Tag Archives: International Talent

Sijia Huang shows the importance of music in animation

When Sijia Huang animates a film, she sees herself almost like a choreographer. She aims to make every movement as seamless and fluid as possible, almost like an infinite tide. This is her priority with every project she takes on. She always ensures she has the perfect balance between tension and looseness, generating the ideal rhythm for all of her films. She does not limit herself to one type of animation, and as long as the audience is moved by her work, she is happy. It is this mantra that makes her one of China’s best animators, and why she is taking the industry by storm.

Huang’s style is evident in every one of her films and is perhaps best displayed in her award-winning film Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil, See No Evil, a film conveying the struggles of humanity. Since then, Huang has seen continued success. Quitting Brave Victory, a film about warrior who begins a journey to find his strongest opponent, has over 2.6 million views online. BoxHome, is a story of a couple who live in a box, went on to win several awards. Breakfast, a fun film about a child’s imagination, made its way to several prestigious international film festivals.

“As an animator, I work for a variety of fields including film, television and commercials. I animate characters based on designs and stories. I would like to say animators are like magicians who bring things to life,” she said.

Huang’s flair for animated choreography is exemplified in the collaborative film for the event Measures & Frames. A partnership between a group of filmmakers and a group of composers, Measures & Frames featured the internationally renowned Pendrecki String Quartet performing five pieces of contemporary classical music paired with original visuals projected against a three-screen display for an unforgettable pairing of image and sound.

Measures & Frames aimed to create a conversation between the pictures and the music. They made something more like a painting: a world that embodies a story-like idea or emotion. It’s an audio-visual experience that gives the audience a new entryway into the music. Suddenly, audiences see structure and form that we couldn’t see before. What seemed impenetrable and unfamiliar can suddenly become inviting and enjoyable, especially with a very conceptual, sophisticated piece like Arcadiana, the film that Huang worked on for the event, which was a main part of the entire production. Music is a large part of Huang’s life, and this project gave her the opportunity to showcase this passion. It was also her first opportunity to animate to the music of a strong quartet.

“I was so happy that I could be the animator for this project. It made me want to make more music related projects. If an opportunity comes up to work on a music video in the future, I will jump all over it,” she said.

When the Director of the project, Michael Patterson, was looking for an animator to bring such a unique film to fruition, he thought of Huang’s work on her film Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil, See No Evil and knew she was just who he needed, knowing she was capable of choreography, which was very important to Arcadiana. He invited her to take part, and she immediately said yes. Patterson is famous his work on the animation for the famous A-ha music video “Take on Me” as well as creating the characters Stray Mob and MC Skat Kat, who appeared in Paula Abdul’s music video “Opposites Attract”.

“Music is abstract and invites the audience in—the visuals have to do this too,” said Patterson when speaking of why Huang’s animation was vital to the project. “The multi-sensory experience invites the audience to understand the form of the music in an expanded way. If you’re depicting the music too literally, you’re limiting the freedom to personally engage.”

Huang designed the main character that was used in the film and did the stop-motion animation. At the beginning of the production, she wanted to shoot the animation using the down shooter with paper cut puppets. When she showed the director her work, he asked me if she could also try to animate another 2D version using After Effect. In order to create a more defined looking for the skeleton puppets, she used the latest character pin and created the dance for two skeletons. With each revision, Huang got closer and closer to their vision, until finally she achieved perfection.

“I had the opportunity to collaborate with Sijia on a project titled Measures & Frames Sijia created the portion of the show that featured two skeletons dancing with one another. This part of the production was crucial to Measures & Frames, and Sijia was the only animator capable of combing choreography and animation to make our vision a reality. Her mastery of a variety of animation techniques made her indispensable to the project. Specifically, her utilization of Adobe After Effects, a digital visual effects, motion graphics, and compositing post-production application, was key to finishing the animation on the project. Sijia’s high skill level in using the latest animation techniques, as well as her remarkable versatility and distinct style, vastly elevated the visual portion of Measures & Frames,” said Michael Patterson, Grammy Award-winning filmmaker and Director, specializing in TV spots and music videos.

