Category Archives: Actors

poster

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

240827880_10159621209792673_3484457998821183082_n

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.

 

Krista

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

head shot

Fabulous funny lady CARLA COLLINS tickles funny bones, meditates on life & laughter, and soothes our souls

I remember the night of the Oscars many years ago when one of Canada’s leading TV networks sent beautiful Toronto comedienne CARLA COLLINS down to L.A. to cover the red carpet arrivals and do interviews with the stars. OMG, I’ll never forget that vision of her in a bizarre, wild orange sparkly frock tossing out bon mots and kudos to the stars, drawing them into her microphone and asking them hysterical questions about their nominated roles, their lives and loves…and whatever else came into her head – a wacky stream of consciousness. She was brilliant! Totally unafraid to meet to BIG named stars head-on, kinder than Joan Rivers but just as “intimate” with her enquiries, Carla charmed everyone that night and I knew it was only a matter of time that she herself would walk among the showbiz giants…on 6″ stilettos and with even bigger hair!

Working her magic in west coast comedy clubs, hosting corporate events & awards nights, special guesting at swanky soirees – years later Carla has forged a successful comedy career as well as becoming a best-selling author, launched a brilliant interactive program that merges laughter with meditation and yoga principles, and now back on home turf in Canada, she’s hosting a brand new webcast series (which should go live with a studio audience once Covid quarantining is over) staged at the legendary El Mocambo nightclub in downtown Toronto.

I recently caught up with my fellow blonde goddess and posed a few scintillating questions I thought my readers would enjoy….th (1)It’s been a long time since your first stand-up gig at The Rivoli in Toronto – do you remember your excitement or fears when you first set foot on the stage? And did you think it would lead to such a successful career in comedy for you?  For the longest time I was absolutely terrified of doing stand-up and had a crushing nerve problem where I couldn’t even eat for days leading up to going on stage. I only dabbled in comedy a couple of times a year when I was working fulltime on TV and radio.  Although comedy was my first love, I was terrified before every show. Now I could jump up and do 45 minutes at a garage sale! I can’t wait to make people laugh and I certainly never imagined it would become my greatest high and healthiest escape. Like every other comedian right now, I’m practically doing a tight 5 in the Whole Foods parking lot against everyone’s will.   The Rivoli was the mecca of comedy – I’m so sad to hear it has closed and so honoured to have had the opportunity to perform there a few times.

Your stand-up comedy has attracted a huge following in the States and whenever you’ve come home to Canada for special appearances you pack the theatres – do you find any difference in the audiences?  Audiences can vary a little from place to place, city to city. If I were to make a general, sweeping, certain to offend someone observation it’s that US audiences tend to be a tad more effusive and more prone to standing ovations and Canadian audiences seem to prefer more intellectual humour at times. Having said that, depending on the town or region, that statement can be totally flipped. At the moment I would kill for any type of audience, even though my Chihuahua, three kittens and UPS driver have been a great crowd during lockdown.15C4588F-D0F0-4D61-B70A-CBE938F0D1FE

Have you had any really weird experiences while doing your shows? Any men’s underwear thrown on stage, mothers claiming you seduced their sons or maybe some ugly streakers?   One time in Long Beach, California, a very drunken woman slurred and heckled throughout my set. That wouldn’t be remotely unusual except for the fact that I was performing at an AA meeting and the Ziplock bag full of vodka that fell out of her purse was frowned upon by the organizers. Last year in Calgary a former hockey player and his girlfriend bought me many, many drinks after I headlined a show. I had to excuse myself and retire to my room as I was beyond tipsy only to find a $1,500 tip in my purse! I was a bit of a legend the following night as the other comedians and wait staff had witnessed the event. Pretty sure I naively escaped an Albertan three-way!headshot2In one of your many film appearances, the diamond heist adventure Bitch Slap, you got to work with both Hercules (Kevin Sorbo) and Xena (Lucy Lawless) – how was that experience and did you manage to score any super powers of your own?   Well I was only in one scene so I didn’t get to work with either one on set. I did meet Kevin at the premiere and I already knew Lucy through a mutual friend. She’s absolute perfection and is one of my girl crushes. Pretty sure everyone adores Xena/Lucy. The only super power I emerged with was my ability to overact even in the tiniest of roles and my ability to kill off husbands. Metaphorically.bitchslapA few years ago, you created a fun online chat show, Carla Collins Comes Clean, set in your actual bathtub where you told us about all sorts of hilarious things that happened to you. How did you come up with the crazy concept and did you ever invite any special guests to the tub?   We had so much fun doing that web series and we still have a season 2 that needs to find its way out into the wild. It was directed by Tom Moser who has won multiple Emmys in animation. My then producer, Penny Edminston, and I thought it would be funny for me to just rant away in a bathtub as that is my natural habitat and form of cheap therapy. I would straight up be doing prison time if I wasn’t allowed to take baths. We were tickled by the twist ending of reversing the camera and showing some poor pizza delivery man, nun, B list celebrity, etc… fully-dressed in the tub with me and forced to hear my bullshit. There is interest in remaking the show this coming year so expect to see more of me, as it were. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

