with it and gives a hundred percent of their energy into it,” said Lakomy.

Vacay will be finished and submitted to film festivals later this year. There is little doubt that it will impress, and that Lakomy’s performance will be incredibly captivating. After its film festival run, it will be made available on various digital on demand platforms. Be sure to check it out.

Needless to say, Lakomy is a dynamic and in demand actress. She never gave up on her dream of acting, despite various roadblocks that came up on her journey. She encourages all those with the same dream to keep pushing, because eventually it will be worth it.

“As actors and artists in general it’s hard to be satisfied with yourself. There’s never a perfect answer or way to do something when it comes to acting. This profession is very subjective and it’s important to remember that we can’t always make everybody happy. My advice would be stay determined and work on yourself instead of comparing yourself to other people’s successes and failures. And even when you hear “no” way more than you hear “yes”, as long as acting brings you joy, don’t ever quit,” she advised.

Rupa Rathod takes audiences to dystopian future with tremendous graphics for Bastille’s global tour

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Rupa Rathod

Nothing is more exciting for a music fan than getting tickets to see your favorite artist live in concert. The feeling of your body vibrating to the bass of a beloved song in a giant arena is simply euphoric. However, when enjoying the experience, it is easy to forget how many people it took to make the concert so incredible. Not only is there the talent, dancers, and band that one can see, there are also many that have worked tirelessly behind-the-scenes. Rupa Rathod is one of those people. As an industry leading motion graphics designer, the intricate visuals displayed on the giant screens of the show are her masterpieces.

Having worked with several iconic musicians, such as Shania Twain and Kylie Minogue, Rathod’s work has been seen and appreciated on a global scale. She loves what she does, not only working alongside some of the world’s biggest stars, but also being able to merge her passions for music and design.

“Everything catches my eye; shapes, colors, photography, art and perspective, they’re all influences. I’m constantly working out how to turn anything I see into something graphical, abstract and moving. I’m very practical and hands on so my interest in design and art have always been very much a part of who I am,” said Rathod.

Two years ago, Rathod saw great success with her work on the “Wild, Wild World Tour” for the popular band Bastille. The global tour allowed the motion graphics artist to work closely with award-winning Creative Director, Rob Sinclair, band management, and the band themselves to create and produce the screen content with LA based production company and studio, Blink.

“I developed a good working relationship with the band. It’s the notion that you understand their world and so you have their trust on something so important to them. It’s what grounds me the most during these projects and what I aspire to always have with artists and bands,” Rathod described.

Loosely set in a slightly playful dystopian world, the vision for the tour visuals was very specific but also required a lot of collaborative development. The brief for this tour was the notion that big brother was watching and controlling you, set in a future where the whole world was ruled by a fictional corporation, World Wide Communications. Rathod’s understanding of Sinclair and the band’s vision was trusted by the entire design team instantly.

“It’s unusual for a tour, especially with an indie band to have such a strong narrative, so I was sold from the moment I read the concept. In my mind, there was no end to the amount of scenarios that could be created in this dystopian world. I was completely submerged in this environment and pitching my designs, having them approved and then being able to develop all the ideas into real working visuals was hugely rewarding,” said Rathod.

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Shot from Bastille “Wild, Wild World Tour” stage

On a tour such as Bastille’s, the set design is always the beginning of the process. Rathod and her team began producing strong concepts and inspirational references. Once the setlist was completed, Rathod got to work.

As Producer, her role was to develop the initial brief, and oversee and direct the team of animators and visual artists. This involved digging a bit deeper into the references and going back with an initial design. Once her approach was approved, she collaborated Blink’s team of motion graphics artists to bring the visuals to life.

As she is so hands on when it comes to the visual aspect of the production, Rathod is ideally placed to see the project through the final stages of rehearsals. For her, it all comes together when she gets into a production rehearsal with the full band, lighting and all departments working together. As a creator of visual content, her job isn’t just to make great visuals, it’s to create content that’s cohesive with a huge live concert spectacle. Some of the best video moments in the show were not conceived until this rehearsal block, so a big part of Rathod’s job was turning ideas around sometimes overnight to test them on screen the next day. This also allowed her to form a good relationship with the band.

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Rupa Rathod and Kyle J Simmons, keyboard player of Bastille

“I worked with Rupa on the “Wild World” world tour across 2016 and 2017, where she was in charge of creating all the video content for our live show. Her creative abilities are second to none and to be able to interact with her on an artistic level was a hugely fulfilling experience. We hope to use her again and again during the next touring cycles. She is without doubt one of the best in the industry at what she does, quite apart from being one of the nicest,” said Dan Smith, the lead singer of Bastille.

