Author Archives: fordhampr

CANADIAN INT’L FAITH & FAMILY FILM FEST STARTS TODAY!

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.audience 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….

colmCIFF 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.logo

AUSTRALIAN FILM ACTOR DEAN KYRWOOD ON VERGE OF INT’L BREAKTHROUGH!

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.  floodI 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 youve 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!158909586_10159207131602673_3907553845166363361_nStarting 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 years 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-cinema-australia-2Brendan and DeanThe Flood was writer/director Victoria Wharfe McIntyres 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.poster for social mediaYou 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 Australias 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.MoonRockforMondayWebPoster2Youre 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!mask_of_the_evil_apparition_s-148570621-largewith Alex Proyas and Bonnie FergusonYou 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.

Well 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. WyrmwoodDean K July 21 (2)I gather youre embarking on writing your own script – can you give us a hint what its 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.

 

Director/writer TRICIA LEE is ready for her own close-up at this year’s Toronto Int’l Film Festival

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.TIFF
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 years 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 mentorshipsfrom Jeff Woolnough on SyFys The Expanse, Erik Canuel, producing director on CBSRansom, Peter DeLuise on Freeforms Shadowhunters and most recently, the highly-regarded powerhouse – Nancy Meyers on the Walmart BoxOscars® 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. IMG_7986.1I’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.IMG_7121You have also worked on more family-friendly projects like Meeting Mommy starring Simu Liu (Marvels 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.william hungYou and your husband Mark own a number of condos that you operate as AirBnBs, plus youve 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 youd 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.DSC_0014Thanks 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

 

AUSTRALIAN ADVENTURE ROMANCE MOVIE COMING TO CDN & US THEATRES AND STREAMING SERVICES, BRINGING DOWN UNDER LOVE UP NORTH!

I frequently complain about the lack of Aussie films being available online or even making into our cinemas in North America – not sure who negotiates all the distribution deals (esp. with tv content) but we Aussies abroad will soon be able to enjoy a new romantic adventure movie when FOREVER FIRST LOVE hits screens in September.

Set against the beauty of a baroque Filipino town, Forever First Love is a modern romantic drama. “The story follows international photographer Paul who finds his first love, Anna, in a one-in-a–million chance meeting in a crowded Filipino market. The travelers spend the day exploring the beauty of the 16th century town and whilst passions reignite, their principles on relationships, religion, and morality clash. Paul’s long held nostalgia for his dream girl is tested,” says Brisbane based writer and director, LUKE MAYZE (pictured below, directing the leading lady).  “The film is an exploration of the dynamics of gender roles in modern relationships and balances this generation’s reluctance to commit with the desperate need for connection.”Luke with Carlotta (2)This is the first feature film for Mayze, a multi-award winner who has found international success with numerous short film projects (Silver Stiletto, Prep Rules, Weight Of Sunken Treasure and It’s A Treat). The film is also the debut feature film for emerging Brisbane producers, Carmel Savage and Janelle Rayner. They secured funding for the film from private investors, shooting in the Philippines and Queensland and producing the film locally.  The film premiered in Latin America at the end of 2020 and has fast become an underground favourite.  Cinematographer, Shing Fung Cheung, won an Australian Cinematography Award for the production.

“Despite the difficulties of distribution due to COVID, we’re thrilled that the film has attracted a global audience with people seeking a style of escapism different from ordinary cinema,” Luke added. “Since the film’s release in Latin America, we’ve received an outpouring of  messages from across the globe in support of Forever First Love.

The film stars Australian actor STEVEN ROOKE (The Chronicles of Narnia, Australia Day, Wanted) alongside Italian actress CARLOTTA MORELLI (Tracy Ullman Show, Lip Service, Fratelli di Sangue), who auditioned for the role in London and rehearsed in a series of skype video calls before flying across the world to meet the production team. The stars only met in person a few days before filming commenced, with critical praise for their on-screen chemistry.IMG_5547When I first learnt about this new film, I reached out to Luke for more insights into his film and he kindly shared the following:

The story of Forever First Love is written from Paul’s point of view. Paul is an international photographer, who has followed his passion to the Philippines to capture that perfect image. In the chaos and heat of a crowded market, his first love, Anna appears in his lens. Paul convinces Anna to go on an adventure with him and together they explore exotic locations, share confessions and experience a night of passion that neither could have anticipated. But in the harsh reality of the morning after, Paul comes to realize that living his life through a lens will never be enough. Street Love (1)I am indebted to the talented and professional teams of people in the Philippines and Australia who made this adventure unforgettable and am proud to share Forever First Love as my debut feature film as both Writer and Director. I’ve taken inspiration from filmmakers such as Peter Weir, Alexander Payne and Steven Spielberg throughout my career and wanted to create a story that delves into our fundamental desire for human connection and attachment to the past. Forever First Love explores themes around love, identity, culture and the complexity of relationships when stereotypes and assumptions collide. I hope the film starts a dialogue around the perception of traditional love and the changing gender roles in modern relationships.IMG_5714 (1) IMG_5591 (1)

MY BRIEF REVIEW:   Written and directed by Luke Mayze, Forever First Love is the tender story of a rediscovered first love set against the chaos of an urban centre in the Philippines. Australian photographer Paul suddenly sees Anna, his teenage sweetheart, walk into his lens as he snaps the vibrant street scenes. He pursues her through the market where they finally meet and realize the passion is still there…at least for the duration of her stay in the city.

Mayze has written nuanced tender dialogue between the two characters, yet has imbued the leading lady, played by Carlotta Morelli, with a sense of maturity and empowerment, perfectly in control of her emotions. In a reversal of standard male/female roles, Paul, played to perfection by Steven Rooke, is overwhelmed by his feelings for Anna – still worshiping her or, at least the idea of her, as his beloved one and only. Both actors light up the screen; their verbal exchanges are both fiery and impassioned, challenging each other to view their present romantic predicament realistically while examining their past youthful entanglements; viewers may find themselves subconsciously taking sides, especially as the story reaches its conclusion.

With glorious cinematography by award-winning Shing-Fung Cheung and a masterful soundtrack that underscores each scene’s emotions by Peter Spierig, this is a film for those who appreciate human interaction without use of guns, blown-up buildings, car chases…it’s a very human story that requires no props or fancy CGI – it’s all heart and soul. Luke Mayze has spent many years creating award-winning shorts and as his debut feature film, Forever First Love promises future success for this multi-talented Australian filmmaker. His insightful and very intimate script hints that maybe he himself has experienced and survived such a love? Just wondering…..

CONGRATULATIONS to Luke, Carmel and Janelle, and the entire cast and crew.  I can’t wait to see the film in its entirety. Forever First Love hits US and Canadian screens the second week of September thanks to Galloping Entertainment & distributors Vertical Entertainment. You may also view the film via your favourite streaming platforms: Apple TV/iTunes, Amazon Prime, Google, FandangoNOW, Microsoft,  Redbox On Demand, Vudu, DirecTV, Comcast X1 and AT&T U-Verse. And tell the producers what you think of their film on social media: www.facebook.com/foreverfirstlovemovie

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

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)

 

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

Local artists form the special group “131 Collective” and open pop-up gallery in Toronto’s chic Yorkville neighbourhood!

It was so exciting to walk through the doors of the brand new pop-up art gallery located at 131 Bloor St West…just a few doors East of Avenue Road, opposite the Tiffany, Louis Vuitton and Burberry fancy-schmancy boutiques along what is affectionately referred to as Toronto’s mink mile. A group of talented fine artists came together when the opportunity to take over a vacant store space came their way and had only 4 days to hang their works and quickly promote themselves as the 131 Collective. The featured artists include Mark Gleberzon @mjggallery Morgan Jones @morganjonesart Todd Monk @toddmonkart Jeff Turner & Jane Pike @jandj_photo_art Vanessa Drew @vanessaracheldrew_art Adrienne Jackson @crushwrks and Huy Lam @_huylam_20210619_135210 (3) 20210619_134706 (2)Lots of large canvases hang in a space that offers great viewing perspectives and allows for several people to be inside at once, dutifully face-masked and socially distanced. The gallery provides hand sanitizer and follows all Covid safety protocols.

If you don’t have a lot of wall-space to collect and display large pieces of art, the group offers a number of smalls that would fit anyone’s loft, condo or cottage. See below…20210619_134908 (2)I spoke with Jane Pike who, along with her partner, Jeff Turner (of J&J Photographic Art) have been working hard to get the pop-up ready for this weekend’s launch and she said….

