Category Archives: Film

Okafor's Law red poster flat

NOLLYWOOD’S BOX OFFICE QUEEN BRINGS “OKAFOR’S LAW” TO TIFF!

The reigning queen of the Nigerian film industry – known as “Nollywood” – OMONI OBOLI is bringing her latest film OKAFOR’S LAW to this year’s Toronto International Film Festival next month.  The multi award-winning director, writer, producer and actor will enjoy a world premiere red-carpet screening for her romantic comedy on Monday Sept. 12th at 8:45pm at the Isabel Bader Theatre located in Yorkville where TIFF was first founded. Omoni’s hoping this will be the start of N. American audiences and studios getting to know her and her work. Hollywood has been complaining loudly about the lack of opportunities for women directors, especially women of colour but Omoni has been making her own opportunities in Nigeria; her previous 6 films have raked in over a quarter billion Naira (Nigerian currency) at the box office. Omoni headshotOmoni began her career with her first movie role in ‘Bitter Encounter’ (1996) then in ‘Shame’. She then went on to play the lead female character in three major movies; ‘Not My Will’, ‘Destined To Die’ and ‘Another Campus Tale.’  She took time away from the biz to complete her university education and get married but after ten years, cinema called her back.

Since then, Omoni has shot to prominence as the class act of Nollywood because of her professional demeanour and strong work ethics. Playing lead roles in blockbusters like ‘The Figurine,’ ‘Anchor Baby’, ‘Being Mrs Elliott’, ‘Feathered Dreams’ and Mo Abudu’s ‘Fifty’ has set her apart as one who knows how to choose good screenplays. She has also set the bar higher by being the first actress from Nollywood to bag such international awards as Best Actress in two international festivals in the same year (2010) – the Harlem International Film Festival and the Los Angeles Movie Awards for her lead role in the movie, ‘Anchor Baby’. She’s pictured below with castmate, the late Sam Sarpong (L) and Anchor Baby director Lonzo Nzekwe (R) at the Toronto premiere.Omoni 5Omoni has won and also been nominated for several other awards, both locally and internationally. The movie, ‘Anchor Baby’ currently has the record for the longest running African movie in the UK cinema for the year 2011 and the longest running Nigerian movie in the UK cinemas in history. She wrote, directed, produced and starred in the movie, ‘Being Mrs Elliott’ which happened to be her directorial debut. ‘Being Mrs Elliott’ was chosen as the opening movie at the 2014 edition of the ‘Nollywood Week in Paris’, and it is the first Nigerian movie to be screened at the new Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, ASO Rock.  Her movie ‘The First Lady’ which recently screened at The Nollywood Week Festival in Paris won the highly coveted ‘Audience Choice Award’ which is the only award at the festival. Her recent Wives On Strike garnered great reviews from both fans and critics and was hailed as the comedy of the year.

Director’s Statement: The idea for Okafor’s Law came on a fine evening during dinner and drinks with friends. I happened to be the only woman in the group and the conversation was very ‘male’ in tone and subject. Somehow, we started talking about our exes and how most guys felt they could always go back and have sex with their old girlfriends even after a relationship had long ended. It was apparently a belief widely known in Nigeria as ‘Okafor’s Law’ It was a very interesting conversation and emotions ran high. At a point, one of my friends turned to me and said ‘Omoni you are a filmmaker. Why don’t you make a movie about Okafor’s Law’. I looked at him and said ‘why not?’ The idea was born! I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I talked back and forth with those friends, getting all their thoughts on the subject.  I initially contacted a writer because I was busy with other projects, and we talked about the story. Somehow, I never got a script from him so a couple of months later, I decided to write my story myself.
Apart from the main theme of ‘Okafor’s Law’, the movie takes us through a journey of love, passion, infidelity, violence and forgiveness. It’s also laced with humour which is a common thread in my movies. I love to take people into the world of my movies and make them forget for almost two hours, their own lives.  Omoni Oboli, 2016_MG_9971FILM SYNOPSIS:  Chuks (aka Terminator) is an ardent player with the ladies. He enjoys the attention of women, including girlfriends from the past. He believes that once a man has had a woman, he forever has access to her. When challenged by his friends to see if he can prove the universality of that theory with three ex-girlfriends from his school days within 21 days, he accepts it. Turning on his best charm he sets off to try and prove himself, but his quest brings him to three women, Ifeoma (Fifi), Kemi and Ejiro, whose situations in life have changed drastically since school days. This challenge of their various new statuses makes his quest to win the bet more and more insurmountable as he tries to prove the immutability of the age-old law, OKAFOR’S Law.

Okafor’s Law also stars African screen favourites Blossom Chukwujekwu, Ufuoma McDermott, Toyin Aimakhu, Ken Erics, Gabriel Afolayan and the “George Clooney of Nollywood” Richard Mofe-Damijo (below)image7You can find out more about Okafor’s Law from the official TIFF website where you can also purchase screening tickets www.tiff.net/tiff/   Look for the special City to City programme which features Lagos and the talented Nigerian filmmakers who call that city home. 79be306f-9fb4-4e48-b518-2fcd1a68337e

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Canadian-Nigerian filmmaker LONZO NZEKWE shares indie success story & this year’s TIFF spotlight on his home country

I first met self-taught Canadian-Nigerian filmmaker LONZO NZEKWE about 5 years ago when he asked me to promote the debut screening of his first feature film, Anchor Baby, here in Toronto during the annual Toronto Int’l Film Festival. Although Anchor Baby was not part of the Festival, we arranged that the screening take place at a major cinema multiplex during the period when most int’l film media and industry folks were in town. The screening was a resounding success with a packed house (we actually turned people away), lots of media coverage and Lonzo was off and running with his feature film that was made mostly in and around Toronto on a shoestring budget.anchor-baby33865_165229630154037_4176194_nOver a dozen or so int’l film awards later…Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 8.15.51 AMScreen Shot 2016-06-22 at 9.31.53 PM….the writer/director has now brought his latest project, a 37min. crime thriller, Meet The Parents, to the screen and that, too, has started amassing critical kudos and awards including the Best Short Film award at the 2016 Africa Movie Academy Awards. Meet The Parents by Lonzo Nzekwe 12289712_10156318942150525_7545685570378629312_nI recently sat down with Lonzo and asked him to share some insights into his self-made career, and about the upcoming Toronto Int’l Film Festival where he will be supporting fellow filmmakers and stars of Nollywood, as the Nigerian film industry is called, who are coming into town as part of this year’s TIFF City to City: Lagos program.