Rathod stayed on this tour for the first few shows, which allowed two weeks to tweak and change content prior to the band’s first big night at the O2 in London. Seeing the fans’ responses from her work made the entire experience even more worth it.

“The reaction from fans as well as reviews acknowledged the visuals I produced and was a welcome recognition of how important the visuals are to the overall concert experience. It’s a completely multi-sensory experience and seeing it through from start to finish is always the most rewarding part. It’s always such a priceless moment when you see it go live, a feeling that I don’t think will ever leave me,” she concluded.

To stay up-to-date with Rathod’s work at Blink Inc., check out their website.

 

Top Photo: Rupa Rathod, Tom Colbourne and Steve Price working on Bastille Tour

Actor Kevin Dary brings himself into his character with award-winning performance in ‘The Swamp’

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Kevin Dary, photo by Brad Buckman

With every role Kevin Dary takes on, he brings a small piece of himself and merges it with his character. To transform into another person, he puts himself in their shoes, seeing what parts of his own life connect with theirs. He forgets who he is until he hears the director call “cut” and that is what makes him such a captivating actor.

“I see actors as toys for a director. It’s as if the director is this kid using his imagination and playing around, telling a story, and the actors are his action figures,” he described.

Having worked on many esteemed films, such as Pregoand Pandora’s Box, Dary has shown audiences around the world what he is capable of as an actor. His versatility is evident with every project he takes on, spanning across a variety of genres and mediums. This is exemplified yet again with his work on the 2017 drama The Swamp.

The Swamp was the first project where Dary had the opportunity to work with director Wenhao Gao, originally from China. He was immediately attracted to the script because one of the main themes for Gao was the perception of someone and the judgement from others that this perception brings. Dary played the main character, Vincent, who is accused of killing the dog of his neighbor. It is a dramatic and emotional film that encourages audiences to think outside of the box, not just about the story but their actions in general. Have you ever been in Vincent’s situation? Or have you been one of the accusers? This story, while extreme, does make you think, and not just through its shock value of a little girl’s pet that gets killed.

“I worked together with Wenhao, who also wrote the project, to bring a fully fleshed out character and I offered some of my personal experience in dealing with the way people look at you, for this is a subject that I know all too well, and I still face today,” said Dary.

The film premiered to a limited audience in The Burbank Studios, Burbank, in November 2017. The film was awarded an Award of Recognition, category Lead Actor, for Dary’s performance as Vincent, from the Best Shorts Competitions in March 2018, and the Gold Award for Best Short Film from the LA Shorts Awards in that same month. It will be continuing its festival run in June. Such success could never have been possible without Dary’s outstanding performance.

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Kevin Dary as Vincent in The Swamp, photo by Mairi Sõelsepp

“Working with Kevin is very pleasant and a good experience. I was really happy to have him in my project as the leading actor. Kevin not only has good acting skills, but also his nice personality made our cooperation go well. Kevin has very good understanding of a script and his character. When we did rehearsals and polished the details, I felt that he really put himself into the story, not just to finish a job. As a director, it’s really important to be able to get some new inspirations and ways to make the characters vivid through communicating with actors. From his performance and feedback, Kevin showed me more possibilities of who and what his character can be, and how to serve the story better,” said Wenhao Gao, Director of The Swamp.

Vincent is the lead character of this film and the story is told through his point of view. Because of this, Dary knew the importance of his work and made sure to keep the audience guessing. Many scenes cater to this, with the lead character showing a lot of anger and confusion. Dary wanted to push this even further, choosing to yell in certain scenes to show he may be capable of anything, but also exude the emotion behind each action, showing that each reaction was very human.

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The Swamp film poster

“I remember that when I first read about the breakdown of Vincent, I was intrigued by the idea of this guy described as ‘not a slacker, not a bad guy, just has had a really long night’. When I got to take a look at the whole script and found out his motivations and what he was going through. The film is a great story about prejudices and stereotypes, with an ending that goes against the traditional Hollywood happy ending,” said Dary.

What was unique about this story, and Vincent’s character, is that by the end of the movie it is not revealed if he is guilty of what he was accused of. The writer and director however, told Dary he could make that choice on his own and then act with that choice in mind. What do you think he decided? You’ll have to watch The Swampto find out.

“I love tackling the idea of prejudices and preconceived ideas about people. As someone who has a different style than ‘the norm’, I have been prone to judgment from others. You get to witness how far people are willing to take their assumptions, just based on what they heard, saw, or even think they saw. Sure, it made me stronger in the end, but just like Vincent, I still suffer from that today and it can be hard to stay true to yourself when you feel overwhelmed. Getting to do a piece about that issue that is still dear to me felt good. It shows that while there still sadly is a need for such stories, the battle is definitely not lost as long as we stay strong,” he concluded.