Huang stands by famous composer Veronika Krausas, who once said, “For some audiences not familiar with new music and it’s their first time hearing not one but five new works, it’s tough. I think that the added dimension of the video helps smooth that out a bit. This is a way for audiences to actually experience the music more and become more familiar with it. The video helps acclimatize people to the sounds, and then they’re more able to appreciate them.”

Those who attended Measures & Frames on March 28th, 2015, were wildly impressed with both Huang’s animation and the event as a whole. Experiencing music in a visual way was captivating, and Huang thinks it is of great importance.

“If the diverse crowd that delivered a standing ovation at the evening’s conclusion is any indication, this type of visual music experience has opened the doors of classical composition to a newer, younger crowd than the form has seen in quite some time,” Huang concluded.

Filmmaker Shaan Memon celebrates the holidays in commercials for Dickens Fair

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Shaan Memon

As far back as Shaan Memon can remember, his family had a VCR player at their home in Ahmedabad, a city in Gujarat state in India. Every Sunday, he would watch all of his favorite cartoon shows, and his father used to help him record the shows on video cassettes. When his father would travel to Bombay for work, he would return with movies for Shaan and his elder sister. It was then, in his living room in his childhood home, that his love of film was born.

Now, Shaan is an in-demand Screenwriter, Director, and Editor. He first impressed international critics with his work on the horror The Unreal and continued to do so with his films Fitting In and Bullied, as well as the documentary Purpose Driven Study for Dharoi Canal Command Area. He is extremely knowledgeable in every aspect of filmmaking, from pre-production to post-production, and using this knowledge to expand his skillset. At the end of last year, his work on a commercial for the Dickens Christmas Fair showed that in addition to Director and Editor, this versatile filmmaker can even take on the role of Videographer and achieve tremendous results.

“I found Shaan to be reliable, assiduous, hard-working, and intuitively creative – as well as being extremely patient in performing multiple re-cuts of the material. Shaan impressed me so much that I recommended him for other work and hope to engage his services next year on a separate video for the Dickens Fair,” said David Hakim, Producer/Director who worked alongside Shaan on the commercial.

The Great Dickens Christmas Fair is a one-of-a-kind holiday adventure into Victorian London and is an elaborate party with around 800 of costumed players performing and interacting with patrons in over 120,000 square feet of theatrically-lit music halls, pubs, dance floors, and Christmas shops. It’s a twilight evening in Charles Dickens’ London Town – a city of winding lanes filled with colorful characters from both literature and history. Enticing aromas of roasted chestnuts and hearty foods fill the air. Cries of street vendors hawking their wares ring out above the bustling crowd. Dozens of lamplight shops are filled to overflowing with Christmas gifts. The Dickens Christmas Fair is a treasured Bay Area tradition since 1970 and a splendid way to celebrate the holidays. Thousands of people attend this event every year.

“I had never visited the fair before, so the first time when I visited it, I was spellbound. They have created a different world in itself. One can never imagine what would it be inside until they visit it, and that is exactly I wanted to capture. I therefore insisted on not visiting the fair before shooting, as I wanted to feel like a traveler who is experiencing it for the first time and I captured those moments,” said Shaan.

Shaan is a multi-talented filmmaker with an outstanding about of expertise in writing, directing, editing, videography and sound design. Because he has so much experience in such a variety of roles, he is a one-man army who can execute a project as clearly and as nearly to how it was conceived during the consultation. Having thorough knowledge of different fields makes him a force to be reckoned with and proved vital while shooting this commercial.

“Every filmmaker works hard with his/her sweat and blood to make a project the best it can possibly be and make their name in the industry. I had huge responsibility as Diane Baker put trust in me and suggested me to work on this project. I’m happy that I could reach her and David’s expectations,” said Shaan.