Having only spent a short time studying filmmaking, can you share some of the most challenging obstacles you’ve experienced being a self-taught producer/director?
One of the major challenges is getting funding for new film projects. Up till now, all my film productions have been self-funded because it’s tough to get investors when you are an independent filmmaker. Another challenge is getting media exposure for the films after they’ve been shot, but thanks to social media and my IronFlix movie streaming platform, I’m now able to reach a global audience without breaking the bank.

Your first film was the feature length Anchor Baby (2010) which went on to win so many international awards after premiering here in Toronto. How did such immediate success impact your career and/or goals for your future?
Anchor Baby (pictured below) catapulted me to the front of the line after its success. The film played in Nigerian cinemas for about 12 weeks, the UK for 6 weeks, Ghana and Canada for about 2 weeks. As dark as the ending of that movie is, there’s something special about the film as a whole because it pulled no punches and it’s brutally honest. All the 13 film awards including Best Film at the Harlem International Film Festival and two nominations at the 2011 Africa Movie Academy Awards made people take notice. I guess at the time, they wanted to know what’s up with this self-taught first time filmmaker.38609_150496438294023_1449759_nYour most recent film was a short titled Meet The Parents which is garnering critical acclaim as well as moviegoer praise. It recently won Best Short Film Award at the 2016 Africa Movie Academy Awards – what sort of comments/responses have you received about this second film from the African and worldwide film community?
It’s interesting because after I made Anchor Baby,  a few people thought its success was a fluke. The truth is that Anchor Baby was easy for me to make and I knew at the time that I have the potential to write and direct other good movies. By the way, Meet The Parents is 37 minutes long and I consider it a mini-feature film because it actually feels like you’re watching a full feature length film. When you watch Meet the Parents, you can clearly see the growth on the writing and technical aspects of my filmmaking. I’ve received great reviews from film industry people here in Canada as well as Nigeria. Recently, a well respected industry insider in Toronto watched the film and wrote that he likes the film’s look, especially the real sophistication in the way I crafted the images and sound. I jokingly tell people that the film has a “38 Special” flow to it because a snub-nosed 38mm handgun played an important role in the major turning point of the film.

As a film writer, what inspires your stories? I gather Meet The Parents was inspired by a Jay Z song?
I get inspirations from my pains, worries, love, loss and life in general. Meet the Parents was originally inspired by a Jay Z song of the same title in his 2004 Blueprint 2 album. It’s about a father who abandoned his infant son for a life on the streets and 15 years later, fate brings father and son together again in deadly street fight that will alter their lives forever. I’m a huge Jay Z fan from his Reasonable Doubt days and his music in general has been a source of inspiration as a black filmmaker. He paints vivid pictures with words and every time I heard that song, I get these haunting cinematic images in my head that won’t go away. So I decided to put it into film in my own personal interpretation and also added other plausible twists and turns that made the film special.

You recently launched another exciting project, this time it’s a film, documentary & TV streaming platform called IronFlix that offers entertainment from Africa-based production companies.  What inspired this new business and how did you create IronFlix.com?
I believe that filmmakers should create their own path to success instead of waiting for someone to else to get you there. I started IronFlix because I kinda see the direction film consumption is heading. VOD streaming is not the future; it is now! I want to be able to reach my audience anywhere in the world without depending solely on cinemas and traditional television networks.

I originally came from Nigeria, a country that built their film industry (Nollywood) from scratch without help from the government. Most people like me (Nigerian filmmakers) don’t worry about things like “Oscar So White” because we try as much as possible to create our own opportunities and create a market for our work. No one can marginalize us and tell us the types of movies or stories to tell. We have our own film industry, film festivals, cinemas and the Africa academy awards that’s slowly being recognized around the world. One of my main goals is to collaborate with like-minded individuals working in Nollywood, Hollywood and other western film industries to help spread genuine African stories to a global audience.

What are the top films being viewed on IronFlix that we should all watch out for?
Some of the great films and Tv shows you can watch now on IronFlix include Anchor Baby, Ojuju, Making of A Mogul, Pamper Your Mum, Form 36 and many many more.

Your next film project is called Laundrymen – is that a short or feature film? Can you share any teasers or background info on this new production?
Laundrymen will be a feature film. I’ve been developing it for over three years now and it’s a revenge crime thriller. It will be my most ambitious project till date and I’m looking forward to starting production. I’m still raising funds to shoot it so if you know anyone interested in financing a great film, please contact me let’s make it happen.

What advice (or cautions) can you offer emerging indie filmmakers starting out along a similar career path as you did?
All I can say is just do it. Most people talk about what they are going to do when they have the right money, equipment, cast and crew etc. Truth is, you will never have everything right the way you want it. Also, make sure whatever film you’re making is saying something, and it’s something you can be proud of after all is said and done. Your time is way more valuable than money because you can’t replace the time you lost on a film that isn’t about anything.39839_150497681627232_4139089_n

You can follow Lonzo on his journey with Meet the Parents, as well as his activities during TIFF via social media:
https://www.facebook.com/MeetTheParentsMovie/
http://www.ironflix.com
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1666555/

And I’ll be posting updates throughout TIFF so subscribe to my blog or follow me on Facebook.com/FordhamPR or Twitter & Instgram: @FordhamPR

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URBAN SOURCE CATERING SCORES STANDING OVATION FROM TORONTO’s INSIDE OUT FILM FEST GOER’S

Another fabulous “pink” carpet event for Toronto’s annual INSIDE OUT FILM FESTIVAL this past Friday night, catered by those fabulous foodies at URBAN SOURCE CATERING [www.urbancatering.com] The delicious multitudes of hors d’oeuvres even starred in the local CBC TV newscast later that night!

