From the time she was a child, Youjia Qian always had a great interest in the arts and fashion. She learned to play the flute at a young age and began painting very early in her life. Music was always a great passion of hers, with an eclectic playlist featuring many genres. She enjoys expressing her attitude and emotions through clothing and accessories, which she has all her life.
“I think clothes show the characteristic of one person and the style that they want to express at that day. Same as artworks, dressing is also an art. To me, being a stylist enables me to help others to show their attitude with clothes,” said Qian.
Now, Qian is a celebrated stylist and art director, and a leader in her industry. She has worked on many successful music videos, such as “Say Less” for Roy Woods, “Devil in California” by Burna Boy, “Talking to Me” for Gab 3 and “Hollywood Angel” by BEXEY and Gab3. She has also made her mark with commercials, working with the famous department store Barneys New York earlier this year on their “Starwalk” campaign.
“I think the greatest challenge as an art director is pre-communication, since the visual effect is hard to express with words. Sometimes customers are not able to imagine what you want to express and then I need to prepare so many cases and proposals with clearer visuals to let them know what I want to express finally. I always make sure to discuss everything with my client in detail. Any problem that arises can be overcome with patient communication,” she described.
Such an attitude is why the art director was approached by newcomer DeathByRomy to take on her debut music video. DeathByRomy needed an experienced professional at the helm to make the project a success, and she knew Qian was just the person. Qian enjoys working with young artists, giving them insight into what it takes to make a hit video.
“I am very happy to work with female artists and hope to cooperate with more girls and new artists in the future,” said Qian.
Qian was eager to work with DeathByRomy. The two had an understanding that the video would have a slightly more feminine feel, and as the two are both female, they found it easy to strike a balance in what they both envisioned. They spent a lot of time discussing the details prior to shooting. They decided to use a dreamy color to express the feeling of youth, while interspersing a lot of cute shots to express a girlish feeling.
“I think this new artist is very willing to try new ideas and styles, so the actors in the audience are some of her own friends, and the cooperation with everyone is very harmonious and happy. We can also know what kind of things and styles young people like now through the communication,” said Qian.
The video was released in June of this year and was published by Elevator. Watch it here to witness Qian’s artistry first hand.
Nothing is more exciting for a music fan than getting tickets to see your favorite artist live in concert. The feeling of your body vibrating to the bass of a beloved song in a giant arena is simply euphoric. However, when enjoying the experience, it is easy to forget how many people it took to make the concert so incredible. Not only is there the talent, dancers, and band that one can see, there are also many that have worked tirelessly behind-the-scenes. Rupa Rathod is one of those people. As an industry leading motion graphics designer, the intricate visuals displayed on the giant screens of the show are her masterpieces.
Having worked with several iconic musicians, such as Shania Twain and Kylie Minogue, Rathod’s work has been seen and appreciated on a global scale. She loves what she does, not only working alongside some of the world’s biggest stars, but also being able to merge her passions for music and design.
“Everything catches my eye; shapes, colors, photography, art and perspective, they’re all influences. I’m constantly working out how to turn anything I see into something graphical, abstract and moving. I’m very practical and hands on so my interest in design and art have always been very much a part of who I am,” said Rathod.
Two years ago, Rathod saw great success with her work on the “Wild, Wild World Tour” for the popular band Bastille. The global tour allowed the motion graphics artist to work closely with award-winning Creative Director, Rob Sinclair, band management, and the band themselves to create and produce the screen content with LA based production company and studio, Blink.
“I developed a good working relationship with the band. It’s the notion that you understand their world and so you have their trust on something so important to them. It’s what grounds me the most during these projects and what I aspire to always have with artists and bands,” Rathod described.
Loosely set in a slightly playful dystopian world, the vision for the tour visuals was very specific but also required a lot of collaborative development. The brief for this tour was the notion that big brother was watching and controlling you, set in a future where the whole world was ruled by a fictional corporation, World Wide Communications. Rathod’s understanding of Sinclair and the band’s vision was trusted by the entire design team instantly.
“It’s unusual for a tour, especially with an indie band to have such a strong narrative, so I was sold from the moment I read the concept. In my mind, there was no end to the amount of scenarios that could be created in this dystopian world. I was completely submerged in this environment and pitching my designs, having them approved and then being able to develop all the ideas into real working visuals was hugely rewarding,” said Rathod.
On a tour such as Bastille’s, the set design is always the beginning of the process. Rathod and her team began producing strong concepts and inspirational references. Once the setlist was completed, Rathod got to work.
