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MEET RUSSELL YUEN, ONE OF CANADA’S MOST IN-DEMAND ACTORS!

RUSSELL YUEN has got to be one of the busiest character actors in Canada I know – it seems like he’s on my tv screen nearly every day in some series or film. The charismatic Yuen splits his time between Toronto and Montreal and during the Covid pandemic, has been busy working from home auditioning online for international film and television projects (how difficult is that?), recording voice-overs, as well as coaching other actors.

When he first started acting, Russell applied his early training in Shaolin martial arts skills to roles as Asian gangsters and fighters which he then parlayed into more substantial roles. His “big break” came in the award-winning Canadian film The Red Violin followed by roles in Bulletproof Monk directed by John Woo, Phillip Noyce’s The Bone Collector opposite Denzel Washington, and Pluto Nash opposite comedy legend Eddie Murphy. Fluent in English & French, Yuen is popular with Quebec audiences starring in numerous Quebec feature films and tv series. He has established an on-set reputation for professionalism and good humour which probably accounts for his becoming one of the most popular go-to actors in Canada. I was thrilled watching him in last year’s mini-series 5000 Years of Heroes, and can’t wait to see his numerous upcoming 2021 films and tv shows.MV5BZmQwYmUyOTYtYWZhNC00NjhmLTg3OTYtYTc1ZmU5MDYyZDNkXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjg2MTMyNTM@._V1_I recently talked with Russell and asked him to share his stories and thoughts about working under these difficult Covid conditions as well as revisiting some of his most memorable performances……

You’ve been working non-stop over the past 3 decades, providing voice-overs as well as acting. How have you managed to sustain your career and create such a diverse resume?  Desperation?! LOL. As a typically struggling Canadian actor, we have to have many tools in our bag of skills. Loosing my father at the age of 11 meant needing to support/helping my mother starting at the age of 13. By the time I graduated theater school, I already had more jobs than most. These skills became very useful in acting. Parlaying these life skills into my acting career was extremely beneficial and allows me to play a large variety of characters. After all, actors always bring a part of themselves into each role we play. The fighting against stereotypes was the hardest part. Growing up as the youngest “accident” of the family and the only Asian around for miles, meant that I had a lot of time to allow my imagination to go wild. Acting is all about playing…I’m just a big/old kid.

Instead of the usual waiter/bartender jobs young actors have to take while they’re establishing themselves, you had a surprisingly exciting range of jobs prior to full-time acting – white water rescues, a rafting guide in Northern Quebec, a Shaolin martial artist, even a fitness trainer. Am I correct in assuming these special skills helped you secure certain roles over the years?  YES! As you can see, I make it a point not to read ahead when doing questionnaires in order to keep the feeling fresh and spontaneous but YES.  When I graduated from theater school with classical training, sadly, there were no speaking roles for Asians back then. So, I found myself doing many action/martial arts/stunt roles for the first 8 years of my career. ALL those physical training and skills allowed me to stay in the job I love despite no speaking roles.Caught a FLY in this Shot LOL #5000yearsofheroes Movie #ActorsLife #BehindTheScenesI remember first being aware of your comedic skills when spotting you in that popular series of TV commercials featuring two wacky fashionista for Reitman’s twelve years ago– did that exposure help boost your career or do you have any regrets about taking that gig?  Comedy has always been an important part of my life. If you can’t laugh at yourself….  I can’t believe it was that long ago LOL!  NO regrets at all doing that series of commercials. I really do not think it helped or hindered my career, although, it did prove to my agents that I can do comedy. Until then, like most people, they saw me in very serious/dramatic roles. Not only was this role fun to do because of the concept, cast and the crew but it also allowed me to travel to many places I would not have normally had the opportunity to go to.

What has been the most fun project you ever worked on, be it a comedy or drama/thriller, and why?  Oh boy. This answer all depends on your definition of “fun”. For me, ALMOST anytime I get to be on set is fun. Make It Pop was fun, Rising Suns was fun in a different way but if you mean fun as in comedy and laughs on set, the first thing that pops into my mind is Reitmans and Tokens on Call. Reitmans for what I mentioned before…At one-point Martin (who plays opposite to me in the commercial) and I looked at each other on a mountain in Cuba and we actually said to each other just how lucky we are. This was said right after we had a laughing fit on set. Tokens was fun due to the fact that it was the first experience for me being in an Asian driven project that was laughing at what really happens to Asians (and other visible minorities) in our daily lives.#BehindTheScenes Deep in Thought and Finally Hit my Mark LOL with @lilygao1 #ActorsLife #NorthBay #RisingSunsHow has the Covid production lock-down affected you? Have you been able to work remotely, perhaps doing voice-over work or on web-based projects?  My partner said it best regarding Covid-19, “2020 and this pandemic is Beige” LOL. No, I haven’t been able to do much work from home sadly during this pandemic. It has created a very unfair situation for most actors, although I have been one of the fortunate ones. We have been asked to do 99.5% of our auditions as self-tapes while maintaining social distancing and respecting whatever Covid-19 rules are in place at the time. This meant for many actors to spend a small fortune (for Canadian actors) on getting or upgrading all their equipment in order to give a decent self-taped audition to casting. It means for many an upgrade to their internet so that both their reader can Zoom into the audition self-tape or for Zoom call backs. But since I coach people and help with self-tapes, I already had most of the necessary equipment but even I had to upgrade some of my equipment. I have been able to audition and secure voice work on video games but due to quality and production requirements, I have had to go into studio to record. The situation also leaves actors at a disadvantage when auditioning. When you go into a casting place for an audition, you go in with a few ways to do the scene. Once in the audition room, you do the scene(s) with what YOU think is the best fit but that doesn’t mean it is what the production wants. In the audition room, the casting person will often give you a direction or description that could completely change the way you interpreted the character. Then you could do another take of the scene(s) that better fits what they are looking for. When I audition at home, it’s totally a roll of the dice and you just HOPE you got it right. Hence, both auditions and booking roles during this pandemic have been a struggle and few/far between. Although on the positive side, I have had the time to get new headshots (below) and demo together (laughs)!Russell Yuen_75 (2)You have a number of exciting upcoming projects for 2021 as well as your ongoing appearances in the popular Rising Suns tv series. Can you share any news about your upcoming appearances, in particular Dancing Through the Shadow of Mao which looks to be a provocative telling of an artistic life under the tyranny of Mao Tse-tung (Zedong) in communist China?  Yes! Rising Suns is having a lot of interest from multiple platforms in regards to buying it and making it into a full series. We are supposed to go back next year and continue shooting with funding coming from some parties that want to purchase the series. Dancing Through the Shadow (formally know and based on the book “The Swan”) is in its final stages before being released. In fact, I’ll be doing ADR for it this week! It is not so much a ‘provocative’ movie/subject but rather the story of person who struggles to continue her passion of dance no matter the obstacles she faces. This TRUE story just happens to take place during Mao’s reign. However, one of the wonderful parts of this film is the fact that it does take place during this time of history. Not so much for the character(s), I mean it’s just not a fun time in history. This film also shows a time of history many, including myself, just didn’t know about. I thought I knew what happened in China during this time but the book and researching the character taught me much more than I knew. However, the film is about much more: it’s about love, family and dreams. I am currently working on a project going to film next year … but of course I cannot mention it yet. Tokens On Call is supposed to go to season 2. Rising Suns will go for a full 13 episodes. Dancing Through the Shadow will be released next year. But beyond that…..SOMEONE OFFER ME WORK, PLEASE.81OTAvyzecL (2)Are there any directors or fellow actors you dream of working with in the future?  Hmm, this is a hard one. Can I say EVERYONE?! LOL. One could say all the expected names like Spielberg, Bong Joon-ho, Scorsese, Tarantino, Guillermo del Toro, Mina Shum etc. Or actors like Hanks, Washington, Sandra Oh, Streep (who scares me a little), Sam Jackson etc. But honestly, I just want to work with people who have passion for what they’re doing and are ready and willing to work together to get the most out of what we are doing. It’s all about collaborating and sharing. However, as I get older, one hopes to do more projects and work with people who understand some element of what it’s like being Asian and incorporate this into the subject matter. It has become more important to me to share my story, my struggles, my path through life (including some very laughable moments) before it’s too late or I am gone. I want to make a difference … Growing up, the only Asians I saw and could identify with were (oh boy this is going to date me) Sulu from Star Trek (dreaming of being on that one day) and Robert Ito from Quincy (below). I want my kids and Asians as a whole to be able to see themselves and their stories. Things are changing but at a glacial pace. I fear I will not be around when people finally stop saying “Oh look, they cast an Asian” but instead say “Oh look, now that’s a great actoritoIs there any advice you’d like to share with up and coming actors who dream about the kind of career you’ve enjoyed – any pitfalls to avoid, dealing with casting people, whose ass to kiss or whose ass to kick? As I say to new actors when I am asked to talk to a class or group “Do not get into acting because you want to be a celebrity, do not get into acting for the money, do not get into acting because you think it will be easy, do not get into acting because you love it either. Only get into acting because you NEED to act. If you get into it because you LOVE it, it (like many partners you will have in life) will only let you down, disappoint you or leave you when you least expect it.”  Never believe anyone or anything until it is in writing but even then, you never know. Develop and trust your instincts both in business and acting – they will serve you well and protect you. Finally, NEVER LIE. The truth will come out and it may haunt you and your career forever. I’ve seen it happen to other actors and it has at times destroyed their credibility. MV5BZDdkNDk0YWUtODhiYi00ODNiLWE5OTMtNTUxMzM5ZjIwMjNkXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMzY0OTUwMTM@._V1_SY1000_SX675_AL_And for news updates on your films or tv shows, can you please share your social media links or website?  Sadly, I do not have a website yet…if anyone wants to build one for me…??!! But if people would like to follow me, here are my social media links:
https://twitter.com/RUSSELLYUEN
https://www.facebook.com/RussellYuenPage
https://www.instagram.com/russell_yuen/
 