Seafood Kokoda Spoons

Seafood Kokoda Spoons

Beef Tenderloin on Brioche

Beef Tenderloin on Brioche

Mediterranean Flatbread

Mediterranean Flatbread

Held at the Brainstorm Academy at King & Spadina, the guests enjoyed schmoozing with filmmakers & industry insiders, media and the Inside Out organizers who celebrated the Festival’s 26th year of showcasing films and supporting the LGBT community here and around the world. [ www.insideout.ca ].  Urban Catering has been a long-time sponsor of this prestigious event and has lots more Festival soirees to serve over the next week. 20160527_19114220160527_190149

Classic Crab Cakes

Classic Crab Cakes

20160527_190928Congratulations! to all at Inside Out, and to the Urban cater waiters and kitchen staff…..get a good night’s sleep and we’ll see you all back here tomorrow for another event.

Bacon & Sriracha Prawns

Bacon & Sriracha Prawns

 

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URBANSOURCE CREATIVE CATERING SPONSORS FOOD & REFRESHMENTS FOR INSIDE OUT 2016 Toronto LGBT Film Festival Launch Party

This past Friday evening, URBANSOURCE CREATIVE CATERING, one of Toronto’s leading catering companies (established 31 years ago) sponsored the sumptuous repast at this year’s INSIDE OUT/LGBT FILM FESTIVAL (May 26-June 5) VIP launch party hosted in the St. James Cathedral Centre.

I arrived just as Urban’s friendly kitchen staff were plating the hors d’oeuvres (below) and prepping the wine bar20160506_172802 20160506_172808 20160506_173226With the help of Urban’s Sales & Business Mgr. Wayne Abell (below, 3rd from L) I was able to wrangle the kitchen staff out front for a special photo opp (below)….20160506_174157(0)…and then enjoyed the fun as guests filled the party room, enjoying the photobooth and great music.20160506_180303(0) 20160506_173949 20160506_180244The delicious hot & cold hors d’oeuvre included pulled pork sliders, Cajun salmon cakes topped with comeback sauce, Arancini risotto balls (or as I like to call them “cheesy balls”) filled with gooey buffalo mozzarella cheese served with roasted chipotle pepper sauce (below, enjoyed by guests)…20160506_180903 20160506_184613….Greek potatoes with feta, olives, pickled onion and tzatziki, garnished with chives…don’t they look pretty? (below)20160506_181037 20160506_181043(0)…and also Moroccan Chicken Rouelles topped with mango salsa, Pissaladière Blanco on herbed Provençale crust  and Spanish Tortilla with roasted peppers, egg, potato and Manchego cheese topped with tomato jam. Yummmm,  guests couldn’t get enough of the tasty treats so the kitchen staff kicked it into high gear….20160506_182652 20160506_182704Even the press photographers were delighted by the food service (below)20160506_180221Wayne enjoyed networking, too – here he is at the photo wall with Inside Out’s Brad and Scott (LtoR)20160506_174825That photobooth was a real party favourite with guests dressing up and acting silly. Here are a few perfect examples of the perfect party guests….20160506_18145620160506_182837 20160506_182959…and of course, I just HAD to get into the act, too. Always the party princess….!20160506_173648_001Apart from all the fun and frivolity, there were the more serious chores of announcing this year’s film line-up, the complete InsideOut festival program and shout-outs to esteemed supporters, sponsors and guests, MC’d by Todd van der Heyden, news anchor with CTV News Channel.20160506_184218 20160506_184222Urban’s service volunteers really enjoyed their jobs, such as Neal (below) who had two lovely ladies flanking him and helping serve the wine.20160506_180453

InsideOut would like to thank….
Food and drinks generously provided by Urban Source Creative Catering, Barefoot Wine & Bubbly, and Steam Whistle Brewing. Party Sponsors: Urban Source Creative Catering, Steam Whistle Brewing, Barefoot Wine & Bubbly, Jack Daniel’s, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey and Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Fire.
With tunes by Blockorama: DJs Craig Dominic, Blackcat and Nik Red; performances by House of Monroe; video projections by Roxanne Luchak, an art installation by Leuwebb and photo booth provided by Monocle Booth.

For information about this year’s film fest screenings and events, visit www.insideout.ca/

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TORONTO’S BRITS GET SHAKEN AND STIRRED AT OO7 PARTY

URBANSOURCE CATERING is really ending their 30th anniversary year on a high, catering last night’s special VIP reception and screening of the new James Bond flick, “Spectre”, hosted by the British Consulate at College Park in downtown Toronto as part of their “12 Days of Great” promotional campaign.20151102_170335With menu selections such as 00Salmon, License to Grill, Casino Rouelles, Golden Eye mini potatoes, The Spy Who Loved Meat and (my favourite) Thunderballs, the tasty hors d’oeuvres were devoured with enthusiasm by the guests.20151102_172410 20151102_182937 20151102_182946(0)Desserts were, of course, Goldfingers! Sweet meringue fingers with cream filling. Yummmmm20151102_183813Urban’s Catering & Events Consultant, Jean-Marc (below) ensured the guests were never without a glass of wine…20151102_171841….and the folks over at the Belvedere Vodka station (below) were shaking, stirring and smiling as they prepared Mr. Bond’s favourite martinis.20151102_171047There were lots of British-made products on show, including this awesome Norton motorcycle, another of 007’s getaway vehicles of choice. As the event progressed, the velvet rope came down and we were able to get up close and personal with the bike and I was able to capture my own reflection in the shiny tank (2nd pic).20151102_170520

