THIS WEEK: DANCES WITH FILMS FESTIVAL, WONDERWORLD LA
DANCES WITH FILMS
The opening night green-carpet event for the Dancing With Films indie film festival took place in the gorgeous and historic lobby of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, directly across from the TCL Chinese Theatres where the short and full-length works were set to screen over the next couple of weeks in multiple theaters. As directors, producers and on-screen talent made their way down the carpet, each group shepherded by a protective publicist, such as seasoned L.A. flacks Henry Eshelman and Diane Brown, cameras flashed and interviewers held up mics under the glaring lights. For many of these indie filmmakers from around the world and around the U.S., this was their very first brush with Hollywood glamour!
Now that the Los Angeles Film Festival has ceased hosting an annual event, Dances With Films — so named in its debut year by co-founders Leslee Scallon and Michael Trent to support a feature film they had made called Indemnity, in the wake of Sundance hosting a plethora of “dance” monikered film festivals — i.e., Slamdance, Digidance, No Dance, and several more with similar monikers.
Twenty-two years later, Leslee and Michaels’s Dances With Films is going stronger than ever while still sticking to their motto of “No politics, no stars, no sh*t.”
DWF has risen to fill the breach left by the L.A. Film Festival in supporting and featuring primarily indie film projects of all kinds, some of which this year included the heartbreakingly excellent The Land, which features a terrific star turn by actor Herman Johansen; the girl-centered video-gaming short Would You Like To Try Again?; Wowsers, produced by and starring the party’s most fabulously dressed guest Sam Fox, about a club where the BDSM isn’t always safe, sane and consensual; and the surprisingly witty horror-comedy Driven, starring the film’s writer, Casey Dillard, along with Richard Speight Jr. of HBO’s Band of Brothers and the CW series Supernatural.
Just down the street from where DWF was hosting their opening night festivities, the fabulous magical interactive pop-up museum that is Wonderworld LA was throwing their own soiree to introduce the Wonderworld brand of visual genius to celebrities and local media influencers, sweetening the pot with drinks, donuts, a cotton candy station, complimentary nail art, and swag bags for attendees. Even Fox 11 news showed up to cover it!
Co-founded by venture capitalist Hua Wang and businessmen Jay Yue and Jie Wang, Wonderworld first popped-up in New York’s Soho district where the threesome gathered a cabal of creative designers who were seeking a platform for their work. Wonderworld Soho ran for a year before coming to Hollywood’s Walk of Fame just this month, where local artists such as Josh Wong collaborated in customizing the build-out to be unique to L.A.
Pop-up museums may be a new concept in Los Angeles, but they’re a big — and lucrative! — trend in NYC, where the trio behind the original and L.A Wonderworlds is set to launch Wonderworld Brooklyn any day now.
In NYC, Wonderworld is something of a fashion brand, but here in L.A., they’re not targeting the nightlife set. Rather, Wonderworld is open only during daylight hours and is bracing for a steady stream of both the legitimately young as well as the so-called young at heart, who will no doubt be completely entranced by the Alice-in-Wonderland-esque rabbit-warren of 11 differently themed interconnecting rooms, all housing art installations in various crazy-wonderful themes, all of which are meant for extreme posing and photographic shenanigans. Memory-making shots of patrons climbing in, on, and around the various oversized and decorative props, and Instagram-worthy photo ops with your posse are highly encouraged. We can’t help thinking that kids, both little and big, will take to Wonderworld LA as if it were a more sophisticated version of a Disney theme park!
Wonderworld LA is set to pop at least through the second week of August. For tickets and information call (747) 284-9616.
In the recent Finding Neverland documentary, the long term effects of childhood trauma are clearly demonstrated. The two men, Wade Robson and James Safechuck (who tell of the chronic sexual abuse they suffered at the the hands of Michael Jackson), only started to deal with what had happened to them almost 20 years later. Sometimes it takes that amount of distance from the pain to be able to deal with it, but the awful things that happen to you as a child do not simply go away. No, instead those experiences fester within and influence you in multiple ways, playing out in poor choices, addictions, ill health and a possible host of health and behavioral problems. Why does that happen? How does it happen? What does it look like? And how does one make it better?