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AUSTRALIAN OUTBACK ACTION THRILLER IS OUTSTANDING FEATURE FILM DEBUT FOR WRITER/DIRECTOR VICTORIA WHARFE MCINTYRE

A couple of weeks ago, I found myself sitting in the dark in the wee small hours watching a brand new action film from my home Down Under that had me riveted. Courtesy of Madman Entertainment and FanForce TV, the film, THE FLOOD, is based on past atrocities against Australia’s indigenous people, in this case during the post-WWII years when white government and “land-owners” refused equal rights to the Aboriginal communities and inflicted unimaginable cruelty and pain, especially on women and children. This online screening was one of the keystone events of this year’s NAIDOC Week. NAIDOC is the acronym for Australia’s National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee and the annual NAIDOC Week celebrates the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.Victoria (2)Director (and writer/producer) Victoria Wharfe McIntyre (pictured above) brought together an amazing cast, most of whom are unknown to North American audiences but after this film, that should change completely. The film stars Alexis Lane, Shaka Cook (who will be seen next year in Australia in the hit musical Hamilton), Dean Kyrwood, Dalara Williams and Aaron Jeffery, who is nominated for Best Supporting Actor in the 2020 AACTA Awards for his work on the film.
I was particularly struck by the intensity of lead actor Shaka Cook (pictured below) who plays Waru, an indigenous returned  WWII serviceman whose courage under fire saved white Australian lives but upon his return home, finds his family had been taken away and he is not only shunned but brutalized by those who should be grateful for his heroism.eVvxEMXwXkeMYq2QHis wife, Jarah, is played with such intensity and determination by Alexis Lane (pictured below), she reminded me of an Aussie “Wonder Woman”! Jarah is a full-on avenging angel as she tries to reunite her husband and daughter, and take revenge upon those who inflicted humiliation and pain on them all.ubGuPazE (3)In flashbacks, we see Jarah grow from a sweet child to a strong, independent woman who ferociously takes on corruption and bigotry, one bad guy at a time. With a nod to Butch & Sundance and Bonnie & Clyde, Waru and Jarah are pushed to the limit and explode in a fury of bullet-riddled retribution.rFRpE11g (3)FFpvn79g (2) There are lots of twists and turns throughout their journey to freedom, and the supporting cast is extraordinary.  To me, this story is truly of outback opera dimensions. It’s big, action-packed and shot in luscious landscapes (Kangaroo Valley, NSW) and it’s been called “an explosive blend of Tarantino and The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith”.  Congratulations to Victoria and fellow producer Amadeo Marquez Perez with whom I recently chatted from their home base in Australia…..

