Just as the Toronto Int’l Film Festival (TIFF) closes, the 5th annual Canadian Int’l Faith & Family Film Festival opens! My dear film industry friends BRIAN KAULBACK (CIFF Ambassador and member of judging panel) and festival Co-Founder & Exec. Director JASON BARBECK invited me down the the exclusive Hotel X on Toronto’s waterfront today to talk about this unique family and faith-focused festival that runs online for an entire month, and features films, shorts, documentaries, even animated films that are suitable for ALL the family. Jason graciously offered to share information about CIFF with me via a series of video chats so I encourage you to click on and learn about the cool content and activities at this year’s festival.
Every year, the CIFF Film Festival exhibits and celebrates the most outstanding faith and family content produced from every part of the world. Films are selected and nominated by a panel of judges on the basis of content, quality and originality. CIFF is one of the fastest growing segments of the international film festival markets, and the only one of its kind in Canada. Film lovers, industry professionals and media outlets will celebrate the best in new faith and family cinema from established and emerging filmmakers and talent. This year, CIFF will be showing films from 22 countries around the world via their website: www.cifflix.com Get your online passes there NOW. The festival runs until mid-October so you can catch all the films as well as tonight’s Awards Gala from the comfort of your home.
And there will be lots of celebrities and stars in virtual attendance, too….
CIFF Film Fest welcomes submissions from filmmakers around the world so come on all my Aussie movie making mates…here’s how YOU can submit your latest production and access a growing audience of film lovers who appreciate inspiring, family-oriented and faith-based content……
I encourage you to visit the festival’s official website: www.cifflix.com or follow them on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram.
Late last year, I attended online screenings and director/cast discussions of Australian films that were part of the annual NAIDOC (National Aboriginal and Islanders Day Observance Committee) Week that shines a spotlight on Indigenous Australian culture and communities, as well as history and arts. One exciting indie film I was eager to see was The Flood which, based on so many sad facts, tells the story of post-WWII Australia and how the white population mistreated and abused the native population of this distant outpost of British colonial power. There were so many fantastic performances but one (or should I say two) stood out – that of DEAN KYRWOOD (pictured below on set), a stunningly handsome actor who reveled in his dual roles of portraying twins – one brutal and sadistic, the other a weakly coward. After the online screening held in the wee small hours here in Toronto (we’re about 12-14hrs behind Australia), I asked a few questions and then connected directly with director Victoria Wharfe McIntyre for a blog interview. Through her, I connected with Dean whose work I’ve followed ever since. I reached out to Dean to share his acting journey with my readers, just in time for TIFF (Toronto Int’l Film Festival) which opened a few days ago. With the lack of glamourous galas, swanky industry soirees and public red carpets this year due to Covid restrictions, here’s a great way to celebrate film – sharing stories from the sets and learning about actors from around the world.
Dean, not only are you an actor but also an accomplished musician & singer, a fashion & photographic model, and more recently you’ve been doing a lot of weight training and building your body to super hero status. Do you consider yourself a driven person? First and foremost, I consider myself an actor and a musician, and the modelling thing (I’m showing my age) I retired from a couple of decades ago. I consider myself very driven and tenacious and have always been drawn to the arts. Every time I have ventured into one arena I’m told a lot of “no’s” and I’m fueled by these “no’s”. “You’re too short to be a model” (I’m 6ft tall) I’ve had singing booking agents tell me in the beginning “You’ll only ever be able to do this part time” (I’ve been living off full time singing for close to 20 years). In acting you’re constantly told no but you have to (like Arnold Schwarzenegger says) ignore the naysayers. It only takes a few “believers” to champion you for you to succeed along with hard work and I have a mental list of naysayers in my mind that I look forward to saying “I told you so” to when they’re suddenly supporters of mine. I’m not naturally talented at much, but I’ll outwork anyone!Starting out as a model, you shot print ads and promo images – how did that help build your confidence and comfort in front of cameras? Being a painfully shy kid, it certainly did help build my confidence and it was a necessary baby step towards me going into singing/playing in front of large crowds and, in turn, performing for years as a musician also became a necessary step in the scheme of things for me to feel confident enough to embrace and take the plunge of being in front of people as an actor.
I gather you were a popular musician in and around Newcastle, playing the best venues and at corporate functions – were you torn between pursuing music and acting or did you already have a plan to move into film and television? These days I mostly perform in and around Newcastle, but also did long stints in Sydney and Melbourne. No, to be honest I’ve never been torn between the two. I mostly play cover songs these days (with some of my own thrown in) but I don’t have the fire in my belly to “make it” as a musician that I had in my 20’s/30’s. That fire has been very much directed at my acting career and it’s my main focus, but I feel equally gratified in the doing of both.
