Tag Archives: International Talent

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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After Her Rivetting Performance in “Hypersomnia” Actress Yamila Saud is Tapped to Star in “El Encanto”

Actress Yamila Saud
Yamila Saud walks the red carpet at the Mar del Plata International Film Festival in Argentina

The stage has been Argentinian actress Yamila Saud’s second home since she was 7, and for as long as she can remember, she has come alive through acting. That passion has allowed her to become one of the most compelling actresses in film today, and her latest film is proof.

Currently streaming on Netflix, “Hypersomnia” is a dark psychological thriller from director Gabriel Grieco. Saud plays the main character, an actress named Milena who finds herself caught somewhere between nightmare and reality as the movie keeps the audience in suspense.

“Hypersomnia” is about a young actress preparing for a big stage role in a play, where her character is a sex slave who falls in love with her captor. Milena’s rehearsal experience leads her into a rabbit hole. Soon, Milena is unable to tell where her own life ends and her character’s begins. Everything begins to feel unreal and dreamlike, and Milena’s confusion quickly turns into madness.

“After an experience her character has, Milena begins to have dreams which feel very real,” Saud said. “Laly shows [the viewer] a world where women are deprived of freedom and all their rights.”

Milena’s trance-like acting exercises go haywire. The film uses the inside of a brothel as the alternate reality where Milena’s character Laly lives with other tortured sex workers. When Milena is not in the brothel playing Laly, she comes out of the trance state — from the looks of it. Yet Milena feels like the abuse and violence of playing a sex slave are all too real, like method acting gone wrong.

Saud skillfully adjusts herself to each scene as the film goes from suspenseful to dark to violent, truly embodying the character’s feeling of pain in the most believable way.

The movie was a huge challenge for me. One of the strongest and most disgusting scenes for me was when Milena is forced to enter with a client in a room, and she sits on the bed next to him,” Saud said. “The cigarettes he smoked were the same brand that my dad consumed when I was a girl. It’s horrible that girls so young are abused by men who could be their own father.”

In a huge shift from “Hypersomnia,” Saud took on a more lighthearted role as Lana in the upcoming 2018 film “El Encanto.” Directed by Juan Sasiaín and Ezequiel Tronconi, the romantic drama has both a sensual and a serious side.

The film focuses on Bruno, played by Ezequiel Tranconi, and his wife Juliana, a famous television host played by Mónica Antonópulos. Juliana is eager to have a baby, but Bruno doesn’t feel ready. The disagreement kicks off Bruno’s midlife crisis. Things get even more complicated when Saud’s character, an attractive young woman named Lara, walks into Bruno’s work.

Saud explains her critical role in the film, “My character is the knot that ties the film together. It’s because of Lara that Bruno’s character reacts and begins to realize what he really wants.”

Produced as an independent film “El Encanto,” focuses on character development. That meant Saud was able to stand out and show off her raw natural talent as an actor. The story line’s depth is explained producer Diego Corsini, saying “It’s a story of growth and maturation. It is reflecting in a poetic and sincere way that stage in which one still does not realize that he has grown and is an adult, and he wants to continue holding on to a past adolescence.”

Saud’s drive and passion for film show so pressingly in every role she plays. A dedicated artist, Saud pushes herself to go above and beyond the call of duty.

“I am a proactive actress who does not wait for the opportunity. I get completely involved in each project and don’t hold back, knowing I am making my mark.”

 

WRITING BOTH SIDES OF A STORY WITH SHREEKRISHNA PADHYE

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Life imitates art, art imitates life…it’s all the same thing to writer Shreekrishna Padhye. His vocation as a writer has allowed him to investigate and mix the influences of each into the other. Yes, it’s a bit like playing God when you write, but it gives back as much as it takes from humanity. What is communicated is just as much based in fact as it is in the interpretation of those receiving the information. As Padhye explains, “I have always been fascinated by the transformation a script can go through in the hands of actors. No matter how specific you try to be with tone and character motivations, an actor can fundamentally change the scene with just their performance and highlight a different side of the story. I wanted to explore that with a small film, so I wrote one with obvious conflicts and had actors play the action in two different manners. In every fight/argument both sides feel like they are right and more sympathetic.” In the film “My Way, Your Way” the writer was simultaneously studying and displaying social interaction, characters, and the actors who were themselves presenting the lines and actions. Shreekrishna Padhye might just be the most modern & entertaining version of B.F. Skinner that you’ve ever seen.