Victoria, as writer as well as director, what inspired the story…was it based on historic fact or other source material?  I have an affinity with the WWII period and life in Australia at that time, it still feels very under-represented in our stories for such an impactful time on our home soil. Having made a short film, MIRO, that looks at a First Nation soldier’s experience on returning home from war and seeing the response to the tone, style and content of that film I was inspired to tell a woman of colour’s story from that same era.
THE FLOOD is a fictionalized account of many truths from our history woven and funneled into one family’s experience. It is a revisionist western allowing for women of colour, First Nations and the down trodden to come out on top, to be the heroes on screen, for the story to travel through them.oz4BGlRgHow important is it to tell such stories, regardless of the pain and anger they elicit from both sides of the conversation?  Social justice and reconciliation through thrilling entertainment is at the heart of our story telling. Only by facing the truth as individuals and collectively can we move forward together as one.  Truth is often hidden because it is painful, examining the past can bring great sorrow and anger and trigger passion of all kinds but like a festering wound it must be cleaned and telling the truth is the greatest healer – only by standing together and facing it, allowing it, can we bridge the distance between us as a community.912S431AThe Flood does not shy away from the brutality and senseless killings of the Aboriginal characters just as their ancestors would have experienced – how important was it to show the entirety of each deadly scene, albeit shot in a stylized manner?  Australia actively expunged records of Aboriginal people’s very existence from the time of colonization and that practice is rooted deep in our nation’s psyche. How can we expect people to understand our history and its lingering effects on our society unless we look honestly at that history? Very often we hear “they should just get over it…it’s in the past…I didn’t do it…” etc. THE FLOOD is a roller-coaster ride and when you hit a trough you find yourself deep in it with our First Nation/Woman of Colour characters – there is no escape – you’re strapped in for the ride!TmBshkzg (2)How has the film/tv industry helped bring to light past colonial transgressions and the indescribably cruel treatment of indigenous Australians? Has putting history on the screen opened more discussion and understanding between black and white Australians – has the cultural divide become more apparent?  There has never been greater understanding and acknowledgement of First Nation’s peoples than right now in Australia. Yes, film/tv has totally led that charge. Through entertainment, we can enlighten and share experience and understanding – humans are creatures of story – it is how we learn and grow and is our greatest asset in finding ways of connection, forgiveness and peace with each other.OM3yu1hQVictoria, I understand you’ve worked with 2 of my favourite Aussie actors – Jack Thompson (pictured below) & Sigrid Thornton. Can you tell me about your short film The Telegram Man which has brought you such incredible acclaim (it’s part of Oscars’ permanent collection and even screened at Gallipoli)?  THE TELEGRAM MAN is also a WWII story told on Australian soil. It’s about the man who must deliver the worst kind of news. A man who goes from being a welcome sight, delivering news about babies and weddings, to being shunned as the harbinger of death.  We don’t often think of those people in our war time stories, how the tentacles of war reach into tiny communities on the other side of the world far from the fight. Jack plays the telegram man who must deliver news to parents played by Sigrid Thornton and Gary Sweet. He brings such pathos to the role and we are left with the futility of fighting and the need to evolve beyond it.Jack TThe casting in THE FLOOD was superb – your leading lady, Alexis Lane, was one bad-ass revenge machine! Did she know what she was in for when accepting the role of Jarah?  Well…we did let her read the script…lol.  Alexis is phenomenal and this film will launch her career so sit up and take notice world – this woman is incredible! Alexis moves between elation and despair, pain and pleasure, revenge and redemption like a scythe through spring grass – it’s one hell of a ride.Jarah & ShamusLeading man Shaka Cook was brilliant, giving such a nuanced performance with so much going on behind his eyes which was just as exciting to watch as all his shoot ‘em up action. Did you know him or did you discover him during auditions?  I trawl around the internet looking at actors and came across an interview with Shaka. He was talking about the Polly Farmer Foundation [for you non-Aussies, Polly Farmer was a famous Indigenous football player from my own childhood years – Fordham PR] and how grateful he was for the support that enabled him to attend the National Institute for Dramatic Art (NIDA). He spoke so beautifully and had such humility and genuine warmth that I knew he was the right actor to play Waru. He still had to audition and that was a bit of a process but we always wanted him.Shaka Cook_WaruYou captured so many great performances from all the bad guys (and there were so many villains in this film) – any in particular stand out for you as director/producer?  Well, there are three lead roles in THE FLOOD, Jarah, Waru and Shamus. Dean Kyrwood delivers an incredibly powerful performance as the brutal, vengeful Shamus (and his twin brother the cowardly Paddy Mackay.) Dean had to traverse deep darkness but also take us through to the prospect of hope, love and light. It is a lot to pack into two hours!  His right-hand man, Miller, is played by Socratis Otto and if you look carefully (perhaps on a second viewing) you will see the signs of Miller’s unrequited love for Shamus that also plays into the twisted nature of their dark and dangerous characters.6MzEkGYA T4MG4nsA youCgKcwWith such sadness and violence in THE FLOOD, how did the cast and crew seek release at the end of each shooting day?  There is also a lot of fun stuff in the film – horse riding – Mad Max-style car rides – shoot outs…so it wasn’t too traumatic that often.  It was the massacre and rape scenes that were the hardest days on set. Fortunately, we had our First Nation creative producers with us each day and they performed ceremony and worked with everyone so that what we played out formed part of a collective historical cleansing of country and people. We had profound experiences together that have bonded our cast and crew in a way I’ve never seen before.  And The Friendly Inn (pub) was also quite popular !7RT41RRAAmadeo, I know I’ve asked you this question at the recent post-screening Q&A panel (and it seemed to give you all a big laugh!) but how difficult was it to secure funding for your film? Is there a substantial government grant system in Australia, or do indie filmmakers rely mostly on angel backers, family or Go-Fund-Me online campaigns to get cameras rolling?  THE FLOOD was financed with the generous support of investors who are passionate about great stories and the messages in the beautiful film. Not being successful with government grants/funding, except for the Producer’s Offset, we decided to moved forward and get this film made. From the very beginning, THE FLOOD had its own energy and we had to trust that things would work out and the right people will be attached.  As producers, you are always trying to get financing for films but with THE FLOOD, we had a fantastic script and a unique story that people were drawn to. Victoria’s track record as a Writer/Director made pitching for support easier. Great stories almost fund themselves. xELAia5EAny news on when/if THE FLOOD will be released in Canada & the US? During this Covid crisis, might it go straight to a major streaming outlet such as Amazon Prime, Netflix, AcornTV or others?  We are planning a 2021 release for Canada and US – every creative decision was made for the big screen, so the dream is always to have a cinema run, it is a gigantic, sweeping, epic of a film visually and aurally – see it in the cinema if you can.  Streamers will undoubtably form the major part of our release with Covid being such an influence across the planet for the next couple of years. We start screening the film in cinemas across Australia starting December 9th. See the confirmed dates/cities for screenings in Australia at end of interview.armi & Vic (3)And for news updates on the film, festivals and awards, Victoria & Amadeo (pictured above on a recent red carpet) and the actors as well as your production company, can you please share your social media links or website?  We have 2 social media outlets – our Twitter handle is @wagtailfilms and our Facebook page is linked here:  https://www.facebook.com/The-Flood-Wagtail-Films-113511496758234   1lamolbEThe following screenings of THE FLOOD are confirmed, with others to be added in the coming days. Each screening will feature a Q&A with filmmakers and/or cast:

Wednesday 9/12 – Sydney – Palace Cinemas Central – Q&A with actors Alexis Lane and Shaka Cook, writer/director Victoria Wharfe McIntyre and producer Amadeo Marquez-Perez

Wednesday 9/12 – Perth – Palace Cinemas Raine Square – Q&A details tbc

Wednesday 9/12 – Brisbane – Palace Barracks – Q&A details tbc

Thursday 10/12 – Sydney– Hoyts Cinema Warringah – Q&A details tbc

Thursday 10/12 – Canberra – Dendy Canberra – Q&A details tbc

Thursday 10/12 – Newcastle – Event Cinema Kotara – Q&A with actors Shaka Cook and Dean Kyrwood and producer Amadeo Marquez-Perez

Thursday 10/12 – Bowral – Empire Cinema – Q&A with writer/director Victoria Wharfe McIntyre and Yuin Nation creative producer and cultural consultant on set Paul Mcleod

Friday 11/12 – Nowra – Roxy Cinema – Q&A with writer/director Victoria Wharfe McIntyre, producer Amadeo Marquez-Perez and Yuin Nation creative producer and cultural consultant on set Paul Mcleod

Friday 11/12 – Mildura – Wallis Mildura – Film introduced by actor Brendan Bacon

Friday 11/12 – The Entrance – Majestic Cinema – Film introduced by actor Karen Garnsey

Friday 11/12 – Karratha (WA) – Red Earth Arts – Q&A details tbc

The film will release on disc and digital platforms on January 6, 2021.

OF NOTE: Filmed in Victoria’s hometown of Kangaroo Valley, in what she describes as a “wonderful creative collaboration with the local Yuin Nation community, utilizing our land and that of friends and neighbours”, The Flood has poignantly become a visual archive of the Valley’s pristine subtropical rainforests and unique bushland which were destroyed by the 2020 firestorm that devastated the east coast of Australia. [quote courtesy of FilmInk.com.au]

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BUSY WRITER/PRODUCER/DIRECTOR THOMAS MICHAEL JUST CAN’T SLOW DOWN DURING COVID

Back in the early 2000’s, I was privileged to promote the launch of a Toronto-based indie film production company (Five Faces Films). After several projects, the three partners split, going in their individual directions, both career-wise and geographically. Thomas Michael has gone on to successfully write, direct and produce feature films (Hank & Mike and Back Country – pictured below) shot here in Canada while living in Los Angeles where he resides with his wife and 2 children. Over the past several months, he’s been busy creating more feature film scripts and producing the chilling new feature GIRL that stars Bella Thorne, the incomparable Mickey Rourke and Chad Faust who also wrote and directed the film.  thumbnail (2)thumbnail (1) I recently e-chatted with my old friend and asked him what he has been doing to keep busy over the past 6 or 7 months and damn, this man ain’t no couch-potato!

After establishing your own Canadian production company and writing/directing/starring in a number of hilarious off-beat comedy films, you moved to LA approximately ten years ago and have been working as an actor on a number of popular tv series (Transporter, Nikita, The Listener). How was that transition to west coast working actor?  I actually don’t act very much anymore. My focus has shifted mainly to writing, producing and directing. As an actor, I loved appearing in my own films or in those of talented friends, but a lot of the work I was getting was in TV shows. And coming from a place where I was used to being the writer and producer and often the director as well, I found acting in TV to be mostly frustrating and unfulfilling. I just craved being a part of the storytelling process more. As for the west coast thing, I love living in LA, but I (thus far) make all my films in Canada. However, I have a film we’re planning on shooting in Colombia coming up.thumbnail (4)All the while you’ve been guesting on tv series, have you been writing and developing scripts? And if so, can you share any news about upcoming productions?  I never stop writing or developing. I have now written and/or produced 8 feature films, 2 of which I also directed. I also have a number of TV series in development. I can’t help myself. An idea for a film or tv show comes to me, I try and bat it away and tell it that I’m far too busy, but if it won’t leave me alone and keeps haunting me, then I need to exorcise it. And that means writing it. Once I write something, I then put on my producer hat and find a way to get it made.

