Just as the Toronto Int’l Film Festival (TIFF) closes, the 5th annual Canadian Int’l Faith & Family Film Festival opens! My dear film industry friends BRIAN KAULBACK (CIFF Ambassador and member of judging panel) and festival Co-Founder & Exec. Director JASON BARBECK invited me down the the exclusive Hotel X on Toronto’s waterfront today to talk about this unique family and faith-focused festival that runs online for an entire month, and features films, shorts, documentaries, even animated films that are suitable for ALL the family. Jason graciously offered to share information about CIFF with me via a series of video chats so I encourage you to click on and learn about the cool content and activities at this year’s festival.
Every year, the CIFF Film Festival exhibits and celebrates the most outstanding faith and family content produced from every part of the world. Films are selected and nominated by a panel of judges on the basis of content, quality and originality. CIFF is one of the fastest growing segments of the international film festival markets, and the only one of its kind in Canada. Film lovers, industry professionals and media outlets will celebrate the best in new faith and family cinema from established and emerging filmmakers and talent. This year, CIFF will be showing films from 22 countries around the world via their website: www.cifflix.com Get your online passes there NOW. The festival runs until mid-October so you can catch all the films as well as tonight’s Awards Gala from the comfort of your home.
And there will be lots of celebrities and stars in virtual attendance, too….
CIFF Film Fest welcomes submissions from filmmakers around the world so come on all my Aussie movie making mates…here’s how YOU can submit your latest production and access a growing audience of film lovers who appreciate inspiring, family-oriented and faith-based content……
I encourage you to visit the festival’s official website: www.cifflix.com or follow them on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram.
Late last year, I attended online screenings and director/cast discussions of Australian films that were part of the annual NAIDOC (National Aboriginal and Islanders Day Observance Committee) Week that shines a spotlight on Indigenous Australian culture and communities, as well as history and arts. One exciting indie film I was eager to see was The Flood which, based on so many sad facts, tells the story of post-WWII Australia and how the white population mistreated and abused the native population of this distant outpost of British colonial power. There were so many fantastic performances but one (or should I say two) stood out – that of DEAN KYRWOOD (pictured below on set), a stunningly handsome actor who reveled in his dual roles of portraying twins – one brutal and sadistic, the other a weakly coward. After the online screening held in the wee small hours here in Toronto (we’re about 12-14hrs behind Australia), I asked a few questions and then connected directly with director Victoria Wharfe McIntyre for a blog interview. Through her, I connected with Dean whose work I’ve followed ever since. I reached out to Dean to share his acting journey with my readers, just in time for TIFF (Toronto Int’l Film Festival) which opened a few days ago. With the lack of glamourous galas, swanky industry soirees and public red carpets this year due to Covid restrictions, here’s a great way to celebrate film – sharing stories from the sets and learning about actors from around the world.
Dean, not only are you an actor but also an accomplished musician & singer, a fashion & photographic model, and more recently you’ve been doing a lot of weight training and building your body to super hero status. Do you consider yourself a driven person? First and foremost, I consider myself an actor and a musician, and the modelling thing (I’m showing my age) I retired from a couple of decades ago. I consider myself very driven and tenacious and have always been drawn to the arts. Every time I have ventured into one arena I’m told a lot of “no’s” and I’m fueled by these “no’s”. “You’re too short to be a model” (I’m 6ft tall) I’ve had singing booking agents tell me in the beginning “You’ll only ever be able to do this part time” (I’ve been living off full time singing for close to 20 years). In acting you’re constantly told no but you have to (like Arnold Schwarzenegger says) ignore the naysayers. It only takes a few “believers” to champion you for you to succeed along with hard work and I have a mental list of naysayers in my mind that I look forward to saying “I told you so” to when they’re suddenly supporters of mine. I’m not naturally talented at much, but I’ll outwork anyone!Starting out as a model, you shot print ads and promo images – how did that help build your confidence and comfort in front of cameras? Being a painfully shy kid, it certainly did help build my confidence and it was a necessary baby step towards me going into singing/playing in front of large crowds and, in turn, performing for years as a musician also became a necessary step in the scheme of things for me to feel confident enough to embrace and take the plunge of being in front of people as an actor.
I gather you were a popular musician in and around Newcastle, playing the best venues and at corporate functions – were you torn between pursuing music and acting or did you already have a plan to move into film and television? These days I mostly perform in and around Newcastle, but also did long stints in Sydney and Melbourne. No, to be honest I’ve never been torn between the two. I mostly play cover songs these days (with some of my own thrown in) but I don’t have the fire in my belly to “make it” as a musician that I had in my 20’s/30’s. That fire has been very much directed at my acting career and it’s my main focus, but I feel equally gratified in the doing of both.
