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Director, Screenwriter, Producer, Composer, Actor Bruno Verdoni

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

https://battlescarsthemovie.com/

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BREADCRUMBS POSTER_new

EXCITING NEW CDN WRITER/ACTOR FILMS LATEST SHORT IN TORONTO

Just as I was watching the opening scenes of I,Robot on tv this past week, I got a call from Taylor Martin (pictured below), a multi-talented young woman who had just completed a 1-day shoot with my producer colleagues over at RDG Entertainment Inc. for a short film called “Breadcrumbs”.  On my tv screen, the scene was unfolding where Will Smith’s futuristic cop character was talking about “breadcrumbs…like Hansel & Gretel”, left for him as clues by the James Cromwell scientist character….synchronicity or what?!

Taylor martin 1Taylor told me about her experience of working with a professional crew and cast, seeing/hearing her script come to life, and playing one of the main characters, too.  The storyline is: When Gretchen met Luke everything seemed to be perfect, however, his adoration turned to obsession. She moves on and creates a new life only to discover that he has not. Gretchen is reminded that the past is never far behind. You can almost hear the sinister music playing in the background…dum dum dummmm.  So I asked her about the process and here is what she told me:

Growing up, you’ve been a dancer, model, gymnast, soccer player, martial arts practitioner….so what inspired you to seek a career in film?  I believe it started when DVD’s first came out and they often included a second disc with all the special features and background footage.  I can’t remember what movie it was, but I was completely blown away by “the making of” or “behind the scenes” section.  All of a sudden, my interests started to expand towards the creation side as well as the acting side.

As an actor, writer, director….what challenges you the most and why?  As an actor, if someone isn’t willing to “let go”, “be in the moment” and “be honest” with their intentions in a scene, I find that challenging to respond.  No different then the work of a relationship.  As a writer, it’s making sure everything flows properly, and not quelling too much on one thing.  Everything has a purpose, connects, and catches people’s attention.

11077927_663963547040783_5007723645388393253_nThe 5’11” strawberry blonde enjoys the glamour of acting in her own indie films (above)

For your latest short film, Breadcrumbs, you enlisted the production assistance of Rafael Kalamat and Jason Barbeck of Reel Deal Guys Entertainment (http://reeldealguys.com/) – what did they bring to the film and how quickly was it made?  They brought everything that is needed to actually shoot the film.  With their persistence, professionalism, team work, and dedication to the overal look and feel of the film, it was shot within one day.  I really couldn’t have asked for a better team, and that goes for the cast as well.  I’m the kind of filmmaker that wants to get things done when it’s that time.  I think that’s why a short film that could’ve been filmed over a two day period was done in one day because it was “GO, GO, GO”.  We ran a tight ship, and the atmosphere on the set actually fit into the filmmaking process.

11062314_663370900433381_5720500104321403121_nAbove, Rafael (left) & Jason (right) of RDG busy working out close-up shots

Tell us about Breadcrumbs – what’s it about, what was your inspiration for writing it and how much, if any, of it is biographical?  Breadcrumbs is about the drama that occurs in complicated relationships that should’ve ended a while ago.  My inspiration for it came from my own experiences and watching friends or relatives go through it.  All of it is biographical, but as a filmmaker I jazzed it up….and changed the names, of course.

10422979_663370860433385_2966626930667701247_n Alexis StaceyWere you involved in the casting process….and tell us a little about your lead actors?  I take charge and will always take charge of the casting process.  They are MY films, and therefore I’M the one who has the last say in the matter.  I will show co-producers the audition tapes from the actors I’ve chosen to play the roles, but that’s it.  I run my own ship but I’ll always need help to actually set sail.  I’ve known my lead actors (pictured above) for quite some time and they both enjoy these types of films.  I had asked for both their demo-reels when I was initially creating Breadcrumbs before I even told them about it.  I knew their acting chops were exactly what I was looking for, for the characters of “Luke” played by Stacey Unsworth and “Gretchen” portrayed by Alexis Uiga, so when I watched their reels, it was thirty seconds into them that I thought “yeah, I want them. I don’t need to watch anymore”.

Once post-production is completed, where will Breadcrumbs be shown? Any plans for the film fest circuit? Yes, we plan to submit it to as many festivals as we can.  The only footage of the film that will posted on social media for everyone to watch will be teaser trailer(s) of the film.  I hope to have, at most, two teasers since the film is going to be around the five minute mark.

11069621_663964133707391_5080895202076369952_nWhat’s next on your to do list?  The RDG guys and I were talking about making Breadcrumbs into a feature length film so I’ve begun the writing process on that – mostly writing down ideas for tying things together, since there will be lots of questions about the short film.  I’m also in the brain storming process with two other films.  So far everything I’m writing is action based, probably due to my martial arts background.

_MG_0528How can people follow your career? You can follow me on Facebook here: http://on.fb.me/1BG5X4F 

Taylor Martin 2Good luck, Taylor, I know you’ll have a lot of Canadian film fans cheering you on, wanting to see more of your work and celebrating women screenwriters and filmmakers.