With GIRL, you took on the mantle of Producer – was it difficult to secure funding for the indie thriller or were you able to secure support from past collaborators?   I’ve always produced. Right from the start when I was 15 and was doing a sketch comedy series for a cable access station in Ottawa. That led to two seasons on the Comedy Network of a show I created and also produced. For GIRL, the project came to me from some past collaborators. It was a terrific script and I loved director, Chad Faust’s vision for it, so I came on board and helped secure some financing and dived in to make it happen.ok1-VTEIChad Faust (pictured below), who appears in the film opposite Bella Thorne, also wrote AND directed the film…is he a friend or industry colleague?  He is now both. But when I first met him, his script was brought to me. I had worked once before with a first-time writer/director on Backcountry. I felt for GIRL, as I did for Backcountry, that I could help support an up-and-coming talent who I believed in.GIRL_Still04 (2)GIRL is a very dark story, a contrast to your hilarious Hank & Mike and Running Mates films. Is this a genre that you’d like to continue exploring?   To the frustration perhaps of the industry, I can’t seem to limit myself to one genre. Comedy is still very near to my heart and I have some comedies I’ve written that are moving forward. But I also love dramas and darker stories. I do believe that adage is true that if you can do comedy you can do drama, but not necessarily the other way around. I have a gritty western we’re making next year as well as a revenge thriller and a coming of age dramedy, and I just wrapped a romantic comedy. If it’s a good story and I feel it needs to be told, genre is the last thing I think about.GIRL_Still11 (2)How was the experience working with award-winning and Oscar-nom’d Mickey Rourke, an exciting but sometimes volatile actor? He has always been a favourite of mine and he’s chosen such diverse film roles – how did he approach his role in GIRL?  I have always loved Mickey’s work and was very excited to watch him work. He’s very mysterious and mercurial. Sometimes it feels like he’s not doing anything at all, and then you watch the dailies and you go “Oh my God! He’s mesmerizing!”. He has an ineffable quality that makes him incredibly captivating. GIRL_Still10 (2)Singer/actress Bella Thorne plays the bad-ass heroine in the film – do you see more women taking the lead in action/crime/horror films as indicative of the more positive audience attitude towards women as “heroes”?  Totally. Backcountry was a big success both critically (holding at 92% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes!) and that film featured a strong female lead. The last film I directed, “Nowhere To Be Found” was about a mother desperately searching for her missing daughter. That film won my lead actress, Kate Drummond, a well-deserved CSA award for Best Lead Performance. I have two sisters, was raised by my mom. I’m married and have a daughter. Starting out in more male-oriented teenage comedy, I take my responsibility as a storyteller very seriously in terms of how women are portrayed on screen. I’ve also been a long and proponent of working with as many women behind the camera as I could. It’s just always seemed obvious to me.GIRL_Still01 (3)You’ve worked with Paolo Mancini (stars as “the mechanic” in GIRL) for many years – as a close friend as well as actor, does he bring a sense of security to you to the set?  Paolo is my long-time writing partner and best friend. We’ve been writing together since we were 13 years old. Writing is such a lonely occupation, so to be able to do it with your best friend is a joy and privilege. Paolo is also a stellar actor and I always know when he’s on set that he’ll not only deliver a great performance, but will also be a stable and solid presence in a sometimes frantic and hectic environment.

Is GIRL currently playing the festival circuit during Covid lock-down? Where can audiences find the film once it goes to general release?  The film has done the rounds of Canadian and American festivals and comes out in theatres across the US on November 20th, and then on VOD and all digital platforms on November 24th in the US and Canada.bannerHow can fans follow your films and production activity? As you well noted, I haven’t updated my website in a little while. I need to get better at that. I guess Facebook is the best way to keep tabs on what I’m up to. I don’t post much, but when I have a project coming out, I make an effort to let people know. I focus on the making and not on the selling. I do need to get better at the selling part. Here are the official social media links for GIRL
https://www.facebook.com/GirlMovie2020/
https://www.instagram.com/girl_the_movie/
https://twitter.com/Girl_The_Movie
Official website: https://screenmediafilms.net/productions/details/3202/Girl

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Director, Screenwriter, Producer, Composer, Actor Bruno Verdoni

TORONTO-BASED ACTOR/FILMMAKER BRUNO VERDONI DOESN’T LET COVID STOP HIS CREATIVE PROCESS

A few years ago when my sister, Jenny, visited Toronto from Australia, she introduced me to Marianne Sawchuk and her actor husband, Bruno Verdoni. Marianne is a twin to one of Jen’s besties back in Oz so it was a fun meet-up for Jenny at an art gallery opening to which I invited them all, and I made 2 new friends here in Toronto.  Since then, I’ve watched as Bruno’s film and tv work has gained buzz on social media and more recently, he launched a film production company with wife Marianne – their first cinematic joint venture has resulted in increased awareness in the industry and much online attention from fans and movie lovers. PosterI recently chatted with Bruno about his current success and exciting new production venture with Marianne, as well as asking a little about his past experiences with well-known Hollywood actors and what’s ahead for him, regardless of the current Covid situation.

Bruno, you’ve enjoyed quite the stellar career to date and have worked with the likes of award-winning actors Jessica Chastain, John Malkovich, Lawrence Fishburne, James Cromwell and Viola Davis: how have they inspired you or shared their own acting experiences with you?  Most of the well-known actors I have worked with were very gracious. Robert Patrick was doing a very emotional scene and was nailing it take after take, and he openly shared with me how he did it. Back then I wasn’t sure if I understood what he meant, but now with all my experience I absolutely do. Barbara Hershey openly shared with me some of her life’s events and Scott Wilson and Shoreh Aghdashloo were genuine and quite generous on and off set. Jessica Chastain impressed me with her work ethics. Speaking of Jessica, I had quite the audition experience with Aaron Sorkin who directed Molly’s Game. I went in, we tried the scenes a few different ways, he said I was perfect for the part – something I had heard before but no candy. 90 minutes later my agent got the call that I was going to shoot both in TO and NY. A man of his word. Loved that!

You’re able to act in French language productions as well as English; how has this increased your working opportunities in Canada? A lot more opportunities as I can access casting for film, TV, Voiceover, Commercial and some Video games x 2 J. Often enough I am asked to do accents, both in QC and ON and that helps a lot too. For some reason I get offered roles more often in Montreal. I am from there but haven’t been living in that city for many years. So even while living in LA I was so chuffed to be offered substantial roles on French-Canadian series.

What motivated you and your wife Marianne Sawchuk to create your own film production company, Valiant Heart Films?  My career came to a point where the roles and stories I had been dying to tell and had been training hard for, were not presenting themselves enough, so I thought I should be carrying the load, and be more the in control of my destiny. I had written a story that moved us both a lot and a friend of ours (a screenwriter in L.A.) said “not only do you have to do this project but you have to direct it too”. And I did. From then on, Marianne (pictured below) became the main motivating factor both as a producer and a partner. She has those organizing and unifying qualities that she used so well while producing her theatre projects/festivals, skills that are so important – if not more – when producing film projects.Producer, Actress-Marianne Sawchuk Photo by David LeyesAfter that kickstart, I spent a considerable amount of time studying the craft; from screenwriting to cinematography. Even as a young actor, with a recurring role on Stargate, I kept bugging the DP with my many technical questions. That DP – Robert McLachlan –ended up winning many awards for his work on Game Of Thrones.