20151102_182927Meet some of the guests…including the fabulous Hilary Farr of “Love It or List It” tv series (3rd pic, ctr) and a lovely lady accompanied by her corgi purse – Her Maj would be proud!20151102_170408 20151102_180413 20151102_184233 20151102_182818(0) 20151102_182824The food kept coming and Urban’s cater waiters worked their trays off!20151102_172502

20151102_183015 20151102_183010I, too, made a “great” impression on the night and played at soldiers, posing in a Coldstream Guard cardboard cut-out…but I was a bit too short to pass muster (or the head hole was too high)….LOL!20151102_170727

20151102_172201(0)I met a lovely “Bond girl” – one of the Consulate staff who could easily fit 007’s requirements!20151102_170101And look who else was there – the absolutely fabulous TV hosts Colin & Justin !20151102_185753As the party ended, Consul General Kevin McGurgan (below) thanked all the guests & sponsors then encouraged us all to head over to the AMC cinema for the special advance screening of 007’s latest thrilling adventure, Spectre.20151102_185100Thanks to UrbanSource Catering, the catering sponsor, for inviting me to both the party and the exciting screening….yes, Spectre is a must-see for all Bond fans! Enjoy my quickee event video (below)

http://urbancatering.com/

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David Gale, Ferne Downey, Theresa Tova

HITTING THE RED CARPET @ ACTRA TORONTO TIFF PARTY (Pt. II)

“More more more…how’d ya like it, how’d like it?” Only readers familiar with the disco era will probably get that….but it was still the case last night when Toronto’s fabulous film folks walked the red carpet at the ACTRA Toronto TIFF party held at the HangLoose Media studios…and they brought more more more glamour and fabulosity!
Was great to catch up with my old friend David Gale, pictured above with Ferne Downey and Theresa Tova who had some fun with Kate Wheeler of What She Said web radio who interviewed them on their way inside (below). CvPkRm0bemNp-rL8Pzd19SDtqSETkSp4x24ZHGiRBa4Meet the multi award-winning Helena-Alexis Seymour, 2 time Best Actress winner (F.A.B.I.O) and Best Actress nominee at the Black Canadian Awards (below).mYoDXNb1WB1baNjEj13lkE81ZznyhiKUcMFloWn9NkgAnd here’s the beautiful, elegant Clara Pasieka (below) who is also Chair of the Young Emerging Actors Assembly (YEAA).irNax-GfQfOhaX5uWLoisllILIN7RxoFCKiU2fE6Eg0Canadian acting royalty was in the house…yes, that’s Tantoo Cardinal, award-winning actor, activist and recipient of the Order of Canada! Ms. Cardinal was just honored with the 2015 ACTRA Award of Excellence20150915_200329I love it when actors get “into it” during photo calls – gives us all something to shoot and play with. And I soon discovered the shoes! My inner Carrie Bradshaw freaked out over some of the sexy footwear and even the guys brought it.20150915_194723 Rachel Tores 20150915_203440 20150915_204059 J8kaCs3VhIVjvEAD_39FxdjBkrp3Me9PEZFcElBvwLwEven the wristwear was pretty cool….I want that one!20150915_195732Recent imports from LA, here’s writer/director Dan Spurgeon (below, left), and his partner, producer Drew Blakeman (right) who were chatting up the actors about their award-winning play, The Baby, which is set to open here in Toronto next month.  http://thebabyliveonstage.com/  Dan and DrewHere’s internationally renowned flautist, composer and film scorer Ron Korb and his beautiful wife & photographer Jade.20150915_203635 12026688_10153507311771259_781100657_nOne of my favourite photo opps for the actors was this “selfie station” (below), What a great idea.selfie timeI love this photo (below) ….two of my fave party VIPs, ACTRA’s PR Officer Karen Woolridge (left) and Safiya Ricketts (right) who’s on the ACTRA Diversity, TAWC and YEAA committees.

ZnWVaJZJoRoP6A3XXQJ3lj8-MD1jDBNqkULhudSPUhQStand-up comedians/actors Ali Hassan & Dave Merhege (below) shared a few laughs with us.Stand-up comedians & actors Ali Hassan & Dave MerhegeOne of the hardest working men in Toronto showbiz is Bobby DelRio, actor, writer, director, handsome dude about town…you name it, Bobby does it!WOqPUm8SrkiPlcdwok8l-0QB_hQ9mDFB7CLxUHUNgSI

Randi & Barrie Shelson put in an appearance

Randi & Barrie Shelson put in an appearance

The stunning blonde in the firetruck red gown (below right) is Christine Jenna Cilano, Founder/CEO of Bella Life Model Agency of Boston (she whispered to me that she may be opening a Toronto office) who arrived with a cool entourage that included local club entrepreneur David Laxton (at left), musician Rasta Phill, model Lauren Marx and CEO of Madflower Creative, Nico Bacigalupo.yQTyqN5v1kM-GGL44cb2q1rpEy-ZS3tSUHlapNUvgEsHere’s more ACTRA members enjoying themselves, nice and relaxed, having fun and working the red carpet photo opps.OJIRHqd0bVaU4jjGp5R-0ezvQS34_1o2D_17nOsvs4o Ngpwhd_vCvhTyEdxQbBTGmuMnRDQC7F0ISeRF0O-H4U M5okz7jIZUh3Lt_9iFExwjzakOj-hKBPXN3sIsWKjJ0 7-lo5gQJZbh6Im2tm5wv4vwSOR09vejcdy7Q1W-Y93Y,3Veld1wxzYIQ46J9C5ijwMPEcw7TQOyM5LOcX_gcj5w 12033596_10153507312041259_1206314458_n