Padhye openly admits that he mines the events and interactions which he sees in real life for his writing. This is not an uncommon event for a writer. What is unusual about this writer is that he likes to entertain and diffuse the negative actions and thoughts of the characters and the viewers of his films by showing just how petty and selfish they can be, served with a very humorous tone. “My Way, Your Way” is a comedy. In the story we see the events through the eyes and emotional tint of two coworkers. What is presented is almost a form of therapy for the audience and the writer. Seeing the awfulness of people presented in the absence of condescension and finger pointing allows the recognition of our own lesser desired attributes. Humor is the conduit by which Shreekrishna delivers this. “My Way, Your Way” presents the same office workplace occurrence seen through the point of view of two separate people. In the first version, John tells his friend at work (Sean) that he has just been promoted. To John’s surprise, Sean doesn’t take the news very well. Instead of being happy for his friend’s good fortune, Sean storms out of the office. In the second version, John rubs it in Sean’s face that he is being promoted. John proceeds to humiliate Sean and takes over his office, forcing him out. Both the versions have the same dialogue, but the actors put a completely different spin on it each time.

Padhye’s character driven style has made him a favorite among actors. He specifically wrote this film with the actors in mind. Watching actors interpret his words and infuse them with different tones made him more aware of the power of these professionals to shade the message. While a writer creates the setting in both books and films, the reader’s imagination colors the world while a viewer’s is heavily dependent on the actor’s portrayal. The dual presentations of the film emphasize this aspect. The first interpretation of the story depicts John as hard-working and deserving of the promotion while his friend Sean is resentful. In the following presentation (seen through Sean’s eyes) John is a suck up who is less deserving than himself. What’s amazing about the film is that these drastically opposed perspectives are done using the same dialogue.

A self-described actor’s writer, it’s his respect for the contributions of actors that led Padhye to creating this project. A writer’s words mean nothing if actors don’t bring them to life. Shreekrishna is adamant that the spark in the process is creating great dialogue. Filtering real life experiences into an interesting story starts here as he explains, “The key to making dialogue seem realistic is to develop an ear for it. Even though we hear people talking every day, we don’t focus on their choice of words, speed, or emphasis. We usually extract relevant information and move on. My job as a writer is to study people and their behavior. The manner in which people talk is fascinating to me and I have trained a part of my brain to pay attention to words and after conversation, I usually play the interaction back in my head and reexamine it. If I hear a unique phrase or pronunciation, I make a note of it. I may not ever end up using the exact words in my script but questioning the thought process behind it helps inform my characters. Even so, a conversation in a film is very different to one in real life. Real life conversations are long and slow. If portrayed verbatim on film in this way, they would seem incredibly boring. The key to keeping dialogue interesting is to keep it short and specific to conflict at hand. Every character needs to have a distinct voice. Even if the character names were scrubbed from the script, you should be able to differentiate the lines of each character.”

The presentation of entertainment productions has transformed immensely in the last few years. Productions are created for online presentation and are used by more traditional studios and networks to find exciting new productions and artists to add to their brand. “My Way, Your Way” garnered immense attention from both the industry and the public with 100,000 views on YouTube. There was a time not so long ago that these studios and networks had a vision of entertainment that would appeal to everyone but the popularity of online formats have proven that the most unusual and creative ideas can unify a very committed fan base. In all artistic endeavors, a strong voice will find an audience. Shreekrishna embraces these opportunities and the experience commenting, “I’m lucky to have started my career right in the middle of this seismic shift the internet has brought to the entertainment industry. Streaming services have become so ubiquitous that it no longer matters what method of distribution a piece of content was originally produced for (Broadcast, Cinema, Cable or Streaming). Because of all the new outlets, content production is at an all-time high. This is great for all artists as it provides many more opportunities. The greatest strength is also the greatest obstacle as it is possible for a piece of art to get lost in a sea of great content. Even so, the viewer is always the winner.” Each film Padhye writes seems to receive more and more praise. If his goal is to create stories that stories that allow people to see themselves and their potential selves, it seems to be an idea that the world is open to contemplating.

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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.

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

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.