Your first short film, Heaven and Earth: A Ritual has been well-received on the film fest circuit – what inspired the 1880’s-based story and the characters?  I was living in Vancouver then and was really curious about issues of racism towards First Nations people and the Chinese community. So I started looking into the Chinese migration in an around Seattle and BC during the 1800’s. And I thought it’s hard enough today, but how horribly hard it would have been for a bi-racial woman (Chinese and Indigenous Canadian) back then.May (Sera-Lys McArthur) on the set of Heaven and Earth; A Ritual. Screen ShotAround that time, I had moved to Los Angeles and decided it would be a better fit, story-wise, to make the character MAY, a strong and combative First Nation character. Mostly because we were going to shoot it in and around L.A. and it felt more appropriate to focus on the U.S.’s Indigenous reality. We ended up moving back to Canada around that time and so Heaven & Earth was shot in and around Toronto.Frank (Bruno Verdoni), Elizabeth (Marianne Sawchuk) and Dancer doing a master shot at Lang Pioneer Village. Screen Shot (2) Frank Mitchell (BrunoVerdoni) and Dancer during magic hour on location in Kleinburg. Screen ShotHeaven and Earth is currently showcasing at the American Indian Film Festival (Nov.6-14) and the Huntingdon Beach Cultural Cinema Showcase (Nov.13-15); it’s just been accepted at the NatiVisions Film Festival in Parker, AZ, December 3 to 5, with more festivals in the pipeline – what are you doing to prepare for the wider int’l exposure and audience kudos and media reviews?  For as far as I can remember, my sights as an artist have always been on festivals. I’ve always been very inspired by the international community coming together during those times. It’s always been one of my dearest goals to collaborate, co-write, co-produce projects with different countries around the world. And, I also need to make sure I have many strong ideas up my sleeve and ready to be pitched. (see official trailer, below)

During the Covid lock-downs and country-wide industry shut-down, how have you remained busy? Have you been studying scripts for future projects, writing, doing voice-overs remotely?  Well I did take the time to write and direct a COVID short for a Toronto COVID short film festival, called Molly’s World. There again it was Marianne who jolted me into action as we had less than 48 hrs to write-shoot-edit this project. It was a lot of fun to play a bad guy in this family fare, opposite Marianne and our daughter Francesca.
Out of the stories I have been working on over the last few years, I am spending some time fine-tuning the ones that move me the most in terms of films and series. I recently recorded a voice-over gig for New York out of my own voice-over studio. 2 weeks ago I finished shooting a French series where my character had been recurring for the last 5 years and on a different artistic plane, since Heaven And Earth: A Ritual gave me the opportunity to compose music again, I decided to keep pushing in that direction, too, and play/compose more music, as I need to elevate my musicianship skills since one of my upcoming projects involves 70‘s rock music.  You can listen to Bruno’s music score for Heaven and Earth: A Ritual here:

What’s next for Valiant Heart Films – do you and Marianne have any projects in the works?   Well, that 70’s rock music project is actually a coming-of age story and has been brewing in the back of my mind for many years now. I strongly feel that it will be in a finished pdf format real soon. I have to say I find myself amidst many stories/concepts/ideas the run the gamut in terms of genres, from fable to musical drama, sci-fi to documentary, family comedy to thriller. I’m impressed that my intuition/inspiration is sending me in all these different directions but in the end the purpose remains the same; to tell a solid, compelling story that feels authentic and reverberates with people, that moves them.

Any advice for other actors or filmmakers struggling to establish themselves in a very tough business?  For me it’s always been about “what moves me” to the point where it makes me relentless. You have to find that “thing” which moves you enough to be unstoppable in your journey. That is the only way. And as you grow you will need to gather as many skills as possible on your journey – people, technical and artistic skills.  And ALWAYS surround yourself well. Find people who are talented, kind and who thrive in a communal environment.Our all female camera crew at Kleinburg Chelsea Springgay, 1st Assistant Camera, Deirdre Leowinata, 2nd Assistant Camera, and Sarah Thomas Moffat (Cinematographer)How can people follow your work and Valiant Heart Films on social media?
https://www.facebook.com/valiantheartfilms
https://www.facebook.com/bruno.verdoni
www.instagram.com/brunoverdoni/

Good luck with all your upcoming projects, Bruno (and Marianne) and I hope we see Heaven and Earth: A Ritual at even more film festivals over the coming months. Good to see you living your best life!Director, Screenwriter, Producer, Composer, Actor Bruno Verdoni1 Photo by Dennys IlicLATEST UPDATE:  

Currently Bruno is starring in another short film called Bloodshed directed by Paolo Mancini and Daniel Watchorn. It has been officially selected and playing at the following festivals…so far:
World premiere at Fantasia Festival in Montreal
Night Visions Festival in Helsinki
NOLA Horror Film Festival in New Orleans
Oregon Scream Week Horror Film Festival where Bruno was a finalist for Best Actor Award
LUSCA Fantastic Film Festival in Puerto Rico
Hellifax Horror Festival in Halifax
Requiem Fear Fest in Montreal where Bloodshed won Best Short Film
Frightening Ass Film Festival in Tennessee
Bogota Horror Film Festival in Columbia
Panic Fest in Kansas City
Monster Fest in Australia
Tacoma Film Festival
Festival El Grito in Venezuela Dec 3-5
Mostra Crash International Fantastic Film Festival in Brazil Dec 9-13
Another Hole in the Head Film Festival in San Francisco Dec 11-27
Chandler International Film Festival in Arizona Jan 21-24, 2021thumbnail

VIFF NAIDOC Film Festival Poster FINAL SML 2

AUSTRALIA’S FANFORCE TV TO PRESENT 2ND ANNUAL “VIRTUAL INDIGENOUS FILM FESTIVAL” NOV.11-15

Over the past 6 months of Covid quarantine and isolation here in Toronto, I’ve spent a lot of time online getting reacquainted with my homeland of Australia, its film and TV industry, its leading players and cultural ambassadors – yes, as you can already tell, I’m homesick and can’t wait to board a QANTAS jetliner and get my butt back Down Under. My quest for Aussie content took me to Amazon Prime, AcornTV and other streaming platforms, resulting in binge-watching shows like Water Rats, City Homicide, and the feature films and tv series of Mystery Road…the common thread being star Aaron Pedersen (pictured below) who has captured my heart and imagination. Behind-the-scenes-shot.-MYSTERY-ROAD-THE-SERIES.-Aaron-Pedersen.-Photo-John-Platt.36310144-e1526434876208The award-winning indigenous actor has led me to more in-depth research of the state-of-the-art for indigenous filmmakers, writers, directors and I was amazed at the depth of talent currently working in Australia. So why don’t we know about them up here in Canada and the U.S.? Lack of distribution deals? The assumption that other countries wouldn’t understand the specifics of cultural heritage and Aussie politics? I remember back in the 80s, Australia’s “new wave” of filmmaking ignited worldwide interest with such classics as My Brilliant Career, Picnic at Hanging Rock, Gallipoli (pictured below), Man From Snowy River, the int’l commercial hit Crocodile Dundee and TV mini-series such as The Thorn Birds that made Bryan Brown a huge int’l star. But these were all told by and for the “new” Australians, the white population. gallipoliI remember watching Walkabout (1975) featuring a young aboriginal actor, David Gulpilil, but his character sadly ended up rather badly. Where were all the positive cinematic images of indigenous actors and their stories?  Were there any indigenous actors or filmmakers? We never saw them on TV or in the cinemas. I’ve been away from home a long time and as I plan my return as soon as Covid allows, I’m comforted in the knowledge that this previous lack of inclusion is being addressed now thanks to the brilliance of directors such as Ivan Sen, Rachel Perkins, Wayne Blair and Warrick Thornton, and actors like Pedersen, Deborah Mailman, Ernie Dingo, and the now-legendary Gulpilil who remains a great presence on screen. I’m excited to be introduced to even more talent this coming week thanks to the 2nd annual Virtual Indigenous Film Festival and I encourage all film fans to join in online to celebrate the creativity and educational opportunities presented. Here’s all the info you need…..fanforceFANFORCE TV, the new Australian community-based streaming platform presents the second Virtual Indigenous Film Festival from the 11th of November till the 15th of November as part of NAIDOC* Week 2020. The festival will present award-winning Australian Indigenous films followed by live Q&A discussions and audience participation via Live Chat. *National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) Week events are held across Australia to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. NAIDOC is celebrated not only in Indigenous communities, but by Australians from all walks of life. [#NAIDOC2020 #AlwaysWasAlwaysWillBe ]