When Diane Baker and David Hakim were trying to find someone who could make a captivating commercial for Dicken’s Christmas Fair, they immediately thought of Shaan and approached him to take the lead on the project. Initially, Hakim had planned on creating a competition to decide who would create the commercial, but after seeing Shaan’s work, he knew he no longer needed to find someone to take over.

Working closely together for the entire shoot, Shaan consulted Hakim regarding what kind of shots, pace and feel would be required. After brainstorming, they decided on getting more front faced shots of the visitors, showing how happy they were and enjoying their time. Getting the best shots of artists performing, vendors selling beautiful products, the decorations, the grandness of the fair and much more. Shaan then attended the fair with his assistant to get as many shots as possible. During the editing process, he consulted with Kevin Patterson, Executive Director of Dicken’s Fair. He edited the best possible 30-second commercial. He is now working on the 90-second advertisement after the success of its predecessor.

“This is what I love about filmmaking. I never get bored of being a filmmaker. I enjoy working every time I have to go through this process of starting a new project, working on it and at the end looking at its result. Every project takes me on a whole new journey. In this one I met around hundreds of artists working together at same place. Watching Dickens’s characters alive and performing in front of you was a treat! This project was great to work on and entertaining also. David was very supportive throughout and I’m happy that he trusted my creativity and I could deliver up to his expectations,” Shaan concluded.

Check out Shaan’s work on the commercial on the Dicken’s Fair website.

THE PRODUCER WITH THE GOLDEN TOUCH: BOHAN GONG

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Chinese producer Bohan Gong takes great pride in the fact that he has been a force behind many successful films in his homeland, Europe, and the US. Establishing yourself as a respected producer in one country is difficult enough, cultivating that reputation and prestige on a global scale is a situation that has only presented itself in recent times. Hollywood used to be the only major player in the game but China, Bollywood, and other locations have made their presence felt. Gong is talented and multilingual by design. His credits are instantly recognizable and he makes a point to work on both huge studio productions and independent films with themes near and dear to his heart. Bohan often remarks that the story of a film is its soul and he always seeks out his connection with this story in order to give it the respect it requires. This is not the typical comment you’ll hear from producers who are more likely to refer to their part in the filmmaking process in terms of schedules and “being in the black” but this producer is not your typical producer. Many of his peers refer to his exceptional talent in screenwriting, editing, and other facets of film. Bohan is a filmmaker who produces rather than a producer who has found his way into filmmaking. The two are inseparable in his work and the success of his many productions vets him as a leader in the modern day film community.

2017’s American Made earned $139 million and is the most recent in the long successful career of Tom Cruise. While it was an immense hit in the US, this may have been eclipsed by the film’s massive attention and earnings in China. Bohan was in charge of designing and coordinating the Chinese distribution plan for American Made. Many of today’s big budget films depend on their international box office to be a key part of a film’s financial earnings. China’s love of film and huge fan base is perhaps the most important contributor of a US production’s non-domestic box office. Gong’s insight into the workings of China’s rules such as Communicating Law procedure, applying Chinese import, and Applying related licenses (such as Chinese region “Permit for Public Projection of Films) were indispensable to the achievements of American Made in the country. James H. Pang (co-executive producer of American Made) professes, “Bohan’s knowledge of the many different international business and production practices makes his a uniquely talented producer in the industry. At the same time, he has a strong understanding of the Hollywood and China film market “game” that actually gets movies made and well-distributed. Those that invest with him do it time and again because he represents the business interests so well.”

For the Hollywood blockbuster and Oscar-award winning Hacksaw Ridge, Bohan also was key in the film’s distribution in China. Communicating and coordinating between Hollywood’s Cross Creek Pictures and China for the director (Mel Gibson) and leading actors to attend publicity activities in China, Gong helped to bring exposure to the film and open the Chinese market to western celebrities. One lasting effect of the producer’s work on Hacksaw ridge was that its reputation as a Hollywood blockbuster helped Gong to build a distribution structure for American films in China’s top tier cities like, Beijing and Shanghai all the way down to small towns.