As Producer, her role was to develop the initial brief, and oversee and direct the team of animators and visual artists. This involved digging a bit deeper into the references and going back with an initial design. Once her approach was approved, she collaborated Blink’s team of motion graphics artists to bring the visuals to life.
As she is so hands on when it comes to the visual aspect of the production, Rathod is ideally placed to see the project through the final stages of rehearsals. For her, it all comes together when she gets into a production rehearsal with the full band, lighting and all departments working together. As a creator of visual content, her job isn’t just to make great visuals, it’s to create content that’s cohesive with a huge live concert spectacle. Some of the best video moments in the show were not conceived until this rehearsal block, so a big part of Rathod’s job was turning ideas around sometimes overnight to test them on screen the next day. This also allowed her to form a good relationship with the band.
“I worked with Rupa on the “Wild World” world tour across 2016 and 2017, where she was in charge of creating all the video content for our live show. Her creative abilities are second to none and to be able to interact with her on an artistic level was a hugely fulfilling experience. We hope to use her again and again during the next touring cycles. She is without doubt one of the best in the industry at what she does, quite apart from being one of the nicest,” said Dan Smith, the lead singer of Bastille.
Rathod stayed on this tour for the first few shows, which allowed two weeks to tweak and change content prior to the band’s first big night at the O2 in London. Seeing the fans’ responses from her work made the entire experience even more worth it.
“The reaction from fans as well as reviews acknowledged the visuals I produced and was a welcome recognition of how important the visuals are to the overall concert experience. It’s a completely multi-sensory experience and seeing it through from start to finish is always the most rewarding part. It’s always such a priceless moment when you see it go live, a feeling that I don’t think will ever leave me,” she concluded.
To stay up-to-date with Rathod’s work at Blink Inc., check out their website.
Top Photo: Rupa Rathod, Tom Colbourne and Steve Price working on Bastille Tour
Great cinema is far more than just the images projected on the screen. When a film’s score is truly exceptional, it can often tell as rich a story as the film itself. While moviegoers fix their gaze on the characters and places they see, it’s what they hear that often sets the tone and subtly guides their imaginations. Few people understand the relationship between sight and sound in cinema as well as film composer Samantha Van Der Sluis. Fueled by an early love of storytelling, Van Der Sluis strove to find a medium perfectly suited to the tales her mind would weave.
“I was 15 years old when I started learning to play songs on the piano,” Van Der Sluis recalled. “I started venturing toward other instruments like the violin, French horn, bass guitar, and choral singing.”
As she developed an understanding over an array of instruments, her mind became filled with countless unwritten scores desperate to see the light of day. She found the outlet she needed when she began her work as a composer.
“Once I discovered I could perform music, I realized I had the potential to create it too,” she said. “Music is meant to be shared and listened to, and I believe the best form takes place in visual media like film, where music works together with the visuals.”
Before she began her work as a film composer, Van Der Sluis received critical acclaim for many of her orchestral compositions. One of her pieces, ‘Searching For Home,’ was chosen by the Dublin Philharmonic to be performed as part of their world tour in 2015. Soon after, composer Jeff Russo collaborated with Van Der Sluis as part of his team; and she was given her first big opportunity to shape the musical soundscape of an array of hugely-anticipated television titles. The wide-ranging list of projects Van Der Sluis worked on included the Golden Globe and Emmy-winning FX series “Fargo,” the CBS All Access series “Star Trek: Discovery,” and Netflix’s dystopian thriller “Altered Carbon.”
In 2017, Van Der Sluis composed the score for the tensely claustrophobic and relentlessly terrifying feature film “Landfall.” The film centers on a pair of young lovers as they barricade themselves inside their beach house, desperate to keep out something much more sinister than the impending cyclone.
Though “Landfall” was completely unlike any project she’d worked on before, Van Der Sluis’ meticulous and immersive approach to scoring the film was exactly the same as it had always been. She wrote every note of the score around what the characters were experiencing. But because suspense was a major component of the film, she was careful that the story her composition told didn’t tip off audiences to any of the story’s secrets.
“Over the duration of the film, a lot of questions the audience may have at first are answered,” she explained. “Because of these mysteries, I had to be very cautious of the score not to give away the unexpected twists in the plot.”
Directed by Travis Bain, “Landfall” stars two-time Melbourne Underground Film Festival Award winner Kristen Condon (“The Beautiful and the Damned”) as Maisie and Rob Stanfield (“Windscreen Watch”) as Dylan, the film’s main characters. A testament to the power of the film and Van Der Sluis’ work as a composer, “Landfall” was recently purchased for distribution by industry heavyweight Archstone Distributions.