Thailand’s Sasinun Kladpetch showcases nature in charitable Hang Art exhibition

Celebrated astrophysicist Hubert Reeves once said, “Man is the most insane species. He worships an invisible God and destroys a visible Nature. Unaware that this Nature he’s destroying is this God he’s worshiping.” This is Thai native Sasinun Kladpetch’s mantra, and where she gathers her inspiration for her art that has captivated people all over the world. She believes that nature is everything, which translates directly into her work. In her world, nature is her life, her soul and her god.

All of Kladpetch’s artwork explores the beauty of nature and explores the idea that it has been hidden among man made structure. She brought this point home at the 2016 50/50 Exhibit at the Sanchez Art Center, where she created fifty pieces all reflecting natural elements meeting modern development. To celebrate nature, Kladpetch uses organic materials and combines them with industrial elements. With this style, she saw great success at DZINE gallery and Dab Art in San Francisco.

“I love to transfer my idea into a physical artwork that people can experience. I like working with an objective; the ideas are unlimited, and I have to think in every single process. From collecting an idea, analyzing it, sketching, to making the installation, there are an infinite number of things to learn. This just encourages me to keep thinking and working to come up with something greater than what I’ve done in past. That’s what motivates me,” she said.

This artist’s point of view is that there are many natural resources, which have been wasted and neglected throughout civilization. Through her work, Kladpetch creates a voice and a platform for people to see the true beauty of nature and that humans and nature can co-exist beautifully in harmony.

“I always aim to engage my audience and encourage them to think about natural and environmental issues through my work,” she said.

Once again being inspired by the environment and humans and nature coexisting together, Kladpetch has created several installations for Hang Art Gallery. Kladpetch has taken part in several exhibitions for the gallery, including Front Lines 5.0, and Same, Same,butDifferent 5.0. The latter was an annual exhibition that all the artists representative at Hang Art Gallery participated in. Because her work on this project was so successful, Kladpetch was then offered the opportunity to participate in the San Francisco Hospitality House Auction as a gallery representative.

“Sasinun is thoughtful and generous, and thankfully these qualities come through in her creations and business practices. She has a clear vision, but soft touch. Her works combine industrialization and environment with a delicacy that coaxes the viewer to consider these paradoxes thoughtfully, without screaming politics,” said Piero Sparado, who represented Kladpetch’s work at the gallery.

For each of these exhibitions at Hang Art, Kledpetch created small sculptures and installed them in to one large installation; clients then had the opportunity to buy multiple pieces or just an individual one. The uniqueness of this project is all the small pieces could be rearranged to the buyer’s preference. She wanted the audience to essentially be a part of the installation by arranging the artworks themselves. There were no rules or guidelines when it came to installing them, but the most important thing for Kladpetch was that each piece had to work both on its own, as a whole, or with a select few pieces, which is no easy feat. However, Kladpetch made it enchanting.

“I love how art can resonate with so many people. This exhibition challenged me to come up with something unique. I feel more than honored that I was a part of a Hospitality House auction. I’ve donated one of my sculptures through the gallery and the benefits went to the Hospitality House San Francisco,” she said.

Kladpetch’s irreplaceable style caught the audience’s eye, and Kladpetch’s work was sold at the exhibition, the profits of which were donated to Hospitality House and helped the charity raise over $75,000 for their essential neighborhood programs including the community arts program.

Hospitality House’s Annual Art Auction has brought together the local community, gallery professionals, art enthusiasts and collectors, non-profit organizations and local businesses to support our neighborhood artists whose artwork hang side-by-side with nationally renowned artists. I’m proud to be a part of that,” she concluded.

Violinist Hui Cao brings joy of music to Zhuhai Jinwan while leading the Chamber Orchestra

From the time Hui Cao was just a baby, he would listen to his mother sing. As he grew, he began to sing with her, and his innate musical talents were evident even then. He could easily identify each note, and without any lessons, he effortlessly would carry a tune. The same occurred when he first lifted a violin; it felt like he was meant to play the instrument and has been doing so since he was a child. Now, he is one of China’s most prolific violinists.

With an impressive resume both playing and teaching, Cao’s career as a violinist has been extraordinary. He aims to share musical culture with both his admirers and his students. In 2013, he began teaching violin classes at Pooi To Middle School in Macau, a city on China’s South Coast. The popularity of the instrument rose dramatically when he was there, having such a celebrated musician teaching. He is currently practicing for the 2018 Music String Festival in Zhuhai Jinwan, a large festival in China. Not only will Cao be a soloist at the event, but he is also responsible for inviting other violinists to partake in a masterclass that he will then conduct.

