Monthly Archives: July 2021

Krista

ACTOR KRISTA BARZSO PRODUCES AN EMOTIONAL & VERY PERSONAL FILM “PERSISTENCE” BASED ON HER OWN SCRIPT

Some time ago, I had one of those great phone conversations with local actor, KRISTA BARZSO, talking about how I might be able to help her career, how a publicity and promo campaign could support her and hints of her upcoming project – her debut as producer and screenwriter of “Persistence”, a short film based on her own personal experiences. Krista’s passion and enthusiasm intrigued me and to borrow from another film…she had me at “hello”!

Skip ahead to just a few weeks ago when I again heard her voice on the phone, this time even more excited and focused – her film was ready to roll and she had just launched an IndieGoGo fundraising campaign in order to underwrite the pending production costs. So I hope you enjoy this virtual meet-n-greet with Krista and if you would like to offer this exciting emerging Canadian filmmaker a hand-up, here’s the link where you can donate to her film’s budget: https://bit.ly/2VgcqtW

Persistence is a story about what happens when romantic intentions cross over into stalking. The film explores what happens when trusts are broken but laws aren’t, and just how much damage can be done to someone’s life in that space between.

You’ve acted for many years on stage, screen and tv – what has inspired you to now write and produce?  I love acting and the exploration of the characters that you get to bring to life, but I wanted to try writing to get to explore another aspect of storytelling that would allow me to create my own story completely from the ground-up, and producing has allowed me to get to see this project all the way through from concept to fruition.

You have an exciting new film project titled “Persistence” that you’ve written and considering the subject matter (possessiveness, stalking, emotional control) I have to ask…have you experienced this in real life? 

You’ve assembled a great cast and crew, and are now going thru the funding process – apart from securing financial support, I bet you’re all looking forward to working after the long pandemic lockdown and quarantine period – what did you do during the lockdown?  I am always looking forward to getting back on set! But you’re right, that feeling is definitely amplified after going through such a long lockdown period.  I was really lucky and did have the opportunity to work on a few projects even during quarantine, but for the rest of the time my main focus was on finding ways to constantly be growing my skills. It was really important to me to know that I was going to come out of lockdown with more tools in my toolbox than when it began.

One of the plus sides to all of this is that a lot of acting teachers/schools around the world, found ways to work in a digital space. This has opened opportunities to train with companies around the world that I might not have had access to before. I signed on with an acting coach Neil Schell who has been working with me all the way from Kenya to hone my auditioning skills and career trajectory, and I’ve been training my improv skills with the renowned Groundlings School in LA. in addition to writing and producing my first screenplay, of course!

You’ve enjoyed much success with previous short films on the festival circuit – with Persistence, do you have plans to submit to Canadian and int’l festivals or do you want to secure immediate showcasing opportunities on one of the many online platforms?

You’ve become quite the expert in stage combat, weaponry and screen fight & martial arts skills – are you aiming to become the next superhero like Black Widow or any of the Marvel/DC Comics super heroes? Please share some of your training stories. I would love that so much! It is definitely a dream of mine. I love portraying intense, complicated, bad-ass women and a lot of those stories involve some kind of physicality. The major action sequences often come at critical points in the story, so it is important to me to be able to do those scenes justice so that it is believable that my character is actually going through the turmoil that you are seeing on screen.behind the scenes as an Archer in an undisclosed TV pilotI originally started this training so that I would have a better handle on how to approach these scenes safely and ended up completely falling in love with the art form; it’s like really violent dancing. I still have so much to learn, but I have had so much fun in the past training how to work safely with various weapon systems for stage and screen at Rapier Wit. One of my favourites was found weapon, where you take everyday objects and try to turn them into weapons in a fight sequence.
Obviously in-person training has been difficult during quarantine, but I was lucky enough to find Taz Garcia who is an amazing actor/director and who has worked Jackie Chan and the Jackie Chan stunt team, and I have been doing some virtual Action for Film training with him. It’s a little tricky to find the space in my house and I think my family thinks I’m nuts sometimes with all the sound effects I make while training, but that is the price we pay!

Do you see your career continuing with a focus on acting or doing more writing and directing?

 Who has been your industry inspiration or who has helped you the most with your career aspirations?   There are so many people who have helped me and who continue to help me along the way. Teachers who have taught and encouraged me and colleagues who’s drive and ambition has inspired me. Most recently, my coach Neil Schell has pushed me to try things outside my comfort zone and has really helped me view my career and believe in my talents in a different way. He is also going to be directing my short next month. Here’s Krista in some of her many acting roles…BeFunky Collage (1)Any advice to others wanting to develop their directing and/or writing skills?  Do your research. Read lots of books, lots of screenplays, watch lots of movies, see the differences between the screenplay and the movie and how the director went about brining it to life – then stop doing research and just do it.  There is no magic book that is going to fully prepare you ahead of time. There is no teacher like experience, and you will learn more through the act of attempting it yourself than you ever will by just reading about it. Try it and get feedback from people who know what they are talking about, then try it again. You will learn a ton, and your next one will be better.