I’m interested to learn about how you’re exploring your spiritual side by launching the innovative Comedic Meditation program, hosted online now (thanks, Covid you bitch!). Please tell me about the healing effects of humour and how you have merged guided meditations with laughs and smiles.   Currently, Comedic Meditation is my favourite child! I think I have often combined my love of comedy and spirituality including performing stand-up at the Kabbalah Center in LA and my humorous self-help book “Angels, Vampires and Douche Bags”.8179923._UY630_SR1200,630_ (2) I’ve been spiritual all my life and have practiced yoga and meditated for almost 20 years now. Everyone in Los Angeles claims to be a guru and I just wanted to take the intimidation, preciousness and woo woo out of meditation. It’s simply focusing on your breath. The marriage isn’t as unconventional as it may seem at first. Starting off with 20 to 30 minutes of stand-up allows everyone to release endorphins and get out of their own heads and both meditation and laughter produce the same gamma brainwave. People are finding that they are able to relax more deeply and more quickly after some giggles (and sometimes a few drinks) Also, although no one thinks Zoom comedy shows are ideal, the meditation portion may work even better delivered online as people can relax comfortably in their own home without feeling judged and without having to drive home…or wear pants.   I’ve been fortunate to do a few corporate comedic meditations this month for a few organizations which I loved.  Thanks to several sponsors like our title sponsor, The Michael Stuart Webb Team, you can sample a show right now at no cost by visiting www.comedicmeditation.com Figure we all need to chuckle and chill during these mad times.9584DC8C-8DFF-4DBA-8F02-C07769F0FD8D meditationMore recently, you returned to the stage here in Toronto at the legendary El Mocambo nightclub presenting a unique talkshow-style webcast called Carla Collins Rox the Elmo – do tell…how did this happen and who will you be chatting with?  Pretty sure masks and podcasts have both become mandatory! I had a wonderful experience playing the Elmo for two shows in September during that brief but glorious window when venues were quasi-open. I had quarantined with Elmo Owner and former Dragon’s Den star Michael Wekerle and his family and we became fast friends. Michael Stuart Webb (whom I refer to as my gay fiancé!) and I had already partnered on Comedic Meditation and he was launching his new media group so the three of us joined forces to produce a pandemic panacea podcast/web series. Carla Collins Rox the Elmo is the perfect three-way of comedy, music and spirituality where mental health meets metal health with the iconic venue as the beautiful backdrop.logo IMG_5293 with KennyWe just wrapped season one with some exceptional guests partaking in no-holds barred, intimate interviews. Many also treat us to mini concerts you won’t see anywhere else. Season one includes candid chats with actor Dean McDermott, Canadian music icon Gowan, comedian Kenny Robinson (pictured above, with Carla), Olympic skating queen Elizabeth Manley, recording legend Kim Mitchell, singer/songwriter Gordon Deppe, the list goes on.  Naturally there’s a lot of laughter and great music but also a lot of raw emotion and honesty. I’m very proud of this show and hope everyone will check it out on my YouTube channel and/or iTunes and Spotify.IMG_5378The Covid lock-down, isolation and quarantining has not dampened your sense of humour and certainly hasn’t curtailed your creativity. How many webisodes are you planning at the Elmo and then what’s next for Carla Collins? Any more books in the works?  We’re planning more webisodes in the new year when we are able and I’m also going to release a new comedy album from my two shows in the fall at the El Mocambo (maybe even a TV special!).  I am working on a new book: the world’s first motivational/self-help coffee book featuring the beautiful fashion designs and photography of my dear friend Jorge Del Busto called Stairs: A 30 Day Step by Step Guide to being Fab AF.  It features various photos of me on a staircase with some hilarious and hopefully helpful hints of being even more fabulous than you already are 😊 I’ve been billing myself as the world’s most immature mature model. Funny fact: I was just signed to a modelling agency in LA. Now I’ll be spending the entire holiday season phoning up my exes and letting them know that they didn’t know it, but they were bangin’ a model!Facetune_20-11-2020-19-10-45 IMG_4986Carla, is there anything else you’d like to add, any shout-outs or messages to your fans?  Just wanna send everyone lots of love and laughs right now. Stay safe and healthy. If you can, during lockdown, adopt a pet. Or an accent.