“Landfall” director Travis Bain says, “Thanks in part to Sam’s terrific score for ‘Landfall’, we’ve now secured a worldwide distribution deal, which will see the film be released in multiple countries around the globe… Samantha brought plenty of enthusiasm plus a willingness to help me fulfill my directorial vision… Her professional scores really help elevate all the other elements of my films. Her music adds so much production value, and for international audiences and distributors who expect a certain level of quality, production value is everything.”
As the film progresses and more is revealed about protagonists Maisie and Dylan, it gradually becomes clear that neither is the person they initially seemed to be. In the same way, Van Der Sluis’ score evolves dramatically between the first introductions to the characters and the tense final moments of the film.
“I had to compose themes for the characters dependent of their situation and not who they were, because in Landfall, this has a very different meaning,” she said. “I created tense cues around the main female character, Maisie, utilizing chromatic melodies, atonal harmonies, a variety of rhythmic passage to achieve inconsistency, and cadence that never resolved… Later in the film, when the audience starts to understand the character’s situation, this music turns into something more tonal and warm.”
Masterfully, Van Der Sluis captured the film’s characters not as they were, but as the audience was meant to believe. Together with the action onscreen, her score lulls viewers into a false sense of security and sets them up to be shocked by the film’s big twists.
“For the duration of the film, until the last 20 minutes, we assume Dylan and Maisie are completely innocent — turns out they aren’t,” Van Der Sluis said, careful not to reveal too much. “The music in the last 20 minutes starts to reiterate themes of what was heard previously. The theme used for the bad guys are now being played when Dylan and Maisie are seen.”
As the storm closes in and the main characters’ true natures are seemingly unveiled, Van Der Sluis continues to keep audiences on the edge of their seats. Her score takes on a more sinister tone, building in urgency until the storm makes landfall and at last the full truth is revealed.
Prior to her work on “Landfall,” Van Der Sluis composed a much different score for a much different story. Soulful and nuanced, the 2016 drama “Day Off” is a tragic drama from director Stephen Hall that tells the story of a middle-aged couple whose lifelong love is being taken away by an insidious disease.
“A 50-something year old man is struggling with dementia and having trouble remembering things. He vanishes from his caretaker,” Van Der Sluis described. “His caretaker calls the man’s wife, Laura, explaining that he has walked off and she can’t find him. Laura leaves the cafe she was sitting at with her friend and runs around the city to find him.”
The film follows Laura as she desperately races to find her husband, Brendan. She’s frantic and alone, yet her determination is unwavering. Her search leads her to places from their past, when their life and future together seemed perfect.
“The most important scene was when Brendan wanders around, having flashbacks of his wedding day,” Van Der Sluis explained. “Although these are happy memories, he’s still frustrated because he feels like he’s forgotten something, and therefore, [like he’s] losing something.”
Van Der Sluis’ score for the film is poignant and resonant. The music of “Day Off” perfectly echoes the deeply-nuanced emotions felt by Brendan and Laura. Her compositions tell the same story as the dialogue and images on-screen; they ring with lows every bit as devastating and highs just as euphoric as those of the film itself. Without uttering a single word, it was with “Day Off” that Van Der Sluis proved herself a master storyteller.
“It starts off delicately with a lone piano, which gradually increases in size with strings, winds, and rhythm section. It begins with a sparse, minimal texture and evolves into a more orchestrated, thick texture, which constantly repeats itself,” she explained, before revealing just how meticulously she considered every detail of the piece. “The act of repetition is a little ironic, due to portraying a character who is having trouble remembering certain life moments. But because one of his important memories is still there, his wedding, the repetitive music pieces seems to work.”
Every note of every piece she’s written has been guided by her philosophy that cinema is at its most powerful when the two are weaved together. Her adherence to that guiding tenet, together with her unrivaled skill, earned her quite a bit of attention for “Day Off,” including a nomination for the Best Score award by the Underground Film Festival.
The full breadth of Samantha Van Der Sluis’ work is staggering, yet each of her projects is linked by a common thread. Regardless of how different any two films may be, Van Der Sluis’ defining quality as a composer is her ability to visualize a project from the perspective of a storyteller. That skill, together with a meticulous attention to detail and a virtuosic understanding of music on an instinctual level, are what make Samantha Van Der Sluis an unrivaled composer in modern narrative cinema.