FANFORCE TV is showcasing 5 virtual events including film screenings of In My Own Words, The Song Keepers, The Flood, Wik vs. Queensland and Westwind: Djalu’s Legacy.   The-Song-Keepers-Naidoc-Thumbnail In MY Own Words Westwind-Naidoc-Thumbnail Wik-Vs-Queensland-Naidoc-ThumbnailTickets for the individual virtual screening events are $6.99USD with an all access pass available for $19.99USD. For more information visit:  fanforcetv.com  
There is also an exciting lineup of guest speakers and expert panelists involved throughout the week including filmmakers’ Erica Glynn (In My Own Words), Naina Sen (The Song Keepers), Dean Gibson (Wik Vs Queensland), Victoria Wharfe Mcintyre (The Flood), Ben Strunin (Westwind) and Keri Tamwoy (Mayor of Aurukun). More guests to be announced!mma9255-stills-master_2 mma9288-stills-master_3FANFORCE TV uniquely enables audiences to ask questions and discuss topics in real time with the guest speakers and community leaders via live chat and live streaming features. “We are thrilled to have a special screening of The Flood as part of VIFF and NAIDOC Week” says Victoria Wharfe McIntyre, writer/director/producer of The Flood. “Our film was born from a unique collaboration and tells a highly emotive, provocative and revisionist story about our nation’s history, it is fitting to showcase the film in an equally unique way via Live-streaming with a public discussion. This Q&A will be cracker and we are looking forward to some passionate, hard hitting and insightful comments and questions from the audience.”The-Flood-Naidoc-Thumbnail THE FLOOD IMG_0349The Flood will follow its VIFF NAIDOC Premiere with Cinema screenings across Australia and New Zealand (and hopefully the rest of the world in early 2021). Dates to be announced shortly.

FANFORCE TV acknowledges and pays respect to the past, present and future Traditional Custodians and Elders of this nation and the continuation of cultural, spiritual and educational practices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be aware that this page may contain images or names of people who have passed away.

I encourage you all to expand your understanding of Australia – its people, its cultures, its history….and its inspiring Indigenous filmmaking community. naidoc-logo-300

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THE AUSTRALIAN SHOP IN TORONTO BRINGS “DOWN UNDER” FASHIONS & ACCESSORIES TO N. AMERICAN SHOPPERS

Many years ago, when jones’ing for a little taste of home, I found THE AUSTRALIAN SHOP at one of the big expos in Toronto and ever since then, I’ve been a fan as well as a customer.  Owner, JOHN KEATING (pictured below) has been carefully curating his catalogue of coats, jackets, hats and all sorts of other accessories and treats for the North American market for 40yrs and this year, due to Covid, has taken sales online.johnI recently spoke with John about the challenges of taking his business from the popular in-person sales booths at agricultural and downtown shows and expos, and he assured me that his Aussie products are still available and people can call to place orders, allowing him to chat with each purchaser and find exactly what they want or need. Contact details are at the end of this story.  I recently asked John a few questions about THE AUSTRALIAN SHOP and he kindly shared his story with me….

What inspired you to import the Australian-style clothing and accessories?  We were very inspired by the success of the Australian tourism campaigns in North America in the 80’s, probably due to the influx of Aussie films and the overwhelming popularity of Paul Hogan (Crocodile Dundee). It was very evident that people had become intrigued and aware of the practicality, quality and style of the authentic Aussie oilskin clothing which was well-suited to the N. American lifestyle and outdoor pastimes.croc dundeeWhen/where did you first open the Australian Shop as a bricks-and-mortar location and how do you manage sales now that you’re an online only store?  Our Australian clothing business started some 40 years ago, primarily frequenting various shows and exhibitions including provincial Highland Games, Border Collie dog shows, sheep shows, horse shows, The British Show, the Calgary Stampede, Spruce Meadows International Equestrian Show and the Canadian National Exhibition. Now, due to Covid, 2020 has seen a loss of public events so we’ve focused more on online sales which are progressing favourably.duooverlandDid movies like Crocodile Dundee and The Man From Snowy River (pictured below) from the 80’s help boost sales?  Sales were tremendously boosted once the Australian “new wave” of films hit North America. The Australian theme of the Canadian National Exhibition (the country’s annual expo of products and fun-fair held in Toronto) also did much to feature Down Under fashions, foods, lifestyles and tourism. They certainly highlighted the Akubra hats and oilskin coats.snowy river movieApart from clothing and hats, do you sell any other Aussie products? Currently, we have a great carry-all bag which is great for weekends or even daily work chores and laptops. Plus we are very proud to offer Aboriginal crafts such as boomerangs and didgeridoos, although we don’t offer lessons for those! One of the most famous and esteemed didge players is Indigenous musician David Hudson so you can search YouTube for his performances as well as lessons.7502-BRN-ONE_1-B (2)

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Do you sell and ship across Canada AND the U.S.?  Yes, we ship across Canada and the U.S., as well as overseas. Everything is based on weight and size of package. During Covid, deliveries may be slower than usual so if you’re buying as gifts, please allow enough time to arrive for that special day.

What do your find are the most popular items?  Our oilskin coats, jackets and vests are always the big sellers. The world-famous Akubra hats worn by many Aussie outback folks are always in demand, too.cowboy coat and hathats_akubra_snowyYour customers are not just horsey or farm folks, right? Urbanites who love the outdoor lifestyle also order from you and I guess dog-walkers are also frequent customers?  The outback or drover coats and jackets are always in style – something about the rugged image of the Aussie mate, be it a man or woman, is always an attractive factor. Businessmen and women can also be seen in downtown centres around the world in the fashionable and durable oilskin coats.

What’s so special about Australian oilskin clothing?  The oilskin material is produced in Australia. This increases the quality of the clothing. It’s a material that wears very well, is rain resistant and offers protection from the wind as well.  For many years, we sold the clothing at the annual Canadian National Exhibition and Royal Winter Fair here in Toronto as well as major dog and horse shows and rural exhibitions across Canada – we even journeyed to Scandinavia to showcase our clothing.short oilskin jktIf you’d like to learn more about The Australian Shop and see John’s full catalogue, visit the website: www.australian-shop.ca and you can follow the Facebook account: www.facebook.com/australianshopto  and Instagram:  @australianshopto

Thank you for supporting a Canadian small business!

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That’s not a hat, mate…THAT’s a hat!

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CANADIAN ACTOR/WRITER/FILMMAKER BOBBY DEL RIO CONQUERS COVID PRODUCTION LOCK-DOWN BY CREATING MULTIPLE FUTURE PROJECTS FOR FILM & TV

Several years ago, I was thrilled to work on promotions and PR for filmmaker friend Bobby Del Rio‘s feature film The Market and I was pleasantly surprised to learn of the impact the film has had on so many of the actors involved, especially now that there is a distribution deal in place to take the film to viewers across the globe…and that my fave streaming platform, Amazon Prime, now offers it as part of their catalogue. One good thing about quarantining is that it’s given us plenty of time to watch tv and discover all manner of films, documentaries and tv series.   I reached out to Bobby to see how he’s dealing with the production “lock down” and was pleased to hear how well he has been handling these past 6 months both personally and professionally. This is what he told me….headshot bBobby, it’s been several years since we worked together on your feature film The Market, and you recently landed a distribution deal for the film so how did that come about and what countries can now view The Market?   Thank you for your help, Glenda. You were an important part of our team that helped us get here!
The distribution deal came about while talking to my friend Rebeka Herron about another project. When I mentioned I thought the unfortunate economic collapse was a very relevant time to release my feature film about a Wall Street conspiracy theory, she certainly agreed and offered to distribute the film through her Parallel Universe Pictures. They have been amazing to work with. The film is currently available on Amazon Prime in the US & UK. In Canada, we’re on Vimeo on Demand. The Market poster (2)From watching all your social media posts, I gather you’ve been very busy writing, directing, acting…can you share any news of upcoming film/tv releases?  I really appreciate the support, Glenda. I’ve been blessed to stay busy during a difficult time in our industry. My next project is The Kult, a web series I’m co-writing with Megan Laursen. We created it together, Megan is directing, I am playing one of the lead roles. We have assembled a brilliant cast of stage and screen veterans, and will be announcing production details in the coming months… We’re looking at early 2021, and I’m incredibly excited about it.
Megan Laursen is a 22-year old prodigy who has become my writing partner and main collaborator. She will be directing some of my feature screenplays, and I am attached to star in a few of her films. You will hear her name again and again, and it’s my true pleasure to work with such a talented artist at the beginning of her bright career. I am also working with filmmaker Paul Persic on a new feature film. Paul is actually our DOP for The Kult, and a talented director himself. He is yet another young, prodigious film talent that has an incredibly bright career ahead of him. Megan, Paul and myself have a really great synergy that is yielding a large number of film projects at a very high skill level. It’s humbling and exciting to work with (and learn from) artists half my age.