Well, Rita Ciolek and Marianna Mankowska, both survivors of child abuse, have teamed up to do an in depth feature-length documentary film entitled Child Not Releasedto find those answers. The film will explore long-term consequences of child abuse and neglect by examining diverse survivor stories. The emphasis is on the effects of trauma on early childhood brain development including developing susceptibility to addictions, problems related to building healthy relationships with oneself and others, and repeating cycles of abuse in the context of intergenerational trauma. The film will also offer innovative approaches to healing, cutting-edge treatments, and experimental programs to help survivors re-wire their brains and overcome trauma. Rita and Marianna share a vision for this film to be a conversation starter on the difficult and often stigmatized issues related to childhood trauma. They want the survivors to know that they are not alone, that resources are available, and that any trauma can be healed.
Due to its hot topic issues, the project is gaining momentum and attracting top experts in the field of childhood trauma including Dr. Ramani Durvasula (psychologist), Dr. Regina Pally (psychiatrist), and Jenica Morin-Pascual (domestic violence expert). The project is also in talks with Dr. Gabor Maté (renowned speaker and bestselling author with expertise on addiction, stress and childhood development), and Dr. James Doty (Clinical Professor of neurosurgery at Stanford).
Interviews with these experts will discuss:
Re-wiring of brain circuits to overcome trauma Recovery from addictions
Learning to give language to emotions
Forming healthy relationships
The third stage of self-esteem development – evolution
The producers are currently looking for collaborators and survivor stories in the local communities. Correspondence can be send to [email protected].
Kazia Productions is a Santa Monica media production company, founded by Rita Ciolek, MFA, CPA,
Rita Ciolek (Founder & Creative Director) is known for collaborations with prominent figures in the entertainment, business and humanitarian worlds including Barbra Streisand, Linda Cruse, Keith Merrill, and David Rudd.
Marianna Mankowska (Co-producer and Lead Animator/Graphic Artist) is a multi-award winning animator and illustrator. (Scenes from the film demonstrating physical, psychological and emotional abuse and neglect will be depicted with animations).
Contributing Editors: Anthony Stafford and Joshua Pinkay
In Los Angeles, it’s no secret that millions of people move into the city to pursue their dreams of entering the world of entertainment. Little does everyone know, those who reach their success still have other dreams like the rest of us! Ivana De Maria is one of those successful individuals who grew up with an attraction to the entertainment industry, moved to Los Angeles to pursue that dream, and continued dreaming — pursuing an uncommon endeavor: an entry into the tech world using parts of what she already learned. Ivana saw an opportunity in something that each of us has – our stories. We sat down with her to find out more about her background, and to learn about her new dream to take the entertainment world by storm in the way aspiring dreamers will find new projects. Here’s a peak into how your stories, our stories, and the world’s stories will be revealed.
Q: What inspired you to enter the entertainment industry?
A: Since I was a little girl I was always very attracted to the entertainment industry. My great grandfather founded the first Radio and TV station in Mexico and my two oldest brothers have a production company as well. One of them is a producer and the other one a director. Growing up, I spent a lot of time on set with them, helping them in any way I could. I was always very enchanted by the magic behind creating a film. I always knew I wanted to eventually work in the entertainment industry, specifically as an actress. However, I also had many intellectual curiosities, which I wanted to explore before focusing on my long-term career. I studied high school in Switzerland and after graduating I moved to Boston for College. I attended Boston University where I completed a bachelor’s degree in Business and Law, always knowing that upon graduating I would focus on acting full time. Over the course of those four years, during summers while all my classmates would look for finance internships, I would attend acting school in NY and LA, and then during the school year I would enjoy learning the theoretical aspects of business and law, skills I felt would come in handy no matter what I did. Upon graduating I immediately moved to LA to pursue acting full time.
Q: What has been the biggest challenge you face working as an actor and producer in Los Angeles?
As soon as I got to LA, I starting the casting/rejection/waiting process, and the more I learned about it the more frustrated I got by the system. I hated the idea that my results would depend on so many factors that were not in my hands. I called my brothers and asked for advice. Their answer was “make your own short film”. I had no clue how to do this, but my frustration with the industry was bigger than my fear of the unknown. I began writing my own characters, which then turned into my own stories, then my own projects and finally my own productions. I wrote, produced and acted in two short films, which to my surprise had great success in the festival circuit.