Despite always having a love for writing, Aahana Pereira never expected in her youth that her passion would translate into advertising. In junior college, she was studying science and math, but she hated it. She quickly switched to Mass Media, not because of an interest in communications, but simply because it would mean she no longer had to take math. However, those three years changed her life. The more she learned about advertising, the more she knew she would be happy in the field. She would watch old advertisements from all over the world, read long copy print ads and learned a great deal about famous copywriters. She wanted to be like them. Combining her interests in writing and advertising, Pereira decided to pursue a career in copywriting, and has never looked back.
“On most days as a copywriter I follow a brief and write copy with as many options I have time for. It is not every day that we get an exciting brief or a project, so day to day is, so to say, average. That being said, I still push to make average better. Most days we work on small budget campaigns, and I aim to make each and every campaign, whatever the size, achieve greatness and make something I am proud of. Then, once in a while, we do get a brief where we get to showcase our creativity at the highest level, and that is just plain fun,” said Pereira.
Throughout her esteemed career, Pereira has worked on many projects for prolific corporations known worldwide. She has travelled the world doing what she loves, and consistently finds unique approaches to promote a product. This is exemplified with her work on commercials for Palmolive, Colgate, IBN 7, and many more. The highlight of her career came when she was given the opportunity to work on the Drink Up campaign, an initiative by First Lady, Michelle Obama in partnership for a Healthier America that encourages people to drink more water. Most recently, she worked with Falcon Agency in Malaysia on several successful campaigns, impressing all she collaborated with.
“Aahana and I have worked on several projects since we first met in 2017 – Motul Rhythm, Meet the Sydneyporeans, just to name a few. I really enjoy working with Aahana as her ideas are strong and always on brief. I love the passion she has for her work,” said Liz Leow, Regional Account Director, Falcon Agency Malaysia.
Working on Motul Rhythm was a project that excited Pereira. It was one of the first projects she worked on at Falcon Agency as a solo copywriter. Motul, a company that produces high-performance motor oils and lubricants, is not typically associated with music, making the campaign extremely original. The idea was to hold an online contest across the Asia-Pacific area where anybody could submit their original music, made completely from the sounds of their motorcycles. They asked fans to create sounds and upload it to the Motul Rhythm website. The prize for the winners was a chance to co-produce their own music track with Asia’s most well-known DJs, such as Terence c, Idham and Flickswitch. The selected winners were also sent to the MOTO GP event held in Malaysia in 2017, and the music track mixed by the DJs was then launched at an event in Kuala Lumpur.
“I thought the idea was good. A brand like Motul, which is such a low involvement category, was getting its fans excited. The idea was true to the brand values that stands by performance. In this campaign, performance has dual application – performance of the lubricant and oils meets performance in music. It was a synergy,” said Pereira.
Although the idea of Motul Rhythm already existed before, Pereira and her team adapted it. The idea was to get audiences to participate in a competition, where they had to submit sounds from their bike and reputable DJs would take the best sounds and mix it into a music track especially for Motul. However, the challenge was to entice them in a way that would encourage motorbike fans. As a team, they concluded that the hook would be that participants would get a chance to co-produce the music track by submitting their audio clip. This was discussed over a period of discussions. However, Pereira had never worked on Motul before or even the oil and lubricant category, so this meant she had to do a lot of research to figure out just the right way to target consumers. She had a sense of the Asian market but wanted to find just the right way to reach bike enthusiasts. It was more than just making them aware of the competition, it was getting them to participate in it. With the help from the team in Singapore and support from the team in Malaysia, they managed to launch this campaign, and those lucky few consumers managed to have their dream come true by working with DJs to create a track.
Other than launching the Motul Rhythm microsite, Pereira’s team created Facebook advertisements and digital banners to get the word across. This was the first point of communication and a way to generate awareness. It was very important to write copy that would make people stop and click, not to mention character limits in digital ads. Pereira met the task with determination and commitment.
“This project was fun. It incorporated bikes and music. I loved working on it and it was amazing to hear what people could create with the sounds of their bikes,” she said.
The Motul Rhythm campaign is just one example of Pereira’s creativity and determination. She took a unique idea and targeted just the right audience. Such talent is required to be a success in her industry, and for those looking to follow in her footsteps, she offers some important advice.
“One, be persistent. Keep aiming for good work even if they are not the big budget briefs.
Two, watch films, shows, read books that will expose you to different stories and styles of writing. You never know what will inspire you. Three, have a voice in your team. No matter what your title is, say something,” she advised.