You and I first met (online) when you starred in last year’s hit feature film The Flood where you played dual roles critical to the story line – you portrayed twins, one of whom was extremely cruel. How did you find the humanity in such a character and how easy was it to slip between the two brothers in different scenes? It was lovely to meet you!! I really appreciate all your support. It was certainly challenging in a good way to play twins who are both very different to me. To find the humanity in both, I had to look hard at the back story of their childhood and upbringings and that the “cruel” twin just like the more empathic twin were how they were as a result of pain and abuse from a young age. Obviously, the cruel twin’s actions are horrific and abhorrent, but in his mind in the particular circumstances of the film his actions seem justified to him, considering what was taken from him. At times it was extremely draining as a real empath to embody such cruelty, but I remember a conversation I had with actor Mark Coles Smith (when I was filming a short called Miro with him, with the same director Victoria Wharfe McIntyre) where we discussed not letting my natural empathy get in the way of really going there and being completely truthful in the moment so as to not water down the mistreatment and horrific things inflicted on indigenous people in Australia in our past. It was also difficult to play the seemingly weak/cowardly twin because he somewhat resembled that painfully shy teenager that I was. Surprisingly, I found it relatively easy and am realizing I tend to work from the outside in as an actor a lot, meaning with the expertise of hair and make-up and wardrobe, I feel my inner life/demeanor/body language shift the moment that wardrobe and hair and makeup are on me. Pictured below, with Alexis Lane and Shaka Cook, then in B&W with Brendan Bacon.The Flood was writer/director Victoria Wharfe McIntyre’s debut feature and she did an amazing job with the large cast – did you feel like you were part of something very special and was there anything you learned from that gig that you can apply to future roles?I feel incredibly grateful to Victoria and producer Armi Marquez-Perez for giving me the opportunity and the belief they bestowed upon me in giving me a lead role in such a special film when they could have easily gone with a big name actor. That is an example of what I said in an earlier question in regards to only needing a few “believers”. Something I can take forward into future roles is that playing a lead doesn’t have to be a big scary proposition, when you have so much time to just take each day as a new day and break it down into small sections and not look at it as a huge whole that’s intimidating or overwhelming. Another thing I learnt being able to act almost every day for 7 weeks, was that there’s dramatic power in the silence in a scene and being in the moment and not rushing through a scene and to take risks within them.You also appeared in Moon Rock for Monday (2019), a popular film that actually made it up here to N. America – did you have any scenes with David Field, one of Australia’s great actors known especially for playing twitchy bad guys?It’s so nice seeing “Moon Rock For Monday” getting out into the world. It’s a gorgeous story and the most family friendly film I’ve done so far. No, unfortunately I didn’t have any scenes with the incredible David Field. I’ve been a huge fan of his since seeing him in “Two Hands” with Heath Ledger, Rose Byrne and Bryan Brown and I feel so blessed to be in the same cast as David all these years later.You’re currently starring in the horror short “Mask of the Evil Apparition” by director Alex Proyas, which is getting lots of buzz on social media as well as the festival circuit. Tell us about your role and how much you enjoyed the horror film experience. I was pinching myself when Alex offered me the roles of Angelo 1 and Angelo 2 (twins again!!) in “Mask of the Evil Apparition” or as we affectionately call it MOTEA, but I quickly became aware upon chatting to/meeting Alex, that he’s a really humble, intelligent and fun guy and the entire experience was an absolute pleasure, and following the experience of “The Flood” I felt more than ready to give it my all with confidence. It certainly is getting a lot of festival love and for anyone interested in seeing it, it will available on a new exciting/innovative new streaming platform that Alex is creating called Vidiverse which will be a platform for indie filmmakers. I can’t say a lot more than the characters are psychic twins at this point and it was such a pleasure to play in this film opposite the three other incredible actors Bonnie Ferguson (Lead), Goran D Kleut and Alex King. I just approach the Horror genre like any other and was seeking being truthful in each moment. It was the first time for me working in a completely green screen environment, but acting is suspension of disbelief and imagination in any environment and I loved it and would do it again with bells on!You were co-lead in another thriller/horror feature film called Water Horse (directed by Jennifer Van Gessel) that was shot last year and is due for Australian release soon (and hopefully in N. America, too) – what sort of character did you play in that and how did you approach the role? I’m really excited about the impending release of Water Horse with it being my second lead role in a feature film and was a great experience to make with two of my best friends in super talented writer/director Jennifer Van Gessel and the real star of the film, Lauren Grimson. I play a character called Osmond (Oz) Shaw who is probably a character closest to my real self that I’ve played. That said, there are enough differences between the character and myself that it didn’t feel too revealing. I guess I mostly approached the character in a way of “How would I feel/react in this situation myself”. Oz works with Dianne Wilson (Lauren Grimson) a paranormal investigator who links a bizarre string of seemingly unrelated events to the disappearance of her mother.