As an actor you accept a life of instability and this is the hardest part of it. Financial instability, physical instability and emotional instability. Because it is so volatile, one day you have a job and the next its back to square one. You have to be available at all times which makes planning anything very difficult. I found that my personality required a bit more structure that what acting offered, and so I decided to find other ways to make a living that would let me be selective with my acting jobs.
Q: You recently took on the tech world with the upcoming launch of your app StoryPlace? How did your background in entertainment influence your decision to start this business?
When I began creating my own content I learned everything about the process of telling a story. From writing, to producing, acting, editing, the business… and I fell in love with all of it. I realized that my generation had an opportunity: the industry was changing and the power was now in the hands of the creative. There was a new currency going around: STORIES. If you had a good story and knew how to tell it, you had a big opportunity. By looking closer at the story culture around the world, I realized that this demand for stories was not exclusive to the entertainment industry. Every industry, product or brand is founded on a story.
A couple of years ago I started developing projects based on real life stories and quickly became enchanted by the idea of finding these stories and bringing them to life, giving them a voice. I found a beautiful combination in social responsibility and film, and decided I would create entertainment content based on true stories, specifically those with messages, stories and voices that needed to be heard today. As I embarked on this journey to find extraordinary stories, I found that everyone’s story had a lesson for me in some way. This led to a thought and an actual dream that that kept me up at night: “How many stories go unheard in the world?” I could not stop thinking of all the lost learning opportunities and decided I would do something about it. I wanted to create a place for these stories. Taking into account technology and generation trends, I decided to create a platform that would inspire people to connect through story sharing, to realize the importance of sharing and listening to stories. That is why I created StoryPlace, an egoless social platform that promotes empathy by connecting people through sharing and reading real life stories.
Q: Why is Southern California the perfect place to launch and grow your business?
Southern California is the hub of startups! It is a place that promotes entrepreneurship and Los Angeles is a city that is truly designed for the self-employed. Every street has cute café’s and working spaces that help young entrepreneurs have a working environment without the need for a formal office. In terms of StoryPlace specifically, SoCal culture is very open and friendly, everyone is always open and excited to share his or her story!
Q: What advice do you have for someone looking to break into the entertainment or tech industries — two highly competitive fields?
I am a true believer that as an artist, it all starts with creating your own content, and therefore you own opportunities, so believe in your vision and don’t be afraid to tell your own stories. Don’t be afraid to fail and don’t try to please anyone but yourself.Let your goal be making your own self proud, and then things will start happening. Furthermore, when they start happening don’t question your “luck”.Many times I would feel insecure or question myself when something went right and I got “lucky”, but luck is where preparation and opportunity meet. So give yourself the credit for being prepared when that opportunity comes along. And most importantly, enjoy the path!
Q: Where do you see StoryPlace going in the next few years?
Hopefully many places! I’ve learned that in the app world you never know what you’re going to get. It can have 1 user for the first week or a billion users in one day. The entire team has been working hard on making sure that do everything we can in order to get those billion users, and most importantly we are ready to scale at any given moment.
My hopes with StoryPlace are that it becomes a leader of empathy in the world. Hopefully other industries will follow and people will be able to appreciate the power of empathy and storytelling. I would love for StoryPlace to eventually expand into more than just an app, a community, a festival, a book, a non-profit… who knows! The possibilities are endless.
Q: Do you have any local LA or SoCal spots that inspire you in your work?
I like to explore SoCal any chance I get and every time I do so I find new places that inspire me. What inspires me the most is meeting someone with a great story, and there are many of those in California!
I recently stumbled upon a small hotel called Moonlight Inn, which is in Moonlight beach. My boyfriend and I were driving and started getting tired so we decided to find a place to spend the night. Never did we imagine that this place would be an absolute oasis. It is a “WELL” hotel, which we learned meant that everything about it, from the design to the service, was tailored to promote wellbeing. This is just one example of all the incredible places I have found in SoCal. Every place you go has a story as well, its just a matter of listening.