Check out these stunning floral pieces by Vanessa Drew…20210619_135305 (2)…and my long-time friend Mark Gleberzon is showcasing his beautiful chair series along with their real-life inspirations (below)20210619_135104 (2) 20210619_135249 (2)

So many exquisite paintings and wood/metal sculptures on show – you MUST visit in person to truly appreciate all the work created by Toronto’s leading local artists. 20210619_134743 (2) 20210619_134824 (2) 20210619_135004 (2) 20210619_135242 (3)20210619_141113 (2) 20210619_134807 (2) 20210619_135203 (2)20210619_135832 (2)20210619_135042 (2)Gallery hours: Monday thru Wednesdays 11am to 6pm, Thursdays thru Saturdays 11am to 8pm and Sundays 12noon to 5pm
Address: 131 Bloor St West (just west of the Colonnade)20210619_135149Just look for this stunning artwork in the window (below) and please follow each of the artists on IG (their indiv. handles were included in opening paragraph). Thank you for supporting Canadian artists.20210619_141922 (2)

ACTOR, BEST-SELLING AUTHOR, HORSE-LOVER SHELLEY PETERSON SITS HIGH IN THE SADDLE AS SHE LAUNCHES HER 9TH NOVEL

Throughout the 80s and 90s, I’d become a fan of Canadian film and tv actress, SHELLEY PETERSON. She appeared in all the major hit tv shows like Night Heat, E.N.G., the anthology series Alfred Hitchcock Presents, the comedy Dog House and another fave of mine, Twice in a Lifetime (2000). In 2007, Shelley appeared in the scary, spooky thriller Dead Silence alongside one of my favourite Australian actors, Ryan Kwanten, who starred with Aussie superstar Aaron Petersen in the original Mystery Road movie.  During all this time, Shelley was not only married to politician and future Ontario premier, David Peterson, she also raised a family and started writing books for Young Adults based on her love of horses. Oh, and by the way, she continued riding and owns a horse facility north of Toronto. Talk about an over-achiever and a great success story!

Her books are beautifully crafted novels targeting the tween/teen/young adult readership and focuses on horse-lovers and their adventures with their 4-legged best friends.  Her latest book is THE JAGGED CIRCLE which Shelley is currently promoting and hopefully will soon be able to do the usual meet-n-greet reading events with her fans as the province opens up after 15 months of Covid lockdown. I recently spoke with Shelley where we discovered our mutual love of horses, sharing our pony club stories from way-back…Cover final, Jagged Circle copy (1)Congratulations on the publication of your latest Y/A novel The Jagged Circle. You’ve written 9 books now involving horses so you must have been a pony club girl from way back…yes?  Yes, you’re right. I went to Pony Club in London, Ontario. We had wonderful teachers who were thorough and demanding. For example, we were timed taking our bridles apart, cleaning and oiling them, then putting them back together. We learned every part of a horse, how to look after them from top to bottom, including how to feed and groom them. The riding part was just as demanding, but more fun!  My favourite teacher was Dorinda Brickenden Greenway, who was an international show jumper. I admire her so much that I put her in ‘The Jagged Circle’ as a judge in the March Madness Steeplechase.

I gather you’ve always ridden throughout your adult life, too, and now own a fabulous horse facility, Fox Ridge – can you tell us about it and how it allows you to fulfil any childhood dreams?  I’ve been extremely lucky to have been around horses all my life. I had horses as a child in our backyard barn in London and then married a man whose father had a farm with Hereford cows. Pete loved horses and knew more about them than anybody else I’ve ever met. He’s a character in many of my books as Pete Pierson. He bought me my foundation mare, Sandpiper, and I’m now raising her great-grandchildren in Caledon where we live at Fox Ridge. I can think of nothing more fulfilling than guiding the journey from wobbly-legged new-born foal to a responsive, calm, willing adult horse.thumbnailI read a brief synopsis of one of your earlier books, Dancer, which was inspired by your then-teenage daughter. I must admit, the story could have been written about me, too. I was the class geek back home in Australia, and instead of 2-legged friends, I had a whole herd of 4-legged ones at the local stables. Have you found that your books offer comfort and validation to your predominantly tween and teenage female readers? And have you received “fan mail” reflecting that?  Absolutely. Readers’ emails and letters warm my heart and keep me writing. Each of my novels deals with a real issue (or several issues) that kids face, and each person will take what they need out of my books. If something that happens in one of my novels reflects a reader’s personal situation, I hope they’ll find strength and inspiration by how my characters cope with it. Otherwise, it’s just part of the story.sundancer (2)When you were acting on a regular basis, you appeared in 2 of my favourite Canadian tv series, E.N.G. and Night Heat. Do you miss those days or are they now just very fond memories?  I loved the world of theatre, television and film, and it was good to be a part of it. It’s very tough work, regardless of the glamourous perception of it, but very rewarding as well. The magic of theatre cannot be replicated elsewhere, and I revisited it in my novel, ‘Stagestruck’. One day I might go back to it as a little old lady, but for now I prefer allowing my imagination the freedom to create stories as opposed to acting them through other writers’ characters and dialogue.th (2)Being the wife of a politician must have been demanding – did you find horse-riding offered you relaxation and an outlet to de-stress?  Horses only relate to you when you set aside your stress. They actually turn away if you bring your troubles to the barn. As soon as you understand that, things go well. Through any turmoil in my life—being the wife of a politician, raising children, having a stressful career– horses have always demanded that I put my mental garbage in a sack and leave it metaphorically at the barn door.

