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Behind Closed Doors with Hanna Griffiths

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Movie Marker Magazine sat down with Australian actress, Hanna Griffiths to talk acting, and life in front of the lens, in Los Angeles and beyond.

Can you tell us a little about your early beginnings living in Australia?

I grew up on a farm in Gippsland Victoria, it was beautiful. We had a lot of animals, dogs, sheep, cows and my favorite horses. I spent a lot of time in nature. We were kind of isolated I couldn’t even see my next-door neighbor for miles, but I had plenty to do with all the animals and my family. I would play with my brother and sister and my horse. Later on, we moved to the city of Melbourne – Parkville and we would go to the farm on the weekends. I used to play at Princes Park in Parkville every day after school. I love all the parks in Melbourne.

What inspired you to enter the world of entertainment?

I always had a very vivid imagination and a lot of energy that I didn’t know what to do with. My parents were always trying to find me activities to tire me out because I wouldn’t stop. I spent most of my childhood with horses I would ride several times a day, I would compete equestrian on the weekends all over Australia.

Both my parents were very academic My father really encourage me to read. He would read novels to me every night and then it took over and I fell in love with literature and stories. I rarely watched TV as a child. One day my father took me to a small cinema in Melbourne called La Mama to see ‘The Horse Whisperer’. It was a defining moment in my life because it was a unifying of all my passions. I thought the film was magic and I wanted to be a part of that.

What came first, modeling or acting for you?

Acting was first. I went from ballet, to musical theatre, to theatre, to acting in film and television.

I did some commercials and those ads would be printed and from there I started getting more and more advertising work. Commercials are fun, and they require a lot of energy which I have so, I loved doing them. There was a time in my career where I was doing too much advertising work, my agents would have me skipping film auditions because the commercials were worth so much more money. I had to pull it back a bit to refocus on my main goal film and television. I do get to work with a lot of amazing photographers and I learnt a lot about the camera and how to work in front of it. There are so many tricks that I learnt from doing print work.

Hanna Griffiths by Nicole Bentley

You have appeared in many commercials for international household brands such as Coca-Cola, Lee and Nintendo. Can you explain some of those commercials and your role within them?

It’s very wild to see yourself on billboards and the face of major brands. I would sometimes be driving and see them, and I would sort of look at it as though it wasn’t really me but a character I was playing. It’s a huge honor to be chosen for any major campaign and I was always very aware of that. I definitely felt a responsibility as the face of a campaign to represent that brand at all times, as a spokesperson. Going beyond the job description and adding as much value as I could, would make one commercial turn into three or a 2-year deal go for four.

Nintendo was a great commercial because I got to work with fellow Australian actress Olivia Newton-John and we have a great relationship and rapport with each other. The first commercial was so successful Nintendo ordered two more and I remember they bought the most expensive commercial spot and it played during the Olympics where millions of people from all over the world were watching. I think that everyone who I ever met texted me that day.

Hanna Griffiths for Lee Denim

As a prominent Australian actress, you have starred in several major TV shows. Can you tell us a little about some of your favorite roles within these shows?

I loved working on “Underbelly”, the TV show had a lot of buzz at the time I filmed it, so you could feel the high vibes of working on a multi-award-winning TV show. Everyone was excited, and things moved really quickly. I liked the fast-paced environment and I loved shooting in Sydney. We would start in the studio and then go all around Sydney to three or four different locations in a day. It was really a fun electrifying experience. I like all the roles I play for different reasons. Some characters have more of an impact on you then others but they all live inside me. Jodie was interesting to play, she was very naive to the underworld of “Underbelly”. She was blinded by love and didn’t realize the kind of trouble her boyfriend was in. She was guilty by association and had to go into witness protection after it all. It’s based on a true story and these are real people. I feel a responsibility to honor the story and the character I am playing. I spent a lot of time building her relationship with her boyfriend and how much she loved him more than herself.

Your debut appearance as a film actor was in ‘Evil Never Dies’ alongside Katherine Heigl and Thomas Gibson. Can you explain your role in the film, and what it was like to work on such a big production?