You and I first met (online) when you starred in last year’s hit feature film The Flood where you played dual roles critical to the story line – you portrayed twins, one of whom was extremely cruel. How did you find the humanity in such a character and how easy was it to slip between the two brothers in different scenes? It was lovely to meet you!! I really appreciate all your support. It was certainly challenging in a good way to play twins who are both very different to me. To find the humanity in both, I had to look hard at the back story of their childhood and upbringings and that the “cruel” twin just like the more empathic twin were how they were as a result of pain and abuse from a young age. Obviously, the cruel twin’s actions are horrific and abhorrent, but in his mind in the particular circumstances of the film his actions seem justified to him, considering what was taken from him. At times it was extremely draining as a real empath to embody such cruelty, but I remember a conversation I had with actor Mark Coles Smith (when I was filming a short called Miro with him, with the same director Victoria Wharfe McIntyre) where we discussed not letting my natural empathy get in the way of really going there and being completely truthful in the moment so as to not water down the mistreatment and horrific things inflicted on indigenous people in Australia in our past. It was also difficult to play the seemingly weak/cowardly twin because he somewhat resembled that painfully shy teenager that I was. Surprisingly, I found it relatively easy and am realizing I tend to work from the outside in as an actor a lot, meaning with the expertise of hair and make-up and wardrobe, I feel my inner life/demeanor/body language shift the moment that wardrobe and hair and makeup are on me. Pictured below, with Alexis Lane and Shaka Cook, then in B&W with Brendan Bacon.The Flood was writer/director Victoria Wharfe McIntyre’s debut feature and she did an amazing job with the large cast – did you feel like you were part of something very special and was there anything you learned from that gig that you can apply to future roles?I feel incredibly grateful to Victoria and producer Armi Marquez-Perez for giving me the opportunity and the belief they bestowed upon me in giving me a lead role in such a special film when they could have easily gone with a big name actor. That is an example of what I said in an earlier question in regards to only needing a few “believers”. Something I can take forward into future roles is that playing a lead doesn’t have to be a big scary proposition, when you have so much time to just take each day as a new day and break it down into small sections and not look at it as a huge whole that’s intimidating or overwhelming. Another thing I learnt being able to act almost every day for 7 weeks, was that there’s dramatic power in the silence in a scene and being in the moment and not rushing through a scene and to take risks within them.You also appeared in Moon Rock for Monday (2019), a popular film that actually made it up here to N. America – did you have any scenes with David Field, one of Australia’s great actors known especially for playing twitchy bad guys?It’s so nice seeing “Moon Rock For Monday” getting out into the world. It’s a gorgeous story and the most family friendly film I’ve done so far. No, unfortunately I didn’t have any scenes with the incredible David Field. I’ve been a huge fan of his since seeing him in “Two Hands” with Heath Ledger, Rose Byrne and Bryan Brown and I feel so blessed to be in the same cast as David all these years later.You’re currently starring in the horror short “Mask of the Evil Apparition” by director Alex Proyas, which is getting lots of buzz on social media as well as the festival circuit. Tell us about your role and how much you enjoyed the horror film experience. I was pinching myself when Alex offered me the roles of Angelo 1 and Angelo 2 (twins again!!) in “Mask of the Evil Apparition” or as we affectionately call it MOTEA, but I quickly became aware upon chatting to/meeting Alex, that he’s a really humble, intelligent and fun guy and the entire experience was an absolute pleasure, and following the experience of “The Flood” I felt more than ready to give it my all with confidence. It certainly is getting a lot of festival love and for anyone interested in seeing it, it will available on a new exciting/innovative new streaming platform that Alex is creating called Vidiverse which will be a platform for indie filmmakers. I can’t say a lot more than the characters are psychic twins at this point and it was such a pleasure to play in this film opposite the three other incredible actors Bonnie Ferguson (Lead), Goran D Kleut and Alex King. I just approach the Horror genre like any other and was seeking being truthful in each moment. It was the first time for me working in a completely green screen environment, but acting is suspension of disbelief and imagination in any environment and I loved it and would do it again with bells on!You were co-lead in another thriller/horror feature film called Water Horse (directed by Jennifer Van Gessel) that was shot last year and is due for Australian release soon (and hopefully in N. America, too) – what sort of character did you play in that and how did you approach the role? I’m really excited about the impending release of Water Horse with it being my second lead role in a feature film and was a great experience to make with two of my best friends in super talented writer/director Jennifer Van Gessel and the real star of the film, Lauren Grimson. I play a character called Osmond (Oz) Shaw who is probably a character closest to my real self that I’ve played. That said, there are enough differences between the character and myself that it didn’t feel too revealing. I guess I mostly approached the character in a way of “How would I feel/react in this situation myself”. Oz works with Dianne Wilson (Lauren Grimson) a paranormal investigator who links a bizarre string of seemingly unrelated events to the disappearance of her mother.