From the time Hui Cao was just a baby, he would listen to his mother sing. As he grew, he began to sing with her, and his innate musical talents were evident even then. He could easily identify each note, and without any lessons, he effortlessly would carry a tune. The same occurred when he first lifted a violin; it felt like he was meant to play the instrument and has been doing so since he was a child. Now, he is one of China’s most prolific violinists.
With an impressive resume both playing and teaching, Cao’s career as a violinist has been extraordinary. He aims to share musical culture with both his admirers and his students. In 2013, he began teaching violin classes at Pooi To Middle School in Macau, a city on China’s South Coast. The popularity of the instrument rose dramatically when he was there, having such a celebrated musician teaching. He is currently practicing for the 2018 Music String Festival in Zhuhai Jinwan, a large festival in China. Not only will Cao be a soloist at the event, but he is also responsible for inviting other violinists to partake in a masterclass that he will then conduct.
“I feel like I can’t live without music. I like to play the violin to audiences and enjoy every moment,” he said.
Cao’s influence in Zhuhai Jinwan began in 2015 when he started playing in the Zhuhai Jinwan Chamber Orchestra. Founded only the year beforehand, Cao was instrumental to making it the success it is today. He was hired as the music director and concertmaster, in charge of every musician in the orchestra. During the three years that Cao has been leading the orchestra, they have played over 30 charity concerts and educated over 60,000 people in music.
“We love to perform right in the community, whether that be in schools or small businesses. It brings lots of fun and music to the local people, and playing for charity is always a good thing. I think, as a musician, you play music that will hopefully help some people in this world. That is a wonderful thing, which is why I think performing for charity is so very important,” said Cao.
When Cao was invited to take part in the orchestra, it was still very new. He was immediately interested, wanting to help spread the joy of music whenever possible, and he felt Zhuhai Jinwan was the ideal location to do so. It is a relatively new city, and therefore music and the arts were not as developed as many other cities in the region. The local government wanted to change this, and therefore created the orchestra as a non-profit organization.
“People who lived in Zhuhai Jinwan did not have the opportunity to experience good, classical music the way that so many others do in the larger Chinese cities. I wanted to be the person to help change that,” said Cao.
After getting in touch with the sponsors, Cao began working immediately. He started with finding musicians for the orchestra and followed by choosing the perfect music. He wanted to select pieces that would excite the locals and allow them to appreciate classical music. When recruiting players for the orchestra, he reached out to the residents of the city, allowing them to get excited at the prospect of the first chamber orchestra in Zhuhai Jinwan.
“We are very honored to have Hui as our music director for the chamber orchestra. He is a talented musician and gives us a lot of support. The first day we met Hui we knew he could help us build this chamber group to a great success,” said Mok Ian Ian, Director of Zhuhai Jinwan Cultural Affairs Bureau.
Once Cao filled every spot on the orchestra, they started rehearsing twice a week. He helped the players practice, teaching them how to perform and offering insight from his many professional experiences. Most of the musicians were not trained, and it was Cao’s responsibility to do so. Under his direction, the entire orchestra went from many individual musicians to one entity, playing seamlessly. He also supported the guest conductor during rehearsals while still planning the music for each performance.
“I really admire the local musicians and their love of music. It was my job to help them become better players and make sure they improved, but you can’t teach passion. Directing these musicians was easy because of how much they enjoyed what they were doing,” said Cao. “I am also very thankful to the government and all the support we received from them. It was the people I worked with that made this such a special project. Everyone wanted to bring music to the community.”
Cao and the orchestra held their opening concert at the Zhuhai City Hall in 2015. It was extremely successful, and from there, they have continued to be recognized and praised by all sectors of society. Now, just a couple of years later, the orchestra is seen as a prestigious group of musicians.
“After three years of work, I saw the Zhuhai Jinwan chamber orchestra get more popular and professional. I am very happy, it has been like watching my kids grow up. I put lots of my time and energy into the group, and the results more than paid off,” he said.
Evidently, Cao is an incredible musician and director. What he accomplished with the Zhuhai Jinwan Chamber Orchestra is just one example of what this talented violinist is capable of. He truly loves what he does, and for those looking to follow in his footsteps, he says that is of the most vital importance.
“As a musician, I have only one piece of advice to those who are looking to pursue a career in music, and that is to love the music and enjoy the music. Music is always a great and interesting hobby, but if someone wants to become a professional musician, the path is very difficult. You have to persist and practice and remain focused on your goal every step of the way. That is why passion is key. If you do not have this, you will never be a true musician,” he concluded.
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.
