Category Archives: Film

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Director, Screenwriter, Producer, Composer, Actor Bruno Verdoni

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VIFF NAIDOC Film Festival Poster FINAL SML 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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MEET KIT LANG: CO-WRITER/PRODUCER & STAR OF “BATTLE SCARS” FEATURE FILM COMING SOON TO A SCREENING PLATFORM NEAR YOU!

10+ years ago during the Toronto Int’l Film Festival, I met a young up-and-coming actor, Christopher “Kit” Lang, in the bar of the Four Seasons Hotel where I always set up shop during the festival meeting actors, filmmakers, the money men and media reps from around the world. I remember Kit’s enthusiasm and excitement for being part of the annual schmooze-fest and over the years since then, I’ve watched his career progress through shorts, tv appearances and now as star of a major feature film, Battle Scars.Kit blueThe handsome actor transforms himself to play the war-weary Michael Delucca, a Vietnam vet who’s trying to cope with PTSD amidst a troubled and violent civilian life – checkout the trailer on the website: www.BattleScarsthemovie.com  I had the pleasure of chatting with Kit who shared his thoughts on the film, and taking on co-writing and co-producing roles as well as acting.

Congratulations on your inspired performance as Mike DeLucca in Battle Scars – from what past experiences or influences did you draw on to portray DeLucca’s intense internal struggles?   Thank you so much. In short, for me, research was an absolute must. What do I know about being a combat veteran? I was fortunate to have our director, Sam, a combat veteran himself,  to guide me through that. In particular spending time with Veterans and visiting the Fort Hamilton Veteran’s Hospital was instrumental.Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 2_45_03 PMDid you and your fellow actors have to endure “boot camp” or any other bonding experience in order to make the battle scenes seem authentic? Ha ha…yes we did actually…of sorts. We were driven to upstate New York, led into the woods with very minimal gear (it rained!) and for four days we had to “survive”, build a shelter, go on mock patrols, and various training “war-like” scenarios, do a fire watch every night (taking turns staying awake and alert while the others slept) and so on. It was absolutely a great bonding experience. And it’s amazing how close we all got in such a short period of time.14054901_1079885625399702_8534525803781222453_nYour performance as the PTSD-afflicted Mike may trigger memories for real-life Vets in the audience – any advice how to be on guard when watching the film if a viewer suffers his own PTSD flashbacks or issues? Actually, no I don’t. But you raise an important point and question. I think PTSD is such a misunderstood, invisible disease that it’s not easy to fit neatly into a box. It’s very different for everybody, and I feel truly honored to be a part of telling this story and helping raise awareness of this mental health issue. That being said, the feedback we’ve received from Vets is that this film, if anything, is very therapeutic for them, so stick with it… But if anything was to trigger a PTSD attack, what I can say is having witnessed this myself and it working well: just pause the film, walk away and get some air, then come back to it when you’re ready.107036104_579583282951131_1585574476818428294_nYou also pulled off some sensitive, intimate romantic scenes in the film – what do you enjoy most as an actor, the challenges of a brutal shoot ‘em up scene or the love scenes…and why?  Thank you, I appreciate that. I think any actor will tell you that romantic scenes are the most challenging and difficult. Most of the time you’re having to work with someone you’ve never met before, complete strangers! And then you have to create this believable intimacy. It’s really, really difficult. But it also comes with the territory, just part of the job. I’ve been fortunate to work with fantastic actors and that makes the work so much easier. But action is actually much, much easier to perform and more fun, too! Haa haa14045765_1077570962297835_6578143147299403050_nYou’re also co-writer and co-producer on Battle Scars – what was the most difficult or challenging job and why?  There’s so much to unpack here, but in a sentence, I’d say as a writer: The most difficult part was really nailing the voice and message of PTSD. It took a lot of research and work, as it should, to figure out the best way we could embed it into the story.

As a producer: I’d say the most challenging job for me as a producer was simply producing, period. Shout out to every indie filmmaker out there. It’s a VERY difficult job. And you’re having to constantly troubleshoot. I remember one shoot day for instance – we unfortunately fell behind in our schedule and we were about to lose a whole scene, but we realized we had a second camera, so we decided we could split the crew into two units and get what we needed. Coming up with solutions, that’s the job. And it’s VERY hard to do non-stop, but well worth it! I think. You have to be crazy enough and love movies enough to do this.facebook_1593761671169_6684720952432404925What’s next for actor Kit or writer Kit?I’m working on an English/Spanish horror-romance film shot and set in Mexico. We were set to resume filming but we’re still waiting for Covid to subside down there, hopefully soon!