More about Krista:  Krista has had a passion for acting from a very young age. Over the years she has had the good fortune to work on a wide range of stage productions including The Liar, Stepping Out, Nana’s Naughty Knickers, There Goes the Bride, Glengarry Glen Ross, Love Virtually, and Les Miserables as well as some independent films such as Soul Mates, A Great Guy, Still Life, Signing Off and Grey Zone. Constantly striving to learn, Krista has studied at The Robyn Kay Studio, The Lighthouse, Rapier Wit and The Second City to name a few.

Again, here is the IndieGoGo campaign link so please help support the Canadian film industry by donating to Krista and her film production. Thank you.   https://bit.ly/2VgcqtW As Eden in Whitehorn's Love Virtually

Jewison cover

LEGENDARY HOLLYWOOD DIRECTOR NORMAN JEWISON GETS BIO TREATMENT FROM AUTHOR IRA WELLS

Last week, I was honoured to attend an online gathering of film critics, writers, film directors and industry insiders to hear author IRA WELLS discuss his new book NORMAN JEWISON: A DIRECTOR’S LIFE published by Sutherland House Books (Founded in 2017 by Canadian author and publishing executive Kenneth Whyte). As a long-time fan of the Canadian director’s films, this was a dream Zoom meeting! Ever since my first viewing of The Thomas Crown Affair starring the king of cool, Steve McQueen, and the gorgeous sophisticated Faye Dunaway, I was hooked on Jewison’s style and on-screen “rhythm” – that chess scene from Thomas Crown stands as one of the most erotic scenes ever committed to film…and they kept their clothes on!! From 1965 thru ’68 he served us some of the era’s (and film history’s) most iconic films: In the Heat of the Night presents southern racism in all its brutal ugliness and features that slap heard around the world, The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming is a hilarious look at how the cold war affects small town America, and McQueen’s earlier cinematic outing with Jewison, The Cincinnati Kid takes us into the shady but exciting world of high stakes poker. Fiddler on the Roof, The Hurricane, Moonstruck, F.I.S.T., Rollerball, Jesus Christ Superstar, A Soldier’s Story…going all the way back to the beloved Canadian tv series, The Wayne & Shuster Show, Jewison has delivered provocative, compassionate, engaging and hilarious content for his audiences to devour. This new book is now on my Christmas list for Santa…and the fat man better show up early with this present!th (6)About the man, the book and the author:

NORMAN JEWISON directed some of the most iconic and beloved films from the 60s through the 21st century, from In the Heat of the Night and The Thomas Crown Affair to Jesus Christ Superstar and Moonstruck. But despite being what his friend, award-winning screenwriter William Goldman called “a giant of the industry,” Jewison could also walk the streets of any city in the world and go unrecognized. Jewison was a man of contradictions: he cared more about telling great stories than gaining fame and fortune by showcasing movie stars, but generations of Hollywood’s marquee actors—Judy Garland, Sidney Poitier, Faye Dunaway, Al Pacino, Jane Fonda, Burt Reynolds, Goldie Hawn, Bruce Willis, Denzel Washington—trusted him at crucial moments in their careers. Yet, for all his talent and the passionate support of his actors, Jewison suffered heartbreaking rejection from the executives who refused to believe in his dreams.t crown heat of the night th (7)Norman Jewison: A Director’s Life is a story of artistic survival and reinvention, and about the fate of original cinematic ideas in an industry increasingly captive to corporate greed. Drawing upon exhaustive archival research and dozens of interviews, biographer IRA WELLS (pictured below) provides a soulful portrait of an idealist who had to fight for every frame of his legacy. Here are Norman’s legendary collaborators— Hal Ashby, William Rose, Steve McQueen, and more—brought to vivid life in original letters, telegrams, and revealing, unpublished interviews. A clear-eyed reassessment of Hollywood’s final golden age, Norman Jewison: A Director’s Life is both the intimate portrait of an artist and a rallying cry for anyone who has had to fight for their creative vision.Ira headshot (1)Author IRA WELLS is an assistant professor in English and Academic Programs at Victoria College in the University of Toronto. His writing has appeared in many publications, including The Guardian, The New Republic, The Walrus, Globe and Mail, Los Angeles Review of Books, and American Quarterly.  Advance reviews and kudos are pouring in for Ira’s book….