When Digital Writer and Content Producer, Ashley Bruzas, looks back on her life, she cannot ever remember a time where writing was not a main component of her deepest inner passions. As a child, she recalls her mother and father encouraging her to send hand written letters to her family members, praising her for her adept ability to articulate and for the way in which she used her extensive vocabulary to express herself in an interesting way. From then on, she made a personal point of ensuring that she made full use of the resources within her reach to be able to establish well-rounded, educated points of view. For Bruzas, it was always important to embrace the historical, cultural, and personal differences of the world around her and to celebrate these variations through the stories she tells.
“I have always had a passion for writing and I have been able to use my writing and journalism background to assist me with a number of different positions that have required my skills as a writer and digital content producer. Of course, digital writing involves writing content such as news stories, editorials, opinion pieces, blogs, etc., that are published in a digital environment and that can be accessed through digital devices and online platforms that require the internet to be searched, shared, commented on, and more. It is essentially the same as a content producer; however, you are working alongside others to bring life to new ideas and create unique content that is ultimately shared across different mediums,” stated Bruzas.
One of the most essential qualities that Bruzas has developed thus far in her career is her ability to maximize her versatility at all times, be that through her skill set, her range of job opportunities, her collaboration with influential brands, and more. In fact, her versatility is undoubtably the reason that she has successfully branched out into various inherently different, yet interrelated fields. For instance, throughout her career, Bruzas has utilized her journalism skills and techniques to work for the Toronto Observer in both a print and digital fashion. In addition, she uses her online presence to obtain viewership on her prosperous lifestyle blog, WhoIsVeronika.com, as well as to earn a substantial following on other various social media platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat. When Bruzas sets her mind on something, she stops just short of nothing to not only achieve it, but to do so while exceeding all expectations of those around her. This is why, earlier on in 2017, she managed to earn herself a position working at CIUT 89.5FM, writing on air announcements, station advertisements, organizing shows, and running the control board, as well as organizing large-scale initiatives such as Canadian Music Week 2017.
For Bruzas, working at CIUT 89.5FM meant so much more than expanding upon her skill set in the field of radio journalism. It was an opportunity to explore one of the oldest forms of journalism, whilst excelling in her area of expertise: connecting with niche audiences and sharing information on a digital platform that requires elements of content production. Her in-depth understanding of how to interact through the use of social media allowed her to help CIUT 89.5FM reach audiences in ways they hadn’t ever imagined before she came on board. This, paired with her dexterity as a journalist lead to her leaving a lasting mark on the station and its counterparts. They were fortunate to have such an accomplished member on board and shared in the sentiments that she has received from previous co-workers throughout her professional career in terms of applauding her versatility and commending her unprecedented work ethic. Imad Elsheikh, for instance, who has worked with Bruzas on a number of occasions through creative agency, PIQUE, and highly esteemed brand, MooseKnuckles, celebrates her versatility and similar to those who worked with Bruzas at CIUT 89.5FM, found her to be instrumental to the success of the initiatives she shared her expertise on.
“The best word to describe Ashley would be versatile. She is able to integrate many skills, like pitching ideas, writing, interviewing, working with people, understanding target demographics and creating a final product that combines all of the elements that are needed to create original content that can be shared. She has appeared both in front of and behind the camera and delivers on her work promptly, working around the clock and with others to make sure there is a common objective for everyone on board. I have yet to work with Ashley on a project that was not well received and imitated by others in the realm of social media and content/writing,” noted Elsheikh.
Working at CIUT 98.5FM meant writing content for a terrestrial range of more than 8 million people. Bruzas, with a personal following of over 85,000 people, was the ideal candidate for the job due to her understanding of interacting with and appealing to a large audience. She went above and beyond the call of duty in order to introduce new artists, segments, stories, and news happening in Toronto that would be relevant to the station’s target audience, and demographic that she had a strong foundational understanding about from her previous work history. She is a natural-born connector and has a profound ability to inspire others to join in her efforts to celebrate the undiscovered talents and skill sets of individuals all over the globe. When she worked on the Canadian Music Week 2017 project, in particular, she took great pride in increasing awareness of the station and bringing together artists and listeners who would find value in experiencing the programs she created. In the process, she was thrilled to be able to brush up upon her skills as an interviewer, communicator, writer, radio host, editor, and content producer.