Thanks, Kit, for sharing your experiences and thoughts on portraying this troubled character. Due to Covid-19 cinema closures, the film will not be enjoying it’s originally planned theatrical release, however, Battle Scars is available for DVD sales from Walmart & Amazon as of July 21st (you can pre-order now via the film’s Facebook page – see link bottom of web home page) and will be available for online viewing/streaming August 4th, 2020.  THANKS FOR SUPPORTING INDIE FILM!

https://battlescarsthemovie.com/

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RIVETING VIETNAM WAR-ERA MOVIE DEALING WITH PTSD LAUNCHES ONLINE DURING COVID CINEMA SHUT-DOWNS.

I’m thrilled to welcome filmmakers SAMUEL GONZALEZ JR. and CHRISTOPHER “KIT” LANG to the Fordham PR client roster.  Their feature film BATTLE SCARS launches online via Amazon Prime July 21st with DVD sales orders already available from Walmart. The film will be available with wider online release starting August 4th, 2020 (Vudu, iTunes, Google, etc.).

As Covid-19 has forced cinemas to close or restrict audience numbers, filmmakers around the world (esp. indie filmmakers) have been forced to shelve projects or, like Sam and Chris, find other opportunities to screen their films. Thanks to the dedication of cast and crew, and the support of family and friends, the filmmakers have managed to bring Battle Scars into your home via multi-platform streaming outlets, delivering its message about the horrors of war and its ongoing human toll from PTSD.

Vietnam took everything he had…now he’s taking it all back!107046776_763218854485241_4205911393826522464_nVietnam war veteran, Michael Delucca (Christopher “Kit” Lang) suffers with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and struggles to resist the dark memories of his frontline experiences shared with best friend Vinny (Arturo Castro) that haunt him. Estranged from the post-war everyday life around him, working a steady but low-paying job, and even with a supportive girlfriend Jane (Emily Trosclair) and the opportunity to reconnect with the son he never watched grow up, Michael sinks into a gritty underworld from which he may never return.

Written and directed by real-life decorated war veteran, Samuel Gonzalez Jr. (pictured below), Battle Scars depicts the insurmountable difficulties faced by thousands of soldiers after returning home with brutal authenticity.

gonzalez_picI had the opportunity of chatting with the director who shared his inspirations and on-set experiences with me….

Congratulations on bringing this story to the screen, Samuel. I gather you have first-hand experience being on the front lines in Iraq – did this inspire the story of Battle Scars and in what way?  All wars are different. And all wars are the same. My experience was different from the ones who fought in the jungle – as opposed to the large sandbox I ventured in to.  No, what inspired Battle Scars was being on the front lines of a war very much in our own backyards. Walking in New York City at night, I would see many veterans – every year growing in numbers – simply freezing to death on the streets. I wondered – how does one person who was born, had dreams, desires and passions of his/her own, end up like that? Once you dig a little to find that out, you’ll start seeing the real war is closer than you think.107767236_2750641465155149_7961340331678085522_nMany returned service men and women will likely view this film – do you think it may trigger memories and/or hope your film encourages them to reach out for help and support with their own PTSD?  A response in the form of awareness among veterans and civilians alike would be just what we’re hoping for. For Vietnam veterans and veterans of all foreign wars to remember that we are all united, not only through our shared service but through the invisible wounds we share – the invisible monsters we all bring back. PTSD. May this film be a beacon of light to bring us closer together to finally stitch it up.14054901_1079885625399702_8534525803781222453_nYou’ve undertaken a variety of on-set jobs from Sound, Camera & Electrical dept, Location mgmn’t, Cinematography and AD, as well as editing and acting. How has all this experience prepared you for directing and writing scripts?  Making this film was the ultimate film school experience. Literally discuss an idea, put it on paper (in our case, a dinner napkin), find the crew or slave labourers at that rate (ha ha!) and go out and put your vision through a camera lens – all for little to no money. If I can go back in time in a DeLorean (yes.. I went there) – is to stop this from happening and rip up that napkin and order the brisket instead. But, alas, the sirens went off and making the film was a war in itself – sacrifices were made and rough battles were won and lost in order to reach the beach. But ultimately it prepared me for the future – my continued career and how to properly manage a set and crew, take car of my actors and how to responsibly handle delicate subject matter as the one we discuss in our film. It taught me the right ways to do things and the wrong things that were done. Grateful for those wrongdoings, as the pitfalls of the film taught me how to handle those that were on the road ahead. I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world and am thankful everyday for the experiences the film gave me and my team – it’s priceless and I am the filmmaker I am today because of it.  Director & castYou had a very modest budget on which to shoot Battle Scars – how did you manage to pull off the Vietnam up-county fire fight with such realism?  Thank you, it was very challenging. Sometimes it’s the limitations such as budget that force us to be at our most creative. Doing your best with what you have and that’s where I point the camera. We had to scout specific locations we thought could pass for the jungle. I think my experience helped me grab what I needed. I wanted to convey the chaos that war is.107377203_720954032027606_3389208399628510251_nIt’s so difficult to access audiences during the Covid shut-down, but with your digital viewing platforms do you think that home viewing is more advantageous, especially considering the intense intimate angst your lead character goes through on-screen? Viewers may feel more emotionally secure watching the film from their own sofa…yes? I think it comes down to connection. I believe any film is really meant to be experienced in the theater.  However, home entertainment systems get us pretty close. It’s a personal film, but film is meant to be communal. So if we have to watch the film separately, at least we can all connect online.