“Renowned filmmaker Norman Jewison is a contradiction in terms: one of the great purveyors of classical Hollywood storytelling and an outsider at the same time. Finally, with Ira Wells’s rewarding biography, Jewison receives the attention he richly deserves. Wells’ vibrant, well-written chronicle is one of those indispensable film books that illuminates the times and life of one of film’s major practitioners.”Michael Barker, Co-President and Co-Founder, Sony Pictures Classics

“This is a terrific book and a fun read. Norman Jewison directed some of the most enjoyable films of our time. I thank Norman for his films and applaud Ira Wells for capturing both Norman’s legendary feistiness and his great generosity of spirit, both of which I experienced first-hand.”Joe Eszterhas, writer of Basic Instinct, Showgirls, and Hollywood Animal

“Ira Wells, wonderful storyteller and master stylist, takes us to the movies, then behind the scenes, then beyond, bringing new life to films and stars we thought we knew.  This is a book you will never want to put down.”David Yaffe, author of Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell th (2) th (3) th (5)NORMAN JEWISON: A DIRECTOR’S LIFE
ISBN [hardcover]: 978-1-989555-38-5
Price: $28.95 USD / $34.95 CAD
Page count: 490
Available NOW from Amazon and in-stores or direct from the publisher: https://sutherlandhousebooks.square.site/product/norman-jewison/61?cs=true&cst=customth (4)

 

Divine Tides - Album cover

GRAMMY® WINNER RICKY KEJ & ROCK LEGEND STEWART COPELAND RELEASE STUNNING “DIVINE TIDES” ALBUM

A few years ago, my recording client, Ron Korb, Canada’s Grammy-nominated flautist and composer, turned me onto the music of RICKY KEJ (pictured below), the prolific American-born Indian composer and recording artist, with whom Ron had collaborated on a number of recent tracks.Grammy® Award-winner Ricky KejNot only was I blown away by the sublime beauty of Ricky’s music but also the exquisite music videos he produces, and his compassion and dedication to the environment. When I heard about Ricky’s latest album, DIVINE TIDES, a collaboration with the legendary drummer from super-group The Police, STEWART COPELAND, I knew I had to reach out personally and have a chat with Ricky.Grammy® Award-winner Stewart CopelandFirst, who is Ricky Kej? He was born into a family of doctors in North Carolina, USA. After his family moved to Bangalore India, Ricky studied at the prestigious Bishop Cotton Boys’ School where his passion for music developed. He started playing keyboard and guitar for various rock bands in India but after high school, he chose to pursue his education in the field of dentistry to please his parents. Five years later in 2005, he graduated as a dental surgeon but ironically, he did not practice dentistry for even a day after he was awarded his degree. Ricky started producing jingles for television and radio, and in a span of four years he had produced over 1,000 jingles for various clients like Levi jeans, Air India, Blaupunkt, IBM, Toyota, Nike, etc.

Ricky released his first lounge album Communicative Art – Lounge from the Bay in 2003 to rave reviews, becoming a commercial success in the “lounge” category. Songs from this album have found their way into over 20 international compilations, and his second album Kamasutra Lounge released in 2007 featured Indian musical legends such as Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma, Ulhas Bhapat, Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia, Pt. Ajay Pohankar, etc. This, too, was a critical and commercial success, being released in the United States under the ‘Water Music Records’ label.  That same year, Ricky took on the project of composition for the film Accident where he directed the music for 6 songs and background score. Since then, he’s composed and scored for several shorts and documentaries and produced numerous music videos in both long and short form. He’s released 20 albums and has been featured in two dozen compilations. So let’s hear from the master himself about his life, his career and DIVINE TIDES…..

When/how young were you when you realized you loved music and had the gift to compose and play?  Ever since I remember, I have always been in love with music. Even as a child, my ears have always been more important than my eyes. While most of my classmates in school were fascinated by television and cartoons, I was hooked to my music system. I would dissect songs I heard to try and figure out the instruments used, the musicians playing those instruments, and I would learn about different cultures and people through music. I was also passionate about the environment. It was through my music that I fell in love with our natural world and I have always found a deep connection between music and nature. I have no idea why, but we had a baby grand piano at home, and a guitar. So I started off by trying to make music on those instruments. Much later as an adult, after I already embarked on a thriving professional musical career, I took a formal education in music to avoid what I perceived could be a handicap in future.grammyWho were your musical and spiritual inspirations when you started your career in entertainment and musical healing for the planet?  I have loved the styles of Pandit Ravi Shankar, Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and AR Rahman because they have never let genre boundaries define them. All that they did was make music that they strongly believed in and collaborated with some of the best musicians and individuals across the globe. The world was/is their musical canvas. After I won the Grammy Award in 2015, I decided to dedicate my life and music towards creating environmental consciousness through my art and there has been no looking back. Although my music is global, it is strongly rooted in India. I am a huge fan of various Indian art forms and I have always been inspired by ancient Sanskrit phrases and traditional Indian music. The ancient Indian texts were filled with musical verses and those verses spoke about co-existence and environmental consciousness.snskritHow has Covid impacted your ability to reach your fans – have you performed concerts or presentations online during the world’s lockdown?  I miss performing my music to a live audience. Live concerts allow me to connect and interact directly with my audience and to ensure that they leave my concerts with a renewed love for our planet and hope. It is always an amazing feeling to look at an audience and realise that I have succeeded in emotionally connecting with them through my music. The pandemic has hit the entertainment industry very hard. The music industry is extremely dynamic and different professionals in the industry rely on each other. Performing artists, production companies, event management companies, sound engineers, recording studios and everyone else involved is stuck in limbo at the moment especially here in India. I performed multiple virtual concerts over the course of this pandemic with my last three online concerts watched by an estimated 200 million viewers from around the world. It is all about adapting to the times and our surroundings, because no matter what pandemic hits us, music will never leave our lives.