Watch for webisodes of Carla Collins Rox the Elmo now on YouTube!76E97749-7719-4666-A45F-9BB83EF87B94

head shot

CANADA’S ELDER STATESMAN OF TV & FILM, ART HINDLE, DELIVERS GREAT PERFORMANCES WITH MULTIPLE PROJECTS COMING TO OUR SCREENS NEXT YEAR.

When I first arrived in Canada in 1974, one of the first Canadian films I ever saw was Black Christmas, a slasher/horror picture I was taken to on a first date! There was never a second date for that guy…LOL. It was scary and wild, and was filmed in a house that apparently was not far from where I actually lived in Toronto. But it did feature a very handsome young man for whom I developed a mad crush that has lasted decades – his name is ART HINDLE.art-hindle_min225Throughout the 70’s and 80’s, I would see Art appearing on the some of the most popular tv series of all time such as Dallas (he had a nice multi-episode story arc), Baretta, Barnaby Jones, Cannon, Starsky & Hutch, McGyver, Murder She Wrote, even Law & Order which was just starting off. Then came E.N.G. in 1989 which ran until ’94 – by then Art had become a major heart-throb with a resume that included feature films as well as TV. Over the past several years, I’ve run into Art many times at the Toronto Int’l Film Fest (TIFF) or ACTRA soirees, even photographing him and his beautiful wife, Brooke, on red carpets and at industry schmooze fests.Art & Brook20150915_1912091-300x251I recently caught up with the Canadian film & TV icon and asked him to share his thoughts on an actor’s life in the time of Covid, his long & successful career, and advice for those wanting to craft a career as impressive as his…..

As a working actor, how are you coping with Covid and the restrictions governing film or TV productions?   I’m using the lockdown as an opportunity to catch up on my reading…including some scripts that have been piling up. I’m also keeping my “instrument” tuned with some online ZOOM acting workshops – a group of us do scenes, usually 2-handers or monologues, every Monday evening. And I’m also Facetiming with all 8 of our children & grandchildren which takes up a lot of our time. I’ve managed to work on a couple of films & a TV series which has been very tricky for this old dog! Yes, I’ve had to learn a few new tricks – it’s a challenge to concentrate on the acting & practice both social distancing & masks on/masks off protocols.  The TV series involved travelling to Newfoundland and that was stressful, both flying and totally isolating in the hotel for days at a time!

