Tag Archives: Canadian art

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

METAMORPHOSIS IMAGE FINAL

URBAN GALLERY HOSTS CENTENNIAL COLLEGE’s ANNUAL STUDENT SHOWCASE ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Each year, Toronto’s Urban Gallery hosts Centennial College Studio Arts program’s 1st year students exhibition and with the current Covid-19 crisis hitting all the galleries and public art installation locations so hard, Urban decided to upload a Facebook “gallery” show for the students (follow them on Facebook.com/UrbanGalleryTO)  The works are hung on the gallery walls for anyone wishing a private viewing – contact them via www.UrbanGallery.cagallery gallery3Thanks to Lisa Binnie, MFA, FAS Program Coordinator and Professor in the Fine Arts Studio & Photography Programs, the students were able to organize this year’s show so that their works can be showcased online, building support for their future careers.  Metamorphosis is the theme of this year’s Fine Arts Studio student exhibition, and it will change the way you look at art!  Metamorphosis is not only the theme, but also describes the transformation these emerging artists will experience during the Centennial College fine art program, and continue throughout their lives. Below is a selection of the works on show (installation runs until March 28) so please visit the gallery’s Facebook page frequently to view the various paintings and multi-media works uploaded daily.RavenMaducdoc-Facade-2020 gallery5 CarreraChung_Coda-2020 copy LuZhang-Glow-2020 gallery6 gallery10 ChristaBellewang_Saprophyte-2020

Urban Gallery is located at 400 Queen Street East in downtown Toronto, and is one of the city’s leading independent galleries offering artists catered opening and “meet the artist” receptions. If you have any questions or if you’d like booking information, please contact gallery director, Calvin Hambrook, at info@urbangallery.ca  Until social distancing or self-isolation concludes, Urban Gallery will continue running online gallery events for your safety and convenience.AnneKim_YouAreMore-2020 MYMYMY_Acceptance-OldSkin-2020 AleksandraRodneva-ThereStillWillBeLife-2020 RobertStephenson_Decisions-2020 SidiaAtabales-Schnitzler-Grandma-2020 WeijiaSu_HeartRebirth-2020 YuJunOh-MyInnerSide-2020Thank you for supporting Canada’s emerging artists!

20180707_142424

GO WILD! Toronto’s Urban Gallery unveils July’s group show “Wild in the City”

Yesterday, Saturday July 7, URBAN GALLERY 400 Queen St East in Toronto was packed with guests to celebrate the opening of their month-long group show, Wild in the City. Featured artists include Erik Chong, Libby Sims and Osvaldo Napoli who were in attendance, plus works from Lindsey MacKay who was unable to attend in person – she resides in Fredericton, NB. Take a virtual walk thru the gallery with me now…

The gallery filled up quickly once the doors opened at 2pm and lots of ooo’s and aaah’s were heard as visitors discovered the stunning and provocative paintings and sculptures.  Erick Chong (below) has exhibited at Urban several times over the past 4 or 5 years and for this show, he brought a whole new style and theme to the show.20180707_133652Erik has several videos showcasing his unique style and technique – get to know this artist here:

I’ve followed Libby Sims‘ work for sometime – she creates beautiful abstract florals in bold colours and strokes, along with other subjects and shapes. A mature artist, Libby has studied abroad and has developed her distinct style that is instantly recognizable. 20180707_134058 20180707_131749Osvaldo “Ozzie” Napoli (below) is another mature artist although he is relatively new to the mainstream Toronto arts scene.  His wire sculptures and large format multi-medium artworks create quite the statement and Ozzie’s fans turned out in force to see his latest work.20180707_13374520180707_131707The fourth artist feature in Wild in the CityLindsey MacKay, was unable to attend in person – she resides on the East Coast. But her art spoke loudly for her, featuring people, places and activities found around the city. I personally love the wild eyed seagull featured in her “You Lookin’ at Me?” painting (below).20180707_131836And I like Lindsey’s “In the Moment” painting (below) – reminds me of Toronto’s “Salsa on St Clair” – this weekend’s annual street fair of dancing and Latin culture.20180707_131840So many interesting and thought-provoking images to enjoy, I hope you get a chance to drop by Urban Gallery this month to see Wild in the City yourself.  For gallery hours and directions, visit:  www.urbangallery.ca