We’ll soon get to see you in a cool cameo in the upcoming Zombie film Wyrmwood: Apocalypse (due out in 2022) – any special training you had to undergo for the role? And are you a fan of The Walking Dead? Being such a huge fan of Kiah Roache-Turner and Tristan Roache-Turner’s first Wyrmwood film I jumped at the chance to do a memorable cameo in the second one!! I didn’t really require any training as I’m constantly training with weights and doing cardio in my daily life and I have played quite a few roles that involved military type training and stunt work. I’m excited to see it and yes, I’m a massive fan of the first 4 or 5 seasons of The Walking Dead but haven’t had a chance to catch up on the last few. I gather you’re embarking on writing your own script – can you give us a hint what it’s about? Yes I have!! I haven’t decided upon a title as yet, but I guess it would be in the psychological thriller/sci-fi/horror genre and I’m looking for the right producer/director to get it from page to screen. I would describe it as a story that puts you into the kind of uncomfortable place that directors like Darren Aronofsky, Ari Aster and Jennifer Kent put you in.
Dean, how can film fans follow your career? Do you have a website yet or should people follow you on social media? You can follow me on Instagram at @deankyrwoodofficial or Dean Kyrwood on Facebook. I also have a YouTube channel that has some of my songs and covers at it if you search Dean Kyrwood. Thanks so much for the interview and all the best with the blog, Glenda!!
You’re very welcome, Dean, and I’m thrilled to be able to share your story with other actors, filmmakers and movie fans.
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. Under 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.With 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?As 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.Did 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…LOL
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.
On Wed. Sept. 14, Nollywood filmmaker OMONI OBOLI had her first public screening for her film OKAFOR’S LAW at the Scotiabank Cinemas in downtown Toronto where she was joined onstage by co-star UFUOMA McDERMOTT for an audience Q&A afterwards. Looking lovely in one of the gorgeous gowns supplied by Gail McInnes of Stylist Box, Omoni fielded numerous questions about her career and meeting the challenges of being a female director in a predominantly man’s world. Ufuoma (above) sported a short sparkly cocktail dress that twinkled brightly on the stage.
Omoni then greeted fans outside the theatre, posing for selfies for nearly an hour!And so did Ufuoma!Omoni was joined by TIFF/City to City Programming Associate Olena Decock, who also moderated the Q&A session, for a few photos, too.The fabulous Uche Jombo (below) then joined us …….and then once the moviegoers had left the theatre, we decided to have some fun and play!
Tomi Adeoye kicks up her heels
The cinema’s cocktail lounge was closed and deserted so our little group took advantage of the cool lighting and views across the city of Toronto.My one quick photo opp with Omoni….it’s been fun working with her and her cast during TIFF. This woman is a real pro and I was honoured to be a part of her film fest experience. We found a lot of cool spots to take pics so every few feet it was a case of “strike a pose”!I love this pic of Ufuoma (below)….very moody, very “film noir”.We had waaaay too much fun but fortunately we were all able to sleep in a little in the morning after. It’s been a blast working with these incredible women from Nigeria’s flourishing film community and I look forward to continuing the relationship once they head home.
For this year’s Toronto International Film Festival (Sept. 8-18), the focus for their City-to-City program is Lagos, Nigeria – home to “Nollywood” filmmaking. One of the films being featured is 76 helmed by the multi award-winning director Izu Ojukwo, and starring Ramsey Nouah, Rita Dominic, Chidi Mokeme, Ibinabo Fiberesima, Memry Savanhu and Daniel Kanayo Daniel.76 is a love story that centers around the challenges women married to men in the armed forces go through when their husbands are captured in war. The 76 story is told using the backdrop of the Nigerian 1976 Dimka’s coup. The movie isn’t about a botched coup attempt but is clearly about the women who are courageous enough to bear a soldier’s last name. It is visually pure, emotionally engaging, intellectually stimulating and humorously therapeutic.