How have you navigated the Covid production shut down? Has this given you the time and space to focus on your writing?  While Covid has certainly created many challenges, it has also been a blessing in disguise for me. I learned how to edit, launched a couple of podcasts, polished some scripts and binged historically great television franchises like Lost and The Sopranos. I am slightly embarrassed to admit that I have never been so busy in my entire career! I have been offered lead roles in SEVEN different projects, and have many other projects in development as a writer.
While many of my projects are on hold from a production standpoint until after Covid is over, many are in pre-production. I anticipate an INCREDIBLY busy 2021 – starting around spring/summer. While the quarantine year has been challenging, I think it’s been a very important time for contemplation. I view our industry in a period of calm before the storm…

Back in 2017, you presented your play, Professionally Ethnic which was, in fact, written a decade earlier. Considering the timeliness of the subject of diversity in film & tv, do you have any plans to put the play on film? Due to many geopolitical events, my play Professionally Ethnic has certainly been getting attention. I have been working extensively with director Rouvan Silogix for an extended theatre run and also a film adaptation! While theatre has been hit harder than film during the pandemic, many discussions are ongoing. Since writing is a major part of my career, I have actually found myself MORE in demand as a writer. While many production challenges continue, development opportunities abound. Rouvan is one of my best friends, and a truly brilliant artist. While we don’t have official release dates on anything related to Professionally Ethnic yet, we have a few strong possibilities on the horizon for this particular project… My hope is that an analysis of race politics will bring us all closer together as human beings…EthnicYou were also a recurring character on the hit web-series My Roommate’s an Escort (2017-19) – did that experience inspire your own web-based creativity? How do you see the future of traditional network tv vs. web-based or streaming platforms for entertainment delivery?  Playing SAM in both seasons of My Roommate’s an Escort taught me a lot. While I was the creator & showrunner of IRL the Series (sold to Bell Media) before I worked for Katie & Trish as an actor, I certainly learned a lot from the Escort experience. It’s amazing how voraciously an audience is willing to consume a web series if you have the right product.roommateAs for traditional network tv vs web-based content, the lines have blurred. I personally do not see a difference between conventional television and shorter-form content. I think the viewer has shifted their thinking to that of patrons in an art gallery: While some canvasses are large and some are small, they are all ultimately still viewed as different paintings. I think that is how movies/tv shows/web series/streaming platforms/etc. are now seen: as simply different styles of content – all equally relevant, though unique in their own ways.
Ultimately, the audience is looking for a well-crafted story, told by skilled artists. I simply focus on telling my stories the best way I can with the resources available to me. That strategy has consistently yielded positive results for me my entire career. I do my best, and constantly seek to improve. Everything else is out of my control…

How can readers follow you on social media?  I have a very active Facebook account where I approve everyone. (This sometimes gets me in trouble. lol) and I also have a growing platform on Instagram (@bobbydelrio) and my Twitter handle is @Bobman

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Thanks, Bobby, and congrats on all the well-earned successes to date and your future gigs. I encourage readers to check out Bobby’s social media for news of upcoming projects and thank you all for supporting Canadian talent.

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AUSTRALIAN AUTHOR CAPTURES OUTBACK TALE OF BETRAYAL AND REDEMPTION IN 1ST NOVEL “SPLINTERED HEART”

Over the past several months of Covid isolation and lack of film or tv production activity (i.e. potential clients), I’ve had lots of spare time to explore websites and news feeds from my homeland, Australia, and getting more and more homesick in the process. Thanks to viewing some fabulous films and TV shows on Aussie streaming platforms as well as Amazon Prime/Acorn TV,  I discovered Down Under’s favourite leading man, Aaron Pedersen (pictured below), star of Mystery Road the movie (featured at the 2013 Toronto Int’l Film Fest) and the subsequent TV series of the same name (the second series is currently airing in Canada on Acorn TV, part of the Amazon Prime service).pedersenHaving binge-watched 2 of his previous tv shows Water Rats (1996-2001) and City Homicide (2007 to 2011) and the Mystery Road movie sequel, Goldstone, I admit I’ve developed a huge crush on this handsome indigenous Aussie actor, so I joined a fun Facebook group made up of his most devoted fans, one of whom, Linda Dowling, is an award-winning successful author. Linda’s first 2 novels are currently available via Amazon Books, and I’m thoroughly engrossed in her first one, Splintered Heart, which takes place during the 60’s, an era when I myself was growing up in the bush just outside of Perth in Western Australia. So many references resonated with me but you don’t have to be an Aussie to fully appreciate the story, the heroine of the tale or the heat and vast emptiness of the outback. Dowling writes with great descriptive flair – I can almost hear the mournful call of the crows and feel the exhausting heat of the sun as I turn each page.new coverThis first book in Linda’s Red Dust series is set in the 1960s – teenager Lisa O’Connor is growing up in a brutal family environment living in the outskirts of Sydney, Australia. Abused and forsaken by those she should have been able to trust, Lisa is sent away to the notorious Parramatta Girls Home for ‘reform’ (this was, in fact, a real place which has thankfully since closed). While captive there, she experiences  the depths of human depravity and sinks even further into despair. Luckily for Lisa, she’s rescued from this abhorrent life by her childless aunt who takes her to live at a remote sheep station (i.e. big farm in the middle of nowhere) in outback New South Wales. Lisa finds herself in a world that is different to anything she has known before, and she falls in love with the homestead, the harsh outback landscape and the Aboriginal culture. With the help of her aunt and uncle, two female Aboriginal elders and Billy, a very special young Aboriginal man, Lisa’s splintered heart and broken spirit begin to mend.  Lisa’s determination and desire to overcome her horrific beginnings tell a saga unlike any other – both horrifying and inspiring, this is a book you won’t be able to put down.Linda DowlingThe award-winning, #1 bestselling author (pictured above) grew up in the Western suburbs of Sydney, Australia. During her childhood, Linda spent most of her time in rural areas and has continued to enjoy life in areas with natural surroundings. Her own aunt, a wonderful horsewoman, taught her a great deal about horses, riding and the outback and it was during her vacations with her aunt that Linda herself fell in love with the vast outback plains and the culture of the local indigenous population, their stories and their unique but simple way of living.  In her professional life, Linda has established and managed four medico-legal firms, including her own. During the course of her career, she has been involved in reporting on coroner-centric matters and inquests. She has also worked with the NSW Police State Crime Command Centre and in various Royal Commissions where she was exposed to the worst of human nature; she has drawn upon her professional and personal experiences while writing her Red Dust novel series, but the stories are a work of fiction and do not depict any person, living or dead.

