Tag Archives: filmmakers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check out Unapology’s YouTube promo videos here:

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

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

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

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

Christin Baker (L) with Noemi Weis (R)

Christin Baker (L) with Noemi Weis (R)

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

(LtoR) Coral, Strath, Hannah & Corky

(LtoR) Coral, Strath, Hannah & Corky

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

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

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TIFF RED CARPET FOR NOLLYWOOD FILMMAKER OMONI OBOLI’S “OKAFOR’S LAW”

Last night, Nollywood filmmaker and superstar OMONI OBOLI presented her dark romantic comedy OKAFOR’S LAW at the Toronto Int’l Film Festival with a stunning red carpet event full of talent, glamour and sparkle! The packed house was vocal in their approval and enjoyment of the film – you haven’t been to the movies until you’ve shared a theatre with Nigerian film fans…they responded loudly to all the onscreen action with laughter, applause and gasps. The Toronto crowd loved the film, adored their actors and weren’t afraid to show it. As soon as Omoni stepped out of her car (below), a cheer went up from the line-up of eager fans who had been waiting hours to see their idols.20160912_200658 20160912_195543These adorable young fans (above) were first in line when I arrived earlier at the Isabel Bader Theatre and they were thrilled to bits when Omoni came over to say hi and take selfies with them.20160912_200728Next to arrive was the stunning Ufuoma McDermott (above), looking extra sparkly in a long blue gown (scroll down to see how glam she looked on the red carpet). And then the big man himself arrived, Richard Mofe-Damijo or RMD as he’s known by his fans.20160912_204321 20160912_204234Above, Richard joins Omoni (right), along with another stunning Nollywood VIP guest on the red carpet. And below, Omoni walks the red carpet for her photo call with the world’s media, including several Toronto-based Nigerian and African media outlets.20160912_201007 20160912_201637 20160912_204406(0)Below, Ufuoma proves that this “baby got back” showing off her fantastic physique! We’re thinking she would be ideal to portray Serena Williams in her bio-pic….hopefully  someone is writing the script now!20160912_201359The red carpet got very crowded with Omoni’s cast & crew, and many of the Nollywood filmmakers and actors participating in TIFF’s “City to City” program showed up to support her film.20160912_20474420160912_201409 20160912_204536Prior to the screening, the always charming Cameron Bailey, TIFF’s Creative Director, introduced Omoni and her cast and crew to the stage (below)….20160912_210537

Photo courtesy of Mo Vernie

Photo courtesy of Mo Vernie

…then afterwards, everyone came out on stage to rousing applause and cheers, and for a fun Q&A with the audience (below)20160912_230707 20160912_231220Then outside for lots more interviews and photo opps with the fans!20160912_233511 20160912_233611Above, brilliant cinematographer Yinka Edwards was grabbed for a few words with TV news cameras – Yinka has 3 films participating in TIFF…wow! And he is such a humble man…I’m sure he was a little embarrassed by all the applause and media kudos. Bravo, Yinka, well done.

Omoni joined the throngs of fans outside for more selfies and socializing, meeting up with old friends and even a few relatives…20160912_234010 20160912_202259Here are a few more fun pics from last night, including Patricia Bebia Mawa of AfroGlobal TV/Silvertrust Media (below)…20160912_204753 …and Vivianne Collins who hosted the official Red Carpet TV for Okafor’s Law – here I caught her setting up before all the stars arrived. 20160912_200113Ufuoma hung out with writer/director Lonzo Nzekwe, sharing social media posts (below)…20160912_203104And of course…it’s all about the shoes, ladies, right?!  Check out this sparkly gold pair worn by Tomi Adeoye, production manager for the film.20160912_201100So you have just 2 more opportunities to check out this fun movie during TIFF: Wednesday night Sept.14 at 8:45pm & Sunday Sept.18 at noon, both at the Scotiabank Theatre in downtown Toronto. All details & ticket sales can be found at www.tiff.net

Follow Omoni and her cast via Facebook.com/OkaforsLaw

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ANOTHER GREAT “NOLLYWOOD” FILM FOR THIS YEAR’S TIFF-GOERS TO SEE

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.IMG_3500 IMG_351076 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.IMG_3506 IMG_3505 IMG_3514You 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

www.tiff.net/tiff/

 

 

 

 

 

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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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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