It was one of my first roles, and it was with Warner Brothers. I played a school girl in the college it was actually shot at the Melbourne University where my parents both met and graduated from. So, it was very special for me to film there. It was great to work with Katherine Heigl, she was very confident and strong. I really noticed that about her.  She knew what she was doing and had a lot to offer the director Uli Edel. It’s no accident that she became so successful in Hollywood. She was always powerful and connected to her strength. I really admired that about her.

Your more recent work is the female lead in the hit comedy ‘The Picture’. Tell us a bit about the TV show and your character?

The story is based on Peter Shepherd, a square, wide-eyed law student, leaves behind everything he’s ever known to become a film producer during one of the most tumultuous times in Hollywood – the late 1960’s.

Written and directed by David Winkler. I play Geanie a very stylish fashionista who works for the flamboyant Laurent who is the stylist to the stars. “The Picture” is an insight into the world of movie making in Hollywood in the 60’s, where things were a little looser, there was a lot of sex, drugs and rock roll. It also highlights the difference between New York and California lifestyles. The costumes are incredible I had such a blast filming this. It was like going back in time.

Hanna Griffiths by Paul Smith

As an actor, what other movies, or TV shows, have you enjoyed being part of? Do you have a favorite character?

I loved playing Sadie in “Bittersweet Sadie” because I was very mischievous and instead of the womanizer lead male hurting the girl it was the other way around. Sadie played with people and got them to do what she wanted.  She was challenging, complex and mysterious.  The director really let me play with it and it was highly creative collaboration. I did a project called “Juvenile”, where I played Tamara, a young girl from the wrong side of the tracks who had a very troubled family life and ended up in Juvenile detention. I loved this role. It still stands out for me. The more complicated the character the more I enjoy it.

What type of genre of film or TV show are you drawn to traditionally?

Traditionally I am drawn to projects based on a true story. Real stories, about real people or happenings. The truth is what draws me.

Do you have a bucket list of actors and directors you would like to work with?

Yes! For actors I would love to work with Nicole Kidman, Jessica Lange, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christian Bale, Edward Norton, Cate Blanchett, Naomi Watts, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Russel Crow, Tom Hardy, Al Pacino, Jim Carey, Kathy Bates, Julianne Moore and Frances McDormand.  As for directors, Martin Scorsese, Clint Eastwood, Sofia Coppola, David Fincher, Kathryn Bigelow, Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, David Lynch, Terrence Malick, Andrea Arnold and Cameron Crow.

When you are not acting, what do you enjoy doing?

Reading, scripts, plays, and novels. Horse riding, hiking in nature. I still take ballet every week, I love to dance. I’m at the theatre, I see a lot of plays. I’m constantly going to film screenings to support all my friends and colleagues’ projects. I work with a few charities and I spend time doing hospital visits. It’s important to give back and help people. I find it really fulfilling it’s important to me to be of service.

What can we expect to see you doing over the next few months?

I am about to start working on a new film project called “Brokers”. More to come on that soon!

To find out more about Hanna Griffiths follow her: 

IMDb: hannagriffiths 
Instagram: @thehannagriffiths
Facebook: @hannagriffiths
Twitter: @hannagriffiths
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Interviews

An Interview With… Steve Hodgetts & Arabella Burfitt-Dons (Love Possibly)

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In the mockumentary, Love Possibly a documentary film crew follows the hopelessly romantic, Alex, on his quest for love. Following their wins for “Best Feature” and “Best International Feature” at the LA Edge Film Awards and Catalina Film Festival, Che Grant and Michael’s Boccalini’s new feature is now screening at the Raindance Film Festival.

Lead Actor Steve Hodgetts and Producer Arabella Burfitt-Dons sat down with Movie Marker’s Marion Donnellier to talk about Love Possibly

Q. Steve, your transformation into “Alex” is impressive. How did you prepare for the role?

SH: Alex is very different from any character I have played before. In terms of research, I watched a lot of youtube videos to try and master the lisp as best I could. Alex is a very anxious and socially inept person so I tried to remember certain traits people tend to have when they are nervous. For instance, he uses his hands to mask his face and dances his eyes around. These are all different traits I took from people I have met. Also I think everyone deals with anxiety to a certain extent and I just tried to amplify my own anxiety x 1000.