“I feel like I can’t live without music. I like to play the violin to audiences and enjoy every moment,” he said.

Cao’s influence in Zhuhai Jinwan began in 2015 when he started playing in the Zhuhai Jinwan Chamber Orchestra. Founded only the year beforehand, Cao was instrumental to making it the success it is today. He was hired as the music director and concertmaster, in charge of every musician in the orchestra. During the three years that Cao has been leading the orchestra, they have played over 30 charity concerts and educated over 60,000 people in music.

We love to perform right in the community, whether that be in schools or small businesses. It brings lots of fun and music to the local people, and playing for charity is always a good thing. I think, as a musician, you play music that will hopefully help some people in this world. That is a wonderful thing, which is why I think performing for charity is so very important,” said Cao.

When Cao was invited to take part in the orchestra, it was still very new. He was immediately interested, wanting to help spread the joy of music whenever possible, and he felt Zhuhai Jinwan was the ideal location to do so. It is a relatively new city, and therefore music and the arts were not as developed as many other cities in the region. The local government wanted to change this, and therefore created the orchestra as a non-profit organization.

“People who lived in Zhuhai Jinwan did not have the opportunity to experience good, classical music the way that so many others do in the larger Chinese cities. I wanted to be the person to help change that,” said Cao.

After getting in touch with the sponsors, Cao began working immediately. He started with finding musicians for the orchestra and followed by choosing the perfect music. He wanted to select pieces that would excite the locals and allow them to appreciate classical music. When recruiting players for the orchestra, he reached out to the residents of the city, allowing them to get excited at the prospect of the first chamber orchestra in Zhuhai Jinwan.

“We are very honored to have Hui as our music director for the chamber orchestra. He is a talented musician and gives us a lot of support. The first day we met Hui we knew he could help us build this chamber group to a great success,” said Mok Ian Ian, Director of Zhuhai Jinwan Cultural Affairs Bureau.

Once Cao filled every spot on the orchestra, they started rehearsing twice a week. He helped the players practice, teaching them how to perform and offering insight from his many professional experiences. Most of the musicians were not trained, and it was Cao’s responsibility to do so. Under his direction, the entire orchestra went from many individual musicians to one entity, playing seamlessly. He also supported the guest conductor during rehearsals while still planning the music for each performance.

“I really admire the local musicians and their love of music. It was my job to help them become better players and make sure they improved, but you can’t teach passion. Directing these musicians was easy because of how much they enjoyed what they were doing,” said Cao. “I am also very thankful to the government and all the support we received from them. It was the people I worked with that made this such a special project. Everyone wanted to bring music to the community.”

Cao and the orchestra held their opening concert at the Zhuhai City Hall in 2015. It was extremely successful, and from there, they have continued to be recognized and praised by all sectors of society. Now, just a couple of years later, the orchestra is seen as a prestigious group of musicians.

“After three years of work, I saw the Zhuhai Jinwan chamber orchestra get more popular and professional. I am very happy, it has been like watching my kids grow up. I put lots of my time and energy into the group, and the results more than paid off,” he said.

Evidently, Cao is an incredible musician and director. What he accomplished with the Zhuhai Jinwan Chamber Orchestra is just one example of what this talented violinist is capable of. He truly loves what he does, and for those looking to follow in his footsteps, he says that is of the most vital importance.

“As a musician, I have only one piece of advice to those who are looking to pursue a career in music, and that is to love the music and enjoy the music. Music is always a great and interesting hobby, but if someone wants to become a professional musician, the path is very difficult. You have to persist and practice and remain focused on your goal every step of the way. That is why passion is key. If you do not have this, you will never be a true musician,” he concluded.

Actor Ben Prendergast takes up boxing to play Australian icon Jo Sparro

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Ben Prendergast

Ben Prendergast says his love of film is genetic. His mother’s side of the family constantly watched classic “talkies” on repeat, watched Sunday matinees, and had a general love for iconic starlets and stories. His father’s side still had that same love for movies, but there was a passion for science-fiction and action films, with regular trips to the video store. As a child, Prendergast was immersed in all aspects of film from a young age, loving Star Wars and Casablanca before even Mickey Mouse.

“In Australia, the notion of being in the movies is so foreign, but as I got older and started to build a profile it became evident that I could actually make a go of being involved in an industry that I’d loved for decades,” he said.