We’ll soon get to see you in a cool cameo in the upcoming Zombie film Wyrmwood: Apocalypse (due out in 2022) – any special training you had to undergo for the role? And are you a fan of The Walking Dead? Being such a huge fan of Kiah Roache-Turner and Tristan Roache-Turner’s first Wyrmwood film I jumped at the chance to do a memorable cameo in the second one!! I didn’t really require any training as I’m constantly training with weights and doing cardio in my daily life and I have played quite a few roles that involved military type training and stunt work. I’m excited to see it and yes, I’m a massive fan of the first 4 or 5 seasons of The Walking Dead but haven’t had a chance to catch up on the last few. I gather you’re embarking on writing your own script – can you give us a hint what it’s about? Yes I have!! I haven’t decided upon a title as yet, but I guess it would be in the psychological thriller/sci-fi/horror genre and I’m looking for the right producer/director to get it from page to screen. I would describe it as a story that puts you into the kind of uncomfortable place that directors like Darren Aronofsky, Ari Aster and Jennifer Kent put you in.
Dean, how can film fans follow your career? Do you have a website yet or should people follow you on social media? You can follow me on Instagram at @deankyrwoodofficial or Dean Kyrwood on Facebook. I also have a YouTube channel that has some of my songs and covers at it if you search Dean Kyrwood. Thanks so much for the interview and all the best with the blog, Glenda!!
You’re very welcome, Dean, and I’m thrilled to be able to share your story with other actors, filmmakers and movie fans.
Back in October of 2013, I was thrilled to work with Canadian writer/director TRICIA LEE, promoting her horror feature film Silent Retreat which made its World Premiere at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival that year. The film did very well with both audiences and critics and since then, Lee has been on an upward career trajectory.
The accomplished and versatile filmmaker earned her US Green Card as an “artist of extraordinary ability” with Canadian and British citizenship, and has directed 11 shorts and 3 award-winning features since starting out in 2004. And she directed newly-minted superhero star Simu Liu in her 2017 short film Meeting Mommy.
Tricia has been recognized as one of Hollywood’s Top New Writers on the 2020 Black List, CAPE List, Young & Hungry List, Athena List, and the BitchList. Her script pitch for Good Chance was an Academy Nicholl Fellowship semi-finalist, Francis Ford Coppola’s American Zoetrope Screenplay Competition grand prize winner, Cinequest Best Feature Screenplay winner, WeScreenplay Diverse Voices Features winner, Sundance Lab second-rounder and selected for the prestigious Producers Guild of America Power of Diversity Master Workshop. Attached are Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way, Janet Yang (Joy Luck Club) as producers and Kheng Tan Hua (Crazy Rich Asians, Kung Fu Series) as lead actress – BRAVO, TRICIA!
Currently, Tricia’s script for her next feature titled IDOL is part of this year’s “Breaking Through the Lens” program at the Toronto International Film Festival that just opened on September 9th so I was excited to chat with Tricia about that and her other achievements since we worked together in 2013. Tricia, you’ve worked consistently and successfully for more than a decade, creating some of the most innovative and exciting genre films – why is becoming a finalist in this year’s Breaking Through the Lens TIFF so important to you personally and for your career? Looking back on my career, it’s amazing to see how far I’ve come, but also how far I still want to go. In order to continue a long-lasting career, I have to keep innovating and creating new projects and telling new stories. Breaking Through the Lens choosing my new project, IDOL, to be showcased during TIFF is this project’s first walk outside! The opportunity to share the pitch with financiers and distributors is a great way to share this script with people who can potentially help make the film. I want to take my career to the next level and I hope that we can bring this film to the screen and touch, move and inspire people.