Riding horse Prospero with grand-daughter Willow

Riding horse Prospero with grand-daughter Willow

The Jagged Circle is the second book in your Jockey Girl series and this time your heroine, Evangeline Gibb, is up to her stirrups in solving a murder while training her steeplechaser, Kazzam, for a big race. Can you give us any more clues as to how Evangeline does…with the helping the police solve the crime as well as the race?  Before the story begins, her grandmother Mary has been training Evie and Kazzam over jumps, and there’s already a very strong bond of trust between horse and rider which allows them to escalate their training over cross-country jumps with Piers Anders. And Evie’s love of her little sister, along with her curiosity and grit, won’t allow her to stop delving into the mysteries until they’re solved. The story takes place over a very short time, going from the boredom of being alone at Spring break to action overload as the drama unfolds. One reader told me he needed a nap when he finished reading my book!

Do you have social media where fans can follow you and learn more about your books?  I have a website, www.shelleypeterson.com  and a Facebook page “ShelleyPetersonBooks”. My publisher is Dundurn Press and I’m on their website as well. Any questions can be sent to me directly via my website, and I’ll answer them as soon as I get back from the barn.thumbnail (1)Thank you so much for sharing your life and loves, Shelley, and I know my readers will be checking out ALL your books which are available from Amazon as well as through your own website.  You can also visit the Dundurn Press website and social media: @dundurnpress
THE JAGGED CIRCLE by Shelley Peterson
Paperback ISBN: 9781459746947 • $14.99
eBook ISBN: 9781459746961 • $8.99willow riding Robyn

CELEBRATING AUSTRALIAN FILM AT THE ANNUAL VISION SPLENDID OUTBACK FILM FESTIVAL

As a proud Aussie stuck here in Canada, it’s frustrating not being able to go home, hang out with my family and meet up with friends in the film industry over these past 15 months of Covid travel bans. But I always have my eye on what’s happening in the Down Under film and television industries and unashamedly admit to being obsessed with Indigenous superstar Aaron Pedersen (pictured below, left) whose performance as Det. Jay Swan in the film Goldstone is nothing short of Oscar-worthy! It just so happens Goldstone was filmed in the outback town of Winton, in the state of Queensland, as was his award-winning tv series, Mystery Road, based on his character Jay Swan, first introduced to us back in 2013 in the original film, Mystery Road, written and directed by Ivan Sen.126961990_10164102171740478_5870466753728279799_nWinton is also home to the newly opened Australian Age of Dinosaurs, a massive outdoor exhibition of the bones and fossils of extinct creatures that once roamed the country…imagine Jurassic Park without the scary man-eating beasts! It’s also the birthplace of the world’s leading int’l airline, QANTAS and where the song Waltzing Matilda was first performed some 100 years ago.  But it’s the unique cultural experience of watching movies under the stars – and boy those southern hemisphere starry skies are fantastic – that will be drawing me back home next year  to join film lovers, filmmakers and film media to the VISION SPLENDID OUTBACK FILM FESTIVAL.Royal Theatre Winton Image - Photographer Alan MathiesonThe opening feature film this year (June 25th) is the much-anticipated documentary about Australia’s legendary leading Indigenous actor, David Gulpilil (below – photo by Miles Rowland), who is now battling cancer yet has kept working as much as his health allows. Other films include June Again, starring award-winning actress of screen, tv and stage Noni Hazelhurst, and Rams starring another favourite actor of mine (and great wine maker, too) Sam Neill. The full festival programme, tickets and related events available online at: www.visionsplendidfilmfest.com 

I had the opportunity to chat online with Festival Director, Mark Melrose, who told me all about the Festival’s history, the stars who have attended and all the exciting Festival related activities…and of course, how to get there.