Have you already started thinking about your next project and if so, can you share any hints as to the subject? Are you planning something a little lighter? You think I’d learn but never lighter, never smaller. But I will say that my job as director is to serve the story. If the story is large, that let my vision enhance that in scale. If it’s small, then I will paint with mightier strokes but still on a large canvas. Many projects in the making and new releases coming soon. In the meantime, you can order my published novel titled THE CHORDS OF WAR – a semi-autobiographical true story of 5 soldiers who form a rock’n’roll band during the height of the Iraq war, ultimately using music to inspire and motivate thousands of troops and to get them home alive. Acclaimed show runner Graham Yost (Band of Brothers, Justified, The Pacific) opens the book with a rave review and discussion. My next feature film, a psychological horror film, is currently in production as I type this, and my latest short film The Springfield Three, the true story of one Americas most bizarre and unexplained disappearances, has won multiple festival awards after screening at Screamfest 2019. It has also been picked up for worldwide distribution, having its television premiere this October on SHORTS TV (the distributor for all the theatrical released academy award winning short films.) Thank you for your continued support, Glenda!

Battle Scars will be available for viewing online as of July 21st via Amazon Prime, Vudu, iTunes, GooglePlay. Orders for DVD sales are already available from Walmart & Amazon, with wider release as of August 4th, 2020.

Check out movie trailers and cast & crew info at www.BattleScarsthemovie.com and follow on Instagram @MovieBattleScars and       www.facebook.com/moviebattlescarspromo ad

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NEW TORONTO-BASED WEB SERIES OFFICIALLY LAUNCHES WITH PARTY DURING TIFF

With the ever-increasing popularity of web-based TV series and entertainment content (watch out cable tv providers, you’re days are numbered!), I’ve been following several young producers/directors/writers who have answered the siren call to create online films and serials. One such multi-tasker is CALEB OLIVIERI (pictured below in red in full directorial action) whose first series, UNAPOLOGY, offers tales from this city (Toronto), focusing on a number of families, singles, couples and how they navigate thru life and, in one case, the impact of early onset Alzheimer’s. UnapologyPilot_Day3_20170409_30Under the umbrella of his Wait, What? production company, Caleb has produced quality programming for multi-generational viewers showcased via the YouTube platform, and the first 6 episodes will officially be launched on Monday Sept. 10th with a cast and crew celebratory soiree during the height of Toronto Int’l Film Fest activities. Hopefully, members of the world’s entertainment media will drop by for a quick schmooze and meet Caleb and his enthusiastic production team. You can learn more via the series Fcbk page: www.facebook.com/unapologyseries

I recently spoke with Caleb to learn how Unapology came into being…

Caleb, what was the inspiration for the theme/storylines for UNAPOLOGY?  The storyline(s) grew organically out of my own experiences … alternative living arrangement and employment situation. A close relative with early Alzheimer’s inspired me to write about the reality of living with the disease. From the lack of affordable housing to despicable and exploitative behaviours of some of my employers I didn’t have to dig deep to find the grist.