Did you have any projects cancelled due to the pandemic? I know you have several projects completed or in post-production – do you foresee 2021 as being the year of Art Hindle with everything that was postponed this year coming to the screen all at once?  Yes, I have a couple of TV movies, a feature film in Montreal and the 2nd season of a TV series coming up. Hopefully the new year will bring the Industry back to normal (although, sadly, I doubt it) but we will all have to do our part, unlike what’s been going on in the general population this year!The Brood  1979Going back to the beginning, you were part of the 1974 iconic Canadian horror film, Black Christmas, one of the first big slasher movies to thrill audiences. What memories do you have of that experience and did you think it would become such a cult hit?  To be honest, it was just another job for this actor with 4 children who desperately needed work all the time which, in Toronto & Canada in the early 70’s, was little to none. In fact, while working with Margot Kidder she found out how little work there was here and told me if I moved to LA I would work all the time. It was then that I decided to do something I had been resisting so for the next few months I gathered as much cash as I could (i.e. selling my vintage Porsche), driving a cab 24/7 and even doing some modelling which I had done when I was starting out in ’68, then in November ’74, my girlfriend & I drove to LA in a delivery car. As for your question about a “cult hit” or cult film, I don’t think the term had been invented at that time, and besides, no one makes a movie thinking it’s a cult film – every day you’re just trying to complete it before they take your money away!Black Xmas Black ChristmasThroughout the 70’s and 80’s, you guest starred on so many big tv series including Cannon, Law & Order, Barretta, Barnaby Jones, Dallas, MacGyver (the original), Murder She Wrote (twice), and LA Law to name just a few before scoring your own tv series here in Canada, E.N.G. – what did you learn from these experiences working with legends like Buddy Ebsen, Robert Blake and Angela Lansbury?  I guess I first learned how to make people happy working on a series – unhappy actors & crews rarely make successful series. I also learned confidence, realizing I was at least as good as most of them; it was refreshing, as well, to be respected – actors rarely were in Canada.  I also worked with some great directors and almost from the beginning that was something that I wanted to do. So it was like being at school; in fact, when I was doing a series called Kingston Confidential at Universal Studios I nicknamed it “University Studios”.  I would poke my head into the various departments – editing, casting, set design, etc. – and asked questions. It paid off when we did E.N.G. (below) – I made sure the cast & crew were very happy & I got a chance to direct some of the episodes.20201223_194527 (2)E.N.G. lasted from 1989 to 1994 and established you as a leading man and you then went on to do other multiple season series such as North of 60, Tom Stone, Paradise Falls and Dot. – did you enjoy the steady long-term work or were you itching to tackle more film roles?  Actually, in between roles on TV I was always working in film. I seemed to gravitate to low budget projects; I did so many, some people pegged me King of the Indies…I didn’t mind. I like to work hard and fast… something you have to do on low budget projects, but if you pull something good off, it’s very satisfying!Return to ParadiseIn recent years, you’ve appeared in popular series such as The Good Witch (a personal favourite of mine) and other more gentle (non horror/slasher…LOL) TV movies – what sort of characters do you look for as far as new challenges or is it strictly based on quality of script?   To tell you the truth, I’ve never been a fan of the horror genre. I never go to the theatre for that and I’ve reached the point in my career…well let’s put it this way, the 4 stages of an actor’s career are: Who’s Art Hindle?  Get me Art Hindle!! Get me a younger Art Hindle!  and finally: Who’s Art Hindle??  Most of the casting directors who knew me, liked me and called me are now retired or dead. A few are still around and a couple of the young ones think I’m swell (!) …so at my age you take what you’re offered and I get offered enough that I can turn down projects I’m not interested in. Like a film I recently did called Robbery (I’m very proud of this one and it’s streaming everywhere!)  I look for stories that connect the young with the old and where, by the end, both have learned something and it’s changed them. 2018Your son, Zeke, was a child actor when you lived in L.A. and he’s now become a successful director & producer – I can only assume you are a real proud poppa.  Did you ever try to deter him from a not-so-secure life in showbiz?  I never ever pushed him in that direction. As a child he only did a couple of things so when he suddenly leapt into the abyss of acting, I had mixed emotions. But he seems to have inherited my gene of working hard and playing hard and caring deeply about the work and the people you’re with. I have to say, Zeke (pictured below) is much more the renaissance man than I was or could ever hope to be! He writes, produces, sometimes directs and stars in everything he shoots – I never had that much drive. He’s also studying on the side to get a Law Degree! What an amazing man…Zeke (2)Moving forward, do you and your wife, Brooke, plan any special getaways in 2021 to make-up for Covid’s travel ban this year, or do you have projects that will keep you close to home in Toronto?  We have a new grandchild with our son who is a professional polo player living in Florida, so when the coast is clear, that will be our 1st destination. Also, we will head to Southern California to visit with Zeke & his beautiful wife and a daughter and her wonderful family. Other than that, we rarely travel – we have a great home with a forest attached…a bit of Paradise., in fact.