Congratulations on the upcoming Vision Splendid Outback Film Festival – please tell me a little about the genesis or inspiration for the festival, who was Butch Lenton, how long it’s been running and why Winton for a film festival location considering, in colloquial terms, it’s back o’ Burke, beyond the black stump and up Woop-Woop (i.e. the middle of nowhere!)  Vision Splendid was the brainchild of Clive Kitchen, a local businessman. He started discussions in 2013 with the then Mayor of Winton, Butch Lenton, following the success of the film, Mystery Road. In June 2014, the inaugural Vision Splendid Outback Film Festival took place, and it has grown ever since.Winton Royal Open Air Theatre 1 - Photographer Maree AzzopardiLenton was the major driving force behind Winton being what it is today. He had the vision to push for films to be made here on location and the drive to make it happen – sadly he is no longer with us to see how the Festival has grown – it’s a testament to his hard work in creating a film-friendly town that will ultimately create a new industry for Outback Queensland. There are several reasons Winton is the home of the Festival, but mainly it’s due to the fact several feature films and TV series have been shot there in recent times, including The Proposition, Mystery Road, Goldstone and Total Control. Its unique landscapes and vast open spaces cannot be replicated in a studio.

How has COVID-19 impacted the festival and what precautions are you taking to ensure audience safety this year?  Of course, COVID-19 has meant more precautions and risk mitigation elements have come into the festival. The 2020 Festival was postponed, thankfully not cancelled, until September as we found a window to push on with the event. Thankfully we did, as the event resulted in the best of the Festival’s short history with a 36% increase in crowds from 2019. The COVID safety plan included reduced capacities in the theatre and Town Hall, cleaning of the venues between each screening, all tickets being pre-purchased and not available at the door, contact tracing via ticketing and QR codes, and social distancing markers on the ground for queues. These elements will be in place again this year.

Since the Festival’s inception, which attending filmmakers or celebrities have caused major excitement with media and audiences alike?  There have been several filmmakers and celebrities that have caused a ‘stir’ in the media and audiences, including Ivan Sen (director/writer) and actor Aaron Pederson for Goldstone, Michael Caton and Mark Coles Smith for Last Cab to Darwin, Gyton Grantly for Beneath Hill 60, Margaret Pomeranz for David Stratton: A Cinematic Life, Roy Billing as the Festival Patron, Steve Le Marquand for Locusts, and Nicholas Hope for Book Week.last cabDr. Greg Dolgopolov is the Festival Curator and Creative Director and he kindly answered a question for me: How do you choose which films to showcase and what forgotten cinematic treasures to celebrate?   As the Creative Director, I am tasked with selecting and curating around 50 films each year –documentaries, shorts and feature films. These are mainly new films but every year we feature some classics – either silent films that are brought back to life with live musical accompaniment or films celebrating a significant anniversary. The guiding principle for the festival is that the films have to be Australian and sometimes that could include a film that has an Australian involvement, such as a film directed by an Australian but produced elsewhere or a foreign film that stars an Australian actor. Majority of the films are made in Australia and the Festival features a selection of the best available films made recently. The other guiding principle is that the films need to engage a mainstream audience. That means that we are looking for great crowd-pleasing films. I tend to program a few ‘testing’ or art house films as one thing that I have learnt over more than 15 years of curating is that you can never predict what audiences will like and that there are clearly different audiences for different films.