In all, working for CIUT 98.5FM and coordinating top projects like their Canadian Music Week 2017 helped reinforce the fact that Bruzas is equipped with a rare skill set and one which she maximizes the use of on a continual basis. She takes great pride in knowing that she helps to inform and inspire through the content that she generates and she hopes to be able to continue to do so for the remainder of her career. In the long term, she endeavors to use her platform as a journalist and a digital writer to give a voice to the voiceless in our society and raise awareness about uncovered issues across the globe. In the meantime, she continues to build her online presence and tell compelling stories to all that will listen. Check out her blog for a better idea: WhoIsVeronika.com.
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.
“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
Rafael Alves has always known music was his passion. Even when he was just a child, the beat of a song was more captivating to him than a fairy tale. At a young age, he began playing piano, knowing that he was destined to create music in his future. Now, that is exactly what he is doing. Known as Lhast in his home country of Portugal and around the world, he is one of his country’s most in demand music producers.
Throughout his esteemed career, Lhast has worked on several chart-topping songs. His work on Diogo Picarra’s hit song “Historia” received a gold record for its sales, and the song itself has over seven million views on YouTube alone. A similar pattern followed on the songs “Tarzan” by Regula and “As Coisas” by Valas, who was actually nominated for Best New Artist at the New Era Awards because of the success of the song. Many thanks Lhast’s producing skills on their success. The artist Dillaz, who worked with Lhast on the popular song “Arena” believes that the producer is one of a kind.
“Besides the great knowledge and technical ability Rafael has, working with him is a very freeing process, where creativity is encouraged to the max. I feel he brings out the best in me and encourages me to try some things that wouldn’t be a part of my normal process. Besides that, the communication is always very open and I feel we can address any issue very easily with no major complication,” said Dillaz. “I think he’s knowledgeable about the whole song making process, and has a sense of simplicity and open mindedness in the song making process that make him a few steps ahead of the rest. Also, he seems to find the compositions that fit not only me, but many artists. I think he can tune his vibe to the artist he’s working with, and that makes him very versatile.”
Despite all of the aforementioned success, the highlight of Lhast’s formidable career was working on the song “Do You No Wrong” by Richie Campbell. Initially, he just wanted to work on the song as an opportunity to work with Richie Campbell, but he did not expect the vast success that would come from the collaboration.
Since its release on May 4 of last year, “Do You No Wrong” received a Platinum Record Award for over 15,000. It was nominated for a Portuguese Golden Globe and was performed at the award ceremony earlier this year. It still plays on the radio frequently in Portugal, and Lhast never gets tired of hearing it.
“I felt great the first time I heard it on the radio. It was amazing to hear it there. I’ve had songs play there before but this one played was different. It felt really good that a lot of people were enjoying hearing my music,” said Lhast.
The song was an idea of Lhast, who had already created the instrumental for the track with Campbell in mind. The two have known each other for many years but had never collaborated. Lhast is known for his work in hip hop and R&B, whereas Campbell is more of a reggae singer. Initially, working together with such different styles never occurred to them. However, when Lhast created the music for what he wanted to be a love song, he thought of Campbell. Campbell immediately became captivated by Lhast’s work, and wrote all of the lyrics in a short time. Once this was done, the two started to work together on the arrangement and technical aspects, wanting to make the best possible track. They even discussed how the song would be released and how they would make the video.
After finally having the opportunity to work with his friends after many years, everyone made the most of it. The success of the song was just the cherry on top to a great experience for Lhast. They were all able to work together seamlessly. The understood each other’s experience and valued their input. Working on the song was a relaxing project and a good time. Overall, for the music producer, the song meant a lot more than just a simple project. It changed all of their lives, especially his.
“This song was really an amazing moment. Everyone seems to love the song; kids love it, my mother loves it, all my family enjoyed the song and that was a really good moment for me. I have always done music that people in my age group related to, but to have a song touch so many people in different spectrum was really just amazing,” he said.
Needless to say, without Lhast’s producing talents “Do You No Wrong” could never have achieved what it did. The track was his idea, with his instrumental being the basic concept. Without him, there would be no song at all.
Now, the producer is working on many more tracks that will appeal to all ages. Listeners not just in Portugal have the opportunity to listen to his sound, and it is highly encouraged. He is truly one of the best, and any looking to follow in his footsteps should know that it is not only talent, but hard work that makes him extraordinary.
“You have to enjoy the process. Work every day, and have people around you that are in the same mindset, and if possible, in the same area. Understand everything takes time, but you should learn to cherish the small victories, they will keep you going. I think a lot of producers feel they need to work towards a big break, but I think you’re always working for small breaks and that’s what keeps you moving. Once you get to that one ‘big break’ it won’t look so big because you know the work you have put to it, so it’s just another reward for your consistency,” he concluded.