This creative collaboration with Stewart Copeland has produced a unique series of recordings and videos, with an innovative release of single tracks and accompanying videos from now until September. How did you come up with this concept?  I had been working on a follow-up to my Grammy® winning album ‘Winds of Samsara’ and had catalogued some of my favourite ideas. Recordings were delayed because of my relentless touring schedule and when the pandemic hit, it presented an opportunity for me to spend time in my studio and kick-start this project again. I reached out to Stewart and was thrilled when he said yes to making this album with me. I have always relied on technology for all of my recordings and Stewart, too, is high on technology and has one of the most amazing home studios. That helped us record seamlessly during the pandemic. Stewart and I recorded our portions individually and it all came together superbly. Despite the pandemic, we are thrilled to have created an album that celebrates life and will create a wave of much-needed positivity in our audiences.Grammy® Winner Stewart CopelandStewart Copeland has always been my musical hero, and I have been a life-long fan. Working with him was like attending the best masterclass imaginable. Stewart is not just the Founder and drummer of one of the biggest-selling bands in history ‘The Police’, he also regularly composes for operas, orchestras, and for over 50 Hollywood movies including the Oscar-winning ‘Wall Street’. Despite reaching the pinnacle of success, he is constantly evolving and learning by exploring new sounds, traditional music instruments and rhythms. We constantly threw ideas at each other, adapted sounds and crafted this album together, piece by piece. All of the songs have strong Indian roots with a fusion of the west and the entire album celebrates the magnificence of our natural world and the resilience of our species.

“One day during the Apocalypse I got a call from Ricky Kej about making an album. He had assembled an amazing collection of exotic musicians, or perhaps I should say deeply traditional musicians, in the exotic context of his inspired production style. The flow of ideas soon became a torrent of recording and music. The spiritual ambience (not something that I’m generally known for) infused my aggressions upon inanimate objects with loving passion. The timpani were ringing! The crotales were singing! Making this record has been a unique adventure in both music and divine awareness.”  Stewart Copeland

“I had been working on a follow-up to the Grammy® winning album “Winds of Samsara” and had cataloged some of my favorite melodies. Recordings were delayed because of a relentless touring schedule, but then the 2020 pandemic hit. Strict lockdowns presented an opportunity to spend more time in the studio. In 2016 I was privileged and honored to collaborate on a song with Stewart Copeland. With the support of industry veterans Ralph Simon and Tarquin Gotch I mustered up the courage to ask him to collaborate with me yet again, this time on a complete album. What followed was one of the best and most fulfilling personal and musical experiences I could have ever asked for. Working with Stewart was like attending one of the best masterclasses imaginable. Stewart is not only a living legend, but an extremely humble human being, filled with positive energy, that pushed us to deliver our very best for “Divine Tides.” – Ricky Kej

Have you made plans for touring once the world is safe for musicians and audiences?  It is hard to make any concrete plans right now since the situation around the world is extremely unpredictable due to lockdowns, suspension of flights, border controls etc. and of course, with the virus constantly mutating. Touring is definitely on my mind but, I guess, for the next few months I am going to work on promoting Divine Tides and try and get as many people to listen to it. Since I have worked so hard on the music, poured my heart and soul into it, I feel I owe it to the music to ensure as many people around the world enjoy it.Grammy® Winner Ricky KejThank you so much for sharing your thoughts, Ricky. And if you would like to learn more about this amazing and much-respected World music artist, please visit his website at: www.rickykej.comDL JCDivine Tides will have a unique launch format: every song will feature an accompanying music video, released from July 7th until September 28th, 2021, as both Ricky and Stewart feel that all of the tracks deserve their moment in the sun. The complete album will be made available on all audio streaming platforms as of July 21st. You can follow the release schedule on this dedicated website:  www.divinetidesmusic.com