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CQ2NZh6eEDC4v15zabLZ5D9fTgAVGwhaCh0JSvkjaqkTa-daaah! That’s all I can say about this lovely, funny volunteer who helped keep our energy up while working the red carpet for 3hrs.20150915_191010Below, Raj Girn, publisher of Anokhi Media, one of the night’s sponsors, sparkled and shimmered. I remember attending the launch party for her successful luxury magazine, Anokhi Vibe, several years ago and I’m so happy for her success in such a tough market.20150915_211317More fun, fabulous party people….dxiTeCXwn7q97BTGIbrg-c4L6VRZJJl_oTMoDHPWN14 bGQwPS_aQoqgTdzdn81ZsOipvox3dBGfnA6x-wBfFTU aOgoU_g8nJJzmNVZ8zYzAiVgpMCYIDvV-bNuKXwGWUQNow…a big thank-you to to all the event sponsors and partners for making the soiree so successful.ACTRA logo Diversity Logo copy TAWC Logo copy YEAA Logo2 copy

hangloosePrint

d'alessio logo copy flow water sdtclogo copy st royal copyAnd congratulations to all the amazing volunteers who worked so hard to pull off such a fun, glamorous event. Bravo, and a big standing O to you all!dlhiCKZOOhmYqP3LlMxvXmGVJpRBli8PRaejNptgJJM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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HITTING THE RED CARPET @ ACTRA TORONTO’S TIFF PARTY (Pt.1)

The war cry last night was “ACTRA Gets Loose”! And judging by all the happy smiling faces on the glammed-up guests, all members of Toronto’s acting elite and film industry pro’s had a blast at the Hangloose Media Studios!WtksRsRxX5IC5GN--9A-gJCT7DQ0M1_OwNntYEhKZNs

2eBO2I3L8qXEjLKQaXS9Jidz94XkQxKl6Xwo20r5cR8bF1sl7qIoLrJ96bUNeB8bRfMMC_j3E4LOqmL1H5F1Ck My photographer, Gabriella Luchetta, and I arrived early to check out the studios and Gabs made a bee-line for the yummy candy buffet…20150915_18552420150915_185531We were introduced to the charming Fode Bangoura (below), ACTRA member and our “minder” for the night. Isn’t he handsome?Fode BangouraI, of course, had to try making an entrance on the red carpet prior to all the celebs….LIlgqCzSXjjJ1WQxrG-UeEtNhEbb3M39eiPq1LkqnvkOrganized by 3 groups within the ACTRA organization (Young Emerging Actors Assembly, Diversity and Toronto ACTRA Women’s Committee), my access to the party was thanks to Sarena Parmar (below) who Gabs snapped just before she disappeared to change into her party gear.with Sarena ParmarFirst to arrive was Art Hindle, one of Canada’s great film and TV actors and, who I’m slightly embarrassed to admit, was one of my “crushes” in the 80’s when he starred in the hit TV series, E.N.G.  Here he is (below) with his lovely wife Brooke, and the hosts of SiriusXM’s What She Said, Kate Wheeler and Christine Bentley (bottom pic)HW-tBSQgh6fhev2rnys9kcdy4-OTRyc8yrcHLWymrNo,qPvlOgB7ykyAqN6LfOmh9CKHdHrG4gDQm98Klp9Jbnc 20150915_191209 20150915_192659Then Kate grabbed Art for a quick interview (below)…20150915_192242And then it all started – so many beautiful ladies in their finest party frocks…so many handsome men all spit’n’polished ready for their close-ups.Z9nRhEY0JM_J-dzkqr4FDBzryWMS4xsNKJU0zcS0j_c,5GDHdoN_S_XIafBZ2Pppg-YtRqkP0jG9ef6WBTVX9jU

Michelle Latimer, Melina Laboucan, Jarrett Martineau, Nikki Sanchez

Michelle Latimer, Melina Laboucan, Jarrett Martineau, Nikki Sanchez

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Amy Hines & Ange Green

Amy Hines & Ang Green

Lots of film casts attend en masse like the actors from Beeba Boys (below)Beeba Boys 2

gLEmoUXRJ32p5JHsrr8rbucfE9097yz-_FjX4OzmNs4 P6ObzT67pJeI0ThSG4rVG6Sl70LjaEn9lMKeqtxf2vI,5fGZ2UWpse8xwS8aM-kbTjSq-nJIekCuZws7ye4DbcoAnd the stunning Amanda S (below) set all hearts a-flutter in this sexy red gown…Amanda SHere is the dashing trio of Jack Newman, Julian Richings & John Nelles – betcha you’ve seen their faces in numerous films and TV spots….now you know their names!Jack Newman, Julian Richings, John NellesCute-as-a-button actor Ally Williams (below) arrived in this gorgeous yellow silk number, and she even brought her dress designer, Azalea Yang, with her.Ally Williams

20150915_212442I got a chance to meet other media reps working the red carpet – here’s Ruzanna of ForFilmsSake.comZYuQGmDpvSmOWLO486F4UrT1MHQ1qp6a7D7nwfnehBIAnd here I meet actor Shanti Dhore and her beautiful daughter Leila who is also an actor.h3SQrZi8A6q_7oJ3cQUHzuhYFxux8IoZnynh5pHKMqo,MWic01qsfeDjFvizb6zC0nIGsFVG-WX_AHkC-C5bAukAnd the young lady who owns every TIFF red carpet these days…the amazing and talented actor/producer Katie Boland (below) 20150915_204811