For a number of years, you were one of only a few female directors working in the horror genre – what attracted you to horror stories and did you have a different perspective that your male counterparts? What I love about genre, is that we can speak about deeper issues through metaphor. With entertainment, I always want to hide the pill in peanut butter, as they say. Is that how you get dogs to eat medicine? I thought peanut butter was bad for dogs, or maybe that’s chocolate… anyways…
I don’t know that my perspective was more female than my male counterparts. My perspective is simply… my perspective. It comes from the intersection of who I am, how I grew up, where I’m from, how my parents treated me, the significant others I’ve chosen, etc. And also what I wanted to talk about at that time in my life. My second feature Silent Retreat, which pre-dated the #MeToo movement, was about women being silenced. I wanted to make a film about women standing up and using their voices. And I collaborated with a male, Corey Brown, to make that film. That film was a combination our creative perspectives.
You’ve spent a great deal of time undertaking “shadowing mentorships” from Jeff Woolnough on SyFy’s The Expanse, Erik Canuel, producing director on CBS’ Ransom, Peter DeLuise on Freeform’s Shadowhunters and most recently, the highly-regarded powerhouse – Nancy Meyers on the “Walmart Box” Oscars® commercial. How has this benefited you as a story-teller as well as working with actors? This career is all about learning. I think life is about learning. I am so grateful for having been given the opportunities to watch these talented, experienced directors work. Everyone has a different style and approach, and in my own directing, I get to take tidbits from each shadowing experience to create my own process. I’m a person who makes a lot of lists, so I literally write down my process and anytime I learn something new from one of my mentors, I add it to my list. Being a director, I don’t get to practice my craft every day, so these lists help me remember what I’ve learned for when I do have the chance to get on set and work the directing muscle. Also, I practice working with actors to implement what I’ve learned. I work actors on their auditions, break down the beats, give them direction and help shape a performance.You have also worked on more family-friendly projects like Meeting Mommy starring Simu Liu (Marvel’s latest superhero Shang-Chi) and have been developing diverse and inclusive projects – what are your immediate goals and/or future projects? Layered, vulnerable dramas that are heart-warming and heart-breaking at the same time, with a sprinkle of comedy is where my natural intuition lies. I only started writing about 4 years ago, when I moved to Los Angeles. I asked myself, would I rather go through the pain of reading scripts or the pain of writing scripts. And I just found that people weren’t writing the kinds of stories that I wanted to tell. So I took on the pain of writing! And I’m glad, because it has been a way for me to explore my own voice I have been developing more stories that star Asian characters and have taken a deep look within myself to put my truth onto the page. I want to make films that give a voice to under-represented communities, not because it’s the fad right now, but because it breaks my heart that someone can hate or commit violence against someone else just because they are different. I will never run for president, so this is my way of reaching people, to touch, unite and inspire them and create powerful change in our culture. I want to tell stories that resonate deeply with audiences and unforgettably pierce their hearts.
Immediate goals are to secure financing for my scripts IDOL, a music biopic about William Hung (from American Idol – see below) and GOOD CHANCE (starring Kheng Tan Hua from Crazy Rich Asians) which was on the 2020 Black List.You and your husband Mark own a number of condos that you operate as AirBnBs, plus you’ve previously worked as a piano teacher and an experiential marketer….is there anything else you want to try, apart from making movies? No. Film is my life. I will not retire from this career. All the other things I’ve done in my life were side gigs, which allowed me the freedom and time to make my films. I took part-time flexible jobs so that I never had to ask for vacation or permission to make my films. When I was on set, I would just tell them that I couldn’t work that month. I have a crazy resume, but it has always been towards one goal: being a filmmaker.
Any advice you’d like to offer to aspiring filmmakers, especial women, and on the various career paths they can take to achieve success, life balance and happiness? Honestly, I’m not great at life balance. I definitely focus on career too much and am working on finding balance myself. I find that the scripts and movies that I’ve made that resonate with people the most are the ones where I dig into myself and tell my truth. I encourage all of you to take the time to sit with yourself. Think about why is it you want to make this film, what do you want to say with it, how do you want the audience to feel when they walk out? And make sure that every scene wraps around that nugget. When you put something of yourself on the page, it shines through. Those are the films that pierce people’s hearts and will help you take the next step in your career. It can be slow and long, or it can be a quick rise to the top. But never give up if telling stories through this medium is really what you want to do.Thanks for sharing your insights and advice, Tricia, and I can’t wait to see how your script faired at TIFF this year. Looking forward to seeing Idol when it hits cinema screens and the festival circuit. You can all follow Tricia on all her social media platforms linked on her website: www.tricialeedirector.com