Q. How much of your personal experience did you use?

SH: I think there is a little bit of Alex in everyone. I just tried to remember my own anxiety and try to magnify it as best I could.

We all know someone that looks like Alex.

SH: Absolutely. I think Alex is just very socially unaware. Especially due to his speech impediment, I don’t think he’s had an easy upbringing. I think if I’d met him, I’d be mate with him.

ABD: I think the idea behind the character of Alex is that everyone can relate to him in a way, whether it is because of his anxiety, loneliness, finding love or heartbreak. Because the story is mainly based on the cast and crew’s own experience, we hoped that people could relate to it.

Q. Such as in Alex’s favourite film, “Sleepless in Seattle”, modern rom-coms all have a similar structure. How do you think the character of “Alex” would fit in one of them?

ABD: I think it would be very interesting to put him in a very conventional rom-com and to see how it would play out. I think it would be very beautiful and would resonate with the audience of a normal rom-com.  It is kind of what we tried to do here. It is a spin on a rom-com ,which is a recurring theme throughout the film. It is meant to be an non-conventional and ironic rom-com. I think if we put him into a character in a normal rom-com, it would probably achieve a similar thing and would be relatable to the audience.

SH: I think a way it would be slightly better because he is quite relatable. He is more of an “everyman”.

Q. You mentioned most of Love Possibly was improvised. Was there a point while shooting when the story or tone deviated from what was originally intended?

SH: The directors knew the narrative they wanted to achieve from the start. The plot never changed as a result of the improve and it only allowed a couple of changes in scenes. I would say 75% of it was improvisation and brought a certain realism to the film.

ABD: Although the narrative is still very close to Che and Michael’s original vision, we stripped everything back in post production and started from scratch in terms of brainstorm, how to plot out the story and how to piece it all back together. At one point we were brainstorming without even referencing the footage that we already had just to see what came up. Whilst we pieced it back together, because it is improv and always very open, we managed to pull together the final edit. Improv opens up opportunities of changing the storyline in a positive way as well as being, obviously quite difficult.  It is exciting as a filmmaker because it allows you to take your story in another direction and it still works.

Q. How do you choose the project you want to work on? What’s the most important factor(s)?

ABD: Script! I really enjoy spotting upcoming talents and really enjoy working on under represented art forms. That is the beauty of working in independent films, you get to see such incredible and varied projects that wouldn’t normally get made by the big studios. Personally that is something I like and catches my eyes.  I also enjoy projects that really connect with the audience and with me. And obviously amazing talents as well. Working with filmmakers, directors and actors that are incredibly talented and helping them bring their talent to life.

SH: Always the script I would say and interesting characters. In terms of acting, I would definitely rather play someone that is widely different than a character that is similar to me because it wouldn’t be very challenging. Which is why Alex was always so fascinating, because he is so different.

Q. What did you learn from Alex?  

SH: Always think before you say something. Probably not to worry as much. He makes situations worse because he is so worried.  In some situations, Alex is the normal one and surrounded by crazy people. His mum is very out there and her boyfriend is nuts.

ABD: Expending on the anxiety theme, I think when you make a film that highlights and showcases a difficulty that a lot of people have, it resonates with you as a filmmaker. Everyone has anxiety to a certain extent in this day of age. There is statistic that was release recently that shows significantly high number of millennials suffer from anxiety because of the nature of the period with live in. I have learn from Alex character because I know anxiety but seeing it in that form, makes it all the more relatable.

Q. We don’t see many rom-coms dealing with mental health. Most films are either entirely focus on the topic or omits it entirely.

ABD: I would like to see it more in characters in bigger films and that is why I wanted to explore it in that film. I think when films do cover that topic it tends to be all about the anxiety but what is nice about “Love possibly” is that although it deals with that topic there isn’t a massive emphasis on it, it is just part of it.

Q. The film was financed through Kickstarter. Do you have any advice on how to run a successful kickstarter campaign?

ABD: A lot of it is about the talent behind it. Pulling together a very good pitch that justifies what you are trying to do. Show that you are serious about it. Show that is a serious project as well as a passion project. Put it out there to as many people as you can, there is no better way than to kick-start the project.

SH: Find someone that has a lot of twitter followers or lots of money!