William Shakespeare once said, “when words fail, music speaks.” It is a universal language with the power to change lives, to evoke emotion, and to allow human beings to connect with each other on the deepest level. For renowned composer, Min He, it is a language she speaks fluently. She is one with her music and her compositions are profound. When audiences listen to He’s work, they hear far more than an arrangement of notes and chords. They hear her passion, her expertise, and her extraordinary ability to connect the world through her music.
“I love composing because I like being creative. I have so many things to say to this world, whether it’s my feelings, my thoughts, or my imaginations. For me, being a composer is an opportunity to capture my emotions, to write them down, and then to share them with my audiences. It is a bridge that connects me with the world and it is the most wonderful form of communication that I can think of,” tells He.
Through He’s unwavering desire to compose, she has built a career unlike most. The award-winning composer has acquired experience from a variety of different projects and she is well versed in studying a script and determining how best to bring it to life with her music. Whether she’s scoring or orchestrating, she has an unprecedented affinity for creating unique sound arrangements and she is an invaluable member of any team she works with. She has a vast amount of experience, composing for films like Princess Eun Hwa, Sanjiang Dream, and Jin Zhi Xi Yan (No Smoking).
One of the many things that sets He above her competition is her diverse understanding of the art of music and her willingness to experiment composing for different genres and mediums wherever possible. For instance, in 2014, He was approached by game designer Zi Li about composing for the video game, Dissonance, and due to her love for video games and her passion to expand her knowledge in the arts and entertainment industry, He eagerly accepted. The success she earned from Dissonance, however, was the reason she was later approached by designer Jack Cai about lending her talents to his game Pursuit of Light 2 in 2015. Cai had heard of He’s reputation, sampled her work in Dissonance, and knew that he needed He to take his game to the next level.
When He composes for a video game, she begins by speaking with the game designer about the type of feel that he or she hopes to communicate in the game. She then requests a cue sheet with the designer’s vision for each piece. This is where He’s magic begins. She carefully and considerately reads through the designer’s ideas and determines how best to translate these ideas into scored scenes. Once she has developed her composition, she vigorously edits through it to ensure that presents the designer with nothing but the highest quality composition. She then allows the designer to review and make any changes necessary.
Due to the fact that He has such a vast understanding of her profession and an unparalleled creative edge, she is often trusted with taking full creative authority over the process. In rare cases, where designers are skeptical about stepping outside of their comfort zones, He uses her professionalism and work ethic to communicate their options and to make sure that they are getting the best result for their project. For instance, when He worked with Li on Dissonance, she was asked to write dark and depressing music to keep with the mood of the game’s storyline. He, knowing Li’s vision for the game, was certain that there was some leeway to dive deeper into the player’s emotions and create a more dynamic score. When she suggested adding elements of hope and brightness to the composition, Li was hesitant. He proactively decided to craft two separate pieces, one keeping with Li’s vision and one demonstrating He’s ideas. Upon reviewing the two compositions, Li realized that He was right and loved the result.
“Working with Min was a wonderful journey. She has phenomenal ideas when it comes to making music and more importantly, her sound is unique and she is innovative beyond measure. On top of that, she is so gifted and hard working. Her love for video games also helps to make her music fit with the game. She just knows what will work best for the project at hand and I am glad I was able to work with her,” states Li.
He becomes instrumental to any project she works on and is often showered with praise and recognition for her efforts. She has received a number of awards for her work. Dissonance, for instance, won the Indie Prize for Best Innovative Game 2015 and The Experimental Game Showcase at the Out of Index Festival. Pursuit of Light 2, on the other hand, won the CGWR SINA Award for Best Indie Mobile Game of the Year. For He, receiving recognition for her work is fulfilling, but the true joy of her job comes when she hears what her audience or the players of her video games have to say about her work.
“One of the greatest joys about my career lies in the way that people receive my music. They truly love it and they actively look to hear more. After Pursuit of Light 2 was released, I saw reviews from players left on the Apple Store and they were all talking about my music, saying how beautiful and enjoyable it was. In that moment, when I was reading those reviews from absolute strangers, I felt truly loved and it was the highlight of my career,” He recalls.
In future, He hopes to continue creating beautiful compositions to share with the world. Professionally, she aims to work with more talented and prestigious movie and television directors, as well as game designers. Personally, she is bursting at the seams with inspiration to compose even greater works than she has already created. For He, composing is more than a job. It is her creative outlet and she is always ready to try something new.
Everything you ever wanted to know about Hollywood's who's-who.