Q: Anything else you want Angelenos to know about you or your company?
I’m always happy to hear stories and eager to discover new places! Contact me through my social media @ivanamaria and tell me your stories. More importantly, if you have a story to tell (which I know you do), download our app and StoryPlaceIT!
The Hollywood Stars Gala Oscars® event was held on Sunday, March 4, inside the elegant ballroom of the newly completed Beverly Hills Waldorf Astoria Hotel. Celebrities and guests filled the ballroom in support of the evening’s theme “Women in Entertainment.”
“It was so great to see so many celebrities, producers, music industry people, guest support this fabulous event, and especially gratifying to see everyone here stepping up to bring female filmmakers onto equal standing, as they should have always been” said Steven Nia, Chairman and CEO of Wardour Studios. “We here at Wardour Studios are committed to aggressively keep the movement going forward as the industry enters this new era.”
Tables in the ballroom were decorated with gorgeous floral arrangements by George Ortega, Creative Floral Director of “Square Root,” which matched the elegance of the evening only the Waldorf Astoria could provide.
During the hosted VIP Cocktail Reception guests were able to catch glimpses of the Oscars® red carpet arrivals at the Dolby Theater on the screens around the room. While waiting for the Oscars® ceremony to begin, guests had the chance to smile and pose for the camera in the Socal Mirror Photo Booth, creating a memory of the nights’ celebration for them to take home.
When the Academy Awards hosted by Jimmy Kimmel started, those in attendance were invited to indulge in an exquisite dinner created by the Waldorf Astoria’s celebrity chef Jean-George, while watching the winners receive their Oscars® on large screens located around the ballroom.
Announced at the event was one of Wardour Studio’s newest Hollywood China co-productions, “Crossroads to Shaolin”. It is the story of a young American boxer who discovers how to be the true champion that he is at a Shaolin temple, helping him to go on to become world champion. Lee Baker is writing and directing the film, with Stephen Sobisky as visual effects supervisor, and Dan Katzman as producer.
“Steven and I are extremely grateful for all the wonderful participants, this evening, and we hope to be working with many of them soon”, said Angelina Leo, COO of Wardour Studios.
Pictured L-R: Directors -Jon Shenk, Bonni Cohen, Former Vice President Al Gore, and Interviewer, John Anderson Q&A Following a screening in New York – Photo credit: Bronwyn Berry
An Inconvenient sequel: Truth to Poweris a ‘follow’ movie in the true sense of the word. Not only is it the follow-up documentary to Al Gore’s hard-hitting An Inconvenient Truth, but this time round we get to ‘follow’ Gore on a worldwide tour of the disastrous consequences of climate change– from the dripping icecaps of Greenland to the rain bombs of India and the flooding streets of Miami. He travels the world teaching future climate leaders. We witness change in action at the 2016 Paris Accord as Gore brokers a deal between developing country, India and SolarCity, the world’s leading manufacturer of solar panels, a turning point in getting India to agree to the Accord. There are heart warming moments— Georgetown, Texas “the reddest city, in the reddest county” is about to get 100 percent of its energy from wind and solar; Gore and conservative Republican mayor celebrate a victory for renewable energy. This is an emotional journey for Gore and he admits to sometimes feeling “it was a personal failure on my part” that the world’s leaders were not stepping up. Despite the harrowing visuals, grim statistics and the trump-astrophe of November 2016, this is an overwhelmingly positive film. We’re immersed in Gore’s journey, inspired by his passion and dedication. Most importantly, we witness that change is possible; we have a responsibility to halt the effects of climate change. Use your voice. Use your choice. Use your vote. #beinconvenient
Started in 1979, John Ramirez and the late Stuart Timmons, two students at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) founded a gay film festival. By 1982, it had become known as the “Gay and Lesbian Media Festival and Conference”, later as the Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. The name was changed to Outfest in 1994. Outfest Los Angeles LGBT Film Festival is eleven days of world-class films, panels, and parties. This year, the roster has some outstanding films including documentaries, KEVYN AUCOIN: Beauty & The Beast in Me, (tonight at Director’s Guild of America (7920 W Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, CA). PHOTOGRAPHS BY JOHN SKALICKY