Any advice for young actors looking to carve out a long-term career such as yours?  Well, I guess I’d tell them it’s a marathon not a sprint. In fact, about a year after Zeke declared he was in da Biz, he had flown me down to LA to be in his first feature film, (Happenstance, streaming everywhere) playing his character in the future. He told me he was worried that he wasn’t getting anywhere; I thought he was stacking his career up against mine so I told him that after a year or two in the business, I had done a couple of commercials and no one was close to calling me an actor or beating down my door. If you look at my IMDb page, you’ll see only about 6 credits in the first 6 years, then maybe more than double that in the next 6.  Finally, I’d tell actors starting out, do as much acting as you can – short films, workshops, readings with other actors like you…I’m not a big fan of expensive headshots (spend $200 max) or expensive acting schools – there are some good books on acting, probably at the library. If you get the chance to be on a set, do it…learn to be observant and learn to listen…listening is the key to acting, in my humble opinion.  And as my wife Brooke advises, do some background/extra work to get used to on-set etiquette and experience the stresses of making movies.1131060ef6438cf3de64b6e968bc72e7--canada-eh-ageless-beautyThank you for those insights, Art.  I know there are lots of young actors who admire you and your work out there feeling a little lost right now so hopefully your advice and assurances will stand them in good stead.  Check out Art’s IMDb page for a full list of his work and if you see any of his films on your tv listings, check ’em out and see what a terrific actor we can claim as our own!696934328420

127534267_388815942561120_4636346088338239138_o

THE FLOOD – Australian feature film launches to outstanding reviews, festival awards & audience applause

What an exciting past month and a half it has been for writer/director VICTORIA WHARFE McINTYRE and her cast and team at Wagtail Films.

Down Under has been fortunate to come out from under Covid-19 quarantine & lock-down and Aussies are now able to attend cinema screenings and awards shows. Parts of New South Wales, around Sydney, have had a slight resurgence but the good old digger spirit has kept everyone complying with self-isolation and the virus seems contained – for now. Victoria, her fellow producer Amadeo Marquez-Perez and several cast members have been attending special screenings in key markets across multiple States, presenting post-screening Q&A panels, answering audience questions and chatting with media. THE FLOOD also won Best Australian Film as well as Best Director (for Victoria) and Best Lead Actress (Alexis Lane) at the Sydney Women’s Int’l Film Festival (see below)127534267_388815942561120_4636346088338239138_o128064618_388815692561145_6503339943587915807_o 126527186_388815869227794_5518471104302822974_oAnd at the prestigious AACTA Awards in late November, Aaron Jeffery was nominated for Best Supporting Actor (for playing Wm. “Minto” Minton) shown here with Victoria.128205268_390952799014101_8314221819762701337_nThe latest high-profile kudos come from David Stratton, columnist for The Australian newspaper, who listed The Flood as one of the best films of 2020:StrattonWhat a great way to end this bastard of a year! Bravo to Victoria, her production team and brilliant, talented cast!!   I asked Victoria and some of the cast members to share their experiences and thoughts about working on THE FLOOD now that the public and media have spoken…..
Victoria, congratulations on the success of the special screenings and Q&A panels with yourself and the cast. What has been the audience reaction/feedback to the film so far?
Thanks – it’s been overwhelmingly positive, which is fantastic considering how full on and in your face some scenes in the film are – people say it’s bold and epic and they’ve never seen a film like it and most commonly, people want to watch it again.SWIFF panelTHE FLOOD is a film that stands up to repeat viewing – there is so much going on and so many shocking moments that the subplots and subtleties are easily overlooked in the first viewing, especially the gentle spirituality of the First Nation people and country as witness to humanity. Watch it again from that perspective and you see a very different film again.   It is multilayered in every way – each shot jam packed with visual and aural information and it is just gorgeous to look at.