KatieI even managed to find a fan of my own, too!6dq6n-JxWUpjR_m0Eju4FuqjCbL2hI6hlcKPtDcUzvwHere’s Cristina Rosato with her gorgeous date…g3cuJPd-v4n8IO2oUC26uPZohkonMmjD0xxyCLY4Kh0,jIALM25FUtw1ORSbpRMWVSIiM_U44RUq3W3osZoruWsAnd here’s super elegant Talia Schlanger wearing a dress by Hilary Macmillan and necklace by Atelier Bymm glaA1hQ4vBIhNGPip2ods53eMHlv5p6oCGL7QadgPNgActor Simu Liu (Omega, Nikita) brought his pretty date and promoted his upcoming TV series “Blood and Water”1BsjbAQUY4lJoT-fF0J5LN5CI782NJl5eBPycbfnyAs,mquStS-uCNvuUulXN7vzMIdbclw4Ipl8K6Z1EWQqHEg (1)Lots more pics to post, so check back later for Pt. II. In the interim, am sending out a big thanks to the ladies of 20Twenty Artistry for keeping us all pretty and fresh faced throughout the night.20150915_190908

20150911_140719

OUT THERE @ TIFF WITH THE FABULOUS MELISSA DIMARCO

And so the dance begins….20150911_133522

20150911_133526The fans are lining up outside the Ritz-Carlton Hotel (above) in hopes of spying visiting celebs during the Toronto Int’l Film Festival (TIFF) – the annual high holidays for the movie industry.

Got a great start to my TIFF’ing this year…I got to visit the media hospitality suites in the Hotel Intercontinental on Front St West and my first stop was the www.OutThereWithMelissa.com suite, hosted by the gorgeous, friendly MELISSA DIMARCO (yes, she’s even prettier in person).

Her team of hosts (below) welcomed me to the suite and I had fun with the photo wall….can’t wait to see how “fabulous” they made me look – only hope their Photoshop program was working overtime..LOL!20150911_134618

20150911_134627Downstairs, there was lots of schmoozing going on, as well as tons of nibblies and sponsor drinkies….20150911_134943

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20150911_13501920150911_135023…and more networking opps with industry folks like Dixon and Bruce (below)20150911_135412and I caught these two fellas below mid-chew (sorry)…. LOL20150911_135548Young ACTRA party organizer Sarena Parmar (below right) was working the room like a pro!20150911_135614…and here she is again with Rodger Edralin of Napintas Films (centre) and one of the numerous casting guys (left) in town over the next 10 days.20150911_135634Here are more of Melissa’s great team of room hosts and her official photographer (below right) who looks quite a bit like Chrissy Teigen, don’t you think?20150911_135652

20150911_135700Sadly I left the party a bit too early as I missed fellow countryman and Oscar-winner, Geoffrey Rush (below with Melissa )Geoffrey RushAussie star Rush is famous for The King’s Speech and numerous other films but I will always remember him for his award-winning portrayal of pianist David Helfgott in the movie SHINE which holds a special place in my heart. It’s based in my home town of Perth, Western Australia, and I remember seeing the real David play in the piano bar of the Parmelia Hotel which I frequented after work in the early 70’s (I was under-age to drink booze but kids and dogs were allowed in hotel bars in Oz – civilized or what, eh?). G’day, Geoffrey…if you need any Vegemite or Lamingtons, I got a stash here!

As I left the suites I ran into the adorable and super talented Katie Boland who was making her exit with her hands full of goodie bags. Such a pretty dress!20150911_142502So a really big thanks to Melissa and the Out There with Melissa DiMarco gang, and a special thank you to Caron Nightingale, Director of Sales for APM Canada (one of the suite’s sponsors), who kindly extended the invitation to me.  Check out what APM does here:  http://www.apmmusic.com/  

I’m looking fwd to visiting the ladies of Sirius XM’s What She Said next week so check back for more TIFF news.20150911_141038

 

 

 

20150909_112051

GLO COMMUNICATIONS HOSTS “MEDIA DAY” PREVIEW OF THEIR BASK-IT-STYLE CELEBRITY GIFT LOUNGE

Every year, I have the privilege of attending a number of media events during the Toronto Int’l Film Festival (TIFF) and today I had the pleasure of visiting the Bask-It-Style celebrity gift lounge presented by GLO Communications (for the seventh year). This year, they’re located in the exclusive Private Estates Above the Shangri-La Hotel….and oh what a view!

20150909_114053Bask-It-Style hand delivers their VIP gift bags to the hotels where the stars are staying during TIFF and this year’s sponsors cover all the want/need bases from beauty to fashion and from food to books. Past celebrities gifted through Bask-It-Style’s hotel partners have included Sir Elton John, Megan Fox, Matt Damon, Ellen Page, Colin Farrell, Jennifer Garner, Julianne Moore and many more.

“We are excited to kick-off the seventh year of Bask-It-Style,” says Jessica Glover, Principal, GLO Communications. “Every year we work with some top brands showcasing new products that we are thrilled to share.”

So here are all the lovely folks who greeted us all today….come enjoy a virtual walk-thru with me and see what fabulous swag the stars enjoy.

First, I was greeted by a lovely “safari guide” who escorted me around this stunning mansion in the sky….20150909_112044…and I was quickly whisked into the NEUTROGENA® room where I was treated to some great product info and samples, courtesy of the two Laura’s (below). www.Neutrogena.ca20150909_112326 20150909_112331 20150909_112513Then I met the mother & son team of Pat & Ian MacDonald (below) of Old Tomorrow, an exciting new Canadian Pale Ale named for the original Canadian Idol – John A. MacDonald (a.k.a. “Old Tomorrow”).  www.oldtomorrow.com  I can’t wait to enjoy my complimentary brewskie now chilling in my fridge!
20150909_112943Next, I met Jeannie and Melissa from the Starlight Children’s Foundation who were promoting the charity’s “Tea & Tiaras” fundraiser in October. Learn all about them at www.starlightcanada.org and www.teaandtiaras.ca 20150909_114002 20150909_114012I was pleased to see some great books and authors represented in the gift lounge, and I had the pleasure of meeting Chris Houston (below), the Marketing Director for DK book publishing [ www.DK.com ]  All the books are beautifully printed and bound – I know what’s going on my list for Santa this year…LOL20150909_114711 20150909_11420120150909_114205These two fabulous ladies (below) immediately caught my eye – I want that purple dress!! Here’s author L.C. Moon (below left) and her BFF composer Lana Chacra (right) who together have created a great book/CD package. LC’s erotic romance, A Bedtime Story, looks like a must-read, and the CD offers the perfect soundtrack for the book. Looking fwd to tuning in and turning the page! 20150909_115414 20150909_11550520150909_115417A Bedtime Story is available via http://thebtsproject.com/