Los Angeles Kidnapping is a Chinese major studio production that was filmed in Los Angeles. As lead producer who was part of the film since its inception, Bohan’s understanding of the working of Hollywood’s film community and the tastes of China’s audiences led to his insistence that Los Angeles Kidnapping be filmed in the US. Many of the films that were US/China collaborations frustrated Gong because it was obvious to him that they were produced by an American crew with only a few shots actually taking place in China. He explains, “I wanted to do something new. I understand how the film industries of both China and Hollywood create and work. For Los Angeles Kidnapping I still used an American crew. I knew that the stylistic approach of Hollywood storytelling and the American locations would infuse this style and quality into the film, but I wanted to tell a Chinese story. There is a different sentiment to Chinese culture in film and I wanted this to be authentic. I also didn’t hire Hollywood top tier movies stars but chose actors from China whom the audience would relate to.”

In addition to his role as lead producer, Bohan found the script, wrote and revised the script, procured financing, hired the stars, key crews, and developed the Pre-Production, Production, Post-production, marketing and distribution for Los Angeles Kidnapping. His design theory for the film proved well-founded when Los Angeles Kidnapping garnered more than fourteen wins and five nominations including: Los Angeles Film Awards: Best Action (2017), London Independent Film Awards: Best Foreign Feature (2017), and others. It was released on the Iqiyi Platform and sold to China Central TV Movie Channel. To date, Los Angeles Kidnapping has earned five times the production budget.

Every true artist is passionate about some pet underdog cause and for Gong this is the environment. The air pollution in his hometown of Beijing has been alarming for quite some time and sparked the producer’s desire to influence the problem by using his personal talents to illustrate these problems. In the documentary “A Tip of Bottlebegr”, Bohan displayed the worldwide epidemic of plastic bottles and their effect on the planet. While there are many factors that negatively affect the environment, Gong felt that focusing on this singular topic would help the viewer to clearly understand the malevolent repercussions and perhaps by the catalyst to be more aware of similar trends. “A Tip of Bottlebegr” received the Grand Award for Best Picture at the Cherry Blossom Film Festival, Best Experiment Film at the Lake View International Film Festival, Los Angeles Film Awards: Honorable Mention Documentary, Festigious International Film Festival: Honorable Mention Documentary, Focus on Image Festival: The Best Picture Nomination, and a nomination for Best Film at the Atlantis Film Awards.

Bohan Gong has staked a fair portion of his career on the collaboration of artists and filmmakers of different countries. He sees it as the future and it is a future which creates more sincere and entertaining art because it brings even more perspectives and a diversity of talent to the art of filmmaking. Contemplating the work between his homeland and Hollywood he relates, “This artistic collaboration between China and the US will affect parts of each society. For example, nowadays, Artistic collaboration between China and the US have been promoting the communication and cooperation between China and America in factors of culture, economics, tourism, technology, education, etc. China loves storytelling and the Chinese film industry has established itself and matured quickly. In the end of 2016, China surpassed the United States with a total of forty-one thousand film screens. This has attracted American filmmakers to the opportunities China can offer them and this is good for both countries and their people. I could not have picked a better time in the history of film to be a producer from China with this relationship blossoming.”

United International Film Festival Red carpet and interview

A new take on what it means to be a triple threat with Yana GoodDay

There is an unspoken understanding within the modeling community that confidence will carry you a greater distance than looks ever will; however, a healthy dose of both will help to build a strong career. Unlike most other professions, models are required to sell themselves within the promotion of a product. They strive to attract the focus and attention of consumers in order to increase awareness of particular brands, companies, products, and more. From fashion to glamor, to fitness and swimsuits, models are featured in a variety of media formats that surround us each and every day and they are an integral element of Western culture. With that, the modeling industry has gained a substantial amount of interest and following throughout history, with the number of working models growing and the amount of available jobs shrinking. It can, therefore, be argued that in today’s society, it is more difficult than ever to stand out in the modeling world and thrive amongst the industry’s top contenders. For Russian model, Yana GoodDay, on the other hand, rising to the top of her field has been a lifelong journey and today, she is taking her profession by storm.