As an acclaimed film and television actor, Prendergast has many notable projects on his resume. He has worked alongside Hollywood’s best, including Ethan Hawke in the feature Predestination, and starred in award-winning films like The Marker and Post Apocalyptic Man. Australians everywhere recognize his voice and face from many national commercials, and his versatility is constantly evident, ranging from genres and mediums. With every character he embodies, he does not just portray them, he becomes them. This is perhaps most evident when he took on the role of the iconic boxer Jo Sparro in the celebrated film Punch Drunk.

“Punch Drunk deals with a very real issue in Australia: the marginalization of the elderly and mentally unwell. I loved that the main protagonist was a hero in his day, someone that was very much valued as part of society, but after an unfortunate event he’s literally left to rot in an institution until he fights his way out. I wanted to be a part of the project as it dealt with a sport I love and tackled a real issue within the heart of a fantastic story,” he said.

Punch Drunk is the story of the Mighty Joe Sparro, a champion boxer who is cut down in his prime. Years later, he is in a care facility that shuts down and he needs to fend for himself one last time. Prendergast played the younger Joe Sparro, depicting his early career, showing his courage and man-of-the-people charm, and illustrating for the audience what might have been.

“Jo Sparro was a post-war young man trying to make a living to support his wife and child, so in a lot of ways his natural gift for fighting made him a more loving partner. He loves his wife Millie to death, so when they are separated it is heartbreaking. For so long, he has been confused about where he is, but when the film starts we realize he is coming out of an extremely long coma,” Prendergast explained.

Punch Drunk was distributed to a number of festivals, including Telluride and the New York Short Film Festival where it played in Times Square to an estimated 50,000 people. From there it went to the St Kilda Film Festival, where it was nominated for best screenplay, Young at Heart Film Festival, where it won the Audience Award for Best Film, Adelaide Shorts Film Festival, where it took home the Audience Merit Award, Byron Bay Film Festival, winning Best Cinematography, and an Official Selection at Dungog Film Festival, Heart of Gold International Film Festival, Little Rock Film Festival Official Selection, and Woods Hold Film Festival. After its film festival run, Punch Drunk was distributed digitally and has since been viewed millions of times online. The Director, Sam Wark, believes Prendergast’s portrayal of the young Jo Sparro was pivotal to the film’s success.

“Ben is a pro. He is so proactive in finding the way into his characters and has a limitless supply of positivity and fresh ideas. As a director looking to fulfill a vision and shape a story, it’s a joy to have someone who can bring me a hundred different bold choices on any one idea and then go further and further into the rabbit hole as the story unveils itself. He’s an actor’s actor, so he goes way beyond what you’d think an actor should do in order to prepare for a role, not only mentally and spiritually, but also physically. In the boxing scenes, he worked over the course of three months to not only become fit enough to perform the role, but also to perfectly imitate a 1950s’ boxer style, and then also the stunt falls required. The miraculous thing though is he’s able to do all of this while embodying a character and creating the empathy in the audience needed to touch people. Our audiences fell in love with that character,” said Wark.

Wark had the script for Punch Drunk in his drawer for seven years with no real plans on making it. He knew the script was a gem but didn’t know just how to turn such an important story into a film. That was until he sent the script to Prendergast, who was so passionate about the project, the director knew he had something there. Immediately, Prendergast was the only choice for the role of Jo.

“The film needed someone who could play a champion boxer without the arrogance or coldness that we see from boxers in the modern era. He needed to be a people’s champion, and completely likeable, even to his opponents. By doing this, the film could create the payoff needed to touch audiences and make them think about the mentally ill in a new and perhaps impactful way. That is what I kept in mind when preparing, and while filming,” Prendergast described.

When preparing for the film, Prendergast relentlessly trained for three months to not only get in the shape of a professional boxer, but to realistically fight in required scenes. He also took extensive stunt training in order to be ready to be hit and fall on command. In one boxing scene, he chose to fall a lot heavier than he had initially planned and ended up knocking himself out. The shot was so brilliant, it was used in the final cut of the film.

“I was introduced to the sport of boxing in a new way. I always loved to watch, but to participate and continue to practice to this day is something that the film gave me. I was also drawn into the world of past champions and the history of the sport,” said Prendergast.

Punch Drunk depicts an Australian sporting hero that never made it, someone who showed so much promise but was robbed of it, and audiences ultimately see him victorious after 60 years of solitude. Getting to be a part of such a story was truly one of the most satisfying parts of working on the film for Prendergast, beyond all the awards and accolades they later received. The best part for the actor, however, audiences may not have noticed.

“This ended up being a family affair. My Nana was featured as an extra in the film,” he said.

Check out Punch Drunk to see Prendergast’s outstanding performance.