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Interviews

An Interview With… Selena Tan (Crazy Rich Asians)

Selena Tan, who plays Alix Young- Cheng in the film spoke to Movie Marker’s Rehna Azim about the success of the movie and her life as a ‘Dim Sum Dolly!

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At the time of writing Crazy Rich Asians has grossed $166,791,962 at the Us box office and $55,100,000 overseas for a Worldwide total of $221,891,962. Audiences are not only flocking to repeat viewings but also turning this movie with no big stars into something of a cultural phenomenon.

The film is being credited with reviving the near dead rom-com genre and boosting tourism to Singapore. Importantly, the film is also being celebrated for bringing to the Hollywood forefront an ethnic minority group that is not aggressively pushed by the media and in advertising.

Selena Tan, who plays Alix Young- Cheng in the film spoke to Movie Marker’s Rehna Azim about the success of the movie and her life as a ‘Dim Sum Dolly!

Q: You started your professional career as a litigation lawyer then moved into the entertainment world. That’s a brave leap. What made you make the change?

A: I had dabbled in theatre and singing since I was at school. From the age of 14 I had been involved in community theatre. It never occurred to me I could do it full time or make a living from it. So I did a law degree and qualified as a lawyer when I was 23 but I soon realised that I had been performing for 10 years and was a way more experienced actress than a lawyer. But law is demanding and it consumed all my time for the first 2 years. But after a while I began to get the itch to perform again. I started doing some theatrical work on the side but really it was like having two careers at the same time. I was constantly exhausted.
So I sat down with my parents and said, I can always go back to the law but I have a real passion for acting. It gives me room for expression the law doesn’t. They were supportive and that’s when I started thinking about what I could do in the entertainment field and how I could best connect with an audience as an artist.

Q: What is a Dim sum dolly?!

A: (laughs) It’s an idea I developed in 2012. Three very different girls performing together; different sizes with different talents and capabilities. I wanted to create a cabaret/comedy/musical act that was socially aware and politically topical. In particular I wanted to tackle taboo subjects. We put on a lot of makeup and that seemed to help us get away with controversial topics because we made people laugh. It was like being able to serve a fluffy cake with a raisin in the middle!

Q: Was Crazy Rich Asians as fun to make as it is to watch?

A: More so! I really lucked out with that movie. But you know, I initially turned down the audition. I’d just finished a big production with my company and had a holiday booked in Phuket. I really needed that break and took it over doing the audition. Fortunately, I was offered a second audition when I returned from holiday because they hadn’t found the right actress for the part. The stars aligned and it all worked out for me. I thought it would be great because I could just be an actor and not worry about the directing or putting the production together.

Q: What was it like on set?

A: Like a resurrection! A total new injection of zest and life. It was like I’d been jump started. I was surrounded by so much talent from around the world and everyone was so passionate about the project. I got to make wonderful new friends and show them my country, its places, its people, the food. Since the film came out I’ve been approached by so many people, including old friends from my past who have all been touched by this movie and what it’s done for our country. Young people tell me they now believe anything is possible. Tourism will go through the roof. It’s just a beautiful film about my country. It’s a love letter to the country actually. Until now people used to say, ‘Singapore? Which part of China is that?’ Now they know who and what we are.

Q: The film has been praised as a step forward for more diversity in cinema but it has also faced some criticism for focusing on one group in Singapore which is multi-ethnic. What do you think the film offers the push for diversity?

A: The push for diversity is a movement. A single film can’t do everything and yes, some people have asked, where are the Singaporean Indians and other groups in this film. Yet the spirit of representing minorities is being embraced by our film and by all those around the world who are going to see it. Certainly , there is a need for an ever more diverse Singapore to be showcased, including people on the fringes of society.
But, you know, the film has already inspired so many people around the world. I have a niece in the UK who suddenly feels that, yes, there might be opportunities for her now in the acting field which she didn’t feel before. She’s excited that maybe she could be like auntie Selena and that thrills me. Young people in India, Malaysia are watching the film and being encouraged in their ambitions. At the same time we’re reaching audiences in LA and New York. It’s mind-blowing!

Q: The success of the film has been tremendous. Of course fans want to know, will there be a sequel?

A: At the premiere in Singapore Warner brothers did say they want to do a follow-up. I certainly want to be in it!