It appears that your cast is really invested emotionally in your film – how has this helped shaped the promotional campaign with post-screening Q&A panels, festivals & awards events, and their online (social media) support?
We spent 2 months in a heightened spirit and natured-filled ‘hot house’ together, going into the darkness and the light, traversing our nation’s history and the deeply personal aspects of human experience. We forged bonds in fire, through enormous challenges and are wedded with the time spent with our First Nation people through daily ceremony, artistic creation and loving friendship.cast and crew 130256849_786172415272497_146459325288775464_o 132118349_10158988768527673_2785055598753939783_oWe all believe that the story we’ve told forms part of our nation’s healing and move towards true reconciliation with our First Nation peoples. We are united in our sense of the importance of that, and our cast are brilliantly doing all they can to share our message of truth-telling that leads to redemption and reconciliation and that is universal both socially and personally.

The Flood is now being released to the public in theatres across the country, just in time for Christmas – how has FanForceTV, NAIDOC and Madman Films supported the film during the time of Covid and into 2021?
It has been a very trying time to bring your first feature into the world, and easy to get into impatience and longing for the old cinema going days. But we’ve had great support and now we’re getting some great reviews, sold out sessions and lots of cinema bookings which has been a pretty good end to an annus horribilis for the arts community – although the beauty, strength and character of artists all around the world has shone through the digital realm and touched a lot of people. THE FLOOD has always made its own way in the world – so I trust in the process.SWIFFWhat is your next project…or are you just taking a good long holiday from work until you start thinking of the next production?  Ha! This year has been a holiday away from production so I’m looking forward to getting back in the saddle in 2021. Got a few projects on the go – have a science fiction film in the works with the ultimate message of don’t destroy the Earth – there is no other planet ‘B’, and a film with a dog…will have to see what takes off.

I also posed a few questions to cast members who were kind enough to share their experiences on-set and their future projects:

Shaka, how has this leading role of Waru impacted your career to date, and as you head off to the stage musical “Hamilton”, are you looking forward to the rehearsal process and nightly performances in front of live audiences?
The leading role in THE FLOOD has had a massive impact on my career. It’s given me the chance and experience to be on set almost every day, which gave me the opportunity to learn my craft and have a better understanding of acting for film and tv.  It’s also put me up front for publicity experiences such as radio, tv interviews and public speaking. I’ve become more comfortable in all aspects of the acting industry.
THE FLOOD has only just been released and people are only just seeing it, so the impact it has had on my career when it comes to future work has not yet arrived but I have no doubt it will create many more opportunities in film and tv. To play a strong, beautiful and heroic Indigenous character is something I’m very proud of and grateful to have had the responsibility to portray.eVvxEMXwI’m definitely looking forward to rehearsals for HAMILTON and being surrounded by talent and incredible artists, and then performing with them to the world. HAMILTON is more than just a musical – it is another life changing experience. I’m very proud to be a part of THE FLOOD and HAMILTON which are two very different and powerful life changing experiences

Alexis, you took on the role of the tough, take-no prisoners Jarah – do you see yourself as an action heroine or are you now looking to take on a less exhausting or a more romantic character in your next film?  I had a phenomenal time working on this action-packed, truth revealing film. Victoria is an incredibly giving director, allowing me to constantly grow and explore the depths of Jarah throughout filming. Finding Jarah’s natural resolve which then becomes her weakness…   Jarah is unable to let go and grow in forgiveness. Her journey then circles back around and her determination becomes an asset to her character once again. Just like my favourite line in the film from Waru “you’ll grow and change and when you prove yourself you will be forgiven”.ubGuPazE (3)It is still a rare opportunity in this industry to find a female lead that is a strong force yet a very human woman, and I’d be happy to continue down this path if it means showcasing women are more than just love interests or damsels.