Ever since she can remember, GoodDay has found herself energized by the idea of showcasing her unique allure before the world. As a young girl, she often caught herself daydreaming about the idea of seeing her face on magazine covers and walking down fashion runways in beautiful outfits. As she began turning her daydreams into a reality, she realized that not only were her talents rare in the modeling community, but they were transferable to other related professions. She decided to test her hand at acting for films such as Kids in the Cage and The Waiting, as well as television hosting. With time, she learned to balance the three job types in order to build a more well-rounded career. She has since landed herself a number of notable jobs as a model, actress, and television hostess. For instance, when the 2014 Olympic Games were hosted in Sochi, Russia, GoodDay earned herself a job as the hostess of the Games’ official welcoming ceremony.

Earlier that year, Dynamic Project Group Agency were selected to help with the preparation and coordination of the 2014 Sochi Olympic and Paralympic Games. For their official welcoming ceremony, which gathered nearly 3000 athletes from all 88 participating countries, Alena Kremer, of Dynamic Project Group Agency, was looking for a hostess who would provide a familiar face for Russian audiences, as well as one who would represent Russia flawlessly before the eyes of other audiences around the globe. Having formerly served as a reporter for Pro-TV, participated in countless runway fashion shows, posed for covers of well-known magazine companies, hosted national television programs, and more, Kremer was certain that GoodDay was the ideal candidate for the event.

“When we auditioned Yana to host the Olympic Games Welcoming Ceremony, she naturally and effortlessly drew the attention of everyone in the room from the moment she walked in. Her outstanding acting skills and outer beauty is only surpassed by her kind, sweet, down-to-earth nature and her astute intelligence. She is a lovely woman who just happens to be extraordinarily beautiful and talented. She was uniquely dedicated and highly qualified to work in this particularly demanding capacity. Fluent in both English and Russian, she possessed the ability to effortlessly switch languages according to the needs of the audience. Reliable, talented, and hardworking, Yana played a critical role in making this welcoming ceremony the successful event that it was,” raved Kremer, Managing Partner.

Beyond her work as an actress and a television hostess, GoodDay strives to stay true to her modeling roots whenever the opportunity arises. In fact, she honored this effort when she earned herself a role as a lead cover and promotional model for a number of VJ Dunraven Productions’ novels. VJ Dunraven Productions is a highly reputable production company, having released a number of renowned novels written by VJ Dunraven, such as The Promise, and The Captive Shifter. As a lead cover model, GoodDay has established a profound reputation for being able to adapt herself and her looks to suit any genre she is tasked with posing for.

“For the Captive Shifter, Yana posed in an effortlessly angelic stance as she gazed over her shoulder with a sense of purity that was, at once, innocent and mysterious in the most beautiful way,” told Maria Chronis, Founder, Executive Producer, and Director of VJ Dunraven Productions.

Regardless of the novel’s plot line or character basis, GoodDay has a natural affinity for attracting a reader’s attention. Her modeling compliments the contents of each novel and is undoubtedly the reason that so many readers feel compelled to find out what lies beneath her engaging covers. For GoodDay, it is a dream come true to be able to see herself on the cover of each novel and it reminds her of when she would gaze at books and magazines in stores as a child, wondering what it would be like to see her face on them one day. In fact, in the span of two years, she found her face on over 35 different novel covers published by VJ Dunraven Productions.

Being able to live out her childhood dreams is an indescribable feeling, and she considers herself extremely fortunate to be able to truly love what she does for a living. Between acting in films, hosting television shows, and modeling, she has established a remarkable career and she looks forward to building it day by day, and job by job in the future. For those aspiring to develop a reputation like GoodDay’s and to build the type of confidence necessary to accomplish what she has, GoodDay had the following to say:

“Whatever you choose to do, study that subject and its history. Dedicate yourself to it and be brave, but refrain from letting that bravery become arrogance or shamelessness. Work on yourself to be the best version of you that you can be. Finally, don’t forget to get some rest from time to time.”