Who doesn’t love dogs? Nobody here, that’s for sure. I was thrilled to meet author Colin Campbell who was autographing copies of his new book “Free Days With George” published by Penguin Random House Canada http://www.freedayswithgeorge.com/ His book tells of how caring for an abused rescue dog ends up rescuing him; a heart-warming tale of a once-nervous un-trusting dog walking into a man’s life and changing his world – for the better. Yep, I’m in!20150909_120219I may have to write a review of Colin’s book for www.theRider.com as I know horsey people are also doggy people, too.

Now let’s hit the fashion studio…follow me.20150909_12035420150909_120512

20150909_120624Gorgeous clothes and accessories from Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein (above) had me aching for my old svelte bod from the 80’s and 90’s, and don’t get me started on the glam Warner’s & Olga unmentionables (below). Their No Side Effects Bra and No Pinches, No Problem Panties are awesome and I’m thrilled to have a few samples for some special ladies (sadly, my big girl knockers wouldn’t fit these lovelies).20150909_120943Love the Van Heusen shirts that offer a little stretch in the collars and the soft Izod sweaters (below). I have a special man in mind for the beautiful sweater I was given. Thanks to Zov and Czery of PVH Corp, the marketing specialists for these heritage brands.20150909_120749

20150909_121207Bling! I see BLING ! Yaaaay, now these will fit me. LOL Here’s Tamara Kronis, designer, gemologist and metalsmith from Studio1098 that’s located up on Yonge St near Rosedale. www.studio1098.com Tamara is currently collaborating with CANFAR by creating a simple wishbone pendant to raise funds.  Here’s Tamara, pictured below left, with the charming rep from CANFAR. Thank you for my beautiful earrings, Tamara.20150909_122126 20150909_122135Coffee, coffee, coffee! Meet John A. Darch, President of Doi Chaang Coffee (below left, with the charming Daliah) the delicious new Beyond Fair Trade organic coffee.  www.doichaangcoffee.com   20150909_123022

20150909_123025Doi Chaang Coffee is a single-estate, premium Arabica coffee. It’s certified organic, shade grown, hand picked, fresh water washed and sun dried. Each bean is hand sorted and freshly roasted to ensure the highest possible quality for each cup. Naturally low in caffeine, it has a complex and flavourful profile that is enhanced and released through detailed cultivating, processing and roasting methods.  Cannot wait to brew up my first batch of the Social Medium beans.

So a BIG THANK YOU to all the gift sponsors I met today (and those who supplied the tasty treats found inside my gift bag when I got home) and an especially big thanks to Jessica and her GLO Communications team for their generous hospitality.   www.glocommunications.ca

20150909_105938Gotta love the Shangri-La Hotel for presenting such an outstanding hospitality suite, too. Now you know why I always refer to it as the Shangri-La Dee-dah (thanks to The Flintstones). Happy TIFF’ing to you all !

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Baby - LA production

AWARD-WINNING WRITER/DIRECTOR DAN SPURGEON BRINGS THEATRICAL THRILLS, CHILLS & GRINDHOUSE CAMP TO TORONTO!

Back in the late 70’s, I was cast in the stage version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show here in Toronto – I made a great Magenta – but due to some differences of opinion between the director and myself (he thought I should be pulling an extra after-show shift…and I didn’t) I withdrew from the show, dignity and virtue in tact! BUT…that first taste of high camp and horror/humour has fueled my appreciation of grindhouse movies and stage shows. A few years back, I saw the production of  Bat Boy at the Bathurst St Theatre and was just as entranced by the audience’s reaction to the play as the actors themselves. All the ooo’s, aaah’s and yikes from the seats were as funny as the action on stage.

I now have the pleasure of working with the new master of said “genre” live theatre, DAN SPURGEON, who arrived in Toronto last month after years of helming critically acclaimed productions in LA and New York. He has a wicked glint in his eye, a wry sense of the absurd and he recently sat down with me to share his love of live theatre, his award-winning camp send-ups of 70’s classic cult films and plans for his upcoming production of THE BABY at Toronto’s Storefront Theatre (see end of story for details).

Writer/Director DAN SPURGEON

DAN SPURGEON, writer/director

Welcome to Toronto, Dan. What prompted this move from LA to Toronto?
Actually, I’ve visited many times and had Canadian citizenship since 1989 via my mom. My husband, Drew Blakeman (Exec. Producer of The Baby) and I were considering moving to Toronto from New York a decade ago, but after the US dollar collapsed against the Canadian it wasn’t an option. LA was second choice… it turned out to be a great second choice based on what I was able to accomplish there, but we’ve had our eyes on moving here for a while. As far as why we left LA and the US… well, both are facing enormous problems that appear to be getting worse rather than better, and we decided that it was time to revisit the idea of moving up north. A year later, here we are!