 

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Behind Closed Doors with Harley Di Nardo

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Movie Marker Magazine went behind closed doors with actor-musician Harley Di Nardo to talk about his latest movie ‘Dead Envy’.

Can you tell us about your early beginnings growing up, and how you transitioned to life in Los Angeles?

I am a New Yorker, born and bred. I got into hairdressing at a very young age, and it came in handy when it was time to style my bands hair. Their image was in my hands… literally. I always cut hair to make a living in between touring. Now I own a salon in Malibu, and I used to own salons in New York. All this added up. Movies, Hair Industry meets Music World. I had to come to Los Angeles, before it was too late. So about three years ago, I sold that salon in New York and drove West alone. It took me four days, and I documented the trip on Facebook. I just hit the ground running. I scraped together all the funds that I could, and we made a movie. Now it’s about to come out and here we are. I’m very excited… I now live in Silver Strand Beach, Oxnard. I love it… I just go into Hollywood for meetings and if I have an event there, it’s a reason to make a night of it and stay in town.

Harley Di Nardo

You have had a successful music career so far, what inspired you to take the writing-acting-directing journey?

Since I was a kid I always had my mom film me doing like Karate moves etc… hehe. Then I wrote a script when I was about ten years old. It was called the Golden Glove, a story about an Italian boxer who fights for his girlfriend’s honor. I still have it. Anyways, I loved making stories… until I got into high school and met a friend that was in a band. Rock and Roll took over.  I forgot all about movies. That turned into an obsession that saw me moving to New York City and making two albums for major labels. It was quite a ride. I wrote music every day for about five years. I knew that I would want to take a shot at filmmaking. I’ve always had a passion for it. Everyone tells me I’m a walking movie quote. When someone says, or does anything, I’ll relate it to a movie. It’s just the way I see the world. Through movies. It’s always had such an effect on me. About ten years ago I enrolled in the Lee Strasberg Institute. I studied Method Acting and Script Development. From there I started making short films, music videos, anything just to get some experience.

Your latest feature, ‘Dead Envy’, is set to release next month.  Can you tell us about the movie?

Sure. It’s an independent film filled with psycho stalker moments and some dark humor. It’s the tail of a musician/hairdresser (just like me) who enlists the help of a strange drifter to help stage a comeback… and then it all goes horribly wrong. I wrote what I knew. For one, I already knew how to look and behave like a hairdresser/rock n’ roller. I think that really comes across in the film. It’s all very natural. The script has been with me for some time. I had to get it all out. I had to get this hair and rock movie out of my system. The next one I’ll play a doctor or something…

Can you tell us about the music in the movie?

Yeah… There really isn’t any score exactly. I just used a few of my songs that fit into certain parts of the film and also used friends’ songs. Great songs that never got the proper push that they deserved. We just signed a soundtrack deal with Artisan Fire Records. They are excited, and I am excited. It’s been a while since I’ve released music. The soundtrack will be released the same day as the theater release, August 24th. Available on all digital outlets.

As the director and lead actor in the movie, how did you approach one over the other?

Well, it was a learning experience, that’s for sure. It’s hard to see the frame when you are in it. So, I think the next one I’ll take a much smaller role and direct the hell out of it! I always want to stick myself somewhere in the film. I want to be there like Woody Allen or Lena Dunham, but I think a smaller supporting role will be enough. I’m making the film… I just wanna be in it. I love acting.

How close is your character, David Tangiers in the movie to your own personality?

Well, it’s pretty much me. I am him, he is me.

What else can we expect from you over the next few months?

I am writing a paranormal thriller about a young, widowed mother of two, who is repeatedly sexually assaulted by an incubus. She takes matters into her own hands by hiring a YouTube ghost hunter that is pitching a show for Bravo. I might be playing some gigs to promote the film and the soundtrack.

Thank you, Harley for taking the time to chat to us at Movie Marker. We look forward to seeing more of you on the big screen!

To learn more about Harley Di Nardo visit: www.cine-museproductions.com
Follow Dead Envy: www.deadenvythemovie.com
Instagram: www.instagram.com/deadenvythemovie/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/DeadEnvythemovie/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/deadenvymovie

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