I try to curate in a representative manner capturing different communities and different ideas. The Festival tries to be democratic but not in some crazy quota system but just the best films possible across genres, themes and ideas and I do tend to lean towards outback stories featuring the Australian landscape as part of the drama largely because of where the Festival is located. The origins of the Festival were in presenting Mystery Road in 2013 in the town where most of the filming took place, so the Festival is very connected to the films that have been shot in the Winton area and regional Queensland more broadly. The Festival is intensely committed to drawing new productions to the region and in developing new and emerging filmmakers. Every year about eight new short films are made during the festival by the next generation of filmmakers, and we are confident that when they start helming major productions and need a rugged outback location or a remote rural community, they will come straight to Winton.EZGihnLWkAI4mx6Curating Australian ‘cinematic treasures’ is an art form in itself – sometimes it’s a films’ significant anniversary that justifies its inclusion in the program. Sometimes it because we are featuring a digital remastering of a classic or because one of the Festival guests is bringing their new film and we want to highlight their body of work in the program, so audiences can get a taste for what they have done in the past. Getting a sense that the selection was right by judging the mood in the room is incredibly satisfying as a curator, as well as bringing people together to discuss what they have seen in more robust ways than they would at a standard cinema experience.  That is the great thing about Winton – there is that time and opportunity to have a yarn with others about your experiences and we have a strong group of regulars who are not afraid to voice their opinions and that is just great for the dynamics of having a little festival in the middle of nowhere, but that continuously draws such huge crowds every year.

Back to Mark….The festival also actively involves film students from Griffith University Film School (GUFS) and the University of NSW (UNSW). How do they participate and why do you think it’s important for them to get hands-on experience at the festival level?  Having students involved is immensely important for a number of reasons: they request to travel to Winton for a two-week Outback Filmmaking Bootcamp where they create a short film in two weeks in an extremely remote region. This allows the students to experience the highs and lows of filmmaking – what it means to make a film without all the creature comforts available in the big cities; the highs of creating something seen by an audience in a short period of time; and getting used to working in groups of people across disciplines.  From an economic point-of-view for Winton, there are 60+ future filmmakers in town who now know about the locations and what Winton has to offer and potentially will make a feature film there in the future. The town opens its doors to the students, filming in houses, workplaces and the main streets. They are immersed with Indigenous Culture working closely with the Koa Aboriginal Corporation on the importance of the land and historical significance. The students are also volunteers for the festival and get some experience as to what it takes to put a festival together….and the need of volunteers to make it all happen.film studentsThe town of Winton has been the location of some of the most exciting films and TV shows, including one of my favourite films, Goldstone (directed by Ivan Sen and starring the great Aaron Pedersen) – what does Winton offer incoming productions apart from long days of great natural light and friendly people?  There are exciting things in the pipeline for Winton that, should they fall into place, will offer more incentives to shoot in this unique location. It already has the spectacular outback vistas, the town setting, the friendly people, but in 6 months time, we hope it will have two or three more major developments to bring in more filmmakers and cement the industry here in the Hollywood of the Outback.Winton Sign - Photographer Peter LikHow difficult is it to reach Winton from, say, Sydney or Brisbane? And what sort of guest accommodations can be found for overseas festival visitors?  It’s not that difficult to reach Winton, it just takes time. There is only one flight a day from Brisbane into the town of Longreach and from there Winton is a 2 hour drive (177km). There is a bus that departs Brisbane daily and a train that departs Brisbane for Longreach twice a week.  There are several hotels and motels including the North Gregory Hotel (where Waltzing Matilda was performed in public for the very first time over 100 years ago), and the Outback Motel to name two. There are also four caravan parks if that is how you are traveling.via airhotelGood luck for this year’s Vision Splendid Outback Film Festival – is there anything else you’d like to share with international film fans?   Thank you. We are excited to be able to operate during these bizarre times, however, we do miss our international friends. We can’t wait to open the borders and welcome you back  for (hopefully) next year’s Festival.  If you’re a filmmaker looking for somewhere different to make a film, check out Winton. We don’t call it the Hollywood of the Outback for nothing!Winton Royal Open Air Theatre 2 - Photographer Maree AzzopardiThanks to photographers Alan Mathieson and Maree Azzopardi for the amazing shots of previous Festivals. I’m sending my best wishes to Mark, Greg and all the wonderful volunteers and folks of Winton. I can’t wait until I head Down Under next year. There are so many activities for all the family including a daily kids club, “breakfast with the stars” each morning, local Indigenous storytellers and there are even silent movies being shown, too. Let’s not forget there’s great food and drinks as well as shopping – you gotta take home some great Aussie outback souvenirs!  If you can’t make it to Winton this year, I’ll see you there in June of 2022!Winton