Over the past 5 years, you built a successful theatre company, The Visceral Company, in LA – what challenges did you experience working with stage actors in a film town?
In LA, everyone’s an actor. Or at least, they think they are, despite many having no craft, discipline, training, or talent. There’s a general feeling in that city that theatre is no more than just a film without a camera pointed at it – many people don’t understand that under the surface, they’re very different mediums. I’ve dealt with actors who whispered on stage, who didn’t understand they couldn’t paraphrase a playwright’s words, and one performer who was very upset that her character costume wasn’t something she’d personally wear. If you request a monologue audition, you’d have to specify that it be memorized, and if you don’t mention “previous stage experience required” your inbox will be flooded with folks who may not know what a play even is. Plus it’s a given that if you’re working with pros, you always run the risk of losing them to a better-paying project with higher exposure at any time, and often with little to no notice. Thankfully, we seldom ran into that issue, and were only caught fully off guard by one exit – we were lucky enough to get the real pros most of the time, I guess.

You also worked for some time in New York, a real theatre town. What did you learn from your time working with the Shubert Organization and directing for Cobblestone Productions?
In theatre terms, I’m from the street. I don’t hold a drama degree, I took several years of classes but ultimately got sick of performing before I was allowed to study directing. So I just kind of did it myself. In the final semester of my film degree in San Francisco, I was strongly drawn back towards wanting to create theatre, so my final project was in fact producing and directing a play. We moved to New York shortly after I graduated. My time at Shubert provided me as much guidance as school ever did, both practical and artistic. I got to see the inner business workings of the highest professional level of theatre, and even more importantly, I got to see all kinds of shows – Broadway, off-Broadway, Off-off-Broadway, readings. I also did script coverage for creative projects. Getting to see what worked and what didn’t, what stirred me and other audience members and what left us cold, was absolutely invaluable in figuring out the standards I would set for myself and my work. In the same way, Cobblestone, a tiny nonprofit company, simultaneously taught me practicality, and how to apply these professional standards within time, space and budgetary constraints.

As an artistic director and writer, you specialize in the horror, thriller and sci-fi genres, especially plays with a comedic edge and a touch of the absurd. What attracts you to those dark, macabre and bizarre themes?
I’m drawn towards big, operatic emotions and an intensely heightened sense of reality. After horror and thriller stuff, I’m most fond of musicals and futuristic sci-fi – all these genres share that sensibility. Comedies tend not to share it to the same degree, so the ones I like tend to have a darker, sharper edge that brings out bigger performances. I have a real soft spot for cheaply made, shoddy, “exploitation” films that have a lot of heart. The Baby (LA stage stills, below) is a love letter to the sleazy, grindhouse cinema I devoured on VHS as a teenager. Beyond that, it’s kind of tough to explain my personal aesthetics – it’s like someone asking me why I like sushi more than pizza. I just do, it’s part of what makes me me.mama-wailing-sm charlies-angels-sm judith-axe-smIn Toronto, there is a huge underground “goth” and horror genre cult following – do you anticipate your upcoming production of The Baby (based on the 70’s cult movie classic) will attract these audiences?
The Baby is certainly designed with a certain sensibility, but I’d say it’s less “goth” than “punk rock.” The original film is generally labeled as “horror,” but I think it defies such simple categorization. While the show has elements of horror, drama, and comedy, it’s primarily “camp” – albeit camp done with excellent actors. My biggest inspiration for this project have been the films of John Waters (Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble), Russ Meyer (Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!) and Herschell Gordon Lewis (2000 Maniacs, The Gruesome Twosome) – so any fans of those kinds of “midnight movies” should find plenty to like about The Baby!FasterYou’ve won numerous awards for your stage adaptation and direction of The Baby including the Encore Producers Award/Best of Fringe selection (Hollywood Fringe Festival 2013) and LA Bitter Lemons named The Baby one of the Top 10 LA Theatre productions for 2013 & Best LA Premiere of a Play (honorable mention). Having done research into Toronto’s theatre scene, how do you feel (or hope) the critics as well as the public will receive The Baby?
This show began as an experiment, and I wasn’t even fully convinced it worked until I started seeing the audience reaction. Many of our fans in LA thought it was the best show our company ever did. So, hopefully Canadians aren’t radically different in taste and they enjoy it just as much! As far as critics go, I’ve learned not to listen to them. I hope they like the show, as much as I hope every patron enjoys the show… but I also know that opinions are opinions, no matter how informed they might be, and it’s very rare that you can please everyone. I’ve seen a few reviews that hated Book of Mormon, and even more that hated Kinky Boots. What I’m hoping is that everyone, critics and public audience alike, at least enjoy the uniqueness of The Baby, the general weirdness of the story (including a truly surprising twist ending), and a performance and design aesthetic that one very pleased and enthusiastic Hollywood Fringe attendee referred to as “Technicolor vomit.”
At one of our shows a few years ago, a young woman came up to us afterward and told us that she had never  seen a play before (not uncommon in the US, sadly), and that she liked it so much she had to go see more plays. That’s a better review than any critic could ever give us.Baby-logo-web-bannerYou’re working with the Storefront Theatre (pictured below) who will be staging this latest production of your award-winning play. Do you already have plans for your next production, and if so, can you give us any hints as to what that play will be?
Oh, I always have a bunch of ideas in my pocket – probably more than I’d ever be able to bring to fruition in my lifetime. My original show Lovecraft: Nightmare Suite – a puppetry-laden anthology from the short stories of H.P. Lovecraft – has enjoyed successful runs in New York and LA, and is being produced this October by the Molotov Theatre Group in Washington DC (concurrently with The Baby, so I unfortunately won’t be able to attend). I’ve found some people that are very interested in the idea of that show, so I think Toronto might see it in the next year or two. Beyond that, I try to keep myself open for whatever interesting notion screams to be picked up and run with.

storefront 2I’ll be posting more news on The Baby and it’s cast over the coming weeks but in the interim, please mark your calendars for the run Oct. 15 thru Nov. 1 at Storefront Theatre, 955 Bloor St West (between Ossington & Dovercourt). You can buy tickets now from http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2253620
Showtimes: Tuesdays – Saturdays @ 8pm, Sundays @ 2pm
The Baby website will be launched shortly: www.TheBabyLiveOnStage.com