Dean, you played not one but two roles in THE FLOOD – one a nasty cruel guy and the other, his brother, a much nicer character – do you find portraying “bad guys” more interesting or challenging than playing the good guy?
Playing the guy with bad behaviour can be very emotionally challenging, because his behaviour is so far removed from my core values/self, but at the same time that makes him very interesting in terms of being challenged as an actor.
The “good” twin has core values closer to mine but he also has traits very far removed from me, his inability to follow through with his resistance to the children being taken and being passive and weak enough to have a man take his eye out. If someone tried that on me they’d have a fight in their hands I tell ya, ha ha!!
Saying that, playing Paddy was also triggering for me because as a skinny teen I was incredibly shy and passive and somewhat of a coward, and to sit in that after outgrowing it, with attaining confidence over the years, felt like living through flashbacks in a way.
So my long winded answer (ha ha) is that they are equally interesting, but the twin with “bad” behaviours, the homicidal, racist, barbaric thing in ‘Shamus’ makes it more challenging to be in his shoes. Dean Kyrwood is pictured below (R) with Brendan Bacon (L)Brendan and DeanBrendan, you’re playing one of the most heinous evil bastards in The Flood yet I hear you’re a very sweet, kind man – as an actor, where do you find such intensity (and nastiness!) for your characterization of Tick?
The most heinous evil bastard in THE FLOOD….why thank you for your kind words ha ha! Finding intensity and nastiness in a character like ‘Tick’ doesn’t come easy but lucky for me I have over the last 20 yrs of my career played nothing but characters of the same realm.
But ‘Tick’ is by far one of the nastiest I’ve played and I thank Victoria for giving me the opportunity. I grew up in a very small region of north Victoria where, unfortunately, the racism towards native Australians was very much within the community, so given that, I was able to tap into some of what I knew and heard growing up. Also, to when looking at the rest of the gang within the film you see I’m working with some pretty big guys (Dean, Socs and Eddie) so given that I’m the smallest in the group it gave me more of a view to make the tiny bad guy seem the worst.
Also, when reading the script for the first time and working on the character’s name ‘Tick’ I looked at using that as giving him ‘Tourette’s’ and knowing that back in the 1940’s it would have been something that wasn’t known by many, and given that it would be something that most people back then would find quite scary, so that, too, also gave the character some more depth.
Even though ‘Tick’ was a nasty guy, it still took a lot to channel but knowing I had Victoria’s backing with taking him as far into the darkness that I could, he was still a very broken little man and one of the characters that will stay with me for a long time!

Aaron, you’ve enjoyed audience popularity on both the big and small screens – do you prefer the challenge of period dramas (The Flood), romance (McLeod’s Daughters) or comedies (Palm Beach), and why? 
I’m always most attracted to stories with meaning and heart and characters with depth. THE FLOOD speaks of reconciliation and redemption and elevating First Nation people through an action-packed thrill ride that entertains while it tackles a bunch of social issues. It treats the audience with a lot of respect for their intelligence and I love being a part of telling stories that.Aaron Jeffery2

The audiences have had such positive reactions and many shared their thoughts and opinions as they exited the cinemas: 
“Best Australian movie I have seen in a long while I am still getting over how emotional it was. It definitely compelling and am finally glad some of the truth telling of our Aboriginal peoples is out there! We just need to get that treaty happening and acknowledge the Statement from the Heart with Integrity compassion and justice !”

“Definitely need to see this movie again…after absorbing the brutal action…ready to follow the softer spiritual depth of this unique film.”

“Highly recommended – watching this movie felt so many emotions very thought provoking”
“The team from The Flood. An Australian story rarely told. Brilliant cast, amazing bushland setting, and great creative cinematic story telling.”
“Congratulations on an amazing, thought-provoking, beautifully brutal masterpiece!”
“It was amazing. So beautifully shot, creative, confronting, sad, but a comforting end. Will watch again!”
“WOW!!!! We loved the film….photography was amazing, great acting, great everything!!!!!”
THE FLOOD is now being released in cinemas to the general public and should hit North America (US and Canada) sometime early 2021, either in cinemas (Covid permitting) or via online streaming platforms. I highly recommend the film to learn about Australia’s recent history…but I might be slightly biased – I grew up in Australia and cannot wait to get home to celebrate with my Flood friends!
poster for social media

Big thanks to FanForceTV, Madman Films, NAIDOC and everyone at Wagtail Films for allowing me access to THE FLOOD.

https://www.facebook.com/thefloodfilm2020

Russell Yuen_167 (2)

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/
 

poster for social media

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

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

Wednesday 17/12 – Brisbane – Palace Barracks – 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]

tm

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

qH7hmKBw

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