Linda has already received many positive reviews and kudos direct from the readers, including:

A compelling read. Prepare to laugh and cry, this book will truly evoke a powerhouse of emotions. Steeped in culture perseverance and the unbreakable spirit of a young girl in 1960’s Australia.  Mary

I absolutely loved this book – an easy read that was hard to put down. A disturbing revelation into the brutal experiences occurring in the girls’ home in the 60’s and then a warming and uplifting transition to life in the outback and an interesting insight into our indigenous people. Looking forward to the next chapter.  Sandra

Wow! This book was an intense read. The author writes about the harshness of family life in general that many people living in Australia grew up in the 60’s thru 80’s can relate to. While the storyline itself was heart wrenching and a lot darker than anything I have experienced in my life, it left me thinking about the events affecting those in the book and the racism experienced by Aboriginals long after I had finished the book.  International Amazon CustomerIBA Book Award Finalist (3)

Splintered Heart is available in soft-cover and Kindle versions on Amazon so why not buy yourself a great gift for Christmas – order Linda’s book now!

Dale Chihuly Fire Ruby Basket Set with Slate Lip Wraps, 2017 14 x 36 x 30"
© Chihuly Studio. All Rights Reserved.

TORONTO’S SANDRA AINSLEY GALLERY INTRODUCES DALE CHIHULY’s STUNNING NEW GLASS EXHIBITION OCT. 24

Back in 2016, I was thrilled to see the exquisite glass masterpieces of famed artist DALE CHIHULY at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto; I walked around gasping at each stunning, delicate piece, marveling at Chihuly’s skill and imagination. Huge colourful chandeliers & installations stood alongside elegant vases and festive orbs (see my pics below)…so much to see…but dare not touch! 20161227_140807 20161227_135446Four years later, I am once again thrilled to view the upcoming Chihuly exhibition at the famed Sandra Ainsley Gallery when I attend their virtual launch this coming Saturday afternoon, Oct. 24th. Here’s what I’ll be seeing (and you can, too, until January 24, 2021)

CHIHULY, an exhibition by world-renowned artist Dale Chihuly, marks the gallery’s seventh exhibition with the artist. It will feature a selection of work that represents the breadth of the artist’s career in the thirty years since he met Sandra Ainsley, including Aquamarine Icicle Chandelier and Sea Green and Yellow Persian Installation (pictured below), two new works created specifically for the Sandra Ainsley Gallery. For the  first time in Canada, CHIHULY will exhibit his Light Drawings—vibrant compositions on acrylic panels which are intensified by interior illumination.

Dale Chihuly Sea Green and Yellow Persian Installation (detail), 2020 © Chihuly Studio. All Rights Reserved.

Dale Chihuly Sea Green and Yellow Persian Installation (detail), 2020
© Chihuly Studio. All Rights Reserved.

This carefully curated exhibition will present pieces from the artist’s best-known series such as Baskets, which Chihuly started in 1977 as an experiment testing fire, gravity and centrifugal force; Chandeliers, reflective sculptures designed to mass and control colour on a grand scale; Persians, featured in many of Chihuly’s most dramatic and well-known installations; and Ikebana, assemblages of long stemmed flowers and leaves of glass set within large-scale vessels. Works from some of Chihuly’s most technically challenging series will also be included such as Jerusalem Cylinders, vessels adorned with large glass crystals which Chihuly created for his landmark exhibition Chihuly in the Light of Jerusalem 2000, and Rotolo, dense coils of glass fused to a solid base that Chihuly developed in 2013.

CHIHULY will bring the viewer into the artist’s process and personal reflection through his Drawings (Works on Paper), Light Drawings, and the rarely shown Pilchuck Stumps. Drawings open a small window into the artistic process as Chihuly expresses his creative ideas on paper; Light Drawings are a reflection of Chihuly’s travels through Europe as a young man who marveled at the beauty of stained-glass windows and the power of natural light moving through them; and Pilchuck Stumps, glass vessels that were blown into wood and bark molds in 1992 and named for the Pilchuck Glass School which Chihuly co-founded in 1971.

Dale Chihuly Aqua Green Macchia with Russet Lip Wrap, 1981 7 x 11 x 7" © Chihuly Studio. All Rights Reserved.

Dale Chihuly Aqua Green Macchia with Russet Lip Wrap, 1981 7 x 11 x 7″
© Chihuly Studio. All Rights Reserved.

CHIHULY will open to the public with scheduled viewings due to anticipated public demand. Sandra Ainsley Gallery is following all the recommended Covid-19 protocols and restrictions. Follow the Sandra Ainsley Gallery website or social channels for the latest information. To schedule an opening day appointment or private viewing please contact Sandra Ainsley Gallery at 416-214-9490.

Sandra Ainsley Gallery is the only art gallery in Canada to represent Chihuly’s work. Visit sandraainsleygallery.com for the complete virtual exhibition. Lots of parking and easy to reach via TTC, I highly recommend an in-person visit to experience this master artist’s unique craft…just stand and look, take it all in and feel the emotions each artwork evokes.

Dale Chihuly Fire Ruby Basket Set with Slate Lip Wraps, 2017 14 x 36 x 30" © Chihuly Studio. All Rights Reserved.

Dale Chihuly Fire Ruby Basket Set with Slate Lip Wraps, 2017 14 x 36 x 30″
© Chihuly Studio. All Rights Reserved.

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VISITING THE PEN @ KINGSTON AND OTHER DAY TRIP FUN STUFF

Regardless of the overcast, rainy weather yesterday, I boarded the www.ShortTrips.ca bus bound for Kingston, Ontario – so nice to get out of the city and see the beautiful red and golden leaves along the 401 highway heading east from Toronto.

The first couple of hours were spent wandering around the historic downtown core…I hit the waterfront first while the sun was poking thru the clouds…20200930_115310I then headed to the town square behind city hall…they have lots of colourful chairs to relax in as well as tables and chairs for casual take-out dining and meeting up with friends – all safely socially distanced.20200930_115847 (2) 20200930_134003 (2)I spent the first hour shopping, dropping in on several charming boutiques and injecting some $$s into the local economy! I particularly enjoyed Amanda’s House of Elegance, Send in the Clowns and All Good Things where I discovered all manner of treasures not found back the city. Won’t post pics here as I have a few Christmas pressies for family and I know they read this blog. If you’re visiting Kingston, do stop into www.amandashouseofelegance.ca   www.sendintheclowns.ca   www.allgoodthingshomeshop.com

I discovered this laneway leading to the famous Chez Piggy (below) which was not open at the time20200930_124129 (2)…but I did find this awesome diner, Morrison’s, with its fabulous mid-century signage out front and super deelish food inside. Established in 1921, the restaurant has flourished and has been owned by the same family for the past 30yrs. I had a scrumptious BLT, French fries & gravy….yummmm20200930_133926 (2) 20200930_130048The restaurant is located directly behind the town hall so you can’t miss it. The historic building looked beautiful even with grey clouds above. I did manage to snap a quick pic out front with blue skies before the downpour.20200930_134221 (2)20200930_115023The old Kingston train station has been transformed into a tourist hub complete with a vintage engine – isn’t she lovely?20200930_134625Back on the bus and off to the Kingston Penitentiary – now closed (whew!) and a major tourist attraction. The grey walls and guard towers loomed over us, but the tour guides and staff offered a warm welcome.20200930_143550 (2) 20200930_144226(1) 20200930_144623 20200930_150332 (2)Although the 90-min tour was packed with historic facts and escapee trivia, it was quite depressing to think that men and women were incarcerated in such primitive conditions. I was, however, impressed with the beautifully crafted architecture and stonework done by the inmates themselves….just look at this flying staircase. 20200930_152538The prison finally closed on September 30th of 2013, fortunately after many improvements to the original 1835 prison.  Check out more at www.kingstonpentour.com20200930_160526 (3)As our bus headed back to Toronto, the heavens unloaded and our driver, Gord, did a brilliant job of navigating through rain so heavy, I don’t know how he saw the road. Thanks also to our bus hostess/guide, Anna Maria, who shared levity and smiles throughout the day-long trip. Everything on-board was COVID-safe; the interior was sanitized between stops and there was social distancing on-board with vacant rows separating us. Definitely recommend you check out www.ShortTrips.ca for upcoming day excursions as well as 2 and 3 day out of province tours, too.