Being a young filmmaker, how difficult was it to raise funding, secure equipment and locations as well as attract good actors?  Finding good actors in Toronto is easy enough and I was lucky enough to have some good connections with friends and colleagues with equipment and basically “free” use of locations. Fundraising on the other hand has always been a grind.UnapologyPilot_Day3_20170409_53 UnapologyPilot_Day3_20170409_42With every film school grad pitching projects to major TV networks in Canada and the US, you created the series specifically for web-based content. Why/how did you decide on this route to take to make your presence known in the crowded TV production arena?  Originally it was written and produced as a pilot for a 22 min. series but I broke it down into 6 mini episodes for online use. With a web series I’m much less confined by edicts from networks which are often limiting when it comes to content and structure. A web based series lets the viewer make up their own mind as to what they want to watch and when … a quick episode on the subway ride home … a visit to the loo?IMG_8292 UnapologyPilot_Day3_20170409_28 UnapologyPilot_Day3_20170409_41As writer & director (as well as producer), how difficult was it to change “hats” throughout the shoot? Did Caleb the producer ever have to give notes (or argue with) Caleb the director?  Most of the time the writer and producer are at odds with one another because Caleb the producer can’t give Caleb the writer what he wants due to budget constraints. Caleb the director usually plays the middle man who tries to satisfy the needs of both the writer and producer without sacrificing the story or vision of the project.UnapologyPilot_Day3_20170409_24 UnapologyPilot_Day3_20170409_55Did you study writing or production at university or film school, and if so how did you find that experience?  I’ve worked in the industry for most of my life, mostly as an actor. I would have loved the opportunity to study writing for film and tv post secondary but the reality for most actors in Canada is you do a lot of pavement pounding, auditioning and co-ops and if you have to pay the rent, that leaves little time for school.

You have a special invitation-only party coming up during the Toronto Int’l Film Festival to officially launch the UNAPOLOGY online series – this must be exciting for you and your team. How important is it to attract international media & industry attention for your web-series and will you be promoting to online audiences outside of Canada?  We are stoked to be able to promote our series during the upcoming TIFF season but more so to be simply promoting it finally. Any attention at this point is good attention for my crew and my cast, and while local attention would be great, finding an international audience is absolutely the way to go in 2018 onward.

Any advice to give other writers or producers wanting to create for online entertainment platforms?  Be persistent, hold on to your vision and find your Fairy Web-Mother or Father…LOLUnapologyPilot_Day3_20170409_01

Check out Unapology’s YouTube promo videos here:

I strongly recommend watching this new series and thank you in advance for supporting emerging Canadian filmmakers and webTV producers. Congratulations to Caleb and his talented cast and crew.

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TIFF-ADJACENT “TORONTO ECO 2017″ PRESENTS WOMEN FILMMAKERS SHARING THEIR STORIES

Thanks to friend and filmmaker NOEMI WEIS, I was invited to attend the “Toronto Eco 2017″ presentations this afternoon taking place during the massive Toronto Int’l Film Festival. Noemi was asked to sit on a panel of women filmmakers talking about their experiences getting films made and just getting the gigs themselves. 20170912_160315Pictured above from L to R: Kate Perotti (Edendale Pictures), Blythe Frank (Middle Kid Inc.), Nancy Puetz (Int’l Women in Film + Tennessee chapter President ), moderator and host of Toronto Eco 2017 Hal “Corky” Kessler (Deutsch, Levy & Engel/Exec. Producer of numerous box office hits), then Christin Baker (award-wining director & Emmy-nom’d  producer) and award-winning filmmaker Noemi Weis (Filmblanc)

Sitting in such prestigious company, I found it fascinating hearing the opinions of each filmmaker as she shared the challenges experienced and triumphs to be celebrated working in a male-dominated industry where women are constantly forced to demand equality both on-screen and behind the camera. The small but attentive audience contributed well-targeted questions and had Corky not reminded us of time-constraints, I’m sure we could have continued for another hour.

Christin Baker (L) with Noemi Weis (R)

Christin Baker (L) with Noemi Weis (R)

Following this panel was an interesting informal “pitch” panel featuring 2 Toronto-based established filmmakers (Coral Aiken & Hannah Cheesman), who were seeking script development $s for their new project that will definitely appeal to the young adult/millennial audiences. Moderated again by Corky, the panel featured Noemi and Strath Hamilton, CEO of TriCoast Worldwide distribution company, as well as a representative from the Italian film distribution industry (apologies, I did not get his name as he was not introduced).20170912_171316As Coral and Hannah made the pitch, I could already “see” their film and thought about how perfectly suited it was for the massive int’l genre film fest/cos-play/Fan expo crowd and I already know there are number of elements with which I can help them (Laura Rock, be prepared for a phone call!).20170912_171822After this panel concluded with a rousing round of applause, several of the panelists gathered for some group photos…

(LtoR) Coral, Strath, Hannah & Corky

(LtoR) Coral, Strath, Hannah & Corky

Below, director/screen writer Katia Cafe-Febrissy (L) with Barrister & Solicitor Terry Markus, Noemi and director/writer/producer Nikki Cole getting chummy after the event.20170912_172722Thanks to Noemi for the invite, and thanks to all the participants for giving me an afternoon of intense filmmaking insider views and shared experiences.

To watch these videotaped panels, log on to: www.torontoeco.tv