20170605_182840

HANGING PAINTINGS WITH JOHNY DELUNA

25+ large paintings were hung at the Art Square Gallery last night – Toronto contemporary artist JOHNY DELUNA is getting ready for his Thursday (June 8, 6-9pm) opening reception of his solo show “Spontaneous Levitation” so I spent some time with him as he measured and moved, then measured again all his spectacular works. I snapped a few pics of close-up details (see below) from several of his paintings which illustrate the textural quality of his work with raised dots of paint with multiple colours – very hard to achieve and extremely time-consuming.20170605_190559 20170605_190611 20170605_182852And I love some of the mythical creatures and people who dance across the canvases….20170605_183058 20170605_183111 20170605_192137And who doesn’t love galloping giraffes (below) in a windswept land and seascape?20170605_182830As Johny was busy up the ladder, a young man came in obviously intrigued with what was going on…he was soon chatting with Johny about the paintings and the stories behind each one.20170605_191657 20170605_192400Hopefully you are also intrigued and will join Johny at Art Square Gallery, 334 Dundas St West, Toronto (opp. the Art Gallery of Ontario) this Thursday Jun.8th 6-9pm. Spontaneous Levitation runs until June 19th so if you can’t make it this week, you have another week to catch these wild and provocative paintings.

Here are some of the comments from Johny’s previous solo art show….come add your own observations and kudos.20170605_192001 20170605_192032_001 20170605_192048

 

arabellaMailercopycopy

JUST RELEASED: STUNNING NEW BOOK OF FLORAL PAINTINGS FROM CANADIAN AUTHOR & PUBLISHER DEBRA USHER

For a number of years, I’ve been reading a wonderful quarterly Canadian magazine featuring stories on artists, art galleries and news about the business of the art world – it’s called Arabella Design and can be found in major bookstores across the country as well as by subscription.Arabella cover

I first met publisher DEBRA USHER and her charming husband BRIAN while visiting one of my favourite galleries in Toronto, Westmount Gallery, when I was working with internationally renowned hyper-realism artist Bruce Lawes who had a special exhibition at the gallery – see Bruce’s equine art featured on the magazine cover (above). While waiting for media and art lovers to arrive, I spent some time flipping through the pages of back issues of Arabella and chatted with Debra and Brian about their ongoing support of emerging as well as established artists and regional galleries.

A few years later, I’m now able to support Debra & Brian as they rollout the promotional campaign to introduce their spectacular hard-cover book, THE LOVE OF FLOWERS, to readers and those who love all things floral. But be warned…this ain’t your grandma’s pretty flower book! The 450 pages are packed with nearly 2,000 glossy images of paintings depicting all manner of blooms from a wide variety of common garden flowers as well as exotics from far away lands. The book is big, bold and sexy and is the perfect addition to any personal library or coffee table. Once you start flipping through the pages, you won’t be able to stop!1. Beauty of White Flowers 18. Dennis MagnussonI recently spoke with the author and publisher and asked her about the inspiration for the book:

I am extremely proud of this book and the artists represented on the 450 full-colour pages. There are over 1900 paintings and images and 50 stories represented in this hard cover book.

 After the death of my mother, I decided to present a floral tribute to her in our spring edition of Arabella magazine and asked floral artists from all over Canada and the US to send in images of their paintings. Because of the overwhelming response, an idea to incorporate all of these stunning paintings into a book was formed and now here we are – The Love of Flowers was born and I’m so happy to be able to share all these glorious images with my readers.

Artists who paint flowers and capture the beauty and time of a fleeting moment are truly special but very often ignored in the artistic world. This book showcases both the range of talent and diversity of ideas out there. Each artist has a unique reason they paint flowers and our floral landscape and the book is a journey of the world around us that we sometimes miss. So I invite you to come travel down a road with a fragrance so delightful, is filled with colours and transfixes the heart and soul with both love and laughter.   Debra Usher, author (below)Debra-UsherHaving just received my own copy of The Love of Flowers, I can tell you that this is an extraordinary book, ideal as a family keepsake and something to be shared with children, grandchildren, friends and neighbours. The luxe matte finish of the hardcover invites the reader to turn the first page where the colours jump out at first viewing. Each of the artists, most of whom are Canadian, is profiled along with the richly toned images of their skilled works, and turning the pages, you will discover all sorts of flowers and blooms that will brighten even the dullest winter day.10. Brian Davis 22. Adriana Rinaldi 4. Rena BiermanDebra is currently planning several book signing appearances across the country, the first of which takes place at Handworks Gallery in Saint John, NB on Thursday February 9, then at the Sunbury Shores Arts & Nature Centre in St. Andrews, NB on Sat. Feb 11, with additional appearances and art lectures in BC slated for March. Please check the Arabella website and Facebook page for upcoming events in your region.

The Love of Flowers
450pg full-colour, hardcover book (1,900 images + 50 artist stories)
Published by Arabella Inc.
$85.00 (plus shipping & handling) available online

The Love of Flowers will soon be available in major bookstores but why not order your copy now direct from the publisher:  http://www.arabelladesign.com/flower_book.htm