A MODERN CLASSIC WITH KARLEE SQUIRES IN “SUGAR”

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In case you aren’t aware of it, vinyl outsold downloads last year and are posed to repeat the occurrence this year. That might seem counterintuitive to most readers. It’s easier to access a download and you get to pick out the specific parts that you desire rather than purchasing the entire product. What this trend tells us is that the public is beginning to realize what they forgot, that there is a difference. This same template can be applied to live theater. There is something about the experience, the sound, the energy, and obviously the momentary performances that are created by the entertainers who take part in this classic medium. While Broadway has never gone away, the plethora of touring companies that used to blanket the country and beyond have dwindled. As with vinyl, the “real” thing is starting to make a resurgence, much to the delight of an excited public. Entertainers who can do it all, such as Canadian Karlee Squires are more in demand than in decades. It takes great talent, commitment, and a love of the uncertainty of each performance that drives Squires and this new generation of talented live performers who act, dance, and sing. Even Hollywood and television is taking part in this trend as more and more productions of this kind are seen on both the big and small screens. For Karlee, this is simply more proof that the path she has chosen was well worth the effort it has taken.

“Sugar” is based on the classic comedy “Some Like It Hot” starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon in 1959. The music for “Sugar” is by Jule Styne, lyrics by Bob Merrill, and the book is by Peter Stone. Set in 1920’s Chicago, the story follows two unemployed musicians, Joe and Jerry, who witness the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre by Spats Palazzo and his gang. The boys go undercover to get out of Chicago, dressing as women and joining an all-girl band, Sweet Sue and Her Society Syncopators, who are travelling to Florida. Joe takes the name Josephine and falls in love with the band’s singer, Sugar. Meanwhile, Jerry (now Daphne) catches the attention of a wealthy, elderly man named Osgood Fielding, Jr. Karlee appears as Mary Lou early in the plays as Mary Lou leaves the band, figuratively opening the door for Sugar. As proof of her talent and malleability, Squires then appears as Olga and stays in this character for the remainder of the play. In a particularly hilarious scene, while on the train to Miami for the band’s gig, Olga asks Jerry/Daphne to help her fix the bra strap that fell down her shirt. Jerry/Daphne has to reach down her shirt, fumble around until he finds it and tie it back together. It’s a featured comedy skit in Sugar and goes on for quite a few minutes. The character Olga is unaware of what’s happening, as Jerry/Daphne is having too much fun, and the audience roars with laughter. The show heats up when Spats Palazzo and his gang show up in Miami and figure out that the girls are actually boys.

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Squires performance in “Sugar” belies the curt amount of time she had to prepare. She had twenty-five hours to learn script, blocking, and choreography. The nature of theater is that it can often change at a moment’s notice which makes being a quick learner a substantial attribute. The intensity of learning so much so quickly was offset by the pleasure of being surrounded by an incredible cast and crew. Two time Tony-award-winner Robert Morse shared his stories of performing with the cast and gave direction and encouragement to Karlee during the play’s run. Producer/Production Coordinator Eileen Barnett notes, “It was hard not to notice Karlee; there she was on alongside actors from some of the biggest stages in the world, from Broadway, to the West End to national tours; some even being Tony and Drama Desk nominated, and she was enchanting. She is mature beyond her years. Karlee does all of the preparation and rehearsal that any consummate professional does but she is also always looking for a new way to add something. She has talent and drive which is an outstanding combination; one which was very evident to all of us in Sugar.”

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The method for any art form, including musical theater, to move forward is by using one’s talent to push yourself forward by learning from those before you. Karlee Squires is surrounded by her peers and those of legendary status of previous decades. Enabled with a skill set that encompasses the heart of the great musical theater tradition, she is on the forefront of the new generation that carries the torch into the modern era and its productions. As the attendees of “Sugar” can confirm, it’s going to be exciting to watch.

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.

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.