Six years after the Nigerian civil war, Dewa (Ramsey Nouah) a young officer from the middle belt gets entangled in a romantic relationship with Suzy (Rita Dominic) a young lady from the southeastern part of Nigeria. Their budding romance was almost ruptured by the overwhelming strains of tribalism. Now heavily pregnant, her world comes crumbling when news of her husband’s involvement in a botched coup attempt hits the headlines.You can check out the official preview trailer here:
Visit the official TIFF website for tickets, screening times and additional information on the City-to-City “Nollywood” programme
Toronto-based SHADOWTIME PRODUCTIONS is thrilled to bring actor/playwright Wallace Shawn’s dark, provocative and polarizing play AUNT DAN & LEMON to local audiences for the first time in nearly 3 decades when they raise the curtain at Theatre Passe Muraille’s Backspace on September 14th for a 2 week run.Aunt Dan & Lemon takes us into the world of a young recluse named Lemon (alias Leonora) who spends her nights reading chronicles of Nazi atrocities. Lemon tells the audience about the overwhelming influence in her life of her parents’ friend “Aunt Dan,” an eccentric, passionate professor whose stories and seductive opinions enthrall Lemon from the time she is a young girl. The relationship that develops between Lemon and Aunt Dan and the conversations that went on in a small house on the bottom of an English garden form the focus of this play about political orientation and the allure of certain ideas-even if they lead to murder. A forceful play exposing the banality of society’s evil, Aunt Dan & Lemon explores the ease with which good and bad become reconciled in the human mind.
Director DAN SPURGEON recently told me… Although the play premiered over thirty years ago and has seen prominent revivals both in New York and the West End, its messages may be more relevant now than ever before. The Trump candidacy and the Brexit vote have revealed a disturbing trend towards racism, xenophobia, and authoritarianism, and Shawn’s script brilliantly examines how such abhorrent mindsets can come from even the most benign sources and banal experiences. Considering it hasn’t been seen in Toronto since Tarragon Theatre’s Dora-nominated 1987 production, the time is absolutely right for revisiting this intelligent, uncanny and frightening work.
The world premiere of Aunt Dan & Lemon was produced by the New York Shakespeare Festival (Joseph Papp, producer) at the Royal Court Theatre in London, England on August 27, 1985. Wallace Shawn (Princess Bride – pictured below) played Lemon’s father plus various ensemble roles in this original production. This production opened off-Broadway at The Public Theater on October 21, 1985 with Academy Award winning actress Linda Hunt (Year of Living Dangerously – below) portraying Aunt Lemon. Nearly 20 years later, the play received a New York revival off-Broadway in 2004 at the Acorn Theatre with TV’s Kristen Johnston (Third Rock From the Sun & Sex in the City) playing Aunt Dan and Lili Taylor (The Conjuring, Blood Ties) playing Lemon (pictured below L & R respectively)Director Spurgeon went on to explain…. One of the most interesting things about this play is the playwright’s forcing the audience out of their comfort zone, by refusing to acknowledge the standard storytelling tropes we’re used to – there is no hero or villain, no separation of “the good guys” from “the bad guys.” The main conflict occurs between the playwright and a complacent audience, with the revelation of uncomfortable truths and questions about the modern world.
So mark your calendars for when Aunt Dan & Lemon confronts and challenges Toronto audiences once again. All performances at Theatre Passe Muraille’s Backspace theatre. Ticket information and times will be posted closer to opening. Follow Shadowtime Prods. on Facebook: www.Facebook.com/shadowtimeprodns
“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). Meet 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).And here’s the beautiful, elegant Clara Pasieka (below) who is also Chair of the Young Emerging Actors Assembly (YEAA).Canadian 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 ExcellenceI 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.Even the wristwear was pretty cool….I want that one!Recent 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/Here’s internationally renowned flautist, composer and film scorer Ron Korb and his beautiful wife & photographer Jade.One of my favourite photo opps for the actors was this “selfie station” (below), What a great idea.I 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.
Stand-up comedians/actors Ali Hassan & Dave Merhege (below) shared a few laughs with us.One of the hardest working men in Toronto showbiz is Bobby DelRio, actor, writer, director, handsome dude about town…you name it, Bobby does it!
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.Here’s more ACTRA members enjoying themselves, nice and relaxed, having fun and working the red carpet photo opps.
Ta-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.Below, 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.More fun, fabulous party people….Now…a big thank-you to to all the event sponsors and partners for making the soiree so successful.
And 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!